Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Live Event/Special

CNN TONIGHT: House GOP Leader McCarthy Won't Cooperate With January 6 Committee; GOP Senator Marsha Blackburn Under Fire For Controversial Comments About Black Judicial Nominee; Tennis Star Novak Djokovic Admits He Didn't Immediately Isolate After Positive COVID Test. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired January 12, 2022 - 21:00   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: You can catch it streaming live, at 6 P.M. Eastern, on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, at, or watch it there, and on the CNN app, at any time, on-demand.

The news continues right now. Let's hand it over to Laura Coates, and "CNN TONIGHT." Laura?

LAURA COATES, CNN HOST: Thanks, Anderson. Nice to see you. And thank you.

I am Laura Coates. And this is CNN TONIGHT.

And I want to start by asking you a question. And it's a real one. Anyone else tired of double standards? One rule for you, and then another one for everyone else? It's something that House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, of all people, recently railed about.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): It's an old definition of abuse of power. Rules for thee, but not for me.


COATES: Keep that in mind, in a second, if you will, because we have some big breaking news tonight, involving him, and the January 6 committee.

In a statement released, just moments ago, McCarthy has said that he will not cooperate, with the investigation, despite that statement of "Rules for thee, and not for me," and also saying that he actually would, if he were asked. And he was asked.

A lot more of that in a moment.

And look, I got to tell you, I don't really know, when you watch this show, which side you're on. I don't know what political party you affiliate with, or who you vote for, or even where you're from.

But I'll bet, I'll bet that you were as sick of double standards, as I am. I mean, you've been hearing about them, at least all day today, whether it's another elite athlete, who thinks the COVID prevention rules, somehow shouldn't apply to him because, well, he wants to win more titles, at the Australian Open.

Or maybe it's a Senate leader who tells you that democracy requires fighting, for the rights of him, and his colleagues, in the political minority. But the rights for a racial minority? Well, that's somehow not what democracy is supposed to be used for, after all!

You want to preserve a Senate rule, right, more than voting rights? That's the priority, and the preference? Wait, let me - let me stop, because I don't want to speak about these issues too much, because Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, he might mistake common sense for a rant.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): The President's rant, rant, yesterday was incoherent, incorrect and beneath his office.

You could not invent a better advertisement for the legislative filibuster than a president abandoning rational persuasion for pure demagoguery.


COATES: I just want you to think about the choice of words, for a second. When he says "Demagoguery," I wonder, if the word he was looking for was "Democracy."

Because I'm wondering how advocating for voting rights, how is, is that somehow beneath the President's office? And I do wonder also, where was this very standard before?

And I remember, because we were all old enough, and young enough, to remember, and ask the question of where was Mitch McConnell, on the voting rights, of the political minority?

You know, the time that he blocked a Senate vote on President Obama's Supreme Court nominee, a man who we now refer to as the Attorney General of the United States, but then was Judge Merrick Garland? That was back in 2016.

And just so we have our chronology, right, and you're all on the same page, about double standards? Remember, following that year, he personally oversaw a change, to the Senate rules that did away with the filibuster, for Supreme Court nominees, in order to confirm President Trump's pick, Neil Gorsuch.

And, like I said, last night, if you can carve out an exception, to the filibuster, for the debt ceiling, well, surely you can carve out one, before our democracy goes bankrupt.

And, speaking of honoring one's office, I want to talk about those, who are in office, the members of Congress, who are telling you that you have to follow the laws that they are responsible, for writing, but they don't have to.

I mean, the average person, I can tell you, if they get a subpoena, when I was a prosecutor, it wasn't like an optional thing. It was "You comply with the subpoena, or we can have a squad car brought to your home, and you can face jail time."

But if you're a member of Congress, that gets a request to testify before a congressional committee, about an attack, on the Capitol? You were in that Capitol. I mean, I guess the response is, if, if you feel like complying?

How many times, have you asked yourself, how the response and the treatment, would be different, if it were you, in their shoes? I mean I do it at least 10 times a day.

We're going to get into all of this, tonight, right here, with the context, you need to decide for yourself, whether this nation of laws has one standard.


And we know so far, Republican Congressman Jim Jordan, and Scott Perry, you see there, they're not complying with the January 6 committee's, their request, to give voluntary testimony, about that day, and not having yet been subpoenaed, and their interactions with then-President Trump.

