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At This Hour

Trump Asks SCOTUS to Block Release of His White House Records to 1/6 Committee; Scramble for Tests Persists as Cases Over Soar in NY; Holiday Air Travel Tops Pre-Pandemic Levels as Omicron Surges; Trump Files Supreme Court Appeal to Keep White House Records from Congress; Tensions Run Between Ukraine, Russia. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired December 23, 2021 - 12:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: We do have breaking news into CNN. Former President Donald Trump has formally appeals to the Supreme Court seeking they step in on the battle that he is waged to keep his potentially damning White House records out of the hands of Congress.

The deadline to file with the High Court was today, his attorneys just did that. CNN's Katelyn Polantz has the breaking details. She's joining me right now. Kaitlan, what are you learning about this filing?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Well, Trump has filed his appeal to the Supreme Court asking for them to look at whether he can keep secret documents from the White House about January 6. These are records that are held by the National Archives.

So they're in the hands of the Biden Administration, and the Biden Administration the White House currently says they want these documents to go to the House Select Committee in their investigation. So far, this is a question about control. How much control can Donald Trump have over his time in office, over the people who worked for him and the documents they were producing at that time?

So far, we have seen Trump lose at the trial court level, lose at the appeals court level, and they are rejecting literally almost every single argument he has brought before the courts. Now it is in the hands of the Supreme Court. They really because they are the Supreme Court can do whatever they want to do on any of these arguments.

And everything about this will have major implications about what happens as the House Select Committee continues to pursue information not just from the Trump White House, but from other witnesses. Witnesses like the Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows, his handwritten notes, about January 6 are included in these records.

Trump is trying to keep secret. There are other notes, there are schedules, there's call logs, all kinds of information about what was happening in the West Wing, up to January 6, and on January 6, are included in this. And everything that the Supreme Court does here will be very important to watch for the future of the House Select Committee investigation.

BOLDUAN: And one key question is timing and all of this, Katelyn because the House Select Committee is continuing with their investigation. But they the House Committee has been feeling urgency to get moving on this investigation just because of look, the political time clock that they're looking at, is there any sense of when the Supreme Court is would be expected to respond, decide what they want to do with this?

POLANTZ: Well, at this point in time, the Supreme Court is in the middle of a term so that they have this year they will be looking at this it's a cert petition so they can be looking at this fully. But what has happened so far is it has moved fairly quickly, because Donald Trump had asked for it as an injunction.

So the sort of thing that does cause courts to want to look at something a little bit more quickly. And it has moved quite quickly through the courts already, because judges realize the importance of this question, as the House Select Committee is seated and trying to get information as they're pursuing information about January 6.

BOLDUAN: It's a great point. Katelyn thanks so much for bringing us this breaking news reporting. We'll continue to follow this as we learn more. Let's turn now to the latest on the pandemic and the hunt for COVID tests really around the country a hunt taking on even more urgency now, as millions of Americans head off for the holidays.

Today is expected to be the busiest travel one of the busiest travel days of the year. And just about everyone wants to know that they know what their COVID status is, before getting together with loved ones. The now dominant Omicron variant is in all 50 states and accounting for 90 percent of cases in many areas that's fueling much of this new anxiety lines for testing wrapping around city blocks for yet another day here in New York, the epicenter of Omicron right now.

Today the city plans to start handing out free at home test kits at various sites but not surprisingly, supplies are going to be limited. CNN's Shimon Prokupecz is live for us in New York City with the latest there. Shimon what are you hearing about how the city is responding to what we continue to see which is long lines?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right we are. And we're out here in Times Square obviously everyone's anticipating waiting to see what the Mayor decides on the crowds that will gather here behind me in Times Square?

But in the middle of this there's actually a testing site here and people have been lined up for hours here, some waiting two to three hours to get tested. And then the line wraps around the block here so people waiting most of the people here waiting for rapid test that's the hot ticket item right now rapid test as people get ready to go see families get together for holidays.

As you said really Omicron dominating here in the city, right? Every part of the country getting hit with it but no one like New York City right now where over 17,000 people have tested positive across the state oh, close to 29,000 people testing positive so certainly staggering numbers here.

