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The Lead with Jake Tapper

CDC Defends Isolation Changes Amid Growing Pushback; Interview With Dr. Anthony Fauci; Tomorrow: Biden To Speak With Putin At Russian Leader's Request; Interview With Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-PA); Hong Kong Pro-Democracy News Outlet Shuts Down After Government Raids Offices, Arrests Journalists; Denver Gunman Leaves Five Dead In Multiple Locations; Legendary NFL Coach & Broadcaster John Madden Dies At 85; Longtime Senator & Dem Harry Reid Dies At 82. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired December 29, 2021 - 16:00   ET




ROGER INGRAM, FEDEX DRIVER: He was kind of emotional because I didn't expect it. So, just an act of kindness can go a long way. They're my buddy now. They're my buddy.



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: This will be Ingram's first visit home in years.

Thanks so much for joining me.

THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER starts right now.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Is this what following the science looks like?

THE LEAD starts right now.

The head of the CDC is saying this morning there were multiple factors leading to the Biden administration shortening how long folks who have tested positive for COVID have to isolate. Apparently, the decision was also about what the Biden administration thinks the public is willing to tolerate. Dr. Anthony Fauci will join us live to discuss, next.

Call me. Vladimir Putin wants to talk with President Biden. There will be a lot on the line.

And, a deadly shooting spree involving a busy shopping center, a tattoo parlor and a police chase. Now we're learning the gunman was spouting extremist, violent views online.

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

And we start with our health lead and the Biden administration's top doctor is on the defensive somewhat today amid a growing chorus of concern and complaints about the CDC's shortened recommended isolation period for some people who catch COVID. On CNN this morning, the CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said several areas of science backed their decision.

But she also admitted that the changes were at least partially driven by Americans being fed up and refusing to follow the longer ten-day guideline already in place. In just moments, Dr. Anthony Fauci will join us live to discuss all of this and much more.

But we're going to start with CNN's Tom Foreman who takes a closer look now at how hospitals are preparing for a possible surge of patients as omicron cases explode.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The White House expects to sign a contract for a half billion at-home COVID texts next week to help Americans through the pandemic blizzard sweeping the land.

But another storm is engulfing the Centers for Disease Control, facing sharp questioning over new guidelines for COVID-weary Americans.

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: It really had a lot to do with what we thought people would be able to tolerate.

FOREMAN: Recommendation of five instead of ten isolation days for those testing positive but showing no symptoms, then five days of masking, is aimed at keeping people working, but it's raising alarms, too.

ERIN BROMAGE, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF BIOLOGY, UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS DARTMOUTH: There is absolutely no data that I am aware of with the omicron. People coming out of isolation five days after they were first diagnosed with the virus.

FOREMAN: Nothing in the guidelines mandates testing for these people and the administration has been harshly criticized for the current shortage of tests. So the lack of testing in the new recommendations is also drawing fire even as top health officials push back.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, BIDEN CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER: It has nothing to do with the lack of tests. That is not the reason why.

FOREMAN: Add in new questions about the effectiveness of some at-home tests in detecting the omicron variant and it is all becoming a muddle at a terrible time.

DR. LARRY KOCIOLEK, ATTENDING PHYSICIAN, LURIE CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL OF CHANGE: We're right now seeing more cases per day than at any point in the pandemic.

FOREMAN: Infections among children are rising rapidly in many places.

DR. CHRIS PERNELL, AMERICAN COLLEGE OF PREVENTIVE MEDICINE FELLOW: We're seeing here in New Jersey a fourfold increase in pediatric hospitalizations. We're seeing our daily case rates skyrocket.

FOREMAN: In Connecticut, the National Guard has been called up to help with testing. In New York City, 17 percent of the police department's uniformed officers called in sick yesterday. In Washington, the Pentagon is tightening its COVID safety protocols, along the coast, authorities are now investigating 86 cruise ships for COVID outbreaks. And with talk of a vaccine mandate for domestic air travel swirling, the questions about what comes next seem endless.

