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COVID Hospitalizations Reach Record Highs; Biden To Follow Fiery Jan. 6th Speech With Voting Rights Address; Biden, Obama Remember Harry Reid At Nevada Funeral Service; Interview With Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV); Djokovic Confined To Hotel Amid Visa Row, Possible Deportation; Putin And Kazakhstan's President Discuss Restoring "Order"; Biden Administration Plans Response If Russia Invades Ukraine. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired January 08, 2022 - 17:00   ET



JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Jim Acosta in Washington.

The sudden COVID surge this weekend getting in the way of people who need medical care for other reasons. 40 hospitals in New York state are stopping all non-urgent surgeries for at least two weeks as bed space is running low due to the rise in COVID hospitalizations.

Many people who are filling up hospital beds across the nation are too young to get vaccinate. A record number of kids under 5 years old are in hospitals infected with the coronavirus. For kids under age 18, new hospital admissions are already at a record level, averaging nearly 800 a day. It's fueling school safety concerns.

In Chicago, a stand off after the teachers' union voted to teach remotely and the public school district wants in-person learning. Today, Chicago's mayor has rejected a new proposal from the teachers' union but as they battle it out, classes have been canceled since Wednesday meaning kids are stuck at home learning well, nothing.

And in Georgia, public school teachers and staff who test positive for COVID no longer have to isolate before returning to work if they are asymptomatic and wearing a mask. No contact tracing is required.

And while that approach may seem counterintuitive, official COVID guidance coming from the CDC has not been exactly crystal clear. White House Aides and scientists are certainly frustrated by some of the communication missteps from the CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.

And CNN's Nadia Romero joins me now. Nadia, this latest omicron surge is reaching all corners of society and you have different parts of the country responding differently right now. That's just the way it is right now.

NADIA ROMERO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely right, Jim. I mean we're seeing issues with school districts in New York City all the way to the Bay Area -- San Francisco and Oakland. Here in Atlanta, they were back to remote learning all last week. They're hoping to head back to the classroom starting on Monday and that will mean mandatory testing for teachers at least twice a week. And students in the Atlanta public schools district can also undergo COVID-19 testing as long as they have parental consent.

But if we move over to, let's say, the Midwest in Chicago, it's really just a mess there between the city of Chicago's mayor and the teachers' union there. Now, they have been at a standstill on how to get back to in-person learning safely.

Now the teachers' union came out with a statement today saying listen, we will go back to the classroom. We will virtually teach from our classrooms and the kids will be at home until we can get all of the resources that we need to be able to do this safely.

And while the mayor of Chicago responded in a very brief but curt statement today, she said CTU leadership -- so CTU is Chicago Teachers' Union -- "CTU leadership, you're not listening. The best, safest way for kids to be is in school. Students need to be back in person as soon as possible. That's what parents want. That's what the science supports. We will not relent."

So really, no movement there when you look at the city's standpoint and what the teachers' union wants and that means 340,000 kids in the Chicago school district are left in limbo as to when they may return to the classroom, whether it's remote learning or back in person.

Now, there's also confusion from the very top, as you mentioned Jim, from the CDC. And Director Rochelle Walensky tried to clear up some things that the CDC has said about guidance. Their guidelines about returning to the classroom has changed over the past couple of years as we've been dealing with the pandemic.

Listen to the new guidelines for people in K through 12 schools and why she believes this is the most effective route right now.


DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: So we know that the vast majority of your contagiousness by day five is really behind you. So in this moment where we're evaluating the science and looking at the epidemiology of the disease, we said five days of isolation and then are you feeling better? Is your cough gone?

If your symptoms are gone, we say come out of that -- you're ok to come out of that isolation, but you really do need to wear a mask all of the time.


ROMERO: Yes, so that is not the guidelines that we had at the start of this pandemic and they've changed quite a few times, which makes things very confusing.

Jim, I mentioned the Bay Area having issues there. Teachers formed a sick out where they called in sick to protest what was going on in their different school districts, demanding masks, testing and for the districts to do something about the critical staffing shortages that they're seeing there as well, Jim.

ACOSTA: All right. Nadia Romero, thank you very much for that.

As COVID cases surge, the CDC is dealing with another problem. A series of confusing guidelines and recommendations leading to some mistrust in the agency and its leader just a year into her role as the CDC director. Dr. Rochelle Walensky is turning to a media consultant for help.


