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Surge of RSV Cases Leaving Pediatric Hospitals Overwhelmed; Ex- CFO for Trump Organization Allen Weisselberg to Testify in Tax Fraud Case against Company But Not Trump Family; Russia Continuing Missile Strikes in Southern Ukraine; Former Chancellor of Exchequer Rishi Sunak May Become Next British Prime Minister. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired October 24, 2022 - 08:00   ET



JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Not only that. It's essentially to remember that refusing to raise the debt limit is about as fiscally responsible as refusing to pay your credit card bill.

All this makes it more likely for Democrats to take the debt ceiling off the table once and for all in the post-election lame duck session of Congress, and some proposals are gaining traction. But the broader point is a reminder of how far we've fallen from what were once bipartisan principles on big issues of fiscal and foreign policy. Strengthening NATO, standing up to Russian aggression, defending democracy were deservedly bipartisan issues of support. So is the principle of not holding the full faith and credit of the United States hostage for ideological aims just because the president is from a different party.

And that's your Reality Check.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: John Avlon, thank you very much for that.

And NEW DAY continues right now.

Today, the Trump Organization goes on trial for tax fraud. I'm John Berman with Brianna Kkeilar. The former president's family business charged in connection with an alleged scheme to compensate executives off the books.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: One of those executives, ex-CFO Allen Weisselberg, cooperating with the D.A. If the Trump Organization is convicted it would be required to pay back taxes and fines. Donald Trump and his children are not accused of wrongdoing in this case. Kara Scannell is live outside of the courthouse in New York with the very latest.

KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Good morning, Brianna and John. Yes, in just an hour or so from now, jury selection will begin in the criminal tax fraud trial of the Trump Organization. The judge will begin the screening of prospective juror, those are all residents from Manhattan, until they come up with a pool of 12 jurors and several alternates to hear this case. This trial is starting off this morning despite there being some

efforts to reach a kind of plea agreement. According to sources, the Manhattan district attorney's office was insisting that the Trump Organization pleaded guilty to some felonies, and according to these sources, lawyers for the Trump Organization only wanted the company to plead guilty to a misdemeanor. And the sources tell me that the former president himself did not want his organization to take any sort of guilty plea in part because of the concern of how that could potentially play politically.

As you said, the prosecution will call several witnesses, among them the former chief financial officer of the Trump Organization, Allen Weisselberg. He pleaded guilty to 15 felonies as part of this same tax fraud scheme. He is expected to cooperate. His lawyers tell me he has been meeting with lawyers for the prosecution and the Trump Organization in preparation for this testimony. And as part of his plea deal, he will be required to testify truthfully, and if he does so, he could face about 100 days in jail. If the prosecution is not satisfied with his testimony, the judge could potentially sentence him to up to 15 years in a New York state prison. Now, Weisselberg is going to testify truthfully according to his attorney, but he is not expected to implicate the former president or any of his adult children. John, Brianna?

KEILAR: Kara Scannell, thank you so much.

BERMAN: With now, CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Jennifer Rodgers. What are you watching for as this trial kicks off?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: A couple of things. Excuse me. One is just to get a look behind the curtain, right? The Trump Organization is a small family-owned company. It's not public. So it will be just interesting to learn a little bit more about how it operates, how much money it makes, is it really the successful business that launched Donald Trump eventually to the presidency.

But two, I want to see how they thread this needle with Allen Weisselberg because his plea agreement requires him to plead guilty, of course, and then testify against the company. If he as CFO concocted the scheme, enacted this scheme on behalf of the company, that would be good enough, but apparently the defense is going to be he did it all himself, he's a rogue employee. That to me requires prosecutors to ask him about who else knew, who of the other top executives, including Donald Trump, knew about this?

We also know that he, according to basically all sources, knew everything that was going on in the Trump Organization. So to me, how are they going to question him, and how is he going to testify in such a way that he implicates the company but not the other top executives?

BERMAN: How? Is there any way? That's the strange plea agreement that he reached. He's pleading guilty in his own case, but he says publicly he's not going to, say, testify against Donald Trump or the kids.

RODGERS: So they could ask him very pointed questions about what is your role, what did you have authority to do? Did you do these illegal things, you know, yes, yes, yes. But why they would be willing to do that, especially if they're getting pushback from the defense that he was rogue, I don't know why they would do it that way. If I'm the prosecutor, I'm asking him who else knew about this, who authorized this plan, who came up with this plan.


Those are the questions you would expect in a trial like this. And so if they're not there, I don't really know why that is, I don't know how they get around this. I can't wait to see.

BERMAN: But he has got to be careful, too, because he's got a lot at stake in terms of his sentence ultimately about how much they get out of him.

I want to shift gears, if I can, and talk about the January 6th committee which has now issued the subpoena for the former president Donald Trump. Not clear anyone on the committee actually believes that he will testify, but Liz Cheney, the vicechair of the committee, has been talking about what that testimony would look like and how it would go off if he ever in a million, billion years ever agreed to do it. She says it would be behind closed doors because she doesn't want it to surface. Listen.


REP. LIZ CHENEY, (R-WY): We are going to proceed in terms of the questioning of the former president under oath. It may take multiple days. And it will be done with a level of rigor and discipline and seriousness that it deserves.

He's not going to turn this into a circus. This isn't going to be his first debate against Joe Biden and the circus and the food fight that that became. This is a far too serious set of issues.


BERMAN: Do you think there is real planning going on?

RODGERS: Well, they don't want to be caught unawares, right. So yes, I think they will have some staffers do some planning to get some questions in place. But this is never going to happen, it's never going to happen, because if the Dems keep the House and they continue with the January 6th committee and its work, he just comes in and pleads the Fifth. There is an active criminal investigation into him for this exact conduct. There's no way he testifies. And if Republicans take the House, they're going to run out of time. Even the good faith discussions about timing and scope and behind closed doors or not, that would take months, much less than trying to go to court to actually force him to come. And so there's just no way.

BERMAN: Would he ever say yes, but only if it's public? Because that's what she is setting up, the opposite there, like we are not doing it public. We're not going to let him make this a circus. It's only behind closed doors. Is it too much of a risk for him to offer that? RODGERS: He won't do it. He may offer it to kind of drag this out,

but they would be very smart not to allow him. They have kept very good control. It has been very powerful presentations, and that's what they would want here, to be able to control exactly what is released.

BERMAN: Jennifer Rodgers, thank you very much.

KEILAR: Now to the situation in Ukraine. While Russia is said to be moving administrative services out of Kherson, Ukrainian defense officials say they're bringing more troops in to defend the occupied city against a new counteroffensive by Ukraine's military. So let's bring in CNN's Clarissa Ward. She is live in Mykolaiv, Ukraine. she's actually at the site of an overnight strike that left several injured. Clarissa, tell us about what you are seeing there.

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So this southern port city is just 35 miles away from Kherson, Brianna, and it is getting smacked all the time this. This attack took place in the early hours yesterday morning. Two S-300 missiles, one landing right behind me, you can see here, the size of that crater, and then the second literally slamming right into that apartment building in the top couple of floors. It's something of a miracle, Brianna, that nobody was killed in this.

And what is sort of striking is no one here can seem to work out what the target was. This is a residential area. There are apartment buildings all around. I want to show you over there, this is a children's playground, OK. And you can see what's left of it. Now, the strike happened in the early hours of the morning, as I mentioned, so no children were out playing.

But I think it gives you a feel for just how challenging it is for so many Ukrainians, particularly in the sort of embattled southern regions, to go about having any semblance of a normal life. It's also very striking, though, if you can see right behind me, they are already cleaning up, they are welding those pipes, those water pipes, back together. They are clearing debris. They are coming and grabbing whatever personal possessions they can salvage to get out of here, which again, I think it speaks to the sort of broader resilience of the Ukrainian people, and certainly the people of Mykolaiv.

But definitely they have not had a break between S-300 missile strike, constant drone strikes, and this place is really bearing the brunt. Electricity is out all the time. Water, you can't get fresh water here now. They have sort of salt water and then they have daily lines across town where you can go and get fresh water. But it's a very difficult situation here indeed.

KEILAR: Just that scene of that rainbow-colored metal, so clearly a child's playground by you there, it just stops you in your tracks as you're watching.

Can you help us make sense what is happening, Clarissa in Kherson? Because obviously very different stories coming from Russia, and Ukraine is saying actually, no, they're bringing in more troops.


WARD: So this is sort of a very difficult one to have a good read on, because it's a Russian-controlled area, because the only information we get out of there officially is Russian state propaganda. They say they've been evacuating civilians, that they're doing it because the Ukrainians are preparing an imminent attack. The Ukrainians say that that is nonsense. We actually managed to speak to someone on the ground in the city of Kherson. He said that Russia has pulled out its civilian administrative infrastructure, the passport office, the pension funds, the firefighters, they have all been pulled out of the city along with a lot of the soldiers who had been there for the better part of the last eight months.

But they are replacing some of those soldiers, with newer, younger soldiers, who this resident we spoke to believed to be conscripts. And actually today, Ukrainian's head of intelligence, of defense intelligence, came out and said, it doesn't actually look like the Russians are preparing to withdraw, despite there have been some hopes that that might be the case. But it looks instead that they are preparing for some kind of a mission to try to defend the city and to continue to hold on to it. And that, of course, spells misery for many of the residents who are still holding on and holding out in Kherson with the hopes that Ukraine might be able to liberate the city soon.

