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Americans Face Two Weeks of Uncertainty on Omicron Threat; CIA Shows U.S. Intelligence Community Struggled to Brief Trump. Aired 7- 7:30a ET

Aired November 30, 2021 - 07:00   ET



TIGER WOODS, GOLFER: But I think something that is realistic is playing the tour one day. You never full-time ever again, pick and choose, just like Mr. Hogan did, and pick a choose a few events every year and you play around that and practice around that and trying gears step up (ph) for that and you play. I think that's going to how I'm going to play it from now on.


ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORT CORRESPONDENT: And last week, the 15-time major champion posted a video of himself on social media taking practice swings with the comment, making progress. Tiger is slated to speak with the media later this morning after his invitational tournament in the Bahamas.

And college football, the coaching carousel continues to turn. And yesterday, it was LSU making the big splash. According to multiple sources, the Tigers hiring Brian Kelly away from Notre Dame to be their new head coach. Kelly has been with the Fighting Irish since 2010, winning as head coach in school history.

And, John, Notre Dame 11-1 this season. They're still one of the teams with a shot to reach the college football playoff. But it's going to be awkward if they make the playoff. They don't have a head coach.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEW DAY: I will never understand the timing of some of these college football coach moves right before these championship games and bowl games. But, Andy, thank you very much.

New Day continues right now.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. It is Tuesday, November 30th. I'm John Berman with Brianna Keilar.

And breaking overnight, the omicron variant of coronavirus has now been detected on five continents nearly a week after being first discovered. Now, this is not unexpected. Scientists expected this to happen, and it doesn't get to the major questions about how severe the illness might be.

Japan just identified its first case hours ago. That means 19 countries or territories have now diagnosed at least one case of omicron. There are no confirmed cases in the U.S. as of now, but if you listen to Dr. Fauci and others, it is almost certainly here.

With so much still unknown about the new strain, President Biden is urging everyone to keep calm.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: This variant is a cause for concern, not a cause for panic. We have the best vaccine in the world, the best medicines, the best scientists, and we're learning more every single day.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN NEW DAY: Now, the president says he does not anticipate more travel bans or any new lockdowns. The CDC is also strengthening its guidance on boosters. It says that all American adults should get one. So, not just a recommendation, they're saying that they should.

Moments ago, we spoke to a South African doctor who is treating patients infected with the variant, and she described the symptoms that she's seeing.


DR. ANGELIQUE COETZEE, NATIONAL CHAIR, SOUTH AFRICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION: The majority of what we are presenting to primary health care practitioners are extremely mild cases, so it's mild to moderate cases.

We need to tell you what the symptoms also that people can understand, if I feel a bit fatigued for a day or two, something, not the fatigue that you used -- this is a different type of fatigue, with a bit of a scratchy throat and a bit of a body ache and pain, and, you know, with a headache, we call it normally malaise, so I don't feel generally well. Go and see your doctor.

I have seen vaccinated people, and not really very sick. That might change going forward. As we say, this is early days. And this is maybe what makes us hopeful.


KEILAR: So, this was really fascinating to hear a doctor there on the ground treating omicron patients talking about this. And we are going to have our Dr. Sanjay Gupta here in just a moment to assess some of what she said.

Now, we do have reporters across the globe covering the spread of this new variant, beginning in South Africa.


Cases of the COVID-19 variant appear to be rising fast here in this part of the country. There is now a sense that omicron is dominating other variants in South Africa. Hospitalizations are still quite low, but the good news, say scientists, is that vaccines appear to have some effect because most of those in hospital are unvaccinated.

They will be key questions to be answered in the next few weeks, while everyone waits to see how bad this variant is.

CYRIL VANIER, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: I'm Cyril Vanier in Paris. On the same day that Spain detected its first case of the omicron variant, the country imposed a ten-day mandatory quarantine for passengers arriving from South African countries, including South Africa.

