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Inside Politics

Soon: White House COVID-19 Response Team Briefing; Biden to Unveil U.S. Winter COVID-19 Strategy on Thursday; Fox Host Outrageous Claim: Compares Fauci to Nazi Doctor; Appeals Court Judges Skeptical of Trump's Arguments for Blocking Release of his January 6 Documents; Video: Boebert Made Anti-Muslim Jokes About Omar in September. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired November 30, 2021 - 12:00   ET




JOHN KING, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Hello and welcome to "Inside Politics". I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing your very busy news day with us.

The CDC changes its language to say yes, everyone should get a COVID vaccine booster. That would help scientists say because they need more time to map the new Omicron variant and determine just how dangerous it might be.

Today the DC Court of Appeals hears Donald Trump's bid to keep his White House record secret. What the court decides will help or hamstring the committee in Congress trying to get the full truth about the insurrection.

Plus, Lauren Boebert's repeat racism CNN's KFile surfaces new video that makes clear the Republican Congresswoman's vile anti-Muslim jokes were no off the cuff riff. We begin though with that new Coronavirus variant and the anxious global rush now to better understand its punch.

Omicron cases have been confirmed in at least 19 nations so far, though, none here in the United States. The CDC nonetheless upping its guidance on boosters in hopes of building a firewall it was all adults may want to boost their vaccine now it is all adults should get an added shot.

The nation's top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci says it will take a week or two maybe a bit more for government experts to fully charge the transmissibility and the severity of this new variant. Today, one of the first doctors to treat Omicron patients, the Chair of the South African Medical Association tells CNN this about the world's reaction.


DR. ANGELIQUE COETZEE, NATIONAL CHAIR, SOUTH AFRICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION: I think it was an overreaction, the knee jerk reaction of closing borders and everyone and people say yes, but I'm trying to protect my people. So then, the question would be how do you know it's not in your country yet?


KING: Let's get straight to the White House our Senior White House Correspondent Phil Mattingly. Phil an overreaction the South African doctor says But President Biden says caution.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Caution that the White House believes is a necessity at this point vigilance in preparation in a moment where there's so much more unknown than is actually known at this moment in time.

And that's why you've seen the Whitehouse really ramp up the public messaging and also ramp up the press to get Americans either vaccinated or get those boosters that has been the primary focus as they wait for more information in terms of what this new variant will actually bring to the table.

Look, John, if there's one thing everybody seems to agree on, it's that if Omicron isn't already in the United States, it's inevitability that it will be in short order, you take a look at the map of the 19 or so countries that have already reported cases, right to the north is Canada, they've already got cases.

So that is not something that seems to be up for debate at this moment in time. What is up for debate is what this variant will actually mean. And that's why as long as that remains the unknown, what you've seen from the president, what you've seen from his COVID team is an effort to try and get out in front of this as much as possible not be caught flat footed, and the one way they believe they can at this point in time is pressing forward on boosters.

That will be the focus today when the COVID team meets and also will be the focus tomorrow when they are - on Thursday when the president gets his speech on the weeks and months ahead with this pandemic John.

KING: It is fascinating to listen that how they adapt the new strategy to this new variant? Phil Mattingly appreciate you're kicking us off live from the White House. Let's bring in now to share her insights and expertise Dr. Leana Wen she's the Former Baltimore Health Commissioner Dr. Wen grateful for your time.

I just want to put up on the map - on tour - on the wall here the map of the 19 countries so far, where Omicron has been detected. You wrote an op-ed today in "The Post" saying thank you, Mr. President, for putting the travel restrictions in place for people from Southern African Nations.

But you believe the president should do more because of the threat of this variant, and have travel restrictions for these other countries as well, why?

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Travel restrictions, John can be useful in buying time if they're done the right way. And to be sure they are a blunt instrument. They have significant economic consequences. They draw a lot of consternation from other countries.

So if you're going to go all that way and do travel restrictions, you might as well do that right. So first is we are allowing American citizens and permanent residents from Southern Africa to return, which is the right thing to do but we should at least it required for them to go into quarantine and then get retested.

Especially because we know that in Hong Kong, for example, there are people in quarantine facilities who are testing positive. In addition, we now know that there might even be community transmission in other countries like the UK.

And so if we're - if we're going to do this, let's at least do it the right way. I'm not saying across the board ban all travel, but rather, why not ask all returning international travelers to at least self- quarantine and then get retested in five days?

KING: Dr. Wen you also suggest the president should think - I'm putting up as I do this the map of the CDC transmission in the United States right now. You also suggest the president should be more aggressive in asking states to re-impose mask mandates in the like.

