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FDA Panel Meeting Today to Consider J&J Boosters; Former President Clinton Hospitalized But on the Mend from Infection; January 6th Panel Moves to Hold Steve Bannon in Criminal Contempt. Aired 10- 10:30a ET

Aired October 15, 2021 - 10:00   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: Good morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto. It is a very busy Friday morning.

Happening right now, FDA vaccine advisers are meeting to discuss Johnson & Johnson's COVID-19 booster shot. The company is seeking approval for a second dose of their one and done vaccine. The FDA and the CDC will have the ultimate say-so when it comes to the timing and exactly who gets those boosters.

All of this comes as one day after Moderna received approval for their booster shot, that, of course, a third after the two doses.

We're following breaking news from overnight. Former President Bill Clinton is in the hospital this morning after being admitted to a California intensive care unit on Tuesday with a blood infection. We're going to have much more on this in a moment.

But first, this other breaking this morning, the White House says the fully vaccinated foreign visitors will now be allowed can travel to the U.S. beginning November 8th. CNN White House Correspondent John Harwood is following these developments.

And, John, this is a big move because we've had a lot of these travel restrictions in place since the very start of the pandemic. So, tell us who exactly will be affected and how soon.

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You know, Jim, this is something that is extremely welcome within Europe, which has been very impatient with these U.S. restrictions, welcomed by the U.S. travel industry. Airlines have had a very difficult time restoring their international business, and very welcome to the Biden administration, which is desperate to restore more of a sense of normalcy, get out of the pandemic. And now that trends are going down, they're trying in the last couple of weeks to celebrate some of these milestones.

Now, on November 8th, the country-by-country restrictions that have prevented people from flying into the United States are going to be lifted with a condition, vaccination, got to have it. That is consistent with the message that President Biden is trying to send domestically, to companies through the U.S. government, vaccine requirements. That's the way out of the pandemic and that's the way into the United States for people from Europe, from the Schengen countries, from other parts of the world, South Africa, elsewhere that have been subject to regional or country-by-country bans. Those are now being lifted if you show proof of vaccination. And that is something that the Biden administration is very happy to confirm this morning.

SCIUTTO: I'm sure the airlines are happy as well. Those overseas routes make a lot of money. John Harwood, thanks very much.

FDA vaccine advisers are meeting right now to consider J&J's booster shot. We do expect to have a recommendation sometime this hour. We'll bring it to you.

Joining me to discuss all this, former HHS Assistant Secretary for Health under President Trump, retired Admiral Brett Giroir. Admiral, thanks so much for taking the time this morning.


SCIUTTO: First, if I can, I want to get your reaction to this new CDC data released that show unvaccinated adults face the number here 11 times, 11 times higher risk of dying from COVID than fully vaccinated adults. I mean, the data has been consistent that vaccination saves lives.

GIROIR: There's no question about that. Vaccines are safe and effective. They're our best defense against COVID. And I urge everyone who's eligible for vaccines to get them. So that is a true statement. They don't divide that between the unvaccinated and the previously uninfected, but as a true statement, get your vaccine. It's your best protection against hospitalization, against death, about passing it to people you love in your family or your neighbors.

SCIUTTO: So, I want to connect that to this decision-making now on booster shots, because, yes, the data seems to show that a number of months out from full vaccination that immunity wanes somewhat. But the difference is that the protection against hospitalization and death remains quite high even several months out, even though there are breakthrough infections that come through for the fully vaccinated.

I wonder, is the debate -- are we getting the public discussion of this debate right? And do you feel urgency for booster shots now given that, you know, on hospitalization and deaths, those vaccines, they last?

GIROIR: Well, you make a really critical distinction. And the goal of our vaccination program is not to keep everyone from getting two days of sniffles. If you get two days of sniffles after a two-dose vaccine, that's a success. But we are seeing in specific age groups, particularly over 65 and certainly over 70, and in those who have severe underlying conditions, that they are at risk for hospitalization and they are at risk for death. [10:05:02]

And that's why I am really supportive of the groups that have been recommended thus far, particularly the elderly.

