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The Lead with Jake Tapper
White House: Biden Was "Direct And Straightforward" With Putin On Ukraine; Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH) Is Interviewed On Biden Zoom Meeting With Putin And On Ukraine; NYC Mayor Gets Backlash From Business Leaders On New Vaccine Mandate; Lawyers: Mark Meadows Will No Longer Cooperate With Jan. 6 Committee; Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) Is Interviewed On January 6 Investigation; U.S. Announces Diplomatic Boycott Of Olympics. Aired 4-5p ET
Aired December 07, 2021 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: All right. Donie O'Sullivan, thank you.
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ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Thanks, Donie.
And THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER starts right now.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: The most critical Zoom call of the pandemic era so far.
THE LEAD starts right now.
President Biden today virtually staring down Vladimir Putin as Russia licks its chops, gazing at Ukraine across the border. Can President Biden help find an off ramp for Russia invasion?
Is Omicron as dangerous as Delta? There's some promising news in early data on the new variant.
Plus, clamming up to cover up. Trump's former chief of staff Mark Meadows now says he will not cooperate with the committee investigating January 6th. He is of course, willing to sell books about it.
Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
And we start today with breaking news in our world lead, and one of the most consequential moments of the Biden presidency to date. Today, President Biden holding a video call with Russia's Vladimir Putin, as U.S. intelligence leaders grow more concerned Russia is planning yet another military invasion of Ukraine, imminently.
Moments ago, Biden's national security adviser Jake Sullivan detailed the call saying that President Biden was direct and straightforward with Putin and warned Putin that any invasion would lead to strong economic measures against Russia. Sullivan also said that if Russia does invade Ukraine again, the U.S. could send more American forces and military equipment into allied countries in that region.
We're going to cover every angle of this story today.
CNN's Matthew Chance is on the ground in Ukraine but we're going to kick it off with CNN's Kaitlan Collins at the White House.
Kaitlan, does President Biden now have a clearer idea of Putin's true intentions after this phone call?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It doesn't seem to be, Jake, because the White House has said for several days they have not made an official declaration or their assessment so far is President Putin has not decided whether or not to invade Ukraine. Of course, they talked about the fact that it could happen very quickly, that he's certainly preparing to do so and they've talked about this U.S. intelligence that they may add tens of thousands of more Russian troops there on the border, therefore, making it a lot more likely that would happen.
But the White House says the intention of this call today was not necessarily to get clarity on whether he intends to do that but basically to lay out the circumstances of what's going to happen if he does and offer what Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser described as an alternative if they do not do so.
But when it comes to clarity on what Putin intends to do, this is what Jake Sullivan said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAKE SULLIVAN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: We still do not believe that President Putin has made a decision. What President Biden did today was lay out very clearly the consequences if he chooses to move. Ultimately, we will see in the days ahead through actions, not through words, what course of action Russia chooses to take.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Now, of course, Jake, the courses of action that the White House says President Biden laid out was, one if they do -- if Russia does invade Ukraine, they say they are prepared to implement strong economic measures, obviously meaning sanctions. Of course, whether or not other nations and European allies do that in conjunction with the United States remains to be seen.
But Jake Sullivan did also say they'd be prepared to send additional supplies to Ukraine if Russia continues to build up that military presence.
TAPPER: Kaitlan, the White House says that President Biden also warned Putin, quote, the things we did not do in 2014, that's when the Russians seized Crimea from Ukraine, the things we did not do in 2014, we are prepared to do now.
Explain what that might mean. COLLINS: Well, that's notable given, of course, Biden was vice president then. And that is when Russia illegally annexed and invaded the Crimean peninsula, of course, something that's been -- something that people have looked back to how Putin acted then to how Russia is acting now and about what they may do when it comes to Ukraine and this troop build-up.
So, Jake Sullivan saying that they're going to do now what they did not do then is a significant comment given, of course, he's now the national security adviser to Biden, worked for Biden previously, obviously, and is essentially saying they will take steps that the Obama administration did not take. We know at that time when Biden was vice president, he often advocated for sending more military equipment to Ukraine, taking bigger steps there, essentially being more up front about the United States' stance here.
And so, he is saying they are going to do now what they did not do when, of course, Biden was vice president.
TAPPER: That's right, back when they did not offer the Ukrainians lethal assistance.
