Return to Transcripts main page

Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Senate Democrats Approve $3.5 Trillion Budget Resolution; Canadian Businessman Gets 11 Years In Prison For Espionage; U.S. Officials Fear Kabul Could Fall Sooner Than Expected. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired August 11, 2021 - 05:30   ET



WHITNEY WILD, CNN ANCHOR: The Kaiser Family Foundation poll, though, found a majority of parents -- 58 percent -- oppose vaccine mandates for school students and staff.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo resigning after a sexual harassment scandal that led to the impending threat of impeachment. Cuomo announced his decision Tuesday. He will be replaced in less than two weeks by Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, who will be the first woman ever to serve as governor of New York

WILD: Residents of a Miami condo building evacuated overnight after the building was deemed unsafe. The building is about six miles inland from the site of the Surfside condo collapse. High-rises in Florida, understandably, have been under increased scrutiny since that collapse in Surfside killed 98 people in June.

ROMANS: President Biden nominating Damian Williams to be the next U.S. attorney in Manhattan. He would lead the Southern District of New York after working as a prosecutor in the office for nearly a decade if confirmed. Williams will be the first African-American to hold that position.

WILD: Several people in southern Arizona rescued from floodwaters Tuesday after a powerful monsoon swept through. The storm caused numerous road closures and delays. A Tucson church was also struck by -- struck by lightning but, fortunately, did not catch fire.

ROMANS: Florida is on alert today as Tropical Storm Fred tracks toward the southern U.S. The storm formed in the Caribbean Tuesday with sustained winds of now 40 miles per hour. It's currently just off the southern coast of Puerto Rico moving slowly west. It's currently expected to reach Florida by Friday.

WILD: And breaking overnight, Senate Democrats voting to approve a $3.5 trillion budget resolution that sets the stage for the party to pass a sweeping economic passage without the threat of a filibuster from Republicans.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On this vote, the yeas are 50, the nays are 49, and the concurrent resolution, as amended, is agreed to.


WILD: The budget lays the groundwork -- the budget lays the groundwork for the Democratic-led committees to begin the biggest expansion of America's social safety net in generations.

So let's go live to Capitol Hill and bring in CNN's Daniella Diaz. So, Daniella, what is the next step for this resolution? And then, what are the political challenges?

DANIELLA DIAZ, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, this vote was absolutely necessary to set up the process for Senate Democrats to pass a budget reconciliation bill in the fall that will be filled with Democratic priorities that you mentioned, including paid family and medical leave, funding to combat climate change, expanding the child tax credit. So-called human infrastructure policies that Senate Democrats and the Biden administration really want to pass in this year -- this administration.

So, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer really wanted to pass this budget resolution -- of course, the first step of this process -- before the senators left for a couple of weeks for August recess. And the Senate approved this measure after 15 hours of working on the Senate floor, passing amendment after amendment. It was so-called vote-a-rama, which is when they pass non-binding amendments to this budget resolution.

So now, the next step is that Senate Democrats need to be able to agree on what they actually want on -- in this budget reconciliation package. You know, they need to be able to unite moderates and progressives on this issue of human infrastructure and there's already an obstacle in their way. Senator Kyrsten Sinema, of Arizona, said that she would not support a $3.5 trillion price tag for this budget reconciliation bill.

So this is a major test for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Democratic leaders, as well as President Joe Biden to be able to figure out what they can actually pass in this budget reconciliation package. So those are the challenges ahead that we will be keeping an eye on.

WILD: We are still weeks and weeks away from a final --

ROMANS: Right.

WILD: -- final text on that.

Daniella Diaz, thank you.

ROMANS: All right, time for three questions in three minutes. Let's bring in our friend, CNN political analyst Julian Zelizer, historian and professor at Princeton University. Good morning, professor.

You know, look, a significant moment here for the Biden presidency -- this resolution and this bipartisan infrastructure package that just passed the Senate. More work to do, obviously, but what kind of momentum does he have here on these issues?

JULIAN ZELIZER, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST, HISTORIAN AND PROFESSOR, PRINCETON UNIVERSITY (via Webex by CISCO): He has a lot if this finally reaches his desk. It's a huge piece of legislation in terms of infrastructure. With all its limitations, it's the biggest commitment we've had in a long time and it would be evidence that bipartisanship and his approach to bipartisanship is still possible. We'll see if it ultimately works, but that's the promise of this legislation.

WILD: This is, again, just an enormous possibility. The $3.5 trillion budget resolution would be the biggest social change agenda since LBJ.