And the question I have is, why? I mean, what do they have to hide? Jordan is the Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee. And he's already said multiple times, he's got nothing, nothing to hide. So, why not cooperate?

And the committee just moved up the totem pole right on up to the top Republican Minority Leader, Kevin McCarthy. And this is significant, you have to understand, right? You're talking about the number of witnesses, who've already been before this committee.

We know, of course, the relationship that McCarthy had with then- President Trump, and frankly, perhaps this day. And they want to know about those conversations, with him, before, and during, and even after the Insurrection.

And they are citing that McCarthy himself has already acknowledged, speaking directly, with the former president, not just someday, but actually that day, and while the violence was underway.

And let's just go back in time, just a little bit, a few months ago, when, back in May, McCarthy said that he would cooperate, if he were asked.


VOICE OF MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Would you be willing, to testify, about your conversation, with Donald Trump, on January 6, if you were asked by an outside commission?


RAJU: You would?

MCCARTHY: Next question.


COATES: Oh? OK. Well, sure. Next question? Well, here's one. That was then. But what about now? Because now he says that he will not cooperate. Why?

In a statement, just out tonight, he says, and I quote, "This committee is not conducting a legitimate investigation as Speaker Pelosi took the unprecedented action of rejecting the Republican members I named to serve on the committee. It is not serving any legislative purpose."

And he goes on, "As a representative and the leader of the minority party, it is with neither regret nor satisfaction that I have concluded to not participate with this select committee's abuse of power that stains this institution today and will harm it going forward."

Now, remember, what I told you to recall, from before, that moment of "Rules for thee, but not for me."

And, by the way, what can the House Select Committee do, if Perry, and Jordan, and McCarthy, won't sit down with them? Do they have the constitutional right, to subpoena their own fellow lawmakers, and compel them, to cooperate? Well, the head of the panel says that that very question is now being explored.

So, I want to bring in somebody, right now, who's a former General Counsel, to the House of Representatives. His name is Stanley Brand. And he represents former Deputy White House Chief of Staff, Dan Scavino, before this very committee.

Welcome to the show. Nice to see you, Stan Brand.


COATES: I have to launch right in here. I wonder what your take is. And I, spoiler, I think I already know. What do you make of the decision not to voluntarily cooperate with a select committee in Congress?

BRAND: Well, I make a couple of things.

One is that, because the committee, or members of the committee, have stated unabashedly that they want to call members in, for the purpose of inducing perjury, and sending off to the Department of Justice, among other purposes, they've really revealed two things.

They revealed that they are more aligned, in that respect, with law enforcement, than they are with the legislative inquiry.

And secondly, they are on the cusp of stripping members, of their Speech or Debate Clause privilege, which they would have if, for instance, the Department of Justice, subpoenaed them directly, to a grand jury, or charge them.

And this privilege is not for the personal aggrandizement of the members. It's to protect the independence and sanctity of members of Congress, in their position, vis-a-vis, co-equal branches, and, in this case, their own House.

And the second thing I'd say, is that member discipline, subpoenaing members, has never been done by legislative committees. That's always been the province of the Ethics Committee. And that's because the Ethics Committee is evenly split, between Democrats and Republicans, to prevent the majority from abusing the rights of the minority.

COATES: Well, hold on, Stan. On that point, let me jump in, because a couple points.

Number one, the fact that it has never been done, does not mean that they are prevented, from doing so. And I would note, of course, a lot of things haven't been done, in recent times, namely an attack on the Capitol of the United States, and Congress.

But on the point of who gets to make these decisions, Stan?



COATES: Wait. Hold on. I'm going to - I'm going to finish my point. Then I want to invite you to continue to speak.


COATES: When you talk about the idea of the legitimacy, essentially, or the ability for - and they're talking about trying to invite perjury? When I read the letters, from the committee that invites the voluntary, not the punitive, but the voluntary testimony of members of Congress? They're asking about what they actually know.

Why do you view it as a punishment to give transparent information?

BRAND: Well, they're not punishing them. They're setting them up, potentially, for a prosecution, by the Department of Justice. They've openly said that.

And let me go back to your earlier point, which you said, you know? Things - precedents in the House are broken all the time. That is true.

