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CDC Falls Short of Advising Testing Before Ending Isolation; Chicago Public Schools Cancels Classes after Teachers Union Votes to go Virtual; CDC: Omicron Variant up to 3X More Infectious than Delta; Jan 6 Committee Releases Texts from Sean Hannity; Republicans Plan to Stay Mostly Quiet on Insurrection Anniversary. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired January 05, 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.

Omicron renews a COVID clash over school, teachers in Chicago refused to go to their classroom and Team Biden explains new CDC isolation guidance many find more confusing than helpful. Plus, get this quote he can't mention the election again ever.

Newly revealed tech show Trump propagandists, Sean Hannity was saying one thing for White House insiders, but something very different on TV and on the radio the January 6 Committee wants Hannity as a witness, as well as Mike Pence.

And the new Democratic Super PAC challenges those in the party who think less talk about Trump is the path to more midterm election win. We begin though with the Coronavirus and what too many is a moment of frustrating COVID confusion, the exploding case count is staggering. And it is disruptive.

Yet the numbers also show hospitalizations and deaths are not climbing at the same rate of cases proving Omicron for the most part causes less severe illness. You can see that right here. This chart shared moments ago by Dr. Anthony Fauci. This is about data in South Africa.

But look at it. The yellow is Omicron, smaller percentage of people admitted to the hospital lower percentages of people who need oxygen, lower percentages of severe cases lower percentages of death, the yellow is Omicron. It is lower than Beta or Delta.

Get vaccinated get boosted wear a mask doors, that was the refrain from the Biden COVID briefing today, but while that advice is clear, and it is constant, there is confusion over change CDC guidance for those who do get infected. The recommended isolation guidance is now cut to five days.

The CDC yesterday tweaked its wording to say if you want to take a test after those five days fine. But today, the agency's director added an important caution.


DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: After we released our guidance, our recommendations, early last week, it became very clear that people were interested in using the rapid test, though not authorized for this purpose. If one is to take an extra step and perform a test, at the end of their five day isolation period, we wanted to make sure people understood how they should be interpreted.

If that test is positive, people should stay home for those extra five days. And if that test is negative, people really do need to understand that they must continue to wear their masks for those extra five days.


KING: Let's get straight to our Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen. Elizabeth, the issue is the CDC being more helpful or more confusing? Where are we after that?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Oh, I think it's still confusing when you read through those guidelines. And they're online for everyone to see. I think you read them. And you go, huh, what?

I mean, my team and I have been going back and forth about them ever since they came out yesterday, we still have questions. We're a - you know, relatively bright group of people. It there are so many things that still aren't clear.

So let's talk about what it does seem to be clear and what some of the bottom lines are. So the CDC is saying, if you have COVID-19, stay home for at least five days, if you're feeling better, you can end your isolation, you can get out of the house after five days, and you should mask up for another five days.

Now, towards the end of those five days, the end of your isolation if you want to, if you can find a test. And if you want to take it, go for it. Go ahead and take that test and rapid test before ending your isolation. But it's not part of the guidelines, if you want to, you can do it.

If that test is positive, then you should isolate for 10 days. So there's been a lot of explaining both when they put out one version last week. And then when they put out this version this week. This is what Dr. Walensky said on CNN last week, she was trying to emphasize that the CDC is following the science.


DR. WALENSKY: This decision really, from the isolation standpoint had everything to do with the fact that we wouldn't change our guidance based on the result of that rapid test. And you know that it didn't have anything to do with any shortage at all, because we recommend rapid test for those in quarantine. (END VIDEO CLIP)

COHEN: So, so much back and forth here. But the bottom line, John is if you have COVID stay home for five days. If your symptoms have resolved, then you can get out of isolation if you want to take a test before you get out of isolation. Fine, but you certainly don't have to John.

KING: I wish the government was clear and concise as you are right there. I get it now. Elizabeth, thank you very much grateful for the help sorting through it. Also at that briefing today the Biden team making it clear school should stay open and saying the administration is providing billions of dollars of funding to keep them open.

