Return to Transcripts main page

The Lead with Jake Tapper

COVID Hospitalizations Among Children Are At Their Highest Levels; Judge Questions Whether Trump Can Be Sued For Capitol Attack; Judge Rules Tennis Star Novak Djokovic Can Stay In Australia; Judge Rules Tennis Star Novak Djokovic Can Stay In Australia; Remembering TV Dad & Comedian Bob Saget; Eight Children Among 17 Killed In Deadliest NYC Fire In Decades; Kazakh Leader Claims Unrest Was An "Attempted Coup." Aired 4-5p ET

Aired January 10, 2022 - 16:00   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: I mean, they're such heroes.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: It is amazing. Yes, this video is graphic but so glad they got that man out of the way.

Thanks so much for being with us for the last two hours.

CAMEROTA: THE LEAD with Jake Tapper starts right now.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: As Danny Tanner once asked, am I the raddest, baddest dad a kid ever had? Rest in peace, Bob.

THE LEAD starts right now.

The omicron impact. More and more hospitals reaching critical capacity as New York COVID cases skyrocket and the variant is disrupting the most important parts of society.

Horror in the Bronx. At least eight kids among the 17 killed in the deadliest fire in New York City has seen in decades. Now questions about how a door malfunctioning might have made matters even worse.

One point for Novak Djokovic. A judge rules in the tennis star's favor, but the match is not over.


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

And we start today in our health lead. Nearly a quarter of hospitals across America are more strained than ever as the omicron variant is pushing the U.S. health care system to the brink. According to the latest data, more than 141,000 people are currently hospitalized with COVID. That's just below last year's all-time high. At least 90 percent of those or more are unvaccinated.

And according to the CDC, in some hospitals up to 40 percent of patients tested positive after being admitted for something else. Hospitalizations among children, meanwhile, are at their highest level with the vast majority also unvaccinated, according to the CDC.

As CNN's Alexandra Field now reports, health experts are urging parents to vaccinate their children if the kids meet the age requirements as multiple school districts across this country are still grappling with reopening from the holiday break.


MAYOR LORI LIGHTFOOT (D), CHICAGO: Parents are outraged and they are making their outrage known to the teachers union. This is a very different dynamic than ever before.

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tensions mounting in Chicago, more than 340,000 students missing school for a fourth day. Their teachers refusing to return to the classroom.

MICHELLE EGAN, CHICAGO POUBLIC SCHOOLS PARENT: We're very frustrated that there are no public health leaders standing up and saying that we should be moving to a remote learning environment especially for a district of this size.

FIELD: In Los Angeles, students are due back in school in person tomorrow with widespread testing turning up some 50,000 positive cases in the district. Metro Atlanta schools also returning to in-person learning after almost a week of going remote.

The largest district in the nation, New York schools, started the New Year in person. So far, just one single classroom in partial quarantine.

DR. ASHISH JHA, DEAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY BOARD OF PUBLIC HEALTH: I think at this point there is no good explanation for having remote schools.

FIELD: And a more dire situation for hospitals. Nearly one in four nationwide now reporting critical staffing shortages, federal data shows while COVID hospitalizations numbers near the pandemic's all- time high.

JHA: Among unvaccinated people and among un-boosted high risk people, it is putting a big strain given how much infection there is, our hospitals really are at the brink right now.

FIELD: For children, average daily hospitalizations are well above any pandemic peak we've seen before.

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: For those children who are not eligible for vaccination, we do know that they are most likely to get sick with COVID if their family members aren't vaccinated.

FIELD: Amid a shortage of COVID testing nationwide, some testing labs report they're already overburdened. Universities from Washington state to North Carolina prioritizing who gets tested.

DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB, FORMER FDA COMMISSIONER: If you look what's happening across the East Coast right now, New York City, Washington, D.C., Maryland, probably floor as well, have already peaked and maybe Delaware and Rhode Island, you're going to start to see that in the statistics this week. You're going to start to see those curves, those epidemic curves bend down. You're already seeing that in New York City and Washington, D.C. The risk now is to the Midwest where you have rising infection.


FIELD (on camera): As for the much anticipated at-home test kits promised by the Biden administration, an update from the White House today which says the first kits will arrive for distribution early next week. And then at some point later this month you can go online and order your kit. More details apparently to come on that in the coming days. Of course, none of it can come soon enough, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Alexandra Field, thanks so much.

