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Ghislaine Maxwell Found Guilty In Epstein Sex Trafficking Case; New Forecast Of Rising COVID Deaths As Cases Hit All-Time High; D.C. Schools Requiring Negative COVID Tests For Students, Staff; Biden To Speak With Putin Tomorrow At Russian Leader's Request; Legendary NFL Coach & Broadcaster John Madden Dies At 85. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired December 29, 2021 - 18:00   ET




JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news, the jury just found Ghislaine Maxwell guilty of five counts related to her role in Jeffrey Epstein's sexual abuse of young girls. Our experts are standing by to break down the verdict.

The other major story we're following, a new CDC forecast for rising COVID deaths in the coming weeks as new cases hit an all-time high. This comes as the Biden administration is on the defensive over its new isolation guidelines and growing confusion.

Also tonight, public schools in the nation's capital are taking a dramatic step to stop the rapid spread, requiring negative tests before students and staff can return next week. I'll talk live with Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Jim Acosta and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

And let's get straight to the breaking news, the verdicts in the sex trafficking trial of Ghislaine Maxwell. CNN National Correspondent Jason Carroll is working the story for us. Jason, Maxwell has been found guilty on five of six counts of sex trafficking of a minor for Jeffrey Epstein. Walk us through the verdict. This is a huge case there in New York.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Huge case. And what this case really boils down to, Jim, is whether or not Ghislaine Maxwell knew about the abuse that had been going on for all of these years, and whether or not she was a part of it. That's really the foundation of this.

And a jury came back and found that she was guilty of both. The jury made up of six men, six women, deliberated for six days, some 40 hours, and found that she was guilty of five of six federal counts, including sex trafficking of a minor. The minor in that particular case, a victim named Carolyn, who was victimized between the years of 2001-2004. Also guilty, transporting a minor with the intent to engage in criminal sexual activity and also three related counts of conspiracy.

The jury found her not guilty on count two, which was enticement of an individual under the age of 17 to travel with intent to engage in illegal activity.

Again, over the course of this trial, the prosecution called 24 witnesses over ten days or so. The prosecution's case really centered though on four women who told very graphic, very personal, very detailed descriptions of the abuse that they suffered at the hands of Epstein, also with Maxwell being there.

The U.S. Attorney's Office saying in a statement, saying in part, the road to just has been far too long. But today, just has been done. I want to commend the bravery of the girls, now grown women, who stepped out of the shadows and into the courtroom. Their courage and willingness to face their abuser made this case and today's result possible.

Now, Maxwell, a British socialite and former Epstein girlfriend, now faces more than 60 years in prison. And as you know, Jim, for years the victims in this case had been seeking justice. They were unable to get the justice that they wanted simply because Jeffrey Epstein was unable to be brought to justice because he committed suicide while in custody. Now, finally holding Maxwell, who prosecutors call his partner in crime, accountable, a very big day here, Jim.

ACOSTA: Absolutely a huge verdict. All right, CNN's Jason Carroll, thank you very much for that.

Let's get more on all of this, the breaking news, with CNN Legal Analyst Elliot Williams, Dave Aronberg, the state attorney for Palm Beach County, Florida, where so much of this case has been focused, defense attorney and federal -- former federal prosecutor Shan Wu, and CNN Reporter Sonia Moghe from outside the courtroom.

Sonia, let me go to you first. The jury deliberated over about six days, and some were wondering whether the way this was taking its time, that perhaps that might work to Maxwell's advantage, but it didn't, clearly didn't.

SONIA MOGHE, CNN REPORTER: Yes. It just goes to show you that you just don't know what a jury was thinking. The only window that we have are those notes that they sent out, and they sent out notes asking for transcript after transcript, almost a third of the witnesses who testified, a transcript they had requested. They asked for poster board and post-it notes. And it really seemed like they were literal going back to the drawing board at one point in these deliberations. But, clearly, they worked together and they came up with this unanimous verdict.


