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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Democrats Reach Agreement on $3.5 Trillion Budget Measure; CDC: Delta Variant Accounts for 58 Percent of Cases in Early July; Taliban Caught on Video Executing Unarmed Commandos, Denies It. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired July 14, 2021 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: President Biden getting a boost from Senate Democrats. A multitrillion dollar deal to move forward on his agenda, but what could stand in the way.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN ANCHOR: And coronavirus surging in 45 states after months of decline. Hear from people who didn't get the vaccine but wish they had.

ROMANS: Yeah, at this point, we are in the preventable stage of this coronavirus pandemic.

SANDOVAL: Ninety-nine percent.

ROMANS: Exactly.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. We have reports from Capitol Hill, Kabul, Moscow, Istanbul, the White House and Port-au-Prince, as only EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

Good morning to you.

SANDOVAL: Good morning, Christine. Good to be here, keeping this seat warm for our friend Laura Jarrett, enjoying a well-deserved time off. It's Wednesday, July 14th, it is 5:00 a.m. here in New York.

ROMANS: All right. Breaking overnight: Democrats have a deal. A $3.5 trillion budget resolution that includes spending for President Biden's sweeping social agenda.

The deal is the first step towards passing Democrats' own infrastructure package later this year, separate, of course, from the bipartisan roads and bridges infrastructure bill that's also advancing.

Let's bring in Daniella Diaz, live on Capitol Hill this morning.

Daniella, what's in the bill here?

DANIELLA DIAZ, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: This budget resolution, Christine, would provide funding the combat climate change, paid family and medical leave, even expanding the child tax credit and of course, could even overhaul this nation's immigration system. So, this is a huge Democratic priority for the White House, as well as Senate Democrats, and this is the first step for Democrats to be able to start their process to be able to pass this legislation using budget reconciliation, which means they only need to pass this along party lines.

And look, two different sides of the Democratic Party, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and even progressive Senator Bernie Sanders, who's the chairman of the budget committee, they came out last night, late last night and touted this proposal. Take a listen to what they said.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MAJORITY LEADER: Every major program that President Biden has asked us for is funded in a robust way.

SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): And what this legislation says among many, many other things, that those days are gone. The wealthy and large corporations are going to start paying their fair share on taxes, so that we can protect the working families of this country.

SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA): I've been in this job for about 12 years, I can't think of a more meaningful effort that we're taking on than what we're doing right now.


SANCHEZ: So really, the more important question here is, can President Joe Biden and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer unite both sides of the Democratic Party to be able to pass this $3.5 trillion proposal filled with Democratic priorities. You know, they need moderates such as Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema to be able to sign on to this legislation, using party lines and budget reconciliation, meaning no Republicans need to sign on to pass this through the Senate. And will this proposal affect the bipartisan infrastructure framework that was proposed by another group of senators and its passage?

Look, there's a group of Republican senators that say that they don't want to support the infrastructure proposal that they signed on to support, because they don't want Democrats trying to pass their own infrastructure deal.

So, lots of questions here as they start this process to pass this budget reconciliation bill -- Christine.

ROMANS: All right. Daniella, so nice to see you this morning. Thank you very much.


SANDOVAL: You know, as Americans -- as America reopens, there are undeniable echoes of the dark days of the pandemic. The CDC estimates that the delta variant accounted for 58 percent of all COVID cases many early July. The variant is highly transmissible and we are going to find out just how much deadly it is.

All of the warning signs, they're there. Just look at these numbers here. Hospitalizations, they are ticking up for the first time in months across the country.

It's also important to note the progression of this. We've been here before. First, those cases rise -- go on the rise. Then hospitalizations and then sadly deaths.

Remember, 99 percent of COVID deaths in the last month involve the unvaccinated, which means many of these, they're preventable, Christine.

ROMANS: Yeah, the vaccine protects you. The unvaccinated is where we are seeing infections and deaths.

There are more troubling signs here. Los Angeles County is reporting a 500 percent spike in COVID cases in one month. The CDC reports no evidence that immunity from COVID vaccines is wearing off, at least not yet. But the developers of the Pfizer vaccine say that the pandemic will not be controlled without a booster.



