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New Day

Republican Senators Meet with Many Not Wearing Masks; House January 6th Committee Asks for Testimony from FOX News Host Sean Hannity regarding Texts He Sent Ahead of January 6th Insurrection; Chicago Teachers' Union Votes to Delay In-Person Classroom Teaching Due to Coronavirus Surge. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired January 05, 2022 - 08:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: But unlike the House, the Senate has not imposed mask mandates. CNN's Sunlen Serfaty live on the Capitol, where you just have to look around, Sunlen, and you see people walking around without masks.

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: That's absolutely right, John. And it's very alarming. D.C. has seen a huge surge in positive cases as well as up here on Capitol Hill, dozens of members and staffers testing positive. And we have observed numerous Senate Republicans walking around without their masks.

Now, Senate Republicans gathered for their weekly in person caucus lunch yesterday. They did hold it in a larger room than they normally do, but CNN observed over a dozen Senate Republicans walking in these hallways, into that lunch, without their masks on.

This, of course, comes as the Capitol physician up here on Capitol Hill has been ringing the alarm bells, saying that cases up here on Capitol Hill has skyrocketed, jumped from one percent positivity rate to 13 percent, just astronomical numbers in a short period of time. And he sent a letter to congressional offices this week, basically saying you've got to do more up here, pleading with members to take extra precautions, not only working from home to the extent possible, but avoiding in person meetings if possible, boosting up the mask wearing, specifically saying ditch those cloth masks, wear KN-95 or 95 masks. So certainly, John, many Senate Republicans blatantly in defiance of those recommendations.

BERMAN: And proudly, I think, in many cases defying the recommendations. Sunlen Serfaty, thank you very much.

NEW DAY continues right now.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to viewers here in the United States and around the world. It is Wednesday, January 5th. I'm Brianna Keilar with John Berman. And he is live, thank you for being here.

BERMAN: So are you.

KEILAR: Yes, I am. Together.

BERMAN: News flash.

KEILAR: Here in Washington for our special coverage. So it was one year ago today, Republican lawmakers, a coup hungry president, and rightwing media, they were busy selling lies to the American public, lies that would bring thousands of angry people to the Capitol for one of America's darkest days. And this morning, we're seeing even more evidence that one of the most prominent entertainers at FOX knew exactly what was going on.

BERMAN: The January 6th committee wants to chat with Sean Hannity. Why? Because as part of its investigation, even more text messages are surfacing that the FOX host was in the very middle of strategy sessions with then President Trump and the White House. More importantly, what Hannity was saying privately was far from the message that he and his network pushed publicly to its viewers, many of whom would march on the Capitol.

KEILAR: On left side of your screen, you will hear Hannity's words to viewers. On the right, you will see his private text to Trump allies, members of Congress. We report, you decide.


SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: We have Ted Cruz coming on later on in the program. We know that he wants this commission to look into this for 10 days. We're going to have about 150 House members supporting this as well. A big rally. I believe your dad will be addressing that rally tomorrow. Big day tomorrow, big crowds apparently showed up to the point where the West Wing could hear the music and the chanting of the people that were there already. And this all kicks off in the morning tomorrow.

SEN. TED CRUZ, (R-TX): Well, Sean, that's right. And tomorrow is an important day. We have an obligation, I believe, to protect the integrity of the election and to protect the integrity of the democratic system.

HANNITY: Senator, I'm looking at the support you're getting in the Senate, and I'm looking at the support in the House, maybe 150 members in the end. It is looking like, realistically, can this really happen? I don't like to give this audience false hope. Would we have an audit? Is that real? Is that a possibility? Do you see, for example -- do you see any -- after tomorrow is there a path for the president constitutionally?


BERMAN: So as you saw from the texts there, we'll get into much more about what they actually say, because I think they're very important there for this investigation, Hannity knew there was no path, knew there was no constitutional path. But he built up the rally, and he gave voice to people like Ted Cruz who were pushing the big lie.

And you should remember, FOX is being sued for billions for its lies about the election. Then after the insurrection, Hannity, despite accurately predicting that chaos would happen, floated conspiracies and lies about leftwing actors actually being the culprits.


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

They were there to peacefully protest. And we had the reports that heard groups like Antifa, other radical groups, I don't know the names of all of them, that they were there to cause trouble.



KEILAR: Hannity and FOX, they spend a lot of time telling viewers what they think is patriotism. But just to recap here, Hannity's network publicly sold the big lie, they built it up, so that a president could carry out a coup, a blatant attack on democracy. Their viewers are being lied to, brainwashed, manipulated. And just to be clear, FOX is not a news network, which is not breaking news, I will say.

