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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Source: FDA To Allow Pfizer Boosters For 12-15 Year Olds In Days; Interview With Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson; Biden Speaks With Putin At Russian Leader's Request; Interview With Democratic Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi Of Illinois; Colorado Gunman's Books Detailed Victims' Exact Names, Places Of Rampage. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired December 30, 2021 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Some much needed good news, finally, for a lot of parents.

THE LEAD starts right now. Sources telling CNN that the FDA will likely sign off on kids as young as 12 being eligible for Pfizer booster shots in the next few days. This as the U.S. is quickly nearing a record number of children hospitalized with COVID.

Green light for the red phone. Right now, President Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin are talking on the phone ahead of a key meeting between the U.S. and Russia.

And going to extremes. Alaska seeing record-breaking high temperatures this week as we come to the end of a horrific year of extreme weather fueled at least in part by manmade climate change.


Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

And we start today with our health lead and encouraging news when it comes to protecting children against COVID. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration expected to announce kids 12 to 15 will be eligible for Pfizer booster shots in the coming days. A source confirms to CNN. Studies have already shown a third Pfizer dose significantly increases protection against COVID and, specifically, the omicron variant.

In addition, brand new CDC data released this afternoon shows that the Pfizer vaccine is 92 percent effective at preventing any COVID at all in children 12 to 17. Those shots may be needed more than ever as the number of kids hospitalized with COVID just reached record levels.

And as CNN's Tom Foreman reports, doctors say almost all of the children being admitted are unvaccinated.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With the pandemic clocking unprecedented numbers of infections, the FDA is expected to okay booster shots of the Pfizer vaccine soon for 12 to 15-year-olds. DR. JORGE RODRIGUEZ, BOARD CERTIFIED INTERNAL MEDICINE SPECIALIST AND

VIRAL RESEARCHER: In this, the most contagious part so far of the pandemic, it's essential, essential that children in that age group get boosted so they can have their highest chance of being protected.

FOREMAN: The CDC has raised its warning against cruise ship travel amid dozens of outbreaks and health officials are advising caution onshore, too. But the surge is not hitting everyone equally.

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, DIRECTOR OF THE CENTER FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: If you are unvaccinated, you are ten times more likely to be a case and 20 times more likely to be a fatality. We're still getting data but what we're hearing from hospitals really across the nation, and this is very consistent, is that the vast majority of the children who are being admitted are unvaccinated.

FOREMAN: So many people are affected many states are reporting near record highs. Maryland hospital officials are calling for a limited emergency declaration. In New York City, the fire department has so many out sick they are reminding people to call 911 only in true emergencies. Everywhere the drum beat for more testing is growing louder especially with schools reopening next week.

RANDI WEINGARTEN, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF TEACHERS: Testing, testing, testing all the time. So this is what I think we have to do. You're seeing this in New York. You're seeing this in D.C. You're seeing this in as many places as we can.

FOREMAN: Test shortages have the federal government scrambling to sign a new contract next week for a half billion free tests which will start going out to the public in January. In the meantime, two new reports indicate a booster shot of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine significantly lowers the risk of severe illness from the omicron variant. Health officials are pleading no matter which vaccine you choose, get your first shot, your second, then get boosted, too.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That's where, you know, so many of us are echoing make sure you get vaccinated if you haven't gotten your first and second dose and your booster dose. That is what is going to protect you right now.


FOREMAN (on camera): Although people have done the right thing and gotten their vaccination and the next one and the booster they are largely credited with keeping hospitalizations as low as they have been during this enormous surge, but it is so enormous, the raw numbers are still overrunning some hospitals where the staffs are exhausted and pleading with people to do the right thing to make this surge come to an end as soon as possible -- Jake.

TAPPER: Tom Foreman, thanks so much.

Let's discuss this with Dr. Megan Ranney. She's an emergency room doctor and she's associate dean of public health at Brown University.

Dr. Ranney, good to see you as always.

How much difference could this FDA decision and following CDC decision make expanding boosters, Pfizer boosters to kids 12 to 15?