KATHRIN JANSEN, HEAD OF VACCINE RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT, PFIZER: The booster situation is not about making money, the booster situation that we find ourselves in a terrible situation. As long as we allow the virus to have a breeding ground in unvaccinated people, we will force the virus to adapt, to mutate, to change, and it will be a disaster, because we will not be able to get ahead of it.


ROMANS: You can see the states where cases are rising, many of them have the lowest vaccination rates, including Missouri, where more and more young people are being treated in places like Texas County Memorial Hospital.

SANDOVAL: Half the deaths that we've seen since the start of the year, they've occurred just in the past week. Many of the new patients, unvaccinated because the messages they've heard on conservative media. Here's a woman whose mother is currently on a ventilator.


APRIL SHAVER, DAUGHTER OF A WOMAN ON VENTILATOR DUE TO COVID: They're there, they're available. Just get them. Be safe.

I mean, I convinced one person, my neighbor, Lisa. She went and got vaccinated. If that's the only person I convinced, then I did what I was supposed to do. I am trying to influence them to get the shot, because look where I am.

This is my mom. This is my family photo. This is it. You want this for you? This is it.


SANDOVAL: That's the ugly reality of what so many families are going through. Missouri also paid the price for vaccine hesitancy. The city of Springfield forced to cancel the birthplace of the Route 66 Festival was scheduled to take place next month.

ROMANS: And then there's Tennessee. Tennessee's Department of Health is halting all vaccine outreach to adolescents. Internal documents obtained by "Tennessean" newspaper show that teens will not be sent any messages about any vaccines, COVID, flu, HPV, or routine back-to- school shots.

This move follows the firing, that's right, the right of the state's top vaccine official after she sent a memo simply noting state law -- state law that allows children over 14 to decide on their own, if they want to be vaccinated. State law.

She tells CNN state officials are now scared to death they'll be fired over the vaccine controversy.

SANDOVAL: In Washington, President Biden finds himself in a standoff with Democratic senators over who should lead the Food and Drug Administration. As you can imagine, it's a key post in the fight against COVID, and there is currently no indication that the White House will name a permanent commission, or at least not anytime soon.

Currently, Dr. Janet Woodcock has been acting head since January. Some Democrats have criticized her over the agency's role in the opioid crisis. Sources telling CNN this morning that she is no longer considered the front-runner in that decision.

ROMANS: All right. The great American comeback from COVID. By now, you have noticed, just about everything you buy is more expensive. The consumer price index shows inflation running the hottest in 13 years. Consumer prices rose 5.4 percent in June compared to last year. The so-called core rate that strips out the more volatile food and energy prices, that rose 4.5 percent. That is the fastest pace since November '91.

Now, the biggest sticker shot, the price of used cars and trucks rose 10.5 percent. That counts for more than one third of this inflation gain. But airfare, gas, hotels, furniture, beef, even the price of a laundry machine all rising sharply from last year. The price of eating out jumped 0.7 percent last month. That's the biggest increase since 1981, likely because restaurants are raising wages to attract workers. That hire wage cost is passed on to you, the consumer.

Now, important context here, though. These prices, year over year, think about it. You're correcting from the lost summer of 2020. What was happening last summer? Nothing.

Year over year numbers look and feel more dramatic when you're recovering from a deep recession. Another way to look at it, rising prices are the downside of a red-hot economy. This is the great American COVID comeback. Demand is surging, global supply chains are struggling to keep up. The Federal Reserve has repeatedly said these price spikes will be temporary.

Here's what the president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, Neel Kashkari, said yesterday.


NEEL KASHKARI, PRESIDENT, FEDERAL RESERVE BANK OF MINNEAPOLIS: Some of this, we know, is going to work its way out as the economy reopens and businesses adjust, but we need to pay attention. Pay attention to what's happening to workers, paying attention to what's happening to wages. Not just these short-term moves, but over the long-term, our eyes are open, we're on the case. But right now, most of the evidence that I see suggests that this will be transitory and short-lived.


