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Michigan School Shooting; Mark Meadows to Testify Before January 6 Committee; Omicron Worries. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired November 30, 2021 - 15:00   ET




PRINCE CHARLES, UNITED KINGDOM: From the darkest days of our past, and the appalling atrocity of slavery, which forever stains our history, the people of this island forged their path with extraordinary fortitude.


VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Queen Elizabeth says Barbados will always have a place in her heart and she sent a message of congratulations to the Caribbean country's new president, Sandra Mason.

It's the start of a brand-new hour. Good to be with you. I'm Victor Blackwell.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: And I'm Alisyn Camerota.

The CDC is expanding its surveillance of the Omicron variant at four major U.S. airports. The agency's director just announced increased testing at JFK, San Francisco, Newark, and Atlanta. This is one part of a plan the White House COVID response team detailed today to fight this highly mutated variant.

Scientists are racing to determine if the current vaccines protect against this variant and if it spreads more easily. Experts hope to have answers in about a week.

In the meantime, markets continue to be rattled, and the travel bans continue to multiply.

BLACKWELL: More than 70 countries now, including the U.S., have issued travel bans against Southern African nations.

Now, Omicron was first detected in South Africa and now has been confirmed in 20 countries, still not the U.S., though. And the CDC director said the U.S. has now far more tools today to find variants than this time last year.


DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: Compared to earlier this year, when we were sequencing about 8,000 samples per week, we have increased our genomic sequencing capability, and we are now sequencing approximately 80,000 samples per week, about one in every seven PCR positive cases, and that's more than any other country.


BLACKWELL: Our correspondents are following Omicron's impact around the world.


FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Fred Pleitgen in Berlin, as Germany now has four confirmed cases of the Omicron variant.

Now, this is a major concern for Germany as the country is in the midst of a massive wave of new coronavirus infections anyway. Meanwhile, next door in the Netherlands, the authorities there say that the Omicron variant arrived there at least a week earlier than previously thought.

In fact, the authorities say that they detected Omicron in a sample from November 19.


Almost every hour, new cases of the Omicron variants are being reported across Europe, while governments are scrambling to reassure a weary public that this time they won't be caught unprepared.

At a press conference Tuesday afternoon, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the best defense against this new variant is to get vaccinated or to get a booster shot. He said his government will throw everything into the effort to get all adults boosters by the end of January.

Yet fears over this new variant obscure the threat posed by all variants of COVID-19. In some parts of Europe, infection rates are double what they were last winter, though deaths are down where vaccination rates are high.


And, today, we learned that all three cases of the Omicron variant in the city are imported. Hong Kong has also strengthened its already tight border restrictions, banning non-residents from a growing list of countries.

Today, four additional African countries have been added to that list, Angola, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Zambia. Despite having three confirmed cases in this Chinese territory, China remains confident. China's foreign affairs spokesperson said that the Winter Olympics will proceed as planned, despite the emergence of the new variant.

China is relying on its zero COVID policy, but it is hard to guarantee success, given all the uncertainty about this new variant. (END VIDEOTAPE)

CAMEROTA: OK, thanks to all of our correspondents there.

Let's bring in now Dr. Megan Ranney. She's a professor of emergency medicine and associate dean of public health at Brown University.

Dr. Ranney, great to see you.

I know you have been talking about the fine line between overreaction and underreaction. So are we achieving that?

DR. MEGAN RANNEY, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: I don't think so, not yet.

What would the correct type of reaction be? It would be preparing our population to be ready to go get tested, getting more first doses of vaccines in arms, making sure that everyone who is high risk, those who are age 50-plus, immunocompromised, have multiple chronic conditions, making sure that all of them have boosters, and reminding people that ventilation and masks, those mainstays of COVID-19 prevention that have been with us since the beginning, reminding folks that they still work against Omicron.


These travel bans, too little too late, and far too much panic associated with them. We're harming the very people that helped us discover this variant.

BLACKWELL: Let's talk more about the travel bans.

And I want to put up a list here. On the left, you will see the countries that are under these travel bans in 70 countries around the world. On the right, these are countries that do not have -- facing travel bans. You have got eight Southern African countries. Six of them have no identified cases of Omicron, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique, Malawi.

