Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

Democrats Try to Make Deal Between $1.5 Trillion and $3.5 Trillion for Social Programs; Facebook Whistleblower Says, Company Puts Profit over Safety; Fauci Says, U.S. Turning a Corner, But Too Early to Let Guard Down. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired October 04, 2021 - 10:00   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: A very good Monday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.



We are following several developing stories at this hour, including a crucial deadline to raise the nation's debt ceiling. President Biden is expected to speak next hour from the White House to urge Congress to come together to take action and avoid defaulting on the nation's debt for the first time ever.

SCIUTTO: The president is also heading to Michigan tomorrow to rally support for his bipartisan infrastructure bill as well as the larger budget, sweeping social and climate spending package. Negotiations are continuing somewhat between moderate Democrats and progressives. They have gone home from Capitol Hill. On the overall price of the spending package, what's included in it, after the White House and Democratic leadership failed to broker an agreement on a frap framework that both sides would sign on to, both sides within the Democratic Party, by the way.

Let's go to CNN's John Harwood at the White House. And, John, we've heard, I had Debbie Dingell on last hour, who publicly criticized the president's leadership, saying she was disappointed to not know where the president stood on this until the end of the week. I wondered does the White House, does the administration worry about Biden's waning influence on this? Are they concerned he can't bring it across the finish line?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I don't think so, Jim. I think what happened last week was, no, they did not meet the deadlines that they had set, that Nancy Pelosi had set for the vote on that infrastructure bill, but they did make progress on negotiations. They're closer to a solution than they were a week ago. It's going to take more work, but Joe Manchin engaged the gears of negotiation late in the week.

I think the big question mark is going to be how Democrats bring Kyrsten Sinema, the iconoclastic senator from Arizona, on board and try to get her going with the rest of the Democratic team.

Obviously, the size of the bill is going to come down, the president acknowledged that. But when you do something this big and you have very narrow majorities in the Congress, it's hard to do, and anybody can stop it. A few moderates, a few liberals, in both the House and the Senate can hold up progress. And I think, inch by inch, they're getting closer to working this out. And I think they're confident that if they're able to work it out, say, this month, which has become the new de facto deadline for getting this done, it will -- all the Sturm and Drang heading into the finish line will be forgotten when we get to next year and the midterm elections.

SCIUTTO: We'll see. We'll see if these deadlines hold. John Harwood at the White House, thanks very much.

HILL: Numerous beaches in Orange County, California, closed this morning as a massive oil spill just miles from the shoreline threatens local local wetlands and wildlife. An estimated 126,000 gallons of oil, that's about 3,000 barrels, leaked from a pipeline breach.

SCIUTTO: Divers have been inspecting the 17-mile pipeline in hopes of finding the exact location of that leak. But for now, officials say the leak does appear to have stopped.

Here with us now to discuss the aftermath of all this, Orange County Supervisor Katrina Foley. So, good to have you on this morning. We know you have a lot on your hands.

First question, I'm just amazed that they don't know where the leak is, right? I'm thinking in the age of technology and concerns about these kinds of things, particularly with the location that this one has so close to those crucial wetlands, are you surprised that we can't diagnose at this point exactly where the fault was here?

KATRINA FOLEY, SUPERVISOR FOR ORANGE COUNTY, CALIFORNIA: Well, good morning, I was on a call yesterday with the IMT, our Incident Management Team, and this is the question that everyone wants the answer to. And we are continuing to ask that question. I think the more of us who ask that question, eventually someone's going to have to answer it.

And what we do know is that it was a leak in a pipeline that is decades' old that traveled to a platform. And so they've cut off the valve -- they've shut off the valve, rather, and then they capped the pipeline, and they have divers going down, like you said, and trying to repair it.

But, yes, we need answers, and the public deserves answers. This has devastated our California coastline in Orange County, and it's having a tremendous impact on our ecological preserves, as well as our economics. So it's -- it's time to answer the question.

HILL: Do you have any sort of a timeline for those answers?

