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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Biden Steps Into Negotiations Over Economic Agenda Bills; Will Vaccine Mandates Help Economic Recovery?; Fisher-Price Calls On Nostalgia With Its Chatter Telephone For Adults. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired October 20, 2021 - 05:30   ET



JOE JOHNS, SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: And, of course, then we had the kidnapping just on Saturday.

Last night I talked to Father Rick Frechette, a Catholic priest -- an American who has lived and worked here, specifically with orphans in Haiti. He says he's very concerned having worked on dozens and dozens of abductions in this country -- very concerned that if a ransom is paid for these hostages, it could be trouble for Americans and other visitors to the country -- listen.


FATHER RICK FRECHETTE, FOUNDER, ST. LUKE FOUNDATION FOR HAITI: If there's a big ransom paid for these people you can kiss all of us goodbye because there's not going to be hope for anybody. An 8-month- old child is in their hands. A 3-year-old child is their hands. So, it's different and it's taking on a whole symbolic -- it's taking on a symbolic nature that the individual cases haven't had.


JOHNS: As we've been reporting, these kidnappers have demanded ransom of $17 million for the missionaries who are being held. Of course, Father Rick Frechette says they do tend to ask for a lot of money at the beginning and that can be negotiated down. This, of course, perhaps a different situation because it's so high profile.

Back to you.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: Joe, thank you so much for being on the ground there in Haiti for us -- appreciate it.

EARLY START continues right now.

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

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Christine Romans. It's Wednesday morning, 31 minutes past the hour. Time for our top stories to keep an eye on today.

President Biden stepping into Democratic negotiations over his sweeping economic agenda. He's trimming the cost to under $2 trillion to bring moderate senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema aboard. That means losing free community college and trimming a child tax credit. More on all of this in a moment.

JARRETT: Donald Trump's legal team is asking a federal court to black the National Archives from turning over key documents to the January 6 House committee investigating the insurrection. He wants a hearing on this case within 21 days. Trump's lawyers argued that the court must intervene quickly here to prevent confidential and privileged information from being turned over to the House by November 12th.

ROMANS: California Gov. Gavin Newsom extending a drought emergency to cover the entire state. California is experiencing its worst drought since the late 1800s. The proclamation allows state officials to ban wasteful water practices, including the use of drinkable water for washing sidewalks and driveways.

JARRETT: The NTSB will be on the scene today of a small plane crash near Houston. Miraculously, all 21 people on board survived that fiery wreck after a failed take-off. The plane was headed to Boston for game four of the American League Championship Series.

ROMANS: All right. This morning, Nikolas Cruz is expected to formally change his plea to guilty for the 2018 Parkland High School massacre. Cruz is charged with 17 counts of premeditated murder and 17 counts of attempted murder. Prosecutors have been seeking the death penalty.

JARRETT: Transgender employees at Netflix and some of their co- workers plan to walk off the job this afternoon to protest Dave Chappelle's comedy special "The Closer." Chappelle has been under fire for his transphobic remarks. In a new interview with "The Wall Street Journal" Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos admits he quote "screwed up" when he claimed the show's content did not directly translate to real-world harm.

ROMANS: All right. After weeks of clamor from progressives for more leadership from the top, President Biden is finally stepping up his involvement in Democrats' negotiations over his two big bills.

During marathon meetings with lawmakers Tuesday, the president discussed a lower price tag for the Build Back Better package, somewhere in the neighborhood of $1.75 to $1.9 trillion -- much closer to moderate Sen. Joe Manchin's topline than the progressives. But it also means putting some key agenda goals on the chopping block.

JARRETT: All right, it's time for three questions in maybe three minutes. There's a lot to get to. Let's bring in CNN senior reporter Isaac -- Edward-Isaac Dovere. Isaac, so nice to see you this morning. So great to have you on EARLY START.

We've seen all these adjustments the president is now apparently willing to make to this bill. He's put the price tag in the neighborhood of somewhere between $1.75 to $1.9 trillion, something lower than certainly all the progressives had wanted.

