Return to Transcripts main page

Erin Burnett Outfront

U.S. COVID Cases Top 400,000; Hospitalizations Surpass 100,000; Jan 6 Panel Has "Firsthand" Info On Trump's Behavior During Riot; Schumer Pushes Senate Vote On Changing Filibuster Rules; Theranos Jury Returns Verdict In Elizabeth Holmes Trial; U.S.'s Largest Pediatric Hospital Sees Record COVID Admissions. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired January 03, 2022 - 19:00   ET


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: CNN has reached out to the NFL and to a representative for Antonio Brown for comment on all of this. We have not heard from either of them, Wolf.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: All right. Brian Todd reporting for us. Brian, thank you very much.

And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, the U.S. in the red zone. COVID cases rising and hospitalizations now at their highest level in nearly four months as the FDA tries to take action.

Plus, breaking through Trump's wall of secrecy. The January 6 Select Committee has firsthand knowledge of what Trump was doing during the deadly insurrection, so what do they know?

And Leader Chuck Schumer says he wants to force a vote that could change the rules of Washington. But does he have the votes to make such a transformational move? Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, COVID surging across America. New cases are now topping a record 400,000 a day and hospitalizations, which, I want to note, consists of mostly the unvaccinated according to the CDC have crossed the 100,000 mark for the first time in nearly four months.

Just a few moments ago, a doctor at Texas Children's Hospital calling the number of kids admitted there are staggering. Adding that the main reason for the admissions is because of Omicron, so we're not talking about kids who happen to have Omicron and are tested when they show up at the hospital for something else. He's saying, no, the staggering, the use of that word staggering applies to kids who are coming to the hospital because of Omicron.

But as those cases hit epic levels across the country, vaccinated people are mostly not getting sick and that has changed the game. Florida's Governor, a champion of individual freedoms who, of course, has strongly opposed both COVID masking and vaccine mandates is now on the same page as the mayor of New York City. Just listen to Ron DeSantis and Eric Adams today when it comes to schools.


MAYOR ERIC ADAMS (D) NEW YORK: I'm going to tell you what's going to happen day-to-day, we are staying open.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R) FLORIDA: Our schools will be open in the State of Florida.


BURNETT: Okay. Those two men may agree on a lot. You're talking about Ron DeSantis, we all know where he stood on COVID throughout the pandemic, and Eric Adams who's now the Mayor of the blue-blue New York City. They agree that keeping schools open is the single most important thing they need to do in the midst of the surge. It is a surge that overall is creating considerable confusion and anxiety for many Americans.

Tonight, the FDA again revising booster recommendations, shortening the recommended time between a second and a third shot by about a month and now recommending the Pfizer booster for kids 12 to 15.

The new guidance adding to already muddied waters. I mean, as Americans who want to return to some sense of normal are growing more frustrated, because the surge such that it leads to people being out sick or people being required to stay home even if they aren't sick, but actually are positive for COVID, that's causing a ton of staff shortages.

Today, just 2,100 more flights canceled, snow a small part of that. But workers testing positive for COVID, flight crews and much like last year at this time, people standing, waiting in their cars for hours just to get tested and then they'll have to wait who knows how long to even get those test results back, which renders them moot.

Nick Watt is OUTFRONT live in Santa Monica. And Nick, you know it is incredible when you see Ron DeSantis and Eric Adams both saying, hell no, we're keeping our schools open because there are school districts across this country delaying the return to schools right now. I know you're getting news of yet another one tonight.

NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Los Angeles School District just pushed back reopening by a day and they are also now insisting that everyone, staff and students, return a negative test before they set foot back on campus.

Erin, throughout this pandemic, we've been talking about surges, hotspots in different parts of the country, a kind of game of Whack-A- Mole. This is no very different. This virus is everywhere. Omicron is now everywhere. Forty-nine states showing significant rise in cases, only Maine right now is holding steady.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've never seen these numbers before.


WATT (voice over): A New York City teachers union estimates maybe a quarter of its teachers could be out sick, requested this semester start online. No, said the box fresh mayor. He has confidence in testing.


ADAMS: We are going to keep our schools open and ensure that our children are safe in a safe environment.


WATT (voice over): Thousands of schools are delaying the return to the classroom from Atlanta to Newark to Milwaukee.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We recognize that there may be some bumps in the road, especially this upcoming week.


WATT (voice over): The weather in many places an added wrinkle right now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We've been very clear. Our expectation is for schools to be opened full time for students for in-person learning. We remember the impact of school closures on students last year and our science is better. We have better tools.



WATT (voice over): Today, the FDA authorized Pfizer booster shots for kids 12 to 15, also shortened the recommended window between second dose and booster from six months down to five. An Israeli study found zero new heart issues among more than 6,000 boosted kids ages 12 to 15.


