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CDC Expanding Surveillance At Four Big Airports To Look For Omicron; FDA Advisers Vote To Recommend Emergency Use Authorization Of Merck's Pill To Treat Coronavirus; Ex-WH Chief Of Staff Mark Meadows Cooperating With Jan. 6 Probe, Agreeing To Interview & To Provide Records; Video Uncovered By CNN Shows Boebert Calling Omar "Black- Hearted," "Evil" At September Event; Biden Visits Minnesota To Tout Infrastructure Benefits; At Least Three Killed, Eight Injured In MI High School Shooting; Tiger Woods: My Days Of Being A Full-Time Golfer Are Over. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired November 30, 2021 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Dana Bash, in for Jake Tapper. Thank you so much for watching. Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, the U.S. is urgently tracking the spread of the Omicron variant. It's now in at least, at least 20 countries. And the CDC is stepping up surveillance at U.S. airports as federal officials grace for the variant to be detected here.
Also tonight, former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows is now cooperating with the January 6 Select Committee. A critical shift in the investigation. At the same time, former President Trump is fighting in court to block the panel from getting hold of his records. But the judges hearing his case appear to be skeptical.
And CNN uncovers new video evidence of Republican Lauren Boebert's anti-Muslim attacks on Democrat Ilhan Omar, calling her "evil" and "black-hearted." A key Trump loyalist is rushing of Boebert's defense and running to the former president as she pours fuel on the controversy.
We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We begin with a spreading of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus. CNN's David McKenzie is joining us live from Johannesburg, South Africa right now.
David, governments around the world are moving rapidly to try to safeguard their countries, but in some cases it's already too late, the variant has already arrived. Give us the latest.
DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Dr. Anthony Fauci just today saying at least 20 countries have confirmed cases of this very disturbing variant. He says it's too early to tell how dangerous it is, whether the vaccines will fully work. But because of that perceived threat, countries are closing off this part of the world.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
MCKENZIE (voice-over): A coronavirus testing center in Johannesburg, the Omicron variant is already dominant here just weeks after it was first detected. A doctor who's treating Omicron patients is expressing cautious optimism.
DR. ANGELIQUE COETZEE, CHAIR, SOUTH AFRICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION: But the majority of what we are presenting to primary healthcare practitioners are extremely mild cases, mild to moderate.
MCKENZIE (voice-over): The White House says there aren't enough cases yet to evaluate the variant's danger but that they are prepared when the first case is detected in the U.S.
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: With a small number of cases, it is very difficult to know whether or not this particular variant is going to result in severe disease. Although some preliminary information from South Africa suggests no unusual symptoms associated with variant, we do not know and it is too early to tell.
MCKENZIE (voice-over): The CDC is strengthening its booster recommendations for Americans, saying all adults should get another dose six months after their second Pfizer or Moderna shot or after just two months if they had the Johnson and Johnson vaccine. It's a similar story abroad where the U.K. government says it will now make boosters available to everyone over 18.
BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: What we're doing is taking some proportionate precautionary measures while our scientists crack the Omicron code.
MCKENZIE (voice-over): In England on Tuesday, face masks became mandatory again in stores and on public transportation.
Israel confirmed its first cases of Omicron community spread. The Sheba Medical Center said a doctor who traveled abroad and then infected a colleague.
In the Netherlands, where some are already isolating in this airport hotel, the government said that Omicron variant was in the country a full week earlier than it originally thought, founded test samples from November 19 that were just sequenced.
Japan found its first Omicron variant case, a man who traveled from Namibia. Its borders close to all foreigners on Tuesday.
South African leaders are slamming those global travel bans as ineffective and punitive.
XOLISA MABHONGO, DEPUTY PERMANENT REPRESENTATIVE OF SOUTH AFRICA TO THE U.N.: We feel that the travel ban is very unfair. South African science should be commended for discovering this new variant and sharing the information with the world. We have played our role very responsible.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
MCKENZIE: One disturbing impact of these travel restrictions, Wolf, is that scientists are telling me they struggling even to get reagent into the country because of those flights being cut off. Now that's a critical element that they need in the lab to try and test just how dangerous this variant is. Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, David McKenzie, reporting from Johannesburg, South Africa. Thank you very much.
Right now, President Biden is in Minnesota touting his domestic agenda as his administration is keeping aware -- very wary eye on the new coronavirus variant. Our Chief White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins is working in that part of the story for us.
