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At This Hour

Uvalde Principal, Custodian To Testify At Texas Hearing; Stocks Tumble On Recession Fears Following Fed Rate Hike; FDA Advisers Recommend Pfizer, Moderna Vaccine For Kids Under 5. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired June 16, 2022 - 11:30   ET




BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Happening now. Texas lawmakers investigating the school massacre in Uvalde, Texas are going to hear from a principal and a custodian of the elementary school where 19 students and two teachers were murdered. The hearing is happening behind closed doors. CNN's Rosa Flores is live in Uvalde. Rosa, I've heard from members of the community that are frustrated by what they perceive as a lack of transparency here and they're not happy that some of these hearings are happening behind closed doors.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, people in this community really just want answers. They want to know what happened, what was the law enforcement response exactly second by second? We won't know that today. All of these interviews that are happening are happening behind closed doors, Boris, just as you mentioned. We are expecting that the committee and these are Texas lawmakers that have come together and are investigating, and what they say is a fact-finding mission. They're hoping to figure out what happened and then take their findings to the Texas legislature so they can do something about it to make schools safer in the state of Texas.

Now, the committee members, some of them, becoming emotional today during their opening remarks. Representative Joe Moody out of El Paso becoming emotional having difficulty speaking and just expressing his condolences to get to this community knowing, of course, that he went through this a few years ago during the El Paso shooting. Committee members expressing their condolences, thanking this community for allowing them to come here to the -- to the place where this massacre happened to ask questions in this factfinding mission. We're expecting that the principal of Robb Elementary School will be testifying today. I saw her as she was walking in. I asked if she had any comments. She did not make any public comments. She was there with an attorney.

One of the key questions for her and for the superintendent who will also be testifying today, according to the committee is that there was an e-mail that was sent to parents at the time of the shooting when the shooter was inside the building, Boris, that said to parents of this community that students and staff were safe. That, of course, was not the case because there were already students who were inside. The gunman was inside. So many questions about what happened here in this massacre. This committee is expected to find out what happened, Boris.

SANCHEZ: Yes, parents and families there have gotten so many different contradictory accounts of what's happened. It has to be excruciating and frustrating. Rosa Flores from Uvalde, thank you so much.

Coming up, stocks are tumbling at this hour as fears of a recession are rising. We have more on the battle against inflation next.



SANCHEZ: All eyes are on Wall Street right now. All three major U.S. stock indices down sharply reversing yesterday's rally following that big interest rate hike from the Fed. The markets are rattled by fears of a recession. So let's discuss with CNN John Harwood who's live for us from the White House. John, good morning. What are you hearing from the administration about how the markets have responded?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, no White House likes it when markets are plunging but the administration continues to assert that it's going to let the Fed do its job without interference. And I think they -- the White House and other outside economic observers believe that what the Fed was doing yesterday was front-loading some of the tough medicine that they think is needed to control inflation with the idea that that will be a big part of the solution to the issue.


HARWOOD: Inflation is too high. The recession risk is significant. But if inflation can get under control without too much disruption to the economy and they can avoid a recession, that's the sweet spot they're aiming for. And I think there remains a significant amount of hope within the White House and among economists sympathetic to the White House that they will be able to, in fact, achieve something like a soft-ish landing, as chairman Powell has alluded to.

SANCHEZ: Yes. And there may be more of that medicine, as you called it on the way. Chairman Powell calling this rate hike unusually large, but also saying that the Fed would likely discuss raising rates again by 75 or 50 basis points at the end of the month, what do you think this goes next?

HARWOOD: Well, I think they're going to be watching all the inflation indicators. We've had some false starts earlier this year suggesting that inflation peaked before it turns out to have, in fact, peaked. The data is mixed. You get inconsistent reading. So the job numbers that the White House got almost two weeks ago looked like a very positive sign about slowing job creation without undue burden on the economy.

Then you had the inflation data a week ago, which alarmed the Fed, Chairman Powell talked about that yesterday and led them to go more aggressively than they had signaled earlier. Now, the question is, are they going to have to go that aggressively? Again, I think there's hope that they won't have to, but they're going to be watching the data at the Fed just like they are at the White House.

SANCHEZ: And there's also fear of stagflation, right, where rate hikes don't work to reduce rising prices and slow the economy. Have you heard from officials at the White House, maybe privately that have shared with you, concerns of perhaps, a repeat of the late 1970s?

HARWOOD: I don't think they consider this like the 1970s. Remember, we have had an unprecedented pandemic, which shut down the economy, then you had the restart of the economy and you had millions and millions of jobs that had to be put back online. We're almost to -- where all the jobs that existed prior to the pandemic have returned. Demand is very strong. You have supply constraints that were resulting from the pandemic that still exist.

If they can get some easing in the supply constraints that those supply chains smooth out, COVID lockdowns ease in China and elsewhere. They have hope that that can alleviate some of the pressure on prices that demand has created. So it's an interaction between those two things. It is not a situation that is comparable to or mirroring what we saw in the 1970s. We'll see whether stagflation develops, but I think there's a lot of hope that it won't.

SANCHEZ: And there's also a lot of hope from the White House that the economy might turn around and perhaps give Democrats some relief going into the midterm elections, potentially buck historical precedent. John Harwood from the White House, thank you so much.

Coming up, the FDA is taking the first step toward vaccinating the youngest Americans. What parents need to know? After a quick break.



SANCHEZ: The FDA's vaccine advisors are recommending Moderna and Pfizer's COVID vaccines for emergency use in kids from six months to five years old. It's a key step in the process of vaccinating the youngest Americans. The FDA and CDC still have to sign off on all of this, but it could happen as soon as this weekend. That means that babies and young kids could finally be started getting vaccinated next week.

