Return to Transcripts main page

New Day

Australia Cancels Djokovic's Visa; DOJ Escalates Insurrection Case, Issuing First Sedition Charges; Employers Scramble after Supreme Court Blocks Vax Mandate; Sinema, Manchin Sink Efforts to Change Filibuster for Voting Rights. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired January 14, 2022 - 06:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm John Berman with Brianna Keilar on this NEW DAY.


Huge news just moments ago that brings together the pandemic, sports, international relations. Australia basically tells the world's No. 1 tennis player to get out just days before the Australian Open.

A landmark indictment for the leader of the far-right Oath Keepers. For the first time, a sedition charge for the January 6th Capitol riot.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: And it has been a brutal week for President Biden as he faces various setbacks for his agenda. The two senators who just added more salt to the wound.

And Queen Elizabeth stripped Prince Andrew, her second son, of his military titles and charities. The royal family is now saying you're on your own.

BERMAN: Good morning to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. It is Friday, January 14.

And breaking just a short time ago, the Australian government canceled the visa for Novak Djokovic, the world's No. 1 tennis player, just three days before the start of the Australian Open. This is a huge deal.

Djokovic is the No. 1 seed there. He is unvaccinated. Australia is struggling with rising case numbers and facing huge internal backlash for the idea that Djokovic would operate under a different set of rules than the rest of the country.

Australian immigration officials have been investigating a series of errors and discrepancies in his COVID testing and travel documents.

So Djokovic is now facing deportation. And if that happens, he will be unable to defend his Australian Open title. He'll be unable to break the Grand Slam record that he would so like to do.

It's unclear what happens next year. Djokovic, of course, will appeal. That's expected. That's likely.

Australian immigration minister Alex Hawke releasing this statement, reading in part, "Today, I exercised my power to cancel the visa held by Mr. Novak Djokovic on health and good order grounds, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so."

Joining us now from Melbourne, contributing writer at "The New York Times," Ben Rothenberg. Ben, tell us about this turn in events.

BEN ROTHENBERG, CONTRIBUTING WRITER, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": We've been knowing this could come for a long time. Alex Hawke's office, the minister of immigration, had been telling us they were reviewing Djokovic's application and seeing what they could do.

They didn't take the appeal that he won, through procedural grounds, as the end of things at all. But they waited a long time, several days, four days. And late on Friday here, the decision came out.

Many people think this could be because of the lack of time that gives Djokovic to appeal, although they're already in the courtroom now. Or a virtual courtroom, I should say. His lawyers and the government's lawyers and a judge trying to hash out when things will move.

And Djokovic's lawyer making it very clear that this is an extraordinary case where Djokovic has real-time pressure, with the first round of the Australian Open coming up starting on Monday.

He could play either Monday or Tuesday. There are real tennis deadlines here, and that's obviously the reason why he's in this country. It's to compete at the Australian Open, trying to get his 21st Grand Slam, which would be a record for men's singles all time.

BERMAN: So this decision from the Australian immigration minister follows the revelations from Djokovic himself that, A, he broke COVID protocols by doing a photo shoot after he tested positive. And he knew it. He knew heh had tested positive and did a photo shoot.

And also the revelation that there were lies, falsifications and errors on his travel documents. Now he says he didn't fill out the documents, but his agent did. But it says things that just aren't true.

Any sense on how much that played into the decision from the Australian minister.

ROTHENBERG: We're still learning more about what the reasons the minister gave in his court filings. He will provide a list of reasons and justifications for the decision.

We do know from the early stages of the hearing that one of the things that Djokovic's lawyers mentioned is something they were going to object to, is the minister apparently mentioned feeling that keeping Djokovic in the country could excite antivax sentiment in the country. That was the language he used, is his presence here would be something that would stimulate and energize the antivax movement. And they considered that to be part of this, you know, consideration to be damaging to public health concerns.

That's really interesting that Djokovic has -- who has been, you know, skeptical of vaccines, on various sides of that spectrum, of being vaccine hesitant, vaccine skeptical, antivax explicitly throughout the last couple years.

But those past statements and past comments he's made publicly are being held against him in this court. And that's something that's going to be a point of contention here.

KEILAR: Ben, what do Australians think about all this?

ROTHENBERG: It's pretty clear the decision to try to deport Novak Djokovic is very popular among the Australian citizenry. There's not a lot of time for him here, as they would say, and not a lot of time for someone who wants to come and be seen as being above the rules, trying to get around the rules everyone else did and trying to find a side door into the country.

There's also resentment for the Australian Open, the tournament, for creating an exemption process that would allow a player like Djokovic -- and really, it is only Djokovic at this point -- to get into the country without being vaccinated like everyone else is.


So there's a really strong sense of satisfaction at the idea that he could be sent packing even before losing a tennis match here.

