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The Situation Room
January 6th Committee Subpoenas Ex-DOJ Official Who Aided Trumps Attempted Coup; Biden Responds To Crisis Threatening Economy Amid Agenda Stalemate; U.S. To Reopen Canada And Mexico Borders To Vaccinated Travelers; 90-Year-Old William Shatner Makes History As Oldest Person In Space; North Korea Uses Netflix Hit "Squid Game" To Attack "Beastly" Capitalism In South Korea. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired October 13, 2021 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
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Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer right next door in THE SITUATION ROOM. I'll see you tomorrow.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news. The January 6th select committee has officially subpoenaed a Trump-era Justice Department official who was integral in helping the then-president try to overturn the election. I'll ask Congressman Adam Schiff about all of the new developments in this critical week for the Capitol riot investigation.
Also tonight, President Biden responds to a crisis threatening the U.S. economy, announcing new moves to ease gridlock in the global supply chain. But he is still struggling to end the stalemate over his economic agenda.
And we're also getting our first look at William Shatner weightless during his historic and deeply emotional flight to the edge of space. Tonight, the actor who inspired Americans to explore the cosmos is talking to CNN about his real-life Star Trek.
Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
And let's get to the breaking news. The -- we're beginning with the January 6th investigation and the select committee's new subpoena targeting a high level accomplice in Donald Trump's attempted coup.
Let's go to our Congressional Correspondent, Ryan Nobles. Ryan, is truly a significant week in the investigation. What are you learning?
RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Wolf. Jeffrey Clark was one of the Department of Justice officials who was pushing the former president's big lie within the agency, attempting to use the Department of Justice to look into claims of fraud in the 2020 election, despite there being no evidence of such fraud.
This, an example of how the January 6th select committee using every tool they have available to try to get as much information as they can from associates close to the former president.
NOBLES (voice over): Tonight, the January 6th select committee is making serious moves --
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): We're not messing around.
NOBLES: -- meeting with a key member of the Trump-era Justice Department, and taking steps to force another one to comply with their investigation.
Sources say former Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen met Wednesday with the committee behind closed doors. Rosen served as A.G. leading up to January 6th and resisted the former president's efforts to use the power of the Justice Department to investigate false claims of election fraud.
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: The case has already been made if you look at the polls. It was a rigged election. You look at the different states, the election was totally rigged.
NOBLES: Meanwhile, the committee is taking action to insure another Trump associate cooperates, issuing a subpoena to Jeffrey Clark, a high-level member of the Trump Justice Department who tried to help Trump overturn the 2020 election.
Clark attempted to pressure DOJ leadership to investigate unfounded claims of election fraud. The committee had been negotiating behind the scenes with Clark to get him to work with the committee. But after weeks of resistance, they took the step of a subpoena, writing to Clark, quote, the select committee's investigation has revealed credible evidence that you attempted to involve the Department of Justice in efforts to interrupt the peaceful transfer of power.
The new round of work by the committee comes a day before a series of major deadlines. Two Trump allies, Steve Bannon and former Defense Department Official Kash Patel, are scheduled to appear before the committee Thursday for private depositions.
Bannon has sent the committee a letter telling them he does not plan to cooperate. If he doesn't show on Thursday, they promised they'll take quick action to enforce the subpoena.
SCHIFF: If people don't show up, if people don't provide the documents they're compelled to, we intend to take up criminal contempt and refer to the Justice Department and we expect that it will be prosecuted, that unlike the last administration, no one is above the law, and so we intend to move quickly. NOBLES: On Friday, the committee has asked former White House Officials Mark Meadows and Dan Scavino to appear. Meadows is engaging with the committee, but Scavino only received his subpoena last Friday.
REP. ELAINE LURIA (D-VA): I can assure you that the committee is considering each of these cases individually on its merits and will move swiftly to get the information we need as part of this investigation.
NOBLES: The committee is feeling a sense of urgency, as Trump continues to peddle his big lie about the election results and is finding willing Republican voters and leaders to agree with him.
TRUMP: You always read in there, while there's no evidence to prove this, there's so much evidence. It's pouring out of our ears.
NOBLES (on camera): And the former president has made it clear he is going to do everything he possibly can to prevent the committee from getting the information they're looking for. He said that he's going to attempt to defend executive privilege, but he's having a hard time finding legal help in that goal. In fact, CNN reached out to a number of lawyers that have once worked for the former president in different capacities, and many of them say that they are not signing up for that job. That includes Ty Cobb, Jay Sekulow, others like William Burke, all saying that they're not interested. And the former president has said he will have no problem finding attorneys willing to help him, but at this point, Wolf, it is not clear who is leading that effort for him at this point.
