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U.S. House Ousts Marjorie Taylor Green from Committees; Green has Supported Conspiracy Theories, Calls for Violence; Economists Predict Jobless Rate Will Stay at 6.7 Percent; U.K. Minister: About 4,000 COVID-19 Variants Globally; European Countries Advising Against Use of AstraZeneca Vaccine for Those Over 65; Students and Teachers at Odds Over In-Person Learning. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired February 05, 2021 - 04:30   ET



MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: And a warm welcome back to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm Michael Holmes. Appreciate your company.

The very controversial Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene has been removed from her House committee assignments. The U.S. House of Representatives making that move after past statement by Greene came to light. Many of those comments advocating violence and QAnon conspiracy theories.

House Democrats tried to get Republicans to remove her, but they failed to do so. Late on Thursday Greene was dropped from the education and budget committees by a vote of 230 to 199. But only 11 Republicans were willing to cross the aisle and vote with Democrats.

Now I spoke a little earlier with CNN political commentator and Republican strategist Doug Heye. I asked him how dangerous it would be to take a forgive and forget attitude with Greene and those who agreed with her?


DOUG HEYE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: When you see people say, hey, 9/11 was real, school shootings actually happened, that that bar is so low, that that is clearly not acceptable. I think, Michael, one of the challenges for this is, look, I support removing her from her committees. But let's be clear about things.

You know, Marjorie Taylor Greene was not elected to really be a work horse on any committee when, you know, a lot of Democrats have said because her comments on school shootings that he shouldn't serve on the education and labor committee. I agree. But she didn't go to Congress to be a real champion on the pension subcommittee of that committee, right?

So, we've penalized her but there really may not be a price for her to pay and, as you referenced, she can still play the victim of this. What I would caution my Republican friends on is this isn't the last time we are going to hear terrible, terrible statements from her, either things that she says in the future, or things that she says in the past. So we're going to need to have answers in the future.

HOLMES: Yes, I mean you do get that feeling, don't you? I just want to play for people just a small selection of her comments. Let's listen in.

GREENE: The so-called plane that crashed into the Pentagon, it's odd there is never any evidence shown for a plane in the Pentagon.

GREENE: There is an Islamic invasion into our government offices right now.

GREENE: Kennedy getting killed in the plane crash, that's another one of those Clinton murders, right?

GREENE: The only way you get your freedoms back, is that it's earned with the price of blood.

HOLMES: I mean, just wow! I mean, when we talk about the future of the party, is this it? That they actually support someone who said all these things? Is this not racing at top speed towards an extremist fringe of the party? And if so, what are the risks to party, and for that matter, country?

HEYE: Well, I think it goes back to decisions that and have been made not just four years ago with Donald Trump, but even before that. You and I have talked about this. To me, Donald Trump wasn't just the problem, he was also a symptom of what the problem was. He just exacerbated it and really put it on warp speed. And that's put us to where we are today.

Donald Trump can't tweet. He can't go on Facebook to say the incendiary things that he has in the past right now. But he has -- he's inspired people to do that, which ultimately, you know, goes back to January 6th.

Meanwhile, the Republican Party has real problems on how it can move forward and real problems of division amongst itself. It's not a recipe for success. They could still take back the House in 2022. The problem with that, Michael, is Marjorie Taylor Greene is going to be the face of the Republican Party, whether she wants it or not, or other Republicans wanted or not.

And every competitive congressional seat or Senate seat, she is going to be an issue that Republicans are going to have to be talking about, not talking about what they want to do for their state or their district, that's a problem.


HOLMES (on camera): As always, our thanks to Doug Heye for his analysis.

Now lawyers for President Donald Trump -- former President Donald Trump -- say he will not testify at his Senate impeachment trial next week. Democratic House impeachment managers had wanted to get Trump on the record regarding that riot at the Capitol on January 6th.


But Trump's lawyers sent a terse reply writing in part, quote, we are in receipt of your latest public relations stunt. The use of our Constitution to bring a purported impeachment proceeding is much too serious to try to play these games.

Now there is another stark reminder that an economic recovery under the Biden administration will not come easily. Another 779,000 Americans filed for first-time unemployment benefits in the last week of January. And the unemployment rate is expected to stay stubbornly flat at 6.7 percent when the January jobs report is released later today.

John Defterios is in Abu Dhabi for us to talk it through. John is the report going to give us any guidance on whether the vaccine rollout will start to impact the jobs market.

JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN BUSINESS EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR: Yes, the vaccines will definitely help out, Michael, just not yet. But I think we're almost at this crossroads where the inoculation inoculations will need the budget stimulus that Joe Biden is planning for and that will play out probably in two to three months.

In the meantime the job market is sputtering. We saw that at the end of 2020 where we lost 140,000 jobs. The expectations, as you're talking about, that the unemployment rates remain high. That's historically high at 6.7 percent and the job creation, just 150,000. But you have to wonder whether that -- what happened on Capitol Hill and the attack on the lawmakers really held back investment by private companies.

