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GOP Plots Onslaught; Rep. Mike Thompson (D-CA) is Interviewed about Testing Capacity; North Carolina Off-Duty Officer involved in Deadly Shooting; Weekly Jobless Claims Rise; Djokovic Named Number One Seed. Aired 9:30-10a

Aired January 13, 2022 - 09:30   ET



MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: 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 one.

Now, of course, when Republicans were in charge of the House and Donald Trump was in office, they often turn a blind eye to his scandals and controversies. But you can rest assured, with a Democratic president in the White House, Republicans will leave no controversy untouched.

But there is going to be a question of just how aggressively to use some of their investigative and oversight powers. Some on the far right are already calling to launch impeachment proceedings, others are calling for Republicans to probe Donald Trump's false claims of voter fraud. And GOP leaders have been really reluctant to embrace those so far.

Now they have, however, promised to retaliate against some Democratic members by kicking them off their committees, including Eric Swalwell, Adam Schiff, Ilhan Omar, in retaliation for Democrats kicking Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar off their committees.

So we are starting to see a glimpse of the type of payback and politically charged atmosphere that we are likely to see under a GOP led House.

Bianna and Jim.

GOLODRYGA: It's hard to believe that the U.S. government can get uglier or more dysfunctional than it is right now. But if they live to those promises, it looks like that could very well be the case.


GOLODRYGA: Melanie Zanona, thank you so much.

And ahead, as many as 50 Democratic lawmakers are calling out the president over his strategy to get people tested for Covid. Is the president doing enough? I'll talk to one of those lawmakers straight ahead.



GOLODRYGA: More than 50 House and Senate Democrats signed a letter to the White House earlier this week urging President Biden to bolster the availability of Covid-19 rapid tests. They wrote, we respectfully urge you utilize the full scope of your executive power under Defense Production Act to manufacture enough rapid tests to ensure that each American can take at least one rapid test per week.

Congressman Mike Thompson, a Democrat from California, was one of the lawmakers who signed that letter, and he joins me now.

Congressman, thank you so much for joining us. And, listen, this is an issue that both Democrats and Republicans have been stressed about and worried that there are not enough tests throughout the country. The White House says that it's now going to be sending out $500 million tests -- 500 million tests, excuse me, free of charge to the American public. Vice President Kamala Harris said that could start as soon as next week.

Is that good enough, in your view?

REP. MIKE THOMPSON (D-CA): Well, good morning, Bianna. Thank you for having me on.

I think everything we do is important. And I think the Biden administration is going to great lengths to make sure that we have the tests that are necessary. My colleagues and I signed that letter to make sure that they know what we're hearing from our constituents.

My constituents have trouble finding tests. My constituents want to take the tests. And I think we need this in order to get ahead of the curve.

The most important thing everyone can do is to get vaccinated, as you know. But the tests are critical.

And the Biden administration has done a great job. We went from -- just a year ago today we were doing about 2 million tests a day. Today we're doing about 12 million tests a day.

So, they've made great strides. We just need to keep it going.

GOLODRYGA: Well, if they're doing a great job, why the letter then?

THOMPSON: As I said, want to make sure they know what we're hearing from our constituents and that they hear from us as to how important we think this is.

GOLODRYGA: Do your -- do your constituents -- so do your constituents think they're doing a great job?

THOMPSON: My constituents -- my district does, yes. But my constituents want to get tests. They -- when they're having events, everything from dinner parties to small family gatherings, they're testing and they want to make sure there are enough tests available. And I think we need to do everything we can to ensure those tests are available.

GOLODRYGA: Yes, there's a question as to whether 500 million tests is enough, especially for a country of this size. And it's something that you raise in the letter as well. You write that some believe that rapid tests should be conducted as frequently as two times per week per individual. That's what public health officials are recommending in the United Kingdom. If the United States adopted similar recommendations, we would need roughly 2.3 billion tests per month.

Obviously, that's a figure several times larger than 500 million. Is that something that you think is feasible, and why do you think the administration hasn't addressed this sooner?

THOMPSON: I think we need more tests. And I think we're going to continue to need more tests and I'll continue to lobby the administration to increase those numbers.

GOLODRYGA: I want to ask you about the thousand or so medical deployments that are being sent out now to hospitals that are being overrun now with patients. An influx given especially that the shortage in staff that we're seeing in hospitals across the country, but particularly in six states right now. Do you think that that will make a difference. And, again, in terms of getting ahead of the crisis, do you think the administration is acting timely right now?

THOMPSON: Well, I know that hospitals are stressed. My wife is a nurse. As a matter of fact, she's on her way to work right now. Her hospital is experiencing the same situation that many other hospitals are facing. A lot of it is because there's an increased number of patients in the hospital with Covid.