This is a big deal for the survivors of abuse, not just of Ghislaine Maxwell but also Jeffrey Epstein, who killed himself at the detention facility not far from this courthouse, just behind it, actually. When he killed himself, so many of these victims were devastated, because they felt that they had finally gotten to a point of where they could have gotten justice for their abuser, and then he escaped that justice. And, you know, even after his arrest, so many women had spoken about how they also wanted to hold Ghislaine Maxwell accountable. So, this verdict today, I'm certain, will be one tiny piece of justice for these women, many of whom were girls when they were abused.

ACOSTA: Yes. They've been waiting for justice for years. And, Dave Aronberg, what's your reaction to this verdict, guilty of five out of the six charges? And, you know, some of what Ghislaine Maxwell and obviously Jeffrey Epstein, what they were accused of, focused on what was going on in your neck of the woods there in Florida.

DAVE ARONBERG, STATE ATTORNEY, PALM BEACH COUNTY, FLORIDA: Yes, Jim, I think this was long overdue. I think Ghislaine Maxwell got what was coming to her because Jeffrey Epstein could not have succeeded in his criminal sex scheme without her help. Jeffrey Epstein was some creepy middle-aged guy and he showed up outside a high school asking a girl to get in his car, they would tell them to get lost.

But he had Ghislaine Maxwell, a very charming, sophisticated, attractive woman who made the girls feel comfortable. She helped groom them and sometimes even engaged in sexual activities with them. So, without her, this stuff probably wouldn't have happened. Jeffrey Epstein wouldn't be Jeffrey Epstein. So, she is just as guilty as he is under the law for a lot of these crimes and she'll be facing some serious penalties ahead.

ACOSTA: And, Shan Wu, Maxwell is guilty of the most serious charge she faced, sex trafficking of a minor. This confirms she was not a bit player. She was aiding and abetting this. She was facilitating this. She played a role in this abuse. Isn't that right?

SHAN WU, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Absolutely, that's right. And I agree with Dave on this point. She was integral to his scheme, although his actions and schemes were probably even broader than this, and he can't be brought to justice now.

But I think this sends such an important message for survivor, which is that prosecutors are finally beginning to get the idea that this kind of crime doesn't happen in the dark with just a one-on-one situation where you have only the victim's word. Others know about it, other people helped. And this has been slow in coming. It's a trickle. We've seen some of that in the R. Kelly convictions. But, hopefully, if they change, it's going to continue down this direction for victims.

ACOSTA: That's right, Sonia. And Maxwell's team was arguing that she was being scapegoated for Epstein's crimes, that essentially she was sort of filling his chair in this trial, but as Shan Wu was saying, it sounds as though the jury really put a lot of stock into the accounts of these victims.

MOGHE: Absolutely. And it makes sense because the victims were there when this abuse happened. And so having these women who were girls, you know, testify about their experiences is so crucial. And they moved through the women pretty quickly, and at times were -- some of the women were sort of advised by the federal judge overseeing this case, Judge Nathan, not to go into a lot of detail about some of the abuse, but some of these details about, for example, Jane, who testified under a pseudonym, she testified that she met Maxwell and Epstein when she was 14 at a summer camp where Epstein was a benefactor.

And so many accusers talked about Maxwell's role in this, and how someone like Maxwell would be brought into to make them feel more comfortable and feel like that they could confide, and she could tell the girls things like, you know, you have the perfect body for Jeffrey, is what one accuser said she told her.

So, all of these things -- all of these things that Maxwell was -- people testified that she did lament (ph) to normalize sexual behavior. This is something you see often in these predatory situations. I saw it in the R. Kelly trial a couple of months ago, with witnesses testifying about the same thing. There's someone else there who was normalizing this behavior, making it seem okay to lure the girls deeper into a situation like this. So, very important testimony and very difficult to give that kind of testimony, especially in front of someone who, say, abused you.

ACOSTA: Very disturbing. And, Elliot, Maxwell now faces up to 65 years in prison.


