Return to Transcripts main page

The Situation Room

Biden Says, I'm Tired Of Being Quiet About Threat To Voting Rights; Dr. Fauci Says, Omicron Will Eventually Find Just About Everybody; January 6 Committee Plans To Seek Information From Rudy Giuliani; Australia Border Officials Investigating If Tennis Star Novak Djokovic Lied On Travel Declaration; Justice Department Forms New Domestic Terrorism Unit. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired January 11, 2022 - 18:00   ET




WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news. President Biden says he's tired of being quiet about the threat to voting rights in America. Will speaking out help advance stalled legislation? I'll ask his top domestic policy adviser, Susan Rice, about the president's push, Democrats' frustrations and risk of failure on this critical issue.

Also tonight, Dr. Fauci says surging omicron variant will eventually find just about everybody. The acting FDA director agrees. She is suggesting the U.S. should focus less on stopping the virus and more on keeping essential services running.

And the January 6th committee sets its sights on Rudy Giuliani. The panel's chairman telling CNN the former Trump lawyer is an integral part of the investigation. Giuliani's camp is firing right back.

We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I am Wolf Blitzer and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We begin tonight with President Biden's new call to action on voting rights as he faces growing pressure from fellow Democrats to make election reform a top priority.

Let's go to our Chief White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins. Kaitlan, the president spoke just a little while in Georgia and he spoke very, very strongly.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He did. And, Wolf, this is a symbolic trip for President Biden where he not only visited with Martin Luther King Jr.'s family, he laid a wreath in his crypt, and then he went on to make his most extensive call yet to change the filibuster so they can get voting rights legislation passed. But what voting rights activists want to know, Wolf, is whether or not those calls that the president made today can actually translate into action on Capitol Hill.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) COLLINS (voice over): With an uphill battle ahead of him, President Biden making a push for voting rights tonight.

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: I will not yield, I will not flinch. I will defend the right to vote, our democracy against all enemies, foreign, and, yes, domestic.

COLLINS: In Georgia, a state that's become ground zero in the fight over election integrity, Biden framed it as a defining moment.

BIDEN: It's not just here in Georgia. Last year alone, 19 states not proposed but enacted 34 laws attacking voting rights.

COLLINS: The president upping pressure on Congress to pass voting rights legislation by making an exception to the filibuster, which has allowed Republicans to block the bills so far.

BIDEN: Not a single Republican has displayed the courage to stand up to a defeated president, to protect our democracy. I support changing the Senate rules, whichever way they need to be changed to prevent a minority of senators from blocking action on voting rights.

COLLINS: Biden was flanked by Vice President Harris, Democrats and a slew of civil rights leaders. But one of the most prominent voices for voting rights, Stacey Abrams, was missing.

BIDEN: I spoke to Stacey this morning. We have a great relationship. We got our scheduling mixed up.

COLLINS: Abrams' office said there was a scheduling conflict but her absence raised eyebrows as other Georgia voting rights groups boycotted Biden's visit, calling for action, not a photo-op.

CLIFF ALBRIGHT, CO-FOUNDER, BLACK LIVES MATTER: He gave a very passionate speech back in Philadelphia back in July, but then, literally, for seven months, we heard nothing else about voting rights from him.

COLLINS: The president is taking a gamble he may not be able to deliver on.

BIDEN: I have been having these quiet conversations with members of Congress for the last two months. I'm tired of being quiet.

COLLINS: Changing the filibuster requires support of all 50 Democrats, which, right now, he doesn't have.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): We need some good rules changes and we can do that together. But you change the rules with two-thirds of the people that are present. So, if Democrats and Republicans changing the rules to make the place work better, getting rid of filibuster doesn't make it work better.

COLLINS: Chuck Schumer is pushing for rule change if Republicans don't get behind voting rights legislation by Martin Luther King Jr. Day. SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): If they continue paralyzing this chamber to the point where we're helpless to fight back against the big lie, we must consider the necessary steps we can take so the Senate can adapt an act.

