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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Sources Confirm "Aggressive (Sic) Strategy" Text Message Sent From Rick Perry's Phone Number; Rep. Zoe Lofgren, (D-CA), Is Interviewed About January 6; Expert: "Viral Blizzard" To Hit U.S. Millions To Be Infected Soon; Trump Falsely Claims Jewish Americans Don't Like Israel; Russia Proposes Tough Demands For Security Pact With NATO, U.S.; Sources: Thousands More Russian Troops Sent To Ukrainian Border; Judge Overturns Bankruptcy Deal For Purdue Pharma, Sackler Family; Tiger Woods Returns For First Tournament Since Crash. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired December 17, 2021 - 17:00   ET




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Good morning gentlemen.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Roger Stone, one of the former President Donald Trump's most prominent and controversial supporters met with the January 6 Select Committee today.

ROGER STONE, FORMER TRUMP POLITICAL ADVISER: I am doing my civic duty and I am responding as required by law to the subpoena.

NOBLES (voice-over): But he didn't say much.

STONE: I did invoke my Fifth Amendment rights to every question, not because I have done anything wrong, but because I am fully aware of the House Democrats long history of fabricating perjury charges.

NOBLES (voice-over): Still use the opportunity in his traditional showman style, presenting himself as a martyr for the MAGA cause with well-worn accusations and not much substance.

STONE: This is witch hunt 3.0.

NOBLES (voice-over): Stone was among several high profile right wing personalities who stoked false election fraud claims and the fervor among Trump supporters.

STONE: Help us pay for the staging, the transportation and most importantly, the security of our peaceful protesters.

NOBLES (voice-over): He raised millions of dollars and was among the speakers at rallies in D.C. leading up to January 6.

STONE: And now they seek nothing less than the heights of the 2020 election, and we say no way. NOBLES (voice-over): While the interview with Stone was short and likely did not yield much information, the committee may have had more luck with Caroline Wren, another rally organizer who met with the committee for several hours today. Multiple sources interviewed by the committee previously told CNN investigators are interested in Wren's role as a fundraiser for various pro Trump rallies, including the one on January 6.

The committee also wants to hear from Phil Waldron, the man behind a PowerPoint presentation filled with plans to overturn the election results that the committee said Mark Meadows was in receipt of. Committee members say they've issued him a subpoena because they want to know more about the document.

REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL), JANUARY 6 SELECT COMMITTEE: Who did you talk to? When did you talk to them? Why? Where did you get this information from?

NOBLES (voice-over): The committee furiously wrapping up a hectic week of work ahead of the holidays. The House referred Meadows to the Department of Justice for potential criminal contempt charges. Investigators interviewed dozens of witnesses, including high profile Trump allies, Keith Kellogg, the then National Security Adviser to the Vice President, and Ken Klokowski (ph), a former DOJ official.

And while most Republicans continue to cast doubt on the committee and its work, one very prominent Republican seems open to what they are discovering.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: Well, I'm like you, read their reports every day. And it'll be interesting to see what they conclude.


NOBLES: And while Roger Stone showed up for his deposition today, but likely did not say very much, another right wing conspiracy theorist seems to be taking a bit of a different tact. Alex Jones, who scheduled to hold a deposition with the committee tomorrow is no longer showing up. The committee saying that they are granting him a short postponement because, Jake, he is engaging with the committee's work. Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right, Ryan Nobles, thanks so much.

Joining me live to discuss, Democratic Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren of California. She's a member of the January 6 House Select Committee.

Congresswoman, so, we just reported that the "aggressive strategy" text message calling for just the day after the election the White House or others to push three states, Pennsylvania, Georgia, North Carolina, to have their legislatures, which a Republican, just convene and send a different slate of electors, then thus kicking a constitutional crisis and sending this to the Supreme Court. The author of that, members of your committee believe, was former Governor Rick Perry. And that the text message came from a phone number that we have corroborated is Governor Rick Perry. So, what's your response?

REP. ZOE LOFGREN (D-CA), JANUARY 6 SELECT COMMITTEE: Well, I'm not in a position to confirm who was the author at this point, ultimately that information, all the information will be released by the committee. I want to commend you for being good reporters and tracking down leads.

But the real concern, you know, is this text really proposes overturning the Constitution. The votes hadn't even all been counted yet when this text was sent, essentially saying ignore what the voters did. Republican sent whoever you want as electors and rig the election.

