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W.H.O.: More than Half of Europe Could Get Covid Soon; Poll: Two-Thirds Say Boris Johnson Should Resign; U.S. Justice Department Forms New Domestic Terrorism Unit; Unclear Why North Korean Launch Affected Some U.S. Airports. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired January 12, 2022 - 04:30   ET



ISA SOARES, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back to CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Isa Soares. If you're just joining us, let me bring you up to date with our top stories this hour.

NATO diplomats are meeting in Brussels this hour with Russian officials to discuss tensions over Ukraine. Their meeting comes after talks between U.S. and Russia ended with no real breakthrough.

And two of America's top health officials say that at some point, almost everyone will get COVID or at least be exposed to it. The warning comes as U.S. hospital admissions for COVID hit record numbers, surging Omicron cases are causing staffing as well as supply shortages at hospitals, schools, and grocery stores.

Meanwhile, people in Quebec, Canada who refuse the COVID vaccine are going to pay for their decision. The provincial government says they can expect significant fines in the coming weeks unless they have a medical exemption because they're putting a huge burden on the public health care system. How much they'll be charged is not yet clear.


FRANCOIS LEGAULT, QUEBEC PREMIER: It's a question also of fairness for the 90 percent of the population who made some sacrifices. I think we owe them this kind of measure.


SOARES: Well, the government says that nearly 90 percent of eligible Quebecers have received a least one dose of the COVID vaccine. And last week Quebec announced that only the vaccinated are allowed to buy alcohol and cannabis. The Health Minister says vaccine appointments spiked as a result of that requirement.

So, I want to get your thoughts, is it fair for Quebec to make the unvaccinated pay? Really want your take on this. Is it right, or has the government gone too far? Reach me on Twitter and Instagram. Let me know your thoughts. I'll share some of them later on here this hour.

Now, I want to stay with COVID. Really some alarming news out of Europe. The World Health Organization's Europe chief says the Omicron variant is sweeping across the region from west to east like a tidal wave. He's warning that more than half of Europe could catch the virus in the next two months. New data shows Europe saw more than 7 million new cases in the first week of January. Germany is reporting its highest daily COVID infection since the start of the pandemic. And France recorded its highest daily case count on Tuesday with nearly 30,000 new infections.

CNN's Jim Bittermann is live for us in Paris this hour. And, Jim, cases are spiraling across Europe, but it seems Europe may not have hit a peak yet. Is that forcing some European governments to rethink some of these restrictions -- Jim?



And it is something that the French health minister said this morning basically, that the peak has perhaps not been reached, and even when it is reached, it's going to take a while for it to plateau and then gradually come down. He said he saw that coming in the future. But that the W.H.O. report is really dire news I think for most Europeans.

The French health minister also said, that in fact, the true number of infections here could be as much as a half million a day. At that rate, of course, when you look at what the W.H.O. official said, it doesn't take too long, doesn't take too many days before you reach a point where half the population of Western Europe is infected with COVID.

So, yes, I think it's forcing governments to rethink what they're doing. The French government is trying -- is scrambling and trying to figure out how to keep the schools open. They've changed, according to parents, they changed the protocols three times in a week, something that's confusing both parents and teachers. And in fact, it's going to be a strike here tomorrow by the teachers who are angry at the way the government has been handling the situation. So, it's a difficult problem for governments across Europe trying to figure out something that works -- Isa.

SOARES: Jim Bittermann for us in Paris this hour. Thanks very much, Jim. Good to see you.

Now, Boris Johnson is sure to face some pointed questions in Parliament today after new revelations in the "Partygate" scandal. The latest allegation stems from a leaked email from a top Downing Street official inviting staff to a garden party in May of 2020. And that is when the country was under strict COVID lockdown.

Now, opposition Labour Party leader says it's time for Mr. Johnson to stop lying to the public. Meanwhile, a new poll finds two-thirds of British adults think he should resign.

Let's bring in CNN's Salma Abdelaziz here in London. And, Salma, we have been here before, perhaps many times before. I want to get your thoughts of what the saga really means for the Prime Minister, because looking at "The Times" newspaper, what people want to here, just bring it up, you won't be able to see it, say sorry -- really, say sorry or doom us all minister. Could this, do you think, if he doesn't apologize be the undoing of Boris Johnson?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER: Isa, to say sorry, you have to start by admitting that you did something wrong. And the Prime Minister has absolutely refused to do that so far.

Look, for weeks now we have been mired in this scandal headline after headline. First it was Christmas parties, then there were garden parties, now there's a bring your own booze party. The questions you are asking are going to be the questions asked of the Prime Minister in Parliament today. He's going to be in Parliament facing Prime Minister's questions, the regular weekly scheduled event.

But this one is going to be tense, Isa. Because, again, this growing scandal, this spiraling case, this dizzying array of allegations now that appear to show over and over again the Prime Minister and his administration are accused of violating COVID rules. The rules that they put into place themselves.