She just turned 60 on Christmas. So, she faces the prospect of potentially the rest of her life behind bars. What do you expect from her sentencing and what are the prospects that she could potentially help federal prosecutors land a bigger fish, so to speak? Could that potentially, I don't know, lighten that sentence for her? What do you think?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes. Under normal circumstances, it would, but the question is, who is the bigger fish? Normally, you would flip, convict defendant and go after someone higher up on the totem pole. That individual is Jeffrey Epstein, and he's deceased now. So, she couldn't actually do that.

Now, perhaps there were people who might have played a role in the conspiracy, but prosecutors don't have a huge incentive now that they have now a conviction of her. So, I'm not sure what the utility would be the prosecutors in trying to get cooperation out of her.

What will happen now? I mean, certainly she's going to appeal, and that is her right as a defendant. She can. But we know prosecutors will do is point out all of the things that aggravate and make this an incredibly serious crime. The vulnerability and young age of the victims is going to play into sentencing here. And prosecutors are going to ask -- and moreover, she's going to be in prison this entire time.

ACOSTA: All right. Thanks to all of you. And we'll have more on this breaking story just ahead.

Plus, in the meantime, COVID confusion is growing as omicron cases keep spiking. Stand by for a new forecast on what to expect in the weeks ahead.



ACOSTA: Tonight, the CDC is forecasting more than 40,000 new deaths over the next four weeks as a tidal wave of COVID cases washes over the U.S.

CNN's Tom Foreman is following all of this for us. Tom, health officials are getting a lot of pushback tonight over these new COVID testing and updated guidelines. What can you tell us?

TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, with more than a quarter million new cases a day, that's happening. The American Nurses Association, one of the groups to push back, saying they think these guidelines are based too much on keeping business going and not enough on keeping people safe, especially health care workers who are right in the middle of this pandemic storm.


FOREMAN (voice over): Schools in D.C. will require all students and staff to have negative COVID tests to come back to class. New York City will require rigorous testing too, all that as the White House says it expects to sign a contract for a half billion at-home COVID tests next week, and as the centers for disease control faces sharp questioning over new guidelines for COVID-weary Americans.

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: It really had a lot to do with what we thought people would be able to tolerate.

FOREMAN: The recommendations of five instead of ten isolation days for those testing positive, but showing no symptoms, then five days of masking, is aimed at keeping people working, but it's raising alarms too.

ERIN BROMAGE, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF BIOLOGY, UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS DARTMOUTH: There's absolutely no data that I'm aware of with the omicron variant that holds people coming out of isolation five days after they were first diagnosed with the virus.

FOREMAN: Nothing in the guidelines mandates testing for these people and the administration has been harshly criticized for the current shortage of tests. So, the lack of testing and the new recommendations is also drawing fire, even as top health officials push back.

WALENSKY: We actually don't know how our rapid tests perform and how well they predict whether you're transmissible during the end of disease.

FOREMAN: Add in new questions about the effectiveness of some at-home test in detecting the omicron variant and it is all becoming a muddle at a terrible time.

DR. LARRY KOCIOLEK, ATTENDING PHYSICIAN AND INFECTIOUS DISEASE SPECIALIST, LURIE CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL CHICAGO: We are right now seeing more cases per day than at any point in the pandemic.

FOREMAN: Infections among children are rising rapidly in many cases.

DR. CHRIS PERNELL, FELLOW, AMERICAN COLLEGE OF PREVENTIVE MEDICINE: We're seeing here even in New Jersey a fourfold increase in pediatric hospitalizations, we're seeing our daily case rate skyrocket.

FOREMAN: In Connecticut, the National Guard has been called up to help with testing. In New York City, 17 percent of the police department's uniformed officers called in sick yesterday. In Washington, the Pentagon is tightening its COVID safety protocols. And all along the coast, authorities are now investigating at least 86 cruise ships for COVID outbreaks.


FOREMAN (on camera): Simply put, the pandemic is just ripping across the country right now, causing a lot of concern and confusion. But the CDC does want you to know this, especially if you have children who are going back to any kind of classroom next week. If they are over five, they can and should get vaccinated, and there is consideration right now for booster shots for people between 12 and 15. So, stay tuned for more news about that. Jim?

ACOSTA: Yes, that will be a huge development if and when that happens. Tom Foreman, thanks so much.

