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Lindsey Graham Testifies Before Fulton County, GA Grand Jury On Tuesday; Before Losing Majority, Will Democrats Have Enough Time To Review Trump's Tax Records?; CDC: New Boosters For COVID, The Flu, And RSV Add Limited Protection Against Sickness, But Will Likely Prevent Serious Illness. Aired 9:30-10a ET

Aired November 23, 2022 - 09:30   ET



PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Let the newly appointed Special Counsel, Jack Smith, he was not there in person, but his prosecutors were there. He'd approved all the arguments. And they were trying to argue that they don't need this Special Counsel.

And this bench, look, it was three Republican-appointed judges, two even appointed by Trump. They did not appear to be very sympathetic to the former president. They asked a lot of questions, including what kind of president does this send?


REID: If the former president can get this kind of intervention, this kind of potential delay in an investigation, won't everybody ask for that? There was even a moment where one of the judges corrected one of the Trump attorneys for referring to what happened to Mar-a-Lago as a raid. So, it's usually hard to tell, right, with these three judge panels which way they're going to go.

But it was one of those rare arguments where it really did not appear to be going well for the former president. We didn't get a decision. But that is a decision that will have enormous consequences for that probe. There's a lot of concerns about how far that could go in the 2024 presidential race. Big desire to move that along.

SCIUTTO: Other big investigation, of course, what's going on in Georgia, Lindsey Graham testified yesterday.

REID: Exactly.


REID: Just the latest in the string of high-profile witnesses testifying before the Fulton County Grand Jury, where they're investigating whether the former president or his associates tried to criminally interfere in the 2020 presidential race.

Now, the senator had fought for a long time to try not to have to --

SCIUTTO: Yes. REID: -- appear before this grand jury, but he ultimately lost. And he was appearing yesterday. So, it was a really bad day. But the biggest -- the biggest loss for the former president was definitely this tax case. And it will be interesting to see. The committee is prevented by law from sharing these tax records. But as you know, Jim, things happen (inaudible) about the Hill.

SCIUTTO: They have been known, although their majority won't last much longer on the Hill.

REID: That's true.

SCIUTTO: Paula Reid, thanks so much.

Joining me now to discuss, Margaret Talev, Managing Editor for Axios. And Michael Moore, he's a former U.S. attorney. Good to have you both on.


SCIUTTO: Michael, here we are six years later after Trump ran for president and broke that tradition of sharing his tax returns. Now, Congress has access, but Democrats in Congress are about to lose their majority. They're going to get them next week, but are we going to ever see them? Are they going to have time to look at them before they lose oversight powers in effect?

MOORE: Well, good morning. I'm glad to be with both of you. This is really a period victory, I think. There are a few people in the work more protective of their holiday time than members of Congress.


MOORE: Seems like they're on breaks, you know, every other week or every other month. So, I just don't see that there's going to be much that they could do. Remember, the returns don't become public, they just go to the committee. There's another process that they have to go through before we even know what's in the returns. So, basically, you're talking about a very compressed time period for people to look at the returns, try to do their oversight. Returns were gathered, remember, under this oversight (inaudible), to see if the audit was compliant.


MOORE: So, I think by the time the Republicans take over this is probably a move point. Now, if they leak if something's leaked out about the returns. And again, I'm no -- I'm not here on Trump's behalf or a defender, you know (ph), and if somebody likes it, you know, as it is. But if they leak that information, then that's a bigger problem and they may face some felony charges because of that. So, I think you'll see people trying to look at it and make representations about it.


MOORE: But I just don't see how the calendars in their -- in their favor on this.

SCIUTTO: Margaret, can't you look at that then as win for Trump, because really his legal strategy, is it not, in so many cases, is not so much to win, but delay, right? Run out the clock.

MARGARET TALEV, MANAGING EDITOR, AXIOS: He -- that's certainly a consistent legal strategy, Jim. He tries to run out the clock on basically everything that could expose information like this. But he didn't quite run out the clock on this one. And I take a different view. I think it's more than apparent victory.

The law is very clear that presidents have to make information like this available to Congressional committees. And it was important for the Democrats to get that on the record, not just for Donald Trump, but for future American presidents who might include Donald Trump if he decides to run again.