ACOSTA: CNN's Arlette Saenz joins me now from the White House.

Arlette, how is the White House dealing with this criticism? A lot of it coming in for Dr. Walensky.

You know, they've been talking about, you know, getting a clean message out of the White House. But part of the problem in this country is that people are not getting the message. Not getting vaccinated and so on, it's tough.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes Jim, and it's really a tricky situation for this White House as so many Americans are just trying to get their hands around what the clear and concise messaging is when it comes to the coronavirus from this administration.

Now, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the CDC, told reporters yesterday that she is committed to continuing to improve the CDC's communications as there have been frustration within the White House and the CDC about some of the messaging missteps that have come from Dr. Walensky.

Now, Walensky made those comments yesterday. In the first independent media briefing that she's conducted since the summer with sources saying that she wanted to hold that briefing in order to answer questions head on.

She has been working with a Democratic media consultant Mandy Grunwold to improve her communication patterns, but it's not just the communication that is coming under scrutiny. It's also the crafting of some of this policy.

There's a scientist within the CDC who told CNN that they were frustrated with how some of these policy decisions are made. That often Walensky is working and consulting with just a small group of advisers rather than going through a more traditional more thorough, scientific vetting.

But right now, the latest misstep that the CDC is really dealing with comes -- when it comes to that guidance relating to the isolation period for the people who test positive for COVID-19. Originally, that was a ten-day period. Then Walensky came out and announced that it would be a five-day isolation period. That sparked some criticism from some outside experts who believe that there needed to be a testing component to that. It was nearly a week later that they further offered more clarity on that guidance. Still not requiring tests, but it offered some muddled messages for Americans who are going through COVID-19 at this moment.

One thing with the White House, they've always tried to stress its independence from the CDC, but the tricky part in all of this is that what the CDC does is still going to reflect on President Biden and the way that he approaches this pandemic.

ACOSTA: All right, Arlette Saenz. Thank you very much for that.

President Biden on Thursday gave the most impassioned speech of his presidency, marking the one-year anniversary of the January 6th insurrection and calling out his predecessor's key role in that effort to subvert the election.

And on Tuesday, he'll deliver another consequential speech on the ongoing threat to American democracy. This one will highlight beefing up voting rights legislation to counter GOP-driven election restrictions.

Here to discuss is Democratic strategist James Carville.

James, great to see you. We really appreciate you taking time for us. You know, it could be hard to get people to grasp the stakes here. I think the president went a long way in laying out what the stakes are though.

Is that what you wanted to hear from President Biden? Did he need to do it sooner? Does he need to keep doing it? What do you think?

JAMES CARVILLE, CNN POLITICAL CONTRIBUTOR: I think that the January 6th speech -- we should look at it as perfect (ph). It gave us a lot of history, but we've got to move on.

And you know, Jim, one of the things I like about you, you speak very plain English and at the core of this was one massive crime. And these fools and tools that they, you know, sentencing now to 14 days are a minor part of it. They had people case the joint. They had people planned it. It's just a massive thing.

And we have to move forward and get to the bottom of what I think is one of the great crimes in American history. And I think that's what January 6, 2021 was.

And I think the president did a good job in putting perspective and also looking forward to getting to the bottom of all of this. It's very important.

ACOSTA: You think it's taking too long? I mean, you know, you were just talking about plainspokenness. You just look at what happened. And it's just obvious that crimes were committed at a very high level.

You know, he's -- Trump is on the phone with the secretary of state of Georgia. Find me 11,000 votes. You know, he's leaning on the vice president to, you know, do something that's just completely unconstitutional -- not in the -- I mean and then it's been a year now and we haven't seen anybody who even resembles a big fish being held accountable. It's outrageous, isn't it?

CARVILLE: Well, it is and it's frustrating. I will say the attorney general tried to say look, we're really working on this. We're seeing this and you know, you've got to get the button man before you get to Don.

But you know, we've got enough button men now. We've got to move forward get the people that were really behind this and the real true criminals.


CARVILLE: These were fools that breached the Capitol. I mean they should be in jail. They committed a crime. But that's like you know, prosecuting a (INAUDIBLE) in the Wehrmacht at Nuremberg. That's not what they were going after.

And that's -- we don't need to go after the car fools (ph). We've got to go after the general officers here.

And I hope and I pray the attorney general ask, you know, some patience here. I'm willing to have some patience, but I really hope that they're getting to the bottom of this fast.