Kaitlan, so what is the Biden administration doing right now to track down this variant to see if it's already here in the U.S.?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's their main priority right now, Wolf. You're seeing the President continue on with business as usual, selling this infrastructure bill. But scientists are very much racing behind the scenes to try to figure out if this variant is here in the United States, because you've seen the latest reports today it has been found, and about 20 countries and counting so far as their respective labs around the globe are trying to figure out if this is a variant that also is now present in their own nations.
And so, this is something that CDC is working very closely with state labs on. And the CDC Director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, says they're essentially in daily contact with labs around the country trying to figure out if this variant has been found here in the U.S., because they have said if it's not here yet, it's inevitable that it will be here at some point.
And Wolf, so this effort includes ramping up surveillance at airports, of course, where those travelers are often coming in. And there are four major airports across the United States where they're doing that tonight, Newark, of course, in New Jersey, JFK in New York, Atlanta in San Francisco as well, all of these airports. And the CDC director said today that they are also sequencing these test samples, that's a way for them to try to figure out where this virus -- this variant is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: We have increased our genomic sequencing capability. And we are now sequencing approximately 80,000 samples per week about one in every seven PCR positive cases.
We are actively looking for the Omicron variants right here in United States. Right now, there is no evidence of Omicron in the United States. (END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: And Wolf, of course, the question is, what are they doing in the meantime, while they are looking for this variant, of course, and preparing for the worst case scenario, which are the determining factors around this variant if it causes more severe disease, if it can evade vaccines. Both big questions that we still don't have the answers to and could take several days, and potentially weeks to find out.
And so, the White House says they want to try to use this time wisely, the time that they believe the travel restrictions, for instance that they put in place are buying them. And we should also note just in, Wolf, there are new developments here in the U.S. about what's going on in the fight against COVID 19 overall, not just related to the Omicron variant, and that's advisors to the FDA have voted 13 to 10 to get an emergency authorization of that new anti COVID pill that is being made by Merck. Of course, this is something that still very much has to go to the FDA, see if they make a decision based on this recommendation from these advisors.
And Wolf, this is something that is not just concerning to the scientists who are working on this, but also look at stocks today, you saw them tumbling. The Dow was down several points, several 100 points, because there are concerns about what this variant means for the United States. In addition to those comments from the Fed chair earlier today, saying that they can no longer really call inflation transitory.
BLITZER: Yes, the Dow down another 650 points just today.
All right, Kaitlan, thank you very much. Kaitlan Collins at the White House, we'll get back to you.
I want to get some analysis right now. Joining us, the public health physician, Dr. Chris Pernell, a fellow with the American College of Preventive Medicine. Also with us, Dr. Peter Hotez, he's Co-Director of the Texas Children's Hospital Center for Vaccine Development and Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. He's also author, by the way, of the very important book, "Preventing the Next Pandemic."
Dr. Hotez, will the CDC expanded coronavirus surveillance efforts at at least four major U.S. airports allow the agency to find cases, contact trace contain this variant? Or do you already fear it's spreading unchecked already in the U.S.?
DR. PETER HOTEZ, PROFESSOR AND DEAN OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Well, it's almost certainly already here whether these activities at airports will halt the importation of new cases. We haven't really seen this to be very effective since the beginning when this virus came in from Southern Europe and all eyes were on focused on China. We've seen that we really don't have a handle to found the fact that this virus when the new variant appears, and it's been true just about every variant, as the new variant is first identified, it's already spread globally. So I think the major component of the efforts has to be on continuing to do the genomic sequencing, which we've only now getting up to speed.
Dr. Walensky says one in seven, it should be higher than that. And the fact that it's taken two years to get there is of concern. But I think the other big piece is to remember if we can give three immunizations and get that 30 to 40 fold increase in virus neutralizing antibodies, I am hopeful there could be some spillover effect in having an impact on the Omicron variant.
BLITZER: Well, when we're talking about, you know, Dr. Hotez, this Omicron variant, what are we dealing with in terms of transmissibility and severity? At least, potentially I know there's still a lot we don't know.
HOTEZ: Severity, you know, you heard the reports that maybe this produces a mild illness. I think like Dr. Fauci, I'm not convinced. I think these are anecdotes. I think we should assume that, like all the other variants, they seem to produce a similar spectrum of illness.
I think in terms of transmissibility, what I'm seeing is when you look at the actual sequence of the virus, it looks more to me like the Alpha variant out of the U.K. than it does the Delta variant. On that basis, I actually think we might see -- continue to see both variants.
The Delta variant will continue. I don't see that going away. I don't see Omicron necessarily out competing. And I think that'll continue, but they may affect different populations. So for instance, for reasons we can go into, I think Delta is more likely going to continue in to infect the unvaccinated.