Let's get more on the Biden administration's defense of those new isolation guidelines and whether the shortage of COVID tests was a consideration. CNN White House Jeremy Diamond is with the president in Delaware.

Jeremy, what are you learning about this debate inside the White House over testing? That is interesting.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, no doubt about it, Jim. Listen, we heard today Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the CDC, adamantly saying that the testing shortage did not factor into the decision not to require a test to emerge from that shortened five-day isolation period. But a senior administration official told me that it did factor into a decision about the guidance around the quarantine.

Now, quarantine is what the CDC uses -- is the term they use to refer to people who are close contact, particularly those who are unvaccinated and they shortened that time to five days. They did not explicitly advise people to get a test after five days, only saying that it is the best practice to do so. And one senior official told me that they said, quote, if we require a test, people are going to say what if we can't get a test? And so this official said very clearly that the testing shortage did indeed factor into that piece of the new guidance from the CDC. Now, listen, we know this administration is concerned and on top of this situation with this shortage of tests.


President Biden himself has repeatedly acknowledged that they have fallen short on this. I asked the White House coronavirus coordinator, Jeff Zients, today what the status of progress is on getting those 500 million rapid at-home tests to Americans next month. He told me that they're still in the process of finalizing that contract for those test.

That contract will not be finalized until late next week, meaning the end of the first week of January, so I don't think you can expect Americans those to say tests until the middle of January. Clearly, this is something that's going to continue to be a problem for weeks to come. Jim?

ACOSTA: All right. Jeremy, it should be frustrating for a lot of folks out there. Thanks so much.

There's a lot to discuss with our pandemic experts, Michaels Osterholm, Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, and Andy Slavitt, former Senior Adviser to the Biden White House COVID Response Team. Thanks to both of you gentlemen.

Let me go to you first, Michael Osterholm. As coronavirus cases in the U.S. hit this record-high, the CDC is now predicting more than 44,000 people could die of COVID-19 in the next four weeks. That's a scary prediction for this country given the fact that we're heading into year three of this pandemic. How do we slow this down? And how many of those 44,000 are going to be unvaccinated?

MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR INFECTIOUS DISEASE RESEARCH AND POLICY, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA: Well, first off, we just have to acknowledge we're in a mess right now. And the best way to approach it is to say what we know and what we don't know. And what we don't know right now is, among those who develop omicron infection, how many will get seriously ill and die? I think that what we're seeing yet even with the increasing deaths, number of hospitalizations, a lot of that is still the carryover delta variant. And it's possible that over the weeks ahead, omicron will, in fact, reduce the number of severe illnesses.

Now, where that falls on its head, however, is if, in fact, we have that many more infections that it actually creates more severe cases than delta did just because of the sheer number. And we're in unknown territory. If you look at those CDC data you just shared with us, if you look at the confidence on those hospitals (ph), you can drive a semi-load of information through there. There's a big hole in terms of just what does the real number look like over the course of the next month. We don't know.

ACOSTA: And just follow up on that, Jeremy just reported that the CDC director's defense of these new isolation guidelines, Walensky says, most viral transmission happens in the first five days. Is that a satisfactory defense of these guidelines, which are confusing a lot of people?

OSTERHOLM: Well, everything we're going to do right now is going to be imperfect. Just accept that right now. We don't know a lot of things we wish we'd know, but what we do know what is emerging here is that this country is going to be in the soup in just the next few weeks, with so many cases in so many locations, that we're going to see critical infrastructure, as well as health care, challenged to even have enough people on the job so that we can protect ourselves. We're going to see the places where we buy our food, places that we get our gasoline, are all going to be challenged having enough people on the job.

So, what the CDC in part was trying to do is not somehow play to the economy, it was to play to the very safety of our everyday lives. And I think they're being harshly criticized for these recommendations in ways that in an ideal world, sure, we wouldn't do it this way.

