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Omicron Variant Drives U.S. Daily Cases to Record Highs; Democrats Debate Future of "Build Back Better"; Study Finds Hispanic Voters Shifting Right, Citing Economy; Biden's Warning to Putin; Top Political Moments of 2021. Aired 8-9a ET
Aired January 02, 2022 - 08:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN HOST (voice-over): A New Year, a new and record- breaking COVID surge.
DR. JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: I think that right now we're in the public health crisis of our lifetimes.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF TEH UNITED STATES: There's no quit in America. This virus has been tough, but we've been tougher.
MATTINGLY: What will 2022 bring for Democrats and their cornerstone domestic priority, Build Back Netter?
REP. TIM RYAN (D-OH): We've got to revive it, but if we've got to pare it down, we've got to pare it down.
MATTINGLY: Plus, President Biden to speak with the leader of Ukraine just days after his call with Vladimir Putin.
And the first anniversary of January 6th. The fight for democracy and the big lie that continues to grow.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: This year, they rigged an election, they rigged it like they've never rigged an election before.
MATTINGLY: INSIDE POLITICS, the biggest stories sourced by the best reporters now.
MATTINGLY: Welcome to INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY. And happy New Year. I'm Phil Mattingly, in for Abby Phillip.
It has been a challenging 2021 beginning with an attack on the U.S. Capitol and ending with a record breaking COVID surge. Now, over the holiday break, cases have skyrocketed with the latest numbers approaching 400,000 a day. Omicron's transmissible rise has some businesses and schools scrapping
their plans to return to normal this month. And the variant is also causing staffing shortages from airlines to hospitals.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. MEGAN RANNEY, ASSOCIATE DEAN OF PUBLIC HEALTH, BROWN UNIVERSITY: Omicron is truly everywhere. What I'm so worried about over the next month or so is that our economy is going to shut down not because of policies from the federal government or from the state governments, but rather because so many of us are ill.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTINGLY: Now, a bit of good news is that this strain is not breaking hospitalization records, at least not yet. Much more of the population is vaccinated than it was in last winter's surge and some studies have pointed to reasons this variant might be less deadly than its delta predecessor.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: As we enter the New Year, I'm more optimistic about America's future than I've ever been. You know, at our best, we've taken every crisis we have faced and turned it into an opportunity to be a stronger and better nation. There's nothing we can't do if we're together.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTINGLY: The president refers to himself as a congenital optimist, but is he correct with what he was saying there?
Joining us now is CNN medical analyst and former Baltimore City health commissioner, Dr. Leana Wen, "Axios" political reporter Hans Nichols, and "The Wall Street Journal" White House reporter Tarini Parti.
Dr. Wen, I want to start with you here, because we've seen the case surge but we also know this is a very different time. It seems like this variant is different, too.
Based on what we're seeing right now, can you big picture for us what the next couple of weeks is going to be like for the U.S.?
DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: It's a very confusing time right now, Phil. The reason is that there's a difference between the risk to the individual versus the risk to society. The risk to you as an individual, especially if you're vaccinated and boosted of omicron is very low. Chances are even if you get infected you'll do just fine, you will not end up in the hospital. That makes it difficult to ask individuals to pare down, hunker down and stop doing their pre- pandemic activities.
But on the other hand, we're seeing a substantial strain on society with supply chain disruptions and travel disruptions because so many people are out ill, and also especially with the strain on our health care system where individuals are now having to wait ten plus hours in the emergency department. There are not beds available for people who are not just coming in with coronavirus but with other issues as well.
And so, I think what is coming our way is we're going to see an escalation in the number of cases. We'll also see a climbing in the rate of hospitalizations to the point that some health care systems are going to be on the brink of collapse. I think the question is can we institute some commonsense protections including indoor masking especially with high-quality masks in order to get us through the next very difficult few weeks ahead?
MATTINGLY: Yeah, difficult few weeks for the entire society and potential societal breakdowns just due to the surge in cases. I think one of the primary issues people are concerned about, particularly me as a parent and you as well, Hans as well, is schools. Schools are reopening right now or coming back from holiday break.
You look at pediatric hospital admissions, they're definitely up. You look at the percentage of vaccination by age. You know, 5 to 11 is 15 percent right now.
We know -- we expect the FDA to approve boosters for 12-year-olds to 15-year-olds in the coming days.
Will that make a difference? I guess the bigger picture, what are schools supposed to do at this moment?
WEN: I think schools should remain open. That should be the top priority of keeping our students in school. The reason is that we know omicron is everywhere. It's not just in schools, it's in communities as well. And multiple studies have shown schools can be some of the safest places for children from a COVID standpoint if protective measures are in place.