There are 22 identified cases in the United Kingdom, which is not facing a travel ban. What's the logic of this?

RANNEY: Not being the person who put the travel bans in place, looking at it from the outside, I see very little logic behind it.

I have heard arguments that this will slow the importation of these new mutations. I just don't see the truth behind that, knowing that it is widespread across Europe and even Asia at this point.

The other argument that I have heard is that vaccination rates are lower in sub-Saharan Africa than in the rest of the world. That's true. But, first of all, we should be requiring vaccines for anyone on international air travel, period. And, secondly, that's our fault that sub-Saharan Africa, only 8 percent of adults are vaccinated.

We could be doing something about that. CAMEROTA: OK, speaking of how few people are vaccinated, Dr. Michael

Osterholm, infectious disease expert, University of Minnesota, got our attention yesterday, because he talked about how few people have gotten a booster.

So we're all walking around, all of us doubly vaxxed folks, blithely thinking that we're protected. And then he said this.


DR. MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, DIRECTOR, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA CENTER FOR INFECTIOUS DISEASE RESEARCH: I don't think, Alisyn, most people realize, we're growing more vulnerable every day in this country, not less, because we have 120 million Americans who have now gone past their six months since they were originally vaccinated.

And each day, they become more and more susceptible to now getting infected. And we're only boosting about 35 million of those 120 million. So this is a real challenge.


CAMEROTA: Dr. Ranney, if we put up the graph here, only 12 percent of people in the U.S. have gotten that booster.

And so we keep calling it a booster. Really, I think we have learned this as a three-dose regimen of this vaccine.

RANNEY: So, let's talk about who is most important to get boosted. It is the elderly, folks in nursing homes, folks who are immunosuppressed, people who are really high risk for hospitalization and death.

We are still seeing the vaccines protect the rest of us from those severe outcomes. But especially with this variant, it's important for all of us to go out and get that booster shot.


CAMEROTA: But I want to ask you about that, Dr. Ranney, because the rest of us who don't fit into that category of most vulnerable, it's been more than six months. Shouldn't all of us get that booster, because isn't it waiting for all of us?

RANNEY: So, yes, I am telling everyone who has six months-plus at this point to go out and get the booster.

But where it will make the most difference is in those older age groups. And, Alisyn, one thing I continually worry about is the equity of our distribution of vaccines in this country. We need to double down on making sure that those who are at highest risk have access to the boosters, not just those who are the worried well and already have the ability to stay home to work from home.

BLACKWELL: All right, Dr. Megan Ranney, thank you.

RANNEY: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Thanks, Doctor.

BLACKWELL: All right, let's get to the politics of all this.

Maeve Reston is CNN national political reporter.

Maeve, you have got a new piece for talking about the uncertainty. And we know that the White House still has the lessons of the Delta variant fresh on the mind, talking about leading up to the Fourth of July, independence, getting together with a family, and then Delta hit and change the whole thing.

They're on that footing again.


I mean, what we saw with President Biden yesterday was that he just has entered back into this sort of zone of uncertainty, where his messaging is being continually upended by these twists and turns that we're seeing with the Omicron variant, and also what we saw with Delta earlier this year.

He wanted to be out there this week talking about his infrastructure improvements that he's hoping for and the Build Back Better plan that he's trying to get through Congress. And, instead, he is coming forward to speak to the American public about things that he really doesn't have good answers to yet.

His messaging yesterday, so much of it was about people getting vaccinated, getting boosters, but that's the same thing that we have been hearing from him for months now. And, clearly, the White House is frustrated with this.

And it's very hard for the American people to focus on what he wants them to hear.


CAMEROTA: And, Maeve, the RNC is seizing on the fact that the coronavirus is not over.

They say about -- on Twitter ;"Joe Biden promised he would shut down the coronavirus. He failed." And, in fact, in 2020, during the presidential debate, he did say, "I'm going to shut down the virus, not the country."

It's his ineptitude, he said, about Donald Trump that caused this country to have to shut down in large part."

So, I mean, does that constitute a campaign promise?

