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726,196 People In The U.S. Have Died From COVID-19; Rep. Mondaire Jones (D-NY) Is Interviewed About Manchin's Stance On Climate, Means Testing; McAuliffe Campaign Rolls Out Ads Linking Youngkin & Trump. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired October 19, 2021 - 12:30   ET



DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Yes, there are some people who are particularly vulnerable, individuals who are older with chronic medical conditions who are immunosuppressed. And unfortunately, General Powell was in this category of people who are very vulnerable, they -- if they are to contract COVID, they may have significant outcomes, including hospitalization and death. And that's why the best way to protect these individuals is for everyone to be vaccinated.

That's the entire idea of herd immunity so that we have enough people vaccinated, that we're able to drive down the level of COVID in the community, that reduces risk for everyone. That should actually be the takeaway here, not that vaccines don't work. But the reason why so many people are still dying from COVID is that there are so many Americans who remain unvaccinated that is posing a grave public health threat to everyone, as is misinformation and disinformation.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Dr. Wen, thank you, grateful as always, especially on this day to combat that. Let's bring it back into the room. Dr. Wen makes an important point, just want to put up on the screen. And I'm sorry to have to do this. But more than 725,000 Americans have died as we have gone through the COVID pandemic. I don't like the government telling me what to do.

I don't like my employer telling me what to do. But every now and then something big comes along. Forgive me, "Fox News," what makes America exceptional, is when we all decide to set apart, set down our personal principles or our personal preferences for the good of the team. The good of the team here is to come together and not spread that but.

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I look. I think there is a real concern here about disinformation. And if millions of people watch someone who's telling them something that's not actually demonstrably true, it creates a public health threat that drives a public health threat. And I think, you know, for news outlets or media outlets, there's real consideration about where's the line between opinion and active disinformation.

And I think, for Congress and for the government, there's a real line between what is a first amendment right, that should be protected, and what is, you know, what needs to be regulated or restricted around this information that could cause harm.

And I think COVID is a really critical and difficult test of that. But the truth is there is there's clear scientific consensus, as the doctor said, that vaccinations help protect not just the people who were vaccinated, but other people from getting something that passes through you. And when you have a case like General Powell, of someone who's living with a blood cancer and a weakened immune system, it is other people's non vaccination that helped threatened and imperil --

KING: It is a shared responsibility. If I can do something to help protect somebody else, I'm going to share a secret I've never spoken before, I'm immunocompromised, I have multiple sclerosis. So I'm grateful you're all vaccinated. I'm grateful.

My employer says all these amazing people who work on the floor who came in here for the last 18 months when we were doing this are vaccinated now that we have vaccines. I worry about bringing home to my 10-year-old son who can't get a vaccine. I don't like the government telling me what to do. I don't like my boss telling me what to do. In this case, it's important.

HEATHER CAYGLE, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, POLITICO: Absolutely. I mean, this is, unfortunately, a debate that is playing out within the Republican Party and about how and should they politicize vaccines and mask mandates. And frankly, as you said and Margaret said, it's dangerous, and it's reckless, and not all Republicans are on board with that.

We see Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell come out when he does his press conferences, he takes his mask off and he says, please get vaccinated. I am vaccinated.

But it is said, it is certainly dividing the party. And I think the worry is if some see that it is successful, and brings out people and voters that it could continue. And where does that leave us as a country?

ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: This is a top concern as well for some of the most powerful people in the country right now, including the White House, right? I mean, it's not just "Fox News." And it's not just certain news outlets. But there are top officials in the White House that are also very -- still very concerned about the way that misinformation around vaccines and the coronavirus can spread on online platforms as well. We remember the debate between the White House and Facebook as well.

You know, we've reported that the administration has put forth a lot of efforts thus far without a lot of success to try and get these companies to also contain the spread of some of the false information being perpetuated out there about the effectiveness of vaccines. I mean, when it comes to Colin Powell's death, I mean, I was talking to someone yesterday who said, look, one, as we've all stated, you know, this is somebody who was, immunocompromised, did have a form of cancer, was in his old age, was in his 80s.

But also, you know, if you're in a car crash and you are wearing a seatbelt, it doesn't matter that you're going to -- it doesn't mean that you're going to stop wearing a seatbelt going forward, this is still the way to protect you, you know, going forward.

KING: Right. And again, yesterday we lost an American treasure but, you know, sometimes we focus too much on celebrity, no offense to General Powell there. He's an American hero, but 700 and what is -- 726,196 people, those are all treasures. That's somebody's brother, mother, father, sister, coworker, colleague, friend, teammate. Focus on the science or put it this way, man up or shut up.


Next, can Democrats get to yes on the Biden agenda. Party liberals are now meeting face to face with centrists, a key member of progressive caucus joins us with his take on why they're talking means progress.



KING: The key players are talking more all of a sudden but there's no evidence yet key policy differences are being bridged as Democrats try, try, and try to put together a giant social safety net package. For example, Senator Joe Manchin wants to include means testing. What you earn, the senator says, should determine whether you're entitled to some government benefits. But progressives call that bad policy and bad politics.

