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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Surgeon General: Next Few Weeks Of Omicron Wave Will Be Tough; Some Virginia School Districts Defy Governor Youngkin On Masks In Schools; U.S. Official: Putin's "Drumbeat Of War Is Sounding Loud;" Senate Expected To Take Up Election Reform Legislation Tomorrow; FBI Investigating Texas Hostage Standoff As "Terrorism-Related"; Novak Djokovic's French Open Future In Limbo Amid New Vaccine Rule. Aired 4- 5p ET

Aired January 17, 2022 - 16:00   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN HOST: As Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. said, faith is taking the first step even when you don't see the whole staircase.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Some glimmers of hope in one part of the country as the surgeon general warns omicron is not done with the United States just yet. And now, China is canceling a key part of the Winter Olympics because of the virus.

Then it's only his first week in office and Virginia's new governor is already in a fight with the largest school district in his state.

HARLOW: Plus, we're getting a look at the terrifying moments when the hostage situation came to an end after an hours-long terror attack on a Texas synagogue. The rabbi is sharing new details about what it was like inside.


HARLOW: Hello and welcome to this special edition of THE LEAD. I'm Poppy Harlow in for Jake Tapper.

We begin this hour with our health lead. The U.S. surgeon general is warning the next few weeks of the pandemic will be tough. Dr. Vivek Murthy says omicron cases have not peaked nationally and that means this virus will keep spreading at a breakneck pace for now.

A crush of COVID patients means some hospitals are running out of uninfected health care workers and space to treat other patients in the intensive care units. More than 156,000 people are now hospitalized with this virus. Cases in parts of the Northeast do appear to have crested, a huge relief for those areas.

But as Nick Watt reports, it's far from a national trend.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) GOV. KATHY HOCHUL (D), NEW YORK: The COVID forecast is improving, looking better. The COVID clouds are parting.

NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: In New York, average daily infections plummeted about 40 percent in just a week.

DR. VIVEK MURTHY, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: The challenge is that not -- the entire country is not moving at the same pace. The omicron wave started later in other parts of the country so we shouldn't expect a national peak in the next coming days. The next few weeks will be tough.

WATT: Now, just after Christmas nationwide we were averaging a little over 200,000 new infections every day as omicron took hold.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Is that a number that you think could reach half a million soon?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: You know, it's possible, Kaitlan. I don't think it will, but you never really can tell.

WATT: Saturday, average daily infections topped 800,000 for the first time. Look at that graph. This is record territory. Previous waves, not even close.

DR. PAUL OFFIT, MEMBER, FDA VACCINE ADVISORY COMMITTEE: We're almost there. I really do think within the next three to four to five weeks, you're going to see a dramatic decline in the instance of this illness and presumably next winter, we'll see somewhat of a surge, presumably less than this surge.

WATT: The CDC says the infected can end isolation if fever free, just five days after a positive test when, a study of infections in the NBA suggests, more than one-third are probably still infectious. Ending isolation at day five should include a negative rapid antigen test, tweeted one of the researchers. Why do all the work to identify infections if we're going to just let them go back to work while still potentially infectious?

As so many schools struggle to stay open, Virginia's new governor will ban school mask mandates. A few districts say they will defy it.

GOV. GLENN YOUNGKIN (R), VIRGINIA: We will use every resource within the governor's authority to explore what we can do and will do in order to make sure that parents' rights are protected.

WATT: Meantime, China reported its first omicron case Saturday and the Winter Olympics begin in Beijing in under three weeks. Officials announced today tickets will now not be sold to the general public.


WATT (on camera): And back in this country, a high profile positive test result, General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has tested positive for COVID. We're told he is fully vaccinated and boosted, suffering very minor symptoms, working remotely. And we are told that crucially his last meeting with President Biden was last Wednesday and before and after that meeting, Milley tested negative. Back to you.

HARLOW: All right. Nick, wishing him a speedy and full recovery. Thank you very much.

Joining me live to discuss is Dr. Peter Hotez, co-director of the Center for Vaccine Development at Texas Children's Hospital.

Dr. Hotez, good to have you.