Imagine the Republicans take over the House, in November, and imagine that a Republican legislative committee decides now, on the precedent built here, to subpoena, or request interviews, with members, Democratic members, on their conversations with President Biden? These things have a way of metastasizing, and becoming very uncomfortable precedents that really I don't think serve the long-time interests of the House, no matter who's in control.

COATES: Well, I understand that point about the precedent being set. And again, it's the novelty, not the just dismissal of precedent that I focus on here. But even if - let's carry that out. Let's think about the logical conclusions of that, Stan.

Even if the Republicans were to do, what you're talking about, hasn't a precedent also now been set, by the idea of a sitting member of Congress, being able to thumb your nose, and say, "No, I don't have to do because I think that you might be inviting perjury."

I mean, couldn't Democrats ultimately then say, "Well, you know, what? I will - I see you're delegitimizing a duly-issued subpoena. And I raise you with the same behavior you engaged in." Isn't that also a risk? And doesn't it also disserve what Congress' role is here?

BRAND: Well, again, the self-disciplinary process, to the extent that Congress wants to inquire, into members' behavior, for purposes of exercising their constitutional right, to impose discipline, they still have that power. And they can do that through the Ethics Committee. There's nothing that stops them from doing that, at any point.

The precedent here is beyond that, though. This is a legislative committee, which now is making noises, and sounds, not like a legislative committee, but like a prosecutor's office.

By - and I quote Liz Cheney, saying, she wants to invite President Trump in. And I have no truck with President Trump, particularly. But that he want - they want to invite President Trump in. And if they catch him lying, they'll send him off to the Department of Justice.

COATES: But isn't that everyone, Stan?

BRAND: That's not the--

COATES: But isn't that everyone? I mean, if I invite someone, and if I'm in trial? You're a lawyer. If you're in trial, and you have somebody, who's subpoenaed, to testify, and they end up lying, on the stand, I mean, isn't that risk sort of the assumption, by which if somebody were to perjure themselves?


COATES: So, that's a pretty much of a--

BRAND: There are--

COATES: --a standard.

BRAND: There are cases, in the District of Columbia, that hold, that when Congress acts like a grand jury, and subpoenas people, for the purpose of setting them up, for perjury, it's not part of a valid legislative inquiry.

And those cases occurred at a very critical time, in our history, during the 50s and 60s, when the House Un-American Activities Committee, and others, were busy abusing people's rights, and the courts have shut that down.

There are limits to the Congressional investigative power. Just last time, the Supreme Court reminded the Congress, when they subpoenaed Trump's personal business records, that the function of Congress, is as a legislative body.


BRAND: And not as a law enforcement agency.

COATES: I do hear you, Stan. I wish I had more time to talk to you about that.

But I will leave you with this, before I turn to our next guest. And that is, when we read these letters, there's a lot contained from the committee, about why they want them to testify, and very little, if any attention, is given to the thought of perjury.


COATES: That's on the onus. But I got to end - this is not going to end today. Because you know what? The committee is still ongoing.


COATES: We'll talk again soon. Can I call you, "Stan?"


COATES: Stan Brand, thank you so much.

BRAND: Great. Thank you.

COATES: Listen, I want to bring in, someone, who also famously did testify, before a congressional select committee. I know it again. Did testify. John Dean is the former White House Counsel to Richard Nixon.

John Dean, it's good to see you.


COATES: I would love to hear your reaction to this notion that inviting someone, to testify, about what they knew, and experienced, that day, and who they spoke to, that that somehow was punitive, in a voluntary basis.

What do you say?

DEAN: I disagree with the portrait that Stan is trying to paint, of this picture - of this committee. I think they're being very careful. To make it very clear, they have a legislative intent.


They have been charged with finding out what happened, on January 6. They're looking at every aspect of it. They're trying to understand the larger picture. And that is the focus of this committee. And not to prosecute anybody. It's to elicit information.

Now, can you portray it that way? Of course. By cherry-picking, you can. But I don't - this has been before two courts, already. And they've both found this committee is totally legitimate, and has standing, to proceed, as it is. So, that issue, I think, is moot, at this point.

COATES: Now, he did talk about the Speech and Debate privilege. And I want you to weigh in on that. Because, of course, it does say, in the Constitution, essentially, it's Congress' job, to look at these issues.

You do have the idea of some privileges associated with, say, a member of Congress not being held to account, in his official duties, for everything that he or she is doing. But it does say that Representatives shall not be questioned in any other place, which says to me that this is the place.

