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Two GOP Lawmakers Under Fire; Biden Hits Road to Sell Agenda; Moderna Begins Children Trials. Aired 9:00-9:30a ET

Aired May 3, 2021 - 09:00   ET

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


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[09:00:11]

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: A very good Monday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Poppy Harlow. We're glad you're with us.

This morning, a clear message for Republicans, stands up to former President Trump at your own peril. Two high-profile Republicans, Senator Mitt Romney and Congresswoman Liz Cheney both under attack from their own party this morning. Over the weekend, Romney narrowly escaped a censure by the Utah Republican Party for his votes to convict in Trump's impeachment trials. Boos ringing out. Take a listen.

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CROWD: (Boos)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: Shouts of "traitor" and "communist" for the man who was now, not that long ago, the Republican nominee for president.

SCIUTTO: Daughter, in fact, leads the Republican National Committee.

HARLOW: Yes.

SCIUTTO: Also this morning, the GOP's highest ranking woman in the House, Liz Cheney, number three in the House Republican leadership, the status of her leadership role is more in jeopardy. We're going to have more on that in a moment.

Also in doubt, bipartisan support for at least President Biden's broad ambitious $2 trillion infrastructure plan. Both sides far apart on that. But there is talk of compromise on perhaps something smaller.

First, let's begin with CNN's Lauren Fox on Capitol Hill. It was remarkable to see the crowd's reaction to Senator Romney in his

own home state. It mean we should make a distinction that that conference is different from the broader voting population in that red state. But tell us the significance of it.

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right. I mean, Jim, remember, this is a Republican conference where you're going to be attracting members of the base of your party. But it is still important because you have to have that base. You have to carry that base to continue to be a viable officer, a viable politician in the Republican Party, someone who has an ability to really move the party in the direction you think it needs to be going.

And, look, Romney has set himself apart as someone who was willing to stand up to former President Trump when he was in office, whether that was his not just one but two votes on impeachment, whether that was moments when he felt like the president had gone too far in a tweet and he was willing to stop in the hall, talk to reporters and tell us exactly what he was thinking that perhaps the president had gone too far on this issue or that issue. That has been the place that Romney has carved out for himself.

But clearly there are some consequences among the base of the party. And if you're talking more broadly about what the future of the Republican Party is going to be, this was a big question when Trump left office. You are starting to see that voters, or at least the base of the party, has made a decision, right? They are believing that Trump is the future of their party.

They are willing to go in that direction and you're really starting to see that in how Kevin McCarthy, the leader of the Republicans in the House of Representatives, how he has tried to thread that needle between Trump and where the party is going to go in the future. He does not want to alienate his members because he wants to take back the house in 2022.

Jim and Poppy.

HARLOW: Lauren, thank you very much, for us on Capitol Hill.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

No question, of course.

I said Rona McDaniel is Romney's niece, not daughter.

I'm joined now by Toluse Olorunnipa, political enterprise and investigations reporter at "The Washington Post," and CNN political commentator Ana Navarro.

Good to have you both on.

Ana, I wonder, big picture, you're a lifelong Republican, when we talk about this divide in the Republican Party, is it somewhat overstated in that the majority of self-identifying Republicans still have a lot of deference to Trump and a majority of them, at least in CNN polling, still doubt that Trump lost the election. I mean I guess my question is, is this really a divide at the top as opposed to at the base of the party?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Oh, God, you know, I don't know -- I can only tell you what I live. And what I live is a real divide. I have seen people who are -- who were friends, people who were followers of Romney, who were supporters of Romney, who were donors of Romney turn on him, who were donors and supporters of John McCain turn on him, even though he's dead, who were supporters and donors of George W. Bush turn on him, even though he's out there, you know, painting in Crawford, Texas, and promoting a book about, you know, painting of immigrants.

So I -- I've seen it. I've seen -- I've seen friendships of decades disappear overnight because of this political divide going on in the Republican Party. And I think if you ask Mitt Romney today, he would tell you that there is a real divide, but, you know, it's a -- we've got to somehow get through it, right?

[09:05:00]

It will either be divided or it won't.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HARLOW: Toluse, Jake Tapper did a great interview with the widow of John McCain, Cindy McCain, and asked her about this issue within the Republican Party and he brought up McCain's concession speech, right, what McCain said after he lost to Obama.

