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At This Hour

Biden Says, We Are Not Encouraging Taiwan's Independence; QAnon Shaman Sentenced to 41 Months in Prison For Insurrection; Retail Sales Rise Despite Higher Prices, Supply Chain Chaos. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired November 17, 2021 - 11:30   ET



DR. PAUL OFFIT, MEMBER, FDA VACCINE ADVISORY COMMITTEE: When you see the infections increase, the critical question becomes associated with that -- those infections, which may be mild or asymptomatic infections, is there also -- it can come in increase in deaths. And, usually, deaths typically have followed infections. But if we start to see a separation between infections as compared to hospitalizations and deaths, then the vaccine largely is working to work against serious illness. I think that's what we need to focus on.

What will be interesting about this move by the FDA likely to approve this is what the Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices at the CDC will do. Because, previously, when confronted with, are we going to allow this vaccine to be given to everyone over 18, they've said no. So, we'll see what they say here.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN AT THIS HOUR: Let me ask you this, as you're talking about cases and hospitalizations and death and what the goal is. Because now I'm starting to wonder, you've got new cases are up 16 percent in the last two weeks, and that is concerning health officials. Anthony Fauci is saying that he's worried what this means, what this all means as it's heading into the winter. But with vaccines and boosters now widespread, especially amongst the most vulnerable, is new infection still the right measure, if you will, when we want to know where we stand in the fight against the pandemic?

OFFIT: No. I think the important measure really is hospitalization and death. And I think Dr. Fauci is right. As you head into winter, knowing you have a susceptible population, say, of children who are 5 to 11 that are all going to be gathering in one place, or even the 12 to 15-year-olds who are all going to be gathering in one place or generally undervaccinated, and there are communities undervaccinated, I think it's likely that we're going to see a rise in not only infections, but hospitalizations and deaths this winter.

But I think you're exactly right. You need to set what the goal is of this vaccine, and the goal is prevention against serious illness. And if you're vaccinated, even with just two doses, all the evidence is that you are protected against serious illness. So, we'll see how this plays out over the next few months.

BOLDUAN: Yes. And the White House's COVID response team is holding a briefing that started at the beginning of the hour, and they just announced that at least 2.6 million children between 5 and 11 have had at least one shot, which is about 10 percent, if you will. There are 28 million kids in this age group. What do you make of the pace, since it's been about a week, ten days, maybe just shy of a couple -- two weeks that this has been available for kids of that age group?

OFFIT: Well, you're seeing the parents who are very interested in making sure their children got vaccinated. So, you get a quick 10 percent. I mean, that's happened before with the 12 to 15-year-old. You saw sort of - there was an immediate uptick for parents who really wanted to vaccinate their children. But then we leveled off, so we have about 45 percent.

This happened with adults too. I mean, when the Biden administration was able to figure out how to mass produce, mass distribute, mass administer, what you had is you were given 3 million doses a day, 3.5 million, 4 million doses a day, and then it quickly -- we hit a wall and that dropped off when you then found out who really didn't want to get this vaccine, and I think that's probably going to happen here also.

BOLDUAN: Yes, which is why the effort needs to continue of speaking to those parents, speaking to those adults even to get them to a place of getting the vaccine and continuing that education process.

It's good to see you, Dr. Offit, thank you.

OFFIT: Good to see you.

BOLDUAN: Happening right now, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is holding a critical vote on the sacrament of communion. The bishops are deciding whether Catholic politicians who support abortion, which includes President Joe Biden, if they should be denied communion.

This issue has divided the bishops and it's caused a rift between more conservative Catholics and those who agree with the president's views. He doesn't actually really like speaking publicly about it. He says it's very personal.

But the president met with Pope Francis at the Vatican and he told reporters afterwards that the pope said that he was a -- quote, unquote, he was good catholic and continue to receive communion, something we'll continue to follow.

Coming up for us, some 1,000 men, women and children sheltering in a massive warehouse now in Belarus, their fate still in limbo amid this escalating migrant crisis. Our Matthew Chance is still in the middle of it all. We're going to take you there next.