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

Sanjay, so nearly a quarter of all hospitals reported critical staffing shortages over the weekend. You were in a hospital today. Tell us what it's like on the ground.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, I was in a hospital today for my other job, sort of taking care of patients. It's very busy, Jake. I mean, you know, the busiest sort of number of COVID patients in terms of COVID patients last year were at the peak of the beginning of this year, 162 patients. We're a 600-bed hospital roughly. We're about 258 now patients with COVID in the hospital.

So about 40 percent, roughly, of all the patients in the hospital have been diagnosed with COVID. There's 100 patients in the ER maybe waiting for beds at any given time. So it's really busy and on top of that, there's a lot of health care workers who are out. They get a positive test, and they're out.

So at any given time, 20 percent to 25 percent of health care workers are out. So, busy in terms of overall patient influx, but fewer staff at the same time. So it's a tough situation.

I'll tell you as well, Jake, I perform neurosurgical operations. They have to have a meeting basically every day before the operating room to determine what it considered urgent or emergent because we're cutting down on the number of elective cases we can do in the midst of this.

TAPPER: We know the overwhelming majority of people hospitalized with COVID are unvaccinated folks. What do vaccinated Americans need to take away from this?

GUPTA: Well, the reality is that even if you're vaccinated, what is happening right now in hospitals will affect you because if you do go into the hospital for something totally unrelated to COVID, car accident, stroke, heart attack, whatever it may be, it's harder to get, you know, to actually get a hospital bed. Hospitals at times go on diversion, meaning that ambulances are calling into these hospitals saying, hey, we need to bring in a patient for X, Y or Z and hospitals may say, we don't have space now. You have to go somewhere further away. Or sometimes they'll take patients already in the hospital and move them to other hospitals to make room for a surge of patients.

So, it's challenging. I think hospitals really in terms of the numbers, the dynamics of what's happening in the hospital really reflect the truest sort of measure of what's happening in society at any given time.

TAPPER: You and I have talked about how the case numbers aren't really a significant as hospitalizations because what's important is how sick people are getting, so hospitalizations and deaths much more important numbers than cases. And there's still over a thousand deaths a day from COVID.

Over the weekend, the CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky was asked how many people are in the hospital for COVID versus how many people are in the hospital with COVID. Meaning they're there for some other reason. And it's also true that they have COVID.

Here's what she had to say.


DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: In some hospitals that we've talked to, up to 40 percent of the patients who are coming in with COVID are coming in not because they're sick with COVID but because they're coming in with something else and have had to -- have had COVID or omicron variant detected.


TAPPER: So the hospitals are still stretched thin because of this. So, I'm not trying to take away from that.

But if 40 percent in some hospitals, 40 percent of the people who have COVID don't necessarily have problematic COVID, they're there because they got in a car accident. They're there because, you know, they bumped their head and they're being included as in the hospital with COVID. That number seems kind of misleading.

GUPTA: Yeah, I agree, Jake. It surprises me that they've not been able to parse out that data more carefully. I think the data that Dr. Walensky is quoting is from New York state and we've been following that data as well.

I can show you what we've seen, sort of tracks with what she said. But out of all the patients in the hospital, about 57 percent, these are COVID patients, admitted because of or complications from COVID, 43 percent admitted for other reasons and then diagnosed with COVID.

I think, you know, there needs to be transparency about that in terms of for or with COVID. The only thing I'll tell you, Jake, again, working in the hospital, is that at the time someone is then diagnosed with COVID, even if they didn't come in for that reason, it does take up a lot of resources then in terms of infection protocols, personal protective equipment, more testing, all that kind of stuff.

So even though that may not have been the initial impetus to bring them into the hospital it just requires a lot of energy and resources on behalf of the hospital staff and the testing and all that sort of stuff. So they -- we need to get better about being able to see this data. New York state, I think, is one of the few states presenting it that way, for or with COVID. But other states should follow suit.

The American Health Association says they have a hard time sort of separating out that data, but clearly New York state has been able to do it.

TAPPER: Yeah, we're two years into this, and we need the clearest picture possible. If someone is in the hospital with a broken leg and they also have asymptomatic COVID --

GUPTA: Yeah.

TAPPER: -- that should not be counted as hospitalized with COVID, clearly.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Thanks so much. Really appreciate it.

Can a former president be sued by members of Congress? That question about Donald Trump is before a judge right now.

