Return to Transcripts main page

CNN Newsroom

Texas Governor Bans Vaccine Mandates; NFL Coach Resigns over Emails; Pelosi Gives Warning to Democrats; Criminal Referrals in January 6th Investigation. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired October 12, 2021 - 09:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: I mean, look, it's incredibly effective and it's getting a lot of attention. And it's fun.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, if you -- if you support swearing, right? I mean I think it's incredibly effective.

The swearing caucus is now fully engaged in this campaign.

KEILAR: Do we take a position on that?

BERMAN: Cussing caucus engaged.

CNN's blanking coverage continues right now.

ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Top of the hour here. I'm Erica Hill.


There's a lot of news this Tuesday morning.

We do begin with major news out of the NFL. Breaking overnight, the coach of the Las Vegas Raiders, Jon Gruden, is stepping down after disturbing revelations involving highly offensive emails he sent through the years. The former Super Bowl champion's unceremonious departure comes after a "New York Times" report revealed those emails containing deeply homophobic, misogynistic and racist comments. We're going to have more on that story just ahead.

HILL: Also, it is a critical week on Capitol Hill. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi really trying to rally her caucus around President Biden's agenda ahead of a key vote in the House today. In a new letter, Pelosi telling Democrats that difficult decisions will be required soon. What does that mean? We'll take a closer look.

And the Texas governor taking a dramatic step in the battle over vaccines. Governor Greg Abbott issuing an executive order which bans any entity, including private businesses, from enforcing a vaccine mandate on workers. That marks a significant reversal from Abbott's previous policy, giving private businesses the choice to mandate vaccines. So is it legal?

Joining us now, CNN anchor of "EARLY START," Laura Jarrett, an attorney.

Laura, so this new order, when we look at this, this covers any employer in the state of Texas. There are large companies, as we know, based in Texas. American, Southwest Airlines, headquartered in the state. Is this legal? I mean is this going to stick?

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR, "EARLY START": So, guys, this is a big deal for these companies that are headquartered in Texas. They're now facing potential fines for failure to comply with the governor's executive order. But I got to tell you, I think legally it's on very shaky ground, and here's why.

Remember Governor Abbott tried to do this weeks ago with schools. He said that schools cannot mandate vaccines for COVID. But this is upping the ante because the president's executive order mandating the vaccine for both federal workers, federal contractors and also for businesses that have over 100 employees comes into play here and is now in direct contravention of that federal law.

And so I think you should look for the Justice Department to intervene here and say, wait a minute, when federal law is in conflict with state law, typically federal law trumps. So we'll see how this plays out in court.

He's already been sued. The governor has already been sued over what he's tried to do with this in schools. So we'll see where this one goes.

But as you mentioned, Erica, this has huge implications for businesses. There's a lot of businesses headquartered in Texas. Now, essentially in limbo. Not only American and Southwest, but also Oracle, AT&T, Dell, we're talking about major corporations here essentially now with what to do with exactly how to comply with this order and also comply with President Biden's executive order.

It's also interesting to think about how this could interplay with religious liberty. The court typically treats that very favorably. So what if a church tried to institute a vaccine mandate. This is a very broad executive order. It says any entity in the state can't do it. So is he going to say a church can't have a vaccine mandate if it wants to?

As for why the governor did this, as for what the motivations are, remember, he's facing a primary challenge next year. And there are candidates that are to the right of him, like Allen West, who came down with COVID himself recently, and they are the ones who are pushing him to go this far, Erica and Jim.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Yes. Watch the politics in a case like that first perhaps not the law.

Laura Jarrett, thanks so much.


SCIUTTO: Let's bring in Dr. Richina Bicette, she's medical director at the Baylor College of Medicine, an emergency medicine physician.

Doctor, good to have you back.

I want to set aside the politics and the law for a moment here and look at the health part of this because a lot of the data seems to be showing that these mandates are actually working, right, that they're getting very high compliance rates within companies. From a public health perspective, is that helping to stem the spread of the coronavirus, particularly as we saw the delta surge sweeping across the country?

