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Pfizer Seeks Vaccine Authorization For Kids 5-11; Constitutional Crisis?. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired October 07, 2021 - 13:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Don't go anywhere, busy news day.

Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.

ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Hello, and thanks for being with us. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.

We are following several big stories right now.

New stunning insight into just how close the U.S. came to a full-blown constitutional crisis, former President Trump asking the Department of Justice not once, but nine times to undermine election results.

We're going to break down this explosive report.

Plus, Brian Laundrie's dad just moments ago seen here in this red truck entering a nature reserve after remnants of a campsite were found. What does this mean in the search for a fugitive? We have got a former investigator standing by.

But, first, it's the news a lot of parents and pediatricians have eagerly awaited. Pfizer has officially filed for FDA emergency use authorization for its COVID-19 vaccine for kids ages 5 to 11.

If this gets the green light, it would mean 94 percent of all Americans would be eligible for vaccination against COVID, 94 percent.

Let's begin with CNN's Elizabeth Cohen.

Elizabeth, if authorized, this would be the first COVID-19 vaccine for younger children. What data does Pfizer have? And how soon could we get the green light?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: So, Ana, this could actually happen quite quickly.

And the reason we know that is, when Pfizer applied for emergency use authorization for adults at the end of last year, it was really just a matter of weeks. So, let's take a look at what that could mean for children.

So, before the FDA does anything, their external advisers, that group of people who are advisers to the FDA, they meet on October 26 to look at all the data. Now, for adults, when the CDC gave the green light, it was just two days after those advisers met. So, in other words, the advisers met. And, two days later, the CDC said, yes, we can get the vaccine.

So it is very possible that, by Halloween, we could have a vaccine for children ages 5 to 11, not for sure, but it certainly is looking like it could be possible. Now let's take a look at the data on this vaccine for children. So, Pfizer is doing a clinical trial, more than 2, 200 children. And they gave those children a dose that was one- third of the adults that -- the dose they gave to adults, and Pfizer says the vaccine was safe and generated what they call the robust antibody response.

Now, that's good. A robust antibody response is good, but it's not exactly what the FDA is really looking for. They want to know, the children in the clinical trial, when they got a vaccine, were they less likely to contract COVID-19 and get sick compared to children in clinical trial who did not get the vaccine.

And we don't know yet, but we do expect to learn that data before the October 26 FDA advisers meeting -- Ana.

CABRERA: And that is just a couple of weeks away, so very soon. Thank you, Elizabeth Cohen, for all of that.

COHEN: Thanks.

CABRERA: Experts say this is a game-changer.

Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb says he thinks, once kids 5 to 11 are eligible for the vaccine, plus the Merck antiviral pill, once that is authorized, we're looking at a pivotal moment in the fight against COVID. Take a listen.


DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB, FORMER FDA COMMISSIONER: I think those two things are going to be sort of a bookend on the sort of pandemic phase of this virus, and we're going to be entering the more endemic phase, when this becomes an omnipresent risk, but doesn't represent the extreme risk.


CABRERA: Let's bring in Dr. Peter Hotez now, director of the Center for Vaccine Development at Texas Children's hospital.

Dr. Hotez. Do you agree that this could be the end of the pandemic phase?

DR. PETER HOTEZ, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Well, yes I certainly hope Scott Gottlieb is right. I would love it.

But we have some hard realities, especially in this part of the country, Ana. Only 33 percent of the 12-to-17-year-olds were given the COVID-19 vaccine here in the South, most of the Southern states, compared to 80 percent in the Northeast.

So, once again, you have this geographic divide, where parents are holding back on vaccinating their adolescents, and I have to believe they will probably hold back on vaccinating their younger kids as well. So we may be looking at very low uptake of this pediatric vaccine in the South and also in the Mountain West.

And that's going to be a problem. That's going to slow us down. The bar to halt transmission of COVID-19, it is doable, but it's a high bar. We're talking about 85, 90 percent of the entire U.S. population vaccinated.

Now, you might say, oh, that's impossible. Well, it's not. We do it every year for polio, for measles.


HOTEZ: We do it every year for diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, but it takes time to build that ecosystem.

And given all the defiance in the South and the Mountain West, that is going to hold us back.

CABRERA: So, when do you think we will get there?

HOTEZ: Well, we are going to have to keep trying.

