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Omicron Surge Crushes Restaurants; DeSantis on Covid Response; Kazakhstan Still in Uprising over Inequality. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired January 12, 2022 - 06:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Trump hung up. He hung up on NPR anchor Steve Inskeep during an interview. An interview that Steve worked six years to get. The former president apparently couldn't take the questions about his election lies.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: How come when he went to speak in different locations nobody came to watch, but all of a sudden he got 80 million votes?


TRUMP: Nobody believes that, Steve. Nobody believes that.

INSKEEP: If you'll forgive me, maybe because the election was about you.

And if I can just move on to ask, are you telling Republicans in 2022 that they must press your case on the past election in order to get your endorsement? Is that an absolute?

TRUMP: They're going to do whatever they want to do. Whatever they have to do, they're going to do.

But the ones that are smart, the ones that know, you take a look at, again, you take a look at how Kari Lake is doing running for governor. She's very big on this issue. She's leading by a lot.

People have no idea how big this issue is, and they don't want it to happen again. It shouldn't be allowed to happen and they don't want it to happen again.

INSKEEP: I want to --

TRUMP: And the only way it's not going to happen again is you have to solve the problem of the presidential rigged election of 2020.

INSKEEP: Mr. President, if I may --

TRUMP: So, Steve, thank you very much. I appreciate it.

INSKEEP: Wait, wait, wait, one more question. I want to ask about a court hearing yesterday on January 6th. Judge Amit Mehta -- he's gone. OK.


BERMAN: And, poof, just like that, Donald Trump hung up, Kaitlan.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: You know, honestly, I -- hearing that made me think back to some of the briefings that we used to do with Trump when he would come into press conferences. And sometimes you could always tell when he was about to end it, he was about to leave kind of abruptly because you would tell how he would start talking about it. And I noticed that in his answer to Steve.

And NPR says this is an interview, John, this was to last 15 minutes. It went on for about nine before the former president hung up.

BERMAN: And, look, it's a lie. The former president is spreading a lie. And Steve asked and pressed, you know, and God bless Steve for doing so, the basic question here, which is, you're going to continue to push this lie? You're going to demand that candidates push this lie for which Donald Trump had -- had no answer. He didn't -- didn't want to address it.

COLLINS: Because -- but he is doing that. That's why you saw with Senator Mike Rounds saying just pretty bluntly that, yes, Biden won the election, which, of course, we know and have recognized and he is the president. That is something that led to former President Trump saying he'll never re-endorse him against. Of course, he was just re- elected. It's not really a pressing political issue for him. But it is showing how what Steve was getting at there, which is that the former president is tying his endorsement on the condition that you back up or at least don't publicly call out his election fraud claims.

BERMAN: Yes, and you are seeing a schism now, at least within the Senate that bears watching, where Mike Rounds stood up to Donald Trump and got the support of John Thune, got the support of Shelley Moore Capito, got the public support of Mitch McConnell. There are Republicans who are lining up behind the Mike Rounds' position.

I'm curious, they feel comfortable. They feel like they have the political cover now to do that. I'm wondering how big that movement can grow?

COLLINS: Yes, which Trump blamed on McConnell, having other Senate Republicans fall in line.

But I think the -- what's at the heart of the matter of all of this is that, yes, you can talk about what lawmakers on the national level are saying, these senators, but it's also really state-by-state. These local officials that have been installed. A lot of Trump loyalists, they are going to be the ones that are also at the center of what's happening with elections going forward. So it's not just what Senate Republicans are saying, it's these state and local officials. A lot of them are Trump loyalists that have been installed in these new roles.

And so we'll see how that goes. Good job by Steve Inskeep pressing the former president on that. Meanwhile, the pandemic toll on the food industry has been absolutely

relentless. We're going to hear from some restaurant owners on how they plan to cope with this, next.

