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U.S. Cases Surge Past 400,000 Day Causing Major Disruptions; FDA Clears Boosters For Ages 12-15 As Pediatric Cases Soar; Firsthand Testimony About Trump's 1/6 Inaction Revealed; January 6 Committee Cracks Trump's Wall Of Obstruction As U.S. Approaches Anniversary Of Capitol Riot; Inside Look At NFL Star Antonio Brown's Troubled History After Sunday's Bizarre On-Field Meltdown. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired January 03, 2022 - 18:00   ET




WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, omicron in overdrive with average daily cases in the United States now soaring above 400,000. States, cities and schools are struggling to move forward despite major disruptions to workplaces, travel and daily life. I'll speak with the new mayor of hard-hit New York City, Eric Adams.

Also tonight, the FDA is now scrambling to give greater COVID protection to young Americans, including expanding booster eligibility from ages 12 to 15, as cases among children here in the United States explode.

And members of the January 6th selection committee reveal new information about then-President Trump's actions and potentially criminal in action during the riot. The panel appears to be breaking through Trump's wall of obstruction just days before the U.S. marks a full year since the insurrection.

We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We begin our coverage this evening with the latest on the omicron surge now seriously disrupting everyday life across the United States. CNN's Alexandra Field is joining us from New York right now.

Alexandra, Americans are trying to keep some sense of normalcy, but the virus is causing all sorts of problems for schools and businesses.

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Really, we're facing cascading problems that should continue for weeks to come, Wolf. And that includes for travel. Nearly 18,000 flights canceled since Christmas Eve. Part of that is whether a lot of it is COVID, none of it's going to let up anytime soon. As the governor of New York put it rather bluntly, we are not in a good place.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: If you look at the uptick, it is actually almost a vertical increase.

FIELD (voice over): Amid a tsunami of new COVID cases, the daily average topping 400,000 for the first time, the FDA making major moves to add layers of protection, authorizing booster shops for kids ages 12 to 15, shortening the window between the initial doses of the vaccine and the booster shot for everyone from 6 months to five, and authorizing a third dose of vaccine for some immunocompromised children between the ages of 5 and 11. All that, as the omicron surge brings with it a growing number of hospitalizations, more than 100,000 people are currently hospitalized with COVID for the first time in nearly four months.

But even that stark figure is lowered than we've seen during other surges.

DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB, FORMER FDA COMMISSIONER: The one group that that may be a problem for is very young kid -- very young children, toddlers, who have trouble with upper airway infections. We are seeing rise in hospitalizations among that pediatric segment.

FIELD: School districts across the country now struggling with how to bring students safely back to school. Five Metro-Atlanta Schools going remote for the first week of the New Year, while Seattle, Chicago and D.C. schools delay their starts needs to allowed time for more testing, but the largest district in the nation, New York City schools is bringing students back to class, with a new mayor committing to in- person learning.

MAYOR ERIC ADAMS (D, NEW YORK CITY, NY): We're not sending an unclear message of what will happen day to day. I'm going to tell you what will happen day to day. We are staying open.

FIELD: It's part of a shift being seen in more of the country toward finding ways to co-exist with COVID. Crowds building stadiums for holiday bowl games, the NFL and NBA easing restrictions on players last week after so many cancelations and delays.

But there are still consequences with the crushingly high case count. And it isn't business as usual. New York City coping with a staff shortage among first responders by instructing emergency medical services not to transport most stable patients with flu-like symptoms.

The headaches for air travelers intensifying, a mixed of staffing shortages and winter weather now causing another 2,100 cancelations today.


FIELD (on camera): Those delays and shortages now affecting so many of us. They're also affecting COVID treatments. The state of New Hampshire was expecting to receive federal monoclonal antibody treatment teams today. Those teams won't arrive for at least another week despite the fact that the state requested help more than a month ago, the federal government citing a surge in demand for this kind of treatment, according to the governor. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, Alexandra Field in New York City for us, thank you very much.

Let's get some more on what's going on. The former CDC Director, Dr. Tom Frieden, is joining us, and, soon, Dr. Ala Stanford will be joining us as well, the founder and CEO of The Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium.


She's a CNN Hero, by the way, in 2021 for her work helping to improve testing and vaccine access in Philadelphia's minority neighborhoods. She'll be joining us shortly.

