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The Lead with Jake Tapper

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz One-On-One With Jake Tapper; Ottawa In State Of Emergency; More U.S. States Lifting Schools Mask Mandates; Spiking Opioid Deaths In The U.S. And Canada; Sources: Ex- N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo Considering A Political Comeback; Biden: "There Will Be No Longer A Nord Stream 2" If Russia Invades; Peng Shuai Announces Retirement, Denies Sex Assault Claim; China Cracks Down On Foreign Journalists As Tensions With West Rise. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired February 07, 2022 - 17:00   ET



OLAF SCHOLZ, CHANCELLOR OF GERMANY: This is why we enlarge our capacities in producing electricity for instance with offshore wind, with onshore wind, with solar. We are making our grid more strong and we also work together with partners.

And there is the U.K. in one of the key partners for our strategy for the future to produce hydrogen with their natural resources because the industry to come in Germany and possibly worldwide will be an industry that is using gas, but not natural gas or coal or oil --

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Right. A cleaner --

SCHOLZ: -- but hydrogen produced, for instance, in the big landscape of the Ukraine. And our activity and our money is now offered to develop such an industry in the Ukraine for giving them a future post gas.

TAPPER: So, I wanted to ask you about a few other issues. Neither you nor your foreign minister plan to attend the Olympic Games in Beijing, but you have -- you're not calling it an official diplomatic boycott. The United States, the U.K. and others are doing an official diplomatic boycott because of the Chinese government genocide against the Uighurs, a Muslim ethnic minority.

Why are you not doing an official diplomatic boycott if you're not going anyway? It does seem like Germany might have a special obligation to stand against genocide than other countries given your country's history.

SCHOLZ: First, Germany has the strongest legislation on production overseas. We did this in the last two years and it is much more strict as in most other countries I know. And this will have an impact on the industries of our country. If they buy things overseas, abroad, they will have to follow this rules. And for instance, looking at the -- of labor laws, looking at human rights, as you mentioned, is a key strategy. And this will change the world because as you know, we are the very strong industrial place.

TAPPER: Right.

SCHOLZ: We are a big importer and exporter but not all people understand, we are really importing a lot of things for the industry, goods we are producing, and in this strategy, we are doing this new regulation which we have now in Germany. This will change the world. On the second --

TAPPER: But why not do a diplomatic boycott?

SCHOLZ: And the second is that we agreed that we will do it together with our partners in the European Union. That we will find a common strategy on what we will explain in this case politically, but it was all the time clear that no one was planning to do a trip over there.

TAPPER: Right. But China, the Chinese government is committing genocide against the Uighurs and Germany has a history of genocide. I would think your country of all countries would want to stand against what the Chinese government is doing.

SCHOLX: As I already said, we are working very hard and all the activities we are doing, this is playing a big role. For instance, the rules of the International Labor Organization for us has to be implemented. Also in the trade agreements which are responsible -- which are planned between the European Union and China, one of the questions. But there are a lot of more. So you see that there is a very constant and very effective strategy we are following. I'm sure that this will help.

TAPPER: Let's talk about Iran because Germany is among the western nations trying to revive that landmark and controversial Iran Nuclear Deal. If diplomacy fails and an agreement cannot be reached, what next steps do you need -- do you think need to be taken with Iran to convince that country to not have a nuclear weapons program?

SCHOLZ: We are very cheer together with our friends. We are working together and acting together and this is now the time for Iran to make a decision. There is no time for prolonging the debates and things like that which happened in the past because we look at the situation in Iran and we see that they are making progress with their capacity building of having a nuclear bomb and being able to use them on missiles.

And because of that, it's clear that we will not wait. That it will have a cost and it will have consequences if Iran is not using the opportunity, which is coming up now. There is really leadership from the United States and the president from all the partners we are working together to convince Iran now to use the chance which is now.

And now that is the message I also would like to send from our talk here. Take the chance. It's not -- nothing for prolonging. We don't want to continue and continue and continue talks. It's now to take the chance.

TAPPER: Last question, sir, and I really do appreciate your taking my questions. We've talked about Iran getting a nuclear weapon, the possibility. We've talked about war breaking out in Ukraine. We've talked about what's going to in China.


There's so many threats in this world. What keeps you up at night? What do you worry about?

SCHOLZ: I think we have to be absolutely clear that peace is the most important question we have to work for. This will be only successful if we are working for our own strength. It's necessary for being successful.

TAPPER: Peace everywhere or peace in Ukraine? What do you -- what do you mean?

SCHOLZ: I'm speaking about peace everywhere. This is what you asked me about.


