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No Breakthrough In U.S.-Russia Crisis Talks Amid Ukraine Invasion Fears; CDC Studies Show Boosters Provide Best Protection Against Omicron; Trump Legal Pressures Mount As Scope Of Election Scheme Emerges; Wolf One-On-One With Buffalo Bills Head Coach Sean McDermott; Fans Mourn Deaths Of Rocker Meat Loaf And Comic Louie Anderson. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired January 21, 2022 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: May Louie Anderson's memory be a blessing as well.
Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. Have a great weekend. I'll see you on Monday.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, crisis talks over Ukraine failed to break the standoff between the United States and Russia. Secretary of State Blinken warning his Kremlin counterpart of a swift and severe response if Vladimir Putin gives the order to invade.
Also tonight, new CDC studies confirm boosters provide the best protection against omicron, but the agency still won't commit to changing the definition of fully vaccinated to include a third shot. I'll ask Dr. Anthony Fauci why.
And the legal pressures on Donald Trump may be greater than ever right now after a week of stinging setbacks delivered by the U.S. Supreme Court, state prosecutors and the January 6 select committee. We'll break down the multiple cases and the mounting evidence against the former president of the United States.
We want to welcome the viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in The Situation Room.
We begin with the United States and Russia locked in a showdown over Ukraine despite new efforts to deescalate tensions, the country's two top diplomats meeting face-to-face about the looming threat of a Russian invasion.
CNN's Jeff Zeleny has more on the crisis talks and what happens next.
JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Tonight, the White House keeping diplomatic hopes alive with Russia amid escalating tensions and a deepening crisis at the Ukraine border. The president heading to Camp David where he's a convening a weekend meeting of his national security team, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who delivered a fresh warning today in Geneva while meeting face-to-face with his Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov.
ANTONY BLINKEN, SECRETARY OF STATE: We have been clear if any Russian military forces move across Ukraine's border, that's a renewed invasion, it will be met with swift, severe and a united response from the United States and our partners and allies.
ZELENY: Blinken said the 90-minute meeting was not a negotiation with Russia but rather yet another chance to make clear the steep consequences of invading Ukraine.
BLINKEN: We're united to our commitment to finding a way forward through diplomacy and dialogue but equally in our resolve to impose massive consequences should Russia choose the path of confrontation and conflict.
ZELENY: With Russia moving its forces within range of the Ukrainian capital and the U.S. stepping up its military aid, a potential confrontation is rattling nerves around the world. The rising threats of a new cold war even a topic of the conversation today as Biden met virtually with the Japanese prime minister. A White House official saying the leaders committed to work closely together to deter Russian aggression against Ukraine. But the president notably not talking publicly about Russia, brushing aside questions today after an economic announcement about a $20 billion microchip factory in Ohio.
JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: You guys will ask me about Russia and not anything having to do with chips.
ZELENY: The White House is trying to turn a page from Biden's comments earlier this week, when he suggested a minor incursion from Russia may not merit a strong retaliation as a full-scale attack.
JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Ultimately, this has always been putting the choices up in front of President Putin and the Russians, right? It is up to them to decide which path they are going to choose.
ZELENY: While the White House and western allies bracing for an imminent invasion, Russia is holding its cards close. When asked today in Geneva if an invasion was indeed forthcoming, the Russian foreign minister demurred.
SERGEY LAVROV, RUSSIAN FOREIGN MINISTER: Unless the United States doesn't go to bed with Ukraine, I don't think so.
ZELENY (on camera): Now, the Biden administration is not closing the door to diplomacy. In fact, Blinken and Lavrov are scheduled to meet again and talk next week. And the White House did not close down the possibility of the president speaking again as well. So, they are leaving that door for diplomacy open unless Russia invades. And, Wolf, tonight, a senior State Department official tells CNN if that happens, diplomacy is over.
BLITZER: It's a really tense situation. All right, Jeff Zeleny at the White House, thank you.