I know that January 6th commission, I think is going to rock and shock people what they're going to find out, but I'm interested in people who are behind this going to the penitentiary.

ACOSTA: And Tuesday's speech for the president, it comes ahead of a Senate vote on this stalled voting rights bill. This whole issue of, you know, whether or not there's a carve out for the filibuster and so on.

What do you think the Senate needs to do? Do you advise your fellow Democrats in the Senate, you know, like Joe Manchin that ok, time's up. You've given this long enough, you got to do something here.

I mean Harry Reid, I would assume, would probably be behind something along these lines.

CARVILLE: Well, I'm right now, out of the Biden game and into the praying game. I just pray they'll do something. Because if it's another assault just like what happened in the Capitol on January 6th was an assault on democracy, these are assaults on democracy.

Remember our history, Jim, we started out with only white property- owning males could vote. Then we had the Reconstruction Amendment. Then we had the 19th Amendment. Then we had the Voting Rights Act. Then we had the expansion of franchise.

Now it's all about contracting the franchise. And this legislation at least in terms of federal elections stops this democratic erosion that we're seeing around the country. So you know, in some ways, the voting rights bill is tied to January 6th.

And you know, enough people talk to Senator Manchin. I'm just -- I'm praying now (INAUDIBLE) that we can get this thing through because if we don't, the consequences we have now where one political party has won six out of the last seven popular votes and literally has, you know, (INAUDIBLE) in complete control by the Republicans and barely have a majority in the Congress.

So there's a lot at stake here for the United States. It really is. It's not a trivial thing. And if there was ever anything that shouts for a carve out, it's this. Because you know, there's a real fundamental thing at stake here. Like I say, I'm praying left and right if Senator Manchin comes along and gets this thing passed because the consequences of it not passing are going to be pretty doggone bad, I promise you.

ACOSTA: I guess one of the things that we might see later this year is Republicans taking back both the House and the Senate. What do you think will be the ramifications of that for the remaining months and years of the Biden presidency?

CARVILLE: Almost unspeakable, but I don't think it has to happen. I think that you know, we had a terrific year for the economy in 2021, created six million jobs. We have a favorable Senate map. And Democrats need to stop whining and complaining and get to work and drive home what's at stake in this election.

We're pretty good -- we're doing a lot better than people thought in redistricting and it looks -- doesn't look encouraging right now -- but I think it's going to get more encouraging. And I think as this January 6th thing unfolds, I think the public is going to be shocked at the depth and breadth of the crime that took place not just on January 6th, but the days leading up to January and it's very important that that happens.

ACOSTA: And that can have an impact, you think, on the midterms, you think. It sounds like what you're saying.

CARVILLE: I think it could. I think the depth of this crime, it is something that people will look at, and you know, not a hard core 40 percent, but you know, you can -- there's 62 percent of the people that support these investigations. And I think at the conclusion of this, they're going to find out a lot.

And I hope the Justice Department, which has enormous power to do this, is using it. They ask us to stand back a little bit, so I'm willing to stand back a little bit. But like anybody else, you've got all of this power in the Justice Department. You've got all of these U.S. attorneys. You've got all these assistant U.S. attorneys. You've got the FBI. You've got everything.

Come on, dude. Let's get this thing rolling. We in trouble here.

ACOSTA: All right. James Carville, thanks very much. We appreciate it. Good seeing you.

CARVILLE: All right, Jim. Good to see you. Happy New Year.

ACOSTA: All right. Take care. You, too.

And you're looking live at the flag at half-staff at the U.S. Capitol in memory of the late Senator Harry Reid.

Meanwhile in Las Vegas, current and former presidents, lawmakers, family and friends paid tribute to former Senate majority leader Harry Reid. He served as the senator from Nevada for many years.

Current Nevada Senator Jacky Rosen, she joins me next. And you're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.



ACOSTA: President Biden and former President Barack Obama are among the political heavyweights paying tribute today at the funeral for former Senate majority leader, Harry Reid, who died last month after a year's long battle with pancreatic cancer.

Known for his soft-spoken style, Reid, an amateur boxer -- former amateur boxer was remembered for his ability to take a punch when it mattered the most. He was also remembered as a true friend who always kept his word.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You wanted Harry in the foxhole with you. His willingness to fight by my side, to stick with me even when things weren't going our way, and my poll numbers had gone down, and some Democrats thought it might be prudent to maintain a healthy distance from me.


