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McCarthy Deflects On Refusal To Meet With Jan. 6th Committee, Accuses Panel Of "Abuse Of Power"; Biden's New Actions To Combat COVID: Free Tests, Free "High Quality" Masks, Military Medical Personnel To Hospitals; CA Health Department: Health Care Workers Who Test Positive & Are Asymptomatic Can Return To Work Immediately; Sen. Sinema: I Support Voting Bills, But Won't Support "Underlying Disease Of Division". Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired January 13, 2022 - 12:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Hello, everybody and welcome to 'Inside Politics'. I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing what is a remarkably busy news day. Kevin McCarthy promises Donald Trump the loyalty he craves no documents no testimony, no help.

The top House Republican refuses to cooperate with the panel investigating the attack on America the attack on his workplace. Plus, the president lays out new steps in the COVID fight, wear the masks more tests and sending the medical cavalry to hospitals near their breaking point.

And in the hour ahead of defining moment the President traveled to Capitol Hill to meet with Senate Democrat to oppose the President's plan on voting rights which he calls a test for the history books.

We begin the hour up on Capitol Hill. Well just moments ago, outright defiance and more from the House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy. Just last night the top Republican in the House promised he will not voluntarily turn over information to the January 6th Investigative Committee.

And just moments ago, Leader McCarthy then deflected, avoided any substance about what happened on Insurrection day and refused to talk in detail about his conversations with the then president of the United States, Donald Trump. Let's get more from Stephen Fry and nobles up on Capitol Hill. That was defiance and more.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, sure was John. And it also doesn't come as a surprise at all. You know, Kevin McCarthy has been casting aspersions on this committee since it was formed.

He defiantly pulled all the Republican members that he had appointed to that committee off the committee once Nancy Pelosi vetoed two of his picks. So he has been in a posture as it relates to the investigation as of January 6, in the Insurrection in a very adversarial way.

He opposed the formation of an independent commission. He basically got the entire Republican caucus to vote against it and eventually died in the Senate. And now here with his House Select Committee, and every single turn, he has found ways to get in the way of their investigation.

And that continues today. What I found most interesting about his remarks here today, John, and I don't think we should overlook this. At one point when pressed about why he wouldn't be willing to talk about what he knows about January 6th, his answer was that he has nothing to offer the committee that would help them in crafting any legislation.

Well, what does that mean? Does that mean that he does have information that perhaps might be abate to them, if they were to find some sort of criminal activity involved in this investigation?

Now, he was making that point, as it relates to that he believes that it's not the committee's job to look into the criminal activities around January 6th, and perhaps find people accountable for that reason.

Now, the committee has said multiple times, it's not their charge. They're doing this to offer up alternatives and solutions to prevent it from ever happening again. But they said if they find criminal activity, which congressional committees do all the time, they will refer that to the Department of Justice for prosecution.

So he was very careful with his words, and you really need to, to zero in and parse exactly what he said, to get the full picture of what is going on here. But the simple fact remains, John, is that Kevin McCarthy knows a lot about what happened in the days leading up to January 6th, and what happened on January 6th.

Including specific conversations with the former President Donald Trump and the general public, the members of this committee and people investigating it, do not have those answers. John.

KING: Ryan Nobles appreciate you're kicking us off live on Capitol Hill. Let's get some reporting and insights from three of the best Jonathan Martin of The New York Times NPR, Ayesha Rascoe. And Catherine Lucey of The Wall Street Journal.

Let's just listen, Catherine Lucey, to a little bit of Leader McCarthy, I often put that in air quotes and I think today is the day to do that. Look, he has a unique eye on history here. He was talking to Donald Trump in the middle of the Insurrection he was appealing for help.

And Trump was saying no, maybe that's why McCarthy doesn't want to cooperate because it shows Donald Trump does not listen when Kevin McCarthy calls, but he was asked several direct questions about that day, and we got a bunch of this.


