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Inside Politics

CNN Interview With Supreme Court Justice Breyer; Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA), Is Interviewed About Virginia Governor's Race; President Biden Speaks About COVID-19 Response. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired October 14, 2021 - 12:30   ET



DR. MARK KLINE, PHYSICIAN-IN-CHIEF & CHIEF ACADEMIC OFFICER, CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL NEW ORLEANS: Very intriguing information suggestive that mixing may be advantageous, but we need a much bigger study to say definitively.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Kaitlan Collins our correspondent at the White House just laid out this very complicated challenge for the President, the COVID impact on the economy, the COVID impact on psychology, even of the country. Let's focus on the public health part of it and what you're seeing on the ground. You're in New Orleans, you just see it. Here's one of the things that jumps out at me and that if you go back to early in the administration, when vaccines became widely available, everybody wanted a vaccine, rushed out to get there right in the spring.

And it low down a little bit. Here's an issue of right now. There are 66 million Americans who still have not received even one COVID shot and only 231,000 Americans initiated the vaccine yesterday. Are you seeing any evidence on the ground that those who are hesitant or who are reluctant are beginning to come around or as they hear things like cases are coming down and hospitalizations are coming down? Does that make them think oh, I told you so I'm good?

KLINE: Yes, John, I'm not seeing a groundswell of enthusiasm for vaccines, I think we have a hardcore group that have weighed the pros and cons and for whatever reason, have decided that they're not going to be vaccinated. I was hopeful as we saw a surge among pediatric patients over the course of the summer, that that might be the impetus for a lot of people to come forward and finally get vaccinated. And we saw that in a few cases, particularly among adults who had children who actually suffered cases of the disease. But I'm not saying much beyond that. I think that the folks who are out there who are not vaccinated at this point are largely resistant to vaccination.

KING: What would your, as a medical professional, someone that has been on the front lines throughout this, what would your assessment be on where we are from a public health perspective in the context of, you know, President Biden is going to come out. When he came into office on January 20th, we were having 194,000 new infections a day. We had a drop, remember how optimistic the President was on July 4th. In July, we were down. This is July 28, about 37,000, just shy of 38,000 new infections today. Then we had of course, this up through the fall. And we are starting to come down now. We're just below 90,000 new infections. Sort of where are we?

KLINE: Well, we're better than we were a month ago or six weeks ago, but the numbers still are very high. There's a tremendous amount of community transmission still going on. Children are major element of that. And so we need a vaccine for children as well. But, you know, it's easy to feel good, because where things are not as awful as they were just a few weeks ago, but there is no assurance that we won't be back in that same boat again.

We still have too many susceptible adults and adolescents and children out there, this virus is not done with us. I think the best we can hope for is to smooth some of these ups and downs. It would be great if we could avoid another major surge, and just deal with this as almost an endemic condition, something we see on an occasional or sporadic basis. But we wouldn't have these huge surges that shut down our ability to live our lives. But it remains to be seen.

I am encouraged that we haven't seen the emergence of a new variant, a sort of a post Delta variant that could be even more contagious, or more sinister than the Delta. We haven't seen that so far. That's encouraging. But we're not out of the woods. And I think to lift precautions at this point would be premature.

KING: Dr. Kline, grateful for your time, sir. Really appreciate it. Thank you.

KLINE: Thanks for having me.

KING: My pleasure. Thank you.

Up next for us, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer takes questions and talks about his future on the bench.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You must be earthed somehow. This must drive you nuts a little bit, right?





KING: Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer shrugs off liberal pressure for him to resign, saying it's nice that people are talking about him. Now we know what Breyer thinks about all this because twice in the past 10 days, Justice sat down with our Supreme Court analyst, Joan Biskupic. I call her Justice Joan. That in and of itself is new, sitting down with reporters is not to use the courts lexicon established precedent. Joan is with us now. Let's hold for a moment why he's talking. And let's listen to him here on this pressure to resign.


BREYER: The truth I think is there's always, you know, you can always hope for your more mature self, which is there are sometimes. It's far from the worst thing in the world to have people say mean things or nice things or this thing or that thing about you.


KING: That's the old diva rule from the Reagan White House. As long as you're talking about you, it's a good thing. It has to bother him but he just doesn't want to say so. Is that the right translation?

