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January Committee 6 Asks Sean Hannity to Testify; Jobs Report Crushes Expectations; Are Schools Safe?. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired January 05, 2022 - 13:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: And he goes on to say -- quote -- "The fact violent criminals broke the law does not entitle Democrats to break the Senate."

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Erica Hill picks up our coverage right now.

ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: Hi. I'm Erica Hill, in for Ana Cabrera.

Omicron making for a very rough start to the new year. So let's just take stock right now of where we're at. We know there's been a dramatic surge in U.S. cases, hospitalizations also increasing dramatically, surpassing the Delta peak we saw back in September.

It's important to point out, though, nearly all of those patients are unvaccinated. That means the vaccines and the boosters are working. They're preventing serious illness and death for millions. Right now, a CDC advisory panel is meeting on whether to authorize boosters for even more Americans, for 12-to-15-year-olds.

Meantime, the battle over in person learning on full display in Chicago today, where the nation's third largest public school district canceled classes entirely after the teachers union voted to go remote, against the mayor's wishes.

So just what makes a school state -- safe, rather, for both students and staff? We will ask an expert. And we're also going to tackle the CDC's latest guidance this hour, those confusing new recommendations that are also sparking widespread frustration.

Let's begin with CNN's Elizabeth Cohen.

And, Elizabeth, the CDC meeting set to get under way just now at 1:00 p.m. Eastern time. This is about potentially authorizing those booster shots for 12-to-15-year-olds. The FDA's vaccine advisory panel voted to do that earlier this week.


The FDA has given a green light to booster shots for 12-to-15-year- olds. And, yes, we are expecting the same thing from first the CDC advisers who are meeting as we speak, and then later from Rochelle Walensky. She was the head of the CDC. We're expecting all those folks to green-light it.

So let's take a look at exactly what will happen. So, the CDC is expected to green-light Pfizer booster shots, because Pfizer's the only vaccine children that age can get for 12-to-15-year-olds.

We're expecting that they will say five months after the second shot, and that is millions of children who would be eligible, and we hear that boosters could begin immediately. That's the way this has worked in other vaccine and booster situations.

And those shots are there. They're in pharmacies and other places. It's very easy to do. Now, while this is important, these children need to get boosted, it can help them against Omicron, there's another number I think that's even more important. And that is actually a really bad news number; 39 percent of children this age, forget about boosters. They haven't even gotten a single shot of the COVID-19 vaccine.

Omicron is raging. Children are back in school. And 39 percent have not gotten even a single shot. And we know that Omicron boosters, that boosters can be effective against Omicron.

And, interestingly, Israel just came out with some data about the efficacy of boosters against Delta. And it's really quite stunning. So what they found in Israel is that, when you compare someone who's gotten a booster, meaning three shots, vs. just two shots, the booster decreased mortality by 90 percent. It decreased COVID infection by 10 times.

It decreased severe disease, in other words, decreased the chance you're going to end up in the hospital, by 18 times for people who are 60 and over, and by 22 times for people between the ages of 40 and 59.

Now, Erica, all of this is happening against the backdrop of this confusion about the CDC's isolation rules. It is confusing. Let's try to boil it down. Here's what the CDC is saying.

The CDC says, if you have COVID-19, stay home for at least five days. If you're feeling better, you can end your isolation, you can get out of the house after five days, wear a mask for another five days.

What they're saying that's new is, you know what? If you want to end your isolation after five days, get a rapid test, if you want to, before ending isolation, but it's if you want to. It's certainly not something they're suggesting. If that test is positive, you should isolate for 10 days.

Erica, we have heard many people say, wait a minute, how in the world could the CDC be recommending that after five days you can get out of isolation without even having to take a test?

I think this graph explains why they're doing what they're doing. This is U.K. data. And what they say is that, when you're -- all the way to the left there over the number zero -- when you're testing positive, the day you test positive, you are quite contagious, because your symptoms are raging. You're quite contagious.

However, it goes down, down, down over time. So, for days six, seven, eight, nine, 10, the chances of you transmitting COVID-19 if you're not having any symptoms when you're day six through 10 are very, very small, not nonexistent, but very small -- Erica.


HILL: The graph helps, but, boy, continuing to muddy the waters there with this new guidance from the CDC.

Elizabeth Cohen, thank you for trying to make sense of it for us. Appreciate it.