Let's get an update right now on the situation in Ukraine. Our Chief International Correspondent Clarissa Ward is joining live from Kyiv right now.
Clarissa, despite all these efforts of diplomacy, the fact remains there is still, what, more than 100,000 Russian troops positioned along the Ukraine boarder. So, what are you hearing from Ukrainian officials?
CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, one Ukrainian official has told CNN that it is entirely possible that these diplomatic efforts are really just a delaying tactic to allow President Vladimir Putin prepare this military invasion, give him a little bit more time, although it's difficult to say.
We are hearing a different reaction from the Ukrainian foreign minister, who said this was actually positive, that the talks are continuing, that as long as these talks and diplomacy does have a chance that potentially that threat of invasion is somewhat mitigated.
But all of this is happening as well against the backdrop of Russia's announcement today that S-400 anti-aircraft missile systems will be deployed to Belarus. That certainly doesn't strike a sort of promising tone in terms of what we're hearing. And also, of course, we heard from the Ukrainian defense minister today who said, essentially, that they continue to see the movement from Russia into the separatist areas in Eastern Ukraine of tanks, of artillery, of fuel.
So, mixed emotions, I would say, here in Ukraine, but for the most part, definitely a slightly more optimistic tone than we had heard before. President Zelensky yesterday was clearly angry with President Biden, tweeted that there's no such thing as a minor incursion. Today, we saw a much more conciliatory tone. He tweeted a message of gratitude for the U.S.'s steadfast support over the years. So, there is a sense that as long as these talks are at least continuing, potentially, the threat is somewhat lessened, but no one here essentially trusting that Russia is entering into these diplomatic efforts with a real genuine spirit of goodwill, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, certainly a lot of nervousness indeed. Clarissa, I want you to stay with us. I also want to bring in CNN International Diplomatic Editor Nic Robertson, he is joining us from Moscow, and our Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash.
Nic, both Russia and the U.S. are trying to lower expectations around these talks, meanwhile, the U.S. is preparing military options. So, what does that say about the chances right now for de-escalation?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes. I think we got an insight into Sergey Lavrov's thinking on de-escalation. He characterized Secretary of State Antony Blinken's conversation with him today. As he said, the United States' side was trying to present de-escalation as the main thing. That's what he said. He said they kept repeating it like a mantra. There's no indication that Russia is going to deescalate. They say that these troops are there for training. It's on their own sovereign territory. They say they have, and Lavrov repeated again today, no intention to invading Ukraine.
But, very clearly, the U.S. position is that Russia built up those troops, it created a pressure and momentum of these talks that are underway now there is no need if Russia is truly taking the diplomatic track to have these troops there. If they really want to find a way out of this diplomatic, then the troops can stand down on the border. So, that is a real concern.
Is President Putin essentially using the ongoing diplomacy as a cover just to get all his troops in place at the satellite images are showing us are getting closer to Ukraine's borders? Wolf?
BLITZER: Yes, there's a lot of concern here in Washington that the Russians, despite what they're saying, eventually, will invade. We shall see.
Dana, how does President Biden project leadership right now in the face of this threat after clearly stumbling a bit over at his news conference earlier in the week?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he tried to clean it up and you heard in Jeff's piece the secretary of state very, very clear that any incursion, minor, major, any incursion is considered an act of aggression that would be responded to.
What really matters now, it appears, is what's going on behind the scenes as opposed to that public stumble, as you called it. Things have really changed over the past 48 hours since that press conference, especially given that the secretary of state is talking to his counterpart of Russia. And there's no question that there is a lot, as we have heard from our experts and reporters on the ground, a lot of concern that this is just a delaying tactic.
But what I'm hearing from American sources is what choice do we have? We have to try the diplomatic route. If we don't try the diplomatic route and just stand back, then nothing can get solved without bombed warfare.
So, they're in a pickle at the State Department and inside the administration and it is why you're going to see not just these talks continue next week with the secretary of state but the president huddle with his national security team at Camp David this weekend.
