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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Senate Votes to Extend Debt Ceiling Through Early December; Trump Lawyer Tells Allies to Defy Subpoenas from Jan. 6 Committee; Pfizer Seeks FDA Authorization of Vaccine for Children Aged 5 to 11. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired October 08, 2021 - 05:00   ET



LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. It is Friday, October 8th. It's 5:00 a.m. here in New York. Thanks so much for getting an EARLY START with us. I'm Laura Jarrett.


Breaking news this morning, a catastrophe averted. Senate Democrats voted last night to raise the nation's debt limit through early December and head off an economic disaster. This fragile deal in doubt until the very end, and at the center of it all, Mitch McConnell, the Senate minority leader, throwing a lifeline while triggering a divide in his own party. Ultimately, 11 Republicans, including McConnell joined Democrats to take up the bill and break up the GOP filibuster leaving some other Republicans critical of his strategy.


REPORTER: Do you believe McConnell made a mistake in this deal?


REPORTER: You do? Why?

GRAHAM: We had a plan and we threw it over. We can't let threat of changing the rules drive us every time.

SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): I think the Democratic threats to destroy the filibuster caused him to give in. I think that was a mistake, serious mistake.

REPORTER: Were you surprised?

CRUZ: Yes.


JARRETT: After the vote, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer laid blame on the Republicans for leading the nation on the brink of default triggering visible frustration from one of his fellow Democrats. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): Leader McConnell and Senate Republicans insisted they wanted a solution to the debt ceiling, but said Democrats must raise it alone by going through a drawn-out convoluted and risky reconciliation process. That was simply unacceptable to my caucus. And yesterday Senate Republicans finally realized that their obstruction was not going to work.


JARRETT: The senator in the back of Schumer there, that is Senator Joe Manchin, of course, a key vote for Democrats with his hands over his face, rubbing them, apparently not troubled by the GOP obstructionism on the debt ceiling, but by the majority leader's lack of, quote, civility.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): I just think we need to find a pathway forward. We have to de-weaponize. We can't be playing politics. None of us can on both sides, okay.

Both sides have been very guilty of this and the frustration was built up, and I'm sure Chuck's frustration was, but that was not a way to take it out. We just disagree. I would have done it differently.


JARRETT: CNN's Daniella Diaz has the latest from Capitol Hill.

Daniella, good morning to you.

It was sort of a nail-biter right up until the very end there on this vote. We are now going to be in basically the same spot by December. So where do Democrats go from here?

DANIELLA DIAZ, CNN REPORTER: Well, first the house has to pass this bill, Laura, so they can avoid defaulting on the nation's debt. Of course, we were barreling towards that October 18th deadline. That is why all of this chaos happened in the past couple days on the Senate side. Because Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen was warning that if Congress did not address the debt ceiling, the nation would default on its debt by October 18th.

So, now, it is looking like that's not going to happen, but it's not a permanent solution. It's just a two-month delay on this. But I really think you guys laid if it out perfectly. There is a divide between Republicans and Democrats in the Senate how this was handled. Both Republicans and Democrats mad at their own leaders for how they handled this.

You played that clip from Senator Joe Manchin. He is incredibly upset that Senate majority lieder Chuck Schumer took to the Senate floor to slam Republicans on this for refusing to do this in a bipartisan way which has been done since 2011. He did not think that this is how politics should be working right now. You know Manchin has always been an advocate for bipartisanship, as a moderate Democrat.

On the other hand, you have Republicans such as Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Lindsey Graham who are incredibly upset that Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell cut a deal with Schumer in the first place. McConnell had originally said that Democrats would have to go at this alone, and they would have had to figure out how to raise or suspend the debt ceiling alone and Republicans would not aid in this. But earlier this week he cut a deal with Schumer to pass a bill so that they could suspend the debt ceiling until December, and that is what happened and why conservatives are angry.

So, lots of divides here that happened in the Senate last night. Lots of anger from rank and file members. But it's important to note that this has only bought Democrats time until they have to deal with this permanently. McConnell has argued by doing this, now Democrats have time to deal with raising the debt ceiling using a very complicated process, using budget reconciliation, which means they could include this in a budget bill, and pass it using a simple majority, and the important thing here is they would have to put a number on where they want to raise the debt ceiling to.


And Democrats would have to own that. That is why McConnell did this. Also, he was concerned that Democrats would have to change filibuster rules so that raising the debt ceiling would happen using a simple majority, and he did not want that either.

So it was really a crunch time here and that is why they did this -- Laura, Christine.

JARRETT: All right. Daniella Diaz, thank you so much for all your reporting as usual.

ROMANS: So, the midnight deadline has come and gone for Donald Trump's most loyal aides dodging subpoenas from the January 6 Select Committee. A Trump lawyer told them not to cooperate according to a "Washington Post". The former president said he will try to assert executive privilege to keep House investigators from gathering insurrection evidence, a tactic that led to this warning from the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee Dick Durbin.


SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): I would suggest modestly, follow the law instead of the ravings of had former president. He doesn't have the power to pardon you any more. Probably I hope never will again. And be careful. Follow the law even if the president is begging you to stay away because of the evidence that you might present.


ROMANS: We get more this morning from CNN's Jessica Schneider.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Laura and Christine, the former president and his legal team are starting to set up major roadblocks for the January 6th select committee that could eventually lead to lengthy litigation. "The Washington Post" is reporting that an attorney for the former president is instructing four former aides who have been subpoenaed by the committee not to comply. Thursday night was the deadline and it's not clear how the committee will move forward, especially because they want four of those key members of the Trump administration to come in for depositions next week.

Now, the four Trump allies seemingly already defying these subpoenas for documents, are former Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, former Deputy Chief of Staff Dan Scavino, former strategist Steve Bannon, and Kash Patel who was the former chief of staff to the then acting secretary of defense.

Now, we have also learned that Trump's team has indicated he will exert executive privilege to prevent the committee from getting information from people who worked at the White House. But despite all of this, the committee is still moving forward. Lawmakers just issued two new rounds of subpoenas to more people who are involved in planning the "Stop the Steal" rally on January 6th. That was the precursor to the Capitol attack.

One of the subpoenas issued is to the "Stop the Steal" group leader Ali Alexander. He actually previously claimed he worked closely with Republican congressmen planning the rally and that he also communicated with the White House. So all of those major points of interest for the select committee, we'll see what they get -- guys.


JARRETT: Jessica, thank you for that.

Subverting justice in more ways than one. A new report from the Senate Judiciary Committee reveals that Trump tried nine times to get his Justice Department to undermine the 2020 election.

And it wasn't just Trump. White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows also pressed the Justice Department lawyer to investigate bogus claims of election fraud. The report also describes this surreal three-hour meeting in the Oval with Trump floating a plan to install Jeffrey Clark, that's another Justice Department lawyer, one perceived as perhaps more loyal.

He was supposed to be installed as the acting attorney general to somehow some way nullify Joe Biden's win. The former president was talked out of this move after being told it would lead to mass resignations at the DOJ.

ROMANS: All right. Vaccinations are key to the economic recovery and to recovering all those jobs lost in the pandemic. The hope is that widespread vaccination rates and rising wages will get people back to work, especially front line workers.

President Biden in Illinois Thursday saying mandates work. They cut the number of unvaccinated Americans by a third from 95 million people to 67 million.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm calling on more employers to act. My message is require your employees to get vaccinated. With vaccinations we're going to beat this pandemic finally. For without them, we face endless months of chaos in our hospitals, damage to our economy, and anxiety in our schools, and empty restaurants, and much less commerce.


ROMANS: A key report today on the job situation, economists predict half a million jobs were added back to the economy in the month and the jobless rate slipped to 5.1 percent. Remember, August jobs growth was the slowest since January, 500,000 jobs in September would be more than double August report.

Perspective here, the economy is still down 5.3 million jobs since the pandemic began. So we've got to start picking up the pace here.

There is a lot of hope maybe these numbers will be strong today because kids are physically in schools again. So some parents might have been able to get back into the work force because they are not physically taking care of children all day long.


But the child care component of this is still a real problem.

JARRETT: You're going to be on top of it at 8:00 sharp, right?

All right. Still ahead for you, the manhunt for Brian Laundrie continues as more information comes to light about his movements before he went missing. We have the latest on that case, next.


ROMANS: As the manhunt for Brian Laundrie comes up short, new details are emerging about Gabby Petito's fiancee and his movements before he vanished three weeks ago. Authorities are still combing a wilderness reserve near the family's home on Thursday. Brian Laundrie's father joined that search showing police the trails he and his son hiked in the past.

CNN's Randi Kaye is in North Port, Florida, with more for us.



RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Christine and Laura.

We're getting some new information from the North Port Police Department about Brian Laundrie and the days before he disappeared. We are now learning that authorities did not speak to Brian Laundrie before he disappeared, but they were surveilling Brian Laundrie. I'm told by the North Port Police Department that they were doing what they could legally do because, remember, there was no crime at that time. Gabby Petito's remains had not been found.

We're also learning more about the couple's cell phones. You may recall that Brian Laundrie, after returning to town just a few days later on September 4th, had bought a new cell phone at an AT&T store here in north port, Florida. Well, now I've confirmed with the North Port Police Department that they do not have Brian Laundrie's original phone that he had on that trip out west, nor do they have Gabby Petito's phone that was on the trip out west. They were not in the van, in Gabby Petito's van, which Brian Laundrie drove back here from Wyoming to Florida.

But we did speak with a former FBI agent and attorney, and he said that you don't actually need the physical phone to get some of the information off, that they can track the phone. They can check geographic location. You would also be able to see not only where Gabby Petito was, but where the phone was when some of these text messages were sent. We know there were a couple of what her family thinks were pretty bizarre text messages sent in late August that they don't believe she actually sent. So it would be interesting to see where the phone was at that time.

