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3,000 U.S Troops To Deploy In Europe Amid Ukraine Crisis; Ex- DOJ Official Interviewed As 1/6 Panel To Get Pence Records; Fired Dolphins Coach Sues NFL, Three Teams For Alleged Racial Bias; Whoopi Goldberg Suspended From "The View" For Holocaust Remarks; CNN President Jeff Zucker Resigns; FBI: Investigating HBCU Bomb Threats As Hate Crimes. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired February 02, 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: NASA, sure, as the ISS will close down its third decade of Operation Strong, continuing to provide critical research for an eventual Mars transit mission after the ISS plunges into the ocean.
It will be replaced by commercially operated space platforms.
Our coverage continues now Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'll see you tomorrow.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, 3,000 U.S. troops are preparing to deploy in Europe. President Biden escalating his response to the Russian military threat in Ukraine as allies are anxious about Vladimir Putin's next move.
Also tonight, new wins for the January 6th select committee. A former Trump Justice Department official who pushed the big lie is finally interviewed. And the panel is now preparing to receive Mike Pence's vice presidential records.
And the bombshell lawsuit that rocks the NFL, the fired coach of the Miami Dolphins, accusing the league of racist hiring practices, alleging it's run like, and I'm quoting now, a plantation.
We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer, and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We begin with the first significant deployment of U.S. forces in the Ukraine crisis, and how it could impact the threat of a Russian invasion. Our correspondents are standing by here in Washington, in Moscow, in Kyiv, covering the story from every angle.
First, let's go to our Chief White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins. Kaitlan, what more are you learning first of all about this White House decision to deploy U.S. troops in Europe?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the way the White House is describing it is all part of these effort to reassure those NATO allies who were very concerned about the more than 100,000 troops that Russia has put on Ukraine's border.
As the Pentagon says, Putin is only continuing to escalate this all, further. Now, the Pentagon says this move is only temporary but they are not ruling out the idea, Wolf, of putting more troops, deploy more troops to Eastern Europe. As President Biden told me earlier today, this is same and consistent with the message that he has been sending to the Russian leader all along.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: I'm totally consistent with what I told Putin at the beginning. As long as he's acting aggressively, we're going to make sure to reassure our NATO allies in Eastern Europe that we're there and Article 5 is a sacred obligation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Now, the president says he has been sending the same message to Putin all along. Of course, there are still big questions about whether he himself will speak to Putin again. They have not spoken since late December.
One part of the messaging that has changed here at the White House, Wolf, is how they are describing the potential of a Russian invasion of Ukraine. Because remember previously you were hearing officials repeatedly described it as imminent, saying basically that it could happen any moment. But now, Jen Psaki told me earlier today that is no longer how they are describing this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I used that one. So, I think others have used that once and then we stopped using it because I think it sends a message that we weren't intending to send, which was that we knew that President Putin had made a decision. I would say the vast majority of times I've talk about it, we said he could invade at any time. That's true. We still don't know that he has made a decision.
COLLINS: Okay. So, you're not using that word?
PSAKI: I think I used it once last week.
COLLINS: But the decision now is that you're not describing it as imminent anymore?
PSAKI: I haven't in over a week.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Of course, Wolf, what we also know is that Ukrainian officials were not happy with the fact that the White House was using that language, because the president of Ukraine was saying that it was causing a panic in his country, that it was hurting the economy there because people were concerned that it could happen at any moment. But, of course, this is clearly something that the White House is watching closely, given that they've elevated the posture here by deploying these 3,000 troops to Eastern Europe.
BLITZER: All right, Kaitlan, thank you very much, Kaitlan Collins at the White House.
From the White House, let's head over to Moscow right now. Our CNN International Diplomatic Editor Nic Robertson is there for us. Nic, so, how is Vladimir Putin likely to respond to this U.S. troops deployment?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes. The sorts of line I've heard from a Russian officials in the past when it does announced that President Biden was considering and then did move 8,500 troops up to a higher readiness to send, if NATO asked for them. In that vein, this is likely to draw similar comments, and that was, that it's the United States is escalating the tension, not Russia, not Russia's troop build-up around Ukraine but the United States is escalating tensions, it's destabilizing Ukraine, it's not conducive to bringing about peace.