BERMAN: Joining us now, CNN political analyst David Gregory and CNN political commentator and former Trump White House communications director Alyssa Farah Griffin. Alyssa, I want to read one of the Hannity texts first again because I do think it's very important for the investigation here. And it's very short. He writes on January 5th, "I'm very worried about the next 48 hours." So the select committee points out correctly, why? Why was this person who was in constant contact with people inside the White House worried about what was about to happen? What did he know about the plans that were in place that were about to happen? It really is a worthy question.

ALYSSA FARAH GRIFFIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: It is a very worthy question, and I can't foresee any scenario where Sean Hannity isn't compelled to testify before the committee. I would say this, though. He's worried in either one direction or the other, that he knew that this day was going to get violent and was going to be a mar on our American democracy, or he was worried, as his texts seem to reveal, knowing President Trump had lost the election. He was not going to win. There was no path for recourse. The results were not going to be overturned, and then what that would mean for Trump, how he would handle it.

And I think -- listen, this kind of tenuous effort to say that Sean Hannity is a journalist and that might give him some kind of coverage to not have to comply, just doesn't pass the smell test. He's very much an opinion commentator. And he's going to have to speak to the committee.

KEILAR: What he says himself, he says he's not a journalist, to be clear, right. He says that he's a host. But I wonder, David, these texts, what are the biggest issues that they bring up for you?

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think as Alyssa says, it's being in direct communication with the president is really important, because I think the committee wants to get to the bottom of how much the president understood about what he was unleashing and what the intended effect of it was.

And it's so important that he and his chief of staff are getting -- are getting these kinds of warnings from straight up allies. These are individuals who are propagandists on FOX News who are certainly toeing his line, and they're the ones saying this has got to stop, or in this case, Hannity preemptively saying this is going to be a horrible outcome. I think that's really important, whether it's to the president himself or to Mark Meadows, his chief of staff at the time.

And I think, look, the texts are already very important that the American people have had access to, that the committee had access to because it shows you what people were saying when they didn't think the whole world was watching. So it's really quite revealing. Now, if there is all this jockeying about whether or not he actually cooperates or testifies, that may be a little bit beside the point.

BERMAN: I'm with you, it is already revealing that he had foreknowledge that something was going to happen. Why? What was being discussed? What did he know about what was being discussed? I'd love to find out, but at the same time, the fact that he had foreknowledge, David, tells you just about everything you need to know.

The former president was scheduled to hold a news conference at Mar-a- Lago tomorrow, the one-year anniversary, Alyssa. But he canceled. He canceled. And our reporting is because he was pissed off that people weren't going to cover it, that there was a lack of interest around his news conference tomorrow. What do you think happened here?

GRIFFIN: I think that's very likely. That reporting is true. I have a hard time believing that the former president grew a conscience and realized that this was -- this is a solemn day and it would be inappropriate to spout his election lies while the rest of the country grieves that horrible day.

It's certainly that it wasn't going to breakthrough, but I would note in the statement that he announces he's canceling it, he continues to carry on the big lie. And then he makes this very absurd claim that I think is very important to note, saying Pelosi didn't deploy the National Guard. She could have done it in advance. So he incited a riot, then the riot goes to the Capitol, attacks it, and then he's blaming Nancy Pelosi that she wasn't prepared to take on this riot that he incited. So he's -- it takes a lot of mental gymnastics for him to defend himself on this day, and I think it's very wise that he's choosing to not speak.

KEILAR: It is probably -- it is for the best, David, for everyone, because if you're looking at the possibility of him having this presser, and he's just going to be propagating the big lie, he's doing it, it is almost like a battle cry a year later.


GREGORY: Yes, and the valve of his speaking and his views has been diminished. I also think he and those close to him have to be making some calculation about how to treat January 6th. If there is a political future here for Donald Trump, he wants to try to recast what it was, what it meant, how it happened, because he has turned off so many people already with his role. Whether that's determinative of whether the folks who supported him would still vote for him or not, we don't really know the answer to that.

But I think at any political level he would be smart to try to step aside and let other people try to cast it as something other than we all know that it was, which is what takes me back to what we are learning from these FOX personalities who were imploring the White House to take a different turn. These are folks who are driving a false narrative around all of this. But in the critical moments, when they thought they had the presidency or the chief of staff's ear, they were waving a red flag saying this is horrible, this is wrong, you're going to ruin everything with this. That was the most honest appraisal that we have seen.

