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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

15-Year-Old Kills 3, Injures 8 More at Oxford, Michigan High School; Biden Considering Stricter COVID Testing for All Travelers to U.S.; Former Trump Chief of Staff Meadows Cooperating with Jan. 6 Committee. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired December 01, 2021 - 05:00   ET



LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. It is Wednesday, December 1st. It's 5:00 a.m. here in New York. Thanks so much for getting an EARLY START with us. I'm Laura Jarrett.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: Shocked me a little bit. December 1st.

JARRETT: It's real.

ROMANS: We made it to December.

I'm Christine Romans. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world.

We begin in Michigan this morning. Families there are grieving after a horrific shooting at a high school in suburban Detroit. The shooter, a 15-year-old student at Oxford High School, now in custody and on suicide watch after killing three of his fellow students and injuring, badly injuring eight other people Tuesday afternoon.

The three who died, teenagers, Hana St. Juliana, Madisyn Baldwin, Tate Myre, died in a deputy's car on the way to the hospital.

Traumatized students now coping with something no young person should have to experience.


AIDEN PAGE, OXFORD HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT: We heard two gunshots. And then after that my teacher ran to the room, locked it, we barricaded, and then we covered the windows and hid. The very first thing in my head was, this is actually happening. I'm going to text my family, say I love them just in case if I were to die.


JARRETT: The students were trained for this. They were trained for the worst, and they jumped into action quickly within minutes. That one student there telling Anderson Cooper that they armed themselves with calculators and scissors, anything they could find in the midst of this terrifying experience.

Footage from one freshman on lockdown shows how sheriff's deputies led them to safety.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's safe to come out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not taking that risk right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't hear you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're not taking that risk right now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Open the door, bro.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He said bro. Red flag, red flag.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Slow down, you're fine.


JARRETT: Being a parent of one of those students watching that.

CNN's Josh Campbell is on the ground for us in Oxford, Michigan.


JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Laura, a nation plagued by gun violence is preparing to bury more of its own, this time teenagers. Three people were shot and killed on Tuesday in Oxford, Michigan. The victims a 14-year-old, a 16-year-old and a 17- year-old, all believed to be students at the high school where the shooting took place. Eight other people were injured in this incident.

Now, authorities have identified the shooter as a 15-year-old sophomore. He was taken into custody. His parents later going to the sheriff's station where he was being held, invoking his right not to cooperate with authorities. We're told that he is not speaking with police about this incident. Now, police received a call at 12:51 p.m. of an active shooter. In total, they would receive over 100 911 calls, 25 law enforcement agencies responding to the scene.

We're told that within five minutes of the first call, the shooter was taken into custody without incident.

POLICE OFFICER: Preliminary investigation revealed that the weapon used in the shooting was purchased on November 26th, four days ago, by the boy's father.

CAMPBELL: A hand gun was recovered at the scene. Authorities believe that the shooter fired between 15 and 20 rounds.

Now, authorities are still working to get to that motive. They tell us that they are still in the early stages of their investigation. On Tuesday, they executed a search warrant at the shooter's home hoping to uncover any possible clue they can to get to the reason why the shooter went to school on Tuesday, opening fire on his fellow students -- Christine, Laura. (END VIDEOTAPE)

ROMANS: Just terrible. Our thoughts are with everybody there in Michigan this morning.

All right. Everyone who travels in the United States may soon have to be tested for COVID one day before their flight. The Biden administration is also considering testing all travelers, including U.S. citizens, after they return home. The new coronavirus variant Omicron has prompted officials to reevaluate testing efforts. The CDC is now expanding surveillance at four major U.S. airports to look for this new variant.

We get more from CNN's Nick Watt.



NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The question is when, not if the Omicron variant reaches the United States. Could already be here.

Among the first to study Omicron, this guy.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It looks like a problem, but we don't know to what extent it's going to be a problem. I wouldn't at this point say that this is hugely different from stuff we've seen before.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think we'll get information on transmission and severity in the coming week or two. I do think it will take some time for us to get a better understanding on the impact of vaccines. Our estimate is two to four weeks.

