Return to Transcripts main page

Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Democrats Seek New Strategy To Push Voting Rights Bill; U.K. Prime Minister Apologizes For Attending 10 Downing Street Party Amid Lockdown; Djokovic Draws Number One Seed In Australian Open Amid Visa Drama. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired January 13, 2022 - 05:30   ET




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

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Laura Jarrett. It's about 29 minutes -- 30 minutes, I should say, pas the hour here in New York. It's time for our top stories to keep an eye on today.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy says he will not cooperate with the House Select Committee investigating the January sixth riot, calling the probe an abuse of power. The committee has asked McCarthy to come in for a voluntary interview and provide details about former President Trump's state of mind during the Capitol attack and in the weeks that followed.

ROMANS: Will he play? Novak Djokovic now the official number one seed in the Australian Open men's singles draw, but he's still awaiting a decision from immigration officials on whether he can stay in the country. The investigation into his vaccination status and inconsistencies in his paperwork has gone on for days.

JARRETT: Biden administration officials will meet with tech companies like Apple and Google today over national security concerns involving their software. A critical vulnerability emerged last month that could have exposed hundreds of millions of devices worldwide.

ROMANS: The armorer on the film "Rust" is suing the weapons and ammunition supplier for negligence in the fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins. Hannah Gutierrez Reed blames Seth Kenney and his company for supplying live bullets mixed in among dummy and blank rounds.

JARRETT: Uncle Sam wants you and he's willing to pay. The U.S. Army is increasing the bonus that highly-skilled enlisted soldiers receive up to $50,000. That's up from the previous maximum of $40,000. Soldiers will need to enlist for six years in order to qualify.



ROMANS: Sixties pop icon Ronnie Spector has died. She was the lead singer of The Ronettes, best known for her sky-high beehive hairdo and hits like "Be My Baby." Her family says she died after a brief battle with cancer. Ronnie Spector was 78.

JARRETT: Well, President Biden is sending a wave of military medical teams to help six states with hospitals that are overwhelmed right now with COVID patients. The teams will be surged to the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio, Coney Island Hospital in Brooklyn, Rhode Island Hospital in Providence, Henry Ford Hospital outside Detroit, University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque, and University Hospital in Newark.

They will be triaging patients, helping to decompress overwhelmed emergency departments, and freeing up healthcare providers for other lifesaving care.

ROMANS: New this morning, West Virginia's Gov. Jim Justice is, quote, "not doing well." That's how his chief of staff describes the governor's condition after Justice tested positive for COVID on Tuesday and started receiving treatment at home. Brian Abraham told the West Virginia "Gazette-Mail" the governor is trying to put up a strong front but the disease is affecting him.

JARRETT: Well, there is a small glimmer of light at the end of this Omicron tunnel. The average number of cases looks like it may be starting to plateau, holding steady for the first time in about a month. But the number of Americans dying of COVID still creeping up now. It's almost 1,700 each day. But the CDC director thinks those deaths may not be primarily from Omicron.


DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: I believe right now that those deaths are still the lagging deaths from Omicron. We saw -- I'm sorry, from Delta. The lagging deaths from the Delta wave. We have seen, as you noted, that death rates are down from Omicron of about 91 percent. And we will need to follow those deaths over the next couple of weeks to see the impact of Omicron on mortality.


ROMANS: The number of critically ill patients just keeps climbing as ICUs fill with unvaccinated COVID patients. Kentucky, Alabama, Indiana, and New Hampshire have less than 10 percent of beds remaining.

In Mississippi, the state is requiring medical centers to transfer some critical patients to prevent overburdening any hospital. Utah hospitals also filling with COVID patients. The University of Utah briefly turning ambulances away last week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRACEY NIXON, CHIEF NURSING OFFICER, UNIVERSITY OF UTAH HEALTH: In this moment in time, I'm already dramatically understaffed. And now with the increase in staff out due to COVID-related reasons, I am unable to care for the patients that we need to. I had three nurses leave because they can't do this again. They feel like we're going backwards.


JARRETT: In Minnesota, the state is waiving regulations that normally restrict hospitals and nursing homes that want to add beds. Health officials say the public can help as well, of course, by doing their part and getting vaccinated.


DR. BENJI MATTHEWS, CHIEF OF HOSPITAL MEDICINE, REGIONS HOSPITAL, ST. PAUL: We're going through this and our empathy is taking a hard hit. We will fight and take care of every patient that comes through our walls.


Imagine a 50-car pileup on the interstate and the roads are really icy. And car number 51 is coming in, all right, and that car that's coming in -- they've been warned the roads are icy, it's slippery, but why are they going into that?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm deeply concerned about schools over the next two weeks. I'm deeply concerned because of staff outage on this.


