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COVID and Schools; January 6 Commission Seeks Information From Rudy Giuliani; Omicron Surging; President Biden Set to Deliver Address on Voting Rights. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired January 11, 2022 - 15:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: And it is the top of the hour. Thanks so much for joining us. I'm Alisyn Camerota.

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

President Biden is visiting Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. The president just paid tribute at King's burial site, which is near the church in Atlanta. Speaking of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King.

The city is the backdrop to what's being called the president's most urgent plea yet for voting rights. Soon, he will push for two federal laws that would standardize elections. It's an effort to combat a slew of new laws put into place by Republican state legislatures to restrict voting in response to the lie that the 2020 election was stolen.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This is one of those defining moments. It really is. People are going to be judged. Where were they before and where were they after the vote? History is going to judge it; it's that consequential.


CAMEROTA: But 19 states have already passed 34 laws that limit voting hours, remove ballot drop boxes or take power away from nonpartisan local election officials.

Some states have already installed Trump loyalists into important election oversight roles. But several Georgia voting rights groups are skipping the president's speech today. They're demanding action, rather than just talk.

We just spoke with one activist who said the situation is dire.


JERRY GONZALEZ, CEO, GEORGIA ASSOCIATION OF LATINO ELECTED OFFICIALS: It is dire, but we need him to be spending time in Washington, D.C., to make sure that -- if anybody knows the U.S. Senate, it's Joe Biden.

Georgia showed up for Senators Warnock and Ossoff. We did the work to make sure that -- to make that happen in Georgia. Now it's time for the president and the vice president to work in D.C. to make it happen it in the U.S. Senate.


BLACKWELL: CNN's Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill. CNN's Kaitlan Collins is at the White House.

Kaitlan, to you first.

What should we expect to hear from the president?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think clearly what you're seeing the president do today, make these stops before giving this speech, shows you just how symbolic the White House is hoping to make this day by saying this is something that he sees as a defining moment, as President Biden told reporters beforehand.

But then, when it comes to the speech, people want to hear actually what's going to happen. What is the president's plan for trying to move forward with this?

And so we know the president does plan to throw his weight behind this idea of a one-time exception to the filibuster. You see the president and vice president there as they have been making these stops in Atlanta today.

And, of course, this one time exception to the filibuster that the president is going to put the pressure on Congress to do to get voting rights legislation passed and so far has been blocked by Republicans is something that, of course, is going to be an uphill battle for him, because that is something that's going to need the support of all 50 Democrats to get there.

And that, of course, has been the struggle at the center of all of this. And so you should expect to hear a lot of passionate plea from the president, putting the pressure on Congress, talking about why this is so important, and using what, of course, we always refer to as the bully pulpit that the president has and going to Georgia, where -- which, of course, has been at the center of this fight for election integrity.

But I think what you were hearing there from those voices of some of these voting rights activists, these groups that are in Georgia that aren't going to the president's visit today is, they're saying they don't just want it to be this deeply symbolic speech. They actually want to see something change. And they're pointing back to that speech he gave in Philadelphia several months ago, talking about the importance of this, saying it can't just be speeches, there actually needs to be some action here.

That's going to be the struggle for the White House, of course, is translating the speech into action. CAMEROTA: In fact, Manu, one of the activists that we just spoke to

said that the president shouldn't be in Georgia today. He should be staying in Washington, D.C. He should be on Capitol Hill. He should be trying to twist arms.

Are there any inroads that President Biden hasn't pursued yet or could be made still on Capitol Hill?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's just a fundamental disagreement about the process for changing the rules of the Senate.

Now, the on the policy, the Democrats, the 50 members of the Senate Democratic Caucus, they are in line. They support the two bills that Joe Biden is trying to get passed. What they are not in line about is exactly how to do that. Under the current Senate process, it would require 60 votes to overcome a Republican-led filibuster. They don't have any Republicans who will support overcoming the filibuster on one of the bills.


On the other bill, they just have one, Lisa Murkowski, so far short of 10. So that's why they're negotiating a rules change to try to actually advance the bill by just 51 votes. But Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema, the two moderate senators, have for months made clear their opposition to changing the rules along strict party lines.

