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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Jan. 6 Committee Seeks Wide Range Of Docs From Bannon; Biden, Progressives Meeting On Key Priorities; FDA To Allow Mixing And Matching Booster Doses; Haitian Gang Demands $17 Million Ransom For Hostages; Legal Fight Over Sackler Family's Responsibility In The Opioid Epidemic; Biden, Moderates Meeting On Key Priorities. Aired 4- 5p ET

Aired October 19, 2021 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: It's decision day for MAGA's Rasputin.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Breaking news, the committee investigating the Capitol riot is about to vote to hold Trump's former right-hand man Steve Bannon accountable for ignoring the rule of law. What that could mean for Trump's other loyalists and for the former president himself.

Also breaking right now, president Biden holding critical meetings with his fellow Democrats, still divided over his transformative social safety net and climate change plans. Can Biden deliver?

Plus, more mixed messages on mixing and matching COVID vaccines. The FDA expected to say, hey, go for it, but --


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

And we begin today in the politics lead. In just the few hours, the January 6th select committee will vote. It's a vote to hold Trump ally Steve Bannon in contempt of Congress for defying the committee's own subpoena, putting on full display just how much muscle lawmakers have to seek meaningful consequences for former president Trump's attempt to stage essentially a coup. Bannon is claiming executive privilege even though Bannon has not worked in the White House in years. Now tonight's vote will kick off a process that ultimately puts this political hot potato in the lap of an apolitical person, Attorney General Merrick Garland.

But as Ryan Nobles reports, whether or not Attorney General Garland will ultimately prosecute Bannon for contempt of Congress -- well, that's anyone's guess.



January 6th Select Committee making good on their threat and moving quickly to hold Trump ally Steve Bannon in criminal contempt of Congress.

REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): We feel this behavior is outrageous.

NOBLES: The committee requested documents and wants to talk to Bannon about his conversations with Trump and others in the days leading up to January 6th.

STEVE BANNON, FORMER TRUMP ADVISER: All hell is going to break loose tomorrow.

NOBLES: Tonight, the committee will hold a vote to officially report their claim that Bannon's defiance rises to the level of criminal contempt of Congress. From there the entire House of Representatives will send the matter to the Department of Justice where prosecutors will decide whether to prosecute the case. A lengthy process that's likely to be fought in court for some time.

WILLIAM BANKS, PROFESSOR, SYRACUSE UNIVERSITY COLLEGE OF LAW: We can go up and down the federal court hierarchy multiple times. So district court, court of appeals, even United States Supreme Court, could potentially hear one of these cases.

Historically, one of the remarkable things about the clash between the executive and the legislature in this kind of setting, involving executive privilege and congressional demand for information is that almost all of the time, the parties have negotiated a settlement.

NOBLES: Bannon seems content to let the courts make the call. In a letter last week to the committee, his lawyers wrote, until such time as you reach an agreement with President Trump, or receive a court ruling as to the extent, scope and applications of the executive privilege, in order to preserve the claim of executive and other privileges, Mr. Bannon will not be producing documents or testifying. His posture is hardened by Trump himself filing a lawsuit against the committee yesterday.

The committee, not buying any of their claims. Mr. Bannon has relied on no legal authority to support his refusal to comply in any fashion with the subpoena. The report they'll vote on tonight states --

LOFGREN: You can't just say I'm not coming in. The law requires when a subpoena has been duly issued, as this one was, to come in and make your case.

NOBLES: An option Bannon does not appear to be willing to take. And so the committee is moving forward tonight, hoping that other potential witnesses will take note.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): It's also really important, right from the start, that we establish that if you ignore your lawful requirement of testifying when subpoenaed, you will go to jail.


NOBLES (on camera): And Bannon is apparently fighting this move by the select committee to report out the criminal contempt for referral up to the last minute. He sent a letter asking the committee to delay their work today. They flatly refused that request. The question now, Jake, is when will the full house vote on this? House leaders saying they're not going to weigh in on that until the committee reports out the referral tonight -- Jake.


TAPPER: All right. Ryan Nobles on Capitol Hill, thanks so much.

Let's discuss all of this with CNN senior legal analyst and former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York during the Obama administration, Preet Bharara.

Preet, good to see you.

During Merrick Garland's confirmation to become attorney general, he vowed to keep the department free of politics. Take a listen.


