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Source: Trump, McCarthy Spoke Thursday Night; CDC Launches New Forecasting Center To Be Like The "National Weather Service" For Infectious Disease; Rep. Greene Testifies In Hearing On Challenge To Her Candidacy. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired April 22, 2022 - 12:30   ET



TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE ATLANTA JOURNAL- CONSTITUTION: That to me is the most serious thing to come out of all the reporting that's come out in the last 24 hours.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Right. And you say all the reporting last 24 hours, which is why I bring it back to you guys. The book is not in bookstores yet. And we're learning little pieces of it as we go. Here's something else in "The Times" article you wrote based on your reporting for the book. Mr. McCarthy told other GOP leaders, he wished the big tech companies would strip some Republican lawmakers of their social media accounts. We can't put up with that, Mr. McCarthy said, adding, can't they take their Twitter accounts away, too?

Obviously, Trump's had been taken away. There are several way -- keep talking about this, Kevin McCarthy at risk now, I'm not being speaker. We know the Matt Gaetzs, the Lauren Boeberts, the Marjorie Taylor Greenes, they don't like him. And if Trump gave them the nod, they would in a heartbeat oppose him. Kevin McCarthy, in part of his statement yesterday, said he never specifically named any members. He also said he didn't say plan to call Trump to resign, and you have the audio of that.

I suspect now, number one, anything -- he can't deny anything in this book now because he denied one big thing, and the audio whacks him in the head with it. But who, did he say who?

ALEX BURNS, CO-AUTHOR, "THIS WILL NOT PASS: TRUMP, BIDEN, AND THE BATTLE FOR AMERICA'S FUTURE": Well, he can certainly try to deny things again. And he's more than welcome to do that. Look, we quoted him saying in that story, is yes, a more general description of the kind of member who he wishes that the tech companies would take, access away from. But it was very clear, the group that he's referring to in the days after January 6th, the Lauren Boeberts, the Matt Gaetzs, the Marjorie Taylor Greenes of the world who continue to say really incendiary things about the election, about the riot on January 6th.

And remember, this is a moment where there's fear there will be another attack on the Capitol. So just in the context of that time, it is not at all difficult to discern who he's talking about whether or not he said specific names. KING: And that's an important point in the sense that we're focusing on these individual episodes, because they are important, they're important to record history. They're important because of the -- what Tia said about what they were saying publicly compared to what they were saying and thinking privately.

But this is what you're trying to capture in the book, just how our politics are just in a blender. And so that in the days after January 6th and everybody thought Trump is done, we're in a very different world now where we -- Trump is not done. And the question is we'll learn in the primaries in 2022 and then beyond, how much does he have left?

JONATHAN MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. For a brief moment there, it seemed like maybe the rules of gravity, we're back. Maybe Trump would face accountability that he hadn't for the previous five years in his own party. And of course, it became clear that he would not. I think that's why Trump is as brazen as he is because his own party will happily accept his denialism about the election.

They won't confront him because they know that most of the other party leaders are scared of his voters. And that's the recurring theme. But we go into a great length in this book, that was how they got there, what we call the rollback from January 6th, how confrontational, McCarthy and McConnell were in those first days, and then over a period of weeks and months, how they slowly returned to Trump's embrace, how they cast out Liz Cheney from her leadership post.

And how McConnell himself in the Senate went from thinking he could have a real opportunity to convict President Trump and barred him from ever seeking office again, to realizing there just wasn't the will there in his own caucus.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And just from what Mitch McConnell, you know, he doesn't even mention Donald Trump's name anymore. When he gave that speech after he voted to acquit Donald Trump, he gave that speech on the floor saying he was practically and morally responsible for the deadly riot in the Capitol.

You tried to ask them about Donald Trump's role in January 6th, he has wants nothing to do with it, he says I have already talked about that, wants to move on. The election is about the future, not the past. He does not want to talk about it. And it's for that exact reason, because they don't, they're concerned about spawning this backlash from the voters that they need to get back for the majority.

KING: Your home state is going to be, the state your cover is going to be one of the places where we learned some of the answers about how much juice if any does he have left.

MITCHELL: Right. And that's the thing. This is -- we're talking about the high level serious, but it's trickling all the way down. We're looking at Georgia. We're looking at what's happening in Florida. And these are all, you know, more examples of the same which is catering to those Trump voters in ways that people privately will say, isn't the best for our democracy, isn't the best for our government, but they want to stay in power. And this is how they think they need to do it.

MARTIN: And just real fast, John, Georgia, that's going to be a fascinating task. If Donald Trump cannot get his handpicked candidate, former Senator David Perdue to beat Brian Kemp in that primary for Governor next month that's going to raise real questions about the clout that Trump still has in his party, if he can't deliver in that state because there's no bigger target for Donald Trump than Governor Brian Kemp in Georgia.

KING: Well, that's why some of us are excited primary season is upon us. We will get to answer some of these questions.


When we come back, tracking the trends, the CDC launches a new Infectious Disease Forecasting Center. We'll speak for one of the team's leaders, next.


