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Senate Deals Blow to Spending Plan; Trudeau's Bid Hangs in Balance; Putin's Party on Track to Retain Majority; Pfizer out with Vaccine Study on Kids. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired September 20, 2021 - 06:30   ET



JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Not to put him out of the game through impeachment, through -- through, you know, really taking the January 6th commission seriously, frankly through invoking the 14th Amendment. All that has a consequence. He is going to come and try to burn your house down one way or the other.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: So we learned, Maggie, that the Biden administration, obviously, overnight is having another issue that kind of contributes to the domestic agenda hits that he's been taking.

Senate Democrats, they're not going to be able to include a pathway to legalization for millions of immigrants in their huge -- their $3.5 trillion bill after some new guidance from the Senate parliamentarian.

Where does this put them?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: So, they're going to attempt to try to revisit this, Brianna. There are going to be -- there is, I think, four different efforts that pro-immigration reform advocates have been making in terms of the Senate parliamentarian. They are going to come back at this. The White House made clear they're going to come back at this on other pieces, but certainly it is a hit. And it is also just a reminder that this White House is playing this sort of triangulation move of, you know, we're not going to have Congress run -- I'm going to push Congress to pass legislation. We are going the try other maneuvers because the majority is so slim and because there's so many members who might not go along with this. It avoids putting pressure on them.

But, at the end of the day, a key piece of immigration reform still doesn't get done. It's a blow any way you look at it, even for the people who say they were expecting it.

KEILAR: Yes, this -- look, this is -- this is key, John, to President Biden's agenda. He wants to move this thing along. And here you see the roadblocks are coming up against it.

AVLON: They absolutely are. I think it shows limits to larding up what you can pass in reconciliation. I don't think folks should get over themselves and say, you know, the Biden agenda is doomed. But there are some serous hurdles and this dream has a deadline on it. And the Biden -- the Biden administration needs to be totally focused on passing this. You can't make the perfect (INAUDIBLE) good. I think they know that. They need to start acting that way.

KEILAR: Yes, it's like, where is the finish line in this race, right? That is the question here.

Maggie, thank you so much.

John, thank you.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's political future is in jeopardy as voters are heading to the polls today. Will his election gamble backfire?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Plus, accusations of widespread election fraud in Russia -- imagine that -- as Putin's party is accused of a sweeping crackdown on his critics. We are live on the ground in Montreal and Moscow, next.



BERMAN: Election turmoil in both Canada and Russia today. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau is in the fight of his political life, this time with conservative leader Erin O'Toole, after making a big gamble to call the election two years before necessary. We have reporters standing by in Montreal and Moscow with the very latest.

Let's start with CNN's Paula Newton in Montreal.

What's the latest from there?

PAULA NEWTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know what, John, this is going to be a suspenseful evening here. Justin Trudeau called this election, can you believe it, as you said, two years early, but in the middle of a pandemic. Some called it smart. Others called it completely cynical. He looked at the poll numbers, said, hey, this is my chance, I can actually get more seats in parliament, be able to govern the way I want.

In the first few weeks of this campaign, and let me say, this is lightning speed here, only five weeks here, John. Imagine getting done an election in five weeks. In the beginning, his polls were down. And that's what really crushed him at this point with voters saying, look, why are we even having this election considering we have a fourth wave here that's quite crushing.

The other factor here is his main rival, Erin O'Toole. He is a conservative party candidate. An impressive resume. He is a former military captain, air navigator, corporate lawyer. But here's what he did, John, he moved to the center. He is unapologetically pro-choice, has a climate plan and, for a few weeks, Canadians certainly saw even his -- propelled his popularity to new levels.

But right now, as this race has again focused squarely on the pandemic, the fact that that conservative party and Erin O'Toole says, look, we are not for mask mandates. We are not for -- pardon me, not for mask mandates. They are not masks. They're not for vaccine mask mandates. And they also are not disclosing exactly how many of their candidates have even been vaccinated. That has certainly given Trudeau an opening to really try and end strong with this campaign.

I have to say, though, the ugliness is something Canadians also aren't used to. I want you to look at protesters actually throwing gravel at Justin Trudeau. Those were, again, those anti-vaccination protesters. It was shocking for many Canadians. And I can tell you, politicians in this campaign weren't just hit with stones, right? The rhetoric here was quite brutal at times. All of that has combined to really turn off many Canadians.

Look, it's summer here. People just wanted to enjoy their last moments. Especially so many people have been dealing with COVID. So voter turnout will again be key.

But, also, this whole issue of misinformation. We have the peoples party of Canada. They are, again, anti-vaxers first and foremost, and saying that, look, we will be able to be here for a voice for Canadians. They have tripled their support to 6 percent. And really the misinformation has been breathtaking from a certain standpoint.


BERMAN: I've got to say, that doesn't look like or sound like Canada nice what you just showed us there.

