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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Horror In Houston: Multiple Lawsuits Filed Against Travis Scott, Organizers; January 6 Committee Subpoenas More Trump Associates; Biden's Disapproval Rating Grows One Year Before Midterm Elections; Biden Administration Launches Campaign To Ramp Up Number Of Vaccine Sites For Children; Biden Admin To Send Deportation Case Notices To 78K Migrants; CIA Director Had Rare Conversation With Russian President. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired November 08, 2021 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: The missed warning signs are piling up after the tragedy in Houston.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Breaking today, the first lawsuit filed after fans were crushed and trampled and eight killed at a concert in Houston. One survivor saying they were just thrown into a ball of violence. How do we make sure this doesn't happen again?

And a new low for President Biden's approval rating in a new CNN poll. What Americans say he is not focusing on enough.

Plus, everyone from Big Bird to First Lady Jill Biden out working hard to get America's kids vaccinated. What parents need to know as more shots go into little arms.

Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We start today with our national lead, the horrific deadly tragedy in Texas over the weekend. Houston's mayor telling CNN it could take weeks if not months to get answers into what exactly unfolded at the multi-day music festival where eight people were killed and dozens injured over the weekend. The crowd of 50,000 packed so tightly that when rapper Travis Scott took the stage Friday night, concertgoers were crushed and trampled as waves of people in the crowd moved toward him.

Videos show attendees trapped against barriers, barely able to move. Others trying to reach out and help them escape. At one point, Scott appeared to notice something wrong in the crowd.



(END VIDEO CLIP) TAPPER: Concertgoers had been trying to warn event staff about the disaster as it began unfolding, screaming: stop the show, stop the show to no avail. The concert continued for more than 30 minutes after a mass casualty event had been declared. Now, Travis Scott and concert promoters are facing multiple lawsuits. In moments, Houston's fire chief will join us live with the latest on the investigation, the victims and what comes next.

But, first, CNN's Ed Lavandera spoke to some of the concert attendees about how this horrible tragedy happened.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Panic and party is how Jared Kuker described the moments after Travis Scott took the stage Friday night at the Astroworld festival in Houston.

JARED KUKER, ASTROWORLD FESTIVAL ATTENDEE: Everyone is screaming. It's like an airplane crash type situation. People are screaming like bloody murder. It's kind of like a matter of fact thought. It's like okay. This is going to be it. It's going to be how I go.

LAVANDERA: Kuker says everyone around him was struggling to stay on their feet and breathe. At one point, he fell down and landed on someone he thinks might be one of the victims.

KUKER: I remember looking down and the person on the bottom was just laying there. And all I could do was just slapped their face. I think they were unconscious. They might have passed at that point.

LAVANDERA: Houston police have launched a criminal investigation into what happened at the concert that left eight people dead. As the mayhem in the crowd unfolded, the show on stage kept going. Multiple civil lawsuits against Travis Scott and the entertainment company Live Nation have already been filed.

Before the Astroworld festival, Travis Scott had faced criminal charges twice for inciting his concert crowds. In 2018, according to the "Arkansas Democrat Gazette", Scott pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct. Police say he encouraged a concert crowd to rush the stage, in a 2017 show, in Rogers, Arkansas.

And in 2015, "The Chicago Tribune" reported Scott pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor reckless conduct charge for urging a Lollapalooza crowd to climb over security barricades.

In an Instagram post, Travis Scott indicated he wasn't aware of how bad the crowd situation had become in Houston.

TRAVIS SCOTT, RAPPER: At any time I could make out anything that's going on, you know, I would stop the show. And help them get the help they need.

LAVANDERA: Houston authorities released the names of all the victims who died in the crush of people at the concert. John Hilgert was 14 and Brianna Rodriguez at 16. The other victims were in their 20s. Danish Baig, Rodolfo Pena, Madison Dubiski, Franco Patino, Jacob Jurinek, and Axel Acosta Avila.


