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World Looks to Biden to Deter a Putin Invasion of Ukraine; Right Now: Biden, Putin Hold High-Stakes Call; Former WH Chief of Staff Mark Meadows Ends Cooperation with Jan 6 Committee the Same Day his new Book Comes Out; Mark Meadows no Longer Cooperating with Jan 6 Committee; White House: 5M Kids Ages 5-11 have received at least 1 Vaccine Dose. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired December 07, 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 day with us.

A giant diplomatic test for President Biden; Vladimir Putin looks poised to invade Ukraine. The two leaders are talking right now. And Biden's hope is to find an off ramp.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Hello! Good to see you again. Unfortunately, I saw - we didn't get to see one another at the G-20.


KING: Plus big developments today in the insurrection investigation. The Former Trump White House Chief of Staff changes his mind and says he no longer plans to cooperate with the Select Committee. Plus Republican Devin Nunez is quitting Congress his new gig running Donald Trump's media startup.

Up first though, that video call a giant video call with huge ramifications for global security underway right now the American President Joe Biden engaging in a one on one discussion with Russia's Vladimir Putin. You see it there Russia State TV, given the world a glimpse of the opening moments of that high stakes meeting.

The call comes of course, as President Putin has put thousands of troops and weapons on Ukraine's border, the world fears an invasion. U.S. officials promising Biden would issue a warning to Putin and promise any military aggression would be met with significant consequences.

Let's get straight to our chief White House Correspondent, Kaitlan Collins. Kaitlan, what do we know? KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, this call we do believe John is still ongoing. It's a call it started about 10:07 am Eastern time this morning. You saw it was this video call it was ongoing between the two leaders, President Biden here in the Situation Room at the White House President Putin in his home.

As of course, this is a very high stakes call that is ongoing this virtual call between these two, two world leaders and you've seen this video released by the Russians, it seems just show them smiling and greeting one another though there are very tense topics on the agenda for the two of them.

And of course, the one at the front - forefront is what is happening with Ukraine. And what are President Putin's intentions when it comes to that, because so far the administration has said their official assessment is that they - that President Putin has not yet made a decision whether or not Russia is going to invade Ukraine.

But he is certainly preparing to do so and do so quickly should he choose to do so by amassing these troops on the border of Ukraine on several borders of Ukraine, of course, not really making clear what his intentions ultimately are going to be while also the White House was expecting him to make a demand today during this call with President Biden.

And that is that Ukraine gets nowhere near NATO. Of course, that is something that Ukraine has long sought access to membership to it is something that President Biden has said depends on their efforts to root out corruption and whether or not that's something that's close to happening, or far off remains to be seen.

But it does make for a very tense call between these two leaders. And so the stakes are high for President Biden probably the highest they've been with any other world leader that he has had a call with.

And so the question, of course, is what also the United States would do if Russia did decide to invade Ukraine, because President Biden in the White House has made clear they don't want it to be a military involvement, and are instead looking at economic consequences.

But whether or not those consequences are enough for President Putin to deter his behavior if they are sending a strong enough signal that remains to be seen, because so far, he has rebuffed other warnings from people like the CIA Director, John so we're waiting to see what this readout is going to be of this call how long this call is going to have happened for.

We should note one thing, John, that we are expecting President Biden to get on the phone with European leaders this afternoon to brief them on what's happened in this conversation today, because that has been an effort that the White House has tried to make to keep them all on the same page when it comes to the response between these rising tensions with Russia and Ukraine.

So he will be calling the leaders of Germany, Italy, France and the United Kingdom after this, to tell them what he and President Putin talked about.

KING: Kaitlan Collins, appreciate you kicking us off live from the White House circle back if we get any more details of the call ending or any of the conversation. And joining our conversation with some important insights, White House National Security Correspondent for The New York Times, David Sanger, National Security Reporter for The Wall Street Journal, Vivian Salama you both are much more wired than I am on this issue.

