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Judge Rules Sex Assault Lawsuit Against Prince Andrew Can Move Ahead; Unvaccinated Fuel Record-High COVID Hospitalizations; Key U.S. Inflation Measure Rises to 39-Year High. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired January 12, 2022 - 10:00   ET




BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN NEWSROOM: And good morning, everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: And I'm Jim Sciutto. Welcome to our viewers here in the U.S. and around the world.

Breaking right now, a federal judge has just denied a motion to dismiss a sexual assault lawsuit filed against Prince Andrew. The civil case was filed by a woman who says she was trafficked by late sex offender Jeffrey Epstein and then forced to have sex, among others, Prince Andrew when she was underaged.

GOLODRYGA: CNN's Royal Correspondent Max Foster joins us now from the U.K. And, Max, what more are you learning?

MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: Well, Bianna, it is a major development in this case on several levels, Prince Andrews, over several months, has tried desperately to get this case thrown out of the New York court, and he's failed in the recent attempt, which was to argue that Epstein had agreed with Giuffre not to pursue cases like this. The judge didn't believe those Prince Andrew arguments.

So, now, we go into depositions potentially from Prince Andrew and other members of the royal family, and potentially a trial in September, October. So, the worst case scenario, really, for Prince Andrew and the royal family -- this doesn't directly involved other members of the royal family but it certainly reflects on the brand.

I just had -- I've just been working my sources on this side at The Atlantic, and this from Buckingham Palace an official line, I got the last minute, we would not comment on what is an ongoing legal matter. That really speaks to the fact that the monarchy can't be seen to be getting involved in the legal process.

But I've also spoken to someone else, not in the palace, who is very close to Prince Andrew. And this is what they told me. It comes as no surprise that the Met Police have confirmed that having reviewed the sex assault claims against the duke for a third time, they are taking no further action. So, they're referring their police investigation, which wasn't followed up. Despite pressure from the media of claims of new evidence, the Met, the police, have concluded that the claims are not sufficient to warrant any further investigation. The duke has always vigorously maintained his innocence and continues to do so. They are pointing out that this is a civil case in New York. They can fight it on various grounds. It is not a criminal case, which would be more serious, from their point of view, and could ultimately mean he ends up in prison, which isn't a case in a civil case, of course.

SCIUTTO: Max, though this is a civil case, it is a case being pursued through the going through the U.S. civil courts. Would this require Prince Andrew to come up here at court proceedings, here in the U.S.?

FOSTER: That is something he needs to consider. He will be considering, and he will be asked and he can choose whether or not to give a deposition. No doubt, his ex-wife, Sarah Ferguson, will be asked to talk, if the Duchess of Sussex as well, Meghan, being asked as well. They can all say no if they're outside the country. Meghan would probably have to say yes.

If he does not appear and he doesn't get involved in the rest of the case, then he could found guilty in his absence, so he could face a fine, pays a penalty of some sort. And now the game would be very difficult in terms of P.R. for him, but the legal matters are up to him.

GOLODRYGA: Yes. And we will continue to follow this developing story. Max Foster, thank you, as always.

Well, we switch now to our fight against COVID-19. Right now, hospitals across the U.S. bearing the brunt of the omicron variant after passing the pandemic record yesterday. Hospitals are hovering around 150,000 today. That increase is still moderate compared to the spike of cases that continues across the country.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I think that in many respects, omicron, with its extraordinary, unprecedented degree of efficiency, of transmissibility will ultimately find just about everybody.


SCIUTTO: Remarkable to hear Dr. Fauci say that, that he believes just about everybody will eventually end up infected with omicron.

At the same time, New York is now looking at changes to its isolation and quarantine guidance.

CNN Senior Medical Correspondent joins us now. I mean, this has been a big question both at the state level but also at the federal level. How long do you have to self-quarantine following infection, and under what circumstance, so what is New York doing?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: So, New York says that they are going to make changes to their isolation and quarantine, Jim, and they say that they will put that out there today. And they made a note, it was interesting to say, that it will be very clear. That is good news, that it will be something that people can actually follow.

