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At This Hour

Novak Djokovic Draws Top Spot in Australian Open, Awaits Visa Decision; Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) Speaks After Refusing to Cooperate With 1/6 Probe; More Schools Back to Remote Learning Amid Omicron Surge. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired January 13, 2022 - 11:30   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN AT THIS HOUR: Developing at this hour, the draw is out for the Australian Open and Novak Djokovic not surprisingly is the number one seed. But what is not known is if he'll play or if he'll be deported still.

CNN's Paula Hancocks is live in Melbourne, Australia, for us again with much more on this.

Paula, how up in the air is this still?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kate, it's up in the air. I mean, it's the early hours of Friday morning now. We were expecting to hear something from the immigration minister, Alex Hawke, on Thursday. It didn't happen. It could be today. But he is running out of time if he is going to decide to step in personally and revoke the visa of Novak Djokovic.

The Australian Open starts on Monday. Djokovic is already in the -- as you say, he's number one seed. He's in the draw. He knows he will be playing a fellow Serb in round one.

So, what we know at this point is we heard from the prime minister, Scott Morrison, today, and he was talking about how -- as he said before, rules are rules and how you have to be vaccinated to come into this country or have a medical exemption showing there's a medical reason why you can't have the COVID-19 vaccinations, saying that he hopes his government will stick to that policy. Now, it is his immigration minister that's able to make that decision.

Now, we understand when Djokovic gave those revelations that he had gone and talked to a journalist when COVID-19 positive. He also gave lot more documentation. So, maybe that is slowing things down.

BOLDUAN: Paula, thank you so much for that. I really appreciate it. Joining me now for more on this former professional tennis player Patrick McEnroe, he is an ESPN Commentator and Host of the Holding Court podcast. It's good to see you again, Patrick.

So, you are former Davis Cup captain. You have been a top U.S. T.A. official. You have played the Australian Open. This is my way of saying you know better than anyone what kind of chaos will happen if suddenly Djokovic is thrown out of the country at this point?

PATRICK MCENROE, FORMER PROFESSIONAL TENNIS PLAYER: I may know a lot about tennis, Kate, but I've gotten a real education in the last week on the politics inside of Australia. And I think that's really what's going to determine whether or not Novak Djokovic can actually take to court. And trust me, as you know, if he takes the court, it will be an absolute zoo. It will be chaos on both sides, from the Australian public, who's a bit rankled by the way this whole thing has gone down. I don't think they liked his latest Instagram post.

Interestingly, I think the tide was turning a little bit, Kate, in his favor because the Australian government certainly didn't treat him that well. I think the Aussies felt a little embarrassed by that. But when Novak put out his Instagram post, when he admitted making some mistakes, when he even started by saying, I want to clear up the misinformation, well, there's really not that much misinformation out there. There's information out there and that doesn't make him look particularly good.

So, they keep pushing this down to road, Kate, whether or not they're going to actually try to deport him out of the country. But, remember, even if they do so, he's still going to appeal it again. Now, we're getting closer and closer to the tournament actually starting. Tennis, anyone?

BOLDUAN: I mean, it's unbelievable what it would mean for the tournament. I mean, it's -- basically what is it going to mean for the tournament no matter what, right? Either way, it's going to be total and utter chaos if he plays or if he gets thrown out.

MCENROE: Yes. And you wonder -- and I have to admit, I'm starting to wonder this myself, okay, from the Australian perspective, you know, they look at this, this is an unbelievable tournament. They do a great job. It promotes the country. It's one of the four major tournaments all year that happens in tennis. So, the Australians rightly so very proud of what is a tremendous event.

But let's take a step back now.


If they kick Djokovic out of the country, that's sort of a black eye for the whole country, for the way the government miscommunicated, certainly for tennis Australia, who has to take some responsibility for allowing Djokovic to come in the way that he did. But the public -- the ratings are going to be through the roof. I mean, that's what I'm getting at, Kate, with this whole idea. It's going to be a ratings bonanza. So, you start to wonder, maybe that's playing into the decision as well because Australia, as a country, they want to reopen up. They've closed their borders. They just reopened them. They want to get their country and their economy moving again. If they throw Djokovic out, that throws things sort of off kilter, I think, in their overall plan to reopen this society in general.

BOLDUAN: The answer is just do what is right. There cannot be that much gray area. It's either follow the rules or don't follow the rules, wherever that may lead you. That's the only answer to avoid -- to diminish the black eye that's going to be on everybody on this.

One thing that I've been thinking about as well, as we've been focusing in on Djokovic, is this has overshadowed this tournament for sure, put a spotlight on and overshadowed this tournament for sure. But what else it's also overshadowed is the other crisis that the tennis world has been dealing with, Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai, and the serious question still about her whereabouts and safety. I mean, WTA still hasn't gotten what they want here, which is knowing that she's safe and sound. What is happening with this?

