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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Go To To Order Free At-Home Tests; Key Vote On Election Reform Bill Expected To Fail This Week; FBI, DHS Warn Faith Communities Of More Violence After TX Standoff; AT&T, Verizon Delay 5G Rollout Near Some Airports After Safety Warning; North Korea Tests Six Missiles in Less Than Two Weeks; New York Mayor Acknowledges Worries About Subway Safety After Woman Dies When Pushed In Front Of Train. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired January 18, 2022 - 16:00   ET



CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: It was "Living on the Edge" and I knew immediately it was a message from Jay that he is okay and he is still rocking out at that everlasting Aerosmith concert in the sky. But we're sure going to miss him down here.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: We will miss you, Jay.

THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER starts right now.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: You get a test. And you get a test. And you get a test.

THE LEAD starts right now.

The White House website to request free at-home COVID tests goes live as the omicron variant continues blazing its ugly trail.

And it was supposed to roll out across the country in just hours, but several airlines say 5G interferes with the technology planes use to land in bad weather. So now Verizon and AT&T are responding.

Plus, a woman pushed to her death off the subway platform in front of the train. Another young woman stabbed to death by a stranger inside a furniture store. The deadly and random attacks plaguing major cities on both coasts of the U.S.


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

We're starting off with our health lead. Free tests for everyone with a catch. Today, the White House quietly launched its beta version website for free at-home rapid tests. Just go to

But tough luck if you're a family of five. There's a limit of four per household. Do not expect to see them on your doorstep tomorrow like an Amazon Prime delivery. They'll start shipping out at the end of the month. Still, it's worth getting your name on the list because as CNN's Nick

Watt reports for us, COVID cases are still skyrocket skyrocketing in most of the United States and it is best to have a test on hand in case you happen to be one of the nearly 700,000 new cases per week.


NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): One in 5 Americans have now had COVID-19. More than 66 million confirmed cases, and counting. In reality, says the CDC, it's probably way more, like four times more.

The omicron variant is now spreading this virus like never before. Is this the beginning of the end for this pandemic?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: It is an open question as to whether or not omicron is going to be the live virus vaccination that everyone is hoping for because you have such a great deal of variability with new variants emerging.

DR. PETER HOTEZ, PROFESSOR & DEAN OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: There's a good likelihood we'll see another serious COVID wave of a new variant, TBD, to be determined. That's going to start in the summer.

WATT: Infections right now unquestionably falling in parts of the country. Green is good. New York is green.

MAYOR ERIC ADAMS (D), NEW YORK CITY: We are winning. We are winning. And we are going to win.

WATT: But not yet. More than 100 patients left waiting for an ICU bed in Oklahoma City Monday morning.

Our caregivers are still strong, according to an open letter penned by four health care bosses in the city. But they are exhausted. Even these heroes can't keep up much longer.

HOTEZ: We have to stop the happy talk about omicron. This is still a very serious pathogen, especially in light of the fact that so much of our health care workforce is getting knocked out at home with COVID.

STEPHEN A SMITH, ESPN HOST: I had 103-degree fever every night.

WATT: Serious pathogen. ESPN's Stephen A. Smith spent New Year's in the hospital with COVID.

SMITH: And they told me had I not been vaccinated, I wouldn't be here.

WATT: Another massive issue, hundreds of schools remain closed by the omicron wave.

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: We have failed our children. Throughout this entire pandemic, we have not prioritized our kids. And now, we're seeing the effect.

WATT: Researchers just published their review of 36 studies on the impact on kids of such school closures in 2020 in 11 countries, with almost all studies documenting poor or mental health and well-being.


WATT (on camera): Jake, you mentioned the beta version is up of that website where you can now order yourself some free rapid tests. One of my colleagues just told me in my ear she has done it already and the whole process took less than a minute. So far, so good.

The full site rolls out we're told midmorning tomorrow. Meantime, we are still waiting for the federal government to tell us how and when they're going to ship out all those great masks that they promised -- Jake.

TAPPER: Nick Watt, thanks so much.

Let's bring in CNN medical analyst Dr. Jonathan Reiner.

Dr. Reiner, the White House quietly rolled out its free at-home testing site today. There's a limit of four per household.


And it will take a couple of weeks before the tests get to people's doorsteps.

