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Chicago Teachers to Return to In-Person Learning; Some Parents, Teachers at Odds Over Protocols; Djokovic Grateful Visa Cancellation Overturned; President Tokayev: Russian-Led Troops to Withdraw in 10 Days; Lawsuits Seek to Hold Trump, Allies Accountable; No Major Breakthrough at U.S.-Russia Meeting in Geneva. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired January 11, 2022 - 04:00   ET



ISA SOARES, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and a very warm welcome to our viewers joining us in the United States and right around the world. I'm Isa Soares in London. And just ahead here on CNN NEWSROOM.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are committed to the safety of our students. We are committed to the safety of our staff.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This should have never gotten this far.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We have to live our lives with this pandemic.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We really want the teachers to get back to work.


SOARES: After four days of closures schools in Chicago will officially reopen today. This as COVID cases skyrocket. We have the very latest for you.

A U.S. judge is not buying Donald Trump's immunity claims. Why the former president's reaction or lack thereof during the riots may work against him.

And false frustration to elation, the Georgia Bulldogs end their drought, stunning Alabama and winning their first title in 41 years.

ANNOUNCER: Live from London, this is CNN NEWSROOM with Isa Soares.

SOARES: Welcome to the show, everyone. It is Tuesday, January 11th. And we have a lot of developments to report on the coronavirus pandemic today and starting this hour in Chicago where the teachers union have voted to return to in-person learning tomorrow after four days of schools being closed. We'll have more on that in a moment.

Meanwhile, the CDC could be changing its recommendations what kind of masks people should wear. Now, "The Washington Post" is reporting advisers are expected to endorse N95 or KN95 masks which provide better filtration. That comes as the number of Americans hospitalized with COVID continues to rise -- as you can see there on your screen. Now according to the Department of Health and Human Services the 14- day moving average is more than 111,000. It's just shy actually of the record from January of last year.

The number of cases -- as you can see on your screen -- is exploding as well. Data compiled by Johns Hopkins University shows nearly 1.5 million new infections on Monday. And we should point out, Mondays are sometimes skewed since not every state reports new cases over the weekend.

Meanwhile, Pfizer CEO says his company is working on a redesigned vaccine specifically targeting the Omicron variant. But a top U.S. researcher says he's not sure if it's necessary just yet. Have a listen.


DR. PAUL OFFIT, MEMBER, FDA VACCINES ADVISORY COMMITTEE If what we want from this vaccine is protection against serious illness, the vaccines Moderna, Pfizer, J&J all provide that and appear to provide it for at least a year after getting the vaccine. It's true for all four variants including the Omicron variant. I think if you start to see an erosion of protection against serious illness, despite being vaccinated, then I think we're talking about a specific vaccine but I don't think we're there yet.


SOARES: U.S. health insurance companies will have to start covering the cost of at-home COVID tests and starting on Saturday new government rules call for up to eight tests a month without a doctor's prescription.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We're working closely with manufacturers and distributors to understand what they can ship and by when. As well as actively working through the timelines for distribution. We expect that the contract is structured in if a way to require aggressive timeline. The first of which should be arriving early next week. We expect to have all contracts awarded over the next two weeks and then Americans will begin being able to order the tests online later this month. We also expect to have details on the website, as well as a hot line later this week.


SOARES: More on our top story that I brought you in the last few minutes or so. More than 340,000 students in Chicago will return to school on Wednesday now that a dispute between the city and teachers union over COVID-19 safety protocols is over.


LORI LIGHTFOOT, (D) CHICAGO MAYOR: I will always be on the side of our children and our families. I was you when I was a kid growing up in my public school. I needed my school. My school made a difference in my life. I'm not standing here today without the support that I received from so many teachers along the way. And I want to make sure that we're providing the same kind of opportunities for learning and nurturing and growth for every single student in our system regardless of their circumstances, regardless of zip code. We owe them that.



SOARES: Well, a week ago, record high new cases among students and adults led to the teachers union voting to start teaching virtually -- if you remember. The school district responded by canceling classes all together. CNN's Omar Jimenez has details on the agreement reached late on Monday night.


OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The standoff between Chicago public schools and the Chicago teachers union is over. Teachers will be back in class Tuesday and students will be back in class Wednesday. The core of this dispute, of course, was the Chicago teachers union didn't feel the school district had provided adequate resources to come back in-person safely.

