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New Day Sunday

Trump's Impeachment Defense Attorneys Quit Days Before Trial; Biden Administration Makes Case For COVID-19 Relief To Americans; Hospitalizations Below 100,000 For The First Time In Nearly Two Months; Protests In Support Of Jailed Opposition Leader Alexei Navalny Sweep Across Russia; Teacher Unions Flex Their Power In COVID School Reopening Chaos; Around 110 Million People Under Winter Weather Alert Across U.S. Aired 7-8a ET

Aired January 31, 2021 - 07:00   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: They will wear uniforms competing for the Lom-barkie trophy.

And the show will also features special snacks and drinks from Stewart and Snoop.

Hey, watch out for the Snoop Dogg snacks. Those dogs will be stretched out on the 20-yard line.


BLACKWELL: You've got to be careful with Snoop's snacks now.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: How do you know?

BLACKWELL: I'm just, hey --

PAUL: I'm just saying.

BLACKWELL: NEW DAY continues right now. Let's cut this off.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's just a little more than a week before President Trump's second impeachment trial begins, we're learning his five defense team lawyers have quit.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a disaster for the defense.

REP. MATT GAETZ (R-FL): Our battle is no longer just Republican versus Democrat.

REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): This is not the party I joined. This is not the party, you know, that really is for conservative principles.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What I cannot do is continue to look over my shoulder wondering if a white supremacist in Congress by the name of Marjorie Taylor Greene are conspiring against us. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: January was the deadliest month of this year-long



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We can keep up with the virus as long as we continue to invest in surveillance.



ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY WEEKEND with Victor Blackwell and Christi Paul.

PAUL: And there is a shot of the White House with nine days to go until his second impeachment trial. Former President Trump, he has no legal team in place this morning. All five attorneys tapped for his impeachment defense quit. A source tells CNN the former president wanted them to argue the 2020 election was stolen to from him. And we have to point out that is a lie.

BLACKWELL: And the sudden departures add to this uncertain time for the Republican Party. House minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is canceling an upcoming House GOP leadership meeting. He says there was a travel conflict. It would have come as the party grapples with infighting over the former president's impeachment and what to do with a conspiracy theorist congresswoman who says that the former president has her back.

CNN's Daniella Diaz is live from Capitol Hill.

A few days from the start of the impeachment trial. Tell us where things stand now.

DANIELLA DIAZ, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Look, guys, CNN broke the news last night that Donald Trump's entire impeachment defense team has left, have stepped down, citing a strategy -- difference in strategy. Butch Bowers and Deborah Barbier, they are the lead impeachment lawyers. They have stepped down as well as three other impeachment lawyers that Bowers brought on.

Now, Bowers was clear with Trump, a source tells us. He wanted to argue about the legality of trying to convict a former president. But Trump had a different idea for what his defense needed to be. He wanted them to argue that there was massive election fraud and that the election was stolen from him.

Now, Trump has been clear he wanted that to happen. Trump's former campaign manager Jason Miller told CNN that the team is trying to figure out what is going to happen leading into next week and we have two days until some legal briefs have to be filed one week before the Senate impeachment trial is set to begin.

Trump has no strategy. Trump has no team. And he has a little more than a week to figure that out before his impeachment trial begins -- guys.

PAUL: All right. Daniella Diaz, live for us, thank you so much.

BLACKWELL: All right.

Let's bring in now, CNN legal analyst Elie Honig, former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. And Jeff Mason, White House correspondent for "Reuters".

Gentlemen, good morning to you.

Elie, let me start with you. We heard a little bit from Daniella there for a legal team to quit now and en masse, for all of them to go, what do you glean from that?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, Victor, what a mess.


HONIG: Here we are, we are a week and change out from trial and the former president has nobody representing him. So lawyers generally have a very broad obligation to represent their clients -- criminal defendant, impeachment defendant whatever it may be.

But when you see something like this, what it tells you is there was a difference in terms of not just necessarily strategy, but if a defense lawyer believes he is making an argument that is either a lie or dangerous or unethical, that's where you see resignations like this.