COLLINS: But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is vowing a scorched earth response if Democrats follow through.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): So, what would a post-nuclear Senate look like? I assure you, it would not be more efficient or more productive. I personally guarantee it.


COLLINS (on camera): Now, Wolf, we should note it is quite a moment for President Biden who is a self-described institutionalist to call for a change to the filibuster when it comes to voting rights.


That is a position he has resisted in the past but one he is taking now. And now the fight goes from the White House to the Senate. But so far, President Biden hasn't been able to convince holdouts to get on board with these changes. And, of course, that is going to be the new bar and the standard given what President Biden said in Atlanta today, Wolf.

BLITZER: It certainly will be. All right, Kaitlan Collins at the White House for us, thank you very much.

Let's discuss with the director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, Susan Rice. Ambassador Rice, thanks for joining us.

The president of the NAACP just a little while ago responded to the president's speech saying it is time for the Biden administration to, quote, match their words with actions. Why nearly a year into the Biden presidency are leading civil rights activists still waiting for action?

SUSAN RICE, DIRECTOR, WHITE HOUSE DOMESTIC POLICY COUNCIL: Well, Wolf, as you know, this requires the Senate to move. The House passed the legislation that is so critical, the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. These pieces of legislation would roll back the efforts by 19 states and more to come to undermine the right to vote and to have one's vote counted.

This is absolutely critical, and that was the point that the president was making today. This is a moment at which history will judge every single member of the Senate on whether they stood on the side of democracy or not, whether they stood, as he said today, with John Lewis or with Bull Connor. That's the choice that everybody needs to make.

And it has been fundamental, a core tenet of this Biden presidency, he puts Vice President Harris in charge of this effort, he's doubled the size of the voting rights staff at the civil rights division of the Justice Department. This Justice Department has been active in challenging these laws that are meant to undermine our democracy. And this is a moment now where everybody has to reckon with what's at stake. It is a vital, vital moment, a pivot point in our democracy.

BLITZER: The president now says, Ambassador, that he supports changing the Senate rules, which, in his words, whichever way they need to be changed to protect voting rights. But Senator Joe Manchin, as you well know, says he won't support any changes without Republican support. So, given that, how is any attempt that a filibuster reform note dead on arrival in the U.S. Senate?

RICE: Well, Wolf, this is what is being tested right here, right now. There are productive conversations that have gone on within the Senate about how to restore the workings of the Senate, so that the rules actually enable real debate, real results.

The problem that we have is the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act have not even been allowed to come up for a debate in the Senate, because the Republicans have consistently blocked it. There are 50 Democratic votes for these pieces of legislation. That has been demonstrated. The issue is how do we get them to a vote. And this is vitally important. When you consider that, in 2016, the last time the voting rights legislation was on the floor of Congress, 16 seating Republican senators who are still in the Senate today all voted for it. It passed 98 to 0. And today, they won't even allow a debate on it.

So we have to call this question. History will judge. Whether the Republicans in the Senate and whether all members of the Senate are prepared to do what it takes to enable you and I to vote and have our votes counted.

BLITZER: The president repeatedly tied this fight for voting rights back to former President Trump and the January 6th attack during his speech today, this on the heels of his speech last week, going after his predecessor in a very, very similar way. Does the president think it serves him well to step up his direct attacks on Trump?

RICE: The president thinks it's absolutely necessarily that we recognize the moment where we're in. January 6, just last week, we commemorated the one-year anniversary of what was, in effect, an attempted coup against the will of the people in this country, an armed insurrection of a sort we're never seen, confederate flags waiving in the halls of the rotunda, which never even happened during the civil war.

This is not the America we can tolerate or an America that we can allow to move into the future. So, rather than let that date and its anniversary be the slow death now of our democracy, we have to renew it. We have to have a renaissance, as the president said today.

