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Jan. 6th Panel Reveals Hannity's Texts, Wants His Cooperation; Now: CDC Advisers Meet On Boosters For Kids 12-15; Seven Children Among 13 Killed In Philly Apartment Fire. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired January 05, 2022 - 14:00   ET




ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Hello everyone, welcome to NEWSROOM, I'm Alisyn Camerota.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Victor Blackwell. It is good to be with you.

So, minutes from now, the U.S. Attorney General will talk about the attack on the U.S. Capitol that happened almost one year ago, the anniversary tomorrow.

Merrick Garland plans to reaffirm the Justice Department's commitment to defending American democracy.

CAMEROTA: But Garland also finds himself on the defense. Some critics say he has not been aggressive enough in pursuing the big fish responsible for January 6, meaning the powerful people who ginned up the rioters and organized the attack.

Still, more than 725 people have been arrested for the siege on the Capitol. CNN's Evan Perez is at the Justice Department. So Evan, what do we expect to hear from the Attorney General?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, you know, I think one of the things that you're going to hear from the Attorney General is about this extraordinary law enforcement operation that has gone on for the last year, a dragnet across the country.

One of the unusual things about the crime scene on January 6 was that almost nobody, very few people were arrested that day and so the FBI has had to go hunt down all these people.

And you know, they've done -- they've had a lot of success but there's -- you know, from the FBI perspective, there's one big investigation that they have not been able to make much progress on and that is a search for the person who left behind two bombs, one of the RNC and DNC building, just a couple of blocks from the U.S. Capitol.

I sat down with Steven D'Antuono, who is the top FBI official overseeing this investigation and we talked about some of the challenges of this investigation. Take a listen.


STEVEN D'ANTUONO, FBI ASSISTANT DIRECTOR IN CHARGE, WASHINGTON FIELD OFFICE: In prior COVID ties in any neighborhood, I think in the country, if you saw an individual hooded, mask, glasses, gloves on, it was a red flag for any individual walking around that day. In this case, it wasn't because of the environment that we're living in during COVID times.

PEREZ: One of the things we wonder is why the bombs didn't go off.

D'ANTUONO: The bombs could have gone off they just did not go off. In this area where the bombs were placed, if they did go off, they could have caused some serious harm or death.


PEREZ: And Alisyn and Victor, in the next few minutes, we're going to hear from the Attorney General about this investigation and you can expect that he's going to talk about the steps that they -- the work that they're doing to defend American democracy.

What you probably are not going to hear is some of the things you guys raised at the top there, which is you know, what about Donald Trump? What about the people who are close to him who helped foment what happened on January 6? That is specific information about the investigation that he is loath to address.

BLACKWELL: Yes, this address may not go too far to satisfy his critics. Evan Perez, thank you so much.

The sources tell CNN the White House or the House where the Committee investigating the insurrection is meeting tonight with former Trump White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham. And the request comes a day after the committee chair said the panel would also like to speak with Fox host, Sean Hannity.

CAMEROTA: The committee says there are dozens of texts from Hannity and to Hannity, indicating he had "advanced knowledge of the planning for January 6."

CNN's Ryan Nobles is on Capitol Hill. So Ryan, tell us about those texts.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right. The committee, very interested in the communication that Sean Hannity was having with members of the White House, members of Congress, and even perhaps the former President himself, not just on January 6, but in that time period leading up to the events of January 6.

Because based on these text messages that the committee released yesterday in their letter to Hannity, it seemed as though he had a pretty good idea of just what links of the White House in the Trump campaign were willing to go to to try and pressure the former Vice President Mike Pence to stand in the way of the certification of the election results on January 6.

Here's a sample of some of those texts. On December 31, 2020, Hannity to Mark Meadows writes. We can't lose the entire White House Counsel's Office. I do not see January 6 happening the way he is being told.

This is -- Hannity actually raising alarm bells about this strategy to try and convince pence to stand in the way of the certification of the election results.

And then on January 5, the day before this was all supposed to take place a year ago today, Hannity sent to Mark Meadows, very worried about the next 48 hours. So the committee wants to know why Hannity was so concerned.

They also want to know if he talked specifically with the former President on that day. And then, of course, why his rhetoric in these text messages didn't at all match what he was saying on his television program.

