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Supreme Court Begins Blockbuster Term, Taking Up Politically Divisive Issues; Justice Clarence Thomas Asks First Questions in New Term; COVID Hospitalizations, Deaths Trending Down in U.S.; American Airlines Joins Other Carriers Mandating Employee Vaccinations; WAPO: Trump Talked Out of Announcing 2024 Run For Now; Grisham: Trump Will Seek "Revenge," Will Have "Draconian" Policies if He Wins in 2024; Trump's Candidate for AZ Governor Says She Would Not Have Certified Biden's 2020 Victory. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired October 04, 2021 - 14:30   ET




VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: The Supreme Court is back with what is sure to be a controversial term with gun rights and abortion cases on the docket.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Today is the first time the justices are convening in person in more than a year. Except for Brett Kavanaugh, who tested positive for coronavirus last week. He is attending virtually.

CNN legal analyst, Joan Biskupic, joins us now. She was inside the court today.

Joan, this is being described as a blockbuster term. What should we be watching for?

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Alisyn and Victor, I cannot tell you how exciting it was to be back in that room. It has been since March 4th of 2020, since we were last allowed in there to watch all of the justices argue or watch a case being argued.

And the dynamic, when they could jump in at any point as opposed to going one by one in order of seniority, is so much more effective. And it helps surface the weaknesses and the strengths of a case. So it was quite exciting.

And it went very seamlessly. Justice Kavanaugh was participating remote because he has been infected with COVID. But he was able to get his questions in without any problem. So it was a very dynamic situation there.

But as much as it was seamless for the arguments themselves, it was essentially a warm-up for exactly what you're talking about here.

We're going to have a very big Second Amendment gun rights case argued in November that will test whether the Second Amendment right to bear arms that the Supreme Court said covers a weapon in the home for self- defense, whether that would cover a concealed weapon carried outside for self-defense, outside of the home.

And then the big case is the abortion case in December where the justices are going to look at whether a state can ban abortion before a fetus would be viable, that is live outside of the womb.


BLACKWELL: Let me ask you, you mentioned that in-person variable of justices being able to jump in and ask questions. Justice Thomas asked the first question of the new term. That is significant in itself.

Explain that and what that really means for us.

BISKUPIC: Sure. And in fact, he didn't just ask the first question for the first round. He asked the first question for every round today.

And I think it is because he had gone a full decade, Victor, at some point, without even asking a question. He had been the most silent justice during the 30 years he's been on the court.

He just didn't like the old format where it was constantly mixing it up. A format that could be very productive for the justices.

But frustrating for him because everybody was always jumping in and stepping on each other's lines and questions and the answers from the advocates.

So when we have the teleconferences, we all heard from Justice Thomas. And we heard his very important questions that he wanted to ask.

And I think his colleagues all felt like we want Justice Thomas in the game here, we don't want him sitting back. So they left this little pause in the beginning that gave him an entree to do it.

And at one point, the chief even turned to him when he was a little bit -- when he hesitated a bit before asking one of the government lawyers a question at one point.

So it is -- here is what is important. Justice Thomas has always been a player at the conference, the private meetings with the justice. He's always been a player on the law. And now he's going to be a player in oral arguments -- Victor?


CAMEROTA: Thank goodness we have our own tea leaf reader --


CAMEROTA: -- who could explain all of that significance.


BISKUPIC: It was so great. I can't wait until tomorrow. CAMEROTA: We can't wait to talk to you tomorrow.

BLACKWELL: Thank you, Joan.

CAMEROTA: Joan Biskupic, thank you.

BISKUPIC: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: OK. More mandates are coming. Which companies are now requiring their employees to get vaccinated? That is next.



BLACKWELL: The push to get more Americans vaccinated ahead of the busy holiday season is intensifying.

Now cases, hospitalizations and deaths are all trending downward. But there are still 70 million eligible Americans who are not vaccinated.