What they've already announced is contact tracing, and this is interesting.


Contact tracing is when someone gets COVID, a health department calls them up, says, who have you seen during this period of time, those people get a phone call and are told to quarantine. They're saying, you know what, we're not going to require health departments to do it anymore. And, really, in many ways, that makes a lot of sense.

If we just heard what Dr. Fauci said, that omicron is going to find so many people, then it does not really make sense to do the rigorous contract tracing. And let's face it, a lot of people are finding out at home that they have the COVID, so there's no way the health department would even know about them.

And, frankly, contract tracing really has not been done in a meticulous way in a lot places for many months now. We did reporting in August of 2020 that Florida was only contact tracing a relatively small percentage of people. It's gets hard to do when there are thousands upon hundred thousands, upon millions of cases.

Now, let's take a look at where New York is in their outbreak. They have the second highest case rate, 382 cases per 100,000 people. You can see here on this graph that their cases were climbing, climbing, climbing, and it shows -- this graph shows they're starting to come down.

We don't know if that's absolutely true. We want to have some more data, a few more days to pass. But as the governor of New York said, there is a glimmer of hope. Jim, Bianna?

GOLODRYGA: Listen, Elizabeth, it's not just the U.S. health officials that are warning that so many people will likely come down with omicron, WHO warned the same thing in Europe, that half the population there, they predict, will also omicron as well. A fast-moving virus, no doubt. Elizabeth Cohen, thank you so much.

Well, it is no secret that the ongoing pandemic is pushing hospitals to their brink the omicron variant only making the staff shortages worse.


DR. CHUCK THURMAN, CHIEF OF STAFF, OKLAHOMA STATE UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: It is hard to get the nursing staff. It's hard to get the agency nurses. And there is almost no amount of money that you can pay to get some of the nurses to work an extra shift because they have been through a lot.


GOLODRYGA: Well, the sheer number of patients also having an impact on people who don't have COVID, forcing delays to surgeries and other much needed health care.

Joining me this morning is Ed Yong, Staff Writer at The Atlantic. He just wrote a piece about this very dire situation. One E.R. doctor in New Jersey told you, quote, you don't want to be injured now. I mean, and, Ed Yong, this is just one example of what a physician told you, I don't want to be injured now because now is not the time to not forget to put your seat belt on, right, or walk near ladders. Give us a sense of what you're hearing.

ED YONG, STAFF WRITER, THE ATLANTIC: Yes, hospitals are overwhelmed. And I feel like that word has almost become a cliche. It does not quite describe the situation on the ground. Even before omicron, the hospitals were in a bad state. Droves of health care workers have quit because over the last couple of years because the cumulative traumas of the pandemic. The delta variant was already pummeling hospitals again. And now, omicron, though less severe for individual patients, is proving catastrophic for the health system at large just because it is flooding hospitals with so many very sick people.

Health care workers are being pushed to the brink, and that is changing health care not just for COVID but for everything. Which is why the emergency doctors are have been telling me and other people of Boston (ph) about things like driving safely, about accidents, about injuries. This is a really bad time if you want medical care for anything, let alone COVID. And that is the cost of our continued the inability to control this virus.

GOLODRYGA: And not that anyone has been downplaying omicron. Obviously, it is very encouraging that it appears to be not as dire as the earlier variants are, not as severe. But you write in the piece, you say, here then is the most important difference, however, in this surge. It comes on the back of all the prior ones. COVID's burden is the additive. And that is the danger that lies in omicron, you say, from what you are hearing from all of your sources.

YONG: And also its extreme transmissibility. Yes, it may be less severe than delta but that doesn't make it a mild virus. It certainly does not offer comfort to the many people who will develop long COVID from mild infections and it doesn't offer any solace for the health care system, which is still being inundated by a lot of sick people, some of whom are still severely ill.

