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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Fired NFL Coach Sues League, Three Teams For Alleged Racial Bias; FDA To Meet February 15 To Discuss Pfizer Vaccine For Kids Under 5; U.S. To Send Troops To Poland, Romania And Germany; FBI Asks U.S. Businesses To Report Any Uptick In Russian Hacking Threats; As Rates Skyrocket, Insurance Companies Sees Record Profits; 100M Under Winter Weather Alerts As Snow Blankets the U.S.; Jeff Zucker Resigns As CNN President. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired February 02, 2022 - 16:00   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: I just want the proper almost.



BLACKWELL: Oh, I would love to go.

CAMEROTA: I'm happy to watch it on TV. I think it's entertaining. But you know it's cold.

BLACKWELL: And the beverages, they work.

CAMEROTA: Here you go.

BLACKWELL: All right. "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts right now.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Potentially, the biggest personal foul in the history of the NFL.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Stunning claims from a former NFL head coach suing the league for discrimination using a text message mix-up as proof, and alleging his boss offered him big bucks to lose games. A former player joins us to break it all down.

Plus, marching orders. The Pentagon deploys 3,000 U.S. members in Eastern Europe as new satellite imagery shows Russia expanding its military presence in the region.

Also, patients and profits. How insurance companies are raking in record breaking billions by their critics say, gouging their customers.

(MUSIC) Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

And we start today in the sports lead, and that explosive lawsuit alleging racism and bribery in the NFL. The former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores, who is Black and Latino, is suing the league and three teams, the Dolphins, the Broncos and the Giants, alleging racial discrimination in the hiring process of coaches and executives and alleging sham job interviews.

The 58-page lawsuit says Flores sat for an interview with the New York Giants even though a white coach had already been selected by the Giants, and Flores accused the Dolphins owner Steven Ross of offering him $100,000 for every game he intentionally lost. Also, the team could get the number one draft pick after the 2019 season.

But today as Jason Carroll reports, the NFL said these claims are, quote, without merit.


JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The sports world reeling from allegations of systemic racism in the NFL by former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores.

GEORGE MARTIN, FORMER DEFENSIVE END, NEW YORK GIANTS: Obviously, Brian is going to become the Rosa Parks of the NFL.

CARROLL: In a 58-page lawsuit, Flores and his attorney stay the NFL has a plantation culture, arguing the league lives in a time of the past and is rife with racism, particularly when it come to the hiring and retention of black head coaches, coordinators and general managers.

The NFL denied the charges saying it was deeply committed to ensuring equitable employment practices and continued to make progress in providing equitable opportunity throughout our organizations. Flores sued after he says he was interview by the Giants for their head coach job, even though they had already decided to hire Buffalo Bills assistant coach Brian Daboll.

In private text messages with Bill Belichick, the Patriots coach seemingly congratulated the wrong person. Belichick wrote: I hear from Buffalo and New York Giants that you are their guy. Hope it works out if you want it to. Coach, are you talking to Brian Flores or Brian Daboll? Just making sure.

Sorry, I F'ed this up. I double checked and I misread the text. I think they are naming Daboll. Sorry about that.

Flores' legal team says the league checked a box by interviewing Flores so they were in compliance with the league's Rooney Rule which requires teams to interview minority candidates.

CARI CHAMPION, FORMER ESPN ANCHOR: It happens to so many of these coaches and I really, especially as a black person, respect this man for what he did. CARROLL: The Giants standing by their decision saying we interviewed

an impressive and diverse group of candidates. The fact of the matter is Brian Flores was in the conversation to our head coach until the 11th hour.

BRIAN FLORES, FORMER NFL HEAD COACH: It was humiliating, to be quite honest. There was disbelief. There was anger.

CARROLL: Flores also says the Denver Broncos gave him a similar sham interview for a head coaching job in 2019. That team also denied the allegation.

Flores was fired as coach of the Miami Dolphins, after back to back winning seasons. He says that team's owner, Stephen Ross, offered him $100,000 per defeat during the 2019 season so the team would get better draft picks.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR, "NEW DAY": Did Ross to you explicitly say to you personally, I'll give you $100,000 each game you lose?