The FDA advisory panel will decide whether to recommend Pfizer vaccine for kids under 12. Johnson & Johnson is also expected to request authorization for booster shots.

CNN national correspondent, Jason Carroll, has the latest developments for us.


JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Cautious optimism on the COVID-19 front. Most states now reporting improved numbers in the battle against coronavirus.

Cases over the last week have decreased or are steady in 44 states compared to the week prior. And COVID-related deaths have decreased or are steady in 36 states.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY & INFECTIOUS DISEASES: We certainly are turning the corner on this particular surge. The way to keep it down to make that turnaround continue to go down is to do what we mentioned, get people vaccinated.

When you have 70 million people in the country who are eligible to be vaccinated, who are not yet vaccinated, that is the danger zone right there.

CARROLL: When asked on Sunday about gathering in person this Christmas, Dr. Fauci had this to say.

FAUCI: It is just too soon to tell. We've just got to concentrate on continuing to get those numbers down and not try to jump ahead by weeks or months and say what we're going to do at a particular time.

CARROLL: But today, Fauci clarified his comments about the holiday season. FAUCI: I will be spending Christmas with my family. I encourage

people, particularly the vaccinated people who are protected, to have a good, normal Christmas with your family.

But it is just the way all of the other disinformation goes around, you say something, talking about a landmark of a time, and it gets misinterpreted that I'm saying you can't spend family Christmastime, which is nonsense. You can.

CARROLL: The CDC issued guidelines saying, in part, "The safest way to celebrate is virtually with people who live with you or outside and at least six feet apart from others."

The CDC continuing to recommend unvaccinated people delay travel until they are fully vaccinated. To date, about two-thirds of adults are -- two-thirds of adults are vaccinated.

Today, mandates went into effect for New York City public city school employees. Mayor Bill De Blasio says 96 percent of teachers have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

In Connecticut, state employees have until the end of today to prove vaccination or agree to submit to weekly testing.

GOV. NED LAMONT (D-CT): The overwhelming number of our state employees are going to be what you call complaint. Almost all of them are vaccinated. Right now, about 10 percent or so say they prefer testing a little bit longer.

CARROLL: This, as a federal analysis now shows that full FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine did not dramatically increase vaccinations. Pfizer saw a seven-day average increase of just 16 percent following the approval and the number began to drop soon after.



CARROLL: And as for those vaccine mandates, American Airlines has joined several other carriers in requiring its employees to get vaccinated.

JetBlue and Alaska Airlines recently told their employees they will be required to get vaccinated.

And in August, United Airlines became the first major carrier to require its 67,000 employees to get vaccinated.

But still, it is seemingly some confusion over the holidays and what exactly that means.

CAMEROTA: Are we all getting together or not?

CARROLL: We are getting together.

(CROSSTALK) CARROLL: I don't know about everybody else, but we are vaccinated, and we are.


CAMEROTA: Fantastic.

Jason Carroll, thank you.

BLACKWELL: Well, Melania Trump's former chief of staff said that she's terrified of a Trump 2024 presidential run.

And there's a new report about the potential timing about when his potential announcement could come. That is next.

CAMEROTA: And a quick programming note. On an all-new season of "THIS IS LIFE, Lisa Ling explores historical events that changed America but are rarely found in history books. Catch the season premiere of "THIS IS LIFE WITH LISA LING" on Sunday at 10:00 p.m. only on CNN.



CAMEROTA: Former President Donald Trump sounds like he's gearing up for another presidential run. A new "Washington Post" article says Trump is ready to announce but his advisers are urging him to be patient.

BLACKWELL: Yes, they're concerned that Democrats might use his candidacy to frame the upcoming midterm elections and potentially boost their turnout.

Let's bring in CNN chief political analyst, Gloria Borger.

Gloria, good to see you.


BLACKWELL: This reporting from the "Washington Post" suggests that it's not a question of if or maybe, it's just what's the best time, financially, what's the best time for him to announce, for the party.

What's that mean for 2022?

