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Pfizer Seeks EUA for Vaccine for Kids; New Report on Trump and DOJ; Deadline for Trump's Allies to Turn in Documents; Judge Blocks Texas Abortion Law; Negotiations on Deb Deal to Avoid Default. Aired 9:00-9:30a ET

Aired October 07, 2021 - 09:00   ET




ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.


And we begin with breaking news. Pfizer is now seeking FDA Emergency Use Authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine for children ages five to 11. If authorized, this would be the first COVID-19 vaccine available to younger children.

SCIUTTO: Right now the Pfizer vaccine is fully approved for those age 16 and older, has Emergency Use Authorization for ages 12 to 15. In fact, all those people 12 and up can be vaccinated. Here's the question, when for five and 11-year-olds?

CNN -- five to 11-year-olds.

CNN's senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joins us now.

Elizabeth, there had been talk about possible approval before Halloween. Does this mean that timeline is possible?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's certainly is more likely, Jim. Knowing that they have applied for their Emergency Use Authorization for children ages five to 11, it makes that timeline much more likely.

The reason we know that is when you look at the timeline for adults, how quickly that got approved, that tells you something. It doesn't tell you everything. Children may take longer. But we know that FDA advisers are meeting next week. And let's take a look at how quickly this happened for adults.

So, for adults, Pfizer applied for an Emergency Use Authorization November 20th of last year. In other words, what happened today happened on November 20th last year for adults and they received their Emergency Use Authorization three weeks later on December 11th. That's how quickly it happened. Again, it doesn't mean it will happen that quickly with children, but this gives you sort of a feeling for it.

Now let's take a look about what we know about the efficacy of this vaccine in children. So, Pfizer did a clinical trial. They had about 2,200 participants. They were given, these children, ages five to 11, were given a dose that was one-third of the dose given to adults. Pfizer says that the vaccine generated safe and robust antibody response.

Now, it doesn't mean the children were protected from COVID. We don't know that yet. The FDA knows it and we will know that soon. But we do know that they had antibodies. Soon we'll find out, did those antibodies work.

And, Jim and Erica, I know you have children, both of you in the five to 11 range. I will tell you that when our youngest child who is 14, got her vaccination last spring, it was such a relief for me and my husband to know that she was protected. And I look forward to the time when your children and other young children get the same relief.

HILL: Yes, I think we are right there with you. It was a huge relief when my 14-year-old did. And full disclosure, I got home from D.C. last night and my 11-year-old said to me, mom, do you have any news on Pfizer, did they ask for an EUA? Clearly we talk about it a lot.

When it comes to --

COHEN: That's a smart 11-year-old.

HILL: He did say EUA.


HILL: When we look at this, we know we have this timeline for the advisers for when they're supposed to meet. Could the fact that they're officially asking for this EUA now, could that in any way change the timeline?

COHEN: I think that now that we have this application, that means that the advisers will meet somewhat quickly.


COHEN: That's what happened with the adults and so we can -- we can bet that it will happen. It's not going to be a long time.

HILL: Well, it's all -- it is all very good news to start off the day.

Elizabeth, thank you.

COHEN: Great. Thanks.

SCIUTTO: There is more breaking news this morning. It's a busy morning.

Several former Trump aides are now facing a deadline to answer subpoenas from the January 6th House committee. The group expected to defy the request for documents tied to their communications on the day of the insurrection.

HILL: And also just within the last hour, the Senate Judiciary Committee releasing a damning report detailing how Trump and a top DOJ lawyer attempted to overturn the 2020 election.

CNN's senior justice correspondent Evan Perez joining us now.

So what more are we learning, what else is new in this Senate report, Evan?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erica, this report paints a picture of certainly the White House and people at the Justice Department trying to fight over what to do with President Trump's demands that the Justice Department weigh in on the election after, of course, after he had lost.