FLORES: Yes, he did. Absolutely. That's not something you make up.

CARROLL: In response, the Dolphins say the implication that we acted in a manner inconsistent with the integrity of the game is incorrect.

Flores' supporters point to the league's dismal record when it comes to representing people of color and head coaching positions, with just three head coaches of color including one black man out of 32 teams in the league, while 70 percent of the players are black.

FLORES: Two sons, they're 8 and 7. I have a 5-year-old daughter.


And when I look at them, I don't want them to go through some of the things I've had to go through.


CARROLL (on camera): And, Jake, in the NFL, in their statement, they said that diversity is basically core everything to that they do. But Flores' supporters say that flies in the face when you consider how players like Colin Kaepernick have been treated and when you look at how people of color are not represented in the field of coaching. And also they say this all comes down to basically the owners. What the owners are willing to do and what the owners are not willing to do -- Jake.

TAPPER: Jason Carroll, thanks so much.

Let's talk about this with Donte Stallworth, a former NFL wide receiver who played ten seasons in the league.

Donte, Flores called the NFL racially segregated. He says it's run like a plantation.

What do you think? Was that your experience?

DONTE STALLWORTH, FORMER NFL WIDE RECEIVER: I know for coaches, a lot has changed over the past few years. As far as the Rooney rule, I think when you look at what people have talked about, particularly what Coach Flores talked about as them just checking the box. I think players, owners, and NFL staff have known that that is mostly what these teams have been doing.

And when you listen to Brian Flores speak about being humiliated in disbelief and anger, it says that the NFL is a microcosm of American society. And this is not only happening in the NFL but it's happening in top corporations and organizations around the country.

So for Brian Flores to take this stand against one of the most profitable, biggest entities in the country, it is really saying something. He's a young man. He's 40 years old. He's got, you know, 20-plus years ahead of him in coaching. He's a great coach. I was with him in New England.

Now, it's really hard because he's a young guy in his coaching career. He's been in the league a long time. But he's young, he's 40 years old. He has a lot of coaching in front of him.

But he knows he's putting that career at risk by taking a stand. But I think it's really courageous of him to do that, because he seems to be opening the path, or he wants to be opening the path for other black coaches in the future.

TAPPER: You heard in that piece, someone describe him as the Rosa Parks of the NFL. But I wonder if he's more fated to be the Colin Kaepernick of the NFL, in the sense that he's really taking a risk that nobody is going to ever hire him for being so outspoken.

I'm not criticizing it but that is a reality, don't you think?

STALLWORTH: Yeah, yeah. And he's acknowledged that, too. And it's sad because like I said, he's young. He's 40 years old. He's a really good coach. I've been around him in New England for a couple of years. And, you know, the players like him.

And it's really disheartening that I think when you listen to him and his allegations about the Miami Dolphins wanting him to tank games, to lose games intentionally, and paying him off for that. Now the league is venturing him to this whole online sports betting and it's really troubling to think that a team owner would do that's because if a player was going to do that, that player would probably be expelled from the league without question, immediately.

And so, it comes into question what repercussions, if these allegations are proven to be true, what time of repercussions will the Miami Dolphins owner face? You can't have two separate rules for the players, the coaches and the team owners.

What Brian Flores is doing, like I am, it is extremely courageous and we hope he is able to resume his career. He is a very good coach and he met with the New Orleans Saints yesterday, I believe. I can see that being a decent spot for him to land and the New Orleans Saints taking a really good look at him but that is yet to be seen.

TAPPER: There are 32 head coaching positions in the NFL. A few of those are open right now. But of the 27 coaches currently in place, there's only one who is black, the Pittsburgh Steelers Mike Tomlin.

Do you think what Coach Flores is doing is going to definitely change that?

STALLWORTH: It's hard to say it will definitely change that. You can't change people's hearts and minds through legislation. You can't change them through rules that you make in laws.

