This is a rush transcript of “Your World with Neil Cavuto” on December 23, 2021. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.
NEIL CAVUTO, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Guilty on both counts, former police officer Kim Potter found guilty of first-degree manslaughter predicated on the reckless use and handling of a firearm and second-degree manslaughter, all of this in the fatal April shooting death of Daunte Wright in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota.The fallout from the results few saw coming.Welcome, everybody. I’m Neil Cavuto, and this is “Your World.”Making sense of a jury’s decision that now has the culprit, in this case, Kim Potter, sitting and stewing and waiting maybe for a month or more in jail as she finds out what her final sentence will be.Let’s go right now to Garrett Tenney in Minneapolis with the very latest — Garrett.GARRETT TENNEY, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Neil, there was a lot of emotion surrounding this verdict both in and outside of the courthouse.After more than 27 hours of deliberation, this jury of six men and six women found Kim Potter guilty of both first-degree and second-degree manslaughter. Inside the courtroom, Daunte Wright’s mother started crying as the verdict was read.And one of the jurors was visibly emotional as well, while Kim Potter appeared very calm and showed little emotion as she learned her fate.(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)JUDGE REGINA CHU, HENNEPIN COUNTY DISTRICT COURT: We, the jury, on the charge of manslaughter in the first degree while committing a misdemeanor on our about April 11, 2021, in Hennepin County, state of Minnesota, find the defendant guilty.(END VIDEO CLIP)TENNEY: Outside the courthouse, a crowd of a few dozen people started celebrating when that verdict was read.And a short time ago, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, whose office prosecuted the case, said this outcome is an important step towards justice.(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)KEITH ELLISON, MINNESOTA ATTORNEY GENERAL: With the jury finding Kimberly Potter guilty today of manslaughter in the first degree and manslaughter in the second degree in connection with Daunte’s death, we have a degree of accountability for Daunte’s death.Accountability is not justice, but accountability is an important step, a critical, necessary step on the road to justice for us all.(END VIDEO CLIP)TENNEY: Sentencing will take place in February. Kim Potter is facing up to 15 years in prison. And prosecutors have said that they are going to be pushing for a sentence close to that 15-year maximum — Neil.CAVUTO: Garrett Tenney, thank you very, very much.So what are we really looking at with that sentencing? As Garrett said, it could be right now up to 15 years.Let’s go Katie Cherkasky, the former federal prosecutor, also Tom Dupree, the former deputy assistant U.S. attorney general.Tom, end it with you, begin with you on what you think an appropriate sentence or one ultimately that will be handed down here.TOM DUPREE, FORMER JUSTICE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Neil, I think the likeliest outcome is a sentence in the middle range. I would be very surprised if the judge went all the way up to 15 years.I know the prosecution has said they are going to push for sentence enhancements and really urge the judge to impose a stiff sentence. But I think, when you look at the totality of the facts here, the nature of the trial, the nature of the charges, the testimony we heard, I would be very surprised if the judge went all out and imposed anything close to the 15- year potential maximum in this case.I think it’ll be less.CAVUTO: Katie, how do you think the defense handled this case?KATIE CHERKASKY, FORMER FEDERAL PROSECUTOR: Well, the defense handled the case with the facts that they had.And I think that, as we all know, in criminal law, as a defendant, anything you say can and will be used against you. And, in this case, there was a question about whether this mistake was something that was forgivable or whether it was something that crossed over into the criminal realm.And we have the footage of Kim Potter from the very beginning saying, unfortunately, she believes she is going to prison for this. And perhaps that was in fact used against her in some way in this case. So the defense did what they could to put on the case that this was a mistake and that was it an understandable and even forgivable mistake.But the jury decided that the line had in fact been crossed over into the criminal realm, unfortunately for Kim Potter.CAVUTO: Tom, do you think it was a mistake for the defense to put Kim Potter on the stand? I mean, she was a compelling, sympathetic figure, but, in the end, given the final decision on the part of the jury, it didn’t sway them.What do you think?DUPREE: It didn’t work. That’s for sure, Neil.Now, look, I think what makes this case a little unusual, although we have seen it with increasing frequency, is that you had the whole thing caught on videotape. And so I think, from the defense counsel’s perspective, they knew the jury would actually be seeing this thing unfold in real time.And so maybe in order to offset that, they wanted to allow Kim Potter to testify. I think it also gave them a chance to have her show some emotion, to show some remorse. We all saw. She testified. She broke down.And so I think the defense thought that letting the jury see the human side of Kim Potter and explain in