And it is critical that we call this out for what it is. It was an attempt to overturn the will of the people by violence. It didn't succeed, thankfully, but we can't allow it to happen again.

[18:10:02] BLITZER: As you know, you're getting -- the administration is getting some criticism from fellow Democrats, Progressive Senate Bernie Sanders, for example, is warning that Democrats need, in his words, a major course correction ahead of the midterm elections in November. He says, the Democratic Party has, quote, turned its back on the working class. How do you respond to Senator Sanders?

RICE: Well, I would not say that the Democratic Party has turned its back on the working class. We have had historic successes in the first year of the Biden presidency, the passage of the American Rescue Plan, to give one example, has cut child poverty in this country almost in half. We have put very important supports in the pockets of the American people at a time when the pandemic has made their economic prospects perilous.

The historic passage of the infrastructure bill, which has -- would put real benefits into everyday communities, whether it's new roads, new bridges, new airports, broad band, getting rid of lead in our pipes. These are historic and transformational things that will benefit the working Americans and all Americans.

And that is why we have been working so hard to get that legislation passed. And the next piece of legislation that is vitally important after the voting rights legislation is the president's Build Back Better agenda, which is vitally important to lower costs for working American families, their child care costs, their costs for elder care, their health care costs, their prescription drug costs. And we're going to continue to fight for those critical elements of that legislation as well.

BLITZER: Yes. Those very important pieces of legislation, you've got no Republicans supporting it. Senator Joe Manchin, your fellow Democrat, not supporting either piece, at least not now. We'll see what happens.

Ambassador Susan Rice, thanks so much for coming in.

RICE: Thank you, Wolf. Always good to be with you.

BLITZER: Thank you. Just ahead, Dr. Anthony Fauci, get this, now says the omicron variant will, quote, find just about everybody. Does the United States need to rethink its strategy in fighting the virus now?

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.



BLITZER: A very blunt warning tonight from Dr. Anthony Fauci as more Americans with COVID-19 are hospitalized than at any point in the pandemic, and the omicron variant spreads unchecked across the country.

CNN's Lucy Kafanov has the latest.


LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Tonight, a sobering assessment from the nation's top health officials.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Omicron, with its extraordinary, unprecedented degree of efficiency of transmissibility will ultimately find just about everybody.


KAFANOV: More Americans are now hospitals sick with COVID than ever before.

WOODOCK: What we need to do is make sure the hospitals can still function, transportation, other essential services are not disrupted while this happens.

KAFANOV: Hospitalizations, about twice as many as two weeks ago, surpassing last winter's peak, underscoring the threat posed by the highly contagious omicron variant, especially for the unvaccinated.

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: Despite a potential decrease in severity, the substantial number of absolute cases is resulting in hospitalization increases across all age groups, including children age zero to four.

KAFANOV: Hospital staff struggling to cope.

DR. MARK JOHNSON, PRESIDENT, COLORADO MEDICAL SOCIETY: We have so many physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists, other practicing health individuals in health care who are getting to the end of their rope as far as being able to care for patients, the high mental health risk of being almost like in a war zone.

KAFANOV: Deaths are also spiking, up 33 percent from last week. The U.S. now averaging more than 1,600 deaths a day, new cases averaging over about three-quarters of a million a day, this as the CDC reportedly raised updating its mask guidance to encourage people to wear N-95 or KN-95 masks, which provide better filtration to help curve omicron spread, according to The Washington Post.

WALENSKY: Omicron is likely not to be the last curve ball this virus throws at us but we have the tools to prevent further spread of this virus. This means for everyone five and older, please get vaccinated. For those 12 and older, get your booster shot.

KAFANOV: Despite logging some 66,000 positive COVID cases, Los Angeles students and staff are back in classrooms today, Chicago also following suit.