REPORTER: When might you make a decision on domestic travel vaccine requirements?

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When I get a recommendation from the medical team.


FOREMAN (on camera): It is a measure of the tightrope that President Biden and his team is walking here that the new recommendations might keep more health workers on the front line for more days because it would be available. And yet, the American nurses association has come out with a statement saying this guidance is premature given what we know about the omicron variant and tips toward economic needs as opposed to the health needs of nurses and other health care workers.

This guidance is especially problematic when reliable testing is not widely available and particularly difficult to access in places experiencing surge conditions.

Hard to find a right answer in these circumstances, Jake. And, frankly, hard to keep track of everything that's moving right now because everything is changing so fast.

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

Let's talk about this with Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Biden.

And, Dr. Fauci, let's start right there.


You and Dr. Walensky say this reduction in recommended days for isolation from 10 to 5 is backed by science. But you hear there are some prominent scientists out there saying that the data does not support the reduction to five days, and the head of the biggest nurses union in the U.S. here says the decision is going to cause more COVID to spread more rapidly.

Is she wrong?

FAUCI: Well, I don't think there's any right or wrong here. There's differences of opinion, Jake.

The CDC made the recommendation for a number of reasons. The question is, was it scientifically based? And as Dr. Walensky mentioned at the press conference today, we were trying to, or the CDC, was trying to strike a balance between addressing the fact that we were having a major, almost overwhelming surge of new cases that will likely get worse in the next two weeks.

So you either shut down the society, which no one wants to do, or you try and get a situation where you can safely get people back, particularly to critical jobs without having them be out for a full ten days so long as they are without symptoms. So the options are, let them go for the full ten days, which it was felt not to be feasible, excuse me, or to get five days in and then, if they remain asymptomatic, have them wear a mask diligently for the next five days.

The question that is getting everybody concerned is understandable. Why not just say you have to get tested? And as the CDC director mentioned, if you look at the first early days of an infection, of a documented infection, the transmissibility likelihood is much, much greater in those first few days and dramatically diminishes as you get down to the second half of a ten-day frame.

And so when asked about testing, what the CDC director said was if you look at the predictive value of an antigen test as to whether or not someone will transmit or not, there's no evidence that it has any predictive value. And for that reason, she said, they're not going to be requiring a test.

TAPPER: Right.

FAUCI: Just focus on wearing the mask. And that's the scientific basis of what she said and what the CDC recommendation is.

TAPPER: Well, I -- I have a couple questions from that. But let me start with the one that is more general, which is it sounds as though the CDC and you are saying that American society has to accept that there is some risk, and we just need to mitigate the risk.

And I think some critics are saying, well, where was this willingness to live with mitigated risk when it came to, for example, keeping schools open? Why are toddlers still being forced to wear masks? Why are schools still being shut down if the science does not support that and if we are now in an era of, you know, mitigated risk and taking reasonable risks?

FAUCI: Yeah. Well, Jake, you're really, you know, taking a blanket over every individual thing that's really different. I mean, there is relative risk, and the risk that you're willing to take, which is one of the reasons why, right now, we want to keep the schools open, even though the risk is not zero. And I think what people need to understand, there is risk in everything when it comes to SARS-CoV-2. That's just the reality.

Some people think if you do this, there's no risk. There's a risk to everything. There are people that are walking around now that don't know they're infected that are not isolating, that are not wearing masks. Those are people that are spreading it. So to focus on the people who have been identified as being infected and say, you are going to be isolated for five days, but, wow, there's this risk in the second five days, even though you wear a mask, everything is relative. It's a relatively small risk.

TAPPER: Right.

FAUCI: And the judgment that the CDC made was all things considered, what people would be able to implement as opposed to something that is not implementable, given the fact that you want to keep society open, that was a decision that was made.