BLITZER: Is it a mistake for the Biden administration, Dana, to keep the door open to yet another Biden-Putin summit meeting in light of all his ramped up aggression?
BASH: Maybe. But unlike his predecessor, this is a president and a team who understands what is traditionally done with a high stakes, high level meeting if it were to happen, which is, for the most part, they try to precook it as much as possible.
[18:10:00] So, it's hard to imagine him going into something like that, him, President Biden, without having a clear sense of where he wants to go and potentially can go with Vladimir Putin. It seems to me that they're trying to keep as many diplomatic, nonmilitary channels open as possible up to the highest levels.
BLITZER: At this point, Clarissa, and you're there in Kyiv, does Vladimir Putin have an off-ramp, as they say, even if he wanted to take it? Is there any way for him to save face in the midst of all of this?
WARD: I mean, that's a really good question, Wolf, and it's one I've been scratch my head to answer, because the Russian side has been so public and belligerent, honestly, with these very maximalist demands. It's difficult to see right now how they could save face, had they not painted themselves into a corner. What kind of extraction are they hoping to gain from this process?
On the surface of it, it appears that essentially President Vladimir Putin would like to rewrite the sort of post-cold war security agreements and arrangements here in Europe. But it's very clear from what we've heard from the U.S. side and NATO allies that that simply isn't going to happen.
So, is it going to take? What potential carrot does the U.S. have here that it's willing to concede that would be appealing enough to the Russian side that could potentially bring this back from the brink? And I think because so many people are scratching their heads to think what that could be, that's what gives rise to the sense of unease, to the sense of the possibility that this could be some form of dissemblance, that it has already been predetermined what President Vladimir Putin does and that that may well entail some kind of incursion, invasion. Simply put, Wolf, none of us know.
BLITZER: Clarissa Ward, Nic Robertson, Dana Bash, guys, thanks very much. And to our viewers, be sure to join Dana as she anchors CNN's State of the Union this Sunday. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Senators Joni Ernst and Bernie Sanders will be her guests. State of the Union, 9:00 A.M. and noon Eastern this Sunday.
Just ahead, the January 6th select committee is finally getting its hands on more than 700 documents from the Trump White House capping a really terrible week for the former president. Stay with us. You're in The Situation Room.
BLITZER: It's been a truly terrible week for former President Donald Trump as he stares down legal setbacks, criminal probes and new signs the January 6 select committee is aggressively pursuing his inner circle.
CNN Justice Correspondent Jessica Schneider has more.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Tonight, the January 6 committee is finally getting access to all 700-plus documents from the Trump White House. The handover includes call logs, visitor logs, handwritten memos from Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and draft speeches. It is the latest development in what has been a disastrous week for Donald Trump. Not only did the Supreme Court rule against his efforts to keep his White House records secret but New York's attorney general ramped up her probe of Trump's tax and financial filings and a district attorney in Fulton County, Georgia, requested a special grand jury for a criminal investigation.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT (voice over): I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have.
SCHNEIDER: That phone call from Trump to Georgia's Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in early January 2021 is just part of the evidence D.A. Fani Willis is sifting through to determine if there was criminal interference in Georgia's 2020 election process. Willis is seeking to issue subpoenas and compel the production of documents because she says many witnesses have so far refused to cooperate.
Meanwhile, New York Attorney General Letitia James, for the first time, outlining specific accusations against the Trump Organization in a court filing, saying the company repeatedly misstated the value of its property and assets, engaging in fraudulent or misleading practices. Now, the attorney general wants to compel the testimony of Trump and of his two children, Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump. Trump has denied wrongdoing and a spokesperson for the Trump Organization says the allegations are baseless.
This as Ivanka Trump is first family member of the January 6 select committee is asking to talk to. They sent an eight-page letter detailing why they want Ivanka to meet with the committee voluntarily, saying she is one of the few who can reflect on Trump's state of mind and explain why it took Trump so long to release a video message instructing rioters to leave the Capitol.
