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Mandate Protests Grow at Border; U.S. On Alert for Trucker- Inspired Protests; Automakers Crippled by Protests; Polls Signal Trouble for Democrats; Biden to Split Afghan Funds; Dr. Priya Banerjee is Interviewed about Saget's Death. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired February 11, 2022 - 09:00   ET




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

Right now, blocked at the border. Three major border crossings between the U.S. and Canada at a standstill as trucker-inspired protests are having a real impact on the supply chain. Several automakers forced to cut production. Even the Super Bowl could be impacted.


GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D-MI): While people have the right to protest, they don't have a right to illegally block the largest land border crossing in North America.

Hundreds of millions of dollars a day are being lost.


SCIUTTO: Plus, a direct warning from President Biden. He's telling all Americans to leave Ukraine now, as new satellite images show further Russian military buildup at the border.

And note this, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said this morning that an invasion could come at any moment now, even during the Olympics. There had been an expectation Putin might wait until after.

This as NATO plans to increase allied forces near Ukraine's eastern border, move into place. Former National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, he's going to join us to discuss.

We do begin this morning, though, with those trucker-inspired protests. They're expanding now.

CNN's senior national correspondent Miguel Marquez is in Windsor, Ontario.

Miguel, you've been there for a number of days now. You've seen this get worse. What are Canadian officials doing to relieve the situation? MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they are

running out of patience. The protesters here have -- you know, they've dug in. They say that they are not going to leave. They want all those coronavirus restrictions lifted nationwide.

The mayor of Windsor now calls this an illegal blockade. They are going to court at noon today to get a -- the ability to -- the legal ability to remove protesters. They are talking about, at the state level, or the provincial level, increasing the number of fines for protesters being out here, revoking licenses, and they are moving resources in. They are moving resources in from the federal government, and from the provincial government. They say that if they will not leave peacefully, they will move them out.

I can tell you they have put concrete barriers up around the area here. There is an increased police presence here in Windsor right now. And it looks like this is headed to some sort of resolution in the days ahead. It doesn't feel like it's immediate, but certainly in the days ahead.

The federal government also saying that they are moving resources in to those other areas where there are protests. And it sounds like once they move on one, they will probably move on all of them, more or less simultaneously, and try to stop all these protests at border crossings everywhere at the same time.

That said, we now are hearing about protests in other cities across Canada, and now inspiring obviously protests in the U.S. as well. So, this is not going away anytime soon. But Canadian officials taking a firmer hand now and it appears --

SCIUTTO: Sorry, losing Miguel Marquez there on the border.

We do also have our correspondent, Camila Bernal. She is in Los Angeles.

Concern there, of course, the Super Bowl is on Sunday. What's the potential impact?

CAMILA BERNAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, I think there are two things that authorities are really looking at right now, and that's traffic and the potential for counterprotests. Los Angeles traffic jam is already horrible. So when you add in the visitors and you add in Super Bowl Sunday and then you possibly have a convoy of truckers, I mean, it could be a recipe for disaster for things like emergency services, for example. It wouldn't just impact people coming to the Super Bowl, but really the entire city as a whole.

And then the other aspect of all of this is the possible counterprotests. People are extremely passionate about these issues and here you will find people on both sides of the issue. So, the idea is to not let that escalate.

DHS is sending about 500 people here for Super Bowl weekend and they're working with the local agencies here. That's been going on for about a year, hoping that things run smoothly. But once the Super Bowl is over, DHS is saying these protests will likely not be over. They're expecting all of these truckers to then head to Washington, D.C. And the idea is to get there by March 1st, for the State of the Union. So it could cause major disruptions.

And DHS is also pointing to certain areas of the economy that could also be hugely impacted. They say companies that are doing shipping. They say auto companies, agricultural companies, labor unions, all of these sectors of the economy could be impacted by these protests. And, at the end of the day, Jim and Bianna, it's all of us, the consumer, that will likely end up paying for what's going on or what could possibly happen here in Los Angeles over the weekend.


SCIUTTO: And this, of course, all driven by mandates for what has been a highly successful vaccine.


SCIUTTO: Lifesaving vaccine.

Camila Bernal, thanks so much.

Welcoming Bianna in. We had some audio issues. Those are corrected. Nice to have you, Bianna.



GOLODRYGA: Good to see you, Jim. I'm here with you, yes.