SEN. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): My criticism went to everyone on that day. Why was the Capitol so ill prepared that day? Why was the Capitol so ill prepared that that day? And how do we make sure it will never be ill prepared again?

I'm not sure what call you're talking about. After January 6th, you can state this, who was the first person to offer a bipartisan commission to look at that day. Was it me? I'll help you. The answer is yes.


KING: He had explanations and excuses for everything. But his answer, will you provide critical testimony to building the history of that day was no.

CATHERINE LUCEY, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: That's right. He deflected repeatedly on what he would provide, you know, what he would say about that day.

And I mean, the committee has been very clear. They want to know, he spoke to the President on the day, you know, when the Capitol was being stormed, and they want to understand, you know what that conversation was, you know, at times, yes, he has sort of told different people different things. They would like a clear understanding of what the president was doing and saying as this was unfolding and he was very clear and defiant.


LUCEY: As Ryan said, you know, in this news conference just now saying that he would not be participating. Also interesting, I thought, John that not only did he try and deflect and sort of, you know offer different explanations and arguments, he at one point really moved the conversation over to the things that Republicans would like to be talking about as they had in the midterms. He started talking about inflation.

He started talking about, you know, people having difficulty finding goods at stores. So he really he was looking ahead to you know, they dropped conceal very good about their prospects in the midterm, the possibility that they could take back the House and is looking at - looking past this to some of those arguments that they prefer to be making.

KING: Right. He said he's hoping it goes away. He's hoping he can to decide what he wants to talk about. The committee which has two Republicans on it is saying no, at the same time we go through the midterm election year, we're going to build this history.

And Ayesha, if you look at the letter from the committee, the committee has impressed I think a lot of people who were skeptical at the beginning, but the thoroughness of their work.

They have texts from Mark Meadows, the former White House Chief of Staff, to Leader McCarthy, they have leader McCarthy's own public statements, including initial condemnation of Donald Trump and his full about face.

In their letter, they say we want to talk to you because you know, Trump's state of mind, actually, in the middle of the Insurrection, your communications with the president the week after January 6th.

When a lot of people at the White House were worried what the President was going to do public statements about the Insurrection since his late January Mar-a-Lago meeting, Trump's legal efforts to block certification.

Our Kevin McCarthy was in frequent contact with the then president united States at a critical time in his full disrespect for history and the institution he wants to lead to say I won't cooperate.

AYESHA RASCOE, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NPR: Well, and it's interesting for him to say, well, I won't do it because it won't help them craft legislation. Well, why not let the committee decide that maybe you do have something that would be helpful for them?

Why are you deciding of your own when any, you know, regular person who was, you know, asked by Congress would be expected to come in? And that has been a general expectation, right. And so he is saying of his own accord, well, I just don't think it'll be helpful for legislation, much less not talking about criminal things. There are huge questions about Trump's mind state during that time.

And during that time, people were very worked up including McCarthy about Trump. And now of course, it has reverted back to complete and utter loyalty to Trump because that is what he demands.

KING: I understand, Jonathan, this didn't work out the way Kevin McCarthy wanted. He was trying to blow up the whole thing, when he walked away one of his own members had a plan for a bipartisan commission.

Speaker Pelosi did McCarthy is right object to putting Jim Jordan on that committee she said that would be fruitless because of a Jim Jordan's constant conversations with the President to and his just combative nature.

So McCarthy has a point there, but now the committee wants to go forward. Is this about anything, but Kevin McCarthy wants to be speaker, and he knows if he defies Donald Trump, a bunch of more Trumpy conservative House Republicans will walk away.

JONATHAN MARTIN, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: I think you put your finger on something there, John, I think this actually does have something to do with give McCarthy's ambitions to be Speaker of the House next year.

Of course, that's Central. He's walking a tightrope. He has never had the full trust of the hard right faction of the house people like Jim Jordan. And it's essential that McCarthy keep those members in the fold to ensure that he has the votes to become speaker next year.

