Return to Transcripts main page

The Lead with Jake Tapper

Fauci: "Just About Everybody" Will Be Exposed To Omicron Variant; Interview With Sen. Dick Durbin Of Illinois; January 6 Committee Seeking Information From House Minority Leader McCarthy; January 6 Committee Seeking Information From House Minority Leader McCarthy; Decision Soon In Novak Djokovic's Fight To Stay In Australia; UK PM Boris Johnson Apologizes For Attending Party During Lockdown. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired January 12, 2022 - 16:00   ET



RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: But I do think this is something the committee is deliberating. We're going to have to find out what their next step will be, Victor and Alisyn.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Well, Ryan Nobles, Gloria Borger, Elie Honig, thank you very much for helping us understand this breaking news.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Thank you, everyone.

THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER starts right now.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Might the U.S. be about to turn a COVID corner?

THE LEAD starts right now.

COVID cases could -- could be peaking in parts of the U.S. which means they could -- could -- be coming down soon. This as top health experts warn every American could end up being exposed to omicron.

Plus, the January 6th committee just invited a new guest to their party. They're asking the top House Republican Kevin McCarthy if he feels like voluntarily cooperating.

And match point for Novak Djokovic. A decision on the tennis star's fate in Australia could come at any moment.


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

We begin this hour in our health lead -- a new warning from the top health experts. Today, Dr. Anthony Fauci and the acting FDA commissioner say omicron is so efficient at spreading that almost everyone in the U.S. will at least be exposed to it, even if you're vaccinated and boosted. That does not mean, of course, that everyone is going to get infected or get sick, just exposed to it. Meanwhile, the Biden administration says it will send 10 million test

kits to schools every month to help keep classrooms open. And the White House is actively exploring, we're told, making high-quality masks more available to Americans. Those efforts all could make a critical difference.

Right now, a sliver of good news as CNN's Nick Watt reports. Cases appear to be peaking in some places such as New York, which means case counts could soon be coming down.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: Omicron, with its extraordinary, unprecedented degree of efficiency of transmissibility, will ultimately find just about everybody.

NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's finding and infecting nearly three quarters of a million Americans on average every day. At United, 3,000 staff have COVID right now. The airline forced to trim schedules. More than 800 LAPD staff now in quarantine.

MAYOR LORI LIGHTFOOT (D), CHICAGO, IL: We are very focused --

WATT: Chicago's mayor just tested positive. So did West Virginia's governor.

I'm thankful to the Lord above that I've been vaccinated. I've been boosted. That being said, I feel extremely unwell at this point.

The omicron surge appears now to be peaking in parts of the Northeast.

DR. CHERYL BETTIGOLE, PHILADELPHIA HEALTH COMMISSIONER: Over the past week, COVID-19 cases have remained extremely high. But they may be starting to plateau.

GOV. KATHY HOCHUL (D), NEW YORK: We are not at the end, but I wanted to say this is, to me, a glimmer of hope. A glimmer of hope in a time we desperately need that.

WATT: But plenty pain to come. More COVID patients are in the hospital now than ever before. The average daily death toll is now --

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: About 1,600 per day, which is an increase of about 40 percent over the previous week.

WATT: This morning in Chicago, kids are back in school after the dispute between unions and officials over COVID safety measures. Other short staffed school districts appealing to parents to sign up as substitute teachers.

ERIC WRIGHT, SUPERINTENDENT, HAYES, CONSOLIDATED INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT: If we could get 50 to 100 or even more, that's better than what we have right now.

WATT: Now after more salty exchanges during a Senate hearing --

FAUCI: You keep distorting the truth.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): Have you talked to any of the scientists privately as the highest --

WATT: Dr. Fauci muttered this on a hot mic about Roger Marshall.

FAUCI: What a moron. Jesus Christ.

WATT: Plus a rare rebuke for a couple of senators from Fauci's employer. It's disappointing and frankly unacceptable that Republican senators chose to spend a hearing spreading conspiracy theories and lies about Dr. Fauci rather than how to protect people from COVID-19.


WATT (on camera): Now with that rampant omicron variant still spreading, the CDC is getting ready to update its mask guidance on its website to include details of the different levels of protection that the different masks offer. We also heard from the White House. They are, quote, in the process right now of strongly considering options on how to get more good masks out to the American people -- definitely a bit of a whiff of too little, too late -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Nick Watt, thanks so much.