And so, I would urge school districts that are thinking of paring back mask mandates, this is not the time to turn back on any protective measure. This is the time to increase our protective measures while still keeping our children in school. And for parents of kids 5 and above, you have the opportunity to protect your children. So, please vaccinate your children at this point.
For parents of children under the age of five, the best way to protect our kids is to surround them with people who are vaccinated and boosted, that's the definition of herd immunity to protect our children and increase the use of other tools including testing where possible and just assume that omicron is everywhere. So, how are you going to behave knowing that's the case? That includes wearing a high- quality mask even if others around you are not always wearing a mask.
MATTINGLY: And, Tarini, we've seen from the White House, I think they tried to get out in front of this over the course of several weeks. Their winter plan, an update to the winter plan. We see the CDC has cut back or pared back the isolation guidance right now. I think one of the questions and Dr. Wen weighed on this a lot, during
one of the questions with the CDC guidance is what was the rational for it? Was it science-based, was it politics-based, was it business- based, was it all of them above? What is your sense right now?
TARINI PARTI, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Yeah. I think the challenge facing the White House since the emergence of this new variant has been effectively communicating the dangers of it frankly with how transmissible it is while also communicating effectively that this is not 2020. We don't need to shut down everything in order to go on and deal with this virus. I think you saw that sort of reflected in the CDC's new guidance.
And, yeah, I think it is somewhat all of the above. Of course, the administration will argue that it is science-based and so will the CDC. But there have been questions raised about why the guidelines are not different for vaccinated versus unvaccinated people in terms of the isolation required for those two categories.
So I think the goal here clearly was to keep the economy functioning because we're seeing all these staffing shortages, and given how transmissible this virus has been. But I think you'll see the White House continue to sort of balance, you know, where -- how they can communicate, that this is different from 2020 while also telling people to get vaccinated, to get boosted and sort of communicate the urgency of this.
MATTINGLY: Yeah. And, Hans, I want to play sound from president Biden that got a lot of attention earlier this week. I'll lay in the context afterwards. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: Look, there is no federal solution, this gets solved at the state level. It ultimately gets down to where the rubber meets the road, that's where the patient is in need of help or preventing the need for help.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTINGLY: The president was on the call with members from the national governor's association and talking essentially about federal working in coordination with states, but the idea of this being a state issue and states need to handle and solve it was something that got attention particularly from Republicans. What's your read right now in terms of where the Biden administration is going forward in terms of their capacity to handle this?
HANS NICHOLS, POLITICAL REPORTER, AXIOS: Well, they're running up against the challenge that a lot of presidents have, and that is how do you actually control the levers of government? How do you implement what you want to do rhetorically?
And so, yes, there's talk. They moved in the direction of vaccine mandates. The question really for this month and the next month for the White House is will they be able to effectuate those changes? Will they be able to impose their will, which is what they want, increased vaccinations, more moving in the direction of vaccine mandates, will they able to do that at the state and local level?
You're already seeing some localities move in that direction. You have some movement not just on the school front but in sort of what parts, what areas of public life are available to you? You saw some news over the weekend in Chicago that for the unvaccinated, there will be less available.
The question, the thorny, political one, is what do you do about schools? There will be certain localities, you saw Atlanta, some movement in Georgia, you will see it out west, what you do to keep schools open and transmission? And no one really has a firm and clear answer on that just yet, although we're learning more, although that doesn't necessarily mean we have any sort of perfect visibility here -- guys.
MATTINGLY: Yeah. You cannot quantify the anxiety of parents right now trying to figure out whether or not -- how they're going to go back to work, whether kids will be in school.
Dr. Wen, Hans makes a great point that there's only so much that the federal government can do in terms of imposing its will, but competency, preparedness was what the Biden administration was bringing to the table, absolutely achieve that in terms of the a historic vaccination program and effort. However, there's a testing shortage right now.
You've talked a lot about this. But 500 million tests aren't going to be available until the next couple of weeks. People are waiting in lines.
How much does this set the country back with omicron now surging?
WEN: Yeah, it's a big problem that people who are symptomatic are now waiting in very long lines and can't get access to testing, and other people who are asymptomatic but want to prevent transmission to others, they can't test before getting together. And we know that test positivity right now is so high. So lack of testing has hampered our response.
And I think that the bigger problem with the Biden administration's response overall is that they've been so reactive is that they're reacting or they are reacting to the situation that's at hand, which is a good thing. I mean, they're responding to hospitals being overcapacity or the issue with testing but we'll always be several weeks or months behind.