Let's play it for people so that they can remember what it was once like.

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JOHN MCCAIN, FORMER U.S. SENATOR (November 2008): Senator Obama and I have had and argued our differences and he has prevailed. No doubt many of those differences remain. These are difficult times for our country. And I pledge to him tonight to do all in my power to help him lead us through the many challenges we face.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: That's what, you know, Mitt Romney would like to come back. That's what I think Ana Navarro would like to come back and a number of other Republicans. But it's not what, as Jim noted, other Republicans want to come back, Toluse. Does it, or are things just different now?

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, POLITICAL ENTERPRISE & INVESTIGATIONS REPORTER, "THE WASHINGTON POST": That's just not where the energy is in the party at the moment. Former President Trump really flipped the script on how to be a president and how to be someone who loses a presidential election. He did not concede to Joe Biden.

He did not have any gracious words for the new incoming president, even though we are in difficult times, as we were back in 2008. Instead, he cast doubt on the legitimacy of the election and he got millions of voters to believe that a free and fair election was tainted or was rigged.

And now he's really forcing a litmus test for any other Republican that wants to get his endorsement, that wants to get his support, that wants to survive within the party essentially to sign on to this big lie and say that, yes, there was something wrong with the election in 2020 and we have to pass all of these new voter restriction laws and voter suppression laws across the country to change the way we do voting.

And it seems like that's where the energy is in the party. If you look at all the people that are potential 2024 candidates in the party, folks like Ron DeSantis down in Florida, they are pushing these various laws and they are pushing part of the big lie that president -- the former president pushed after he lost his election. And that's where the energy is.

And people like Mitt Romney, people like Liz Cheney are not seeing any energy. The only energy they're seeing really are the people that are booing them or trying -- and trying to get them out of the party.

So it makes it very hard for people who are like John McCain, who want to go back to traditional conservatism, to have any kind of support or energy within the party when the former president is looming out there really trying to make a name for himself and trying to keep his 2024 hopes alive by making sure that any other Republican that's out there is talking about election fraud and vote rigging and the fact that he actually won the election, when we all know that he did not.

SCIUTTO: Ana, there's energy, but there's also, I mean, at the end of the day, election results, right? Empirically that Trump approach has not worked particularly well. I mean he's a one-term president, right? Never won the popular vote. Republicans lost the Senate, you know, in those Georgia races, you know, principally by the president undermining his own party in those races. And if you go back to 2018, not a good result in those midterms for Republicans.

So I wonder, what does experience rather than energy show the Republican Party, that is experience in the polling booth?

NAVARRO: Well, Jim, they're not looking at experience. They're not looking at experience. They're not looking at real election results. They're not even looking at reality. They're certainly not looking at traditional conservative values.

Listen, the conservatives stool used to stand on three legs, right? Being a fiscal conservative. Is Mitt Romney fiscally conservative? Yes. Being a foreign policy conservative. Is Mitt Romney a foreign policy conservative? Yes. He's never kowtowed to Putin. And how -- and being a social conservative. Does Mitt Romney live his family values?

Yes. Mitt Romney is a man who won Utah by far more than Donald Trump ever did. And, you know, and so you see these folks who are not ideological. They're not about principles. They're not about values. They're not about convictions. They are about blind loyalty to one faux deity. They would take orange Kool-Aid, if that is what Donald Trump asked them to do.

In the meantime you've got this faux deity who is playing golf and no longer even tweeting. He's playing golf, eating hamburgers and watching OAN and watching Fox News and calling in every now and then. It is absolutely ludicrous. Cindy McCain was right in using those words.

And, you know, you played that speech. I was there. I was there that night in Arizona. And so I -- you know, I urge Republicans and Americans to go back to that time when we could be reality based and put country over party. And this time it's not even putting country over party, it's putting country over a faux deity, a liar, who incited an insurrection.

[09:10:09]

Those facts are not going to go away regardless of how much Kevin McCarthy wants to rewrite history.

SCIUTTO: False deity. Ana Navarro, Toluse Olorunnipa, thanks so much to both of you.

And right now President Biden and the first lady are heading to Virginia to promote his $4 trillion agenda.

HARLOW: This comes as several Senate Republicans insist they were open or maybe so are open to a narrow bipartisan infrastructure plan while slamming the size and scope of what the president has put forth.

Jeremy Diamond is outside the White House this morning.

Jeremy, good to see you.

It, though, really does seem like this -- and even Republicans said it on the Sunday shows yesterday, is different -- I think it was Rob Portman -- than the COVID relief plan. That they have a feeling that the White House may go smaller here or break this thing up into two on infrastructure, is that right?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, there's certainly a lot more room for compromise and also a lot more time staked out for these negotiations. Remember, the White House -- when President Biden came into office in January, he made very clear that it was an urgent priority to pass this $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief bill and there was only so long that he was willing to wait.

And that period of time was really not very long. Democrats, along with the White House, rushed that through Congress through that budget reconciliation process after just brief discussions and negotiations to try and get some Republicans onboard.

White House officials, as well as lawmakers on Capitol Hill, have been very clear to me and my colleagues that this is a very different process. They are talking here about months of negotiations and discussions, not weeks. And already we are seeing those discussions happening on multiple tracks. President Biden speaking with Senator Shelly Moore-Capito and Roger Wicker, two key Republican senators, at the end of last week.

And White House officials at the same time are speaking with staff on for the top Republicans on some of these key committees. This is going through the kind of traditional committee process and that is why what you may ultimately see here is perhaps a bipartisan negotiation on a scaled-back infrastructure bill and then Democrats moving forward perhaps on a separate track with a lot of the other projects and policies in the American families plan that are getting such widespread opposition from Republicans.

But we will see how this unfolds. The White House has made very clear that they are not deciding yet how exactly this is going to get passed, what the legislative vehicle will be for this.

What is happening today, though, is the president continuing to go out into the country to try and drum up support for this, bipartisan support. We've seen this White House so many times before talk about the fact that these plans may have bipartisan support outside of Washington, even if it's not happening inside of Washington where lawmakers are.

And so today you'll see the president not only pushing forward talking about his American jobs plan, talking about the American families plan, but also looking back and talking about the coronavirus relief bill, the American rescue plan that passed previously to tout some of the funding that went there as the president visits not only a K-12 school today, but also a community college to talk about that American families plan.

And you can see him now arriving at Joint Base Andrews as he prepares to head to the state of Virginia, one of several trips this week to make the pitch on all of these proposals.

HARLOW: Jeremy, thank you very, very much. We'll keep an eye on this. Again, a big day for the president to try to rally support around these plans.

Still to come, the effort to vaccinate younger children is moving forward. This week trials in kids between six months and 12 years old are beginning for the Moderna vaccine. We'll talk to one of the doctors leading the effort, ahead.

SCIUTTO: Plus, as cities and states across the country grapple with police reform, or attempts at it, Colorado is so far the only state to end so-called qualified immunity for police. It protects them from civil prosecutions. That state's attorney general will join us and describe how it's working there.

And, the captain of a suspected smuggling vessel is now in custody. This after the severely crowded boat, you can see it there, overturned. It killed four people. We're going to have the latest, next.

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[09:18:32]

HARLOW: Welcome back.

Well, over the weekend, new COVID cases in the U.S. fell to under 50,000. Hospitalizations and deaths also declining here. A lot of that is due to widespread vaccination efforts for anyone over 16 years old.

But what about kids? Moderna starting their vaccine trial in children, first with 12-year-olds and moving on to younger ages, as young as six months old. Yale Medical School is one of the 90 sites for these pediatric trials.

And joining me now is Dr. Inci Yildirim, a pediatric specialist in infectious diseases at Yale Medicine helping lead this trial.

So thank you not only being here, thank you for helping all of us who are waiting and waiting for kids to be able to be vaccinated.

Good morning.

DR. INCI YILDIRIM, LEADING MODERNA VACCINE TRIAL IN CHILDREN AT YALE: Good morning. Thanks for having me.

HARLOW: Doctor, can you talk about how it's different to run a vaccine trial on little kids? I mean, as I understand it, you give them a fraction of the dose an adult would get, but there's also a lot more that you need to look out for, right?

YILDIRIM: So children are not little adults. They grow, their body weight, their height and their immune system varies in terms of how they react to the vaccines. So there are many things that you have to consider, unlike -- different from the adult studies. A 16-month-old baby is not the same as a 15-year-old teenager. With adults, you have broader age ranges and you can have more individuals in the broader groups.

[09:20:04]

But with the children, we have three different age groups in our study. We have six months to two years of age, two to six years of age and six to 12 years of age. Also you have to consider the other vaccines that the children are routinely getting for the year as part of their routine immunization so that the impact of other vaccines are not getting affected with the study vaccine.

HARLOW: Right.

Does that mean it's going to take us longer to get approval for the youngest children to get the vaccine than perhaps it did for the FDA to green light it for adults?

YILDIRIM: I think our pace will be slower because we have many safety checkpoints. We don't -- you know, the first part of our study is to find the right dose. And we have very limited number of children who will be getting a certain dose and then we have a pause and look at what the safety data, this type of step, and then we will not vaccinate any other children until we see that the vaccine that has been -- the dose that has been given is safe. So it will take a little bit longer.

HARLOW: There was a poll about a month ago in early April from ABC and IPSOS and it found that just over half of U.S. parents then said they would likely get their child vaccinated. And that means that unless that number has gone up dramatically, there are about half of parents who are not yet in the camp of vaccinating their children.

You have two kids. I know your older one is vaccinated. You've also got a five-year-old at home. What do you say to those folks who are on the fence?

YILDIRIM: I just want them to talk with their providers. They all want the best for their children. We all want the best for our children. Just talk with your provider. Go over your concerns. You may hear things that change your view. And at the end of the day, it is your decision and it is a collaboration between you and your provider. And it will, you know, target the best for your children. Just talk with your provider.

HARLOW: OK. If that number doesn't go up, if about half of parents do not choose to vaccinate their children, can the U.S. reach herd immunity without that number going way up?

YILDIRIM: I think we can just look at the measles example to answer this question. With the measles, as you know, we -- our vaccination rate is around 99 (ph) percent, but we have small pockets of populations where we don't have that high rate of vaccination. And you may remember back in 2019 we had measles outbreaks. So the answer to your question, if this trend goes on, it is going to be, you know, one population we will have the herd immunity, but the other population will not. And then when we have the travel, air travel and the communication between those populations, we will never get to 100 percent herd immunity.

HARLOW: Yes. I completely remember that because one of the outbreaks was like a mile from where we live in Brooklyn. And I had a little baby at the time, right, who had not had all their MMR vaccines yet. So I think a lot of parents vividly remember that.

Finally, how should we act as parents when more and more adults are vaccinated but our little children aren't, right? So as we don't have to wear masks outside, for example, once adults are fully vaccinated, what does that mean for our kids? Should we be taking them to restaurants? Should we be taking them on vacation, right, if they're not vaccinated yet?

YILDIRIM: It is a challenge. I have a five-year-old. She's very good at masking. She's really good at hand washing. But she is a five-year- old. And I want her back to birthday parties, I want her back to play dates, and I want her to come to a restaurant with me. And I think I will still be very uncomfortable if adults around her are unvaccinated. HARLOW: But we don't know. What do we do with the unknown, right?

YILDIRIM: So this is a challenge, and I don't have a good answer for it. But I think I will keep my five-year-old in the -- in the, you know, the social distancing, masking kind of rules until I know that further more and more people are vaccinated.

HARLOW: Doctor, Yildirim, thank you very much for this morning and good luck with the trial. We all look forward to seeing the outcome.

YILDIRIM: Thank you so much.

HARLOW: Jim.

SCIUTTO: Indeed.

Sticking points do remain when it comes to police reform negotiations on Capitol Hill, though the possibility of Congress still. While Congress continues to talk, states such as Colorado have already taken action. We're going to speak to the attorney general from Colorado, next.

HARLOW: We are also moments away from the opening bell on Wall Street this morning. Futures pointing higher this morning. Investors pretty optimistic with companies showing big earnings growths over the past few weeks. Also investors keeping a close eye on manufacturing data coming out that could give more insight into global economic recovery.

Stay right here.

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[09:29:46]

HARLOW: Today, Andrew Brown Jr. will be laid to rest in North Carolina as his family continues to demand the public release of police body camera footage showing his death. It was just late last month sheriff's deputies in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, shot the 42- year-old while they were trying to serve a warrant.

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