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Erin Burnett Outfront

Ukraine Official: Biden-Zelensky Call "Did Not Go Well"; New Images Show Russia's Intensifying Buildup on Ukraine Border; Source: Pres. Biden's Team Could Start Meeting with SCOTUS Candidates Next Week; Likely from a List of 10 or Fewer People; Stocks Rally Loses Steam Despite Strong Report on Growth; Consumer Prices See Biggest Jump in 4Q 2021 Since 1981; Race on For a Universal Vaccine that Targets Future Variants Too. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired January 27, 2022 - 19:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Please join me in remembering all of those killed in the Holocaust. May their memories be a blessing.

Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, President Biden tells the President of Ukraine that Russia could invade in weeks as we have exclusive new satellite images tonight that reveal Putin's military tonight is on the move. Some significant changes there.

And the President's team expected to meet with potential Supreme Court nominees in just the coming days, Biden recommitting to making a historic nomination.

And CNN learning tonight that Mark Meadows, former top aide, did not plead the fifth during an interview with the January 6 Select Committee answering the questions. That staffer was in the West Wing during the insurrection, so what did he say? Let's go OUTFRONT.

And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, the breaking news, at odds over war. President Biden speaking with the Ukrainian President tonight, according to a source this call did not go well. Biden is said to have made it clear that Ukraine will not be getting U.S. troops or sophisticated weapon systems. And President Biden told President Zelensky that there is a distinct possibility that the Russians invade in February, of course, it is January 27th today.

All of this is very grim for Ukraine. And Zelensky, we are told, push back on Biden, saying the team Biden's rhetoric about an imminent invasion is not helping.


JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: We've long said that an incursion could be imminent.

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: An invasion could come at any time.

When we said it was imminent, it remains imminent.


BURNETT: If it's imminent, it remains imminent. And Ukraine apparently doesn't want to hear it, despite new evidence that Russia is moving even more troops into position along the Ukraine border.


KIRBY: As for Russian buildup, we continue to see, including in the last 24 hours, more accumulation of credible combat forces arrayed by the Russians. We've always said and said for quite some time that another incursion by Russia could be imminent and imminent means imminent. We'd like to see a de-escalation. We'd like to see those troops go back home.


BURNETT: But imminent means imminent. They can't say it enough and those troops are clearly not going home. Tonight, we have some exclusive new satellite photos to prove it. And in a moment, I'm going to speak with Seth Jones, who shared those images with us. He has had so much of this and we're going to go through them with him one by one.

But first I want to show you a few of the key ones. In the first image here that Seth provided us from CSIS, you see Putin constructing eight new army compounds in a town less than 200 miles from the Ukraine border. The compounds are highlighted in green on the map that you see there, and they contain roughly 460 vehicles, trailers and structures.

Now, let's just zoom in here, because when you zoom in, you begin to be able to quantify it, to quantify the increase in Putin's build up. So specifically, what you see here, Seth explains, is a 45 percent increase in the number of vehicles, trailers and structure since November.

And in the image on the left side of your screen, approximately 450 tanks, rocket launchers, and short-range ballistic missiles. Again, the specifics matter, that's a 24 percent increase since November. On the right-hand side, tanks and other vehicles, a 25 percent increase, 500 tanks now and that is just in one area.

So there's a lot of new information about troop buildup in Belarus and in the Black Sea as well. Look at this map, you see where Russia has ground forces, those are the boxes, air bases and naval bases as well. All of that completely surrounding on three sides, Ukraine. And it comes into the U.S. now says it is still waiting to hear back from Putin after the Biden administration responded to Putin's demands regarding Ukraine.


ANTONY BLINKEN, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: The response that counts is President Putin's response and to the best of our understanding according to the Russians, these papers are on his desk and we'll look forward to his response.


BURNETT: We understand he's read them but needs time to think about it.

Matthew Chance is OUTFRONT live in Kiev, Ukraine as he has been. Matthew, what more are you learning about this call between Biden and Ukraine's president? Certainly, not a good headline for either one that the call did not go well.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No, not at all. And, in fact, publicly, both sides being kept very careful to sort of sing the praises of the other that the Ukrainian presidency tonight thanking President Biden for his continuing military support of the country.


But that's definitely not the message. We've seen this repeated throughout the past couple of weeks. That's definitely not the message you get from Ukrainian officials familiar with those contacts, familiar with this conversation behind the scenes. One of them sort of characterized this telephone call between President Biden and President Zelensky of Ukraine tonight as something that did not go well.