FOLEY: Every single day this process has evolved. We have -- I think there's plenty of investigation going on by the U.S. Coast Guard, by all of our state agencies. And so the timeline, it's not for me to decide. I can just keep asking the question, just like everyone else.

SCIUTTO: One issue, of course, is the location of this. We had Chad Myers on last hour explaining how you have this crucial wetlands there that's been developed over many decades, right, as a kind of landing spot and thriving spot for all forms of wildlife.


But we now know the oil is in there. Do you know what degree of threat that this poses to that area?

FOLEY: Yes. Well, it's a significant impact. So it's the Talbert Marsh Wetlands. We have three wetlands that are in Huntington Beach. And the entire area is saturated with oil. Our wetlands and wildlife centers are taking care of animals and cleaning the poison off the animals now. And the area, the Orange County public works, has put up berms. We've been working around the clock to try to secure the area to prevent any more seepage into that area. I know that the Coast Guard, when we did our flyover yesterday, we were speaking to Captain Orr, and she promised we would get more booms in the area so that it doesn't invade into Bolsa Chica. And so that's happening.

And then as we were traveling down the coast yesterday afternoon around 4:00 or 5:00 P.M., we were seeing the oil was moving toward Crystal Cove, which is a -- really a state-protected site, as well, and then down to Laguna Beach. This morning, in communications with the coast guard, they're going to be up in the air this morning to see the extent of whether it's moving toward shore or not in Laguna Beach.

HILL: We looked at the -- as you talk about where this is moving and where you're finding the impact, and even just looking at the coastline, as we've shown before just how far-reaching it is, do you have all of the resources that you need at this point for that cleanup?

FOLEY: Well, the responsible party for the financial resources is Amplify Energy. And so we are pouring all resources available from the county, from the local cities, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, as well as our Orange County Sheriff's Department Harbor Patrol, we are all-in. It's all-hands-on-deck. The state has been very generous. The federal government is helping us. So we are all collaborating and we're pouring whatever resources we have to.

This is part of our culture here. This is -- the California Coast is precious to us here in Southern California. And it is part of who we are. We will pour all the resources we can. It's unfortunate that it's on the heels of the pandemic when we're just now recovering, we're coming back, and now we've got this to deal with.

HILL: Yes.

SCIUTTO: Is this the kind of thing that takes years to clean up, right? I think people pay attention for a bit. But as Chad Myers was noting, the oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill is still on the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico. Is this the kind of thing that's going to impact your community, sadly, for years to come? FOLEY: Well, that's my concern. That's many of our concerns.

Now, the good news here is that 20 years ago when we were dealing with these kinds of spills in this area, we didn't have the technology we have now. We didn't have the resources. We didn't have the coordinated effort and the timely response. So we're hoping that that will maybe help to mitigate the long-term impacts, but we won't know the damage for another couple of weeks. They're still assessing everything.

I remember as a little girl in Santa Barbara getting tar on my heels and my dad getting it off with baby oil. So these are the kinds of memories that we wanted to do away with here in California. We are trying to protect our coast from this kind of a spill. So, it's very sad.

HILL: Yes, it certainly is. We appreciate you taking the time to join us this morning. Katrina Foley, thank you.

FOLEY: Thank you. Thanks for spreading our word.

SCIUTTO: Another story we're following this morning, claims from a former Facebook executive who is accusing the company of very clearly placing profit over public safety.


FRANCES HAUGEN, FACEBOOK WHISTLEBLOER: There were conflicts of interests between what was good for the public and what was good for Facebook, and Facebook over and over again chose to optimize for its own interests, like making more money.

The version of Facebook that exists today is tearing our societies apart and causing ethnic violence around the world.


SCIUTTO: Wow. It's quite a claim from inside the company. The whistleblower, Frances Haugen, she is expected to testify before Congress under oath tomorrow.

HILL: Facebook has refuted several of her claims, a Facebook executive telling our colleague, Brian Stelter, there's no incentive for Facebook to tolerate hate on its platforms.


