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Today, Biden Unveils Six-Pillar Plan to Combat Delta Surge; Americans Among Some 113 People Allowed to Leave Kabul; Biden Squeezed by Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Hammered by Trump. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired September 09, 2021 - 13:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: I appreciate your time today on Inside Politics. I hope to see you back here tomorrow.

Ana Cabrera picks up right now

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and thanks for being with me. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.

A six-pillar plan, one goal, end the pandemic. The president set to lay out his strategy just hours from now with a speech that comes just nine weeks after he declared independence from COVID-19. On July 4th the U.S. was averaging 12,000 new cases and 200 deaths a day, then delta. And this is where we are now, an average of 150,000 new cases a day, 1,500 Americans nearly all unvaccinated, dying daily. And children, they are now being infected and hospitalized at higher rates than ever before.

Will the president's new plan get the country back on track? We know vaccine mandates for federal workers are in this plan, but does that go far enough? Will it get us to will Dr. Fauci says we need to be? Dr. Fauci telling Axios, in a country of our size, you can't be hanging around and having 100,000 infections a day. You've got to get well below 10,000 before you start feeling comfortable, end quote.

Let's begin with CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen. And, Elizabeth, Dr. Fauci saying 10,000 cases a day or under to feel comfortable, how does he think we get there?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know what, Ana, I think it's all the same efforts that we've heard about before, vaccination, masking, better testing, all of that. But there is a really long way to go to reach Dr. Fauci's goal.

Let's take a look at where we stand in comparison to that goal. So, Dr. Fauci, as you said, just said that well below 10,000 cases a day. That's his goal. He wants to get well below 10,000 cases a day. Yesterday, we had over 150,000 cases per day. So, you can see that's a huge difference. The last time we were below 10,000 cases a day in the U.S., that was March 25th of 2020. So we really have a long way to go. And, unfortunately, we're headed in the wrong direction.

Take a look at this graph, all the way on the right hand side, that's where we are today. The cases are climbing. They are heading towards where we were at the beginning of the year rather than away from that. So, there really is quite a bit of work to meet Dr. Fauci's goal. Ana?

CABRERA: Okay. Elizabeth Cohen, thank you for setting the stage for the president's remarks tonight.

Now, to the White House and CNN Chief White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins is there for us. Kaitlan, what is in this six-pillar plan, and how is the president right now preparing for this critical speech?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, he had a very long briefing with his team yesterday, Ana, ahead of this. And now, of course, the biggest thing that you'll see President Biden do today is he's set to sign an executive order requiring that all federal employees be vaccinated, with no option to take regular COVID- 19 testing instead.

So this takes things a step further than what he had announced in previous months, which was that federal employees had the option of either saying that they were vaccinated or getting tested and wearing a mask. Now, all federal employees will have to be vaccinated. That applies to federal contractors as well.

And, Ana, today, he'll also talk about booster shots. Of course, there's been a lot of confusion over when those are going to come into effect. Keeping schools open, talking about increasing testing and mask wearing. And part of that, we're told by sources, will include expanding free testing. That has been a big component that doctors and scientists have called for because, of course, it makes it easier to spot those breakthrough cases and whatnot.

He's also going to talk about the economic recovery and improving care for those who already have COVID-19.

And two things are really driving this speech today, and one, of course, is the delta variant and the fact that it has fueled an enormous surge across the U.S. to where we are seeing now a new record number of deaths that we have not seen since pre-vaccinations were widespread across the country. But also the fact that the FDA did fully authorize the Pfizer vaccine as essentially strengthened the president's hand when it comes to requiring these vaccines for federal employees.

CABRERA: So, for federal employees, but should we expect a vaccine mandate of any sort for regular people, everyday Americans or anything of that nature?

COLLINS: Not right now. Because what we have heard from the White House, and this has been their thinking for a few months now, is they don't think that the federal government has the authority to mandate a broad swath of the population get vaccinated in the way that some people have called on President Biden to do. And some people would like to see from the federal government.

What they're hoping is that by mandating it for federal employees is that it kind of sets the style for private companies to do this as well. And then they'll be compelled to require them as well. So, we'll see. It's going to be a really long speech, we should note, from President Biden today, and also just the fact that he is giving this speech at all, Ana, in September really speaks to the level of this is a pandemic in a place where the White House was not hoping it would be by the time we got to September.


