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Bill Clinton Hospitalized for Infection; Dr. Peter Hotez is Interviewed about the Clinton and Vaccines; Committee to Hold Bannon in Contempt; Fully Vaccinated Visitors Can Enter U.S.; Appeals Court Allows Texas Abortion Ban; Biden's SCOTUS Commission; A British Lawmaker Has Been Stabbed. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired October 15, 2021 - 09:00   ET



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JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: A very good Friday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto. There is a lot of news this morning.

We begin with breaking news overnight.

Former President Bill Clinton hospitalized, admitted to a California intensive care unit on Tuesday with a blood infection, known as sepsis. Doctors at UC-Irvine Medical Center say the former president is now in good spirits. We're going to be there live in just a moment with an update.

But also this breaking overnight.

Texas' new abortion law survives yet one more day. A federal appeals court upheld the legislation that essentially bans all abortions in that state, the second most populous in the country. They say the law can be enforced while they consider an appeal of a lower court judge's order blocking it.

Plus, could former President Donald Trump be subpoenaed by January 6th investigators? The select committee in the House says they have not ruled that out. This as his former associate, Steve Bannon, faces criminal contempt charges now for defying his own subpoena.

We'll have much more on all of that in just a moment. Let's begin, though, with CNN senior national correspondent Sara

Sidner. She is in Irvine, California, following all the news of former President Bill Clinton.

Sara, what do we know about Clinton's condition this morning?


We know that he is on the mend, according to his aides, that he has been walking around, that he has been joking with staff and that he is in good spirits.

We also know that here at UC Irvine Medical Center, that he came in on Tuesday night. He was actually hanging out with some friends. He felt fatigued. And he ended up having to come to the hospital.

He was treated for a urinary tract infection, which actually spread into his blood stream. So he had a pretty dangerous infection. You know that sepsis can be life threatening. Taken very seriously. He was taken to the ICU. Although, as we understand it from doctors, the reason he was in the ICU was more because of privacy and security concerns than it was because he needed to be in an intensive care unit. He was given intravenous fluids as well as antibiotics to treat the infection and is doing well this morning.

We're understanding, though, that he is still being kept here for observation, but that he is in quite good spirits and that he is in recovery.

We do also know that Hillary Clinton was here visiting her husband and -- here in Orange County and that they were here actually for a fundraiser for the Clinton Foundation that was supposed to happen on Thursday. Though, as we understand it, Bill did not make it. He was here in the hospital recovering.


SCIUTTO: Sara Sidner, thank you for that update.

Joining me now to discuss the medicine behind this, Dr. Peter Hotez, director for the Center for Vaccine Development at Texas Children's Hospital. Also dean of tropical medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.

Dr. Hotez, good to have you.

First on the former president's condition here. Sepsis is, as Sara noted there, can be very serious. It can be life threatening. A blood infection in effect. How serious a threat particularly for someone this age?

DR. PETER HOTEZ, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR VACCINE DEVELOPMENT, TEXAS CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: Yes, it's a medical emergency, especially in an individual over the age of 65, and the president's around 75 years of age. And left untreated, it has a very high mortality rate. It sounds like they picked it up very early. It sounds like they identified potentially a pathogen that's in -- bacteria that's in the blood, or in the urine, and then can appropriately tailor both the antibiotics and his fluid resuscitation to ensure that he makes a good recovery. So the fact that he's walking around and joking with staff, all good signs. High probability that he's going to do really well.

But it just goes to show you how fragile things can get as you get older. And you have to be alert to telltale signs of extreme fatigue or fever or shivering or cold and to have a high index of -- low index of getting to medical attention right away. And it sounds like that's what he did.

So if I had to put it all together, just from the snippets that I've heard, it's possible that this started as a urinary tract infection. About 25 percent of all sepsis cases start as urinary tract infections and then proceeded to the blood. And so he was in a -- he was under extreme threat. It sounds like the doctors and the nursing staff and hospital staff at UC Irvine did a terrific job and resuscitated him in the sense that they gave him fluids and antibiotics.


HOTEZ: And now he's doing well.

SCIUTTO: He, of course, had serious heart bypass surgery a number of years ago.


Would that be a factor at all in terms of vulnerability to this?

HOTEZ: Well, you know, if somebody has underlying structural heart changes, in this case surgery, and has bacteria in the blood, if you don't find another source, one of the thing you might do is look possibly that this could be an endocarditis, an infection of the inner lining of the heart. That does not sound like that's the case, but that was something that you'd certainly look for. And my understanding is that from the -- from the press is that the docs at UC Irvine were in discussion with his cardiologist and cardiothoracic surgeon at Columbia.

SCIUTTO: OK. Good. Thanks for that update.