I think we're not doing enough to reach across the aisle and into -- a lot of this are coming out of conservative groups, out of defiance. And I think we need to work harder at it and keep plugging away.


The Biden administration is doing all it can at the federal level in terms of federal mandates. But that will only get us so far.


CABRERA: They could do travel vaccine mandates on planes and trains and other public transportation, interstate commerce sort of things, right?

HOTEZ: Oh, absolutely. But, again, that's only still going to get us part of the way there.

We have about 75 million Americans we're going to need to vaccinate. And that and so much of vaccine -- vaccinations are regulated at the state level, especially vaccine mandates at the schools. So, the hard part, the hardest part is going to be working with some of the governors of the red states to convince them around school mandates and to get better buy-in and a greater level of advocacy and going beyond just saying, well, everyone is free to do what they want.

That's not going to work for us.

CABRERA: There are 70 million Americans who have yet to get that first shot, as you point out.

And so, looking at the state of play, this is interesting. Right now, more people are getting their booster shot per day than people getting a first or second shot, according to the CDC. What's your reaction to that?

HOTEZ: Well, remember, we have lost now 100,000 Americans over the summer from COVID-19, overwhelmingly here in the South, despite the availability of safe and effective vaccines.

We know what this is. This is defiance, and I don't even call it for misinformation or disinformation anymore, Ana. I call this anti- science aggression coming from political extremism on the right. That is the reality. And we have to figure out a way to tackle this.

It's -- so, it's death by anti-science; 100,000 Americans have lost their lives from anti-science aggression.

CABRERA: It is so tragic. And it's heartbreaking to learn today that COVID-19 has taken the parents or grandparents of 140,000 American children, according to the CDC. So that is as many as one in 500 kids in the U.S.

Put that into perspective for us. And what do you see as the longer- term impact of this?

HOTEZ: Yes. And a lot of that was both pre- and post-vaccines.

So, pre-vaccines, down here in Texas -- and we have spoken about this before -- especially in the Hispanic communities in South Texas, here in Houston, so many 40-, 50-, 60-year-old parents lost their lives and orphaned adolescents and young adults.

And I testified before the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and said, this is historic decimation of Hispanic communities that will take us years and years to recover, and if we ever can. And now, post- vaccination, all of those groups that are defiant of vaccination, parents who've also lost their lives needlessly, this will take our country years to recover from, Ana.

This is going to -- the post-traumatic stress from what's happened will last a generation.

CABRERA: Dr. Peter Hotez, it's good to have you here. Thank you, as always.

HOTEZ: Thank you.

CABRERA: Now to a major development in the battle over abortion rights in Texas. The near total ban in that state is right now temporarily blocked, this after a federal judge in Austin sided with the Biden administration, ruling that the six-week abortion ban unconstitutionally takes women's control over their own lives away from them.

The Texas attorney general's office has vowed to appeal. The ban, which prohibits abortions after a fetal heartbeat is found, with no exceptions for rape or incest, took effect last month after the Supreme Court declined a request to block it.

A damning new report detailing just how far former President Trump went in his attempt to overthrow democracy. So, how a so-called suicide pact stopped Trump from going all the way.

Plus, developing right now, the father of Brian Laundrie with police in this Florida reserve, where his son reportedly went hiking before vanishing, and it comes after police found evidence of a campsite.

Also, disaster averted, for now, at least -- what we're learning about the new deal to raise the debt limit.



CABRERA: There are two major stories unfolding right now on Capitol Hill.

A deadline looms for several former Trump insiders to answer subpoenas related to the January 6 insurrection, and, behind closed doors, an attack on democracy itself. A short time ago, the Senate Judiciary Committee released the most complete account so far of Donald Trump's efforts to overturn the election results.

Its conclusion, in short, the nation teetered on the brink of a constitutional crisis as a sitting president plotted to launch a bloodless coup.

CNN senior justice correspondent Evan Perez joins us, along with CNN law enforcement correspondent with Whitney Wild.

Evan, to you first.

What else are we learning from this Senate report?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, every time you hear new details, and you read the transcripts of what went on in those week -- that week-and-a-half at the turn of the year, you are just -- you just find it astounding to see what was happening, as top Justice Department officials were under tremendous pressure from the former President Trump, from Mark Meadows, his then-chief of staff, to try to get the Justice Department to intervene, to try to get the Justice Department involved in some of these bogus fraud claims that they were making to try to overturn the election.

