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Biden: U.S. is Prepared to Keep Schools and Businesses Open; Omicron Surge Forces Even Cancellations, Disrupts Travel; Cardin: Dems' "Best Strategy is to Find a Common Spot"; Cardin: Dems are "Open" to Breaking Down $1.7 Trillion Spending Bill into Smaller, Stand-Alone Bills; Jan 6 Committee Ramps Up Effort to Uncover Who Founded "Stop the Steel" Rallies. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired December 27, 2021 - 12:00   ET




PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN HOST: Hello, and welcome to "Inside Politics". I'm Phil Mattingly in Washington in for John King. Omicron, it's become a holiday nightmare. U.S. now averaging nearly 200,000 new COVID cases per day and the biggest concern really spike in hospitalizations and death comes next.

Plus, President Biden closes out his first year in office where he began with his giant rewrite the American social safety net, still unfinished. And to "The great Canadian lyricist" he, no new friends in Congress COVID clashes shouting matches on the House floor videos depicting the murder of a colleague. The mood at the Capitol is toxic this civility dead and gone.

And first moments ago, President Joe Biden addressing the growing Omicron COVID surge he says there is more work to do to get COVID test to every corner of the country and his new mantra for governors, if you need help, just asks. Biden was also careful to say that history is not repeating itself.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: This is not like March of 2020, the beginning of the pandemic. We're prepared and we know what it takes to save lives, protect people and keep schools and businesses open. We just have to stay focused and continue to work together. My message to the governor is simple. If you need something, say something and we're going to have your back and any way we can.


MATTINGLY: President's words come as the U.S. nears awful repeat COVID milestone daily cases approaching 200,000 per day; I want to get straight to CNN's John Harwood outside the White House. And John, the president did answer a question what was his overall message today, given where the country stands right now?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was a message of trying to stand with those governors expressed some solidarity. He got a welcome greeting from Asa Hutchinson, the Republican Governor of Arkansas, who said the president's remarks last week; to try to de- politicize the response to the virus were helpful.

This is something that has plagued the COVID response from the beginning, a partisan divide in terms of masks in terms of testing in terms of vaccinations, that's still a problem for the president because even though 200 billion excuse me, 200 million Americans are fully vaccinated, many have been boosted.

You have a hard core of vaccine resistance principally among Republicans. And that, in combination with a shortage of tests has made this holiday season difficult. What the administration is hoping to do is they've ordered up those 500 million tests that will be available for free to Americans who ordered them off a website.

They've invoked the Defense Production Act to try to ramp up testing they've created pop up testing sites, all those things have been inadequate for the current moment. But the administration hopes once we get past the holidays, that the governors are going to find in their states that those tests are more readily available than they are now. That's something that we need to try to cope with this Omicron surge.

MATTINGLY: Yes, no question about it John Harwood at the White House where the president is about to depart for Rehoboth Delaware. Now, as we mentioned, cases are at the highest point in nearly a year, almost 200,000 new reports daily, that's up 47 percent in a week, the rate of positive PCR tests nationwide now a whopping 12.5 percent and Omicron is canceling college bowl games along with pro sports and forcing airlines to pull thousands of flights due to staffing shortages.

Plus cruise ships they are returning early or changing course due to outbreaks on board. So how long will this surge last?


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, PRESIDENT BIDEN'S CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER: We're certainly going to continue to see a surge for a while Kaitlan, I fully expect that it will turn around I hope it turns around as sharply as what we've seen in South Africa.


MATTINGLY: Joining me now is Professor William Haseltine. He's the - Infectious Disease Expert and President of Access Health International. And Professor that's actually right where I want to start because we've all been watching - you want to pull up the cases per capita as it pertains to South Africa versus the United States.

We've seen some positive news and just how quickly there's been kind of a turnaround in the cases in South Africa. What do we expect in the United States in the coming months? Do we expect a similar kind of turnaround once we hit peak?

WILLIAM HASELTINE, INFECTIOUS DISEASE EXPERT: Well, of course we've gone through this before we know that the pandemic peaks infection rates peak and then fall over but the U.S. is very different from South Africa. We are much bigger country. We are geographically in terms of our weather quite diverse.

And we've seen it starts in the northeast, which is the extreme north then it kind of moves to the Midwest and then to the south. This is going a little bit faster, but it gets spread out for a longer period of time I would say if it peaks in a month's time in South Africa it would be perhaps three to four months here so we're in for a while.


