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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

White House Searches For A Biden Comeback Scenario; Former Aide Says Boris Johnson Knew About Booze Bash And Waived Concerns Aside; North Korea Conducts Fourth Missile Test Of 2022. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired January 18, 2022 - 05:30   ET




LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: Thirty-two minutes back here in New York.

In Paris, a new rule requiring masks in crowded outdoor locations is rolling out soon. Just last week a mask mandate for all outdoor areas in the city was struck down by the courts for being excessive.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: CNN has reporters covering the global pandemic live this morning from Hong Kong, India, Australia, and Paris where we begin with Melissa Bell.

MELISSA BELL, CNN PARIS CORRESPONDENT: Well, that earlier decision to have an outdoor mask mandate struck down as being disproportionate only last week. Now, French authorities coming back with a French one -- a fresh one for Paris, which will mean that if you're standing in a line anywhere where there's more than 10 people and outdoors -- a rally, a line to get on public transport, outside a mall -- anywhere where there's more than 10 people close by to you -- you're going to have to be wearing a mask even if you're outside.

Here's Kristie Lu Stout in Hong Kong.

Due to the severe COVID-19 situation, tickets for the upcoming Beijing Winter Olympics will not be sold to the general public. Instead, they're going to be distributed by authorities, and Olympic organizers did not specify how.

Now, this announcement comes after Beijing reported its first local case of the Omicron variant on Saturday. And in zero-COVID China, that means an entire office building with the workers still inside was sealed off and locked down. Since Saturday, Beijing has reported two more cases of the variant.

Now to Vedika Sud in Delhi.

VERIKA SUD, CNN REPORTER: India's Health Ministry has reported over 200,000 new daily cases of COVID-19 for the sixth consecutive day. Cities New Delhi and Mumbai have reported a significant drop in COVID- 19 numbers, but other states say that their cases are going up ahead of state elections in five states. But election watchdog has extended the ban on political rallies.

Now to Phil Black in Melbourne, Australia.

PHIL BLACK, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Australia has recorded its highest daily death toll of the pandemic, 74 people. It follows explosive growth in case numbers through December into January as the Omicron variant fuels this country's first pandemic wave.


Australia had long been successful at suppressing widespread disease and widespread death through lockdowns and shutting its borders. But now with vaccination rates for over 16s above 90 percent, the government here is pushing a policy of living with the virus. But there are concerns because the health system -- hospitals are under increasing pressure and it's still unclear precisely when this wave will peak.

Christine, Laura, back to you.

ROMANS: All right, Phil and everybody. Thank you so much for those reports.

To Washington now where the pandemic is weighing heavily on the Biden White House. A year into office, the president contends with surging inflation and a stalled legislative agenda. You can see it in his falling approval ratings. Still, in the White House, there's hope that a COVID recovery could help fuel a fast comeback for the president.

CNN's John Harwood joins us this morning. Nice to see you, John.

Is it reasonable to think the president's approval ratings can bounce back just as quickly as they sank if we can get some progress on COVID here?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It's not unreasonable. The question is whether that scenario is reasonable.

You know, the report that you just played with correspondents around the world shows how COVID has turned the entire world upside down and the same thing is happening in the United States with significant related effects on the economy.

Those things -- the persistence of those effects -- inflation that we've seen, supply chain disruption, the disruption of normal day-to- day life that has occurred first by Delta then by Omicron in terms of extending the pandemic despite vaccinations -- that has dragged Joe Biden down faster than people like Ronald Reagan, Barack Obama, and Bill Clinton fell at similar points in their presidency. Most presidents when they start have a difficult patch.

The question is do we cross the wave -- you know, the correspondent in Australia talked about living with the virus. If we can cross over to the point where the pandemic becomes endemic and it's not disrupting schools, it's not disrupting workplaces -- it's something that people accept and can manage -- the health system can manage -- that has the potential for lifting the public mood, helping the economy, and having all sorts of effects that could help Joe Biden. A longshot at the moment; not impossible.

JARRETT: Yes, but that seems to be what the White House wants to do. And the hope is once the cases are not at sort of this explosively high level, that's where they can start work towards.