WATT: Here's what we already know about omicron's mutations.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: These mutations have been associated with increased transmissibility and immune evasion.

WATT: So, will vaccines work as well as they did against the delta variant?

There is no world, I think, where the effectiveness is the same live. Moderna's CEO told "The Financial Times".

If Omicron does, indeed, diminish protection from vaccines --

ALBERT BOURLA, PFIZER CEO: Boosters should reduce dramatically the gap.

WATT: This variant was first detected in southern Africa, now dominant down there.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What we are presenting to primary health care practitioners are extremely mild, mild to moderate. So, these patients, they don't need to be hospitalized for now.

WATT: Still, Dr. Fauci cautioning against such anecdotal accounts.

FAUCI: Most of those are in younger individuals. We believe that it is too soon to tell of what the level of severity is.

WATT: And, remember, this will likely not be the last coronavirus variant.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Omicron is like a wake up call, as though we needed another wake up call, to vaccinate the world. One of the best ways to keep Americans safe is actually to vaccinate the world.

WATT: Because the more the virus spreads, the more it mutates.


WATT (on camera): And here in the U.S., authorities are upping their surveillance at four of the busiest international airports. JFK, Newark, Atlanta and San Francisco.

And also, they are now analyzing one in seven of all positive tests, looking for variants.

Nick Watt, CNN, Los Angeles.


ROMANS: Thanks for that, Nick.

I mean, the experts have been telling us for months now that unvaccinated populations and immunocompromised actually are breeding grounds for these variants.

It's time for three questions in three minutes. Let's bring in Dr. Susannah Hills, pediatric airway surgeon at Columbia University Medical Center.

So nice to see you this morning. We know the president tomorrow is expected to outline a winter strategy, right, for COVID. Considering stricter coronavirus testing for everyone traveling to America, including Americans, is this -- is this going to actually make any difference, do you think, Doctor?

DR. SUSANNAH HILLS, PEDIATRIC AIRWAY SURGEON, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: Well, Christine, I think what we need to remember is when we've been in trouble in the past dealing with this virus, it's because we've been in a reactive state. We haven't been proactive in getting ahead of the virus.

And so, things like testing, things like limiting travel from areas that we know the virus is present, these are things that are proactive measures we can take to help curb the spread as much as possible in advance, and how much of an impact it will have is unclear, of course. You know, we won't know. But certainly, it makes sense to take these measures and to do something proactively. JARRETT: Doctor, one of the biggest outstanding questions is how well

the current vaccines stand up to this new variant. Listen to what the Israeli health minister said about this yesterday.


NITZAN HOROWITZ, ISRAEL HEALTH MINISTER (through translator): In the coming days, we will have more accurate information about the efficacy of the vaccine against Omicron. But there is already room for optimism, and there are initial indications that those who are vaccinated with the vaccine still valid or with a booster will also be protected from the variant.


JARRETT: Doctor, how do we know that? Where is that optimism coming from? Is it coming from the science?

HILLS: So, for sure, we don't know that. In the next couple of weeks we'll get more information and we'll know. But because the vaccines have been so highly effective in protecting against the variants that we've seen so far, we have to imagine that there is absolutely enough similarity between this variant and the virus strains that the vaccines are effective against that they are as highly likely to be at least some degree of protection with the vaccines that we have.

Of course, time will tell and we'll see as we gather more information.

ROMANS: And a reminder that delta is still the primary variant going through the United States right now, and vaccinations work against it. We should all be pushing for those vaccinations in the meantime.

One of the few things we do know is that omicron has more mutations than delta. What risks does the more mutated strain pose to the public?


HILLS: There's just more chances that those mutations could confer some increased transmissibility or increased disease with the mutations the virus has. But we don't know these mutations necessarily make the disease that much more transmissible. It appears that it probably does, but we don't know that for sure. And we don't know that it causes severe disease. It appears that the case reports we're getting suggest mal-disease but that's not substantiated with data yet either.

JARRETT: A lot to unpack here, a lot to -- a wait and see approach, which is nerve-racking. This is where we are.


JARRETT: Dr. Susannah Hills, thanks so much for coming on EARLY START. Appreciate it.

