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The Lead with Jake Tapper

DOJ Charges Leader Of Oath Keepers, 10 Other Defendants With Rare "Seditious Conspiracy" For Capitol Insurrection; Supreme Court Blocks Administration Vaccine Rule For Large Businesses; Biden's New Actions To Combat COVID: Free Tests, Free "High Quality" Masks, Military Medical Personnel To Hospitals; U.S. Diplomat Warns Russia Is Sounding "Drumbeat Of War"; Djokovic Draws Top Spot In Australian Open, Awaits Visa Decision; DOJ Charges Leader Of Oath Keepers, 10 Other Defendants With Rare "Seditious Conspiracy" For Capitol Insurrection. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired January 13, 2022 - 16:00   ET



JAKE SULLIVAN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: We are prepared to keep moving down the diplomatic path in good faith and prepared to respond if Russia acts. And beyond that, all we can do is get ready and we are ready.



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: The most serious charges yet related to the January 6 attack on the Capitol.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Breaking news: the Department of Justice has arrested and charged the head of the far right Oath Keepers. The leader of the far right extremist group is charged with seditious conspiracy to use force to undermine the election and he is not alone.

And there is breaking news from the U.S. Supreme Court this afternoon. The Biden administration's nationwide vaccine and testing mandate for big businesses has been blocked but it may still be allowed to go forward for one particular industry.

And they won't back down. A top U.S. diplomat warns the drum beat of war is sounding loud from Russia. What will Vladimir Putin do next?

Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. We start with the politics lead.

And for the first time in the January 6th investigation, the U.S. Justice Department is using the rare charge of seditious conspiracy related to the insurrection at the Capitol. Prosecutors indicted 11 defendants on this charge, including the leader of the Oath Keepers, the violence-prone far right extremist group. Prosecutors say that the defendants opposed by force the execution of the laws governing the transfer of presidential power. Video from January 6th shows a group in Oath Keepers insignia, many

wearing helmets, moving in a single file tactical formation through the crowd. And according to the indictment, the defendants conspired beginning in November, 2020. They recruited members and affiliates, organized training and paramilitary combat tactics.

They staged fully armed teams they called a quick reaction force just outside Washington, D.C., and then they stormed the capitol with paramilitary gear, weapons, supplies including knives, batons, camouflaged combat uniforms, even radio equipment, quoting from the indictment, quote, reaching and attempting to take control of the Capitol grounds and building on January 6th in an effort to prevent, hinder, and delay the certification of the electoral college vote, unquote.

As CNN's Paula Reid reports for us now, seditious conspiracy is a rarely used charge and a major step by the U.S. Justice Department.


PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Today, the Justice Department escalating its efforts to prosecute those responsible for January 6th, charging Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes along with ten others with seditious conspiracy related to the attack on the Capitol. It's the first time federal prosecutors have used the sedition charge after bringing more than 700 cases related to the insurrection.

But prosecutors have long signaled that they were considering using the rarely applied section of federal law. Rhodes is the most high profile individual charged in the investigation so far. Court documents filed today lay out a wide-ranging plot to storm the capitol and disrupt the certification of the election.

On November 5th, Rhodes allegedly urged his followers to refuse to accept the election results, writing in a signal message, we aren't getting through this without a civil war. Too late for that. Prepare your mind, body, and spirit.

In December, Rhodes wrote of the electoral college certification, there is no standard political or legal way out of this.

According to federal prosecutors, on his way to D.C. on January 3rd, Rhodes allegedly bought an AR platform rifle and other firearms equipment including sites, mounts, triggers, slings, and other firearm attachments in Texas. The next day, he allegedly bought more firearms equipment in Mississippi, including sites, mounts, and optic plate, a magazine.

Rhodes, a former army paratrooper who went on to earn a law degree from Yale did not enter the capitol on January 6th, but Oath Keepers were seen forcing their way into the building in a military stack formation. The new indictment also reveals the group had three quick reaction forces from three states -- Arizona, North Carolina, and Florida -- to rush into D.C. if needed. The Justice Department alleges teams were prepared to rapidly

transport firearms and other weapons into Washington, D.C. in support of operations aimed at using force to stop the lawful transfer of presidential power.

The indictment also reveals that Oath Keeper Thomas Caldwell arrested in January claimed that he took a reconnaissance trip to D.C. prior to January 6th.


