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The Situation Room
Exclusive January 6 Reporting; Biden Tries To Reset Stalled Agenda With Long-Shot Push For Voting Rights Bill; White House Weighs New Ukraine Military Support; U.S. Launches Free COVIDTests.gov Website, Americans Can Order Four Per Household; Airlines Warn Of "Devastating Impact" On Flight Operations If 5G Rollout Allowed Near Airports. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired January 18, 2022 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer. I think he's next door in THE SITUATION ROOM.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news, CNN has exclusively learned of new steps taken by the January 6th select committee that reach deep into former President Trump's inner circle. The committee obtaining phone records from two people extremely close to Donald Trump.
Also tonight, the looming threat of Russian aggression is setting off alarm bells inside the White House. The Biden administration now weighing additional military support for Ukraine. Stand by for CNN's exclusive reporting.
And a British official tells CNN the Texas gunman, synagogue gunman, was on security service's radar in 2020 but was not deemed a threat. Tonight, I'll speak with the rabbi who survived the terrifying standoff. Stand by for that.
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.
Let's start with the breaking news, and a CNN exclusive. The January 6th select committee has subpoenaed and obtained the phone records of two key people very close to former president Donald Trump.
Our Special Correspondent Jamie Gangel is joining us right now. Jamie, tell our viewers what you are learning.
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: So, Wolf, what we have found out is, according to multiple sources, the January 6th committee has obtained phone records from a member of the Trump family. This is a first, Eric Trump, as well as Kimberly Guilfoyle, who is engaged to Donald Trump Jr.
As far as we know, this is the first time the committee has issued a subpoena targeting one of the Trump children, and it really underscores just how aggressive the committee is willing to be in its investigation.
Just for some context, the records the committee has obtained include Eric Trump's cell phone and a cell phone number for Kimberly Guilfoyle. We've confirmed both numbers from multiple sources who know both Trump and Guilfoyle.
For the record, Eric Trump declined to comment on the subpoena of his call records, but a source familiar with his thinking tells me, quote, he is not losing sleep over it. And an attorney for Kimberly Guilfoyle said that she had not been notified of any subpoena being issued for her records, but the attorney said, quote, it's of no consequence to her because she has absolutely nothing to hide or to be concerned about. And just for the record, Wolf, the committee declined also to comment on the subpoena.
Just for some context, what are call detail records, they're also known as CDRs. In effect, these are phone logs, text logs. In case of phone calls, it shows the date, the time, the length of incoming and outgoing calls, same for text messages. But it does not give the substance or the content of those calls or messages. So it's more of a roadmap, Wolf.
BLITZER: Do we know why, Jamie, Eric Trump and Kimberly Guilfoyle's phone records would be of such high interest to the select committee?
GANGEL: We don't yet. But it's my understanding that, in general, the committee has made it a practice, when it comes to subpoenaing someone, a person or their records, that it's for a very specific reason in their investigation. They didn't subpoena everybody's records in the family. There is also no evidence that the committee has done the same for Trump's other children, Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump Jr., or his son-in-law, Jared Kushner.
So, I think it's a piece of the puzzle they are putting together and the information from call detail records can be a critical investigative tool as they piece together this roadmap of who was communicating before January 6th, during January 6th, and then the days following.
BLITZER: I want you to stand by, Jamie. Excellent reporting. There is more breaking news we are following in THE SITUATION ROOM right now involving the insurrection investigation. I want to bring in our Justice Correspondent Jessica Schneider. Jessica, tell us what you're learning.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, four close allies to Donald Trump now being subpoenaed by the committee, most notably here Trump's former attorney, Rudy Giuliani. These subpoenas now, they mark a significant escalation by this committee, especially because they are going after Rudy Giuliani now.
Of course, he worked closely with Trump for years and he was leading the effort to overturn the 2020 election results. Of course, he spearheaded several lawsuits that were dismissed in several different courts. And Giuliani notably also spoke out at that Stop the Steal rally on January 6th. He called for, quote, trial by combat. So, he, in particular, has a lot of information the committee wants to dig into.