SCHOLZ: And so I think this will be an important aspect of a political strategy. This means military strength and we are working very hard for that. And economic strength, which is the basis for military strength. And it is partnership in NATO and the European Union for us. And we will very much do this.

And there is a new aspect in the politics which should never be underestimated. We understand ourselves as democracies, countries that follow the rule of law. And this is what is -- what makes us being the same team with the United States and with our partners in the European Union.

And this is different to many other countries and regimes and states in the world. But I'm absolutely sure that the way of life we have with democracy, the rule of law, with individual freedom and the market economy is a way of life that people would appreciate all over the planet.

And so we should be confident that if we are following a clear strategy of international cooperation, but implemented in cooperation between partners and allies as the NATO, for instance, we will be successful in the end.

TAPPER: But do you -- just to try to bring this point home. President Biden talks a lot about how the struggle right now in the world is between democracies like the United States and Germany versus autocracies, places where there are no freedoms, where there is no democracy like Russia, like China. Do you worry that we are going to lose that fight?

GERMANY: No. It is a strong fight. But the ideas that situated the United States and the ideas that were important for our democratic development, they are ideas of mankind. They are not just western ideas or North America and Europe and some other places. It is something which is deeply in us as men.

And because of that I am absolutely sure that we will succeed in this game because it's coming from the people even in those countries. And the very strange situation we are in is that this is not anymore a struggle between communism, socialism on the one side and capitalism on the other.

There are all over capitalist states. North Korea may be the one other country, but all the others are capitalist but they are autocrats, they are following ideologies and they are not giving the freedom to their people which they are lacking for.

And so we should develop our role in the world of international cooperation in multilateralism that we built an environment where during this situation, the people of those countries will take their chances.

TAPPER: I appreciate -- I appreciate you being here and I hope your right.

SCHOLZ: Thank you.

TAPPER: I hope our side does win. The German Chancellor, Olaf Scholz. Thank you so much for your time today, sir. Really appreciate it.

SCHOLZ: Thank you for having me.

TAPPER: Coming up, the protests over COVID restrictions that keep growing and are now leading to one city's mayor to declare a state of emergency.

Plus, censored, tracked and silenced, CNN takes a look at what it's like to try to report the truth in China from both inside and outside the Olympic bubble. It's the latest in our series behind China's wall. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our "Health Lead," Canada is seeing its second week of protests against COVID restrictions. Protests that have crippled everyday life there. It started with a group of truckers angry about vaccine mandates, blocking traffic on January 29th.

Over the weekend, more demonstrations sprouted across the country. In Vancouver, Toronto, Quebec City streets are clogged. The honking is incessant and deafening. Many businesses and even some schools cannot open.

Now the mayor of Ottawa is declaring a state of emergency. Let's get right to CNN's Paula Newton who is live in Ottawa. And Paula, police had been reluctant to take any major steps to clear the protesters because of fears of escalating matters and, you know, sparking violence. Has that changed at all?

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It seems to be changing. Look, the police chief just updated us again a few hours ago and he's saying, look, make no mistake. He would like to end this protest as soon as possible. To that end, they are asking for hundreds more police officers and they're being very blunt, Jake. They're saying look we cannot clear the number of trucks and protesters that are out there without help. And at issue now is what you do in the meantime for those residents that are so beleaguered.

I mean, the things coming out of, you know, city officials here who have had complaints from residents that I have spoken to who say, they feel terrorized, intimidated. They can't work. So many of them have fled the downtown core. But Jake, there's another thing here, right?


There are people, city officials, backed up by some federal officials and backed up by the police chief saying look, sedition, insurrection, a threat to democracy. This is how they are perceiving this protest now. And a lot of that threat comes from the support they're getting, also from the United States and beyond.

And a lot of that support was in the form of monetary support. One of the largest fundraising campaigns ever in Canada, Jake. It raised over $9 million for this protest. It has now been halted by GoFundMe because Ottawa police gave them evidence that it was unlawful.

But I want to you hear from Mark Carney, former Bank of Canada governor, former governor of the Bank of England, now a resident of Ottawa. He writes in "The Globe and Mail," "By now, anyone sending money to the convoy should be in no doubt, you are funding sedition. Foreign funders of an insurrection interfered in our domestic affairs from the start. Canadian authorities should take every step within the law to identify and thoroughly punish them."

You know, Jake, you have to think, a sitting senator, Ted Cruz, has supported the truckers. The former president, Donald Trump. I could go on. There are so many people, not just, you know, again, a certain contingent of people who are against COVID-19 restrictions in the United States, but sitting legislators right now.

