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Unvaccinated Push U.S. Hospitalizations to Pandemic Record; Chicago Teachers Union Agrees to Return to Classrooms; Voting Rights Groups Boycotting Biden's Speech in Atlanta about Voting Rights Legislation; Georgia Beats Alabama to Win 1st National Title Since 1980; Judge Suggests Trump Could be Held Liable in Siege. Aired 6- 6:30a ET

Aired January 11, 2022 - 06:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. It is Tuesday, January 11. I'm John Berman with Brianna Keilar.


And this morning, the United States poised to break a record in the coronavirus pandemic. An ominous milestone, but one that requires important context.

So COVID is pushing many hospitals to the brink, but really, more specifically, the unvaccinated are pushing hospitals to the brink. This morning, more than 141,000 Americans are hospitalized with COVID, just shy of the all-time high established in January of 2021. That record will likely be broken today.

Now, this includes people who are going to the hospital because of COVID and those who show up for other things -- a car crash, a broken arm -- but turn out to also have COVID once they get there. Also, crucially, the large majority of hospitalized patients are unvaccinated or only partially vaccinated.

Look at this chart from New York City. It shows the rate of hospitalization among the unvaccinated. That's the top line. And the vaccinated, the bottom line. Look at that chasm, mammoth gap. A stunning gap.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, two different worlds there. And in the meantime, the testing shortage does remain problematic.

The White House says the first of 500 million free COVID-19 tests will start arriving for distribution early next week. Officials are working through distribution timelines. They say that Americans will be able to start ordering the tests online later this month.

Starting Saturday, health insurers have to cover at-home COVID tests without co-pays and deductibles. Insurers will be required to pay for eight tests per covered individual per month.

Let's bring in CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen on this. Elizabeth, what can you tell us?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, let's take a look -- a look again at these hospitalizations that are linked to COVID. Because we are about to surpass a record that was set about a year ago.

So take a look at this, at the far right-hand part of this graph. You see 141,000 hospitalizations linked to COVID. That is on the verge of surpassing the record that was set about a year ago.

But I want to add the context that John just added. These are people who are hospitalized not just because of COVID. In other words, they had COVID, they got so sick with COVID they needed to go to the hospital. It's also people who, as John said, broke a leg, went to the hospital, and they were tested, which is now the standard procedure, and it turns out that they have COVID. So they aren't being treated for COVID. They're being treated for the broken leg.

Now, that's always been true. We've always kept records that way. What's different now is that Omicron is so transmissible, so many people have it, that many, many people are turning up in hospitals with COVID but not because of COVID.

Still, having said that, staffing shortages in the U.S. are so critical. Doctors, nurses, other hospital personnel unable to come in. And that's why we're seeing hospitals across the country doing things like bringing in the National Guard or training new people to take the place of some of these hospital workers who are home sick with COVID.

Now, as you mentioned, there's a huge gap between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated. If you take a look at this, the red line, that's the unvaccinated. Those are unvaccinated people who are in the hospital linked to COVID. The green line is the fully vaccinated.

So once again, this country is suffering. Hospitals are suffering. Doctors are suffering. Nurses are suffering because of the unvaccinated. They continue to make this choice and hurt others -- Brianna, John.

KEILAR: That graph is a tale of which path do you want to walk on? And very clearly --

COHEN: Exactly.

KEILAR: -- if you're looking out for your health and your life, you want to be on the green path, not the red one there.

Can you talk to us a little bit about the blood supply? Because the American Red Cross says that many blood centers across the nation have less than a day's supply of certain blood types.

COHEN: Yes, the Red Cross is saying that their blood supply is dangerously low. There are several factors for this. COVID-19 is one of them, as more and more people are sick with Omicron and staying home. That means they can't go donate blood. Also, the winter storms, that kept people from donating blood, as

well. Also, staffing shortages because, well, a lot of staff members have the Omicron variant of COVID-19.

And so for all of these reasons, they are seeing a dangerously low blood supply at the Red Cross.

KEILAR: Yes. Obviously, people in all kinds of professions, everyone is being hit by this and taken out of commission, at least briefly. Elizabeth, thank you for that report.