The committee also issuing subpoenas to three others who were closely involved in the efforts to overturn the election. They include here Jenna Ellis. She's a lawyer who reportedly circulated two memos about how V.P. Mike Pence could delay or stop the vote count. Then there was Sydney Powell. She was one of the loudest, most outspoken lawyers pushing this big lie. And then there's Boris Epshteyn. He attended meetings at that Willard Hotel war room here in Washington where Trump allies strategized how to overturn the election.
The committee is also saying in their lawyer to Epshteyn that they know that he talked to Trump the morning of January 6th about options. So, Wolf, no response from any of these four yet but the stakes could be high here if they don't comply with their subpoenas that have been just issued. If the House moves forward on yet another contempt of Congress referral against any of these four, it would just add to the mounting pressure that people are facing and possibly court cases here. Wolf?
BLITZER: Significant developments, indeed. Jessica Schneider, thank you very much.
I want to bring in our Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger and CNN Chief Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin, Jamie Gangel is also back with us.
Jeffrey, just how significant of an escalation is the subpoena of Eric Trump and Kimberly Guilfoyle's phone records?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I think it's very important because people whose phone records are subpoenaed have no right to object in court. That is a transaction between the phone company and the subpoenaing authority. So, those records are going to go to the committee.
I don't think anyone should get their hopes up that Rudy Giuliani or Sydney Powell is going to be testifying. Both of them are under criminal investigation in various ways, and any lawyer with any sense, and they do have lawyers with some sense, are going to tell them to take the Fifth. And once a witness takes the Fifth, that's the end of the story. So, I don't think anyone is going to hear from Rudy Giuliani or Sydney Powell under oath.
BLITZER: Interesting. Gloria, both Eric Trump and Kimberly Guilfoyle played prominent roles in Trump's Stop the Steal efforts, as they were called, even speaking at that January 6th rally that preceded the attack on the U.S. Capitol. They are key players, aren't they?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, they are, and, apparently, fundraising for the rally, not only speaking at it. And I think what we're seeing tonight is a committee that is trying to tell the story, and as Jamie was saying, provide the roadmap to the American public about just how January 6th was funded, how it was devised and how it was planned.
And when you look at the subpoenas issued tonight of the Willard Hotel war room group, I think they are trying to piece together the plans for undermining a free and fair election. And don't forget that in these letters that the committee has issued with the subpoenas, they make note of the fact that, for example, in the case of Boris Epshteyn, that he was on the phone with the president.
And so I think they're trying to tell this story, and we know that the president was calling into this war room and trying to figure out how to reverse this election. So, it's all a part of a big narrative they're trying to tell to American public about how this all occurred, how it was planned and who was a part of it.
BLITZER: Jamie, what is this development tell you about the select committee's path forward?
GANGEL: I think it's bad news for Donald Trump. They are being very aggressive. They are now subpoenaing records of family members. And just to clarify something that Jeffrey said before, the committee has these phone records. They have received them. They are in House and they are going through them.
I also think it's interesting, in some cases, not all, people whose records have been subpoenaed have received a notice from the phone company, and some people have started lawsuits to fight that. My sense is that Eric Trump certainly may have had some notice from his phone company, but he did not choose to fight it with a lawsuit. His call records are now with the committee.
BLITZER: You know, Jeffrey, let's get back to these new subpoenas for Rudy Giuliani and others who were at the heart of Trump's failed effort to overturn the 2020 election.
Just how essential are they in putting the pieces forward, putting the pieces together of this attempted coup?
TOOBIN: Well, they are essential, but I think we are learning something else from this round of subpoenas, which is that the committee is getting towards the end of their investigation because these people are the closest people to Donald Trump that there are. You have family members. You have Rudy Giuliani. You have Sydney Powell. These are people who were in daily interaction with Donald Trump. There is no one closer.
And the committee has been acting in a methodical way, working from the bottom up. We heard many times that they have interviewed 300 people, which includes lower-level people. But by issuing subpoenas to these people, it means that they are getting towards the end, which they had better be, because given the possibility of legal challenges, given the possibility of delay from witnesses who don't go to court, they better start getting the witnesses they need in House because they may not be in Congress for that -- they may not be in the majority for that much longer. BLITZER: That's right.
BORGER: I don't think they believe that these guys are going to come wandering in and say, oh, sure, we are going to testify, no problem. I think they know exactly -- the committee knows exactly what it's doing, which is we are going to subpoena you, we are going to tell the story in these letters that we send out, but we understand that Rudy Giuliani is not just going to wander in there and say, sure, I'll cooperate.