DR. MEGAN RANNEY, PROFESSOR OF EMERGENCY MEDICINE, BROWN UNIVERSITY: Expanding boosters is going to make I think the biggest difference for parents and kids to breathe a sigh of relief. We know that those 12 to 15-year-olds have physiology, bodies that work very similarly to adults. We've suspected for a while that both immunity wanes in them, the same way it does in the rest of us and that those two shots of the Pfizer vaccine likely are not protecting them as well against omicron because two shots of Pfizer don't protect the rest of us as well as a third dose would.

So this is a big step forward especially with kids going back to school. We all know how important it is to keep those kids in person. Boosters will help us do that.

TAPPER: We know that after the FDA makes its decision the CDC still has to sign off. So my kids are 12 and 14. So, they are in this group 12 to 16-year-olds that might get this booster for Pfizer authorized sometime soon. How quickly do you think it will be realistically before my kids are eligible for booster shots?

RANNEY: Your kids and one of mine. I expect that as soon as that CDC advisory panel meets and kudos to Dr. Walensky for waiting on them to meet before making the declaration, as soon as they meet I expect within a day we'll be able to go out and get our kids boosters. I am hoping by the middle to end of this week it'll be time to sign our kids up for the third dose.

TAPPER: Great. "The New York Times" reports boosters will be recommended for 12 to 15-year-olds five months after their second shot. When I got my booster the recommendation was six months. Why is it different for adults than 12 to 15-year-olds who would get it five months after the second shot?

RANNEY: I suspect that we're going to see the amount of time you have to wait for a booster for adults also decreased. The data keeps accumulating on this virus, on these vaccines, and, of course, on the omicron variant. There is data from Israel suggesting our first booster, the third shot, getting it somewhere around four to four and a half months after the initial series may be the most effective, and that is the reason for having the shorter window for kids and I suspect it will be applied to adult as well.

TAPPER: So, earlier this week, we talked to a pediatrician in Chicago who talked about kids being admitted to the hospital in Chicago who have COVID. Almost all of them were unvaccinated. I think there was one who was vaccinated but had a number of comorbidities but almost on all of them unvaccinated.

For many of them, it was through no fault of their own. They were under 5. Kids under 5 still not eligible for the vaccines. We heard Dr. Fauci yesterday say the data is not there yet to proceed for the vaccine for kids under 5. How soon do you think that will happen that kids under 5 will be able to have at least one vaccine approved?

RANNEY: I would love to say it would be this month. That is what most of us were originally anticipating was that 2 to 5-year-old group would get vaccines somewhere in January of 2022. Unfortunately, the way the data is turning out it looks like the kids will need a third dose in order to develop immunity, so I'm thinking it is going to be at least a couple months, possibly longer.

So, for those parents of the under 5 group, an important thing to know is that most of the kids who have been hospitalized with COVID were also co-infected with other things like RSV or flu. Please go get your kid a flu vaccine. Make sure that you and the rest of the family are adequately protected.

And have your kid wear a mask when they're out in public. I wish I had better answers for those parents of younger kids right now but, unfortunately, that's where we're at.

TAPPER: Let's talk about what you're seeing on the ground right now, because you're an emergency room physician and you say you've never seen emergency rooms in Rhode Island where you work as bad as they are right now. Tell us more. What exactly is going on?

RANNEY: I almost have trouble describing, Jake, what it is like in the emergency department right now. Our level one trauma center, the state's only major trauma center has stopped all surgeries except for emergencies. Because we have so little space we can't do things like cancer surgeries or heart surgeries or all these other things that are so necessary but we have neither staff nor beds. The waits to be seen are through the roof and that means that people who are quite sick with things other than COVID are having to wait hours upon hours to get seen by a doctor and then have to wait many, many more hours to get a bed upstairs.

My fellow doctors and nurses are at the end of their rope. I get texts from folks daily. I have nurses and other physicians kind of coming and we kind of cry together back in the break room with a mask on of course. It's difficult to describe what it is like right now to be a health care provider and not able to provide the care that you want to give.


And I'll say our hospitals are doing everything they can. There is just not enough staff and not enough space.

TAPPER: Who are the people getting omicron? Is it worse than delta? Do they have -- I mean, are they all unvaccinated? Tell us more about the trends you're seeing.

RANNEY: So the reality is, when I admit a patient to the hospital who has COVID, I don't know whether it is omicron or delta. I may never know. Only a small percentage of the cases are sent off for sequencing. What I can tell you is that I am admitting more patients for COVID this week than I have since last winter.