her own words why what happened, happened might sway the jury. Again, didn’t work out in the end for them.CAVUTO: Katie, the judge decided to keep her waiting in jail, and not to let her out on this $100,000 bond you heard had been posted. What did you make of that?CHERKASKY: I think I was not surprised by that whatsoever. It’s unfortunate, the timing with the holidays and the delay between now and sentencing.But on the flip side, she will get time served, begin serving her sentence, because I do believe, inevitably, she’s going to be sentenced to jail time. So, in the end, it will all even out if you will, but not particularly surprising. She has been convicted of manslaughter at this point.CAVUTO: You know, Tom, there had been some talk that maybe the two sentences or the terms of punishment could be combined here for the manslaughter charges.That would mean, obviously, a much-shorter-than-expected jail time, if each were looked at individually. Is any truth to that? Or how is this usually handled?DUPREE: Yes, I think, in this case, I mean, I would be surprised if they impose concurrent sentences. I think, typically, they would find the most serious offense that was convicted and impose a sentence on that basis.And, look, you look at the possible range, and, yes, the range can be pretty severe. But as we were saying earlier, my guess is that this judge is going to come in a lot lower than what the prosecutors are going to recommend. The prosecutors took this case very aggressively.It’s no surprise to me that they’re pushing for a harsh sentence. We heard what the attorney general had to say. So it doesn’t surprise me that they’re really going to urge the judge to throw the book at her. But at the end of the day, Neil, I would be shocked if this judge goes anywhere close to the permissible maximum sentence in this case for Kim Potter.CAVUTO: Katie, much has been made, again, going back to Kim Potter, at her time on the stand and her crying, that she was a sympathetic figure. Then people began to think of the length of the time that the jury was convening, that maybe it would be a hung jury, that maybe they couldn’t come to a conclusion.What do you think of what was happening maybe behind the scenes?CHERKASKY: Well, we’re always curious about what juries are doing and try to read into their actions or inactions while we’re waiting for a verdict. But, really, there’s not a whole lot that will probably ever really no, barring some sort of allegation of egregious misconduct in the jury room.The jurors all confirmed that this was their final unanimous verdict. They each individually said that in the courtroom. And so I think that it’s a difficult decision, because, like I said earlier, this was a spectrum-based case of, is this mistake something that’s understandable under the circumstances, or does it cross over into that criminal realm?And that was something that only the jury had the authority to decide. And I think it could have been a very close call for some of these folks, but they did, in fact, come to that unanimous decision here, as we know right now.CAVUTO: Tom — I apologize, Katie.Tom, it is very likely that this case will be appealed. Then the question becomes on what grounds? And what odds do you give the defense?DUPREE: Yes, Neil, I got to say I didn’t see a whole lot during the course of this trial that might give them a real strong argument for reversing it.I thought that, by and large, the judge controlled the proceedings pretty efficiently. I didn’t see any sort of egregious evidentiary rulings. We didn’t see the judges — we have seen in some other high-profile cases lately offer fortuitous commentary from the bench.So, although I strongly suspect that the defense will mount an appeal, I got to say, having watched this, having looked at the transcript, I’m not quite sure that they’re going to have a slam-dunk argument on appeal on this one.CAVUTO: Guys, I want to thank you both very, very much, Katie Cherkasky and Tom Dupree.Again, Kim Potter found guilty of two manslaughter charges. All we wait for in the next month or two — could be even longer — is the final sentencing, again, up to 15 years in prison a possibility.The judge ultimately praising the jury here, saying, in the end, you did your duty.We will have more after this.(COMMERCIAL BREAK)CAVUTO: All right, a big, big travel day in this country today.You’re looking at Los Angeles International Airport, Phoenix Airport in Arizona, traffic building on the roads in Washington, D.C., on the New Jersey Turnpike, we’re told, train travel also crammed today on what some say is either the busiest or certainly among the busiest travel days maybe we have seen in the better part of two years, before the pandemic hit, a 34 percent increase in travel, about 109 million taking to the roads or the skies in this period.David Lee Miller examining all of that in New York — David Lee.DAVID LEE MILLER, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: You got it right, Neil.This is perhaps the biggest travel day not just of the holiday season, but perhaps since the pandemic began. And despite the Omicron variant, which has people concerned, people have decided that they would like to travel, and in great numbers.AAA is estimating that 6.5 million people are going to be taking to the skies during the holidays, and that’s about three times as many passengers as the previous year.Some of the longest lines are at major hubs, such as Miami International and Chicago O’Hare. Storms out West could lead to delays at airports in L.A., San Francisco and Salt Lake City. And here at New York’s La Guardia Airport, lines at ticket counters today were relatively short most of the day and fast-moving.And, as required by federal law, just about everyone we saw was wearing a mask. And just in case, airport workers were handing them out.Passengers we talked with took the rest of the coronavirus seriously, but they said they wanted to see loved ones.