Now, the committee has said that they aren't subpoenaing Hannity at this point. This is a volunteer request asking him to come on his own accord. His lawyer, Jay Sekulow telling CNN that they are concerned there are some First Amendment issues at risk here.

But at this point, Victor and Alisyn, they haven't said specifically how Hannity intends to respond to this request from the committee.


CAMEROTA: The texts just raised so many questions. And also, Bennie Thompson, the chair of the committee wants to talk to former Vice President Mike Pence, any indication that Pence is willing to do that?

NOBLES: Well, at this point, uh, Pence and his team don't have any comment on what Bennie Thompson told me yesterday in an interview.

But I asked Thompson specifically do they want to hear from Pence because of the role that he played in the days leading up to January 6, and, of course, what he was in the middle of on January 6, and Thompson said he would very much like Pence just to come in on his own to volunteer to talk to the committee, that he believes that would be his civic duty.

Now, Thompson has not formally offered that opportunity for pence like he's done for Sean Hannity and some members of Congress that he's asking him just to do it on his own, but he also didn't rule out the opportunity of a subpoena down the road.

So it's clear that the committee is very interested in what Pence knows about what happened on January six, Victor and Alisyn.

BLACKWELL: All right, Ryan Nobles for us on Capitol Hill, thank you very much.

Let's open up the conversation now and bring in CNN Senior Law Enforcement Analyst, Andrew McCabe, the former Deputy Director of the FBI, CNN Chief Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin, and CNN Senior Political Analyst, Nia-Malika Henderson, welcome to you all.

Andrew, let me start with you. And Alisyn mentioned the criticism at the top of the show that the Attorney General -- Attorney General is receiving for the pace of the investigation, for the lack of as she called them, the big fish being indicted here.

One of the harshest critics, Congressman Ruben Gallego, let's listen to what he said.


REP. RUBEN GALLEGO, (D-AZ): I think Merrick Garland has been extremely weak and I think there should be a lot more of the organizers of January 6 that should be arrested by now.

And you have again an Attorney General, who is, you know, feckless and has not been helpful in terms of preserving our democracy,


BLACKWELL: Weak, feckless. From the perspective of a former insider, what do you make of that criticism? And should the investigation or do you expect it to have progressed beyond where it has this far?

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, Victor, I understand his frustration. I'm not sure. I think the words he used are maybe a little bit overheated. I think as far as the pace of the investigation goes, I understand and I'm not troubled by the pace that the FBI is going through to identify, locate, and charge the people who were involved that day.

But I think where the criticism is completely fair and warranted is the lack of any sort of indication from the Justice Department that they are even considering pursuing more serious charges.

Charges like seditious conspiracy and other serious charges against people who were at central roles in the attack or may have even been involved in the planning and the organization of the attack.

I would call the AG a very, very careful person. I think maybe the slow pace with which he's possibly considering those charges, is beginning to have the effect that you saw on the congressman, people are frustrated by that, and rightly so.

CAMEROTA: Hey, Jeffrey, legally speaking, is there any reason not to move forward with charges against the big fish?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the question is, do they have evidence against the big fish? And it does appear that the Justice Department is pursuing the traditional organized crime approach to this case, which is work from the bottom up, which is, you know, get the foot soldiers, who, are easy to prosecute, and then try to flip people.

And what is unclear is whether anyone with knowledge of how this event was planned and who planned it and how it was paid for whether any of those people have flipped. The -- that's what they are potentially trying to do but they haven't done it yet.

And the only point I would add, perhaps in defense of the Justice Department, is that COVID makes a difference here. It is very hard to try cases. It is very hard to get juries into courtrooms in Washington, in anywhere else.

And so the traditional way, you start prosecuting people, trying people, convicting people, flipping people, it's slowed down not just because of the number of people here, but also because of the difficulty of making the process work during the COVID.

BLACKWELL: Nia-Malika, let's talk about these text messages to and from Sean Hannity that were revealed by the committee in this letter to him and to his attorney.

It shows not just cooperation or coordination, which should surprise no one, I mean, he went on tour with the former President, but it sounds like a degree of instruction to the White House, to the Chief of Staff, to those inside of the administration where he says.

Guys, we have a clear path to land the plane in nine days. He can't mention the election ever again.


BLACKWELL: I do not have a good -- 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 not knowing if it's truly understood ideas.

