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Inside Politics

Jan 6 Committee will Move to Hold Mark Meadows in Contempt; Meadows Provided 1/6 Committee Phone & Email Records, Including Messages Sent During Riot, Before his Refusal to Cooperate; Pfizer: Third Dose of Vaccine Protects Against Omicron; Omicron Variant Cases Found in At Least 21 States; Biden: "Severe Consequences" for Putin if Russia Invades Ukraine. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired December 08, 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. Omicron now in 21 states Pfizer though, says three vaccine shots do provide a robust defense against this new variant.

And a reminder Delta is still very much with us; hospitalizations in the Midwest, surging to pandemic highs. Plus the January 6 Committee arrives at a new crossroads. The Former White House Chief of Staff no shows his deposition. The panel will now seek a criminal contempt charge and blunt talk from President Biden just moments ago saying he sent a direct but polite message to Vladimir Putin don't invade Ukraine.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: But the idea that the United States is going to unilaterally use force to confront Russia invading Ukraine is not on the cards right now. But what will happen is there will be severe consequences. I am absolutely confident he got the message.


KING: Up first for us though a big and important do legal salvo from the January 6 Select Committee. The panel will now move ahead with a criminal contempt charge against Mark Meadows. The Former Trump White House Chief of Staff skipped his scheduled deposition this morning.

The contempt news comes with a juicy twist. As Meadows now tries to show loyalty to Trump the panel publicly detailed some of the emails, texts and other documents he already turned over to the committee before changing his mind about cooperating. Let's get straight up to CNN's Ryan Nobles on Capitol Hill Ryan a big development?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, no doubt about that, John. And based on this letter, it seems pretty clear that the Select Committee has just had enough with Mark Meadows and is now ready to move ahead with a criminal contempt referral.

But this is a pretty abrupt about face from Meadows, especially when you consider the thousands of pages of documents that he provided to the committee at the stage where it seemed as though he was willing to cooperate. Some of that information revealing quite a bet about Meadows' role in the lead up to January 6, including this, this is what the letter reads.

November 7th, 2020 email discussing the appointment of an alternate slate of electors as part of a "Direct and collateral attack" after the election, a January 5th, 2021 email regarding a 38 page PowerPoint briefing entitled "Election fraud, foreign interference and options for sixth Jan" that was to be provided "On the Hill".

And among other things, a January 5th, 2021 email about having the National Guard on standby. So it seems pretty clear by this document dump that Meadows provided that he was at least willing to engage with the committee in areas that they were very interested in.

That all changed though, John, somewhere between Monday and this morning, where Meadows was a no show for his deposition this morning that's enough for the committee to say that they've had enough they're going to move forward with a criminal contempt referral. John as of right now, it's just a matter of when that's going to happen?

KING: Ryan Nobles I appreciate the kickoff from Capitol Hill a big confrontation with me in studio to share their reporting and their insights CNN's Kaitlan Collins, Nolan McCaskill with "The Los Angeles Times" Margaret Talev of "AXIOS" and Former Federal Prosecutor Shan Wu.

Shan, let me start with you, Ryan just noted, Meadows was cooperating and then the sudden about face now this remarkable letter. We'll get to some of the juicy details to his lawyer, George Terwilliger. But you see here, again, we're searching for the truth Meadows should testify. But you think as his lawyer, you might have told him to do the same thing because why?

SHANLON WU, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, they've got those 100 subpoenas out now. And so that's laying a possible perjury trap for him. No doubt he cherry picked when he actually did turn over to the committee. And now he's worried that it may show that he cherry picked it or they may confront him with people he didn't talk about.

KING: Didn't talk about. And so Nolan on the committee, Steve Bannon is already in court because of a criminal contempt. The committee wants the information they want it now, but they are faced now with the idea that if you have another court case, a key witness here, yes, you're getting other people cooperating, yes, you're getting these documents.

But a key witness and this one with eyes on Trump from Election Day all the way through January 6, you need to win in court and that could last into next summer?