Joining us now is Dr. Megan Ranney. She's an emergency physician and Academic Dean of Public Health at Brown University. Doctor, thank you so much for joining us as always. After looking at the data on these vaccines, you call them "slam dunks," what do you see in the data that's such good news?

DR. MEGAN RANNEY, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN: So there's two parts. The first is that we know that COVID is hurting little kids. There have been more than 200 deaths from COVID in this zero to four-year-old age group. We wouldn't accept that from bumpers on cribs, from car seats, from anything out there that our kids would potentially be at risk of. It is time for us to do something to help protect these kids. And the second part, Boris, is that the data on these vaccines is so clear that they work to protect kids from infection but even more so from hospitalization and ICU stays. Parents across the country have been waiting for this. It's so tough to mask kids. Kids want to be up, they need to be social. The vaccines are what we need in order to do that safely.

SANCHEZ: So the process, Doctor, is not yet complete, but if it continues, as expected, we could see shots in arms as early as Thursday. What would you share with parents who are potentially wondering about getting their kids vaccinated? Any potential side effects they should be aware of?

RANNEY: Yes, it's a very normal question. Listen, I'm a parent of two kids, both of them are in age groups that have already been able to be vaccinated but I wanted to know a little bit about the data before I showed up and got shots in my kids' arms. The important things to know are first, the Pfizer vaccine is three shots, the Moderna vaccine is two shots, so the Moderna vaccine takes effect a little bit sooner.


RANNEY: The second thing to know is that there are some minor side effects like with all shots. Your kids might have a little bit of pain in their arms or a little bit of fatigue or irritability. The third thing to know, though, is that they do work. Both types of vaccines decreased the risk of any infection, and therefore probably also the risk of long COVID but more importantly, they work again to prevent hospitalizations or other severe side effects from COVID.

SANCHEZ: So as you noted, Doctor, the Pfizer vaccine requires three doses. Dr. Paul Offit and other advisors at the meeting brought up the concern that some kids might not complete that cycle. What do you think of that? What could potentially happen?

RANNEY: So if you only get two shots instead of three, the vaccine is going to be not quite as effective as it would be with the full dose. It's why for many parents, I would tell them to get the Moderna vaccine if they have a choice, just because it's easier. It only requires showing up to the pediatricians twice.

SANCHEZ: And, Doctor, quickly, polling still shows the majority of parents of kids this age are not convinced to get their kids the shots right away. Then we have a graphic with some polling percentages to show you. Some 38 percent are not exactly sold on the idea. What do you think could move the needle here?

RANNEY: So, again, I think that's a really understandable concern on the part of parents. Our primary job is to protect our kids. I am hopeful that as people know other people who've gotten their kids vaccinated, as they have honest conversations with their pediatrician about the safety and the efficacy of these vaccines, and God forbid as we have another COVID surge, more parents will show up and get those shots in arms to protect their little ones.

SANCHEZ: Dr. Megan Ranney, we always appreciate your perspective and expertise. Thanks so much.

RANNEY: Thank you. SANCHEZ: Of course. Coming up, the teenager accused of carrying out a racist massacre at a Buffalo supermarket is in federal court. Prosecutors releasing disturbing details about the suspect in a letter he wrote to his parents. We have a live report after a quick break. Stay with CNN.



SANCHEZ: Happening now. The-18-year old accused of murdering 10 black people in a racist massacre at a Buffalo grocery store appearing in federal court this morning as prosecutors reveal a handwritten letter from the suspect to his family. CNN's Brynn Gingras is live in Buffalo for us, tracking the story. And, Brynn, we're learning a lot more about how long officials say the suspect was planning to carry out this attack.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Boris. I mean, there was so much in that criminal complaint. He -- according to it, he was planning this for years. And actually, you've gotten more serious about it just within this year. But in the actual court proceeding, he just answered the judge yes or no with specific questions. And he didn't have to enter a plea today as this was just an initial hearing on the 26 federal charges now that he is facing. Also, waive the right for a permanent preliminary hearing.

Now, what happens is the government takes his case to a grand jury and tries to secure an indictment. And, Boris, it's important to mention, inside that courtroom, so many family members of those victims from the grocery store shooting where 10 people were killed. I talked to two sons of one of those victims Ruth Whitfield, one of them, this was going to be the first time that he actually came face to face with the shooter. I want you to hear from him.


GARNELL WHITFIELD, SON OF BUFFALO SHOOTING VICTIM RUTH WHITFIELD: And she's not looking forward to it here because I think I have to be.

RAYMOND WHITFIELD, SON OF BUFFALO SHOOTING VICTIM RUTH WHITFIELD: Our mother would have it in no other way. She was at everything we ever did. You know, football practice, cheerleader practice, Junior achievement all the way up to adulthood. And she's 86 years old and she's still going to Everything -- she was still going to everything we ever did. And so she would have no other way for us to be right here on this moment.


GINGRAS: And you can kind of sense the emotion from those two sons as we were talking to them. It was equal emotion inside a courtroom. There were a number of family members from these victims sitting there somewhere sobbing, wiping away tears. Death penalty and major issue in this case. Any family member that we've talked to says they don't even want to consider that right now. That's a long time down the road but that's certainly on the table when it comes to these federal charges now against this 18-year-old, Boris.

SANCHEZ: Yes, a long road still ahead in this case, Brynn Gingras, I know you'll keep us updated on it. Thanks so much.

And thank you for sharing part of your morning with me. CNN's special coverage of the insurrection hearing begins right now.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: On Capitol Hill, the January 6 Select Committee is about to share new revelations about a centerpiece of former President Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election. The dangerous pressure campaign they say he waged against his own Vice President Mike Pence. Welcome to CNN's Special Coverage attack on democracy, the January 6 hearings. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.