I mean, listen, the Super Bowl's the least of the concerns here, right, when you talk about the longer term implications this could have on the economy.


GOLODRYGA: I want to bring in Matt Egan because we're talking about inflation. A huge headache for many Americans and this administration.

What could this possibly mean, specifically for automakers?

MATT EGAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, Bianna, can we just say, this is probably the last thing the economy needs right now.


EGAN: I mean we're already dealing with a 40-year high in inflation. A bout of inflation that's really been driven by supply chain problems. And now one of the biggest sore spots, car prices, has a new threat. We know that already GM, Ford, Toyota, and Honda have all had their auto production impacted in part or in whole at some of these factories. So is Stellantis, which is the company that owns Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge. Business groups are sounding the alarm. They're urging officials on

both sides of the border to try to get this resolved because we have to remember, there's a lot of integration between the U.S., Mexican and Canadian economies, particularly when you talk about the auto industry and auto parts. There's not just the Canadian auto industry. It's really a North American and global auto industry. So that's why these -- there's these ripple effects.

And it could really impact people, I think, around the country in terms of prices. I mean we already saw car prices in January jump by a record 12 percent. That was new cars and trucks. Used cars up by 40 percent. Parts up as well. It's hard to see how any of this can help the situation.

I think the real impact is going to be determined by how long these disruptions last and how many plants are actually impacted.

GOLODRYGA: And if there's a ripple effect then here by copycat movements in the United States --

EGAN: Absolutely.

GOLODRYGA: We know, Jim, that some $300 million worth of goods are transported over this bridge between Canada and the United States on a daily basis. So a huge headache.

SCIUTTO: No question. And there are a lot of politics behind this too.

Matt Egan, thanks so much.

Well, President Biden just sat for a wide-ranging interview. It's going to air on Super Bowl Sunday. This as new poll numbers signal real trouble for Democrats headed into the midterms, and, Bianna, frankly, for this president, his approval ratings.

GOLODRYGA: Yes, no doubt.

Joining us now to discuss is Rachael Bade, CNN political analyst and co-author of the "Politico Playbook."

A lot to dive into, Rachael. Let's start with the economy because the president seemed a bit irked, to put it bluntly, when asked by Lester Holt about the economy and about inflation and when he thinks inflation will end. And it's coming as Americans just are not happy with how this administration is handling the economy or any major issue, to be frank.

What can the administration do? What can the president do specifically in the coming weeks to turn things around? Because there are good headlines here. The economy is growing. Unemployment is down. More jobs are being created.

RACHAEL BADE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think the first thing they can do is come up with a better answer to the question about inflation. If you watch the NBC interview with the president, he basically called Lester Holt a wise guy for asking a question that is on voters' minds, at the top of voters' minds now, and that is, what are they going to do about inflation and why have they been saying it's going to get better when, in fact, it's only getting worse?

You know, you do hear the White House talking a lot about economists saying the economy is doing well, and, you know, job numbers, jobless numbers are indeed coming down. But the reality is that talking about these experts is not translating to voters right now who are very concerned about this issue. And I think that that's why you have Democrats on Capitol Hill have been working to pass this ginormous sort of bill that will help with the supply side issue, which will then help with inflation, but that's still a long way off to getting to Biden's signature. And the reality is they're scrambling right now and they don't have a good answer. And that's a problem.

SCIUTTO: To Bianna's point, this new CNN poll, this number stood out to both of us this morning, and that shows that 56 percent of people polled say President Biden has not done anything they approve of. Nothing, right? I mean which is remarkable.

What is the plan then, right? Because the focus had been on Build Back Better. That died. Then the focus became chunks of Build Back Better. But given that inflation is now the number one concern for so many voters, is there talk about changing course again?

BADE: Yes, I mean, I think we saw yesterday after the inflation numbers came out showing again that they're at a 40-year high, Joe Manchin, who's sort of the Senate Democrat who has been blocking passage of Build Back Better for a long time actually actively called into a radio station, a local radio station in West Virginia, to double down on this notion that Build Back Better is dead.


BADE: And once again this gets back to the problem that Democrats have had for months now, which is that they have been overpromising, saying they're going to get these big, you know, campaign promises passed, but they don't have the votes.