MCENROE: Well, first of all, to your first point, which is a good one, yes, rules are rules, the problem for this situation as the rules keep changing, and we're not sure what the rules are. Now, for Peng Shuai, and thank you for bringing it up because it's a huge issue, and here's the problem. Most of the time we say no news is good news, right, Kate, but in this situation, no news is not good news for Peng Shuai, and here's why. China, they've got this familiar pattern when something like this happens, deny it, number one, completely squash all information from the internet, which they've done, number two, and then start to blame others, like the international community, like the Women's Tennis Association, like us in the media. It's your fault. You're trying to attack China. That's what's happening now. So, their game plan at the moment is working to a T. I find that very, very disconcerting right now.

BOLDUAN: Yes. And then number three, wait it out. Wait for people to find something else and put their focus elsewhere, which is, again, part of the playbook.

Patrick, let's see what happens. I have a feeling I might need you back on T.V. tomorrow. It's great to see you. Thank you.

MCENROE: Anytime, Kate. Thanks again.

BOLDUAN: Thank you.

Coming up for us, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, he is about to speak, he is about to take questions after refusing to comply with the insurrection investigators in the House, requesting to speak with him about what he knew about that day after he promised he'd cooperate. So, what now? We're going to bring that to you live, next.


[11:40:00] BOLDUAN: All right. Breaking news, let's head to Capitol Hill. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy making statements and about to take some questions.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Well, let's begin. In one week, it will mark one year since President Biden took office. We should all be asking ourselves one question, is America better off after 12 months one party rule in Washington? Well, let's recap to see what the answer to that question is.

1 million kids started the year off once again dealing with abrupt school closures, returning to more uncertainty and disruption. I know you heard it from so many parents being stuck once again. Homicides in 2021 were near record highs. In several major cities like Philadelphia and Portland, murders hit the highest rate in the city's history.

Now, we have the reason you're all here, we have the highest inflation rate in 40 years, causing prices to surge. That increase you see there all happened under President Biden's watch. To put that number in perspective, here is the real impact inflation is having on soaring prices. Americans are paying on a daily basis. 50 percent --

BOLDUAN: All right. We're listening in to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. He's going to kind of give his statements, and then he's going to be taking questions, which I am most interested in.

In the meantime, let me bring in CNN's Melanie Zanona and John Harwood for more on this.

Melanie, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi does the same thing, they talk about what they want to talk about and then they face the real questions. What are those questions that Kevin McCarthy will need to answer today?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: The big question is why he decided not to cooperate with the January 6th select committee, which has asked for his voluntary cooperation. They want to meet with him, they want him to turn over documents. But he put out a statement last night and said he is not planning to cooperate, citing a couple reasons. Number one, he said this was an illegitimate investigation. Number two, he said he has nothing relevant to offer the committee.

But both of those claims are disingenuous, at best. On the first one, whether or not this is legitimate, I mean, this is a dually impaneled congressional investigation. I mean, yes, Republicans are upset that Speaker Nancy Pelosi vetoed some of McCarthy's picks for the committee. It wasn't precedent but that was well within her authority. And then on the topic of whether McCarthy has anything relevant to offer the committee, well, he spoke to President Trump on January 6th, was urging him to call off the riots.

And there are conflicting accounts of what Trump actually said back to him. One Republican said that Trump, according to Kevin McCarthy, was saying, well, Kevin, I guess these rioters care more about the election than you. So, if that is true, it suggests Trump had no intention of stopping this effort to overturn the election. So, there are a lot of questions for Kevin McCarthy but he will be asked all of those things today in front of the press.

BOLDUAN: And, John, just your perspective on this, because I wonder what you make of the fact that he is a member of Congress, a member of House leadership, is calling a congressional investigation illegitimate and abuse of power and not serving any legislative purpose. I mean, that statement may come back to bite him, I don't know, after the next election.

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Kate, Kevin McCarthy doesn't care about traditions of the House. He doesn't care about telling the truth before the committee. He doesn't care about getting to the bottom of the insurrection. He cares about one thing. He wants to become the House speaker. And he knows that to become the House speaker, he cannot be seen as cooperating with Democrats against the interests of former President Trump, who we know incited the insurrection on January 6th because Kevin McCarthy himself said so when he thought it was going to be politically advantageous for him to say so.

Then he has changed his mind and changed his tune after meeting with Trump. He realizes that Trump can hurt him. He doesn't want to be hurt. We know that a few months ago, he told our colleague, Manu Raju, sure, I'll cooperate with the committee.