And they are sick in the same ways as they were last winter. They are having COVID pneumonia. So breathing trouble. Low oxygen. Kidney problems, blood clots, it's all the same stuff.

Is it delta? Is it omicron? I don't know. It almost doesn't matter. What matters is these are largely unvaccinated people who are coming in really sick, thanks to this horrible virus. I will say that the folks who come in who are vaccinated have, by and large, not been ill enough to need hospitalization unless they've got some other thing going on and they just happen to have COVID that made their underlying medical condition worse.

But by and large, the vaccinated are doing okay. It is really still a severe disease for those who have not gotten the vaccines.

TAPPER: Of the people who are unvaccinated coming in and need to be admitted, are there any trend lines with them? Are they smokers? Do -- are they morbidly obese? Are they seniors? Is there anything consistent there?

RANNEY: So in our state we've actually done a great job of vaccinating seniors, so 65 plus have tremendous vaccination rates. So I'm actually admitting, percentage wise, a larger percentage of folks who are younger, who are in their 30s, 40s, and 50s who for one reason or another have not gone out and gotten their vaccine yet.

Yes, many are obese or have diabetes or are smokers. But there are certainly people that who have no underlying risk factors. I'll say, for better or for worse, most of us who are a little heavier than we should be don't think of ourselves that way. The reality is a lot of Americans would fall into one risk category or another.

TAPPER: Dr. Megan Ranney, thank you so much. Thank you for all of your work this year as we approach the end of this gallstone of a year 2021. Best wishes to you and your family. See you in 2022.

RANNEY: Thank you. Happy New Year.

TAPPER: Arkansas, the latest state to set a record for new COVID cases. But another indicator that could matter more is not rising. We'll talk to the Republican Governor Asa Hutchinson next.

Then, chilling details. A Denver gunman named the victims of his deadly shooting spree in novels he wrote before the spree. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our national lead, Arkansas's governor just announced he will call in the National Guard to help distribute 1.5 million rapid at home tests that the state is purchasing. Today, the state of Arkansas saw a single day record for COVID cases but of course the key indicator is hospitalizations and that number thankfully remains stable. This comes after the Governor Asa Hutchinson expressed frustration to President Biden about some supply chain delays for testing. The governor says he has been, quote, creative with locating a supplier.

Joining us is the Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson.

Governor, thanks so much for being with us.

When President Biden says tell us what you need what are you telling him, what are you telling Jeff Zients, the COVID communicator, what are you telling the federal government?

GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON (R), ARKANSAS: Well, last week, I told the White House task force that we needed additional monoclonal antibody treatments. We're out of those. We're in short supply of those.

And the federal government controls the allocation of those to the states. We made that request. We did get some. They're already used. We need more. And so that's the greatest need that we have.

In terms of the at home testing, testing is a great need we have across the nation and we could see the challenge ahead with the federal government ordering 500 million. Where is the supply chain going to be for the states?

And thank goodness we've got an industry that steps up quickly. FDA's approved multiple suppliers and so we were able to acquire 1.5 million for Arkansas. We'll wait on that delivery but we expect that and that is going to make a real difference because that is what we need. That's going to relieve our hospital workers and their testing time. It is going to allow the home test quicker reaction time by parents, by workers, so they can isolate themselves and be safer because of at home tests. We want to make that available at free cost, no cost.

TAPPER: I have to say as somebody covering this for two years I am amazed that we're at the end of 2021 and there is still such a shortage of testing. This is a failure by the Trump administration and the Biden administration.

As somebody who pursues your own tests as much as you can get them for Arkansans, somebody who works with the federal government both Trump and Biden, what's the problem? Why are there not enough tests?

HUTCHINSON: Well, there are plenty of PCR tests. So you can go anywhere and get a test. It's just not rapid. And so the shortage is one particular area of tests.

TAPPER: Right. That kind.


TAPPER: That is the kind I'm talking about. Where is the shortage?


HUTCHINSON: The home test. TAPPER: Yeah.

HUTCHINSON: There is a shortage there. Why? We had to wait for the FDA approval process. They had to step up the manufacturing.

Could have the Defense Production Act been utilized more quickly? I don't know the answer to that question. I'm dealing in the reality of what we face at this particular moment, trying to look ahead to the future.