Plus, to Governor Ron DeSantis and others who have been less than enthusiastic about promoting vaccine booster shots, the former president also has a message for them.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: One of the questions was, did you get the booster, because I had the vaccine. And they, oh, oh, they're answering it like -- in other words, the answer is, yes, but they don't want to say it because they're gutless. You've got to say it.


BERMAN: Gutless. That is the juiciest political feud simmering under the surface right now.

Also, new CNN reporting on why Trump is now starting to realize he just can't get rid of Mitch McConnell.



COLLINS: The omicron surge has hurt restaurants nationwide. Supplied shortages, staff shortages, fewer diners are all putting massive constraints on the industry, of course, that has been rocked by the pandemic for years now.

CNN's Vanessa Yurkevich joins us live.

And, Vanessa, some analysts are hoping that this is just, you know, another bump in the road, but what are you hearing from the restaurant industry about how they're feeling?

VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A bump in the road, but one that could be very significant for restaurants. Remember, restaurants operate by such slim margins, and many just survived the last two years. Nearly 100,000 restaurants have closed over the course of this pandemic, and many tell us they're going to experience that same fate if this surge doesn't pass soon, and they don't get additional financial assistance.


CAROLINE STYNE, CO-FOUNDER, INDEPENDENT RESTAURANT COALITION: We have been warning about this moment for a long time.

YURKEVICH (voice over): Restaurants across the country, quiet, facing uncertainty and many on the brink of closing again.

Caroline Styne, LA restaurant owner and co-founder of the Independent Restaurant Coalition, saw it coming. STYNE: We knew that it just was one more wave, one big variant, one

bad winter away from disaster for a lot of restaurants.

YURKEVICH: Omicron has crushed restaurants. This week, diners dropping by an average of 28 percent nationwide compared to 2020, according to Open Table.


The $28.6 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund, or RRF, saved many restaurants from closing last year. But with nearly 300,000 applications, only about a third got funding before the money ran out.

STYNE: The only reason I'm not closed at my restaurant right now is that we did get a -- we got a grant and it's helped us get through this moment.

YURKEVICH: In a letter to Congress, the Independent Restaurant Coalition, along with about 30 mayors, are sounding the alarm, calling for the RRF to are replenished for the nearly 180,000 applicants who missed out. Without it, they say it will be catastrophic.

STYNE: The financial hit to the country is huge when you lose restaurants, to the neighborhood, to the community, and to the job market in general.

YURKEVICH: In New York City, Gotham Bar and Grill has survived 37 years. But with reservations down 80 percent, managing partner Bret Csencsitz says he doesn't know how much longer they'll last.

BRET CSENCSITZ, MANAGING PARTNER, GOTHAM BAR AND GRILL: It could be the end of January. It could be into March or April, but it's not very long.

YURKEVICH: A bipartisan Restaurant Revitalization Fund Replenishment Act was introduced last year but stalled in Congress. It would bring $60 billion in additional grants to restaurants like Gotham, who say they missed out last time.

CSENCSITZ: It was incredibly frustrating.

YURKEVICH: And in a move that seems counter intuitive, restaurants like Gotham and City Winery say they're still paying staff even on days they're closed. Workers are in such high demand, it pays to keep them.

MICHAEL DORF, CEO, CITY WINERY: I have no business, but, please, come work for us and we'll pay you. You know, that's not normal logic in business.

YURKEVICH: With 12 City Winery locations across the country, Dorf says money from replenishing the RRF would help cover staffing, rent and other lost revenue.

DORF: We didn't receive a penny of the restaurant act.

YURKEVICH (on camera): Could you have used that money?

DORF: Yes. Pre-omicron, I -- I feel -- we would have been fine. Now that we've lost $2 million in the last three weeks from operations, yes, we could have used -- we can use that money.


YURKEVICH: Now, there is new legislation being crafted by Senators Cardin and Wicker of Maryland and Mississippi. This is a bill that would help bring financial aid to all small businesses, including some money for restaurants. These two senators think that that will garner more support from their colleagues.