If you look across other countries, particularly in Israel and other place, it's the over 70-year-old age groups that are at such high risk. And I think a booster is very appropriate in those circumstances. I think they got it right with Moderna yesterday. I expect they will authorize the J&J vaccine for a booster also today.

SCIUTTO: what do you say to folks who right now are outside of those more vulnerable groups, the older, those who are immunocompromised saying, heck, I want to get my booster now, I'll take any extra protection I can? What do you say to them?

GIROIR: So, I would really say if you're in the vulnerable groups and if you're over 65, please get a booster. If not, I think you really should talk to your health care provider, your pharmacist, your physician, your nurse practitioner because it looks like they're very safe. It really does look like they're safe.

But we don't have, you know, tens of thousands of people who are in a normal age group. You know, maybe the risk for myocarditis is a little bit higher. If you're 25 years old and healthy and vaccinated and have no pre-existing conditions, there really is no urgent need to get that booster. So, you know, it's a discussion that you have with your provider. It depends on your situation where you work, the people you're around. But I wouldn't be running out if you're normal and healthy and outside of those groups. It's important to discuss it. And I would wait for more safety data.

SCIUTTO: So, in this meeting that's going on right now with the FDA, an official with Johnson & Johnson says it is difficult to draw conclusions about the efficacy of the question of mixing and matching vaccines with respect to boosters because there has been this question. Let's say you got J&J first, can you get a Moderna or Pfizer booster? Where do you stand on this?

GIROIR: So, the data are really suggestive, and we all know there was a study published from the Baylor College of Medicine this week that showed that mix and match strategy is probably better, that if you get a J&J first and get either a Pfizer or Moderna second, your antibody levels are much higher.

But the one thing I would caution is there were only 50 people in each group, so only 450 total people, so still a very, very small number. This is very consistent, though, with the data out of the U.K., with the AstraZeneca vaccine that's very similar to J&J.

Where I am is that's probably where we're going to go in the future. But we still have too small of numbers from the FDA to probably authorize that. That's one reason I think they are going to authorize the J&J vaccine, because the question is are people who got the first J&J vaccine better off getting a second dose. And I think the data that are presented says, yes, they are better off and there's no increased risk of vaccine side effects. So, I think you'll see that today.

SCIUTTO: All right. As always, follow the data. Admiral Brett Giroir, thanks so much.

GIROIR: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Well, another breaking news story we've been following in the last 24 hours, former President Bill Clinton is waking up this morning in a California hospital after being admitted to the intensive care unit on Tuesday with a blood infection. Doctors at U.C. Irvine Medical Center, say they are treating the former president with antibiotics and fluids.

CNN Special Correspondent Jamie Gangel joining us now. So, Tuesday, I mean, that's three nights in a hospital. Sepsis is no joke. It's a very serious, potentially life threatening condition.

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: No question about it. Just going back in time, actually, former President George H.W. Bush, 41, had the same thing happened in 2018, the day after Barbara Bush's funeral. He was admitted to the hospital with very serious sepsis, a similar thing.

We're hearing this morning that there were no changes overnight. That's good news. That means he's moving in the right direction. But let's just step back for a minute. He was admitted on Tuesday night. We didn't get the call until last night.


GANGEL: I think that they were making sure that he was heading in the right direction, also because of his history of heart disease. I think they wanted to rule out that there wasn't something --

SCIUTTO: What is the level of concern in his camp right now? I mean, is the sense that he's out of the woods, medically?

GANGEL: I think according to his office, he is in a good mood, he's in good spirits, he's talking to staff, he's talking to family. I was told last night by someone in his office that he was walking around the ICU so much that his doctors told him to get back into bed.

He and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are in California because there was a Clinton Foundation dinner last night. I was also told by someone in his office that he was trying to figure out if he could sneak out of the hospital for the dinner. So, I think that's all a good sign.