This has always been the problem with the pandemic, the threat to the collective to our society at large is always greater than threat to an individual. And that is still true with omicron. It means that the choices that we are all making and the political inaction that we are seeing is going to bounce back to affect us as individuals when we stop being able to get the kind of medical care for any condition, let alone COVID, that we have come to expect.

And this is what is happening right now. I'm not talking about the future. I am talking about a health care system that is crumbling in slow motion before our eyes.


GOLODRYGA: What does that say about the mental state, the emotional toll, not to mention the fact that so many health care workers are getting sick themselves? But we remember, and we all applauded physically and literally the health care workers early on in this pandemic, and two years in, it is going to take a lot more than just our thank you to get them through this. What is it that they need right now?

YONG: I think they need people to stay out of hospital. And that's not just through things like accidents, injuries, but in terms of COVID, it means stopping infections. We've become too blase about letting the virus through our society, and the cost of that is our hospitals are being inundated.

You are right, that the toll of this is cumulative, and the health care workers have been dealing with this for two years now, and they can't take anymore. They are on -- every day, they are seeing the reality of the pandemic, hitting them square in the face in their workplaces. And everywhere else, they are seeing people live out the fantasy that it is all over.

I don't know how we can expect people to continue to sacrifice for us when other people seem to be unwilling to sacrifice for them. People seem to believe that the pandemic is over but our collective choices and their actions, lack of actions from our political leaders, means that, for health care workers, it is far from over and it is getting worse.

GOLODRYGA: And, alarmingly, many of them are leaving the field and industry all together because of the burden that we've seen on them the last couple of years. Ed Yong, thank you.

YONG: And will continue to do so.

GOLODRYGA: And we'll continue to. I always, always find your pieces to be so provocative and insightful. Thank you.

And, Jim, is nothing else, there is a reminder of why people that are thinking about possibly getting it over with and getting sick right now should not do that.

SCIUTTO: Yes. There's a certainly a view that folks have to take this more seriously. We'll continue to follow.

Other story we're following is how this all merges with politics. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is apologizing for attending a party during his own government's lockdown. Johnson's apology comes after emails surfaced yesterday that one of his leading officials invited staff to the, quote, socially distanced event in May 2020, in the back garden of 10 Downing Street. He says he thought he was attending a work event at the time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I want to apologize. And I know the rage they feel with me and with the government I lead when they think that in Downing Street itself, the rules are not being properly followed by the people who make the rules.

And though I cannot anticipate the conclusions of the current inquiry, I have learned enough to know that there were things we simply did not get right.


SCIUTTO: The leader of the opposition labor party in the U.K. called Johnson's excuse, quote, offensive and asked him to resign.

This morning, a new report shows U.S. inflation is rising at the fastest pace in this country in four decades. A short time ago, I spoke to one of the president's top economic advisers, Jared Bernstein, he says the believes the consumer prices will soon start trending down. Have a listen.


JARED BERNSTEIN, MEMBER, COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS: Every forecast shows that even with Fed rate hikes penciled in, the unemployment rate will continue to decline this year and we should be back to full employment at the end of the year.

So, under this scenario, inflation comes down in the second half of the year. We still have a very tight labor market. Now, are not sitting on our hands idly by hoping that these forecasts are right. We're doing everything we can to ensure that's the outcome.


GOLODRYGA: And for more on this, let's get to CNN Business Reporter Matt Egan. And, Matt, while the White House and even Fed officials are expecting inflation to go down, the longer it stays up, the more of a self-fulfilling prophecy this could really be on consumers.

MATT EGAN, CNN BUSINESS REPORTER: Yes, Jim and Bianna, that is exactly right. And we are learning today that the cost of living continues to go up at a rapid pace. Consumer price is soaring by 7 percent in the December. That's the biggest 12-month gain since June of 1982 when Ronald Reagan was in the White House.

Now, month-over-month, prices grew up by half a percentage point. That is a deceleration, but it is above expectations. What is concerning here is the trend. We have a line chart showing how inflation continues to go in the wrong direction, it is almost going straight up. December is the eighth month in a row of 5 percent inflation or higher.