OBAMA: His willingness to be there and fight would last throughout my presidency. It's a debt to him that I could never fully repay.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Like every great leader, he led the Democratic caucus just not by speaking, but by listening, by hearing all points of view, finding a common ground.

Harry cared so much about his fellow Americans and so little about what anybody thought of him. It was all search light. No spotlight.


ACOSTA: And Senator Jacky Rosen of Nevada joins me now.

Senator, thanks so much for being with us. What do you want the country to remember about Harry Reid? You just heard those beautiful remarks there from two presidents. What would you like to add?

SEN. JACKY ROSEN (D-NV): Well, first of all, thank you for having me and what I would really like to add is this.

On behalf of his wife, Landra, 62 years they were married. High school sweethearts. Raised five children, 19 grandchildren, I think he has at least one great grandchild.

It's a life well lived. He had friends, he had family, the team that worked for him. He had purpose. And I do think that when he was eulogized and people said he was all search light and no spotlight, I think that was true. He never forget where he came from. He always remembered what was important.

And no matter how tough he could be, when he was negotiating, when he was working, he was a kind, kind person. And anyone who ever knew him or worked with him really understood that he was both tough and kind -- a very rare combination.

ACOSTA: Absolutely. And Senator, one thing that came across is that Harry Reid cared about his fellow Americans more than he cared about what people thought of him. I mean that comment was made a couple of times today.

Considering the times that we're living in right now, do you think we need more of that? Or do you think that is sort of a character trait of the past?

ROSEN: Well I think we do need more of that because it's important that whether you're an elected leader like I am or Senator Reid was or just a leader in your community or just a member of your community, we all need to stand up for what we believe is kind and good and right, and take care of each other.

Harry Reid never forget how can be considerate. You heard in the eulogy over and over again, he took time for his family, he took time for his friends, and he worked hard and he had a life of purpose.

He changed the lives for so many. One of the lessons I was thinking today, one of the lessons that he taught me, one thing he told me when I was running for Senate and first for the House of Representatives, was that constituent services.

Take every call. Listen to every person. Tell them when you can be with them and when you can't. And the work you do here in the state will touch people's lives, will make a difference. And you can take those stories and they will inform what you do in Washington.

And I think that that is so very true and I learned from Nevadans up and down our state every day. And it is my honor to do so. And I think about Senator Reid's words a lot.

ACOSTA: And Senator, Harry Reid famously changed the Senate's filibuster rules back in 2013 because he was so frustrated by how Republicans were blocking all of Barack Obama's nominees despite Trump, you know, later benefitting from that with three picks to the Supreme Court. Reid once told me that he had no regrets about that. He also made this prediction. Let's watch.


HARRY REID (D-NV), FORMER SENATOR: The filibuster is on its way out. It's not a question of if. It's a question of when. You cannot have a democracy that takes 60 percent of the vote and so it's only a question of time until the filibuster goes away.


ACOSTA: What do you think about that, Senator? There are plenty of Democrats who want to see the filibuster abolished, and in particular, a carve out for votes on civil rights and voting rights legislation that have been stalled in the Senate.

What are your thoughts on that? Is it time for carve out for voting rights vote to take place?

ROSEN: Well, as I think about the anniversary of January 6th this week, we understand how fragile our democracy is and how important it is that we have a peaceful transition of power. How important it is that every eligible citizen has the right to vote and that they know that their vote will be counted. And so it's really important.

These are two hallmarks, foundations of our democracy that we have to preserve. It's what the rest of the world respects us and looks to us for.


ROSEN: So if it takes reforming the Senate rules to do that, I think that we do have to do that in order to protect what we hold so dear -- a free, fair, open elections open to everyone who's eligible to vote.

ACOSTA: All right. Sounds like a yes on your part. All right. Senator Jacky Rosen, thanks so much for joining us and remembering Harry Reid. We appreciate it very much.


ACOSTA: New developments in the saga of the world's number one men's tennis player, Novak Djokovic. Now confined to a detention hotel, as they call it in Australia and facing deportation because he's unvaccinated.


Djokovic is fighting to stay in the country in order to compete in the Australian Open, with his lawyers saying he traveled to Melbourne on the premise that he had a valid medical exemption to compete.

A letter reportedly sent by Tennis Australia on December 7th tells unvaccinated players they can receive a medical exception as long as they confirm a COVID case within the previous sixth months and a doctor's note.

