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The Situation Room

President Biden Meeting With 10 Republican Senators On Pandemic Relief Plan; House Democrats To Accuse Trump Of Intentionally Inciting His Supporters; Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-IL) Is Interviewed On The State Of The Republican Party; Deadliest Month Yet: 95,000-Plus U.S. COVID Deaths In January; Dr. Fauci On Risk Of Reinfection By New COVID Variants; At Least 21 Charged In Riot Are Current Or Former Members Of The U.S. Military. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired February 01, 2021 - 17:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. We're following breaking news.

Ten Republican senators are sitting down with President Biden this hour over at the White House to talk about a COVID relief package.


The president is seeing $1.9 trillion while the senators have offered only about a third of that. We expect to hear from those lawmakers when the meeting ends. Meanwhile, this is very disturbing, the U.S. coronavirus death toll has now topped 442,000 people as the country faces more than 26.2 million confirmed cases.

And January is now officially the deadliest month of the pandemic here in the United States. We'll talk about all of the late-breaking developments, the pandemic news in a few moments with President Biden's top medical adviser, Dr. Anthony Fauci. He will join us live right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

And there is more breaking news we're following. Sources are telling CNN House impeachment managers plan to accuse former President Trump of intentionally inciting rioters with his months' long effort to try to subvert the will of the American voters.

First, let's get to the White House right away. Our chief White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins is joining us right now. Kaitlan, there's a huge gap between what the president is seeking for emergency COVID relief and what these group of 10 Republican senators are now offering.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Yes, Wolf, it's a very wide gap. And so the White House is downplaying expectations for what's going to come out of this meeting with these 10 Republicans happening right now inside the Oval Office where reporters are about to go and cameras are about to be there to capture it all.

But the White House is saying don't expect them to walk out of that room with some kind of bipartisan deal that they've struck because basically it's a really wide gap between what these Republicans have put forward, this $600 billion proposal and what President Biden has put forward which, of course, is $1.9 trillion.

And the devil is in the details with those of what Republicans are looking at and what Democrats are saying they're going to push ahead with. But listen to what the White House press secretary said just a few hours ago when she was asked about what we should expect to happen during this Oval Office sit-down.


JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: What this meeting is not is a forum for the president to make or accept an offer. Clearly, he thinks the package size needs to be closer to what he proposed than smaller.


COLLINS (on camera): Now, wolf, Jerry Moran is one of those Republican senators who is part of this group that is being led by Susan Collins of Maine. They're in this meeting with President Biden right now. He did an interview from the White House earlier on Fox News where he was saying that what he's going to do is encourage Biden to go smaller, less expensive and a more targeted bill.

And he encouraged Democrats to not to use that process known as reconciliation where they could basically go in alone without any Republican support, though we know Democrats are already moving in that direction on Capitol Hill.

So, what the outcome of this is going to be remains to be seen. But we should note we do expect to hear from those Republicans outside the West Wing once that meeting is over, Wolf.

BLITZER: Of course, we'll stand by for live coverage of that. Kaitlan, we also know that Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia -- he's a key Democrat, a moderate Democrat -- he was clearly frustrate by an interview that Vice President Kamala Harris did last week, an interview she did for a local T.V. station in West Virginia. So how is the White House handling that?

COLLINS: Well, they said that they've reached out to him. It's not clear who in the White House has actually reached out to Senator Joe Manchin, but what he's unhappy about is that he said he did not get a heads up that the vice president was going to be doing local news in his state. And if you watch her interviews that she did, which was we were told by the White House, it targeted specifically to West Virginia and Arizona.

She talks about the need to pass this proposal that they are working on. And what Manchin said he was so frustrated by was not just that he wasn't told beforehand that it was going to happen, but he saw it as an attempt to get him to sign on to this bill, to pressure him to support this bill.

And he says that he has been working behind the scenes trying to get Republicans to get on board with the president's support, talking about where they could find some middle ground. So he said he was frustrated by that.

And of course, it's not just on this proposal, given we do not think Manchin is someone who would vote no on the next coronavirus relief bill, but Wolf, Democrats have a very slim majority in the Senate so they can't afford to lose anyone, certainly not the most moderate Democrat in the Senate, and that's what Joe Manchin represents.

I think the White House is aware of that and so they talked about how key he could be to President Biden's agenda earlier today during that briefing.

BLITZER: Yes. They can't afford to lose even one Democrat -- 50 Republicans, 50 Democrats. If they lose one, they lose. So clearly, they need Joe Manchin. They need Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona as well. And that's why presumably the vice president was giving those interviews to local stations in Arizona and West Virginia. It was a little awkward to put it mildly. All right. We'll get back to you.