DR. PETER MARKS, DIR. OF THE FDA'S CENTER FOR BIOLOGICS EVALUATION AND RESEARCH: We can look at that risk-benefit and still feel comfortable. It makes sense to try to move as quickly as we possibly could.

(END VIDEO CLIP) WATT (voice over): Because this country is now averaging more than 400,000 new COVID-19 infections a day for the first time, that's an ugly graph.




WATT (voice over): The key metric to watch is COVID hospitalizations, now more than 100,000 and rising but still well below the peak of nearly one year ago.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We fully anticipate on top of the surge that's already been ongoing, that there's going to be another wave that's occurring as a result of these holidays. We're not in a good place.



WATT (on camera): And, of course, the balancing act goes on trying to keep as much business and schools open while also keeping people safe. Remember, last week, the CDC tweaked its guidelines for people who test positive. They said you no longer need to isolate for 10 days. You can isolate for just five days as long as you're not showing symptoms.

Now we hear from Dr. Fauci, they may tweak that again and say, yeah, after five days, you also need to test negative before you go out and about again, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Nick.

I want to go now to Dr. Paul Offit, Director of the Vaccine Education Center at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, also a member of the FDA Vaccine Advisory Committee, and Dr. Jonathan Reiner, Director of the Cardiac Cath Lab at George Washington University Hospital, who advised the White House medical team under President George W. Bush.

So Dr. Offit, schools, obviously, across the country, we're seeing a lot of delays. But we're seeing them here in New York, the New York Mayor, the new mayor, who just took office, Eric Adams, holding firm and strong saying schools here are staying open. Obviously, it's the biggest school district in the country and one that can set an example for others. Should school stay open now?

DR. PAUL OFFIT, DIRECTOR OF THE VACCINE EDUCATION CTR., CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL OF PHILADELPHIA: Yes. That's certainly what we're doing in Philadelphia. We need our children to be in schools. I think the term distance learning is like a contradiction in terms. I mean, in Philadelphia, when children aren't in schools, many aren't getting the one decent meal they get during the day, the incidence of child abuse basically disappears, because you're not picking that up in school.

But most importantly, the socialization, social development the kids so surely missed last year is (inaudible) no, I think we need to do everything we can to get children back to school, but it's a precious thing. And because it's a precious thing, we need to treat it preciously. Meaning, arm those children with the two things they have that can protect them. One is masking and two and most importantly for those over five is vaccination.

BURNETT: Right. And now, Dr. Reiner, there is still confusion for many people after the CDC issued new guidelines right on isolation and quarantining, how many days is it, doesn't matter if you have symptoms? I mean, it's like you got to go through some kind of a grid and see where you come out on the other end.

You were vocal last week saying the guidelines were confusing. You wanted a testing component. Now, Dr. Fauci tells CNN that there's more clarification coming soon on that. But when it comes to this testing question, I want to play something the Florida Surgeon General said just today, Dr. Reiner, let me play it.


DR. JOSEPH LADAPO, FLORIDA SURGEON GENERAL: We're going to be working to unwind the sort of testing psychology that our federal leadership has managed to, unfortunately, get much most of the country in over the last two years. We need to unwind this testing sort of planning on living one's life around testing. So it's really time for people to be living to make the decisions they want regarding vaccination, to enjoy the fact that many people have natural immunity.


BURNETT: Dr. Reiner, I mean, he does express what I think a lot of people may feel right, which is why am I testing all the time when I'm not symptomatic, I'm not sick, I'm vaccinated. And all of a sudden, I'm told I have to stay out of work. Does he have a point and if not, why?

JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: No. And in fact, it's hard to believe those comments came from the Surgeon General of one of the largest states in this country. And his words echo what the former President of the United States Donald Trump said in June of 2020 when he told a huge crowd in Tulsa, Oklahoma that the downside to testing is that you find so many cases. And that he told his people to slow the testing down please. The problem isn't that testing is finding people who are fine.


The problem is that we don't have enough tests and then if we're looking to do and I completely agree with Dr. Offit to keep our schools open, one of the major things you would do is test even more, to find people, find kids, find teachers who are positive, isolate them for a few days and keep the rest of the school open. The problem is that when you have so much virus in the community and you're trying to keep businesses open without testing, you're allowing the virus to continue to spread unabated. So if anything, we need to do much more testing not bury our heads in the sands of Florida and hope for the best.

BURNETT: So I totally understand what you're saying. Dr. Offit, walk me through though then how that works, because obviously with schools if you want them open, because that's what's best for children, you want them to get vaccinated. I understand everything you're saying. But if you're going to tell a teacher who is vaccinated, boosted, asymptomatic, but yet has COVID that they have to stay out for five days, then that classroom closes and those kids are not in school. How does that work?

OFFIT: No, it's challenging. So I think what's fair to do is if somebody has COVID, mean has symptoms of COVID, they should quarantine for five days. If they're asymptomatic, I think it is fair to go back to school with a mask. The testing, I agree with Dr. Reiner, I think in a better world, we would test before going back. The problem is getting tested.