Let's just start with the, we, of it all and the suggestion that the President can't talk about the election ever again, although he does at every opportunity.

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: He does at every opportunity. Donald Trump does, Sean Hannity does on his program as well. I mean, we get sort of two sides of Sean Hannity here, right?

Someone who is nervous about what could happen on January 6, someone who's warning the President against talking about this election going forward, but then somebody who's publicly standing by Donald Trump's side, promoting the big lie, embracing the big lie, and then even more recently, sort of downplaying what actually happened on January 6.

Listen, it's no surprise that Sean Hannity is working hand in glove with this White House. I think, in many ways, Donald Trump, himself is a product of Fox News and often took instruction from them.

And you even see, more recently, the idea that he was going to have a press conference on January 6, right, and talk about what happened on January 6, and talk about the folks who are being prosecuted in court and probably defend them he has been advised, in some ways by people on Fox.

This wasn't a good idea and so that's why he canceled it. So it is not a surprise to see that Sean Hannity is one way in private and another way in public to please Donald Trump on nor is it -- is no surprise that he's trying to advise and guide this White House because I think that's what's his role, in many ways throughout the four years that Donald Trump was in the White House.

CAMEROTA: But it's still just miraculous -- it's still just incredible to see the -- that Fox hosts have to say, this is not a good look, you can't do this. I mean, it's just -- that that's just remarkable. But go ahead, Jeffrey.

TOOBIN: Alisyn?


TOOBIN: Can I just make a point about the whole Sean Hannity issue?


TOOBIN: Which is, you know, in the initial reaction, the corporate department of Fox made a statement about oh, this raises First Amendment issues. He is not acting as a journalist there.

He just on the face of the text messages, he is giving advice to the -- to the White House, he is an advisor, he is a witness, he is not a journalist in this situation.

So you know, to waive the First Amendment in response to this request for testimony, is really just fake. And I don't think anyone should take it seriously.

CAMEROTA: And Jeffrey, I mean, furthermore, when it has come up, whether or not he's a journalist, there have been times that Hannity himself has said something to the effect of no, sometimes he's tried to wear that mantle, but it's fallen apart right away.

And when they go to court, for instance, Tucker's -- Tucker Carlson's show, it is revealed in court where you have to tell the truth that it's performance art. So I mean, there's just a ton of evidence that it's not -- he's not acting ever as a journalist.

But Andrew, on this point, the fact that Hannity says "I'm worried about the next 48 hours," that tells you or tells, I think the committee, I should say, that he knows something troubling is coming down the pike. And so what is the committee do with that?

MCCABE: Well, Alisyn, I mean, as an investigator, I can only imagine what it was like when they read those texts for the first time. I mean, that's lights are just, you know, going off in your head. They so clearly indicate a few really key things.

One, Sean Hannity was involved in the discussions about whatever was going to happen on January 6, and was involved in the planning and certainly was troubled by the fact that the White House Counsel's Office was somehow communicating to him that they might leave or quit if the pressure on Mike Pence was continuing. So he's involved before anything happens. And then on the immediate eve of the events, he indicates that he's greatly concerned about it. So he is absolutely a fact witness, right in the crosshairs of this committee.

They have to do what it -- whatever is necessary to secure his testimony. I'm sure it'll be a fight. But they are complete -- I agree with Jeff's comments entirely, this is far outside his newsgathering activity, as the Justice Department typically refers to it.

And let's say -- let's face it, we know what his journalism was in the aftermath of these events and it doesn't seem consistent with any of the things he was saying to these folks ahead of time. So yes, I think he's worthy of talking to.

BLACKWELL: All right, Andrew McCabe, Jeffrey Toobin, Nia-Malika Henderson, thank you all very much. And stay with us, we, of course, will bring you AG Garland's remarks as soon as they begin.

And join Jake Tapper and Anderson Cooper for an unprecedented gathering inside the Capitol with police, lawmakers, and leaders, "Live From The Capitol January 6, One Year Later" begins tomorrow night at 8 right here on CNN.


CAMEROTA: OK. Meanwhile, in other news, there's been a horrible fire in a row house in Philadelphia that has killed 13 people including seven children. So we're going to bring you the latest on what officials say went wrong.

BLACKWELL: And millions of students are at-home today as schools scramble to cope with the latest COVID surge. We'll talk about the impact of COVID on kids, next.


