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Inside Politics

World Health Org: Europe Once Again At Pandemic Epicenter; McConnell: 2022 Midterms Will Be About Future, Not Past; Former President Obama Speaks At World Climate Summit. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired November 08, 2021 - 12:30   ET




JOHN KING, CNN HOST: There's some big COVID news today. The drug maker Pfizer is preparing to seek government approval for vaccine booster shots for anyone aged 18 and older. "The Washington Post" was first to report these plans, which essentially means Pfizer wants a third shot for all adults who got the Pfizer vaccine.

Also today take a look, two planes lifting off simultaneously from London bound for New York as the United States reopens to fully vaccinated international travelers that after more than 18 months of pandemic related restrictions, some experts see a new chapter close at hand.


DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB, FORMER FDA COMMISSIONER: I think that we're close to the end of the pandemic phase of this virus and we're going to enter a more endemic phase as the situation improves here in the U.S., people are going to go out more. Cases may pick up. But that doesn't mean that we're entering into another wave of infection. I think we're close to the end of this. This delta wave is the last major wave of infection.


KING: With us to share his expertise and his insights is Dr. Jonathan Reiner. He's a professor of medicine and surgery at George Washington University, Dr. Reiner grateful for your time. Do you agree with Dr. Gottlieb and as, I asked you the question, I just want to put up our case track right now since July?

We're essentially in a plateau. If you look at the last couple of weeks, plus 1.2 percent from two weeks ago, but essentially a flat line since the middle of October, if you come across. Are we in a new chapter in endemic? Are we still in the pandemic?

DR. JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, that's yet to be seen. I hope, Scott Gottlieb is right, although I'm not sure. If you look at the trends in Europe, the trends in Europe are going in the wrong direction. So in the United States, we peaked at about 160,000 cases per day, in the beginning of September, then we had a really steep decline. But for the last few weeks, we've been flat. And in fact, our trend now over the last two weeks is exactly flat. So we'll see.

And that's basically because, you know, things have gotten better in the United States in the South and Southeast, and have gotten worse in the United States in the West, and sort of northern parts of this country. So the declining case rates from the south are being offset by higher case rates elsewhere.

And as we get colder and more people move inside, there's an opportunity for greater infection. And we've only fully vaccinated about 58 percent of this country. So I'm not quite as optimistic as Scott Gottlieb.

KING: So let's walk through some of that. And let's start with what you mentioned about the international situation right now, if you look at the world case map right now you see a ton of red here in Europe, across Russia, you see orange in China, there's in Africa and South America as well. But let's just -- if you focus on Europe, right now, United States is green, essentially holding steady or down a little bit Canada as well.

But if you look at the United States versus the European Union, you know, you follow the squiggly lines. The United States is the orange, right? And we're coming down and in a plateau. The European Union is the green it was down. And now it's going almost straight up, again, we've been through these cycles before, where the E.U. essentially goes up.

And a few weeks later, we are behind them because they got COVID first, so sometimes the cycles run the same. Does that alarm you or are we just in a different place now, because of vaccines being available and other treatments being available.

REINER: Well, the other treatments being available have limited our mortality. So we're not seeing the sort of level of mortality that we saw, for instance, last winter, so that's good, and that will remain, and that will even get better as the new antivirals from Merck, Pfizer come online. But we have very faithfully followed what's happened in Europe, you know, the first three or four waves of this of this pandemic.

So I think it's very possible that we will see, well, let's not call it another surge, but another rise in cases. And I think, no, if you and I speak again, next Monday, at this time, we'll start to see a little bit of a tick up. But we have the tools to blunt that. Right now we're getting vaccines in children's arms.

And I implore parents to continue to do that. If you look at the number of Americans 12 and older who have been eligible for vaccines for, you know, months, you know, we've only vaccinated about 78 percent of them.

So there are still over 20 percent of people who have been eligible for vaccines for a very long time who have resisted vaccination, we have to redouble our efforts to reach out to them. These -- all the tools we have, both in terms of explaining, you know, the benefits to them and including mandates to get more Americans vaccinated. That's how we get to the other side. But I do think we're going to see a rise in cases over the next few weeks to a month or two.

KING: We'll certainly keep an eye on that. You mentioned the other side. I just want to bring up the map of vaccinations across the country. And this is where the differences, if you will, I think of what you're talking about in terms of the key importance.

If you look at, you know, just go across right here Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi 49 percent, 45 percent, 46 percent, Arkansas 48 percent, Louisiana 48 percent then you come up to Maine at 71 percent, Vermont is 72 percent. That's in terms of fully vaccinated.


So Pfizer now says if, you know, maybe a third booster shot. So for those who have been vaccinated already Pfizer saying, you know, more boosters to keep your immunity levels up but the problem still remains, right? We're going to have these regional issues because in some states are still below, well below 50 percent. It's for -- you know, you look out here in the plains, you see 44 percent in Idaho, for example.

