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New Day

DC on Alert for Right-Wing Rally Defending the Insurrectionists; GOP Lawmakers Try to Distance Themselves from Right- Wing Rally; Evidence Supports Argument for Boosters of Pfizer Vaccine; White House Offers Doc to Answer Nicki Minaj's Questions on Vaccine; SpaceX Launches First All-Civilian Crew into Orbit on Rocket. Aired 6- 6:30a ET

Aired September 16, 2021 - 06:00   ET


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to viewers here in the United States and around the world. I am Brianna Keilar along with John Berman. And it is Thursday, September 16.


U.S. Capitol Police are asking the Pentagon for support from the National Guard ahead of a planned right-wing protest at the Capitol on Saturday. Overnight, temporary fencing around the Capitol Square was reinstalled. Capitol Police also say they have been in touch with the military.

The Justice for J6 rally is being thrown in support of insurrectionists charged in the deadly January 6th Capitol riot.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: You heard that right. This demonstration is in support of the January 6th insurrectionists.

Both chambers of Congress will be on recess this weekend, meaning far fewer lawmakers and staff will be in the area.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi sent a letter to Democrats saying, quote, "There is a wish by some to continue the assault on the U.S. Capitol with misinformation and malice. The leadership of Congress, on a bipartisan and bicameral basis, has been briefed by the Capitol Police board on the nature of the threat and the unprecedented preparations to address another attempt to defile our national purpose."

Let's go right to CNN's Shimon Prokupecz. He is live outside the Capitol with the latest, Shimon, where new security measures are going into place. What are you seeing there this morning?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John. Many people who live in this area are waking up to a very different Capitol Hill this morning.

Fencing again up all across the perimeter of the Capitol. You can see it here, John. It's much like the same fencing that we saw in the days and months and weeks after the insurrection. The entire Capitol now surrounded by this fencing. There's still a lot more work here for the construction workers to do.

They still have to bolt some of this down. So for now, all they've been doing is placing the fencing.

The other thing that they've been doing, John, is they've been placing these concrete barriers. I don't know. I think you can see them here in the shot here. They've been placing these concrete barriers all around. That, of course, is to protect against vehicles and anyone trying to ram vehicles into the Capitol.

The other thing here is National Guard. How will they be utilized? In the days after the insurrection, they were all placed behind these barriers. Will the Capitol Police do that again? The Pentagon confirming that they did receive a request. Here's what they said.


ADM. JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: We have received a request from Capitol Police for some assistance for this weekend's protests, scheduled protests. I'm not going to detail the specific request.


PROKUPECZ: Yes. And so John and Brianna, the big question, obviously, for law enforcement, for officials here is what is going to happen.

There is a lot of concern over some of the chatter they're seeing. Certainly, anywhere you go here in Washington, D.C., this is all people are talking about. And this morning, these visions of seeing this fence again is certainly going to bring back memories of the days and weeks and months after the insurrection.

BERMAN: You have to take it seriously. They have to get ready for it, based on what they all lived through on January 6th.

Shimon, it is great to see you there. Thank you so much for showing us what is happening as this develops throughout the morning.

KEILAR: The Justice for J6 rally is presenting a dilemma for Republican lawmakers seeking to distance themselves from the bad memories of the deadly insurrection on January 6.

Not a single member of Congress is scheduled to appear at the event that is being thrown in support of the rioters who were arrested for storming the Capitol.

CNN's Melanie Zanona is joining us now. You know, this is probably a tricky spot for them, right? Because a lot of their constituents are very sympathetic to the insurrectionists.

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL CORRESPONDENT: It is. And Republicans are really keeping this rally at an arm's length. None of them are scheduled to speak. None of them are even promoting the event.

But at the same time, none of them are condemning it either. In fact, there are several members of Congress who have expressed either public support or sympathy for the insurrectionists. At least one member of Congress, Ralph Norman of South Carolina, is actually slated to speak at a local Justice for J6 rally at his state capitol.

And there are two congressional candidates who are Republicans who are speaking at the event on Saturday.

So it does really put GOP leaders in a tough position. Because as you said, they don't want to seem like they're sympathetic to the rioters or pro-insurrectionists. They want to move on from January 6th.

But the truth is, much of their base actually believes that the election was stolen and that they are, in fact, sympathetic to the rioters.

And meanwhile, you have Democrats who are planning to paint the entire party as extreme, trying to tie all the Republicans to the most extreme elements in the party. Just yesterday, Sean Patrick Maloney, the head of the Democratic campaign arm, actually said it in this terms [SIC]: Republicans want to support the insurrectionists. Democrats want to support infrastructure.

So look, bottom line, is this going to be an issue in the midterms? Probably not, or who knows? But it is going to open a lot of old wounds for Republicans on Saturday.