But, Dr. Frieden, Dr. Anthony Fauci, as you know, says it's more relevant to focus on hospitalizations than cases, so let's take a look at that number right now. More than 100,000 people in the United States are currently hospitalized, currently hospitalized with COVID- 19. Exactly two weeks ago today, 68,000 people in the U.S. were hospitalized. Should we be prepared for even more Americans to be hospitalized as we see the impact of the holidays?

DR. TOM FRIEDEN, FORMER CDC DIRECTOR: Well, Wolf, bottom line, omicron is much more infectious, but fortunately much less severe. That's becoming increasingly player but with the massive number of cases, it's inevitable that we are seeing increases in hospitalizations. Those are likely to continue.

But there is one point we should pay attention to, which is so many people have the omicron virus, that some of the people hospitalized, who test positive for omicron won't actually be hospitalized because of omicron, but with omicron. And that's going to make that -- even that analysis a little more challenging.

BLITZER: Yes. It's gone up to more than 100,000 Americans right now in hospitals because of COVID-19. Dr. Stanford, thanks very much for joining us. In the midst of this surge, more U.S. cities seem eager to keep schools and businesses open. And they're coming up with new ways for that to happen. Is that the right approach at this current phase of the pandemic?

DR. ALA STANFORD, 2021 CNN HERO: You know, I think we have to adjust to this new normal. We've got things in our armament armamentarium. Folks need to be getting vaccinated as reasons one, two and three. Receiving your booster if it's time, and you're at six months for the mRNA, or now even five months for our children, two months after Johnson & Johnson, and knowing your surroundings, and not being among those who are unvaccinated, and staying away from indoor gatherings, quite frankly.

And so I think you can sort of recoil and stay inside, or you can try to smartly and take calculated risk with our new normal of coronavirus.

BLITZER: The FDA, Dr. Frieden, has just authorized booster shots, third shots, if you will, for 12 to 15-year-olds. Good idea?

FRIEDEN: Absolutely. What we're finding with the omicron variant is that, unless you get that recent booster, you really have very little protection.

BLITZER: So you agree, Dr. Stanford, you agree as will?

STANFORD: I will. Half my staff -- half my staff either has COVID or someone in their family has coronavirus disease. It's so transmissible. My children said today that half of their class wasn't present, and their teacher was absent. So yes, I agree with the doctor. And you need to get your booster when you can.

BLITZER: I agree as well -- not that I'm a doctor, but I agree. Child hospitalizations are at highest. They have been throughout this pandemic as children across the country are returning to schools. Dr. Stanford, what is the best way to protect kids in schools.

STANFORD: So, it starts with our teachers, our staff, cafeteria workers and bus drivers. They have to have been vaccinated and up with their boosted.

Then the children who are eligible, they also need to be vaccinated. And folks needs to be wearing masks in the classroom, and when you can have outdoor instruction, and better ventilation with windows open, then we need to do that.

BLITZER: You know Dr. Frieden, we heard Dr. Fauci say that the CDC could soon add a testing recommendations to its five-day isolation guidance, was it a mistake to not include a testing component when they released the guidelines the other day?

FRIEDEN: Wolf, the virus is adapting. The omicron is. It's an adaptation. And we need to adapt also. And that means changing recommendations in real-time, and inevitably without all of the information that we wish we had about severity and other factors.

But the major issue for me is that CDC hasn't explained their decision. They are thoughtful decisions, they are judgment calls here, and, frankly, testing, particularly antigen testing is not necessarily going to tell you, yes, get out of jail free, you can go around without a mask. Their guidance was stop isolating after five days but wear a mask and don't even have mules with other people without them because you can't to do that without a mask.

But what is missing, I think, if there's one thing missing besides the explanation is how do we protect the people who are most vulnerable, the nursing home residents, cancer patients, others who really might get very seriously ill with COVID.


And that's a broader issue. Those individuals may want to upgrade their masks to an N-95, and we want to make sure that they don't have exposures that we can avoid people who have been diagnosed with COVID.

BLITZEDR: Dr. Stanford, I know that throughout this pandemic -- and we're grateful to you for this -- you've dedicated yourself to improving vaccine access and health equity particularly for black communities in Philadelphia, two years into the pandemic, are you seeing the kind of resources you need?

STANFORD: Somewhat. We could definitely use more. For example, we were one of the sole people operating today. And we saw upwards of 800 people today. We vaccinated about a third of those, and everyone else was here for a COVID test, our positivity with the rapids, 45 percent. And the remainder we sent for PCRS. I mean, it was one in three after Christmas.

