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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Officials: No Credible Threats Related To Riot Anniversary; Capitol Police Fielded 9,600 Threats Against Lawmakers In 2021; Biden To Deliver Voting Rights Speech Next Week In Atlanta; GOP Leaders Show Interest In Changing 1887 Electoral Count Act; North Korea Claims It Test-Fired A Hypersonic Missile; Chicago Schools Cancel Classes After Teachers Vote To Go Virtual; Biden Confirms More Federal Judges In First Year Than Any Other Modern-Day President; Seven Children Among 13 Killed In Philadelphia Apartment Fire. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired January 05, 2022 - 17:00   ET



RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On the eve of the one year anniversary of the deadly January 6 insurrection, the Capitol police chief, Tom Manger, delivered a stark reality about the threats that still exist for members of Congress.

CHIEF THOMAS MANGER, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE: It's going up every year. Last year was 8,600, this year was 9,600. So, the workload is increasing.

NOBLES (voice-over): Manger and his force are still addressing problems exposed by the riot. Let's say, they are absolutely better prepared to defend the Capitol as a chorus of calls to hold those accountable for the insurrection grows louder.

MERRICK GARLAND, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Thank you for your service, for your sacrifice, and for your dedication. I am honored to serve alongside you.

NOBLES (voice-over): The Department of Justice is prosecuting hundreds of individuals who stormed the Capitol that day. But questions remain about whether those who influenced or encouraged the rioters, like former President Donald Trump will bear any responsibility.

The Attorney General Merrick Garland pledging to hold all perpetrators at any level accountable under the law, but not giving a specific timeline.

GARLAND: We understand that there are questions about how long the investigation will take, and about what exactly we are doing. Our answer is and will continue to be the same answer we would give to -- with respect to any ongoing investigation, as long as it takes and whatever it takes for justice to be done consistent with the facts and the law. I understand that this may not be the answer some are looking for.

NOBLES (voice-over): On Capitol Hill, their investigation continues on a rapid clip. The January 6 Select Committee wants to hear from Fox News host Sean Hannity, who was texting White House officials like former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows begging him to encourage Trump to call off his pressure campaign to prevent the certification of the election results. Texting Meadows quote, "We can't lose the entire White House Counsel's Office. I do not see January 6 happening in the way he's being told."

Chairman Bennie Thompson telling CNN the committee also wants to hear from Vice President Mike Pence and asking him to come in on his own accord.

REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS), CHIARMAN, JANUARY 6 SELECT COMMITTEE: I would hope that he would do the right thing and come forward and voluntarily talk to the committee. You know, everybody there didn't have a security detail. So, we'd like to know what his security detail told him what's going on and what all went on.


NOBLES: And the committee seems to be very focused on the conduct of the former President Donald Trump in the days leading up to and on January 6. They continued to interview witnesses who have a firsthand account of those proceedings.

Among them, Stephanie Grisham, the former first -- or chief of staff to First Lady Melania Trump. She was also the former White House press secretary. She was in and around the First Family on that day. Jake, she is expected to meet with the committee tonight to tell them what she knows about the events surrounding the insurrection. Jake.

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

Joining us now live to discuss, the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas.

Secretary Mayorkas, you said this week that DHS is not aware of any credible threats on the anniversary of the January 6 attack, but quote, "the threat of domestic violent extremist is a very great one." To be frank, there seems to be a lot that law enforcement and Intel folks simply don't know about radical groups as we saw last year. How concerned are you about safety at the Capitol tomorrow?

ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Jake, domestic violent extremism does in fact remain one of the greatest threats that we face on the homeland. And what we in the Department of Homeland Security do is obtain information and share information and make sure that not only we across the federal enterprise, but also our state and local partners are fully equipped with the information and best positioned to prevent a threat from materializing. The threat is real, but it is our job to be prepared for it and to be responsive, if in fact that should materialize. It's our job to be alert, to be prepared, to be practiced and to be responsive.

