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At This Hour

Biden Urges Millions of Eligible Americans to Get Booster Shot; Pfizer Boosters to Begin Today After CDC Director Breaks with Advisers; GOP Sham Audit In Arizona Confirms Biden Victory, No Fraud; Sources: Pelosi Could Bring Massive Bill to the Floor Next Week. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired September 24, 2021 - 11:00   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan.

We're going to begin with breaking news out of the White House this hour. President Biden just wrapped up an impromptu news conference addressing many of the big issues facing him and his agenda right now. The president touted the CDC's decision to allow booster shots for millions of Americans who receive the Pfizer vaccine. He called on those who were eligible to get their shots now.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: My message today is this -- if you've got the Pfizer vaccine, you've got the Pfizer vaccine in January, February, March of this year and you're over 65 years of age, go get the booster. Or if you have a medical condition like diabetes or you're a frontline worker like a health care worker or a teacher, you can get a free booster now.


BOLDUAN: The president also strongly condemned the treatment of Haitian migrants at the border under his watch calling it an embarrassment.

CNN's John Harwood is live at the White House joining us on all this.

John, let's start with that, with what the president just said about the crisis at the border. He said he takes responsibility.

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He did. He's the president. But he also tried to strike a tone of solidarity with all those Americans who have seen those horrendous videos of agents on horseback swinging lariats or whips or whatever they were in ways to intimidate Haitian migrants and said he shared their outrage and he's going to do something about it. Take a listen.


BIDEN: It's outrageous. I promise you, those people will pay. They will be -- an investigation under way now and there will be consequences. There will be consequences.

It's an embarrassment, beyond an embarrassment. It's dangerous. It's wrong. It sends the wrong message around the world, sends the wrong message at home. It's simply not who we are.


HARWOOD: Kate, this has been a special problem for the president within the Democratic Party as he's trying to pass his economic plan because many Democrats think he has not switched from the border policies of President Trump and these videos were affirmation of that in their view.

BOLDUAN: Yeah. So, John, on his entire economic agenda that is hanging in the balance on Capitol Hill right now, the president also spoke to that. He's definitely trying to make the case, as he has wanted all along, for passing both of these bills, right, the massive spending bill, the infrastructure bipartisan deal, but saying this potential $3.5 trillion bill is going to cost nothing, that seems a hard sell, right?

HARWOOD: Well, it is because people all year have been talking about the price tags but this echoes the closing argument he's making as many of the Democratic moderates have shrunk from the big number saying don't look at the gross amount of spending because I'm offsetting the spending with tax cuts and the cost is zero.

I think more particularly he was trying to project an attitude of calm. He's been dogged by the picture in recent weeks of somebody struggling on foreign policy, struggling on domestic policy, poll numbers dropping, and he tried to say today give us time, we're getting things done, we've had some setbacks, all is on track.

We'll see whether or not he can justify that kind of confidence but that's the message he was trying to send.

BOLDUAN: That's a great point. He did concede -- I think the word he used was stalemate on Capitol Hill. So, it's a little of everything at the moment right now.

It's good to see you, John. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

President Biden as we've discussed began his remarks last hour touting the progress he said the United States has made in the battle against the coronavirus. He used the opportunity to urge eligible Americans to go get the Pfizer booster shots after the CDC gave the green light overnight.

Joining me for more on this, because there's lot to this, CNN chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Sanjay, the guidance from the CDC comes down to who should and who may get the additional dose. Can you lay it out for us?

DR.SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, this was some specific language when you look at the CDC recommendations, officially recommended by the director overnight, about that. Let me put it up on the screen for you.

When it comes to the "should" in terms of boosters, and keep in mind as you read this, it's just for Pfizer right now because that's the only vaccine for which there's actually been a consensus on this. The Moderna data is being reviewed.

