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Top U.S. Health Experts Say Most People Will Get COVID; Fauci: Sen. Paul Raising Money Off of Misinformation; Djokovic Admits to Error on Travel Form to Enter Australia; U.S. President Makes New Push for Voting Rights; Critical Talk Between NATO and Russia Begin in Brussels. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired January 12, 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 right here on CNN NEWSROOM.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This administration has failed to ensure that the Americans have the tests they need.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a pandemic that we've been dealing with for two years. Everyone needs to step up and do their part.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, U.S. NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: We have a pandemic that everyone knows right now is like a tsunami on us.


SOARES: COVID frustrations amid shortages, as science is questioned again.

NATO and Russia hold face-to-face talks this hour in a bid to defuse tension over Ukraine. We are live for you from Brussels and in Kiev.

And is the party over for Boris Johnson, the British Prime Minister is expected to face a grilling as calls grow for him to resign.

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

SOARES: Welcome to the show, everyone. It is Wednesday, January the 12th and we begin with startling admissions from two top U.S. medical experts about COVID-19 and the Omicron variant. To put it bluntly, they say most people will be exposed to the virus eventually, and many will get it. Have a listen.


DR. JANET WOODCOCK, ACTING COMMISSIONER, U.S. FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION: I think it's hard to process what's actually happening right now, which is most people are going to get COVID, all right, and what we need to do is make sure the hospitals can still function, transportation, you know, other essential services are not disrupted while this happens.

FAUCI: I think in many respects Omicron, with its extraordinary, unprecedented degree of efficiency of transmissibility will ultimately find just about everybody. Unfortunately, those who are still unvaccinated are going to get the brunt of the severe aspect of this.


SOARES: Well, these same experts are emphasizing once again that the best way to protect yourself is to get vaccinated. Still, the latest data from CDC -- as you can see there -- shows at least one in five eligible people 65 million Americans are still unvaccinated.

Meanwhile, the U.S. has broken its record for people hospitalized with COVID and nearly 150,000 -- as you can see there on your screen. That tops the previous mark from January of last year. Well, hospital systems across the country are feeling the strain. Washington, D.C. and New Jersey have been forced to declare public health emergencies and mask mandates are coming back in many areas.


FAUCI: Wearing any mask is better than no mask at all but there is a gradation of capability of preventing you from getting infected and for you transmitting it to someone else. So, we should be wearing the best possible mask that we can get.


SOARES: Well, Omicron's impact on everyday life is clear with one look really at empty shelves in U.S. grocery stores as workers get sick, stores have staffing shortages, which affects, of course, restocking. The ongoing trucker shortage has slowed down the supply chain and severe weather as well in the Midwest and the northeast -- as we've been showing you here all this week -- has also bogged down deliveries.

Meanwhile, a group of teachers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana is planning a sickout in a few hours really to protest COVID-19 protocols. The teachers are calling for virtual learning until cases basically come down. They also want 10-day isolation periods instead of the five for students and staff, of course, who test positive.

Well, record inflation in the U.S. is compounding all of this. All the problems for Americans, who are just trying to really make ends meet. The Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell is pledging action really to try and bring those prices down. Have a listen.


JEROME POWELL, U.S. FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: In a way, high inflation is a severe threat to the achievement of maximum employment and to achieving a long expansion that can give us that. If we have to raise interest rates more overtime, we will. (END VIDEO CLIP)

SOARES: Of course, high interest rates bring risks and problems, of course, of their own. Some economists say they expect full rate hikes this year. Meanwhile, a two-month high for oil price is causing pain at the pump right across United States.


Crude rose nearly 4 percent to $81 a barrel on Tuesday -- as you can see there. Experts predict an average of $3.06 a gallon for gasoline this year. Right now, the national average is $3.30 a gallon.

Now Dr. Anthony Fauci isn't hold holding back his frustration with Republican lawmakers who he says are spreading misinformation about him and the pandemic. Listen to this exchange with Kentucky Rand Paul.