And some of the major sticking points over the course of this dispute, one, was the timing for returning in-person given the recent surge in COVID we've seen in the community. But also, metrics on when to take the district virtual, versus what the city wanted to do was make those decisions on a school-by-school basis. Take a listen to Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot on some of what she saw got them across the finish line.

LIGHTFOOT: Well, what I can tell you is in broad strokes of this, we reached an agreement on the metrics for at a school-based level for when we needed to convert a classroom or school. To go remote, not surprisingly, the component parts of that depend upon staff and/or student absences. As CEO Martinez says, we test in every school every week now. But we've added some layers to enhance the testing.

JIMENEZ: Now on those school-based metrics the chief of staff of the Chicago teachers union said that during CDC designated periods of high transmission it would take 40 percent of the student population to have a COVID related absence for a school to move virtual, 50 percent during other periods of the pandemic.

Testing was also another major point of contention between these two sides specifically trying to increase the capacity for it. And Saturday, Governor J.B. Pritzker here in Illinois announced that his office helped secure 350,000 additional rapid tests. And his office confirmed late Monday night that all 350,000 of those were actually delivered, which may have made a difference in this.

But the exact details of the final agreement are kept under wrap as Mayor Lori Lightfoot said she doesn't want to release the final document until the rank-and-file members of the union get a chance to look at this. But because of this, how some delegates vote that got us to this point we do plan to move ahead with seeing teachers back in the classroom on Tuesday and students the day after, Wednesday.

Omar Jimenez, CNN, Chicago.


SOARES: Thanks, Omar.

Well, some parents and teachers, are at odds over the safety protocols. Teachers pushed for testing and adequate staffing while parents felt they'd done all they could and wanted their children back in the classroom.


HALLE QUEZADA, CHICAGO PUBLIC SCHOOL TEACHER AND MOM: I am a teacher who is vaccinated and had a breakthrough case of COVID and my vaccinated husband ended up hospitalized. And while he survived, it was just wildly traumatic to my family. And having lived that and asking me to subject my students and their families who are even more vulnerable, it feels wrong. Especially when there are very basic, basic, basic steps. We are asking the district for.

LAURIE SKUROW, PARENT: I don't know what to tell my son. Every day he says, am I going to be in school tomorrow? I don't have an answer for him. And then I have to give him an answer why. Right. So, you know, I have to explain to him the reasons that he's not in school. And I personally don't have a good answer, because we have done everything right. You know, really echoing what CEO Martinez said, you know, my son is fully vaccinated, he wears a mask every day. I got him tested when he back from the holidays. His school has I believe over 75 percent vaccination rate for the students and 100 percent for teachers. So, we have done everything right.


SOARES: And for contacts, as of Friday, Chicago was averaging more than 5,000 new COVID cases a day. Of course, we'll stay on top of this story as it develops right here on CNN.

Now, in the coming hours the U.S. president will ramp up efforts to pass two voting rights bill and enact meaningful protections. He'll make a symbolic visit to Atlanta, -- the cradle of course, for the civil rights movement. But many activists say they won't attend the president's event because they don't want another speech, basically. They don't want a finalized voting rights plan. They got what they were asking for. CNN's Jeff Zeleny has the story for you.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF U.S. NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: President Biden and Vice President Harris will be traveling to Atlanta on Tuesday to make yet another push for voting rights legislation on Capitol Hill. This of course has been a key demand from top Democrats. But there has been resistance also in the ranks of the Democratic Party namely from Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona.


They have been reluctant to do a carve out in the so-called filibuster rule. That, of course, requires the legislation to be passed with a simple majority vote as opposed to 60 votes in the Senate as the rules currently allow. But Democrats believe that the White House has not been pushing strong enough to enact voting rights.

Of course, this is in the wake of the 2020 election and that big election lie that former President Trump has been pushing that he actually defeated President Biden, of course, is discredited. But this is at the root of this conversation. President Biden traveling to the former district of John Lewis. Of course, the longtime civil rights icon and Georgia Democratic House member. This legislation is named after him. So, it's a symbolic push in many ways.

But some Georgia Democratic groups are wondering why they are coming there, why the President and Vice President are coming there, rather than staying in Washington to persuade Senators in their own party to pass this legislation. So certainly, this is a big push of this year, trying to rally Democrats behind the voting rights legislation. It's a big task and tall order for the president on Tuesday in Atlanta.

