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Biden to Unveil New Six-Point Plan to Fight Covid-19; Tropical Storm Makes Landfall in Florida Panhandle; FBI Releases New Video of January 6 Pipe Bomb Suspect; Capitol Police Brace for Potential Unrest at September 18 Rally; Democrat Heavy-Hitters Stump for Newsom in Final Days; Taliban Beat Women Protesters with Whips and Sticks; Hundreds of Victims Arrive for Trial's First Day in Paris. Aired 4- 4:30a ET

Aired September 09, 2021 - 04:00   ET



KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to all of you watching us here in the United States, Canada and around the world. I'm Kim Brunhuber at the CNN Center in Atlanta. Ahead on CNN NEWSROOM --


DR. VIVEK MURTHY, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: We've all got to step up and do our part. The delta variant is pushing back hard but we have to push back harder.


BRUNHUBER: President Biden is set to unveil the next phase in his pandemic response. A plan to tackle the delta variant surge that's running rampant in the U.S.

Five days and counting, California's embattled governor makes his last-minute pitch to fight the recall effort.

And just days into their newly announced government, the Taliban are cracking down on demonstrators beating women and journalists with whips and sticks.

With his approval numbers down and COVID numbers up, it's something of a change in strategy for U.S. President Joe Biden. In a few hours he is expected to unveil a new plan he believes will lead the country out of the pandemic. A source familiar with the strategy says the president intends to tackle six main points or pillars like increasing vaccinations and rollout of booster shots as well as keeping schools open and driving resources towards economic recovery. CNN's Phil Mattingly has more from the White House.


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: For President Biden, as the delta variant has surged throughout the U.S. for the better part of several months, more than 1,500 deaths per day, more than 150,000 cases per day, the moment where he delivers remarks on Thursday marks a potential reset. It's something White House officials have been pointing to in the wake of that summer. A summer where so many hopes and beliefs that the pandemic was behind them and that real life was learning had completely disappeared can be grappled with to some degree.

The president to layout a 6-point plan with the primary focus on vaccine mandates, particularly for federal employees, but also ramping up pressure on private entities as well. It's something White House officials have been doing over the course of the last several of weeks and they feel like it's effective. They want to build on those approaches. This is how White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki framed things.

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: So, he's going to outline the next phase in the fight against the virus, and what that looks like including measures to work with the public and private sector. Building on the steps that we've already announced, the steps we've taken over the last few months. Requiring more vaccinations, boosting important testing measures, and more, making it safer for kids to go to school. All at a time when the American people are listening. Again, this will be six steps that we'll work to implement over the months ahead.

MATTINGLY: But it is not just the policy. That's something you hear a lot from White House officials. Is there's a recognition whether it's through polling or the president's numbers on the pandemic. Once his absolute strong suit in the first eight months, had taken a 10-to-11- point dip or whether it's just perception, a general malaise in the country. A country that thought that they were close to freedom from the pandemic. There is a recognition that Biden needs to lay out how and why the administration has a handle on the pandemic, that there is a pathway out of the pandemic.

Keep in mind the solution isn't much different than it has been for months. It's vaccinations. It's ramping up vaccine rates. The vaccine, even with the delta variant, has proven to be extraordinarily effective. But even for the vaccinated, the frustration that masks are back, that social distancing requirements are back, that lot of the restrictions are back that they once thought they were done with just a few months ago, that has been palpable and that is precisely what the president is going to try and address. Not just on the policy side of things but also on the perception side of things..

Phil Mattingly, CNN, the White House.


BRUNHUBER: The Biden administration has a big job to do trying to loosen COVID's grip in the U.S. Over the past week the country has been averaging more than 150,000 new COVID infections a day and hospitals are being pushed to the brink in some states. The situation in Idaho has become so dire that the governor has approved the rationing of health care in some areas.

He said quote, we have reached an unprecedented and unwanted point in the history of our state. We've taken so many steps to avoid to getting here but yet again we need to ask more Idahoans to choose to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

In Arkansas there are now only 23 ICU beds available statewide and its governor says unvaccinated people make up 90 percent of the state's COVID cases. The U.S. Surgeon General is calling on all Americans to do their part to help end the pandemic.


MURTHY: We know what steps work to reduce risks within schools. We know that universal masking helps. We know regular testing works. We know that distancing whenever possible is useful.


