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At Least 25 North Carolina Counties Declare State Of Emergency; Winter Weather Advisory For Pittsburgh Until 1:00 P.M. Tomorrow; FBI Identifies Synagogue Hostage Taker As British Citizen; Interview With John Bolton On U.S.-Russia Tension Over Ukraine; U.S. Surgeon-General Warns Of Tough Weeks Ahead With Omicron Wave; Biden's Bad Week With Setbacks On Voting Rights, COVID And Economy; Civil Rights Leaders Push For Voting Rights In Honor Of MLK. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired January 16, 2022 - 19:00   ET



POPPY HARLOW, CNN HOST: Top of the hour, good evening, everyone. So glad you're with me. I'm Poppy Harlow in tonight for Pamela Brown. You're in the CNN NEWSROOM.

And tonight we are closely watching as millions of Americans are hunkering down as this vicious winter storm makes travel treacherous and causes huge power outages.

Also ahead, what we know about the hostage-taker at that synagogue in Texas and the congregation hails their heroic rabbi.

Plus new data tonight suggesting that cutting COVID quarantine from 10 to five days may be premature.

We begin this hour, though, with the winter storm plowing across the eastern United States. Right now more than 80 million people are under winter weather alerts across the east. The storm will exit the south tonight and begin to march all the way up through New England across the southeast. Some 180,000 homes and businesses are without power. Trees were brought down. Heavy winds and the weight of freezing rain and snow as well.

And across the country, air traffic have been snarled on this day before the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. More than 2800 flights canceled today and many more delayed.

Let's begin in Charlotte, North Carolina, with our Dianne Gallagher who is there.

I mean, they're not used to snow, let alone this much, right?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, and underneath all this snow is a lot of ice. The word of the day has been travel. Air travel, with more than 90 percent of the flights out of the Charlotte's airport being cancelled but if you take a look at this live drone footage showing the interstates around uptown Charlotte, it's the roads, all across the state at this point. More than 200 accidents throughout this storm today and the fear is

there could be more and even more concerning for officials is that they're down in staffing, warning people it may be even longer before they can plow roads and get roadways clear.


KATE WEBSTER, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, NORTH CAROLINA EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT: Travel will be a major concern. We've got DOT trucks along with North Carolina National Guard. The governor activated roughly 224 National Guardsmen to help our partners including the National Guard and the North Carolian Forest Service to prepare for transportation issues, debris clearance, cut and shove operations. So transportation will be a key thing. The National Guard is activated. Trucks, Humvees and so forth, will drive ambulances, just to prepare for some of those response operations.


GALLAGHER: Now, going into tonight and in the morning, the concern is that these flurries that are falling now and any sort of rain or sleet that's going to be continuing throughout the night will freeze overnight and people who may try to travel in the morning will unexpectedly run into more frozen conditions as well, Poppy, those power outages more than 90,000 attributed to this storm across the state of North Carolina so far.

HARLOW: OK. Wishing everyone safety as they deal with this. Dianne, thanks so much for being out there and for your reporting.

Let's follow the path of this storm and let's head north. Our Polo Sandoval is live in Pittsburgh tonight.

What is expected? I know it's snowing last hour, we talked to you there. How prepared are they? There you go.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A little bit more ice now, too, Poppy, and look, residents here, they're obviously used to the snow but we saw here, specifically in Pittsburgh, as recent as a last snow event earlier this month, that the city was basically caught off guard, that their -- or at least their response fell short according to the mayor, so what they're doing is they're really sort of boosting efforts to make sure that the roads are as clear as possible but it really is an uphill battle at the rate of the snow and ice that we've seeing.

It took a while for this to get here. I mean, about a couple of hours ago, you could still see the surface of the road but you could see that the snow has certainly intensified. The National Weather Service expecting us to see snow and ice accumulating about an inch an hour and so that's certainly concerning for those officials that are going to be out and about, those first responders obviously that have to be on the roads.

But really the big message that we're getting from folks throughout the northeast and specifically obviously hearing it here in Pennsylvania by Governor Tom Wolf is urging Pennsylvania residents to simply stay off the road. It is holiday weekend so they're hoping that that will certainly help but nonetheless, there are those folks who still have to go to work tomorrow so that's a big concern right now, Poppy.