Kaitlan Collins, thanks so much.
Let's go to Odessa, Ukraine, right now, where we find CNN's Matthew Chance.
Matthew, what are you hearing from the Kremlin in the wake of this call?
MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I was listening to Kaitlan back then, and, you know, even though President Biden may not have any deeper clarity on what President Putin's intentions are when it comes to Ukraine.
He'll certainly have, from the Kremlin readout got in front of me, have a better idea of what Vladimir Putin's concerns are about Ukraine. Putin, the Russian president, according to this Kremlin readout made it clear he did not feel that Russia was responsible for any escalation in Ukraine. He blamed that escalation on NATO, which was trying to conquer Ukrainian territory.
And he made it clear that what he wanted to see, and he mentioned this several times over the past several weeks, is a legal agreement that would prevent NATO, the Western military alliance, from advancing any further eastwards towards Russia's borders. It's something that for a long time has been a Russian national security concern.
But it's really come to the fore now and clearly this build up of Russian troops across the border, as many as 100,000 according to U.S. intelligence estimates, is the stick that Vladimir Putin is using essentially to threaten President Biden and to threaten NATO. Unless he gets what he wants, that's what is the consequence, that's what could lay in wait. It was interesting. The White House read out didn't really mention
that. But the Kremlin read out emphasized that that was the point that Vladimir Putin and President Biden talked about most of all.
TAPPER: President Biden is set to speak with Ukrainian President Zelensky later this week. What do we know about how closely the White House and the Ukrainian leaders are working to stave off this threat from Russia?
CHANCE: Yeah, it's a good question. We shouldn't forget, of course, that while President Biden and President Putin are talking on this video conference, it's about Ukraine that they've been discussing and the future of this country. Will it be invaded or not?
So there's a great deal of anxiety in the sort of government here in the presidential office here as well about what is exactly being discussed when it comes to the future of their country. Are they going to be thrown under a bus by the United States, their strategic allies or is the United States, is Joe Biden going to stand by them?
I think what they've heard so far is quite -- is setting their concerns at risk. But there's not going to be a phone call with the Ukrainian president until a few days. They were still waiting to see what is expected of them to avert this potential Russian invasion, Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Matthew Chance reporting from Ukraine, thanks so much.
Here in studio to discuss, Republican Congressman Mike Turner of Ohio. He is on the House Intelligence Committee.
Thanks so much for joining us. We really appreciate it.
So, you heard Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, to come out and detail the warnings he says Biden gave Putin.
Do you think those warnings went far enough?
REP. MIKE TURNER (R-OH): Well, we don't really have specifics about what was discussed. Now, this certainly is a good step in that we have the two leaders talking directly and Biden and the readout that we're getting from Jake Sullivan apparently was strong in his words in saying that we will exact sanctions and we'll do it greater than when I was vice president as was just said.
The issue here is that, you know, what actions are going to follow? Because President Biden could have already been in the process of sending, as you indicated, lethal weapons into Ukraine. There could be more intelligence sharing. Ukraine could have a better understanding of what's happening with the 175,000 or so troops that Putin has assembled around Ukraine.
We could be -- they talked about later strengthening our NATO allies around Ukraine. They could be doing it now. And we could have a greater understanding of what those sanctions might be that could deter Russia.
But in this, as we know from the disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan, the president said we won't run for the exits and then had them do that in the middle of the night. We have to make certain here that President Biden matches his words with actual sanctions and lethal aid for Ukraine.
TAPPER: So, in addition to the things you just laid out, having the sanctions in place ready to go, having U.S. troops in allied countries in the area, having lethal aid on its way, intelligence sharing, are there other things? I assume that you would want those things to be going on. What else, if anything, would you want the U.S. to be doing?
TURNER: Well, those would be really important. And last time as you indicated, the Obama administration sent blankets as Putin invaded --
TAPPER: They sent a little more than that, but they didn't send lethal aid.
TURNER: Well, you know, the president of Ukraine was on the House floor saying I can't fight a war with blankets. From his perspective, he was getting blankets -- when they annexed Crimea from Ukraine.
So, taking a shift of insuring that we provide them with lethal weapons, ground and air missiles, javelins with increased ability to fight tanks and the types of invasion they're really looking at would be really important right now.
