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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Biden To Push For Voting Protections During Visit To Atlanta; Georgia Bulldogs Win College Football National Championship; 160 Dead, Thousands Held, As Russian Troops Stabilize Region. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired January 11, 2022 - 05:30   ET



LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. This is EARLY START. I'm Laura Jarrett.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Christine Romans. It is 29 minutes -- almost 30 minutes past the hour -- time for our top stories to keep an eye on today.

Finally, back to school in Chicago. Teachers return today and their students tomorrow after the teachers union reached a deal with the city of COVID safety measures. The district agreed to more testing for students and school closures based on absences.

JARRETT: President Biden will make a new plea to shore up voting rights today in Atlanta. Brand-new details on what he will say in just moments here. But not everyone wants him there. A coalition of voting rights groups plans to boycott the president's visit, pushing for a clearer plan.

ROMANS: Border officials are now investigating whether Novak Djokovic lied about traveling in the two weeks prior to his entry into Australia. Posts from social media show Djokovic in Serbia and in Spain, contrary to what he said when he arrived in Australia.

JARRETT: Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell is vowing not to let inflation become ingrained in the U.S. economy. That pledge part of what Powell will say at his confirmation hearing for a second term later this morning.

ROMANS: The late poet Maya Angelou is now the first Black woman ever to appear on a U.S. quarter. They still feature George Washington on the head side, while the tail side honors Angelou by evoking one of her most famous works, "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings."

JARRETT: And for the first time in more than four decades, Georgia is the national champion of college football. The Bulldogs defeating the Alabama Crimson Tide 33-18 with a fourth-quarter comeback. Highlights in the Bleacher Report live from Indianapolis in just a moment.

ROMANS: President Biden under pressure to advocate for meaningful voter protections ahead of some strict new voting laws going into effect around the nation. He and Vice President Harris will be in Atlanta today to make an urgent case for voting rights legislation. Last year, 19 states passed laws making it harder to vote -- laws like

limiting voting hours and banning volunteers passing out water in line.

Democrats are preparing to advance two new voting bills that only have a -- only have a chance of passing if Senate filibuster rules are weakened -- a step Biden says he would endorse.

JARRETT: And we now have the first excerpts from President Biden's speech in which he calls the next few days a turning point for the nation.

He will say, "...we choose democracy over autocracy, light over shadow, just over injustice? I know where I stand. I will not yield. I will not flinch. I will defend your right to vote and our democracy against all enemies foreign and domestic. And so the question is where will the institution of United States [Senate] stand."

ROMANS: All right, it is time for three questions in three minutes on this subject. Let's bring in CNN political analyst and co-author of "Politico Playbook," Rachael Bade. Good morning. So nice to see you.

Who is President Biden going to be speaking to most directly today? Is it Democratic voters of color, Republicans? Maybe moderate senators like Manchin and Sinema?

RACHAEL BADE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, CO-AUTHOR, POLITICO PLAYBOOK (via Webex by Cisco): I mean, I think it's a little bit of all three.

Obviously Democrats -- the base, in particular. This has been a top priority for them. They've been pushing the White House to pass this bill for over a year and they want him to show that he's using his bully pulpit to do everything he can do.

Republicans -- he's clearly trying to shame them to coming to the table. That's going to be more of a P.R. move, obviously, as we know from the politics of Washington than actually a reality. Republicans aren't going to support this.

And then, of course, there's those moderates that you're talking about who, right now, are opposed to gutting the filibuster, which they have to do in order to pass these bills. So it will be interesting to see if he specifically names some of these people like Joe Manchin, Kyrsten Sinema, and says get behind these reforms. We need to pass this.

JARRETT: Rachael, some voting rights groups say this is too little too late. They're boycotting the president's speech today.

The co-founder of Black Voters Matter met with the president and the V.P. last year. Here is what she said yesterday.


