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Former Trump Aide Dan Scavino Served With Subpoena; U.S. Averaging Under 100,000 New Cases For First Time Since August; McConnell To Dems: Don't Ask For GOP's Help On Debt Ceiling Again; Idaho's Lt. Gov. Goes Rogue While Governor Is Away On Trip; Disappointing Jobs Report Signals Trouble For Economic Recovery; Amazon Rainforest At Severe Risk From Fires And Deforestation. Aired 11a-12p ET
Aired October 09, 2021 - 11:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.
We begin this hour with news just in to CNN. A source tells CNN that Dan Scavino, a top aide of former President Trump has now been served with a subpoena.
Scavino is one of several former Trump aides the panel investigating the January 6th insurrection wants to appear at a deposition Capitol Hill next week.
This come amid a growing showdown over executive privilege. President Biden is rejecting Donald Trump's request to withhold White House records from the committee investigating the Capitol riot. Trump is trying to assert executive privilege to keep documents and other information secret from the committee.
Trump is also urging his former aides to defy those subpoenas.
CNN's Marshall Cohen is covering these developments for us. Marshall, good to see you. So what more do we know about the Scavino subpoena?
MARSHALL COHEN, CNN REPORTER: Good morning, Fredricka. This is new information this morning coming in from our colleague Jim Acosta who's reporting that a source familiar with the matter says that Scavino got the subpoena. It was served to him via a process server down in Florida, sent to Mar-A-Lago, of course, the former president's compound down there and golf club.
Scavino got the subpoena. He was the last of the first batch to actually get the subpoena served. The big question now is what's he going to do with it. How is he going to respond? Still has a few days to work with his attorneys to figure out what they're going to do.
But really what was interesting is the response from the other Trump inner circle members. Folks like Steve Bannon, Mark Meadows and Kash Patel who was over at the Defense Department in the final months of the administration.
They got their subpoenas. They told the committee different answers. Steve Bannon sort of put his foot his down and said that he's going to fight it out. That ends up -- that might end up going to court. Kash Patel and Mark Meadows, according to the committee are engaging with lawmakers, trying to find a way forward. And Scavino, as I said, he'll have to go through this process right now with his attorney.
The lawmakers, they want tons of documents about what happened around January 6th and the efforts to subvert the election. This -- it's really just the beginning. It could go into court. But that is where things stand for those four gentlemen, Fred.
WHITFIELD: Marshall, what is the goal? What kinds of documents, information is the Select Committee looking for?
COHEN: They want a lot. They have cast a very, very wide net. They reached out to these officials -- former officials. They've asked the FBI and the DOJ and Homeland Security and Secret Service for all kinds of documents about the preparations for that day and the security, posture about that day.
But also importantly they've asked for President Trump's White House records. That might be some of the information that's the most sensitive, some of the most intimate details of Trump's whereabouts and motions and movements on January 6th leading up to January 6th and that unprecedented effort to undo the 2020 election.
So they asked the national archives for Trump's White House documents. That decision isn't really up to Trump anymore because he is not president. It is up to the Biden White House.
And look at this. I want to read to you a statement from the White House counsel in the Biden White House explaining why they're going to go ahead and hand over some of these documents.
Quote, "The constitutional protections of executive privilege should not be used to shield from Congress or the public information that reflects a clear and apparent effort to subvert the constitution itself."
So what does that mean? Trump is trying to use this thing called executive privilege to argue that these documents should stay secret. The Biden White House says if you are trying to subvert the constitution, if you're trying to undo an election, you don't get to then use the constitutional protections to shield your documents. You can't have it both ways, Fred.
WHITFIELD: Pretty blunt. All right. Thank you so much, Marshall Cohen. Appreciate that.
All right. Right now, the U.S. surgeon general says he feels cautiously optimistic about the state of the pandemic.
The nation is now averaging fewer than 100,000 daily new infections for the first time in more than two months. The number of people hospitalized with COVID has dropped significantly and deaths are beginning to decline as well.
Joining me now to discuss is Dr. Craig Spencer, the director of Global Health and Emergency Medicine at Columbia University Medical Center. Dr. Spencer, so good to see you.