I do want to talk now about the news we're hearing regarding booster shots for vaccines. So Pfizer and Moderna, they're already both approved for a booster shot for people in particular categories, more vulnerable. FDA is meeting as we speak right now to discuss the same for Johnson & Johnson's. Is that, big picture, where we're headed here now, that there will be a recommendation for the most vulnerable to get a booster?

HOTEZ: I think so. You know -- you know, we've had this discussion before, Jim. We -- I've always said that the two mRNA vaccines are going to be three dose vaccines and the J&J is going to be a two-dose vaccine. And I said that based early on, on the clinical trials where it showed that individuals who got two doses of that J&J vaccine had much higher levels of virus neutralizing antibody and more robust t- cell responses. And I think, you know, that's what's panning out.

You know, there was some discussion a couple of days ago about a preprint that came online suggesting that those who got a J&J dose of their vaccine when they were -- when they got boosted with mRNA vaccines, they did better than a second J&J dose. I'm pushing back a little bit on that in the sense that, when you looked at that early data, the big rise in responses were delayed happened later on, maybe 70, 80 days after as opposed to the 30-day window in that study.


HOTEZ: So I think there's going to be more follow-up. And I think it will turn out that the J&J vaccine is a pretty strong vaccine.

SCIUTTO: Did -- Dr. Paul Offet and others have made the point that all this talk about vaccine boosters, given that the efficacy of vaccines against the key things, right, hospitalization and deaths remain very high even as the efficacy against breakthrough infections drops off after a number of months. Do you think there's a damaging -- just quickly if you can, aspect to all the discussion of boosters at this point given the portion of the country that still hasn't gotten any shots?

HOTEZ: Well, you know, I -- you know, first of all, it's not either/or. We've got to do both. We've got to get first doses of vaccines in those who are hesitant or refusing and we have to boost. It's as simple as that.

And here's the reason why I think giving a third immunization of the mRNA or second of the J&J vaccine is important. You know, there's a lot of talk about what the impact is on preventing hospitalization, but there's more to that. We also have to prevent long COVID. And the more we learn about it, the scarier this becomes, associated with gray matter brain degeneration, cognitive decline. So I think it's going to be really important to prevent both.

SCIUTTO: All right. Good to hear. It's important to think about.

Dr. Peter Hotez, thanks very much.

HOTEZ: Thanks so much, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Well, Steve Bannon is in serious legal trouble this morning after failing to comply with the congressional subpoena to appear before the House committee investigating January 6th. The committee is now moving forward to hold Bannon in criminal contempt.


REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): If he refuses the subpoena, like we expect him to continue to do, then we're left with no other choice than to ask the Justice Department, lock him up, and hold him in contempt, and clearly that might send enough of a message that he will agree to talk to us.

(END VIDEO CLIP) SCIUTTO: We'll see. The Justice Department will have to act now.

Bannon's attorney has said Bannon will not cooperate until the committee reaches an agreement with former President Trump over Trump's claims of executive privilege, or until a court, in effect, forces him.

CNN law enforcement correspondent Whitney Wild joins me now.

And, Whitney, it's interesting here because the committee chose to delay deadlines to respond for Meadows, Scavino and Patel as it pursues Bannon. How long are those delayed and would they face the same -- the same potential charges if they refuse?

WHITNEY WILD, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRESPONDENT: If in the end they decide that they're going to completely defy the subpoena, I think the committee has made very clear that they're willing to exercise as much severity when it comes to those three as they have with Bannon.

Let's look at the Bannon timeline.

So, what we know now is that the committee is planning to hold a business meeting on Tuesday of next week, then they will assume -- we assume advance this referral out of committee, send it to the House floor for a vote where it will very likely end up at the Department of Justice. There's still a chance that there's prosecutorial discretion, but at this point, you know, the House sending a referral to the Department of Justice is, you know, for them, a compelling reason to at least very strongly consider moving forward with this criminal contempt.


And the reality is here, this could end up, in the most extreme circumstance, could end up with up to 12 months in custody for Bannon. So this is the real deal. This is the committee saying we are committed to extending this as far as they possibly can because a lot of people have -- basically what Bannon and these other people are saying is, we're not going to do what you want to do. We're not going to give you the documents you want. We're not going to give you the interviews you want. And there's nothing you can do about it. And this is the committee saying, well, yes, there is, and we are -- we're going to move forward.

So now the real impact here on a granular level, Jim, is that the timeline for getting information is extended, because the intention was to get information, then continue to ask informed questions of other people who are due for these depositions later on and coming months, coming weeks and months, and without that information it's a little bit more difficult to ask these informed questions. Next week another big week because we know that these people who were subpoenaed in a second round, so this is specifically rally organizers, they're due for depositions next week. So more information to come, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Moving slowly.

Whitney Wild, thanks very much.

I'm joined now by former federal prosecutor, deputy assistant attorney general, Elliot Williams.

So, Elliot, the ball's now in the Justice Department's court here. Does it act?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: It certainly can and should. Look, you know, this doesn't happen that often, Jim, quite frankly, and, you know, it is -- we know that the committee is going to approve these subpoenas on Tuesday. We have every reason to believe that, look, it's a more friendly Justice Department to this Congress than we've seen before. And when someone openly defies a subpoena, this isn't just about Democrats and Republicans. It's about a disrespect of Congress, a house of government, and its authority to compel people to testify. And someone who thumbs their nose at that ought to pay a price for it. And that's -- that's what we'll likely see.

SCIUTTO: They should. But, you know, Elliot, we've seen this movie before the last several years, right? I mean the Trump administration was expert at playing the delay game, right? And it works.

WILLIAMS: They -- they --

SCIUTTO: Don McGahn, we waited two years and then he finally did but it was long -- you know, it was after Trump left office, right, and long after people really remembered why he was being brought in.

WILLIAMS: Yes. Yes. OK, there's a couple things there. Number one, the parties, political and individual, are just different now. And when you have a Republican Congress and/or a Republican president, they're just less likely, sadly, to pursue subpoenas.

The other thing is that even though some of these legal and criminal proceedings may outlast this committee, at the end of the day, the criminal process, if it starts, will still happen. He may not go to jail before the end of the next Congress, but he can still go it jail if the Justice Department is still prosecuting him.

So, you know, it's unfortunate that these things don't happen all in the timeline that either Congress or, frankly, a very hungry American public want, but it's still a criminal charge.

SCIUTTO: You're right. It's a big step.


SCIUTTO: Elliot Williams, thanks very much.

WILLIAMS: Thanks, Jim.

SCIUTTO: We do have this breaking news just in to CNN.

CNN is learning that a British lawmaker has been stabbed, several times, during a meeting with constituents. David Amess, a conservative member of parliament there, the target of this. Police in Essex say the stabbing happened just a couple of hours ago, around noon local time. Officers were on scene shortly after and arrested a man. They also recovered a knife at the scene. They say they are not looking for any additional suspects at this point. We will keep you updated as we get more updates on this story.

And still ahead this hour, President Biden's commission on the Supreme Court releases some early recommendations. Hear what they said about potential term limits.

Plus, Alex Murdaugh, the former South Carolina attorney at the center of multiple investigations now, has been arrested a second time. Now he's accused of stealing millions of dollars from his housekeeper's family after her death. Their lawyer will join me live.

And, China is about to send its first female astronaut to the space station. A closer look at the long-term goals for the Chinese program.



SCIUTTO: New this morning, there is more news, the White House says that fully vaccinated foreign visitors will be allowed to travel to the U.S. starting November 8th.

CNN White House correspondent Jeremy Diamond is following this.

Jeremy, it's a big move here. We're seeing this in other countries around the world and how the U.S. opening its doors here.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it certainly is, Jim. And, listen, the U.S. has had some form of travel restrictions since the earliest days of the pandemic. For foreign air travel, that was a country by country basis, banning travel. The White House announced last month that it was going to rescind that move and instead impose these requirements that any foreign traveler coming from any country must show proof of vaccination to enter. So no longer on a country by country basis.

They also announced earlier this week that they were going to be ending the ban on nonessential travel, land travel between the U.S., Canada and Mexico. All of these are now going into effect beginning November 8th. So, whether you're coming into the U.S., by plane, or by car, driving across the U.S./Mexico or U.S./Canada border, beginning November 8th, you will need to show proof of vaccination for that nonessential travel.

But really this opens up the possibility of foreigners traveling to the United States for millions of people., And, indeed, those now going into place November 8th.

Obviously, this is along the backdrop of COVID cases in the United States dramatically declining in recent weeks. We are, of course, not out of the pandemic, as the president stressed yesterday, but a lot of progress has been made. And this is one step toward that return to normalcy after over a year and a half of these pretty severe travel restrictions.



SCIUTTO: Yes, I'm sure the airlines welcome that change as well.

Jeremy Diamond, thanks so much.

More breaking news overnight. This is important.

The nation's most restrictive abortion law will remain in effect for now as a federal appeals court reviews a lower court's order that had blocked it. The law, you'll remember, bans abortions after a heartbeat is detected, which usually happens just about six weeks into a pregnancy, often before a woman knows that she is pregnant.

Joining me now, CNN Supreme Court reporter Ariane de Vogue, and CNN legal analyst Joan Biskupic.

Joan, first to you.

You know, Texas, the country's second most populous state. In effect, Roe v. Wade suspended there. What are the implications? What happens next?