NICK CLEGG, V.P. OF GLOBAL AFFAIRS AND COMMUNICATIONS, FACEBOOK: The people who pay our lunch are advertisers. Advertiser don't want their content next to hateful, extreme or unpleasant content. We have absolutely no commercial incentive, no moral incentive, no company- wide incentive to do anything other than try and give the maximum number of people as much of a positive experience as possible.


HILL: Some of the most damning revolutions from the whistleblower involve how using Facebook's platforms may harm children and teenagers.

CNN's Donie O'Sullivan joining us now. So, Donie, Haugen turned over thousands, tens of thousands of documents to the Securities and Exchange Commission.


She says in her filings these documents prove that Facebook knew using its platforms could be harmful to children. What specifically was she pointing to?

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Erica. And I mean, I think that is why this Facebook scandal hits different, right? I mean, they have had numerous scandals through the years, Cambridge Analytica, we're used to hearing about how neo-Nazis are using the platform, how there's hateful content on the platform, how insurrectionists use the platform, how Trump used the platform to lie about the election. But this is very specific about I think a very emotive issue that too many of us can relate as young people in our lives going down rabbit holes, mental health issues, through social media.

Have a listen to what the whistleblower had to say.


SCOTT PENNEY, CBS HOST: One study says 13.5 percent of teen girls say Instagram makes thoughts of suicide worse. 17 percent of teen girls say Instagram makes eating disorders worse.

HAUGEN: And what's super tragic is Facebook's own research says, as these young women begin to consume this eating disorder content, they get more and more depressed, it actually makes them use the app more. And so they end up in this feedback cycle where they hate their bodies more and more.

Facebook's own research says it is not just that Instagram is dangerous for teenagers, that it harms teenagers, it's that it is distinctly worse than other forms of social media.


O'SULLIVAN: Now, Facebook pushing back pretty much on everything the whistleblower is saying, the company putting out a very lengthy statement trying to push back on all of this. But, look, this is a big, big challenge for the company. They're in big trouble here. I think, I mean, that whistleblower was working at Facebook until May of this year, and the evidence she is citing is Facebook's own research, internal research. So that is now what Facebook is trying to essentially discredit and debunk their own research. They are saying that it's all being taken out of context.

SCIUTTO: I mean, big picture, though, it's part of a pattern, right? I mean, we've seen evidence of this through the years, is the idea of going for eyeballs, therefore, money, over quality of content. I do want to ask you, Donie, because there were specific claims from the whistleblower about changes that Facebook made after the 2020 election but prior to January 6th and the impact of that.

O'SULLIVAN: Yes. And this is something I've been asking Facebook about and not totally clear on it yet. But Facebook, for all its woes, did have some guardrails in place in the lead-up to the election in terms of content that could be shared. Some of those guardrails did come down right after the election and between the election and the insurrection.

I think we're going to learn a lot more and going to have to find out a lot more about exactly what happened and changed in between that critical period between the insurrection and between the election and the insurrection. So I think that is something that senators might focus on particularly tomorrow.

Of course, Facebook will say, as Nick Clegg told our colleague, Brian Stelter, yesterday, downplaying the role that social media, misinformation had in fueling what we saw here at the Capitol in January.

SCIUTTO: We do know a lot of information were shared on social media. That's in the record. Donie O'Sullivan, thanks very much.

Still to come this hour, Dr. Anthony Fauci says that we may be rounding the corner on the current coronavirus surge. That's good news. But he does say that more vaccinations are needed to prevent another surge around the holidays as more people are traveling. Next, we speak with the Connecticut governor overseeing more mandates going into place today.

Plus, right now, the Supreme Court back in session. How this session could have historic impacts on a whole host of issues, abortion, the Second Amendment, affirmative action and beyond.

HILL: Also new this morning, Jeff Bezos announcing his Blue Origin space company is sending William Shatner to space. You know you want to stick around for those details. We have them just ahead.



HILL: The U.S. right now seeing a decline in new COVID cases, and perhaps even more important as we look at the numbers and the data, hospitalizations and deaths also down.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: We certainly are turning the corner on this particular surge.