And everybody I've talked to beforehand has very low expectations about this call. What is the best possible outcome in the sense that Putin is not going to say? Sure, Mr. President, I'm going to walk away and pull my troops back from Ukraine. What is the best possible outcome from the President's perspective?

DAVID SANGER, WHITE HOUSE & NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: John, the best possible outcome he could have out here is basically a stand down in the pressure and how would you see that? You would see that by the Russians no longer filtering more troops in.

Right now they've got about 100,000 on the border. The official U.S. estimate is that it would go to 175,000. I know many American officials who think actually Putin would want to have more there. So if they stopped flowing in that would tell you, you got some progress.


SANGER: If you saw a cessation of some of the disinformation and cyber campaigns that would tell you, you are at progress. My guess is that you're not going to see a whole lot of that right off, because Putin can't physically invade could, but it would be messy.

For another month or two, the grounds got to be frozen and hard for his tanks to move and so forth. So we're probably into a period of suspended animation, as he tries to measure whether the allies really would stick with the United States on a sanction.

KING: And that's the key point would the ally stick with the United States on the sanctions? There's no military option, NATO can talk tough Joe Biden can tough talk tough, no one believes as a military option meeting NATO forces somehow going to stare down a Russian forces.

So the question is, Kaitlan Collins just noted, the president's going to have this meeting with Vladimir Putin that he is going to call, he's going to call the President of France, Chancellor Merkel of Germany, the Prime Minister of Italy, Prime Minister of the UK, following his call.

The question is can Joe Biden convince those European leaders if necessary, are you willing to escalate the financial sanctions in a way that actually puts real pressure on Putin, but also hurts the Europeans?

VIVIAN SALAMA, NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Right now, the Europeans are open to the idea, which wasn't necessarily the case. I mean, it was one of those things where the White House really had to try to gather all allies to be on the same page of this issue; especially Germany has taken a warmer stance toward Russia.

They've just completed the Nord Stream II Pipeline Deal with Russia, and they have a lot of interest in engaging with Russia. And so they don't want to provoke sort of that poke the bear, if you will, and do anything to upset them.

At the same time, they do realize that a violation of Ukrainian sovereignty does present a lot of security issues for Europe, and they do not want to see that. And so a sanction seems to be the one option that all the allies are considering the Europeans now saying that they could hurt Russia with sanctions, but really, it sanctions haven't really deterred Russia from doing anything.

So far, we've seen a number of sanctions rolled out, and they don't really have that great of an impact on Russia. And so the question then goes, what options are there? Everyone I talk to you says a lot of bad options, but no real great options for seeing Russia stop what it's doing.

KING: And so hard is how does the President try to convince Putin? How does President Biden try to convince President Putin that this time? He serious the United States is serious in the world issues? One other questions you heard Kaitlan Collins, raise it.

When a Putin's red line is stop encouraging NATO stopped pulling Ukraine I mean, closer to NATO closer to the Western alliance, Putin does not want that on his doorstep. Listen to the new Ukrainian Defense Minister say, here's what we want.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe Russia will invade?

OLEKSIY REZNIKOV, UKRAINE DEFENSE MINISTER: I am not believing that, I will not believe that Russian will have a victory in Ukraine. It's a different because it will be a really bloody massacre. And Russian guys also will come back in the coal coffins, yes.


KING: There's two interesting pieces of that. Number one, he does not say he doesn't think they will want invade. He just says it will be bloody and messy. In the interview with Matthew Chance he also said that Ukraine would like more technology from the United States and the West.

Would that be a provocation to Putin? If the United States says you know, we're not going to send in U.S. troops or maybe there'll be some U.S. advisors, but we've got a whole lot of new anti-missile anti-tank technology?

SANGER: Certainly Putin would think it's a provocation or cast it that way. You know, the U.S. has always said we only provide defensive weaponry, and that's mainly the Javelin anti-tank weapon, and you'd only use it against a tank that's coming into your country. So that's the argument.

