Return to Transcripts main page


CNN: Biden To Announce New Goal Of 200 Million Vaccinations In First 100 Days; CNN: Handful Of Senate Democrats Resist Biden's Agenda; Soon: Biden Holds First News Conference Of Presidency; Grocery Store Massacre Suspect Makes First Court Appearance; Boulder Community Calls For Change After 10 Killed By Gunman. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired March 25, 2021 - 12:00   ET



KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: Top of the hour. I'm Kate Bolduan, thank you so much for being here. And a little more than one hour President Biden will hold his first news conference since entering the White House more than two months ago.

And with the administration facing a host of challenges, the stakes are very high. Biden is holding his first former White House news conference late - later in his term than any of the last 15 presidents. That's according to a CNN analysis.

And that has been a point of criticism for the administration. President Biden is expected to highlight his administration's efforts in battling back the pandemic. That includes now announcing a new vaccination goal of 200 million doses administered to Americans within the first 100 days in office.

But he's also going to be facing a barrage of questions on a wide range of other issues, pressing issues facing the country right now. The economy and recovery, immigration gun reform, the Senate filibuster even and foreign policy challenges ranging from China to Russia to Afghanistan.

Add to that now, new CNN reporting that Joe Biden may have some new challenges in getting his agenda through Congress and it may be coming from within his own party. Let's get over to Capitol Hill.

Joining me right now is CNN's Manu Raju as well as CNN's Lauren Fox. Manu that could start with you, what do you guys learning?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, the challenges are beyond just one Democratic Senator Joe Manchin. He's the conservative West Virginia Democrat who has been a thorn in the side of progressives in particular. But in speaking to a number of Democrats up and down the caucus, what's very clear is that they're just not uniformity on some key issues.

Whether it's on expanding background checks on gun sales, whether it's about raising the federal minimum wage. Or whether it's even about gutting the Senate's filibuster rules that is central to all of this because in order to pass legislation through the Senate, you need to have 60 votes to overcome a filibuster right now.

And there is a major push on the left to try to get rid of the filibuster, essentially just allow a simple majority of 51 Senators to move ahead which would be possible if they were to do that in the 50- 50 Senate with Kamala Harris coming in and breaking the tie.

But they need total democratic unity in order to move forward any filibuster rules changes. And beyond just Joe Manchin, there are others as well. The two New Hampshire Democratic Senators both have reservations about changing the filibuster.

This is what Jeanne Shaheen, who is a New Hampshire Senator told me yesterday. She said no, she does not support reducing that 60 vote threshold on the filibuster, and she said I would think we should look at other ways to reform the filibuster.

Now Chuck Schumer, the Senate Democratic leader has to figure out how to proceed because he wants to move forward on a voting rights package that does not have even 50 supporters, Democrats on his side on that.

And he also wants to move forward on a gun bill, but that does not have 60 votes to overcome a filibuster and he starts to get his Democratic caucus in line. Now I just had a chance to ask Chuck Schumer about the calls to route to get rid of the filibuster in his past use of it when he was in the senate minority.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): We were always willing to negotiate in a bipartisan way. Mitch McConnell isn't the bills he puts on the floor even when he calls them bipartisan aren't like the first cares bill. Like the policing bill.

There's no discussion, no discussion. We are sitting down, I am encouraging my colleagues to sit down with Republicans and move forward. There's a big difference in how we're conducting things and the way they're conducting things.


RAJU: Now, that is not exactly the case and how they're moving ahead particularly on guns, they're trying to move forward and push forward a bill that is not being negotiated with Republicans right now. And the sweeping voting rights package that is not being negotiated by Republicans right now.

I tried to ask Schumer about that to follow up. He did not take that follow up question. And also came a big question infrastructure. That is going to be a big focus on the months ahead, but they may try to do that on just Democratic support alone. But a big question about whether they can do that as well. Kate?

