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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Sources: White House Aides And CDC Scientists Frustrated By CDC Messaging; Disappointing 199K Jobs Added In December, Economists Expected 2X More; Alaska Airlines Proactively Cancels 10 Percent Of Its January Flights; Supreme Court Hears Challenges To Biden Vaccine Mandates; Three Men Convicted Of Murdering Arbery Sentenced To Life In Prison. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired January 07, 2022 - 16:00   ET



SCOTT JENKINS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: He's seems like it and good for him, by the way. And having done some of that in my life, it's not easy to do.

By the way, Joe Manchin answers to the people of West Virginia, and he's a lot more popular there than Joe Biden is.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Yeah. Listen, I've done the same thing, 90 pounds ain't easy.

THE LEAD with Jake Tapper starts right now. Thank you both.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: As Billy Joel once said, it's a matter of trust.

THE LEAD starts right now.

The virus is not the only fight facing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Critics are shooting arrows at the agency's credibility and the CDC director smack dab in the center of the bull's-eye.

It's not the news the Biden administration wanted to hear. Fewer jobs added in December than in any other month in 2021. But there is some good news about how much you're taking home.

And what a cluster. Twenty-seven thousand -- yes, 27,000 U.S. flights canceled since Christmas Eve. What is it going to take to end our travel nightmare?


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

We're going to start today in our health lead. And the CDC battling an apparent credibility problem. Today, the agency's director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, took questions from reporters in her first solo news conference since July after facing a barrage of criticism, including from within the White House and the CDC over isolation guidance that even allies call confusing.

Walensky admitting the past few weeks have been particularly challenging. She noted that as a -- as the science changes, the guidance has to change as well. And she went on to say, quote, this is hard. And I am committed to continue to improve, unquote.

Now, former Biden administration health advisers are urging the White House to shift its COVID strategy. As CNN's Alexandra Field reports, these advisers, former advisers want the president to prioritize ways for our society to learn to live and function with the virus, instead of chasing what now to them seems an impossible goal to eradicate it as the omicron variant continues to spread.


DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: I'm honored to join you today.

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Facing mounting criticism, the CDC director speaking out.

WALENSKY: This is hard, and I am committed to continue to improve as we learn more about the science and to communicate that with all of you.

FIELD: The agency under fire again. This time for confusing guidance on isolation as people, business and schools forge their own way forward.

KATRINA CUBILO-SICAIROS, SAN FRANCISCO TEACHER: People just want to be safe. I mean, it is a surge that we're concerned about.

FIELD: In California's Bay Trea, teachers are protesting current protocols, staging a sickout.

In Chicago, the city still fighting for in-person learning with the teachers union that voted to go remote. Most schools there canceled for a third day.

CLAIBORNE WADE, FATHER OF CHICAGO PUBLIC SCHOOL STUDENT: It's our kids who are being affected by it. And parents need to be at that table as well.

FIELD: But a major push to keep kids in class now comes from one of the nation's most prominent hospitals.

Children's Hospital of Philadelphia says even in times of significant community transmission, kids should be in school. The hospital supports putting more exposed but asymptomatic students and staff back in class with masks and calls for less testing of asymptomatic individuals.

RICK BRIGHT, FORMER MEMBER, BIDEN-HARRIS TRANSITION COVID-19 ADVISORY BOARD: Our new normal will look like a future where we have SARS-CoV- 2 but it's not a panic, it's not a crisis. It's not devastating our public health infrastructure and our economy the way we see it today. FIELD: Six former advisers to President Joe Biden are now calling for

new measures from the White House to move Americans more quickly toward a new normal. Among the suggestions, quicker updates to vaccines to keep pace with the changing virus.

DR. EZEKIEL EMANUEL, FORMER MEMBER, BIDEN-HARRIS TRANSITION COVID-19 ADVISORY BOARD: COVID is going to be around us, just like the flu is around us. And we're going to have to live with that and we're going to have to bring the mortality rates down to make it so we can go back to our normal everyday lives.