We know keeping kids home from school when they are sick helps as well. What we have to do is make sure that we are implementing these in schools across the country and when we're not, we are seeing more children who are getting sick and more kids around them who are quarantined and unable to actually go to school. So, there learning is interrupted.

We should be doing everything we can to take care and execute on that moral responsibility we have it keep our children safe. The president's message is to the entire country and its going to be that we've got to all do our part. Whether we're in elected official, whether we're community members, whether we're somebody who knows family members or friends who are not vaccinated and recognize a conversation with us may help actually change that.


BRUNHUBER: Despite the surge in cases the pace of new vaccinations has been slowing down in the U.S. although the Labor Day holiday could be one reason why. Nearly 360,000 people got vaccinated on average every day last week. But we are still far from reaching herd immunity status with just over 53 percent of the U.S. population now fully vaccinated. And the U.S. Surgeon General says the only way to beat the virus is to get those shots in arms.


MURTHY: We are also seeing that the vaccines are protecting people against delta. If we had more people who were fully vaccinated when delta started, we would have saved more lives. So, even though we had millions and millions who were already vaccinated, we knew that, you know, that meant that saved many lives but you know, we could have saved any more.

We know the pathway to end the pandemic. That's getting vaccinated. And we just have to keep it down that pathway and make it easier for people to get vaccinated. Get them the right information and help them on the path to protection from COVID-19.


BRUNHUBER: A CDC-led study confirms that the Pfizer and Moderna COVID vaccines are about 90 percent effective in keeping adults 50 years and older out of hospital. Vaccines are equally effective for people with underlying medical conditions and minority groups that have been disproportionately affected by the virus. The study also shows that the vaccine remains highly effective at least 112 days after the second dose. That was the longest vaccination interval during the study.

The storm battered Northeast is facing the possibility of more flash flooding. The first storm since hurricane Ida are now moving through the region and because the ground is so saturated, the chance of flooding is greater. 2 to 4 inches of rain are possible in some places. There's also the chance of severe storms. So, we're going to continue to monitor this.

Meanwhile tropical storm Mindy has made landfall in the Florida panhandle, heavy rain is the major threat there. Meteorologist Pedram Javaheri has the latest details on the storm. Pedram, so where exactly is it heading and how bad will it be?

PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: Kim, the storm is actually pushing right through southern Georgia at this hour. It made landfall late last night into early this morning and it's really a storm system that is going to move out very quickly and that is excellent news. Tropical storm-force winds right now at around 40 miles per hour, very small system and of course it's going to quickly move offshore here within the next couple hours.

But you'll notice already seeing tremendous rainfall across portions of southern Georgia, parts of the Florida Panhandle have been walloped in the last several hours. Observations of generally 3 to 4 inches and some pockets even pushing up close to 5 inches just south of Tallahassee are the best radar estimates here for the rating observations. But you'll notice flood watches have been prompted here. As you noted, flooding of course has been widespread along portions of the South, so any additional rainfall leads to flooding and that is the concern.

But the good news is this storm system unlike the previous one in Ida is as quick moving as they come. It is going to be out of here and over open waters within a couple hours. Surely shortly after we get the sunrise here. And then do expect it to weaken rather quickly over the next several days. That's what is left of the system. It is also guided in by one of our season's first cold fronts that is bringing in very mild, very dry air back behind it. So, a nice pleasant change will let the temperatures across parts of the Gulf and into portions of Georgia drop into the upper 50s for the first time in months. So, almost a hint of autumn in the air on the back side of this front.

And notice across parts of Georgia, you get some residual rainfall, that is about it though. Atlanta, temperatures are going to remain into the lower 80s for the first time in quite sometimes before they try to warm right back up to the upper 80s over the next several days.

Now I do want to show you something. A satellite imagery here that's been observed in the past 7 or so days and officials finding out a pretty substantial area of an oil spill, an oil slick that has been observed from satellite imagery. They do think that this is a pretty significant one in size and they do think this happened here from a potentially decommissioned pipeline that was in place that was damaged by hurricane Ida. It was just south of Louisiana where Ida moved ashore. They've been able to recover and skim about 50 gallons of this crude oil, but they do expect a far greater amount since there into the Gulf of Mexico.


