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At This Hour

Biden Calls on Governors to Require Vaccination of Teachers and Staff; Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to Prop Up GOP Incumbents Targeted by Trump; U.S. Prepares to Mark 20th Anniversary of 9/11 Attacks. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired September 10, 2021 - 11:30   ET





JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: We owe it to them to do everything we can to keep them safe in school, dreaming, learning, thriving, socializing, becoming good citizens. It means following the science, wearing a mask, getting tested, getting vaccinated. It means working together and looking out for each other.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: That was President Biden just a short time ago while he was visiting a school in Washington, D.C.

Last night, the Los Angeles Unified School District, which is the country's second largest public school system in the country, voted unanimously to require vaccinations for all eligible students 12 and older. This is the first major public school district to do so.

Joining me now is Austin Beutner. He's the former superintendent of the L.A. Unified School District. It is good to see you again, Austin.

You just heard the president there and his message this morning. What do you think of the message to schools, what he says today, but also what he laid out last night?

AUSTIN BEUTNER, FORMER SUPERINTENDENT, LOS ANGELES UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT: Well, good morning, Kate, and thanks for having me. I think the president is spot on. I think it is the responsibility of adults to keep children safe, to keep them in school. And as he laid out, there's a whole series of measures need to be taken in schools. It is the upgrade in the air filtration systems, the masking, testing of all in the campus, students and adults, making sure there is an information system to quickly isolate anyone who tests positive and, yes, vaccinations for children. BOLDUAN: L.A. Unified is now really the first major public school district in the country to make the COVID vaccines required for all eligible students. You were really one of the first school administrators, I have to say, Austin, in the country to say that it was going to be necessary. What is your message to every other school superintendent and school board out there who are not doing this?

BEUTNER: It is appropriate and it's necessary. As we've said, we've shown in Los Angeles that all of these mitigation measures, the air filtration, the masking, the testing, the information system and vaccinations are critical. And as one could see in Los Angeles, throughout this pandemic, we're keeping kids in school in the safest way possible. And it is the responsibility of every school board, every school administrator across the country.

BOLDUAN: And you know what, I'm just kind of struck when you think about the resistance to kids getting vaccinated, right? We can put up on a screen a list of just some of the vaccinations that are required to attend schools all across country, vaccinations against chicken pox, measles, mumps, rubella, TDAP, polio. That's just some of them. those are the easiest ones to say, quite honestly.

But, still, you have a group of parents, let's focus there, Austin, who are saying that you should not be requiring this vaccine. It is their decision about the health of their child. What do you say to parents?

BEUTNER: Vaccinations aren't anything new. Let's go back to polio. You mentioned in the '50s, every child was vaccinated in school for polio. As a parent, you make sure your child had a warm coat on the in the winter and fasten their seat belts in a car.


Children don't have (INAUDIBLE). They are too young to make these decisions and it is the responsibility of parents to keep them safe. And part of that is making sure all appropriate medical treatments available to your child you take advantage of, and that includes vaccinations. Talk to your doctor. Listen to experts like Dr. Fauci. And all medical experts will tell you the safest thing to do for children is to vaccinate them. The best place for them to learn is at school and vaccinations are important piece of keeping children in school safely.

BOLDUAN: And the president spoke to the politics that is driving the division around all of this. Let me play that for you.


BIDEN: Right now, local school officials are trying to keep children safe in a pandemic while their governor picks a fight with them and even threatens their salaries or their jobs. Talk about bullying in schools.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BOLDUAN: He is talking about the Republican governors who are fighting mask requirements and will be fighting, yes, vaccine requirement as well. I mean, you were smack in the middle of this conversation. And now, from the outside looking in, Austin, what do you think the impact politics has had on fighting this pandemic and keeping kids safe?

BEUTNER: I think it is awful. Politics don't belong in this conversation. We can't use children as a political football. And it is the responsibility of adults to keep children safe. We know vaccinations, we know masks, we know upgraded filtration systems and testing all keep children safer. That's the responsibility of adults. We need to take the politics out, stop using children as a political football, keep kids in school, keep them there as safe as possible, and that includes vaccinations.

BOLDUAN: Austin Beutner, thank you very much.

BEUTNER: Thank you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Coming up next for us, the top Republican in the House quietly supporting Republican lawmakers who have found themselves to become targets of their party's own leader, former President Trump. That new details, next.



BOLDUAN: So, as he tries to swing the House back into Republican control, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy is working to prop up some of the very Republican incumbents that have become targets of former President Donald Trump.

CNN's Melanie Zanona is joining me now with this new and very interesting reporting. Melanie, I'm just curious if McCarthy is ready for this kind of a fight with Donald Trump here.

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Well, it is certainly not often that you see Kevin McCarthy crossing Donald Trump.

BOLDUAN: Or at all.

ZANONA: Right, ever. But in this case, the House majority is potentially on the line. Because a lot of the impeachment Republicans who Trump has targeted represent key swing districts. So, McCarthy has been working behind the scenes to protect some of these members. He helped raise $100,000 each for five of the ten House Republicans would voted to impeach. He privately encouraged Trump to back off, at least two of them. David Valadao of California, as well as John Katko of New York, and NRCC Chairman Tom Emmer went to a fundraiser for Jaime Herrera-Beutler out in Washington State.