So I think it makes a lot of sense. Look, if President Trump said to the lawyers, and by all appearances, they are legitimate lawyers, several of them are DOJ alums, one of them is an ethics expert. If President Trump said, I want you to argue this election was stolen, they have every right and they did the right thing to say, no, we're out.

BLACKWELL: Elie, let me stay with you for this, because we all knew, they knew, everybody knew that the president told this lie that the election had been stolen from him. He did that from the night of -- the returns started to come in, and they joined the team anyway.

What does that tell you about how central that lie he wanted to be part of, of the case that they were making?


It couldn't be just a part of it because they knew that that would be something he wanted to happen, that he wanted that maybe to be the central element.

HONIG: Yeah, Victor, he is sticking with it. Look, it could be -- if I was a lawyer that situation, if the president came to me -- former president, said I'd like you to represent me, I would probably say something like I'm not doing that big lie thing. Look, I will argue constitutionality all day long. Maybe I'll argue that your speech you gave didn't quite step over the line of the First Amendment. I don't agree with those arguments, but they are fair play.

But if he said, no, you're going to get up there and you're going to rant and rave about this election was stolen, rigged, rigged, rigged, I would say, no, I'm out. I would do exactly what these lawyers did.

And, by the way, the Senate does not have to allow this defense. Real judges in real trials all the time say to defense lawyers you can't argue that. That's not a proper defense. The Senate controls how this impeachment trial goes. They need to think hard about whether they want to countenance that sort of a lie as a defense.

BLACKWELL: Jeff, to you now. There has been this mutually beneficial delay from when the article was walked over to the Senate -- excuse me -- to the start of the trial. Two weeks to give the president time to build the defense.

Is there any appetite for that to be elongated, for there to be another week for the president to put his team together?

JEFF MASON, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, "REUTERS: Not that I have seen, no. That was a compromise in the first place, the fact that that delay was put into place at all. And I think we can conclude from this reporting that it seems likely that the Democrats are making better use of that time to form their arguments and to find evidence that they can present at the Senate trial than former President Trump and his team have done.

It's I think worth underscoring, you know, a couple of times how unusual this is at this point. I mean, he is just a little over a week away from actually having to be represented in that trial without a legal team. Will there be some push perhaps from the Republican side to delay it again? It's hard for me to say that. But no, Victor, I haven't seen any appetite for that, and, again, that delay was created in the first place by a compromise. It seems unlikely that they would compromise again.

BLACKWELL: It's unusual because there is a deadline of the start of the trial, but this is really what we watched for the last several months. The same thing happened with the firms that represented the president during the election fight. They came in and said that we will defend the president and the campaign.

When they realized the lie that he wanted them to tell, they backed away. The difference between from, at least the way I understand it, this impeachment and the first one was that the Ukraine call, as clear as it was to some, could be interpreted several different ways.

Who won the election is not up for debate. I say all that to get to this question, Jeff. Does this make it any more likely that the argument the president is making or wants to be made, that there will be Republicans who will vote to convict?

MASON: Excellent question, and I just don't have the answer. I think one way of looking at that is the result of the vote with regard to constitutionality, with only five Republicans in the Senate going with Democrats on that. That seems to be a flag that the president will not be at risk of losing a total of 17 Republicans in that vote as to whether to convict or to acquit.

But it's -- you know, you also have people like Senate now Minority Leader Mitch McConnell saying he would wait and listen to the evidence. So that's a little bit of a mixed message. We are going to have to wait and see how that reaction plays out.

BLACKWELL: Let's put up some of the important dates coming up, put them up on the screen so people understand that, you know, a legal team walking out on the -- at the end of January when you have got February 2nd, Tuesday, for the president's team to answer the impeachment article. Next Monday, they have got to present their pretrial brief and then the trial starts next Tuesday, February 9th.

Elie, I'm going to raise the slim possibility that I raised before the impeachment vote in the House. I want you to tell me I'm crazy.

Is there any scenario under which the president now, with the calendar that's left, says I am not going to launch a defense? I am going to call it a witch hunt. I am going to call it a hoax. I am going to call it a show trial.