And he was a fixture in America's living rooms for years on "Full House" and "America's Funniest Home Videos". Actor and comedian, Bob Saget, a prince of a man, passed away suddenly while on tour.



BOB SAGET, ACTOR: Jessie, I believe your job was to clean the fireplace? Special helper. White glove, please.




TAPPER: In our politics lead, right now, a judge is hearing arguments on whether former President Donald Trump could be sued by members of Congress, part of three separate lawsuits from House Democrats and Capitol police officers who want to hold Trump and some of his allies accountable for last year's deadly Capitol attack. Lawyers for Trump want the case dismissed.

CNN's Ryan Nobles joins us now.

Ryan, the judge's ruling will be significant, no matter what he decides.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, there's no doubt about that, Jake, because this is an opportunity for some folks who were victims of that Capitol insurrection to find accountability through civil litigation.


And if for some reason the judge puts a stop to it through this hearing, it would mean that avenue of finding people accountable would be closed off to them.

And right now, the judge is continuing this hearing. It's gone on now. They're in their third hour of deliberations. And this is a series of lawsuits filed against the former President Donald Trump and some of his closest associates, including Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama, his son Donald Trump Jr., Rudy Giuliani and members of the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers.

And what these groups are contending is that their first amendment rights protect them from being sued for something having to do with what happened on the January 6th insurrection because their lawsuits are claiming that it was the rhetoric by these individuals and others that, in part, led to the violence and chaos here on January 6th.

Now this hearing is ongoing so far, Jake. The judge has asked very difficult questions of the attorneys for both sides of this equation. But his ruling will ultimately be very important because not only would it allow these lawsuits to go forward, but then it opens up the door to depositions and discovery, all information that will be very big interest to the public should it move forward.

TAPPER: And, Ryan, separately, Republican Congressman Jim Jordan of Ohio said last August that he had nothing to hide when the January 6th committee told him to preserve his phone records and said they might have questions for him. But now he's singing a different tune. He's telling the committee he will not cooperate with their request for an interview.

So what happens next? Should Jordan expect a subpoena?

NOBLES: Yeah, what's interesting in this letter that Jim Jordan sent to the committee that he issued on his twitter feed is that he never specifically says that he intends to not cooperate with the committee but he goes through a long list of reasons why he's not going to comply with their requests to submit documents and sit for an interview.

So you're right, Jake. The next big question is how does the committee respond? At this point, they've been reluctant to say they're willing to take the next step of issuing subpoenas to their fellow members of Congress. They're in a similar situation with Representative Scott Perry of Pennsylvania who is also resisted their overtures.

The committee has said they will use every tool at their disposal but issuing a subpoena to another member of Congress is pretty much an unprecedented act. So, we'll have to see how the committee responds. We could get more clarity later this week -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Ryan Nobles, thanks so much.

Let's discuss. Ana Navarro, let's start with the January 6 committee. So, Jim Jordan, Congressman Jordan, is now the second member of Congress suggesting he will not submit to an interview request. Republican Congressman Perry of Pennsylvania did the same last month.

This could have major political ramifications if the committee decides to subpoena a fellow member of Congress.

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think it's the least shocking news of the month, frankly, that Jim Jordan is not going to cooperate. And it goes to the purpose of Republicans wanting to make January 6th out to be just another day, and putting a lot of energy into there not being accountability, there not being truth-seeking and there not being credibility to the January 6th committee, despite the fact that Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, two Republicans, are members of that committee. Because, if they seek accountability, if they strongly and vociferously condemn what happened on January 6th, if they seek the truth, it will invariably put them on a crash course against dear leader, Donald Trump.

And that's something that they can't figure out how to do. How to mark January 6th, tell the truth, seek accountability and at the same time not poke the bear and point the blame at the person at the top who was inciting what happened on January 6th.

TAPPER: And, Charles, you are a Republican strategist. What would you advise Jordan and Perry to do? Would you suggest that they proceed as they're doing and risk getting subpoenas?

CHARLES BLAIN, PRESIDENT, URBAN REFORM & URBAN REFORM INSTITUTE: Well, you know, if you look at the letter that Jim Jordan put out, he lays out the reasons for why he is not going to get himself involved with the committee. I mean, he says it's unbalanced, he says he doesn't believe it's objective and he lists reason why. And I think the fact the committee spokesperson immediately came out and said the Trump team is what got to Jim Jordan and that's why he's not going to cooperate with the committee goes to show that it is unbalanced.