And he simply cannot risk alienating that sort of Trump, Jim Jordan access by cooperating in any way, shape or form with this committee.

Now, the challenge, as you have laid out there does sort of seem hard to avoid, which is McCarthy himself, as he noted, remarkably, at that press conference today came out for a bipartisan commission himself early on after January 6th.

There is now a bipartisan commission. Obviously, he doesn't think that Cheney and Kinzinger count anymore as Republicans, but still they are Republicans. And McCarthy is not cooperating. Why? Well, because the facts on the ground politically have changed and it would be detrimental to his ambitions to cooperate with this committee.

KING: His path to power is more important than building the history of that day. I will see this one goes out. A big test for the committees now can you get the leader and other Republican members of Congress.

Who are saying no can you force cooperation in any way everyone's going to stand by our busy day. Our conversation continues including Capitol Hill, the next stop on a very busy day for the president.

His goal there persuades holdout, Senate Democrats to take up voting rights, first, though, the President's promise of new health, the hospital overwhelmed by Omicron. The President announcing Military medical search teams and six States make the first cut.



KING: The President Biden today announcing three new actions to combat COVID-19. The President sending Military medical teams to help hospitals overwhelmed with Omicron. More tests, including a new website where the Americans can order free rapid tests and get them shipped directly to your home.

And a promise from the president of free what he called high quality masks available to Americans, details the President says will come next week. Let's get to our Senior White House Correspondent Phil Mattingly for more details. Phil?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Now John, what are the three biggest issues that I think the White House has been grappling with over the course the last several weeks' major concern about hospitals being overrun due to the sheer transmissibility of the Omicron variant.

Real concerns about what types of masks are supposed to be best and concerns about messaging related to those masks and the lack of availability of tests. Those were the three issues that had been the primary concerns.

Those are the three issues the President was trying to address today. Now when it comes to hospitals, as you noted, the President's sending out six more federal medical teams to hard hit States to try and help with the efforts in those states.


MATTINGLY: About 120 personnel in total, you're talking to Mexico, Michigan, Cleveland, New Jersey, and Rhode Island in New York. This is part of an effort that's been underway now for several weeks, really several months to try and expand capacity in those states, given how hard hit some hospitals have been when it comes to test.

The president directing his team to order another 500 million tests to be distributed for free via a website. Now, something to keep in mind here that would in total be about a billion tests of the 500 million that were already ordered. Only 50 million have been procured. The website is not set up yet.

So there's a long road to go here but the White House recognizes testing is obviously been a big issue. And then on mask, the president teasing what will be an announcement next week about the efforts to get more Americans higher quality masks for free.

It has been a real question and debate inside the White House given the transmissibility the Omicron variant if they need new mask guidelines, if they need to try and get more high quality mask to Americans, the later clearly in the process of being worked out.

The former doesn't seem like it's happening anytime soon. Still sitting with the guidance that any masks is better than no masks so long as it's well fitting. Right now the administration knows they will try and expand efforts to at least get higher quality masks to Americans for free. John

KING: Phil Mattingly, appreciate it live from the White House. Let's get some perspective. Now Dr. Carlos del Rio joins us to share his expertise. He's Executive Associate Dean at the Emory University School of Medicine, Dr. del Rio, great to see you. Let's start with testing. And let's listen to a bit of what we heard from the President a bit earlier.


JOE BIDEN, U.S PRESIDENT: When I got here, we were doing fewer than 2 million tests a day this month, it's estimated that we will hit approximately 15 million tests a day. And we'll have over 375 million at home rapid test in January alone.


KING: My much smarter colleague on this issue, Dr. Sanjay Gupta calls testing the original sin of the government's COVID response. It was a disaster during the Trump Administration. Is it anywhere where it needs to be under the Biden Administration? It seems to me and please, I would love to be wrong. Tell me if I am that we are still reactionary, as opposed to proactive when it comes to testing.

DR. CARLOS DEL RIO, EXECUTIVE ASSOCIATE DEAN, EMORY UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE AT GRADY HEALTH SYSTEM: You know, John, I totally agree with you. I think we are reactionary. I think we're not yet where we need to be I think we're playing catch up every time.

And we, you know, did not don't have enough tests available. And we have also let the market dictate what happens with testing. And the reality is when you have a public health crisis, what needed to happen is what's happening right now. The government should have ordered free rapid tests long time ago, like they've done in Europe and made them available so people can have them and test themselves at home. And this is more important than ever right now.

KING: So we want to put a map up here right now, because the President is sending these Military surge teams in which I'm sure the States that are getting them any help that you can get. It's helpful.

You look at 82 percent of ICU beds are in use right now, nationwide, COVID patients fill a third of those ICU beds. That's as of Wednesday, most States in the deep red, they're the States where it's not quite as bad in lighter colors. What is the situation in the American hospital system right now? And how much help can the federal government give?

DEL RIO: John, the situation right now is dire in hospitals, we are overwhelmed with COVID patients and most hospitals are reporting, you know, a third of their beds occupied by patients with COVID.

And, and yes, there's this argument that well, some of them don't really have COVID, they're infected with COVID, you still need to treat them the same way, you still need to make sure that they get isolated, you still need to use they have incredible resource use.

And more importantly, you cannot move them you cannot discharge them, right. Because if somebody comes in with a stroke and test positive for COVID, when they're ready to go to a rehab facility that rehab facility won't accept them because they have COVID.

So you have those patients stay in the hospital for longer than they should. And at the end of the day, that impacts everybody. If you go in with you know, you need a surgery, you need you know, something that needs to be done in a hospital, there may not be the bed available to take care of you.

In addition to that you have healthcare workers that are getting infected. So the situation is dire. And it's going to get worse over the next several weeks. I think we're going to see even more problems in hospitals throughout our nation.

KING: Right, which gets me to the next question I wanted to ask look, every worker in America every person in America gets COVID, It's an individual, you know, test for them and a challenge for them. If it happens to health care workers at a time the system is already under siege. It gets all the more complicated.

In California, they've decided this is the guidance from the California Health Department due to the critical staffing shortage, the healthcare professionals who've tested positive for SARS-COVID-2. And are asymptomatic may return to work immediately without isolation and without testing. Is that might be necessary, is it smart?

DEL RIO: It's what's necessary. It's not it's not ideal, John, but it's what's necessary. You better have an infected healthcare worker wearing a good mask to prevent transmission but helping and doing the care that needs to be done that not having somebody there to take care of the patients.

But again, I want to emphasize that healthcare workers are getting infected not in healthcare, they're getting infected in the community.

Many of them you know, fortunately are vaccinated, many of them are boosted. So they're having very mild infection. And many of them are really wanting to come back to work because the reality is they see how much strain their colleagues or friends are under.

And they really want to help and I my head my hat goes off to each and every one of the healthcare workers they are really heroes and they're behaving like such right now.


KING: Amen. They are heroes. They have been since day one. And they remain as we enter our third year of this. So the question, are there better days ahead, Dr. del Rio, I just want to show you right now. If you look at the case count in Boston, starting to go down a little bit and the wastewater sampling also shows lower incidence of COVID in the wastewater.

We can show you the cases here in Washington, DC, you see a giant spike, but you do see in recent days, it just started to trickle down. In some of the places Omicron hit first and we saw the early surge, we're starting to see a plateau and even a decrease. Where are we in the rest of the country? Is that two weeks away three weeks away? Do we know?

DEL RIO: That there's different modeling out there, but it really depends on when it started. But I would say as a country as a whole, we probably going to hit a peak in about a week or so. And then cases will start coming down.

But again, we have to remember that we're coming down from a very, very high peak. And just like any mountain coming down as a, you know, you come down from Everest is just as dangerous as when you're going up.

So we need to still be careful. But I do think there are better days ahead, John, I expect that by late February. We're going to be back to where we were, you know, a couple of months ago, and I think it's going to be much better than what we are right now.

KING: Dr. del Rio, thank you, sir, as always grateful for your report and expertise. Up next for us a giant test of presidential sway President Biden heads to his old Senate Hans in minutes hoping to change minds in the Democratic family on voting rights.



KING: President Biden heads to Capitol Hill today in just moments for defining test of his power and his influence, the issue of voting rights and the timing. One week from his one year mark in office only raised the states.

To Democrats remain unwilling to change Senate rules to advance the voting legislation meaning two Democrats are making a choice President Biden says leaves them on the wrong side of history.

Those Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema were not swayed by the tough words in the President's public speech on voting rights the other day. So now he will try in person next hour at a private democratic luncheon.

His clout as party leader is on the line here. A central plank of the Democratic agenda is on the line here. And remember giant pieces what was supposed to be the first year Biden agenda are already in limbo are worse. Let's get straight to our Chief Financial Correspondent Manu Raju, Manu, the stakes for the president higher than high.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and even before he can come to Capitol Hill, his effort has officially ended because on the Senate floor this moment, Senator Kyrsten Sinema is officially putting the nail in the coffin of this effort to try to change the Senate filibuster rules in order to pass the larger rewrite of voting laws.

That, of course has been a central pillar of Joe Biden's domestic agenda. But what Sinema is laying on the floor is what she has been saying publicly and privately for months, she is concerned by lowering the threshold which requires right now 60 votes to overcome a filibuster and do it by a simple majority of 51 votes, which they could do along straight party lines.

She said that will lead to "wild reversals in policy", it will contribute to the core disease of division that is infecting this country. She's making clear that despite this push aggressive push by a party, she is unmoved. And she's not alone, Senator Joe Manchin, also as opposed to changing the Senate filibuster's rules. And of course, that means just one democratic defection is enough to scuttle the entire effort.

Now this will still go on for the next several days. The house this morning did pass two large pieces of legislation, one to rewrite voting laws run across the country, another to overturn a 2013 Supreme Court ruling that gutted the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

That's going to come over to the Senate and then at that point, over the next couple of days, there will be a key procedural vote to overcome a filibuster, they won't be able to do that because Republicans are in lockstep opposed to the underlying bills.

Now Sinema and Manchin support those underlying bills, but they do not support changing the rules to get it out of the Senate. And Chuck Schumer, the Senate Majority Leader has made clear that he wants all senators on the record about whether they support changing the rules.

So the vote will still almost certainly happen sometime potentially over the weekend, maybe into even Monday, Martin Luther King Day at that point, Kyrsten Sinema right now making clear she is a no Joe Manchin at this point, also a no.

Which means that this effort, Joe Biden going to Georgia making the case coming to Capitol Hill trying to urge his colleagues to get on the same page. They are not on the same page and a major failure set for the Biden agenda here in the days ahead, John.

KING: Manu Raju setting the stakes for us quite clearly. Manu, thank you very much. Our reporters were back to discuss. Jonathan Martin, one week from today, Joe Biden marks one year in office, this is a central fundamental plank of the Democratic Party.

Essentially counter what has happened in more than a dozen States about voting rights. If the president United States loses this vote, because he can't convince two members of his own party to be with him. The voting, the voting rights issue will be dead for the year. But what does it say about the President and his power?

MARTIN: That he has the narrowest of majorities, in fact, no majority at all on the Senate, unless you count the Vice President's capacity to break ties and that you still have enough ideological diversity and sort of personality, if you will, diversity in the Democratic caucus of 2022 that it's going to be tough to keep all 50 in line on every vote. Look, they got two major bills last year.