I mean, the tests aren't as available as they should be, sometimes it takes (inaudible) to get the test back. If you use a PCR test, those molecular tests, sometimes that can be positive for months, even though you're not shedding virus anymore. So I think the CDC actually had a fairly practical recommendation.

But it's the trust system, you have to truly be asymptomatic and then wear a mask for five days. So I think you're right, it's (inaudible) the heinous nature of Omicron is that it is immune invasive to an extent, which is if you've been actually infected or vaccinated even with two doses of the vaccine, you're protected against serious disease, but you're not particularly well protected against mild disease, which is why you're seeing a lot of cases, but not a concomitant increase in the number of serious cases. I think that's what's (inaudible).

BURNETT: Right. And, of course, there's a question of, you know, we only know what we know, because we've only had so much time knowing this virus and the vaccines and the effectiveness. I mean, Dr. Reiner, you got Israel saying, let's go with the fourth dose. I mean, look, people want to do the right thing most people hopefully do, but they reach a point where they say, well, what is being vaccinated even mean? I mean, if it's four, is it five, is it - we just don't seem to know yet.

REINER: Well, I think what Israel understands is that if you want to keep critical infrastructure open like our hospitals and our police forces, our fire houses, then we need to keep people at work and the immunity is waning. And many people now were boosted several months ago.

I was boosted almost five months ago. So I think that the United States is going to understand that we need to boost or give a fourth dose to critical infrastructure like our medical workers, but we're going to come to that understanding too late. Every day I walk into the hospital, the first question I asked my team is who's out today with COVID, and everyday it's a different person.

So the Israelis understand that we can reduce infection by augmenting immunity and we typically follow the Israelis, but we typically follow them after a prolonged delay. That's what's going to happen here.

BURNETT: As you point out, it has happened every time thus far. All right. Thank you both so very much, I appreciate you.

OFFIT: Thank you.

REINER: My pleasure.

BURNETT: And next, CNN learning the January 6 Select Committee now has firsthand knowledge of Trump's behavior during the insurrection, including what his daughter Ivanka was saying to him at that time.

Plus, Senate Leader Chuck Schumer says he has a plan to pass sweeping voting rights legislation, does he?

And a powerful Russian businessman may hold the key to unlocking Russia's efforts to hack America's election. And this afternoon, he was actually in a U.S. courtroom. You'll hear about it.



BURNETT: Tonight, CNN learning the January 6 Committee has firsthand testimony of what former President Trump was doing during the riot. Congresswoman Liz Cheney giving these new details on the evidence gathered so far.


REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): The Committee has firsthand testimony that President Trump was sitting in the dining room next to the Oval Office watching on television as the Capitol was assaulted as the violence occurred.

We have firsthand testimony that his daughter Ivanka went in at least twice to ask him to please stop this violence.


BURNETT: Ryan Nobles is OUTFRONT live from Capitol Hill. Ryan, obviously, it is significant right now. She's not saying reports or hearsay. I mean, she's saying right firsthand accounts, that carries with it a legal level, that's very different than sources. What else is the Committee saying about Trump's actions on that day?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, it's very clear that the Committee is specifically interested in the inaction of the former president during the period of time where his supporters broke into the Capitol. And when the former president finally sent out a message telling them to go home, that inaction in that period of time is what the Committee believes it has become what they have described as a serious dereliction of duty.

And it seems pretty clear that they have specific witness testimony, they also have messages of communications of some ilk to back it up that show that there were individuals that were very close to the former president that pleaded with him to get involved. And he either just ignored them or actually pushed back and said that he did not want to make a move at that particular point.

Now, the big open question right now, Erin, is whether or not that inaction is actually a criminal offense. And I think this is an area where you see the Committee struggling to figure out what their next step is. Liz Cheney who was interviewed several times over the weekend said that they see a serious dereliction of duty, but they don't know if it rises to the level of a criminal complaint and perhaps the laws need to be changed to reflect that.

So that's part of what this investigation is still trying to uncover. And, of course, Erin, a big part of that is, is that there is a big tranche of documents that are currently sitting in the National Archives that the former president is desperately attempting to keep secret. The Committee wants access to those. They've won every court case up until this point. The Supreme Court will have the final say, but the Committee believes that will help them further nail down exactly what was happening in the White House on that day, Erin.


BURNETT: That's going to be fascinating but let's see what the court does there. All right. Thank you so much, Ryan.

I want to go now to former Republican Congressman Francis Rooney and Gloria Borger our Chief Political Analyst.

So Congressman, let me start with you, the Committee says they have these details and so they do. They're going to, at some point here, put these details out, that actually show the firsthand reporting that President Trump was sitting in the Oval Office and in the dining room, and people came in, Ivanka Trump twice pleading for him to do something. He refused to do so as the riot was underway.

