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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Biden Launches Passionate Voting Rights Push In Atlanta; China Lockdowns And Shuttered Factories Hit Supply Global Chains; President Tokayev Blames 'Foreign Actors' For Turmoil. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired January 12, 2022 - 05:30   ET




CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: All right, good Wednesday morning, everybody. This is EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Laura Jarrett. It's 31 minutes past the hour here in New York and it's time for our top stories to keep an eye on today.

President Biden made a passionate plea to a crowd in Atlanta on Tuesday to stand against voter suppression. But he faces an uphill battle in Congress with current Senate rules requiring 60 votes to pass most bills -- a threshold Democrats can't meet alone. More on all of this in just a moment.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO THE PRESIDENT: The only thing that came out Sen. Rand Paul and, to some extent, Sen. Roger Marshall, were ad hominems, which does nothing but distract from what we really need to be doing.


ROMANS: Dr. Anthony Fauci warning political attacks by Republican senators are hurting the coronavirus response. He says with the Omicron variant's unprecedented transmissibility it will ultimately find just about everybody.

JARRETT: Tennis star Novak Djokovic admits knowing that he had COVID when he did a media interview and photo shoot last month. He's now apologizing but insists he didn't know he was positive when he attended other public events.

ROMANS: Texas Sheriff Nathan Johnson is under investigation. He's accused of having his deputies routinely seize cash from undocumented immigrants during traffic stops. Johnson has not been charged and is still serving as sheriff of Real County.

JARRETT: At least two Guantanamo Bay detainees who have been in custody more than a decade now cleared for release. The prison is marking 20 years this week since it was opened under the George W. Bush administration a few months after the September 11th terrorist attacks.

ROMANS: Medicare says it will only pay for a controversial and costly Alzheimer's drug for people who are enrolled in clinical trials -- a move that will sharply restrict the number of people eligible to receive it. According to Medicare, Aduhelm benefits are in question while its $28,000 per patient, per year cost is a budget buster.

JARRETT: Back to our top story now. President Biden in Atlanta Tuesday calling senators to stand against voter suppression. For the first time, he's now calling on lawmakers to change Senate rules in order to pass a set of stalled voting rights bills.

The president invoked the battles of the civil rights movement in the 60s, comparing Jim Crow wrongs to modern-day election subversion.

ROMANS: He pointed to the Capitol insurrection and Republican-backed voting restrictions across the country, all based on Trump's election lies.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The question is where will the institution of the United States Senate stand? Every senator -- Democrat, Republican, and Independent -- will have to declare where they stand not just for the moment but for the ages.

Do you want to be the side -- on the side of Dr. King or George Wallace? Do you want to be on the side of John Lewis or Bull Connor? Do you want to be on the side of Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis?

This is the moment to decide to defend our elections, to defend our democracy.


ROMANS: But the president's lack of progress on voting rights has drawn criticism from some in his base.

CNN's Daniella Diaz live on Capitol Hill for us this Wednesday morning. Nice to see you, Daniella.

Even Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer admits this is an uphill climb. What's the plan?

DANIELLA DIAZ, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: An uphill climb, indeed, Christine.


Look, he wants January 17th, Martin Luther King Jr. Day, to be the day that the Senate votes on a rules change -- a so-called filibuster carveout -- so that they could try to pass voting rights legislation with just a simple majority. So, all 50 Democratic senators could support voting rights legislation with Vice President Kamala Harris being the tie-breaking vote.

But there is a problem. Senator Joe Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema do not support this so-called rules change -- this filibuster carveout -- because they believe that this could affect the rules of the Senate chamber in years to come, especially if Democrats lose their majority in the 2022 midterms.

And they do believe in bipartisanship. You know, Sen. Joe Manchin was working last year to try to get 10 Republicans to support voting rights legislation. He ultimately failed.

But he does not believe in this filibuster carveout. He does not support it and he's been adamant about it.

So it is an uphill climb but that is not stopping negotiations behind closed doors with the Democratic Caucus. Most Democratic senators want to see Sen. Joe Manchin and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema change their minds on this and they continue to talk to them to try to convince them to support this rules change.

Take a listen to what some senators said yesterday about their optimism and why they support this rules change in the Senate.


SEN. ANGUS KING (I-ME): A lot of my colleagues and myself are worried about OK, if you change the filibuster, what happens the next time when somebody else is in the majority? Well, the answer is if they're in the majority and they overreach, as long as the system is working, the voters can throw them out the next time. There's always an election in two years. But if the election itself is compromised -- if that check is compromised, the system doesn't work.