Joining us live to discuss, chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Sanjay, both Dr. Fauci and the acting FDA commissioner this week have said that nearly everyone is going to be exposed to the omicron variant. Again, that's not necessarily infected with it or sick, just exposed.


Are you discouraged by that rather remarkable change in tone?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDCIAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think, you know, we have been hearing this for some time. If you listen to the WHO European chief some time ago, they estimated that, you know, 50 percent of people living in that part of the world would be infected within six to eight weeks. And that just speaks to the real contagiousness of this virus.

Now, I think even going back to last year, Jake, when people say this is going to become endemic, that it's just going to be here, part of that conversation is also that at some point people will likely be exposed to the virus. It's always been about how fast do we allow that to happen?

If you get to a point where people are -- a lot of people are getting infected all at the same time? That's a problem because that's when you start to overwhelm hospitals. That goes back to some of the earliest conversations we've had in this pandemic about flattening the curve. It's not discouraging. I think we've known that people are like three

come in contact with this virus at some point. It's just a question of how fast that happens.

TAPPER: And New York is showing a possible downturn in omicron related cases. Might that be a sign that we're nearing a peak in the U.S. which means it will be followed by cases falling?

GUPTA: Yeah, I think this is potentially good news. We can see what's happening in New York. New York state and then look at the country overall. And the country overall, the numbers are still going up, about 34 percent.

But, you know, you do see that white line up there, a bit of a downturn there. And you are seeing that in D.C. as well where you are, Jake. That could potentially be good news. It reflects what they see in South Africa and the U.K. which are a few weeks ahead of us. What we've seen in the United States over and over again, big country, is that there tends to be these rolling sort of waves of peaks and troughs.

So while the Northeast may start to see this downturn and that's obviously good news, there may be other parts of the country given the numbers are still going up in the country overall that have not yet peaked. So, you know, we'll see. We're following those numbers closely.

But in areas that haven't been hit as hard by omicron and reflecting on the conversation about how contagious this is, they are likely to see those cases continue to go up for a while, but then probably a steep descent.

One thing, Jake, I'll just tell you going back to the testing. I've been talking about this forever, but obviously not doing enough testing. So, if you have 750,000 confirmed cases in any given day, you probably have to think there's a couple million probably out there for real. Maybe even more than that that are not getting tested or doing at-home testing and not getting reported.

TAPPER: Last night, Dr. Fauci advised Americans to, quote, get the highest quality mask you can tolerate. Those masks have not always been readily available to everyone. Are there enough N95s available for everyone in the U.S. to start wearing them if they wanted to?

GUPTA: I think so, Jake, but this is a remarkably hard question to still answer. Even as reporters going on, looking at all the various sites, looking at what the CDC says availability is but also nonprofits like Project N95 which is a great site people should go to if they're trying to find masks and make sure the masks are real masks, not counterfeit masks.

But you're right. Still, it's not clear, Dr. Fauci says there should be enough of these masks now. The N95 masks. And by the way, we've talked about this. But N95 masks like this one, you want to make sure that they are legitimate masks. There's all sorts of different ways to do this. Various websites will tell you how to do it. But one thing is if they have the loops around the back of the head,

that's a pretty good sign you'll get a mask that has a more snug fit as opposed to just the ear loops. Just a little tip there in terms of trying to figure out which mask works. But, yeah, besides vaccines, I don't think we've had enough investments in making sure that enough tests are out there. There was discussion at one point about sending five of these masks to everyone's home. That didn't happen.

So, right now, people have to figure it out for themselves, spend the money on them and then also verify that what they're getting is a legitimate product.

TAPPER: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thanks as always.

Breaking news, the January 6th committee is looking for an RSVP from the top House Republican Kevin McCarthy.

Then -- that escalated quickly. Mitch McConnell calling President Biden unpresidential after Biden suggests anyone not supporting his election reform or filibuster reform is like a segregationist or confederate. The number two Democrat in the Senate is here to respond to McConnell.

Plus, it's all apologies across the pond. U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson just said he was sorry but there's one thing he did not say.