Early results from an Israeli study show a fourth dose of the vaccine can increase antibodies but it's still might not be enough to prevent omicron breakthrough cases.

You were a loud voice on this calling for a fourth dose a month ago. Israel already offers the fourth shot for high-risk groups, health care workers, anyone over 60.


Should the U.S. do the same?

DR. PETER HOTEZ, CO-DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR VACCINE DEVELOPMENT AT TEXAS CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: Well, I think right now, it's probably too late because by the time you get that through and get the FDA and CDC to sign off on it and by the time we get an immune response and vaccinated health care providers and that's the group I suggested that we tried for it will be three or four weeks from now and by then possibly the omicron wave will have subsided substantially and we'll be having to worry about the next variant.

So I think at this point, the best thing to do is to -- let's see what the data from Israel shows. The reason I was concerned about not giving a second booster was based on information that we got from Imperial College London showing that within a couple of months after the boost, you got a decline in effectiveness down to 30 percent to 40 percent so the idea is you boost, get a big bump in virus neutralizing antibodies and maybe that would help the healthcare workforce. So, we'll see what the data from Israel looks like.

HARLOW: Meantime, the CDC has updated its guidance. They did earlier this month, advising schools in high-risk areas to cancel or hold high-risk sports, extracurricular activities virtually. So, that would mean canceling things like football, wrestling, band, choir. Critics say this guidance is unrealistic, it's out of touch.

What do you think?

HOTEZ: Well, if you remember, right before Christmas, the president made a pretty big push to keep schools open and that was reinforced by the Centers for Disease Control director. I think it's tough -- and most schools followed that advice and are trying to stay open, although some are now having to shut down for periods because transmission is so high and teachers are getting infected. It's tough now to add these new guidance right in the middle of this, especially -- depends how long the omicron variant stays around and if it starts going down in three or four weeks we may not have to worry as much. But I think it's going to be a tough case to make now that CDC is kind of altering its initial plans.

HARLOW: So speaking of omicron and how the new research suggested it is, quote, inherently milder than delta for children under age 5. Of course, those who can't get vaccinated. The study says about 1 percent of kids infected with omicron were hospitalized compared with 3 percent of kids who had the delta variant.

Overall, case rates and hospitalizations are at a record high, though. I wonder what you're seeing in your hospital right now with omicron and children 5 and under.

HOTEZ: Well, we are seeing a lot of kids under 5 get hospitalized here in Houston. And a number of them have this condition known as bronchiolitis, which means it's not a pneumonia, not deep in the lungs but in the smaller and larger airways. And I think we are seeing quite a bit of bronchiolitis across the country right now.

I think a big question is going to be for other virus pathogens like respiratory virus that causes bronchiolitis, that will sometimes set up kids for asthma later in life and create reactive airway disease. So, that's going to be an important trend to follow in the coming weeks and months as well.

HARLOW: I want to share part of this CNN op-ed on families with children under the age of 5 and the title is "Parents of the Youngest Kids are not Okay Right Now." Let me read you part of it.

Quote: While COVID-19 poses risks to all of us, children 5 and older are at least eligible for vaccines and aren't seeing much of an increase in hospitalizations. But the parents of younger kids, vulnerable little ones who don't have these protections and are getting hospitalized with the virus at an alarming rate are truly in terrible situations.

I speak as a journalist and parent of a child under 5. Has the public health guidance left many of these families behind?

HOTEZ: Well, there's not a lot of instruction, and remember how this works. Now that we're opening up schools, for kids 5 and up, a lot of those 5 and up kids have siblings under the age of 5. So they're bringing home COVID.

HARLOW: Right.

HOTEZ: We're hearing about parents getting infected and little kids getting infected. That's happening all over the place. Now that the vaccine mandates in the workplace have been shot down, we're going to have parents bringing home their infections to little kids.

So, yeah, this is a real concern and why I've been saying, look, during this terrible omicron wave, which is so much transmission going on, let's not be too ambitious at this point. If we need to tack on a few extra weeks in the school year as we head into the summer, that might be a more preferable option. But I really do have a lot of empathy and sympathy for parents right now of little kids.