Keep in mind, the Federal Reserve's goal is 2 percent. We are nowhere close to that. Of course, a lot of this is COVID-related, supply chain bottlenecks and soaring demand as the economy reopens, but that doesn't make any less painful, especially for low income families and people on a fix budget.

And some of these price spikes are truly historic, full service meals up by 6.6 percent from a year ago, fast food, 8 percent, men's apparel, 8 percent, new cars and trucks, nearly 12 percent.


All of those are record price gains. Food and energy has really been a sore spot, as everyone who has been in the grocery store and gas station knows, food prices up by the most since 2008, chicken up by 10%, biggest since 2004, fish and seafood at a ten-year high and gasoline, of course, nearly 50 percent more expensive than a year.

Jim and Bianna, the Federal Reserve is vowing to get inflation under control, but these new numbers suggest that will not be an easy task.

SCIUTTO: Matt Egan, thanks so much for following.

Coming up next this hour, Democrats say that voting rights legislation is too important to give up. We will have a closer look at an alternative here, a bipartisan option for electoral count reform.

Plus, as the Australian Open puts Novak Djokovic in the number one spot, he admits a, quote, error of judgment after he tested positive for COVID. How that could impact things, still ahead.

GOLODRYGA: And later this hour, Late Senator Harry Reid arrives back at the Capitol for the final time for a rare honor. We'll bring you that service live this morning.




JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: Today, I am making it clear to protect our democracy. I support changing the Senate rules, whichever way they need to be changed to prevent a minority of senators from blocking action on voting rights.


SCIUTTO: Despite that impassioned plea from President Biden for filibuster reform, the fact remains that it is highly unlikely that Democrats will be able to pass a sweeping voting rights bill. But there is a second less dramatic change that is getting bipartisan support. It is all tied to the role that former Vice President Mike Pence played on January 6, to certify the election of Joe Biden.

His task on that day was rooted in the Electoral Count Act of 1887, or ECA, as it is known. It was put in place as a reaction to the election of 1876 when there was credible allegations, evidence of fraud in the race between Rutherford B. Hayes and Samuel Tilden, leaving the result unclear. Four states at the time, Oregon, Louisiana, Florida and South Carolina submitted two slates of electors because of disputes between the two parties over who had actually won. Hayes only became president after a commission rules he had won more electoral vote than his opponent. And that mess convinced lawmakers they needed to clarify the process.

So, now, Article 2 Section 1of the Constitution reads, quote, the president of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the certificates and the votes shall then be counted. And what the ECA says is essentially that in the event of a dispute, only the state of electors affirmed by a state's governor should be recognized unless both chambers of Congress reject it.

In the case of former President Trump, members of his team were trying to argue the entire Electoral Count Act was unconstitutional. They wanted Pence to refuse, to accept the results in seven states, where the Trump campaign claimed there were irregularities without any real evidence, mind you.

Then neither Biden nor Trump would have had enough electoral votes to win and Pence could kick the decision back to U.S. House where each state would then get one vote. Republicans have the majority in 26 state delegations. So, it would have likely put Trump over the top.

Since that attempt, and especially in the last few weeks, we've started to see op-eds from conservative outlets, such as the National Review and the Washington Examiner, supporting the idea of additional reform of the ECA. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says it is, quote, worth discussing, and the minority whip, Senator John Thune, agrees. A bipartisan working group has even started meeting to discuss changes.

So, here is a look at what those changes might entail. For starters, getting rid of any confusion when it comes to the vice president's role, explicitly stating he has no power to singlehandedly overrule a state's electors. It could also mean raising the bar for when lawmakers can object to election results, perhaps require more of them to do so. Right now, it takes just one lawmaker, one House lawmaker and one senator.

If passed into law, those reforms could be critical to ensuring that no future president, Democrat or Republican, succeeds where Trump failed, something to watch closely.