Now, there will be people that criticize that, and some of those criticisms are certainly understandable. But sometimes you just have to make a decision and do what you think is best. And that's what the CDC did.

TAPPER: While we're on the subject of mitigating risk, why do you think the CDC has not taken a position on the quality of masks? Because it does seem as though there is data suggesting that an N95 mask is much, much better than a cloth mask.


I don't even know if a cloth mask does anything at this point. Can you clear this up?

FAUCI: Right. The reason the CDC has not done that, if you ask Dr. Walensky, and she articulates it when she gets asked that question is that the CDC is concerned that people just wear a mask, any mask. There are so many people who just don't want to wear a mask that if we can get anybody to wear a mask, that's a big plus.

Obviously, the epitome of the best masks are the N95s. N95s are less likely to be worn because they are not particularly comfortable. You put an N95 on for a period of time, it is not the easiest thing to wear.

So the decision was made by the part of the people at the CDC, we would rather have people wear a mask than have to worry about people not wearing a mask because it's uncomfortable.

TAPPER: It's been more than a year since the first COVID vaccine was authorized in the U.S. and put into an arm. More than 20 percent of Americans have still not gotten even one shot. It's hard to argue from where I sit that the Biden administration is doing everything it can to convince vaccine skeptics.

For example, it seems obvious to me, and explain to me if I'm wrong or what the complications are here, any time, for instance, one group we know is statistically more resistant are Trump-supporting Republicans, according to polls. They are resistant of getting -- they are more resistant than the average American to get a vaccine.

So how come every time a conservative Republican gets online and goes on to Fox or another right wing website, how come there isn't a pop-up ad, sponsored by the government, featuring video of Trump, a couple of weeks ago, saying, he got a booster and the vaccine is great and everyone should get a vaccine, which he said.

Now sure he hasn't been saying it as strongly and vociferously for as long as he should have, but that video exists.

We need to convince people. We need to persuade people. Where is that effort?

FAUCI: You know, I don't know how to answer that question, Jake. That's a comms issue.

Let's try this for a spot. For those, whether you are a Republican, an arch conservative, if you want to get out there and tell people to get vaccinated, go do it. I think it's a great idea. How about that?

TAPPER: Well, I hear you, but I think the people that need to be convinced aren't necessarily listening to you and they're not necessarily listening to me because we've been talking about these vaccines now for more than a year. I think maybe it would mean more coming from President Trump, but I appreciate the effort.

I do want to ask you before you go about vaccines for kids under the age of 5. We interviewed somebody from a pediatric hospital in Chicago yesterday and he said almost all the kids who are getting serious cases of COVID, with one exception, none of them are vaccinated.

I think there was one kid had a lot of underlying conditions. And a lot of them are under 5. So they can't even get a vaccine.

How soon do you think it will happen that kids under 5 will be approved for a vaccine so we can save them, too?

FAUCI: Well, we would have loved that, Jake, to have been literally now, next week, but the tests particularly on the 2-year-old to 4- year-old didn't meet the end point for making it available to be approved by an emergency use. So they are continuing to do the studies, and it likely for children, that young will be a three-dose vaccine, which means it likely won't be for a couple of months at least before it's approved.

I mean, I would love for it to have been yesterday, but the data did not show that that was going to be the case. And they have to go with the data. You're not going to be able to approve something if the data says it doesn't meet the criteria for approval.

TAPPER: Okay. Dr. Anthony Fauci, thanks so much.

Maybe pass on my idea about the pop-up video of Trump to the comms people at HHS or NIH or whoever the right person is. Just a Christmas present from me. Just an idea.

FAUCI: I promise you, Jake, I'll do it. I'll get back to you and let you know.

TAPPER: All right. Dr. Fauci, thanks so much. Happy New Year to you and your family.

FAUCI: Yeah.

TAPPER: Top officials scheduled to speak next month but now, Vladimir Putin wants to talk to President Biden tomorrow. What's so urgent?