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SUPREME COURT ANALYST: Oh, yes, of course he does. He doesn't like to be asked about retirement. He's out there trying to promote this book. But of course it's relevant when he's going to retire. And it's relevant are polarized times when he's making his messages that the court is a non-political institution.

So his timing is a little complicated for two reasons. One is, this is his seventh book, and he's trying to try to generate a lot of interest in it. But it comes at a time that the court has been more deeply split on cases involving the Biden administration, policy on the Texas order that allowed abortion ban or near ban to take effect on September 1st. And that was decided along political lines.


So he's got this message about how the Court is nonpartisan at a time when it's seeming the other -- otherwise. And he's also trying to be focused on Democratic notions kind of the history of the Supreme Court, when the big question is, when would Justice Breyer retire? Because as you know, well, John, Democrats fear losing their slim majority in the Senate and making it harder for President Joe Biden to appoint a younger successor.

KING: Right. So some liberals want him to retire as soon as possible. So President Biden could name somebody younger in his place.


KING: Some other liberals look at the current Court, which is a Trump conservative court and say, let's expand the Court. President Biden said he would look at that. We're going to get the draft, first draft of the recommendations from the Biden committee looking at that later today. You talk to Justice, the Justice about the issue of reforming the Court. Here's what he said.


BREYER: Before people make major changes in the Court, I would like them to read or otherwise understand what I've written, and to think about it pretty deeply. And it is an institution. I'll just repeat this. It's an institution that fallible, though it is, over time has served this country pretty well. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Tell me if I'm wrong, I read both the words and the body language is sorry, again, liberals. I think that's a bad idea.

BISKUPIC: Oh, definitely. He didn't want to -- he doesn't like to say outright that he opposes it. But he says think long and hard about doing it. He know, this is not something he likes. But he also doesn't -- he also express caution about some less sensational proposals having to do with perhaps more transparency at the Supreme Court, or expanding the ethics code that now applies to lower court judges to the Supreme Court justices.

His message is things are working pretty well. Thank you very much. And the Court has always been controversial. He is not interested in talking about January 6th, he's not interested in talking about all the lingering controversy over the, you know, the year ago, presidential election, and people who claim that it was stolen, questions that are so relevant to our democracy, he'd rather talk about past Democratic ideals, saying we've survived plenty and will survive again.

KING: One of his colleagues, one of his liberal colleagues on the Court, Justice Sonia Sotomayor also in the news, she says the rules of how the Court operates, how the question and answers go during arguments have been changed, because she says there was a history of the female justices, the women being interrupted more. Listen?


JUSTICE SONIA SOTOMAYOR, SUPREME COURT: Regrettably, that's a dynamic that exists not just on the court, but in our society in general. Most of the time, women say things, and they're not heard in the same way that men like say the identical thing.


KING: Walk me through this.

BISKUPIC: Age old problem, remembering 2009 Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said the same thing to me. She said, when she's even in the private conference room with the justices, she used to felt like she was back in the 1970s, when she would make a comment at the table. And it wouldn't be heated until a male professor made the same kind of comment.

So this is something that's been going on for a while. And what Justice Sotomayor was referring to were some studies that showed that the female justices on the Court are interrupted more than the male justices. And Justice Sotomayor said she had a response to that. I just interrupt right back.

KING: She is feisty. Joan, appreciate it very much.



KING: A quick break, when we come back, the President of the United States about to address the American people. He wants to claim progress in the COVID pandemic. But we all know also significant challenges ahead.


KING: A recently political history tells you it is a big deal the Democrats are so nervous about Virginia. President Biden won the Commonwealth by 10 points just last November. Ralph Northam had a nine point margin when he was elected governor back in 2017. Yet, the latest polling shows a tiny lead within the margin of error for Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe over Republican Glenn Youngkin, 19 days now until Election Day.

So why is it so close? Let's ask Democratic Senator Mark Warner. He's the chairman of the Intelligence Committee. He's also a former Virginia Governor. Senator, it is great to see you on this day. Terry McAuliffe blames you, fellow Democrats in Congress, he blames the President. He says that -- here's what he told the Associated Press. They all got to get together and vote on infrastructure, asked specifically if he was calling out Biden, McAuliffe said, I put everybody there. Just moments ago in another interview, he said if I were running the show, I'd get everybody in a room. Biden should get everybody in room. Is it your fault that Terry McAuliffe might lose?