All this, despite the fact the government sent a letter to Tennis Australia in December saying that would not suffice. Djokovic actually tested positive for COVID three weeks ago. Even

received a letter from the tournament's chief medical officer nine days ago saying he had the exception.

But when Djokovic arrived in Melbourne yesterday, or Wednesday, I should say, his visa was canceled. He's been confined to a hotel that houses refugees and asylum seekers ever since.

And despite repeated requests to be moved to a more suitable location where he can train, he's been denied.

A court decision on whether the 20-time grand slam champion will be allowed to stay in the country is expected to come on Monday.

Let's bring in CNN contributor, broadcasting legend, Bob Costas.

Bob, I had trouble following that. And I was just reading the latest in the twists and turns of Novak Djokovic.

What is going on? And is he going to be able to play in this tournament?

BOB COSTAS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, you laid it all out. I would think that the opinion of the chief medical officer of Tennis Australia does not supersede the rules and regulations of the Australian government.

As you know, they have some of the strictest COVID rules and protocols in the entire world. And they've worked very well up until now.

But the Omicron variant, while perhaps the symptoms for the vaccinated are much less serious, nonetheless, the number of cases has jumped up. So that's a concern.

So I don't see them -- obviously, we're commenting on this from a distance, but I would think that the nation's regulations certainly supersede the tennis association's desires.

One thing we have to keep in mind, as we talk about Djokovic, Aaron Rodgers, teams want to win. Organizers of events want star power.

Both Venus and Serena are not competing in the Australian Open for the first time in the 21st century. Last time they were absent was in the late 1990s.

Roger Federer is out with a knee injury.

Having Djokovic there matters. It matters to attendance. It matters to the amount of interest there.

Just as Aaron Rodgers, all things considered, probably the most important player, the MVP of the league, matters to the Green Bay Packers. They've done extremely well. They could be on the Super Bowl track.

And most fans are willing to forgive him, whatever his stance is regarding vaccination, as long as he throws touchdown passes. ACOSTA: As for Djokovic, he says he tested positive on December 16th,

but 24 hours after that, he appeared with young players in Belgrade the next day handing out awards. Everyone was unmasked.

And CNN did reach out to Djokovic's team for a comment but haven't heard back.

I mean, that is not going to sit well with the Australians as they're trying to deal with this.

COSTAS: No, it's not going to sit well.

But being a star, as we know, whether in sports or outside sports, confers certain advantages, which some people are willing to take advantage of and push to a breaking point.

We're talking about an individual sport, not a team sport.

In the case of tennis, Djokovic is the greatest in the world. He's an historic player. He has his views on vaccination.

If it only affected him, that's one thing. But in this case, it affects the tournament, the organizers. It affects, I guess, the tennis world in some sense.

But his past history tells us he's not going to yield on this. He'll either go home to Serbia or they'll allow him to play. But he's not going to, all of sudden, turn around and get vaccinated.

And it's too late for the vaccination to take effect anyway for him to play in the Australian Open.

ACOSTA: And over in the NBA, Kyrie Irving is back playing with the Brooklyn Nets after he was temporarily sidelined for refusing the COVID vaccine. That prompted this reaction from Charles Barkley.

Let's watch.


CHARLES BARKLEY, SPORTS ANALYST: If you want to make a political point, which is silly and stupid, and not get vaccinated, that's fine.

Kyrie is a heck of a player. But to only play in road games, I don't think it's fair to the game, number one. I don't think it's fair to the game.

But, I think, more importantly, I don't think it's fair to the team.


ACOSTA: What do you think, Bob? You agree with Charles?

COSTAS: Yes, I agree with Charles 100 percent.

As you know, in New York, there's a mandate, you can't enter an arena, you can't enter an indoor facility, when we're talking about basketball, if you're not vaccinated.


So he can't play the home games in Brooklyn. He also can't play in Toronto in games against the Raptors. But he can play road games.

Now at first, the Nets position was, look, if he can't practice with the team, can only play half the games, this is disruptive, we don't have team continuity, we're not going to do it.

But then the competitive reality set in. They may feel like they need the guy, And he came back and he looked good.

Couple of nights ago against the Pacers, first game back, in Indianapolis, he scores 22 points. And if you watch the highlights, looked like he hadn't missed a step.

That's the odd thing about this or the complicating thing about this.