You write this, now is the time to pull out all the stops when it comes to compelling the unvaccinated that includes long overdue vaccine requirement for domestic air and interstate train travel. In addition, the Biden Administration should redouble its efforts to make at home testing available and to urge states locales and businesses to re implement indoor mask mandates for the unvaccinated.


KING: We've talked many times about the tough politics of COVID but you think the president should be using the bully pulpit and telling states do more do it now?

DR. WEN: Frankly, this should have been done even with the Delta surge that we were seeing with the increasing number of cases coming into the winter. By the way, we haven't seen yet the impact of Thanksgiving travel. I would expect that we would see an increase just because of Delta.

But also now because of Omicron, if we're really so worried about Omicron, that we're imposing travel restrictions on other countries, why not also do the things that can be done here? President Biden was asked about this yesterday, I wish that he would urge businesses and states to do the right thing.

KING: So listen here, then this is a colleague, if you will, one of the South African expert, who says the world is overreacting. She says she doesn't see the evidence yet that all this is necessary because of this.


DR. COETZEE: Majority of what we are presenting to primary healthcare practitioners are extremely mild cases, mild to moderate. And so these patients, isn't means they don't need to be hospitalized for now.


KING: If the cases are predominantly mild to moderate cases, why do we need - why do you think you need all the new restrictions that you just advocated?

DR. WEN: I listened to that interview. And I also have colleagues in South Africa because I've worked and lived there before doing clinical work and research. And I actually think that we're misunderstanding this doctor's comments.

I don't think she's saying that, oh, don't worry about Omicron. They all the patients have mild symptoms; it's too early to know that. I think what she's doing is to put out a warning to doctors in South Africa and around the world saying if you have a patient come in, who has mild symptoms, some fatigue, scratchy throat, but they don't have the fevers and cough and sore and runny nose that we're expecting, usually with COVID-19, that you should be testing these individuals for Omicron.

We should have a high index of suspicion for patients with mild symptoms, initially, because they might have Omicron. I think that's what she was saying. Not that, don't worry about Omicron people don't get that sick. It's too early to know especially because those initial clusters in South Africa have tended to come in university age students who probably are not going to get that well.

KING: I think the key point you just made they're too early to know. So we're grateful for your insights on this day. And we'll circle back Dr. Wen, as we do learn more about Omicron in the days and weeks ahead.

With me now in studio to share their reporting and their insights NPR's Ayesha Rascoe, CNN's Jeremy Diamond, and Marianna Sotomayor of "The Washington Post" and let's start with the president. He's going on the road today. That's an important symbol just from the White House; the president is not going to change his schedule.

He says don't panic. Let's learn about this as we go forward. But the president yesterday had relatively modest travel restrictions. And he says let's learn more. He will face pressure from some public health experts. But he was pretty adamant yesterday. We're not going back to lock downs. We're not going back to the early COVID restrictions.

AYESHA RASCOE, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NPR: Yes. And I think that at this point, he's also just bowing to the reality of where the country is? Like, yes, you can use his bully pulpit to try to get states to say, you know, maybe you can do more mask mandates or things like that.

But people in this country seem very tired. You're in the second pandemic year, and people will not go along with all of this. And what we've seen with the Coronavirus, as you can tell people what you want them to do, but you cannot make people get vaccinated you can try but you can't make them wear masks and when people push back, there are health implications for everyone.

KING: And to that point, I just want to show our viewers on the screen. This is the vaccination map of the United States. 55 million Americans over the age of 12 have not received a vaccine shot. 10 of the states have less than 50 percent of their population vaccinated. Donald Trump carried nine of those 10 Joe Biden carried Georgia just barely.

So you have the president telling people get boosted if you - if you're already vaccinated, get a firewall, if you will. If you're not vaccinated, please this new variant should give you the impetus to do it. But one of the prompts of the president is the more unvaccinated people in places that didn't vote for him. And those people are also hearing if they watch another network, stuff like this.


LARA LOGAN, FOX NEWS HOST: What you see on Dr. Fauci, this is what people say to me that he doesn't represent science to them. He represents Joseph Mengele; Dr. Joseph - the Nazi doctor, who did experiments on Jews during the Second World War in the concentration camps.


KING: It's beyond reprehensible and reckless. And sadly, it's not an isolated example of misinformation disinformation and beyond there and elsewhere. How does the president trying to convince the country think about this fight pass?

MARIANNA SOTOMAYOR, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Well, it's extremely difficult for Biden's something he's obviously had to do on the campaign trail when he was running for president. But every time that there is this new variant every time he's trying to tell Americans please get boosted, please get the vaccine. It's going against things like that.

And you know, you hear it now even in Congress. You hear Congressman Ronny Jackson, the former physician to the president, tweeting saying, well, this is the Democrats attempt to try and make up a new midterm variant they're losing the messaging war so this is what they have to do.


JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And this is why it's been such a challenge for Biden to fulfill that key campaign promise to shut down the virus shut down the pandemic, we heard that from him over and over again.

And what we're seeing is he's running up against not only the politics at home, but also the fact that there are these low vaccination rates around the world. And until those populations get vaccinated, a key example being South Africa, which has I think, something like 20 percent of its population vaccinated, you're going to continue to see these mutations. This is going to continue to be a problem. And so that is the reality that the president confronts even as the country is getting tired and even as he as well wants to be able to move on.

RASCOE: And that pledge to shut down the virus is going to come back to bite him because he can't shut it down.

KING: He can but he could - if he had more help just common sense. We can debate mass mandates or you can debate mess vaccine mandates, but the idea that you spread misinformation and just slurs and sloth, I'll stop talking there because it will just get worse. When we come back with the Omicron variant raising new questions Anderson Cooper, Dr. Sanjay Gupta come together for a very important Town Hall with Dr. Anthony Fauci. All new CNN "Global Town Hall Coronavirus Facts and Fears" live tomorrow night 8 pm Eastern right here on CNN.

And coming up, some breaking news major development on Capitol Hill the Former Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows reaching a deal to cooperate at least in part with January 6 investigators. Plus, the battle for Trump White House records and the January 6 truth in court today the former president's lawyers asserted his right to keep the secret. The Biden White House in Congress though, disagrees.



KING: Some important breaking and exclusive new reporting right now about a significant change of strategy from a key January 6 investigative witness. Sources telling CNN this hour that Mark Meadows the Former Trump White House Chief of Staff is now cooperating with the Select Committee investigating the insurrection.

Let's get straight up to Capitol Hill and CNN's Ryan Nobles who has his breaking news for us. Ryan, what do we know?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John, this was reporting that our team learned exclusively and now the Select Committee and attorneys for Mark Meadows have confirmed and that is that the former chief of staff is cooperating with the Select Committee and is going as far as handing over documents and is prepared to sit for an interview with the committee.

The Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson just releasing a statement in response to our reporting saying, "Mr. Meadows has been engaging with the select committee through his attorney. He has produced records to the committee and will soon appear for initial deposition".

And this is a major change in the approach between these two parties. Meadows, initially engaged with the committee when the subpoena first came down, but then began stonewalling them to the point where the committee threatened to move to a criminal contempt referral against Meadows if he didn't comply.

That seems to have been what changed the conversation in both the committee and Mark Meadows have found common ground where he is willing to hand over documents and answer questions about what he knows as it relates to January 6.

Now, there are a lot of caveats that go along with this. This is a process John, there could come a point where Meadows once again begins to not answer some of the questions that the committee is looking for. And in a statement, Thompson made it clear that the committee was looking for all the information they are looking for. And we'll continue to press this though, John, a very significant development and the January 6 investigation.

KING: Significant indeed, Ryan Nobles, thank you to you and your team and our team for breaking this important news. Let's get some analysis now bring in our CNN Senior Legal Analyst, Laura Coates.

Laura Ryan added the necessary caveat there. We need to watch how this plays out. But they have Donald Trump's Former Chief of Staff, someone who is at his side, aware of his schedule, aware of his phone calls aware of his movements, from every day from Election Day through insurrection day, potentially blockbuster.

LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Absolutely, this is very significant. And it really is a distinguishing factor from say what happened with Steve Bannon, or potentially with Jeffrey Clark in the near future in the Congress.

Remember, there are some instances where people could have a violent and colorable claim for executive privilege. Certainly on the spectrum, the Chief of Staff would be closer to having a valid claim than say a Steve Bannon who's never been in the administration is - in 2017.

But the idea here that there are a number of things that Mark Meadows could testify to, and they could still compartmentalize even prospective privileged conversations. And so this is what actually is supposed to happen when somebody is subpoenaed from Congress.

They don't get to just say, I'm not going to come at all. I don't want to answer any questions, let alone my name or things. I didn't even have a direct conversation personally with the president, they have to go. They have to try to assert the privilege if valid and viable, per each question.

So they have a whole category of questions, as Ryan has talked about, including statements that Mark Meadows has made comprehensive that people who are not the President of the United States, all of those are fair game, even if there are existing valid privilege claims.

KING: And so let's connect the dots because as the caveats and things that could come up as complications down the road could be directly connected to a case playing out in court today. Donald Trump's lawyers in court today are asserting that he retains the authority to keep the White House record secret meaning keep them from that committee.

Judges, though listen here Laura, Judges at the DC Circuit Court of Appeals sounded skeptical to the idea that a former presidents wishes outweigh those of the current president.


