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Don Lemon Tonight

House GOP Leader McCarthy Won't Cooperate With January 6th Committee; Trump Hangs Up On NPR After Host Asks About Election Lies; Australian Open Draw Postponed Until Further Notice; Consumer Prices Rise At Faster Pace In 40 Years; Cheney On McCarthy: "He Is Clearly Trying To Cover Up What Happened"; Dr. Fauci: Omicron Variant "Will Find Just About Everybody;" Decision On Novak Djokovic's Australian Visa Status Expected Any Moment. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired January 12, 2022 - 23:00   ET




DON LEMON, CNN HOST (on camera): Breaking tonight, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy refusing to cooperate with the January 6th Select Committee. I thought he had nothing to hide.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): I don't have anything really to add. I've been very public, but I wouldn't hide from anything.


LEMON (on camera): The committee outlining tonight how McCarthy was in touch with Trump before, during, and after the insurrection. So, what is their next move?

Plus, former President Trump hanging up on an NPR host who had the audacity to ask him about his election lies. We're going to speak to that host in just a bit.

Plus, we are standing by for Australia's decision on whether Novak Djokovic can stay in the country to play in the Australian Open. This on the same day the tennis star admits he did not isolate after testing positive for COVID.

Let's turn first now to CNN congressional correspondent Jessica Dean with the breaking news on Kevin McCarthy who is refusing to cooperate with the January 6th investigation.


JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In a major development in its investigation, the January 6th Committee asking House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to voluntarily provide information to the panel.

The committee chairman, Democratic Representative Bennie Thompson, writing to McCarthy on Wednesday -- quote -- "We also must learn about how the president's plans for January 6th came together, and all the other ways he attempted to alter the results of the election. For example, in advance of January 6th, you reportedly explained to Mark Meadows and the former president that objections to the certification of the electoral votes on January 6th was doomed to fail."

McCarthy saying late tonight he will not cooperate, but that's not what he said back in May.

UNKNOWN (voice-over): Would you be willing to testify about your conversation with Donald Trump on January 6th if you were asked by an outside commission?


UNKNOWN (voice-over): You would?

MCCARTHY: Next question.

REP. PETE AGUILAR (D-CA): We're going to hold him to that, and I would expect anyone who takes the same oath to the Constitution that I took in order to serve here would be willing to talk about January 6th and would be willing to talk about what happened that day.

DEAN (voice-over): McCarthy is the third House GOP member the committee has requested cooperation from in its investigation. The other two, representatives Jim Jordan and Scott Perry, have made it clear they are not cooperating without a fight.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): I've been clear along. I've got nothing to hide. I've been straight forward all along.

DEAN (voice-over): But in a letter to the committee released Sunday, Jordan told the committee he has -- quote -- "no relevant information" to offer and accused the committee of spreading misinformation -- quote -- "to paint a false and misleading narrative."

Perry wrote in a tweet -- quote -- "I decline this entity's request and will continue to fight the failures of the radical left."

Now, the January 6th Committee is looking into how they might compel Jordan and Perry to cooperate, including weighing if they have the constitutional right to subpoena fellow members of Congress.

AGUILAR: We are going to continue to appeal to them to come before us. They took the same oath that we did to protect and uphold the Constitution.

DEAN (voice-over): The committee believes both Perry and Jordan hold key information.

AGUILAR: These are people who had conversations with the president, the former president, about the conspiracy theories that he continued, and those two specifically helped fan those flames. But they have key information on what the president was thinking. And in the case of my colleague, Mr. Jordan, he admitted that he talked to the president on January 6th, which is important.

DEAN (voice-over): Jordan has previously confirmed he spoke with former President Donald Trump on January 6th, and the committee recently revealed a text message he forwarded to Trump's chief of staff, Mark Meadows, in the lead up to the certification of the 2020 election results.

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA) (voice-over): On January 6th, 2021, Vice President Mike Pence, as president of the Senate, should call out all electoral votes that he believes are unconstitutional as no electoral votes at all.

REP. ELAINE LURIA (D-VA): The facts are necessary. Whether he thinks they are important to the investigation or not, that is truly not up to him to decide.