TAPPER: U.S. Capitol Police Chief Thomas Manger testified today about a record number of threats against U.S. lawmakers, nearly 10,000 just in 2021, that's 26 a day, at least one an hour. What do you believe is behind that sharp increase in threats against lawmakers?

MAYORKAS: I think there are a number of things at play, Jake. You know, ideologies of hate, false information, false narratives are primary sources of the threat landscape that we confront in the United States today. The divisiveness in our country is really fueling it as well.


And there's a very important additional element, words matter. And this goes to the issue of false narratives, of false information. Words matter and the words of leaders matter a lot. And that can actually fuel the spread of false information and can drive people to violence. It is the connectivity between false information and violence that creates the threat to which we must respond and that we must prevent.

TAPPER: Do you think the people who run social media companies take seriously enough the roles that their platforms have in false accusations, false information getting out there, that ends up resulting in threats, if not violence?

MAYORKAS: So I think there's one very important principle to state at the very outset. And that is that false information, ideologies of hate have to be addressed. Always mindful of one of our core principles, and that is the principle of free speech.

TAPPER: Of course, yes.

MAYORKAS: The first -- protected by the First Amendment. What we do in the Department of Homeland Security, is ensure that everyone has the information that we have with respect to that false information with respect to the threat that stems from it. And then we leave it to the independent decision of the social media companies to apply their Terms of Use, and act responsible -- responsibly with respect to what they are seeing on their platforms, because it is through those platforms, that those ideologies and those false narratives are spread so quickly and so widely across our country.

TAPPER: Just to touch on something you just said a moment ago. Yesterday on the show, we were talking to former FBI and CIA official, Phil Mudd, and he said he's not only concerned about physical security, he's worried about how the language of political violence is becoming mainstreamed and accepted in the U.S. these days. Take a listen.


PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: What I've seen change over the last year isn't just the threat to windows, it's more and more politicians saying what happened is maybe in an acceptable part of the political landscape. I don't care how hard you secure windows or how many people you hire, if this starts to be part of the American political dialogue that is violence against the building, no Intel guy, no security guy can secure that building.


TAPPER: Do you agree? Do you think that this language of political violence is becoming discouragingly mainstream and accepted -- considered acceptable among too many people?

MAYORKAS: Jake, I think that the language of division creates a vulnerability because that divide is filled, and it is filled with ideologies that speak against our social norms. It is filled by false narratives. It is filled by our nation state adversaries that seek to exploit that divide and actually widen it. And so I do, I am very concerned about it, but we are vigilant in response to it.

It goes back, Jake, to something I said just a moment ago, that the words of leaders matter. And we need leaders to lead responsibly to communicate to the American public truths. You know, we speak very often about the very well established rule of law. We also need the rule of fact to prevail in our country. And we're very focused on that as well.

TAPPER: Good luck tomorrow, Secretary Mayorkas. We really appreciate your time today.

MAYORKAS: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: Tomorrow, join us for an unprecedented gathering inside the U.S. Capitol with police lawmakers and political leaders. Anderson Cooper and I will host our coverage, Live from the Capitol January 6 One Year Later, at 8:00 p.m. Eastern only on CNN.

Coming up, new details about how President Biden plans to mark the January 6 anniversary including calling out the role that he thinks his predecessor played. Plus, riot police today using stun grenades and tear gas to try to break up 10s of 1000s of protesters. What is fueling these demonstrations? That's ahead.



TAPPER: In our politics lead, expect a passionate plea for election reform from President Biden's tomorrow before a more expanded speech next week. According to the White House, he's going to touch on the issue when he delivers a speech marking one year since the deadly Capitol insurrection. The White House is also laying the ground for Biden possibly supporting a Senate rule change to get an election reform bill passed. But as CNN's Kaitlan Collins reports for us now, President Biden first is to get two key Democrats on board.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): On the one year anniversary of the attack on the Capitol, President Biden plans to call out former President Trump.