BERMAN: Breaking overnight, a reprieve for parents in Chicago. They are waking up to the news that, finally -- and, frankly, way too late -- teachers in the city have reached a deal in their dispute over coronavirus safeguards.

Today, teachers will be back in the classrooms. Students are set to return tomorrow. And this ends a bitter standoff that lasted four days. It cost students and parents four days of education.

Let's go live to Chicago and bring in Adrienne Broaddus. Finally, a deal, Adrienne.


ADRIENNE BROADDUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: John, finally some relief for parents, who can plan the rest of their week without interruption.

You used the word "bitter," and I would say that's a polite way to describe it. Because in the very end here, there were some personal attacks and some nasty words used. But finally, a deal has been made.

Teachers will return to schools today, and students will return to the classroom tomorrow. Let's take a look at some of the things that were agreed on.

We know this all stems from teachers or members of the Chicago Teachers Union feeling schools were unsafe. Now, this agreement that has been reached includes ramped-up testing in school. The mayor said last night during a news conference they've added some extra layers. They will conduct weekly testing.

There will also be KN-95 masks distributed to staff and students. Now, we heard from members of the teachers union, who said they also have some concerns about distribution, but they're happy that was worked into the agreement.

As well as paid contact tracing teams for the school and thresholds for schools to go remote. And that was a big sticking point.

Listen in to what Chicago's mayor, Lori Lightfoot, had to say.


MAYOR LORI LIGHTFOOT (D), CHICAGO: This was not necessary to happen. And I'm glad that we're, hopefully, putting this behind us and looking forward. But, you know, there does come a point where enough is enough.

JESSE SHARKLEY, PRESIDENT, CHICAGO TEACHERS UNION: I'm tired. I wish it hadn't gone that way. Ultimately, I'm very proud of the fact that the members of the Chicago Teachers Union took a stand around this. And we're going to keep doing what's right as we go forward in the city. You know, it was not an agreement that had everything. It's not a perfect agreement.


BROADDUS: And it is important to underscore that the rank-and-file members within the Chicago Teachers Union must vote on this agreement. So that's why we don't have the fine details. The fine details of the agreement have not been released. Once those members conduct that official vote, we will see more about what will happen moving forward -- John.

BERMAN: All right. Keep us posted. Adrienne Broaddus, thank you very much.

KEILAR: A coalition of voting rights groups in Georgia are planning to boycott President Biden's speech today in Atlanta. They say that, without a concrete plan to pass election reform laws that have so far been blocked by Republicans, the president shouldn't bother coming.

CNN's Jeremy Diamond, live at the White House with more on this -- Jeremy.


President Biden today heading to Atlanta, Georgia, where he's expected to make a forceful push for two pieces of stalled voting rights legislation. Legislation that has been stalled in the Senate amid Republican opposition and a reluctance by two Senate Democrats to change the rules of the filibuster to pass these pieces of legislation.

The president is expected to draw a direct connection between his speech last week, that fiery January 6th speech, and what remains to be done to secure American democracy.

In the words of the president, the president is expected to talk about the fact that voting rights are under assault, in his view, and talk about the fact that this is an opportunity for January 6th to mark not the end of democracy but a renaissance of democracy.

I want to read you a part of the president's speech today. This is an expert [SIC] -- excerpt we have. The president is expected to say that the next few days will mark a, quote, "turning point for the nation, whether or not choosing democracy versus autocracy."

And then he will also talk about the fact that he does not plan to yield in this fight, trying to rally his base around this cause. And say that the question is, where will the institution of the United States Senate stand? Now, people familiar with the president's speech say that he is

expected to go into more detail about where exactly he stands on changing the filibuster. We know he's expressed support for making some changes, but we don't know exactly what those changes will be.

But the president, according to a White House official, will make the case that those rules in the Senate need to change. That will be a powerful message coming from somebody who's branded himself a Senate institutionalist.

But still, those two Democrats -- Senator Joe Manchin and Senator Kyrsten Sinema -- they've been reluctant to change those rules altogether -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Yes. Will his party listen to him? Jeremy, thank you for that.