It's Congress, who's supposed to be asking the questions, if there is an issue. Is that not accurate?

DEAN: You're right on it, Laura. That's exactly what that clause says. And it's really a rather unique exception that the place they can clearly be questioned, about anything, is the House, to which they belong.

That certainly is implicit in all the code of ethics that apply to the members of the House and Senate. And it would certainly apply, also, with a subpoena that certainly would - they have that power. And there's nothing in this debate clause that should exclude the use of a subpoena.

COATES: And I would note, again, a duly-issued subpoena, by a legitimate select committee.

John Dean, thank you so much for your time. Talk again.

DEAN: Thank you. Bye.

COATES: Look, Republican senators, while they're busy using, what's called a bizarre excuse, to try and block a judicial nominee? And that's the kindest word I can think, right now. Bizarre.

But it's one phrase in particular, by a conservative senator that has drawn not only mockery, but outrage and questions about whether race is playing a factor, in their decision.

We'll talk about it with the former head of the NAACP, next.



COATES: Now look, this is how Republican senator, Marsha Blackburn, of Tennessee, questioned one of President Biden's judicial nominees, today. Listen to this.


SEN. MARSHA BLACKBURN (R-TN): On the eve of his hearing, it has been made public that he has a rap sheet, with a laundry list of citations, including multiple failures, to appear in court.

In Tennessee, we expect our judges to respect the law, not disregard it. If Mr. Mathis thought he was above the law before, imagine how he'll conduct himself, if he's confirmed, as a federal judge.


COATES: Rap sheet? I mean, if you're like me, and you heard her say that, you might be thinking, what did this man do?

So, let me tell you about his - was the word "Rap sheet" she used? So, he apparently forgot to pay for three speeding tickets, over 10 years ago. And one, one, now brace yourself, one was for going five miles over the speed limit.

And, by the way, Mathis, the man you see here, he's from Tennessee, the State that Blackburn represents. And listen to how he had to respond.


ANDRE MATHIS, 6TH CIRCUIT JUDICIAL NOMINEE: I highly regret that I'm in this situation. I feel like I have embarrassed my family. And I truly regret that. While I deserve this, they don't.

I can assure the committee that I'm a law-abiding citizen. I've never been arrested. I've never been - been charged with a crime.


COATES: You shouldn't be embarrassed or regret. I mean, he's not the one, who should be embarrassed, about the way you handled this situation.

And I want to bring in now, the former NAACP President and CEO, Cornell William Brooks.

Because, I can imagine, Cornell, I can almost predict what your reaction was. I almost called you, to be like, "Did you see this just now?" What's your reaction to that? Unbelievable!

CORNELL WILLIAM BROOKS, PROFESSOR & DIRECTOR OF THE TROTTER COLLABORATIVE, HARVARD UNIVERSITY, FORMER NAACP PRESIDENT AND CEO: Unbelievable! It was extraordinarily painful, to watch, as an American, and as an African American, and certainly as a Black man.

Why? Because here we have, the first woman, elected to the United States Senate, from the State of Tennessee, humiliating, denigrating, demeaning, a Black man, who has the opportunity, to be the first Black man, to serve, on the U.S. Court of Appeals, for the 6th Circuit.

She refers to some - a less than a handful of speeding tickets as "A rap sheet." Now, you know, Laura. One out of every three American adults has a criminal record. That is to say, of record of arrest. 77 million people. This man--

COATES: And he's not one of them. He's not one of those people, though.

WILLIAM BROOKS: He's not one of them. That's exactly it. That is exactly it.

And so, we know that this notion, this invoking of "A rap sheet," invokes an ugly history, of criminalizing, and stereotyping, and degrading Black people.

So, in the context, of a judicial nomination hearing, he is surrounded by his family, and literally, he is humiliated, almost reduced to tears, in front of his children. This is - this is a conduct unbecoming of a United States senator, and surprising.

COATES: And you know? And you know?

WILLIAM BROOKS: Particularly coming from a woman.

COATES: You know, what, Cornell? I couldn't help but think, and the recent thoughts about how judicial nominees have been handled.

I thought to myself, "Gosh, I wonder how this same senator may have acted when somebody was accused of sexual misconduct, who was a nominee, for the Supreme Court?"

WILLIAM BROOKS: That's right.