We learned from this report that Mark Meadows, then the chief of staff, repeatedly was calling top officials at the time at the Justice Department asking them to try to investigate things, including the bizarre Italy-gate conspiracy. This is something that, you know, essentially says that there was an Italian contractor working with the CIA to overturn votes in several states.

We also learned from this report that multiple officials including Pat Cipollone and other lawyers at the White House threatened to resign because of what the president was trying to get the Justice Department to do.


We know that the president was working with Jeffrey Clark, who, at the time, was a low level official nobody had ever heard of, and he was essentially pushing for the Justice Department to tell the states that the Justice Department had found perhaps some irregularities in these states where -- which they -- they had not.

And so right now what we know is that the report is out. The Republicans say that the president never actually told these people to do anything wrong.

Here's Senator Durbin talking about what they found in this report.


SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): Our report shows in detail how relentless this president was. Were it not for Jeffrey Rosen, Richard Donoghue and eight members of the Department of Justice who stood up and said we'll resign if you take Rosen out of the picture and put Clark in, Jeffrey Clark in, if those efforts weren't made, we could have seen a collapse of that Department of Justice into a political entity.


PEREZ: And, really, you know, the Republicans are saying in their version of the report, guys, that, in the end, the president took the advice of the senior officials. But if you read this report, you will see how close we came to the president, the former president, pressuring the Justice Department to try to weigh in and try to put essentially pressure on the states to send electors, a separate slate of electors, and January 6th could have turned a lot -- turned out a lot different if those efforts had succeeded.

SCIUTTO: Yes, I mean, the evidence is mounting, but so is the revisionism for many in the Republican Party.

PEREZ: Absolutely.

SCIUTTO: Evan Perez, thanks very much.

Let's discuss now with former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, CNN's senior legal analyst, Elie Honig.

Elie, good to have you.

We had the former vice president, Mike Pence, as part of this ongoing revisionism within the Republican Party, say the other day, you know, that this is just one day in January, media is making, you know, a mountain out of a mole hill here. This is yet more evidence of just how long, how many weeks, how concerted this effort was to overturn the election, in this case via the Justice Department.

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, Jim, this report is titled "subverting justice." I think those two words really nail exactly what was happening here.

And this report confirms that there were actually two different coups happening sort of parallel to one another. They were not just talk, they were not just fluff, this was a very real, concerted, coordinated effort. One coup was Donald Trump trying to steal the election. The other coup was happening inside DOJ as Jeffrey Clark, who's a real villain in this story, tried to take over his AG so he could weaponize DOJ to help Trump take over the election.

So this is a real scandal and it's more than that. Merrick Garland, DOJ, needs to get involved here. Congress has done its part. It's time for DOJ it take a look?

HILL: You're saying it's time for DOJ to take a look. And really, from a legal perspective, does this open any of these folks up in terms of criminal charges if the DOJ doesn't step in? I mean what's the next move here?

HONIG: I think it absolutely should. So, first of all, it is a federal crime to try to interfere with an election, to try to get somebody to count ballots that were not cast, to discard ballots that were cast, or to falsely certify an election winner.

And let's focus on Jeffrey Clark for a minute here. This guy committed a fraud. He drafted a letter inside DOJ that he tried to get the attorney general to send saying, we identified serious election concerns in the state of Georgia, serious enough that you, Georgia, need to convene a special session and potentially appoint a new set of electors. That's nonsense. That did not happen. That's a fraud, trying to get

the attorney general to sign on to a fraud and use it to challenge an election, that's a crime too.

SCIUTTO: Elie, we have so many investigations here at the state, and the national level, but no charges, right? And I just wonder, do you see this leading anywhere? We had Richard Painter on yesterday, of course served in the Bush administration. He said, what you need is a special counsel here. God knows we've been down that path before. But are any of these going to lead anywhere concrete?

HONIG: That's the big question, will there be actual consequences? Look, Congress has now done essentially all Congress can do. They can gather information. They can hold hearings. They can issue a report. We have the report. That's really all Congress can do.