You know, I think President Trump -- former President Trump is known for projecting. He is saying, you know, it stopped the steal. Well, actually, it looks like he was being urged to steal the election.

TAPPER: Yes. And just to note, of the three states that Rick Perry was pushing in that text message attributed to Rick Perry's phone, one of them was North Carolina, the votes were still being counted and ultimately Trump won that state.

LOFGREN: Correct. You know the text says, you know, and other Republican states and clearly outlines a coup.


TAPPER: The committee has now spoken with around 300 people witnesses, you've reviewed troves of documents. How has your thinking evolved about the attack and the larger attempt to undermine democracy since you began investigating?

LOFGREN: Well, we've uncovered a lot of information. Obviously, there's more to look at, more to learn. But we are seeing with the Mark Meadows information, really some lines of communication between the bot and the riot and the White House. We have more to ask Mr. Meadows about this, and we have other witnesses to talk to as well. But as Senator Mitch McConnell said, this is pretty interesting stuff, huh?

TAPPER: It sure is. The conspiracy to overthrow the results of the election now includes a former governor, officials in the cabinet, officials from the Pentagon, officials from the Justice Department. Not to mention, of course, the Trump White House. I mean, we should just note, this wasn't just a sweaty Rudy Giuliani holding dreams, press conferences at four seasons total landscaping, this was a wide and deep and vast conspiracy, this is alarming and frightening.

LOFGREN: It is and we need to get the entire picture. And we also need to see what steps we can take not only to fully inform the American people, but to change processes so that we're not vulnerable to this kind of plotting in the future.

TAPPER: A lot of the conspiracy theorists and a lot of the plotters were pushing Vice President Mike Pence to do something that he didn't even have the constitutional power to do. As we know that the crowd was chanting, "hang Mike Pence," because they were so incensed because of what President Trump and others had had told them. Why hasn't Vice President Pence spoken with the committee yet?

LOFGREN: Well, I don't want to get into that. But we are certainly learning more about the Vice President's actions and views.

I will say this, that the role of the vice president is and has always been really ceremonial. And there's really not a lot of ambiguity, but some ambiguity was attempted to be created about that. And in the end, Vice President Pence understood that that was a role that he legally could play. And so, we're lucky for that.

But I think, you know, if we can tighten up, so there's absolutely no way to ever suggest that there's an ambiguity about that might be something we should look at doing.

TAPPER: "The New York Times" published an op-ed piece this week called, "How to Tell When Your Country is Past the Point of No Return." Listen to this quote from Cornell Professor Michael Macy, quote, "If the water temperature increases only one degree per hour, it may take a while before you notice it is too hot and by that time it is too late. We might be better off if we faced an armed insurrection, which might be the exo-shock needed to get the GOP establishment to wake up," unquote.

I mean, where are we in terms of the threat to democracy? Should we, as Americans, start brushing up on how democracies end? I mean, it has happened. I mean, you one look need -- look no further than some countries in South America that had thriving democracies, and ultimately, they don't anymore.

LOFGREN: Well, I believe that the vast majority of Americans are in favor of our constitutional republic. We -- not everyone may understand the threats that have been posed and are being created even as we speak now. So, I think those of us who are studying this have an opportunity to make that information well known to the American public. And I think the vast number of Americans don't want to turn in our democracy for a different form of government.

So, we have a lot of work to do, those of us who are working on this committee. And I would say other parts of our fabric of America, people like yourself and the faith community and others, to say what the stakes are and how important our democratic form of government is. I know that all of us in school, we pledge allegiance to the flag in school.

The flag is a symbol. But really, what's important --


LOFGREN: -- is our constitute democratic form of government.

TAPPER: Pledge allegiance to the flag and to the Republic, for which it stands.

Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, thank you so much. Appreciate it. COVID spiking just before holiday gathering. We're going to talk to an expert who says the U.S. is about to experience a, quote, "viral blizzard.


Plus, Tiger Woods returns. The golf legends first tournament since his devastating car crash. That's ahead.


TAPPER: In our health lead, the holiday season is in full swing, but unfortunately, so as coronavirus. As weekly COVID cases continue to rise in the U.S., public health officials worry increased travel during the holidays and a new highly transmissible variant will only make things worse. CNN's Pete Muntean joins us now live.