CABRERA: Kaitlan Collins at the White House, thank you.

Let's get perspective now from a couple doctors in the middle of this battle against COVID-19. Dr. Paul Offit, Director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children's Hospital Philadelphia, and Dr. Steven Brown, Critical Care Pulmonologist at Mercy Virtual in Chesterfield, Missouri. Thank both for being here with us.

Dr. Offit, this plan, the president plans to announce involves new vaccine mandates for federal workers, that encompasses about 2 million people. Does this go far enough? Will it be a game changer?

DR. PAUL OFFIT, DIRECTOR, VACCINE EDUCATION CENTER, CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL OF PHILADELPHIA: Well, it's certainly moving in the right direction. I think by not allowing the sort of pop off valve of just get tested weekly, which is obviously not the same thing as getting a vaccine. I mean, we need to vaccinate the unvaccinated.

I would argue, it would be interesting to see whether or not the occupational safety and health administration could, instead, of doing what they're doing now, which is kind of recommending that workers be vaccinated, that they just basically take the next step and say that to have a safe workplace, workers need to be vaccinated. That would give cover to, I think, a lot of private industry folks who want to mandate this but are afraid of walkouts.

And if they can say, look, this is a mandate, we have to have you vaccinated, that would help, because there is no good reason not to get a vaccine, only a lot of bad reasons. And the reason we continue to see this pandemic is a critical percentage of this country simply refused to be vaccinated and, therefore, are going to have to be compelled to be vaccinated.

CABRERA: And it's also then creating this problem at so many health care institutions all around the country. Dr. Brown, I understand on one of your shifts, you lost more than four patients to COVID in less than 12 hours. What do you want to hear and see from President Biden today?

DR. STEVEN BROWN, CRITICAL CARE PULMONOLOGIST, MERCY VIRTUAL: We lost more than -- I lost four patients in just three hours and lost a whole lot more in the 12-hour shift. I think that -- I'm hoping that the president will have mandates with regard to vaccination. I'm hoping that in indoor spaces that we can see mask mandates, particularly in schools where kids who are unvaccinated and can't be vaccinated at this time remain vulnerable. I'm hoping that we will see ramping up of testing.

I think that in addition to mandates, that we really strongly encourage and disseminate information about the safety of these vaccines. They are safe. There's so much disinformation, misinformation, conspiracy theories that are out there. We really need to see people volunteering to get vaccinated because we're really in a major crunch right now.

CABRERA: Right. And volunteering hasn't been enough so far to get the population to that threshold in which we are out of the woods, so to speak, in this pandemic. Dr. Offit, Dr. Brown brought up the issue of children and going back to school and mask mandates inside classrooms.

There are at least a couple school districts now that are taking it a step further. We're told that the Los Angeles school district is expected to vote on vaccine mandates regarding COVID specifically for those who are currently eligible. Does every school need to be going there?

OFFIT: Yes. I mean, 27 percent of all cases now are in children. We have vaccine mandates for a variety of other vaccines for children, for those who can get it, meaning, in this case, children over 12 years of age and hopefully down to five years of age soon. But why not have a mandate for this virus? I mean, we certainly see what it can do.

There were 250,000 cases in children last week. There were 200,000 the week before that. Thousands of children are being hospitalized and children are dying from this various. We have more than 450,000 who have died. We have mandates for other vaccines. This is obviously a vaccine for which we should also have a mandate. I think there should be a mandate for every teacher who walks into a classroom and I think mandates for all children who can get the vaccine. Absolutely, we have to protect our children.

CABRERA: There is so much frustration out there, Dr. Brown, especially among people who are getting vaccinated, who are impacted by those who are choosing not to get vaccinated, those people who are unvaccinated but then they get COVID and then they are overwhelming the health care system. We're hearing of states having to ration care.

Idaho, for example, just activated its crisis standards of care in the northern part of that state. What does that mean? Does this mean doctors there possibly have to choose between helping an unvaccinated patient who is severely ill from COVID and someone else who may be having a heart attack?