And so right now what you're seeing on Capitol Hill is sort of this reorientation with Democrats before they pivot to the midterms. They're trying to pass a number of bills right now that are bipartisan, including the one I just mentioned that should address the supply chain issue. But they're also sort of revisiting things that they should have been talking about all year, including the bipartisan infrastructure deal, which was a huge accomplishment but it just sort of got drowned out in all the Democratic infighting last year. We'll see if they'll be able to sort of reach voters with that message now that they've -- it's been, what, at least six months since they have passed that.

GOLODRYGA: Yes. And clearly their language and messaging has changed. They're no longer calling this transitory. They are addressing this head on and saying that inflation is a core problem here. But, again, continuing to cite Nobel laureates, right, and Nobel Prize winners suggesting that this will not be long for Americans to have to deal with doesn't seem to be impacting Americans and reassuring them the way it should.

The president also talked about foreign policy, specifically the brewing crisis between Ukraine and Russia, and was asked about Americans in Ukraine and what this administration would do if in fact Russia invades to rescue them.

Listen to what he said.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have spoken with Putin. I've spoken with every NATO leader. I've brought them together like I think they've never been as coordinated in modern history, NATO leaders, about what to do if Putin moves.

The question is, he knows -- he has to know that if he does, the entire circumstance for Russia changes worldwide. Changes overnight. The cost to Russia both in terms of reputational cost and economic cost would be profound.


GOLODRYGA: So that's not so different from what we heard at that press conference a few weeks ago. The administration believing at this point that the chances of an invasion are rather high.

But he was also asked specifically point blank about Americans there. There have been warnings from the State Department and this administration that Americans should leave the country, but he said point blank that if Americans remain in Ukraine and Russia invades, that the U.S. will not interfere because, obviously, that could lead to a, you know, geopolitical crisis like we haven't seen in decades, perhaps even World War III there.

Talk about what that means.

BADE: I mean it's pretty clear that the White House is trying to make sure they don't have a similar situation like they had with Afghanistan last summer where we had not only our allies who were sort of stranded, folks -- Afghanis who had helped us along the way for years and years who were sort of stuck and couldn't get out, but also Americans who couldn't get out. And you saw, remember, those images, we'll all remember those images of all these big choppers sort of airlifting people to safety.

The reality is, the White House is saying, if this happens in Ukraine, they can't come in there and start airlifting people. They're saying that, you know, if they did something like this, it could just escalate into a -- as Biden said in that interview, another World War II or, I guess -- I'm sorry, World War III. And so that would be a big problem for them and they're trying to send a signal so they don't have that optics problem if this happens.

KEILAR: Yes, at least 7,000 Americans registered there as we speak. Rachael Bade, thank you so much.

Well, new this morning, President Biden will sign an executive order today on how to spend $7 billion in frozen assets from Afghanistan's central bank. The money will be split between September 11th victims and Afghan humanitarian aid.

SCIUTTO: CNN White House correspondent Jeremy Diamond joins us now from the North Lawn.

Jeremy, part of this is to address what is becoming clearer and clearer, the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, people suffering, lack of basic things, food, et cetera.

How does the administration hope this addresses that?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, listen, there's no question that the dire humanitarian situation in Afghanistan has been something that this administration, the international community, have been looking to address. Now, as it relates to these funds, when the Afghan government collapsed in August, it had $7 billion in assets on deposit at the Federal Reserve Bank in New York. Those funds have been frozen essentially since then. And in September, a group of 9/11 victims' families sued to try and get some of that money awarded to them as part of a default judgment that had been entered years before.

Now the Biden administration is expected -- through the president signing himself an executive order that would clear the way for half of those funds to be used for humanitarian relief and the other half of those funds to be awarded to those victims. Now, those victims, in order to be able to actually get those -- part of those $3.5 billion in funds, that would still need to be litigated in courts and the courts would need to decide that those funds could indeed be awarded as part of this judgment for these families against the Taliban.

Now, the other $3.5 billion, that's going to be used on humanitarian assistance, including for food in a country in which millions of people are now food insecure after hundreds of thousands of people in that country lost all of their employment funds.


Because so much of that money was coming from outside or in part through the central bank, this country has been in dire straits.

There are questions, though, about whether taking these funds away from the central bank could make it more difficult for Afghanistan to stabilize its currency. So there is a lot of questions here, and none of this is going to be resolved immediately.

Jim. Bianna.

SCIUTTO: Yes. OK. Trying to strike some sort of middle line here between not helping the Taliban, but somehow getting help urgently to the Afghan people.

Jeremy Diamond, thanks so much.

