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Fencing Back up Around U.S. Capitol Ahead of Far-Right Rally; GOP Senators Distance Themselves from Saturday Rally; CA Governor: Democrats Need to "Stiffen our Spines" on COVID Policies; VA Governor Candidates Spar over Vaccine Mandates Ahead of Debate; Under Review Tomorrow: Pfizer Booster Application. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired September 16, 2021 - 12:00   ET




JOHN KING, CNN HOST, INSIDE POLITICS: Hello and welcome to "Inside Politics". I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing your day with us.

Its back up, that fencing around the Capitol returns, as law enforcement officials now worry about a January 6th repeat when a right wing rally kicks off on Saturday. Plus, massive confusion surrounding a big COVID question do we need booster shots? Well, new data suggests yes, as a key FDA panel meets tomorrow.

And Senate mid-term drama brand new CNN reporting on five high profile Senators including Mitch McConnell's number two who are still TBD, on running for reelection. Up first this hour though the protective ring around the United States Capitol is back up that ahead of a pro- insurrectionist rally authorities worry could bring new violence to the nation's Capitol.

The fencing is only part of the security posture right here in Washington. The Capitol Police already have the D.C. National Guard on alert. And CNN has learned the D.C. Metropolitan Police will be fully activated on Saturday. Let's get straight up to the Capitol and CNN's Shimon Prokupecz. Shimon increased security amid increased worries.

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, certainly, there's still a lot of concern over this rally on Saturday. And that's why overnight, the fence is back. The construction workers are out here through the night into the morning, putting this together.

And it's now surrounding the entire Capitol Complex in much the same way we saw in the days and weeks and months after the insurrection, so they were out all night, putting these in, they're also using these concrete barriers to keep the fences in place so that no one can topple them over.

But also there's always been this concern over vehicles, whether or not someone would try to ram some kind of a vehicle into the Capitol? So that's the other reason why. But John, this goes all the way around up to constitution, up constitution, all the way around independence, obviously, the entire complex now closed.

People can still go in, but I think by tonight or so we're going to see some measure of stepped up security. Also, I want to show you one other thing, John, that we just learned that these fences here that Scott showing you here that's where the Supreme Court - the Supreme Court that's where we are here as well. That's expected to get the fencing here to perhaps today.

We actually just saw John, a bunch of police officers and sheriff's officers from outside Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Virginia, other officials, National Guard officials all having a meeting outside going over some of the security measures, acquainting them with the area because obviously what's going to happen is there's going to be extra police officers here.

We know the Washington D.C. Police, the National Guard, but also outside jurisdictions are going to be helping here with security all of this in anticipation of Saturday, John.

KING: Shimon Prokupecz on the scene for us, setting the scene for us. So let's hope it is a peaceful demonstration. But obviously, officials believe those precautions are necessary. Let's continue to discuss with me in studio to share their reporting and their insights, CNN's Melanie Zanona "POLITICO's" Laura Barron-Lopez and Jackie Kucinich of "The Daily Beast".

The goal of the rally, the supporters of the rally said they want to protest in support of those who stormed that building back on January 6th that of course, has become a giant legal challenge for those who are being charged one of 500 cases but a big political challenge as well. You have some new reporting today, Melanie, about the mood of members of Congress who of course, were there when their building was under siege, as particularly among Republicans?

Even as the right wing rally has sparked renewed fears of political violence GOP leaders have not publicly condemned the upcoming event and its cause or actively encouraged people to skip it. That's an interesting dynamic and those we - I can go - I have some more information.

We're not going to see a lot of lawmakers at this rally; they have decided it is toxic. Many hopefully have the good judgment to think it's a bad idea. But why not - why not have a joint Republican statement saying, you know, stay away from this? We do not support this cause?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: GOP leaders really find themselves in a tough spot because on the one hand, they don't want to be seen as pro insurrectionists. They don't want to be seen as sympathetic to the riders. But in the other hand, they are dealing with a base that increasingly believes the big lie that increasingly does believe the attack was justified.

And GOP leaders don't want to alienate that section of base. So that's why I think you see this sort of mushy messaging from the GOP leadership. KING: Mushy is one way to put. This from your pieces Louie Gohmert, who's one of the pro-Trump conservatives in the House, I'm not sure I'll be able to make the rally but we know that there were people that were arrested, they have been so badly mistreated, so badly mistreated. That's what Louie Gohmert says. They've been charged for storming the Capitol on January 6th, they get their day in court.