MATTINGLY: Yes and given that timeline, look, I think everybody started to shift their focus a little bit from case counts, particularly given the vaccination rates to hospitalizations, and deaths. And you see U.S. hospitalizations at this moment are down over 30 percent from where they were at the peak of Delta. I know it's a lagging data point to some degree, what is the current number? What are the current numbers tell you?

HASELTINE: Well, the current numbers tell us that at this point in the pandemic, of Omicron. It doesn't look like the hospitalization rates will be at high. That's for the vaccinated people mostly. We don't know what's going to happen to the unvaccinated people, whether it's the same as Delta, worsen than Delta or better than Delta?

But since many people have been vaccinated, it means that hospitalization rates are going to go down, or are going to go down. But it doesn't tell you the whole story, one of the things we really have to understand is even if you have a mild infection, you may get a long COVID. And long COVID is a very serious thing we now know it can last over a year, so 10 to 20 percent of people who think they've, you know, dodged a bullet, because I've got it, and they're fine, they may have some other problems.

I think it's a big mistake, to change the way we count, we need to know where the infection is how it's spreading. And we need to have that information. Now, it's less than whether you want to know how many people in your area are infected. So you can moderate your behavior.

If there's a lot of people infected, you want to stay inside, like a thunderstorm or even a tornado. So you really do want to keep number - keep counting the number of people infected. The number of people, hospitalization, hopefully won't be as many.

MATTINGLY: And you know, kind of the importance of data and being able to operate based off of that in terms of guidelines, there's been a lot of confusion over kind of the evolution of CDC guidelines. Generally, the agency just last week shortened the isolation period for healthcare workers.

Dr. Fauci told CNN this morning that they're considering expanding that to the general population take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DR. FAUCI: The idea about cutting down the period of quarantine for people who've been exposed, and perhaps the period of isolation for people who have been infected as something that is under I would say, serious consideration.


MATTINGLY: And Professor, the president was just asked about this saying he said he will listen to his medical team and public health team, which obviously Dr. Fauci is a part of is shortening the quarantine period. Is that wise? Do we know concretely how long someone is contagious with COVID-19?

HASELTINE: Personally, I don't think it's wise. This infection is a dangerous infection. It has both immediate effects and long term effects. And that period in which people remain infection can be quite long. The countries that have controlled COVID best assume that it's two to three weeks.

So shortening it as short as five days, even to seven days is taking a risk; I don't think we need to take for maybe critical workers if we actually need them. And we don't have doctors and nurses, maybe then for those workers, but I would be pretty conservative on shortening it. That's my own opinion, based on looking at data around the world.

MATTINGLY: And before we go, I'll have a couple seconds left. But New Year's Eve, obviously, just a couple of days away, Dr. Fauci were urging folks to stay away from larger gatherings. What's your take on things?

HASELTINE: Exactly right. This is not a time I can tell your personal experience living in the New York, Connecticut area. I can't tell you how many of my friends are negative one day and positive the next people who I've unfortunately interacted with, who we have tested the day before. The next day, they called me up, we're infected.

It's happened to me three times four times already. It's a dangerous time. And I would recommend against joining any large crowd. Stay home this New Year's Eve.

MATTINGLY: Professor, thanks as always for your time, sir. We appreciate it.

HASELTINE: You're welcome. Thank you.

MATTINGLY: All right, coming up next. There is hope for the president's agenda this holiday season at least among a few Democrats the suggestion on how to keep the Build Back Better Bill alive coming up next?



MATTINGLY: Democrats are not giving up on President Biden's $1.75 trillion economic and climate package even after Senator Joe Manchin seemingly killed the legislation live on national TV. Democratic Senator Ben Cardin says they'll keep at it.


SEN. BEN CARDIN (D-MD): I think our best strategy is to find a common spot where all Democrats can agree and move that legislation. That's what we're trying to do now that that's what the negotiations are about between the President and Joe Manchin and the Speaker of the House and the Majority Leader in the Senate.


MATTINGLY: Our panel joins me now to share their reporting and insights "Washington Post" White House Reporter Seung Min Kim, CNN White House Correspondent John Harwood, and CNN national politics reporter Eva McKenna.

And Seung Min, I want to start with you. You heard what Senator Cardin said there. But something Senator Cardin said yesterday that I think grabbed a few headlines in terms of what the process may be going forward, take a listen.


MIKE EMANUEL, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Are Democrats open to scaling it back even more or passing various pieces as standalones maybe attracting Senator Manchin or even some GOP on some of these issues?

CARDIN: Well, that's a strategy decision that's being negotiated. We are open to a way to reach the finish line.