I think they should be looking to see what is the next issue that we're going to have? Omicron is almost certainly not the last deadly and serious variant that we're going to have? And so, we still have low vaccination rates in many parts of the country?
So, what can they do to make sure that being fully vaccinated means having a booster shot? Also increasing vaccination rates, including what many cities have done to say if you're unvaccinated, you're unable to enter restaurants and public spaces? I think it's time for the Biden administration to be working on these efforts. Yes, testing also because we're going to face testing shortages throughout 2022 but we also need to substantially increase our vaccination rates.
And I wish the Biden administration would start considering the domestic mandate when it comes to vaccines as another lever to get more people vaccinated.
MATTINGLY: Yeah, it's been a confounding question of 2021, how do you get more people vaccinated? It's available. The distribution again is historic. People have not done it to a large degree over the course of the last several months and the country is paying for it now.
All right. Coming up next, House progressives say they can get parts of the Build Back Better plan done even without Joe Manchin's support. All right. Will it work?
MATTINGLY: Democrats enter 2022 with a very 2021 problem, how do they pass their Build Back Better economic plan? How progressives are now urging President Biden to use executive action to address some of their top priorities after Senator Joe Manchin said he could not support the nearly 2$2 trillion bill, but the search for a deal continues.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. MARIE NEWMAN (D-IL): The most powerful climate action we can take is making sure that we're working with companies to reduce emissions. And I think we think we can do that by executive action.
REP. TIM RYAN (D-OH): We've got to take what we can get and move along here. But it's got to be about putting money in the pockets of people.
REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA): I believe universal preschool, child care and some parts of climate are things we can come to a consensus on. And we need to move forward with a compromised win.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTINGLY: Joining the panel now is fellow buckeye Jackie Kucinich of "The Daily Beach", and "Politico's" Alex Thompson.
Because of the Rose Bowl win, Jackie, I'll start with you here.
The idea of executive action, the Congressional Progressive Caucus says they believe they can get a lot done through executive action. They will lay out their proposals in the days ahead. I think there's a lot of skepticism at the White House about this idea. Is this plausible to some degree? JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That remains to be seen. We
know Joe Biden has -- he extended the moratorium on student loans a few weeks. That's something that progressives -- a minimal thing progressives pushed him to do because that was set to expire at the end of this month.
So -- but in terms of other things the president can do, Biden has been resistant to that, because he wants to get a legislative win and work with Congress. So they're kind of coming up against his wishes as well as what is actually possible. We'll have to wait and see what the Progressive Caucus puts out as Congresswoman Jayapal outlined in her "Washington Post" op-ed as to how this could potentially get done.
MATTINGLY: Yeah, it's an open question. It will be interesting to see what they release. There definitely are things the administration can do.
But, Alex, the White House is clearly focused on trying to figure out a way back with senator Manchin. There's an interesting piece by David Axelrod drawing some comparisons of the near-death of the Affordable Care Act and its revival and Build Back Better.
At one point, he says, and this is somewhat ominous: Given the makeup of Congress and the frayed bonds trust, there's no assurance that Mr. Biden can revive the Build Back Better Act as Mr. Obama did with the ACA, nor would its revival necessarily help Democrats avoid a midterm wipeout next fall, given the continuing concerns over inflation and the fact that incumbent parties almost always suffer losses two years after winning the White House.
However, the column laid out a lot of potential options, a lot of potential pathways forward, but much slimmer majorities this time around.
How is the White House viewing this at this point in time?
ALEX THOMPSON, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO: The White House is still cautiously optimistic that they're going to pass something. Now what that something is might very well disappoint a lot of Democrats in the party, in particular progressives who will lay out all these plans in the coming weeks.
Now, I talked to a bunch of Democratic strategists last night, they will even concede if the elections, the midterm elections, if they were held this Tuesday, Democrats would almost certainly lose the House and maybe the Senate, too.
Now, they'll of course say we have 11 months to turn this ship around. They talk about COVID. They talk about the economy and they talk about getting points on the board with Build Back Better because right now if President Biden were to fail in one of his signature initiatives, it would then further contribute to this poor national environment for Democrats.
MATTINGLY: Yeah, I think that's kind of the pitch, right? You can't undercut your president, what else do we have if we don't have this? Even though they had legislative victories in 2021.
The progressive verse, I would say moderate, but certainly progressive verse, Joe Manchin, Tarini, this has obviously been a battle that's been ongoing for a year. It hasn't stopped and won't stop any time soon. Jamaal Bowman, a House progressive said: If we are big-ten Democrats which we are, like the country, every voice is as important as the next voice. We need to stop blaming progressives, and the squad for all the problems in the Democratic Party because that is not true.