DR. CRAIG SPENCER, DIRECTOR OF GLOBAL HEALTH AND EMERGENCY MEDICINE, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: Thanks for having me.
WHITFIELD: Do you feel that -- share that same optimism? Do you feel like we are turning a corner?
DR. SPENCER: Yes. I think anyone looking at the numbers you just presented would realize that we are collectively turning a corner.
DR. SPENCER: But as I warned at the beginning of this pandemic in March, April of 2020, we were going to have this virus roll around the country and cause, you know, different mini pandemics in different places.
And right now, what we're seeing is that even if the national numbers are looking a lot better than they were a few weeks ago, we are still seeing that places those that are disproportionately, you know, unvaccinated are still seeing a lot of cases, a lot of hospitalizations and a lot of death. And there is still a lot of virus circulating throughout the country making it especially dangerous for anyone who is unvaccinated.
So even if the metrics are improving, averaging 1,800 deaths a day is still incredibly sad because nearly everyone of these death are still vaccine-preventable.
WHITFIELD: Yes. You're underscoring the reality. I mean despite the positive signs, some experts, you know, say that we are living in two Americas as things improve in more vaccinated parts of the country, they remain pretty bleak in places where people are reticent about getting the shots.
Listen to this from a doctor in west Michigan.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. ROB DAVIDSON, WEST MICHIGAN EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN: I saw a "New York Times" headline saying COVID in Virginia today and it just sort of triggered me because I had just worked a couple of shifts in a row where I had six, seven people sitting in the emergency department waiting for beds at other hospitals that did not exist waiting for ambulances that were, you know, six or seven hours away from being able to bring them to those places.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Dr. Davidson is a familiar voice to this program. So how do you square, you know, the positive trends versus the real reality on the ground with people who are reluctant still? DR. SPENCER: Yes. I think this is something that I've seen even, you
know, recently in New York. I've taken care of patients that have had COVID, again most of whom were unvaccinated.
And it's still a big attempt and a really big push for us to try to convince people to get vaccinated, to continue to take this seriously. And that's a lot harder when the numbers are going down and people are starting to feel more safe as if there is less virus circulating.
But we know that, you know, this virus can and likely will return. The question is -- it is a question of scale, who it's going to impact and just how bad it's going to be later this fall and this winter.
WHITFIELD: Let's look at things globally. I mean Russia has just reported that it has its highest number of deaths in a single day since the start of the pandemic. Vaccines are still not widely available in a lot of poor countries.
So what's your prognosis of, you know, how globally things could move in the right direction?
DR. SPENCER: This has been the one thing that I've been worried about since the vaccines were really first announced. I was concerned that we were going to treat this as a U.S. pandemic, you know, a blue state and red state pandemic, a Democrat and a Republican pandemic. Oblivious to the fact that this is a global pandemic in which we just play a small role.
Look, it's great that over is rate 76 percent of the eligible population here in the U.S. has received at least one dose. But only 2.5 percent of people in low income countries have had access to the similar dose.
You have countries like Israel already planning on rolling up their fourth booster dose campaign and there are health care workers around the world taking care of COVID patients right now today that still haven't had access to a single dose of vaccine.
You know, to highlight the egregious inequity with the vaccine availability, at one point, doses that were being made in Africa were being sent back to Europe to fulfill contract obligations.
(INAUDIBLE) doesn't end pandemics, we need to be doing a lot more, especially on behalf of the U.S., to share the technology to make sure these vaccines can get produced in places where they are needed to donate our excess doses, to stop hoarding doses and really to transfer this knowledge and this know-how so that other countries can be prepared not just for this pandemic but for the next one.
WHITFIELD: Right. And the inequity has been acknowledged globally. I mean everyone knows this. Richer nations can afford to do more as a nation who are lacking of resources. So everyone acknowledges it.
What's the problem? Why isn't there real movement in a more significant manner? DR. SPENCER: Well, because promises are a lot easier than action.
Right. We in the U.S. have donated or at least said we're going to pledge to donate over 1 billion doses -- but a small fraction of that has actually left the U.S. and gone to other places and gone into arms around the world.
