Return to Transcripts main page

At This Hour

TSA Warns of Staffing Shortage at Large Airports; Police Chiefs Scramble to Confront Surge of Gun Violence; Today, FDA Advisers Discuss COVID Vaccine for Kids Under 12. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired June 10, 2021 - 11:30   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN AT THIS HOUR: Trapped, facing the point of no return, that is how former White House Counsel Don McGahn described feeling when President Trump directed him to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Those details are just one part of the transcript from McGahn's closed door testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, which was released Wednesday.

CNN's Lauren Fox is joining me now from Capitol Hill with more on this. Lauren, what more are you learning from these transcripts? And, honestly, what is the reaction from lawmakers?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this was a hard fought interview.


If you remember, Kate, Democrats from the House have been trying to get McGahn to sit down with them for two years. Obviously, that court battle ended in a negotiation between the Justice Department and House Democrats.

McGahn testified last week behind closed doors. And this transcript really reveals exactly sort of why he was so concerned when he was the White House Counsel. He basically told the committee much of what he told Robert Mueller's team. Remember, he sat down five different times for interviews that he was very uncomfortable when the president or then-President Trump asked him to direct a message to the attorney general or the acting attorney general at the time to fire the special counsel.

And I want to read an excerpt of that testimony. He said, quote, if the acting attorney general received what he thought was a direction from the counsel to the president to remove a special counsel, he would either have to remove the special counsel or resign, McGahn said. We are still talking about the Saturday Night Massacre decades and decades later.

McGahn told House Democrats and House Republicans behind closed doors that he -- UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I got you, you got me, we're all good.

BOLDUAN: It seems that we have lost the connection with Lauren Fox. Lauren Fox on Capitol Hill, thank you so much. Dealing with technical gremlins, as always.

Let's move to this though. As the summer travel season is ramping up in a big way, the TSA is warning that it faces a major labor shortage. The agency is urgently trying to recruit thousands of new workers. It's even asking office employees to volunteer in some of the nation's largest airports, raising new questions about what this means for long lines and delays at airport across the country and also what it means for the safety and security of everyone traveling.

CNN's Pete Muntean joining me now for more on this. Pete, what are you hearing about this shortage?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Kate, it's an interesting ask to keep up with this rising air travel demand coming back a bit sooner than the air travel industry expected. Take a look at these numbers from the TSA. It screened 1.67 million people at airports across the country just yesterday, shy of the pandemic record of 1.98 million people screened on Sunday. That is the highest number we have seen since March of 2020, even higher than the numbers over this past Memorial Day weekend.

And now this is what is so interesting for the TSA. It is asking its office staff to come out to the security checkpoints at airports across the country to help keep these travelers moving.

Now, the TSA does have a hiring goal of hiring 6,000 security workers by the end of the summer, by Labor Day. So far, it's hired about 3,100 people so far, so about halfway to that goal. The acting TSA administrator says it is on pace to meet that goal.

And an official from the TSA tells us that this maneuver will help out for now. Here's what the TSA said.


DARBY LAJOYE, ACTING TSA ADMINISTRATOR: As we approach Labor Day, we'll meet or exceed our goal of 6,000 officers to staff the nation's airports. I'm confidently reporting that TSA is prepared and well- positioned to help ensure that everyone who wishes to travel will do so safely and securely.


MUNTEAN: Now, these TSA volunteers are not doing the actual security screening, more so helping out with the peripheral duties, like moving those plastic bins and keeping lines flowing. But, remember, there are real risks to transportation security workers. You know, just the other day, cruise ship passengers on a cruise ship in Italy tested positive for COVID-19 and they're required to be tested before, during and after their trip. 8,000 TSA employees tested positive for COVID- 19, only 16 have died but still some real risks out there, Kate. BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Pete, thank you for staying on top of this for us, I appreciate it.

Coming up for us, a surge in gun violence gripping American cities right now, and police chiefs are now telling CNN they worry this will be a very bloody summer. So what is the plan? What is driving this? We'll be right back.



BOLDUAN: Right now, with gun violence surging across the United States, there is new urgency to do something to prevent a very bloody summer. Already this year, more than 8,600 people have died from gun violence and there have been some 260 mass shootings. That is after a 33 percent increase in homicides last year. Police departments say they are scrambling now to confront this problem, a growing problem the entire country is now facing.

CNN's Omar Jimenez is joining me now. He's been following all of this. Omar, what are you hearing?

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, departments and cities across the country are trying to find ways to reverse these trends in any way that they can, at least make progress into it. And with COVID-19 restrictions lifting this summer and people getting back out into the world, there are real concerns this summer could be especially problematic. We're already seeing some of these trends play out in New York City, shootings in May were up 73 percent compared to May of last year. In Atlanta, in May, murders were up 38 percent compared to last year. Here in Chicago, murders are also up, shootings up 17 percent compared to this time last year.


