Return to Transcripts main page

Inside Politics

VP Harris Raises Grave Concerns Over Treatment Of Migrants; GOP Nominee For Virginia Gov. Casts Ballot In Key Suburb. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired September 23, 2021 - 12:30   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: But what about new vaccinations, people who have not received a vaccination yet, because that's a seven day average of that is the lowest it's been in two months. You mentioned, Dr. del Rio, how critical is if you want to really beat Delta, you want that case count to keep dropping down. It means the people who have not yet been vaccinated need to get vaccinated. Well, yesterday, only 302 -- 312,000, excuse me, Americans initiated first shot vaccinations, that's the lowest on average than it's been in two months.

And if you look at vaccination by age, right now, there's still 25 percent of the eligible population across this country has not received a shot. And you see the bulk of them are under the age of 40, if you will, 25 to 39, 55 percent, 51 percent have been unvaccinated, 18 to 24. It's even lower when you move into 12 to 15, 16 to 17. What is the key to getting people to realize, roll it up, get a shot?

DR. CARLOS DEL RIO, EXEC. ASSOC. DEAN, EMORY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE AT GRADY HEALTH SYSTEM: You know, John, it's been very hard. And it's incredibly disappointing how many few people are still getting their first shot today. I mean, we have plenty of vaccines in our country, we have good access. I would say that, you know, 95 percent of Americans live within five miles of where they can get a vaccine. It's free. So it'd really baffles me to understand why people are still waiting to get vaccinated. We're doing a lot of things. A lot of things are being done, working with community, working with leaders, working with others, you know.

But at the end of the day, I think mandates are going to be important, are going to make a difference. And that's why the President's plan to mandate vaccinations in certain businesses in federal employees and in healthcare is going to be really important, because I will tell you the truth even in health care, we're not doing as well as we should.

KING: Dr. del Rio as always, grateful for your time and your insights. And I do hope that at least from a case perspective, hospitalizations perspective, things are beginning to get a little better. We will circle back with you soon, I'm sure. Thank you, sir.

Coming up for us, internal turmoil within the Biden administration over the treatment of the Haitian refugees down in Del Rio, Texas and some breaking news on a big policy shift.



KING: Some fresh sides today of anger and turmoil within the Biden administration over the treatment of Haitian migrants who crossed into Del Rio, Texas from Mexico. The veteran diplomat serving as the Biden's special envoy for Haiti resigned today and used remarkably critical language in doing so, Ambassador Daniel Foote calling the policy of repatriating the migrants to Haiti, inhumane and counterproductive.

Vice President Harris also making clear her anger and aggressive conduct by the Border Patrol in Del Rio, the Vice President's office releasing a statement about a phone call Harris had with the Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Quote, the Vice President raised her grave concerns about the mistreatment of Haitian migrants by Border Patrol agents on horses, and the need of all CBP agents to treat people with dignity, humanely, and consistent with our laws and values.

Our immigration reporter Priscilla Alvarez joins our conversation. And on that very point that Harris was upset about the use of horses and aggressive behavior, there's some breaking news and a change in administration policy you can report.

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN IMMIGRATION REPORTER: There is, the Department of Homeland Security just minutes ago announcing that they are temporarily suspending the use of horse patrol in the Del Rio sector, so just to remind our viewers where this is stemming from. So there was an incident earlier in the week between Border Patrol agents on horse patrol and seemingly aggressive confrontation with Haitian migrants.

Now, the Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas directed an investigation into this incident and put two of those, the two are subjects as investigation on administrative duties. And now we're learning that it's suspended horse patrol in this sector. This is the incident of the administration has been responding to for the better part of the week and receiving backlash from Democrats and Republicans.

KING: And this action coming after, again, the Vice President's staff putting out a readout of a call with the Biden Cabinet Secretary that is unusual. Presidents and vice presidents talk to members of their team all the time. We don't get readouts of every time the president or vice president picks up the call. Let's call people to just see what's going on of transportation.

They did this on purpose. And they did it after Mayorkas had been on television a couple of times saying that he too didn't like these pictures, and that he was promising an investigation. Why is the Vice President going out of her way to make clear, I'm not happy about this? KASIE HUNT, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Yes. Extraordinarily remarkable, as you point out so well, I think the Vice President is technically on the hook for what happens that Biden administration gave her responsibility for challenges of immigration. And these images, quite frankly, cede the moral high ground. Democrats, you know, watched what happened at the border under the Trump administration.

And they were rightfully, in many cases outraged about what they saw the President ran on a platform of that included changing some of these immigration policies. And they've certainly done that in certain ways behind the scenes with regulations. But it's these images of these men on horseback with these Haitian immigrants that Americans are going to remember. And I think it's clear the Vice President wanted to make sure that she was putting Mayorkas on notice.

KING: And look, one of the calling cards of candidate Biden was, I'm going to bring grownups into the government, we know how to do this. Every administration has some turmoil, but it's remarkable. You have the Vice President essentially calling out an agency in the government do more. That's what she's trying to say. My translation for that is what you say.

Then you have Ambassador Foote, who's a veteran diplomat, whose letter was anything but diplomatic. He says it is inhumane in his view to send people, these migrants, these Haitian migrants, most of them have been in South America for quite some time. They left after an earthquake a decade ago.

And so just to repatriate them now to Haiti, he says it's inhumane. And he also says he doesn't think the Biden administration has its act together on a broader Haiti policy right now. Jen Psaki, the White House Press Secretary, saying moments ago that he's had ample opportunity to air his concerns up the chain of command. He clearly feels empty. The Ambassador does. They're not being listened to, resigning is a big deal.


JEFF MASON, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, REUTERS: It is a big deal. And it's a big political signal. You know, I mean, if more of that had happened in the last administration, we would have made big stories out of it when people resigned because of a disagreement over this big, over policy. So it's a big signal on his part. And certainly to pick up on what Casey said the Vice President releasing or her office, releasing that statement shows not only that she wants to kind of put a marker on that for herself, but also sort of the politics behind all this, she needs to be on the record saying, we're not OK with this.

KING: And part of it is her own office. But part of it also is pressure received. The Vice President's chief of staff meeting with members of the Congressional Black Caucus, who are furious, and they frankly, see race involved here. They do not believe that if this was a crowd of white migrants or even Latino migrants, they would be treated this way. You know, we'll get more answers on the policy as that come through but among those raising their concerns, again, complaints about a Democratic administration coming from Democratic members of Congress, including here, Maxine Waters.


REP. MAXINE WATERS (D-CA): I'm unhappy. And I'm not just unhappy with the Cowboys, who were running down Haitians, and using their reins to whip them. I'm happy with the administration. What the hell are we doing here? What we witnessed was worse than what we witnessed in slavery.


KING: It is a fascinating moment. They have so many members of the President's own party at a very busy time on other issues, saying if we feel it's critical to come forward, A, to talk about these issues, but B, put the heat on the White House.

CLAUDIA GRISALES, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, NPR: Exactly. The temperature on this just keeps rising when we look at these immigration issues. And yet now, we have another complicating layer in terms of what we're seeing in Del Rio in these really alarming images. Of course, members are going to raise notice on this and say a line has been crossed just as the Vice President did by sharing those details of that call with Mayorkas yesterday. So it's just part of a pattern and concern that's growing around immigration issue and concern this administration does not have a hold of this problem.

KING: It's not have a hold, that's well put, does not have a hold of this problem. Everybody stay put.

Up next for us, in today's Republican Party, this is breaking news. The Republican candidate for Governor Virginia voted early today and said he is certain the election process is fair and secure.



KING: Well, a flashback moment here. You see this is Virginia back in 2020. Joe Biden's victory over Donald Trump in a state that was once Republican then competitive, now you would say leans blue. Well, the Virginia governor's race this November is the next big test of the political climate. And the Republican candidate Glenn Youngkin took advantage of early voting today. Youngkin cast his ballot in Fairfax, one of the Northern Virginia suburbs that will get a ton of attention as this election winds down and we count and study the votes in November.

Again, back to the map, Fairfax that's right here, you see all this blue for Biden, the Northern Virginia suburbs. This is Washington D.C., just across the Potomac, the populated growing population of the Northern Virginia suburbs, or when it changed the state from reliably red to more blue. Again, this is 2020. I want to go back in time to the last time a Republican carried Virginia in a race for President. This is George W. Bush in 2004. Look, only the closest suburbs of blue out here, it used to be red back in those days. That's why Republicans carried Virginia. But the suburbs have changed so much between then and if you come back to the now.

Then go back to 2017, the last governor's race carried by the Democrat Ralph Northam, again, look at all the blue up here. That's why the suburbs are so critical. That's why Youngkin cast his vote early trying to encourage people to vote early and to vote Republican in the critical suburbs. Also interesting, his strategy has shifted somewhat. Listen right here.

He was asked a pretty important question. A lot of red down here in Virginia, especially if you come back to the presidential race, let me do it this way, ton of red down here, right. These are Trump voters. So does Glenn Youngkin want Donald Trump to come vote in the election? Does Glenn Youngkin like Donald Trump think elections are rigged? Listen.


DAN MERICA, CNN NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER: Have you had any conversations with former President Trump about him coming to campaign in the closing weeks of this campaign?

GLENN YOUNGKIN (R-VA) GOVERNOR NOMINEE: No, I haven't. I haven't. You know, the polls are showing that we're up. We've got great momentum. And I think that the process is going to be fair, the process is going to reflect who got the most votes. And I'm going to get the most votes, and I'm going to go work for all Virginians next year.


KING: Joining our conversation, the reporter who asked that question of the Republican candidate. CNN's Dan Merica is with us right now. It is interesting in the sense that you don't have to go too far back in time. Youngkin's website had an election integrity page to it. He was at least leaning toward the idea that you want to talk about election security. That was pretty much all in, A voting early.


KING: And safe, secure, I trust it.

MERICA: Yes. It means rhetorically distancing yourself from Donald Trump, while also physically distancing yourself from Donald Trump. In many ways, he is trying to say I believe in this election, you should vote early, unlike people whom in California, for example, resisted Republicans, resisted casting their ballots early and then the physically distancing himself. He, you know, says there he doesn't -- he hasn't talked to the former president to have him come campaign in Virginia.

I would have to imagine the President loves a good rally. He would certainly get quite the turnout in southern Virginia. You have to imagine he would like to come. But Youngkin there saying he doesn't want, you know, he hasn't talked to him, he didn't indicate whether he wants him to come in. I actually spoke to a number of voters who voted at this Fairfax polling location Republicans who said, you know, Trump coming wouldn't really do much for them. Some of them voted for him, but they wouldn't, you know, change their vote, wouldn't get them out, get them more excited for this race.


KING: And the Trump factor, we're going to watch it in all these races, but it's interesting, Youngkin clearly moving away a little bit.


KING: Although, it'll be interesting when he campaigns down in southwestern Virginia if he has the same tune. But to that point, we watch closely here. This is Terry McAuliffe is the Democratic candidate. He was governor once before. He wants to be governor again. This is almost the same ad. But there's one little difference, see if you can pick it up.


DR. JOSEPH SAKRAN, TRAUMA CRITICAL CARE SURGEON, FAIRFAX, VA: It's so important that we have leaders who will follow the science, but just like Donald Trump, Glenn Youngkin won't listen to doctors and scientists. It's so important that we have a governor who puts science before politics. So Glenn Youngkin's positions on vaccines and masks should scare us.


KING: Trump mentioned in the McAuliffe ad running in Northern Virginia, which are the suburbs, the Democratic leading parts of the state, Trump omitted in the southern part when that ad is hearing in the other markets in the southern part of the state where, wallah, Trump gets lots of votes.

HUNT: Indeed, it's pretty it. That's a very good catch on your part.

KING: POLITICO was the first to catch that. We give them credit for that.

