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Colorado's Governor Pushes Covid Strategy; Rounds Dismisses Trump's Criticism; Amanda Feindt is Interviewed about Poisoned Water on her Military Base. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired January 11, 2022 - 06:30   ET




JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: This morning, while Covid rages across the country, pushing hospitals to the breaking point, largely with unvaccinated patients, one Democratic governor is taking a little bit of a different approach from other Democratic leaders to steer his state through the pandemic.

Ed Lavandera joins us this morning.

We're talking about Colorado, Ed.


Well, you know, as we are approaching nearly two years of the coronavirus pandemic, there's no question, a sense of fatigue and wanting to move on is really settling in much across the country. So, the question to Colorado is, what the governor there is doing, a good thing medically and politically.


LAVANDERA (voice over): In the darkest days of the pandemic, Daniel Ramirez had to furlough 250 employees from his four Mexican restaurants in Denver, Colorado. But now, more than 300 employees are back on the payroll, and business is booming at Los Dos Potrillos, a family-owned restaurant chain his father started 20 years ago.

DANIEL RAMIREZ, OWNER, LOS DOS POTRILLOS: We had to learn how to understand and adapt to it. If we never learn how to adapt to it, then I honestly think we still would have been stuck in 2020.

Thank you, everybody, for your work.

LAVANDERA: Ramirez and others credit this happening in Colorado because of Democratic Governor Jared Polis, who has distanced himself from some Democratic leaders across the country. Governor Polis is leaving mask mandate orders up to local jurisdictions. And in a statement to CNN, a spokesperson says the governor is focused on fixing the economic disruptions caused by the pandemic, adding hospital capacity and Covid testing.

The governor also says promoting the Covid-19 vaccine is key. He says those who don't get vaccinated are responsible for what happens.

GOV. JARED POLIS (D-CO): Everybody's had the chance to get vaccinated. And at this point, I think it's almost like they made a deliberate decision not to get vaccinated.

LAVANDERA: Democratic pollster and political strategist Andrew Baumann describes the governor as a progressive with a libertarian streak, who is getting high marks for his recent handling of the pandemic, even as cases and hospitalizations are surging.

ANDREW BAUMANN, DEMOCRATIC POLLSTER AND POLITICAL STRATEGIST: He's sort of adapted to the circumstances. He's listened to the voters, listened to his advisers, and public health experts, and he's found a path that works for the state. And I think he has threaded that needle pretty well.

LAVANDERA: And some say Governor Polis has been too cavalier. In an interview with Colorado Public Radio, the governor made comments that frustrated many public health experts.

POLIS: The emergency is over. So, you know, public health doesn't get to tell people what to wear. I mean that's -- that's just, you know, that's just not their job.

INTERVIEWER: You see the arrival of the vaccine as the end of mask mandates statewide. That's your position?

POLIS: Well, we see it as the end of the -- the medical emergency, frankly. People who want to be protected are. Those who get sick, it's almost entirely their own darn fault.

LAVANDERA (on camera): Why did that bother you so much?


LAVANDERA (voice over): Dr. Mark Johnson is the president of the Colorado Medical Society. He recently retired from his post as the public health director of Jefferson County, outside of Denver.


JOHNSON: To say it's over feeds into those who want it to be over and are telling us in medicine and in public health that we're overdoing it. It's not like we're trying to control people's lives, but that's kind of what it came off as.

RAMIREZ: Every recipe is my mom's, my dad's, my grandma's.

LAVANDERA: Daniel Ramirez and his family operate four different restaurants in three different counties, each with their own set of local pandemic health guidelines. That's part of the local control the governor has advocated.

LAVANDERA (on camera): How stressful is that?

RAMIREZ: It's pretty stressful. It's a whirlwind.

LAVANDERA: And confusing.

RAMIREZ: Very confusing. It's a -- it's -- you never know what you're going to get. You know, we say that in the industry. But now with so many different county rules, you really don't know what you're going to get any day of the week. So it gets pretty confusing.

LAVANDERA: And you're OK with that?

RAMIREZ: Of course we are. We have to figure out a way. We have to continue moving forward.


LAVANDERA: And, John and Brianna, the governor there says that because 70 percent of the state's population over the age of five is fully vaccinated, he has said he's not going to let the small group of unvaccinated infringe on the rest of the state's ability to move beyond the pandemic.

John and Brianna.

BERMAN: Yes, policy for the vaccinated. It requires a little bit of a shift in the way you think and look at things there. It's interesting to see it happening in Colorado, Ed.