Also joining us, Dr. Paul Offit. He's a member of the FDA's vaccine advisory panel and serves as director of the Vaccine Education Center at children's hospital of Philadelphia.

Always good to see you.

So, Dr. Offit, as you know well, the CDC's advisory panel is meeting right now. We just got note that the meeting has started. They will decide whether they are going to sign off on boosters for 12-to-15- year-olds, what their recommendation would be.

You have been somewhat lukewarm on the push for widespread boosters. What do you think the impact would be of boosting millions of 12-to- 15-year-olds?

DR. PAUL OFFIT, CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL OF PHILADELPHIA: In terms of in any way dramatically changing the arc of the pandemic, not much?

I mean, that's not -- as Elizabeth Cohen said, if you look at the 12- to-15-year-old, for example, what percent have been fully vaccinated? Fifty percent. That means 50 percent of children between 12 and 15 years of age have not been vaccinated. They're the ones who are most likely to get seriously ill with this infection. They're the ones who are most likely to come to the hospital and the intensive care unit.

Also, if you look at two doses of an mRNA-containing vaccine, all the data that's been presented and published in by the CDC in this country is that that provides excellent protection against serious disease. What that third dose gives you is better protection, much better protection against mild disease for a few months.

But is that the long-term public health strategy, that we want to try and continue to protect against mild disease, knowing the two doses of an mRNA vaccine is excellent in protecting against severe disease for as long as we have had those vaccines out there, and will likely be true for the next year or two or three? So I just think the booster story is at some level a detour. If we're really going to get on top of this pandemic, we have to vaccinate the unvaccinated. That's the problem. Certainly, anybody who works in a hospital will tell you that. When we see children come into the hospital who are over 5 who could be vaccinated, they're not, and nor are their parents, nor are their siblings.

This is a disease of the unvaccinated, a serious disease of the unvaccinated. It's a mild disease of many, including the vaccinated, but it's a serious disease of the unvaccinated.

HILL: So we have been talking for months, now for actually probably a year at this point -- we're almost at the point -- about how to convince those unvaccinated folks to get their shots.

We know people have tried everything. But when you talk about children coming into the hospital, when we look at pediatric COVID hospitalizations being at an all-time high, and, again, hospitalizations, largely, almost always among the unvaccinated, do those pediatric hospitalizations, are they starting to have an impact on parents who were maybe on the fence about giving their kids the vaccine or even getting the vaccine for themselves?

OFFIT: Not that I have seen.

I mean, when I have had a chance to talk to parents about the decision not to vaccinate, they generally seem comfortable with that decision, even though their child is in the hospital or even in the intensive care unit. I haven't seen people being shaken to the point where they say, I made a mistake.

But at some level, it's understandable. Your job as a parent, your number one job as a parent is to keep your child safe. The worst thing that can happen is that your child is in any way harmed. And the notion that you may have been in any way responsible for that is very tough to live with.

So I think what happens is, people defend themselves by saying, it probably would have been even worse if I vaccinated my child.

HILL: Even though we know -- I think it's so important to point out there is no evidence, right, that these vaccines have had adverse reactions in children. We know why there are no long-term side effects. It's because vaccines go into your body, they do their job, and then they leave.

When we look at where we stand with schools, this is so important, I think, especially as we're seeing this play out across the country. Chicago is a perfect example what we see today. When we talk about in- person learning, what measures do you think need to be in place to maintain a safe environment for both staff and students?

OFFIT: It's not that hard, really.

First of all, this is something we're probably going to be living with for about four to six weeks. I do think, as we saw, frankly, last winter, when we didn't have vaccines for the most part and had much less population immunity, you start to see a dramatic decline in the incidence of hospitalizations and ICU admissions by mid-February.

Now, when we have much more population immunity, I think that will happen it by no later than mid-February, probably earlier. So just live with this for four to six weeks. And here's the way to do it.

One, vaccinate your children. I think that's the easy answer at the beginning. Two is make sure that, in stores, children are masked and to some extent socially distanced, to the degree that you can. The teachers have to be vaccinated. The people -- the bus drivers have to be vaccinated.

You have, to the degree that you can, have good filtration systems in place in school, because children need to be in school. We all agree with that. We all agree it's a precious thing. So we should treat it as a precious thing and do everything we can to protect those children.

The two biggest weapons we have to protect them are masking and vaccination. And we should do everything we can to do it.