We have said that we're going to, you know, give billions of dollars to the fight, which is true but then those billions of dollars were used to buy doses that won't be delivered until a year from now.
As you know, there's a lot of people that are still going to die of COVID between now and then. In the meantime, the U.S. has been sitting on hundreds of millions of doses that we could have donated much earlier, many months ago, to get people vaccinated, to get the most vulnerable people vaccinated around the world.
COVAX, the global vaccine sharing initiative has come up short. Doesn't even have enough doses to meet its already, you know, low target of getting 20 percent of people around the world vaccinated.
DR. SPENCER: There is just enough doses and people are saying that, you know, we can do both. It's a false choice. It's not. There is a shortage of doses in places that just don't have them and having that access to them.
And we in the U.S. and it's not just the U.S., it's Europe, it's others nations that have been hoarding, that bought up a lot of the doses initially, need to do more to get them out. We just haven't been doing it.
WHITFIELD: And also around the corner, we will see how trends are impacted when and if vaccinations are being made available to children in this country between the ages of 5 and 12.
Thank you so much, Dr. Craig Spencer, appreciate it.
DR. SPENCER: Thank you. Thanks.
WHITFIELD: All right. Still ahead, the U.S. Senate avoided a potential economic disaster, but just temporarily. And tensions remain as lawmakers face a flood of challenges. We're live on Capitol Hill.
Plus where is Brian Laundrie? Police now say there hasn't been any physical evidence that he's been in the nature preserve that they have been searching for weeks.
WHITFIELD: All right. More debt ceiling drama just days after the U.S. Senate narrowly voted to avert the U.S. Government defaulting on its bills. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is now telling Democrats not to ask for his help on raising the debt ceiling again come December.
CNN congressional correspondent -- reporter -- Daniella Diaz is on Capitol Hill. Daniella, McConnell sent this letter to President Biden. What does that mean?
DANIELLA DIAZ, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, he had very strong words, Fred, for President Biden and the rest of the Democrats in Congress saying that they should not expect his help this time around to raise or suspend the debt ceiling on the next deadline that they have coming up when early December comes around.
He said in this letter, he wrote, "Senator Schumer marched the nation to the door step of disaster. Embarrassingly, it got to the point where senators on both sides were pleading for leadership to fill the void and protect our citizens. I stepped up."
You know, he had been telling Democrats for weeks now that he would not help them or any Republicans would help raise or suspend the debt ceiling when the deadline came on October 18th. That is the date that Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen gave for when the nation would default on its debt which would have disastrous results on the economy.
That is why the Senate took action this week in suspending the debt ceiling until early December. They just punted the deadline for two more months. Now Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Democrats have to figure out how they're going to go at this alone.
And McConnell made clear they are not going to help this time around. However, important to know he had already said that and they did help this week. But this is why he issued this letter to President Joe Biden and Democrats to warn them that they should not expect any Republican support in any legislation going forward.
So what happens now? Well, Democrats now have to do this -- government funding, work on their economic bill -- they have a lot of deadlines coming up in December that they need to get through and it is unclear right now how this is going to go. But it's going to be a busy rest of the year here in Congress Fred, to see how Democrats tackle these deadlines.
WHITFIELD: Right. Because really at issue here is it really about helping Democrats or is it about helping Americans? And did this letter really come because of responding to criticism coming from within the GOP?
DIAZ: That's exactly right. That's true, Fred. Now, the thing is that it is really interesting to see what happens when Congress meets again, not next week, but the week after because there is a lot of criticism within the GOP from McConnell even waiving and blinking to Schumer on raising the debt ceiling.
So really unclear how this is going to go. And there is even criticism against what Schumer said on the Senate floor this week where he slammed Republicans for not helping with the debt ceiling. But in the end, they did.
WHITFIELD: All right. Daniella Diaz, keep us posted.
DIAZ: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: Thanks so much on Capitol Hill.
All right. A power grab: snarky tweets and a bizarre feud between two leaders in Idaho took another strange turn this week when Governor Brad Little went to Texas to visit the border.
CNN's Dan Simon has the latest from Boise.
DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): The latest dustup between Idaho's Republican Governor Brad Little and its Republican lieutenant governor Janice McGeachin happened this week when Little went to Texas.
GOVERNOR GREG ABBOTT (R-TX): It is time for the Biden administration to wake up.
SIMON: To stand with Governor Greg Abbott and others to blast the Biden administration's handling of the southern border.
GOVERNOR BRAD LITTLE (R-ID): My fellow Idahoans --
SIMON: While Little is considered a strong conservative but more mainstream, McGeachin, elected separately is aligned with the far right wing of the party. Seen last year holding a gun and a bible in a video that criticized coronavirus restrictions.
LT. GOV. JANICE MCGEACHIN (R-ID): We recognize that all of us are by nature free and equal.
SIMON: She is running for the top job next year presumably against Little. And in a bold move, citing a clause in the state constitution, used his absence to seize temporary control of the state and issue a controversial executive order banning schools from mandating COVID-19 vaccines. She made a similar move months earlier banning masks in public buildings while Little attended the Republican Conference in Tennessee.
McGeachin also inquired about mobilizing the Idaho National Guard and sending troops to the Mexican border. All these actions later rescinded by Governor Little.
MCGEACHIN: Our constitution states that when the governor leaves the state, all duties that apply to the office of the governor then fall to the lieutenant governor.
SIMON: Little has never mandated masks, but has allowed counties and schools to make their own decisions. On vaccines, he banned state officials from requiring proof of COVID vaccinations. But he didn't specifically call out schools. McGeachin tweeting that her executive order fixed that. We caught up with McGeachin outside her office.
(on camera): But you know what you're doing. You are running for governor. And when he leaves town, you are issuing these orders. You are undermining what he is doing when you're doing this.
MCGEACHIN: You know, I'm not going to talk anymore to an activist. If you are asking me fair questions as a reporter, then that's fine. But if you are going to be an activist --
SIMON: I'm not being an activist. But what do you say to your critics who say that this is absurd?
MCGEACHIN: Again, you are being an activist. I am not anti-vax. I am not anti-testing of COVID. We know a lot of people suffering from this right now. But I am very much against having it be a mandate in our state. And that's what this is all about. People should not be forced to decide --
SIMON: But he never mandated anything. The governor never mandated anything.
MCGEACHIN: Interview's over.
SIMON (voice over): For his part, Governor Little has been very quiet on the matter with one of his aides saying he is trying to rise above the political noise.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Governor, your reaction to the actions by your lieutenant governor?
LITTLE: We have to go. I'm sorry. We'll take care of it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you think it's political?
LITTLE: It could be political.
JIM JONES, FORMER IDAHO SUPREME COURT CHIEF JUSTICE: We've had Republican governors and Democrat lieutenant governors. They work it out.
SIMON: Jim Jones is the former chief justice of the Idaho Supreme Court. His assessment blunt.
JONES: This is the only lieutenant governor that I can recall that has acted like an idiot.
SIMON (on camera): Governor Little has made the argument that it's a mischaracterization of the Idaho constitution to say that anytime he leaves the state that the lieutenant governor would automatically take over. And he got supporting opinion from the Idaho attorney general's office.
Nonetheless, the AG's office said that it was a close legal call, ultimately it would need to be resolved in the courts.
Dan Simon, CNN -- Boise, Idaho.
WHITFIELD: All right. Still ahead for us, new details in the Gabby Petito case. Police now say they were watching Brian Laundrie before he disappeared. We're live in Florida with the latest next.
And this quick programming note. Tomorrow night on an all-new season of "THIS IS LIFE WITH LISA LING". She explores historical events that changed America but are rarely found in history books. Catch the season premiere of "THIS IS LIFE WITH LISA LING" tomorrow night at 10:00 only on CNN.
WHITFIELD: After nearly four weeks, still no signs of Brian Laundrie in the Florida nature preserve where he is thought to be hiding in. Police have not found any physical evidence that Laundrie has even been there at all.
He vanished after his fiance Gabby Petito was reported missing. She was later found dead in Wyoming.