Rhodes was arrested at his home in Texas today. He has previously denied involvement with the January 6th attack.


REID (on camera): Rhodes has not publicly responded to today's charges. He is expected to make his initial appearance in federal court in Texas in the coming days -- Jake.

TAPPER: And, Paula, when you read the criminal complaint, it makes clear, prosecutors say they plan to continue -- they planned to continue violence well after January 6th.

REID: Yeah, absolutely. The indictment alleges Rhodes referred to the insurrection as nothing compared to what is coming. And, Jake, in the weeks after the insurrection, he allegedly spent $17,000 on weapons, equipment, and ammunition. Then around inauguration day, he allegedly told his associates to organize local militias to oppose the Biden administration and another member allegedly said after this if nothing happens, it's war, civil war 2.0 -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Paula Reid, thank you so much.

Let's talk about this with our legal experts.

Carrie, let me start with you. Your take on this rarely used seditious conspiracy charge against 11 people all affiliated with the Oath Keepers.

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Jake, now we're starting to get somewhere in terms of this conspiracy investigation by the Justice Department. In my view seditious conspiracy is exactly the right charge for the gravity of the events that took place on January 6th because it involves a conspiracy by force, which is a key part to prevent, hinder, delay the execution of any law of the United States.

And in the case of January 6th, it involved both constitutional provisions as well as statutory provisions, the counting of the votes, and Congress's ability to facilitate the transfer of power. So, a huge indictment by the Justice Department. Important, also, in terms of the practice of the Justice Department that they are speaking through their indictment, their charging document, itself, laying out all the facts in that court pleading.

TAPPER: And, Shan, I mean, the indictment is stark. These individuals allegedly brought weapons to D.C. They marched in a stack formation, one went one way one went the other. They joined the mob, breached the Capitol grounds. They attacked police.

Could prosecutors have charged these 11 defendants with something that is like just plain sedition rather than seditious conspiracy?

SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: They could have, but the conspiracy charge makes a lot of sense given that they were working with each other and planning it. It also gives the prosecutors a much broader net by using conspiracy. You can net people who may or may not have been there.

And we remember at that press conference, Attorney General Garland said whether or not people were there, they could still be held responsible. So this is a good example of that. These sorts of extremist groups like to fashion themselves as being paramilitary and militia and now they are bearing the consequences of staging a military style obstruction of Congress.

TAPPER: And, Carrie, Attorney General Merrick Garland seemed to hint at this indictment just last week before the January 6th anniversary. Take a listen.


MERRICK GARLAND, ATTORNEY GENERAL: The actions we have taken thus far will not be our last. The Justice Department remains committed to holding all January 6th perpetrators at any level accountable under law whether they were present that day or otherwise criminally responsible for the assault on our democracy.


TAPPER: Now, these guys were present that day, but he is suggesting that there are going to be other charges for people who weren't necessarily at the Capitol.

Do you anticipate seditious conspiracy charges against other individuals?

CORDERO: I think it's possible. But what is important about what Attorney General Garland said was the progression of the investigation, itself. So, over 700 people had been charged already. Some of them with lower level crimes or trespassing or the violent activity they engaged in but not at the level of seditious conspiracy.

Now, we're seeing the investigation a year later mature and we're seeing the results of the investigation that has been conducted to date, which includes, clearly, extensive review of evidence and communications probably sources and confidential informants as well who have all been assisting the Justice Department and helping to gather that information to produce this indictment of these individuals in particular. And the other aspect that's really stark in this charging document is the emphasis on these were individuals who were intending to use violence. They were intending to use force. And so, the materials that Paula was describing in her report with

respect to ammunition and gear and other types of tactical weaponry, these were all things that indicated to the investigators that this was intended to be violent.

TAPPER: And, Shan, a lot of individuals on the right have been talking about for a year or more if this was an insurrection, if this was sedition, then how come nobody has been charged with anything like that.

Take a listen to Florida Governor DeSantis, this is on January 6th, the one-year anniversary.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: It is an insult to people when you say it is an insurrection and then a year later, nobody has been charged with that.


TAPPER: Do these charges put that sort of criticism to rest do you think?

WU: Yes. I think they put those sort of criticisms to the lie that they are and that is really not the insulting part. Personally I think the insulting part is trying to white wash what happened on the 6th.