Nothing official from the Kremlin in response to these latest announcements of these some 3,000 troops that are now deploying to Eastern Europe, but there is tonight perhaps interesting diplomatic development. We found out that President Putin will be having his third telephone call with the French president, Emmanuel Macron, on Thursday.
This is the third call in less than a week that they've had.
And remembering just yesterday at his press conference President, Putin said that he was looking forward to hopefully meeting soon with the French president potentially here in Moscow. It's a phone call on Thursday and we know around about this time, President Macron is having a phone call with President Biden.
All of this seems to hint a possible French spearheading diplomatic track. Too soon to say, but there's a little bit of momentum in that French/Russian dialogue at the moment, Wolf.
BLITZER: We were showing our viewers some new satellite images of Russian military buildup along the border of Ukraine, and it seems to be increasing, it seems to be growing. Nic Robertson in Moscow for us, thank you very much.
Also tonight, Ukraine is actually welcoming the reinforcement of U.S. troops to NATO's eastern flank. Let's go to our Senior International Correspondent Sam Kiley. He's in Kyiv for us right now. Sam, so, first of all, what are you learning about Ukraine's response?
SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, officials here in Kyiv have said that they welcome the response but also saying, and we're used to this, and they have some military justification, if you like, they would like to also have some military hardware delivered to them that could really make a difference really make strategic difference. By that they, mean surface-to-air missiles to protect themselves against a possible air invasion.
Now, they have had deliveries from the United States and United Kingdom of lethal aid, but it's been short-range missiles, the javelin and other, even smaller missiles designed for knocking out armor, and shoulder-launched missiles used by infantry, not the sort of thing that could bring down a sophisticated Russian jet.
But at the same time, the foreign minister here also saying that whilst they are extremely concerned about this Russian buildup that appears from the latest satellite imagery to be increasing, their analysis is that the Russians are not yet at a position where they could mount an effective invasion. And indeed that was echoing of view of General Milley the other day who said that 100,000-plus troops would be readably absorb into population of some 44 million here in Ukraine. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right. Sam Kiley, in the Ukraine capital for us. Thank you very much.
Let's discuss all of this with the top Republican on the House Floor in Affairs Committee, Congressman Michael McCaul. Congressman, thank you so much for joining us.
REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R-TX): Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: So as we know, 3,000 U.S. troops will soon be shoring up key NATO allies in Eastern Europe. How far does this go potentially, from your perspective, to deter Putin?
Well, I think it's a step in the right direction. And I do applaud the administration for this. I think deterrence is really a key here, and I've been a critic of the administration for not showing enough deterrence, particularly the waiving of the Nord Stream 2 sanctions, which I think emboldened and empowered Putin to make this aggressive move that he is doing right now.
But he needs to know, Mr. Putin needs to know, that there will be consequences. And the only way we can do that is to have with a showing of force and deterrence. And in Congress, we're looking a very lethal aid package we can do very imminently to Ukraine, but also what sanctions can be triggered either before or after an invasion to show Mr. Putin that we're serious.
But I do think the force of protection at both Poland and Romania is important. But I think the Baltic nations would welcome that as well. I talked to members from all three of those states today, and they would like to see more NATO troops there as well.
BLITZER: Well, as you know, 8,500 U.S. troops here in the U.S. are still on what is called this heightened alert to deploy to Europe if necessary. Do you want to see NATO call up those additional troops right away and move them from the U.S. over to Eastern Europe?
MCCAUL: Well, I do think that would be a move of deterrence that has been lacking. I think, always think weakness invites aggression. And that's an action we saw with Chamberlain and Hitler. This will be the largest invasion on the European continents since World War II if, in fact, Mr. Putin decides to go forward with it. And I think he needs to -- and we have to demonstrate that this will have consequences, and that would be a showing of force, in my judgment.
And I also -- Wolf, as you know I go back to the weakness projected in Afghanistan, I think it emboldened our adversaries, and I've had that in private briefings with people that know this issue very well. We've emboldened our adversaries, whether it'd be Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, and they're all testing this president right now.