HUNT: For sure. This I mean, Dan, love your question here. And it is going to be so telling what happens in this race because it is a critical test of whether Republicans can find a future without Donald Trump. This is the kind of state that they have to if they want to win a general election, they need to be able to convince swing state and swing area suburban voters, that they're not scary. These people got very scared by the chaos under the Trump administration.

And of course, this is also going to turn into a critical test for Joe Biden to show us, you know, whether or not the chaos we've seen in the last month of the Biden administration is really changing voters' minds in these key places.

KING: And the growth both in numbers and the growth in diversity in American suburbs are what define close elections right now. If you look at, A, Obama's wins, Biden's win, and Nancy Pelosi is Speaker because Republicans got decimated in the suburbs in the Trump midterms, Ron Brownstein smartly, writes in one of his columns this week, because Virginia remains more competitive than solidly blue California, many political analysts believe the results in the big suburbs may provide a more reveal, engage in sentiment heading into 2022.

And that's true. If we're going to look at not just Arlington across the river immediately, it's going to be blue. But as you start to move out to the suburbs in the exurbs, can Democrats keep them blue, as they have in the last decade, not just in Virginia, but elsewhere, or is the Republican Party mounting a comeback?

GRISALES: Yes, it's very interesting. Democrats really looked at these really red pockets of the country and thought we can carve into these areas, we can get these voters, there were reluctant voters for Donald Trump, and they thought they could make some headway there. So there are some voters that Democrats are looking at potentially capturing but Republicans again, is this answer, this great answer that was solicited, tells it's Trump who in a way so it's going to be quite a test for the elections to come.

KING: That's fascinating. And again, early voting, if you live in Virginia, early voting is open. Republican candidate says give it a try, Democrat or Republican vote. Vote, vote, we'll count them in November. Thanks, everybody for coming in.


Up next for us, Michael Flynn, yes, he's added again, you might remember Trump's former National Security Adviser he likes conspiracy theories. This one has to do with your salad.


KING: Topping our Political Radar today, well he just can't help himself. Overnight, Donald Trump putting out a flurry of statements attacking Republicans or anyone who won't parrot his big lie. First, he attacked former President Bush as a rhino that's Republican in name only after it was announced the former president will fundraise for Congresswoman Liz Cheney. Second Trump attacked the media for reporting the election was not stolen from him, which is the truth.

It's just something he doesn't want to hear. And finally after a new memo revealed Republican senators Lindsey Graham and Mike Lee told Trump, Mike Pence could not overturn the election results, well, Trump attacked his own allies Lindsey and Mike should be ashamed of themselves, he said, for not putting up the fight necessary to win. And just in time for lunch, Donald Trump's former national security adviser peddling a new COVID conspiracy theory.


MICHAEL FLYNN, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: Somebody sent me a thing this morning where they're talking about putting the vaccine into salad dressing, or salads have you seen this?

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: You heard that right. Mike Flynn making that false claim during an internet show. His theory not as farfetched as some other Flynn conspiracy theories, this one likely spawned by a new study that says researchers are looking into how mRNA vaccines could be grown in edible plants such as lettuce. Representative Lauren Boebert paid her rent and utility bills with a campaign funds that a violation of campaign finance laws according to the Denver Post. Campaign filings show the Colorado Republican did reimburse her campaign for more than $6,000 worth of payments, the post says. Boebert did not respond to CNN requests for comment.

Angry lawmakers storming out of a classified Afghanistan briefing with Biden administration officials on yesterday, Wednesday. Sources telling CNN, members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee grew frustrated when officials could not answer basic questions, including how many Americans are still left in Taliban controlled Afghanistan.


REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R-TX), RANKING MEMBER, FOREIGN AFFAIRS COMMITTEE: Everybody wants out. You know, the fact is, I believe there are still hundreds of Americans still left behind enemy lines. I don't think they know all the answers quite honestly.



KING: Appreciate your time today. Hope to see you back here on Inside Politics tomorrow. Don't go anywhere Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now.