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Novak Djokovic's Visa Revoked Again Days Before Australian Open; Oath Keepers Founder, 10 Others Charged with Seditious Conspiracy; Employers Scramble After Supreme Court Blocks Vaccine Mandate; U.S. Intel Says Russia Preparing Operation to Justify Ukraine Invasion. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired January 14, 2022 - 10:00   ET



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


The big story we're following this morning, the world's number-one- ranked men's tennis player, Novak Djokovic, will be detained tomorrow in Australia ahead of a critical hearing before a federal judge. Djokovic is appealing after his visa was revoked for a second time over his COVID-19 vaccination status.

SCIUTTO: CNN's sports correspondent Andy Scholes has been covering this story. He has more on Djokovic's fate.

Andy, I wonder, is this largely a done deal at this point or is it still an opening?

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, I'm no expert in Australian law, Jim, but, you know, it certainly seems like Novak Djokovic and his lawyers are definitely climbing an uphill battle right now. He's going to be placed back into detention Saturday morning there in Australia. He's going to be interviewed by the Australian Border Force at a secret location.

He's then going to be escorted by two Border Force officials to his lawyer's offices and then back into that detention hotel while his case is heard in the federal court. This all comes as Australia's Immigration Minister Alex Hawks said Friday that he used his ministerial discretion to cancel Djokovic's visa saying, quote, "It was in the public interest's to do so."

Now there was a hearing held late Friday night in Australia and Djokovic's attorneys argued that Hawk's decision was not based on the health risks that Djokovic might pose by not being vaccinated but on how he might be perceived by anti-vaxxers.

Now the Australian Open has not yet commented on the ongoing saga, but three-time grand slam champion Andy Murray says there's no winner in this standoff.


ANDY MURRAY, THREE-TIME GRAND SLAM CHAMPION: Just wanted obviously to get it resolved. I think it would be good for everyone if that was the case. It just seems like it's dragged on for quite a long time now and, yes, not great for the tennis, not great for the Australian Open, not great for Novak. Yes, and obviously a lot of people have criticized obviously the government here as well. So it's, yes, not been good.


SCHOLES: Yes. It was announced earlier that Djokovic's first-round match is scheduled to take place on Monday, so again, guys, you know, his attorneys are hoping that they're going to have this appeal heard on Sunday and that he could have his visa returned in time to play on Monday. But, you know, that doesn't seem like a likely scenario at this point.

GOLODRYGA: Yes. Fast-moving story. Andy Scholes, thank you.

Well, for the first time in the January 6th investigation the Justice Department has charged 11 people with seditious conspiracy including Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the far-right extremist group, the Oath Keepers.

SCIUTTO: These are significant charges, go far beyond the idea that this was just a political protest got out of hand. It speaks to conspiracy and planning.

CNN correspondent Josh Campbell has been covering. The Oath Keepers is at the center of this. What more did this indictment reveal about all the planning that went in before January 6th including amassing weapons? That really caught my attention.

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. We're learning about the details of January 6th and what happened in the days ahead of that, and what we're learning about this group, which is a right-wing anti-government group who was founded in 2009 by one of the defendants, Stewart Rhodes, they claim to have over 30,000 members.


The FBI describes this group as large but loosely organized. Now, associates of this group believe in a wide range of different conspiracy theories but at a foundational level they share this belief that a tyrannical federal government is oppressing citizens. Indeed, the name Oath Keeper comes from this oath that they pledged to uphold the Constitution in their words, which is somewhat ironic because what the Justice Department is saying with these new sedition charges is that these aren't patriots, these are criminal rebels.

And just to give you a sense of what this group believed, take a listen here. This is the founder Stewart Rhodes speaking with fellow conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) STEWART RHODES, LEADER, OATH KEEPERS: You've got to declare this regime to be illegitimate. You've got to declare everything that comes out of King Biden's mouth as illegitimate and null and void from inception because he's not a legitimate president. They're afraid because there are 365 million of us. We outnumber them vastly and we're armed. Well-armed. So they have a problem. And so they're afraid.


CAMPBELL: Now it's easy to listen to those words and to see those images of people in military dress-up, you know, wearing camouflage in the urban environment downtown Washington, D.C., but what we're learning from this latest indictment is that this group was potentially very dangerous, that they had engaged in this paramilitary type training. This group largely drawing its members from the law enforcement and military community.

And just to give you a sense of what federal prosecutors allege, I'll read part of this indictment, they say that on January 4th, this is obviously two days before January 6th, while still traveling towards the D.C. metro area, Rhodes spent approximately $4500 in Mississippi on firearms equipment, including sights, mounts, and optic plate, and as they moved on, what is also so troubling is after January 6th, this group still tried to prepare and plan for Inauguration Day and denying Joe Biden and the nation that peaceful transfer of power, indicating thousands of dollars were spent between January 10th all the way up to just before Inauguration Day.

So this is a group obviously that has these issues with the federal government. What is the challenge for law enforcement right now as you look at thousands and thousands of members is trying to determine what's noise and what's aspirational and who has intent and capability to actually cause future damage. That is the key. But what we're seeing with these seditious charges is that the federal government is taking this to the next level and saying that these weren't tourists, they didn't wander into the Capitol, this was a conspiracy.