And Kate on those at-home tests, they're giving them out. We actually went inside here to the testing center here. If you're not getting tested here today, they will gladly give you one of these that way you can take home. There are about two tests in here and you can test yourself.


PROKUPECZ: The silver lining in all of this the good news in all this is a hospitalization. The man who runs the city hospitals here yesterday saying that they are seeing about over 50 COVID ICU patients and the peak of this pandemic here in New York City, when there were no vaccinations we were well over 900 a very different situation here and a lot of that they credit to vaccinations and now obviously, to push to get people to get boosted, which they could also do at this site. And if you do it at this site, the city will give you $100 Kate.

BOLDUAN: Shimon thanks so much for that. Appreciate it. So right now, the holiday travel rush is on despite this COVID surge. TSA screenings broke pre pandemic records on Wednesday, with more than 2 million people passing through security checkpoints. Today is expected to be even busier. CNN's Pete Muntean is live at Reagan National Airport from with more on this, Pete what are you seeing there?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Well Kate, things are getting busier by the moment. In fact, the numbers are higher than what we saw back in 2019 before the pandemic. The TSA just yesterday screened 2.08 million people at airports across the country. Compare that to the same day back in 2019 1.94 million people then.

But the context is really important here that same Wednesday back in 2019 that was Christmas Day where the passenger loads are typically lower. Although we have seen a week long stretch of numbers higher or near or maybe a little bit below 2 million passengers each day.

Passengers tell us they are pretty confident about getting out right now even in spite of the Omicron variant. Here's what they're telling us.


ALEX REYNOLDS, TRAVELER AT ATLANTA AIRPORT: Yes, I mean, it's a little nerve wracking. But I mean, when we flew out here, it was definitely safe. Like everything was wiped out, you could tell it was clean. And so, you know, definitely a little nerve wracking because you're always going to be nervous, but I feel confident that we're going to be OK.


MUNTEAN: Busier days ahead, Kate, the TSA says today is going to be one of the busiest January 3rd is going to be one of the busiest when everybody begins coming home all at once. Here's that big number 20 million people that TSA anticipates screening between today and January 3rd. You know what's so interesting here is that airlines continue to insist that flying is safe, because the filtered air on board and the Federal mask mandate in place until March 18th, of 2022. And yesterday, I mentioned that new partnership between the TSA and the FAA, where if you defy that rule, you could lose your pre check for good. This is the line that the FAA is giving. If you act out on a plane, you will not be waiting in line.

BOLDUAN: It's good to see you Pete, thank you so much. I really appreciate it. Joining me now is Dr. Carlos Del Rio, the Executive Associate Dean of Emory University School of Medicine at Grady Health System; it's good to see you Doctor. What are you advising patients when it comes to traveling right now?

DR. CARLOS DEL RIO, EXECUTIVE ASSOCIATE DEAN FOR EMORY AT GRADY: Well, you know if its patients or somebody who's sick, I tell them stay home, right? If you are - you know, a friend, a relative, somebody who's asking me for advice, and if you're feeling well, if you're vaccinated, ideally, if you're boosted.

And again, you need to be fully vaccinated, which means you know, at least to at least two weeks after your second showed, shot, or boosted it means at least 10 days to two weeks after you lose. You know, you can travel, wear your mask, you wear high quality mask on the plane, don't take it off at any time, this idea of eating or you know, taking it off to have a drink, not worth doing that.

And use testing, right? I test myself before I get on the plane. And then I test myself 24 hours after I arrived to my destination and use testing in a frequent way. And by doing that you can remain safe and you can travel. But it really, really is important to take things seriously this strain is incredibly contagious. And if we're not careful, we're going to get infected.

BOLDUAN: I did want to ask you, you know, there's something we've learned is that mandates have worked in a lot of settings to encourage people to get vaccinated. Despite, you know, people's opinions of a mandate, President Biden said last night that he's been told by his advisors that a vaccine requirement for flying domestically isn't necessary, even with Omicron. What do you think about a vaccine mandate to fly within the U.S.?

DR. RIO: Well, you know, again, the air inside the planes is good. It's cycled appropriately because it is filtered. People are wearing masks, but personally, I think we should have a requirement to be vaccinated to fly. We have it already for international flights.