A lot of this stuff, and the potential to re-freeze tomorrow morning, that's going to be the big area of concern and that's why big focus right now is not just on the side streets that experienced so much trouble a couple of weeks ago but also those highways, those major highways that they hope will be as clear as possible to allow for morning travel tomorrow.

HARLOW: Yes. All right, well, Polo, thank you to you and your team for being out there. I've been out there many a time in the snow and the ice.



HARLOW: Thank you very much.

SANDOVAL: Thanks, Poppy.

HARLOW: All right, let's go to the CNN Weather Center, our meteorologist Tom Sater joins us.

So, Tom, this storm, also delivering some violent weather interestingly to south Florida. Tornadoes?

TOM SATER, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Right, yes. I mean, we had two of them actually. You know, we'll talk about this snow and ice in a minute. And we can put up with some snowfall and rain and coastal flooding but there's so much cold air with this all the way down into Florida that it did become violent. You can see the big comma shape here, but let's go to Florida. It was 7:00 in the morning that we had our first tornado warning.

Here's the line that has now moved through and is well into the Bahamas. This is a 12-hour animation, so that's good news. It's gone. But let me take you back and show you. Now this is in two areas. One is Charlotte County where we had an ef-1, that was in 7:00 in the morning, and there was sustainable damage to several homes, no injuries. However, 30 minutes later, 35 minutes, it was at 7:35 a.m. It only lasted for five minutes but this is an ef-2, winds up to 118 miles per hour. Last time an ef-2 during the month of January in Florida was six years ago.

So the video is just amazing, you can see the debris coming out of this funnel. What we do have, unfortunately, three mobile home communities, 108 damaged homes, 30 demolished. I mean they are off their slabs. And we do have three injuries. No fatalities at this point. At least that area of severe weather is over with.

Now we've got the warnings, no more ice warnings in areas of South Carolina but the snow is cranking and here it begins, it's tripped up the Appalachian chain closer to I-95. You're looking at rainfall, still heavy amounts of snow, but there's a good little dry slot in here. Notice, get ready, Washington and Baltimore, your snow is going to start to mix. That's a sign of it trying to get warmer.

New York City, we're looking at probably a little burst of snow before it changes over to rain, but inland, Poppy, it is all snow and we could see easily, eight, 12, 15 inches of snowfall. The good news, it moves out and it lifts but with the winds like, you know, blizzard strength here, visibilities will be low. Don't drive anywhere tomorrow, let the crews do their job. At least good news, it's rain for the major cities. It's just going to take a while for D.C., Baltimore and Philadelphia.

HARLOW: All right. Tom, thank you so much for the update. We'll get back to you very shortly.

Meantime, in the aftermath of yesterday's hostage crisis in Colleyville, Texas, we're learning more about the British national who came to the Congregation Beth Israel during services and that led to a siege that went on for 11 hours.

Our Nick Paton Walsh is following all of the developments in the United Kingdom.

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Poppy, Malik Faisal Akram is from Blackburn in the north of England. A U.K. citizen and obviously U.K. authorities from pretty much the opening statements in this investigation from the FBI have been assisting with information in terms of the global aspects of this particular investigation.

The U.K. Foreign Secretary called this attack both an act of terror and an act of antisemitism. And we've also heard, though, from the families. Namely, the brother of Faisal Akram posting on a Facebook page for the Blackburn Muslim community. He referred to how the family were absolutely devastated by the loss of their brother and how they wholeheartedly apologized to the families of the victims caught up in this hostage seize. They also said that their brother had, in their opinion, mental health issues and they had been in contact with the police during the investigation and the hostage negotiations.

Now, of course, U.K. authorities have been working now with their U.S. counterparts to dig into the travel, the communications, everything, frankly, about Faisal Akram. As it currently stands, President Joe Biden himself saying it is not clear at this point what his motivation was at this stage.

My colleague Josh Campbell hearing from U.S. law enforcement sources that this may not have been an individual who had much about him on databases, much derogatory information both on the U.S. and the British side of things. There doesn't appear to be much evidence of him as someone they had on their databases in the past, so a lot I think now will be focusing on his behavior. Some of the incoherence you may have heard in the recordings of him speak, the lack of sophistication around that plot, that may lead some investigators to agree with his family's assessment of mental health issues but a lot of focus now on what the U.K. can provide the U.S. investigation.

