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McCarthy Won't Cooperate with Probe; Biden Delivers Update on Covid Response; Dr. Paul Sax is Interviewed about Covid Peaking; Obama Backs Biden's Call for Senate Rules Change; GOP Plots Onslaught. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired January 13, 2022 - 09:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Honestly, the role that she played in the Ronettes played, the role they played in music, and in society, you know, it's super important. And they had hits. I'm not -- you know, they had really great songs. But I think their historical role, their iconic role, was even bigger than that.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. And as you say, may her memory be a blessing to all of us.

CNN's coverage continues right now.


JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: A very good Thursday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.


Our top story this hour, the highest ranked Republican in the House, Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, rejecting a request from the January 6th committee to voluntarily cooperate and provide information about his communications with then President Trump and others during and after the insurrection. McCarthy calling the committee's investigation, quote, illegitimate. And that's a big reversal since last May.

Take a listen.


MANU RAJU, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Would you be willing to testify about your conversation with Donald Trump on January 6th if you were asked by an outside commission -- REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Sure.

RAJU: You would?

MCCARTHY: Next question.


SCIUTTO: Change now.

Another story we're following this morning, tennis star Novak Djokovic, officially the number one seed in the Australian Open men's singles draw. Will he get to play? Questions about whether he broke the rules everyone else has to follow.

And, President Biden set to speak next hour to announce a new federal plan to deploy military medical teams to hospitals that are grappling with the omicron surge.

GOLODRYGA: But let's get right to our top story this hour. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy refusing to cooperate with the January 6th committee.

CNN justice correspondent Jessica Schneider is following the story from Washington.

Jessica, what more are you learning?

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT, Well, you know, Bianna and Jim, McCarthy doubling down now on his refusal to talk to the committee. So, he released that statement last night condemning the investigation as illegitimate. That's a common talking point that we've heard from Republicans.

McCarthy also alleging the only priority for the panel is damaging political opponents. And just minutes ago, McCarthy accused Democrats of using the January 6th investigation as a distraction.

Take a listen.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): This is a distraction because they don't want people looking at what's happening. Is it a coincidence that they sent me the letter yesterday, when it just came out the numbers that this is the highest inflation that we've had in the last 40 years. That's a tax on all Americans. This committee is not a legitimate committee.


SCHNEIDER: But the committee has laid out all that they want to know from McCarthy. And it turns out, it's a lot. Of course, he told news outlets months ago that he did speak with Trump as the attack on the Capitol was unfolding January 6th. So they want to talk to him about that. It's also come to light, they say, from other interviews the committee

has done, that McCarthy had concerns before January 6th, right after January 6th. He apparently told Chief of Staff Mark Meadows that Trump's objections to the electoral count were doomed to fail. And then after January 6th, he did speak with White House staff, even the former president himself, expressing concerns about Trump's state of mind and even bringing up possible resignation for Trump or invoking the 25th Amendment.

But then remember, suddenly, after Trump left office, McCarthy met with him down at Mar-a-Lago. And that's when McCarthy's tune seemed to change. And now the committee wants to know what happened that made McCarthy suddenly back up the former president.

And, Jim and Bianna, we now have with McCarthy now three Republican lawmakers refusing to cooperate. McCarthy, and then there's Republican Congressman Jim Jordan and Scott Perry. So the question looming here is, will the committee resort to issuing subpoenas, which, of course, would then further fracture what has already become this huge partisan wedge between the committee and then those Republicans?


SCIUTTO: Yes. And, listen, McCarthy changed his position. We know that because it's on tape as we played there.

Jessica Schneider, thanks very much.

With us now, Harry Litman. He's a former U.S. attorney, now a legal affairs columnist for "The L.A. Times," host of the podcast "Talking Feds." Also Scott Jennings, CNN political commentator, "USA Today" columnist, former special assistant to George W. Bush. Also worked for a guy named Mitch McConnell.

Thanks to both of you to be on.

Harry Litman, that's really the question here now, can the committee compel McCarthy to testify? Beyond the politics of this, will they?

HARRY LITMAN, FORMER U.S. ATTORNEY: Let me answer the second first because I think, Jim, they will. I don't -- this is a step you cannot take, I think, unless you're ready to take the next one. And everything about the committee and the letter from Thompson yesterday shows they have the resolve. They are preparing to go big or go home. Notwithstanding that they'll have a legal fight on their hands, and notwithstanding that McCarthy has promised all manner of sort of petty retribution should he go in the speaker's house when -- in the speaker's seat when there will be investigations for sure about any jaywalking incident.

So, I think they're ready to follow through.