(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I have had second thoughts. I have been up all night about it thinking about, should I go, should I not, and it if I should go see my family. And COVID is really rising a lot. So it’s like 50/50 with me.UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I got boosted back actually right before I traveled for Thanksgiving going home back to Burlington. I’m double-masked, and I did receive a PCR test before coming and got a negative result yesterday.(END VIDEO CLIP)MILLER: AAA says the vast majority of holiday travelers are going to be driving and estimate there will be about a third more people on the road than last year.And if you need a rental car and you haven’t booked it, well, it may be too late. The automobile club says there is a shortage.And despite all the costs and the hassles of traveling this holiday season, AAA says it is estimated 110 million Americans are going to be traveling. And you ask, where are they going? The number one and number two destinations Orlando and Anaheim, both home to theme parks. And right behind in the list, number three, Las Vegas — Neil.CAVUTO: All warmer weather locations. Interesting.All right, thank you, David Lee Miller. Great job on that, my friend.Well, people are taking to the roads too, as David Lee said. And they’re hitting them hard and fast, even though they’re getting hit with, well, pretty steep gas price hikes that have now gotten to the point where we’re looking at prices, the highest they have been in at least three years.Let’s go to Madison Alworth. She’s following that very, very closely in Tampa, Florida — Madison.MADISON ALWORTH, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Neil.The vast majority, like he said, they’re going to be driving, around 100 million Americans, all of those Americans really going to be paying a lot at the pump to fill up before they go on their holiday travels.Today, the average price of gas, that’s at $3.29. According to GasBuddy, that number could go down a little bit. We could be hitting $3.25 by Christmas. So, it’s good. We’re moving in the right direction. But here’s the thing. We are still near historic highs.So the historic high for Christmas Day gas price, that was set in 2013, when we were paying $3.26 a gallon, so just one penny off, if it happens at all. The Americans that I spoke to today at this gas station, they say they really feel this change in price, Neil.(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And it’s ridiculous right now, especially around the holidays. I mean, you already got to stress about Christmas, and then to stress about gas too, it’s ridiculous.UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Used to spend $25 for half-a-tank. Now I’m spending about $40 to buy — for half-a-tank. So it’s just getting crazy.UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We already have to spend money on food and everything else. Gas should — just shouldn’t have to be another thing that we should have to stress about during the holiday season.(END VIDEO CLIP)ALWORTH: So, like we said, 100 million Americans planning on driving. Of course, that’s an estimate. We will have to see if COVID does impact that number. Maybe people will change their plans from flying to driving or scrap it altogether.Another thing that we are watching is the aftermath of the ExxonMobil plant accident. That happened this morning. The Baytown Refinery caught fire early this morning around 3:00 a.m., it was reported, injuring four employees. All other staff have been accounted for. And the company is telling us that three of the four were seriously injured.The part of the plant that was impacted does handle gas that goes to our tanks. So the White House has told FOX Business that they are keeping an eye on the situation. Like I said, that area of the plant could have an impact on gas prices. We’re still trying to figure out what that will mean for us here at the pump.And, of course, it’s just an estimate for that $3.25 on the 25th. I know all the Americans we’re talking to today, Neil, they all hope it goes way below that.CAVUTO: Yes, because they clearly didn’t like where it is now.Madison, thank you very much. Have a merry Christmas, Madison.Madison Alworth following all of that in Tampa, Florida.But, again, as Madison pointed out, as David Lee Miller was pointing out, with all the problems, with all the headaches, all the hassles, all the crowds, all the high prices, people are willing to pay up to get out.Gabe Saglie thinks he knows why, the Travelzoo senior editor, kind enough to join us right now.Gabe, good to have you.What is driving this? I mean, if you think about it, traveling today, let alone during the holidays, it can be a headache, no matter what way you’re going, on ground, rail or air, but people are doing it in droves. What are we to make of all that?GABE SAGLIE, TRAVELZOO.COM: Yes.And, listen, as we heard in David’s report, a lot of people have been on the fence for the last couple of days…CAVUTO: Right.SAGLIE: … before actually pulling the trigger and actually heading out to the