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New Day

Merck Says, Experimental Pill to Treat COVID Cuts Death Risk in Half; Liberals Defy Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Force Infrastructure Delay; Marines Say, Troop at Trump Rally Wasn't One Who Hoisted Baby in Kabul. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired October 01, 2021 - 07:00   ET




And I -- to just give some sense and a thought that I have not forgotten whatever you have done to my family.


BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN NEW DAY: And that, Berman, that's what he's doing now, how he's trying to help his brother's family brother's family after his brother really came through for his.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEW DAY: What an odyssey. It took so many people pushing that make happen, including you, I might add. What a remarkable story.

KEILAR: Yes. It was really a village that got them out.

And New Day continues right now.

Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. We are beginning with some breaking news, a potential game changer in the fight against COVID-19, the pharmaceutical giant, Merck, announcing results just moments ago from its experimental trials into the first oral antiviral pill to treat COVID.

BERMAN: This is a big deal. This isn't instead of a vaccine. Vaccines are still the most important thing here. But this is something that has been missing. The pill, according to Merck, cuts the risk of hospitalization and death in half if you get COVID. The company plans to apply for emergency use authorization as soon as possible.

Let's get much more on this. Let's get some understanding on this. We want to bring in Dr. Peter Hotez, Dean of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.

Dr. Hotez, as I said, this is not better than a vaccine. The vaccines are still the most important thing here. But this is what has been missing. Explain what's going on here. DR. PETER HOTEZ, DEAN OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Yes. So, John, you're absolutely right. So what happens is if you -- the pill is given twice a day for five days and seems to cut the risk of dying or hospitalization by half. It's not a huge study. I think it was under 1,000 patients, 1,000 individuals. But it was impressive enough that the advisory committee said let's stop this, this is promising enough and then apply for emergency use authorization.

So, the way it would work is if you start having symptoms and you have -- and you're identified as having COVID, then you could take the pill and it will reduce your risk of hospitalization and potentially death. But as I say, it's reduced. This is nothing nearly as powerful as getting a vaccine. And what we don't want to happen is for this to happen is to become Ivermectin version 2.0 that people uses as an excuse not get vaccinated. I think that's the first point.

Second, we don't know entirely how this drug works. It does seem to work by introducing mutations in the RNA. So, it interferes the virus replication. But when I use the word, mutations, that is a word to be taken seriously. So, that means that I doubt it's going to be approved for use in pregnancy until it's further studied.

I know there was some controversy early on, my friend and colleague, Rick Bright, I know, raised concerns when he was at BARDA about that mutagenic property. And so that's something you're going to have to watch first. So, if you're pregnant, all the more reason to get vaccinated. And then I think there are other issues as well, whether drug resistance can develop and, of course, ubiquitous problem of access.

And I know Merck has been working with the Indian government and Indian manufactures in order to create some tiered pricing for this so we can lots of it for people globally, so we don't have the same access problem that we have, for instance, with mRNA vaccines.

KEILAR: What is the access issue? I mean, if you're looking at this as, like you said, the vaccine is the thing, but if you're looking at this as something that could possibly put a dent in people who are unvaccinated and are ending up in the hospital, when might you see that?

HOTEZ: When might be this drug be made available?


HOTEZ: I think right now, it's in front of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. And then it has to go through other regulatory hurdles globally as well.

Now, an important aspect of that, Brianna, is the fact that unlike mRNA vaccines, which are very complicated to make and it may take years for some of the big vaccine manufacturers globally to make it, this one is much easier to reproduce. And so I think Merck got ahead of the game because they remembered the experience with the antiretroviral drugs, the Indian manufacturer Cipla said, look, we're not going to wait for patents. We can just make this on our own. So I think Merck realizes that it's a simple enough molecule to make that they're going to get ahead of the curve on this, which is great.

But that also raises the problem of the fact that it could be made available easily. People could buy it over the counter. And I worry about drug resistance. This looks like a class of molecules that drug resistance could happen fairly easily, so, how you manage that is also going to be a big issue.