I want to go to Capitol Hill right now. Our chief congressional correspondent Manu Raju is joining us right now. Manu, you're getting some new information, important information from your sources about next week's scheduled impeachment trial against the former president.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (on camera): Yes. We're going to see the arguments actually begin to come out starting tomorrow when Democrats and the former president's defense team offer their first filings in this trial. The arguments happening next week.


Democrats are going to make the case that Trump intentionally tried to subvert the will of voters, riled up his supporters that led to the deadly capitol riot on January 6th. The former president shaking up his legal team, adding two attorneys to his case but over -- there's a dispute over whether they would focus on Trump's lie that the election was stolen.

And I just asked a top Republican senator what he would do if the former president's team focused on that lie, that conspiracy that the election was stolen. He said it would be a great disservice to the former president.


RAJU (voice-over): Tonight, House Democrats are preparing a case extensively detailing former president Donald Trump's actions ahead of last month's capitol riot. Sources tell CNN that Democrats plan to argue in their first filings on Tuesday that Trump engaged in an intentional campaign to discredit the election, subvert the will of voters, and rile up his supporter. All culminating this January 6th remarks to his rally goers, who later ransacked the capitol in a scene of horrific and deadly violence.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Now it is up to Congress to confront this egregious assault on our democracy and after this, we're going to walk down, and I'll be there with you, we're going to walk down -- we're going to walk down -- any one you want, but I think right here, we're going to walk down to the capitol.

RAJU (voice-over): After five of his attorneys abruptly stepped down on Saturday in part because Trump wanted them to focus on his lies about the election being stolen, Trump announced two new lawyers, well known in legal circles and linked to controversial cases.

David Schoen represented Trump's close friend, Roger Stone, who was convicted on seven felony charges last year before Trump commuted his sentence.

And as a district attorney, Castor declined to prosecute Bill Cosby in 2005, arguing the evidence wasn't strong enough.

Despite his legal problems, Trump remains a potent political force within the GOP, raking in more than $30 million in the final weeks of 2020. And he continues to have major influence with House Republicans.

REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE (R-GA): President Trump has --

RAJU (voice-over): Offering a show of support for controversial congresswoman, Marjorie Taylor Greene, a freshman under fire for previously espousing conspiracy theories like this one.

GREENE: -- and the so-called plane that crashed into the Pentagon. There's never any evidence shown for a plane in the Pentagon.

RAHU (voice-over): Greene tweeted on Saturday that she had a great call with Trump, thanking him for his support. But in Washington, her 2018 comments claiming that a massacre at Parkland Florida high school was staged could force her off the House Education Committee.

A source tells CNN that House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer is giving an ultimatum to House GOP leader Kevin McCarthy, saying if Greene is not stripped from her committee assignments within 72 hours, the House will vote to do just that. Today, Greene tried to walk back her past views.

GREENE: These are not red flag incidents. They are not fake. And it's terrible, the loss that these families go through and their friends as well, and it should never happen.

RAJU (voice-over): Some Republicans also alarmed by her rhetoric before she won her house seat.

REP. NANCY MACE (R-SC): Well, I'm going to tell you right now, I'm not going to defend crazy.

RAJU (voice-over): All this as the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump facing a backlash from the right. South Carolina's Tom Rice censured this weekend by his state party. And the number three Republican, Liz Cheney, expected to be at the center of a storm, preparing to defend her vote to impeach Trump when House Republicans meet behind closed doors on Wednesday. (END VIDEOTAPE)

RAJU (on camera): Also on Wednesday, Wolf, the House Rules Committee will begin consideration of a resolution that would strip Marjorie Taylor Greene of her two committee assignments on the House Education Committee as well as the House Budget Committee if house GOP leader Kevin McCarthy does not take action himself.

Steny Hoyer, the top -- the number two Democrat in the House has told him he has 72 hours to act. McCarthy has not said what he would do, but a spokesman tells me tonight, Wolf, that he plans to have a one- on-one conversation with Greene when they return to Washington and they'll see how that conversation goes.

BLITZER: And so Manu, they don't want her on any committee, is that right, the Democrats?

RAJU: That's right and the House majority could take action, try to strip her from those positions. And Wolf, the questions will be what kind of precedent also could that set for future majorities going after other members of congress, Wolf?

BLITZER: We'll see what happens. All right, Manu, thanks very much. Let's get some more on all of this. Joining us, our chief political analyst, Gloria Borger, and CNN chief national correspondent, John King. John, as we speak, Republican senators, they are getting ready to meet in the Oval Office with the president.

