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Francis Rooney is Interviewed about Gun Legislation; NASA Maps Out Timeline for Moon; Greg Norman Responds to Criticism; Vaccines for Children are Turning Point for Families. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired June 20, 2022 - 06:30   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: I want to listen to a moment involving Senator John Cornyn. You mentioned, of course, Berman, Crenshaw (ph), and sort of what he was getting because of his support for some gun legislation. This is some of what Cornyn got.




KEILAR: Do you worry that something like that endangers bipartisan agreement on guns?

FRANCIS ROONEY (R), FORMER FLORIDA CONGRESSMAN: Oh, yes. I think it absolutely blocks it. Somehow or another the NRA, and those like- minded people, have a lockdown on the Republican base. And everybody's scared to death to do anything about it.

You know, the whole thing is totally off the walls. I mean it was George Bush that said, if Congress could pass an extension of the Assault Weapons Ban, he would be glad to sign it.

You know, both Ronald Reagan and Richard Nixon embraced limits on handguns, Saturday night specials and things like that. And the NRA used to be a hunter safety organization, not a political force. (INAUDIBLE).

KEILAR: Yes, obviously we're in the middle of discussions on Capitol Hill. We'll have to see what. Cornyn is running point for Republicans, so we'll see if that affects things.

Former Congressman Francis Rooney, thank you so much for being with us.

A critical week for NASA's plan to put astronauts back on the moon. A live report on the Artemis moon mission, next.

And new CNN reporting on U.S. concerns about Russia trying to exploit political divisions in the midterm elections.

Plus -- (VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Stars light up the stage at CNN's inaugural Juneteenth celebration concert.



KEILAR: It is a big week for NASA and its teams behind the Artemis 1 moon mission. After three attempted rehearsals back in April came and went, the effort to launch the mega moon rocket is expected to pick up speed again today.

And CNN's Kristin Fisher is here with the very latest.


KRISTIN FISHER, CNN SPACE AND DEFENSE CORRESPONDENT: So, Brianna, this is a very important, very expensive rocket because this is the rocket that's designed to return American astronauts to the moon and land the first woman and the first person of color on the moon, hopefully by around 2025.

This is also the rocket that NASA has been working on since it retired the space shuttle fleet way back in 2011. So, this is a long time coming. And what we're going to see today, hopefully, is the final test for this rocket before it's actually launched into space. They call it the wet dress rehearsal. And the reason it's called wet is because they're actually going to be filling this rocket with liquid propellant. It's highly flammable. They found leaks and other problems during the last three attempts. So, this is a fourth attempt. And essentially what they're going to do is simulate everything but the actual launch. They do the whole countdown and get to just about nine seconds and that's when they stop.

And so they had to -- with these three previous failed attempts, had to pull the rocket back. They just rolled it back out to the launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center. And if all goes according to plan, we could see the first launch of this rocket at the end of August or beginning of September. That would be Artemis I. Then we would get Artemis II, which would be the first crewed mission. Artemis I is uncrewed. That's just the test. So Artemis II is the first crewed mission. And then Artemis III, that would be the Artemis equivalent of Apollo 11. That would be when you would actually see American boots back on the surface of the moon.

And, you know, Brianna, one of the other things that's just so amazing about this rocket is it's so massive. We have not seen anything this big since the Saturn V rocket back in the '60s and '70s, which, of course, brought the Apollo astronauts to the moon.

So, if you're down on the Florida space coast, I'm hoping I get to see it because I mean this is what they call one of those bone rattling launches. It's so big you can feel it move your whole body.

KEILAR: Yes, we don't call it mega for nothing, right?

OK, so what is the point here? What are they trying to achieve? It's obviously so exciting to think of being back on the moon, but what is the goal here?

FISHER: The goal is to get Americans back on the surface of the moon. And a lot of people say, you know, hey, why do we have to do that? We've already been there back in the '60s and '70s. It's a valid point. But it's been a very long time. A lot has changed since then. Primarily, China.