He also said the text messages are stored just for a few days, but there's other information that would be stored on the cloud much longer, including Internet searches that Gabby Petito may have done which could prove to be very valuable for investigators. Back to you.


JARRETT: Randi, thank you for that. How have they not found him yet?

ROMANS: It's been such a mystery.

JARRETT: Right? It's amazing.

Well, getting shots in young arms could be just weeks away, opening up 28 million for protection in the fight against COVID. We have the details for you ahead.



JARRETT: Welcome back.

The holidays may look a little brighter this year with COVID vaccine vaccinations for kids coming hopefully in a matter of weeks. Pfizer requested emergency authorization for its shot for children 5 to 11. The surgeon general says even though the FDA promises to move quickly on this, it's going to be done right.


DR. VIVEK MURTHY, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: We're going to see movement very quickly here. But, Anderson, one thing the FDA is not going to do is they're not going to cut corners in this process, and they want people to know when they make their decision, and if that ends up being in support of a vaccine for kids, that people know that the vaccine is both safe and highly effective. I think we'll see vaccines for kids under 5 come not too long after that.


JARRETT: An estimated 28 million children would be eligible for the shots in the U.S. if regulators give them the green light.

CNN's Elizabeth Cohen has more on this.


ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Christine, Laura, the news that Pfizer has applied for emergency use authorization for children ages 5 to 11, well, it's game changing for parents of children that age. A panel of FDA advisers, their external advisers to the FDA, they are going to meet on October 26 to take a look at all of Pfizer's data, and that gives us a hint as to the time line when Pfizer might get in the EUA.

When we looked at last year when Pfizer was applying for an EUA for adults, the CDC gave the vaccine the green light just two days after the FDA advisers met and said it should be authorized. Let's look at Pfizer's data. Pfizer has a clinical trial with more than 2,200 participants ages 5 to 11. Those children were given the dose one- third the size given to adults, and Pfizer says that the vaccine was safe and generated a robust antibody response.

But the FDA wants to know is the children who got the vaccine in the clinical trial, were they less likely to get sick with COVID later on. In the clinical trial, half the children got the vaccine, half the children got a shot of saline, a placebo that does nothing. And so, what the FDA is going to want to see is when Pfizer followed those children, were the vaccinated children less likely to get COVID-19.

Now, we expect to see that kind of data before the October 26 meeting of the FDA advisers -- Christine, Laura.


ROMANS: All right, Elizabeth, thank you.

Yet another reason to be vaccinated. One hospital is requiring the shot before an organ transplant. The University of Colorado hospital says people who are vaccinated will not be eligible for a new organ. Hospital officials say unvaccinated transplant recipients have a much higher risk of death if they become infected with COVID-19. They say it is standard practice to require organ recipients and donors to be vaccinated against infectious diseases.

JARRETT: This morning in Florida, school officials are feeling the pain after putting safety first. The state board of education voted to sanction eight school districts that required masks without letting their parents opt the children out. Now, the schools say they defied the governor's executive order for the safety of the students and staff.

CNN's Nick Valencia explains what these sanctions could mean.


NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Laura and Christine, the science is pretty clear. Wearing a mask helps reduce the chances of somebody contracting the coronavirus, but wearing masks was still a topic of discussion that was debated at Thursday's Department of Education meeting in Florida. With the board there unanimously voted to sanction eight school districts in the state for being in non-compliance of the Department of Health's emergency ruling there in Florida to prevent universal masking protocols as well as having students exposed to COVID-19 stay home.


The commissioner there in the state from the board of Giuliani indication recommended that the pay of the school board members in those districts where there are mask mandates have their pay be docked. Also, he recommended that state money be withheld from those districts to offset any federal grants that were given to those districts that could be perceived as encouraging mask mandates. The meeting was tense at times that offered chances for superintendents to offer a rebuttal, but just listen to the commissioner here layout his recommendations for those sanctions.

COMMISSIONER: I recommend that the state board find that the district is out of compliance with the Department of Health Emergency Rule 64 d. r. 21 15 order compliance within 48 hours and withhold state funds in an amount equal to any federal project safe grant funds or successor grants awarded to the school district for its noncompliance with the Department of Health Rule 64 d. r. 21 15 in addition to withholding state funds in an amount to 1/12 of each school board members annual salary.

VALENCIA: The meeting did offer chance of parents of students in those districts to comment. A majority of those that called in voiced their disapproval for mask mandates. A handful did call in to support their district.

We should mention quickly six of the districts filed a joint lawsuit challenging the Department of Health's emergency ruling there in Florida banning universal masking protocols. It was in July that the governor issued an executive order banning mask mandates in schools -- Laura, Christine.


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

All right. The treasury secretary calling out those D.C. antics that threaten the full faith credit of the U.S. government.


JANET YELLEN, TREASURY SECRETARY: It's flirting with a self-inflicted crisis.


ROMANS: A crisis averted, but what next?