Typically, in order to change rules within the Senate, you actually need two-thirds majority to change the rules of the Senate. They say that's better. That's what actually builds bipartisan consensus. They say changing the rules along party lines could have dramatic and drastic ramifications for the Senate.

So they oppose going along this partisan basis to change rules, and they are not changing their position. So what does this all mean? That means there's going to be a vote this week on these bills. They will probably be blocked. And then, at that point, there will be a vote to try to change the rules. And Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema aren't there and Joe Biden's effort will almost certainly fail.

BLACKWELL: Manu, South Dakota Senator Mike Rounds was slammed by former President Trump for telling the truth about the 2020 election.

You spoke with the senator. Tell us about that.

RAJU: Yes, he made clear that he is standing by what he said, which was the truth, that Donald Trump lost the election.

And he also said that Republicans need to embrace the truth if they're to regain voters' trust and provide trust that the elections are for real and then, in 2022, voters should trust what's actually happening at the polls. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. MIKE ROUNDS (R-SD): I think it's critical that we offer the American public our direct view that they can trust the election system in the United States today, and that they can go to the polls knowing that their votes will be counted.

RAJU: But a lot of them are concerned about it, because they didn't want to get into a tiff with Trump, the way you did.

ROUNDS: Nobody is out looking for confrontations. What we are looking for is to be able to provide good information in a timely fashion, but to be seen as being responsible and being honest.

And I think that's what the American people deserve. And I think that's what many of us want to do.


RAJU: Yes, Rounds said that there was actually no effort by him to try to provoke this fight with Donald Trump. He said he was just simply being asked a question, a factual question, did Donald Trump win or lose the election?

And he made it very clear, of course, that we all know that Donald Trump lost. And that's what prompted Trump to attack Rounds. But that is exactly the reason why so many Republicans won't state the basic truth and the facts about the election. They don't want to get on the other side of Donald Trump.

But Rounds said it's time to do that, at least to make clear to voters that what they're -- when they go to the polls, they can trust what comes out on the other side -- guys.

BLACKWELL: All right, Manu Raju, Kaitlan Collins, thank you.

CAMEROTA: OK, let's discuss all this further.

We want to bring in Abby Phillip, CNN senior political correspondent and anchor of "INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY," and Dana Bash, our CNN chief political correspondent and co-anchor of "STATE OF THE UNION" also on Sundays.

Abby, long time no see. Anything new in your life?


ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Hey, yes. No, good to be back. Good to be back.

CAMEROTA: Abby, you have been on maternity leave. And I have a picture here of the cutest child I have ever seen. And that includes mine.



CAMEROTA: That is -- she is the cutest child ever.

PHILLIP: She is the cutest, if I don't say so myself. She is the cutest, and doing very well. So, thanks.

CAMEROTA: Welcome back. We have really missed you.

So, let's start with you.

And let's talk about this Herculean task that President Biden has. He's in Georgia giving a speech on the dire state of voting rights and election integrity in this country.

And all sorts of activist groups, voting rights activist groups, are boycotting this speech because they say time's up. It's too -- the situation is so dire. It's time for no more speechifying. It's time for action.

What action -- what other action can President Biden take?

PHILLIP: Yes, I mean, that is the big question.

Look, there's a lot of focus on Biden going back, as you just said, your previous guest said, go back to Washington. You are supposed to be the master of the Senate. Get Republicans on board for this. But the problem is that that's -- on this particular issue, even the moderate Republican senators who have played ball on previous legislative initiatives are not willing to stick their necks out on voting.

And, interestingly, I think the kind of way that all these stories come together is, you heard that clip of Mike Rounds talking to Manu talking about how the election last time was not rigged. There are a lot of Republicans who believe the election was not rigged, but also believe that there's no need to go tinker with it, no need to go making these changes that Democrats want.

And it's for that reason that they're probably likely to stay on the sidelines here. And so what you're seeing among activists is a desire to pressure Biden, frustration with Joe Manchin, because they believe that he double-crossed them on Build Back Better.


But there's no clear path forward for Democrats on this issue.

BLACKWELL: So, Dana, I just had a conversation with Senator Tammy Baldwin, in which I tried to get beyond just discussing the urgency of passing something and why this is happening now. How do you get to it? We didn't get to that point.