Why is he waiting until now to weigh in when progressives had wanted him to sort of move the needle and get in here earlier? EDWARD-ISAAC DOVERE, CNN SENIOR REPORTER: Well, first of all, it's great to be here.

Look, I think that what we're seeing here is this is crunch time. This is deals get made at the deadline and we're coming close to deadline periods here -- the votes that are expected to be needed by the end of the month. The president, before October 31st, is headed out of the country for a foreign trip.


And we're getting to the time when it actually is put up or shut up time for everybody. And so, that's why we're seeing what's going -- what's being cut -- what's being put out of the bill entirely. And coming to the point where the president actually says what it is that he would like to see this final bill look like.

ROMANS: Yes. The contours, obviously, can keep changing here. But only four weeks of paid leave, free community college off the table. Means testing for the child tax credit.

How do progressives feel about this?

DOVERE: Well, they'd rather have more, obviously. But some of this stuff is being pushed forward with the idea that they're getting some of what they want and putting the ball on the field, to use an expression that actually came up a bunch for the -- in the Obama years when they were trying to get Obamacare to happen. The idea that they could change the healthcare system. Maybe not do all the things they wanted but start moving the process to then later on expand it.

So, four weeks of paid leave is less than 12 weeks of paid leave, but it's more than zero weeks of paid leave, and that's the way that they are approaching this right now.

ROMANS: And I guess the idea is that when you start to give -- you make inroads on these important protections for people --


ROMANS: -- it's hard to roll them back, right?

JARRETT: Them back.

ROMANS: Once they're on --

DOVERE: Right.

ROMANS: -- the board it's hard to roll them back.

JARRETT: Isaac, we also have Election Day coming up in, what, less than two weeks now. I wonder how much do you think that all of these negotiations and machinations in Washington, D.C. -- how much do you think people in Virginia and other places are actually paying attention to this? Do you think this is sort of like a kitchen table issue, if you will, for voters? DOVERE: Well, Joe Biden was elected on the promise that he could get government to work. That he could get government to deliver for people. That Democrats could actually run government.

Terry McAuliffe is running as the Democratic candidate in Virginia -- not just within that but, obviously, running to try to be governor again to show that what he did he can do more of. That requires Democrats essentially show that they've done something.

But some of that is about what's actually passed in the bill and what they can get past Joe Manchin at this point, and some of that is about the selling process when it comes time.

Tim Ryan, a congressman from Ohio who is running for Senate in Ohio next year, said to me last week for an article that we had up on Monday that this is a question for Democrats. Can they get this out? Can they get the message out to people of what they've done here once they do it? And he said to me if Democrats can't do it then they don't deserve to have their jobs, and they probably won't.


You know, I've got to say a lot has been made about what a mess this has been -- the timing and should they have done infrastructure first or not first. But a lot of people in Washington have been telling me, Isaac, that this is what it looks like when you're passing big legislation. It's messy. It's messy, it's ugly, and it comes together at the last second.

Does that feel right to you?

DOVERE: Yes. Look, we're actually not so used to Congress passing bills --


DOVERE: -- at this point -- over the last decade or more. This is what the legislative process looks like. It doesn't often play out in the way that we're used to thinking about it and sort of the minute- by-minute coverage that we do here or that we do all over Washington. That -- it's messy. It's horse-trading. It's all those things.

And when you've got to figure out how do you square the progressive hopes for this with Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, who have decisive votes in the Senate, and a president who wants to get huge things done -- has that portrait of FDR looking at him in the Oval Office -- thinking about things that way. But also, needs to figure out how you bring all the disparate parts of the Democratic Party together.

It was always going to be messy. And, in fact, at this point it's not -- it hasn't been too messy. There haven't been explosions or fights or knockout, drag-out arguments out in public. It's actually been relatively calm.

ROMANS: Huge -- the president has a huge agenda and not a huge bit of wiggle room in terms of these -- he needs every single vote to do that.

JARRETT: And even if it ends up being $1.7, it's still an enormous amount of money --

ROMANS: Right.

JARRETT: -- and it's still going to be life-changing for a lot of folks.

ROMANS: Isaac Dovere, CNN senior reporter, thank you. Nice to see you.

JARRETT: It's so great to have you at CNN.

DOVERE: Thank you.

JARRETT: Thank you so much, Isaac.

ROMANS: Thanks.

JARRETT: All right.

The Biden administration is rolling out a plan to address mental health -- the mental health crisis among students triggered by this pandemic. Their new plan lays out seven critical areas of difficulty facing educators and care providers and offers a corresponding list of recommendations.

The Education Department says the goal of the plan is to enhance mental health literacy and reduce stigma and other barriers to access.

ROMANS: All right, let's get a check on CNN Business this Wednesday morning.

Looking at markets around the world, Asian shares have closed for the day, and they've closed mixed. Europe has opened narrowly mixed here. And on Wall Street, stock index futures are barely moving.

Look, stocks closed higher Tuesday. The Dow up 198 points. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq also up.

More corporate earnings on deck today. Nestle, United Airlines, and Verizon report before the bell. Tesla will share its report when markets close.



Clip from Netflix "Squid Game."


ROMANS: Call it the "Squid Game" effect. Netflix added 4.4 million subscribers in the third quarter, riding the wave of the series that has become a global sensation. Netflix said the dystopian series was its biggest-ever series at launch -- 142 million households watching the show in the first four weeks.

It wasn't a blowout quarter for Netflix but after two quarters of somewhat sluggish subscriber growth, Netflix seems to be back on track.

JARRETT: Wow, 4.4 million.

ROMANS: I know. Usually -- and that's the time of the year when it's usually a little slow -- the end of the summer.


ROMANS: But really good numbers there.

We'll be right back.


ROMANS: All right.

Battles over vaccine mandates playing out in cities nationwide. Now, businesses stepping in with more requirements. They have to meet a deadline set by the White House.


Let's bring in CNN economics commentator Catherine Rampell, an opinion columnist for "The Washington Post." Nice to see you this morning.

You know, Catherine, we're watching these new vaccine mandates now at General Electric. Also, Union Pacific, Boeing, IBM, Raytheon already have them. I mean, if you're a government contractor --

JARRETT: You have to.

ROMANS: -- with more than 100 employees you've got to have these mandates in. These companies employ more than 300,000 people.

Is this the way to fixing the COVID economy by vaccinating this workforce? How important is that?

CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN ECONOMICS COMMENTATOR, OPINION COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: I think it is critical. The evidence that we have so far is that these mandates work from industries as varied as airlines to hospital systems.

Enough of the people who were holdouts -- people who were not getting the vaccination at this point -- appear to have been merely hesitant as opposed to outright refusers -- that when pushed -- when faced with risking the loss of their job, they do get vaccinated. A few of them leave. There are stories about those people, of course. But their numbers, so far, appear to be tiny.

And so, it has been helpful for employers.

ROMANS: Yes. RAMPELL: -- particularly if they're able to move in concert because there's a government requirement, for example. So they don't have to worry about losing workers to their competitors.

ROMANS: There are a couple of CEOs who I talked to who said that essentially, the Biden mandate gave them cover, you know? They were like OK, fine, the government says this. We've got a government contract but now we're doing it. And that was -- that was a point of finality.

JARRETT: What they needed.

ROMANS: Right.

JARRETT: Let's also talk about something that happened that's on the minds of a lot of consumers right now heading into the holidays, which is all this mess over the supply chains -- all these record backlogs. Something like over 200,000 shipping containers just sitting off the coast of Los Angeles. They were supposed to move to 24-hour service. I don't know whether that helped. Twenty-four/seven services, I should say.

Some think these issues could be over in early 2022, but others think it could be longer. What do you think?

RAMPELL: You know, if you had asked me earlier this year if I thought we would be out of this mess -- this tangle of supply chain bottlenecks by now -- I probably would have said yes. Maybe I even did on this network. Because there were the widespread availability of vaccines. It looked like maybe we were finally seeing the light at the end of the tunnel on this pandemic. Clearly, any such forecasts were too optimistic.

And I'm worried this will be around for a while, both because we still have lingering vaccine hesitancy. We still have an ability to access vaccines in poorer parts of the world.


RAMPELL: And you have the Delta variant. And a number of workers, of course, reassessing their career priorities and deciding to stay out of the workforce for a while on their own. So I think this is going to stick around for a while, unfortunately.

ROMANS: So, the higher prices for consumers -- how long does that last? I mean, we should be clear -- I mean, there's a big change in consumer behavior right now because of the pandemic, right?

You're spending less money on services like concerts and using your money for things like that. And you're buying stuff -- a lot of stuff -- and that's one of the reasons why the global supply chain is just a total mess.

How long does -- do consumers feel this?

RAMPELL: Again, a little bit unclear. But you are exactly right that the problems are both on the supply chain -- supply side, rather -- that there are problems basically throughout the supply chain getting power to factories, getting workers and parts in factories, getting stuff transported around the world in warehouses and into storage -- all of that. But also, we are demanding more stuff because it is still unsafe or relatively unsafe to consume services.

So, I think consumers are going to continue seeing higher prices for a little while -- those price pressures for a little while, both because of those leaky supply chain issues and so long as it remains relatively unattractive or risky to spend their dollars elsewhere.

We don't know how long this will persist, unfortunately, and there is the risk that enough experience with these kinds of transition-driven price pressures could eventually adjust expectations and people king of preemptively raise prices. We really don't want to end up in that state of the world. The Fed really doesn't want that.

But, you know, it looks like we are stuck with this situation for a little while longer so long as we continue to have these supply chain problems.

JARRETT: So much uncertainty. Markets don't like uncertainty. Christine Romans taught me that.

ROMANS: Catherine Rampell, CNN economics commentator, nice to see you. Thanks, Catherine.

JARRETT: Thanks so much.

RAMPELL: Thank you.

JARRETT: All right, now to this.

Fisher-Price dialing up some serious nostalgia. The toymaker is introducing a phone that looks just like the one you had as a kid. Well, maybe the one your parents had. But this one actually makes calls. The Chatter telephone has a receiver, a rotary dial, and wheels just like the original.

You can preorder it now. It's going to cost you about $60.00. But unlike the original, it's equipped with a battery and Bluetooth inside.

ROMANS: OK, that is so --

JARRETT: I want one. I want one for Christmas.

ROMANS: -- retro and so cool.


All right. Longtime ESPN college basketball announcer Dick Vitale revealing he has lymphoma. The 82-year-old will undergo six months of chemotherapy but plans to keep working while receiving treatment. We wish him the best. JARRETT: Tennis star Novak Djokovic could miss out on the Australian Open next year if he doesn't meet the state of Victoria's COVID vaccine mandate. Australia's minister of immigration saying foreign players would need to have two vaccination shots in order to participate. Djokovic has, so far, declined to reveal his vaccination status and said he's unsure if he will defend his Australian Open crown.

All right, the Astros pulling off a stunning comeback to even the series with the Red Sox at two games apiece. Andy Scholes has it all in this morning's Bleacher Report. Hey, Andy.


So the Astros were six outs away from going down 3-1 to Boston and things were not looking good. But their superstar Jose Altuve, like he's done so many times, coming through in the clutch. Altuve, a solo shot in the eighth inning. It ties the game at two.

Then in the top of the ninth, Red Sox bring in Nathan Eovaldi to try to get some outs here. He thinks he's struck out Jason Castro to end the inning but it's called a ball. The at-bat continues and Castro comes through with an RBI single to center.

The floodgates then open from there and the Astros score seven runs with two outs in the ninth. They go on to win 9-2 to even the series at two games apiece.

Game five today at 5:00 eastern.

Dodgers, meanwhile, looking to avoid a 3-0 series deficit to the Braves. They were in a world of trouble, down 5-2 in the eighth, but they got two on for Cody Bellinger. He blasts a 3-run home run to tie the game.

Then later in the inning, Dodgers' star Mookie Betts comes to the plate and comes through with an RBI double. Dodgers get four in the eighth. They win it 6-5.

L.A. will look to even that series tonight at 8:00 eastern on our sister station TBS.

All right, to the NBA. It was opening night and the Milwaukee Bucks receiving their championship rings before hosting the Brooklyn Nets.

And, Giannis picking up right where he left off. The finals MVP scoring 32 points and grabbed 14 rebounds. Bucks easily beating Kevin Durant and the Nets in the opener 127-104.

The Warriors, meanwhile, getting their season started off on a high note with a 121-114 victory over LeBron James and the Lakers. L.A. had a 10-point lead late in the third quarter.

You just can't ever count out Steph Curry. He ended up with 21 points, 10 rebounds, and 10 assists. That's his first regular-season triple- double since January of 2016. Despite the triple-double, after the game, Curry telling TNT's Allie

LaForce he played like trash because he only made five of his 21 shots.

All right. Elsewhere, the drama in Philadelphia reaching its boiling point. Disgruntled 76ers star Ben Simmons has been suspended for the team's season opener tonight against the Pelicans for conduct detrimental to the team. Head coach Doc Rivers kicked the three-time all-star out of practice yesterday after he reportedly refused to take part in drills.

And all-star Joel Embiid -- he's had it with the situation.


JOEL EMBIID, CENTER, PHILADELPHIA 76ERS: At this point, I don't care about that man, honestly. He does whatever he wants. That's not my job. But at the end of the day, our job is not to babysit somebody.



According to ESPN, the Sixers have fined Simmons $1.4 million for missing four preseason games and various meetings and practices.

All right. Finally, Jaguars' defensive end Dawuane Smoot and his wife Aumari had quite the day yesterday. Aumari went into labor early in the morning.

But she dropped to her knees as they were leaving for the hospital -- the couple realizing they didn't have time to get there -- and Dawuane had to deliver the baby right there in the living room. He was on the phone with paramedics who helped him through the process. He was able to deliver a beautiful baby girl, Ahlani Moon Smoot.

Mom and baby Ahlani are doing great, guys.

I'm always so impressed with these stories and couples that are able to pull this off, Laura. Because if that would have happened to me, I'm not sure I would have come through it in that situation.

JARRETT: I bet you could step up to the plate, Andy. I have faith in you.

SCHOLES: All right. You have to, I guess, right?

JARRETT: Yes, but hopefully it won't come to that.

Thanks so much -- appreciate it.

SCHOLES: All right.

ROMANS: All right -- thanks, but no thanks. Ninety-five-year-old Queen Elizabeth rejecting the honor of being named "Oldie of the Year" by the British magazine "The Oldie." The title is bestowed upon people of advanced age who have made a special contribution to public life.

In a letter rejecting the honor, the queen's private assistant secretary writes, "Her Majesty believes you are as old as you feel. As such, the queen does not believe she meets the relevant criteria to be able to accept."

JARRETT: It's such a polite way to say, like, give me a break. Don't harp on my age.

ROMANS: What? I'm old? I'm not old. I'm not old at all. Seasoned, not old.

JARRETT: Exactly.

ROMANS: All right. Free community college, a child tax credit, and paid family leave all on the chopping block for the president's sweeping agenda. And what's next for Steve Bannon after the January 6 committee approved holding him in criminal contempt?


Thanks for joining us. I'm Christine Romans.

JARRETT: I'm Laura Jarrett. "NEW DAY" is next.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to viewers here in the United States and around the world. I am Brianna Keilar with John Berman, and it is Wednesday, October --