REINER: That's right. So I think as we see the pandemic start to change in the United States, we're going to see a change differently in different regions. The parts of this country that are very well vaccinated are going to boost their population.

And there I think we will start to see elements of normalcy as we move towards spring. In parts of the country where as you just listed vaccination rates are less than 50 percent, we're going to see pockets of pandemic as we move through the winter.

So, you know, we don't live in a homogeneous country, we haven't been vaccinated homogeneously. And our exit from this pandemic won't be homogeneous.

KING: I just, as I look into the map, 41 percent in West Virginia, you look at some of those numbers have a down low. Dr. Reiner grateful for your insights, we will track things as we get an A, into the colder weather and B, let's see whether that plateau stays flat or starts to go back up again as you suggested. Thank you, sir, for your time today.

Up next for us, back to politics and the Trump big lie divide. Many Republicans want to forgive or at least forget, but a small but vocal minority takes issue.



KING: Republicans are understandably in good spirits after last week's elections, but the Trump factor is still a big dividing line in conversations about the shift now to the 2022 midterms. Our panel is back with us to discuss and let's start, this is a little bit from over the weekend.

There was a big Republican Jewish Coalition meeting in Vegas. Also the Sunday talk shows of course and new shows. Let's start with the Republicans who say maybe I don't want to fully embrace the Trump big lie, but we need him.


SEN. TED CRUZ (R-TX): What was President Trump's single most redeeming characteristic, the man has a steel backbone and he doesn't back down. After years of Republicans scared of their own shadows, there's a reason we celebrate a leader who's willing to stand and fight.

SEN. RICK SCOTT (R-FL) CHAIR, NATIONAL REPUBLICAN SENATORIAL COMMITTEE: And if you want to win your election, you should talk about the border being secure. You should talk about jobs. You could talk about education, public safety.


KING: Senator Scott also saying, you'd be foolish not to want Donald Trump's endorsement. I'm going to pass on pontificating about the irony of Cruz. I'll pass to the panel here on this. But there is this group of Republicans who think we need him to win, we need to raise money from him. And we don't need dissonance, if you will. We don't need to be fighting with him.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And look, this is actually very, the split is profound and the control -- fight for control for Congress. You're seeing what's happening in the House. Kevin McCarthy has done everything he can to try to win back Trump get in his good graces. This is how most Republicans in the conference see it. They believe him as being out there will be helpful, drive up their base will help them win back the House.

That is not necessarily the way Mitch McConnell sees it. He's been saying it for weeks. This is about the future, not the past. I asked him about this a couple weeks ago. And he made that clear. He's made that clear over and over again. He wants this nothing to do with Trump. And they're concerned about, they blame Trump in the Senate side for costing them the majority.

If it weren't for him promoting the lie that he the election was stolen, they believe they could have held on to at least one of those Georgia seats, and they'd be in the majority right now. So we'll see how it ultimately plays out. But a lot of Republicans don't know exactly how to deal with them.

KING: I appreciate the transition help. You mentioned Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican leader. He hopes to be the majority leader again, come 2023. He's in Kentucky today actually praising passage of the bipartisan infrastructure bill, which will soon be signed by President Biden. But McConnell says otherwise, he wants voters to think about Biden, not that other guy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY), MINORITY LEADER: The key to '22 is to have a discussion with the American people about how they feel about the new administration and Democratic Congress and what they're doing. So I think the election will be about the future, not about the past.


KING: Past in a word is McConnell's word for Trump.

ZOLAN KANNO-YOUNGS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. I mean, well, this is the balance, right? How does the Republican Party sort of replicate what we saw happen in Virginia, with Glenn Youngkin, where you try to strike this balance between focusing on some of the issues that galvanizes Trump supporters such as rising crime, such as border crossings, such as how racism is taught in schools.

But how do you do that and focus on those issues, while also trying to draw some separation between the person that for the past four years, pretty much was the face of kind of homing in on those issues as well.

So that's going to be the challenge here and what the sander is getting at with those comments as well, right? I mean, there's a world where you can focus on that and then criticize the administration for crime for immigration and really broadly the culture wars. But I mean, will the former President continue to keep his distance and only release statement or will he want credit for some of that as well?


KING: That's the part that the other, the vocal minority is I call it in the Republican Party. They say number one, if you forgive and forget about the big lie, the party loses its credibility. If you take Trump's money, you know, help him use him to raise money, you're giving the big lie a pass and you're giving the insurrection a pass, in many ways. Let's listen now to the minority view. Again, they're the minority, but they're vocal.