But one of the thing that has to happen is that these owners, they have to be able to look at themselves in the mirror and say that, when they say that they really want to make this league an equitable opportunity for everyone, for all coaches, no matter their background, skin color or what have you, then that is something they will have to own up to because the numbers prove otherwise.

And until the NFL makes these substantial changes, then when you see the decals on the players' helmets, you see anti-racism in the end zone. Those will continue to be looked at as symbolism and not actually something where the NFL is not only backing 70 percent of the black players but the coaches that are also in the NFL, trying to climb the ranks to have coach in the league.


TAPPER: Yeah, I mean -- I don't mean to speak ill of NFL owners. But I don't think relying on the consciences or the ability to look in the mirror of people like Dan Snyder will get anyone very far.

And that's why the Rooney rule that you refer to was created. It's an NFL policy named after the Steelers owner Dan Rooney who at the time It requires teams on interview minority candidates.

But if the teams aren't seriously considering these candidates, I mean, is it time to get rid of the Rooney Rule? It doesn't seem to be very effective.

STALLWORTH: Yeah. I think -- I think the team owners and the teams have been kind of checking off a box and saying, okay, we've done this whole diversity thing. Now we're going to hire the guy that we planned all along. And it seems that's exactly what happened according to the lawsuit by Brian Flores with the New York Giants.

TAPPER: Yeah. In the lawsuit, Flores outlines what he would like to see addressed, some of his recommendations includes increasing the influence of Black individuals in hiring, increasing the objectivity of hiring and terminating head coaches and coordinators, increasing the number of black coordinators, transparency of pay.

Do you think any of these might be taken into consideration by the NFL?

STALLWORTH: They have to. This is 2022. We continue to see the last couple years where the players had to really, really push the NFL to a point where the NFL came out and made a statement and said they stand behind the players with the bombardment of the former disgraced president and all of his minions about standing up for equitable rights in this country.

So like you said before, Jake, it's going to be hard to rely on these owners who are essentially, you know, all older white gentlemen that have been in this league for a very long time. And when you get to the roots of it, there are 70 percent of the players in this league that are black and only one head coach as you noted earlier.

That doesn't seem like an equitable process. There are a couple more guys in the senior positions, the senior ranks on NFL teams. But that needs to be upped substantially before the NFL could really consider itself true to equitable process of hiring minority and black coaches in the NFL.

TAPPER: Donte Stallworth, always good to have you on. Thank you so much. Good to see you.

Coming up next, a COVID vaccine possibly available soon for children under 5. But are parents willing to give the okay for kids so young to get that shot?

Plus, a dangerous mix of snow, ice, and plummeting temperatures. The ripple nationwide as a powerful winter storm sweeps much of the U.S.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our health lead today, FDA vaccine advisers are currently studying the data and preparing to meet in two weeks to discuss whether to recommend emergency use authorization of Pfizer's COVID vaccine for kids 6 months to 4 years old.

CNN's Nick Watt reports, talk of the youngest getting shot is renewing the debate over ending restrictions.


NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The murmurs are mounting, as omicron declines, should we be rolling back restrictions? Nixing more mask mandates? Starting with schools?

DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB, FORMER FDA COMMISSIONER: There's a lot of reluctance to do that. We need to lean in and remove these things as circumstances improves as aggressively as we put them in place, and that's going to be a struggle with the public health community, because everyone is weary and has been sort of burned before.

WATT: We've got to be doing contingency planning, the head of the American Public Health Association, told CNN, maybe the COVID task force lays that out for the nation. That White House task force just met last hour.

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: I think we are all cautiously optimistic as we're seeing cases come down week over week. I do think we have to use an important metric as a barometer, which is how are our hospitals doing? And the hospitalization rates are still quite high.

WATT: The average daily case count, falling by a third in just a week, still very high. And more than 2,500 people are dying every day on average. That number is still rising.

DR. RICHARD BESSER, FORMER ACTING CDC DIRECTOR: I do have a sense of optimism. At the same time, I worry that we were accepting more than 2,500 people dying of COVID every day, as a normal state. And that can't be.