(on camera): Is he going to address his predecessor's role in the riot? JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Yes.

COLLINS (voice-over): In the same halls where rioters roamed freely last year, Biden will be unambiguous about who's to blame.

PSAKI: President Biden will lay out the significance of what happened at the Capitol and the singular responsibility President Trump has for the chaos and carnage that we saw. And he will forcibly push back on the lie spread by the former president in an attempt to mislead the American people and his own supporters.


COLLINS (voice-over): Asked if the President will name Trump directly, Press Secretary Jen Psaki said it will be clear who he's referencing.

PSAKI: He sees January 6 as a tragic culmination of what those four years under President Trump did to our country.

COLLINS (voice-over): Biden is also expected to mention voting rights as Democrats make a renewed push to pass legislation.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MAJORITY LEADER: Republicans have made it abundantly clear that bipartisanship is not an option when it comes to voting rights.

COLLINS (voice-over): Senator Schumer has outlined his plan to pass voting rights bills again. And if Democrats failed to garner any Republican support like they have for months, Democrats will move to change the Senate rules so they can pass with just 51 votes.

SCHUMER: If Senate Republicans continue to abuse the filibuster to prevent this body from acting, the Senate must adapt.

COLLINS (voice-over): But Senator Schumer has yet to get the votes of two critical Democrats to change the rules, Senator Kirsten Sinema and Senator Joe Manchin.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): Anytime there's a carve out, you eat the whole turkey. There's nothing left because it comes back and forth.

COLLINS (voice-over): Minority Leader Senator Mitch McConnell is accusing Democrats of trying to justify a rules change by invoking January 6.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: The fact that violent criminals broke the law does not entitle Senate Democrats to break the Senate.

COLLINS (voice-over): Progress on voting rights has been slow. So sluggish, in fact, that Senator Tim Kaine described it as quote, "Slow as my commute," after the Virginia Democrat was stranded for nearly 27 hours amid a nightmarish winter storm.

SEN. TIM KAINE (D-VA): It wasn't boring because, you know, it was kind of a survival challenge. (END VIDEO TAPE)

COLLINS: And, Jake, the White House has now confirmed CNN's reporting that President Biden and Vice President Harris will travel to Atlanta next week to talk in a bigger way about voting rights, of course, after Jen Psaki saying that he will mention it while on Capitol Hill tomorrow morning.

TAPPER: All right. Kaitlan Collins, thanks so much.

Let's bring in our panel.

Scott Jennings, let me start with you. I want to play an excerpt from Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, pushing back on Democrats who want to change Senate rules for election reform, including making sure that state legislatures can't interfere in the voting process. Take a listen.


MCCONNELL: They assume that people who get elected to the legislatures are idiots. Why would any legislator -- any legislature in America want to overturn the counting of votes? They have to get elected by those people too. The notion that some state legislature would be crazy enough to say to their own voters, we're not going to honor the results of the election is ridiculous.


TAPPER: Scott, with all due respect to Leader McConnell, has he been listening to Donald Trump, Republican members of Congress or republican state legislators since November 2020? That's exactly what they've been pushing, overturning the will of the voters in their states.

SCOTT JENNINGS, FORMER SPECIAL ASST. TO PRES. GEORGE W. BUSH: Well, two issues, Jake. Number one, I think he's also saying that if you're a state legislator and you say I'm going to overturn the results of an election on a ballot that I didn't like, but I also want on, so I'm going to fix one election and not the other, then it would make no sense.

The other issue McConnell has is broader, and that is he simply opposes any effort by the Democrats to federalize or have a federal takeover of what has historically in this country been a state run system, a decentralized system of elections, and he wants no interference from the federal government and what the states, counties and municipalities do with their elections. He's not going to change. And I don't think anybody in the Republican conference is going to bend on it.