BROWN: We're already making those choices, and they're very difficult choices. I work in the intensive care unit. Many people have serious illnesses but not illnesses where they're going to die immediately, but serious illnesses where they need an operation.

[13:10:08] And some of these operations are so serious that after surgery, they need to be in the intensive care unit for a day or two. Replacement of a heart valve, replace -- surgery for serious cancers, like pancreatic cancer. It's not unusual for people to typically being in intensive care after that. But if a surgeon is trying to plan such a surgery, he needs to have -- he or she needs to have a bed to put that person in after the operation. And if the intensive care unit beds are all filled up with patients who are on ventilators because of their pneumonia, surgeries have to be postponed.

We have situations where people may come into the hospital with a heart attack, and they have to stay in the emergency room for extended periods of time while waiting for a bed to open up. And, unfortunately, that opening up means we're waiting for someone to die in many cases, to make that bed available. It's a sad situation that we really haven't seen in American history in a very, very long time.

CABRERA: So, are you saying people could die because of others who are unvaccinated needing help in the hospital?

BROWN: Right. And, you know, we shouldn't just blame it all on the fact that these beds are occupied by unvaccinated people with COVID pneumonia. Certainly, those persons are filling up the hospital beds. But our hospital beds are filled up with people who, for many reasons, need a hospital bed, and who also may have made bad choices resulting in their need to be in intensive care unit. We need to treat them more compassionately, but we do -- we're in a situation of limited resources now.


BROWN: And when you have limited resources, we are in triage situations and some people may die as a consequence of this.

CABRERA: Dr. Offit, two months ago, the U.S. was average 12,000 cases, 200 deaths a day. And today, we're seeing over 150,000 new cases and nearly 1,500 deaths per day. We mentioned how Dr. Fauci has talked about that 10,000 cases a day sort of threshold. When could we get back to that? And what would life look like at that point? Would it be similar to how we deal with the flu?

OFFIT: We can get back to that. We have our ticket out of this, which is a vaccine that's highly safe and highly effective. But it doesn't work if you don't get it. There are sadly tens of millions of people in this country who are saying, we don't want this vaccine. We consider it a matter of personal freedom or civil liberty and they're just standing firm on that. And the only way to get them to get it now is to mandate this vaccine, and it's sad that it's come to that in a better world that wouldn't have to happen.

And certainly there are countries out there that see themselves as all in it together and all trying to do the right thing. We're not that country. We are divided in this area. And I think we have no choice but to mandate -- we can get to where Dr. Fauci wants us to get, but we have to get everybody vaccinated. And, unfortunately, we're not all on the same page because there are just too many of us who think that it's their right to catch and transmit a potentially fatal infection.

CABRERA: Dr. Paul Offit and Dr. Steven Brown, I really appreciate you both. Thanks for being with us and thank you for all you do.

BROWN: Thank you.

OFFIT: Thank you very much.

CABRERA: More Americans heading home after the Taliban allowed them to leave Afghanistan. How many are left?

Plus, he is one of the most famous losers in American history, but former President Donald Trump claims Robert E. Lee would have won the war in Afghanistan.

And fighting, how the Justice Department is gearing up to challenge the restrictive new abortion law in Texas.



CABRERA: In Afghanistan, the Taliban have just allowed a group of Americans and other foreigners to fly out of the country. 113 people boarded a Qatar Airways jet that left Kabul earlier today, the first commercial flight since the U.S. withdrawal ended.

And CNN's Sam Kiley is in Doha, Qatar. And, Sam, the government there says this flight is a commercial one, not an evacuation flight. What's the significance?

SAM KILEY, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think they're trying to drive home the idea and it's been reinforced by the Qatari foreign minister in Pakistan on a visit to Pakistan just a few hours ago, he was thanking the Taliban for having got the airport up and running and for allowing this commercial flight to take part, in other words, in a sense, rewarding the Taliban for their cooperation. It's something the Qataris have worked extremely hard onto get the airport working again and to get more foreign nationals and, ultimately, perhaps also Afghans that want to leave out of the country.

The 113 were Brits, Americans, Canadians, Ukrainians and Germans on that flight. We're not sure of the nationality breakdown. But this represents a significant step forward, really, in the management, if you like, of the Taliban, particularly through the Qataris, who have got pretty much the best diplomatic route into the upper echelons of the Taliban. Ana?