BLITZER: All right. Gloria, thank you, Jeffrey, thank you, Jamie, thanks to you as well, excellent reporting, as I said.
Coming up, President Biden tries to revive his faltering agenda as Democrats make a major push right now for his voting rights bill.
Also ahead, officials in the U.K. now reveal new information about the Texas synagogue gunman, including whether he was ever considered a threat. The rabbi who endured the grueling 11-hour standoff will join me live here in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: Right now, Senate Democrats are huddling up on Capitol Hill as they try to revive President Biden's floundering agenda with a long shot bid to pass his voting rights bill. Our Senior White House Correspondent Phil Mattingly has more.
JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We are going to stay at it.
PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Tonight, President Biden approaching a critical marker faced with challenges driving down his approval and imperiling his congressional majorities.
PSAKI: There has been a lot of progress made. We need to build on that. The work is not done. The job is not done. And we are certainly not conveying it is.
MATTINGLY: The White House grappling with a persistent pandemic, stalled legislative agenda and growing economic anxiety. Biden set to conduct his first formal press conference in 78 days and seeking to turn the page.
PSAKI: I think what you will hear the president talk about tomorrow is how to build on the foundation we laid in the first year.
MATTINGLY: But facing a legislative roadblock on the same day he meets with the press. The Senate Democrats still two votes short on their push to change Senate rules in order to advance voting reform legislation.
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): The eyes of the nation will be watching what happens this week in the United States Senate.
MATTINGLY: It's an effort opposed by every single Senate Republican, making the only path forward a change to those rules, a change opposed by Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, despite public and private pleas from Biden.
JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: Where do we stand?
MATTINGLY: Leaving the White House on the brink of a major legislative defeat and Democrats facing criticism from advocates who have called for a more sustained effort.
BISHOP REGINALD T. JACKSON, SIXTH EPISCOPAL DISTRICT OF THE AFRICAN METHODIS (AME) CHURCH: Voting rights is a fight. Republicans, when they show up, they show up with an axe. Democrats show up with a butter knife.
MATTINGLY: But the White House left only to call for a vote destined to fail if only to make the record clear.
PSAKI: It will highlight very clearly for the American people who stands with them in protecting voting rights and who stands against it.
MATTINGLY: It's just the latest in a bevy of Biden priorities stuck in the Senate, including Biden's cornerstone $1.75 trillion economic and climate package, all as administration officials acknowledge the singular issue most responsible for driving Biden's approval is the pandemic, where historic efforts to distribute vaccines are now overshadowed by a scramble for tests, masks and coordinated messaging in the face of the omicron variant surge.
And as Biden oversees an economic recovery that leads the world --
PSAKI: It was its biggest year of job growth in American history and it was the direct result of actions taken by President Biden and Democrats in Congress.
MATTINGLY: That's been overshadowed by inflation, sitting at its highest level in 39 years, all driving ominous indicators across polling, including a Gallup analysis showing a shift in party preferences towards Republicans, leaving White House officials eying a rebound, knowing full well midterms are looming.
MATTINGLY (on camera): And, Wolf, Senate Democrats concluded that closed door meeting just moments ago, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer emerging from that meeting, saying there will certainly be votes and they will try to change the Senate rules proposing a talking filibuster, something Manchin has already he is opposed to. Schumer, however, unequivocal, they are moving forward. Win, lose or draw, Schumer said, we are going to vote. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right. We'll see what happens. Phil Mattingly at the White House, thank you. Let's discuss what's going on with Democratic Congresswoman Lisa Rochester of Delaware. Congresswoman, thanks so much for joining us.
Just moments ago, when asked about election reform, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia said, what voters are actually worried about is COVID and inflation and that Democrats need to, and I'm quoting him now, get their priorities in order.
How do you respond to that?
REP. LISA ROCHESTER (D-DE): Well, first of all, Wolf, thank you for having me on. I think it's vitally important to remember that we are not just talking about policies. We're talking about our democracy, the foundation of this country. And so as Democrats, as Republicans, as Americans, this is really an issue for all of us. And the reality is that we can do more than one thing at one time. We have to. That's why we're -- that's why the American people hired us.