TAPPER: Just to make -- not to make to find a point on this, but that's what not only legislatures, but congressman, David, you can talk about this, members of Congress, Republican members of Congress from Pennsylvania, for example, with one exception, all voted to not count the votes, the electoral votes from Pennsylvania, even though they were elected on that same ballot. I agree with you, it makes no sense. But David helped me out here, that's what they tried to do.

DAVID FRENCH, SENIOR EDITOR, THE DISPATCH: Yes, they absolutely tried to do it. And also, you know, one thing that is -- has to be understood here is that the state legislators tend to run very different races. They don't have the same -- necessarily the same kind of constituency that you have in a presidential election. So it's a little bit of a different electoral incentive.

But here's the thing though, Jake, if Mitch McConnell is dead set against federal interference in the state presidential elections, you know what he should be willing to do? Reform the Electoral Count Act, because that is exactly what the Trump administration tried to do. That's what the team Trump tried to do was to get federal interference in the state elections, through manipulation of the Electoral Count Act, and that is something that is low hanging fruit that should be consistent with Leader McConnell's philosophy of hands off of the state elections because right now the Electoral Count Act is too vulnerable to manipulation at the federal level, they could overturn the results of an election.


TAPPER: And David, you wrote a great piece in The Dispatch about this, the Electoral Count Act was written in 1887. It's confusing, it's difficult to understand, the language is weird, and they were trying to exploit through bizarre interpretations, the idea that pans could overload the election.

Ana, why not, if you're Chuck Schumer, why not at least do that? You don't even have Sinema and Manchin on board to pass or to change the filibuster rules to pass the election reform bills. Why not say, OK, Mitch McConnell, let's do what David French says and make sure that at least this hole is plugged?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Because I don't think Chuck Schumer has the political will to do it. And I think he is afraid of the pushback. And I think he is concerned about the institutionality.

Listen, during this and breaking the filibuster and making carve outs for the filibuster is something that's very difficult even for Joe Biden. It's difficult for Chuck Schumer, it's difficult for Joe Manchin. So there's an entire group of people who are Democrats for whom this is very difficult.

And Jake, I just want to say I'm so glad we are talking voting reform and voting laws this day, the day before January 6, because we all have to keep in mind that January 6 was about overturning legitimate election results. They were not able to do it by violence, but some Republicans have dedicated themselves for the last year to do it legislatively whether it makes sense not.

TAPPER: And Scott, The White House says in Biden speech tomorrow, he's going to call out the singular responsibility Trump has for the Capitol attack, which is something that both Kevin McCarthy and Mitch McConnell said at the time. Meanwhile, Donald Trump canceled his event tomorrow. Is that welcome news for most Republicans? JENNINGS: Well, I mean, you know, any Republican in their heart of hearts, if they were being honest, would tell you, they have eyes and ears in a television or they were in the Capitol that day. They saw exactly what happened, they know who's responsible for it, they know who whipped up a mob, they know who encouraged the feeding of the lies and fed the lies directly to the mob, I mean, there's no mystery here on what happened.

Regarding the Electoral College Act, if I may -- Count Act, if I may go back to this for just one moment, McConnell did open the door to this process today and said he was open to it. He thought it looked like it was something that needed to be dealt with. I know that he thinks the threshold that the law gives, you know, essentially one senator and one congressman can give a wave of false hope and set off, in this case, a crisis under the confines of this law.

And so, I think my sense is, is that if something is going to happen, it's going to be done in a bipartisan way. The real question here, like the infrastructure bill, if the real question here is, will Chuck Schumer allow this chunk of it as you suggested to go without the other things, this should not be linked to what the Democrats want to do on other election stuff. This is its own issue. It deserves to be looked at. And I think I think there's openness to that as long as it's not linked to the other stuff that Republicans simply just don't agree with.

TAPPER: And David, Republicans, as we were just talking about, were quick to call out Trump right after the attack. Remember, this is what Kevin McCarthy sounded like a year ago this month.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), MINORITY LEADER: The president bears responsibility for Wednesday's attack on Congress by mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolding.