Will this effort ultimately make any sort of dent in the pandemic?

DR. JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, maybe not for this big omicron surge, but going forward, yes. I think tests are critical -- a critical tool to help us get back to normal. It's how we are going to be able to understand whether that tickle in your throat is just a tickle in your throat or whether it's COVID, and whether you need to stay home. It's a tool to allow you to go visit your friends on Saturday night which is what we and our friends did before we met this past weekend.

So I think it's going to be critical to have tests in every home. It would have been wonderful for us to have had this months ago, but here we are and I'm glad the administration is doing this.

But for most people they won't be able to get these tests until the beginning of February and I encourage everyone to go on the website this week and order some to have in your house.

TAPPER: Dr. Fauci was asked if the omicron variant could be the last big spike. Take a listen.


FAUCI: When you talk about whether or not omicron, because it's a highly transmissible but apparently not as pathogenic, for example, as delta, I would hope that that's the case, but that would only be the case if we don't get another variant that eludes the immune response to the prior variant.


TAPPER: So it seems as though Fauci is saying there's no way to predict the course of this virus but there is some hope that perhaps it's winding down to an endemic stage where we just learned to live with it.

Do you feel the same way?

REINER: I do. And basically what Dr. Fauci is saying is that since this variant is so contagious and it's infecting so many people per day, probably well more than a quarter of a million people in this country a day are being -- excuse me, well over a million people per day are being infected with this variant that it is basically acting like a live virus vaccine like MMR and chickenpox vaccines and is basically vaccinating the country.

Now, how durable that will be has yet to be seen. And as Dr. Fauci said, it will all depend on whether another variant outcompetes omicron and takes its place later this spring or early summer.

TAPPER: You say it's serving as a way of vaccinating, but, I mean, I know you mean for the 99 percent of the people who survive it and then get antibodies. But there is also, you know, more than a thousand people a day who are dying from it and there's long COVID. I just want to make sure our viewers don't --

REINER: No, don't get me wrong. I am doing everything in my power to prevent myself from getting this infection and my family and my patients and everyone I care about and everyone in this country. This virus is to be avoided at all costs, at every cost.

But what Dr. Fauci is saying basically is that this virus, which appears to be a little lower in severity than delta, easier to survive, is infecting an enormous number of people and it's providing a level of immunity to a lot of people. So that's what Dr. Fauci was saying.

TAPPER: Right.

REINER: By no means do I think that people should just let it rip and just go ahead and get this virus and get it over with. Two thousand people are dying per day.


REINER: This is to be avoided.

TAPPER: And people I know who have had it in the last two weeks get mad when anyone uses the term less severe or mild. They say it's a wallop, although they're surviving it.

REINER: Miserable, miserable is the word I use.

TAPPER: An article in "The Atlantic" by an Oxford professor Jonathan Wolff discusses the social contract of living with this ongoing virus.

Quote: Just as you can drive carefully, you can live carefully during a pandemic wave. If the price of safety is to never go to a bar, restaurant, sports event or performance again, most will agree that we've got the balance disastrously wrong. We need to trade off survival against boredom. We cannot expect people to indefinitely forgo life's pleasures because the domino effect will lead to another sick person in the hospital.

Dr. Reiner, do you agree? And how do you mitigate everyday risks in your life?

REINER: Well, I do think we have a social contract with our families and our communities and our friends and co-workers to protect them. And we make decisions in this life that should place our community, you know, very high in our decision-making. So for that reason, people should be vaccinated to lower their risk of getting and transmitting this virus. For that reason, people should be masking in crowds to prevent themselves from either acquiring it or transmitting it.


I think about this every single day when I go to work. I don't want to get my co-workers infected. I treasure them. I don't want to bring a virus home to my family --

TAPPER: Right.

REINER: -- whom I love deeply.

And so like this weekend, as I said earlier, we did want to get out of our house and have dinner with friends. We went over to their home. My wife and I used rapid tests a half hour before we went there. We were both negative.

Our friends both tested at home around the same time. All four of us were negative. We had a lovely dinner.

That's part of the contract. Why would I go there and endanger them?

TAPPER: Exactly.

Dr. Reiner, thanks so much. I appreciate it.

He has a dream but President Biden's push for election reform is being deferred by reluctant Democrats and Republicans in lockstep.