HARLOW: Dr. Hotez, thank you so much, as always.

HOTEZ: Thank you.

HARLOW: Well, the difference between campaigning and governing. Why school districts in Virginia are telling students to wear masks despite the governor's move to end the mandate.

Plus, as the drum beat of war grows louder, we are live in Ukraine as U.S. senators are there to get eyes on the Russian threat of invasion.



HARLOW: Topping our national lead, today, several large school districts in the Commonwealth of Virginia are already pushing back against an executive order from the new governor, Governor Glenn Youngkin, making good on his campaign promise ordering all schools to allow parents to make the decision on whether their kid wears a mask or not in class.

Fairfax and Henrico counties saying, no thanks, informing families Sunday night that masks will still be required for students and teachers.

Our Eva McKend joins me.

Eva, how is the brand-new governor responding to this?

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: He's resolute. The crux of the executive order just four pages argues masks among kids in schools provides inconsistent health benefits. Governor Youngkin maintains many children wear them improperly or are wearing cloth masks that aren't even clean. And this is to the great frustration of parents.

One telling me a mask mandate should not be a political ping-pong.


Schools in northern Virginia and the Richmond region saying we want kids in school. Masks are keeping them in classrooms.

But Youngkin ran on this issue so he argues the people of Virginia spoke, and this increased agency for parents is what the voters wanted. Take a listen.


GOV. GLENN YOUNGKIN (R), VIRGINIA: If there's one thing that hopefully everybody heard in November is it is time to listen to parents. So, over the course of this week, I hope they will listen to parents because we will use every resource within the governor's authority to explore what we can do and will do in order to make sure that parents' rights are protected.


MCKEND: Now, this potentially could pit parents against parents and lead to confusion when they return this week. Parents could ask themselves, should they listen to the governor or listen to their school district? Even though the executive order doesn't take effect until January 24th.

Now Democrats in the state say the Virginia legislature passed a law last year that requires Virginia schools to follow federal guidance that recommends masks in schools.

HARLOW: And Florida Governor Ron DeSantis imposed a similar ban on mask mandates in his state followed by a battle in the courts. Could that battle foreshadow what's about to happen in Virginia?

MCKEND: You know, it certainly could. You could see the parallels between the executive orders from these two governors. Ultimately, that saga ended when DeSantis secured a political victory last November when the state legislature agreed on a ban on school mask mandates that DeSantis then signed into law.

But as you know, Virginia is no Florida. While Youngkin has a Republican majority in the Virginia House of Delegates, the state is still narrowly controlled by Democrats. And this just in, we are getting a copy of his remarks that he is giving now to the joint assembly, and he is doubling down on this decision, saying this is a matter of individual liberty -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Eva McKend, thank you for the reporting.

Things are not any easier at colleges across the country from remote classes to quarantining. Once back on campus. Omicron is making this semester anything but normal at the university level.

Our Alexandra Field talks to students about how they're faring.


ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At the start of yet another semester, the fifth now of its kind, COVID is creating more challenges for colleges and universities across the country.

GARY KORETZKY, VICE PROVOST FOR ACADEMIC INTEGRATION, CORNEL UNIVERSITY: Challenges are really beginning to learn to live with the fact that we will have virus on campus.

FIELD: Cornell University hit hard by an explosion of omicron cases in December is shut down their campus early before the holiday break. They'll start the new semester with two weeks of remote learning.

KORETZKY: We recognize that we can't eradicate COVID. But we still want to limit it on campus and, in particular, protect vulnerable individuals.

FIELD: Universities and colleges now making a flurry of last-minute adjustments. Some adding booster requirements to vaccine mandates, others increasing testing protocols or upgrading standards for masks.

Princeton University announcing travel restrictions that will bar students from leaving the county or township upon return to campus, then just as quickly scrapping that plan. While Yale tries a campus- wide quarantine for the start of the semester, telling students avoid local businesses, restaurants and bars, including outdoor drinking or dining.

The latest attempts to manage the spread of omicron deflating to too many students trying to capture what's left of a fleeting college experience.