So, the president's going to hold his first press conference of the year tomorrow at the White House. John, what message does he need to send? He has so much on his plate right now -- so many different arrows coming at him. What's the main driver tomorrow?

HARWOOD: Well, I think for a president at the one-year mark who is in the situation Joe Biden's in, the most significant thing he needs to reflect to the American people is I hear your discontent, I understand it, and I'm working on it.

And for the Biden White House, that means after this voting rights push is over -- we know that is now doomed because Manchin and Sinema are not willing to adjust the filibuster to move legislation that they support -- that is something that the White House is going to see through to the end -- that effort -- but it's going to fail.

After that, they want to get back to fundamentals. The COVID pandemic -- that means masks, testing, vaccination -- and the economy. Doing what they can on inflation. Trying to help with supply chains. And then try to pass that Build Back Better agenda in some form. If they can negotiate with Manchin and get that done, then Democrats are going to have a -- an array of concrete benefits that they can tell the American people --


HARWOOD: -- this is what we've done for you, shift into campaign mode, and see if they can hold onto the Congress. Right now, Republicans are strongly favored to win control of the Congress but Democrats aren't ready to give up that fight.

JARRETT: I would argue they think that that's what they have been doing, right? I think that they think that has been the message all along but they've been stonewalled in Congress. And now voting rights is -- seems, as you said, dead on arrival as well, which is going to be another loss to have to recover from in order to move on.

But we will see where this goes. I'm sure a lot of good questions tomorrow from the White House press corps.

ROMANS: Yes. John Harwood --

JARRETT: John, thank you.

ROMANS: Thanks, John.

JARRETT: All right.

The former top aide to Britain's prime minister says Boris Johnson knew about the party at 10 Downing Street that's landed him in so much hot water recently. Dominic Cummings says Johnson had prior knowledge of the 'bring your own alcohol' party during the COVID lockdown in May of 2020 and brushed aside any concerns.

CNN's Salma Abdelaziz joins us live. She's been following the story all along.

Salma, 10 Downing Street says that's not true -- that this is just not the case. So what can you tell us? What more are you learning?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER: Laura, this is important because in this growing partygate scandal and this list of allegations of partying it up at 10 Downing Street from the start of the pandemic in the summer of 2020 all the way through the spring of 2021 -- out of all of those allegations, so far, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has admitted to attending just one event. He stood up in Parliament and said he was at that May 20th, 2020 event because he believed it was a work function.


Now, one of his former top aides calling the prime minister a liar. He says not only did the prime minister know that event was a party, he was warned about it. He was told to cancel it. He was told that it broke rules. Still, the prime minister dismissed all that and went ahead anyway.

Now, of course, 10 Downing Street denying this latest allegation. But again, it's just the latest chapter in a growing saga that paints the picture of a government and an administration that woefully broke COVID rules. That brazenly partied it up during a pandemic.

All of this is now under investigation. Prime Minister Boris Johnson waiting for the results of that in the coming days but already preparing his defenses, trying to clear House, set out some populist policies to win back his approval rating. But it's hard to imagine how he can turn this -- how he can escape this scandal, Laura.

JARRETT: All right, Salma. Thank you for your reporting.

ROMANS: OK, to Canada now -- Ottawa, Canada. Strangers helped save a woman whose car plunged into icy waters on the frozen Rideau River. What hasn't been explained -- there's her yellow car -- is this photo, showing the woman taking a selfie during the ordeal.

Residents say the driver flew across the ice. The ice cracked, the car began to sink. Two men scrambled to find a kayak, flung it into the river, and pulled this woman to safety.

Ottawa police say the driver has been charged with dangerous operation of a motor vehicle.

We don't know why the selfie. Maybe for the insurance claim? I'm not sure.

JARRETT: That's charitable. Nice, Christine. Who knows? The point is thankfully, she was saved. Some Good Samaritans came to her rescue, thankfully.

ROMANS: If you don't take a picture -- if you don't take a selfie, did it really happen? That's what -- that's what the world has come to.

JARRETT: All right.

The world's super-rich keep getting richer. The billionaires adding to their bottom lines, next.