JARRETT: Minnesota public schools temporarily moving to online learning from tomorrow through January 27th in response to significant staffing problems there.

ROMANS: California also temporarily changing rules making it easier to hire substitutes to deal with the teacher shortages driven by this latest surge.


LYNN MACKEY, SUPERINTENDENT, CONTRA COSTA COUNTY SCHOOL: This will allow us to extend the amount of time people could stay in a classroom and sub, and it will allow some flexibility in getting people into those jobs quicker. So, it -- and it will allow for retirees to be able to sub longer.


ROMANS: Oklahoma City public schools and Indianapolis middle and high schools also shifting online for the rest of this week.

JARRETT: In Quebec, first-time COVID vaccination appointments have spiked after an announcement that anyone who was unvaxed would be fined. The province says 90 percent of residents have had the first shot but those who haven't -- they're still a burden on the public health system. The fine -- which has not been specified, by the way -- does not apply to those who are medically exempt.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says Canada is considering extending the rule to the rest of the country.

ROMANS: All right, the pandemic widening the wealth gap in the divide between rich and poor countries may grow for the next decade. That's according to the World Bank. The gap had been narrowing over the 20 years or so but the World Bank report predicts increased human suffering and instability because poor countries have less ability to obtain and distribute vaccines quickly and they tend to have limited access to debt markets to cushion the economic pain.

And inflation could be more of a problem for rich countries. Higher food prices are more of an annoyance. For poor countries, they can cause mass starvation.

JARRETT: To Capitol Hill now and the fight for voting rights. President Biden will meet with Senate Democrats over lunch today as they try to plot a path for how to overcome the GOP filibuster on this.

Former President Obama also now throwing his weight behind President Biden's efforts.

CNN's Daniella Diaz joins us live from Capitol Hill this morning. Daniella, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is expected to lay out what happens next in this uphill battle and he may have found a bit of a loophole. Tell us more.


Now, bear with me. For the Senate and the House to vote on any sort of bill, there's a lot of procedures that go before -- or happen before they're able to vote on these bills.

So I'm going to get a little bit in the weeds with basically the way this is going to work is the House is going to take up, probably as soon as today, an amendment on a bill that has nothing to do with voting rights legislation. It actually is related to NASA leasing underutilized property to private groups. And they're referring to this as -- Democrats are referring to this as a quote "shell bill." That's how this is going to work.

Once the House votes on this, it will strip that legislation of its existing language and then replace it with the text for the Freedom to Vote act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act -- these voting rights legislation -- the bills we keep talking about. Then the House would then pass the bill and send it to the Senate as a, quote, "message."

This essentially allows Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to put it on the floor for debate without any Republicans being able to block the debate on this legislation, which is what's been happening every time Democratic leaders want to debate this bill on the Senate floor.

This is, essentially, very similar to what Democratic leaders did last December when they wanted to raise the debt ceiling. They followed a very similar procedure to vote and raise the debt ceiling to avoid defaulting on the nation's debt, so that is what's happening here.

Now, you mentioned, Laura, former President Barack Obama's op-ed in "USA Today." I want to read a little bit about what he said because it really shows were Democratic leaders are right now with voting rights legislation.

He wrote, quote, "Protecting our democracy wasn't always a partisan issue. But even if Senate Republicans now refuse to stand up for our democracy, Democrats should be able to get the job done with a simple majority vote. No single piece of legislation can guarantee that we'll make progress on every challenge we face as a nation. But legislation that ensures the right to vote and makes sure every vote is properly counted will give us a better chance of meeting those challenges."

But really, the problem here -- the bigger picture here, Laura, that I really want to emphasize is that even if the Senate ends up debating voting rights legislation on the floor, there's still this problem of the 60-vote threshold to break the filibuster. And what Democrats want to do is have a filibuster carveout, which means they could pass it, as former President Barack Obama just wrote in his op-ed, with a simple majority 51 votes -- not 60 needed -- because no Republicans support this legislation.


But the problem here is Sen. Kyrsten Sinema and Sen. Joe Manchin do not support a filibuster carveout. Even though they've been meeting -- having countless meetings with their Democratic colleagues behind closed doors, they have not come around to that, Laura.

So that is really the biggest problem here because even if they debate it, what happens next if they don't support that filibuster carveout, Laura?

JARRETT: Daniella, do we know -- just quickly, do we know if Sen. Manchin or Sen. Sinema will be at that luncheon today with the president?

DIAZ: I assume yes because it is a luncheon with all Democratic senators. But, you know, there are some times that some senators don't show up. But I imagine when the president comes to the Hill everyone makes an effort to see him -- Laura.