I think -- I have to disagree with Ana. I think people want to get to the bottom of this. I believe they want credibility in this investigation but they don't want to partake in a panel and commission they feel is purely partisan and it's not actually going to try to get to the bottom of what actually happened.

TAPPER: In this midterm year --


NAVARRO: -- partisan when you have Liz Cheney who, until a year ago, was part of Republican leadership and who I suspect you would agree has been consistently one of the most conservative Republicans in Congress.

BLAIN: Well, what I'll say is that Jim Jordan's name was put forth as a member of the commission and he was rejected. So I don't think anyone expected him to cooperate with them after his membership was rejected.


NAVARRO: Well, his membership was rejected because it was a conflict of interest. His membership was rejected because he was in constant contact with the Trump White House as we have seen.

So, it's very difficult for him to be in balance, to be unbiased on that committee when he was part of the people that needs to be investigated because he's got material knowledge.

BLAIN: I think his membership was rejected because they wanted Republicans who were going to go with the narrative they wanted to put forth. I think that's more of the reason why his membership was rejected in that committee.

TAPPER: Let me -- let me move into a new topic. In this midterm year, President Biden does seem to be taking on a new, more partisan tone. Two big speeches we've heard him specifically go after Republicans. Take a listen.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The big lie being told by the former president and many Republicans who fear his wrath is that the insurrection in this country actually took place on Election Day.

And want to talk down the recovery because they voted against the legislation that made it happen. They voted against the tax cuts for middle class families. They voted against the funds needed to reopen our schools.


TAPPER: So, Ana, the unity tone that Biden had during the election 2020, obviously, helped get him elected. Does it make sense for him to be more partisan now because it's a midterm election year?

NAVARRO: Well, I think he began being very partisan on January 6th and I think part of it is the frustration that Republicans want to pretend January 6th was just another day.

I have seen elected Republicans this week, you know, arguing that it should not be a day in infamy in the same way that we mark Pearl Harbor day and mark September 11th. I've seen Ted Cruz bend himself into pretzel shapes and served as a sweep for, as a broom for Tucker Carlson trying to apologize for using the word terrorist to describe the terrorists who breached the U.S. Capitol.

And so because that's the kind of behavior that Republicans are engaging in, I think Joe Biden, despite his bipartisan nature, has had to call this out. But I think you're still going to see Joe Biden try to reach out because it's his nature. And you're not going to change the man at this time and at this age.

TAPPER: Charles, one of the things I wanted to ask you about House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy gave an interview to Breitbart, which he suggested he was going to kick three Democrats off committees if Republicans take back the House, Adam Schiff, Eric Swalwell and Ilhan Omar. This in retaliation for Democrats removing Paul Gosar and Marjorie Taylor Greene from their committees as punishment for their behaviors, for bigoted conspiracy theories Greene has pushed forward and Gosar obviously with that video that depicted AOC being killed.

Is that the right move for McCarthy, do you think? Or would it be better to pull back from where we are right now?

BLAION: Well, I don't think there's really any pulling back. I mean, I think Democrats have shown they'll pull out all the stops when they're in power and Republicans are going to do the same.

And to the question before, I believe that Joe Biden is looking to attack Republicans heading into this midterm election because that is really all that unified the Democratic base and that's all that they have to put forth. I mean, the pandemic is still ravaging through the country. The economic gains that people had made have been lost through inflation. And Build Back Better turned out to be a flop.

And so I think the best thing that he has is to attack Republicans. That's all they have right now.

TAPPER: Charles Blain and Ana Navarro, thanks to both of you. Really appreciate it. Good to see both of you.

Tennis superstar Novak Djokovic is freed by the Australian government. Now he's vowing to play. That story is next.

Plus, new clues about the sudden death of one of America's favorite TV dads, comedian Bob Saget.




CROWD: Free Novak! Free Novak! Free Novak!


TAPPER: Free Novak they're chanting in our sports lead today. Hordes of supporters on the streets of Melbourne, Australia, celebrating a big win for the unvaccinated tennis superstar Novak Djokovic.

Today, a judge quashed the government's attempt to cancel Djokovic's visa because of his unvaccinated status, allowing the world's top men's player to stay in the country and play, compete in the Australian Open.

But as CNN's Phil Black reports for us now, there is still a chance that Djokovic will be deported.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A big win for tennis star Novak Djokovic, this time in a court of law, tweeting Monday he's pleased and grateful that a judge overturned the Australian government's decision to cancel his visa and he still wants to compete in the upcoming open.

