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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

Biden Agenda in Peril; Biden Heads to Rome Today for Second Major Foreign Trip; Sheriff: Baldwin Fired "Suspected Live Round" on "Rust" Set; GOP Senators Lash Out at Garland Over School Board Memo. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired October 28, 2021 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: It is Thursday, October 28. Five a.m. exactly here in New York. Thank you for getting an EARLY START with us.

I'm Christine Romans. Laura has the morning off.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world.

Progressives this morning are reeling after moderate Democrats removed paid leave from President Biden's withering social safety net. It was Senator Joe Manchin who killed the measure. He claims he had no other choice.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): I'm talking to everybody, but I've been very clear, to expand social programs when you have trust funds that aren't solvent, they're going insolvent, I can't explain that. It doesn't make sense to me.

I want to work with everyone, as long as we can start paying for things. That's all. I can't put this burden on my grandchildren. I've got ten grandchildren, and I'll be -- I just can't do it.


ROMANS: No paid family medical leave for his grandchildren.

It's a big deal. It provides new parents with paid time off to care for newborns. It helps families cope with illnesses without risking their financial security, losing their jobs. It helps businesses keep workers from leaving, and keeping them productive, in the middle of a health crisis, in the middle of a worker shortage, many economists thought passing paid leave was a simple morality and intelligence test for Congress.

This morning, President Biden delaying his flight to G20 summit in Rome. He's expected to meet with House Democrats and hoping to convince progressives to back his bill without the cornerstone of Democratic agenda paid family leave. Daniella Diaz is live on Capitol Hill.

Daniella, this means the U.S. remains one of only eight countries, one of eight countries in the world, the richest on Earth, will not pay for medical leave. It's really, really a blow to working families and obviously progressives.

DANIELLA DIAZ, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: That's exactly right, Christine. And it really shows the power that one Democratic senator has in all of these negotiations. You know, Democrats have the majority in the House, Senate and President Joe Biden as a Democrat, really down to one Democratic senator Joe Manchin who gets to really decide what is included in this economic package that progressives really, really want to pass.

And that's part of the reason why President Joe Biden is visiting the Capitol later this morning.

I want to be -- I want to emphasize, this is his second visit to the Capitol this month. For the same reason, House progressives will not pass the separate bipartisan infrastructure bill that's already passed the Senate, had Republicans before it, and only needs to pass the house before it goes to President Joe Biden's desk, because they want their priorities in a separate economic bill. And they want to see the legislative text for this bill. And without that, they're not going to support this effort of a bipartisan infrastructure package which is why President Joe Biden is visiting the Capitol today to try to convince them and unite the party behind both of these bills.

You know, I spoke to many House progressives yesterday that emphasized that they want a vote on both of these bills on the same day. But there are still so many sticking points that need to be resolved on this. Separate economic bills like the one you were just talk about, Christine, especially the price tag was originally $3.5 million. And again, Senator Joe Manchin is bringing that price tag down and how it will be paid for.

It's really unclear right now how Democrats are going to pay for the plan. And whether a proposed tax on billionaires is going to be included, again, after Senator Joe Manchin said he objected including that as a pay for, for the package. Manchin has also expressed over the expansion of Medicare to over hearing, dental and vision benefits, which is another key priorities for progressives.

But this really shows how President Joe Biden needs this behind the bills because they want to pass this using a process called budget reconciliation. So, every single Democrat gets behind here. So, that's the thought online here for why President Joe Biden is visiting the Capitol today in an effort to try to unite his party behind both of these bills namely to get house progressives behind the bipartisan infrastructure bill -- Christine.

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

It's time for three questions in three minutes. Let's bring in Toluse Olorunnipa, CNN political analyst and national politics reporter for "The Washington Post".

Toluse, wow, wow, wow, this is really big, an earthquake for labor workers. Labor economists who have said for years in the world's largest economy, this is the simplest, simplest way to remain your labor market and keep your, you know, workforce healthy. And also in terms of equity for women, in the workplace, you see men taking time off for their partners and spouses.


It just -- it levels the playing field.

And it's out because Senator Joe Manchin is worried about his grandkids having to pay for it. There was a plan for this, and it's falling apart.

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: That's right, it's falling apart. And progressives are angry that the very part of the package is being tossed aside because of one senator, who has led it in the way that progressives have wanted everything from free community college to some of the climate provisions are being tossed out of the package one after the other, in large part because of Senator Manchin's objections. And this is one that house progressives and even some moderates thought would be one of the most popular parts of this bill that they could go on this and campaign on saying that the Democrats were able to give Americans paid family leave. It's something that's being popular across the country but it seems it's being tossed out of the bill because of impact on debt.

ROMANS: It's not just a progressive priority. I mean, companies, in many cases already do this. Some have said it would be great to be a federal standard, so it wasn't a patchwork of different policies. Again, I'll say this, labor economists have said this, morality and intelligence test that the largest economy in the world doesn't have paid leave and now it's off the table.

You mentioned clean energy or clean electric, fruition-free college other things pulled from the bill. The president is on his way to Europe. How is he supposed to pitch strength and unity to the world when, you know, they're really one vote away from their entire agenda crumbling?

OLORUNNIPA: Yeah, that's very important and it's important enough that Biden is delaying his trip to Rome by a few hours by trying to meet with House Democrats to try to see that he can get more than he currently has in terms of a deal. He wanted to go to Europe with a deal in hand saying America is back, America is able to legislate, push back some of the authoritarian voices cropping up in Europe by saying democracy works, we can legislate and figure out our differences and lead on the world stage, both on the climate front and on the social programs.

But now, it seems like he's going to have to go to Europe and say, I'm still working on it. Give me a little more time, democracy is messy, but I hope to get a plan done. It's a less than strong message than what they wanted but that's what he has going into the meetings in Europe.

ROMANS: So paying for everything that seems to be the sticking point in flux. For months and months, it was higher taxes on corporations and the very rich to fund, you know, more programs for working people, to finally give working families the tax cut that companies usually get.

Now, that has been scuttled. And it's true that the Democrats don't have a way to fund it. Well, they had a way to fund it, and Democrats themselves scuttled how to do it.

How do you see this playing out, how to pay for it part of it?

OLORUNNIPA: That's a major question that Democrats said they have. They said they're going to repeal much of the tax cuts. It just happened three years ago. But it does appear they're not willing to go that far in raising corporate tax rates and raising taxes on the wealthy. This was a linchpin of the Democratic agenda going into the campaign. And now it seems like at least a few of the Democrats enough to make it hard for the party to pull through on its campaign promises are starting to get cold feet on the idea of raising taxes on the wealthy.

It seemed like it was a linchpin of the Democratic policy, but it does appear that they're going to have trouble actually making it happen.

ROMANS: Yeah, a lot of scrambling to figure out if they can tax billionaires and somehow tax the wealth of billionaires. I mean, let's be honest, the top half dozen billionaire information the U.S. have wealth that is the size of the G20, right? I mean, it's a lot of money, but may or may not be constitutional we'll see if they go down that path.

Toluse, nice to see you this morning. Thank you.

OLORUNNIPA: Thank you.

ROMANS: All right. President Biden is set to leave this afternoon for that in person G20 Summit since the pandemic begun.

Let's go to CNN's Ben Wedeman. He's in Rome.

Ben, what is the expectation for the second major foreign policy trip of Joe Biden's presidency?

BEN WEDEMAN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, expectation is low given that the leaders of China, Russia and Mexico will not be attending this summit. Now, they're going to be talking about a wide variety of things obviously because it's coming just before COP26 summit in Glasgow. A big focus is going to be on climate change.

And what we've seen, the members of the G20, and that group comprises 80 percent of the producers, or rather, the producers of 80 percent of the world's carbon emissions, they've done a lot of talk about fighting climate change, or as Greta Thunberg would say, blah, blah, blah.


But the amount of action that they've taken is relatively small. So they're going to have to convert all of the talk into action. And as I said, nobody's holding their breath that they're going to be able to do that.

They're also going to be focusing on the COVID pandemic. This is one of the first major international meetings taking place in the period where the pandemic is beginning to recede. Last year, of course, it was held virtually, hosted by Saudi Arabia.

But even when it comes to COVID, the situation isn't as clear as they would like. For instance, the G20 countries per capita have received 15 times the number of vaccines as sub-Saharan Africa.

So it's going to be a question of turning all this blah, blah, blah into concrete action, Christine.

ROMANS: We know you'll be translating it all for us. Thank you so much, Ben Wedeman there in Rome, where the president heads today.

All right. As the president's economic gain hangs in the balance and economic reality check in a couple of hours, the first reading of third quarter GDP from supply chain to worker shortages, economists predict the economy group annualized rate 2.7 percent. That's the slowest pace and a downshift from 6.7 percent from the spring.

The economy largely depends on consumers, how confident they are to go out in the public, how confident they are to spend their money in the middle of a pandemic. We know consumers were less confident at the end of the third quarter. Rising prices and concerns about the delta variant dragged down optimism and kept the labor market in check.

All right. Authorities say a suspected live round was in that gun fired by Alec Baldwin on the set of the movie "Rust." Did anyone check the weapon before handing it to him? That's next.



ROMANS: Authorities in New Mexico say that gun discharged by Alec Baldwin on the set of the movie "Rust" fired a suspected live round.


ADAN MENDOZA, SANTA FE COUNTY SHERIFF: Right now, we can't determine exactly how that live bullet got into the firearm. That's going to be the basis for further investigation. We need more interviews and that's going to be the million dollar question, is how a live round ended up in the revolver that Mr. Baldwin fired.


ROMANS: Investigators combing the scene, they've recovered the lead projectile and shell casing as evidence from the case.

We get more from Josh Campbell. He's in Santa Fe for us.


JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Christine, we're learning now details regarding the circumstances surrounding that fatal shooting of cinematographer Halyna Hutchins here in Santa Fe. The sheriff announcing on Wednesday that it was suspected it was a live ammunition fired by actor Alec Baldwin that ultimately took her life.

There are many questions remain, how is it possible that a live ammunition made its way on to a film set? He said that very much is part of the investigation at this hour. Authorities seized three firearms, over 500 rounds of ammunition. We're told that ammo has been sent to FBI's laboratories in Quantico, Virginia, to try to determine how much of that ammo is the normal type you would see on a set, the dummy rounds and how much would be live ammunition.

I also sat down with the district attorney and she said she was talked to learn about the circumstances surrounding the case. She also gave us new insight into her calculus and her ultimate decision to possibly bring charges.

So, as of this point, would you say there's any particular time line in making that decision about charges?

MARY CARMACK-ALTWIES, DISTRICT ATTORNEY: It's -- it's -- no, there's not a time line at this point. I would say weeks to months. I was sort of taught, you treat a firearm like a live snake. And so, it's a terrible tragedy, we don't know how those live rounds got there. And I think that will probably end up being kind of the linchpin for whether a decision is made about charges.

CAMPBELL: Now, we also learned from authorities on Wednesday there were two people that handled that firearm before it was handed to Alec Baldwin. They include the set's armorer, the person responsible for safety on the set, as well as the assistant director. The officials tell us that thus far, all the witnesses have been cooperative. But nevertheless, their investigation continues -- Christine.


ROMANS: All right. Josh in Santa Fe, thank you so much for that.

Attorney General Merrick Garland taking comments from addressing threats on school board memos. Now, the goal of this memo was to lower the temperature where mask mandates and vaccines have become a dangerous flash point, after some of these meetings. Angry parents have threatened and harassed school board members.

Here's how some Republicans chose to interpret this memo.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): This is a memo to the Federal Bureau of Investigation saying go investigate parents as domestic terrorists.

SEN. JOSH HAWLEY (R-MO): It's wrong. It's unprecedented to my knowledge in the history of this country, and I call on you to resign.

SEN. TOM COTTON (R-AR): Thank god you're not on the Supreme Court. You should resign in disgrace, Judge.


ROMANS: CNN's Evan Perez has more from Washington.


EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Christine, Attorney General Merrick Garland defended a memo he issued, defending threats aimed at school officials pushing back at criticisms from Republicans at a Senate hearing. The October 4th memo ordered the FBI and prosecutors to coordinate with state and local authorities on how to deal with threats and violence directed at school officials.


School board meetings around the United States in recent months have been the focus of political content, particularly over COVID restrictions such as masks.

Republicans have tried to portray the Garland memo as a declaration of war on parents and the issue has become part of a gubernatorial race in Virginia. But Garland is standing by his memo.

MERRICK GARLAND, ATTORNEY GENERAL: When we get reports of violence and threats of violence, we need to act very swiftly. I would have hated to have gotten this letter and then acts of violence occurred in the interim before we were able to act.


GARLAND: The only to act to here to assess the circumstances. That's all there is here. We can't wait until somebody dies. That's why we do this.

PEREZ: At Wednesday's hearing, Garland was also asked about the FBI's mishandling of a sexual assault investigation of former U.S. gymnastics doctor, Larry Nassar. The Justice Department is looking at a new information that lead to charges against former agents who handled the case -- Christine.


ROMANS: All right. Thank you so much for that, Evan Perez.

All right. The Houston Astros showing the world exactly why they've been to three World Series in five years. "Bleacher Report" is next.



ROMANS: The Houston Astros bounce back in a big way to even the World Series.

Coy Wire has this morning's "Bleacher Report."

Good morning, Coy.


The Astros have lost the five World Series home games dating back to 2019. So you got to know the Houston fans were a little bit nervous heading into a crucial game two against the Braves last night. This team has championship pedigree from Dusty Baker on down.

They showed it last night. Astros pitcher Martin Maldonado. And there's no Braves player there to catch it. Not good. Jose Siri scores as well, part of the four-run to give Houston a 5-1 lead. Hey, Siri, how do you run the base pass? Like a jackrabbit on a hot date.

In the seventh, it was Jose Altuve time, one of the greatest post- season hitters of all time, which is 2 for his last 26 at-bats coming into this one. The shot in the seventh marked his 22nd homer. Astros cruise 7-2, even in the series at a game apiece.


JOSE ALTUVE, HOUSTON ASTROS SECOND BASEMAN: It was a must win today. We didn't want do go to Atlanta down by two, you know, we led everything we had in there tonight. And, obviously, a very important win to tie the series and to keep going from there.


WIRE: Game three is Friday night in Atlanta, where the braves will look for their first world series home win since 1995. Former President Trump will be at Truist Park for game four on Saturday. He attended game five of the Astros national series back in 2019.

The former hockey player at the center of the sexual assault investigation within the Chicago Blackhawks organization is speaking out for the first time. Kyle Beach said he was sexually assaulted by the video coach Brad Aldrich when the team won the Stanley Cup. An investigation found that nothing was done with senior leaders and Blackhawks management after Beach reported the abuse.

In an interview with Canadian broadcaster TSN, the 31-year-old shared an emotional message to victims of sexual abuse.


KYLE BEACH, FORMER CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS PLAYER: I've been a survivor. I am a survivor, and I know I'm not alone, I know I'm not the only one, male or female. And I buried this for 10 years, 11 years. And it's destroyed me of in the inside out. And I want everybody to know, in the sports world, and in the world, that you're not alone. (END VIDEO CLIP)

WIRE: The NHL fined the Blackhawks $2 million for what the league calls the organization's inadequate internal procedures and insufficient and untimely response. General Manager Bowman resigned on Tuesday and senior director of hockey operations, Al MacIsaac was also ousted. Meaning, there are no longer any members of 2010 Blackhawks run office still with the team.

The Blackhawks issued a statement yesterday saying in part, quote: We would like to acknowledge and commend Kyle Beach's courage in coming forward. No playoff game or championship is more important than protecting our players from predatory behavior, unquote.

Now, Aldrich says that the sexual encounter he had with Beach was consensual and denies any wrongdoing. In 2010, Christine, given a choice by the Blackhawks to resign or face investigation into the incident. Aldrich chose to resign. And three years later, he was convicted of fourth degree sexual assault of a high school hockey player in Michigan and served jail time.

ROMANS: Wow, that is quite a story. All right. Coy Wire, thank you so much for that.

All right. Twenty minutes past the hour. Concerned about getting your child vaccinated? No need to be. We'll explain why, next.