BOLDUAN: Right now, hundreds of migrants are spending another night in freezing camps near the border between Belarus and Poland after violence erupted yesterday, some are now being moved to warehouses. CNN's Matthew Chance is there. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We are right in the middle of this processing center. Over the course of the past just 12 hours or so, since last night after that violence ended, Belarusian officials and forces have been moving the migrants from that forest camp, bringing them indoors at this location about a mile back from the border crossing with Poland.

It's still pretty rudimentary conditions that people are in, but at least we're inside with some shelter from the increasingly cold weather conditions outside. People have got mattresses to sleep on. They've got blankets to put over them. They're being given food outside, they've being given hot tea and bread.

The Belarusian officials that we've spoken to say they aim to provide these people with at least one hot meal a day. Still not very much but it's better than no hot meals a day. And you can see the general atmosphere here is a lot -- sort of I wouldn't say happy but people are a lot more comfortable than they were outside in the freezing forest camp right up against the razor wire of the Polish border.

The big question is, of course, what is going to happen next to these people? Are they ever going to achieve their objective of getting into the European Union? It doesn't look like it at the moment. The reaction of the Polish authorities yesterday, spraying the crowds with water cannon to push them back from any prospect of getting near the barricades was an indication that the Pols at least and the European Union in general are reluctant to take these people in.


And we're being told by Belarusian officials that they are waiting for a decision from Germany about whether there is some kind of humanitarian corridor that could be opened possibly via Poland, possibly by air straight from here to Germany, but that is not confirmed at all. In fact, over the past couple days, the Germans have made it clear they don't intend to take these people in either.

The alternative, according to Belarusian officials, is that these people will ultimately be deported back to their countries of origin. For the most part, that would be Iraq. the majority of the people here are from Iraqi Kurdistan.


BOLDUAN: Matthew, thank you so much for that.

Also developing, President Biden is trying to clarify that he is not encouraging Taiwan's independence after using that exact word to describe some of what he discussed in his meeting Monday with Chinese President Xi.

When it comes to Taiwan, the war on independence is a trigger definitely for China. And I want you to listen here to Biden's initial statement on this and also then him clarifying. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: We have made it very clear we support the Taiwan act, and that's it. Its independence, it makes its own decisions.

I said that they have to decide, they, Taiwan, not us, and we are not encouraging independence. We're encouraging that they do exactly what the Taiwan act requires.


BOLDUAN: Joining me right now is Josh Rogin, CNN Political Analyst, Washington Post Columnist and Author of the book, Chaos Under Heaven, Trump, Xi and the Battle for the 21st Century.

Josh, this is the second time Biden has clarified his position as it relates to Taiwan. I want to also play what he said last month at a CNN town hall.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: So, are you saying that the United States would come to Taiwan's defense if China attacked?

BIDEN: Yes, we have a commitment to do that.


BOLDUAN: And right after the town hall, Josh, as you well know, the White House also had to clarify that Biden was not announcing any change in policy as it relates to Taiwan. This is the second time, the second go-round of this, and it has me wondering what you think is going on here.

JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, it's clear that President Biden has very strong feelings about U.S. policy towards Taiwan that don't exactly match with our stated policy of 40 years, which is to encourage neither side to change the status quo. And if you know Joe Biden, you know that he says what he feels and what he thinks is that Taiwan seems to be an independent country and it seems to be acting like a democracy, and that's not U.S. policy, but that is the reality that a lot of people see.

And it gets at a sort of -- besides cleaning up the mess of him misstating U.S. policy, the real issue here is what are we going to do about this country called Taiwan which acts like a country, looks like a country, believes it's a country but we don't recognize as a country. And as they come under increasing threat from Beijing, military threat, economic threat, political pressure, the U.S. policy seems untenable.

It seems like we're going to have to decide sooner or later if we are really going to stand up for this country if they get attacked, if we are really going to come to Taiwan's defense. We have a policy of strategic ambiguity, but it doesn't seem to be holding out and even Joe Biden doesn't seem to really believe in it.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Today, we're also learning that U.S. and China are agreeing to relax visa restrictions on journalists from both countries. This is according to officials. The agreement allows for longer stays for journalists in both countries. Beyond the exact details of the agreement, which are very important for you, me and many of our colleagues, do you see this as something -- signaling, I don't know, something more as it's coming right after the summit?