His supporters celebrating the judge's decision. Some blocking traffic in Melbourne. Others scuffling with police who used pepper spray on overzealous fans.

Djokovic's Australian drama started fueling strong emotions last week when the unvaccinated player announced he'd been granted an exemption to play in the tournament. But when he arrived in Australia Wednesday, officials said his visa had been canceled for failing to meet entry requirements.

Authorities moved him to his Melbourne hotel turned temporary immigration detention center where he waited for days, while his lawyers went to work.

Finally, Monday, a Melbourne judge ordered Djokovic's release and overturned his visa cancellation ruling border officials haven't treated him fairly.

Djokovic's father hailed the ruling.

SRDJAN DJOKOVIC, NOVAK DJOKOVIC'S FATHER (through translator): They waited for him at the airport. They had no right. They just took away all of his rights.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This press conference is adjourned.

BLACK: His brother dodged questions about Djokovic's public appearances after testing positive for COVID in December. Social media photos from the day and day after show him at three events, maskless, and surrounded by people. A court affidavit reveals Djokovic knew he was infected when he attended.

It's that positive test result, his lawyers say, is the basis for a medical exemption he was granted to play in Australia. But the Australian government maintains a previous COVID infection isn't grounds for any exemption from its entry vaccine requirements.

Now, the saga may continue. Australia's immigration minister still has the power to cancel Djokovic's visa. As Serbia's tennis star fights to play for a record 21st grand slam, his legacy on and off the court hangs in the balance.


BLACK (on camera): Jake, Djokovic can't relax, not yet. He can't be sure he's going to get to walk out here and play on centre court next week. Not until the Australian government announces that it accepts that court decision. Until then, it is possible at any moment the country's immigration minister could use his own powers to again overturn, cancel Djokovic's visa. He says he's considering the matter. If he does that, he won't just be deported. He will also be banned from entering the country for three years -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Phil Black in Melbourne, Australia -- thank you so much.

In our pop culture lead today, shock and sadness at the sudden loss of one of America's favorite TV dads, comedian Bob Saget.


BOB SAGET, ACTOR/COMEDIAN: Well, wax is here, but not bad. OK, let's move on.


TAPPER: Best known for his role as squeaky clean single father Danny Tanner in ABC's "Full House", Saget went on to host "America's Funniest Home Videos" for several years. Off-screen, Saget was known as one of the most irreverent comedians in Hollywood. Quick with one- liners, sometimes filthy, always funny.

Last summer, we interviewed Saget right here on THE LEAD. And he talked about how his comedy routine had recently changed.


SAGET: I'm out doing standup again and finding myself being more like Danny Tanner. I'm cleaning things. I'm wanting to hug people again.

My standup now, it's wonderful to get out and do it again, and it's different than it was. It's not as, I don't want to say -- I don't think it's as gritty. It's more adolescent but more stories of what I have been through, my family, my kids, my parents. And what we're all going through, which is a joy to be able to make people laugh again.


TAPPER: And making people laugh was one of the last things Saget did. He was found Sunday in his Orlando area hotel room, the day after doing a comedy show there. The cause is still a mystery, but the medical examiner today said there was no evidence of drug use or foul play.

All day, friends and co-stars have been remembering Saget. Dave Coulier who played uncle Joey said, I'll never let go. John Stamos who played cool uncle Jesse tweeted, I am broken. I am gutted. I am in complete shock.

Growing up in Philadelphia, Saget's mom and my mom worked together at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia for years in the '70s and '80s. I would hear stories about how successful Dolly's boy Bob was going to be. Dolly Saget ended up being 100 percent right.

I brought that up during our interview in July and, of course, he turned it into a joke.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SAGET: I'm sorry that you had to hear that I was going to be a big star from your mother when I literally was living in a single apartment in west L.A.


TAPPER: Bob Saget was only 65 years old. To his friends, his wife Kelly and three daughters, our deepest condolences on the loss of such a warm and special guy. May his memory be a blessing.

Coming up on THE LEAD, new questions about the Bronx apartment building where nine children were killed in a fire.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our national lead, an unspeakable tragedy is how New York City Mayor Eric Adams describes the horrific fire in the Bronx. We now know 17 people were killed, not 19 as previously thought, 17. Eight of the victims, eight, were children. The fire commissioner saying that a space heater was to blame.

Today, more survivors told their stories of how they escaped. One woman telling CNN she lived on the same third floor level where the fire started.