And so I'm glad FEMA is coming this week, looking forward to working with them. Because we need more personnel, we need more rapid tests. And there is a place for it. When someone comes in and they look like they have COVID, for them to get that positive rapid test result, lets them like everyone know they've been in contact, allows you to separate in your household, so it doesn't continue to spread, and do year best.

So, yes, I'm glad that we are providing access, do I need more support? Absolutely, to be sustainable and for who we are serving, which is not just African-Americans, but it's all of Philadelphia.

BLITZER: We're all grateful to you for what you're doing, and I hope you get an extra access as well. Dr. Ala Stanford, thank you so much for joining us. Dr. Tom Frieden, were grateful to you as well. Thank you to both of you. I hope both of you have a happy and healthy New Year.

Despite everything happening with the pandemic right now. Look at this, Wall Street investors kicked off 2022 on a very high note. The Dow Jones industrials closing up to closing up nearly 250 points to close as at all all-time record high, the S&P 500 also set a record at the closing bell.

Just ahead, as the U.S. closes in on the one-year anniversary of the Capitol insurrection, we're getting new insight right now into former President Trump's actions while the attack unfolded. I'll ask a key member of the January 6th select committee where the investigation stands today.



BLITZER: With just three days until the anniversary of the Capitol insurrection, January 6th select committee is revealing new information about former President Trump's actions during the attack. Our Senior Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid is joining us right now. Paula, so what are you learning?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: We're learning that lawmakers appear to have penetrated Trump's inner circle. According to a person familiar with the investigation, the committees now has information from multiple sources with firsthand knowledge describing what Trump was doing during the attack on the Capitol.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) REID (voice over): Lawmakers investigating January 6th have secured critical testimony that Trump was repeatedly urged to do something as rioters stormed the Capitol. Committee Vice Chairwoman Liz Cheney revealing some of the new evidence.

REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): The committee has firsthand testimony now that he was sitting in the dining room next to the oval office watching the attack on television, as the assault on the Capitol occurred.

REID: Even members of his own family tried to get him to intervene.

CHENEY: His daughter Ivanka went in at least twice to ask him to please stop this violence.

REID: But multiple witnesses have told the committee that Trump was unmoved.

CHENEY: He could have told them to stand down, he could have told them to go home, and he fail to do so. It's hard to imagine a more significant, a more serious dereliction of duty than that.

REID: One key witness, who has given a deposition is Keith Kellogg, then Vice President Mike Pence's national security adviser, who was with Trump in the White House when the riot was underway. Kellogg tells CNN that he testified under oath, but declined to comment on the substance of his deposition. Chairman Bennie Thompson says the committee has texts and other evidence that also shed light on what Trump was dong, including messages between members of Congress and former Trump Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows.

REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): More specifically in those documents, there's communication between some of those members in the White House, especially asking them to -- asking Chief of Staff Meadows to get the president to call off this riot or insurrection.

REID: As this week marks the one-year anniversary of the attack, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris will deliver remarks on Thursday, and House Speaker Pelosi is orchestrating a slate of events, including a moment of silence on the house floor and prayer vigil on the steps of the Capitol.

But Republicans are trying to draw attention elsewhere. Trump will hold a press conference at his Mar-a-Lago club, and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy focusing on security lapses, calling actions that day lawless and wrong, but making no mention of Trump in a letter to House Republicans.

Capitol Police Chief Thomas Manger says that operational failures within the force have largely been fixed, but the department has not been not been able to fully address staffing issues.

CHIEF THOMAS MANGER, CAPITOL POLICE: We've lost over 130 officers that have left through either retirements or resignations after January 6th. We're about 400 officers short of where we need to be. And that's a pretty critical issue for us. (END VIDEOTAPE)


REID (on camera): And Trump is facing pressure on multiple fronts. The New York attorney general's office has subpoenaed his children Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr. for testimony in a civil investigation into whether the Trump organization manipulated the values of its properties. Now, Trump was previously subpoenaed in that previous investigation, and his lawyers have said, Wolf, they are going to move to block that request.

BLITZER: Well see what happens in that front. Paula Reid reporting for us, thank you very much.

Let's get reaction from the key member of January 6th select committee Congressman Pete Aguilar. Congressman, thank you so much for joining us.

