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GOP Lawmaker Who Voted to Impeach Trump Bows Out of 2022 Race; DHS Warns of Potential Violence before Rally; Soon: FDA Debates, Decides Need for Americans to Get Boosters; Cuba to Begin Vaccinating 2-Year-Olds against COVID. Aired 6-6:30a ET

Aired September 17, 2021 - 06:00   ET


JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. I'm John Berman with Brianna Keilar. It is Friday, September 17.


Major developments overnight as our friend, "New York Times" reporter Maggie Haberman puts it, this is how Trump wins. Violence and the support of violence, giving the former president, to an extent, what he wants. This is why.

The U.S. Capitol on high alert this morning. A rally is planned for tomorrow in support of the January 6 insurrectionists. An unclassified briefing from the Department of Homeland Security warns of potential violence as early as today.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: And overnight former President Trump actually endorsed those connected to January 6th. Hey says, quote, "Our hearts and minds are with the people arrested at the insurrection."

And also overnight, we saw a vivid example of what that violence and the threat of violence has accomplished. Ohio Congressman Anthony Gonzalez, who is one of ten House Republicans who voted to impeach Trump the second time, announced that he will not run for reelection in 2022. He's citing toxic dynamics inside the GOP.

And more than that, he says he was deluged with threats and that he feared for the safety of his wife and children. He needed extra security. He told "The New York Times," quote, "Is this really what I want for my family when they travel, to have my wife and kids escorted through the airport?"

Joining us now to talk about this, Jonathan Martin, who is a CNN political analyst and national political correspondent for "The New York Times," who broke this story.

You know, tell us a little bit about Congressman Gonzalez's decision but also what this means more broadly.

JONATHAN MARTIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure. So, he was a fairly conservative House member. He was elected in 2018. Didn't really stand out.

Two things happened, I think, here. He was really appalled that the House GOP leadership moved to block the certification of President Biden's win. And then January 6th was for him what he calls a bright line.

And I think just watching the last nine months and seeing the bulk of his party in Congress drift back to President Trump and Trumpism, I think he just recognized that, at least in the short to medium term, the party was still enthralled with Trumpism, and he just couldn't abide that.

And what that tells us, Brianna, is that there's just not a lot of space for people who are fairly openly uncomfortable with President Trump. If you're willing to suppress your actual views about President Trump, and there's lots of folks who do that up in Congress, you can hang in there and come back and serve in the House and Senate.

I think if you're like Gonzalez, it's just tough to stay and to want to come back, if you believe that your party is making a grievous error in linking itself to the former president.

BERMAN: I'll also say, Anthony Gonzalez, by the way, former college football star, NFL first round draft pick. Part of this is the threat of violence.


BERMAN: The very real, Jonathan, threat of violence here.

MARTIN: Yes. I talked about that yesterday with him at some length. And he's a very matter-of-fact person. So for someone who did play NFL football, he's not someone who's super overbearing. He's a pretty calm fellow.

And he just rattles off in almost matter-of-fact tones, John, the threats that he's faced online, people vowing to come to his house and get him. The fact that he had to have a security consultant come to his house in Ohio and check out the sort of layout of the house to make sure that it was optimized for safety.

And the fact that when he flies back and forth now to Cleveland, you know, oftentimes, there's extra security to ensure that he's safe when he gets to the airport.

I think when you're a member of Congress and you're not used to that, especially, and that becomes part of your daily life, and when you have a young family, especially, that just becomes untenable, as well.

KEILAR: And look, when -- the other thing to think of here is when you have people like Congressman Gonzalez saying, you know, I'm not going to do this again. I'm not going to run for re-election.

MARTIN: Right. Yes.

KEILAR: Who replaces them? MARTIN: Yes.

KEILAR: Because it's someone to the right of them. So what is that going to mean about the potential makeup of Congress?

MARTIN: Well, and that's the pattern that we've seen, guys, that since the president -- the former president was elected, the people who typically replaced Republicans who are retiring, resign or are beaten in primaries are typically much Trumpier. And so I think that's what we're going to see.