The police chief's warning to them is cut it out. We would need to put this protest to an end. We will follow the money. And this funneling of money to them must stop.

TAPPER: Yes. Cruz and Trump led an attempt at an insurrection here in the United States as well. Paula Newton, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Back in the U.S., the hotly debated topic is mask mandates in schools. Moments ago, Connecticut's governor joined New Jersey's and Delaware's in announcing an end to mask mandates in schools in that state despite the CDC guidance which still says that kids should mask up. Let's bring in CNN medical analyst Dr. Jonathan Reiner.

Dr. Reiner, it's not just New Jersey, Delaware, Connecticut, Democratic governors in New York, Massachusetts, Rhode Island are considering shifts in school masking guidance too. Most states do not have masks required in schools. What do you think? Is this the right time to remove masking? Deaths are still high even though case counts are not.

JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, case counts actually are still high. They're just much lower --

TAPPER: Well, they're going in the right direction though. Yes, that's what I meant. I'm sorry. I misspoke.

REINER: Yes. But look, but that's actually an important point.


REINER: We've become a little bit sort of numb to how many cases we have. So, let's talk about New Jersey, for instance, so where Governor Murphy is getting ready to remove masking requirements in school. New Jersey at the peak of omicron had about 32,000 cases per day. They're now down to about 3,000 cases per day, which is a 90 percent drop, but think about the summer.

In July, New Jersey was averaging less than 200 cases a day. So, their case rates are 15 times higher than they were during the summer. Case rates are still pretty high. We're moving in the right direction but we're not there yet. And the other thing to remember is that most of our kids are not vaccinated.

Only 55 percent of kids between 12 and 17 are fully vaccinated. Only 22 percent of kids between 5 and 11 are fully vaccinated. So, the combination of still a lot of virus in the community and not a lot of kids vaccinated to me says that we need to wait a little bit longer until there's less virus in the community. I know is everybody is impatient. I want to drop the masks, too. We just need to be a little more patient.

TAPPER: If parents are concerned about sending their kids to school without a mask mandate, as is the case in most schools, especially those parents who have a kid who is immunocompromised. Should the parent feel safe allowing their kid to go to school and having the kid wear a well-fitting N-95 mask even if the other kids are not masked?

REINER: You know, we have a community and we have to live as a community. And so, you know, the analogy, I think of is, if you've had a kid with let's say a nut allergy and they're invited to a birthday party and, you know, you call the other kids parents and say look, may kid is allergic to nuts, can you make sure there is no peanut butter at the party? And that parent said, we're going to have plenty of peanut butter there. Your kid just shouldn't eat it, right?

To me that's what -- that's how I think about when you have an immunocompromised kid and the community, the class says we're not wearing a mask. You protect yourself. I think we're better than that. I think we're better than that as a country and as a community.

TAPPER: Do you think that schools should be mandating vaccines or governors should be mandating vaccines for students instead of dropping mask mandates or in place of?

REINER: Yes. Why would we not mandate a safe and effective vaccine that prevents a disease that has killed a thousand kids in the last two years?


Why would we not mandate that, right? We mandate it for, you know, measles, mumps, rubella, polio, for about eight other diseases. And look, if we all want to move to a point where kids are, you know, free to enjoy school without masks, without being encumbered like that, why wouldn't we emphasize vaccines and mandate that all kids have vaccines the same way we do it for all these other childhood diseases? It just makes common sense. The only reason not to do that is it that it's become so politicized.

TAPPER: The CDC is considering lengthening the time between the first and the second doses of the Pfizer and Moderna COVID vaccines to eight weeks. I think it was two and three weeks. Explain to us why these pharmaceutical companies think that this might create a better immune response?

REINER: Yes. So, when we first started, you know, designing these dosing strategies 18 months ago, almost two years ago, we were starting to think about how to put these vaccines together, some of it was a guess. And also, when we started rolling out these vaccines, there was an urgency to get effective immune response in the community which is why they spaced, you know, the Pfizer vaccine at three weeks and the Moderna vaccine in four weeks.

But it turns out, there is data to suggest you can get a more robust response if you wait a little bit longer for the second dose. The other potential benefit is that it's also thought that potentially even -- maybe most importantly in younger people that some of the side effects, the most worrisome would be let's say myocarditis, might be lessened if you gave the second dose spaced out maybe a month later. So, it's an interesting strategy and it might make sense going forward to improve the immune response and decrease the side effect profile.

TAPPER: Dr. Reiner, good to see you as always. Thanks so much.

Coming up, a tough choice. Florida's governor is asked who he sides with on whether or not Pence had the ability to overturn the election? Does he side with Pence or does he side with Trump? His answer, coming up.