SEN. MARK WARNER (D-VA): Well, John, I would say Terry McAuliffe is on the verge of winning, because those of us in a bipartisan fashion that 69 votes for an infrastructure bill that is wildly popular, it's not only roads and bridges, it's broadband. I'm done in Hampton Roads resiliency is a big issue, you know --

KING: But House -- forgive me, forgive me for interrupting, Senator, but House Democrats won't vote on it until they get the bigger spending bill. Should the President tell them save Terry McAuliffe, vote on that bill, do it now?


WARNER: I think the President want to tell the House that we ought to deliver on the infrastructure bill. I think we got to deliver on the semiconductor bill as well. And I assure you, I am committed to build -- finishing the President's agenda on Build Back Better. That's going to take probably a little more time. But let's go ahead and take a couple of these wins on both the bill visa v. China and the hardcore infrastructure bill.

KING: I want to be very clear, you're saying that you think the President should pick up the phone of the speaker and then start calling all those progressives who say they will not do it and say, we need you to do this for the good of the party, for the good of Terry McAuliffe, Virginia. You need to do this, well, you'll probably do this, and we promise you we'll come back to the other thing, do it now. Is that's what you're saying? WARNER: I'm committed to getting the Build Back Better, second half done in a timely fashion. I do hope we could go ahead and get a top line number to start with. And I'm asking my friend Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema to -- let's help us get to that top line number. But we're 19 days away from an election in Virginia. The President's got a huge wind sitting out there on a once in 50 years infrastructure plan. Let's make it the law of the land.

KING: You're a former lieutenant governor, former governor, now the Senator from the Commonwealth of Virginia, you understand the state pretty well, Glenn Youngkin is a different Republican candidate, and he's trying to do something and we'll see if he can pull it off, which is have the Trump voters in rural Virginia turnout for him, but keep his distance from the former President if he can so he does an alien eight suburbanites who might not like the former President. I want you to listen to a little bit of last night, Donald Trump called into a rally that was held to support the Republican candidates, including Mr. Youngkin. Mr. Youngkin skipped it. But listen to the former president.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Glenn Youngkin is a great gentleman. Truly successful, he loves the state. We've got to get him in. You have a chance to get one of the most successful business people in the country, and he did it in a quiet professional way.


KING: Do you worry that Glenn Youngkin is going to manage to thread that needle, keep the Trump supporters without hugging Trump?

WARNER: Yes, time will tell. But I do think, you know, Donald Trump want to come in. If he wants to come into Virginia and claim Glenn Youngkin is one of his acolytes, you ought to come in and do this. I mean, if this is all about Donald Trump, if he wants to make it about himself and Donald Trump's legacy, come to Virginia.

KING: We're bait, we call that bait. Look, we're in a different world in the sense of Virginia --

WARNER: -- that obvious, I'm sorry.

KING: Yes. It was that obvious. That's OK. That's how politics works. We're in a new world in the sense that in your prior elections in Virginia, you did not have early voting like we have now. They have left in place early voting that was put in place during the pandemic. So it's hard to make any conclusive judgment about what we're seeing, because Virginia hasn't done this before. But the early voting is not gangbusters. And a lot of Democrats are a little nervous about that, saying for whatever reason, whether it's because of what we just talked about, the Biden agenda being stalled in Congress right now, some people say, you know, Terry McAuliffe was governor before, maybe there's not excited about bringing him back. Do you look at the metrics of early voting, and do you see Democratic disenchantment or Democratic distance discouragement that scares you?

WARNER: I see good and bad in the early voting. In terms of the early voting percentage, that's going from McAuliffe, it looks like it's way north of 60 percent. In terms of relationship to the numbers we had last year, presidential year, it's obviously not going to be as big a turnout as last year. But we do need to drive those numbers up. And this year, we not only have early voting, but we've added for the first time ever, Sunday voting. And we're starting this Sunday a souls for the polls effort that's been very successful in states like Georgia earlier, and we're going to have folks like Senator Warnock appeal to a lot of our church community. Stacey Abrams is coming in, you know, President Obama is coming in, Joe Biden is coming in.