TAPPER: In our politics lead, five days until Chuck Schumer's self- imposed deadline to change filibuster rules to help Democrats pass election reform legislation without any Republican support necessary. Now we're learning the president is expected to keep the pressure on Senate Democrats after a rather sharp speech yesterday in Atlanta where Biden said anyone who votes against election reform or even against changing the rules to pass election reform legislation is on the side of Confederate traitors and segregationists from the 1960s.

Let's discuss this with the Senate majority whip, Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois.

And, Senator, President Biden is turning up the heat on Senate Democrats. But here's what your Republican colleagues are hearing from their leader.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Yesterday, he shouted that if you disagree with him, you're George Wallace. George Wallace? If you don't pass the laws he wants, you're Bull Connor. He compared -- listen to this -- a bipartisan majority of senators to literal traitors.


How profoundly, profoundly unpresidential. Look, I've known, liked and personally respected Joe Biden for many

years. I did not recognize the man at the podium yesterday.


TAPPER: Are there not, Senator Durbin, are there not legitimate reasons that a senator, a Democratic senator, might be concerned that changing the filibuster rule will set a horrible precedent that Republicans will exploit to do something like pass a nationwide abortion ban or something like that, without saying that Kyrsten Sinema or Joe Manchin are like Bull Connor or Jefferson Davis?

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): I think what it boils down to, Jake, is this -- take a look at the Senate. Take a look at our productivity. Take a look at our responsiveness to national issues.

And what you're going to find is a big empty, quiet chamber that doesn't go to work anymore. Why don't they go to work? Because everything requires 60 votes/beat a filibuster.

And it's a 50/50 Senate. Even a majority doesn't work. You need 60 votes. As a consequence, we don't respond to virtually anything.

And I think what you're hearing from President Biden is a reflection of several things. The gravity of the issue when you have a former president of the United States with a massively bruised ego who is wandering around saying the election results were stolen, which is a big lie, and firing up state legislatures to change laws and restrict voting opportunities for Americans.

This is as fundamental as it gets in a democracy. Joe Biden came to the United States Senate on a civil rights platform. That's why he ran in the first place. And the fact that he shows emotion when it comes to the voting rights of Americans, I'm glad he did.

TAPPER: But you're comparing or Biden is comparing and you're not criticizing, the idea of a legislator reducing the number of days for early voting from 15 to 10 or wanting voters to present a photo ID before they vote. You're comparing that to Bull Connor who literally set dogs upon civil rights protesters. George Wallace who said segregation today, segregation forever -- I'm paraphrasing. Or Jefferson Davis, the president of the traitorous Confederacy.

I mean, isn't that a little stark?

DURBIN: It is stark. And I will concede that point.

But don't overlook the reality that in 20 different states, governed and led by Republicans in legislature and the governorship, in each and every one of them, they are taking step by weary step to make sure that Americans, fewer Americans are going to vote. Who in the world sets out as a political agenda reducing the vote in America? Exactly the opposite should be our goal by both political parties.

And, yes, that was the goal of the segregationist was to reduce the opportunity for African Americans to vote, well-documented over spans of decade after decade after decade. So, yes, there are parallels there. Perhaps the president went a little too far in his rhetoric. Some of us do.

But the fundamental principles and values at stake are very, very similar.

TAPPER: Your home state of Illinois just did a big election reform law to make it easier to vote, to open up the voting rolls. But I don't have to tell you. I can go through the number of states. New Jersey doesn't allow ballot collection. That's something that Democrats oppose when Republicans do it in Texas or other states.

Delaware only has early voting for a few days, not like as generous as places like California.

I mean, this is the -- I totally get you. Legislatures are operating on the big lie and it's a lie and it's hideous. But a lot of Democratic-run states have pretty arcane and restrictive voting laws as well.

DURBIN: Let me go out on a limb, Jake, and just tell you flat out, I think those states should be held to the same standards of opening up opportunities where the Democrats control the legislature or Republicans.

The bottom line is this: If you are legally eligible to vote, we ought to make it easy. A national holiday for Election Day, how about that for an idea? So you don't lose your job when you go into vote.

This idea that you're going to be able to register on the same day and vote, it's been tried in state after state. No evidence of fraud, it's a convenience for a lot of voters that we ought to accommodate no matter what your state says, whether New York or Illinois has it. We ought to make it the national standard.

Case after case, whatever your state may be, Democrat or Republican, the notion is this, if you are legally eligible to vote, we're going to make it easier for you to do it. Not harder.