COATES: Surely, a statement that she made, and the ideas of what we expect about, "Above the law," and these notions, about "Years-ago behavior" that are alleged--

WILLIAM BROOKS: That's right.

COATES: --I assumed she had the same one.

But instead, do we have the clip, of what she actually said, about, say, a Justice - now Justice Kavanaugh? Do we have that? Because I want to play it, if we do.

Let's play it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) BLACKBURN: We have spent enough time and money trashing a good man and his name. He is on the Supreme Court. Justice Kavanaugh is an honorable man. He is doing a - an honorable job, on the Supreme Court.


COATES: But Cornell, did he speed? Did he ever speed? I mean, because that would make him dishonorable, and somebody, who imagine should be on the court.

WILLIAM BROOKS: That's right.

COATES: That strikes me as quite a dichotomy, even though the allegations obviously are quite distinct.

WILLIAM BROOKS: It's a dichotomy. But it's also rank hypocrisy.

Justice Kavanaugh was my classmate, at Yale Law School. I expected him to be - and questioned fairly, in the same way I expected this judicial nominee, Attorney Mathis, to be questioned fairly.

But to suggest that he was somehow, a felon, somehow, a ne'er-do-well, essentially a thug, being nominated to the bench? Come on, let's be fair. I mean, let's be fair.

Millions of Americans have speeding tickets. This is not a disqualifying characteristic. It is not a fatal character flaw, particularly, Laura, for speeding tickets, 10 years ago!

And we've yet to talk about the fact that this Senator, had her own issues, with respect to speeding, on Constitution Avenue, in Washington, D.C.

COATES: Do you mean the one, when she allegedly flashed, her congressional pin, to get out of a speeding ticket? But let's not talk about that, Cornell, because I think that perhaps that would not be the point, she was trying to make.

And I got to tell you. I am an officer of the court as you are. And I understand and appreciate being able to abide by the principles of the law.

WILLIAM BROOKS: That's right.

COATES: But the intended humiliation, disturbed me, as a woman, as an attorney, as a prosecutor, and someone who's been before appellate courts. And I know, you know, the same as well.


COATES: Cornell William Brooks, thank you so much.

WILLIAM BROOKS: It's always good to be with you, Laura.

COATES: Look, I got to tell you. I mean, it gets you - it bothers me, I have to tell you. It bothers me, as a human, and as a Black woman, to see what transpired, in the role that a senator played in that.

But what also bothers me is what's happening in our hospitals, particularly amidst the Pandemic. We know that COVID vaccines are saving lives. But you see, hospitals are once again, at the breaking point.

And I've got an E.R. doctor, who has seen the worst of it. And he's here to share what the Omicron surge, is doing to hospitals, right now, and how this variant has the potential, to crush America's health system. Don't be confused, even if it's said to be milder!

We'll be right back.



COATES: Vaxxed and done, look, there's an increasing sentiment, there's vaxxed and done, among even vaccinated Americans that are getting sick with Omicron that they think it might not be so bad, if it means mild symptoms.

They've done their due diligence. They've gotten vaccinated. They have gotten boosted. They have socially-distanced. They wear the masks. And so, is it time to treat it like the flu, and move on? That can be the thought of some, who are vaxxed and done.

But health experts, like my next guest, are cautioning against that very mindset, of being vaxxed and done. And they're pointing to this, as the reason. Rising hospitalization rates, in nearly every single state, across this country.

You realize that about one in four U.S. hospitals are recording - or reporting what they're calling a critical staffing shortage. And that is in January of 2022? That's the highest level, since the Pandemic began, over two years ago.

I mean, here, just look, here is a snapshot, of what the impact has been. Look at Kansas, where we're pointing to right now. In Kansas, hospitals aren't just dealing with shortfalls in, say, staffing. They're also dealing with it, for ventilators, and monoclonal antibody shortages.

You've got regions, like in New York, and in Ohio, and they've had to postpone non-essential surgeries. And I remind people, what happened, early in the Pandemic, in Ohio, but was being classified, as non- essential, when it came to women.

And while Mississippi, now requires, transferring the critically-ill, to other hospitals, on a rotating basis, just to avoid overflow, I mean, a number of these States, this week alone, have even had to deploy more National Guard members, to try to help them, with the overwhelmed hospitals.

