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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Biden to Roll Out New Pandemic Strategy in Thursday Speech; Texas Governor Abbott Slammed for Defense of Anti-Abortion Law; Taliban Introduce New Hardline Interim Government. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired September 08, 2021 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: All right. Good morning. It is Wednesday, September 8th, 5:00 a.m. in New York. Thanks for getting an EARLY START with us.

And welcome back, Laura.

I'm Christine Romans.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: Great to be back with you.

I am Laura Jarrett. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world.

This morning, a new strategy in the fight against COVID-19 is on the way. President Biden rolling out plans in a big speech planned for Thursday targeting the private sector, federal employees and schools. Pressure for a new approach is building as the delta variant is spreading in children like never before.

Right now, one in every four new cases is a child. And Dr. Anthony Fauci says our kids are extremely vulnerable.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: If we want to protect the children, particularly those who are not yet eligible for vaccination, you want to surround the children with people who are vaccinated, teachers, school personnel, everyone else. Even though there are some government leaders locally who are trying to push back on that, we've got to get the school system masked in addition to surrounding the children with vaccinated people.


JARRETT: In Florida, the Miami-Dade school system has been ravaged by the virus. Thirteen school employees have died since mid August.

We get more now from CNN's Nick Watt.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Christine and Laura, outbreak mode. That is what Dr. Anthony Fauci says are in right now, more than 4 million new COVID-19 cases confirmed in just the past four weeks. He says we can turn it around. We have the tools, the main tool of course being the vaccine.

Now, tomorrow, President Joe Biden is going to make a major speech laying out the next phase of the White House response to this pandemic.

Next up, probably those booster shots we've been hearing so much about, they are scheduled to roll out the week of September 20th and by all calculations about 5 million Americans might be eligible for those shots during that week. That's assuming that it's going to be eight months the recommended time between your second shot and that third booster shot.

Now, this is not great news as millions of kids are going back into classrooms. One in four cases, new cases every week, being diagnosed are in kids.

Back to you.


ROMANS: That stat is really troubling and getting a lot of attention and it should.

Nick, thank you for that.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott under fire this morning for his latest defense of the state's near total ban on abortion. That the law bans abortion from the moment a fetal heartbeat can be detected as early as six week and it includes no exceptions for rape or incest.

No exception for rape or incest. A provision the governor was asked about Tuesday.


REPORTER: Why force a rape or incest victim to carry a pregnancy to term?

GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R), TEXAS: It doesn't require that at all because, obviously, it provides at least six weeks for a person to be able to get an abortion. So, for one, it doesn't provide that. That said however, let's make something very clear: rape is a crime. And Texas will work tirelessly to make sure that we eliminate all rapists from the streets of Texas.


ROMANS: Last night on CNN, New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio- Cortez took on Abbott and what she sees as the root cause of this new Texas law.


REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): This idea that we're going to, quote/unquote, end rape when the same type of, frankly, rape culture and the same type of misogynistic culture that informed this abortion law to begin with is also -- those beliefs are held by the governor himself and this Texas state legislature, frankly, there are many people in power as we know from the "Me Too" movement that commit sexual assault, that helped their friends cover up that he is these crimes and served in the legislatures that are voting on the anti- choice bills.

It's awful and he speaks from such a place of deep ignorance. And it's not just ignorance. It's ignorance that is hurting people across this country.

Well, I find Governor Abbott's comments disgusting and I think there is two-fold. One, I don't know if he is familiar with a menstruating person's body. In fact, I know that he is not familiar with a woman -- with a female or a menstruating person's body because if he did, he would know that you don't have six weeks. That, quote/unquote, six weeks, and sorry we have to break it down on -- break down biology 101 on national television, but in case no one has informed him before in our life -- in his life, six weeks pregnant means two weeks late for your period.


And two weeks late on your period for any person, any person with a menstrual cycle can happen if you're stressed, if your diet changes, or for really no reason at all. So you don't have six weeks.


JARRETT: Joining us now is congressional reporter Daniella Diaz, live on Capitol Hill.

Daniella, the Texas abortion fight is just one of many things on President Biden's growing list of issues. Where are Democrats on Capitol Hill going to take this rule something they don't have 60 votes in the Senate to get some sweeping legislation passed. So, what's the plan?