LATOSHA BROWN, CO-FOUNDER, VOTING RIGHTS GROUPS BLACK VOTERS MATTER: I think the president actually made a calculated mistake early on last year. I think at the end of the day, it was very clear that this was not a priority for him. That he -- the way that he spoke about the infrastructure bill, he did not speak about voting rights.


JARRETT: How does the White House handle this? This is -- these are people they need to have in their corner but sort of the elite in Washington if you will, have an eye towards the midterms and getting everyone sort of on the same page for November. What do you think?

BADE: Look, I think they're handling this the best way they can and that is just trying to show that they're doing everything they can possible, and that includes this speech today. It includes what Chuck Schumer is going to be doing in the Senate, having a vote on these rules in the Senate to keep the filibuster or not.

But the reality is they don't have the votes for this, and it's not just Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. My colleague Burgess Everett has a story up this morning about other moderates who say they are having issues with this. Mark Kelly, who is a moderate Democrat from Arizona facing reelection -- you know, he is a little skittish on this. Jon Tester from Montana also said he's not a big -- he's not a big fan of this carveout idea.

So, they've got their work cut out for them and that's just the reality of the situation for Biden right now.

ROMANS: Hey, Rachael, Biden is coming strong off his speech January sixth, but if he's unable to rally Democrats behind him today, and with the infrastructure agenda -- human infrastructure agenda stalled in Congress, what comes next for him?


BADE: It's a good question. I'm not sure yet. I mean, this is stalled, and also the Build Back Better right now. Joe Manchin has walked away from the table. There's been an effort to try to get former President Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, also former staff to Joe Manchin to plead with him privately to get him back to the negotiating table. It hasn't worked yet.

So, President Biden is in big trouble right now and I think there's a lot of questions about what can they do before the midterms.

JARRETT: All right, Rachael Bade, author of "Political Playbook" and political analyst at CNN. Thank you so much, Rachael.

ROMANS: Nice to see you, Rachael.

JARRETT: Thanks.

BADE: Thanks so much.

JARRETT: All right, now to this. An Indiana state senator backtracking after saying teachers should be, quote, "impartial when teaching about Naziism." Here is what Republican Scott Baldwin initially said during a hearing

on a bill that would limit how race is discussed in schools.


SCOTT BALDWIN (R), INDIANA STATE SENATOR: I'm not discrediting, as a person, Marxism, Naziism, fascism. I'm not discrediting any of those isms out there. And I have no problem with the education system providing instruction on the existence of those isms. I believe that we've gone too far when we take a position on those isms.


JARRETT: Baldwin now says the intent of the bill is impartiality of legitimate political groups in the U.S. He tells CNN "...teachers should condemn those dangerous ideologies and I sincerely regret that I did not articulate and apologize for it."

ROMANS: OK, then.

A first-of-its-kind transplant at the University of Maryland. Doctors say a 57-year-old man doing well three days after receiving a genetically-modified pig heart.

David Bennett had terminal heart disease and had been deemed ineligible for a conventional heart transplant. He said in a statement, "It was either die or do this transplant. I want to live. I know it's a shot in the dark, but it's my last choice."


All right, the Georgia Bulldogs are the kings of college football, beating number-one Alabama for their first national championship in 41 years.

Andy Scholes has this morning's Bleacher Report live from Indianapolis. Andy, what a game.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Oh, what a game, Laura. You know, it certainly started off slow -- really slow -- but Georgia and Alabama both getting hot late, giving us a fourth-quarter for the ages last night in the national championship game.

We had a huge moment early in the fourth. Christian Harris sacks Stetson Bennett. The officials call it a fumble and recovered by Alabama because Alabama's Brian Branch casually grabbed it as he went out of bounds. After a review, it was the right call. It led to an Alabama touchdown and they take the lead 18-13.

But from there it was all Georgia. Bennett making up for that fumble in a big way -- a 40-yard touchdown pass to give Georgia back the lead. Bennett, who walked on to Georgia as a freshman, left to go play at a junior college, then came back as a scholarship player, throwing two T.D. passes in the final nine minutes. He's forever going to be a Bulldog legend. And Georgia getting a pick-six to wrap things up. Kirby Smart was just overjoyed on the sidelines as he finally beats his old boss, Nick Saban.