BERMAN: My right at looking at this though as we look back in the last two years.


This is a study, albeit a very small study, and you want to see more information about this, where this Merck pill does what everyone hoped or claimed that hydroxycholoroquine would have done, but the studies never proved that it did, that Ivermectin did what they wanted it to do, but the studies have never proved this is successful, as people want it to be. This pill might do what those could not.

HOTEZ: Yes. And you're absolutely right, John. And the difference is, the game changer is this drug was designed as an antiviral drug. And it belongs to a class that resembles other antiviral drugs. So, unlike hydroxycholoroquine or Ivermectin, this one actually makes sense. And it was developed as an antiviral drug for influenza. It was by collaborators of Georgia State University and Emory University in Atlanta, and it showed a lot of promise in ferrets, which is an animal model of influenza. And then it was looked at for COVID-19 for the SARS-2-coronavirus, which is also an RNA virus, and sure enough it was shown to inhibit it.

So, unlike those others, this actually fits in with a pattern that you might expect. And, by the way, my understanding is I think Pfizer and I think it's Roche is also looking at similar classes of compounds as well. So, you might see others that resemble this drug.

KEILAR: Dr. Hotez, thank you so much for answering the questions that we have about this breaking news, but also raising some really important ones as well. We appreciate it.

HOTEZ: Thank you so much.

KEILAR: More breaking news. It's no deal for Democrats after a liberal revolt for Speaker Nancy Pelosi to delay a vote on a bipartisan infrastructure bill. The failed 11th hour effort by Pelosi to bring party factions together putting President Biden's entire domestic agenda in jeopardy here, progressives maintaining their opposition to the measure until a larger social spending package can get done in both chambers. They're not budging on the price tag, this $3.5 trillion, butting heads with moderate senators, like Joe Manchin, who also are not budging. He says he won't go above 1.5 trillion.

BERMAN: So, this morning, Speaker Pelosi says a vote could happen today. And even if it doesn't though, I want to make clear, you're also hearing some rumblings this morning that they are closer to something as painful as last night was for them, and lawmakers are set to reconvene on Capitol Hill in just a few hours.

We want to bring in Catherine Rampell, CNN Economics Commentator and Washington Post Opinion Columnist, Rachael Bade, CNN Political Analyst, Politico Reporter and co-Author of the Political Playbook, and Jeff Zeleny, CNN Chief National Affairs Correspondent.

Rachael, I think you among us were up all night covering back and forth of what was happening on the Hill. So, why not explain and tell us exactly where things are right now.

RACHAEL BADE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Look, I think you're right. I think they made progress. They didn't get the vote that the moderates have been pushing Pelosi on for a while, saying they want this infrastructure bill to pass this week. But what we did see was offerings being exchanged last night. And Speaker Nancy Pelosi rolled her sleeves up and she put out a number to Manchin and Sinema yesterday after working with White House aides.

The number is 2.1. I know we have been all talking about $3.5 trillion infrastructure -- not infrastructure, but social spending package that the Democrats would push through. Well, Pelosi, you know, significantly narrowed that to 2.1. And I actually think that that is a sign that they're moving closer to a deal.

She also sort of put up these buckets that she's looking at, family issues, which includes child care and health care. Also as the second bucket, Obamacare, specifically shoring up subsidies, and the last one is climate. And what that does is it sort of gets some other things off the table and puts them on the chopping block, things like free college, which they are not talking about.

So, I think that some realism is starting to sink in. Pelosi is putting things on paper and moderates are looking at it, no deal yet but progress is being made.

KEILAR: So is there going to be a vote today, Rachael, do you think?

BADE: You know, I really can't say. Pelosi has always said that she's not going to put things on the floor that will fail and they're clearly very far from having the votes to get this passed. But she also made this promise to moderate members who are giving her a little bit of leeway in terms of taking the time she needs to make a deal with Manchin and Sinema.