JARRETT: Yes. It seems like today is the day to show up.

Daniella, thank you.

We'll be right back.


ROMANS: An apology from Boris Johnson, but is it enough?


BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: Mr. Speaker, I want to apologize. And I know the rage they feel with me and with the government I lead when they think that in Downing Street, itself, the rules are not being properly followed by the people who make the rules. And though I cannot anticipate the conclusions of the current inquiry, I have learned enough to know that there were things we simply did not get right.


When I went into that garden just after six on the 20th of May, 2020 to thank groups of staff before going back into my office 25 minutes later to continue working, I believe implicitly that this was a work event.


ROMANS: Calls grow for the British prime minister to resign. That apology, for attending a 'bring your own bottle party' at 10 Downing Street -- a party while his countrymen and women were in strict lockdown.

Salma Abdelaziz is in London with the very latest. How is that apology going over here?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER: Christine, finally -- finally, after weeks of reports of Christmas parties and garden parties, and 'bring you own booze' parties all taking place in 2020 in the height of the pandemic in this country -- finally, an apology from the prime minister. But it's a kind of/sort of sorry.

He did say he apologized for the way the public saw this, but at no point did he actually admit guilt. Did he actually say that any COVID rules were broken? He kicked the can down the road and said all of that will be determined by an inquiry. And that's why the opposition called him out immediately. Take a listen.


KEIR STARMER, LABOUR LEADER: After months of deceit and deception, the pathetic spectacle of a man who has run out of road. His defense -- his defense that he didn't realize he was at a party is so ridiculous that it's actually offensive to the British public.

KARL TURNER, MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT: He's not apologized, Mr. Speaker, for breaking the rules and breaking the law; he's sorry because he's been caught. When my constituents were making unimaginable decisions, he was hosting a boozy party in Downing Street. So how does he think he can still maintain the one rule for him and another for the rest of us? He cannot and must resign.

JOHNSON: Mr. Speaker, I refer to the answer I gave earlier.


ABDELAZIZ: That line right there in Parliament of he didn't know if he was at a party or work, that's become fodder for memes today across this country. Just log onto social media.

But still, it's not the apology his critics wanted. It is a massive about-face -- a huge U-turn for a prime minister who had, so far, denied, denied, denied. And it begins to tell us how much Prime Minister Boris Johnson feels that he is backed into a corner.

Two implications here we need to watch. Politically, can he survive this? Can he hold the support of his own party -- already cracks there? Already, members of his party calling for his resignation.

And then politically, publicly, how does he win back hearts and minds? He now has the lowest approval rating since he took office. This really might be too little, too late.

ROMANS: All right, Salma. Thank you for following it for us. Fascinating there -- thanks.

All right. The wife of beloved actor and comedian Bob Saget breaking her silence as she mourns his death. Kelly Rizzo releasing a statement saying, "My whole heart. Bob was my absolute everything. I am so completely shattered and in disbelief.

I am so deeply touched by the outpouring of love and tribute from our friends, family, his fans, and his peers. When the time is right and when this news is not as raw, I look forward to sharing more of Bob with the world.

JARRETT: Saget was found dead in his Orlando hotel room Sunday just hours after performing a two-hour stand-up routine. A source says that Saget did contract coronavirus last month but says any link of it to his death is completely speculative. Saget even joked about it, trying to bring some levity to the situation just days before he died.


BOB SAGET, ACTOR-COMEDIAN: It is not good. It does not feel good. I had it --


SAGET: -- and --


SAGET: I don't know if I had Delta or -- I might have had a combo. Maybe at one point they were working together. I don't know.


SAGET: I think at one point Omicron was opening for Delta, but then Omicron got so big Delta's opening now for Omicron.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, they switched your --


JARRETT: The medical examiner has said that there is no evidence of drug use or foul play in this case.

ROMANS: All right, let's get a check on CNN Business this Thursday morning. Looking at markets around the world, you can see Asian shares closed mixed here. Europe has also closed very -- opened, rather, very narrowly mixed. And stock index futures on Wall Street for the morning are pointing a little bit higher here.

Gains Wednesday for the three major U.S. stock averages, despite that key inflation measure, hitting the highest level in nearly four decades. That's right -- December's consumer prices up seven percent from the year before. That is the fastest since 1982.


But this was expected. This is why it didn't bother the stock market, right? This was largely in line with expectations. They knew it would be shockingly big. And investors are already anticipating higher interest rates this year to combat that inflation.

Investors get more inflation news today with December's Producer Price Index. That's prices at the factory level, Laura.

JARRETT: All right.

Novak Djokovic is now officially the number one seed in the Australian Open despite all the drama over his visa status.