They also want Ivanka to divulge what she heard when Trump talked to V.P. Mike Pence by phone the morning of January 6 and they want to her fill in details about how Fox hosts and other officials were urging Trump to stop the stolen election talk after January 6th.
REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): Ivanka Trump is a critical figure because she was there in the morning. We believe she was there when Trump was still trying to twist Mike Pence's arm.
SCHNEIDER (on camera): And Politico has just published the details from one of those document the committee just received today from the archives. It's a draft executive order dated December 16th 2020 directing the defense secretary to seize voting machines and also appointing a special counsel to probe the 2020 election. This executive order was never actually issued. It's unclear who wrote it. But, Wolf, it is another clue into Trump's mindset in the weeks after the election. Wolf?
BLITZER: It certainly is. All right, Jessica Schneider, thank you very much.
Let's discuss all of this with our Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger and our Chief Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin.
Gloria, so, what do you make of this new reporting from Politico, this draft executive order instructing the defense secretary of the United States to actually go out and seize voting machines?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it is more evidence about what the state of mind was inside that White House. And it is more evidence pointing to the fact that people were interested in promoting a coup. And when you look at what happened this week, Wolf, take a look just at the committee, winning that really important case in the Supreme Court, getting these 700 pages of documents. And I'm told there will be possibly more to come from archives.
This is a committee who is going to try and reconstruct what happened the day before January 6th, for those 187 minutes on January 6th before Donald Trump acted and the aftermath of January 6th. And this will give them a treasure trove of information where they will look at the president's intent and whether he tried to obstruct, in fact, their investigation.
And when looking at the legal issues on the other two investigations, I'll let Jeffrey talk to that, but they have got a special grand jury now in Georgia about potential election fraud, which you just played the president on tape, and Letitia James now has made it clear she is going full steam ahead against this president. That may be a civil case.
BLITZER: Yes, a lot of legal problems for the former president. Let's discuss this horrible week for the former president, Jeffrey. Which of these many investigations, from your perspective, poses the biggest threat to Trump?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Georgia and New York both. And I think we've talked a lot about time pressures on Congress, but it is worth pointing out that in both Georgia and New York, there are not particular time pressures on prosecutors. The D.A. in Georgia, she is going to be there. She's got a term of several more years. Letitia James and the new district attorney in Manhattan, they are both -- they have years to conduct this investigation.
So, they are proceeding methodically. Donald Trump is the target clearly of both of them. Letitia James is doing a civil investigation, which he has partnered with the new district attorney, Alvin Bragg, in Manhattan, which is a criminal case. The Georgia case is a criminal case. And they are both serious and ramping up.
And as for January 6th, those documents that come -- that are being turned over to Congress as part of their investigation will also some day be available to the Justice Department if the Justice Department decides to conduct a criminal investigation of what went on in the White House. So, it's all bad but Texas and New York are worse and more immediate pressures this week.
BLITZER: Yes. And, Gloria, let's not forget though that this is someone -- we're talking about Trump -- who survived the Access Hollywood video scandal, escaped the Mueller probe, two impeachments, relatively unscathed. He wasn't convicted in the U.S. Senate. Why would these new challenges be any different?
BORGER: He is not president anymore. That's it. He is not president anymore. I mean, you remember when former Attorney General Barr decided that he couldn't be charged with obstruction because he was sitting president, he's not president. He can be deposed, and I presume he will be deposed at some point. And also don't forget, in Congress, what they are doing now with this January committee is not necessarily looking to say he is guilty of any criminal act. I think in talking to my sources, they may want to say, look, he violated the Constitution and that he provoked an insurrection and perhaps cannot run for office again.
TOOBIN: And there's another difference, which is that, for all Donald Trump's legal problems, his bankruptcies, his impeachments, he has never been criminally prosecuted, he has never indicted and he is looking at that possibility in both Georgia and New York. I don't know if that will happen but that will be a problem of a different magnitude if it does.