I think a lot move people are blaming Senator Manchin at this point. But how do you threading the needle between these two polar opposites inside their own caucus?
PARTI: I guess Senator Manchin would say it's not his fault. It's been very tricky for the president to keep both these sides happy over the last few months, he managed to get the infrastructure bill through, the rescue package through, but the Build Back Better, there's so many pieces to this package that it's been very difficult for them to come together. I think what we heard from the White House is that there are elements of the Build Back Better package that everyone agrees on.
Things like universal pre-K, there's some sort of broad agreement on that. I think the path forward now in order to get everyone on board is, you know, is -- is condensing the package even more, you know, structuring it differently. So, I think we're going to see this play out in the next few weeks on how the -- what changes can be made to get everyone back on board.
But as we know, it's been very tricky to get Senator Manchin and progressives to come together and agree on something.
MATTINGLY: Yeah. No, it's the big outstanding question and has been for months.
Hans, as my fellow former "Bloomberg" colleague, I saved the nerd question for you. Especially -- the economy is the biggest issue right now. If you look at the "Reuters"/Ipsos poll from mid-December, economy was 29 percent in terms of most important problem facing the U.S. today. The closest to it was health care at 13 percent and then immigration and environment.
You got inflation. You got supply chain issues as well. You also have robust economic recovery, particularly compared to other countries in the world.
How does the administration address what the American people think is a major problem when they think it's a robust economy?
NICHOLS: They talk about supply chains. And we've heard this from them. They talk about what they're doing to open up ports. And they have a port czar.
You know, to the broader question of whether or not Build Back Better is going to get done, you, I, all the reporters that are here, most reporters in Washington will try to intercept what Joe Manchin is thinking along with Kyrsten Sinema for the next two, three months. And in reality, maybe we should save ourselves some time and just look at the inflation numbers and just listen to what Manchin has been saying.
I mean, Manchin has been singularly and crystal clear about he's worried about inflation. He said it publicly, he said it privately. He'll say it any time anyone wants to listen. And so, while there may be a lot of fluttering back and forth on Manchin could live with $300 billion in clean energy tax credits, the number one thing we need to look at is inflation and how much time Manchin wants to see how much it will cool down by. Will it cool down by Valentine's Day, St. Patrick's Day or Easter, because we'll have three or four readings before then.
And that's really -- it's a pretty basic economic thing to look at but just look at that CPI number when it hits. I think January 12th is the next one, then February 10th. That's the number people should be focused on and that's the number the White House is focused on because they know the political salience of it with one senator from West Virginia.
MATTINGLY: Yeah, expecting deceleration but -- go ahead.
KUCINICH: Oh, no, I was going to add to what Hans is saying, it's not just Manchin worrying about inflation, though he's the most vocal. He was hearing from moderate Democrats mid last year, that's what they're looking at when they look at re-election prospects. That's certainly of concern among those on the line on whether they're going to be re- elected or not.
MATTINGLY: Yeah, no question about it. It's a huge issue and they're hearing it from constituents. That's such a huge issue.
Hans pulling out CPI, I appreciate that. Appreciate not pulling out PCE, a little disappointed there, but we'll keep working on that.
All right. Coming up next, history says depositions are facing losses this November. Can they stave off a blowout in the 2022 midterms?
MATTINGLY: A New Year and a new mayor in New York City. Minutes into 2022 and with confetti still falling in Times Square, Eric Adams was sworn in as the city's 110th mayor. The 61-year-old former police captain calls himself the future of the Democratic Party.
Now, top Democrats are closely watching to see if his winning coalition of working class, diverse pro-police and pro-business voters can be replicated before November midterm elections.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR ERIC ADAMS (D), NEW YORK CITY: We have lived through two years of continuous crises. Crises tells us it's in charge, that it is in control. Crises wants to tell us we can be happy, when we can be sad, when we can work and how we can enjoy our city.
This would be our New Year's resolution. We will not be controlled by crises.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTINGLY: Alex, it's always difficult to extrapolate from a city legislator or mayor into the federal level, but Democrats are closely watching Eric Adams. I know the White House is keenly aware of what he's up to. He's been to the White House. They've spoken to him about this.
Is that the messaging you see Democrats moving towards in the weeks and months ahead?
THOMPSON: Well, Joe Biden and Eric Adams are sort of ideological soul mates. Now, what's going to be so interesting is you will see a few candidates in the Eric Adams model, which basically means that more moderate Democrat who is also a person of color trying to run in places not as blue as New York City.