DEAN (voice-over): Perry played a key role in Trump's efforts to pressure the Justice Department to support his false voter fraud conspiracy theories, according to a report from the Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats. Now, the January 6th Committee is zeroing in on him and his GOP colleagues, also requesting a preservation of both Perry and Jordan's phone records.

(On camera): Congressman Pete Aguilar, who is a member of the Select Committee, told CNN this evening that they've talked to some 300, 400 people at this point. But it remains to be seen, Don, if they will ultimately get to talk with McCarthy, Perry, and Jordan, three people they very much want to speak with. Don?


LEMON (on camera): All right. Jessica Dean, thank you very much.

A lot to discuss now. CNN White House correspondent John Harwood is here and our chief legal analyst, Mr. Jeffrey Toobin, as well. Gentlemen, hello. Thanks for joining.

John, you heard in Jessica's piece there that Kevin McCarthy was asked in May if he would be willing to testify about his conversation with Trump on January 6th.


McCarthy said, sure. Well, tonight, he is saying that he will not cooperate. Is there any surprise -- is that surprising to you considering that McCarthy previously went down to Mar-a-Lago to kiss the ring?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It's not surprising at all. Look, let's step back and remember who we're dealing with. Kevin McCarthy is the weakest congressional leader of either party in decades. He is not rooted in principles or values or the truth.

We all remember when he went on Fox News and boasted about how the Benghazi inquiries, which were supposed to be about national security, had tarnished Hillary Clinton's poll ratings. He pushed Liz Cheney out of leadership for telling the truth about the 2020 election.

So, on January 6th, when the insurrection was going on, he thought his personal survival and advancement required him to condemn Donald Trump, so that's what he did. Later, when he realized that that was going to harm his ambition to remain as the Republican leader and become speaker if they win the House, he turned tail. He went down to Mar-a-Lago and he turned tail and he is telling a different story.

Same thing on whether he is going to cooperate with the committee. Yeah, he said, sure, I'll cooperate. Now, he says he won't. The question is now whether the committee can compel him with a subpoena to cooperate. And, of course, if he does cooperate, whether he tells the truth. There is no assurance he'll do that either.

LEMON: Is this really all about trying to keep or at least not keep but become speaker? Because there is a report out now saying that --



LEMON: I didn't even finish my question. There is a report out now saying -- I think it is Lindsey Graham saying, I'm not going to support him for speaker unless he can prove that he has some sort of working relationship with Donald Trump. Is that what this is all about?

HARWOOD: Well, what I saw from Lindsey Graham was he said that about Mitch McConnell, his own leader in the Senate. And, you know, Donald Trump condemned Mitch McConnell as a loser in an interview the other day. And now, Lindsey Graham, who is -- will do anything to demonstrate his filthy to Trump, is saying that, well, I'll only support Mitch McConnell if he is going to be able to work with Donald Trump.

Obviously, Kevin McCarthy knows that if he has Donald Trump as an adversary, he is not going to be the speaker, and he wants to be the speaker.

LEMON: I'm glad you clarified this is about him becoming speaker because that is what Lindsey Graham is saying about Mitch McConnell. But, you know, McCarthy wants to be the speaker as well --


LEMON: -- so he needs to, you know, get his ducks in a row --


LEMON: -- and get his allies. Jeffrey, in the committee' letter to McCarthy, they asked about his meeting at Mar-a-Lago and how McCarthy's public statements changed. And they write, I quote here, "At that meeting, or at any other time, did President Trump or his representatives discuss or suggest what you should say publicly, during the impeachment trial if called as a witness, or in any later investigation about your conversations with him on January 6th? So, the question is, are they trying to get to witness tampering here? What is going on?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, there is an abundance of relevant information that Kevin McCarthy has for the January 6th Committee involving a slew of materials: Before January 6th, on January 6th when he was in touch with Donald trump, and after January 6th regarding the issue of witness tampering.

But, you know, we have seen this incredible transformation from the immediate aftermath of January 6th when Kevin McCarthy, when Mitch McConnell, were supposedly outraged like the rest of the country was that this attempted insurrection had taken place. Now, it is the official policy of the Republican Party not to cooperate.

