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FDA Authorizes Pfizer Vaccine Boosters for Children Ages 12-15; NYC Teachers Union Requested Temporary Remote Learning, Union says Mayor felt "Strongly" Schools Must Remain Open; Former FDA Commissioner: Omicron Variant could be a Challenge for Young Children; This Week: One Year Since Trump Mob Stormed U.S. Capitol; CNN: Jan 6 Committee has "Firsthand" Knowledge of Trump's Actions During U.S. Capitol Siege. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired January 03, 2022 - 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.

New Year familiar COVID misery airports, businesses schools all disrupted today. The FDA gives parents a new tool and OKs the Pfizer booster for 12 to 15 years old. Plus big developing news in the investigation into the Trump Organization, the New York Attorney General has now subpoenaed the former president's children Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. and the insurrection one year later.

The Committee investigating the riot knows what Donald Trump was doing during the siege this week, as Washington plans tributes and ceremonies Trump promises to counter program with more lies from Mar- a-Lago.

We begin though with major COVID news the FDA this morning authorizing Pfizer vaccine booster shots for 12 year olds to 15 year olds and it chopped a month off the timeline to get your booster from six months to five months after your last shot the hope is to stem this stunning COVID case surge.

Look at those numbers the U.S. now averaging more than 400,000 new COVID infections a day and more than 1300 deaths a day. Hospitalizations overall are not rising as fast as cases though pediatric hospitalizations are surging. Let's get straight to CNN's Elizabeth Cohen, she's with us now to walk through just what the FDA is doing, Elizabeth and why?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: John, let's take a look. Because this is so important to parents of children this age, they started getting vaccinated back in May, John. So for many of them, those two vaccines may have waned, because we've seen that vaccines do wane and that having a booster is really important when we're trying to fight Omicron. So let's take a look at what the FDA said today. They said that if a 12 to 15 years old is at least five months past their second shot, they can get a booster five months, not six, like they were saying before, that means about 5 million 5 to 12 year olds would be eligible now to get a booster shot.

The FDA said they were relying on real world data from Israel. Israel has been giving boosters to children this age for months now. And they say when they look at data from around 6300 children this age; they can see that this booster is safe, John.

KING: Elizabeth, we're also waiting Dr. Fauci hinted over the weekend, there'd be some updates from the CDC, perhaps adding a testing element to the recently updated isolation guidelines. What do we know?

COHEN: That's right. He sort of hinted that that's a possibility. So we know that they're going to put out some sort of an update or something to kind of clarify what they said last month last week. What they said last week, a lot of people took issue with it, because you can get out of isolation without testing.

So let's take a look at what they put up last week. Last week, they said if you have COVID, but you're asymptomatic, or your symptoms are getting better you need to go into isolation for five days starting after that positive test. And then after that you need to wear a mask for five days. And you don't need to take a test to get out of isolation.

So we expect to hear about that test also will be interesting to see. Will, they have different rules if you're vaccinated or not vaccinated? Will, they have different rules if you're an essential worker or not? We're looking to see these clarified guidelines to see if they make those changes, John.

KING: Let's standby for those in the week ahead. Elizabeth Cowen thanks so much for kicking us off. The Omicron surge, of course causing disruption across American life as we open this first work and first school week of the New Year severe winter weather in parts of the country is an added complication whether the issue is air travel or back to school, districts across the country now struggling to keep schools open and staffed some large public school systems already making the call to start this New Year virtually.

CNN's Athena Jones is with us now live and exploring this big question the Omicron back to school challenge, Athena.

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, John. You're right. Its schools in several states have decided to start the year remotely. So they're just taking being very cautious because of the people coming back from the holiday season.

You see on the list on the screen a list of some of those schools here in New York City though Mayor Eric Adams has repeatedly stressed how important it is to keep the schools here in New York City open.

You could call this one of his first big tests and one of his most pressing challenges. This is the nation's largest school system. He argues there are so many drawbacks to children having to do remote learning there are missed meals there are children being exposed to an environment of crime.

There are children who are housing insecure in poor communities who don't do nearly as well and are falling behind when it comes to remote learning. And the Mayor is also stressing that look, the transmission rate in schools last year was 1 percent. So they do have a plan. Part of that plan is over the weekend over the last few days. They sent 1.5 million tests to every single school across the city.


JONES: They're also going to have an incident command center that allows them to keep a real time tab on staffing issues. They, they say the school's chancellor and the mayor say they're prepared to deal with potential absenteeism due to COVID due to this Omicron variant. And so they have a pool of substitute teachers, wait or standby. They have anyone who has educated who is prepared to teach; they say can step in, should it be necessary.

And they also say that if there is a case in a school, they're going to test every close contact, isolate positive cases, but keep the rest of the young children there in schools and safely learning. But still, it's going to be a really big challenge here, John.