SEN. JON TESTER (D-MT): And what we've seen since the 2020 election is we've seen state by state pass laws to restrict voting, fencing people away from the polls. It's a -- it's a great way to ruin a democracy. It's a great way to tear this country apart by sowing division. We need to fix a problem in this country that could literally destroy our democracy. And if we don't, shame on us.


DIAZ: Christine, the bigger problem here is if Democrats shift their focus from the Build Back Better act last fall that -- they were working on this all last fall because Sen. Joe Manchin torpedoed it. That is why they want to pass voting rights legislation.

The State of the Union is March first. They were hoping President Joe Biden could present some sort of victory around that time. So this is a major priority. But, of course, the 2022 midterms are coming up and they want to prove to voters they can do something -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Daniella, nice to see you. Thank you.

JARRETT: All right, let's dig in on all of this with three questions in three minutes. Let's bring in the co-founder of Punchbowl News, John Bresnahan. John, so nice to have you on EARLY START this morning.

ROMANS: Good morning.

JARRETT: Let's start with this blistering speech -- I think one of probably the most combative, aggressive tones we've heard from this president to date on this issue, at least so far, essentially shaming Republicans, saying you either want to be John Lewis or Bull Connor.

What's the end game, though, if he can't get these bills through? If he can't get filibuster reform done because Joe Manchin's not on board, Kyrsten Sinema's not on board, what's the end game? Just have more energy going into the midterms?

JOHN BRESNAHAN, CO-FOUNDER, PUNCHBOWL NEWS (via Skype): I think that was an extraordinary speech, as you said. The statements by the president were really, for him -- for Biden, they were particularly rough. He doesn't -- you know, this is not a president who talks like that -- not like the defeated former president, as you mentioned again.

So, yes, I think that they don't have the votes to pass either Build Back Better or voting rights, or filibuster -- any kind of change to the filibuster at this point. So I'm not sure of the end game strategy here. I'm not sure where they're going but they clearly -- the president has to be more energized.

There's 26 House retirements for -- 26 House Democrats have already announced their retirement and less than a dozen Republicans. The House majority is in big trouble and the Senate majority hangs on any seat. So, you know, they need an energized president pretty badly.

ROMANS: Yes. The backdrop here is an exhausted nation with Omicron spreading like wildfire, literally, and hospitals full of unvaccinated people stressing the healthcare system.

And the former president, Donald Trump, spoke to a right-wing media outlet yesterday and he was asked about the vaccine developed on his watch -- listen.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've taken it. I've had the booster. Many politicians -- I watched a couple of politicians being interviewed and one of the questions was did you get the booster, because they had the vaccine? And they all -- they're answering it like -- in other words, the answer is yes but they don't want to say it because they're gutless. You've got to say it. Whether you had it or not, say it.


ROMANS: They're gutless.


You know, at the time, the president did not publicly reveal when he got his vaccine. But John, this is I think the third time in recent weeks I've heard him publicly say -- endorse the booster or say he got the booster -- one time to boos.

What's the strategy here from the former president?

BRESNAHAN: You know, it's fascinating to watch because, of course, it's all about him because it's always about Trump.

You know, it's -- we think it's about DeSantis, part of it -- Florida Gov. DeSantis, who won't say whether he has gotten boosted or not and won't talk about his vaccines -- that he's been vaccinated and he just won't say what it is.

And it's clearly -- DeSantis, to a lot of Republicans, is a viable option if Trump doesn't run. You know, here's a guy who became governor because Trump helped support him. He helped set a more -- he helped set a more well-known candidate in Florida and became governor. And he governs like a Trump Republican.

So, you know, this is to a lot Republicans -- DeSantis is somebody they look at. But DeSantis won't talk about it. So we think this is all about Trump trying to position himself against DeSantis. But again, it's all about Donald Trump.

JARRETT: So, John, as Christine mentioned, we've got record hospitalizations right now.


JARRETT: The top officials in the country are on Capitol Hill trying to defend this administration's response to the pandemic.

The Republicans use that time to attack Dr. Anthony Fauci about his financial disclosures. He pushed back. One moment gets caught on a hot mic, of course. Listen to this.


SEN. ROGER MARSHALL (R-KS): You see things before members of Congress would see them --

FAUCI: What?

MARSHALL: -- so that there's an air of appearance that maybe some shenanigans are going on. You know, I don't think that's -- I assume that that's not the case. I assume it's not the case.

FAUCI: Senator, what are you talking about? My financial disclosures are public knowledge and have been so. You are getting amazingly wrong information.


