Return to Transcripts main page

Erin Burnett Outfront

Jan 6 Panel Releases Texts Between Hannity And Trump WH; Jan 6 Panel In Letter To Hannity Says It Has "Dozens" Of Texts Revealing He Had Advance Info On Trump's Planning For Jan 6; Alleged Capitol Rioter: "I Don't Feel Like I Did Anything Wrong;" Tonight: Chicago Teachers Union Votes On Shutting Schools Down; CDC Updates Shortened Isolation Guidance, Tells People To Take A Rapid Test At End Of 5-Day Period If They Want To; Manchin Suggests He's Open To Some Filibuster Rule Changes. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired January 04, 2022 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: You can always tweet the show @CNNSITROOM. Thanks very much, once again, for watching.

Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next breaking news, the January 6 Select Committee releasing text messages tonight between Sean Hannity and Trump's White House. One message, a warning, sent hours before the insurrection itself. It comes as we're learning the Committee now wants to speak to the former Vice President Mike Pence.

Plus, President Biden drawing a red line on unions, calling on schools to remain open through the Omicron surge. One of the nation's largest teacher unions is now threatening to shut schools down.

Also, Sen. Joe Manchin signaling he may be open to changing the rules of Washington, but open maybe far from the same as on board. Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, I begin with the breaking news, a chilling warning. CNN learning the January 6 Select Committee has obtained damning text messages between Trump's White House and one of Trump's closest TV confidants, Sean Hannity. One of the messages was a warning, the day before the insurrection.

Hannity texting he was 'very worried about the next 48 hours'. Now, the messages we understand were all sent in the days and weeks leading up to January 6th and in the immediate days of its aftermath. And now the Committee wants to hear from Hannity about these conversations. Conversations that obviously are now key to what Trump's White House knew about January 6.

So according to the Committee, the message Hannity sent, the one that said he was 'very worried about the next 48 hours', was one of a number of messages that he exchanged with Trump's inner circle on that evening of January 5th. Again, right, just to make it clearer, the night before everything happened. To state an obvious and important truth what we see and what we see in

these messages from Hannity could very clearly contradict what Trump's chief of staff Mark Meadows has claimed publicly.


MARK MEADOWS, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: They've been making the argument that it was this pre-planned idea that we had and not only have I said publicly that no one in the West Wing had any advanced knowledge that any breach of security at the Capitol was going to happen.


BURNETT: Okay. So the Committee also says it has evidence that Hannity may have spoken directly with Trump on January 5th and on January 10th. That is when the Committee says that Hannity sent Meadows and Congressman Jim Jordan this message. And I quote, "Guys, we have a clear path to land the plane in nine days. He can't mention the election again. Ever. I did not have a good call with him today. And worse, I'm not sure what is left to do or say, and I don't feel like it's truly understood. Ideas?"

Well, it's been almost a year since that day. Trump continues to mention the election, seeing the real insurgency was actually on the day of the election, it's rigged and fraudulent and that's what he does every single chance he gets a chance to do it. This is coming as the panel's Chairman reveals to CNN that he now wants to hear directly from Mike Pence in the investigation into January 6th, Trump's former Vice President.


REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): I would hope that he would do the right thing and come forward and voluntarily talk to the Committee.


BURNETT: So we don't know what Pence is going to do. Of course, he was there on the day of the insurrection, overseeing the vote. And as the writers were chanting hang Mike Pence. Now, it is not clear if Pence will cooperate, but what is clear is that, since Pence did go ahead and certify the results, Trump has made it clear, he is no fan of Pence.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think Mike has been very badly hurt by what took place with respect to January 6th. I think he's been mortally wounded, frankly, because I see the reaction he's getting from people. They say, "Why didn't you just hand it back to the legislators?" Why didn't he do that?


BURNETT: Mortally wounded. Well, Pence for his part has made it clear, he is not on the same page with Trump when it comes to that dark day.


MIKE PENCE, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: January 6 was a dark day in the history of the United States Capitol. President Trump and I have spoken many times since we left office. And I don't know if we'll ever see eye to eye on that day.


BURNETT: Paula Reid begins our coverage OUTFRONT live in Washington. And Paula, a lot of big developments tonight here. What more are you learning about the messages to Hannity, to and from, what's in them and how significant this is for the Committee at this time?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Another busy day for the January 6 Committee, Erin. And it's so interesting that they're seeking Sean Hannity's voluntary cooperation with their investigation. And it appears that their interest in him as a potential witness has arisen out of the materials that they collected from former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows before he sees cooperating with their investigation.