Will they be able to? My best guess is, yes. My best guess is the courts, even though it's a little bit unexplored territory, will say, this is up to Congress. And if a majority says that they want to talk to someone from Congress or even subpoena him, we -- that's not for the courts to interfere.

GOLODRYGA: So, Harry, even if you say your best guess is yes, and the courts might side with this committee, it is about timing, right? And we are up against a calendar. And, politically, Kevin McCarthy is thinking about one thing, and that is the midterm election, where he could possibly turn once again into House speaker.


GOLODRYGA: What's the likelihood that this can be done within the next several weeks or months?

LITMAN: Right. So, it's always the issue with them. But I will say that in the last few months, the courts have been sensitive to this. So, let's say they take the next step and they also -- the House committee is very aware of the timing -- and McCarthy says, see you in court. The courts in the district have shown real sensitivity and have expedited matters. And I think they can do it in time to -- to resolve the matter. Maybe not if it goes up to the D.C. Circuit, the Supreme Court, of course it could be stalled.


LITMAN: But right now the timing would permit a resolution in the courts if the courts are attuned to it as they seem to be now where as they weren't last time.


Scott Jennings, I'm a glass half full guy, I try to be. There have been some interesting soundings in the last week from Republicans. You had Senator Mike Rounds openly challenge the big lie. Trump immediately attacked him. But, notably, Republicans, including your former boss, Mitch McConnell, came to his defense. Mitt Romney came to his defense. So did Kevin Cramer, who's a Trump ally, said, yes, you know, perfectly fine for him to say Joe Biden won the election.

Does that give you some hope that support for the big lie, which you yourself have challenged repeatedly, could be waning in the midst of all this?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think it's -- I think, first of all, there's a difference between the average U.S. senator and the average Republican in the U.S. House.


JENNINGS: I mean we've seen this play out. You know, the senators have been more willing to do some criticism on this, and to -- and to say what we all know to be the truth. They have six-year terms and you know the dynamics at play there.

But among the Republican grassroots, no, candidly. I mean, f you look at the polling and you look at the sentiment on the ground among Republican Party activists out there, they still believe what Donald Trump has to say about this. And if you look at what Kevin McCarthy is doing, and his posture on this, obviously that's a nod towards where the majority of the base of his party is.

So, I'm not surprised to see some of the senators saying what they're saying, but the party as a whole I think is really more in line with Trump, even though what I -- what Rounds said is objectively true, as you and I both know.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Yes. Yes, so the glass is half empty then.

GOLODRYGA: You tried. You tried, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Here we are.

GOLODRYGA: Can't blame you for trying to start the morning off on a half full note.

But, Scott, let me pick up on that because the House specifically wants to bring up conversations that McCarthy had with the president on the 6th and the days immediately following. And that raises questions about the president's state of mind, not only what he was doing at that time, but his state of mind.

What does that tell you about what McCarthy and many other Republicans were concerned about, and that was his mental fitness?

JENNINGS: Well, I don't think there's a lot of mystery here. I mean some of the conversations that people are interested in have already been reported. McCarthy even acknowledged that, you know, some of the things he said were to the world and on tape and we already knew about it. We know now via text messages that his own children were begging the White House staff to get him to call off the riot.


JENNINGS: I mean, so I'm not sure about how much mystery there is about what happened. What I think is interesting, and I agree with Harry that the proper venue for this to be worked out is in the courts, I think what is interesting is whether Democrats are going to be willing to escalate this. I mean it was sort of unprecedented for Pelosi to not accept the Republicans McCarthy wanted on the committee. Now you have, you know, people denying the committee's attempts and subpoenas. I mean this escalation is really sort of on an upward incline. And it will be interesting to see if the Democrats pursue it because, if they do, as was pointed out, you'll have Republicans most likely in the majority after November, and then we'll see what they pursue, and they'll feel like they've got to be on an escalation. And so it really is a bullet train of partisan warfare that we're on in the U.S. House right now.


GOLODRYGA: Well, Harry Litman and Scott Jennings, as always, thank you so much. We'll, of course, continue to follow this story. And still to come, President Biden will lay out a plan next hour to

deploy military medical teams to hospitals struggling across the country. Details ahead.

SCIUTTO: And listen to this, some positive signs beginning to emerge in locations hit hard by omicron early in the surge. Is the surge peaking?


We're going to take a closer look at the data coming up. You'll want to see it.

Plus, protests in Fayetteville, North Carolina, after the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man by an off-duty officer. We're going to have the latest on that investigation coming up.


GOLODRYGA: In the next hour, President Biden will be speaking at the White House, where he's expected to announce the deployment of military medical teams to hospitals that are overwhelmed with Covid patients. This as nearly a quarter of hospitals across the nation are reporting critical staffing shortages. And that is the issue, the staffing.