ROMANS: This will be short lived. We'll hear from Fed Chief Jerome Powell later this afternoon and see the latest read on producer prices at 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time.

But, Polo, the front page of the "New York Post" this morning calls it the incredible shrinking dollar with a big, black dramatic background, 13-year high for inflation. Milk, gas, eggs all cost more.

I have seen, especially at CPAC this weekend, higher prices and you're hearing conservatives say is Joe Biden's fault. It is the fault of a reopening economy and it is the fault of comparisons from last year. Some of these categories, prices are still below where they were in 2019.

SANDOVAL: And the worst in 13 years, is some headline on that.



How about this one? A big win for gun rights advocates.


A federal appeals court ruling a ban on handgun sales to Americans under the age of 21 violates the Second Amendment. President Johnson actually signed that into law in 1968. The court ruled that the law relegated 18 to 21-year-olds to a second-class status.

The decision likely going to be appealed, likely going to be headed to the Supreme Court as well.

ROMANS: All right. Let's look out west now. Facing a growing climate threat, Oregon and Washington escalating to the highest fire preparedness level today. Sixty-seven large fires have burned, more than 900 thousand acres across 12 states. That's nearly five times the area of New York City and up to 20 -- up 20 percent in just one day.

The most damaging wildfire is called the Bootleg Fire. That's in southern Oregon. It has burned more than 200,000 acres in a week.


ROBERT SCOTT COOK, BOOTLEG FIRE EVACUEE: All of us that have already lost their homes that they know of. People like me are wondering if there's anything to go home to. I feel for the people that know that they have to restart.


SANDOVAL: The small northern California town of Doyle has been ravaged by a wildfire for the second time in less than a year, more wildfires burning this morning at this point year than any time in the last decade. Forecasters say the heat wave has certainly peaked, but high temperatures will remain with heat alerts in effect for California and parts of the Northwest.

ROMANS: And deadly climate issues are not limited to the summer. The death toll from February's devastating storms and power outages in Texas, remember that? That's been revised now, up to 210. The Texas Department of State Health Services raised the death toll to include car accidents, carbon monoxide poisoning, exacerbation of chronic illness, falls and fires resulting from that bitter cold weather.

SANDOVAL: This morning, caught on camera but denied by the Taliban. A PR offensive by the group many fear could overrun Afghanistan as the U.S. pulls out.



ROMANS: All right. Welcome back.

We want to warn you, some of the video we are going to show you is disturbing.

New this morning, the Taliban denies its fighters executed 22 unarmed Afghan commandos, commandos that were trying to surrender, even though the slaughter was caught on video. The issue is emblematic of issues that could plague Afghanistan after the U.S. completes its withdrawal.

SANDOVAL: Anna Coren is live in Afghanistan.

Anna, exactly how can the Taliban even begin to deny what the world can clearly see for itself in that video?

ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Polo. The Taliban is certainly on a PR offensive to discredit us and our reporting.

We contacted the Taliban before our story went to air. They said that the footage was fake, that it was government propaganda to scare troops into surrendering. And since our story has gone to air, they have issued a statement in multiple languages, once again confirming that the footage is fake and that they have never executed commandos who surrendered. Now, for the record, CNN spoke to five eyewitnesses on camera from

this district. These people were in this market. They saw this happen. They saw the commandos surrender. They saw them put their arms in the air. And they saw the Taliban shoot them.

Now, these people don't need to speak to us. They do not need to put their lives at risk to confirm what took place in this village, but they did.

The Ministry of Defense has described this as a war crime. They said this is not the first time that the Taliban has executed the military and innocent civilians.

Amnesty International has also weighed in, also describing it as war crimes, and cold-blooded murder.

Let me read you a statement from Amnesty International. This evidence suggests that the Taliban's persistent claims to have changed their ways are predicated on a lie and completely undermines their claims that they will respect human rights in the peace process.

Now, let's be frank. This is a PR disaster for the Taliban. Remember, you've got the political wing of the Taliban in Doha, you have the military wing in Pakistan, and then you have the fighters here in Afghanistan. The political wing is certainly trying to portray itself as a legitimate alternate governing body, that it's modernized, evolved, that it's not the same group that it was 20 years ago.