BOLDUAN: Yes, how far they can - and how far they can go with it then more. And this could also have a major impact on any attempts at getting anything done on gun reform right? LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's exactly right, Kate. You know, I talked to a number of Democratic members who told me they were still reading still trying to understand exactly what the house bill did, and that they weren't necessarily on board yet.

That is exactly what Senator Gary Peters and Senator Jon Tester both told me in interviews yesterday. I also am hearing from members who have concerns about that infrastructure package. One thing that you noted is the price tag of this infrastructure package.

How much of that will be paid for how will the Democrats agree or not agree to pay for it? Remember, this is a narrow senate majority. There is no room for err. And so yes, Senator Joe Manchin is perhaps one of the loudest members in the Democratic caucus when he has concerns, but that doesn't mean he's the only one.


FOX: He's really just the tip of the iceberg depending on what issue we're talking about. Kate?

BOLDUAN: That's a great way of putting it guys. This is great reporting. Joe Manchin might be the tip of the iceberg. He's not the whole iceberg when it comes to what it means to have such a narrow Senate Majority. Great reporting guys thank you so much.

Let me get back now to President Biden's first news conference, which is now just over an hour away. Joining right now for more on this is CNN's Jeff Zeleny at the White House.

Jeff, I'm wondering if folks, the White House need to start thinking about the Democratic majority in the Senate right now after Manu and Lauren's reporting. But talk to me about what today means for Joe Biden?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Kate that is something that President Biden certainly thinks about every single day. And let him count the ways. It is such a narrow majority, every piece of the agenda has to be seen through the light of can we get at least 50 democratic votes.

Can we get not just Joe Manchin who we talk about a lot, but also Kyrsten Sinema and other Senators as Manu and Lauren were just reporting there? But as for the press conference today, there are several audiences here that President Biden has in mind as he embarks on his first press conference of his first term in office.

And the Senate is certainly one of them. Up until now, the White House has been relatively successful in threading the needle and keeping you knows the big tent of the Democratic Party together. Progressives on the left and moderates as well. That is a challenge that will intensify as the week's go ahead as he moves into other agenda items.

But one of the - you know, there are so many issues on his plate really; they're multiplying as they do for all presidents. And the test of a president, a modern day president is how they react to events that happen in real time.

Immigration, certainly one of those gun reforms is something that a week ago was not necessarily on the front and center on the agenda here. But those will be two issues certainly he will talk about. But other big issues are stacking up like his decision on Afghanistan.

He of course has long held views on the U.S. have overstayed it to welcome in Afghanistan. But as Commander-in-Chief, will he make the decision in the coming days to withdraw those troops? He could give a window into that this afternoon as well as immigration.

Of course it was so interesting Kate yesterday watching him assigned Vice President Kamala Harris. Her first big portfolio item leading the diplomatic efforts in Central America as well as the efforts on the border he had that exact role in 2014 and 2015.

And we see what happens, that is a very difficult job. So what he's going to do at the press conference today of course is to answer all of these. But giveaway forward on some issues that he is very well steeped in. But Kate for all of Joe Biden's time in Washington, he's asked more questions both as a Senator and a Vice President in briefings and committee hearings than he has actually stood alone and taken questions.

So this is a very you know, a uniformly thing a president only does is have this solo news conference. So it's one of the first times we'll see him in that setting in the East Room in the next hour, Kate.

BOLDUAN: That's right. Jeff, stick with me if you would.


BOLDUAN: Also joining us, the CNN Senior Political Correspondent, Abby Phillip. Abby, what do you see as kind of at stake? Or what's your biggest question going into this press conference ahead of Joe Biden's big moment?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think today is all about priorities, priorities, priorities. Where is Joe Biden's head at when it comes to - what comes next for his agenda. As you heard Jeff lay out there are a lot of things that Joe Biden maybe wants to do that progressives want him to do than moderates want him to do.

But not all of them are going to be able to be done at the same time. And how he orders his list, his to do list is going to be I think the big thing that comes out of this press conference today and how he manages the expectations that are coming at him from all sides.