SCIUTTO: No question. You hear just some real nightmare stories from the inside of some of these intensive care units.

CNN White House correspondent Jeremy Diamond, he's following all this.


Jeremy, hospitals in at least six states will now receive that help. Clearly the administration is aware of a need here.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, no doubt about it. I mean Covid hospitalizations have hit record highs. Higher than the peak even of last winter's coronavirus surge. And so this help is needed and it's appreciated certainly by a lot of these hospitals.

President Biden today, this morning, will announce that six medical personnel teams will head to six different states across the country, Ohio, New York, Rhode Island, Michigan, New Mexico, and New Jersey. All of these states have several hospitals there that have been hard hit by this coronavirus surge. And these military medical personnel are intended to help triage patients, help decompress overwhelmed emergency departments and free up these healthcare providers to do other lifesaving work at these hospitals.

And this is just the first wave of those nearly 1,000 military medical personnel that President Biden said last month that he could begin to deploy across the country. It is not the first wave of federal medical personnel, though, that this administration has deployed. They have already deployed more than 800 medical personnel teams over the last several months, since Thanksgiving. And so this is an ongoing effort from this administration.

President Biden is also going to deliver an update on the status of this coronavirus pandemic and his efforts to combat the pandemic, including addressing questions on testing and resources. And he's also going to speak with some of those federal teams that are already deployed to several states across the country.

Jim. Bianna.

GOLODRYGA: Yes, Jeremy, we already know that more than 14,000 National Guard have been activated across the country as well. Thank you so much.

Well, while the number of new Covid infections is rising in several cities across the country, some states along the East Coast are seeing a slowdown. In Washington, D.C., new cases are trending down slightly after seeing a massive surge over the past month. Maybe, Jim, this is the glass half full area you were looking for earlier.

SCIUTTO: Maybe. And following it seems a pattern that we saw in other countries, such as South Africa and the U.K. In New York state, another early epicenter of this, Governor Kathy Hochul says the downward trend there could be, quote, a glimmer of hope.

So, joining us now to talk about this, Dr. Paul Sax, professor of medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School -- just Harvard Medical School.

Dr. Sax, good to have you this morning.

So, looking at this data, I mean what's key here is this had been the hope, right, that that early, fast surge would be followed by an early tailing off, burning out of this. South Africa has seen it. Signs the U.K. is. Are we seeing the same pattern here in the U.S. based on this data?

DR. PAUL SAX, PROFESSOR OF MEDICINE, BRIGHAM AND WOMEN'S HOSPITAL: Yes, we're starting to see it in some of the cities, especially in the northeast. Here in Boston, for example, for the first time in quite -- in several weeks, we have actually no increase in the number of hospitalizations from Covid from yesterday to today. And also I've heard that some of the universities that are testing regularly are starting to have a slowing of the positive test numbers.

In addition, we monitor wastewater SARS-CoV-2, that's the virus that causes Covid concentrations, and we are seeing very encouraging trends here in Boston with declining numbers. And the reason that's important is because monitoring the wastewater is not subject to test limitations. It really does give you a very clear indication of the amount of virus that's circulating in the community. So all of that is good news.

It's not over yet. I want to emphasize that. But it is the kind of news we were looking for.

SCIUTTO: Yes. GOLODRYGA: Yes. And, Doctor, I want to ask you and pick up on that wastewater statistic because I believe it's down about 40 percent since it peaked on January 1st. And I'm curious if this is something that we should be looking more at throughout the country. Obviously, we look at what's happening in South Africa. And Europe is giving us an indication of perhaps where we may be. But given how much larger the United States is and how much more diverse it is, as far as statistics and bellwethers, is that what we should be focusing on in different regions and cities going forward?

SAX: Well, I think it's actually a great way of using science to apply it to epidemiology. It's something that we couldn't have done, for example, you know, a couple of decades ago, but now we have the tools where we can monitor this. And as I mentioned, it doesn't require, you know, increasing testing capacity, because, really, it's science that is actually directly applicable to the wastewater. And it has been an extremely reliable bellwether of what's coming and what's behind us.

You know, we know, for example, that the levels seen now, even though they're down as you mentioned, 40 percent to 50 percent, are still substantially higher than they were last winter, which is why I want to emphasize that there's still quite a lot of Covid-19 out there. But I completely agree with you, Bianna, this is a very good metric that we should be using more nationally.

SCIUTTO: So, Dr. Sax, the administration has a plan to send hundreds of millions of tests out. It appears that as soon as next week that will happen. I hate to ask, but is that too late?