BERMAN: And I know this is in the courtroom right now, but I also know from my reading of what's going on there there isn't a lot of dispute over the fact that the Australian immigration minister has the power and the authority to do this. It will be very interesting to see what happens in the next couple of hours.

Ben Rothenberg, thank you so much. And we're going to have much more on this ahead.

Other major news this morning. For the first time, sedition charges handed down by federal prosecutors for the Capitol riots. Charges filed against Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the Oath Keepers, and ten others.

Prosecutors say Rose and others used encrypted communications to coordinate their actions leading up to the January 6th insurrection. They stand accused of conspiring to oppose by force the execution of the laws governing the transfer of presidential power.

Two months before the January 6th attack, Rhodes said, quote, "We aren't getting through this without a civil war."

Now ahead, we're going to speak with the Oath Keepers' attorney. She was on the phone with Rhodes while the FBI was waiting outside to arrest him.

KEILAR: Some Republicans and right-wing pundits have been pushing the narrative that there was no insurrection. And part of how they make this case is they say, Look, there's not been a single rioter who has been charged with seditious conspiracy.

January 6th Committee member Jamie Raskin telling CNN that he hopes that this, quote, "shuts up his colleagues on the other side of the aisle who continue to downplay what happened."

Whitney Wild joins us now from Washington. A big delivery against that, I guess, talking point, you would say. Hey, look, people haven't been charged with seditious conspiracy. How can it really be an insurrection? Well, here you go, Whitney.

WHITNEY WILD, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, absolutely. And the U.S. attorney that had that position prior, Michael Sherwin, had suggested that this was on the table several months ago, I mean, almost a year ago, Brianna.

And then there was this -- this significant lull. And so there were a lot of people, particularly on the right, who used that pause in not seeing these extremely aggressive indictments to say, look, DOJ doesn't have the goods. They can't bring a sedition charge.

Now DOJ answering that criticism with an extremely aggressive indictment.


WILD (voice-over): Stewart Rhodes, founder and leader of the far-right group, the Oath Keepers, arrested in Texas on charges including seditious conspiracy for his alleged involvement in the Capitol attack.

REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): I hope that this arrest and this prosecution will shut up those of our colleagues who keep saying, Well, if it was a conspiracy, how come there are no conspiracy charges? If it seditious, how come there are no sedition charges?

WILD: The Justice Department continuing its effort to prosecute those responsible for January 6th, charging 10 others with seditious conspiracy, as well.

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: This is such a powerful statement by the Justice Department.

WILD: It's the first time federal prosecutors have used the sedition charge after bringing in more than 700 cases related to the insurrection.

But prosecutors have long signaled that they were considering using the rarely-applied section of federal law. And it was just last week, in a speech commemorating the Capitol attack, where Attorney General Merrick Garland said this.

MERRICK GARLAND, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: The actions we have taken thus far will not be our last. WILD: Rhodes is the most high-profile individual charged in the

investigation so far. Court documents released Thursday lay out a wide-ranging plot to storm the Capitol and disrupt the certification of the 2020 election.

Two days after election day, Rhodes allegedly urged his followers to refuse to accept the election results, writing in a Signal message, "We aren't getting through this without a civil war."

According to federal prosecutors, on his way to D.C. on January 3, Rhodes allegedly bought an AR platform rifle and other firearms equipment, including sights, mounts, triggers, slings and other firearms attachments in Texas.

The next day, he allegedly bought more firearms equipment in Mississippi.

Rhodes, a former Army paratrooper who went on to earn a law degree from Yale, said he did not enter the Capitol on January 6th. But video captures other Oath Keepers wearing military gear forcing their way into the building in a military stacked formation.

MICHAEL FANONE, FORMER D.C. METROPOLITAN POLICE OFFICER: They are highly organized groups who were exploiting the chaos of that day.

WILD: The new indictment also alleges the group had quick reaction forces from three states -- Arizona, North Carolina, and Florida -- to rush into D.C., if needed.

According to court documents, Oath Keeper Thomas Caldwell, arrested last January, claimed that he took reconnaissance trips to D.C. prior to the insurrection.

Prosecutors say Rhodes was planning for violence well beyond January 6th, allegedly referring to the Capitol attack as nothing compared to what's coming.

In the weeks after the attack on the Capitol, he allegedly spent around $17,500 on weapons equipment and ammunition. Then, around inauguration day, prosecutors say Rhodes told his associates to organize local militias to oppose the Biden administration.


Another member allegedly said, "After this, if nothing happens, it's war. Civil War 2.0."


WILD: Absolutely chilling. Brianna, the other big news out of Washington is that, as DOJ comes down very hard on these individuals, the January 6th Committee now taking direct aim at private companies, subpoenaing social media companies Twitter, Reddit, Meta and Alphabet. Meta, former Facebook; Alphabet, Google.