And, again, this comes a year after a year like 2020 where in those numbers, those people that we lost were 33 percent higher than what we lost the year before.

When you talk to police chiefs and law enforcement experts about what they feel is going on, they point to a number of factors but specifically they say it comes down to economic hardship and the community, strained resources for many of these police departments after a year of protests and the sheer amount of guns that are on American streets.

Take a listen to the Atlanta Police chief on what he says they feel they need to do better.


RODNEY BRYANT, ATLANTA POLICE CHIEF: One thing that we continue to see is the number of handguns that we find and number of our youth and as well as the people who just should not have guns in their hands. We believe that we have to intercept that. We have to do a better job of being able to find out where these guns are coming from and cut that avenue off.


JIMENEZ: And to put this tall task in if perspective, in the first three months of this year alone, the murder rate in more than 30 U.S. cities jumped by 24 percent compared to this time last year.

So what do you do? New York City is hoping to partner or they are partnering with the ATF to try and track down some of these guns quicker, solve more of these cases and overall reduce crime. Here in Chicago, as many cities have said, it's going to be more than just police. They are taking what is called a whole of government approach and they are isolating some of the most violent neighbors and deploying a number of city resources to flood these neighborhoods with resources as they're describing it to try and tackle this problem.

BOLDUAN: Omar, thank you very much for staying on top of this.

Coming up for us still, a big step in the quest to get a shot approved for everyone in America against the coronavirus. Next up, kids under the age of 12. So what today means for families with young children across the country.



BOLDUAN: At this hour, a big step in the effort to vaccinate young children. Right now, a group of FDA advisers is meeting to discuss the next steps for getting the green light to vaccinate kids under the age of 12. So what happens now?

Joining me now is Dr. Jorge Rodriguez, CNN Medical Analyst and Viral Specialist. Dr. Rodriguez, thank you for being here.

What do you think the FDA needs to consider when making these decisions about vaccinating kids younger than 12? We've seen this process every step of the way. What does it mean for the youngest of kids?

DR. JORGE RODRIGUEZ, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, the main two things that the FDA needs to consider, and I'm sure they will, is safety of the vaccines for children under 12, and also the efficacy, to make sure that the vaccines work, and that they cause no harm.

It's going to be a little bit more difficult in children than in adults. First of all, the circumstances. Right now, the United States is one of its lowest levels of COVID infections so you really can't test two arms, people with placebo, and people with the vaccine and see who gets sick because chances are not many are going to get sick to be statistically significant.

So what they're going to be looking at is how the immune system of these children respond to COVID. Do they have neutralizing antibodies? And since there aren't going to be probably many children in these studies, they're going to have to look at what statistics are going to be important. So, basically, they are setting the groundwork today to see exactly what is going to be necessary to interpret data that's going to come out in the future so make sure it is safe and effective for children.

BOLDUAN: And let's jump forward. Let's assume that this moves forward and there will be eventually a vaccine approved for kids under the age of 12. What is the biggest impact of having a vaccine for children under 12? We've talked so often about how, yes, the kids can get sick and they can get very sick, but they are much less vulnerable than many other populations.

RODRIGUEZ: That's correct. So far, thanks God, they have been less vulnerable but children are also reservoirs of the virus and they can spread. And we don't know exactly how this is going to play out this fall with what might be a new surge. There are approximately 70 million young adults under the age of, I think, 17 and almost 50 million under the age of 12. So that is a huge reservoir. If everybody else gets vaccinated, percentagewise, children are going to be the most susceptible section of our population to get COVID. So we need to protect them, first and foremost.

BOLDUAN: Yes, great to see you, Doctor, thank you for being here.

RODRIGUEZ: Likewise.

BOLDUAN: Let's see what happens out of this meeting today.

Coming up next for us, it is a moment that need to see, you want to see, you should see, we all deserve it, a principal offering up a graduation speech like no other, and it's really good, I promise.



BOLDUAN: This just into CNN, the man who slapped French President Emmanuel Macron has just been sentenced, sentenced to 18 months in prison. The entire incident -- well, it's been seen around the world, it was all caught on camera. The man grabbed Macron's arm before hitting him across the face.

The 28-year-old admits he hit the president but he says it was not premeditated. Instead, he claimed that he acted without thinking. And now 18 months behind bars, he has lots of time to think about that.

I do want to end this hour though with a moment worth celebrating, a graduation ceremony like no other when the principal of one North Carolina high school stepped up to address the graduating class of 2021, he couldn't find the words to express his pride in these seniors, it seems. So instead he leaned on musical icons to help him out. Watch and enjoy.


I mean, it's amazing, right? I mean, you can hear the students cheering on the principal as he sang this version of Dolly Parton classic made famous by Whitney Houston.