So, no members of Congress who are Republicans are cooperating, no political figures who want a future in the Republican Party are cooperating, and that's just where we are.

So, yes, witness tampering is one area that they want to look at, but they're not going to get answers from any of these people.

LEMON (on camera): Jeffrey, Kevin McCarthy was on with Chris Wallace. This is back in April. Chris asked him about the possibility of witness tampering. Watch this and then we'll discuss.


CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Has the president ever reached out to you since that report came out to discuss what you and he talked about in the January 6th phone call, and did you say to him, I can't because we're under oath?


WALLACE: That never happened?

MCCARTHY: It has never happened.


MCCARTHY: Never even close.

WALLACE: And if it did happen, you would agree that would be witness tampering?

MCCARTHY: Yeah. But it never happened. Never even came close. Never had any conversation like that.


LEMON (on camera): So, he is vehemently denying what the committee is now asking about.

[23:10:01] Without his cooperation, Jeffrey, how does the committee figure this out?

TOOBIN: Well, they look at lower-level people. I mean, they are speaking to 300 people. And it is often very effective for investigators to talk to the other people in the room besides the principals.

One group that is certainly very important to this investigation, some of whom at least cooperating, are Mike Pence's aides, because they are the people who saw what the interactions were between the president and his immediate staff and the vice president. I mean, those are very important people.

But, I mean, Don, the important thing to remember about, you know, this issue of will they subpoena Kevin McCarthy and will they reach out to anyone at this point, it is the middle of January at this point. There's not even been a subpoena issued. By the time they issue a subpoena, have a committee vote, have a House vote to find someone in contempt, who doesn't cooperate, this wouldn't even get to court until the middle of the year, and that is too late to force anyone to testify.

The committee is in a position now of only having voluntary witnesses. They can't force anyone because the clock is simply run out at this point.

LEMON: Yeah. John, the committee also writes this to McCarthy. It says, it appears that you may also have discussed with President Trump the potential he would face at censure resolution, impeachment, or removal under the 25th Amendment. It also appears that you may have identified other possible options, including President Trump's immediate resignation from office.

If that is the case, isn't this further proof McCarthy and others knew Trump was responsible for January 6th?

HARWOOD: Well, of course, they knew he was responsible. He said so that day. So did Mitch McConnell. There's no question about that. It's obvious that Trump was responsible. But the question here is, how did they know to ask that question? They must have gotten some testimony, as Jeffrey indicated, from people who were in the room when these discussions were going on because they haven't gotten it from Kevin McCarthy.

We know that one of the accounts of the conversation came from a Republican member who overheard the conversation and has recounted it publicly. But there's going to be more information presumably that the committee has gathered. That is the foundation of those questions. But as for Trump's responsibility? There's no doubt about that, and Kevin McCarthy has said so himself.

LEMON (on camera): John, Jeffrey, thank you sirs. I appreciated it. See you soon.

So, he hung on for nine minutes, nine whole minutes with an actual journalist rather than a, you know, sycophant. He hung on for nine minutes before hanging up. The NPR host who got that nine-minute interview with the former President Trump, here, next.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: The only way it's not going to happen again is you have to solve the problem of the presidential rigged election of 2020.

STEVE INSKEEP, NPR HOST: Mr. President, if I --

TRUMP: Thank you very much. I appreciate it.

INSKEEP: One more question. I want to ask about a court hearing yesterday on January 6th. Judge Amit Mehta -- he's gone. Okay.





LEMON (on camera): The former president taking a rare step out of his comfort zone this week for an interview with NPR's Steve Inskeep only to bail out and head right back there. Trump clinging to his big lie, insisting it is the future of the Republican Party.


INSKEEP: Is it a disadvantage for Republicans to keep talking about the 2020 election in 2022?

TRUMP: No, I think it is an advantage because otherwise they're going to do it again in '22 and '24.


LEMON (on camera): But eventually hanging up after being pressed on his lies about election fraud in 2020.


TRUMP: The only way it's not going to happen again is you have to solve the problem of the presidential rigged election of 2020.

INSKEEP: Mr. President, if I --

TRUMP: Thank you very much. I appreciate it.

INSKEEP: One more question. I want to ask about a court hearing yesterday on January 6th. Judge Amit Mehta -- he's gone. Okay.

