Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

Biden to Lay Out Six-Pronged Strategy to Combat COVID-19; Capitol Police Memo Warns of Potential for Violence at 9/18 Rally; Britney Spears' Father Files Petition to End Her Conservatorship. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired September 08, 2021 - 13:00   ET




ANA CABRERA, CNN NEWSROOM: Hello. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. Thank you for being with us.

Will this end it? Right now, President Biden is working out the final details of his new six-point plan out of the pandemic, a plan he's set unveil during his speech tomorrow. Here is what we're learning. Announcements on mandates and testing will be included. But just how different will this strategy look?

Critical questions as the delta variant raises new alarm among kids. Right now, more than one in four weekly COVID cases are in children. Pediatric hospitalizations are also at an all-time high.

Let's begin with CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen. Elizabeth, first, the president's goal is to provide the clearest path out of the pandemic. What more are we learning about what he might say?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Ana, we don't know exactly what he's going to say, but CNN has learned sort of in broad brush strokes what are some of the possibilities of where he will go with a new plan. This summer, things have just gotten pretty bad, and so there is a need to kind of turn this ship around.

So, let's take a look at some of these general categories, if you will. It is possible that the Biden administration could emphasize mandates. Those would be government mandates already, for example, doctors and nurses, et cetera, at the veterans administration, they have to be vaccinated. No other option. It is possible the Biden administration could say, we're going to do more like that for other federal employees.

Also ramping up testing, a really rigorous regimen of testing can go a long way at places like schools, not just sort of some schedule but a very specific schedule. Also, private sector actions, it is possible that the Biden administration could say we want to make it easier, we want to encourage restaurants, bars, movie theaters to tell their customers, you want to come in here, you need to be vaccinated and you need to show us that you are vaccinated. So, broadly speaking, those are some of the possibilities that we could be hearing more about from the Biden administration tomorrow. Ana?

CABRERA: Let's talk about the concerning developments regarding children. As more schools open, cases in children have jumped 250 percent from five weeks ago. COVID hospitalizations of kids also at a new record. What are experts saying about this?

COHEN: This is unfortunately the result of two things, the delta variant, which is so contagious and the fact that we just aren't taking mitigation measures, like masking and social distancing in the same way that we were, say, a year ago.

So, let's take a look at the American Academy of Pediatrics' data on cases. We'll first look at cases. So, the week of August 26th through September 2nd, there were more than 250,000 new cases among children. That's a 23 percent increase in just one week. It's the highest weekly increase ever.

Now, I can hear people might be thinking, well, does it really matter if children get COVID, children get viruses like this one, they recover from it. You know, less than around 2 percent of the children who get COVID end up in the hospital. Does it really matter? The answer is yes, because once these numbers get huge, and they are getting huge, less than 2 percent actually can equal a pretty large number of children. This is a big country.

So, let's take a look at the hospitalization numbers for the same week, the week of August 26th. More than 800 new hospitalizations just in 24 states only in half the country, 12 percent increase in one week. That equals a 12 percent increase in one week. So, a real need to get these numbers down.

CABRERA: Elizabeth Cohen, thank you.

With us now Dr. Leana Wen, Emergency Physician and former city of Baltimore Health Commissioner, she's also the author of Lifelines, a Doctor's Journey in the Fight for Public Health.

Dr. Wen, we are learning the president's speech tomorrow will include these announcements on mandates and testing. What do you hope these announcements are more specifically?

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, I hope that President Biden will do three really important things. First is to mandate vaccinations on planes and trains, places that he has jurisdiction over. There are a lot of people who are still on the fence about getting vaccinated. And if they know that they have to be vaccinated in order to travel to see friends and family, to do business travel, et cetera, that can really put them over the edge.

The second thing is we really need to get behind a proof of vaccination system. We know that the honor code doesn't work. You don't board a plane, let's say, you don't go to the airport and say, I am who I say I am, I don't have to show you any identification, I don't have to put my things to the metal detector. We don't allow that and we shouldn't allow people to carry around pieces of paper that can be easily faked as well. We need a national proof of vaccination system.

And the third is I really hope that President Biden will explore all other avenues, including tying federal funding to try to help push states that are not even allowing for schools to do mask mandates, for example.