A number of things that stood out in the report. There were at least nine times that the president himself reached out to Jeffrey Rosen, who was then the acting attorney general, to Richard Donoghue, who was his deputy, the acting deputy attorney general, to try to get them to do something, to try to say the DOJ was finding some irregularities, of course, which there were none.

[13:15:08] Trump was also pushing to get Jeffrey Clark, another official down at the Justice Department, who he thought would be willing to do this, to have him become the acting attorney general. And then it became so much that during a key meeting at the end of December, Pat Cipollone, one of the -- the White House counsel and other lawyers told the president that they were going to resign along with a number of other Justice Department officials, and that, essentially, if he had put Jeffrey Clark in that job, that this was going to be a murder-suicide pact.

Extraordinary words from somebody like the president's top lawyer inside the White House, which gives you a sense of what was happening. We heard from the Republicans, who said after this report that they believe that Trump didn't do anything wrong. In the end, he listened to his advisers.

Of course, what that overlooks, Ana, is the fact that, yes, he listened to them, but the extraordinary pressure that these people were on, that it was only because they stood up to him that this didn't turn out differently.

CABRERA: And, of course, this report was done by the Senate Judiciary Committee specifically.

PEREZ: Right.

CABRERA: But there's still the ongoing investigation with the January 6 select committee in the House.

And, Whitney, I'm curious. What is the status of the subpoena requests with the deadline today for documents from Mark Meadows, Steve Bannon, Dan Scavino, and Kash Patel? Has anyone complied yet?

WHITNEY WILD, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRESPONDENT: That's the outstanding question. At this point, we're in a holding pattern. It's just midday.

So, in theory, they have up until this day to supply these relevant documents. The timeline here is important, because this is -- the documents were supposed to be delivered to the committee by October 7. That date is by design, because the committee wanted a week to assess the documents that were supplied to them and then start these depositions.

The idea, of course, is that you want to ask informed questions before you start bringing in these key players, because they know they might not get very many opportunities to actually interview them. So the fact that we don't yet know what information has been supplied or if any information has been supplied makes it more apparent that, perhaps, if the House select committee cannot get what it wants, that this timeline becomes stickier.

So, right now, we are again in a holding pattern for these four people. But it's also important to note, Ana, other people believe in the validity of the subpoena, basically, and are saying that they plan to comply. So there are other people, specifically members of the rally organization -- the rally organizers, rather, who were part of that Stop the Steal rally movement on both January 5 and January 6.

We know at least some of those people on that list plan to comply. So there will be information provided. It just depends on who and what questions they're able to ask. But, at this point, we're at the very beginning of that investigatory process.

CABRERA: Whitney Wild, Evan Perez, thank you both for your reporting.

Joining us to further discuss now is CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger and Elliot Williams, a former federal prosecutor and CNN legal analyst.

And, Gloria, I want to start with you on this explosive new Senate Judiciary Committee report. It's giving us new insight into what was happening behind the scenes in the White House and the top echelon of the Justice Department just before the insurrection.

And this report is damning. What is your top takeaway?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, look, it's stunning and astounding, yet not surprising.

But what we have is a meeting inside the Oval Office, where the president of the United States was effectively trying to orchestrate a coup. And you had people standing up to him, Pat Cipollone, White House counsel, saying don't do that. So the president had the match, he was going to light the fire, and, in the end, they talked him out of it.

But you have to take a step back and say, wait a minute, what's the context of all of this? And the context is that the president of the United States had been repeatedly, dozens of times, been calling state and local officials trying to exert the same kind of pressure on them to reopen voting, saying that there was fraud, et cetera, et cetera.

And he had been rebuffed. He'd been rebuffed in Arizona, in Georgia, in Michigan, and on and on. And so this was just kind of an extension of that. And what he was saying was, OK, if you guys won't do it, I'm going to fire the guy who is the acting head of the Department of Justice, and I'm going to put in my guy, who will do whatever I want.

And that was when Pat Cipollone, the White House counsel, stepped in and said, you cannot do this, or we will all walk out the door, and that will really create a firestorm.

CABRERA: And so, Elliot, the Senate Judiciary Committee has issued some preliminary recommendations, based on their findings, to try to avoid a scenario like this from repeating itself, even suggesting that the D.C. bar scrutinize Jeffrey Clark, who is that DOJ official who was willing to go along with Trump's election lies.