It is partly the reason that the CDC is now forecasting that average COVID deaths, and this is average COVID deaths per day, could jump to over 2,600, over the next four weeks alone. Do you realize that that's 62,000, 62,000 more deaths, by next month alone?

And it's exactly why the E.R. Doctor, Craig Spencer, wrote this, in an Op-Ed, in "The New York Times." He says, quote, "I Fear Health Care Collapse More Than Omicron."

Dr. Craig Spencer, is here with me now.

Thank you for joining me, Dr. Spencer.


COATES: It's unbelievable. I'm glad you're here. But I'll tell you, it is unbelievable to see those maps, and those figures, and think about, where we are right now, in January 2022. And you can imagine. There is fatigue, among the people, on this very issue.

But you want to caution people, don't let the fatigue, and wanting to be vaxxed and done, lull you into a false sense of comfort, right?

SPENCER: Absolutely. Look, what I think is really important, for people to understand, right now, is I know you're fatigued.

There is good news, in addition to that daunting news that you just shared. Look, this is not March 2020. We know that the likelihood of having severe illness, especially if you're vaccinated, is much lower.


We have other treatment options. We have other things that we can do, years of experience, in treating this disease. So, that 2,600 number of deaths is huge, but likely, just a year or two years ago, would have been much higher. We've learned a lot.

The problem is, is that, right now, we have hospitals, where there's not enough nurses, to take care of the patients, who are coming in, the COVID patients, and the non-COVID patients.

That's exactly why we need, to do everything, we can, to try to limit the number of people that are infected, not just those that are older, or unvaccinated, or maybe not boosted, but everyone.

Because each infection represents another potential, to infect more people. And we need to do whatever we can, to slow that spread, right now, to ease the pressure on our hospitals.

COATES: And so, what are you seeing, personally? I mean, you tweeted out, as personal anecdote, just today alone.

And you said, "Last night, I took care of COVID patients.

One was dehydrated and had renal failure from COVID.

Another had a stroke.

Others needed oxygen, including high-flow (unvaccinated). And one that had COVID but couldn't go home because our home health aide wouldn't come anymore."

I mean, how troubling, to hear, what's happening on the ground?

SPENCER: Right. This is, again, this is different than a year ago, or two years ago. And that, I would walk into the hospital then. And it felt like the apocalypse, with so many people, on the ventilator, so many people dying, every day.

Right now, we're still seeing sick people that need oxygen, the overwhelming majority of which are unvaccinated. But a lot of the patients that we're seeing right now have underlying chronic conditions that are being exacerbated, being made worse, by COVID. So, they may not look like classic COVID patient.

But, as I pointed out, someone who gets COVID, is dehydrated, and needs to stay in the hospital, or someone who gets COVID, and is too weak, and they can't go home, because they're a fall risk.

Now, those aren't, as bad, in one sense, as those kind of classic COVID patients, we were seeing before. But every single patient that needs to stay in the hospital, takes up a bed. And beds and staffing are what's - what in short supply, right now.

COATES: And, when you said, the idea of underlying health conditions, my mind went to the fact that although COVID-19 obviously has exacerbated so many things, it's not as if cancer went away, or breast exams needed to not be performed any longer, or colonoscopies didn't need to be done, or routine health screenings.

I mean, all these things also, in addition to the appendicitises, and every other condition, arm breaks, and the like, heart attacks, these are all still happening. And so, for every bed taken, that means the attention and resources can't go, to those people, in a timely fashion.

SPENCER: Correct. Not only are we pulling away those resources, from those patients, but we're putting them at greater risk.

My greatest fear, and the thing that I've been trying to do the most, in recent shifts, is to control exposure for those that are in the hospital, without COVID, to try to prevent them from getting it.

Patients that have cancer, on chemotherapy, who come in, because they're having side effects, and have done everything, they can, including getting vaccinated, multiple doses, but whose immune system doesn't respond, in the same way, and for whom an infection, would be a lot more severe.

And so, that's what I'm trying to do. Go around, make sure they have masks on, try to separate people.

But with so many people, coming in, at the same time, with COVID, for COVID, and for non-COVID reasons, whatever it is, it makes it a lot harder, to do that job, to keep the COVID patients safe, and the non- COVID patients, safe as well.

COATES: Dr. Craig Spencer, thank you for giving us the context, about the entire health system, as an ecosystem, not just one directive. I really appreciate it. Thank you.

