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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Biden Addresses U.N. Today Amid Foreign Policy Crises; CIA Chief's Team Member Reported Havana Syndrome Symptoms During Trip; Doctors Bracing For Flu Season Amid Surging Pandemic. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired September 21, 2021 - 05:30   ET




CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: All right, good Tuesday morning. This is EARLY START. I'm Christine Romans.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Laura Jarrett. It's about 31 minutes past the hour here in New York and it's time for our top stories to keep an eye on today.

All right, this is it. House lawmakers expected to vote on a measure today to prevent both a partial government shutdown and a potential default on U.S. debt. Top Democrats warning President Biden's agenda is entering a decisive moment as the fight over a major economic package exposes tensions within the party.

ROMANS: President Biden makes his first appearance on the world stage when he addresses the U.N. General Assembly today. He will offer a familiar message -- "America is Back" -- and will tell world leaders the only way to combat the pandemic and the climate crisis is through global solutions.

JARRETT: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's Liberal Party will form the next government following a tightly contested election, but he will not get the stronger mandate he wanted. Trudeau's party fell short of the seats needed to assume full control.

ROMANS: U.S. stock futures are up this morning after Monday's big selloff on Wall Street. The major averages fell over several concerns, including the Delta variant, potential economic disruption in China and the property market there, and the fight over the debt ceiling.

JARRETT: President Joe Biden is set to give his first speech as president before the U.N. General Assembly this morning. His pitch, "America is Back." But the U.S. is still in the middle of a pandemic, of course, and the president still faces fallout over the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan -- and not to mention, this diplomatic spat with France.

CNN's Jasmine Wright joins us from Washington this morning. Jasmine, what do we expect the president to say? JASMINE WRIGHT, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Yes. Well, President Biden has a major challenge when he addresses the General Assembly for the first time, Laura, and that is proving that his administration is not a repeat of "America First" -- those policies first pushed by former President Trump.

And it's like you said, he is in the middle of really containing the fallout from Afghanistan as well as that spat with France over the sale of nuclear-powered submarines, really having these comparisons lodged by allies of former President Trump to Biden kind of an insult because they feel left out of really important decisions like Afghanistan, like France.

So, President Biden, who really ran on the ability to restore America's trust in our allies, really sat with U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and explained -- really pronounced again that message that America is back. Take a listen.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The strong partnership between the United States and the U.N. is based on common values and principles, and at this moment, those bonds are more important than ever. America's back and we believe in the United Nations and its values.


WRIGHT: So, a senior administration official tells CNN yesterday that President Biden -- he will advocate for a global response to the major issues facing this -- not only this country but the world -- from the pandemic, to human rights, threats against democracy, climate change -- really advocating, as you said, for a global solution. All of the allies coming together.


Now, of course, China will loom large in his remarks as he will advocate against another Cold War of major competing powers. And for Afghanistan, he will talk about Afghanistan but he will say that it was necessary -- a necessary decision to propel the country to get to where it needs to be, fighting the problems of the future.

So we will hear from President Biden as he really expounds on his world view to allies for the first time as president at the U.N. General Assembly.

JARRETT: All right, Jasmine. We know you will be watching with us. Thanks so much.

ROMANS: So it's a crucial 48 hours for this White House. Hard infrastructure, roads and bridges, human infrastructure, remaking the American economy to favor families and workers. These proposals are running into competing Democratic factions in different chambers and now they're on a collision course with government funding. The suspension of the debt limit attached to all of this. It's time for three questions in maybe three minutes. Let's bring in CNN White House correspondent John Harwood. And John, you nailed it in your column this week. You said this. Taking money from people who have influence and giving it to people who don't is hard. This is all really hard.

Just how significant are the next 48 hours to the Biden agenda?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It's a huge moment for them Christine because time is getting short. It's very important to the Biden White House to get this done before the end of the year. And Nancy Pelosi, as House Speaker, set an even shorter timeline with this September 27th date that she promised that vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill.

So it is -- it is very difficult to do. They have very narrow majorities. The progressives and the moderates are fighting one another. I think the White House remains confident that they can get this done. They still have a path to do it.

However, they're also aware that as both these sides seek leverage in these negotiations you have the possibility that the game of chicken goes on too long until you reach a full-blown collision and everything could fall apart. That same game of chicken applies to the standoff between Democrats and Mitch McConnell on raising the debt limit.