CHRIS CHRISTIE (R-NJ), FORMER GOVERNOR: I can no longer talk about the past and the past elections. No matter, no matter where you stand on that issue, no matter where you stand, it is over.

GOV. CHRIS SUNUNU (R-NH): If you are sitting here talking about 2020, or you are worried about who's going to run in '24, you are missing the boat.

GOV. LARRY HOGAN (R-MD): We can't look back and constantly relitigate what happened in 2020. We got to look to '22 and '24.


KING: They keep trying. The question is can they grow -- can they grow their base within the anti-Trump movement, if you will?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And I think the key and talking to Republicans is some combination of what Chris Christie and Chris Sununu and Larry Hogan are saying, and what you heard Rick Scott say on New Day this morning and what Mitch McConnell is saying, which is try as hard as you can to keep the President as arm -- at arm's length, because what you want your rhetorical and, you know, political strategic focus to be is on all the things that the new poll out today shows that people care the most about. That is the reason Glenn Youngkin won in Virginia. That is the reason.

It's not that he didn't get Donald Trump's endorsement. He did. But in order to accomplish everything that I just laid out, you need the former president's help. And to your point, most of these Republicans aren't going to get it. And by help, I mean, stay away in the Senate races in particular, House races. A lot of them are a little different.

KING: Right. That's the part where the minority that says you hug this guy at your peril. They say wait until the primary season comes around. We're going to see a lot more of them. You're all happy now because we're not seeing that much of him, you're about to.

RAJU: Yes, and that's the real challenge because in the primary he's going to play big. You showed a clip of Chris Sununu, there's a big decision coming up for him but whether to run for the New Hampshire Senate race if he does run, this is a real opportunity for the Republicans to pick up a key seat against Maggie Hassan.

But we'll see if he's a primary issue. We'll see if him distancing itself for Trump becomes a problem. We'll see how Trump response so these issues are primary problems that the Republicans even if they want to keep distance they have to deal with him.

KING: A story in progress, we should say, story -- drama in progress.

Up next, live to the Global Climate Summit in Scotland, former President Barack Obama is there today with a warning that quote, time is running out.



KING: Former President Barack Obama spoke today at the Global Climate Summit in Scotland urging the delegates to make tough choices as the conference moves in the second and final week to the challenge of trying to write and adopt ambitious new goals. We have not done enough was part of the Obama message.

So was criticism of Donald Trump, who walked away from commitments Obama made as part of the Paris Climate Accords six years ago. CNN's Rene Marsh is live in Glasgow and joins us now, return to the world stage for the former president.

RENE MARSH, CNN AVIATION AND GOVERNMENT REGULATION CORRESPONDENT: Yes, absolutely. And it was no coincidence on the timing of this speech. I mean, the speech that you heard today was urgent and it was political. But the timing was key to because this week, there are lots of key intense and very complicated negotiations happening here at COP26.

And the hope is that the speech given by the former president today reinvigorated of the discussions happening here. And the hope is that that will lead to bold commitments that not only will be made but be kept. But listen to Obama earlier today and the urgency with which he spoke.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Collectively and individually, we are still falling short. We have not done nearly enough to address this crisis. We are going to have to do more. And whether that happens or not to a large degree is going to depend on you.


MARSH: And what you really saw shining through throughout this speech was this feeling that what Barack Obama was trying to do here was get on the world stage and try to repair U.S.'s credibility on this issue of climate change, following four years of former President Donald Trump where he essentially rolled back in several environmental regulations as well as pulling out of the Paris Climate Accord.

Barack Obama was trying to say the U.S. is back, you can count on us, and we're here with you to work together also all while calling on others like China and Russia who he called out for not even showing up at COP26. John?

KING: Rene Marsh, grateful for the live reporting, it'll be fascinating in the days ahead to see what they can actually take pen to paper, see what they commit to. Rene. Thanks very much.


Up next for us, the Justice Department hits back against international hackers in a major ransomware attack.


KING: Topping our Political Radar today, the Justice Department just announced charges against two European men, their alleged involvement in a major cyberattack back in July. The attack help infect up to 1,500 businesses in the United States and across the world. The two are accused of being part of a ransomware gang that extorted more than $200 million from its victims.

A very rare occurrence, CNN has learned the CIA Director Bill Burns spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin last week while Burns was in Moscow. Two sources with direct knowledge tell CNN Burns conveyed serious U.S. concerns about a Russian military buildup along the Ukrainian border.

Vice President Kamala Harris heads to France this week to boost U.S.- French relations. She will meet with the French president Emmanuel Macron and speak at the Paris Peace Forum. Her trip of course comes two months after France temporarily recalled its ambassador to the United in anger over the U.S. nuclear powered sub deal with Australia.


Thanks for joining us in INSIDE POLITICS. We'll see you tomorrow. Ana Cabrera picks up right now.