And really important to note, a study done earlier this year by the U.S. Government of Accountability Office showed that since 1960, as much as 18,000 miles of pipelines have been laid out across the northern Gulf of Mexico including the seabed and about 97 percent of that, Kim, so nearly the entirety of that 18,000 miles, has been decommissioned. Only about 3 percent of that number remains in place across this region. And of course, a lot of the sit there. They have not been cleared out. They have not buried safely. So, when you have these massive storms that move their way in this direction, it does compromise a lot of them and it seems like it may have the case with this most recent storm.

BRUNHUBER: Interesting. All right, thanks so much, meteorologist Pedram Javaheri, appreciate it.

Well, it's been just over nine months since two pipe bombs were planted near the Democratic and Republican Party headquarters in Washington the night before the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. Now the FBI is releasing new information in hopes tracking down the person responsible. CNN's Jessica Schneider has details from Washington.


JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: The FBI releasing new video of the pipe bomb suspect who has eluded authorities for more than eight months now. The new clip shows the suspect sitting on a bench near the Democratic National Committee where one of the two bombs was placed January 5 the night before the Capitol attack.

The FBI is noting that this video gives a better frontal view of the suspect but the fact is the suspect is still wearing a face mask and a hoodie making a positive I.D. very difficult. The FBI though hoping that something about this new video will trigger a key tip. They say they've already received more than 300 tips and they have conducted more than 800 interviews and received 23,000 video clips.

The FBI is also releasing a more comprehensive map of what they believe were the suspect's movements that night between 7:30 and 8:30 on January 5. They say operations were in the vicinity of Folger Park in Capitol Hill.

But one important conclusion the FBI has finally come to, based on the suspects movement and interviews with people who live in that area, they don't believe the suspect is from Washington, D.C. So, once again, the FBI putting out new video and reminding people that $100,000 reward all in an effort to finally get some traction on who this pipe bomb suspect is who set up those two viable homemade pipe bombs near the Capitol that did not end up detonating before they were found.

Jessica Schneider, CNN, Washington.


BRUNHUBER: Law enforcement officials are preparing for possible violence and are looking to beef up security around the U.S. capitol ahead of a planned right-wing rally on September 18th. A source says that added security could involve reinstalling fencing put up after the January 6 insurrection. U.S. house Speaker says they'll be ready.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA) U.S. HOUSE SPEAKER: We intend to have the integrity of the Capitol be intact. These people are coming back to praise the people who were out to kill. Out to kill members of Congress.


BRUNHUBER: A Capitol Police memo warns of potential unrest as violent rhetoric surrounding the rally increases online and counterprotests are also being planned. The rally aims to support insurrectionists charged in the Capitol riot. The lead organizer, a former Donald Trump campaign staffer, says this event will be peaceful.


MATT BRAYNARD, LEAD ORGANIZER OF RALLY: There's no threat to anybody on our peaceful protest on behalf of the political prisoners who've been persecuted as a result for their participation in the January 6 rallies. This protest is not about elections. It's not about who won. It's not about voter fraud. It's about the abuse of these political prisoners and scapegoating of them for this grand insurrection narrative. They're trying to call our protest on September 18th insurrection 2.0, but my question is when was insurrection 1.0?


BRUNHUBER: But if you forgot, this is what that January 6 insurrection looked like, violent scenes as police were assaulted, windows and doors smashed and the Capitol breached. Rioter Ashli Babbitt was fatally shot. Former FBI director -- deputy director, Andrew McCabe explains how some are using that to fuel anger ahead of this latest rally. Here it is.


ANDREW MCCABE, FORMER FBI DEPUTY DIRECTOR: Organizers of this rally and those reflecting back to the Ashli Babbitt situation and trying to pose her as some kind of martyr, they are doing that because they know that that narrative really resonates with this community of extremists. They know that those kind of claims and they talk about this Capitol officer, really is a motivating point for extremists who are really focused on anti-government grievance and what they perceive as government overreach. So, they are doing to light that crowd on fire and the concern for the police, Capitol Police and Metropolitan Police, is to be prepared if that fire ignites.


BRUNHUBER: U.S. Treasury Secretary is warning the country could default on its debt by mid-October if Congress doesn't raise the debt ceiling. Janet Yellen sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi warning of the domestic and global implications if Congress fails to act in time.