DR. RICHINA BICETTE, MEDICAL DIRECTOR, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Jim, of course the mandates are working. We have some of the greatest minds in science, some of the best physicians around the globe telling us all what we need to get control of this pandemic and what we need to do to stop COVID-19. Yet, on the other hand, we have politicians who don't have medical training trying to undermine every public health effort that we tried to put into place. Yes, the mandates work. Vaccines are what's going to get us out of this pandemic. And I can't say that enough.


HILL: You know, to that point, the fact that the mandates are working, as you point out. Part of what Governor Abbott said is, you know, he touched on the reasoning being partially this nursing shortage, right? Well, we know there was a nursing shortage across the country before COVID. COVID exacerbated it in many way because of all of the frontline workers, which you know all too well, have just been overworked and they are exhausted emotionally and physically.

Is there anything that you've seen, even in your own hospital, that actually underscores the point that Governor Abbott is making, that somehow these mandates are leading to further staffing shortages? Because it sounds like, to what Jim said and what we heard from you, that's not at all the case.

BICETTE: I don't think the mandates are what are leading to these staffing shortages. Yes, our staff are tired. Yes, we are exhausted. But we're also getting sick. Let's not forget that point. We're putting our lives on the line, our family's lives on the line by coming in and taking care of patients who are presenting to the emergency departments with COVID. So we're falling ill. Some of our staff are dying. And that's part of the reason why we're having a shortage also. Protect your workers.

SCIUTTO: So another debate in which politics are trumping what we know about the science here are mandates for kids to wear masks in school. We know the data shows that that helps stem the spread and yet in a number of places you've had governors ban those mask mandates. Now, in Wisconsin, you have parents suing two school district because their children then got infected, right, saying -- and blaming the ban on mask mandates. Again, from a public health perspective, based on what we know from the data, do these mandates help keep kids and their families safe? BICETTE: I think they do, Jim. And you know what's interesting, I

looked at one of the lawsuits and one of the parents actually alleges that last school year the school district implemented masking, temperature checks, contact tracing and they actually had plexiglass barriers for the students, which sounds fantastic. I would definitely send my child to in person school if they had those strategies in place. Yet, this year, the school board voted against all of those things and took away all of the mitigation strategies they already had employed. If you are not explicitly going to do what the CDC recommends to protect our children, then de facto you are complicit when they fall ill.

HILL: When you -- when you look at where we are right now as a country, we are seeing encouraging numbers, increases in vaccinations, we're seeing decreases in new cases and hospitalizations, where do you see this going in the coming months? Because I know there's concern about the winter. Is there enough positive, though, to offset that?

BICETTE: There is some positive in the numbers decreasing. But I hedge on how much I'm willing to be excited about that because the numbers are going down, but they're still abysmal. We're still seeing 1,800 deaths per day. Yesterday, "The New York Times" reported that 123,000 people tested positive. So while we're going in the right direction, we're still not where we need to be in order to curb this pandemic.

HILL: Dr. Richina Bicette, always appreciate your insight. Thanks for being with us this morning.

BICETTE: Thank you for having me.

HILL: Turning now to that breaking news from overnight.

Jon Gruden out as head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders after new reporting from "The New York Times" detailing emails sent by Gruden over a number of years which used misogynistic and homophobic language. Again, those emails over -- several years' worth of emails, which emerged as part of a different investigation, Jim.

SCIUTTO: So if you want to know the contents of these comments, please take a look at your screen right now. You can read them. This is an example of what Gruden has reportedly said in some of those emails. We're not going to read it out loud because they are offensive. We do want to show you just how far the former coach went with some of his words in these emails.

CNN's Coy Wire joins us now.

So, Coy, Gruden, he initially faced criticism and apologized for racist comments. These going back to 2011, I believe, made it about the NFL union leader DeMaurice Smith. But since then, we're seeing that this extended over many years and in many categories.

Tell us what we're learning.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: That's right, Jim. The reported details of Gruden's racist, misogynistic, anti-gay emails are hurtful to many. One of the players, Jim and Erica, that he coached currently on the Raiders roster is Carl Nassib, the NFL's first active openly gay player. The emails came to light as part of the league's workplace misconduct investigation into the Washington Football Team. "The New York Times" says they are from a seven-year period that ended in early 2018.