Nadia Romero is with us now out of North Port, Florida. So Nadia, it has been nearly four weeks since he went missing. How is the timeline changing? And has there been any collection of evidence about his whereabouts?
NADIA ROMERO, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes Fred, this has been such a confusing case because there are so many unanswered questions.
And as you mentioned, the timeline that we were given by Brian Laundrie's family has been changing. So they originally told investigators that they last saw and heard from their son on September 14th. But then it was this week they said, no, it was the day before on the 13th.
And that has people questioning if they are telling the whole truth. So CNN asked their attorney if the family would be willing to a polygraph test, a lie detector test. Then the attorney said no, not at this time.
But Chris Laundrie, Brian's father, did go out to help investigators over at the Carlton Reserve and his goal out there was to basically show them areas, hikes and trails that his son liked to go to.
And so he did that earlier this week and then came right back home to the house behind me where they have been since their son went missing four weeks ago.
Now, North Port police, the local police agency here, was the original agency investigating the disappearance of Gabby Petito. Her parents called and reported her missing on September 11th. And then that police department, they came out to this house to interview the parents.
And they say it was a bit odd because when they arrived, the family had their lawyer already on the phone and they would not answer questions directly about Gabby Petito. And then later on, her body was found in Wyoming.
Listen to North Port police officer -- the spokesperson for that department talk about the limitations that they had while surveilling Brian Laundrie.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOSH TAYLOR, PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICER, NORTH PORT POLICE: I mean, the guy goes for a walk in the Carlton Reserve. He's not wanted for a crime. I mean what are we supposed to do? We're going to go tree-to- tree, tree-to-tree, follow him back through the woods? I mean you know, it just wasn't there with the information we had in this case.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROMERO: So the North Port Police Department as you heard him say they say that they didn't have evidence, there was no crime at the time. they didn't have really anything that they could use legally to further surveil him or even arrest him.
And sow the investigation has been transferred over to the FBI. That's the agency handling everything. North Port police says that they'll assist the FBI in any way possible.
But we are awaiting for so many answers, Fred. Brian Laundrie has been reported missing for going on four weeks and we still don't know where he is or what happened to Gabby Petito, Fred.
WHITFIELD: Unbelievable mysteries. All right. Nadia Romero, thank you so much.
Next hour, I'll talk to a K-9 search and rescue specialist about how dogs may be the key to finding Laundrie.
All right. Coming up, President Biden is trying to put a positive spin on the dismal jobs report. I'll talk with the top economist on what it means for the Biden administration, next.
WHITFIELD: All right. A disappointing blow for the economy and another setback for the White House as the latest jobs report lands with a thud.
Kaitlan Collins has more from Washington.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A big economic miss as the American recovery hits a road block.
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The jobs numbers remind us that we have important work ahead of us and important investments we need to make.
COLLINS: U.S. employers adding only 194,000 jobs in September, well below the 500,000 that economists were expecting.
BIDEN: We are actually making real progress. Maybe it doesn't seem fast enough. I would like to see it faster and we're going to make it faster.
COLLINS: President Biden pinning it on the delta variant that peaked in September.
BIDEN: Today's report is based on a survey that was taken during the week of September 13th when the COVID cases were averaging more than 150,000 per day. Since then, we have seen the daily cases fall by more than one-third.
COLLINS: The president highlighting a drop in the unemployment rate.
BIDEN: For the first time since March of 2020, the American employment rate is below 5 percent.
COLLINS: But the drop from 5.2 percent to 4.8 percent could be in part because some people are leaving the work force entirely. As Biden's Labor Secretary struggled to explain why many jobs are going unfilled even after the enhanced jobless benefits came to an end.
MARTY WALSH, U.S. LABOR SECRETARY: Two months ago, everyone was asking me questions about the $300 keeping people out of work. The $300 now is gone. We did not see the great growth there.
COLLINS: The latest figures adding to the White House's headache as they face concerns about inflation, a worker shortage, and oil and gas prices at their highest levels since 2014.
WALSH: What we're seeing I think in a lot of cases is one, is the pandemic is wreaking havoc and fear on people as far as going back to work.
