Return to Transcripts main page

The Lead with Jake Tapper

Driver Suspected Of Killing 5 People To Appear In Court; First Day Of Jury Deliberations Under Way In Arbery Murder Trial; Jury Finds "Unite The Right" Organizers Liable For Millions In Damages But Did Not Reach Verdict In More Serious Claims; Biden To Release Oil Reserves To Fight High Gas Prices; Jan 6 Committee Issues New Round Of Subpoenas For Capitol Attack; FDA Advisers To Review Tests For Merck Antiviral Pill Next Week; Sources: Biden Admin Considering Sending Military Equipment And Advisers To Ukraine, In Case Of Possible Russian Invasion. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired November 23, 2021 - 16:00   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: The Dollar Tree insists this is not a reaction to short-term market conditions but falls in line with the rising inflation that is hitting retailers across the country.

Thanks so much for watching "NEWSROOM" today.

THE LEAD starts right now.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: Why was he out of jail and behind the wheel in the first place?

THE LEAD starts right now.

Any moment the man accused of plowing through a Christmas parade is due in court as we learn this wasn't the first time he allegedly used his vehicle as a weapon.

Drop in the bucket? President Biden making moves to keep you from punching air at the pump but will it spell relief?

Plus, a pill that could help end the pandemic. Now CNN is learning it could face a rocky road to FDA approval.

Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Kaitlan Collins in for Jake Tapper.

We begin with breaking news in our national lead. Major developments in three huge legal cases that we're following. First, in a few minutes, the man accused of plowing through a parade in Wisconsin killing five people and injuring 48 others is expected to appear in court for the first time. In Georgia, jurors are deliberating right now in the case against three white men accused of chasing and killing 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery. And this afternoon, a mixed verdict in the high-stakes civil trial involving white nationalists who organized that deadly 2017 rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Let's start in Waukesha, Wisconsin, where CNN's Omar Jimenez reports on new concerning details about the suspected driver's decades-long criminal history.


OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN NATOINAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These are the moments --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Whoa, whoa, whoa.

JIMENEZ: That police found and arrested 39-year-old Darrell Brooks on the front porch of 24-year-old Daniel Riuder who had no idea what had just happened at the Waukesha Christmas parade about a mile away.

DANIEL RIDER, ENCOUNTERED DARRELL BROOKS ON PORCH BEFORE HIS ARREST: He at one point asked me what was going on downtown. I said oh, there's a parade today. Oh, that must have been what that was.

JIMENEZ: The man he knows was brooks then cordially asked to use his phone and call an Uber.

DARRELL BROOKS, SUSPECT: Hey, can I call some -- I called an Uber and I'm supposed to be waiting for it over here but I don't know when it's coming. Can you call it for me? I'm homeless.

JIMENEZ: Not long after, Rider saw police going up and down the street and felt it had to do with Brooks. So he told him to leave. Moments later --


RIDER: I'm looking for his ID moments later, the police see him and get him in cuffs. I had no idea. The Uber showed up maybe a minute after he was in cuffs is all. So I just think about sometimes if he had gotten in that car what could have happened.

I'm so lucky and the victims, you know, the victims and their families, they are the ones that weren't anywhere near as lucky as me and that's kind of hard to live with that.

JIMENEZ: Darrell Brooks is accused of killing five and injuring over 40 others. After driving a vehicle through barricades and into a Christmas parade in Waukesha, Wisconsin. According to police, he was involved in a domestic disturbance earlier Sunday.

He has a criminal history going back to the '90s, but in July 2022, he was accused of firing a handgun during an argument. In February, this year, he was released on bail. Less than nine months later, he allegedly ran over a woman who claims she is the mother of his child with his car. Nine days later, he was released on just $1,000 bail. Less than two weeks before the Christmas parade.

Milwaukee County district attorney's office called that bail amount inappropriately low. Authorities say brooks also had an outstanding arrest warrant in an unrelated case in Nevada, where he is a registered sex offender.