It's so hard to watch this booster dose discussion, knowing that what we're doing is sort of further protecting the already protected, and we still just haven't been able to get any leeway on the unprotected, i.e., the unvaccinated child.

HILL: Do you think, as this discussion is happening now, now in January of 2022, about whether or not kids should be in school full time, and concerns that adults have who work in those schools, do you think there is enough focus on the emotional and mental well-being of children and their families?

OFFIT: Well, I think -- yes, I mean, I think everybody, independent of your political affiliation, all agrees that children need to be in school. All of us agree that that children really have suffered the lack of socialization that comes with being together with their friends, being part of group activities, et cetera. I think everybody agrees with that.

It's just hard to watch that we don't do everything we can to enable that to happen. It just doesn't make sense.

HILL: Yes, that's frustrating.

Dr. Paul Offit, always appreciate it. Thank you.

OFFIT: Thank you.

HILL: Well, the U.S. jobs market ended 2021 with a bang. We are talking about record job gains here, according to the latest employment report.

This is what it's considered to be a bellwether for how the labor market is doing overall.

CNN business reporter Matt Egan joining us now.

So, Matt, when I say this was huge growth, this was actually double what economists predicted. Break it down for us.

MATT EGAN, CNN REPORTER: That's right, Erica. This is really some very encouraging news on the economy.

ADP says that private sector payrolls grew by 807,000 jobs in December. That doubled expectations from economists. It was actually the second strongest growth of the entire year. And this was broad- based growth. All sectors grew jobs led by the COVID-sensitive leisure and hospitality sector, which added about a quarter-million jobs.

This is just another sign that this jobs market is really, really hot right now, first-time jobless claims hovering near the lowest level in over 50 years, the unemployment rate standing at just 4.2 percent. That is down dramatically from the peak in April 2020 of nearly 15 percent.

And not only is firing low, but demand for workers is really high. We learned yesterday that a record 4.5 million Americans quit their jobs in November, often for better jobs with higher pay and more generous benefits.

In this balance of power between bosses and workers, workers have all the leverage right now. So, Erica, this is all fueling some optimism ahead of Friday's very closely watched government jobs report.

HILL: So it's fueling that optimism.

We do also want to have the full context here, in that this report only goes up to mid-December. So that's really before Omicron started to take over. Especially when I hear you mentioned those leisure and hospitality numbers, I mean, can we still be celebrating now, or do we need to be perhaps a little bit more cautious because of what could be coming?

EGAN: Well, Erica, it is way too early for an all-clear signal in terms of what Omicron is meaning for the economy, because, yes, the data that came out today from ADP, it only really captures the state of the jobs market through the middle of the month.

And we know that it was really the last week or two of December when we saw cases really skyrocket in the United States, including in New York. So it is easy to see how Omicron could slow down the jobs boom, because of all of this business disruption and the threat that maybe workers who are on the sidelines maybe don't want to go into work because of the health situation.

And some economists that I have spoken to, they are concerned that the jobs growth will slow down, particularly in January. Now, we won't know those numbers for another month. But, Erica, I do think that it is very clear that the economy and the jobs market in particular really answered this Omicron wave from a position of strength. HILL: That is a good place to enter. That's for sure. Matt Egan,

appreciate it. Thank you.

EGAN: Thanks.

HILL: Why was Sean Hannity so concerned about former President Trump's behavior ahead of the attack on the Capitol? The January 6 Committee asking that very question as they release a slew of text messages between Hannity and the White House. Details ahead.

Plus, another dramatic turn in the fight between the Chicago teachers union and the city over a return to the classroom, teachers now saying they have been locked out of their remote platforms after they voted to start the year virtually.



HILL: Tomorrow we will mark one year since Trump supporters laid siege to the Capitol under the veil of the big lie that the election was stolen.

Ahead of that anniversary, the House committee investigating the attack released more texts from FOX host Sean Hannity. One sent on the eve of the insurrection shows that Hannity, a valued and unofficial adviser to Trump, was growing uneasy about the way things were taking shape behind closed doors.

On January 5, he texted White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows that he was -- quote -- "very worried" about the next 48 hours. Because of this and dozens of other texts, the panel has asked Hannity to voluntarily cooperate and answer some key questions.

CNN law enforcement correspondent Whitney Wild joining us now.

So, Whitney, what more did we learn in these texts?

WHITNEY WILD, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, we learned, I think, the extent to which Sean Hannity was clearly very worried that the former president was spiraling.

