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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Minority Leader McCarthy Now Won't Cooperate with January 6 Probe; Australia's Number One Seed Awaits Visa Decision; Biden Admin Under Pressure as Inflation Reaches 39-Year High; Representatives from Russia & Ukraine Meet This Morning. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired January 13, 2022 - 05:00   ET



LAURA JARRETT, CNN HOST: Good morning, everyone. It is Thursday, January 13th. 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: Good morning, Laura. Good morning, everyone.

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

We begin this morning with House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy refusing to tell his colleagues what he knows about January 6th. The House committee investigated the Capitol riot, ramped up the pressure on McCarthy Wednesday asking him to sit down for a voluntary interview. Given the shouting match he had with the former president at the Capitol when it was under siege, the committee says McCarthy is a material witness who can speak to Trump's mindset, not only during the insurrection, but in the weeks that followed as he pushed false claims that the election was stolen.

JARRETT: Now, McCarthy says he will not cooperate despite saying that he has nothing to hide.

The GOP Congresswoman Liz Cheney, the committee's vice chairwoman, will not rule out sending McCarthy, her colleague, a subpoena.


REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): We know that Leader McCarthy was pleading with the president to tell people to go home when police officers and others were being beaten here at the Capitol. So, you know, I wish that he were a brave and honorable man. He's clearly trying to cover up what happened. He has an obligation to come forward, and we'll get to the truth.


JARRETT: He's clearly trying to cover up what happened.

CNN's John Harwood starts us off this morning in Washington.


JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: There is a major development overnight in the Select House Committee investigating the January 6 Capitol insurrection. The committee requested voluntarily the testimony of House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, who spoke to then-President Donald Trump during the January 6 insurrection. So he clearly has relevant information to provide.

McCarthy refused, said tonight that the committee was engaged in an abuse of power. Said he would not voluntarily comply. This is not surprising, the reversal. Kevin McCarthy said a few months ago he would be willing to testify. Now he says he won't.

Of course, in the aftermath of the insurrection, he condemned Donald Trump's actions on January 6th. He has since turned tail after going down and visiting Mar-a-Lago and making common cause with President Trump whose support he needs to become house speaker if Republicans win the House in November.

REP. PETE AGUILAR (D-CA): This is someone who clearly has information. He talked to the White House and to the president leading up to January 6 on their efforts to overturn the election results. He talked with the president by public reporting on January 6th. And he was concerned about the safety of the capitol after January 6th. All of those are key bits of information that we feel are important.

HARWOOD: But the question now is whether the committee will be able to compel his testimony with a subpoena. Challenge, of course is that that will take an extended legal battle that requires months. And there's only a few months left for this committee to engage in its investigation before we have the elections in November, which could, of course, result in Republicans taking over and the select committee being shutdown.

So, some drama, Kevin McCarthy said he's not going to cooperate and the question now is whether there is any way of making him do so -- Laura and Christine.


JARRETT: John Harwood, thank you for your reporting.

It's time for three questions in three minutes. So, let's bring in Michael Zeldin, former federal prosecutor and host of the podcast "That Said with Michael Zeldin".

Michael, good morning.


JARRETT: Let's start with what McCarthy knows. It seems he knows quite a bit. On the day of the insurrection, listen to what he told CBS.


NORAH O'DONNELL, CBS NEWS ANCHOR: You said you spoke with the president. What did the president say he would do?

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): He had put a tweet out there. I told him, you need to talk with the nation. I was very clear with the president when I called him. This has to stop and he's got to go to the American public and tell them to stop this.


JARRETT: Now, he says he was clear with the former president. That's the sanitized version of the story because we know from our own reporting and from others at the time, they had a shouting match. They were screaming at each other.

How does McCarthy possibly get out of telling the committee what he knows about all this?

ZELDIN: Well, he shouldn't be allowed to get out of it. His notion that the committee is not engaged in legitimate activity, that it is not legislative in its purpose or there is some executive privilege all are meritless. And the committee should require him to come in and give his testimony. He, a person who wants to become speaker of the House, should feel ashamed of the way he's behaving.


JARRETT: You mentioned privilege there. Just quickly, Michael, there is no executive privilege here. The whole point of executive privilege is to prevent executive officials with the ability to have frank conversations, a conversation between the president at the time and a member of Congress shouldn't be protected, right?

ZELDIN: Correct. This was not a privileged conversation. And his notion that it could be in any way is just fallacious.

ROMANS: Michael, in the past McCarthy has indicated he would be more than willing to cooperate with an investigation. Now that he's saying he won't, how should the committee proceed?

ZELDIN: Well, I think they should speak to him and his counsel and encourage him to come in again. If he still stonewalls the committee, the committee has to consider subpoenaing him to appear. I just don't think you can let him or anybody else get away with it, especially someone who is as pivotal as he is to the story line that the committee is trying to investigate.

JARRETT: Pivotal to the story line. And as you mentioned, someone who could become the leader of the House if Republicans take back the House in November. The American people have a right to know what happened here heading into those midterms.

Also want to ask you about some disturbing reporting that CNN has learned about Trump allies who went as far as sending fake election certificates to the National Archives. It's this whole idea of the rogue electors, which is one of the doomsday scenarios John Eastman laid out in the memo. These are people claiming Trump won seven states that he lost. Some of these came from top officials in each state. Is this an avenue you think is worth the committee looking into? We

understand it's something that's piqued their interest.

ZELDIN: Well, the committee should look into it, but so should attorneys general, district attorneys and the U.S. Department of Justice. The notion that you're submitting a false affidavit to the government, to the National Archives has to be investigated. It should be investigated by all of those parties, because you cannot let this big lie be continuously perpetuated by anybody because it undermines the fabric of our democracy and the committee has to take legislative action in response to what happened on January 6. This is part of that story.

ROMANS: Michael Zeldin, so nice to see you this morning. Thank you so much for your time bright and early. Thanks.

ZELDIN: Thank you.

ROMANS: The secretary of state for Michigan, one of the states where that happened, is going to join "NEW DAY" later this morning.

All right. Speaking of subverting the election, the nationwide effort to undermine local elections officials is driving big money into secretary of state races this year. A new study by the Brennan Center shows secretary of state incumbents running in Georgia, Michigan and Minnesota have been more than doubling their fund-raising compared to the 2018 and 2014 midterms.

Georgia's Brad Raffensperger who resisted Trump's calls to, quote, unquote, find votes for him. He has quadrupled his fund-raising over 2018 which puts him second to Trump-backed Jody Hice.

JARRETT: Yeah, the report says that all six of the battleground states with Secretary of State elections this year had at least one candidate questioning or denying President Biden's win in 2020. The Brennan Center says at least 163 Republicans who have embraced Trump's big lie are running for statewide positions administering elections.

ROMANS: All right. He is in. At least for know. Novak Djokovic is officially the number one seed in the Australian Open men's singles draw, but he's still waiting for immigration officials to decide whether he can stay in that country. The drama continues here.

CNN's Paula Hancocks joins us live from Melbourne.

Paula, do we have any sense of when the immigration minister will reach a decision? And what's taken so long here?

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine, the assumption was he may say something today. That hasn't happened. So it's 9:00 p.m. here now. It's likely to be tomorrow at the earliest.

But, of course, the Australian Open starts on Monday, so in some ways he's running out of time to decide that he does want to personally intervene and revoke the visa of Novak Djokovic. Now, we know that Novak, when he actually admitted to lying on the declaration form and admitted to going to an interview when he knew he was positive with COVID, also gave a number of documents to the officials as well. So presumably they're going through there. That might be slowing things down.

Now, we heard from Prime Minister Scott Morrison today. He was asked obviously about Djokovic. So, most people here can talk about it at this point. But he was talking about how having a visa approved is different to being allowed into the country and having your vaccination situation approved because that has been one of the arguments that Djokovic has made.

But he did say the policy has not changed. You have to be fully vaccinated or you have to have a watertight medical exemption. And he expects the government to uphold that policy. It's his immigration minister Alex Hawk who is going to make the ultimate decision.

And also when it comes to the Australian Open, Tennis Australia has now announced the number of tickets will be capped at 50 percent.


The COVID situation is getting worse in Australia. Numbers are starting to rise, so they're trying to cap the number of people going into the stadium to 50 percent -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right, Paula, thank you so much for that. Keep us posted when we hear anything from the immigration minister.

All right. Sticker shock. Americans paying more, a lot more, what the White House says about the hottest inflation in nearly 40 years.


ROMANS: All right. Sticker shock, pandemic prices soaring at the end of 2021. A key inflation measure hitting a new 39-year high.


Consumer prices in December rose 7 percent from the year before, the fastest annual pace since 1982, the first term of Ronald Reagan.

From November to December, they rose 0.5 percent. That's the slowest growth in months, so people looking for a peak were happy to see that number. That's because energy costs fell for the first time since April.

But everywhere you look, higher prices, higher housing costs, more expensive used cars and trucks, those were the biggest drivers of last month's jump in price. Food costs also up, price rose nearly all major categories for grocery categories.

Stripping out volatile food and energy, core inflation rose 5.5 percent annually. That's the biggest jump since 1991. But even if these prices are red hot, real important here, they're still nowhere near the historic highs of the 1980s. Inflation peaked in the spring of 1980, double here at 14.8 percent. JARRETT: So the big question I know everyone always asks you,

Christine, when will this get better. White House official tells CNN there is no crystal ball for when exactly inflation will peak. The Biden administration says it's trying to keep prices under control, but the uncertainty could mean trouble politically as Americans feel the strain in everyday life.

CNN's Phil Mattingly is at the White House with more on this.


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine and Laura, for President Biden's top economic advisers, there were no surprises in the Labor Department report that made clear inflation is still very high, near four decade highs at this point. It was expected they were ready for it. But it doesn't lessen in any way, shape or form the degree of the impact right now, both on the political side of things, but also on the policy side of things.

The politics are very clear. The American approval of President Biden's economic numbers the course of the last several months has dropped dramatically and White House officials are keenly aware of that. Whether they believe inflation is here to stay or whether they believe the people are focused on the wrong elements of what has been a robust economic recovery doesn't matter if the American people aren't feeling it.

But it has been a robust economic recovery coming out of the pandemic, something the officials continue to highlight, like the president's top adviser, Brian Deese.

BRIAN DEESE, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: I think for typical people working thinking about their household budgets, for many of them, they've never seen a labor market that offers as many job opportunities as they have right now. For people in the bottom 40 percent of the income distribution, wages are up at historic levels, which creates new opportunities.

MATTINGLY: Now, White House officials make clear, they believe this lines up with where economists are, that inflation will decelerate over the next several months, over the next couple quarters. But that doesn't help them on another area that is extraordinarily important. The president's agenda, the reason his $1.75 trillion dollar Build Back Better has not advanced in the U.S. Senate is most entirely, you know, one senator, Senator Joe Manchin, whose primary concern is inflation.

Obviously, the report on Wednesday didn't help those concerns. If that cornerstone proposal doesn't move through, Democrats will certainly lose the one thing that a lot of Democrats heading into the midterm elections in November wanted to point to as results, as rationale to bring them back to Washington.

So, as long as COVID is out there, so long as prices are still high, the president's numbers as reflected by his approval numbers the course of the last several months are going to be hurting -- Christine and Laura.

ROMANS: All right. Great stuff. Phil Mattingly, thank you so much for that.

All right. Is the pandemic-partying British prime minister running out of time? Growing calls to resign after his apology for breaking COVID protocols.



JARRETT: Welcome back.

Russia and Ukraine are face to face today. Representatives from both countries meeting the middle of this months' long Russian troop buildup along the border there, threatening security in Europe overall.

CNN's Nic Robertson joins me live from Brussels this morning.

Nic, what more can you tell us? What are you watching for today?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yeah, this is the first time Russia and Ukraine will be around the same table. It's a big table at the OSCE, 57 different nations. Geographically, they cover Vancouver to Vladivostok. The chairman of those talks, the polish foreign minister said the risk of war in this region is at its greatest in 30 years.

We heard yesterday at NATO, we heard Monday, in Geneva as well, the Russians refusing to compromise on their position about wanting to ban Ukraine from joining NATO and wanting NATO to pull back to 1997 lines. I asked the NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, where was the compromise of Putin in this.


ROBERTSON: Given President Putin's avowed view, his longevity and power to come, where is the compromise when he demands to talk about NATO and Ukraine and membership and NATO pulling back forces to the East?

JENS STOLTENBERG, NATO SECRETARY GENERAL: NATO allies made it clear in which case we are ready to sit down and discuss, make compromises, talk to the Russians on arms control. But also made very clear we are not willing to compromise, for instance, on every nation to decide.

ROBERTSON: Right now, the ball is firmly in the Kremlin's court now?

STOLTENBERG: Yes, we are waiting for the answer to our proposal to convene the meeting addressing a wide range and important issues for European security.



ROBERTSON: Well, shortly after that interview, I met with the deputy foreign minister for Russia, Alexander Gushkov. His view when I said the ball is in the Kremlin's court, he said no, it's not, it's in NATO's court. It's down to them to make the next moves.

JARRETT: Nic Robertson, thank you so much.

ROMANS: Okay, 25 minutes past the hour this Thursday morning. You know her face, but do you know her whole story? A new CNN original "Reframed: Marilyn Monroe" premieres Sunday at 9:00 p.m.