BLITZER: That's interesting indeed. All right, Ryan Nobles, thank you very much.
Joining us now, a prominent member of the January 6th select committee, Congressman Adam Schiff, he's also the Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee and he's the Author of an important and very timely brand-new book entitled, there you see the cover, Midnight in Washington, How We Almost Lost Our Democracy and Still Could.
Congressman, thank you so much for joining us, and still could is very worrisome. We're going to get to that in a little while.
But let's talk about the breaking news that's unfolding right now. Can you confirm that your committee did in fact hear today from the former acting attorney general, Jeffrey Rosen, and if you did, can you share what you learned?
SCHIFF: I'm not able to confirm it. We're not commenting on who's coming in and the timing apart from when we make public announcements, as we did today, about the subpoena of Mr. Clark. But I can tell you we're bringing in Justice Department officials. We had, you know, I'm very pleased to say, the cooperation of the current Justice Department and the White House. They're not asserting executive privilege. They understand the unique circumstances here where there was a violent attempt to over through the government, and, appropriately, they believe that privilege concerns have to give way.
BLITZER: I know you have also just subpoenaed Jeffrey Clark, the former high ranking Justice Department official who tried to actually help Trump overturn the 2020 election. Do you expect him to cooperate?
SCHIFF: Very hard to say. We subpoenaed him because we couldn't get voluntary cooperation, and we were tired of waiting. And at the end of the day, we're going to move, and we're going to move fast to make sure that we get this information with the American people, and if we don't, and if they don't show up and don't cooperate, we will vote to hold them in criminal contempt in the House. We'll refer that to the Justice Department and expect them to be prosecuted.
BLITZER: Would you like both of these former Justice Department officials, Rosen and Clark, to testify publicly?
SCHIFF: I think there will come a time that we will want many of these witnesses, perhaps not all of them, but many to testify publicly so that the public can hear them directly, evaluate their credibility. But also, we cannot acclimate ourselves to what's gone on in the last four years. It ought to shock Americans what they already know because the Senate findings are already public, and that is that Clark and others tried to subvert the election, tried to use the power of the Justice Department that is meant to represent the interests of justice to overturn the election, to make claims of false investigations into nonexistent fraud, to try to get Georgia to appoint a new set of electors based on a completely fraudulent effort to overturn the election.
And the subversion of that department was such a dire threat to our democracy, the public really needs to hear from this, these witnesses, I think ultimately publicly, but be aware of how dangerous the situation was.
BLITZER: Because we do know a lot already. So what are the big unanswered questions that we don't know the answers to that was taking place during the final days of the Trump Justice Department?
SCHIFF: Well, I think really the big black box in all of this is what was the president's role? We know some of the things about what the president did, certainly in propagating the big lie before that day, and what he did at the rally that day, but what was going on at the White House? What did he know in advance of January 6th about who was coming to this rally, the presence of white nationalist groups the propensity for violence. Why didn't reinforcements come in to protect the Capitol more quickly? That's the biggest unknown, was what was the president doing, what were the people around him doing?
In terms of the Justice Department, we know what some of these witnesses have said. But others have yet to be heard from. We still haven't heard from Mr. Clark, and we will.
BLITZER: I know you're saying, and you have said yesterday, you told CNN, we're not messing around on criminal contempt for uncooperative witnesses. There's legal contempt versus criminal contempt. Explain what you intend to do if they don't cooperate.
SCHIFF: Well, we don't want to go through endless civil litigation like we did in the last few years. Donald Trump demonstrated that essentially he could tie us up in court for years, literally, when we tried to get the former White House counsel, Don McGahn, to testify, it took us two years to do it. He didn't testify until Trump was out of office.
We're not willing to allow them to play rope-a-dope in the civil courts that way. Now, that's why we're going to straight to criminal contempt and expect the Justice Department, unlike the last one, to uphold the principle that no one is above the law. No one gets to say I'm not going to comply with the subpoena because I don't want. And there's nothing you could do about it. In fact, there is something that can be done about it, and they can be prosecuted and they can go to jail over it.
BLITZER: And we know that Steve Bannon and Dan Scavino aren't cooperating, at least not yet, maybe clearly not cooperating. Kash Patel and Mark Meadows, you say that you have been in touch with their legal counsel. What's their status?
