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GOP Seeks to Avoid Trump Talk Surrounding January 6th Anniversary; January 6th Panel Reveals Hannity's Texts, Want His Cooperation; Text Show Fox Host Privately Panned Big Lie That He Built Up; CDC Director: Omicron Variant Now 95 Percent of Cases; New Orleans Public School Students Ages 5 and Older Must be Fully Vaccinated by February 1; White House Touts Record-Breaking 2021 Shopping Season. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired January 05, 2022 - 15:30   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Republicans on Capitol Hill are now caught in this balancing act. They're under pressure to reflect on the deadly events of January 6th, while at the same time, avoid any mention of Donald Trump's culpability.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: CNN's Melanie Zanona is on Capitol Hill. So, Melanie, what's this strategy?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Well, as Democrats are preparing a slate of solemn events to commemorate January 6th tomorrow, Republicans are taking a different approach. And that silence, at least for the most part. House GOP leaders won't even be in the building, neither will Senate GOP leaders tomorrow as a number of Senate Republicans are heading to the funeral services for the late Senator Johnny Isakson.

And I'm also so that House Republican leaders had a call yesterday which they urged their members to either focus on the security failures on January 6th or to pivot and start attacking the Biden administration. And it's that combination of dodging and deflection that really reflects the uncomfortable reality in the Republican Party right now. And they don't want to talk about the insurrection because that means having to acknowledge Donald Trump's role in inciting the violence.

Now, I want to read for you what Kevin Kramer, a North Dakota Republican told me. Because I think it is really illuminating about the Republican mindset right now. Here is what he told me.

He said: Obviously it's the first anniversary, it can't be ignored. I think it's fine to commemorate it and remember it and pledge to avoid it ever happening again. But then he went on to add: The Republican Party is successful with Donald Trump. He's good for us for the most part. And I think the Republican Party is good for Donald Trump. I don't think the two can function well apart from one another.

That right there really captures the thinking inside the Republican Party right now. You have Republican lawmakers like Kevin Kramer who pushed back on the big lie who still remain loyal to Donald Trump, and that's because he's still the most powerful force in the Republican Party even one year after January 6th -- Victor, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, Melanie Zanona, thank you for that reporting.

So, the January 6th committee wants to speak with Fox host Sean Hannity. The committee says there are dozens of these texts to Hannity that show that there was something different happening from what he was saying on the air to what he was saying privately. Let's bring in Chris Stirewalt, our friend. Chris Stirewalt who is now senior fellow of American Enterprises, Chris?


CAMEROTA: OK. Good, let's start with that. Former Fox channel politics editor, Chris, great to see you. Before we ask you any questions, Victor, and I we're going to do a dramatic recreation.

BLACKWELL: We do that so well.

CAMEROTA: That's the difference between what Hannity was saying.

BLACKWELL: So, here's what Sean Hannity texted the night before the insurrection to former President Trump's Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.

I'm very worried about the next 48 hours.

Now, later that night he seemed to express big concern about the pressure on the Vice President and that the White House legal team would jump ship.

He text: Pence pressure White House counsel will leave.

CAMEROTA: OK. Now listen to what Hannity said on the air the day before the attack.



SEAN HANNITY, HOST FOX NEWS: Big day tomorrow, big crowds apparently showed up to the point where the West Wing could hear the music and the chanting of the people that were there already, and this all kicks off in the morning tomorrow.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): Well, Sean, that's right, and tomorrow is an important day.


CAMEROTA: Like he's acting like it's a tailgate party, OK, on the air, but before that he was saying he was really worried. Then on January 6th, he began pushing the false claim that the rioters weren't Trump supporters and that they were somehow Antifa or some other group. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HANNITY: 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.

HANNITY: They're there to peacefully protest, and 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.


BLACKWELL: All right, so now let's go to January 10th, Hannity here seems to -- he sent this to Meadows, and Trump ally, Congressman Jim Jordan, he sent this.

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 not knowing if it's truly understood. Ideas?

CAMEROTA: OK. So that sounds to me like he's questioning Trump's mental state. But then on the air that night, Hannity continued his steadfast defense of Donald Trump who at that time was facing calls for his second impeachment.


HANNITY: It is a desperate last-minute attempt to smear, slander, besmirch the president, to try and get the political advantage. They know they're not going to do it. They want to hurt the president politically.


CAMEROTA: OK. Now let's bring in Chris Stirewalt -- Chris, glad you enjoyed that.

STIREWALT: After the reenactment, I enjoyed the reenactment.

CAMEROTA: OK, very good. Chris, I know that it brings you no joy to talk about our former colleagues at Fox, but I do think it's important to try to understand why Hannity was saying one thing, really expressing dire concerns privately and then putting that mask on to the public, to the viewers who could really have used hearing some of his concerns. Why is there that hypocrisy?

