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Pandemic Developments Across the Country; Court Struggles for Jury in Arbery Case; Drone Attack Targets U.S. Troops; California Welcomes Rain; Harris to Stump for McAuliffe; Texas Republicans Rig Districts. Aired 6:30-7a ET
Aired October 21, 2021 - 06:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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DR. JANET WOODCOCK, ACTING U.S. FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION COMMISSIONER: To date, the currently available data suggest waning immunity in some populations of fully vaccinated people. And the availability of these authorized boosters is important for continued protection against COVID-19 disease.
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BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: That's the acting commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration explaining why the agency just authorized booster doses of the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.
CNN has reporters covering this and other pandemic developments across the country.
JACQUELINE HOWARD, CNN HEALTH REPORTER: I'm Jacqueline Howard in Atlanta.
Booster doses of the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson coronavirus vaccines are now officially authorized for emergency use here in the United States. The Food and Drug Administration is allowing for a half dose of Moderna's vaccine to be given six months after the initial two doses are completed. Those eligible include anyone 65 and older, adults at high risk of severe COVID-19, and adults with frequent exposure to COVID-19 through their work.
Now, for a booster dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, the FDA says that can be administered at least two months after the initial single shot is completed. Anyone 18 and older is eligible.
DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Dan Simon in San Francisco, where the popular fast food chain In-n-Out Burger has reopened their doors but for takeout only. So here's what happened. The San Francisco Department of Public Health ordered the restaurant to be closed last week because employees were not asking customers for their vaccination status. A chain executive saying in a statement, quote, In-n-Out would not become the vaccination police for any government.
Now, we should point out that San Francisco does require restaurants to check for vaccination status but In-n-Out calls that government overreach.
Again, though, the restaurant has reopened but those burgers, shakes, and fries are only to go.
ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: I'm Andy Scholes in Atlanta.
Former Washington State football coach Nick Rolovich plans to take legal action against the university after he and four of his coaches were fired on Monday for failing to comply with the state's COVID-19 vaccine mandate. Rolovich's attorney tells CNN that his client's dismissal was unjust and unlawful and came after his request for religious exemption was denied.
CNN has reached out to Washington State for comment, but earlier in the week athletic director Pat Chun said in a statement that, quote, our priority has been and will continue to be the health and well- being of the young men on our team. In July Rolovich posted on social media that he elected to not receive a COVID-19 vaccine for reasons which will remain private.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So a new day of jury selection today in the trial of the men accused of killing Ahmaud Arbery. This is the fourth day. And CNN has learned that there are issues in finding willing and acceptable jurors.
CNN's Laura Jarrett joins us now.
What's going on here?
LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR, "EARLY START": So, John, a lot of these jurors don't want to touch this case at all. And at some level, you can understand why, right? It's a high profile, very fraught case in Georgia that's going to come down to issues of racism, self-defense, and, of course, it was all documented on a highly graphic cell phone video. And given that the defense team will likely argue that this shooting was justified, these jurors are going to be forced to watch the killing of Ahmaud Arbery over and over again.
So today, as John said, this is going to be day four of jury selection and so far it is moving at a snail's pace. On Wednesday, the judge asked a group of 19 potential jurors if any of them actually wanted to serve on the jury. Not a single one raised their hand. And even if they wanted to be there, 11 of those 19 people said they'd already formed an opinion about the case. That tells you something.
Other jurors are clearly worried about retribution however the case turns out here. One woman said, quote, none of this makes me feel good. Another man told attorneys he doesn't want to, quote, have other people's lives in my hands.
Bottom line, 12 jurors and four alternates are needed for this trial and the lawyers are not there yet, not even close. So this selection process could take another week, John.
And I should mention, you know, the judge is very sensitive to the jury retribution issue. So much so that he is being very protective on what we can even say. We're trying to be careful to protect the juror identity in this case because he's clearly worried about it.
BERMAN: I understand that. I understand that. When you hear jurors talk like that, though, you start to wonder about the atmosphere there of even implicit juror intimidation. Why are they so scared?
JARRETT: Yes. Yes.
BERMAN: All right, Laura, all kinds of questions, thank you so much.
BERMAN: So how did all 21 passengers survive a fiery plane crash? We're going to put that question to the lead NTSB investigator.
KEILAR: Plus, American troops in Syria targeted by a drone So, who's responsible for this and should the military be prepared for more of these types of attacks?
KEILAR: We have some new details this morning about a drone attack against American troops at a U.S. military base in Syria just by the Jordan border.
Oren Liebermann live for us from the Pentagon with the latest developments.
Oren, what do we know?
OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, it wasn't just a drone attack against U.S. troops in the At-Tanf garrison near the Jordan/Syria border. It was a drone and indirect fire attack, which is indicative that it may have been rockets or mortars with some level of coordination here. And you can see that map to get a better sense of exactly where this is in southeast Syria.
U.S. Central Command called it a coordinated and deliberate attack against U.S. troops there. The U.S. has some 900 troops in syria at this time, located in just one of a few places. The At-Tanf garrison is one of those locations where the U.S. has troops. There are approximately 900 troops throughout Syria.
U.S. Central Command Spokesman Bill Urban issued this statement after the attack, saying, we maintain the inherent right of self-defense and will respond at a time and place of our choosing. There has been, at least not as of yet, retribution for the attack or finger pointing as to who may have carried this out. But the level of sophistication here, a coordinated drone, an indirect fire attack, as well as the primary weapon used against U.S. troops, a drone attack, in this case, is similar to attacks we've seen before from Iranian- backed Shia militias operating in the area, more commonly in Iraq, but certainly not unheard of for this to come out -- for this to happen in Syria.
Brianna, we'll keep you posted as we learn more about what unfolded last night in Syria against U.S. troops.
KEILAR: All right, Oren, live at the Pentagon, thank you.
And Democrats are pulling out all the stops in Virginia where the governor's race is now neck and neck. Will a string of very high- profile surrogates have any impact?
BERMAN: So Condoleezza Rice says it is time to move on from the insurrection. What does a man who almost died there think about that? Officer Michael Fanone here in moments on these crucial days of the investigation.
BERMAN: A whole lot of rain headed to California, and they need it. Meanwhile, I hear it's going to get cold here in the Northeast.
Let's get right to meteorologist Chad Myers.
CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Yes, I'm afraid your tomatoes may be done there, John Boy. It is going to get cold across the Northeast. Some spots will have very, very, very heavy frost over the next coming weeks.
But this is the good news, heavy rain coming into California. There are places like Sacramento that haven't had rain in 200 days. I know that's really hard to imagine.
This weather brought to you by Servpro, making fire and water damage like it never even happened.
So here comes the rain, coming into northern California. Some spots that haven't seen rain in that many days will see over a foot of rainfall and between five and six feet of snow in the higher elevations. One storm after another. And they are very happy with this because they'll finally get some water in their reservoirs. But the problem is, the areas that have burned, it water won't soak in. It's going to run off. And we are going to have flash flooding. We are going to have mudslides.
And, yes, here's your colder air. Cold air coming in. [06:50:01]
High for Boston on Sunday, 59, John. Back to you.
BERMAN: Well, I'm John Boy. Thank you very much, Jim Bob, for that weather forecast. Appreciate it.
KEILAR: But bye tomatoes but bye mosquitos. So that is the good thing here, right?
So it is less than two weeks to go until election day and a new poll is showing the Virginia governor's race is in a dead heat. Democrats are pulling out all the stops here as a reflection of just how close this is. Starting today they have Vice President Kamala Harris campaigning for Terry McAuliffe in Virginia.
And CNN's Eva McKend is joining us now.
This is quite a nail-biter, Eva.
EVA MCKEND, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS REPORTER: It sure is, Brianna.
You know, this tight race between Democratic nominee Terry McAuliffe and Republican nominee Glenn Youngkin will come down to turnout. In 2020, President Biden won Virginia by 10 points. But, historically, it's harder to get voters to come to the polls in an off year election. That's why McAuliffe is calling on Vice President Harris, though Harris is often a target of the right, she remains popular among Democrats. She's amplified the significance of historically black colleges and universities and black Greek letter organizations in her role. McAuliffe is hoping her visit to the commonwealth, the nation's first female, first black and first south Asian vice president will get voters of color in the state excited.
Harris is visiting Prince William County, that's Virginia's second largest county, in an area where 25 percent of residents are Latino or Hispanic and 20 percent are black. Harris joins a long line of high- profile surrogates joining McAuliffe on the campaign trail. Former President Barack Obama will travel to Richmond Saturday. And in a new ad in support of McAuliffe, he stresses the national implications of this race.
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BARACK OBAMA, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Virginia, you have a lot of responsibility this year. Not only are you choosing your next governor, but you're also making a statement about what direction we're headed in as a country. I know Terry McAuliffe, and I can tell you, as governor, no one worked harder for their state.
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MCKEND: Now, Youngkin has taken the opposite approach, deciding to campaign on his own, but still commanding significant crowds at his events. I was at an event with Youngkin earlier this week and hundreds of people couldn't even get in the door. For McAuliffe, Stacey Abrams is returning to Virginia again with the
head of the Democratic National Committee, Jaime Harrison, and they'll be joined on Sunday with the Dave Matthews Band. So it is getting to be quite the exciting race, Brianna.
KEILAR: Yes, it really is, Eva. Thank you so much for your continued reporting on it. We appreciate it.
We do have a brand new, revealing interview with the lawyer for Brian Laundrie's parents. What he says about these remains that were found.
BERMAN: Senator Kyrsten Sinema throwing a new wrench into the president's social spending plan. What will President Biden say about it when he takes the stage in a CNN townhall tonight.
BERMAN: Major new developments in the effort to grab congressional seats. And it's all happening in broad daylight in Texas.
John Avlon with a "Reality Check."
JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Defending democracy doesn't take a day off. And yesterday Senate Republicans stonewalled Joe Manchin's compromise election reform bill. He'd spent months trying to gain their support with a balanced package that included national standards for early voting, including vote by mail, disclosure requirements for dark money groups, and even voter ID, a long time GOP priority. But not a single Republican decided to join that effort, let alone the 10 needed to overcome the filibuster to even start a debate. It was just more evidence of Republicans' discomfort with majoritarian democracy.
But Washington is just one front in this fight. The real action is occurring in the states, where legislators are busy drawing congressional districts to benefit the party in power. And Texas just showed how rigged the system really is.
You see the lone star state gained two congressional seats after the latest consensus due to massive population growth in urban areas, 95 percent of which is attributed to people of color. But Republicans controlled the state legislature. They weren't about to make the congressional districts more representative of the actual electorate. No. So they went to work drawing districts that artificially increased their own advantage, connecting suburban districts with sprawling, rural communities, consolidating minority-heavy areas and generally painting Texas red.
Now, keep in mind that Donald Trump won 52 percent of the vote in Texas. But the new map would give Republicans a lock on 66 percent of the congressional seats, that's according to an analysis by FiveThirtyEight. It increases the number of Republican-dominated districts from 22 to 25, while reducing the number of districts in which Hispanics make up a majority of the electorate, from eight to seven. And, again, that's despite Hispanics now being roughly equal to the non-Hispanic white population in Texas.
And that's not all. They actually dropped the number of districts where African-Americans make up the majority from a grand total of one to 0. In the process they made districts less competitive, pushing more power to the partisan primaries. It is a textbook case of politicians choosing their voters rather than voters choosing their politicians.
And it's all on top of that voter suppression efforts Texas lawmakers passed through special session of the legislature. And just in case you think that voter integrity is the impetus for any of this, listen to Texas Rep. Justin Holland talking about the Democrats.
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REP. JUSTIN HOLLAND (R), TEXAS-33: That's what we're here for. Yes. They're not going to -- they're going to lose seats. They're not going to gain seats next time. They're not going to take over. They're going to actually erode. So, we're going to make sure we come back with more Republicans next time.
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AVLON: And lo and behold, that's what happened.
There's already a legal challenge to this blatantly partisan, pro- white map. Echoes of a decade ago when Republicans were found to have been potentially discriminated against blacks and Hispanics and redistricting there.
Texas isn't the only state trying to suppress representative results. A few years ago North Carolina got its race-based gerrymandering thrown out by the courts.