Those travelers will be able to leave isolation after seven days and a negative PCR test. These measures, however, do not apply to European residents transiting from Spain on their way home.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Will Ripley at the Hong Kong International Airport, where a third person has tested positive for the new omicron variant, two more cases detected in this quarantine hotel I'm staying in right now.

All incoming travelers to Hong Kong are required to quarantine, and the territory has just banned non-resident arrivals from 13 more countries, in Europe, Africa, and the Americas, any country where omicron has been detected.


Japan is taking things one step further, banning all new foreign arrivals as they also confirm their first case of the new variant.

BERMAN: This morning, the White House says it doesn't anticipate new travel restrictions beyond the countries in Southern Africa, but industry groups are concerned. The U.S. Travel Association is urging the Biden administration to reconsider the temporary ban. They wrote over the weekend, COVID variants are of concern, but closed borders have not prevented their United States while vaccinations have proven incredible durable.

Joining me now is U.S. Travel Association Executive Vice President Tori Emerson Barnes. Thank you so much for being with us.

What is your message to the White House this morning?

TORI EMERSON BARNES, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, PUBLIC AFFAIRS AND POLICY U.S. TRAVEL ASOCIATION: Absolutely. We've been engaged with the White House over the weekend. We feel very encouraged by the president's comments yesterday and reinforced this morning that we expect not to see any more travel restrictions.

And I think what we really see with this current one is it is a slippery slope. We have really robust protocols in place. You know, air travel is safe. You have to have a vaccine and a negative PCR test to come into the U.S.

And we think that that is the appropriate way to assess an individual's risk and not ban wholesale a country from coming to the U.S.

BERMAN: What Dr. Fauci and others in the administration say is this move, this temporary ban on these Southern African nations is to buy some time. Why aren't you persuaded by that?

BARNES: We absolutely understand the concern there. But as we've seen, as we just heard from the doctor, if you are vaccinated, the symptoms are very -- you know, very insignificant, really. You're feeling that malaise. And, quite frankly, we think, that, again, it should be the individual risk assessment.

So, if you're vaccinated, which is required to come into the U.S., and you're taking a negative test, we think that's really key. We also have much data from Mayo Clinic, from Harvard, from DOD, that air travel is safe.

So, we think, again, we don't want to set a precedent. We just reopened to the rest of the international countries on November 8th. We've had a huge economic hit, and the industry is just now recovering. And we're not going to see a full economic recovery in the U.S. without having a recovery of the travel industry, which is absolutely critical.

So, we really think that it is important again to look at an individual's risk assessment and keep our vaccine and really underscores the vaccine need and the need for folks to continue to get vaccines.

BERMAN: The flipside of this for the travel industry is it can't be good for travel if there is an increase in cases, an increase in hospitalizations and rising concern about a new variant, correct?

BARNES: Absolutely. Again, underscores the need for folks to get vaccinated because we know that symptoms are going to be far less. And we really want to keep the travel economy going again. One in six open jobs is in the travel industry. 65 percent of unemployment, pandemic- related unemployment, was in the travel industry. And we're still looking at a 2024 time horizon for recovery. So, quite frankly, again, you have to balance the health concerns and the economic concerns that we're facing here.

So, again, I want to underscore the need for folks to get vaccinated, but we really do need to look at individual risk assessment when folks are being evaluated to come to the U.S.

BERMAN: Tori Emerson Barnes, I appreciate your time this morning. Thank you.

BARNES: Thanks for having me.

KEILAR: Let's bring in CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta with us. He's the Author of World War C, Lessons from the COVID- 19 Pandemic and How to Prepare for the Next One.

Okay, Sanjay, first, you know, can you respond to what we heard from the South African doctor who is treating patients with -- look, I want to be careful with our viewers. The caveat that she did say, she still wants to see how this is going to affect the vulnerable, how it is going to affect the elderly. And I certainly don't want any sort of narrative about this being no problem at all for everybody to take hold from the beginning because we don't know that.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. I mean, you're hearing an important voice, you know, in terms of someone who is taking care of patients on the ground. But we do know many of those initial patients were younger patients as well. It was a cluster, as David McKenzie has described, from a college in the area.