They say that the text messages that they have to and from the former White House chief staff suggests that Hannity may have had advanced knowledge of what Trump and his legal team are going to do on January 6.


But it's interesting when you dig into these text messages to learn more about the role Hannity was playing within this inner circle. The Committee says it has text messages from Hannity pushing back on this plan to urge Congress to reject or challenge the certification of election results.

And instead, Hannity was urging Trump to leave office and prepare to enter a new role where he would become the voice of voting reform. Noting that when he speaks, people listen, it's interesting. He was sort of coming up with a post-White House strategy for Trump instead of telling him to fight, fight, fight.

Now, the Committee acknowledges though, in this letter to Hannity, that it could potentially run into some First Amendment problems here going after someone who is a broadcaster, of course, his day job. But the Committee insists they are not looking for anything related to Hannity's broadcasting, though at this point, it's unclear if he will voluntarily cooperate or if they'll have to move to subpoena him.

His attorney Jay Sekulow, has said that they are reviewing the letter and will respond as appropriate.

BURNETT: Yeah. It's pretty interesting, because obviously the tone and everything of those texts, it was just friendly, right?

REID: Yes. BURNETT: Those were conversations he was having to friends. Thank you

very much. I appreciate it so much. So Paula is giving us all that new detail.

Let's go to our Chief Political Analyst now Gloria Borger and Laura Coates, former federal prosecutor. So Gloria, what are the chances Hannity cooperates?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I don't know. I texted with Jay Sekulow and he didn't give away any secrets. He said there he's Hannity's attorney and he said, "Look, we're reviewing this." The Committee was so careful in their request, because Hannity is, after all, a broadcaster on television every night and they're worried about First Amendment concerns, obviously. And first of all they said, we want you to cooperate voluntarily. We're not going to ask you about the things you say on TV. We're not going to ask you about any commentary you may have made.

And obviously, these aren't issues of privilege, of course, because he was texting other people inside the White House. What's so stunning to me, though, is that it's clear that Hannity was saying to them, stop this. Stop this. Let him go off to Florida and become a spokesman for election reform. Don't talk about the election anymore.


BORGER: And how worried he was about January 6th, so we know that there were some plans that he was worried about. Well, what were they? What concerned him so much? That's what the Committee is trying to find out?

BURNETT: I mean, it is incredible, right? I mean, "he can't mention the election ever again," period.


BURNETT: "Ever," period. "I did not have a good call with him today."


BURNETT: I mean, there's no ambiguity about that.

Laura, you know, according to the Committee, Hannity wrote one of these texts to Meadows and it was on New Year's Eve 2020. And he's talking about at that point the White House Counsel's Office is falling apart as Trump is trying to find people to overturn the election.

Hannity writes, we can't lose the entire White House Counsel's Office. I do not see January 6th happening the way he is being told. After the 6th, he should announce he will lead the nationwide effort to reform voting integrity, go to Florida and watch Joe mess up daily. Stay engaged. When he speaks people will listen. Obviously, that's not what happened, Laura. But how important is the fact that that message was sent when it was sent? LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Oh, it's critically

important, Erin. I mean, the idea that he's anticipating the very thing that shocked the entire world, the idea that somehow it was some sort of a spontaneous combustion event where everyone happened to gather coincidentally. It shows that there was some planning, that they were aware of it, but at least the person he was communicating with anticipated this would actually happen on January 6th. Because, of course, it belies a lot of what we've heard already from discussions about flat footedness and the shock and how could anyone absolutely prepare for this.

If he was aware, at that point in time that January 6, as we now know it, was coming, that does not bode well about any argument whatsoever that suggests that they were completely blindsided by it. Also, the idea of how did you think it was going to go? The notion of this was an idea of him going back to Florida, conceded when he actually had lost the election.

And that last statement there of saying, when you talk people will listen. Well, that really foreshadows another very key moment the Committee's already talked about. The idea of people trying to implore the President of the United States at that time Donald Trump to stop because of his influence. Because of the extraordinary influence on the people who were actually at the capitol that day.

So all of these things were corroborated, so we already know what happened here. That it wasn't coincidental, that there was advance notice, that there was some anticipation of this event. Now, whether they knew the length it would actually go that day, of course, remains to be seen but this demonstrates that there was some prior knowledge, facilitation, strategizing and planning of the event that was an attack, a physical attack on our democracy, excuse me.


And also an ideological attack on the integrity of our election.