BLITZER: Do you understand why, Congressman, after weeks of warning of a, quote, imminent Russian invasion, the White House is now retiring that word, imminent?
MCCAUL: I think President Zelensky doesn't like that talk. It does cause panic in his country.
He doesn't want to see a mass evacuation. He's obviously worried about his economy as well. So, I think the administration has sort to scaled that back.
It's really important to note that this buildup of troops by Putin and Russia has really started last March. The president was sitting on a $200 million package last November. He just released that to Ukraine. Then, again, I think if Congress could unify as a nation, as Americans behind Russian aggression and send Ukraine that lethal aid and possibly some sanctions, I think that would be a really strong message to Mr. Putin.
BLITZER: What is your best assessment, Congressman, of if Russia will actually move into Ukraine, again, twice did in once, twice before actually, because new satellite images show a very sharp increase in the Russian military buildup around Ukraine even in recent days?
MCCAUL: Well, I don't think we're going to have troops in Ukraine. They will be in our NATO allied countries. And, you know, I think Putin has a lot of options here. I think the weakness projected has given him a lot of options at the table that he can take. There's speculation he could go to Dnieper River, which all where all the Russian speaking people are. It's just west -- or just east of Kyiv.
And I think one of the big place here though, Wolf, is energy, I think he wants to divide and weaken NATO, and he also wants to control the Black Sea, and that would be Mariupol Port and Odessa. If he controls those ports, he controls the Black Sea. He already has his fleets in the Black Sea which would control the energy, and that with Nord Stream 2, gives him tremendous leverage in the region.
BLITZER: The Republican senator, Josh Hawley, wants President Biden to actually drop U.S. support for Ukraine, potentially, eventually joining NATO. Does that make sense to you at all?
MCCAUL: No, I don't think that's the right move. We always want to allow countries the right to self-determination, if they want to join NATO. And it's up for a vote for NATO. But we always champion democracy and freedom over oppression and tyranny and dictatorship. That's who we are as a country, as Americans.
So I believe that would sent exactly the wrong message, and not only to Ukraine right now, who is obviously in a world of hurt, but it would send a bad message to Mr. Putin, once again, emboldening him, that he can take the next step without any consequences.
BLITZER: Congressman Michael McCaul, thanks so much for joining us.
MCCAUL: Thanks, Wolf. Thanks for having me.
BLITZER: Thank you. Just ahead, the January 6th select committee is poised to get another crucial window into the pressure on the vice president at the time, Mike Pence, to overturn the 2020 presidential election. We're going to have the latest on key documents being released now to the panel.
And we'll break down truly stunning allegations of racial discrimination by the NFL in a new lawsuit by the fired coach of the Miami Dolphins.
Stay with us. You're in The Situation Room.
BLITZER: Tonight, another holdout witness has shown up for an interview with the January 6th select committee. That would be the former Trump Justice Department official, Jeffrey Clark.
Our Senior Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid is following all the late breaking new developments in the insurrection investigation.
Paula, the committee has been waiting months, I understand, for Jeffrey Clark's testimony.
PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That's absolutely right, Wolf. Former Justice Department Official Jeffrey Clark met with the committee today two months after they voted to hold him in contempt for his lack of cooperation.
And Clark is, of course, key to the panel's investigation as he was one of the officials within the Trump Justice Department pushing to pursue this unfounded claims of voter fraud in the weeks after the 2020 election.
Now, Clark was in there today for a couple of hours but, so far, there's no word on whether he pleaded the Fifth, as he said he would. Now, remember the committee voted in December to hold him in contempt, but then paused to give him the chance to come in. And his level of cooperation today will play a big role in determining if the committee will refer him to the Justice Department for possible criminal contempt charges. And his appearance comes as the National Archives says it will turn over former Vice President Mike Pence's records to the committee early next month after former President Trump said he wanted to keep secret more than a hundred of the documents.
Now, this is the first set of records related to Pence's office that the Archives is cleared for release and it comes as top Pence staffer, including his general counsel and his chief of staff, have been talking to investigators.