BLITZER: And it certain will be. Jeffrey Toobin and Gloria Borger, guys, thank you very much. Later this hour, I'll speak with a key member of the January 6 select committee. Stand by for that.
The CDC meanwhile stopped short of changing its definition of fully vaccinated. We're going to discuss that and more with Dr. Anthony Fauci, there you see him. He's standing by live. We've got lots of questions.
BLITZER: There is even more reason to get a COVID-19 booster shot if you haven't already. New CDC studies confirm that boosters are 90 percent effective against hospitalization from omicron and provide the best protection against the variant.
There's a lot to discuss with Dr. Fauci, President Biden's Chief Medical Adviser and the director of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Dr. Fauci, thanks, as usual, for joining us.
These studies are the clearest evidence yet of the huge jump in protection with the booster versus just two shots. So, why isn't the Biden administration updating the definition of fully vaccinated to three doses?
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Wolf, it becomes almost a matter of semantics. What director of the CDC, Dr. Walensky, was talking about today at the press conference was keeping your vaccination for COVID up to date.
If I was not vaccinated at all and I got vaccinated tomorrow, two weeks to a month from now, I would be at my optimal degree of protection and that would be fully vaccinated. However, five months later, if I wanted to be up to date to be optimally vaccinated, I'd want to get the booster. And that what was shown at the press conference today, that when you get your initial vaccination for a period of time, you are really good. But as soon as you get down to around five months, you need the boost to get you right back up even better where you were to begin with. So, that's what she meant by keeping up to date as opposed to getting rid of that terminology and fixating on it, what fully vaccinated means. It's more of, are you up to date on your vaccinations.
BLITZER: Well, let me just press you on that, Dr. Fauci, because is it really just about semantics? This is the standard being used to decide if people can go to a concert, go into the office, eat at a restaurant. If people are only required to have two shots, and the data clearly shows, as you know, that two shots after a few months aren't nearly as effective as three shots, the booster, in other words, doesn't that become a public health problem?
FAUCI: Well, I wouldn't say a public health problem. I think it's something that ultimately needs to be addressed, Wolf, because it is obviously confusing people. But one of the things that we're talking about from a purely public health standpoint is how well you are protected rather than what a definition is to get someone to be required or not required. That's what we are talking about. There really is a difference there. And that's the point that was made by Dr. Walensky today, that when you want to be up to date to be optimally protected, that's where the booster comes in.
BLITZER: And the other argument you hear is this refusal to change the formal definition of fully vaccinated about the science or is this about the administration not wanting the fully vaccinated rate to drop down only about a quarter of the American people who have gotten boosted? Only about 25 percent have actually been boosted.
FAUCI: No. I can tell you categorically that that's not the motivation for that, that's not reason. I've never heard a discussion of saying don't change it because we want the numbers to look better than what they are. Absolutely not, Wolf, that's not the case. I've never been indirectly hearing that on any discussion.
BLITZER: All right. Let's talk to another issue that's really, really important for so many millions of Americans. You recently said a vaccine for children under five could be coming in next month or so. In December, you said it wouldn't be likely until the second quarter of 2022. How sure are you about this new timeline, because, as you know, there are a lot of parents out there who are desperately anxious to get their kids under five vaccinated? FAUCI: Well, first of all, Wolf, I have to say so that there's clarity and people understand it, we do not know for sure when the vaccine will be approved from an emergency use authorization for children from six months to four years. We just don't know. We do know that the data are being collected by the companies who will submit it to the FDA and the FDA will make a judgment based on the safety and the efficacy.
When I said it could be within a month or two or three, we really don't know. I mean, -- and I think when people push you, give you an estimate of what you think, I hope it's in the next few months but I don't know for sure, Wolf, because it isn't something that I have privy to the information that will be submitted to the FDA. And they're going to do the typical good job that they do. They'll evaluate it with great scrutiny for safety and for whether or not it's effective. And if those two criteria are met, then it is going to be approved by an emergency use authorization. I can't give you a month, whether it's February or March or April or whenever, we just don't know, and that's just the reality.