There was disagreement, the official said, over the risk levels facing the country with on the one hand the U.S. President saying that the risk of a Russian invasion was imminent and was very high. And on the other hand, the Ukrainians pushing back on that saying that's not been their intelligence assessments. As far as they're concerned, the threat from Russia remains somewhat ambiguous and an invasion still might not happen.

There was some hope expressed by the Ukrainians as well. This is before this call. There could be a stepping up of military aid, there could be sanctions imposed on Russia before any invasion takes place to punish it for its aggressive behavior. We've been reporting this for the past couple of weeks that the Ukrainians want this sort of front footed.

There was some disappointment on this call today, though, because it seems according to the Ukraine official that I've spoken to, that President Biden made it clear to the Ukrainian side, there wouldn't be U.S. troops deployed on the ground here. We already knew that. But that was apparently reiterated in this telephone conversation, there would be no sophisticated weapons given to Ukraine. We kind of already knew that too. But that was again, restated.

Sanctions would not be imposed on Russia until any such point that it invaded the country and there would be no progress on NATO. And so, some disappointment, I think, on the part of the Ukrainian side, Erin. BURNETT: Yes, certainly. They wanted pre emptive sanctions and, well,

they - I'm sure - hoped that they would be getting those weapons systems and troops no matter what Biden said publicly, that privately he said something else, so obviously, he didn't and I know that that's got to be a big disappointment. All right. Thank you very much, Matthew Chance with the inside read on that call.

I want to go now to Seth Jones, Director of the International Security Program at the Center for Strategic International Studies and the former U.S. ambassador to both Russia and Ukraine, John Tefft.

So Seth, let me just start with what I mentioned at the top of the show, which is the breaking news you shared with us, these new satellite images. You have a lot of them because you've been monitoring the Russian build up along the Ukrainian border. And now you've actually gone in there, you've counted the tanks, the howitzers, the artillery and you are seeing the specific build up. Tell me what you're seeing on these images and what it means.

SETH JONES, DIRECTOR, INTL. SECURITY PROGRAM AT CENTER FOR STRATEGIC & INTERNATIONAL STUDIES: Thanks, Erin. The situation looks pretty dark and, again, whether or not Putin actually goes in and - if he goes in and when, the reality is that he is building a force on three sides of Ukraine's border. So if he goes, he has the ability to move relatively quickly.

The concern on the Ukrainian Russian border, as you noted in Yelnya. We are seeing a 45 percent increase in one of the compounds there of large numbers of made battle tanks, of surface to air missiles, ballistic missile systems, howitzers, a lot of components that the Russian military would need foreign invasion. We're seeing the SU-34s, attack aircraft preparing for and conducting flying missions on the Ukrainian-Belarus border.

We've also seen a major growth along the border of Russian forces, same kinds of equipment, main battle tanks, howitzers, towed artillery. And the concern on the Belarus border is that Kiev is an extraordinary danger, both coming from the north and then flanking maneuvers both from the west and the east. So Kiev, the capital, is in extraordinary danger.

BURNETT: Yes. I mean, it would seem so and obviously all those missiles that you talk about, all of them would put Kiev well within striking distance from either the Ukrainian border and obviously from the Belarusian border, which is much closer even to Kiev.

So Ambassador, when you hear what Seth is laying out and you hear Matthew Chance's reporting, senior Ukrainian official telling him that that call today between Biden and Zelensky 'did not go well'. Is this a problem, Ambassador?

JOHN TEFFT, FMR. U.S. AMBASSADOR TO RUSSIA: I wouldn't exaggerate it, Erin. I think that part of the purpose of these calls between heads of state is to sit down and talk, frankly, candidly about what happens. I'm a little bit worried that disclosing a lot of this in public is not going to help anything because it'll help just Mr. Putin. [19:10:04]

But I think that we've seen even over the last few days and Seth knows this very well, different assessments by different - by both sides. Ukraine has to worry about their own people and trying to maintain calm and focus there while we are obviously worried about Ukraine, many in Europe are worried about Ukraine. This is a crisis manufactured by Russia and really Putin has no business doing this.

Ukraine is an independent country and Putin wants to basically take away its independence. That's the fundamental underlying goal.