Now, of course, when he realizes that it's disadvantageous for him to do so, he says he's not going to cooperate. So, Kevin McCarthy's words don't really mean anything beyond the three seconds after he says them depending on his next calculation of what is going to serve his interest and his political ambition at the moment.

BOLDUAN: Well, when he does take questions, we will head back in to hear how he answers them, at least in this moment. It's good to see you, John, Melanie, thank you so much. Melanie is going to be sticking by as well. I really appreciate it, guys.

In the meantime, let's turn to this. The omicron surge leading some school districts right now to halt or alter their return to in-person classes. Schools in Minneapolis and Oklahoma City moving back to remote learning for at least the next week. While Los Angeles, the nation's second largest public school district -- we'll get to that in just one second. We're going to head back to Capitol Hill. Kevin McCarthy is taking questions.

REPORTER: -- by Antifa. I wonder if you still stand by those comments. And also a few days after that, you went down to visit the former president in Mar-a-Lago. What changed? Why did you make that trip?

MCCARTHY: What changed? Why did I make the trip?

REPORTER: What changed from what you said on the floor criticizing him, saying that he was -- MCCARTHY: My criticism went to everyone on that day. Why was the Capitol so ill-prepared that day?

REPORTER: You made those comments directly about the president.

MCCARTHY: Why was the Capitol so ill-prepared that day? And how do we make sure it will never be ill-prepared again? I just had a conference with our members and the sergeant of arms and the Capitol Police. You weren't in the room, but let me give you an answer to some of the questions that were asked. And some of the questions that were asked to the Capitol Police, the chief said that was above his pay grade to make the answer. I asked him, well, who's above you? Simple question about magnetometers coming before the chambers, he said, well, if another speaker comes in and decides they could go, they go.

Another question to the sergeant of arms was has the January 6th committee asked for any of the communications from the former sergeant of arms to the speaker that day? To the best of his knowledge, they have not asked for any of them.

The more we learn about the situation, the more we find that from investigation to investigation, the change is made in the Capitol Police Intel Department in November of not providing information going further has been a real problem on the basis for that day. And the call of what we need to have happen here is why was this building so ill-prepared and how do we make sure that never happens again?

Yes, ma'am?

REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) disclosing private conversations, did you tell House Republicans on the January 11th call that President Trump told you he agreed that he bore some responsibility for January 6th, as Chairman Thompson's letter indicates?

MCCARTHY: I'm not sure what call you're talking about, so (INAUDIBLE).

Yes, sir. How is CNN doing? Are you guys okay? Good. All right.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: You battled the creation of an outside commission from the start. You also called the select committee --

MCCARTHY: Well, that's not true. Go ahead, ask your question. I'll verify what's true or not.

RAJU: You said sure, you'd be willing to testify about your conversations --

MCCARTHY: Yes. What was the date of that?

RAJU: That was on May of last --


RAJU: And you now say you won't appear voluntarily. MCCARTHY: Okay.

RAJU: So, why should the public not conclude that you're trying to hide something here and hide the facts from getting out.

MCCARTHY: Great question. I hope everything gets corrected at CNN. Work through all that with your employees.

After January 6th, you can state this, who was the first person to offer a bipartisan commission to look at that day? Was it me? I'll help you. The answer is yes. Nancy Pelosi waited four months. And that time period, as we came here and discussed many times, you were here, you would ask me questions, my fear began to erode that she'd play politics with this. You watched it unfold. She would prepare who can have a subpoena power, who can have the scope, continuing to fight it all along the way that we now found she just played politics while the Senate had two committees, bipartisan, look at what happened on January 6th.

The FBI was doing their own investigation. And you all know the role of Congress, the only role we have is legislative.

You asked me that question in May. That was two months before Nancy Pelosi decided for the first time in history, by any speaker, to deny the minority to even put their individuals on a committee.


So, when you ask me that question, never did I think a speaker would play such politics and then appoint a chairman who starts the committee by saying, the only person out of bounds is the speaker. And now that we find, even when we asked to preserve that information with the sergeant of arms, that they will not provide it.

Maybe if Nancy Pelosi had done what other speakers would do and not play politics with it, it could have been a different answer.

Yes, sir? Yes, sir? Go right ahead, sir.

REPORTER: You have a unique window into the president on that day, January 6th. You were one of the only few people who spoke to him that day. Doesn't the American public have a right to know what the president of the United States was thinking and doing while the U.S. Capitol was under attack?

MCCARTHY: You know, that is a great question. You know the great thing about that, I didn't wait a year later. On January 6th, I spoke to American public not by one network but by many networks. My conversation was very short, advising the president of what was happening here. There is nothing that I can provide the January 6th committee for legislation of them moving forward. There is nothing in that realm. It is pure politics of what they are playing.

Yes, sir? Yes.