You know, we realize what's at stake here, because, you know, the eyes of the nation, in terms of the first year marks on the Biden presidency, are going to be based on what happens in Virginia. And that's why the President ought to that win on infrastructure.

KING: You know, the history. Terry McAuliffe actually defined it when he was elected governor, but often the election for governor of Virginia goes against the President's party in power. I know you think Terry McAuliffe was going to pull this out. What message would it says about the midterms if Glenn Youngkin is the next governor of Virginia?

WARNER: You know, John, I'm -- you know, that's also called bait, and I'm not going to take that as well. Terry McAuliffe is going to win. We're going to give the President a big win on infrastructure. We're going to make those investments and semiconductors to bring those jobs and that supply chain solution back here to this country. And we're going to go ahead and take on the issues around childcare and the climate issues that we need to in the Build Back Better plan.

KING: You just mentioned an issue. It's somewhat related to any campaign right now about semiconductors and supply chains. It's -- I'm sorry, Senator, I need to stop the interview right there, the President of the United States coming out. We appreciate Senator Warner. Let's listen to the President.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've just been briefed by my COVID-19 team on the progress we're making in our fight against the virus. Today, I want to provide a brief update on my plan that I announced in early September to accelerate the path out of the pandemic. It's working. We're making progress.


Nationally, daily cases are down 47 percent, hospitalizations are down 38 percent over the past six weeks. Over the past two weeks, most of the country has improved as well. Case rates are declining in 39 states and hospital rates are declining in 38 states. We're down to 66 million. It's still an unacceptably high number of unvaccinated people from almost 100 million in July.

That's important. It's important progress. But it's not -- now is not the time to let up. We have a lot more to do. We're in a very critical period as we work to turn the corner on COVID-19. First, we have to do more to vaccinate the 66 million unvaccinated people in America. It's essential. The vaccine requirements that we started rolling out in the summer are working. They're working. The Labor Department is going to soon be issuing an emergency rule for companies with 100 or more employees to implement vaccination requirements in their -- among their workforce.

Every day, we see more businesses implementing vaccination requirements, and the mounting data that shows they work. Businesses and organizations that are implementing requirements are seeing their vaccination rates rise by an average of 20 percent or more to well over 90 percent, the number of employees vaccinated.

Let's be clear, vaccination requirements should not be another issue that divides us. That's why we continue to battle the misinformation that's out there, and companies and communities are setting up their -- stepping up as well to combat these -- the misinformation.

Southwest Airlines at the head of the pilot -- the head of the pilot's union and its CEO dismissed critics who claim vaccination mandates contributed to flight disruptions. School board members, religious leaders, and doctors across the country are fighting misinformation and educating people about the importance of vaccines.

All of these efforts are going to help us continue moving the dial to eliminate this disease. Second, we're going to continue protecting the vaccinated. This work -- this week, the Food and Drug Administration and the FDA is reviewing the data on Moderna and Johnson & Johnson boosters. We expect a final decision from the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the CDC in the next couple of weeks.

If they authorize the boosters, which will be strictly made based on the science, that decision will be based on the science. This will mean all three vaccines will be available for boosters. Already, more than 1 out of 3 eligible seniors have gotten their third shot, the booster. And we're going to continue to provide that additional protection to seniors and others as we head into the holidays. These boosters are free. I'll say it again, they're free, available, and convenient to get.

Third point I'd like to make. We need to continue to keep our schools and our students safe. Ninety-six percent of school districts are fully open with children back in the classroom and for in-person learning. We have been able to do this because we've provided our schools the resources they need to protect children and the educators, as well as the staff that works in the schools.

We've been encouraging schools to implement important health measures like masking, testing, and getting everyone vaccinated who is eligible to be vaccinated.

Now, I know parents out there are anxiously waiting for a vaccine for children ages 5 to 11. The good news is the FDA and outside experts from the CDC are set to make its determination as to whether the vaccine will be authorized for that age range in the next few weeks. If authorized, we are ready. We have purchased enough vaccines for all children between the ages of 5 and 11 in the United States. And will be -- it will be convenient for parents to get their children vaccinated at trusted locations, and families will be able to sleep easier at night knowing their kids are protected as well.


Let me close with this, the plan I laid out in September is working. We're headed in the right direction. We have critical work to do, but we can't let up now. My team and I are doing everything we can. But I'm calling on more businesses to step up.