COLLINS: Democrats are still battling it out over the scope of Biden's domestic agenda on Capitol Hill but the president says the jobs report makes the case for trillions in new spending and tax cuts.
BIDEN: America is still the largest economy in the world. We still have the most productive workers and most innovative minds in the world. But we risk losing our edge as a nation if we don't move.
COLLINS (on camera): And President Biden and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell did speak on Friday. That came around the same time that McConnell sent a letter to the president warning him that Republicans are not going to assist Democrats in lifting the debt ceiling.
Of course, we know that is a fight that they are shaping up to have in just two months from now given the fix that they put into place now to avoid a government default, something that would unprecedented for the United States. It's just a temporary fix, not a long-term one.
Kaitlan Collins, CNN -- the White House.
WHITFIELD: All right. Kaitlan, thank you so much.
Joining me right now to talk more about these new job numbers is Diane Swonk, she is the chief economist at Grant Thornton.
Diane always good to see you. So why do you think the job numbers were so far off compared to what experts were predicting?
DIANE SWONK, CHIEF ECONOMIST, GRANT THORNTON: Well, actually we did see big upward revisions to the previous two months. So we added on from a higher level. And that's the good news is that the headlines overstated the weakness.
We also saw a big miss in public education which we were worried about because the seasonal adjustment, we usually hire over a million workers in public education in the month of September. But many of those workers, not only where many school districts are having trouble finding the staff to staff their schools, but the janitorial staff, the cleaning staff, also people to drive buses. Much like restaurants were having problems, many of those school districts were having problems having people coming back.
But we also had schools had to reopen, go back into quarantine which really wreaked havoc on a lot of things. Not only did it mean some schools did not have people working that week of the survey week because of the delta variant.
But you also had this sort of additional issue of more people actually reported that they were sick and unable to work for the last three months and it continued to increase during that week in September.
WHITFIELD: Right. When you talk about the schools, you know, and the shortages of workers, you're talking about janitorial and school bus drivers. That is in-person work.
And as long as you have this pandemic, you know, there's a real correlation there between the job availability, people grabbing the jobs or not because of their concerns about COVID.
So these jobs numbers overall were less than half of what was expected but the unemployment is down now to 4.8 percent. Is that a good indicator of where this country is going?
SWONK: Well, there's no one indicator. The humility of the pandemic and going through the looking glass and seeing the world sort of work in reverse, that we have labor shortages at the same time that millions of workers are still out of work. All of that means that you have to be much more holistic in how you look at the economy.
SWONK: Part of the reason that the unemployment rate fell was because some people left the labor force. Participation rate in the labor force actually ticked down notably among women who are waiting for access to child care and more consistent schedules for their children in school to be able to get back to work.
So, we really have to look at a whole host of factors to understand what's going on. The biggest drop in the unemployment rate was the black worker unemployment rate which also had the biggest drop in participation.
WHITFIELD: Yes. So again, you're, underscoring that correlation between public health and jobs. And when you talk about the disparity, how the pandemic and the economy has hit women worse than men. Women lost 26,000 jobs last month. Men gained jobs.
So, give us a little bit more detail about why that is? I mean obviously when you talk about kids not being able to do in-person learning and many women have chosen not to go back to work out of the household and thereby have lost a lot of jobs. So there is that correlation. But what are some other details?
SWONK: Well, it is really important as we know the number one reason that women, particularly women of color, and it hit single mothers more. You know, I wish that it was evenly split in terms of child care between men and women. It is not.
That is the reality we live in. And they are shouldering the burden here and especially if you are a single mom, this is really tough. It's tough no matter what. And you know, my heart goes out to anyone trying to juggle this online schooling.
But we have seen this child care, mobility and upscaling. Women also will pay more of their own money to try to get a better job and get more education.
The problem is we lost so many people to dropouts in both grade schools and colleges that that's further constraining supply. Accreditation programs were also set back so there's a timing issue in sequencing issues here too as those women who are trying to upgrade their skills are not available to work right now at the same pace they could.