Meanwhile, a community is trying to heal. Mourning the five that were killed and processing loved ones that nearly added to the toll.


JIMENEZ (on camera): Now, the Children's Hospital of Wisconsin here in the Waukesha area says there are still ten children in the ICU fighting to recover. Now two days after this tragedy unfolded. Where I'm standing at the Waukesha county courthouse in less than an hour we're expecting to see the suspect in this case, 39-year-old Darrell Brooks, make his initial court appearance where police said they'd be referring five counts of first-degree intentional homicide. We reached out to the attorney for Brooks from the case earlier this year, from the case last year and beyond and haven't gotten a response -- Kaitlan.

COLLINS: You can only imagine those parents have a lot of questions about that bail amount.

Omar Jimenez in Waukesha, thank you so much.

Now we're going to go to Georgia where right now, 11 white jurors and one black juror are deliberating the case against those three white men who are accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery.


The panel must decide if the 25-year-old jogger's death was self- defense during a citizens arrest or whether he was murdered.

CNN's Sara Sidner has the latest on the argument that the jurors heard.


LINDA DUNIKOSKI, LEAD PROSECUTOR: When three people chase an unarmed man in two pickup trucks in order to violate his personal liberty, who gets to claim I'm not really responsible for that? Under the law in Georgia, no one gets to say that.

SARA SIDNER, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The prosecution getting the last word in the murderer trial of three men for the killing of Ahmaud Arbery. Arbery was jogging in February of 2020 when he was chased down by Gregory McMichael, Travis McMichael and William Bryan Jr. in their trucks.

The men's defense, they thought Arbery have committed burglary and they were planning to make a citizens arrest.

But Travis McMichael ended up shooting Arbery to death.

DUNIKOSKI: Where is the empathy? How about don't bring a shotgun with you? This is really easy. Call the police.

SIDNER: The prosecutor said the men didn't bother to wait for police, only making this 911 call after they were chasing Arbery for an alleged crime they never witnessed.

CALLER: I'm out there Satilla Shores. There's a black male running down the street.

DUNIKOSKI: What's your emergency? There's a black man running down the street.

SIDNER: It turned out Arbery had not committed a burglary.

DUNIKOSKI: They want it to be a burglary, so that's a felony. So, thinking (ph) from that felony that he committed, that burglary, they can chase him down.

SIDNER: The burden is on the prosecution to prove the nine charges against each defendant beyond a reasonable doubt, including aggravated assault and murder. The defense interrupted the prosecution's argument several times. Each time calling for a mistrial over the prosecutor's interpretation of the law for the jury.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can't argue a misstatement of the law.


SIDNER: In closing arguments Monday, the defense went after Arbery's actions and his character. They referred to video taken of Arbery wandering inside a home construction site months before he was killed.

LAURA HOGUE, GREG MCMICHAEL'S DEFENSE ATTORNEY: He was a recurring nighttime intruder.

SIDNER: One defense attorney went after the dead 25-year-old's appearance.

HOGUE: In his khaki shorts with no socks to cover his long dirty toenails.

SIDNER: Her comments caused gasps in the court and Arbery's mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, rushed out of court in horror. The prosecution calling out the defense's move to disparage a victim.

DUNIKOSKI: Malign the victim. It's the victim's fault. I know you're not going to buy into that. It's offensive.


SIDNER (on camera): Now, Arbery's mother has responded to the defense attorney talking about her son's dirty toenails. She told our John Berman on "AC360" last night she thought that was very, very rude and she said, well, they simply neglected the fact that her son also had a huge hole in his chest from a shotgun that they used on him -- Kaitlan.

COLLINS: Sara Sidner, thank you for joining us and bringing us the latest.

In Virginia, we have even more breaking news after jurors this afternoon found the white supremacist organizers of that deadly rally in Charlottesville liable. But they were deadlocked on the more serious claims. That two-day event in 2017 featured white nationalists marching through the streets with tiki torches chanting anti-Semitic slogans, and it turned deadly when a man drove his car into a crowd killing one and injuring several others. The lawsuit was filed by rally-goers who argue they suffered mental and emotional injuries because of the rally.