STIREWALT: Well, this is, you know, there's a good reason to not point your chocolate and your peanut butter when it comes to being a broadcaster and being a partisan operative. And Hannity's gotten that tangled up pretty consistently. He appeared at a rally with Trump in 2018. He has functioned basically and there were other Fox personalities who were functioning basically as Trump's kitchen cabinet and doing all that stuff. So, when you do that, obviously you've you're not in a position to be honest with the people you're broadcasting to with your audience. Because you're doing two things at one once.

We should point out that everything Sean Hannity said in those texts was accurate, not just accurate, it was good advice. Good advice for Donald Trump would have been to shut up about the November 2020 election. That would have been very helpful for Donald Trump. It would have been good for Republicans.

You hear Kevin Kramer. You hear these other people talk about how somehow Donald Trump is going to want to do what's good for the Republican Party. I don't think that's what Donald Trump is going to do, but the advice that Hannity was giving was good and his insight was correct. Which is, this is a toxic thing to talk about, and we've got to move away from it. He just didn't have the kind of influence he thought he once did.

BLACKWELL: Yes, and let's talk about that. Because we've gotten this response now through a spokesperson from the former president specifically in response to the texts that Donald Trump should not talk about election again ever. He says that I disagree with Sean on that, and the facts are proving me right. That's not true. But what's this tell us about their relationship now?

STIREWALT: I don't know. I mean, and for goodness sakes, if we have to keep track of who has more hurt feelings on a given day between a cable news host and a former president, this is not a high tide mark for the American experiment. So that's not a good sign. Maybe in and to itself. It's also very clear, though, and this is unmistakable, Trump cancelled the press conference he was going to have to try to rebut January 6th. I don't know who told him to try to counter program a memorial for this attack. But he decided to cancel that.

Trump is trying to figure out how can he exploit this in a way that will keep the Republican Party hopelessly divided and therefore exploitable. Because he needs this issue, and it's going to be the litmus test that every Republican candidate in 2022 is going to have to face as they go through these primaries. Will you say the election was stolen or not?


And that's going to be the sheep goat separator for the Republican Party that facing an uncertain future.

BLACKWELL: Chris Stirewalt, good to have you on. Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Great to see you.


OK, happening now, a CDC advisory panel is considering whether to authorize those booster shots for kids 12 to 15 years old as data from Israel gives fresh insight into the importance of that booster shot, the third dose.



CAMEROTA: CDC vaccine advisers are meeting right now to decide if they will recommend boosters for kids aged 12 to 15 as Omicron surges. The CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said the variant now makes up about 95 percent of all U.S. cases.

BLACKWELL: Now here's the good news, Dr. Anthony Fauci said that studies continue to show that Omicron leads to less severe disease but the unvaccinated, including children, are making up the majority of people hospitalized with this virus.

Joining us now, West Michigan Emergency Room Physician Dr. Rob Davidson. He's also Executive Director of The Committee to Protect Health Care. Thank you for being back with us. How should we approach this now with the numbers that we're seeing growing at hospitals when we know that most of those people are unvaccinated.

DR. ROB DAVIDSON, WEST MICHIGAN EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN: Well, I've been coming and talking and beating this drum as so many other people. We just need to get more people vaccinated. I've got a 15-year-old at my house who keeps sending me texts asking me is it time to schedule the booster. She's ready to do it. Parents need to get on board and get ready to do it.

We may be at a point, and I think we are that vaccine mandates are the only way to do that, and frankly, the Biden administration has been trying to do this. But with disinformation being spread about vaccines, from too many places, and then lawsuits trying to challenge those mandates, they've been hitting these roadblocks.

CAMEROTA: Yes, Dr. Davidson, I'm always interested in reading your Twitter feed, and you basically think that Twitter and social media have not done doctors any favors. Because, why, I mean, from where you sit, how dangerous is what you have been reading on social media?

DAVIDSON: It's terrible, and the reality is, you know, people on Twitter say and do whatever they do, and I don't have a lot of time for that on a daily basis but when it shows up in the hospital where I'm working in the moment, that's when it really matters.

So, I had a patient come in who was in their 60s. Should have been vaccinated, wasn't. Sick at home for over a week. They were checking their oxygen at home, and it was in the 50 percent range, which is critically low. Finally came in, gasping, we pulled them out of the car, threw him on a cot, laying them on their belly, trying to prone them, trying to get oxygen.

And still this person said they were terrified. Didn't want to be on a ventilator, if we thought that's what they needed to save their life because that they heard that ventilators kill people.