But this video just goes to show that that is not true. This is the same group that is about to head to Doha, Qatar, and have peace talks with a high-level delegation from the Afghan government in the coming days. Really, as I say, this video just goes to show they are same brutal, violent, primeval group they have always been.

ROMANS: And this video, Ana, makes it terrifying to think about what leaving Afghanistan is going to mean for women. You know, historically marginalized, and now, the concerns about their safety are very serious here, aren't they?

COREN: Oh, absolutely, Christine. We're already hearing from local journalists in these provinces and districts that have been taken over by the Taliban of the horrific treatment of women. Orders have gone up, you know, telling women that they have to stay indoors. They're not allowed to go outside.

We heard from one woman who went to the market by herself without a male chaperone and she was whipped.

This is a story that we are hearing over and over and over again, this treatment of women. And remember, that political delegation of the Taliban was in Moscow last week, meeting with the Russian government, trying to tell the world that women can now work. They can now be educated, that girls can go to school.


It's just not stacking up.

ROMANS: The reality on the ground, much different.

Anna Coren, thank you so much for all the work you're doing there for us as we record this historic withdrawal of the U.S. from Afghanistan. Thank you, Anna.

SANDOVAL: Thanks, Anna.

Coming up on 5:20 a.m. here in New York, and the youngest ever all- star game MVP helping the American League to an eighth straight win in Midsummer Classic. "The Bleacher Report", next.


ROMANS: All right. Baseball's all-star game returns after being canceled last season due to the pandemic.

Andy Scholes has this morning's "Bleacher Report".

Good morning, Andy.


ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, good morning, Christine.

So, last night's Midsummer Classic originally supposed to be in Atlanta, but was moved by Major League Baseball because of the new voting laws in the state. So, instead, the fans in Denver getting to enjoy this year's all-star game.

And instead of all the players wearing their own uniforms for the game, they wore special all-star unis and fans were not very fond of these. Some on social media saying they were the worst uniforms they have ever seen, and it was an awful idea.

As for the game, Shohei Ohtani continuing his record breaking season by becoming the first player ever to start the game for AL on the mound and at bat lead, go over to at the plate but did pitch a perfect first inning and got the win in the game.

Vlad Guerrero Jr. getting the AL on the board with a massive home run to left. He was named the game's MVP, 22 years old, the youngest ever to get that award. American League wins for the eighth straight time, 5-2, the final.

Check out Vlad Jr.'s glove for the game. It was covered with the iconic pic of him and his dad on the field in Montreal from when he was a kid. That's pretty cool.

All right. After back-to-back losses, Team USA finally getting a win against Argentina last night in Vegas. Kevin Durant, Bradley Beal each scored 17 points in the 108-80 blowout. Team USA playing with eight members of the Olympic team in this one. Jason Tatum was sitting out with knee soreness, while Khris Middleton, Jrue Holiday and Devin Booker, they are all still playing in the NBA finals. Game four of the NBA finals is tonight in Milwaukee.

All right. You can add Roger Federer to the growing list of athletes who won't be competing in the Olympics. The 20-time grand slam winner is withdrawing saying a recent setback his knee injury forced his decision. The 39-year-old underwent two knee surgeries last year. In a statement, Federer said he was disappointed, because it's been an honor to represent Switzerland at the games. He hopes to be back on tour later this summer.

The city of Tokyo, meanwhile, reporting more than 1,000 cases of coronavirus on Wednesday, topping the 1,000 threshold for the first time since May 13th.

Polo, the Olympics scheduled to begin July 23rd and those are certainly numbers you don't want to see less than two weeks out from the games.

SANDOVAL: And two knee surgeries in just a year. That'll definitely do it.

Andy, thank you so much.

Still ahead this morning, President Biden with a blunt and impassioned defense of voting rights.


BIDEN: Twenty-first century Jim Crow assault is real. It's unrelenting. And we're going to challenge it vigorously.


SANDOVAL: But then there's that lingering question. Could the American political divide actually cost the U.S. its perfect credit rating?