Plus from player to coach, to the voice of the game, a look at John Madden's lasting legacy on the NFL.



TAPPER: In our politics lead, tomorrow, President Biden is set to hold a call with Russian President Vladimir Putin at Putin's request. This is the second call between the two leaders in the past few weeks as the U.S. continues to try to pressure Russia to draw down its large military presence near Ukraine's borders.

Let's bring in CNN White House correspondent Jeremy Diamond now.

Jeremy, how does Biden deter Putin from any further aggression? What can he possibly say on this call?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, listen, we're told by senior administration official that the president is going to make clear to Vladimir Putin once again the costs that the U.S. will impose on Russia if it decides to move forward with an invasion of Ukraine. Something U.S. intelligence officials are not sure whether or not Vladimir Putin has made that decision yet.

But it's important, I think, to look at this call tomorrow, not in the context of a single call which again was requested by Vladimir Putin, the Russian leader in this case, but in the context of the broader U.S./Russia diplomacy that's happening right now. It comes a few weeks after Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden had that video conference call and just two weeks -- less than two weeks before U.S. and Russian officials are set to meet to speak together beginning January 10th for a series of security dialogue meetings.

And so I think this is going to be an important step to determine what kind of progress can be achieved during those security talks beginning the week of January 10th. And ultimately one thing that U.S. officials make very clear is that what they are looking for here is de- escalation. There are a hundred thousand troops still amassed on the Ukrainian border on the Russian side.


And the U.S. wants to see that Russian presence begin to come down. That is the clearest metric by which the U.S. believes there is progress.

But in the meantime, they are open to diplomacy, but President Biden will remind Vladimir Putin that the U.S. will impose sanctions and costs not imposed after the Ukraine -- Russia's invasion of Crimea back in 2014 -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Jeremy Diamond, thanks so much.

Let's discuss this and much more with Democratic Congresswoman Madeleine Dean from the great Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. She is the vice chair of the House Judiciary Committee.

Congresswoman Dean, first, I want to get your reaction to this news that President Biden is going to speak to Putin tomorrow at Putin's request. National security officials say they have not yet seen any effort by Russia to lower tensions, to withdraw troops from the border with Ukraine.

What might success actually look like under these conditions for President Biden?

REP. MADELEINE DEAN (D-PA): Well, Jake, it's very good to be with you this holiday season. I send my best to you and to your family and to your whole team.

I'm interested and somewhat delighted by the outreach from President Putin to our president because, to me, what it shows is a striking contrast between this administration and the previous administration. The previous administration acted as a useful idiot to President Putin, to his wishes and his dreams and his demands, and his lies.

Instead, this is an administration of credibility, of the understanding of decades and decades of diplomacy and the power of diplomacy and also understanding allies versus adversaries.

So I see it as a very, even though it's very troubling times, I have a very strong and wonderful Ukrainian American presence in my district, the 4th congressional district, Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. But I see it as a very positive sign that Mr. Putin understands who he is up against with Mr. Biden.

TAPPER: Well, let me just challenge you a bit on that because President Trump, whatever you thought about him, and I understand your respect for him knows bounds but he did provide Ukraine with lethal military aid. And Putin didn't try to do this during the Trump years. He's doing it now during the Biden years.

DEAN: That's a great challenge and a great point to make. But this is at a time when President Biden could not have been stronger in terms of our support for Ukraine.

But you also saw what the former president did with Ukraine. He tried to use Ukraine. He tried to use it for his own purposes.

And so Mr. Putin, I'm pretty sure, understood that and allowed that to trail along with the hope that maybe Mr. Trump would return to the presidency. But here he did not.

So Mr. Putin pursues his efforts at overtaking anybody he can. His incursion into Ukraine is wrong and unlawful. And so his threats now on the border are wrong and unlawful. We have to support the sovereignty of Ukraine, and he knows he's up

against a very strong, very centered adversary in the Biden administration.