Your colleague, the vice chair, Congresswoman Liz Cheney, says there's evidence former President Trump simply watched the assault unfold on television over at the White House. What do you believe that proves other than in action on then-president's part?

REP. PETE AGUILAR (D-CA): I think it's pretty clear that it shows the inaction by the former president. But I think what it also demonstrates is that we're making significant progress in our investigation. That's the stage at which we are right now, and we continue to gather information via text messages, and via interviews from individuals. And one of those key areas that we have discussed all along are these 187 minutes that President Trump was in the White House, when he could have been doing something to help stop this attack.

Those are some questions we have for addition individuals as well. And so we'll going to continue to ask those questions and seek interviews and testimony from individuals who might know more.

BLITZER: Well that three hours-plus of inaction on the part of the then president, what would that mean in terms any sort of investigation, criminal investigation? Is that what you are suggesting?

AGUILAR: Well, what we're suggesting is that we need to follow the facts wherever they lead. And so our job, our mandate is to follow the facts on the events of January 5th and January 6th, and to make legislative recommendations to help prevent this type of activity from ever happening again.

That's what we seek to do. And through that process, if we gather information that is helpful in other arenas, then we are happy to lay that out to the American public.

BLITZER: Is it wishful thinking, Congressman, that any of the this new evidence amounts to what we call the smoking gun, that would actually change any minds about what happened on January 6th? AGUILAR: Well, I hope the American public wants to know, just like we want to know, exactly what transpired, and to make sure we protect democracy in the future. And so that's been the focus and our key. And so we continue to gather things.

Not all of it can be in the public realm. But when we do have the ability to lay this out for the American public, we hope that they do see how close we came to losing democracy, and the challenge that we face moving forward, and the role that people around the president played, including the president. And this is folks in government and out of government who could have done things that could have helped that day and chose not to.

BLITZER: Congressman Pete Aguilar, thanks as usual for joining us, and once again, Happy New Year.

AGUILAR: Thanks, same to you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Coming up, New York City is, once again, a major COVID hot spot. Just ahead, I'll speak live with the new Mayor, Eric Adams, and ask him how he plans to keep the city open, as the omicron surge reeks havoc to everyday life.



Tonight, U.S. airlines are feeling the one-two punch of major winter storms and the ongoing omicron crisis. Thousands of flights here in the U.S. have been canceled again here today. Let's go to Aviation Correspondent Pete Muntean is over at Reagan National Airport just outside of Washington. Pete, we're seeing serious travel disruptions. Update our viewers.

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we've been travelling and tracking this issues since Christmas Eve. And this is the biggest day for cancelations we have seen so far. In fact, you know, two things really at play here. Not only the storm, which is subsiding a little bit, but also the COVID-related crew shortages at airlines, a bit of a double whammy for airlines in for travelers right now.

Just look at the numbers, 3,000 cancelations nationwide today. 6,000 flights delayed. Really leading the pack here at Southwest Airlines, it is canceled or delayed almost half of all of its flights. Also some of the small regional airlines hit pretty hard. Republic, PSA, Endeavor, SkyWest. Those are the smaller airlines that up way those critical commuter flights for some of the larger major airlines.

You know, airports were frantically trying to clear ramps, taxi ways and runways today. In fact, the main runway here at Reagan National Airport, 199, was closed for a time today. There was a ground stop here at Reagan National Airport, also a ground stop for time at the BWI, both of those have been cleared but the lion's share of cancelations right here in D.C., 80 percent of all flights our or Reagan National Airport were canceled today, the most of any airport nationwide.

We have not seen the end of this, Wolf. You know, these COVID cancelations will continued at airlines. The United Airlines says today, about half of all the cancelations because of the storm, half of them were because of COVID.

But just to point out one more things, Wolf, you know January 3rd was supposed to be a big day for air travel across the country, one of the days with the highest numbers. Today, it's kind of a ghost town.

BLITZER: Yes, for obvious reasons. Pete Muntean, over at Reagan National. Thank you very much.

Let's discuss this and more, specifically the major pandemic challenges facing the country right now. We're joined by the new mayor of New York City, Eric Adams.


Mayor, thank you so much for joining us. Congratulations on becoming the mayor of New York City.

You say your city, New York City is open and alive, your words. How are you going to make sure that you can keep it that way, even as it's suffering right now through this current surge?