KEILAR: Candidates will be speaking.


KEILAR: Congressional candidates.

ZANONA: Two congressional candidates. One of them is actually vying to take on Jaime Herrera Beutler, one of the Republicans who voted to impeach Trump. And the other one is trying to fill the seat that will be vacated by Jody Hice, who pushed to overturn the election results and is now running for Georgia secretary of state.


KEILAR: Wow. That is something. Mel, thank you so much for that report.

BERMAN: Want to bring in Andy McCabe, CNN senior law enforcement analyst and the former deputy director of the FBI. He's also the author of "The Threat: How the FBI Protects America in the Age of Terror and Trump."

And Andy, there are two things that I find very interesting here. Really happening on two levels.

No. 1, what are your concerns about security, about this event, in and of itself, on Saturday?

But two, I think the larger question is your concerns about the permission structure that's allowing this event to take place in support of the January 6th insurrectionists, where there are politicians who see it advantageous to campaign on it on Saturday.

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Yes. So let me -- let me take your first question first, John.

I think from all indications the law enforcement professionals are reacting to the intelligence leading up to this event in a very, very different way than they did in the lead-up to January 6th. And they are taking, as you mentioned earlier, steps that absolutely have to be taken.

Your job as a law enforcement leader is to prevent acts of, you know, riots and violence, and in this case, insurrections from happening. So, with the intelligence that they are looking at, with the concerns they have about the chatter they're seeing online, they're doing everything necessary and responsible to make sure that that doesn't turn into a violent situation.

So, I think the fencing going up is the right thing. You know, as we saw on January 6th, it takes the military some time before they can deploy folks in support of a crisis. So they're serving those requests as a way of likely getting the military to rally their folks up, have people ready to assist, if necessary.

As far as the permission structure to do something like this, you know, it's -- we -- in the nation's capital, as a law enforcement professional, you work on a very delicate balance of respecting and facilitating everyone's right to First Amendment expression, but also trying to do so in a way that doesn't brings violence or danger to anyone else.

So I don't think there's anything inappropriate about the fact that these folks, as misguided and deluded as they might want be, want to gather in support of a bunch of insurrectionists. That's the kind of thing we do here in an open and free democracy. But we're going to make sure that that happens in a safe and orderly way.

KEILAR: Capitol Police are doing a lot of proactive things here that we didn't see happen on January 6th. We know that leadership, Republican and Democratic, were both briefed. Of course, we see the fencing, but there's also an emergency declaration going into effect around this rally that will allow the Capitol Police to, you know, have other law enforcement, like from the police here in Washington, D.C., join them and basically be deputized as Capitol Police to help them out. So they're doing all of these things.

But there's also this question of, you know, this group that's sponsoring this, Andy, sometimes they have rallies and not as many people as they say are going to come end up showing up. How does law enforcement deal with these kinds of events and trying to, you know, discern between, like, the big ones and the little ones?

MCCABE: It's very challenging, Brianna. So you know, you look very closely at the permit that the rally organizers have to submit to the city. They have to make predictions as to how many people they think are going to show up. You take that and you combine with the intelligence that you have

about, you know, things that you're hearing, publicity that's going out, other notable people who -- who might be kind of trying to attract attention to this. And they have to basically guess.

In this case, the stakes are so high because this group, you know, the last time they rallied, we had a riot and an insurrection and tried to overturn our functioning government.

So, they've got to really err on the side of the caution here, which is, I think, the preparations that we're seeing.

But honestly, if this fizzles out, if it turns out to be a very low- attended rally, that's fine. Law enforcement has done its job. We've all been protected. And maybe it sends a powerful message to the rest of us that it's time to put a pin in this balloon and move on.

BERMAN: Andy, the new CNN poll found that 78 percent of Republicans say that Biden didn't legitimately win enough votes to be president. Seventy-eight percent. He, of course, did. They are wrong. That's just the fact of the matter. That's not a political statement. That's a factual statement.

What I'm talking about permission structure, I guess what I'm saying is that belief, which in some ways -- in many ways, in direct ways -- is enhanced, magnified by the leader of the Republican Party, Donald Trump, and other people, other leaders within the party. When they go out and say that on a daily basis, which they are, what do the extremists and would-be people who might commit acts of violence, what do they hear? What's the impact of that repetition?


MCCABE: John, the -- the striking quality of that number that you just cited to me is -- it's showing how powerful these lies and this -- these conspiracy theories are digging in. This isn't something that's passing, that peaked on January 6th, and people are now moving forward.

This -- this -- this sense of grievance, this sense that their participation in the political process was undermined and stolen from them is actually expanding across that -- across that section of folks that was represented in the poll.