WALENSKY: School should be the first place to open and last place to close. We had a delta surge in the fall and 99 percent of our schools were safely open. We have vaccines that are available for every child over the age of five. (END VIDEOTAPE)

KAFANOV (on camera): And, Wolf, this is just in from the CDC. Sources tell CNN that the agency will, in fact, be updating its mask website to best reflect options for people and different levels of protection they provide. The agency continues to recommend that any mask is better than no mask and we expect that update to come out later this week.

BLITZER: All right, we'll stand by for that. Lucy Kafanov, with that report, thank you.

Let's get some analysis from CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen. Dr. Wen, what do you make of Dr. Fauci now saying the omicron variant will find, in his words, just about everybody?

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, he's right if we look at the sheer numbers.


Last week, 1 in 60 Americans was diagnosed with COVID-19 and that's almost certainly a substantial undercount. The real number may be five or ten times higher because of the number of people who got rapid tests that were never reported and the number of people who never found out that they got COVID. And so if it is a matter of time before you're going to get exposed to COVID, then the best thing to do is to protect yourself. This is why vaccination and boosters are so important.

And I would also say that's not a reason to want to get exposed as soon as possible. Our hospitals are overwhelmed now. The entire point of flattening the curve is so that we can spread out the infections over time so that we're not straining the health care system all at the same time.

BLITZER: According to The Washington Post, Dr. Wen, the CDC, as you heard, is now considering recommending N-95 or KN-95 masks for all Americans who can consistently wear them correctly instead of the cloth masks, for example, some of the other masks. Is that the right step?

WEN: It's about time and actually way past time for the CDC to be changing its mask guidance. COVID is airborne. We have known this for many months. We also know that omicron is the most transmissible variant we have seen yet. And the best way for us to protect against it is to have the best possible mask.

And it is just a real shame that I still see so many people walk around with a simple single layer cloth mask. These are individuals who might be thinking that they're protecting themselves when actually they're not. And so if you are going to a crowded indoor setting, you really should be wearing at least a surgical mask with a cloth mask on top or, ideally, KN-95, KN-94 mask or N-05. That's the best standard and that's what the CDC should be recommending and the federal government be providing to individuals who cannot afford buying these masks.

BLITZER: Yes, that's a good point. Let me get your thoughts while I have you on, Dr. Wen. Dr. Anthony Fauci going after Senator Rand Paul, accusing him of putting his life in danger. Watch this exchange.


FAUCI: I guess you could say, well, that's the way it goes, I can take the hit. Well, it makes a difference. Because as some of you may know, just about three or four weeks ago on December 21st, a person was arrested who was on their way from Sacramento to Washington, D.C., had a speed stop in Iowa. And they asked -- the police asked him where he was going, and he was going to Washington, D.C. to kill Dr. Fauci. And they found in his car an AR-15 and multiple magazines of ammunition because he thinks that maybe I'm killing people.

So, I ask myself why would a senator want to do this. So, go to Rand Paul website and you see, Fire Dr. Fauci with a little box that says contribute here. You can do $5, $10, $20, $100. So, you are making a catastrophic epidemic for your political gain.


BLITZER: So, what's your reaction to that, Dr. Wen.

WEN: It is so difficult to watch because here's Dr. Fauci, who has been a public servant for many decades, who is giving up so much of his life in order to try to give honest advice to the American people, and here he is bearing witness to all these threats and assaults on his life. I mean, this is really difficult. And I wish that people like Senator Paul would stand up and say that this is all really wrong, that, look, we can have honest discussions about policy differences but we should not be putting people's lives in danger. There are so many public health experts including me who have had these threats to our lives and that really should not be happening.

BLITZER: Whenever you see Dr. Fauci, you see security all around him. It's so sad to see that. Dr. Leana Wen, thank you so much for joining us.

WEN: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Coming up, the January 6th select committee is now setting its sights directly on Rudy Giuliani. Could former President Trump's former personal attorney hold the keys to the investigation?


