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The Lead with Jake Tapper

CNN Investigation Reveals How IDF Fire Killed Half A Family In Gaza; Possibly Spy Balloon Found Off Coast Of Alaska; Trump Floats Possible Support For 15-Week Abortion Ban; "What Happened To Tennessee? The Battle Of Blue And Red" Airs Sunday At 8PM ET/PT; Caitlin Clark, LeBron James Aim For New Records. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired March 01, 2024 - 17:00   ET


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: And welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Kaitlan Collins in for Jake Tapper on this Friday.

Ahead this hour, reporting to this first here on CNN as we are now hearing from multiple sources telling CNN about what could be a another spy balloon found off the coast of the United States. Plus star players taking the court, the NBA is LeBron James. And college basketball standout Caitlin Clark, their chance to make history by doing what they do best. The sports legend himself, Bob Costas, will be here to talk about it.

But first leading this hour, a major announcement from President Biden today, who renewed his call for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas for at least six weeks in Gaza. Their goal, to get more hostages release from Hamas and get more aid into Gaza. The President said the US plans to airdrop that desperately needed food and supplies into the war ravaged area. Here he was at the White House sitting next to the Italian prime minister just a few moments ago.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: Aid flowing to Gaza is nowhere nearly enough now. It's nowhere nearly enough. Innocent lives are on the line and children's lives are on the line, and we won't stand by -- but until they -- until we get more aid. And while on standby, we won't let up and we're not going to pull out kind of -- every stop we can get more assistance in.


COLLINS: That announcement from President Biden comes at the end of the week where horrors of war were on full display. Yesterday we saw what happened in Gaza just, pure chaos, when desperation turned deadly as trucks that were carrying much needed aid were swarmed by hundreds of starving people.

As we were still working to confirm all of the grim details, what we do know is that Israeli forces opened fire, arguing that their soldiers needed to protect themselves. Reports from Gaza on the ground say that that sparked the trucks to speed off and then crashing people in the crowd as they did so leading to more than 100 people killed, hundreds more injured. CNN, I should note, cannot independently verify those numbers at this time.

But we did spend weeks working to reveal the facts of an earlier tragic moment. CNN's Jomana Karadsheh and a team of CNN journalist in unprecedented detail documented one attack that killed more than half the members of one single family. I do want to warn you before you see this report that it contains disturbing video depicting dead bodies.


JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Every patient here has a harrowing account of survival, but it is the story of this one young woman but as you'll see would become key to uncovering an atrocity that until today had been hidden in the dark.

They're all gone, I have no one left, 18-year-old Roba Abu Jibba told us. She offered few clues as to what had happened to her and her family.

But a week later, a cameraman working for CNN in Gaza was out filming as he's done every day for months. He was one of the first to arrive in this area just after Israeli forces had withdrawn. It was on that day, January 14th, when he stumbled upon the scene of a horrific incident. At first we had no idea this was connected to Roba until they start pulling documents from the rubble. It's Gaza's grim routine of trying to identify the dead. Then, the startling discovery.

Later that day CNN producer Abeer Salman screens the footage and sees Roba's ID. This is where she was critically injured and the bodies are the remains of her family.


Tiny corpses carried on blankets. And in the corner, a woman sits covered in flies in her decomposing arms, a young man. But we still didn't really know what had happened here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It would be really helpful, especially if you could go through the satellite images.

KARADSHEH: This grisly discovery was the start of a week's long CNN investigation. We tracked down seven survivors, gathered video, satellite imagery, Israeli military press releases. We verified social media content and spoke with ballistic and forensic experts, allowing us to piece together the events of a bloody night of death and horror amid intense and discriminate Israeli military fire that left civilians dead.

We started by asking the IDF about the incident giving them pictures and exact coordinates. The military said their troops had come under fire from that location on January 4th, and they responded with a "precise strike" to remove an imminent threat, and can't confirm if the bodies are linked to that strike. Our investigation raises serious questions about the IDF's actions that day.

This is where it all unfolded, there's a wider area of Salah al-Din Street. Before the war, it was an industrial zone, but it's Israel designated Salah al-Din the evacuation corridor out of Northern Gaza. Business owners allowed hundreds of displaced people to stay in these warehouses. Suddenly in early January, war arrived on their doorstep. Eyewitnesses say the warehouse is on both sides of the road, we recreated in this 3D model, were repeatedly struck from the ground and air. Families sheltering in the warehouses on the left, broke holes through back walls escaping into the farmlands.

