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Biden: We Are Living Through Climate Change Now; JHU: U.S. Surpasses 40 Million Confirmed COVID-19 Cases; Texas Governor Signs Restrictive Voting Bill Into Law. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired September 07, 2021 - 12:30   ET



JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And we can no longer, we all know, we can't just build back to what it was before. Whatever damage done in New Jersey, you can't build back and restore it what it was before, because another tornado, another 10 inches of rain is going to produce the same kind of results.

So, I want to talk a little bit about the specifics about the things you think you would need not just to get back to normal, but to get back to a place where, if it happened again, the damage would be considerably less. That's what this is all about, in my view. This is an opportunity.

I think the country has finally acknowledged the fact that global warming is real and it's moving at an incredible pace, and we've got to do something about it.

I'm going to be going from here to let the COP29 in Glasgow for the world meeting together and how we're going to deal with climate change. And it is -- it's -- I think we're at one of those inflection points where we either act or we're going to be -- we're going to be in real, real trouble. Our kids are going to be in real trouble.

So I want to thank you, and I yield back to you, Governor.

GOVERNOR PHIL MURPHY (D-NJ): Thank you, Mr. President. Amen to all. And again, we can't thank you enough for being here, for all your support.

Another person who we're going to hear from next has been there for us. And Deanne Criswell, who's the Administrator for FEMA, we've had a lot of conversations over the past several weeks, harking back to Henri, which also wreaked some havoc in New Jersey but nothing like Ida.

Madam Administrator, it's an honor to have you here.

DEANNE CRISWELL, FEMA ADMINISTRATOR: Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, Governor. And thank you to all the elected officials, commissioners, and mayors that are here today. I'd actually like to start by giving a big shout-out to all of the first responders that have been supporting the lifesaving efforts over the last few days, many of them in your own communities, many of them who have had damages to their own homes.

And I just want everybody to know, the hard work that you do is really appreciated at, you know, in your communities, but also at the federal level as well. We couldn't do it without you. You're the ones on the ground. I always say it, and you've heard from others as well, disasters always start and end local, and so we want to make sure that we're here to support the first responders.

I did spend yesterday visiting some of the damaged areas and meeting with local officials.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: You're listening there to the FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell. This is a briefing Somerset County, New Jersey. You see the President of the United States in the middle of the room there, the New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy to the President's left, Ms. Criswell, the FEMA Administrator to his right.

Now President just promising aid today but also calling this an inflection point saying that, yes, you have to deal with the immediate aftermath from the damage of the hurricane. But I'm saying as the rebuilding happens in New York, in New Jersey, and elsewhere in the country after this hurricane and wildfires in the other regions as well. The country needs to think about the track of climate change.

Let's bring in CNN's Athena Jones, she's back with us. She is there right in the middle of the devastation in Manville, New Jersey. Athena, what was your biggest takeaway from the importance of what we heard from the President?

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, part of it is what you just said, John, that idea that this is at an inflection point. You heard the President say that, now at least appears that many more people accept that climate change is real and that something is going to have to be done about it. We heard him touch on the idea that this is happening. These kinds of extreme weather events are happening all over the country.

The White House says one in three Americans has suffered a severe weather event just in the last few months. And, you know, no one is immune from climate change. So you heard him talk about making sure that relief is equitable. We've heard him previously and also Governor Phil Murphy talk about the need for state and federal resources to be available to people like this gentleman whose house here has been largely destroyed now being gutted by those floods.

So we've heard him talking about equitable relief but also about needing to rebuild in a smart way not just put things back to how they were, but build them back in a way that will make them more resilient so that in a future storm, there isn't so much damage and so much loss of life. John?

KING: Athena Jones on the ground for us in New Jersey as the President continues his tour. We'll keep an eye on that as we go forward.


But when we come back, COVID and a stunning milestone here in the United States, think of the line at the grocery store, or at the coffee shop. One in eight Americans has had COVID.