She wrote: A delay that calls into question the federal government's ability to meet all its obligations would likely cause irreparable damage to the U.S. economy and global financial markets.

Pelosi insists Congress will raise the debt ceiling and it won't be done through reconciliation, meaning without Republican support.


PELOSI: And when President Trump was president, we Democrats supported lifting the debt ceiling because it is the responsible thing to do. I would hope that the Republicans would act in a similarly responsible way. We won't be putting in reconciliation, no.


BRUNHUBER: Afghanistan's economy is collapsing with food supplies running low. But the Taliban seem more concerned on cracking down dissent. What they're doing to keep protesters off the streets. We'll show you that.

Also ahead, California's Democratic governor called in the big guns as his recall election looms just days away.


KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're not only going to be doing the work of putting Gavin Newsom in exactly where we want him to be, which is as governor of California to lead as he's been leading. But we are also in this election making a statement about who we are as a nation.





HARRIS: They're thinking that if they can get this done in California, they can go around the country and do this. Got to understand what's happening right now. What's happening in Texas, what's happening in Georgia, what's happening around our country with these policies that are about attacking women's rights, reproductive rights, the voting rights, workers' rights. They think if they can win in California, they can do this anywhere. Well, we will show them you're not going to get this done. Not here, never.


BRUNHUBER: U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris stumping there for embattled California Governor Gavin Newsom. He faces a contentious recall vote just days from now and the Democratic Party's heaviest hitters are in the state to energize their base. Much of their message on Wednesday was aimed squarely at the liberal women who helped elect Newsom three years ago. We get the details from CNN's Kyung Lah.


GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D), CALIFORNIA: Your whole town hero, the Vice President of the United States of America, Kamala Harris.

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The return of Oakland's beloved Democratic daughter is the big draw for this Bay Area crowd.


LAH (voice-over): Vice President Kamala Harris energizing the progressive female base at home.

HARRIS: We fight for Dreamers. We fight for women. We fight for voting rights. And we stand as Democrats saying we are proud to do all that and more.

DANVY LE, CALIFORNIA DEMOCRATIC VOTER: Oh my god! I am here for Mamala Kamala. I am very excited to see her.

NINA QUICK, CALIFORNIA DEMOCRATIC VOTER: Having her come I think it's really going to energize people to get out the vote.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If we fight, we win.

LAH (voice-over): With less than a week to go before Election Day, the vice president is the woman leading the cavalry for California Governor Gavin Newsom. From Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar --

SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): Vote no on recall.

LAH (voice-over): To Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren. The senator is saying it may be a California ballot, but this is about national women's issues.

SEN. ELIZABETH WARREN (D-MA): These fights, they're not just in Texas, Florida, South Dakota. These fights have come to California. Are you ready to fight?

LAH (voice-over): This is part of the governor's strategy to nationalize the recall in this final week, drawing a sharp contrast with Republican challenger Larry Elder, an outspoken radio host with conservative views on race and gender.

NEWSOM: Racial justice is on the ballot. Social justice is on the ballot. Economic justice is on the ballot. Environmental justice is on the ballot. California, this race matters.

LAH (voice-over): There's a reason Newsom is focusing on the issues impacting women in his party. In 2018, some of Newsom's most enthusiastic voters were women, helping him win the governor's mansion.

NEWSOM: Thank you, California.

LAH (voice-over): Sixty-four percent of women voted for Newsom, then.

NEWSOM: Defeating this Republican recall.

LAH (voice-over): In 2021, a recent poll shows 66 percent of women say they will vote to keep Newsom in office.

But Larry Elder says the Democrats focus on national issues is Newsom avoiding state problems.

LARRY ELDER, REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE FOR GOVERNOR: As you know, they are scared to death, which is why all these politicians from outside California are now weighing in.

LAH: The Vice President echoed a lot of the national issues that the governor's campaign has been focusing on. And we should note one other thing, the governor usually speaks last at his rallies. In this case, he introduced the Vice President saying that he would keep his comments short because he knew who everyone came to see.

Kyung Lah, CNN, Oakland.


BRUNHUBER: Hundreds of people appear ready to defy a new ban on demonstrations in Afghanistan. CNN is getting reports of groups of protesters plan to gather later today in Kabul. Video from the country's third-largest city Herat shows Taliban fighters driving a convoy of military vehicles through the streets in an apparent effort to scare would-be protestors.