One thing people should look at and Democrats nationally are looking at is Stacey Abrams. Now, she's obviously beloved by many parts of the left, if you drill down to her positions on issues, she actually is relatively moderate. She spurned the Bernie part of the wing on economic issues, she's not for Medicare for all, and I think that would be a key race to watch in terms of if the Eric Adams' model is viable not just in cities like New York City.
MATTINGLY: Yeah, no question about it. The race is going to ill be enormous.
Tarini, one of the things -- look, Democrats understand that COVID is the key here. Interconnected with COVID is the economy. And addressing those issues are critical in terms of the midterm elections. If you look at the current generic ballot, Fox News had Republicans 43 percent, Democrats, 39 percent. We've seen some that are even larger than that, any Republican lead in the generic is noteworthy.
But I think what I'm struck by most from Democrats is frustration with the messaging. Here's Congressman Gerry Connelly.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. GERRY CONNOLLY (D-VA): We passed a $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill in March. Huge. It cut child poverty in America in half but we stopped talking about it.
And I think, you know, that's got to be addressed. Democrats have to really have a finely honed message that actually we're doing a lot for the average American. And it's working.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTINGLY: It's such an interesting point because there were significant legislative victories in 2021 for Democrats in the White House. American Rescue Plan, The bipartisan infrastructure bill -- and yet people seem to think that they have not done anything at all. How do they change that?
PARTI: Right. And we've seen poll after poll show that voters aren't even aware of some of the things that the president has passed.
And I interviewed Vice President Kamala Harris recently and asked her what the midterm message should be for Democrats. And she said that Democrats need to do a better job of connecting the policies that they passed and the agenda that they're pushing for to people specifically.
So she mentioned, you know, rural Americans, black Americans -- really connecting specific policy issues to things that would affect people in their daily lives and do a better job of making that connection.
We know that something that President Biden has started to do in recent weeks especially on inflation, you know, really trying to say we feel your pain, here's what we've done. Here's what we have coming up.
So I think you'll see more of an effort from Democrats and especially members of the administration to go out and sell the agenda and sort of connect the pieces a little bit more to show people that what they've done in the past few months.
MATTINGLY: Yes. And Hans, you talk about coalitions in terms of winning coalitions. It was jarring for Democrats to look at the demographic breakdowns of the 2020 election when it came to Hispanic voters in particular. The "Wall Street Journal" had a great piece about how both parties are fighting for Hispanic voters.
Have Democrats kind of lost their way here? "The Journal" piece said you had Latino voters who weren't especially partisan who had seen it is socially unacceptable vote to for Trump in 2016. The economy, the one issue which they trusted Trump to unlock the door to embracing them. Where does this go from there?
NICHOLS: Yes. No one knows, right. And if they do, they've got the keys for the White House for the next four or six years whatever cycle we're on, right.
I mean, you know, it's really in the modern Republican Party since where Karl Rove in 2004, there've been efforts by Republicans to peel off Hispanic voters. And you know, what's sort of confused and confounded a lot of really smart strategists who make a lot of money running these races is how Donald Trump outperformed not only Mitt Romney, right, and then he outperforms in some places -- in 2016 he outperforms in 2020 what he did in 2016.
And I haven't really found a credible answer for that. And like maybe I should go down to Rio Grande Valley and talk to a lot of voters and try to figure out -- talk to a lot of Hispanic voters and try to figure out what actually is motivating them.
Obviously the economy is at play. The lockdown, the shutdown, the COVID response. But across the country there are different pockets of voters who are having different reactions, right. So in south Florida started with a lot of -- it had to do with Venezuelan socialism. And southern Texas, it may have had more to do with the border and COVID and the economy.
So these are difficult issues. Whoever solves them will be very well- rewarded both politically and for the consultants and the strategists that apparently Alex talks to, I need to figure out all the strategies that Alex is talking to so I can intercept the information.
They're going to do really well financially, right. They're all going to get second homes because we know in 2022 so much money is going to be spent. House seats that used to cost $1 million are going to cost $4 million. It's going to be flooded with cash. And both sides were play that game.
MATTINGLY: Yes. No, it's funny money at this point in time.
Jackie, the saving grace in 2020 was the suburbs right, for Democrats. That's how you offset the losses in terms of some of the demographic breakdowns.
The Virginia governor's race was a siren for Democrats on that front. How do they address that in the weeks and months ahead?
KUCINICH: You know, it really seems like everything will boil down to the economy and to COVID. And those two are just linked. If your kids are in school. If you feel like, you know, your income is paying your bills and then some, then Democrats may have a chance.
But if there is that -- if people still feel like they're in crisis and like their lives are not back to normal which is one of the things, one of the big reasons was Joe Biden's selling point coming out of 2020, then they're definitely going to have some problems. And inflation is part of that but also I mean you can't take COVID out of this equation.