So we're hearing this now and the actual evidence is going to be presented. Will any of your colleagues who thus far have been unmoved, become movable on this?

FRANCIS ROONEY, (R) FORMER CONGRESSMAN FROM FLORIDA: I don't know what it's going to take to get Republicans to become statesmen again. This entire situation of hiding behind Trump and giving him a kitchen pass for the behaviors that he exhibited at this critical juncture are very disheartening to me. This country needs to know what happened. I think we know what happened, but we need to have the evidence to prove it up and the Committee needs to act hastily so that they can't run out the clock on them.

BURNETT: And Gloria, obviously, that's what they're trying to do, right?


BURNETT: They're hoping for a Republican victory in the midterms and a disassembling of the Committee itself. So the Committee said they're going to start drafting that report and they want to do it quickly. And yet, we have a new CBS poll tonight that says 41 percent of Republicans still believe that the people who invaded the Capitol were left-leaning groups pretending to be Trump supporters, 41 percent. That is just a counterfactual, 100 percent counterfactual.

BORGER: Totally.

BURNETT: So you're going to come out with this report and 41 percent of Republicans are never going to give it the light of day, how many Republicans who are elected in Capitol Hill right now will be different?

BORGER: Well, we don't know. We don't know. Look, they're going to go through this minute by minute, 187 minutes.


BORGER: They're going to tell you where the President was, what he was doing, what other people were doing, who was urging him to go out there and speak, what he was thinking, who was emailing and texting who. So it's going to be all out there. And they're doing a thorough investigation and even if the bright shiny objects, like the Mark Meadows of the world are going to be held in contempt, because they're refusing to testify. But they're going to present a full picture.

The people who believe in the conspiracies that this was antifa or whatever are not going to move. They're not going to change their minds, but they're doing this for history. And people in Congress, as the Congressman was just saying, people in Congress are going to have to decide where they stand for history.

And that is something that each person has to wrestle with, do I believe naively that people who've been out there supporting the president saying the election was rigged are going to change their minds? Do I believe that Kevin McCarthy is going to suddenly become a statesman? No.

BURNETT: No. Well, and, of course, Kevin McCarthy's approval ratings are doing quite well.


BURNETT: So he's been completely rewarded ...

BORGER: With the base of the party.

BURNETT: ... as far as the stance he's taken, which brings me to something else, Congressman. I want to play something that your former colleague, of course, you know her, Congresswoman Liz Cheney said about the Committee's investigation right now. Here she is. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHENEY: I think the country needs a strong Republican Party going forward. But our party has to choose, we can either be loyal to Donald Trump or we can be loyal to the Constitution, but we cannot be both.


BURNETT: Will she sway anyone? And Congressman, do you agree that you cannot be both?

ROONEY: Oh, absolutely do. I feel like we're wandering out in the desert between Egypt and Israel here after the Red Sea. As a business Republican, a bush Republican, a Reagan Republican as with Liz, we are without a party right now because of the way it's become hijacked by this Trump base. And we need to get back to the principles that our party stands for, which is a legitimate opposition party but not so far opposition that it can't meet across the aisle with the Democrats.

BURNETT: And Gloria, as Republicans have thus far been silent on the new details, they know they're there. They're know they're going to be presented with the evidence, but they haven't been yet so it's kind of wait, wait, wait, I guess and hope it goes away.

But what House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has done is sent a letter to House members. And he says in part the Democrats are 'using it' referring to the Committee, 'as a partisan political weapon to further divide our country'. So does this resonate? I mean, obviously, he could have put people on this Committee, he didn't, so you ended up with Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger who are willing to step up and do the right thing and join it. But how many people buy what he's saying of the moderate Republicans who are left on Capitol Hill?

BORGER: Look, they know.


I mean the Chairman Bennie Thompson had cut a deal with Republican CAPCO for the formation of this Committee.


BORGER: And McCarthy mixed it because he couldn't get the people he wanted on it. Now, the fact that there are, you know, the people they don't like, Liz Cheney and Kinzinger on it doesn't allow the Republicans, the voice they would otherwise have had. And so he may be hoisted on his own petard.

I mean, I'm presuming these hearings are going to be quite professional. I'm presuming that the American public will tune in as they did to impeachment and they will see the evidence for themselves and they will judge for themselves. Are you going to sway the conspiracy theorists and the Trump base? Probably not.

But for history's sake, again, when you look at all of this, people are going to have to make their own judgments about how involved the former president was, where the money came from and then they're going to have to say, yay or nay and they're going to have to make their own decisions on this.

BURNETT: All right. Well, I will say they've obviously had testimony, we've talked about the very visible people that haven't testified Steve Bannon and the others.

BORGER: Oh, yes.

BURNETT: But they've had a hundred people testify, 150, a lot of people have.

BORGER: More than that.