MERRICK GARLAND, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I don't care who pressures me in whatever direction. The department under -- if I am confirmed, will be under my protection for the purpose of preventing any kind of partisan or other improper motive in make anything kind of investigation or prosecution. That's my vow. That's the only reason I'm willing to do this job.


TAPPER: This investigation, however, whether or not garland likes it, it's politically thorny. There is some bipartisan support, but overall, Republicans are out there saying this is partisan. They want it to go away. The only reason Democrats are doing this is for political reasons.

How can Garland navigate this?

PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Look, I think he stands by his reputation and his career, much of which was as a federal circuit court judge in the D.C. circuit court of appeals. He's made statement after statement about his independence. You'll recall just a few days ago when Joe Biden was asked a question about this and I think he probably said what he shouldn't have said, and said he thought that Bannon should be prosecuted if he defies the subpoena.

Merrick Garland's spokesperson at the Justice Department made a very strong statement about how this is the decision of the independent DOJ. That's how it operates. That's how it goes. And he'll make that decision.

The law under which Bannon could be prosecuted, I believe Title 2, Section 194, has language in it that says once a certification is made as we expect to happen in the coming days, about a refusal to testify, the relevant U.S. attorney shall present it to the grand jury. The department of justice going back multiple administrations has taken the position that even though the statute says shall present, they retain, you know, their own discretion and independence to decide based on all the facts and the law as they understand it, whether or not they should proceed. And I think that Merrick Garland stands firmly in that position.

TAPPER: So, as you just mentioned, President Biden recently, he weighed in on whether or not the Justice Department should prosecute Bannon for refusing to comply with this subpoena. Take a listen.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: What's your message to people who defy congressional subpoenas on the January 6th committee?

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I hope that the committee goes after them and holds them accountable.

COLLINS: Should they be prosecuted by the Justice Department?

BIDEN: I do, yes.


TAPPER: Now when I interviewed Biden and Harris in December, president-elect and vice president-elect, Biden told me it's not my Justice Department. It's the people's Justice Department and he said the people that he would pick would have the independent capacity to decide who gets prosecuted and who doesn't. He suggested also that he wouldn't be weighing in on matters the way that Trump repeatedly did.

You think it was a mistake for Biden to say what he said?

BHARARA: I do. And I'm betting he regrets it. I think there are spokespeople at the White House that walked it back. The Justice Department spokesperson strongly refuted that. And I think Biden has in other places very firmly, including the time you just spoke about, has said the department is independent and makes its own enforcement decisions.

I think it was an unfortunate error in the last few days but, to my knowledge, he's not making any instruction. He's not calling the attorney general. He's not doing any one of the hundreds of things that president Trump did, including calling election officials, calling the acting attorney general of the United States, calling someone else Jeffrey Clark who has been subpoenaed by the committee to try to get his bidding done with respect to specific enforcement actions on specific grounds against specific people.

Biden is not doing any of that. I think it was a mistake but I don't think we should get carried away with it because he probably regrets saying what he said. TAPPER: If the full House votes to refer the case to the Justice

Department, which is expected, the matter will go to the U.S. attorney in D.C., not to Merrick Garland himself. Take us inside the room per se. Does the U.S. attorney pick up the phone and call Garland, tell him I just got this referral? How does it work with a prominent and potentially thorny case?

BHARARA: Yeah. So, you know, technically, the case goes to the relevant U.S. attorney, in this case, the U.S. D.C. attorney. I led a famously independent U.S. attorney's office, the Southern District of New York, often called the "Sovereign District of New York". Each U.S. attorney's office operates with some degree of independence from the rest of the justice department and from the attorney general. My office more maybe stridently than others.

But I think given the weight of the matter, the issues involved, the focus of the nation on it, I can't imagine that the U.S. attorney in D.C. who I know who is an honorable prosecutor would be doing that without consulting with Merrick Garland.


Whether Merrick Garland picks up the phone or the U.S. attorney picks up the phone, somebody will and there will be a discussion about it before they proceed.

TAPPER: All right. Preet Bharara, good to see you. Thank you so much. I appreciate it.

President Biden hosting Democrats from both sides of the Democratic fight over his multitrillion dollar spending plans. Are they any closer to a deal?

And from the Founding Father to deadbeat dad? New York City decides whether a statue of Thomas Jefferson will remain standing.

Stay with us.


TAPPER: And we're back with breaking news in our politics lead. Right now, President Biden is in the third hour of his meeting with key progressive Democrats before getting together with moderate Democrats in a few minutes. This is the latest attempt to try to find a compromise to get his transformative legislation to combat climate change and expand the social safety net passed.

We're covering this story from both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue.

We're going to start with Phil Mattingly is at the White House.

Phil, this is the third meeting for President Biden today. Any progress being made?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Look, I think it underscores there's been a clear acceleration in the talks and emphasis from the part of the White House but also Democratic leaders that the time window is closing and hard decisions need to be made now.

Now, Jake, this morning, the president met privately with Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, separately, the two key moderates. And it's worth noting that over the course of the last several weeks, Jake, the White House and top Democratic leadership staff have been meeting behind the scenes trying to address the myriad of concerns, very different concerns, those two senators have brought to the table.

To some degree, that was THE LEAD in to the current meeting, nine progressive members of the House. Key players in the group that the president made clear they'd not allow the bipartisan infrastructure proposal to move forward to a vote until there was an agreement on the multitrillion-dollar climate and economic package. The president meeting with those lawmakers, one, acknowledging the critical role they play in the house but also I'm told by some advisers to run by them some of the areas where they think they have made headway with Senators Sinema and Manchin.

Now, we've still not heard from those members. The meeting still ongoing a few minutes ago. The last time I checked, there's a possibility we'll hear from those members in a little bit. But the length of that meeting and the scale of the meetings throughout the course of today and likely into the next couple of days underscores the clear push from the White House to get a deal and get one soon, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. CNN's Lauren Fox is on Capitol Hill for us as well.

Lauren, you're getting new reporting about a lengthy meeting among Democrats this afternoon. Tell us more.

LAUREN FOX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there have been a lot of private discussions between Sinema and Manchin and the president directly. But a lot of lawmakers on Capitol Hill on the Democratic side of the aisle wanted to hear more directly from what exactly Senator Joe Manchin wanted.

They got an opportunity today in this private closed door lunch. Senators met for more than two hours, Jake, which is an unusual amount of time up here on Capitol Hill given everyone's busy schedules. But I'm told from multiple members that there was agreement and a real sense of momentum with Senator Joe Manchin in the room today. They were able to hash things out. It was a spirited discussion and they agreed they were going to try to find some kind of way forward, some framework, including a top line number they all could agree on by the end of the week.

Like Phil noted, the deadline for this agreement is closing quickly and a sense on Capitol Hill that everyone has to come together soon.

TAPPER: Let's go to the White House right now where Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, the leader of the Congressional Progressive Caucus is talking. REP. PRAMILA JAYAPAL (D-WA): -- fundamentally lift people up with the

priorities that the progressive caucus laid out five months ago. We feel very good that the majority of those priorities will be in this bill. And I think the president has been working incredibly hard to get everybody to a place where we can move this forward and finish this process so that we can start on whatever is the next important thing that we need to do.

So I feel like we -- these conversations have been really important and the president's work with the senators and then with our caucus in the house have been really, really critical for us to be able to move forward. So, we're feeling good.

REPORTER: Congresswoman, did you agree to a bottom line number for the reconciliation package? What would you say to those who look at the fact you're having separate meetings with the president's own moderates to say how can there be real progress if you're not --

JAYAPAL: Well, I think, look, I want to just remind everybody that the House has a Build Back Better Act that had the vast majority of us, progressive, moderate, whatever you want to call us, all agreed to. And so we really are talking about just a couple of people that were not there, and we understand that the margins are slim. So we need to get there.

So I think it's fine for the president to have smaller meetings with different groupings of people. I think that's a good thing. It doesn't mean we're not all talking to each other separately as well. So I think we're in a good place.

REPORTER: What about the bottom line number then?

JAYAPAL: Well, I mean, the president has consistently laid out a number that is somewhere between 1.9 and 2.2 and I think -- look, it's not the number that we want. We have consistently tried to make it as high as possible. But at the end of the day, the idea that we can do these programs, a multitude of programs and actually get them going so that they deliver immediate transformational benefits to people is what we're focused on.

TAPPER: All right. That's congresswoman Pramila Jayapal, Democrat from Washington state, leader of the House Progressive Caucus, talking to reporters after her meeting and the meeting of other progressives with president Biden during this crucial negotiation period.

Phil Mattingly and Lauren Fox, we thank you as well.

TAPPER: President Joe Biden is going to join CNN this Thursday for an exclusive town hall. He'll answer questions from the American people and from my colleague Anderson Cooper. It's Thursday night at 8:00 p.m. only on CNN. Be sure to tune in to that.

Should you mix and match COVID booster shots?


The FDA is now weighing in, and that story is next.


TAPPER: On to our health lead right now -- boosting with a twist. Any moment, the FDA is expected to announce its plan to allow mixing and matching booster doses. But according to "The New York Times," the FDA will stop short of encouraging that.

So, for example, if you got the Moderna vaccine originally, the FDA will say it's fine if you want to get a Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson booster.


But the FDA is also expected to say it's probably best to stick with the original vaccine, which as Alexandra Field reports is just adding to renewed confusion.


ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Washington state firing its highest paid public employee, college football coach, Nick Rolovich, and four of his assistant coaches all refusing to comply with the state's vaccine mandate.

DAN WOLKEN, NATIONAL COLUMNIST, USA TODAY SPORTS: Coaches across the country always try to teach their players to sacrifice for the team and in Nick Rolovich's case, not only did he refuse to do that, he never really explained himself.

FIELD: Overall, there's evidence to show vaccine mandates are largely working. Ninety percent of Washington state workers are in compliance along with 91 percent of Oregon state workers. In Los Angeles, on the eve of a new mandate, 97 percent of employees in the nation's second largest school district have shown proof of vaccination, but a third of sworn police officers remain unvaccinated.

And in Chicago, they're already taking disciplinary action against some of the 4,500 police officers who failed to disclose their vaccine status, stripping them of police powers.

MAYOR LORI LIGHTFOOT (D), CHICAGO, ILLINOIS: I really hope that the men and women of the Chicago Police Department who have been fed a lot of stuff, that's the most polite, appropriate word I can use in this forum, are not going to ruin their careers over going to a website and saying yes or no.

FIELD: Nationwide with more than two-thirds of eligible Americans now fully vaccinated, new COVID cases and COVID related hospitalizations are falling to nearly three-month lows. And more people, tens of millions, could soon be eligible for a booster shot.

The FDA is considering whether to authorize Moderna and J&J boosters. A CDC advisory committee could recommend them as soon as Thursday. Two sources tell CNN the FDA is planning to allow Americans to mix and match coronavirus vaccines when they receive their boosters. DR. RICHINA BICETTE, ASSOCIATE MEDICAL DIRECTOR, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF

MEDICINE: You cannot get a booster of whatever vaccine you got initially, that should not preclude you from trying to get yourself protected.

FIELD: But the plan is already causing confusion as the FDA will allow mixing and matching. They'll encourage people to get the same kind of vaccine they got initially, according to "The New York Times."

That as colder weather once again brings cause for concern. New CNN analysis shows five states already experiencing cold weather are now seeing the biggest pockets of increases.


FIELD (on camera): Not everyone can be convinced to get a vaccine, Jake. We know that. Nobody knows better than local health department officials. They are now citing increases in violence, threats and harassment from anti-vaxxers, so much so that a group of these local health officials from across the country have come together to draft a letter to the Department of Justice now asking for protection -- Jake.

TAPPER: Alexandra Field, thanks so much.

Joining us is CNN medical analyst, Dr. Jonathan Reiner. He's a cardiologist and professor at George Washington University Medical Center.

Dr. Reiner, good to see you as always.

So why is the FDA telling people they can mix and match, but then saying, but you probably shouldn't?

DR. JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, I think it's insufficient for them to do that. I read about this topic continuously. And I'm not sure I know what to tell people, someone in my family that's gotten the J&J vaccine and I try to figure out what's the best booster? Is it J&J? Is it Moderna? Is it Pfizer?

I think it's actually not J&J. It's probably Moderna or Pfizer. If I don't have a clear feeling for how to boost each of these vaccines, how much can the average American who is not in medicine understand it?

So I think if the FDA and CDC are going to allow mixing and matching, they should give some guidance on which combinations make sense and when.

TAPPER: If I got the Johnson & Johnson dose, and research shows that Moderna and Pfizer's boosters might be stronger, why would anyone opt for the Johnson & Johnson booster?

REINER: I think there's not a lot of reason to. If you look at -- there was one group of original folks who got the single dose J&J who had this increased risk of a rare cerebral venous thrombosis, important side effect, which makes one wonder whether anyone should get the second dose, particularly if you are a woman under the age of 50, which seem to be the highest risk group. And when you look at the data for the J&J boost, yeah, a second dose of J&J can increase the neutralizing antibodies by fourfold. But the Moderna boost increased it by over 70-fold, and Pfizer about 35-fold.

So it's a very good question. Why would you get a second J&J vaccine? Now the company says that a second J&J vaccine induces great immunity and that I'm sure is true, but we really need firm guidance from the CDC to inform the 330 million people in this country what to do.

TAPPER: Now, look, I get that COVID-19 is new. And I get that health professionals are doing the best they can and that ultimately when you look at the performance of health professionals, it's really been herculean. I mean, that's been saying. That said, throughout this pandemic, there has been a communication issue going on.

And again, I know the data changes, but first masks, then vaccines and then boosters. Masking again came up recently. What would you say to your patients if they say, this is all so confusing, and I'm having -- I'm losing confidence in health agencies because they keep changing guidance and giving conflicting messages?

REINER: I would understand, which is why the first suggestion to any patient about booster -- which booster to take is to talk to your doctor. Most folks have a lot of confidence in their doctor or otherwise provider so reach out to them, if you don't know what to do or if you're concerned about getting a third dose of the same vaccine or second dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, talk to your doctor. Your doctor can help you distill this very complicated information and I agree.

I think the CDC and FDA have done an awful job communicating in a straightforward way communicating to the American people where we stand and how to stay safe.

TAPPER: All right. Dr. Jonathan Reiner, thank you so much. Appreciate it as always.

Haitian authorities say it's too dangerous for them to go to the area where 16 Americans and one Canadian were kidnapped. So CNN is going to go in a chopper to check out where it all happened. That's next.

Plus, Gabby Petito's mother tells us what she'd say to Brian Laundrie's parents.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our world lead, $1 million per captive, $1 million. That's what the notorious gang behind the kidnapping of 17 American and Canadian missionaries in Haiti is demanding for their release. The hostages are being held near Port-au-Prince, the nation's capital, in a dangerous neighborhood controlled by the gang according to Haitian authorities who add they believe it's too dangerous for them to go there.

So CNN's Joe Johns took a helicopter himself to check out where it all went down.


JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As the State Department and FBI work behind the scenes to free the American missionaries and five children who were snatched in Haiti, a new warning about paying the $17 million ransom the gang behind the kidnapping is demanding.

LAURENT LAMOTHE, FORMER HAITIAN PRIME MINISTER: It would be unfortunate for the $17 million to be paid because that would only reinforce the gang and finance further kidnappings. So the solution is to short term send, you know, experts, security experts to help the police in this particular situation.

JOHNS: The missionaries were believed to be staying at a compound in the village of Titanyen outside Port-au-Prince. On Saturday, they were kidnapped by a group of armed men while driving back from visiting a nearby orphanage in Croix-des-Bouquets.

Haitian officials say the gang 400 Mawozo is responsible. We took a ride in a helicopter to get a better view of the area.

I've been on many of these roads outside of Port-au-Prince, ten years ago, but it's very different now, simply because of the kidnappings. It's not safe for a foreigner to drive on the roads. That's why we're in the helicopter. Four hundred Mawozo is Creole for out in the country, outside the city. And that's where this group comes from.

An armed gang that has grown larger and larger and more powerful, particularly over the last several months since the assassination of the president of Haiti. They control the roads in many ways. The police need help.

Kidnapping and robbery has become a part of life on the roads outside Port-au-Prince. What's different this time is the massive amount of money being demanded in ransom, $1 million per victim.

Four hundred Mawozo started small. First stealing livestock, then cars and eventually becoming bold enough to carry out individual kidnappings. Now groups of people are collective kidnapping. Authorities blame the lack of law enforcement response for the group's sudden growth.

There's a real reluctance from government authorities as well as many people who are part of the electorate to have another peacekeeping force on the ground to restore order. But if they don't want that to happen, the question is, how can Haiti succeed without getting control of the situation on the ground?


JOHNS (on camera): Back live now in Port-au-Prince. And we have more detail on the mission of those missionaries who were abducted here in Haiti on Saturday. We're told that they were involved in helping to rebuild the homes of people that were destroyed in the earthquake in August -- Jake.

TAPPER: Joe Johns live for us in Port-au-Prince, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

In our national lead, Gabby Petito's parents are speaking out in a new interview.


The mother of 22-year-old Petito who was found murdered last month hopes her daughter didn't suffer. And as for Gabby's missing boyfriend, Brian Laundrie, she hopes to, quote, get him in a cell.

Let's get right to CNN's Athena Jones.

Athena, Gabby's mom also talked about her last conversations with her daughter.

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Jake. It's hard to watch this interview. It's heartbreaking to see Gabby Petito's family members mourning publicly the loss of their daughter for weeks now. We know that they just went out to Wyoming over the weekend to retrieve Petito's remains now that the cause of death has been already found and put out in public.

And the family sat down with "60 Minutes" Australia to talk about gabby's last weeks. Here's gabby's mother, Nichole Schmidt.


NICHOLE SCHMIDT, MOTHER OF GABBY PETITO: I told her to be careful, be safe. Make sure to be aware of your surroundings. Don't trust everybody. I knew -- but I felt safe because she was with Brian and I felt like she would be okay. I think -- I thought he would take care of her. Just want to get him in a cell for the rest of his life.


JONES: So Nichole Schmidt telling the interviewer she thought her daughter would be safe traveling with her fiance. Gabby had lived with Brian and his parents in that home together in north port Florida for more than a year. So it's very clear this family is still very much struggling and they still want answers, of course, from the laundry family, from Chris and Roberta Laundrie, Brian Laundrie's parents. They want to know why they aren't saying more to help them get the answers they need to solve this case -- Jake.

TAPPER: Is there any update, Athena, on the whereabouts of Brian Laundrie?

JONES: No updates. No confirmed sightings. It's not at all clear that law enforcement is any closer to finding him. We know that they've spent weeks searching that nature reserve, 25,000 acre near the Laundrie family home. So far that's turned up nothing.

And you hear from Nichole Schmidt and Jim Schmidt. They say they want justice for Gabby. Jim saying they want vengeance.

And Gabby's father Joseph Petito saying if he were in the Laundrie family's shoes and it were Gabby who had come home without Brian in Brian's car, he would have been on the phone with Brian's parents. So he's still trying to make sense of this. They're still trying to make sense of this. Gabby's mother saying the Laundrie's silence speaks volumes. But bottom line here, Brian Laundrie still nowhere to be found -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Athena Jones, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Also, in our national lead, it belongs in a museum. That's what New York City officials say about a 7-foot-tall statue of Thomas Jefferson that's presided over the chambers for more than a century. In a unanimous vote, the commission which oversees the city's public art, voted to remove and relocate the statue at the behest of members of the council's black, Latino and Asian caucus. They say the representation of the slave-owning Founding Father makes them uncomfortable and they believe it is inappropriate.

CNN's Jason Carroll is in New York outside the city council chambers.

And, Jason, this has been a 20-year fight to remove the statue. Why now?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think a couple of things. First and foremost, in the wake of the George Floyd protest, what you've seen is a real effort to re-evaluate some of these historical figures, try to put their lives into context. That's what we're seeing with the case of Thomas Jefferson.

I mean, you look at a man like Thomas Jefferson, Founding Father, helped to write the declaration of independence. So many accomplishments but then on the flip side, this is a man, Jake, who owned 600 slaves. He had a relationship with one of his slaves, Sally Hemings, fathered children by her when she was just a teenager. Like most 18th century thinkers at the time, he wrote about whites being superior to blacks.

And so, if you were a city council member and coming into a chamber here at city hall and see that statue, that's what you are thinking of each day, day in and day out. So they put it to the public design commission to do something about it. They took a vote, voted 8-0 to get rid of the statue. As you can imagine there are a lot of passionate feelings. Some of those who say it should go and some who say it should stay.


DANEEK MILLER (D), NEW YORK CITY COUNCIL: That statue can no longer exist in those chambers. Its time has come.

JOSEPH BORRELLI (R), NEW YORK CITY COUNCIL: I wish this would go to a referenda or polling because I think the majority of New Yorkers would disagree with this.


CARROLL: Jake, it's unclear at this point where the statue is going to end up. The commission simply voted to remove it from the city council chamber here at city hall. Maybe it will end up in a museum or in another public space.


What is we can say for sure is that it will be moved out of the chamber here by the end of the year -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Jason Carroll in New York, thank you so much.

Coming up, a private school in Florida may have just reached a new level of anti-vax lunacy. Why kids who get their shot are being punished. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our buried lead now, that's what we call stories we feel are not getting enough attention, the cost of the opioid epidemic in lives and money is staggering. And one family is at the center of it all. Just days ago, a federal judge denied a request from the justice department to slow down a legal settlement which some consider a sweetheart deal for the drugmaker.