SCHIFF: You know, I can't go into it in particular, but, you know, I can tell you generally, we were engaging with Jeffrey Clark's counsel, ended up going nowhere, and we're using a subpoena. Where it will go with these other witnesses, I'm not at liberty to disclose, and we're still waiting to see, but we're not going to wait long. And at the end of the day, they're going to testify one way or another voluntarily or through compulsion. We're going to get answers. We're going to expose all of the misdeeds that led to that day, and write the definitive report like the 9/11 commission did on that tragedy.
BLITZER: We're getting new information from our White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins. She's standing by. I want to take a quick break. We'll get to the breaking news and continue our conversation right after this, a lot more to discuss.
BLITZER: We're back with Congressman Adam Schiff. We're talking about the breaking news in the January 6th congressional investigation. We're also discussing his brand-new book entitled, Midnight in Washington, How We Almost Lost Our Democracy and Still Could. Very disturbing, indeed.
But before we continue the conversation, I want to go to our Chief White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins. She has got new information that's just breaking right now on this investigation. What are you learning, Kaitlan? KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. This is really a follow-up to the big development last week when we learned that the Biden White House was not going to assert executive privilege over those documents related to the Trump White House on January 6th. Of course, those are documents that lawmakers are seeking as they're investigating what was happening inside the White House on January 6th.
And the Biden White House, we should note, has now formally rejected the request by the former president to shield some of those documents, of course, from getting -- from having access to those lawmakers who had been seeking to get access to those documents.
And this is a letter that was just made public on the White House's website. It was sent by the White House counsel to the National Archives last week as a follow-up. Once the former president had sent his letter saying there were about 40 to 50 documents that he wanted to assert executive privilege over.
But in this letter, they are saying, yes, there is still the stance we had last week. We're making it official that we are not going to assert executive privilege over these documents.
And, Wolf, what's is new here of course is that we don't know what's exactly what in these documents that the former president was trying to shield from these lawmakers, but we could find out soon because the White House counsel says in this letter that's been published on the website that President Biden instructs them to provide the pages identified as privileged by the former president to the select committee.
And they want it done in a timely manner, Wolf, because they say those pages 30 days after your notification to the former president, of course, this is a very key clause here, absent any intervening court order. That is something that has been widely expected for the former president to potentially make this a court issue given he has wanted this privilege to be asserted over these documents. That is a big decision by this White House not to do so.
And now they have made it formal that when it comes to these documents that we were talking about last week, the subset of documents that was requested by the committee, they're not going to be asserting any executive privilege over those documents.
BLITZER: Yes. That's really, really significant. All right, Kaitlan, thank you very much for breaking that news for us.
Congressman Schiff is with us. Let me get your reaction to what we just heard.
SCHIFF: Well, I think it's very, very positive that the Biden administration recognizes that these are unique circumstances, where the privilege, if one indeed were ever to apply, needs to be waived in the public interest, given this was a violent attempt to overthrow the government. It's not unlike the situation during Watergate where a court ruled that the privilege had to give way to the enormous public interest. So, right judgment by the White House, not an inevitable one. A lot of White Houses might decide we're just going to protect executive prerogative in the future. We don't want this to be used to seek records of ours later. But, no, they understand the importance here. And I think that's really important.
BLITZER: So when do you think realistically you'll start getting those Trump era White House documents?
SCHIFF: Well, I was particularly pleased that the White House said this need to be provided in a timely way to Congress. I have no doubt the Trump administration will continue to try to fight it, they may try to litigate over it, but I think we can expect the courts to move quickly. And here where you have the current president of the United States in alignment with the Congress in a bipartisan request for this information, that will undoubtedly outweigh any interest by the former president to cover up his culpability.
BLITZER: You've really been outspoken recent days in going after the top Republican leadership in the House of Representatives, Kevin McCarthy, the minority leader. You say he and other Republicans, you accuse them of being insurrectionists in suits and ties. I want you to watch the House minority whip, Steve Scalise, squirming in response to questions on Fox News, Chris Wallace, on Sunday.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Do you think the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump?
REP. STEVE SCALISE (R-LA): If you look at a number of states, they didn't follow their state-passed laws that govern the election for president.
WALLACE: So you think the election was stolen?
SCALISE: What I said is there are states that didn't follow their legislatively set rules. That's what the United States Constitution says.