TAPPER: Let's turn now to COVID, which is obviously very important to your constituents and our viewers. This back and forth right now on CDC guidance is only added to some of the confusion around COVID, around the new omicron variant.

Do you share the concerns that the Biden administration, as some fear is putting the interests of corporate America ahead of science by lowering the recommended number of days for isolation for those who have COVID and are asymptomatic from 10 days to 5? Delta Air Lines, as you know, was pushing for that reduction.

DEAN: I certainly would be screening for that kind of change of policy that would be based in business or corporate pressure, but what I actually think it's based in, is the science, and that's what I hope we will make sure that we do. Base everything in the science.

The gap in the change of instructions for me and something I call upon this administration to do, and I'm not alone in this -- Democrats, Republicans and just anybody on the street -- we need more testing.

So it's one thing to say isolate for five days. The science supports that. The doctor just said much more adequately than I will ever be able to that the shedding is stronger in the early days of infection.

But what I hope that this also reflects is that we have to make sure we're testing folks. I think back, Jake, on the early days of the virus when we had no vaccine yet. And what did we all talk about? Testing, tracing and isolation.

So the answer to this, of course, is going to be the isolation. But it's also going to be testing. And I hope and command that we make sure that we have free testing for everyone very adequately represented.


I have to tell you from personal experience, I wanted to be sure I was going to visit a friend of mine who is elderly. And I wanted to be sure that I visited this person safely for the holiday season.

It was hard -- when I left Washington, D.C., it was hard for me to find a test. And so I drove 30 miles, paid $145, and was tested. Everybody can't do that.

Here in America, we have to have free testing for everyone available to our homes or in pop-up locations, convenient to all. Testing is going to be the key.

TAPPER: It's incredible that we're two years into this and it's still -- testing is still a problem. I remember discussing this with Trump administration officials in the summer of 2020. I could never have imagined that in winter 2021, almost January 2022, that it would still be an issue.

I do want to ask you before you go, CNN has new reporting that the House Select Committee investigating January 6th is standing down on its request for some documents from the Trump White House after the Biden administration convinced the panel to scale back its pursuits.

You're not on the panel, but you are on the Judiciary Committee. Do you think that committee should be more aggressive about trying to get these documents or are you okay with them listening to what the Biden White House is saying?

DEAN: That reporting is news to me so I can't comment on that. What I can tell you is, having served as an impeachment manager, been on judiciary committee for both impeachment one and impeachment two and now watching and working alongside, frankly, the January 6th committee with Bennie Thompson, Jamie Raskin, Adam Schiff and just a -- Liz Cheney, Adam Kinzinger, a talented array of people, I'm not concerned about their standing down.

They're not standing down. They've interviewed more than 300 people. They will pursue this meticulously and get to the truth.

You know, we're coming up on the one-year anniversary. I know you're keenly aware of it. I was there on January 6th. I take it personally for myself, but much more importantly, I take it personally for our country and our democracy.

And so, I'm not worried about the January 6th committee. I do want us to make sure we mark January the 6th with a recall, a remembrance, a reflection, but much as importantly, a recommitment to our cong -- our republic, our constitutional republic, our democracy because we learned sadly how precious and fragile our institutional republic is and the rule of law is.

So I'm not worried at all about the 1/6 Committee and the truth- finding that they're going after.

TAPPER: All right. Congresswoman Madeleine Dean from the great commonwealth of Pennsylvania -- thank you. Happy New Year. Merry Christmas to you and your family.

DEAN: To you and your family. Say hello to your father, my constituent.


Offices raided, journalists arrested and one of the few independent publications shut down. China's increasing crackdown on freedom of the press.

Stay with us.


[16:32:39] TAPPER: In our world lead, another blow to freedom in Hong Kong as Chinese government forces continue their repression of that once-free territory. Pro-democracy media outlet "Stand News", a prominent critic of city's Beijing-backed government, forced to shut down today after security forces raided its offices and arrested journalists and other employees.