Women have been leading the demonstrations over the past two weeks since the Taliban took over. They're demanding a role in government, jobs, education and freedom to go out in public without a male escort.

And in Kabul on Wednesday, the Taliban resorted to brute force hitting peaceful protestors with whips and sticks. Journalists covering the demonstrations report that they were detained and severely beaten. Several Kabul residents tell CNN the Taliban has cut internet access in parts of the capital.

The new Taliban government is getting some harsh reviews from the international community.


The European Union says the group failed to honor its commitment to diversity and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said legitimacy for the Taliban would have to be earned.


ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Despite professing that new government would be inclusive, the announced list of names consist exclusively of individuals who are members of the Taliban or are close associates and no women. We're also concerned by the affiliations and track records of some of those individuals. We understand the Taliban has presented this as a caretaker cabinet. We will judge it and them by its actions. The international community has made clear its expectation that the Afghan people deserve an inclusive government.


BRUNHUBER: CNN's Anna Coren has covered Afghanistan extensively and was in Kabul recently and she joins me now live. Anna, some ominous new developments. The Taliban not wasting time in trying to intimidate basically anyone they see as opponents with a variety of tactics, violent and otherwise. You've got some new reporting on this, what's the latest?

ANNA COREN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the streets of Kabul, Kim, are relatively quiet. We know that there is a heavy presence of Taliban fighters out on the streets obviously to discourage people from heading out. This is Massoud day. It's a very important day on the Afghan national calendar. It marks the 20th anniversary of the death of Baitullah Mehsud who was assassinated by Al Qaeda members 20 years ago.

But certainly, from the organizers that we are talking to, of these protests over the last couple of days, they are planning to gather in certain areas around Kabul, the capital, and then take to the streets later. They say that they will not be put off by this heavy Taliban presence. And of course, you showed those pictures from Herat that we got a short time ago. This convoy of Humvees driven by the Taliban. Obviously, these are U.S.-funded Humvees that were the equipment of the Afghan military before they surrendered and walked away.

This convoy of Humvees going down the streets of Herat, obviously a scare tactic to once again put off people from coming out. Because we have seen protests, not just in Kabul, Herat, and as well as in the north in Mazar-i-Sharif.

We can report, Kim, that from yesterday's protests, at least 14 journalists were detained. This coming from the Committee to Protect Journalists. They say that at least six of those journalists were violently treated in custody, were beaten with cables, metal cables, and have the evidence to prove that. We've seen those pictures of journalists bruised and beaten. But certainly, they are calling on the Taliban to honor what they said when they first came to power which there will be an independent media. The Taliban now saying protests are legal as are photographing or filming these protests -- Kim. BRUNHUBER: All right. Thanks so much, Anna Coren, appreciate it.

Security was tight as the trial of suspects in the 2015 tear terror attacks in Paris got under way. The main suspect, Salah Abdeslam, set a defiant tone from the start. He's been silent for years. When the judge asked what his profession was Wednesday, his answer was unrepentant. Cyril Vanier reports.


CYRIL VANIER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: France's mega trial saw hundreds of victims of the Paris terror attacks file into the courtroom behind me on day one. Survivors and relatives of the deceased. More will come in the next few days with 1,800 victims total involved in the trial. We expect to hear their testimonies over the course of several weeks, what they saw, what they heard during those three hours of carnage that left 130 people dead. Victims being executed at point blank range in the streets of Paris.

Facing them today in court were 14 alleged terrorists accused of planning, assisting or executing the attacks. The most high-profile name in this case, French national Salah Abdeslam. He is the lone surviving member of the commandos. Once Europe's most wanted fugitive, he appeared unrepentant, dressed in black from head to toe, the colors of the Islamic state group, and defiance from the very beginning.

Asked what his job was before the attacks, he answered, quote, I gave up my profession to become a fighter for the Islamic state. Also complaining of mistreatment. We're all dogs here, he said. I've been treated like a dog for six years. Abdeslam apparently signaling that he will attempt to engage with the court on his own terms.

He and multiple other defendants risk a life sentence in jail. The verdict expected eight to nine months from now.

Cyril Vanier, CNN, Paris.


BRUNHUBER: Kentucky hospitals pushed to the brink.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're in a war with this virus. And I think what we have to understand is we're not at a war with each other.