BERMAN: Joining us now, one of the voting rights advocates who will not be attending President Biden's speech today, the co-founder of Black Voters Matter, Cliff Albright. Cliff, why aren't you going?


Well, you know, as we said in our written statement, essentially what we're saying is that, you know, we'd rather that the president stayed in D.C. and perhaps delivered this -- this speech to the Senate, to the Democratic Caucus. They meet every Tuesday morning. He could have gone there and delivered the speech.

Because at this point, what we're saying is we don't need another speech from the president. He gave a very passionate speech, not only the one for the commemoration last week of January 6th, but, remember, he gave a very passionate speech back in Philadelphia, back in July. But then, literally for seven months, we heard nothing else about voting rights from him. And so now is not the time for another speech.


And to be clear, we believe in using the presidency as a bully pulpit. We would have loved that the president use the presidency as a bully pulpit for the past seven, eight months while we've been fighting for voting rights. Even getting arrested outside of the White House, begging him to do so.

But at this point, we don't need another speech. We don't need him to come to Georgia and use us as a -- as a prop. What we need is work. And we're out working, too. Because there are attacks going on against Georgia voters and Georgia organization happening right now.

BERMAN: Let me just read once again what he is going to say today. "The next few days, when these bills come to a vote, will mark a turning point in this nation. Will we choose democracy over autocracy, light over shadow, justice over injustice? I know where I stand. I will not yield. I will not flinch. I will defend your right to vote in a democracy against all enemies, foreign and domestic. So the question is, where will the institution of the United States Senate stand?" What more can he do?

ALBRIGHT: Well, a couple things he could do. One is that we need him not only to give that speech and talk -- and to talk about the filibuster and to give a clear plan.

It's one thing for you to say I'm open to filibuster changes, right? That's what he's said up until now. He has not given a full-throated call for them to modify the filibuster. He's not yet done what he did for infrastructure when he went to Congress and met with the members of the House.

He didn't go to those members and say, you know, I'm open to infrastructure. You know, if infrastructure is necessary, I can go along with that. What he said was, pass this bill and pass it now.

He's not done that in regards to voting rights. He's not gone to the Congress, to the Democratic Caucus, and delivered that speech. And he's not told them exactly what he wants them to do.

His good friend, Joe Manchin, say, Look, Joe, I want you to modify the filibuster. I want you to do it now. Here's one method. Because there are different scenarios on how to do that.

People like Manchin and Sinema need to hear from the president, what exactly it is that he wants them to do. We know that the president doesn't have a vote on it. But doggone it, that's why President Lyndon Johnson once said, what's the sense of having the presidency?

So what he can do is be specific. He can be strong and unequivocal in this speech that he says. That's a nice excerpt, but he can go even further than that, hopefully, in his remarks.

And then most importantly, he can follow it up. He can't give a speech like he did in Philadelphia and then leave it to the side. If he's saying the next seven days is going to be historic and critical, he's got to fully lean in after he gives the speech: having the kinds of meetings, finding out from Manchin what exactly it's going to take, and being very direct and forceful, just as forceful as he's been on infrastructure and on some other issues.

We're not asking him to do things not just that other presidents have done. We're asking him to do the things, actions that he's even done on other things like infrastructure. There's no sense in having 40 years of Senate experience only to tell us that you can't whip two votes.

BERMAN: Sounds like you're disappointed in President Biden.

ALBRIGHT: I mean, to be honest, and especially on this issue, and some other issues -- you know, we're not going to have the conversation about police reform anymore, even though we had historic summers -- a year of protests. So there are some other issues.

But particularly when I'm talking about voting rights, yes, we're disappointed. We did a whole summer and fall of protests outside the White House to get him to do more.

And we want to be clear, the source of the problem is not Joe Biden. Truth be told, it's not even Manchinema -- Manchin and Sinema. The source is the Republicans that are attacking our rights on a daily basis, including in the state of Georgia, where not only did they pass a voter discretion last year, not only did they gerrymander the maps last fall, but even right now, they're about to go into a new session where they're going to try to attack voting rights even further.

BERMAN: Let me --

ALBRIGHT: That's the source of the problem. What we're disappointed in is the president that we put in power president with the elections last year in the midst of a pandemic.