Bennett, like Georgia fans all over the country, just with tears of joy. The Bulldogs win 33-18 to claim their first title since 1980.


KIRBY SMART, GEORGIA HEAD COACH: I told the guys in the locker room just take a picture of this because I think back to the '80 championship picture and seeing all those players and the Frank Rosses and the Herschel Walkers, and all these people that have reached out and said things. Our guys have accomplished that something special and they -- as they say, they've become legendary.

STETSON BENNETT, GEORGIA QUARTERBACK: I love these guys. And then, you know, the tears afterwards -- that just hit me. You know, I haven't cried in, I don't know, years. But, I mean, that -- it just came over me, you know. That's what -- when you put as much time as we do into this thing -- you know, blood, sweat, tears -- it means something.


SCHOLES: All right, and take a look at the wild scenes back in Athens, Georgia. Fans celebrating in the streets into the wee hours of the morning. A championship parade is tentatively scheduled for Saturday, ending at Sanford Stadium with a celebration rally.

Meanwhile, guys, back here on the field it's just me and all the confetti. It's all quiet here now. But I'll tell you what, leaving the hotel just a few hours ago, Georgia fans have not gone to sleep yet.


SCHOLES: They are up celebrating this championship because they have waited a very long time for it.

JARRETT: They have a lot to celebrate.

Andy, please go get some sleep now, or at least soon. Thank you.

SCHOLES: I will at some point -- all right.

JARRETT: All right.

Bitter cold air -- the coldest of the season, in fact -- has much of the northeast in a deep freeze today.



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're turning up the heat in our House for my pet and for myself. (END VIDEO CLIP)

JARRETT: Windchill alerts extend from the Dakotas to New England. Schools are closed in Boston.

Here is meteorologist Pedram Javaheri.


PEDRAM JAVAHERI, AMS METEOROLOGIST (on camera): Good morning, Christine and Laura.

Yes, one of the coldest air outbreaks here in the last couple of years with windchills around portions of interior New England as cold as 35 below zero. You work your way towards Bangor, you could see about 25 to 30 below zero windchills. Stowe and Burlington getting closer to that 30 to 35 below windchill.

And at these values, guys, about 10 minutes of exposed skin can cause permanent damage and lead to frostbite. So again, it speaks to how dangerous of a setup this is.

And notice this forecast -- 10:30 a.m., Boston will feel like eight below with a windchill. New York City will feel like about three degrees. Temps do rebound just a little bit going into the afternoon hours as the winds generally calm down.

But going into tomorrow, we actually see a dramatic warming trend where temperatures go back toward seasonal values, which are around 40 for this time of year. Notice what happens, though. By Friday afternoon into Saturday, potentially, another round of arctic air. So, here's the quick rebound. Twenty to almost 40 in 24 hours. Boston from 14 up to almost 40 degrees there by Wednesday afternoon.

But guys, take a look at this forecast. This weekend we come right back down to where we started with big-time arctic air returning in the forecast.


ROMANS: All right, Pedram. Thank you so much for that.

All right, next, that big reversal on Wall Street yesterday and why if you're unvaccinated and working for a big Wall Street bank, time is running out. You might lose your job.



ROMANS: Almost 10,000 people have been detained in Kazakhstan after taking part in protests that originally started over spiking gas prices. And just days after arriving, Russian troops are expected to leave.

CNN's Frederick Pleitgen joins us live from the border there. And Fred, Russia has really been flexing its muscle in the region. What's happening on the ground?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know what? Russia's been flexing its muscle and I really think one of the things that we can say after the past couple of days is that Vladimir Putin certainly has very much increased and made bigger his standing here in this region.