I mean is it going to be happening after the horse has already fled the barn, or whatever the expression is?

SAX: Yes, it's -- Jim, it's not -- it's not too late. As I said, there's still a lot of Covid-19 out there. And I think in targeted ways, using these tests for more safe return to work, more safe staying at school, more safe socializing, are all things that can help us get back to something approaching normal, because as you know, things have really been bad since December in the United States with just skyrocketing cases.

Everybody knows many people who have had Covid-19. Fortunately, most of the cases are mild, but given the gigantic increase in numbers, we've had huge numbers of hospitalized people as well, and we'd like to see an end to that. So, no, it's not too late.

I think one thing -- important lesson to learn from previously from this past summer is not to do anything with those excess supplies if that occurs. We should try to stockpile testing because there's a chance that Covid could come back. And it's a very good chance. So we have to watch for that.

SCIUTTO: Yes, it's a lesson we learned with, you know, masks, et cetera.


SCIUTTO: You know, just when you think you don't need them anymore, you might need them.

SAX: Exactly.

SCIUTTO: Dr. Paul Sax, thanks so much.

SAX: Thank you for inviting me.

SCIUTTO: Coming up next, CNN has new details about the Republican game plan if they win back the majority in the House in 2022. It involves lots of investigations of the Democrats.

GOLODRYGA: Yes, something we were talking about in an earlier segment.

Plus, we are moments away from the opening bell on Wall Street. Stock futures higher this morning despite another key inflation report hitting a record high this morning.

And Boeing shares are rallying on the news that China will allow its 737 Max flights to resume this month.

And we're also watching an unexpected rise in the weekly jobless claims that just came out. A bit surprising. A live report on those numbers just ahead.



SCIUTTO: In just a few hours, President Biden will head to Capitol Hill to make his case directly to Senate Democrats to change filibuster rules and pass new voting rights legislation.

But, Bianna, it is a steep hill to climb.

GOLODRYGA: Yes, an uphill battle.


GOLODRYGA: And now former President Obama is also throwing in his weight behind the idea in an op-ed published in "USA Today" writing, quote, the filibuster has no basis in the Constitution. Historically, the parliamentary tactic was used sparingly, most notably by southern senators to block civil rights legislation and prop up Jim Crow.

CNN's Lauren Fox joins us now from Capitol Hill.

And, Lauren, President Biden has two key senators that he's likely focusing on. We know others are also on the fence about this as well.

How effective will this face-to-face pitch be?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, there have been around the clock conversations up here on Capitol Hill, phone calls, meetings, trying to convince the two moderate senators that you mentioned, both Arizona Democrat Kyrsten Sinema and West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin, that this is the moment, this is the piece of legislation that really calls for changing the rules of the U.S. Senate.

Now, so far, they're not convinced. But we are going to watch this all take place over the next couple of days. Around 10:30 this morning, there will be a vote in the House of Representatives. They will send over that voting rights legislation to the U.S. Senate.

Now, once it gets over to the Senate, there will be a vote on both the John Lewis Voting Rights Act and the Freedom to Vote Act. Those pieces of legislation have the support of all 50 Democrats. But what they don't have is ten Republican senators willing to join them.

So, at that point, once those pieces of legislation fail, we expect that Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, will move to change the Senate rules. This is when he needs unity of the Democratic caucus. This is why Joe Biden is coming up to the U.S. Senate today to try to convince those two moderate Democrats to change their minds on the filibuster. But so far, there's no evidence that they are moving in his direction. So likely this effort is going to fail. But it's going to take several days to play out.

Jim and Bianna.

SCIUTTO: Yes. And is the bottom line an issue rather than a law, right? A talking point for the legislation rather than legislation. That may be the best they get.

Lauren Fox, on The Hill, thanks very much.

There is new CNN reporting this morning that Republican lawmakers are plotting an onslaught of investigations into the Biden administration if they take back the House and Senate in the midterms.

GOLODRYGA: Yes. And they're promising to make the final years of Biden's term as difficult as possible and vowing retaliation against a number of other leading Democrats.

CNN's Melanie Zanona joins us now from Capitol Hill with details.

And, Melanie, it's not as if the first year for this president has been easy, but it may be easy given what Republicans are threatening to do if they take over.

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Right. Of course, first they have to win the majority, because with it comes subpoena power. But Republicans are already starting to map out exactly how they would wield those powerful committee gavels. And some of the probes that they want to pursue include the origins of the coronavirus, Hunter Biden's art show and his work in Ukraine, Biden's pullout from Afghanistan, Dr. Fauci, the surge of migrants at the border.


So the list goes on and on.