WATT: Around 68 percent of eligible Americans are now fully vaccinated, and the FDA's vaccine advisers will now meet February 15th to talk Pfizer shots for kids, ages 6 months to 5 years.

DR. ASHISH JHA, DEAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: The first biggest question is, is it safe? I expect it to be very safe but we'll have to see. The second question is, how effective is it? That should really drive the decision making. I expect an authorization but I'm not convinced we'll have one. We will really want to look at the evidence very carefully.

WATT: Friday, the Winter Olympics begin in a COVID bubble. Two big cheeses from the next games, Paris '24, just tested positive before taking off for Beijing. So didn't take off.

The veteran bobsledder Elana Meyers Taylor was supposed the carry the U.S. flag at the opening ceremony, but just tested positive.


WATT (on camera): So, here's a reality check. There are right now more than 60 million eligible Americans who have not had a single vaccine shot. So what kind of risk are they taking by that choice? And for most of them, it is a choice. Well, new figures from the CDC this morning, they show if you are unvaccinated and catch COVID-19, you are nearly 100 times more likely to die than somebody who is fully vaccinated and boosted. Nearly 100 times -- Jake.


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

Joining us now, Dr. Megan Ranney, who is a professor of emergency medicine and the associate dean of public health at Brown University.

Dr. Ranney, good to see you.

Only about 22 percent of kids 5 to 11 are fully vaccinated. So what is the Biden administration, what do governors need to do to make sure that this younger age group, 6 months through 4 years, gets vaccinated at a higher rate than that once the vaccine has been approved?

DR. MEGAN RANNEY, PROFESSOR OF EMERGENCY MEDICINE, BROWN UNIVERSITY: We need to keep working on vaccination rates. Not just among this new young group who is soon hopefully going to be eligible for vaccines but also among the 5 to 11-year-olds and 12 to 17-year-olds who have been eligible for vaccines for months at this point.

I think that there is a twofold strategy that's needed. The first is that we need a lot of education for parent to reassure them of the safety of this vaccine and also, the necessity of the vaccine, to talk about the really real negative effects of COVID on kids. Not just hospitalization and death, which, of course, are less likely in kids, but also the ramifications for learning, for being able to go to school and the ramifications of the larger community. That's step one.

The other part is that we need to make it really easy. We need to make this part of not just the normal pediatric visit but also available in other settings as well, because, of course, most kids only go to the pediatrician once a year. So we have to set up systems so parents can show up and get these vaccines where they're taking their kids anyhow. Places like schools or grocery stores or pharmacies.

TAPPER: It sounds like health officials still obviously have a lot of work to convince parents to give young kids vaccine. Will you support schools imposing a mandate?

RANNEY: Absolutely. And we know that New Orleans school district has already imposed mandates.

Let's be clear. We mandate lots of vaccines for kids. It is a way both to protect the community and to protect those individual kids. We have mandates for tetanus and diphtheria, whooping cough, measles, mumps and rubella and many other vaccines before kids can start kindergarten. This is another vaccine that is both safe and effective, both on an individual level and a community level and vaccination is really the best tool that we have to keep kids in school.

TAPPER: If the FDA does authorize the Pfizer vaccine for six months to 4-year-old kids, it is only two doses. Data on a potential third dose is expected to be submitted in the coming months. What do parents need to know about this?

RANNEY: So this is the big unknown, is whether or when kids in that 2 to 4-year-old group will be required to get a third dose. The important thing for parents to know is first of all -- now, I will say with the caveat that I have not personally seen the data yet. Based on the reports, first of all, this vaccine will be safe. Second of all, there is a possibility that kids will need a third dose. But, of course, adults are needing third doses also. That wouldn't be outside the norm.

So what parents should take away is they'll bring their kids for the normal first dose, then a dose three weeks later, and then a possible that a third dose may be needed a couple months after the second.

TAPPER: What do you say to parent who say, maybe I'll wait to get my kid vaccinated until all three doses have been authorized?