But this is an indictment. It has facts as we discussed and it points clearly to the fact that this was sedition. It wasn't just people trespassing or wandering in to the Capitol. Certainly the intriguing part here is now that we've indicted the leadership level of these kinds of groups, whether or not they will be better situated to know what kinds of communications, what kind of planning might have happened with lawmakers, people in the Trump inner circle and to what level it floated up to former President Trump himself.

TAPPER: And, Carrie, a lot of individuals in the Capitol that day were not part of the conspiracy, they weren't part of the planning for months to stop the counting of electoral votes, but they got swept up in the moment and they, too, were trying to stop the counting. I can't speak to the state of mind of every individual in the Capitol, but it seems quite clear that's why, the reason the group was there, to stop the counting of the electoral votes.

Does the fact that these individuals are being charged with seditious conspiracy mean that possibly other individuals who were more spontaneously part of the group might get charged with sedition even if they didn't conspire to do so?

CORDERO: Well, it's possible. One of the things that is apparent in this indictment is that some of the individuals charged had previously been charged with lesser crimes. So the justice department does reserve the opportunity in the future to be able to come back to former, people who have already been charged with lesser crimes and now charge them with more substantial crimes. But it does seem that this particular indictment with this set of

seditious conspiracy charges is tailored to this particular network of individuals who were plotting for months, who had coordinated efforts to bring weapons and other gear to Washington, who staged these and coordinated the staging of these potential quick response teams, and so it does seem to be that they are focusing these more serious charges on individuals who were plotting to do this activity to prevent the transfer of power by force as opposed to individuals who happened to be there and found themselves caught up in this conspiracy.

TAPPER: Shan Wu, Carrie Cordero, thanks to both of you.

More breaking news. The U.S. Supreme Court delivering a body blow to President Biden's push to contain COVID. What does the ruling mean for big businesses? What does it mean for your safety?

Plus, rallying the troops as hospitals are strained with patients and workers are calling out sick. The government is trying to send in the military to help.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Breaking news in our health lead in a big decision that is a body blow to the Biden White House, the Supreme Court has blocked President Biden's nationwide vaccine and testing mandate for businesses over 100 employees. In a separate case, the court is allowing the vaccine mandate for certain health care workers who work for health organizations that get federal dollars. They're allowing that to go into effect.

Let's discuss with CNN's Supreme Court analyst Joan Biskupic and Jeffrey Rosen, president and CEO of the National Constitution Center.

Thanks to both of you for joining us.

Joan, the vaccine mandate decision split along ideological lines fairly predictably with liberal justices Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan dissenting. What does the ruling mean to you?

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SUPREME COURT ANALYST: As you said, we were expecting this kind of split. You had the majority in an unsigned opinion stress how broad this OSHA mandate is. At one point, they say it would cover lifeguards and linemen the same way as medics and other personnel. They just tried to talk about how sweeping it was and any kind of exemptions were just -- were so minor.

Liberal justices really stressed, Jake, how much this imperils the federal government's COVID response. So in that respect, I think that this split is predictable but I do want to stress something that happened on the conservative side. You had three justices break off in a concurring statement, Justices Gorsuch, Thomas, and Alito, looking at a more muscular approach to curtailing federal regulators.

So, not only would their approach to what the Biden administration tried to do here affect COVID precautions and any kind of way to end this deadly pandemic, it could also influence if a majority had taken this approach other regulations that affect health and safety environment.

So we did see a split in that way. But I have to say, in terms of exactly what is happening in America right now, it really hamstrings the Biden administration.

TAPPER: Jeffrey, the three liberal justices issued a blistering dissent in this case, quote, in the face of a still raging pandemic this court tells the agency charged with protecting worker safety it may not do so in all the workplaces needed as disease and death continue to mount, this court tells the agency that it cannot respond in the most effective way possible, unquote.


They go on to say the court is putting American workers in grave danger.

How unusual is that sort of dissent?

JEFFREY ROSEN, PRESIDENT AND CEO OF THE NATIONAL CONSTITUTION CENTER: This is a very passionate dissent. As you say, Jake, the liberals emphasized that the regulation could save over 6,500 lives and prevent over 250,000 hospitalizations and they ended very dramatically saying the court is not wise. When we are wise, we defer to experts who actually understand the health issues and here we're substituting the court's views for that of the experts.