As CNN's Ivan Watson reports for us now, this is just the latest example in what has been a horrible year for freedom of the press in Hong Kong.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One of the last remaining independent media voices in Hong Kong silenced, 200 police officers raided the newsroom of the online portal "Stand News" early Wednesday. Police also arrested at least seven people, including six current and former senior staff charging them with the publication of seditious material. Among the arrested, pop singer Denise Ho and outspoken supporter of past pro-democracy protests.

DENISE HO, HONG KONG POP STAR & PRO-DEMOCRACY ACTIVIST: Our fight is still going on. It's not dying down, and, yeah, I think this is a new generation of fight of for democracy in Hong Kong.

WATSON: Hours after the arrests and raids, "Stand News" announced it is shutting down immediately.

Similar to the silencing of the newspaper Apple Daily, which ran its printing presses for the last time in June after police arrested its publisher and editors and seized its assets.

Do you consider this a success when you raid a news organization and arrest their executives and then they close down as has also happened with Apple Daily this year?

STEVE LI KWAI-WAH, HONG KONG POLICE SUPERINTENDENT: (INAUDIBLE) detect the case of seditious intent, involved a national security issues.

WATSON: But a more senior official calls the arrested journalists evil.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They are the evil elements that damage press freedom.

WATSON: Hong Kong authorities have been on a Christmas crackdown of sorts. Under cover of darkness on December 23rd, workers quickly removed this statue dedicated to the victims of the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre. It had been standing on the campus of Hong Kong University for 24 years.


Since the violent anti-government unrest of 2019, the Hong Kong authorities have been on a campaign to crush political dissent. Dozens of opposition politicians now sit behind bars or have fled in to exile. And most opposition candidates were disqualified from participating in this month's legislative elections which only got 30 percent voter participation.

And the peaceful street protests that were once part of the city's culture have been all but banned.

At a meeting days before Christmas, Chinese leader Xi Jinping congratulated Beijing's top official in Hong Kong.

PRES. XI JINPING, CHINA (through translator): Over the past year, Hong Kong's situation has continued to consolidate from chaos to under control. And the situation has continued to improve.

WATSON: Beijing's version of law and order leaves little room for the freedoms that the city once enjoyed.


WATSON (on camera): Now, Jake, a week before Christmas, Hong Kong held these elections. It got the lowest voter turnout, 30 percent, since these elections began in the '90s, in more than 20 years. In 2019, there was more than 70 percent voter participation. One of the big differences, a lot of the traditional Democratic opposition is in jail or has fled or simply did not participate.

Beijing's hand-picked administrator here argues that this is irrelevant and that the low voter turnout is a sign that people are pretty happy with the administration.

TAPPER: Yeah, I'm sure that's what it is.

Ivan Watson, thanks so much. Appreciate your reporting.

A deadly shooting rampage through a major city in the United States. We're now learning more about the gunman and this troubling social media post.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our national lead now, a shooting spree in the Denver area on Monday night left five dead. Police say the shootings happened in multiple places, including a busy shopping center and a tattoo parlor, one that the gunman used to own under a different name. Tragically, five families now have to lay their loved ones to rest.

And we're learning more about some of the victims, including 38-year- old dad and tattoo artist Danny Schofield. A yoga instructor, Alyssa Gunn Maldonado, whose husband James was also shot and seriously injured though we are told he survived. As well as 44-year-old community leader Alicia Cardenas.

CNN's Lucy Kafanov joins us now live from Denver. And, Lucy, CNN has learned that the gunman who was shot and killed by

police, he published novels with striking similarities to this rampage?

LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, it's chilling stuff, Jake. Police have identified the shooter as 47-year-old Lyndon James McLeod. While this was first reported by the "Denver Post" CNN has reviewed a series of books the suspect wrote under a pseudonym in which he foreshadow someday of the murders that took place this week, sometimes in incredibly chilling details, accounts that almost match the reality from what we've heard so far. He listed several victims by name, including Alicia Cardenas and Michael Swinyard. The main character in that book actually bears the name Lyndon McLeod.