BLITZER: At the same time, you know, Paula, one of the January 6th committee members now says former President Trump is witness tampering by actually continuing to dangling pardons for people who attacked the Capitol back on January 6th. Do Trump's promises complicate things for investigators and the committee?
REID: Well, Wolf, if any witnesses think Trump could be re-elected and are willing to wait for a pardon, they might possibly make different decisions. But let's take a listen to exactly what Trump's said last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: These people are being treated horribly. I would absolutely -- because some of them are being treated very unfairly, yes, I would absolutely give them a pardon.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
REID: Now, remember, Trump have the opportunity to do this before he left office. CNN has previously reported that Trump considered pardons for those connected to January 6th in the final days of his presidency but his advisers urged him not to grant clemency to anyone involved and ultimately he didn't.
That's also likely by the time Trump could even return to the White House. Most January 6th defendants would have already completed their sentences.
BLITZER: All right, Paula, thank you very much, Paula Reid reporting.
Let's bring in CNN Political Analyst Maggie Haberman and CNN Senior Legal Analyst Elie Honig.
Maggie, as you know, the select committee could soon have their hands on the Pence documents, this after many of Pence's top advisers have now cooperated with the investigation. Despite all of Trumps stonewalling, could this investigation come down actually to Pence's inner circle?
MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It's certainly going to be a key factor, I think, Wolf. Look, I mean we know that Marc Short, Pence's former Chief of Staff, was brought in under subpoena, I believe it was last week, and he spoke, I think, at length to investigators. He knows a lot. Greg Jacobs, the general counsel, knows a lot.
There is this sort of delicate dance that the Pence world is doing with this committee in a sense that you know that I don't think that they want to be seen as fully embracing it. I think there's aspect of the committee's composition that they don't agree with. But at the same time, they're not bucking subpoenas, and we know that former President Trump has tried to bring down the hammer on a lot of associates in terms of cooperating and hoping that they don't with this committee.
I do think that this trove of documents, we don't know what's in it, obviously, it has the potential to be there revealing. I certainly think the testimony that the committee elicited from the Pence team is going to be important.
BLITZER: You know, Elie, how significant is it that Jeffrey Clark, who tried to orchestrate the Trump coup plot from inside the Justice Department, actually appeared today after being threatened with contempt?
ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Wolf, Jeffrey Clark is a real villain in the whole story behind and leading up to January 6th. He sort of slid under the radar. But let's remember, he tried to run a coup attempt inside the Justice Department to aid Donald Trump's effort to steal the election. He tried to get himself installed as the acting A.G., going outside the chain of command, and he wrote a letter that falsely stated that DOJ had found evidence of election fraud.
Now, if he took the Fifth today, he is entitled to do that, that's a constitutional right, but we in the public are entitled to know what an embarrassment and a disgrace it is for a former high ranking DOJ official to have to hide behind the Fifth.
BLITZER: Maggie, what do you make of Trump's teasing and doubling down on the idea of pardons for the January 6th rioters? Is that just how he operates?
HABERMAN: I think that he is saying things that, to me - there's two buckets here, Wolf. He said a bunch of things in the last couple of days that were incredibly provocative, that were beyond norm-busting. I mean, this is sort of, you know, shattering any presumption or any claim that his folks can make that what was happening here was anything other than a naked attempt to keep Trump in power when he was president, at the end of his presidency.
He also encouraged, and I've said this several times over the last couple of days, to me, what was striking was not just the pardon comment but the fact that he was urging his supporters to protest, quote/unquote, in various cities, New York, D.C., Georgia, if prosecutors do anything that he considers, quote/unquote, illegal or wrong which is a subjective definitions that only he is coming up with. In terms of the pardons, I think that there a lot of his supporters who believe that the January 6th arrestees are not getting proper treatment. We've heard this over and over again. That is very different than saying and, therefore, we're going to go to a pardon if it's appropriate, if I'm elected again. And dangling that is just something we have not seen before.
BLITZER: Is it witness tampering potentially, Elie, Trump's dangling out this notion of pardons if he is re-elected president?