I think the Omicron may cause reinfections in those individuals who've been infected before, but not yet vaccinated. And then the big unknown is I'm still optimistic that the three doses will cross neutralize the Omicron. But I don't know that for certain and we're hearing a difference of opinion among the scientific.
BLITZER: Yes. As I said, there's still a lot the experts have to learn.
Dr. Pernell, people specifically want to know whether the vaccines they've already received are going to continue to protect them from this variant. Whitehouse COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients, says the administration believes the current vaccines do provide at least some protection against Omicron. Now, when will scientists, Dr. Pernell, be able to say that with confidence?
DR. CHRIS PERNELL, PUBLIC HEALTH PHYSICIAN: Wolf, I think there's going to be another week or so before we can definitively say whether or not there is significant coverage with the currently available vaccines.
But I just want to double down on what my colleague Dr. Hotez said, I believe that these vaccines that we have available to us, give us such a leg up in this fight, that they will prove reliable, whether or not that is the same level of reliability, that is what we need to wait and see the data is approved.
BLITZER: Yes, we got to do a lot more checking to make sure it does work.
Dr. Hotez, just moments ago FDA advisors voted 13 to 10, a very close about 13 to 10 to recommend emergency use authorization of Merck's new pill to treat COVID 19. How significant is the addition potentially of this treatment or arsenal (ph) assuming the CDC goes along with it?
HOTEZ: Well, the more obviously treatments we have, the better especially since if Omicron does take off. The current battery of monoclonal antibodies may be less effective so as the treatments. We may be confined if Omicron really accelerates to the small molecule drugs, the Paxlovid and the molnupiravir.
Of the two, the molnupiravir seems to be the less effective, about a 30 percent decrease in symptoms and hospitalizations. Although, it is something. What I'd actually like to see is those two pills combined into a poly pill. I think that would be more effective.
BLITZER: Dr. Pernell, very quickly, what do you think?
PERNELL: I agree. I think the point for us to make here is that as long as we have multiple tools in the tool chest, we're going to be in the best position to beat back this pandemic, whether that's eventually a poly pill or just multi layered strategies from a public health standpoint. Getting mask out to all Americans, ensuring that we have adequate testing, especially that families can test themselves. And that we know the importance of having clean purified and filtered air since coronavirus is airborne.
BLITZER: Dr. Pernell, thank you so much. Dr. Hotez, thanks to you as well. Thanks to both of you for doing what you're doing.
Coming up, the former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows now cooperating with the House January 6 insurrection probe. We have details of the story first reported by CNN.
Plus, new Republican infighting over Congresswoman Lauren Boebert's shocking anti-Muslim remarks. We're going to talk about it with former Republican governor, there you see him, Chris Christie. He's standing by live. We've got lots to discuss.
BLITZER: First on CNN, the former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows now cooperating with the House Select Committee investigating the January 6 Capitol insurrection as former President Trump fights in court to block the probe. CNN Congressional Correspondent Ryan Nobles has the latest.
(BEGIN VIDEO TAPE)
RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Tonight, a major breakthrough for the January 6 Select Committee. Former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, the right hand man of former President Donald Trump on January 6 and the days leading up to it will cooperate with the committee.
Mr. Meadows has been engaging with the Select Committee through his attorney. He has produced records to the committee and will soon appear for an initial deposition, said Bennie Thompson, the Committee Chairman, in response to CNN's reporting on Meadows' cooperation.
While the committee has made progress in their negotiations with Meadows, they are also making it clear what they expect. "The Select Committee expects all witnesses, including Mr. Meadows to provide all information requested and that the select committee is lawfully entitled to receive. The committee will continue to assess his degree of compliance with our subpoena after the deposition."
Meadows played a key role in helping to spread Trump's lies about the 2020 election results. His attorney making it clear he's still concerned about executive privilege. "As we have from the beginning, we continue to work with the Select Committee and its staff to see if we can reach an accommodation that does not require Mr. Meadows to waive executive privilege or to forfeit the long standing position that senior White House aides cannot be compelled to testify before Congress," said Meadows Attorney George Terwilliger in a statement to CNN.
The fight over privilege was front and center in a D.C. federal courtroom as well, where attorneys for Trump made the case that hundreds of documents from the Trump administration should not be handed over to the Select Committee. The three judge panel seemed skeptical of arguments from Trump's team, and appeared to agree with the committee that it is the current president who decides what is and is not covered by privilege.
JUDGE KETANJI BROWN JACKSON: It seemed that the current president has not only the confidentiality factor that he's thinking about, but the current duty to the interests of the United States even broader than those that the former president would be concerned about. So, if we are looking at this as a "Who decides?" kind of question, is there a circumstance in which the former president ever gets to make this kind of call? And why should he under these circumstances?