Quite what they know, quite what can be discovered at this stage as well and, of course, whether there is any potential ongoing threat or wider network, although, at this point, no public statement to see that effect -- Poppy.

HARLOW: Nick, thank you very much for that reporting.

When we come back, Ukraine accusing Russia of a huge cyberattack on its government. I'll ask John Bolton if the U.S. is getting mired in another cold war.

Plus, new data tonight suggesting that cutting COVID quarantine from 10 days to five could have been premature. Dr. Megan Ranney is here.

And concerns over voting rights reform ahead of a critical vote in the Senate.


You're here in CNN NEWSROOM.


HARLOW: Is there another cold war brewing between the United States and Russia? The top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee thinks so. Listen.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Do you think we are in a new cold war with Russia?

REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R-TX): I do. I do because I think Putin again smells weakness here. He knows if he's ever going to invade Ukraine now is the time. I hope he doesn't make that miscalculation. But the fact is, if he does invade Ukraine, what's the United States, what is our commander-in-chief prepared to do to stop it?

I'm not seeing a lot of details or action that could deter him from that critical step. This would be the largest invasion in Europe since World War II. That's how big of a deal this is.


HARLOW: Well, last week, with Russian troops parked at the border, several Ukrainian government Web sites were targeted in a cyberattack. The government in Kiev says Russia is most likely responsible and this goes on.


The Pentagon now says it has information that Russia is using operatives to make people believe that Ukraine is starting trouble just to justify an invasion. Former Trump National Security adviser John Bolton lays out this argument in a new "Washington Post" op-ed today, writing, "Is Russia really planning an all-out attack on Ukraine? Putin himself may not know his final objective.

His challenge to Biden may be a political reconnaissance in force, across the front much broader than Ukraine, precisely to develop cost- benefit analysis of his options. Will the West show a lack of resolve, and where? Will it start to fragment with members attaching lower priority to some territories or issues than Russia does."

Well, John Bolton joins me now. It's great to have you especially in the middle of all of this. I guess I would just begin, Ambassador, with -- I wonder if you agree with Congressman McCaul. Is the U.S. in a new cold war with Russia?

JOHN BOLTON, FORMER TRUMP NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Well, I agree with Congressman McCaul's assessment of the situation and the inadequacies of the U.S. response. Personally, I don't like the term cold war applied to Russia today. I don't like implied to China today. It was an ideological conflict, unique to the circumstances dealing with the Soviet Union. We are clearly in a great power adversarial situation with both of them and I think we're not prepared for either one frankly.

HARLOW: Well, you wrote recently of the Biden administration's threat to Russia should it move on Ukraine, quote, "Moscow has heard it all before and responded by formally annexing Crimea." Is there anything more the Biden administration can do to deter Putin from invading Ukraine or is this more a question of when, not if?

BOLTON: No, I think there is more. I think the problem with what Biden has done so far is simply threaten actions, primarily economic sanctions after Russian troops crossed the border and as you just indicated, I think Putin discounts that, so even if Biden is serious, Putin may not think he's serious based on past performance, so what you need to do is change Putin's cost-benefit analysis before his troops start to move.

I would surge weapon supplies to the Ukrainians. I would put U.S. and NATO forces on the ground in Ukraine, not to fight, but to train and work with the Ukrainian forces. We have some there already, but I'd increase that substantially so Russian commanders have to worry about what they're going to do when they see Americans. And more than almost anything else, I would put whatever pressure we can on Germany and the European Union now.

Again, close off the Nord Stream 2 pipeline until Russia withdraws all of its forces currently outside its borders in countries that don't want them like Georgia, like Moldova, like Ukraine. There are a lot of things we could do now to change Putin's assessment.

HARLOW: I'm glad you bring up the pipeline because just listening to Jake Sullivan, National Security adviser for Biden, again on Friday, here's what he said about the pipeline because the U.S. continues to believe it has all the leverage now in the pipeline. Germany says, don't worry about it, it has nothing to do with Russia-Ukraine in this conflict, and then Russia says it has all the leverage. So here's what Jake Sullivan said.