KEILAR: It certainly does. Clarissa, thank you so much. Please stay safe as you continue to report there near Mykolaiv, we appreciate it.

BERMAN: We could know the identity of the next British prime minister today. The former chancellor of Exchequer Rishi Sunak is emerging as the clear frontrunner now that Boris Johnson dropped out of the race. I want to bring in CNN's Max Foster live outside Parliament in London. Walk us through what's going to happen maybe today, Max.

MAX FOSTER, CNN ANCHOR AND CORRESPONDENT: It could be in the next hour that we find out. So it's down to Rishi Sunak, and Penny Mordaunt. If she can't get the backing of 100 Conservative members of Parliament, then she will fall out and Rishi Sunak will be confirmed in the next hour as the next British prime minister. If she does get 100 MPs to back her, it will go onto a wider party race. It will go out to the Conservative Party members generally around the country.

She feels she can win there. We don't know whether he will win there. At the moment though, he is certainly ahead. He's got a huge backing. we think about half of Conservative MPs are behind him at this point, And it could be many more. We'll find out in the next hour exactly what the numbers are. This is his C.V., an impeccable C.V., really. This is what he achieved in government, but going back, he went to a very prestigious British private school, Oxford University to an MBA at Stanford where he met his wife, who is the daughter of an Indian billionaire. He has made his own money as well at Goldman Sachs and at hedge funds. And they're seen as a very wealthy couple, perhaps out of touch with the cost of living crisis. But at the same time, John, he is very respected for the way he managed the British economy during the COVID crisis when he was finance minister. So he is seen as a safe pair of hands if a bit out of touch. But he's not in just yet. We'll find out in an hour whether it goes to a wider party vote, in which case we will find out on Friday who will be the next British prime minister.

BERMAN: Also, he had split from Boris Johnson which may have held him back last time around, correct?

FOSTER: So he is seen by the Boris supporters as a man that brought down Boris Johnson, so he is hated by that side of the party. But today, key Boris supporters came out in support of Sunak. So Priti Patel, for example, who was home secretary under Boris Johnson.

BERMAN: A game of thrones, or a game of prime minister, as it were, in this case. Max Foster for us outside Parliament, thank you very much.

A warning for parents about the rising number of children being stricken by respiratory viruses.

KEILAR: And with midterms right around the corner, high stakes debates could be the difference maker. What to expect from some key races ahead.



BERMAN: This morning, an unprecedented spike in respiratory illness in children. It is leaving hospitals overwhelmed. US officials say about three-quarters of the nation's pediatric hospital beds are currently filled, and that's more than any time in the past two years.

CNN's Rosa Flores is live in Houston at the Texas Children's Hospital with the latest on this -- Rosa.


Look here's the reality for parents. Yes, the number of RSV cases are up across the country, but experts will tell you, this is not a time to panic. It is a time to be informed, it is a time to be aware of your child, and it is a time to go seek help if needed.


STEPHEN BALKA, FATHER OF CHILD WITH RSV: He was born on August the 24th.

FLORES: What's he like?

BALKA: A ball of joy.

FLORES (voice over): Little Adrian was healthy when all of a sudden --

BALKA: He was struggling to breathe and struggling to cough all at the same time.

FLORES: Then his dad, Stephen Balka noticed pauses in his breathing that lasted for seven seconds. BALKA: It got bad quick.

FLORES: Balka remembers fearing the worst as he rushed to the hospital.

BALKA: There is no way to describe it. I mean, it was a terrifying situation. It was heartbreaking.

FLORES: At seven weeks old, Little Adrian was admitted into the pediatric intensive care unit and diagnosed with respiratory syncytial virus or RSV, a common respiratory disease that is spreading at unusually high levels and could be severe in babies and young children according to the CDC.

Dr. Melanie Kitagawa says more than 40 children are hospitalized at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston, including more than 10 in pediatric ICU.

DR. MELANIE KITAGAWA, MEDICAL DIRECTOR, TEXAS CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL PEDIATRIC ICU: It's awful. It's terrible to have any family go through this.

FLORES: Nine-month-old, Koa, is on a ventilator and the pumps by him are filled with medication to keep him comfortable.

Down the hall, seven-month-old Miles was flown from Beaumont, a city 85 I've miles from Houston where the local hospital didn't have a pediatric ICU says his dad.


FLORES (on camera): What are the treatments available?

KITAGAWA: So, it is going to be symptom management to give their body time to fight this off and clear the virus.

FLORES (voice over): She also says Texas Children's Hospital started seeing the spike in cases last month, but hospitals across the country have been overwhelmed by various viral respiratory illnesses, including COVID and the flu for months.

Children's Healthcare of Atlanta has had a surge tent up since August. Connecticut Children's Hospital converted play rooms into patient rooms. This as recent CDC data representing only nine percent of the population showed over 7,000 RSV cases in one week alone, the highest one week total in the past two years.

FLORES (on camera): How can you think that she got RSV?

BALKA: This was in school, she started having this cough.

FLORES (voice over): Balka says his four-year-old daughter Trinity got RSV, and days later, little Adrian did, too. Some pediatricians believe that the spread of RSV gained speed as children returned to school and brought the virus home.

Doctors say parents should be on the lookout for symptoms like runny nose, decreased appetite, coughing, sneezing, fever, and wheezing.

And while there is no vaccine to reduce the strain on hospitals, Dr. Kitagawa says parents can teach their children good hygiene and --

KITAGAWA: The flu vaccine is incredibly important.

BALKA: I talk to him always.

FLORES: What do you say?

BALKA: Just let him know that I'm here. Hey, look, I'm here, you know, cover his little feet up.

FLORES (voice over): Little Adrian has been on a ventilator for a week. His sister has fully recovered.

FLORES (on camera): What would you tell parents who are watching this story?

BALKA: Don't wait. Do not wait. If you feel as if something is wrong with your child, you know your child better than anyone does. Get your child help immediately.

FLORES (voice over): And then be patient because recovery doesn't happen overnight.


FLORES (on camera): Hospitals across the country are taking mitigating measures. Here at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston, doctors are tapping into a network of about 60 outpatient clinics and they're also opening up more virtual visits.

And John, this is so the ER can be available to the most sick and the most vulnerable -- John.

BERMAN: All right, Rosa, thanks for being there for us. Appreciate it.

BRIANNA KEILAR: Joining us now is Dr. Frank Esper. He is a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the Cleveland Clinic Children's Hospital.

Doctor, thank you so much for being with us. I mean, you see these little children, these babies, the especially vulnerable ones in the hospital.

I want to get straight to what parents need to know when should they be saying, "I need to get to the hospital with my small child."

DR. FRANK ESPER, PEDIATRIC INFECTIOUS DISEASE SPECIALIST, CLEVELAND CLINIC CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: Yes, listen, this is a gauntlet that every child has to go through every year, at least every year that doesn't have a COVID pandemic.

And while we haven't seen a lot of RSV in the last two years, we certainly know as pediatricians what RSV does, especially to the youngest, the smallest infants. And the biggest issue -- the biggest thing I want to tell all the parents out there is that the smaller your child is, especially under one year of age, but certainly under the age of two, because they're so small, RSV clogs up the airways.

And so that means the smaller you are, the smaller your airways are, the easier it is to clog and the harder time those small infants have to breathe.

And so if your child is having problems breathing, they're breathing too fast, or they're struggling too much or they are wheezing, that's the time you need to reach out to your physician for him or her to be seen.

KEILAR: And so, look, some people wait, especially when you have a small baby, people are exhausted, right? They're trying to make that decision. There's cold colds, they're always going to the doctor. Why is this so different? Why is it so essential that they don't wait?

ESPER: You know, RSV is one of we'll call it the big three of the viruses. Certainly, we know all about COVID. We certainly know about influenza, but RSV, again, is known by every pediatrician because it fills up our hospitals every year.

Usually it fills up our hospitals in the winter. Now, it's more of a summer. But this is something that we've dealt with and we see how much these infants really struggle or children who have lung problems like asthma or who have heart problems or immune problems, all of them can get sick or very sick at any age. But certainly any child without those can get sick if they're very, very young.

If they're having a difficulty breathing, they are coughing so much that they can't eat or drink, then they're going to get dehydrated, and then everything's going to snowball right after that.

So, when they're having problems breathing, when they're having problems eating, you really need to be seen as soon as you can.

KEILAR: Is there anything you can do for children to kind of prevent getting to that severe point?


ESPER: Yes, you know certainly, we talk about washing our hands and we've been doing this, you know with the Holy Trinity washing hands masking and social distancing that we've been doing over the last two and a half years. That certainly works against RSV as well. That's one of the reasons why we saw such a dip in RSV over the last two years is because everybody has been doing so good with hand hygiene. People have been wearing masks and people have not been sick when they go to school and when they go to work and so they're not bringing those sicknesses home, they're not getting exposed.

The best thing you can do for your child, since there is no vaccine is to make sure that you yourself, wash your hands and continue to be vigilant in protecting yourself against all the respiratory viruses so that you don't bring them home to the small children, and that the children themselves also learn how to wash their hands and be as well protected as they can be.

KEILAR: Dr. Esper, so helpful this morning. Thank you.

ESPER: It's very good to be here. Thank you.

KEILAR: So what is next now that the January 6 Committee has subpoenaed former President Trump?

BERMAN: And the two candidates hoping to be Florida's Governor squaring off tonight in the race's first and only debate. That's next.