Joining me now one of those progressive, the Democrat from New York Congressman Mondaire Jones. Congressman, great to see you again. Let's start with the idea that the key players are now getting together face to face, Senator Sanders with Senator Manchin, the leader of your progressive conference, Congresswoman Jayapal with Sinema and with Manchin, are you getting word from your allies that progress is being made in these meetings, or at least the key people just staring at each other right now?

REP. MONDAIRE JONES (D-NY): Well, John, it's great to be with you again. Look, this is progress. The fact that Manchin and Sinema are finally talking about their top lines and what they can and cannot live with is a result of a progressive strategy to enact the overwhelming majority of this President's broadly popular economic provisions.

This is a strategy that was articulated initially by the President himself, the majority leader in the Senate and of course, the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, until a few renegade Democrats tried to derail that strategy. I am very optimistic that we are going to pass both of these infrastructure bills, of course, the Build Back Better Act containing the vast majority of what the President proposed earlier this spring.

KING: So one of the key points you have made is you disagree with Senator Manchin on means testing. He says, if you make 150,000, 200,000, $300,000 a year, you should not either not get or get smaller piece of government benefits than somebody who makes 30 or $40,000 a year, you wrote about this in "The Washington Post" the other day, you say proponents of means testing, propose it under the guise of fiscal responsibility. Fundamentally, means testing is a choice to deprive millions of our neighbors of what they need simply to cope.

If Manchin is a firm no, and you can't pass something without Manchin's vote, are you willing to accept some means testing to these new benefits you want to create?

JONES: Well, John, look, progressives are pragmatic. I also hope that Joe Manchin will be pragmatic, and that he will look at what the research shows. In that same op-ed, which I coauthored with Katie Porter, we cited to a 2011 study, when it was attempted for Social Security to be means tested.

And that of course, that study showed that you spend at least as much money creating an entire bureaucracy to evaluate whether people qualify for things to say nothing of the intimidation that people feel having to complete complex paperwork in many instances, as you do in forfeiting the number of people who could have benefited from these broadly popular life improving social programs.

And so our project right now is to educate the senator who I believe wants to do the right thing about how means testing is actually regressive. And about how the policies in this country, Social Security and Medicare that are universal, are the most broadly supported. And it is why they have withstood the test of time, despite the best efforts by Republicans to unravel them.

KING: One of the new complications if that's the right word in these talks right now is you have a Virginia governor's race going on right now, the Democratic candidate is in a very competitive race in what should be a blue state competitive but should be a blue state. And one of the arguments has passed the bipartisan infrastructure plan now and then come back and finish the broader reconciliation build, the social safety net bill.

If Congresswoman Jayapal can get an agreement with Sinema and Manchin on a framework that says we -- it will -- this is the price tag, it will be X, and it will have these key elements in it and lay out the policy proposal. Are you willing to do that to vote first on the bipartisan infrastructure plan to give Terry McAuliffe a quote unquote, win from Washington, or you're afraid of being snookered?

JONES: Well, John, look, Virginia is a blue state. We both agree on that. And I believe that Terry McAuliffe is a good enough candidate to win especially having served as governor before of Virginia, without it having to do anything.

KING: So that's a no. That's a no, you won't -- that's a no, you won't split them?

JONES: Look, it's important to stay true to what the strategy of the White House has been, which is to make sure that we pass both of these bills. And we have seen that strategy bear fruit and getting Manchin who was just talking about just a few weeks ago, passing the Build Back Better Act in the year 2022 now talking about what he can and cannot live with.

KING: The last time we spoke or couple times ago anyway, you said it was important for the President to get more involved not just putting people in a room, but starting to resolve the differences and to make some demands essentially the I'm the President, get this done. Are you seeing proof of that?

JONES: I am seeing the President become more involved with respect to the negotiation of the Build Back Better Act, in the same way that he was very involved in the negotiation of the bipartisan infrastructure bill. He himself has endorsed the strategy of linking these two bills.

He understands that the overwhelming majority of his broadly popular provisions are contained in that larger Build Back Better Act. And of course, then we need to get them involved in the voting rights discussion that has been ongoing. I've been calling for his involvement in that effort as well.


KING: We will pick that up conversation up one thing at a time, Congressman, but I promise you that's an important issue to me as well. We'll circle back on that. Appreciate your time again, sir. Thank you.

JONES: Thanks so much.

KING: Thank you.

Ahead for us, two weeks left in that tight race for Virginia Governor. It is a key test of how much Donald Trump matters when he's not in the White House and not on the ballot.



KING: Donald Trump is not on the ballot in the Virginia governor's race. But in brand new T.V. ads, the Democrat Terry McAuliffe wants voters to make the connection between Trump and his opponent, Glenn Youngkin. The Republican Glenn Youngkin trying to walk a pretty fine line. He wants the enthusiasm of Trump supporters but he doesn't want to be too close to the former president, if you will.

