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Inside Politics

Key Suspect in Assassination of Haitian President in U.S. Custody; Source: Update to CDC's Isolation Guidance is Imminent; More than 3200 Schools Delay In-Person Learning Amid Surge; Trump Supporters Still Mired in Misinformation about Capitol Riot; Snowy Traffic Jam Traps Drivers for Hours on I-95. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired January 04, 2022 - 12:00   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: --we continue to follow what happens in this court room later today. And thank you all so much though for joining us at this hour. I'm Kate Bolduan. "Inside Politics" with John King starts right now.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Hello everybody and welcome to "Inside Politics". I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing your day with us.

Soon more COVID revisions from the CDC, the agency is expected to update its isolation guidance for the second time in this many weeks pandemic hospitalizations now again over 100,000 and Omicron now responsible for 95 percent of new infections nationwide.

Plus a total setup, an FBI conspiracy ANTIFA, the Democrats we will take a jarring look at the January 6 flies Donald Trump supporters believe to their core. And the top Senate Democrats Omar has a math problem and it's a familiar one.

We begin today though, with the staggering new COVID numbers and the disruption and anxiety they are causing across American life. More than 1 million new infections were reported Monday yes, that number is bloated because of holiday weekend reporting backlog still.

Look at the numbers the United States now averaging nearly 500,000 new COVID cases a day. More than 100,000 Americans are hospitalized right now with COVID-19. It is the first time that count has hit six figures in nearly four months.

Pandemic high pediatric hospitalizations are a troubling subset of that overall count. The impact is everywhere you look and it is an understatement to say it can be confusing more than confusing. Many businesses that can or shifting back to work from home yet officials from the president on down say it is imperative that we keep kids in schools.

Over 3200 schools though, are going remote for a bit or delaying reopening. The Chicago Teachers Union says it's too risky to have kids back in class and there's a vote today on a possible walkout. D.C. and Los Angeles Public schools delayed reopening and will now require a negative test to get back in the classroom.

President Biden will address the Omicron surge a bit later today. And CNN has told an update to the CDC's COVID isolation guidance is imminent. Let's get straight to Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen with the latest Elizabeth?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: When you look at how quickly Omicron has moved John? It is truly staggering. We were told back at the end of November, it would move quickly. But these numbers really say at all.

So the latest CDC data tells us that when you look at the Coronavirus samples throughout the United States, they sample a certain percentage. And they found that 90 percent of those samples across the U.S. are Omicron. 90 percent it varies from region to region.

So for example, in the region that includes Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, it's 98.2 percent. If you look at Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska, in that region, it's 77 percent. Now, in some ways Omicron is better than its predecessors in that it seems to be giving more mild illnesses.

On the other hand, it's problematic because the vaccine has taken a hit, not a complete hit, but a hit and also certain drugs. So for example, monoclonal antibodies do not seem to work as well against it John.

KING: And Elizabeth, what are we expecting to hear from the CDC when it updates the isolation guidance?

COHEN: So this isolation guidance went out last week and a lot of people question, CDC is saying to a large group of Americans, you know, if you have COVID, and you're feeling better, you can just go after five days, you can get out of isolation. And that was sort of counterintuitive to a lot of people.

So let's take a look specifically at what that CDC guidance was that came out last week? If you're asymptomatic, or if you are symptomatic, but your symptoms are resolving, you should isolate for five days and you should wear a mask for five days, and no test is necessary to get you out of isolation.

So when these guidelines are revised, which we're expecting will happen imminently. We should look for will they require or I should say recommend to test to get out of isolation? Will they have different standards for those who are vaccinated or not? Will they have different standards for essential workers versus non-essential workers, John?

KING: We're told that will be imminent. We will look at it closely when it comes. Elizabeth Cohen, I'm grateful for the help thanks so much. Let's go to the White House now. And the president's biggest challenge of this year CNN's Jeff Zeleny is live for us, Jeff, what will we hear from the president later?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: John, we do know President Biden will be meeting with his COVID-19 Response Team this afternoon here at the White House. He'll be receiving an update on the resources that have been sent out to states as well as personnel.

We've heard you know and been reporting for weeks that National Guard other military members have been backing up backstopping hospital staff. So he'll be getting an update on that, as well as just the spread of the Omicron variant.

But also central to this, of course, as Elizabeth was just saying the CDC guidance is imminent. So that will be part of this briefing as well. But the central part of this is the president's promise from right before Christmas that a half billion home tests will be available to be sent out this month.

The administration is still in the final stages of figuring out what companies will supply those that the procurement process it's called that decision will be likely made later today or tomorrow.


ZELENY: And then the Defense Production Act that the obscure government to provision that allows the government essentially to require companies to make new tests that will be decided this week. But John, the question is will these tests be ready to be sent out sometime this month before the end of the month testing is still the biggest challenge of this administration, John?

KING: It's certainly as I heard Sanjay Gupta last night call it the original sin of the Coronavirus government response and it continues Jeff Zeleny grateful for the live reporting. Let's get some perspective now from the Former Baltimore Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen, Dr. Wen great to see you.

These numbers are troubling. And in there, as we look at these numbers, you write something today in a Washington Post op-ed, that I find rather provocative, let's get straight to it, you write this, instead of trying to stop it, we could treat Omicron as we do a common cold. We don't isolate people with colds and getting rid of isolation and quarantine would alleviate staffing shortages and keep the economy going. We don't need to ask people to stay home. But we should require that they were high quality masks in all indoor public spaces.

Are you saying that if I tested positive today, you think I could come to work tomorrow, as long as I have a high quality mask?

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, in my piece, and now I'm trying to defend what the CDC was doing last week in shortening the isolation period from 10 days to five days. And that's because we're facing the imminent collapse of our critical infrastructure, including our hospitals, but also fire departments, police departments.

So there are a lot of people who are needed at work, including teachers who are now out on isolation and quarantine. But if they were to come to work with a high quality mask and everybody around them is masked as well, we can sustain our infrastructure. Now, I think that the CDC should make it clear if they are to shorten the isolation even further, that this is being done out of necessity. This is not the best science. This is not the ideal way that it should go. But there are practical reasons. And right now we have to strike that practical middle ground that allows society to keep on functioning.

KING: But so I just want to drill down on this. You believe the practical middle ground is that some people who are still positive can go to work as long as they take precautions.

DR. WEN: And if those are individuals, and what we as society would deem to be essential functions, that would certainly include health care workers. And I think many of us would see teachers as being essential as well.

But just to put a finer point on this, I do think that the ideal thing for us to do is to have a test to return policy. The problem is we don't have enough testing. And also we're facing this, this significant shortage of workers. And so while we're in this critical period, saying, hey, we can't get to that perfect situation, we need to sustain our infrastructure. This is the work that we have to do.

KING: And so we're going to hear from the president later today. The CDC is going to update its guidance later today. Do you think they need to get closer to where you are to say that in certain cases, some people who might have tested positive yesterday can go to work tomorrow, as long as they are sick, so long as they take precautions?

DR. WEN: Actually, the CDC is already saying this when it comes to health care workers. They are in their initial guidance for isolation around healthcare workers. They're saying if hospitals are in crisis, and there is no nurse was going to be able to take care of patients, it's much better to have somebody who tested positive is now wearing a mask to take care of patients that have no one take care of patients at all.

And so I do think that CDC should lie out this is what's essential versus this is what would be nice. And also to make the difference between workers who really need to come back to work because of the nature of their job, versus what do you do in your personal life.

For example, if you're going to visit grandma in a nursing home, I do not think that isolating for five days and then not having a test is the right way to go. If you're visiting grandma in a nursing home, you should at least have two negative tests and maybe even wait that entire 10 day isolation period.

But that is the ideal situation. That is not the case for so many workers, when we have a situation of more than a million people testing positive every day. And we know that the COVID count is a significant under account, because of all the rapid tests that are being done that are not actually being reflected in the official account of cases.

KING: You made the point a moment ago and you've made it from the very beginning that you believe children should be if possible in the classroom and the teachers are essential and they should be there. I just want to put up some data.

You know that - there you see about 3200 school districts around the country are taking some. Some are shifting online for at least a week or two - five Metro Atlanta Schools Cleveland Newark Paterson, Philadelphia, Prince George's County, Maryland they're taking several days maybe two weeks to go remote so they can get back on their feet delaying the return.

You see Seattle D.C., Syracuse, Los Angeles, and Detroit - in Chicago today Dr. Wen the Teachers Union is going to vote on a possible walkout starting this week. They believe those teachers union believes it's too risky to bring kids and teachers back into the classroom. Is there any data to support that?


DR. WEN: That Teachers Union is wrong. And all the teachers unions that are saying that we have to delay kids going back to school or wrong. Look we prioritized teachers for vaccines. That was something that I felt very strongly about and advocated for, for schools to not return until teachers are vaccinated.

And now teachers are vaccinated, they can be boosted if they wish to. Also we know what it takes to keep children safe in schools that require - that includes masking, for example, for ideally, universal masking, but even a child or teacher wearing a high quality mask themselves will help to shield them as well.

At this point, we have to say in this pandemic, that we have to move on with life. And there are certain key functions that are absolutely essential, including the social emotional development of our children, the education of our children. And we have to say that we need to get our children back at all costs.

We know how to do this with relatively lower risk and the risk of keeping them out of school is much higher than whatever risk of COVID there is to children into teachers.

KING: We were talking briefly before we came on the air and you said what you're trying to find is the right nuance in this time where people see all this confusing, conflicting data. It's pretty difficult, isn't it? When you see, you know, the staggering case counts, hospitalizations up pediatric hospitalizations up, it pulls you back. You're trying to suggest that we can lean forward a bit.

DR. WEN: That's right. I think there is a - this conflicting message that is perhaps natural because the issue is the risk to the individual person who is vaccinated and boosted from Omicron is actually very low. But at the same time, the risk to society because of the number of people getting infected is very high.

So we have to reconcile this somehow. And I think that there is a practical middle ground we do not need lockdowns because you can't make people who have actually low risk be locked down. But also just letting a rip and letting everybody get COVID is not the right path because will overwhelm our hospitals and have no functioning infrastructure.

So there is a practical middle ground where we don't ask people to stay at home but we say in public indoor settings everybody should be wearing high quality masks. We are requiring for people I believe we should require vaccination and boosters for places like restaurants and concert venues to further reduce risk.

And we need to protect our most vulnerable including getting monoclonal antibodies as a protective measure for the immune- compromised, as well as expediting vaccines for children under five.

KING: Dr. Wen always grateful even when it's provocative, it makes it a fascinating conversation and we learned thank you very much. Up next, one year later, another big lie. Listen to Trump supporters listen, their take on January 6.


VICTORIA PERRY, TRUMP SUPPORTER: I didn't saw any Trump supporters in the violence I saw people that pretended to be Trump supporters in that violence.




KING: Many of us were watching live one year ago this coming Thursday when a mob of Trump supporters breached the Capitol and attacked our democracy. And all of us have seen these harrowing images countless times since your eyes are not lying and they don't lie about who was responsible.

Plus, there are dozens of court cases where Trump supporters admit their guilt and their involvement but lies forget lies. One year later it is sadly still easy to find Trump supporters who still say Joe Biden stole the election and who now add another lie about what happened that day at the United States Capitol? CNN's Donie O'Sullivan joins us now with more, Donie walk us through this.

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes John. I mean, there has been a pretty sophisticated and sustained campaign since January 6 last year to warp people's perceptions, the reality of what happened on that day and that disinformation campaign is working for some have a listen.


LISA, TRUMP SUPPORTER: It was the Democrats were behind it all. They're the ones that caused it all.

O'SULLIVAN (on camera): Do you really believe that? LISA: I know it and there is no way that a Republican would act that way. And there is no way that Trump had anything to do with what happened on January 6.

O'SULLIVAN (on camera): But what about all the Trump supporters that have been charged and indicted?

LISA: Because it's all Democratic judges and people that were on the take from the Democrats?


O'SULLIVAN: Now, I think some people might watch out and say, right, she's just repeating talking points. But I've known from speaking to so many folks who believe this stuff that a lot of people really aren't just regurgitating the talking points, the really, really believe this.

And they've gotten to that point, right, because there's a whole ecosystem, online and right wing cable media that is pushing this narrative. So for that woman there, I mean, this is very much her reality John.

KING: It's a parallel universe. But I get your point. I get your point that here, it's so much in their ecosystem, and they believe it. So you talk to these people who do they believe? Who do they believe is behind the attack?

O'SULLIVAN: Pretty much anybody other than a Trump supporter is what they believe. Earlier, they were blaming Black Lives Matter, ANTIFA. But now and again, back to this ecosystem of disinformation they're repeating a lot of what they're hearing on primetime in Fox News, have a listen.


MARGE MATHIEU, TRUMP SUPPORTER: We are very peaceful people. So it was a total setup to me. It was the FBI had set it up.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't believe that they were Trump supporters that did that.

LARRY, TRUMP SUPPORTER: I don't think Trump had much to do other people that were supporters for him, somewhere involved but I think they were enticed by the FBI and by you know undercover agents.



O'SULLIVAN: And obviously John we have to point out that there's no evidence at all whatsoever that this was some sort of false flag operation staged by the FBI.

KING: No, no evidence of that at all, but a giant challenge for us in our business and for everybody out there listening to break through to these people who believe this, because there are a lot of them. There are a lot of them Donie O'Sullivan grateful as always, for this reporting.

With us now to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Dana Bash, CNN's Eva McKend, and Jackie Kucinich of "The Daily Beast". You listen to that and you just - you have a parallel universe aspect to it. But Dana there are also - there are tens of thousands millions if you look at the number of people who voted for Donald Trump, we don't know how many of them believe that.

But you know, you can mock that you can dismiss it, you can laugh that these people live in a parallel universe. But we remember the violence of a year ago Thursday and the question is how do you break through to these people?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I mean that is the key question. One of the - one of the things that would be nice, but obviously this is pie in the sky, would be for some of the so called conservative media, who are lying to these people to cut it out.

Because we know that many of them know that they're lying, know that they are giving misinformation, and they're doing it because it's profitable to be a major voice in that echo chamber of lies. And it's an open question how those of us who are trying to get facts out and not conspiracy theories get through to those people. But we have to keep trying.

KING: We have to keep trying. And you just heard a couple of snippets there of what Trump's supporters told Donie now, one year later what they say happened. Here's what some of them told Donie on the scene that very day.


O'SULLIVAN (on camera): Are you proud of what happened here today?

PENNY ALLISON, TRUMP SUPPORTER: Absolutely. I think we should have gone on and yanked our Senators out by hair in the head and no more.

TODD POSSETT, TRUMP SUPPORTER: I absolutely stand behind 100 percent what happened here today 1,000 percent is terrible how this election was stolen.


KING: That Eva is what can be remarkable in the sense that the big lie is what caused the insurrection. And then lies beget lies, beget lies and conspiracies how casually people just change what their eyes we all saw it, but they just casually say, wasn't us.

EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: Yes, I mean, it is a constant feedback loop. But it's perhaps that you know, no surprise that we're hearing this because it isn't as if you don't think about how powerful it would be if there were a conservative group of faith leaders, for instance, that banded together and told their congregation the truth, or even Republican members of Congress that rejected these lies.

Even the Republican members of Congress, I've spoken to that know that this is all baloney. They are so fearful of standing up to this narrative. They view the former president as one of the most galvanizing forces for Republicans in generations in terms of fundraising in terms of enthusiasm for the party.

And so that is why even if they don't purport this big lie, even though if they don't repeat it, they aren't doing enough to dissuade their constituents from believing this lie.

KING: And Jackie, one of the questions as we mark the anniversary, as you see those harrowing pictures, we all remember a violent attack with the goal of disrupting the certification of the Electoral College have that failed.

But since then, Republicans have rolled back voting rights in many states and their efforts afoot to replace election officials essentially, to exhaust by harassment, people in power so that they leave or create new laws to put new people in, so that people who support Trump or presumably some other candidate in the future, would be there to pull the levers of power if things didn't go their way. Listen to the Michigan Secretary of State talk about how worried she is.


JOCELYN BENSON, MICHIGAN SECRETARY OF STATE: This is a five alarm fire. I mean, this is a moment where every single citizen, regardless of your political affiliation, needs to prioritize protecting the truth and protecting democracy and protecting those whose job it is to guard and enforce and defend democracy. This is the moment that we all must prioritize that or else our democracy will wither on the vine.


KING: If it is indeed that moment. And I think many agree that it is. I certainly do. Is that getting the attention it needs it deserves.

JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: It needs so much attention. I don't think so I think that's something we should be talking about all the time, because sunlight is the only thing that even if it continues to happen, people need to know that this is a systematic, January 6 never ended. And a lot of ways it's ongoing.

The former president is still lying about this. And I don't know that members of Congress now seeing the light and saying, hey, yes, this was January 6 was Former President Trump's fault. I don't know that matters at this point because the former president himself is still spewing these lies and continues to do so.

So the fact that we're calling it we keep talking about what's happening at the state level couldn't be more important.

KING: Jackie Kucinich, thank you. The panel is going to stand by the conversation will continue momentarily. [12:25:00]

KING: There is this quick programming note it's related join Jake Tapper and Anderson Cooper for an unprecedented gathering inside the United States Capitol with police lawmakers and leaders live from the Capitol "January 6: One year later" begins Thursday night 8 pm Eastern right here on CNN.

One full day 24 hours imagine this trapped in your car, some drivers living through a dystopian nightmare on Interstate 95. That's next.