I spent 20 minutes talking to this patient and their spouse about the fact that ventilators are there as a last-ditch effort when someone is going to die from this horrible disease, and it's our best bet at trying to save them. And eventually they came around. They said they weren't vaccinated because they heard vaccinations kill people.

And Senator Ron Johnson tweeted that out just a few days ago. Still trying to get Twitter to take that down. So, it's real. This happens in the real world, affecting real patients, and it's taking people's lives or at least making them extremely sick when they don't have to be.

BLACKWELL: Doctor, let me ask you something from a personal perspective but I think it really will help a lot of people as we see hundreds of thousands of people test positive for COVID every day. I tested positive for COVID in the week before Christmas. And since then, have tested negative through a PCR test. I have been vaccinated, boosted since November. Why do I still need to wear a mask? I don't have it. I'm not going to transmit it. Is it just so other people are comfortable or is there some public health argument that I should still be wearing a mask?

DAVIDSON: Listen, for people who just were infected and really aren't carrying the virus, and aren't going to spread the virus, you know, maybe the mask isn't really necessary. I don't know, I would argue that trying to figure out exactly where those people are in the disease, you know, progress as the pathology plays out particularly with Delta, then Omicron, and any new variant, these curves change and how long you're infected changes, I just wear the mask.

My daughter just had COVID, similar situation. She hasn't had a negative PCR but had a negative rapid test suggesting she's not contagious. She'll go back to school in New York in January later this month and will be wearing a mask. Because, you know, I think it's just what we do. It's such an easy thing. It's such a simple thing to do.

You know, public health is hard. I had a good friend of mine Dr. Charles Holmes at Georgetown just tweet this out, that public health is hard, and the people who are staying up day and night trying to this are doing their absolute best. And folks on Twitter who aren't doing that need to give some grace because it's tough.

CAMEROTA: Yes, we hear you. Dr. Rob Davidson, thank you for all you do. We appreciate it.

BLACKWELL: Thank you, doctor.

DAVIDSON: Thanks both of you.

BLACKWELL: Well, as of February 1st, children in New Orleans public schools will be required to have both doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, along with all the other required student immunizations. Now, the rule covers all students 5 and up. The public schools in New Orleans are also keeping mask requirements.


The Superintendent, Henderson Lewis, joins us now. Welcome to you, sir. Let's start here with New Orleans in this new rule is an outlier as it relates to the big city school districts. Why require for 5 and up full vaccination? HENDERSON LEWIS, SUPERINTENDENT, NEW ORLEANS PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Yes, and

the first thing I'll share is that the health and safety of our students is our top priority, especially as we have been in this pandemic for almost two years. But when you think of the vaccination, one, it keeps our community safe. The second thing that we know, it limits the disruptions in our school, especially around quarantine. And the third thing I would say, it's just the right thing to do at this time.

BLACKWELL: OK. So, you require 5 and up to be fully vaccinated. Do you know at this point how many or what percentage of your students there are vaccinated?

LEWIS: So right now, in the city of New Orleans, our adult population is about 80 percent fully vaccinated. And our young people here in the city of New Orleans is about 35 percent. And that's the entire youth population. And so --


LEWIS: -- go ahead.

BLACKWELL: So, 35 percent. Let's say, you know, this now mandate requires -- urges people, for 50 percent increase. You're still right about 50 percent of those 5 to 17, school-aged children, who are vaccinated. What do you do with and for the other half of students who, according to your rule, can't come into the building?

LEWIS: So, our rule is not that they cannot come into the building. In the State of Louisiana, for all of our vaccinations, in addition to having required vaccinations, there is an opt-out form that can be filled out. A waiver for our families. So, any family, whether it's religious reason, medical reason, or philosophical reason, they have the opportunity to opt out. And there's a form. And that's for any of the required vaccinations in the State of Louisiana that they can actually opt out to taking those vaccines.

BLACKWELL: So, let me understand this. You have a mandate for the vaccine. However, if a parent decides not to have their child vaccinated, as it appears now that 65 percent parents in New Orleans have decided, they can come in, fill out the form and their children can come into school without being vaccinated?

LEWIS: Correct. That's the same way of all the vaccines that are required in the State of Louisiana.

BLACKWELL: Understood.

LEWIS: But we do know that -- go ahead.

BLACKWELL: Continue with your point.

LEWIS: Yes, I was going to say that right now, of course, we're doing a lot of testing as our students are returning back to school and our schools will continue to do drives over the next several weeks to actually continue to get that number up. And for example, we know high schoolers, they receive authorization

earlier, but we have some high schools that are actually 80 percent plus already vaccinated at this time. And so, we're very optimistic in the state -- in the city of New Orleans that is, that our students and our school system, many of them will continue to get vaccinated. Because, again, it's going to keep our community safe, it's going to keep our schools safe and also when it comes to quarantine it's going to limit the (INAUDIBLE) number of days they have to be at home.