ROMANS: And how close is too close? The asteroid hurtling close to earth as we speak.



ROMANS: North Korea just conducted its fourth missile test of the year, launching two projectiles into the ocean on Monday from the east coast of the Korean Peninsula.

Ivan Watson tracking these developments for us from Hong Kong. Ivan, what do we know?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that has been condemned by the State Department since the Monday morning early launch. North Korea is prohibited from launching ballistic missiles by United Nations Security Council resolutions.

But, Christine, they've been very busy lately -- six missiles launched in just the last two weeks. On January fifth, what they described as a hypersonic missile. January 11th, another hypersonic missile. January 14th, two ballistic missiles from a train. And then launching these two short-range ballistic missiles early Monday morning.

After one of these launches, there was an alarm that went up where the FAA actually grounded some planes on the west coast of the U.S., admittedly mistakenly as a response. This has alarmed neighbors like South Korea and Japan -- close U.S. allies.

The Biden administration imposed sanctions last week after one of these launches. North Korea says it has broken through with a new kind of dangerous missile and it seems that its latest launches are in response to sanctions from the Biden administration.

So, keep watching this space, Christine.

ROMANS: Yes, I know you will, too. All right, Ivan Watson. Thank you, Ivan, in Hong Kong. Let's get a check on CNN Business this Tuesday morning.

Looking at markets around the world, Asian shares mixed. Europe has opened lower here. And on Wall Street, stock index futures also leaning down here. U.S. markets were closed Monday for the King holiday.

The focus this week, corporate earnings and how well big companies are weathering inflation and the Omicron variant. Today, some big banks, including Goldman Sachs, will report their earnings.

Last week, bank stocks fell. JPMorgan Chase said its fourth-quarter profits were 14 percent lower than the year before. That's largely because of a drop in trading revenue.

It's been a rocky start to the year for stocks following a stellar 2021. Volatile trading has sent the Nasdaq nearly five percent down from its high. The Dow is down about one percent. The S&P, just about two percent lower.

All right, when times are tough, the rich get richer. When times are good, the rich get richer. Sense a pattern?

The pandemic, no exception. A new report from Oxfam finds that billionaires have added $5 trillion -- with a "t" -- $5 trillion to their fortunes since March 2020 -- a bigger jump than in the previous 14 years combined. And the wealth of the world's 10 richest men more than doubled, climbing a collective $1.3 billion per day.

Central banks pumped trillions of dollars into financial markets to save the economy and that set off a stock market boom lining the pockets of billionaires.

Oxfam says it's not by chance, it's by choice, and governments should tax those gains and use the money to fund healthcare, vaccines, and to address the climate crisis.

JARRETT: Well, that is revealing.

All right, Christine, get ready for this -- an asteroid nearly missing the earth. It may sound like the plot of a farfetched movie from the late 90s.


MORGAN FREEMAN, ACTOR, "DEEP IMPACT": If this comet continues on its path around the sun and keeps its present course, sometime on August 16th, roughly a year from now, there's a chance that we might have impact.


JARRETT: Thankfully, today, we won't see a real-life deep impact. An asteroid is expected to make a close encounter with earth, though we're told it will not hit.

CNN's Tyler Mauldin is here to show us. All right, Tyler, we're told it will not hit. Help us calm down about this.


TYLER MAULDIN, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, it -- you're right, guys. It's not going to hit us so everyone can just calm down.

Asteroid Watch 2K22 continues -- t-minus about 11 hours until it makes that close approach to earth. Again, you don't have to worry about it but if you do have a small telescope you can peek at this asteroid as it passes by earth. This is the closest it's been to earth since 1933 and it's not going to be this close until about 200 years from now.

It is jetting through space. It is moving at about 44,000 miles per hour. And on this approach, it's actually going to be -- so, it is going to be close but it's actually going to be about 5 1/2 times the distance -- the moon's distance from earth. So it's close, relatively.

Now, this was discovered way back in 1994. And the reason we are able to know that it hasn't been this close since 1933 is because of the data that we've been able to pick up on this -- on this asteroid. It's well-established -- this orbit -- so we know the exact track it's going to go on and we know that it won't be this close for another 200 years.

