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White House COVID-19 Coronavirus Response Coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha Interviewed on Rising Number of RSV Cases in Children and New Coronavirus Variant; Polling Shows Republican Advantage in Upcoming Midterm Elections; Possible Influence of Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene on Possible Majority Republican Congress Examined. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired October 25, 2022 - 08:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Joining us now is Dr. Ashish Jha. He is the White House COVID-19 Coronavirus response coordinator. Sir, thank you so much for being with us this morning. It's going to be an easy winter here. Tell us what we can expect.

DR. ASHISH JHA, WHITE HOUSE COVID-19 CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: Good morning, thanks for having me back. So, yes, so this is obviously a concerning situation, right. We're seeing the rise of three viruses, circulating of three viruses at increasing levels, RSV, influenza, and COVID.

The good news here is that we're now powerless against this. For two of them we have very high quality vaccines, both influenza and COVID. So the first and most important thing people can do is go out and get vaccinated because that will keep people, kids, adults, everybody out of the hospital at very high rates. So that is probably the most important thing.

And then we know how to manage RSV. Most children, most adults, it's relatively mild. And then small number of kids who did end up getting sick from it, we can take care of it. But we need to make sure those beds are open for those kids, which is why it is really important to protect yourself against influenza and COVID as well.

KEILAR: We're going seeing limited pediatric ICU beds in some states. Are we going to be seeing makeshift hospitals or wards for children this winter?

JHA: I hope not. Obviously, we're seeing a lot of RSV right now. My hope is that turns around. What worries me is if we then add influenza and COVID on top of that, that's where I think we can start getting into trouble, but we don't have to. And this is why it's been so important. Look, we can't control everything, but there are things we can control. The two most important things right now are going out and getting the influenza shot, the flu shot, and going out and getting the new updated COVID shot. If people do those two things, then that really reduces the burden on the healthcare system and allows us to focus on taking care of kids with RSV. KEILAR: When it comes to COVID, what can you tell us about the new

subvariants you're tracking?

JHA: Yes, so we're tracking them very closely. They're incredibly immune invasive. The good news is that they are -- the ones that are circulating and growing here in the United States are all derivatives of BA.5. We have built a BA.5 vaccine. So there is a brand-new vaccine, some people are still learning about it, this is a new bivalent vaccine, and it actually targets BA.5. So I remain pretty confident, I'm very confident that the new vaccines will hold up against the subvariants. But if you're relying on a vaccine you got six months or nine months ago or an infection you got a year to get you through this fall and winter, there is a pretty high likelihood that the new subvariants are going to escape immunity from that.

KEILAR: A lot of people are doing that. You have President Biden who is getting his booster later this afternoon, but only 33 percent of eligible Americans have received the booster, the subvariant booster. How big of a problem is it that they're not getting it?

JHA: So, look, we're off to a good start, I think. We're going to get to see more and more Americans get vaccinated in the weeks ahead as the weather starts getting colder and people start thinking about the holidays, they start planning Thanksgiving and Christmas and Rosh Hashanah and other things. People are going to really start thinking about how do we get through the holiday season safely. And I think you're going to see more and more Americans get vaccinated.

KEILAR: What can you say about the fatigue? I don't think we can ignore that there is some, right? Not just can COVID precautions, but maybe even some vaccine fatigue that people out there are experiencing.

JHA: What I remind people is we're in a very different place in this pandemic. And what that means is that we can gather safely again. People can get together for the holidays. People don't have to take the same level of precautions that we did in 2020. But people should do it smartly and safely. I get vaccinated every year for influenza. I actually have to because my hospital where I used to work required it. Getting a shot once a year, that's for flu, for most Americans, COVID shots now once a year, I think if people did that, they really don't have to think about this as much. They can get through the holiday season safely. And it's a new way of being, and I think it is something that most Americans have been willing to do with influenza and I suspect will be willing to do with COVID as well.

KEILAR: Can you tell us more about those subvariants specifically and where you think this is going to be going further down the line?

JHA: Yes, so it's a very good question. The subvariants that we're tracking most closely in the United States, there is a group of them, but BQ.1 and BQ.11, they are very immune evasive. There's XPV in Singapore. We don't have much of it here. As I said earlier, BQ.11, the one that we're tracking most closely is a derivative of BA.5, and so, again, our vaccines should do a good job of holding up against this new subvariant. Where the virus goes, this has been a highly kind of unpredictable

virus. We have seen it evolve over time. And the good news is that we have -- as the virus changes, we have been able to keep up. So the new vaccines keep up. I suspect that there may be another vaccine next fall.


But we're getting into a tempo where for majority of people it's going to be a once a year updated vaccine.

KEILAR: Is there a potential for an RSV vaccine?