TAPPER: Grim news in our "National Lead." The U.S. and Canada could be facing more than a million more opioid deaths over the next seven years if nothing successful is done to stop it. That's according to a new study published in the medical journal of "The Lancet" which shows opioid related deaths spiked 30 percent in the U.S. between 2019 and 2020 and climbed 67 percent in Canada during that same period.

And now experts argue the only thing that will stop this is a holistic approach by government agencies and health care providers and pharmaceuticals and law enforcement, especially when it comes to one of the deadliest synthetic opioids, fentanyl. CNN's "At This Hour" anchor Kate Bolduan had an exclusive sit down Anne Milgram who is the administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration. Kate, what did she have to say?

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR, AT THIS HOUR: So for the first time, the DEA administrator sitting down with CNN and laying out a new approach, a new strategy. And specifically they're pinpointing this intersection between drugs, fentanyl, and violent crime. They stay the data shows that there's a huge amount of overlap.

And the reason she says they need this new approach is she calls fentanyl one of the most deadly and underestimated substances on the planet. She explains a little further.


ANNE MILGRAM, ADMINISTRATOR, DRUG ENFORCEMENT ADMINISTRATION: This problem starting in 2015. Every single year the United States has seen exponential increases in fentanyl, which is the most deadly drug -- 64,000 of those 100,000 deaths, the overdose deaths are attributable to fentanyl.

So, the problem has gotten worse. And what we've seen is that there's a number -- there are a number of things that are happening. COVID of course is one of them and I think we can't ignore that. The other piece is that fentanyl is now in all 50 states.

It's lacing every other drug whether that's methamphetamine, heroin, marijuana, every other drug. And it's also being sold in new forms like fake prescription pills so people think they're buying a Xanax or an Adderall or an oxycodone and they're getting fentanyl and they're dying at record rates.


BOLDUAN: And so what they're doing now is they're targeting 34 cities in 23 states. And this is the entire country. East Coast, West Coast, Midwest, Tulsa, Oklahoma, San Bernardino, California, Pine Bluff, Arkansas, all the way up the East Coast. She calls them hot spots. That's what the data is showing and that's why they're focusing there now.

TAPPER: So we've been covering this for a while now, the fentanyl problem, which is, you know, some, you know, Congressman Ted Deutsch, his nephew thought he was taking some legal herbal supplement and it had fentanyl in it and he died.


TAPPER: A kid in college. How is the DEA tackling the source of fentanyl?

BOLDUAN: The administrator is really specific on three things. One, China, this is where the chemicals for the poisons come from. Shipped out daily in a largely unregulated industry. They go to Mexico. So then you have Mexico where the drug cartels are mass producing this for pennies on a factory level scale because it's so different from the plant-based drugs that we know, cocaine and heroin. This is on a whole other level.

She also points to social media. And she says these are drug dealers who can access anyone any time in a way that they've never been able to before for online sales specifically like Ted Deutsch's nephew. They are often ordering drugs. It could be Adderall and they're faked pills laced with fentanyl. They don't even know what they're taking.

TAPPER: Yes. It's on TikTok. It's on Instagram.

BOLDUAN: Exactly. And then it disappears on like Snapchat, it disappears in 24 hours.


She says all three of these, China, Mexico and social media. They know it's a problem. They are not doing nearly enough to help.

TAPPER: Keep coming back and talking about your coverage of this because it's so important.


TAPPER: And we cannot get enough of their --

BOLDUAN: It's terrifying.

TAPPER: Thank you so much for being here. You can watch Kate's entire interview with the DEA Administrator Anne Milgram tomorrow on her show "AT THIS HOUR" which is at 11:00 a.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

Kate Bolduan, so it's been years. Literally --

BOLDUAN: Literally has been.

TAPPER: It's great to see you. Thanks for being here.

He is not calling it a comeback yet, disgraced former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo was talking about his future and maybe running for public office again. Stay with us.


TAPPER: With the politics lead now, sources telling CNN that former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is seriously considering a political comeback. One source says that the disgraced Democrat may even challenge Attorney General Letitia James in a primary run. It was, of course, the investigation by James's office that led to Cuomo's resignation. That investigation accused Cuomo of sexual harassment and worse, involving 11 women.


From the beginning, Cuomo has denied any wrongdoing. And now as CNN's Brynn Gingras reports, Cuomo also denies that any run for office would be an attempt at vindication.


BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Andrew Cuomo may be considering a political comeback, two sources tell CNN. His eyes may be set on the office that played a part in his fall from grace, the New York Attorney General, according to a source.