airport and deciding, finally, you know what, I’m going to err on the side of family, life, the holidays, call it whatever you like.At the end of the day, for many folks, this is that first trip back to see family, to see loved ones, to travel to a destination that they love in two years. And, as we saw yesterday, the TSA set a record, 2.1 million Americans traveling through TSA checkpoints. That beats 2019 pre-pandemic levels for that same exact pre-Christmas Day.So, clearly, that pent-up demand, even if people have been on the fence here for the last couple of days, has translated into action. I think we’re going to see some record-setting days already.I think what’s helping a little bit, Neil, is the fact that, as we saw in Thanks — during the Thanksgiving week, it wasn’t all about that Wednesday before Thanksgiving. It was probably about the Sunday after. It was certainly on the Wednesday before. People were fanning out their travel, simply because they were able to do so.CAVUTO: Right.SAGLIE: They were able to bring the work on the road with them. Maybe they left Sunday, Monday or Tuesday instead. That helped fan things out.But the numbers are up. As a guy who likes the glass half-full — actually, I like to keep it nice and full at all times — I think it’s a positive for the travel industry, even as we have some of that second-guessing in some cases because of the Omicron transmissibility and uptick.CAVUTO: No, it’s funny, Gabe, because you mentioned the Omicron thing. I mean, that really came to a head on the Friday after Thanksgiving, remember? I remember the Dow was falling about 1,000 points that day on concerns…SAGLIE: That’s right.CAVUTO: … man, this is going to be a nightmare. It’s spreading. It’s contagious. We don’t know how to get a handle on it.And if you think about it, it’s obviously calmed a lot of folks since that it’s not nearly as bad as they thought, even though it’s just as, if not more so, contagious. But they seem to be saying, darn it, I’m going to I’m going to continue with my plans. That was very much in doubt about a month ago. So that’s kind of surprising.SAGLIE: Yes. And we have had those weeks now to see how the rest of the world is faring with Omicron, what’s happening in Europe and the U.K…CAVUTO: Right.SAGLIE: … where, even as numbers have gone up, life still tends to go on. And these symptoms simply are not the kinds of symptoms that would necessarily keep you from feeling well, living your everyday life.It is keeping people at bay when it comes to international travel, because, at the end of the day, if Omicron is more transmissible, I think over the next couple of weeks, we’re going to see a pullback on international travel, not so much because people are concerned about getting sick and feeling sick. It’s about being stuck on the other side of the border for those 10 days or so because you happen to, even if you feel OK, test positive, or that rules might change last minute, borders might close last minute.It’s those concerns that might actually get some folks second-guessing international travel, I would say, over the next six, 8, 10 weeks perhaps. We already know that, when it comes to international travel, most of that energy, Neil, interestingly, is toward the end of summer 2022 and into the fall of next year.CAVUTO: Right.SAGLIE: So I think any of those folks are going to take that wait-and-see approach. And we’re hoping that this current wave peaks into January and begins to mellow out, and plans that are in place now for summer and beyond next year simply will stay in place.CAVUTO: Yes, or whether foreign governments and all really clamp down with shutdowns, lockdowns, all of that.SAGLIE: Exactly.CAVUTO: So far, precious few are doing that. So we will keep an eye on it.Gabe, thank you very, very much, Gabe Saglie, the Travelzoo senior editor.All right, well, I have some good news, bad news for you. The good news is that wages are going up at a little bit more than a 4 percent clip. So that’s pretty good. Hadn’t seen those kind of increases in years. Now the bad news.The things that you buy at the store, they’re going up but about a 6 percent clip. So you’re losing money because of inflation, because it is not calming down.Two new reminders just today — after this.(COMMERCIAL BREAK)CAVUTO: Remember when we were worried about, well, the Russians having 100,000 soldiers on the border with Ukraine? It’s up to 120,000 now.Does that sound like an intimidated country? Maybe not.(COMMERCIAL BREAK)CAVUTO: All right, there are a lot of inflationary gauges.One we’re told that the Federal Reserve looks at very closely is something called the personal consumption expenditures. I know it’s a mouthful, but it’s, in other words, how much we’re paying for the stuff that we’re buying, so kind of like the wholesale inflation number, the retail inflation number.The upshot with all of those numbers is they’re sprinting ahead a lot faster than the money were making. In other words, it is costing us more to buy things, even though we’re making more to buy those things. That can be a problem if it keeps going on.Monica Mehta joins us right now, outside Seventh Capital, Scott Martin up back with us as well, the Kingsview Wealth Management honcho, a FOX Business correspondentMonica, let me get your take first on what these inflationary numbers are telling us. The one thing I noticed is, they’re not transitory, they’re not brief, they’re not short-lived. They keep going on and they keep getting worse.MONICA MEHTA, FINANCE EXPERT: Absolutely.I