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January 6 Committee Asks Ivanka Trump For Voluntary Interview; Biden Searches For Way Forward As Presidency Begins Year Two; Biden Aims To Clarify View Of Potential Russian Invasion Amid Blowback; New Data: Gun Deaths Directly Correlated With Weak Gun Laws. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired January 20, 2022 - 18:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN THE LEAD: Kelly Rizzo shared her final conversation with her husband.


KELLY RIZZO, BOB SAGET'S WIDOW: I think I said, I love you dearly, and he said, I love you endlessly. And then he said -- I said, I can't wait to see you tomorrow.. And then, you know, it was just all very -- it was just all love.


TAPPER: The investigation into his death is ongoing. Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, Ivanka Trump is the newest target of the January 6th select committee, the panel closing in on the former president's inner circle by seeking a voluntary interview with his daughter, this as the investigation of Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the U.S. presidential election heats up in Georgia with a new request for a special grand jury.

Also tonight, exactly one year after President Biden's inauguration, Democrats are in reset mode right now, looking for ways to slice up and salvage pieces of his stalled agenda. I'll ask the U.S. labor secretary, Marty Walsh, about the path forward.

And the president is on clean-up duty after his marathon news conference. He's warning that any, any move by Russia into Ukraine will be considered an invasion. We'll go live to the Ukrainian capital, where officials fear Biden's remarks yesterday may have given a green light to Vladimir Putin.

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 with new moves by the January 6 select committee now seeking information from the former president's daughter, Ivanka Trump. Our Senior Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid has the latest on the investigation. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The House select committee investigating January 6th moving in on former President Trump's inner circle, requesting a voluntary interview from Ivanka Trump.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I'm very proud of Ivanka.

REID: The committee has already gathered some evidence about what the former first daughter was doing on the day the insurrection.

REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): We have firsthand testimony that his daughter, Ivanka, went in at least twice to ask him to please stop this violence.

REID: In an eight-page letter today, the committee says it would like to discuss any other conversations you may have witnessed or participated in regarding the president's plan to obstruct or impede the counting of electoral votes.

Lawmakers also want to know more about what she saw in the Oval Office, saying a witness has testified that she was there for a call between her father and the vice-president, when Trump tried to pressure Mike Pence to go along with the plan to block the certification of electoral votes.

They also want to know why they she didn't do more. Testimony obtain by the committee indicates that members of the White House staff requested your assistance on multiple occasions to intervene in an attempt to persuade President Trump to address the ongoing lawlessness and violence on Capitol Hill.

And they also want to ask her whether her father gave any orders to deploy National Guard that day. The committee is aware that certain White House staff devoted time during the violent riot to rebutting questions regarding whether the president was attempting to hold up deployment of the Guard.

Trump's state of mind, a key focus of the committee, their letter painting a picture of the chaotic White House and staffers hoping that Ivanka, a senior adviser, could get through to her father. They also wanted to talk to Ivanka about how others, including Fox News Host Sean Hannity, tried to stop Trump from talking about the election being stolen and keep him away from certain people.

Ivanka's representatives issued a statement saying, as the committee already knows, Ivanka did not speak at the January 6th rally, as she publicly stated that day at 3:15 P.M., any security breach or disrespect to our law enforcement is unacceptable. The violence must stop immediately. Please be peaceful. It did not say whether she will comply with the committee's request.

TRUMP (voice over): I've got to get -- I have to find 12,000 votes, and I have them times a lot. And therefore, I won the state. REID: The former president's efforts to overturn the 2020 election also under scrutiny in Georgia today, with the Fulton County district attorney is requesting a special grand jury to gather evidence and compel witnesses. The D.A., Fani Willis, saying her office has information indicating possible criminal disruptions of that state's election process.


REID (on camera): The House committee is also looking into whether there was involvement from the Trump White House in the creation or submission of fake electors. Sources tell CNN Trump campaign officials led by Rudy Giuliani oversaw efforts in December 2020 to put forward illegitimate electors from seven states that Trump lost. And this was a core tenet of the broader plot to try to overturn Biden's victory when Congress counted the electoral votes on January 6th. Wolf?

BLITZER: It's also a very significant development. Paula, I want you to stand by. I also want to bring in CNN Political Analyst Maggie Haberman, the Washington Correspondent for New York Times, as well as our Chief Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin.

Jeffrey, what does this request to speak with Ivanka Trump tell you about the status of the select committee's investigation right now and what they're still trying to piece together?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it certainly seems like the core of the investigation is about the three or so hours between the beginning of the riot, the insurrection, and when the president finally called, sort of, for peace, when he said, we love you but please stop rioting. That period is when Ivanka Trump was apparently with the president and they want to know what was going on there.

It's worth pointing out that there is no such thing as a parent-child privilege, which would prevent her from testifying. She could cite executive privilege if there is a subpoena. But after the Supreme Court's decision earlier this week, that argument looks even weaker than it was even to begin with.

BLITZER: Do you -- Maggie, do you see any scenario in which Ivanka Trump voluntarily agrees to speak with the committee?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: They said very little, Wolf, so far about what she's going to do, but I could -- I just haven't covered her for a while -- see a scenario where she decides to cooperate because she thinks that that is the path to take where it would appear as if she's trying to be forthcoming.

I think that -- as Jeffrey said, I think this is a key area that they are looking at it is this three hours of time on January 6. But I also think another core of this investigation is what happened leading up to January 6 with Mike Pence. And I think those are the two aspects that they're focused on. She does have some visibility into that, from that morning, she was witnessed, not, I don't think for the whole time but certainly some of it, to her father talking about Mike Pence for what was this final discussion before, you know, the Electoral College tally was certified. And so I think that she could be key.

I think that, again, we've seen a lot of witnesses, Wolf, sort of cooperate, sort of not, Mark Meadows was one before he stopped, Marc Short, Vice President Pence's chief of staff, has been cooperating to a degree. I could see her following that route.

BLITZER: You know, Paula, you've done a lot of reporting on this and a large part of this letter to Ivanka Trump comes from sworn testimony from Mike Pence's then-national security adviser, retired General Keith Kellogg, who was with Trump at the White House as this riot was unfolding and happening.

I want to read something Kellogg told the committee. Question, he, Trump, didn't say yes to Mark Meadows or Kayleigh McEnany or Keith Kellogg, but he might say yes to his daughter, that's the question, answer, exactly right. Keith Kellogg -- that's Keith Kellogg. What exactly does he know? He seems to be very key to this investigation.

REID: Absolutely. And in this letter, they lay out specific situations where Ivanka would have been present, things they want to talk to her about and a lot of this information came from Keith Kellogg and other witnesses. Specifically, they want to talk her about this conversation that she was present for where her father was pressuring Pence. They also want to talk to her about these efforts to try to get her father to go out and quell the violence.

But how do they know she was there for these various situations? Witnesses, and that's really what we learned from these letters, how deeply they are in the White House, how many people they have talked to and how much they learned. It really underscores the importance of these witness interviews, just like the reporting that we do, yes, you can learn a lot from documents but it's talking to people who were in the room at the time, that's how you really flush out exactly what was happening. And this also makes it more clear why they've gone to court so many times to fight to get access to these officials.

BLITZER: You know, Jeffrey, I want to turn to the state of Georgia, where the Fulton County district attorney, as we heard, is asking for the special grand jury to be convened to look into the former president's election interference in the vote counting in Georgia. How significant is this move by the D.A.?

TOOBIN: Well, just to remind people, this is an investigation under Georgia criminal law and there is a provision of Georgia criminal law that seems to cover attempts to interfere with the counting of votes. It is a kind of obstruction of justice, and that's what this investigation apparently has been about.

It is not for certain that Donald Trump will be indicted. It is not for certain he committed any crime, to say the least. However, this just shows that the investigation is a serious one. It's continuing. And with the impaneling of a grand jury, it's going to continue for some time longer.

BLITZER: Maggie, we know that there were some 18 attempted calls from the White House to the Georgia secretary of state's office. [18:10:05]

I want you to listen and our viewers to listen to part of that now infamous call between Trump and the Georgia secretary of state.


TRUMP (voice over): There's nothing wrong with saying that, you know, that you've recalculated. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have.


BLITZER: Just how concerted, Maggie, was this effort?

HABERMAN: It was quite concerted, Wolf. I mean, as we know, this was one of the avenues that the former president and his aides were trying to get this alternate slate of electors was one, trying to pressure Mike Pence to throw it back to the states, as they would put it, was another, but this was a key one, and this is -- look, as Jeffrey said, and Jeffrey knows more about the law than I do, it's not clear yet that the president, former president broke a law. It -- you know, they may determine that he didn't. But what he's on tape saying is pretty clear. What he's on tape saying is that he is pressuring an elected official, he is pressuring an official who's involved with certifying an election to -- I think, it was, recalculate was his word or re- tally or something. I mean, this was very, very overt and this happened over and over. And there were a lot of people around the former president who were enabling him in this, Mark Meadows, his former chief of staff, was a big one. And so I think we'll continue to learn more about this period.

TOOBIN: And, Wolf, you know, the question here is very similar to his activities in Washington, which is, you know, what is the line between advocacy, speech making, advocacy, which is protected by the First Amendment, and coercion that is criminal. That's the core of the Georgia investigation and in many respects, Washington as well.

BLITZER: All right. Thanks, guys, very, very much.

Coming up, does the White House now have a plan to get President Biden's agenda off the ground as he begins his second year in office? Just ahead, the U.S. labor secretary, Marty Walsh, he is standing by live, he'll join me in THE SITUATION ROOM. We'll be right back.



BLITZER: President Biden is kicking off his second year in office today trying to clean up after his marathon news conference had course correct in hopes of revising key parts of his stalled agenda. Our Senior White House Correspondent Phil Mattingly has the latest.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: Let me first start saying a few words about Russia and Ukraine.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Tonight, at the one-year mark of President Biden's first term, a day spent on clean-up.

BIDEN: I've been absolutely clear with President Putin, he has no misunderstanding if any, any assembled Russian united move across the Ukrainian border, that is an invasion.

MATTINGLY: In the wake of a nearly two hour press conference --

BIDEN: How long are you guys ready to go? You want to go for another hour or two?

MATTINGLY: Biden and his top aides actively seeking to clarify his own remarks on a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine.

BIDEN: It's one thing if it's a minor incursion and we end up having to fight about what to do and not do, et cetera.

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: You saw the president make a statement or convey clearly his point of view this morning.

MATTINGLY: And on the integrity of the 2022 midterm elections.

BIDEN: I'm not saying it's going to be legit. The increase and the prospect of being illegitimate is in direct proportion of us not being able to get these reforms passed.

PSAKI: He was not intending to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the 2020 election.

MATTINGLY: Overshadowing a carefully choreographed White House media blitz that was supposed to tout year one wins and the path forward, a self-inflicted challenge after a year filled with it, something Biden was keenly aware of in his inaugural address.

BIDEN: A few people in our nation's history have been more challenged or found a time more challenging or difficult than the time we're in now.

MATTINGLY: With White House officials pointing to a robust economic recovery, historic vaccination effort and a handful of legislative wins but the political realities of the moment casting the administration in a different light, with the CNN poll of polls putting Biden's approval at a low mark of 41 percent, driven by a persistent pandemic, four-decade high inflation and a legislative agenda stuck in neutral.

PSAKI: I know today marks one year but that does not mean our work is done.

MATTINGLY: Something White House officials just hours after the Senate defeat of voting reform legislation are seeking to remedy, as they consider scaling back Biden's cornerstone $1.75 trillion economic and climate bill. PSAKI: He's talking about getting a big chunk, as much as you can get done, where we can get an agreement of 50 members of the Senate.

MATTINGLY: And weigh bipartisan talks on an election protection bill.

PSAKI: President is open to engaging with, talking with, as we are, even though it's not a substitute, Republicans and others were interested in moving forward.


MATTINGLY (on camera): And, Wolf, White House officials are cautiously optimistic that when it comes to the president's corner stone economic plan, there is a path forward, they do feel like there's a way to thread the needle with Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, two Democratic hold outs. However, there's a lot of work to do, make no mistake about that. Senator Manchin earlier today told our colleagues in terms of where things go from here, they would be starting from scratch, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. We'll see what happens on that front. Phil Mattingly at the White House, thank you.

Let's discuss with a key member of the Biden cabinet, the labor secretary, Marty Walsh. Mr. Secretary, thanks very much for joining us.

As you know, the president says, no other plan will go as far as his Build Back Better legislation to address all the cost facing Americans right now.


So, why is he just now starting these talks on actually breaking it up into something, pieces of legislation that can actually pass?

MARTY WALSH, LABOR SECRETARY: Well, I certainly think that when the president wrote out Build Back Better last year in 2021, he laid out three major pieces of legislation, one was the American rescue plan, which was successful, one was the bipartisan infrastructure law, which was very successful in getting bipartisan support, and the Build Back Better. And when you're working with the legislature, people have different ideas. People have different ways of what they want to see in the bill. And I think the president did the right thing. I think now, he's looking to say, how do we get some key components of that bill passed this year as we head into a midterm election year. And I think it's important.

And we have lots of members of Congress that have different views on what's the most important piece moving forward but the president has laid out his agenda, his plan here to move the country forward. He got 2/3 of major legislation passed and any one of those bills would have been a success in any presidency, but certainly he is going to make sure and push for components of Build Back Better to continue to move our economy forward and help American people recover not just from a pandemic but allow them the opportunity. Quite honestly, that hasn't been the case in the last 40 years to get into the middle class.

BLITZER: As you just heard, Senator Joe Manchin says, Democrats are now, in his words, starting from scratch on a new version of the bill. From your perspective, what are the key policies that would go farthest to help working Americans? What do you want to see, the one or two, three things most important to you?

WALSH: Well, I don't agree with starting from scratch, first and foremost. I don't think the president is starting from scratch. He's been very clear over the last year --

BLITZER: That's what Manchin says.

WALSH: I know, I know. I'm not saying he said it. But he's been very clear of what the American people need. What American people need is childcare, lots of -- the cost of childcare has gone almost unable for families to be able to have childcare, and not only the cost of childcare but supporting the childcare industry. We have childcare providers in this country that went out of business the last two years because it didn't have the support that they needed to keep their agencies open or their individual homes open. I think that's important.

I think also you have elder care and the cares economy as a whole. We're seeing people in the jobs number for the last five, six months now, we're seeing nursing home, staffing going down, we're seeing older population growing in our country. So, we really have to address those issues. And then there's many other issues. I certainly would love to see more opportunities for job training in these programs, but there're other things. Again, I think you have to work with people and listen, to have conversations with key members -- not key members, but all members of the Congress and the Senate about what priorities are in their communities because America, in different parts of the country, there are different priorities.

BLITZER: Yes. Just like on the infrastructure bill, Republicans are going to support some of these initiatives and you've got to work with them as well.

I want to get to the latest unemployment numbers, Mr. Secretary, now up to 286,000, a three-month high right now. A year into the Biden presidency, is this a sign there's still a long way to go into the recovery from the pandemic?

WALSH: Well, I think it depends on how you define recovery. I think that, certainly we have millions of jobs opened in this country and we're working to get people back. 6.4 million people going back to work in 2021 was a 25-year high, the largest job growth in one particular year in 25 years, unemployment rates 3.5 percent, that's a three-point drop in one year, that's the highest drop since the 1940s.

Certainly, we all have work to do moving forward. We're working with industries here at the Department of Labor. The president has tasked me with making sure that we're creating new opportunities for job training programs to get people trained and skilled and into new jobs. The infrastructure law that just passed will help us with that as well, and then working with companies and working with employees around the country is another thing.

I think that we're not doing this in a silo, we're working collectively together, I think continuing to get the coronavirus numbers down, the omicron variant, well, hopefully, we're starting to see a little bit trend in certain parts of the country go down. I think that we can't lose sight of the fact that we're living in a once-in-a century pandemic time, when people talk about inflation, people not going back to work, there's still lots of concern of the pandemic. You know, the president laid out a plan in early 2021 to get people vaccinated, 74 percent of all adults in America are vaccinated, 200 million shots in the first hundred days. There's a lot of good things there.

BLITZER: Very quickly, before I let you go, Mr. Secretary. You're a former Boston mayor. There's been a lot of speculation back in your home state that possibly you're thinking of running for governor of Massachusetts. I know you've sort of danced around that question in recent days and weeks. Are you thinking of running for governor of Massachusetts?

WALSH: No, I'm not running for governor of Massachusetts. President Biden asked me in January of last year if I would serve as the secretary of labor. It's an incredible honor and privilege to work in the Biden administration. I'm working with the president to continue to rebuild America, keep having us come back, and we have plenty of work to do here in Washington.

But it was an honor to be mentioned as a governor.


I love Massachusetts. I love my city of Boston. But I'm serving the people of United States of America right now.

BLITZER: So, that's the news. You get some pick-up back home in Boston, I'm sure. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh, you're always welcome to join us here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Thanks very much.

WALSH: Thanks Wolf.

BLITZER: Coming up, we'll go live to Ukraine for reaction to President Biden's attempt to clarify his stance on a potential Russian invasion. Are Ukrainian officials satisfied or are they still spooked by what they heard from the president yesterday?


BLITZER: Officials in Ukraine are dissecting President Biden's latest warning that Russia would pay a very heavy price if it were to invade Ukraine.


Let's go live to Ukraine. Our Chief International Correspondent Clarissa Ward is on the scene for us. So, Clarissa, what's the latest? What are you learning? CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, a Ukrainian official has told CNN, quote, that if Biden wants to avert an invasion, America needs to do more. A lot of people here still very spooked by President Biden's comments yesterday that seemed to indicate that in the case of a small incursion that Russia might not pay such a heavy price. And despite the efforts that the White House to kid of roll those comments back and offer more clarity about the strength of response to Russian aggression, people here still voicing some concerns.

This, a Ukrainian official telling CNN that, essentially, the U.S. needs to take a more aggressive stance, that they would like to see immediate sanctions against Russia and that they are also desperate for the U.S. to really ratchet up heavy, sophisticated weaponry support to the Ukrainian military.

We do know, as a side note, the U.S. confirmed today the transfer of American weapons from Ukraine's Baltic neighbors to here, in Ukraine. But, certainly, we haven't seen this kind of public rebuke before, Wolf, for quite some time. Even from Ukraine's president, Volodymyr Zelensky, he took to Twitter today to say in response to President Biden's comments yesterday, we want to remind the great powers that there are no minor incursions in small nations, just as there are no minor casualties and little grief from the loss of loved ones. I say this as president of a great power.

That kind of language, that kind of public rebuke from a Ukrainian president to a sitting U.S. president is incredibly rare, Wolf, and I think it really goes to show you just how uneasy the government was made here by those comments yesterday, despite the efforts today to offer more clarity.

BLITZER: It was a truly extraordinary exchange. Clarissa Ward in Ukraine for us, we'll stay in very close touch with you. Stay safe over there. Thank you very much.

Let's discuss what's going on with Congressman Jason Crow, he's a Democrat, serves on the Armed Services Committee. Congressman, thanks so much for joining us. And I should note you were just in Ukraine leading a congressional delegation last month. The president tried to clean up his comments today but is the damage already done? From Putin's perspective, did he already give a green light?

REP. JASON CROW (D-CO): Well, good to be with you, Wolf, and, yes, I did lead a delegation of Intelligence Committee members, sat on both Armed Services Committee and the House Intelligence Committee, and we visited with senior defense officials for both the United States and Ukraine, special operations forces and others about a month ago.