So, we must deal with COVID but we also must save our democracy u it's not an either/or.
BLITZER: Are these Senate votes, which are all but certain to fail, as you and I well know, essentially just to get on the record with voters and say we tried?
ROCHESTER: No, I think that the efforts that are being made by the Senate leadership are real. There are a lot of different options that have been placed on the table. And the reality is, I mean, Wolf, you know my middle name is Blunt. To be blunt with you, I think the American people really don't care about the process. They want to see progress. They want to see us actually get this done. And the time is now. We have an incredible opportunity right now and we have to seize it.
BLITZER: Stevie Wonder has a message for senators. He is telling them, in his words, to cut the bull, the B.S. Sports giants, including Alabama's Nick Saban, are putting the pressure on Senator Joe Manchin to pass voting rights. Is more sustained pressure from outside the political arena what it will take eventually to shift this dynamic?
ROCHESTER: Well, you know, first of all, for me, I don't focus on just two people and I don't depend on just two people to get this done. We know that there are 100 senators, and every one of them is going to have to determine what side of history do they want to be on. The president said it very clearly a week ago, what side of history do they want to be on.
So, yes, I think everybody needs to -- my sister, we were talking earlier today, and she was so concerned about the state of where we are. And she said, what can I do? What should I do? And we need to do everything. That's everything, from peacefully protesting and marching to contributing to people and causes that you believe in, to stepping up and speaking up. Every single one of us needs to reach out because this isn't, again, a Democratic or a Republican thing. We already know that Democrats have committed to passing legislation. We need every member of the House and the Senate to believe it and pass these bills to get them on to the president's desk.
BLITZER: A very important week indeed. Congresswoman Lisa Blunt Rochester, thank you for joining us. I appreciate it very much.
ROCHESTER: Thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: Thank you.
Coming up, we have new details of what U.K. officials knew about the man who took four people hostage at a Texas synagogue. We are going to talk live to the rabbi who was among them. We'll talk about the dramatic escape. There you see him, Rabbi Charlie. We'll discuss when we come back.
BLITZER: This just into CNN, a lawyer for a Texas mosque says the man who went on to take four hostages at a synagogue was thrown out of the mosque days earlier for what was described as erratic behavior. Also tonight, U.K. officials say the gunman was known to security services in the U.K. and had been the subject of a brief investigation back in 2020 that was closed when he was no longer considered to be a threat.
Let's discuss what happened, what's going on now. Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker is joining us, one of the four hostages held in his congregation, Beth Israel Synagogue. Rabbi, and everyone calls you Rabbi Charlie, I'll call you Rabbi Charlie as well, thank you so much for joining us.
First of all, how are you doing? How are you reflecting on this horrible ordeal that you and three other congregants had to go through for 11 hours? How are you processing all of this?
RABBI CHARLIE CYTRON-WALKER, CONGREGATION BETH ISRAEL SYNAGOGUE: The process is ongoing. The whole experience, the day of and everything since, has been entirely overwhelming. And the message that I had for my congregation and my community last night at our healing service, that was one of recognizing and understanding that each of us, every human life, is sacred, and we know this and we agree with it. And it's really about living that value. And we have a lot of work to do, all of us, from every background, from every religious or non-religious background. We all have a lot of work to do as far as living that value that we all hold dear. Every life is sacred.
BLITZER: Well said, indeed. What goes through your mind, Rabbi, when you hear these new details emerging that the man who held you hostage was actually escorted from the property of a local mosque not far away from your synagogue for what was described as this erratic, belligerent behavior that was ten days before he targeted your congregation?
CYTRON-WALKER: I guess the idea that he exhibited erratic behavior I not necessarily a surprise. I'm just -- yes, it's -- I really honestly haven't followed -- it's hard for me to catch up on all the news.
I'm just trying to focus in on family and my own well being and trying to care for the congregation as best as I can.
BLITZER: I want you to explain, Rabbi, why it's so important for everyone to understand that you weren't rescued or freed, that you and the three others, two others at the time, actually escaped.