BURNETT: Well, Seth, of course, Putin did start this by putting his troops along the border. But it's not just that military buildup, I know, that you're seeing. You also are seeing evidence of what you're calling irregular activities on the part of the Russians. And let me just mention one thing, Seth, that you talk about because I want you to explain why this is important and I bet very few people watching, if anyone are expecting me to say this, plans to conduct naval exercises 240 kilometers off the coast of Southwest Ireland. What is all that about? How does that play in?

JONES: Well, there are the fiber optic networks that connect Europe and North America. There have been Russian military vessels off the coast of Ireland. It's been reported in the press. NATO has become increasingly concerned that the Russians are signaling that they could cut those fiber optic cables, about 97 percent of the digital information between North America and Europe comes under the Atlantic Ocean through those fiber optic networks and they do pose a grave strategic level of risks.

So with Russian - the broader issue here is if there is escalation between the Russians and the U.S. and NATO, that this will potentially expand well beyond Ukraine and that may include offensive cyber operations as well. So I think this is where - John is right - I think it would be great if we could de-escalate and find an off ramp. But I do worry if that's not the case, this may spill well beyond Ukraine.

BURNETT: Ambassador, to this point that it could spill well beyond and that you do have each side preparing for, well, if this then this and the step effect here goes. We do know that the U.S. provided written responses to Russia's demands as did NATO. Today, Russia said Putin has read the responses, but it will take some time to analyze, that's what they're saying, formally, Ambassador Tefft. Is there a real diplomatic track to end this as you see it, where both sides save face, because if everybody can't save face, then you're not going to get a diplomatic solution.

TEFFT: You're right, Erin. I think that the key issue here is that we've still got a diplomatic track going. And I was struck today by the Foreign Ministry in Russia, saying that we'll have some more talks.

Now, obviously, the situation is very, very dangerous that Russian invasion or military action of any kind could easily get out of control and it's something that we would want to try to stop. Obviously, the United States and NATO don't want the situation to blow up. But I'm not sure it's in Putin's interest to see this blow up, either.

I think many of the analysts, including many of the people I watch from Moscow are indicating that they do not want to see this get out of hand. So we've obviously got a high stress pressure game going on here and none of us really knows. I think many of the Russian officials, at least, the ones that I've seen or seen quoted, they don't know exactly what President Putin is going to do.

BURNETT: That's pretty incredible moment. Thank you both very much. Ambassador Tefft and Seth, thank you so much for that - all those breaking images as well.

And next, President Biden says he's on track to make his Supreme Court pick by next month. Again, it's January 27th. But Republicans are already planning to resist his choice.

Plus, a blockbuster report on the economy, GDP growing by 5.7 percent last year, which is the best in nearly four decades. But of course, there are still major headlines along with that growth has come a surge in inflation and possibly interest rates to come. A member of Biden's economic team is OUTFRONT.

And Dr. Fauci touting a universal COVID vaccine that could put an end to corona viruses, plural. What are the odds that something like that is created? Our Dr. Sanjay Gupta reports.



BURNETT: New tonight, President Biden's team could start meeting with possible Supreme Court nominees as early as next week according to a source. Biden honoring retiring Justice Stephen Breyer during the White House ceremony this afternoon, where the President recommitted to nominating the first black woman to serve on the court to replace him.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The person I will nominate will be some of the extraordinary qualifications, character, experience and integrity. And that person will be the first black woman ever nominated to the United States Supreme Court. It's long overdue in my view.


BURNETT: Biden also revealing he plans to name his nominee before the end of February.

Manu Raju is OUTFRONT from Capitol Hill. Manu, you have some new reporting right now on Senate Republicans' plan to oppose whomever Biden nominates. What more do you know about that? MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. They're setting

a high bar for supporting President Biden's pick. A number of them are saying, yes, they'll keep an open mind but they're making very clear that they're very unlikely to support whoever Joe Biden puts forward.

They're saying that the ones on the shortlist, they contend are far to the left. They also say that you're using this as a way to argue that Joe Biden is going to undercut his campaign pledge to unite the country and some of them are even pushing back on the timeframe in which to Chuck Schumer, the Majority Leader wants to employ which is the same timeframe the Republicans did in confirming Amy Coney Barrett in 2020, which is to get Biden's nominee confirmed in one month the same time as Barrett. The Republicans pushed Barrett's nomination through as well.