I don't see why that will be different in domestic flights. I mean, how is it different to fly from Mexico or Puerto Rico or, you know, Panama or some other country than flying from let's say, New York to Georgia or from Wisconsin to California? I do think that the - what we need to do is to keep people safe. And right now, with this high peak, I think having a requirement for vaccination would make a lot of sense.

[12:10:00] BOLDUAN: You Co-Authored a report in JAMA where you said that the U.S. is entering was potentially the most dangerous phase of the pandemic to date. Why is that? What do you see?

DR. RIO: Well, I think it's because the strain is highly, highly contagious, and therefore, a lot of people are going to get infected. And even though we're not seeing a huge spike in admissions, hospital admissions and ICU care, we are going to see them.

It's going to take, you know, two weeks or so for them to go up is maybe not going to go up as much as it did in previous peaks. But my biggest concern is not going to be necessarily overwhelmed hospitals, but it could be understaffed hospitals.

Colleagues, locally and around the country are calling saying, you know, the 40, 50 staff at our hospital are calling in sick because they're infected. So a staff is getting affected, and they're being required to stay home for you know, 7 to 10 days, then they're not going to be able to come to work and you can run an ICU if you don't have enough nurses, enough doctors, enough respiratory therapists.

So to me, the biggest concern is how disruptive is going to be not only to healthcare, but for our entire economy. I mean, think about the airline industry, if you know, 10 percent of pilots or flight attendants falling sick because they're infected, you're going to have to have a lot of flights grounded, right?

And as people are trying to return from the holidays, you've just heard that, you know, January 3rd is going to be incredibly busy. Well, are we going to have enough planes and pilots to fly them to bring people home? That's going to be a question.

So I do think that that is what makes it very hard. In addition to that, we're seeing influenza go up. So in the U.S. right now we have Delta circulating we have Omicron circulating and we have Influenza circulate. We have a lot of problems ahead.

BOLDUAN: The good news, though, that we do see is the FDA giving approval to these antiviral, COVID pills Pfizer and now Merck. Dr. Eric Topol told me last night about the Pfizer pill. This is the most significant development since vaccines. Do you agree?

DR. RIO: I definitely agree. I think having orally available antivirals, both from Merck and from Pfizer are game changers. I mean, this pills, you know, everybody now is familiar with taking, for example, you know, a - or Tamiflu when you have the flu. Well, this will be very different.

The challenge is going to be in the implementation, you need to take this drugs three, ideally, three at the most five days after you tested positive. And you just heard about the lines to get tested. You just heard about how people are having trouble finding tests, so we don't have enough people getting tested and your test result doesn't come back in time.

You're going to miss a window to get the drug. So implementing this is what the challenge comes.

BOLDUAN: Yes, absolutely. It's good to see your doctor. Thank you.

DR. RIO: Good to be with you. Merry Christmas!

BOLDUAN: You too. Thank you. Coming up next, President Biden insisting that his big social spending bill can still make it through Congress; he is optimistic. You do wonder why though, we're going to ask a Democratic Congressman, if he agrees that a deal is still possible and what it means for the Democratic Party if they can't get something done?



BOLDUAN: Back to the breaking news Former President Donald Trump has formally appealed to the Supreme Court asking the justices to step in on his battle against the January 6 Select Committee. A last attempt to keep secret his White House Records as Congress investigates what he was doing while the attack on the Capitol unfolded?

Joining me now for more on this is CNN Legal Analyst, Supreme Court Analyst Joan Biskupic. It's great to see you, Joan. Tell me what does the Supreme Court do now with this appeal?

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Nice to see you Kate. And you're exactly right. This is his last chance. This is - you cannot get higher than the Supreme Court. And this is a question that the Supreme Court has never resolved.

President - Former President Trump really is trying a novel argument here. He was rejected unanimously by a lower court judge who said he's a former president. He is being usurped by the current president. And the situation here of what why the committee needs these records that are the public's records.

They're not Donald Trump's records this time, Kate; they're the public's records being held by the archive. They should be turned over. So President - Former President Trump has formally filed now at the Supreme Court, asking the justices to hear his case to hear the appeal from the D.C. Circuit, which ruled a couple of weeks ago saying there are compelling reasons for the committee to have these records.