RESTON: I mean, I think that that statement, looking back now, probably was ill-advised.

But, I mean, this is the problem that he's facing with this wall of opposition from Republicans in terms of helping him carve the path out of the pandemic. We know from that recent Kaiser Family Foundation study that the biggest determinant now, in terms of demographic factors, it's not race or age or other factors, about whether you have gotten vaccinated, but whether you're a Republican or a Democrat.

And so it's unclear what about Biden's new messaging on the need to get vaccines and the need to get boosters is going to change the minds of those millions of Americans who have not gotten their shots yet.

And he's getting no help at all from Republicans on that. In fact, we saw this sort of wild messaging from people like Ronny Jackson talking about how this variant is made up for Democrats to push a campaign for mail-in ballots last -- next year.

And it's just sort of these wild conspiracy theories that the administration is having to deal with. And they don't have these trusted messengers to get the message across to those Republicans who have not yet been vaccinated.

CAMEROTA: You're so right. I mean, it's interesting that the RNC is cherry-picking the message that they don't like. They could also look at their party of all of the false messaging around this.

Maeve Reston, thank you very much.

RESTON: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: And be sure to join Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta for a CNN global town hall with Dr. Fauci, "Coronavirus: Facts and Fears."

This is going to air live tomorrow night at 8:00.

BLACKWELL: All right, let's move forward on the breaking news out of Michigan, that school shooting.

Let's bring in Alexandra Field.

What are you learning?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Authorities giving us new information now.

They had previously said that there were a number of injuries from a school shooting earlier this afternoon. They are now saying that three people were killed in the shooting at Oxford High School, all three believed to be students, another six people injured in the shootings. At least one of the six appears to have been a teacher.

Authorities giving this update just a few minutes ago. Let's listen in.


MIKE MCCABE, OAKLAND COUNTY, MICHIGAN, UNDERSHERIFF: Deputies took a suspect into custody within five minutes of the original 911 call. They recovered a handgun from the suspect. The suspect fired multiple shots.

There's multiple victims. It's unfortunate that I have to report that we have three deceased victims right now, who are all believed to be students. We have six others that were shot. One was a schoolteacher. They are all at local hospitals being treated for various injuries.


FIELD: You heard officials say there that they did take the suspected shooter into custody and recover a handgun. They have also said that they don't believe that there are any additional shooters.

We will be getting more updates, of course, on the extent of the injuries and more information about the people who were injured. Again, those three people who were shot and killed all believed to be students at this high school. The shots ringing out just before 1:00 local time.

Authorities saying they received more than 100 911 calls from the school building, responding within about five minutes to take that shooter into custody, a devastating afternoon there. More information still coming.

We should be getting another update from officials later this afternoon.

CAMEROTA: Just horrible, Alex. I mean, when you when you did your last hit a few minutes ago for us, I was taking some cold comfort that there weren't any kids killed. And now there are three, it looks like, students who have been killed.

Do we know about the suspect? A student or...


FIELD: We are not getting any information on the identity of the suspected shooter, just the fact, though, that they had gone in, detained this person. They had done another sweep to see if they could find anyone else who had been injured. They had also ruled out pretty quickly, it seemed, that they were not looking for anyone else.

That is probably based on the reports that they were hearing from people inside the building. When we last talked, we were saying that they had moved quickly to evacuate students, but they were going through again to make sure that no one had been left behind.

We will be hearing a lot more in the coming hours and days about the possible motive, the possible relationships, the people, the victims in this case, and what the relationships were. All of it too early. But, yes, Alisyn, you hit on such a key point. When we heard about this initially, authorities were saying maybe four to six injuries. We are now knowing the extent was so much greater than that.

BLACKWELL: Yes, the country had had a respite from these types of shootings because for so long students were at home during the pandemic. And it looks like now, unfortunately, we have returned to this.

And you said it again. We understand it's very early in this investigation. Any details about the circumstances surrounding what led up to this?


FIELD: I think that you're going to, again, be hearing more about this.

But here's something that's really interesting, 100 911 calls made in these early moments.


FIELD: We know the kind of chaos that erupts inside of these school buildings when the shots begin to ring out.