People over 65 and if you live in long-term care facilities. People between 50 and 64 who have underlying conditions, and that can be a pretty exhaustive list, Kate -- cardiac disease, diabetes, obesity. As far as "may," people between the ages of 18 to 49 with those same underlying conditions and people who work in situations that may put them at high risk such as health care workers, grocery workers, people who are in prisons, you know, whatever it may be -- people at high risk because of potential exposure to the virus.


So it's interesting because they're sort of hedging a little bit there. They're not necessarily saying the bottom categories absolutely should but they're eligible for it. Let me show you quickly, Kate, the day that that informed this, basically saying if we give booster, how much of a difference does it make in different age groups? Focus on the far right of the screen there. People over the age of 65, they say if they give boosters, they get significant protection in terms of hospitalizations overall.

For younger age groups, they're not getting as much protection for hospitalizations because those groups are not hospitalized as much but they get protection in terms of transmission. Not perfect, but I think that's what's been driving this decision. It's been messy, but this is where they've arrived.

BOLDUAN: We talked about that. You said, look, if people are out there and confused about booster shots, they're right to be so. There's been a lot of confusion around the boosters leading up to the CDC director's decision, and it started with the White House, really.

Did you hear President Biden clearing that up?

GUPTA: Not really. I mean, you know, the thing is, I think what the White House has said is the reason they started talking about this so long ago is because they wanted to get the infrastructure in place. Seventy percent of people are going to go to their pharmacies to get their booster, want to make sure those boosters are available there. That makes sense.

The thing that confused people is they also said starting September 20th. We know here at the end of this week that we're just now hearing from the FDA and CDC on the specific formal recommendation. So I think the White House got ahead of this a bit. And then we saw this back and forth between two very big scientific agencies, the FDA and CDC, advisory committees feeling differently than the director felt.

I can tell you as someone who's covered this for 20 years, that back and forth does happen a lot and there can be often spirited discussions. What is different with this pandemic is you're seeing it evolve real time.

Oftentimes, you know, someone like a Dr. Walensky would follow the guidance of her committee. The FDA would follow the guidance of their committee. But you're seeing how people but you're seeing how people are interpreting the data and coming slight to slightly different conclusions.

I mean, where they've arrived scientifically makes sense. People most likely to benefit from the boosters are the ones who were recommending that they should get boosters. Again, it's a messy process getting here.

BOLDUAN: The president said if you get the booster, get it now. He'll be getting it. He doesn't have the exact day of when he'll get his booster. We could hear more about the rollout I guess in the next hour when the COVID task force is holding a briefing.

Do you think shots can begin today?

GUPTA: Yeah. I think they -- frankly, I think they've already begun.


GUPTA: I've heard this morning, people -- a pregnant doctor went in and got her booster. A health care worker. It's already beginning.

I think what is going to be interesting about this, Kate, there's no formal doctor's note or anything you have to have to go in and get a booster. It's self-attestation as they call it, the honor code. I think what happens, as we've seen so many times in the pandemic, the people worried about it will get boosters and people who are not will not get their boosters. 40 percent of the country is still not fully vaccinated.

So, you know, that's still the real problem. One thing I do want to say is that people -- there may be people who rush to get their boosters earlier than the six-month note. There is value in waiting for the full six months. If you think about how the immune system works, you want to boost with enough of an interval between your first shots and this booster shot. That's a true boost, and that's probably what's going to give you the longest duration.

That's the only caveat I would add is don't rush it because you may be actually not getting as much benefit as you otherwise would. We can anticipate, Kate, how this is going to sort of break down. People are worried, they may be in line at pharmacies right now, 40 percent of the country, they're not paying attention to this. BOLDUAN: Right. Where focus still needs to remain on getting more

people vaccinated and seeing the number of first vaccinations declining in the last four weeks. Good to see you. Thank you so much.

Another developing story, a major blow to former president Trump's big lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him. Republican commission sham awe difficult we've been following out of Arizona, it is to be released today. It confirms what you know, that President Biden defeated Donald Trump and that there was no massive fraud.