REPORTER: During your majority, the only oversight, what you guys (INAUDIBLE) is oversight that you intend to write bills on from? Is that your -- because Congress has a long history of legislating, of oversight, that doesn't necessarily result in legislation. You guys did it. Pelosi did it. Boehner did it. Ryan did it. And that is a long list of --

MCCARTHY: Really? And how often have we gone after people's phone records --

REPORTER: I'm asking what you will do if you are the speaker of the House. Will you only conduct oversight that is --

MCCARTHY: You know what we will do if we are entrusted with the majority? The first thing that we'll do is talk about how do we lower the prices for the American public? How do we make gasoline price affordable again? How do we put food back on the shelves? How do we stop this rise of inflation of everything you deal with? How do we secure our border? How do we stop government mandating and controlling our lives? How do we make cities safe again?

And, yes, we will hold this administration accountable. We just found this week, and I sent a letter with Virginia Fox, the secretary of education, asked the National School Board to send them a letter so he can go to attorney general to now investigate the parents who go to school board meetings of terrorism.

Afghanistan, we have 13 new gold star families, and that never had to happen. How many Americans are still stuck there? Have any of you asked that question? The president said just weeks before he would not leave until every American was gone. The taxpayer that bought all of that weaponry that the Taliban now has, you got any reporting or recording of where that is? Where is it being sold to now on the black market?

IRS releasing Americans' tax returns. Yes, we can do both, and we will. I hope you all have a great weekend. Take care and stay safe.

BOLDUAN: Joining me right now, CNN's Melanie Zanona and John Harwood is back with me as well.

John, your thoughts?

HARWOOD: Liz Cheney said yesterday, I wish that Kevin McCarthy were a brave and honorable man. He just demonstrated in the press conference why she does not see these qualities in him. He is not willing to talk about the events of January 6th in any reasonable way. He was deflecting and ducking and dodging about the things that he said that --

BOLDUAN: He was lying. He was lying.

HARWOOD: Yes, right, when he condemned President Trump. He evaded all attempts to explain why he had told Manu Raju a few months ago that he was going to cooperate. He gave a completely disingenuous answer about why he has now changed his mind and didn't -- isn't going to cooperate, why he changed his mind on Donald Trump's role.


It was -- look, he is the leader of a party that is now driven by a lie about the 2020 election, and he is an apt leader of that party.

BOLDUAN: Melanie?

ZANONA: I think one thing that really stood out to me is the way that the GOP is trying to use this new playbook of shifting to the security failures on January 6th. They are pledging to go after Speaker Nancy Pelosi. They're trying to pin the blame on her. And it is a really a way to shift the narrative even though Pelosi does not have authority over the day-to-day operations of the Capitol Police.

The other thing that I think the committee really wants to hone in on is why did Kevin McCarthy shift his tone so much when it comes not only to cooperating with any investigations but also about whether Trump himself bore any responsibility. And he was asked by the reporter if he remembers a phone call with the House GOP conference, and I reported on this at the time where Kevin McCarthy told these Republicans, Trump himself accepted some blame for the riots. That is what he told the Republicans. That is what we reported at the time. Now, he's pretending like he doesn't remember that phone call, but that is something that the committee really wants to dig in, did Trump or any of his representatives get to him? Did they tell him to stop saying these things? Was there witness tampering? Those are the types of questions that the select committee wants to know about.

BOLDUAN: Here is what Kevin McCarthy said about -- when asked about the remarks he made right after the insurrection, about putting responsibility on Trump, my criticism was to everyone that day, why was the capitol so ill-prepared that day. We played this earlier. I'm going to play it again. This is what Kevin McCarthy said from the House floor.


MCCARTHY: The president bears responsibility for the attack on the Capitol from mob rioters. He should have immediately denounced the mob when he saw what was unfolded. These facts require immediate action from President Trump, accept his share responsibility, quell the brewing unrest and ensure President-elect Biden is able to successfully begin his term.


BOLDUAN: Instead now, and I'm sorry, it is an attempt, a failed attempt at gaslighting people, John.

HARWOOD: He is afraid to tell the truth, and so he is not going to tell the truth. As I mentioned before, he came on and took questions, at a moment when he thought that it was politically advantageous for him, that the events compelled him to criticize President Trump, he did so in that speech, as Mitch McConnell did. But he is now -- because he realizes it would hurt him, it would interfere with his ambition in order to -- if he were to tell the truth now, he is not going to do it. And he's going to try to cover up the reasons for why he is not telling the truth. It is sad that a leader of the Republican Party is behaving in that manner, but that is what we have got.

BOLDUAN: It is exactly where it is right now. John, thank you. Melanie, thank you. As always, I really appreciate it, guys. Much more to come on this, to be sure.

Inside Politics with John King starts after this break.