NOBLES (voice-over): All this against the backdrop of the committee preparing to meet tomorrow night to once again refer another Trump ally, former DOJ official Jeffrey Clark, for criminal contempt.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
NOBLES: And a new development just in to CNN, we have learned that the Georgia Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger, sat today for an extensive interview with the January 6 Select Committee. We're told the interview took more than four hours. Raffensperger, of course, the Republican election official in the state of Georgia that resisted intense pressure from the former President Donald Trump to attempt to investigate false claims of fraud in his state. Raffensperger, of course, on that phone call with Donald Trump and Mark Meadows, where Trump put heavy pressure on Raffensperger to act. Of course, Wolf, he did not do that, and the election results in Georgia State a victory for Joe Biden. Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, the Select Committee moving along relatively quickly. Ryan Nobles up on Capitol Hill, thank you very much.
Let's get some more on all of this. Joining us now, the former Republican governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie. His new book, by the way, is entitled, there you see the cover, "Republican Rescue, Saving the Party from Truth Deniers, Conspiracy Theorists, and the Dangerous Policies of Joe Biden."
Governor, thank you so much for joining us.
CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) FORMER NEW JERSEY GOVERNOR: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Just two weeks ago, Meadows, the former White House Chief of Staff suggested former President Trump's should become House Speaker. Now he's actually handing over documents, about to sit down for a formal interview with the committee. What does it say to you that so many Republicans want it both ways right now, trying to stay on Trump's good side without facing the consequences of potentially subverting democracy?
CHRISTIE: Well, Wolf, I think the key thing here and I look at this as a former United States attorney, is what is the nature of the cooperation going to be? I think there's always been a question, a real legal question about whether executive privilege applies here. But until you know what documents he's turned over, and what documents he hasn't turned over and what questions he's willing to answer or not answer, we're really not going to know the significance of today's developments up on Capitol Hill. But obviously, these things are being litigated in court as well. And so, this is going to take a while.
And I think the January 6 committee is going to press and the folks who claim executive privilege are going to have to make a fundamental decision from their lawyers about whether they think it really applies or not. I think it's a very tough call.
BLITZER: Yes. In your new book, "Republican Rescue," you say the party, the Republican Party and former President Trump for that matter, need to move on from the 2020 election conspiracies. But you haven't necessarily ruled out the possibility of supporting Trump if he runs again in 2024. Isn't that the problem that ultimately you and some of the party could actually fall back in line behind him once again?
CHRISTIE: Wolf, look, what the book is all about is to say we need to be much more focused as a party, and quite frankly, as a country on the next election rather than the last election. I make it really clear in the book that I believe the last election was not stolen and that to continue to say that is wrong. But what we need to be focused on is the next election and how are Republicans going to, in 2022, focus the country on rising inflation, crime in the streets, the COVID crisis still not under control as you were talking about earlier in the program. And if we waste time talking about the last election, we will not win the next election. And that's what we have to be worried about first and foremost.
And I'm not going to get into 2024 because that's just an endless amount of speculation. I'm focused on 2022 and trying to get my party back to being the party that's about the truth and talks about the issues around the kitchen table that folks are concerned about.
BLITZER: What's your message to those Republicans like Congressman Ronny Jackson, among others, pushing all these COVID conspiracy theories out there?
CHRISTIE: Look, I think it's very clear that this administration, the Biden administration, has not been consistent in what they're putting out there regarding COVID and that causes the space to be created, Wolf, for a lot of this stuff to be inserted. Here to me is the bottom line, the smartest thing for anybody out there to do is to get vaccinated. And if you've gotten vaccinated and you're eligible for a booster, to get a booster. There's no question that that helps to put you in the best position not to get seriously ill or faced death from COVID-19 and any of the variants. And I think that should be the strong and consistent message.
And we should be educating the people who have not yet been vaccinated as to why on the facts and the merits it makes sense for them to do it. They don't want to be indoctrinated, Wolf, they want to be educated. And we have an obligation as a government to do that. And I think the Biden ministration has fallen down in that regard and it creates space for all kinds of things that make absolutely no sense.
What makes sense is, stand up, get vaccinated, get boosted if you're eligible, because that's going to keep you and your family the safest they can be.
BLITZER: And you speak with some personal history. You were very, very sick with COVID. You're write about it, rather, frankly, in your book as well.
Let me ask you, Governor, about these newly unearthed comments from Republican Congresswoman Lauren Boebert, calling the first two Muslim women members of Congress, quote, "black-hearted" and "evil." What is it say about your party that Boebert apparently thinks all this is actually going to help her politically as she launches these clearly racist attacks?