But all of this, of course, is a big risk for McCarthy, because he's not only at odds with Donald Trump but also he's risking angering the right flank and the Trump base. I actually interviewed Joe Kent, one of the Trump-backed candidates who is running against Jaime Herrera- Beutler, and that is what he had to say about McCarthy.

He said, McCarthy is talking out of one side of his mouth, saying that he supports the MAGA movement, Trump and President Trump's policies, but his money is supporting Jaime Herrera-Beutler and four of the other impeachment voters. It's just part of the GOP grift. So, me and the rest of the base, we've kind of heard enough from him.

So, Kate, you can see exactly the type of risks and headaches facing Kevin McCarthy here.

BOLDUAN: And that is very true. And once Donald Trump gets wind of this, let's see what happens then.

ZANONA: Yes. I don't think he'll be very happy.

BOLDUAN: Great reporting, Melanie, thank you so much for that. I really appreciate it.

Coming up still for us, families of 9/11 victims have long sought to have government files declassified and released about Saudi Arabia's potential role in the attacks. Up next, I'm going to speak with one woman who lost her husband on that day. She continues to fight to bring these documents to light.

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So this is everything that you need to screen and treat a patient. We bring in these big suitcases. We teach local health care professionals to see and treat technique. At the end of the week of training, we pack up that suitcase and give it to the nurses that are going back to their clinics. Within a day, we can literally save 20, 30 lives depending on the number of women we screen.

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BOLDUAN: Go to to learn more about Dr. Gordon's story.


BOLDUAN: It is hard to believe that it has been 20 years since the horrific day that America was attacked. Nearly 3,000 were killed in these coordinated attacks on September 11th, New York City, the Pentagon, a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania. The attacks changed our world and changed the lives of thousands of people who lost family members in an instant. So where are we 20 years on?

Joining me now is Terry Strada. She's the national chair of the 9/11 Families and Survivors United for Justice Against Terrorism. Terry also -- she lost her husband, Tom, in the north tower of the World Trade Center. Terry, I said in the break, but thank you for coming on today ahead of the anniversary. How have you been thinking and feeling about the 20th anniversary leading up to this?

TERRY STRADA, NATIONAL CHAIRWOMAN, 9/11 FAMILIES UNITED: Well, it's a painful one this year, because the realization that 20 years have passed and that my children were seven, four and four days old on September 11th, and now they're young adults out in the world. One is married. One is working in Brooklyn and my youngest actually joined the military, my 19-year-old, who just turned 20 two days ago.

So it just breaks my heart that he missed out on all of that, on her wedding, on his graduation from Fort Benning, from my son's graduation from college, just everything. It's painful.

BOLDUAN: Yes. And for you, especially, Terry, this also marks the -- this anniversary marks the end of a many years' long fight you and other families have waged to get declassified and released 9/11 investigation documents. President Biden, as we know days ago, has ordered that process to begin. What does that mean to you?

STRADA: Yes. Well, this is a turning point, you know? This is the first time any administration has ever stood with the 9/11 families and decided it's time to stop protecting the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for the role that they played in murdering our loved ones.

So, he ordered a declassification and view process of all these documents that have state secrets on them, that have been overly classified, even documents that the DOJ has refused to look for and hand over. This is a comprehensive review process. That will bring a lot of the truth to light and change the course of our relationship with the Saudis and hopefully that we will become a nation much tougher on terrorism financing.

BOLDUAN: I saw that you said -- you wrote about this. You wrote about this, and you said, we need to heal. We need the truth. We deserve justice. And I think everyone would agree with you on that.

Finally and most importantly though, you not only lost your husband on that day, your husband, Tom. As you mentioned, your three kids lost their dad. Your youngest, Justin, was only four days old when tom was killed. How do you describe the impact just looking back over 20 years now, Terry, the impact of that day, that instant on your life and the life of your kids? STRADA: Yes. Well, you know, terrorism does exactly what it's intended to do. It terrorizes you to your core. And we all experience a shocking untimely, brutal murder of someone we loved dearly and fully expected to spend the rest of our lives with. My children never should have had to have lived through the horror of September 11th and losing their father in such a horrific way.

So it scarred all of us in some ways. It's been hard to heal from that type of trauma. We've done the best we can. We've tried to honor Tom and live in his memory. He was a charismatic man that had this incredible sense of humor.

So, laughter has been an important part of our healing process, try to laugh every day, try to remember, try to live in his honor, try to live in all of their honor. They all deserve us to be better people and to stand up for what's right. My husband loved to say do the right thing. And I hope that that's what we continue to do.

BOLDUAN: Do you see aspects of Tom in them, like, joy for life, that laugh?


I often can -- I'm sure you do.

STRADA: Absolutely, right? You have children. But what's amazing is that whole nature versus nurture. Nature wins. I mean, my youngest has so many of his personality traits. Caitlyn (ph) is athletic like him than my oldest, Thomas, looks so much like him. That if he's standing with his back to me, I can say oh, my god, Tom is in the room because he's got the broad shoulders, the head of hair. No, they bring me that kind of joy. His friends always said our hearts break, it's hard for you, but Tom lives in my children, and that has been a very, very important gift.

BOLDUAN: Well, it's been a gift speaking with you. Thank you, Terry, for sharing that with me.

STRADA: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

BOLDUAN: Thank you so much.

All right, everyone, we'll be right back.