HILLS: Thanks so much. ROMANS: An important programming note with the Omicron variant

raising new questions, Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta come together with Dr. Anthony Fauci for an all-new CNN global town hall, "Coronavirus: Facts and Fears", live tonight at 9:00.

JARRETT: Still ahead for you, Donald Trump's own former chief of staff now cooperating with the January 6 committee. What could he have to say about his old boss?

ROMANS: And Roe versus Wade on the line in a dramatic and consequential Supreme Court showdown just hours from now.



ROMANS: Another top Trump loyalist choosing to cooperate with the congressional committee investigating the Capitol riot. CNN first to report that former chief of staff Mark Meadows is cooperating with the House Select Committee.

According to its chairman, Meadows has turned over thousands of emails and is scheduled for a deposition next week.

More now from CNN's Ryan Nobles.


RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Christine and Laura, this is a significant development. Mark Meadows at one point had been stonewalling the committee, not giving them what they had been looking for. The fact he has agreed on some level to cooperate with them gives the committee an opportunity to move this conversation forward. And we're told that Meadows has already handed over some 6,000 emails to the committee, and the deposition is scheduled for next week.

The question is what will come out of that conversation. At this point, Meadows' attorney saying that he's willing to answer questions from the committee, but that he's also still concerned about executive privilege, and executive privilege may mean something different from Meadows and his attorneys that it may mean for the committee.

So there is still the opportunity that when he comes in for this interview, that they do go meet at some sort of an impasse where they are no longer able to move forward and this entire process is stalled.

Regardless, at this point, they've gotten to a situation where they feel comfortable enough that this process is moving in a direction where they do not need to go the route of a criminal contempt referral.

And one of the members of the January 6 Select Committee Pete Aguilar telling CNN yesterday that they do view this as progress.

REP. PETE AGUILAR (D-CA): Let's just say that we continue to gather solid information that is helping the committee each and every day -- over 250 interviews that we've conducted, 25,000 documents. We're making progress each and every day.

NOBLES: Of course, Wednesday is going to be a very busy day for the committee. That is when they will hold their business meeting to formally refer a criminal contempt charge against Jeffrey Clark, the former Department of Justice official, the House could vote on it on Thursday and then it would be handed to the Department of Justice to prosecute, much like they did with Steve Bannon.

And it's very clear there is a difference between the way they are treating these two individuals with close ties to President Trump. With Mark Meadows, there is encouragement. They believe that they are making progress, that they could get some information from him. With Clark, it has been a complete stonewall and that's why they feel they need to take the step of criminal contempt.

So, as we said, a very busy couple of days for the January 6 Select Committee -- Christine and Laura.


JARRETT: Ryan, thank you for that.

Let's dig deeper on all this and bring in CNN's Katelyn Polantz, who's joining us live from Washington.

Katelyn, good morning.

Why do you think Meadows changed his tune here?

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: Laura, well, we have some information from his attorney that Meadows has figured out what parameters can be and what he's negotiating. But really what this does with Meadows deciding that he can help the committee in some way does two things. It gets him out of hot water, so it essentially takes that criminal contempt referral possibility off the table.

And it also signals potentially to a lot of other witnesses out there who view him as a leader, as a key thinker around Trump about exactly how much someone can work with the committee, show up, and stay away from that criminal contempt third rail that people -- some people just don't want to have that weighing over them.

JARRETT: Which is understandable. This is a former member of Congress. Nobody wants to be held in criminal contempt, much less someone who has occupied that position in the past.

Someone who is still not cooperating as far as we know, though, is this former DOJ official, Jeffrey Clark. The House is set to recommend criminal contempt charges over to the DOJ for this official.

What are you watching for there?

POLANTZ: Well, with this, the committee has already been through a vote like this once with Steve Bannon, recommending that Steve Bannon be held in criminal contempt. It's a little trickier with Clark because Clark is claiming privileges. So, he did show up to the committee and he said I as an attorney and as somebody who was speaking to the president, I'm not answering any of your questions.