(END VIDEO CLIP) LEMON (on camera): Gone. Hung up. Steve Inskeep joins me now. He is the host of NPR's "Morning Edition." I get to see -- I get to see you instead of just listen to your mellifluous voice, Steve. Thank you so much. By the way, great interview. I appreciate you doing this. You've been trying --

INSKEEP: Thank you.

LEMON: -- to interview Trump for six years now and you were clearly ready for him. These days, he normally only does right-wing press. He had to have known what he was in store for when he is talking to a journalist like yourself. What do you think he hoped to achieve by speaking to NPR's audience?

INSKEEP: I don't really know. We speculated about that ourselves. It is interesting timing. It's after the anniversary of the January 6th event. It's looking toward the 2022 election, and that is what we wanted to talk about.

And what he largely agreed to talk about is how he is intending to lead his party in the months and years ahead. That is the reason to talk to this particular former president. Some people asked, why even talk to Donald Trump as a private citizen? But, of course, he is very powerful as the leader of the Republican Party.

LEMON: Do you think he realized or did someone screw up and they didn't realize that it was NPR, like a fact-based journalistic operation?

INSKEEP: Honestly, I can't tell you the answer to that, Don. All I know is this time he came to the phone. We did first ask for him in 2015. I was told just before the Iowa caucuses in 2016, he will talk to you after Iowa. So, he kept his word, it is six years later, but still after Iowa.


And so, he did come to the phone eventually. There have been a number of other times over the years and we thought we were going to get a call from him and it didn't happen. This time, it did. And so, we put the questions to him that we had on our mind until we ran out of time.

LEMON (on camera): It was interesting listening to the interview because it was like -- all the logic, all of his answers are sort of circular with no evidence. He kept insisting that states like Arizona saw fraught even though an audit back by his allies found no evidence of that, as you pointed out.

This is what he said when you asked him about members of his own party who aren't carrying water for the big lie. Here it is.


INSKEEP: Why did Republican officials in Arizona accept results then?

TRUMP: Because they are rhinos, and frankly, a lot of people are questioning them.

INSKEEP: Why is it that you think that the vast majority of your allies in the United States Senate are not standing behind you? We did have that statement by Mike Rounds.

TRUMP: Because Mitch McConnell is a loser, and frankly, Mitch McConnell, if he were on the other side and if Schumer were put in his position, he would've been fighting this like you've never seen before.


LEMON (on camera): It is obvious that he doesn't want any dissent in his own ranks. But, I mean, there are some very -- there are tiny cracks there. Do you think this kind of bullying will work with his pulpit diminished this time?

INSKEEP: Well, there are a lot of Republican officials and Republicans who have run elections, they know how elections are run, who know that his claims are entirely false, and also believe that they can be politically damaging.

Let us remember the complexity for the Republican Party. The vast majority of people who identify as Republicans tell pollsters that they believe Trump's lies about the 2020 election. But the vast majority of Americans overall do not.

So, you create a possibility of Republicans winning primaries while making claims to turnout (ph) voters in the general election, and Republicans potentially lose seats they could gain in 2022 or things look very favorable for them.

So, there are a lot of Republican officeholders, people who know the facts, people who know how elections work, who would really like to move on from this. But that splits them from a lot of Republican voters.

And also, we should be clear, a lot of the conservative media, right- wing media, right-wing radio talk show hosts, who have promoted more of Trump side of the argument.

And so, there's going to be something of a debate this year for Republicans about how they position themselves, given the real advantages they have in this election year.

LEMON (on camera): I want to play that again. As I said, the interview was fascinating. I just want to play another bit of the interview where I think you really hit on important point, pushing back on the former president. Here it is.


INSKEEP: President --

TRUMP: Let me ask you this question, how come Biden couldn't direct 20 people (INAUDIBLE)? How come when he went to speak in different locations, nobody came to watch, but all of a sudden, he got 80 million votes? Nobody believes that.

INSKEEP: Maybe because the election was about you.


LEMON (on camera): It was a vote against him, which he probably doesn't understand. But there's always been -- for him, it's always been about optics. Yet he seems unable to see why he lost to Joe Biden. Do you think he still doesn't understand the 2020 election and what it was about?