But you'll remember that President Obama didn't even want to ship those to the Ukrainians, because it looked provocative to the Russians. President Trump did ship them and Obama, I'm sorry, President Biden has continued to ship them.

The debate that's underway now inside the White House and the Pentagon is, how could you pre-position those near Ukraine, but not actually bring them into the country so that you don't give Putin the pretext to go do that?

But to your broader question here of what the ultimate cause to Putin would be? You know, it's a question of how he thinks 2014 worked out, when he went in and grabbed Crimea. The United States in Europe did a whole series of sanctions. They're still on seven years later, but the price of oil is up, the Russian state is still there. And Putin may think, perhaps wrongly, that an invasion would bolster his own image at home.

KING: So the flip side of that is Joe Biden ran for president saying, I'm not Donald Trump. I'm not going to appease Vladimir Putin anymore. And he also ran essentially saying I learned the lessons of Barack Obama and things will be different. How does he prove it?

SALAMA: He keeps on saying he wants to cooperate with Russia. But Vladimir Putin sees Ukraine as an existential issue for him. It's a fundamental and core thing where he does not want to see NATO expanded into Europe into Ukraine.

And so by supplying Ukraine with weapons he sees that as a direct provocation and that legitimizes him in any invasion that he might be planning.


SALAMA: But if the U.S. scales back, it could potentially look weak both to allies in Europe as well as to Moscow. And so it's a really dicey double edged sword here that the Biden Administration is now having to play.

KING: Grateful to both of you for coming in to help us understand this. Obviously we'll learn more in the hours again and we will circle back. Up next for us, some big news in the January 6 insurrection investigation a top Mike Pence aide is cooperating but Former Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows now says he won't. Plus a federal judge has just set a date for the contempt trial against Trump ally Steve Bannon.


KING: A big about phase today from a central insurrection investigation witness; the Former Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows now says he will not cooperate with the January 6 Select Committee.


KING: That news - this news comes one week after Meadows said he would provide records and would appear for a committee interview that also comes you decide at home if this is a coincidence on the publication date of his new book.

And it comes as the committee plans next steps now with Meadows and other key player is cooperating. That is the former Mike Pence, Chief of Staff, Mark Short. With me to share their reporting and their insights, Rachael Bade of POLITICO, CNNs Jeff's Zeleny, Tia Mitchell of "The Atlanta Journal-Constitution" and CNN Legal Analyst Laura Coates.

I draw the point people at home if you're the committee; you had to deal with this witness last week. He said he was going to come in. Now his attorney sends a letter saying the Select Committee has no intention of respecting boundaries concerning executive privilege. They had that conversation a week ago this why?

TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE ATLANTA JOURNAL- CONSTITUTION: Yes, I can imagine they're pretty frustrated. I can also imagine that they're pretty confused, because on one hand, he just released a book that talks about a lot of the same things that they would like to question him probably in a more direct way than he would like to answer.

But you know it does come across that perhaps he wasn't genuine earlier when he indicated he might work with a committee.

KING: And is there any privilege? Obviously, we're waiting for the Appeals Court case involving the former president, and everybody else would flow from there. The conversation we had before is maybe this document or that document; you have a negotiation over certain things.

But this broad idea that Mark Meadows can say nothing about everything Trump said from Election Day to insurrection day is poppycock, right?

LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It's absolutely poppycock. I like the word. I'll use it. Now I'm hungry thinking about the actual snap poppycock. But I got to tell you, it really is frustrating, because now you're saying you can't answer what your name is, or conversations you've had with anyone besides the President of the United States.

You can't talk about you. It's already in the public's here, what you gave to a publisher what you wrote down, none of that can be talked about. You see, I think he actually has a stronger case and say a Steve Bannon about privilege, right? He's the Chief of Staff to a President.

They obviously have a candid conversation, they are talking about things you want them to have conversations about the institution of the presidency is really about trying to protect those candid conversations. But the idea of saying nothing having had carte blanche to say I don't have to do anything for you is absolute foolishness.