KING: The Centers for Disease Control is asking a new team of scientists to take a weather forecast approach to big public health issues like COVID. You check the weather, right, before planning a picnic or heading to the ballpark. So what should you check if there's a pandemic and say you're considering a big trip or attending a crowded event?

Caitlin Rivers, the Associate Director of the new CDC Center for Forecasting and Outbreaks Analytics. Caitlin, grateful for your time. I just want to show, I'm asking sort of a question of how, what do you think, what do you look at now, what is the best first metric because we're in our third spring of COVID, about to go into our third summer of COVID. This is the CDC map by county of high transmission. This is cases. You see the red. You see the deeper colors.


So you see pockets of problem, you would call that, high transmission or moderate transmission all across the country. But if you look at the CDC map on hospitalizations, it's a much better outlook. Some issues up here in the northeast, mostly, a couple of pockets across the country, but which now at this point of the pandemic, when you're trying to convince people trust us, we can be your forecast. Is it cases? Is it hospitalizations? Is it some hybrid?

CAITLIN RIVERS, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, CDC CENTER FOR FORECASTING AND OUTBREAK ANALYTICS: Yes, thanks for that question. One thing we're doing, so we are an infectious disease modeling and analytics shop. And I'll tell you a little bit about what that means. John, you and I have spoken over the last two years at various points about whether there will be another surge, whether schools should be doing COVID testing, whether travel restrictions could help to slow the spread. Those are all modeling informed questions.

Now you raise an important point, how do we get that information into the hands of people who need to understand it and make decisions? One thing we're doing at the Center for Forecasting that is perhaps a little unusual for a modeling shop, is we are devoting about one-third of our operations to communication to do exactly that, to make sure that the public understands what's happening in their community, and what actions they could take to reduce their risk not just for COVID but we want this going forward for future health threats as well.

KING: For future health threats as well. But as you mentioned, communications, I just want to show you, this is the headline in Philadelphia. We've talked -- you're right, we've talked through this for the past two plus years. At times, it's about what is the science say, it's times what does the politics say. And at times we get into this, there a credibility problem or mixed messaging problem from governments, Philadelphia to lift mask mandate less than a week after it was reinstated?

How much of your challenge if you want to convince people we are the gold standard? Check with us. Look at our models. Before you do anything, check how it is in your community. How much of your challenge in building up this new team is cutting through the politics of COVID and the credibility questions that have been raised?

RIVERS: There is a challenge there. And we actually take a lot of inspiration from the National Weather Service. If there is a storm coming, the National Weather Service does not say barometric pressure is dropping. Because it's a regular person, it's hard to know what to make of that. The Weather Service instead has invested a lot of research and development to try different communication models.

So now they say things like small trees will be uprooted and debris could break windows. And they've done that very deliberately. We plan to embark on that kind of process as well to ensure that our communications are really meeting the moment and reaching people with the messages that they need to hear.

KING: And so then help me through that. And what does that mean in terms of the language of COVID that might change from our government or your forecasting center? We talked a lot when we were doing this going up the case count, right? What do we do? What do we do now? And now we're in a much better place where we come down, hospitalizations again, way, way up. If we go back in time, in a better place now.

This is the numbers down from the Omicron peak, 807,000 cases on average a day now down just below 40,000. As you try to communicate, will it be cases? Will it be hospitalizations? Are you looking yourself for some sort of new language or version of uprooted trees?

RIVERS: Yes, I do. We have seen an evolution in the messaging already during the pandemic. As an epidemiologist I've been telling people through the pandemic to look at cases for 100,000 per day. That is not an easy take home message. But now with the CDC's community burden, we see more communication around a stoplight system, is it red, is it orange, is it green because people understand how that fits with other knowledge that they have. And so that is an evolution in communication that I think has been important. And we're going to keep going down that road to make sure that our communications are clear and effective. KING: Caitlin Rivers, grateful for your time today. I want to circle back as you get a little experience and get this up and going. We'll talk about how it's working in the weeks and months ahead. Thanks so much for your time.

RIVERS: Thank you.

KING: Thank you.


Coming up for us, how Putin's war in Ukraine is destroying a decade's old illusion for many Russian citizens.


KING: Vladimir Putin's propaganda machine tightly controls what most Russians hear. So there is little evidence that the war in Ukraine is causing him significant domestic political stress. But it is stirring up provocative conversations among Russians who no longer live there, among Russians who are still there who have the courage to talk and among journalists and academics who have tracked Putin for decades now, two decades he's been in power.

Sabrina Tavernise has covered Russia for "The New York Times" for more than 20 years. She wrote this the other day, in the weeks since Russia invaded Ukraine, I have felt like I am watching someone I love lose their mind. Sabrina joins us now. She's also the co-host of "The New York Times" podcast of "The Daily." Sabrina, grateful for your time. Explain the context of what I just read, someone I love lose their mind.

SABRINA TAVERNISE, CO-HOST, "THE DAILY" NEW YORK TIMES PODCAST: So John, I spent a lot of time in Russia over the years. I spent much of my 20s and a part of my 30s. And, you know, I have a real affection for the place. I have lots of Russian friends. I have a lot invested in Russia kind of emotionally. And when I started seeing this happen, I in a lot of ways couldn't really process it. So the essay that I wrote was a way to try to understand this war and how Russia had gotten to this point.