The current GOP proposal, as you know, is about third of the size of the package that the president is proposing. Do you think it's a serious opening round in this negotiation? Is this meeting more about optics? What's going on?


JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's not a serious offer and the White House made that quite clear today. Jen Psaki at her briefing saying the president is willing to listen, he's willing to make his package stronger, he's willing to move some, but he is nowhere -- not going to move anywhere near where they are, Wolf. He's at $1.9 trillion and he wants to stay pretty close to that.

We look at this through the prism often of Joe Biden saying I want to be bipartisan. Joe Biden promising to try the unity approach and I think the Republican senators are trying to see if he will blink and move their way.

But I think the better way to look at this is actually Joe Biden won the election saying he was going to go big on COVID relief if he won. He won the election by more than 7 million votes and he won the election convincingly in the Electoral College.

And just as importantly, maybe even more importantly, the Democrats won those two Georgia Senate seats after the presidential election when the Republicans were saying keep us in power in the Senate because we don't want Joe Biden to go big, that both candidates, the Democrats, said we need a big COVID relief package. We need checks to individuals.

So the Democrats think they have momentum and the voters on their side. The Republicans are trying to get Joe Biden to blink out of the box. I wouldn't bet on it.

BLITZER: Yes. Good point. You know, Gloria, voters say they do want bipartisanship but many of them are also very desperate for good reason, for immediate economic relief right now. What will it stay if Biden's first big piece of legislation is passed strictly along party lines with no Republicans on board?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think the White House will probably be disappointed about that, but perhaps they won't be completely surprised. What the White House is talking about right now is that bipartisanship is out there in the country, that there is unity in the country about the need for serious COVID relief.

And if you look at recent pollings, seven out of 10 voters say that a package is necessary. And what the new president is saying to Republicans is, look, we have unity in the country. The country is with me. And at the White House, I talked to a senior White House adviser today who said to me, look, the country gets what we need to do and they're not worried about 50 Republicans in the Senate.

They're not worried about whether you pass it with 51 votes on a budget bill or 60 votes. They just want to get it done and that's the way Biden feels.

BLITZER: You know, John, Democrats are also trying to shore up support within their own party. How crucial will it be for Democrats to keep the party united given the very fragile majority, 50/50, that they have in the Senate?

KING: That is the defining challenge of the Biden presidency, at least the first few years, until we get to the 2022 mid-terms, Wolf, because Nancy Pelosi has four votes to give in the House. That's how small her margin is. Democrats have no votes to give in the Senate unless they're winning over Republicans and they simply can't count on that.

So, the Democratic unity, again, we focus a lot and it's important to focus. The Republicans made an offer. They're coming to the White House tonight. Joe Biden repeatedly said, now President Biden in the campaign, I want to be bipartisan. So it's important to explore this.

But the math is the math and the math is, we know from recent years, the Republicans are not in a mood to cooperate on these issues that Joe Biden is putting forward, the Biden administration is putting forward.

So, Nancy Pelosi has to keep discipline in the House. Chuck Schumer has to keep it in the Senate and they're going to need President Biden's help constantly. They're going to have to tend to the Democratic garden constantly.

BORGER: And let me -- let me add to that, that there is going to be some kind of compromise. I think that the administration didn't go into this proposing a package that they thought wasn't going to get changed. For example, something different could happen on the minimum wage. Maybe it would be taken out of this package. Maybe they're going to be targeting stimulus checks to people who they believe might really need it, as the Republicans have proposed.

I mean, there are some changes that are going to be made to this bill. It's just not going to be everything the Republicans want because the Democrats want to go big.

BLITZER: As you know, John, Republicans are also facing some major party divides of their own. How much of that is going to be on full display later this week, Wednesday, when the House Republican conference actually meets?

KING: I think, look, the Republican "Family Feud" is another one of the fascinating dynamics before us. There is more anger at Liz Cheney, of course, her father was the vice president, a storied family in the state of Wyoming. Trusted conservatives for a generation and more in Republican politics.

There is more anger among House Republicans at Liz Cheney because she voted to impeach. She says that was a vote of conscience and she believes it was the principle vote to impeach the president. More anger at her among House Republicans than at Marjorie Taylor Greene, who has said reprehensible, anti-Semitic things, racist things, conspiracy theories, horrific things about these school shootings.

It is stunning to think that many Republicans are more agitated and animated at Liz Cheney than Marjorie Taylor Greene, which tells you everything you need to know about the dysfunction in today's Republican Party, especially among the House Republicans.