KAREN DEJESUS, BRONX FIRE SURVIVOR: But by the time I tried to -- the smoke was in, coming down the stairs. So, we ran to the back. I heard the firemen breaking my door. They were breaking my door and came in to get me and my granddaughter and my son. And that window right there, by the trees right there, that's the window that I climbed out of.


TAPPER: CNN's Shimon Prokupecz is live for us in New York City.

Shimon, so many questions about a door that was supposed to automatically close.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, this is the apartment door, Jake, where the fire started.


The family racing out of that apartment as flames started and that hot smoke started going through the apartment. When they left, that door remained open. The mayor saying perhaps some kind of malfunction.

But now, what he's talking about is he wants to institute an education campaign for schools all across the city reminding kids to close the door if there's a fire. Here's what he said about that today.


MAYOR ERIC ADAMS (D), NEW YORK: Close the door. Close the door. That was embedded in my head as a child watching the commercials over and over again.

We're going to send out communications to all of our schools and state that we want our children to receive the same level of reinforcement. Muscle memory is everything. And if we can drill that in, we can save lives by closing the doors.


PROKUPECZ: And, Jake, also stairwell doors. Some of those doors were left open which then allowed the smoke to go further up into the building, reaching every floor of this building all the way up to the 19th floor, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Shimon Prokupecz, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Let's bring in New York City Council Member Oswald Feliz. He represents the area of the Bronx where this tragic fire happened.

Councilman, thank you so much for joining us.

There are two doors in question here. You heard Shimon talking about the doors that are, by law, required to automatically close in hallways and the fire commissioner confirmed today that at least one of those malfunctioned. Take a listen.


DANIEL NIGRO, FDNY COMMISSIONER: The stairwell was very dangerous as the door was left open. Some of the floors certainly on 15, the door was open from the stair to the hall. The 15th floor became quite untenable. We do recommend in high-rise fire proof buildings that people should shelter in place and it's safer to be in your apartment than to venture out and try to get down the stairs.


TAPPER: From what you've heard, is that malfunctioning door one of the main reasons there were so many deaths?

OSWALD FELIZ, NEW YORK CITY COUNCIL MEMBER: Yeah, thank you for having me.

We're still waiting for the investigation to be completed, but it seems like the malfunctioning self-closing door was a big factor that played a big role in terms of the smoke inundating the entire building in matters of seconds.

TAPPER: So the other door in question is from the unit where the fire started. That door was also left open allowing the fire to spread. The mayor didn't want to add further trauma on that family after they escaped a burning apartment, but he's pushing that there's a lesson to be learned about closing a door. With so many families in your area who live in similar high-rise buildings, do you agree?

FELIZ: That's correct. But I think another issue is that we need investigators if that door was a self-closing door y did it malfunction? We need to strengthen our fire safety code and also we need to improve our process of not only investigating violations of the housing maintenance code but also curing any violations. We shouldn't have to wait for a tragedy to happen for us to take action.

TAPPER: So, the fire we're told was started by a space heater malfunctioning. People use space heaters if their apartments are not warm enough. This was Section 8 housing, public housing in New York. Is it, you know, why did these people need a space heater to begin with? Did the heating in that apartment not work?

FELIZ: Yeah, that is another question we're currently investigating. We've spoken with a lot of tenants. They've said that the landlord did, in fact provide heating but the big question was whether the heating was enough. Why did tenants need to obtain these space heaters in addition to the heating already provided by the landlord? So that's another question that we're currently investigating. And that we're hoping to resolve.

TAPPER: Yeah, you're the councilman. Have you talked to the landlord? Have you talked to people in the apartment building? Obviously this is Section 8 housing. If people didn't have heat during a very cold winter, that could have contributed to this tragedy.

FELIZ: Yeah, absolutely. In fact, we actually looked at the violations website. We saw a few notices of violations sent out to the landlord, but this is a large building. We did see about -- more or less 5 to 10 notices, violations sent to the landlord. I have to confirm the number. But it did seem like, again, maybe they did provide heating but the big question was whether it was enough to keep the apartment in a habitable condition or at least in a comfortable condition for the tenants not to need additional heating in order to survive this winter.


TAPPER: The mayor mentioned the flood of donations coming in to help the families that survived, that are now displaced. What is the plan to make sure those donations get to the right people?