ADAMS: Well, first, we have to be smart. As we look at how do we continue to encourage and motivate, make it accessible for people to get the vaccination, booster shots, as well as testing. We're going to double down on testing, to get as many people tested as possible, and then ensure we have a safe place for our children, like we're doing now.

So it's about smart decisions, and pivoting. COVID is a formidable opponent. And we must pivot and adjust how we move in the city to keep our city up and operating, but New York is state of at the same time.

BLITZER: Today you said New York City is a city of resilience, but you also said, all the city did was, before you became mayor, was wallow in COVID. Do you really believe the city, in your words, was wallowed in COVID?

ADAMS: Well, we were engulfed by it. You know, we were engulfed with COVID did to us. And so it was imperative that not only did we have to deal with the physical aspects of COVID, we had deal with the mental aspects of it.

The turmoil and trauma, when I was on the ground, those first months, sleeping in my office, responding to COVID, watching people die and sick and on ventilators, I know what it did to the spirit of New York. It was similar to what happen to us after we witness 9/11 and our building collapsed. It took the wind out of us, but 9/12, we got up, Wolf. And that's what we must do right now. And that's what I'm saying to my city. We can respond because of our resiliency to this devastating attack on COVID -- that COVID put on our city. BLITZER: Let's turn to schools in New York City. You've said we're staying open and you're telling parents to fear not, your words. Can you promise parents there's nothing to fear as children return to classroom?

ADAMS: Wolf, the safest place for our children, we know, is in a school building. And you know we should look at the fact that on December 23rd, 65 percent of children went into the school building. Today, it was announced 67 percent went into the school building.

And so when you look at the fact that last year was only less than 1 percent of infection rates took place in schools. When you're home, it's over 15 percent. Children that are not in school, they're not staying in their rooms. They're out in the street, not wearing a mask. Some are not getting the food they deserve.

Many of them are dealing with socialization and other crises that comes from being isolated, and not in the school building. So this is the most important thing we can do, let's keep our schools open and allow our children to receive the support that they deserve.

BLITZER: As you know the president of the New York City Teachers Union, who wanted city schools to start the year remotely says, he is concerned about safely staffing schools as cases remain high. What do you say in response to that concern?

ADAMS: Well, First, Michael Mulgrew has been an amazing partner throughout this entire operation. We did something over the weekend that we should all look at. To talk about our resiliency. Do you know we distribute 1.5 million test kits to all the schools in the Department of Education. We did it with the short period of time. We mobilized Michael Mulgrew, the UFT, teachers, the Department of Education, police, organizations to get it done. That is how we deal with this problem.

So, of course, he will raise his concern, but as the Mayor of the City of New York, I must look at the totality of this problem and assure that I have my children in a safe place. Michael wants that and I want that, and I know the best way to do that is I have our children in schools.

BLITZER: Can you share with us specifically what he said, the union has said to you, and what do you do if the teachers and other school staff start calling in sick?

ADAMS: We're going to adjust. We're going to continue to use the most important term. We have to pivot and adjust to what COVID has brought to us. And let me tell you something else that many people don't realized, just as it is costly, expensive and dangerous for children to be home and on the streets, we need to understand the impact of that, and I know that it imperative to put them in a safe place and it means, looking at whatever staff we have to coordinate and adjust, use our space in our building so we can social distance the right way, use our take-home tests, the way we're doing and make sure we create that we create a good environment for them so they're not in a dangerous environment. [18:35:06]

And Michael is on page with that.

He believes it, I believe that. And then when we talk about remote learning, think about this for a moment. We have some communities that don't have the remote option. They don't have high-speed broadband. They don't have access to Wi-Fi or access to iPads. So we're leaving them out. That's what we discovered. And so we have to think about all the children, not just some children. And the best place to do that is in a school billing.

BLITZER: And let's not forget, for a lot of these kids, the best meal they get every day is in school. And that is so, so important.

ADAMS: Well said.

BLITZER: Mayor, we have more to discuss. I want you to stay with us. I want to also talk about the fight that you witnessed personally while riding the subway on your first official day in office. We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.



BLITZER: We're back with the new Mayor of New York City, Eric Adams. Mayor Adams, you rode the subway to work on your first official day in office. You saw some man throwing punches and you actually called 911. You're a former New York City police captain. But is that a call you actually expected to make on day one?

ADAMS: No, it's not. No. But I'm a big believer, see something/say something, but also do something. And when I saw that a person was being assaulted by two other individuals, it was my responsibility as a passenger to call the police and report it.