BLACKWELL: All right, NOLA Public School Superintendent Henderson Lewis, thank you so much.

LEWIS: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: OK, so the White House is calling the holiday shopping season a success. Despite early supply chain issues. Can this trend continue? We're going to ask a key member of the Biden administration about that.


CAMEROTA: The White House is talking up a record-breaking holiday shopping season.


Despite the supply chain bottlenecks that we saw in the fall, the White House says delivery times from the Postal Service, UPS and FedEx were actually shorter than before the pandemic.

With me now is John Porcari. He's the Port Envoy to the Biden administration's Supply Chain Disruptions Task Force. John, great to see you. So, you have this banner sales season, you're saying, for Christmas. Are you saying that the supply chain disruptions are over?

JOHN PORCARI, PORT ENVOY TO THE WHITE HOUSE SUPPLY CHAIN DISRUPTIONS TASK FORCE: No, Alisyn. We're not saying the supply chain disruptions are over. We're saying that we've made real progress in the last few months, including unprecedented movement of goods and availability on shelves for the holidays.

Now we need to build on that success and take it to the next level. And we're going to have opportunities together to do that. In part through the bipartisan infrastructure legislation that provides some of infrastructure funding for these long overdue physical improvements.

CAMEROTA: I just wanted to share with you some of the perspective from some other places. Because Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, say that they don't see it that way. Bank of America just yesterday put out this memo.

Logistics bottlenecks showing no signs of easing with U.S. port congestion near record highs and north Europe hitting new highs.

So, what are you seeing that they're not seeing? PORCARI: Well, first, this worldwide supply chain issue is not solved.

No one is saying that it is. What we are saying, and what the evidence shows, is that adding 20 percent more goods movement during the pandemic to an already strained system brought it to its knees temporarily. But now it is functioning much better than it did a few months ago.

We need to take this better functioning system, this more fluid goods movement system and build it into a much more durable, much more resilient system for the future. And we don't have a day to lose here.

CAMEROTA: I remember when President Biden came out and had that press conference basically about what he was going to do to pull every lever of the government available to try to juice the supply chain. And one of the things he said was that he was going to have the ports operating on like a 24-hour cycle. So, was there one thing that you would say helped this holiday season?

PORCARI: Well, there's no doubt the most important single thing was President Biden's leadership in it. The president early on saying that those ports needed to operate more 24/7. Started the ball rolling and started the cooperation rather than finger pointing that had plagued the goods movement chain prior to that.

And it's not like a light switch. You don't go 24/7 overnight. It's a process but we're seeing unmistakable signs of more 24/7 operation which is where the capacity is in the goods movement system. Whether it's the ports, the highway system, rail or the last mile delivery. And that's an important step forward. The president's relentless, persistent leadership in this actually broke the logjam.

CAMEROTA: So, what is your prediction for 2022? What can all of our viewers expect in terms of getting their packages and getting the supplies they need and grocery store food items, all of that.

PORCARI: Well, we expect continued improvement, but we should all expect the unexpected as well. We've clearly had a goods movement chain where the pandemic bared the underlying reality. Which was, it was brittle and not very resilient at all. We need to build this more resilient goods movement chain for the next foreign economic upset, natural disaster or anything else worldwide that could cause this again.

It's an investment in the future for our children and grandchildren to build a more resilient goods movement chain. We don't have a day to waste, and we have now the tools through the bipartisan infrastructure legislation at our disposal. Let's get going.

CAMEROTA: John Porcari, thank you.

PORCARI: My pleasure.

CAMEROTA: All right, this just into CNN. The 64th annual Grammy Awards ceremony has been postponed because of the surge of Omicron cases. In a statement, CBS and the Recording Academy say, quote -- The health and safety of those in our music community, the live audience, the hundreds of people who work tirelessly to produce our show remains top priority. Holding the show on January 31st simply contains too many risks.

BLACKWELL: Yes, this is a really big deal that now it's been shifted. We also know that there's a new date for the ceremony. It will be announced soon. But it's not the only major entertainment event affected by COVID this month. The Sundance Film Festival just announced that it has moved entirely online.

CAMEROTA: I mean it feels like, Victor, we're close to the light at the end of the tunnel. It feels like -- but I felt this way before.



CAMEROTA: And then, you know, the rug gets pulled out. But it feels like if we can get through January, things might get better. That's my latest thought.

BLACKWELL: We're told the peak is a couple of weeks away and then we'll on be on the downside. Let's hope.

CAMEROTA: Let's do that. All right, "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts right now.