In a recent phone interview with Bloomberg News, the disgraced former governor says in hindsight, he shouldn't have resigned. "I never resigned because I said I did something wrong. I said, I'm resigning because I don't want to be a distraction."

ANDREW CUOMO, FORMER NEW YORK GOVERNOR: The best way I can help now is if I step aside and let government get back to governing, and therefore that's what I'll do.

GINGRAS (voice-over): The 64-year-old left the governor's mansion last August after New York Attorney General Letitia James released a scathing report finding Cuomo sexually harassed 11 women, including some of his former aides. Cuomo and his team have always denied the allegations.

RITA GLAVIN, PERSONAL ATTORNEY TO ANDREW CUOMO: As the governor has said, this simply did not happen.

GINGRAS (voice-over): No one more publicly than his personal attorney who continues to point out what she considers flaws in the A.G.'s report.

GLAVIN: The attorney general's investigation was shoddy. It was one- sided and there was a predetermined outcome.

GINGRAS (voice-over): James has continually stood by the investigation. Her office telling CNN today, "Only he is to blame for inappropriately touching his own staff and then quitting so he didn't have to face impeachment. His baseless attacks won't change the reality, Andrew Cuomo is a serial sexual harasser."

LETITIA JAMES, NEW YORK ATTORNEY GENERAL: I believe those 11 women, I believe those report.

GINGRAS (voice-over): Since Cuomo's resignation, district attorneys and four New York counties open investigations into his conduct and decided not to pursue charges despite saying the women's claims are credible. Cuomo told Bloomberg News, "If you do an honest summary, which is what I get from people on the street, I have been vindicated."

A source says there are no specifics of how or when Cuomo will make a return. But financial support remains steady. Latest campaign finance report shows he has more than $16 million in the bank and continues to solicit and receive donations as small as $5 from non-New Yorkers to thousands of dollars from donors in state. And he's been making calls to gauge support. Just last week, Cuomo had dinner with New York Mayor Eric Adams, but it's unclear if his political future was discussed. MAYOR ERIC ADAMS (D), NEW YORK: I'm not going to go into private conversations. That is unfair to do so. Our meeting was about the governance of this state.


GINGRAS: And Sources tell CNN that if Cuomo does make a entrance again into the political arena, it could be for a more modest role like a Democratic Party chair. But also something to keep in mind, Jake, as you know, the general assembly here in New York was considering impeaching Cuomo after all these allegations surfaced. And if they had, and if he was convicted, then he would not even be able to run for political office. Of course, we know it never went forward with that process, which certainly looms large over all of the speculation.

TAPPER: All right, Brynn Gingras, thank you so much.

Let's discuss. So Tia, let me start with you. Governor Cuomo, there has been a whole bunch of district attorneys and sheriffs and such that have decided to not pursue charges against Governor Cuomo for all the allegations of sexual harassment and sexual assault and the like. None of the women have recanted, by the way. The law enforcement just have decided not to go forward. But Governor Cuomo is out there, former Governor Cuomo presenting this as vindication.

TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION: Right, and that's incorrect. And quite frankly, if he decides to re- enter the political sphere, I think he risks those things coming back up. Some of those investigations being reignited because it went away because he went away. So if he comes back, those things are likely to come back.

You know, but we all know career politicians, and sometimes they just can't stay away from the limelight. So I'm not surprised. But I think it may not be as easy as he and his allies are trying to make it seem that you can just jump back in there.

TAPPER: And, I mean, there are a number of very credible accusations and these -- a lot of these women have come forward and given interviews that seemed very, very believable.

OLIVER KNOX, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST: Does he want to rehash all of this, again, in a campaign setting this -- and by the way, the management of the pandemic, right, the nursing homes and issues -- and the like. I mean, I share your lack of surprise and I also agree that it might be too tempting. But if you think back to all the different ways, all the bad things that could get -- could be brought that up in a campaign setting. I just don't know why you'd want to go through the headaches.

TAPPER: What do you think, Paul? You know, I'm from the Clinton year --


TAPPER: -- back when he was the Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. Then he went on to run for governor and not one member of the Clinton Cabinet endorsed him in that race.

BEGALA: He -- it seems to me, this has strikes me as more about vengeance than vindication. He says I resigned not because I was guilty, but because it was a distraction. Well --

TAPPER: There was going to be an impeachment proceeding that he was going to lose.

BEGALA: Yes. Well, you think -- Tia and Olivier said is do you think it's be a distraction on a campaign trail? Do you think anybody is going to want to hear his five-point plan on housing? Which I'm sure would be very good. He knows that subject. No one will.