BLITZER: I understand, mayor, you were not necessarily satisfied with the way the officers who responded to your call actually handled the situation. Can you explain why?

ADAMS: Well there -- I believe it was a teaching moment. The officers did respond, but they temporarily stopped and then drove by. They should have exited their vehicles and did an interrogation, communicated to find out what was happening. And that is part of what I'm sharing with the police commissioner.

We should go deeper in our reports of calls of services. We should not temporarily drive by, remain in the vehicle. That's not proper policing to me. And I just think the police officers should be trained to look at what happened so we can respond better to these calls of services that we're receiving.

BLITZER: Yes. Good point. You also promised, as a lot of us remember when were covering your campaign, you would focus on law and order. And that means putting more resources into fighting violent crime. What exactly will those resources looks like?

ADAMS: Well it's important, and you heard me say it over and over again. The prerequisite to prosperity is public safety and justice. They go together. And anyone that argues or attempts to say that you can't have public safety and justice together, I just deny that. And I believe we can do better.

Here's my plan. Number one, we're going to put in place a plain- clothed antigun unit. Policing must be unpredictable and predictable and by having that antigun unit, we going to do precision policing on those who are dangerous gangs, violence gangs and those who use guns.

But we're also going to coordinate an effort that has started already after communicating with President Biden, our federal, state, city, ATF, our prosecutors, we need to all come together similar to what we did after the terrorist attack to stop terrorism. We have to do it to stop terror of gun violence in our city.

But we are all going to also invest in a crisis management team. We think that we can stop and prevent crimes by investing in those on the ground units that are doing amazing things to prevent criminal behavior. And that is how you start to turn around the crimes that we're seeing in our city.

BLITZER: And you're totally opposed to what they call defunding the police, right?

ADAMS: I am not one of the defunders. When you go throughout this city, that's not what I heard on the ground. In fact, I was clear on my message when I was campaigning. People elected me based on the message of public safety, properly utilizing our police departments, and making sure that we invest in long-term things on how to keep our city safe.

It's intervention and prevention. Prevention are a long-term things we need to do to stop feeding violence. But intervention is right now. We have to stop the over-proliferation of guns and violence in our communities.

BLITZER: Mayor Adams. Good luck to you, congratulations once again. We will stay in close touch. Appreciate it very much. Happy New Year.

ADAMS: Thank you, same to you. Take care.

BLITZER: All right, you too. Thank you.

Coming up NFL Star Antonio Brown has been cut from the Tampa Bay Bucks after a mid game meltdown during after this contact to get to New York Jets. Now, some of these former teammates and coaches are raising concerns about his mental health.



BLITZER: It's been nearly one year since former President Trump's plot to try to overturn the election culminated in the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. That months-long effort to deny Joe Biden the White House included an infamous phone call with the Georgia Secretary of State.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: So, look. All I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have, because we won the state.


BLITZER: The Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger is joining us right now. He's the author of a new book entitled, "Integrity Counts".

Secretary Raffensperger, thank you so much for joining us.

A year ago yesterday, the then sitting president of the United States called you. We just heard the clip, asked you to find enough votes to overturn the results in Georgia. Is it still hard to believe that actually happened?


Yes, it is, because we had done all our research and checked out every single allegation that was made. There weren't thousands of dead people. In fact, we found two more, so four dead people voted. None of the allegations every proved out.

I had certified law enforcement officers investigating every single claim that was made. We even call in the GBI and the FBI. There was never anything to support the allegations that were made.

BLITZER: Yeah. It's hard to believe they were actually made.

The election fraud claim fueled the attack on the U.S. Capitol as you know, but most Republicans are standing by Mr. Trump.


Is American democracy any safer today than it was a year ago?

RAFFENSPERGER: When I look back at some of the heroic efforts of commanders in chief, like George Washington, who crossed the Delaware with his troops. And look at Roosevelt riding a horse up the San Juan Hill with his troops. That's leadership in action.

You know, at the end of the day, like I said, integrity counts and I think people are looking for principled leadership up and down the line.

BLITZER: Former President Trump, as you well know, currently facing investigations in Georgia, your state, for his push to reject the election results. What is the status of that investigation? RAFFENSPERGER: They don't give us daily reports on where they are.

I'm sure that our local district attorney is doing her work. So we haven't heard from them recently.

BLITZER: But what sort of accountability could the former president actually face from these state-level probes?