FAUCI: What are you talking about?

MARSHALL: -- I cannot find them. Our office cannot find them. Where would they be if they're public knowledge?



FAUCI: It is totally accessible to you if you want it.

MARSHALL: For the public -- is it accessible to the public?

FAUCI: To the public. To the public.

MARSHALL: OK, great. We look forward to reviewing it.

FAUCI: You are totally incorrect.

MARSHALL: Well, we look forward --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator Marshall --

MARSHALL: -- to reviewing it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator Marshall, Dr. Fauci has answered you. It is public information and he's happy to give it to you if you would ask.

FAUCI: What a moron. Jesus Christ.


JARRETT: So he's obviously frustrated, right? He's been under relentless attacks for what, two years now? Maybe not quite. There was sort of a turning point.

But look, you can see his financial disclosure right there. You can get them via Freedom of Information Act. This is -- this is a spectacle, right? This is a performance art for folks.

But it's coming at a time where this country is at a breaking point in hospitals and there is a crisis of trust and faith in our public health officials.

BRESNAHAN: Yes, and a lot of Republicans, Rand Paul and others, have made Fauci the problem when Fauci is not the problem. I mean, Fauci talked in this hearing -- an extraordinary hearing about the death threats he's received over the last couple of years. And, you know, he lives here in D.C. You can see -- I've seen Fauci out in the street with security. He's had enormous security because of just this issue.

You know, they don't like -- there are a number of people who don't like Fauci's guidance on masks and vaccines and everything, but they -- instead of blaming -- you know, you can't blame a pandemic. You can't blame a disease, so they blame Fauci and they blame the government for their inability to understand what's going on.

So, again, this is -- this is just -- exchanges between Rand Paul and Fauci -- and it's been going on for a couple of years now. I've been covering the Hill for almost 30 years. I've never seen anything -- the personal vitriol between a senator and a witness. It's just extraordinary.

ROMANS: Well, Laura said performance art. I mean, when do you talk about Sen. Paul unless he is doing something outrageous about Sen. Fauci (sic). I mean, to me, it's -- you know, it's publicity. I don't -- I don't know. It doesn't seem like it's policymaking. It seems like it's trying to find publicity. I don't know.

John Bresnahan -- I haven't seen anything like it either, to be honest -- Punchbowl News co-founder. Really nice to see you today. Thank you, sir.

JARRETT: Thanks, John.

ROMANS: All right, to China now, where there is a zero-tolerance policy for COVID. As coronavirus cases rise across China, major manufacturers are shutting factories, ports are clogging up, and workers are in short supply. Chinese officials are locking down cities and launching mass testing on the widest scale in nearly two years, leading to disruptions in the world's second-largest economy, and that's rippling around the globe.

Samsung, Volkswagen, and a textile maker that supplies Nike and Adidas are suffering production issues. All of this over a few dozen virus cases.

The U.S., by the way, averages almost 800,000 cases a day.

Meanwhile, officials in several Chinese cities are taking measures to counter these outbreaks. They're rolling out a second round of mass testing on the 14 million residents in the eastern port of Tianjin.


The outbreak is particularly worrying to Beijing officials where the Winter Olympics begin February fourth. Tianjin, just 80 miles away. All bus and train service from Tianjin to Beijing has been suspended.

We'll be right back.


ROMANS: All right, time for a check on CNN Business this Wednesday morning.

Let's look at markets around the world. Asian shares have closed higher. Good gains there across the board. And Europe has opened up as well.

On Wall Street, muted gains for stock index futures. After a higher day Tuesday, the Nasdaq rose 1.4 percent in a tech stock rebound.

Stocks have had, overall, a rocky start to 2022, adjusting to a new era of rising interest rates after years of easy money. That hurts high-growth stocks, like tech, particularly hard. This morning, we're bracing for a key inflation report, folks --

December's Consumer Price Index. The annual rate -- it's expected to hit seven percent. That would be the fastest inflation -- the hottest inflation since February 1982.


More than 80 fact-checking organizations are calling out YouTube for its insufficient response to misinformation. In a letter to YouTube's CEO, the organizations lay out a series of recommendations to help YouTube provide more context and debunking while reducing the ability for spreaders of misinformation to make money on their bad content. YouTube claims it collaborates with hundreds of publishers to steer users in several countries to fact-checked content.

Bank of America, the latest financial institution to announce it is slashing fees for insufficient funds. Starting in May, no more fees for bounced checks, and overdraft fees will be cut from 35 bucks to 10.

Capital One recently announced it would stop penalizing clients for taking out more cash or writing checks for more money than they have in their own account.

Overdraft fees have been a lucrative but controversial source of revenue for banks. Regulators say the nation's poorest often wind up paying the most.

JARRETT: Well, authorities in Kazakhstan, extending their crackdown on thousands of protesters, are increasingly regaining control following a week of violence.

CNN's Fred Pleitgen is on the ground for us live in Kazakhstan. Fred, thanks for the hustle. I know you scrambled to get up for us. What more can you tell us?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we certainly did. And we actually landed in Kazakhstan just, say, about two hours ago and obviously, we went live as fast as we could.

And actually, the situation here on the ground certainly is very calm. There's actually not that much in the way of security forces that you would see on the street.

However, I did just manage to speak to a senior Kazakhstani official and he told me, of course, this country is still very much reeling from the protests here -- that unfolded here. He also says that the Kazakhstani government certainly says that they learned some valuable lessons in the fact that these protests took place in the first place and, of course, also the way that things went down as well. They do say they understand that they are in need of reforms here in this country.

But at the same time, you're absolutely right. Of course, that crackdown also continues as well here in this country. The latest numbers that we have from the government are that almost 10,000 people have been detained.

However, also today, the president of the country actually went to the hardest-hit city, which is the city of Almaty -- more than 100 people, of course, killed in that city -- to survey the damage there. And obviously, that city is going to take a very, very long time to get back on its feet.

But again, the authorities say they understand what's ahead of them. At the same time, they do have a big investigation going on and, of course, also say they are still hunting those who they say are behind the protests, guys.

JARRETT: All right, Fred. Thanks for the reporting, as usual.

Let's get a little sports now. The New York Giants have reached a verdict on the future of head coach Joe Judge. Coy Wire has it all covered in this morning's Bleacher Report. Hey, Coy.


There are now seven of the 32 NFL teams that don't have a head coach.

And the Giants deciding to part ways with head coach Joe Judge yesterday after two consecutive losing seasons. Judge leaves New York with a 10-23 record and no playoff appearances.

The firing comes just one day after the retirement of general manager Dave Gettleman. And team president John Mara says that he plans to find a new G.M. before a new head coach.

Judge is the fifth NFL head coach to be fired since Sunday.

Let's go to the NBA where a red-hot Ja Morant, in Memphis, faced Golden State with Steph Curry's 'Splash Brother' Klay Thompson in his second game back. Still no Draymond Green and that hurt them because Morant keeps making his case for the most exciting player in the league.

Steph and Klay combined for 19 in the first half. Morant had 18. He leads his Grizzlies to the league-best win of 10 in a row. That's a franchise record. Morant finished with 29.

And Memphis now has 29 wins, one less than Golden State, sitting at fourth in the Western Conference.

Finally, American skier Mikaela Shiffrin heading to the Beijing Olympics as one of the greatest slalom races ever. Yesterday, she won a record-breaking 47th World Cup slalom title. She rallied from fifth place and nearly half a second behind after the first leg to come out on top by 0.15 of a second.

Shiffrin was visibly emotional afterwards, crying. She recently tested positive for COVID. She hugged her competitors, though, showing that respect. She says she hopes to race all five individual events at the Olympics for the first time.

The Beijing games set to begin February fourth and it's going to be a lot of that -- a lot of emotion and hard work coming to fruition.

ROMANS: Absolutely.

JARRETT: You've got to love a comeback.

WIRE: Yes.

JARRETT: All right, Coy.

ROMANS: Nice to see you, Coy.

WIRE: Good to see you.

JARRETT: Thanks.

ROMANS: All right, thanks for joining us for this Wednesday edition of EARLY START. Have a great rest of your day. I'm Christine Romans.

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



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm John Berman with chief White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins. Brianna is off today.

On this new day, a frightening scene as a man storms the cockpit just moments before takeoff.

Tennis star Novak Djokovic now admitting lies in his papers and that he broke COVID protocols after testing positive. The swirling controversy growing this morning.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: Meanwhile, President Biden is calling out Congress for not passing voting rights legislation, but do critics from his side of the aisle think that the public shaming is enough?

And this reporter who has been waiting to talk to Donald Trump for six years. Why the former president finally answered the call and ended up hanging up on him.

BERMAN: Good morning to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. It is Wednesday, January 12th.

And breaking overnight, a cockpit breach just before takeoff. A stunning case of a passenger behaving badly -- very badly. The latest incident took place on an American Airlines flight in Honduras while passengers were boarding for a trip to Miami. A man stormed the cockpit, caused damage to the aircraft --