BEN MOSKOWITZ, COLLEGE JUNIOR, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND: It seems kind of scary that it might be a regress toward what it was earlier. I spent the majority of my day in my apartment, not getting like the air, exercise or social interaction that I think is necessary and healthy for especially college-aged people.

GENEVIEVE PHARES, COLLEGE STUDENT, UC DAVIS: It's like really hard to work in your room alone on that. So I think that would be just like a big adjustment going back to that again.

FIELD: Arizona State University says it's taking precautions amid the surge but two years into the pandemic, prioritizing putting students in the classroom. Tens of thousands are back already. The university president telling KTAR --

MICHAEL CROW, PRESIDENT, ARIZONA STATE UNIVERSITY: Let's continue to just move forward. Let's continue to manage this virus as best we can and we've got lots of testing and we're using masks where we need to use masks.

FIELD: Tools that are still helpful for keeping campuses open, for making things more normal for pandemic-weary students.

EMILY OSTER, ECONOMICS PROFESSOR, BROWN UNIVERSITY: You can see it in the way the students -- the way the students seem to feel. They're resilient, which is great but there's a limit to some of those -- some of that resiliency.


FIELD (on camera): You could say that for all of us it seems, Poppy. Amid the pandemic we also know some students are choosing not to go to college or not to go to college just yet. They might be waiting for the reassurance they can go back fully in person. They may be putting off plans to go to college because of other family factors.

But, look, researchers and educators are warning that it is too soon to draw any really specific conclusions.

[16:20:05] When you look toward these decreasing numbers in college enrollment, they say that could be a function of the pandemic. Too soon to tell. That could also be the continuation of pre-pandemic trends we were seeing.

HARLOW: OK. Alexandra Field, thanks so much for the reporting.

Ahead, can the U.S. decode Vladimir Putin's puzzling behavior? We'll go live to Ukraine where the threat of invasion is real and fears are growing.

Stay with us.



HARLOW: In our world lead, Russia's drumbeat of war is growing louder, according to one U.S. official as Russia denies any involvement in the crippling cyberattack on Ukraine and refutes a U.S. intelligence report showing Russia laid the groundwork to stir up a fake conflict in Ukraine in order to justify an invasion.

The top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee told Jake Tapper the United States needs to step up.


REP. MIKE MCCAUL (R-TX): Putin again smells weakness here. He knows if he's ever going to invade Ukraine, now is the time.


HARLOW: Let's get right to CNN's Matthew Chance in Kiev.

Matthew, a group of U.S. senators flew there to meet directly with Ukrainian officials. Does that give Ukrainians a feeling of assurance tonight?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, I think it does. I mean, those seven U.S. senators have been meeting with President Zelensky tonight at his presidential office, offering him sort of bipartisan support from the U.S. and also talking about ways in which they could deter what they call Russian aggression and perhaps look at bolstering the threat of sanctions against Russia by the United States, even more, if it continues this threat.

The foreign ministry told me tonight they're going to be taking -- the senators will be taking those recommendations back to the United States with the possibility of debate or further action. There have been other measures as well from various other parties. NATO today says that it will be deepening its technical cooperation with Ukraine to help it fend off cyberattacks of the kind it recently endured by a -- from a suspected Russian origin.

And the British government has announced within the past few hours as well that it will be stepping up its military assistance to Ukraine, offering armor-piercing systems that will be operational on a short- range basis, which is a big escalation. I think a big step up of what European powers are offering Ukraine as well in the shadow of this consistent Russian threat, Poppy.

HARLOW: Yeah, it certainly would be.

Meantime, Matthew, Kremlin's spokesperson Dmitri Peskov told our very own Fareed Zakaria that Russia doesn't want months or year-long negotiation. Do Ukrainians that you speak with feel like a diplomatic solution is still likely?

CHANCE: Well, they hope for one. In fact, the Ukrainian authorities have been pushing hard for some kind of diplomatic format in which this crisis can be resolved. In fact, you know, within the past 24 hours, President Zelensky of Ukraine suggested a trilateral online summit between himself, President Biden and President Putin of Russia, but there's been no response from either -- well, not from the Americans but not from -- crucially not from the Russians yet either. It's not something that I think that they're going to accept sitting down even online table face-to-face with the Ukrainians.