JAKE SULLIVAN, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: There is no gas currently going through the Nord Stream 2 pipeline. There will not be for months at least, and we have made clear to the Russians that that pipeline is at risk if they move further into Ukraine. That is leverage for us. You slap sanctions on it right now, you take that leverage away.


HARLOW: Who has leverage right now given the pipeline?

BOLTON: Well, I think what he just said demonstrates why Putin is not deterred. He's talking about doing something if the Russians move. My point is effective deterrence stops them from moving in the first place. I think the administration made a big mistake in opposing Ted Cruz's amendment to cut off and to impose sanctions because North Stream.

To be frank, I think the Trump administration made a mistake by not getting sanctions in place when it was in office, but it is still not too late. You need to stop Putin before the hostilities begin, not threatening with what you're going to do after they begin.

HARLOW: Right. One of the points that you made in a recent piece in the last few weeks that struck me and that I think is not getting enough attention or discussion is NATO. Right? And you're right, NATO must urgently develop a strategy for the non-NATO former Soviet states. It's insufficient to say we have no treaty obligation to defend them which ignores the strategic reality, right, just because there's sort of no Article 5 obligation to come to the defense. So what are you suggesting NATO do at this point?

BOLTON: Well, something we all should have done years and years ago, so there's collective blame here.


But NATO's expansion didn't have a clear end point and as a result we've got a number of countries, Moldova, Belarus, Ukraine, Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan caught in a gray zone between NATO's eastern border and Russia's western border, and that ambiguity is something Putin is playing on right now.

So while NATO develops a strategy to deter Putin from taking aggressive action against Ukraine in particular or any of the others, we need to have a better strategic focus on who we're prepared to have in or who we're prepared, at least, to extend some protection to, to prevent Russian belligerence that ultimately threatens NATO members. And if you don't think NATO members feel threatened now, ask Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and others. They're right there. They know the threat that they're facing and therefore that all of NATO is facing.

HARLOW: And also speaking about the region, let's turn to the situation in Kazakhstan. I mean, you wrote about it in the "Wall Street Journal" this week, writing that Kazakhstan's troubles afford him, meaning Putin, significant possibilities. The State Department's statement on the situations last week said that it condemns the acts of violence and destruction of property by both the authorities and the protesters.

What do you think the State Department is missing here at least given its initial response where they're calling on essentially both sides?

BOLTON: Well, sadly that statement didn't surprise me. That's typical of the State Department. It's a classic case of moral equivalence, as if the demonstrators who were protesting the conditions inside Kazakhstan are somehow equivalent to the government repressing them from expressing their viewpoints. People interpreted what happened in Kazakhstan as weakness for Putin that he had to deploy troops to help secure the new Kazak government.

I think it's exactly the opposite. This is the first time this loose treaty organization that Russia organized has acted together. He has now a paradigm he can follow. He got an invitation to intervene militarily in the affairs of the former Soviet republic. I think he can contact invitations in the future to justify other interventions. I think the other four states in the former Central Asian republics are now very worried about what just happened in Kazakhstan.

We know what Putin thinks his ultimate objective is. He called the break-up of the Soviet Union the greatest catastrophe of the 20th century and he's trying to reverse it. How he does it? He's calling the shots, he's got the momentum, he's making the moves, and we're simply reacting. I just have a feeling this isn't going to end well if we don't get our act together very quickly.

HARLOW: Ambassador, I want to get your reaction to some breaking news that just crossed a moment ago actually during this interview and that is that North Korea has launched a possible ballistic missile into the Sea of Japan. That's the reporting we have, and this comes after three times in the last two weeks. North Korea test firing more missiles.

What is your reaction to this news in the midst of what we've seen from North Korea just recently?

BOLTON: Well, I just wrote an article for the Web site about North Korean testing.

HARLOW: Yes, I read it. Yes.

BOLTON: You know, sometimes these tests are tests because they want to perfect their targeting. They need to work on getting reentry vehicles that can survive coming back into the earth's atmosphere and have the nuclear warheads still viable. This is, this is a result of three administrations in a row that have badly mishandled North Korea. They are very close to getting their long-sought objective of deliverable nuclear weapons that can hit the United States.