BLITZER: The House January 6th select committee wants to hear directly from Trump loyalist and his former attorney, Rudy Giuliani, calling him integral part of the probe into the Capitol insurrection.

CNN's Senior Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid is working the story for us. So, Paula, what are you learning?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Wlel, Wolf, the committee revealing the first time publicly they want to talk to Rudy Giuliani eventually. Chairman Bennie Thompson told CNN the former New York mayor is an integral part of whatever happens here and he is on the list of people they would like to talk to at some point.

Now, look, this is not surprising. Giuliani served as a personal attorney for former President Trump, including in the lead up to the insurrection, and he was one of the leading figures, pedaling false claims about election fraud. He was also one of the speakers at the Stop the Steal rally that preceded the Capitol riot. At one point, he told the crowd to engage in trial by combat over election results.

Now, as to whether lawmakers will ask Giuliani to come involuntarily, as they have with some other high profile Republicans, or if they'll subpoena him, Thompson said they're working through the process and he also didn't give any timeline on when this could potentially happen.

Now, Giuliani's attorney, Robert Costello, told us that CNN's outreach about the committee's interest in his client was the first he's heard about and he suggested that any information Giuliani would have would be covered by attorney/client privilege.


Now, of course, Wolf, Giuliani may have some materials that are covered by attorney/client privilege, but it's unlikely that would cover everything they're interested in.

BLITZER: Yes, good point. Paula Reid reporting for us, thank you, Paula, very much.

Let's dig deeper right now. Joining us, CNN Chief Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin and CNN Legal Analyst Elliot Williams.

Elliot, what sort of information do you think Giuliani might have that could advance the committee's investigation?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Wolf, a great way to think about this is that January 6th didn't spring out of a sea shell in the ocean on the morning of January 6th, and there were months and months of lies about elections being pedaled namely by Rudy Giuliani going back to the summer before.

So, number one, he has been already sued by officials in Georgia. He's already been sued by Dominion Voting machines, all on the same claims. So, the committee can ask him what was the basis of the statements he was making in public, what were the basis of the remarks he made on January 6th, prior to January 6th and after January 6th. And that these are all statements that are far beyond reach of attorney/client privilege. And, yes, he is a critical witness, far beyond any one-on- one conversations he might have had with the president in his own right.

BLITZER: Well, let me follow up with Jeffrey on that. Jeffrey, it looks like Giuliani is clearly already gearing up for a fight. His lawyer, as you heard, hinting that any information Giuliani has would be covered by attorney/client privilege. Does that argument actually stand up?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it may or may not, but there's a different point here. Rudy Giuliani is never, ever, ever, ever going to testify because it is hard to keep track of players without a score card but he's under criminal investigation right now. He has had his phones searched and seized by the Southern District of New York as part of an investigation for potentially illegal lobbying on behalf of Ukraine. He is going to take the Fifth in the unlikely event he actually shows up to give testimony. So, any lawyer with any sense at all, and Robert Costello is a lawyer who knows what he is doing, is going to tell Rudy take the Fifth, and Rudy will take the Fifth and that's the end of the story. There's no litigation. There's no debate. It's just -- that's the end of it and he is just not going to testify.

BLITZER: Elliot, the committee also just issuing new subpoenas, including for former White House staffer who helped draft then- President Trump's speech on the morning of January 6, 2021. Will the committee have better luck with lower profile staffers like these?

WILLIAMS: Wolf, it always depends on how much a particular witness has an appetite for fighting and going to the mat with the committee. Now, look, the committee has already established that it can seek criminal referrals to the Justice Department if witnesses don't comply. So, it is just hard to say. Now, what they are doing, and it's quite clear from many other types of investigations, is filling in the gaps, where people like -- this is exactly what Jeffrey says, where Rudy Giuliani won't speak, or where Mark Meadows or Jim Jordan, other members of Congress and former senior White House staff will not speak, some people fill in the gaps. And you can still build a very credible investigation even when some of the biggest fish choose not to testify.