I'm looking ahead to hospital space, taking the steps we might need in the event we run short on that.


But right now, we're addressing the need of testing. I know they're working on it from a federal perspective but I don't know that 500 million at the federal level is as good a solution as the states having sufficient to get them out and get them where they're needed more quickly.

TAPPER: A judge in Arkansas struck down your state's ban on mask mandates in schools. This is an issue where you changed your position on whether school districts should be allowed to impose mask mandates if they want to. Why do you now think that schools should be able to if they want to?

HUTCHINSON: That's an example of where you just don't know the future when it comes to the pandemic. At the time I signed that law that banned mask mandates across the state by any governmental entity, our cases were low. We thought we were through it.

Obviously, that was an error. And so whenever our cases spiked up, I called the legislature back into session to change that law. They didn't. And ultimately, we won in court in the sense it was ruled un- constitutional.

And so now, the school districts, which was most important for me, have the local flexibility, which to me is a conservative principle that they can take action if they deem appropriate for the health of their students. And so, now, with the omicron spiking up severely in Arkansas, I know the school boards across the state will be looking at their own data, their positivity rate, their case rate, their vaccination rate, and making a decision for the well-being of their students and that is the decision they ought to have a right to make and the judge affirmed that.

TAPPER: I know as a conservative you are reluctant to impose mandates. You want people to do things willingly when it comes to mask wearing, when it comes to vaccinations, when it comes to boosters and on and on. But there's also a lot of misinformation out there undermining your ability to convince people to get vaccines, to wear masks, people undermining basic science.

Does that make your job more difficult and the goal of saving the lives of Arkansans tougher? HUTCHINSON: Sure it does. And you actually have to recognize that a

mandate is going to force more vaccinations. But the cost of that is significant. And the Biden administration actually recognized we can't do without teachers and health care workers and so they modified the isolation and quarantine rules to get them back to work quicker.

And that's really part of the recognition in Arkansas that we need these essential workers. We need teachers. We need the bus drivers. And we were going to lose so many of those if that mandate was in place.

You've got to overlay scientific information with practical, real data as to how people live and how they respond to that. So in Arkansas, one, the federal government shouldn't be doing mandates because historically, they never have in terms of the state and businesses.

The states have to make the decisions. In Arkansas, the time is not right, and we continue to educate and we're having success in that.

The best educator, though, is omicron. As the risk increases, vaccination rates will increase as well.

TAPPER: You thanked President Biden when he talked to the nation's governors on Monday. Let's roll a little clip of that.


HUTCHINSON: Thank you for your comments designed to depoliticize our COVID response. I think that was helpful.


TAPPER: Obviously, you and President Biden disagree on any number of issues including as you just noted vaccine mandates. Were you surprised that basic civility and decency made headlines and did you get any heat from your fellow Republicans?

HUTCHINSON: Well, other than being called a softy, the -- I was surprised that it got any coverage, because to me, that is the civil approach to politics and as I introduce him, I'm always thinking of, what do we have in common? What are we in agreement on?

And I did appreciate in his speech to the nation, he complimented President Trump on his --

TAPPER: Operation Warp Speed, yeah.

HUTCHINSON: -- vaccination development. Absolutely. He complimented him on that and they both got the booster shot.

So, that common ground is important whenever we fight a common enemy. And so I'm grateful for him depoliticizing that. It does make a difference.

Whenever -- and I think the temperature has gone down. Part of it is omicron and the seriousness of that. Part of it is the fact that I think there is a growing recognition that vaccinations are critical and our young people are at risk and this is the best way out of this pandemic.


TAPPER: Governor Asa Hutchinson, thank you so much. Best wishes for a happy new year for you and the good citizens of Arkansas. We are thinking and hoping for the best for you all.

HUTCHINSON: Have a great 2022. We'll see you then.

TAPPER: All right. Sounds good.

Giving them something to talk about, President Biden and Vladimir Putin participating in a key phone call. We're getting the first picture of that call, next.


TAPPER: Some breaking news for you in our world lead. This photograph you're looking at right now is just released from the White House. It is President Joe Biden in his Wilmington, Delaware, home on the phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin. The hope obviously is tamp down tensions over Russia's military build up at the Ukrainian border and other issues.

Putin requested today's call. It's the second time the two have been in contact in the past few weeks.