HARWOOD: Chuck Schumer and Nancy Pelosi are saying they're going to put it in Mitch McConnell's lap. Mitch McConnell says I'm not going to take it up. The Democrats are going to have to see how serious that is -- whether he can be pressured into doing something. If not, they've got to fall back and do that in the reconciliation bill.

It's all a very heavy load for the Democratic leaders to carry. We'll see whether they can handle it.

ROMANS: Question 1(a) on Sen. Manchin. I've got to ask you -- you know, I heard him talking about how he's worried about natural gas prices in West Virginia and $3.5 trillion of remaking the American economy over the next 10 years. He's worried about inflation.

Aren't most of these proposals in the human infrastructure package that the Biden administration is proposing? Wouldn't those help struggling West Virginians?

HARWOOD: Yes. There are a whole lot of proposals in there on education, childcare, healthcare subsidies that would benefit his very poor state. But he's raising concerns that many in the business community are raising about inflation.

The Biden White House talks about the transitory nature of the inflation that we're seeing now. But when you have high headline numbers you're going to spook Democratic politicians as well as Republicans on Capitol Hill. They're going to have to overcome that hesitancy. Much of this human infrastructure proposal is spent out in subsequent years, so it wouldn't be near-term inflationary -- but some parts of it would. And so it's a -- this is an added challenge for the administration to overcome.

JARRETT: John, I also have to ask you about some new reporting about the former president. Because just when you might have thought that you knew everything about his attempted coup to stay in power last year, we actually learned there was a six-point plan -- it was in writing -- for how to get the former vice president to violate the Constitution.

Look at that. One of them is just throwing out the Electoral College votes. This was first obtained by "The Washington Post."

I think at the time -- you know, it's almost hard to appreciate the real risk to our democracy. But I think for prosecutors, this is what you might call premeditation.

HARWOOD: Well, I think you framed it correctly, which is that at the time, we understood and could see that the stress test our democracy was under was pretty significant and that people -- Republicans with a principle stood up in selected roles to protect democracy -- Brad Raffensperger, Secretary of State in Georgia; Mike Pence, when it came right down to it on January sixth.


But we're now learning more about severe that stress test was. Not just that Donald Trump was making noises about wanting Mike Pence to do something different, but that he engaged a lawyer to propose a detailed plan that involved either electing President Trump with less than 270 electoral votes or then, if Congress was not able to accept that, trying to get the election thrown to the House of Representatives where President Trump could prevail.

That did not happen and it is to Mike Pence's credit that he resisted that pressure, but it was a lot of pressure.

ROMANS: You know --

JARRETT: Resisted pressure to break the law. I mean, yes, I appreciate you giving him credit but maybe it wouldn't be such a hard call to not break the law.

ROMANS: All right, John. So many things --

HARWOOD: That's right.

ROMANS: -- on the domestic front here. And certainly, the president will be speaking to our allies -- America's allies today at UNGA. We know you'll be covering that.

Thank you so much, John Harwood, this morning. Thank you.

All right. FedEx is raising its shipping rates January third for all U.S. domestic export and import services. FedEx home delivery will increase by an average of 5.9 percent and customers may see higher prices before the holiday season. FedEx adding a fuel surcharge to some shipments November first, passing on the cost of what the company calls the challenging operating environment.

And customers could hear about higher rates next year at UPS in the coming weeks. Global shipping, of course, is in crisis. Backlogs are looming over the holiday season. Last month, the U.S. Postal Service requested a temporary price increase for the peak holiday season to offset those rising delivery costs.

We'll be right back.



ROMANS: A mysterious illness hitting U.S. officials is setting off alarm bells at the highest level of the U.S. government. CNN has learned a member of the CIA director's team suffered from the so- called Havana syndrome while traveling overseas this month. It's the second time this has happened in less than a month.

Vice President Kamala Harris' trip to Vietnam was slightly delayed -- remember, in August -- after multiple U.S. personnel reported these symptoms.

CNN's Kyleigh Atwood has more.


KYLEIGH ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (on camera): When CIA Dir. Bill Burns traveled to India earlier this month, a member of his team reported symptoms consistent with Havana syndrome during that trip. And I'm told that this set off alarm bells within the U.S. government.

Now, the CIA director, himself, is said to be fuming with anger, according to a source familiar. And a CIA spokesperson said they don't comment on specific incidents or specific officers, but said that there is protocols in place for reports of Havana syndrome, including medical attention. I'm told that this official did receive medical attention.

Now, there are some dramatic implications, potentially, at play here. The CIA director's schedule is never widely shared. It's held quite closely within the U.S. government. So U.S. officials are concerned about how the perpetrator would have known that the CIA director was traveling to India and how they would have been able to plan and carry out this aggression.

Now, the U.S. government has not yet said who they believe is behind these mysterious illnesses or how exactly they believe that they are being carried out. There is a government-wide investigation into the matter that is ongoing -- Christine and Laura.


JARRETT: All right, Kyleigh. Thank you for that.

A San Antonio doctor who wrote a "Washington Post" op-ed claiming that he violated Texas' ban on abortions -- well, he's now facing at least two lawsuits brought under this new law. But get this -- both suits against Dr. Alan Braid were filed by people who claimed to oppose the new Texas law. At least one says he wants a judge to rule on its constitutionality.

The Center for Reproductive Rights is representing Dr. Braid and says he felt compelled to serve his patients.


NANCY NORTHUP, PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS: With the Texas law in place, he is having to turn most of his patients away. The options that he has for them are untenable -- needing to travel out of state, which many cannot do even if there are means for them to be able to leave the state, financially.

And so, he feels as a doctor who has been providing care for years, that it's important to challenge this blatantly unconstitutional law.


JARRETT: Supporters of the Texas law call these lawsuits a publicity stunt.

Well, schools and health departments are bracing for a possible 'twindemic' with flu season just around the corner in the middle of a raging pandemic. Last year, the levels of flu were actually low but many doctors fear that's all about to change.

Here is CNN's Jacqueline Howard.


JACQUELINE HOWARD, CNN REPORTER: Christine and Laura, flu really is unpredictable so we don't really know what to expect. But the American College of Emergency Physicians says there are early signs that the coming flu season could be severe.

And one analysis by scientists at the University of Pittsburgh suggests that since flu levels last year were low, our population immunity could be low, making us susceptible to a severe flu season. That is if people don't get their flu shots.

And, Christine and Laura, to address this across the country, we are now seeing some COVID-19 vaccination clinics also offering flu shots to people. There were some joint vaccine clinics held at colleges and universities just last week, and many doctors' offices and pharmacies now offer both vaccines. And the CDC says you can get a COVID-19 shot and a flu shot at the same time.

So these two-for-one vaccine clinics are really a new effort to get ahead of a potential 'twindemic' of COVID and flu.

Christine and Laura, back to you.


ROMANS: All right, Jacqueline. Thank you so much.

All right. Broken mirrors, stolen and defaced fire alarms, clogged toilets. "Animal House" in America's schools -- that's right. A viral social media challenge is defacing America's schools. As if teachers didn't have enough on their plate keeping kids safe and reversing COVID learning loss, kids are destroying stuff. Thousands of students have been making videos all in the name of a viral TikTok challenge.

TikTok says it's now removing videos around this "Devious Lick" trend. But students are going way outside the box and they're creating similar hashtags to get around it.

Folks, educators are begging parents -- you must check your kid's social media activity. You might not expect it but your kids -- many of them are involved in this viral movement to steal teachers' purses, clog up toilets, deface the fire alarms. It's just ridiculous.


JARRETT: You thought fighting against a mask ban was going to be hard.

ROMANS: Can you imagine? All right -- you're right. Teachers, as if they don't have enough to do --


ROMANS: -- social media gets in the way.

Let's get a check on CNN Business this Tuesday morning. Looking at markets around the world, a bounce back here. You can see Hong Kong and Shanghai both a little bit of gains after what was a pretty terrible performance in Asia yesterday. European shares have bounced back here.

You know, Chinese property firm Evergrande led to that selloff to start the week. That was the big story.

Bitcoin falling as fears of the Evergrande crisis was sweeping through the markets -- risk-off, we call it. So anything that's risky, people were selling that yesterday. It's dropped down about six percent in the last 24 hours.

Let's look at Wall Street, though -- I mean, where the real money is. You can see stock index futures looking like a bounce back after what was, honestly, a day rattled by the potential claps of that Evergrande.

Context here. Historically, September is the worst month for stocks, so there are plenty of people who are bracing for this with stocks near record highs. The Dow was down four percent for the month but it's nearly up 11 percent so far for the year. Looking like a bounce back this morning.

Retailers are already warning about higher costs for holiday gifts and how customers may have to spend more for a new artificial Christmas tree. Some sellers of artificial trees say they are raising prices by double-digit percentages this year. The reason, high shipping costs because of the ongoing supply chain crisis.