But, you know, let's not overstate these comments by President Biden, because the simple fact of the matter is we are following substantial aid in the Ukraine, providing support, cyber support, intelligence support, there is a lot that is going on. We can and must do more. We need to significantly ramp up the aid and I've been very clear with the administration on that point. We can do more. We have to up the costs to Putin, to try to prevent an invasion, if he does invade, make it very painful.

But here's the other piece of this. Ukrainians have some things they have to do too that they haven't been doing. And the biggest is it's time for them to mobilize their reserves. They haven't been mobilizing their reserve forces. It is way past time for them to do that, to prepare their plan, and I also think they need to move forces around, probably move some forces out of the Donbas to more defensive positions in the country. So, there are moves that they have to be making. This isn't all just on us.

BLITZER: I want you to watch and listen to how Democratic Senator Chris Murphy, who just this week was in Ukraine reacted to that extraordinary tweet from President Zelensky earlier in the day. Listen to this.


SEN. CHRIS MURPHY (D-CT): I do worry that President Zelensky sometimes seems more interested in Twitter fights with American leaders than he does in making sure his country is protected.


BLITZER: Is it appropriate, do you think, to publicly undermine the Ukrainian president like that, as he tries to deter what he fears could be a full scale Russian invasion?

CROW: Well, I'm just not going to get into the back and forth on Twitter battles between U.S. senators, President Zelensky --

BLITZER: No, it's really a Twitter battle between President Zelensky and president of the United States. Senator Murphy was just saying Zelensky shouldn't have spoken out like that.

CROW: Yes. It probably was not helpful.


I mean, there's no doubt about that. But the bottom line is this, the Russians are preparing for an invasion. They are amassing substantial combat power along the border. I think the situation is dire. I think it's very likely that there will be an invasion, although I don't think that's certain yet. The only person who knows that for sure is Vladimir Putin himself. And there are many, many things that have to be done that do not involve Twitter that can help prevent it. And if it does happen, then we'll make it extremely costly for Vladimir Putin. That involves sanction packages that requires arms transfers and many other things that can be done that we can.

BLITZER: We got to go, but, very quickly, I know you're on the Intelligence Committee, will Russia invade?

CROW: I think it is increasingly likely that Russia will invade. I don't think it's a certain thing until Russian BTGs start rolling across the border. We won't know that for certain. Again, the only person who knows right now is Vladimir Putin. But I think we should assume that it is a high likelihood and I think we should respond accordingly.

BLITZER: Congressman Jason Crow, thank you, as usual, for joining us. Let's hope it doesn't happen.

CROW: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Just ahead, as if the pandemic weren't enough to worry about, there's now a new warning about the risk to your heart if you drink alcohol in any amount.



BLITZER: It's been exactly two years since the first case of COVID-19 was detected here in the United States. The nation is still in the pandemic's grip with the surge of the omicron variant, but there are some hopeful signs tonight.

We're joined by the former CDC director, Dr. Tom Frieden. Dr. Frieden, thanks so much for joining us. We're starting to see some signs that may have passed the peak of the omicron surge in at least parts of the country. Are you cautiously optimistic at this point?

DR. TOM FRIEDEN, PRESIDENT AND CEO, RESOLVE TO SAVE LIVES, AN INITIATIVE OF VITAL STRATEGIES: Omicron is going to wash through. It's already starting to fade in some parts of the country. It's increasing or peaking in other parts. What we know is it goes up very fast and comes down pretty fast also. It's far less deadly than the delta or other variants, but it can still cause serious illness and so many people getting infected all at once leads to the kind of potentially overwhelming situation that we're seeing in many of our hospitals.

BLITZER: Yes, nationally, the numbers are still very, very awful.

As the federal government starts distributing free coronavirus tests and N95 masks, the president says America is moving toward a time when COVID-19 won't disrupt daily life. What is the path forward, from your perspective, Dr. Frieden, look like?