What's the latest one? The latest one is a leaked email just as you mentioned, sent in May of 2020 that appeared to invite up to 100 Downing Street staff members to socially distanced drinks in the Downing Street garden. Bring your own booze, exclamation point. You can imagine that tone, how it begins to hurt and affect people, particularly those who were separated from their loved ones, particularly those who are bereaved family members. The very idea that the Prime Minister or his staff would be partying or having drinks or socially engaging in activities that were banned for everyone while the virus was spreading through the population like wildfire.

And then there's the larger question that it's not just what happened, it's how about how the Prime Minister handles it. So, we're going to see him back in Parliament today. You can expect that he's going to point to that investigation and say, I can't comment any further. That's what the Prime Minister has done so far. But, Isa, I don't think that's flying in the court of public opinion any more.

SOARES: Yes, I think it's going to be very uncomfortable, and I expect a grilling later today. I know you shall be watching, Salma Abdelaziz there for us. Thanks very much, Salma.

I've got some breaking news coming into CNN. A source says the Australian Border Force is now expanding its investigation into tennis star Novak Djokovic. We have been told officials are looking into possible inconsistencies in documents related to his December PCR test result as well as his activities after he tested positive for COVID-19 in Serbia. Now, the source says it's not been determined if these issues could impact the validity of his visa. But breaking news, Australian Border Force expanding their investigation into Djokovic.


Of course, we shall stay on top of the stories as more developments, we will of course bring them to you. Now, U.S. lawmakers have issued three more subpoenas, and they are

closing in on people inside Donald Trump's inner circle. Details on exactly who next.


SOARES: Now, U.S. lawmakers investigating the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol one year ago are looking to speak with several people in former President Donald Trump's orbit. The House Select Committee chairman says Rudy Giuliani is of interest to the panel, and they plan to seek information from him. A lawyer for Giuliani suggested any information would be protected under attorney/client privilege. The House panel also issued a new round of subpoenas on Tuesday. They are seeking testimony and records from Trump's former speech writer as well as two strategists for Donald Trump, Jr.

The U.S. Justice Department says the threat of domestic terrorism has more than doubled in the past two years. CNN's Jessica Schneider reports the government is creating a new team of lawyers specifically dedicated to the threat.


JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: The Justice Department announcing the formation of a new domestic terrorism unit, and officials are citing the rising threat of domestic violent extremists as the reason. Saying the number of FBI investigations into domestic terrorism has more than doubled since March of 2020.

Now this new unit will be a complement to the work that the National Security Division already does, investigating foreign as well as domestic terrorism cases. But by designating this specific unit, it will mean more attorneys investigating and prosecuting domestic violent extremists. The top official spoke to the Senate Judiciary Committee and outlined exactly how that group is defined.

MATTHEW OLSEN, U.S. ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL: We base an elevated threat from domestic, violent extremists.


That is, individuals in the United States who seek to commit violent criminal acts in furtherance of domestic, social or political goals. Domestic violent extremists are often motivated by a mix of ideologies and personal grievances. We've seen a growing threat from those who are motivated by racial animus, as well as those who ascribe to extremists, antigovernment and antiauthority ideologies.

SCHNEIDER: And Olsen pointed out that what happened January 6 is being investigated as acts of domestic terrorism. And also did stress that this massive effort being put forward by the D.O.J. and FBI is still going on. They're prosecuted or they're looking to prosecute the more than 700 people they've already charged. And the FBI is still trying to find more than 350 people involved with the Capitol attack including about 250 who assaulted police officers that day. Olsen did stress that the U.S. attorney office in Washington is

working with federal prosecutors around the country focused on January 6. But attorneys from main justice here in D.C., they are also assisting. And this new domestic terrorism unit, it will help with more robust investigation and prosecution from various other domestic terror threats.

Jessica Schneider, CNN, Washington.


SOARES: Now, North Korea claims it has successfully tested a hypersonic missile with leader Kim Jong-un on hand to watch -- as you can see there. This is the third time the regime has claimed to fire such a missile and the second time in just the past week. The United States and its allies condemned the launch but the U.S. also did something unusual. CNN's Brian Todd explains.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A provocative move by North Korea's 38-year-old dictator causing enough of a security concern in the U.S. to halt air traffic. The FAA ordering a ground stop for some pilots along America's West Coast.

This after NORAD, the U.S. military's North American Aerospace Defense Command detected that Kim Jong-un's regime had test fired a missile Monday evening. Some pilots were instructed to land. Others prevented from taking off like at Burbank Airport in California.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a ground stop to all departures, all airports right now. It's just until further notice right now.

TODD (voice-over): The FAA says flights resumed in less than 15 minutes and that it's reviewing the ground stop order. NORAD says it didn't issue any warning and assessed the North Korean launch did not pose a threat to the continental U.S. Still U.S. officials call Kim's latest missile test destabilizing, dangerous. And missile experts are concerned about what they could mean for security in the region.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This shows that they are making some progress.

TODD (voice-over): The suspected ballistic missile, according to South Korea's top military officials reached a velocity of more than 10 times the speed of sound. North Korean state media says Kim Jong-un attended the launch and calls the projectile a hypersonic missile.