LAVANDERA (on camera): And, Jake, going into the show, there must have been some concern about the crowd situation here at this venue. The police chief here in Houston confirmed this afternoon that he met with Travis Scott and his head of security in the hours before the main concert event on Friday night and urged the team to be mindful of their social media posts and what they were messaging to the crowd showing up here at this event.

But despite all of that, the people we have talked to who were able to escape the deluge of people here at this crowd described a scene where many of the people responding that there wasn't a sense of urgency to understand exactly how tragic of an event was unfolding in this crowd -- Jake.

TAPPER: Ed Lavandera in Houston, thanks so much.

Joining us now to discuss, Houston Fire Chief Samuel Pena.

Thank you so much for joining us, Chief Pena.

Have you made any progress in determining exactly what went so wrong on Friday night leading to those eight deaths?

CHIEF SAMUEL PENA, HOUSTON FIRE DEPARTMENT: Jake, first, let me say that our prayers are with the families of the deceased and injured that are still in the hospital. So the investigation is still in its infancy. We're participating with the police department in Houston to figure out exactly what went wrong. But what we do know is that there was -- at some point there was a surge in the crowd when Mr. Travis Scott began his set. And those people that were closest to the stage itself and around were the ones being compressed by the crowd that was trying to filter in and trying to, it seems like they were trying to get as close to the stage as they could.

TAPPER: Am I correct in saying that the security and medical components of this event were handled by the concert promoters, not the city of Houston?

PENA: That's correct. The medical services were provided by a private company hired by the promoter to be -- to serve that function at this event. Now the NRG stadium is a county facility. It resides within the city of Houston, but it's a county facility. And it was sanctioned by -- essentially by the county and that board.

And so they have the authority to -- or the responsibility to hire those security and medical components, and in this case, the medical component was provided by a private company.

TAPPER: So this was not the first Astroworld in Houston. Back in 2019, three people were trampled at a festival. Thankfully, they were not killed. They were injured, though.

But they were trampled when people rushed to enter. Should the city have had more medical teams on standby knowing the history, knowing the 50,000 people would be on site?

PENA: Well, Jake, I'm glad you asked that question because the Houston fire department proactively prepositions some units out there, even though it was not part of the initial -- of their plan. What we did is took into consideration the previous experiences we had with large events.

We had a similar instance in 2019 with the -- with this particular event. The Astroworld, where there were some injuries. So ahead of this event, we prepositioned an incident command post there in the -- on the footprint. We actually prepositioned some units in there in anticipation of, in case things went wrong which I'm glad we did. Because as we monitored and maintained situational awareness, we noticed that the -- that they were starting to get out of hand around 9:15, 9:30, after the concert started.

And we proactively started to deploy resources closer. And as soon as the communications sounded like they were being overwhelmed as far as the medical component, we started to deploy units into the area to begin treatment.

And it was, look, I can't say enough about the work that the men and women at the Houston Fire Department and the Houston Police Department did to ensure that we were being proactive and when the emergency response was required, we were on the spot.

TAPPER: So a mass casualty event was declared at 9:38 p.m. but the concert was not stopped until after 10:10 p.m. That's more than a half hour later. You told "The New York Times", quote: The one person who can really call for and get a tactical pause when something goes wrong is that performer. They have that bully pulpit and they have a responsibility, unquote.

So is it the position of the Houston Fire Department that Travis Scott was responsible for stopping the show earlier?

PENA: Look, everybody there that was providing security, including the performer, they have certain responsibilities. They have a vantage point that most people do not. The concert was so loud, Jake, that even, you know, a mile down the street you could hear the music.

So the communication there, it was very difficult. But there were certainly indications and reports of people approaching the promoters, the security that was there and letting them know there was an issue. At one point, even Mr. Scott noticed, I believe, an ambulance in the crowd.

So there was something going on. And I truly believe, you know, that at some point, if the lights would have been turned on, the promoter or artist called for that, it would have chilled the crowd.


