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The Lead with Jake Tapper

FBI Director Compares Threat to Ransomware Attacks to 9/11; Biden Wraps Call with Top GOP Negotiator, Will Talk Infrastructure Again on Monday; Pence Says He "May Never See Eye-to-Eye" with Trump About January 6; New CDC Report Highlights Urgent Need to Vaccinate Teens; GOP State Lawmaker Seek to Ban Teaching Critical Race Theory. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired June 04, 2021 - 16:00   ET



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And THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER starts right now.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Trump could get his Facebook platform, back. Just in time for another possible escalator ride back on to the campaign trail.

THE LEAD starts right now.

We've been warned. The FBI director is saying recent cyberattacks are posing a 9/11-like challenge to the nation. Could pipeline and meatpacking hack attacks be just the beginning? Two former directors of national intel intelligence will join me to discuss the threat.

The mob was calling for him to be hanged but now, former Vice President Mike Pence is fine saying that he and Trump have agreed to disagree on the terrorist assault on the Capitol.

Plus, the CDC, again, urging patients in the U.S. to get their teenagers vaccinated with COVID, sending a surprising number of teens to the hospital.


TAPPER: Welcome to the lead, everyone. I'm Jake Tapper.

And we begin today with our tech league. And the plague hitting businesses across the country and around the world. Foreign hackers planting ransomware, that's malicious software, that takes control of a computer network until the victim pays a hefty ransom.

Now, here in the United States, these hacks have led to gas shortages and meat-production plants being shut down. One study shows there were more than 15,000 ransomware attacks last year, alone, in the United States. The FBI director is, now, comparing this challenge to what the country faced in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, telling "The Wall Street Journal" there is a, quote, shared responsibility across the government and private sector to stop it.

FBI Director Wray's comments add an urgency, underscoring the serious national security threat. Just yesterday, the White House issued an open letter to companies across the nation with a simple message that they, at the White House, cannot do it, alone.

And as CNN's Alex Marquardt reports, the Justice Department has signaled it plans to treat these cyberattacks more like terrorism, moving forward.


ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The cyber threats against the United States have grown so much, it's like dealing with terrorism after 9/11. That urgent message from the head of the FBI, Chris Wray, today adding his voice to the alarm being sounded by the Biden administration over the growing ransomware attacks here and around the world.

There are a lot of parallels, Wray told "The Wall Street Journal." The scale of this problem is one, that I think the country has to come to terms with.

JOHN HULTQUIST, VP, MANDIANT THREAT INTELLIGENCE, FIREEYE: Before long, we are worried that some people will get hurt, especially when we consider all these incidents that are affecting healthcare.

MARQUARDT: Healthcare, schools, and most recently, the Colonial Pipeline and JBS Foods, which is the biggest meat producer in the world. Those two recent attacks caused gas shortages, and beef plants to shut down.

MICHAEL LEITER, FORMER DIRECTOR, NATIONAL COUNTERTERRORISM CENTER: I think this is going to be an ongoing struggle of increasing threat, increasing defenses. And to the extent, again, that this counterterrorism analogy works, that is another way in which this will be a long-term fight.

MARQUARDT: The Justice Department announced, Thursday, it will implement practices used for terrorism cases. Telling prosecutors, to share more information and coordinate efforts on ransomware attacks, which is when hackers take control of a network and hold it hostage, demanding money. The attacks and the amounts paid have skyrocketed. The Justice Department says ransom payments, often in cryptocurrency, last year, went up 300 percent.

The White House, on Thursday, released a rare-open letter, pleading with companies to strengthen their online defenses, saying they can't fight the threat, alone. But experts say, the government, also, needs to find a better way to take down the attackers, and deter them from even trying.

SHAWN HENRY, PRESIDENT, CROWDSTRIKE: It really requires the government to take additional actions. They've got to work, collaboratively, with foreign law enforcement agencies to take these people off the field, to use law-enforcement efforts, intelligence agency efforts, economic sanctions, to disrupt and deter these actors.

MARQUARDT: Most of the recent, major attacks have come from Russia. Government hackers, in the case of a breach like SolarWinds, and criminal hackers striking the pipeline and food companies. Today's comparison of cyberattacks to other terrorist threats is one that has been made for years, including, in 2018, by the country's head of intelligence.