BURNETT: One of them was the secretary of state from Georgia, Brad Raffensperger. He was very clear to me. He said, I walked in there. I answered every question, because I was called and my duty as a citizen, and it was clear they've done their homework and were incredibly professional, Democrats and Republicans.

So I know we should all only hope that that's the case, but it clearly is the case and it's something we should all celebrate. Thanks so much to you both.

BORGER: Absolutely.

ROONEY: Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, the breaking news. The jury in the trial of Elizabeth Holmes, the disgraced founder of the blood testing startup Theranos has reached a verdict.

And a homeland security official reportedly warning the U.S. is in one of the most volatile environments he's ever seen, as a disturbing new poll reveals just how many Americans of all political persuasions believe that violence against the government is justified.



BURNETT: Tonight, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer saying he will force a vote to drastically change the Senate filibuster rules if Republicans keep blocking efforts to advance sweeping voting rights legislation.

Schumer telling senators today, quote, January 6 was a symptom of a broader illness, an effort to delegitimize our election process and the Senate must advance systemic democracy reforms to repair our republic or else the events of that day will not be an aberration. They will be the new norm.

But for Schumer's plan to work, he needs the support of two skeptical Democrats, Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema.

OUTFRONT now, Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon, the lead sponsor of the Democrats' voting right legislation and longtime advocate on reforming the filibuster.

So, Senator Markley, I appreciate your time tonight. This move from leader Schumer has been a long time coming for you, right? He has not been necessarily online with this and now is -- is moving forward.

Why do you -- I mean, do you think this is -- this is real this time? And it's going to move forward? Or not?

SEN. JEFF MERKLEY (D-OR): Well, it's very real because we face a crisis in our country, and which there are systematic attacks on citizens' right to vote, on advancement of gerrymandering, destroying equal representation, and this big challenge of billionaires buying elections.

And so, we have this responsibility to the voters to defend the ballot box and Republicans are preventing us from even starting debate on the bill. So, that is a crisis for the Senate and it's a crisis for our republic, so we have to have a debate about how to restore the Senate's ability to deliberate.

BURNETT: So, in terms of, you know, changing the filibuster, right, you would have already had this done as the Democratic party, if not for the two senators in your own party who have opposed killing the filibuster by doing it just by one party, right? Obviously, I am talking about Senators Manchin and Sinema.

Here they are with their point of view.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): Destroy our government. I'm not willing to destroy the government, no.

SEN. KYRSTEN SINEMA (D-AZ): To those who say we must make a choice between the filibuster and X, I say this is a false choice.


BURNETT: So, I know you have met, you have talked with Manchin about voting rights. I don't know if you have had a chance to spend time with Senator Sinema on this, as well. But where does this stand now? Are they going to move?

MERKLEY: Well, let me be very clear what -- what I am proposing. The -- the ability to have extended debate, restore amendments, restore dialogue, restore an incentive to negotiate fits very well with the fundamental values that my colleagues have -- have expressed. I don't believe the Senate should be the house in which the majority runs over the top of the minority. Right now, what we have is a minority running over the top of the majority. The exact opposite of what our Founders said we should not ever allow to happen.

And so, this deliberation is about restoring the filibuster, restoring debate, restoring amendments, restoring a process that's been deeply corrupted in -- in its current form. So, I hope all 50 of us can come together behind that vision. There are members of the caucus, who would prefer to eliminate the filibuster but I am not that person and that is not the majority of the caucus. And so, there is -- there is room here for a bridge that can encompass all 50 of us, and restoring the Senate's ability to be a deliberative, legislative body.

BURNETT: So, obviously, this is a crucial discussion and -- and the reason you are having it over -- over this specific bill, right, happens to be voting rights. So, Homeland Security official tracking political violence and threats against lawmakers has told "The Wall Street Journal" that we're in one of the, quote, most volatile, complex, and dynamic-threat environments he has ever seen. And he is saying that because of the threat to our election system.

And -- and I want to just contextualize this, Senator, with something that just really stood out to me and that was the new "Washington Post"-University of Maryland poll that says 34 percent of Americans think violence against the government is sometimes justified and it actually -- that headline was not -- well, I found that headline very disturbing.

But what I found most disturbing was actually when I read more, 40 percent of Republicans think that, 41 percent of independents think that, Senator, and 23 percent of Democrats, a quarter of Democrats. They all say violence against the government can be justified. I found this incredibly disturbing. This isn't just something from one group of people with one political persuasion. Not at all.

MERKLEY: No, Erin, it's deeply disturbing. We are coming up on the anniversary of January 6th and on that day, the president of the United States essentially legitimized violence. He encouraged people to assault the Capitol. People assaulted it and his advisers said you need to tell them to stop, he refused to -- to act. He's gone on to tell the same big lie in different forms for a year now saying the election was -- was stolen.

If you say to someone who is a patriot an election was stolen, those are fighting words. The -- the -- the big lie Trump has put forward is incentivizing violence and it's why it's such a terrible act by any leader to -- to -- to basically falsely portray to encourage such action.

