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Podesta To Progressives: Reduce Price Tag Or Risk Majorities; One Dead, 14 Hurt After Shooter Opens Fire At Tennessee Kroger Store; CDC Chief Overrules Vaccine Panel, Backs Boosters For Frontliners. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired September 24, 2021 - 07:30   ET




BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Republican leaders in the House are rallying their conference to oppose the infrastructure bill that's expected to come to a vote next week. Democrats are trying to move the $1.2 trillion in tandem with a $3.5 trillion economic package, but they face divisions among moderates and progressives within the party.

Democratic strategist John Podesta is warning then, quote, "I wholeheartedly support President Biden's $3.5 trillion Build Back Better reconciliation bill and believe, given the magnitude of the challenges that we face, that it should do even more. But the political reality is clear, given Democrats have no margin for error in the Senate and a limited margin in the House. We will not secure the full $3.5 trillion investment. It's time for Democrats to unite in finding the path forward."

And joining us now is John Podesta who, of course, is the founder of the liberal think tank, the Center for American Progress. He was also chief of staff for President Clinton, counselor to President Obama, and chair of Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign. John, thanks for being with us this morning.


KEILAR: So, your message for progressives is essentially -- look, you need to dial it back a bit. And you're saying that's coming from someone who wants to see the full -- the full package here or even more. But what do you think -- what do you think they should dial it back to?

PODESTA: Well look, I think that is a number that they have to find common ground on. We're sitting with a 50-50 Senate with only a three- vote margin -- three votes to spare in the House.

And time is up. It is time to do both these bills. They have to be done together. They have to move forward. They have to find a number that's going to be lower than $3.5 trillion. I think that was made clear at the meetings that the president had at the White House this week.

So, settle on a number. They seem to have settled on a structure for the tax equity package that they're moving forward to pay for this package. So it actually is -- one way to think about this is that it's a zero-cost bill because it's fully paid for. But they have to settle a number and then they have to find an honorable compromise about what's included in there.

KEILAR: So, talking to progressives -- and look, most Democrats that I've spoken with are resigned to the reality that they will lose the House of Representatives in the midterm election. And progressives say hey, if we're going to lose our majority, why don't we just go for what we can get? They say this is the reason to go for it.

What do you say to them?

PODESTA: Well look, I think we should go for what we can get, but what we can get is not that full package because it's very clear that Sen. Manchin and Sen. Sinema won't vote for it. So the question is what will they vote for?

And I have urged Democrats on both sides of the aisle, given the magnitude of the challenges -- the need to tackle climate change, the need to improve healthcare, expand Medicare, deal with childcare, deal with homecare.

We've got to find a way to come together so that, as I said, all 50 Democratic senators can vote for it. There are going to be no Republican votes for this package. And all but one or two members of the House can vote for it. And I think it's politically catastrophic if we don't move forward with these bills at this time.

I also say to my moderate friends, you're not just doing the bipartisan infrastructure bill. Some of them think that's a viable strategy. These two things have to go together. We have to come together. We have to tackle the disasters that we see all around us with respect to climate. We have to make investments in people.


So let's find common ground and move forward together. And time is up. This has to happen really -- I think the negotiations for the framework over the weekend and then the votes in the next week or so.

KEILAR: But what happens if you don't pass a sizeable budget reconciliation bill -- this larger bill that is Democrats going it alone? What do you say to a Sen. Manchin who wants a topline number that is less than half of what has been negotiated? What do you say to Sen. Sinema to get them to increase that?

PODESTA: Well, I think that President Biden is going to be more persuasive in saying to them what the country needs. What the country needs to kind of stabilize the climate. What the country needs to have a fair tax code. And what the country needs, really, to put people back to work -- create millions of jobs. Give people a decent shot at life.

And in both Arizona and in West Virginia, the needs are critical. And so, it's not time for a strategic pause, as Sen. Manchin suggested. Hurricane Ida did not take a strategic pause when it moved from the Gulf to New Jersey and New York. The Caldor Fire didn't take a strategic pause as it moved across California.