CAMEROTA: One of the most tragic days in Philadelphia's history. That's how the mayor is describing the fire that killed 13 people, seven of them children. First responders were devastated.



CRAIG MURPHY, PHILADELPHIA DEPUTY FIRE COMMISSIONER: The fires was extinguished and it was a terror -- it was terrible.

Most -- I've been around for 30, 35 years now and this is probably one of the worst fires I've ever been to.


BLACKWELL: CNN's Evan McMorris-Santoro is there at the scene in Philadelphia. Evan, you got to, listen to that Deputy Commissioner and you could imagine seven children killed there. Any information about how this started?

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Victor, you heard the emotion in that quote from Deputy Fire Commissioner. That's really what's going on right now dealing with the actual aftermath of this horrible tragedy. We are getting some facts, but there are still a lot of questions.

26 people living in a two-family row house owned by the Public Housing Authority here in Philadelphia, the city says that probably is, too many people who are living in that house, but they don't know why they feel were in there at the -- at the moment.

We're waiting to see what the investigators find inside the house. So last, we heard they were having trouble getting in. It isn't a special equipment to do that.

Just in the past hour, we've seen Fire Department officials put this tarp over the front of the house over there. And you can see right past that street sign is where the fire that took place.

And now they're covering it up to do more investigation, trying to find out just what happened and how it happened.

As you mentioned, that fire came in -- the call came in this morning at 6:40 a.m. of a fire in this route -- in this row house that ripped through and left 13 people dead, seven of them children.

That Deputy Fire Commissioner also talked a bit about the fire and what they know so far, but how it started.


MURPHY: There was heavy fire and this would be, for them, the kitchen area, the front of -- the front of the second floor, and then it was an open stairwell to the third floor.

So the only thing that was slowing that fire down from moving was -- nothing slowing that fire down from moving. That fire was moving. It's not necessarily considered suspicious, but we have all hands on deck because of the magnitude of this fire.


MCMORRIS-SANTORO: So you can see there the fire officials that moved in and try to put this fire out which they were able to do but not without that loss of life.

And that's some of the questions that we're hoping to answer in the coming hours and days, just what happened and how it happened.

But for right now, I can tell you, I'm standing in a place this is a very active moment here in Philadelphia. You can smell the aftermath of that fire. You can see the street laid out for trash pickup today.

This is a regular day marred by this unbelievable fire that the city will be talking about for quite a long time, Victor. BLACKWELL: Terrible tragedy there. Evan McMorris Santoro, thank you so much. Right now, CDC advisors are meeting to discuss whether to follow the FDA and recommend boosters for kids 12 to 15 years old.

CAMEROTA: So earlier today, Dr. Anthony Fauci said information about a vaccine for kids under five may not come in until the middle of the year. CNN's Alexandra Field has the latest.


ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voiceover): No school in-person or virtual today for more than 340,000 students in Chicago, the third- largest school district in the country, the teachers union voting to go remote, the district, canceling all classes in response.

LORI LIGHTFOOT, (D) MAYOR OF CHICAGO, ILLINOIS: Let me remind you about what the consequences of moving an entire urban district to remote learning are. And we simply can't ignore the realities of the history that we experience through 2020 and 2021.

FIELD: According to the White House, 96 percent of schools across the country are open, working to turn the page away from the time of remote learning.

DR. WILLIAM SCHAFFNER, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: I would think that schools could open really at very, very low risk if everybody does everything.

FIELD: New federally run test sites are set to open in six states, those tests considered critical for slowing the spread of the virus are still in dangerously short supply.

The extra half a billion at-home COVID tests promised by the Biden administration, delayed DR. LEANA WEN, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN: Wish the CDC would just come out

and say, hey, we don't have enough tests, we really should have enough tests and then you can test your way out of isolation.

FIELD: Instead, the CDC is issuing updated guidance this week creating even more confusion.

Now, suggesting that people in isolation who have access to a test could test after five days, if positive, then isolate for five more days.

But the CDC says if you don't test after five days of isolation, then just wear a mask for five more days.

RICHARD BESSER, FORMER ACTING CDC DIRECTOR: So if there were an abundant and overly abundant supply of rapid tests, I think we'd be approaching this differently.