I also think that 40 days is a lot more time than zero days and that this committee has been waiting for this information for years and they will move swiftly.

So, are there going to be new revelations that the public's never heard? A lot of elements of Trump's tax returns have already leaked. I don't know --


TALEV: -- but I think for the Democrats to get this information with more than a month to go before they had over the reins of their majority with a former president who has announced that he will be running again, those are important markets. This is more than just symbolic.

SCIUTTO: Yes, maybe we'll learn more. OK, another issue not related to Trump, but Republicans in the state of Georgia. Georgia Republicans have been fighting Saturday fighting for the runoff Senate election there, Michael Moore. Georgia Supreme Court, they asked the Georgia Supreme Court to halt early voting. You were saying to us that they basically burn themselves here in this case.

MOORE: True.

SCIUTTO: Tell us how.

MOORE: Well, you know, the Republicans passed this new election bill, which basically kept people from giving folks bottles of water if they're waiting in lines six hours to vote, it shortened the time period for early voting. They were doing everything they could to restrict access to the polls. And let me -- let's just call it what it is. It's un-American.


And I think they would have to be almost subliterate to think that there's any other reason than they're trying to keep minorities from voting in the state of Georgia, by limiting the amount of early voting, because we know historically the minority population will use the early voting time and that drives the numbers out.

Well now, you've got a situation where early voting has been limited by the Republican legislature in Georgia and suddenly, they're in a runoff.


MOORE: And these two -- and the judge has ruled, and the court has ruled that some of the counties get -- the counties if they want to impose it can go ahead and have early voting. Well, the Republicans are saying, oh, well goodness only Democratic counties are moving for early voting. This isn't fair. This isn't fair. Well, you know, you got -- you got bit by the monster --


MOORE: -- you created. And so, that's -- that's where they're at. I mean, it's a -- it's a farse to suggest. I don't know why any legislature, why people just don't call it what it is, we ought to be encouraging people to vote. We ought to be doing everything that we can possibly do to make it easy for people to vote.

The Republicans tried to fight that and, you know, here they are sort of having to take a dose of their own medicine.

TALEV: Do you --

SCIUTTO: Margaret Talev, what -- sorry, go ahead.

TALEV: I was going to say, it's hard to get people excited about turning out in a runoff election, especially when control of the Senate is no longer at stake. But, when you tell people that you -- that they can't vote, that's a sure way to get people excited about voting.


TALEV: Plenty of red counties have the ability to extend it for three days also. Everyone has that choice. You can bet on the fact that Fulton County will take advantage of it in Atlanta the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

MOORE: Absolutely.

SCIUTTO: Margaret, on the other big political issue for Republicans here in Washington and that is the speaker -- the speaker's gavel --


SCIUTTO: Can Kevin McCarthy get the votes he needs? You had some more defections from the House Freedom Caucus. How's it looking for him?


SCIUTTO: I mean, can he still get the votes? TALEV: It's looking really tight. Now he's got, I think, at least four or five who say no way, never. Yes, I think he still can. The question is two-fold. For him, it's how much more will he need to give away in terms of concessions or can he just shut it down and say enough already? But for the Republican Caucus, the question is what's the alternative? And the fact of the matter is, somebody in the Republican Party needs to ascend to be the next House speaker.

Republicans just watched Democrats significantly weaken Joe Biden in most of the first two years of his presidency by having the kind of infighting and the progressives versus the Joe Manchin caucus and stuff.


TALEV: It's odd -- I know that the right flank wants to get as many concessions as they can now. If it goes on much longer the caucus may end up weakening itself, not just Kevin McCarthy.

SCIUTTO: Wouldn't be the first time folks shot themselves in the foot here on Capitol Hill. Margaret Talev, Michael Moore, thanks so much to the both of you.

TALEV: Thanks, Jim.

MOORE: Happy Thanksgiving to you.

SCIUTTO: To you as well.

Lawmakers on high alert after a threat against the Congressman as well as the head of the FBI. What we're learning about those threats coming up.



SCIUTTO: Federal authorities have now filed charges against a Michigan man accused of threatening to kill FBI Director Christopher Wray and Democratic Congressman John Garamendi.