NOLAN MCCASKILL, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, LOS ANGELES TIMES: Right. I mean, we've seen when you talk about Steve Bannon, when you talk about Mark Meadows, we seen some of the people who were closest to Trump some of the biggest name Republicans who were in the White House during the last administration.

We've seen them sort of try to delay this investigation, delay this probe to try to just continue to stonewall try to, you know, give Democrats a hard time and you know, when you have to go through the court process, these are things that take a very long time.

I think Steve Bannon's next court date may be around July I think - is July I thought it was correct. No, that's a long time and I believe the committee wanted to wrap up this work in the spring. You know, if people are continuing to stonewall, if some of the top targets are no not cooperating, I think this could really slow down the investigation.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think you've to look at the timing of all of this because of course Meadows some people, people may say, well, why he stopped cooperating because there are Bennie Thompson's notes in his letter today.

They have text messages; they have this PowerPoint slide that Ryan was talking about. So people may ask why is Meadows now abruptly reversing course and saying he's not going to participate or cooperate or help. This also comes as his book is coming out and of course the reports of it he goes into detail.

A lot of it is very pretty he's worthy of the former president he does go into detail about how sick he was when he was diagnosed with Coronavirus and was at Walter Reed was in the hospital talking about how he was on oxygen?


COLLINS: Talking about his appearance. Of course, those are things that the former president does not like people to talk about. And now you're seeing this shift in the way that Mark Meadows is handling this. And I don't think that those two are just yet.

KING: And that's why this letter is so rich in the sense that Mark Meadows suddenly decides, OK, I want to sell a book that's going to buy my book, if you're Mark Meadows, right? Trump supporters are going to buy your book. So you don't want to cross Donald Trump right now.

So suddenly, he's not cooperating, which is why Bennie Thompson, this is a legal letter, but it's also a political letter. He's saying, oh, you're not cooperating now. But you've given us a 38 page PowerPoint demonstration, you given us an email about having the National Guard on standby.

You shared this with members on the Hill. People tell you, they're going to try to block the slate of electors. You tell them you love it. They're essentially saying, you know, OK, fine Trump World guess what? He gave us a lot.

MARGARET TALEV, MANAGING EDITOR, AXIOS: Yes, no, that's absolutely. That's exactly right there. You can't take the politics out of all of this on both sides. But what is interesting about Mark Meadows book is also why Mark Meadows is so important to laying the groundwork here if you're the bipartisan committee looking at this, which is that Trump to varying degrees, kind of stonewalled or firewalled, his chiefs of staff during his time in office, from key information.

Remember Reince Priebus, how hard would it be to be that Chief of Staff, you have no idea who's coming in and out the door? John Kelly did his best to try to install himself but found himself marginalized quickly. Mark Meadows interestingly, because he took such a different tack because he didn't try to keep people out.

He didn't try to limit the flow of traffic. He was very much in the loop. He had insights into exactly how sick Trump was. And he probably had insights into exactly who was moving around where and talking to whom, on January 6, and in the days leading up to it? So he - I'm sure what he's turned over already is quite important to helping build that kind of timeline and then connections that they're looking for.

But that testimony would be important, and the kind of questions he would be asked, could get any legal trust.

KING: So let's before I bring the counselor and let's go back through this publicly, again, Mark Meadows is trying to sell books. So publicly as like this on Fox News last night, Donald Trump acted perfectly.


MARK MEADOWS, FORMER TRUMP WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Not only did Donald Trump want to make sure the National Guard was available, he repeated that a number of times. And I think that there are a number of people that he's communicated with that can back me up on that particular assessment.

I can tell you that, you know, they've been pretty aggressive about holding people in contempt and you know, they'll do what they need to do and at this point, hopefully, the courts can work it out.


KING: That would break a fact check machine. They've only held one other person in contempt. They've only held one other person in contempt, Steve Bannon; Mark Meadows would be second if they get there. Number two, there have been a lot of reports and people coming forward and testimony that the president actually didn't do a lot while he was watching all this play out.