I mean, here's just one example. But -- and, really, I think it's important for viewers to understand that the committee is trying to drill down on communications Sean Hannity had with Trump himself, with members of the White House staff, members of Trump's inner circle between December 31 and January 20 of 2021.

So, let's go through one text message from December 31. This is from Sean Hannity to Mark Meadows. "We can't lose the entire White House Counsel's Office. I do not see January 6 happening the way he is being told. After the 6th, he should announce that he will lead a nationwide effort to reform voting integrity, go to Florida and watch Joe mess up daily. Stay engaged. When he speaks, people will listen."

[13:20:17] Then, later, he says: "Guys, we have a clear path to land the plane in

nine days. He can't mention the election again, ever. I did not have a good call with him today. And, worse, I'm not sure what is left to do or say. And I don't like knowing if it's truly understood. Ideas?"

I mean, he clearly knew that the former president was not only being fed a total legal -- a creative legal lie, but also that he was imploding before everybody's very eyes. And so Sean Hannity trying to make these overtures to say, rein it in, basically, and yet those warnings clearly were not heeded, because we know what happened on January 6.

The former president continued to perpetuate this lie that former Vice President Mike Pence could actually overturn the election, and then it resulted in a riot. Now, Sean Hannity's attorney, Jay Sekulow, telling CNN that they're looking into it, they're reviewing, and they will still decide what they're going to do.

HILL: So we will see what happens there.

Meantime, we did learn a short time ago that former White House Press Secretary Stephanie Grisham is apparently going to appear before the committee, and that's tonight?

WILD: Yes.

And so she -- the value that she offers is, she's really one of the longest serving aides within the White House. I mean, one of the key characteristics of the Trump White House was that people were in and out, not Stephanie Grisham. She had been with the campaign. Then she transitioned to the White House.

She served multiple roles, which includes former press secretary. Then, toward the end, specifically on the day of the riot, she was the chief of staff to Melania Trump. She knows the Trumps really well. I mean, she's very much in this inner circle.

So she may be able to provide what the committee is going for here, which is information, details about what actually happened, but, further, the mind-set. That is really what the company needs to get from people themselves, because you can only get so far with documents.

HILL: Yes, that's for sure.

Whitney Wild, appreciate it, as always, thank you.

Joining us now for more, CNN legal analyst Carrie Cordero and CNN political commentator former Republican Congressman from Pennsylvania Charlie Dent.

Good to see both of you this afternoon.

So, Carrie, when we look at what we know to this point, right, there's a reason that the committee is putting out what they put out and why they're putting it out at a specific time. What's your gut in terms of where the investigation stands, based on the release of these texts at this moment?

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, as it relates to Mr. Hannity in particular, which was the most recent public release by the committee, they clearly want his cooperation.

They believe that he's a fact witness. And just like any other private citizen in the country who has information that's relevant to the committee's inquiry, they would like him to cooperate. So, I think what's important from this letter is that they are asking for his voluntary cooperation. They are not yet moving to compel him to cooperate.

HILL: It certainly paints a picture, though.

And, Congressman, I'm wondering, as we look at this, again, the information is being released in a particular way and for a particular reason, which we may not know everything about at this moment. But it made me question who the real audience is here. Is this about getting Sean Hannity to talk to them? Is this about drumming up support for the ultimate report that we will get from this committee's investigation?

Or is this about trying to reach Sean Hannity's audience, maybe even try to change some minds?

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think they have every right to invite Sean Hannity in to testify about what happened.

He was acting as an adviser to the president, not as a journalist, which I don't think he is. And so they have every right to hear from him. And I think what's really revealing about that text is it was clear that Hannity thought that the president, the former president, didn't think he lost the election, and was actually trying to dissuade him.

But what's even more disturbing is that many people like Hannity had been spending a lot of time since January 6 whitewashing the events of that day and understating the significance of it. So I think the committee has every right to call Sean Hannity in, get as much information from him as they can to figure out what the state of mind of the president was.

It clearly was not good. Remember too there were people talking about invoking the 25th Amendment around that time. It's clear these supporters of the president were concerned about his health, this unhealthy obsession.

I felt for some time the former president was not well, and that they should have dealt with it. But I think we can learn a lot from Sean Hannity, and his audience might be surprised to find out the truth.

HILL: He can certainly speak to -- I mean, hopefully speak to the president's state of mind and also the decisions that were or were not being made.