FIELD: At the Supreme Court, justices are hearing arguments today against COVID vaccine mandates affecting large businesses and some health care workers. That as New York's governor announces she'll require booster shots for all health care workers, the first state in the nation to do so.

GOV. KATHY HOCHUL (D), NEW YORK: You would want to make sure that anyone taking care of you is fully protected.

FIELD: Moderna's CEO is the latest to say a fourth shot could be needed for some by fall as hospitalizations approach an all-time high and as the average number of daily cases tops 600,000.

The governor of West Virginia says the time for fourth shot is already here. Governor Jim Justice requesting permission from the CDC and the FDA to give an extra booster to people who need them most.


FIELD (on camera): And on that question of a fourth shot, Dr. Walensky is saying we need to get more people to take a third shot before we really talk about a fourth shot. Just about 35 percent of people who are eligible for a booster have actually gone ahead and gotten a booster, despite what we know already about how effective that booster can be, Jake.


TAPPER: Alexandra Field, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Let's turn now to new CNN reporting. CDC scientists and White House officials growing increasingly frustrated with the CDC director Dr. Walensky's handling of public health guidance and what they see as continued missteps.

CNN's Kaitlan Collins helped to break that story.

And, Kaitlan, what is Dr. Walensky doing to fix what her critics perceive as a messaging mess?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, she said today she is committed to making communication at the CDC better. It's been something that has been an issue ever since she took this job in January. It was an issue long before she got there but she did come into the job vowing to restore trust in the CDC. So, that's been really the big issue here.

So, in part, she has started doing media training. This is something we're told by sources she started last fall. A way to improve her own communication skills because she's often the face of the CDC. Going out there and communicating the new guidance, as she did recently when they changed that isolation period if you've tested positive for COVID-19. That is something that generated a lot of criticism, not just from people who are confused by it, Jake, but also from doctors who said, yes, it did need a testing component to it.

And so the other thing that we've heard, Jake, is this criticism is not just coming from outside the CDC. It's also coming from inside the CDC where it's a lot of career staffers who some of them have worked at the agency their entire lives. And they don't feel like sometimes when she is crafting the guidance here that she's really reaching out to enough people. They say it's too small of a circle of advisers that she's talking to. Maybe they're not getting enough input for someone to say, hey, this isn't so reasonable or this may be a better way to implement this idea.

So, that has really been the issues we've heard from sources, from officials within the CDC about this. Whether or not it changes now that she's taking this media training, that she's trying to make these efforts, that remains to be seen and whether it's too late. A lot of people have said it's just too confusing what's coming out of the CDC and they aren't really sure what to do.

TAPPER: Kaitlan Collins, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Let's bring in CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

So, Sanjay, first of all, I should note, Dr. Walensky when she was in Boston, just a regular physician, she was on our show all the time. She was a great communicator.


TAPPER: She was one of our favorite guests. But, obviously, something else is going on. She hasn't had a solo CDC media briefing in nearly six months.

And beyond her personal messaging struggles, the agency itself faced criticism for a while over its confusing COVID guidance, changing COVID guidance as well. Did you hear anything today that you think might help restore confidence in the agency's messages?

GUPTA: I think it's a start, Jake. I mean, the idea that just having a solo briefing, as you mentioned, hasn't happened in a long time, half a year. It's important if you go back to H1N1 days and Ebola days. You had Tom Frieden and Richard Besser who in the job at that point, and you got regular briefings from the CDC. You got let in on the thinking process. You didn't just hear from them when there was a huge change.

I mean, even as reporters, and I talk to Dr. Walensky offline, off TV quite a bit. But even for us reporters, a lot of times, it's a sudden change that we're not clued into. So we're not getting a process of what's happening or the thinking behind what's happening here.

Listen to how she framed some of the criticism today and responded to it.


WALENSKY: We're in an unprecedented time with the speed of omicron cases rising and we are working really hard to get information to the American public and balancing that with the reality that we're all living with. This is hard and I am committed to continue to improve as we learn more about the science and to communicate that with all of you.


GUPTA: As things stand now, Jake, there was a poll that was done just last month basically asking the question about trust in the CDC and what they found was that 29 percent had a great deal of trust. A fair amount, 37 percent, not so much. 33 percent. That maybe eroded a little more over the last month.

But I will tell you, Jake, you know, just having covered these sorts of stories for a long time, there was a study in 2015 that talked about public health officials' trust around Ebola. And it was around 31 percent.

So it's a tough situation. And I think as a result of that, there is always going to be a lot of criticism no matter what. And having more press conferences like she did today and being transparent is going to go a long way toward restoring that.

TAPPER: I do -- I do have to wonder if there's also a degree to which she's being a fall by in some ways for -- or fall girl for the Biden administration because one of the criticisms of her recently, we talked about this earlier this week was the CDC when it came out with a question about whether people should take tests before they remove themselves from isolation, she said that's up to you, the CDC said that's up to you.

But one of the problems is there aren't enough tests. That's not Dr. Walensky's fault.


That's the Biden administration's fault.

So, some of this I wonder how much is blaming her for failures administration-wide?

GUPTA: Yeah, no, I wonder about some of the machinations that are going on behind the scenes.

We know that Dr. Walensky is an advocate of this rapid antigen test. She wrote papers about these before she became the CDC director, touting their utility in terms of doing what we're asking them to do now. Determine if someone is still contagious. She wrote scientific papers about this.

So then to come out and say, look, maybe they are useful. They can be optional. Maybe she is the fall guy on this because the fundamental problem is, if we don't have enough tests. If we had enough tests, I think it's very clear to everyone that the guidelines would be different.


GUPTA: That you should test. If you're positive, stay home. If you're not -- if you're negative, you can go out. You're not contagious.

Dr. Fauci has telegraphed himself the need for more of these tests. You also see fracture lines between the CDC and Dr. Fauci over this issue as well. It's been a problem the entire pandemic.


GUPTA: And it baffles me still at this point, we've got vaccines. We've done all these things. You got to give "Operation Warp Speed" credit for making all these at-risk investments on vaccines and things like that. Haven't done that with regard to tests. We don't have enough still.

Even masks -- I mean, I got masks here but a lot of people still don't have access to N95 and KN95 masks.

And even therapeutics, Jake. I mean, there's a very effective therapeutic, this Paxlovid, it's a new protease inhibitor from Pfizer. Very effective. It's pretty clear that we don't have enough of that, 250,000 or so treatments.

We may need a lot more if we had made at-risk investments in something like that six months ago.

TAPPER: Right.

GUPTA: We wouldn't be in a position where you may have to ration some of these important items.

TAPPER: You are making my point far better than I was making it.

Let me ask you also, Sanjay, there are three pieces published in the medical journal "JAMA," the Journal of the American Medical Association. In them, six former Biden health advisers propose a new plan for testing, mitigation, vaccines, treatments. Their main argument was that the White House needs to start pursuing and selling, frankly, a policy of the United States, learning to live, learning to fully function in a world with COVID instead of setting a goal that maybe we can never reach of getting rid of COVID entirely.

What do you make of the advice?

GUPTA: Yeah, I think since the spring of last year, given the contagiousness of this virus. The CDC director, Dr. Redfield, said, look, this is here to stay. It is that contagious. It will become endemic at some point.

I think there's two points that these papers raise. One is that the current situation is obviously untenable. I mean, we have hospitals that are becoming overwhelmed. And that's always -- that's a problem for society. Not just for COVID patients. That's a problem for society because it's hard to take care of the other issues, medical issues that people may deal with in a society.

But the idea that we are reactionary, so reactionary to what has been happening with COVID still two years into this is a problem. So they have all sorts of strategies. Everything from, let's invest in universal vaccines. Let's make sure that the stockpiles are full of masks and therapeutics and all these types of things. We've almost got tong of think o this as a defense footing, instead of a weather event where whey can't do anything about it. Shelter in place and just wait for it to pass. I think that's the point they're getting at.

TAPPER: Yeah. All right. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thanks so much. Have a great weekend, my friend.

GUPTA: Yeah. You, too.

TAPPER: The White House trying to find the bright spots after the December jobs report does not meet expectations again.

And then it was the trial that almost did not happen. Today the men, the murderers who killed Ahmaud Arbery while he was out jogging were sentenced. What did the judge hand down?

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In the money lead, a disappointing monthly jobs report showing the U.S. economy added only 199,000 new jobs in December. That is the fewest jobs added in any month of the Biden presidency and only half of the number that economists expected to see.

That means in four of the last five months, the job gains did not meet expectations. And this report we should note measured job growth before the omicron variant spread in the U.S.

President Biden spoke today, tried to focus on the few bright spots in the report. We'll talk about all of it. Before I do, I do want to take one moment to highlight that in May 2018, the chair of the Republican National Committee Rona McDaniel tweeted: Great news for our economy and workforce. Unemployment fell to 3.9 percent last month, the lowest since December 2000. The unemployment rate today, under Biden, in the midst of a pandemic is the exact same as that 3.9 percent. But GOP chair McDaniels out there attacking the report today, a rather intellectually dishonest way to look at numbers.

But let's bring in Rana Foroohar. She's a CNN global economic analyst and associate editor for "The Financial Times". Rana, let's put the nonsense politics away and just talk about the

facts here. Before the pandemic, 199,000 jobs added to the economy would be something to celebrate. But as you note, almost two years into the pandemic, these are not normal times.

RANA FOROOHAR, CNN GLOBAL ECONOMIC ANALYST: No, absolutely. But I think it goes to one of the core principles of economics. It's all relative. We had a huge dip. We just came out of a global pandemic or we're on our way out, I should say.

So when you look at what we have seen in the past, you know, 300,000, we were expecting to see almost 450,000. That's off a very low base. So, you know, if you kind of go back to what normal looked like before the pandemic, 200,000 jobs created would have been very, very respectable in any given month. That's the normal trend rate for the U.S.


TAPPER: The timing of this report is key because these numbers capture U.S. jobs as of mid-December, well before the surge of omicron-related cases in the U.S. Even then in this new jobs report, 3.1 million Americans reported they'd been unable to work because their employer closed or lost business due to the pandemic.

So should we expect things for the next jobs report will get worse?

FOROOHAR: I think so. You know, I think the fact that these numbers were collected before you had all the shutdowns that we're seeing now, you know, women, although starting to come back into the workforce, maybe having to deal now with child care issues again. So I'm looking for January to be disappointing. That said, what we're seeing globally is that really the new variant seems to be about a two-month up and down cycle. So it could be that we'll see one or two disappointing months and then back to more normal growth in the spring.

TAPPER: So, we saw often it was women largely staying home when schools went to virtual learning. Now the percentage of women working or looking for work is at the highest level since the pandemic began which is some, you know, rare good news in this report. What do you credit that to?

FOROOHAR: Well, you know, we heard a lot in the beginning about the she-cession, right? Women stepping off the track. Child, elder care, certain job areas that women are predominant in. Service jobs, restaurants, travel and leisure. Those were shut down. Then they came back.

I actually think the she-cession is overplayed. I think that going forward and particularly once we're out from the pandemic, we are going to see women coming back into the labor force. They want to work. They need to work, and the areas in which they have higher percentages of employment, health care, areas like that, travel, service sectors, those are what's increasing.

So I'm not so worried about the she-session. I think it's been overplayed.

TAPPER: President Biden noted that 6.4 mill jobs added in 2021 is the most added in a calendar year by any president. He also touted that wages are up. Take a listen.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Women and men who work in the front line jobs in restaurants, hotels, travel, tourism, desk clerks, line cooks, wait staff, bellmen, they all saw their wages at historic high, the highest in history. Their pay went up almost 16 percent this year. Far ahead of inflation, which is still a concern.


TAPPER: So, could the Federal Reserve use all this as evidence of an improving economy, despite inflation and use that as a reason to raise interest rates?

FOROOHAR: Well, I think we are going to see rate hikes, no question. I mean, with numbers as you pointed out in the beginning so low in terms of unemployment, 3.9 percent, inflation at a 40-year high. It's really hard to argue that you shouldn't see a rate hike.

I am a little bit worried about what that's going to mean for the market and asset prices. We've seen huge increases in stocks, housing prices. That makes people feel wealthier and more comfortable. We probably are going to see some corrections. We may see those corrections in advance of the midterms.

TAPPER: All right. Rana Foroohar, thank you so much.

Flying in the United States is anything but a vacation right now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is maddening for everybody.


TAPPER: Thousands of flights being canceled every day. And winter weather is not the only reason.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our national lead, it's a classic tale of the good, the bad and the ugly for travelers today, especially in the East Coast. The good? Fresh snow is pretty. The bad, that fresh snow makes traveling an absolute nightmare.

And the ugly, you can add in the incredibly contagious, raging pandemic causing staffing shortages. Today, alone all this means that more than 2,600 flights were canceled, just today.

And as CNN's Pete Muntean reports, at least passengers, airlines and flight crews can agree on one thing. They are pissed.


PETE MUNTEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Airlines are once again axing flights by the thousands. This time thanks to the latest snowstorm hitting airports up the East Coast.

New York's LaGuardia airport is facing eight new inches of snow.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I got stuck here, I probably wouldn't be as happy. But as long as I get home, I'm okay.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I won't make it in time so I canceled my flight. I'll see tomorrow if I can find something.

MUNTEAN: But it is winter weather along with airline worker shortages that have led to a perfect storm of cancellations nationwide. The latest figures from FlightAware show that U.S. airlines have canceled more than 27,000 flights since Christmas Eve. Cancellations so bad this week in Atlanta that travelers waited hours to get their checked bags back.

HAILEY CONN, TRAVELING AT ATLANTA AIRPORT: I went to try to talk to someone about my bags and they just said that they would try their best to get out on my flight and that was all I heard about my bags.


MUNTEAN: Industry analyst Henry Harteveldt says it's unlikely that airlines around the cancellations corner this month. An untold number of airline workers are calling out sick, either because they've been exposed to or infected with coronavirus.

HARTEVELDT: The random nature of omicron means that you don't know which of your employees are going to get sick.


While airlines are trying to take steps to reduce the impact, there's no way they can get to an absolute zero proof level of being disrupted.

MUNTEAN: Alaska Airlines is the latest carrier to trim its flight schedule, proactively canceling 10 percent of January flights, citing the continued impacts of omicron and unprecedented employee sick calls. Similar moves have been made by JetBlue and Delta.


MUNTEAN (on camera): Southwest Airlines just canceled another 500 flights across the country for the third day in a row. It was so cold at its Denver hub yesterday that it temporarily halted arrivals for a time.

A bit of good news here, Jake. This is typically a slow time for the airlines but about a million and a half people are flying each day, a big inconvenience for many of them -- Jake.

TAPPER: What are airlines doing for customers to make up for all these canceled flights?

MUNTEAN: The hope is that they try and cancel folks' flights before they get to the airport. They're trying to do this proactively so they don't end up in a mess, that they find out in a text message or email before they end up here at the airport. You know, it's a thing the airlines are doing in a much larger way, a much larger degree. In fact, we actually had a hard time finding people today in Reagan National Airport, who could attest to their flights being canceled.

TAPPER: All right. Pete Muntean, thanks so much.

Big business says back off. The Supreme Court seems to agree. The fight over vaccine mandates makes it to the highest court in the land. We're going to break down the arguments, next.



TAPPER: Welcome back.

In our politics lead, the U.S. Supreme Court appears poised to block President Biden's vaccine and testing requirements for private businesses of 100 employees or more. But in a separate challenge, some justices did seem more open to a vaccine mandate aimed at certain health care workers. According to the latest Kaiser Family Foundation report, nearly half of Americans already have a vaccine mandate at their workplace or want one.

Let's discuss with CNN Supreme Court analyst Joan Biskupic and CNN legal analyst Elie Honig.

Joan, it's a 6-3 conservative court. Liberals expressed clear approval for the Biden administration's rules in both areas but they're going to need at least two conservatives to join them. So, naturally all eyes are on Chief Justice Roberts, I would assume.

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SUPREME COURT ANALYST: That's right, at least Chief Justice Roberts. But he is a good barometer on where the court is headed on this one, involving federal power. And it was quite a dramatic morning at the court. Went for nearly four hours, Jake, for the first time the justices themselves were wearing masks. That hadn't happened during oral arguments before and between COVID in the snow, only about eight reporters in the room with law clerks and others.

So, a lot of tension. A lot of drama and I think what we heard and we'll know when they eventually rule is that they are not interested in upholding what the OSHA requirement that would be on some 80 million workers. Private businesses to either have vaccinations or testing.

Chief Justice Roberts, to your question, talked about congressional power over agency power and state police powers. His message seemed to be that OSHA had gone too far. At one point, he said we've never had anything like this. And the Biden administration lawyer said, well, you know, federal law allows OSHA to go after infectious diseases like this. But we certainly haven't had a pandemic like this. That's why it seems so unprecedented.

But for the second case that we heard and that's the vaccine requirement for workers at Medicare and Medicaid facilities, ones funded by the federal government, in that situation, the chief suggested because the government can attach conditions to its funding, that this -- that one might pass muster. In fact, he also mentioned that would be a closer fit as far as he was concerned for health care workers having to get vaccinated.

TAPPER: And, Elie, the Biden administration is planning to implement the first policy requiring businesses with 100 or more workers to either mandate vaccines or weekly testing. This coming Monday but given what transpired today, is that really going to happen?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I don't think so, Jake, having listened to the argument today. Really this argument went on for four- plus hours but it boils down to two fundamental questions. One is the mandate too broad and, two, who gets to decide.

Now, the lawyers for the Biden administration argued it's not too broad. We're in an unprecedented emergency. We have what's called a grave danger under the law. We have to do something to stop this and they argued it's the federal government, OSHA's responsibility to issue this kind of regulation.

But the lawyers are in the challengers, a group of red leaning states and businesses argued, first of all, this is overbroad. It doesn't make a distinction as between one business and the other, no distinction as to geography or trends, and they argued and they are right on this. Traditionally, this is a state function. This is what we call the police powers of the state and the justices seem to be very much in line with that.

So I think they are leaning heavily towards striking this down.

TAPPER: And, Joan, I heard some assertions made by the Supreme Court justices today that were simply false. One example, Justice Sotomayor said, quote, we have over 100,000 children which we've never had before in serious condition, and many on ventilators. That's just not true.


There are fewer than 5,000 minors hospitalized with COVID right now. Seeing they are on the right. Not 100,000. And that includes minors who were admitted because of COVID and ones who tested positive but had been hospitalized for other reasons.

What do you make of this?

BISKUPIC: Well, there were a lot of facts and figures thrown out from justices across the spectrum that some of them certainly raised questions from people who really know their stuff on this issue.

And I do have to say, Justice Sotomayor, she is not so much speaking to her colleagues. She's not so much trying to persuade them. She's speaking beyond the walls the court. Usually it's Justices Breyer and Kagan who try to be more persuasive to fellow colleagues with the arguments they're making and the questions that they're asking.

But even neither of them actually were able to get much traction in the case involving the 84 million workers, the OSHA case. At one point, Justice Kagan came right out and said everybody knows that vaccinations work. Everyone knows that's what saves lives but her colleagues on the right wing were coming at it from a very different direction.

And as you probably know, Justice Sotomayor actually wasn't in the room. She was -- because she has diabetes. She was listening to the arguments and asking questions from her chambers.

TAPPER: Yeah, I mean, facts are important, though, especially in the U.S. Supreme Court.

Joan, Elie, thanks to both of you. Really appreciate it.

Coming up -- an emotional day as Ahmaud Arbery's killers are sentenced for chasing him down and murdering him while he was out for a jog.

Stay with us.




WANDA COOPER JONES, AHMAUD ARBERY'S MOTHER: I sat in that courtroom for five weeks straight, but I knew that we would come out with a victory. I never doubted it.


TAPPER: That was Ahmaud Arbery's mother reacting just moments ago to the sentencing of the three men convicted of murdering her 25-year-old son as he jogged through a Georgia neighborhood nearly two years ago. The judge giving two of the three defendants the maximum possible sentence, life in prison without the possibility of parole. The third got life but with the possibility of parole.

CNN's Ryan Young reports on the long journey for justice in this case.


JUDGE TIMOTHY WALMSLEY, SUPERIOR COURT, CHATHAM COUNTY, GEORGIA: Today, the defendants are being held accountable for their actions.

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Two of the three men convicted of killing Ahmaud Arbery sentenced to spend the rest of their lives in prison for Travis and Gregory McMichael, it's life without the possibility of parole.

WALMSLEY: After Ahmaud Arbery fell, the McMichaels turned their backs to get a disturbing image and they walked away. This was a killing. It was callous.

YOUNG: William Bryan Jr. sentenced to life with the possibility of parole after 30 years.

WALMSLEY: He had grave concerns that what had occurred should not have occurred. And I think that does make Mr. Bryan's situation a little bit different. However, Mr. Bryan has been convicted of felony murder.

YOUNG: Before the sentences, the court heard powerful statements from Ahmaud Arbery's family.

COOPER-JONES: I laid you to rest. I told you I love you. And some day, somehow, I would get you justice.

YOUNG: His mother spoke directly to her son and to the men responsible for his death.

COOPER-JONES: These men have chose to lie and attack my son and his surviving family. They each have no remorse and do not deserve any leniency. This wasn't a case of mistaken identity, or mistaken fact. They chose to target my son when they couldn't sufficiently scare him or intimidate him. They killed him.

YOUNG: Arbery's family was clear. They hope for the maximum sentence possible.

MARCUS ARBERY, AHMAUD ARBERY'S FATHER: Me and my family have to live with his death the rest of our life. We will never see Ahmaud again. So I feel they should stay behind bars the rest of their life because they didn't give him a chance.

JASMINE ARBERY, AHMAUD ARBERY'S SISTER: The loss of Ahmaud has devastated me and my family. So I'm asking that the men that killed him be given the maximum sentence available to the court.

YOUNG: Last November, the McMichaels and Bryan were convicted of murder after chasing 25-year-old Ahmaud Arbery in their vehicles while he jogged in the Satilla Shores neighborhood, killing him after they say they thought they saw Arbery inside an unfinished home on February 23rd, 2020.

It took 2 1/2 months before arrests were made after video Bryan took of the murder was released and went viral. The defense had his chance to argue for the opportunity to seek parole.

BOB RUBIN, DEFENSE ATTORNEY FOR TRAVIS MCMICHAEL: Judge, you can send a message that four minutes of conduct does not erase a life well- lived. And that after punishment, there is opportunity for redemption.


YOUNG: Their legal saga not over yet. Attorneys say they'll appeal and next month the MMichaels and Bryan will be back in a federal courtroom when the trial for federal hate crimes begins.