Not only that, the review in Arizona shows that Biden won Maricopa County by an even bigger margin than the official tally.


But Trump's repeated lies are taking on new life. He is now prompting a review of the vote count in the four largest counties in Texas.

CNN's Kyung Lah is live in Arizona where she has been following that audit since the beginning.

Kyung, what does this report say?

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: What you're talking about specifically the draft report. That's the only one we've seen. The final report will come later today. That draft report, Kate -- and I want to urge people to really lean on some skepticism here because I've read through this 90-plus-page report and it is riddled with errors, meant to sort of muddy the waters about what happened in 2020.

But essentially, the hand count gave Joe Biden 99 more votes than Maricopa found in its initial canvass. Then Donald Trump lost 261 votes losing by a bigger margin than officially on the record.

As I mentioned, the final report is coming out in just a few hours. There will be a presentation before the senate. It is not over here in Arizona. It is not over anywhere. I want you to take a listen to Maricopa county supervisor Bill Gates. He is a Republican who bugged his party to defend democracy. Take a listen.


BILL GATES, MARICOPA COUNTY SHERIFF: We certainly for the first time in our history, we did not have a peaceful transition of power. We now know that. But is that going to become the new norm? I certainly hope not. And by pushing back on this audit and the supporters of it and the dark money that's included in it, hopefully we can make this a one and done activity.


LAH: One and done, though, is not what Donald Trump wants. Just yesterday, he sent a letter to Texas Governor Greg Abbott pressuring him to put in some legislation about bringing in Arizona-style audits. And you mentioned it, Kate, the secretary of state there announced that the four largest counties would begin those audits. Kate? BOLDUAN: Kyung Lah, thanks for staying on this. Joining me now is CNN

legal analyst and Republican election attorney, Ben Ginsburg.

All right. Ben, let's start with Arizona and then let's talk about the bigger problem because it's all intertwined. It is getting bigger. This was Trump's best chance to prove his lies, as at least believes. He swung and missed in Arizona.

What does this mean now in Arizona?

BEN GINSBERG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It means in Arizona that the talk of reforming elections should be based on much more facts than has been so far.

So in Arizona, as a legal matter, I think some of the legislative reforms that Republicans have wanted to push through will run into a roadblock. And as a political matter, this has left the party deeply divided going into a key election year. So as this plays out over the course of the upcoming campaign, I think Republicans in Arizona are going to see what a mistake taking on this Cyber Ninja project was.

BOLDUAN: So, Ben, though, this has metastasized. Now you have in Pennsylvania Republicans trying a repeat there, in Wisconsin, there's an effort going on there, in Texas, as we were just talking about, Trump literally put out a, quote/unquote, open letter and it said Greg Abbott, we need a forensic audit of the 2020 election, says Donald Trump, and Greg Abbott says okay. So, no matter what, truth be damned, isn't the damage already done?

GINSBERG: Well, the audits do come at a cost, people having faith in elections, but it's more likely to be Republicans who sort of lose their faith in elections. That's not a good electoral strategy.

And honestly, I see a silver lining in the states taking on these audits. You have 30 percent of the population who believes the elections were not accurate. That's going to be really hard for the people in Arizona to swallow given, as you put it, the swing and the miss by the Cyber Ninjas here. I do believe that the same --

BOLDUAN: Ben, haven't we also just seen in that 30 percent that it late rally doesn't matter what it said? They won't believe it. They'll think the Cyber Ninjas are in cahoots with Democrats. I don't know what the next chapter will be.

GINSBERG: Well, look, you've got to change the current dynamic somehow. As people in the news media say that this is a big lie and false, that's not having an impact.


So allowing Donald Trump his make his case and failing utterly as they did in Arizona, may be the way you can peel some of the people off. What's going to happen in Texas and Wisconsin and Pennsylvania is going to be a similar embarrassment to Donald Trump and his supporters.

That may be the way to shown it's completely ineffective and a bad electoral strategy.