China has a very impressive space program. And they are actively trying to return their own -- not return, but get their astronauts to the moon -- they call them Taikonauts -- for the very first time. And so if NASA astronauts don't go back to the moon, Chinese Taikonauts are going to get there first.

KEILAR: Taikonauts.

FISHER: Taikonauts, right.

KEILAR: You always teach me something, Kristin. Thank you so much.

FISHER: You got it.

KEILAR: Kristin Fisher, we appreciate it.

Golfer Greg Norman is teeing off at his critics. Hear what the Hall of Famer is saying about his decision to lead the Saudi-backed LIV Golf tour.

BERMAN: And conflicting messages about the president and the prince despite a promise to maybe Saudi Arabia a pariah for its role in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.



KEILAR: Hall of Fame golfer Greg Norman, the CEO and commissioner of the controversial Saudi Arabia-backed LIV Golf league is responding to this comment Bob Costas made to us last week here on NEW DAY.


BERMAN: What do you think of the controversy and how Mickelson responded to it yesterday?

BOB COSTAS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, he's trying to smooth things out, but this is blood money. There's no two ways around it, it's blood money.

GREG NORMAL, CEO, LIV GOLF: Yes, look, I'm disappointed people go down that path, quite honestly. Look, if they want to look at it in that prism, then why does the PGA Tour have 23 sponsors within the PGA tour doing 40 plus billion dollars' worth of business with Saudi Arabia? Will Jay Monahan go to each and every one of those CEOs of the - of

the 23 companies that are investing into Saudi Arabia and suspend them and ban them? Their hypocrisy in all this, it's so loud it's deafening.



KEILAR: Joining us now, "Washington Post" columnist and CNN political analyst Josh Rogin.

What do you go to that, Josh? He says it's hypocritical.

JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, this is just the latest effort by Greg Norman to do what we call sports washing, which is to take money from a brutal regime and then use it to legitimize that regime in the eyes of his fans and of the world.

And, you know, the basic argument he's making is the, I am rubber you are glue defense, which is most often found on school yards by five year olds. You know, it's like, oh, well, I'm not the only one who took blood money. Other people took blood money.

KEILAR: But, is -- is he wrong? Is there something different between what he's doing, which is this entire Saudi-backed league, versus sponsors who have business in Saudi Arabia?



ROGIN: Yes, now, first of all, to be clear, taking blood money is always wrong. So it doesn't justify people doing business with odious regimes. But what he's doing is he's taking specific money for a specific program of sports watching, which is Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia's efforts to buy off western elites by guying U.S. and international sports franchises in order to distract people from his crimes, including the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, for which there's been no accountability and justice, including the jailing of the women journalist, which is ongoing, the execution of gays which is ongoing.

So, it's one thing to do business with a regime that commits atrocities, it's another thing to take a specific project that's meant for a specific sports watching effort and to endorse it, because what Greg Norman's getting paid for is not just for organizing a golf league, he's getting paid for doing these press conferences, going out to the world and saying, oh, everyone's doing it, what's the big deal? Everyone's doing it, no big deal.

It is a big deal. It's an escalation of the white washing of the Saudi atrocities and an escalation of the payment that he's getting to participate.

BERMAN: And, Josh, how would you assess the difference between how Greg Norman handles these questions, or in that case dodges the question, and Phil Mickelson, who, look, he received a lot of criticism for how he responded to questions from journalists, but he did answer them. He did talk about his empathy for the victims, the families of the victims of 9/11.

ROGIN: Right. Well, what Phil Mickelson said, according to reports about the new book coming out, is that the Saudis are scary MF-ers, I'm pairing it down for -- this is a family show, but we're doing business because we're trying to get leverage over the PGA. Now, that's honest, at least. At least he's being honest about his motivations, which is a lot more than I can say for Greg Norman who's say, there's nothing to see here and everything's fine and this is going to be good for Saudi Arabia.

It's not good for Saudi Arabia, it's just good for one Saudi Arabian, Mohammed bin Salman. For the rest of the Saudi Arabians who are suffering under the crimes of Mohammed bin Salman it's very bad. It makes their situation worse.

At least Phil Mickelson is being up front about the transactional nature of his sports watching for his own ends, but that doesn't make it right because, you know, in the end it's not as if you can, you know, when you have a grievance with your boss you can just go to the most evil dictator and get him to outbid your boss. It's not like if I was unhappy at "The Washington Post" I would just go to Kim Jong-un and say, hey, do you want to purchase my services? It's not right. It's not honorable. It's not just. But at least it's a more transparent line of explanation than Greg Norman is willing to offer.

KEILAR: The thing Greg Norman tries to hang his hat on repeatedly is this idea where he says golf is a force for good.

ROGIN: Right.

KEILAR: What do - what do you say to that?

ROGIN: Well, you know, Brianna, you're more of a golf fan than I am. I don't really know what the factual basis for that is. But what he's trying to convince us of is that if the Saudis are allowed to buy up golf, then it will be good for - then it will have a reforming effect on Saudi Arabia, which is the exact opposite of what we're seeing.

And just look at what's going on in Saudi Arabia. The abuses are going up. The repression is going up. Every indication shows that the richer and more powerful MBS gets and the more he's able to purchase elites, to purchase westerners, to put them in his pocket and then deploy them to push his propaganda, it actually makes it much harder for the activists, the dissidents and the suffering. And that's the real problem with what Greg Norman is saying here. By pointing at the PGA and pointing at this guy and that guy, he's distracting us from the suffering of the victims. Those people are not taking Saudi money. Those people are being crushed by the Saudi regime. And their voices are the ones that need to be elevated, not the voices of Greg Norman and Phil Mickelson, because they're the ones who are actually undergoing great suffering at the hands of Mohammed bin Salman and the rest of his thuggish regime. BERMAN: Hey, Josh, while we have you here and we're talking about

Saudi Arabia, what do you think of how the Biden administration, how they have answered questions about the president's trip to Saudi Arabia and whether he'd meet one-on-one with Mohammed bin Salman, what he's been promised prior to the trip?

ROGIN: You know, I think their line of, like, oh, well, maybe we'll see Mohammed bin Salman because he might be at the meeting is pretty disingenuous actually, John, because of course everybody knows that President Biden has been avoiding the meeting with Mohammed bin Salman for a year and a half and now he's folding because he wants the oil. And I don't think that's a good decision pragmatically because I think that enforces all the wrong behaviors. But at least the White House should just be honest about it.


If they want to say that they're folding because we need the oil and, you know, that's -- human rights is going to have to take a back seat, at least that would be honest. But what they're trying to say is, oh, well, we're just going to the meeting. And, you know, if he shows up, he shows up, which everybody knows is nonsense.

But I also think if they did make that argument that we need to trade oil for human rights, that's also bad policy because, in the end, we're not going to see an improvement in their oil purchases that's going to really make a difference on inflation, but we are going to see a real damage to the cause of promoting human rights. And the Biden administration says that they have a human rights centered foreign policy, but when push comes to shove, human rights always gets the short shrift.

And I think Biden knows that. And that's why he's embarrassed about actually folding. And that's why it's taken so long and he seems sort of mealy mouthed about it. But when he gets there, there will be no doubt he's going hat in hand to beg a brutal dictator for some oil and, in exchange, he's turning a blind eye to the human rights abuse of that dictator.

And whether -- if you think that's good, that's fine. I happen to think that's terrible.

KEILAR: Josh, it's always great to have you. Thank you for being with us this morning.

ROGIN: Any time.

KEILAR: A turning point for so many American families as the CDC green lights vaccines for younger children. Dr. Sanjay Gupta is going to be here with more on this missing piece of the Covid puzzle.

BERMAN: Americans cutting back on travel and dining out in what could be a new, troubling sign for the economy.



BERMAN: Covid vaccine for children younger than five could be available as soon as this week, but some parents still reluctant to get the shots for their children.

CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta speaks to one family that has been waiting for this very moment.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Twin brothers, Dean and Luke Kolodziejczak, are typical two-year-olds. They like to climb, try to outrun their parents and dig in the dirt.

But their lives started out as anything but typical. Weighing just two pounds each when they were born.

JON KOLODZIEJCZAK, FATHER OF DEAN AND LUKE: They had respiratory issues and they had a brain bleed and some other health issues, so they were being fed through a tube and then one of them was still on oxygen when they came home.

JENNA KOLODZIEJCZAK, MOTHER OD DEAN AND LUKE: Just watching your kids struggle and fight for their lives in the hospital and hooked up to machines is just something you never want to see your children go through.

GUPTA: Dean and Luke spent nearly six months in the hospital before Jenna and Jon were finally able to welcome them home. That was December 2019.

JENNA KOLODZIEJCZAK: Then we found out about the pandemic and it was really scary. Really, really scary. We couldn't let people into our house. Friends, family couldn't come and meet the boys. They had to quarantine. They had to wear a mask. They had to test.

GUPTA: Physically, socially, looking down, ever since the early days of the pandemic, in an effort to protect their children.

JENNA KOLODZIEJCZAK: We can't control a lot when it comes to their health, but we can control exposing them to the coronavirus.

GUPTA: For them, the decision is easy, they're going to be at the front of the line for the Covid-19 vaccine for little Dean and Luke.

JON KOLODZIEJCZAK: This is going to hopefully help ease things into a more normal state we hope.

GUPTA: But only 18 percent of parents with children under the age of five feel the same way. Twenty-seven percent of parents say no way and about half of parents fall somewhere in between. One of the biggest reasons for hesitation is that kids aren't very likely to get sick or die from coronavirus, which is absolutely true if you compare rates to adults. But what if you just look at kids all by themselves? Since the beginning of the pandemic, more than 480 children under the age of five have died from Covid and over 1,500 children and teens under the age of 18 overall.

DR. ASHISH JHA, WHITE HOUSE COVID-19 RESPONSE COORDINATOR: When you compare Covid to other risks that children face, whether it's influenza or other infectious diseases, Covid can be quite serious. And so, the right comparison isn't the child versus the elderly person. The right comparison is, how does Covid compare to other risks for which we vaccinate. And in that context, it's really not a close call.

GUPTA: To give more context, before vaccines in the 1960s approximately 440 adults and children died every year from measles, 39 people from mumps, 17 from Rubella, and yet we routinely vaccinate against all these diseases. They are called vaccine-preventable deaths, one of the biggest triumphs of modern, public health.

It's also true Dean and Luke were born with pre-existing conditions, placing them at greater risk for severe Covid. And as many as 62 percent of all kids hospitalized with Covid had an underlying condition. But those underlying conditions are also widespread. Two hundred thousand children with diabetes, 6 million with asthma and 14 million children with obesity.

Another concern of many parents is that the mRNA Covid-19 vaccines are new. Also true. So far, though, nearly 600 million mRNA Covid vaccine shots have been administered in the United States and side effects have been rare.

For Jon and Jenna, Getting, their boys vaccinated won't just be a relief, but a chance to live a life they felt was passing them by.

JENNA KOLODZIEJCZAK: We were at my sister's house recently for their cousin's birthday and they wanted to go inside and play in the playroom, and we're trying to tell our kids no, but they don't understand. And that's hard for us. It's hard for them. It's hard for our family. We've missed a lot of family holidays.

JON KOLODZIEJCZAK: Yes. The last six, eight months folks have been straddling, doing things.


So, it's almost -- we've been more detached from them because we've still been in the same bubble waiting for the boys to be able to get vaccinated.

GUPTA: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, reporting.