GOLODRYGA: Yes, a very thorough explainer there, Jim, and a bit of a history lesson for us all as well.

Joining us now to discuss is CNN Chief Political Correspondent and Co- Anchor of the State of the Union Dana Bash.

So, Dana, the House select committee investigating the January 6th insurrection is expected to recommend changes to the Electoral Count Act, what Jim just laid out for us right there. Is that at least one area where we could get bipartisan support on any sort of election and voting reform? DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It could be. And forgive me for my deep skepticism here, but in a hypothetical world, because of what Jim just laid out, you see the potential desire to do this from both the Republican and the Democratic side.


However, as much as you are seeing the conservative outlets talking more and more about this, the more they do that, the more you see the Democratic outlets and Democratic strategists and even some lawmakers saying, whoa, whoa, whoa, this could be a Trojan horse. We have to be careful here. Because from their perspective, the system did work and the system has worked since Rutherford B. Hayes, which none of us, of course, was around to cover back then, but because Jim laid out that history.

SCIUTTO: Almost close, Dana, but, no, I was not there.

BASH: No, you weren't. No, you weren't. But listen, it is possible. It is possible. But given where we are in the 2022 election cycle, given where we are just in the country, and the toxicity and the divide, I think the realistic answer is to be a bit skeptical that it could happen.

SCIUTTO: And I suppose the question is after we get through this latest attempt to pass the voting rights legislation, which by nearly all accounts, really does not have a chance, right, to get through, does the calculus for Democrats. And then it becomes an issue of this is the best we could get.

BASH: It could. It absolutely could. I mean, that's a really important question, Jim. Because what we are sort of talking about is how this system worked based on a set of state laws that were in place from Georgia to Arizona, to Pennsylvania, to protect the right of the voters. And that is why you saw Republicans, like Brad Raffensperger in Georgia, stand up and say, I can't do this, even saying it to the then-president, I can't do this because the state law doesn't allow that. Well, state laws have changed, especially in a place like Georgia, which is going to be the epicenters of the battle for the Senate in 2022.

So, the view on whether or not things should change, I mean, obviously with the Electoral College, you're talking about a presidential race and a presidential election, not a Senate election, but how they see votes being counted and how they see the electoral system working in each state could determine whether or not they look ahead to 2024 and say, maybe we should change it. There are a lot of unknown variables though.

GOLODRYGA: Yes. Dana, if we could go back to the president's speech yesterday in Atlanta, I'm curious to get your thoughts on something that popped to a lot of people, and that was the one line where he said that he had been working vigorously, behind closed doors, having closed door conversations with senators, I would imagine, from both parties, but especially from the Democratic Party. I mean, that was a line that was seemingly tailored to those who say this is too little too late, that he hasn't done enough on this issue alone.

BASH: Yes, that's exactly right, that people who were complaining yesterday leading up to yesterday's speech in Atlanta in the civil rights community, in the voting rights community, in particular, saying, thank you but where have you been for the past year since you were inaugurated?

His speech and that particular line, Bianna, I agree with you, was about like, okay, this is why you elected me. I might not be doing it in public but you can bet I am working hard in private because that's where I shine and that is where I do well.

The question is where are the fruits of those discussions. So far, it doesn't appear that there are fruits. And you know what, you don't necessarily -- you can't blame the president on that because he's working with -- never mind the Democrats, guys, he's working with Republicans who are just intransigent on this issue, which is why he talked about Strom Thurmond yesterday, the fact that even he voted for voting rights legislation.

GOLODRYGA: He seemed to lay down a marker. Yes, he laid down a marker really and saying, you're either on this side or not. And other than that, he really doesn't have that many tools left in his arsenal. Dana Bash, thank you, as always.

Well, now, we turn to the controversy Surrounding Novak Djokovic. He is still in limbo as Australia's immigration minister weighs whether to revoke his visa, and the tennis star admits he did not immediately isolate after testing positive for COVID. The details up next.

SCIUTTO: And here is a look at some of the events we're watching today.