CYTRON-WALKER: Well, what's important is that I don't say this to scare people. I just -- like we don't take CPR training because we are expecting someone to fall down right in front of us, right? You take CPR training in order to be trained, in order to know what to do in case there is an emergency. And so the courses that I was able to take with the FBI, the Secure Communities Network, the ADL, the Anti- Defamation League, and our local police department, Colleyville Police Department, those courses, that instruction helped me to understand that you need to act in moments where your life is threatened.
And so that -- I would not have had the courage. I would not have had the know-how or what to do without that instruction. So, I want people to understand that this is something -- it doesn't matter if you are in a synagogue, if you're Jewish, if you are Muslim, if you're Christian, if you're religious at all, it can happen in a shopping mall. Unfortunately, unfortunately, this is the world that we're living in, and so that kind of training, I hope that that is not our reality forever. But right now, unfortunately, that's something that is very important for people to take advantage of because we -- it saved my life. It saved our lives.
BLITZER: And what is so sad is that not just you, but rabbis all over the United States and congregants have had to take those kinds of security courses in recent years to prepare, God forbid, for those kinds of situations.
When that gunman ordered you to get on your knees, did you think you had the time -- the time had come, basically, he might actually pull the trigger?
CYTRON-WALKER: Well, he -- when he said that, he was basically yelling at the negotiator, the FBI negotiator who was on the phone, and -- but, yes, we were completely terrified. We knew -- I knew that there was something that was happening outside, but we did not know when or if or how much longer we had. We were very much fearful for our lives. And we were looking, and we had been looking, for an opportunity. And thank God, thank God I was able to find an opportunity to act, and we were able to get free.
BLITZER: And so you took that chair and you just threw it at him, and then you guys escaped. Tell us about that.
CYTRON-WALKER: Well, so he had been holding his gun all day, and actually I had -- I just gotten him a drink. He went from yelling at the -- yelling at the negotiator. I think that he was losing -- I mean, he had lost patience. And so he asked me if we had any juice. So, I went to the kitchen and got him a drink in a glass. And as he was drinking, the gun was in -- wasn't in the best position and I thought this was our best chance. I needed to make sure that my -- the two people who were still with me, that they were ready to go. And so I -- there was a chair that was right in front of me and I was able to -- I told the guys to go. I picked it up and I threw it at him with all the adrenaline, with -- it was absolutely terrifying.
And I -- I wasn't sure if I was going to be shot. And I did not hear a shot fired as I made it out the door. I was the last one out.
BLITZER: Thank God you guys made it out. As you know, the FBI, the Department of Homeland Security here in Washington are now warning what are described as faith-based communities, including synagogues, of course, that they will likely continue to be targets for violence. How hard is it knowing that worshippers who simply go to Sabbath service or go to the church or anywhere else, to a mosque, for example, may be praying in fear?
CYTRON-WALKER: It's horrible. It's absolutely horrendous.
And the thing is, while this was an anti-Semitic attack, right, while this guy actually thought, that he really thought that Jews controlled the world and that just calling out -- you know, calling up a rabbi, you know, would make all of his demands, that was his idea.
The notion that any community should have to experience this level of fear or to worry, right -- the good news though is that there are resources out there for this -- for teachings and trainings, and it's -- look, it's hard during COVID. We had four people in person that day. We had a lot more people online. Not a lot more, right? I don't want to build that up. We didn't have too many people online, but we had more people online for our Saturday morning, our Shabbat morning worship.
And it's hard to know what that balance is, right? How do how do you offer hospitality and warmth and love and how do you have security at the same time? And how do you make sure that when people come in that they feel safe? It's a challenge because you only have so many resources to go around. It's a difficulty. And it remains a difficulty.
And I would say that we need our society to change. We need changes within our society to make sure that that's no longer our reality. We shouldn't just accept it. That's the -- that's the most important piece, this idea within Judaism, you have this notion of repairing the world, which understands that everything isn't perfect in our world and that we have the ability to have an impact. We have the ability to change. And that's something that all of us can work towards.
BLITZER: We are so grateful, Rabbi Charlie, you and the three other congregants are alive and well right now. We will continue to stay in touch with you. Good luck down the road. I appreciate so much your joining us. CYTRON-WALKER: Thank you so much. I appreciate the time.
BLITZER: Thank you very much, Rabbi. We appreciate you.