For the warehouse on the right, there was no escape for most. They were surrounded. They say the Israeli shot at anyone who tried to walk out, something the IDF denies. We tracked down Roba's mother and three siblings separated from her during the attack. They confirmed that among the bodies our cameraman filmed were five of Roba's siblings.

The youngest among them was Al-Zain, he was 10, and Ali 13. What likely killed most of them was the shockwave from a massive 2,000 pound bomb according to forensic pathologists and weapons experts who examined our footage and satellite imagery. The blast shockwave is so powerful that it can rupture the lungs, leaving victims to drown in their own blood.

What the family didn't know was that Roba was still alive, bleeding for four long days among the dead. After our January 7th interview, we tried to find her again lost in the chaos of overwhelmed hospitals. After weeks of searching, we found her miles away in Rafah receiving treatment.

ROBA ABU JIBBA, ISRAELI ATTACK SURVIVOR (through translation): The Israelis were outside shooting and started firing bombs. We were all injured and fell to the ground.

KARADSHEH: With Roba desperate for help, and her little brother Ali fighting for his life for days, Israeli forces were right outside. Satellite images from January 5th, one day after the attack, show IDF vehicles by the warehouse, and freshly bulldoze ground as closest 70 meters from where the siblings lay.

ABU JIBBA (through translation): My family members who was still alive left, a relative and I stayed. They started bulldozing the place and dumped it on top of the dead people, my siblings.

KARADSHEH: She and her relative felt they had to get out of the shelter turn morgue, they decided to make a daring escape, and were questioned by soldiers about links to Hamas before making it to the relative safety of a local hospital. We can't confirm the Israeli military's claim that their troops came under fire, and yet survivors we spoke to tell us there were no militants in the warehouses. Some witnesses say they heard what they called resistance fire and local journalists that day recorded cautious in the area.

CNN found that the Israeli military has separately alleged that were Hamas weapons facilities nearby, but never linked them to the warehouse where the Abu Jibba sheltered, which we've highlighted here on this IDF map. However, it began there is no doubt the Israeli military used ferocious firepower. The size of the bomb by its nature indiscriminate, and survivors say they were not worn to leave by the military as it claims it always tries to do. In response to extensive questions from CNN, the IDF claimed it told civilians to leave in the days before the deadly incident but provided no evidence when asked. We found the first time the military publicly said this part of Gaza was no longer a safe evacuation route came in this post on X at 11:28 AM on January 4th, hours after the attack.


SUMAYA ABU JIBBA, ISRAELI ATTACK SURVIVOR (through translation): They knew we were civilians. Their drone saw everything. We had big white flags up. They said it's a safe area, the South is safe. We came to the South for nothing. They bombed us and killed our children in the south.

KARADSHEH: The events of that January day, only a small window into the vast undocumented suffering that the Israeli military's inflicted on civilians in Gaza, with tens of thousands already killed, leaving so many like the Abuja family, grieving, traumatized with no recourse to justice and accountability.

ABU JIBBA (through translation): They died in front of me. I couldn't do anything. We would love to be silly and play together. Now those memories are gone.

KARADSHEH: Jomana Karadsheh, CNN, London.


COLLINS: And our thanks to Jomana and her entire team for that deep investigative report. In response to that report, I should note that the IDF Lieutenant Colonel Peter Lerner told CNN in part in a statement, "When we are going after Hamas, after Hamas' leadership and when they are hiding in the civilian areas, there are civilian consequences." We also heard from a spokesperson for the United Nations Secretary General calling for a full investigation into what was reported.

I want to turn now to Eylon Levy, a spokesperson for the Israeli government, who joins me here in studio. It's great to have you here. Thank you.

EYLON LEVY, ISRAELI GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN: Hello. And good to be here in New York.

COLLINS: Just first on that that report from Jomana. I know we heard the IDF, but if Israel is dropping a 2000 pound bomb, why are civilians saying they weren't warned about that?

LEVY: It is desperately sad, and it points to the inhumanity of the Hamas human shield strategy that Hamas deliberately embeds its fighters within civilian areas. Because it knows that either it gains immunity for its fighters or civilians will be hurt, and Hamas wants civilians to be hurt. Because it's only strategy for trying to survive this war is to generate sympathy and international pressure on Israel to stop. Now, what we heard from the Israeli military here is that our forces came under direct attack from that facility. Now, our soldiers are coming under attack, clearly, there is no time to give a warning for people to evacuate, having already said that the militants terrorists were operating in the area. If soldiers come under immediate fire, they do have a right to strike back. And that is why we call on civilians to get out of places where Hamas is trying to use them as human shields so that Hamas cannot do that any longer.