TAPPER: So the White House said, Jake Sullivan said that they don't think that Putin has made up his mind yet on whether or not to invade Ukraine.
Obviously, you see a lot of information that we don't. You're a member of the House Intelligence Committee.
Do you agree? Do you think Putin hasn't made up his mind yet?
TURNER: I think what we see is that this build-up is enormous, 175,000-plus troops surrounding Ukraine. That certainly, when you take this in context with what happened in April where Putin came up to the line with thousands of troops and threatened Ukraine and then backed off, that if there is going to be a decision point where Putin does not invade, it's going to be because the United States and our allies took action and were resolved and communicated to Putin that there was going to be a cost higher than he expects for him to turn around.
And that's what this administration is really going to do now is get over that bar to let Putin believe and understand that there will be consequences for this greater than he believes.
TAPPER: How do you do that without provoking Putin into wanting to do something because he feels like the United States and NATO are being so aggressive in their response that to back down would look weak? You know what I mean? There's a line here. How does one achieve that? TURNER: Well, NATO is not provocative in this instance, right?
Ukraine was going about its business, being a democracy. NATO countries that are members of NATO are surrounded. No one is being provocative to Russia or even provocative against Ukraine which is a democratic country.
So it's really, you know, a complete disingenuous statement by Putin's regime to be saying Ukraine is being threatened, so, therefore, we're going to invade. It's the other way around. The only thing threatening Ukraine is Putin.
TAPPER: So, sources tell CNN that the Pentagon is considering options for possibly evacuating citizens, U.S. citizens from Ukraine if Russia invades. Now, it's not nearly the same situation but you just talked about the U.S. evacuating individuals from Afghanistan.
Are you confident that if it comes to it, if Russia does invade Ukraine and there's a concern about American citizens and legal permanent resident of the United States, that there's a plan that would be effective by the Biden administration to get Americans out?
TURNER: Not necessarily. But this situation is different.
TAPPER: Very different, of course.
TURNER: There is a couple tens of thousands of United States citizens that live in Ukraine, reside in Ukraine. And, you know, Ukraine officials have already indicated that if Putin does invade, not only do they believe it would be a bloodbath, but that there would be millions of refugees that leave Ukraine.
So there would be a need for providing assistance to Americans. Obviously when you have something that becomes a war zone, it makes it that much more difficult. This isn't just the Taliban advancing.
You recall the last time when they took Crimea, Putin's forces even downed a commercial airliner killing all of the citizens that were on board because it was a war zone and it's very difficult for normal operations to occur around it.
TAPPER: I think they did that from Russia, though, not from Crimea itself.
TURNER: It was part of --
TAPPER: Same era, yes, same year (ph).
Before you go, Congressman, I have to ask you, you're the number two Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, the number one Republican Congressman Devin Nunes of California announced that he's retiring to go work for Trump's media company.
Do you want the top job? Presumably, if Republicans take the House, you'd be the chair. Do you want that?
TURNER: Absolutely. I mean, I think national security is incredibly important. To be able to contribute to both the dialogue and the direction that we take for national security is important. And so, yes, I'll be seeking the position.
TAPPER: All right. Good to have you here, sir. Thank you so much, as always.
And the health crisis now, after the health crisis, the new concern for teens after the isolation of the pandemic.
Then it may be the ultimate New York City mic drop. Outgoing Mayor Bill de Blasio defending his decision that angered business owners and citizens alike.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: In our health lead now, Dr. Fauci says based on early data, the Omicron variant, quote, might be less severe. Meanwhile, the delta variant is still dominating in the United States and cases are rising here.
As CNN's Jason Carroll reports for us, new vaccine mandates in the Big Apple are pitting private businesses and city leaders against each other.
MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK CITY: This is a preemptive strike.
JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In New York City, business leaders question how the new COVID mandate will work.
TYLER HOLLINGER, OWNER, FESTIVAL CAFE: To bar children from entering our establishment is ludicrous. It's probably going to cause a 20 percent to 30 percent reduction.
CARROLL: The worry comes after the city's mayor announced private sector employees must be vaccinated by December 27th, and children ages 5 to 11 will need at least one shot to enter restaurants, gyms and other entertainment venues by December 14th.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Who is the person -- do you check with each company to make sure all their employees are vaccinated? Are you going to fine the companies if they don't?