think the best way to really explain this economy is, it’s a very complicated economy. And, in general, things just cost a lot more. And I think the way people are really withstanding this economy depends on whether you own assets or not.So, right now, the average homeowner is worth about $255,000 in terms of net worth, while the average renter is only worth $6,500. That’s a 40 times’ difference. So while the costs of things are going up, a lot of homeowners are actually feeling pretty good because they’re seeing the value of their principal assets go up.Also, if people want another job, they can generally get one. But if you are renting and you don’t own a lot of stocks, you don’t own a lot of assets, it’s a tough time because the cost of just about everything is going up.CAVUTO: You know what is interesting too, Scott. If it’s rattling the markets, so far, it has a funny way of showing it.Now, I know the markets were also worried about Omicron for a while, how far it was spreading. We were up today. In fact, these last three winning days, we have wiped out the losses we were experiencing in the prior three days, the Dow up 3 percent during this period, after falling a like amount prior to that in the three sell-off days, the S&P 500, same drill, up 3.5 percent in the latest sessions, down about three in the prior three sessions. The Nasdaq rounding it out with a gain of about 4.5 percent, after falling close to 4 percent in the prior three days.So it seems like the market is now more than making up for earlier worries, which might have, in fact, included inflation, less so now. So what describes what the market is doing?SCOTT MARTIN, FOX BUSINESS CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, those numbers you gave, I mean, we’re rich.And it’s almost like those days, Neil, never happened. In fact, interestingly, if you remember that first Friday after Thanksgiving, when the Omicron phase broke out…CAVUTO: Right.MARTIN: … the markets are higher from those days too.So, if you just kind of went to sleep and took a breath or took a break, you would be non-affected by this. So the one interesting thing, though, that I think feels different, and to Monica’s point about how different kind of the wealth gap is in some of those who own vs. rent, we had a 10- year-plus bull market in the S&P 500 and other indexes out of the financial crisis, where we actually fought deflation vs. anything.We had no inflation whatsoever, with the market tripling over that period, and the GDP growing and jobs being created and things like that. So we’re – – now we’re fighting this crazy kind of inflationary environment that I think feels worse than it really is because of the fact, Neil, we had all this growth, all this job growth, economic growth, and so forth, and all this just world expansion of economies.And we didn’t have this crazy inflation. And so now any inflation, after being in such a deflationary, or, say, disinflationary environment, feels a lot worse than maybe it really is.CAVUTO: You know, Monica, I always argue — and you’re the expert. I will defer to you. So I look at it in simple terms, that people and inflation stops when people stop buying and paying more for the goods.They’re not doing that. They’re not showing any signs of that yet. I’m not saying that some are not picketing and buying maybe cheaper cuts of meat in the store when and if they can. But, by and large, they’re paying these higher prices. They came out of the pandemic in pretty good financial shape, for the most part, and they’re willing to do this.Maybe they feel like they should treat themselves and their families. I don’t know what it is, but maybe you do. What is it?MEHTA: Well, I think we’re missing one big factor in inflation, which is printing money. There is so much money supply and stimulus.And if you just look at the debt of this country, I mean, I think people are almost getting numb to it at this point. It’s $28 trillion. But the Fed has made it very clear they plan to take up rates to deal with this inflation. And what everyone should be paying attention to is how our interest costs are going to go up.So if you just go from today to 2 percent interest — an interest rate, which is what they’re forecasting in two years, we’re talking about $560 billion of annual interest payments. I mean, that is a boatload.CAVUTO: Yes.MEHTA: It’s almost one-third of our discretionary spending. So we can’t not pay attention to this.CAVUTO: But, for now, we are.All right, we will see what happens.(LAUGHTER)CAVUTO: Monica, I want to thank you. Always good catching up, Scott.In the meantime, when you look at all the various treatments for Omicron, of course, you probably always ask yourself, God, they ought to come up with a pill for that.Well, yesterday, they did, the FDA approving a Pfizer pill to treat COVID. And, today, they doubled up, approving a similar pill made by Merck — after this.(COMMERCIAL BREAK)CAVUTO: You know, I remember talking to a doctor not too long ago explaining why some don’t get vaccinated, leaving out religious, personal reasons. He gets that.But a lot are afraid of needles. They’re not too keen on needles. That’s not to unusual here. Well, now you have the option of taking a pill, one made by Pfizer, one made by Merck, both approved by the FDA over the last 24 hours.Jonathan Serrie following all of that in Atlanta — Jonathan.JONATHAN SERRIE, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is the advantage of these treatments, these pill form treatments.Instead of having to go into a hospital or a doctor’s office to get an I.V. or an injection of these treatments, these are pills that you can take at home with a prescription. Today’s FDA approval came less than 24 hours after another antiviral pill.America now has two new weapons against COVID-19. Today, Merck’s antiviral pill, molnupiravir, received emergency use authorization to treat infected adults at risk for developing severe COVID-19. The FDA says it should be given to patients who are unable to receive other authorized treatments.