We know that there have had to have been so many students, probably teachers, staff members who were dialing 911, making the reports of what they saw, who they saw, what was unfolding in those chaotic minutes.

So, look, it will, again, take some time to speak to the people who are involved. Don't forget, you're talking to high school students, who are rattled and terrified and shocked at this point. We will be learning more about it. But you're going to have, it seems, a number of accounts, a number of witnesses here to what was going on.

CAMEROTA: Oh, so horrible. They said that they will brief again at 5:00 p.m. I guess that that is local time. We will find out the conditions of the victims.

They said they took the suspect into custody within five minutes of those original 911 calls.

FIELD: Look, this was a quick response. You saw some of the aerials. We're seeing some more shots there. This was a full-throated response here from SWAT, from EMS, aviation, different patrol units.

We all know in this day and age, Victor, as you hit on, when you get a call like this, it could be something, it could be nothing, but you respond because we see this. We see it all the time. We see it all too often in this country.

And we see it in the hallways in classrooms of our schools. School districts and local responders are well-versed and trained in how to respond. Sometimes, it's a false alarm. Sometimes, it doesn't go as badly as you think it could. This was not the case this time.

BLACKWELL: If you're just joining us, we now know that three people have been killed. They're all believed to be students at Oxford High School. This is Oakland County, Michigan.

This is according to the Oakland County undersheriff. We know that there are also six people who were shot. At least one of them is believed to be a teacher. We believe -- we also know that there were about 20 shots that were fired.

And as we just heard from Alexandra, who's covering this, is that there were about 100 calls to 911 within the moments after the shots were fired. And police say that they now have taken a suspect into custody in just a few minutes within that 911 call.

We do not have the identities of any of the people who have either been killed, injured or that suspect.

CAMEROTA: Alex Field is staying on this for us, and she will bring us updates as soon as we have them.

Stay with us. We will be right back.



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BLACKWELL: All right, we're continuing to follow the breaking news on a school shooting in Michigan. Three people have been killed. They're believed to be students, all three of them.

We will bring you the latest on this as it develops. We know an additional six have been shot, one of those six believed to be a teacher.

CAMEROTA: The suspect is in custody, we should let you know.


CAMEROTA: And we will, again, continue to stay on this.

BLACKWELL: All right, let's turn now to the latest on the January 6 insurrection, a key witness changing his mind in the investigation into the Capitol Hill riot.

The House select committee will hear testimony from the former President Trump's former chief of staff.

CAMEROTA: The panel has reached an agreement with Mark Meadows, we're told, after floating the prospect of holding him in contempt. Meadows is now providing records and has agreed to sit for an initial deposition.

CNN congressional correspondent Ryan Nobles is here.

This is a big development, Ryan.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there's no doubt about that, Alisyn and Victor.

And while the committee seems hopeful about what they could learn from Mark Meadows, they are offering up quite a few caveats. They said that Meadows has agreed to sit for a deposition, that he has agreed to hand over documents, but that they will assess his level of cooperation after he sits down for that deposition.

So what does that tell us? Well, there really still seems to be a disagreement between what the committee views as potential topics that may be covered under executive privilege and what Mark Meadows views as potential topics that should be covered under executive privilege and that he shouldn't have to answer.

Meadows is obviously different than Steve Bannon. He's different than Jeffrey Clark, who's the former DOJ official who is set to be referred for criminal contempt starting tomorrow here on Capitol Hill. But it is a big difference between the two of them have responded to the subpoena and the way Meadows is now responding.

It's to the point now where the committee believes that there was enough engagement and cooperation that they aren't taking that step of criminal contempt with Mark Meadows, and they are hoping that they can find some common ground to get answers to the questions that they're looking for that they're -- and that those are questions that Meadows feels comfortable answering.

So this is a significant development. And we have been cautioned many times today by our sources, Victor and Alisyn, that even something little could derail this process, but the committee does feel hopeful that they will get something out of Mark Meadows that will aid their investigation -- Victor and Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Ryan Nobles, thank you very much for the update.

OK, with us now, we have seen an illegal and national security analyst Asha Rangappa. She's a former FBI special agent.