COLLINS: But if Israel knows that there are civilians there, and the survivors were saying that there were drones, that they had major white flags. I mean, doesn't that make Israel reconsider dropping a 2000 pound bomb that kills half the members of an entire family?

LEVY: The only one of course consider whatever specific munitions are necessary for a specific operation, and I can't comment on operational matters, because I'm not a military spokesman. But we think it is deeply tragic, deeply tragic. The war that Hamas has brought on the people of Gaza by deciding to declare this needless war on October 7th, with the 10-7 attacks, and deliberately fighting from inside civilian areas.

And Hamas does that because it knows how it is manipulating international public opinion. It knows that if it hides under civilian areas, and keeps moving with civilians as they evacuate to safer zones, it deliberately keeps them in danger. For us, every civilian casualty is a tragedy. And for Hamas, it is a strategy.

COLLINS: And yes --

LEVY: It's a strategy we're trying to thwart.

COLLINS: Hamas does do that. And obviously everyone knows they're a terrorist group. We saw what they did on October 7th. But I think it also raises questions about the burden on the Israeli government and the responsibility when there are civilians there.

But I want to ask you about the announcement that we got from the White House today, President Biden saying that the United States is going to orchestrate airdrops of aid into Gaza. Does Israel really think that that's the solution to the humanitarian crisis? That it's to the point where you have to airdrop aid into Gaza?

LEVY: Sure. If I could just comment on what we said before. Israel is, of course, trying to uphold international law, but it's trying to do it in conditions where no army in history has ever had to deal with a terrorist group so deeply embedded within civilian areas. And that poses challenges that no military in the world has had to deal with. And Israel is having to innovate new ways to try to mitigate civilian harm.

COLLINS: And I think people understand that. But then it's also really difficult to watch a report where someone will have the members of their family members have this.

LEVY: Of course it's heartbreaking. It's heartbreaking. It is tragic. COLLINS: They say they got no warning.

LEVY: IT is tragic that Hamas declared this war and is fighting this war from inside civilian areas. We didn't want this war. We didn't start this war. We didn't expect this war. We're fighting this war, because Hamas retreated with 253 hostages and told us it wants to do it again and again. And it will unless it is stopped. And so we understand we have to.

Now, as for the specific question of humanitarian aid, we want to see as much humanitarian aid get into Gaza, to the people who need it, while making sure that Hamas cannot steal it. Now that's why we've done on the one hand, expanded capacity of the Israeli crossings. There is now more than double the excess capacity at Israel's crossings to get more aid in.


As we speak right now, there are 300 trucks worth of humanitarian aid sitting on the Gazan side of the Kerem Shalom crossing, waiting for the UN to pick it up and distribute it. The aid is getting in, the problem is that the UN is struggling to distribute that aid at the pace that Israel is facilitating its entry into Gaza.

LEVY: OK. But there's also a lot of aid on the other side of the border where this was posted by the former humanitarian coordinator for the United Nations who's now working for the Norwegian group here. And he was saying that that is aid that cannot get in. But I want to get to the --

LEVY: So the amount of aid is actually increasing --

COLLINS: Hold on. Hold on. I want to get to aid generally --

LEVY: Sure.

COLLINS: -- how much is getting in. But on the fact that the US is now orchestrating airdrops to go into that, is that really the solution Israel thinks is the way to get out of this, the way to help feed the starving people in Gaza?

LEVY: Well, there are two questions. One is the question of aid getting into the Gaza Strip, and there is enough capacity at Israel's crossings to get in as much aid as the international community is sending --

COLLINS: Clearly there's not.

LEVY: No. But then there's a question of how aid is being distributed inside Gaza. And we're talking about airdrops into areas that are difficult to reach because they are active warzones, because Hamas is still fighting in the Northern Gaza Strip, and because these are dangerous areas. And we've saw what happened just the other day with those horrific scenes of the fourth convoy of the week trying to take aid into Northern Gaza, and being mobbed by desperate civilians who then got killed in a stampede. So one option is to airdrop aid, and there was a successful pilot this week in cooperation with, I believe, Jordan, Egypt, the UAE, France and the United States to airdrop aid into Gaza. And we're looking into other ways to deliver aid into Northern Gaza. And make sure, again, it gets to civilians who need it, while making sure how much won't steal it.