And who knows? Who knows what the outcome would have been. But everybody in that venue, the starting from the artist on down, has a responsibility for public safety, and I believe -- so, listen, all these things are going to be hashed out. I don't want to give just my opinion. The investigation is still ongoing. We're going to fully participate with the Houston Police Department. I have full confidence in their ability to conduct a thorough investigation about what caused the -- this tragedy.

And it seems like, at some point, the crowd started to surge towards the front of the stage and that's what resulted in the injuries and the fatalities.

TAPPER: It does seem as though there do need to be recommendations and lessons learned so this type of thing does not happen ever again.

Houston Fire Chief Samuel Pena, thank you so much for your time today. Appreciate it.

Breaking just minutes ago, Trump associates slapped with more subpoenas in the January 6th investigation. A few of the names you'll definitely know.

Also, bone-chilling videos of blood-stained shotgun, tears from a grieving mother. The latest on the trial of the three men accused of murdering Ahmaud Arbery.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: We have some breaking news for you now. The House Select Committee investigating the deadly Capitol insurrection from January 6th just issued six more subpoenaed to top allies of former President Trump.

CNN's Paula Reid joins us live with the breaking details.

And, Paula, the list includes names that are no doubt familiar to many of our viewers.

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: No doubt, Jake. The committee here clearly targeting some of former President Trump's top advisers, people who worked on his re-election campaign and helped to promote the big lie. Let's do down the list.

It starts with former campaign manager Bill Stepien. Also, Jason Miller, former senior adviser to the campaign. John Eastman, he's, of course, the attorney who helped craft Trump's argument that the election was stolen. His argument has already been debunked by many legal scholars.

Now, Mike Flynn who was involved in meeting about how the Trump campaign wanted to promote the lie that the election was stolen. Angela McCallum, executive assistant to former president Trump's campaign, and Bernard Kerik, who participated in a meeting at the Willard Hotel centered around overturning the election results. Now, all six of these people are being asked to turn over documents by

November 23rd, and then they have depositions scheduled any time in the last week of November to mid-December.

TAPPER: Quite a rogue's gallery there. Any word if any of these six will abide by the subpoena and testify?

REID: It's not clear at this point, but we know so far this committee has had difficulty getting top Trump aides to offer meaningful cooperation with their investigation. We've seen in that first round of subpoenas the top Trump aides like Dan Scavino, Mark Meadows, of course, Steve Bannon. They've not been able to obtain any meaningful cooperation.

Now, when it came too Steve Bannon, of course, he just completely defied the committee and was referred for criminal contempt. Now on Friday, former Trump justice official, Jeffrey Clark, he did show up. He at least showed up for his interview. But he stonewalled the committee once he got there. He cited ongoing privilege concerns, ongoing litigation.

And at this point it's not clear whether these folks are going to go through the normal process of trying to negotiate some way to offer some communication or if they're going to completely stonewall.

TAPPER: So Paula, one of the reasons why I think it's fair to say so many of these Trump officials are not complying is because they are waiting to see what happens. Bannon has been held in criminal contempt of Congress by the House of Representatives. And that was referred to the Department of Justice, which will now decide whether or not to charge him with a crime and prosecute him.

We haven't heard anything, though, from Attorney General Merrick Garland or anybody at DOJ. Do we know when or if they will ever make a ruling?

REID: It's a great point, Jake. Without any further movement on the Bannon matter, without an indictment, a conviction would be a long way away if he was tried. There isn't any deterrent for people to stonewall the committee, which is why this is so significant.

The attorney general is actually asked about this at an unrelated press conference earlier today. He was asked if he could offer an update. He said, no. But in speaking with sources, CNN has learned that prosecutors over at the Justice Department, they don't feel a lot of pressure to move too quickly. There has been some criticism that the Justice Department has not moved quickly enough.

We know this attorney general, though, he is known for being methodical. He is not known for moving very quickly on matters. He likes to read everything, go through everything, line by line. Also notable that the U.S. attorney in the District of Columbia who will be handling this matter, this is the first full day for him on the job. He was just put in, installed on Friday. So all of these factors together is frustrating for some people but also it seems potentially reasonable for prosecutors who are still working on this and just haven't come to a conclusion on how they're going to proceed yet.

TAPPER: So these latest six individuals that the committee has subpoenaed, including Jason Miller and John Eastman, Mike Flynn, Bernard Kerik, et cetera, like I said, a real rogue's gallery, they are joining dozens of people who have been subpoenaed overall by the committee.

How successful has the committee been in general getting others to testify?

REID: It's a bigger question, Jake. We know they've spoken to over 150 people. That number is, of course, supposed to be very impressive, but we don't know exactly what they've learned from those people and who all those people are. And I've been surprised in my own reporting, calls that I've made to people I know around the president at that time who say that they have not been in touch with the committee.

So, at this point it's really unclear how much meaningful cooperation they've gotten from people who would be able to help them with the matters at the heart of this investigation.


TAPPER: All right. Paula Reid with all the latest, thank you so much.

Let's turn now to the White House and some disappointing poll numbers for President Joe Biden. In a brand-new CNN poll, a majority of Americans, 52 percent, say they disapprove of his performance as president so far -- 48 percent approve.

And the number of Americans who disapprove has only grown widener recent months. It's up 52 percent from 41 percent in March.

As CNN's Kaitlan Collins reports for us now, the Biden administration is hoping and praying that legislative victories could turn things around for them.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: President Biden returning to the White House after notching a win on his trillion- dollar infrastructure bill.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Finally, infrastructure week.

COLLINS: With one victory under his belt, the president now turns to part two, passing an even larger spending bill that will require the support of virtually all Democrats.

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRINCIPAL DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: We're going to work really hard to get it done. It's going to go for a vote the week of November 15th out of the house and then we're going to work with leader Schumer.

COLLINS: The roughly $2 trillion framework to expand the social safety net and curb climate change faces multiple hurdles and must pass the House before likely being changed by the Senate.

RON KLAIN, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I'm sure the Senate will make changes. That's the way the legislative process works.

COLLINS: For now, administration officials are focusing on selling the infrastructure bill.

PETE BUTTIGIEG, TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: A lot of this sells itself because communities never needed to be persuaded that their bridge needed to be fixed or that their airport needed an upgrade or their ports needed investment.

COLLINS: With nearly $600 billion in new federal aid, the historic investment includes more than $100 billion to improve aging highways, roads and bridges, another $39 billion for modernizing public transit, $25 billion to improve airports, $55 billion for clean drinking water, and $65 billion to boost access to the Internet. Only 13 House Republicans voted for the infrastructure bill.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: Infrastructure, however, enjoys 75 percent approval rating. Passed on a bipartisan basis, and I think it was the right thing to do.

COLLINS: The White House hoping the trillion-dollar investment will fix roads, create jobs and boost the president's approval rating, as a majority now disapprove of his job performance.

KLAIN: They are in a show me, don't tell me mode. I think we're going to show them in the weeks and months ahead.

COLLINS: Fifty-eight percent of Americans say Biden hasn't paid enough attention to the nation's most important problems, and more than one-third believe the economy is the biggest issue facing the country.

SEN. TIM KAINE (D-VA): If a president can get two legislative houses of his own party to deliver, the president suddenly becomes pretty popular.

COLLINS: Now, Jake, when it comes to delivering on what the White House is billing the build back better agenda, the second larger piece of legislation, the president was just asked on the south lawn about how to build momentum behind that. He said he does believe it's going to be a tough fight to get that passed but he does believe people are starting to realize it's important they get it done. Of course, Jake, how and when they get that done still remains to be seen.

TAPPER: Yeah, infrastructure is a pretty big deal. It happened late Friday night so he didn't get the attention during the week but that's a big bipartisan accomplishment on its own.

Kaitlan Collins, thanks so much.

The sole survivor testifies after being shot by Rittenhouse during protests in Wisconsin last year.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: We're watching a pair of high-profile, highly charged trials in our national lead. First, the Wisconsin jury today heard from a trained paramedic who was shot and wounded by Kyle Rittenhouse last year. Rittenhouse, who was 18, faces first-degree intentional homicide and other charges in the killing of two people during last summer's Black Lives Matter protests.

CNN's Omar Jimenez is covering the trial.

Omar, what did today's witness tell the jury?


So, Gaige Grosskreutz is the sole survivor of those who were shot and killed by Kyle Rittenhouse back in August of 2020. And today's testimony really focused on the moments leading up to that shooting. The loaded gun he had on him at the time which he testified was routine, and the positioning of the gun at the time of the shooting.

Now, the way he described that night's beginning, he testified he heard the gunshots that killed Joseph Rosenbaum down the street. Not long after, he sees Rittenhouse, and he believed he was an active shooter. Then, he was among the group that chased in Rittenhouse's direction. Some began to attack Rittenhouse. Then, gun shots, including the one that killed Anthony Huber.

And Grosskreutz was now standing feet away and testified. He put his hands up and -- as Kyle Rittenhouse re-racked his weapon and as he believed he was going to be shot, and surrender would not be accepted.

The defense stayed in that moment during cross-examination and pushed further past when his hands were up. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you were standing three to five feet from him with your arms up in the air, he never fired, right?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It wasn't until you pointed your gun at him, advanced on him, with your gun -- now your hands down pointed at him that he fired, right?



JIMENEZ: Now as you can imagine, that's a pretty critical exchange in this case.


The prosecutors had a chance to question Grosskreutz again and did lay down on the fact that Grosskreutz testified he did not intentionally point the gun in the direction of Rittenhouse and that he believes he was in imminent danger of being killed, along with the fact that he said this is not how you would point a weapon at someone if you were trying to.

And remember, this just involves the situation around the survivor, Gaige Grosskreutz. Rittenhouse is also facing homicide charges tied to the deaths of Anthony Huber and Joseph Rosenbaum and prosecutors still haven't rested their case but they are expected to do so early this week is the last check we've been given.

TAPPER: All right. Omar Jimenez in Kenosha, Wisconsin. Thank you so much.

Testimony also resumed in the trial of three white men accused of chasing and killing Ahmaud Arbery, a black jogger in Georgia.

CNN's Martin Savidge is in Brunswick following the testimony.

And, Martin, the first officer at the scene of the shooting, he testified today?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, he did. Ricky Minshew. He's former Glynn County police officer.

And what he had to say was very interesting in a lot of regards. First and foremost, it should be pointed out he says that he was in the neighborhood just seconds before the shooting. He had been drawn there by a nonemergency call, which apparently was reporting a suspicious person in the neighborhood. So, as he's slowly cruising through the neighborhood, back windows down, he says in order to listen he hears a number of gunshots, and then moments later comes around the corner and there he sees the scene of Ahmaud Arbery lying in the street covered in blood and then also sees a very agitated Travis and Gregory McMichael.

Now, what's crucial about his portrayal of things is not only what he says he saw, he's got a body camera on. So we see the very first moments after the shooting has allegedly occurred. And you're hearing some of the first words.

Criticism was placed against this officer because he admits he didn't attempt any life-saving measures on Ahmaud Arbery but he also talks and was questioned by the prosecution about an exchange with William Roddie Bryan, a man who says he didn't initially participate but this exchange would suggest otherwise in a chase. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Did he say specifically that he blocked Ahmaud during this chase?

RICKY MINSHEW, FORMER POLICE OFFICER: Yes, ma'am. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Okay. Did he say specifically that he cornered

Ahmaud during this chase?

MINSHEW: Yes, ma'am.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How many times did Mr. Bryan say that he either blocked Ahmaud or cornered him during this chase?

MINSHEW: If you're going back and reviewing the transcribed body camera, it appeared to be approximately five times.


SAVIDGE: And the means by which he was doing that blocking, as we know, Jake, was using his pickup truck.