ROGIN: Right. This is a test. I mean, I think both sides have an interest in having their journalists in the other country. Of course, as journalists, we have an interest in knowing what's going on inside China. So, this is something easy that they can agree on.

We don't know if it's going to work. We don't know if the Chinese side is going to uphold their end of the bargain. We don't know if they're going to play games when they let the journalists back in with their access. We don't know if they're going to punish them again if they get out of line. But let's see it as a first step. And if they can come to an agreement on restoring journalists' access in both countries, maybe that could be a path towards more cooperation. But I wouldn't get too excited because the pattern is that the Chinese Communist Party makes these agreements and breaks them almost immediately.

BOLDUAN: Yes. You also have, Josh, new reporting on an issue that appears to not have come up during the summit, which is the upcoming Beijing Olympics. What are you hearing?

ROGIN: My sources inside the administration confirm that there's been a unanimous recommendation to President Biden to install a diplomatic boycott and that he's expected to approve it within the next couple of weeks. And what that means is that when the Beijing Olympics begin in February, it's only three months away, no U.S. officials will be there, no government officials anyway. And President Biden won't be there.


And that's a pretty big deal. That means that the Beijing government won't be able to hold the games and bolster its legitimacy without people noticing and noting that there's a genocide going on inside its borders.

It's not as far as activists would have liked. Athletes will still have to make their own decisions. Corporate sponsors will still have to make their own decisions. There will still be other protests. But it's a clear statement by the Biden administration that they care about human rights. At the same time, they don't want to affect the athletes. They don't want to make decisions for the athletes. It's a compromise, but one that the Chinese government will definitely not be happy about.

BOLDUAN: For sure. Good to see you, Josh. Thank you.

ROGIN: Any time. BOLDUAN: A quick programming note for all of you, Fareed Zakaria takes an in-depth look at China's leader, China's Iron Fist, Xi Jinping and the Stakes for America. That airs Sunday night 9:00 P.M. Eastern on CNN.

The holidays are around the corner, as we all well know, and some of the items on your shopping list, they might not be there. Why experts say you should go by gifts right now. Details next.



BOLDUAN: We do have breaking news in to CNN. One of the key figures in the Capitol insurrection, the so-called QAnon shaman has been sentenced now in federal court.

Let's get back over to CNN's Whitney Wild, who has been tracking all of this. She's outside the courtroom in Washington.

Whitney, what are you hearing from the judge?

WHITNEY WILD, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRESPONDENT: The judge has now sentenced Jacob Chansley, also known as the QAnon shaman, to 41 months with 36 months of supervised release. This is a remarkable case for a list of reasons. He was the most notable figure throughout this insurrection. He was the man who was walking through the Senate chambers with a bullhorn, with face paint, with fur. He is not convicted of a violent crime, so this is why this 41 months in prison is so significant.

Kate, the Department of Justice had asked for 51 months in prison, the judge obviously giving slightly less than that, but it is about comparable to what he -- or rather exactly comparable to what he gave another man who was sentenced last week in his very same courtroom for a violent crime, for punching a police officer.

So, here we have these two crimes, one person affecting this insurrection by their leadership and by their actions and by their words, and another person affecting it by an act of violence. And in the judge's eyes, Judge Royce Lamberth, those two things are the same.

And this is really a benchmark for how the rest of these cases are going to go. Jacob Chansley's case ushers in a new era of this higher level, more visible defendants facing higher level crimes going through the justice system.

So, Kate, this is really a high watermark now for how other -- the Justice Department is going to approach other cases as well as perhaps a benchmark for what other judges may award here in these sentencings for these riot defendants. Kate?

BOLDUAN: 41 months, just shy of three-and-a-half years. That is the sentence for Jacob Chansley. Thank you for that breaking news reporting. I really appreciate it, Whitney. I want to turn now to this. It is tough to pin down honestly the state of the economy right now with a mix of bad and good headlines seeming to be battling it out all the time. A new report shows retail sales are up almost 2 percent last month, more than economists expected. That's despite rising consumer prices, stubborn inflation and more and more products out of stock, which hurt everyone.

CNN's Tom Foreman has more on that piece of this economic puzzle.


TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Over 2 billion times, that's how often the words out of stock came up as researchers tracked just 18 different product categories online in October. That's worse than last year and much worse than two years ago. Among the hardest hit items according, to Adobe Analytic, electronics, jewelry, home wares and pet supplies.

The trend has been driven in large part by months of people shopping at home shopping online in the pandemic, and the holidays are amping it up.

JONATHAN GOLD, NATIONAL RETAIL FEDERATION: The demand for those products as well as the materials to make those products is just far outpacing the available supply of those products materials as well as what's needed to move those products through the supply chain to the consumer.

FOREMAN: Important goods are especially vulnerable. Not only are manufacturers and shippers navigating a maze of periodic shutdowns, but even when their cargos arrive, they are piling up in ports waiting to unload.

Rosemary Coates is a supply chain expert.

ROSEMARY COATES, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, RESHORING INSTITUTE: There is a shortage of truck drivers, shortage of warehouse space and workers all along that supply chain. So, this is not, you know, snap your fingers and organize a solution.

FOREMAN: That means for consumers, the day after Thanksgiving could be more like Bleak Friday with some products hard to find and prices rising. Best tips? Shop early. If you see what you want --

GOLD: Buy it now.

COATES: Buy it. Definitely, buy it now.

FOREMAN: -- and have faith. Just like just like many retailers that the holidays will wind up happy, anyway.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, are you ready to fly to grandma's?


(END VIDEOTAPE) FOREMAN (on camera): Retailers met at the White House recently trying to corral the grinchiness of the this supply chain problem, but experts say it's unlikely we'll see anything like normal until after the holidays, maybe in time for Christmas 2022.

Tom Foreman, CNN, Washington.

BOLDUAN: Tom, thanks for that.

Let me bring in CNN's John Harwood for more on this live from the White House.

John, the supply chain and the issues along with it is a major problem for this White House. I mean, what are you hearing from them on what they're doing, what they can do and the estimate of when the supply chain can loosen up?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're scrambling and they're having some success. The Port of Los Angeles in Long Beach announced yesterday that the inventory of containers that had not been able to move through is significantly down. So, that's good news.

It is gradually going to be worked on as businesses adjust post- pandemic, but the key is going to be really getting past COVID. And so I think nobody expects these problems to diminish in the next month or two, but sometime if we get largely past the pandemic middle of next year, I think people think that the economy and the supply chains are going to normalize pretty significantly.

BOLDUAN: One other thing I wanted to ask you that I was just seeing come in is that President Biden is now asking the FTC, John, to investigate if oil and gas companies are legally driving up prices. What are you hearing about this?

HARWOOD: Nobody wants gas -- oil and gas companies to illegally manipulate prices, but I got to say, Kate, having covered Washington for a long time, this is the number one item on the political playbook when energy prices rise.

I was just looking back at some news stories this morning. This is something that Obama, that Bush, that Bill Clinton all called for when prices went up. They don't usually find very much, but it's a way for a president, who is facing pressure from high energy prices, to indicate that he's doing something in a situation where they really don't have a whole lot of control.

BOLDUAN: That's very interesting and important perspective.

So, what do you make of this mixed bag? People don't feel good about the economy, but as I was reporting off the top, retail sales set a record in October. People are still spending money anyway. How does this all fit in?

HARWOOD: It's complicated, Kate, because a whole lot of things are happening at the same time. Inflation is up. That annoys people. Gas prices are up. On the other hand, people have, relative to points in the recent past, a lot of money in their bank accounts because they didn't spend as much during COVID and because of those relief checks. So, people have money to spend, but even if they have money to spend, they don't like gas prices going up.

Similarly, the jobs market is coming back, economic growth is coming back, but you've had dislocation and some jobs aren't available that people had before. People don't want some jobs that they had before. So, it's a jigsaw puzzle of good things and bad things, disruptions and ample money to spend, and all of that contributes to the supply chain problem because people who have money in their bank accounts are spending money on things that are in short supply because so many people want to buy them.

BOLDUAN: Jigsaw puzzle, I think, is the best way, the kindest way to describe this right now. It's good to see you, John, thanks for laying it all out.

HARWOOD: You bet.

BOLDUAN: Thank you all so much for being with us today. I'm Kate Bolduan.

Inside politics with John King begins after this quick break.