MCCONNELL: The mob was fed lies. They were provoked by the president and other powerful people.


TAPPER: And McConnell doesn't talk about this much. But he hasn't changed his position. Kevin McCarthy, I don't even recognize him in that clip. He completely sounds different, David.

FRENCH: Yes, you know, here's the depressing truth, Jake. If you look at the data, even right after January 6, there were two Republicans whose approval ratings plunged with Republican voters and one whose approval ratings remain sky high. The one whose approval remained sky high was Donald Trump, the two Republicans whose approval ratings plunged after January 6, Mike Pence, Mitch McConnell.

In other words, the message was sent very loud and clear from the base to the party establishment that you have to stick with Donald Trump. And these guys have heard that and they've responded to that. And that's sad.

TAPPER: Ana Navarro, final thought.

NAVARRO: I just think it's so shameful and so pathetic. And I'm so glad you played that. And I hope that tomorrow, January 6, we play it over and over again, because there was so many Republicans that at the moment had the backbone to call a spade a spade and today had the lack of shame to pretend that it didn't happen, to want to move on.


And my question time and time again is, forget about putting country over party. How about showing some loyalty and gratitude to the law enforcement officials who took the blows and who took the attacks physically in order to protect them? Have they no shame? We cannot forget what happened on January 6.

TAPPER: Thanks to all of you. Really appreciate it.

School is out for 1000s of students in one major city. We're going to talk to a parent who's angry about the sudden closure. Stay with us.


TAPPER: Breaking news, North Korean state media just announced that Kim Jong-un's regime has successfully fired a hypersonic missile hitting its target earlier this week. CNN's Barbara Starr is live for us at the Pentagon. Barbara, U.S. officials were quick to condemn this test. What else do we know about the launch?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, if this test was successful, it would be the second time the North Koreans have tested a hypersonic system. Of course a missile that flies extremely fast, which, if successful, the U.S. has no defense for right now. So that's why there's, obviously, some concern about it.

But there's a lot of questions here about what exactly they fired. And did it really travel more than 400 miles and hit its target with precision? Does North Korea really have that capability right now? A lot of questions by U.S. experts and the U.S. government about all of this.

The U.S. says they believe it was a ballistic missile, and that it flew not for very long, perhaps less than a minute. And for that reason, they have very little electronic intelligence, very little in the way of emissions from the missile that may tell them exactly what it was. Jake?

TAPPER: Barbara Starr at the Pentagon for us, thank you so much.

We have some more breaking news. Just moments ago, the CDC panel of vaccine advisers recommended the Pfizer booster shot for children ages 12 to 17. The final decision now rests with CDC Director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky. This comes to several major school districts are making changes due to the recent surge in Omicron cases including in Chicago, where the teachers union voted last night to switch to virtual learning.

As CNN's Adrienne Broaddus reports for us now, students there are now the ones caught in the middle of the standoff between the teachers union and school district officials.


LAURIE SKUROW, CHICAGO PUBLIC SCHOOLS PARENT: This has been going on for way too long.

ADRIENNE BROADDUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): School canceled again for more than 340,000 students in Chicago. Parents like Laurie Skurow left scrambling. She supports teachers but doesn't agree with the union's actions.

SKUROW: I'm really, really mad. Students belong in school. Remote learning doesn't work. Frankly, I would rather school have been canceled today than have my son sit in front of a Chromebook again.

BROADDUS (voice-over): The Chicago Teachers Union voting to refuse showing up in person for work and asking for return to remote learning, citing concerns over COVID-19 safety.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Don't keep using us as sacrificial lambs, saying that it's safe to be in schools. It's not.

BROADDUS (voice-over): The district canceled classes on Wednesday in response. And before the union's vote, Mayor Lightfoot made it clear she wants students in the classroom.