GOLODRYGA: And alarming once again, just to reiterate, how well-armed they really were and organized. Josh Campbell, thank you as always.


GOLODRYGA: Well, joining us now is Paul Callan, former New York City prosecutor, and Olivia Troye, former Homeland Security and COVID adviser to Mike Pence.

Welcome both of you. Paul, let me begin with you because seditious conspiracy charges are very difficult to prove and have rarely been used before. I'm just curious what you think the message the DOJ is sending by charging these 11 people with seditious conspiracy as opposed to what we've seen, and that has been obstruction?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: That's a great question. And you know, seditious conspiracy has only been charged in recent times in really two cases. One when Puerto Rican terrorists actually took over the House chamber and opened fire in Congress. That was one of the instances. And the other instance was that case involving the governor of Michigan, who was almost overthrown by a wild mob and those charges were brought in that case as well.

It's a tough case to prove seditious conspiracy because you really have to prove that the members of the group shared a common goal and that goal is to destroy and overthrow the government of the United States. They have been working on this case for a long time. And you know something? It looks like they have the elements here. They've got speeches by Rhodes urging the fact that there has to be a revolution and talking about, you know, his group being heavily armed. And I think the government is confident that they can go forward with this case.

SCIUTTO: Olivia Troye, one defense you've heard not only from Republican lawmakers, former Trump administration officials, but also their allies in the right-wing media has been, to date, prior to yesterday, that the charges have not included things such as seditious conspiracy and therefore this wasn't an insurrection. Now it does. And by the way, it's not just those words but it is the evidence behind those charging documents as Paul referenced.

You have someone like the leader of the Oath Keepers saying in December we're going to -- we have to have a bloody revolution here. You have hard facts like them storing weapons for their own quick reaction force, normally a military term. Does this move Republicans on this issue?

OLIVIA TROYE, FORMER HOMELAND SECURITY AND COVID ADVISER TO MIKE PENCE: Well, I think it goes a long way in factually defusing this narrative that they continue to push. Now you have official charges. This is a significant development I would say and I think it's going to be hard.


How do you continue to whitewash (INAUDIBLE) this event? And so I think, you know, I think this is significant and I think it's even more significant because the reality is the words of these Republican leaders matter. They continue to be used to recruit in these types of groups. These groups are out there still recruiting because of the big lie, because of what these people are saying, because they continue to spend these narratives in a fault.

So they get disinformation pushed at them every single day. And these groups are using that to recruit amongst their ranks. And it's concerning. They're recruiting from our military ranks, they're recruiting from former military members, veterans, and so that is why this is significant.

GOLODRYGA: Paul, how high up do you think this investigation could lead? We know that the Oath Keepers had said that they had been there to provide security for people like Roger Stone, someone who was very close to the president's orbit, which just leads to the question of how much did President Trump at the time know about what was happening, what they were hoping to do, and the amount of time in planning that went into the January 6th insurrection and their role in it after the election.

CALLAN: That is the critical question, Bianna. How close a link do we have here to high-ranking officials in the Trump administration. Obviously Roger Stone was very close to the president, worked on his campaign, and ended up enjoying a presidential pardon eventually when he, Stone, was brought up on criminal charges.

I think the reason obviously that if there's a connection to the former president, it will be extremely damaging to his future presidential campaign. Obviously, if he had an armed group or had any affiliation with an armed group trying to overthrow the government of the United States, and the defense that has been forwarded by Trump and others of course is that the people who attacked the Capitol were simply political protesters, not armed revolutionaries. This indictment suggests that there was a component of armed revolutionaries involved in that attack, which makes it such an important indictment.

SCIUTTO: They had they own QRF. Their own quick reaction force planned.

Paul Callan, Olivia Troye, thanks so much to both of you.

CALLAN: Thank you, Jim.

GOLODRYGA: And still to come, new CNN reporting on Russian aggressions in Ukraine. How Russian operatives are attempting to create a pretext for invasion. That's coming up.

SCIUTTO: Plus, as foreign leaders navigate a new reality working with the Biden administration, the Jordanian foreign minister says that Jordan, quote, "cannot just rely solely on the U.S." He's going to join us live later this hour for an exclusive interview on CNN.

And a fresh look at a cultural icon. Reframing Marilyn Monroe as much more than a blond bombshell. How she was a feminist ahead of her time.



GOLODRYGA: Well, right now the U.S. is averaging twice as many new COVID cases every day as daily vaccinations. Officials still pushing to get more shots in arms as the number of people hospitalized is at record highs and intensive care units are trending towards capacity in 19 states.

SCIUTTO: More than 15,000 National Guard members have now been deployed in all but one state, as health care systems in many areas face critical staffing shortages amid the surge.

Joining us now to discuss, CNN medical analyst Dr. Jonathan Reiner.

Dr. Reiner, good to have you back. I'm going to always do my best in the midst of this to be a glass-half-full guy. And when you look at the data in a place like D.C. and New York, where Omicron hit first, the surge is already tailing off. It's coming down and burning fast like we saw in other places like South Africa.