TAPPER: Senator Dick Durbin, thanks so much for your time today. Appreciate it, sir.

DURBIN: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: Breaking news, the January 6th committee just sent House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy a letter asking the top House Republican to cooperate voluntarily. Will he?

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Breaking news in our politics lead, the January 6th Select House Committee wants to hear from House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. In the last hour, the committee sent a letter to McCarthy asking him to voluntarily cooperate.

Let's get right to CNN's Ryan Nobles live on Capitol Hill for us.

Ryan, you've read the six-page letter to McCarthy. What does the committee specifically want to hear from him?


RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, there's no doubt by what we've read in this letter, that the committee believes that Kevin McCarthy is in possession of a lot of information as it relates to not only January 6th itself but the lead up to the insurrection that he hasn't fully revealed to the public that they believe is a crucial part of their investigation.

Let me read to you just one section of that letter from Bennie Thompson to the House Minority Leader. It reads, quote, we must also learn about the president's plans for January 6th and how they came together. And all of the other ways he attempted to alter the results of the election.

For example, in advance of January 6th, you reportedly explained to Mark Meadows and the former president that objections to the certifications of the electoral votes on January 6th was, quote, doomed to fail. So that is an example of the information that at this point has not been made public and obviously the committee is in possession of thousands of messages and details and data from the former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows which they've been releasing piecemeal here and there.

This is another example of that. Obviously, we also know that Kevin McCarthy spoke to Donald Trump on January 6th. That's another part of what the committee would like to ask him very specific questions about.

Now, at this point, Jake, this is just a voluntary ask. This is not a subpoena. It's not enforceable by law. They just want McCarthy to come on his own accord. They've set a date for it, of February 3rd.

Of course, the big question is, will he do it? Jake?

TAPPER: Of course, the big question, has McCarthy responded yet?

NOBLES: He hasn't. And we've reached out to his office for specific request to see how he plans to respond to the committee's ask of him.

But we should point out, Jake, that Kevin McCarthy has been asked numerous times about whether or not he'd participate in an investigation as it relates to January 6th. Our colleague Manu Raju asked him about it way back when there was talk of an independent commission being formed and at that time he told Manu, sure, I would answer questions from that independent commission.

But now, of course, McCarthy has cast dispersions on this select committee. He's called it partisan. He pulled away the Republican members that he initially appointed as part of that committee because the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had vetoed several of them.

But even after that, after this House Select Committee was formed that was largely formed along partisan lines, even though there are two Republicans on the committee, McCarthy has been asked about it since then. His local television station in Bakersfield, California, asked him if he'd talk to the committee. He told them, quote, I have nothing to hide but I also have nothing to add.

So, Jake, we'll have to see if he makes good on that promise.

TAPPER: Ryan Nobles, thanks so much.

Let's discuss all of this with legendary journalist Carl Bernstein. He's a CNN political analyst and the author of a brand-new book getting hot reviews all over the country. It's called "Chasing History: A Kid in the Newsroom." The book is out now and highly rated and reviewed.

Carl, Congressman McCarthy is the third Republican lawmaker who the committee has requested cooperation from. They also sent letters to Congressman Scott Perry of Pennsylvania and Jim Jordan of Ohio. Both Perry and Jordan have suggested they're not going to cooperate voluntarily.

What do you think McCarthy is going to do?

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I think he's going to stonewall. We're witnessing a cover-up by the leadership of the Republican Party of a conspiracy to undermine the democratic system. There's never been anything in our history in this country like it. You have to go back to the civil war to see a political party that was as seditious as we're exhibiting now in the Republican Party, in the civil war. It was part of the Democratic Party, but never have we had a seditious president of the United States who sought to stage a coup.

And now that coup and the cover-up of it has been embraced by Leader McCarthy, by Leader McConnell. It is something unlike anything we've seen in this country before.

And it is not only a disgrace, but if you look at this letter, I read it now, it's fascinating. They have the goods. This investigation has the goods. They know what McCarthy said to a large extent to Donald Trump on January 6th.


BERNSTEIN: And McCarthy has lied about it since. So, we have a real conspiracy, a real cover up, real stonewalling in excess of anything we saw in Watergate.

TAPPER: Well, let's talk about that. In addition to the amazing work of you and bob Woodward, and some other journalists as well, one of the things that got Nixon out of office were the tapes. He was tape recording all these conversations in the Oval Office.