And we're following breaking news that impacted every flight in the United States. Airlines claiming 5G cell towers could lead to thousands of flight cancellations because of safety concerns. And now some international airlines are suspending flights to the U.S.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: We're back with our politics lead.

In just minutes, Senate Democrats are set to meet on Capitol Hill with another key Biden priority on the verge of failure. It will be a vote on an election reform bill, all but guaranteed to fail tomorrow with zero Republicans on board and it's likely Democrats unwilling to scrap the 60-vote filibuster to get that bill across the finish line.

We're covering this from both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. Jeff Zeleny is at the White House. Jessica Dean is on Capitol Hill.

Jessica, if this vote is basically guaranteed to fail, what is the point of this Senate Democratic meeting tonight?

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's a good question, Jake. And they have to come together so they can figure out actual next steps. At this point, we don't know what Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is going to do after this vote ultimately goes down on the Senate floor. He has threatened to try to make changes to the filibuster in order to move forward.

But what is important to remember and we've talked about a lot is that Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema are against any rules changes that don't have bipartisan support. And the fact remains that zero, exactly zero Republicans are on board with making changes to the filibuster. So, we're expecting them to meet tonight as a caucus and go through some of this. Try to get on the same page in terms of what the next steps will be.

But the outcome, Jake, at this point looks to be the same as we've always believed it to be, which is that these bills will fail and there will not be changes to the filibuster.

TAPPER: And, Jeff, the daughter-in-law of Martin Luther King Jr., Arndrea Waters King, told "Politico" what we've seen with President Biden is what happens when he puts his 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, unquote.

I don't know if that's a fair comparison, but what is the White House saying today about this likely failure?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: The White House is aware of the uphill battle. There were 17 Republicans in the Senate who supported that at the end of the day. But the point is the base, the Democratic activists and the core of the party want to see something done. That's why the president and vice president are going all out on this. All in on this to make the case even though they know it's going to fail.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki explained it like this.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I would say in terms of voting rights, his view is that it's never a good idea not to shoot for the moon with what your proposals are and what you're fighting for. And the alternative is to fight for nothing and to fight for nothing hard and sometimes, oftentimes, as you know, you've covered a couple of administrations. You don't get everything done in the first year.


ZELENY: And, of course, that is clear. Presidents do not get everything done in the first year. The question is how much time is the president going to spend on this in the second year? He also has the second part of his economic agenda still looming out there.

So that will be a decision the president has to make later this week.

TAPPER: So, Jessica, let's assume that this all happens the way we expect it will and it fails. Is there any part of either of these election reform bills that Republicans might be able to support in a stand-alone bill? Could parts of this legislation still pass if there were some effort to come up with a bipartisan compromise or is it just Republicans are not interested in this issue?

DEAN: It's the latter. The Republicans aren't interested. With the exception of Lisa Murkowski who has tried to work on a bipartisan basis here. But from Republican leadership with Mitch McConnell all the way down, Jake, they've unilaterally said we're not interested in any sort of election reforms. Republicans truly believing this is a states issue and they want to keep it that way.

One thing worth keeping our eye on is changes to the Electoral Count Act which it doesn't have to do necessarily with voting. It comes after the results happen, but it was at the center of what happened in 2020 and at the center of former President Trump's efforts to overturn the election results with -- and it really deals with how Congress validates those results.

There has been some bipartisan movement on that. We heard from Senator Mitt Romney over the weekend that there's a bipartisan group of 12 senators working on something like this. So, once the temperatures cool on this, they could move toward that but in terms of the actual issues that are in these bills currently, it does not appear like that's going to get any traction even outside of these bigger bills.

TAPPER: And, quickly, Jeff, President Biden is set to hold a news conference tomorrow as he ends his first year in conference. I'll bring you that, viewers, tomorrow. What is the White House plan for holding this event on the heels of a slew of bad news and horrific headlines for Biden?

ZELENY: Well, Jeff, the timing certainly is not great for the president but perhaps it's a metaphor to try and turn the page, restore a sense of confidence in his spirit and competence in his administration. Now the president does not hold many news conferences as we well know.

[16:20:03] So he'll be doing this. The fact that he's doing that in and of itself is a bit of a news event, but again, trying to reset things. Sometimes you have to get the bad out of the way before you can try and make way to the next chapter.