Athletic greatness -- regardless of how we feel about a person's stance on this or that, athletic greatness conquers, if not all, it conquers a lot in the minds of people who run teams and people who pay for tickets and watch games.

ACOSTA: You know, Bob, you brought up, last night, the Green Bay Packers quarterback went on Twitter and denied he would boycott the Super Bowl over the NFL's COVID protocols.


ACOSTA: He also called a long-time Chicago sportswriter a bum for saying he wouldn't vote for Rodgers for most valuable player because of his off-the-field opinions on COVID and so on.


ACOSTA: Here's the question I have.

If you're the other athletes, if you're their teammates, why in the world would you comply with these COVID policies and these guidelines if the Aaron Rodgers of the world, the Kyrie Irvings of the world, the Djokovics of the world can flaunt this stuff and get special treatment?


ACOSTA: Why should any of them play by the rules?

COSTAS: I think the primary reason to play by the rules is that it makes sense. It makes overwhelming sense to be vaccinated and boosted. So for your own good and the good of your family and the rest of your teammates, it makes sense.

Then there are others, the rank-and-file players, they're not Kyrie Irving, they're not Aaron Rodgers. Different situation. Although, there was an issue with Antonio Brown. Why did Antonio Brown

get chance after chance? Because he's a model citizen? No. He's an outstanding talent. So people were able to make exceptions for him.

Not every athlete, only on a few relatively fall into that category.

But here's what you need to know about Aaron Rodgers. Because he tested positive in November, under the existing rules, he got a 90-day exception from being tested again.

That exemption, as it happens, runs out two days after the NFC championship game.

The Packers are the number one seed. They get a first-round buy They have all home games. Pretty good chance to get to the Super Bowl.

Now, two days after the NFC championship, 12, 13 days, whatever it is before the Super Bowl. If he tests positive, because he's unvaccinated, he'll be tested every day.

Hasn't been tested during the 90 days. The exemption has already run out.

He'll be tested every day leading up to the Super Bowl if the Packers are in it. If he tests positive, he's out for five days.

So the best scenario for him and the Packers, if he's going to test positive, have it happen prior to five days before the Super Bowl.

In theory, if he tested positive on the Wednesday or Thursday before the Super Bowl, Jordan Love is your Packers quarterback on Super Bowl Sunday.


COSTAS: A bad look for the Packers and for the NFL.

ACOSTA: I don't mean to laugh at Jordan Love, but that would just be a devastating development for the Super Bowl. And all over not getting a shot.

COSTAS: Yes, not getting --


ACOSTA: Not getting a needle in your arm. I don't get it. I'll never get it. This just doesn't make any sense.

COSTAS: And if you're a Packer, as much you love your quarterback, look at the touchdown totals and small interception totals. He's one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time.

As much you love playing with him, if that were the happen, what has he done to your season? What has he done to all of the sweat and toil that you've put in?

ACOSTA: Right.

COSTAS: What has he done to all of the protocols that you followed and he didn't?

Chances are, it doesn't happen, but it could happen.

ACOSTA: No ring, is what happens.

All right, Bob Costas, thank you very much.


ACOSTA: We appreciate it. Great to see you, sir.

COSTAS: Bye, Jim.

ACOSTA: Take care.

COSTAS: You, too.


And we'll be right back.


ACOSTA: Soldiers ordered to open fire on civilians, a former top government official detained on suspicion of treason and the Russian military swooping in and expanding its reach.

The unrest in Kazakhstan has left dozens dead after rising fuel prices sparked massive protests and a harsh government crackdown.

Earlier today, Russian President Vladimir Putin spoke with Kazakhstan's leader in the hopes of restoring order.

CNN's senior international correspondent, Matthew Chance, is live in Moscow.

Matthew, what is the status in Kazakhstan right now? Do we have a lot of visibility in there? And what has the presence of Russian troops done to the situation there?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, not a lot of visibility. The Internet's been very patchy. We haven't got any reporters there. In fact, the international community has essentially been kept out.

But I spoke to a contact on the ground in Almaty today and she told me that, look, you know, the protest had died down. There are checkpoints on the streets.

It's still very tense. There are gun shots echoing throughout the sort of abandoned city streets. There's still signs of dead bodies in various places as well. But there's a relative calm compared to the violence that we witnessed there, that was witnessed there over the past week. That's descended on this tense environment where the protesters are essentially sort of dispersing.


But that's come at a very high price, indeed, because there have been dozens of people killed. Not just protestors, but security forces as well. Attacked by the rampaging mobs.