Today, we don't have the tapes necessarily. But we have text messages. And other communications because people write down conspiracies these days and send them to each other's phones. This is, you know, pretty significant, all these text messages.

BERNSTEIN: Absolutely. And the goods are there.

But I'll tell you, the other thing that we don't have that we had at the time of Watergate, and that is a Republican Party committed to the rule of law, instead of a conspiracy to cover up the truth and stonewalling.


What got Richard Nixon removed from office were courageous Republicans in the House who voted for articles of impeachment against the president of the United States and the judiciary committee and then Barry Goldwater --


BERNSTEIN: -- the conservative, the great conservative leader, the nominee of his party for president in 1964, Goldwater led a group of Republicans to see Richard Nixon the night before he resigned and Nixon asked, will I be convicted in the Senate because I know I'm going to be impeached by the House. Do I have enough votes?

Nixon was confident he had enough votes to survive conviction in the Senate. Goldwater turned to Nixon and said, Mr. President, you may have four votes in the Senate but you don't have mine. And at that moment, because of the courageous leadership of Republicans, Richard Nixon made up his mind to resign the presidency.


BERNSTEIN: And we had a peaceful transition of power. That's the difference.

TAPPER: Where have you gone, Barry Goldwater?

Let's talk about your new memoir. It focuses on your life from 16 to 21 before Watergate, before Trump, before Hillary Clinton. So many other chapters of history that you later reported on. Why were those years so formative for you?

BERNSTEIN: Well, first of all, I was aged 16 when I went to work at this great newspaper, the opposition newspaper to "The Washington Post." I went to work at "The Evening Star," the afternoon paper in my native Washington.

It was a Jim Crow town that I grew up in. I went to segregated public schools in the nation's capital until the Brown decision in 1954 when I was in the sixth grade. It's the time of the civil rights revolution. I covered at the age of 16 if you can imagine such a thing, Kennedy's inaugural parade.

A few weeks before that, I was sent as a copy boy to Burning Tree Country Club to get some pictures from a star photographer who was taking pictures of President Eisenhower on a putting green. And I got within ten feet of Eisenhower and I saw the spots on his hands. Can you imagine that at the age of 16?

And then I moved through the ranks. And what this book is, it is a book about -- it's not the old man looking back. It's written in the voice of the kid at the time who had the best seat in the country from ages 16 to 21, civil rights revolution, the beginning of the Vietnam War and the demonstrations there, the assassination of Jack Kennedy. Got to go to all of Kennedy's press conferences practically, to dictate a text back to the newsroom of what the president was saying at his press conference.

So it's about this kid that gets to do everything and thrown in with these reporters, with these editors who are the greatest of their time.

TAPPER: So we --

BERNSTEIN: Who are my teachers.

TAPPER: We only have a little time life, but "The New York Times" called your new book "a eulogy for the newspaper business." Others called it a love letter. Which is it?

BERNSTEIN: It's both. And it also, Bob Woodward and I did a program last night online from Politics and Prose, the great bookstore in Washington about this book, and what you also see in this book is this straight line from what I learned at the "Evening Star" about having two sources, about the best obtainable version of the truth. A straight line about what real reporting is to the Watergate reporting we did at "The Washington Post," even though this book takes place only about this kid who had his one foot in the classroom, one foot in the juvenile court, one foot in the pool hall, and got this amazing job that gave me this most amazing life that I've had.

TAPPER: Amazing life and you had three feet. That's the other thing. Carl Bernstein -


TAPPER: Your new book "Chasing History: A Kid in the Newsroom." it's out now. Congratulations. We'll see you soon. The book is getting great reviews all over. "Wall Street Journal," "New York Times," everywhere.

BERNSTEIN: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: A stunning admission from Novak Djokovic today. Now we could learn if the tennis star will be kicked out of Australia.

Stay with us.


[16:38:37] TAPPER: Our sports lead now. Match point for tennis' top men's player Novak Djokovic, with Australian Open officials announcing which players are in the tournament later tonight. All eyes are on Australia's immigration minister who is expected to decide before the announcement whether Djokovic is allowed to remain in Australia.

The Serbian star spent today training after releasing a rather stunning statement in which he admitted to having violated one of the requirements for entering Australia. Not isolating after he tested positive for COVID.