LAVANDERA: Yes, no question. And I think that's what, especially supporters and political strategists there in Colorado are saying is that they're seeing this as the next stage and the next phase of the pandemic and politicians responding to that.

BERMAN: Ed Lavandera, terrific report. Thank you very much.

So, Donald Trump calls a Republican senator a jerk. Why, you ask, because he deigned to tell the truth.

Plus, Kevin McCarthy wants revenge so badly. His threats and the Democrats he's singling out if Republicans take back the House.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: And new details on the sudden death of Bob Saget, including what police found when they entered his hotel room.



KEILAR: Republican Senator Mike Rounds firing pack at former President Trump, who lashed out at is senator, calling him a jerk, after the South Dakota senator said the 2020 election was fair and that Republicans, quote, simply did not win the election. Senator Round said in a statement, I'm disappointed but not surprised by the former president's reaction. However, the facts remain the same. I stand by my statement. The former president lost the 2020 election. Additionally, Vice President Mike Pence stood his ground, acknowledged President Biden's victory, and acted with integrity. It's time the rest of us do the same.

Joining us now is CNN political commentator S.E. Cupp, here to discuss this.

Let's take a closer look, S.E., just at the totality of what Trump said in his response. He said, is he crazy or just stupid? The only reason he did this is because he got my endorsement and easily won his state in 2020, so he thinks he has time, and those are the only ones, the weak, who will breakaway. Even though his election will not be coming up for five years, I will never endorse this jerk again.

What do you make of this?

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, listen, not being up until 2026 comes with some perks. Mike Rounds is taking advantage of those perks. And I guess is betting that Donald Trump won't be as much of a force in 2026 to not endorse him again.

But, I don't know, it sounds to me like Trump's threats just have fewer teeth than they did maybe a year or two ago. It just feels a little petulant, like yelling into the ether. But we'll see.

I wish that what Mike Rounds said, which is just true and uncontroversial, would become the norm, but I have a feeling he'll still be an outlier.

BERMAN: I think the fact that Rounds took two bites of this apple shows you're right.

CUPP: Yes.

BERMAN: That maybe Trump's comments do have less teeth because Rounds went back again and said what I think are the most hurtful words you can say to Donald Trump, which is that Donald Trump lost the election. It's amazing how something so simplistic can be such a dagger so Donald Trump. But Rounds did it twice.

CUPP: Not only he lost the election, but Mike Pence did the right thing, sort of twisting the knife a little more.

Look, unfortunately, Mike Rounds or what one senator or one congressman says is really not going to have a huge impact. You wish that this would be a groundswell of courage against the president. But, really, the RNC is holding all of the cards and all of Trump's power. They're still paying his legal bills. They're still allowing Trump to siphon money away from them into his PAC. I mean it's insane how the RNC has laid down for Trump.

But as long as he's got the party apparatus, that's where the power is. So, what Mike Rounds says should be applauded and amplified, but, unfortunately, Trump has the party behind him still.

KEILAR: Yes, for the folks who have to answer in 2022 and 2024. South Dakota, though, did go for Trump by 26 points, more than 26 points.

CUPP: Yes. KEILAR: So that's not nothing here.

I do want to ask you about Kevin McCarthy because, obviously, he's, you know, making designs on the speaker's gavel as he's looking to the midterm elections. And he's suggesting that he's going to oust three Democrats from their big committee assignments if the Republicans win.

Let's listen.



REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): The Democrats have created a new thing where they're picking and choosing who can be on committee. Never in the history have you had the majority tell the minority who can be on committee. But this new standard, which these Democrats have voted for, are very -- if Eric Swalwell cannot get a security clearance in the private sector, there's no reason why he should be given one to be on Intel or Homeland Security. So that will not -- he will not be serving there.

Ilhan Omar should not be serving on foreign affairs.

You look at Adam Schiff, he should not be serving on Intel, when he has openly, knowingly now, used a fake dossier, lied to the American public in the process, and doesn't have any ill-will. Says he wants to continue to do it.


KEILAR: He mentions a new standard, S.E., but the new standard that seems so obvious is one where Kevin McCarthy sits idly by while members of his own party go undisciplined for racist, sexist, violent stuff they've had.

CUPP: Yes, Democrats would not have had to have booted people from committees if Republicans had taken care of the people in their own party, which is the standard and something that Kevin McCarthy bucked.