I take that as a very disturbing indicator for how that is impacting the extremist community. We know that extremists are motivated by this sense of grievance, this sense that they feel like they been painted into a corner and have to lash out violently to protect whatever it is they believe in.

That feeling is not going away. And it's not going away, partially because you have notable Republicans, first and foremost the former president, and others on the Hill who are fueling these lies, fueling this disinformation, and really stoking the flames of what ultimately can lead to violence. We saw that on January 6th. Let's hope we don't see it this weekend. BERMAN: Let's hope. It is dangerous, though. It is just so dangerous. Andy McCabe, great to see you. Thank you very much.

The FBI on the hot seat during an emotional Senate hearing into abuse allegations within the USA gymnastics program. Why one star Olympian says her claims were buried.

KEILAR: Also ahead, new evidence adding weight to the calls for vaccine boosters, but not for everyone.

BERMAN: And how the White House and health officials in the Caribbean are responding to the absurd COVID claims from rapper Nicki Minaj.



KEILAR: Tomorrow vaccine advisers to the FDA will be meeting to discuss whether there's enough data to support giving booster doses of the Pfizer COVID vaccine to fully vaccinated people. The White House has said that boosters could start as early as Monday.

Local health departments across the country are now scrambling to have plans in place for a potential rollout of booster shots, but there is now some confusion around what this is going to look like.

CNN health reporter Jacqueline Howard is here with more. Jacqueline, maybe you can help clear this up for us.

JACQUELINE HOWARD, CNN HEALTH CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, Brianna, we're hoping that some of these unanswered questions will get answered tomorrow when the vaccine advisers to the FDA meet.

But some of the questions that still need answers include what the interval for boosters will look like. We first heard that boosters will be offered at eight months after your second dose, but now we're hearing it could be six months after the second dose. So that's one question that health departments hope will get answered.

There's also what is the age cutoff? We're talking about the Pfizer vaccine. So will boosters will available for 16 and older or only adults 18 and older?

And health departments are also wondering about priority groups. Will we have a phased roll-out, or anyone eight months to six months after their second dose can get a booster? So those are some of the questions, Brianna, that we're hoping will get answered soon.

But in the meantime, health departments are making plans. I spoke with the head of the National Association of County and City Health Officials, Lori Tremmel Freeman, and she says this: quote, "The plan is to be ready after the FDA review of the Pfizer data. We have been hearing from local health departments, without any confirmed information coming their way, they are beginning to assess who on the ground will have the capacity to do boosters, who will remain as a provider of vaccines, and who is pulling out so that we have a better understanding of how the community will be served and by whom."

And Brianna, this roll-out could look different state by state because there is this capacity issue. In some states, pharmacies could administer boosters, more so than other sites. In other states, we could see boosters more so at hospitals or doctor's offices.

So we'll see what happens in the coming days, Brianna. But for now, health departments are making plans.

KEILAR: All right. Jacqueline Howard, live for us from Atlanta. Thank you.

HOWARD: Thank you.

BERMAN: A waste of time. Health officials in Trinidad and Tobago are responding to Nicki Minaj, her claim about the COVID vaccine.

In a tweet on Monday, Minaj said her cousin in Trinidad won't get the vaccine, because his friend got it and became impotent. His testicles became swollen.

On Wednesday, health officials from the Caribbean island debunked that claim, saying there have been no such reported side effects.


DR. TERRENCE DEYALSINGH, HEALTH MINISTER, TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO: As far as we know at this point in time, there has been no such reported either side effect or adverse event. And what was sad about this is that it wasted our time yesterday, trying to track down -- because we take all these claims seriously.


BERMAN: "It wasted our time yesterday."

Meanwhile, Minaj is facing broad pushback for spreading misinformations [SIC], with experts saying there's no evidence that the vaccine affects fertility.

A White House official tells CNN they reached out to Minaj, offering a call with a White House doctor to answer questions she has about the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine.

Brianna Keilar, put this in perspective for us. What I'm going to call "Cousin-gate," because the other names, the other alternative names probably aren't acceptable for morning TV, but Cousin-gate here. What's the big picture takeaway, would you say?

KEILAR; You know, I think sometimes it's that -- God, I don't know what the big picture takeaway is but I will say that there's something specifically about this claim that is, as you can imagine, because it's kind of salacious, that has just kind of caught fire, you know.

And also, I think it speaks to the real issue of concerns about fertility. Those are some of the big issues that we've heard from young people, from young women and from young men. But I think the big takeaway here is I don't know, John Berman. What do you think?

BERMAN: I think it's misinformation.

KEILAR: Of course, yes.

BERMAN: I just think that the power of misinformation has been such a problem during the entire vaccine rollout and from the beginning of this pandemic.