And what -- they're subpoenaing them, Brianna, because they simply have not gotten an adequate response in their attempt to try to get voluntary information, now again sending out these subpoenas to social media companies.

KEILAR: Definitely something to watch. Whitney, thank you.

BERMAN: All right. Joining us now, CNN counterterrorism analyst and former FBI senior intelligence adviser Phil Mudd and co-anchor of "EARLY START" and attorney at law, Laura Jarrett.

Phil, I want to start with you here. As you look at this indictment and all the things that the Oath Keepers are said to have done and planned, what jumps out at you about this plot?

PHILIP MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Where we go looking forward. If you look at the complexity of what they're talking about, the number of people involved in months before, the types of weapons they're acquiring, the kind of military sort of process they were undergoing to think about an insurrection.

Instead of saying, you know, what happened before January 6th, I look at this as someone who was involved as investigations and think about how many people from these organizations -- there are millions of Americans who are sympathetic to these people.

How many people are watching this, saying next time, in 2024, what do I learn about how I need to be careful in communications, what do I learn about what language I can use to attract more people to my cause so we don't turn them off, should I go more local so the feds don't have one major organization to target. I've got 30 or 40 or 50 chapters, which is much harder to go after with intelligence.

John, I look forward and worry about a couple of years instead of just looking into an investigation for people who are already going to be locked up.

KEILAR: Laura, tell us a little bit about seditious conspiracy, the considerations, the difficulties in this, if this is a slam-dunk case or if there's challenges.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: It's a rarely used charged. Really, I think only used, like, three times in recent history. The last one was in 2010.

They're hard cases to make, which explains why this likely took over a year. As we heard people sort of banging on the door of Merrick Garland, why aren't you doing this?

And we have reporting from our colleague, Evan Perez, that initially, the attorney general was hesitant to use this charge. He sort of balked at it, until all this evidence which we see laid out, page after page of signal communications, as Phil pointed to, of how highly coordinated this was.

And not just in the days surrounding January 6th, which we've seen charges from Oath Keepers about that. This went on beyond January 6th, up until the point that Joe Biden was inaugurated. And the efforts, I mean, thousands of dollars spent on ammunition and guns even after January 6th, if not to go to war, then for what?

BERMAN: You know, Phil, you've been an investigator before. You've been in the trenches here. What's the evidence that jumps out at you? What is the evidence that you think that the FBI looked at and said, aha, this is something?

MUDD: The time involved in preparations for this, the fact that they're -- the amount of weapons acquired in advance, the fact that people are using specific language that indicates that they were coordinating.

They're not just talking about breaking a window in the Capitol. They're talking about civil war in America. It's hard to look at that and say, Hey, it was accidental that they went to the Capitol, and they just happened to breach the perimeter.

I look at this and say, I'm not surprised it took them so long to get to this case. But when you look at the evidence, it's hard to step back and say, yes, there was no planning here. The weapons, the time, the language. Incredible.

JARRETT: Also, guys, you have to think what is the defense going to be here? I know you're going to talk to the lawyers soon. You know, Stewart Rhodes has given media interviews in which he's essentially said, Look, folks went off-mission. They went rogue. This was not the intention.

And yet, you have text messages that say, "Thousands of ticked-off patriots spontaneously march on the Capitol. You ain't seen nothing yet."

If that went off-mission, why are they spending thousands of dollars on guns and ammunition after January 6th?

KEILAR: It sounds, Laura, like one of the arguments is that they were, look, this -- and this is just part of what it sounds like the defense is. They were there to help provide security for protesters. They were ready if Antifa was going to get involved.

They thought perhaps they would be called to duty by the president. I mean, what do you think about that?

JARRETT: That's where the messages get them in trouble, because you have real-time communications of them in this highly organized fashion, saying go there, go there, go to that entrance. Right? If it was all sort of like, Oh, wow, we've really gone too far here, you wouldn't see messages like that.


BERMAN: And Phil, one thing that's important to note here, inside this indictment there is no, as far as I can tell, direct link to the Trump White House or the Trump political world. They haven't written that down yet.

But does that mean at this point that investigators aren't looking for that link?

MUDD: No. Heck no, they'll be looking for that. Look, you have one simple -- not simple but one straight-line case here. That is did people gather together with the idea that this might be civil war 2.0? Yes.

That's a totally different question from the politically explosive question of was there any communication before or after with, for example, a congressional office. I don't see why you'd have to put that in the indictment.

But that's why people like the January 6th Committee want to talk to members of Congress. Did you talk to these people? And we'd like to see your phone records. That's why they're going with subpoenas to the Silicon Valley, saying we want data. This is not done yet, John.