Jeff Zeleny, CNN, the White House.


SOARES: Now, tennis star Novak Djokovic is back training for the Australian Open -- as you can see there -- as Australia's Immigration Minister considers whether to remove him from the country. And now in the last few minutes, in fact, a source tells CNN the Australian Border Force is investigating whether Djokovic submitted a false travel declaration ahead of his arrival in Australia. Now on Monday -- if you remember -- had a judge overturned his visa cancellation. Authorities revoked his visa when he arrived in Melbourne last week. They determined he didn't qualify for an exemption from the countries COVID vaccination rules. But the ATP says the events leading up to Djokovic's court hearing were damaging for his tournament preparation. Here's how the Premier of Victoria views the situation.


DANIEL ANDREWS, VICTORIAN PREMIER: This tournament is much bigger than any one person. It's a grand slam. It's the biggest thing in tennis in the first quarter of the year, every year. It's a massive event for us and it's bigger than any one person, whether that be, you know, in the court, or on the court.


SOARES: Well, CNN is covering all the developments as we've been from day one. Our Phil Black is standing by in Melbourne, Australia. And CNN World Sport Patrick Snell is joining us from Atlanta. Phil let me start with you. And the information we've been receiving in the last few minutes, in fact, the Australian Border Force is investigating whether Djokovic lied on his form. What more can you tell us -- Phil?

PHIL BLACK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So, Isa, the travel declaration form is an online form that all passengers arriving here have to fill in giving details about vaccination status, recent travel. It's essentially used to assess an individual's COVID risk. And yes, we now know that the border force is looking into the possibility that Novak Djokovic supplied false information on his.

We know that he didn't fill it in personally. Someone from Tennis Australia did. But on the morning that he was interviewed by border force officials when he arrived, it was established that he had provided the information. Now, it could possibly be the issue of where he's been in the 14 days prior to arriving in Australia. Because we've seen his travel declaration form. And we know that in answering that question, he said he had not travelled anywhere prior to arriving in Australia in the previous 14 days. However social media photos shows that he had been both in Spain and in Serbia during that period.

So, how significant is this? Well, we can't be sure just yet. But what it does do is give an insight into the sort of investigations that are clearly continuing while the immigration minister continues to consider whether or not to use his individual powers to once again cancel Novak Djokovic's visa. He's been considering this for some 24 hours or so now. It suggests that they are taking their time. They are being thorough. Having lost the case in court because of procedural mistakes I think clearly, they do not want to make similar mistakes again. And if any further action is taken, they'll all want it to be watertight and beyond any form of legal criticism -- Isa.

Yes, what's clear is that he may have won his appeal but the legal battle, of course, is far from over as you just said, Phil. Patrick let me just bring you in. I mean, it's so messy this whole situation right now. But if he does get to stay and play, what impact do you think it will have, not just on the Australian Open, but I'm thinking here, also on other tournaments that require vaccinations?

PATRICK SNELL, CNN WORLD SPORT: Oh, it's going to be fascinating isn't it and it's still so many plot twists ahead with the story, with this the saga. But look, is going to be interesting to see what the reaction is from the crowd. Of course, Melbourne, Australia, one of the most toughest lockdown cities in the entire world over the course of this pandemic.


We know public sentiment is very much front and center there with a lot of people absolutely displeased, in no uncertain terms, when it comes to the whole Djokovic situation.

But as of right now he is going to get to play in the season's first grand slam. As of right now, I do want to stress those words. We've been getting reaction from players in recent days. Haven't we? From high profile players like Rafa Nadal speaking out in no uncertain terms. I'm paraphrasing here, but words to the effect of, look, he brought this on himself. He knew that this whole situation could have been avoided had he just been fully vaccinated. Now, moving forward, which is the next grand slam of this time of the

year? It is the French Open in Paris where we already know that as of right now, players will not be fully -- will not be required to be fully vaccinated ahead of Roland Garros this year. So that in itself gives other options in terms of players and their viewpoints when it comes to vaccinations -- Isa.

SOARES: Yes, right now, he's playing. Of course, we'll await the decision from the Australia's immigration minister. Patrick Snell for us there, thank you very much. And Phil Black in Melbourne, appreciate it.