So, a lot of those patients do recover well on their own already. We've known that since the beginning. This is a virus that tends to more adversely affect people who are older or people who have pre- existing conditions. So, it's just hard to say.

You know, I think yesterday, we shared with you some data looking at the particular province there in Johannesburg, Gauteng Province. And there has been an increase in hospitalizations over the last few weeks. This is sort of their late spring in terms of climate, so out of flu season, warmer weather, people more outside and, yet, hospitalizations going up.


Is that related to this? We don't know. But that's the kind of data that these scientists are going to be looking at in terms of determining severity, along with other things.

BERMAN: Talking to Dr. Coetzee, she's one of the first doctors to be treating people known to have been infected with the omicron variant. We're also hearing from some doctors from Israel who are now treating patients with it.

And she reports, again, and it's just the preliminary stages, and she is one of the first people we know who's dealing with it, she says vaccinated patients who are infected with omicron she is seeing, again, very mild symptoms or, as she puts it, no complications. The significance there, Sanjay?

GUPTA: Well, you know, I've talked to about half a dozen people who are in the vaccine making world, virologists, infectious disease folks who are actually working on vaccines, and, you know, we don't know yet. It will be probably two to four weeks before we know of the true vaccine efficacy against this.

What's happening right now is they're doing lab studies where they're taking the omicron virus. They're taking blood serum of people who have been vaccinated. And basically seeing how well do the neutralizing antibodies in the blood work against this virus. It takes time. And at the same time, you're following real world data, where the virus is spreading, are people getting sick, are hospitalization rates going up? So, it's going to take a little bit of time.

But all these folks told me that they believe that there is going to be protection still from the vaccine against this variant. But it is likely to be maybe slightly eroded protection. Remember, when the vaccines came out, we were talking 90, 95 percent protection against severe disease. It may be lower than that as a result of the mutations on this particular virus.

I don't know if we have this 3D animation. I just want to show you real quick. Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. But if we have this, the animation of the spike protein, there it is, this is the spike protein, and this is omicron specifically. All those different colors represent new mutations. There's E484A. You don't need to remember that, but that's is a mutation that can help the virus escape some of the protection from the antibodies. There's another one, 501, which basically makes it more transmissible.

That's what the scientists are working on right now to try and figure out how well do the vaccines work, will a new type of vaccine be necessary in the future?

KEILAR: And then, you know, in light of that, the potential impact, the CDC has strengthened its booster guidance, saying -- going from you may get it to you should get it if you're an adult. Tell us about this.

GUPTA: Yes. So, before it was after age 50, you should get it. But people younger than that, 18 to 49, may get it. Now, they're saying every adult should get the booster vaccine.

Here's where we stand on boosters right now. The oldest population, people 65-plus, are the highest booster uptick, 44 percent. But you can see it is pretty low across the board despite significant availability of these boosters.

I think the message is really clear, again, talking to so many of these people in the vaccine world and infectious disease doctors, epidemiologists, it is time to reconsider getting a vaccine if you haven't done so already. It is time to do that. It is now time for a booster if you're at least six months out from the mRNA vaccines or two months out from the Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

Even if there is some erosion of the effectiveness of these vaccines against omicron, having the vaccine, having the booster is still going to give you the best protection of all.

I'll add to that as well something that I don't think we still talk enough about, you know, masks, there's been a lot of back and forth on this, but I think we need to be prepared to be cautious as we're going into the winter season, even before omicron. Don't get rid of these masks. Get yourself high-filtration masks. Get yourself home testing kits. Most of them are good at detecting omicron. All these things help as well.

KEILAR: Yes, very, very good. And, look, those tests, a lot of people I found don't realize they're available. They're available at your drugstore. They're a little bit of an investment, but not too much, and it is definitely worth having on hand. I've always been grateful when I had any symptoms to be able to do that.

Sanjay, thank you so much.