You know, we might all be getting up in the morning and doing a rapid test before going to work, before sending our kids off to school, and if they're negative, we're out and about feeling better.


FIELD: The country is now averaging more than a half-million new COVID cases daily, 95 percent are estimated by the CDC to be Omicron, up to three times more contagious than Delta.

And hospitalizations are surpassing the Delta peak last September and approaching the all-time highs set last January.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: The sheer volume of the number of cases that may be a reduced severity, but could still stress our hospital system.

FIELD: Ohio, Maryland, Delaware, and Georgia are among the latest states to call up their National Guards to help in hospitals, and cancellations keep coming.

Seth Meyers, scrapping episodes of his "Late Night Show" after testing positive. Jimmy Fallon, also announcing he tested positive over the Holiday break.


FIELD (on camera): And Alisyn, Victor, while the Biden administration is promising they're going to be sending these half-billion at-home tests to Americans free of charge, they're also saying that that shipment will cut into the supply on store shelves.

That is, of course, if you can find a kit on a store shelf. And if you do happen to find a kit, you might be paying soon. The price on the popular BinaxNOW test kits is going up at a couple of retailers including Walmart and Kroger, that's because a deal to sell those kits at cost struck with the White House has expired. Victor, Alisyn.

BLACKWELL: Alexandra Field, thank you.

CAMEROTA: All right, joining us now is Pediatric Emergency Room Dr. Sarah Combs, Doctor, thank you so much for being here.

I want to talk about when kids under five might be able to get the vaccine because so many parents are waiting with bated breath for that?

And we heard from Dr. Fauci earlier today, and I had falsely assumed that it was, you know, stuck in some bureaucratic quagmire, no? He said that they just don't have the dosage right, basically. So let me play that for everyone.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: Those studies are ongoing now to get the right dosage regimen, to get to where we want to be, and likely the clinical trials are ongoing.

And in individuals less than five years, hopefully, in the first half, hopefully towards the earlier part of the first half, we may have some information so that we can vaccinate children of that age. (END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: I've already heard from parents who say that that six months, you know, a general window that he gave there is longer than they had hoped for. So what's your professional and personal reaction to hearing that?


So you know, both as a professional who's on the frontlines treating pediatric patients seeing with this new wave, a lot of under-fives coming into the hospital.

With our hospitalized patients at Children's National, we're talking about almost 50 percent of them are that under-five age group. And then as you mentioned, personally, I'm a parent of an under-five child. So it is, I think, a bit of a disappointment.

I do have the same understanding that you talked about that, as opposed to it being bureaucracy, what they're actually doing is really trying to refine the dosage and the number of vaccinations needed.

So I think what we as medical professionals are trying to message to parents is to say, yes, it's a disappointment, but take some hardening from this in the sense that we know they're doing it the right way. They want to get the dosage right.

They want to do three shots if they need to do three shots for the response to be mounted in that young age group. And we want to roll out the correct thing that's going to protect those young and vulnerable children.

CAMEROTA: We've seen so many spikes in children being in the hospital. So just tell us what you're seeing on the frontlines. Are you seeing vaccinated kids come into the hospital, are these just unvaccinated kids, are you only seeing kids under five, what's the scene there?

COMBS: It's a mix. So, yes, as you mentioned, I'm on the frontlines in the emergency department, we're seeing a lot of COVID, not surprisingly, very little other viruses, which is surprising.

Normally, you'd expect to see common cold viruses spiking this time of year with winter. We're releasing just COVID, COVID, COVID at Children's National Hospital, which is also across the nation.

In terms of the age distribution, it's a bit of a mix. I would say in general, we are seeing high numbers of the younger kids. So the under- fives, like I said are making up about half of our hospitalized patients at Children's National, and then that five to 11 group are making up about another 20 percent.

And amongst those, even though they are eligible for the vaccine, by and far, the ones who are coming in to be hospitalized are unfortunately not vaccinated or only partially vaccinated. CAMEROTA: And so just tell us about the emotional toll that that is taking on pediatricians. I mean, we've talked to so many ER doctors and we know that it is -- has been a real trial for everyone.

But in terms of seeing little kids, I mean and again, you are a mom of I think an under one-year-old child, so what's that doing to pediatricians?

COMBS: I think it can be hard. I think certainly this has gone on for a while. I think all those of us who even aren't in health care there's been an emotional toll.