But they certainly -- the Ukrainians certainly want a diplomatic solution but, of course, what they are faced with in reality is tens of thousands of Russian soldiers that are still gathered near the border of Ukraine posing a credible threat, I think it's fair to say, of another invasion of their country.

HARLOW: Given that credible threat and where we are at this point, are both President Biden and Vladimir Putin essentially boxed in by the positions they've each taken?

CHANCE: You know, I think to some extent they are. Certainly from the Biden side, you know, he is totally incapable, I think. As with every other western official, of exceeding to the Russian demands. And those demands offer an end to NATO expansion, specifically to make sure Ukraine never joins the military alliance.

So, there's no way those kinds of guarantees can come from the U.S. president or any other western official. And, of course, the Russians have said they won't accept any -- no other compromises except those core demands.

And so, we're in this impasse at the moment where both countries, both presidents are unable to give the other what they want. Where that leads, though, isn't clear. Obviously, everyone here is bracing for the possibility of some kind of Russian incursion or another Russian invasion. There's a possibility that diplomatic process could continue, even though it's an impasse -- at an impasse at the moment.

But there's also the possibility that tensions in this region could just be permanently raised. And so, we're in a constant state of crisis. I think that's the real concern now, Poppy.

HARLOW: Of course. Matthew Chance in Kiev for us tonight, thank you so much for the reporting. On this Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the White House is trying to keep

alive its fight for election reform, calling it a modern day call for civil rights. Is that call landing on deaf ears?

Stay with us.



HARLOW: On this Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the family of the late activist participated in a peace walk in Washington, D.C., trying to increase pressure on Congress to pass election reform legislation. The Senate is expected to take up that key legislation tomorrow. But even a top Democrat admits it's on life support right now.

Our Phil Mattingly is live outside of the White House.

And, Phil, President Biden is not ready to give up this fight yet, and he called on Democrats to deliver the votes in a video today.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right, Poppy. The president using that video to call on all Americans to help finish the unfinished work of Martin Luther King Jr. on this day of commemoration.


And part of that work, according to the president, is the voting bill that the U.S. Senate will take up this week, a bill that right now very clearly does not have the votes to move forward in the United States Senate, does not have the votes to end or at least create a carve out to the filibuster inside the Democratic Caucus.

But the president continuing to implore senators, particularly those who haven't committed yet, to do just that, and making it a moral case. Take a listen.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Will we stand against voter suppression? Yes or no? Will we stand against election subversion? Yes or no?

Will we stand up for an America where everyone is guaranteed the full protections and the full promise of this nation? Yes or no?

I know where I stand. It's time for every elected official in America to make it clear where they stand.


MATTINGLY: It's, Poppy, it's worth noting all 50 Senate Democrats are supportive of the legislation that will come up in the United States Senate. What the Senate Democratic leaders do not have the votes for is a carve-out to the filibuster to allow them to pass it by a simple majority vote.

That's the work going on behind the scenes now for several weeks. There's no clear path forward but, obviously, work is continuing.

HARLOW: Phil, before you go, house majority whip Congressman Jim Clyburn told Jake Tapper yesterday on "STATE OF THE UNION" these pieces of legislation may not be dead yet, but they're on his words on, quote, life support.

Are there last-minute negotiations, anything like that happening behind the scenes that could change the outcome tomorrow?

MATTINGLY: You know, I was texting with one Democratic source yesterday when I saw those comments from whip Clyburn to Jake, and the source said life support is generous at this point in time, given where Senator Kyrsten Sinema and Senator Joe Manchin stand on the filibuster specifically. They are unequivocal that they will not vote for any rules change in the Senate related to the filibuster. Senator Sinema announced it on the Senate floor.

Senator Manchin, a very lengthy statement after the president came to Capitol Hill to rally them in support of just such a rule change. And that just brings the reality home for the White House. They knew it was going to be a very tall hill to climb in order to get this across the finish line given where Senator Sinema and Manchin have long stood.

They have not moved them at all. There have been calls. There have been meetings over the course of the last several days, several weeks. Nothing has changed up to this point. That's what they are dealing with as they head into this week, and almost certain failure on this bill.

All 50 Democrats support the policy. They certainly don't support any changes to the procedure, at least not all 50 of them, Poppy.

HARLOW: A key distinction. Phil Mattingly at the White House, thank you very much.

Let's discuss all this with Democratic strategist Paul Begala and former White House communications director under President Trump, Alyssa Farah Griffin.

Good to have you both.

And, Paul, let me start with you and the words of the daughter in-law of Martin Luther King Jr., Arndrea Waters King. This is what she told "Politico". Quote: What we have seen with President Biden is what happens when he puts the full force and power behind an issue like infrastructure. What we want to see is that same power and passion being put behind voting rights.

Do you think that's fair criticism? Did President Biden put more effort into getting infrastructure passed, for example?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, he got infrastructure passed and that's a good thing because success can breed success. He is putting the full force of the presidency behind it.

I think the problem for the Democrats is not that they have bad leaders. They have bad followers. Okay? I read the most amazing essay today from Andy Young. Andy is a former mayor of Atlanta, former U.N. ambassador and more importantly, probably the closest confidante and aide to Dr. King.

He told this story December of 1964. Andy Young and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. go to see Lyndon Johnson to push him for a Voting Rights Act. Johnson says I can't do it. I used all my power to get the Civil Rights Act done last year, I don't have the power to push Congress any further on voting rights.

As they left the White House, Andy Young's words, he said, I asked softly. I asked Dr. King what he thought. He said, I think we got to go get the president some power.

And so you know what they did? They organized. These are Andy Young's words. We mobilized the churches, the universities, the labor unions, the business community, a coalition of people of goodwill. In other words, those of us who want to save voting rights, we need to get to work.

I do think Biden is putting everything behind this, but he needs -- he needs better followers, all of us in the game as well.

HARLOW: I remember what he said about the power of big business in that moment, in moving the hand of politicians.

Alyssa, there's zero Republicans supporting these election reforms in the current state to be clear. Listen to what the president of the NAACP, Derrick Johnson, said on CNN today.


DERRICK JOHNSON, PRESIDENT, NAACP: The whole system has been fraught with partisan posture around an issue that's not partisan in nature. We're talking about protecting the rights of voters. We're talking about a similar bill that was passed in 2006 by 16 -- voted for by 16 sitting Republicans.


HARLOW: Alyssa, do you think some Republicans share some of the blame for why this has become so political?


ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think Paul gives a very interesting historical context. But one thing I would kind of disagree on is that Biden's fully gone to back and gone to work to get this through. Mitt Romney over the weekend said he's not even gotten a call from the White House on this bill.

I believe fundamentally that there are at least a dozen good-faith Republican senators who want to see people who should have access to voting able to vote, able to do it easily, but we do have some different policy viewpoints than the Democrats.

This is where the hard work of legislating and governing comes in. You have to sit down and talk to people on the other side of the aisle and say, what are you able to get on board with and what do you need to see from us? I think there's actually a way there would be a transformation -- transformational voting bill that comes out of this, but it 100 percent would require some buy-in from Republicans. Otherwise, it's going to seem cheap and partisan. And that work has not been done by the White House to date.

HARLOW: So, just -- I hear you on what Mitt Romney said, and he said just yesterday, right, there are more than a handful of Republicans willing to work on the Biden administration with this but his complaint was, but I haven't gotten a call from the White House.

But, I mean, it goes both ways. Republicans could reach out to the White House and say we're ready. Here's where we can meet you, no?

GRIFFIN: I totally agree, but I think that Biden kind of set this off with bad faith last week. I think that that speech he gave in Georgia went way too far. He knows that the Pat Toomeys, the Rob Portmans, the Mitt Romneys of the world are nowhere near segregationists or George Wallace. They are good-faith Republicans who are willing to work with him.