Now, according to "The Times" report, the emails say Gruden used racially insensitive language to describe NFL PA executive director DeMaurice Smith, denounced women being employed as on field officials, denounced intolerance for players protesting during the national anthem, criticized a team drafting an openly gay player, used homophobic language to describe NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

Now, shortly after that report was published, Gruden released a statement saying, I have resigned as the head coach of the Las Vegas Raiders.


I love the Raiders and do not want to be a distraction. Thank you to all the players, coaches, staff and fans of Raider Nation. I'm sorry, I never meant to hurt anyone.

Now, Gruden apologized after the team's game on Sunday.


JON GRUDEN, LAS VEGAS RAIDERS HEAD COACH: All I can say is I'm not racist. I don't -- I can't tell you how sick I am. I apologize again to D. Smith. But I feel good about who I am and what I've done my entire life. And I apologize for the insensitive remarks. I had no -- you know, I had no racial intentions with those remarks at all.


WIRE: Now, Gruden signed a ten-year, $100 million contract in 2018 to be the head coach of the Raiders. The team announced that special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia, a long time assistant of Gruden, will take over as the team's interim head coach.

HILL: It was really something. I have to say, I was watching the game last night when the announcement came on the screen, and it certainly led to an important moment of discussion in our house with my boys as we look at the fallout here.

Coy, appreciate the reporting, as always. Thank you.

Want to bring in now Ben Volin, senior NFL writer at "The Boston Globe."

You know, I was really struck. So the comments that Gruden made, obviously, on Sunday, a little bit different from what we saw in that statement. But he said, I feel good about who I am, what I've done my entire life. When you look at that juxtaposed with what has come out of these

years' worth of emails, it raises a lot of questions this morning, Ben, about just who Jon Gruden has been and who he is, and what's that impact?

BEN VOLIN, SENOR NFL WRITER, "THE BOSTON GLOBE": Yes, I think that the statement that Gruden made over the weekend, if nothing else shows a little naivete that he didn't think that some of these other emails would be released. And, clearly, someone in the NFL wanted these emails out there, wanted Jon Gruden exposed. And when he made the statement at the time, it was just one email, with some obvious racial overtones, but he clearly didn't expect that more of these emails would come out really portraying him as misogynistic and homophobic and really, frankly, just a cliche of the old school football guy that the NFL has really been trying to move past. And it's almost cartoonish in a way how Gruden reveals himself to be against every single bit of progress the NFL has tried to make over the last decade, whether it's with concussion prevention, and female representation in the NFL, and, you know, Michael Sam being drafted, it's just -- he reveals himself to be completely against everything that the NFL has been trying to accomplish. And, like I said, I think some naivete that he didn't think that some of these other emails would be released.

SCIUTTO: And, you're right, I mean it's literally every hot button issue, right, including protesting during the national anthem.

I want to focus, if I can for a moment, on his homophobic comments, because you mentioned Michael Sam. Talking about his drafting in 2014, the first openly gay player to be drafted in the NFL. The thing is that since then, as head coach, Gruden is coaching the first openly gay NFL player, Carl Nassib. He was coaching him. And yet was making these comments.

I just wonder, in the league, is this coming as a surprise to the players who played for him?

VOLIN: I haven't heard from any players who played for him. I did heard from someone who knows Gruden well yesterday and the conversation was off the record. And out of fairness to Jon, I don't think it's right for me to reveal exactly what was said. But all I can say is that I don't believe these comments were too out of character for Jon Gruden. I don't think people around the league who know him well are too surprised to see that this is who Jon Gruden really is behind the scenes, you know. We get an unvarnished look here at these emails. This is before he was head coach of the Raiders. These emails took place over several years while he was a commentator for ESPN, not directly involved with the league. And, obviously, now they're coming to light.

But this is the real Jon Gruden, not the, you know, not the polished Jon Gruden that we see on TV. And I think he did do a good job of welcoming Carl Nassib into the team this year and not making a big deal out of Nassib being the first openly gay player. Frankly, it hasn't really been a story line, which I think reflects really a great progress for society and for the NFL that, you know, we haven't really been talking about having this openly gay player in the NFL. That said, you know, the Raiders especially trying to have this image

as being very progressive, there was no way they could move forward with Jon Gruden as their coach now. And, like I said, I think people who know Gruden weren't too surprised that this is the real person that was revealed in these emails.