And a number of Republicans we're talking to are not swayed that the history-making pick of this nominee being the first African American woman to serve on the court is enough to sway them. I asked one member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Josh Hawley, about this earlier today. He told me about the fact that the she would be the first African American pick: "I think the important thing is that this is someone who will uphold the Constitution faithfully, regardless of their ethnic background or gender or anything else. I think it sends a wrong signal to say that, 'well, if a person is of a certain ethnic background, that we don't care what the record is, we don't care what their substantive beliefs are.' That would be extraordinary."

And Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, also today was asked about Biden's comment that it's long past time to have a black woman on the Supreme Court. He didn't answer that directly, but said he would assess the nomination very carefully here. But Erin, the Republicans don't need to support this nomination to get through, Democrats need to have all 50 Democrats in line to get their nomination through, it's still possible they can pick off a few Republicans, but probably not more than a few just showing how polarize the confirmation process, ultimately is, Erin.

BURNETT: Yes. All right. Thank you very much, Manu.

I want to go now to Van Jones, CNN Political Commentator and former special adviser to President Obama. So Van, you hear Manu reporting, Republicans seem to be ready to oppose whomever Biden chooses. You hear Josh Hawley making his argument, this is going to be about the Constitution and someone's substantive point of view and who cares what they look like. Is this a smart political move for them or not?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, I expect the opposition party to oppose, that's what they do, but this is a very big moment for this country. Can you imagine having a hundred plus justices and never having one African American female ever? It's ridiculous. And we have so many qualified black women. It's almost embarrassing to start looking at the number of people who could get on the Supreme Court and do a good job. I think the Republican Party, they keep doing this thing. They say

they want more minorities, they want to be more open and then they cannot wait to miss an opportunity to be excited about something that would make history for this country.

BURNETT: Now, look, President Biden, Van, as we know when he was running, said this was he was going to do. So he's not doing it now because he has a problem with black voters, I want to make that clear.

JONES: Right.

BURNETT: However, he may be hoping it re energizes his black voters because black voters among Democrats most reliable supporters historically, but Biden has seen a 21 point drop in his approval among that group in the latest Quinnipiac poll and that's compared to April of a year ago. That is a plunge. Okay.


BURNETT: Now, yes, Biden's failed to pass voting rights. I believe the disapproval, though, it is fair to say is about more than just that. It's complicated. Does saying loud and clear I'm going to pick a black woman for the court actually move those numbers in a significant way?

JONES: It could, in combination with other things. What's interesting is for the Republicans, a lot of Republicans were frustrated with Trump, kind of embarrassed by Trump. But they said, look, we love what Trump is doing with the courts. He was putting a bunch of conservatives on the courts and ramming them through.

Biden, trying to counterbalance that, has put forward a bench that is unbelievably diverse. I don't know if Democrats and progressives respond as well when our presidents do a good job of putting diversity on the bench, but we could overtime. I think you're right, I think black voters, like a lot of voters are just tired, fatigued, disappointed that a year later things aren't better. I think Biden can get some of those folks back and this is a good way to start just reminding people that not just through the Supreme Court, but throughout the bench Biden has been unbelievable in putting women and people of color in positions to be judges and to be justices.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Van. Always love talking to you.

JONES: Thank you.

BURNETT: And next, the U.S. economy growing faster than expected last quarter. There are signs though, that that growth could take a hit right when you talk about exactly why it happened. A member of Biden's economic team is next. Plus a former top aide to Mark Meadows speaking to the January 6 Select Committee and tonight we're learning about a shocking text that he sent that day about Trump's response to the riot.



BURNETT: New tonight, no market boom for President Biden despite a glowing economic report for his first year in office. The Dow closed down seven points today, essentially flat but it had been a wild ride. And it's been a wild ride lately in part because of well, uncertainty in the economy.

Just hours after the Bureau of Economic Analysis announced that the economy grew by 5.7 percent in 2021. Okay. That is the best number we've seen since 1984, nearly four decades ago. That's when the economy grew by 7.2 percent during Reagan's first term. Okay. Okay. So when you look at numbers like that, that is great news, jobs are plentiful. That is great news.

But and it's the but that may matter most tonight, okay? The but is that the surge in output was mostly due to restocking, not a surge in new demand itself. And compared to before the pandemic, there are 3.6 million more Americans who chose to leave the labor force and said they didn't want to work. That's an issue. And inflation is a giant and ugly problem.