HONIG: Yes, Wolf. If the intent is to try to dissuade people from cooperation, that's textbook witness tampering. The best evidence I've seen was this morning on New Day. One of the lawyers for a current January 6th defendants said they absolutely could impact the decision whether or not to cooperate. So, yes, I think we could be looking at obstruction here.
BLITZER: Elie Honig, Maggie Haberman, guys thank you very much.
Coming up, fired NFL Coach Brian Flores is suing the league, along with three of his teams, alleging racial discrimination. We'll have a full report on the lawsuit right after a quick break.
BLITZER: Tonight, a bombshell lawsuit from a fired NFL coach is shaking the league to its core. Brian Flores alleges the NFL and three individual teams engaged in racist hiring practices, including holding sham interviews for minority candidates.
CNN's Jason Carroll is on the story.
BRIAN FLORES, FORMER NFL HEAD COACH: This is bigger than me. This is bigger than football. And I just felt like, in this instance, you know, it's my turn to step up.
JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Tonight, the sports world reeling from allegations of systemic racism in the NFL by former Miami Dolphins Coach Brian Flores.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a reckoning that is long overdue in the NFL.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's obvious that Brian is going to become that Rosa Parks of the NFL.
CARROLL: In a 58-page lawsuit, Flores and his attorney say the NFL is run like a plantation, arguing the league lives in a time of the past and is rife with racism particularly when it comes to the hiring and retention of black head coaches, coordinators and general managers.
The NFL denied the charges, saying it is deeply committed to ensuring equitable hiring employment practices. Flores sued after he says he was interviewed by the Giants for their a head coach job even though they had already decided to hire Buffalo Bills Assistant Coach Brian Daboll, a revelation that was exposed in private text messages after Patriots Coach Bill Belichick congratulated the wrong person.
Belichick wrote, I hear from Buffalo and New York Giants that you are their guy.
I hope it works out if you want it to. Coach, are you talking to Brian Flores or Brian Daboll? Just making sure. Sorry, I f'ed this up. I double check and I misread the text. I think they're naming Daboll. I'm sorry about that.
Flores' legal team says the league check a box by interviewing Flores just so they were in compliance with the leagues Rooney rule which requires teams to interview minority candidates.
CARI CHAMPION, FORMER ESPN ACHOR: It happens to so many of these coaches. And I really, especially as a black person, respect this man for what he did.
CARROLL: The Giants standing by their decision, saying, we interviewed an impressive and diverse group of candidates. The fact to the matter is Brian Flores was in the conversation to be our head coach until the 11th hour.
FLORES: It was humiliating, to be quite honest. There was disbelief, there was anger.
CARROLL: Flores also says that Denver Broncos gave him a similar sham interview for head coaching job in 2019. That team also denied the allegation. Flores was fired as coach of the Miami Dolphins after back-to-back winning seasons. He says that team's owner, Stephen Ross, offered to pay him to lose games during the 2019 season so the team would get better draft picks. The Dolphins deny that claim.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN HOST: Did Ross, do you explicitly say to you personally, I'll give you $100,000 each game you lose?
FLORES: Yes, he did, absolutely. That's not something you make up.
CARROLL: Flores' supporters point to the league's dismal record when it comes to representing people of color and head coaching positions with just three head coaches of color, including one black man, out of 32 teams in the league, while 70 percent of the players are black.
FLORES: I have two sons, they are eight and seven. I got a five-year- old daughter. You know, when I look at them, I don't want them to go through some of the things I've had to go through.
CARROLL (on camera): And, Wolf, when you look at the NFL's statement, it says in part that diversity is core to everything we do. But those who support Flores says that flies in the face when you look at how players like Colin Kaepernick were treated, when you look at the numbers in terms of how people of color are represented in terms of many coaches are hired. They say, what this all comes down are the owners, and what the owners are willing to do and what they're not willing to do. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right. Jason, thank you very much, Jason Caroll in New York for us.
Let's get some more analysis from CNN Contributor Bob Costas. Bob, thanks so much for joining us. What does Flores' lawsuit revealing to you about how the NFL is run?