BLITZER: You know, and Gloria, how much of this disarray that we're seeing within the Republican Party right now is simply due to the fact that its center for four years, we're talking about the former President Trump, is no longer in office, has left a huge potential power vacuum?

BORGER: Yes. Look, they're all trying to figure out how powerful the king will be once he's out of office.


Will he still be the king maker? And we saw that Marjorie Taylor Greene posted a tweet saying that she had a great conversation with the president. We know that the president is anxious to throw Liz Cheney out of leadership, if not out of Congress, and that he's wrapped his arms around this conspiracy theorist.

So, I think, you know, what Donald Trump is doing is digging the trench inside the Republican Party even deeper and deeper and deeper. And quite frankly, there are Republicans who are afraid to stand up and say enough because they don't want to be primaried on the right. They don't want Donald Trump, who we know is vindictive and has money in the bank to go against them. So, he is the one still from Mar-a- Lago, who has decided that he's going to divide the party. BLITZER: I want both of you to stay with us because we're following

the breaking news over at the White House. We're standing by to hear from Republican senators who are meeting with President Biden right now and offering (ph) to try to bridge a huge gap and propose emergency COVID stimulus funds.

And with the GOP in disarray in the wake of the tumultuous Trump presidency, one lawmaker is trying to reclaim the party. There he is, Congressman Adam Kinzinger. He's standing by live. We've got lots to discuss.

And later this hour, we'll be talking live with Dr. Anthony Fauci in the wake of the deadliest month yet in the coronavirus pandemic.



BLITZER: For this hour's breaking news, President Biden right now is meeting with 10 Senate Republicans to discuss their counter proposal to his $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief plan. We're told the meeting just got under way over at the White House. It's starting off what's sure to be a tumultuous month for Capitol Hill.

Let's discuss all of this and more. The Illinois Republican congressman, Adam Kinzinger is joining us right now. He is one of 10 Republicans who actually vote to impeach then President Trump. Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.

Let's talk about your party, the Republican Party. It seems to be in disarray right now. The fractures will certainly be on full display during the Republican conference meeting in the House later this week. What do you hope? What do you fear? What might come out of this meeting?

REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): I do think the meeting will be kind of a big delineation of where the party goes from here. January 6th, obviously, was a terrible day. It seemed that the party was waking up to, you know, embracing conspiracy theories and darkness and lies and, you know, the falsity of a stolen election would lead to.

And I worry the last few weeks we've started to see it kind of trend back to Donald Trump and trend back to this idea that we need to embrace those things again because winning at all costs is what matters and I think we need to stand up to that and say there is reality of truth.

Liz Cheney for instance, you know, voted her conscience. She's a very conservative member. Voted her conscience. Are we going to be the new, kind of right-wing GOP cancel culture that cancels somebody that doesn't agree with somebody else? And so this will be a big moment, I think, in this party.

BLITZER: As one of the 10 Republicans who voted, in your particular case, your conscience to impeach the former president, are you concerned you might face consequences from your Republican Party for your vote?

KINZINGER: Well, not really concerned. I mean, I think, you know, the party, if there's consequences to me just like with Liz, will be really making a bad decision if they decide to do that especially when you have people that run around that espouse to conspiracy theories.

But the bottom line I think, you know, as much as we want to talk about unity within the party, I think we've gotten to the point where it's going to be very important to bring these differences out and have this discussion about where did the party come from? How did we get to where we are now and what do we aspire to in the future?

And, yes, it's going to mean airing some of the dirty laundry. But look, I think a lot of the people have seen a lot of what the dirty laundry has led to and that's a terrible insurrection on January 6th.

BLITZER (on camera): We understand they just let the White House press pool into that meeting that President Biden is having with these 10 Republican senators. We're about to get the tape. I want to play this tape for you and for our viewers, congressman. We're going to be getting it momentarily now. And then I want to get your reaction.

This is an important meeting because they're trying to see if there is an opportunity for some cooperation between Democrats and Republicans in the Senate to pass this emergency legislation. Watch this.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: Once again, thanks for coming down. Thank you for coming down.

No, no, I'm anxious to -- I'm anxious to talk (inaudible). Looking back in the Senate which I like to pass (inaudible) I did.

UNKNOWN: Hey, guys.

BIDEN: All right. Thank you, folks. Appreciate it.

UNKNOWN: It's okay. Come on. Let's go.

UNKNOWN: Mr. President, what do you want to see moving in on this COVID relief package?