BORGER: Right.

CABRERA: Where do you see this going? ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Right.

Well, to piggyback on Gloria's point, at this point, we're not really and shouldn't be surprised at anything we're learning now. Now, obviously, this is putting more meat on the bones of the story that we have known for the last six or eight months. What's important here is that the Senate Judiciary Committee is making clear recommendations as to how to avoid getting to this kind of crisis at some point in the future.

And that's, number one, clarifying the ways in which the president, the White House can communicate with the Justice Department, adding that kind of communication at the state level, because the guidelines don't currently have that. So, number one, clarifying what constitutes a threat to officials, because that's not there too.

And then number -- and also, here, the Justice Department modifying its own policy of not interfering in standing elections. So that's very important. I think we grouse a lot in Washington about how can this -- why did this happen? How does it -- what stops it from happening again?

And I think it's very important that Congress, the body that oversees this, make clear recommendations. Notably, they have not made any criminal referrals here. And, frankly, I think they should not. It's early. And they should wait until the end of their investigation and can do so, possibly.

CABRERA: OK. But we also see that that's a recommendation when it comes to accountability. That's an important piece of all of this.


CABRERA: And yet, Gloria, Republicans are still sticking by former President Trump.


CABRERA: They issued a counter-report, in fact, essentially saying Trump did nothing wrong because he ultimately backed away from that plan to replace Rosen, the then-acting attorney general.

What do you think about that argument?

BORGER: Well, I think it's absurd that they can't even say that the president didn't do anything wrong.

I mean, Chuck Grassley notably said he didn't do anything wrong because it didn't happen. So he didn't follow through on what he wanted to do. So, if you want to rob a bank, and you go in, and you decide, OK, you walk in the front door, and you have your gun in your pocket, and you tell people to get on the floor, but then you decide, maybe you don't want to rob the bank and you leave, is that OK?

You didn't do anything wrong. You didn't rob the bank.

CABRERA: And yet the actions he did take resulted in an insurrection. So he did do something that happened.

BORGER: Right. Look, I'm not the lawyer here. Elliot is the lawyer.

But it is difficult to kind of figure out, legally, what you can do with this. And it raises all kinds of new questions, as Elliot was saying. But it's crystal clear what the president's intentions were here.

And what's shocking to me is that Republicans just don't come out and say, this is wrong. He should not have been doing this. He should not have been trying to interfere in an election, as he was clearly doing. And we need to figure out a way to make sure this doesn't happen again.

CABRERA: Elliot, separately, but related, over 2,000 pages of court documents reveal Trump allies Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell testified under oath that they did little to check out some of the uncorroborated claims that they made about 2020 election fraud before they went on to amplify them on the national stage.

They're lawyers. What's your reaction to that?

WILLIAMS: Yes, look, those go right to defamation -- potential defamation suits against them, because the main thing in a defamation suit is, you're suing someone for knowingly making a false statement that damages you.

It's now clear that they knew they were making false statements. And you're -- and that can actually be quite difficult to prove what's in someone's head. They have established and they're saying on the record now that we knew and we didn't investigate these claims, number one.

Number two, yes, it's one thing, Ana, for a politician to lie and misrepresent facts. It's another thing for a lawyer to do that. Look, I love a good lawyer joke as much as anybody else, but at the end of the day, when lawyers are being dishonest, as Mayor Giuliani has clearly said here in these documents that he is, it hurts the entire process and the entire profession and our entire legal system.

So it's disgraceful conduct that ought to and likely will bring some kind of sanctions from the bar, be it in New York or anywhere else.

CABRERA: Elliot Williams and Gloria Borger, thank you both for the conversation.

WILLIAMS: Thanks, Ana.

CABRERA: Another major developing story right now: Brian Laundrie's father is with police in the Florida reserve where his son reportedly went hiking before disappearing.

Our CNN team on the ground witnessed his dad entering the reserve. We will have a live report from Florida next.



CABRERA: Breaking developments in the search for Brian Laundrie.

CNN crews captured this video of Laundrie's father in that red truck entering a Florida nature reserve. We are told he is now helping police in their search for his son. The family's attorney says Brian Laundrie went hiking in the massive reserve before he disappeared more than three weeks ago.

CNN's Leyla Santiago is at the Laundrie home, not far from that nature reserve.

Leyla, what have you learned?