FAUCI: You keep coming back to personal attacks on me that have absolutely no relevance to reality.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): Do you think anybody has had more influence over our --

FAUCI: Let me finish.

Paul: -- response to this than you have? You've had a great (INAUDIBLE) of success. Do you think it's a great success what's happened so far?

FAUCI: What happens when he gets out and accuses me of things that are completely untrue is that all of a sudden that kindles the crazies out there, and I have life -- that threats upon my life, harassment of my family and my children with obscene phone calls because people are lying about me. So, I ask myself, why would Senator want to do this? So go to Rand Paul website and you see "Fire Dr. Fauci" with a little box that says, contribute here. You can do $5, $10, $20, $100. So, you are making a catastrophic epidemic for your political gain.


SOARES: Well, at that same hearing Kansas Senator Roger Marshall asked Dr. Fauci to release his financial records which are already available to the public.


SEN. RODGER MARSHALL (R-KS): As the highest paid employee in the entire federal government, yes or no, would you be willing to submit to Congress and the public a financial disclosure that includes your past and current investments?

FAUCI: I don't understand why you're asking me that question. My financial disclosure is public knowledge and has been so for the last 37 years or so, 35 years. MARSHALL: Where would we find it?

FAUCI: All you have to do is ask for it. You're so misinformed, it's extraordinary.

MARSHALL: But why are we (INAUDIBLE) viewing It?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All Senator Marshall, Dr. Fauci has answered you. It is public information and he's happy to give it to you if you were would ask. Senator Moran.

FAUCI: What a moron. Jesus Christ.


SOARES: Dr. Anthony Fauci not holding back with the last words.

Well, the Health and Human Services Department issued a statement saying: At a time when America is seeing rising COVID case, it is disappointing and frankly unacceptable that Republican Senators chose to spend a hearing with the country's leading public health experts spreading conspiracy theories and lies about Dr. Fauci rather than how we protect people from COVID-19.

We will stay across this story for you.

Now, in American Airlines flight out of Honduras got an unwelcome surprise on Tuesday while passengers were boarding. The airline said while the Miami-bound plane was on the ground, a man entered the opened flight deck, invaded the cockpit and damaged the plane. But he didn't stop there going on to try and jump out of the plane window. Eventually crew members intervened to have him arrested, and the flight resumed with a new plane. We'll have more, of course, on this story with aviation correspondent Pete Muntean on "NEW DAY" right here on CNN.

Now, top ranked tennis star Novak Djokovic is now admitting a mistake was made on the travel form he submitted to enter Australia. A declaration that's now at the center, of course, of his visa saga. Djokovic put out a lengthy statement on Instagram -- as you can see there -- also saying he wants to address and clarify what he called misinformation about his activities last month ahead of a positive COVID-19 test result.

Among them, attending this basketball game in Belgrade on December 16. He said he took a rapid test two days after that event and it was negative. And he later took a PCR test the same day. Well, Djokovic says he received the positive result the next day, but still attended a L'Equipe interview. We've now learned two journalist working for the French sports newspaper L'Equipe were not told he was COVID positive before, during or in fact, after the 33-minute interview.

Let's get more on this. Joining me now from Atlanta's CNN's World Sport is Patrick Snell. And Ben Rothenberg, Senior editor for "Racquet Magazine" and the host of "No Challenge is Remaining" podcast. Patrick, good morning. Let me start with you. So, now where're hearing

from Djokovic admitting frankly to break isolation rules and admitting to an administrative mistake on his form, blaming his agent there. Does his statement, Patrick, answer all the questions and uncertainties that you and I have been asking throughout?


PATRICK SNELL, CNN WORLD SPORT: Isa, hi there. Yes, we learned a lot. That's for sure this Wednesday. But you're quite right, there is so much more we need answers to. And wouldn't we just love a few minutes one on one with Djokovic to try and get to those answers?