Now, these are lengthy rambling works of fiction describing these murderous rampages. There are also social media accounts published under the same pseudonym which include musings about extreme views about what he saw as the decline of masculinity, the role of women in society, things like living off the grid, guns and the nature of war.

I did reach out to the Lakewood Police Department and was told these are all things part of the investigation, that they are looking into all leads at this point. They're not quite 48 hours into the investigation, so there are a lot of things still coming to light -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Lucy Kafanov, thank you so much for that report.

And our sports lead today, the loss of a legend. Beloved NFL Hall of Famer John Madden has died at the age of 85. He was a giant as a football coach and in the television broadcast booth and for millions of video gamers around the world.

CNN's Coy Wire joins us now.

And, Coy, boy, I mean, just looking on social media, the football world is really devastated by his death.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, football world and beyond and quite literally around the world. The impact was profound, losing John Madden, 85 years old.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell had this to say in a statement. He said nobody loved football more than coach. He was football. He was an incredible sounding board to me and so many others.

There will never be another John Madden and we'll forever be indebted to him for all he did to make football and the NFL what it is today.

New England Patriots coaching legend Bill Belichick said, quote: A lot of people who probably didn't even care about football found John entertaining, watched football because of him. He brought a lot of people to the game. He brought a perspective to the game that was very unique but loved by all.

So, he was especially loved by players, Jake. You know, during a preseason game late in his career, a player on the opposing team suffered a life-changing spinal cord injury. Madden went directly to the hospital after the game and he was mad to find out the opposing team's coach was not there. He waited there with his wife until the player's family arrived and then he and his wife Virginia offered them a place to stay at their home and the ability to use their car until he was able to leave the hospital. It speaks volumes about the man he was outside of coaching.

TAPPER: And, Coy, in addition to his success in broadcasting and coaching, obviously, he was the namesake for the hugely popular Madden NFL video game series which is sold more than 130 million copies around the world.


Is it possible that he's leaving behind an even bigger legacy in the gaming world than in football or in broadcasting?

WIRE: Jake, how wild to have the Super Bowl-winning coach, percentagewise, the highest 0.759. The highest percentage any of NFL coach in history of any coach who has won more than 100 games. Here we are saying that that really is probably not as biggest accomplishment. He was a legendary broadcaster for 11 Super Bowls he called.

He won 16 Sports Emmys and, yes, this video game is played by people around the world who will never see an NFL game in person but they'll learn about the game because coach was a teacher. That's what he loved to do through his broadcasting, through his coaching and this video game. He's teaching the game that he loved and people are loving him for it.

TAPPER: A success in so many endeavors.

Coy Wire, thank you so much for your time today. Appreciate it.

From a home with no running water to the most powerful office in the United States Senate, we're also going to take a moment to remember Senate legend Harry Reid.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our national lead, former Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has died at age 82. Reid is perhaps best known for helping to pass the Affordable Care Act or Obamacare, and his inspirational story from an impoverished childhood in Nevada to one of the most powerful people in Washington, D.C.

Joining us to discuss, the legacy of Harry Reid and more, Nevada governor, Democrat Steve Sisolak.

Governor, thanks so much for joining us. I want to play a short clip for you from Leader Reid's sit-down with David Axelrod for his podcast in 2019. Take a listen.


DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: How do you hope you'll be remembered?

FORMER SEN. HARRY REID (D-NV): David, I have five children. I have 19 grandchildren. I want those children and grandchildren to understand what a love affair I've had with my little wife.

AXELROD: More important than any of your public accomplishments?

REID: Oh, yeah. That's all I want.


TAPPER: What did he mean to you and the people of Nevada?

GOV. STEVE SISOLAK (D-NV): He was -- I couldn't have said that better. He was an incredible leader in the state of Nevada. I think his biggest accomplishment, quite frankly, was Landra. Sixty-two years they were married. They had a wonderful family I got to know and worked with one of his sons on the county commission.