But, Kaitlan, this is really all about timing. How fast will this recent surge pass? Also, if this bill is introduced and voted on, how fast will that happen? And then how fast can this money get out to these restaurants before it's too late?


COLLINS: Yes, that's a big question.

Vanessa Yurkevich, thank you.

We were right, and they were wrong. Those are the words of the Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, on the coronavirus pandemic as case numbers are now rising there. DeSantis is calling Florida the freest state in the United States.

CNN's Steve Contorno joins us this morning from St. Petersburg, Florida.

So, Steve, DeSantis, I noticed, never said the words "coronavirus," "pandemic" or "vaccines," did he?

STEVE CONTORNO, CNN REPORTER: He didn't. And it was quite notable that as all these cases are rising in Florida, that we're still in the middle of a pandemic, and this is still very much in Florida a crisis of the unvaccinated, that Governor DeSantis, in this 30-minute state of the state speech yesterday, didn't mention any of those words. And, you know, it was really a national speech. A very political speech meant to draw sharp distinctions between the way that Florida's handled the pandemic versus the way that other states that have taken more measured and cautious approaches to containing the virus have done.

BERMAN: A national political speech. Almost like Ron DeSantis might have his eye on a different job. Say, the presidency. Say, the Republican nomination for 2024. You know who noticed Steve, or I think is noticing this, is the former president of the United States, Donald Trump, because in the juiciest bit of political intrigue yesterday, I what to play what Trump said in an interview about vaccines and booster shots, which he is now publicly supporting.



DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: I've taken it. I've had the booster. Many politicians -- I watched a couple of politicians be interviewed. And one of the questions was, did you get the booster? Because they had the vaccine. And they -- oh, oh, they're answering it like -- in other words, the answer is yes, but they don't want to say it, because they're gutless. You've got to say it. Whether you had it or not, say it.


TRUMP: But the fact is that I think the vaccine has saved tens of millions of people throughout the world.


TRUMP: I have had absolutely no side effects. I've had it, like other people have had it. Nothing special. I've had it.



BERMAN: They're gutless. Who's gutless, you might ask, for not answering the booster question?

Listen to this.


MARIA BARTIROMO, FBN ANCHOR: The other day Dr. Fauci said, you know, we could be that fully vaccinated means three shots, which is two shots for the vaccination and then one booster shot.

Have you gotten the booster?

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): So, I've done, whatever I did, the normal shot and, you know, that, at the end of the day, is people's individual decisions about what they want to do.


BERMAN: Steve, it seems pretty clear that Donald Trump is talking about Ron DeSantis in that specific answer there.

So, what are we seeing in terms of these two?

CONTORNO: Well, Governor DeSantis is one of the hottest names in Republican politics. He has really made a name for himself on Fox News where, you know, the president, obviously, was a featured guest very often. And, you know, a lot of people have really championed Governor DeSantis because of the way he has operated Florida. And from, you know, past reporting that we've done, the president has taken notice. He's also not very happy that DeSantis, unlike other Republicans, hasn't said whether or not he would run in 2024 against Trump. So that's all factoring in here. BERMAN: Gutless. Still pretty interesting to hear that. Seems like the

former president reserves that for pointed remarks there.

Steve Contorno, thank you so much for joining us this morning.

CONTORNO: Thanks for having me.

BERMAN: Happening now, a crucial meeting between NATO ambassadors and Russian officials trying to de-escalate the tension at the Ukrainian border.

COLLINS: Plus, authorities in Kazakhstan are cracking down on thousands of protesters after a week of violent unrest. CNN is live on the ground, and we'll take you to the latest.



BERMAN: This morning, a high-level meeting between NATO and Russian officials taking place in Belgium. The goal is to try to de-escalate the crisis at the border with Ukraine where 100,000 Russian troops remain stationed and on alert.

CNN's Alex Marquardt live in Brussels with the latest here.

The task is clear. The level of success, anything but, Alex.