Court documents say Neil Matthew Walter allegedly left a voicemail in the Congressman's office saying, quote, John, you're going to die. Joining us now is CNN's Brynn Gingras. She's been covering the story.

Brynn, I wonder how seriously investigators are taking this threat?

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I mean, we know how fast a threat can turn into actually--


GINGRAS: --something bad happening, right, Jim? And in this case, they acted again quickly.

Let's go through that indictment that was unsealed by the Department of Justice. It alleges that Neil Matthew Walter, a man, as you mentioned, Jim, from Michigan made these threats not only against Democratic Congressman from California John Garamendi but also the FBI Director Christopher Wray.

Apparently on November 4th, so just about three weeks ago, there was a voicemail left for the Congressman, which you said in part of it, but let me read it to you, what it said. It said "John. Hey John. You're gonna die John. You're gonna die." That's according to the court documents.

And then apparently there was also a comment that was left on the livestream of the Congressional testimony by FBI Director Christopher Wray, and it said something to this effect, according to the documents: "I will kill you director Wray you will die I will kill you in self-defense."

Apparently there was also FBI -- excuse me, Facebook posts by this gentlemen basically believing the conspiracy that there is a sex slave ring that's running out of the U.S. Capitol that involves government officials, elected officials, Tom Cruise, Elon Musk, so according to the documents, officials went to this man's home a few days later, made contact with him, he refused to put down a gun, sort of said he was going to continue, you know, fighting this, so this is obviously someone who has some mental issues, his parents apparently say he has been in and out of mental facilities.

So right now, Jim, he is detained, he has a detention hearing coming up next month, but again, it's so important to note that these threats, they need to be taken seriously and they are being taken seriously--


GINGRAS: --but there is just a lot of them happening--


GINGRAS: --by the FBI and government officials.

SCIUTTO: It's conspiracy theories as well, there -- there -- there was a gunman who--


SCIUTTO: --turned up at pizza restaurant here a few years ago, as you know--


SCIUTTO: --on this same idea about this child sex ring.

Threats to Congressmen, federal officials, et cetera, they're becoming more common. What does the data show?

GINGRAS: They are, I mean, you don't have to look far, right? Nancy Pelosi's husband was the victim of not just a threat but actual action. Look at this -- these numbers. They're quite alarming, but the investigations in the fiscal year by the FBI in 2021: 8,375 reported incidents of domestic terrorism, about 2,700 investigations conducted, a significant portion of those are related to January 6th.


But you just brought up another case of this related to the conspiracy about the sex rings -- or, sex slave ring, and then we had the incident that happened at the field office in Cincinnati where someone walked in believing a different conspiracy.


GINGRAS: So again, the volume of this is overwhelming for federal law enforcement officials--


GINGRAS: --and at the local level, and it just isn't going away. Jim?

SCIUTTO: Yes, my son had his birthday party at that restaurant here and a few weeks later a guy shows up with a gun. I mean, it's real. Brynn Gingras, thanks so much.


SCIUTTO: Well a break for some Americans struggling financially, the Biden Administration has decided to extend the freeze on student loan repayments now that the president's loan forgiveness program remains tied up in court. Those payments were supposed to start up again in January. CNN's Jeremy Diamond is at the White House.

So Jeremy, there's sort of a replacement step to ease that student loan burden. What else are we hearing from the White House?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's exactly right, Jim. As you've said, those student loan repayments for federal student borrowers were set to resume in January, but with the president's student loan forgiveness plan tied up in the courts, the president announcing yesterday that his administration will extend that moratorium on repayments.

You may remember back in August when the president announced this student loan forgiveness plan for up to -- forgiving up to $20,000 in student debt, he also at the same time said that when that plan went into effect, you would also see this moratorium on repayments that's been in effect throughout the COVID pandemic end.

And -- but last week, a federal court issuing a nationwide injunction against the plan, and so cue the president.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: It isn't fair to ask tens of millions of borrowers eligible for relief to resume their student debt payments while the courts consider the lawsuit. For that reason, the Secretary of Education is extending the pause on student loan payments while we seek relief from the courts.