YOUNG (on camera): Jake, when you think about the powerful moments in court today, the mother standing there speaking directly to her son and then the judge really summing this entire case up, that moment of silence, that one-minute moment of silence just a portion of the five minutes that Ahmaud was chased was so chilling for a lot of people. The people outside fell silent as that was going on. It was really one of those days where people were taken off guard by everything that's happened and you think about it. They got the justice that everyone here, in terms of the family, thought they should get all along -- Jake.

TAPPER: Ryan, we should always remember, it's only because that video was leaked that there was even charges, trial, conviction, sentences and justice. Had that not happened, none of that would have happened.

YOUNG: Yeah, you have to think about this. A viral video, one of the defense attorneys gave it to a radio station thinking it would clear the three men. Somehow when they watched that, they didn't see what everyone else apparently saw, including the judge. When you think about this and the fact the prosecutor was involved in this case still has to see her day in court. It will be very interesting how this plays out.

TAPPER: Had it been up to her, those three men would still be walking around free.

Ryan Young, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Let's turn to another court hearing right now, this one involving the former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Today, a judge dismissed charges of misdemeanor, forcible touching, against Mr. Cuomo, following a decision from the Albany County district attorney to not move forward with the case. Cuomo, as you will recall, resigned from office last year in the wake of a report from the state's attorney general detailing several allegations of sexual misconduct against him.

CNN's Brynn Gingras joins us now live from New York.

And, Brynn, the D.A. in Albany said they found his accuser Brittany Commisso cooperative and credible, so why is this happening?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Jake. For a couple of reasons that were laid out in a filing by the Albany County district attorney earlier this week. He essentially said that he didn't feel like he could actually meet the burden of proof needed to win a case if this ever went to a trial in court. So, that's the overlying thing, though. He also said in that filing, though, that he was having trouble getting information available to him because there were other investigations that are still ongoing.

So this court appearance today, which was only ten minutes long, it wasn't all that surprising that the judge dropped this charge of forcible touching, which is a misdemeanor. It lasted ten minutes long and Cuomo, the former governor, was only seen on camera in this virtual hearing for less than two seconds.

And in response to the district attorney's filing earlier this week, I do want to read quickly part of what Commisso attorney said on her behalf. He said the only thing she has any power over is her resolution to continue to speak the truth and seek justice in an appropriate civil action which she will do in due course. So, certainly, this signals this isn't the end of this for both Cuomo and Commisso.

TAPPER: I apologize for mispronouncing her last name. Brittany Commisso is her name.

The judge dismissed this charge but this is not necessarily the end of former Governor Cuomo's legal battles, huh?

GINGRAS: No, that's exactly right. He has investigations or inquiries that are still happening on a federal level when it comes to the administration's mishandling of the COVID death data in nursing homes and also the sexual harassment allegations that we have seen, of course, coming from the attorney general's report over the last summer.

TAPPER: All right. Brynn Gingras, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

How does the world's number one tennis player end up trapped inside a government-run hotel along with refugees and asylum seekers? That's ahead.



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

This hour, stuck in limbo. Tennis superstar Novak Djokovic not vaccinated and not allowed to leave an Australian government hotel while he fights to stay in the country. You'll meet another man forced by Australia to stay at that same government hotel and has been for years.

Plus, Walensky's woes. An in-depth look at the CDC director's alleged missteps as America's top public health agency deals with what even allies perceive to be a major communications problem which during a pandemic could be deadly. A former CDC director will join us live.

And leading this hour, the jobs report spin after yet another disappointing monthly jobs report. The lowest, in fact, of his presidency. President Biden tries to find silver lining. CNN's Kaitlan Collins starts us off from the White House where

President Biden trying to use today's job numbers to make a new pitch for his Build Back Better agenda, even though members of his own party admit a path forward on that legislation is difficult to see.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Biden dissecting a puzzling jobs report.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I would argue the Biden economic plan is working. And it's getting America back to work, back on its feet.