WHITFIELD: All right. Let me ask you too about the continued disagreements, shall we say, on Capitol Hill? I mean what happens if Democrats don't reach a deal on infrastructure and the spending package. And perhaps, we have an even more contentious, you know, debt standoff come December?
SWONK: Well you know, this is -- I think we've had enough drama from Washington. The fact that Congress' dysfunction is adding to uncertainty out there is really frustrating as an economist to think that we'd self inflict Armageddon and not lift the debt ceiling. Just take it off the table. Get rid of it. Stop this as a political pinata. I really don't understand that as an economist that, you know, our own congress would inflict so much pain upon the overall economy purposely for a political gain. I don't understand that at all.
And the drama needs to stop. And that is -- these games are really adding uncertainty as we are trying to come out of the pandemic where there still is a lot of uncertainty where the course of the virus still determines the course of the economy. Why do that? Just take it off the table.
Now in terms of infrastructure spending, we desperately need that and at these low interest rates, we should be able finance the infrastructure spending and deal with some of the key issues -- everything from climate change to the productivity enhancing, things that we get from infrastructure investments.
On the social spending side, make a compromise, come to a deal and pay for part of it. That is more inflationary. Economists tend to like to finance infrastructure more than social spending. It doesn't mean both aren't important it just means we need to be careful about how we think about these things going forward and there does need to be some support.
The pandemic exposed an exacerbated inequality. We have an opportunity to actually level the playing field and have the overall pie grow much more rapidly. That seems to be in everyone's benefit. Just a little bit mystifying but that's why I'm not in Congress.
WHITFIELD: Well, I hear you Diane Swonk, loud and clear. Let's hope members of Congress, everyone else in Washington hears you too.
Thank you so much, Diane. Good to see you.
We'll be right back.
WHITFIELD: All right. Get your parkas and scarves out. We have officially have the first snowfall of the season. This is California's Lake Tahoe and Yosemite is seeing some flurries as well.
Allison Chinchar joining us now in the CNN Weather Center. So is this particularly early or is this about right?
ALLISON CHINCHAR, AMS METEOROLOGIST: I mean a lot of the mountainous region, this is really not. Now maybe in some of the lower elevations in the valley just might be on the early side. And it feels that way because we just technically started the first week of fall not that long ago.
But yes, out in the west, the main focus for us today and over the next couple of days is going to be snow because we have now one but two different systems that we're tracking. The first one making its way to the intermountain west today. The second one pushing into the Pacific Northwest. But both of them are going to cross over the mountain west.
Once they are both through, they're going to dump a pretty decent amount of snow. Lower elevations, valleys, likely just a couple of inches. But once you get higher up in the elevation, now you're starting to talk in excess of a foot of snow. So pretty impressive totals.
Now you can't get snow without cold temperatures. So that's the thing and you've got them. Salt Lake City and Reno both about 15 degrees below average. And once that second wave comes through, Fred, they're going to get even colder by the middle of the upcoming week.
WHITFIELD: Oh, my gosh. Ok. So now staying on the wintery or at least the cold theme, you wrote a piece on CNN.com this week about record cold temperatures in Antarctica which, I think we should all celebrate right for, the sake of the marine life, animal life there. they need this frigid stuff.
CHINCHAR: And it's also kind of hard I mean to really think about too. This is the coldest place on earth. So to imagine that it's even colder than we know it to be.
CHINCHAR: But yes, when we're talking about the period from April through September, that six-month period ended up being the coldest on record. That period is often referred to as the polar darkness or the polar night because that also coincides with when they don't really have any sunlight there.
Incredibly cold temperatures but the interesting thing, Fred, is this was the only place that really was cold.
CHINCHAR: When you look globally just everywhere else was above average temperatures. So this really was one of the few places that was dealing with an extreme. It's just interesting because it's already the coldest place on earth getting even colder.
WHITFIELD: Yes. Do we know why? Why the bottom like that would stay cold and everything else was just simply not.
CHINCHAR: Yes. The polar vortex played a big role in this particular event. Just for that specific area. But I will point out that in February of last year, they actually had their hottest temperature on record in Antarctica. So you're getting a little bit of both, thanks to climate change.
WHITFIELD: Hopefully a little self correction.