He knows from the votes from the Rand Paul suggestion that it was not constitutional to have debate about that at least, that there are at least 45 Republicans who voted for that, save the money?

HONIG: Victor Blackwell, you are not crazy. Congratulations.

BLACKWELL: Thank you very much.

HONIG: That absolutely could happen. If this was a criminal trial, the judge would appoint a lawyer. It would go to a public defender or somebody in the rotation. You can't really try a defendant without any defense lawyer there.


Sometimes defendants even choose to represent themselves in criminal cases.

But this is impeachment. This is a different creature all together. And President Trump could choose to do just what you laid out, Victor. It's possible.

He could choose to say, look, I have a good sense of where those 45 Republican senators stand. They haven't necessarily committed to voting to acquit, but I have a good sense of where they stand. I am going to sit it out, protest it, whatever, let the Republicans in the chamber make the argument for me.

That could happen, Victor.

BLACKWELL: Jeff, let me wrap with you, and Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene and this claim of hers that she had a great call with former President Trump. How does that tie the hands of Leader McCarthy? Does that preclude what we saw after his meeting in 2019, something like what happened with Congressman King that she might be stripped of her committee assignments?

MASON: Well, it goes on to underscore the chaos and division within the Republican Party. This is not where the party or where the party or where Kevin McCarthy wants to be in terms of trying to set a new direction, set a new tone, set a defense against the White House right now by facing all of this controversy over one single member.

So in terms of how he goes forward, yeah, I mean, his hands are tied, and it's absolutely -- it's more than a distraction. It goes to an identity crisis that he is facing as a member of the Republican leadership about their support for President Trump and for people who have his support like this congresswoman.

BLACKWELL: Jeff Mason, Elie Honig, I'm not crazy. Thank you very much. Good to have you both. Enjoy the week.

PAUL: Well, I have seen some other things, Victor, but we'll leave it at that.

BLACKWELL: Can we move on?

PAUL: Yes, we can.

BLACKWELL: Thank you very much.

PAUL: Because we have news to talk about, particularly the fact that there is a priority for President Biden, a quick agreement on a COVID- 19 relief bill. The thing is the former President Trump's impeachment trial we expect will begin in nine days now, and it's threatening to stop all other business in the senate.

BLACKWELL: Let's bring in Jasmine Wright. She's at the White House this morning.

The president hoped the Senate could split the day. He said he checked with the parliamentarian, if they could do the impeachment work in the morning, do other business in the afternoon. Republicans said that's not going to happen. How does the Biden administration move forward?

JASMINE WRIGHT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Victor, the White House wakes up on this snowy morning with just over a week until, to focus on these COVID negotiation bills before the Senate impeachment trial starts and takes over the Senate chamber.

CNN has learned that President Joe Biden met with his advisors yesterday to talk about a way forward on thousand push this COVID relief bill.

Now, Biden has said that he wants to pass this bill with bipartisan support, but he is also making clear that if Republicans continue to stall, Democrats could go it alone.

Now, to do that, Democrats have to stay united. They have to stick together. Because of their slim majorities, they can't afford to lose any votes. And already, we are starting to see some cracks in that united front.

West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin appeared to be frustrated at an interview Vice President Harris gave in his home state to push this COVID relief bill using her popularity and sort of a pressure campaign. Manchin said that no one called him.

Take a listen here.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): We are going to try to find a bipartisan pathway forward. I think we need to. But we need to work together. That's not a way of working together what was done.


WRIGHT: Now, of course, Manchin is going to be a key vote going forward on this COVID relief bill, but looking ahead sources tell CNN that Biden and Harris will ramp up that public pressure campaign, make more phone calls and they'll sit for more remote interviews to really push this COVID bill next week -- Victi -- Victor, Christi.

PAUL: So, it kind of --


BLACKWELL: We have been called all types of things. I have been called Trevor on this show.

PAUL: That's right.

WRIGHT: I can't stop, can't stop.


BLACKWELL: All right.

PAUL: You are not -- you are far from the first one that has done that. In fact, our first year so many people did it, they were calling us Victi behind the scenes. It's just how it is, it's fine.

BLACKWELL: It's all right.