INSKEEP: I'm not any better than anybody else getting into the president's mind, but I can say that in going to interview him, we can see how his thinking has adapted to new information, new circumstances.

The reality is that his defeat is even more conclusively proven today that it was one year ago. Things have happened like the Arizona audit by his own allies, which claimed to find a lot of administrative errors, but they also admitted that the ballots added up for Joe Biden to have won Arizona.

There's more and more evidence against the former president rather than the opposite, but he manages to keep expanding his circle of people who are opposed to him, who are disloyal, who are part of a conspiracy.

It's a little vague as to what they are as a matter of fact, but there are more and more culprits that get worked into his theory so that he can continue to insist on -- insisting that he won in spite of even more evidence.

LEMON: Did he ever, at any point during the interview, Steve, point out anything factual? Because every time you challenge him on it -- again, as I said, it was sort of a circular -- well, this person is against me and this person is disloyal, and they found all this information. And when you said they didn't, he says, oh, that's just not true! Did he ever point any evidence or any fact?

INSKEEP: No, no. I mean, a lot of it is not really a fact that you can check. A lot of it is a fact you can check and it is wrong. Like you said, Joe Biden and 20 people at a rally. Joe Biden didn't have 20 people at rallies. He might not have had as giant a rally as Donald Trump did. And so, Trump draws on that and says, how did he possibly get 80 million votes? Well, the one thing doesn't necessarily have anything to do with the other. And so, he's drawing these logical inferences that are based on fact. And I'm not saying that to be for him or against him or in any way critical, but descriptive.

LEMON: That's true.

INSKEEP: That is what he did in the interview.

LEMON: Yeah, it is what it is.

[23:25:00] It is the truth. Steve, again, great interview. And I appreciate you coming on. Keep up the great work. Thanks for appearing.

INSKEEP: Thank you. I'm glad to do it.

LEMON: So, we are going to talk about everyday items costing more. Does it feel like that? That's because they are. We're going to break down what's going on and if it will get better or worse.

Plus, we have some breaking news to tell you about. It is out of Australia. It is about the Novak Djokovic controversy. We're going to bring that to you right after this break. Don't go anywhere.




LEMON: So, we have breaking news. As we told you, there was going to be a decision on Novak Djokovic. Well, there is kind of. The world is awaiting the decision on if he's going to be allowed to stay in Australia.

CNN's Phil Black has that in Melbourne. So, Phil, what is going on? What's happened here?

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this afternoon here in Melbourne, Don, 3:00 local time, a short time ago, really, the draw, competition draw for the Australian Open, which gets to start in a few days, was set to be announced. And just moments before this fairly big pretournament event began, journalists were told it has been postponed indefinitely for the moment without any explanation. We are not sure why.

Now, the key point here, of course, is that this comes as the Australian government, its immigration minister, is considering canceling Novak Djokovic's visa once again. He is, as it stands, the number one seed. He would obviously feature prominently in that draw to be announced.

There has been a great deal of speculation here in Australia that surely the government decision would come before that draw was announced. The government's response unofficially is that we work to our own timetable.

They are carrying out their own investigation into Novak Djokovic, the circumstances which saw him attain a visa at some point, recently test positive to COVID-19, and then all of the circumstances which led up to him trying to enter Australia last week. They're investigating that, we know in a very broad sense, and they say that they are continuing to do so, and then ultimately will make a decision.

But this is an unexpected development. And logically, questions are being asked as to whether or not this highly unexpected delay is in any way linked to the ongoing considerations over Novak Djokovic and his legal visa status in this country. Don?

LEMON: Yeah. Meanwhile, he is holding things up for his fellow players who are abiding by the rules, Phil. It seems to me at this point a pretty selfish act on his part. Phil, thank you. Stay put because we're going to check back with you a little bit later on this hour. We appreciate that.

In the meantime, I want to tell you about a new report, driving home the pain so many Americans are feeling right now, and that is consumer prices rising seven percent in just the past year. That is the biggest jump in almost four decades.