KING: A really big challenge right out of the block for the mayor in that city and the mayors across the country. Athena Jones, appreciate it very much. Thank you. Let's get some insights from Dr. Kimberlin, he's Co-Director of the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Division at the University of Alabama at Birmingham; Dr. Kimberlin grateful for your time today.

Let's start with the FDA and this decision to authorize booster shots for those ages 12 to 15. Why does that matter?

DR. DAVID KIMBERLIN, CO DIRECTOR OF THE PEDIATRIC INFECTIOUS DISEASES DIVISION AT THE UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA AT BIRMINGHAM: Well, it's good news because it as Elizabeth said gives parents one more arrow in their quiver to be able to protect their children. In this case, they're young adolescents to middle age adolescents from the Omicron variant that's really sweeping through the country right now.

Previously, we had booster recommendations authorization for 16 and over and now we have 12 through 15 as well and then maybe a third dose option for immune compromised five to 11 year olds.

The next step with this is for the CDC's Advisory Committee the ACIP to get together later this week has been reported in "The New York Times" to be able to look at the data and then determine what the actual recommendations that this authorization might allow for should be.

KING: A conversation we've had since the beginning of COVID. This is now going to be our third COVID January is which data should we look at when you get all this data among the data I know you look at? Hospitalizations nationally this is everybody nationally among I'm sorry - like children nationally 1700 pediatric hospitalizations are now in excess of that you see the number right there.

It's higher than during the Delta surge in your State of Alabama it is not quite it is trending up pediatric hospitalizations, but still well below where it was in the Delta surge. What do you make of those numbers? Overall hospitalizations are not tracking this explosion in cases, but pediatric hospitalizations are up why?

DR. KIMBERLIN: Well, we'll know more in the next week or two. I hesitate to give too specific an answer to that. I do think though, John, your point is really well taken from the very beginning think back in March 2020 everything was about flattening the curve.

It was about decreasing the surge of cases that would lead to hospitalizations. And now fast forward almost two years, and we're really talking the same thing. I know that we seem to kind of be jumping around it, whatever the shiny object is in front of us in terms of where our conversations go.

But the emphasis remains and needs to remain on what hospital capacity is in a given community in a given state in a given region of the country. And really, those are the important numbers. They also really have an important impact in terms of what we think about - when we - when we consider what we want our vaccines and our boosters to do.

If we want our boosters and vaccines to prevent every runny nose, we're not going to be successful with that that's asking too much of any vaccine. But if we want the boosters and the vaccines to keep people out of the hospital, and to keep them from dying, we really have very good news to consider certainly better than a year ago when we were just rolling out vaccines in the first place.

KING: It's a key point, especially when you look at averaging 400,000 cases, new infections a day, which is stunning and knocks you back on your heels to your point though at least with Omicron so far, the data tells us most of these cases are not as severe, which is why this from the Former FDA Commissioner, Dr. Scott Gottlieb over the weekend jumped out at me listen, sir.


DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB, FORMER FDA COMMISSIONER: It does appear now based on a lot of experimental evidence that we've gotten just in the last two weeks that this is a milder form of the Coronavirus. It appears to be more of an upper airway disease in a low airway disease. That's good for most Americans the one group that that may be a problem for is very young kid very young children, toddlers who have trouble with upper airway infections.


KING: This is your wheelhouse pediatric infectious diseases. What does he mean by toddlers in the upper airway problem?

DR. KIMBERLIN: Well, anecdotally, here in Alabama, we've been seeing as an example of this to what Dr. Gottlieb was getting at. We've been seeing younger children, you know, one and two year olds coming in with croup. That Barchi cough that usually is caused by a virus called Influenza virus, and they're testing positive for COVID.

And so it's possible that Omicron while staying in the upper part of the airway, in an adult like you or me would cause a bad cold.


DR. KIMBERLIN: In a younger child, it can still settle down to the upper part of the airway that's narrower because they're smaller, they're there, their necks are smaller, and cause a condition such as croup or other conditions as well not settling all the way down into lungs that's good, but still causing problems.

And so one other thing I want to point out is that when case numbers, I emphasize the hospitalization numbers before I'm going to shift back to those skyrocketing case numbers now, that's still actionable information because CDC has recommended for months now that when you're in an area with substantial or high transmission, and that's based on cases per 100,000 people that you should mask indoors.

So use your case numbers to determine your behavior masking indoors as an example everybody should get vaccinated five and over. Now everybody you know 12 and over should get boosted, use, use that information for that - for that kind of aspect in terms of what to do next? But use your hospitalization numbers in terms of where your real anxiety should be for your local community?

KING: Dr. Kimberlin, as always, but especially now grateful, sir, for your time and your insights. Thank you.

DR. KIMBERLIN: Thank you.

KING: Up next for us, the New York Attorney General opens the year with a big move in the investigation of the former president subpoenas for the Trump children.



KING: Important news breaking just last hour, we're now learning the New York Attorney General Letitia James has issued subpoenas for documents and testimony from two of the Trump children Ivanka and Donald Trump Jr.

The subpoenas part of the New York investigation into Former President Donald Trump's business practices. Let's get to CNN's Kara Scannell to understand. Kara what's your understanding of what information prosecutors hope to get here?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Well, this investigation is focusing on the Trump Organization, the Trump executives and how they valued certain properties that include golf courses, condo buildings? And so what James's office is seeking through this subpoena are documents and testimony from Donald Trump Jr., one of the top executives at the company, someone who's been involved with a number of properties. And Ivanka Trump who was also a senior executive at the company before she joined the White House when Trump was President.

Now this comes just days after James's office had subpoenaed Trump for his testimony. And Trump's lawyers said they were going to move to quash that subpoena. There are already indications today in these court filings, which were this became public that they are going to move to try to quash the subpoenas as well.

Now Eric Trump, who is a top official at the company, had already provided testimony for James's civil investigation. But things have changed since then, that was back in October of 2020.

Since then, James's office has joined the criminal investigation by the Manhattan District Attorney's Office and they're looking at some of the very same issues, the same questions about valuations.

And that's one of the reasons why as Trump's lawyers are looking to move to quash the subpoenas because it could affect you know, this ongoing criminal investigation, which is obviously much more serious.

Now, Trump has called this investigation a witch hunt we have not heard yet from attorneys for Donald Trump Jr. or Ivanka Trump although the Trump Organization and Donald Trump have moved and filed a lawsuit against James saying that she is biased in this investigation and hoping to get a judge to stop it.

Ultimately, it will be up to a judge as to whether Donald Trump or either of his two children sits for a deposition and when John?

KING: Some fascinating questions, we'll watch them play out in the court courts. Kara Scannell I appreciate the breaking news. Thank you so much. Also today, some damning new details emerging as we approach a very sobering anniversary this week, Thursday marks one year since a Trump fueled mob attack the U.S. Capitol in an effort to block certification of the 2020 election results.

The Committee investigating insurrection will stage public hearing soon. And committee sources confirmed to CNN they have "Firsthand knowledge of then President Trump's actions during the siege on the Capitol". The Committee's Vice Chair Republican Liz Cheney gave this preview Sunday.


REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): The Committee has first-hand testimony now that he was sitting in the dining room next to the Oval Office watching the attack on television as the assault on the Capitol occurred. We know members of his family we know his daughter, we have first-hand testimony that his daughter Ivanka went in at least twice to ask him to please stop this violence.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: CNN Special Correspondent Jamie Gangel is with us with - is joining us now with more details. Jamie Liz Cheney says the Committee has firsthand knowledge of what the former president was doing a walk us through what we know.

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: So first of all, this is bad news for Donald Trump because first hand testimony is someone in the room firsthand. Now what we've learned is in addition to what Congresswoman Cheney said, a person with knowledge of the investigation has told me that the January 6 Committee has information from multiple sources with firsthand knowledge.

So it's more than one place, and that they describe what President Trump was saying what he was doing, and maybe most importantly, what he was not doing during the riot. The source said John "There's a collection of people with relevant information".

So translation firsthand indicates someone with direct contact or knowledge. It could be someone who is in the room, someone who's on the phone. But bottom line, the Committee John has broken through Trump's wall.

KING: So if they've broken through the wall, Jamie, who might some of these people, beat these star witnesses if you will?

GANGEL: Right. So there's one who's very public that we know and one witness who is given a deposition to the Committee is Keith Kellogg, Former Vice President Mike Pence's National Security Adviser. Who is actually with Trump in the White House that day when the riot was going on?

Our colleague Alex Marquardt reached out to Kellogg who told him that he testified under oath to the January 6th Committee but he declined to comment about the substance of his deposition.


GANGEL: One thing that's very interesting about Keith Kellogg, he's considered John, a Trump loyalist. But he's also a Retired General, who I'm told takes his testimony seriously. And let's just underscore he was in the room he was with Donald Trump during those hours. And what we've learned today is there are multiple there are other people, other sources like that with relevant information.

KING: It's fascinating. We're going to watch it play out again, as we get very sober anniversary later this week Jamie Gangel grateful for the fresh reporting. With me now to share the reporting and their insights Margaret Talev of AXIOS, NPR's Ayesha Rascoe and CNN's Lauren Fox.

Lauren, let me start with you. Up on Capitol Hill Republicans have tried to forget this ever happened. Many have tried to undermine it. When you hear reporting like that Keith Kellogg, Military General, Decorated Military General, a Trump loyalists testifying under oath among the firsthand witnesses who say the president essentially sat there when, you know, people were calling from Capitol Hill. His daughter at least twice came into the room and said dad do something about this. Will that change minds for among Republicans on Capitol Hill? Or will their attempt to minimize and whitewash continue?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think that they have clearly attempted to whitewash what happened on January 6th, and I don't expect that to change. If you remember, Kevin McCarthy sent a letter commemorating the fact that January 6th was coming up.

He didn't mention Donald Trump, in that letter to his colleagues, just a brief mention of January 6th. But one thing to keep in mind about all of this is that it was ever present on the mind of Kevin McCarthy and other Republicans a year ago, when they were trying to get Donald Trump to act.

When they were trying to get help on Capitol Hill when they were trying to understand where in the heck was the National Guard? So will the anniversary store up some of those memories perhaps. But I think publicly you're going to see the same posture from Republicans and from Democrats that you've seen over the last eight to ten months.

KING: It's a fascinating moment, because those behind the committee say number one, it's important to remember what happened. Remember, this was the day they were certifying the election results, the mob was trying to subvert American democracy.

And most people believe they were doing it because they thought Donald Trump wanted them to do it. Ayesha listen to the Chairman Bennie Thompson. He says it's not just important to look back. He says the committee needs to complete its work and have public hearings, because he's worried it could happen again.


REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): Yes, I am. Unless we get it right given the attitude of what's occurring in this country, now, it could happen again. When I see people legitimizing storming in the Capitol, and the activities around it, I'm very concerned, I'm concerned to the point that sometimes people feel they can break the law, if they are dissatisfied.


KING: We're going to hear from the President and the Vice President on January 6th, Ayesha, what message they want to convey to backups for what the chairman is there saying that you think to shake some people loose of what they think about that day?

AYESHA RASCOE, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NPR: Well, I think I'm sure they're going to play up and talk about the violence of that day and talk about how bad things were because they want to stop this whitewashing of that day.

And they want to try to call Americans together to try to say that even though there may be differences, that this country is founded on democracy, and that they should try to come together. The problem is there's a very large contingent of the country that will not be listening to that, and that Former President Donald Trump is not going to be on that message. That's the issue.

KING: That is the issue. And Margaret, when you hear Liz Cheney talk about just calmly and bluntly, we have firsthand witnesses, firsthand witnesses of what Donald Trump was doing, and more importantly, what he was not doing.

Lauren mentioned Kevin McCarthy in his letter at the top of the program. Do you think Mr. McCarthy might be having regrets here in the sense that he had - he had a chance to have a real bipartisan committee? He blew it up Liz Cheney, Adam Kinzinger, the two Republicans joined the committee, I think, has surprised a lot of people by methodically going about its work and building its case.

And you do not have the distraction of a Jim Jordan or some other Trump ally, blowing it up every now and then causing distractions because Kevin McCarthy walked away.

MARGARET TALEV, MANAGING EDITOR, AXIOS: Yes, John. I think McCarthy a year ago, made a calculated decision that it was a political imperative for him to stick with Donald Trump on this and not go his own way. And he's stopped by that, for better or for worse, both politically and substantively.

I think what the committee is doing now is important on two different tracks what we're seeing in terms of testimony about different people including the president's children then a year ago reaching out to him that's important because it will put on the record into the timeline so much of what we've already seen in the reporting.

AXIOS as reported "The New York Times" and "The Washington Post" a lot of people have timelines about who reached out to Mark Meadows that day and such?


TALEV: But perhaps even more important in what the committee is doing is the stuff that actually requires a subpoena from, let's say, Banks, right? The attempt to connect the dots financially and to connect the dots organizationally to understand the coordination behind the event that is much more difficult to report without subpoenas, and has the potential to be much more revelatory in terms of putting new information into this timeline.

Both for the sake of history and for the sake of now understanding what happened and how these various groups are connected? And I think, you know, the messaging that we're going to see on January 6th itself, we'll probably hear more from Mitch McConnell than from McCarthy.

This may be all we hear from Kevin McCarthy, it'll be primarily a day for democratic messaging, both by the President, President Biden and by Nancy Pelosi. But in terms of the committee's work, it's that work that requires subpoenas that could be the most important. KING: Well, if a man who wants to be Speaker of the House is not prepared to step up and be responsible on that anniversary. That would speak volumes I would say. We'll see what happens as we get to Thursday? Everybody stand by more conversation to come.

There is quick programming note though, join Jake Tapper and Anderson Cooper for an unprecedented gathering inside the Capitol with police law makers and leaders live from the Capitol January 6th one year later begins Thursday night 8 pm Eastern right here on CNN.

Up next for us, this New Year is an election year with control of Congress at stake if you're placing an early bet both the current numbers and history favor the Republicans.