(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)DR. PATRIZIA CAVAZZONI, FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION: It is a question of availability, but it’s also a question of appropriateness of the patient for the specific drug.(END AUDIO CLIP)SERRIE: FDA official stopped short of stating a preference for a competing drug from Pfizer.Paxlovid, which received FDA emergency use authorization yesterday, performed better in clinical studies, reducing hospitalizations in high- risk patients by nearly 90 percent. But federal health officials say doctors need to take into consideration drug interactions and underlying conditions when choosing which treatments are best for their patients.A surge in COVID cases in Europe has prompted Greece to reinstate a mask mandate for both indoor and outdoor public spaces. And people will be required to wear a high-grade mask or double up on standard cloth masks when visiting supermarkets or using public transportation.A spike in coronavirus cases in Xi’An, China, has prompted lockdowns in neighborhoods and workplaces, affecting as many as 13 million people. City officials have ordered residents to stay home unless it’s an emergency. They’re allowing one person from each household to leave every two days to shop for food and other necessities.And, of course, this comes just a week away from China hosting the Winter Games for the Olympics — Neil.CAVUTO: Yes, I keep forgetting the NHL will not be going there for that.SERRIE: That’s right.CAVUTO: I’m just wondering if that’s one and done or others could follow.Jonathan, great reporting, as always, my friend.Jonathan Serrie following these developments.You notice how flawless his — when he pronounces these drugs’ names, just — he gets right to the syllable. I just sort of slough over it.Not my next guest, Dr. Marcel Curlin, the Oregon Health and Science University School of Medicine associate professor.Professor, Doctor, very good to have you.Where are we on Omicron, sir? The reason I ask is, I know it’s very contagious. I know it’s been spiking in a lot of countries. But I also know and reports out of Africa today that the number of new cases is slowing dramatically, and they’re not severe cases in the aggregate. So how do you assess this?DR. MARCEL CURLIN, OHSU SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: Yes, good afternoon, Neil. Thanks for having me.There’s a lot we still don’t know about Omicron. The early reports seemed to be notable for a really rapid spread and also perhaps milder disease. But then — that came out of South Africa. But then additional reports from England suggested, actually, that maybe there was the same level of severe disease, now other reports saying — backing off from that.So there’s been sort of a mixed picture here in terms of both the severity — well, particularly the severity and how long the wave is going to last. That’s normal, because we’re still early in this.CAVUTO: Yes.CURLIN: And we’re gathering data.CAVUTO: What do you think of the reaction that some businesses, countries, states have to this, Doctor, some really restricting crowds, public activities? You have all seen already a number of Broadway shows shut down. In Canada, they’re limiting capacity at some bars, restaurants.Is that justified?CURLIN: Right, always a difficult question.I mean, we have been facing this dilemma since the beginning of the epidemic, where we have to weigh on the one hand the really — the health toll…CAVUTO: All right, Doctor, I apologize. We seem to be having some audio troubles with you.It’s not your fault. If we can correct that.But, in the meantime, to the doctor’s point here, the number of new cases being reported in Africa has declined markedly, and the percentage increase you hear in cases running at about a 20 percent clip, serious hospitalizations and even deaths at barely a 2 percent clip.We will keep you posted on that. We will have more after this.(COMMERCIAL BREAK)CAVUTO: Who says Build Back Better is a bust?Even though Joe Manchin has rejected it and all but seemed to kill it, inviting the ire, at least in the beginning, of the White House and a number of progressives, there are growing signs right now that the president might, might, might take matters into his own hands.He’s already extended by executive fiat the moratorium on student loan payments until at least May 1. And that has some Republicans worried that he might, at least with a presidential stroke of a pen, do the very things that were not coming together in planned legislation.Let’s ask Senator John Barrasso what he makes it that, the Wyoming republic and Senate Republican Conference chair with us right now.Senator, very good to see you.SEN. JOHN BARRASSO (R-WY): Thank you, Neil. Merry Christmas from Wyoming.CAVUTO: And to you as well, sir.Let’s talk a little bit about what the president did here. He is extending this moratorium on tuition or loan repayments until at least May. A lot of your colleagues are beginning to wonder, will he take bits and pieces of what was in Build Back Better and do the same?What do you think?BARRASSO: Well, this is kind of the return of the ghost of Barack Obama, who said, I have a pen and I have a phone.But this is how Joe Biden started his presidency. The first day, he did an executive order that killed the Keystone XL Pipeline. He declared war on American energy. And that was what lit the flame of inflation that’s burning across the country.And then he did another executive order opening the floodgates to illegal immigrants, who brought with them into this country in massive numbers, with the crime and the drugs and the disease. So now he’s trying to decide, does he go even further with executive orders? And he is being pushed by the radical fringe of the party, who want him to do a lot more in terms of money for illegal immigrants, in terms of additional entitlements.And we’re going to see the president’s — he’s already at record low numbers in terms of his approval. He’s going to have to decide who he wants to listen to, the radical fringe or the American people.CAVUTO: But, Senator, he would not be the first president, including his predecessor, to use executive orders.You don’t like, clearly, what he’s using them for. Is the whole executive authority thing a little — a little overdone, you think?BARRASSO: Well, there’s — every president takes more authority or tries to do that.But, look, the Democrats are going to try to pass something. They always want to do something to grow the government. The Republicans want to grow the economy. Democrats are very different. And I believe they’re going to try to do something.I think Schumer and Pelosi and Biden want to get something passed. It’s still trillions of dollars.CAVUTO: Well, no, you’re right about that. They have already hinted and the president has already hinted on that, Senator, that he wants to work with Joe Manchin to sort of build back Build Back Better.I wonder if that means something that gets rid of provisions that would never pass, like expanding Medicare for the time being to cover vision and dental benefits, cover more Americans, that that would be put off, but that the size of this thing would shrink to only those that would pass muster with progressives and people like Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Joe Manchin.Do you think that’s possible?BARRASSO: Well, I think Joe Manchin was absolutely right to say he’s not going to vote for this piece of legislation. My hat’s off to him, as is the people of his home state of West Virginia, who approve of his decision this, because he knew that this was a bill that was going to raise taxes, add to the debt and make inflation worse.Democrats don’t seem to care about that. We have a 50/50 Senate. We ought to — this would be a mandate to move to the middle. But just this week, though, remember, Chuck Schumer said he is going to bring to the floor this entire massive tax-and-spending bill to have a vote.Every Republican and Joe Manchin is ready to vote against it. And every Democrat will be on record voting to increase taxes and add to inflation and increase the size of the debt.CAVUTO: And you don’t think it would still get any Republican votes, right, no matter how they cut it or slice it or redo it?BARRASSO: Not a chance.CAVUTO: OK.BARRASSO: Not a chance.CAVUTO: All right. Got it.Senator, great seeing you again. Have a merry Christmas. And, man, you’re in a beautiful state. And what a great place to be there for it.All right, thank you very, very much. Be well.BARRASSO: Thank you. Happy new year to everyone.CAVUTO: All right.In the meantime, here, these are scary times. We got the Omicron thing. You got the concern about inflation. Things are getting out of hand. Some people are snapping at each other. They’re acting weird on airplanes or at airports. They’re tired of the traffic and the pressure and all the mandates.Sometimes, do you ever think, where’s God? Well, we brought a representative. Maybe he will help us out.(COMMERCIAL BREAK)CAVUTO: All right, now, this was the scene at Miami International Airport not even a week ago because of a delayed plane and a backup and lost luggage and all. I don’t even know all the particulars.It got antsy, got dicey. It got nasty. And it got violent, a couple of people arrested here.But it’s not necessarily a metaphor on our times, as much as the kind of stuff you hear about. We’re all under a great deal of pressure. Delayed getting out of an airport can do it to people. Being crowded on a plane can do it to you. The mask thing can do it to you.Enter Monsignor Jim Lisante here to try to calm us down.(LAUGHTER)CAVUTO: The good father at Our Lady of Lourdes Church kind enough now to put it in perspective.Monsignor, very good to have you. It’s been a while, too long.MONSIGNOR JIM LISANTE, OUR LADY OF LOURDES CHURCH: Thanks, Neil.CAVUTO: We need your help. We need your help, Monsignor.There are a lot of people of all denominations who are just saying, I can’t deal with the pressure. I can’t deal with Omicron. I can’t deal with inflation. I can’t deal with long lines and waits and not knowing if I can get my money back, if I cancel. They — it’s palpable. People are under enormous pressure, and they’re angry.LISANTE: Yes.CAVUTO: What do you tell them?LISANTE: A couple of things.I had the privilege, Neil, years ago of becoming good friends with the film director Frank Capra.CAVUTO: Wow.LISANTE: And his 1946 film, “It’s a Wonderful Life” is a personal favorite.But in the first few minutes, when Clarence, his guardian angel, is