MATTINGLY: Yes. And I mean I think in all honesty, that analysis should get you that second home that Hans is talking about here. It doesn't have to be --
MATTINGLY: -- it doesn't have to be super complicated at this point in time, right. It's COVID and it's the economy. It's pretty clear.
One thing that's also kind of interesting -- and we have to go to break -- but as we've seen redistricting play out, you know, it hasn't bee -- Democrats thought redistricting was going to just nuke them in the House to some degree. And it's actually netted out fairly evenly, at least for the 25 that are done to this point. We'll have to see how that plays out, obviously critical going forward as well. All right. Coming up next, can Biden help avert a Russia invasion of Ukraine? What we can expect from his call later today with the Ukrainian president.
MATTINGLY: President Biden enters the New Year on the edge of a significant foreign policy crisis, 100,000 Russian troops amassed on the Ukrainian border. He will speak with Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelensky later today to reaffirm support for Ukraine's sovereignty and discuss strategies for de-escalation.
Now, this call comes three days after his end of year phone conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I made it clear to President Putin that if he makes any more moves and goes into Ukraine we will have severe sanctions. There will have to be a heavy price to pay for it. He cannot -- emphasize cannot -- move on Ukraine.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTINGLY: Joining me now is CNN's senior national security correspondent, Alex Marquardt.
And Alex, you've covered this region. You've covered this country. you've covered this president. You know them very well.
Why did President Putin ask for that second call? And I think the biggest question of all, is this moment one where it's just a pretext for an invasion or is it a pretext for trying to secure some kind of deal related to his concerns?
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, probably the latter, Phil. I mean this is -- conversations are always a good thing.
This keeps the conversation going. It allows Putin to put forward the demands that they have already made to emphasize those, many of those demands are simply non-starters for the United States.
And what it does for both sides is essentially set up the framework for conversations that are going to come in the following days. Both countries sending their teams to Geneva to start talks on the 9th.
That's going to be followed by conversations with NATO. That's followed by conversations with the OSCE.
This also gives Putin stature just by demanding, calling for this phone call with President Biden shows that he's got some power that he is able to get the president of the United States on the phone.
MARQUARDT: And President Putin has made it clear that he wants to primarily deal with the United States as opposed to dealing with the rest of NATO.
On the U.S. side, this is a good thing. As I said, this keeps the conversation going. This shows that there may be what the Biden administration has called a diplomatic off-ramp. That this invasion is not a forgone conclusion.
And by all accounts, the U.S. does believe that President Putin has not yet made up his mind about whether to invade Ukraine.
MATTINGLY: Hans, you know, I was struck by one of President Putin's advisers who made clear that in the call Putin warned Biden that there would be a complete rupture of relations if sanctions were applied. Obviously the sanctions are the stick part of what President Biden has laid out.
But sanctions are complicated here because it's not a unilateral effort by the U.S. The Europeans would be involved as well.
You've covered European countries, you've covered European businesses. They have very divergent interests when it comes to what sanctions could be applied.
What kind of teeth do you think could actually be put in place here if they needed to do so?
NICHOLS: Well, we don't know is the short version, right? There's always been, especially in the auto industry in Germany, about how heavily you sanction Russia because they buy a lot of Audis, right.
So whenever you have a multilateral sanction regime in place, you by nature weaken the multilateral sanctions and strengthen them because you need to get all the countries involved.
So you bring in all the countries, and that makes the sanctions more biting, but they aren't as strong if you just did it with say one country that wanted to go to a maximalist approach.
I would just say that Russia has under sanctions since really 2014 since the annexation of Crimea. A lot of senior officials have been under sanction. It doesn't seem to have altered their behavior that much. They've mostly, at least publicly, shrugged off the sanctions.
I would also suggest, and to Alex's point, that talking is always good, but after you have a phone conversation and both sides read out the phone conversation and are pretty negative and pretty dark, that's not a great sign, right?
The Russians are talking about how there would be complete ruptured relations and President Biden is talking about severe sanctions. President Biden says that after he tells the press he's not going to negotiate in public, and then what does he do? He negotiates in public. So the language and the body language after the call doesn't give a lot of optimism. But to Alex's point they are talking. And that stands for something.
MATTINGLY: Yes. Jackie and Tarini, I want to get to you guys with kind of a broader view on national security in 2022 in a sec.