MAYOR LORI LIGHTFOOT, CHICAGO: The schools are safe and doctor already has said that and we'll continue to say it. We know it because of the hundreds of millions of dollars that CPS has invested in our schools, from ventilation to HEPA filters, to partitions, to masks, to hand sanitizers, to protocols.

BROADDUS (voice-over): The union challenging the decision to have everyone back in schools and in-person and calling the district unprepared.

JESSE SHARKEY, PRESIDENT, CHICAGO TEACHERS UNION: The city has failed to deliver a whole number of basic demands that we need in the schools. Has failed to provide adequate staffing, adequate cleaning in the schools. Has failed to -- can't provide adequate testing. Has failed to address our concerns as people go into the schools.

BROADDUS (voice-over): Keyonna Payton is an educator at Park Manor Elementary. Her children also attend public schools.

KEYONNA PAYTON, CHICAGO PUBLIC SCHOOLS TEACHER: I am afraid because I have a husband, I have a young child, I have a 90-year-old grandmother with underlying health conditions and issues. And so I would just appreciate being able to work in an environment where at least the students are all PCR tested weekly, and we have their results to go to in-person instruction. BROADDUS (voice-over): The mayor and district leaders insist, schools aren't a significant cause of the virus spreading and warn teachers, they will receive no pay for refusing to show up in person.

LIGHTFOOT: We believe the teacher should come to work if they want to be paid, and compensated.


BROADDUS: And Jake, teachers who had planned to instruct their students remotely today said they couldn't. When they went to log in to that online portal, they were locked out. Jake?

TAPPER: Adrienne Broaddus, thanks so much.

Let's talk about this with a mom, Natasha Dunn. She's a mother of a seventh grader in Chicago Public Schools. Natasha, if it's OK if I call you that, as a working mother, who only found out late last night that schools are going to be closed, how are you managing this?

NATASHA DUNN, CHICAGO PUBLIC SCHOOLS PARENT: Well, I mean, I'm back to Square One. It's really difficult for me to really be able to pay attention to my daughter's learning needs and work full time. I feel like this was a catastrophic failure. I do think that the CTU was completely reckless and forcing an entire district to go on remote learning when the -- when CPS has mitigations in progress.


Now, our school district is not the most perfect school district at all. But what I will say is that they do have a transparent process for us as parents and community to see what are the needs of our schools in terms of safety. And so far, the data have shown that our kids are safe in the building.

Now, some schools might have problems. So I'm not saying that all schools are perfect, but it does not resonate to the point where you should interrupt the learning of over 300,000 students and 500 schools across the district. We are a humungous district. What they've done is set us back. And we don't want to stay back. We want to move forward.

TAPPER: Families everywhere, and mine too. I have a 12-year-old and a 14-year-old, were exhausted by almost two years of pandemic parenting. How difficult has this period been for you and your daughter since it began in March 2020?

DUNN: Well, it's been difficult because I also have twins who graduated in the pandemic. They're part of the class of 2020. So for them, they didn't really have an opportunity to, you know, experience what a graduation ceremony would be. They didn't go on prom. They were stripped of a lot of different things that most young people, you know, look forward to when they're ending their high school years.

And in terms of my daughter, she's in her prime, you know, developmentally, as an adolescent. It's very vital for her to be around students, for her to be able to socialize and for her to be comfortable going into a school building. But most importantly, for her to have face-to-face instruction.

What we know right now is that remote learning was a catastrophic failure, specifically for black students across the country. Our students were behind before the pandemic. And when I tell you, this pandemic has really put us in a state of emergency, it actually has.

And so while we have people who are fighting to keep the schools closed, there's nobody fighting to close the gaps that persisted before the pandemic. And the reason why I'm upset is because, you know, that's important to me. My daughter's future is important to me.

The future generation of our children who we need to be prepared to lead and to be able to work jobs and go into science and math industries and move our country forward, they're not going to be prepared.

TAPPER: Have you spoken with any of your daughter's teachers?