BERMAN: Listen, last question here. Stacey Abrams, who's running for Senate -- sorry, running for governor, of course, in Georgia, isn't going either. She's citing a scheduling conflict. Have you spoken to her? Is it really a scheduling conflict?

ALBRIGHT: You'd have to talk to soon-to-be Governor Abrams to find out. But I mean, she put out a statement saying it was scheduling, so I'm going to take her at her word.

But again, you know, there are several organizations that have been working together on this, including some of the organizations that a lot of organization -- that a lot of people in the country were applauding because of the work we did in the presidential election, as well as in the two Senate runoff elections.

Trust those same organizations and trust us when we say what we needed now is for the president to go to the Democratic Caucus in D.C. Keep in mind that because some senators will be in Georgia, what that means is they're not in D.C. voting on some of the plans that Senator Schumer was planning to move forward. They could have -- he could have delivered the speech in D.C. so that they could have then taken his speech, been motivated, just the same way that the Georgia Bulldogs got motivated last night, and then gone out and voted, and performed, and actually voted while they were in D.C. But because they'll be in Georgia, they can't do that.


So yes, we're disappointed. But we're going to hold out hope for -- for what's going to happen the rest of this week.

BERMAN: Cliff Albright, I appreciate you speaking with us, not just because of the subject matter but, also, you gave me a good segue to our very next story. So thank you very much, Cliff.

ALBRIGHT: Thank you.

BERMAN: All the news is about Georgia this morning.

The Bulldogs are top dogs in college football. They beat No. 1 Alabama for their first national championship in 41 years. Andy Scholes has this morning's "Bleacher Report" from the field in

Indianapolis. This was a great game. This was an exhausting game, Andy.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Amazing game, John. But you know, it started off really slow. Lots of field goals early on in this game.

But Alabama and Georgia getting hot late, delivering a fourth quarter for the ages. And had a huge moment early in that fourth quarter. Christian Harris sacked Stetson Bennett. The officials called it a fumble and recovered by Alabama. Because Alabama's Brian Branch casually grabbed it as he went out of bounds. Big play.

After review, it was the right call and led to an Alabama touchdown. They would take the lead, 18-13.

But from there, it was all Georgia. Bennett making up for that fumble in a big way with a 40-yard touchdown to give Georgia back the lead.

And Bennett, who walked onto Georgia as a freshman, left the school to play at a junior college, then came back as a scholarship player, throwing two T.D. passes in the final 9 minutes. He's forever going to be a Bulldog legend.

Georgia would get a pick six to wrap things up. Kirby Smart was overjoyed as he finally beats his old boss, Nick Saban.

Bennett, like Georgia fans all over the country, with tears of joy. The Bulldogs win big, 33-18, to claim their first title since 1980.


KIRBY SMART, GEORGIA HEAD COACH: I told the guys in the locker room, just take a picture of this. Because I think back to the '80 championship picture, and seeing all those players. And the Frank Rosses, and the Herschel Walkers, and all these people that have reached out and said things. Our guys have accomplished that, something special, and they, as they say, they've been legendary.

STETSON BENNETT, GEORGIA QUARTERBACK: I love these guys. And then, you know, the tears afterward, that just hit me. You know, I hadn't cried in, I don't know, years. But, I mean, that -- it just came over me. You know, that's what -- when you put as much time as we do into this thing, you know, blood, sweat, tears, you know, it means something.


SCHOLES: Yes. And take a look at the wild scenes back in Athens, Georgia. Fans celebrating in the streets into the wee hours of the morning.

A championship parade tentatively scheduled Saturday, ending at Sanford Stadium with a celebration rally.

Meanwhile, guys, back here at the stadium, on the field, all quiet. It's just me and all of this confetti that I have here. But I'll tell you what. Georgia fans, they were still celebrating when I came back to the stadium just a couple hours ago.

This championship, I mean, I don't know if I've ever seen a fan base want it as badly as they did. You know, they hadn't won since 1980. Alabama had beaten them seven times in a row, dating back to 2007. They conquered all those demons last night. And now, Georgia Bulldogs fans can call themselves champions for the first time in a very long time.