BORGER: Well, look, Donald Trump wants to be president again. If the Republicans were to win back the Senate, he wants to get credit for it. And if he were to announce his candidacy now and that did not occur, he would get blamed for it.

But let's talk about one other thing, which is money. The money that he raises now through his leadership pack, which is considerable, could not be used in a presidential campaign. So if he were to announce, all of that money he could not use.

And so they're kind of talking to him and saying, look, you can't do this now, you can't do that now. But there's no doubt about it that Donald Trump wants to run again.

And he wants to run for one reason. It's revenge.

And so he's going to be talking about it a lot. And as a result, he will freeze the Republican field. He will not help the Republican Party, but he'll probably feel big again.

CAMEROTA: It's really interesting, Gloria, because I thought that he was just flirting with it. I thought he was sometimes saying it to keep the base ginned up



CAMEROTA: -- to try to raise money as whatever fundraising scam or just, I guess, his M.O.

But when you say it's about revenge, you're not the only person who thinks that.

Stephanie Grisham, his former press secretary and part of the former first lady's inner circle, Stephanie Grisham says it would be about revenge.

Here she was this morning.


STEPHANIE GRISHAM, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY & FORMER CHIEF OF STAFF TO MELANIA TRUMP: I want to warn people, once he takes office, if he were to win, he doesn't have to worry about reelection anymore.

He will be about revenge. He will probably have some pretty draconian policies that go on.

There were conversations a lot of times that people would say, that will be the second term, that will be the second term, meaning, we won't have to worry about, you know, a reelection.


CAMEROTA: I mean, how seriously do we need to take her warning, Gloria?

BORGER: We need to take it very seriously.

But I also have to say, where does all of this conversion come from late in the game? You know, I have to ask this question.

I don't know Stephanie Grisham well at all. And I have to ask this question that, suddenly now, there's a sense of, oh, my god, he's dangerous. Oh, this is about revenge. She's terrified what would happen if he were to get elected and have a term -- another term.

You know, it's kind of remarkable to me. Yes, I take it very seriously, but I also wonder where she's been.

BLACKWELL: Yes. You know, there's also this candidate, primary Republican candidate, Kari Lake, in Arizona, running for governor, who says, considering all they knew at the point of the election, that she would not have certified the vote there in Arizona.

I know that that appeases the former president, but do Arizona Republicans fresh off embarrassment of Cyber Ninjas and all that happened there, what does that sound like to them?

BORGER: Well, it sounds like she's trying to appease Donald Trump.

That's the name of the game right now. If you think you need Donald Trump's support to win, the question is, was he cheated out of winning the election? Was it a steal?

And so there are candidates like her, who are saying, yes, yes, yes, I would have done a recount because, automatically, Donald Trump will say, hey, that person is great, that person knows what she's talking about.

That's what this is all about. It's pretty transparent.

Anybody who says that the election was free and fairly held is not going to be someone that Donald Trump is really going to warm up to or endorse.

And in Arizona, in certain places, Donald Trump's endorsement is really important. So that's the game that's being played here.

Except it's not a game because, obviously --and we have talked about this so much, guys -- this is a threat to democracy. If you can't trust your elections, you know, do you have democracy?


And these are the questions Donald Trump is now stirring the pot on and these candidates are going along with it because they want to win above all else.

CAMEROTA: Yes, she's running for governor.


CAMEROTA: And I think we need to believe these candidates when they speak.


CAMEROTA: If she says she wouldn't certify the true, fair election, we need to remember that.

BORGER: That should be the number-one question in any debate, do you believe that Joe Biden is a freely and fairly elected president of the United States?

And some say, oh, yes, he's the president. That is not the answer to the question.


BORGER: The question is do you believe.

BLACKWELL: Gloria Borger, thank you so much.

BORGER: Thanks, guys.

BLACKWELL: We have the latest on the widespread outage on Facebook's platforms. We're talking Instagram as well. WhatsApp, too. Stay with us.