BURNETT: All of which I -- I totally understand what you're saying, but I'm looking at 41 percent of independents and a quarter of Democrats, right, who won the election. I mean, when you look at your own party, does that concern you? A quarter of them say the same thing.

MERKLEY: As I was listening to -- to how that poll was framed, either some cases where violence might be justified, I'm hoping that those folks who said yes are saying if an authoritarian force seeks to steal our right to vote, we have to stand up and fight back. And I hope that's -- I hope that that's the sentiment that was -- was there because those -- that would mean that those folks are saying we have to defend our republic, defend democracy.

And, of course, that is exactly what this debate over the Senate rules is about is about defending our democracy -- BURNETT: Right.

MERKLEY: -- being able to have the Senate function, being able to have the republic. And we have kind of these two big things on a collision course for this month, this month of January. Are we going to save the Senate as a legislative body? Are we going to save our republic by defending the right to vote?

BURNETT: It is deeply disturbing. I mean, because, look, no matter what political persuasion, they all believe they are defending democracy. That is what is terrifying about it, that there's something so blatantly subjective about, you know, something to crucial.

I appreciate your time. Thank you.

MERKLEY: Thank you very much, Erin.

BURNETT: And next, the breaking news. The jury in the trial of Elizabeth Holmes -- founder of the failed blood testing startup Theranos, right, once the richest woman in America -- reached a verdict. Details, next.

Plus, we will take you inside a hospital where COVID's youngest victims are struggling.


REPORTER: Aare you afraid you are going to have to intubate him?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yeah, a little bit. It's really scary.




BURNETT: Breaking news. A verdict in the trial of Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes, the former CEO that was once touted as the next Steve Jobs, charged with 11 criminal counts of fraud and conspiracy. Each count carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison. Jury had been deliberating for three weeks before just reaching a verdict.

I want to go straight to Camila Bernal who has been covering the trial.

And, Camila, mixed verdict here but a lot of guilty.

CAMILA BERNAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, it's a partial verdict. But four guilty verdicts and I want to break that -- I want to break it down for you.

It's three wire fraud counts and one conspiracy to commit wire fraud. This is all in relation to investors. The not guilty verdicts are in relation to the patients. So there are four counts where the jury said not guilty and that was in relation to patients who, for example, said they thought they had HIV or prostate problems, and that ended up not being the case. But the jury said Elizabeth Holmes did not defraud the patients.

Now, we also have three charges where we do not have a verdict. This is not a mistrial, yet. Instead, they are essentially being pushed to -- to the side while we figure out what the judge wants to do with those charges.

But going back to the guilty, it is all in relation to those investors and prosecutors said that she had lied to investors who, in total, gave her more than $900 million for this company and the prosecution said she lied about what the capabilities of her company were, lied about the relationship that the company had with the military, lied about validation from pharmaceutical companies and the jury agreed and said, yes, this is a guilty verdict.

And what happens here is that she could face up to 20 years in prison per count. They would likely run concurrently but, of course, we would have to wait for the judge and the court to give us instructions as to what will happen with her sentence.

BURNETT: All right. Camila, thank you very much.

I want to go straight to Elie Honig, former prosecutor.

Elie, what do you make of this, first of all? Is -- any chance of a mistrial here when you have a few counts they couldn't reach a verdict when they did in fact reach a guilty or not guilty verdict on the -- on the vast majority of them?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, Erin, there could be a mistrial as to those three counts where we don't have a verdict yet. But big picture here, yes, this is a split verdict, some guilty, some not guilty. But as a practical matter, this is a big win for the prosecution, a crushing loss for Elizabeth Holmes.


HONIG: She has been convicted now on a wide-ranging conspiracy and on specific frauds totaling over $100 million. That's a win for the prosecution.

BURNETT: OK. And it's important you say even if there is a mistrial, on the ones they didn't reach a verdict on, not the ones they did. Each by the way, could carry a 20-year sentence. I know it could be served concurrently.

But let me ask you about something because, you know, when I did the math. They found her guilty on charges of wire fraud adding up to, what, $144 million. Not guilty on one adding up to $1.1 million, right? So, the -- in terms of the numbers here, it was -- it was -- the big numbers were guilty.

HONIG: Exactly. All that matters here for sentencing purposes is the guilty counts.


This is a maximum of 20 years. But in the federal system, we have this guidelines book. And the sentence -- the recommended sentence is driven largely by how much loss there is.

We are talking about $140 million loss case. I did a quick calculation. That comes out to a recommended guidelines range of conservatively ten years, potentially as high as 15 or 16 years, depending on other enhancements. So she is looking at, at least, a decade behind bars under the sentencing guidelines.

BURNETT: It is stunning. One of the richest people in the country, profile after profile glowing. A fall from grace, somewhere from 10 to 16 years in prison possibly. I mean, it is -- it is an incredible story. Elie, thank you very much.