Listen, we know that President Biden, as we understand it, is going to sign more executive actions as they urge Congress to try to take up their legislative proposals.

What do you know about what they're planning, Jasmine?

WRIGHT: Well, the White House has been really clear that even though there are COVID negotiations going on, they are still doing their everyday business. So, next week, Biden will make his first trip since taking office to the State Department.

[07:15:01] He'll meet with his secretary of state, the newly confirmed Tony Blinken. On Tuesday -- that was Monday. On Tuesday, he will sign more executive orders, as you mentioned, this time on immigration. Those will add to those 42 already signed executive orders that he has penned himself since taking office.

And, lastly, on Friday, he will give remarks focused on jobs and the economy -- Victor and Christi.

BLACKWELL: I was waiting for it that time. I was waiting for that time.


BLACKWELL: Thank you, Jasmine.

PAUL: Jasmine Wright, so good to see you on the lawn at the White House there. Congratulations. Good to have you here, as always.

WRIGHT: Thank you.

PAUL: So, be sure to stay with CNN for the latest political news as well, because including we have the departure of former President Trump's entire impeachment defense team. More on that with an all-new "INSIDE POLITICS SUNDAY WITH ABBY PHILLIP". That's next right here on CNN.

BLACKWELL: Well, after two months shut down, people can now eat outside at restaurants in Los Angeles County. The restrictions are being loosened a bit as hospitalizations across the country are decreasing, but are changes coming soon? Too soon, I should say.

We'll ask a public health physician, next.

PAUL: Also, the U.S. embassy in Moscow is calling on Russia to respect international human rights as protesters are really turning out across the country in support of detained opposition leader Alexei Navalny. We have a live report for you from Moscow in just a moment.



BLACKWELL: There are now 26 million confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. and nearly 440,000 Americans have been killed by the virus. There is a new projection forecast that projects that another 200,000 Americans could it die by the first of May.

PAUL: Now, there is some good news to share with you. Hospitalizations are the lowest they have been in nearly two months.

CNN's Polo Sandoval is following the latest for us here.

So, Polo, that is good news that we love to share when we can get it. What more can you tell us? POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Christi and Victor, about

97,500 people waking up this morning in the hospital diagnosed with the coronavirus. It's still certainly a high number. But nonetheless, it is below that key figure of 100,000 and the last time we saw this was about 60 days ago. So that's important to point out.

We should also say that hospitalizations have been slowly dropping since the start of 2021, but never below this figure. So that's certainly key. Also for the first time last week no states recorded a record high in hospitalizations, which is also key.

And the reason for that is that this may finally perhaps offer at least some relief to those brave hospital workers have been working non-stop for the last 11 months. But still they have a lot of work ahead of them when you look at death numbers, for example.

Back when we saw these kinds of hospitalization numbers, losing about 1,500 people a day more or less nationally, or at least the early average. Now that number is double to 3,000. So, it's certainly showing that people are still contracting this virus, that that is still happening here. Of course, the big concern are these emerging variants as well.

When you hear experts, in fact I want you to hear from at least two of them, Dr. Jorge Rodriguez, a doctor in California that explains why we're seeing this growing number of cases, roughly 430 as of this morning. You also hear from Dr. Paul Offit who actually sits on the FDA's advisory committee explains what could be a concerning scenario that we haven't seen at this point.


DR. JORGE RODRIGUEZ, INTERNAL MEDICINE AND VIRAL SPECIALIST: What people need to wrap their heads around is the fact that the more infection there is in a community, in a country, the likelihood of almost the certainty that there will be variants, and the virus' goal is to survive. So it will be the strongest variants that will eventually survive.

DR. PAUL OFFIT, DIRECTOR OF THE VACCINE EDUCATION CENTER, CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL OF PHILADELPHIA: Here is when you should get really concerned. Get concerned when people who received, for example, two dose of the Pfizer vaccine or two doses of the Moderna vaccine, that despite that, that they still get hospitalized or die and that the reason is because they are infected with one of these variants. That's when you know that vaccine-specific immunity has failed.