Balsam Hill is raising its prices by 20 percent.

Some retailers are concerned about having enough trees and decorations to meet demand. One seller said they're trying to absorb rising shipping costs, but some costs will hit shoppers in the wallet. So this -- these high prices will continue into the end of the year.

JARRETT: All right, the Packers bounce back from last week's embarrassing loss, dominating the Lions on "MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL."

Andy Scholes has this morning's Bleacher Report. Hey, Andy.


So, the Packers with a much better showing last night against the Lions to even their record at 1-1. But their fans probably pretty nervous after that first half. The Lions led 17 to 14 at the break.

But that's when Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay turned it on. Rodgers here to Robert Tonyan for the 22-yard score. That gave the Packers the lead. Then later in the third quarter -- this time Rodgers to his running back Aaron Jones -- one of the three touchdowns these two hooked up for.

Packers end up winning big, 35-17.


AARON RODGERS, QUARTERBACK, GREEN BAY PACKERS: I think we maybe tried to show that we cared a little bit more tonight. There's so many overreactions that happen on a week-to-week basis, so it's nice to come out and have a good performance and get the trolls off our back for at least a week.


SCHOLES: Now, Aaron Jones ended up with four touchdowns in his first game at Lambeau Field since his father passed away in April from COVID.

The 26-year-old running back was wearing a necklace that had his father's ashes in it. Jones, though -- he actually lost that necklace mid-game. He thinks it came off as he was running in for a touchdown in the second quarter. He said he'd looked everywhere and couldn't find it afterwards. Jones said, though, if there was any place to lose it, that's where my dad would have wanted me to lose it, referring to the end zone. All right, Peyton and Eli -- they were back at it again last night for the alternate "MANNING CAST" for "MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL." And the two had some jokes about the Patriots spying on them.


ELI MANNING, 2-TIME SUPER BOWL CHAMPION: We played the Patriots in that second Super Bowl in Indianapolis and they practiced at your facility all week. Were you a little nervous going back in your facility the next year -- that they didn't have, like, cameras in your quarterback room?

PEYTON MANNING, PRO FOOTBALL HALL OF FAMER: Every time I played against New England, I used to go and talk my receivers, like, in the shower in the far corner. I'm like don't talk about a play next to my locker because I know it's bugged. I know it's got a hot mic in there.


SCHOLES: Oh, the "MANNING CAST" is so good.

All right, to baseball where the Marlins outfielder Jesus Sanchez turned what should be a routine fly ball into an amazing catch. The rookie misjudged the ball but look, reaches out with his bare hand for the catch. I wonder if that hurt?

Miami would end up winning that one 8-7 in 10 innings.

And finally, a comeback story five years in the making. Anthony Gose last pitched in the majors in 20 -- or played in the majors, I should say, in 2016 as an outfielder with the Tigers.

But last night, the 31-year-old returned to the big leagues as a relief pitcher for Cleveland. He was called up from minors on Sunday and pitched an inning and two-thirds. Gose gave up one run, one hit, with a walk and a strikeout. Of his 39 pitches, seven clocked at more than 100 miles per hour.

Earlier this summer, Gose pitched for Team USA in Tokyo and helped the team win the silver medal.

And guys, I guess if you don't make it as an outfielder, being able to throw 100 miles an hour -- that's a pretty good backup plan.

JARRETT: It's not bad. Not bad at all.

ROMANS: All right, Andy.


ROMANS: Nice to see you.

JARRETT: Thanks.

SCHOLES: Good to see you.

ROMANS: So nice to see you, Andy.

SCHOLES: All right.

ROMANS: All right.

A critical day ahead, folks. A vote on funding the government, the debt ceiling fight, divisions between Democrats over the Biden agenda. The president goes to the U.N. in just a few hours. A lot happening, folks.

Thanks for joining us this morning to get started. I'm Christine Romans.


JARRETT: I'm Laura Jarrett. We leave you this morning with a shot of the glowing harvest moon before summer turns to fall this week. Have a great day, everyone.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Brianna Keilar with John Berman. And it is Tuesday, September 21st.

On this new day, the U.S. is racing toward what Janet Yellen calls economic catastrophe thanks to Congress and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle engaging in a game of chicken with the economic recovery at stake. America is on the verge of default unless Congress raises the debt limit.

House Democrats expected to vote today on a bill that would essentially dare Republicans to vote against it.