All right. And next, we take you inside the nation's largest pediatric hospital where doctors and nurses are working round the clock to save COVID's youngest victims.

Plus, a top Russian businessman could know the secrets behind Russia's attempts to hack America's election and today he was here. He stepped food in at in a U.S. courtroom.


BURNETT: Tonight, the governor of Illinois saying the number of children there hospitalized with COVID has nearly tripled since the beginning of December.

And in Texas, the largest children's hospital in the nation seeing record hospitalizations. You heard a doctor in the program saying numbers are staggering and coming because of COVID, not just happening to have COVID.

Miguel Marquez is OUTFRONT.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Four month old Grayson Perry, his tiny belly rapidly expanding and contracting, one of many children here with COVID-19 struggling to breathe.

Are you afraid they are going to have to intubate him?

GAYVIELLE GOTT, MOTHER OF COVID PATIENT: Yeah, a little bit. It's just really scary. So, I just hope that, you know, he is able to get better and go home.

MARQUEZ: Gayvielle Gott, mom to three, thinks her youngest picked up the virus at a Christmas-family gathering. Her only job now? Keeping her son in good spirits.

GOTT: I do talk to him in like a little baby voice. I sing to him. I can't sing but he likes it. MARQUEZ: One of nearly 70 children now hospitalized at Texas

Children's -- a new record high for the nation's largest pediatric hospital. In just the last two weeks, hospitalizations here have increased more than fourfold. Most, unvaccinated or not eligible for vaccines from toddlers to teens.

AMY WOODRUFF, MOTHER OF COVID PATIENT: Our COVID journey began -- see, don't even know my days -- brains are mashed potatoes -- we began November 29th. Me and my daughter both tested positive for COVID.

MARQUEZ: Amy Woodruff's daughter, Haley, her 17th birthday the day we visited, has been intubated in induced coma for nearly a month. She also gave birth nearly three weeks ago. She knows none of it.

WOODRUFF: She had a C-section in Amarillo on December 9th to a beautiful little baby girl, three pounds six ounces.


MARQUEZ: Who she has not seen yet?

WOODRUFF: She has not seen and she was COVID negative, praise Jesus.

MARQUEZ: From Pampa, Texas, Haley's' moved to Amarillo, then Houston for advanced care. Still, unaware her 3-week-old daughter Xyla Fae (ph) is 900 miles away in an Amarillo newborn intensive care unit.

What will you tell her when you can speak to her?

WOODRUFF: Honey, don't think about it. That's my -- my little girl. Being away from her little girl? My heart bleeds for her.

MARQUEZ: The omicron variant now ripping through the Lone Star State. Texas children's preparing for even more sick kids as COVID-19 cases skyrocket.

What is your sense for what the next few weeks are going to hold?

NICOLE LEATHERS, PEDIATRIC ICU NURSE MANAGER, TEXAS CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: You know, I think the -- the bar for resilience just keeps moving. You think that I don't know how we could do this again, and then we keep doing it again.

MARQUEZ: As Texas children's readies for a fourth coronavirus wave, already its ER is seeing a spike in kids suffering mild symptoms. Their parents seeking testing, bogging down triage for the seriously ill.

DR. BRENT KAZINY, MEDICAL DIRECTOR OF EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT, TEXAS CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: We are seeing a lot of patients present with mild respiratory symptoms, cough, congestion, fever. Known COVID exposures, et cetera, that are really I think -- a lot of them are really seeking testing.

MARQUEZ: Like previous waves, the sickest kids -- those needing hospitalization -- are having a tough time breathing. DR. MELANIE KITAGAWA, TRANSITIONAL ICU MEDICAL DIRECTOR, TEXAS

CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: So, they are getting a lot of respiratory symptoms as we have been expecting, pneumonias, needing respiratory support to help them breathe better.

MARQUEZ: Viral spread expected to intensify in the weeks ahead and even if the omicron variant isn't as severe --

DR. JIM VERSALOVIC, PATHOLOGIST IN CHIEF, TEXAS CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: The problem is that, with so many children and adults infected, even if the percent -- percent hospitalization rate is lower, we're still -- could see more children hospitalized over a very short period of time. So that certainly puts a strain on our healthcare resources.


MARQUEZ: So, about a third of the cases at Texas children's hospital are children under 5 so the most vulnerable. Those that can't get vaccinated and they are not through the worst of it, yet. They believer the next couple weeks, into mid-January and into February will be the worst of it. School starts tomorrow in Houston. Many other cities around the country and places like Texas where the governor there has banned mask mandates in public schools, parents are going to have to be on very high guard -- Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Miguel, thank you.

MARQUEZ: You got it.

BURNETT: And next, a top Russian businessman who may know a lot about Russia's efforts to hack America's election, today, appeared in a U.S. court.