BLITZER (on camera): Well, that's it. We heard a few reporters trying to get a question in. Maybe later they'll get some questions, but you saw the president and the vice president. You saw Senator Romney, Senator Susan Collins. You saw other Republican senators. What do you think, Congressman Kinzinger? You think the -- you're in the House, they're in the Senate, but do you think there is room for bipartisan cooperation in passing this emergency COVID legislation?

KINZINGER: Yes, I do think there is room. You know, I'm not sure if either side is going to get exactly what they want. I think really, obviously, the chips are in the Democrats' hands. If they want to bring Republicans on board I think it would send a good message, but ultimately we have to do something.

We have to move forward and get this pandemic as much under control as we can, agree to basic things. I think we need to understand that if we don't come to a bipartisan solution it doesn't mean that's the end of our ability to work together.

One of the problems I think we've made is we've said that if you're on the opposition party, you have to fight at all costs and I think there's value in being loyal opposition sometimes, loyal to the country first.


BLITZER (on camera): You're pushing for a reset of your own party, the Republican Party, with a new initiative that you're calling country first. I want you and our viewers to listen to part of the message, the video message you released over the weekend.


KINZINGER: Republicans must say enough is enough. It's time to unplug the outrage machine, reject the politics of personality and cast aside the conspiracy theories and the rage.


BLITZER (on camera): How do you suggest the Republican Party goes about rejecting the politics of personality, the politics of conspiracy theorists?

KINZINGER: Well, the first thing I would say is, you know, go to, with a one, watch the whole video. And because the benefit of it is reminding Republicans and those that share our values that, you know, where we came from, the great things we've achieved, whether it's freeing the slaves, defeating communism, fighting for women's suffrage.

And then look at where we're at, at the moment, you know, an insurrection on January 6th. And we can either accept that that's also the future trajectory of this party, or we can remember where we came from and have a vision of optimism into the future.

And that's what I want to do, remind people of that and show folks -- so many have texted me to say I'm not a Democrat, but I don't belong in this party anymore. To give them a place to go to say, don't just leave. How about we fight to restore the integrity and the value of the Republican Party and tell people the truth and be honest about our failings in the last few years and how to overcome those.

BLITZER: Before I let you go, very quickly, should Republican congresswoman, Marjorie Taylor Greene, be removed from these two committees, education and labor as well as the budget committees?

KINZINGER: Yes, absolutely. Certainly. And we should do that. And I think if the Republicans don't, it appears that the House will.

BLITZER: Thank you very much Congressman Adam Kinzinger of Illinois. Thanks as usual for joining us.


BLITZER: Stay with us. In a minute, Dr. Anthony Fauci will be here. There you see him. He's going to be answering your questions about the coronavirus vaccine, the availability, what's going on with the new Johnson & Johnson, a one-shot vaccine and a whole lot more. We've got the questions, he's got the answers when he we come back.



BLITZER: We're following the worsening coronavirus pandemic right now, the U.S. coronavirus death toll is now top 442,000 people and there are more than 26.2 million confirmed cases here in the U.S. Joining us now, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and the top COVID advisor, the top medical adviser to President Biden right now. Dr. Fauci, thank you so much for joining us.

We checked January was the deadliest month of this pandemic now nearly 100,000 deaths. One expert compares the coming surgeon new variants to a Category 5 hurricane. If you look at the monthly deaths, there was one in February of last year, then I went up to 5,000 in March, 60,000 in April, then it went down for a few months 26,000, 29,000, 23,000. But then in November 37,000, in December 77,000, last month 95,000. After all we've been through, Dr. Fauci, is the worst still yet to come?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY & INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Well, I hope not, Wolf, but it is conceivable that things could get a little worse. What we're starting to see which is a good sign is that we're starting to see a plateauing of the numbers of cases which will always be followed by a diminution and a plateauing and then, ultimately, a diminution of hospitalizations as well as deaths. But, still, even if it plateaus and starts to come down, we're still at a very high, disturbing level. But hopefully, we'll continue to see a downtrend.

So, if we continue to abide by and use and implement the public health measures together with an increasing number of people who get vaccinated, I hope we can get a trend that will continue to come down lower and lower. So there is light at the end of the tunnel, but it's going to be up to us, Wolf, to step up to the plate and make sure we implement universally those public health measures that the President himself and the Vice President herself has spoken about so cogently. It's up to us to do that.

BLITZER: And one of the most important, if not the most important, simply wear a mask that is so, so critical. We got a ton of questions for you, Dr. Fauci. Here's one, an important one, if you've already had COVID, how worried should you be about getting reinfected with one of these new so called variants?