And the White House is getting ridiculed in some circles for offering a phone call with Minaj to explain things to her. On the other hand, you know, people who have the right information, they need to do what they can to get it to people with the wrong information. So that -- so that people can get it right.

KEILAR: That's right.

Now she said that, you know, -- I know she feels that she's being misrepresented here. But the fact is sometimes I also think people who are so influential don't realize how big of a thing can come of them saying something like this.

You know, Dr. Anthony Fauci says that he would support a vaccine mandate for all air travelers. The CEO of one of the country's biggest airlines will join us live in studio.

BERMAN: And the first space tourism flight blasts off. What we know about the travelers and their historic mission into orbit.



KEILAR: It's a historic launch overnight that we saw from the Kennedy Space Center, sending the world's first all-civilian space flight into orbit.

The four crew members lifted off on a SpaceX rocket on a three-day flight in what the company hopes will be the first of many space tourism missions.

And joining me now to talk about it is Keith Cowing. He is the editor of, and he's also a former NASA space biologist and rocket scientist.

I want to ask you the question that has been on my mind as I have been watching all of the coverage of this particular launch, and that is, if you have non-astronauts going into air, how significant is that? And are there any safety concerns?

KEITH COWING, EDITOR, SPACEREF.COM: Well, this spacecraft, which is -- was actually used by the NASA astronauts, and they're pretty methodical in, you know, wanting things to have backups and backups and backups. And it's designed such that, if something did go wrong -- and again, it's very automated -- they can push a big red button and be home in a few minutes. So they thought this through. And I'm pretty sure that the folks who

are on that signed off on it, saying, yes, it's worth -- it's worth the ticket to ride.

KEILAR: It's worth the ticket to ride.

OK. So they're at, what, 350 miles in orbit, is that right? And they're doing actual work. What are they doing?

COWING: Well, now I guess they just -- well, assuming they slept, which is the big question. Are you going to sleep? You're in outer space. Are you going to go to sleep? But yes.

KEILAR: You better at some point.

COWING: Yes. And somebody is paying big bucks for this flight.

But they have some actual science they're doing with Baylor College of Medicine. So they're not, you know, wasting their time, per se.

But there will be a lot of looking out the window. And that's sort of the point. And I mean, a lot of people say, Well, why are they doing this? Well, they can. You can now buy, literally buy a ticket to get on a spaceship and go somewhere. This has not been something you've been able to do.

And, you know, some people go on trips to Antarctica to just go to Antarctica, and we're just seeing this, except it's in outer space.

KEILAR: So it sounds like you're saying more emphasis on the tourism than, say, the part of the mission that they're actually doing? Or --

COWING: You know, I lived -- I lived at Everest's base camp for a month where a friend of mine was climbing and I was working. But I had fun. I mean, it's always a combination of these thing.

And, you know, I think we've had half a century of the right stuff, which is, you know, the fighter pilots going up and they -- they're the only ones who can go. Well, now, I think, with this mission, you're finding out that millions and millions people have the right stuff to go into space.

And I think that's hasn't really settled in yet, but the next flight -- it's going to be interesting, the next flight of all civilians. How do we react to that? Like, oh, yes, they already did that.

KEILAR: The right stuff; also, if they have the right amount of money. Look, some of these folks got this in a lottery. But there is -- you know, one of the people on this is a billionaire.

COWING: Mm-hmm.

KEILAR: And that's really the space that this is in right now. It's not cheap. But I wonder, would you go?

COWING: In a moment. KEILAR: With anyone, with any crew?


KEILAR: Any crew?

COWING: Any crew.

KEILAR: Of people who just are random lottery winners?

COWING: I'd go with you. As a matter of fact, we'd go with you. We'd get John, wherever he is, and I'd get Miles O'Brien as our captain, and off we go.

KEILAR: You know, I actually would do that. And I wouldn't just go with just any crew. I will tell you that.

But it's -- look, it's incredibly exciting to see. It's a new realm that we're in, Keith.

COWING: They look like your neighbors.


COWING: Can you pick the billionaire out easily? You may know who he is. But it's the thing. If you just listen to them talk, it's like, yes. More people are getting in a van and going into space. Big deal.

KEILAR: It is a big deal, Keith. However you downplay it, it is a big deal.

Keith Cowing, thanks for coming on to talk about it.

Powerful testimony from Team USA gymnasts about the years of abuse that they endured.


ALY RAISMAN, OLYMPIC GYMNAST: It was like serving innocent children up to a pedophile on a silver platter. Why did none of these organizations warn anyone?


KEILAR: And why these gymnasts are also blaming the FBI.

BERMAN: And the bombshell new book: high-level officials in the Trump administration raising questions about the former president's mental state.