We have got to make these investments. We need to do it now. We have to find a goodwill common ground and move forward.

And that number is going to be less than I would like but it's -- but it's still in line with what the president has promised the American people to build this country back better. And they, I think, are willing to do some of it. I wish they were willing to do more of it. But the most important thing is that we come together, see where we can get every vote in the Democratic caucuses, and then get these votes done and move on.

KEILAR: Yes, we'll see. This is obviously pushing much farther past Democrats wanted it to.

John, great to see you this morning. Thank you.

PODESTA: Thanks, Brianna.

KEILAR: Breaking news coverage, next, of the mass shooting at a Tennessee grocery store. We're going to talk to the chief in charge of the investigation.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: And a top doctor at the CDC overrules her own advisers on booster shots.



BERMAN: This morning, police are searching for answers after a deadly shooting at a Kroger supermarket in Collierville, Tennessee, just outside of Memphis. At least one person was killed and 14 others injured.

The person who died, identified overnight as Olivia King. Here she is posing with her son.

The shooter was also found dead, apparently of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

A cashier described the horrifying scene.


BRIGNETTA DICKERSON, KROGER CASHIER: He kept on shooting and shooting, and shooting. He shot one of my coworkers in the head and then shot one of my -- one of the customers in the stomach. And then my other customer got kind of like cuts because of the asphalt.


BERMAN: And joining me now is the Collierville police chief, Dale Lane. Chief, thank you so much for being with us.

Any update on the health or the recovery of the 14 people who were injured?

CHIEF DALE LANE, COLLIERVILLE, TENNESSEE POLICE: Well, John, thanks for having us on this morning.

Right now, the numbers are still the same. We have 13 that were shot. We've had several that have been released from hospitals and we have a couple that are still in very serious condition. So our hearts and prayers go out to those families and we just ask that those of you watching please pray for those that are still in the hospital.

One of the answered prayers is that we did not lose anybody overnight. So we're still at one fatality and then, the shooter is deceased.

BERMAN: I know, Chief, you've been on the scene and your people have been investigating nonstop since this happened. What can you tell us about the professional relationship that the shooter had with the store?

LANE: Well, that's part of the investigation, John. I don't want to get into that too much until we play this out and make sure that we have all the facts.

There's rumors out there. There's things and I really don't want to go into that at this point. We want to make sure that we don't compromise this investigation in any way.

BERMAN: I understand that. There are reports that he worked at the store or for a vendor. Can you confirm either of those?

LANE: I could, but I think it's better at this point that we leave it there. I want to make sure that -- again, this is a horrific event and we want to make sure that if there's somebody else involved in this that we don't compromise any of the details that are out there. So we're going to leave it at that.

BERMAN: What's the likelihood that someone else was involved?

LANE: Yes. Well, I don't know. That's still part of the investigation. We're less than 24 hours in and so, as soon as -- you know, we'll get that information in the hours to come.

Look, we want to provide you with the information -- we really do -- but I don't want to do anything that's going to compromise the investigation. Right now, for us, it's about reducing fear in this community. It's about taking care of our police officers and doing whatever we can to support the victims in this situation.

BERMAN: And I know that is what you are most interested in doing.

I mean, what does it tell you? You talked about how many of the people who survived inside the store did it because they did all the right things. But what does it say about where we are -- that you've got to have training to go buy lettuce at the grocery store?


LANE: Well, it is definitely a difficult time in our country right now. One of the things that -- yes, that was a horrific event yesterday. But myself, our command staff, our officers saw the best in humanity where people were helping each other. And the fact that they knew what to do saved many lives.

This could have been so much worse, John, but people did what we've been talking about for the last 20 years, and that's run, hide, fight. And they -- we were pulling people out of freezers. We were pulling people out of closets. They were hiding and helping each other hide.

And so, I'm thankful for that. That's the blessing in all of this is that this is not much, much worse.

BERMAN: Any information that you can reveal on the gun that was used, or guns used in the shooting?

LANE: No. That's still part of this ongoing investigation. We will release this eventually but like I said, I want to make sure that we get all the details before we start releasing that information.

