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Biden Sending Federal Medical Teams to Hospitals Hit Hard by COVID; Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) Will Not Cooperate With January 6 Panel; Biden Heads to Capitol Hill Today to Make Case for Voting Rights. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired January 13, 2022 - 10:00   ET



BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN NEWSROOM: Paula Hancocks, thank you so much, up very early for us in Melbourne, we appreciate it.

And good morning, everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga.


Right now, the nation's health care system under heavy pressure in a number of places but there's also this, relief is on the way. President Biden set to announce this hour a new deployment of military medical teams to overwhelmed hospitals facing critical staffing shortages amid a record number of COVID infections as well as hospitalizations. A top FEMA official says the government is ready to help.


DEANNE CRISWELL, ADMINISTRATOR, FEDERAL EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY: As we've seen the rise in the omicron cases recently, the number one request continues to be staffing. And so these teams are going to provide critical support to help relieve some of the drain and the strain on the health care system.


SCIUTTO: And here's some more relief. Early indications suggest the omicron surge is starting to slow in a handful of northeastern cities, such as New York and Washington, D.C., that, Bianna, got hit first with this.

GOLODRYGA: Yes, that is a promising sign.

In moments, President Biden will speak from the White House laying out his latest efforts to tackle the pandemic. Then he'll be heading to Capitol Hill later this afternoon where he will make a direct appeal to Senate Democrats to take action on voting rights.

This as House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy changes his tune, now saying that he will not cooperate with the committee investigating the Capitol riot despite previously saying he'd do so.

But we do begin this morning at the White House where President Biden is set to address the nation as COVID hospitalizations hit record highs.

SCIUTTO: CNN White House Correspondent John Harwood is following. John, the president expected, among other things, to announce the deployment of medical teams to help struggling hospitals. As you know, the White House, the administration very aware that this is affecting all parts of their agenda, popularity, the president's approval ratings. So, how urgently are they trying to address these things?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Extremely urgently. As you indicated, getting control of the pandemic is key to everything President Biden wants to do, and his administration is scrambling, just like states, the health care system, hospitals are scrambling to keep up with omicron.

We have gotten some good news, as you indicated before, which is that lots of cases, some indication that the severity is milder and maybe it's peaking. But because of the incredible number of cases and the record hospitalizations that are taking place even with less severity, when you get that many people infected, you're going to overload the health care system.

President Biden is announcing today with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell some help for those states. They've deployed since Thanksgiving 800 federal personnel out to health care facilities around the country. Today, they're now saying another thousand -- or last month, he said there would be another 1,000 deployed. And today, he is going to talk about that. People are going to be deployed in six different states, Ohio, New York, Michigan, Rhode Island, New Mexico and New Jersey. That's on top of 14,000 National Guard troops that have been deployed around the country.

And Vice President Harris also spoke today on NBC about the arrival, they hope, soon, of the 500 million tests that the administration has been pledging to send out to American households. Take a listen to the vice president.


KAMALA HARRIS, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: I think it's going to be by next week, but soon, absolutely soon. And it is a matter of urgency for us.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Should we have done that sooner?

HARRIS: We are doing it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But should we have done it sooner?

HARRIS: We are doing it.

(END VIDEO CLIP) HARWOOD: We are doing it. We have not -- they have not done it yet. We know that there is a shortage of tests nationwide. Everyone is trying to keep up with the unexpected demand that omicron has produced. And Vice President Harris says, as soon as next week, we will see if they can meet that objective.

GOLODRYGA: Yes. John, the administration also pushing health insurance companies to provide at least eight at-home tests to families across the country a month as well. So, clearly, they are trying to increase the effort as well. Thank you so much, John Harwood.

SCIUTTO: While the omicron surge has driven COVID infections, hospitalizations to record highs now in this pandemic, it does seem, looking at the data, to have already hit a peak -- look at those plateaus at the top, even downward trends, particularly in Washington, in some cases northeastern, cases in New York and D.C. trending down slightly.

GOLODRYGA: Yes. CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins us to break it down. Good morning, Sanjay.