That, of course, is just their hope here at the White House, Jake.

TAPPER: And that press conference is tomorrow at 4:00 p.m. Eastern. You can watch it here at CNN.

Jessica Dean, Jeff Zeleny, thanks to both of you.

Houses of worship now possible targets of terror. What you need to know about the latest FBI warnings following that Texas synagogue siege.

Stay with us.


TAPPER: Topping our national lead, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security are warning faith communities of potential more violence to come. They say they will likely continue to be targeted, these faith communities, by domestic and foreign extremists. This disturbing report comes as the Jewish community is reeling from a hostage standoff at a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, which is outside Dallas.

The suspect in that incident, a British national, with extremist Islamist views, is now dead.

But as CNN's Ed Lavandera reports, investigators have now turned their attention to the U.K. to find out more about what the FBI is calling a terrorism-related attack.


MALIK FAISAL AKRAM, SUSPECT: I'm going to die at the end of this, all right?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): That is the ranting by Malik Faisal Akram captured on the Congregation Beth Israel live stream when he took four people hostage Saturday morning. The family of the 44-year-old hostage taker says he suffered from mental health issues.

AKRAM: Are you listening? I am going to die!

LAVANDERA: A United Kingdom official tells CNN the British national was known to the U.K. security services. He was the subject of a brief investigation in 2020. The official says the investigation was closed when authorities determined Akram to no longer be a threat.

But after traveling to the United States in late December, Akram made his way into the Colleyville synagogue with a handgun and held Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker and three others hostage, while demanding the release of Aafia Siddiqui, who was convicted of attempted murder among other charges, and is in a Texas federal prison.

Jeffrey Cohen was one of the four hostages. He detailed the chilling account of the final hour of the hostage standoff.

JEFFREY COHEN, VICE PRESIDENT BOARD OF TRUSTEES, CONGREGATION BETH ISRAEL: At one point he even said that, I'm going to put a bullet in each of you. Get down on your knees, at which point I glared at him. I raised up in my seat like I'm doing now. I may have shaked my head like that but I glared at him and mouthed, no.

I want to make it clear. We were not released. We were not rescued, okay? We escaped.

LAVANDERA: The Congregation Beth Israel came together Monday night for a healing service as the FBI and homeland security officials sent a letter warning faith-based communities have and will likely continue to be targets of violence by both domestic violent extremists and those inspired by foreign terrorists.


LAVANDERA: In front of his congregation where hundreds turned out, Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker thanked the outpouring of support he's received from around the world.

CYTRON-WALKER: It could have been so much worse and I am overflowing, truly overflowing with gratitude. And I am so grateful. I'm so grateful for your presence here tonight.


LAVANDERA (on camera): And, Jake, this afternoon we've also learned that the hostage-taker about ten days ago showed up at the Islamic Center of Irving, which is just several miles away from the synagogue here in Colleyville.

We are told by a spokesperson for the Islamic Center that the suspect was asking for a place to stay. He was turned away and then became hostile, told the people at the Islamic Center they were going to hell. Then he showed up the next day acting very nice. That led people there to believe he was just not a stable person -- Jake.

TAPPER: Ed Lavandera, thanks so much.

Let's discuss this with CNN legal analyst and former Justice Department counterterrorism attorney Carrie Cordero.

Carrie, this investigation has gone international. CNN has learned the suspect was known to British security services. Had been the subject of an investigation in 2020, yet he was able to clear vetting and legally arrive in the U.S. is this a screening failure by the U.S.?

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think, Jake, that's going to be one of the big questions that U.S. investigators are going to have to evaluate. We have systems in place, primarily the entire infrastructure that was put in place in the post-9/11 era. We have a National Counterterrorism Center, a terrorist screening center that's run by the FBI and national vetting center run by the Department of Homeland Security. These are the institutions that are supposed to catch things like this.

So, I think that absolutely will be part of the review. It's one of the big questions that I have in terms of how this individual was permitted to enter the United States.

TAPPER: British counterterrorism police say they've arrested two teenagers in connection with this attack on the Texas synagogue. What sorts of clues are investigators looking for to determine whether the suspect acted in coordination with others?