KING: Today, a simply startling new statistic. More than 40 million Americans have had coronavirus. We just hit 40 million confirmed cases. We did the math. Take a look at it this way. That's one in eight Americans, one in eight Americans who have had COVID-19. Now experts tell us that number is actually probably significantly higher because this is only confirmed cases, confirmed through testing. And we know the testing rate especially now, late into the crisis is low.

And 4 million, let me just bring it up this way, 4 million of these cases have come just in the last four weeks, 40 million confirmed cases. Now again, it was 35.7 just a month ago, so the case count still going up. One year ago, we thought this was terrific where we were at 6.3 million cases. Remember this arc because we can take a closer look at it this way.

If you remember one year ago, we were averaging 41,400 new cases a day when we went into the horrific winter. Right now we are averaging 163,000 new cases a day averaging 163,000 cases. Now remember back to school a year ago, it was at 41,400 cases. That's when students are back in school a year ago, that was our daily average.

Look where it is now as students go back to school everywhere after Labor Day which is why we are seeing already especially in the places where kids went back to school a little early before Labor Day. Texas, Florida, Idaho, Oregon, Mississippi, kids in quarantine who have already gone back to school problems with COVID.

Let's bring it at this point to share his insights and expertise Dr. Ashish Jha. He is the Dean at the Brown University School of Public Health. Dr. Jha, it's the collision if you will, rise in case count, schools reopen went up by the numbers of case counts a much more horrific position we were at the beginning of the last school year. Obviously vaccinations are available this school year. But there's the but in many of these states. I'm highlighting right here the vaccination rates tend to lag the national average.

DR. ASHISH JHA, DEAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Yes. Good afternoon, John. Thanks for having me back. That's exactly right. Where we are, in some ways we're in such a better place than last year because adults can all be vaccinated. Kids over 12 can be vaccinated. We should not be where we are.

But we are here because of a lot of people who have not gotten vaccinated yet and that clusters of course in certain states and then the Delta variant which we did not have last year, so much more contagious, so much more problematic. Those two things combined together, the low vaccinations and the Delta, that's really what's setting us into this position we're in now.


KING: And we're in this position, I just want to bring up here number one, just the hospitalization rate. Again, we're at 99,000, just shy of 100,000 Americans hospitalized by COVID. A year ago, it was 40,600. And if you look at this map, this map is the darker the color and you see all this red here is the higher the rate of ICU beds that are occupied right now by coronavirus patients.

And Dr. Jha, it is no coincidence, is it that you have again, especially from Texas all the way across to the Carolinas, essentially a line straight across of an ICU bed problem, some would say crisis in states that tend to have higher coronavirus cases, lower vaccination and many of them policies either discouraging or prohibiting masks.

JHA: Yes. Not a coincidence at all, John. And, you know, it's easy to say, well, it's the south. The South is having a harder time right now. We can look at other parts of the country too and see a real rush on ICU beds, in places with low vaccinations and low public health measures like masking. So we know how the science of this virus works at this point. We know we need to do to prevent the infections and in some places policymakers are doing things that are helpful and other places policymakers are actively harming the efforts. It's really quite baffling to me.

KING: You have spent the last year plus in conversations here and I know elsewhere trying to politely, you're remarkably diplomatic and polite. Convinced those policymakers to rethink what they're doing. You wrote a very thoughtful op-ed piece in "The Washington Post" today, looking at the Sturgis bike rally out here in South Dakota.

And you write this, 18 months into the pandemic, we've learned that outdoor gatherings are reasonably safe. It's the indoor activities that invariably follow that are deadly. At Sturgis, it is unlikely that the outdoor bike rallies were a problem. Most of the spread likely happened in evenings, when people crowded into bars and restaurants, most unvaccinated, all unmasked. Large gatherings that work on keeping indoor spaces safe through vaccinations, masking, ventilation and other techniques can keep the entire gathering safer.