SPENCER: Thank you, Laura.

COATES: And now, to a controversy that's surrounding the world's number one men's tennis player. You know him. Novak Djokovic.

He's in Australia, hoping to defend his title, at the Australian Open. But the threat of deportation, it's still looming, after some admissions that he made some mistakes, on his immigration forms, and didn't isolate, after recently testing positive, for COVID.

We'll take it all, along with Bob Costas, next.



COATES: So look, we're awaiting a decision from, Australia's Immigration Minister, on whether tennis star, Novak Djokovic, will be allowed, to stay in the country, and play, in the Australian Open, after his COVID vaccination status controversy.

Now remember that he admitted today that he did not immediately self- isolate, after testing positive, for COVID-19, back in December. In fact, he spent more than a half hour, with French journalists.

He writes, "I felt obliged to go ahead and conduct the interview as I didn't want to let the journalist down. I socially distanced and wore a mask except when my photograph was being taken." Now, "On reflection, this was an error of judgment."

So, what exactly could all of this mean, for his reputation, and whether he ultimately will be able to play, in Australia? Let's bring in the incomparable Bob Costas, right now, to discuss.

Bob, I would love to hear your take, on this idea, of mistakes, and blaming it on agents, and lapses in judgment.


COATES: What's your take?

COSTAS: And in addition to the episode with L'Equipe, the French sports journal, there's the fact that there was, what he calls a simple clerical error.

Others might view it as a conscious lie, of contending, whoever filled out the form, on his form, to enter Australia that he had not traveled to other nations, when there was clear evidence that he had, in the days preceding.

And it's all part of a pattern, of contempt, for common sense, when it comes to the medical issues, and also contempt, for the common good.

And, in sports, and I guess, in parts of entertainment, or whatever, if you're great enough, and if you're important enough, to the bottom line, because your star value, means, people in the seats, and eyeballs on television? There are people, who will excuse that, or try and work around it, including the Australian Tennis Committee, which at first said, "Sure, he's welcome." Then they got pushback, from the Border authorities, in Australia.

Now, he has won, as you indicated, at least a preliminary judgment, but it's not at all certain that he'll be on the court, when the Australian Open begins, on Monday.


And I might note that all four of the tennis majors are in different countries. They're in France. They're in England. They're in Australia. And the U.S. Open is obviously here, in the United States. So, you're running up against different local, and national regulations.

Now, Djokovic plays an individual sport. So, in the end, he may be only undoing himself, in this circumstance.

But leave aside the medical issues, and the ignoring of the overwhelming consensus, of credible medical authorities, from those who remain anti-vax. In team sports, they are not good team players. And that's part of the ethos forever of sports. "Are you a good teammate?"

COATES: Well that's the thing. Well that's the thing, Bob.

COSTAS: Not "Are you good at the sport?"

COATES: Well that's the thing, about it.

COSTAS: "Are you a good teammate?"

COATES: Well, for what - well, look, I know I'm not a tennis player. And I don't pretend to be. I know, he's individual tennis player.

But when we're talking about a pandemic, we're all supposed to be on this team. And so what you do, even as an individual player, as long as there's oxygen--


COATES: --in that court, it's still the same thing.

And I want to get to the point you raised. And I want to thank you, first of all, for pronouncing the name of that French newspaper, L'Equipe, because I don't speak French, nor do I pretend to.

But I'm going to tell you something. I also don't appreciate the idea of this notion of elitism, being able to give you carte blanche, to do what you want. I mean, I understand and appreciate athletics, athleticism. But I don't understand the reason, which we continue to allow people, to get a pass.

The rules that apply to everyone else don't apply if you're able to be an elite athlete? We've seen it in baseball. We've seen it in football. We've seen it in basketball. We're seeing it in tennis. Why don't the rules apply to those who live and die by the lines of the court?

COSTAS: I want to refer our viewers here, Laura, to a brilliant piece, by one of the best sports journalists, of my lifetime, full disclosure, longtime friend and colleague, Howard Bryant, on the ESPN website.

He writes about this very syndrome, in greater depth and nuance, than we can manage, in the limited time here. But Howard Bryant's piece, which just dropped today, is a must-read, for anybody, who's interested, in the full texture, of this. And his essential point is the point that you're making here.