CHRISTIE: Wolf, here's what I'm startled by is that we're spending time talking about this, but we don't spend nearly enough time, if any time, on the clearly anti-Semitic statements that Congresswoman Omar has made.
Now, look, I don't think any language that's used that takes after (ph) people based upon their religion is the right thing to do. But I am startled and, quite frankly, fed up with the idea that we're not spending time talking about what Congresswoman Omar has clearly engaged in on the floor of the House of Representatives and in other events. Clearly statements that are anti-Semitic, anti-Israel, and yet we're spending time on this.
I'm willing to have a discussion that's full and robust about everybody's comments regarding others religions, but I'm not going to get caught in the trap of just picking on one side or the other.
The fact is that Congresswoman Omar's comments over the course of time that are anti-Semitic against Jews in this country, I think are absolutely uncalled for.
BLITZER: Well, and I can tell you, Governor, we've covered all of those comments. And these go way back that Ilhan Omar has made, she's apologized for several of those comments. We have not ignored those comments at all. We've reported it.
But what's happening right now, you have this Republican member of Congress, Governor, actually suggesting that this member of Congress might be a suicide bomber, and might -- and she's joking about that as if that's a fun joke.
CHRISTIE: Oh, look, I don't -- I haven't heard Congresswoman Boebert's comments, so I don't know how to evaluate them. And whether it was just an ill time joke or was something worse. But I have had the opportunity to hear Congresswoman Omar over a long period of time, Wolf, and I'm very disturbed by it as the former governor of a state that has a very large Jewish population in our state.
I understand and saw in regular basis what acts of antisemitism and language regarding antisemitism is done. But also as U.S. attorney in New Jersey in the aftermath of 9/11, I also stood up for the Muslim community. And as you'll probably recall, took a lot of abuse for nominating a Muslim American to the state court in New Jersey. And I stood up then and said, I'm not going to make evaluations based upon people's religion. So my record is really clear on this.
And I take your word for it, that you've covered Congresswoman Omar's comments, but I haven't seen enough of it in terms of the coverage across the media. And having that sensitivity as a former governor of New Jersey, on both sides, the Jewish side and the Muslim side, there's no place for that kind of language. And quite frankly, I think Congresswoman Omar has to be held to account just as much as anybody else.
BLITZER: Well, we, as I said, over the past year or two or three or whatever, we've covered a lot of those comments that she made.
Let me play for you what the Congressman Boebert, you say you haven't been familiar with what she say.
CHRISTIE: I'm not.
BLITZER: I'll play this little clip that we just -- that we had. This is from September. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. LAUREN BOEBERT (R-CO): One of my staffers on his first day with me got into an elevator, in the Capitol. And in that elevator, we were joined by Ilhan Omar. Well, it was just us three in there and I looked over and I said, well, look at the Jihad squad. I do have to say, she doesn't have a backpack, she wasn't dropping it and running so we're good, so.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: You want to react to that?
CHRISTIE: Look, this is the same kind of thing that, you know, when my Muslim American nominee for the state court in New Jersey, was brought before the Senate committee in New Jersey, one of the things that one of the senators asked him right off the bat was, can you explain jihad to me? I think that any kind of generalizations that we make about anyone, whether it's that or whether it's the things that Congresswoman Omar has said regarding Jewish Americans in this country doesn't do anything to bring the country together.
Now, it appears to me from watching the video that she was making a joke there. But in the end, you know, sometimes jokes are not in the best taste and are not with the best idea behind them. But in the end, what bothers me more, Wolf, and I want to repeat this again is that Congresswoman Omar's comments have not been jokes, and couldn't be interpreted as jokes. They have been serious policy statements that she has made that focus on anti-Semitism and our anti-Jewish comments that we can't stand for.
And so, you know, everyone can interpret that joke however they want. I think any of those jokes are ill-advised. But in the end, that was clearly someone trying to be funny. And you can say wasn't or was or wasn't funny. But Congresswoman Omar is talking about serious policy issues that are anti-Semitic, Wolf, and I think that is of a much graver concern --
BLITZER: But here's --
CHRISTIE: -- that someone is making a joke.
BLITZER: Here's the difference, Governor. Congresswoman Omar for -- those comments she made that were interpreted as being anti-Semitic, she apologized. We didn't hear Lauren Boebert apologize, did we?