So they have this Shan Wu, you deal with cases all the time where you have what witnesses say. And then you have the in the digital age, you have a lot of records, emails, texts, and so on. The committee says you withheld several 100 additional documents from Mr. Meadows personal email account based on claims of executive privilege, attorney client privilege, or other privilege.

You also produced a privilege log indicating that you withheld over 1000 text messages for Mr. Meadows, personal cell phone and you note that convenience. He suddenly needed a new phone when all this was coming out and turned his phone in.

WU: Right. Well, the problem for him is text messages go to somebody. So that's what he's worried about. If they're subpoenaing all these other people, they can ask them to produce the substance those messages. It's a two way street. So that's what he's worried about.

COLLINS: And can we also point out one other thing is that it's not just he knows what Trump was doing. Meadows himself was, people often said, enabling the worst of what Trump was pushing about the election lies. He was talking to Justice Department Officials; he was trying to get state election officials on the phone.

So he has a really big role in this in and of himself, not just what he knows about what the former president was doing on that.

KING: All right. And again, you get that if you read this letter from Chairman Thompson a 38 point PowerPoint presentation about "Fraud" there was no fraud. We know that no systemic fraud, working with members of Congress who were going to try to get in the way of certification the election on January 6th.

So it'll be fascinating to watch how it plays out? But again, another contempt process is up next. Coming up for us, Pfizer says a booster dose is critical against the Omicron variant. What that new data shows next?



KING: Pfizer today offering data it says shows a booster a third shot of its vaccine offers strong protection against the new Omicron variant. The company says two doses should be enough to prevent severe illness from the new variant but might not provide enough protection against breakthrough Omicron infections.


MIKAEL DOLSTEN, CHIEF SCIENTIFIC OFFICER, PFIZER: I advise and - BioNTech advice given on this new data that we are presenting that everyone should get vaccinated. And those that have given the two doses should as soon as possible get to third dose.


KING: Important to remember it is the Delta variant driving the current spike in cases in hospitalizations but 21 states now report Omicron infections and the Pfizer review as part of an urgent global effort to study how much this new variant will impact the pandemic fight?

Let's get to our Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen. She has more on this new information Elizabeth. ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: John, you know, it's really interesting to watch how all of this is rolling out? Really what we're finding now is that the there was a lot of fear that the vaccine wasn't going to work very well against the Omicron variant, but now we're finding that actually it does work somewhat quite well.

Not perfectly but it's definitely the mutation is giving it a run for its money, but still it is working. So let's take a look at what's been found by a Pfizer study and by a South African study? What they found is that two doses may not provide sufficient protection against infection with Omicron.


KING: In other words there is a possibility that you are going to - you'll be fully vaccinated and still get infected with Omicron. Now, if it doesn't get you really sick, that's not necessarily such a big deal. But they did find the two doses may still give significant protection against severe disease.

And that's really what we're looking for is that this for the vaccine to keep you out of the hospital and out of the morgue. And what they found is that a third dose may give more robust protection. So again, all of this is to say the bottom line is get vaccinated, of course, and when you were six months out from your second shot, get yourself a booster John.

KING: Elizabeth Cohen grateful for the important new information. Let's get some insights on it now from Dr. Richina Bicette-McCain she is the Medical Director of Baylor College of Medicine Doctor, thank you for your time today.

I just want to put up the data Elizabeth just shared from Pfizer. Two doses, maybe not, you might still get a breakthrough infection. Three doses Pfizer says should protect you against Omicron as we are trying to learn more and more about the new variant. What does this tell you? And does it leave any big questions you still think needs to be answered?

DR. RICHINA BICETTE-MCCAIN, MEDICAL DIRECTOR, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Absolutely John, there's still a lot of questions that need to be answered. We have to remember that these are still preliminary reports and preliminary data. Omicron was just discovered a little under two weeks ago.