So, Jim and I have been trying to find the optimism this morning and the glass half full perspective here given what we're seeing in the northeast and given what a doctor told us in the last hour that wastewater in Boston has gone down, the amount of coronavirus detected in wastewater has gone down significantly over the past few weeks.


Does that give you hope that this is something we can see in other parts of the country relatively soon?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think so. I mean, just to cut to the chase, I think this is a cause for optimism here and those sort of broad surveillance testing, like wastewater, are really interesting because they give you sort of a broader view of what's happening in particular communities.

But, you know, as we've seen throughout this pandemic, this is a pretty heterogeneous country, so you tend to get these rolling waves of ups and downs around the country. If you look at the United States as a whole, sort of the left side of the country still, you know, significant increases overall in new cases over the past week compared to the week before. And then you can look to the right side of the country and it's a different picture. So, hopefully, we'll start to see the sort of lightening of the color throughout the country. But as you mentioned in New York, in Boston, in D.C., those are place where you have seemingly plateaued and now seeing a downward trend in overall cases.

Now, we've also seen this in other countries. The U.K., for example, has had a decline. They sort of had a steep ascent and seemingly now on a steep descent as well. You can see the yellow line there. It's different in different places though. It's two caveats. One is that, you know, in the United States, we tend to plateau a bit longer than other countries in part because, you know, the overall, the country may be a bit older and they have more pre-existing conditions, so that puts people at higher risk overall.

And then what you and John Harwood were talking about, I mean, the data is as good as the testing and we're still not testing enough. I mean, 750,000 cases, 786,000 cases, probably closer to a couple million if you tested everyone that needed to be tested and reported those. So, we've still got to take that into account as well.

SCIUTTO: You've been doing some extensive reporting on the merits but, sadly, the short supply of oral antiviral treatments for COVID. What are you listening for from the president this hour?

GUPTA: Well, I would like to hear more about, you know, these therapeutics, like Paxlovid, which is the one from Pfizer. I mean, this is one of those things where you realize this is 90 percent protective in terms of taking someone who's high risk and keeping them out of the hospital. It's an oral pill. You don't have to go into the hospital and get an infusion. The data is really, really compelling.

And it does raise the question why don't we have more of this at this point. We're going to have 10 million doses of this in June, but we know that we're not likely to need them as much in June. The numbers are certainly going to come down between now and then a lot. Right now, we have about 160,000 doses.

So, how are these decisions getting made? Are there bets being made on potential therapeutics so that, down the line, we're going to have more options like this? But then also, you know, I'm hoping that the president will talk more about testing. You just heard the vice president talk about that and these tests are going to go out. But it's going to sound crazy, but, you know, we should be at the point where we could be doing a billion or even 2 billion tests a month. It sounds, you know, fantastical.

But that was sort of the thinking back at the beginning of this pandemic, that even by the summer of 2020, we might get to that point. Right now, if things go as expected, we'll be closer to 400 million a month, which is a lot better but still not nearly enough.

Look, we're not going to be in that position forever. We're not going to need to be doing testing at that level forever. But right now, we're still in the middle of a viral storm. And if we want to slow the storm down as quickly as possible, we have to do more testing, we have to have more therapeutics out there.

SCIUTTO: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, always good to have you on.

GOLODRYGA: Thanks, Sanjay.

GUPTA: Thank you.

GOLODRYGA: Well, this morning, the top Republican in the House joins a growing list of Trump loyalists who are defying the January 6th committee. The panel wants to speak to how else Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. SCIUTTO: But McCarthy will not cooperate despite promises to do so early on. He says the committee's investigation is an abuse of power and illegitimate now. McCarthy's refusal, a complete 180. He said earlier and on the record, on video he would cooperate.

Joining us now to discuss where this all stands, where it goes, CNN Chief Legal Analyst and former Federal Prosecutor Jeffrey Toobin.

Jeffrey, it strikes me that this committee, as it's done prior, is leaving some bread crumbs as to what a focus, at least one focus of its criminal investigation here. In its letter to McCarthy requesting his cooperation, the committee outlines many reported points of contact between Trump and McCarthy before, during, and after the insurrection, including McCarthy telling Mark Meadows, then chief of staff, the scheme to object to certifying of the electoral votes on January 6th was, quote, doomed to fail.