BLITZER: Very quickly, Jeffrey, before I let you go, do you think the former vice president, Mike Pence, will agree voluntarily to testify?

TOOBIN: No. He's got to keep his ties to Trump world and Trump world requires defiance. And he might actually have constitutional arguments that would allow him not to testify. So, I think he's going to give a stiff arm to the committee, like so many people close to Trump have.

BLITZER: All right. Jeffrey Toobin, Elliot Williams, guys, thank you very much.

Just ahead, details on a highly unusual ground stop following a North Korean missile test. The Federal Aviation Administration here in the United States now revealing why it temporarily shutdown flights on the West Coast.



BLITZER: All right. This just in tonight, North Korea now claiming they've successfully test-fired a hypersonic missile with the dictator, Kim Jong-un, on hand to watch. CNN's Brian Todd is working the story for us. Brian, if this is true, it would be, what, the third hypersonic missile test by the regime?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It would be, Wolf. And while some experts question just how far advanced the North Korean's hypersonic missile program is, there is genuine concern tonight that Kim Jong- un's regime is at least developing this dangerous weapon.


TODD (voice over): A provocative move by North Korea's 38-year-old dictator, causing enough of a security concern in the U.S. to halt air traffic. The FAA ordering ground stop for some pilots along America's West Coast, this after NORAD, the U.S. Military's North American Aerospace Defense Command, detected that Kim Kong-un's regime had test-fired a missile Monday evening. Some pilots were instructed to land, others prevented from taking off, like at Burbank Airport in California.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's ground stops to all departures, all airports right now. It's just until further notice right now.

TODD: The FAA says flights resumed in less than 15 minutes and that it is reviewing the ground stop order. NORAD says it didn't issue any warnings and assessed the North Korean launch did not pose a threat to the Continental U.S. Still, U.S. officials call Kim's latest missile tests destabilizing, dangerous and missile experts are concerned tonight about what they could mean for security in the region.

DARYL KIMBALL, ARMS CONTROL ASSOCIATION: This shows that they're making some progress.

TODD: The suspected ballistic missile, according to South Korea's top military officials, reached a velocity of more than ten times the speed of sound. North Korean state media says Kim Jong-un attended the launch and calls the projectile a hypersonic missile. South Korea's military says this projectile was more advanced than the weapon the North Koreans tested last week, which the regime also claimed was a hypersonic missile.


If that's true, North Korea may have now tested hypersonic missiles three times in recent months.

SUE TERRY, THE WILSON CENTER: These missiles, if they're equipped with nuclear, they can reach Seoul in less than a minute.

TODD: Experts say, what also makes hypersonic missiles and more specifically the so-called glide vehicles those missiles send off so dangerous is that they could fly as fast as 20 times the speed of sound and are more maneuverable in flight than other missiles.

KIMBALL: These hypersonic missiles would be less vulnerable to missile defense based in the region and it could make U.S. conventional forces and bases more vulnerable to a North Korean attack.

TODD: The young dictator has just passed tenth anniversary of his ascent to power, and experts say there is little doubt what his rule has meant for North Korea weapons capability.

TERRY: Are they more dangerous? Yes, the threat increased because they're nuclear weapons and their missile program has expanded and they had modernized and they are continuing to do so, and there's not really any way for us to stop them.


TODD: Now, while analysts worry about the North Korean weapons program getting even more dangerous, they're also worried about a lack of diplomatic engagement with North Korea right now. One analyst points out, he believes the Biden administration is distracted by the security issues between Russia and Ukraine, the pandemic and other issues. It takes a lot of diplomatic energy to engage North Korea on its weapons program, this analyst says, and the U.S. doesn't seem to have that energy right now. Wolf?

BLITZER: And we'll watch this story. Thank you very much, Brian Todd reporting.

Coming up, immigration officials are investigating whether Novak Djokovic lied on his travel declaration before flying to Australia. Could this latest twist in his COVID vaccination saga put his Australian Open plans in jeopardy?