And I actually challenged Gonzalez about this. I said, I get what you're saying, but by leaving, aren't you just ensuring that your party stays Trumpy or gets Trumpier?


And he kind of acknowledges that, but he's just not willing, I think, personally to keep sticking around for a party that is -- is sort of clearly in President Trump's thrall and is going to be, at least for the next year to come.

BERMAN: I quoted Maggie Haberman and what she wrote on Twitter overnight, Jonathan. You know, this is how Trump wins.

MARTIN: Right. It's just -- it's a sort of long-term play where, you know, one by one the Jeff Flakes, the Bob Corkers, the Anthony Gonzalez's step down.

And by the way, it's widely assumed in the Capitol that he will not be the last of the 10 who voted to impeach President Trump to step down. Keep in mind, some of these folks are going to have very different looking seats next year because of reapportionment. So keep an eye on other folks who voted to impeach President Trump.

KEILAR: So that's the question. Who is next when it comes to someone besides Anthony -- besides Congressman Gonzalez?

And also considering there is this rally tomorrow, and we're not seeing GOP members taking part in it.

MARTIN: Right.

KEILAR: But they're not really condoning it. And you also have a couple Republican candidates who are going to attend the rally.


KEILAR: What does that tell you, that you could have members of Congress sitting next to someone who celebrated the insurrectionists? What does that tell you about the makeup of Congress coming up?

MARTIN: Yes. I mean, look, especially in the House, there is a wing that is sort of openly pro-January 6th. You know, you've seen them obviously go to the D.C. lockup to offer their encouragement of people who were arrested and are facing charges January 6th. That is a House GOP caucus that people like Anthony Gonzalez do not

want to bust their hide to come back to for two more years.

And that was one of the things he said to me. He said, Look, I can probably survive this primary, but at the end of the day, do I even want to, you know, come back here for two more years and serve with people like that?

To your question, Brianna, who's next? The top two on the roster that everybody is now watching are the two who were on the otherwise Democratic-dominated January 6th Commissioner: Adam Kinzinger from Illinois and, of course, Liz Cheney from Wyoming. Those are the two -- John.

BERMAN: Yes. We've got to let you go. But I wanted to ask. Obviously, Gonzalez comes out hard against Donald Trump, says he'll do everything he can to make sure that Trump doesn't get back into, you know, running for election and if he does, that he loses.

But how does Gonzalez feel about Kevin McCarthy? How does he feel about his fellow Republicans?

MARTIN: I think you've -- you've touched it precisely, John. That's the issue, is it was watching what happened this year. Watching the row-back, so to speak, from the Republican leadership as much as Trump himself. That's what was so discouraging, was seeing McCarthy, I think, you know, go back to Mar-a-Lago earlier this year and then just sort of step by step, month by month realizing these guys are not going to cut ties.

And this didn't get a lot of attention, but it was certainly noticed in the House, that Donald Trump is going to keynote a major House GOP reception to raise money for the party this year. And I think that sent a final signal to Gonzalez of, OK, he is at the center of our strategy. He is still the leader of the party in the House. I just can't abide this.

KEILAR: Yes. There's no cover for people like Congressman Gonzalez. That is what is so clear.

Wonderful report.

MARTIN: Thank you, Brianna.

KEILAR: Thank you so much for sharing your breaking news with us, J. Martin. We appreciate it.

BERMAN: Really important. A watershed moment in many ways.

So the morning, the Capitol resembles a fortress. Fencing is up as the Department of Homeland Security warns of potential violence as soon as today linked to the rally tomorrow in support of the insurrectionists charged in the deadly January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol.

Let's go to CNN's Whitney Wild, who is live on Capitol Hill as these security measures really amp up, Whitney. WHITNEY WILD, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT CORRESPONDENT: Well, John, what we

know now is that this fencing surrounds the Capitol Square. That is a marked difference from what we saw on January 6th. The organizer of this rally, John, insists it will be peaceful.