WALLACE: Last time, I promise, do you think the election was stolen or not? I understand you think there were irregularities and things that need to be fixed. Do you think the election was stolen?
SCALISE: And it's not just irregularities. It's states that did not follow the laws set which the Constitution says they're supposed to follow.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Do you consider Congressman Steve Scalise an insurrectionist in a suit and tie? SCHIFF: Yes, I consider anyone who voted to overturn the election results and continues to propagate the president's big lie to be an insurrectionist in suit and tie. And, you know, as a member of this committee, I have to acknowledge, we may have another violent attack on the Capitol given the president is still pushing out this lie. But that will fail like the last one did.
Where they could succeed is in these efforts around the country to pass these laws to take away power from independent elections officials and give them over to partisans. And that is a real and present danger to our democracy.
What you just showed of Steve Scalise, and I read about this in the book, the historian, Robert Carroll, once wrote, power doesn't corrupt as much as it reveals. It has revealed Steve Scalise not able to speak the truth about our election. And it has revealed in so many other ways that while courage is contagious, so is cowardice. And right now, there's an epidemic of cowardice in the GOP where they will not stand up to this unethical former president. They'll continue to carry his lies even though those lies eat at the heart of our democracy. If we can't trust elections to resolve who will govern, that just paves the way for violence.
And I can't believe that folks who ran for Congress with the intent of undermining our democracy, but I wanted to write about how that happens, how in four short years, Donald Trump was able to completely remake one of America's great parties, and co-opt so many of the people I work with.
BLITZER: The subtitle, How We Almost Lost Our Democracy and Still Could. So you're saying it's still possible we could lose our democracy here in the United States?
SCHIFF: Without a doubt. And the way that happens is the way it happens in other countries. It's not always by violent revolution. It's through quasi-legal means. It's by using the architecture of democracy to destroy democracy, which is what they're doing around the country in these state legislatures.
They realize that in the next presidential election, if they can't disenfranchise enough people to win, they need a mechanism to overturn the results. They are preparing to succeed where they failed in overturning the last election. If they are able to do that, it may very well spell the end of our democracy.
BLITZER: Because in the book, and I have gone through it, I mean, it's really remarkable, some of your conclusions. Let me put up on the screen. You write, freedom is not assured, it is as ever something we have to fight for every day, so let us fight. And then you write, our present circumstances are desperate, but we do not have the luxury of despair.
Could you elaborate a little? Because Americans are watching, people around the world are watching us right now, and they're asking the question, is it really possible that we could lose our democracy? SCHIFF: It is really possible and we have to acknowledge that. We have to go into this time with our eyes wide open. But we are going to get through this. And I want people to understand that. This book, you know, the title, Midnight, was picked because it's the darkest hour every day everywhere in the world, but it's also a hopeful time because what follows is the prospect of light. We're going to get through this because while there may be this epidemic at the moment of cowardice, we have also seen great illustrations of courage.
And I profile these heroes that have emerged over the last several years, people like Dan Coats, who did his job and got fired because of it, Fiona Hill and Alexander Vindman and Marie Yovanovitch. If Marie Yovanovitch, this wonderful former ambassador to Ukraine, had not defied the president and been willing to testify, we may never have learned the full facts of his corrupt conduct, Trump's corrupt conduct vis-a-vis Ukraine. And it's these heroes that we should draw inspiration from.
And it's also folks like this, like Mitt Romney, who stood up against his party when they were wrong, that validate to me the founders' belief that we have sufficient virtue as human beings to govern ourselves.
BLITZER: Thank you, Congressman, for writing this book. Very important book, indeed. I understand number one on Amazon already.
SCHIFF: Somehow, which I can't understand, but I'm very grateful.
BLITZER: People want to read it. Thank you so much for joining us, once again, the title of the book, Midnight in Washington, How We Almost Lost Our Democracy and Still Could, Congressman Adam Schiff.
Coming up, a stalled agenda, the crisis in Afghanistan, the ongoing pandemic, and now supply shortages and rising prices.
Our exclusive new CNN poll shows what impact it may be having on President Biden's approval rating.
Plus, Star Trek's Captain Kirk, 90-year-old Actor William Shatner, going where no man his age has gone before, we're going to hear his emotional reaction to his historic flight to the edge of space. He talks to CNN. That's ahead.
BLITZER: President Biden is moving to ease a growing crisis that may already be impacting his poll numbers, and at the same time, trying to bridge gaps within his own party that have his agenda in deep peril right now.
Today, he announced one of the nation's busiest ports in Los Angeles will now operate around the clock in an effort to fix severe congestion in the global supply chain causing that -- causing some widespread shortages and higher prices.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: With the holidays coming up, you might be wondering if the gifts you plan to buy will arrive on time.
We have some good news, we're going to help speed up the delivery of goods all across America.
After weeks of negotiation and working with my team, and with the major union retailers and freight movers, the ports of Los Angeles -- the port of Los Angeles announced today that it's going to begin operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, let's get some more on all of this. Our CNN Political Director David Chalian is with us, and our CNN Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger is with us as well.
Gloria, White House keep saying these economic issues, these problem are temporary, but this recovery clearly is going a lot worse than the White House had thought it would.
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. I think they felt that they had turned the corner on COVID, and then came the delta variant, and there were problems. There is inflation, product shortages, labor shortages. And the administration now has to convince the American public that they're going to make it better. And that's what the president was trying to do today, to say look, we understand what's going on. Your Christmas gifts are going to arrive on time, but I think they have a long way to go because the public is feeling the pinch, particularly of inflation.
BLITZER: And the political fallout is pretty significant, David. Our new CNN poll, and you have been working it, explaining it, take a look at this. Democrats are working for months to try to ease these issues. But look at this, would your family be better off if Congress passes infrastructure and reconciliation? The two bills still pending in the House right now in the Senate for that matter. Only 25 percent say your family would be better off. 32 percent say worse off. 43 percent say about the same.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, Wolf. When I saw that 25 percent number come out in our poll, I thought it was stunningly low. And I think it speaks to a failure of the administration and congressional Democrats to be able to break through the months-long conversation about a top line number on these bills and actually explain to the American people how they would benefit if these passed.
To Gloria's point, the administration clearly is of the mind that if these pass, some of these economic issues that you're talking about will ease. But notice, when you ask Gloria about the economy, what did she answer about? COVID, because they're inextricably linked. And that is exactly the reality of where the Biden White House finds themselves now, is that breaking through on any of these things while COVID is still central is a real problem. They thought they would be on the other side of that right now and they're not there yet.
And that 25 percent that thinks they would be better off, even among Democrats in our poll, only 49 percent, just half of Democrats think they would be better off. 45 percent say it would make no difference to them. So there's a real selling job that has to happen.
BLITZER: Yes. The messaging has not been impressive.
BORGER: What messaging? There isn't messaging. The messaging has been should we go with $3.5 trillion or should we go with $2 trillion or $1.5 trillion? As David was saying, they're not talking about what's in the bill. And as people sit back and watch, it's kind of like, okay, wake me when it's over. I don't know what's in it. I just know that it's going to cost a lot of money. And I have no idea how it's going to help me personally.
And if the Democrats are fighting with each other over it, I think people watch this and say, well, who's right? Which Democrat is right about it? If they can't agree on it, maybe it's not going to help me as much as I would like it to. And that's why they sent President Biden out there to talk about it, but members are still not talking about it because they don't know what's in it, because they haven't agreed on what's in it. So it's very difficult.
BLITZER: How much is on the line right now, David, for the Biden presidency?
CHALIAN: Well, I think a lot in terms of his legislative agenda just because look at the calendar. This is the moment in time. This fall, for this president and his first year with Democrats in the majority in the House and holding on to a slim majority in the Senate, a tied Senate, this is the moment to actually try to enact something. Next year's midterms could be very bad for the Democratic Party potentially. And so this is the time. And things don't move in an election year as much. So, in that, his legislative agenda hangs in the balance.
His overall approval rating in the poll is at 50 percent. 50 percent approve. 49 percent disapprove. And I think what you saw is that in the late summer, mid-August to mid-September, with the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, with the economic issues that you guys were just discussing, with the delta variant still raging in the summer, he took a dip. And now, he's sort of settled, if you look at the average of polls between 45 percent and 50 percent approval, it's not disastrous, it's not where an incumbent wants to be. And remember, if you're a Democrat in a tough district, in a marginal district that's going to determine control, that his national number.
In your district, his number is even lower.
BORGER: And the bottom line is the Democrats have to prove that they can be a governing majority, not just a majority, but that they can govern. And that they can make Washington work again for you. And that, the jury on that is still out right now. BLITZER: They could have done that two months ago when the Senate overwhelmingly bipartisan passed a $1.2 trillion traditional infrastructure package, but then the White House decided to link it to the much broader $3.5 trillion reconciliation package.
CHALIAN: Because they didn't have the votes to get it through without linking it because the progressives said no way.
BORGER: So there's no achievement yet.
BLITZER: They need that achievement.
BLITZER: All right, guys, thank you very, very much.
Coming up, decades after Americans watched him on T.V. boldly going where no man has gone before, the actor, William Shatner, goes on a real-life flight to the edge of space. He shares his very emotional reaction with CNN. That's next.
BLITZER: A major turning point tonight in the coronavirus pandemic as the United States announces plans to ease travel restrictions on its northern and southern borders. CNN's Nick Watt has all the late breaking pandemic news.
NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): After more than 18 months, the land borders with Mexico and Canada will reopen for nonessential travel early November. But just for the fully vaccinated.
PETE BUTTIGIEG, TRANSPORTATION SECRETARY: It's important news for our country, for our economy. We're talking about land ports of entry with two of our key trading partners.
WATT: Here in the U.S., five states have now fully vaccinated more than two thirds of their populations. The thing is, they're all in New England. These 15 states are yet to even reach the halfway mark. June through September, apparently about 90,000 deaths could have been prevented if more people had gotten vaccinated, says one new study.
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: We have a very good highly effective and safe vaccine.
WATT: Yet, more than 66 million eligible Americans still haven't had a shot.
JEFF ZIENTS, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: Every day, there's stronger evidence that vaccination requirements are working. They're driving up vaccination rates. WATT: Boeing just issued a vaccine mandate for all U.S. employees. In Boston, more than 800 city employees now on unpaid leave because they won't get the shots. Or take the tests.
ROB DUSTON, EMPLOYMENT ATTORNEY: They may not want to do it, but they'll end up going ahead and complying eventually.
WATT: The Governors of Texas and Florida both fighting the prevailing mandates wind. Congressman Jim Jordan agrees. Meantime, the big picture --
FAUCI: Still, we are in some aspects in the pandemic phase of the outbreak, however, we are seeing now a decline in acceleration and a turnaround of cases.
WATT: And the CDC predicts hospitalizations and deaths will continue to fall over the coming months.
WATT (on camera): And tomorrow and Friday, the FDA's vaccine advisers are going to meet to talk boosters of Moderna and Johnson & Johnson. Moderna basically wants to roll out essentially a half dose as a booster. And meantime, an NIH study says it is safe and effective to mix and match your first doses and your booster do not need to be the same brand. Wolf.
BLITZER: Very interesting indeed. Nick Watt reporting for us, thank you very much.
Let's dig deeper right now. Joining us, our Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta. He'also the Author of a brand-new book, there you see the cover World War C, Lessons From The COVID-19 Pandemic And How To Prepare For The Next One. Sanjay, thank you as usual for joining us.
And as you know, more than 104,000 people here in the United States died of COVID-19 between June and September, and more than 90,000 of those deaths could have been prevented if people had gotten vaccinated, that according to a new analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Are vaccine mandates the best way to make sure we don't lose another 90,000 Americans over the next four months?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think they are become increasingly necessary, Wolf. It pains me to say that. I mean, and it pains me it is a gut punch to hear those numbers. You know 90,000 people whose deaths could have been prevented by a vaccine that was a true celebration of science.
You see the numbers there, Wolf. You know, I am typically, you know, you would like the science to speak for itself as opposed to having to mandate these things. But we're still, you know, even though the numbers are declining, that's good, hospitalizations are declining. There are favorable signs. You know, Wolf, a lot of lives could still be saved.
There's probably about 50 million who have been formally diagnosed with COVID in this country that may have some degree of natural immunity. Another 188 million who have been vaccinated. That still sadly leaves a lot of susceptible people, Wolf.
So getting vaccinated is the best tool right now to save people's lives or to just save them against severe illness or long hauler symptoms or a disease that could cause them problems for some time to come.
BLITZER: Yes. We're still losing about 1,500 Americans a day. More than 10,000 a week to COVID. And the overwhelming majority of those deaths could have been prevented if people would have gotten vaccinated.
How confident are you, Sanjay, that we're not going to see another substantial wave over this fall and winter as it gets colder? Because Americans largely started to celebrate the end of this pandemic this past summer, and then that dramatic surge, the delta variant, followed.
GUPTA: Well, I think it is the variant in this case which is always going to be a little bit of a wild card, Wolf. I think if it hadn't been delta variant, we may have had a significant surge, but not as much as we see on the right side of the screen. That was obviously pretty significant.
But, Wolf, I do want to show you something going back. We looked at the last two pandemics, 2009 and 1918. I think the concern always is, look, we're going into colder, drier months. Isn't that when respiratory pathogens tend to spread?
And that is true. But look at 2009, Wolf. This surge that I was showing you that's happening this time around correlates with the last surge on the right in 2009. After it came down, it sort of stayed down after that, and I think it was because a lot of people subsequently had immunity. Something happened so the numbers did not go back up.
If you go back even further to 1918, 1919, the big surge around that time, you see that there as well, and then there is another surge that comes sort of in the spring of 1919, a smaller surge which is something that we certainly have to be looking out for as well.
But I guess the point is, Wolf, going into the cooler, drier months does not necessarily preordain us for another surge. It is possible we could look more like previous pandemics than sort of a typical sort of respiratory season.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thank you so much. We're always grateful to you.
Also tonight, William Shatner tells CNN he's overwhelmed by his emotional trip to space. We're getting a better idea of what he experienced when he was weightless inside the Blue Origin capsule.
Our space and defense correspondent, Kristin Fisher, spoke with Shatner after the flight.
Kristin, this seems to have been a life-changing event for this 90- year-old actor.
KRISTIN FISHER, CNN SPACE AND DEFENSE CORRESPONDENT: It certainly was, Wolf. You know, 2021 is going to go down in history as the year that space tourism really took off. And today, William Shatner truly became the poster child for just how powerful space tourism can be.
ANNOUNCER: Engine start. Two, one.
FISHER (voice-over): And with that, 90-year-old star trek icon William Shatner became the oldest person ever to travel to space. Shatner and three other passengers were propelled from the desert of west Texas to the edge of outer space aboard a New Shepherd spacecraft developed by Jeff Bezos' rocket company, Blue Origin.
It's the same spacecraft that took Bezos to space this summer.
Bezos, a lifelong Star Trek fan, flew Shatner as a guest, along with Blue Origin executive Audrey Powers, and two paying customers. The out of this world adventure lasting just ten minutes from takeoff to landing, leaving all four passengers, including Shatner, mesmerized by the view.
WILLIAM SHATNER, ACTOR: Weightlessness. Oh, Jesus. No description.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is nuts.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is Earth.
FISHER: Shatner and his crew mates experienced about three minutes of weightlessness before the capsule started its descent back to earth.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There go the parachutes.
SHATNER: That was unlike anything they described.
FISHER: After landing safely, a Blue Origin team secured the capsule, and Bezos himself did the honors.
JEFF BEZOS, BLUE ORIGIN CEO: Hello, Astronauts.
FISHER: Cheers as each of the four passengers walked out of the capsule, including Captain Kirk himself.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Captain Kirk himself, the great William Shatner.
FISHER: Shatner telling Bezos, it all happened so quickly.
SHATNER: It was unbelievable. Unbelievable. I mean, you know, the little things. The weightlessness, but to see the blue color whip by, and now you're staring into blackness.
FISHER: Shatner clearly taken aback by the gravity of the moment.
SHATNER: I'm so filled with emotion about what just happened. I just -- it's extraordinary. Extraordinary. I hope I never recover from this.
FISHER: William, you had one of the most, perhaps one of the most interesting lives that any human could possibly have. Where does this stack up on your list of life experiences?
SHATNER: This is enormous. I'm overwhelmed. And it takes more than a little thing to overwhelm me.
FISHER: You said, everybody in the world needs to see it. Why? What do we need to see?
SHATNER: It's not tourism. Everybody in the world needs to have the philosophical understanding of what we're doing to Earth -- and you hear this so often, the necessity of cleaning our Earth and stopping right now the apocalypse that's coming our way. But until you're up there and you see the blackness, the starkness, the ugliness --
FISHER: But in order for more people to see what William Shatner saw today, the price per seat needs to come down significantly, and right now, Blue Origin still is not saying how much it is selling its seats for.
I asked the two paying customers today, what did it cost you? They wouldn't tell me, but they did say whatever it was, they believe that it was worth it -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Kristin, there's something as you know called the overview effect that sometimes happens to those who see earth from space for the first time. Is that what Shatner experienced?
FISHER: You know, Wolf, some experts say that it takes longer than four minutes of weightlessness to truly get the full effect of the overview effect. But I think it's safe to say that, at the very least, William Shatner today sure got a very strong taste of the overview effect and what this is is an experience that many astronauts report feeling and experiencing after they return from their trip to space and it's this feeling of looking down at the earth.
And just realizing how fragile it is. That pale blue dot in a vast expanse of darkness in outer space, and realizing that every human you've ever loved, every story you've ever told, story you've ever told, every city you've ever visited is all on that one, tiny planet. And then, they also talk about seeing that thin ozone layer.
And so, William Shatner coming back and saying that he wants to protect the planet like so many astronauts have said before him -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Kristin Fisher reporting for us. Excellent work, indeed. Thank you very, very much.
Just ahead: the Netflix hit "Squid Game" gets pulled into Kim Jong Un's propaganda machine. We are going to tell you why North Korea is now weighing in on the series. That's next.
BLITZER: The most popular show in the history of Netflix is getting some unusual attention tonight from North Korea.
Brian Todd is joining us with details right now.
Brian, Kim Jong Un's allies are seizing on the series "Squid Game."
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Indeed, Wolf. Kim's regime is really stirring things up in the pop culture world tonight, asserting a bold opinion of the Netflix series "Squid Game", an opinion that North Korea analysts say is a bit rich coming from Pyongyang.
TODD (voice-over): Kim Jong Un's regime seems to be throwing some heavy stones from its glass house. A North Korean state-run website has seen fit to weigh in on the hugely popular South Korean-produced Netflix series "Squid Game" which depicts a fictional game show that has deadly consequences.
The North Koreans say the show reflects the sad reality of a, quote, beastly South Korean society where mankind is annihilated by extreme competition. The website saying "Squid Game" portrays the south as an unequal society where moneyless people are treated like pawns for the rich.
JEAN LEE, THE WILSON CENTER: They try to portray South Korea as this capitalist hell hole. And so, this very much fits into the narrative that South Korea's this place where the people are just slaves to making money. That it's a grim existence.
TODD: "Squid Game" posted Netflix's most popular premiere, ever, with over 110 million people taking a look. The plot? Hundreds of people heavily in debt enter a game to win a huge pile of cash. One of the fictional characters is a North Korean defector. The downside? If the contestants lose a game, they're killed on the spot.
LEE: All of that, that we see in "Squid Game" reminded me, frankly, of North Korea.
GREG SCARLATOIU, COMMITTEE FOR HUMAN RIGHTS IN NORTH KOREA: It's about having no way out, being completely entrapped under extraordinarily adverse circumstances. TODD: It is North Koreans who can actually be shot on sight if they
try to leave the country, like this defector who sprinted through a hail of bullets as he made a desperate dash across the demilitarized zone to South Korea in 2017.
As for the North Korean website saying South Korea is a place where the poor are pawns for the rich and well-connected, human rights monitors say Pyongyang doth protest too much.
SCARLATOIU: In North Korea, 30 percent of children are malnourished. In North Korea, people are starving today. North Korea is imprisoning 120,000 people in political-prison camps and in other detention facilities.
TODD: Human rights groups say the money North Korea could be spending feeding its people, it instead often spends on its military.
This week, Kim Jong Un, again, glorified his newest weapons with an elaborate exhibition and speech in front of what North Korea claims is a hypersonic missile, a cruise missile, and a massive ICBM. The event included a martial arts display, with soldiers doing flying kicks into blocks. A soldier inexplicably sprinting head first into a block. In one sequence, a bare-chested soldier breaks out of chains, spreads out a bed of broken glass, lies on it. A slab is placed on his chest, then smashed with a hammer.
Why would this not be enough for Kim's propaganda machine? Why use "Squid Game" to attack the South?
LEE: This is North Korea's attempt to show and express that, hey, the South Koreans may be richer but they are not happier.
TODD (on camera): And this, certainly, isn't the first time North Korea has taken a shot at South Korean culture. According to "The New York Times," Kim Jong Un has characterized the South Korean entertainment scene including K-Pop as a, quote, vicious cancer corrupting the hairstyle, speech, and behavior of North Koreans.
Human rights monitors tell us K-Pop has become increasingly popular in the North with likely tens of thousands of North Koreans having access to it almost exclusively through the black market but they can't quite see "Squid Game" yet, Wolf. Maybe that's coming in North Korea.
BLITZER: Let's see. Brian Todd reporting for us, thank you very much.
And to our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. You can always follow me on Twitter and Instagram @WolfBlitzer. Tweet the show @qCNNSitRoom.
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