Look, I mean, you can look at this as obvious petty, partisan politics at its worst. But you have to remember, Bri, you know this, this is what GOP voters want. They are here for the pain, the punishment, own the libs. It's -- it's not so much legislation and governing anymore. Reuters just did a poll about a month ago asking what Republicans are most united around. And it's not taxes. It's not, you know, deregulation, it's not tariffs, it's, they are united around protecting America from threats against their way of life.

You know what that is code for, all the things. But that is what is animating Republican voters right now. So, in a way, McCarthy is the perfect avatar for what this party has become. And then for the rest of us, people in the moderate majority or on the left, we're kind of left without representation and just watching this circus happen before our eyes, as problems, real problems go unsolved because Kevin McCarthy is off, you know, getting revenge. BERMAN: Kevin McCarthy, avatar, I see you.

S.E. Cupp, thank you very much for that.

CUPP: Sure.

BERMAN: The Navy told families not to worry about the jet-fueled, contaminated water, so they didn't. Why that decision left our next guest's children in the ER.

KEILAR: And a man was ineligible for a heart transplant. The options on the table, death or take a pig's heart. The surgeons chose the pig's heart. We'll have that incredible story ahead.



KEILAR: This morning, Navy leaders will be grilled on Capitol Hill after failing to keep military families safe from drinking contaminated water. Water contaminated by jet fuel. The Navy, last month, reported dangerous levels of petroleum contamination in groundwater sources at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii. There were thousands of people who were impacted by this, many having to flee their homes. Families say they experienced nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, headaches and skin-related concerns, including with very small children.

My next guest says that both of her young kids were sickened and had to go to the hospital. Army Major Amanda Feindt told "Task and Purpose," I volunteered for this. My kids did not volunteer to be poisoned.

And she is with us now.

Major Feindt, thank you so much for being with us from Hawaii.

You and so many families have been through an incredible ordeal with all of this. Tell us about what happened here with you, your husband, and your two kids, many other families, as well, becoming sick before the Navy told you that you were drinking this jet fuel water. Tell us about getting sick.

MAJOR AMANDA FEINDT, U.S. ARMY: Hi, Brianna. Thanks so much for having me on.

Yes, so we were told originally that there was a fuel leak, but our specific housing neighborhood had been deemed clear to be drinking our water. We received that in email form. And it turns out, about a week later, that all changed. And we continued to drink the water for, you know, that week in between.

KEILAR: And so you -- you end up, your kids end up in the ER. Can you tell me about that?

FEINDT: Yes. So, it happened very quickly. First, it was my one-year- old son and my husband. And two days later it ended up being my daughter, she's four, and myself. And it was pretty -- pretty severe. Abdominal pain. I told people that the only thing I can compare it to is labor pains, like contractions in my belly. Very sick. We were all treated for, you know, throwing up, diarrhea, severe dehydration. My husband was having ocular migraines at the time, chronic coughing. It just -- it was really rough.

KEILAR: Unfortunately, you're not unique, right? We've heard these stories from so many families. I know that you had specific questions about your kids' on base daycare, and the response from what base leadership or local leadership was telling you to file a Freedom of Information request, you say. Can you tell me about that?

FEINDT: Yes. So, the deputy base commander actually -- he was on the phone while my daughter was in the hospital. And I was, at that point, begging.


For days I had asked for test results from our child's -- from our child development center, specifically, and I was given no answers. And I just thought, you know, how dare the Navy think that they reserve the right to know more about my children and their health than I do as their parent. And, again, Colonel Staples told me that while my daughter was in the hospital, file a FOIA request like anyone else.

KEILAR: Mandy, tell me what this has done to your trust in the military to keep your family safe. Navy leaders are going to be up on The Hill today. What has it done?

FEINDT: Well, it's been super -- it's been really disheartening. And, as a mom, I've said multiple times, to no end will I continue to fight and advocate for my kids. And, you know, just as a senior military leader myself, I just can't turn a blind eye to, like you said, hundreds, if not thousands of families who have been affected in the same way that my family has. And that's kind of my fight.

You know, we have highlighted our story, but our story represents hundreds of military families who are going through the same thing, unfortunately.

KEILAR: Look, and I appreciate you as a member of the military family for speaking out about this. We're going to continue to pay attention to this.

Major Feindt, thanks for being with us.

FEINDT: Thank you, Brianna.

KEILAR: Up next, some new details on the Bronx apartment fire that left 17 people dead. What authorities now say led to the spread.

BERMAN: Plus, a number of voting rights groups boycotting President Biden's trip to Atlanta today. Their demands, ahead.