You think, I think his promises. Machiavelli said, it's better to be feared than to be loved, right? He was feared. He no longer is. And now -- by the way, he never was loved by the New York Democrats, I don't think. And so, he has neither fear nor love. And I just don't know where he goes with that.

MONA CHAREN, POLICY EDITOR, "THE BULWARK": He's a perfect exemplar of the era in which we now live. Because if you are a total scoundrel, you cannot succeed in business or the education world or a nonprofit, but you can succeed as an elected official. And it's kind of the last resort of scoundrels is now to run for office again.

And so, you know, Donald Trump, who arguably would not have been able to maintain a position other than an elected office, and Cuomo is following in that mole. He can get the vote he hopes. And, of course, it's probably not true, but he hopes he can get the voters to believe that he deserves their respect. And that's a commentary on our voters.

TAPPER: Quick note on Trump which is -- last week, of course, there was all that drama of Vice -- former Vice President Pence said that Donald Trump was wrong to think that -- to just say that he could have overturned the election on January 6, 2021. And there is nothing more un-American than that idea. The governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, Olivier, today was asked whether or not he sided with Pence or Trump. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where do you fall on the political divide between Pence and Trump (INAUDIBLE)?

RON DESANTIS (R-FL): I'm not --


DESANTIS: I've, you know, had a great relationship working for -- actually was governor for two years with the Trump administration.


TAPPER: Really that tough just to say that -- KNOX: He didn't see the tweet. He didn't see the tweet. Sorry --


KNOX: He just didn't see the tweet.


KNOX: Right, it's the classic avoidance, you know, not wanting to get pulled into this fight. I think just to reflect quickly, Pence is correct that --


KNOX: -- that he didn't have the authority to do this. Trump is wrong to say that Pence had the authority to do this. DeSantis is choosing not to choose between the correct answer and the incorrect answer.

CHAREN: Come on. I mean --

TAPPER: You want to say something. I got it.

CHAREN: Yes. This is --

TAPPER: But, I mean, he could run for president. He could very well be the next one --

CHAREN: Which one?

TAPPER: DeSantis.

CHAREN: Yes, they can all run for president but --

TAPPER: No, but he could very -- people --

CHAREN: No. He could be. Look, the fact is, this party has be clowned itself. You didn't mention but the other thing that happened was that the Republican National Committee denounce the very people who are telling the truth, Cheney and Kinzinger.

TAPPER: And described January 6 was --

CHAREN: And -- yes, legitimate --

TAPPER: Legitimate political discourse.

CHAREN: -- political discourse. So that's where the Republican Party is. You can count on one hand, the number of Republicans who have been willing to say the most basic thing, and Pence deserves a modicum of credit for doing it, that we have to live by a constitution. But the rest of the Republican Party, almost all of it is a cult.

TAPPER: So let's talk about the interview I just did of the German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, who, again, would not say clearly, definitively if Russia invades Ukraine, the Nord Stream 2 Pipeline, natural gas pipeline from Russia to Germany will be dead, we will kill it. I mean, Biden said, basically, I'll kill it. And Scholz said, work together on this, but he won't say it. Why won't he say it?

MITCHELL: I think it's just so interesting -- he's the European -- a lead of a European nation that needs Russia for so many things. You know, you talk about their -- the fuel and so much of their economy that he's a little bit -- I think he's just more cautious. A lot of those leaders in Europe are, but I think at the same time, it was a little encouraging that at least they were together.

You know, it wasn't this tense meeting where they were showing all this hesitancy to go in there together. He said, you know, I'll be with you without saying what he'll be with him on. But it just shows the precarious situation, and Putin knows that.


MITCHELL: That's why he's able to move the way he's been moving these past few weeks.


BEGALA: Yes. I think if you piece it together, right, the President said plainly, I mean, I wrote it down. If Russia invades tanks or trips crossing the border of Ukraine again, then there will be no longer a Nord Stream 2, we will bring an end to it, period. And then the chancellor said to you, well, we'll all be together, we'll act together.


BEGALA: We're saying together. So I piece those together and say, well, there's going to be no Nord Stream 2. And I think, President Biden does have the capacity to end it unilaterally.

TAPPER: Yes, with very strict sanctions --

BEGALA: Right.

TAPPER: But why won't Chancellor Scholz just say it?

CHAREN: Well, he's been playing a double game a little bit. I mean, he has been very, very soft on Russia for quite some time, unwilling to allow defensive weapons to go to Ukraine.