Let's bring in CNN White House correspondent Jeremy Diamond. He is traveling with the president and he is in Wilmington, Delaware, as well.

Jeremy, the last time Biden and Putin spoke was December 7th. At least that's what we're told. And since then, as many as 100,000 Russian troops have remained at the Ukrainian border. Do U.S. officials believe today's call will help stabilize if not defuse the tensions here?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, de- escalation certainly is the goal although there is no expectation that is going to happen after this call. I have however, Jake, just gotten word from the White House that that call between President Biden and President Putin ended at 4:25 p.m. it began at 3:35 p.m. So about a 50-minute call there according to the White House. You saw of course the photo of the two leaders.

So a 50-minute call coming, you know, within weeks of another meeting that President Biden and President Putin had via video conference as you just mentioned on December 7th and all of this of course is set to set up those talks happening in less than two weeks on January 10th between U.S. and Russian officials. So that is what we have right now the White House telling us this call between President Biden and President Putin concluded at 4:25 p.m.

A 50-minute call between the two leaders coming as one senior administration official told us yesterday is a, quote, moment of crisis, underscoring the extent to which war really does hang over this conversation. The prospect of Russia potentially invading Ukraine. We know of course there are still more than 100,000 Russian troops on the Ukrainian border.

Earlier today, a U.S. spy plane once again flying over eastern Ukraine to try and get a better sense of Russian military movements. But so far there is no indication that Russia is standing down. That is of course the goal from the United States' point of view but again U.S. officials certainly not expecting that to happen after one phone call.

TAPPER: And, Jeremy, Russia, Putin himself demanded this call. They say they have a series of security concerns and demands that they want addressed. What's the White House saying about that?

DIAMOND: Yeah. I think it is clear from the White House perspective many of those demands are total nonstarters. I mean, you look at the list of demand Russia has already put forward. They include barring the prospects of Ukraine ever joining NATO, it includes demands that the United States and NATO remove all weapons and troops from any former Soviet states, several of which U.S. already has forces and weaponry already positioned there.

But at the same time, the White House has said it is willing to engage in this discussion and to hear out Russian concerns at the negotiating table so long as Russia hears U.S. concerns at the same time.

The U.S. hasn't taken the same kind of public, diplomatic approach Russia has with this but U.S. officials have made very clear they will be direct with Russia as President Biden was today according to U.S. officials and that they will have those conversations behind closed doors at the negotiating table beginning January 10th -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Jeremy Diamond in beautiful downtown Wilmington, thanks so much.

As Jeremy mentioned, this morning just hours before the call was set to take place the U.S. Air Force flew a reconnaissance plane over eastern Ukraine to obviously gather intelligence about the military situation on the ground there.

Let's get right to CNN's Alex Marquardt who's been following this part of the story.

Now, the Pentagon has not revealed exactly what intelligence the aircraft was gathering. What do the Ukrainian officials have to say?

ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, Ukrainian officials are emphasizing the close security cooperation between the U.S. and Ukraine, a senior adviser to President Zelensky told our colleague Natasha Bertrand that that cooperation has only been intensifying in recent weeks. Ukraine of course relying on the U.S., on Europe, on the rest of NATO to dissuade Russia from carrying out any sort of invasion against Ukraine.

As you mentioned, this was the second flight just this week by this aircraft, which is called an E-8. The first one took place on Monday. The second today just hours before that telephone call.

The express purpose of this -- these types of aircraft is to carry out surveillance, is to gather intelligence. This was the first time this week we are told by the U.S. military that this type of aircraft flew in this part of eastern Ukraine. It did not cross the border into Russia.

It did not go into Russian air space, but it certainly does have the capability of peering into Russia. It has an antenna that can scan an area around 20,000 square miles.


So, Jake, it can gather intelligence on troops. It can see the readiness. It can detect vehicles, aircraft.

It can transmit that imagery, that intelligence, that information to ground and air commanders as well as of course back here at the Pentagon. So essentially gathering the freshest intelligence in the lead up to today's phone call and as these conversations continue -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Alex Marquardt at the Pentagon, thank you so much.

New Year, new resolutions. What Democrats are hoping to accomplish in 2022, that's next.

But, first a look at the CNN film about the decades-long friendship between Carole King and James Taylor.