CHRISTIE: Look, when you make anti-Semitic comments, Wolf, and I know you're sensitive to this as anybody. You're getting caught and then apologizing, to me, is OK, if in fact, then your policy positions don't also to appear to be anti-Semitic. And my concern about Congresswoman Omar as I've said a number of times to now is that it's not just the words, it's the actions.
And I'm concerned that an apology is made because your hand got caught in the cookie jar. But you continue to follow policies and we saw this in the vote regarding the missile defense system in Israel and the Iron Dome. We've seen a number of policy things that seemed to not make us believe she wasn't really sorry for what she said because of the policy actions she takes as well. And that's why --
BLITZER: All right.
CHRISTIE: -- I'm so focused on that. I haven't seen any of the same type of things from Congresswoman Boebert --
BLITZER: Here's the difference, Governor, when she made -- Congresswoman Ilhan Omar -- made comments that were seemed to be anti- Semitic, she was immediately criticized by the Democratic leadership in Congress. We haven't seen that from the Republican leadership as far as Congresswoman Boebert is concerned. And as a result, there's a major difference right there and it evolves your party, right?
CHRISTIE: Well, look, first of all, I would quibble with you about whether they seem to be anti-Semitic, they were anti-Semitic.
BLITZER: And she apologized for that.
CHRISTIE: Wolf, I understand that she apologized for that. Here's my problem with it, though, is that the apology seems to be less than sincere. When your policy positions that follow that are consistent, not with the apology, but are consistent with the original statement.
CHRISTIE: And we don't have that with Congresswoman Boebert. We don't have any actions on her part in the Congress on her policy positions that support that that was anything then an ill-advised joke. Here with Congresswoman Omar, we see policy positions that are consistent not with the apology, but consistent with the anti-Semitic statement. That to me is of a much greater concern as something that we should be spending much more time on. And that's why I'm bringing it to your attention.
BLITZER: Very quickly, Governor, I know you got to run. Can you give me a yes or no? Do you want to be president of the United States?
CHRISTIE: Well, I did in 2016, Wolf, and we'll see what happens come 2024. But right now, I focused on 2022 and have a helping Republicans win governorships, the House and the Senate back. That's where my focus is going to be and that's why I wrote the book that I wrote.
BLITZER: Sounds like it's still possible that you may run again. We shall see. The former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, you've been very patient. Thanks so much for joining us.
CHRISTIE: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Up next, President Biden touting his agenda as concern grows over the new coronavirus variant. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: President Biden is in Minnesota tonight as he tours the country to tout the benefits from his new infrastructure law. Here in Washington, though, there are new roadblocks to the rest of the President's agenda that are unfolding right now.
Let's discuss this and more with Mitch Landrieu. He was recently tapped by President Biden to oversee the implementation of the infrastructure law. He's joining us now for his first interview since taking the job. He's the former mayor of New Orleans, as many of our viewers will remember.
Mayor, thank you so much for joining us. Let's talk about what's going on.
MITCH LANDRIEU, SENIOR ADVISER TO THE PRESIDENT'S INFRASTRUCTURE IMPLEMENTATION COORDINATOR: Hey, Wolf.
BLITZER: The President right now in Minnesota touting the bipartisan infrastructure law. But a lot of this funding will go to long-term projects, three years, five years, 10 years down the road. How long will it take until Americans feel the impact of all of this in their daily lives?
LANDRIEU: Well, Wolf, thanks for having me. As you mentioned, the President is in Minnesota today at Dakota County Technical College where he's talking about new jobs for a new future for working class Americans. And this morning before he left, he was thrilled to be gone because this really is the picture of what he wants America to become and the chances he wants to give to working class folks that are actually going to rebuild America, because that's the only way that it's ever been done.
You know, it's very interesting. For 50 years, we've been waiting to get this done. The last three or four presidents have tried and President Biden and his team actually, with the help of a bipartisan Congress actually put us over the goal line. And so now we have an opportunity, as the President said, to rebuild the economy from the bottom up and the middle out. And that's really important, because we're about transforming the economy so that we can compete and win the 21st century.
There is some money that's going out of the door as we speak. I talked to a number of governors and mayors this week. I talked to the National Governors Association Infrastructure team today, there's $100 million in broadband money at a minimum for each state, if it's applied for as we speak. There's also formula funding through the Department of Transportation and, of course, across other agencies, there's money that's available now.
But as you said, we're about building the future of the country. It's a lot easier to tear down something and quicker than it is to build it. And I think the American public understands that. But when we get into the business of making sure that roads and bridges and lead pipes are changed, and we create great paying jobs for that Americans will see that benefit. And they'll know that this was an investment in the long-term future of our country. BLITZER: As you know, the President backed away from the initial plan to pass infrastructure in the larger social spending bill in tandem. Now, there's very little indication that Senator Joe Manchin, for example, wants to move ahead with a broader social spending bill. How does President Biden get him on board when Manchin has major reservations about more -- a lot more spending, for example?