And so you have to look at DOJ, you have to look at the Fulton County District Attorney down in Atlanta. Now, what are they going to do? We don't know for sure. We do know at least though that the Fulton County D.A. Is criminally investigating. We have no such indication from DOJ for Merrick Garland.

And I think prosecutors, I get that this is a difficult, complex case, potentially fraught politically. But if you're not even taking a serious look at potential charges here, you're just not doing your job at a certain point.

HILL: Well, the potential politics, right? I mean they're still the law.


HILL: So, law should win out on that one.

Elie, stay with us.

I also want to bring in CNN justice correspondent Jessica Schneider, joining with us new details about the big lie that led up to the January 6th attack, the insurrection. Specifically here, just Trump's lawyers admitting under oath they knew the claims they were pushing publicly were false.



SCIUTTO: Jessica, you obtained thousands of pages of documents on this. What do they show?

SCHNEIDER: Yes, our team has been going through this, Tyranny Snead (ph), Caitlin Polanz (ph), they're looking at these court documents and they show how these top Trump allies, Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, how they did little to nothing to verify these unfounded election fraud claims before they blasted them out in press conferences and continued to repeat them for weeks after the election. So this is all coming out because a former executive for Dominion

Voting Systems, Eric Coomer, he is suing for defamation, in part because of the claims that Giuliani and Powell made. Powell, in particular, claimed that Coomer had been recorded in a conversation with Antifa members saying that he had rigged the election for Biden. Powell, though, later admitted under oath that there was never any such recording. So now this defamation lawsuit.

And Rudy Giuliani, in particular, he seemed to act exasperated in his deposition that he should be even expected to vet any claims. He said this about Coomer. Exactly what role he played, I had no idea. It's a big company, lots of people do different things. I had no idea, nor was I particularly interested at that point.

And what we're also seeing in these documents is something "The New York Times" previously reported, that about a week before Powell and Giuliani made these claims about Coomer and Dominion rigging the election, people in the Trump campaign, they put together a memo specifically debunking key points of these claims. In the court documents, though, we've looked at, there's no indication that the memo was ever shared with Giuliani or Powell.

In addition, guys, there are several cases where state officials are seeking sanctions for these false claims. In fact, in August, a federal judge actually sanctioned Sidney Powell and others saying this, the question before the court is whether plaintiffs' attorneys engaged in litigation practices that are abusive and in turn sanctionable. The short answer is yes.

So a lot being concluded here about just how not enough vetting was being done before these claims, false claims, were being made.

And, guys, our team, we reached out to attorneys for Giuliani, Powell, the Trump campaign, no response. But all of them, of course, asking the court to dismiss these lawsuits -- this lawsuit. But the new details coming out, they just show how Giuliani and Powell, they really willingly amplified these false claims about fraud without much of an attempt to ever vet those claims.


HILL: Yes.

Jessica Schneider, appreciate the reporting. Thank you.

Let's bring back Elie Honig now.

Elie, as we look at this, those admissions, does this create any kind of legal jeopardy for them?

HONIG: It does. Look, big picture, Eric, it shows that Rudy and Sidney Powell were just full of it. But more legally focused here, first of all, there could be consequences for their law license. Rudy already has his law license suspended. Sidney Powell has faced sanctions, as Jessica just mentioned, because as a lawyer, you have a lot of leeway in what you're allowed to say and argue, but you can't just make stuff up. You can't just lie and put it on the record in front of a court.

There are also -- of course, there are civil suits pending against Rudy Giuliani. That's how we got these documents for defamation. And defamation means, spreading a willful falsehood, meaning did they know it was false? And if this proves that, it sure seems it does, then that could put Rudy and Sidney Powell and others on the hook for civil damages, for money damages.