Is witness tampering at the center of this now reading those bread crumbs?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it's part of it, but Kevin McCarthy is an enormously important witness for all sorts of reasons. Witness tampering is only the end of the process. He is someone who was intimately involved and certainly knowledgeable about the plans to disrupt or stop the counting of electoral votes before January 6th, on January 6th, and after January 6th. All of those things are very worthy of investigation by the committee.

Witness tampering is only relevant because he knew so much about what was going on at the time. So, he's obviously an important witness. But let's not kid ourselves at this point. He's not testifying. There is no way at this point the committee is going to get him to testify. And, you know, the committee is just going to have to make do with the information they can get.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Bianna, one question with witness tampering is what changed McCarthy, right? He said he was on board to cooperate, then he goes and meets Trump. What happened in those conversations?

TOOBIN: Very simple. The Republican Party changed, that obstruction of the committee's investigation has become an article of faith in the Republican Party.

You know, way back on January 6th and 7th, you had Mitch McConnell, you had Kevin McCarthy outraged about the president's behavior, about the riot, the insurrection at the Capitol. What we have seen over the past year is the normalization, the tacit approval of what went on and the demonization of the people who are investigating insurrection rather than the people involved in the insurrection itself so no one associated with Donald Trump who wants to stay associated with Donald Trump, is going to cooperate with this committee.

GOLODRYGA: So, Jeffrey, people don't have to just take yours and our word for it, right? Just like they say what transpired on January 6th before their very eyes on television, that insurrection, they also heard Kevin McCarthy and others, but let's stick with Kevin McCarthy, in the days and hours after the fact say that this was Trump's fault, this was part of his doing, and Kevin McCarthy was even broadcasting to others that they had a very contentious phone conversation where the president said to him something along the lines of, well, perhaps these people care more than you do. And he said who the blank do you think you're talking to? Clearly, that changed. And you say that the committee is going to have to deal with it.

In our last hour, we had a guest that say this is ultimately going to go down to the courts. Do you agree with that? And then, listen, we're up against a calendar there with the midterms.

TOOBIN: You know, the answer is no, basically, I don't agree with that, because it's too late for the courts. It's the middle of January. They haven't even found Kevin McCarthy in contempt. They haven't issued a subpoena much less found him in contempt. They would have to go to the Justice Department. They would have to, you know, go to the full House, go to the Justice Department.

I mean, look at Steve Bannon. Steve Bannon is the only person they have moved against for criminal contempt, and the case against him, which is now a couple months old, is on a slow boat to nowhere. This is -- the idea that in the middle of January you can start pressuring people through the courts for investigation that's supposed to end in the fall, that's just a fantasy. And I think people need to recognize that for better or for worse that if people don't want to cooperate with this committee, there's nothing they can do about it at this point. That's a sad fact but it's true.

SCIUTTO: And the delay strategy might be working.

We do want to play for you what Liz Cheney, of course, one of the members of the January 6th committee, had to say and get your reaction. Have a listen.


REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY) (voice over): We know that Leader McCarthy was pleading with the president to tell people to go home when police officers and others were being beaten here at the Capitol. So, you know, I wish that he were a brave and honorable man. He's clearly trying to cover up what happened. He has an obligation to come forward. And we'll get to the truth.


SCIUTTO: I mean, the thing is do they have enough evidence? Can the committee get enough evidence to make that case not just politically but potentially criminally?

TOOBIN: Well, I don't want to pretend that I know everything that the committee has done. It is often a very successful strategy to go to the next level down of people who were present in the room when conversations took place but weren't necessarily participants in the conversation. [10:15:03]

The committee has apparently investigated, has interviewed 300 people, and we don't know what all of them have said, to be sure. But, I mean, of course, Congresswoman Cheney is correct that the minority leader, McCarthy, has relevant, important information, but he wants to be speaker of the House more than he wants to tell the truth to the committee. And his constituents, the Republican members of the House, want him to defy the committee, so that's what he's doing.