I hear some others from a New York Times piece John Thune, who's the key in the Republican Senate leadership. I haven't talked to a single Republican up here in the Senate that is encouraged or enabled anything like that. Tommy Tuberville from Alabama I haven't heard anything about it. I will not be there. Lindsey Graham police needs to take a firm line buddy. Anybody gets out of line they need to whack them.

So you do have in the Senate some Republicans trying to create arm's length distance, Louie Gohmert is a different breed.

JACKIE KUCINICH, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF, THE DAILY BEAST: Well, right. And let's not forget, Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene both kind of started this in a way because they took it to I believe it was the DOJ and tried to get in the building and see these and tried to have a protest of their own several months ago.


KUCINICH: I think what the other thing we're seeing is its politically advantageous, particularly for these members on the far right to start talking about this, because they were having trouble talking about January 6th, figuring out how they could and now it's gone. It's gone this completely other direction, where it's about, you know, the freedom of these people who are unjustly as they say, held.

So it's also a way for them to actually be able to talk about this, and not have to deal with what actually happened.

KING: And it is a reminder, as we hope there is no violence and even people who believe loony things are allowed to demonstrate the United States of America. So they're having, of course, 100 percent right to protest. Let's hope it's peaceful.

Adam Kinzinger is one of the two Republicans on the January 6th Committee looking into exactly what happened, trying to get to the roots of it, the causes of it and look forward. Here's his take on what's going to play out on Saturday.


REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): This overthrows the government fetish that exists, I don't understand it, except there's a lot of board people out there that probably never served a day in their life in the military and get to go play dress up.


KING: Kinzinger is a veteran. So he has the standing to make that point about - military, but there's - is there a risk in almost trying to you know make fun of them because the insurrection itself, of course, was deadly serious? And now you have this follow up.

And again, people have a right to demonstrate, but it is a reminder to us that there are forces in American politics, who A, have demonstrated they will be violent and who B, just this is based on a lie. This is based on the idea that Trump won.

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I mean, Kinzinger is clearly frustrated. And I wouldn't say that he's been routinely downplaying this at all. I mean, that's why he's on the January 6th Commission, alongside Cheney, and he's one of the very few Republicans that is willing to actually say, what happened, the reality of what happened on January 6th, and why it's so deadly to not just their party, but to the country?

Republicans have repeatedly tried to - in turn the page on this, which is really them trying to revise and edit it and act as though it didn't happen, rather than you know, yes, there are some senators speaking out, but you aren't seeing any concerted effort from party leaders or from the party writ large to tell their voters the truth, to tell them look, this isn't accurate and that Biden legitimately won the election.

KING: And here's --

KUCINICH: --profiles encourage, right?

KING: Right.

KUCINICH: I mean, look at what's happened - what's happening to Kinzinger? Look at what's happening to Liz Cheney? They're getting primaried from the right now because of standing up.

KING: And - but to your point, it should not take courage to tell the truth. It should be normal behavior to tell the truth. And these Republican leaders who one arm distance, they can say, well, I didn't support it. Well, no. The question is can you at least speak up people have a right to demonstrate.

I'm not saying you can't demonstrate. Would you speak out to say you're wrong people, please go home and think about this. Look at this from our new polling. This is why this is so important. 77 percent of Republicans believe that Joe Biden did not win legitimately 77 percent believe he did not win legitimately and 54 percent of them of those Republicans believe there is solid evidence.

They say there is evidence why because they have been told repeatedly by Trump and others, that there's evidence. There is no evidence. This is why it is just it shouldn't be an absolute imperative of not Trump Republican leaders to carry this conversation sadly, every day until it's done.

ZANONA: And those poll numbers, sadly, are not surprising, because not only does Trump continue to perpetuate the big lie, but so does GOP leadership, or at the very least they're tolerant of it. I mean, Kevin McCarthy said at one point, no one's questioning the legitimacy of the election, which is absolutely not true.

In fact, the Trump backed candidate who's trying to take on Liz Cheney told our colleague, Alex Rodgers, that there are legitimate questions about the 2020 election and refused to say whether Joe Biden won? So this is increasingly becoming a litmus test in the Republican Party.

KING: And Trump will soon be the headliner at a House Republican fundraiser that is questioning the legit - that is right there inviting him into that setting is embracing him. And there you go. We'll see that - I don't think that's going to change anytime soon.

Up next for us, the pandemic and politics Governor Gavin Newsom says his big recall election win is a green light to go bold on measures like mask mandates but the California Senate national message or this what sells at a deep blue state, a bad fit elsewhere on the map.