Look, every day that goes by, these moderates are going to get angrier and they threatened to walk away from the table when it comes to this bigger reconciliation, this bigger social spending package. So, you know, it's a matter of time before temperatures start flaring if she doesn't have this bipartisan infrastructure bill vote. And so, look, she has got a really hard deadline right now. And it's going to be really sticky for her.


BERMAN: Catherine, I described the progressive negotiating position as, if you don't give me what I want, then I won't give me what I want, which is a tough place to start from, but that's where they were. I will say this. What will it mean if there is a compromise? What would a $1.5 to $2.1 trillion compromise mean? And that would be on top of the $1.2 trillion infrastructure, bipartisan infrastructure. I mean, how much of an achievement would that be?

CATHERINE RAMPELL, CNN ECONOMICS COMMENTATOR: I think it would be progress but there are still a lot of hard choices that Democrats have to make. For instance, not only is it going to be hard to get to that $2 trillion, $1.5 trillion, whatever the compromise is, already, Democrats have way more in this package than even the $3.5 trillion number that they had been advertising. Basically, margins are so thin in both the House and Senate, that every marginal vote, that is every marginal possible vote maker, every lawmaker, can demand whatever their pet priority is.

So, leadership has made a lot of promises to a lot of different people on different kinds of programs. And as a result, you kind of have this grab bag of in coherent stuff, some of which I think is very valuable, some of which is more marginal. And they're going to have to make some difficult choices about what to cut and will they lose some of those marginal votes.

Rachael mentioned that they seem to be prioritizing, which I think is the right step, but I think you could still potentially have some revolt from people who say, no, community college is really important to me, for example.

KEILAR: Okay. So, Jeff Zeleny, where does this leave the president in all of this? I mean, he has to really step in here.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: He absolutely does. And we talk a lot about President Biden's long relationship with the Senate, and he knows how to negotiate. This Congress is a total foreign entity to him. Party loyalty was core to how things used to be on Capitol Hill. So, yes, he has relations in the Senate. But we are going to see if he actually can twist any arms or say, look, we need to accomplish something.

So, all of this now rests on the White House. The White House, in the last, really, several days, 72 hours probably, has become much more involved in this. We saw White House top advisers, Susan Rice, and many others on Capitol Hill last night, meeting with senators and Senate leaders. So, they are all in on this.

So, they don't want to get the president too involved because they don't want him to own a failure. The reality is he will own a failure.

KEILAR: It does seem like -- well, he knows how to twist arms in the Senate. But you have Senator Manchin saying, essentially, Uncle, I came from 0 to 1.5 trillion, you have twisted my arm. The question now may be what about Biden and the House with progressives, where he has, you know, less institutional knowledge.

ZELENY: Absolutely, less institutional knowledge. And, again, this is the thing that Democrats -- this has been bubbling and boiling since the primary campaign, frankly. And Democrats have largely remained united usually in opposition to Republicans or the president (ph). Now this is their ball game. So, there are deep divisions.

I think that one thing that is still giving some Democrats' cause for optimism, I talked to, is the fear of failure. They do not want to fail and get absolutely nothing. They know what's coming next year likely. And this is a tough midterm election year.

So, I think there is still a path to getting an infrastructure deal done in a small reconciliation bill. But I wouldn't bet the farm on it either. I mean, President Biden is limited here in the twisting of arms. But it is now all owned at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. This is him.

So, we will see if he goes up to the Hill today. I don't expect a vote today. What has changed since last night except, of course, they always want to get out of town. So we will see. Fridays, a lot of interesting things happen on Capitol Hill.

BERMAN: He is limited by Joe Manchin, right? I mean, basically, there's a Joe Manchin --

ZELENY: And Kyrsten Sinema.

BERMAN: And Kyrsten sinema. But I think a lot people owe Manchin a little bit of an apology in the sense that there were those saying, no one knows what Manchin wants, no one knows what Manchin wants. It turns out, Manchin told Chuck Schumer exactly what he wanted over the summer, Rachael, which is something that you first reported, you guys over at Politico first reported overnight, which is that there was a memo that Joe Manchin gave Chuck Schumer. Chuck Schumer signed it. It laid out exactly what -- how far he would go, $1.5 trillion.

So, what did Schumer do with this for two months? Did Schumer just pocket and hope that it would go away?

BADE: Yes. He didn't tell a lot of people about it. There's a lot of folks on the Hill scratching their heads. I mean, covered the Hill for ten years now and I have never seen anything like an actual sort of agreement/contract signed between a leader and rank and file member sort of secretly about a big legislative package like this.

The reality is that a lot of these progressives in the Senate voted for the bipartisan infrastructure bill that they didn't like, by the way.


It was negotiated with Republicans. They didn't like it. But they did it because they thought there was some sort of agreement that if that moves forward, that they're going to get their $3.5 trillion social spending bill, 3.5. That's that they thought. And it turns out that Chuck Schumer knew early on that was -- it wasn't going to be less than half that because Joe Manchin just wasn't going there.

As for timing, just one more point on that. If you think about how long the bipartisan infrastructure bill took to negotiate, we were talking about months. They are trying to do this in 24 to 48 hours. It seems super unlikely. And even if they come up with a framework, they have progressives they still have to get to vote for this thing.

And so they have got a lot of work ahead of them. They are making progress but there's still a lot of work to be done. Jeff is absolutely right.

BERMAN: Catherine Rampell, who blinks?

RAMPELL: That is an excellent question and I don't know the answer. I think Democrats have made things really unnecessarily difficult for themselves. And the challenge for them is not only the optics of looking dysfunctional despite having unified control of government, but they actually need to deliver on something.

And I said, right now, it is this grab bag of programs. And what they really need is a set number of priorities that they can go out on the campaign trail and said, we put money in your bank account through the child tax credit. We got universal health coverage by closing the Medicaid gap or what have you, rather than sort of a lot of different priorities halfway done.

BERMAN: I would say you're talking about the optics. Even if they reach a $1.5 trillion plan, which would be historic, the likes of which nothing has been ever done before exactly, it will be seen as a failure by some people. And they set up the framework to let that happen.

RAMPELL: That is the case. I mean, Bernie Sanders had said earlier this year, right, that he was looking for $6 trillion. So, to his base, this does look like half a loaf already.

BERMAN: Catherine Rampell, Rachael Bade, Jeff Zeleny, thank you all very much.

So he pushed disgusting lies about the Sandy Hook shooting, and now Alex Jones, he's going to have to pay up.

KEILAR: And a marine who claimed he was pictured evacuating a baby from Kabul now under investigation for appearing at this Trump rally and for the accuracy of his claim. We will have that story ahead.

BERMAN: And new alarming body camera video from Gabby Petito's traffic stop in Utah. Disturbing details about what she told police officers about the fight she had with Brian Laundrie.



BERMAN: Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones will be held responsible for the damages triggered by his false claims on the Sandy Hook shooting. A judge made that decision Monday saying Jones failed to provide information in lawsuits brought against him by parents of children killed in that shooting.

Laura Jarrett joins us now. For so long, Laura, it has been disgusting what he said. And now he may have to pay. LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: Well, the lies finally caught up to him, John. He called Sandy Hook a great hoax. Now, he is going to have to pay up for his lies. Parents of Sandy Hook victims sued Alex Jones, host of the right-wing InfoWars site, for the outrageous and false claims that he made about that deadly shooting being fake.

For all of his public bluster, Jones failed to participate in discovery for years, stiffing the parents on materials about his involvement in spreading all the lies, all the while the parents had to deal with all of these conspiracies that he unleashed from his unhinged followers. One family even forced to live in hiding for a period of time.

Now a state court judge in Texas has issued a rare default judgment with sanctions against Jones, finding, quote, an escalating series of judicial admonishments, monetary penalties, and non-dispositive sanctions have been ineffective thus far at deterring at Jones' for disregard for legal rules.

In a statement to CNN, an attorney for one family says this, quote, after suffering five years of Mr. Jones' monstrous harassment and after three years of Mr. Jones making a mockery of their lawsuits, our clients will finally have the closure they deserve. CNN has reached out to Jones and his attorney but have not received a statement.

BERMAN: The pain he inflicted on people who are already suffered so much. Laura Jarrett, thank you very much for that.


KEILAR: During a rally over the weekend, former President Donald Trump brought a marine on stage who said that he is the person scene in this viral video that you have probably seen, lifting a baby over the wall at the Kabul airport during evacuations in Afghanistan. The only problem here, well, maybe not the only one, but one of them, the Marine Corps, says it wasn't him.

Kristin Fisher is with us now. Tell us what's going on.

KRISTIN FISHER, CNN SPACE AND DEFENSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we have not heard from the marine at the center of this, Lance Corporal Hunter Clark since he appeared on stage this weekend in Georgia at that rally with former President Donald Trump. But a spokesperson for the U.S. Marine Corps told CNN yesterday that Lance Corporal Hunter Clark is not the person in that now defining image of those final days of the U.S.'s involvement in Afghanistan, that he was not the person seen lifting that baby up over the wall at the Kabul airport.

But Lance Corporal Hunter Clark sure made it sound like that was him when former President Donald Trump pulled him up on stage at that rally. Listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Do you want to say something? Go ahead. LANCE CPL. HUNTER CLARK: Hey, My name is Lance Corporal Hunter Clark. I'm here from Warner Robins, Georgia. I am the guy that pulled the baby over the wall. And it is definitely probably one of the greatest things I have ever done in my entire life. I just want to thank all the support from all y'all.


It just really means a lot. And I'm glad to be home now today. Thank you.


FISHER: Now, there may be other instances of U.S. troops lifting babies over the wall at Kabul airport. Of course, that was a very chaotic final few days in Afghanistan. But, again, the Marine Corps says, sorry, that simply is not him. And they put out in a statement. They say the marine identified in that particular image was not Lance Corporal Clark. The 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit has initiated a command investigation regarding Lance Corporal Hunter Clark's attendance of the event last weekend to determine if any DOD policies were violated.

And the official DOD, Department of Defense policy, is that if you are a member of the active duty military, then you are not allowed to participate in any kind of partisan political gathering. And so it would certainly appear as though Lance Corporal Hunter Clark violated that policy. But the official line from the Marine Corps Right now is they are still investigating.

KEILAR: Anyone who is military-connected will look at that moment and say, oh, that is a big no-no. And members of the military know that. It's why there were members of the military who participated in that video during the Democratic National Convention. I mean, in the end, I think, the guardsmen did not get in trouble for what they did. But there were a lot of folks, observers who thought maybe they should have, that they shouldn't have been where they were. This is pretty clear. This is like 101 stuff for members of the military. You don't actively participate in partisan activities.

FISHER: Actively participate and actually walk up on stage. And then if you, you know, go by the word of that U.S. Marine Corps spokesperson, say something that was not factually true. And CNN tried to reach out to him. We were not able to make contact directly with Lance Corporal Hunter Clark but we were able to get in contact with his mother. And she said -- Peggy Clark told CNN that he's simply not going to comment on that at this time. So, clearly, he probably knows at this point in time that he is in quite a bit of hot water.

KEILAR: Yes, I would say. Kristin, thank you for the report, Kristin Fisher.

Coming up, there's some new insight into the relationship between Gabby Petito and Brian Laundrie and it's all in a video that we will see. What she told police about a violent encounter just days before she was killed. BERMAN: And will Congress actually move forward with a vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill today? We're going to talk to one of the few Republicans who says he's ready to vote yes.