As you look at the data in your view, has the surge already peaked in some parts of the country?

DR. JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, in D.C., we were among the first to see Omicron, and if you look at daily cases are now clearly beginning to drop in the District of Columbia and in northern Virginia and Maryland. The problem is that hospitalizations lag several days behind case counts so our hospitals are still packed. And we are super short on staff both from the chronic staffing shortages that we've seen over the last few years during the pandemic and preceding the pandemic and now exacerbated by staff illness, by staff getting COVID and having to isolate for 10 days.

So our hospitals are still under great pressure right now. But I'm very encouraged that case counts are dropping now in this area unmistakably.

GOLODRYGA: That is a positive sign. I'll preface this question by noting the obvious, and that is that I don't believe you are a legal analyst, but you are a health expert. And from that perspective, I'd love to get your reaction to what we heard from the Supreme Court yesterday blocking the administration's mandate for businesses, large businesses to impose vaccines and testing but allowing them for some hospitals to provide Medicare and Medicaid help.

I'm curious, did that ruling make sense from your perspective and what's your take on it?

REINER: No. I mean, I thought that the obvious political leanings of the court were shown in that decision. And I'll -- I was also struck by the astonishing lack of information as evidenced by some of the questions posed by some of the justices, particularly Justice Thomas, completely misquoting data and misunderstanding how this virus is spread.


And, you know, the court's decision, which basically said that workplaces by and large are not risky places to acquire the virus, the counter to what the court has set up, you can't enter that court unless you are vaccinated and tested. So the court has cloaked themselves in the protections that most workplaces don't have, yet they would withhold that from, you know, millions of workers in the United States. I thought it was a shameful decision.

SCIUTTO: Ariane de Vogue, our Supreme Court reporter, made that point last hour, that the justices themselves vaccinated.

REINER: Right.

SCIUTTO: I want to ask you about the administration's testing response here. Senate Democrats have sent a letter to the White House asking why the administration didn't do this more quickly. And I wonder, by the time all these tests get out to people, and granted, it's a big effort, perhaps a billion tests being sent, will it be too late to have an effect on the Omicron surge?

REINER: Yes. The short answer to that is yes. So, first of all, there's no Web site up and running yet to order a test. This whole business of even paying for tests for people is so layered and cumbersome, you know, having to get your insurance company to pay for it as to be really unhelpful.

This administration placed all of their eggs in vaccination, and the problem is that I don't think at the outset they understood how recalcitrant almost a quarter of the population of this country would be to getting vaccinated. And then when this surge hit, when the new variant hit, we desperately needed rapid tests. We just didn't have them.

So, yes, there will be more rapid tests on the market, more rapid tests available, hopefully they'll be either free or less expensive. But it's going to come at the end of Omicron.


GOLODRYGA: Yes. More masks will be sent out as well. But as you said, probably a bit too late at this point.

Dr. Jonathan Reiner, thank you as always. Have a great weekend.

REINER: My pleasure. You too.

SCIUTTO: We are following breaking news this hour. A U.S. official tells CNN that intelligence indicates Russia has positioned a group of operatives set to conduct a false flag operation as it's known in Eastern Ukraine, all of this in an attempt to create a pretext for a potential invasion of that country.

GOLODRYGA: CNN White House reporter Natasha Bertrand is following this.

And Natasha, this is what many experts had been warning about over the past few weeks. And here we are. What more details do you know?

NATASHA BERTRAND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Bianna. And this is exactly what they had been fearing because it is part of Russia's playbook, according to U.S. officials who told CNN that they are seeing things that are repeating themselves from the invasion of Crimea in 2014, namely Russia creating a pretext for an invasion by carrying out what U.S. officials say is a false flag operation in Eastern Ukraine using Russian operatives that are trained in urban warfare and explosives to potentially carry out an attack against Russian forces and then frame Ukraine for that attack, thereby justifying an invasion of Eastern Ukraine, which, of course, the U.S. has been saying is a high possibility, especially over the last several months, even as these talks have continued in Europe over the possibility of averting a war.

So they're very concerned right now that Russia has been planning this as a way to say they were attacked first and therefore they have a right to defend themselves and invade Ukraine. This is something that Jake Sullivan, the National Security adviser, hinted at during a briefing with reporters yesterday, said that U.S. intelligence, which had since been downgraded in classification level, indicated that this could be happening right now even as these talks have been under way, diplomatic talks have been under way.

So clearly there is a lot of daylight here between what the U.S. and the Russians are thinking about in terms of finding a diplomatic solution to this conflict. Russia now apparently taking steps to create that pretext to launch an invasion of Ukraine. They have of course been building up their force capacity on the border since late October, early November. You know, the possibility of them launching an attack on very short notice has been top of mind for U.S. officials for months now.

SCIUTTO: Natasha Bertrand, thanks so much. Sobering reporting there.

Still ahead, navigating a new reality in the Middle East. Foreign leaders calculating just how powerful, perhaps just how reliable an ally the U.S. can be now. The Jordanian foreign minister will join me live next.

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