Let's look at the travel issue first. Even though the 20-time grand slam champ said he had not traveled in the 14 days prior to his arrival in Australia, this is really important, because photos taken during that period do appear, in fact show him in both Spain and his homeland Serbia. What does the tennis superstar have to say in response to that?

Quoted, then, from earlier, the statement: On the issue of my travel declaration, this was submitted by my support team on my behalf -- as I told immigration officials on my arrival -- and my agent sincerely apologizes for the administrative mistake in ticking the incorrect box about my previous travel before coming to Australia. This was a human error and certainly not deliberate. We are living in challenging times in a global pandemic, and sometimes these mistakes can occur.

So, let's get to this COVID-19 positive test in December, because it has proved so controversial in recent days. Djokovic admitting in that same statement he didn't immediately isolate after testing positive for COVID-19 last month but denied knowing he had the virus when attending public events. Saying he attended that basketball game we just referenced him in Belgrade, that was December 14th. Where many people tested positive afterwards. He showed no symptoms, though, per his statement. He did get tested on the 16th of December.

Now, a day later before he receives the official result of his test, he did take a rapid test that came out negative, attended a youth tennis award ceremony, and it was only after that that he received the official positive result according to the statement.

But I want to get to December 18th because this date has many questions around it. Highly significant indeed. That's when he says at his tennis center in Belgrade, he conducted that interview and a photo shoot as well with France's L'Equipe saying he canceled all other events except for that one. Why? Because he said he did not want to let the journalist in question down -- there was photographers as well.

Djokovic saying, he was socially distanced. He did wear a mask except for when his photo was being taken. In his statement, this is what leapt out to me, this part from the statement.

While I went home after the interview to isolate for the required period, on reflection, this was an error of judgment and accept that I should have rescheduled this commitment.

So, Novak Djokovic there speaking at and very revealing, Isa. As I say, we've learned a lot, but we are still left with many, many more questions.

SOARES: Yes, and stay with us, Patrick. Let me get to Ben. Ben, given what we just heard that Patrick's just outlined from Djokovic, do we know how this information may play into the Australian government's decision here? Any guidance when the decision will be made?

BEN ROTHENBERG, SENIOR EDITOR, RACQUET MAGAZINE: I don't think it's going to help the sort of political sentiment here for sure against Djokovic which has been pretty strong. There's a lot of resentment for Djokovic the moment he announced that he was coming to Australia with an exemption from the mandatory vaccination rules that people arriving in the country are supposed to follow.

The tide was set against him pretty strongly from that and now his admission that he was knowingly positive by his timeline with COVID and yet still kept an engagement to do a photo shoot and an interview with the French newspaper L'Equipe, that he disregarded sort of the public health concerns that would, you know, mandate immediate isolation and telling people you're around that you've tested positive, not doing that will definitely not play in his favor. To the extent that's sort of his past track record of behavior, and the past statements against vaccines are all put into the calculation made by the Immigration Minister Alex Hawke who is weighing the decision to, again, revoke Djokovic's visa and once again issue a deportation order.

SOARES: We shall wait, of course, for a decision. Ben Rothenberg, Patrick Snell for us in Atlanta, thank you, gents, thank you very much.

Now, in the coming days the U.S. Senate could take up voting rights legislation even though Democrats don't have enough votes to pass these protections or even to change the rules. This comes right on the heels of the U.S. president visit, as you remember, to Georgia to push for election reforms. Georgia, a long-time red state that went blue for Joe Biden in 2020, is front and center in the country's voting rights battle. As CNN's Kaitlan Collins now reports.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): With an uphill battle ahead of him, President Biden making a push for voting rights.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I will not yield, I will not flinch. I will defend the right to vote, our democracy against all enemies, foreign, and, yes, domestic.

COLLINS (voice-over): In Georgia, a state that's become ground zero in the fight over election integrity, Biden framed it as a defining moment.


BIDEN: It's not just here in Georgia. Last year alone, 19 states not proposed but enacted 34 laws attacking voting rights.