Asha, this is interesting, because lots of witnesses called have thumbed their nose at the select committee. Then the select committee has made moves to hold them in contempt. And the Department of Justice, when it comes to, say, Steve Bannon, has backed that up.

And so somehow now Mark Meadows is going to cooperate.

ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes, Alisyn, this is how it's supposed to work. When there is a disagreement about the scope of executive privilege, it's supposed to involve negotiation and compromise.


And I think this is going to be a win-win to some degree for Congress and for Mark Meadows. Congress gave Meadows a lot of time to make a good-faith effort. And in doing so, they're going to get some information.

And Meadows, for his part, by trying to cooperate, now he's basically taken the prospect of criminal liability off the table. Remember that Bannon was indicted because he made absolutely no effort to comply with the subpoena, no good-faith maneuvers at all.

And, here, Meadows is appearing to do that. He can still assert, say that he can't answer specific questions or specific lines of questions, and those can be litigated. And I will say that there could be a downside to that, because, if it's litigated, and a court says this is not covered by executive privilege, because it doesn't involve official duties or advice or it's the subject to the crime fraud exception, that could be bad news.

But it does for right now, I think, makes sense for Mark Meadows to do this if he wants to avoid any kind of criminal liability.

BLACKWELL: Asha, the language here, it sounds a little tentative, that this is the initial cooperation now for an initial interview.

Am I overthinking this, that this is not the full engagement that the committee wanted? Or is this potentially right on target?

RANGAPPA: I think it remains to be seen.

I mean, I think the movement towards some kind of compromise is a good sign. Again, we don't want this to be held up in litigation. It's not good for the committee to end up sitting in court trying to litigate a blanket denial or even sending this to a criminal referral.

But I suspect that they will get some resistance on a lot of lines of questioning. For example, it's clear that Meadows doesn't want to answer questions about, for example, whether he was using his personal cell phone on January 6. So some of those specific questions, they may not be able to get information or end up having to litigate.

But I think it's still a win, even if there's some movement made towards cooperation.

CAMEROTA: Asha, I want to talk to you about what's going on in Congress with people like Congresswoman Lauren Boebert, who has made these anti-Muslim comments, and it turns out she's a repeat offender.

So she made these comments against Congresswoman Ilhan Omar and then got caught on video doing it. And then she -- it sounds like, maybe, behind the scenes, Kevin McCarthy forced some sort of phone call. It did not go well, that phone call. But now our investigative team, the KFILE, turned up that she's been telling this story in different permutations for a while.

Maybe we have this video to hear her tell it again a couple months ago.


REP. LAUREN BOEBERT (R-CO): One of my staffers, on his first day with me, got into an elevator in the Capitol.

And in that -- in the elevator, we were joined by Ilhan Omar.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Press the emergency break.

BOEBERT: Well, it was just us three in there. And I looked over. And I said: "Well, lookit there. It's the Jihad Squad." (LAUGHTER)


BOEBERT: I do have to say, she doesn't have a backpack. She wasn't dropping it and running, so we're good. So...



So it's all so hateful. But I know that, from your national security lens, you see it differently.

RANGAPPA: Yes, Alisyn, I think when we see these incidents, we're inclined to focus on the substance of what is said. And we should. It's reprehensible. It should be condemned.

But we fail to look at it as a tactic in a larger strategy. Look, this is her stand-up routine. And she does it because there is a payoff. And we see that in this video. The immediate payoff is, this is apparently a fund-raiser. So she makes money from this. This helps her.

But the bigger strategy here is, this is a way that she solidifies kind of the bonding among her base. I mean, they're laughing along. They're in on the joke with her. They now have an enemy against which to target their frustrations about the government.

And it also serves to distract them from the other things that are going on with respect to her in this case. She's in the crosshairs of this January 6 investigation, but she's managed to kind of distract this room who's with her on this joke

So I think we need to start looking at these things like the Gosar are video depicting the killing of Representative Ocasio-Cortez as part of a larger strategy that is normalizing racism, bigotry, violence, as a way to sustain their support and distract from the things that they are not doing and are basically in trouble for, say, with January 6.