BURNETT: Tonight, a Russian businessman believed to have close ties to the Kremlin appearing in U.S. court. Vladislav Klyushin is accused of hacking into large U.S. companies to conduct a multimillion dollar insider trading scheme. He was extradited to the United States last month after a months-long diplomatic battle, a lot of intrigue and one former U.S. official tells CNN the Russian could be a quote gold mine when it comes to gathering information about Russia's interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

CNN's cybersecurity reporter Sean Lyngaas.

So, Sean, I know you have been following this case carefully because this individual could be, you know, as one expert told you, a gold mine. What are you learning about Klyushin's ties to the Russian government?

SEAN LYNGAAS, CNN CYBERSECURITY REPORTER: Well, Erin, he ran a cybersecurity company in Russia known as n13 and in Russia, as in the U.S., if you -- if you -- U.S. companies often have close ties with the U.S. government. And in Russia, that's the same -- the same case.

However, in Russia, you really don't have a choice but to cooperate with the government. So, in this case, prosecutors have alleged that he worked with others to access insider information at -- at U.S. companies that were then used to trade stocks. And his company, on its own website, says that it does extensive business with the -- the Russian government, the Russian presidential administration.

And so, there is a lot of connections there that U.S. officials might be able to mine. There is still a lot to be -- to uncover in this case, as --

BURNETT: I mean, it's crucial you talk about the ties to the Russian government. What does this arrest mean, right, in a U.S. courtroom about -- for the -- you know, the Russian attack on the 2016 election -- is he relevant there?

LYNGAAS: Well, one of his co-defendants in this insider-trading case is a former GRU military official who was indicted in connection with the Robert Mueller case. They were -- they have -- the Justice Department has text messages between the two men, in which they are clearly very familiar with themselves and sharing a lot of inside information on -- on their business operations.

And so, that suggests a very close connection between the two men so the -- the -- the -- the theory is that Klyushin will know quite a bit about some of these GRU efforts to undermine the 2016 election but also other potential GRU operations aimed at U.S. allies and -- and the U.S., itself.

BURNETT: All right. Well, Sean, thank you very much and I know it is so significant here, because it is not just a hypothetical, everyone, right? We have GRU person indicted, and, you know, there are over in Moscow and never seen. The guy is here, he is in a courtroom.

Steve Hall is with me now, former CIA chief of Russian operations.

And, Steve, that's really significant that he is here, he is in a U.S. court. Tell me how much this matters to the Kremlin, to see someone with ties to the Russian government, with all of this possible information, in a United States courtroom extradited to the U.S.?

STEVE HALL, FORMER CIA CHIEF OF RUSSIA OPERATIONS: Sure, Erin. It's a big deal for the Kremlin on a number of different levels I would argue. I mean, first and foremost is the obvious that Sean was alluding to which is a great deal of information and sort of granularity. It's not like the U.S. government didn't have information about this -- the attacks on the 2016 election previously. But this guy is going to be able to provide a lot more in terms of people and granularity.

This also, though, is happening in the context. Remember, we have got these big Vienna talks that are going to happen next week between the Russians and Americans and to have something like this big happen just before that is -- is a good thing for Americans and American negotiators and it's -- it's a really bad thing for the Kremlin. They are going to feel uncomfortable about this. So it is a pretty big deal.

BURNETT: I mean, what is amazing about it, you know, I mentioned intrigue but the cloak and dagger nature because you might say -- people I hope are asking well, who extradited him? I mean, the story is incredible.

He went to Switzerland on a ski vacation with his family. "Bloomberg" reports he landed in a private jet. This is how the guy rolls. He is about to board a helicopter to the ski resort with his wife and five kids. He gets detained and the Swiss are the ones who sent him here.

I mean, what do you make of how this went down?

HALL: Well, it's a good example of how, you know, you -- you work together as -- as a nation with your colleagues and with your allies and, in this case, the Swiss came through for us. You know, this is not something oligarchs like to have happen to them because what happens is they make all this money in exchange for working with the Russian government. They are told, yeah, you can take this to the bank but the problem is you can never leave Russia.

If you can never go on that ski trip with your five kids, then it is a lot less fun and that's exactly what the U.S. government wants to do, is to show folks who want to cooperate with the Russian government like this, that at the end of the day, you are going to get stuck in a gilded cage and have nothing to do with all those bucks.

BURNETT: Right and now, if convicted, he may -- I mean, he may be here a long time, right?

HALL: Yeah. Yeah. The sentencing is big. Question is whether he will cooperate or not in order to minimize his sentence but, you know, he knows his family is back in Moscow so he has got to be very careful how much he cooperates with the U.S. government. Could blow back on him and his family.

BURNETT: We have seen what happened to others, right, in London and elsewhere who the end can be horrible.

All right. Steve, thank you very much as always for your perspective.

And thanks so much to all of you for being with me, this first show day of the New Year.

"AC360" starts now.