Today's economic report shows that consumer prices rose by 6.5 percent in the fourth quarter alone, I want to give you some context on that. That is more than three times greater than what we saw before the pandemic began. And it is the biggest increase in prices since 1981, the time of stagflation.

And for the millions of Americans who are living paycheck to paycheck, it is a problem that cannot be overstated. When milk doubles in price, that's a problem. Gas prices are up 50 percent, yes, from pandemic lows, but that affects people. Prices for used cars up 37 percent and other food staples, I mentioned an anecdote about milk, but meats, poultry and fish up 12.5 percent. And we all live in the real world, we all know that it's everywhere. It's everywhere. And President Biden himself knows that it's everywhere and it's a serious problem. You don't need to take my word for it. Take his.


BIDEN: We face some real challenges. We've got to get prices in check and for working people out there.



BURNETT: Well, the main way to stop real inflation, traditionally once it's real, once you admit it's not a transitory thing, which took this administration a long time to admit, is to raise interest rates. That would make borrowing money to buy anything, from a car, to a home, or to use a credit card more expensive.

And here's the big idea right now. Really nobody under the age of 50 remembers what high inflation, high interest rates feel like, right? You don't remember that 1981 time, right, when you had high double- digit interest rates to get a mortgage. Because ever since the early 1980s, the Fed was like we're never going to let that happen again, that was terrible. They started to raise interest rates before inflation hit the generally accepted target of 2 percent.

So any time prices started to get near 2 percent increase, the Fed would come in. That did not happen this time because the chairman of the Fed all the way through last spring was saying that the price increases were transitory and they would go away.

So, now, what happened is they accelerated and the price increases are three times greater than that 2 percent. Three times greater than what economics has traditionally considered to be stable prices.

By that measure, the Fed is behind big-time. The chairman of the Fed, Jay Powell, seems to admit it.


JEROME POWELL, FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: I think there is quite a bit of room to raise interest rates without threatening the labor market.


BURNETT: Quite a bit of room to raise interest rates. That's part of what's whipsawing the market because those are ominous words, because when the only thing that stands between us and long-term inflation is plenty of room to raise interest rates higher and higher, that could be very bad for Americans' standard of living and it could be very bad for whoever is in political power.

OUTFRONT now, Jared Bernstein. He's a member of President Biden's Council of Economic Advisers.

And, Jared, thanks so much for being with me.

So much I want to talk you about this. Obviously, let's start on the face of it, the good news. Economic growth that is significant, that is the best we've seen in decades.

Is that really how you see this, that simple, or do you share some of these fears about inflation?

JARED BERNSTEIN, MEMBER, BIDEN WHITE HOUSE COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS: Certainly that's the way I see it because that is the fact. We're talking about a GDP growth rate 5.7 percent on average over 2021, the fastest growth rate as you've said in almost 40 years, but that's not enough for this president. If GDP is growing and it's not reaching middle income families, that's not enough for him and, therefore, the other key trend here that we're highlighting is just how tight this job market is.

You heard Jay Powell just say room to raise interest rates without hurting the labor market. And that's what's so critical here because it's one thing to grow income through higher GDP and we're growing at a rate we haven't seen in decades, to make sure that income reaches the middle class, they have to have great job opportunities and that's key to this labor market. Now, of course, you mentioned price pressures. It is not the case the

Fed is the only detailee on that case. They're the first and foremost one.


BERNSTEIN: But this president has dispatched his economics team to do everything we can to help ease those price pressures. I can take you through those activities. In fact I think it would be a good idea.

BURNETT: Okay. But let me ask you, and I know you're doing things, you're working on companies and working on the supply chains.


BURNETT: But are you frustrated -- what I laid out is true. The Fed has never waited so long or for prices to go up so much before doing anything. Does that concern you that they could be behind? Or do you not share those fears people like Larry Summers have been open about having?

BERNSTEIN: Yeah, there are very few fears about the economy that I don't share. I'm sort of paid to worry about everything and I do.


BERNSTEIN: This is a Fed that has performed extremely admirably over this crisis. You heard the president I think last week talk about supporting the Fed's pivot, adjusting as you heard Jay Powell talk about yesterday. And so, yes, I have faith in the Fed to do their job of maintaining these tight labor market conditions while achieving more stable prices.

But here's the thing that you don't get from your introduction which is that every single forecast I've seen, including the federal reserve's, has inflation growing about half as fast at the end of this year as it was at the end of last year. Now, we are not sitting on our hands and crossing our fingers and hoping those forecasts turn out right.