ACOSTA: Andy, let me ask you about that. Because in terms of these new CDC guidelines, is it enough to say, well, we couldn't see this coming, we didn't see this coming, and so therefore we're just in this mess and we're going to have to get through it? I mean, nearly two years into this pandemic, the Biden administration promised to fix this. I mean, that's just the fact of the matter. Do you think they should have been more successful when it comes to just explaining this to people? Perhaps they should have been explaining all along, listen, something may come around the bend that we're not anticipating, and it may knock us down again and we might not be ready for it? I mean, should that have been baked in a little bit more into the messaging?

ANDY SLAVITT, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO THE BIDEN WHITE HOUSE COVID RESPONSE TEAM: Well, look, if you're in office, you're always accountable and you're always going to be subject to criticism. But, look, when you manage a pandemic, and I think Mike pointed this out, you're not running a popularity contest. You're try to manage the situation so you minimize the amount of pain as much as possible and allow people to lead their lives.

And what we have done over the last year is extraordinary in terms of the amount of tools that are now available to people, boosters, vaccines, while we will go through shortages, rapid at-home antigen tests, soon to be therapies, ventilation.

And as Mike said, no one of these things is perfect, but in combination, these things are actually effective. And so if you want to be able to lead your life, if you have got the luxury of not having to work in a frontline, an hourly job, you have a lot of tools to be able to see your family, you have a lot of tools to be able to go to school, you have a lot of tools to be able to manage through this pandemic.

Unfortunately, what the country is dealing with is that a large number of people aren't accessing and using those tools. A large number of people aren't vaccinated. People can't always get at-home tests, it's a reality of the crisis. [18:25:00]

And so, you know, that little hole gives a wide berth to the pandemic and it tells us all we should be cautious.

ACOSTA: And, Andy, here's a question that's been on my mind. Do you worry Americans are losing hope to the extent, becoming resigned to the fact, to the extent that they're not going to be able to ward this off, that they're not going to prevent themselves from being infected with COVID, that they're just going to give up and say, okay, let it happen, here we go?

I mean, I've heard this from a number of people over the holidays. They just say, okay, I'm resigned to the fact, I tried to do everything, I got vaccinated, I got boosted, people are getting infected, I guess I'm going to get infected too. What do you say to them?

SLAVITT: I think there's a mix of reactions going on. And on the one hand, I think there are people who are in situations where they may have a family member who is immunocompromised, may have a transplant, and they're deathly afraid and waiting for more tools and antivirals, and really hoping to ward things off.

I think there's a whole another group of people that figuring out, with the tools that we now have, that they're able to manage their lives, even if they can't avoid infections at all times. And I think that maybe they resigned that so many people they know you are getting infected but certainly hoping that that doesn't result in more serious illness. We're in the middle of it, as Mike said, and so people are going to be understandably frustrated as things play out.

ACOSTA: All right. Thanks, gentlemen, to both of you. We could go on all night about this but we're shot on time. Thanks so much for your time. We appreciate it.

And just ahead, we'll get reaction to the Ghislaine Maxwell guilty verdict from famed women's rights lawyer Gloria Allred, who represents some of the women who say they were victims in this case.



ACOSTA: The breaking news tonight, the verdict in the sex trafficking trial of Ghislaine Maxwell found guilty on five of six counts of trafficking a minor for Jeffrey Epstein. Let's get more with Gloria Allred, attorney for some of the women who say they were victims of Jeffrey Epstein. Gloria is on the phone with us right now.

First of all, Gloria, thanks so much for being with us. We appreciate it. What does today's verdict say about Maxwell's culpability in Epstein's system of abuse, do you think?

GLORIA ALLRED, ATTORNEY FOR EPSTEIN ACCUSERS (voice over): Well, definitely that she is culpable. And, Jim, I represent 20 victims of Jeffrey Epstein, and some were also victims of Ms. Maxwell and provided evidence regarding Ms. Maxwell to the prosecution. And we're very happy that justice was done today, and especially on the charge that you mentioned of conspiracy to sex traffic minors.

And this case sends a message that anyone who conspires with a sexual predator to sex traffic underage girls will risk being prosecuted, convicted and potentially being sentenced to many years in prison for this very serious crime and other crimes as well.