One last thing that was also the initial crime scene investigator. She noted she went through Ahmaud Arbery's pockets. She found no evidence of any weapon, which had been suggested, and also no indication that he had anything on his person. In other words, going to this perception that somehow he had stolen something, which is what initiated all of this chase and suspicion -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Martin Savidge, thank you so much.

The push to get more vaccine sites for children as families get ready to gather for the holidays. We'll talk to a medical expert on kids and vaccines next. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our health lead, the White House dispatched First Lady Jill Biden to kick off a nationwide push to get more children vaccinated with COVID-19 shots. Moments ago, Dr. Biden and the surgeon general visited a school in McLean, Virginia, just outside Washington, D.C., Franklin Sherman Elementary, the first school to administer the polio vaccine in 1954.

Let's bring in Dr. Paul Offit. He's a director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children's Hospital Philadelphia. He's also on the FDA's Vaccine Advisory Committee.

Dr. Offit, good to see you.

So the White House wants more schools to host vaccine clinics. In a letter to school superintendents, the Biden administration notes there's ample funding and resources to help from the American Rescue Plan that passed earlier this year. The White House also notes information and encouragement directly from schools could help raise vaccination rates.

But do you worry that many schools might just not want the headache?

DR. PAUL OFFIT, MEMBER, FDA VACCINES ADVISORY COMMITTEE: Well, first of all, it's a great idea. So those schools that are willing to do it would certainly be a major contribution. It does remind one of the polio days. You're trying to mass vaccinate children. Sometimes the easiest way is through schools.

But, obviously, I think the fallback is going to be when pediatricians offices.

TAPPER: Since vaccines for children 5 to 11 became available last week we've seen an overwhelming response in some parts of the country with parents lining up with their kids to get shots but then one father in the D.C. area told us that he waited three-plus hours to get his kids vaccinated, think about that for a second. Sir, restless and patient kids waiting hours to get a vaccine -- not an easy task.

But the clinics alone could theoretically be sources of community spread one would think.

OFFIT: Well, again, I think as long as we're careful about masking and doing the best we can in terms of social distancing, I think we'll be okay. I do think this is a major advance. This is great news for children. We know that the children can suffer and be hospitalized and die from this virus.

When the virus first came to this country early last year, children accounted for fewer than 3 percent of cases. Now, they account for 27 percent of cases.


This is a childhood illness. The delta variant is highly transmissible variant, has found a susceptible group, reached out into this group and is now causing a fair amount of suffering and hospitalization and occasionally death. We can prevent this now and we should.

TAPPER: Yeah, kids are getting it, kids are suffering from it and kids are the vector of the disease right now. They're the ones spreading it.

But children getting vaccines this week likely won't be getting their second shot until after Thanksgiving.

What advice do you have for parents? Do you think there's enough protection from a first shot that you'd say it's okay for them to be at grandma's house for a larger indoor gathering for Thanksgiving?

OFFIT: Yes, I think it is. I think you get that first -- get vaccinated as soon as you can. If it comes to be that obviously the three-week period between the first dose and second dose, obviously is going to include Thanksgiving, that's okay. I think one dose is a good start and, yes, still see grandma. Be careful if you can because you're not completely protected with one dose. You need that second dose, but I think that's okay.

TAPPER: Big bird and the other creatures from Sesame Street have long been part of the effort to try to encourage vaccinations. R2D2 was big back in the day in the '70s after "Star Wars" came out. But Republican Senator Ted Cruz is now attacking Big Bird, of all

people, after -- or bird, after -- of all birds rather, after a CNN special Saturday morning aimed at educating kids. Big Bird put out a tweet and the tweet senator called the idea of Big Bird getting a vaccine, quote, government propaganda for your 5-year-old.

You're a pediatrician. What do you make of that?

OFFIT: I'm glad Ted Cruz wasn't around during the polio crusade. We often used celebrities like Elvis Presley and other movie stars and actors and actresses to promote the polio vaccine because we looked to people who are celebrities as -- because they're interesting and, therefore, they're influential.

This is not new. And Big Bird is influential. So I'm glad that Ted Cruz wasn't around back in the polio days.

TAPPER: You're on the FDA's vaccine advisory committee. We learned Pfizer plans to request emergency use authorization for his vaccine booster for anyone 18 years and older. Right now, boosters are authorized for those 65 plus and people with certain medical conditions.

What data do you think is important for your panel to see?

OFFIT: I think what we need to see is why there's a compelling need to do that. I mean, certainly, there clearly is evidence if you're over 65 years of age, you are better off receiving three doses rather than two in terms of protection against serious illness. In terms of protection against serious illness for those other age groups, the data is less compelling so we need to see those data. So, we're convinced that's a sensible thing to do for this country.

But as Dr. Walensky said, heads of the CDC, we're not going to boost our way out of this pandemic. What we need to do is vaccinate the unvaccinated.

TAPPER: All right. Dr. Paul Offit, good to see you again. Thank you so much.

Tens of thousands of migrants, many of them families with children being asked to show up in court. What that's about, next.



TAPPER: In our national lead now, deportation case notices will soon be in the mail for 78,000 migrants who recently crossed the U.S./Mexico border. Sources say these are migrants released into the United States with only paperwork in an effort to ease overcrowding at already stretched thin border facilities.

CNN's Priscilla Alvarez is live near the southern border in El Paso, Texas.

Priscilla, why are these notices being sent out now?

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN REPORTER: Jake, these are notices that would have been given from the start. That is that initial encounter with a migrant. Given the overwhelming number of migrants that crossed the U.S./Mexico border this year and the immense strain that Customs and Border Protection was under, they actually provided documents that would get them out faster. Those were notices to report to an ICE office.

So, that gained heavy criticism from Republicans who said the administration was releasing migrants into the United States without knowing where they are going. And now, the administration is backtracking, and essentially sending those additional documents now that would provide information on processing, as well as most importantly, notices to appear to their immigration court hearing. So, really initiating their removal proceedings, Jake.

TAPPER: And you're hearing from immigration attorneys who are really worried about this process?

ALVAREZ: Their primary concern is, does the government know where they live? Do they have their current address, and do they know if they've moved from that address? The reason this is important is because the consequence of not showing up to your immigration court date is that the immigration judge can order you be removed without going through your immigration court proceeding. So essentially turning -- having a lot of questions here about how this is going to go and what response the immigration judges are going to give if someone doesn't show up to their immigration court date.

TAPPER: And, Priscilla, tell us what you've seen on the southern border of the U.S. today as the U.S. is reopening for vaccinated international travelers.

ALVAREZ: Well, life is really sort of kicking bag up again here in El Paso, Texas, and across border communities in the United States. We've spoken to people reuniting with friends they haven't seen since 2019. As well as people who are crossing to buy products that they can sell back in Mexico or check their banks. I mean, these border communities are so linked to one another and these local businesses rely on cross- border travel.


So, there's been a lot of excitement throughout the day among the people that we've spoken with who have crossed the border for those nonessential purposes. Those were the reasons people couldn't cross before today. And as you can see behind me, we are at a port of entry. Traffic has fluctuated throughout the day. Currently, there are some more vehicles coming through from Mexico to the United States.

And U.S. Customs and Border Protection expect this to happen over the next few days. That there will be larger travel volumes and increased wait times. But overall, a big moment for border communities, Jake. Border mayors just excited to get their economies back up and running.

TAPPER: All right. Priscilla Alvarez in El Paso, Texas, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

In our world lead today, a rare conversation with Russia's Vladimir Putin. Sources tell CNN that CIA Director Bill Burns spoke with Putin last week to discuss serious and growing concerns about Russia's military action.

CNN's Natasha Bertrand joins me live.

And, Natasha, this specifically involves, you say, a troop build-up along the Russian border with Ukraine?