COLLINS (voice-over): The president upping the pressure on Congress to pass voting rights legislation by making an exception to the filibuster, which has allowed Republicans to block the bills so far.

BIDEN: Not a single Republican has displayed the courage to stand up to a defeated president, 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.

COLLINS (voice-over): Biden was flanked by Vice President Harris, Democrats and a slew of civil rights leaders. But one of the most prominent voices for voting rights, Stacey Abrams, was missing.

BIDEN: I spoke to Stacey this morning. We have a great relationship. We got our scheduling mixed up.

COLLINS (voice-over): Abrams' office said there was a scheduling conflict but her absence raised eyebrows as other Georgia voting rights groups boycotted Biden's visit, calling for action, not a photo-op.

CLIFF ALBRIGHT, CO-FOUNDER, BLACK LIVES MATTER: He gave a very passionate speech back in Philadelphia back in July, but then, literally, for seven months, we heard nothing else about voting rights from him.

COLLINS (voice-over): The president is taking a gamble he may not be able to deliver on.

BIDEN: I have been having these quiet conversations with members of Congress for the last two months. I'm tired of being quiet.

COLLINS (voice-over): Changing the filibuster requires support of all 50 Democrats, which, right now, he doesn't have.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): We need some good rules changes and we can do that together. But you change the rules with two-thirds of the people that are present. So, if Democrats and Republicans changing the rules to make the place work better, getting rid of filibuster doesn't make it work better.

COLLINS (voice-over): Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is pledging to push for a rule change if Republicans don't get behind voting rights legislation by Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): If they continue paralyzing this chamber to the point where we're helpless to fight back against the big lie, we must consider the necessary steps we can take so the Senate can adapt an act.

COLLINS (voice-over): But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is vowing a scorched earth response if Democrats follow through. SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): So, what would a post-nuclear Senate look like? I assure you it would not be more efficient or more productive. I personally guarantee it.

COLLINS: So, President Biden making his most extensive remarks yet on changing the rules of the filibuster when it comes to voting rights. But clearly the president of the NAACP who was on hand for the president's visit to Atlanta says he wants to see more than just words.

He said in a statement, while President Biden delivered a stirring speech today, it's time for this administration to match their words with actions and for Congress to do its job.

Of course, we know that job is going to be an uphill battle given the holdouts that remain among Senate Democrats.

Kaitlan Collins, CNN, the White House.


SOARES: Thank you, Kaitlyn.

Well meanwhile, Georgia's Republican governor is calling the state ground zero for the Biden/Harris assault on election integrity. Ryan Kemp who's fighting off a primary challenge from Trump back rival, accusing the White House of lying about George's new voting bill which has tightened rules. But Kemp insists the bill makes it easy to vote and hard to cheat.

South Dakota's Republican Governor Kristi Noem says she intends to push for legislation to ban all abortions at six weeks or once a heartbeat can be detected. Her pledge for the so-called heartbeat ban came during his state of the state address on Tuesday. Abortion rights advocates have filled lawsuits over similar laws already in place in other states.

Now, NATO diplomats are coming together in Belgium, hoping to avert a new war between Russia and Ukraine. Coming up, live reports from Kiev and Brussels as critical talks with Russian diplomats get underway.

Then, North Korea is touting its latest missile test which the United States said did not pose an immediate threat, and yet the launch prompted a strange response in part of the United States. We have that story next.



SOARES: Now, we are keeping a close eye on Brussels this hour where critical talks between NATO and Russia are getting underway. It is the second of three meetings this week -- which we've been showing you all week -- aimed really at preventing a Kremlin invasion of Ukraine. In Monday's talks with U.S. and Russia ended in really a stalemate in Geneva. Since then, Russia has announced new military drills and it's still demanding Ukraine never join NATO. But the U.S. refuses to allow to place it in the alliance. Here's what America's ambassador to NATO told CNN. Have a listen.


JULIANNE SMITH, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO NATO: No one is suggesting that we alternate alter NATO policy on enlargement. The door remains open. No one has the right to kick the door shut. And any decision about enlargement will continue to rest between the NATO alliance and the country in question.