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: John, these talks are critical. There are major issues to be discussed here. But this meeting today, quite frankly, is not very long. It's due to end in just a couple minutes' time after having started just about three hours ago.

And before this meeting even started, NATO had already rejected the major Russian demand that Ukraine never be allowed to join NATO.

Now, I spoke with the U.S. ambassador to NATO, Julianne Smith, about this. She said that not only is Russia not de-escalating, they are holding firm in their positions all along the Ukrainian border and that she believes that they still intend to send more troops to the border.

Here's a little bit more of what Ambassador Smith had to say.


JULIANNE SMITH, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO NATO: No one has the right to kick the door shut. And any decision about enlargement will continue to rest between the NATO alliance and the country in question.

We're all committed to a dialogue with the Russians tomorrow to hear from them, what they want to talk about with NATO allies. We're intent on doing this with our allies by our side.

(END VIDEO CLIP) MARQUARDT: So, because Ukraine is not at the table today, we do know that Secretary of State Tony Blinken has been keeping his Ukrainian counterpart up to date on what is going on.

So, John, what can progress -- what progress can be made? There are other issues where they believe they can make progress, including on arms control and more transparency about military exercises. And so the U.S. and NATO are hoping that the combination of progress in those areas, paired up with the pressure, the threats that they are making about economic sanctions, trade restrictions, more military aid for Ukraine and eastern Europe, that that can pressure Russia into not invading Ukraine.

And, John, this pressure campaign continues with more talks in Vienna tomorrow.


BERMAN: Alex Marquart live in Brussels. A short meeting taking place. Let us know when they come out and if there's any news, Alex.

COLLINS: Meanwhile, CNN s live on the ground in Kazakhstan as the country's president now says a Russian-led military alliance will begin withdrawing its forces after the worst political crisis in Kazakhstan's history. The nation's president used those forces to help crack down on thousands of protesters.

And CNN's Fred Pleitgen is joining us now.

And, Fred, what are you seeing? I mean it's remarkable that you were there on the ground. And so I'm wondering what you've seen since you arrived?


Yes, it is actually really interesting to be here on the ground in Kazakhstan. I'm actually right in front of the entrance to the presidential palace. And there's a big security force outside of that palace, of course, after some of those protests took place. Otherwise, though, the security presence here in the capital city of Nur-Sultan is actually not that big. But this sort of also wasn't one of the epicenters of the protest. That was the city of Almaty. And there is also where you have those big international forces that are led by Russia on the ground and patrolling there as well.

I was actually able to speak to a senior Kazakhstani official just a couple of minutes ago and I asked him, look, how close was this to you guys losing control and losing control of the situation? He said it was really close. He said that they were dangerously close to losing control of the biggest city of Almaty. That's where more than 100 people were killed in that city alone. And he says that it was those Russian-led forces that really did turn the tide because they secured a lot of areas and freed up some of those Kazakhstani forces that then, of course, went after those protesters. That was also, Kaitlan, where we saw some of those really troubling images of soldiers going through the streets, of soldiers opening fire in the middle of those streets as well.

The Kazakhstani government has defended that. They say that this was an anti-terror operation. And you're absolutely right to point out, the Kazakhstanis are also saying that they have the situation under control to a point now where they believe that those international forces that are led by Russia, that they can leave.


On the one hand, though, they are saying those forces are going to start withdrawing, but that withdrawal is going to take at least ten days, though, if everything goes according to plan, Kaitlan.

COLLINS: If everything goes according to plan. A key phrase there. And we'll wait to see if they all actually do leave.

Fred, thank you so much. And it is remarkable that you're there on the ground.

A Texas sheriff, meanwhile, is under investigation for repeatedly telling his deputies to seize cash from undocumented immigrants, even if they weren't suspected of a crime.

BERMAN: Plus, our next guest says it's time to make life hell for anti-vaxxers.

And, chilling, new video of a passenger storming the cockpit of an American Airlines flight.



BERMAN: Welcome to our viewers in the United