DIAMOND: And now the president insists that his plan is completely legal, he is expressing confidence in the efforts to uphold its legality, and the Biden Administration last Friday asked the Supreme Court to allow this plan to go into effect while these challenges are heard.

Republican-led states that are opposing this plan, they say that President Biden has overstepped his authority. Now, in terms of when these repayments will restart, it's -- it could be as long as June 30th and then 60 days after that when repayments would have to start, unless the Supreme Court rules on this issue before then, in which case the payments would begin again 60 days after a Supreme Court ruling on this issue.


SCIUTTO: Jeremy Diamond at the White House. Thanks so much.

So while the White House is pushing Americans to get a COVID booster shot, the CDC is releasing new data on just how effective that booster is against new variants. You'll want to hear these numbers. We're going to have more on it just ahead.



SCIUTTO: A new study takes the first close look at the effectiveness of the COVID-10 Omicron booster that came out just in September. This as the Biden administration kicks off a six-week campaign to encourage Americans to get those boosters. CNN Senior Medical Correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, joins me now. So Elizabeth, what does the data show?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Jim, the data shows that this booster will be helpful, but I have to tell you it's not fabulous. If we think back to about two years ago when the first COVID vaccines came out, those had 95 percent effectiveness. This new one, it is not that.

Let's look specifically at what this study found. This study found that if you get this booster eight months after your last COVID shot, so eight months have passed, this booster will be about 43 to 56 percent - I'm sorry, 40 -- yes. 43 to 56 percent effective for you, that's -- you know, that's kind of like what a flu shot is, so it's certainly something worth doing. But just to be honest, it is not like the original vaccinations. It is not the same efficacy. Still worth doing, but not the same efficacy.

SCIUTTO: Sorry. Is that number that are you protected from infection or protected from serious illness?

COHEN: That is a great question. You're protected from any kind of illness.

SCIUTTO: Got you.

COHEN: So if you get the shot, it reduces the chance that you will become sick with COVID.

SCIUTTO: OK. So I look at those numbers. And by the way, I just got - I got the double a couple weeks ago, and I did it for my kids as well, get the - get the booster plus the flu shot. And as you say, the flu shot is about 50 percent, yet we still get it and may still get sick. You're just less likely to get sick. So I wonder what is the advice then to folks at home who are underwhelmed by that - by that number?

COHEN: Right. Right. So the advice is, look, you don't want to be sick. Nobody wants to be sick, and these shots are so safe. Even though it's not as good you should still go out there and get it for yourself, and also think about how hospitals are just overrun now with patients with RSV and other kind of viruses. Go out and get it. There's - here are the rules sort of about when you should get it. You should be getting it two months or more past your last COVID shot, or if you're at least three months past your last COVID illness. Jim --

SCIUTTO: Yes, we do - we do a lot of things that help us a bit and don't protect us entirely, so I suppose --


COHEN: Right. Exactly. Right.

SCIUTTO: -- that's the argument here. All right, so the WHO is already trying to get ahead of the next pandemic. A meeting happening right now. What are they talking about?

COHEN: So what they're talking about is, gee, what do we do when this is going to - you know, we know that this will happen again. We don't know when in our lifetime. Hopefully not, but it will happen again. Which pathogens, which viruses and other kind of pathogens do we want to be paying attention to and thinking about preventing for the next time.


So they've come up with a long list. Here are some of the frontrunners. COVID-19 could happen again, and there could be a variant that's even worse than the ones that we've already seen. Ebola, we're all familiar with that. You can see a couple of other ones on there. Also Disease X. I know that sounds crazy. Disease X is we don't know what it could be. Something totally unexpected could happen. COVID was certainly unexpected, so they're trying to prepare for the unexpected. Jim --

SCIUTTO: Someone's writing a Hollywood screenplay right now called Disease X I'm sure.

COHEN: Exactly. Right.

SCIUTTO: Elizabeth Cohen, thanks very much.

COHEN: Thanks.

SCIUTTO: Coming up in our next hour, as the search for a killer continues in Idaho, even a suspect, so does the search for answers, any information really. We're going to speak to the father of one of the victims about his growing frustrations over how police are handling this investigation.