KING: The effort to recall Gavin Newsom failed and it failed overwhelmingly. And in that landslide, no vote the California Governor sees a national message on COVID masks and vaccine mandates.


MAJOR GARRETT, CBS NEWS: For National Democrats complete this sentence for me your recall victory means?

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): Now we need to stiffen our spines and lean in to keeping people safe and healthy. That we shouldn't be timid in trying to protect people's lives and mitigate the spread and transmission of this disease. That it's the right thing to do. But it's also a motivating factor in this election.


KING: So Gavin Newsom says Democrats from coast to coast should be bold and not timid. The President of United States made clear after the recall numbers came in that he agrees. What about other Democrats? What about other Democrats? And tonight we will have a test case in Virginia. You see the tweets up there.

Right now there's a race for governor in Virginia. Well, Glenn Youngkin who is the Republican Candidate says hey, Terry McAuliffe, glad you finally realized marketing campaign encouraging Virginia to get vaccinated is important. He says he put out a PSA announcement.

Well, Terry McAuliffe says oh no, no, that's not good enough. I have a real plan. Glenn, not a gimmick like the one you launched. Here's an idea join me in calling for vaccine requirements. So we can end this once and for all.

So we are going to see - a lot of Democrats a great. California good for you Governor Newsom two-to-one Democratic, state a two to one - can you sell that Virginia is a blue state but not by as much? [12:15:00]

BARRON-LOPEZ: Right. And also I mean there is polling though that shows that in states that aren't nearly as blue as California that mandates are popular among voters and among independents. And so that's why the White House is deciding to go more full tilt towards this.

They also are making this calculation that if you come early next year, we've really emerged from the Delta variant, and the economy is full force, again, that that's what voters are going to remember. And so if they can get credit for implementing these mandates that helped get the country into that point, then they're hoping that that's why voters will reward them.

ZANONA: There are also other evidences to suggest that this is not only good public health, but also good politics. I mean, look at Biden's approval ratings, right? He didn't enforce any mandates early summer resisted that his approval ratings went down as the virus got out of control.

And so that's why you saw the White House, at least in part decided to finally go down this path. And so I think that does suggest that there are good politics here for enforcing these.

KING: There is hope, but in the polls, they see evidence. Be bold now, you might get some blowback for it because it's controversial, but you will benefit down the road. So the Virginia Governor's race is the next big test because it is this year. A lot of this will be litigated in 2022. Some of it between Democrats and Republicans when we get to the end of the midterms, a lot of that'll be about COVID.

Some of it you see in the primaries, your home State of Ohio right now. Jim Renacci House Member is running against the Republican Governor in the primary, Mike DeWine. Mike DeWine has said that he would put a mask mandate in place right now again, but the legislature wouldn't allow him.

So he has urged - he has urged people across the State of Ohio and told school districts you want to mask mandate, do it. This is his Republican challenger.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He wants schools that are not requiring masks to act now.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At the very least, they're doing it natural. Please, please, please think about this again.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The best way to do that is to put a mask mandate on.


KING: This is you know, Renacci more of a Trumpy if you would, primary challenge there. This will be litigated in every way, including in Republican primaries.

KUCINICH: Well, I mean, Mike DeWine, during the course the pandemic actually got fairly high marks for being able - before there were vaccines, but Republicans in the state have been fighting him tooth and nail for every mandate or regulation he put in place.

And you're right, everything when you talk about Ohio Republicans and the Ohio primary, Trump is the one - is the only word you need to know. And Renacci is I guess, pandering is the only good word pandering hard to those voters that are angry with DeWine and just want to, you know, live their lives if there is no pandemic exists, which is not reality.

KING: And so the Newsom's message is don't bow to that. He says to Democrats I assume he also means to Republicans in the sense that, you know, as a parent, it's like we're putting the kids in the middle of this mask politics debate drives me up the tree.

ZANONA: Right. I mean, I think Republicans are banking on the idea that there will be backlash mandates. But Democrats are saying there's far more frustrations in America right now with the people who are unvaccinated and the reason why we've still in this pandemic?

And sure there are some moderate Democrats who might be a little skittish about some of these things. They are already getting hammered. The NRCC has already cut a bunch of ads about this, but they're fighting back actually and saying look at the GOP misinformation and they're trying to voice the blame on the other side, showing why we're still in this thing?

BARRON-LOPEZ: And a lot of Democrats agree with Newsom's calculation, which is House Democrat were saying we just need to own the outrage, like the blowback that comes because ultimately, there's not enough that Democrats can do to get out of the pandemic so a lot of Democrats are also asking Biden to institute more mandates on like domestic flights.