RANNEY: Why not get started, right? Why wait? We know that there's going to be a couple of month waiting period between the first dose and the third regardless. There is no reason to not get started now. And every dose that you get helps augment your protection.

It's the same thing that we've seen in teen and adult doses. The first dose provides some protection. The second dose, better yet. And then the third dose might be needed to augment the immune system, particularly in the case of the omicron variant.

TAPPER: The surgeon general told CNN yesterday, he feels more optimistic about getting back to some sense of normal more so now than he has at any other point in the pandemic. Do you agree?

RANNEY: I feel optimistic about getting back to normal, but you know what, Jake? I felt optimistic last May and June also, right? We were all talking about July 4th, things going back to normal, hot back summer. We failed to predict, of course, that delta was going to come to the U.S., and then last fall, we thought we would get through the delta surge and then omicron surprised us.

So I am very hopeful. I am certainly optimistic. But it is a cautious optimism, because there is a lot of the country and a lot of the world that is not yet vaccinated. We have no way to predict when new variants are going to come about. And unless we put in place those measures to predict surges, to track variants and to be ready to react if and when there is another dangerous variant, we could end up right back in the same situation.

TAPPER: All right. Dr. Megan Ranney, good to see you again. Thank you so much.

More Russian troops on the move as U.S. companies are warned that the Kremlin could be launching cyber attacks at their infrastructure.


That's next.


TAPPER: Topping our world lead today, President Joe Biden today formally approving the deployment of 3,000 U.S. service members to Europe, those forces heading to Germany and Poland and Romania, showing support to NATO allies who feel threatened by Russia's military buildup near Ukraine and any possible threat of invasion.


This as new satellite images show Russia steadily fortifying the front lines with military equipment and deployments.

Here, you can see the rapid expansion from d expansion from September to February in Crimea suggesting Russia is more ready than ever to make a move. CNN senior international correspondent Sam Kiley joins us now live

from Kyiv, Ukraine.

Sam, what can we tell from these satellite images?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think the first thing to do is to give a little health warning, in that the messaging are the results of these images do indicate some kind of a Russian build-up. They may be precisely what Vladimir Putin and his generals want to do.

You can put up a tent. The Ukrainians have made this observation. They said they saw in it 2014 in Crimea. You can put up a tent. You don't to have put people in it but it looks like you have a lot of people there. In the attempt to put pressure on Ukraine, pressure on the international community to not allow Ukraine to join the United Nations, that is all part of the Gerasimov Doctrine, the doctrine that chaos in the rank of the enemies is success.

But if you combine it with what has been publishing and we've been researching on social media and elsewhere, there is a substantial build-up of troops in Belarus and particularly on the borders or close to the borders in eastern Ukraine, and then, of course, you've got a lot of naval maneuvers going on in the Black Sea and the Azov Sea off the coast of Crimea and Southern Ukraine.

So, in combination, this is consistent with a growing build-up. Of course, the United States has warned the troop numbers in Belarus could go from 5,000 to 30,000 Russians, Jake.

TAPPER: So, Putin no doubt sees Biden's actions as 3,000 service members coming to surround Russia, how are Western countries, NATO allies responding to this news?

KILEY: Well, NATO itself has welcomed the additional troops. It has also reminded the world that there are 8.5,000 also on the highest state of alert to join NATO's rapid response force, which is 40,000 strong. That would be moved forward to reinforce the eastern flank of NATO.

The Ukrainians have welcomed it. So, they just put out a statement by our Matthew Chance saying that while we welcome it, we would also like to see continued and increased delivery of weapons, particularly at air defenses. And you will recall, Jake, that a lot of the military support to Ukraine has been nonlethal or pretty low level until fairly recently.

And they're not being given any strategic weapons, although tank killing equipment such as javelin and smaller missiles, but nothing that could bring down, for example, a sophisticated Russian aircraft. So, they still want that kind of thing to come in just in case.

TAPPER: Sam Kiley reporting live from Kyiv, Ukraine, thank you so much.

Behind the scenes, the U.S. is bracing for possible ripple effects from Russia's possible aggression in Eastern Europe. The FBI asking American businesses to report any signs of Russian hacking threats.