MATTINGLY: So I want to deconstruct that a little bit. They're open to whatever way it gets things to the finish line, but the idea of breaking things into pieces. There's a reason they're doing it all at once, and it's because they don't have any Republican support so what is the process to the best you've kind of divined and talking to folks the last couple of weeks?


SEUNG MIN KIM, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Right. I mean the best way to get what they want passed and passed is basically figure out what Joe Manchin can support and get on board with that, because breaking this - breaking the Build Back Better package or Build Back Better package into different provisions, is going to present numerous hurdles for Democrats who are looking at this as their kind of one big shot at a major transformational legislative package before the midterms.

You know, there was some chatter before the break about how potentially maybe the child tax credit could be a bipartisan effort. But once you start really getting into the nitty, gritty of legislator, you're going to run into, you know, differences between the two parties, and in terms of whether you want to, you know, require or make a work requirement or not. So the best shot for Democrats right now, I think what Democratic senior aides Democratic lawmakers are still hoping is that everyone can kind of cool off after the Christmas break, and that particularly Joe Manchin and President Biden can come back to the negotiating table in January.

MATTINGLY: And John, I wanted to ask you, John's always cooled off, I should note at all times. Congresswoman Pramila, Jayapal obviously, a critical player here had an opinion piece in "The Washington Post", where she said in part taking an executive action, we'll also make clear to those who hinder Build Back Better at the White House and Democrats will deliver for Americans, the Congressional Progressive Caucus will soon release a plan for these actions.

This idea of executive action, obviously, there are significant limitations to what the White House could do. Is there a possibility that the White House may pursue something along these lines in the weeks ahead?

HARWOOD: I doubt it. I think that's not any better of an option than the one that Ben Cardin was asked about over the weekend about breaking it up. Seung Min was exactly right. Not sure you get anything by breaking it up.

Remember, they already broke up the initial Biden agenda into two pieces, the infrastructure bill and Build Back Better. There are not 10 Republican votes for anything significant Joe Biden wants to do. And so it seems pretty clear that the way to get something done is to figure out what it is that Joe Manchin is willing to vote for, and then try to and then try to get 50 votes for that with Kamala Harris as the tiebreaker vote.

MATTINGLY: Yes. And you mentioned the Vice President, she had an interview with CBS and Eva, I want to play some sound about Senator Joe Manchin from the Vice President take a listen.


KAMALA HARRIS, U.S. VICE PRESIDENT: I'm not giving up the president's not giving up and frankly, the stakes are too high.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you feel that Senator Manchin is playing fair with you?

HARRIS: I think the stakes are too high for this to be in any way about any specific individual.


MATTINGLY: The temperature it has been reduced, to say the least. But what is the posture kind of show you right now that we've heard from administration officials and Democratic leadership after a blow up just about seven, eight days ago?

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Well, we saw after Senator Manchin basically blow this whole thing up on Fox News about a week ago, the White House come out with this strong statement, and it was a departure from what they've done for many weeks.

And I think they're now returning to that to kind of treating Senator Manchin with kid gloves. I think President Biden has long been intentional about not ostracizing him or demonizing him, even when he has faced widespread protests to move on this bill. And I think they realize as a practical matter, they have to return to that position.

MATTINGLY: Yes, that's you need 50 votes. Joe Manchin is number 50. Pursue everything as such. Alright guys, we'll get back to you. Coming up, ahead a new window into what the January 6 Committee is after.



MATTINGLY: Four full calendar days left in 2021 and the January 6 Committee is firmly stuck in legal quicksand with its most high profile request. Former President Trump last week as the Supreme Court to step in and block the panel's demands for his records, it's unclear if Steve Bannon or Mark Meadows or Michael Flynn or any high profile Trump allies were will ever be compelled to come before the committee, also unclear if the committee plans to open a new front and depose sitting Republican members of Congress who helped push the big lie.

But we did learn something important in a weekend court challenge. The committee subpoenaed information directly from a bank, in this case, JP Morgan, as part of its effort to track and trace the money that paid for the "Stop the Steel" rallies that morphed into that Capitol mob siege.

I want to go straight to Capitol Hill, and CNN's Ryan nobles. And Ryan, you've been covering every twist and turn of this. What did that say to you when you saw it?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well Phil, so we've known for some time that the committee was very interested in the money trail, they have a specific team within the committee called "The Green Team" that has the specific mandate of figuring out where the money came from, and who spent it and what it was spent on and what role that played in the insurrection on January 6?

It's also the distinct possibility that they could be looking for criminal activity that perhaps some of the money that was encouraged to be raised for the specific rallies that took place here on the Capitol was actually not spent that way. So there are a lot of different avenues that the committee is looking for what as it relates to money and how it was spent.