Still ahead, former National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster will join me live. He served in Afghanistan. We will get his reaction to Biden's comments about the withdraw. Also, his view of the current standoff and rising tensions with Russia over Ukraine.

GOLODRYGA: Plus, new details about the head injury that led to Bob Saget's death. A forensic pathologist joins us to explain the autopsy results.

And the White House records turned over to January 6th committee have one big omission, no calls to or from former resident Trump as the attack unfolded. We'll explain why that may be.



GOLODRYGA: New questions surrounding the circumstances of Bob Saget's death after an autopsy revealed the actor and comedian died of blunt head trauma. The medical examiner, who performed the procedure, says Saget likely fell when no one was looking and hit the back of his head. The report also found the 65-year-old had abrasions to the back of the head, an enlarged heart with 95 percent blockage on one side, and Klonopin, generally taken for seizures and anxiety, and the anti- depressant Trazodone, in his system. He also had tested positive for Covid-19. That was back in December.

SCIUTTO: Forensic pathologist Dr. Priya Banerjee joins us now.

Doctor, the autopsy also showed fractures around his eye sockets, fractures common in other places on the skull when trauma to the head happens, I imagine. When you look at this, does this look to you look a major fall took place?

DR. PRIYA BANERJEE, BOARD CERTIFIED FORENSIC PATHOLOGIST: Yes. You know, first of all, condolences to his family. You know, thank you for having me. I can't imagine the impact that this has had on them knowing the details are out there.

This is a significant fall. It takes a lot of force, as they said, blunt force trauma to the head to have this kind of skull fracture. It started in the back and the force went towards the front of the skull, that caused the fractures over the eye socket.

GOLODRYGA: So then does it surprise you that he didn't seek medical treatment that we know of, and just, from all of the circumstances we've now been made aware of, he just fell asleep? I mean we're typically told that when somebody has a head injury, that the first thing you shouldn't do is rest or go to sleep, right? What does that tell you about what transpired after this accident?

BANERJEE: Yes, I mean, that's really hard to say, you know. But, yes, this is a significant head injury. I don't know if he was just too tired or too groggy to go. You know, some people just don't realize how significant it is. And I don't think, you know, that's any fault of his. I think sometimes, you know, it's a combination of factors. I think it was, you know, he had worked the night before, so probably some fatigue there. He's getting ready for bed. And, you know, it appears that he was locked in his room, he was getting ready for the night. So, you know, maybe he just thought that, I'll sleep it off type thing. You know, I don't think most people know how to interpret the severity of a fall. So that probably plays into it.

SCIUTTO: Does his enlarged heart and the fact that it was 95 percent blocked on one side, how common is that and could that have contributed?

BANERJEE: So that's very common. That's what we see related to high blood pressure and coronary disease, heart disease that we talk about, that's the number one killer in America. That, you know, a lot of us have that ongoing. I don't know whether he expressed any chest pain per say. I think, you know, I can't say what caused him to fall, if that, you know, fall occurred or -- that's what's probably most likely. And we see that a lot. You know, this kind of pattern injury to the head related to falls. But I think he died with it, not because of it.

GOLODRYGA: So, I guess, what is your message, given, you know, the limited information that we do know, what is your message to viewers out there who do experience some kind of head injury and try to write it off and don't think much of it, perhaps it's not as painful as clearly this evidence shows how severe this fall was. What should people be doing?

BANERJEE: A hundred percent.

What we can learn from this tragedy is, seek medical attention, no matter how simple or minor you may think a fall or a hit on the head, a bump on the head is, you know. And anybody, especially older adults, it's so significant. It can be a matter of life or death. And to seek urgent medical care. I don't want it delayed until the next morning or, you know, I'll call my doctor. It is really considered a medical emergency to get cleared at a hospital, after imaging is done. Usually it's ordered by the doctor who evaluates the person.

And so that is the take home message in this case. I mean we loved Bob Saget. I grew up with him.


BANERJEE: And it's such a tragedy. So hopefully we can learn from this.



SCIUTTO: Yes, listen to that warning.

Dr. Priya Banerjee, thanks so much.

BANERJEE: Thank you so much. SCIUTTO: Still ahead, and this just in to CNN, the White House

convened a meeting in the Situation Room Thursday night to discuss Russia's ongoing military buildup near Ukraine. We're going to speak live with a former national security adviser, Lieutenant General, retired, H.R. McMaster. That's coming up.