But is there a specific plan even that they're trying to convince Senator Manchin and Senator Sinema to get behind? Is it the talking filibuster? Is it that you need to change the number? What are they trying to coalesce around?

BASH: Well, all the above. What's interesting is that we are talking about process here. And that's the most important thing to keep in mind, is that, when you say where are they trying to get Senators Manchin and Sinema, it's not, are they opposed to this provision or that provision inside the two voting rights bills that have passed the House?

It's not that. They support the substance of the policy. And that's so important to keep in mind. It is simply the process. And why is the process stuck? Why is it so such that the Democrats pretty much support the federal voting rights legislation, and they can't do it? It is because of the filibuster.

And the onus is -- and Abby was alluding to this. The onus is on Democrats, because Republicans will not play ball. And it is a relatively new phenomenon, Victor and Alisyn. Republicans not only played ball, but they helped to push the ball certainly going back to 1965, but even the last time the voting rights law was renewed during the Bush administration.

And it is because the notion of voting and who has the access to the ballot and manipulating voting for political power, that has become so -- such a given that it really wasn't -- not that long ago.

CAMEROTA: Abby, this is not just academic. There are real-life consequences already happening.

And here are just a few. In Wayne County, Michigan, a Republican supporter of Trump's big election lie was selected to the board of canvassers, which will certify the election results. Also in Michigan, a 13-year veteran of the county canvassing board lost her seat because she said there was no evidence of widespread fraud.

In Lancaster County and your county, Pennsylvania, a handful of candidates who supported Trump's false claims won elections to serve as local judges and election inspectors. This is already happening on the ground as we speak.


It's such an important point that the real -- one of the most urgent battles, this is -- it's like watching an avalanche, like, coming toward you, is the fact that there are these, I don't know, election deniers and people who are spreading the big lie who are being strategically placed in important positions that involve elections all across the country.

And those people are going to be on the front lines of the next midterm election, the next presidential election. And for the Republicans on Capitol Hill who say the election wasn't stolen, we don't believe in the big lie, they are not willing to do anything about that.

And I think that that is a real problem for our political system, putting aside this particular legislative fight. What you're seeing is Republicans, these are people in their own party who are not speaking up about the fact that there are a lot of election deniers who are being placed in these positions, and could be in a position to try to overturn the next election, if it doesn't go their way.

There's some talk of addressing the Electoral Count Act, which could make some of this less likely. But until that happens, I think that is really the train that is coming directly at us ahead of the next election cycle.

BLACKWELL: Dana, it was clear at the start of this administration that there would likely not be Republican votes for this legislation, that there would be the challenge of getting all 50 Democrats in the Senate to support it.

And at his very first news conference, President Biden was asked about what else is possible. Here's that exchange.


BIDEN: Going to do everything on my power, along with my friends in the House and the Senate, to keep that from becoming the law.

QUESTION: Is there anything else you can do about it besides passing legislation?

BIDEN: The answer is yes. But I'm not going to lay out a strategy in front of the whole world and you now.


BLACKWELL: That was nine-and-a-half months ago. Is it any clearer now what that strategy is?


BASH: No. And there really isn't much, separate from what the Justice Department is doing, which is trying to use the power that they have in the courts to try to overturn some of the state laws that have passed.

And that's -- you put up on the screen some really important changes that we have seen on the really local level, which -- with voting. That matters a lot. But if you take it up a few notches, just to the state level, I spent time in Georgia, in Arizona, in Texas with state legislators, particularly Republicans, who almost to a person admitted to me that the reason why they have changed the laws in their states isn't necessarily because there was widespread fraud.

They admitted there really wasn't widespread fraud. It's because of the lie that the former president is telling. And it is trickling down to their Republican constituents, who are then pressuring them to change laws. And what we have seen, again, in places like Georgia and in Texas in particular -- let's just take Georgia, because that's where the president is today.

The things that are in place -- the structures that were in place, I should say, that allowed even Republicans like Brad Raffensperger to push back against then-President Donald Trump, those have been eroded. Those have been pulled down by Republican legislators there, which means that it is not going to change unless there is federal legislation to do so.

And there's no other way to look at it, except that.


CAMEROTA: Yes, I mean, it's really troubling.