FELIZ: Yeah, absolutely. We actually spent the entire day and night yesterday, making sure every tenant affected obtained housing. Most of the families now have at least temporary housing. We also obtained clothing and food, and we currently are stationed at Morrow College where we're helping families that are exiting the hospital due to injuries obtained temporary housing until the building is in a habitable condition again.

But we're also expecting the tenants from the upper floors to have hopeful access to the apartments soon. The smoke condition should hopefully be remedied pretty quickly as opposed to the third floor affected by the fire.

TAPPER: New York City Councilman Oswald Feliz, thank you so much. Appreciate your time.

Increasingly violent clashes between protesters and government forces in Kazakhstan. Now the country's leader is defending a gruesome order for security forces to kill protesters without warning.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our world lead, the rising death toll and astonishing numbers of arrests in the wake of a heavy-handed government crackdown on protests in Kazakhstan. This follows days of violent clashes between government forces and crowds that poured into the streets of Kazakhstan's major cities to protest a sharp rise in fuel prices.

Russia which borders that country sent troops in after Kazakhstan's leader appealed for help.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen is along Kazakhstan's border with Kyrgyzstan.

Fred, Kazakhstan's leader ordered them to kill without warning. He claims the arrest was an attempted coup?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly what he said. He also believed the country was under what he called a full-blown terrorist attack as the president said and other senior Kazakh officials have said. They also say that some of the people who participated in those protests as they put it were foreign- trained and possibly steered from abroad as well. Now, so far, the Kazakh government hasn't provided evidence for those claims.

However, it does certainly appears, though, Jake, that crackdown really is going on in many ways even escalating as well. The latest numbers from Kazakhstan is that around 8,000 people have so far been detained, and the death toll also rising steeply, 164 now confirmed killed. And over 100 of those killed are in one single city. That's really the city where a lot of those troubling videos came from as those protests were unfolding as well where you had troops moving through the streets there, apparently opening fire on civilians as well.

The latest that we have from the ground right now is that apparently things have somewhat calmed down. There was a day of mourning as well. The Internet was restored at least for an hour or so. The Kazakh authorities are saying that one of the main reasons that they are now in control is the fact they have foreign troops and the largest contingent of those foreign troops comes from Russia and Vladimir Putin -- Jake.

TAPPER: And Vladimir Putin sent Russian troops to help put down the protests. What is he saying now about how long these Russian troops will stay?

PLEITGEN: Yeah, that's one of the things the State Department had criticized. Secretary of State Antony Blinken came out and said that some nations find that when they ask Russian troops to come in, it takes awhile for them to get out. The Russians are saying those troops are not going to stay any longer than necessary. The Kazakh government said the same thing as well.

However, the Russians also acknowledging that big presence, they say, was necessary. They managed to get that presence in there very quickly. And one of the things we are seeing is that through that -- through those troops that Vladimir Putin was able to put on the ground very quickly in Kazakhstan, he certainly increased his influence in a really big way in this entire region.

There's a lot of other leaders here in central Asia who fear they could be protests and they believe -- some of the consequences being that bloody crackdown in Kazakhstan over the past couple of days, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Frederik Pleitgen, thanks so much.

The United States and Russia are wrapping up key talks right now about Ukraine. Was it enough to deter Putin from sparking an invasion and a war?

The State Department spokesman will join us next.



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

This hour, the cost of the climate crisis. Billion-dollar disasters reaching record levels and it's not just the price tag. New insight into just how bad climate change is getting.

Plus, red alert. The omicron variant taking a major toll on life- saving services such as police and fire departments. We'll talk to one big city police chief who recently battled COVID himself.

And leading this hour, critical talks in the all-out push to stop an invasion and potential war. U.S. and Russian negotiators meeting today as Vladimir Putin's army readies to try to annex yet another part of Ukraine militarily.

We'll talk live with the State Department spokesman Ned Price in a minute.

But, first, let's get every angle covered from Moscow to Geneva where the talks took place today.

Let's start with CNN's Alex Marquardt who is in Switzerland where a breakthrough seems less and less likely.


ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): High stakes discussions to pressure Russia not to invade Ukraine getting under way in Geneva today. After almost eight hours of talks, the U.S. couldn't answer a key question, whether Russia intends to draw down their 100,000 troops that are menacingly positioned all along Ukraine's borders.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The situation in Ukraine --

MARQUARDT: The Russian side warned of growing risks of confrontation but told reporters here in Geneva that Russia has no plans to attack Ukraine.