However, law enforcement is taking no chances, because they are seeing this uptick in concerning online chatter.

For example, the Department of Homeland Security -- this is new great reporting from my colleagues Geneva Sands, Zachary Cohen -- this new DHS warning to local law enforcement that there are specific threats to members of Congress, specific threats to the Capitol, specific threats to Democrats, to members of the Jewish community, to liberal churches. That is the reality, John.

And the -- the other reality is that this online chatter implies that people plan to come to either Washington, D.C., or go elsewhere to commit acts of violence in further -- furtherance of this stolen election lie.

So again, law enforcement taking no chances, even though they expect that it's possible around a couple of hundred people, 500 to 700 people have RSVPed to this event. Again, the organizers saying that it's going to be peaceful.

Ways that law enforcement is changing their approach to this rally, compared with January 6th, include much wider intelligence sharing between the Capitol police, upper brass and their rank-and-file.


For example, they've been sharing intelligence with their officers. That was something that didn't happen and that officers really complained about after January 6th, because they felt like they were basically blindsided by the riot.

Further, U.S. Capitol police is working very closely with the local law enforcement here. They plan to bring in their outside local law enforcement partners to help shore up their response.

And finally, John, the Metropolitan Police Department is cancelling days off. They plan to be fully activated for this rally on Saturday, John.

BERMAN: Lessons learned. Whitney Wild, thank you very much for your reporting this morning.

KEILAR: And with more on all of this, let's speak with our CNN counterterrorism analyst and former FBI senior intelligence adviser, Phil Mudd.

OK, Phil, serious concerns here on not just one data point, many. And one of them is that DHS is warning not only about possible violence at the rally tomorrow, they're also warning about violence today. How concerned are you? PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Well, if I look at this as an

intelligence problem, you've to be concerned not only because of what you saw on January 6th, but just as an intelligence problem, you've got to be concerned because the threat is dispersed.

Look, if you look at a classic intelligence issue facing an extremist group around the world, which is what I did for a living, you look at a group in one geographic space. You can go after their leadership, how they recruit people, how they train people and then how they send people out for operations.

In this case, if you're looking at an intelligence target, extremism across the United States, find me one group, find me one region. It's across America in 50 states. It's small groups in basements. It's multiple groups. It's individuals.

So you can sit there and say, we're going to collect a lot of intelligence and prepare what we can at the Capitol, but there is no way, Brianna you can collect on independent actors in 50 states across America simultaneously. You can't do it.

BERMAN: You talk about leadership, Phil. It is interesting overnight that the former president put out a statement that said his -- the hearts and minds are with those arrested on January 6th. So what is the impact of a statement like that from, as you say, leadership?

MUDD: It's not interesting. It's more than interesting. It's critical.

I have never followed a major extremist movement that didn't have a leader who presented a vision. It's not only someone to organize, someone to fund raise, someone to train people. It's someone who tells a person in the foxhole, look, there's a bigger world out there. This is how I want you to think about the world.

This is why the world is your enemy. All of these groups are looking out, including groups I followed overseas are looking out, and the leadership of those groups will define an enemy.

In this case, for example, it's Democrats who stole the election. And then they energize a movement of people who would not otherwise be energized.

Let me make this very clear: I do not think that there would be any significant movement without a leader, and that leader is the former president. Stop, done.

BERMAN: You think it's dangerous what he's saying?

MUDD: Yes, because if you look at the number of people involved in this, even if you have only 700 people coming to the Capitol, think of how many people do they represent? Five hundred thousand? Five million?

And a percentage of them is going to say democracy is under such threat -- because of the guidance they're receiving from leadership, democracy is under such threat I have to commit an act of violence. There's a sliver of people who are extremists who think that they're being inspired to do something violent. I mean, it's mathematics, John.

KEILAR: Like you just said, it's -- it's -- this is a conundrum, because you need intelligence, really, in every state, and that's just impossible to have, to really have a good sense of what the problem is. And the same organizer of tomorrow's rally has actually planned similar rallies in 15 other states, Phil, over the next month. What are your worries there?

MUDD: I tell you, you know, one of my biggest worries? It's not doing the counterterrorism piece and the intelligence piece. It's the political piece.

Remember, if you're looking at an extremist organization, typically, when you're going in for a congressional hearing -- and I did so many of those I can't count them -- the Congress is going to say, go get 'em, son. Don't let them get us before we get them.

In this case, going ahead six months, a year, two years into 2023, you're asking the FBI and state and local to investigate individuals who will be going to political rallies. And politicians are going to start saying, Let me get this straight. You've got informants at my Stop the Steal rally? You've got informants at a political event? That's a free speech violation.

You're pitting law enforcement against politicians. And I'm telling you, I don't know how you navigate that, if you're state and local investigating or if you're the FBI. It's going to get ugly, I think.

KEILAR: Yes. Look, law enforcement is bracing for this today. They're going to be bracing for this in states here in the coming days, as well. Phil, thank you so much for being with us this morning.

MUDD: Thanks.

KEILAR: This morning, the FDA is expected to decide whether Americans need booster shots. The answer, though, is not clear-cut.

Plus, Cuba takes the lead as the first country to start vaccinating toddlers against COVID. We'll have a live report on how it's going there.

BERMAN: Plus, rare public comments from one of the most conservative members of the Supreme Court, blaming the media for politicizing the Supreme Court.



DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I certainly believe, from the data that I've seen and the data that are going to evolve, that we will need a third shot as a booster. We're just going to have to do the boost and then follow people long enough to determine what the durability of that protection is.


KEILAR: That was Dr. Anthony Fauci this week, promoting COVID booster shots as a key FDA advisory panel is meeting today to consider whether they are needed.

Joining us now is Sarah Jane Tribble, senior correspondent for Kaiser Health News.

And you have been reporting this out. This has been a bit of confusing time for people as they look at different information coming out about whether boosters are needed, and we're seeing this meeting today.


Tell us why Dr. Fauci -- why you have learned that Dr. Fauci and the NIH are behind boosters.

SARAH JANE TRIBBLE, SENIOR CORRESPONDENT, KAISER HEALTH NEWS; So the big headline here is that the NIH has been talking about boosters since January.

Think about that for a minute. January was before most of us got our shots. We were struggling to understand when we were going to get our shots. We were logging into vaccine hunters and trying to make sure we got our first shots.

While we were doing that, the chief scientists and the principle investigators at the NIH were already talking about doing boosters. And not only did they talk about it, but they then helped coordinate a group of 60 to 70 experts from around the world to talk about and track the variants and to see what -- how the -- how the vaccines would hold up against those variants.

KEILAR: Two vaccine experts in the U.S. government who are leaving, in part as we understand it, because of some of the decision making around boosters, wrote in "The Lancet" about their concerns about whether boosters were needed. How are you putting that into context now after reporting out this story?

TRIBBLE: Right. So part of that "Lancet" article was about the idea that not everybody has a shot in the first place, right? If you want to talk about equity around the world, to give a third shot to Americans and not have whole countries getting the majority of their population vaccinated in the first place, there's a lot of inequity there, and it's not fair.

But on the other hand, when you think about what the U.S. has done in May, Dr. David Kessler, who's on the COVID vaccine task force with the White House, he told Congress that we were ready to buy more shots and have them free to Americans, and they wanted to be prepared for that.

Dr. Fauci said that the timeline to get boosters out, they couldn't do it any sooner than September. So the scientists here, they want to make sure that we're protected and safe. KEILAR: It seems a little clear that Dr. Fauci and the NIH are kind of

siding with a philosophy that we have seen from the Biden administration. They've said we can do both things at once: protecting the world and protecting the U.S. But clearly, there is a priority of protecting Americans.

This network that he has created and been a part of, to look at data around the world, what have the lessons been for Dr. Fauci and the NIH?