HILL: How indicative is this, Ben, of other coaches, perhaps in the NFL, or, you know, just football in general?


As you said, this is sort of like -- it's sort of every bad stereotype, right, of what you would imagine it could be. But it's all there. So just how pervasive is it in 2021?

VOLIN: I think it's still there, especially from the football guys who are from the old school, who are, you know, pre-DeMaurice Smith, when he came into the league in 2009, 2010. You know, pre-social media. Gruden's from -- you know, he got his start in the '90s. Totally different era. Boys will be boys.

That said, it's a little remarkable to me that Jon Gruden is the only one catching shrapnel from this. This is from an investigation into the Washington Football Team and their culture of misogyny over several decades. And why is Dan Snyder's emails, why are -- why are his not getting -- why is Jon Gruden the only one? There are 650,000 emails as part of this case, and so far Gruden's are the only ones -- emails who became public. The NFL didn't even prepare a written report on Daniel Snyder and the Washington Football Team. Where are his emails? Why did the Raiders -- why did they allow Jon Gruden to coach this last weekend when they knew that there were other emails that were potentially going to come out? They knew of the content of these emails? So Gruden is certainly taking the hit here, and no one feels sorry for him, but there are some other people around the league who I think need to take some responsibility as well.

SCIUTTO: Yes, and you mentioned yet one more hot button issue involved there, and that, of course, the changing of the name from the Redskins to the Washington Football Team. So we'll see what more comes out of those other emails.

Ben Volin, thanks so much for coming on.

VOLIN: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Still to come this hour, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says the guidance she is receiving from House members is this, do fewer things well. That means what that means and the tough decisions ahead for her and her party.

HILL: Plus, a subpoena showdown. A critical week for the committee investigating the January 6th insurrection. A member telling CNN this morning criminal referrals could come, quote, very fast.

And the Virginia governor's race reigniting the debate over just how involved parents should be in school curriculum, what's taught. We'll discuss.



SCIUTTO: Today, the House is expected to vote to extend the nation's debt limit after the Senate approved a stopgap measure through early December. Crisis averted. Despite that, President Biden's larger economic agenda remains in jeopardy. And Speaker Pelosi says, quote, difficult decisions must be made very soon.

CNN congressional correspondent Lauren Fox is on Capitol Hill following all the latest developments for us. I would say that maybe the speaker is hinting at something, but I think that's a pretty clear statement as opposed to a hint there.

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Exactly. It's go time soon for Democrats. The negotiations have to really kick off this week in terms of what they're going to include in that bigger social safety net bill and what is going to have to get cut.

And this is really going to reveal those deeper schisms between progressives and moderate Democrats herein the House of Representatives, a skirmish that we have seen play out over the last several weeks on Capitol Hill.

So the question becomes, how big are Democrats going to go and how many programs are they actually going to include? The president and moderate Democrats have floated a number somewhere in the neighborhood of $2 trillion for this bill. That is significantly smaller than the $3.5 trillion bill that the House was looking at trying to complete this year.

In a letter to her colleagues last night, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, quote, overwhelmingly, the guidance I am receiving from members is to do fewer things well so that we can still have a transformative impact on families in the workplace and responsibly address the climate crisis.

She's hinting there that the strategy going forward may be that some of the programs, some of those social programs that Democrats had hoped to include in this bill may not be included.

And you've heard some Democrats argue that they could take another shot at this next year when they have another special budget tool to use. But what that means is progressives are going to have it look at what they might be willing to cut here because Democrats want to make sure that whatever they enact has a real impact on families, and that might have some effect at the ballot box in the midterms when Democrats are going to be having to run on whatever programs they actually pass.

Jim and Erica.

Lauren Fox, appreciate it. Thank you. New this morning, Congressman Adam Schiff says getting former Trump

associates to cooperate with subpoenas will be a test of our justice system and democracy, and warning about what's to come if that cooperation doesn't take place.

Take a listen.


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR, "NEW DAY": Days, weeks, months in terms of when the criminal referral will come?

REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Well, it will come very fast if people refuse to cooperate and have no basis for their refusal. It will come very fast.