DAN COATS, FORMER DIRECTOR OF NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE: I am here to say the warning lights are blinking red. Again. Today, the digital infrastructure that serves this country is, literally, under attack.


MARQUARDT (on camera): Those warning lights are, now, doing more than blinking. They are on. The Biden administration making it clear, they are treating this as an urgent national security threat. And I'm told, this is going to be significant part of the president's upcoming trip to Europe, both at the G7, and then, in that one-on-one summit with Vladimir Putin.


Now, of course, this is a global threat. The U.S. needs help from allies tracking down, taking down, these ransomware attackers. And that's also something they have communicated to Moscow. That Russia has to stop harboring these cybercriminals. So far, Jake, with little luck.

TAPPER: All right. Alex Marquardt, thanks so much.

Joining us now to discuss, former director of national intelligence under President Obama, James Clapper.

General Clapper, thanks for joining us.

So, the FBI director is comparing this challenge to 9/11. After 9/11, we saw airport security change dramatically. More metal detectors. Shoes had to be removed. Liquids banned. Enhanced pat-downs, all sort of stuff like that.

Should we expect similar, dramatic changes when it comes to cybersecurity?

JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, perhaps, in analogous cyber context, yes. I think the problem here is this -- this problem has more from a -- an annoyance or irritation to a general national security threat. And there needs to be a greater sense of urgency. I think, both on the part of the government, as well as private individuals. You or me or corporations or institutions.

But I do think that -- I also would comment that I believe the Russians are kind of both playing us and messaging us. And despite Vladimir Putin's to the contrary, he is aware, I am -- I am sure of -- of these hacktivist attacks and ransomware attacks.

TAPPER: So, you say they are playing with us and messaging us. What's the message?

CLAPPER: Well, the fact that they can -- they can do a lot more damage than they have done, so far. And I think, now, there's a growing- public awareness of this. When -- if you can't buy meat or you can't get gas for your car, or the price of gas goes up. You're standing in line for gas.

And I think the Russians, if they wanted to, could do a lot more to convey a message that they're -- they are, still, relevant and still have a place on the -- on the international stage.

TAPPER: So, if we continue with the 9/11 analogy, fighting against hackers from Russia and China. It's very different than fighting against the Taliban, right? These hackers have the same tools at their disposal that we do. They're well-resourced. They're some of the smartest hackers in the world. They might be even better than us, in some ways.

So, this threat might be even worse. I'm not saying that the loss of life is the same as -- as, you know, gas shortages or whatever. I'm not comparing the two, in terms of the punishment. But in terms of the threat, we might be on -- outmanned?

CLAPPER: Well, I think, to your point, Jake, is the -- for example, the threat to our electrical grid, which I believe -- I'm pretty sure the Russians have reconnoitered and probably penetrated, maybe even planted malware which they could activate at a time of their choosing. That would have a profound, damaging, and disruptive effects on this country and could cause loss of life, that's why this is a really serious threat.

So, what we are seeing is kind of, in my view, previews of coming attractions, perhaps, if we don't get more aggressive about retaliating against these attacks.

TAPPER: So, in 2010, at a different network, I asked CIA director -- then-CIA director, Leon Panetta, what keeps him up at night. He had two answers. One was loose nukes.

Here is the other answer.


LEON PANETTA, CIA DIRECTOR: The whole area of cybersecurity. We -- we are now in a world, in which cyber warfare is very real and could threaten our grid system. It could threaten our financial system. It could paralyze this country.


TAPPER: So, that was 11 years ago. Why aren't we better prepared?

CLAPPER: That's a great question and I distinctly remember Leon, when we testified together. And he likened the -- this to the potential for a cyber Pearl Harbor. And we need to be a lot more alarmed about this. And there needs to be a greater sense of urgency. That's why Director Wray's characterizing as by -- as likening it to terrorist attacks is a good one.

And I think the government needs to be prepared to be a lot more aggressive about going after these people. And, for example, trying to seize or prevent them from actually getting the payments, as one example.