And by the way, in Biden's inaugural address which I thought was a phenomenal speech, one that will be remembered in the history books that we needed in a uniting moment. He said there's virtually nothing Americans can't get done when we're willing to work together.

So, I think this is a great moment to try and do that. And, heck, let's have the conversation around MLK day because there are -- I can tell you there are Republicans who are willing to make concessions if that -- if their concerns are also addressed in some ways.

HARLOW: Paul, let's talk about, you know, we're almost nearly, this week we'll hit one year for the president, President Biden. He marks that with bad news, a string of bad news. Election reforms on the verge of failure, Supreme Court striking down his vaccine mandate for businesses. U.S. just hit record inflation. Omicron spreading still. His job approval 42 percent in the latest CNN poll of polls.

How does the president hit reset and turn the tide here?

BEGALA: Yeah, terrible week, but a good year, I think. He got his recovery act through which we forget about in the first 100 days or so. And it was a remarkable piece of legislation to cut child poverty in half. He wants to extend it. Congress right now hasn't been able to do so. He got a bipartisan infrastructure bill, with 19 Senate Republicans on board.

So, yes, he can work with Republicans. He was very successful in that. But I think you're right. He needs a reset now.

My own counsel to him would be, don't tie your fortune exclusively to passing bills through congress. You spent 36 years there, but you're not a Senate any longer. He has vast power on the executive level. I think --

HARLOW: But it's not lasting.

BEGALA: Well, it can be. For example, the antitrust laws. Why isn't his administration going after big tech harder? Why aren't -- why isn't he -- he could work with Republicans on that. A lot of them are as angry as Facebook and Google as a lot of liberals are.

So, he's got -- he's got vast power but I think he's going to have to disengage with Congress because not everything he needs to do requires a law.

HARLOW: Thank you both. Good to have you, Paul, Alyssa. We'll see you very soon.

GRIFFIN: Thanks so much.

BEGALA: Thanks, Poppy.

HARLOW: The international investigation into the man behind the terror attack at the Texas synagogue. That's next.



HARLOW: In our national lead, today, the FBI confirmed it is investigating the Texas hostage standoff as a terrorism-related incident. The agency is still trying to figure out exactly why a 44- year-old British national took a rabbi and three others hostage at a Dallas area synagogue on Saturday.

As CNN's Ed Lavandera reports, we're learning new details today about when the suspect arrived in the U.S. and what he did in the days before the attack.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The final moments capturing the escape of the hostages from inside the Beth Israel Synagogue was captured by a photojournalist with CNN affiliate WFAA. The hostages are seen racing out a side door. The hostage taker briefly appears, pointing his firearm in their direction. The FBI hostage rescue team, which arrived at the scene just hours earlier moves in. An explosive device detonates and gunfire rips through the air.

Shortly after, it's announced the hostages were safe and alive. The hostage taker dead.

Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker says the situation was quickly deteriorating.

RABBI CHARLIE CYTRON-WALKER, HELD HOSTAGE: The last hour or so of the standoff he wasn't getting what he wanted. I asked -- made sure that the two gentlemen who were still with me, that they were -- that they were ready to go. The exit wasn't too far away. I told them to go. I threw a chair at the gunman. And I headed for the

door. And all three of us were able to get out without even a shot being fired.

LAVANDERA: Law enforcement officials have identified the hostage taker as 44-year-old Malik Faisal Akram.


He is a British citizen. Law enforcement sources tell CNN Akram arrived legally in the United States in late December at JFK airport in New York, eventually making his way to Texas where he spent three nights at this Dallas homeless shelter in the days leading up to the hostage standoff.

On Saturday morning, Akram showed up to the synagogue, Rabbi Walker thought he was someone who needed shelter.

CYTRON-WALKER: It was during prayer while we were praying. And my back was turned. We face towards Jerusalem when we pray. Right before -- right before he revealed himself.

But this was, you know, plenty of time and I heard a click. And it could have been anything. And it turned out that it was his gun.

LAVANDERA: Akram's voice could be heard on the live stream of the synagogue's Sabbath services.

MALIK FAISAL AKRAM, SUSPECT: I've got these four guys with me, yeah? So I don want to hurt them, yeah? Okay, are you listening?

