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Biden Departs for Trip Abroad; White House Pivots on Infrastructure Talks; Vaccine Doses Set to Expire; Delta Variant Warning. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired June 9, 2021 - 09:00   ET

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


[09:00:00]

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our hell of cicadas, John Berman.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, or as Brianna Keilar likes to call them, lunch.

KEILAR: CNN's coverage continues right now with Poppy Harlow and Jim Sciutto.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: A very good Wednesday morning to you. No cicada snacks here. I'm Jim Sciutto.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Poppy Harlow.

I cannot believe what has happened with them.

So far, happening right now, now that the cicada incident is over, President Biden is now officially on board Air Force One headed for his first international trip. In the coming days, the president faces critical meetings with global leaders that will define relationships around the globe, hoping for legislative wins here at home while he's away, but those hopes fading fast. This is an eight-day trip. It consists of stops in the United Kingdom, Brussels and Geneva, where most notably he will hold an in-person summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Biden spoke moments ago about what he hopes to accomplish on this trip.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Strengthening the alliance. Making clear to Putin and to China that Europe and the United States are tight. And the G-7 is going to move.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: And as President Biden departs the U.S., Vice President Kamala Harris, she returns. The vice president is back in Washington after her trip to Mexico and Guatemala, part of it overshadowed by her answers to reporter questions about visiting the southern U.S. border. We're going to have more on that just ahead.

CNN's Arlette Saenz, she's in Falmouth, England. Nic Robertson in Carbis Bay.

Arlette, let's begin with you.

This is Biden's first international trip as president. A key part of this is meeting with those alliances he talks about G-7, NATO. What's on his schedule? What does he hope to accomplish?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, President Biden has made it clear that one of his key priorities on this first foreign trip is shoring up those relations with allies. But he also wants to send a message to adversaries, like China and Russia, that the U.S. is united in its allies and ready to confront them if necessary. That message will culminate at the end of the week when one week from today President Biden will sit down with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva, Switzerland.

But first on the president's agenda, he is flying right now to the United Kingdom. And today he will land at Mildenhall Air Force Base where he will -- he and his wife, First Lady Jill Biden, will meet with families of service members and the president will also deliver remarks there, before traveling here to Cornwall where this G-7 summit is being held.

Tomorrow he meets with the British prime minister before those G-7 summit meetings get under way. And issues like climate change and COVID-19 are expected to be at the top of the agenda. The president is expected to, at some point in the coming days, make an announcement when it comes to global production of the vaccine.

Now, after his meetings here at the G-7 summit, he and the first lady will travel to Windsor where they will meet with Queen Elizabeth. President Biden, the 13th American president who the queen will meet. And then the president will move on to meetings in Brussels, Belgium, for the NATO summit, as well as the EU summit.

Then culminating the entire week is that high-stakes sit-down with Russian President Vladimir Putin. There was some debate within the White House about whether the president should be engaging with him on this first foreign trip, but, ultimately, the president sees value in having that face-to-face interaction. And while they -- the White House says that there may not be any tangible results from that Putin meeting, they are stressing that it will help set the course for discussions going forward.

Of course, this is also President Biden's first trip as president. He's been preparing this, you could say, for almost all of his life as he's circled the international stage. But today, when he lands here in Europe, he is the leader of the United States of America with that decision-making power.

HARLOW: Yes, and he loves this stuff. I mean this is, as his aides say, his favorite part of his job is really dealing with these big issues on the world stage.

Nic Robertson, to you.

He has this bilateral meeting with U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson. This is ahead of the G-7. What do you know about that meeting and also how crucial is it given, you know, here in the U.S., on the domestic front, you have this bill that just passed the Senate in terms of confronting China and then you have the EU making this big deal with China separate from the United States. It's notable.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: It is. I think also notable is the fact that Boris Johnson, like President Biden, really enjoys this type of meeting. I mean he gets to be the first leader that President Biden meets on his first foreign trip. So that's a pretty big -- a pretty big get for Prime Minister Boris Johnson and he really wants to make that alliance between the United States and the U.K. stronger. He's looking to improve the travel between the two countries during the remainder of the pandemic.

[09:05:04]

That's a big ticket issue on his agenda.

But perhaps the biggest thing for Prime Minister Boris Johnson is that he is still wrangling with the EU over some of the Brexit issues, particularly what people here call the northern Ireland protocol. And he's going to look to President Biden for support on that issue. And he may not find it. President Biden really sort of favors the Irish and EU position on this.

So there will be tension in that meeting. But, look, I think both of them are going to want to come out of it showing that the two countries stand side by side. And as for on Russia and China, I think President Biden is going to find a lot of unity, not just from the British, but from the Europeans and other G-7 leaders.

SCIUTTO: Very unlike Trump visits to those same allies and those same alliances during his administration.

HARLOW: Right.

SCIUTTO: Arlette Saenz, Nic Robertson, thanks so much to both of you.

Back here at home in the U.S., after weeks of negotiations, infrastructure talks, well, they've broken down between President Biden and a Senate GOP group lead by Senator Shelley Moore Capito. The differences, both on the size of it, but also how to pay for it just too wide.

HARLOW: It's not over yet. The White House is now shifting its focus toward another of bipartisan Senate group. This group proposing a $761 billion deal. Still trying to figure out how they would pay for it.

Lauren Fox is on Capitol Hill.

Lauren, good morning to you. So he gets off the phone with Capito, always sort of peaceful, but

they didn't get much done. And then he gets on the phone with Senator Cassidy, apparently.

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's exactly right. And not just Senator Cassidy, but others as well, including Democrat Kyrsten Sinema.

I think that what is significant here is that you are seeing the White House start to shift their focus from those bipartisan talks they were having, of course, with Shelley Moore Capito to what they might be able to do both alone and with a bipartisan group of senators that had been working very quietly behind the scenes for the last couple of weeks.

Because those senators did not want to step on toes of the ongoing White House and Capito negotiations, they had sort of kept their efforts under wraps. Now, last night, they had a larger group of members who met behind closed doors for hours. There were pizzas brought in. They clearly were trying to find some kind of way forward. Because the bottom line is, now is the time if a bipartisan deal is actually going to come together.

Remember, the White House has spent the last several weeks trying to work through this with a separate group of Republicans. There's not that much time. The August recess is really just around the corner in terms of legislative schedule. And there is a feeling that Democrats need to move quickly if they're going to do something on a bipartisan level.

On the other side of it, Schumer making very clear yesterday that he is going to pursue a Democratic-only strategy sort of in tandem and just in case those bipartisan talks don't pan out. Of course, if past is prologue and these bipartisan conversations end the same way the Capito White House negotiations ended yesterday, you get into a situation where Democrats need to be prepared to move quickly.

And there's some pressure coming from progressives to go ahead and move on from these bipartisan talks more quickly than the Biden administration has been willing to do so. I think it's important for viewers back home to keep in mind that any bill that Biden wants to push forward still needs 50 Democratic senators. And I think part of the reason you see the White House continuing these bipartisan investments in their time is that they have to convince someone like Joe Manchin to go ahead and cut off talks on this bipartisan group. And to do that, they have to make it look like they're very serious about having those conversations themselves.

HARLOW: OK, Lauren, thank you for laying all that out for us.

Let's talk about the details here with our political analyst, co- author of "Political Playbook," Rachael Bade.

Rachael, you guys have some fascinating -- a lot of fascinating nuggets this morning in "Playbook" in terms of how this call went with Cassidy and sort of this new Republican group that the White House thinks might be able to help them get this over the finish line without just Democrats?

RACHAEL BADE, CO-AUTHOR, "POLITICO PLAYBOOK": Yes, I mean, look, I mean Biden -- President Biden has basically swapped one Senate Republican negotiating partner for another right now and he's giving this more time to see if he can come up with a deal. Capito -- Cassidy -- Senator Bill Cassidy of Louisiana is the new Senator Capito.

And basically, you know, after he hung up with Capito, he called Cassidy. They apparently had a very good conversation. Cassidy has signaled that he is willing to accept a number that is higher in terms of new spending. This is where talks broke down with Capito before. You know, Republicans were not willing to come up to a number that he found acceptable in terms of new spending for infrastructure.

And so, I mean, I think the big question here is, how is this going to be any different than these previous talks? Sure, Cassidy is signaling that he would be acceptable -- he would accept a larger number, but he's one Senate Republican. They need ten. And so I -- and there's still a fundamental problem with pay-fors.

[09:10:03]

Is any Senate Republican going to actually accept increasing taxes? I'm pretty skeptical about that.

So there's a lot of, you know, positive talking right now between the two parties, these two men, but, again, it's going to come down to the specifics. The devil is in the details. And when it comes to that, they're still pretty far apart.

SCIUTTO: You know, Cassidy's an interesting target here, right, because he has very, you know, defiantly bucked GOP leadership voting to convict President Trump.

HARLOW: Yes.

SCIUTTO: And also voting for the bipartisan commission. As you say, you need nine others, right, to get it passed.

So if you don't get those ten Republican votes, that leaves reconciliation. And Schumer is preparing, laying the groundwork for that as kind of plan c, d or wherever we are in the alphabet right now.

If they go that path, does Biden have Manchin and Sinema reliably to keep his 50 votes plus the vice president?