But the point that Joan made is really extremely important that many people said the biggest effect of the retirement of justice, replacement of Justice Ginsburg by Justice Barrett would be a completely different approach to the power of the federal government to regulate health and safety. And this is the first time we're seeing it dramatically come through and as Joan suggested the three most conservative justices suggested they would strike down many, many other regulations in the future, dramatically restricting the ability of the federal government to regulate health and safety.

So, this may be the first salvo in a dramatic clash about different visions of the scope of the federal government and it came in a pretty important case involving vaccines and COVID.

TAPPER: And, Joan, the Biden administration had asked if the court ruled against the vaccine mandate for large businesses, that it at least leave in place requirements for masking and frequent testing. Why did the majority rule against that as well? What did they say?

BISKUPICK: They really brushed off that option, really dismissed it as if it was even an option. The majority opinion referred to the fact that the administration's requirement says if you don't have a policy in place for vaccinations, you should at least require weekly testing and mask wearing. And it was interesting the way the majority just cast that.

They said that is presented as an exception. They put that word in quote marks and acted as if that wasn't even a reality throughout the whole thing all they were concerned about is the mandate referring to it as a vaccine mandate, and that's what they targeted here.

TAPPER: And, Jeffrey, there's a separate case the court is allowing a vaccine mandate for certain health care workers that the government estimates will cover more than 10 million people. Explain why they're allowing that mandate and not the other one.

ROSEN: It's a really important distinction. It all turns on the meaning of a word. In that case, the federal government has the power to regulate the administration of Medicare and Medicaid funds. And five justices, Roberts and Kavanaugh joining the liberals, said that the administration includes threat to health care workers and could be a threat to workers if they don't get vaccinated and that could also harm patients.

So the whole difference between the regulation upheld which affects 17 million people and the one struck down which would have affected 82 million people was just a single word chosen by Congress and the conservatives say Congress has to speak really clearly when it is authorizing regulation. And here they thought the word administration was strong enough to cover the matter.

Of course, the most conservative justices disagreed with that, suggesting they would have struck down this regulation, too. This just suggests there's going to be a lot of parsing of individual words when it comes to congressional statutes and if Congress really wants to authorize regulatory authority in the future, it's going to have to be very, very precise, which Congress these days as we know is not very inclined to do, which means in practice it is going to be much harder to regulate health in the work place in America.

TAPPER: All right. Jeffrey Rosen and Joan Biskupic, thanks to both of you.

Coming up, free masks, free tests. The latest push by the Biden administration to combat COVID, but is it too little too late? That's next.



TAPPER: In our health lead, President Biden today promising help is on the way. More COVID tests, free high quality masks, and a deployment of military personnel to shore up some of the worst hit hospitals in six hard hit states.

More than 151,000 patients in the U.S. are hospitalized with COVID right now. That is a high for this pandemic.

As CNN's Nick Watt reports for us now, the Biden administration is hoping its latest efforts will relieve the crush at hospitals but critics argue this is all too little too late.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: When you need something done, call on the military.

NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Military medical teams now heading to six states to help in hospitals and --

BIDEN: Next week, we'll announce how we are making high quality masks available to American people for free.

WATT: The president also just pledged another half a billion free tests, but the administration still hasn't distributed the half billion announced before Christmas.

BIDEN: We're on track to roll out a website next week where you can order free tests, shipped to your home.


CRAIG MELVIN, NBC NEWS REPORTER: Should we have done that sooner?

HARRIS: We are doing it.

MELVIN: But should we have done it sooner?

HARRIS: We are doing it.

WATT: Average new confirmed COVID-19 infections now nearing 800,000 a day. That number has more than doubled in just the past two weeks.

Average daily death toll also rising but that could be the lagging impact of the delta surge says the CDC director, who points to a preprint California study showing hospitalization and death rates are indeed much lower with the omicron variant.


DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: The data in this study remain consistent with what we are seeing from omicron in other countries, including South Africa and the U.K. and provides some understanding of what we can expect over the coming weeks as cases are predicted to peak in this country.

WATT: There are already signs of a plateau in parts of the Northeast.