It reminds me -- you know, when he said we don't interfere in conflict zones, it reminded me of the story about, you know, there's one man who pushes an old lady out of the path of a train. And there's another man who pushes an old lady in front of the path of a train and the person on the side says, oh, well, they're both guilty of pushing old ladies around. Right?

So it really matters whether you're giving defensive weapons to a country that is being threatened by its, you know --

TAPPER: Yes. CHAREN: -- aggressive neighbor, and he didn't -- he wasn't willing to make that distinction.

BEGALA: Germany participated in lethal combat in Bosnia.


BEGALA: And it's good they did. We're glad. They're a NATO ally. They were obligated to. They're obligated here to.

TAPPER: Final thought?

KNOX: Think about how far Germany's come in the last 12 months on issues with -- related to China and issues related Germany, related (ph) to Russia, that he won't say it. But six months ago, they were saying this is -- this has nothing to do with what, tensions with Russian.

TAPPER: Thanks to all of you. Appreciate it. The announcement from Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai that is raising questions about the timing and much more. Stay with us.



TAPPER: Time now for behind China's wall. Our series in which we go behind the fanfare and the glamour of the Olympic Games. The Chinese government, of course, hopes to use the games to distract the world from its crackdowns on freedoms and crimes against humanity and genocide.

A new twist today in the saga of Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai. In an interview with a French newspaper she denied having made sexual assault allegations against a former senior Communist Party leader. Allegations first seen in a long social media posts from her account.

She now calls it a misunderstanding and says she's retiring. Saying it would be, quote, practically impossible to return to competition. This dialogue occurred, of course, under the watchful eye of a Chinese Olympic Committee official.

CNN's David Culver joins us live from Beijing. David, the timing of her retirement announcement is raising a lot of eyebrows. Tell us.

DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, sure is, Jake. And the reality is Chinese officials they want to move past this so badly. So perhaps it's not all about surprising that in that sit down interview, Peng Shuai also announced that she's leaving professional tennis. So you will not see her traveling the world in competitions anymore. This as she once again denied ever making sexual assault allegations.


CULVER (voice-over): For many, the most anticipated meet of the Winter Games. International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach and Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai at dinner inside the Olympic COVID closed loop. But censorship questions swirl. The IOC not willing to provide images of the pair's meeting. A degree of transparency came the next day when Peng set with journalists from French sports paper L'Equipe.

The nearly hour long interview hitting on Peng's emotional accusation of sexual assault and her immediate disappearance from the public eye. It's all, according to Peng, just an enormous misunderstanding. And with a Chinese Olympics official playing chaperone, the reporter saying he knew he would have to look past the tennis players words.

MARC VENTOUILLAC, SENIOR REPORTER, L'EQUIPE: She was very cautious about our question and our answer. But as I said, it's -- I don't speak Chinese.


CULVER (voice-over): Peng is herself a three-time former Olympian. Last November, the tennis star posted a painful message to social media, accusing this man, a former Chinese Vice Premier, once among the country's most powerful of sexual assault. The post gone from Chinese social media within half an hour, while Peng fell silent.

For more than two weeks, many around the world feared for her safety as the Chinese censors went to work, deleting all traces of her accusation and scrubbing international coverage from China's airwaves.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Try to block our feed.

CULVER (voice-over): It was too late to stop the global outcry. Some of the biggest names in sport offering their support, fearing she was being held against her will. While China attempted to stem the criticism, initially with a letter that state media said was from Peng, insisting everything is fine.

Then she reappeared happy and smiling. In videos posted on Twitter not seen in China that the Women's Tennis Association said may also be staged. The WTA took a firm stance halting all upcoming tournaments in China.

STEVE SIMON, WTA CHAIRMAN & CEO: We have to start as a world making decisions that are based upon right and wrong, period. This is bigger than the business.


CULVER (voice-over): But the Beijing Winter Olympics would not be stopped and Thomas Bach has taken on the task of reassuring the world.

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, SPORTS COLUMNIST, USA TODAY: The IOC treated it as something to basically be swept under the rug. What a sad, sad state of affairs.

CULVER (voice-over): The Chinese propaganda machine in overdrive. Peng shown off by steep media at a ski competition in Shanghai in December, alongside basketball legend Yao Ming. The Chinese government has not acknowledged the sexual assault allegations, but its foreign ministry said it hoped the, quote, malicious speculation about her would stop.

Sunday's L'Equipe report is not the first time Peng has said she never made the accusation of assault. Now telling a Western outlet that she didn't disappear. She just had too many messages to respond to that she herself deleted her accusation. But no inquiry has been announced. And there is still no way of knowing whether Peng has been allowed to speak her own mind.