The way to keep it down to make that turn around continue to go down is to do what we mentioned, get people vaccinated. (END VIDEO CLIP)

HILL: So right now, roughly 65 percent of the eligible U.S. population, so that's those 12 and older, is fully vaccinated. Nearly, as you can see, there's 76 percent of those 12 and up in this country have had at least one shot.

Meantime, more mandates kicking in today. In Connecticut, state employees have until the end of today to prove vaccination, their alternative, weekly testing.

Joining me to give us a look at where his state stands this morning, Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont. Governor, good to have you with us.

I understand that it was looking like about 11 percent of those employees were noncompliant. Where do you expect to be come tomorrow morning?

GOV. NED LAMONT (D-CT): I think, Erica, the overwhelming number of our state employees are going to be what you call compliant.


Almost all of them are vaccinated. Right now, about 10 percent or so say they prefer testing a little bit longer. Some of the employees still getting themselves registered. So, I really appreciate what labor is doing. Look, they're keeping themselves safe. They're keeping the people they work with safe and the client they take care of safe.

HILL: When you say 10 percent you're expecting will not be compliance, are there specific areas? Because I know you had last week put the National Guard on notice, you may call them in to cover staffing shortages. Over the weekend, you said you don't think that would be necessary. But if we're looking at 10 percent, that's still a fair amount of people.

LAMONT: Well, it's 10 percent, you know, yesterday. So I think by the end of today it will be a lot fewer, the overwhelming majority vaccinated, getting back to work or testing. But you're right, we do have some standby in case there are nurses or logistics or drivers, things we need, we're ready. I don't think it's going to be necessary though.

HILL: All right. We'll check in with you tomorrow morning, see where that stands.

When it comes to vaccine mandates, as we've seen across the country and across various industries, they seem to be working. It seems like you're saying you're seeing the same in Connecticut. Interestingly on Friday, Governor Newsom announced that for students in California, the vaccine will be required, for those who are in the age group where it has been fully approved by the FDA. Do you envision the state of Connecticut, where I know pre-K through 12 staff need to be vaccinated, do you anticipate adding the COVID-19 vaccine to the list of required vaccinations for students as different age groups likely will see full FDA approval? LAMONT: I don't anticipate that, at least not right now. When it's approved, it will be emergency use authorization. You know, I've found that given voluntary work, making it easier for people to get vaccinated, the overwhelming number of people have done it voluntarily. So, let's try the same methodology with those kids.

HILL: I'm not talking about the EUA, specifically about approval, which Governor Newsom mentioned as well. So, we're talking about full FDA approval. So, if and when it does have full FDA approval for children, would it be added to the list of vaccinations that are currently required in Connecticut public schools?

LAMONT: We'll see. But, first, I'm waiting for the emergency use authorization. I think it's safe. That will tell parents now is a good time to get your younger kids vaccinated. Let's start with that. We'll see when we get the full approval and see what we have to do later on this year or next year, I think.

HILL: As you know, a lot happening and yet not happening at the same time in Washington these days. The infrastructure bill that's essentially stuck right now, as we look at, I believe, Connecticut was set to receive some $5 billion over the next five years. What does it mean for your state? What's at stake here if this bill doesn't pass?

LAMONT: Yes. I mean, come on, President Trump knew how important infrastructure was, couldn't get it over the finish line. Let's let the Congress get it over the finish line. That first bill means the world to a state like Connecticut, which has pretty old infrastructure. I could take ten minutes off via canoe from New Haven right down to New York. That saves an amount of time either in the rail or also in cars, speed things up. What that means for commerce, what that means for good-paying jobs for the foreseeable future. I really think it's time for Congress to make up their mind on this. Let's go.

HILL: So, your message is make up your mind, let's go. Have you reached out to your state representatives, even to the president, just to remind them of what's at stake?

LAMONT: I have. And I can tell you the Connecticut delegation are 100 percent all-in, ready to vote for that $1.1 trillion infrastructure bill, transformative for our state and I think our country, and hopefully soon to follow the broader bill.