CNN cyber security reporter Sean Lyngaas joins us live.

And, Sean, I mean, first question, based on all the questions we've had -- can the U.S. government even rely on businesses to tell the government when there is a cyber threat from Russia, given the fact that they haven't always complied.

SEAN LYNGAAS, CNN CYBERSECURITY REPORTER: Right, Jake, that's exactly right. The vast majority of critical infrastructure is privately owned. And for that reason, the U.S. government is somewhat reliant on these companies to come forward with threat information.

Now, there is a legislation that had bipartisan support that was supposed to be in the national defense authorization bill. But that unexpectedly failed in December. So we're left with companies, again, voluntarily can come forward with information. Now, the ecosystem for sharing that threat has improved in reason years and there are a number of industry-based, threat sharing centers that report back to the FBI, back to DHS.

So CNN has gotten a look behind the scenes to see what's going on in the last couple weeks to prepare for potential Russian cyber attacks obtaining a document from the FBI, asking businesses to check their networks for known Russian hacking groups, to also check if they have any workers in Ukraine, to make sure they're segmented off, in case there's any spillover from that, given the history of Russian cyber attacks in Ukraine.

So, it's a multi-layered issue and the problem is, as you said, there is not necessarily compulsory sharing of information.

TAPPER: Yeah, and reluctance to share. How often to do have Russian hackers successfully attack U.S. infrastructure?

LYNGAAS: Well, you know, sometimes it's hard to say. We know there have been several compromises over the years. Going back to 1999, an investigation called Moonlight Maze, in which Russian -- suspected Russian hackers were able to infiltrate Defense Department networks and steal sensitive information.


You know, fast forward to a few years ago, when a Russian hacking team associated with the FSB intelligence agency was able to kind of worm their way into a critical infrastructure and collect intelligence on those networks.

So, it's a long history and a lot of it is quiet because DHS has told companies that right now, they believe that the threshold for a major cyberattack in the U.S. from Russia is still very high.

TAPPER: All right. Sean Lyngaas, thanks so much.

Following the money, how health insurance companies are ending up with record breaking profits on the backs of consumers paying higher prices.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our money lead, as Americans fork over more and more of our income to pay the ever higher premiums and ever higher deductibles on our health insurance, the major health insurance companies are raking in record profits.

We asked CNN's Gabe Cohen to follow the money and ask whether insurers are putting profits ahead of patients.


GABE COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As inflation and pandemic hardships weigh on the wallets of Americans, health care costs keep climbing.

JESSICA JONES, FAMILY'S HEALTH CARE COSTS RISING: It doesn't cover 100 percent until we meet $12,000 out of pocket first.

COHEN: For Jessica Jones and her family, that's devastating, with her son battling a chronic heart disease.

JONES: Making choices, are we going to pay this medical bill ore we going to keep the lights on? My husband and I have conversations about divorcing so we can get Medicaid for our son.

COHEN: According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the price of an employer sponsored family policy is up 47 percent since 2011, outpacing wages and inflation, meaning premiums and deductibles now eat up more the average family's income, 11.6 percent as of 2020.

A December poll found 46 percent of insured adults struggled to afford out of pocket costs and 29 percent have not taken medicine as prescribed because it's too expensive.

ERIN BRADSHAW, CHIEF OF MISSION DELIVERY, PATIENT ADVOCATE FOUNDATION: They have health insurance, but they still can't afford to get the healthcare that they need.

COHEN: Yet health insurance companies making record profits, for United Health, the largest insurer in the U.S., net earnings had surged since 2015, reaching $17.7 billion last year, as their business has rapidly expanded into other healthcare sectors.

WENDELL POTTER, PRESIDENT, BUSINESS LEADERS FOR HEALTHCARE TRANSFORMATION: Not bringing down the cost of care, not giving people relief from premiums and out of pockets, but enriching their shareholders and their top executives.

COHEN: The Affordable Care Act includes a rule that insurance companies must spend at least 80 percent of money made from premiums on healthcare cost and improvements, the other 20 percent can go to administration, marketing and profits.