LEVY: Is there safer, easier way to do this than just simply airdropping it? I mean, the reason you saw that chaotic incident, is people are rushing these trucks because they're starving. I mean, it's desperation in its fullest extent that you're watching. And we hear from the IDF saying, well, our forces felt that they were endangered and that's why they fired upon the crowd after firing those warning shots. That's what the IDF --

LEVY: Well, they said they fired when people began to rush towards the soldiers --

COLLINS: But the people are rushing to the soldiers because they have food and they're starving.

LEVY: Well, that is why they were rushing towards the truck --

COLLINS: I mean, doesn't that speak to the desperation and that the situation actually is not good, and there's not enough aid getting?

LEVY: The situation is definitely not good. We don't downplay that Hamas has brought tragedy and disaster on the people of Gaza by declaring this war. Now, it's a unique challenge to work out how you distribute aid in an active warzone where we know that the terrorist organization Hamas is hijacking aid, that the UN agencies that are supposed to distribute aid have been covering up for Hamas.

And worse than that, have been relying on Hamas protection for the ships, for the cargo. I saw just now, and Mr. Satterfield at the State Department saying, that one of the reasons --

COLLINS: It's the humanitarian aid envoy --

LEVY: Yes.

COLLINS: -- from the United States.

LEVY: One of the reasons we are seeing this chaos in Gaza is that Israel has been targeting the Hamas so called police as if a terror organization can have police, that were securing the convoy. So here you have the international community admitting that until now, the United Nations has been reliant on Hamas, a proscribed terrorist organization, to secure humanitarian aid. And that's why it's important that we have options like airdrops (inaudible) by Hamas.

COLLINS: But what's alternate there? What the -- I mean, obviously, that's not an ideal situation for the United States and we've talked about this at length. But it is an undeniable fact Hamas is still in Gaza. So what is the option for the United States? What's the better way to get that aid? Because right now, what's happening clearly is not working.

LEVY: Well, airdrops are one way where we can try to circumvent Hamas and circumvent UNRWA, by cutting them out of the aid distribution system. Because we've released audio examples, for example, of phone calls with people in Gaza saying we know that UNRWA members are stealing aid. We know that it's being diverted to Hamas. And a lot of the aid that has entered the Gaza Strip -- by the way, yesterday we had a near record 260 trucks going into the Gaza Strip.

COLLINS: Yes, but how many was it before October 7th that was getting in. It was hundreds more than that, close to 500 trucks a day.

LEVY: And we have the capacity for 500.

COLLINS: So that's half of the aid that is now getting in.

LEVY: And we have the capacity for 500.

COLLINS: How are these people are displaced, and they don't have their homes, they don't have bakeries, they're in tents, basically.

LEVY: Oh, you mentioned bakeries, for example. Inside the Gaza Strip, right now, there are 20 operational bakeries. They're producing 2.5 million loaves of bread, pita breads and rolls every single day. There were 10, two weeks ago. And thanks to coordination with the Israeli army, we have doubled the number of operational bakeries inside Gaza, because it's important that aid reached the people who need it, and not the Hamas terror regime that has brought such disaster on the people of Gaza.

And after Hamas is brought down. I hope that the situation will improve for everyone.

COLLINS: I think what's clear to everyone is it's not enough aid that's getting under, there not enough bakeries. There's not enough supplies. Eylon --

LEVY: Foreign states that want to send more should send more, we can facilitate its entry into Gaza.

COLLINS: I think that's a big question. Eylon Levy, spokesperson for the Israeli government, thank you for joining us here on set.

LEVY: Thank you, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: And up next as we continue to follow this, we're also following another breaking story here on CNN. Another spy balloon situation appears to be in the making. This time it was discovered by fishermen off the coast of Alaska. Our reporting first here on CNN after a quick break.



COLLINS: And we're back with a "World Lead," a story that you'll see first here on CNN, as sources are now telling us it was possible that a spy balloon is soon going to be in the hands of the FBI after some commercial fishermen found one, they believe, off the coast of Alaska. CNN's Katie Bo Lillis has this reporting.

And, Katie, obviously the question here is everyone remembers the last time the spy balloon was shot down February 2023. It's hard to think that it's been a year since that happened. What do we know about what these fishermen have now apparently discovered?