So, two reasons that CIA Director Bill Burns went to Moscow last week. The first to warn the Russians, warn Putin that the U.S. is monitoring these concerning troop movements that they're seeing around the border of Ukraine. The second is to gauge Russia's intentions. What are they trying to do here? They're trying to intimidate Ukraine? Are they doing some kind of military exercise or are they preparing for some kind of invasion?

The Biden administration does not want to take any chances here and so Bill Burns, the CIA director, has been key intermediary throughout these last few weeks as they have seen this concerning military activity near the Ukrainian border. Bill Burns also called Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky after he spoke with Vladimir Putin to kind of brief him on what the conversation had been like, explain to him that the U.S. is monitoring this, is concerned about it and as well, the State Department actually sent a senior official to Kyiv last week to reiterate the U.S. support, U.S. concerns and get any feedback from the Ukrainians as to what support the U.S. can give to them.

TAPPER: What else did Burns discuss with Putin? I would assume that a CIA director on the phone with Vladimir might bring up more than one issue.

BERTRAND: Yeah. So, they talked about cybersecurity. They talked about regional issues. They talked about the diplomatic crisis that is unfolding between both countries, namely the U.S. has roughly cut its staff by 90 percent since 2017, due to a tit-for-tat that's been going on with Moscow. Moscow wants more diplomatic staff here in the U.S. as well. They discussed that.

But really apart from the Ukrainian issue, cybersecurity, ransomware. That was a big issue. Of course, President Biden issuing a pointed statement today after this big law enforcement takedown of ransomware operators saying I told Vladimir Putin in June I was going to hold these ransomware actors accountable and it's exactly what I've done today.

So, clearly, a strong message to Vladimir Putin being sent by the president and one of his top, you know, national security officials.

TAPPER: How unusual for a CIA director to talk to the president of Russia? I could see a CIA director talking to an FSB director in Russia, their equivalent. But for a CIA director to talk to the president of Russia?

BERTRAND: You know, it's not unheard of. Bill Burns has had conversations in the past with Vladimir Putin. But Bill Burns is also a very experienced diplomat, right? He was the ambassador to Russia. He is seen as someone who is highly capable of having these very high- level conversations with President Putin. He is seen as someone very credible by the Russians because of his vast experience in the country and these trusted by President Biden to carry out this high-level diplomatic task even though he's the director of the CIA.

Now, of course, there is a lot of perhaps activity being conducted by the CIA in and around Russia. They want to be able to gauge Vladimir Putin's intentions directly. And who better to do that than the CIA director in this case.

TAPPER: All right. Natasha Bertrand, good to see you. Thanks for being here

Donald Trump set to speak at a Republican fundraiser tonight as the party grapples with his role going forward.

Stay with us.



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

This hour, the U.S. finally back open for foreign travelers, if they're vaccinated. But the reopening comes right as cases in Europe are surging.

Plus, while we're in Europe, former President Obama back on the world stage there saying the world is, quote, nowhere where we need to be when it comes to battling the climate crisis.

And leading this hour, the midterm elections is exactly one year from today. In the wake of the elections last week, Republicans are confronting a key question for the future of the party, whether to continue to embrace Donald Trump with some prominent Republicans openly acknowledging his involvement could hurt the GOP's chances at the polls.

It's a tricky dance. Donald Trump has threatened to leave the Republican Party before. Journalist Jonathan Karl reporting in his upcoming become "Betrayal" that as Trump was leaving office, told the RNC head he was going to create his own political party. Yet tonight Trump is set to speak at a fundraising dinner for the national Republican congressional committee.

Now as CNN's Jeff Zeleny reports, at least one possible 2024 presidential contender is urging the GOP to stop talking about the past.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: A Republican resurgence is in the air, exactly one year before the 2022 midterm elections.

CHRIS CHRISTIE (R), FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: We can no longer talk about the past and the past elections. No matter -- no matter where you stand on that issue, no matter where you stand, it is over.

ZELENY: Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie offering a blunt road map for the party's future.