SCIUTTO: OK. We have subpoenas out and, by the way, they've got to answer today, to several form close Trump advisers, Steve Bannon among them. They've defied them to this point. I mean we'll see if somehow in the next, you know, 18 hours they answer them, but it's possible they defy them. What are the legal consequences for that?

HONIG: Yes, I'm not counting on Steve Bannon or anybody else to comply with these subpoenas today. Congress has a tough road ahead. Really the two viable options here is they can -- they can go into the courts, they can ask a judge for an order requiring Bannon, Meadows, Scavino, et cetera, to testify. The problem with that is it takes time. It can take months. It can take years.

And so if Congress is going to make that move, they've got to be ready to go into courts I would say tomorrow. And the courts need to handle this more quickly. They can't take months or years. They don't need to.

The other option is Congress can send over to DOJ a criminal referral and then it will be up to Merrick Garland. There is a criminal charge for contempt of Congress. It's a misdemeanor. But it will be Merrick Garland's call whether to pursue that kind of criminal prosecution against these subpoena defiers.

HILL: What --

SCIUTTO: Bannon and others, they're making a bet basically that no one's going to do anything. But maybe that's a good bet. I don't know. You know?

HONIG: It seemed like it. It seems like that is the bet.

Look, Democrats in Congress, in particular, have a poor record of enforcing their subpoenas. Look at what happened after the Mueller investigation. Look at what happened on the investigation of Ukraine with the first impeachment. I mean essentially Trump and his people were able to slow play those investigations to where they didn't really get anywhere.

HILL: Yes, dragging it out has been key in many ways.

SCIUTTO: Elie Honig, thanks very much.

Coming up next this hour, a federal judge has blocked -- blocked the Texas abortion law, at least for now.


What that means for women in that state and where does the legal fight go from here.

HILL: Plus, any moment now we could get word from Capitol Hill. A deal has been struck to raise the debt ceiling. Republican Leader Mitch McConnell floating two options to Democrats late last night. We're going to take you live to Capitol Hill.


SCIUTTO: The restrictive abortion ban in Texas is now on hold temporarily. A federal judge issued an order overnight blocking the law for now.

HILL: That controversial ban prohibits abortions after six weeks with no exceptions for rape or incest, and it also empowers private citizens anywhere to sue anyone who helps facilitate an abortion in the state.


CNN's Laura Jarrett joining us now.

So, Laura, this is a win for abortion rights activists, but there is sort of a big but here. Will it last?

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR, "EARLY START": Yes, that's the big question this morning, guys, is this a meaningful victory, or is it a hollow victory? As you point out, part of what made this law so unusual to begin with is who can enforce it. Just anyone off the street, any private party can enforce this.

And so the Justice Department's quandary here was how do we get in court, how do we show a judge that the United States of America has been harmed if any private citizen can sue, but no private citizen has sued yet. But the judge in this case, Judge Pitman, an Obama appointee, he saw through what Texas was trying to do here and he writes this, in part, I want to read it, fully aware that depriving its citizens of this right by direct state action would be flagrantly unconstitutional, meaning the right to abortion, the state contrived an unprecedented and transparent statutory scheme to do just that.

But the judge went on to note the reality on the ground here for women in Texas is that women are still getting abortions, they're just not getting them in Texas. Women who have the means and opportunity and the money can travel across state lines to places like Louisiana and Oklahoma to get abortions. And so that was the hook for the Justice Department to say, hey, look, this affects interstate commerce, commerce between the states, and so therefore the United States has an interest here to get this struck down.

The judge was persuaded by that. And for several other reasons, noticing that the feds had a federal interest here in protecting a woman's right to an abortion.

But I should note, guys, this is just one federal judge in Texas. This is going to get appealed up to the Fifth Circuit, which we know is more conservative, at least leans more conservative generally, and then whoever loses that can appeal this to the U.S. Supreme Court.

So we are in for a long haul here.