We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Right now, we are learning exclusive new details about options the U.S. is considering as Russian forces mass along the Ukraine border. Our Chief National Security Correspondent Jim Sciutto is joining us, CNN Senior International Correspondent Fred Pleitgen is working this story for us as well.
Jim, first of all, what are you learning about the options the U.S. military is now considering if Russia were to invade Ukraine?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: The U.S. is considering a range of increased military assistance to the Ukrainian military, mortars, Javelin anti-tank missiles, these are armor piercers, as well as shoulder-fired man pads, shoulder-fired anti- aircraft weapons, increased ammunition, but also, and this is crucial, more special operations forces to train the Ukrainian military.
The intention here, one, to raise the cost for a potential Russian invasion, and when you say raise the cost, that means raise the personnel cost, the cost in both Russian hardware and personnel, but also prepare the Ukrainian military for the possibility of a long resistance to a sustained Russian military occupation of Ukrainian territory. Why now? Because the U.S., after last week, found no breakthroughs in diplomatic talks and increasing, I have to say, Wolf, pessimism from a number of people I have spoken to in the administration, the Pentagon, about a peaceful diplomatic off-ramp to the current crisis.
BLITZER: Fred, you are there in Moscow. Are there signs from Russia that an invasion of Ukraine may actually be imminent?
FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly there aren't any signs of any sort of de-escalation. It's quite interesting, Wolf, because U.S. intel apparently pointed out the fact that the Russians seem to be thinning out their personnel, both in their embassy in Kiev but then also in other consulates across Ukraine. And that apparently is ominous sign to U.S. intel, that something could be up.
Now, the Russians have denied that report. They say that their consulates and their embassy are operating as normal, but you do see a lot of signs in that area around Ukraine that things could be escalating. Right now, the Russians are in sniper drills in their southern military district. And that's one of those districts, Wolf, that actually borders Ukraine.
And the other thing is that the Russians actually announced today that they have put and are starting to put troops into Belarus. They say there is going to be large-scale military exercises with the Belarusian military in Belarus in the middle of February. And, of course, that's also an area that borders Ukraine. The Ukrainians saying they are increasingly feeling encircled by Russia and its allied forces, Wolf.
BLITZER: Do you U.S. officials, Jim, actually believe a Russian invasion is inevitable at this point?
SCIUTTO: I don't know about inevitable, but they are certainly preparing for it. And, by the way, Wolf, the U.S. looks at a range of possibilities here from a full-scale invasion, that is tanks rolling across the border, airstrikes, and something short of that, which would be, really, an increase on what we have already seen, right? I mean, Russia has occupied, annexed territory in Crimea and has occupied and supported military operations in Eastern Ukraine under the guise of pro-Russian separatist there. So, there is a possibility short of a full-scale invasion, which is increased military operations inside Ukrainian territory from multiple directions. So, short of the worst-case scenario, a whole host of you might call them bad-case scenarios as well.
BLITZER: CNN's Jim Sciutto and Fred Pleitgen, guys, thank you very, very much. We will stay on top of this story.
Coming up, we're going to have new details on a new plan to make rapid testing here in the United States easier.
BLITZER: Tonight, the federal government is finally making it very easy for Americans to have free at-home COVID tests shipped directly to their house.
Let's discuss with CNN medical analyst, Dr. Leana Wen.
Dr. Wen, thanks for joining us.
Is the rollout of this free at-home test website COVIDTests.gov -- very important, COVIDTests.gov -- a solid step toward getting back to normal?
DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Absolutely. I just ordered my test, and I would urge everyone to be ordering their free tests, as well. This is exactly what should be happening, which is reducing -- removing any barrier to getting tests. We should be incentivizing tests.
Every household should stock up on tests. Don't wait until you really need it wherefore you start looking for one. Every household should ideally have two tests for every member of the household and remember that you use testing if you have symptoms, if you have exposure, or before you see high risk individuals to make sure that you're not carrying COVID and transmitting it to them.
BLITZER: So easy, that website is so easy. Just put your name and address in there, your e-mail and that's it basically.
You are calling on President Biden to lay out his year two COVID strategy. You see, we are about to enter year three now. You see potential paths forward. What are they?