HILL: You're up for re-election in 2022. A lot of things could happen between now and then there's a lot of focus on 2022. Will you run?

LAMONT: I haven't made that call yet. You want to know why, Erica? Everybody in our capital, Hartford, is running all the time. It's a nonstop campaign factory. And we've still got a lot of work to do. So, I'm really trying to focus on COVID, focus on infrastructure, focus on getting jobs back. We have tens of thousands of people moving into the state, keep that momentum going. That's my focus for now.

HILL: So you want to stay focused on the job at hand. When will you make that decision though? LAMONT: Later.

HILL: How much later? I got to try one more time.

LAMONT: Oh, I don't want to play games with it. I think I'll make up my mind by the end of this year.

HILL: All right. Governor Ned Lamont. I appreciate you joining us this morning. Thank you.

LAMONT: Thanks, Erica.

SCIUTTO: Well, the FDA has some big new meetings coming up. One thing on the agenda is Pfizer's request to authorize a vaccine for children under the age of 12, 5 to 11-years-old, also addressing the question of booster shots for the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.


HILL: Yes, such an important -- important moments as we look at that. Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joining us with more. So, what are we hearing about these specifics and sort of when we could have answers?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. So these FDA advisers, they are going to be busy in the month of October looking at a booster from Moderna, a booster for Johnson & Johnson, and the Pfizer vaccine for ages 5 to 11.

So, let's talk about Johnson & Johnson because we have learned that they will -- they are soon to be expected -- we are expecting that they will soon apply for emergency use authorization.

Let's look at some data that they put out recently. So they say when you look at some of their older data at their single shot that it was 66 percent effective against moderate to severe COVID-19, but when you look at two shots, 75 percent effective against moderate to severe COVID-19. So, still, two shots not quite as effective as Moderna or Pfizer, but still very effective.

A couple notes there, one, this booster for the numbers I just showed you, that was given eight weeks after the first shot. We don't know, does Johnson & Johnson want people to get a booster eight weeks after or is it going to be six months after, like Pfizer? If it's six months, do those numbers look different?

Also, Johnson & Johnson's numbers look different in the United States than globally. I just gave you global numbers. They look better in the U.S. I'm sure the FDA advisers will want to know why they look better in the U.S.

Now back to the children. So, Pfizer, the FDA advisers will be talking about Pfizer's application to have emergency use authorization for children ages 5 to 11 on October 26th. So, it is possible that there could be an authorized vaccine for children by Halloween, not absolutely for sure, but it is possible. Erica, Jim? SCIUTTO: Have enormous effects -- imagine what that means for trick- or-treating.

There had been lots of hope leading up to full FDA approval as opposed to emergency use authorization, that that would address some of the vaccine hesitancy in this country, that finally would put a lot of people over the edge. There's new data. Did it?

COHEN: That's right. Because the old data, data over the summer seemed to say, man, for a lot of people, it's going to make a difference when the FDA says we're giving you full approval, because that's what people said when they answered polls. But it turned out not quite to be true. We asked -- CNN asked the Department of Health and Human Services to crunch numbers and found the numbers did get better for Pfizer after full approval on August 23rd, but not all that much better and it was short lived.

So, let's take a look at what that improvement looked like. So if you looked from October -- I'm sorry, from August 23rd through September 6th, so 12 days following FDA full approval, Pfizer vaccinations did go up by 16 percent and Moderna only went up by 5 percent. Moderna actually had been doing even better than Pfizer and then all of a sudden Pfizer started to do better. Likely, a part of that is because they got full approval. But much more is going to happen.

We know from polls that people think other things are more important than full approval. For example, they are fearful about the delta variant. They're fearful about hospitalizations. They want to be able to go to concerts. They want to be able to travel and other things that require vaccination. That seems to be more powerful than any FDA stamp of approval.

HILL: Always interesting. Elizabeth Cohen, I appreciate it, thank you.

COHEN: Thanks.

HILL: Still ahead, the Supreme Court back in session for the first time since the pandemic. We'll take a look at what is ahead for this session, including several potentially landmark rulings to come, that's next.