SOARES: Let's get more from international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson is live for us in Brussels. And CNN International correspondent Sam Kiley is in Kiev in Ukraine. Nic, let me start with you. As we just heard there from the U.S. envoy, I mean NATO has been pretty unified in its position on Ukraine. Meanwhile Russia sees Ukraine joining NATO as a red line. Given this, Nic, is there any ground for optimism here?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, the Russians said after their talks in Geneva that there was the potential for optimism, that they would remain optimistic. The Kremlin spokesman said in the past couple of days that there was reason to keep going. The indication seems to be and it's a different deputy foreign minister here than the one who was sent to Geneva for the talks with the U.S. there, Alexander Grushko, is the former Russian ambassador to NATO and he's heading up the delegation here. They brought with him deputy defense minister as well, Alexander Vasilyevich. Who's also part of the Russian delegation.


But it's hard to see that the outcome is going to be different. NATO has been very joined up, very joined up indeed and telegraphing and telling the Russians at multiple times, multiple levels that they need to de-escalate tensions. That NATO will not concede to their demands. Indeed, it's a complete anathema to NATO that Russia could be demanding that NATO sort of roll back its deployments to pre-1997 levels.

So, the perception here is that the Russians will walk away with the same message that they got in Geneva. How they will respond is unclear. Perhaps the one thing that has changed -- this is a micro change I think you might say -- since the meeting in Geneva. One of the criticisms of Wendy Sherman who led the U.S. delegation in Geneva and leads the U.S. delegation here at the NATO talks as well. Was that, you know, if the Russian side is serious about not invading Ukraine, not using these troops near the border to invade Ukraine, then they would go back to their barracks.

And another question side raised was, if Russia really is there in a training exercise, why haven't they told us about that as they have done in the past? So, late yesterday the Russians announced that 3,000 of those troops would be doing a live fire exercise. So, you know, it's at a slight modification of the Russian position. Is it a positive or is it upping the ante? Really not clear.

SOARES: Yes, and, Sam, if the outcome is the same from what we saw in Geneva, what is Ukraine's position here? What's the biggest fears?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the biggest fear is a continued expansion of Russian-backed rebel territory into Ukrainian government territory. They've already have a large chunk of the east of the country known as the Donbass already under effectively Russian tutelage. The Russians have illegally annexed the Crimea.

And from the Ukrainian perspective, these maneuvers, these life firing maneuvers involving 3,000 troops right on their border is clearly saber rattling or gun firing over their heads. I mean, this is a direct threat as far as the Ukrainians are concerned. And yesterday, just as the Russians were announcing this live fire exercise, the Ukrainians said that they had intelligence that inside the Donbass region, two significant military units there were also conducting maneuvers. That was being seen as a signal that the Russian-backed rebels in the east of the country might also be preparing for some kind of military action.

Of course, this is all part of the theater behind these talks going on between Russia and NATO at the moment. A much more widely, the Ukrainians are also aware that since they drove from power the Kremlin-backed president here during the Maidan rebellions a few years ago, Putin has been extremely anxious about his own long-term survival. They're aware that democracy in countries like Ukraine, attempts at democracy in nearby Belarus again, another authoritarian leader on the border with Russia, and, of course, events we've seen over in Kazakhstan, another pro-Kremlin authoritarian leader. All of these signal to Vladimir Putin that he may be personally vulnerable to the spread of democracy as much as NATO.

SOARES: Very important context. The meeting has started, started some 30 minutes ago. Nic Robertson for us in Brussels, Sam Kiley in Kiev, thank you to you both.

Well, life is about to get more expensive for certain Canadians who refuse the COVID vaccine. Or as Quebec puts it, the unvaccinated now have a way to financially contribute to overwhelmed hospitals. We'll explain.

Plus, a new poll has Boris Johnson going from bad to worse. The latest fallout from his "Partygate" scandal just ahead.