Our options are limited but it requires very strong action. We're now nearly a year into the Biden administration, and they have done effectively nothing. HARLOW: Your advice to the Biden administration on North Korea would

be what then? I mean I remember President Obama warning incoming President Trump of North Korea, right? Think this is going to be the biggest challenge on your hands.

BOLTON: Well, he did. And the Trump administration very badly mishandled it by thinking it could negotiate a deal with the likes of Kim Jong-un. I think the most important thing we should do is say to China, which has the unique capability to bring North Korea's economy to its knees that we hold China responsible for finding an answer to the North Korean nuclear program. That's the best, the least dangerous way to do it.

For far too long we've treated China like just another interested party. I think China's the causal factor here, along with Russia, and I think we need to get that front and center with them.

HARLOW: Ambassador Bolton, thank you so much for the time tonight. It's good to have you.


BOLTON: Thank you. Glad to be with you.

HARLOW: More breaking news on what we just reported out of North Korea when we get back. Also ahead, the administration's top doctor has a warning, do not expect to see Omicron ease up anytime soon. Dr. Megan Ranney will join me to talk about it.


HARLOW: We are back with the breaking news. North Korea has fired a, quote, "unidentified projectile" into the waters off the peninsula. That's according to South Korean news. This is the fourth weapons test it appears to be from North Korea in a month. This story is still developing very much. We'll keep you updated with the latest.


Meantime, Omicron cases continue to spike across the country. This morning, Surgeon-General Vivek Murthy told our Jake Tapper that while Omicron is plateauing or declining in some parts of the country, this wave started later in other places, meaning we should expect a tough few weeks ahead.

Dr. Megan Ranney is here with me now. She is the associate dean of Public Health at Brown University.

Dr. Ranney, it's good to have you. Thanks for joining us tonight.

DR. MEGAN RANNEY, ASSOCIATE DEAN OF PUBLIC HEALTH, BROWN UNIVERSITY: Pleasure to be here with you tonight, Pamela.

HARLOW: I really wanted to have you on because a few days ago, you tweeted this. You said, "I'm tearing up right now. We're talking with a group of fellow emergency docs about our inability to care for patients coming through the doors right now. It hurts us in our soul when we can't provide quick empathetic care. We know the system is broken and we can't fix it alone."

This, on top of this wave, what does it mean in your hospital now?

RANNEY: Well, let me paint a picture for you of my shift on Friday night. We were down 10 nurses in the emergency department, so we had a group of beds that were closed. We had a few dozen patients waiting for hours at a time in our waiting room and as we were taking care of patients that were able to make their way back to the beds, we were constantly looking at the waiting room trying to make sure we weren't missing someone severely ill who slipped through the cracks.

We had patients who were sick enough to need intensive care unit or hospital beds upstairs who we literally couldn't move upstairs because there were no nurses or staffed beds to take care of them. And meanwhile, the patients just kept coming. When I left at midnight, the waiting room looked almost exactly the same as it had 8 1/2 hours earlier.

It is so disheartening, Pamela, as a physician, as a nurse, as another healthcare provider right now to have been through surge after surge of these patients. Normally, after a flood, you rebuild. We have never had the chance to do that and it has only gotten worse.

And let me tell you that at the end of the day, healthcare is about the people providing it and people are leaving because they're burnt out by not being able to provide the care that they want to patients. Each person that leaves has a domino effect on the system and means worse care for those who are left.

HARLOW: You know, I mean, I've been interviewing you for more than, you know, it's two years now and I can sense in your voice just so, you know, just the toll that it takes on you and your team over and over again. And you've said that, you know, we're two years into this pandemic and for many of us, what we're facing is the same problems.

I guess I'm just wondering what, unless there's all of a sudden a miraculous, you know, change in the people who are right now unwilling to get vaccinated, which keeps people, most people, out of the hospital, period, for COVID, then what will change?

RANNEY: I mean, the truth is, Pamela, it is about COVID that's really the straw that's breaking the camel's back but it's also about everything else. You know, the fact that we've been putting off preventive surgeries or non-emergency surgeries for almost a month now at my hospital system, that means that people who have heart problems or cancer or other things that really need to get operated on aren't having the chance to have those surgeries, and that are more likely to end up in the E.R. not from COVID but from other problems.

