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CNN NEWSROOM

Biden Meets with Health, Immigration & Security Advisers; Biden: V.P. Harris to Lead U.S. Effort to Stem Migration to U.S.- Mexico Border; Fauci Says New Data Is Proof Positive Vaccinations Work; Study: Pandemic Has Taken Dire Toll on Health Care Workers, Hospitals; Sen. Sanders: Not "Comfortable" with Trump Twitter Ban. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired March 24, 2021 - 14:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: President Biden has just spoken. Let's listen to those remarks.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: One is we've got ourselves a secretary.

Welcome. Thanks for being willing to do this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you.

BIDEN: I really appreciate it.

Also today, I have -- I said when we became a team and got elected that the vice president's going to be the last person in the room. She didn't realize that means she gets every assignment.

(LAUGHTER)

BIDEN: But the vice president and I and all of us here have been working very hard to pass the legislation that is going to beat this virus, as well as get people back to work and change their prospects. So she's traveled all over the country working on that.

[14:35:13]

In addition to that, there's about five other major things she's handling.

But I have asked her, the V.P. today -- because she's the most qualified person to do it -- to lead our efforts with Mexico and the Northern Triangle, and the countries that help -- we're going to need help in stemming the movement of so many folks, stemming the migration to our southern border.

You know, back when I was vice president, I got a similar assignment. But one of the things we did was we made sure that we got a bipartisan

agreement with Democrats and Republicans to provide over $700 million to the countries in the Northern Triangle to determine the best way to keep people from coming is keep them from wanting to leave.

The reason why so many people were leaving, we learned, was that not only gang violence and trafficking and cartels, but natural disasters, hurricanes, floods, earthquakes.

So it's not like someone sits around at a table in Guatemala somewhere and says I have a great idea, let's sell everything we have, give the money to a coyote, have them take our kids or us to the border of America, take us across, leave us in a desert, we can't speak the language, won't that be fun.

One of the ways we learned is, if you deal with the problems in country, it benefits everyone. It benefits us, it benefits the people, and it grows the economies there.

Unfortunately, the last administration eliminated that funding, and did not engage in it, did not use it, even though there was over $700 million to help get this done. We're reinstituting that program.

Like I said, there are many factors as to why people leave in the first place.

But this is the -- this is the source of one of the reasons why we've had such a -- before we took office, in the midst of the last administration's somewhat draconian policies separating children from their parents, et cetera, what happened was that we found that there was a serious spike up people heading to the southern border even in the midst of that.

As Alejandro can tell you, is that was because there were serious natural disasters that occurred in those countries. They were coming north, And we did nothing to do much about it.

So this new surge we are dealing with now started with the last administration, but it's our responsibility to deal with it humanely and to stop what's happening.

So this increase has been consequential. But the vice president's agreed, among multiple other things -- and I appreciate it -- agreed to lead our diplomatic effort and work with those nations to accept the returnees and enhance migration policies at their border. At their borders.

We're already talking to Mexico about that. We've already done that. We're going to be dealing with a full team to see the problem here at home, but also to deal with it now in terms of in country.

I can think of nobody who's better qualified to do this than a former -- this is a woman who ran the second-largest attorney's office in America, after the United States attorney general, in the state of California, and has done a great deal with human rights, but also fighting organized crime in the process. So it's not her full responsibility or job, but she's leading the

effort.

Because I think the best thing to do is put someone who, when he or she speaks, they don't have to wonder where the president is.

When she speaks, she speaks for me. She doesn't have to check with me. She knows what she's doing. And I hope to move this along.

Madam Vice President, thank you.

I gave you a tough job. You're smiling, but there's no one better capable in trying to organize it.

KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you, Mr. President, and for having the confidence in me.

And there's no question that this is a challenging situation. As the president has said, there are many factors that lead these people to leave the countries.

[14:40:08]

While it's clear that people should not come to the border now, we also understand we will enforce the law.

And that we also, because we can chew gum and walk at the same time, let's address the root causes that cause the people to make the trek, as the president has described, to come here.

And I look forward to engaging in diplomacy with government, with the private sector, with civil society, and the leaders of each in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras to strengthen democracy and the rule of law and to ensure shared prosperity in the region.

We will collaborate with Mexico and other countries throughout the west hemisphere.

And as part of this effort, we expect that we will have collaborative relationships to accomplish the goals the president has and that we share.

I also look forward to working with members of Congress who I think share our perspective on the need to address root causes of the migration that we've been seeing.

Needless to say, the work will not be easy, but it is important work. It is work we demanded and the people of our countries I believe need to help stem the tide that we have seen.

So thank you, Mr. President, for your confidence. Thank you.

BIDEN: Thank you for being willing to do it.

Now we'll get down to business.

And, Ron, who am I turning this over to?

RON KLAIN, CHIEF OF STAFF: Thank you very much, Mr. President.

I think it's time for the press to leave, though.

Thank you.

(CROSSTALK)

KLAIN: Thank you very much.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you for coming. Thanks, guys.

(CROSSTALK)

KEILAR: All right. I want to get to Jeff Zeleny there at the White House.

The big headline here, Jeff, is that the vice president is being tasked by President Biden to really be the point person when it comes to immigration, to stem the influx of migrants coming across the border.

And to deal with the root causes, which are the factors driving them away from mostly Northern Triangle countries as they're trying to flee violence and other issues.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, that is the key headline here. Vice President Kamala Harris is getting this new assignment.

As you said, it's to address the root causes but , first and foremost, to address the surge in unaccompanied minors that the administration is dealing with, really has been dealing with for several weeks.

One key point of this, this means that President Biden is elevating this. This White House is taking this very seriously.

They know that immigration is an issue that can spiral and can certainly complicate other matters. So this is showing that they're taking it seriously.

He also said, look, when she speaks, it's clear to those countries that she is speaking for me. She does not have to get the president's word on this.

So this is important in a couple fronts. One, it's showing President Biden taking the rise in unaccompanied minors very seriously, as this administration is trying to find humane solutions in the wake of the policy over the last four years.

But it's also, for Vice President Harris, the first key assignment in her portfolio. It's one that mimics then-Vice President Joe Biden was also tasked

with doing back in 2014 and 2015, when he traveled down to Guatemala and El Salvador, and really worked with the root causes of the unaccompanied minors at that point.

Brianna, this also underscores how cyclical this is. The rise of migrants traveling here to the U.S. is something that occurs most spring times.

Certainly, climate change is changing issues on the ground there in Central America, even more so than the last time when President Biden was on the ground there.

But certainly, he has that in mind when he's asking her to take on this big important assignment -- Brianna?

KEILAR: It certainly is one.

Jeff Zeleny, at the White House, thank you.

[14:44:08]

Senator Bernie Sanders, up next, says Donald Trump's social media ban should be lifted. Hear his reasoning, just ahead.

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KEILAR: Vaccines are working. That is the word from the nation's leading infectious disease expert.

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DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: Look at the far right of the graph. For those who are fully vaccinated, the infection rate was extremely low, 0.05 percent infection rate among fully vaccinated employees. A real proof positive of the importance of vaccination.

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KEILAR: I want to bring in CNN medical analyst and former CDC disease detective, Dr. Seema Yasmin.

Dr. Yasmin, this is promising data from Dr. Fauci. There's still big concerns though because a lot of folks are still not wearing masks, they're not social distancing.

Do you see this at a turning point here, or is that preventing us from fully being at a turning point?

DR. SEEMA YASMIN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: It can depend, Brianna, on how this information is packaged and how people are receiving it. I think for so many, it's like, yes, finally good news.

Plus, it mirrors a lot of what we're hearing from other countries in the world that have had quite successful rollouts of their mass vaccination programs.

On the other hand, what we are seeing across the states, and in some states especially, are new surges in infections.

Plus, we're not seeing vaccine rollout across the U.S. at exactly the scale that we would like.

And still really big disparity between who is having access to vaccines and who isn't. Big racial and ethnic disparities there, as well as poverty and rural access.

That concerns me because we are in many places seeing people kind of go back to some kind of normal, as if the pandemic is over, when we are very much still in the pandemic.

[14:49:59]

This vaccination news is great. It reassures us. But it makes me anxious that if they're working, please, let's roll them out to the many millions of people who are still in line.

KEILAR: And the HHS inspector general put out this report. They surveyed over 300 hospitals and found medical staff are burned out. Many are suffering from PTSD. There has been a higher-than-normal turnover rate. And to boot, public trust in hospitals has eroded.

What needs to be done to help health care providers here?

YASMIN: Some really basic things, to be honest. It's almost embarrassing to say. Like PPP access still isn't equal across the states. There are still health care workers -- we're more than a year into this and there are still health care workers reusing PPP that was designed to just be used once.

We should say that this issue of burnout amongst health care workers is not brand-new. It wasn't just because of the pandemic. It's a long- standing issue of fatigue as well as moral injury.

And we're going to need more investment in health care workers to make sure they have those basics, everyone's getting vaccinated as they should be, they're having their PPP, and that psychological support is there, Brianna, and for the long term.

This has been like a war for health care workers. And there's been such a backlash as well from members of the public who feel like doctors are spreading hoaxes or pushing vaccines. That's been really difficult to witness.

Of course, we've lost hundreds of health care workers to COVID-19 as well.

So I see long-term implications to this. And we're going to really need to make sure we give health care workers the support they need.

KEILAR: Yes, indeed.

Thank you so much for touching upon that. Dr. Seema Yasmin, really appreciate it.

YASMIN: Thank you.

KEILAR: Senator Bernie Sanders is coming to the defense of former President Trump, kind of. In a podcast interview with columnist, Ezra Klein, of "The New York Times," Sanders was asked about Twitter giving Trump the boot.

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SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): Look, you have a former president in Trump, who is a racist, a sexist, a homophone, a xenophobe, a pathological liar, an authoritarian, somebody who doesn't believe in the rule of law. This is a bad-news guy.

But if you're asking me, do I feel particularly comfortable that the then-president of the United States could not express his views on Twitter, I don't feel comfortable about that.

Now, I don't know what the answer is. Do you want hate speech and conspiracy theories traveling all over this country? No. Do you want the Internet to be used for authoritarian purposes and an insurrection, if you like? No, you don't.

So how do you balance that? I don't know. But it is an issue that we have got to be thinking about. Because for anybody that thinks, yes, yesterday, it was Donald Trump who was banned, and tomorrow, it could be somebody else who has a very different point of view.

So I don't like giving that much power to a handful of high-tech people. But the devil is obviously in the details. And it's something we're going to have to think long and hard on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KEILAR: Joining me to talk about this is Brian Stelter, CNN's chief media correspondent and the host of "RELIABLE SOURCES."

This is such an interesting answer from Bernie Sanders, Brian, because, you know, obviously, he says he has a lot of problems with what Donald Trump says. But it's about putting this power in the hands of big tech, which clearly he has concerns about.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And this is a debate that needs to be had.

Remember, Trump was banned in the immediate aftermath of the riot. The concern was about, quote, "further risk of incitement of violence." There was a clear reason why Twitter banned him, because of violation of rules.

But looking at that a couple months later, it's worth re-examining and needs to be re-examined, as Sanders said, because of other possible folks in the future. This is not just about Trump.

So I think it's really notable Sanders is bringing this up. Not many Democrats have questioned Twitter's decision. So Sanders is showing some independence, as he often does.

Tomorrow, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey will be testifying on Capitol Hill at a hearing called Disinformation Nation. This is about other companies pressuring big tech to try to rein in extremism and hate and bogus information on their platforms.

The tub of war, the push-and-pull continues with Republicans crying censorship, Democrats calling for more restrictions.

Sanders, in a unique position here, a Democrat saying, we need to think long and hard about these decisions because so much power is concentrated in the hands of these companies.

And, Brianna, that is absolutely true. And he's right, this debate needs to be continued to be had.

KEILAR: On the one hand, you have these companies saying, we're not going to give this person a platform, we're not going to give these kinds of views a platform.

But when Twitter bans voices like that, you can argue they seek out other platforms to share their views. Those are platforms that may be friendlier.

But more importantly, these are dedicated streams of information that are siloed from other input, right?

[14:55:06]

I mean, certainly, everyone gets to choose what they look for on Twitter. But this just speaks to the complexity of this issue of creating echo chambers.

STELTER: Absolutely. Trump is out there right now talking about maybe launching his own platform. I'm skeptical he'll actually do it. It will cost a lot of money. It'll be very hard to gain users. But he's talking about it.

And we know there have been these right-wing social networks trying to cater to Trump's fans.

These questions are hard. They're about power and control. And it's good that Sanders is bringing this up.

KEILAR: Brian, thank you so much. Brian Stelter.

STELTER: Sure.

KEILAR: Next, heartbreaking new details about the victims of the Boulder mass shooting.

We're learning more about the suspect's first court appearance, which is set for tomorrow. And we are live from Colorado, next.

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