Last year, UnitedHealth returned more than $5 billion in dividends to shareholders and other companies have done the same.

MATTHEW BORSCH, MANAGING DIRECTOR, BMO CAPITAL MARKETS: But if you want to talk about the drivers and why deductibles are up, health insurance company profits, they're a piece of it, but pretty small piece of it.

COHEN: It's part of a bigger debate about healthcare spending which has soared in recent years, prices set by providers like hospitals, doctors and pharmaceutical companies are going up, even as fewer Americans have accessed medical services during the pandemic. Administrative costs alone make up more than a quarter of U.S. healthcare spending.

BORSCH: The for-profit companies are taking on an ever greater role within the U.S. healthcare system.

COHEN: It's a complex issue, but for Jessica Jones, it's simple.

JONES: If the cost goes up, we could lose everything, at this point.


COHEN (on camera): Now there have been efforts to reign in healthcare costs. The No Surprises Act protects patients from many unexpected bills and Build Back Better aims to tackle high drug prices and strengthen the Affordable Care Act. But that's stuck in the Senate and as inflation is now threatening to raise healthcare prices even more in the near future -- well, Jake, companies as we're saying, are profiting and Americans, they are just looking to leadership to help ease this burden.

TAPPER: All right. Gabe Cohen, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

In our national lead, it's that day again.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Six more weeks of winter!


TAPPER: Punxsutawney Phil's forecast on this Groundhog Day is spot on. From Dallas to Detroit, 100 million Americans under a winter storm alert as dangerous snow and ice pile up over night and make travel a nightmare.

CNN aviation correspondent Pete Muntean joins us now.

Pete, it really does feels like Groundhog Day. Once again, thousands of flights have been canceled.

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, airlines really cannot catch a break with the weather. Tomorrow shaping up to be one of the worst days for air travel for the last year, all right canceled more than 2,100 flights today and airlines preemptively canceled 2,600 flights tomorrow, about a dozen major airports impacted here. That includes some of the biggest hubs for the airlines.

Southwest Airlines tells us it's suspending operations tomorrow in Dallas, that is the home of its headquarters, a place typically does not get a lot of snow. Look at the Dallas Love Field, 92 percent of all departures canceled tomorrow. At Dallas-Fort Worth, about a third of all departures canceled tomorrow. That's the biggest hub for American Airlines.

But this is not just a Texas storm. At Chicago O'Hare, one in every 10 flights cancelled tomorrow. There is good news here though. Major airlines are issuing travel waivers because of the storm. That means passengers who have been impacted by the weather can rebook free of charge, Jake.


TAPPER: And, Pete, you also say there's trouble with international flights coming into the U.S. Tell us more.

MUNTEAN: Well, this is a new call from the nation's largest travel and hospitality association and it says the federal government should relax international travel testing requirements for those coming into the U.S. Right now, you have to show proof of a negative coronavirus test taken a day before your flight even if fully vaccinated.

The U.S. Travel Association says it's creating huge uncertainty for passengers. Travelers are worried that they could test positive, get stuck in a foreign country. Now, without the testing requirement, this group says travel would go up and airlines the one segment still missing, domestic travel coming back to pre-pandemic levels but international travel is still lagging much more, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Pete Muntean, thank you so much.

A big change announced here at CNN today. That story, next.



TAPPER: A stunner here at CNN today. This morning, CNN president Jeff Zucker announced his resignation effective immediately, citing an undisclosed consensual relationship with a close colleague.

Let's bring in CNN's chief media correspondent Brian Stelter.

So, Brian, Jeff Zucker said that his departure stems from an independent investigation into former CNN anchor Chris Cuomo and investigation into how Chris tried to help his brother, disgraced then New York governor, Andrew Cuomo.

Can you explain that to our viewers because I think a lot of people don't understand why that would lead to this? BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Right, Zucker's undoing

stems from the Cuomo brothers scandal, because as we all remember, Zucker defended Chris Cuomo and kept him on air at 9:00 p.m. during the then-governor scandal. Eventually, Zucker fired Cuomo in early December after further revelations about how the brothers worked together.