Also, I can't imagine they're fully surprised by this. Remember when he talked about the idea? Just last week, we heard reporting about having the first COVID test negative if that first debate with Santa Guthrie, and then Trump rejects, suddenly it's fake news.

Now it's a conversation about I'm willing to cooperate Trump probably weighing in thinking about the conversations and the Georgia race about, you know, not liking Brian Kemp in the leg for not putting the big lie. Suddenly, Meadows had to take a step back. This is not coincidence. But it's the kind of gamesmanship that should not win out in Congress.

KING: And it's the kind of gamesmanship that again, puts to the test of credibility of this committee.

RACHAEL BADE, POLITICO PLAYBOOK CO-AUTHOR: Yes, I mean, absolutely. Look, I mean, when it comes to these privilege claims, it doesn't matter if a lot of experts think that these are BS claims, and that, you know, he's going to lose in court.

This has been Donald Trump's MO from day one and all his allies for years as Democrats have tried to investigate, you know, he's thrown up all these claims of privilege, so and so is his immune doesn't have to cooperate even though they never worked in the White House.

And then they go to the courts. And it takes a long time this drags out the investigation. And that's exactly what we're seeing here. I mean, clearly, Mark Meadows wanted to just do enough that he can argue to a federal judge that he tried to cooperate, but then, you know, had a change of heart because they wanted to talk about things he thought were privileged.

But yes, it's going to - it's going to potentially impact the work of this committee because Trump is once again throwing up the same stone wall that he has for the past three years.

KING: Is there is a plus side for the committee. It is the word that Mark Short will cooperate. He's Mike Pence, his Chief of Staff at the time. With Mike Pence up at the Capitol on instruction day with Mike Pence's life was in danger, but also a key player Jeff Zeleny in the White House.

He's the Former Legislative Director. So from Election Day, it's not just about insurrection day from Election Day to insurrection day, Mark Short knows a lot about who was talking and the pressure the former president was putting on his vice president.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: He absolutely does. And he was in the Oval Office a couple days before that. If you had to put people in a category of Former Trump Administration Officials Mark Short, at least as of now, we'll see if he changes his mind is in the category of an establishment responsible following the rule of law, kind of a figure but most importantly, the proximity to Mike Pence that day.

He is a longtime adviser of the former vice president more than a decade goes way back with him is very familiar with students. The question is what does Mike Pence think about this? He's not said a word about it. But I think Mark Short is a very important witness and probably more credibly - probably more credible than a Mark Meadows.

Mark Meadows stuck his head out. I would tend to agree with you probably to sell books. We've talked about Mark Meadows more in the last week or 10 days, than we have a long time. Look, Mark Short is a very important witness. I think probably you probably one of the most important so far.

KING: One of the - one of the key reasons he's so important is the committee is trying to make the case that insurrection day was not a rally turned angry that that suddenly turned into this event. They want - the committee's trying to make the case that not the specifics may not have been planned but that a lot of people knew that a lot of people with violent intentions were coming to Washington.


KING: And Mark Short was part of those meetings. Steve Bannon was part of the organizing of that at the band and war room who's coming to Washington, the federal judge today decided his - this is a pretty simple case. Did you - did you act in contempt of Congress?

The government wanted to trial in April, Steve Bannon wanted to delay it all the way to October close to the election another coincidence. July 18th, was the compromise, I guess, performed by the judge today? Why does it need - why do we have to wait that long? Why don't have to wait for July. That's what --

COATES: We shouldn't have to wait. I mean homicide trials are conducted and actually executed within that amount of time. The idea here for the April I would suspect is they're trying to figure out about what the Court of Appeals are going to say and executive privilege issue?

They want to give time for that opinion to come out. Because of course, if the Court of Appeals says or the Supreme Court does not weigh in on this and says, look, there is no valid colorable claim of privilege here, then Bannon's claims go away, you want to put it far enough out to the courts to weigh in.