There's a lot of leaders here in Central Asia who do fear that there could be protests against them as well, and many of them now feel that Vladimir Putin would be the person to call on to help stop protests should they occur in other countries.

And if you look at, for instance, some of the things that the Kazak president said today -- he, of course, got his new prime minister confirmed.

But he also said that one of the reasons why they felt they had to call those Russian-led troops in the first place was that he believed that they were in danger of losing control over their largest city, Almaty, and then possibly, losing control over the capital as well. And they said that those Russian-led forces came in, secured some of the infrastructure, and that freed up Kazak forces, especially special forces, to then deal with the rioting that was going on.

Of course, we remember a lot of those really troubling images that especially, came out of the biggest city, Almaty, where on the one hand, you had rioters in a lot of those buildings there attacking security forces. But you also saw those soldiers sweeping through the streets and in many cases, or in some cases, apparently opening fire on civilians as well. That's caused a lot of criticism. However, the Kazak government has said it believes that it is something that they needed to do.

And the crackdown, of course, continues now as well. You mentioned it. Almost 10,000 people officially detained.

At the same time, Kazaks are now saying that what they call that peacekeeping mission -- the fact that they have those Russian-led forces in the country -- that is coming to an end soon. They say the mission is complete but the withdrawal is not going to start until two days from now. And that withdrawal is going to take 10 days at least, so somewhat of a phased withdrawal if anything -- everything goes according to plan.

That's a little bit on what's going on, on the ground there in Kazakhstan. The authorities are saying they are getting the situation increasingly under control. They've been able to turn on the internet, at least for a couple of hours during the day. However, of course, it still is a very fragile situation, especially in those areas that were hit by those protests, Christine.

ROMANS: Yes, of course. All right, Fred Pleitgen for us on the border. Thanks, Fred -- Laura.

JARRETT: Back here in New York families are seeking answers after that horrifying fire in a Bronx high-rise claimed 17 lives, including eight children, on Sunday. Sparked by a faulty space heater, the fire and thick smoke spread quickly throughout the building after a door where the blaze started was left open as residents fled.

Officials from the firefighters union say the building was federally funded and not required to adhere to New York City fire safety codes, including sprinkler systems.

CNN's Jason Carroll reports from the Bronx for us.


JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Christine and Laura, the lights are on in some of the units in the building behind me. Some residents being allowed back inside as they try to put their lives back together.

An investigation now underway into what is being called the second- deadliest home fire in the United States in the past 40 years. The investigation focused on why two self-closing doors required by law did not work. Investigators say the fire was sparked by a faulty space heater in an apartment duplex located on the building's second and third floor.

The city's fire commissioner says self-closing doors were installed throughout the building but the front door to the apartment in question malfunctioned, not closing when it should have.

DANIEL NIGRO, FDNY COMMISSIONER: The stairwell was very dangerous as the door was left open. Some of the floors -- certainly, on 15, the door was open from the stair to the hall and the 15th floor became quite untenable.

We do recommend in high-rise fireproof buildings that people should shelter in place and it's safer to be in your apartment than to venture out and try to get down the stairs.

CARROLL (on camera): City officials are promising a thorough investigation. All this, as so many here in this Bronx community continue to pray for those who were not hospitalized and to mourn for those who did not survive -- Christine, Laura.



JARRETT: Jason Carroll, thank you for that reporting from New York.

Well, emotional tributes still appearing everywhere as friends remember actor and comedian Bob Saget.


JIMMY KIMMEL, HOST, "JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE!": Last night, I was going through e-mails with Bob and some of them were just funny. But some were very serious e-mails about life and the well-being of our children and how hard it is to appreciate one of those without the other being just right.

In one e-mail, we were talking about our kids and I have it here. He wrote, "One night soon let's go out and have some meat and some good damn drinks and talk about how lucky we are that we have them." And we did do that many times.

When my son was in the hospital, Bob checked in a lot.

So, I want to send love to his daughters, to his wife Kelly, and to his friends who loved him so much.


JARRETT: So many stories like that flooding in still.

The police report on Saget's death reveals his wife Kelly contacted the Ritz-Carlton hotel in Orlando because she had been able to -- unable to reach him. Hotel security found the actor in his bed, not breathing, with his left arm across his chest. No signs of trauma or foul play.

ROMANS: Saget's friend and co-star John Stamos posting this tribute from the entire cast of "FULL HOUSE."

"Thirty-five years ago we came together as a T.V. family but we became a real family. Bob made us laugh until we cried. Now our tears flow in sadness but also with gratitude for all the beautiful memories. He was a brother to us guys, a father to us girls, and a friend to all of us. In Bob's honor, hug the people you love. No one gave better hugs than Bob."

JARRETT: And another sad passing -- Betty White, of course. Well, her cause of death has been revealed. The actress's death certificate shows she died of a stroke she suffered six days earlier. White died on New Year's Eve at the age of 99. Plans for a nationwide movie screening event will go ahead on January 17th as planned, to celebrate what would have been her 100th birthday.

ROMANS: Yes, a real treasure, right?

All right, let's get a check on CNN Business this morning. Looking at markets around the world, Asian shares have closed slightly lower, but Europe has opened higher. And on Wall Street, stock index futures for the morning pointing a little bit higher.

There was a big reversal in the stock market yesterday. The Dow and S&P 500 closed lower but, hey, way off their lows. And tech stocks actually staged a comeback after falling more than two percent -- quite a turnaround.

The trouble here for stocks, adjusting to this new era of rising interest rates after years of easy money. High-growth stocks like tech are worth less when rates rise. The Nasdaq is now about 10 percent -- eight percent, really, below its all-time high, nearing that correction mark of 10 percent drop. The Fed is expected to raise official interest rates to cool off inflation -- of course, running the hottest in decades. Critical price data comes out tomorrow -- the Consumer Price Index.

Big banks turning up the pressure on their unvaccinated employees. JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon warns its New York-based staff risk losing their jobs if they refuse to get the shots. Unvaccinated staffers can't work in the office and Dimon says the company will not pay staffers to not work in the office. Dimon added that there's no final decision that's been made about a possible hybrid workplace.

Last week, Citigroup told its staff unvaccinated workers will be fired at the end of this month unless they're granted an exemption. The first big Wall Street bank to follow through on those strict vaccine mandates.

All right, the snack that smiles back. Goldfish not just for toddlers anymore. Pepperidge Farm rolling out a new line of the iconic orange crackers for grownups called Goldfish Mega Bites. They come in two flavors, sharp cheddar and cheddar jalapeno. Demand for nostalgic products surged among homebound consumers during the pandemic.

And I eat Goldfish.

JARRETT: Sign me up.

ROMANS: I am not -- I am not -- I'm not embarrassed. I eat Goldfish.

JARRETT: I eat regular Goldfish because they're in the house.

ROMANS: Why they don't even make me a grownup version.

JARRETT: Exactly.

All right, the New York Yankees tapping the first female manager of a minor league baseball team. Thirty-four-year-old Rachel Balkovec will be the Yankees -- will be the manager of the Yankees' Low A squad, the Tampa Tarpons. Balkovec joined the Yankees organization in 2019 as the first woman to be a full-time hitting coach in a minor league baseball.

She has said she dreams of one day becoming a general manager. She says she's probably had to work a little harder than the guys but that's a challenge she views as an advantage.

ROMANS: Absolutely. Good for her.

All right, thanks for joining us. Have a great rest of your day, everybody. I'm Christine.

JARRETT: I'm Laura Jarrett. "NEW DAY" is next.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. It is Tuesday, January 11th. I'm John Berman with Brianna Keilar.

And this morning, the United States poised to break a record in the coronavirus pandemic -- an ominous milestone, but one that requires important context. So, COVID is pushing many hospitals to the brink. But really, more specifically, the unvaccinated are pushing hospitals to the brink.