So scientists and researchers are really putting the pedal to the metal in order to try to figure out how Omicron is going to work? But they need to collect more data. It does look like our current vaccines will protect against severe disease. And that ultimately, is our goal is to keep Americans from dying and to keep people out of the hospital.

KING: And so that, that gives you some solace, I guess. There might be a better word as we wait to find out the important new information as you talked about how transmissible is it? Does it grow into something more serious than what we've seen?

But we're still dealing with Delta right now. And as we do that, and you look at the map, you see a lot of red, especially in the parts of the country that already cold or that's higher COVID transmission, its Delta driving that right now. Yes, some new Omicron cases, but most of these cases are still Delta.

And if you look at it from this perspective, just shy of 120,000 new COVID infections yesterday, Doctor the seven day average of new infections up 60 percent from November 1st and then you look at this hospitalizations going up as well.

Again, this is delta pushing us late fall into the winter 62,000 Americans hospitalized. I just want to put this map up of hospitalizations because even as we tried to study Omicron and to decide where are we going to be a month from now? Two months from now three months from now?

Today, you have Maine at pandemic hospitalizations, high Michigan at pandemic hospitalization high Minnesota not quite there yet but on the way there. What does that tell you about the current fight?

DR. BICETTE-MCCAIN: John, I'm so glad you bring up that point. Omicron is the new kid on the block. And we all know that everyone likes to pay attention to the new kid. But Delta is currently the opponent that we are waging war against.

Even in Michigan where you discuss the spike in cases 99.9 percent of those cases are all due to Delta. As a matter of fact, I don't think they've isolated any cases of Omicron in Michigan just yet. We know that millions of people traveled over the Thanksgiving holiday and that's a right breeding ground for COVID case spike.

We also know that along with the changes in weather people change their behavior. Everyone is moving indoors because it's cold outside and being inside is a higher risk situation for COVID. Businesses are doing away with social distancing and capacity restrictions.

People are mingling and getting back to their behaviors - pandemic that's why we're seeing the case spike right now.

KING: You're seeing a case by case and I hate to bring up this number. I genuinely do. But we're also seeing, you know, COVID-19 1500 Americans lost their live yesterday, 1500 more deaths. Months ago, we were hoping that this would get shoved down.

Again it is not - nowhere near where we were last winter horrific winter before vaccines were widely available. But what does it tell you when you do see cases up hospitalizations up and sadly, the death toll still climbing? We will soon in this country reach 800,000 COVID deaths.

DR. BICETTE-MCCAIN: People have got to remember that this pandemic is not over no matter what we want to think no matter the messaging that comes from certain political parties. We have got to stay vigilant and have got to do our part in order to curb this virus. Everyone needs to get vaccinated. If it's been six months since your vaccine or two months since you've gotten the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, please get your booster. Furthermore, if you are around people in an environment where you aren't sure what their vaccination status is, please wear a mask social distance if you can. Americans are dying. We have got to do what we can to stop this pandemic.

KING: Is your view I just want to come back again. I'm going to come back to the case map right now just to show again, the darker the color the higher the transmission across the country. And you see the worst part of it is where it is cold.

I brought it up Doctor to ask this question is your view about what people should do about the holidays travel any different today than it was say two weeks ago when people were a little bit more optimistic maybe?

DR. BICETTE-MCCAIN: Well traveling, of course is going to be high risk because you're exposing yourself to throngs of people that you do not know. You can't be sure what their vaccination status isn't everyone isn't wearing the same quality of masks.


DR. BICETTE-MCCAIN: In terms of gathering over the holidays. I do think that we are in a different space this year than we were last year. If you're going to gather with your family, and you can ensure what everyone's vaccination status is.

I think people who are vaccinated can feel safe to get together and not wear masks if you're in mixed company if you have a compromised immune system. If you are not vaccinated, however, those rules will change.

KING: Dr. Richina Bicette-McCain grateful as always for your insights I really appreciate it. Thank you.