DE BLASIO: So, we have experience already with private sector with restaurants and others, indoor entertainment. We had almost no fines. There was a lot of cooperation. Our Department of Health is going to work with the business sector. We'll come out with specific protocols by December 15th so people have time.
CARROLL: All this as Omicron is spreading. But it's the Delta variant that continues to take its toll with 120,000 new daily cases reported. The Midwest and Northeast particularly hard hit. Michigan now seeing record hospitalizations. The U.S. averaging more than 1,600 deaths each day, one of the highest rates in more than a month.
And a troubling sign among the nation's youngest as COVID cases among children rise again with 133,000 new cases last week alone.
DR. FRANCIS COLLINS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: So I'm hoping that -- I've been hoping this for a few months that people looking at this situation with both Delta and maybe the threat of Omicron would say, if you're not vaccinated, boy, is this the time to roll up your sleeve.
CARROLL: Despite troubling national numbers, members of the White House COVID task force say there are encouraging numbers as well.
JEFF ZIENTS, WHITE HOUSE COVID RESPONSE COORDINATOR: Just in the last week we've gotten 12.5 million total shots in arms. That's the highest weekly total of number of shots since May.
CARROLL (on camera): And, Jake, new polling out gives some more insight into Americans' behavior when it comes to responding to Omicron, 62 percent of Americans say they would mask up when indoors and public spaces. But then you really see a break along party lines because when you ask Democrats, the number goes to 82 percent say yes, they would mask up versus 67 percent of independents and just 38 percent of Republicans -- Jake.
TAPPER: Jason Carroll, thanks so much.
Joining us now to discuss, Dr. Peter Hotez, co-director of the Center for Vaccine Development at Texas Children's Hospital.
Dr. Hotez, thanks for joining us.
I wanted to get your reaction to something. Listen to White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki when asked why testing at home kits are not free and available to every American.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Why not just make them free and give them out and have them available everywhere?
JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Should we just send one to every American?
PSAKI: Then what happens if you -- if every American has one test. How much does that cost and what happens after that?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: To Psaki's response, Rick Bright, Trump's ousted vaccine director and former Obama adviser on the matter tweeted: Actually stunned by this response. Yes, mail them to all Americans.
What do you think, Dr. Hotez? Is it really that crazy an idea to talk about mailing tests for COVID to every American?
DR. PETER HOTEZ, CO-DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR VACCINE DEVELOPMENT AT TEXAS CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: Well, I think Jen Psaki is a fabulous press secretary, but that was not her best moment. In fairness, you know, she hasn't been given a lot to work with. I think the current plan makes no sense as far as I can see that we're going to task consumers to buy it on their own and then try to get it out of the insurance companies.
We've learned, Jake, one thing, among the things we've learned over the last two years is our health system when it comes to COVID-19 can tolerate zero complexity. The minute we make things the least bit fussy, it totally breaks down because in the end, we don't have a health system like the uk or western European countries or Israel or even Canada. We just have a very depleted health system and it doesn't work.
So here's what has to happen. We've got to -- we don't have to make it free, but anyone should be able to walk into a CVS or Rite-Aid or local pharmacy and for a couple of bucks at a subsidized rate, get a home test so they can do home testing. We have to make things super easy breezy if we want Americans to get tested.
And so -- and that's where we need to aspire to go. And it shouldn't be that hard. We've never fixed testing in this country.
TAPPER: We're also hearing cases are rising among children. The vaccine for kids 5 to 11 rolled out more than a month ago. You specialize in vaccines for kids. What about kids under 5?
HOTEZ: Well, three components to this. First of all, we know what happens with this -- with these delta waves because it was here in Texas and in the southern states. As this delta wave ripped through the south, we saw thousands of pediatric hospitalizations, even for the first time pediatric intensive care units get overwhelmed.
So, that's what's going to happen again with this new delta wave as it goes through the rest of the country into the winter. So the most important takeaway, vaccinate our kids. The rates are too low, I think. Massachusetts and New England states are at the top of the heap in terms of vaccinating kids 5 to 11. I think something ridiculously low like 20 percent and goes into the single digits here in Texas and Southern states.
So we've got to maximize that. Younger kids, let's get through the school-aged kids by the end of the year. Younger kids maybe by early next year. But we're not getting the word out about the urgency to vaccinate the 5 to 11-year-olds.