DUNN: You know, I haven't really spoken to them. But I do know from other parents that my daughter's school, the teachers are very, you know, passionate about their jobs, and they want to be back in the classroom as well. You know, they really wasn't sure about what they were voting for.

What I'm learning is that essentially CTU went on an unauthorized strike. The teachers were under the impression that they had the authority to vote for remote learning when they didn't actually have that. That was never an option for them to be able to do. Remote learning is something that's activated when the Illinois Department of Health and the superintendent determines and deems that that's something that we need to do.

TAPPER: Natasha Dunn, thank you so --

DUNN: And --

TAPPER: -- thank you so much for talking to us today. And best of luck to you and --

DUNN: Thank you.

TAPPER: -- your daughter. Hope to talk to you again soon.

Coming up next, the one way President Biden is outpacing all of his modern-day predecessors. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our politics lead today, President Joe Biden is two weeks shy of his first full year in office and is quietly outpacing all of his modern-day predecessors on a significant achievement. Thanks to the Democrats, rather slim majority in the Senate. As CNN's Tom Foreman reports for us now, Biden may have only 10 months left to finish what he started. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)


UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER (in unison): I love it.

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With hot button issues roaring into federal courts, the White House is setting a blistering pace. President Biden nominating more federal judges in his first year than the record number put up by former President Trump in his, with more than twice as many confirmed in the Senate. Like Trump, he is trying to shape American justice for decades.

ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: In many ways, Joe Biden stole from Trump's playbook. Trump went in, even before he was President and said he wanted to change the face of the courts. And after four years, he did it.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We needed from top to bottom.

FOREMAN (voice-over): To turn back the Trump tide, Biden's picks have been far more diverse and less likely to come from the ranks of prosecutors. Trump picked mainly white men. Biden's list of new judges is filled with women and people of color.

BIDEN: And more former public defenders to the bench than any administration in American history.

JENNIFER SUNG, JUDICIAL NOMINEE: I would absolutely respect the authority of every Supreme Court Justice and all of its precedents without reservation.

SEN. JOHN KENNEDY (R-LA): See, I don't believe you. I think you allowed your political beliefs to cloud your judgment.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Republicans have not made it easy. While they cheered Trump loading the courts for their side and howled about Democratic efforts to stop it, now they are doing the same to Biden's picks.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): Did you intend for violent criminals to be released early?

RUSSELL WHEELER, BROOKINGS INSTITUTION: The Democrats have stayed united. Without that, they would have failed because every one of his court of appeals nominees got over 40 nay votes.

FOREMAN (voice-over): Still, Biden is racing the clock. Polls say elections next fall could hand Republicans a majority in the Senate where their outrage over what's happening now --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Federal judges are appointed for life. That is a long time.

FOREMAN (voice-over):-- could quickly overrule the Democratic Party's so far remarkably successful case for change.

DE VOGUE: They really need to have a majority in the Senate to be able to push through these nominees. And if that were to switch, that would really stall Joe Biden's efforts here.


FOREMAN: And, of course, there is the Supreme Court and all of this. Trump helped establish a conservative majority there by picking three new justices, a chance he got in part. Thanks to then Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.


If the election goes against the Democrats, Biden may not to get to name even one. Jake?

TAPPER: Tom Foreman, thanks so much.

The Mayor of Philadelphia is calling it one of the most tragic days in the history of the city. Seven children killed in one fire. A place where smoke detectors were not working. Stay with us.


TAPPER: In our national lead, tragic news today out of Philadelphia. Officials there confirming at least 13 people are dead after a fire at an apartment building. Seven of the victims, seven of them were children.


Firefighters say they confronted the heavy fire in the kitchen area of the second floor. Let's get right to CNN's Evan McMorris-Santoro. Evan, 26 people lived in this three-storey home, what's the status of the investigation?

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, that's just one of the many questions authorities are hoping to answer now that the worst of this in terms of the fire is over. Behind me, authorities have put a tarp up, they've taken the bodies out of this row house where this fire happened. But now they have questions about why the fire started, how it spreads so fast, why so many people were living in that building.

