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Trump, GOP Push Baseless Claims Of Fraud Before California Election Results; Blinken Defends Chaotic Afghanistan Withdrawal, Blames Trump During Senate Hearing; FDA To Discuss COVID Booster Shots On Friday; Surge Of Infections & Hospitalizations In Alabama, ICU Beds At Or Near Capacity; Fauci Disagrees With Expert Review Objecting To Boosters; COVID Cases In Children Rise 240 Percent Since July. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired September 14, 2021 - 14:30   ET




VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: It is recall day in California. Voters have a few hours left to decide if they should fire Governor Newsom. Actually, polls close at 8:00 p.m. Pacific statewide.

Republican Larry Elder, one of the contenders running to replace Newsom, is already planning for his loss by trying to cast doubt over the results.

He claims, if Newsom wins, it would be because there's fraud. He, of course, is echoing the lies of former President Donald Trump and his supporters.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: CNN's Nick Watt is in Norwalk, California.

Nick, tell us what is happening there. How does the recall process work and what exactly is on the ballot?

NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there are two questions on this ballot. The first question is very simple: Shall Gavin Newsom be recalled, removed from the office of governor?

Now, if the majority of people vote yes on that, that is when question two really becomes crucial. Because on that list there are 46 names of people who would like to replace him.

Larry Elder, of course, is the front-runner. But on there, we've got pastors, we've got teachers, we've got a retired homicide detective, we have some entertainers, some farmers.

So how we got here, largely COVID. When this movement first began last summer, it was COVID that people were really using as the rallying cry.

Of course, California acted pretty early, acted pretty strictly on COVID. And, of course, Gavin Newsom was caught dining at the rather fancy French Laundry restaurant bending his own COVID rules. So organizers had to get about 1.5 million signatures, which they got,

and that's why we are where we are today.

Now, Larry Elder and Gavin Newsom obviously the two bigger players. Take a listen to their kind of closing arguments.


GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): On the other side of this recall, if we fall short, is someone that believes in no minimum wage, someone that believes that women don't have a constitutional right to choose.

We may have defeated Donald Trump but we have not defeated Trumpism. Trumpism is still on the ballot in California.

LARRY ELDER, (R), CALIFORNIA GUBERNATORIAL CANDIDATE: I can't think of any level, any front, any policy this man has engaged in that has made life better here for us here in California.

He shut down churches while keeping open strip clubs and marijuana dispensaries and liquor stores.


He has been an abject failure.


WATT: Now, Governor Newsom and the Democratic side has very much tried to paint this as a kind of Trumpian assault on California and, frankly, a waste of money. This election has cost more 200 million bucks.

And they said, listen, Newsom only has a year and change left on this term, so why do this? COVID was a large reason.

Now, the ramifications, fifth-largest economy in the country, the governor would get to fill a Senate seat should one become vacant.

Also, even a narrow loss for Newsom just wouldn't be a good look for him or for the Democratic Party on a national level.

Back to you.

BLACKWELL: Yes, expecting a pretty large spread there from the party.

Nick Watt, thank you.

Please join us for special coverage of the recall election. That starts tonight at 10:00 Eastern.

Well, Secretary of State Tony Blinken was back on Capitol Hill today to face questions over America's exit from Afghanistan, and a U.S. drone strike that killed Afghan civilians.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CAMEROTA: Secretary of State Tony Blinken faced a second day of grilling from lawmakers over the Biden administration's chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan and the ongoing efforts to evacuate the roughly 100 Americans and our allies who are still in the country and want to leave.

Once again, the top diplomat placed blame on the previous administration.


ANTONY BLINKEN, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: When President Biden took office in January, he inherited an agreement his predecessor had reached with the Taliban to remove all remaining U.S. forces from Afghanistan by May 1st of the year.

As part of the agreement, the previous administration pressed the Afghan government to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners, including top war commanders.

By January of 2021, the Taliban was in its strongest military position since 9/11.



BLACKWELL: CNN national security correspondent, Kylie Atwood, and congressional correspondent, Lauren Fox, they're with us now.

Lauren, you first.

How about today's Senate hearing, aside from the secretary being there in person, compare to yesterday's hearing in the House?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, I mean they're -- in these hearings, there's always sort of two sides.

There are the people who are using their time to question the secretary to really grandstand. You saw that a lot on the Republican side.

Then there are people who have very legitimate questions because this is really an ongoing situation on the ground in Afghanistan.

Getting to the bottom of how many Americans were left in the country was something that Senators were really trying to understand.

Also trying to understand what the vetting process for people coming to the United States, after having been in Afghanistan, given that many of these individuals are trying to apply for SIV visas, that was another key line of questioning that you saw.

But Democrats were also very careful here and being nuanced about their lines of questioning. Because, on the one hand, they are very frustrated with what happened in the final days as American troops were trying to get out of Kabul, as Americans were trying to get out of the airport there.

But they also don't want to give Republicans an opportunity to lay a bunch of, you know, really political discourse and mistakes that have been happening for the last two decades in Afghanistan at the feet of the Biden administration.

So there was really a delicate balance happening here.