BURNETT: So Gloria, this brings us now to what Bennie Thompson, the Chair of the Committee, is saying that they now want to hear directly from former Vice President Mike Pence. Now, I understand, of course, that makes complete sense, but Pence was the former vice president, anyone at his level of importance has not cooperated and obviously he was central to this.

So a month ago, he was asked whether he would cooperate with the Committee. He said, "We'll evaluate any of those requests as they come." What are the chances that Pence actually comes in and answers questions and doesn't claim executive privilege or anything like that?

BORGER: Well, I think obviously he would - it's very difficult with Pence, because obviously there are conversations that he had with the President of the United States as vice president that would be privileged. But one thing we ought to keep in mind here, I don't know the answer to your direct question, to be honest.

What I do know is that team Pence, people who worked with Mike Pence are talking to the Committee.


BORGER: Some have been subpoenaed.


BORGER: I mean, there's been a subpoena, others are coming in voluntarily. So I think that if you don't talk to Mike Pence, you will get a pretty good idea, a very good idea of what was happening that day and before that day, and after that day, because there were people who were always with the Vice President.

I mean, he doesn't travel along, we know there were people with him inside the Capitol. So you'll get an idea and I don't know if the Committee, I mean, what Bennie Thompson told Ryan nobles is very interesting, because, of course, they want to hear from him. The question is whether they get into an issue with the former Vice President. I don't know the answer to that yet and I don't know whether they're going to have to because there's other ways of gleaning that exact information.

BURNETT: Which is really important. Laura, one of the things, we've just learned that the former President Trump, he - everyone, I don't know if anyone watching this knows this, but many people do, I want to make sure everyone does. He had announced he was going to have a press conference on the anniversary of the insurrection. And I think there were a lot of people who said even knowing that he has upped the ante on fraud and rigged and all that, to do that on that day was significant. And now all of a sudden, he's just come out a few moments ago and canceled that press conference.

Laura, why do you think, I mean, I don't know who's behind that or what happened, but this isn't something he usually does to back down and do that. What do you think the reason could be when you look at everything circling around him?

COATES: Well, the reason should be that it's an extraordinarily poor taste. And to the extent that the Committee's revelations have pointed a finger right at the former President of the United States, if there's just that he was somehow complicit in what happened as well, the idea that he would hold a press conference in some way to not commemorate it as what was antithetical to our democracy, but somehow a pat on the back or promoting further this already metastasized big lie.

And of course, it's odd that he would do it, knowing that Speaker Pelosi and others have already said, they're going to have events as well to commemorate not as an extraordinary triumph, but as the tragedy of what could befall in our democracy that day. I'm shocked that he would want to shy away from that little level of competition.

But it's also the idea here that everything he can and says could be used against not only in a court of law. Remember, the Supreme Court presently is looking at the case about the National Archives. They're looking at whether or not in that checks and balancing notion whether there's a cost benefit analysis of having this transparency, everything he says could and urge (ph) the benefit of the Committee, and just this president has no privilege on these issues, no extensive privilege on these issues, and then whatever he says could go against them in front of the Supreme Court of the United States. Maybe his counsel told him to zip it or risk actually having all those documents come to light, which I assume will not bode well for him.

BURNETT: Yes. It does seem to indicate that there is some sort of concern or fear about what's going on there. All right. Thank you both so much. I appreciate your time.

BORGER: Well, thanks.

BURNETT: And next breaking news, Trump targeted into new lawsuits tonight, police officers who responded to the January 6 attack.

And a showdown over keeping schools open. One of the most powerful teacher unions threatening a walkout over Chicago's decision to keep kids in school. This as President Biden remains defiant on his push to keep schools open.

And the CDC again updating its guidance for people with COVID. So when can people who test positive actually - when are you allowed to come back out?



BURNETT: Breaking news, former President Trump hit with two new lawsuits from police officers who responded to the January 6th attack, alleging Trump directed the assault that left them injured and traumatized. It comes as some of the people who riot at that day remain defiant saying that they didn't do anything wrong and they have no regrets. Jessica Schneider is OUTFRONT.



JOSHUA PRUITT, ACCUSED CAPITOL RIOTER: So if you ask me if I'd do it again, I want to say yes. But then the question in the back my head, would I.


JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Former Proud Boy Josh Pruitt described his past year as an emotional train wreck.


PRUITT: I don't feel like I did anything wrong, but knowing the consequences that came out with it will be the part that will me question.