Allison Chinchar, thank you so much.
CHINCHAR: Thanks, Fred. WHITFIELD: All right. Grassroots groups in Brazil are putting their lives on the line to protect the Amazon rainforest as rampant deforestation and extreme drought turns parts of that landscape into a tinderbox.
Here's CNN's Isa Soares with this exclusive report on the threats.
ISA SOARES, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Smoke billows above the Amazon state of Rondonia (ph), a haze so thick it blankets this lush forest. Fire so intense that the earth is left charred, only dust remains.
It's the sight that troubles Romulo Batista. The spokesman for Green Peace Brazil tells us 60 hectares of the Amazon have gone up in flames in four days and the blame falls squarely, he says, on President Jair Bolsonaro.
ROMULO BATISTA, SPOKESMAN, GREEN PEACE BRAZIL (graphic): We see him announcing a moratorium on fire. Those are measures that have already been taken in the last two years and nothing has worked. This year we are seeing this again.
SOARES: CNN flew over some of this year's hardest hit areas to see the devastation for ourselves. From above, our cameras captured the damage of these increasing fires. The demarcated lines a sign of human destruction at work as the forest is cleared for agriculture or mining.
There had been nearly 13,000 fires in the same area. Roughly a 50 percent increase from 2020 to 2021. Now compare these images with these over a five-year period.
BATISTA: we are living an extreme year in Brazil. Record floods in the north and the biggest rain deficit in the south, southeast and Midwest of Brazil. Scientists say that this may already be the effect of deforestation in the Amazon.
SOARES: Further south in the same state, Milton da Costa, a former cattle rancher is fighting to protect what's left of the rainforest. This month he begins the task of helping restore and reforest 2,600 hectares of land that had been burned and used for cattle production.
MILTON DA COSTA, REFORESTATION PROJECT LEADER: If it continues this way, in no time our children and grandchildren won't have these places to come to. So that's our battle.
SOARES: He's made it his mission to reforest the burned land but in doing so he's facing attacks on his life.
DA COSTA: As he was talking to me, the other one was telling him shoot him, shoot him, right away.
SOARES: Recounting vividly when he was ambushed in early September.
DA COSTA: I just came to deliver you a message, the message is delivered. So if you don't leave, it will no longer only be a message.
SOARES: With a fight for land and resources comes increasing intimidation for those who work here.
According to Brazil's Land Pastoral Commission, 97 people have faced death threats this year alone. As the association leader over restoration reserve in the Amazon, Jose Pinheiro Borges has seen this often.
JOSE PINHEIRO BORGES, ASSOCIATION LEADER: It is hard to know who is threatening but we imagine that they are offenders who illegally exploit the conservation unit.
SOARES: His love for the Amazon has kept him going.
BORGES: This was burned in early August, it has the hallmark of the people who work here illegally.
SOARES: Borges along with the other Amazon defenders could be facing a losing battle.
Carbon samples from the Amazon collected over a period of nine years by scientific researcher Luciana Gatti are shown that 20 percent of the Amazon is releasing more carbon than it absorbs.
LUCIANA GATTI, RESEARCHER: The southeast of the Amazon now the forest itself became a source. This can mean the trees are dying more than growing.
SOARES: Behind this an increase in forest fires, which is leaving the Amazon unable to renew itself.
GATTI: You know, we have records in deforestation, fire in the Amazon, and also records in reduction of precipitation in the whole Brazil.
SOARES: The devastating impact of human behavior that experts say is tipping the climate scales in the Amazon leaving us all potentially gasping for air.
WHITFIELD: Isa Soares, thank you so much for that extraordinary report.
And in a statement, the environment industry -- ministry rather -- of Brazil tells CNN that it has suspended agricultural fires from July to October. Our footage is from mid-September, of course, and you saw that, that the fires keep on raging.
The environment ministry also has claimed that in its statement it's allocating more money and hiring more firefighters to combat and prevent fires.
However, these comments don't give the full picture. The Bolsonaro government has taken multiple steps to reduce the overall budgets for the environment ministry so these recent investments only bring spending back to roughly what it was before the president took office.
We'll be right back.