That said, we were told that he might be moved to oral antibiotics today, but that's day-to-day depending on his labs.


SCIUTTO: Understood. Well, we certainly wish him and his family the best of luck. Jamie Gangel, thank so much. Well, the January 6th committee is ready to take legal action now against Steve Bannon. It is moving to hold Bannon in criminal contempt for refusing to comply with a congressional subpoena for documents as well as a private deposition. That recommendation for criminal referral expected to come next week.

In the meantime, the committee is pushing back today's deadline for two other Trump aide depositions, former Trump Officials Mark Meadows and Dan Scavino agreed to short postponements since Meadows is, we're told, engaging and since Scavino's subpoena was delivered late. That's because they had a hard time finding him. Kash Patel's deadline was also postponed.

Joining me to discuss, former Federal and State Prosecutor Elie Honig. Goodness, they're straight-up defying Congress here. So, Congress has decided to refer for potential criminal charges. it's now up to the DOJ. Given your knowledge of precedent but also A.G. Merrick Garland, do you expect them to do so?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALNYST: I do expect a criminal charge on Steve Bannon here. Jim, if you were drafting a law school textbook and you needed a perfect example to illustrate what contempt of Congress is, you would use Steve Bannon. I mean, he has directly relevant information to a very important event, on January 6th. He was dutifully and lawfully subpoenaed. That means you have to come testify. And now he's saying no, and he has essentially no legal justification. He's tried to say executive privilege. Of course, he wasn't part of the executive branch. He's even tried to say attorney/client privilege, which completely makes no sense.

So, this is a person who should be, has to be charged with contempt of Congress or else that statute has utterly no meaning whatsoever.

SCIUTTO: Okay. But no one successfully prosecuted, if I'm right, this in decades. Will -- what are the chances they're successful now?

HONIG: People need to be clear, he needs to be charged, but it will not be a simple or easy case. First of all, Jim, as you said, it has been since the early 1980s since anyone was even charged with this. We've seen many examples since then of people who were held in contempt and then not charged. And, by the way, that person who was charged in 1983 was acquitted, found not guilty, as were several people before that.

Also, Bannon can always take the 5th. He can invoke his right against self-incrimination. If he does that, you cannot charge him with contempt of Congress. And even if he gets charged, you have to convict him at trial. You're going to have a jury. You're going to have 12 men and women. You get one person who is sympathetic to Bannon politically or sort of zealous Trump advocate. You're not going to get a conviction. You're going to get a hung jury. So, yes, he absolutely should be charged, no, it will not be simple or easy.

SCIUTTO: So, it just raises the bigger picture question, what do these investigations do, right? I mean, we hold up on a pedestal, you know, the Watergate hearings, the church committee hearings, things that led to -- one, the resignation of a president, the other to legislation. But if you can dodge these subpoenas, say, I'm not showing up and rely on the courts or, you know, relieving you, eventually, what's the power of the subpoena? What's the point of the investigations?

HONIG: Yes, Jim. I think we're learning a couple of big lessons. One of them is so much of our system just depends on the good faith of some actors, at least having some people who are willing to play ball. I mean, we think to Watergate, there's John Dean. He did the wrong thing but then he did the right thing. He came forward and he told the truth.

And also, I think, we're seeing that Trump has figured out how to game the system, just fight everything, count on delay, count on institutional inertia, and you can get away with a lot. So, it's up to Congress and DOJ and the courts to do something about that.

SCIUTTO: Goodness. Well, Elie Honig, always good to have you break it down for us.

HONIG: Thanks, Jim.

SCIUTTO: We have this breaking news just in to CNN, and it is sad news. Police in the U.K. say that a man has been arrested after a British lawmaker was stabbed several times at a church where he was meeting with constituents.