South Korea's military says this projectile was more advanced than the weapon the North Koreans tested last week which the regime also claimed was a hypersonic missile. If that is true, North Korea may have now tested hypersonic missiles three times in recent months.

SUE TERRY, THE WILSON CENTER: These missiles, if they are equipped with nuclear weapons, they can reach Seoul in less than a minute.

TODD (voice-over): Experts say what also makes hypersonic missiles and more specifically the so-called glide vehicles those missiles sendoff, so dangerous is that they could fly as fast as 20 times the speed of sound and are more maneuverable in-flight than other missiles.

DARYL KIMBALL, ARMS CONTROL ASSOCIATIONS: These hypersonic missiles would be less vulnerable to the U.S. missile defenses based in the region. And it can make the U.S. conventional forces and bases more vulnerable to the North Korean attack.

TODD (voice-over): The young dictator has just passed the 10th anniversary of his ascent to power and experts say there's little doubt what his rule has meant for North Korea's weapons capability.

TERRY: Are they more dangerous? Yes. The threat has increased because their nuclear weapons and their missile program have expanded and they have modernized. And they are continuing to do so. And there is not really any way for us to stop them.

TODD: While analysts worry about the North Korean weapons program getting even more dangerous, they're also worried about a lack of diplomatic engagement with North Korea right now. One analyst points out he believes the Biden administration is distracted by the security issues between Russia and Ukraine, by the pandemic and other issues. It takes a lot of diplomatic energy to engage North Korea on weapons, this analyst says. And he says the U.S. doesn't seem to have that right now.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


SOARES: Still to come, keep your winter coats handy. The forecast is ahead.

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: After the coldest air of the season settled around New York City, temperature subzero, wind chills, we had all of them in the past 24 hours. And it's far from over. This morning, Boston, Albany still seeing subzero wind chills. If you think this is cold, wait till you see that forecast on that in a few minutes.



SOARES: Now, bitingly cold temperatures are hitting the northeast U.S., but there is some relief in sight. CNN's Pedram Javaheri has the details. Good morning, Pedram.

JAVAHERI: Yes, good morning, Isa. The cold air is still widely in place across areas of the northeast, but it is certainly not as cold as it was just 24 hours ago. And in fact, if you take a look at the temperatures. We expect this afternoon in Philadelphia 44 degrees. Yesterday it was 27. Certainly, the 20s giving way to 40 in New York City. A better perspective here as far as the 15 to 20 degree warming trend we're expecting to see later on today. It's still though cold enough across the interior portions of New

England to produce at least a little bit of a wintry mix in a few spots with this incoming system. But certainly not a blockbuster event. Now what is going to be potentially a blockbuster event is the incredible nature of the next round of arctic air forecast to come in sometime Friday into Saturday with possibly a southern intrusion. Meaning portions of the southern United States get in on some of this very cold air, maybe even some wintry weather.

Notice this trend here, in Minneapolis we climbed back above the average of 23 degrees, but we go right back down, down into the teens thereby Friday afternoon. Chicago from the upper 30s to upper 20s.


And even St. Louis from 55 down to 40. So, the trend is shifting downward. And if you're in Buffalo you're certainly feeling it here by Friday into Saturday as they'll struggle to get out of the single digits with this next round of arctic air. Boston, you'll notice, all the way down to 15. Portland, Maine, potentially a high of only 11 degrees. And look at this. We're talking about the overnight temperatures getting down close to the single digits even in Central Park. So, a big-time cold air outbreak yet again as we head toward this weekend.

Albeit it looks dry this go around. But I do you want to show you what's happening across the Southern U.S., slightly warmer weather for now. And back towards the Western United States, we do have active whether still in place. A couple of inches in place around Seattle in the past 24 hours. A daily record for rainfall for this time of year. And another five to ten possible around the western periphery there of Washington state. And to Vancouver island as well with some flooding potential still in place. High temperatures range from about 72, room temperature in south Florida, all the way into the 30s around Boise, Idaho -- Isa.

SOARES: Thank you very much, Pedram.

Now, Happy birthday to Oreo. One of America's most loved cookies is celebrating, get this, its 110th birthday. To mark the occasion the company is unveiling a brand-new flavor, chocolate confetti cake. Because there is no, of course, no better way to spend a birthday than with cake or cookies. Think sprinkles, sprinkles, sprinkles and sprinkles, it seems, inside and out. You have to be fast. They'll only be available for a limited time come January 31st. Happy birthday.

And out bring you up to date with the story we asked you for your thoughts at the top of the show. If you can bring up the tweets. We asked you what you thought of the new ruling taking place in Canada. Those who refuse the vaccine are going to have to pay. Government there is handing out fines to the unvaccinated. Is it fair or not? You had your vote. 81.5 percent of you said it is. Keep it coming.

That does it for me this hour. Thanks very much for watching. Our coverage continues on "EARLY START" with Christine Romans and Laura Jarrett. I shall see you tomorrow. Have a wonderful day. Bye-bye. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)