SANDOVAL: That is what health authorities are closely watching for at this point as they continue their research here. Meantime, of course, those vaccination efforts across the country, they continue to move forward, although at this point the most optimistic forecast showing that probably most of us won't get a shot until the summer.

BLACKWELL: Polo Sandoval for us this morning with the latest -- thank you so much.

PAUL: Thanks, Polo.

Let's talk with public health physician, Dr. Chris Pernell. She was also, by the way, a participant in the Modern vaccine trial.

Dr. Pernell, so good to have you with us this morning.


PAUL: I think it's important for our viewers to understand how important this is to you. I am sorry, I know that you lost your father to COVID and that your sister is a long-hauler. So this is very personal for you.

And I know, I read that your dad frequently told you in your life to follow the science. We know that the Biden administration wants 100 million vaccinations given by April 30th.

What does the science tell you but the plausibility of that?

PERNELL: That we've got a lot of work to do.

Look, I'm on the ground virtually at this time in communities nearly every day, trying to explain the science in plain-spoken terms so that everyday persons in the public can digest it, can understand, trying to use a sense of urgency of just the numbers that you counted. Yes, our hospitalizations are down, but our mortality rates are still high. If we look at the total amount of Americans that we have lost, that's still a staggering toll.

And I've got my eye fastened on black and brown communities. You know, I am a physician that focuses on health equity.


And this pandemic is still devastating black and brown communities. So, it's of the utmost importance that we get vaccinations up in a very urgent and a very intentional way.

BLACKWELL: You know, I wrote -- I read something that you wrote recently, which you said about the science, the goal here is not to convince, the goal is to catalyze understanding. When you talk specifically about black Americans, we know that disproportionate number of black Americans contract the virus, are hospitalized for care, and die from it.

But when it comes to receiving the vaccine it's disproportionate on the other end of the spectrum. You say this is an opportunity for the healthcare system to demonstrate accountability and trustworthiness if trust is ever to be gained.

Expound on that, if you will.

PERNELL: So, what we know is those rates that you have just repeated are because of issues like systemic racism, right? I've been saying that I will continue to sound that alarm. Systemic racism impacts every sector and facet of American life. Unfortunately, because of that, we are seeing blacks vaccinated at an almost at least twice as slow as white Americans in some states. Approximately 23 states have released data.

What I don't want to see happen, I don't want to see the medical community rest in the assumption that because there are historical injustices that have contributed to skepticism in black and brown communities, that means we don't do a full-court press. We need a full-court press and then some. We need a block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood strategy. States need funding.

We need influencers, those who are trusted in the community, to partner with public health, to partner with physicians so that people understand just how important it is to get vaccinated and we can trust the science.

PAUL: We are seeing evidence in numbers of the variants that are hitting different states here in the U.S. now. What is your concern regarding the variants and the ability to fight those off?

PERNELL: I want people to understand, look, this is an RNA virus and this RNA virus wants to survive. So this virus is going to mutate.

My primary concern is that we need to do more surveillance in this nation. We actually trail our peers on this. We need to do more genomic sequencing. There are U.S. variants. We just don't know because we don't do the work to identify them.

Just like Dr. Offit said, what we have to watch for is when people are fully vaccinated whether receiving two doses from the mRNA vaccines or the one dose from Johnson & Johnson if that gets authorized through the FDA, once folks are full vaccinated, are they susceptible to those variants, are they being hospitalized? And are they regeneralized? We don't know that yet. So, I am encouraged but I'm also still vigilant.

BLACKWELL: All right. Dr. Chris Pernell, thank you so much for your time this morning. Enjoy the week.

PAUL: Thank you, Doctor.

PERNELL: Thanks for having me.

PAUL: Of course.

So, still ahead, I am speaking with Randi Weingarten. She's the president of the American Federation of Teachers, talking to her about what she thinks recording President Biden's plans to get schools open in the next 100 days. Is it really possible? That's going to be ahead here.

BLACKWELL: All right. Opposition rallies are happening right now in more than 100 cities across Russia. We've got live pictures right now. This is the second consecutive weekend. You saw just for a second there our Fred Pleitgen who was actually detained for a period before they realized he was international media. But you see what's happening in the street right now. We will take you there live, next.