Paula Newton, thank you very much for that.

KEILAR: And developing this morning, the united Russia party that supports Vladimir Putin is on track to keep its majority on parliament after this week's election. But critics are accusing officials of blatant fraud in an election where opposition was stifled.

CNN's Matthew Chance is live for us in Moscow with more.




That's right, a big win for the party that supports Vladimir Putin. But that win has come amid widespread allegations of election running -- rigging and the fact that the real opposition in this country have not been permitted to stand at all.


CHANCE (voice over): Russians have been casting their votes, but the critics, this is democracy at its worst, accusing the Kremlin of blatant election fraud, some actually caught on official cameras. Watch the woman in black on the right, awkwardly trying to shield the

ballot box as a hand appears from behind the Russian flag. You can see it repeatedly stuffing papers inside. Election officials say they've annulled these votes, but critics say thousands of violations, including ballot box stuffing and forced voting, are being ignored.

In total, we've counted 12 cases of ballot stuffing in the whole country in just eight districts, the chief election commissioner brags on Russian state media. This is not hype like from some misinformation sources, she adds.

From self-imposed COVID-19 quarantine near Moscow, the Russian president is shown using a controversial online voting system, which critics say allows even more opportunity to manipulate results. The system needs a mobile phone for verification. And there are questions about how Putin, who insists he never uses one, was able to cast his vote. The Kremlin says he used an assistants, denying this whole scene was staged.

But critics accuse the Kremlin of carefully ensuring a win despite flagging opinion polls, not just with the infamous poisoning of prominent critic Alexei Navalny last year, which officials deny, but also the moves since then, branding his supporters extremists, banning them and other opposition figures from standing for office. One rights group estimates hundreds of thousands of activists have been affected.

(INAUDIBLE) the ruling United Russia Party, Navalny's team have promoted what they call smart voting, using apps and videos like this one to show Russians which candidates, mostly old communists, stand the best chance of unseating incumbents. Controversial, Google and Apple have agreed to block the material in Russia, caving in to Russian legal demands.

But even Kremlin critics who have been allowed to stand say they face extraordinary pressure. Like this candidate in St. Petersburg who found rivals on the local ballot paper had adopted his name and appearance to confuse voters. Russia's own election officials have called this a disgrace.


CHANCE: We met one veteran anti-Kremlin activist, himself poisoned twice and now barred from standing at a Moscow polling station. He admits this election may be lost, but Kremlin efforts to cling to power indefinitely, he says, will backfire.

KARA-MURZA: We have a situation in Russia where there's now an entire generation of people that has no other political memories except Vladimir Putin's regime. He has been in power now for 22 years. That is a mind-boggling fact.

And if the regime is preventing people from changing the government at the ballot box, sooner or later people will change the government (ph).

CHANCE (on camera): Another -- another Russian revolution?

KARA-MURZA: Unfortunately. Again, it gives me no pleasure to say this.

CHANCE (voice over): But for now revolution seems a long way off. Even winning a single seat in this tightly controlled Russian election will be something of an opposition coup.


CHANCE: Well, in fact, the Russian Communist Party, which was responsible for the last Russian revolution, has done significantly better in this election. It's up to about 20 percent of the vote. But in the past few years, they've been very compliant with the Kremlin and nothing that has happened here has done anything to loosen the grip on power in Russia of Vladimir Putin.


KEILAR: All right, Matthew Chance live for us in Moscow, thank you.

Massive breaking news in the pandemic.

Pfizer has just released new data about the effectiveness of its vaccine in younger children. We're going to bring the results to you next.

BERMAN: Plus, a body has been found in the search for missing 22-year- old Gabby Petito. We have the latest developments coming up.



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

KEILAR: We do have some breaking news. And, parents, you'll want to listen up here.

Pfizer has just released its first vaccine trial results for children five to 11 years old. And let's break all of this down now -- I know there are a lot of questions out there -- with our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Sanjay, I know you have some good news for many parents this morning. Tell us about this.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Brianna, you're going to want to hear this -- this news. This is the first time we're seeing data now about these vaccines in people this young, ages five to 11.

So, it's early data. I'll preface by saying that. The data's coming from the company itself. Although this data's generally held up well over the last couple of years when we've received data this way. So I'll show it to you. This is going to be children ages five to 11. What they did in this

particular trial was they -- they had about 2,000, 2,300 participants and they got two doses of the COVID vaccine but in a much smaller dose. They landed on a much smaller dose. We get about -- adults, I should say, get about 30 micrograms per dose. This was 10 micrograms per dose separated by 21 days. And what they did then was they measured the antibody response, basically saying, are these children that age group developing the same antibody response that we saw in older people who received a higher dose.


And the answer was, yes, they were developing a significant antibody response. And, very importantly, the vaccine appeared to be safe. The side effect profile was very similar to what they saw, again, with people who are older.