BASH: Yes.

CAMEROTA: And you have articulated it perfectly.

Dana Bash, Abby Phillip, great to see both of you.

Welcome back, Abby.

PHILLIP: Thank you, guys.

BLACKWELL: We are waiting for President Biden's speech in Atlanta, scheduled to start this hour. We, of course, will bring that to you when it happens.

CAMEROTA: Next, we're following breaking news. Lawmakers investigating the Capitol right now say they want to talk to Rudy Giuliani.

And a North Korean missile launch leads to a ground stop for airlines flying on part of the U.S. West Coast. We will go live to the Pentagon to explain what happened here.



CAMEROTA: The January 6 Committee wants to talk to Rudy Giuliani.

CNN's Ryan Nobles just asked the committee's chairman, Bennie Thompson, if they will subpoena Giuliani and he said they are -- quote -- "working through the process." Giuliani, as you know, was a personal lawyer to former President Trump and a speaker at the rally of angry Trump supporters ahead of their riot at the Capitol.

BLACKWELL: CNN senior legal analyst and former federal and state prosecutor Elie Honig is with us now.

So, Elie, makes sense, considering the scope of this committee, that they'd want to speak with Rudy Giuliani.

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, Victor, it's about time.

I mean, this is a move equal parts obvious and overdue. Rudy Giuliani was in the middle of all of this. He's really the dark heart and soul of the entire coup attempt. He was one of the first people to advocate the big lie, to spread this falsehood. He did it in front of any microphone or camera or legal filing he could get in front of.

He was present at strategy meetings with Donald Trump. He was at that Willard Hotel war room in the days leading up to January 6. And, of course, he spoke at the rally itself. He was the one who said, we want trial by combat.

So, if you're the committee, you should be looking directly at Rudy Giuliani.

CAMEROTA: Elie, Rudy Giuliani hasn't seen very bound by rules lately. And so my guess is that he won't comply.

And then what does the committee do?

HONIG: Yes, I think there's a zero percent chance Rudy Giuliani does not comply.

There's actually two ways he can do that. One is he can take the Fifth. He is legally entitled to do that. We know he's under criminal investigation by the Southern District of New York, his former office, my former office. He has that right. I don't think it's likely he will do that because it looks so bad.

His other option is to just say, no thank you, and defy the committee. In that case, the impetus goes back to the committee. Will they follow up their polite informal invitation with a subpoena? And then if Rudy defies the subpoena, will they hold him in contempt and refer him over to DOJ for a potential second grounds of prosecution?

It'll be an interesting test of just how serious and determined the committee is.

BLACKWELL: Giuliani was the personal attorney of sorts for the former president.

Is there a complication that's presented by attorney-client privilege?

HONIG: So it's important that people understand this. We hear this phrase attorney-client privilege.

That doesn't mean that anything an attorney and a client ever discuss at any point is confidential, it's off-limits. There's a well-known exception to the attorney-client privilege rule that, if the discussions relate to a potential crime, an ongoing crime, then it's not privileged. So it's not as simple as Rudy just saying, oh, yes I'm his lawyer, and so nobody can get into those conversations.

There's also a question about, was Rudy Giuliani furnishing legitimate legal advice here? I think that could be a tough thing for Rudy Giuliani to show. So this is not a clear-cut case of attorney-client privilege. I think there's a good argument here it does not apply.

BLACKWELL: Elie Honig, we will wait to see if there's some response from Giuliani or his attorneys. Thanks so much.

HONIG: Thanks, Victor and Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, meanwhile, kids in Chicago and Los Angeles are heading back to school, with some new safety precautions in place for both kids and teachers. So we will tell you what those are next.



BLACKWELL: CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky testified on Capitol Hill today, and she reiterated the importance of keeping schools open through regular testing and vaccines for eligible students.


DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: School should be the first places to open and the last places to close.

We had a Delta surge in the fall, and 99 percent of our schools were safely opened. And one of the things that's majorly different between September of 2021 and today is, we have pediatric vaccinations.


CAMEROTA: Meanwhile, in Chicago, teachers are back to work today, and students will return to the classroom tomorrow, the teachers union and the city of Chicago coming to an agreement on COVID mitigation efforts.