LAVANDERA: Andrew Marc Paley is the rabbi at Temple Shalom in Dallas. Law enforcement officers brought him to the scene on Saturday.

When you saw the rabbi after his ordeal, what was the first thing you said to him?

RABBI ANDREW MARC PALEY, TEMPLE SHALOM, DALLAS: So I said, Charlie, I was so glad you're okay. You know, we're here for you. He was just completely overjoyed and, you know, a little overwhelmed.


LAVANDERA: And, Poppy, tonight the congregation of the Beth Israel synagogue will come together for the first time. They'll be holding a special service at this Methodist Church in the nearby town of Southlake. So the members of the congregation invited to come out here tonight. This is happening here because law enforcement investigators continue processing the scene there at the synagogue from what happened over the weekend -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Yeah. Ed Lavandera, thank you so much for your reporting today and tonight as the news was un -- this weekend as the news was unfolding.

Well, the world's number one men's tennis star off the court. But at the center of a political match that might sideline him for other major matches. Find out why, next.



HARLOW: In our sports lead, game, set, match. Unvaccinated tennis star Novak Djokovic has officially been deported after a dramatic week in Australia. And while the visa volley there may be over, the ball is certainly up in the air for other major upcoming tennis tournaments like the French and U.S. Opens, both tournaments with strict vaccine requirements.

Scott McLean is in Djokovic's home country of Serbia where he got a hero's welcome despite coming home empty handed.


SCOTT MCLEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Novak Djokovic arrived back in home country of Serbia after Australian authorities canceled his visa on public health and order grounds. Serbian government outraged by the political intervention.

ANA BRNABIC, SERBIAN PRIME MINISTER (through translator): I think the decision is scandalous. I'm disappointed, and I think it's shown how the rule of law functions in some other countries, i.e., how it doesn't function. It's incredible.

MCLEAN: Australia's immigration minister argued that Djokovic, who is unvaccinated but sought a medical exemption to play in the open, could incite the country's anti-vaxxers. It was their final volley in a drawn-out legal grudge match that saw him detained by immigration authorities twice in a matter of weeks.

Djokovic has been widely criticized for remaining unvaccinated and for breaking self-isolation in Serbia. After testing positive in December, he attended a photo shoot in person.

But here in Belgrade, the tennis star doesn't appear to have lost any fans. Nor has he been labeled an anti-vaxxer.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): Everybody has their own thing. I don't think he's spreading anything, even non-vaccination nor vaccination.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that it's his choice and nobody should be forced. I myself am vaccinated but I don't think -- no one should be forced.

MCLEAN: While Serbian fans welcomed them home with open arms, tennis fans in Melbourne welcomed the end of the visa saga that's overshadowed the actual tennis.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it was kind of dragged on a little too long, but it's great we put that behind us.

MCLEAN: Djokovic has officially lost the chance to play for his 21st grand slam title and may be barred from Australia for the next three years.

KAREN ANDREWS, AUSTRALIAN MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS: Now there are some compelling reasons that may be able to be looked at but that's all hypothetical at this point. Any application will be reviewed on its merits.

MCLEAN: His next grand slam may also be in jeopardy. France announced Monday that all professional athletes competing in the country will have to be vaccinated, with no exceptions.


MCLEAN: Now, according to Forbes, Novak Djokovic earns $30 million per year in sponsorship deals alone. While most of his sponsors have been quiet on this whole Australia situation, Lacoste, the French clothing brand, one of his sponsors, well, they would like to have a word with Djokovic as soon as possible to review what happened in Australia.

Now if Djokovic opts to skip the French Open over vaccination issues, his next chance at a grand slam would be at Wimbledon, but if he attends there, he'll have to plan to get to England plenty early in order to complete the ten-day mandatory quarantine for people who show up unvaccinated -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Scott McLean, I think a lot to come on this front in Belgrade, Serbia, for us tonight. Thank you very much.

And thanks to all of you for watching this special edition of THE LEAD. I'm Poppy Harlow, in for Jake Tapper.

Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM".