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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

White House Maintains Optimism Amid Rising Prices And COVID Polarization; U.K. Spy Christopher Steele Defends Controversial Trump Russia Dossier; Two Arrested In Athens For Protesting Beijing Olympics. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired October 18, 2021 - 05:30   ET



LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: And this morning the White House is facing a big challenge on the economy. You've got tangled supply chains, a tight labor market, and rising prices all on the minds of many Americans. COVID, of course, the backdrop for all of these economic woes. That puts the Biden administration in the position of trying to project both optimism about the future while managing Americans' expectations for a quick turnaround.

CNN's Jasmine Wright is live in Washington for us. Jasmine, good morning.

So, what is the White House's strategy here? How do they thread that needle both on optimism and realism?

JASMINE WRIGHT, CNN WHITE House REPORTER: Yes, Laura. Well, they're trying to be upfront about the reality of some of these issues that they face.

Yesterday on "STATE OF THE UNION WITH JAKE TAPPER" Transportation Sec. Pete Buttigieg -- he said that these supply chain issues -- that disruption that they're seeing could go into 2022. He said that they will, basically -- really, foreshadowing some really negativity and hard times for folks as they kind of go into that holiday shopping, but also for the administration as it starts to approach that midterm election season that we know will be kind of a fight at the end of the year. And so, that's what Buttigieg said.

And he said despite all of the things that the White House has announced this last week on the supply chain, really trying to get those west coast ports to start operating 24 hours a day and meeting with industry officials trying to see how they can kind of shake loose some of these supply chain problems -- he said that the best way to alleviate the issue would be to pass President Biden's bipartisan infrastructure bill that passed the Senate and now is stalled in the House along with the rest of his economic agenda.

Because bottom line, when we talk about strategy that is what it comes down to for this administration, trying to get President Biden's economic agenda passed. Trying to get some movement on that. And right now, as we know, there is no deal in sight as kind of has been the case since I've been talking to you about this for the last few weeks. So, White House officials said last -- at the end of last week that

the president would spend this weekend on the phone negotiating, trying to get folks on -- merge kind of that consensus of both factions of the Democratic Party that still are at odds with each other, not really settling on a deal -- trying to get them to come together for an agreement to push forward that two-prong sweeping economic agenda, which is that bipartisan infrastructure bill. And also, that social safety net expansion package that was initially priced at $3.5 trillion.

Because the bottom line here Laura is that this administration is really entering a critical two weeks. They face the transportation funding expiring at the end of the month, as well as President Biden getting climate officials in Europe -- really, his counterparts -- to talk about climate change, as well as that looming Virginia governor race.

So, President Biden is trying to push these things through along with his administration really to ease not only supply chain demands which funding is in for some of these packages for ports but also really trying to get the economy going. And the way that they see that is with this economic agenda.

So, we will see them trying to push forward this week but again, as I said, there is no deal in sight to do the thing that they believe will put the economy back on track, which is his economic agenda.

JARRETT: All right, big week ahead. Jasmine, thank you. Appreciate your reporting as usual.

So, speaking of Pete Buttigieg, as Jasmine mentioned, he has a message for Tucker Carlson that one would think a parent should understand. Paternity leave is not a vacation. The Fox News host recently mocked Buttigieg for taking time off to help care for his newborn twins.

Asked about it on CNN's "STATE OF THE UNION" yesterday, the Transportation secretary had this response.


PETE BUTTIGIEG, TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: As you might imagine, we're bottle feeding and doing it all hours of the day and night. And I'm not going to apologize to Tucker Carlson or anyone else for taking care of my premature newborn infant twins.


JARRETT: Buttigieg says having the time to care for his twins is something that all Americans should have when they welcome a new child into their family.

With Election Day a little more than two weeks away the race for governor in Virginia is heating up now. Terry McAuliffe, the former governor and current Democratic candidate, is going big. He's counting on the party's big names, like Stacey Abrams, to fire up crowds and boost turnout, particularly among Black voters. We get more on all of this from CNN's Eva McKend.


EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER (on camera): With an eye toward the midterms the message here is what happens in Virginia has implications for the whole country. That's why we saw the McAuliffe campaign tap on Stacey Abrams to deliver that message to get Virginia Democrats excited in this off-year election.

STACEY ABRAMS, FORMER DEMOCRATIC LEADER OF GEORGIA House OF REPRESENTATIVES: I'm here from Georgia. We don't have an election this year for the governor. But I know what happens here matters across this country. You see, when you decide who is going to lead you people and decide whether they going to follow. And here in Virginia, you have the chance to set the stage.