But Alex, real quick before we leave the Russia topic, I want to play something for you from one of the Obama administration's top Russia advisers and his view on what's happening right now. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SAMUEL CHARAP, FORMER TOP RUSSIA ADVISER TO THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION: I don't yet see a pathway out of this where everyone can go home and there's no conflict. It seems clear to me that Putin is not willing to take away the threats until he gets something. And if he doesn't get something, he seems prepared to act.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTINGLY: What's your read on that, Alex?
MARQUARDT: Well, you know, the question is can Biden offer Putin anything? What Putin is asking for right now, as I just mentioned, are fairly non-starters for the U.S. And that is never allowing Ukraine to join NATO, stopping any sort of military build up in the eastern states of NATO.
But certainly President Biden can make it clear to President Putin that Ukraine is not going to join NATO any time soon. We know that. On that, they agree. They can also agree that, you know, an invasion of Ukraine is going to be very costly for the Russians, both in terms of their economy and in terms of human loss.
So there are certain things that President Biden can offer President Putin in order to save face. That would primarily look like, you know, the NATO presence along that eastern border of NATO with Russia.
But this is -- this is an extremely dicey situation, of course. And time is ticking. Even if President Putin has not made up his decision to invade or not, he knows that this decision essentially needs to be made in the coming weeks if only because the weather is going to start to turn. And this needs to be done during the winter, frankly, when the ground is hard, when tanks can cross that border.
So it's going to be a very dicey few days on the diplomatic front with these conversations that are happening and those decisions are going to have to be made soon, Phil.
MATTINGLY: And Tarini and Jackie, the least productive way to do this, the kind of lightning round, if there's a foreign policy challenge this White House is looking toward in 2022, what do you think it is?
Jackie, I'll start with you.
KUCINICH: Ok. Go ahead, Tarini. Sorry.
PARTI: Sorry. I think everything this administration does seems to be with an eye towards China. So I think that will continue to be a focus for them.
KUCINICH: I was going to speak more broadly politically. I think confidence is going to be -- projecting confidence is going to be a big deal for Biden considering the Afghanistan withdrawal was such a disaster. That is the best thing I think for the White House that they could do is to have a confident and direct foreign policy.
MATTINGLY: And Hans?
NICHOLS: No one knows right. That's the thing about foreign policy, we should just acknowledge that the threat is going to come from someplace that we don't know. and I'm not going to suggest it's going to come from Canada because obviously it's not going to come from Canada, but no one knows.
MATTINGLY: Yes. No, and Alex, you deal with that every single day because you cover it. What's your sense of things?
MARQUARDT: Well, not just China, which will always be the number one foreign policy problem, you know -- or threat for the U.S., but also Iran we have to talk about because in the coming weeks, we will probably find out whether Iran comes back into the JCPOA.
MATTINGLY: Yes. No shortage of issues. Guys, thanks so much.
All right. Coming up next, it's been nearly one year since the January 6th attack on the capitol. Could it happen again?
MATTINGLY: And now we look back at some of the most memorable political moments of to 2021.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIDEN: This is our historic moment of crisis and challenge and unity is the path forward.
DR. JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: I think that right now, we're in the public health crisis of our lifetime.
BIDEN: I stand squarely behind my decision. I will not repeat the mistakes we've made in the past. Mistake of staying and fighting indefinitely.
REP. MAJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): I've demanded it. I want Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney kicked out of the GOP conference. SENATOR ROB PORTMAN (R-OH): It's not about Republicans or Democrats,
it's about making America more productive, more efficient, therefore improve the lives of the people we represent.
SENATOR RAPHAEL WARNOCK (D-GA): I have to tell you that the most important thing that we can do this congress is to get voting rights done. The clock of destiny is ticking out and we must act now before it is too late.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTINGLY: Don't forget, please don't forget 2021 actually started with a home-grown insurrection born out of a big lie.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): People have been lied to by too many for too long. So here's the truth. Joe Biden won this election, the effort will fail and everybody knows it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTINGLY: Bringing my panel back. Hans, to start with you, you know, Thursday marks one year since January 6th. I don't know that I expected January 6th to be a complete tipping point but I think what I'm struck by is, you know, federal officials are warning of unspecified threats to state and federal government officials in the lead-up to that anniversary.
It seems like instead of evolving or moving on, the country is more entrenched in the place it was then now more than ever. Is that kind of your read on things?
NICHOLS: Well, it does seem to be a bit of a looped cycle in this. I think that's sort of one way to look at it. The broader challenge for the committee on Capitol Hill is finding legitimacy across the country. They've known this is the challenge from the beginning.
There's a great deal of entrenchment fueled, as you mentioned, by the big lie among Republicans about accepting Joe Biden as the popular elected president.