CNN's Jason Carroll is outside the courthouse in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Jason, walk us through exactly what this jury has decided this afternoon.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. Well, after three days of deliberations, the jury finally came to the judge and said that they reached a decision, a partial decision. They basically found that these defendants in this civil trial are now liable for $26 million in damages but, Kaitlan, $12 million of that, one man is responsible for that, James Alex Fields. He's the man that you mentioned, that man that drove his car, plowed his car into counter- protesters. He was convicted during the criminal trial but again, this is the civil trial. And this is about monetary damages.

It was a split decision because on two of the major claims, including conspiracy to commit racially motivated violence and failing to prevent a conspiracy, the jury was deadlocked.

But the jurors were able to come to a unanimous decision on the four other claims, including state conspiracy claims, assault and battery and intentional inflection of emotional distress. The jury in this particular case heard from plaintiffs' attorneys who had said all along during this trial that they presented what they called an overwhelming amount of evidence which showed that the defendants conspired through text messages, through social media posts, to conspire to commit acts of violence all based on racial animus.

But again, the jurors could not reach a decision on two of the claims but the plaintiffs' attorneys are claiming that this was a victory. They still have the $26 million here that they can claim is a victory saying this in a partial statement that they are thrilled that the jury has a verdict in favor of our plaintiffs, finally giving them the justice that they deserve -- Kaitlan.

COLLINS: Jason Carroll, thanks so much for bringing us and bringing us the latest from Charlottesville today.

Breaking minutes ago, brand-new subpoenas were just issued by the January 6th committee. Who are they targeting now?

Plus, it was hailed as a potential COVID game changer. But there's no concerns about the pill to fight COVID-19.



COLLINS: In our money lead today, President Biden is making a move that he hopes can lower gas prices, by announcing the release of the emergency oil reserves. Right now, Americans are paying $3.40 a gallon compared to $2.11 this time last year. But it will take weeks before the millions of barrels of oil will hit the market.

And as CNN's Jeff Zeleny reports, this step may not do much to fix the problem.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It will take time, but before long, you should see the price of gas drop where you fill up your tank.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: President Biden taking new steps to try and ease the pain at the pump by tapping into the nation's strategic oil reserves.

BIDEN: We always get through those spikes, but we're going to get through this one as well and hopefully faster. But it doesn't mean we should just stand by idly and wait for prices to drop on their own. Instead, we're taking action.

ZELENY: The decision coming just two days before thanksgiving is unlikely to change gas prices for weeks. But it's the latest sign the White House is acutely focused on the political fallout from inflation, causing anxiety in the American economy.

BIDEN: The big part of the reason Americans are facing high gas prices is because oil-producing countries and large companies have not ramped up the supply of oil quickly enough to meet the demand.

ZELENY: The president ordered the release of 50 million barrels of oil from the strategic petroleum reserve. The U.S. also getting commitments from five other countries with the U.K., China, India, Japan and South Korea agreeing to open their reserves to help combat soaring global oil prices.

BIDEN: This coordinated action will help us deal with a lack of supply which in turn helps ease prices.

ZELENY: It's an open question whether the move will make gas prices fall during the holiday season or into the New Year, ahead of the critical midterm elections. But the White House is intent on showing the president trying to take action. But the president's decision also highlights the steep challenges facing the U.S. and the world to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels and combat climate change.

BIDEN: I also want to briefly address one myth about inflated gas prices. They are not due to environmental measures. My effort to combat climate change is not raising the price of gas. We're increasing its availability.


ZELENY (on camera): The president remarkably defensive that his policies have nothing at all, he says, to do with high gas prices. Now, we just came from a briefing with Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm. And she said that prices won't change overnight but she did say that Americans would able to see a change in the coming weeks, she believes. But she also said this is simply a bridge to a longer term solution. So, certainly, the energy policy here coming under sharper light -- Kaitlan.

COLLINS: Also raising questions about whether or not they tapped the reserves even further.