GUPTA: You got it. Thank you.

KEILAR: So, Fox is taking its vitriol to another level, comparing Dr. Anthony Fauci to a Nazi doctor. We have a reality check ahead on that.

Plus, Donald Trump was far and away the most difficult new president to brief for the intelligence community. That's according to the CIA detailing what went on during intel briefings.

BERMAN: And Barbados declaring Rihanna a national hero in the island's first act as a new republic, and why they've left the United Kingdom and separated from the royal family, really, after 400 years.



BERMAN: A crucial hearing at a federal appeals court today over key documents pertaining to the Capitol insurrection. Former President Donald Trump is trying to block their release, claiming executive privilege.

CNN's Whitney Wild is live in Washington for us outside the courthouse. This is a big day with some pretty important arguments, Whitney.

WHITNEY WILD, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. Each side will get 20 minutes to make their case to a three-judge panel at the appeals court here in Washington.

Here's what the Trump side is arguing. They say that this pursuit of records is so aggressive, so broad, that it could permanently damage the presidency, permanently damage the concept confidentiality that is enjoyed by the president and people that he speaks with. However, we already know that a federal district judge has said that privilege ends once the president leaves office.


On the Biden side, which is on basically the same team as the House side here in trying to get these records, the Biden side is arguing that these records are eventually going to be public anyway. And because this is such an extenuating circumstance, that they should be made public -- or, rather, be sent to the House as soon as possible, John, because transparency here is so important.

So, today, another crucial stop along a timeline here, and really along a legal road that could very well end up at the Supreme Court if the Trump side does not get the ruling they're looking for, John.

BERMAN: Whitney Wild thank you very much for that. We'll be watching very closely.

KEILAR: You know, it's no secret that Donald Trump had a strained relationship with the intelligence community, but a new chapter published by the CIA underscores just how troubled that relationship was, even before Trump officially took office.

Former Intelligence Officer John Helgerson writes that, for the intelligence community, the Trump transition was far and away the most difficult in its historical experience with briefing new presidents. The only and imperfect analog was the Nixon transition. DNI James Clapper recalled Trump was prone to fly off on tangents. There might be eight or nine minutes of real intelligence in an hour's discussion. The irreconcilable difference in Clapper's view was that the I.C. work with evidence, Trump, was fact free, evidence doesn't cut it with him.

And we are now joined by David Priess. He is the Publisher and Chief Operating Officer of Lawfare. He's also a former Intelligence CIA officer himself where he briefed George W. Bush for part of that administration. He's also the Author of the President's Book of Secrets, A History of the President's Daily Brief.

Okay this is called Chapter 9, Donald J. Trump, a unique challenge, David. I mean, that's a very understates title, I will say here. But explain this why he was more difficult or the most difficult since Nixon.

DAVID PRIESS, PUBLISHER/COO, LAWFARE: Unique actually is a very good summary. John did a good job with that title because it conveys so much. It wasn't that Donald Trump was unbriefable. He did actually have intelligence briefings during the transition, and he did keep them through much of his presidency, but those briefings were decidedly different than with any other president. Because Donald Trump did not want to sit there and listen to the objective facts as judged by the intelligence community.

He wanted to talk. He wanted to interrupt. He wanted to ask questions and not really focus on what the evidence was as much as what he thought the evidence was. And that led to a very difficult relationship for an intelligence enterprise that has been built up over decades solely to get objective information before the president.

KEILAR: And, look, you've written about this, every president is different in their engagement style, but there's this -- are they absorbing of the information. And I think what we can see from this chapter is that Trump was not doing that nearly as much as other previous presidents.

But you know the person who was, was Vice President Mike Pence. He was kind of receiving these briefings more like a president than even President Trump was, it seems.

PRIESS: Right on. There's a couple of people other than President Trump in the administration who get some attention in this new material, and one of them is Vice President Pence, who we didn't have much of a window on from the reporting during the administration regarding how he took intelligence.