CABRERA: Do we know, Sam, if there are still Americans left in Afghanistan who want to leave?

KILEY: Well, the State Department said in the past that they -- less than 200, more than 100.

[13:20:03] A few days ago, I asked Antony Blinken how many Americans were left and also how many members of Afghan citizens who had SIV visas, special immigrant visas or similar visas that wanted to travel. He admitted the State Department didn't know the answer to the latter question. There are still Americans, a lot of them dual nationals who are still in Afghanistan. It's not clear at all how many are still trying to get out, although we do know that there are huge numbers of Afghans trying to get out, not least because they get in touch with people like myself and others on an almost daily basis, Ana.

CABRERA: Meantime, journalists are reportedly being beaten and detained simply for covering protests against the abuse of women and girls, some even showing images of their bruises and other wounds. What are you learning about this?

KILEY: The attacks followed the last protest that was allowed under new Taliban regulations that now say all protests are banned unless they have prior authorization and that extends to the sort of slogans and content, even the personnel likely to turn up on the protests.

So, the Taliban are trying to snuff this out and clearly trying to snuff out local coverage of it. The counterargument from the Taliban is that they have a few untrained overzealous personnel at the lower levels and that these sorts of abuses will be investigated.

But they have been emerging to be quite systematic. The last demonstration, which was led by women, but it was over the fact that the new Taliban government is entirely male, ethnically pretty homogeneous, and all of Taliban hardliners, no inclusivity of the sort that was being asked for out of Doha by former Afghan politicians and so on.

Those demonstrations against the formation of this new government resulted in these atrocious beatings of young journalists with whips and cables, and so on. And it's being interpreted both as a portent of things to come and an energy behind why so many Afghans, particularly members of the media, are still trying to get out, Ana.

CABRERA: Well, Sam Kiley, thanks for staying on top of it.

All right, never mind. He was in the White House for four years of this war in Afghanistan. Former President Trump now says General Robert E. Lee could have won it for the United States, even though he helped lead the rebellion against his own country during the civil war.



CABRERA: President Biden getting squeezed by a fellow Democrat and getting crushed by the de facto leader of the Republican Party. Let's begin with former President Trump stirring up headlines and controversy while pouncing on his successor and his plummeting approval ratings.

Here to discuss, CNN Political Analyst Kirsten Powers, who is also a USA Today Columnist, and CNN Political Commentator S.E. Cupp.

And, S.E., let's just start here. We have the 20th anniversary of 9/11 just a couple of days away, and we're just learning three former presidents will be participating in memorial services while former President Trump has announced he will be providing ringside commentary for a celebrity boxing match, and he's bragging about how much money he's going to make from that. What's your reaction to this?

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, there's only one correct reaction, right? I mean, that's appalling. It's gross, but it's also predictable. This was never a president who was good at empathy, compassion, solemnity, whether it was Veteran's Day in Normandy or here in the states.

Everything was sort of theater and transactional, what he could get. And I'm sure, in his mind, he gets more by doing this boxing match and raising more campaign cash, than doing what is right and good as a former president by acknowledging September 11th and honoring all of the fallen victims and families and servicemen, et cetera.

CABRERA: Yes. Kirsten, nearly 3,000 Americans died on 9/11, and this is how the presumptive Republican frontrunner for 2024 is marking this extremely painful and somber moment for this country?

KIRSTEN POWERS, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, and former president, right? This is -- this is the least presidential thing you could possibly do. And I think everything that S.E. said was exactly right, but then you have to ask why would this be okay with the people who vote for him, right?

Why would -- I mean, I can remember not that long ago when people in the Republican Party would have found this completely appalling and, of course, some do, but, uniformly, imagine if Barack Obama had done something like this, right? This would have been absolute outrage. And the fact that he can do this and not only pay a price for it, but actually maybe have people like it, especially because he will be criticized is incredible.

CABRERA: And then there's this --

CUPP: I just want to point out, I'm sure you remember, Kirsten, and maybe, Ana, you were covering this, but Republicans were outraged when President Obama mispronounced the word, corpsman, Army Corps as corpse man.


He mispronounced it and that was somehow proof that he was not patriotic.