BERMAN: Very interesting. Phil Mudd, Laura Jarrett, thank you both.

In a couple hours, we will speak with the leader of the Oath Keepers' ex-wife. She says she helped start this group. How she's reacting to the arrest this morning. That's coming up.

KEILAR: And up next, the Supreme Court delivered a crushing blow to President Biden's pandemic response. It's just the latest setback for a rough week for the White House.

Also, the future of voting rights legislation seemingly in the hands of two people in the Senate, and the efforts look dead.

BERMAN: Huge turmoil inside the royal family. Prince Andrew stripped of some of his honors and titles. The queen cracking down some. Why is she doing this?



BERMAN: This morning, the White House and major corporations try to figure out the path forward after the Supreme Court blocked President Biden's sweeping vaccine mandate for large businesses but did allow a limited one for certain healthcare workers.

CNN's Ariane de Vogue joins me now. This was a major decision by the Supreme Court with big implications, Ariane.

ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT CORRESPONDENT: Right. The bottom line here is that President Biden took a major loss in one of his most aggressive attempts to try to get more people vaccinated.

There's actually two cases before the Supreme Court. The first one was aimed at large employers. It was a testing or vaccine mandate aimed at large employers for these big businesses.

And the conservative majority, they came down to this. They said that the federal agency that's charged with workplace safety just did not have the authority to issue a mandate that would impact some 80 million Americans. You saw the conservatives state that's overreach.

And the liberals on the court issued this biting dissent. Here's what they said: "In the face of a still-raging pandemic, this court tells the agency charged with protecting workplace safety that it may not do so." They were furious in dissent.

But the second case, Biden actually had a win. But it's going to impact fewer people. In that case, it was a vaccine mandate aimed at certain healthcare workers.

And we saw Chief Justice John Roberts and Brett Kavanaugh form a majority with the liberals to say that mandate was OK. And the thinking is -- is that that agency that's charged with protecting patience could act in this way.

But that will only impact some 10 million workers.

So the Biden administration and Biden himself tried to play up the win here. But the loss was really tough for him. He's been pushing these mandates for months. And his big problem is that so far near 80 million U.S. adults are still declining to get vaccinated, John.

BERMAN: Yes. And companies -- companies this morning trying to figure out how to handle this now over the next few days. Ariane de Vogue, thank you very much.

President Joe Biden has had a very tough week with setbacks for his agenda. COVID complications and the Supreme Court blocking his vaccine mandate, inflation and international turmoil, just to name a few.

CNN's Lauren Fox is joining us live now from Capitol Hill. Lauren, Biden voting rights bill has been torpedoed, and torpedoed by members of his own party, Senators Manchin and Sinema. Is there a way forward, or is this dead?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, his vast agenda on Capitol Hill is really hitting a brick wall this morning, Brianna, because of those two moderate Democratic senators.

Remember, before Christmas, we have to examine this in a broader capacity. Before Christmas, Joe Manchin said that he would not support Build Back Better, that he just wasn't going to get there.

Yesterday, just about an hour before the president came to Capitol Hill to have a meeting with his Democratic Caucus, Senator Kyrsten Sinema went to the floor and said while she supported voting rights generally, she did not support changing the Senate filibuster rule.

Then she followed up by Senator Manchin's statement, saying his position remained unchanged. Here's what they said yesterday.


SEN. KYRSTEN SINEMA (D-AZ): While I continue to support these bills, I will not support separate actions that worsen the underlying disease of division infecting our country. SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): I think this is the point I've been making

for an awful long time, and she has, too. We need changes to make the system work better, not get rid of the filibuster.


FOX: And last night, they both went over to the White House last night for more than an hour-long meeting, that there's no indication that their positions are going to change.

So where does that leave the U.S. Senate? The majority leader, Chuck Schumer, went to the floor last night and said he was going to be pushing that vote on voting rights legislation to Tuesday instead of over the weekend or before Martin Luther King Jr. Day, in part because of COVID on the Hill, as well as weather concerns around Washington, D.C.


But obviously, this gives them a little more time to try to regroup over the weekend. But there, again, is no indication that Manchin or Sinema is going to change their position on the Senate rules. And without 10 Republican votes or a change in their position, voting rights legislation is dead on Capitol Hill -- Brianna.

KEILAR: Oh, to be a fly on the wall with the president and the senators last night. Lauren Fox, thank you so much.

At-home COVID tests have been a rare commodity recently. But starting this weekend, it may be just a little bit easier to get your hands on one.

BERMAN: Plus, breaking news. Less than 24 hours after the U.S. warned that Russia is potentially gearing up for an invasion into Ukraine, we're now learning of major cyberattacks against Ukraine. Stand by.


BERMAN: The Biden administration.