CORDERO: Right. So again, one question is, how did he get into the United States? Another question is, was he acting alone or was this part of some broader plot or coordinated effort amongst a small group of individuals? So if they have taken into custody individuals to ask questions, that's what they're going to be trying to understand.

Was this a lone individual and they're just trying to understand who he is and his activities and what would have gone into his thinking, his motivations? Or are they trying to understand if he's under -- if these other individuals were involved or if it's something broader, because all of that will be relevant as to what future warnings and what future investigations both the FBI and international partners do or do not need to take.

TAPPER: So this domestic terrorist said that he was holding individuals hostage until Aafia Siddiqui, I think is her name, was freed. That's a big cause among extremist Islamists throughout the world, freeing her.

But I read an op-ed in "Newsweek" today that faulted the Council on American Islamic Relations or CAIR, for taking up Aafia Siddiqui's cause. CAIR also criticized Zionist synagogues saying they're not friends of Muslims and then this op-ed said CAIR, in a way, is responsible for at least feeding the beast that inspired this hostage taker. Do you agree?

CORDERO: Well, so to be clear, Siddiqui is not a political prisoner. She is not a victim. What she is is a convicted terrorist after a federal trial in Manhattan, convicted and sentenced, according to U.S. federal law, because she was being investigated by U.S. investigators in Afghanistan and obtained their weapon and assaulted them.

So she is not a political prisoner. What she has become is amongst a network of international terrorists and their supporters, she has become a cause celebre and CAIR is one of the organizations in the United States that has taken up her cause. Also a cause taken up by the Pakistani government itself which has lobbied on her behalf for her transfer to Pakistan.

So, CAIR has advocated for her release, including events that took place just this fall, including last month. And so, I do think that there is a valid public dialogue regarding the continuation of what is really an unfounded assertion that she is somehow not a legitimate detainee or a legitimate person who is in federal custody.

TAPPER: Yeah. We should note, of course, CAIR has condemned the attack on the synagogue and has -- so has Siddiqui, apparently.

Carrie Cordero, thank you so much. Appreciate your time.

Airlines say that 5G internet connection could make it hard for planes to land in bad weather. Now some countries are suspending flights to the U.S. because they're concerned about the rollout.

Buckle your seat belt. Stay right there. Stay with us.



TAPPER: We have some breaking news in our tech lead. After a terrifying warning, AT&T and Verizon are now delaying the activation of 5G towers near some airport runways, the activation that was set for tomorrow. And now, some international airlines will not fly to the United States because they are also worried about the rollout. Major airlines in the U.S. claim thousands of flights could be grounded because when the 5G towers are placed near runways, they say, the 5G signals could potentially interfere with key safety equipment the pilots rely on when they take off and land in inclement weather.

CNN's aviation correspondent Pete Muntean joins us.

Pete, AT&T is our parent company we should note. AT&T is pointing the finger at the FAA for this delay.

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Airlines and the aviation industry are getting what they want, at least for now, but it's not coming without a harsh message from the telecom industry which says the FAA simply had a lot of time to deal with this. Essentially a two- year runway is what they say.

Airlines could have dealt with it and the FAA and aviation could have dealt with this 5G rollout, which is already delayed by two weeks once the new deadline was to be tomorrow. Just look at this statement from AT&T. It says we are frustrated by the FAA's inability to do what nearly 40 countries have done, which is to safely deploy 5G technology without disrupting aviation services and we urge it to do so in a timely manner.

Really begs the question here about who is to blame. Was it the FAA dragging its feet or FCC which allowed this 5G radio spectrum to be used in a way airlines say would interfere with critical systems on board planes, wondering if Congress will get involved here, Jake.

TAPPER: The rollout has become so concerning some international airlines are now suspending some flights to the U.S. MUNTEAN: That's right. Emirates have suspended nine flights to the

U.S. It's changing planes on three other flights, ANA, Air Japan, also Air India. We also received a message today from American Airlines which it sent to its employees which said there could be an enumerable amount of delays and cancellations at that airline if 5G was allowed to deploy as initially planned. It couldn't even pinpoint exactly how many problems this would cause, although airlines up and down have said this would be a huge issue, Jake.

TAPPER: Let's back up, Pete. Why is 5G high-speed internet potentially dangerous when it's close to airports?