TAPPER: What would you tell Biden to say to Putin? I mean, we had the former-cybersecurity czar, Chris Krebs, on the show I think a week ago talking about this. And he said he didn't think retaliation was a good idea just to start -- the U.S. should start weaning itself off Russian fuel, oil, gas.


What would you advise?

CLAPPER: Well, I -- I think the president, who knows Putin for what he is, so he doesn't need a lot of advice in that respect. But I think if -- if he is going to say something to him, put it to him, a demarche, if you will, we better be prepared to back it up. And unless we inflict pain some way, we're not going to be able to create, either the substance or the psychology of deterrence. And that's what's needed here to prevent these things from happening.

TAPPER: All right. General James Clapper, thank you so much. Really appreciate your time today. Good to see you and in person the first time in quite some time.

CLAPPER: Thank you. Yes, 15 months, yes.

TAPPER: Yeah, good to see you, sir.

President Biden just wrapped a call with the Republican point person on infrastructure talks. Are negotiations still alive?

And teachers and kids on the front lines of the culture war, as Republicans try to ban what's called critical-race theory from classrooms. We'll tell you about that next.



TAPPER: A possible glimmer of hope in our politics lead as one of the president's top priorities hangs in the balance. Moments ago, President Biden spoke to the GOP's lead negotiator on infrastructure. That's Republican Senator Shelley Moore Capito of West Virginia. And while neither side is ready to announce that there is a deal,

Senator Capito's office says she plans to speak with Biden again on Monday. Now, that is a sign their negotiations remain alive, at least for now -- as CNN's Kaitlan Collins reports.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Biden, tightlipped ahead of his second talk with the top- Republican negotiator.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm going to be having a talk this afternoon. I will be able to report to you after that.

COLLINS: Biden on the phone with Senator Shelley Moore Capito, moments ago as he pushes for a $1 trillion infrastructure deal.

Is the president expecting a counteroffer during this conversation with Senator Capito today?

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I think the president's expecting they're going to have a discussion.

COLLINS: Biden dropped his demand to immediately raise the corporate tax rate in hopes of getting the GOP onboard. But with Republicans voicing opposition to $1 trillion in new spending, it remains to be seen whether a deal will be reached.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): So, my advice to the president and the administration, let's reach an agreement on infrastructure. That's smaller but, still, significant, and fully paid for.

COLLINS: As Washington waits to see if bipartisan broadband is in its future, the president is taking credit for the new jobs report.

BIDEN: America is finally on the move, again.

COLLINS: The country is picking up steam, but not as fast as some economists had hoped. The U.S. economy added 559,000 jobs, in May, short of the 650,000 that economists had predicted.

BIDEN: As we continue this recovery, we're going to hit some bumps along the way. Of course, that'll happen.

COLLINS: The unemployment rate, also, dropped to 5.8 percent. But there are, still, 7.5 million fewer people employed than they were in February 2020.

Biden says his policies deserve credit for the jobs gains.

BIDEN: More jobs than ever been created in the first-four months in any presidency in modern history, triple the rate of my predecessor, eight times the rate of President Reagan.

COLLINS: The new numbers also giving fodder to the Republican argument that higher-jobless benefits are encouraging workers to stay home. Half of states have now pulled out of the federal program. And there was a notable shift at the White House, today, after Biden said, clearly, last month, he believed the benefits had no effect on people seeking jobs.

BRIAN DEESE, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: The president believes that the temporary-unemployment benefits and the temporary boost to those benefits has provided a critical lifeline, that that lifeline was designed to be temporary and to expire in about-90 days.


COLLINS (on camera): And, Jake, those conversations on infrastructure are only going to continue, because Senator Capito has just gotten off the phone with the president. Her office put out a readout of that phone call. She says that during the call, the two discussed the Republican infrastructure framework. They talked about the Biden administration's proposal.

And, Jake, it says Senator Capito and President Biden agreed to talk again, on Monday. We have not, yet, gotten the White House's version. We are waiting to find out how long that call was but there is going to be another conversation, in just a few days.

TAPPER: Kaitlan Collins, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

As President Trump -- former President Trump continues to obsessively spread lies about the Election, Facebook has made a decision when it comes to his Facebook account. That's ahead.



TAPPER: In our politics lead, former Vice President Mike Pence is, finally, kind of, putting some distance between himself and former President Donald Trump. Pence saying, he does not think that he and Trump will ever see eye to eye on the January 6th insurrection. It's quite an issue, to try to paper over with a simple agree to disagree.

I mean, you might remember, Pence was in the building when rioters stormed the Capitol on January 6th. He was swiftly rushed to safety. The crowd was literally shouting, hang Mike Pence, hang Mike Pence. And Trump did not call his loyal vice president that day to see how he was doing, or the following days, for that matter.

And as CNN's Sunlen Serfaty reports, it's not just that Pence is making these comments at a GOP event in a key battleground state, thus prompting speculation of a Pence presidential run. The comment also underlines that the Republican Party remains, so much, in the grip of the former president, who incited the deadly insurrection. Even, so much so, that one of those threatened with a lynching that day is acting like it was, really, no big deal.


MIKE PENCE, FORMER U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: January 6th was a dark day in the history of the United States Capitol.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Former Vice President Mike Pence reemerging into the political spotlight in the battleground state of New Hampshire.

PENCE: But thanks to the swift action of the Capitol police and federal-law enforcement, violence was quelled. The Capitol was secured. And that same day, we reconvened the Congress and did our duty, under the Constitution and the laws of the United States.


SERFATY: Putting some distance between himself and former President Donald Trump over the January 6th insurrection, publicly acknowledging they have very different views of what happened.

BIDEN: You know, President Trump and I have spoken, many times, since we left office. And I don't know if we'll ever see eye to eye on that day.

SERFATY: Pence was inside the Capitol on January 6th, overseeing Congress certifying the vote for Joe Biden.

BIDEN: The Senate will now retire to its chamber.

SERFATY: As a violent mob chanted "hang Mike Pence", the vice president was rushed out of the Senate chamber. Security footage showing that, at one point, he was less than 100 feet from the rioters.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If Mike Pence does the right thing, we win the election.

SERFATY: Earlier, then-president Trump had delivered an incendiary speech to some of the protestors who would go on to storm the capitol.

TRUMP: Mike Pence is going to have to come through for us. And if he doesn't, that will be a sad day for our country.

SERFATY: After watching the events unfold at the Capitol, the president did not call his vice president to check in on him and did not speak to him for several days, following the attack.

TRUMP: I know your pain. I know you're hurt. We had an election that was stolen from us.

SERFATY: With their relationship strained, sources familiar say the two men have largely gone their separate ways in the months since, as Trump continues to dismiss the severity of the insurrection.

TRUMP: It was a zero threat, right from the start. It was zero threat. Look, they went in. They shouldn't have done it. Some of them went in and they're -- they're hugging and kissing the police and the guards. You know, they're -- they had great relationships.

SERFATY: A lie, the Republican Party seems quite content to embrace, for now. With Senate Republicans even refusing to form a bipartisan commission to investigate what happened on January 6th. Instead, they are pledging loyalty to Donald Trump as the former president is preparing his own return to the political stage this weekend, kicking off a series of campaign-style rallies on Saturday.


SERFATY (on camera): And while pence did put some distance between him and Trump over the insurrection, in that speech last night. It was, still, a very, very pro-Trump speech. He, at many times, praised the former president. He talked about what he believes he accomplished while in office -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Sunlen. Thanks so much.

Let's discuss.

So, Linda, did I hear pence last night, correctly? The crowd was calling -- the mob was calling for Pence to be lynched. Pence doesn't want to be lynched. Trump disagrees. Agree to disagree.

I mean, it's kind of a big thing to be like, we'll never see it eye to eye. They were calling for him to be lynched and Trump sided with the crowd.

LINDA CHAVEZ, DIRECTOR, BECOMING AMERICAN INITIATIVE: Absolutely. I mean, the personal affront is amazing. But more importantly, this was an assault on democracy and the rule of law. And for Pence to, basically, just act as if, well, there were differences in how we interpreted this event --

TAPPER: Right.

CHAVEZ: -- is just nonsense and it's very dangerous.

And frankly, what's most surprising about it. He's never going to win over a single person in the Trump base. They hate him. They, you know, continue to hate him. Many of them wanted him to be hanged on the day of -- of the insurrection.

So, he doesn't gain anything, by this. He doesn't have to become a Never Trumper, like I am. But he needs to be able to make a case that he is a different kind of Republican than his predecessor.

He doesn't have to disavow the accomplishments of the administration.


CHAVEZ: But I think he has to disavow Donald Trump.

TAPPER: And there are accomplishments for him to talk about, absolutely. But this was at a GOP fundraising event in -- first, in the nation primary state New Hampshire. This is not he was doing a friend and spoke at somebody's confirmation in Indiana where he lives. This is -- this is -- this is a preview to 2024. PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yeah. This is proof of the

late Mo Udall's law that the only cure for presidential fever is embalming fluid.

And I -- I wish Vice President Pence well. But he's, I think, and Linda knows her party better than I do. I think he's got no chance whatsoever. Even that tiny half-inch of daylight where he compared assault on the Capitol and threats against his life to like Wawa or Sheetz.


BEGALA: Use a Pennsylvania for you.

TAPPER: Appreciate it. Those are two different kinds of stores. Anyway, convenience stores. Yeah.

BEGALA: That. Even that, I think is going to croak him with Trump, because there is no amount of loyalty, nothing, no amount of loyalty is going to be good enough for Donald Trump because Donald Trump only cares about Donald Trump. So Pence, I think Linda's right. You either got to drive on the right side of the road or left side of the road and he's driven into the ditch.

TAPPER: Well, I have to say, though, don't you think that whoever gets the Republican nomination, whether or not it's Trump or Pence or Trump Jr., whomever.


But even if it's somebody, let's say it's not from -- let's say it's Ron DeSantis. Whoever it is, they are going to have to try to straddle this. They are going to -- or if not, embrace it, that the insurrection was no big deal, that the election was stolen. You're not going to have a Republican nominee who speaks clearly and eloquently about the election, like you do or Liz Cheney does.

CHAVEZ: Well, the problem is that it's not just having to deal with the last election. It's really making a commitment that you are going to abide by the decision of the voters. I mean, in 2024, we're going to have another election and somebody's going to win and somebody's going to lose. And it may be close. It may not be close.

But we have had a tradition, over 200 years, of the losing party accepting the results of the election. And that's where the Republican Party has done such great damage. When you have members of Congress continuing to act as if President Biden is not a legitimate president, there was massive fraud. There is a real danger.

TAPPER: So, let's turn to a different topic, although related to 2024. Which is, that Facebook has announced that they are going to keep the ban on former President Trump, until at least January 2023. So, he might be back January 2023, on Facebook.

We know, obviously, he continues to lie about the election. What would you tell Zuckerberg or Sheryl Sandberg or Nick Clegg who we are going to have on the show in a little bit about this decision? Obviously, you do have -- their argument is, look, even people like Angela Merkel say they're uncomfortable with a private company banning a former president.



BEGALA: I'm a free-speech advocate. I make my living off free speech, but Facebook is not a neutral platform. Facebook feeds on division. It profits off of hate.

TAPPER: The algorithm.

BEGALA: The algorithm does. "The Wall Street Journal" reported an internal document from a Facebook presentation that said this. Our algorithms exploit the human brain's attraction to divisiveness. If left unchecked, it will feed more and more divisive content in an effort to gain user attention and increase time on the platform. That was 2018.

You know what? They left it unchecked. Why? Because they make money off of that hate and division.

TAPPER: It's not just Facebook, by the way. It's social media, in general, does. Twitter does, too, I think, right?

BEGALA: It is, yes. I don't think Americans are any more hateful than we used to be. But these -- these social-media algorithms drive us and they reward that kind of hate and division. And Facebook has to fundamentally change their algorithm, or they are going to destroy democracy.

TAPPER: What do you think?

CHAVEZ: I absolutely agree. I do think private companies have different responsibilities than the government. It isn't censorship, when Facebook does it. They make a business decision. It may be a good-business model. It may be a bad one.

I'm actually encouraged that they are keeping President Trump off, even though he seems to have a much more tenacious hold on the Republican Party than I would have predicted after his massive defeat.

I do think that it will, eventually, over time, begin to wane. Maybe, he will end up with, you know, a quarter or 20 percent of the Republican Party just forever in his camp. But the fact that he doesn't have the kind of massive audience, he can't win over new converts.

So, I think that's very important, and I'd like to keep him off the social media.

TAPPER: I don't know. I think his hold is still on, pretty -- pretty well decided there. They can't quit him, it seems to me.

But anyway, Linda and Paul, it's great to see you. Thank you so much for being here.

Parents hesitant to get their teenagers vaccinated may reconsider, after seeing new hospital numbers. That's ahead.



TAPPER: In our health lead. Think about getting vaccinated, as a donation of good will to those who are more vulnerable. That's how NIH director, Dr. Francis Collins, puts it.

As cases and deaths plummet in the United States, unfortunately right now, so are, also, vaccinations. We saw below 1 million doses administered per day this week. That is the lowest level since January. And some southern states are now being referred to as sitting ducks -- as CNN's Erica Hill reports.


ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Shots of hope at a New York City playground.

AALIYAH JENNINGS, 14-YEAR-OLD, GOT FIRST SHOT FRIDAY: If it benefits me in a good way, in a safe way, then why not get it?

HILL: An attitude the administration is hoping more young people will adopt as a new-CDC study shows a recent, troubling rise in COVID hospitalizations among 12-to-17-year-olds.

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: These findings that force us to redouble our motivation to get our adolescents and young adults vaccinated.

HILL: This morning, mobile vaccine clinics were ready outside schools.

MEISHA PORTER, CHANCELLOR, NYC DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION: Our families trust their principals, they trust their schools. And so, if they can come to what is almost their second home and get it done. It just makes a big difference.

HILL: Tonight, they park at bars and nightclubs.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK CITY: We're going to go where young New Yorkers are.

HILL: Meantime, Massachusetts announcing plans to close all its mass- vaccination sites, in the coming weeks. Two-thirds of the state's adults are now fully vaccinated. New Jersey, not far behind, just dropped all indoor capacity limits.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Vaccinations are up. Jobs are up. Wages are up. America is, finally, on the move, again.

HILL: The president focusing on the positive amid signs his July 4th goal of at least one shot for 70 percent of adults may be an uphill climb. The country is close, but average daily vaccinations are moving in the wrong direction, dipping below 1 million, for the first time, since January.


DR. FRANCIS COLLINS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: I think we can make it. But it's going to take a push.

HILL: A dozen states have, already, met or exceeded that goal. But --

MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, CENTER FOR INFECTIOUS DISEASE RESEARCH & POLICY, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA: I'd remind people, just because a state has hit 70 percent, we still see pockets in those states, where they are well below 50 percent protection.

HILL: It's not just those pockets raising concern. Six states have, yet, to get a single shot in more than half their adult population.

COLLINS: I worry about the ones that are way below that. And they are sitting ducks for the next outbreak of COVID-19.

HILL: The good news? Average-daily cases, now, just above 15,000. And average-reported deaths are at levels not seen since March of last year.


HILL (on camera): And, Jake, Kentucky is now the latest state to try cash as an incentive for getting the shot, announcing a shot at a million effort, which will award three $1 million prizes to adults who have had at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine. For those ages 12 to 17, 15 full-ride scholarships to a state school, which will include room and board. Governor Bashir saying they basically looked at what every state was doing and decided to take the best from each one.

TAPPER: And a reminder that you and I, both, are vaccinated. Our spouses are vaccinated and we have teenagers who are vaccinated.

So anybody out there, who isn't, Erica and I, we -- we've done it. It's good. It's fine. We're protected. Thank you, Erica.

HILL: All good. Yeah. I'm feeling good. Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: Joining us now, Dr. Paul Offit. He is director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

Dr. Offit, let's talk about this new CDC report. What does the uptick in hospitalizations for teens, 11 to 17, what does it tell you?