SCIUTTO: Note he's not saying we're considering it. He's saying, it will come if they continue to refuse to cooperate.

Our understanding is that Mark Meadows and Kash Patel are engaging with the panel. Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon says, however, he will not cooperate.

Joining us now to speak about what comes next, CNN senior legal analyst Elie Honig. He's a former federal and state prosecutor.

Elie, good to have you on.

Those words are meaningful there, right, because we were talking as recently as last week about what do they do if these refusals continue. I'm curious what the timeline is. So if a Bannon refuses to cooperate, they slap him with a criminal referral. I mean one of the frustrations watching all this has been how long these things can be dragged out and they don't seem to go anywhere.


I mean would you expect something like this to go somewhere and soon?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, Jim, so the key word there, of course, was will we -- these referrals will come and will come very fast. Typically when you get a politician in that situation they'll say, well, nothing's off the table.


HONIG: That was a solid commitment by Adam Schiff. So there's really two questions on timing here. One, how quickly will Congress send this over to DOJ? They should be ready to do that at the end of this week because the deadline for testimony for Steve Bannon and the other witnesses is this Thursday and Friday, October 14th, 15th. If those witnesses no show, if they defy, if they're not in active negotiations, Congress needs to be ready to vote on contempt, then send it over to DOJ. Then question two is, how long does DOJ take to consider this, whether

or not to file the charges. That's entirely up to Merrick Garland. But, Jim, you're absolutely right, delay seems to be one of the strategies here. It's worked in the past for Trump and his people. And really only Congress and the courts can do anything about that.

HILL: You know, you also -- you also bring up Attorney General Merrick Garland. And we've talked a lot about him in the last week or so too in terms of will he or won't he act here?

Based on what we've seen, what is the thinking, Elie?

HONIG: Well, one of the really interesting things that I think came out of Representative Schiff's interview earlier on "NEW DAY" is, he was specifically and directly putting pressure on Merrick Garland to act. When John Berman asked Representative Schiff, you know, look, Congress has not had much luck, much success in getting anywhere in its investigations in the past. What Schiff said was, well, that was under Bill Barr. That was when Bill Barr and Trump's people had DOJ. Now it's different. So we'll see whether it makes any difference with Merrick Garland.

It's actually interesting, though, DOJ, historically, is very reluctant to charge these criminal contempt of Congress cases. They actually have not charged one of them in over 50 years. And even over the last decade we've seen DOJ pass on charging Bill Barr, Wilbur Ross, Lois Lerner, Eric Holder. That's both parties DOJ, both parties subject, but DOJ has not been willing to bring these charges.

Look, it's on the books. It's a crime for a reason.


HONIG: And it's inexplicable to me how DOJ has not charged these.

SCIUTTO: So what does a congressional subpoena mean, right?


SCIUTTO: If you or I or they can refuse and reliably, under Democratic or Republican leadership, not be referred for criminal charges, does that make it a worthless piece of paper?

HONIG: You've hit on the existential question here, what does a congressional subpoena mean? This is really a question of how serious is Congress about enforcing its own enforcement power? We've seen Congress take the slow route. We've seen DOJ standing on the sidelines doing nothing. We've seen our judiciary, our judges taking way too long on these cases. And unless and until those things change, then, yes, Jim, you're right, a congressional subpoena is just a piece of paper.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Wow.

HILL: Yes. Interesting to see.

SCIUTTO: That's no fun.

HILL: Elie, thank you.

SCIUTTO: Elie, we will -- we will keep asking you to see as this moves through the system if it does. Thanks so much for coming on.

Well, gas prices, you may have noticed, at the pump are soaring. Supply chains as well are disrupted. You might have noticed, things you order take longer to get to you. The ones paying the price, you and me, American consumers. Is there an end in sight? We're going to have live team coverage, next.

HILL: Plus, we are just moments away from the opening bell on Wall Street. Futures barely moving higher, but, you know, we'll take every little bit of green you can get after closing lower yesterday amid concerns of those rising oil and gas prices. The Dow really trying to avoid a third straight day of losses. It's a recent funk that's been driven by those concerns about economy, about inflation. Investors are also looking at the jobs opening data. That comes out next hour.