LANDRIEU: Well, you saw over the last couple of months, a difficulty that the White House and Congress had in getting past the infrastructure bill, much less the Build Back Better plan, and they can continue to work on that. And I think the President has full confidence that at the end of the day, the team on Capitol Hill will be there to put the second piece of this together.
But in the meantime, on the infrastructure piece that the President asked me to help him with, one of the things that's really important is that we now execute, and that's the much harder part of the job. And so, when you think about this, in terms of rebuilding the country, there has to be horizontal and vertical integration.
In other words, the federal government, the mayors, the parish presidents, the tribal leaders all have to be on the same page, one team, one fight, making sure that the money gets to where it's supposed to go. Now, when the President was the vice president and he oversaw this for President Obama, he was really interested in making sure that the money got where it was supposed to go. And make sure there's transparency, and there's accountability that we move fast, but we also move smart.
And then as we build, we build back better. And what does the better mean? The better means that we really focus on climate, on equity, on racial equity as well and make sure that we build back with American made products. And that, of course, brings its own challenges as well. And so there's always a balance here and getting stuff in the ground and getting it coming out. And the American people need to be confident that when we build America back, that it's going to be better when we finish.
BLITZER: Well, if that social spending bill is eventually passed, will you also be in charge of implementing that?
LANDRIEU: I haven't been given any indication that that's true and I try to take that job.
BLITZER: You got a big job as infrastructure.
LANDRIEU: If the President -- this was big enough. 1.2 trillion --
LANDRIEU: -- is the biggest one that's been passed since Dwight Eisenhower. And, you know, I'm happy to help any way that I can.
BLITZER: I'm sure you are. When you look at everything on Democrats plates right now, passing the National Defense Authorization Act needs to be passed, avoiding a government shutdown, that's critical. Raising the debt limit, also critical. Will that push talks on this -- will that pushed the talks on the spending, the social spending bill into next year, because there's so much that needs to be done in December?
LANDRIEU: Well, I think the members of Congress can do a lot of things at once. And I feel comfortable that the President is going to be able to get it done. I think everybody hopes it doesn't get pushed into the next year, and they're going to push hard to get it all done. And I think it's when the Congress has ambit to do it. So I'm looking forward to getting that done. But at the most important level, I'll make -- they're interested in turning dirt and really changing the future of America for the better.
BLITZER: The White House says inflation, higher prices, gas prices, for example, supply chain issues will subside when we get the pandemic under control. Now with this new Omicron variant spreading potentially not yet here in the United States, as far as we know, but eventually, it almost certainly will be here, is it time to acknowledge these problems could be with us for a long time that this is not transitory?
LANDRIEU: Well, I'm not ready to say that. I don't think we know. There are lots of things in our lives, Wolf, that we can't control. And I think I can speak on behalf of all the American people when I can say the last year and a half has been a lot. And with the rise of this new virus, it just adds a level of uncertainty.
But I feel very confident that the President and his team have been on everything they can within their power and control to make sure that this is transitory and they have put a lot of plans in place to actually make that happen. I think that all of the experts in on TV today have said the best way for Americans to protect ourselves is to get vaccinated and to get boosted. That is the surest way to give us the tools that we need to move into where this, in fact, is transitory and we can get into building America as we've talked about before.
BLITZER: Certainly is critically important to get vaccinated and then get boosted, of course. Mitch Landrieu, good luck with your new job. It's a huge job.
LANDRIEU: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: I will stay in close touch with you. Thanks for joining us.
LANDRIEU: OK. Great to be with you.
BLITZER: All right, thank you.
LANDRIEU: Coming up, at least three students are killed, and eight people injured in another school shooting this one at a Michigan High School. We're learning new details. We'll update you when we come back.
BLITZER: We're following breaking news. At least three people killed, eight people injured in a shooting, another shooting here in the United States at a Michigan High School this time.
CNN's Alexandra Field is working the story for us. Alexandra, you're getting more information. It's so, so disturbing. Tell our viewers what you're learning.
ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A 14-year-old, a 16-year-old, a 17-year-old who went to their high school today shot and killed in the middle of the school day.
Seven other students shot and injured as well as a teacher. The shooting spree unfolding over five minutes at a high school north of Detroit. The shooting suspect, a 15-year-old student who had been in class earlier in the day. Officials say that the shooting spree lasted five minutes, 15 to 20 shots were fired before the suspect was taken into custody without incidents -- without incident.