We really need to do something about that, because it's just unconscionable that there are states that are putting kids' lives in danger and forcing them into a herd immunity experiment that they didn't sign up for.

CABRERA: Which, by the way, just before we came to air, there was another ruling by a judge in Florida which essentially upheld the school districts that have been enacted some mask mandates in that state even though that's against the governor's executive order there.

Meantime, 75 percent of U.S. adults have now had at least one dose. But back to children, because there are still too many children who aren't even eligible yet, and as we reported last week, one in four new COVID cases in the U.S. were children, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, I mean, just your reaction to these numbers.

WEN: It's extremely upsetting, because it did not have to be this way. It is the job of adults to protect our children. That's what we should be doing as a society. And we adults have failed in this regard. We as adults and also adolescents 12 and older should be getting vaccinated to protect those children who are too young to get vaccinated. And we should also be putting into place common sense and pretty easy measures, including, as you mentioned, masking in schools and, ideally, some type of weekly or even twice weekly testing in schools as well. We can do this.

And I think part of the narrative that's gone wrong is this idea that somehow kids are immune from the severe effects from COVID-19. That's just not true. I mean, children should not be getting sick. Children should not be getting hospitalized and dying. And the fact that we have now had hundreds of kids die from COVID since the beginning of this pandemic in the U.S., that's totally unacceptable.

CABRERA: I do quickly want to ask you about research in COVID breakthrough cases. Of course, those are vaccinated people who end up getting infected. This is a pre-print CDC study that finds most breakthrough cases that resulted in hospitalization were among older adults who have multiple underlying medical conditions. In fact, the median age was 73. About 71 percent had three or more underlying conditions, like diabetes, heart disease and more. What do you see as the significance of this information? What does it tell us about the effectiveness of the vaccines?

WEN: Well, we know the vaccines protect very well against severe illness. Although there are still some people who are medically frail, people who are older with chronic medical conditions. That's why having booster shots available, especially for those people, will be very helpful, because there are some individuals for whom something that's mild for somebody else could really push them over the edge into severe illness. And having that booster available for those who are medically frail is very important right now.

CABRERA: Dr. Wen, as always, it's a pleasure to talk with you. Thank you for being our guide through the pandemic.

I want to bring in CNN Political Commentators Paul Begala and Amanda Carpenter. Paul served as an advisor to President Bill Clinton and Amanda has served as an adviser speech writer to two Republican senators.

Guys, President Biden is not polling well right now. His approval rating has dipped. It is below 50 percent. And more Americans then not think he hasn't been communicating clearly about the coronavirus response. Paul, how important is this upcoming speech in order to gain back the confidence of the American people?

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Right. It's very important. The president needs to use that bully pulpit. A great deal of information that's out there is misinformation, disinformation, all these knuckle-dragging nincompoops on right-wing media who are lying to people. The president has got to be very, very clear. I do think his administration's messaging in the main has been quite strong. On this question of boosters, if they were as clear as Dr. Wen, we'd be in much better shape. And I'm looking for him to be much clear on booster shots but also on what we can do for our kids. You know, you fight fear with facts. And if he lays out these facts, I think that that will do him a lot of good.

CABRERA: That's assuming that the facts get to the right people, right? Amanda, President Biden has addressed Americans directly about COVID like this numerous times since taking office. You're a former speech writer. What needs to be different about this one?

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, listen, I think they all thought they had this in the bag going into the 4th of July. And, of course, everyone got it wrong. We thought enough people would get the vaccine and people didn't know how dangerous and transmissible delta would be.

But at this point, Joe Biden has to communicate extremely clearly to the people who have been hanging on, have been doing things right all along. I understand all the frustration and COVID fatigue aimed at the malignant actors who have taken control over this narrative and want to fight about schools and masks and mandates.


But Joe Biden needs to speak to the majority of people who are doing the right thing. And that, number one, begins with finally some clear guidance about what to expect for the vaccine for children.

It is not going to be enough even if he comes out and says tomorrow, hey, we have it approved by the FDA, let's go, because that doesn't help any of the parents or school board members or anyone else doing the education in America figure out how to implement that in their schools. So, that is a very complex process. And when I hear he has a six-point plan, I think that alone is a six-point plan.