GOLODRYGA: Yes. His argument that this is all politicized, I mean, this was his doing, if that's the case, because he had the opportunity to make it bipartisan, right, and he chose not to in terms of how this committee was structured an put together. Jeffrey Toobin, thank you. Great to see you.

TOOBIN: See ya.

GOLODRYGA: Well, still to come, House lawmakers will soon cast their vote on Democrats' voting rights legislation just hours before President Biden heads to the Capitol to put the heat on Senate Democrats to take action on election reform.

Plus, more than 150 Republicans run for office using the former president's big lie as part of their campaign. Our next guest says it would be like electing an arsonist to oversee the fire department. Wow.

SCIUTTO: And as inflation hits a 39-year high in this country, we're going the take a closer look at what that means for your wallet as Americans pay about $250 more for the same things they were buying a year ago.



GOLODRYGA: In just moments, House lawmakers will take a floor vote on a voting rights bill as congressional Democrats attempt to answer President Biden's call for urgent action on the issue.

SCIUTTO: CNN's Manu Raju joins us now from Capitol Hill. Manu, the conventional wisdom seems to be this fails. Is that correct?? And if so, what happens next?

MANUR RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's going to fail, but it may take several days for it ultimately to play out. This is a multiday process aiming to maximize pressure on really two Democratic senators, Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin, to change the rules of the United States Senate in order to pass a sweeping measure to rewrite voting laws across the country, also overturn a 2013 Supreme Court ruling that gutted a key aspect of the 1965 Voting Rights Act.

Now, this all starts this hour. The House is going to pass its version -- its bill that includes these two proposals, these two voting rights proposals. And then at that point, it will come over to the Senate. That's where the big fight will happen. We expect Republicans ultimately will filibuster this bill. That requires 60 votes to overcome a filibuster.

No Republicans are expected to vote for it. That means, at that point, Chuck Schumer, the Senate majority leader, will move to try to change the Senate rules so he can advance by 50 Democratic votes with Kamala Harris as the vice president breaking the tie and moving it on and eventually getting it to President Biden's desk. But there's a problem. Manchin and Sinema, for months, have resisted pressure to change the rules and say that they're concerned that, ultimately, if they did that, it would damage the institution and have harmful effects for the nation in the long-term.

Nevertheless, Joe Biden is coming up to Capitol Hill today to try to convince Democrats to change their minds and convince those two Democrats. And Kamala Harris this morning also made a plea for her members to come on board and also seemed to take a bit of a shot at Joe Manchin.


HARRIS: I will not absolve the 50 Republicans in the United States Senate from responsibility for upholding one of the most basic and important tenets of our democracy, which is free and fair elections and access to the ballot for all eligible voters.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What about Senator Manchin? What about Senator Sinema?

HARRIS: I don't think anyone should be resolved from their responsibility of preserving and protecting our democracy especially when they took an oath to protect and defend our Constitution.


RAJU: Now, Manchin and Sinema have had a number of conversations with Democrats, really been meeting with them for months, including yesterday and expected into today, but, again, no movement there. I'm told they are still opposed to changing the rules along party lines or even lowering the 60-vote threshold Sinema has demanded they keep that 60-vote threshold to overcome a filibuster. So, Joe Biden is coming to the Hill here, unlikely it's going to change much. Guys?

GOLODRYGA: Yes. At this point, so many people, including former presidents and Oprah have made appeals to them. Not sure what it will take to get them to that point at this time. Manu Raju, thank you.

SCIUTTO: So, it's not just voting rights on the line across the country. According to The Washington Post, there are now more than 160 Republican candidates who have embraced former President Trump's false claims of 2020 election fraud that are now running for statewide positions that would give them authority over future elections.

Our next guest warns that this year, democracy itself will be on the ballot as a result of this. Colorado's Secretary of State Jena Griswold joins us now. Thanks so much for taking the time this morning.