CULVER: A short time ago, we heard from the chairman and CEO of the Women's Tennis Association in a statement, Steve Simon, saying in part, "I'll read it here, "Peng's recent in-person interview does not alleviate any of our concerns. We have called for a formal investigation into the allegations by the appropriate authorities and an opportunity for the WTA to meet with Peng privately to discuss her situation."

Jake, we know the Chinese central government controls nearly every aspect of life here. So the question is, so long as she is here in China, will she ever really be able to speak freely?

TAPPER: I think we know the answer to that. David, the Peng Shuai saga illustrates the challenges that journalists even Western journalists face in mainland China where the government heavily censors news and hides facts and truth from its citizens. Now, you and CNN Selina Wang took a look at the severe restrictions and the lack of access facing excellent journalists like both of you, both inside and outside the Beijing Olympic bubble.

Let's take a look at that piece.


SELINA WANG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's been a long time since there were this many foreign journalists in Beijing. But we're strictly controlled under COVID rules. I can't just walk out of the hotel. And my driver can't just take me wherever I want to go. We have to stay in our lane, literally.

This, the closest we can get to Beijing residents.


WANG (on-camera): He said the police will take me if I were to walk out of the gate.

It's really hard to get into China right now as a journalist. But to cover these Olympic Games, we can get in without any visa issues. But the catch is we have to stay strictly confined into what the organizers are calling the closed loop.

(voice-over): Other than our hotel, our only options are the Olympic venues. The authorities know where we are at all times. CULVER (on-camera): We'll talk to them.

(voice-over): Restrictions, lack of access, a daily occurrence for journalists living in Beijing.

(on-camera): I'm from the U.S., but I live in Beijing.

(voice-over): CNN has regularly had run-ins with the Chinese police around Tiananmen Square, in secret of Shin Jang, and throughout my coverage of the first COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan. Oftentimes, our reports on subjects deemed sensitive by Chinese officials are censored in mainland China.

As the relationship between Chinese and Western leaders has crumbled, so has the international press corps based here. Journalists have been forced to leave.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not a particularly good experience too.

CULVER (voice-over): Perhaps the most chilling case recently, Chinese state news anchor Chung Lee (ph), an Australian citizen detained since 2020 on an accusation of spine. We don't know where she's been held.

(on-camera): Now the Olympic Games, a carefully managed opportunity for China to reintroduce itself. Journalists like me who live here now joined by hundreds of new faces. I'll be separated by barriers.

WANG (voice-over): But our sources in China live with much greater risk, like human rights activist Hu Jia, a prominent critic of the Communist Party. Speaking to me from house arrest, he says authorities are frightened he might stage a demonstration during the Olympics while the world is watching.

HU JIA, HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST: (Speaking Foreign Language).

WANG (voice-over): He tells me he'll be locked in for months. They threatened to stop him from seeing his elderly mother if he doesn't comply. He's used to getting a knock on the door from police, who he says have visited him four times in the past eight days.

JIA: (Speaking Foreign Language).

WANG (voice-over): The security of the closed loop keeping people safe from COVID as more cases are registered among Olympic personnel, but also keeping journalists from telling their stories.


TAPPER: And Selina, you're inside the strict COVID bubble with the Olympic athletes, what is that like?

WANG: Yes, Jake, it's been surreal. From the minute I stepped off the airplane in Beijing, I was greeted by the sea of hazmat suits in this bubble where COVID tested daily. Our health details tracked on my burner phone. But it's very odd because I used to live in Beijing and to be able to drive through the streets but unable to get out and to see familiar faces like David's or my grandma's but only to see them from meters away separated by layers and layers of barricades.

So the COVID-19 rules have given a reason for authorities to carefully manage and control where we go and what we do, Jake.

TAPPER: And David, you're outside the Olympic bubble. You live in mainland China. It's not much better though access wise for you these days. Explain how authorities are using even exploiting the pandemic to keep you from traveling to so-called sensitive sites.

CULVER: Yes, we often talk about lockdowns and contact tracing here. It's seemingly effective and containing the virus. Also really effective in containing us journalists. We often find that places like Xinjiang have very strict COVID entry requirements. Depending on the Chinese city that you're actually traveling from, they can put you in quarantine, Jake, for up to 14 days, even with negative tests in hand.

So we, along with everyone else in China, are also tracked constantly through our smartphones. It's something that really allows them to keep tabs on us.

TAPPER: All right, Selina Wang and David Culver reporting from Beijing in our behind China's wall series. Thanks to both of you.

You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and the TikTok at JakeTapper. You've been tweet the show at TheLeadCNN. Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer right next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM."