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Pete Buttigieg is Interviewed about Infrastructure; Fauci on Mask Rules; Catastrophe Avoided in Tennessee; Clashes in the Streets of Israeli Cities. Aired 9:30-10a ET.

Aired May 13, 2021 - 09:30   ET



PETE BUTTIGIEG, SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION: To fully pay for it just by asking corporations to pay their fair share. It's what most Americans think is the right thing to do and we think it is.

Now, having said that, this is a negotiation and there may be other ways to get this done that don't cross anyone's red line. And that's exactly the conversation I expect will take place today with Republicans in the Senate and the kind of conversation that's happening every day over the phone as I'm connecting with members in both houses, the White House, others.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: You're saying there could be other ways to get this done. Does that mean you're saying that it does not have to be a corporate tax hike to pay for this?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, again, that's the way to do it that we believe makes the most sense. We also think it's just fair to expect corporations to pay their fair share.

But, yes, this is the right time for those who have alternative proposals on how to pay for this to put those proposals on the table and to remember that we can't lose focus on the actual need here. We've got a major bridge out of commission. We've been reminded in a very blunt way with the pipeline issues just how important infrastructure is. What we definitely can't afford is to do nothing.

SCIUTTO: Yes. And with this now shutdown of I-40 down there, you know, the highway bridge.

So we talked about taxes. I want to talk about overall price tag here because, of course, the Biden plan close to $2 trillion here. You have Republicans now saying they're willing to come up from their initial $568 billion offer. You've had McConnell and others mention perhaps $800 billion but that's significantly lower, less than half, right, of where you started here.

Is that number, $800 billion or something in that range, a nonstarter for President Biden? BUTTIGIEG: Well, it's certainly encouragement -- encouraging to see

that movement. We want to understand what's behind that number. Is it apples to apples? What did they envision in terms of what goes to roads and bridges compared to things like lead pipes or broadband Internet. But those are the conversations that are happening right now.

They're healthy conversations. That's how a negotiation works. And I continue to believe and I know the president believes in a bipartisan approach to do everything we can to at least agree on the things that we could do together.

SCIUTTO: Are you confident that Republicans are negotiating in good faith? That they will -- that they really would vote or follow through on a bipartisan approach?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, at the end of the day, we'll have to see how they decide to vote. But we've absolutely had good-faith conversations where there's a lot of good will with members in both parties who want to get something done.

The thing I've noticed in talking to House and Senate members from across the country from both parties is, everyone here in Washington, in the Congress, in the Senate, they're all from somewhere.

They're all going home to districts and going home to states where there are roads that need work, where there are bridges that need improvement, where there are airports that have fallen behind, where people don't have the broadband that they need, where people are afraid of whether they have safe drinking water sometimes because of lead pipes. The need is so clear that if there's any issue in domestic policy where we can have a good-faith agreement, I've got to think this is that area.

SCIUTTO: How much time, though? Because we've seen this before. We saw it with COVID relief plans. Some back and forth. Maybe they'll come up. They didn't. Ultimately, Democrats and the president went with reconciliation.

How long before President Biden says, I tried, I'm going with only Democratic votes?

BUTTIGIEG: Well, we can't wait forever. There's a sense of urgency here. And I would say the biggest red line for the president actually is the idea of doing nothing or punting. We've got to act. Each passing year we are seeing the need build up. This is a safety issue. It's an economic issue. And so there is an expectation that these days and weeks we're in right now need to lead to something and they need to lead to real action quickly.

SCIUTTO: We'll be watching.

Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, we appreciate you joining the broadcast this morning.

BUTTIGIEG: Same here. Thanks. SCIUTTO: And we'll be right back.



POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Breaking news this morning from Dr. Fauci. He says if you are fully vaccinated and outside, you can lose the mask. It's very clear, direct. People need this guidance.

Joining us now to discuss, our medical analyst, Dr. Leana Wen, former Baltimore health commissioner and contributing columnist for "The Washington Post."

Good morning, Dr. Wen.

The thing is, when the CDC sort of said this about a week ago, it wasn't clear. This is as clear as it could be from Dr. Fauci. What's your read this morning?

DR. LEANA WEN, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN: I love what Dr. Fauci said because that's really what the American people need to hear. It's something that clear, direct and practical. The CDC put out this complicated chart with faces of different colors, some with masks, without masks. It was hard to interpret. And I loved the directness of what Dr. Fauci said, that if you're outdoors, you're vaccinated, no need to wear a mask.

I would actually go further than that and say, if your outdoors, full stop, you don't need to be wearing a mask. Actually, outdoors is the safest place to be if you are unvaccinated. I don't want unvaccinated people to be hanging out with each other at home indoors. I want them to go outside because that transmission rate is so much lower.

I think people are just really tired of the pandemic and we have to give them ways to socialize and be with one another again. And that includes being outdoors and, in the meantime, trying to get vaccinated so you can also hang out with one another indoors.

HARLOW: Let me ask you about children now 12 to 15, or 12 and older being able to get vaccinated. Parents are largely making that decision for or with their children, obviously.

What do you say to parents who point to this and say, well, kids are so much less likely to get sick from COVID anyway, why vaccinate them?

WEN: Well, first of all, I want to affirm that they are right, that children tend to get much less ill than adults do, certainly older adults.


But we also know that children have gotten sick. We know that there have been now hundreds of kids, I think it's over 300 children who have died from coronavirus, including some who were previously healthy. There are thousands who have gotten this multisystem inflammatory disorder that may have long-term consequences. I certainly wouldn't want my child to go through that.

And I also think that for a lot of kids, getting vaccinated is their way of getting back to normal. They want to do sports again and camp and sleepovers and going shopping and all these things without worrying about infecting one another or their parents and grandparents. And so I think it's -- a lot of parents are going to want to vaccinate their kids immediately. That's great. Others might want to see what that initial group looks like. And I think that watching and waiting to see what their peers do is also OK, too.

HARLOW: There was a really important moment two days ago in the testimony with Fauci and with the CDC director, Dr. Walensky, when she was asked about all the other vaccinations that kids have to get, mandatory in many cases, that many families have been delaying because of COVID. And at that point they didn't have an answer on whether you could get it at the same time as you're getting a COVID vaccine or if you had it wait. But it appears that that has changed and there's more guidance now.

What do parents need to know?

WEN: Parents need to know that if your child has not received all their immunizations because of COVID, maybe you haven't gone to the doctor, put off that routine visit, now is the time to catch up on all those other immunizations because we don't want a resurgence of measles or chicken pox or something else in our neighborhoods.

HARLOW: Right.

WEN: We also want to know that, at this time, now the CDC is saying it's fine to get the COVID vaccine at the same time that you're getting other childhood vaccinations, which is really important.

HARLOW: So just go get them all.

OK. Quick -- quick final question. You have a great piece in "The Washington Post" basically saying teenagers can be ambassadors for us on the way out of this. What do you mean?

WEN: I think we, as the public health community, have been doing a very bad job of communicating the efficacy and the great power of these vaccines. And we now need to show the public about what you can do once you're fully vaccinated. So I think teens who are now going to all these birthday celebrations and traveling and hanging out with each other, I hope that they'll be posting videos to TikTok and posting selfies and I think that will do a lot to inspire confidence in the vaccines.

HARLOW: Dr. Leana Wen, thank you very much.

WEN: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Take those masks off outside.

Well, a catastrophic event narrowly avoided after a crack was found in a major highway bridge over the Mississippi River. Take a look at that there. We're going to take you there live.



HARLOW: Well, a potential catastrophe avoided right along the Mississippi River. The Tennessee Department of Transportation shut down the I-40 bridge that spans the river into Memphis after officials discovered a crack. Look at that. That crack dis (ph), luckily, Jim, during a routine inspection.

SCIUTTO: That is no small crack.

HARLOW: Right.

SCIUTTO: I mean it goes straight through that beam there.


SCIUTTO: CNN's Nick Valencia is in Memphis this morning.

And, Nick, I wonder what officials are saying there now with portions of the lower Mississippi, as well, closed to boats. How long does it take to fix that, and what do they do in the meantime?

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, just so scary looking at those pictures. That is not a minor crack. It's about a two-foot by three- foot steel box beam and 20 percent of it is cracked. And I talked to the chief engineer here in the state of Tennessee who tells me that, at minimum, a temporary fix on this bridge behind me will take at least two months. And they're working on that, doing forensic analysis to figure out how that got there.

It was spotted, as you mentioned, Jim, during a routine inspection. Bridges in the United States are inspected on -- every two years. The last inspection they said it was not there. I asked how long they think it has been there. They said judging by the rust on the metal there, potentially a couple of weeks. But if you to listen to the 911 call, I mean this sounded like a life or death situation when the engineer who spotted it called it in.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We just found a super critical finding that needs traffic shut down in both directions on the I-40 Mississippi River Bridge. We need to get people off the bridge as soon as possible.


VALENCIA: Now, let's be clear, this is not just a Memphis problem, although this bridge does connect Memphis to Arkansas. This is a major artery in the United States. One of the busiest trans-continental routes for freight trucks, you know, things -- a lot of big trucks moving across this bridge. Fifty thousand vehicles every day according to local affiliates here. So this has the potential of impacting not just the region, but potentially the United States. And, of course, Jim and Poppy, this comes at a time when Washington

politicians are talking about infrastructure funding. And, you know, looking at the bridge and the situation behind me, they can certainly use the money right now.

Another aspect of this just real quick here is there's a shortage of steel which could cause more delays in how long it takes to get this bridge fixed.

Jim. Poppy.

HARLOW: Oh, the last thing they need. I keep thinking about the bridge in Minnesota and what happened and thank goodness it all -- this has been avoided.

Nick, thank you very much.

Well, ahead for us, the violence between Israelis and Palestinians escalating this morning as the death toll rises. A live update, next.



SCIUTTO: The alarming violence escalating in the Middle East between the Israeli military, Palestinian militants, even mobs in the street. Rioting, violent clashes unfolding between Arab and Jewish citizens in the streets of several Israeli cities now.

HARLOW: Let's go to our colleague Hadas Gold, who joins us this morning.

Hadas, we've -- you're been with us -- you're in Tel Aviv this morning -- every morning telling us the latest. What is happening on the ground right now?

HADAS GOLD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we've already, at least once a day, had to go run for cover in this parking garage behind me when we heard those air raid sirens going off, actually right before we were live a few hours ago.

But I'm standing at the location of where one rocket hit overnight here in northern Tel Aviv. You can see just the size of this impact.


The damage extending up to the buildings around us, windows, balconies blown out and also to the cars within this garage, you can just see how they are blown out. There are pock marks all around the wall and on the ground here. It just goes to show you what one of these rockets can do. The Israeli military saying that more than 1,600 of them have been fired from Gaza into Israel by those militants.

Now, the Israeli military saying they are responding with force. They say they have targeted more than 600 targets. They say they have also wiped out a significant number of senior Hamas operatives. They've also leveled three -- at least buildings, they said, hosted important Hamas offices as well.

And the -- unfortunately, of course, the death toll is mounting. According to the Palestinian ministry of health in Gaza, they say 83 people have been killed, including 17 children. In Israel, seven people have been killed, including a six-year-old and one soldier.

And, of course, now there is increasing concern over those violence in those mixed Jewish and Arab cities where we've seen just really horrific videos and reports of violence, Jewish on Arab, Arab on Jewish. That is a very worrying, new escalation of this already very tense situation.

SCIUTTO: That's right. That's just a phenomenon we have not seen on the ground there to this degree. Severely concerning to people there I've spoken with.

Hadas Gold, please stay safe. We wish you and your team the best. Thanks very much.

And there is new video from the January 6th insurrection. It is, we must say, alarming to watch, highlighting the violence of that day. This as congressional Republicans are lying to try to rewrite the history of that day. The contrast is remarkable.