BOB COSTAS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, I think we should say this at the top. Not every time a black coach or a number of black coaches, if there are multiple coaches interviewed, not every time a black coach is passed over for a white candidate is an example of racism, not every time a black coach is fired is an example of racism. There are a lot of overlapping factors involved in these things.
But you look at the big picture, the setup piece said 3 out of 32, but that was at the conclusion of the regular season. David Culley and Brian Flores were fired. So, as of right now, Mike Tomlin, long tenured with the Steelers, is the only one out of 27, because there are five openings, the Dolphins, the Saints, the Vikings, the Texans, and the jaguars, and we'll see if any of them are filled black head coaches.
But in the big picture, we can dispute any individual situations, and the Giants will dispute the allegations here, the Broncos have categorically denied it, the league says they'll defend against it, that the suit has no merit. But in the big picture, this is what you've got, 1 out of 27 right now, only 3 out of 32 prior to that, and a long history, we can't detail all the names, but a long history of white head coaches of varying abilities, as it turned out, being hired with lesser experience than black potential coaches who have terrific resumes, have interviewed multiple times.
Sometimes white head coaches get it on the first interview for a head coaching position, and you have others who have been around in the league, and are esteemed as assistant coaches among the group of black head coaches who are not getting those opportunities. And then you have some very accomplished black head coaches who have been fired, such as Jim Caldwell in Detroit, and the Lions, as you know as a football, before Caldwell got there and after, have not been very good. But he had a winning record in three of four seasons that he was there, and he had taken the Colts to a Super Bowl prior to that, and he's gone.
Now, each individual case doesn't prove the larger point, but when you put it all together, the larger point is undeniable. And nobody is saying that it has to be 50/50 or that the number of black head coaches has to parallel the roughly 70 percent of black players who make up the league. But when you have got 1 of 27 or 3 of 32 at the end of this regular season, that just ain't good enough despite the fact that the Rooney rule now stipulates they actually bolstered it a little bit a few months ago.
It used to be that you had to have a serious interview of at least one minority candidate for head coach, offensive and defensive coordinator and general manager. Now, they upped it to two a few months ago. We'll see if there's any subsequent improvement in their record.
BLITZER: Flores also says that the Dolphins' owner, Steven Ross, offered to pay him to purposefully lose games in order to get a higher draft pick. Is that a common occurrence in the NFL?
COSTAS: Not so far as we are aware. And if this is true, leave the allegations, serious as they are, of systemic racism aside. If that allegation is true, and Hue Jackson, now the coach of Grambling, was the coach of the Browns when they were really a woebegone team and he says that Brown's management pressured him to lose games so that they can improve their draft position. So, if these allegations are correct, the penalties against those owners would be severe, even to the point where it might be possible that they would be forced to divest themselves of the team. If you're paying somebody or pressuring somebody to lose games, that obviously goes right to the integrity of it.
And wow with the proliferation of legalized gambling, if leagues don't have an ironclad kind of assurance from their fan base and from those who might wager on games, that the games themselves are on the up and up, that's a very, very serious problem.
BLITZER: It certainly is, and maybe even potentially some criminal elements as well. Bob Costas, thank you very, very much, Bob Costas, our CNN Contributor.
COSTAS: All right, Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you.
Just ahead, I'll speak with one expert who says he's more optimistic right now about COVID than at any other point since the pandemic actually began. The former CDC director, Dr. Tom Frieden, is standing by. He'll join us live when we come back.
BLITZER: As the omicron wave recedes here in the U.S., many experts are optimistic that the country is better prepared to deal with the COVID crisis than at any other point in the pandemic, and that includes the former CDC director, Dr. Tom Frieden, who is joining us now. Dr. Frieden, thanks so much for joining us.
I know you write about your optimism in a new article you've written for cnn.com. Why do you think we're in a better position now than we have been all along? DR. TOM FRIEDEN, FORMER CDC DIRECTOR: Our defenses are stronger than they've ever been, more vaccines, most importantly, but also more masks, better masks, more tests, more treatment, more genomic surveillance, so we'll know more likely if a new another variant is emerging, and a better opportunity to keep the world safe from pandemics going forward. Of all of those defenses, the most important is vaccination. We're seeing omicron astonishingly infectious, but the vaccines are astonishingly effective, especially at preventing severe illness and death.