BERNSTEIN: We're doing everything I can, we can. The ships, the ports, the trucks, chips, trying to make sure that the legislated infrastructure plan is implemented as effectively and efficiently as quickly as possible -- all of those -- try to expand the economy's near-term economic capacity by unsnarling supply chains and longer term capacity by investing in domestic chip production and infrastructure.

BURNETT: All right. So, let me ask you about -- obviously, who knows where things go from here, right?


You have rates going up, that catches inflation. Do you catch it all in time?

But there are concerns out there, as you know as well, Jared, about -- you know, we go through these hot numbers. A lot of this growth is inventory restocking as opposed to necessarily new demand and that you end up in a recession. You end up with that bad combination, right? You have rates going up, you have inflation, you have a recession.

And CNBC obtained a letter from David Einhorn. I know you know him, hedge fund manager with Greenlight Capital. He reportedly says in part: We believe inflation will cause a recession regardless of what the Fed chooses to do. The higher prices of necessities will ultimately cause low income consumers to cut back on other things. There are signs this is already happening.

And he's not alone. You know, some big Democratic supporters and others are saying that as well. Here's Steve Rattner and Jeffrey Gundlach.


STEVE RATTNER, FORMER ECONOMIC ADVISER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: The key issue that we have at the moment is how to land the plane and get inflation down without affecting the rest of the economy. It's going to be tricky to land that plane safely and not end up in a recession.

JEFFREY GUNDLACH, DOUBLINE CEO: I think the bond market is showing enough of a recession indicator that by 2023 it seems pretty likely. I think it's -- it's certainly a non-zero probability that you get a recession in the later part of 2022.


BURNETT: I know you say you're worried about everything. Are you worried about that?

BERNSTEIN: Well, those are some very bearish views. Again, if you look at the forecast, it's nothing like that and in fact expectations for growth next year are about 4 percent on GDP. Expectations are for the unemployment rate to continue to fall and for inflation to decelerate as well.

I want to underscore something you were just talking about. You know, you were talking about this inventory buildup. I don't want to make too much out of one quarterly data point, but in fact our supply chain team was talking to me this morning about that buildup, and they thought they saw, again we're going to have to see another few quarters to make sure that this is in train, they thought they saw some improvements there in the supply chain.

Basically you don't get an inventory buildup adding almost 5 percentage points to GDP if your supply chains are as jammed up as they have been. And we have a bunch of data from our supply chain team showing that in fact things have been moving through the ports a lot more quickly. Dwell time, if I may get particularly granular, the amount of time that containers are spending in ports, it's down 60 percent over the past few months. Goods are moving from ship to shelf. We saw that in the holiday

season, and that inventory is actually a potentially positive indicator of some unsnarling of those chains.

BURNETT: All right. Well, Jared, I appreciate your time. And thank you so much.

BERNSTEIN: Thank you.

BURNETT: All right. And next, a former top White House aide testifies before the January 6th committee. And tonight we're learning about what he called, quote, completely insane.

And Dr. Sanjay Gupta with a special report on what could be a game- changer, a COVID vaccine that could fight any variant.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That means not only targeting SARS-like viruses but then targeting MERS-like viruses and also cold-like viruses.




BURNETT: Tonight, CNN learning new details about a very revealing text message sent from someone inside the White House on January 6th. The text was written by a top aide to former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, complaining that Trump's response was, quote, completely insane.

A source also telling CNN that same aide is now cooperating with the January 6th committee and did not plead the Fifth as so many other Trump allies have done or not go like Meadows himself.

Ryan Nobles is OUTFRONT live from Capitol Hill.

And, Ryan, you have reporting tonight about this aide, this text message. Tell me what you know.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. Ben Williamson is the aide to the former White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows. And we know that he met with the committee earlier this week for somewhere in the range of six to seven hours and did not plead the Fifth that entire time. And Williamson's role in what happened on January 6th is significant because he was in the White House. He was near the oval office as this all played out.

And we've now learned that a text exchange that he had between Alyssa Farah and himself was used as part of a letter to Ivanka Trump asking her to cooperate with the select committee.

This is what the text exchange read. Alyssa Farah texted Williamson: Is someone getting to POTUS? He has to tell protesters to dissipate. Someone is going to get killed.

And Williamson responded: I've been trying for the last 30 minutes, literally stormed in the outer oval to get him to put out the first one. It's completely insane.