TRIBBLE: Right. So I -- I want to give credit to Dr. Fauci, but I also talked to several other expert top scientists at the NIH who have been working on vaccines for their lifetime. They talked to me about some of the research they were doing on rhesus monkeys, for example, and injecting the vaccine into those, and some of the fantastic results they were seeing with the booster shots.

So Dr. Fauci is taking that information, is getting information from elsewhere. One of the things he said to us is there's a new pre-print release every 15 minutes. He can't keep track of all the data.

And actually all the experts I talked to said that. There's so much data coming out. And the big question is, is it good data? And how much do you take into account when you make these decisions?

KEILAR: Yes. Well, we will see in part today as this FDA advisory panel meets. Thank you so much, Sarah, for being with us. We appreciate it.

TRIBBLE: Thanks for having me.

KEILAR: Join us this weekend as Dr. Sanjay Gupta talks with scientists about the origins of COVID-19. The new CNN special report will begin Sunday night at 8 p.m. Eastern.

BERMAN: So Cuban children are now the youngest to get vaccinated for coronavirus anywhere in the world. Cases have been rising there this summer.

The government is using its own home-grown vaccines for children as young as 2 now, trying to get kids back in school and to kickstart the tourist industry.

CNN's Patrick Oppmann is live in Havana with the latest on this. As young as 2, Patrick.

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, John. We saw it taking place yesterday. And of course, in the U.S. and around the world, they're studying how to safely vaccinate children. There are parents debating whether they should do it.

Here in Cuba, it's one of the few countries that has actually begun to vaccinate young children.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) OPPMANN (voice-over): First comes the jab, and then the tears. In this

one clinic in Havana, the day we visited, over 230 children between the ages of 2 and 5 were vaccinated, hospital administrators tell us.

Several countries around the world have begun to vaccinate children, but Cuba is believed to be the first to vaccinate toddlers on a large scale.

Even though COVID vaccinations aren't mandatory here, Laura tells me she didn't hesitate to bring her 4-year-old daughter, Anisol (ph), to get the shot.

"I am relieved," she says, "because a lot of people are still getting sick. And with the vaccine, we are more protected."

Rather than rely on importing vaccines from abroad, Cuba has produced its own homegrown anti-COVID drugs. The island's government says studies show they are safe, even in children, and have begun sending data to the World Health Organization for its approval.


With the Delta variant, cases in children are soaring in Cuba. And just since August, 10 children have died, according to government statistics, something doctors here tell us they didn't expect would happen.

"It's more gratifying to vaccinate a child," she says. "You put the vaccine, and know they're going to be immunized and won't have serious complications, or even die from COVID."

The pandemic has hit Cuba hard, with food and medicine shortages. And in-person schooling canceled, indefinitely.

(on camera): Cuban officials had said that they would reopen schools in early September, but with a surge of new cases and deaths, those plans are on hold. Now, officials say that before they can safely reopen schools, they have to complete an island-wide vaccination campaign that includes children.

(voice-over): I meet Mycel (ph), and her daughter Paola (ph) right before the 3-year-old gets her vaccine.

"I'm very happy," she says. "More than when I got vaccinated. Vaccinating her is the biggest comfort yet."

Cuba's vaccines require three doses, so there are more jabs to come for these kids. But, parents say, if it means that life can begin to return to normal for their children, then all the tears will have been worth it.


OPPMANN: And John, the hope here is that they can vaccinate 90 percent of the population, including children, by mid-November. They're about half the way there. And that would allow them to open international borders and schools.

I can tell you, as a father of four, it can't happen soon enough.

BERMAN: As a father myself, I can tell you the joy of getting your kids vaccinated, the relief, Patrick. There's nothing like it. Thanks so much for your report this morning.

So, the former president, conservative media hype this as the biggest, greatest, most important investigation ever, but now it seems to be coming to a close after an indictment. Details next.

KEILAR: And Tom Brady already has seven Super Bowl rings to his name. What he's saying about the next stage of his career.