DR. PAUL OFFIT, DIRECTOR, VACCINE EDUCATION CENTER, CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL OF PHILADELPHIA: It tells you children can still suffer and be hospitalized by this virus. I mean, it was -- it was a look at roughly more than 200 adolescents between 12 and 17 who were hospitalized. One-third of whom had to go to intensive care unit. Five percent of whom had to be mechanically ventilated. This virus can make you suffer and be seriously ill, and occasionally

die. I mean, we have had at least 300 children and possibly as many as 500 who have died from this -- this infection.

We had this notion initially this was just a disease of older people. It's not true. This virus can also hurt children. The good news is now, we have a vaccine for children down to 12 years of age. Get it.

TAPPER: Yeah. And clearly, teens need to get vaccinated soon as possible. I don't know if you have encountered any. But what would you say to -- to teens and parents who might be vaccine hesitant?

OFFIT: I think -- I think it's reasonable to be hesitant, initially. You want to make sure the vaccine is safe and that it works but now that this vaccine has been in millions of -- of frankly, 16, 17, 18- year-olds.

You have the data and now it's been in hundred of thousands of people between 12 and 17. You know that it's safe. You know that it works.

The study that was initially done in a 12 to 17-year-old was a 2,300- child study which found that there were -- there were roughly 18 or so cases of COVID. All of which, occurred in the -- in the placebo group, 18 in the placebo.

So, you don't -- and unfortunately, the people who were in the placebo group. I'm sure those parents were upset that, by a coin flip, their children had to suffer this disease. You can take the coin flip out of it, now. You don't have to worry about being in a placebo group. Just get the vaccine and then your child doesn't have to suffer COVID.

TAPPER: So you are on the FDA vaccine advisory committee, which is meeting next week. Kids and vaccinations, obviously, on the agenda. What are you expecting?

OFFIT: I think what we are going to do at that meeting is we are going to decide what the parameters are for approval, either through emergency-use authorization or through licensure down for much-younger age groups. Do we want a two-month follow-up? Do we want a six-month follow-up? What level of efficacy are we looking for? Those sort of parameters we'll be discussing.

TAPPER: And governors in Texas and Iowa, we should note, they have banned public schools from issuing any mask mandates. What's your take on that, given that there are, still, so many kids that aren't vaccinated?

OFFIT: I think it's really irresponsible. The rules are pretty clear. If -- if you are outside right now, you don't need to wear a mask. If you are inside with a group and you have been vaccinated, you don't need to wear a mask but if you haven't been vaccinated, you need to wear a mask.

And so, I think it's because you never really know who's been vaccinated when you are in a large group. It's probably just safer to wear a mask indoors. So to have those kind of rules, which only promote the spread of this virus. Which only promote more children getting sick is just nonsensical.

TAPPER: All right. Dr. Paul Offit, thanks so much. Good to see you again.

It's the latest battle in the culture war and the next political fight with kids and teachers caught in the middle. Should critical race theory be taught in classrooms?

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our national lead, the battle over what's called critical race theory is being taught in schools. The idea of that being taught in schools is putting teachers and students on the front lines in one of the latest culture wars in America.

Critical race theory is the idea that systemic racism is, and has historically been, part of American society. The theory challenges the beliefs that allow racism to flourish.

The concept has received fierce backlash from conservative lawmakers across the country who seek to block it from school curriculums. They say critical race theory creates more division, and should not, but does, define people by what race they are.

Just last night, Georgia state board of education passed a resolution trying to keep critical-race theory out of classrooms.

Now, CNN's Abby Phillip is now reporting for us on the steps that conservatives are taking to ban critical race theory.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just because I do not want critical-race theory taught to my children in school does not mean that I am a racist, dammit.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): School children across the country are caught in the crosshairs of a political battle over how race is taught in American schools.


BETTY SAWYER, PRESIDENT, NAACP OGDEN, UTAH CHAPTER: Why wouldn't you include a diversity of people to talk about race? That just baffles my mind.

PHILLIP: After last summer's nationwide protests against racism and police brutality, conservatives began waging their own battle over American history and an academic theory called critical race theory.