I wanted to raise this point because it's A, it's a thoughtful look at Sturgis. You're not telling people don't enjoy yourself. Don't get together, just do it safely. But it's also a case study at a time whether it's back to school or back to college football games. The NFL season starts on Sunday, people are going to be in sometimes large outdoor gatherings but that also contained a related, a connected indoor component. What must we do?

JHA: Yes, absolutely. I think it is not either prudent or useful to tell people stop the gatherings. I think 18 months into the pandemic, people want to go to football games and baseball games and festivals and bike rallies and I think that's fine. I think the key issue is how do we do it safely and we know how to do it safely.

Obviously get vaccinated, wear masks if you're in super crowded outdoor spaces but most importantly, wear masks if you're at all going to be indoors. Get frequent testing happening and then let's improve the quality of air and indoor spaces with ventilation. We do all of that, we can get all the things that we really value in our lives back and do those things pretty safely.

KING: And add in the vaccination as well. People who aren't vaccinated get vaccinated. Dr. Jha, its always grateful --

JHA: Absolutely.

KING: -- grateful, sir, for your expertise and your insights. Appreciate it.


Ahead for us, the Texas Governor just signing the State's Restrictive Voting Bill into law. It's the latest in a series of right turns from Republicans in the Lone Star State.


KING: Just moments ago, the Texas Governor Greg Abbott reminding us again of how his state is now a testing ground for the biggest current debates in American politics. You see it right there. The Republican Governor just signed into law, a brand new elections bill that significantly changes the rules from how Texans voted in 2020. There are new limits on mail-in voting for example, new powers for partisan poll watchers, and penalties including potential jail time for election officials who send out unsolicited ballots.

The new voting rules of course, come on the heels of the brand new Texas Abortion Law that now makes Texas the most restrictive state in the nation when it comes to abortion rights and Governor Greg Abbott, of course, looking to carve out a national reputation as a fierce critic of mask and vaccine mandates despite another cycle of rising COVID cases and deaths in Texas.

The panel is back to discuss. Let's start with this brand new voting bill. They call it the Republicans in Texas an Election Integrity Bill. What it does is it takes away many of the things we saw in Texas last year that led to dramatic increase in turnout and it targets especially shockingly, communities of color, suburbs where the Democrats are doing quite well. The Democrats call the selection integrity it is without a doubt election restrictions, correct?

AYESHA RASCOE, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NPR: It is election restrictions and there are a lot of people voted in the last elections like that should be viewed as a success. But obviously when you have all of these laws happening in Texas and across the country, in the view is that too many people will vote in and that's why we got to challenge the integrity of the election. And so that's what we're getting right now with all -- with a lot of these bills.

And we have to remember once again, that there was nothing wrong with the election in 2020. All of this is fabricated, it is made up, there was no widespread fraud. Concerns about integrity are not based on reality.

KING: And Trump won Texas.



KING: And The Republicans did quite well in Texas in 2020. But at the same event, the Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick who is more conservative than Governor Abbott said this, he tried to square this circle. This past election, turnout was almost 67 percent.

So I don't want to hear this nonsense and lies that we continually hear that it's tough to vote in Texas. Well, then why'd you have to change the law if it's so great, if it's so good, and so wonderful to vote in Texas, why'd you have to change the law? Your colleague, the great Dan Balz, wrote about this the other day. He says, Abbott, who's running for reelection in 2022, governs in an environment in which he must guard his right flank, as he is not the most conservative official in the state's hierarchy.

PAUL KANE, SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT, THE WASHINGTON POST: It is about demonstrating your calls to the audience of one in Mar-a-Lago or now in the summertime Bedminster. That's why the Republicans in Texas are doing is, that's why Abbott needs to do these things to show his right flank heading into 2022.

To our point, Texas in 2020 was a great success story for Republicans. Democrats thought they could pick up five or six House seats. They picked up zero there. Trump won by six percentage points. It was less than 2016 but a bigger bump than people thought he was going to get. This is not about the Texas Republicans needing to win, it's about them, appealing to Trump voters who think there was a stolen election somewhere and they're trying to find it.

KING: It's about Abbott, am I wrong, hoping Trump does it run and he gets reelected in 2022 and then has Texas like George W. Bush did, a good fundraising state and national profile and you're out. And to the point about this is -- this Texas is now a laboratory for just about everything. Number one, it's on the U.S.-Mexico border, of course, so immigration is an issue.

I see some of the headlines, Texas Abortion Law, one of the most restrictive in the developed world. "NPR," you can now carry a handgun in Texas without a license. "The Washington Post," new Texas voting bill, Governor Abbott reassert ban on vaccine mandates. And this is -- to pick an issue to which dividing America right now and you can find it out in Texas.

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Texas is a ground zero. And by the way, you had to have this voting law just to protect against the backlash to the Abortion Law.

But I think there is a wide view among Democrats that they kind of blew it in Texas, that Texas should have been closer than it came out in 2020, that they have worked to do with Latino and Hispanic voters, second generation, third generation, and turnout, there's a whole generation of carpetbaggers coming from California to join the tech economy. And look at the stakes, 38 electoral votes last time around I think slated for 40 next time around. It's like 14, 15 percent of the whole enchilada the entire game.

And so, all of this ups the ante for both parties for Republicans to try to hold the state, for Democrats to try to break that law, if Democrats could flip Texas, one day they may be better points there if they could, that would be it, that's the whole game.

KING: But at the moment, forgive me for interrupting, at the moment, it is proof that the Republican gains and Governors and being state legislators that went on throughout the Obama years carried on, they held them through the Trump years. They lost a little bit in the Governor's races last time. But especially in these big states, Florida, and in Texas, and elsewhere, you have these Republican Governors and Republican legislators who are doing their bidding.

National Democrats say that's not what the people want. Well, they can fight that out state by state. But Amy Klobuchar, a Democratic Senator who ran for president last time says, it's pretty simple, unless we get rid of the filibuster, we're going to sit around admiring a lot of problems and sending a lot of tweets. Instead, we should get something done.

Essentially saying, you know, Democrats can complain about what's happening in Texas and what's happening in Florida and what's happening in Arizona what's happening elsewhere or they can amend the filibuster rules and pass national law saying you can't do that. The likelihood though is this.

KANE: Pretty much zero. Manchinema, sometimes I call it Manchinitis because of Joe Manchin. But I like Manchinema better. That's bringing Kyrsten Sinema. They are leading indicators of probably seven or eight Democrats that still do not want to see the filibuster broken.

The Democrats have to win more Senate races in order to be able to break the filibuster whether through rules change on their own. They just -- they can't have this narrow field where they're only winning in states where Joe Biden or Barack Obama won elections. They need to win in other places to build up enough seats 53, 54, 55, where they can lose a Joe Manchin on a filibuster vote.

KING: Well, the list of the issues front and center in Texas right now will be front and center in all of the Senate races around the country next year. It's pretty clear of that. Appreciate everybody.


Coming in ahead for us, it's coming down, the largest remaining Confederate statue in the country. Where and when? Well, we'll tell you that next.


KING: Topping our Political Radar today, just days before the 20th anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks, the alleged mastermind, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed just appeared in the Guantanamo Bay courtroom. Pretrial hearings resuming after the pandemic push things back for a year and a half. ASM, four co-defendants accused of plotting and executing the deadly attacks of course, that killed 2,977 Americans. If convicted, all five to face the death penalty. Several 9/11 family members were on hand at Guantanamo Bay for those years.

The largest Confederate monument left in the United States scheduled to come down tomorrow. The 60 foot bronze statue of General Robert E. Lee has towered over Richmond, Virginia, the capital of the Confederacy of more than 130 years.

Canada's Prime Minister getting an up close experience of voter anger at COVID restrictions. Just hours after the Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he would not back down to what he called an anti-vax mob, angry protesters threw gravel at the Prime Minister as he was leaving a campaign stop. Election Day in Canada is September 20th.


Thanks for your time today in Inside Politics. Hope to see you back here this time tomorrow. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.