Look, Aaron Rodgers is one of the greatest players of all time. He's the best and most valuable player, in the National Football League.

No Green Bay Packer, given the fact that almost all of them are vaccinated, and they're young and healthy, thinks that ducking into a huddle, with Aaron Rodgers, puts their individual health in jeopardy.

But should the Packers, who have a good path, to the Super Bowl, get as far as the Super Bowl?

There are different protocols, for unvaccinated and vaccinated players, still. He had a 90-day exemption, after he tested positive, in early November. That exemption, as it happens, runs out two days, after the Conference Championship Games.

If Aaron Rodgers should make it to the Super Bowl, and if let's say on the Wednesday, before the game, he tests positive, completely asymptomatic, he can't play in the Super Bowl. Is that what an unselfish good teammate does?

He's a great, great player. And, for whatever it's worth, in my dealings with him, which go back a few years, because I haven't covered football, in a while? But I liked him. I found him interesting. I have no axe to grind. But this is not - this is not the behavior, of a first-rate teammate, in my view.

COATES: Well, let me tell you, I am not pulling for the Green Bay Packers.

COSTAS: Leaving the medical issues aside.

COATES: I'm not pulling for Green - I mean, I'm from Minnesota. So "Go Vikings! Skol!" I don't want to see the Packers in.

This issue, you're talking about, is a very different one. And I appreciate it.

So, I just can't get there with you, and the cheeseheads. But, I'll tell you, it poses a very interesting question, about that very notion, of what it's going to look like, and team players, in a collective pandemic.

Bob Costas, thank you for your insight, as always. Great to talk to you.

COSTAS: Thank you, Laura. Very quickly, I hate to break this to you, the Vikings are out of the playoffs, and they just fired their coach. I'm sorry, Laura.

COATES: I'm sorry. We have a - we have a bad connection, all of a sudden, Bob Costas. I just can't seem to hear you any longer. I don't know what happened. Oops, sorry about that!

Listen, Donald Trump, he may have gotten vaccinated in secret. But he's now, well, he's loud about the merits of vaccinations. And look, he's throwing shade, kind of like I did to the Packers. No offense, Wisconsin!

He's throwing shade at other politicians, about them being cagey, about their vax status. That U-turn, along with some notable others, in my case, next.



COATES: 180 days ago, today, the U.S. Surgeon General, called COVID misinformation, a serious threat, to public health.

Now, today, one of the biggest pushers of misinformation, is pulling a 180, when it comes to one of his biggest allies, Governor Ron DeSantis.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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're "Oh, oh," they were answering it like, in other words, the answer is, "Yes," but they don't want to say it. Because they're gutless. You got to say it. Whether you had it or not, say it.


COATES: Well, that's rich! A man! What a change!

But it's not just the man responsible, for Operation Warp Speed, doing a kind of 180, worthy of calling out. After all, we've known, about his vaccination status, for quite some time.

For me, it's the 180s, from some Republican members of Congress, on January 6. It's the 180s, on which elections, on the same ballot, I might add, are somehow fraudulent, and which should actually count. The 180s, on bipartisanship. The 180s, on the need to fortify voting rights, on Supreme Court precedent, on honoring congressional subpoenas. The 180s, on the legitimacy of the oversight functions, of our Congress, and even, by its own members, even though Republicans had no problem pushing numerous investigations, into Benghazi.


But it's more than convenient reversals that bother me. It's that some feel like they are pulling one over on you. The thought that you're not only gullible, but have the short-term memory of Ted Lasso's goldfish. They're hoping that you will buy into their rewrite, rather than holding them accountable.

And I got to tell you, I find myself watching press conferences, these days, and these interviews, like Kathy Bates, in her role as Annie Wilkes, in "Misery," complaining how everyone conveniently forgot, what really happened, before the cliffhanger, as they settle into their seats, for the next installment, of the story.


ANNIE WILKES, FICTIONAL CHARACTER PLAYED BY KATHY BATES, "MISERY": This isn't what happened last week! Have you all got amnesia? They just cheated us! This isn't fair! He didn't get out of the cockadoodie car!


COATES: Now look, people should have the opportunity, to evolve, and change their minds, about something.

But pretending like they were never wrong? It's just not right. And mistaking, or even playing voters for fools? That's as denigrating to our democracy, as any other lie, big or small.

I'll chat with Don Lemon, next.