BOLDUAN: I will wait to see how -- obviously we all will -- to see how it bears out. But putting more numbers out there, you've seen these poll numbers I know, but they're a reminder for everyone.

A recent CNN poll showed that among Republicans 78 percent, and this is in August and September, 78 percent said Joe Biden did not legitimately win enough votes to win the presidency. 54 percent said there is solid evidence that Biden did not win, which there, of course, is not. If they're so convinced already, so many Republicans, why, again, would the outcome of any of these sham audits convince them otherwise? I don't see it.

GINSBERG: Because this has been Donald Trump's best case to do the audit, brought in people who were supportive of him, it was funded by pool who were supportive of him, they swung and missed. They couldn't prove what he said was going to be there. That's a huge embarrassment. That's a loss.

Donald Trump doesn't like being a loser, but that's also what's going to happen in Texas, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. And so I do think that at least some of those 78 percent of Republicans are going to be sensible enough to realize that this case is wrong and to re-evaluate precisely where they are.

BOLDUAN: It's great to see you, Ben. Thank you for coming on.

GINSBERG: Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Coming up next, the self-imposed deadline and a promise to vote on the infrastructure deal on Capitol Hill is just days away now. The Democrats do not have the full caucus of all the members on board. They have the debt ceiling, a massive budget bill, all hanging in the balance. A key Democrat joins us next.



BOLDUAN: Developing this morning, sources tell CNN that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wants to bring the party's national safety net bill to the floor as soon as next week, but they are a long way from that and we are now as you can see heading into the weekend. Moderate Democrats are expecting a vote Monday on the separate bipartisan infrastructure bill with or without the other massive spending bill.

Lauren Fox is on Capitol Hill joining again for the latest on this.

President Biden said both need to be passed. Where are things right now?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The leadership team just met in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office. As they emerged from that meeting, the House speaker said that the plan is when she was asked specifically about whether she would bring that massive $3.5 trillion bill to the floor, she said that is the plan as of now for next week. Now, a lot can shift. A lot can change because there is still a lot of work to do on that massive social infrastructure plan.

One of the issues that they still have to work out, of course, with the Senate is how much that bill should cost. But the house is really trying to project momentum right now, and that is because Pelosi had already promised her moderate members that vote on the $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill on Monday. And she has a number of progressives, enough to sink that proposal, arguing that if they don't see more progress on that bigger bill, they are going to stand in the way of the passage of the infrastructure bill on Monday.

So Pelosi trying to make it clear to her caucus that she is doing everything at the same time. Over the weekend, the Budget Committee is going to continue working on that bigger $3.5 trillion economic plan in hopes of getting it ready potentially to come to the floor next week. So, the speaker making it clear her plan is to try to bring that bigger bill to the floor next week. Can they pull it off given the differences, that remains to be seen.

BOLDUAN: Lauren, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Joining me for more on this, some perspective, Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Dingell of Michigan. Congresswoman, thank you for coming in.

You have said failure is not an option when it comes to all of this. Is that what you all face if you don't get a vote on -- if you don't move the vote on the infrastructure piece of this on Monday?

REP. DEBBIE DINGELL (D-MI): Kate, I don't -- it was not a leadership meeting per se that the speaker just had. She met with all of her committee chairmen.

You know, I'm not old, but I'm seasoned. I've seen many special moments on the Hill. I will tell you, I think this stands out the most special I've ever seen.

But I also know, you know, the old Will Rogers statement that people (INAUDIBLE) sausage and laws are being made and we are decidedly in the sausage-making stage. And I also know that when there's a will, there's a way. Failure is not an option.

And, by the way, if we fail on this, everybody pays. It is going to be Republicans, it's going to be the moderates, it's going to be everybody. The United States fails.

We cannot let that happen. There's a lot of different opinions, but Nancy is now moving (INAUDIBLE) trying to bring people together.


We can begin discussion of that. Look, we need both. The president is absolutely right. There are things in the bipartisan bill, whenever you can bring people together, that's a good thing.

But that bipartisan bill doesn't do enough to get electric vehicles actually on the roads. It doesn't do enough to get lead out of pipes so that Benton Harbor isn't drinking water with lead in their pipes right now and any community across the country. It isn't enough to get broadband into urban and rural areas.

There are things we've agreed on together to make sure will happen. Budget committees are going to meet tomorrow. I promise (ph) you, there will be a lot of people working over the weekend, probably yelling at people over the weekend, and the other thing is that you have to remember, it's not just Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. You got 100 members.

BOLDUAN: That's become -- that's become very clear, it's not just Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. That's why you called it very kindly a special moment because that's what we're really seeing happen here.

But is it -- lay it out, is it because progressives do not trust moderates and moderates do not trust progressives in the party right now? Yes, failure may not be an option for you guys, and yes, both can pass. But I don't see yet where the give is. Is it --


DINGELL: I'm talking to a lot of people. And I do believe that people know we cannot fail, we simply cannot fail. The American people are depending upon us to get this figured out.

BOLDUAN: OK. So, it comes down to calling someone's bluff, then?

DINGELL: I don't know that it's calling someone's bluff. I think you're going to have a lot of discussions over the weekend. I think the budget committee will try to start to put this together. She's just met with all her committee chairmen. There's going to be a lot of one on one. By the way, I say this on TV, I think the president needs to talk to -- I pick this number out of no place.

There are 180 Democrats that aren't being called to the White House, the media doesn't call every day like Pramila and Josh, but want to be consulted, have a lot of things that people care about, who cannot let their constituents down, who also need to just be talked to, told what is happening and they're listened to.

And this has got to get pulled together, but you know what, you and I have been around, and miracles happen and we will not let the American people down. It doesn't mean I might get (INAUDIBLE) ulcer by Monday. Oh, god, here we go. But we've got to get this done.

BOLDUAN: Let me -- let me -- let me play in terms of -- let me play the budget chairman -- what the budget chairman told me earlier this week because his view on this I thought was interesting in terms of how this needs to play out. And he's talking specifically about moderates here.

Let me play this for you.


REP. JOHN YARMUTH (D-KY): The moderates definitely want access to child care and pre-K education and paid family medical leave and community college. The moderates want that as well.

So, I think ultimately as I've been telling them for four months and my job has been herding Democratic cats, you can posture all you want and you should because you should stand up for your principles and your priorities, but ultimately, you're all going to vote for this. And, by the way, have you met Nancy Pelosi?


BOLDUAN: What he's getting at is something I think it's time to call -- they call a spade a spade. Is this posturing that we're seeing? They might totally believe it, but in the end, are people going to fall in line with whatever number Speaker Pelosi lands on?

DINGELL: I don't think it's being called fall in, we come together, we're Democrats. We have got -- by the way, the American people want us -- now, you know, a lot of the problem-solvers, the Republicans, aren't going to vote for the bipartisan deal on Monday.

This isn't the way we're supposed to govern. We're supposed to listen to different perspectives. We're supposed find that common ground and we've got to find that common ground where we were actually going to deliver.

The "D" in Democrat is "deliver". We need to deliver for the American people. And our caucus has to come together. Each of us has responsibility to understand, we have to get this done. We have to deliver for our people.

And I believe in the end, while it won't be pretty, getting there, we will do it.

BOLDUAN: I hear your passion, and I know you mean it.

DINGELL: I'm crazy. I'm feeling (ph) crazy. But we've got to get this way, because we don't -- we cannot fail. We have to fix our roads and bridges. We have to get the lead out of pipes. We do need child care. We need home health care.

BOLDUAN: What is -- what is Joe Biden going to do to change that? I mean, because moderate --

DINGELL: I think he would be -- I think Joe Biden would do a lot by just coming up and talk to the Senate. You know what? House of Representative is an equal body. It would be good for him to talk to House members too.

BOLDUAN: You think that view is pervasive?

DINGELL: I know it's pervasive.