As CNN's Tom Foreman reports, that's just the latest in the long legal fight to figure out who should pay for the tragedy and at what price.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The latest move by the court allows the massive bankruptcy deal to keep moving forward under which the Sackler family would give up ownership and control of Purdue Pharma and surrender $4.5 billion over nine years to help combat the opioid crisis, the bulk going to addiction and treatment programs.

In exchange, the family would admit no wrongdoing, be shielded from future civil lawsuits and hold onto most of their multibillion-dollar fortune. Unprecedented and some say unconscionable.

PATRICK RADDEN KEEFE, AUTHOR OF "EMPIRE OF PAIN": They are getting a sweeping grant of immunity from any future liability associated with the crisis. They pay $4.5 billion and they'll be richer when they're done paying than they are today. So, you tell me, is that justice?

FOREMAN: Many of the states that were suing Purdue have agreed to the settlement but the Department of Justice is asking about what about other people with potential claims?

JOANNE PETERSON, FOUNDER OF LEARN TO COPE: I lost my niece a couple of years ago to an overdose. FOREMAN: When do families like Joanne Peterson get their day in


PETERSON: I lost a brother.

FOREMAN: Their chance to confront the Sacklers?

PETERSON: That family should have to start going to funerals.

FOREMAN: Purdue pled guilty to federal criminal charges in 2020 over the way it marketed and sold OxyContin, agreeing to pay over $8 billion in the wake of huge criminal and civil investigations.

JEFFREY ROSEN, FORMER DEPUTY ATTORNEY GENERAL: We have targeted unlawful activity involving opioids at every level of the supply chains.

FOREMAN: As part of the plan to settle civil lawsuits filed by dozens of states and others, the company is being reorganized with an emphasis on helping address the opioid problem. But Purdue is not the only company involved in the epidemic, and the Sacklers have not been charged with any crimes.

Indeed some family members who served on the Purdue board acknowledge the company did wrong. And say they personally acted ethically and lawfully and are troubled over what has happened.

DR. KATHE SACKLER, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT, PURDUE PHARMA: My focus mostly was on the needs of patients and doctors. It distresses me greatly and angers me greatly, that the medication that was developed to help people and relieve severe pain has become associated with so much human suffering.

KEEFE: They see themselves as victims in this story.

FOREMAN: Still, the CDC says nearly a half million people have died from opioids since 1999, and the Sacklers are being harshly criticized for their role in the sad tale, even if many victims think they already know the ending.

PETERSON: And here we have to watch them again walk away.


FOREMAN: We reached out to the attorneys for members of the Sackler family. They did not make their clients available for interviews but they pointed to written statements and websites on behalf of the family that argue, again, they did not behave improperly. They are being unfairly demonized and they're committed to helping with the opioid problem -- Jake.

TAPPER: Tom Foreman, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

FOREMAN: Going face-to-face to stop a family fight, President Biden meets with all of the wings of his party, and one of the congressmen in those meetings will join us live, next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


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

This hour, North Korea making waves, literally and figuratively. Suspected of launching a ballistic missile from a sub into the Sea of Japan. How the U.S. and allies are responding.

And living in the upside down. A private school in Florida orders children to stay home if they have received the COVID vaccine.

But first, leading this hour, twisting arms for trillions. President Biden holding critical meetings with progressives and right now with moderate Democrats as the party remains divided over President Biden's historic $3.5 trillion spending plan which includes money for social safety net programs and everything from child care and universal pre-K to combating climate change.

Biden also met solo with two of the moderate senators who are as of now the holdouts on this deal -- Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.

Let's get straight to Phil Mattingly live for us at the White House.

And, Phil, progressive Democrats, they seem pretty optimistic after meeting with President Biden just now.

MATTINGLY: That's right, Jake. More than two hours in the Oval Office with President Biden, nine congressional -- nine progressive Democrats in the House. And Pramila Jayapal, the chairwoman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus said they left the meeting even more optimistic that they would find a, quote, transformational agreement that the president has been reaching for than at any point. This is just the first of several meetings, or several days where the president is trying to clinch the most important parts of his domestic agenda.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Our goal is to continue to make progress.

MATTINGLY (voice-over): President Biden working behind closed doors to close the deal.

PSAKI: The president is basing this approach on five decades of Washington, which is a pretty good guide for how to get things done.