But before taking action, CNN retained a law firm called Cravath. Cravath was brought in to review the Cuomo matter. Cravath had a lot to look into, including an allegation of sexual misconduct against Chris Cuomo from former junior colleague. Cuomo denied that allegation.

But Cravath has been doing interviews, looking into Cuomo, looking for any issues. That's actually been going on as recently as last week. And Zucker was brought in last week for questioning as a result of that probe. So we have a domino effect here from Andrew Cuomo to Chris Cuomo, now to Jeff Zucker.

Zucker was brought in and questioned, and one of the topics was about this relationship with Allison Gollust, the long time CNN chief communications executive and now chief marketing officer. She has been Zucker's right hand woman for years. They've been working together dating back to the days together at NBC and that relationship which then turned romantic is at issue here, Jake.

TAPPER: So, as I understand it, Brian, first of all, Jeff and Allison are both divorced, and Allison doesn't report to Jeff. She reports to somebody with WarnerMedia. So the issue here is not necessarily of the relationship but that it wasn't disclosed to CNN's parent company, WarnerMedia.

Do I have that right?

STELTER: Disclosure does seem to be the key issue here, and Zucker acknowledged that in his statement this morning, saying, quote, as part of the investigation into Cuomo's tenure at CNN, I was asked about a consensual relationship with my closest colleague, I acknowledged the relationship evolved in recent years. Here's the key line, I was required to disclose it when it began but I didn't, I was wrong. As a result, I am resigning today.

Gollust is saying she's intending to stay with CNN. She's also acknowledging, though, in a statement the relationship changed during COVID and, quote, I regret that we didn't disclose it at the right time. So, there's this issue of disclosure, which is spelled out in Warner Media's standards of business conduct. It's something lots of corporate America firms have where if you end up at a romantic relationship at work, you need to tell a superior.

Of course, we're talking two of the superiors at CNN here, so they would have had to go to the top of Warner Media to disclose it and they're both acknowledging this wasn't disclosed. Now, if there's other shoes that are going to drop here Jake, maybe there will, maybe there won't, right now, no other shoes have dropped. For now, this is a story about two people in consensual relationship

who didn't tell management and because that has all come out in the midst of a Chris Cuomo legal battle, Jeff Zucker resigned effective immediately.

TAPPER: All right. Brian Stelter, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Coming up, the evidence soon heading to the January 6th committee that former president Donald Trump tried to keep secret.

Stay with us.



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

This hour, a CNN exclusive, one-on-one with the Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. What he says about the tension in his own party and the pressure on him from the president to give him another political win before the midterms.

Plus, former President Donald Trump recommitting to his brazen pledge to pardon rioters charged in the January 6th insurrection. And more.

And leading this hour, America's top diplomat briefing members of the Senate on the standoff this Russia, this as President Biden formally approves a deployment of some 3,000 U.S. service members to Eastern Europe.

As CNN's Oren Liebermann reports for us now, this deployment is already being welcomed by U.S. partners and allies across Europe.


OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The U.S. military is on the move. President Joe Biden deploying troops to Eastern Europe to meet a growing threat of Russian aggression against Ukraine.

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Russia stays on an escalatory path which they clearly have. We will make force posture adjustments to deter and defend against any aggression.

LIEBERMANN: The Pentagon deploying 2,000 U.S. troops to Poland and Germany. Another 1,000 troops already in Germany heading to Romania.

The Pentagon made it clear the U.S. troops would not deploy to Ukraine, but this deployment would further show Russian President Vladimir Putin that NATO stands united.

JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: We want to make sure that he knows any move on NATO is going -- is going to be resisted and it's going to be -- it's going to trigger Article Five and we're going to be committed to the defense of our allies.

LIEBERMANN: The Pentagon has another 8,500 troops on heightened alert if NATO activates its rapid response force. But this is the U.S. moving military forces on its own as the Russian build-up near Ukraine steadily continues.