CNN Salma Abdelaziz is live in London. We are now hearing reports that this M.P. has died. Have we confirmed that? What is the latest?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER: Absolutely tragic news. And it's going to be horrific for this country to get this news right now. But here's what we know. Essex Police now say they are treating this as a murder inquiry. A man at the scene has died. That's according to Essex Police. Now, we know from local media and the national broadcaster, the BBC, that man is being reported as a local member of parliament, Sir David Amess. He is over 60 years old. He has more than 30 years of experience in parliament. This is a stunning, shocking event in the U.K.

The last time that something like this happened was about five years ago during Brexit. That was the murder of M.P. Jo Cox. That sent shockwaves to this country.


So, for this to be happening again just a few years later and, of course, now the concern is about his family, his well-being, already we're seeing on social media tweets from the London mayor, from other members of the parliament, from the wife of the prime minister extending their feelings to the family of the M.P., Sir David Amess.

And, again, we are still waiting to find out more from police. But what we know at this time is that they arrested a man at the scene and that a knife was found at the scene, according to local media. Sir David Amess was being, was according to eyewitnesses speaking to local media, was being treated at a church after he was stabbed multiple times during his open office hours.

So, we're still waiting for more details, but what we know is that this man, this suspect, is now in police custody. The police are not looking for anyone further at this time. But we are waiting to find out more about Sir David Amess. Again, local media reporting that he has unfortunately died due to his injuries. But we're waiting to find out more and, of course, we're expecting something from the prime minister soon.

SCIUTTO: Disturbing news, the death of a British M.P., David Amess, following a stabbing while meeting constituents. Salma Abdelaziz, thank you for bringing us the latest. And we'll continue to bring you updates as we have it on that story.

Still to come this hour, here at home, the Democratic candidate for governor of Virginia turns the heat on Congress, saying cut the chitty-chats and do your job. How the stalled legislation could affect a key looming election there.

Plus, Chicago braces as the vaccine mandate goes into effect for municipal workers. The police union warns that as many as half of officers may not comply.

And prominent South Carolina Attorney Alex Murdaugh is back in the headlines and back in jail, the latest charges tied to his former housekeeper's death, we'll have more later.



SCIUTTO: Just minutes from now, President Biden will head to Connecticut to tout his administration's child care proposals, this part of a sweeping build back better economic agenda. It comes as Democratic Virginia Governor Candidate Terry McAuliffe, who is locked in a tight race with Republican Glen Youngkin, is repeating his plea for Congress to get it together, pass the bipartisan infrastructure bill. Have a listen.


TERRY MCAULIFFE (D), CANDIDATE FOR GOVERNOR OF VIRGINIA: I'm tired of their little chitty-chat. I'm tired of running to the press and doing press conferences. We need help in America. We need this infrastructure. It's the biggest infrastructure bill in the history of the country. It's passed the Senate. Do your job.

And I love Joe Biden. I've been friends with him for 40 years. And he's been great to the commonwealth of Virginia. But this is about Virginia, it's about our future.


SCIUTTO: You hear some frustration there. This as the White House signals that the president will likely campaign for McAuliffe before he leaves on his trip for Europe next month. First Lady Jill Biden will campaign with McAuliffe today and a source familiar tells CNN that Vice President Kamala Harris will campaign as well, all this ahead of that November election.

Joining me to discuss this all of this, CNN Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash. Okay. I mean, you see, this is a guy in a tight race and he's like get something done because otherwise I'm screwed, right? I mean, how much does McAuliffe need Congress to pass something? But, I mean, broadly, how much do Democrats have to get some of this through?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: There's really no way to articulate just how much they need to. I mean, they need to have it done yesterday. And for what they call the frontliners, the Democrats on the ballot particularly in the House in very tough races, they have a little more time. Terry McAuliffe doesn't, and because the election is in just a few weeks in Virginia.