There have been nearly 4,000 people, according to official figures, detained and taken into custody by the security forces. We don't know what's -- what will happen to them.

As you mentioned, there's also been this invitation extended and taken up by foreign forces, particularly, the Russian paratroopers that have moved in.

Somewhere in the region of 2,500 forces, mainly Russian, from other countries, have been brought in to help the security forces establish some kind of control on the ground.

It's not clear exactly what the role of the Russia paratroopers is or how long they're going to stay. Although, it's said to be a temporary assignment that they've been given.

And it's not quite clear why the Kazakh government actually asked for Russian forces to come in.

To me, it indicates the president of Kazakhstan may not have had complete trust in his own security forces to be on his side.

ACOSTA: Sounds like a very precarious situation, indeed.

Matthew Chance, thank you very much for that.

This is all happening at Putin stacks his forces on the Ukrainian border causing the Biden administration to game plan a response to any of Ukraine by Russia.

"The New York Times" is now reporting the White House is, quote:

"Assembling a punishing set of financial and technology sanctions" against Russia that they say would go into effect within hours of invasion of Ukraine."

"Hoping to make clear to Vladimir Putin the high cost he would pay if he sends troops across the border."

I'm joined by one of the reporters on that story, "New York Times" White House and national security correspondent, David Sanger.

David, great to see you.

What type of sanctions are we talking about? You know, you hear the word "sanctions," we've seen U.S.

administrations do this time and again with Putin, hoping for some kind of, you know, response in the nature of healing.

You know, and cooling his heels to some extent, but doesn't always seem to work out.

What are you reporting at this point?


You remember the United States put sanctions on Russia after it seized Crimea in 2014 and began to support an uprising in parts of the eastern part of the country.

We put sanctions again on Russia for the election interference in 2016 and then again last year for the SolarWinds cyberattack.

And as you know from your time at the White House, and I've certainly seen, no one really thinks that has been a deterrent.

So they're trying something different this time. They're telegraphing ahead of any invasion what the penalties would be.

Some are familiar. Trying to cut off the biggest banks from being able to deal with financial transactions on international markets.

But some are new. Including the threat of a technology cutoff of semiconductors, software, and maybe even the consumer electronics that contain American material as well.

ACOSTA: And what is your concern, David? As you're reporting this out, what are you looking at in terms of concerns in the administration?

Is there a fear that this will become a boy-who-cried-Wolf situation? I mean, you lay out the prospect of sanctions ahead of time. What if Putin decides, OK, I'm going to do it anyway.

SANGER: Then they've got to go ahead. And you know, they wouldn't really have a choice.

But the trick with sanctions is they're only effective if you get broad agreement on them. They've been running around with the Europeans trying to make sure everybody's on board with this.

A big player would be China. The bank of China is a member a financial group that Russia set up recently.

Because the Russians and the Chinese have both been trying to sanctions-proof their economies. So that would be a big issue.

There's one other big element, too, Jim, which is that, we're reporting that the U.S. is also preparing to help arm a Ukrainian insurgency if the Russians roll over the Ukrainian military and try to occupy parts of the country. And that seems very 1970-ish proxy war. And of course, we've gotten

ourselves into all kinds of different conflicts that way in the past. It wouldn't be American troops, but there could be stinger missiles.


ACOSTA: And it sounds like they're trying to warn Putin and the Kremlin that you could get yourself bogged in a quagmire, we'll be helping to arm that quagmire.


ACOSTA: All right, David Sanger, thank you very much as always. Appreciate your reporting.

SANGER: Great to be with you.

ACOSTA: All right.

And we'll be right back.


ACOSTA: New today, the super high-tech James Webb Telescope is one step closer to sending pictures from space back to earth.

Just two weeks after launch, NASA officials say the telescope has reached its final form after deploying its mirror.

And it's not just any mirror. Get this. It's the largest mirror that NASA has ever built.


It is so big that it would not fit inside the rocket and had to be folded origami style, if you can believe that.

But there's still work to be done. NASA says it will take five months of alignment and calibration before the telescope can start transmitting some images.

Science, fascinating stuff.

And that's the news. Reporting from Washington, I'm Jim Acosta. I'll see you back here tomorrow at 4:00 p.m. Eastern.

Phil Mattingly takes over the CNN NEWSROOM, live, after a quick break.

Good night, everybody.