KING: And your writings and your conversations on the podcast get at this evolution of Putin and the evolution of the people who have lived under Putin or covered Putin and watched it. I was struck by the idea that when Putin takes power, I was covering the Clinton White House at the time. They didn't know what to make of Vladimir Putin. There's some hope maybe he'll be a reformer, he'll break with the KGB. And then it becomes well maybe it won't be so bad and he does want us to have jobs and he's bringing in Western economic things.


And, you know, maybe it'll be OK. And you write this, many people I interviewed said the poisoning of Mr. Navalny in 2020 and the jailing of him in early 2021, after years of freedom, marked the end of the social contract and the beginning of Mr. Putin's war. Like Al Qaeda's killing of Ahmed Shah Massoud on the eve of September 11th, Mr. Putin had to clear the field of opponents. There was this evolution, you think that was a defining point from Putin being maybe more authoritarian to becoming almost totalitarian.

TAVERNISE: I think what happened was, there was a social contract from two decades under Putin, right? You guys stay away from big politics, don't challenge my power, but you will have a nice life, you will have good jobs, you know, the average wage went up for Russians by many, many multiples. Moscow was beautiful. The last time I was there, the parks were splendid, like just splendid. I mean, it was really a place where people seemed happy.

And that, yes, you know, we had given up some of our freedom, freedom of the press, but that was OK, because our lives were good. And I think that what's happened with this war in Ukraine is that that has gone away, that Putin has now kind of, you know, taken Russia to a new place, to a much more kind of just a very strict authoritarian place, and potentially a totalitarian system in which he is, you know, detaining and arresting thousands and thousands of Russians, three times as many as in the last wave of protests in 2012.

In fact, a lot of my Russian friends are saying that that period in 2012, when there was a big protest movement is called, they were called, they call them that those were vegetarian times that now, the stakes are so high for doing something like protesting, you could be 15 years in prison, that's really raised the stakes. And I think the question now is, you know, where is Russia going?

You know, what will what your Putin do? I think it comes down to kind of what is really in his head? And I think the two wildcards are the economy and the war. If either of those go dramatically south, and, you know, arguably, the war is already kind of has already is already half there are that we don't know what he will do. You know, my colleagues have had stories about Russians informing on one another, teachers denouncing students, shoppers denouncing shopkeepers, you know, we know that Russia has a history of quite violent repression. That was of course under Stalin in the 1930s. There were hundreds of thousands of Russians executed. Now, we're not anywhere near that. But, you know, where's this going? Is the question in my mind.

KING: It is a fascinating question and grateful for your insights today. And we'll keep asking. We'll bring it back to discuss as we move ahead. Sabrina Tavernise, thank you, grateful for that perspective. And a quick programming note for us, on this very point, the unbelievable true story of the man who took on Putin and live to expose the truth. The Sundance award winning CNN film, Navalny airs this Sunday 9:00 p.m. Eastern right here, only on CNN.


Ahead, the Republican congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene in court right now, saying she had no knowledge of efforts to interfere with the counting of electoral votes back on January 6th, 2021.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) KING: Today Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene testified under oath that she had no knowledge of any plans to illegally interfere in the counting of electoral votes back on January 6th, the testimony part of a hearing to determine if Greene can run for reelection. Voters in Georgia including some liberal organizations have filed the suit seeking to disqualify her because of what they say is her role in the January 6th attack. CNN's Amara Walker just outside the courtroom. Amara, what did we learn today?

AMARA WALKER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: So the court just broke for lunch. We'll be back in about 45 minutes, John, but for about an hour and a half. Marjorie Taylor Greene spent that time on the stand being questioned by lawyers who are representing those voters challenging her candidacy. And I can tell you from the get-go, Marjorie Taylor Greene took a quite a combative tone, as she was asked about tweets that she's posted public statements that she's made about the 2020 election peddling conspiracy theories.

In fact, on the stand moments ago, she insisted that there had been tremendous voter fraud in the presidential election. We know that's a false claim that's been debunked multiple times. She also said that she believed Joe Biden did not win the election over Donald Trump. And as you said that she had no knowledge of any attempts have plans to illegally interfere with the counting of electoral votes on January 6th, here she is denying that she has ever advocated for political violence.


ANDREW CELLI, LAWYER FOR CHALLENGERS: You did believe at this time that the 2020 election had been stolen by the Democrats for Mr. Trump, right?

REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): I was asking people to come for a peaceful march, which is what everyone is entitled to do under their First Amendment, but I was not asking them to actively engage in violence or any type of action.


WALKER: And when this is all said and done, the judge is expected to make a recommendation to the Secretary of State on whether or not Marjorie Taylor Greene should be disqualified from running for Congress again, John.


KING: Amara Walker, grateful for the live reporting in that important case. And thanks for your time today in Inside Politics. Hope you can have a good weekend. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.