SCIUTTO: So at least one Texas clinic has said it will now resume abortions. Legally the trouble is that this reprieve or stay or whatever you want to call it allows for retroactive action -- explain that legally, what happens to clinics who might perform them now?

JARRETT: Yes. Yes, this is -- this is one of the other little wrinkles that they threw in, deliberately in this law, the way the lawyers crafted it, deliberately was.

So the judge has issued what's known as a preliminary injunction to block the Texas state law. As of this moment in Texas, you can legally get an abortion.

However, if another court, the upper court, in the court of appeals, or the Supreme Court, overrules this judge's injunction, then any abortion that happened then, anyone can -- anyone can sue an abortion provider who does an abortion right at this moment, even if at this moment it was legal, they can retroactively sue that abortion provider under this law.

HILL: It is really something.


HILL: Laura, we know you'll continue to stay on top of it. Appreciate it. Thank you.


HILL: In our next hour, the Senate set to convene negotiations -- reconvene negotiations, I should say, on a short-term debt ceiling increase to avert a potential first ever government default.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Do these go anywhere? When the temporary extension offered by GOP Leader Mitch McConnell means we will likely see another standoff over the borrowing limit just a couple of months from now.

CNN congressional correspondent Lauren Fox, she's on Capitol Hill.

I mean I feel like every day I'm asking you where the negotiations stand on, you know, half a million things. But -- so let's -- at the top of the list now is just pay the bills, right? Are they going to do it?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: This one is pretty basic, Jim. That's right, negotiations behind the scenes are going well, according to both the Republicans and the Democrats that I am talking to. They're not quite there yet in exactly how they are going to end this stalemate. But there is agreement that they are going to have some kind of short-term debt limit increase.

We heard earlier today from Dick Durbin. Here's what he said about what just has transpired. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): It was a reckless and irresponsible strategy, which Senator McConnell finally realized. So he's extended the debt ceiling until December. It still is not resolved, as it should be. But at least during this period of time, we can finally act on the bipartisan infrastructure bill, as well as the reconciliation bill.


FOX: And you heard a little bit there from Durbin. He's saying McConnell blinked here. After months of saying that Republicans were not going to lift a finger to help Democrats increase the country's borrowing limit, essentially McConnell handed them an out card yesterday, telling his conference in a private Republican lunch that he was going to provide this option to Democrats.

And they are going to have to provide some votes to at least get over a procedural hurdle. But all of those details still being worked out in the negotiations. We expect things to pick back up this morning. But Schumer making it clear last night on the floor, they are moving in a good direction.


Unfortunately, we're going to have some deja vu come end of November, early December when we will go through this entire rigmarole all over again.

Jim and Erica.

SCIUTTO: So the big question is, Lauren, is this enough time, this extension, based on where negotiations stand within the Democratic Party, right, to get the infrastructure bill and the larger budget reconciliation? Are they moving close enough that this gives them the time they need?

FOX: Well, certainly this week they have been so focused on increasing the debt ceiling that there hasn't been as much time for discussions about exactly how they are going to thread that needle between the bipartisan infrastructure bill and that bigger social safety net package. Those negotiations about what will still be included in that bigger package have to continue because there are still sticking points about how much you're going to spend, that top line number that we've talked so much about, with moderates arguing that they want some programs that are going to be included in that bill to be means tested, meaning, only the neediest Americans would qualify for some of the benefits that Democrats are discussing. Progressives, many of them, arguing that they don't want any means testing. So there are so many sticking points still to work out that, yes, there is going to be more time to focus on the negotiations if the debt ceiling is punted until late November, early December. But it's not so much time, given how big these differences really are within the Democratic ranks.


HILL: Yes. More but is it enough?

Lauren Fox, appreciate it. Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Well, as we learn new details about former President Trump, his plans to push and act on the big 2020 election lie, one of the key figures in Trump's first impeachment trial is speaking out now. It's a remarkable set of stories. Fiona Hill will join us live, next.