FAUCI: Well, the variants, for example, particularly the South African variants is obviously here. We know that there have been a couple of cases in South Carolina and one in Maryland, it is certainly not the dominant strain. But if it becomes dominant, the experience of our colleagues in South Africa indicate that even if you've been infected with the original virus, that there is a very high rate of reinfection to the point where previous infection does not seem to protect you against reinfection at least with the South African variant.

That's the one that we know the most about when it comes to reinfection. Again, that gets to the point that we've said over and over again, Wolf, and I really want to emphasize it again, vaccination is very important. We need to get as many people vaccinated as quickly as we possibly can. And when vaccine becomes available to individuals, please take the vaccine.


Even though there is a diminished protection against the variance, there's enough protection to prevent you from getting serious disease, including hospitalization and deaths. So vaccination is critical. When it's available, get vaccinated.

BLITZER: Yes, absolutely essential. Johnson & Johnson, as you know better than anyone is very close to requesting Emergency Use Authorization for its COVID vaccine. But that vaccine isn't as effective, we're told, as the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines. What do you say to Americans who are at higher risk who want the more effective vaccine?

FAUCI: Right. That's an understandable concern, Wolf, and I think it's going to be a messaging challenge. Because if you say, well, one is 72 percent effective against all disease, and the other one is 94 percent to 95 percent, I think you have to point out, the fact that what the J&J has shown to be in the study that just came out, is that it is quite effective in preventing severe disease including hospitalizations and deaths. So it's a single dose vaccine.

And if you want to not get seriously ill, or die, that is a good vaccine and it's value-added. So, you don't want to get hung up on the differences of the numbers of the total efficacy in it if you're focusing on not wanting to get seriously ill, and getting to the hospital. This is a vaccine, as I mentioned, that's value-added to the entire effort of multiple vaccine candidates that are available now and will soon get more vaccine candidates available to the American public.

As we know, there's good data that we're seeing already from other vaccine candidates will be tested in other countries, like the Novavax had some very nice results in a study that was done in the U.K. and in South Africa. And we have that study ongoing in our own country right now. So there's going to be more vaccines available.

BLITZER: We're getting a variant of this question from a lot of viewers out there, Dr. Fauci. Once the Johnson & Johnson vaccine gets Emergency Use Authorization, we expect that to be very soon, should people -- older people at higher risk, let's say, get priority for the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine and people who are younger, at less risk get the J&J?

FAUCI: Well, we don't know yet, Wolf. That's an excellent question. And you're quite correct that people are asking that and the answer will come. We know that, as you said, the FDA is evaluating the data from the J&J in their Emergency Use Authorization application. When all that data becomes available and is scrutinized in great detail, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which advises the CDC about these things, will come out with a recommendation.

So I don't believe that I have enough information right now, Wolf, to answer your question with any great degree of confidence. But we will know reasonably soon when the data become public and available. And the ACIP weighs in on that.

BLITZER: We're going to take a break and continue our questioning. But very quickly, what if you got two shots of the Johnson & Johnson, does it become more effective as a result of that?

FAUCI: We don't know that but it is likely that it will be. And, in fact, J&J is already into a study, looking at what the effect of a single followed by a boost. So we're going to know that information within a period of time. But you can imagine that if one dose gives you a certain amount that a boost will certainly make that better.

BLITZER: Yes, that's encouraging to hear that. All right, stay with us, Dr. Fauci. I know you have a lot going on, but we have a bunch more questions that are critically important. We'll take a quick break, resume the conversation when we come.



BLITZER: We're back with Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the top COVID adviser to President Biden. You know, Dr. Fauci, there are a lot of frustrated Americans, as you well know, who are out there who are in fact eligible to get a vaccine, but they can't seem to navigate the complicated systems to make an appointment, or they're having appointments canceled when they show up. They just can't get a vaccine. What advice do you have for those folks?

FAUCI: Well, I mean, obviously, we are aware of those problems that are existing. And as you know, President Biden has made this he's really top priority to try and smooth all that out with any of a number of mechanisms, be it making sure as we get vaccines in, we can get community vaccine centers, get them better allocated to the pharmacies, and even in some respects, getting mobile units to go out into poorly accessible areas.

So we're aware that there are problems out there, but as the President has said, the issue that we're going to do is not complained about them but try and fix them. So we admit that there are there but we will try to make them straightened out.

BLITZER: I think you agree with me, Dr. Fauci, mobilizing FEMA, mobilizing the U.S. military to get out there and help with these vaccines that's critically important. I'm surprised that it really hasn't happened to a huge degree yet.