And I commend the courage of the victims who testified, and all those who were brave enough to cooperate with law enforcement by sharing and recounting what happened to them when they were victimized by Jeffrey Epstein and Ms. Maxwell. This result today would not have been obtained without their courage.

ACOSTA: Yes. I mean, it's confirmation that cooperation from victims can result in successful prosecutions and guilty verdicts. And you represent 20 of Epstein's victims, as you were saying. How meaningful is it that this verdict comes for these victims who never got to see Jeffrey Epstein stand trial and faced the full consequences for abuses? It's not the same as getting a guilty verdict for Jeffrey Epstein, but this goes some distance in getting them justice.

ALLRED (voice over): Well, it does. And, of course, the defense in this case tried to argue that she was just basically a scapegoat for Jeffrey Epstein because Jeffrey Epstein either was murdered or committed suicide while in several custody here in New York. And so then defense tried to say that Ms. Maxwell is just a stand-in because the prosecutors wanted to try to get justice against someone and that Ms. Maxwell was innocent.

Well, today, the jury discussed, after very careful and lengthy deliberations and having reviewed so much of the evidence, transcripts of the accusers and defense witnesses as well, that fact she was not a scapegoat, that she, in fact, was guilty of conspiring with Jeffrey Epstein to sex traffic underage girls and other crimes as well, of course, perjury in her deposition that she gave in the civil case where she was being sued by one of the accusers.

ACOSTA: And, Gloria, what is your message tonight for anyone else out there who enabled or engaged in Jeffrey Epstein's abuse? Do you think that the guilty verdict for Ghislaine Maxwell is the end of this saga or might we find out that others could be brought to justice in this?

ALLRED (voice over): Well, great question, because there were others who assisted Jeffrey Epstein in addition to Ms. Maxwell.

Now, we don't know if the others might have also cooperated with law enforcement, basically provided evidence in exchange for a deal or not. We don't know that at this time, or whether there will be more prosecutions. But I think Ms. Maxwell was clearly the one who engaged in this enterprise, criminal activity, with Mr. Epstein.


And so I don't know whether the others will be prosecuted or not, but if they are prosecuted, I have no doubt that there will be other victims who will also be willing to testify as well.

It's hard because for some victims of Epstein and Maxwell, they blamed themselves, they felt ashamed, they didn't anyone to know, you know, what they suffered because they still are afraid of being blamed for having been caught up in this. But we try, as plaintiff attorneys, as (INAUDIBLE) attorneys to educate them that it's not their fault, that when they're minors, they're vulnerable, they're easily taken advantage of. And the lawsuit does not look at them as people who should be shamed and blamed but definitely as victims and they were taken advantage here. And many of them were very hurt and are going to live with a trauma the rest of their life.

But I hope that today is definitely going to help them to know that they can win justice if they're just able to be strong and courageous and not blame themselves.

ACOSTA: Absolutely. They should be commended for their courage and cooperation in this case. Gloria Allred, thanks as always for joining us. We appreciate it.

ALLRED (voice over): Thank you, Jim. Bye-bye.

ACOSTA: All right, bye-bye.

And just ahead, Washington, D.C. is now requiring a negative COVID test for students and staff returning to school next week. We'll talk to D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser about that, next.



ACOSTA: There's more pandemic news tonight. Starting next week, Washington, D.C. public schools will require a negative COVID test before students and staff can return to campus, as the city sees a dramatic surge in cases.

Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser joins us now. Mayor Bowser, thanks so much for joining us. This is a pretty dramatic step. Can you walk us through this new testing mandate? What exactly are you requiring? How did you come about making this decision? How tough is it going to be to get parents on board?

MAYOR MURIEL BOWSER (D-WASHINGTON, D.C.): Well, we know our parents, like us in D.C. government, value bringing our kids back to school in person, in a safer way to do that, given the winter surge that we are experiencing, is to make sure that every student entering building has had an antigen rapid test or a PCR test, and can upload that result to us within 24 hours of coming back to school on the 5th. We made is the decision to delay by two days the return to school, so that that pickup in testing can occur.