There was an assumption that he was getting the president's daily brief and taking information seriously because, frankly, the vice president doesn't have as much to do as the president. And he always could have to step into Trump's shoes, perhaps more likely with this president than many other, given the two impeachments.

So, Pence should have been doing this, and this material shows that, in fact, he was. That he was taking briefings quite regularly and engaging heavily with his intelligence community interlocutors.

But there also is a focus on Michael Flynn in this document, which is quite interesting regarding what he has been up to lately. Because Michael Flynn, until President-elect Trump, was fully briefed on all CIA covert actions that were at the behest of the current president, that was Barack Obama at the time, that Donald Trump would be inheriting as his covert actions on inauguration day.

Michael Flynn got that brief from the CIA along with Vice President Pence back on December 7th of 2020. Trump didn't. And it wasn't until several weeks into his administration that Trump got briefed on all of the covert actions that he was now responsible for. It was quite a revelation.

KEILAR: Yes. You mean when Flynn was briefed in 2016? Is that what you meant, to be clear?

PRIESS: Yes, 2016, not 2020.

KEILAR: Okay. I just wanted to be --

PRIESS: 2020, Michael Flynn was in a different circumstance.

KEILAR: That would have been a headline. Okay. So, he actually didn't get -- Trump didn't get a briefing in the last month of the presidency.

PRIESS: Yes. That's how it appears. It's a little bit dodgy the way that it is written.


It is almost as if John Helgerson didn't want to say it that bluntly. But he pointed out that before Donald Trump left for Mar-a-Lago for the holidays, which was somewhere around December 23rd, 2020, that he had his last briefing with his regular PDB briefer, and said, I'll see you later. But she wasn't planning on going down to Mar-a-Lago and briefing him during the holidays, later meant when he came back in early January.

But the book says that he came back, and they were scheduled to have a briefing on January 6th, but they didn't have one and they didn't have one until the end of Trump's term, which does adds up to almost a month of no intelligence getting to the president through the regular briefing process, because this material also shows that even though the PDB would be delivered, he may have literally touched the book, as his first briefer said, but he didn't actually read anything.

So, it is a shocking revelation there too that the commander-in-chief of the United States didn't get any material from the PDB for virtually a month at the end of his presidency in a very chaotic time. KEILAR: Yes. It is staggering. And, you know, you mentioned, as we see Trump's style here, interrupting briefings, what is the matter with that? What is wrong with interrupting a briefer or challenging a briefer?

PRIESS: Yes. This may be surprising, but there is nothing at all wrong with that. In fact, when I was a briefer, most often for Bob Mueller and John Ashcroft, but a few times into the White House, I actually wanted the customers, as we called them, to interrupt. Because then I would know what wasn't working for them in the way I was presenting it, and I would know what was of interest to them that I needed to address in the limited time we had together.

So, there's nothing wrong with interruptions. There is something wrong if the interruptions mean that the fundamental bottom line assessments cannot be communicated, if the messages that the entire intelligence community has been geared up to try to get to the commander-in-chief can't get through because there is too much chaos in the room.

And it looks from this new material like that's closer to where we were at often in the Trump administration, that Clapper said I think he teed up eight or nine minutes in a one-hour briefing might actually be focused on intelligence. You know, that's actually not horrible. You can communicate a lot of intelligence, bottom lines, in eight or nine minutes. That was a hopeful note in the new material.

But other days, it sure sounds like no main messages were getting through, and that's the problem with someone who interrupts so often to hear himself talk that the intelligence briefer can't do her job getting the information out.

KEILAR: I love how you say, that's hopeful. You are an optimist, David Priess. You are, and I really thank you for, you know, just -- you pull the curtain back on this, and it is great to talk to you about this. Thank you.

PRIESS: Thank you.

KEILAR: So, next, why the right's demonization of Anthony Fauci now involves the torture of puppies -- I'm not kidding -- and the angel of death. We'll have your reality check, next.

BERMAN: And overnight, Barbados officially separates from the queen and crowns a new national hero.