It's all part of the January 6 investigation, which was such an assault on the Capitol. In fact, that opinion by the lower court judges really laid out all the legal grounds but also kind of the compelling and imperative reason that we've even gotten to this point.

Now, what Former President Trump's lawyers have said is, you know, set that aside, this has never been resolved. And this should be resolved when a Former President is trying to claim executive privilege to keep documents out of the way from the committee and away from the public, that this should be resolved.

In addition to saying that this is an important question for the U.S. Supreme Court itself. It's also saying that the committee request is quite expansive. Now, there are lots of documents involved, but there are - they've been compartmentalized in various ways and lower court judge, a trial judge really tested the idea of how broadly the committee was seeking these materials, as did the D.C. Circuit.

And both ruled fully in favor of the committee saying these are important and current President Joe Biden is not standing in the way of these documents and in fact, it's said that executive privilege should be waived. And now it will be up to the U.S. Supreme Court Kate.

BOLDUAN: Joan thanks so much for that. Now let's turn to this optimism from the president that the centerpiece of his domestic agenda will still become law.


BOLDUAN: In a new interview last night Joe Biden telling ABC News, he is not simply going to let his plan die. Let's go to the Capitol right now CNN's Jessica Dean is standing by. Jessica, you hear the president say that he hasn't given up his Congress?

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate that's the great question, right? I think there are so many Senate Democrats who want to see that you could say the vast majority of them want to see Build Back Better become law. They want to see it pass through the Senate, chiefly, among them Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.

But the question is what does Senator Joe Manchin want? And look, he had a call - the Senate Democrats had a call earlier this week, where they kind of were able to just say their piece and air their grievances. Manchin spoke on that call.

And we're told he said what he's been telling us publicly here on the Hill and his calling largely for months that he's concerned about inflation, that he's concerned about geopolitical issues that he doesn't want to add to the debt that he thinks Build Back Better, as it currently stands, just costs too much, and that he cannot see a way forward on it. But despite all of that the president himself remains quite optimistic. Listen to this.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: I haven't given up on this. I haven't given up on it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mansion's main sticking point it would appear is that the child tax credit? Are you willing to take that out if it means bringing him on board?

BIDEN: Well look, I want to get as much as I can possibly get done as much as we can possibly get done. I still think we'll be able to get a significant amount of what we need to get done, done.

(END VIDEO CLIP) DEAN: And look, the child tax credit, of course, a big part of this that Manchin, opposes and can't see going forward with the way it's currently written Kate. But there are other issues within the current legislation that he is not for being in there, paid family leave expanding Medicare in some ways, there's a host of issues.

So we know that Schumer is going to bring this to the floor, when they come back from their holiday recess Manchin will vote against it. That's what everybody wants. Schumer wants to see him vote publicly and Manchin will vote against it. The question is, Kate, will they be able to get something smaller? And that's what we're going to have to see if that plays out here on Capitol Hill, Kate?

BOLDUAN: Yes, absolutely. Jessica thanks so much I appreciate it. Joining me now for more on this is Democratic Congressman from Colorado, Jason Crow. Congressman, thanks for being here. At this point, do you have confidence that this the Build Back Better is going to go anywhere?

I mean, I know everyone - it's good for everyone to say that they're eternal optimists. But you know you have to be pragmatists and realists in terms of what you're actually going to get through?

REP. JASON CROW (D-CO): Yes, hi, Kate. Well, thanks for having me on. And we can be both an optimist and a pragmatist and a realist at the same time. And my job is not to look into the crystal ball and to guess whether or not it's going to get down is to work hard to get it done.

The president is obviously not going to stop. I'm not going to stop, the Congress is not going to stop, and at least the Democrats in the Congress are not going to stop working towards this. But let's not forget that we already passed the bipartisan infrastructure bill, which is a generational investment that our nation's largest investment in broadband roads and bridges, electrical infrastructure a huge accomplishment just a couple of months ago.

And I do think we can get if not all of this bill passed a version of it, or component to the pasture, still enormous, enormous relief effort for the American people.