PAUL: Well, supporters of jailed Kremlin opposition leader Alexei Navalny are holding mass protests today in cities across Russia.

BLACKWELL: And we are seeing big crowds despite a sweeping crackdown by police there. Navalny was detained shortly after landing in Russia two weeks ago.

Our Fred Pleitgen is in Moscow at one of the rallies.

We learned in the last hour that Navalny's wife has at one of the protests. She has been detained. What are you seeing there behind you?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Victor, I am seeing right here is a massive police presence. You see this giant presence. This brave woman is standing up and yelling.

Essentially, these guys, they keep charging the crowd, which retreated over that way, and have just detained a massive amount of people. You mentioned that Yulia Navalny was detained earlier today. A lot of journalists have also been detained. I have to get away from the police a little bit here.

It's something, what we're seeing again and again is the cops making moves and trying to detain as many people as possible as they are trying to stop the protests from moving forward. They are trying to go to the jail where Alexei Navalny is being held.

If you turn around you can see the crowd retreating a little bit as the police, a massive amount of police officers making their way down the street. We have to move faster, and just detaining pretty much everybody in their path.

We've heard so far already is that the State Department, Antony Blinken, he has condemned this. The harsh tactics, he said, against journalists, which we have seen, against a lot of the protesters as well. And as you can see, the riot cops are out in full force.

But one of the things we need to mention, Victor, is that the people here, you can see them ever over there, they are on the street in force. They have seen thousands of people on the streets protesting, calling for Alexei Navalny's release and chanting against Vladimir Putin as well. People told us they believe now is the time that they need to stand up and try to make a difference in this country.

These protests are certainly large-scale here in Moscow, guys.


They are big across the country. They have been in various countries. So far in Russia, over 2,000 people have been detained just today, guys. PAUL: So, as we watch what's happening there, Fred, and you mentioned

some response from the administration, but we understand the people at Navalny's foundation want more from Biden's administration on this. Did they specifically -- what do they want President Biden to do?

PLEITGEN: You are absolutely right, Christi. They wrote a letter to the Biden administration asking for sanctions against high-level members not of the Russian government, but of the circle around Vladimir Putin as they put it. High-level business leaders that they say are funding a lot of the things going on here. Also, ministers of this country who they say are responsible for some of the detentions.

You can actually see here that the cops are sort of like looking for more protesters here. Really going through and trying to really almost cleanse this area out. I just saw them arresting a lot of people. So they are calling for the detention of about two dozen -- not detention.

Sorry. Calling for sanctions against about two dozen people they say are affiliated with the crackdowns that are going on in Russia and then also, of course, that -- our affiliated, they say, with some of the repressionists as they called against Alexei Navalny himself.

So they are calling for help from the Biden administration. At the same time, of course, what they want right now, they say, is they want the world to keep watching what's going on here. You can see that big police response taking place here, guys.

BLACKWELL: And this scene replicated in cities across Russia.

Fred Pleitgen for us there in Moscow, thanks so much.

PAUL: Fred, take care of yourself and your crew there. Take good care.

So a lot of businesses, obviously, have been able to reopen with safety precautions in place, but there are schools across the country that are still in virtual learning, knee-deep in it, which led to a heated debate. When will it be safe for teachers and students to go back to the classroom? We will talk about that in a moment.



BLACKWELL: Well, President Biden has said that he wants as many public schools as possible to open in his first 100 days.

Here is what CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said Friday about why they feel students can head back to the classrooms.


DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: Accumulating data suggests school settings do not result in rapid spread of COVID-19 when mitigation measures are followed.


PAUL: So despite the science, not everyone feels safe returning to in- school learning.

Omar Jimenez reports on the blowback from teachers unions around the country.


OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Are you as a teacher prepared to strike if necessary?


JIMENEZ (voice over): Lori Torres is a Spanish teacher at a Chicago elementary school and in the middle of a battle between what she sees as her livelihood and her life, at Chicago public schools, the nation's third largest school district, is pushing to have kindergarten through 8th grade students return in person to the classroom.

As it stands right now, you don't feel the school district is doing enough?

