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The Situation Room
Growing Anger As Schools Struggle With Reopening Plans Amid Omicron; Probe Under Way Into One Of Deadliest U.S. Home Fires In Decades; Djokovic Plans To Compete In Australian Open After Visa Appeal Win; "Full House" Star & Comedian Bob Saget Dies At 65; U.S. Says No Breakthrough In "Frank And Forthright" Talks With Russia Over Ukraine Border Crisis. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired January 10, 2022 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Schools as well as hospitals and businesses of all kinds are reeling from staff shortages as new COVID case counts keeps shuttering records.
Also tonight, investigations are under way in one of the deadliest, one of the deadliest home fires in this country in decades. Officials say a faulty space heater sparked the inferno in a New York City apartment building that killed 17 people, including eight children. Now, they want to know if the alarm or door systems malfunctioned as well.
And the tennis star, Novak Djokovic, is now planning to compete in the Australian Open after a judge ruled he can stay in the country. But the drama over his visa and vaccine status may not necessarily be over.
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 this hour with the omicron surge here in the United States taking a worsening toll at America schools, hospitals and businesses.
CNN's Alexandra Field is following it all for us. She's joining us from New York. Alexandra, so many organizations and institutions in this country right now are overburdened and in some places, like Chicago, this situation is clearly boiling over.
ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. Stress, delays, frustration, cancellation, it is all part of the omicron surge in all parts of the country. In Chicago, they are locked in debate, but in so many places we are seeing a will we haven't seen before to just keep moving forward even through COVID.
MAYOR LORI LIGHFOOD (D-CHICAGO, IL): Parents are outraged and they are making their outrage known to the teachers union. This is a very different dynamic than ever before. FIELD (voice over): Tensions mounting in Chicago, more than 340,000 students missing school for a fourth day, their teachers refusing to return to the classroom.
MICHELLE EGAN, CHICAGO PUBLIC SCHOOLS PARENT: We're very frustrated that there are no public health leaders standing up and saying that we should be moving to remote learning environment especially for a district of this size.
FIELD: In Los Angeles, students are due back in school in-person tomorrow with widespread testing turning up some 50,000 positive cases in the district. Metro Atlanta schools also returning to in person learning after almost a week of going remote. The largest district in the nation, New York City schools, started the New Year in-person, so far, one single classroom in partial quarantine.
DR. ASHISH JHA, DEAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLICA HEALTH: I think at this point, there's really no good explanation for having remote schools.
FIELD: And a more dire situation for hospitals, nearly one in four nationwide now reporting critical staffing shortages, federal data shows, while COVID hospitalization numbers near the pandemic's all- time high.
JHA: Among unvaccinated people and among unboosted high-risk people, it is putting a big strain. And given how much infection there is, our hospitals really are at the brink now.
FIELD: For children, average daily hospitalizations are well above any pandemic peak we have seen before.
DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: For those children who are not eligible for vaccination, we do know that they are most likely to get sick with COVID if their family members aren't vaccinated.
FIELD: Amid a shortage of COVID testing nationwide, some testing labs report they are already overburdened, universities from Washington State to North Carolina prioritizing who gets tested.
DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB, FORMER FDA COMMISSIONER: If you'll look what's happening across the east coast right now, New York City, Washington D.C., Maryland, probably Florida as well, have already peak, maybe Delaware and Rhode Island, you're going to start to see that in this statistic this week. You are going to start to see those curves, those epidemic curves bend down. You're already seeing that in New York City and Washington D.C.
The risk right now is to the Midwest where you have rising infection.
FIELD (on camera): We're also already seeing big efforts to tailor vaccines to the challenges presented by omicron. Moderna is saying that they are working on a omicron specific booster that could go into clinical trial soon. Pfizer's CEO saying an omicron-specific vaccine could be available, could be ready by March. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right. Alexandra Field in New York, thank you.
Let's go live to Chicago right now for more of the cancelation of classes in the city's public schools. CNN's Omar Jimenez is there for us. Omar, will kids in Chicago be going to school tomorrow?
OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we just got an update from Chicago Public Schools not too long ago but only to say that they haven't reached a decision just yet and negotiations remain ongoing. There are still a few major sticking point for the two sides to work out specifically you're to start with is the teachers union wants to go virtual until January 18th. Basically, I'm told these numbers from the recent surges to go down or they build better infrastructure. The school district says, no, remote learning is too detrimental to our students, and that with our current protocols, in-person is safe.
Another point of contention is about the threshold to take learning virtual.
The union wants it at a district-wide threshold limit. School district wants it on a school-by-school basis. And then when you go to those schools, there's still disagreement. The union wants about 25 to 30 percent absence threshold to go remote when the school district wants a higher threshold.
And to give you an idea of how communication has been between the two sides, look no further than Chicago Teachers Union President Jesse Sharkey, who, this morning, and describing the mayor's outlook of this, said, the mayor is being relentless but she is being relentlessly stupid. She is being relentlessly stubborn. She is relentlessly refusing to seek accommodation and we're trying to find a way to get people back to school. As you can imagine, the mayor would disagree with that. The mayor had said teachers have abandoned their posts and their students.
Another major point of contention, of course, is testing. The union wants more of it. The school district has said they haven't had enough supply to give everyone or people who would want them, at-home test, and the back and forth remains. All the while, Wolf, kids have been out of school.
BLITZER: Yes, I feel so bad for those kids and their parents. Omar Jimenez in Chicago for us, thank you very much.
Let's discuss with Dr. Ashish Jha, the dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, and Dr. Paul Offit, a member of the FDA Vaccines Advisory Committee, he's also the author of the important book entitled, You Bet Your Life.
Dr. Jha, what do you make of the teachers union president, as we just heard in Omar's report, calling Mayor Lightfoot of Chicago, quote, relentlessly stupid for insisting on opening classrooms? JHA: And so, Wolf, first of all, thanks for having me back. I think getting kid back into school is essential, and we can do it safely. This is not March of 2020. We have vaccines and boosters available for every teacher in America. Every school age kid can be vaccinated. And we have masks. This is not place that has banned masks, the way many other places has. The combination of being vaccinated and masking provides a very, very high level of support. So, I think kids should be getting back to school and we can do it safely.
BLITZER: Dr. Offit, in Los Angeles, the school district is reporting a 15 percent positivity rate among students and staff just ahead of their return to school scheduled for tomorrow, but they still plan on opening classrooms. Should Chicago be able to open classrooms as well, not just L.A or New York or D.C. or elsewhere?
DR. PAUL OFFIT, MEMBER, FDA VACCINES ADVISORY COMMITTEE: I agree with Dr. Jha completely. I think yes is the answer. I mean, we have two powerful weapons in fight against this virus, masking and vaccines, especially for everybody over five. I mean, the problem really is that if you look at the 5 to 11-year-old, only 23 percent of children are vaccinated. If you look at the 12 to 15, only about 50 percent are fully vaccinated. So, we're not using the weapons we have in hand to do this thing we all want to do, which is to get children into schools because they need that kind of on-site learning. Virtual learning is much worse than it is on-site learning. Children need that socialization and they lose all that when they have to stay home.
BLITZER: Dr. Jha, there is new data that is emerging right now, and it reveals that the so-called breakthrough infections among fully vaccinated people are making up a growing percentage of hospitalized Americans, although the danger is much higher, of course, for the unvaccinated. What do you say about that? Does that worry you?
JHA: Yes. So, Wolf, what we're seeing in the data, and I've been on clinical service, it's my experience as well, is that, obviously, a large chunk of people are getting hospitalized are unvaccinated. And then un the breakthrough infections, what we're seeing is high-risk people, people who are elderly with significant chronic disease who are vaccinated but have not gotten boosted. That's the group that's landing in the hospital. Boosted people, again, not never but largely are avoiding getting severely ill, avoiding the hospital, and that's why boosters are so essential at this moment.
BLITZER: As you know, Dr. Offit, because you're an expert in this area, Pfizer now says its omicron-specific vaccine will be ready by March. Will that be necessary for most people given what's going on right now, what the projections are?
OFFIT: Not as it stands. I mean, the question is what do we want from this vaccine. If what we want from this vaccine is protection against serious illness, the vaccines, Moderna, Pfizer, J&J, all provide that and appear to provide it for at least a year after getting the vaccines. It's true for all four variants, including the omicron variant. I think if you start to see an erosion of protection against serious illness despite being vaccinated, than I think we're talking about a variant-specific vaccine. But I don't think we're there yet, no.
BLITZER: Dr. Jha, on another specific issue, you heard it in our report from Alexandra, FDA Chief Dr. Scott Gottlieb says parts of the country, like New York City, Washington, D.C., for example, might be hitting their omicron peak in the days -- in the immediate days ahead.
Do you agree?
JHA: Yes. We saw this first in London. London has been a little bit ahead of New York in terms of its rise. And they have seem to have peaked and turned around. Early data here in New York, Washington, D.C., my expectation is that this is going to roll across the country. We're going to see a national peak probably in a couple of weeks, but it will vary from region-to-region. And my hope, of course, is that the cases decline very rapidly the way they did in South Africa. Whether that will happen in the U.S. or not, we just don't know right now.
BLITZER: What about that, Dr. Offit? When do you expect the U.S. to reach the peak of this omicron surge?
OFFIT: I agree with Dr. Jha. I think what's interesting is that if you look at the United Kingdom or Denmark, which tends to be about two weeks ahead of us, you're starting to see a decline, and that was certainly also true in South Africa, it appears to be true in New York. So, I do think there's going to be a rapid rise and rapid fall. Even if you look last year when we didn't really have vaccine and we had very little population immunity from natural infection, you really did start to see a decline in the instance of hospitalizations and deaths starting around mid-February. This year, we have much higher population immunity. So, I think it will start to decline, I would imagine, no later than the end of January, at the latest, mid- February.
BLITZER: All right, we shall see. Dr. Paul Offit, Dr. Ashish Jha, guys, thank you very, very much.
Just ahead, a major court test of whether former President Trump can be held liable for the attack on the U.S. Capitol. We're going to tell you what we're learning about today's hearing.
And did an open door helped fuel the spread of that very deadly apartment fire in New York City?
Stay with us. You're in The Situation Room.
BLITZER: Tonight, a critical hearing just wrapped up. A federal judge is now considering for the first time whether former President Trump can be held liable for the violence at the U.S. Capitol on January 6th. Let's go to our Congressional Correspondent Ryan Nobles. Ryan, so what happened in federal court today?
RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this hearing just wrapped up and it is very important because what this judge is trying to decide is whether or not this civil litigation can move forward against not only President Trump but a group of people very close to him, Representative Mo Brooks of Alabama, his son, Donald Trump Jr., and also Rudy Giuliani.
Now, that group is arguing that this case cannot move forward because the individuals all have First Amendment rights that basically allowed them to say whatever they wanted on January 6th and really had nothing to do with inciting the riot that took place here on Capitol Hill.
Now, obviously, the Justice Department -- I'm sorry these litigators, the civil litigants, including members of Congress, like Representative Eric Swalwell of California, believe differently. And during this hearing today, the judge really asking attorneys for both sides some pretty tough questions but she zeroed in on some of the things that the former president, Donald Trump, that were of issue in his mind. He said, quote, the words are hard to walk back. You have an almost two-hour window where the president does not say stop, get out of the Capitol. This is not what I wanted you to do.
And Judge Mehta also stating later on during these proceedings, what do I do about the fact the president didn't denounce the conduct immediately and sent a tweet that arguably exacerbated things? Isn't that from a plausibility standpoint that the president plausibly agreed with the conduct of the people inside the Capitol that day?
So, this hearing is important. The judge could essentially stop this civil litigation. This would be one avenue of opportunity for folks to hold the president and his associates accountable for what happened here on January 6th. But it's not just that, Wolf. If the judge allows the proceedings to go forward, that would give the opportunity for both depositions and for discovery. These are all things that are a crucial part of learning what happened here on January 6th. Wolf?
BLITZER: Yes, this is really, really significant.
Separately, Ryan, Republican Congressman Jim Jordan once claimed he had absolutely nothing to hide is now suggesting in a lengthy letter to the committee chair he will not talk to the January 6th select committee. Update us on that.
NOBLES: Yes. what's interesting about this letter from Jim Jordan, Wolf, is that he never says the words that he will not cooperate with the committee but he spends a lot of time hammering the committee's composition and suggesting that he has nothing to offer them, this despite the fact, as you point out, that he has said repeatedly that he will talk to anybody about what he knows about January 6th, including those conversations he had with the former president on that day.
Now, what's not clear at this point is how the committee is going to respond to a Jim Jordan had to say. It's not just Jordan that they have to deal with. There's also Representative Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, who they've asked for a similar amount of information from. Perry has also rejected their requests. The committee has not said whether or not they are willing to subpoena fellow members of Congress. That would be the next option if they are trying to get this information that they say they desperately need. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right. Ryan, thank you very much, Ryan Nobles up on Capitol Hill.
Let's bring in a member of the January 6th select committee, Representative Elaine Luria of Virginia. Representative, thank you so much for joining us.
I want to begin with today's federal hearing. You just heard Ryan's report. How essential is it for the former president, from your perspective to face civil liability for his actions, or inactions for that matter, surrounding Janunary 6th?
REP. ELAINE LURIA (D-VA): Well, Wolf, thanks for having me. And the hearing that was being held today, that is being held by the Department of Justice. It is a civil proceeding and that's litigation. It really is separate from the work of the select committee. The work of the committee is going to go on regardless of the outcome of this particular hearing. But if I were to speak particularly about that, I do think that President Trump and those surrounding him who made some very strong comments that I believe encouraged people to come here to the Capitol and basically storm this building and injure many people, including hundreds of police officers.
There is a requirement that they be held accountable.
BLITZER: What about criminal liability, potentially? Do you believe at some point your committee, and I know you're limited in what you can say, will actually send a criminal referral to the U.S. Justice Department for the former president's actions?
LURIA: Well, Wolf, the purpose of the committee is to lay out the fact of everything that happened that day, the things that led up to the events of January 6 and to provide recommendation so something like this can never happen again. That said, like any hearing in Congress, any investigation or any oversight hearing, if things come to the attention of Congress that should be shared with the Department of Justice because they indicate criminal activity, we will forward those things, but that's not the main intent of the work of our committee.
BLITZER: In terms of Republican Congressman Jim Jordan wrote this lengthy letter to your committee chair, what do you say to his new claim that he has, in his words, no relevant information for the January 6th select committee?
LURIA: Honestly, it makes no sense. He has clearly stated that he spoke to the president. He spoke to many people close to the president and the administration in the White House. The facts are necessary. Whether he thinks they are important to the investigation or not, that's truly not up to him to decide as we're putting together the investigation. We're questioning different witnesses and holding depositions. We have laid out a clear line of questions and there are questions that we have and those questions remain for Mr. Jordan.
BLITZER: Your committee chairman, Bennie Thompson, has indicated he's considering asking the former vice president, Mike Pence, to voluntarily appear before the panel. When will that formal invitation -- when do you think that will happen?
LURIA: Well, Wolf, as with all people who could potentially appear before the committee, I'm not going to make any announcements or any predictions on timelines, but I do certainly believe that the former vice president has information that could be very valuable to our investigation.
BLITZER: And the indications are, since so many of his top aides at the White House are fully cooperating, maybe he will as well. We shall see. Representative Elaine Luria of Virginia, thank you so much for joining us.
LURIA: Thank you.
BLITZER: Coming up, at least 17 people killed in the second most deadly U.S. home fire in decades. We have new details about the investigation into the New York City disaster. That's next.
BLITZER: There are new developments tonight in one of the deadliest fires in New York City's modern history, at least 17 people killed in a blaze that raged through an apartment building.
Our National Correspondent Jason Carroll is working this story for us. He's on the scene. Jason, this is the second most deadly U.S. home fire in almost 40 years.
JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's just devastating. As you say, one of the deadliest U.S. home fires since 1980, that statistic coming from the National Fire Protection Association. Right now behind me, Wolf, some of the lights are back on in the building. Some of the people here have been allowed back inside, trying to get their lives back together again as they grieve for those who did not make it out alive.
CARROLL (voice over): Tonight, a community in mourning as the investigation into one of the deadliest fires in the city's recent history focuses on a key safety measure, why two self-closing doors required by law were not working properly and if they could have saved lives. MAYOR ERIC ADAMS (D-NEW YORK CITY, NY): This painful moment can turn into a purposeful moment as we send the right message of something simple, as closing the door.
CARROLL: Investigators say the fire was sparked by faulty space heater in an apartment duplex located on the building's second and third floor. The city's fire commissioner says the building did have self-closing doors installed but the front door to the apartment in question malfunctioned, not closing when it should have. The question is why.
DANIEL NIGRO, FDNY COMMISSIONER: As they left, they opened the door and the door stayed open.
ADAMS: It is our obligation to reinforce the concept of close the door, close the door. But what we don't want to do is just to add more trauma on a family that was simply trying to escape.
CARROLL: The fire commissioner says the self-closing door on the building's 15th floor leading to a stairwell did not function either. 17 people, including eight children, the youngest just three, were killed. 63 were hurt, some critically, by the maze of blinding smoke that quickly spread throughout the 19-storey building, preventing some from finding their way out early Sunday. This man is praying for his brother and sister-in-law. They lived on the 18th floor. He still has not heard from them.
YUSUPHA JAWARA, BROTHER MISSING IN BRONX FIRE: I'm totally worried and devastated that -- not me alone, but the whole community and the family at large. Everybody is like worried, we don't know what's happening.
CARROLL: Daisy Mitchell survived by running down a darkened stairwell after first opening her door and smelling smoke.
DAISY MITCHELL, BRONX FIRE SURVIVOR: I went to the stairs and opened the door. It just blew back in the house. And I panicked and I told my husband, let me in the house. I can't see. I'm blind. I can't see. I can't see. If I stayed out there for another three seconds, I would have been gone too.
CARROLL: an outpouring of messages of support now coming from across the globe. Many of the residents here have ties to Gambia and the Dominican Republic. The White House reaching out, offering support while members of the clergy gathered asking everyone to keep victims in their prayers.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Lord God, we know that you are the God that can rebuild and you can restore.
CARROLL (on camera): And, Wolf, those prayers continue tonight. You hear about fires like this, you hear so much about alarms not working, and this particular case, the alarms were working throughout the building. Again, the focus of this investigation is on those self- closing doors and why they malfunctioned. Wolf?
BLITZER: What a horrible, horrible situation. Jason Carroll in New York for us, thank you.
And let's discuss with the Bronx borough president, Vanessa Gibson. President Gibson, my heart goes out to you, to everyone in the Bronx right now.
What are you hearing from your community members tonight and what is the latest on the investigation into this truly horrific fire?
VANESSA GIBSON, BRONX BOROUGH PRESIDENT: Thank you so much, Wolf, for having me. And let me just say the outpouring of love and support from New Yorkers, from every one across the Bronx have really poured in and we are just so grateful as a community. And we're just so overwhelmed. This is heartbreaking. It's devastating for residents to wake up on a Sunday morning and learn about a fire in their building. Residents were running for their lives.
I'm so thankful for over 200-plus firefighters that responded within minutes on scene to rescue as many children and families. And while we know that there are unfortunately 17 fatalities, nine adults and eight children as young as three years old, precious babies, we're going to work so hard every day to help the residents and families, those that have missing relatives, unidentified loved ones that they have not yet heard from. This is going to be a time of mourning but also a time of healing and rebuilding.
There are a lot of issues that we've we learned about this particular building that have gone unaddressed and the FDNY's investigation has commenced and we are awaiting the results. Commissioner Nigro has said a malfunctioning space heater has been the cause of this fire, as mentioned and we await the results of this investigation.
BLITZER: It is so, so heartbreaking. I'm sure there are a lot of buildings in the Bronx and elsewhere, in New York and elsewhere around the country, similar kinds of buildings.
Several factors, as you correctly point out, led to this deadly fire, including a malfunctioning space heater but also those self-closing doors that apparently didn't work properly. What are you going to do to, President, now to ensure that nothing like this happens in your borough again?
GIBSON: Well, let me also mention, in the midst of our profound loss, we are also finding a learning lesson in this tragedy. Four major fires in the last 30 years have all occurred in the Bronx, from the Happy Land fire to the High Bridge fire to the Belmont fire and to this fire. We have seen far too much devastation in the Bronx. High- rise buildings, we have seen just neglect from landlords. So, we have to look at the existing local codes from the buildings department, some of the rules and regulations that landlords must follow. And we pass legislation in the city council to regulate self-closing doors. And we learned that this particular door in question did not work. And we know that, potentially, if that door closed behind the occupants of that apartment, it could have contained this fire and it would have not escalated the way it did and spread all the way to the top 19th floor and taken so many lives. So, again, we don't know the what ifs and what could have happened but a malfunctioning self-closing door is a problem.
Some of these, space heaters are a problem. We have to address these issues both from a policy perspective and working with landlords and building owners, because we have to make sure they are following the rules. We have technology that's up-to-date, and I also want to say we have buildings with sufficient heat. If many of our apartment buildings have proper heat, residents would not feel the need to use space heaters in the first place.
So, we have to look at all of this with a very tailored approach. We announced earlier today with Congress Member Torres that we are going to form a task force on fire education and safety and we're going to look at building codes, sprinkler system, fire alarms, fire escapes, we're going to look at everything to see what we can do at a federal and state level.
BLITZER: It's so important to learn the lessons on what happened so it doesn't happen, God forbid, again. The Bronx borough president, Vanessa Gibson, our deepest condolences to the families, please pass along our love to all of them. Thank you so much for joining us.
GIBSON: Thank you so much. Thank you for your prayers and support.
BLITZER: Thank you. And for more information about how you, our viewers, can help victims of the New York City fire, go to cnn.com/impact, very important.
Just ahead, he's out of detention but the COVID-related saga of the world's top male tennis player isn't over yet. We're going live to Australia when we come back.
BLITZER: A key victory for the tennis star, Novak Djokovic, and his fight to compete in the Australian Open despite his COVID vaccination status. CNN's Paula Hancock reports from Melbourne, a judge has ruled in his favor but that may not necessarily be the final word.
PAULA HANCOCK, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Novak Djokovic is a free man and back on the tennis court, but that may not be how this saga ends. The Australian federal circuit court, Monday, quashed the decision to cancel his visa, meaning the defending Grand Slam champion he could play in next week's Australian Open. But Immigration Minister Alex Hawke still has the power to cancel his visa. His office says he's considering it. BEN ROTHENBERG, RACQUET MAGAZINE: Scott Morrison's government wants to be seen as being tough on COVID and tough on border safety related to COVID.
HANCOCK: Djokovic is out of immigration detention, where he languished for five days. He's thanked his supporters saying he intends to stay in Australia and compete in the tournament. His family says he did nothing wrong.
DJORDJE DJOKOVIC, BROTHER OF NOVAK DJOKOVIC: He came to Australia with the best intentions with all the documentation that was required of him. He was given medical exemption.
HANCOCK: Separate to whether Djokovic held a valid medical exemption to enter Australia unvaccinated, Judge Kelly ruled the Serbian was treated unfairly when detained at the airport by federal officers. Djokovic was not given adequate time to speak to his lawyer or get in contact with Tennis Australia officials when he was served with the intention to cancel his visa. A professor and an eminently qualified physician have produced and provided to the applicant a medical exemption, Judge Kelly said, later adding, what more could this man have done?
ROTHENBERG: Foremost, I think Djokovic has dropped the ball a bit by just not getting vaccinated, by taking this very hard stance, he made life much tougher for him.
HANCOCK: Australian citizens have suffered with tough and what some have called cruel border controls keeping families apart. 92 percent of the population age 16 and over is fully vaccinated. So, sympathy for an unvaccinated tennis player is in short supply, especially in Melbourne, which has been one of the most heavily locked down cities in the world.
Djokovic's medical exemption relies on a recent COVID-19 diagnosis officially recorded on December 16th. In his affidavit, Djokovic says he knew of his infection that day, raising questions about maskless public events on December 16th and 17th, the tennis star seen in a panel and a tennis award ceremony. He may have won his right to stay, for now, but the court of public opinion may prove a harder one to navigate.
HANCOCK (on camera): And in that press conference from the family, they were actually asked, Wolf, about the timing, the fact that on December 16th, he was testing positive, and then on the 17th, he was still in public at events without a mask. They chose not to answer that and ended with press conference.
So, what we have now is somewhat of a waiting game to see what the immigration minister is going to do. He has the right to revoke that visa. Whether he does or not, we may find out today. Wolf?
BLITZER: CNN's Paul Hancock in Melbourne for us, Paula, thank you very much.
Let's get some more in all of this, the former professional tennis player and ESPN commentator, Patrick McEnroe is joining us right now. Right now, thanks so much for joining us.
You've covered a lot of tennis. You've played a lot of tennis. Have you ever seen anything like this in all your years either playing or covering tennis?
PATRICK MCENROE, FORMER PROFESSIONAL TENNIS PLAYER: Well, I've watched, Wolf, a lot of Novak Djokovic's epic tennis matches, but Djokovic epic will go down in history for many more reasons. So, I think it's really -- we should take a step back for a second here, Wolf, and ask ourselves why are we so interested in this story. And I think it's sort of this intriguing, this fascinating intersection of politics, of sports, of society where we're at now and, really, the ethics of the rules and regulations that are happening around the world, particularly in this COVID era. And this will put Novak Djokovic in a much, much bigger spotlight once he has to face this press, which he will have to do shortly in Melbourne, in Australia.
And he is still hoping that he can play in the tournament. He hasn't been on the court for five or six days but he went straight from the appeal hearing. He was able to watch it in his lawyer's offices in Melbourne. He went straight to the practice court that was well after 10:30, 11:00 P.M. at night when he hit the courts.
BLITZER: During the course of the hearing, as you know, Patrick, Djokovic actually revealed he tested positive for COVID-19 on December 16th. But on that same day, and then again, one day later, he was photograph attending multiple public events without a mask, including a children's awards event. What does that reveal about him?
MCENROE: Well, it's questionable at best. I mean, we finally found out unequivocally from the document that he produced in the appeal that he is unvaccinated and that the reason for his medical exemption was that he tested positive. It happened on December 16th. The other question is, Wolf, I guess he was not planning on going to the Australian Open because he had no other medical issue other than this positive COVID test. So, he will be asked those questions.
But the bottom line is ,as the judge noted in this appeal process, he went by the rules that were in front of him at the time provided by Tennis Australia and the state of Victoria. But the rules changed literally in mid-air as he was on his way to Australia on the long trip from Europe down under. The rules changed. That's where the federal government got involved. And as you heard in that piece, they could still deport him if they want at this point in time. If they do that, boy, this will take another twist and another turn.
BLITZER: And we will then, of course, continue our conversation. Let's see what they decide. Patrick McEnroe, thanks so much for joining us and thanks for all your good work over the years. I appreciate it very much.
MCENROE: Thank you, Wolf. BLITZER: Coming up, latest on the high-stakes talks aimed at averting a Russian invasion of Ukraine.
BLITZER: We're learning more right now about the unexpected death of the truly wonderful actor and comedian Bob Saget at the age of only 65. A police report reveals Saget's family contacted the Florida hotel where his body was found when they were unable to reach him after a performance in Orlando. And the medical examiner says there was no evidence of drug use or foul play discovered in the autopsy.
CNN's Natasha Chen looks back at Saget's life and the roles that made him so, so popular.
BOB SAGET, ACTOR: How you doing? I'm Danny Tanner. D.J.'s dad.
NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Bob Saget may have been best known as America's favorite single dad of the late '80s and early '90s. Danny Tanner raising three daughters on the show "Full House".
SAGET: Okay, I have everyone's sandwich just the way they want them. Turkey all white men, turkey in Swiss, Swiss no turkey, Turkey all dark meat with extra tomato, turkey extra turkey, turkey half dark meat, half white meat, and peanut butter and banana, hold the turkey.
CHEN: The show dominated prime time air waves for eight years and was rebooted as "Fuller House" in 2016 on Netflix starring many of the same child actors now grown up.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just screamed the loudest when I saw, I was like, oh, my god, it's Bob Saget.
SAGET: I do that too when I wake up in the morning.
CHEN: Saget was also the host of "America's Funniest Home Videos".
ANNOUNCER: Ladies and gentlemen, Bob Saget.
CHEN: On Sunday nights from 1989 to '97, showing America our most embarrassing candid moments, perhaps the audience's first experience with user generated content, in an era where the camcorder became ubiquitous in middle class households. But Saget's career was made of much more than the family man persona.
SAGET: Hey, welcome to the neighborhood.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, Bob Saget.
SAGET: But do me a favor. Don't (EXPLETIVE DELETED). Don't you (EXPLETIVE DELETED) my daughter. I'm (EXPLETIVE DELETED) with you.
CHEN: He had an edgy, R-rated sense of humor pushing back against the success from squeaky clean shows.
SAGET: This is the longest John Stamos without putting his (EXPLETIVE DELETED) in a desperate actress.
Marijuana is not a drug. I used to (EXPLETIVE DELETED) for coke.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I've seen them.
SAGET: That's an addiction man.
CHEN: His real addiction so to speak was stand up comedy. In his final tweet in Orlando, Florida, where he was just beginning a comedy tour, he said, I had no idea I did a two hour set tonight. I'm happily addicted to this (EXPLETIVE DELETED).
In a 2013 "Esquire" interview, Saget was asked to define his humor. He said, quote, I'm basically just a 9-year-old boy that evolved. But his family and friends also remember the man that evolved, not just the comedian. Saget's family said, quote, he was everything to us, and we want to you know how much he loved his fans, performing live and bringing people from all weeks of life together with laughter.
"Full House" co-star John Stamos posted, quote, I am broken, I am gutted, I am in a complete and utter shock. I will never, ever have another friend like him.
SAGET: I love them all and John and David are like brothers to me.
We stuck it out and we got through.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just like we always do.
SAGET: Just like we always will.
CHEN: Natasha Chen, CNN, Los Angeles.
BLITZER: "Full House" was so special in my household. Our deepest, deepest condolences to Bob Saget's family and friends. May he rest in peace and may his memory be a blessing.
We'll be right back.
BLITZER: We're following high stakes talks between the United States and Russia regarding the Ukraine crisis.
CNN senior national security correspondent Alex Marquardt is covering the talks for us. He's in Geneva right now. So, first of all, Alex, what are you learning?
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, these talks lasted more than 7 1/2 hours today. And really neither side got what they wanted from the big picture. Russia did not get reassurances from the United States that they would block Ukraine from joining NATO, and the U.S. did not get any sort of assurances that Russia would deescalate.
Asked about what they heard on that front earlier, the Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman said she doesn't know if they're going to deescalate. So, in that sense, they're still talking past each other.
Now, the Russians did say, as they have been saying that they had no plans to invade Ukraine. But the U.S. wants to see Russian troops going back to their barracks. There are around 100,000 troops along that Ukrainian border.
So this was -- these were helpful talks in the words of the top U.S. diplomat here, in that they were able to talk about a number of issues aside from the major issues that were essentially nonstarters for the U.S., and those issues that they really did discuss on a more bilateral level, where things missile placement in Europe, missiles in Ukraine and exercises by NATO and Russia, and transparency on that level. Those are things the U.S. opens to talk about moving forward.
This is just a first in a series of conversations. The U.S. was adamant they could not talk about Ukraine without Ukraine there. They couldn't talk about NATO without NATO there. But they are essentially the launching pad for discussions this week.
There are more in Brussels and Vienna later this week, including NATO talks with Russia on Wednesday. And, Wolf, I should note that we have just learned -- multiple sources telling colleagues and myself that late in 2021, the Biden administration released an extra $200 million in aide for the Ukraine. Of course, the U.S. hoping diplomacy will be the path that Russia chooses, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Alex Marquardt in Geneva for us, critical talks indeed. Thank you.
Back here in the United States tonight, a legendary poet and activist is making history. A new quarter featuring Maya Angelou went into circulation today. She's the first black woman ever to appear on a 25 cent coin. Other quarters featuring prominent women in history, we're told, will be rolling out later this year.
And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.