BLITZER: We just want it to be right, especially for these little kids. Lastly --
BLITZER: Go ahead.
FAUCI: No. I think that's a very important point, Wolf, and you said it, and you said it very well. We want to get it right. These are children, vulnerable children. Children are always the most vulnerable in society and we want to make sure when we do something with them with an intervention that it's done absolutely correctly from a safety and from an effectiveness standpoint.
BLITZER: As I always say to you, Dr. Fauci, we are grateful for all you do, for all of the experts do because this is such a huge, huge problem. Thanks so much for joining us.
FAUCI: Thank you for having me, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Just ahead, the January 6 select committee is finally gaining access to hundreds, hundreds of pages of call logs, memos and other records from the Trump White House. I'll ask a key member of the select committee, what she is hoping to learn from the documents.
And later, a story very, very close to my heart, my Buffalo Bills are getting ready for a major playoff game this weekend. The Buffalo Bills head coach, Sean McDermott, will join me here in The Situation Room.
BLITZER: Tonight, the January 6 select committee now has access to hundreds of Trump White House documents after the former president's fight to keep them secret failed at the U.S. Supreme Court.
Let's discuss with a key member of the committee, Democratic Congresswoman Elaine Luria of Virginia. Congresswoman, thanks so much for joining us.
Can you give us a sense of what the majority of these documents actually are?
REP. ELAINE LURIA (D-VA): Well, Wolf, we have received about 700 pages of documents and I would say that the Supreme Court decision is probably the single biggest day of the investigation so far. We are analyzing those documents. There's been reporting today on a sampling of what some of those documents might include.
But there's a lot more where those documents came from.
And as you saw in the request we submitted to the archives, I mean, these documents come from places like the press secretary's briefing book. I mean, these are documents that are the key documents, working papers from the White House, that President Trump would have been briefed on, that would have used to formulate a lot of the ideas that came out of the White House. And it's very concerning when we are seeing a sampling of these and understanding that these sort of crazy conspiracy theory ideas of how to steal the election potentially or send false electors, all of those things made it to the highest levels of our government.
BLITZER: Explain why it would be so significant, these documents, for example, from the White House press secretary's briefing book.
LURIA: Look, I mean, the press secretary for the president creates a briefing book. The purpose of that is to brief the president, to brief the president on what to say, and on facts of things that are happening on a daily basis. But in this case, if some of these documents come from those sources, it is incredibly concerning because it just reaffirms again that these ideas of how to steal the election made it to the highest levels of our government.
BLITZER: Politico is now reporting that one of the documents you now have is a draft executive order from December 2020 directing the defense secretary to seize voting machines and appointing a special counsel to probe the election. Is that document, in fact, in your committee's possession?
LURIA: Well, Wolf, we got 700 pages today. I know that there's been some reporting out there from various sources. So, we're still going through those documents. But having seen the reporting myself, it is incredibly concerning if this is, in fact, a verifiable document that was drafted by somebody within the president's inner circle, the idea that the Department of Defense would become involved in elections, to be seizing voting machines.
So, I mean, we are looking at this closely from the committee. And at this point, we are still determining if that reporting is accurate. But it is certainly very concerning.
BLITZER: Have you gotten an answer from Ivanka Trump, the former president's daughter, as to whether she will voluntarily cooperate with your committee?
LURIA: We are still waiting on a response. But, obviously, as laid out in the letter, I think it's 11 pages, it cites numerous instances where, obviously, she was in close communication with her father. There were people surrounding the president at the time during this three-hour period, 187 minutes, that we're really trying to get the president to take action, to call off these people who were overrunning the Capitol. And we know that it took over three hours for that happen.