There's also a number of healthcare providers who are out sick with Covid. So, anything that we can do to augment the supply of healthcare professionals in the hospital I think is important.

GOLODRYGA: I know something that is important to millions of Americans and those included in your district, and in the state of California to be frank, is whether schools can stay open. And one of the factors that school officials and parents want more of is, in fact, more testing at schools.

California was closed for the majority of the pandemic now, going into over two years. Are you concerned that if we don't see more tests distributed to schools in particular we could face more school closures?

THOMPSON: Well, I'm concerned that we keep our schools open. I think that's important. Kid need to be in schools. You know it, I know it, parents know it, and the schools know it. So anything we can do to help ensure those schools can stay open and the kids and the teachers can stay healthy is important. And tests, yes, are a very important part of that.

GOLODRYGA: While I have you here, another issue that's critical for Americans right now is the economy and inflation. And we continue to see that inflation numbers going up now at 40-year highs.

You are a big proponent of getting the Build Back Better bill back on track. I know that you are speaking with Senators Manchin and Sinema on this issue as well. Senator Manchin has some real reservations, in particular, with the inflation rate going up.

What is it that he's telling you, if anything, that can be done to get him to come back to the negotiating table on this issue?

THOMPSON: Well, I think everybody is concerned about the inflation numbers. And we all want to see those come down. Build Back Better is not going to be an inflation increaser. We know that. It's paid for. And that is not going to cause issues with inflation.

As to what Senator Manchin wants, I don't think we need to negotiate that on television. He's working with the White House, with Senator Schumer and his colleagues in both the House and the Senate. And I'm confident that we're going to be able to find that sweet spot where we'll be able to pass legislation that is important to the American people, important to our economy, and will pass muster.

GOLODRYGA: Well, the window is getting ever so short, but it's nice to hear some optimism as well this morning.

Congressman Mike Thompson, thank you. We appreciate it. And thank you your wife for everything that she and her colleagues are doing.

THOMPSON: Thank you very much. They're absolutely wonderful.

GOLODRYGA: They are.

SCIUTTO: For sure. People doing their part.

Coming up, another story we're following, an off-duty officer in North Carolina Is now under scrutiny after killing an unarmed black man. What he says happened coming up.



SCIUTTO: This morning, a North Carolina police deputy is on leave as state officials investigate the deadly shooting of an unarmed black man while that deputy was off duty. There have been several nights of protests in Fayetteville since the shooting on Saturday. GOLODRYGA: The latest happening overnight, where a group gathered at

the scene of 37-year-old Jason Walker's death. Lieutenant Jeffrey Hash is claiming self-defense. In a newly released 911 call, hear how he explains the moments that led up to the shooting.


OFFICER JEFFREY HASH: I got a male jump on my vehicle and broke my windshield. I just shot him. I was driving down the road and he came flying across Bingham Drive running. And then I stopped, so I wouldn't hit him, and he jumped on my car and started screaming, pulled my windshield wipers off and started beating my windshield and broke my windshield. I had my wife and my daughter in my vehicle.


SCIUTTO: CNN's Ryan Young joins us now.

Ryan, so what is the police chief say about this investigation?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You guys, a lot of controversy around this case so far. You talk about those protests where people have been taking to the streets over the last few nights. The police chief was actually asking for calm and she's been doing a lot of media recently to make sure she's sort of tamping down what's being said on social media.

What we know so far, apparently Lieutenant Hash was driving his car -- you heard that 911 call. He says that Jason Walker ran across the street and started attacking his car. Now, here's where all the questions sort of start playing into this. People don't understand why he got out of the car and then pulled his weapon and then fired some shots. He's says this was self-defense. He was concerned about his family.

You can understand the community on the other side is asking so many questions about exactly what led up to this shooting, and why would a man attack a car? And, of course, the 37-year-old man cannot talk at this point because he's no longer alive. So there have been people taking to the streets with this protest over the last few nights.

And something that we should bring up here is, the social media chatter about this particular story has made it particularly difficult for the Fayetteville Police Department because as they try to figure out the information moving forward, we know the police chief has actually said she's going to try to get more of the body camera information that officers had in the minutes afterward so the public can see exactly what they're working with in the investigation.

They've called in state investigators to look into this case. But right now it is the protesters who are going to the street night after night.

Listen to the chief talking on the radio about trying to keep things calm as they do this investigation.


CHIEF GINA V. HAWKINS: There was misinformation being put out on social media. There was not accurate information and there was misinformation and unvalidated information that had nothing to do with the shooting.


So -- which actually compromises the investigation. So the importance of having people be honest and truthful about their sickness is crucial. That is the main point about the investigation.