Used cars up 37 percent from last year. Gas up nearly 50 percent. Costs of housing, furniture, clothes, food, all spiking. Chicken up 10 percent, the biggest jump since 2004.

So, joining me now, Austan Goolsbee. He is a former chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers and an Economic professor at University of Chicago's Booth School of Business. Thank you, sir. Good to see you. Appreciate you joining us here.


LEMON: Austan, that -- you know -- what is driving this surge in prices and what people want to know is, how do you fix it?

GOOLSBEE: Yeah, and when is it going to go back down? We don't -- there's a lot of argument about that, of what is causing it. One group thinks that the fed is causing it by not raising rates and they should be trying to cool the economy.

Another group says that a lot of this is coming straight from the virus, that these sectors are the pandemic affected sectors, the supply chain (INAUDIBLE) up, and once we get that sorted out, then inflation will slow back down.

I'd say there was slightly good news in the midst of relatively bad news, which were that a couple of these headline categories like gasoline, which was going way, way up, gasoline prices have been falling for the last few weeks, and the overall price of oil is down, so gasoline prices might continue to fall.

And most of this inflation, you know, it is 12 months of inflation, 11 of the months we already knew. So, the incremental month of December, which is what got added, inflation fell a little bit. So, people are hanging their hats on little signals like that and hoping that it stays in just the goods sector, the physical goods, the stuff that has been affected by the supply chain, and doesn't spread over to services.

LEMON: You know, Americans are worried. They feel that price hikes and gas and food -- you said that gas, you know, is coming down, but still, you know, they're still up. How much worse could this get? Is that really the unknown here?

GOOLSBEE: That is the unknown. It depends a lot on what happens with the virus.


So, if we got lucky, the Omicron virus proves to be milder than before and gives us a quicker route to herd immunity, so that we could go back to spending our money the way we usually do on services, we might be able to ease some supply pressures and inflation might start to dissipate over the next couple months.

If the virus gets worse, if we get a spread of what's happened in China where they've got tens of millions of people in lockdown because of the spread of the virus and we start to get more supply chain problems, it actually could get worse. So, I think we definitely want to keep an eye on the virus side of this.

LEMON: Okay. So, listen. I want to go back to something that you said because you talked about interest rates, right, and to try to offset it by raising interest rates, I think, is what you said. If the solution to this will be to raise interest rates, what will that mean for people's pocketbooks and their budgets? What will it mean, especially for the housing market and so on?

GOOLSBEE: It wouldn't be good. I mean, in a way, that argument would be that the economy is overheating, so we got to cool the economy down. That means anything that is interest rate-sensitive like housing would probably suffer. If you are going to try to buy a new house and get a mortgage, the price would go up.

We are in a really weird moment, Don, which is inflation over the last year has been seven percent, but the interest rate has been one and a half percent, two percent. So, in what the economists call the real rate of interest has been a negative number.

So, it actually -- they were paying you to borrow money and that is not really sustainable. So, either the inflation has got to come down or the rates have got to go up, but something has got to happen. This is not a stable situation.

LEMON: Oh, well. Austan, you will be back talking to us many, many more evenings.

GOOLSBEE: Yeah, let's hope it's in happier circumstances.

LEMON: I hope so as well. Don't want those interest rates to go up. I know, selfishly, because, you know, no one does. People want to buy houses now, right? I think the time is good because of the rates (ph). Thank you very much. I appreciate it.

So, more breaking news to tell you about. Yes, more breaking news tonight. Vice Chair Liz Cheney not ruling out a subpoena for House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy after he refused to speak with the Select Committee.

This is what she said exclusively to CNN tonight, and I quote, "We're going to evaluate our options, but we will get to the truth. I wish that he were a brave and honorable man. He is clearly trying to cover up what happened. He has an obligation to come forward, and we'll get to the truth."

That is from vice chair, Republican vice chair of this committee, the January 6th Committee, Liz Cheney, responding to Kevin McCarthy refusing to -- saying at least he will refuse to speak to the committee. We'll continue to follow that.

Up next, Dr. Fauci saying that the Omicron variant will find just about everybody and some people are wondering if they should deliberately get infected. But my next guest will say that is a bad idea.