And Pete, we're a week out from Christmas Eve, what do we know about how this current COVID-19 surge and the Omicron variant is impacting holiday travel if at all?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, we'll just have to see how this plays out, Jake. You know, United Airlines says we have already entered the busiest few days of the holiday travel season. In fact it projects passenger loads 20 percent higher than what it saw during the Thanksgiving travel period where we set pandemic era air travel records. In fact, the TSA still projects 20 to 21 million people will pass through security at America's airports between December 23 and January 3.


You know, just yesterday, 2.06 million people pass through security at America's airports, the highest number we have seen since December 5. A bit of an early kickoff to the holiday travel period here.

You know, it's also so interesting is whether or not as these numbers go up, as the number of infections goes up, whether these projections will turn out just to be flat out false. You know, airlines say they have seen a bit of a wavering in ticket bookings as the Omicron variant started to make headlines. United Airline's CEO says cancellations have gone up a little bit, Jake.

But what's also so interesting here is the CDC is giving up at home coronavirus tests to international travelers as they arrive into the United States, select airports only right now, maybe more soon. The bottom line here from the TSA, wear a mask. That's the federal guideline until March 18, 2022. Bring a lot of patience and a lot of flexibility. If you haven't booked yet, may want to consider booking for Christmas day itself where the numbers will be the smallest.

TAPPER: Pete Muntean, thanks so much.

Also in our health lead, G7 health leaders are calling the Omicron variant, quote, "the biggest current threat to global public health." And as CNN's Scott McLean reports, the U.K. just reported the highest number of daily cases since the pandemic began for the third consecutive day.


SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With the Omicron variant surging across the U.K., scientists at the University of Glasgow are racing to confirm in the lab what real world data is already suggesting.

MASSIMO PALMARINI, DIRECTOR OF CENTRE FOR VIRUS RESEARCH, UNIVERSITY OF GLASGOW: Omicron is able to escape far better immune induced by vaccination than any other variant.

MCLEAN (voice-over): It also appears to spread much more easily. But some indications are that it causes less severe symptoms.

TONI HO, CLINICIAN, UNIVERSITY OF GLASGOW: We will possibly have a million people a day who are being infected in the U.K. And even if it's a tiny proportion of that large number, that will still result in quite a large number of hospitalization.

MCLEAN (on camera): Because the lab we're about to enter contains live samples of Omicron variant, we have to be decked out head to toe and protective equipment, and also sealed off with this respirator from any potential danger.

(voice-over): When the virus sample first arrived here two weeks ago, it came in a very small vial, it's been left to grow and multiply in this incubator since then. Now, they finally have enough to experiment with.

They've already noticed Omicron does not multiply as quickly as Delta. Under the microscope, the dark spots are cells Delta infected in 24 hours. But even after 48 hours, the Omicron variant has not spread nearly as far, a potentially encouraging sign.

AGNIESZKA SZEMIEL, VIROLOGIST, UNIVERSITY OF GLASGOW: It is slower in the lab. So and it doesn't seem to be killing the cells as the other variants. But this is all sort of in the lab. So, question is now, how does that translate into the actual patients?

MCLEAN (on camera): And sometimes things behave differently in a lab than they would in real life?


MCLEAN (voice-over): In the real world, new infections of Omicron are doubling in as little as two days in some parts of the U.K.

BORIS JOHNSON, U.K. PRIME MINISTER: There is a tidal wave of Omicron coming.

MCLEAN (voice-over): The government thinks that every infected person infects three to five others. One, not yet peer reviewed model suggests that in the worst case scenario more than half of the English population could be infected with the Omicron variant over the winter months. JENNY HARRIES, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, U.K. HEALTH SECURITY AGENCY: That's probably the most significant threat we've had since the start of the pandemic.

MCLEAN (voice-over): In response, Prime Minister Boris Johnson is resorting to plan B, reviving the indoor mask mandate and introducing the COVID passport for nightclubs and large events. But a vote this week to confirm the measure provoked a mutiny from within Johnson's own Conservative Party, passing only thanks to votes from the opposition.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So the ayes have it, the ayes have it.

MARCUS FYSH, U.K. CONSERVATIVE PARTY MP: You are segregating society based on an unacceptable thing. We are not a papers pleased society.