SCHNEIDER (voice over): Prosecutors have laid out an array of video as evidence against him. Pruitt can be seen confronting Capitol police officers after walking in through the shattered front doors. And inside the Capitol crypt, Pruitt is caught smashing a sign. All of it leading to eight federal charges against him, including counts for destruction of government property and acts of physical violence.

But Pruitt defends his actions that day, clinging to the big lie that former President Donald Trump continues to spread and saying he has no plans to plead guilty.


PRUITT: I was just a patriot out there, protesting against what I think is a stolen election. Trying to send me to prison for a few years over this I think is a complete joke.

SCHNEIDER (on camera): Are you concerned that you could be, in fact, sent to prison?

PRUITT: I am concerned.


SCHNEIDER (voice over): Pruitt is among the more than 700 people now charged in connection with the Capitol attack? 70 plus defendants have been sentenced so far, about 30 getting jail time.


JANNA RYAN, CAPITOL RIOTER SENTENCED TO PRISON: The first week in January I have to report to prison.



SCHNEIDER (voice over): Jenna Ryan flew a private jet to Washington and notably boasted that storming the Capitol was one of the best days of her life. For lack of remorse in part prompted a judge to impose a 60 day sentence after she pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor. The judge saying he wanted to make an example of her after she shamelessly tweeted that she wouldn't get jail time since she has blonde hair, white skin and did nothing wrong.


RYAN: All those 600 people that have been arrested are now wondering what's going to happen to them and prison can happen.


SCHNEIDER (voice over): Several of those sentenced are expressing remorse. Eric Rau got 45 days in jail after pleading guilty to just one count of disorderly conduct. Federal Judge James Boasberg admonished Rau for trying to undermine the peaceful transfer of presidential power, what he called one of the country's bedrock acts.

Rau struggled to speak at sentencing telling the judge, "There is no excuse for my actions on January 6th. I can't tell you how much this has just twisted my stomach every day since it happened."

Another rioter, Robert Reeder got three months in jail. During his sentencing he pleaded with a judge saying he lost his family, his job and his place within his church community after January 6th, "I am embarrassed. I am in shame." Reeder said. "The hurt that I have caused other people not just to myself has left a permanent stain on me, society, the country, and I don't want to be ever remembered for being part of that crowd."

Josh Pruitt though still isn't willing to admit guilt or cooperate with prosecutors.


PRUITT: (Inaudible) ...


SCHNEIDER (voice over): Video of Pruitt pledging to become a member of the Proud Boys in November 2020 went viral. Pruitt says prosecutors are asking him to help make the case against other Proud Boys facing conspiracy charges. But he claims he no longer associates with the extremist group.


PRUITT: I don't have anybody to throw under the bus nor would I anyway. And I just - what I'm saying doesn't fit their narrative, because they would like me to come forward and say that it was planned. And I'm like, no, it wasn't.

Everybody thinks that people had all these plans in going into the buildings, but not to my knowledge. I was in touch with some pretty right-wing people and we never heard anything about that.


SCHNEIDER (voice over): Well Pruitt waits out his next court date. He spends most of his days inside his Nashville apartment, wearing an ankle bracelet and abiding by a 9 pm curfew, except when he's working as a bartender, something that is approved by the court. Pruitt expects his case to go to trial and says he still stands by the big lie.


PRUITT: I do believe the election was stolen, for sure.

SCHNEIDER (on camera): And you still believe that?

PRUITT: I still believe it.



SCHNEIDER (on camera): And Pruitt isn't the only one. I spoke with several accused rioters on the phone. They wouldn't go on camera, because of their pending cases or the fact that they wanted to stay out of the spotlight. But the handful that I spoke with, Erin, say they still believe the election was stolen. And not only that, they don't believe it was just pro-Trump supporters who stormed the capitol that day. They tried to tell me that they also believe it was mostly members of Antifa.

In the meantime, Erin, the FBI is still going strong in their investigation. Their latest number as they say, they are still searching for about 350 people accused of violent acts right here at the Capitol, Erin.

BURNETT: It's incredible, that they're still searching in this country for 350 people.


BURNETT: Incredible. All right. thank you very much. I mean, the entire report.

I want to bring in Michael Fanone, a former 20-year veteran of the D.C. Metropolitan Police. And, of course, Michael, you were viciously attacked by rioters as you protected the Capitol. This is - so people can see you in the midst of this, dragged in that crowd. And you, of course, are now a Law Enforcement Analyst here with us and I'm grateful to have you on the show.