Williamson, we're told, had conversations with the committee about the video message that the former president Trump eventually put out on his Twitter feed, telling people to leave the capitol on that day. He was part of the process of filming that video. He also just talked about the mood inside the White House at that time, and also the conversations that he had with not only Meadows but the former president as well.

And it's important to keep in mind, Erin, the fact that Williamson is willing to cooperate is significant because Meadows, who initially talked about cooperating, is now facing a criminal contempt charge because he's refusing to cooperate. So it appears that the committee is still getting the information they're looking for, even if some in Trump world are unwilling to talk to them.

BURNETT: Very significant.

Ryan, thank you very much.

So I want to go to Gloria Borger now, our chief political analyst.

So, Gloria, you hear Ryan reading that text message. You know, quote, I've been trying for the last 30 minutes, literally stormed in the outer oval to get him to put out the first one. It's completely insane. You know, the context here is Meadows said he would cooperate and isn't, but his top aide now is and answered six to seven hours of questions without once pleading the Fifth.

That seems to be very significant, right? This is a person who knows a lot about meadows and the president.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yeah. He knows a lot because he was there.


He's an eyewitness.

And, you know, there are a lot of people in the White House who are cooperating. They're not politicians. These are people, like Williamson, who's young, who was working for Mark Meadows, shown there, and he was in a lot of meetings.

You know, these are the people, and you know this, Erin, these are people who stand against the wall when the big folks are sitting around the table and they observe everything.

And you look at that email exchange and you can just feel the tension and the horror from Mr. Williamson, right, to Alyssa? And you can -- you can just sense that. And I think that this all goes to the president's state of mind. What was going inside the White House that day, what was going on? And what was Trump saying?

If Mark Meadows is not going to talk about it, maybe Williamson will talk about what he overheard not only from Mr. Trump but from everybody inside the White House, because I'm sure it was insane.

BURNETT: So, you know, I want to ask you one thing here before we go. Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren is a member of the committee. She was on CNN a little bit. She was talking about the timeline, where are they. We know it's been, what, 400 plus people that they have interviewed.

BORGER: Absolutely.

BURNETT: They have been working for seven months and the comment was we're moving quickly and I think we're more than halfway through for sure.

Okay. Let's hope so, right? Because seven plus seven gets you way too close to the midterms. How close are they, right, to what -- finishing public hearings being done?

BORGER: You know, those of us who are trying to cover the committee ask that question about every day. We are trying to figure out when they're finally going to get to public hearings. They're very well aware of this timeline.

And what they're going to do is try and map out every minute of the day before January 6th, January 6th, those 187 minutes that it took for the president to finally say something, and the days after. And so I would have to say that, you know, maybe this spring sometime. It's very hard.

I get different answers on different days. All I know is that they have got an awful lot of testimony and they're trying to figure out if one person says this and was a witness at a meeting, what does the other person say?

You're a reporter, you know this. You can get different reads from different people on the same meetings. So they're trying to figure out exactly what happened.

BURNETT: Right, right, and to map it out.

BORGER: And that takes time.

BURNETT: It sure does, it sure does. I mean, you know, a law firm would have an army of associates working on that sort of thing.

BORGER: I think they do, yeah.

BURNETT: Thank you very much, Gloria.

BORGER: Thanks.

BURNETT: And next, Dr. Sanjay Gupta with an inside look on the race to develop the vaccine of all vaccines.

And winter storm warnings already piling up along the East Coast. A weather bomb cyclone is now closing in on at least 35 million people.



BURNETT: Tonight, Dr. Anthony Fauci touting efforts to have a coronavirus vaccine that could protect against any future variant and possibly put an end to the pandemic.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: Innovative approaches are needed to induce broad and durable protection against coronaviruses that are known and some that are even at this point unknown.


BURNETT: How realistic is that? Dr. Sanjay Gupta has tonight's inside look.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Right now, it's a race.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's going to be variants for a long time.

GUPTA: The virus against the vaccines and the boosters, and possibly more boosters.

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The company is forging ahead with omicron-specific vaccine.

GUPTA: But scientists have been working on what could be a better solution.


GUPTA: It's just what it sounds like, a vaccine that covers the circulating virus, yes, but also future variants we haven't even seen yet, and potentially other types of coronaviruses as well.