Look at how big this thing is -- 5,400 feet. That is nearly four times the size of the Empire State Building.


ROMANS: Oh, Tyler, thanks for that.

JARRETT: All right, let's bring in Keith Cowing. He's the editor of and a former NASA space biologist. Keith, good morning.

So, this is --


JARRETT: -- kind of amazing that we haven't seen anything this close since the 1930s and we're not going to see it again for 200 years?

COWING: Well, we haven't seen this asteroid this close since the 1930s, but things like this zoom by all the time.

ROMANS: Gosh. So, close but not too close to comfort in your view?

COWING: Yes, this isn't "Don't Look Up." Don't worry about that.

JARRETT: I just saw that and it's all I can think about --

ROMANS: I know, right?

JARRETT: -- reading this entire story.

ROMANS: Look, NASA is testing out a program called DART. That's the Double Asteroid Redirection Test -- D-A-R-T -- to divert harmful asteroids from colliding with the earth.

What can you tell us about that program? I mean, we have a handle on this, I take it? When they get so close we're going to do something about it?

COWING: Well, hopefully. And it's going to hit an asteroid named Didymos, which is about the same size and it has -- Didymos has a little moon. And what they're going to do is hit it really hard and then look very carefully at the moon. And if they've changed the course even a little bit, you'll see the orbit change. If that happens, then you know that you can smack one of these things years before it becomes a problem. Otherwise, you're getting into sci-fi and nuclear weapons, and stuff like that.

ROMANS: I'm all for smacking these things. If they can figure out this technical way to smack them, that's good.

JARRETT: So, Keith, is this the kind of thing that you can go out in your backyard with your handy dandy telescope and look at? Can you see this with your naked eye?

COWING: Probably not with your naked eye. But if you have a, you know, pretty small telescope that you can buy or got for Christmas and you know exactly where to look -- and I would hope NASA has something online about this --


COWING: -- you probably could see it. It's probably best to just wait for the internet to get the geeks who put the stuff up and then you can get a better view.

ROMANS: Wait for the geeks.

JARRETT: We love geeks.

ROMANS: We are.

All right, Keith Cowing, editor of, thank you.

COWING: My pleasure.

ROMANS: OK, what's your favorite, "Armageddon" or "Deep Impact?" What's your favorite -- are you there, Keith? What's your favorite 'asteroid going to destroy us' movie?

COWING: I like "Deep Impact" because it's more accurate. But I do like "Armageddon." I'm sorry, I have to admit it.

ROMANS: Yes, they're all good. All right, thank you so much. Nice to see you with a movie review as well as the science. Thank you.

JARRETT: Anything where Morgan Freeman plays the president --

ROMANS: Totally -- got it.

Thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

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 18th.

I'm John Berman. Brianna is working nights this week. Kasie Hunt is back with me.

KASIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR: John, good morning. Great to see you.

BERMAN: Great to have you back for day two.

HUNT: It's great to be here.

BERMAN: We've got a lot of news this morning.

HUNT: We do.

BERMAN: Developing overnight, reports that Vladimir Putin is making a move in Ukraine. That much we know. But why he is doing it -- that's the question and the major concern in Western capitals this morning. It appears the Russian leader is emptying out his embassy in the Ukrainian capital Kiev.

According to "The New York Times," dozens of people, mostly the children and wives of Russian diplomats, have been boarding buses for a 15-hour ride back to Moscow. The "Times" also reports diplomats at two other Russian consulates in Ukraine have been told to prepare to leave. The "Times" reports it is being done so overtly -- so out in the open, it seems designed to show the world it is happening.

U.S. intelligence officials are now trying to determine whether the thinning of the embassies is propaganda or maybe a precursor to some kind of invasion.

HUNT: Meanwhile, seven U.S. senators met on Monday with Ukraine's President Zelensky. The bipartisan delegation reaffirming America's commitment to Ukraine as tens of thousands of Russian troops stand ready to invade along the country's border. Zelensky telling the senators it's very important for Ukraine that you are with us today.

CNN's Matthew Chance live from Kiev with our top story. Matthew, let's start with Russia's latest moves --