So as you're there and you're fearing for your life, and then you hear this report, this rioter say he didn't do anything wrong, that he would maybe even do it again. How does that even process through your mind?

MICHAEL FANONE, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: I mean, I couldn't care less about the individual rioter's or insurrectionist's perspective on that day. The only thing that I'm interested in with regards to their behavior is accountability. If there's evidence that they committed a crime, I want them to be held accountable for those crimes.

BURNETT: Now, of course, you mentioned - yes, go ahead. Go ahead, finish your point.

FANONE: If they are remorseful of the time to the plead for the mercy of the court at sentencing and if they're not, feel free to let the judge know that you're not remorseful for your actions.

BURNETT: And she mentioned, what, more than 300 people that they're still looking for. I find that shocking, Michael.


And I think to myself, my gosh, this is America. You have the FBI on this. You've got the hundreds of hours of video and 300 people who stormed the Capitol that they want to charge, they can't find. And I know you're saying this is accountability is what really matters.

And another officer who you testified with said earlier that if the people who perpetrated the attack aren't brought to justice, then it's not accountability. That it could happen again. Let me just play what Officer Gonell said.


SGT. AQUILINO GONELL, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE: Hold people who are responsible accountable, including those elected officials. Because if they don't do that, this might be a recurring issue every four years.


BURNETT: As far Michael, it's the people who actually were there rioting, the insurrectionists being charged and 300 of them they can't even find. But none of the politicians who said the words and the lie that caused all those individuals to be there, do you have any hope that the right people will be held accountable?

FANONE: Yes, I mean, in my experience as law enforcement officer and as an American, I think that unfortunately many of these politicians are going to get away by hiding behind political speak and the idea that their words were not intentional. So no, I don't believe that there's going to be accountability for those individuals who are involved in the planning and preparation for that day and also those whose insightful rhetoric resulted in the insurrection at the Capitol.

BURNETT: So I know that you've talked about that day and other of your colleagues have as well, the trauma that it caused, the real toll that it continues to take on their lives and now when you look through that force, morale I know is low, staffing is in short supply. A Capitol Police Officer told the The Washington Post, Michael something probably you know, of course, better than anyone, but the quote was, "There's a dark cloud over Capitol Hill. I looked at officers' faces and they've changed. They've lost weight and they don't know why."

The Capitol Police Chief, Michael, says the force is 400 officers short, 400 officers short and they're citing fallout from the insurrection. What are you hearing from your former colleagues?

FANONE: Well, I left the US Capitol Police a long time ago in 2003, but I do speak to quite a few officers on the Hill and I know from my time there, but what I witnessed on January 6th and since then in the conversations I've had with officers is a real crisis in leadership within the United States Capitol Police that I don't think has yet to be addressed.

It wasn't addressed at least not directly in the Inspector General's report. It's not something that's been talked about publicly, but there was a real failure in leadership at the executive level or at the command level within the United States Capitol Police. And until that's addressed, I don't see morale improving and I certainly don't see the agency retaining officers who feel like they've been abandoned by their command level officials. And unfortunately, I think that demands resignations.

BURNETT: All right. Well, I really appreciate your time, Officer. Thank you very much.

FANONE: Thank you.

BURNETT: And next the breaking news, we are standing by for a vote from the Chicago Teachers Union. They don't believe it's safe for students to return to the classroom. Chicago officials even President Biden disagree completely.

Plus, Sen. Manchin tonight with surprising answer about the future of President Biden's transformative Build Back Better bill.



BURNETT: Tonight, a showdown over re-opening schools and we are standing by for a vote any moment here from the powerful Chicago Teachers Union which has been threatening to shut down America's third largest school district over Chicago's decision to re-open public schools in the midst of the COVID surge.

And this is a battle that is playing out in many cities across this country. Tens of millions of children are caught in the middle. Many teachers' unions claim proper mitigation efforts, like testing, are not there. But officials, including President Biden, disagree and have made it very clear now -- Democrat or Republican -- they believe keeping schools open outweighs any risks.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We know that our kids can be safe when in school, by the way. That's why I believe schools should remain open.

MAYOR ERIC ADAMS (D), NEW YORK CITY: It is very clear, the safest place for children right now is in a school building. That's the safest place for them.

MIGUEL CARDONA, SECRETARY OF EDUCATION: There is a level of urgency we shouldn't lose around making sure that our children learn in person.

GOV. PHIL MURPHY (D), NEW JERSEY: We currently have no intention or plan to shut our schools.

DR. ALISON ARWACY, COMMISSIONER, CHICAGO DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH: All of our schools here in Chicago, by and large, are back this week. I want to just reassure you that, especially if you are vaccinated, your child is vaccinated, this is behaving really like the flu. And we don't close school districts, especially for extended periods of time for the flu.

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


BURNETT: I mean, it -- incredible, right? Just taking you across the political spectrum.

But it's not just politicians who have all gotten on the same page. They are actually echoing doctors and the science. We are hearing the same thing from doctors.


DR. LEANA WEN, FORMER BALTIMORE HEALTH COMMISSIONER: That teacher's union is wrong and all the teachers' unions that are saying we have to delay kids going back to school are wrong. We know what it takes to keep children safe in schools. We need to get our children back at all costs.

DR. PAUL OFFIT, MEMBER, FDA VACCINE ADVISORY COMMITTEE: We need our children to be in school. Most importantly, you know, the socialization, social development. The kids so sorely missed last year.


BURNETT: And doctors say the country has tools to get kids back in class safely.


You have actually heard the Chicago commissioner saying it, right? Vaccinate. Any kid in kindergarten and up is eligible for vaccination, boosters, masks, all depending on the age with boosters but everything else, vaccinations, any -- any kid can have.

And that's important because every parent knows now that remote learning is not good enough, and there is science to back that up, too, or statistics. According to an education research group, NWEA, the math and leading levels for kids in just grades 3 through 8 were lower than normal this fall. Not something any parent needed to have a study to tell them but these are among the reasons that officials want kids in the classroom.

Omar Jimenez is OUTFRONT live from Chicago.

And, Omar, this is really the front line of this tonight, members of Chicago's teachers union are just beginning to vote. What are you hearing?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Erin, so voting should be underway among the 25,000 rank and file members of the Chicago teacher union on whether they would want to move strictly to virtual learning, which of course goes against what the school district asked them to do and the district just sent out communication to parents just a few moments ago warning them that tomorrow classes could be cancelled and saying that we won't know until after 9:00 p.m. local time. Now, the two sides were at the negotiation table earlier today and

part of the concern for the Chicago teachers union is they don't believe the current measures in place by the school district are safe enough to return in person. Though, in-person classes resumed on Monday. Specifically, they say there is not enough access to testing, and that only about a third of the student population is actually vaccinated, though vaccination rates among teachers are higher within the context of record case numbers over the past few weeks among students, staff, and the city of Chicago as a whole.

Now, the school district has maintained the classroom is safe as we heard from -- as we heard from a number of public officials on both sides of the aisle, saying that the measures, like universal masking, social distancing, are working. But also, offering to go a step further saying that they would -- they are proposing metrics at the school level to then go to remote learning.

For example, if 50 percent of the student population has to isolate or quarantine, they prefer doing that as opposed to a district-wide move, which of course is what the teachers union is voting on now -- Erin.

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

So, I want to go to Keri Rodrigues now, she is president of the natural parents union. And Seattle area Highline Public Schools superintendent, Susan Enfield.

I appreciate both of you.

Keri, I know you have five boys of your own in public and private schools. You also represent parents across this country. President Biden has made it clear, you know, as someone who has obviously been always very pro-union, that in this case, he disagrees with the union and says that they are wrong.

He believes schools should remain open. But is he doing enough?

KERI RODRIGUES, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL PARENTS UNION: He is not doing enough. And frankly, the lack of understanding that we now have children and families in the crossfire of this gigantic mess that is kind of laid in our laps because we have had a failure to plan for this moment, knowing that we were going to have a winter break, knowing that we were going to have a COVID spike. I mean, all of this is really being left on the shoulders of American families who are also hold -- trying to hold up the American economy, at the same time.

So the words are nice. It's not enough. We need action in this moment.

BURNETT: So, you know, parent as well and I have been amazed at the fortitude of teachers, coming against -- against all odds in so many cases. You know, I say that to say the teachers union may not reflect what a lot of teachers think. We will see how the vote goes in Chicago tonight, Superintendent.

But let me talk about what you are seeing. In your district, 190 teacher absences today, 177 yesterday. What is the reason for those that you understand?


RODRIGUES: There is not a lot of transparency around --

BURNETT: Okay. Superintendent, do you have that transparency? What do you know?

SUSAN ENFIELD, SUPERINTENDENT, HIGHLINE PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Yes. So, we do have a breakdown of reasons. The vast majority are illness. Some are for childcare. Um, but we have been able to fill those absences, both with substitutes and, frankly, with an all-hands-on-deck strategy with using central office folks and others to make sure that every one of those classrooms was staffed.