The challenge for the committee has always been to bring those Republicans along. I'm not so convinced and some of the other panelists on here might have some more insight and reporting on this, that Republicans have fundamentally moved toward accepting the committee and that's still the fundamental issue here.
MATTINGLY: Yes. There's no question about it. And look, Jackie, the committee is going to be moving in the weeks and months ahead into a more public phase of their investigation, it's largely been behind the scenes.
But to Hans' point, I want to bring up the "Washington Post" polling that came out this morning. you look at belief in evidence of voter fraud: Democrats 88 percent say no, independents 74 percent say no. Republicans 62 percent say yes, which is largely unchanged since January 6th, even though state after state after state with Republican legislature conducted audits found no evidence of any of this.
So the question is, you know, can the committee change any minds when it moves towards its public phase?
KUCINICH: You know, I actually feel I don't really think they can and only because we've already seen movement over the course of the last year to change how people vote in state to state, to restrict voting in some states.
And there's movement even from a perspective of a local to, you know, replace some officials that may have played a part in upholding the 2020 election so it seems like, particularly there are some things that are being done from the bottom up that are codifying some of these things that the former president said and are -- it's going to be really interesting going into 2022 how voting actually looks and how some of these perceptions that we've seen in the "Washington Post" poll play out in the real world.
MATTINGLY: Yes. And it's really a great point. You know, you had Jocelyn Benson, the Democratic Michigan secretary of state say, last week, the movement to cast doubt on the 2020 election has now turned their eyes to changing the people who are in positions of authority and protected 2020.
I think that's a point you can't really miss is that it was oftentimes Republican state officials who stood up to President Trump, former President Trump, his allies as they were pressuring -- trying to overturn the election, to essentially stage a coup to some degree.
Alex, I guess the question right now is when you go beneath the federal level, what does this mean longer term for the country when you see these moves on the state level to address something that just isn't true?
THOMPSON: Well, to your point, you know, the usually sleepy secretary of state races are now some of the hottest, most bitter Republican primaries in the country because even though a lot of Republican leaders in D.C. no longer want to talk about 2020, they say this is the past, they look toward the future, Donald Trump has made clear that he considers election fraud as he would put it, in 2020 the biggest most, important issue in the Republican Party, which is why you've seen even a year ago Republicans were privately saying that Donald Trump's hold over the Republican Party was over.
The problem was that the voters still stayed -- a lot of the voters in the Republican party stayed with him which is what you've seen over the past year. The Republican leadership has sort of come to terms to the fact that this is still Donald Trump's party.
Noe, one interesting thing to watch with the January 6th committee is that the Republicans are trying to sue for time essentially where you have a lot of these lawsuits and the thing is that may lose them but the closer you get to November and Republicans potentially taking over the House means that the committee may be over by then.
THOMPSON: So something to watch for.
MATTINGLY: Yes. No question. The clock is ticking. The committee knows it.
Tarini, last question and I don't want to end things on an ominous note. But to Alex's point, former President Trump is still very clearly the leader of the party. There's a lot of concerns inside the Democratic Party about what happens if he runs again like say what Hillary Clinton said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILLARY CLINTON, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: If I were a betting person right now, I'd say Trump is going to run again. I mean he seems to be setting himself up to that and if he's not held accountable then he gets to do it again. I think that could be the end of our democracy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTINGLY: That might strike some as hyperbolic but I think we can talk to Democrats on Capitol Hill, there are a lot who feel that way right now.
Kind of map out with the minute we have left, kind of how this plays out over the next year or two?
PARTI: Right, as you said, we've been hearing this from Democrats since last year and what we'll see in the coming months is an effort to push voting rights through to get some protections to use sort of this threat to democracy to get some legislation passed.
Obviously a tough challenge ahead for Democrats to do anything on that front. But I think you'll see more calls for that, you know, using this threat to democracy as a reason why to rally Democrats together on this.
MATTINGLY: Yes. No pathway yet but the urgency absolutely there.
Guys, thanks so much as always.
That's it for INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY. Join us back here every Sunday at 8:00 a.m. Eastern time. And the weekdays show as well at noon Eastern.
Up next "STATE OF THE UNION" with Jake Tapper and Dana Bash. Dana's guests include January 6th Committee chairman Congressman Bennie Thompson, GOP governor Larry Hogan and President Biden's chief medical advisor, Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Thanks again for sharing your Sunday morning. Have a wonderful New Year.
DANA BASH, CNN HOST: One year later, the investigation into the deadly January 6th riot enters a new phase. What the committee has learned about the impetus of the attack and the role of the former president.
I'll speak to January 6th committee chairman Bennie Thompson and Maryland Governor Larry Hogan next.