DR. PAUL SAX, PROFESSOR OF MEDICINE, BRIGHAM AND WOMEN'S HOSPITAL: Here in Boston for example for the first time in quite -- in several weeks, we have actually no increase in the number of hospitalizations from COVID from yesterday to today.

WATT: But hospitals still stretched in Massachusetts and elsewhere. In all these states remaining, ICU capacity is less than 15 percent.

And schools?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm deeply concerned about schools over the next two weeks. I am deeply concerned because of staff outage on this.

WATT: Tomorrow, Minneapolis public schools move to online only for at least a couple of weeks.


WATT (on camera): Now, today both the president and the vice president said that they understand some people's frustration at where we are right now in this pandemic but they clearly have frustrations of their own. President Biden basically said, listen, no matter what I do, as long as tens of millions of people still refuse to get vaccinated, we are going to continue to have what he calls needless deaths -- Jake.

TAPPER: Nick Watt, thanks so much.

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

Sanjay, the Biden administration is sending a new wave of military medical teams to try to help hospitals in six states. Health care systems nationwide are facing staffing shortages. Are military teams a last resort in a medical crisis? Have you ever seen anything like this before?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we've seen it quite a bit over the last couple years, right, Jake? You know, even since Thanksgiving there's been 800 military personnel deployed in 24 different states trying to provide relief, triage patients, and decompress emergency rooms. I mean, when hospitals become overwhelmed that is the issue. Emergency rooms are full. They don't have beds for patients to go. You can't take new patients in.

They can help with some of those basic things. Typically freeing up resources, staff to be able to do some of the more life saving or critical sort of jobs that these patients are requiring. So, yeah. I've seen it. Typically used to seeing it in the middle of conflict zones. We saw these types of things happening after Hurricane Katrina for example after natural disasters but in the last two years here in the states quite a bit.

TAPPER: What kinds of things do these teams do? How do they work?

GUPTA: Well, a lot of times they have some medical training so they are really focused on trying to, you know, within an emergency setting or urgent care setting triage patients, determining who is going to need resources, who's going to need a hospital bed, who's not, trying to take some of that pressure off. You can see some of the states where this is going where military assistance is going. New Jersey is one of those places.

And here's how the CEO of one of the hospitals in New Jersey described the help this might provide. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. SHEREEF ELNAHAL, CEO, UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL IN NEWARK, NJ: We are getting 23 people in uniform for 30 days. We don't know exactly what clinical skills or nonclinical skills by the way which are also very important -- food service, radiology techs, environmental services. We need everything right now because we are hurting in almost every area in the hospital.


GUPTA: Patient transport, radiology, you know, you name it. Show you quickly what's happening in New Jersey where you just heard that doctor. You know, we know these trends in the country overall, the white line is the United States, still going up, but New Jersey went up you can see more significantly but maybe starting to plateau there which is why I think he is talking about the next few weeks hopefully getting some relief after that.

TAPPER: Should people find this development with these military teams alarming or reassuring?

GUPTA: That's a great question. I mean, this is not where you want to be. This is not where we needed to be. I mean, they do -- I've worked with many of these teams in various places around the world and they are incredible teams and yet you wish you didn't have to rely on them in a situation like this.

So I think that they should be reassured that, at the fact that the numbers are going down and that people are going to be able to get more care than they otherwise would if these teams hadn't been there, but it is -- it is sort of tough to imagine. I remember the beginning of the pandemic when we first saw some of the military teams being deployed, it was a bit jarring to see that wide level of deployment within the United States.

So I wouldn't say it is reassuring. What is reassuring is hopefully the numbers are starting to come down.

TAPPER: We are seeing worse case scenarios play out in places like California where the state public health department says health care workers who test positive for COVID but are asymptomatic can report to work without a quarantine.


What does the science say about that? I get they are desperate out there, but what does the science say?

GUPTA: Well, the science is pretty clear that people who -- can transmit even if they don't have symptoms. I mean, that was a learning we got in the spring of 2020. You know, you -- in fact, you can be most contagious at a time when you don't have symptoms or before you develop symptoms.

So this is a last resort to try and keep the health care system from sort of falling apart in California. I think that is why they're doing this. A couple caveats that they're putting in as well. First of all, they'll try and get any other personnel to come in to back fill people who may have tested positive. They have to wear full protective personal gear, N95 masks.

And, also, people coming in that may have tested positive or asymptomatic are largely told to take care of COVID positive patients so at least they're in the same vicinity as patients who already have tested positive.

But this, again, just like you asked about the military, this is not the situation we want to be in where we have to make these sorts of decisions. It is not the sort of situation we need to be in. So much could have been prevented.

TAPPER: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thanks so much.

A warning. The drumbeats for war coming from Russia growing louder. How can the U.S. and NATO curb Putin's ambitions?

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Topping our world lead, the drumbeat of war is sounding louder. Those words from one of America's senior diplomats come after talks between NATO and Russia failed to de-escalate rising tensions, and as Moscow ramps up its threats that it will invade Ukraine again.

CNN's Matthew Chance is live for us from Moscow.

But I want to start with CNN's Alex Marquardt live from Brussels where NATO is headquartered.

Alex, what are U.S. officials saying now that the discussions with Russia are over?

ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, essentially now that we have to wait and see. We just heard from the national security adviser Jake Sullivan who said we are still at a moment where diplomacy can work. They simply do not know what is going to happen next. And Sullivan said the U.S. is prepared for multiple different possibilities.

Now, the meetings did wrap up today in Vienna, at the Organization for Security and Cooperation of Europe or OSCE, and we heard a stark warning from the U.S. ambassador to the OSCE. Take a listen.


MICHAEL CARPENTER, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE OSCE: We are facing a crisis in European security. The drumbeat of war is sounding loud and the rhetoric has gotten rather shrill. We have to take this very seriously. We have to prepare for the eventuality there could be an escalation.


MARQUARDT: So, there is no doubt that there is some concern over the frustration and anger from the Russian side and in the wake of these meetings. What happens next remains to be seen. Sullivan said that U.S. intelligence indicates that Russia has not yet made a decision whether they do plan to invade, but there was a warning from Sullivan that the Russians could create a pretext, an excuse to invade Ukraine, and that he would be sharing intelligence about what that could look like in the next few hours, the next 24 hours.

But what's going to happen now is officials from these meetings will go back to their capitals talking to each other, the U.S. is going to be talking to European allies as well as the Russians to try to keep these conversations going, to try to get the Russians to de-escalate and pull away from the Ukrainian border -- Jake.

TAPPER: And, Matthew, there is growing concern that a diplomatic solution to resolve this crisis of Russia about to invade Ukraine, that it cannot be reached. What are Russian officials saying?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Russian officials can barely contain their disappointment. One of them is talking about the catastrophic consequences that could follow the fact that these negotiations have come to nothing in Geneva, Brussels, and Vienna.

The deputy foreign minister saying that, look. The U.S. and NATO are just not ready to meet our, Russia's key demands. There's also been pushback on some of the calls from the U.S. for Russia to de-escalate.

The Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov saying: We hear already demands not only to withdraw troops from the border with Ukraine as they say, but also to get these troops back to their quarters, back to their barracks. I don't think we need to explain, Sergey Lavrov said, how absolutely unacceptable such demands are and, of course, we will not even discuss them.

Of course the Russian position is these troops are for the most part carrying out exercises on Russian territory and they don't like the United States or anyone else telling them that they should be placed somewhere else. So, it just gives you a flavor of the kind of, you know, attitude that Russian officials are displaying at the moment. When we've got to the end of this very intensive round of negotiations, they are not happy at all. They see no reason in their words for optimism.

TAPPER: And, Alex, the U.S. and NATO call Russia's demands to resolve this conflict nonstarters. Is there any hope for a compromise at all?

MARQUARDT: There is, Jake. The U.S. and NATO rejected the two main demands by Russia but they're hoping other areas can be, can have progress made. That includes things like weapons in Europe, missile systems, nuclear weapons, arms control, generally speaking is an area where both the Russians and the U.S. are eager to have discussions, as well as conversations about military exercises and better communication over those and more transparency.


And so, NATO is hoping that the combination of progress in those areas as well as the threats that Europe and the U.S. are making over economic sanctions, trade restrictions, more military aid for Ukraine and Eastern Europe should Russia invade, that that can pressure Russia into de-escalating and pulling back those forces from the Ukrainian border. But the U.S. and Europe repeatedly said that diplomacy cannot happen without de-escalation -- Jake.

TAPPER: Alex Marquardt in Brussels, Matthew Chance in Moscow, thanks to both of you.

The world's number one tennis star on center court and at the center of a political storm Down Under. Will Australia serve him with an eviction notice?

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our sports lead today, Novak Djokovic is, quote, playing by his own rules. That from the number four tennis player in the world the unvaccinated nine-time Australian Open champ hit the practice court today after being picked as the tournament's number one seed as a seemingly never ending volley between the Australian government and Djokovic continues over his visa status and lying on official documents.

As CNN's Phil Black reports for us now, Australians are wondering if this is about more than one unvaccinated tennis star.


PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Novak Djokovic is training every day on center court defiantly implying he'll still be here when the Australian Open begins. For now, the tournament's organizers have to assume he will be, too.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We start with our number one seed for the tournament Novak Djokovic on line number one.

BLACK: The competition draw has lined up Djokovic to play a fellow Serb in the opening round but will it happen? The Australian prime minister's position, don't ask me.

SCOTT MORRISON, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: These are personal ministerial powers able to be exercised by minister hawk and I don't make any further comment at this time.

BLACK: Immigration minister Alex Hawk says he is considering using his personal power to cancel Djokovic's visa. He has been considering it all week. Ever since a judge freed Djokovic from immigration detention and restored his visa, ruling the unvaccinated player was treated unfairly by border officials.

BARNABY JOYCE, AUSTRALIAN DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER: It was about process. The court went down the path of process, but the facts remain the same. So he still has, the minister still has the discretion to ask him to leave. And I'll leave it up to the minister as to whether he does that or not.

BLACK: Government leaders are ducking questions on this because the political stakes are high. A decision to cancel the visa once more must stand up under immigration law. Get it wrong and Djokovic could successfully appeal again, humiliating the government in the courtroom and every time he appears on center court.

ALEX CULLEN, SPORTS PRESENTER, TODAY SHOW: For a government that prides itself on border security this is not a good look especially with an election coming up.

JOYCE: My gosh. If this is what the election is fought on, Australians have missed a whole range of other issues.

BLACK: The government knows there is little public sympathy for Novak Djokovic but the clock is ticking. Failing to act before the Australian Open begins could escalate the saga and inflict a significant political cost.


BLACK (on camera): Jake, it is now Friday morning here in Melbourne. That means including the weekend there are only three days before the start of play in the Australian Open.

So this is really turning into a time crunch especially for Novak Djokovic because even if the government moves to deport him pretty swiftly today, it is increasingly difficult to see how he can successfully challenge that in court and then still be clear in a position and ready to start playing for the title early next week -- Jake.

TAPPER: Phil Black in Melbourne, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

For months, we've been hearing people who downplay or lie about the insurrection defend their claims by saying, well, how come nobody has been charged with sedition or insurrection? Well, here are the charges. Breaking news out of the Justice Department, that's next.



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

This hour, President Biden up on Capitol Hill today trying to convince Democrats to pass election reform by changing one key rule of the Senate. But it's what Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona said today that might be more consequential. Plus, a deadly year for police. Officers targeted, ambushed, and

killed across the country leaving their families grieving. What is driving this spike?

But we start with breaking news. Just over a year since the January 6 insurrection and for the first time, the U.S. Justice Department is charging January 6 rioters with seditious conspiracy for their efforts to stop the counting of electoral votes. Prosecutors say the leader of the extremist far right group the Oath Keepers and ten other defendants conspired to stop with force the execution of laws governing the peaceful transfer of presidential power.

The criminal complaint details a conspiracy that began in November, 2020, included paramilitary training and purchase of deadly weapons, reconnaissance, and armed militia force staged just outside D.C. and further plans even after the January 6th plot failed.

Let's bring in CNN's Jessica Schneider and Ryan Nobles up on Capitol Hill.

Jessica, let's start with this new indictment. Seditious conspiracy charges filed against 11 defendants, all affiliated with the Oath Keepers, a far right extremist group.

How significant is this specific charge?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Very significant, Jake. This is the most serious charge we're seeing resulting from this massive investigation that's been ongoing for a year now. Seditious conspiracy, it carries 20 years maximum in prison. Put in plain English, the defendants here are accused of conspiring to use violence or force to stop a government proceeding, here what was supposed to be the peaceful transfer of power.