Andy Scholes has more in this morning's Bleacher Report. So, Andy, I know you always want to win a competition, but can you imagine the pressure on the person who has to play against him?

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, he'll probably have a lot of people rooting for him. That's the good thing about going up against Novak Djokovic right now.

And Australian Open officials -- they held the draw earlier this morning despite questions over whether Djokovic is going to be allowed to stay in the country when the tournament begins on Monday. Now, Djokovic is officially listed as the tournament's number one seed. He's set to face off against fellow Serb Miomir Kecmanovic in the first round. The draw was delayed by nearly 90 minutes without explanation.

Australia's immigration minister still considering whether to deport the world's number-one player who is not vaccinated against COVID-19. Djokovic is seeing a men's record 21st Grand Slam title in the tournament.

All right, to the NBA. The two best teams in the Eastern Conference squaring off last night. The Bulls hosted the Nets. Kyrie Irving playing in this third game this season. He scored nine

points. This was just a two-point game at halftime but Kevin Durant and James Harden just taking this game over in the third quarter. They combined to score 52 points as the Nets would win in a blowout 138- 112.

All right, two years after announcing his retirement, six-time pro bowler Eric Weddle is coming back to help his old team during the playoffs. The Rams signing him to their practice squad yesterday to address their glaring need at safety. Leading tackler Jordan Fuller suffered a season-ending ankle injury, and fellow starter Taylor Rapp is in the concussion protocol.

Weddle turned 37 last week. He hasn't played in the NFL since 2019. The Rams host the Cardinals in the wildcard round on Monday night.

All right, and finally, the New York Yankees officially introducing the first woman to manage a team in the minor leagues. Rachel Balkovec will lead the Tampa Tarpons, the team's low Class-A affiliate, when the season begins in April. The 34-year-old is a former softball player and has been working in and around baseball for more than 10 years now.

And despite the progress being made, Balkovec is aware of how some have reacted to her barrier-breaking journey.


RACHEL BALKOVEC, MANAGER, TAMPA TARPONS: I don't understand the negativity. Like, if you know my story and you have a pulse, I think it's pretty hard not to get behind what's going on here. And I just -- you know, if you know yourself and you know where you came from, I just -- it doesn't really matter. So that's -- I just -- that's how I kind of deal with the negativity or anything that I hear coming my way. It's hilarious to me because it's -- you know, it's the American dream.


SCHOLES: Yes. Ten years ago when Balkovec was struggling to get a job in baseball, her sister actually suggested she change her name from Rachel to Ray on her resume. She did that and actually got some balls.


SCHOLES: But guys, she changed her name back to Rachel because she realized she didn't want to work for someone who didn't want to hire women. And Balkovec says great to see progress being made right now. Eleven women are going to be uniform working in baseball in some capacity.

JARRETT: She put it so well. Anyone with a pulse realizes this is a good thing and long overdue.

ROMANS: Yes, that's right.


ROMANS: What a great story.

SCHOLES: And congrats to her.

ROMANS: Yes, absolutely.

All right, thanks, Andy. Nice to see you.

SCHOLES: All right.

JARRETT: Thanks.

ROMANS: Like a plot from a film, a letter from an American G.I. is delivered to his family 76 years after it was mailed in Germany. Written by 22-year-old Army Sgt. John Gonsalves, dated December 1945, it was addressed to his mom and opened 76 years later by his wife, Angelina.


ANGELINA GONSALVES, RECEIVED LETTER FROM 76 YEARS AGO: I couldn't believe it. And then, just his handwriting and everything, you now. It was just so amazing.


ROMANS: Wow. Angelina and John didn't even know each other in 1945. They were married in 1953 and had five sons. John died in 2015.

The letter was found -- get this -- in a Pittsburgh post office and delivered just before the holidays.

JARRETT: From a beautiful love story, then to this. Christine, did you ever have a date that you thought would never end? Well, you cannot compete with this one.

A 30-year-old woman in China says she went to the home of a blind date because he wanted to show off his cooking skills. OK, but just as she was about to leave, the whole neighborhood was placed on one of China's snap coronavirus lockdowns.

Stuck at her date's home for days, the woman started posting videos of this surreal experience on social media, showing the guy cooking and cleaning -- all good things, Christine. But she says he was a little boring. He was a little inarticulate, to use her words. And it's unclear whether she's still at his house.


ROMANS: That is quite a blind date, I would say.

JARRETT: Can you imagine? I mean, I guess it gives you a sense of what the person is like when you're stuck inside with them during COVID lockdowns, but geez.

ROMANS: COVID is just every -- it's just everything, right? It's just broken everything -- even the first date.

All right --

JARRETT: Even dating.

ROMANS: -- thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

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