CHRISTINE EMBA, COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Critical race theory is an academic concept developed by legal scholars, Derrick Bell, Kimberle Crenshaw, and others in the 1970s and '80s. And it states that race and racism are a big part of American history, and are still embedded in our institutions, in our law, in our public policy and still, affect the outcomes, life outcomes, of black Americans and other people of color.

PHILLIP: Decades after the relatively obscure idea was coined, GOP political figures have seized on it.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: Critical race theory teaches that America is an evil country. And that you are part of a suppression from the moment you are born. I will not allow federal-taxpayer dollars to be used to spread anti-American propaganda.

PHILLIP: But that claim is false. The theory's founder and others say.

EMBA: They use the umbrella term of critical race theory to describe, basically, anything that challenges conservative viewpoints on, you know, race and racism in America's history. They could be talking about anything, from "The New York Times'" 1619 Project, to K-12 schools daring to teach students, justifiably, that, in fact, some of our Founding Fathers owned slaved.

PHILLIP: Yet, since former President Donald Trump left office, a slew of red states, led by ambitious GOP politicians, have picked up the torch he put down.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: Let me be clear. There's no room, in our classrooms, for things like critical race theory.

PHILLIP: That was Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, widely believed to be a 2024 presidential hopeful. And the issue has, also, taken hold in Oklahoma, which just days ago, marked 10 # years since one of the deadliest race massacres occurred in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

GOV. KEVIN STITT (R), OKLAHOMA: As governor, I will not stand for publicly-funded K-12 schools training impressionable minds to define themselves by their sex or their race.

PHILLIP: The state's Republican governor was removed from the massacre's centennial commission after he signed a bill banning schools from teaching certain concepts about race.

At a time, when Republicans are raging against cancel culture on social media. There has been no such outrage against bans on teaching history that, they believe, is un-American.

EMBA: This is cancel culture in reverse. If a teacher is acknowledging that oh, America does, in some ways, have a racist past. Conservatives are so threatened by this that they are the ones melting down.


PHILLIP: So, Jake, in addition to this seeming like a case of cancel culture for me but not for thee --

TAPPER: Right. PHILLIP: -- typically, Republicans have actually wanted to stay out of education. Stay out of the curriculums and this is just one more way, in which they have departed from some of these more classic, conservative principles. Especially, under Trumpism where, you know, all of this -- these culture wars have become a big part of how you prove yourself in today's Republican Party.

TAPPER: Right. And you see some of the people running for president in 2024 may be who aren't election liars, this is a different way for them to get their bona fides.

PHILLIP: Exactly.

TAPPER: All right. Abby, stick around, because we have a lot more to discuss with you in the next hour. Why is Facebook giving former President Trump a second chance, eventually? We are going to talk to a top official from Facebook, coming up.

Stay with us.



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

Ahead this hour: Facebook makes a decision on Trump's account, and he could get his account back just in time to post more lies and misinformation for the next presidential campaign. I will talk to one of the top officials at Facebook about the new ruling.

And he is the former White House lawyer who refused to fire Robert Mueller. Today, after a two-year fight, Don McGahn faces House investigators.

But first, what if the next time it's the power grid? The FBI director, giving a warning to the U.S., to wake up to the cyber threat that the U.S. is currently facing, comparing it to the challenge United States faced on 9/11.

Director Wray's urgent warning, underscoring how the highest levels of U.S. government believe ransomware is one of the most serious threats to national security.

And as CNN's Jessica Schneider reports for us now, this will be hopefully an all hands effort to convince the public that we, all, can help stop the attacks.


JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Biden administration sounding the alarm about the growing threat of cyberattacks. FBI director, Christopher Wray, comparing the effort needed to combat this rapid succession of hacks and ransomware attacks, to how the FBI approached the response to terrorism after 9/11. There are a lot of parallels. There is a lot of importance, and a lot

of focus by us on disruption and prevention, Wray said.

Director Wray told "The Wall Street Journal," the FBI is investigating about 100 different types of ransomwares. Many that trace back to hackers in Russia.

One study shows the U.S. was hit by more than 15,000 ransomware attacks last year alone, costing businesses and organizations between at least half a billion and $2.3 billion in 2020. Ransomware locks up computer files and hackers demand payment to release the files.