BERMAN: Still, let me book Ted Cruz, so he can spout the very lies that I'm concerned about spouting there.

GREGORY: But I will say, I will say, even in that clip, John, even in that clip, if you really watch it closely, the way I see it is, Hannity at the end there is saying, there is not really any chance this is going to work. I don't want to sell any false hope to people, but he's still -- he's still obviously advancing it. I'm not denying that.

BERMAN: I saw the exact -- I think you're right. I saw the exact same thing there, David. Clearly, he didn't believe it and was sort of half saying it, yet he still put the guy on TV to lie.

KEILAR: Yes. Good point.

David Gregory, Alyssa Farah Griffin, thank you to both of you.

GREGORY: You're welcome.

GRIFFIN: Thank you.

KEILAR: So breaking overnight, tens of thousands of kids in Chicago, this is a huge school district, it's the third biggest school district in the country, they're not going to school today after the Chicago teachers' union voted to stay home from school until January 18th or whenever the latest coronavirus surge subsides.

So let's start now with CNN's Omar Jimenez. He is live in Chicago. Omar, this is not what the school system wanted. This is not what the mayor wanted. But this is what the teachers have forced.

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Brianna. And the communication that the public schools district sent out not long before midnight yesterday, they called this an unfortunate decision, and said they are now worried about the well-being of students. That messaging also went on to say that teachers will not be compensated for this, as they consider this a work stoppage.

Now, part of what the Chicago teachers' union had asked for, part of what their concerned about is they don't believe the current measures in place are safe enough for students and staff to return in person amid record COVID-19 case numbers we have seen among students, staff, and throughout the city of Chicago over the past few weeks.

But the school district has pushed back on that, saying transmission is not happening in the classroom. They have seen no widespread evidence of that. And further, they argue that the tactics of doing a district wide move to virtual learning just isn't practical. Part of what they propose is doing school level metrics on when to move to remote learning, for example, if a particular school has 50 percent of the student or staff population, that has to quarantine or isolate.

Now, moving forward, we are expected to hear from the teachers' union a little bit later this morning. But we know that this doesn't just apply to today. The teachers by voting yes on this have indicated that they intend to stay virtual, or at least move toward that, until January 18th. But, of course, this negotiation process begins to try and get to a place where both sides feel safe going back to school in person. And, of course, that would end all of this before that January 18th intent, Brianna.

KEILAR: We'll be watching, Omar, developments ahead on this, of course. Thank you for that.

The CDC issuing some new guidance for COVID testing and for masks, and it may have only added to the confusion. I'm confused, and I've been following this day in and day out. The former acting director of the CDC next.

And those rapid tests that are so hard to find, the prices are about to go up. We'll have new details on why.

BERMAN: And the driver of this devastating car crash still alive today thanks to a dog. The key question here that Brianna Keilar has asked, what would have happened if a cat was inside that car?

KEILAR: I'm a cat person still, but --

BERMAN: It's a good question.

KEILAR: It's a good question.

BERMAN: The story ahead.



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: New guidance from the CDC on how long people who test positive for COVID-19 should self-isolate. After reducing the time from ten days to five, the CDC says isolation can end if symptoms are resolving, but you should continue to wear a mask for five days. And here's what's new here.

You have the option to test after five days and if positive, you should continue to isolate for a total of ten days. Keyword there, option.

Joining us now is Dr. Richard Besser. He's a former acting director for the CDC and the president and the CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Okay, Doc, can you help us make sense of this? As a for instance, I cook, sometimes in a recipe it gets to the end, it says crushed red pepper optional and I expect that in a recipe, but I don't know I expect that from CDC guidance.

DR. RICHARD BESSER, FORMER ACTING DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASES CONTROL AND PREVENTION: Well, I think you hit it pretty clearly, Brianna. We're not very good with the idea of options. So the overarching recommendation is that isolation can be reduced now from ten days to five days, if you don't have fever, if your symptoms have resolved or are resolving. And the reason for that is data showing that you are most likely to transmit early on.

So when those symptoms start, when you first get them, that's when you're most infectious. It doesn't mean then after five days, everyone's ability to transmit goes zero, but it goes down. And the hope I think with reducing from ten to five, is that more people can follow that.


You know, here in America, we know that in large proportion of people don't have sick leave. If they're not working, they're not getting paid.

The goal here, I think, was to try and create guidance that was workable, that was science-based. But when you put in that option there, saying, but if you have a test kit and want to test it five days and you're positive, you should continue for ten, that makes it pretty confusing. Then it is saying that, well, you know, those people who have test kits may want to use them, is that what it is saying?