And, also, I dearly hope he aggressively takes control back over testing. We had cheap, easy, affordable testing a while ago. That went away. Go try to find some over-the-counter tests for your kids so they can go to school. I've been through it. It was almost impossible. If you're fortunate to live in an area, you probably need to stock up. Because if you need to go get in line for a test, those lines may be long, it may be hard to find spots and you're going to wait two or three days for a result. Joe Biden needs to make that testing great again. If he can do those two things, I think the speech will be a success. But that, by no means, is an easy task.

CABRERA: And, Paul, let's just look at the polling right now on COVID mandates, because you both talk about the majority of Americans doing the right thing. But when it comes to mandates, you can see there is broad support for mask requirements, two-thirds of Americans support mask mandates in schools, same with state or local orders requiring masks in indoor public places. But when it comes to vaccines, just over half support schools requiring students be vaccinated once a vaccine is approved for those under 12 and even fewer but still above half support businesses requiring employees to be vaccinated.

I have to wonder, Paul, if President Biden announces new vaccine requirements, will it deepen the divide?

BEGALA: Well, it could, but it's why Amanda's advice was so good. I hope he's -- the president has got a lot to do but I hope he's watching because I think Amanda gave a very, very good advice. You have to begin with the people who are doing the right things, the sort of medically informed people, which is the vast majority of Americans. And then it can radiate out from that.

I think that when you look at specifics, I've looked at a lot of polling data too, specific jobs or specific places, people do support mandates, not just mask mandates but vaccine mandates. I don't think it would be wise to have a broad mandate that required every single citizen to go get it coming from the White House. I think that would backfire. But by making it more comfortable for businesses, for school boards, for hospitals, for airlines, boosting their support if they mandate, I think that's a good way to do it. And that begins, as I say, by bolstering the people who are doing the right thing.

I was struck when you were talking to Dr. Wen. I didn't know that 75 percent of us adults have had at least one dose. That's terrific. We've got to get that to 85. But we're getting there.

CABRERA: And while your point is -- when we talk about 75 percent of adults have had at least one dose, that's adults, not all people who are eligible, not 75 percent of the population here in the U.S. And, of course, it needs to be much more for herd immunity to develop so we're not all stuck in this limbo. Amanda Carpenter, I owe you the first question next time because we're short on time in this hour. But thank you. Thank you for being with us, Paul Begala. As always, it's good to see both of you and I appreciate your voices. Thanks for being here.

Meanwhile, fears are rising of new violence on Capitol Hill. Why police are warning lawmakers ahead of a big rally in defense of the January 6th insurrectionists.

Plus, caught on video, the Taliban whipping women in the street just hours after the White House says it's watching how they treat women and girls in Afghanistan. Can the U.S. do anything to stop this?

And a surprising twist in the Free Britney drama, her dad officially giving up the fight. What happens now?



CABRERA: New reporting this hour on an upcoming rally in Washington that's raising fear of a Capitol riot repeat. A large gathering is set for September 18th in support of insurrectionists charged and jailed over the January 6th attack. Now, today, we're getting insight and intelligence on who Capitol Police expect to be there and the alarming chatter reportedly is popping up online in the run-up.

CNN's Melanie Zanona is following this for us. Melanie, what are you learning?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Well, security concerns are ramping up over the September 18th rally and law enforcement officials are bracing for the possibility of violence and unrest. A new internal Capitol Police memo reviewed by CNN is warning that there's been a noticeable uptick in violent rhetoric surrounding this event as well as heated discussions online about the fatal shooting of rioter Ashley Babbitt.

The document goes on to note that many individuals now view this event as a justice for Ashley Babbitt rally, which could be a cause for concern and it's not unreasonable to plan for potential violent altercations. Meanwhile, at least one Proud Boy leader has encouraged followers to attend and there are counterprotests being planned.

Now, as far as attendance, 500 people have so far RSCP'd yes to the event, though that number could always be lower. And nine members of Congress were invited to attend this event, although all but three of them declined so far. Those three members, Matt Gaetz, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Madison Cawthorn, have not said either way whether they plan to attend, as well as the attorney for Ashley Babbitt has also been invited to speak.


This all comes as security preparations are fully underway on Capitol Hill. Capitol Police are planning to present their security plans to the Capitol Police board this week, which could include resurrecting that temporary fencing around the Capitol. And groups of lawmakers are set to receive security briefings in the days ahead, including the top four congressional leaders. Ana?

CABRERA: Right. I understand that the speaker of the House has convened a meeting on Monday with Kevin McCarthy, as well as Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer. Melanie Zanona, thank you for your reporting.

The next 19 days for President Biden could prove pivotal. Already battered by what has happened in Afghanistan, the president could find moderate senators in his own party now walking away from his massive social spending plan. That $3.5 trillion proposal is the cornerstone of his domestic agenda.

CNN's Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill. Manu, President Biden has said this will all work out, this bill will pass. Is that optimism well- founded based on what you're seeing and hearing on Capitol Hill?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the jury is still out because negotiations are still happening behind the scenes. They have not even finished drafting this massive proposal, $3.5 trillion. The goal of the Democratic leaders is to have something offered by next week, by September 15th, to try to push it through both chambers as soon as September 27th. And then after that is passed, bring forward a separate Senate-passed bill, $1.2 trillion infrastructure package that is separate from this but is in a lot of ways tied to the fate of this larger Democratic-only package.

But the first goal of the Democrats is to get all their members online, but they are running into major problems, particularly moderate Democrats like Senator Joe Manchin, who doesn't want to spend anywhere near that $3.5 trillion level. He is looking at anywhere from $1 to $1.5 trillion. And that is much more meager than many progressive Democrats who say they need at least $3.5 trillion, if not, more.

Now, Joe Manchin has suggested that they could fully pay for that $1 to $1.5 trillion proposal, in his view, by making changes to the 2017 GOP tax law. But Democrats were pushing this larger proposal, saying much more needs to be done, everything from child care, from education, from combating climate change to expanding Medicare. But even the discussion within Democrats, between House and Senate Democrats, there is significant divisions about how far to go on the health care provision itself, another issue that they need to sort out.

So, the question here, Ana, is can they get all their members in line because there's no margin for error on the Senate side. They need to have all 50 Democrats, including Joe Manchin's support to pass something. And in the House side, Nancy Pelosi cannot afford to lose more than three votes, because then that will sink in the House. So, very little margin of error for Democrats, something they have to sort out behind the scenes. And Joe Biden's agenda rests on whether they can do just that. Ana?

CABRERA: Yes. It sounds like the president is walking a tightrope here. Manu Raju, thank you.

Exiting stage left? Jamie Spears now says if Britney thinks she can handle her own life without a conservatorship, she should get the chance. What's next in what has been a very public and fierce legal left?



CABRERA: Vindication, that word from the lawyer of Britney Spears after a surprise decision by the pop icon's father. Jamie Spears has filed a petition to end the conservatorship that has controlled much of Britney's life for about 13 years.

Now, this move follows those recent court hearings. They got so much attention, including one where the singer described the arrangement as f'ing cruelty.

The new filing by Jamie Spears lawyer reads in part, quote, as Mr. Spears has said again and again, all he wants is what's best for his daughter. If Ms. Spears wants to terminate the conservatorship and believes that she can handle her own. Life, life, Mr. Spears believes that she should get that chance, end quote.

Joining us now to discuss, CNN Legal Analyst Joey Jackson. Britney Spears' lawyer calls this vindication, Joey. Is the fight over for Britney now? Does this end her conservatorship?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Good to see you, Ana. It certainly clears the path for the ending of it, right? Just big picture, remember what litigation is about. Litigation is about two sides having adversarial points of view going into a courtroom and urging the judge, or, in some cases, a jury to see it their way. When you have one side that essentially has thrown in the towel and has said, okay, you know what, in the event she thinks she can manage her personal and business affairs, have at it, I think, for all practical practices, Ana, it clears the way for her to do that.

Now, we know she hasn't filed a petition to that effect, but we certainly also know that she's been none too pleased with his leadership has indicated that she's well enough to deal with her own affairs, and that's what her intent is to do.

CABRERA: So, the attorney for Britney Spears also said this in their statement. It appears that Mr. Spears believes he can try to avoid accountability and justice, including sitting for a sworn deposition and answering other discovery under oath. So I want to know, I think a lot of people are wondering was this his way of getting out of trouble?


Can he avoid further scrutiny by ending this conservatorship?

JACKSON: So, it could have been his way, but it would not have been an effective way. It's very important to note, Ana, that we're talking about two separate issues.