KATIE BO LILLIS, CNN REPORTER: Well, Kaitlan, look at the expense of making a really bad pun, this is kind of the mystery catch of the day right now. What we know from our sources is that a commercial fisherman found something that they were concerned enough about that they contacted law enforcement about it.


They took some pictures. They sent these pictures off to law enforcement. The FBI takes a look at these images. And they're worried enough that whatever these fishermen found, closely resembles enough a potential surveillance balloon, similar to the type that China, as we know, sort of famously, the Chinese spy balloon sort of famously blow, of course, and flew over the continental United States in February of last year.

What these fishermen found to the FBI resembled closely enough of that kind of surveillance balloon that they want to get a hold of it, they want to analyze it. And so, what we know is that FBI agents are going to be on the ground in Alaska this weekend. When this ship is expected to come into port, they are going to take custody of whatever this mystery object, maybe spy balloon, maybe not, is and they're going to take it back to the lab in Quantico to analyze it and try to figure out what it is.

COLLINS: All right. Katie Bo Lillis, I know you'll stay on top of it and let us know what it is once that ship comes in. Thank you for that reporting.

BO LILLIS: Thanks, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: Ahead, Donald Trump on the record saying again, where he stands on a potential abortion ban in the United States, something that he has refused to weigh it on previously in specific terms. But do his comments offer any clarity for voters? We'll get into that with our political experts next.



COLLINS: And we are back with our 2024 Lead today and with abortion obviously set to play a big role in the 2024 election, as we've seen it do in the most recent ones. Former President Donald Trump has been pressed multiple times on where he stands on a potential federal abortion ban. Last night, he may be closer than he ever has been.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: More and more, I'm hearing about 15 weeks and I haven't decided yet. Also, we got it back to the states where it belongs. And by the way, a lot of states are taking very strong stances. Everybody on both sides said it has to be in the States. We did a very good thing.


COLLINS: Let's talk about that comment there with our panel and S.E. Cupp. I mean, I think that's the very definition of a trial balloon where he's saying I'm hearing about something but he doesn't actually come out in support of it.

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, he's been president before. He's also running for president. He should probably have an idea of where he stands on this. And he has been everywhere and nowhere, right? He takes credit for overturning Roe v. Wade. He has slammed six week, 10 week, 15 week abortion bans as unpopular politically.

So I mean, it's about time we know where he stands. But Donald Trump is not built on principles and convictions. He's built on impulses. And so the trial balloon I think is kind of him seeing where people are today. It could change tomorrow, it could change in a month, it could change in a year.

COLLINS: I mean, it's remarkable, because he does understand how unpopular politically --

CUPP: He does.

COLLINS: -- a lot of these bands are. I mean we've seen that reflected in the polls in many states, Michigan, Wisconsin. But it also is something the White House often tries to do is to remind you that it was Trump who put the nation in the situation by putting the justices on the court who voted in favor or ruled in favor of overturning Roe versus Wade.

BASIL SMIKLE, DEMOCRATS STRATEGIST: Trump doubles down on that. The Biden administration should, as you said, remind the public of that. If we look at it just because I live in New York, you know, New York 3. And the fact that, you know, we were talking more about immigration was largely because the Republicans can't talk about reproductive rights, and especially after what was the ruling in Alabama, what I would say for Democrats is attach all the draconian measures to every Republican that is running throughout the country nationalized that issue.

And I think it's a -- I think it's winning for not just Democrats, but it mobilizes independents and a lot of Republicans in some in suburban districts.

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: Let me pop that trial balloon right now. Let me do that on this show. We make history here. Look, Joe Biden is hoping, praying that this election is about abortion rights. A 15-week ban is incredibly unpopular nationwide. We just had an Ipsos poll about that earlier this week, I think it was something like 56, 57 percent oppose that idea. So if this election turns on abortion rights, this is where Joe Biden wants, like, Donald Trump shouldn't be touching this issue that's why he should be toeing the line.

He wants to be talking about immigration. He wants to be talking about the economy. Voters trust him on those issues on abortion. It's one of the rare issues where more voters trust Joe Biden.

CUPP: Well, and it's a really great opportunity for Nikki Haley. And she's taking it she was just out saying none of these guys know how to talk about this issue. She mean, guys, men, but I think she also means specifically Republicans. And she's been trying out a softer version, she's pro life. But she has been trying out a softer version, softer rhetoric, coming to a consensus on this issue.

And that's smart, because since 1976 when Gallup first started pulling abortion, abortion attitudes in this country have not changed, they have remained fixed. The majority of people have always believed in abortion with some restrictions.

COLLINS: Well, can I also -- the other are --

CUPP: The country hasn't change.

COLLINS: This is something where Biden obviously wants to talk about that, as opposed to immigration. We saw him on the border yesterday. It's a very strong issue for Democrats. One issue that's not strong for him is the economy. He's got to figure out how to handle both of these things in the State of the Union that is less than a week from today. We sat down with Senator Bernie Sanders yesterday and he said he doesn't believe President Biden is talking about the economy in the right way. This is what he told me.


SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): What he needs to do is say it make it very clear, he is going to stand with the working class of this country around that agenda that works for everybody not just the people --

COLLINS: Is it doing that enough right now in your view?

SANDERS: He's not. I mean, there are things that I think can be done, I think you have to say very loudly and clearly and he does, but not quite as strongly as I would like.


SMIKLE: By what I've always said on this issue is the metrics are interesting and they are important, but are you really speaking to the economic aspirations of Americans, particularly young people? Can they buy a house? Can they buy a car? Can they move out of their parents apartment or home right? If especially when you're dealing with a lot of young voters who are concerned about whether or not they actually can come out and vote or should come out and vote if you really attack that, then I think you can continue to energize them.


Bernie Sanders isn't, is maybe around the same age as Joe Biden, but a lot of voters didn't think he was old because there was energy around his candidacy on those very issues that touched a lot of voters. So I think Biden could do some of that.

COLLINS: He's a teensy bit older. He's 82. But yes.

ENTEN: They're right around the same age. As far as voters my age are concerned, they're both just old man. Look, at the end of the day, it's very easy for Bernie Sanders, or any politician who's not in charge of this country to say these things, he should be doing X with messaging, he should be doing Y with messaging. But the economy just is something that's in voter's minds. And what we are seeing is some slight increases in economic consumer confidence.

And the real question is, are those slight increases going to be enough? Especially as they add up going to the election, that it can turn people's minds and the economy? If not, there's just not, in my opinion, all a heck of a lot that Joe Biden can do because it's just -- what are you going to just keep on with this rhetoric and hope that it changed people's minds, they feel what they feel.

CUPP: Well, and here's the bind, right. I mean, on the left, there's a big push to talk about democracy, which is in peril. I think that's really important. You have the luxury to talk about democracy when you have a good job, when you live in a nice town. It's not being ravaged by drugs and opioids or immigration problems. When you haven't gotten a raise in five years when you can't afford groceries, when you're worried about drugs in your town, when you're worried about losing your job, democracy is not on the top of your mind, the economy is. Democrats have found a great way to talk about democracy. They have not found a great way to talk about the economy.

COLLINS: We'll see. All of these could be themes in the State of the Union speech next week. We'll be watching very closely.

CUPP: Are we going to get a coordinated outfits then too?

COLLINS: I think we should, right? Because this was just -- I just want everyone to know this just happened by chance because great minds dress alike. S.E. Cupp, everyone thank you all. You're just jealous, Harry. Thank you.

ENTEN: Maybe a little bit.

COLLINS: Up next, CNN's Van Jones is going to join us on what he uncovered after he looked into the politics of his home state of Tennessee and the sharp bright turn they've taken.


[17:41:15] COLLINS: Hard to believe but we are now just four days away from Super Tuesday. Of course, that critical date on the primary calendar when voters in 15 states and one territory will help head to the polls. Tennessee is one of those places where people will be voting. And it's also the subject of this week's the whole story with Anderson Cooper. Our political commentator Van Jones went back to his home state to look at the sharp swing to the right in Tennessee politics.


VAN JONES, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR (voice-over): Democrats become Republicans. Counties that had gone blue for Obama suddenly become red.


JONES: That's the worst year for you all to get whooped because then they get a chance to redistrict, they gave the Republicans the power to gerrymander everything, correct?

REMUS: That's correct.

JONES: Did they use that power?

REMUS: They use it.

JONES: Do they abuse it?

REMUS: They abused it was surgical precision.

JONES (voice-over): Tuesday night's results were decidedly Republican.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a paradigm shift in our state.

JONES (voice-over): Republicans now have a super two thirds majority in the House and Senate.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And in this moment, they start taking increasingly conservative policy changes around all sorts of policy areas guns, health care, abortion, but especially when it comes to Democratic institutions like voting rights and districting. What happens in Tennessee is going to happen in nearly any red controlled state after this time period. But Tennessee is really leading the charge in many ways.


COLLINS: And Van Jones joins me now. Van, it's fascinating to look into this and to this turn that Tennessee has taken. I mean, what from when you started to when you finish this, what did you learn about why this happened?

JONES: Well, you know, it's especially powerful for me. I was born and raised in Tennessee. I got my start in that building, that Capitol building. I was an intern for Jim Naifeh, in 1989. And so it's still beautiful on the outside, but it's a lot uglier on the inside now, I mean, once the Republicans redistricted, so they could get a supermajority. They don't have to listen to Democrats, and they don't. And they just have run over cities like Nashville and Memphis with little blue dots on that red map and taking power away from them.

They've made sure they don't have any congressional representation. They won't move, even with red flag laws, even Republicans want and it is just -- what happens when you get one party uncontested control. It just goes nuts. And it was really important to me just to go home and talk to my family and talk to people I'd work with. How does it feel? What's going on? We also talked to grassroots people on the right wing side, and found that they also are frustrated with what's going on.

Nobody can understand how we got so far away from the Tennessee I grew up in, where Believe it or not, we had people like Al Gore representing the whole state.

COLLINS: Well, what -- when you talk to those grassroots people who are on the right, and they're frustrated, I mean, what's the basis of their frustration?

JONES: Well, you know, they, they feel that they've got local issues that aren't getting handled properly there. They were worried about, you know, COVID. They're worrying about school closures. That's what intimated then, but they're not hostile toward, you know, working class folks in Memphis. They aren't mad at them. But when it all gets weaponized up at the top, somehow, their issues don't get handled locally, but everything gets weaponized against those blue cities.

And so I think people who watch this are going to be really surprised to learn, you know, we just talked about these flyover states and once you pull the cover back, open up the hood, really fascinating dynamics happen but it is a warning. You get one party control, maybe on either side, and extremism can come in and nobody benefits.

COLLINS: Well, and then also, you know, what we've seen also in Alabama, we see this as well. There isn't kind of that natural by -- there's no natural bipartisanship because when it's one party majority rule. They don't feel the need to work with others. They don't have to -- they're not worried about being primaried or anything like that and they kind of can just enjoy the fact that they're going to be, they believe reelected on a permanent basis.


JONES: Yes. And it makes it worse for everybody. Because then, you know, like you said, the only primary you're going to get is further to the right. And so the party at the state level has gone further right than even the grassroots wants it to be, and nobody can do anything about it. Because of the gerrymandering is really, really fascinating for me. It was really heartbreaking.

I grew up in a state. Our State House Speaker, Jim Naifeh, where I worked for was Arab. We had an Arab American Democratic Party, Speaker of the House for decades, and nobody ever raised as an issue. Because it was a let's get along state and now that's completely impossible. COLLINS: Van Jones, I'm so excited that you did this, and I can't wait to watch all of this. Thank you for joining us to preview it. And for everyone else who also wants to watch it along with me. You're going to see the future of this in the new episode of The Whole Story with Anderson Cooper. That is going to air right here on CNN Sunday 8:00 p.m. Eastern, and you will be able to watch the entire thing.

Two athletes at the top of their game, LeBron James and Caitlin Clark going for history this weekend as we are bringing in sports legend Bob Costas to talk to them next.



COLLINS: In our Sports Lead, there are two major games this weekend in basketball with two historic first on the line. Iowa's women's college basketball team and their phenom, Caitlin Clark, also NBA legend LeBron James, they each have the chance to add yet another record breaking of accomplishment to their already record breaking careers.

We have Bob Costas here with us to talk about it. Bob, let me start with Caitlin Clark, my personal favorite, because Ohio, they're playing Ohio State on Sunday, she has a chance to break the all-time scoring record not just for women, but men and women. And it seems like she's going to potentially hit that on Sunday, which is going to be incredible to watch, especially given we've just learned that she is going to be declaring for the WNBA draft.

BOB COSTAS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, she already holds all the significant women's record. She needs just 18 points to surpass Pete Maravich's total. Obviously it's apples to oranges, not just men's game versus women's game. But there was no three point shot when Pete played at LSU. Freshmen weren't eligible he played only three years. Caitlin Clark has played four and many more games.

But still, if you're talking about total points, it's another amazing achievement for Caitlin Clark. And she will head for the WNBA she's going to be with the Indiana Fever because they have the number one pick. They've been a woeful team. But they had a number one pick last year and got a very good player named Aliyah Boston.

Now, Caitlin Clark will join her. The rookie pay scale in the WNBA is only $78,000. But we wanted to throw in the benefits for Caitlyn because she already has deals with Gatorade and StateFarm and Nike, and those national deals will only increase when she goes into the pros. And you will not find a more basketball mad state than Indiana high school, college and pro. She's going to be a local and regional star. So it only builds and builds for Caitlin Clark.

COLLINS: Her pay cap when she goes into the WNBA it's only $78,000 I mean obviously deals aside, but she's only her -- the most she can make 78,000.

COSTAS: As a rookie, the top of the pay scale is 250,000. And then players sometimes go overseas. It's only a 40 game season from May into September in the WNBA. And there are incentives but they're in the seven figure area. So it's nothing big compared to what Caitlin Clark can make off the court. But her salary, the first year, is only 78,000.

COLLINS: That's pretty striking. But let's also talk about what else we're watching this weekend because LeBron James, if he scores nine points tomorrow, he can be the first NBA player to reach 40,000 career points, and also just age 39.

COSTAS: He already holds obviously the all-time record, he surpassed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar last season for that. And now he'll go to 40,000. It's utterly remarkable how well he is playing. He first played in the NBA at age 18 right out of high school in Akron, Ohio. Now he'll be 40 in December, and he'll play another season at least beyond this. Only recently, a couple of days ago, he outscored the Clippers in the fourth quarter, his team came back Lakers came back from 21 down and LeBron scored 19 in the fourth quarter to the Clippers 16. He had 34 in that game, then the next game against the Wizards' 31. So he'll a double figures. He always had double figures. So he'll have 40,000 tomorrow night against the Nuggets at home in Los Angeles.

COLLINS: Yes, it's just awesome to see also, you know, given you mentioned that he entered the league at age 18. Now we have Caitlyn Clark. And to see the respect that he has for her is also just a remarkable moment you see, you know, just how impressed he is by her and he himself is so impressive.

COSTAS: Yes. He's not alone among NBA players and former NBA players. You know, 30 of the 32 games that Caitlin Clark has played this year around women's college basketball have sold out. And it's going to be a real boost for the WNBA in general interest in women's basketball at the professional level when she enters the league.


COLLINS: Awesome. Bob Costas, great to talk to you about this. We'll be watching closely to both of these games this weekend. And for the rest of you, we'll be back with more news in just a moment.


COLLINS: Coming up this Sunday on State of the Union here on CNN, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Democrat Dick Durbin and Republican Senator Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma, that will air this Sunday morning, 9:00 Eastern and then again at noon Eastern here on CNN.

And later that night, you can join Jake Tapper, a new episode of his United States of scandal. It's this new CNN X series that is exploring some of the most sensational political scandals of our time. This week is going to focus on Eliot Spitzer, former New York governor who made a name taking down white collar criminals. But his time in office was cut short when it was revealed that Spitzer, also known as client number nine, had been soliciting sex workers in a prostitution ring. Part of the Sunday episode, we'll examine his rise to power.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: In a telltale sign of his hubris, Spitzer was so confident he would become governor. He started staffing his administration years before the election.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: One time, Spitzer said to me, there's someone I'd like to interview be a lieutenant governor. But I wouldn't want to be rejected. Now I realize he's talking about me. And he was right. I didn't want to be lieutenant governor. And at the time, Hillary Clinton was the junior senator from New York. So I said to Spitzer, if Hillary Clinton becomes president, you pick the new senator, I would be your guy. And Spitzer said something to me at that point. It was very prophetic. Stay out of trouble and you're my guy. All I could say to that was physician heal thyself.



COLLINS: Maybe you should have taken his own advice there. You can see an all new episode of United States of Scandal with Jake Tapper. That's this Sunday night at 9:00 Eastern only here on CNN. But before we get to Sunday tonight on The Source, 9:00 p.m. Eastern tonight, we'll be talking about these efforts to get aid into Gaza. That's tonight.

And if you ever missed an episode of THE LEAD, you can listen to the show wherever you get your podcast, of course, listen to this many times. The news continues right here on CNN.