FAUCI: No, it's on the way -- that will happen, Wolf. That's part of the strategic plan that the President came out with last week. All of the things you're talking about, either all mobilized, will be mobilized, literally imminently to make sure that we get over these logistic problems that we have right now. But, again, there's just been a few days into this you're going to see it's going to get better very quickly.


BLITZER: All right. Well, that's encouraging. Today, there was some good news also that you guys announced at your briefing earlier in the day, the Biden administration, saying that more funding for at home COVID tests now is available that Ellume has a new test, that's $30 a test, you can buy it over the counter at the drugstore. Not yet, but at some point, tell us about this, because this potentially is very significant, even though $30 for some folks, if you need to take a test once or twice a week that adds up.

FAUCI: Yes. You know, Wolf, this is something that you and I spoke about on your show some time ago when I said what we really need is a sensitive, specific point of care, inexpensive test that you can get in a pharmacy without a prescription and you could just do it yourself. What you heard Andy Slavitt mentioned is that we're going to put some resources, a considerable amount in it to get this revved up at scale, so that we can get many, many more. When that happens, unquestionably, the price will go down.

But the reason why that's important, if you put it in the hands of the people to be able to know quickly, efficiently and accurately, if they, or members of their family are infected, you can make some important decisions about what you can or cannot do, what would want to do on any given day, including things like having your family over for dinner, or doing something with regard with your children, things that we're all concerned about because we want to keep everyone safe. The more you have availability of testing that you can do yourself, the better you'll be able to navigate through this difficulty that we're in right now.


FAUCI: So that's really a big plus.

BLITZER: We were told today there are about 95 percent effective, 15 minutes it takes to do the tests. Now when do you think I'll be able to go to my local drugstore, Dr. Fauci, and get these at home tests?

FAUCI: No, I hope very soon. I can't give you an exact date, Wolf, but I hope it's going to be within a matter of weeks to a month or so.

BLITZER: Well, that's encouraging to hear that.

FAUCI: But I don't know for sure. BLITZER: Yes, that's really going to be important, 15 minutes. And you know if you have it, if you don't have it, really, really important, and you can do it at home. Your colleague, Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith said the administration right now doesn't have enough data on race and ethnicity for nearly half of the country's vaccinations. How do you make sure that the most vulnerable people out there are getting vaccinated without that kind of information?

FAUCI: Well, that's exactly what Dr. Nunez-Smith said, that's exactly what we're going to change. Because when you don't have data, you really don't know where you are in a process. And if you -- you know, the second part of (INAUDIBLE) was, a, we don't have enough data but, b, we're on it. We're going to do something about it to collect that data so that we can get the information that you're referring to.

BLITZER: Here's another question we're getting when it comes to masks, and all of us should be wearing masks when we're outside, especially when we're with other people. You say step one is just making sure people wear a mask. But with these more transmissible variants on the rise right now, should people be making the change to more effective mask, whether that's double masking or using that N95?

FAUCI: Well, Wolf, this is a question you're absolutely right. I get asked this probably more than any other question. Right now, the CDC, the last time we checked, which was yesterday, is really going to be looking at the data on the differences in masks, whether you do a KN95, or a cloth mask versus surgical mask, the kinds of information that you want to have. We have some of that information already. We know that the standard surgical mask for the most part is better than a cloth mask, but it depends on the cloth masks.

But that's not the question that people are asking. They're asking, should you wear two masks? That's the easiest thing to do. So what the CDC says right now, as you mentioned correctly, the most important thing is everybody should wear a mask. We don't have enough data yet and the CDC will be collecting this as to whether or not two masks are going to be better than one mask.

But, you know, if you use common sense, and say until we get the data, if a physical barrier with one mask works, it makes common sense that two layers or three layers and you should have a double layer mask and one mask anyway.

But if you want to put an extra mask on, there's nothing wrong with that. We can't formally recommend it because we don't have the science behind it. But I would not hesitate to tell someone if they want to wear two masks, go ahead.


And in fact, Wolf, you may have seen me with two masks on. And the reason I do is that when you put a surgical mask on, if you put a cloth mask over, it gives a much smoother fit in the sense of being tight, but not too tight. So, again, although we're not recommending it until we get data, there's nothing wrong with doing that. BLITZER: Yes, that sort of makes sense, common sense. It's just so critical. At least wear one mask. But if you can, wear two. There's nothing wrong with that.