BURNETT: I mean, which is -- I mean, it's incredible. Look -- and parents appreciate it. I mean, Keri, what reaction are you getting from parents? When we hear schools were closed or moving to distance learning, we get that headline of Philadelphia or you see what is happening in Chicago.

What is the reaction of parents? Are any of them supportive of it?

RODRIGUES: It really depends on the situation. I know that a lot of parents -- what I can say is that we're deeply, deeply frustrated because many of us -- myself included -- got e-mails on Saturday night or Sunday night saying, you know, we're scrambling at the last minute to try to figure this out.


Your kid is not going to be -- be able to go to school tomorrow. It's going to be a two-hour delay or we're going to delay you until Tuesday, or we're going to have the next two weeks off.

And we're talking about the vast majority of the kids impacted here are children of color, who are poor, who are black, who are brown. These are the kids that are being impacted in Chicago, in Newark, in Atlanta, in Philadelphia, who are being kept out of school in this moment.

So, these are -- these are parents who have been chronically underserved, their children are going to underperforming schools. Many of them are working jobs that are minimum wage. They are going paycheck to paycheck. Again, taking two days off when we are here on January 4th -- nobody has any PTO. Many of us are literally just living hand to mouth.

This is not an opportunity that is making a lot of parents have confidence in the American public school system right now. But again, in -- in addition, we also have to understand that President Biden's child tax credit also ended in December. There is no safety net for American families right now and we're not seeing enough leadership not just words but actions from President Biden, from Democratic leadership.

You know, this is a critical time for them to really step up and start listening to us.

BURNETT: So, Superintendent, let me ask you because, you know, the teachers' unions, um, I know, they are supposed to be fighting for the -- for the teachers and ultimately that means fighting for children, it should, right? I made the point at the beginning, how many teachers are -- are just doing everything they can to make this work, right? And like you are doing it, right? People from the central office.

So, what -- I am not saying all teachers, again, we will see what happens in Chicago. But -- but what I am saying is what we're seeing from a lot of teachers is actually not what the unions are saying. The unions seem to be fighting to, in many cases, to have schools close for a variety of reasons. But the teachers don't seem to want that. So, why are the unions not in touch with the teachers?

ENFIELD: Well, Erin, I think that you probably can't paint all unions with a broad brush in that way because these are -- these are large groups of people, and you are going to have, you know, a difference of opinion. I can tell you here that, from the very beginning of this pandemic, student and staff safety was -- was paramount. It was our top priority and we partnered with our union leadership from day one to make sure that we had agreements on what safety would look like in our school buildings and we continue to do that.

I feel very fortunate that we have union leadership here in Highline who has consistently come with a problem-solving approach to make sure our shared interest of keeping our students in school, as safely as possible, can be our reality. And right now, it is.

And going remote will be a last resort for us because we know -- and the vast majority of our staff would agree -- we all want our students to be in school. We want to be in school with our students and we need to keep safety at the forefront but we are going to keep our students in school as best we can. But also prepare for whatever scenarios may be coming down the pike in the days and weeks ahead.

BURNETT: All right. I appreciate both of you. Thank you very much.

And next, the number of Americans hospitalized quickly approaching the record set last January. More than 112,000 people being treated in hospitals tonight. But are the situations different than they were then?

Plus, Senator Joe Manchin suggesting he is open to modest changes to the filibuster rules. But there is a catch.



BURNETT: New tonight. The CDC updating isolation guidance for people with COVID. And after all the criticisms, the CDC is still not outright recommending people take a test before ending isolation, so there is ambiguity. They now say if you want to take a test, do it around day five of isolation, and if you test negative, you can end isolation, just wear a mask for five days like previously recommended. But if the test is positive, of course, then they say well, add

another five days on to the isolation. All in, though, this is a reversal after CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said this.


DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: This decision really from the isolation standpoint had everything to do with the fact that we wouldn't change our guidance based on the result of that rapid test.


BURNETT: OUTFRONT now, Dr. William Schaffner, member of the CDC's Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

And, Doctor, I appreciate you as always.

So, look, we all know there has ban lot of confusion over the guidelines from the CDC. Do they need to be clearer on all of this? I mean, you know, to test or to test is optional?