And we've heard from other witnesses and other people that they couldn't get through to the president, so they thought, as a last resort, can we get through using his daughter. And so I think that's sort of the genesis of what you can read in the letter of the request, but we are still waiting on a response.
BLITZER: Congresswoman Elaine Luria, thanks, as usual, for joining us. I appreciate it very much.
Coming up, my Buffalo Bills are now preparing for a huge playoff game this weekend against the Kansas City Chiefs. Just ahead, the Bills head coach, Sean McDermott, he will join me live -- not live, but he will join me in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: This Sunday, my Buffalo Bills take on the Kansas City Chiefs in the playoffs. The winner will advance to the AFC championship game and earn a chance -- earn a chance to play in the Super Bowl.
I want to bring in a very, very special guest, the head coach of the Buffalo Bills, Sean McDermott.
Coach, thanks so much for joining us. I've got a bunch of good questions for you. I'm not an objective journalist on the bills but we'll do -- I'll do my best.
This time last year, as you well know, the Kansas City Chiefs knocked the Bills out of the Super Bowl contention in the AFC title game. How are you going to make sure coach that that doesn't happen again this Sunday?
SEAN MCDERMOTT, HEAD COACH, BUFFALO BILLS: Yeah. Well, we've been hard at work this week, Wolf, to make sure that doesn't happen. They're a very good team. Well-coached team by Andy Reid and certainly, we'll have a big challenge in front of us this weekend.
BLITZER: How epic, Coach, is the rivalry between these two young quarterbacks, Josh Allen is only 25 and Patrick Mahomes who's 26? MCDERMOTT: Yeah, it's incredible to watch these two young
quarterbacks, Wolf, and how their developed over the year. Obviously, Pat with the Chiefs and Josh here with Buffalo. Just been fun to watch and the two have become great ambassadors at a young age, albeit, for the NFL.
BLITZER: You know, as someone who's been watching our Buffalo Fills ever since I was a little boy growing up in Buffalo, my dad used to take me to games at the old War Memorial Stadium, I don't think I have seen a more perfect performance from a quarterback than what we all saw from Josh Allen last week against super rivals New England Patriots. You agree?
MCDERMOTT: He was fabulous. He executed at a high level and as a coach but also as a fan myself it was fun to watch.
BLITZER: It was amazing, the touchdown passes. I don't think the Bills had to punt once, did they?
MCDERMOTT: Correct, no. We didn't punt.
BLITZER: Yeah, it was an amazing -- amazing win and I was so thrilled. Clearly, the Bills, Coach, have come together as a team this season after a few rather ugly, rough games, some losses earlier in the season, what brought about this dramatic improvement?
MCDERMOTT: Well, I think our team really learned from those challenging losses early in the season, and they come together led by Josh and the leadership group that we have on our team.
BLITZER: What was the turning point?
MCDERMOTT: I think a lot of people would point, Wolf, to the second half of the Tampa Bay game. You know, we were down big at halftime. And the team really rallied around Josh or rallied around one another.
And really, the way they played, they showed a lot of love and support for one another. And I think even though we came up short in that game, that was a big turning point in our season.
I remember it well. It was an amazing moment. As you know, and this is a sensitive issue, the bills are ranked number one in defense in the entire NFL. But they got zero -- zero first ballot pro bowl mentions.
I assume, Coach, correct me if I'm wrong, that motivates your guys?
MCDERMOTT: Well, it does. That's a -- that's a rallying cry for our defense and our defense is led by Micah Hyde, Jordan Poyer, Tremaine Edmonds, to name a few. We missed Davis White who's on the sideline due to injury of late but we are looking forward to getting him back some point next season. But super proud of the way those guys have played, even though to your point, no first ballot pro bowlers at this point.
BLITZER: What's the weather going to be like? I assume you got a weather report in Kansas City. You're playing in Kansas City.
MCDERMOTT: Yeah, we are. It's going to be little bit warmer than -- or supposed to be a little bit warmer than itself last week in Buffalo. I think it is supposed to be upper 30s, low 40s. So it should be rather -- rather mild for us Buffalonians.