TORRES: I don't. I think it is okay, but at a time like this, that I take a step back and consider me.

JIMENEZ: But Chicago school district says it has put in place safety strategies, like masking, smaller class sizes, hand-sanitizing stations, air purifiers and daily screening for the thousands of pre-K and special education students who are able to return weeks ago.

JANICE JACKSON, CEO, CHICAGO PUBLIC SCHOOLS: To date, we have not had to close a single school due to outbreaks of COVID-19.

JIMENEZ: That is not enough for Torres and the Chicago teachers union, which this week voted to stay in remote learning, just as the district was getting ready to reopen. The union demanding vaccinations and mass testing for students and staff among other things before teachers step foot back in the classroom, a goal President Biden laid out in his first few days in office.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We need testing for teachers as well as students and we need the capacity, the capacity to know that, in fact, the circumstance in the school is safe and secure for everyone.

JIMENEZ: But the president and his team are walking a political tightrope. On one hand, claiming to support the science of COVID-19, which, as chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci has said for months --


JIMENEZ: -- shows very little risk of transmission at brick and mortar schools, while on the other hand, wanting to support teachers' unions.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: Why do you think that the unions in many cases are overruling what the studies show?

RON KLAIN, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: I don't think unions are overruling studies. I think you're seeing is that schools that haven't made the investments to keep the students safe.

JIMENEZ: And it is not just Chicago dealing with this issue. This week in Montclair, New Jersey, just outside New York City, a similar fight, plans reopening scrapped when teachers refuse to return.

In West Virginia, one of the state's largest teacher's unions is suing the Board of Education, which voted unanimously to resume in-person learning by the end of the month.

And in Los Angeles, the superintendent says all of its teachers should be vaccinated before returning to in-person instruction.

AUSTIN BEUTNER, SUPERINTENDENT, L.A. UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT: Once that's done, we'll be at the school front door with big smiles under our masks.

JIMENEZ: But as both sides of the debate await a solution, parents and students await answers with the experiences of virtual school top of mind, given the educational, emotional and even psychological trauma it's caused.


REELLA GARCIA, MOTHER: They just walk away from the screen, so you hear the teacher, like, okay, we don't see people. People disappearing.

TORRES: The way in which they are learning right now is not the norm. But returning to school right now will not be school as they have known it.


PAUL: Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, is with us now.

Randi, good to see you again.

Listen, I don't think we can overstate the strain on the teachers. I've got three kids at home who are virtual. I like that woman right there, teachers trying to corral kids back to the screens, trying to care for them because they care about these kids.

So my question to you, first of all, when it comes to vaccines, is how do you make the case that all teachers need to be vaccinated before they go back, particularly teachers maybe who are young and who are healthy, that they should skip to the front of the line?

RANDI WEINGARTEN, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF TEACHERS: Actually, we are not making that case. The case we are making is that, as your -- look, let me be clear. Teachers have turned on a dime to try to make remote work. I don't know a teacher who likes remote education. They feel the same way as you do.

They have been spending, frankly, double, triple time, more time than they -- than their often overworked selves already to make remote work. So, we are on the same page, and I have actually been trying to get schools to reopen in person since last April, and my biggest local in the United States of America, New York City, has done that.

The real issue becomes how do you do, how do you make the investment, as one of the people in your story said, to actually make this work so that we have the safety measures in schools? And when it comes to vaccines, what we are saying and, frankly, the CDC has said it, as well, is that teachers are high in the priority list because we're trying to reopen schools.

So what you do is that you don't say all teachers need a vaccine but for schools reopen. We have not said that. We have said that you align vaccines with that reopening process. And that's what Cleveland, Ohio, is doing. Frankly, that's what New York City is doing.

New York City, my union, has been able to get 5,000 to 7,000 educators vaccinated. But you take a situation like Georgia where the district superintendents begged Governor Kemp to do that, and he rejected that.

So, in Chicago, we are trying to make the things that the scientists tell us, Dr. Fauci tells us, that teachers need to get vaccinated. Dr. Walensky and others, you saw Dr. Shaw and I write an op-ed about this, we know that testing will really help see what's unseen.