You know, there was this very powerful moment where Senator Tim Kaine -- who has been one of the people who has worked very closely with the Biden administration on Afghanistan.

He said, look, today, if there's a baby born at a hospital in Virginia, they are going to be born in a country where there's not an ongoing conflict in Afghanistan.

Really trying to highlight that, despite the fact that the end days were very messy in that country, the bigger picture is that the country is now on a path where we are not engrained in war in that country.

CAMEROTA: Kylie, once again, Secretary Blinken was unable to give specific numbers when it comes to the special immigrant visa applications.

Isn't that a tangible number? Why don't they know exactly how many SIVs there are that still need and want to come here?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, the secretary was clear in saying the State Department is working on it.

But fundamentally, no, they didn't give an answer in terms of how many of those Afghans that have come to the United States were already in the SIV process, how many of those special immigrant visa applicants -- those are Afghans who worked alongside the U.S. over the last 20 years -- are still in Afghanistan and trying to get out.

He didn't have those answers on hand because, frankly, those numbers are in the thousands and the department is working through that crush of numbers.

But as Lauren referred to, this did become a partisan battle in a lot of ways. You heard the top Republican on the committee saying that the Biden administration alone is at fault for this debacle and how it unfolded.

Senator Shaheen is a Democrat. She grew frustrated with how partisan it was becoming, saying she also had frustrations with how the Trump administration had handled their Afghanistan policy.

Listen to what she had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. JEANNE SHAHEEN (D-NH): I want to know where that outrage was during the negotiations by the Trump administration and former Secretary Pompeo when they were giving away the rights of women and girls.

And when Secretary Pompeo came before this committee and blew off questions about what they were doing to pressure the Taliban to have women at the negotiating table for that peace treaty.


ATWOOD: Now, there were a lot of references to the Trump administration throughout this hearing.

But I also want to note that there were some substantial questions such as, when did the Biden administration plan for the worst-case scenario.

The secretary said that planning began in the spring, continued into the summer.

And also the secretary was asked by Senator Rubio about the intelligence and why it was unable to say that possibly Afghanistan was going to fall as quickly as it did.

The Senator saying that there were concerns about who is reviewing that intelligence if they came to that conclusion.

Secretary of State Blinken said that is a worthy question and something that they will look into -- guys?

CAMEROTA: OK. Kylie Atwood, Lauren Fox, thank you both.


Now to coronavirus and kids. Kids as young as 2 years old are now getting the COVID vaccine in some parts of the world,. So find out what it means for kids here in the United States next.


BLACKWELL: Just into CNN, we are getting details about the U.S. military's mandate for vaccines for members.

The U.S. army now will require all active-duty military members to receive the COVID-19 vaccine by December 15th. National Guard soldiers will be required to get their shot by June 30th of 2022.

Now, the Army said that soldiers who do not comply and do not have a request for an exemption pending or approved could face suspension. And promotions could also be denied.

CAMEROTA: Meanwhile, federal officials are working on a timeline to potential roll out COVID booster shots. The FDA's Vaccine Advisory Committee is set to meet Friday.

And Dr. Anthony Fauci has signaled that boosters could be available by the end of this month.

BLACKWELL: CNN's Miguel Marquez has more on today's fight against the pandemic.



MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Booster shots top the agenda. FDA vaccine advisors to meet Friday as the agency sorts through data from around the world on who might need additional shots and when.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY & INFECTIOUS DISEASES: What it's trying to do right now is have a plan that, by the time we get to the middle of September, we will have a plan to vaccinate people who are having that waning immunity.

MARQUEZ: Two FDA leaders, who announced their retirement amidst government wrangling over boosters, signed onto a commentary in a prestigious medical journal, "The Lancet," saying there isn't enough evidence supporting booster shots for most Americans.

But what about those at highest risk?

DR. ASHISH JHA, DEAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: You clearly do see waning immunity in higher-risk people. I'm thinking about who needs the booster, elderly, frail, people with chronic diseases, I think the evidence is leaning towards that.

MARQUEZ: As the Delta variant continues ripping through the unvaccinated children, many too young to get the shot, are contracting the disease at a worrying rate.

Childhood cases up about 240 percent since July, representing 29 percent of all cases reported nationwide, according to new data from the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Another worry for parents with kids returning to school.

ARGIE MCCRAY, MOTHER OF UNION COUNTY, NC, PUBLIC SCHOOLS STUDENT: It's very concerning for me. I'm pregnant. I'm concerned for my family's safety.

MARQUEZ: And data crunched by CNN exclusively indicates black and Hispanic people are underrepresented in testing and vaccinations, more likely to be infected, hospitalized and die of COVID-19.

Two examples, California, Hispanic people represent 54 percent of cases. But only 28 of those vaccinated in New Jersey where black people represent 12 percent of cases, 16 percent of deaths, but only 8 percent of vaccinations there.

DR. RICHINA BICETTE, MEDICAL DIRECTOR, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: The communities being hit hardest are the communities that are the least likely to get the vaccine and protect themselves. There's a disconnect that we're not addressing and we need to fix.