DR. BICETTE-MCCAIN: Thank you, John.

KING: Up next for us, President Biden just moments ago delivering a warning to Vladimir Putin after delivering it in person on a phone call yesterday will the Russian President listen?



KING: Presidents Biden and Putin today both offer their day after takes on their high stakes video conference. The Russian President telling reporters Moscow, he says seeks confrontation with no one. And in Putin's words, it is "Provocative to suggest he's preparing an attack on Ukraine".

For his part, President Biden told reporters a short time ago he is prepared if necessary to increase the U.S. military presence in Europe and to provide new military aid to Ukraine. One point the White House is stressing that Biden made clear his administration will not give Putin the past. The Obama White House essentially gave Putin back when Russia annexed Crimea seven years ago.


BIDEN: I was very straightforward. There were no mince words. It was polite, but I made it very clear. Different facts we invade invades Ukraine, there will be severe consequences economic consequences like not he's ever seen, or however had been seen.


KING: With us to discuss "The New Yorkers" Masha Gessen. Masha is also the Author of "Surviving Autocracy". Masha as someone who understands Putin better than most the question is, will he hear that when Biden says I'm not Trump and as importantly, maybe more importantly, I'm not Obama, will Putin get it?

MASHA GESSEN, AUTHOR, "SURVIVING AUTOCRACY": Well, he gets it, right? The question is, is it something that he fears? And I'm not sure that it is? You know, I think that we have to understand, it's hard to decipher what Putin's objectives are?

But it will be wrong to think of them as either economic or territorial. It's not that Putin wants to bite off a bigger piece of Ukraine than he already has. It's not that he's particularly scared of economic sanctions. And, importantly, it's not that he is scared of confrontation.

In fact, he seeks confrontation, right? He seeks to have his population in a constant state of mobilization. And the biggest objective here is to feel great, and to provide Russians with a sense of being a part of something great. And so having a two hour conversation with Joe Biden is already achieving that objective.

And maintaining the level of tension that requires Biden to keep going back to Putin, and to keep engaging with Russia is actually achieving that objective.

KING: It's a delicate act for the White House in the sense that, you know, Putin does want respect, I think that's part of the point you're making there. And the White House says it's trying to de-escalate. But the President also has to be clear of what he's prepared to do, especially as he tries to rally other European allies the NATO allies, especially to be prepared for tough economic sanctions if necessary.

So listen to what the president said that he is prepared to do. President Biden says, if Putin does not de-escalate, this might happen.


BIDEN: We would probably also be required to reinforce our presence in NATO countries to reassure particularly that Eastern Front. In addition to that, I made it clear that we would provide the defensive capability to the Ukrainians as well. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Now, the Biden White House, the NATO allies, the European Union would view those steps as necessary. But Mr. Putin would view them as provocative would he not?

GESSEN: He would say that he views them as provocative. I think this is exactly the sort of thing that he is after, right? They're responding to us. We are getting them to change their behavior in response to a threat coming from Russia; they're paying attention, right?

They're not incessantly talking about China, as though China were the only major power remaining in the world. They have to deal with us; they have to deal with Russians. So I think that everything that Biden is saying is right, it is the right thing to do.

It is the right thing to do for NATO, for supporting Ukraine, for responding to Russia if the - if the objective is to stop Putin in his tracks, that it's not necessarily going to be effective.

KING: And here's something our Kaitlan Collins reports. This quote, Senior White House Official quotes the President of the United States telling this to Putin, "One nation can't force another nation to change its border. One nation cannot tell another to change its politics. And nations can't tell others who they can work with".

That may be the view of the President of the United States. It is not the view of Vladimir Putin certainly. The question is, is it an effective message again, as you're trying to find an off ramp here?

GESSEN: Well, actually, I think that Putin thinks that those are - that's exactly his view. He feels like the United States is trying to tell him how to act. He feels like the United States told Russia a long time ago how to change its borders? Putin and other people in the Kremlin in the last--