BLITZER: Tonight, more questions surrounding tennis star Novak Djokovic, on whether he will be able to compete in the Australian Open. The country's border officials are now investigating whether he lied on his travel declaration.

CNN's Paula Hancocks has more from Melbourne.


PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The 9-time Australian Open champion back in his habit natural habitat. This time, no media or fans invited. A Channel 9 News drone catches a glimpse of the world number one. Novak Djokovic focuses on tennis while the visa saga continues to swirl around him.

Australia's immigration minister is still considering whether to cancel his visa and ban him from the country for three years.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just because he's rich and famous, why should he be treated than anybody else?

HANCOCKS: A point the government has hammered this home. Rules are rules. All have to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to come into the country, or have a watertight medical exemption.

Now, the tennis star may have fallen foul of another of Australia's rules. The Australian border forces investigating whether Djokovic submitted a false travel declaration before his arrival, a source with knowledge of the investigation tells CNN. An answer to a question the visa holder has traveled or will travel during the two-week period ahead of arrival, Djokovic ticked no.

The pictures posted to social media appeared to show the world number one in both Spain and Serbia during that time. Tennis Australia filled out the forms with the defending champion, the wrong box checked maybe an honest mistake. But with the Australian government smarting from a legal loss overturning his visa cancellation, Djokovic's stay here is tenuous.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have no opinion. I don't mind, I thought it was good for him to be here and good spirit for the open.

HANCOCKS: With the tournament less than a week away, we still don't know whether the defending champion will be returning to center court, or returning home.


HANCOCKS: And there are still unresolved questions about the timeline of Djokovic testing positive. He tested positive according to documents December 16th, he was seen in public mask-less on December 17th. And Serbian prime minister spoke to "Reuters" and said that there are isolation rules in place if you test positive, saying if Djokovic was aware, that is a clear violation of the rules. She would not be pushed though on what exactly the repercussions might be, but it shows that even in his home country, the national hero is facing some very difficult questions -- Wolf.

BLITZER: As he should. Paula Hancocks reporting for us from Melbourne, thank you.

Let's bring in once again the former professional tennis player Patrick McEnroe.

Patrick, thanks for joining us.

Knowing what you know about Djokovic, that you followed him over the years, would it surprise you if he did lie, in fact, on these forms?

PATRICK MCENROE, FORMER PROFESSIONAL TENNIS PLAYER: Well, it would not surprise me if the mistakes were made, Wolf. It would surprise me if he were to outright lie, yes, at this point. I think he's got too much at stake, too much on the line trying to get his 21st major title and his 10th Australian Open Title. But there are so many questions still. That's why this is not going to be put to bed, Wolf, until Djokovic himself talks to the media, talks about the timeline, talks about all of the questions that are out there.

But I will tell you what is also playing into this situation with the Australian government, Wolf, that is the following, when Djokovic worse -- first went to Australia, put his first Instagram post, out the percentage of people, according to polls in Australia was well over 90 percent that did not want him in the country to play in the tournament. Now, that has flipped in the last. Because of the way that he was treated, I think a lot of Australians are simply embarrassed by the fact that he was put in this sort of holding detention center for 5 or 6 days.


And now, that's flipped about 60 percent, actually support Djokovic. Why do I think that this important? Because I think that that is the crucial factor, here into whether or not immigration decide to try to pull the trigger and kick him out of the country, or let him stay. I would guess at this point, because of the political fallout and what happens if they came out of the country, I believe that he stays, and he plays.

BLITZER: Well, we shall see.

But, would you expect a global pandemic to inspire at least a bit more humility with someone like Novak Djokovic?

MCENROE: Well, that is true. He is one of those prominent athletes, that at the moment, have said that they're not going to be vaccinated for whatever reason.