But July, for a case where the simple elements are this; a congressional subpoena was issued, you fail to comply with it. You've said you fail to comply with it. And you have no basis for doing so. That is a really cut and dry case.

But they want to put enough time out to give that but I want to underscore one point you said which is so important here about Mark Short. And that is remember, the planning of this is so important because they were angry at Pence when they arrived at the Capitol because they knew that he was not willing to actually overturn an election.

So all the conversations about that going forward or what Mark Short can talk about can give information about and really be a conduit for Mike Pence even if he never testifies. All of this is playing out before a Bannon even has a chance to have a full trial that strategy. KING: July 18th seems a long way off. I believe it's still December right that's my calendar this morning still December. Some breaking news one report to you the Biden Putin call the Kremlin says the talks between the two world leaders have ended after about two hours. We're hoping to learn more details we'll bring it to you as soon as we can.

Up next for us though, the Biden COVID Team highlights an uptick in vaccinations but new cases also up.



KING: White House COVID team today touting what it calls a significant uptick in new COVID vaccinations. 5 million children ages five through 11 have now received at least their first shot of the Coronavirus vaccine. Still the nation's leading pediatric group reports cases among children are still extremely high are its words nearly a quarter of all new cases last week are among children.

Let's go through some of these latest numbers. And let's just look first at the case cap. Monday just shy of 120,000 new COVID infections up six that seven day average of new cases is up 67 percent From the October low, which are around 71,000. So cases are trending in the wrong direction.

So too are hospitalizations you see here hospitalizations up 31 percent from a November low back in November 45,000 Monday again 59,000 up now approaching 60,000 Americans hospitalized. Again, let's bring in for her insights and expertise right now Dr. Leana Wen she's the Former Baltimore City Health Commissioner.

Dr. Wen we were talking before we came on the air during the break about I'm a bit confused at the moment when you look at this as Delta this is not yet Omicron cases going up hospitalizations going up. Is this the normal we should expect? Or is this a troublesome surge?

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: We cannot expect this as the new normal because we also have more than 1000 people dying from COVID every single day. I mean, that's about 400,000 Americans dying every year, we cannot accept that.

I do think that what we're seeing right now is reflection of Thanksgiving, that when people gathered over Thanksgiving, they travel they brought COVID with them. And so it's not unexpected that we're seeing a Delta surge right now, of course, unfortunately, we're headed into the winter holidays into Christmas and New Year.

And we should not be at this high of a level going into that point, especially because our hospitals in some parts of the country are getting overwhelmed again. And we haven't even seen the impact of Omicron.

What we're seeing already in South Africa is that people who have been affected by other variants, including Delta, they're getting re- infected with Omicron if they're vaccinated, they might be protected might be hopefully are but the previous infection is not protecting them. And I'm really worried about what this means, especially for our southern states.

KING: You mentioned southern states where the vaccination rate is low as the White House is touting vaccination rates are up a bit. If you look, the seven day average of people initiating vaccination, meaning getting a first shot is up 42 percent from a month ago, 1.7 8 million as of Monday that is encouraging going in the right direction.

But you look at the vaccination map. You're right and you still have eight states where fewer less than 50 percent of the population is vaccinated. The White House today Dr. Wen is saying it believes it is a significant progress, that about 5 million of those children ages five through 11, who are newly eligible have been vaccinated.

28 million is the total of that group. So that's still shy of 20 percent and it's been for close to five weeks now, since that's been eligible. Is that a good number? Or do you wish it were significantly higher?

DR. WEN: Of course, I wish it were higher, but I do think that the initial group, the early adopters, it takes time for them to get fully vaccinated, and then they're going to start living their lives. And I think that will help to convince a much larger group of parents to get their kids vaccinated as well.

KING: So if you look at this now. This map here again Maine is at 73 percent Vermont's at 74 percent that's fully vaccinated you see the deep green. You come down in here West Virginia is at 49 Tennessee at 50 it's the New Year --