And we're keeping an eye on Australia for you. The Australian Open draw postponed last second. No reason given. Will tennis star Novak Djokovic play or be kicked out of the country?




LEMON (on camera): So, the CDC is saying that Omicron variant is responsible for nearly all new COVID cases in this country, 98 percent as a matter of fact. Listen to Dr. Fauci's warning about it.


ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISOR TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think in many respects, Omicron with its extraordinary, unprecedented degree of efficiency of transmissibility, will ultimately find just about everybody.


LEMON (on camera): So, I want to bring in now Dr. Kent Sepkowitz, professor of medicine and infectious diseases at Weill Cornell Medical College. His opinion piece on is titled "I was relieved when my sons got mild COVID-19. Then I thought about this." Thank you for joining us, doctor. It is --


LEMON: Your piece is fascinating. Thank you for writing it. I learned a lot about it. And I agree with what you said. You were relieved when your sons got COVID-19. You said mild infections. Tell us why.

SEPKOWITZ: They suffered about a week of fluish symptoms. It is not mild compared to colds. It is mild compared to severe COVID. And now, they're over it and they have immunity. There is the relief of any parent that they got through it safely. So, you know, I'm feeling better than I did a month ago.

LEMON: Yeah. So, you thought about letting it rip, right? Everyone gets --


LEMON: -- Omicron and get immunity. But you quickly changed your mind. Why is that?

SEPKOWITZ: Yeah. I think to clarify the Fauci comment, too, I don't think he is endorsing let it rip. I think he is being fatalistic. I am less fatalistic. I think there are two big reasons not to let it rip. There are lots and lots of reasons. But number one is it is still -- Omicron is killing people.

LEMON: Uh-hmm.

SEPKOWITZ: And, you know, we have 1,800 deaths today. Probably most of them from Omicron. Many more will die. To let it rip intentionally would get a whole lot of people sick faster and we would lose a lot of people, especially those with weakened immune systems.

The second is it is nuts to just let a virus go loose. We don't know enough about this virus.


It tells us every three or four months that we don't know beans about it. And just to let it loose is like letting your puppy loose into traffic. I mean, just don't do it because you have no clue. You have no control over the puppy, you have no control over the virus, and you just don't do it.

LEMON: Yeah.

SEPKOWITZ: It is sort of a (INAUDIBLE).

LEMON: Well, and you talked about that. You talked about, you know, being a novel virus, why it is called a novel coronavirus, about people with weakened immune systems. But I think the biggest point to not let it rip, you said, furthermore, since they have trouble clearing the virus, right, meaning people who get Omicron, it may linger for months in their body possibly creating a hot house environment to promote new variants any of which might be the next variant of concern.

So, you just don't know. That is why it continues to replicate and continues to mutate because, you know, people just sort of let it rip.

SEPKOWITZ: Yes. It is one of those ideas that sounds great for about ten seconds, and then you go, ah --

LEMON: Yeah.

SEPKOWITZ: Unintended consequences.

LEMON: Yeah. And also, the idea of long COVID. You still don't know because people get it, right? You think immediately -- well, not immediately, but shortly after they get better, but do we know? We're not sure about that. SEPKOWITZ: We are not sure. The first case in America was December 1- ish, first case in the world was mid-November, early November that we knew of. It is too early to call it long COVID. Long COVID by definition is more than three months.

So, it doesn't seem like it is happening. I feel like we would have seen signals from South Africa and maybe even England which are ahead of us. But it is a big unknown and very strong reason again not to invite it, but to continue to wear masks, mind our Ps and Qs, and go about our business as safely as possible.

LEMON: Real quickly before I let you go, when did your sons contract COVID?

SEPKOWITZ: Mid-December.

LEMON: Okay. And how are they now? They're all good?

SEPKOWITZ: They're totally great, yeah. They are totally great. They are completely themselves. I would say it's the -- as many have said, it's about a week. There is fever, there is aches. It is really like influenza.

LEMON: Yeah.

SEPKOWITZ: And it's maybe an inch worse and they're good as new.

LEMON: Some people said that they have fatigue for a much longer time. They feel better but they just get tired.

SEPKOWITZ: Yes. The advantages of youth. You know, they are younger.