ACOSTA: And I suppose part of this is driven by the fact that nobody wants to go back to online classes and so on. That was just so difficult for so many parents. You're requiring a negative rapid antigen test instead of the more accurate PCR test, although you said that a PCR test would suffice. Are you confident enough that this is going to be sufficient to prevent a post-holiday surge in the D.C. schools and the communities here?

BOWSER: Well, we're going to stay vigilant, Jim, and make sure that, in addition to the return to school testing, that we have a regular surveillance program in our schools. We're asking our parents to stay vigilant. Start today, limit your activities, keep an eye on your kids, keep them home if they're sick and provide us the test. We're asking parents to go to a website to upload the result Tuesday by 4:00 P.M. so we'll be ready for school on Wednesday. But we will continue to be vigilant and test throughout our school year.

ACOSTA: And D.C. is experiencing a significant spike in cases. It's really shooting up right now. Do you have the resources that you need? And can you put your finger on why this is happening, why there are so many cases and why it's going -- is it because people -- there are so many people standing in line, they just want to know if they have omicron. Is it that kind of thing? What's your sense of it?

BOWSER: Well, we, throughout our response to this pandemic, considered our testing a top priority. And we think we have the gold standard in testing. From our fire-house testing that we have done throughout the pandemic, to giving out over 100,000 antigen tests last week, to having a test yourself PCR testing program that our residents take advantage of. And last week, as I mentioned, we gave out 100,000 rapid tests and 16,000 of our residents uploaded their results to our website so we could track their progress. We're number one per capita in the country in terms of the number of tests that we do.

So, our approach is to have our residents get a test when they need it. We want to know where the cases are. We want people to isolate so that we can continue to center our kids to school and have people go to work and enjoy limited activities.

ACOSTA: All right. Mayor Bowser, best of luck to you here in Washington, D.C. We're ready for this to be over, as is everybody across the country. Thanks so much for joining us. We appreciate it.

BOWSER: Thank you, Jim.

ACOSTA: All right. Coming up, Vladimir Putin requests a call with President Biden tomorrow. We'll look at what may be on the Russian president's agenda.



ACOSTA: President Biden is getting ready to go one-on-one with Russia's Vladimir Putin again. The White House says the two leaders will speak by phone tomorrow. We're told Putin requested the call. This comes as U.S. Russia tensions over Ukraine remain very high.

We are joined by senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Democrat Cardin of Maryland.

Senator, thanks so much.

What do you think? Is it a mistake for President Biden to agree to this phone call with Putin without more concrete signs of de- escalation on the border with Ukraine? Or are you potentially enabling the behavior?

SEN. BEN CARDIN (D-MD): Well, Jim, first of all, it's good to be with you.

I think it's good that the two leaders are talking. President Biden has made it absolutely clear that we are in unity with our traditional allies and that this conversation will include not only when Mr. Putin wants to bring out but also what President Biden believes needs to be heard, and that is in regards to Ukraine and the integrity of the Ukrainian border.

So I think it's a good idea they're talking. We'd rather see them talking than having to respond to a Russian incursion.


ACOSTA: Right. And Putin is demanding guarantees from NATO. He pushed for talks with the U.S. set for January.

How worried are you that Putin will use any kind of failed negotiations as an excuse to invade? That he's sort of setting the table for some kind of action in Ukraine?

CARDIN: There is no justification for Russia invading Ukraine. And there will be a real unified reaction that they attempt to use military against Ukraine. There's just no justification for it.

Ukraine is a sovereign nation. They can make their own decisions in regards to their national security. They can make their own decisions in regards to NATO alliance or to any other decision that any other sovereign nation can make.

Russia cannot dictate what is sovereign nation will do and will not dictate to the United States our alliances with other like-minded countries.

ACOSTA: We want to ask you about the passing of former Senate Leader Harry Reid. What are you going to remember most about his approach to politics and the life? We know he was a fighter, he was a boxer and that translated into how he handled things in the Senate. How do you remember him?

CARDIN: Well, you know, Harry Reid had a very difficult -- growing up. But he never let that define his legacy and what he did.