I am hearing from my sources down in Australia, in the locker room, or a lot of players and coaches, Wolf, that initially sort of supported Djokovic, are taking a stand, they're getting a little bit fed up with his preferential treatment. There's a lot of questions about the timeline, the exemption date was extended for Novak.

He had a practice today at the center court of the tournament that was completely closed to the public. So, he is getting preferential treatment. Why is it getting that at the moment? That's a question that only Tennis Australia, or Novak Djokovic himself can answer.

BLITZER: We will find out fairly soon. Patrick McEnroe, thanks as usual for joining us.

Coming up, what we're learning right now, new details about a medical helicopter crash in Pennsylvania, including the condition of the infant child pulled from the wreckage.



BLITZER: We are following the developments after a medical helicopter crash outside Philadelphia. At least one crew member was seriously injured. When the aircraft experienced an incident that, while transporting a pediatric patient from Maryland to a children's hospital in Pennsylvania, the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Transportation Safety Board are investigating. The infant child survived the crash, along with all other people on board. A U.S. Justice Department official has announced that a new domestic

terrorism unit is being established to fight the threat that is more than doubled in the past two years.

Let's discuss this and more with CNN political analyst Carl Bernstein. His brand new book is entitled, there you see the cover, "Chasing History: A Kid in the Newsroom".

Carl, thanks very much for joining us.

I want to talk to you about your fascinating new book in just a moment. But as somebody who broke the story of the Watergate scandal with Bob Woodward, just how worried are you right now about the state of American democracy?

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, we have an authoritarian ex-president, a seditious ex-president who attempted a coup, a president of the United States unlike any other in our history, and he has a huge following that is an anti-democratic force in this country, such as we have never seen since the Civil War.

So, the worries are real, and also truth has been the casualty of this war against democracy conducted by president of the United States. And that's a lot to talk about in the coming days.

BLITZER: Yeah, it certainly is, very strong words.

Let's talk about your really excellent new book which I have gone through that focuses in on a part of your career that many of us are not familiar with, the beginning. What was the most important lesson, Carl, that you learned as a 16 year old copy boy at the "Washington Evening Star" that helped you go on to break the story that led to the resignation of a sitting American president?

BERNSTEIN: It's the job of a reporter, and it's the best obtainable version of the truth. And that's that was drummed into me when I want to work at 16 years at "The Washington Evening Star". It was the ethic of the paper itself. It was a better paper at the time then "The Washington Post", great writers, great editors, great reporters.

And also, it's about perseverance. There is a straight line to Watergate from what we were taught, and I was taught at "The Star", and that is you knock on doors. You go out at night to see people in their homes. You don't sit around their offices or their under pressure.

You go after people, one after another, after another. You don't take no for an answer. But more than anything, you listen to them, because you learn that if you give your sources a chance to talk, and you're a careful listener, they will usually try to tell you the truth -- certainly, their truth.

And our job is to take whatever truth that we can fine, nail them down with multiple sources and, that is basically what with the lessons of Watergate were, as well as the lessons that were drummed into me as a teenage reporter, a coffee boy, at this incredible newspaper. BLITZER: Yeah, and it's really amazing, because you're 16, 17, 18

years old, and only a few years later, you were in your 20s, your late 20s when you broke that story called Watergate.

BERNSTEIN: Well, I had 12 years of experience by them. Bob was a great reporter, even the day that he walked into "The Washington Post".

But again, the basics. This is about the basics and knowing that our job in the press is not to follow a preconceived notion of what we think maybe the truth, but rather to go wherever the story takes us. That is the lesson of Watergate. It's the lesson of what we did at "The Washington Star".

And it is really a great failing into many of our newsrooms today because people are too dependent on the Internet, and they are not going out to get the news from their sources outside of the office.

BLITZER: The book is entitled, "Chasing History". It's a great book, "A Kid in a Newsroom". Really, a must read for anybody want to be a journalist. For everybody else as well.

Carl Bernstein, thank you very much.

And to our viewers, thanks for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.