KUCINICH: But you're also seeing that it is which is also why you're seeing the White House and other Democrats encourage private business to implement these on their own because it also takes a little bit of the pressure off of out of the politics political realm and more on the business side.

KING: It gives you more company.


KING: --more company to isolate the Republicans says they're the ones in the minority, and we'll watch as it plays out. It's a fascinating question. Up next for us, a lot of confusion out there about COVID booster shots and guess what? There's a big meeting tomorrow to try to clear things up.


[12:20:00] KING: The government is about to clear up the confusion about whether you need a COVID vaccine booster shot at least that is the plan. FDA Vaccine Advisors meet tomorrow to decide whether to authorize boosters for those who received the Pfizer Vaccine?

Three new published reports last night do show boosters restore waning immunity in fully vaccinated people and that those boosters are safe. The NIH Director says recent data out of Israel flipped him from a booster skeptic to a booster believer.


DR. FRANCIS COLLINS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: The people who got immunized back in January, by the time you got to July; their protection would really have started to drop off and not just against any infection but even against severe infection. And that's the signal you want to watch for to say - might be time to do something like a booster.


KING: Let's get some insights now from Dr. Ijlal Babar. He's the Director of Pulmonary and Critical Care at the Singing River Health System in Mississippi. Dr. Babar I just want to put up on the screen right now for our viewers. This is the current track of cases 150,000 new COVID infections 150,497 yesterday that is 13 times higher than we had the spring low.

We were down as low 11,000. But you do see at least at least a plateau here in cases down a little bit in this COVID booster debate there's been a lot of confusion.


KING: Do you believe the science and what you're seeing on the ground supports the idea that for those were on Pfizer first, if you got to Pfizer Vaccine, you should soon get a booster shot?

DR. IJLAL BABAR, PULMONOLOGIST, SINGING RIVER HEALTH SYSTEM: Yes, John, I do think that it's going to help. I think one of the things that are propagating infections is asymptomatic carriage in the vaccinated population. And I think that is what the boosters are going to prevent.

KING: And describe for me, from your perspective, as a medical professional as a lay person, there has been some confusion, right? The White House said everyone's going to get a booster, then there were conversations, maybe only the elderly should get a booster. What do we need to hear? What do every day Americans need to hear from the FDA to clear this up?

DR. BABAR: I think they need to know exactly which people should be getting at when? I think at this point, the immune-compromised are definitely people who need it. I think ultimately all of us are going to need these boosters. But I think the FDA needs to be very clear on which people at which point how far out are going to need to get these boosters?

KING: I think that would be very helpful. I want to walk through now. So we're back in school, obviously, we've seen a lot of headlines, a lot of data telling us the COVID cases among children arising. You see the red on this map here. This is the CDC's map of high community transmission.

Red means you have high community transmission. It's a little better than it was a couple weeks ago, but you still see it's pretty bleak. But in Ohio, 44 percent increase in COVID cases in children just in the past week. In Georgia 60 percent of the COVID outbreaks in the past 60 days have come from schools.

Doctor help us understand. Obviously, many of the youngest children can't get vaccines yet, but what needs to be done to turn these numbers around?

DR. BABAR: I think vaccination for children who are over 15. And I think masking; I think that's how it's going to be prevented. I also think that the school personnel should be fully vaccinated and should be masked. I think those things are going to prevent further transmission.

KING: Unfortunately, they become part of the political debate in our country as well. I just want to show right now as of Wednesday, 2111 children hospitalized with COVID. That's three times higher than it was two months ago. Obviously we have back to school here it is down a little bit again in recent days. And we hope that continues right there.

Doctor in your own community right there Singing River Health System 17 percent of the COVID patients are 19 and under I mean, 32 percent if you start at age 29 and down. This is new, right younger people hospitalized with COVID?

DR. BABAR: Absolutely. You know, apart from the numbers you've mentioned, we've had people under 50, just completely filling up our ICUs. We've had about 17 or 18 deaths in people under the age of 40 since this began, and that's -- these are people who shouldn't have seen the inside of a hospital and they're dying in our ICU.

KING: That's the saddest part never should have seen the inside of a hospital there are vaccinations available for them. Dr. Ijlal Barbara grateful sir for your insights and help as we sort through this I appreciate it very much. Up next for us, inside the battle for the United States Senate it is split 50/50 now and we have some brand new CNN reporting on a handful of high profile incumbents yet to decide if they will run for reelection or step aside and add even more drama to a giant midterm fight?