WEN: Americans are confused about where we are in the pandemic and I think it's really important for President Biden to lay out the two options. One is to prevent infection as the key goal. Two is not just preventing infection, but let's get back to normal.
If we are preventing infection, then the goal is vaccines, masking, testing, all these things that we have already been doing. But if the goal is returning to normal, then what President Biden could say is that as long as vaccines are still protecting against severe illness, and as long as hospitals are not overwhelmed, we need to be removing restrictions and turning the page on the pandemic. These are two very different goals, two very different strategies and I think as long as the omicron wave is ongoing, we still need to prevent infection.
But it's going to subside at some point soon and we need to know what's ahead, and President Biden needs to communicate that strategy to the American people.
BLITZER: As we start thinking about getting back to normal, there are still some legitimate fears about what's called long COVID, where symptoms persist for months after infection. How justified are those fears?
WEN: They are justified. It is true that long COVID exists and may be up to 5 percent or more of all COVID cases. But at the same time, many people are thinking that they cannot put their lives on hold anymore.
So I'm certainly not advocating that we throw all caution out the window. But rather, that we start seeing the risk of COVID the way that we view risks of other things in our lives, taking to account the potential risk of long haul COVID as well.
BLITZER: Dr. Leana Wen, thank you so much as always for joining us.
And just ahead, wireless carriers abruptly delay plans to launch 5G towers near certain airports here in the U.S. We have details when we come back.
BLITZER: Major U.S. airlines are now breathing a sigh of relief after Verizon and AT&T delayed plans to launch their 5G wireless technology near some airports.
Let's go to one of those airports.
Brian Todd is joining us from Reagan National. What are you learning?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the airlines are worried about the signals the 5G will use potentially endangering planes as they approach airports. Two major telecom companies disagree and are fed up with the delays.
TODD (voice-over): Tonight, part of the much anticipated rollout of the latest generation wireless technology, delayed again. AT&T, parent company of Warner Media and CNN, and Verizon, both announcing today that near some airports, they will temporarily delay activating 5G on their cell towers. Elsewhere, the rollout will continue tomorrow as planned.
Both telecom giants frustrated with the FAA and airline industry for the delay.
PETER GOELZ, FORMER NTSB MANAGING DIRECTOR: I think they were forced to do it. The outcry from the stakeholders that are directly involved in rolling out the 5G -- the pilots, the flight attendants -- are all speaking out aggressively.
TODD: And tonight, several international airlines say they will cancel some flights into the U.S. starting tomorrow because of the uncertainty. 5G, which is already started to roll not some places in the U.S., provides faster data and cell service to our phones than the existing 4G capability.
The problem? The airlines say the signals from 5G transmitter towers that are near airports operate on a frequency that's too close to the frequency of an instrument that's critical for the safety of passenger and cargo planes, the radar altimeter.
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: This is used when aircraft gets closer to the ground on approach. It's absolutely mandatory that one of these things be operating well, as a matter of fact, more than one of them, in a very low visibility approach. It gives very precise information on the relative distance between the aircraft and the ground.
TODD: The airlines, concerned that signals from 5G towers near airports will interfere with radar altimeters' readings in the cockpit.
If the radar altimeter fails in low visibility, what happens?
O'BRIEN: If a radar altimeter fails in low visibility, you better do a go-around right away or you're in trouble.
TODD: Airline CEOs also concerned about the ripple effects, how the safety concerns could disrupt airlines' schedules, which have already been thrown into chaos.
SCOTT KIRBY, CEO, UNITED AIRLINES: We don't solve this, if we go back to decades-old procedures and technology for flying air airplanes, cancel thousands flights per day and hundreds of thousands of customer. It will be a catastrophic failure.
TODD: Both AT&T and Verizon insists the technology is safe. One potential work around? An idea put forth by some airlines for buffer zones near airports where the power from 5G towers near airports would be turned off or down while plains approach.
O'BRIEN: Buffer zones, directed antennas, lower power transmission, all those things make good sense. We have 40 countries that have adopted this and it seems to work fine, so there are ways to do this.
TODD (on camera): Meanwhile, President Biden has just issued a statement thanking AT&T and Verizon for delaying the launch of 5G near airports and pledging that his team is working with the aviation industry and the wireless networks to figure out a solution -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. Brian, thank you.
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