trying to get a handle on his life, he says to the saints in heaven, what’s the matter with George Bailey? Is he sick? And Saint Joseph says, worse than that. He’s discouraged.And that’s what I think is the great American dilemma, not just America, but throughout the world. We’re discouraged. And I think there are a couple of ways out of that.One of the ways certainly would be faith, trusting that God knows what he’s doing, and that he has a plan for us, meaning what we say when, for instance, as Christians, we say, by kingdom come, thy will be done, and actually trusting him, but, also, Neil, rediscovering our love for one another.You’re right that people can seem to be annoying and wear us down. But I see signs of hope all over the place. Good example, one recent couple, I got a chance to do their wedding. She wrote in her essay about her fiance, for the past year, we have tried to find a new house to buy. We have been outbid because of the insanity of the price wars 50 times on 50 houses. I was ready to give up on humanity and ever having a home.And she said, and then I realized that Sean, her fiance, now her husband, she said, Sean is my home. And, together, we’re going to get through this.So trust in God and trust in people again, and seeing the best, and putting aside discouragement, it seems to me, is probably the best way out of this very, very sad time in our culture.CAVUTO: You know, what I noticed, Father? We have talked about in the past that people go nuts, they say horrible things, and they — whether it’s on the left or the right.And I guess I might be dull, because I just don’t believe in screaming. I don’t think you have to get down to that level to curse people out or say nasty things. You won’t believe this father, but just, when I urged people to get vaccinated, people made fun of my weight, as if I’m overweight. Duh.(LAUGHTER)CAVUTO: But my point is that it’s one thing to disagree, but that the nastiness, the extreme nature of it, that’s what kind of is changing to me.And I just worry about that, because I see it playing out again and again. What do you tell people? How can you get us to sort of bring it down a notch?LISANTE: Well, that’s frustration you are hearing. And we do it very often in our own families, who I say it time and time again.CAVUTO: You’re right.LISANTE: People say, how did you know that, since you’re not married?But, in our own families, we tend to take all the anger we have from work, the discouragement, the problems in, and we dump our garbage on the people we love the most in family life. And I’m saying all the time, why do you do that? Why do you treat the people you love the most badly?Let me just, Neil, as a practical thing — I know that people on a program like ours are not going to confession, but anybody who comes to me for confession, I give them a very tough confession. I say, for the next two weeks, I don’t want a word out of your mouth unless it’s good, kind and positive.And I have had people say, you might as well tape up my mouth right now, because it’s a really hard penance, to think before you speak, to think about the consequence of the words that you say, to recognize how you’re probably going to hurt people unnecessary — unnecessarily, and the regret you’re going to have later on for having said the things you do so.So, this penance that I give all the time is actually not a terrible thing.CAVUTO: Wow.LISANTE: By the way, we just had a penance service. And one woman came up to me and she said, listen, I have no sins at all to tell you, Father, but the man behind me on line is my husband. He’s got plenty of sins.(LAUGHTER)CAVUTO: Well, now I know, next time, if I see confession going on, don’t go to Lisante. Go to the next guy, if even he says a 1,000 Hail Marys.(LAUGHTER)CAVUTO: Do you think people have left religion, by and large? And I’m just wondering, post-pandemic, is it returning?LISANTE: Yes, they have.At least at a church like ours, the people back. In fact, they may be too comfortable. And we have to this week talk to them about the reality that the virus is still here, and we have to take steps.CAVUTO: Yes.LISANTE: As Pope Francis said, that the vaccination, he said, is an act of love. And I still have a good number of people in my church and in most churches who don’t believe that.They have politicized this thing so much, instead of seeing it as a health issue. And that’s unfortunate.CAVUTO: It is.LISANTE: All we want to do is keep people from dying.We have got 800,000 Americans dead, many more damaged by this thing. Let’s work together to do whatever we can.CAVUTO: All right.LISANTE: And if a mask — forget about mandates.If a mask keeps us from spreading this thing, then let’s wear the mask, not because the government tells us to, but because it’s the loving thing to do.CAVUTO: Be open to it. Be open to it. And don’t — and don’t scream about it.LISANTE: Yes.CAVUTO: Monsignor Jim Lisante, thank you. Thank you very, very much. Merry Christmas.Here comes “The Five.”THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.Copy: Content and Programming Copyright 2021 Fox News Network, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Copyright 2021 VIQ Media Transcription, Inc. All materials herein are protected by United States copyright law and may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, displayed, published or broadcast without the prior written permission of VIQ Media Transcription, Inc. You may not alter or remove any trademark, copyright or other notice from copies of the content.