BLITZER: When the White House was asked today, Dr. Frieden, if they'll release guidance on transitioning out of the pandemic, and they would only say, they're keeping their focus on the current omicron surge, is that a mistake from your perspective? Is it time to release guidelines on how to move forward?
FRIEDEN: Part of the guideline is to be situational, to figure out to what is happening and adapt to what's happening. The virus is adapting. The more we adapt, the better off we'll be.
Omicron is far from gone. We're still having more than 2,000 deaths a day. Our hospitals are full. The number of cases per day is still half a million-plus. So, we're far from out of this flash flood of omicron. But I do think that over the coming weeks, the next month or two, we are going to see omicron recede relatively rapidly. At that point, it's certainly possible another variant could come back or a worse variant could emerge, but we are much better prepared than we've ever been. And I do think the future is going to be brighter, able to get back to more of our activities more safely.
BLITZER: You write, Dr. Frieden, that while there are many reasons for cautious optimism, there are also wild cards, in your words, wild cards, including the virus' ability to mutate. How do we best account for those wild cards while moving forward?
FRIEDEN: It is stunning, the degree to which omicron is changing. If you look -- the virus is changing. If you look just at the subvariant of omicron, BA.2, it's strikingly different from omicron. But this is a virus that's still adapting to people, and people need to adapt to the virus. That means get vaccinated. There are still 50 million people in this country that haven't had their first dose. Get boosted, because boosters are very effective even against omicron. And then we need to think about what we do, masking when there's a lot of virus around.
Look at what countries in East Asia do, what Singapore and other countries in flu season, or if you're feeling sick, or if you have got a health problem or if you're concerned, wear a mask outside. I hope that will become more normalized behavior, not necessarily as a mandate in most situations but as a sensible thing to do to prevent not just COVID but also flu and other illnesses. We need to adapt because the virus is adapting.
BLITZER: Yes, I totally agree. All right, Dr. Tom Frieden, thank you so much for joining us.
Coming up, there's even more controversy surrounding Whoopi Goldberg's about the Holocaust as ABC suspends her from The View for two weeks.
BLITZER: Tonight, Whoopi Goldberg has been suspended from ABC's "The View." The network taking action in response to her controversial remarks about the Holocaust.
Our chief media correspondent Brian Stelter is following the story.
WHOOPI GOLDBERG, CO-HOST OF "THE VIEW": Hello and welcome to "The View".
BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Today, Whoopi Goldberg began a two-week suspension from "The View" after her remarks Monday about racism, skin color and the Holocaust.
GOLDBERG: The holocaust isn't about race.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No.
GOLDBERG: No. It's not about race --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, it is --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, they consider Jews a different race.
GOLDBERG: But it's not about race. It's not about race.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is it about?
GOLDBERG: It's about man's inhumanity to man. These are two white groups of people.
STELTER: She then tried to explain on CBS's "Late Show with Stephen Colbert".
GOLDBERG: If the Klan is coming down the street, and I'm standing with a Jewish friend, and neither one, well, I'm going to run. But if my friend decides not to run, they'll get past by most times because you can't tell who's Jewish.
STELTER: Holocaust experts say otherwise.
JONATHAN GREENBLATT, CEO & NATIONAL DIRECTOR, ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE: The Holocaust was absolutely about race. It was a racialized anti- Semitism.
STELTER: On Tuesday, she was back on "The View", apologizing, ANDsaying he was uninformed and wrong.
GOLDBERG: It is indeed about the race because Hitler and the Nazis considered Jews to be an inferior race.
STELTER: But Tuesday night, amid turmoil within ABC, the president of ABC News said Goldberg's comments were wrong and hurtful and she would be suspended for two weeks, quote, to take time to reflect and learn about the impact of her comments.
The Anti-Defamation League's president says he accepts her apology and wants the focus to be on the concerning rise in anti-Semitic incidents.