ANNOUNCER: Friends, collaborators, legends, the music shaped a generation. They came together for the tour of a lifetime.


ANNOUNCER: James Taylor.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: His songs were amazing, his voice was amazing and his demeanor.


ANNOUNCER: And Carole King.

TAYLOR: Carole King, one of the greatest songwriters of all time. I asked her to be a part of my band.

Forty years have passed since the first time we played.

CAROLE KING, SINGER: I loved every experience we have had together.


ANNOUNCER: "Just Call Out My Name", Sunday at 9:00 on CNN. (END VIDEOTAPE)



TAPPER: In our politics lead, 2022 is going to be a big year for President Biden and congressional Democrats one way or the other. It could be the final opportunity to pass much of President Biden's agenda as Republicans look to regain control of the House of Representatives, perhaps even the Senate as well.

Here to discuss, Democratic Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi of Illinois. He's a member of the House Select Committee on the Coronavirus -- or House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus.

Congressman, good to see you.

So, let's start with the pandemic because the omicron variant is tearing through the country as you know. It seems as if the administration thought they could simply vaccinate our way out of the pandemic without paying sufficient attention to testing. In retrospect, was that a mistake?

REP. RAJA KRISHNAMOORTHI (D-IL): Well, I think that perhaps there could have been testing supplies sooner but I think this move to provide a half billion tests to the American people is vital. Testing is a problem. My own parents who are about to engage in travel had to travel an hour and a half yesterday to get tested.

And so these at home tests will help, especially as a lot of my constituents are concerned about keeping the schools open and getting the little ones tested to make sure they can go back to school safely.

TAPPER: Right. Look, this is a country of, what, 340 million people. Five hundred million tests, at home tests, it's good. It's just a start though right? I mean, we need billions and billions of tests in order for us to continue to monitor the virus, to keep schools open, to keep businesses open.

Don't we need much, much more?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Yes. I think the testing will ramp up just as remember a year ago we were nowhere with the number of vaccinations that had happened. But as you saw over the course of the year, almost 70 percent of Americans have received their first shot, although we need to get more people tested especially again the young ones who are eligible to be tested but haven't been because we have to keep those schools open.

TAPPER: Illinois is seeing a significant rise in hospitalizations in the last several weeks. You represent an area just outside Chicago. Earlier this week, I spoke with a Chicago pediatrician about what he is seeing when it comes to kids coming into the emergency room. Listen to just part of what he told me.


DR. LARRY KOCIOLEK, PEDIATRIC INFECTIOUS DISEASE SPECIALIST: During our peak, we're seeing maybe 20 hospitalizations a week. We've seen 40 in the past week. We were only seeing about six a week during the delta surge.


TAPPER: A lot of these kids, almost all of them are not vaccinated, some of them because they're under 5 and can't get vaccines. They haven't been approved of.

What needs to be done to combat this?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: First of all, those kids have to get vaccinated. I encourage those parents. You might have your own qualms about getting yourself vaccinated, but remember the data shows someone who is unvaccinated is ten times more likely to be hospitalized. And so, getting these kids vaccinated is especially important if we want to keep the schools open.

There is one other thing I want to say on this which is not only do we have to get these kids and others who are unvaccinated vaccinated, but we need to embark on a much more aggressive global vaccination program right now. This is something that people like me and Senator Markey have been pushing for months. Three of my relatives died in India because of delta.

And I said at the time that if we didn't pass my legislation NOVID, it's a no more COVID legislation, that we would see delta come here, which it did. Then we see omicron.


And we're going to see more Greek lettered variants arrive as well if we don't get our act together and get other countries vaccinated right now.

TAPPER: Congressman, you keep talking about the need to keep schools open as a parent and citizen and somebody who follows the science and has seen what closing schools did to kids emotionally, psychologically, et cetera, I agree with you.

Teachers unions in Chicago seem willing to strike over this issue, right? They don't want the schools to open.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Well, I think that what they want is a safe school place for both teachers and students to learn. But for that to happen, again, we need to get testing into the schools. We need to get those young people vaccinated.

Of course, we have to make sure all school teachers and staff are vaccinated. I fervently believe we must keep our schools open. We've seen that by closing them, we keep a lot of parents home. We keep kids at home not learning. And they see huge deficits in terms of their educational process and we don't want to repeat that. TAPPER: We only have a little time left. Let's turn to the

president's domestic agenda, because there's a lot of frustration in the Democratic Party that the president's signature failed to sign the Build Back Better Act.