And what he said to Erin Burnett last night, what he said to me on Sunday, what he's saying to anybody who will listen, because he's trying to get through to the president, whom he says he loves, is get this done not just because it's about jobs in Virginia and so on and so forth, it's also about taking away a negative. And that negative is, wait a second, we put Democrats in charge in the White House, in the House, in the Senate during the last election and they're just bickering. They're not getting things done.

And so they're looking at particularly because Washington -- the biggest voting base for Terry McAuliffe is suburban Washington, it's in Northern Virginia. Why should we do that again with this guy? And so it's as much about sort of taking a negative off the table as it is giving a positive, because, as you said, all of these high-profile Democrats are going to go and campaign for him, he needs to get the numbers up.

SCIUTTO: For sure. And even if they don't vote for a Republican, they may not show up. I mean, there's an enthusiasm issue there.

BASH: That's the biggest issue.

SCIUTTO: Where is Joe Biden in all of this? Is he shepherding the two sides? Does he have them from a white board doing the addition and subtraction on this bill?

BSAH: Is he shepherding? Yes, he is. But I have talked to several Democrats in the House who are bracing for very tough reelection campaigns, who are desperate for him to be more assertive and aggressive in his leadership of getting it done more quickly.

It's not as if the White House isn't working hard. They are. But they're kind of doing shuttle diplomacy, to use a term that you're familiar with, Jim Sciutto, as opposed to sitting in a room and saying, okay, Joe Manchin, okay, Kyrsten Sinema, on the moderate side of the party, okay, Pramila Jayapal and the progressive side, or Bernie Sanders. Here's a piece of paper, here is a pen, get it done.


That's what Terry McAuliffe told me that he wants done. That's what other House moderates have told me they want done.

I've talked to the White House about it. They insist that that actually wouldn't be as productive as what they're doing now. But the problem is, again, for those who are on the ballot and, to use a political term, freaking out, and they really are freaking out, that's what Joe Biden campaigned on, on his ability to do that.

SCIUTTO: His, relationships, yes.

BASH: He campaigned on doing that across the aisle. This is intraparty differences. And until that happens, everyone is just mad at each other within the party, and that's not a good look for the voters. And that's not me saying that. That's what people who are going before the voters next year are saying.

SCIUTTO: Okay, so in the backseat, on the background and the foreground is the impending presidential run number two of Donald Trump. He's all but saying it at some point, you have the party living in fear of him or outright embracing him, including an interesting fellow, very publicly so, Chuck Grassley.

BASH: This has been one of the most telling moments for the Republican Party. And when I say this, I say Chuck Grassley, who just turned 88 years old, he wants another term, another six-year term in Iowa. Iowa is a state where the president -- former president, you see there, is very popular, maybe even more popular than he's ever been.

And so what Senator Grassley has done is embrace him, embrace him there getting his endorsement beforehand, using his role and his position as the top Republican on judiciary to have a rebuttal report on January 6th, which was mind-blowing, because Chuck Grassley, the guy we covered for a while, is a rule of law guy. He supports and promotes whistleblowers.

And republicans who I talk to in Iowa say this was such a missed opportunity. And by that, I mean, he has the stature. And I (INAUDIBLE) to give Republicans cover to push back against the former president on the big lie, on election lies, and on the idea that January 6th wasn't exactly what it was, which was an insurrection. Instead, he did the opposite. He embraced it. So, he makes it almost impossible for Republicans who also want to continue their political careers in Iowa to push back, because it would be lights out for them.

And it's very telling, first of all, about the desire to keep power even at 88 years old, but also, like you said, how incredibly important Donald Trump still is to the GOP.

SCIUTTO: Owns it, it seems, right? And, by the way, I think if I do the math right, he'll be 95 if he's re-elected after the end of that term.

BASH: Yes.

SCIUTTO: Dana Bash, thanks so much.

BASH: Thanks.

SCIUTTO: Still ahead, Houston Methodist Hospital was the first in the country to require employees to get vaccinated and now faces a dilemma with the governor's ban on mandates. We're going to speak with the hospital's CEO, next.