Now, the committee says that's wrong because they say that there were questions that they asked him that he should have been able to talk about, including about his interactions with members of Congress. So right now what the committee is doing with Clark is they are upping the pressure on him.


Potentially, they could be still seeking some sort of cooperation from him. But once they go through this vote process, it's then handed over to the department of justice to decide whether they're going to prosecute. And as a reminder, that is the department that Clark came from when he was working in the Trump administration.

JARRETT: Yeah, and he certainly could have perhaps some of the most interesting testimony given he's in the room as all of these discussions about trying to overturn the vote are happening. But as you mentioned, he's a lawyer and there are different privilege tricky issues there.

At the same time, Kaitlan, the Justice Department has released this tape of investigators interviewing a Capitol rioter. That's pretty revealing.

Let's listen to this and then I'll ask you about it.


DEFENDANT: Trump called us. Trump called us to D.C.

INVESTIGATOR: Tell me about that. How did he let you guys know to come to D.C.?

DEFENDANT: If he's the commander in chief and the leader of our country, then he's calling for help, anybody who is calling for help, I thought he was -- I thought I was doing the right thing.


JARRETT: I thought he was calling for help. I thought we were doing the right thing. Capitol riot defenders have tried to blame Trump as a defense in the past. How is that playing in court? What are judges making of this type of testimony?

POLANTZ: Well, this video actually is available to us now because we had to ask for it. We had to go to court and ask for it because it was being disputed. This particular defendant, his name is Daniel Rodriguez, he's from California. His lawyers wanted to keep these statements he made to the FBI out of court so they couldn't be used against him at trial.

But we aren't at the point where we have a trial yet. What we are seeing is we are seeing the pretrial happenings where the prosecutors are still building cases and Rodriguez had been charged with previous, several charges, and now as of earlier this week. the prosecutors were able to use some of these things that he had said, followed their investigation, and they did charge him with conspiracy and are trying to build a bigger case against him and some other alleged rioters, saying that they were planning violence, that there was some sort of forethought before they went into the Capitol. And that snippet is something that definitely would speak and play into that.

JARRETT: Well, it certainly gives you a sort of peek behind the curtain into their mindset. And as you said, the premeditation there. But the big question is what was in the former president's mind? What was his intent going into that day? And that's one of the issues that, of course, the committee is still trying to tease out.

Katelyn, thank you. Appreciate it.

ROMANS: All right. Still ahead, graphic testimony from an accuser at Ghislaine Maxwell's sex trafficking trial.

JARRETT: And the TV doctor perhaps most famous for hawking diet pills and other dubious treatments now wants to be a U.S. senator.



ROMANS: Welcome back.

Inflation fighting now issue number one for the Federal Reserve. The Fed chief retiring that word, transitory, when talking about rising prices. Instead, he's acknowledging that inflation is dug in here. That means the Central Bank may end its pandemic-era stimulus sooner than expected.

Earlier this month, you remember the Federal Reserve announced it will taper off bond-buying for Treasury and mortgage securities by a total of about $15 billion a month. Now, Powell says the bank will consider speeding up that plan.


JEROME POWELL, FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: But at this point, the economy is very strong and inflationary pressures are high, and it is, therefore, appropriate in my view to consider wrapping up the taper of our asset purchases which we actually announced at the November meeting perhaps a few months sooner.


ROMANS: Now, the November jobs report is expected to show strong job creation. He just said it's a strong economy, another sign of a strong economy heading into the end of the year. Still, more needs to be known about the Omicron variant. That is the wild card there. All three major stock indexes, by the way, declined yesterday after Powell's comments.

JARRETT: Dr. Oz is dipping his he to into politics. The 61-year-old cardiothoracic surgeon and TV personality made the announcement that he is running for U.S. Senate in Pennsylvania as a Republican. In a "Washington Examiner" op-ed, Oz, who has a history of promoting unproven treatments for COVID, among other things, says he has learned during the pandemic when you mix politics and medicine, you get politics instead of solutions.

ROMANS: All right. Well, a conservative majority Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Historic arguments over abortion later today.

JARRETT: And toxic in fighting within the GOP. Will Kevin McCarthy rein in the warring factions?