He meant the world to me. He was an adviser, a mentor, a teacher. We got to be very close over the last dozen or so years, and he was always there for you. You needed advice, you'd call up the senator. He'd take your call, answer your questions.

Might not tell me what I always wanted to hear, but he was always honest with me and had an enormous amount of respect for him for the way he conducted himself and lived his life.

TAPPER: Former President Obama wrote a letter to Reid and just released it after Reid passed. And it said, I wouldn't have been president had it not been for your encouragement and support. And I wouldn't have got most of what I got done without your skill and determination.

What is the best way do you think for the Democratic Party to continue Reid's legacy?

SISOLAK: I mean, what President Obama said is about the same way I feel. I wouldn't be governor without Senator Reid. I wouldn't accomplish anything in Nevada without his guidance. I think what we need to learn, not just as Democrats but as Americans, is his work ethic was unsurpassed.

I mean, this man got up early. He worked late. He returned phone calls. He just really put his nose to the grindstone and I think he was an inspiration to an awful lot of people. He fought for the little guy. The underdog, the unrepresented. That's who Harry took interest in.

And he -- people will be able to follow in his footsteps but nobody will ever be able to fill his shoes. TAPPER: I want to ask you about coronavirus in Nevada.

Hospitalizations have remained steady in your state, despite the omicron surge. But only 56 percent of Nevadans are fully vaccinated compared to 62 percent for the rest of the country.

Are you concerned that the low vaccination rate in Nevada might lead to a bigger strain on hospitals soon?

SISOLAK: It's inevitable we're going to have more hospitalizations. Our cases are ticking upwards. I think we're at the beginning of a surge possibility, the number of cases that we're reporting. We do have both a hesitancy and resistance, by certain groups, to get the vaccination. I still maintain that it's free. It works and it's effective.

It's not just for yourself and your family but it's for our economy. We can't afford in Nevada to take a step backwards. We rely on tourists. We rely on conventions to come here and we need to do everything we can. We've not removed our mask mandate here which is, I think, one of the things that's helped us to squelch some of the surge happening across the country.

But it's inevitable with all the travel going on and the celebrations, both over Christmas and now upcoming for New Year's Eve and New Year's that we're going to have some spikes.

TAPPER: Yours is one of only six states that don't publicly report breakthrough cases, hospitalizations and deaths according to a Rockefeller Foundation study. Biden's former COVID adviser Rick Bright who will join us in the next hour says consistent data reporting is critical to track emergent spread and evolution of an outbreak.

So, why is Nevada not reporting this critical data?

SISOLAK: We do report deaths. I don't know where that came from. We're reporting deaths on a daily basis. Breakthrough cases are more difficult when it comes to testing. We do not have the staff and resources some of the larger states have in order to get them.

By the time we could assimilate that data, it would be so old it wouldn't be effective anymore. We report cases on a daily basis and seven-day moving averages on a daily basis. We report hospitalizations and deaths on a daily basis, and we try to be as transparent as possible.

TAPPER: All right. Nevada Democratic Governor Steve Sisolak, thank you so much. Our condolences on the loss of your friend.

SISOLAK: Thank you. He was a good man.

TAPPER: Coming up, with growing evidence that boosters help protect against omicron, is it time for the FDA to consider giving younger kids a boost?


Stay with us.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

TAPPER: And welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We start with breaking news. The jury, we are told, has reached a verdict in the sex trafficking trial of Ghislaine Maxwell, the former socialite has been accused of grooming and trafficking underage girls to be sexually abused by her then partner Jeffrey Epstein. We'll bring that news to you, that verdict, as soon as it is read.

Let us now turn to our other major story today, the scramble to contain the rapidly exploding omicron variant.

Today, the White House announced it had deployed federal teams across the country from New York to Wisconsin to Arizona to New Mexico.