I'll always remember the friendship. I came to the Senate the first year he was a majority leader, and I'll always remember our first in- person conversation. It was to get to know each other. He really wanted to understand my family, you want to understand my interest.

I was being welcomed into the Senate family. And he wanted to make sure that we accomplished great things in the Senate. But he wanted each member to be a part of that.

So, he was a great leader, a person -- a great friend of mine. I miss him dearly. And I can tell you he was truly unique. You're not going to find too many people like Harry Reid.

ACOSTA: That's very true. I spoke to him a couple of times over the past year. You always knew where Harry stood on just about any issue.

All right. Senator Ben Cardin, thanks so much for your time. Stay safe. We appreciate it.

CARDIN: Thank you, Jim.

ACOSTA: And up next, he was the voice of football and much more. We will discuss John Madden's unexpected death and one made him such a legend.



ACOSTA: For decades, he was the face and voice of pro-football, as well as the name of the most successful video game franchises in history. John Madden has died of age of 85.

And sports analyst Mike Golic joins us now to remember John Madden.

Mike, I mean, you know, so much to talk about. There's just no way we're going to cream it all into this segment. But, simply put, he was the voice of the ball. He made it so relatability people around the country. What did he mean to you?

MIKE GOLIC, SPORTS ANALYST: Oh listen, it was so much to me, because while I was born and raised in Cleveland, the Oakland Raiders were my team growing up and he took over that team in '69, I was about 8 years old up until about I was going to high school. So, he was the coach of the team that I loved.

And then when he was broadcasting the games there my college years and then my entire NFL career, 1984, the all Madden team came to be. It was right before I got to the NFL.

Let me tell you, Jim, guys love making it to the pro bowl. But if you made the all Madden team, that team -- the young generation, if you don't know, Google this, man. If you had blood on your uniform, blood on your face, dirt all over yourself, snot bubbles all over the place, you are making the all Madden team. And you wanted to make the all- Madden team!

And then to be part of his EA Madden sports game, which started an '88 but really took off more in '90. I mean, this was all during the height of my career. Just him calling games, Jim, he did in the natural way. You know boom, bang! He just had a ball doing it! He was just himself.

ACOSTA: And he talked to you about it like he was a guy on a bar stool next year uncle on the couch at home.

Let's -- John Madden commented on football, as he said in life. And he had an incredible sense of humor. We have one of his clips, there were so many clips. This is obviously not the greatest of all time. But this is just a clip that demonstrates that it was like listening to John Madden calling again. He would talk about the activity on the sideline. Let's take a look.


JOHN MADDEN, BROADCASTER: I'm looking as close as I can and I can't see it here.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a passive attempt.

MADDEN: It's very passive!

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's Terry Allen. He's out about the 20.

MADDEN: There it is, here it is! You see, he got a little in here. He got a little up there. Yeah, but he doesn't have anything here at all. Watching you take it off, he doesn't have anything going up in there.


ACOSTA: He is talking about Troy Aikman not able to grow a beard. He is using the telestrator.

GOLIC: The telestrator -- I mean, he really brought that into play. Not just a football.

Jim, the best thing I can say about him is he didn't get bogged down in terminology of the game. And you said it right, it was like sitting next to you on a bar stool talking to about football. The best two words I can use about him was he was a football guy. And he will so be messed. And by the way, we love going through that Madden cruise. That was really cool bus.

ACOSTA: Yeah. And you know, in terms of his lasting legacy, what do you remember the most do you think?

GOLIC: Oh, I think where I will remember is just how he relayed the game to everyone. That is what you want when millions of people are sitting and watching a game. How do you take in the game?

You could tell his pure passion and joy for the game. He just wanted to talk football. And that was it, it came across.

ACOSTA: And, of course, Pat Summerall, all the way he would say join us for "60 Minutes" and murder she wrote. He would always say that.

GOLIC: Yeah.

ACOSTA: Sports analyst Mike Golic, thanks for joining us talking about John Madden. We appreciate it. And thanks everybody for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.