BOLDUAN: The pressure is on from a lot of constituents. And a lot of you know you're probably hearing it back home in your district. My colleague Manu Raju actually asked Senator Pat Leahy what it would mean for the midterms, if Democrats didn't get Build Back Better passed. And Leahy who is retiring, he was pretty blunt about it. And he said I probably wouldn't be elected. Do you agree with that?

CROW: Well, the pressure should be on because people want this bill. It's incredibly popular. There's not enough for affordable childcare. We need preschool, universal preschool. We're one of the only developed nations in the world that doesn't have it. We need electrical infrastructure.

We need to address the climate crisis. The needs are huge. The American people realize that my constituents realize that. That's why this is such a popular bill is because they understand what it does. They understand how important it is.

So yes, the job of elected officials is to represent their constituents to represent the American people. And that's why we are pushing very hard to do it. And those that don't support the bill are not listening to their constituents. That's just the bottom line. They're not listening to the needs of working families within their community. So we are - we're going to try to get it done.

We're going to push extremely hard, and people should pressure their elected officials. That's the way it works.

BOLDUAN: I do want to ask you, you just got back from a congressional trip to Ukraine actually and Vladimir Putin today holding his hours' long year end press conference in Moscow. He said today that he has it the way you put it is he has quote the impression that Ukraine's government is preparing for a new military operation in the Donbas region of the country.


BOLDUAN: Is that what you saw when you were there that Ukraine is the one threatening Russia?

CROW: That is just absurd. I mean, Vladimir Putin says absurd things all the time. We know that we know that he lies. He is the one who invaded Ukraine. Let's not forget, he's already done this. He already invaded Ukraine in 2014. He took by force, the Crimean Peninsula, which is part of Ukraine, in Russian troops occupies Eastern Ukraine, or at least involved in Eastern Ukraine as we sit here right now.

So he's the one who's been the aggressor. He's been looking for excuses to instigate it is his massive military buildup along the North, the South in the East of Ukraine that's threatening a democratic sovereign nation right now a nation that wants to be free.

And we have to make sure we're standing by Ukraine and Ukrainian people, because they want to move forward to the West. They want to be democratic. They want to be a free nation. And we can't allow Vladimir Putin, one of the world's most dangerous autocrats to threaten fellow free nations and one of our partners.

BOLDUAN: --if I want to ask you ask about the president's pandemic response. In this new interview that he - will - actually over the past couple days, he's been defensive, particularly about criticism that the administration is facing that they were caught flat footed, on the lack of tests, specifically and he was asked if this was a failure, let me play what he said.


BIDEN: Well, I don't think it's a failure. I think it's, you could argue that we should have known a year ago, six months ago, two months ago, a month ago, I wish I had thought about ordering a half a billion pills two months ago before COVID hit here.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BOLDUAN: He wished he thought about it two months ago. He also said that nobody saw this coming. Do you think that's the right message to be coming from the president right now when so many people are suffering?

CROW: Well Kate, what I see is a humble introspective leader who was working very hard to do the right thing under extremely difficult circumstances. No president has in over 100 years has encountered something like this actually has been more than 100 years, because now we're now surpassing Spanish flu levels.

We have variants, we have a segment of the population about a third, as refusing to recognize the vaccines work and refusing to take vaccines, we're not getting the herd immunity, which of course, is allowing sprains to develop and spread.

And this whole thing has been politicized by the former president and by enablers within his party. So this is a hard situation. Now I would much rather have a president, who is honest with us, who says it's hard and is saying we're not always going to get it right.

But we're going to learn and we're going to try to move forward than somebody who lies and somebody who tries to gloss over and doesn't tell it like it is. This is the way it should be. And I'm glad President Biden is sitting in the White House working through this because we have to get through this together. He understands that.

BOLDUAN: And I know you yourself are still recovering from a positive COVID result now. You look well; I hope you're also feeling well. Thank you for coming on.

CROW: Yes, thanks, Kate. Good talking with you.

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much. Coming up for us, South African researchers say the country may be past the peak of its Omicron outbreak. Up next what that could mean for the United States, one of South Africa's top doctor, top doctors is our guest?