So, again, this was the first data we're seeing from -- from Pfizer, really from anybody, on people this young, this much data. And now they're going to go ahead and be collecting, you know, more and more data. This is the beginning of it.

But it's a good indicator. And this is something that, you know, I think the FDA and a lot of people have been waiting to see to determine how this should proceed.

BERMAN: So a strong antibody response, Sanjay. But this is not the efficacy data, as it were. This isn't 95 percent against preventing infection.

Do they need that before they apply for Emergency Use Authorization? What's next here?

GUPTA: Yes, that's a great point. So, I think a couple things. One is that, as you know, the vaccine itself has been already approved. But just as you said, in order to sort of expedite this process, they're going to likely approve for Emergency Use Authorization with the data that shows that it is safe and is -- seems to generate these antibodies. They're continuing to collect the efficacy data, really comparing these groups, saying, look, how many people were likely to become infected, get sick, versus the vaccinated group and -- and see, you know, if it makes a difference.

But given that they've had this other data in older age groups, they've correlated the antibody effect with protecting against illness, they suspect that that's going to happen here as well. But that data's going to be collected.

And I should point out that at the same time they're going to petition for Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA, they're also going to submit this data to regulatory agencies around the world so that other, you know, children all over the world could potentially have access to this vaccine as this data starts to come in.

KEILAR: So how much of a game changer is this for this age group? And, you know, I'm thinking of unvaccinated kids right now who are in schools where there maybe -- there are no mask mandates, you know, or immunocompromised kids who really need this extra boost.

GUPTA: Yes. I mean, it -- well, let me show you the numbers here. I can show you what's sort of the trajectory of the pandemic has been for kids. But also keep in mind as you're -- as we're hearing about this data today, there's been a few, you know, sort of times during the past couple of months when the FDA has gone back to the companies and said, we need to have more safety data. You need to check for various things. So, you know, we could have been hearing today that the safety profile was of concern, that it was not generating the right antibody response or enough of an antibody response. So those things are good.

But, overall, we know that the number of cases has grown, you know, significantly. 200 plus percent in children over the past couple of months. We know that five to 11-year-olds make up about 9 percent of the population in the country.

So I want to be careful because we know -- I don't think anyone's saying the vaccine is going to just completely eliminate the cases in this group. We know people can still develop breakthrough cases even if they don't have symptoms. But the likelihood of this population getting sick dramatically reduced. Already low, but dramatically reduced. The likelihood of actually bringing down cases, even if not perfect, will Certainly be impacted by this.

So, I mean, it's -- it's the sort of thing that they've been waiting for, for some time and now saying, hey, look, we are going to even start presenting data for children as young as six months by the end of the year.

So the timetable sort of is going as expected. You heard from Dr. Fauci some time ago saying probably later this fall we would hear about a potential authorization in children this young. And everything we've seen so far today, and this is just breaking right now, suggested that is the case.

Again, this has to be peer reviewed. Obviously, the FDA will review the data itself, as a regulatory agency, but it looks promising, guys.

BERMAN: Yes. And just to reiterate it again, this is huge, right? This is the first data we're seeing on children five to 11 years old. Strong antibody response and safe. And that's a big deal.

You talk about the timing. I always am curious what later this fall means at this point. Are we talking that kids could be getting shots in October, November, December?

GUPTA: If I -- you know, as Yogi Berra said, I hate making predictions, especially about the future. But I think that if you look at the timeline of previous authorizations, if the data submitted over the next couple of weeks, I think we're thinking maybe before Halloween even. Certainly before Thanksgiving.

BERMAN: That would be a treat. Not a trick but a real treat.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thank you very much for this. GUPTA: (INAUDIBLE).

BERMAN: Again, this is a big deal. I know parents, people with young children, Brianna Keilar, waiting with bated breath over this.

KEILAR: I know. One of them, five year old, hey, good news for the five-year-old. That about the three-year-old? I'm still waiting here. I'm still waiting.

BERMAN: Glass half full.


Coming up, we're going to have much more on the breaking news on the vaccine and children. The former assistant secretary of health in the Trump administration, Admiral Bret Giroir joins us next.

KEILAR: Plus, the Democratic mayor of San Francisco is under fire for appearing to flout her own mask rules. We'll roll the tape ahead.


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

KEILAR: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I am Brianna Keilar, with John Berman.

And we have some more on our breaking news here on the fight against COVID-19. Just moments ago, Pfizer releasing the first data on its vaccines in children as young as five. The company says that its coronavirus vaccine is safe for that age group and shows a robust antibody response.

BERMAN: The trail included participants ages five to 11 in a two-dose regimen and used just a third of the amount of the vaccine given to people 12 years and older.


Pfizer says the levels compared well with older people who received the larger dose. The company says it now.