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: This has been the situation since September 1st. We're now more than six weeks in. And last night a federal appeals court reinforced its order saying that this law can remain on the books while these legal challenges are continuing.

This is a very big deal. You outlined, you know, what the law does. You know, once a fetal heartbeat is detected, at a point when most women don't even know they're pregnant, it's already led to so many women in Texas going to other states. And other states enforcing -- trying to enforce copycat laws.

Now, the next action should come from the Department of Justice, which has taken a very urgent stand on this from the beginning, saying, first of all, this violates the supremacy clause. We should be able to come in and challenge you, state of Texas, on those grounds, to enforce a federal constitutional right to abortion, and also we want to challenge it also on equal protection grounds under the Constitution.

The Department of Justice has made a very robust case here about why it can sue. So far it has -- it's gotten very good reception from the district court judge down in Texas saying, yes, the Department of Justice should be able to interfere here, intervene, block this law from taking effect. The Fifth Circuit, as you know, Jim, has said, no.


BISKUPIC: And now the next step will be back at the U.S. Supreme Court, which, as you recall had allowed this law to take effect in sort of a -- SCIUTTO: Yes.

BISKUPIC: Taking a muddled approach, saying we're not sure. There are serious constitutional issues here, but we're not sure what to do yet.

SCIUTTO: OK. So when -- when does the Supreme Court consider the big picture issue here?

BISKUPIC: OK. Two things going on. First of all, the next action would have to come from the Department of Justice saying they want to lift this -- this -- they want to stop the law from taking effect.

SCIUTTO: Yes. All right. That's -- that's going to happen. That's going to happen.

BISKUPIC: Yes. OK, but the substance.


BISKUPIC: When will it -- when will we really see a serious look at Roe v. Wade? At the -- December at the earliest because that's when the Supreme Court is actually considering in another case from Mississippi that involves not a six week ban but a 15-week ban, looking at does --

SCIUTTO: It's coming.


SCIUTTO: Yes. Yes.

BISKUPIC: Do these bans violate the constitutional premise that we've all had that the federal government, no state government can interfere with a woman's right to abortion until a fetus is viable.


BISKUPIC: That is, can live outside the woman.

SCIUTTO: Well, it's going to be a big question, does Roe v. Wade survive.


SCIUTTO: OK. So in the midst of this you have this broader debate about reforming the Supreme Court. President Biden commissioned a commission to do so.


SCIUTTO: They have the recommendations. Briefly, what are they, and do they go anywhere?

DE VOGUE: This is a commission that's going to please nobody.

SCIUTTO: Yes. DE VOGUE: The conservatives say, we don't need it. They love the 6-3 majority. And the liberals say, it doesn't go far enough because it has no teeth. Because, at the end of the day, it's not going to issue any hard recommendations.


DE VOGUE: It's about 36 law professors, mostly liberals, who are looking at these ideas of reform and sort of doing a lot of analysis. So today they're going to meet again. Last night they issued some draft reports. And they looked at two proposals. One, term limits. Should the justices have term limits? And the commission seemed to have, at this point, some consensus that maybe term limits are a good idea because that would maybe change the content of the court more often.

But then they looked at court packing, whether or not they should add more justices on the Supreme Court. There, there was a very mixed decision. They didn't think that was a good idea.

And here's what's important to note. Liberal justices themselves, the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Justice Breyer, who Joan just interviewed, they don't think adding members to the court is a good idea.

So this commission now is going through the motions, it's going to have hearings today, it's going to issue a report, but a lot of liberals do not like the way it's structured.

SCIUTTO: Just quickly though, do -- any recommendation for it to become a reality would have to pass via an act of Congress, right?

DE VOGUE: And --

SCIUTTO: And which -- and there's no sign that there's any.

DE VOGUE: Right.

SCIUTTO: Right. Right.

DE VOGUE: And Biden would have to get on board.


DE VOGUE: So really it's --


DE VOGUE: The way it's structured, a lot of people think that it's -- it's not going to really go anywhere.

SCIUTTO: Ariane de Vogue, Joan Biskupic, lots to watch at the Supreme Court. Trust me. We'll be covering it. Thanks so much.


Back to our breaking news. This from the U.K. this morning. Police say they have a suspect now in custody after a British lawmaker, pictured there, was stabbed several times while meeting with constituents. We're going to be live in London with an update, next.


SCIUTTO: Back to our breaking news out of the U.K., where a conservative member of parliament has been stabbed several times while meeting with constituents.

Let's go to CNN's Salma Abdelaziz. She is in London.

The lawmaker, David Amess, do we know what his condition is now?


SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER: Well, Jim, this has just happened, so we're still getting more details, so please be patient with us while we wait for more information from his office and also from the police.