So if we can get the mitigation factors, which I think some of them Chicago has done. There has been some agreements on that in the last weekend. If we can get the testing, which New York city does and we need to do it in other places, it's expensive, if we can align vaccines with school reopenings and if we can actually make sure like that woman you saw in the Chicago piece, make sure that we are protecting people who are a high risk, then I think you are going to see more and more New York Cities to do this.

PAUL: So, yeah, you mentioned New York. You mentioned Cleveland doing the same thing. The president --

WEINGARTEN: Cleveland is doing the vaccinations.


PAUL: The vaccinations.

So, President Biden's executive order is calling for guidance to states and elementary and secondary schools as to how to reopen, how to stay open, how to use those mitigating measures. Is the problem that they need the guidance, or is the problem that they need the funds?

WEINGARTEN: The problem is both, particularly because of what the last administration did. You heard what I just said about Georgia. The CDC says that teachers should be 1b. Georgia says, basically, I don't care. So we need the-- the last administration downplayed the virus, ignored the facts, and people are scared. They don't know who to believe.

So we need the guidance because that's nested in science as Dr. Walensky said. The second thing we need is the funding to do that. I will use another example. When we put a rocketship up in the sky, no one questions whether we have to do all of that investment. Our kids should be as much of a priority.


And teachers want that. They want to be back in school learning but they needed to be safe.

PAUL: Randi Weingarten -- I had tweeted out earlier you were going to tell us that you were going to explode a myth, that myth you say is that teachers don't want to go back.


PAUL: You are explaining it and we have seen the teachers do want to be bag in that classroom. This has been so, so hard for them and they want those kids there.

WEINGERTEN: It's terrible.

PAUL: It is.


PAUL: Randi Weingarten, I'm sorry we have run out of.

WEINGARTEN: I'm sorry.

PAUL: It's so good to have you with us. No -- oh, are you kidding? We're grateful you're here.

Randi, thank you.

We'll be right back.


BLACKWELL: More than 110 million people in the path of a powerful storm system that is coming this morning to cities up and down the East Coast. Some serious snowfall, strong winds and ice are in the forecast.

PAUL: CNN's Allison Chinchar has been tracking this storm.

So, how bad is it going to get?

ALLISON CHINCHAR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: For some folks, you're going to get at least a foot of snow and it's probably going to stick around for a few days. So, yes, I hope you went grocery shopping as Victor mentioned told his family to do. I hope you are ready for this.

It's already started coming down in the Midwest but now you're starting to see that spread farther east. This is why we have alerts from Minnesota stretching over to Maine and even down into the Carolinas where you have that higher elevation transitioning into snow.

Right now coming down in Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit just to name a few, but you're really going to see the bulk of that snow really start to slide into areas of Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Philadelphia and eventually into New York City as well as Boston once we get later on into the evening. Ice is also going to be a big concern, the main focus there is going to be Virginia, West Virginia and especially in portions of Maryland where we could get up to a quarter of an inch of ice accumulations.

Snow and ice are only part of the thing that's going to be causing impacts. You also have strong winds. Not only is that going to take the snow and blow it all around reducing visibility but it could also bring down some trees. You're likely going to have intense power outages around Philadelphia as well as New York where we may end up having some extreme impact conditions.

Here is a look is that system. Now, once it goes offshore this is when we expect the storm to intensify and transition into a nor'easter. When it does we're going to start to see a lot of those big impacts Monday to the big cities like New York and Boston, all the major cities up and down the East Coast, main impacts are going to be late tonight through the day Monday.

Looking at these numbers, again, huge swaths of a foot of snow from eastern Pennsylvania all the way up to Maine. Notice that dark purple color in there, there are going to be some spots that could pick up 14, 16, 18, even 20 inches of snow, guys. So, again, I hope you've got it because temperatures are going to stay cold which means that snow is likely going to stick on the ground for at least the next several days.

PAUL: All righty. Allison Chinchar, thank you for the heads up and the warning. Hope everybody stays well.

Thank you so much for starting your morning with us. We hope you go make good memories.

BACKWELL: "INSIDE POLITICS" Sunday with Abby Phillip is up next after a break.