A massive response though, Wolf. Some 25 agencies responding, some 60 ambulances racing to the scene trying to reach those victims, put an end to the shooting. The governor of Michigan reacting tonight offering her support to this community. Listen to her.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D-MI): I hope that we can all rise to the occasion and wrap our arms around the families, the affected children and school personnel in this community. It is unimaginable tragedy. I think this is every parent's worst nightmare.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FIELD: Every parent's worst nightmare. No truer words. Officials are saying that the suspect was armed with a semi-automatic handgun. They say that he is not talking to authorities right now that have -- his parents have hired an attorney for him. A search warrant has been executed on his house as for a motive. That's something investigators are trying to piece together.
The sheriff's department they're saying that they were not aware of any previous threats. Certainly, this is something that they're going to be looking at now. We know that they're already starting to talk to students, already starting to pour over anything that they might be able to find on social media.
But, Wolf, again, some 100 911 calls went in, so a lot of witnesses to this, a lot of people who saw what happened and who will have information to share tonight. Wolf?
BLITZER: So heartbreaking and my deepest, deepest condolences to those families. Awful situation. Alexandra, we'll stay in close touch with you. Alexandra Field with the latest on that.
Meanwhile, another story we're following, the legendary Tiger Woods finally addressing his future today nine months after a very serious car accident. Woods says his days of being a full-time golfer are officially over but he's hoping for a part-time comeback once he's fully recovered.
CNN's Brian Todd is following the story for us. So Brian, what are you learning?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Tiger Woods says being a part-time golfer is, quote, an unfortunate reality but it is his reality. And the five-time master champion also gave some dramatic accounts of his hospitalization after his car accident and his rehab.
TODD (voice-over): Tonight, Tiger Woods laying out a stark new reality in his first news conference since a February car accident left him with multiple fractures in one leg.
TIGER WOODS, PRO GOLFER, 15-TIME MAJOR CHAMPION: It's hard to explain how difficult it's been just to be immobile for -- in the three months and just lay there and I was just looking forward just getting outside. And that was, you know, a goal of mine. And especially for a person who has lived his entire life outside.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're pleased to be joined --
TODD (voice-over): Woods addressed his future in the Bahamas where he's hosting a tournament.
WOODS: As far as playing at the Tour level, that I don't know when that's going to happen. Now, I'll play around here and there, a little hit and giggle, I can do something like that.
TODD (voice-over): But the real bombshell Woods drop was posted a day earlier in an exclusive interview with Golf Digest magazine. He saved that news for the very end of his nearly 38-minute interview.
WOODS: I think something that is realistic is playing the Tour one day, never full time ever again. They can choose. That's an unfortunate reality but aspire reality and I understand it and I accept it.
TODD (voice-over): the man who's meant more to his sport than any other, winning 15 major championships. Capturing the top prize, the Masters, five times is now becoming a part-time player as he nears 46 years of age. And those who covered him know what that means.
DAN RAPAPORT, STAFF WRITER. GOLF DIGEST: I mean losing Tiger is an absolutely crushing blow to a sport that he really almost single- handedly built up to where it is today. There's a different feel when Tiger is at a tournament and when there isn't. When Tiger is playing well, the ratings are off the charts. The ticket sales are off the charts. He's one of the few players who has proven that he can appeal to a non-golf fan.
TODD (voice-over): Woods now says he's lucky to be alive. Police said Woods was driving 85 miles an hour in a 45-mile an hour zone when his car crashed on a winding road near L.A. on February 23rd. One sheriff's deputy said the safety features of his vehicle and the fact he was wearing a seatbelt likely saved Woods's life. He was hospitalized for three weeks and he revealed a harrowing detail to Golf Digest.
WOODS: There's a point in time when -- I wouldn't say 50-50, but it was damn near there but I was going to walk out of that hospital with one leg.
RAPAPORT: Just think about that for a moment, what that would have looked like, Tiger Woods with a prosthetic leg. It would have been an absolutely insane sight one of our sporting icons, limping around with a prosthetic.
TODD: Tiger Woods now says he's not even at the half way point of his rehabilitation, but what motivates him he says, is the prospect of playing golf with his 12-year-old son Charlie and watching his son play in tournaments. Wolf, we'll see what kind of tournaments Tiger plays in this coming year and how well he does.
BLITZER: He's certainly a legend. There's no doubt about that. Brian Todd, thank you very much.
Coming up, the new Omicron variant now confirmed in at least 20 countries prompting new travel bans as scientists are scrambling to try to figure out the threat posed by this latest coronavirus mutation.