BERMAN: Yes. And the way they did it, again, to come from behind like they did in a game that didn't seem like it was ever going to break open, honestly, it was something.

KEILAR: Yes. I said yesterday, streaks are meant to be broken. It had that feel. It just had that feel about it.

BERMAN: So Stetson Bennett --

SCHOLES: It certainly did. You knew the Bulldogs were going to break through at one point.

BERMAN: And so the credit goes to Stetson Bennett, but also Brianna Keilar, for the victory for Georgia.

KEILAR: That's right. I worked hard for this victory.

BERMAN: All right, Andy. Thanks so much.

So did a federal judge just open the door, wide open, to the possibility of a successful lawsuit against Donald Trump for the Capitol insurrection?

And then, a Republican senator with a stunning, massive declaration. What he said that has Donald Trump in a tizzy.

KEILAR: And Kevin McCarthy to Democrats: hold my beer. What Dems did to Congressman Gosar and Congresswoman Greene that now has the minority leader promising retaliation.



BERMAN: So a possibly major legal development, one that could put Donald Trump in civil jeopardy for the January 6th insurrection. A federal judge is challenging Trump's claim of immunity from allegations that he incited the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Trump's attorneys tried to toss out the lawsuit, seeking to hold Trump and his allies accountable for violence on January 6th.

During the hearing, Judge Amit Mehta said, quote, "The words are hard to walk back. You have an almost two-hour window where the president does not say 'Stop, get out of the Capitol. This is not what I wanted you to do.' What do I do about the fact the president didn't denounce the conduct immediately and sent a tweet that arguably exacerbated things? Isn't that, from a plausibility standpoint, that the president plausibly agreed with the conduct of the people inside the Capitol that day?"

Joining us now, CNN chief legal analyst and federal former prosecutor, Jeffrey Toobin.

Jeff, this deals with civil cases, but the federal judge there just seemed to lean in hard to the questions we're hearing from some Democrats on the January 6th Committee, which is dereliction of duty. Which is why didn't the president try to stop this?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: You know, Berman, this is a really profound issue that has resonance beyond just the civil context, which is, what is -- what does the job of president of the United States mean? And what can you do, and what can't you do?

Because obviously, as president, you have freedom of speech. You can say, you know, "We're going to fight. We're going to fight for this cause or that cause."


But when does that tip over the line into something that the legal system can punish you for? And that's really what the judge was trying to weigh yesterday.

And you know, the question of, you know, did Donald Trump incite, encourage, support the rioters is -- is central to this civil case, but it's also central to the criminal investigation. And that's the -- that's the initial issue that Judge Mehta in the civil case is deciding, but it's also relevant to the federal prosecutors, who were looking at the event from a criminal perspective, as well.

KEILAR: And it sounds like the judge here is considering that question, did Donald Trump incite the rioters, to be answered by his behavior afterward, which is that he really didn't do anything to stop it, and that that may essentially be condoning it. Does that hold water?

TOOBIN: Well, that's -- that's one of the -- that's the theory that he's looking at. And you know, the initial question he's looking at is whether to dismiss the case at the outset.

But it's also worth remembering -- and sometimes I think we don't focus on this enough -- is that we act as if we know the totality of what Donald Trump did on January 6th and what he did in the events leading up to January 6th.

We don't. We haven't heard any testimony so far about what Donald Trump was doing in the three hours before he -- he issued that very tepid request for the rioters to stop. I mean, there is a lot more we don't know, and it could make the situation worse for Donald Trump. It could make it better.

But this issue of what Donald Trump did and whether it was encouraging or participating in illegal activities, this is front and center in this case, and it will be in the criminal investigation, as well. BERMAN: We don't know. The January 6th Committee might, and they may

be learning more about this each and every day. And they could learn a whole lot more if the Supreme Court opens up the National Archives, which they still have to weigh in on.

Jeffrey Toobin, thank you very much for being with us.

TOOBIN: All right.

BERMAN: Colorado's governor employing an unconventional pandemic strategy, for a Democrat, but how are his constituents and public health experts reacting?

KEILAR: And a state senator just said that teachers should be impartial on Nazis, fascism and racism. Really?