As CNN's Phil Black reports from Melbourne, that adds to the intrigue and investigation into whether Djokovic lied in order to get into the country.


PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Some apologies are swift, fulsome, heartfelt.

Novak Djokovic chose a different path, opening with, "I want to address the continuing misinformation about my activities." The world number one tennis player's extraordinary statement tries to explain how and why he tested positive for COVID-19 and then hung out with lots of people over the following days.

This is the Djokovic timeline:

December 14th, he attends a basketball game in Belgrade.

December 16th, hearing about infections at the game, he undergoes a rapid antigen test.


It's negative. He feels good, but cautious. So he sits for a PCR test anyway.

December 17th, another negative result from a rapid test before attending this children's tennis event. Later that day, Djokovic says, he receives the PCR result. It's positive.

December 18th, Djokovic cancels all appointments except an interview with French sports publication "L'Equipe", because, he says, I didn't want to let the journalist down. But did ensure I socially distanced and wore a mask except when my photograph was being taken.

The journalist Djokovic was so concerned about says he was never told about the positive test, nor was the photographer. Djokovic now admits he made a mistake.

While I went home after the interview to isolate for the required period, on reflection, this was an error of judgment and I accept that I should have rescheduled this commitment.

BEN ROTHENBERG, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: For not alerting this reporter, not telling him, hey, by the way, I'm positive for COVID, do you still want to do this? We should probably cancel. He went uninformed and keeping that secret from him is pretty irresponsible.

BLACK: Then a second sort of apology from Djokovic, admitting there was inaccurate information in the travel declaration form submitted to Australian authorities. That's a potential crime here.

Asked if he's been to any other countries in the previous 14 days, his answer is no. Social media pictures show he had been in Serbia and Spain. This was submitted by my support team on my behalf. My agent sincerely apologizes for the administrative mistake. This was a human error and certainly not deliberate.

While Djokovic trains, desperately trying to focus on winning, the ball is now in the Australian government's court, as it considers canceling his visa once again.


BLACK (on camera): Jake, the last we heard from the Australian government, its investigation is taking all of this in. The circumstances and documentation surrounding Djokovic's possible test, his behavior immediately afterwards.

Now there is no formal deadline on its decision whether to cancel his visa or not but in just a few hours, the Australian Open will release its official draw for the competition. Djokovic is currently the number one seed. The government doesn't have to consider the impact of its decision on a major sporting event but if it waits much longer, the consequences, the fallout, the circus-like atmosphere surrounding this whole saga, they're only likely to escalate -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Phil Black live for us in Melbourne, thank you so much.

Joining us to discuss, journalist David Law. He's co-host of "The Tennis Podcast". He's been following the sport for decades.

David, given what we know about Djokovic that he consistently bucks COVID restrictions, he seems to ignore the science, he refuses to get vaccinated, were you surprised by his statement?

DAVID LAW, CO-HOST, "THE TENNIS PODCAST": I was surprised in some ways that he made the statement before the decision was made really by the authorities. I thought he might just wait to see what they say first. But I think that he started to grow concerned that people were talking about these dates. The 16th when he tested positive, the appearance with the kids. I think that one in particular he wanted to make very clear that he said he didn't know that he was positive when he went and met those kids.

He didn't want that to be next to his name and he was prepared to admit to not informing the journalist and going ahead with the interview on the 18th, which I think is really problematic. The fact that he did not even inform them that he was positive. I mean, as one of your reporters was saying earlier, pretty irresponsible. TAPPER: What do you think the Australian immigration minister will do?

LAW: It's so difficult to say because they are in such a difficult position. They've already gone through this process once. They've had a judge overrule the decision of the board of control.

But at the same time, if they allow him to play now, they're basically saying all of those other things we've just talked about, okay, they don't really matter in the grand scheme of things because we want to play or we are prepared to let him into the country. They've already sent home one other player in a very similar position. So what do they do about her? Do they bring her back? If they do allow him to play?

We'll know in a few hours but really it could go either way.

TAPPER: David Law, thanks so much for joining us. Appreciate it.

Coming up, Boris Johnson just cried uncle, but will that settle the dust over his party foul?

Stay with us.




BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Mr. Speaker, I want to apologize.


TAPPER: That's British Prime Minister Boris Johnson saying "I'm sorry" today amid growing outrage and calls for his resignation for attending a party at his official residence during a height of the UK's first COVID lockdown at a time when he was officially telling his constituents to avoid basic life functions, even attending a funeral of a loved one.