JUDGE KENTANJI BROWN JACKSON, DC CIRCUIT COURT OF APPEALS: This all boils down to who decides, who decides when it's in the best interest of the United States to disclose presidential records? Is it the current occupant of the White House or the former?


KING: This is a key ruling we're waiting for now, Laura, after these hearings in these arguments, because if the DC Appeals Court says Trump has no privilege or certainly has no blanket privilege, he might argue about as you noted. This document or that document then what right is any other witness to say well then I have a privilege?


COATES: Absolutely and she's exactly right the judge to talk about the idea of what it actually comes down to. Remember, the executive privilege is not belonged to the incumbent. It's a part of the institution of the presidency, and the person who is in the best position to decide, but I think should be privileged. And to assert that is the incumbent in that office.

The former president no longer can veto longer the Commander in Chief their powers are limited, even with respect to even privilege assertions. And so this judge and the judges on this panel, three judge panel know exactly the issue here.

And remember, there are going to be instances, John, where the assertion of the privilege might be more valid than others. But a blanket assertion that says you can't have any document, even when there is an exception, which I think is valid here.

A potential criminal act, potentially criminal behavior, the huge exceptional circumstances of the January six insurrection, these are all things that could lead a court to say, listen, when we balance the powers of a former president or wherever they may be. Compare that to the incumbent president and also compare it with the national and public's interest in transparency is?

I think you're going to come out pretty solidly on the idea of President Biden, the only president of the United States President Biden retains the power and the former president will not have a valid claim.

KING: We're waiting for that decision from the three judges on the Court of Appeals. Laura Coates grateful for the insights. Let me bring this quickly into the room. You - is Capitol Hill, there been a lot of questions, will this committee have teeth? Or will this committee be able to actually gather evidence or will the Trump defiance run out the clock, if you will, that Mark Meadows at least for now is cooperating is a breakthrough?

SOTOMAYOR: Absolutely. It is a big deal. That has been the big question this entire time. Would they be able to dangle the threat of you know holding someone in contempt? And now they can the fact that they did threaten that it does appear that especially now that a grand jury did indict Steve Bannon after Congress voted to find him in contempt.

That shows to anyone that they may call forward that that is something that can happen if you don't comply with the committee.

KING: It'd be interested to see is Meadows isolated or do others now follow his lead? And for those of you who covered the Trump White House, the thing I'm waiting for is how does Trump react to word that his Chief of Staff Former Chief of Staff is cooperating? Coming up for us, Lauren Boebert on camera, spewing racism again, some brand new reporting from CNN's KFile next.



KING: More just see it for yourself evidence today of the hate and bigotry in the Republican ranks. At the center of this latest episode is Colorado Congresswoman Lauren Boebert. One video clip of her racism and Islamophobia surfaced over the weekend and her effort to quiet that storm did not go well to put it mildly.

She was recorded. You see it there, talking about how she was nervous to be on the elevator with Ilhan Omar implying the Democratic Congresswoman is a terrorist. Well, Boebert called Omar yesterday but she did not apologize. And Omar says she ended the conversation because it was simply not productive.

An additional video unearthed by CNN's great KFile team helps us understand why? Congresswoman Boebert it turns out has told her Omar story before. This new video is from a September Republican fundraiser. Boebert not only tells her elevator story she also calls Omar and another Muslim member of Congress, black hearted and evil.


REP. LAUREN BOEBERT (R-CO): One of my staffers, on his first day with me got into an elevator in the Capitol. And in that elevator, we were joined by Ilhan Omar. Well, it was just us three in there and I looked over and I said well, look there, it is the Jihad Squad.


KING: Let's bring in Andrew Kaczynski. He's the Leader of CNN's KFile broke this story. Andrew, one of the values of this fantastic digging by your team is that your eyes and your ears don't lie. We see her for who she is and what she believes. Let's listen to just a little bit more.


BOEBERT: Yes, Ilhan Omar - black hearted evil women.


KING: Tell us more about what you found. You're just hear there black hearted, evil women. I guess - I guess because they're Muslim.

ANDREW KACZYNSKI, SENIOR EDITOR, KFILE: Yes. And you know, we spoke about this in your intro. You know, this is the second time in which she has made these comments. You know this story where she jokes that Ilhan Omar who is Muslim is a terrorist basically.

It means she notably tells it's basically the same story that she told in the events that went viral last week. You know, she claims Omar had a - didn't have a backpack but so she felt safe implying that, you know any Muslim person with a backpack is a terrorist.

And you know, Omar's people have basically said the stories of fabrication they weren't on an elevator together. I messaged with Omar who said that you know Boebert is unhinged and you know notably the story is actually a little different from last time there's no --