MUNTEAN: The issue here is the radio spectrum. It's called the C- band. And what happens is the 5G network is so close on that radio frequency spectrum to what are called radar altimeters, that are very sensitive instruments on board commercial airliners, on cargo planes, helicopters.

Particularly important for commercial airliners because it is used, sends a radio beam to the ground and back up to the airline to get a hyper accurate reading of how high the plane is above the ground which is used in critical phases of flight, especially when the plane is very low to the ground when the visibility is the least. So this is a real problem, the airlines say. In fact, United's CEO Scott Kirby called it the number one safety issue for the airline and that it will not compromise on that.

TAPPER: The airlines are warning this could create enormous scheduling problems, as airlines still try to catch up from Christmas week after weeks of more than a thousand cancellations a day.

What do the airlines want done long term here?

MUNTEAN: Essentially what they want is what some other countries have done which is a buffer zone. They want these 5G cell towers that are near those critical zones near runways, essentially a two-mile buffer where those towers are turned off where there could not be interference.

The airlines say they're not outright against 5G in general. They just don't want it to interfere with their planes. Don't it to interfere with flights. They say on a typical day, this could lead to a thousand delays, diversions and cancellations, Jake.

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

In our world lead, North Korea testing missiles at an alarming rate. As CNN's Ivan Watson reports for us now, the frequency is sending shock waves throughout the region.


IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Patriotic declarations on North Korean state television, announcements of fresh missile launches. North Korea has launched a salvo of six ballistic missiles in less than two weeks. On January 5th, what Pyongyang calls a hypersonic missile, another hypersonic missile January 11th, two ballistic missiles fired from a train on January 14th, and two tactical guided missiles fired early Monday morning. Weapons tests that appear to be part of a plan laid out by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un more than a year ago.

DUYEON KJIM, CENTER FOR A NEW AMERICAN SECURITY: Fundamentally, Kim Jong-un has basically ordered his people to make the type of weapons that he thinks will make North Korea become a very advanced nuclear power.

WATSON: Weapons experts say some of this month's launches didn't break any new ground. But North Korea also fired this new hypersonic missile, which it first revealed to the public last year. And the South Korean military confirmed it flew at ten times the speed of sound.

MELISSA HANHAM, STANFORD UNIVERSITY CENTER FOR INTERNATIONAL SECURITY AND COOPERATION: What North Korea is calling a hypersonic missile is really a ballistic missile at the base, when it launches, and then on the top, it has a maneuverable warhead which means it can move in a way that is unexpected.

WATSON: This type of missile poses a new potential threat to the U.S. and its allies in Asia.

HANHAM: They are able to launch a missile in one direction and essentially turn a corner, which makes it very difficult for radar systems and interceptors to track it.

WATSON: The latest missile launches a reminder of the flurry of missile tests North Korea conducted back in 2017. They sparked a war of words between Pyongyang and then-President Trump.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: Rocket man should have been handled a long time ago.

WATSON: Eventually Trump and Kim staged three historic face-to-face meetings and a lot of letter writing.

JOSEPH YUN, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: We've had, what, you know, during Trump administration, by my count, 27 letters exchanged between Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump. Kim Jong-un wants that kind of attention.

WATSON: Former U.S. diplomat Joseph Yun advises the Biden administration to try harder to engage with the North Korean regime.

YUN: Otherwise, we're going to return to the bad old days of 2017, which is really a crisis atmosphere.

WATSON: So far, Pyongyang has rejected multiple U.S. requests for talks.

In the meantime, the Biden administration imposed sanctions for the first time last week in response to North Korean missile launches, targeting North Korean and Russian nationals, as well as a Russian company accused of helping Pyongyang's weapons program.

North Korea accused Washington of gangster-like logic and launched two missiles the very same day. Clearly, the North Korean government does not want to be ignored.



WATSON (on camera): Jake, there's another important factor here and that is that North Korea, never a wealthy country, has taken a beating economically recently. The government has even acknowledged problems with food supplies in part due to heavy flooding that have affected crop yields. It's also almost completely cut itself off from the outside world and any trade due to trying to keep the coronavirus outside of its borders.

Despite these hardships, the government, Kim Jong-un has made it clear the weapons program merits investments of scarce money and resources even as the population appears to suffer -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Ivan Watson, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Gotham City sending out the bat signal. New Yorkers terrified over a recent spate of violent crime. That's next.