FRIEDEN: I do think that if we do it right, we're going to have a 2022, in which COVID doesn't dominate our lives so much, and that means vaccinating and boosting, staying up-to-date with your vaccinations, that means at certain times and for certain people, it will be important to mask up, including with better masks, the N95s are similar if you're older, immunosuppressed, especially if you're in a crowded indoor area where other people aren't masked, and tests. Tests are a really good tool for certain things, like any tool, use it right, at the right time, in the right way and it can do a lot of good.

BLITZER: Dr. Fauci now says he hopes there will be a coronavirus vaccine for children under five within the next month or so. That's quicker than we previously thought. Does that timeframe seem realistic to you? FRIEDEN: It does. We're seeing a remarkably fast rollout of vaccines to different age groups and without cutting corners on safety or efficacy, so that's very encouraging. We're still figuring out the exact vaccine schedule. Like many childhood vaccines, it may be multi- dose or three-dose, many of today's vaccines are that way, and we have to figure this out with time and as new variants may emerge.

BLITZER: And a different subject, I want to turn to a new warning just out from the World Heart Federation, that no amount of alcohol is healthy for your heart. This differs from some earlier guidance, as you know. So, what should we take away from this new report?

FRIEDEN: The fundamental fact about alcohol is it should be never in pregnancy, never in childhood, never while driving, and never to excess. Still, a lot of the harm from drinking is binge drinking, four drinks or more in one sitting, for females, five drinks or more for males, but there's been misconception for a long time that a drink or two is a healthy thing. And, unfortunately, a lot of the evidence for that so-called evidence for that comes from industry-funded studies.

The more we get industry out of the research and changing public policy business, the more people will be able to make their own choices about what to do and what risks they choose to take.

BLITZER: Excellent advice, as usual, from Dr. Tom Frieden. Dr. Frieden, thanks so much for joining us.

FRIEDEN: Thank you.

BLITZER: Coming up, so what's behind the recent surge in violent crime plaguing the United States right now? We are learning some new information. We're going to share it with you right after a quick break.



BLITZER: A disturbing wave of violent crime is taking a very heavy toll on communities across the United States. And tonight, we're learning more about the potential reasons behind this surge.

CNN's Brian Todd is working the story for us.

Brian, so what does the latest data? Tell us.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, a new study out tonight comes to a jarring conclusion, depending on the state you live in, it says, the stronger your gun control laws, the fewer gun deaths your state will have.


TODD (voice-over): Tonight, new information on the rising tide of gun violence in America, the group Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun control advocacy organization, is out with a new study showing what it says a direct correlation in states with weaker gun laws to higher rates of gun deaths.

NICK SUPLINA, EVERYTOWN FOR GUN SAFETY: Gun violence is preventable. Common sense gun laws can make common sense laws make a difference in saving lives.

TODD: The organization rated the 50 states on how strict their gun laws are, with dark blue being strict, and white being lax. California had the most strict laws. Mississippi, the least strict.

Then, they mapped how many people were killed by guns in 2020 per 100,000 people. Mississippi was worst with 28.6 per 100,000. California was among the best with only 8.5.

SUPLINA: California is at the top of our list because it's doing so much right on gun safety. It has a background check system in place.


It has extreme risk laws. It has secure storage laws. And it doesn't have some of the most detrimental gun laws on the books like Stand Your Ground, like permitless carry.

TODD: It comes as New York City's mayor is pressing to stop the flow of guns into the cities, following the wounding of an 11-month-old baby girl in the Bronx, shot in the face as she was sitting in the car with her mother, shot unintentionally police believe as one man chased another down a street.

MAYOR ERIC ADAMS (D), NEW YORK: Enough is enough. If tonight wasn't a wakeup call I don't know what will wake us up.

TODD: Meanwhile, two horrific random murders in Los Angeles sparking new concerns tonight about the overall rise in violent crime in America. Twenty-four-year-old Brianna Kupfer, a UCLA grad student, was stabbed to death in the furniture store where she worked in the middle of the afternoon earlier this month.

LT. JOHN RADKE, LOS ANGELES POLICE: A customer found her lying on the ground, lifeless, covered in blood.