DANIELLA DIAZ, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Laura, the plan is that they're going to try to push a bill through the House, but as you said, it is not going to be easy.

Look, this just adds to a growing number of agenda items from the Biden administration that they want to see Congress pass. Namely Democrats pass. This, of course, adds to voting rights, this preserving of the right to abortion, gun safety, police reform, and we haven't even mentioned the infrastructure debate, the priority for the Biden administration for this Congress.

You know, right now, they're on recess, but they come back later this month and that is what they will try to pass is this debate on two separate bills on infrastructure bipartisan bill and, of course, the sweeping $3.5 trillion package that we talk about again and again.

But returning back to this bill that the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will put on the floor to try to preserve the right to abortion, it doesn't have the votes to pass through the Senate and it is renewing this debate on ending, nuking the filibuster, the 60-vote threshold needed for bills to pass this means that Democrats would need bipartisan support behind any bill for it to pass, at least 10 Republicans and that's only if all Democrats sign on to any legislation.

Take a listen to what Senator Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota, said about the filibuster.


SEN. AMY KLOBUCHAR (D-MN): I believe we should abolish the filibuster. I do not believe an archaic rule should be used to allow us to put our heads in the sand -- to use Justice Sotomayor's words -- to put our heads in the sand and not take action on the important issues.


DIAZ: Laura, Christine, of course, this is what happens again and again when we talk about these bills that do not have Republican support. Progressives are very as we heard from Congresswoman Ocasio- Cortez, they are very adamant about trying to push this legislation through Congress and getting rid of the filibuster so that Democrats can do this.

Returning back to that right of abortion -- to preserve that right of abortion, the Senate Judiciary Committee announced that they will hold a examine the ban on abortion at six weeks, that is one thing Democratic leaders can do right now, to have hearings like this to examine this law, but the bottom line here is that this is just piling on to Biden's agenda ahead of them returning -- lawmakers returning back from recess. It's unclear right now whether this can even pass. And as it stands right now, it won't -- Christine and Laura.

JARRETT: All right. Daniella, thank you so much.

You know, it's interesting, Christine, where were the hearings before the law was passed? It seems like it is always a reactive notion in Congress to things like these that affect real people's lives and fact of the matter is they don't have the votes for this. They can say that they want to do something to protect abortion rights in this country, but they do not have the votes in Congress to make any sort of meaningful change.

ROMANS: And, meantime, other states are now looking eagerly at the Texas law trying to figure out how they can mimic it because it is so animating for the wedge issue, for the voter who really cares about restricting abortion. It's very animating.

So, politically important for some of these red states. One wonders if it is as animating on the other side. JARRETT: Well, historically it hasn't been, but then you hear AOC

talk about it with such passion, and you wonder whether they will use this in the 2020 midterms.

Well, still ahead for you, President Biden warning of a code red on the climate. You're going to hear from him, next.

ROMANS: And Mexico hit by a powerful earthquake overnight, more than a million people there without power.



ROMANS: President Biden touring parts of New York and New Jersey Tuesday battered by remnants of Hurricane Ida last week. Experts expect hurricanes and tropical storms to become more ferocious as the climate crisis worsens. During his visit, the president also pointed to his infrastructure plan to help states prepare for more frequent extreme weather.

CNN's MJ Lee has more.


MJ LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine and Laura.

President Biden coming to New Jersey and New York to survey the damage from the remnants of Hurricane Ida. He met with community leaders. He met with folks whose homes were destroyed by the flooding a couple of days ago, really trying to console some of these folks whose homes have been completely wrecked by the floodwater and rainwater that rushed into their houses.

He used the bulk of his speech here in Queens, New York, to talk about climate change and the importance of taking action to try to reverse the effects of climate change.

He talked about the wildfires that are happening on the west coast, some of the flooding that we've seen in this region and said that this is an existential threat. Take a listen.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They all tell us that this is code red. The nation and the world are in peril. And that's not hyperbole, that is a fact.


They've been warning us that the extreme weather would get more extreme over the decade, and we're living it real time now. We can look around, the wreckage and the ruins and the heartbreak from so much communities, to feel it. Just don't understand -- you can feel it, you can taste it, you can see it.