KEVIN SAUNDERS, DIRECTOR OF RESEARCH, DUKE HUMAN VACCINE INSTITUTE: That means not only targeting SARS like viruses but then targeting MERS like viruses or then also targeting cold viruses.

GUPTA: Kevin Saunders is the Director of Research here at the Duke Human Vaccine Institute, one of the many groups racing to create a universal vaccine.

SAUNDERS: What we try to do is really target a specific part of the virus, for instance, that we know is its Achilles heel. GUPTA: Now remember, viruses mutate all the time. So the trick is to find a stable part of the virus, a part that doesn't really change from one variant to the next, a common denominator. Saunders calls it a conserved site. Creating antibodies to that is one path to a universal vaccine.

SAUNDERS: So typically, that's a place where the virus is binding to specific proteins on the host cell that it's targeting. And if it changes that site, then it's no longer able to infect.

GUPTA: A big clue came from someone who was infected with SARS all the way back in 2003.

What is DH1047?

SAUNDERS: The antibody DH1047 is an antibody that we found from a SARS-CoV-1 infected individual.

GUPTA: Seventeen years later in 2020, in the midst of the current outbreak, they found DH1047 was also protective against COVID. Protective against a virus that didn't even exist when these antibodies were first made.

SAUNDERS: And so, we took that antibody as a template to say there must be some site that's common between SARS-CoV-1 and SARS-CoV-2 and let's figure that out, then we would know that needs to be in the vaccine.

GUPTA: There are a number of pan-coronavirus vaccine strategies in the works. But unlike the mRNA vaccines we've come to know, at Duke they're working on something called a nano-particle vaccine.

SAUNDERS: There's multiple sites that can be recognized by antibodies.

GUPTA: Think of it like a soccer ball with tiny proteins stuck to the surface, each resembling a key conserved site of the viruses spike protein. So far in primates, the vaccine appears to work. And now, a similar vaccine developed by military scientists has already made it into early human trials. But as exciting as this science is, it's going to take time and patience.

FAUCI: I don't want anyone to think that pan-coronavirus vaccines are literally around the corner in a month or two. It's going to take years to develop.

GUPTA: Much of the work being done today on COVID is built on the back of similar research on other viruses, influenza, HIV.

DR. BARTON HAYNES, DIRECTOR, DUJE HUMAN VACCINE INSTITUTE: We've been working on an HIV vaccine now for almost 30 years here at Duke. And HIV is one of the most rapidly evolving life forms on Earth.

GUPTA: That's because HIV mutates much faster.


And that's one reason why Dr. Barton Haynes thinks developing a universal vaccine for coronaviruses maybe easier.

HAYNES: Developing that platform for HIV over the last five years allowed this to happen when the need arose very quickly.

SAUNDERS: The most challenging part is that the virus is always changing. How do you predict what's coming in the future so that your vaccine can be effective against it?

GUPTA: And he's not just talking about coronaviruses that are infecting humans right now, but also novel ones that could still spill over from animals, ones we don't even know about yet.

SAUNDERS: That's the type of vaccines we're going to need in order to prevent the next pandemic.


GUPTA (on camera): I've got to tell you, Erin, it is absolutely fascinating science. They're using computational modeling to try and figure out what are these conserved sites on these viruses, what do they basically all have in common. Then they find these antibodies that target those sites, and that's the path to the universal vaccine.

Now, it would be a very broad vaccine, potentially, you know, working against all coronaviruses, potentially. Now, it doesn't necessarily mean it would be a one and done situation, but these vaccines potentially could last for years as well, Erin.

BURNETT: It is pretty amazing just to -- what we learned about vaccines and all of the types and the frontier of that, it's just stunning. Thank you so much, Sanjay.

GUPTA: You got it. Thank you.

BURNETT: Special report from Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

And next, a bomb cyclone with the power of a hurricane heading for tens of millions on the Eastern United States.


BURNETT: America is getting ready for a bomb cyclone this weekend, 35 million people in its path. Winter storm watches are already up from the Eastern Carolinas of the United States up to Maine, heavy snow, damaging winds, coastal flooding, all in store.

And there's still the big question about where exactly the storm is headed. It's been so wide ranging because it will form, right, will, future, off the coast of Georgia. But it's going to happen and then rapidly strengthen. It's a particular storm system called a bombogenesis so, boom, it forms and then it moves.

They are expecting, though, Boston to get 20 to 30 inches of snow. It's just going to be a massive storm.

Thanks to all for watching. Anderson is next.