What we've seen from Biden I think over the last, you know, particularly the last year going from the campaign into his presidency is that he wants to tamp down you know, the kind of wild passions of Washington so to speak and keep things on a really even keel.

But there are three issues on the table now that Democrats feel very strongly about guns are one of them, voting rights is another. These are things that I think are at the core of Democratic Party beliefs. He's got to speak to that speak to the sense of urgency.

But there is a strain of realism that I think this White House has always tried to veer toward about what is actually possible. And we don't exactly know how he's going to put that to do list together. But that's I think, what reporters will be trying to get out of him today.

BOLDUAN: You have to harness those wild passions as well in order to get anything done. I don't know why I find that just perfectly - Abby apologies. My bar is low for enjoyment right now.


BOLDUAN: Jeff to kind of jumping off of what you - where you left off. The Washington Post's Ashley Parker and Sean Sullivan, they had a really good quote from Rahm Emanuel about how much has happened kind of since this press conference was announced.

Let me read what Emanuel told them. Rahm said, that's the presidency, you can have the best laid plans. But it doesn't matter. When you go toe to toe with reality a White House earns its stripes by taking every challenge.

And then turning it into an opportunity to address an issue and move the ball forward. What does that mean for Joe Biden in this moment?

ZELENY: That means I mean, that was Rahm Emanuel, the former Chief of Staff in the early years of the Obama White House, he always talked about seizing on the opportunity. So what that means now probably first and foremost is the opportunity of trying to get some action on guns.

And an interesting thing to watch today is how the president specifically talks about the differences now versus when he was leading that effort in 2013. There are many differences of the country has moved on this in some respects, the gun lobby is divided and weakened.

But the reality is the - you know, the opposition still remains even to universal background checks. So I think guns are an opportunity to seize upon the urgency of that that is out in the country. Immigration is another matter that this was not necessarily going to be first and foremost on the president's agenda.

Now, it certainly is. But I think also the economic news that this White House is experiencing really in the last 60 days and going forward, at least in the forecast is certainly a different opportunity for this president than the Obama administration.

We make many comparisons to 12 years ago. This cannot be said enough that the Biden presidency is entering an economy on the upswing. The Obama administration was entering an economy on the downswing still very much deepened.

So this is something that the president can seize upon. That's why he is proposing this massive spending effort on infrastructure and many other issues has build back better programs. This is something that he believes there is a moment for largely because the economy is on the upswing from its crisis, not just at the beginning of it. So that is a big opportunity that this president will certainly try and seize upon.

BOLDUAN: And looking overseas as well. Abby, I mean, the last time that Joe Biden spoke to a reporter, he called Putin a killer. And that ignited a new round of tension with Russia. And then you had secretary, the Secretary of State at the very same time kind of going head to head with China last week.

I'm wondering kind of, do you think this is an opportunity that where the President will try to calm things down which is something that Joe Biden tries to do? Or do you think that they see more benefit and continuing to ratchet it up when it comes to these crises overseas?

PHILLIP: Yes, it's a really good question whether in the context of this kind of press conference, whether Joe Biden will double down. I mean, I do think that confronting Russia and China are both important strategic priorities for this administration.

And it's both rhetorical. But it's also trying to set the table for where the - the U.S. wants to position itself in negotiations rather than sort of coming to the table with Russia as if. I think over the last several years whenever former President Donald Trump talked about Russia, it was always in a conciliatory fashion even while his administration might have done other things.

They want to flip that script and turn it around. And so we'll see if Joe Biden doubles down on that. But Biden, I think his challenge sometimes is that he is not always consistent with his - with his language and can make verbal flubs can make gaffes.

And so whether he executes that today in a way that is in line with this administration's policy, I think is still an open question.

BOLDUAN: Now we do know that it will be a market difference and change in tone. When asked about Russia, what this president will say in his first press conference versus what his predecessor said throughout his presidency in his first press conference with the press.

It's good to see both, thanks guys. Still ahead for us a suspect in the Colorado mass shoots making his first appearance from a wheelchair in court just this morning. Up next, what we're learning about the charges that he is facing and what you could expect from his defense.

And later in encouraging new studies showing some newborns are already benefiting from the Coronavirus vaccine. More on the effects, pregnant effects pregnant women who have received their shots are seeing.



BOLDUAN: Breaking news just in the suspect and the mass shooting at the King Soopers grocery store in Boulder has just had his first appearance in court. This video that you're looking at, we got in just moments ago from inside the courtroom, the suspect faces 10 counts of first degree murder.

The Mayor of Boulder joined us moments after this appearance just as this video is really coming in. And he talked about the community's grief they're grieving and what's ahead.


MAYOR SAM WEAVER (D-CO): I think you know milestone for our community will be when that grocery store opens back up to the public. That's something that for me will represent you know, the start of the return to a commerce civic life. Once that's open I think we have to start looking at what we do as a memorial.


BOLDUAN: CNN's Shimon Prokupecz is in Boulder. Shimon, can you walk us through what happened in court? What more you're learning?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it was a fairly brief appearance. We did expect it to be lengthy at least that's what the ---office said that they thought that it would be a lengthy proceedings but it didn't go on for quite as long as we expected. As you saw in the video, the alleged gunman is in a wheelchair. He had suffered a bullet injury a bullet wound to his leg during the shooting.


PROKUPECZ: So perhaps that's why he's in this wheelchair. He didn't say much. Notably the Defense Attorneys, they're already kind of indicating the direction in which their defense is going to go, perhaps some kind of insanity defense.

What they said was that in order to continue to proceed with the case, they need some more time to review his records and information about some unspecified mental illness. Of course, we've heard from the brother --- has talked to the gunman's brother who said that he had been suffering from mental illness.

So that is certainly some indication that that is the route these attorneys are going to go. And also notably, one of the attorneys that was in court representing and these was given public defenders represented the Aurora shooter in that case, which was also a mass shooting here.

But also which was part of - their part of their part of their defense was an insanity defense. So that is very clear. That is the direction they're heading to in this case. We also learned some new information from an affidavit court documents that prosecutors released.

They added an additional charge of attempted murder where an officer says that the gunman shot at him he was moving left to right, he missed the officer. So the District Attorney here charges him with that attempted murder charge. And they also say that this case is going to take quite some time.

Prosecutors saying they're still processing the crime scene, they're still gathering information. So this is going to take quite some time before we even see this go to trial.

Also some other information that we've learned from talking to law enforcement officials is that they're trying to determine why the shooter chose this grocery store, specifically at some 30 minutes from his home. They're trying to decide if he had some kind of connection.

And obviously they're talking to family members and other people who knew the gunman to try and get a picture leading up into the days when he unleashed this attack Kate.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. Shimon, thank you so much. Joining me right now is Charles Ramsey, CNN Law Enforcement Analyst and former Police Chief of DC; it's good to see you Chief. I was just looking at the DA in Boulder.

He just said that this hearing is the beginning of a lengthy process that I anticipate will take at least a year to try to completion. This is going to be a long - this is a long road ahead.

CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: It is a long road ahead. But that's typical with court cases. I mean, they do not move fast through the court system. And there's still a lot of work that has to be done, they still don't have a motive. There are still questions as to why there, why did he choose that store.

They're carefully going through all the evidence that they have. We know now that they're more than likely be an insanity defense.

So part of what they're doing is to try to find evidence of pre planning on his part. Anything that would show that his mental state was such that at the time he committed the crime, he was aware of what he was doing, he knew right from wrong and so forth.

So that's all part of what's taking place right now. In addition to that of course, they may still be actually processing the crime scene. I don't know if they released it or not. But it'll be some time before that store can reopen obviously. So there's still an awful lot of work.

There's an awful lot of grieving that has to take place. You have 10 families that are planning funerals right now. And so this is a difficult time for the city of Boulder.

BOLDUAN: Yes, the mayor was on with us last hour and he said that they have not yet released the crime scene. They are still processing that King Soopers, as you're talking about grieving that the community is facing.

I want to play for you something that one person who was at the memorial that has kind of been built up around the King Soopers, what they said yesterday.


DEBORAH GREENE, COMMUNITY MEMBER PAYING RESPECT TO VICTIMS: How many more have to die? How many more? Officers have to face down a mad man with a gun.


BOLDUAN: And on the last thing that she said right there, Chief, it's not just a mad man with a gun. It is police having to face a man with an assault weapon. What does that amount of firepower mean for police who are responding to a scene and trying to save people's lives?

RAMSEY: Well I mean, those kinds of weapons are absolutely devastating. You can tell just from the number of people killed in the store. I mean, there were no wounded. If you got shot, you died. I mean and that's the devastation that weapons of that type can bring.

But it's not only the police that face that threat. It's the everyday citizen. I mean, you don't go to crime scenes anymore or there's only one showcasing laying on the ground. It's not uncommon to have 30, 40 shell casings, which means that's how many shots were fired from these kinds of weapons and bullets could go anywhere and they rip right through the body.


RAMSEY: And many people literally bleed out before they get to a trauma center. I mean, it's so bad in Philadelphia. We have something called scoop and run. Please don't wait for the ambulance. They put the person right in the backseat of the car and get them straight to the trauma center.

So they can at least have a chance of surviving from multiple gunshot wounds. So you know, it is - it's incredibly devastating not just for police to have to face it. But just for people in general that have to deal with this. There's no reason for those kinds of weapons to be available on the streets for citizens. There's just no need for it.

BOLDUAN: That is just horrible to hear that you even have to have like an informal policy and police chief of what - your officers are facing in Philly. I'm going to play for you something also that officer Talley's sister said about her brother, she was speaking to CBS.


KRISTIN BROOKS, SISTER OF OFFICER ERIC TALLEY: I love him being a police officer. He's like, it's not my job. That's unsafe Kristin. He said its people. And he said that, you know, he said it - it's not a bad job. He said there's a lot better. He was moving towards working as a drone operator because he talked about the violence in the world.

We had a conversation about that recently. And he's like, yes, it's just seem to be getting worse. And he said I would never want to put my family through losing me. Is there their dad or a ----

(END VIDEO CLIP) BOLDUAN: I mean that is just gut wrenching. Chief, what do you do with that?

RAMSEY: While that it is gut wrenching. And you know, I mean, he's right. For the most part, you know, police are able to function and even though there are some hazards that for the most part you're dealing not with the kind of violence that unfortunately Officer Talley had to deal with a couple of days ago, but it can turn very violent very quickly.

And that's something that police officers and more importantly their families have to live with every single day. I mean, police know what kind of risks they're taking. It's the families that you really have to be mostly concerned about because they aren't always aware of some of the things that you do during the course of a tour of duty.

And you don't want to tell them because you don't want to have them worrying. But unfortunately, it can't turn to tragedy. Eight years I spent as police commissioner in Philadelphia, eight officers killed in the line of duty, five shot to death, three responding to calls in traffic accidents.

So it's tough. It's very tough. And especially on the families and also the men and women or the department they're grieving right now too. And that's why this honors funeral and all the ceremony that you see around officer Talley right now.

It shows the respect for the sacrifice and the service that he gave to the city. But it's also a form of grieving a way of grieving for the officers too that lost a person that they loved as well.

BOLDUAN: Yes, Chief thanks for coming in.

RAMSEY: Quite alright.

BOLDUAN: Still ahead for us, President Biden, he is expected to announce a new ambitious vaccination goal in the next hour. Just as the CDC is warning that it needs people to keep their guard up as the country prepares for spring holidays and more travel.