WILD: So what does this mean for Biden's legacy if this deal does get passed?


ZELIZER: Well, it would be legacy-making legislation. We've lived in the shadow of Ronald Reagan for so long that any big commitment to the social safety net has been generally absent with the exception, of course, of the first Obama year with healthcare. And if this moves through, we will see a new kind of commitment and a signal that liberalism is still alive and well even in 2021.

ROMANS: It's so interesting, you know. You hear Democrats cheer this would be the biggest social change since LBJ -- since even the new deal. And then you hear Republicans say this would be the biggest social change since LBJ and the new deal, right?

WILD: Tone -- different tone.

ROMANS: I mean, they both say the same thing to either cheer or jeer --

WILD: Yes.

ROMANS: -- this movement from this administration.

Meantime, Julian, in your -- in your latest op-ed for CNN, you highlight the differences between how Democrats handled the accusations of sexual harassment against Gov. Cuomo and how Republicans handled similar accusations against Donald Trump. Explain.

ZELIZER: Yes, there's just the difference with parties. We've seen how the Republican Party, as a whole, is much more committed to partisan power and was much less willing to come down against members of its own party, whether it's former President Trump or other Republicans embroiled in scandal. Whereas, Democrats -- who are, of course, very partisan -- in this case, were still willing, from the president to state senators here in New York, to call for a powerful member's resignation.

So, it just is more evidence that the parties are at very different places in how much they weigh partisanship versus other elements of politics.

ROMANS: And what a -- just what a stunning year for his political career, right? From those heights in the early days of COVID when he had the daily press conferences and people were whispering about a potential presidential run, right -- people who really liked his performance there, to today. I mean, remark on that for me.

ZELIZER: Absolutely. Even former President Trump, according to one of the new books, feared a potential presidential run by Cuomo rather than Biden.

But this is the downfall of one of the most powerful members of the Democratic Party in a key state and it shows how the MeToo movement really did have an effect on expectations --

ROMANS: Yes, yes.

ZELIZER: -- about what was permissible and what wasn't permissible in American life.

ROMANS: Julian Zelizer, so nice to see you this morning. Thank you so much.

ZELIZER: Thank you.

ROMANS: All right, to COVID now. Dr. Anthony Fauci says COVID vaccines should be mandatory for school teachers.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: I'm going to upset some people on this but I think we should. I'm sorry. I mean, I know people must like to have their individual freedom and not be told to do something, but I think we're in such a serious situation now that under certain circumstances mandates should be done.


ROMANS: Fauci believes the need to protect children has never been more urgent since kids under 12 cannot be vaccinated yet.

That begs the question is it legal to mandate vaccines? The answer is yes. The most relevant case is a 116-year-old Supreme Court decision upholding a Massachusetts city's vaccine requirement against smallpox.

More now from CNN's Ariane de Vogue.


ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN REPORTER (on camera): Christine and Whitney, a Supreme Court case from 1905 is getting a lot of attention in the age of COVID. That's because back then, the Supreme Court said that a state could require the public to be vaccinated against the smallpox vaccine. That was a loss for a pastor who had brought religious liberty

concerns and he lost in court. So now that case, Jacobson, is being used to determine how far a state can go when it goes -- when it's trying to protect public health.

For instance, the Supreme Court, right now, is considering a case brought by Indiana University. Students there are objecting to the university's vaccine mandate. But a lower court ruled against them and cited Jacobson, and it said that the Indiana University mandate is particularly secure because the mandate allows exceptions for people with religious objections. So now, the Supreme Court is considering this case.

It is worth noting that some justices have said that the state's power here is not absolute. But it seems to reason that when it comes to vaccine mandates, particularly those that have an exception for religious objectors, the Supreme Court is likely to say that they're going to pass constitution muster -- Christine, Whitney.





WILD: Oh, what a voice. Stevie Nicks, though, canceling all of her 2021 concert performances over coronavirus concerns. Nicks was scheduled to headline five upcoming music festivals.

But the 73-year-old singer says in a statement, quote, "These are challenging times with challenging decisions that have to be made. While I'm vaccinated, at my age I'm still being extremely cautious."

ROMANS: All right.


Senator Rand Paul suspended from YouTube for seven days over a video claiming masks are not effective against COVID. This is the first strike against the Kentucky Republican in YouTube's three-strike policy. Paul calls the suspension a, quote, "badge of honor."

Twitter suspended Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene for one week after she tweeted the FDA, quote, "should not approve the COVID vaccines because they are failing." This is the third and toughest penalty Twitter has imposed on Greene for sharing, again, misinformation.