In newly released emails from one of his top officials, it's revealed staffers were encouraged to bring your own booze to the gathering. But as CNN's Salma Abdulaziz reports for us, Prime Minister Johnson believed it to be an official work event, not a party.



KEIR STARMER, BRITISH LABOUR PARTY LEADER: Is he now going to do the decent thing and resign?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER (voice-over): The famously unflappable Boris Johnson, the great political survivor, has finally flinched.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He was hosting boozy party in Downing Street. ABDELAZIZ: After an outpouring of condemnation for what critics

alleged was a bring (AUDIO GAP) residence 10 Downing Street in May while the country was under strict COVID rules.

The prime minister says he saw it as a work event but finally made an apology of sorts.

BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Even if it could be set technically to fall within the guidance, there will be millions and millions of people who simply would not see it that way. People who suffered terribly, people who were forbidden from meeting loved ones at all, inside or outside, and to them and to this House, I offer my heartfelt apologies.

ABDELAZIZ: Without actually admitting to wrongdoing and citing a pending investigation, his apology stoking even more anger.

STARMER: After months of deceit and deception, the pathetic spectacle of a man who has run out of road, his defense, his defense that he (AUDIO GAP).

ABDELAZIZ: It's the first time the prime minister has even admitted to attending one of the multiple gatherings held by his staff while the country was essentially in a lockdown, even though he was pictured at one such event seated alongside a bottle of wine and a cheese board. Johnson said he was at the BYOB party held in the number 10 garden in May but only went for 25 minutes to thank staff.

JOHNSON: With hindsight, I should have sent everyone back inside.

ABDELAZIZ: To add salt to the wound, the event was held on a day with glorious weather, inviting to a public eager to get out but it came with another warning to stay vigilant.

OLIVER DOWDEN, BRITISH CONSERVATIVE MP: You can spend time outdoors and exercise as often as you like and meet one person outside your household.

ABDELAZIZ: Restrictions that were abided by at the highest levels at various points. The queen herself one of thousands of Britons forced to mourn the death of a loved one alone. It's a potentially lethal blow to Johnson and a scandal that's made casualties of top advisers and staff.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm truly sorry.

ABDELAZIZ: Now he's losing the support of his own party with calls for his resignation.


ABDELAZIZ (on camera): Jake, this is a prime minister who is now trying to defend the indefensible. Trying to make it somehow okay that he was gathered with wine and cheese celebrating with officials at a time when the deadly virus was ripping through this country. And it's simply not flying in the court of public opinion. He has the

lowest approval rating ever seen during his tenure. He's fighting for survival within his own party, people calling for his resignation. This is an apology that might be too little, too late -- Jake.

TAPPER: Salma Abdelaziz, thank you so much.

A live look at the capitol where Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, is leaving the Capitol for a final time. The Reid family is looking on as police escort the senator's casket from the rotunda to the steps of the Capitol. Earlier today, members of Congress and congressional staff paid their respects.

Reid came from famously humble beginnings in Nevada, rising out of not just poverty but destitution. Fighting as an amateur boxer and eventually becoming the most powerful senator on Capitol Hill.

He retired from the Senate in 2017. He passed away on December 28th after losing a fight with pancreatic cancer. He was 82 years old. May his memory be a blessing.

Coming up, gasoline costs 50 percent more, chicken up 10 percent. Furniture hasn't seen prices rise this much since the 1950s. A look at when the pain in your wallet might go away.

Stay with us.



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

This hour, the new COVID mystery. Where are the much-promised, much- heralded antiviral pills that were approved and considered a key way to stop the spread?

Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta investigates.

Plus, no clue what Putin will do. America's top diplomat on the case admits Russia is not standing down after several days of talks aimed at stopping a possible invasion of Ukraine. You'll hear from her directly.

And leading this hour, more work to do. President Biden admitting he's got an inflation problem that's getting worse by the day. New data revealing consumer prices rose nearly 7 percent over the last year reaching levels not seen since Ronald Reagan's first term.

CNN's Jeff Zeleny is at the White House with what's driving the price surge and how President Biden is trying to respond.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: What every American feels confirmed today by a new Labor Department report. That 2021 was a year of sticker shock as inflation hit a four-decade high.