BERMAN: A car -- was there a car left on the scene that the shooter used to get to the scene?

LANE: Yes, sir. Yes, his vehicle was on the scene.

BERMAN: Any clues found inside that vehicle?

LANE: Well, I'm not going to go into the items removed. The main thing for us yesterday was to make sure that vehicle didn't contain anything that would harm anyone else. And so, our partners with the ATF, the Shelby County Sheriff's Office, and Memphis Police bomb squad helped us just to make sure that vehicle was safe. But I'm not going to go into items removed from the vehicle at this point.

BERMAN: All right, Chief Dale Lane. Again, I appreciate the work you're doing. I know how hard you've been working and what a blow this is to the community. But I'm encouraged that you're all pulling through it and hopefully, everyone inside the hospital will recover on pace.

LANE: All right, John. Hey, thank you so much. Be safe.

BERMAN: You, too.

All right, we have breaking news on COVID. The head of the CDC clearing the way for more boosters shots and defying her own vaccine advisers.

KEILAR: And, Arizona's sham election audit exposed for what it is overnight. But now the big lie moves to another state. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


KEILAR: Breaking this morning, the CDC director now recommending booster shots for frontline workers at high risk for COVID. These are people like teachers and healthcare workers. Dr. Rochelle Walensky is going against the advice of her own agency's vaccine advisers on this.

Let's bring in Dr. Peter Hotez, Dean of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. Doctor Hotez, what is your reaction to this? How unusual is this, breaking with advisers?

DR. PETER HOTEZ, DEAN OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE (via Skype): Well, what she wound up doing was mostly siding with the FDA's recommendation. And it's -- I understand both sides of this discussion, both from the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices and Dr. Walensky's statement this morning. And ultimately, I side with Dr. Walensky, but I realize the nuance here. It's because it's based on very limited data.

We have, from Israel, showing that the third immunization gives substantially increased protection against both hospitalizations and breakthrough cases, and possibly long COVID. But it's only based on 25 days after the third immunization. So, limited data in hand.

And then there's a study that was put up in the morbidity-mortality weekly reports and on W.R., showing a decline in effectiveness for the Pfizer vaccine.

I think the scientists on the ACIP and the group on the ACIP would say well, there's not enough data here to justify that full recommendation of going to high-risk individuals.

But I think Dr. Walensky and the FDA is -- understands how upset the public is, especially those who are willing to get those first two immunizations, and they're terrified of getting breakthrough COVID and breakthrough long COVID, especially with the data showing gray matter brain degeneration.

So I think she had to make a tough judgment call and ultimately, I support what she did.

BERMAN: How unusual is it to overrule these advisers?

HOTEZ: Well, usually, ACIP is also working closely with the CDC, and by the time it gets to the ACIP they're pretty much on the same page. But, John, we're in the middle of a -- of a screaming pandemic and taken aback by this Delta virus that swept through the south and caused so much -- so many -- so many deaths and so many hospitalizations. And sometimes when you're in the middle of a raging pandemic you have to rely on judgment in addition to the data.

KEILAR: So now people want to know, Peter, when am I going to get my booster? When should I expect this? Has anything changed in terms of timeline with what the Biden administration had in mind? Obviously, they had set this week and things obviously are a little slower than that.

HOTEZ: Well, I think with this -- with this statement from the CDC director, I don't see any other obstacles. And if you meet those criteria over the age of 65 or between 18 and 64 with underlying chronic conditions or high occupational risk, you should be able to move forward. Possibly, the White House COVID Response Task Force will have some clarification about that later today.

But I think -- I think the CDC director was in a tight spot and I think she had to make the best judgment call based on both the data and the sentiments of the American people.

Look, we've got about -- we've got about three-quarters of the U.S. population that's all in on getting vaccinated, but a deeply dug-in -- and they want the third immunization. And another 25 percent that will do everything they can to defy getting vaccinations. So -- but at least for those who want to get vaccinated, I think they'll have that option now.


BERMAN: Dr. Hotez, just very quickly if you can answer a question my mother gave me yesterday. She's over 65. She's like do I need this right away? Do I have to cancel my plans for Friday to go get the booster shot?

HOTEZ: Well, it all -- it all depends on when she got vaccinated -- when she got her second dose. So the -- my understanding of the criteria is at least six months. So, no, she doesn't have to cancel everything but when the -- when the time is convenient for her she should move forward and get that third immunization.

KEILAR: All right, news for everyone to use, including Berman's mom. Those are the -- that's what we want to know -- when, when, when?

Dr. Hotez, great to see you.

HOTEZ: Yes, it was good seeing you.

KEILAR: And NEW DAY continues right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BERMAN: And good morning to our viewers here in the United States and all around the world. I'm John Berman with Brianna Keilar. It is Friday, September 24th.

And breaking overnight -- I'm going to say it one more time -- no one has lost the state of Arizona more than Donald Trump, and it turns out he lost even worse than he thought.

So, for months, the former president has claimed that this sham partisan audit in Arizona's Maricopa County would reverse the results and somehow make him the winner there. But overnight, a draft report of the so-called (air quotes) audit -- this is from the group that calls itself the Cyber Ninjas -- found that not even -- not only did Donald Trump get fewer votes than Joe Biden in Arizona, he got even fewer than previously realized. In other words, they found he was an even bigger loser than the first time around, right?

But when you look at this, here's the thing. It's not that this proves that Joe Biden was the legitimate winner in Arizona. He already was. It didn't need confirmation or affirmation by the Cyber Ninjas. It's the fact of this audit that raised these questions. And that was the goal -- to put this doubt in the minds of the American people to believe that something might have been stolen when it was not.

And that quest continues. Donald Trump demanded that the state of Texas -- a state he won -- investigate its election. And overnight, just 8 1/2 hours after getting marching orders from his leader, Greg Abbott complied. The state will now audit the 2020 election results in four counties.

And one result of all this doubt -- this intentional doubt -- can be violence, which we saw on January sixth. And also this morning, the House Select Committee investigating the January sixth insurrection had issued its first subpoenas for documents and testimony from four of Trump's closest advisers.

KEILAR: There's also breaking news in the search for the fiance of Gabby Petito. A federal warrant issued for Brian Laundrie, but it is not connected to Gabby's death. We also have new information about the last time that Laundrie saw his parents before he vanished.

So let's cover all of these stories, and we begin with the Republican audit-o-rama. Joining us now, Daniel Strauss, senior political correspondent for The New Republic. And, CNN anchor and chief national affairs analyst, Kacie Hunt.

It's really interesting when you see the results of what happened in Arizona, Kasie, and now you see what is going on in Texas. It's like Republicans who are behind these audits aren't even trying to hide what this is really about anymore.

KACIE HUNT, CNN ANCHOR AND CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: They're not, and the reality is we've all known this, right? I mean, this is all simply a response to a former president who lost an election but whose temper and public comments really affects about -- you know, enough of the Republican Party's base to control who wins Republican primaries. And so that makes a lot of these officials scared of him.

And in the case of Gov. Abbott, there have been some questions about his fealty, believe it or not, in the Republican Party. And so I think that's part of why, politically speaking, you see him going along with this.

But just think about all the resources that are wasted in the course of this, all the money that is spent, and all the doubt that is sown that really undermines the system that really requires -- you know, our system requires buy-in. People have to believe the results of the elections and this is the president continuing that campaign, and I don't think we should lose sight of its danger. KEILAR: So in Arizona, when you look at the count that has been

released -- and we're still awaiting this public, I guess, unveiling by Senate Republicans -- State Senate Republicans who are behind this -- Joe Biden gained votes. Donald Trump lost votes in this audit -- this sham audit in Maricopa County.

What does that say to you?

DANIEL STRAUSS, SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW REPUBLIC: I mean, look, it says that this is going to -- the more Trump pushes this, the more his supporters push this, the adverse effect is what's going to come out. He's probably going to lose votes elsewhere if more of these tallies happen.

But it also sort of highlights that this isn't about that for them. This is about showing fealty to the ongoing leader of the Republican Party, which is Donald Trump.