We saw a private survey showing job creation at 174,000 in the month of January. So let's see if that plays out on the national level here with the numbers from the Labor Department in the United States.

In the meantime, think about it, Michael, 11 months in, 10 million people have lost their jobs and haven't gotten them back yet. And that's why we hear the head of the Treasury Department, Janet Yellen, banging the drum again, let's think outside the norm with the next stimulus package. Here's Yellen.


JANET YELLEN, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY: Seeing long lines of people waiting to get food around the country is something we should never see in the United States. Too many people have to worry whether they'll have a roof over their heads, and he wants to address that. This is really an urgent need and we need to act big.


DEFTERIOS (on camera): And why Joe Biden is looking for $1.9 trillion. He's going to speak after the jobs report comes out so expect more economic commentary from the U.S. president. At the same time, Michael, 18 million people are still asking for

benefits. So think about it. Food lines that Janet Yellen is talking about, suffering -- whether they can keep in their apartments or houses right now. And we have the S&P 500 and the Nasdaq hit a record on anticipations of getting clearance in the second half. But two parallel economies in the United States.

HOLMES: Yes, yes, absolutely. John Defterios in Abu Dhabi for us. Thanks, John, good to see you.

Now there is new concern with the COVID pandemic. Scientists say there are actually thousands, yes, thousands of variants of that virus all around the world. What's being done to fight this threat? We'll have a report after the break.



HOLMES: Now the United Kingdom is implementing a new policy to battle the pandemic starting on February 15. People arriving from one of 30 countries will be required to isolate for 10 days. The travelers will have to stay at a government-approved hotel during that time. People from those countries and without permanent U.K. residence had already been banned from entering the country. Now this new mandate is for those who cannot be refused entry back into the U.K.

Plus, here's a sobering number to consider. The U.K.'s vaccine minister says there are about 4,000 COVID-19 variants around the world. Here to discuss all of this and what is unfolding in the U.K., CNN's Salma Abdelaziz in London. so I guess the U.K. is up to 10 million people who have received their first dose. That's a lot of people. But how do authorities protect the gains if you like?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER: Well, Michael, there's 4,000 variants. Those are the area of concern, right? Those are the variable, the X- factor, the unknown. And this country has been hit hard by variants. So no one here wants to live that nightmare again. So what are the steps being taken?

First of all, find and identify each one of those variants, 4,000 so far identified, index them, library them. And this country's vaccine minister says, the authorities are ready for any challenges posed by these variants. They're ready to create a new vaccine if necessary, to defeat the variants.

Second thing, this country's vaccination program, that's really the only weapon the authorities have against a variant that's prevalent here. So far more that 10 million people vaccinated, about one in five adults and we should see all of this country's key vulnerable groups vaccinated in just a couple of weeks' time. By February 15th, looking at 15 million people vaccinated.

Thursday, those travel restrictions you mentioned, there are some really tough travel restrictions in place. You cannot leave the U.K. unless you have an essential travel reason. You cannot come into the U.K. unless you show a negative test, and you isolate. In some cases isolate in a hotel provided by the government.

And finally, social restrictions. We're under a nationwide lockdown. You have to stay at home, work from home. Those rules will not be lifted any time soon. But, Michael, I'm going to be cautiously optimistic just for a moment here because the country has been through some tough months. We're finally past the peak of this terrible wave of coronavirus and authorities here know that these are hard-won gains that have to be protected. That's why they're watching the variants very closely -- Michael.

HOLMES: Absolutely. Good to see you, Salma. Salma Abdelaziz there in London for us.

Meanwhile, an increasing number of European countries are asking anyone age 65 and older to avoid the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine. Denmark, Sweden, Norway, they're the latest to say there is not enough data to recommend its use among the elderly. Melissa Bell was in Paris for us to tell us about it. I mean, OK, so what countries are deciding what about the age? And why?

MELISSA BELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the list is growing really by the day. What we saw, remember last Friday was the European Medicines Agency approved for use with EU, Michael, that AstraZeneca vaccine with no upper limits on the ages. And then country after country, Germany first, but also Belgium, France -- the countries that you mentioned -- Italy, the Netherlands have all said that they will not be recommending it for people over 65s.


And of course that is yet another spanner in the work for the European Union's vaccination campaigns already so far behind.

You were hearing there from Salma saying that 10 million people in the United Kingdom had now received at least one dose. That figure in European countries is much, much lower. To give you an idea, Michael, the only country that's vaccinated more than 2 million people for the time being is Germany.

HOLMES: I've only got about a minute left, but just give us a quick wrap on what the figures are like in Europe right now.

BELL: Well, essentially the story in many European countries is as a result of these very heavy restrictions that remain in place in so much of the European Union, Michael, there has been a stabilization of the figures. They are at high but stable levels. Take France, we're seeing on average 20,000 new cases a day. That's quite a lot and the situation remain fragile -- according to the Prime Minister who spoke last night. And yet they believe that the measures that they have in place here in France for the time being are having their effect. So a system that remains fragile, but for the time being, a curfew system that will remain in place. And figures that appear across Europe to be stabilizing as a result of those restrictions.