But in Chicago, the nation's third largest public school district students are home today home because the teachers union says it is not safe for its members to go back into the classroom. The school district calls that union decision a "Walkout". And the Mayor Lori Lightfoot says teachers who do not show up will not be paid.


KING: Let's get straight to CNN's Omar Jimenez in Chicago with the latest Omar?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, John the communication sent out by the school districts just before midnight last night was that they consider this one a work stoppage but also called it an unfortunate decision as they now worry for the well-being of the students.

As you mentioned, teachers won't be paid for this, as the district announced, but part of what the teachers union is concerned with from the beginning is they don't think that the measures currently in place at the Chicago Public Schools District is doing enough to keep students and staff safe amid record numbers of COVID-19 cases we've seen among students, staff and the City of Chicago over the past few weeks.

Specifically, the teachers union wants more access to testing they want to see students vaccinated at a higher rate. It's currently around a little more than a third of the students are vaccinated. But bottom line, they don't feel safe going back into the classrooms. Take a listen to one school counselor.


BRIANA HAMBRIGHT-HALL, CHICAGO SCHOOL COUNSELOR: But don't keep using us as sacrificial lambs, saying that it's safe to be in schools. It's not. It's not.


JIMENEZ: Now the school district has maintained it is safe and pointed out that there is no evidence of widespread transmission in the classroom. And even that transmission rates are lower when students are actually in school. Take a listen to the Mayor. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MAYOR LORI LIGHTFOOT, (D) CHICAGO: The schools are safe. We know it because of the hundreds of millions of dollars that CPS has invested in our schools, from ventilation to HEPA filters, to partitions to masks to hand sanitizers to protocols. Why are we here again? It doesn't make any practical sense.


JIMENEZ: Now over the last year, the school system has allocated more than a billion dollars to help with this very thing addressing COVID- 19 and schooling and part of it specifically to keep in person learning active. We've still seen cases though, and until this dispute is resolved kids are out of class John.

KING: Kids are out of class. That is the main point right there. We'll watch the negotiations. Omar Jimenez grateful for the live reporting, thank you! Let's get some perspective from Dr. Richina Bicette-McCain. She's the Medical Director of the McNair Campus Emergency Department in Houston.

Doctor it is great to see you today. Let's just start right there. The President of the United States says schools are safe. The Mayor of Chicago says schools are safe the teachers union there says no. What is - should these kids be in school?

DR. RICHINA BICETTE-MCCAIN, EMERGENCY MEDICINE PHYSICIAN: I agree with the teachers union to be honest, John, history repeats itself and for some reason we are not learning from our mistakes. When that Delta surge first started late summer, early fall, it did coincide with children going back to school.

At that time we also saw record number of children getting infected and children being admitted to the hospital because being in school in close quarters is a high risk for transmission. Now we're introducing an even more transmissible variant into the mix. And this surge is going to continue to get worse if children go back to school right now.

KING: So let's walk through - let's walk through the context. I'm grateful for your time and our other medical experts to help us with context because the numbers can be confusing. Dr. Fauci used the graph - a graphic from South Africa data at the White House briefing today is the top of the show that does show that Omicron is less severe.

That does not mean when you have so many cases that it's not disruptive, it does not mean we have so much hospitalization. It's not disruptive. But this challenge is very different than Delta. I just want to show you looking at U.S. cases. He used South Africa; we're going to look at U.S. cases.

This is right now, cases versus hospitalizations. If you look at the gold line, the gold line, there are cases you see it shooting way up. And you see hospitalizations are the orange line, it's going up. And hospitalizations are at record levels. But it's not if you look to the left hospitalizations are not tracking cases as much as they did during the first wave or the Delta wave.

And now we can look at deaths and you see a similar you see a similar thing here in the sense that the cases go way, way up. But the red line is the deaths there. And you see if we need to switch to the deaths graph, we have to switch to the deaths graphics there. I just want to make sure that I'm clear about what we're talking about.

There you see - there you see the Coronavirus, so that you have the same situation where in the past the first wave and the Delta wave deaths in cases we're tracking now you see cases way, way up and deaths are low. So Omicron is less severe that is now not in dispute, yet it is still a challenge. What makes it different?

DR. BICETTE-MCCAIN: Omicron is less severe. However, I don't want to continue to push that narrative because I think that gives people a false sense of security. Cases are rising much faster, but hospitalizations and deaths are also still rising.

Not only that, but we're seeing a lot of hospital staff members, physicians and nurses that are getting this more transmissible variant. Therefore, we're incurring staffing shortages. So we're still feeling the pressures in hospital systems.

People who are contracting Coronavirus, even if you get a mild case that still puts you at risk for developing long haul COVID or children who contract Coronavirus even though they may do fine and may not even have any symptoms of COVID weeks later they may develop multi system inflammatory syndrome, which can be potentially deadly.


DR. BICETTE-MCCAIN: So Omicron being a milder disease is not the end of the story.

KING: So do you think the White House team has the right pitch as it tries to say it's saying this is a threat? It's not saying it's not a threat? It's not saying it's disruptive. It's just saying it's very different. That's fair, isn't it?

DR. BICETTE-MCCAIN: That is fair. But I think we're using different and mild in context to shorten isolation and do away with quarantine and get people back to work and get children back in school a lot quicker than we should be.

We need to have the same level of vigilance that we did in March of 2020. When we thought that this was a formidable opponent, it's still a formidable opponent, and it is still killing Americans.

KING: I agree with that. But the White House makes the key point that if you are vaccinated and boosted you are in significantly, significantly better shape than somebody who's unvaccinated. That is correct, right?

DR. BICETTE-MCCAIN: That is absolutely true. One of the Houston area, Chief Medical Officers recently sent out an email stating that of the hospitals where he is CMO. If you look at the data only 2 percent of the patients that are currently admitted are vaccinated and boosted meaning a vast majority of people were either vaccinated and didn't get their boosters even though they were eligible or completely unvaccinated. So being vaccinated and boosted is definitely protected against severe disease.

KING: Dr. Bicette-McCain as always grateful for your help. Thank you.


KING: Up next for us, the January 6 Committee wants Mike Pence and Sean Hannity in the witness chair. Newly revealed tech show the Fox Host Hannity in frequent contact with Donald Trump and top Trump allies in private. Hannity was raising alarms but on TV, a primetime platform with the big lie.



KING: New today a very important witness meeting with the January 6 Committee, sources telling CNN that Stephanie Grisham, the Former Trump White House Press Secretary, will sit with the panel tonight. We're learning this as we also consider two giant new pieces of information that show the committee's plan to go all the way up the ladder at the Trump White House.

The Committee is asking the Fox News Host Sean Hannity to voluntarily cooperate. And in this CNN interview, listen, the Committee's Chairman said he hopes the former Vice President Mike Pence also agrees to talk.


REP. BENNIE THOMPSOM (D-MS): I would hope that he would do the right thing and come forward and voluntarily talk to the Committee. You know everybody that didn't have a security detail? So we'd like to know what his security detail told him was going on. And what all went on.


KING: Straight up to Capitol Hill and CNN's Ryan Nobles. Ryan, clearly the Committee is trying to get everybody on Team Trump to play.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's exactly right, John. And what we've learned about these revelations over the past 24 hours is that they're specifically interested in the conduct of the former president and his closest advisors on January 6 itself.

That's what we're seeing in this interview that is scheduled for today with Stephanie Grisham, she was somebody that was in contact with the former president also in contact with the First Lady Melania Trump. And obviously, Vice President Mike Pence was a central figure in this entire he was, of course, in the Capitol on January 6, he was at the center of this pressure campaign for him to intervene and prevent the certification of the election results. And then of course, there, Sean Hannity, who is one of the former president's closest advisors and was in regular contact with both members of Congress, the White House Chief of Staff, and the Committee wants to know if he was in contact with the president himself.

And Hannity's conduct revealed in these text messages that the Committee has offered up to the public show that he was actually trying to talk Trump down from this effort to decertify the election results. This is just one text that that Hannity had sent to White House officials.

He said, "Pence pressure, the White House counsel will leave" this was to Mark Meadows, the then Chief of Staff, clearly he was concerned that this whole plan hatched by Trump and some of these outside advisors was going to blow up in his face, even after the fact he was encouraging Trump to stop talking about the election results.

Of course, John, that was a much different posture from what he was saying on television, just showing undying support for the president. Now, keep in mind, John, this is not a subpoena of Sean Hannity. They're asking him to come forward voluntarily. At this point, Hannity has not said how he plans to respond John?

KING: Again, another negotiation to keep track of Ryan Nobles grateful for the live reporting. Let's discuss now with me to share their reporting and their insights Our CNN Legal Analyst Jennifer Rodgers, CNN's Jeff Zeleny "POLITICO's" Rachel Bade and Toluse Olorunnipa of "The Washington Post".

Jennifer, I want to start with you, Jay Sekulow, who is Mr. Hannity's attorney, released raised some First Amendment questions to Sean Hannity, and I have any First Amendment shield here to not cooperate with the committee?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, here's the deal, John. Ultimately, he won't he was not engaged in news gathering. He was acting as an advisor. The problem is I think it's going to be a lot like we've seen with these bogus claims of executive privilege.

He's going to go to court over this or he may go to court over this asserting at first amendment privilege, and so, you know, without being able to just push forward on him without any privileges at all. It may take them a while to get through that litigation and actually sit down and speak with him.

KING: Right. If you're - if you're a Fox News viewer, or just a Hannity viewer, you have to deal with the hypocrisy here what he was saying to Mark Meadows and to Congressman Jim Jordan and presumably to President Trump, versus what he was saying on television, raising alarms in these texts I'm about to go through.

I'm giving us - using his program as a platform for the big lie. That's a separate decision from trying to get to the bottom of what happened on January 6. And Toluse as a veteran of covering the Trump White House I want to read this text. This is on December 31st. We're in this key period between the election and we get. [12:20:00]

KING: We can't lose the entire White House council office. I do not see January six happening the way he is being told. He was being the President of the United States at the time. After the 6th he should announce you'll lead a nationwide effort to reform voter integrity go to Florida, watch Joe mess up.

So Sean Hannity there Toluse is raising alarms that the president's continued obsession with a coup with trying to overturn the results of the election was not going to work while on television he was giving proponents of the big lie a platform every night.


SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: We also knew that there are always bad actors that will infiltrate large crowds, those who truly support President Trump, those that believe they are part of the conservative movement in this country. You do not - we do not support those that commit acts of violence.


KING: So Toluse what might Sean Hannity be able to tell the committee? He obviously was in his team mentions in some of these texts, his calls with the president?

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, there was this frantic period between during the holidays of 2020. I was actually down with the president down in Mar-a-Lago. And there are a lot of people that were trying to get to him.

He was being fed a lot of misinformation about the election; they were trying to come up with all kinds of different schemes. And the committee wants to know what was in the president's head in the weeks and days before January 6? And Sean Hannity appears to be one of the people who were speaking with the president trying to get into his inner circle to tell him a way to try to not only say face, but also move on and think about his political future.

It seemed like Sean Hannity was trying to say, move on, talk about voter integrity for the future, go to Florida and try to undermine Joe Biden presidency, rather than trying to stir up some kind of rebellion against the election results.

So it was pretty clear that Sean Hannity has some insight into what was happening in the weeks leading up to January 6, and where President Trump's head was, and what was happening among all the people who are trying to get into his head both to push the big lie and to push other ways for him to say face as he lost the election.

KING: Right. And it would have been nice if he used his platform and his influence with Trump supporters to make that case on television and on the radio. He did not. He gave the big lie a platform. Here's another one, Jeff Zeleny. This is January 10th, this is after January 6th, but guys, we have a clear path to land the plane in nine days, he can't mention the election again, ever. I did not have a good call with him today. And worse, I'm not sure what is left to do or say. And I don't like knowing - I don't like not knowing if it's truly understood any ideas.

That's to a Congressman and the White House Chief of Staff saying I think the President is going off the rails, what should we do?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, he clearly was right about that. But he was also wrong about the fact that he would never talk about the election in the former president. I think this text that you just read; John is one of the most fascinating windows into really the worry that surrounded many of the former president's advisors in the final days and hours of his time here in office here at the White House.

Those were very fraught days, the you know, there was still broken glass, there was still blood, literally, on the walls in the stone at the Capitol, and here at the White House, people were concerned about what Former President Trump then President Trump was going to do.

So I think the benefit from this perhaps having these text messages out there, you know, has already been done. I agree with Jennifer, that the idea that Sean Hannity is going to just cooperate simply is not going to happen. He certainly will draw this out.

John, one other thing to point out any viewer of Sean Hannity's show will not likely know any of this. He did not mention this last night on his show. This has not been mentioned on Fox at all. So that, of course underscores all this. It's probably one of the reasons that that was put out in the letter that they put out yesterday.

KING: Right. There's this new Brookings study today that essentially says Steve Bannon, Sean Hannity Rush Limbaugh on their radio shows, then produced this podcast, we're perpetuating the big lie amplifying the big lie in that period between the election and January 6.

One thing we won't have tomorrow, Rachel is Donald Trump said he was going to have a big press conference. He said he was going to make the case the insurrection is actually Joe Biden has stolen the election. That is a lie. But Trump was persuaded not to do that. How does that change the dynamics?

RACHAEL BADE, POLITICO PLAYBOOK CO-AUTHOR: Yes, I mean, clearly, there's a lot of Republicans on Capitol Hill who are right now saying relief. I think a lot of people weren't saying this publicly, but privately, were sort of dreading the sort of split screen we are going to see tomorrow where you have folks at the Capitol, giving testimonials talking about their experience; about the one time in American history where we had U.S. citizens stormed the Capitol.

But side by side with President - Former President Trump down at Mar- a-Lago praising the rioters and trying to sort of whitewash the significance of what happened. And so a lot of lawmakers on the Hill were concerned about this. We were hearing last night at playbook that a number of Trump allies people who are still very close with him confronted him and told him this was going to be a really bad media cycle from him if he did this and got him to back down.

So one less thing Republicans have to worry about and I think that Republicans right now, you know, as we get closer to this anniversary tomorrow, you can really see how awkward everything feels for them obviously with Republicans you know nationwide still behind Trump.


BADE: They're reluctant to speak out even though they a lot of them really condemn privately what happened on the six, but they're refusing to do that publicly anymore.

And so, you know, they're sort of swarming in their places right now not knowing how to handle this, you dodging questions about it, or making sure they're going to be out of town for this anniversary?

And that's just, you know, the tragedy of it all is that when they don't speak about it, people don't, you know, listen to the Republican leaders Republican base is still listening to Donald Trump thinking that this is, this was no big deal. And that, you know, they can just move on or that these people had a, "Patriotic motive".

And so the more these Republicans don't speak out, the less the country, the Republican Party in particular, we'll see what significance this was?

KING: Well, tomorrow is the anniversary but every day we should be reminded of how big of a deal it was and of the cowardice of those who will not speak out publicly and call it what it was. Everybody stand by more conversation to come - coming up for us the Attorney General taking heat, there are some 700 prosecutions, but some say the Justice Department is being too lenient with those responsible for the insurrection.