DR. WILLIAM SCHAFFNER, CDC'S ADVISORY COMMITTEE ON IMMUNIZATION PRACTICES: So, Erin -- Erin, balancing is very, very important. And the CDC is trying to balance the best science with what's acceptable to the population, and the population wants to do a lot of testing and they hope that testing will get them out of isolation and quarantine faster. That is worthwhile but there are some traps there. For example, that PCR test -- the best one -- it can be positive for a very, very long time.

So, let's take all that into account and I'm out supporting the CDC on this trying to make it work for the most people. Keeping the risk low, and also allowing us to open up our economy.

BURNETT: Yeah. I mean, you know, that -- that is -- that is obviously crucial.

So, when I look at the numbers right now, Dr. Schaffner, more than 112,000 people are in American hospitals with COVID right now. Higher than the peak for delta in September. Quickly approaching the record set last January. So, are these hospitalizations as bad as they were then in their -- in their substance?

Is something different? How concerned do we need to be?

SCHAFFNER: Well, I'm still concerned about the people in the hospital. Being in the hospital is no picnic. And the folks in the hospital are overwhelmingly unvaccinated persons. The vaccine and the boosters give you mild infections, and keep you out of the hospital. And vaccines are actually working. It's the unvaccinated folks that I am concerned about -- adults and children, together.

BURNETT: Right. Right. And, of course, you know, it's -- the irony, of course, is protecting them is now holding the economy and society back with -- with all of these other rules that go with that.

All right. Thank you very much, Doctor, I appreciate your time.

SCHAFFNER: Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, Joe Manchin, the senator opening the door to changing the rules that are holding up parts of Biden's agenda. But that does not mean that he is ready to actually act. We will hear what he said.

And pictures are shocking. Cars and trucks on Interstate 95 for more than now 24 hours. What went so awfully wrong?



BURNETT: New tonight. Democratic Senator Joe Manchin suggesting he is open to modest changes to the filibuster rules but modest isn't enough to get Biden's agenda passed including the voting rights bill that President Biden has pinned so much political capital on.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): I think the filibuster needs to stay in place any way, shape, or form that we can do it.

I'm optimistic that my Republican friends will look at things that make sense to them too.


BURNETT: Manu Raju is OUTFROT on Capitol Hill where he spoke with Manchin.

So -- so, Manu, he is saying, you know, wants modest changes but nothing that would actually change the filibuster fundamentally.

What does this mean for the voting rights bill?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It is going to be really hard to get the voting rights bill passed because in order to get the voting rights bill approved by the Senate, you need, under the current rules, 60 votes. That means 50 Democratic senators and ten Republican senators. That is not going to happen because Republicans called the Democratic approach a federal takeover of elections, and there is no bipartisan support for their larger plan.

Now, the other option is to change the rules. Do that by straight- party lines. That is allowed under the procedures of the senate. But in -- in the 50-50 Senate, that means one republic -- Democratic senator could defect and prevent an effort to change the rules and that's what Joe Manchin has been crystal clear about, as well as Kyrsten Sinema saying they will not support a party-line effort to change the rules to pass a voting rights bill, concerned that future majorities could use the same tactic over future minorities.

And when I asked Manchin about whether he is open to this idea, known on Capitol Hill as a nuclear option, he made clear the door is pretty much shut.


MANCHIN: Being open to a rules change that would create a nuclear option -- it's very, very difficult so it's a heavy lift.


RAJU: Now, talks are still ongoing in the Senate. Manchin did meet with Chuck Schumer this evening. There is a push by Schumer to have a vote by Martin Luther King day to change the rules by January 17th.


But they will almost certainly fail, Erin, unless something dramatically changes and at the moment, it doesn't appear that it will.

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

And next, the nightmare on I-95. Traffic, finally, moving again in Virginia. The start of more than 24 hours ago.


BURNETT: Traffic finally moving again on I-95 near Washington tonight. The interstate was in complete gridlock from snow, ice, wrecks. Hundreds of drivers sat in photographic for traffic for more than 24 hours, frigid conditions. This is an incredible thing to happen in the United States. Snow and temperatures fell faster than expected and officials say the roads weren't ready because anti-freeze would have been washed away by the rain that came before the snow. Senator Tim Kaine was among the stranded.


SEN. TIM KAINE (D-VA): You know, it was kind of a survival challenge and everybody was doing how do you keep yourself warm? And say it's kind of you have to figure out the strategy. So, turn the heater, full blast, heat the car up, turn it off. And then, try to catch some sleep. In about 20 to 30 minutes, it gets so cold you have to do it again.


BURNETT: Incredible. Officials say no one is stranded, took them more than 24 hours to solve it. Thanks for joining us.

Anderson starts now.