BLITZER: How nervous, Coach, tell me the truth, how nervous are you? I'm pretty nervous but how nervous are you heading into Sunday?
MCDERMOTT: Well, you always get anxious, right, as you prepare and until the ball is kicked off, then you start -- you kind of go into -- into muscle-memory mode, if you will. You're out there, you're competing. The players are playing, coaches are coaching. Staff is doing what they do.
And that's really what we train all week to do, just like you do in the studio there.
BLITZER: We're counting on you, Coach. The Buffalo Bills' head coach, Sean McDermott.
I'm going to leave you, Coach, with words I have been saying my whole life. Simple words. Go Bills. Let's go, Buffalo.
I'm counting on you. I'm counting on my Buffalo Bills. Keep it going.
MCDERMOTT: All right. Thanks, Wolf. We appreciate your support as always. Go Bills.
BLITZER: Yeah, I'm with you. Go Bills indeed. Thanks very much.
And just ahead, we mark the passing of the rock legend Meat Loaf and the actor and comedian Louie Anderson.
BLITZER: There is more loss tonight in the entertainment industry. The legendary rock star Meat Loaf has died. So has the popular comic and actor Louie Anderson.
Our Brian Todd now has more on the passing.
Both these men brought something really unique to their fields.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Wolf, the people we spoke to who covered careers of both these men say they cut against the classic image of the sleek, glamorized pop star, and that's what made them to say appealing to so many people.
TODD (voice-over): That song was from Meat Loaf's comeback album, his only number one single. His first big hit "Paradise by the Dashboard Light," the pulsating
eight-minute ballot on his 1977 album "Bat Out of Hell" contained one of the most iconic lines in rock history.
DAVID BROWNE, SENIOR WRITER, ROLLING STONE: Everything is about, you know, this guy's hormones in full action. And that line absolutely is part of his miff.
TODD: The first of Meat Loaf's three "Bat Out of Hell" albums sold 43 million copies and made the portly singer from Dallas an instant star which he told CNN's Larry King he wasn't ready for.
MEAT LOAF, SINGER: I had a nervous breakdown. I went to psychologists and psychiatrists for two years. And I went with 'em to deal with the word star.
TODD: The man born with the name Marvin Lee Aday, who died this week at the age of 74, went through vocal cord problems, and other health issues, as well as bankruptcy. But he was still able to sell over 80 million albums.
BROWNE: He was kind of an every-man rocker, you know, he was a little -- he was -- he was overweight. He had a little kind of stringy hair. He -- he didn't present himself as any kind of glamour boy. And I think that's why a lot of people related to him.
TODD: Another every-man performer is also being mourned tonight. Comedian Louie Anderson who died today at the age of 68.
LOUIE ANDERSON, COMEDIAN: I can't stay long -- I'm in between meals, so bear with me.
TODD: That appearance on "The Tonight Show" in 1984 was the first time Anderson went on national TV. And it catapulted him. His self- deprecating wit included poking fun at his weight.
ANDERSON: Went to the beach the other day. Every time I laid down, people would push me back into the water.
TODD: Anderson's likable brand of humor landed him a job hosting the popular game show "Family Feud", which made him a household name.
After several movie and TV gigs, Anderson won an Emmy Award for portraying a character based on his own mother in the FX hit series "Baskets."
ANDERSON: Well, it's all been a whirlwind for me. This rodeo changed my life.
BILL CARTER, CNN MEDIA ANALYST: Most comics want to be famous because they have an edge and he was famous because he didn't. He didn't have an edge. He -- he was gentle, gentle in his comedy.
TODD: Louie Anderson survivors include his two sisters, Lisa and Shanna Anderson. Meat Loaf is survived by his wife Debra and his two daughters, Pearl and Amanda -- Wolf.
BLITZER: May they both rest in peace and may their memories be a blessing.
Thanks for watching.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.