JHA: There are a couple of companies that are pretty far along in developing RSV vaccines, and those data are not out yet so we'll see what happens. I am hopeful that we're going to have an RSV vaccine by next fall. But again, we'll have to see how the science and data goes and really be driven by that.

KEILAR: It would be amazing to be speaking here in a year and to be saying that the solution is that we should be vaccinated for all three of them and to have that option. Dr. Jha, we always appreciate your time. Thank you so much.

JHA: Thank you.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: This morning, the two people killed at the St. Louis high school have been identified, 61-year-old Jean Kuczka was a health and physical education teacher at the Central Visual and Performing Arts High Schools. Students say she lost her life trying to protect theirs. Alexandria Bell, a tenth grader at the school was just a month shy of her 16th birthday. The 19-year-old gunman who graduated from the school last year was shot in a gun battle with police at the scene. He later died at a hospital. Police credited a quick emergency response for preventing even more deaths.


INTERIM CHIEF MICHAEL SACK, ST. LOUIS POLICE: This could have been much worse. The individual had almost a dozen 30-round high capacity magazines on him. So that's a whole lot of victims there. But because of the quick response, that suspect didn't have the opportunity to turn this into -- it certainly is tragic for the families and it's tragic for the community, but it could have been a whole lot worse.


BERMAN: Police do not have a motive for the shooting.

In a new CNN poll, Wisconsin voters say the economy is their top issue, 47 percent say it's the economy compared with just 19 percent who say abortion. In Pennsylvania, 44 percent say it's the economy, inflation that is most important to them as they head to the polls.

With us now, former senior adviser to George W. Bush and the John McCain campaigns and creator and co-host of "The Circus" on Showtime, Mark McKinnon. Nice to see you here. Big debate tonight. You've been through a few big debates in your day. What do these candidates want to do?

MARK MCKINNON, CREATOR AND CO-HOST, "THE CIRCUS" ON SHOWTIME: They want to beat expectations. It is all about an expectations game. This is not a forensic debate where you get scored on points or cogent arguments. It is about voter expectations. And in this debate, because of the health issues that John Fetterman has had, he has very low expectations. Oz, because he is a television personality, has a lot of experience on T.V., has very high expectations. So the expectations game is set, and -- but this is probably the most pivotal debate of the entire season, right, because the control of the Senate is probably going to come down to Pennsylvania, Georgia, or Nevada.

BERMAN: And if you flip Pennsylvania for Democrats, it gives you a little bit of pad.

MCKINNON: Gives you the pad that you need, likely will need given what is happening in the rest of the country and the way the winds blowing right now.

BERMAN: The winds blowing. We showed the polls which find that the economy and inflation are the top issue around the country right now, which is seen as a good issue for Republicans at this moment. And Democrats and President Biden, people are starting to use the word pivot. They're beginning to pivot toward the economy. How much can they do in the remaining 14 days, and in what ways could they or should they talk about the economy?

MCKINNON: Well, the problem is that there's not much you can do about it, right? They can -- Biden can talk about the inflation act that he legislated and the prescription drugs that help protect against inflationary measures that are hurting people. But it's a tough deal. And so Republicans are on offense, understandably. But Democrats, the stuff on abortion is baked in. So they can't ignore the economy. And they've got to tell people how they've helped them and protected them from the downturn.

BERMAN: What they're trying to do, some Democrats, is just saying these guys are worse. Republicans are worse at this.

MCKINNON: Yes. Well, but the problem is you are at the wheel right now. And as James Carville said, it's the economy, stupid, and it often is. And so it's boiling down to that. But at the same time, while those winds are blowing, you're seeing some encouraging signs like in Wisconsin where Mandela Barnes seems to be tightening the face there. So it's still about candidate quality, too.

BERMAN: So on your latest episode of "The Circus," you guys explore a phenomenon, which may become even more important if Republicans take control of Congress, and that's the Marjorie Taylor Greene phenomenon, who has gone from fringe, perhaps, to the forefront.

MCKINNON: That's the thing. So people have, you know, always sort of pointed to Marjorie Taylor Greene and say she's a fringe, nut candidate, out there, including people in her own party. She was taken off her committee assignments with the tacit agreement of a lot of Republicans. But the point about Marjorie Taylor Greene is that if Republicans take control of the Congress, which is likely, the House, the Republican Party is going to look more like Marjorie Taylor Greene than Kevin McCarthy. I'll just tell you that right now. She's already influencing the policy on the Republican side with issues like Ukraine funding.


BERMAN: Let's watch a little bit of "The Circus" on this.


MCKINNON: Marjorie Taylor Greene is a force in this district. Where does that power come from?

MARCUS FLOWERS, CONGRESSIONAL CANDIDATE: Rightwing media would be my guess. I think she's been given a lot of cover by, I won't say his name, the orange American, our former president.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I watched your debate. You asked if you thought Joe Biden was legitimately elected, and you said he is the president of the United States. Do you think he was legitimately elected?

REP. MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE, (R-GA): I think there is a lot of fraud in the election, and there is nothing wrong with the American people, taxpayers, by the way, that pay for the elections, if they want audits --


GREENE: -- they have every right. No, they were hand counts. There were many things that weren't investigated.


BERMAN: Of course, that was Marjorie Taylor Greene and also the man who is running against her.

MCKINNON: Marcus Flowers, yes. He's a terrific candidate, a former Army veteran. But it's a hugely Republican district. Trump won it by 49 points -- Taylor Greene won it by 49, Trump won it by 50. So it's an uphill battle for the Democrat who is a very good candidate, but she's likely going to win that. And the point is that the Republican Party is moving more toward her rather than away from her.

BERMAN: It will be interesting to see what she does with this power. Mark McKinnon --

MCKINNON: She's going to be on the Oversight Committee which means investigations, investigations. She's talking about impeaching Trump, the attorney general --

BERMAN: Impeaching Biden, yes.

MCKINNON: I'm sorry, Impeaching Biden, right. BERMAN: Mark McKinnon, great to see you. Thank you very much.

KEILAR: Adidas is ending its partnership with Kanye West. The German sneaker giant says it does not tolerate antisemitism and any other sort of hate speech. Kanye's recent comments and actions have been unacceptable, it says, hateful, and dangerous. Adidas goes on to say the remarks violated the company's values of diversity and inclusion, mutual respect and fairness. Kanye, also known as Ye, has been facing growing backlash from comments over the past few weeks targeting Jewish people, including a tweet that got him suspended from Twitter.

Bob Woodward releasing hours upon hours of his interviews with President Trump, former President Trump, in a new audio book. We have new clips next.

BERMAN: Brittney Griner in court today, appealing her drug conviction and prison sentence.

And there is a new British prime minister again. Can Rishi Sunak calm the chaos and turn around the U.K. economy?



KEILAR: Legendary journalist Bob Woodward releasing a new audio book that includes recordings of 20 interviews with Donald Trump.

Here is one of those clips, this is from July of 2020, just months before the election that Trump lost to Joe Biden. Woodward asks Trump about his strategy heading into the final stretch of the campaign.


BOB WOODWARD, JOURNALIST: Now, last week, sir, Jared said you are getting back on offense. And, you know, we saw that last week, your press conference where you mentioned Biden 30 times, you replaced your campaign manager, the White House attacked Fauci. I mean, is this the strategy, back on offense?

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: I have a very flexible strategy, Bob. I've had it for a long time, my whole life has been flexible strategy and I've done very well. And I had it in the last campaign too. I was very flexible. I changed campaign managers three times.

You don't understand me. But that's okay. You'll understand me after the election. But you don't understand me now.


KEILAR: Joining me now is "Washington Post" journalist and author Bob Woodward. His new audio book "The Trump Tapes," Bob Woodward's 20 interviews with President Trump out today.

Bob, thank you for doing this. There is a difference between reading something and hearing something. This is so instructive. WOODWARD: Thank you.

KEILAR: Do you understand him now?

WOODWARD: That's a great question. No. I don't. But I'm able to report on him and we hear his voice at these times of stress or -- where he has to make decisions, and I think the bottom line, you don't have to listen to -- if you listen to all of it, you'll see he does not understand the presidency, does not understand his responsibility.

And that's key to being president. It is not just all about the president, himself. He's got to tune into what the people need, what the crises are and you see Trump pulling back and particularly on the virus, covering up.

BERMAN: It's about leadership. Being president is about leadership. And particularly on COVID, you were asking him about that. I want to listen to one exchange.


WOODWARD: Was there a moment in all of this last two months where you said to yourself, this is the leadership test of a lifetime?



BERMAN: No. Bob. That was just one word, but I feel like it is a loaded word. What did you hear in that "no"?

WOODWARD: It's just peremptory. That's the way it is. Now, look at the question. The leadership test of a lifetime.

We were into the pandemic, it was totally out of control, he acknowledged that. And the leadership test of a lifetime is exactly what it was. This was a health crisis like we had never seen before. Even going back to 1918 as we now know, 1.1 million people in the United States died of this.

He never got his arms around it. And in the tapes, you see he never has a plan. Never has a strategy. Doesn't acknowledge that he needs to do some things as he told me. I always like to play it down so I don't panic people.


KEILAR: Look, it is not like he didn't have people around him telling him, Bob, that he needed to.

You have another exchange with him about his then national security adviser talking to him about what this is all going to mean. I want to play that.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP) WOODWARD: Your new national security adviser O'Brien said to you on January 28th, Mr. President, this virus is going to be the biggest national security threat to your presidency. Do you remember that?

TRUMP: No, no.

WOODWARD: You don't?

TRUMP: No, I don't. No, I don't. I'm sure if he said it, he said. Nice guy.


KEILAR: How was he absorbing information from people, from experts? Because they were around him.

WOODWARD: Well, think of the power of this moment. You're president of the United States, your national security adviser comes in, his deputy Matt Pottinger, who had been in China for seven years, is a "Wall Street Journal" reporter, knew the Chinese were lying, talked to people in China who said this is going to be the challenge of a lifetime, the health crisis of a lifetime.

And Trump kind of, well, you know, I'm not sure I remember it, but I know he said it. Of course, he knows he said it because I have the details from O'Brien and Pottinger about that session on January 28th. And it is one of the real moments where the presidency is there, is responsible.

Imagine being in that position and your experts come in and say, this is going to be the national security test of your presidency. And you kind -- you -- what would you do? You would call everyone in, you would say, let's think about this, what are the -- what are the options here? What is my responsibility to the public? And he tunes out.

BERMAN: Bob, can we take a step to the side for a moment here. Because all the clips we played so far have this common theme, which is I feel like we're hearing him strategize his discussions with you personally. When he tells you the first thing we played, you don't get me bob, but you will, after the election you will get me.

The no to a leadership of a lifetime question you ask him and the way he is also dismiss of the Robert O'Brien thing, I don't remember, but I'm sure he's a nice guy, so it happened.

But the way he said it to you, what do you think his strategy was in dealing with you?

WOODWARD: I don't think Trump is somebody who deals in strategies. I think that's part of the problem. And I think he wanted to sell himself, his presidency to me. He agreed to do these interviews. After Lindsey Graham, the senator from South Carolina, a Trump supporter told him that I would not put words in his mouth. I did not put words in his mouth of course. In fact, when the first -- the book, "Rage", came out, Trump said, oh,

I said some great things in that book. I let him have his say, but you see in it he is struggling with not only what to do, but what is his responsibility? And that doesn't come up.

My assistant Claire McMullen has listened to these tapes many, many times. And she found one time Trump referred to the American people, 100 times he referred to himself, what he knows, like, on Kim Jong-un, the CIA says he is stupid, Trump says, oh, no, he's smart, and then Trump says, and, again, it is the power of the audio and it is kind of intimacy, he says, only I know -- I've never heard of the -- any of the ten presidents I've reported on ever approaching the point. Now, maybe they thought sometimes only they knew.


But to say that, to -- that is the message you are -- that this is all about him, on the strategy of dealing with North Korea, I asked, are you trying to drive -- get Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader, the thug of all times, who starves his people, are you trying to get him to the bargaining table?

And Trump says, oh, no, it's instinct. Let's talk about instinct. Who knows? You can't -- this is -- this is historic moment, challenge, and a historic danger dealing with North Korea this way. And it is all going to be done on instinct.

KEILAR: And it's -- to hear it in his words, right? That's the key.

Something -- that strikes me as you're going through cataloging, your assistant's cataloging this, no mentions hardly of the American people. When we think of you, bob, we think of your coverage of Watergate. We think of Richard Nixon.

When you're looking at president -- former President Trump, and you're comparing him to former President Nixon, in terms of serving people, in terms of leadership, is what Nixon did overall comparative to Trump when it comes to serving people? I mean, how would you rank Nixon versus Trump?

WOODWARD: Well, I mean, first of all, Nixon was a criminal and if there was a stolen election, it was 1972 when he oversaw a massive campaign espionage and sabotage to get the Democratic Party to nominate a weaker candidate. And it succeeded. So, those are crimes and when the public and particularly the Republican Party listen to his tapes, they forced him to resign.

In the case of Trump, it is in this health crisis, in the racial unrest crisis, it was always about him. And it's not. You -- if you're president, I mean, you -- you two, you have people who work with you, producers, researchers, experts, you can't just go do this show alone. You can't do anything alone.

You particularly cannot do the president -- the presidency alone. At one point, in one of these interviews, one of the early ones with Robert Costa, my colleague at "The Post" in 2016, we did an interview with Trump and Trump says he's the lone ranger. Well, no, it's not -- you can't be a masked man and run the country responsibly.

KEILAR: No, you can't.

Bob, this is fascinating. Thank you for sharing this with us. Bob Woodward, great to have you.

WOODWARD: Thank you.

KEILAR: The clock is ticking for Elon Musk to complete his deal to buy Twitter or he could face trial.

BERMAN: The international space station forced to fire its thrusters to get out of the way of space junk.