Our panel is back to discuss it. This is a test in the sense that we know Trump motivates Democrats. It worked a bit in the California recall that was part of the recall there. We know it has worked in the midterm elections and it worked in the last presidential election. The question is for Terry McAuliffe, does this turn out votes.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It starts when we give room for hate to grow.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You also had very fine people on both sides. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And for some, they embrace it.

GLENN YOUNGKIN (R-VA), GOV. CANDIDATE: I was honored to receive President Trump's endorsement.

TRUMP: Glenn Youngkin, he'll straighten out Virginia. Do all of the things that we want a governor to do. We're going to take it all back. Take Back Virginia.


KING: Does that meet the moment in Virginia? Will it turn out Democrats?

TALEV: It will probably turn out some Democrats and he needs a lot of Democratic turnout. It's a kind of a midterm year. It's the year before the midterms. The question is, will it turn off some Democrats or some swing voters, some independence, whom McAuliffe also might need to bring his way. Will that offset the turnout?

You see kind of a dual track strategy here. There's a big effort. He's bringing in Vice President Harris. He's bringing in former President Obama a big effort to turn out younger voters, voters of color all over the state of Virginia in these final days, but there are those kind of centrist independent voters around Northern Virginia, the suburbs and the exurbs, who are also a part of this equation. And look, there's a lot on the line here, obviously for Terry McAuliffe for the entire Democratic Party.

KING: Right. And Terry McAuliffe was on last hour with my colleague, Kate Bolduan, who essentially asked him I'm going to paraphrase the question, you'll hear the real one. What about Glenn Youngkin?


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Do you see your only path to success here is making this Terry McAuliffe versus Donald Trump.

TERRY MCAULIFFE (D-VA), GOV. NOMINEE: No. I haven't spent most of this campaign, if you look at my advertising what I say on the trail, there's huge differences, Kate, in this campaign. I'm for raising the minimum wage to 15 bucks. I'm for paid family medical leave. I'm for paid sick leave. Glenn Youngkin is against every one of those. He wants to ban abortions.


KING: We did just look at his ad. Some, you know, sorry, Terry, but.

KANNO-YOUNGS: Right. That ad does seem to, look, I get what you're saying there. But that ad does seem to still be a part of a trend we're seeing that Democrats are putting Trump on the ballot, right?

We saw this also happened with the recall election with Gavin Newsom against Larry Elder, different opponent, different state, same tactic in a way of saying, look, if you vote for that guy, you're going to be getting the things that Trump advocates for and that is an attempt to try and get more voter turnout, try and get more black voters to come out, trying to get more Latino voters to come out as well. We'll see if it works. Virginia is different than California.

KING: And you write about this today, we can show the headline, it's a great one. Virginia has a slogan, Virginia is for lovers. POLITICO today says Virginia is for warriors. Governor's race poses real risks to Democratic agenda. Margaret just talked about that. You heard Congressman Jones who says he's not in favor of breaking the two big Democratic bills up. Terry McAuliffe wants him to pass that bipartisan infrastructure plan last week or last month. And his answer seemed to be, I don't think so.

CAYGLE: Oh, yes, absolutely. I mean, McAuliffe is even calling out Speaker Pelosi, who he's pretty close to privately and she's actually going to do a fundraiser for him later this week or next week, and saying, I need you to put this bill on the floor. I need it. It will drive Democratic enthusiasm. It'll drive voters out. We need this.

Meanwhile, on the flip side, Democrats on the Hill are worrying that if McAuliffe does lose his race, and this is what we get out of the story, their agenda goes kaput, because what moderates are going to want to vote for a $2 trillion bill with rising inflation and all these other concerns when Democrats can't even hold a state that they feel like should be realigned blue.

KING: Two very fascinating weeks ahead, both in the Virginia governor's race. Two weeks from tonight, we'll be counting votes. I always love that. That's fun. And also, it is fun, it is fun, and the impact on the agenda. Thank you all for coming in.


When we come back, some breaking news, the FBI right now on the scene with the D.C. home of a Russian oligarch, more on why, ahead.


KING: Topping our Political Radar. You see the pictures right there, an FBI raid in Washington targeting a crony of the Russian President Vladimir Putin. Agents this morning raiding the home of Oleg Deripaska, he's a Russian oligarch closely tied with Putin and with the former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. A spokesman tell CNN the activity at this D.C. home related to a federal investigation out of New York.

And history today, Rachel Levine is now the first openly transgender four-star officer. Admiral Levine sworn in this morning as a four-star in the public, U.S. public health service, this is another first for Levine, who is also the nation's highest ranking openly transgender official.

A statue of Thomas Jefferson will be removed from the New York City Council Chambers. The city's Public Design Commission voted unanimously on Monday to move it. One council member said she felt quote deeply uncomfortable conducting city business with the likeness of a slave owner nearby. The Commission is still figuring out a new place for that statue.


Appreciate your time today in Inside Politics. Hope to see you back here this time tomorrow. Don't go anywhere. Busy News Day, Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now. Have a good day.