MARQUEZ: Florida's governor, in an effort to counter Biden's vaccine mandate, says, "If a government agency in the Sunshine State makes getting vaccinated a condition of employment, that city or county will be fined $5,000 per violation.

Officials in at least two counties say they'll continue enforcing workplace mandates.

"I'm not going to take actions that would adversely impact the safety of our community," said Orange County Jerry Mayor Demings in a statement.

"Sometimes, quite frankly, I question whether the governor really sees it that way. He may say he does but I believe that many of the decisions he makes are purely politically motivated."


MARQUEZ: So we a very big problem getting people fully vaccinated in this country.

The president now is set to announce at the U.N. later this week that he will call for 70 percent of the world to be vaccinated.

Increasing the amount of vaccine that's produced in this country in the short term, medium term and long-term basis, and try to get the vaccines worldwide up to 70 percent by next year this time.

Back to you.

BLACKWELL: Miguel Marquez, thank you.

Alabama is one state that's been hit with a surge of infections and hospitalizations.

That's where our next guest is, Dr. Selwyn Vickers. He's the dean of the school medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Dr. Vickers, thank you for being with us.

Let's start with where you are, Alabama. ICU beds are consistently at or near capacity. Last hour, we told the story of Ray Demonia (ph), a man who had a heart condition and was turned away from 43 hospitals because there was no space.

At what point will there be a broader rationing of care? And what's the future for Alabama?


I think you ask a challenging question for us all. Cases are, to some degree, plateauing. Hopefully, if you look at some data, potentially dropping.

It still doesn't remove the challenge we face in our ICUs. And patient who is come to our E.R.s fortunately do receive care.

It's obviously a challenge by the fact we have so many COVID patients in our hospital.

But, practically, if you show up at our E.R., we do everything within our power to make sure you get your care, whether it's a COVID illness or not.

I can't speak rationally to say when there will be rationing of care. I think most of our hospitals still very much strive to actually take care of those individuals that they have within their power to reach.

BLACKWELL: I'm going to talk about a few of the other topics that Miguel introduced in his story. And one of them is boosters.

Those two FDA officials, who are leaving the department, who said that there's no credible evidence they see right now for boosters for the general population.


Listen to what Dr. Anthony Fauci said about that article they signed onto in "The Lancet."


FAUCI: That's a controversial article that I actually disagree mostly with.

There are a couple of aspects that get conflated in that article. The data are strongly suggestive, in this country and more than just suggestive in Israel, that you have a waning of immunity among people across age groups, not just the very, very elderly.

You have clearly waning of immunity against infection and clear-cut indication of waning of immunity against severe disease.

So what he's trying to do right now is have a plan that, by the time we get to the middle of September, the September the week of September 20th, we'll have plan to vaccinate people who are having that waning immunity.


BLACKWELL: So we're a few days out from, as Dr. Fauci mentioned there, this booster shot campaign for the Pfizer vaccine.

Let's put for the audience here.

For those who trying to do the right thing for their health, public health, get the booster, do what the doctor suggests, how are they supposed to interpret this back and forth within the administration on if they need a booster? VICKERS: I think Dr. Fauci outlined it well. I think that the article

was a surprise to many people for it the strongly say there was no evidence. I think he is right about the concerns about their conclusions.

Although, we understand that the vaccine still provides significant protection. And the greatest advent for treating the coronavirus is getting unvaccinated people to get vaccinated.

But I think he's right. Clearly, in people across the age spectrum, there's some waning of protection. Clearly, in older people and those who have chronic disease who are immunosuppressed, there's a clear need for booster and that's already been started.

I think the fact that the evidence is not agreed upon by all, and yet, even what they state, I think there's some agreement that it does wane. It's how do you address it.

I think this committee putting together a plan will give us a strategy to go forward to get boosters.

BLACKWELL: You spoke about the second half of the audience, those who are unvaccinated and the argument to try to get them vaccinated.

Before we let you go, one more here on children. School has started across the country. Parents are wondering when there will be something approved or authorized for children under the age of 12.

Cuba is starting to vaccinate children as young as two years old today. El Salvador will start to vaccinate children as young as six. I know there's different processes from country to country. I get that.

But is there an explanation for why the U.S. is not as far as Cuba is or El Salvador is in when parents can expect that there will be something for their children.

VICKERS: Yes, I would tell you that children are not adults. So they're not small adults. And the studies I think are being evaluated, and I think appropriately so.

There's no doubt increasing cases are occurring because kids are not vaccinated and they're back in school. There's a clear desire to want to get vaccines to them.

But I think you also want to make sure that the dosing and the strategy is safe for them.

So I don't think there's a reason that we're behind. I think that others may choose another and more aggressive approach as where ours is trying to be safe first and as quick as possible to prevent any loss of life.

BLACKWELL: All right, Dr. Selwyn Vickers, there at UAB, thank you so much for your time and perspective, sir.

VICKERS: Thank you. CAMEROTA: Republicans are already alleging fraud before the polls have

even closed in the California recall election. The impact of Donald Trump's lies on the race between Governor Gavin Newsom and Larry Elder.