LEE: And some of the residents that we have been speaking to who are in the process of rebuilding their homes, they said that they appreciated President Biden coming out here to visit them but that they also have a lot of questions. They would like to know how the sewage systems are going to get better. They would like to know if they're going to get reimbursed for all of the work that they now have to do in their homes. They said that they believe that climate change is the reason, that the flooding got so bad a couple of days ago, and they worried that the federal aid that has been approved for this region is not going to reach them soon enough.

Christine and Laura, back to you.


ROMANS: All right. MJ, thank you so much for that.

JARRETT: All right. Up next, Afghanistan's new Taliban government, who is in, and who has been left out.

ROMANS: And a twist in the Britney Spears case. Her father makes an unexpected move.



JARRETT: This morning, a new interim government is taking shape in Afghanistan. Top positions are being filled with Taliban veterans who spent the last 20 years leading the fight against the U.S.-led coalition. No women or any members of the ousted Afghan government have been picked so far.

Meantime, protests are breaking out in Kabul against Pakistan's influence over the Taliban-ruled Afghanistan.

Nic Robertson joins us now with the latest developments.

Nic, I understand this is viewed as a caretaker government if you will. But does that mean that the people who are put in place now won't stay?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: You know, has hard to read why the Taliban have called this caretaker. Is to overcome internal differences because there was a lot of competition for the key jobs within the government, or is this a message to the international community that this can be changed going forward.

You know, I think that we'll just have to read it for what it is and that is what the State Department is doing and they are saying that they see no non-Taliban members in there, they see no women in there.

Remember, the Taliban have promised that this would be inclusive. And I think the clearest message to the international community and in particular to the United States from the Taliban here is they have put up the government that they want irrespective of how the international community needs it -- reads it. The Taliban knows that they need the help with humanitarian aid. The aid situation in Afghanistan is on the verge of collapse is what the U.N. is saying. So, how do we read this? What's the sort of biggest message in there

for the U.S. government?

Well, the FBI has designated Sirajuddin Haqqani as being connected to al Qaeda, as being connected to terrorism and has a $5 million bounty on this head. He is one of the most powerful people in the Taliban and the Taliban have made him interior minister. That's the person that would be the go-to person for the international community to talk to about al Qaeda activity in the country or in Afghanistan or other terrorist-related issues.

That is a very clear message that the United States and rest of the world that the Taliban are going down their path, the people that they have put in power are people that will uphold their strict interpretation of Islamic law and I think that that's what the international community and Afghans can expect going forward.

JARRETT: All right. Nic, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

All right. Coming up next on EARLY START: President Biden's new COVID strategy, what's at stake with his national address tomorrow?

ROMANS: And the once rising Silicon Valley superstar now accused of fraud. It is not her by the way, it is Elizabeth Holmes. Not Britney Spears. Will a jury convict Elizabeth Holmes?

Sorry, Britney.



JARRETT: Good morning, everyone. This is EARLY START. I'm Laura Jarrett.

ROMANS: And I'm Christine Romans. It is 28 minutes past the hour this Wednesday morning.

Time for our top stories to keep an eye on today.

President Biden set to launch the next phase of his pandemic response in a major address on Thursday. The White House says the multipart strategy will emphasize stopping the delta variant and boosting vaccinations focusing on schools, private companies and federal workers.

JARRETT: A powerful 7.0 magnitude earthquake rocking southwest Mexico, it struck about eight miles from Acapulco and could be felt 230 miles away in Mexico City. Widespread power outages and at least one death have been reported. But so far, no reports of major damage in the capital.

ROMANS: Five accused plotters behind the 9/11 attacks appearing at a pretrial hearing in a military port at Guantanamo Bay. The group includes Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind. If convicted, all five could receive the death penalty. JARRETT: And two victims of 9/11 have been identified by new DNA

analysis some 20 years later. According to the New York chief medical examiner, one victim is Dorothy Morgan of Hempstead, New York. The other is the man whose name is being withheld at the request of his family.

ROMANS: Protestors taking to the streets of Brazil in rallies opposing and supporting President Bolsonaro. Bolsonaro is clashing with the judiciary over changes to Brazil's voting system. Critics fear the right wing leader is whipping up his supporters to overrun the country's Supreme Court.

JARRETT: Howard University forced to cancel classes on Tuesday after a ransomware attack. The school's information technology team detected unusual activity on the network last week and shut it down to investigate.