Do we go in the direction of the future or do we regress to a past that is dark and bitter and mean, and does not believe in all of us?

MCKEND (on camera): For his part, McAuliffe's Republican opponent, Glenn Youngkin -- he won't be campaigning with national Republicans. He says he's comfortable being out on the trail all on his own, not calling in those national figures.

But we will see more of this from the McAuliffe campaign. President Biden expected to be out on the trail again soon. And former President Barack Obama -- he'll be in Virginia on Saturday -- Laura.


Eva, thank you for that.

Let's bring in CNN White House correspondent John Harwood. John, good morning to you. Happy Monday.

So --


JARRETT: Good morning.

So, Terry McAuliffe is drawing on the likes of Obama and Stacey Abrams in the final stretch of this campaign. Will it help him?

HARWOOD: Sure, and what Terry McAuliffe needs most is to energize Democrats. We've seen consistently that Terry McAuliffe has held a very narrow lead in polling but the narrow leads only hold up if your people turn out at equivalent rates to those of your opponent.

And as typically happens in an off-year election after a presidential contest, the party that did not win the White House tends to be more energized because they've got more aggrievance. They lost last time. They feel like they're on the march and the party in the White House is on the defensive. In the last 11 Virginia gubernatorial races Laura, 10 times, the party outside of the White House has won that race. The one exception was Terry McAuliffe in 2013 when he won after Barack Obama had won.

Now, partly, that reflects the fact that Virginia has become more Democratic over the years, but it's still hard for the party in the White House to win these off-year gubernatorial races. Terry McAuliffe is trying to do that and people like Barack Obama can help him.

JARRETT: So, John, Politico had an interesting piece over the weekend that showed Black Senate candidates in the south are raking in an enormous amount of cash in their most recent fundraising period. I'm curious -- why do you think that is?

HARWOOD: Well, two out of three -- Raphael Warnock of Georgia, and Tim Scott of South Carolina are Senate incumbents. We have a 50-50 Senate so it is maximally important to both political parties to reelect their incumbents and hold their seat. Similarly, Val Demings, who is the congresswoman from Florida -- a Democrat running against Marco Rubio -- that is a hugely significant high-profile race.

And so, in part, that's because all Senate candidates do well. But within the Democratic Party, of course, Black voters are an increasing part of the party base, increasingly powerful within the party -- and so, those figures are powerful.

And with Tim Scott, Republicans are, of course, on the defensive because their party is preponderantly centered in the white electorate. And to have someone like Tim Scott, who is African- American, allows them to say look, we're not a monochromatic party. We've got diversity in our party, too. That makes him particularly prized among Republican donors.

So, all of those things feed into it.

JARRETT: So, on the Republican side there has been this assumption that if the former president ran again that the GOP would just line up in support of him without any questions. Unclear if he actually even wants to run again or whether he's just flirting with all of the attention -- all of the attention.

But GOP Sen. Bill Cassidy was on Axios and he pushed back on this idea. Take a listen to what he says and then I want to ask you about it.


MIKE ALLEN, CO-FOUNDER, AXIOS: If he runs, he wins the nomination. If he --

SEN. BILL CASSIDY (R-LA): No, I don't know that. President Trump is the first president, in the Republican side at least, to lose the House, the Senate, and the presidency in four years. Elections are about winning, so --

ALLEN: That's super interesting. You think that if he ran, he could lose the nomination?

CASSIDY: Well, if you want to win the presidency -- and hopefully, that's what voters are thinking about -- I think he might.

ALLEN: Well, it's clear you ain't voting for him.

CASSIDY: I'm not.


JARRETT: What do you think, John? Is Cassidy right?

HARWOOD: Well, he could be right but I think we have to assume at this point in the pre-2024 positioning that Donald Trump's in a very strong position within the Republican Party. Remember, Bill Cassidy is one of the very few Republican senators who voted to convict President Trump on impeachment charges.


HARWOOD: That makes him an outlier just like Adam Kinzinger or Liz Cheney within the House does.

So, Donald Trump has got a strong grip on the base. It is -- he would start as an underdog in the general election. But within the Republican Party, he is in a very strong position. Still, we'll have to see if that stays the case in a couple of years.


JARRETT: Yes. Cassidy is still an outlier on pushing back against some of the president's more outlandish lies as well.

John Harwood, thank you so much my friend -- appreciate it.

HARWOOD: You bet.

JARRETT: OK, now to this.

Former British spy Christopher Steele speaking out in his first on- camera interview since the bombshell publication of the series of intelligence reports known as the Steele dossier. Those are the ones that claimed Russian officials were holding compromising information on the former president, Donald Trump.

Steele is now defending his work, his name, and the decision to include some of the dossier's most controversial elements.


GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS ANCHOR, "THIS WEEK WITH GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS": Most of the world first heard your name about five years ago but you have stayed silent up until now. Why speak out now?

CHRISTOPHER STEELE, FORMER BRITISH SPY: I think there are several reasons. I think the first and most important is the problems we identified back in 2016 haven't gone away and, arguably, have actually gotten worse. And I thought it was important to come and set the record straight.

STEPHANOPOULOS: One of your main collectors who spoke to the inspector general said that especially, the kompromat was word of mouth and hearsay, conversations with friends over beers. It was just talk.

STEELE: If you have a confidential source and that confidential source is blown or is uncovered, that confidential source will often take fright and try and downplay and underestimate what they've said and done. And I think that's probably what happened here.


STEELE: I think anybody that's named in this contact, particularly if they are Russian, has every reason to be afraid.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So you stand by the dossier?

STEELE: I stand by the work we did for sources that we had and the professionalism which we applied to it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: And today, do you still believe that tape exists?

STEELE: I think it probably does but I wouldn't put 100 percent certainty on it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So how do explain if that tape does indeed exist, it hasn't been released?

STEELE: Well, it hasn't needed to be released.


STEELE: Because I think the Russians felt they got pretty good value out of Donald Trump when he was president of the U.S.


JARRETT: So, I should mention here many of Steele's claims, such as the one about that tape and former Trump attorney Michael Cohen traveling to Prague to meet with Russian officials, were never proven.

OK. An unknown number of Americans are among 353 passengers on the latest evacuation flight out of Kabul. A senior Qatari government official tells CNN the plane departed Sunday for Qatar. It's the ninth evacuation flight from Afghanistan since August 31st.

The passengers include faculty, staff, and students from the American University of Afghanistan. In Doha, the evacuates will be tested for COVID before leaving for their final destinations.

We'll be right back.


JARRETT: He came out of nowhere. That's how authorities are describing the actions of a gunman who shot and killed one deputy and wounded two others outside a Houston bar early Saturday morning. The suspect is still on the loose.

CNN's Mark Morales has the latest.


MARK MORALES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT REPORTER (on camera): The search continues for a gunman who opened fire on three deputies, killing one of them outside of a bar in Houston.

Investigators with the Houston Police Department's Homicide Division are searching the area, hoping that they find some surveillance footage that shows them either the shooting taking place or something discernable about the shooter. They're also interviewing any witnesses that might have seen anything or heard anything.

Essentially, they are chasing down every possible lead, hoping that something takes them to the shooter. The only description they have at the moment is that the shooter is believed to be a man in his 20s.

Now, these three deputies who were shot were working security for a bar in the Houston area. Two of them were inside this bar when they were responding to an incident happening in the parking lot, which law enforcement believes was a robbery. And as the officers were outside apprehending somebody, that's when the shooter came out from behind their vehicle and opened fire.

A third deputy heard what was going on and came running towards the danger, and that's when the gunman turned his AR-15 rifle on that deputy and shot him.

Now, while this manhunt is going on, law enforcement and people in the area are left reeling. They are mourning the loss of one of these deputies who was killed. He has been identified as 30-year-old Kareem Atkins, who leaves behind a wife and an infant child. He was recently on paternity leave and had just come back.

Now, investigators are still chasing leads. They're looking for anything that will lead them to the shooter and they're asking anyone who has any information to reach out to the Houston Police Department -- Laura.


JARRETT: Mark, thank you for that.

In Georgia, the murder trial begins today against three white men accused of hunting down and killing a Black jogger last year. Ahmaud Arbery was running near Brunswick, Georgia when Greg and Travis McMichael chased him down in their pickup truck, and Travis ultimately shot him. Also standing trial here is William "Roddie" Bryan, a neighbor who

joined the chase and took a graphic cellphone video of the shooting.

Prosecutors will likely argue the men were motivated by racism. Travis McMichael has asked the judge to keep out any evidence of his vanity license plate, which has a Confederate battle flag on it.

Jury selection is set to begin later today.

Two activists in Greece arrested while protesting the upcoming Winter Olympics in Beijing. They were detained by police Sunday after unfurling banners at the Acropolis in Athens. This, as organizers of the Chinese Winter Games prepare to formally receive the Olympic flame.

Let's go to Steven Jiang live in Beijing for us. Steven, what is China saying about these protests and calls for boycotting the Beijing Olympics?


STEVEN JIANG, CNN BEIJING BUREAU SENIOR PRODUCER: Laura, Chinese officials have not responded to the news of the detention, but this kind of protest and calls for boycott not surprising. It's almost like deja vu of what happened in 2008 in the lead-up to the Beijing Summer Games. That year, of course, we saw protesters dog the entire torch relay journey outside of China over this country's human rights record.

Now, this year, because of all the COVID-19 restrictions, the organizers here are probably not going to see a repeat of most of those embarrassing protests. But still, the same concerns and anger about China remains with activists and politicians calling for a boycott -- really trying to highlight the plight of the Uyghurs and other minorities like the Tibetans, as well as the people of Hong Kong.

And they argue when the International Olympic Committee awarded the 2008 games to Beijing, they said these games would become a catalyst for the improvement of human rights in China. But instead, the prestige of hosting these games has emboldened the Beijing leadership to further suppress dissent within its borders. So, they say why make the same mistake twice?

But so far, this kind of voice is ignored by the IOC and most of the Olympic sponsors and partners. And for them, of course, this is more than a major sporting event. This is billions of dollars at stake.

One number we keep hearing Laura, President Xi Jinping wants to see 300 million Chinese play winter sports in the next few years. So that prospect may just prove too lucrative for the sponsors to stay away -- Laura.

JARRETT: Good point there.

All right, Steven. Thank you for that. Meantime, China's economy is hurting. The latest economic data showing the slowest rate of growth in a year.

CNN's Kristie Lu Stout joins us live with all the details on this angle. Kristi, so help us out here. What's behind some of these numbers?

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Well, this is a pretty significant report because this latest GDP report out of China is signaling just a clear slowdown in economic growth. China, earlier today, announced that its economy had grown 4.9 percent in the third quarter. That is a sharp slowdown from the 7.9 percent growth it had posted in the previous quarter.

And China is facing an array of economic challenges. For example, weak consumer spending due in part to the flareups of the Delta variant across China.

You also have the ongoing energy crisis, which is worsening due to record-high prices of coal. China's main source of energy is still coal. That has led to widespread power outages and has also forced China to ration electricity in 20 provinces. It has also forced some factories in China to suspend production and that has led to a sharp fall in industrial production.

On top of all that, you have the ongoing Evergrande debt crisis. Evergrande is, of course, the Hong Kong-listed property firm -- China's most heavily indebted developer with over $300 billion worth of liabilities.

Now, even before today's report was released a number of economists across the region had revised downward their economic forecast for China, including Aidan Yao of AXA. I want you to listen to this.


AIDAN YAO, SENIOR EMERGING ASIA ECONOMIST, AXA INVESTMENT MANAGERS: I think the data suggests that there are multiple headwinds facing the Chinese economy at the moment, some of which are temporary. Some of them could be more long-lasting. I think the key long-term challenge is the housing market crackdown.


STOUT: Now, last week, before today's report came out, the Chinese premier, Li Keqiang, acknowledges economic challenges and also said that China has the tools to cope.

Back to you, Laura.

JARRETT: Kristie, thank you for that.

Well, L.A. County wants Vanessa Bryant, Kobe Bryant's widow, to undergo an independent psychiatric evaluation in a lawsuit over leaked photos of the Kobe Bryant crash site. The county says this is needed to prove that the leaked photos caused her emotional distress. Bryant, you'll remember, filed suit last year alleging the county employees showed off photos of the crash site that killed her husband, their daughter, and seven other people.

Vanessa Bryant and the other families are seeking tens of millions of dollars in damages from the county.

All right -- finally, here, a scary good opening for "Halloween Kills."


Clip from Universal Pictures "Halloween Kills."


JARRETT: The slasher earned $50 million in its debut weekend ahead of expectations at the box office. It's also streaming on Peacock. It's a follow-up to the 2018 reboot of the "Halloween" franchise, which was a smash hit and made more than $250 million worldwide.

All right, that's your Monday. Thanks for joining me. I'm Laura Jarrett. "NEW DAY" is next.



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. It is Monday, October 18th and I am Brianna Keilar with John Berman.

We do have some new details this morning about the 17 missionaries abducted in Haiti over the weekend. Sixteen of them are Americans, five of them are children. And a source inside Haitian security forces tells CNN that the gang 400 Mawozo is believed to be behind the kidnapping here.

Gang members reportedly stopped the missionaries' vehicle at gunpoint after they had visited an orphanage. This was in a suburb east of Port-au-Prince, an area that the gang --