TAPPER: In our national lead, growing fears about big-city crime.

Today, New York City Mayor Eric Adams admitted New Yorkers and tourists are worried about safety in the subway system, changing his tune after first trying to reassure his constituents about safety after a homeless man pushed a 40-year-old woman in front of a train over the weekend, killing her.

Across the country, in Los Angeles, homeless men are being blamed in a pair of unrelated random attacks last week that killed a 24-year-old college student working in a furniture store and a 70-year-old nurse waiting at a bus stop.

CNN's Athena Jones looks at the growing climate of fear that crime in the city, any city, but especially New York City, is out of control.


ATHENA JONES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A horrific crime in the heart of New York City. A 40-year-old woman died after being pushed onto the tracks of an oncoming subway train Saturday. Police arresting a homeless man they said has a criminal background and a record of emotionally disturbed encounters. The random killing capturing many New Yorkers fears. MAYOR ERIC ADAMS (D), NEW YORK CITY: We're going to make sure New

Yorkers feel safe in our subway system and they don't feel that way now.

JONES: The latest shocking crime in the city. Last week, a 19-year- old fast food worker fatally shot during a botched robbery.

ADAMS: So help me God.

JONES: Hours after being sworn in January 1st, Eric Adams addressed police after an off-duty officer was hit by a bullet while sleeping in his car.

ADAMS: This is not going to be a city of disorder. Violence rose last year in cities across the nation. In New York, early into the year, homicides are down. But complaints for rape are up nearly 16 percent. Robberies up more than 25 percent.

PROFESSOR MICHAEL ALCAZAR, JOHN JAY COLLEGE OF CRIMINAL JUSTICE: People are afraid to walk on the streets. Crime is happening. The subway is a disaster. He's got a big job ahead of him.

JONES: The disturbing trend, a major challenge facing Adams who ran on a promise of safer streets and subways, and now must deliver, while balancing reformers demands for more equitable policing and providing social services.

ADAMS: Our recovery is dependent on the public safety in this city, and in this subway system. We can do that with the right balance. A balance of safety and a balance of proactively giving people the assistance they need when they're in mental health crisis.

JONES: Adams has beefed up police presence in the subways and wants to bring back a controversial plain clothes unit of well-trained officers to rein in violence and get illegal guns off the streets.

The program, which ended in 2020, was involved in many of the city's most notorious police shootings. Adams says this time will be different.

ADAMS: I know how to do it right because I fought against what was being done wrong.

JONES: He's also calling for greater accountability for police to help rebuild trust with the communities they serve.

ADAMS: Justice and public safety go together.

JONES: And he's already facing that balancing act between criminal justice reform and ensuring safety.

His newly appointed police commissioner, Keechant Sewell, the first woman to lead the nation's largest police force, raising serious concerns after the Manhattan district attorney argued against prosecuting lesser crimes.

ADAMS: I respect that the da must make the determination of prosecuting the right cases. My job is to keep the city safe.


JONES (on camera): The mayor has faced questions in recent days for putting his brother, also a former NYPD officer, in charge of mayoral security. Adams says his brother is the best person for the job. The city's conflict of interest board is evaluating investigating and Adams says he'll abide by its decision -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Athena Jones in New York for us, thank you so much.

We have some breaking news for you in our world lead. CNN just got exclusive access to a Ukrainian military briefing. They believe Russia is almost ready for its next move.

Stay with us.



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

This hour, it's not happened since Bill Clinton was in the Oval Office. New polling lays out a dramatic shift in what political party Americans identify with. And this news might spell trouble for Democrats come midterms.

Plus, it's been almost one year since President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris were sworn into office. We'll take a look at the ups and downs of their first year in the office.

And leading this hour with breaking news. CNN has just gotten a look at the Ukrainian military's assessment of just what Russia is doing. This as CNN also learns the Biden administration is weighing new options to help Ukraine protect itself such as providing more military equipment.

Some officials who have seen the latest intelligence tell CNN that there is evidence Russia is planning to take Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine and overthrow Ukraine's government.

While the world is on edge waiting to see what Vladimir Putin will do, White House press secretary Jen Psaki hinted today at the explosive nature of the situation.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We believe we're now at a stage where Russia could at any point launch an attack on Ukraine.