And by the way here in the South, we're also not vaccinating the 12 to 17-year-olds.
TAPPER: I don't understand it. As soon as my kid turned 12, we ran out and got him vaccinated.
Dr. Hotez, this new study from Canada showing that cases of anorexia among kids and teens soared during the early stages of the pandemic. Do you think we're just scratching the surface now of learning how harmful this pandemic has been on children, beyond the COVID itself?
HOTEZ: Absolutely. And it has a lot of nuance and multiple levels. I haven't seen that particular study, but no question we've had a big -- mental our kids across the United States and North America has taken a hit and it's going to take a long time to help those kids recover. So we're going to have to rebuild our mental health services in elementary schools, in junior high schools and high schools.
So we should anticipate that.
The other thing, Jake, that we're not even close to addressing is all the neuropsychiatric consequences of long COVID in kids. Some estimates from Great Ormond Street a hospital in the U.K. say 1 in 7 kids in London have long COVID symptoms, meaning more than 15 months. We've seen long COVID be associated with cognitive decline, gray matter brain degeneration in adults. We don't know what the impact on kids are. So, that we have to get ready for as well.
TAPPER: Dr. Peter Hotez, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
Trump's former chief of staff Mark Meadows now says he will not comply with the January 6th committee. But, of course, you can read all about his view of what happened in the Trump White House in his new book.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: In our politics lead, a reversal today by Mark Meadows. Trump's former White House chief of staff says he will no longer cooperate with the House Select Committee investigating the January 6th insurrection. Meadows' lawyers also revealing that the House committee subpoenaed meadows' phone records from his service provider.
And this hour, sources tell CNN this committee is pursuing the phone records of others with ties to former President Trump. More on that in a minute.
But, first, CNN's Paula Reid with this new strategy by one of Trump's closest allies.
PAUL REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A significant blow for the House Select Committee investigating January 6th, as former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows says he will no longer cooperate. In a letter obtained by CNN, today, Meadows' attorney informed the
panel, we agreed to provide thousands of pages of responsive documents and Mr. Meadows was willing to appear voluntarily for a deposition to answer questions about non-privileged matters. Now actions by the Select Committee have made such an appearance untenable. He says meadows would consider answering written questions.
Meadows' new book about his time in the White House hits shelves today. Some committee members argue he has waived any executive claim of privilege by sharing details about Trump and January 6th in his book.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): If the former president waived his privilege so that meadows could write about it, he cannot then assert privilege to prevent him from answering questions about it.
REID: The committee says it will go forward with Meadows' deposition scheduled for tomorrow and if he does not appear, they will proceed with a contempt referral, just as they did with another Trump ally, Steve Bannon. That case moving ahead today after a federal judge set a July 18th date for Bannon to be tried for criminal contempt of congress.
Bannon refused to comply with a subpoena from the House Select Committee. He's pleaded not guilty and vowed to fight.
STEVE BANNON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF STRATEGIST: I'm never going to back down. They took on the wrong guy this time, okay?
REID: While some witnesses are cooperating, there's one significant official who is. CNN reporting that Marc Short, the former chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, he is cooperating, potentially giving investigators key insights.
OLIVIA TROYE, FORMER ADVISER TO VICE PRESIDENT MIKE PENCE: He is definitely Mike Pence's confidante.
REID: Short is a firsthand witness to many critical events the committee is examining and the pressure Pence faced from Trump and others to overturn the election results on January 6th.
REID (voice-over): Following the insurrection, the inspector general for the Capitol police made more than 100 recommendations to address the security flaws that allowed the January 6th mob to overwhelm the Capitol police. Well, Jake, he testified today that only 30, just a fraction of those have been implemented as we approach the one-year anniversary of that attack.
TAPPER: All right. Paula, thanks so much. Appreciate it.
Breaking news, we're learning new details about the January 6th committee's next move. Stay with us.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [16:38:04]
TAPPER: We have some breaking news for you in our politics lead. CNN is learning that the January 6th select committee has subpoenaed phone records from more than 100 people, including former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.
CNN's Jamie Gangel joins us now with the CNN exclusive.
And, Jamie, has the committee been successful with any of these subpoenas? Have they gotten hold of these phone records?
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: We've been told that a batch went out and a batch has come back. There's another batch out. So we know that they have requested more than 100, and they certainly have gotten a group of those records back.
I just want to explain what the call detail records are. It is not the substance of the phone calls. It's not a recording. It is not the substance of a text message, but it tells you who called whom, at what time, for how long, who texted another person.
So now what they do is they take these call detail records and perhaps they can build a web of communication on the day of January 6th. Although the timing goes from my understanding is at least one record we saw that they requested call detail records going back to November 1st, just before the election, through the end of January.
TAPPER: And you have new reporting on Mark Meadows. What do you have?
GANGEL: So this is brand-new just in to CNN. We know that he is now not cooperating. And if you look closely at the committee's statement, they mention and remind us that he has voluntarily already handed over, with no claim of privilege, we know more than 6,000 pages of documents.
What CNN has learned today, a source with knowledge has told me that in those 6,000 pages of documents are his communications on January 6th as the riot was unfolding, with no claim of privilege.
So we don't know exactly who he was communicating with on January 6th. But the committee now has this information, and, as you and I know, a lot of people have Mark Meadows' telephone numbers so let's just think about who might have been calling him and texting him and emailing him -- White House officials, rally organizers, Trump loyalists, members of Congress, some reporters. The committee has those records.
TAPPER: Wow. That's intense. Jamie Gangel, thanks for that.
Let's bring in Democratic Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren. She's on the Select Committee investigating the January insurrection.
Congresswoman, thanks for joining us. Let's start with the phone records subpoenaed by your panel. What specifically are you looking to find by going this route?
REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA): Details. As you know, this is a gigantic puzzle. We've got many pieces and we need to put some more pieces together. As your reporter explained, this is not the content of any text or phone call. It's time, place, it's data. Really it's metadata, and it will help us put together the picture.
By the way, Mark has sent over volumes of material, including real- time communication as the riot unfolded without an assertion of privilege.
The committee wants to ask him about some of that, and it's really untenable that, all of a sudden, at the last minute he's saying no, that somehow there's some reason why he can't talk about this, especially after his book is out. Apparently, I haven't read it yet, but from reports recounting conversations he had directly with the president. He's reporting on that in his book for money, but refusing to talk to the committee about it. That's untenable.
TAPPER: If you get the metadata from a phone company that suggests, let's say, individual A talked -- texted individual B, and you think you can build a case, you think that may be very integral to your investigation. Can you then go to a judge and seek the content of that text message?
LOFGREN: Sure. Sure. If there's probable cause to do that. There's a basis for doing that.
But, by the way, when there's a text exchange, there's more than one party who has the text. And we've had more than 275 witnesses come into the committee already. We've had more than 30,000 documents produced to us and hundreds and hundreds of tips that have come in.
So we are compiling information. There's no single witness that has all of the information that we're seeking to obtain. Obviously, there are things we want to learn from Mark Meadows, but we're getting information from a variety of sources.
TAPPER: Have you established in any way yet that the attack on the Capitol was preplanned by individuals either in the White House or with close connections to the White House during the Trump years?
LOFGREN: I don't want to answer that question at this point because we're in the middle of this investigation. But let me just say there's plenty left to investigate and we found a very important evidence so far.
TAPPER: Another Trump ally, Steve Bannon, faces an upcoming trial after fighting his subpoena from your committee both for testimony and for documents. Bannon has been charged with criminal contempt of Congress.
The Justice Department wanted a trial to start in mid-April. The Bannon team pushed forward October 2022. Today, a judge seemed to settle that disagreement and he set the date for July 18th, 2022.
What's your reaction to his legal strategy?
LOFGREN: To Bannon's legal strategy?
LOFGREN: I don't know if there is one. I mean, obviously, he'd like to stay out of prison for as long as possible. You always hope for early trial dates. Justice delayed is justice denied, but a July trial date means that he will be facing the music mid next year and I think that's appropriate.
TAPPER: Bannon has been all in on this strategy of Trump supporters infiltrating local Republican Party posts. In an interview, Bannon told CNN's Sara Murray, it's about winning elections with the right people, MAGA people. We will have our people in at every level, unquote.
Your committee is reviewing how the insurrection unfolded, but do you think for Trump supporters, January 6th was also a lessons learned for team MAGA?
In other words, the safeguards, the guardrails held barely during the last election, but do you think the Trump team also learned, okay, this is what we need to do so that next time we can overturn the election?
LOFGREN: Well, I think what we're doing here in the January 6th committee is about defending democracy. What steps do we need to take to make sure that it's the votes and the voices of the American people that determine our future, not a cabal that wants to insert or overturn the voters' desires with their own quest for power. That's what ultimately this is about.
And we're looking at the facts and what happened on the 6th, but also trying to inform ourselves about what steps need to be taken to protect the democracy.
TAPPER: Democratic Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, thank you so much. Good to see you as always.
Coming up, stern words from China following President Biden's diplomatic boycott of the upcoming Olympic Games in China. That's next.
TAPPER: In our world lead today, officials in Beijing today warning that the United States will, quote, pay the price after the Biden administration announced a full diplomatic boycott of the upcoming Olympic Winter Games in protest of the genocide and crimes against humanity that the Biden administration says the Chinese government is committing against religious minorities. CNN's David Culver is live for us in Shanghai, China.
David, what exactly is the Chinese government threatening here?
DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For now, Jake, just lots of threatening remarks. Harsh words from the foreign ministry. They are saying the U.S. will pay the price for its wrongdoings, adding the U.S. has shot itself in the foot warning, wait and see for China's countermeasures.
Now, the Chinese embassy where you are in D.C. saying that the move was pretentious. U.S. officials weren't even invited. And they call all of this rooted in ideological bias. They say it's rumors, lies, things we've heard multiple times as we've been reporting firsthand on the atrocities and allegations of human rights abuses taking place in Xinxiang against the ethnic Uighur Muslim. It's not surprising they are pushing back saying this is the U.S. trying to victimize China in all of this.
And one thing I should point out also, Jake, is that it's likely that when people say what is China going to do to react? They're going to do something to advance their ideology. We've talked extensively on their desire to expand control over society here, the party in particular. I'm even hearing it's possible they'll react in some way by blocking U.S. films, for example, from entering this, what is the world's largest box office, or perhaps take it out on businesses here in Shanghai. Some American businesses in particular.
I've heard some concerns from some of the local business leaders about that. Either way they'll be able to crack down on Western influence by doing that, prevent any spread of some of the U.S. intervention as they see it within China and continue pushing forward with the party's ideology -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right. David Culver reporting from China, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
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This hour, dozens of people killed and dozens more evacuated after a massive volcano erupted wiping out several villages, and the destruction could be much worse.
Plus, gas prices ticking down for once. How long might this last?
And leading this hour, one of the most consequential foreign policy moments of Joe Biden's presidency, holding a two-hour phone call with Vladimir Putin amid fears that Russia is about to invade Ukraine, again. The threat is so dire that the Biden administration is looking at options to potentially evacuate U.S. citizens from Ukraine if this situation escalates, according to several sources.
This afternoon, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said President Biden was direct with Putin in their call.
As Kaitlan Collins reports, Biden made clear the U.S. will react to further Russian escalation with, quote, specific, robust, clear responses.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A high-stakes call amid fears of a Russian invasion.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hello. Good to see you again.
COLLINS: With tensions simmering on the border of Ukraine, President Biden spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin for two hours and 1 minute today.
JAKE SULLIVAN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: The call covered a range of issues but the main topic was Ukraine.
COLLINS: The call posing a critical test for Biden as he tries to avoid a major European security crisis if Russia invades Ukraine.
So did President Biden get clarity from him on whether or not that is his intention?
SULLIVAN: We still do not believe that President Putin has made a decision. What President Biden did today was lay out very clearly the consequences if he chooses to move.
COLLINS: Biden warning Putin about strong economic consequences and, quote, other measures, but it remains to be seen if the combative Russian leader backs down.
SULLIVAN: There is no finger wagging but the president was crystal clear.
COLLINS: Putin had his own demands, including blocking Ukraine from joining the military alliance known as NATO.
SULLIVAN: He made no such commitments or concessions.
COLLINS: Sullivan adding the U.S. is prepared to act in ways it didn't after Russia illegally annexed Crimea when President Obama was in office.
SULLIVAN: I will look you in the eye and tell you as President Biden looked President Putin in the eye and told him things we did not do in 2014, we are prepared to do now.