Jeff Zeleny, thanks so much for joining us.

And now with our panel, we're going to talk about this.

Of course, there are big questions, Jackie, inside the White House even, whether or not this will really do a lot to alleviate the problem. Some energy experts have said it's more of a band-aid. It will help modestly but not too much. What are you hearing?

JACQUELINE ALEMANY, CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, WASHINGTON POST: That's exactly right, Kaitlan. You've heard this up close and you know this better than anyone else at the table. But President Biden had few opt options here and he's facing a political sledgehammer when it comes to the repeated attacks from the GOP and gas prices are the clearest sign of inflation that consumers can directly see every day.

Economists and advisers close to Biden told him that they didn't expect this to have that much of an impact, but he decided to go the course anyways. Look, I think, you know, Republicans want to continue to push forward the message that this is Biden's fault. But there are several factors including macro economic issues that Biden could not control, like the global pandemic that have led to these prices and when you look at the decision he made, a series of countries, obviously, agree that this is the only way to go at the moment.

COLLINS: Yeah, but I still don't think we know fully what the other countries are going to be releasing themselves. Obviously, it will be a lot smaller than what the U.S. is releasing. I think the question if this is only modestly going to help, is this a realization the White House knows Thanksgiving is this week? Christmas is coming. People are going to be traveling a lot for these holidays coming up and they want to say, you know, we hear this is a problem and we're doing our best to try to address it.

MARIA CARDONA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Absolutely. I think a lot of it is for the pr aspect of it and for the psychological aspect of it for Americans. Once they see the president up on their television screens doing something and actively taking a action to help them see some relief at the gas pump, I think that is hugely powerful for the president, even if it is just going to be a modest change because then this follows on the passage of Build Back Better in Congress, the passage of the infrastructure bill.


I think these little things are also good for Biden at a point when he really needs it. COLLINS: Yeah, and it's not just gas prices, Ramesh. You know, you've

seen General mills said they're raising prices on several products. People are seeing not just higher prices at the pump but also when they go to the grocery store. So what is the White House -- do you think they're messaging this well? Because given some of these things are out of their control. There's not much he can do to lower gas prices.

But how are they handling their aspect of the messaging when it comes to this?

RAMESH PONNURU, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think the administration is playing catch up here because they were slow to recognize the severity and the long-lastingness of this inflation and its potential political risks. As you may recall, just a couple of months ago, are the line was this is going to ease very rapidly. This is going to be transitory. And it hasn't so far. At least whatever this transition is taking an awfully long time.

Now, one other thing to get out of this move is, if gas prices do come down, they get to take credit for it. Even though what they are doing most economists will tell you is a little bit like spitting in the wind.

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: The fact that the four people at this table, five people at this table all agree on this tells you there's probably some like core essence of truth here, right? Like it's not going to change gas prices in time for Thanksgiving. Everyone thinks it probably will ahead of Christmas and then after Christmas, who knows whatever, it's a new year, nobody cares, right?

But like it's 100 percent true that in today's sort of like PR climate, the spin climate that if you're not blaming someone else and doing something about it, everyone is assuming you're just accepting responsibility for it.

And Biden and the Democrats have been, for months now, on the defense, responding after the fact trying to say, no, no, we didn't do it. It's this bigger stuff.

And you're going to see in the days and weeks to come, consistent repeated messaging from the White House, from Democrats in Congress saying that they are taking steps to address gas prices, inflation and the supply chain. And how true it is is a different subject for a different panel, but the messaging will be there.

COLLINS: The audience, though, is not just the American people even who are paying these prices. It's also some key Democratic votes on Capitol Hill when it comes to the president's agenda because we've seen Senator Joe Manchin have a lot of concerns about the prices people are paying. We know today Dollar Tree is announcing that they are raising their prices. It's not -- no longer going to be everything is $1.

This is a concern that Senator Joe Manchin was recently talking about on Capitol Hill. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): I just saw today to where the $1, General Dollar stores, Dollar General, they're no longer Dollar General. They're $1.25, $1.50 general. That's hard for West Virginians. A lot of people do shop there. It's all they have. We have to take all this into consideration.


COLLINS: Jackie, what is the White House's read on where Senator Manchin is right now?

ALEMANY: Well, publicly, Senator Manchin is still a question mark on the $1.75 trillion package that just made it through the House and is now getting hashed out and litigated in the Senate. He has still hemmed and hawed over whether or not he's going to ultimately support it.

One of the big problems that Manchin has said over and over with the deal is that it tries to zero out the use of fossil fuels and that is something that he's said he's inherently against. Not good for West Virginians.

And this move in particular, actually, is a bit problematic for Biden's climate messaging in terms of buying out this stockpile of oil reserves on the heels of COP26, after making a lot of these global promises to help reduce carbon emissions throughout the world and the country specifically, but these are the kinds of messages that are tailored for people like Senator Joe Manchin and the more moderate Blue Dog Democrats who are wary of things like inflation and cutting jobs related to fossil fuels.

COLLINS: When it comes to oil, how does the White House square that message, though, of pumping more oil, releasing 50 million barrels from the emergency reserves because of these issues of pricing with the broader climate agenda that you saw the president lay out not that long ago in Scotland?

TALEV: Very gingerly, because one is aspirational and the other right here, right now. If you have to prioritize them from a political standpoint, obviously, like, you know, the economy and steering out of the COVID pandemic is preeminent. But if you're taking the long view and it's not even the long, long view, it's the midrange long view, climate stuff really matters.

I think the administration believes both things. I think their interest in the long term and the medium term is in moving to electric vehicles, to renewable resources and energy. They're obviously leaning very hard into that, but they have to deal with the actual economic challenges that are right in front of them.

And on top of all of that, this effort to kind of placate or give Manchin the cover to stand behind and hold together that Build Back Better, you're going to see that play out, not just in all of this economic stuff but in the renomination of Powell to the Fed, in other appointments and nominations that are coming up.


There's going to be a very intensive and specific political effort to keep Manchin.

PONNURU: And the tension you're talking about, though, between the present and the future is also just a tension in climate politics in general because the idea of doing something about climate might poll well, but when you actually get to costs that would be incurred, like higher energy prices, those are wildly unpopular and the Democratic administrations are always -- are always aware of that.


TALEV: There's going to be production in red states of electric vehicles. The economy is moving in that direction.

CARDONA: But I think to your point, I think actually doing this now helps the administration be able to push climate issues later on because what people don't want to see is they are pushing all the climate issues and the high cost at the pump and the administration not doing anything about the cost. So --

COLLINS: It's such a big question about all of this when it's questions about not just how he's handling the economy and how his poll numbers there have dropped when that was once a big strong suit of his. But also, his poll numbers overall and his standing within the Democratic Party and what that looks like.

And Press Secretary Jen Psaki confirmed a "Washington Post" report that he does plan to run for re-election. Obviously, the White House wouldn't tell us if he wasn't going to run for re-election.

But how are you reading that situation?

CARDONA: I think this will be the most popular parlor game for the next three games. I think it's way too early to tell one way or the other. The midterms will, I think, say a lot about how he's going to feel going into -- because after the midterms we know that's when the real re-election efforts begin. It's going to depend a lot on where his standing is, on what happens in the midterms and, frankly, what the White House feels has been his accomplishments.

And at the end, if after the midterms, you know, a couple of months after that, if they don't feel like he's been able to achieve everything that he has said he's going to achieve and if his poll numbers still aren't where they need to be, you know, they might come out and say he's not going to run.

But up until now, they have to say that he's going to continue to run.

COLLINS: But it does make you, it raises questions about the private conversations everyone has. And one Democrat told "The Washington Post" who was involved in campaigns said they couldn't think of a single person they've spoken to in the last month who considers the possibility of Biden running again to be a real one.

PONNURU: You know, but the thing is, the follow on, on that conversation if not him, who? I think there's a lot of nervousness about the potential other Democratic candidates who would go in, if Biden were not to run again.

COLLINS: And, obviously, people are looking at the vice president and transportation secretary who has a very prominent role now thanks to the infrastructure bill.

We'll have to leave it there.

But new subpoenas were just issued by the January 6th committee. We'll show you who, next.



KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN HOST: Breaking news in the politics lead. New subpoenas just issued from the House Select Committee investigating the January 6th attack on the Capitol. This just one day after five Trump allies were summoned, including political operative Roger Stone and the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.

Let's get right to CNN's Ryan Nobles.

Ryan, who are they subpoenaing today, and what is their connection to what happened on January 6th?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Kaitlan, the group of subpoenas today targeting right wing extremist groups who played a direct role in the violence and chaos here on January 6th, including the Proud Boys and their leader, who's currently sitting behind bars.


NOBLES (voice-over): A brand-new group of subpoenas just issued by the January 6th committee targeting right wing extremist groups who were involved in the riots. The committee asking for information from two far right groups. The Proud Boys and their former chairman, Henry Enrique Tarrio, as well as the Oath Keepers and their president, Elmer Stewart Rhodes. Also subpoenaed, Robert Patrick Lewis, chairman of the fringe militia group, the First Amendment Praetorian, which provided security on that day.

The web of inquiry for the January 6th Select Committee continues to spread out. The committee has now issued 40 subpoenas with the promise of more to come.

REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): Expect each of these individuals to show up, tell us the truth and help us uncover all of the facts.

NOBLES: On Monday, the committee handed down five new subpoenas focused on key players in the rallies leading up to January 6th. The two high-profile targets, conservative provocateurs Alex Jones and Roger Stone.

The infamous duo has a longstanding relationship with Donald Trump, and fanned the flames of misinformation about the 2020 election, leading up to January 6th.

Jones promising chaos during the certification of the Electoral College results the day before.

ALEX JONES, INFORWARS HOST: I don't know how this is going to end, but if they want to fight, they better believe they've got one!

NOBLES: Jones and Stone both already forecasting that they won't give the committee what they are looking for.

ROGER STONE, TRUMP ALLY: As one who was framed for lying to Congress, I would probably assert my Fifth Amendment right and decline to be interviewed.

NOBLES: While the committee continues its push to get witnesses to hand over documents and provide interviews, it's also battling in the courts to get access to hundreds of documents from the Trump White House. Trump's legal team continues to contend the information should be kept secret under executive privilege.

The committee's lawyers evoking Shakespeare to make their argument: any inquiry that did not insist on examining Mr. Trump's documents and communications would be worse than useless -- the equivalent of staging a production of "Hamlet" without the prince of Denmark.


The fight over access to information comes as dramatic new video of the chaos on January 6th is released. It shows rioters forcibly pushing into the Capitol complex, despite Capitol Police attempting to shut doors to lock the complex down. The mob tossing trash cans, chairs and other items to force the door open, chasing overwhelmed police out of the way.


NOBLES: Now, there is a question about cooperation. The committee now up to 45 subpoenas for different groups, organizations and individuals. And it's unclear how many of them have been willing to give the committee what they are looking for, information and interviews.

Kaitlan, the committee has said they've gotten cooperation from more than 200 different individuals. That these subpoena targets, at least for the most part, have been difficult to get them to comply -- Kaitlan.

COLLINS: Yeah, and that's been the big challenge here. They want to see if these subpoenas are going to lead to any testimony or document turnover.

Ryan, we'll stay with you for that. But, coming up, there are fears the new anti-COVID pill may actually

make the pandemic worse. We'll explain, next.



COLLINS: In the health lead, one week from today, FDA advisers will meet to discuss a new pill that could slow the number of COVID cases that are once again filling U.S. hospitals. Merck says clinical trials for its pill reduced COVID hospitalizations and death by almost 50 percent. While some doctors say those results are impressive, others are raising red flags.

Let's bring in CNN's Elizabeth Cohen.

Elizabeth, let's start with what doctors and scientists are seeing in these trials that's so impressive.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Kaitlan, doctors have described these results as dramatic and as you said, impressive. Let's take a look at these numbers. So Merck, which owns this antiviral, Merck did a clinical trial with 762 participants. Half of them got a placebo over the course of about a month. 45 of those folks were hospitalized with COVID and 9 of them died of COVID.

Of the half that got the drug, 28 of them were hospitalized, a much smaller number, and none of them died. That really is quite impressive. And so those are the results that the FDA advisers will be looking at next week -- Kate.

COLLINS: Yeah, those numbers 9-0 are really impressive. But what are the safety concerns that you think is going to dominate this meeting next week the FDA advisers are having on this?

COHEN: So this drug seems to work so well because it basically messes with the virus' RNA, with its genetic materials. That's why they get those impressive results. But because it messes with the genetic material, there are concerns that the virus could become -- that there could be variants, that the drug could lead to variants and that could be a problem for the vaccine. Now, Merck says that's not true. They tested this out. They did not see dangerous variants among the folks who took this drug.

There's also a concern, could it mess with human genetic material so there are concerns that, for example, pregnant women maybe shouldn't be taking this drug. This is something the FDA advisers will be talking about also next week.

COLLINS: Yeah, huge concerns but also that can be really big breakthroughs if that is something that ends up getting approved by the FDA. Elizabeth Cohen, we'll stick with you to keep updates on that. Thank you for joining us.

Moments ago, we saw President Biden and the first lady volunteering ahead of the Thanksgiving holiday, the Vice President Kamala Harris and the second gentleman. They'll assemble meal kits before President Biden heads to Nantucket later for his Thanksgiving vacation.

Could there soon be a Russian invasion in Ukraine? We'll talk to Russia expert Fiona Hill as they are considering sending military aid to Ukraine to help fight back.



COLLINS: Topping our world lead, fears are growing that a border standoff between Ukraine and Russia could escalate into an all-out war. Sources tell CNN the Biden administration is considering sending military aid to Ukraine to help prepare for a potential Russian invasion. The Kremlin say that doing so would only further aggravate tensions. Satellite images do show Russia gathering a massive military presence near the border. Close to 100,000 troops along with tanks and military hardware that you see there.

Joining me live is Fiona Hill, a former Russia expert -- current Russia expert but former Russia expert for the National Security Council under President Trump. She's also the also of there's nothing for you here, finding opportunity in the 21st century.

Fiona, sources tell CNN that President Biden is considering sending military advisers and new equipment to Ukraine. Is that something you think is the right move?

FIONA HILL, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE RUSSIA EXPERT: Well, look, we're in a bind here because clearly Ukraine has the rights of self-defense and the United States and many other countries as well have been committed to helping Ukraine build up its military and defensive posture for some time now. We have to bear in mind that Russia annexed the Crimea peninsula from Ukraine in 2014, sparked off a war in the eastern region of Donbas and has made incursions into Ukrainian territory on a regular basis ever since.

The Russians say that their forces are not there. They claim, of course, this is the independent action of rebel forces in the region but we know for a fact that Russian forces and specialists are there. There was the shooting down of the Malaysian airlines mh-17 over the territory of the Donbas and, you know, that was basically laid on a Russian missile rebuke that had been operated under the guidance of Russian forces.


And ever since, we've been in this extraordinary tense situation. There's an active conflict line. It's not just the United States, as I've said but many of the European countries. The Turks have given the Ukrainians drone technology for them to basically man and operate around that conflict zone. And it appears to have been some of that drone technology that the Russians intercepted that has sparked off part of the recent recriminations.

What Russia has basically said is it's unacceptable for Ukraine to have defended itself but also to be associated in any way with any European institution, be that the European Union, be that NATO. And Russia and Putin are making it clear they see Ukraine as part of not just their sphere of influence but most likely more of a satellite appendage to Russia.

And that's the dilemma we're in. No matter what the United States does. There will be recriminations from some side or another, either of appeasing Russia, if no action is taken, or certainly on the Russian side of basically building an aggressive posture. Russia is even accusing the United States of using Ukraine as a kind of platform for aggression against Russian territory.

COLLINS: So you see the Biden administration as in a bind here. But you are the expert on President Putin and his thinking. So, do you think this build up of troops is an empty threat?

HILL: No, I don't think it's an empty threat. If anybody thinks it's an empty threat, I'd again say, remember, they've annexed Crimea. They've gone into the Donbas. The Russians also intervened into Syria when we thought they might not in defense of Bashar al Assad.

They're in Libya, that they've sent forces into there as well. Paramilitaries all over North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa. They had paramilitary forces shot at our special forces in Syria in 2018. Putin and Russia also -- well, Putin wasn't president at the time but Russian forces went into Georgia in 2008.

When Putin threatened something, he usually delivers on it, one way or another. And I think that we should be very careful not to think that this is an idle threat. The bigger question is, of course, what do they want out of all of this?

COLLINS: Yeah. So, what does Russia get out of this? If they invade Ukraine, what does Putin get out of it?

HILL: Well, I think Putin hasn't made up his mind yet whether they are invading or not but he wants to have the coercive diplomatic potential here. He's even said this in a recent speech to his ambassadors. That he wants to see the tensions mount so that the West, the United States and Europe are listening to Russia. And what Putin wants to have is a neutralized Ukraine. So, a Ukraine that looks more like Austria did, for example, during the cold war, a neutral country that's not affiliated with any European institution.

Of course, Austria is now in the European Union so that model doesn't really hold. Basically he wants to have a complete veto of Ukraine's foreign defense security and most likely also economic policy and also the choice of its leadership. And that is extraordinary problematic because Ukraine has been independent now for 30 years.

This December will be the 30th anniversary of the dissolution of the soviet union and essentially Putin is saying that Ukraine does no longer have the right for independent agency.

COLLINS: So you say you don't think Putin has made up his mind about whether he should invade Ukraine. How much of a window does the U.S. have before he makes up that decision? HILL: Well, look, time is ticking on. Putin is thinking about his own

legacy here as president. He has to run again in 2024 for the Russian presidential election. We've also, of course, got the Beijing winter Olympics, or the Chinese Winter Olympics. The Russians made a move against Georgia during the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics and they'll obviously Russia's relationship with China could be imperiled if there's another huge crisis around that. But so I think there's a time table there.

I do think Putin wants to see some action. He wants to see some responsiveness on the part of the Europeans and the United States. He wants to get us to sit down and start negotiating about what the future of Ukraine looks like in a European security context. He's gauging right now about how much response he's getting on the diplomatic front and if he feels like he's not getting enough, depending on the timing, I'm pretty sure that he will find some way of moving in.

Now, with some coercive power, it could be full military. It could be a lot less than that. Paramilitaries, cyber, all kinds of things. Putin wants to keep us all on edge and wants to try to leverage this uncertainty in his favor.

COLLINS: Fiona Hill, as always, thank you for joining us with our expertise. We know this is something the Biden White House is watching very closely.

HILL: Thanks so much, Kaitlan. Thank you.

COLLINS: Up next, the hot new item that may be on your holiday shopping list, if you got an extra $30 million on hand.



COLLINS: In our money lead, the luxury Jeweler Tiffany and Company is unveiling its most expensive piece of jewelry ever, "The World's Fair Necklace" features 578 individual diamonds totaling 180 carats and is set to platinum. Industry experts estimate its value as between $20 million and $30 million.

The centerpiece is an 80-karat stone. So, have you been doing your neck exercises? And because the owner will want versatility, he or she can carefully pop out the empire diamond from the necklace and mount it onto a ring. A Tiffany jeweler will be on call to help whenever the owner requires that particular service. I'll make sure they have me on speed dial.

That's it for THE LEAD today. I'm Kaitlan Collins, in for Jake Tapper.

Our coverage continues right now over in "THE SITUATION ROOM."