It's the fact that we don't have enough mental health workers or social workers, and so folks are ending up, again, in the emergency department with mental health crises that could be prevented. What we really need when Omicron starts to fade which it is already starting to do in parts of the northeast is to double down on fixing the system, on getting more nurses, more CNAs, more social workers, more physical therapists. Train (INAUDIBLE) out, and providing preventive care so we stop filling ERs with things that could be handled in other ways.

HARLOW: We have to go in 30 seconds, but just my question to you on this new study that came out calling into question whether just isolating for five days, as the CDC has now changed its guidance to is really enough when it comes to Omicron. The study found that people with Omicron are staying contagious for much longer. So given that, how long do you think people should isolate with Omicron?

RANNEY: So quickly, what I am telling folks is do not stop isolation as long as you have symptoms. If you are symptomatic, keep isolating. If you do need -- if you're feeling better and ready to stop isolation at five, six, seven days out, make sure you're wearing a great-fitting mask and do not take it off around others.

HARLOW: OK. That helped as lot. Dr. Ranney, thank you so much.

RANNEY: Thank you.


HARLOW: Well, last week was not a good week for President Biden. How does the administration turn the corner here? Alice Stewart, Maria Cordona join me next.


HARLOW: Welcome back. As President Biden marked one year in office this week, his domestic agenda has hit a brick wall. In just the past few days, the Supreme Court struck down his vaccine mandate on big businesses. Even Democrats, some of them, began criticizing his administration for being behind the curve on COVID.


Inflation hit another 40-year high and his voting rights bills appear to be on the cusp of defeat. New polling shows that it's taking a toll on the president's popularity. CBS now has his approval rating at 44 percent, down 18 points since the spring.

Let's bring in our panel to talk about it. Republican strategist Alice Stewart and Democratic strategist Maria Cordona.

Good to have you, ladies. It's been a minute. Thank you so much for joining me.


HARLOW: You too.


HARLOW: That's not a good week, Maria. Like any way you cut it, that is not a good week. How do they turn this ship around? CARDONA: You're right, it absolutely was not a good week, but what the

White House is going to do and they should continue to do is to talk about the historic accomplishments that he had in his very first year as president.

It is hard, Poppy, because in politics, with everyone's attention spans you only remember what just happened in the past day or the past week. But what the White House needs to continue to underscore is what he has done in the past year. 6.4 million jobs have been created, Poppy, a historic achievement. No other president in his first year has ever done that. Wages are going up. The unemployment rate is at an all-time low at 3.8.

He is dealing with inflation, putting out policies. In fact, you know, many, many economists have said if we were able to pass Build Back Better, that would reduce inflationary pressures on our economy. He has to continue to talk about these things --

HARLOW: No, I hear you, Maria, but just a little bit of pushback. I mean, there are also economists that say that much additional spending right now could also increase inflation. And in terms of the job numbers, also I hear you, but no one has ever come out of a pandemic like this. I mean, that's part of so many people out of work, going back to work.

I guess, I just wonder, Maria, how can you just focus on the past when you've got these multiple significant defeats in the last week? Don't you need to talk about how we're going to turn the ship around on those?

CARDONA: Sure. There's no question about that, Poppy, and I'm not saying that we should just focus on the past. In fact, he needs to use those accomplishments as foundations to convince the public how he's going to deal with the difficulties that we saw this past week. You know, this White House is not looking at this through rose-colored glasses. They understand the difficulties they're facing.

This is what it means to govern, Poppy. This is not a president that sits in his office watching television for five hours and then tweeting for the next five. He is actually governing and he is hoping that Democrats, as well as Republicans will actually join him in focusing on the solutions that we need like, for example, protecting voting rights. It is a shame that not one Republican in Congress will look at what happened in the past election where you had people waiting in line for eight hours, especially in communities of color and think that that's OK.

We need to fix those things, and that's what the White House is going to be focusing on moving forward.