LEMON: Thank you, doctor. Be well. I'm glad your sons are okay. Take care.

SEPKOWITZ: Thank you so much.

LEMON: A decision is expected at any moment now on whether tennis star Novak Djokovic can stay in Australia or if his visa will be canceled. We are live in Melbourne. That's next.




LEMON: Okay, so, back to this saga now. The world is watching tonight and tennis star Novak Djokovic is waiting to find out whether he'll be allowed to stay in Australia to play the Open. The Australian Open draw rescheduled now. Djokovic now admitting he tested positive for COVID last month but failed to isolate.

CNN's Phil Black is in Melbourne with the very latest. Phil, I said we will get back to you and here we are now. The Australian Open has postponed its draw as the clock is ticking for Djokovic. We're awaiting this decision from Australian immigration minister. What are you hearing about all of this and how this is going to go down?

BLACK: So, Don, the draw, we are told, has been postponed for an additional 30 minutes or so. It was set to begin around an hour ago. It looks like it will now start 90 minutes late. There is no official explanation yet as to why it was delayed at the absolute very last moment.

But it was a significant, I guess, milestone in this whole event, a real marker, because Djokovic, for as long as he is here, is the number one seed in this tournament.

If the draw is released and then the expectation is that it would be drawn in such a way that he would be expected to play, if for whatever reason after the draw is released, he is then told that he cannot stay by the country's immigration minister, then the draw would have to be reshuffled in such a way to compensate for that.

Now, of course, there are two things going on in parallel here. One is the Australian Open getting ready to play tennis and the other is the federal government preparing, and we are told investigating Novak Djokovic, to determine whether or not the immigration minister should use his personal powers to cancel his visa once again.

Now, the immigration minister has implied that he will not be driven by the timetable set by Tennis Australia and the Australian Open. That said, the longer this decision takes, the greater the consequence, the fallout, the circus-like atmosphere that already surrounds this whole saga.

So, for all of these reasons, there is a great deal of expect expectation that the decision will come today. It has not so far, but we wait for an explanation as to why the draw was delayed and whether or not it is in any way related to Djokovic.

And also, we are hearing that the country's prime minister, Scott Morrison, is currently giving a press conference on the country's battle against COVID, but undoubtedly, he will talk about Djokovic, be asked about Djokovic at some point, and we'll be looking there to see if we get any sort of steer on just where we're headed in this whole mess, Don.

LEMON: It would seem, if they -- they would say, our decision remains the same and, you know, we don't really want to discuss it, so, I don't know if it's -- listen, I'm just speculating here, if it's going the other way where they say, we've decided to limit the crowds further, blah, blah, blah, let him play -- I don't know.


But listen, Djokovic thought that he was clearing things up, but his admissions in his statement made his case even more difficult for him, correct?

BLACK: Yeah. I think certainly in the court of public opinion, absolutely. Djokovic admitted that he tested positive. He says that he didn't get that test result for at least 24 hours or more. It was some time the following day. So, it meant that between his test and getting the test result, he says, that was why he was photographed at a children's tennis event, for example, in his home city of Belgrade.

But what he also admits is that after receiving that positive test result, he then canceled some events, some appointments, but proceeded with an interview with a French sports publication. A journalist and photographer spent a great deal of time with him two days after the test. At no point they were told that he tested positive for COVID.

So, his explanation says on one hand, I didn't know when I was hanging out with these people, presumably COVID positive, but he does admit that he made a mistake and that he did spend time in close proximity with people just after testing positive to COVID and did not tell them that he had done so. That doesn't help his general public reputation here.

What he's also trying to do, we're told, is convince the government to let him stay. So, in addition to making these sorts of statements, admissions and sort of apologies publicly, the government says that his lawyers have made lengthy submissions to the immigration minister's office --

LEMON: Got it.

BLACK: -- obviously in an attempt to persuade him not to use his personal powers to overturn his visa once more. But that's what's all taking place behind the scenes and that's really what we're waiting to hear, the result of those deliberations. Don?

LEMON: Phil Black, thank you. And we will follow. Make sure you stay tuned to CNN. We will cover it for you. Thank you. Our thanks to Phil Black. And thank you for watching, everyone. Our coverage continues.