You've cautioned that one of the last things to return to normal, Dr. Fauci, will be full sports stadiums. You and I are big baseball fans, we like going to Nats Park watching a baseball game. But in December, you said we might get there by the end of the summer with the current pace of vaccinations. Would you push back that timeline or is that realistic?

FAUCI: No, I think that's realistic. And the reason I say that, Wolf, is that depending upon the level of virus in the community. As I had mentioned, if we can get past vaccine hesitancy, and we efficiently and effectively get people vaccinated to the tune of maybe 70 percent to 85 percent of the population, by the end of the summer, the beginning of the fall, then we will have gotten herd immunity, I believe, namely, getting that blanket of protection over the community.

On the way there, things will get better and better. So, for example, if we get a fairly good proportion of the population vaccinated and the level of virus in the community is low. So when you look at the numbers, you see a very low number of people getting infected each day, very low test positivity.

As we get into the summer, I believe you're going to be able to see that you'll have spectators at the game, they may not be crowded next to each other seat by seat, it may be separated by a few seats. But I feel confident that if we do it right, we will be able to get spectators to some degree at sports events that are outdoor, particularly what you and I both love is baseball.

BLITZER: Yes. We'll go to -- you and I, God willing, we'll go to a Washington Nationals baseball game, maybe we'll set a couple seats apart but we'll have a good time. God willing, that will happen relatively soon.

Dr. Fauci, on behalf of all of our viewers here in the U.S. and around the world, thanks very much for doing what you're doing. Thanks very much for joining us. Please thank your entire team as well. We are all grateful.

FAUCI: Thank you very much, Wolf. As always, it's great to be with you.

BLITZER: Thank you.

Also tonight, there's other important news we're following including multiple new developments in the wake of the U.S. Capitol insurrection, which sources are now telling CNN has become the subject of the FBI's biggest case since the 911 terror attacks. Let's bring in our Justice Correspondent Jessica Schneider who's working the story for us. So, you've got the latest information, Jessica, what are you learning? JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, we're learning just how carefully investigators are examining each person who participated in the insurrection and have since been identified via video. In fact, prosecutors are now charging one man with assault after video emerged of him knocking an officer to the ground.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Tonight, prosecutors pinpointing one of the first riders to breach the barricades, Ryan Stephen Samsel. Investigators say he wore a red MAGA hat and a white hooded sweatshirt as he moved in on Capitol Police behind the bicycle rack barricade. Samsel has seen ripping off his jacket and turning his head around. Prosecutors say it was a signal that he was ready to fight.

Samsel was part of the crowd that picks up the barricade and backs it up onto police, knocking a female officer to the ground. Prosecutors revealed in a court filing, the officer's head hit the stairs behind her. Samsel pick the officer off the ground and allegedly said to her, we don't have to hurt you, why are you standing in our way. That officer later blacked out and was taken to the E.R. with a concussion.

Prosecutor say Samsel was out of her role when he took part in the insurrection and is wanted for assault in New Jersey. He is now one of more than 175 federal defendants facing criminal charges for their role in the riot. At least 21 of those charged are current or former members of the military.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, it's right there.


SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Including 37-year-old Joseph Biggs an army veteran who's founded enough violent rhetoric to get him banned on several social media sites.

JOSEPH BIGGS, LEADER, PROUD BOYS: Hey, what's going on everybody? This is Joe Biggs.

SCHNEIDER (voice-over): Biggs is also one of the leaders of the far- right Proud Boys group known for its violent clashes with Antifa during protests in Portland, Oregon and Washington, D.C. CNN has identified at least eight Proud Boys charged in the capital attacks so far, including two charged with conspiracy Friday. It's the first riot-related case to accuse Proud Boys members of working together to attack the Capitol, though prosecutors say the alleged conspiracy only began after they got to Washington.


Some law enforcement sources now tell CNN, the Capitol riot investigation is the largest FBI probe since 911, incorporating a massive mobilization of FBI resources spanning field offices from coast to coast.

(END VIDEOTAPE) SCHNEIDER: And the investigation also continues into the Capitol Police officer who was killed during the insurrection, Brian Sicknick. Prosecutors have opened that federal murder investigation into his death. And tomorrow night, Officer Sicknick will lie in honor at the Capitol rotunda. Wolf, this is, of course, the same location that was overrun by that mob less than one month ago.

BLITZER: Our hearts go out to his family. Of course, Jessica Schneider reporting for us, thanks very much.

There's more breaking news coming up next. Republican senators are about to speak following their meeting with President Biden as they seek to reach a bipartisan deal on a COVID stimulus bill.