HARLOW: Alice, obviously, one of the biggest issues on everyone's mind continues to be coronavirus. Let's take a look at Biden's polling on this, he was at 67 percent on this topic in the spring. Now he sits at 49 percent. What is the winning Republican message on COVID that they can argue we would do better? I get the -- I mean, testing is a big issue, and let's hope that that turns around. And the White House needs to get more in front of that, but how does

this play in terms of Republicans' messaging going into the midterms?

STEWART: Clearly, if we can, Poppy, go back and replay what Maria said, it's been a really bad week for the Biden administration, but on the COVID issue, look, the Republicans have a lot of success with regard to the previous administration in terms of getting the vaccines out in a quick manner and in a sufficient way and Operation Warp Speed was very successful in addressing COVID, and that's something really important.

Not to harp on the Biden administration, but they have not done a good job with regard to COVID, and the testing, as well as the vaccines, and encouraging people across the board to get boosters. So --


HARLOW: Well, what do you mean specifically on -- wait, wait. I mean, repeatedly, from the Biden administration we've heard get vaccinated, get vaccinated, get vaccinated, boost, boost, boost, and you do have a number of Republicans, Alice, apologies, who oppose vaccine mandates that the Biden administration has been pushing. So what specifically are you talking about on the vaccine front?

STEWART: The point with that is Joe Biden campaigned in a large part one on saying we're going to put the COVID vaccine or COVID pandemic behind us and we certainly have not. It is --

HARLOW: OK, but you would concede on the vaccine front they've done just about everything they possibly can to get everyone to get vaccinated, right? I'll give you on testing, but --


STEWART: In terms of the vaccine, I am encouraged and have praised them many times for encouraging people to get vaccines and get boosters, however, the numbers have not matched where we should be. And let me also just touch on --

HARLOW: Do you think some Republicans, some Republican politicians bear responsibility for that in terms of not being as vocal as they could about encouraging vaccinations?

STEWART: Look, this is, should not be a political issue. This is a healthcare issue.

HARLOW: Right.

STEWART: And anyone, and yes, we have seen many on the right who have made this a political issue, it shouldn't be that way. This should have always been about get the vaccines, get your boosters, you wear masks where necessary, also use safe distancing, and I do have praised the Biden administration for working also with governors across the country to make sure that we increase vaccines, but look, COVID is one aspect of why this administration has seen such low approval ratings. The economy has been abysmal over the last several months and is not a

temporary issue. They have been saying that the economy and inflation has been temporary or transitory issue. This is long term. That's why we see many polling numbers, 33 percent, and another problem that we have with the Biden administration as someone that campaigned on unity and has done nothing to unify this country and certainly within his own party.

Poll numbers show that almost half of Americans say that he has done more to not unify this country and that is a big factor with Joe Biden, not being able to get a lot of what he has said he wants to get done, done.

HARLOW: What poll is that, Alice? I hadn't seen that one?

STEWART: The Quinnipiac poll shows that the polling numbers, Joe Biden 33 percent of Americans say that --


STEWART: You can call it what you want, but the fact is 50 percent of Americans say that Joe Biden has done more to break this country apart and not unify which is one of the big foundations that he ran on and if he does not get inflation under control and the economy back on track, and COVID in the rearview mirror, this is going to be a very bad midterm election for the Democrats and it's going to be a positive one for Republicans.

HARLOW: Way over time, so next time, first word to Maria and I'll say less.

CARDONA: Let's do it. Great to see you, Poppy.

HARLOW: Great to see you. Thanks, ladies, very much.

Well, tomorrow the nation marks Martin Luther King Jr. Day as the current debate over voting rights in this country echoes his battle decades ago. King's son will tell us what his father would think about the fight now.


MARTIN LUTHER KING III, CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER: He never gave in and gave out. The disappointment, yes, he'd be greatly disappointed. And say that America must and will do better.





MARTIN LUTHER KING JUNIOR, CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER: I think the tragedy is that we have a Congress with a Senate that has a minority of misguided senators who will use the filibuster to keep the majority of people from even voting.


HARLOW: Well, that was Dr. Martin Luther King Junior talking about the filibuster nearly 60 years ago. The filibuster again the focus of intense debate blamed for blocking any progress on current voting rights legislation. Today Republican Senator Mitt Romney said there may be a path forward on a very specific issue. The Electoral Count Act. Listen.


SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): The group of about 12 senators, Republicans and Democrats, that are working on the Electoral Count Act will continue to work together. Sadly, this election reform bill that the president has been pushing, I never got a call on that from the White House. There was no negotiation bringing Republicans and Democrats together to try and come up with something that would meet bipartisan interest. Sure, we can work together on almost every issue where there is common ground.


HARLOW: Well, this all comes as the nation prepares to mark Martin Luther King Junior Day tomorrow. King's family took to the streets of Phoenix to rally for voting rights reform. They marched right through Senator Kyrsten Sinema's district. She is one of the key Democratic obstacles to passing this new legislation given her unwillingness to have a carveout in filibuster. Civil rights leaders are vowing to keep pressuring Congress to pass new voting rights protection as a way to honor King's legacy.

Our Suzanne Malveaux reports.


SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): January 15th, 2022. The day Martin Luther King Junior would have turned 93 years old. His eldest son Martin Luther King III reflects on how his father would feel today.

(On-camera): Do you think he would have been surprised, discouraged that we are now more than 60 years out from his fight for voting rights that there is still a fight to be had?

KING III: He never gave in and gave out, but disappointment yes, he'd be greatly disappointed and say that America must and will do better. He would never have accepted what we're going through at this point.

MALVEAUX (voice-over): King had hoped bringing President Biden to Georgia the epicenter of the voting rights battle would have put enough pressure on the few Democratic senators holding up voting rights legislation to relent.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Pass the Freedom to Vote Act. MALVEAUX: Following Biden's fiery address.

BIDEN: Pass it now.


MALVEAUX: I sat down on the front porch of the home where Martin Luther King Junior was born, with his son Martin III, his wife Arndrea, and Marc Morial, the president of the National Urban League. King shared the private conversation he had with the president earlier that day.

(On-camera): What did you tell him?

KING III: We talked about literally the full faith of the White House. We saw you do that with infrastructure. We want to see you do that for the right to vote.

BIDEN: I've been having these quiet conversations with members of Congress for the last two months. I'm tired of being quiet.

MALVEAUX: Do any of you share that sentiment? Tired of the president being quiet? I mean, he said he was tired of being quiet.

MARC MORIAL, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL URBAN LEAGUE: Yes, we're tired of him being quiet as he's tired of being quiet, and it's time to elevate this battle, elevate this fight to what it is and that is a fight for the future of this nation.

MALVEAUX (voice-over): 80-year-old civil rights leader Reverend Jesse Jackson who marched with King for civil and voting rights more than a half century ago, also attended Biden's speech. He believes the ongoing battle for the ballot is worth it.

REV. JESSE JACKSON, CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER: We have an obligation to fight back to save the country is really the right to vote.

MALVEAUX: Why are you so optimistic?

JACKSON: My back is against the wall. There is no future in hopelessness. We will keep our hope alive.

MALVEAUX (voice-over): King was encouraged by Biden's call to lower the Senate's 60 vote threshold to get national voting rights legislation passed but at the same time realistic about his chances of getting the necessary approval.

KING III: I can't say even today my own self, I'm confident that it will pass. But the fact of the matter is if you continue down the pathway that it feels like we've gone down you're definitely doomed.

MALVEAUX: Two days later back in Washington, King's fears were realized. The voting rights bill effectively died after Democratic Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona announced she would not support changing the Senate filibuster rules. King said history would remember Sinema unkindly and her home state could pay. KING III: You may remember that Arizona was one of the last states to

pass the King holiday bill.


KING III: And one thing that happened was the Super Bowl was removed.

MALVEAUX: Saturday the King family will mark King's birthday in Arizona to keep up the pressure on voting rights and on Monday, the MLK Day holiday, their fight is in the nation's capital where they're asking Americans across the country to honor King by promoting voting rights and legislation.

ARNDREA WATERS KING, CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER: They're all heirs to what he stood and fought and died for, and I think what we are simply saying is that this is a time, this is the day of action.

MALVEAUX: Suzanne Malveaux, CNN.


HARLOW: Suzanne, thank you so much for that reporting.

Well, ahead, freezing rain, snow, ice slamming millions of people in the eastern part of the country. We'll take you live to cities dealing with the storm, show you how hard it will hit.

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