And if that is the case, then we have to look at this as well from an equity standpoint and make sure that anyone who wants a test kit and wants to test it five days can, that the option isn't just for those who happen to have access.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Just level with us, just tell us, you know, that you don't need a test because the CDC, we think, that the risk of spreading it is low. There may still be a risk, but we think it is worth it to get back at it in society. Just say it. It seems to me, rather than present this weird option where, by the way, the people who are probably the least dangerous to society are the ones who are going to test anyway.

BESSER: Well, you know, John, I think the challenge there is that with the reduction of five days there are still people who are going to be testing at six -- on day six, and the question is, well, I'm positive on day six, do I need to do anything with that? And the -- the comment there would be, well if you're positive, we can't say go out without a mask, go out and be around.

And so it is a bit of a challenge because in that tail in that day six to day ten, the percent positive is going to go down, but it is not zero, not even close to zero.

KEILAR: If you're positive on a rapid test, should you assume that you are contagious?

BESSER: I think you have to, yeah. The -- there are different degrees there. You say someone is contagious, it is not an all or none. So one of the values of the antigen test as compared to the lab test or the PCR tests is that the antigen test is much more likely to only be positive when you are contagious, where as the lab test, the PCR test can remain positive for months, even after you recovered, even after you're not posing a risk to anyone else.

So if there were an abundant and overly abundant supply of rapid tests, I think we would be approaching this differently. We might all be getting up in the morning and doing a rapid test before going to work, before sending our kids off to school, and if they're negative, we're out and about feeling better.

But that isn't the case, there is a shortage, I spent days trying to find rapid tests, and I had the luxury of being able to take time off work to do that. Most people don't have that opportunity.

BERMAN: And you know people. You're connected.

Rich, look, we talked over the years about kids and health for children. Chicago Teachers Union voted overnight not to show up to work today, basically. They say they're concerned about health and safety protocols. They're also, what, 97 percent vaccinated?

KEILAR: Ninety-five percent vaccinated, high.

BERMAN: So, Rich, I do understand there are concerns about safety. But, you know, from the perspective of children, isn't it better for them to be in school if they can be in school?

BESSER: Yeah, as you know, John, I'm a pediatrician and one thing we learned over the course of the past year is that the toll of COVID on children goes way beyond the infection. This has been a real burden in terms of children's learning, but also their emotional health, their socialization, we need to do everything we can to keep kids in school.

That being said, I think over next couple of weeks, it is going to be very hard for many schools to stay open because a lot of staff, a lot of teachers are going to get COVID. We see this during flu season, where flu will whip through a community and schools have to close for a bit while there are inadequate numbers of teacher and staff.

But having as the primary objective, doing everything possible to keep kids in school, is the right approach. If I had younger kids, and my school was doing the right things, so they were addressing ventilation and distancing, they were requiring vaccination, requiring mask wearing, I would feel comfortable sending my kids to school.

And by comfort, it doesn't mean I'm sending them to a setting where there is no risk, I'm sending them to a setting where the benefits of being in school, in my mind, outweigh the risks of COVID infection, especially as we're learning about omicron infection and that it is a milder infection for most people who get it.

KEILAR: Yeah. And where the risks are mitigated. It is so important, different schools, obviously, different places, doing different things.

Dr. Besser, great to see you. Thank you.

BESSER: Great to see you too. Thank you.

KEILAR: Criminal charges dropped against former Governor Andrew Cuomo. So what is behind the D.A.'s decision here?

BERMAN: A Capitol Hill staffer who barricaded himself inside an office during the insurrection says the trauma from that day pushed him to leave Washington altogether. He's here to tell his story.



BERMAN: The Capitol insurrection largely came to pass because of a lie about the 2020 election. For an entire year now, the reality of that day has been marred with misinformation and more lies.

Joining us now to fact check the five primary lies about all this, CNN fact checker in chief Daniel Dale.

Daniel, great to see you here.

Lie number one, you know, you hear the rioters were completely unarmed.

DANIEL DALE, CNN REPORTER: It is just false, John. Dozens of capitol rioters were armed. At least four of them that we know of had guns on capitol grounds. Rioters also had things like knives, like tasers, baseball bats, axes, batons, bear spray, the list goes on and on.

As of last week, according to the Department of Justice, more than 75 people illegally on Capitol grounds have been charged with carrying dangerous weapons there. So, again, just wrong.

BERMAN: Armed.

Lie number two, the idea they were actually protesting a rigged election.