How critical is it to Democrats' success in November 2022 that you pass that bill?

KRISHNAMOORTHI: I think it is important we pass whatever components we can through Congress and get them signed into law.

You know, Joe Manchin after the Fox News interview went on West Virginia radio and said he supports many components of Build Back Better. So, now, just as we talk about BBB, I think we should talk about GGG -- get governance going again. Pass universal pre-K which, by the way, he signed into law as governor of West Virginia when he was governor.

We need to pass those child care supports as well as climate change provisions that he would support.

If we do that, we make our own luck and increase the chances of doing better in the midterms and delivering for the American people.

TAPPER: Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, thank you so much. Best of luck to you in 2022 and happy New Year.

KRISHNAMOORTHI: Thank you so much and same to you.

TAPPER: It's something out of a novel literally. Police say the Denver gunman named his victims in a book he wrote before this week's shooting rampage.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our national lead, today, a disturbing picture taking shape revealing the maniacal musings of a gunman who killed five innocent people in Colorado Monday night. A CNN review of his novels found that he described in detail the exact people he would end up killing in the exact places he would do it. We're also learning more about the heroic actions of Colorado Police Officer Ashley Ferris who took down the gunman even after he had shot her in the stomach.

CNN's Omar Jimenez has more details for us now of the gunman's troubled past and many missed warning signs.


OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Days after a deadly shooting spree across the Denver area Monday, the ongoing investigation moves from what happened to why. CHIEF PAUL PAZEN, DENVER POLICE: This individual was known to law

enforcement. He was on our radar. There were two previous investigations and neither of these investigations resulted in state or federal filings.

JIMENEZ: The shooter was Lyndon James McLeod, who police say targeted some of his victims and in a series of books foreshadowed parts of what happened. He wrote under a pseudonym but used the real names and places for some of his victims.

In one book, McLeod wrote about a character named Lyndon McLeod, specifically mentioning a condo building overlooking the park in Denver and how in his police gear he would crash a man named Michael Swinyard's poker night and execute Michael for his betrayal and take everyone's cash.

The 67-year-old Michael Swinyard was killed in Monday's shooting at the same address. According to a memo from the building manager obtained by CNN, the shooter arrived at the building impersonating a police officer. In another book one character says, look. I killed Alicia Cardenas as well. The 44-year-old Alicia Cardenas was among the first to be killed Monday. She was the owner of a tattoo shop.

ALFREDO CARDENAS, FATHER OF ALICIA CARDENAS: She was a real leader in her community. A lot of people looked to her for advice and information about tattooing. The world we're living in is just horrible.

JIMENEZ: In total, five people were killed in about an hour Monday. Three of them worked at tattoo shops. The shootings spanned multiple locations starting in Denver before police tracked the gunman to nearby Lakewood where he entered a hotel, shooting and killing 28- year-old Sarah Steck who was working at the front desk.

Not long after more shots fired this time hitting Lakewood Police Agent Ashley Ferris but according to police while on the ground wounded she was able to return fire and kill the shooter.

JOHN ROMERO, LAKEWOOD POLICE SPOKESMAN: She was able to not only save others from this terrible tragedy but also neutralize the threat. I can't say enough about the courage and bravery shown by that Lakewood police agent.


JIMENEZ (on camera): Now, that Police Agent Ashley Ferris is expected to be okay. She has been recovering in a local hospital. As for the investigation into why the shooter carried this out, police will likely be looking at his social media which covered a wide array of extremist views on the roles of men, women, war, guns, and more -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Omar, thank you so much.

We have breaking news next. The latest on President Biden's talk with Vladimir Putin and what we know about what was said. [16:25:03]

Stay with us.


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

We start this hour with breaking news in our world lead. President Joe Biden just wrapped a call with Russian President Vladimir Putin. We are told they spoke for about 50 minutes as Russia continues to build up a robust military presence at its border with Ukraine threatening to invade that country and seize land yet again.

This is the second call between the two leaders this month. This time, Putin initiated the call we're told. U.S. intelligence officials say they have yet to see any sign of de-escalation from the Russians at the Ukrainian border.