TODD: And Sandra Shells, a 70-year-old nurse, was struck in the face without provocation, police say, as she waited at a bus stop. She fell backward fracturing her skull on the concrete.

In both cases, homeless men were arrested. One criminologist tells us violent crime in America has kept going up during the pandemic.

PROF. RICHARD ROSENFELD, CRIMINOLOGIST, UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI, ST. LOUIS: In 2021, the second year of the pandemic homicide rates on average continued to rise in U.S. cities but at a slower pace. They went up over 30 percent in 2020, and it looks like they went up something like 4 percent to 5 percent last year.


TODD (on camera): Professor Richard Rosenfeld attributes that rise to the sheer stress of the pandemic on so many Americans and the strain on law enforcement during the pandemic with fewer officers out on the streets -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting for us -- thank you very much. We're going to have more news just ahead, including details on a mysterious FBI raid on the home and campaign office of a sitting Democratic congressman.



BLITZER: Tonight, a mysterious FBI raid on the Texas and home campaign office of a Democratic Congressman Henry Cuellar is raising a lot of questions. The FBI refused to comment on the reason for the search only revealing in a brief statement that authorities were paying, quote, a court authorized visit to his residence.

A spokesman for Cuellar tells CNN, Congressman Cuellar will fully cooperate in any investigation.

Now to a very important and timely new book from CNN's senior legal analyst Laura Coates. And that book is putting the spotlight on injustices within the U.S. justice system.

Laura Coates is joining us right now. Her new book is entitled, let's show the cover, "Just Pursuit: A Black Prosecutor's Fight for Fairness."

Laura, thanks very much for joining us. Thanks for writing this really amazing, wonderful book.

You write that in your time as a prosecutor, you could in your words count the number of white defendants you saw on one hand. What does that say about who the justice system works for in this country?

LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Frankly, I didn't need every single family on that one hand either, Wolf. It tells you about the idea of how much race and bias has played a role in the decisions made all across this country. We know that Black and Brown communities do not have a monopoly on crime, yet disproportionate impact is a real thing in the justice system which more and more becomes the legal system, hoping to be a justice system.

In this book, I really peeled back the curtain on what the experience of the justice system is like. I talk about the law and your program and others and what it means. Here is what it feels like and really looks like. And if we're going to speak truth to power, Wolf, people ought to first know the truth.

BLITZER: Whether it's the unjust deportation of a crime victim or victims' families begging for a lighter sentence for the defendant, how painful was it in your federal prosecutor -- how painful was it to see the system at work with so little opportunity as you describe it for compassion and nuance? COATES: Well, there were moments of extraordinary compassion and

humanity but often over shadowed by the overwhelming acts of injustice that frankly can happen even inadvertently. I write in the book how the pursuit of justice can often create injustice, a very counterintuitive notion but one that is nonetheless true.

And I write in an episodic way, each chapter stands alone, to really, Wolf, personify the issue we're talking about across this nation from what it means to really believe women in a court of law not just the court of public opinion to mistaken identity cases when you have a blink moment do something about it.

Even to my time in the voting rights section, civil rights division, about what the so-called post-racial U.S. looks like when you're monitoring elections and the clawing back of voting rights. All of it is in this brand new book and it is time for people to really have a conversation and vicariously experience it and understand with empathy and an eye towards reform what it could mean if the pursuit of justice was finally caught, Wolf.

BLITZER: In very personal terms, why was it so important for you to share these stories?

COATES: I didn't want to have just a legal textbook you could find in a law school classroom. It was important for people to understand me as the actual vehicle of the story telling. I think of it as a form of activism and really helping people understand this is not meant to be a legal chronicle. It's meant to be an opportunity to have an eye toward what justice really looks like in America. And we must know.

BLITZER: Once again, the book is entitled "Just Pursuit: A Black Prosecutor's Fight For Fairness", the author, Laura Coates.

Laura, thank you so much for joining us. Thanks for writing this really important book.

COATES: Thank you.

BLITZER: I hope our viewers go out and read it and buy it.

And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching.

COATES: Thank you.


"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.