But really for this neighborhood, it's a truly tragic moment. I spoke to a local person here who lives nearby, witnessed the fire, about just what it means for this neighborhood.


BILL RICHARDS, WITNESSED PHILADELPHIA FIRE: About quarter 7:00, I heard a woman scream, "Oh, my God, oh, my God." And I went to the window, I couldn't see anything because it was on my side of the street. And I got dressed. And by the time I got downstairs, the fire trucks were turning the corner. I was a teacher all my life and I just can't even -- I can't wrap my head around the tragedy of these relatives that are going to have to pick up their lives after this. And I taught at the school down the street a block away. And some of those kids went there.


MCMORRIS-SANTORO: You know, Jake, that emotion that you heard there from Bill is something I've heard all throughout the day from officials, from the mayor, to the fire department, all the way down to these people who live in this neighborhood. This is a truly tragic day in Philadelphia and one that has a lot of questions. Hopefully answers will be coming the next couple of days and weeks. Jake?

TAPPER: It's a horrible story. Evan McMorris-Santoro, thank you so much.

Turning to our world lead now, a plea for help from the President of Kazakhstan after a rare rash of mass protests. Riot police today using stun grenades and tear gas to try to break up demonstrations over surging fuel prices in that country. A local journalist telling CNN, the internet and electricity also went out. Authorities have declared a state of emergency.

And as CNN's Nic Robertson reports for us now, the President of Kazakhstan is promising a full crackdown.


NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR (voice-over): Earlier, protesters clashing with security forces outside Almaty's principal government building. Angered by rapidly rising fuel prices, smoke billowing from stun grenades as the country's largest city reeled amidst the oil-rich nation's biggest protests in decades.

One unconfirmed video clip posted to social media appears to show a soldier down being dragged away from the protests by colleagues. The soldier's current condition also unknown.

Another unconfirmed clip appears to show soldiers with protesters on the run. One person in black clearly beaten with batons by those in uniform. In the running battles, protesters often seeming to have the upper hand. The truth of the largest situation difficult to obtain as parts of our Almaty in darkness. Electricity supplies cut, so too the internet.

Early Wednesday, officials saying more than 200 protesters have been detained, 95 security officers injured and 37 of their vehicles damaged. By late Wednesday, the President had taken charge of national security and vowing not to be forced out, describing a worsening situation. And without offering evidence, blaming outside forces.

PRES. KASSYM-JOMART TOKAYEV, KAZAKHSTAN (through translation): These terrorist gangs are essentially international. They have undergone serious training abroad. Their attack on Kazakhstan can and should be considered as an act of aggression. ROBERTSON (voice-over): In the swiftly developing situation, the Prime Minister replaced the government offered its resignation. Fuel price hikes rescinded and the country put under a state of emergency.

In Moscow, the nation's closest ally, concern and calls for calm.

(on-camera): Russia's foreign ministry saying they hope for a peaceful solution and a quick return to normal. The Kremlin spokesman say it's important there's no outside interference, a hint at Western interference, saying Russia believes Kazakhstan can solve this alone.

(voice-over): By nightfall, chaos in several of Kazakhstan's principal cities. The government calling for help from regional allies, including Russia. Unclear if the government's moves will be enough to placate the protesters, whose anger appears to transcend the rising fuel prices.



ROBERTSON: Well, those regional allies have said that they're going to respond for a short period. They say they're going to send what they call peacekeepers to help the government. The government is promising a very tough crackdown.

And already overnight tonight, we've heard reports seen unconfirmed video so far of bodies and of a lot of shooting in the streets. Again, this is so hard to confirm right now. Jake?

TAPPER: All right, Nic Robertson in Moscow for us, thank you so much.

Coming up next, the January 6 Committee looking to talk to more Trump officials including former Vice President Mike Pence. A member of the panel will talk to CNN ahead. Stay with us.