MCLEAN (voice-over): But they are in mainland Europe. COVID passports are making life difficult for the unjammed in places like Italy, France, Germany and Austria. They are now required for everyday things like restaurants, public transit, going to work or even leaving your house.

Austria is making adult vaccinations mandatory. The new German Chancellor is pushing for the same. But when Johnson suggested even a conversation about that in the future, it was publicly shut down by his own health secretary.

SAJID JAVID, U.K. HEALTH SECRETARY: Although we've seen plans for universal mandatory vaccination in some countries in Europe, I will never support them in this country.


MCLEAN (voice-over): Instead, the government is resorting to a familiar approach, personal responsibility.

CHRIS WHITTY, U.K. MEDICAL OFFICER: I think people should prioritize what really matters to them and then cut down on the things that don't.

MCLEAN (voice-over): But with another record high of new infections Friday and the threat of rising hospitalizations, Johnson may soon need to convince a weary public to go along with even more restrictions. Unless some good news is discovered inside labs like this one.


MCLEAN: And because of the surging Omicron variant, in about 40 minutes from now, France is officially closing its border to British tourists and business travelers even if they're vaccinated. Not that they would have that much fun there anyways, Jake, the French are also banning public drinking and large parties on New Year's Eve to try to keep Omicron under control.

TAPPER: Scott McLean, thanks so much. Appreciate that report. Let's discuss all this with Michael Osterholm. He's the Director for the Centre for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.

Good to see you again, Mr. Osterholm. So last night, you said the U.S. is about to experience a, quote, "viral blizzard" in the next three to eight weeks. Millions of Americans are going to get infected you say.

When you look at what's happening in the U.K., which is usually ahead of us by a few weeks when it comes to this pandemic, what lessons can the U.S. learn?

MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, DIR., CTR. FOR INFECTIOUS DISEASE RESEARCH AND POLICY, UNIV. OF MINNESOTA: One is that we still have to deal with a Delta epidemic we see or pandemic as worldwide issues. And that isn't done yet. That's what is really stressing our hospitals yet.

The question is going to be is, how will Omicron replace that or will it? And so, that will then add an additional burden onto it. And so, we still have a real question yet about that.

The second thing, of course, is the seriousness of the illness. We're all reporting about how much more infectious it is, which indeed Omicron is. But the challenge will be, is it going to increase the number of hospitalizations, serious illnesses and deaths. And that's what we don't really understand yet.

TAPPER: We're seeing testing lines reminiscent to last year when the number of Americans vaccinated were miniscule. How much of the surge we're seeing right now is about the Omicron variant or is it more that not enough people have gotten vaccinated, not enough people have gotten the booster?

OSTERHOLM: Well, not enough people got vaccinated for sure. And in this country, only a third of individuals who should have that third dose. A dose I don't like to call a booster, I think is part of a three prime series, something we should have been promoting for months that we needed three doses. So, in fact, that's there.

The question right now is, as you're asking about what is Omicron doing, that's what's coming down the pike. The cases are getting sick now. But as we've seen in South Africa, it'll take several weeks before they turn into severe illnesses, result potentially in hospitalizations, and deaths.

Right now, if we didn't have another Delta virus transmission in the country, the next three weeks are already in the books, meaning that the people who have gotten infected will go on to develop symptoms, then with time become more seriously ill be hospitalized and then some of those will die. That's a fact for right now.

So, what we're really looking for is what will happen in three to five weeks from now. And I think that's why when I talked about the viral blizzard, I think we're going to see lots of transmission of the virus well into the middle of January, and that's when we're going to know really the impact of Omicron. TAPPER: This is new op-ed from former FDA officials in "The Washington Post" and they say the Biden administration has been making important vaccine decisions without consulting independent panels of experts. They cite three decisions in particular, the FDA authorizing boosters for all adults, the CDC announcing everyone 18 and older should get the booster, and the FDA authorizing booster shots for 16 and 17 year olds. What do you make of their chargers? Do you agree that the Biden administration is not listening to the scientists enough?

OSTERHOLM: Well, you know, there is a division right now, we just have to acknowledge that. Some people don't think that the boosters are that important. I for one do believe that.

I actually wrote an op-ed piece in "The Washington Post" several weeks ago, urging that we no longer think of boosters as that, but really to be fully vaccinated. You need all three doses. I think the data are clear and compelling. And so, we don't have time to wait.

This is like a John Snow moment. John Snow is the famous Englishman who pulled the pump handle off of contaminated well in England back in the 1860s to stop a cholera outbreak long before the bacteria is even discovered. We need to pull pump handles right now. We need to do things where we have enough data to support that, in fact, that something may work and then we need to do it because what we're facing otherwise is in fact this viral blizzard and the impact that it will have on us.

TAPPER: I'm glad you explained who John Snow was, because I thought you were making a reference to Game of Thrones.

Dr. Michael Osterholm, thank you so much. Really appreciate it.

OSTERHOLM: Thank you.

TAPPER: I hope you have a good weekend.

Next I'm going to talk --

OSTERHOLM: You too. Thank you.

TAPPER: -- to the head of the Anti-Defamation League who says former President Donald Trump just used classic anti-Semitic stereotypes. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our politics lead, former President Trump using, according to the Anti-Defamation League, quote, "classic anti-Semitic stereotypes about Israeli and Jewish control of Congress and the press," unquote.

In an interview with Israeli journalist Barak Ravid, Trump claimed, falsely, that Jewish Americans do not like or care about Israel, and he spouted off a number of other -- rather, ignorant remarks about Jews.

Let's get right to what the former president said with Jonathan Greenblatt of the Anti-Defamation League.

Jonathan, before we discuss Trump's comments, trigger alert for people who don't like anti-Semitism, let's play them.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: People in this country that are Jewish no longer love Israel. I'll tell you, the evangelical Christians love Israel more than the Jews in this country.


It used to be that Israel had absolute power over Congress and today I think it's the exact opposite. You look at the New York Times, the New York Times hates Israel. Hates them. And the Jewish people that run the New York Times.


TAPPER: So, a lot to dive in the two there. I mean, that's like four or five anti-Semitic tropes in 40 seconds. A new record, perhaps.

Let's look at Trump's first claim, Jon. A Pew survey earlier this year found that 58 percent of Jews in America are very or somewhat emotionally attached to Israel. 60 percent say that they have a lot or something in common with Israeli Jews. So to say that American Jews don't like or love Israel, that's inaccurate, just as a factual matter.

JONATHAN GREENBLATT, CEO, ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE: Yes, look, I mean, Jake, these comments, unfortunately, are not very surprising from former President Trump, but they fall somewhere between stunning and stupid. Now I expect this for people on the extreme right or the far left. But you would think a former president of the United States with Jewish grandchildren would get stuff like this right.

And what are we talking about? Look, the bottom line is Jews. He is not the one to tell Jewish people about their feelings for Israel. But there is widespread, overwhelming positive feelings among the Jewish community for the Jewish state. And that's just the start, as you point out, of what he said, tropes about greed, power, loyalty, clannishness. Like, literally, you wonder how low he's going to go.

TAPPER: Yes. And then he said, Israel -- I'm just going to quote this -- "Israel had absolute power over Congress. And today, I think it's the exact opposite." I mean, the idea that Israel had absolute control over Congress or absolute power of Congress, that's the kind of anti- Semitism you hear from like members of the Klan.

GREENBLATT: That's right. I mean, this sounds like Richard Spencer, or this sounds like some of the most radical people on the left, or Lyndon LaRouche, for goodness sakes. I mean, that's what we're talking about here. Israel doesn't have an absolute power over anything, even its own electorate, for goodness sakes. But this plays into these long standing tropes, Jake, that have led to Jewish people being harassed, suffering from violence, and literally being killed. So it's not something we can take lightly, especially when it's coming from a former commander-in-chief. It is really quite disturbing.

TAPPER: Trump claimed that Evangelical Christians love Israel more than Jewish Americans. This is a complicated issue. Obviously, a lot of Evangelical Christians are supportive of Israel. There's a theological reason behind a lot of that. What's he talking about here?

GREENBLATT: Well, look, it's certainly true that there are many people of the Christian faith, Evangelicals, Catholics, other denominations within Protestantism of the, you know, the Church of Latter-day Saints that feel very strongly about the Jewish state of Israel. That could be for biblical reasons or political reasons or personal reasons.

But to say that this group loves Israel more than that group, like that's the kind of analysis we don't really need. Because at the bottom line, Jake, its anti-Semitism to play into these tropes in these myths about who feels more strongly about the Jewish state helps no one, particularly the Jewish people.

TAPPER: Yes, I mean, also you don't have -- it's not a contest, right? I mean, he seems to be judging --


TAPPER: The way he seems to look at this is like support for Israel is measured by how much people voted for me, for Donald Trump. Evangelical Christians overwhelmingly voted for me, therefore, they love Israel, more than Jewish Americans who disproportionately did not vote for me.

GREENBLATT: Yes. Look, the bottom line is President Trump's yardstick as always is his ego. Because that's what seems to be the measure that he uses to determine someone's value, someone's patriotism, or in this case, someone Zionism but none of it works. And again, we have seen time and again, whether it's, you know, people who belong to different organizations or extremist movements, employ the same kind of myths, Jake, and use it to justify the marginalization and the persecution of Jewish people.


GREENBLATT: And it's flat out wrong.

TAPPER: And then, of course, he went after the New York Times claiming the newspaper hates Israel, it's run by Jews. Obviously, he goes on to say he's talking about the Sulzberger families who have run the paper for decades. But still, to say the New York Times is run -- they -- he goes, Jewish people run the New York Times.

GREENBLATT: I mean, again, like this plays into this trope about Jews controlling the media. And we also know the myths of Jews controlling Hollywood, Wall Street, Silicon Valley, you name it, anti-Semitism is a conspiracy theory. And it adapts and it morphs and it shapes to the times and to the particular, you know, pathologies of the person pushing out the prejudice. That's what we have here.

The bottom line is all of these myths, again, have been used to justify violence against the Jewish people. And the people who push out such myths, Jake, they aren't our friends, right? They don't align with our values.


Let's say our friends -- I mean, they don't align with the American values of decency and humanism and tolerance and that's why they're so problematic.

TAPPER: Yes. Jonathan Greenblatt, thank you so much. Good to see you again.

Vladimir Putin ignores President Biden's warning as Russia continues to build up its troops near Ukraine. That's next.


TAPPER: In our world lead, Russian President Vladimir Putin trying his best to squash NATO's sphere of influence as Putin continues to toy with Ukraine, demanding security guarantees and proposal published today that include NATO pledging to not expand East, NATO not allowing Ukraine to join and pushing the U.S. to cease any military cooperation with Ukraine. Those toll (ph) and rather unlikely demands while CNN is learning about further buildup of Russian troops on the Ukraine Russia border, a direct rebuke the President Biden's plea to deescalate tension.

CNN's Natasha Bertrand broke the story. She joins us live. Natasha, how big is Russia's presence on the Ukrainian border right now?


NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Jake, it's well over 100,000 troops. And the latest U.S. intelligence assessments put the number of battalion tactical groups, which are units comprised of about 900 personnel each typically at about 50. So there's upwards of 50 of those massive groups kind of stationed at the border with six more on the way, that's according to U.S. officials who spoke to us.

And there's a lot of concern here, obviously, over what Russia's plans actually are, which the U.S. is still trying to determine. They do not know whether or not Russian President Vladimir Putin has actually made the decision to invade. But they warn that he could do so at a moment's notice, essentially, if he decided to because of all this equipment, and because of all these troops that are currently stationed at the border. Some as close as about 30 miles away from Ukraine.

So the Ukrainians obviously getting a bit nervous about this. They are asking the U.S. for more weapons. They are asking for more support. The U.S. says, look, we provided over $400 million in security assistance already. We are trying to deescalate the situation not escalate it further by putting more weapons into the conflict.

So, obviously, all sides are very tense right now. The Russians are not backing down. In fact, they are demanding more security guarantees that the United States is saying are pretty much non-starters.

TAPPER: And how is the Biden administration responding?

BERTRAND: Well, they put out a draft proposal today of what they're kind of demanding from the U.S. and the West, kind of putting that out in public. And the administration has told reporters today that Moscow knows that a lot of those bullet points on their list, a lot of those demands are simply not going to happen. So things, for example, like a guarantee that Ukraine will not be allowed to join NATO, that the U.S. will not be conducting any kind of military cooperation with Ukraine.

These are things that the administration knows, or it feels that Moscow knows but is putting out there because it wants a pretext for conflict, right? A lot of analysts, a lot of U.S. officials saying that Moscow is deliberately provoking here because they know they're not going to get what they want. And when they don't, they can then say, well, we tried now we're going to launch this attack.

So the administration is, you know, has a very delicate dance going on here with the Russians. They still believe there's a window here for diplomacy, but they are willing to, you know, take much further action than they did in 2014, for example, if Russia does actually move to invade.

TAPPER: All right, Natasha Bertrand, thank you so much for that reporting.

Coming up, it was a $4 billion settlement that gave the powerful Sackler family broad protection from opioid lawsuits. But now that settlement has just been overturned. What does that all mean? That's next



TAPPER: Big star on our national lead, a judge is rejecting a settlement involving the opioid crisis and the Sackler family. It's their company Purdue Pharma behind OxyContin, the powerful, highly addictive painkiller. A bankruptcy deal agreed to by some states attorneys general and the Sackler family back in September, shielded Purdue Pharma and the Sacklers against any future lawsuits in exchange in part the Sacklers had to pay more than $4 billion to opioid victims and charities. But a federal judge is now overturning that deal.

And as CNN's Tom Foreman reports, one attorney general who pushed for this reversal is calling the decision a seismic victory for justice.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Federal Court ruling up ends a sweeping settlement of the bankruptcy of Purdue Pharma, a deal that would have cost the owners of Purdue, the Sackler family, billions of dollars, while shielding them from future civil lawsuits that could have cost even more. The judge said the bankruptcy court that approved that arrangement did not have the authority.

PATRICK RADDEN KEEFE, AUTHOR, "EMPIRE OF PAIN: THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE SACKLER DYNASTY": A judge overseeing that has looked at it and said, no, no, that doesn't make any sense. They didn't declare bankruptcy themselves, so they shouldn't be released from any future liability by this bankruptcy judge.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Many states had accepted the bankruptcy deal. Others are cheering its repudiation. "This is a seismic victory for justice and accountability that will reopen the deeply flawed Purdue bankruptcy and forced the Sackler family to confront the pain and devastation they have caused."

Purdue Pharma says it will appeal, arguing the bankruptcy deal would have sent $4.5 billion of the families to help build addiction and treatment programs. And the new ruling could delay and perhaps and the ability of creditors, communities and individuals to receive billions in value to abate the opioid crisis.

The CDC says that crisis has killed nearly 590,000 Americans since 1999. Several and Joanne Peterson's family.

JOANNE PETERSON, FOUNDER, LEARN TO COPE: It's almost like this monster that sits on top of the rooftop, waiting to just pluck away people.

FOREMAN (voice-over): To be sure, other companies have also been involved in the epidemic, but Purdue pled guilty to federal criminal charges in 2020 over the way it marketed and sold OxyContin, agreeing to pay over $8 billion.

Still, Sackler family members have never admitted wrongdoing. And it said from the earliest days, doctors were thrilled.

DR. RICHARD SACKLER, FORMER PRESIDENT & CO-CHAIRMAN, PURDUE PHARMA: They were extremely enthusiastic about the effectiveness and the safety and the reception their patients had, and response they had to the product.

DR. KATHE SACKLER, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT & BOARD MEMBER, PURDUE PHARMA: It distresses me greatly and angers me greatly, that the medication that was developed to help people and relieve severe pain has become associated with so much human suffering.


FOREMAN: CNN reached out to the Sacklers for any further comment, we've heard nothing yet.

[17:50:01] In the wake of this new ruling, some states say they will continue pursuing cases against the Sacklers and the New York Attorney General specifically says, we will get justice for the American people. Jake?

TAPPER: Tom Foreman, thanks so much.

Coming up next, Tiger Woods makes his return. The sport star tees off in a tournament for the first time since that horrific car crash. Stay with us.


TAPPER: In our sports lead, the comeback King back again. Tiger Woods picking up his clubs for the first time in a competition since that horrific car crash almost a year ago. And after months of must have been brutal rehab, the man with a 82 PGA Tour wins in the bag will tee off tomorrow and a father-son tournament with his 12-year-old Charlie after finishing a promising practice round today.


Joining us now, CNN's Sports Analyst Christine Brennan. Christine, Tiger's relationship with his dad was so fundamental to his game. How important is this for Tiger to come back and share this comeback moment with his son?

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: It's the perfect spot for him to do this, Jake. It's one of those tournaments they call a hit and giggle. It's -- it doesn't count in the standings. It's not a real tournament. It is a family members. There's actually one woman's professional player playing with her dad. And it's otherwise basically fathers and sons. And it's perfect.

Young Charlie, 12 years old, is the spitting image of his dad. A mini me. It's just fun to watch that and just see that. Tiger is so proud of his son. And for Tiger just to get out there and hit shots and be able to, as he said, feel the sun and step on the grass -- it's been not even 10 months since that horrific accident that you alluded to -- it's stunning as his right leg was shattered. And he's back.

He's almost 46 years old. And now he did use a card a little bit, which is a very big deal because walking is an essential part of a PGA Tour player's life. So to use a card, of course, signifies that he, of course, at this point, could not walk a golf course. But this is just a start. And when and if he comes back, I think he will mark time from this moment this weekend.

TAPPER: Yes, I mean, as you know, it's only been 10 months. I mean, rehab, you know, requires pacing yourself. So, golf superstar Justin Thomas said this about Tiger's and Charlie's chances. Take a listen.


JUSTIN THOMAS, PROFESSIONAL GOLFER: In terms of the competing, I think his expectations are very low. But at the same time, he is who he is for a reason. So I'm sure he'll be pissed off if he doesn't play well. (END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: How big a deal is it for Tiger to be around all these familiar faces, even if the father-son duo doesn't come in first place?

BRENNAN: Jake, it's huge. I've covered Tiger for 25 years. He's the most competitive person I've ever met and ever dealt with. And this is why he's so great. All this talent and then all this ability to practice, he puts it together. He's the hardest worker and he just, obviously, the greatest golfer ever.

Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, whatever is that, it's right up there. And so, yes, he wants to play well. There's real pride there for Tiger Woods. And even though he was in a hospital bed a few months ago, and he couldn't get out of the bed or walk from -- for several months, you know, now he's on a golf course again.

So that Tiger kind of just clicks in. And no surprise at all that he'd like to play well, that his fellow players and peers think he wants to play well and expect him to do OK. And I guess today during the program, he get some really good shots. And so, yes, Tiger is going to work his way back and be as competitive as ever. Understanding that 46-year-old Tiger Woods is very different and his like, of course, will certainly hamper him. He will never be the same again.

TAPPER: Let's take a quick pivot to the broader subject of COVID cases grounding sports teams just today. Two more NHL teams at the shutdown, three NFL games were postponed. Johns Hopkins senior scholar said to the Washington Post, "There is no COVID zero. There's never going to be a time when the NBA or NFL has zero cases or any organisation has zero cases."

Are our professional teams grasping that reality?

BRENNAN: Believe it surely. There was a moment today, Jake, when I reminded me of March 11, 2020. That was, of course, the evening where the NBA announced it was suspending operations Tom Hanks, Rita Wilson have tested positive. And the sports world really led the way in showing us how serious COVID was back in March of 2020.

It's a very different situation now. Of course, we have vaccines. Of course, we know so much more. But sports again, three NFL games, 100 players in the NFL that are in the protocol, of course, the NBA, NHL, college basketball. You know, you almost feel like, here we go again, I hope that's not the case. It will be different.

But I do think these leagues are grasping now the reality that COVID is here, the Delta and Omicron are with us. And it's not going to be business as usual as much as they hoped it would be.

TAPPER: Christine Brennan, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

In our tech lead, Packers could be delaying the all-important last paycheck before Christmas for many American workers. Ultimate Kronos Group, one of the country's largest human resources company says that they have been hit with a crippling ransomware attack and that is impacting payroll systems for dozens of major companies and government organizations that employ tens of thousands of workers.

Affected employers are scrambling to pay workers in other ways, such as shifting to paper checks to make sure people are still paid during this time when it's needed most. The company says it could be weeks before they are able to restore normal operations.

Be sure to tune into State of the Union on Sunday. Our guests include Dr. Anthony Fauci, Senator Bernie Sanders, New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, Republican Congressman Adam Kinzinger, and Democratic Congresswoman Ayanna Pressley. That's at 9:00 and noon Eastern only on CNN.

You can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and the TikTok. Our coverage continues right next door with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer in a place I like to call "THE SITUATION ROOM." See you Sunday morning.