SCIUTTO: So, this is significant because this was part of the Trump failed plan in 2020 to overturn the election, which was to apply pressure to state election officials to just lie, right, and overturn election results. The effort then, okay, let's put friendly folks in those positions so that if this happens again, they will lie and overturn results here. You've called this akin to electing someone who is an arsonist to oversee the fire department.


How widespread is this now?

GRISWOLD: Well, unfortunately, it is very widespread. You know, my job as secretary of state is to make sure that every eligible voter, Republican, Democrat and Independent alike, has access to safe and secure elections. But we're seeing extremist candidates run for secretary of state in every swing state where there's a race to further suppress the vote, to push disinformation and ultimately to tilt potential future elections in the favor of their party.

But it's not just that. We're also seeing extremist insiders, like Steve Bannon, recruit election deniers into local election administration, and there's a door wide open because there is so much vitriol that many election workers are throwing up their hands and saying, you know what, I did not sign up for death threats in simply administering elections. So, this is code red for the country.

SCIUTTO: That's intentional, right, to drive these people out. You, the state of Colorado, have had a case of this, an insider attack to try to change results. Tell us what that was and what you've done about it.

GRISWOLD: Well, Colorado had the first big insider threat for the nation, not to change results but to undermine election systems from within. So, the Mesa County clerk compromised voting equipment, working, if you can believe it, with it seems to be QAnon and the pillow guy to try to prove big lie. I was there. We decertified the voting equipment, and I asked my Republican opponent from 2018 to oversee that election in 2021. This issue is moving again. I issued another order in this matter on Monday and then a grand jury was just impaneled this morning.

SCIUTTO: Colorado, of course, is a state, you might call it a purple one, you have Republicans and Democrats in senior positions there. Are you finding Republican allies in your efforts here because there are republicans who are willing to stand up to the big lie, more likely on the Senate side nationally than on the house side? But are you finding Republican allies at the state level?

GRISWOLD: Absolutely. There's good Republicans in this fight with us. I think they're largely in the states at this point. Like I said, my former opponent from 2018 agreed to oversee an election after a big lie county clerk tried to undermine security. However, this corrosiveness of the big lie, it is seeping into the states. Colorado saw five bills to suppress the vote last legislative session. We killed them all. We are seeing fake audits across the nation, over 500 bills across the nation to take away Americans' freedom. We are at a code red for democracy, attacks on election administration are at every level. And it's such an important conversation today because I do hope the U.S. Senate realizes that the dire straits the country is in and puts their political ambition aside to save American democracy.

SCIUTTO: I want to ask you about redistricting, because that was another concern going into this cycle following the most recent census, a concern that there would be major GOP gains. There are some Democrats who looked at how it's ended up and say it's basically been a wash, and, frankly, that's because some blue states have been very aggressive withdrawing their districts as aggressive, in some instances, as red ones. I mean, is this basically where we are when it comes to redistricting and gerrymandering?

GRISWOLD: Well, Colorado adopted independent redistricting.

SCIUTTO: You're different, yes, for sure.

GRISWOLD: We're different. But we are seeing, you know, the tools being used to attack democracy from every side. I think extreme Republicans have really leaned in. And it's not just redistricting. It's not just voter suppression. It's not just attacking election administration. Frankly, this all roots to political corruption, which means money and politics.

That's why I've been such an ardent supporter of reforming how money flows in politics, because, ultimately, so many elected officials are working for big corporations and doing whatever they need to do to listen to who funds them instead of their people. And I think that's one of the reasons we are where we are.

Jena Griswold coming to us from Louisville, Colorado --. I did not know there was a Louisville, Colorado -- great to have you.

GRISWOLD: Thank you. Jim, Louisville out here in Colorado. I really appreciate it.

SCIUTTO: Sorry. My mom is from Louisville, Kentucky, so you know I'm going to get that wrong. Thank you for joining us.

GRISWOLD: Thank you.

GOLODRYGA: Louisville and Louisville now on the map. Glad we got that straightened out, Jim.

Well, the armorer from the movie rust is filing her own lawsuit after that deadly shooting on set. Who she's blaming for the fatal incident, that's up next.

And here is a look at other events we're watching today.