Businesses are raising wages to attract and keep workers as the economy roars back to life. But prices for everything are rising, too, and that's eating into those bigger paychecks. In fact, a Harvard analysis finds employee compensation is less than it was in December 2019 when adjusted for inflation. The employee cost index, which measures wages and salaries, is two percent below its pre-pandemic trend when adjusted for inflation.

Prices -- as you know, as you feel -- for just about everything are rising. Gas is more expensive, your grocery bill is higher. Car prices are at record highs.

All eyes will be on the Consumer Price Index for July. That's out in just a few hours. Consumer prices rose a very hot 5.4 percent in June compared to last year. That's the largest increase in 13 years.

Stripping out volatile food and energy costs, prices rose 4 1/2 percent. That is the fastest core pace since November 1991. It is the downside of a hot economy. Demand for just about everything coming back all at the same time, faster than producers can keep up. And supply glitches mean they can't make and deliver goods as quickly.

A quick programming note, everyone. Join CNN for a once-in-a-lifetime concert event, "WE LOVE NYC: THE HOMECOMING CONCERT." That's Saturday, August 21st only on CNN.



WILD: A Canadian businessman detained in China sentenced to 11 years in prison for espionage. The Chinese court found Michael Spavor guilty of spying and providing state secrets to foreign countries.

Kristie Lu Stout joins us now from Hong Kong. Kristie, what is the Canadian government's response here?

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called the verdict, quote, "absolutely unacceptable and unjust."

You know, look, after more than two years in detention -- finally, a verdict in the case of the detained Canadian businessman Michael Spavor. A court in Dandong, China, earlier today, sentenced him to 11 years in prison for espionage. They also said that he could be deported but did not specify when.

Earlier today, we heard from the Canadian ambassador in China. He slammed the verdict. Take a listen.


DOMINIC BARTON, CANADA'S AMBASSADOR TO CHINA: We condemn in the strongest possible terms this decision rendered after a legal process that lacked both fairness and transparency. Our thoughts are with Michael and his family during this difficult time. We've maintained from the beginning that Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig are being detained arbitrarily and we will continue to call for their immediate release.


STOUT: It was in June of last year when Michael Spavor, along with fellow Canadian, the former diplomat, Michael Kovrig were charged with espionage in China. They were arrested in China in December of 2018 shortly after the arrest of Meng Wanzhou. She is the chief financial officer of the Chinese tech giant Huawei. She's also the daughter of the Huawei CEO, Ren Zhengfei.

Now, she has been under house arrest in Vancouver. She is fighting extradition to the United States. She insists that she is innocent.

China insists that there was no link between the detentions of these two Canadian men and Meng Wanzhou, but Western observers think otherwise. They call this an example of hostage diplomacy.

And earlier today, the U.S. Embassy in China released a very strongly- worded statement slamming the sentencing. We'll bring it up for you.

And it said this. Quote, "These proceedings are a blatant attempt to use human beings as bargaining leverage, a practice roundly condemned by the global community and inconsistent with China's international human rights commitments. We stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Canada in calling for the immediate and unconditional release of both Michael Kovrig and Michael Spavor."

Now, as for the fate of the former diplomat Michael Kovrig, no word yet on when his sentencing might be. But I should note that in China, courts have a conviction rate of over 99 percent.

Back to you.

WILD: Kristie, what is the likelihood that either of these two men will return home?

STOUT: At this moment, we don't know. I've been talking to observers and the legal experts earlier today who said that because of this possibility of deportation, that introduces some ambiguity and some wiggle room for negotiation that these men -- namely Michael Spavor -- he was the one who was sentenced early today -- could be deported. But we also did hear from Canada's ambassador in China who said that their interpretation of the verdict is that Spavor would soon be -- first, serve 11 years in prison and then be deported.

Back to you.

WILD: Kristie, live from Hong Kong for us. Thank you.

ROMANS: All right.

President Biden saying he has no regrets about his decision to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan, ending America's longest war.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We spent over a trillion dollars over 20 years. We trained and equipped with modern equipment over 300,000 Afghan forces. And Afghan leaders have to come together. They've got to fight for themselves. Fight for their nation.


ROMANS: The move has emboldened Taliban fighters. They are on the offensive. They have now captured eight regional capitals in less than a week. U.S. officials now concerned that Kabul could fall much sooner than expected.

CNN's Clarissa Ward is in the Afghan capital for us this morning. And, Clarissa, what are Afghan leaders saying about the Taliban advance?


CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think everybody is completely caught off guard, Christine, by just how quickly Afghan forces appear to be unraveling. Just in the five minutes before I was preparing for this live shot, yet another provincial capital fell. That's nine provincial capitals -- more than a quarter of Afghanistan's total provincial capitals.

And we visited others -- much bigger cities like Kandahar, Afghanistan's second-largest city. Also, Ghazni, where we were just a couple of days ago. And they are, too, completely surrounded. Heavy fighting going on in Herat, in Lashkar Gah. And so, there's no sign that this train is slowing down anytime soon.

We did hear the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani came out on Twitter and basically called on ordinary Afghans to go and join a popular uprising. To basically sign up with their local warlord and try to essentially fight. To stop the Taliban in its tracks. To recover some of the territory that has already been lost.

But I think at this point, everyone on the ground has a sort of creeping grim realization that is a very tall order, indeed, Christine.

ROMANS: You know, Clarissa, what about these peace talks? I mean, they have been talking. Is there -- is there a potential diplomatic solution to this here?

WARD: Well, there's not a lot of optimism about that either. These talks have been onward -- ongoing in Doha this entire time. Now, the U.S. representative, Zalmay Khalilzad, has actually flown into Qatar to try to kind of jumpstart talks. Get both of the sides sat down at the negotiating table.

But the very real situation, Christine, is that the Taliban doesn't feel it has to negotiate right now. The Taliban has all the cards -- all the leverage. And so, they believe that they can win. And they're going to keep on winning, essentially, until they are given a really concrete reason to stop their offensive.

They also feel very strongly because naturally, they've been criticized for the high number of casualties, including civilian casualties. They're putting a lot of the blame on government forces and also on the U.S. for using those airstrikes.

And just one more note, Christine. I do think it's important because it really tells the story of the growing dread about what's happening here in Kabul. The U.S. government now -- according to CNN's Kylie Atwood who's reporting from the State Department -- is actively considering reducing its staff personnel here in Kabul, and doing it soon. And that would be --


WARD: -- absolutely a real grim marker of what seems to be a growing desperate situation.

ROMANS: We've seen some of this video of civilians on the move. What is the situation right now for civilians? You talk about this feeling of dread in Kabul. And these provincial capitals -- what's happening to them?

WARD: I mean, it's a nightmare for them, Christine. Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced from their home. Afghans have known four decades of war. But in the last few months, and particularly since May when the U.S. began its withdrawal, it has spiraled to a new level. And it's not just happening in the provincial outskirts, it's happening in the capitals, in the cities. Gritty, urban combat, which as our viewers probably know, is so often the worst type of combat for civilians because they're living in and among it and they don't have other options. They don't have other places to go.

There's a park here in Kabul where tens of -- you know, I believe about 5,000 people are now camped out. They're from the city of Kunduz, which fell to the Taliban a few days ago. And no sense of when they might be able to go home, Christine.

ROMANS: Gosh, living through -- honestly, living through history here after 20 years of war there.

Thank you so much, Clarissa Ward, on the scene for us.

All right.

The governor of Oregon declaring a state of emergency ahead of another extreme summer heat wave. There's concern the dangerously hot conditions could affect critical infrastructure, causing utility outages and disrupting transportation. The emergency will remain in effect until August 20th.

Back in June, multiple days of record triple-digit temperatures led to nearly 100 heat-related deaths in Oregon.

All right, to business now this Wednesday morning. Let's get a check on CNN Business.

Looking at markets around the world, Asian shares closed slightly higher. Europe has opened higher for the morning.

On Wall Street, stock index futures this morning are barely moving. I would call that barely mixed here. Nasdaq down just a little tiny bit. It was a record day for investors after the Senate passed that

bipartisan infrastructure bill. The Dow closed up 162 points, hitting a fresh high. The S&P 500 also hit an all-time high. The Nasdaq finished lower.

Key data out in a couple of hours -- the Consumer Price Index for July. Prices have risen month after month as the economy roars back to life.

Finally, in a galaxy far, far away and far, far out of your price range maybe, Disney unveiling details about its new luxury "Star Wars" hotel set to open at Disney World next spring. The Galactic Starcruiser Hotel is an immersive two-day "Star Wars" adventure complete with lightsaber experiences, various "Star Wars" characters to interact with.


Rates can run as high as $6,000 for a two-night stay. I believe that's two parents and two kids. The hotel rooms are very cool. May the force be with you and your wallet.

Thanks for joining us this morning. I'm Christine Romans. "NEW DAY" is next.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, good morning to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm John Berman side- by-side with Brianna Keilar this morning. It is Wednesday, August --