But clearly, Michael, those vaccines can't come quickly enough for the economies now to be able to reopen again. HOLMES: Absolutely. Good to see you, Melissa. Melissa Bell there in

Paris. Thanks.

And just ahead here on CNN, the emotional debate over in-person learning in the middle of the pandemic. Teachers say it's dangerous and unsafe. Up next we'll talk to one parent who says it is time for children to return to the classroom. We'll be right back.



HOLMES: Now there are ongoing battles across the U.S. about bringing students back into the classroom for in-person learning. It has resulted in frayed nerves, threats of strikes and complaints from parents who want their kids back in school. And also teachers who fear contracting COVID, of course.

The city of San Francisco has even sued its own school district for not reopening. And the mayor of Chicago is locked into a bitter dispute with the teachers union there. Many teachers say they will hit the picket lines if they're forced to return unsafely to classrooms.

And have a look at this teacher here holding class remotely from a snowy bench to avoid COVID instead of being in a classroom while Chicago's mayor says parents should have the option of in-person learning.


LORI LIGHTFOOT, CHICAGO MAYOR: We need our kids back in school. We need our parents to have that option. It should not be that CPS parents of all the schools in our city are the only ones who don't have the options for in-person learning. It cannot be so, that a public school system denies parents that right.


HOLMES: Ryan Griffin is an organizer with the Chicago Parents Collective and joins me now. Ryan, it's such an important discussion. I mean in San Francisco you have a city that is suing its own school district to force classrooms to open up. Where you are in Chicago, parents are pushing back but unions are holding firm. What needs to happen?

RYAN GRIFFIN, ORGANIZER, CHICAGO PARENTS COLLECTIVE: Yes. I mean, at the end of the day, Michael, we need the district and the teachers to come to some compromise, right? This is not like this is coming out of the blue. The February 1st reopening plan has been on the books for months now and they've had nearly a year to prepare for this event. And so we're just looking as parents for some stability and some timeline that we can depend on. We can't wait for tweets at 9:30 at night to see if school is open the next day.

HOLMES: well you've said I think that you were being forced to choose teacher safety over your child's mental health. I mean to that point, describe what the impacts are on kids in your view.

GRIFFIN: Yes. I mean, our group's got about 750 parents in it in less than two weeks. And some of the stories are just absolutely gut wrenching in terms of -- you know, remote learning just simply is not working for all children. And you just hear these stories of, you know, depression and anxiety in really young kids. Frankly, it's frightening as parents.

And then on the other spectrum, you just have kids who have previously been really good students, have become completely disengaged from the education process.

HOLMES: Of course, you know, there is a pandemic. I mean what do you say to those who worry about, you know, health considerations with in- school learning, particularly teachers worried about their own health, their lives as these more contagious and perhaps more deadly variants spread around the country. What needs to be done to reassure teachers?

GRIFFIN: Yes, I mean, again, we sympathize with teachers, right? I mean, they have always been essential parts of our lives and play such an important role. And we know this is a huge ask to walk back into a classroom after nine months of no in-person learning.

But at the same time, what we've seen in Chicago especially in the parochial schools, which is a really large district of students, you can do this safely with the right mix of mitigation techniques. The district has spent upwards of $70 million on ventilation and HEPA filters. We're talking about hybrid, so small classroom sizes, ventilation. We've seen it work in districts, in schools that are right across the street through many Chicago public schools. And so if we want to just overcome those fears together as a community.

HOLMES: You know, I was reading a Rockefeller Foundation study that found that, you know, weekly screening of students, teachers and staff using the rapid antigen test, which should be far more widely available, can cut in-school infections by 50 percent for high schools, 35 percent for primary schools. How necessary is that sort of testing and also prioritizing vaccinations for teachers?


GRIFFIN: You know, as a parent of just young children, it's tough for me to comment on those type of things. I would say, you know, this is where we are looking to our public health officials. Right? You mentioned a study by a think tank. I think look to the CDC and others to say what is a reasonable measure of safety. We recognize that this is not going to be 100 percent risk free.

But we're going to be living with this virus for many, many more months to come and schools were supposed to be the first to reopen and the last to close and here in Chicago that's nowhere near the case. It's actually the exact opposite for Chicago public school students.

HOLMES: A debate happening all around the U.S. in fact, in many parts of the U.S. as well. Ryan Griffin have to leave it there. Thank you very much. Appreciate your time. GRIFFIN: Thanks for having me.

CHURCH: Now Parkland School shooting survivor and gun control advocate, David Hogg says he is planning to launch his own pillow company. The goal to compete with the bedding company, My Pillow. My Pillow, of course, is owned controversial Mike Lindell, a vocal supporter of Donald Trump who has repeatedly spread baseless claims of fraud about the 2020 presidential election. David Hogg tweeted.

Today we started a pillow company. Tomorrow we change the world.

He also shared goals for the future company including supporting progressive causes and hiring formerly incarcerated Americans.

Thanks for your company, spending part of your day with me. I'm Michael Holmes. "EARLY START" is up next. You're watching CNN.