Return to Transcripts main page

Inside Politics

Dems In Tight Races Oppose Biden's Plan To Lift COVID Era Border Restrictions For Migrants; CNN: Patients Charged Hundreds Of Dollars To Get COVID Drugs; Turkey Doesn't View Finland, Sweden Joining NATO "Positively". Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired May 13, 2022 - 12:30   ET




SEN. JON TESTER (D-MT): He sends out a signal that will cause even more folks to head our direction.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Is it worth holding up COVID aid over Title 42?

TESTER: Well, look, I just think we ought to vote on it and get the COVID aid done. I mean, I think it's important.


JOHN KING, CNN HOST: So that's why Republicans want to vote because there are a number of Democrats, some on the ballot, some not, who will split with their president on this.

AMY WALTER, PUBLISHER AND EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, COOK POLITICAL REPORT: Yes, well, it actually gives Democratic senators who are in tough races, not just ones who sit on the border, like Mark Kelly from Arizona, but even Senator Maggie Hassan from New Hampshire would like to take that vote. She went down to the border recently and cut an ad down there saying how important it is to keep the border secure.

So this is actually for vulnerable Democratic senators a good vote, but for the party itself. And you already have a very restive liberal group there, not just of senators, but of activists. This will be really just one more example to them from the Democratic Party that they haven't lived up to the ideals that they like to see.

KING: Which is why the Leader Chuck Schumer sounds, my word, anguished.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): We'll see what the House sends over. The bottom line is very simple. Our Republican friends should not be blocking COVID legislation. We don't know what they might throw in the way, we don't even know if they want to pass it. So let -- when the House passes it, we will do everything we can to get COVID legislation passed.


KING: You know, I get it.


KING: But when the Republicans had a slim majority, Democrats did the same thing.


KING: It's how the Senate works, how the Senate doesn't work now.

HENDERSON: It's how the Senate works and it's how the Democratic Party has to work when you have Joe Manchin and Bernie Sanders, a very kind of wide ideological swath of folks in that party. Listen, I think some of these senators, Democratic senators would be happy if Title 42 stay in place, a lot of House Democrats as well who are in the swing districts as well would be very happy if this stayed in place.

One of the questions I think that Schumer raised though is, do they have enough votes to actually pass COVID release? They go along with this Title 42 stays in place, do they have the 60 votes to actually pass this COVID relief because some Republicans are like, maybe there isn't enough money out there in states for -- that we pass billions and billions of dollars. Maybe we don't need to pass anymore.

KING: But it is interesting. You know, the Biden administration is in court right now saying, look, we have vaccines now. It has long been the policy of the United States that if you're applying for asylum, you get to cross the border, you get to file your paperwork and you get to stay in the United States while those claims are litigated. That's always been the policy.

The Trump administration said COVID, nope, you're not coming across the border. But he knows, you mentioned the senators Mark Kelly of Arizona, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, nowhere near the southern border but in a swing state, Senator Masto of Nevada, Senator Warnock of Georgia. Those four are on the ballot this year. They have said they disagree with what the President plans on doing here. So again, they would love to take this vote because it would help them in a campaign. I don't know, I break with Joe Biden when I think it's necessary for the home state but.

FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, MCCLATCHY: And the White House wants to completely decouple the issue of immigration from Title 42. They're saying to your point that these are two completely separate issues that there should be comprehensive immigration reform. But this isn't the place to do it. When you talk about divided Democrats though, they were getting pressured, if you recall, in the lead up to saying that they would lift Title 42 from a doubt their Democratic members, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, when they met with Joe Biden pressed him to lift Title 42.

So it may be a situation where the President may within the Democratic Party just not be able to win on this issue, because he's got Democrats on both sides of this, you know, pushing him on it.

KING: It's possible the courts will stop him.

HENDERSON: Which would be a relief.

WALTER: That's right. And I think that's kind of the hope if you are either Schumer or the White House that the courts stepped in and you say, oh, well, you know, what we would have done but, you know, these courts.

CHAMBERS: And the White House has been saying that it would take some sort of an outside actor, including Congress, otherwise, this is happening. That is their position.

HENDERSON: Yes. And I mean, listen, the White House isn't really prepared for what Republicans are going to do with this issue. And they haven't been for many, many years. I mean, this is a winning issue for Republicans, this idea that there are people across the border who are coming to take your jobs, to give you COVID, to do any number of terrible things. It's worked quite well for Republicans and Democrats. In the meantime, haven't been able to do anything on comprehensive immigration reform or addressing the border in a serious way.

KING: Right. It is no surprise that Republicans are using this issue. But to your point, the Democrats seemed almost surprised by that which should not be surprised.


Coming up for us, why some of the nation's most vulnerable citizens are being charged for a critical COVID drug.


KING: The most vulnerable Americans may be forced to pay hundreds to protect themselves against COVID-19. A new CNN investigation releasing right now finds this. For many immunocompromised individuals, the only drug that works to prevent this virus is Evusheld which healthcare providers charge for despite getting that drug for free from the government.

COVID vaccines are also paid for by the government but they are often ineffective in those with compromised immune systems. A Florida mother with a rare medical condition telling CNN she couldn't afford the $520 fee. So she just hopes to not quote get COVID and die, adding quote. It's beyond frustrating. It's infuriating. Let's bring in our senior health correspondent Elizabeth Cohen. Elizabeth, walk us through what Evusheld does and why it's so important.


ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: So John, most of us are lucky enough that we got great immunity from the vaccines. We just waltzed into a drugstore or wherever and sat down, got vaccinated, got great immunity and didn't get charged for it. Unfortunately, many people who are immune-compromised, the vaccines did not give them antibodies. And so they need a monoclonal antibody drug called Evusheld.

And so Evusheld has been paid for by the government, the government paid for it, they distributed it to free to doctor's offices and hospitals and other places. And what we found in our investigation is that patients are being charged hundreds or sometimes even more than $1,000 to get Evusheld. So let's take a look at what Evusheld does.

There was a study that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine recently. And it found that Evusheld cuts the risk of getting COVID-19 by 83 percent in vulnerable populations, people, for example, who are immune-compromised. And so many of these people they show up to get Evusheld. And they're told that it will cost hundreds of dollars.

Some of them are just saying no, others are forking out the money. But they say this is just incredibly unfair, because the government paid for the drug, why should they then have to pay to get it administered to them. John?

KING: That's a legit question. The Department of Health and Human Services is distributing the drug, as the agency responded to this reporting that it's giving it out for free and yet people are being charged for. What does HHS say?

COHEN: Yes, it's interesting. HHS says, look, the rules around the vaccine is that you can't charge for the vaccine and you can't charge to administer it for someone to actually give you the shot. The rules with Evusheld is you can't charge the drug but doctors and others can charge to administer the shots. And we said, well, why was it set up that way? That doesn't seem very fair, and they didn't respond.

Now, this is interesting, it's becoming clear that HHS is not happy about this situation. I want to take a look at a quote from a guy named Dr. Derek Eisnor. He is a medical officer at HHS. And he said on the Zoom call in February, obviously this would be that at charging a lot of money for Evusheld than drugs like it.

Obviously this would be in violation of our planning priorities, which again, is to maintain equitable access of all procured therapeutics for all Americans, regardless of their ability to pay. So they don't sound happy about it, but they have not publicly put out any solution. As a matter of fact, we know that Dr. Eisnor said this because another media outlet called Endpoints, which covers the biopharma industry, they got the Zoom call, it was posted online for anyone to see.

The minute that they quoted Dr. Eisnor, HHS took that Zoom call off the internet. They took it off of their website so apparently they don't want people to see this anymore. But HHS apparently isn't happy about this, but they don't seem to have a plan to stop it. John?

KING: A critical new reporting, important reporting. Elizabeth Cohen, thank you very much.

[12:43:08] When we come back, first Finland now Sweden signaling it to wants to move to join NATO. What that means for Vladimir Putin and his war on Ukraine, next.


KING: A big potential stumbling block today in the plan for Finland and Sweden to join the NATO alliance. Turkey's president telling reporters in Istanbul, he does not view admitting those two nations to NATO quote positively. President Erdogan goes on to call Sweden and Finland quote guest houses of terror organizations. That's a problem because admitting a new NATO member requires the unanimous sign off of the current members.

Joining our conversation, Richard Haass, he's the president of the Council on Foreign Relations, also the author of the world, a brief introduction. Richard, it's good to see you. President Erdogan, as you know, well can be a prickly character sometimes. Is this a firm no, or is this some domestic politics slash negotiating position?

RICHARD HAASS, PRESIDENT, COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS: I would guess the latter, John. I would think that the marketplace is now open. He's probably trying to press both of those countries not to be so sympathetic to Kurdish movements and politics. He might also be hoping to get the United States and others to be more, what's the word, tolerant, of some Turkey's, you know, supportive rather, of Turkey's desire for American advanced aircraft. So I don't think this is the last word, no.

KING: So you served in the government at the time the Berlin Wall came down, the NATO alliance was reimagined. You had all those former Soviet bloc nations join NATO. I want you to listen to Carl Bildt. He's the former Swedish Prime Minister talking about why, why Finland and Sweden going all the way back to the formation of NATO after World War II decided, no, we want to stay neutral. Carl Bildt says things have changed.


CARL BILDT, FORMER SWEDISH PRIME MINISTER: I'm quite convinced that we will be joining NATO in the same day. February 24th, the earthquake changed all of Europe. And this decision became not only something for the future, but something that was essential now.


KING: Do you agree that February 24th, obviously, when Putin launched this attack, the former Prime Minister calls it the earthquake. How was it going to rewrite the European security infrastructure?

HAASS: It was an earthquake and it's an ironic earthquake. You know, here's Mr. Putin who gets up every morning, John, and trying to think of other ways to, new ways to undermine the West to undermine NATO. And what he has done is growth brought about extraordinary cohesion in NATO, not, you know, it's not complete, but quite extraordinary. And he's now leading to a new round of NATO enlargement with these two countries.


Essentially, he has sobered up Europe. He has showed that war rather than simply something you study in history class, is something you have to be prepared for in the present. So what we're seeing is, I think, a realistic reaction. Plus the countries outside NATO have obviously taken note that Ukraine got attacked. It's not a member of NATO. Georgia is being pressured continuously.

So I think their view is the safest place to be right now is to be part of NATO. The neutrality doesn't make sense, when another country is not prepared to respect that.

KING: I read a new essay you just wrote, and you've made this point repeatedly that as -- we can all be disgusted what Vladimir Putin is doing here. But you believe it is critical to keep some lines of communication open with the Russian president and the Russian government. Just today, the Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke to his counterpart in Russia for the first time since before this invasion started. How significant do you view that? And explain this idea that you can be mad, you can be angry, you can be furious about you need to keep talking?

HAASS: Yes. Like even at the height of the Cold War, the United States and the Soviet Union kept talking. One, it's to prevent or defuse crises, to avoid miscalculation. Anytime militaries operate in proximity with one another, you're looking potentially for trouble. And then also as significant as Ukraine is, it's not the only. It's not the entire chessboard.

We've got to think about what Russia can do same with Iran, or what it could do with North Korea, or essentially, you know, or in our hemisphere. So I think it's useful. So I was actually quite happy when I saw that the Defense Secretary Austin and his counterpart were talking. I would hope that, you know, at some point, I say Jake Sullivan, the National Security Adviser, and his counterpart would talk.

We need to, you know, Russia still has what, thousands of nuclear warheads. We need to think about nuclear stability talks going forward. We've seen the so called hypersonic weapons be deployed. Well, the day will come and they could be carrying nuclear warheads. How do we put certain limits or constraints on those? So, again, we just don't have the luxury as profoundly as we disagree about what Russia is doing in Ukraine. We don't have the luxury of holding our entire relationship hostage to that.

KING: Richard Haass grateful for your time, sir. Appreciate it. Thank you.

HAASS: Thank you, John.

KING: Thank you. This quick programming note for us, why, why is Vladimir Putin trying to destroy Ukraine? Can he be stopped? Joined Fareed Zakaria as he looks to the experts for answers to those big questions inside the mind of Vladimir Putin, Sunday 8:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific right here only on CNN.


Next, Mike Pence sends a crystal-clear message. He will campaign with Georgia's Republican governor, who just happens to be number one on Donald Trump's enemies list.


KING: Mike Pence is making a major break with his former boss, Donald Trump. The former vice president heading to Georgia to campaign with Georgia Governor Brian Kemp. Kemp is facing a primary challenge from the former Republican Senator David Perdue. Perdue was recruited to run by Trump because Governor Kemp refused to help Trump overturn Georgia's 2020 election results. CNN's Michael Warren is here with more on this story. A, it's a fascinating primary Trump grievances and B, Pence essentially this is a hard line he's drawing.

MICHAEL WARREN, CNN REPORTER: That's right. And we can see that this has been a sort of trend with Pence over the last several months. He's been putting that distance between himself and Donald Trump. He said that what Trump wanted him to do on January 6th was wrong and that it was unAmerican.

So it's sort of a next step of this evolution. And we know that Mike Pence is thinking about 2024, positioning himself to potentially run. So again, sort of drawing a distinction between the former president. But, you know, this is also a part of a show of force by the sort of non-Trump elements of the party. Earlier this week reported Pete Ricketts and Doug Ducey, two outgoing governors who have had some differences with Donald Trump, they're going to be there for Brian Kemp. Governor -- former Governor Chris Christie is going to be there for Brian Kemp in this final week before the primary.

Mike Pence, of course, is a former governor himself. The RGA is in on Brian Kemp. So a real show of force. And we should note as well. Marc Short, a former Trump White House official who was chief of staff to Mike Pence, the top political adviser to Pence is also advising Brian Kemp's campaign in these last couple of weeks.

KING: And so it's a complete, it's essentially Mike Pence making a point of raising the big lie again in the Senate saying, Mr. President, you were wrong. You were wrong when you tried to get me to flip the election. You were wrong when you tried to get Governor Kemp to flip the election. It's poking the bear.

WARREN: That's right. And, you know, it's giving Pence again, a little credibility and a little ability to say, look, I'm trying to elect Republicans, conservative Republicans, Brian Kemp is a conservative Republican. He's just wrong for Trump on this election issue. Trump does not like this part.

Pence has been going around raising money, stumping for Republican candidates, again, all in the service of this distinct brand within the Republican Party. We'll see if it works for Pence.

KING: And Kemp sees no risks, right?

WARREN: I mean, Kemp is already running against Stacey Abrams at this point, the Democrat, likely Democratic gubernatorial nominee. So he's sort of looking at Perdue in the rearview mirror.

KING: Michael Warren, appreciate the new reporting.


Don't forget you can also listen to our podcast. Download Inside Politics wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks for your time today in Inside Politics. Hope you have a peaceful weekend. Bianna Golodryga picks up our coverage right now.