GREENBLATT: We've had a hostage situation in Texas perpetrated by somebody motivated by Islamist radicalism. We had flyers droppings by white supremacist blaming the Jewish people for COVID in six states across the country. You know, Jews are feeling under siege.
STELTER: Co-host Ana Navarro saying Goldberg is no anti-Semite. The former co-host Meghan McCain writing an op-ed titled: Her half-assed apology for anti-Semitism only shows again the double standards television holds for liberals and conservatives.
Still, one media analyst says at a time when some in the media are going unpunished for unapologetically spreading misinformation about vaccinations, Goldberg has apologized and sought to make good.
BILL CARTER, CNN MEDIA ANALYST: She's kind of funky shoot from the hip kind of person and that's always been her image. So, I think a lot of people accept that. They accept that about her. So, I don't think it's going to be a lasting thing. I think she was sincere in her explanation of why she didn't fully grasp this.
STELTER (on camera): So, this maybe example of counsel culture as the ADL has encouraged, some counseling now. Whoopi back in two weeks and we'll see what she says about this, Wolf.
BLITZER: And there's also some other major media news today, Brian, involving our own network. The resignation of CNN's president, Jeff Zucker.
What can you tell us about that?
STELTER: That's right. And this was an aftershock in some ways from Zucker firing Chris Cuomo back in December. The Cuomo scandal triggered some legal turmoil and a third party law firm's probe inside CNN. Those lawyers that have been retained by CNN wound up interviewing Zucker about a relationship that he's been in, and today, he came forward saying he didn't disclose that relationship and thus he's resigning.
Here's a part of his statement, Wolf, saying as part of the investigation into Chris Cuomo's tenure at CNN, I was asked by a consensual relationship with my closest colleague. I acknowledged the relationship evolved in recent years, and I was required to disclose it when it began, but I didn't. I was wrong. As a result I'm resigning today. Zucker resigning because he would have been terminated if he had not
resigned. The relationship with Allison Gollust, his long time deputy, the chief marketing officer at CNN, she says she will stay on for the time being.
Now, three of Zucker's long time deputies will be the interim co-heads of CNN. Many staffers here today shocked and saddened by Zucker's sudden exit. He was like the rock of CNN and in the words of one anchor, quote, I just don't want us to be rudderless. But I think, Wolf, what matters most and I think you know this as well, the news is what matters most, and that continues regardless of who's in charge.
BLITZER: Brian Stelter reporting for us, Brian, thank you very, very much.
Coming up, we might soon, soon know who's behind the string of bomb threats targeting historically black colleges and universities. CNN has just learned that the FBI has identified multiple suspects.
BLITZER: Tonight, the FBI is honing in on the individuals allegedly behind a series of bomb threats targeting historically black colleges and universities across the country.
Our senior Washington correspondent Joe Johns is joining us now live from Howard University here in the nation's Capitol.
So, Joe, what are you learning about the search for the suspects?
JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, today, the authorities at the FBI calling these cases among their top priorities. We are told that investigators have identified some people they believe as suspects. They said people as in plural.
We're also told that they are investigating these cases as hate crimes. That, of course, is important because depending on, for example, the ages of the victim, some other factors, the ages of the individuals who might eventually be arrested it could lead to enhanced penalties.
The other thing I think that is important to say, since yesterday, what we are told is that the FBI has been reaching out to the stakeholders. In other words, the universities that have been affected by these bomb threats, also the state and local officials on the ground who have been chasing the cases down. And there have been many of them all over the eastern United States.
Bottom line, though, still no arrests as of earlier today, and, Wolf, as well, we're told, any explosives discovered either. Back to you.
BLITZER: But, so far, just threats, right? They haven't discovered anything specific, right? JOHNS: Right. Absolutely. And obviously, the question from the very
start has been whether all of this has just been one big hoax. And that, of course, is something we'll just have to wait and see until we hear more from the FBI.
BLITZER: All right. Joe Johns reporting to us from Howard University here in Washington, D.C., thank you very much.
And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. You can always follow me on Twitter and Instagram @WolfBlitzer. You can always tweet the show @CNNSitRoom.
Thanks once again for watching.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.