RAFFENSPERGER: Well, that is a legal question and I'm a structural engineer, so I will let the lawyers debate that one. But I do know that I will always back the blue and always support law enforcement.

BLITZER: How will you be commemorating January 6th?

RAFFENSPERGER: I think it's a day of sadness. It's a horrific day. We had -- I just commemorated and just actually recognized a Georgian who went to UGA. She is now on the national police force, the Capitol Police. And she was injured that day and we recognized her.

There's many other officers that were injured that day. Some lost their lives. And so, to me, it should be a day of mourning and remembrance. You know, the sacrifice they made protecting our nation.

BLITZER: Yeah, good point.

Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, I hope you have a happy and healthy 2022. Thanks so much for join us.

RAFFENSPERGER: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: We're going to have much more just ahead, including a closer look at NFL star wide receiver Antonio Brown, after that bizarre mid- game outburst which raised lots of serious concerns about his mental health.


BLITZER: Tonight, new concern about the mental wellbeing of NFL star Antonio Brown after the Tampa Bay wide receiver had a bizarre meltdown during the middle of yesterday's game against the New York Jets and then stormed out of the stadium.

CNN's Brian Todd is joining us right now.

Brian, this isn't the first time Antonio Brown has courted controversies.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There's a long list of controversies, Wolf, and according to the website Spot Track, get this -- this website tracks sports contracts -- Antonio Brown would have made about $1 million in bonuses if he just played a little bit longer, catching just eight more passes, gaining 55 more wards with one more touchdown catch. Now, it appears all of that and his overall playing career could be finished.


TODD (voice-over): A meltdown in front of a stadium full of fans and huge TV audience.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Stripped off his shirt and glove, threw those into the crowd. Then, ran across the field while the teams are still on the field, giving the crowd a peace out sign.

TODD: Tampa Bay Buccaneers star wide receiver Antonio Brown abruptly and dramatically storm all of a sudden the field during the third quarter of the Buccaneers' game against the New York Jets on Sunday. Just moments before, Brown's teammates including fellow receiver Mike Evans were seen trying to convince Brown to keep it together to no avail.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That's Antonio Brown without his uniform we are told.

TODD: Brown's coach, Bruce Arians, was abrupt with reporters immediately after the game when asked about the incident.

BRUCE ARIANS, TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS HEAD COACH: He is no longer a buck. All right? That's the end of the story. Let's talk about the guys who were out there and won the game.

TODD: But at a news conference today, Arians struck a more empathetic tone.

ARIANS: I wish him well. I hope if he needs help, get some. And -- but, yeah, I -- it's very hard because I do care about him.

TODD: Buccaneers' quarterback Tom Brady who had lobbied for brown to be signed by both the Buccaneers and his previous team, the New England Patriots, was clearly concerned about Brown's wellbeing right after the game.

TOM BRADY, TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS QUARTERBACK: I think everybody should do what they can to help him in ways that -- that he really needs it and we all love him, we care about him deeply. I think everyone should -- should be very compassionate and empathetic toward, you know, some very difficult things that are happening.

TODD: Some sports journalists, while disturbed by Sunday's spectacle, were not shocked to see the long tortured saga of Antonio Brown take this turn.

DAVE ZIRIN, SPORTS EDITOR, THE NATION: This did not take a genius to see that this would come to some sort of awful public embarrassing ending like this.

TODD: Antonio Brown has made the NFL's all-star game, the Pro Bowl, seven times. But his personal history has been arguably as explosive as his play.

In December 2018, he was deactivated by the Pittsburgh Steelers after reportedly throwing a ball at a teammate. After being traded to the Raiders and released, Brown was signed by the New England Patriots at Tom Brady's urging. But the Patriots cut him in 2019 after he was accused by a former trainer of sexual assault, a case that was later settled.

In January 2020, Brown was charged with felony burglary and two misdemeanors after an incident with a moving truck company. He pleaded no contest. This year, he was suspended for giving his team a fake COVID vaccination card.

ZIRIN: He should have gotten psychiatric help. He should have gotten some form of intervention from the National Football League that kept him off a football field, but he is talented and can help a team win games.


TODD: CNN has reached out to the NFL and to a representative for Antonio Brown for comment on all of this. We have not heard from either of them, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Brian Todd reporting for us, Brian, thank you very much.

And to or viewers, thanks very much for watching.

I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.