But the big question, as you point out, is, how difficult is it going to be to get access to that information? Because of all the laws that some of these subpoena targets have been filing.


NOBLES: And lawsuits not only to prevent them from coming in front of the committee but also lawsuits to prevent these records from being handed over from some of these third party groups like bank companies, social media companies, and telecom companies.

And Phil it may not be an issue of whether or not the January 6 Select Committee has the authority to do so under law, they could very well win all of these lawsuits. It's really more an issue of timing. They are up against a deadline here.

They need to get their work done before the midterm elections because if Republicans are successful, it is likely they will shut down this committee or change its scope in a big way. Right now you see all these allies of the Former President Donald Trump throwing as much legal work as they possibly can against the wall to try and grind the gears to a halt of this committee.

So far not been successful but this has to play itself out here over the next couple of months to see whether or not the committee will get any of the information they're looking for, Phil?

MATTINGLY: And the clock is ticking. Ryan Nobles for us on Capitol Hill. Thanks so much. And I want to bring in on that note, CNN Legal Analyst Elie Honig, who joins our conversation. And Elie, I think one of the things I'm trying to figure out as Ryan noted we've known they wanted financial information, they thought it was critical follow the money is the oldest adage in Washington investigations at this point.

What do you think that they're trying to get here? What do you think that this - whatever they secure here, they do could actually move this case toward?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes Phil, I see two areas of relevance for these bank records. And by the way, it's not only the oldest adage of Washington; it's the first thing you're taught as a prosecutor, in any case, with any financial element, pull those bank records, figure out where the money went.

Here, I think they're trying to do two things. First of all, flesh out the story behind January 6, who funded this? Who handled the money? Where was it dispersed? What was done with it? I mean, you have to know that in order to have the full picture.

And second, there's always the possibility of potential crimes potential fraud, if money was raised, for example, on one pretense, donate to stop the steal, and then the - and then that money was used for other purposes, if people pocketed it or used it for other reasons, that could be wire fraud.

Now, of course, Congress can't bring a criminal charge, but if they do find evidence of potential crimes, they can send that over to the Justice Department.

MATTINGLY: Yes, it's going to be something we're all watching. And I know you Elie wreckers fan and chief getting ready for the ballgame as anybody else. Elie Honig as always, thanks so much.

HONIG: Thanks Phil.

MATTINGLY: Alright, we're back with our panel now. And guys, I want to jump off this a little bit because one of the questions Ryan got onto, which I think is really important right now, in terms of where the committee goes next is the idea of asking lawmakers for information.

And one of those lawmakers is Congressman Jim Jordan, including some of his conversations with Donald Trump on January 6, of which there have been multiple versions of take a listen to this version.


REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): I spoke with him that day after I think after, I don't know if I spoke with him in the morning or not. And I just don't know I'd have to go back. And I mean, I don't - I don't I don't know that when those conversations happen. But what I know as I spoke--


MATTINGLY: It was clear as mud. But there have been multiple versions of that. Eva I want to ask you, when you think about the idea of committee going after lawmakers, it raises I think, a lot of concerns inside Congress. But where's this head between whether or not the committee subpoenas lawmakers how they approached lawmakers specifically?

MCKEND: Well, it's a strategy that the committee can't take lightly. It adds a whole new dynamic when you are subpoenaing members of Congress, like felt your coworkers, basically. And it turns up the temperature in that body at a time when it is already very high.

But they have determined that this is a necessary step forward. And, you know, in addition to this, we have seen members, they call themselves part of the advanced team, right in Congress, and Republican members of Congress are closely aligned to Former President Trump.

And so I think the question is, in the weeks ahead, the pressure on these members, who are you? Who are you committed to? Who is your allegiance to the country to getting to the bottom of what happened on January 6, or to the former president?

MATTINGLY: And Seung Min, you're up there every day, you know, the idea of - up the temperature given the fact that the like it's been past the boiling point now, since January 6, and beyond. I was struck our colleague Dana Bash, interviewed Fred Upton, Republican Congressman, on State of the Union and the idea of kind of white washing January 6, take a listen to how he put things.


REP. FRED UPTON (R-MI): And watch people go down the mall and I saw them come back and I heard the noises and obviously was watching what happened. But it was real and shocking.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: So is it - is it shocking to you that so many Republicans now are being told it wasn't?


BASH: What you saw?

UPTON: Do you remember the conversation that's been recanted a good number of times when Kevin McCarthy called the president said, call the troops off, you know, stop this stuff. And the response was along the lines, I guess they care more about the election than you do, Kevin.