Carrie, as we look at this, each of these information dumps, each of what we're learning from the committee about who they have spoken with and the type of the information that they had is getting us closer to the former president himself and what was happening on that day. Who was around him?


Liz Cheney has been very clear and direct with her language about dereliction of duty, obstruction of Congress. Is this latest info dump, you think, Carrie, further evidence the committee is building a legal case against the former president?

CORDERO: I think primarily what the committee is trying to do is they are trying to establish a historical factual record of what actually transpired.

And they are trying to lay any needed legislative groundwork to prevent it from ever happening again. Whether they develop evidence of crimes along the way, I think they will analyze that information and make referrals to the Justice Department for criminal prosecution, as they have done in a couple cases already, as appropriate.

But I think their primary goals are not building a criminal case against the former president or anyone else. Their primary goal is to prevent another January 6 from ever happening again.

HILL: As January 6 was unfolding. We know the real danger that the former vice president was in, people shouting "Hang Mike Pence."

We know that Marc Short has talked to the committee, Pence's former chief of staff. The former vice president himself seems to be walking a little bit of a political tightrope. Maybe that's with an eye on what's to come down the line in 2024.

But, Congressman, I wonder, how important do you think Mike Pence would be in terms of talking to the committee, and what he can tell us?

DENT: Well, I think would be very important for Mike Pence to talk to the committee.

Marc Short and other Pence allies have talked to the committee, and I'm sure they are doing that with the full approval and consent of their former boss Mike Pence. But it would be appropriate. Now, Mike Pence, as you point out, has -- he is walking a political tightrope. He's already on very fragile ground with former President Trump and many of his supporters over his role that day, where he behaved honorably and did the right thing.

So this would further complicate his political calculations for 2024 should he choose to run for president. He will clearly antagonize the president even more than he already has. But as was just pointed out by Carrie, we need to establish an historical record, so that -- so we have it, so we can prevent things like this happening again.

And, more importantly, there may be some issues here that should be referred to the Department of Justice for criminal prosecution. So Pence is a very important part of this day. I think he's -- I served with him. He was a decent and honorable man when I served with him in the House. I think he should do what he knows is right.

HILL: We will see if he does.

I do also just want to get your take. So, CNN is just learning that President Biden tomorrow is expected to talk about the singular responsibility Donald Trump has in the chaos and carnage of the insurrection. This is according to White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki.

So we know that there will also be -- the Republicans, rather, Republican leaders, not going to be around tomorrow for much of that. And the House is out of session. House GOP leaders have advised their members they can denounce the violence, but they should blame security failures, right?

We saw that letter from Kevin McCarthy earlier this week. Blame security failures on Democratic leaders. Do you think, Congressman, that the Republican Party can stick to that strategy and potentially stay silent about the former president's role in the face of these remarks, which we are expecting to hear tomorrow from President Biden?

DENT: Well, look, certainly, security failures should be part of the investigation, of course.

But to blame the Democrats for security failures, I think, is unfair. Mitch McConnell was majority leader of the Senate that day. I mean, are we going to blame Mitch McConnell? Of course not. We're not going to blame him for the security failures.

Sure, we should look into what happened there and how to improve security. But we need to know why this attack happened, and who was behind it, and who aided and abetted it. That's really the most important part. So, yes, we can talk about those things. But that's really not the central point of this investigation.

And they all know it. I mean, look, this is not a comfortable issue for Republicans to be talking about. They know they're in a bad position here, because of what the former president incited that day.

So they are trying to -- they're trying to misdirect people into other issues. But at the end of the day, the committee is doing the right thing by getting to the bottom of what actually happened that day, and who was responsible and what this record should be for the American public.

HILL: Charlie Dent, Carrie Cordero, always good to have you both here. Thank you.

CORDERO: Thank you.

DENT: Thanks, Erica.

HILL: Well, the Hannity texts, which, again, were released by the House committee show the FOX host knew enough about what was unfolding that, just hours before the attack, he was -- quote -- "very worried."

And yet, hours after the attack, Hannity was immediately blaming anti- Trump forces for the violence. Here's a reminder.


SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS: We also knew that there's always bad actors that will infiltrate large crowds.

Those who truly support President Trump, those that believe they are part of the conservative movement in this country, you do not -- we do not support those that commit acts of violence.

They were there to peacefully protest. And then we had the reports that groups like Antifa, other radical groups -- I don't know the names of all of them -- that they were there to cause trouble.