YOUNG: Now, we know Jason Walker's family has now hired Ben Crump to represent them moving forward in this investigation. But we should note here, anybody can go online and see some of the information that's been spread about this. But the problem here so far for the police is, what they're trying to do is talk to any credible witnesses that were there at the scene so they can go through this piece by piece. And that's what's sort of exasperating the situation right now in terms of what happened on that Saturday afternoon when this shooting happened.


SCIUTTO: Ryan, can you describe in the simplest terms what misinformation the police chief is talking about there?

YOUNG: Well, yes, there -- there are some claims in terms of who and where the vehicle was and whether or not the vehicle actually hit Mr. Walker first, did he jump on the car.


YOUNG: And then did the deputy shoot from inside the car or did he shoot outside? So there's a lot of questions about that.


YOUNG: And that's the reason why we're trying to avoid that part as of right now.

SCIUTTO: Understood.

GOLODRYGA: Yes. As always, transparency is going to be key as this investigation goes forward.


YOUNG: Absolutely.

GOLODRYGA: Ryan Young, thank you, as always.

Well, coming up, Novak Djokovic officially listed as the number one seed in the Australian Open, but will he be allowed to stay in the country? Still no clear answer on that. The tournament begins in just days. We're live coming up next.



GOLODRYGA: Well, within the last hour, we've learned that some 230,000 Americans filed new jobless claims last week. This as a key inflation measure hit a record high last year.

SCIUTTO: CNN chief business correspondent Christine Romans with us now. And this is -- this is a classic example of take the good with the bad I imagine because the jobs figures are good, the inflation ones are really tough.


It's the pandemic economy contradiction, Jim. You're absolutely right. And let's look at a picture here of jobless claims. I mean the trend is what I'm really interested in here. A little bit higher than expected but the trend for weekly jobless claims really good. Guys, it was with misery for months we reported hundreds of thousands of people being laid off every week. We are now down to pre-virus levels.

And when you look at continuing jobless claims, people who have been getting a check for a couple of weeks or longer, that number, this -- in the latest week, the lowest since 1973. So the job market, healing. In fact, really strong there.

But the other side of that picture is this, producer prices, factory prices. We just learned within the last hour, those are at a record high, 9.7 percent year-over-year increase. Just remarkable.

Again, it's a record. This is a data set. It only goes back about -- since 2010 or so. But it's in line with what we've been seeing. Sticker shocking for businesses and consumers. You're seeing strength in the labor market, rising wages, but you're seeing higher prices for just about everything eating into those higher wages.

The big question now, you guys, these are the consumer picture we saw yesterday, just unbelievable over the past year or so, the most since 1982. But it's not like the '70s. Things are a lot different than the '70. In the '70s you had 14 percent, 15 percent consumer inflation and an economy that was very, very different. For example, your gas bill was a much bigger part of your overall spending then than it is today. There's more of a cushion for many Americans. It's an annoyance for people who are upper middle-class earners, but it's really devastating for people who are low-income earners.


ROMANS: So, this is a real problem that the Fed is going to address this year.

SCIUTTO: Lots to watch.

Christine Romans, thanks so much. ROMANS: You're welcome.

SCIUTTO: Another story we are following. Nine-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic officially the top seed as he gets set to defend his title in Melbourne, but lots of attention on the country's immigration minister who will decide whether to revoke Djokovic's visa for a second time. Big question, Bianna, did he break the rules everybody else has to follow?

GOLODRYGA: Exactly. This really has turned into an international scandal. But authorities are scrutinizing the unvaccinated tennis star's medical exemption to enter the country and his admission to breaking isolation while having Covid last month.

Let's get to CNN's Paula Hancocks live if Melbourne with the latest.

Paula, good morning. Good evening to you.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello. It's good morning, 2:00 in the morning here on Friday, Bianna, which means that Thursday, when we expected something from the immigration minister, it didn't come. So the speculation is Friday we might hear whether Alex Hawk is going to personally intervene and revoke that visa for Novak Djokovic.

Now, we saw Djokovic on the court once again today training. We saw the draw for the Australian Open showing that they are going on regardless, assuming that he will be part of it. But we simply don't know at this point.

We heard from the prime minister, Scott Morrison, on Thursday. He was asked about this, as he is every time he is in public, saying that, again, the rules are the rules, saying that having a visa is different from entering into the country under the vaccination process during the pandemic. You have to be vaccinated or you have to have a medical exemption showing a medical reason why you are not vaccinated. So he is sticking to his guns at this point.

But we still don't know whether or not the immigration minister will go ahead and try and revoke that visa.

GOLODRYGA: Look, this is the fallout from not following the rules and not doing what all the other tennis players there that are going to be performing have done as well, and they have been vaccinated.


Paula Hancocks, thank you so much. Up very early for us in Melbourne.