Now, Kazakhstan's president says Russian troops will leave the country over a ten-day period. He had asked for the Russian-led military alliance's help during the nationwide protests that began last week. The country's interior ministry said security forces have detained nearly 10,000 people in connection with the protests. And the Parliament confirmed the president's nomination for a new Prime Minister after the former Prime Minister resigned during the unrest. Let's put all this into perspective for us.

Fred Pleitgen joins us now from the Kazakhstan-Kurdistan border. Fred, really there is so much happening. It's been moving so quickly. But first let's start with the Kazakhstan president. He described the violence as an attempted coup, but he hasn't provided any evidence. What are you hearing regarding the crackdown that has been so intense and ongoing throughout the country?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that crackdown is clearly still going on. Clearly, the authorities there in Kazakhstan are still searching for people who were part of those protests. And certainly, you know, over the past couple of days that we've been monitoring the situation, Isa, we could really see the amount of people who have been detained exponentially rise. It went from around 3,000 in the weekend to now almost 10,000. That's the latest number that we're hearing today.

And it was also quite interesting as far as those foreign troops that were called in by the Kazakh government is a concern. The president there of Kazakhstan, Tokayev, he also offered some insight as to why exactly the Kazakhs felt they had to do that, and how dire they felt that the situation for their own security forces was, they said -- or he said that they were in danger of losing control of the city of Almaty and also eventually perhaps over the capital Nur-Sultan as well.

And they said what those foreign troops, of course, led by Russia did was they deployed in certain areas, secured those areas and that freed up, as he put it, special forces from the Kazakh military that then went in, and then, of course, dispersed those protests. Now all of that, of course, leading to a lot of international criticism in the way that that was handled. Then he's saying that there was a heavy- handed approach to all of this, especially in the city of Almaty where 103 people died -- or were killed in that city alone.

That's of course, also where a lot of that video came from in the early stages of those protests with government buildings being taken, rioters in the street. But then also security forces moving through those streets and apparently opening fire on people as well.

But you're absolutely right. The Kazakh government at this point in time says they're getting the situation under control. What we're sort of seeing is that there is more internet availability in the country. It certainly seems to show that the situation is at least getting a little more manageable there for the government, and at the same time they are saying that those foreign troops are going to have a phased withdrawal is I think what he said. He said that right now he believes that their operation is complete, it will be officially complete in two days and then it'll take another ten days for all those foreign forces to leave if things go according to plan -- Isa.

And that's a story you'll stay on top of us. Our Fred Pleitgen for us at the Kazakhstan-Kurdistan border. Appreciate it, Fred.

Now, Russia is taking its case to Europe, trying to keep Ukraine out of NATO. Coming up, we're live in Geneva for the latest on Moscow's diplomatic push.

Plus, a U.S. judge considers whether Donald Trump and others are liable for last January's attack on the Capitol.

And then later this hour, in a medical first, doctors transplant a pig heart into a man with a terminal heart disease. We'll have the details next.



SOARES: Now, a key Congressional ally of Donald Trump's won't say if he's closed the door on cooperating with the committee investigating the U.S. Capitol siege. Republican Jim Jordan wrote a defiant letter to the panel's chairman over the weekend saying he had no relevant information and did not plan on cooperating. But listen to what he told CNN's Ryan Nobles on Monday.


RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: For instance, if they offered you the opportunity to speak in a public setting, would you be willing to do something like that?

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): The letter -- you can read my letter that's our response.

NOBLES: But the letter doesn't say that specifically.

JORDAN: That's our response is the letter.

NOBLES: So, are you still saying -- because you said before that you were, you know, you didn't have anything to hide, so --

JORDAN: I got nothing, I got nothing to hide. (END VIDEOTAPE)

SOARES: Speaking to CNN's Ryan Nobles. Well, Jordan has been identified as one of the lawmakers who messaged Trump's Chief of Staff Mark Meadows before the attack.

A U.S. federal judge is asking why Donald Trump didn't do more to stop last year's Capitol attack on the Capitol. The comments came during a hearing on three lawsuits seeking to hold Trump, his son, Rudy Giuliani and Republican Senator Mo Brooks liable for fighting the insurrection. CNN's Jessica Schneider has the story for you.


JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: The first in these three lawsuits was actually filed 11 months ago. But they are now being considered for the first time from a federal judge who will answer the crucial question, should the lawsuits be dismissed or can they move forward.


If the judge allows them to proceed, it would open up all of the defendants to sworn depositions and all kinds of discovery. That includes former President Trump, his son Donald Trump, Jr., Trump's former attorney Rudy Giuliani, plus Congressman Mo Brooks and members of the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys.

Now, the people suing, they include several members of Congress and Capitol officers. They contend that they were threatened by Trump and the others as part of a conspiracy to stop the election certification on January 6. And they say Trump should be held responsible for directing the assaults.

Now, Trump's legal team, on the other hand, they're arguing Trump can't be sued because presidential immunity extends to what Trump said on the ellipse that day right before his supporters stormed the Capitol. But the judge in this case pushing back considerably on the idea that Trump is shielded from these lawsuits. The judge repeatedly pointed out that while Trump asked the crowd to march to the Capitol, he didn't bother speaking out as the violence was unfolding. The judge noting that there was actually a two-hour window where Trump did nothing and did not tell his supporters to stop attacking the Capitol.

If this judge ultimately decides that Trump shouldn't be shielded from this lawsuit because he was acting outside the scope of his presidential duties, that would be significant. That means Trump would likely be deposed and would finally be forced to answer crucial questions about what he was doing on and before January 6th.

Now, this judge says that it won't be an easy decision, but he likely will make that decision in the coming days. And then, of course, it could be appealed, possibly all the way to the Supreme Court. So, it could take a while for this full issue to be fully resolved.

Jessica Schneider, CNN, Washington. (END VIDEOTAPE)

SOARES: And, of course, Mo Brooks is a Congressman and not a Senator.

Now to a critical week of diplomacy across Europe aimed at averting new conflict between Russia and Ukraine. U.S. and Russian diplomats met in Geneva, if you remember, on Monday. We discussed it here on the show. The U.S. wanted assurance that Russia will pull its troops back from the Ukraine border amid fears of a possible invasion.

While Russia demanded guarantees Ukraine will never join NATO. Neither it seems got what they wanted. But Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister insists his country has no plans to attack Ukraine. More talks are set between Russia and NATO in Brussels, and that is happening on Wednesday.

Monitoring all this for us, our international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson who joins us live from Geneva. And Nic, this was like seven hours, I believe, of talks that apparently were frank and forthright. But as we just laid out, no breakthrough as they try to understand each side of the argument as you told us yesterday. What kind of tension, Nic, does this create as we look ahead to the upcoming meeting between Russia and NATO here?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yes, we've just heard a read out of how the talks went here in Geneva from the Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov. And he said so far in the talks they see no reason for optimism, but that they're going to get what they want at these round of talks. However, he said, you know, they will continue -- they were open, substantive and direct. That's how he describes the talks. He said there are another two rounds of talks this week. The NATO -- the ones with NATO and the ones with the OSC Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. So, those will be had on Wednesday and on Thursday, Russia's committed to those. But he said it's impossible, Peskov said it's impossible to draw any conclusions ahead of that.

So, really Russia sort of holding its, you know, holding its decision about what happens next until the end of the week, until these talks are over. And Peskov also said that the issue of the United States saying that they would be heavy economic sanctions if Russia invaded Ukraine. Despite the fact Russia has said it has no intention to invade Ukraine, the U.S. side said, well, if Russia has no intention to invade Ukraine, why not pull the troops back to their barracks and show that. And also, where unlike other military exercises that Russia has conducted close to Ukraine. It hasn't told NATO of these plans.

So, you know, the U.S. perspective is there are concerned about that threat. The Russian perspective is they don't intend to invade Ukraine. However, what Peskov says about that is that the U.S. threats of sanctions, potential sanctions is not constructive, not constructive around the dialogue that's going on -- Isa.

SOARES: Nic Robertson for us this morning in Geneva, thanks very much, Nic. Now, new details on what's thought to be North Korea's second weapons

test of the year. The South Korean military says the North fired a presumed ballistic missile more than 700 kilometers to the east, and that this missile appears more advanced than the one -- if you remember -- North Korea fired some six days ago or so. The North said last week's launch was a hypersonic missile, although experts doubt that claim. They expressed regret over the new launch, but the U.S. military said it doesn't pose an immediate threat.