BADE: I tend to think it's going to be very hard for Manchin and Sinema to vote against a Democratic bill, even though they would prefer a bipartisan one. I mean, if you think about it, these infrastructure bills are going to be huge. They're going to be chock full of specific spending for their states. Are they going to vote against that? I'm very skeptical.

But, again, this is President Biden showing that he's willing to try to make that bipartisan deal, bending over backwards to try to talk to anybody who wants to talk to him to strike this agreement.

But I do think, you know, you have to watch these other Democrats right now. I mean progressives, Pramila Jayapal, who leads the congressional progressive caucus, put out a statement last night calling this a waste of time. People are getting very fed up. Democrats are getting very fed up with these talks and they're ready to move.

HARLOW: So I was reading this -- it's a few years old now -- "GQ" profile last night on Manchin from 2018. And this line struck me then Rachael that he said. He told a reporter, my worst day as governor was better than my best day as senator. My worst day as governor was better than my best day as senator. And that was then.

I just wonder your thoughts on now so many Democratic-led attacks coming at Joe Manchin. And I'm not saying they're unfounded or founded. I'm just saying that's what's happening. And I just wonder if there's any risk there in continuing this because there's no other Democrat that they would get elected statewide for Senate in West Virginia.

BADE: Yes, I mean, I think Manchin says stuff like that quite often. And I think it's less to do with the attacks on him. There are a lot of progressives going after him right now. And I talked to someone close to him just Monday actually about this. And this person told me specifically he, you know, wears those as a badge of honor. It doesn't bug him.

HARLOW: Right.

BADE: The thing that bugs him I guess about Washington is that bipartisanship is so out of fashion, right? He is somebody who, you know, he would have been perhaps made for a different time -- a senator made for a different time, a couple of decades ago, when bipartisan deals were the regular thing. He wants to see that happen more often. But in this Washington, both sides very much benefit from going their own partisan directions.

Mitch McConnell, he benefits if bipartisan talks break down because then he can campaign against a Democratic Washington and try and flip the Senate. You know, Democrats -- Democratic leaders Pelosi and Schumer benefit from a partisan Washington because they can actually get their priorities passed and not have to sort of settle for something less.

And so Manchin hates Washington for that reason. It's bipartisanship. It's just not cool right now. It's not the fad.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Political incentives aligned against it, right, for, you know, for both parties in some respects.

HARLOW: Yes.

BADE: Right.

SCIUTTO: Rachael Bade, thanks very much. BADE: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Still to come this hour, Dr. Fauci with a warning about a new highly contagious variant of the coronavirus, saying we cannot allow it to become dominant here in the U.S. What it means, that's next.

Also, more Republican state lawmakers are going to Arizona to tour the site of a so-called audit of the 2020 election. By the way, it was already legally audited and results confirmed. Should we expect other states to follow in the footsteps of this?

HARLOW: Plus, a new report revealing how the 25 richest Americans, many of them pay no to little federal income tax. We'll explain the details of what was found here.

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[09:18:35]

HARLOW: Hundreds of thousands of doses of Johnson & Johnson's COVID vaccine could go completely to waste if they're not administered in the next few weeks.

SCIUTTO: Senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen has been following this.

Elizabeth, tell us why this is happening? Does it have to happen? I mean is the data clear that they're no longer safe after a certain time on the shelf and what can be done about it?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: So, Jim, the data was clear enough when they gave the Emergency Use Authorization that it was good for three months refrigerated and after that essentially it expires in the same way that when you see medicine in your medicine cabinet at home that's expired, you're supposed to get rid of it. These doses are not supposed to be used after that time.

Now, is it possible, Johnson & Johnson says that they're working on trying to extend the shelf life. Is it possible that they will extend it in the future? Yes. But for the moment, that's the date on those doses.

So let's take a look at what the situation is with these doses. According to CDC data, that there have been 24.1 million doses of Johnson & Johnson delivered out to vaccination sites but only 11 million have been administered. So as you can see, that is -- that is a lot. That's about half that hasn't gone out yet. And so states are saying, you know, we have these doses and we're not going to use them, we want to basically send them to someone who can make use of them.

And it's a little unclear why Johnson & Johnson seems to be having this issue and not the other vaccines.

[09:20:05]

It might have something to do with the fact that they couldn't administer Johnson & Johnson for about ten days. It was put on pause while they researched a possible side effect of the vaccine.

Jim. Poppy.

HARLOW: I guess my immediate thought is, then send them to countries that desperately need them. Can they do that?

COHEN: Right. Well, it looks like they can't. "The Wall Street Journal" is quoting an unnamed administration official that says that logistically and legally that it would be very, very challenging to do that. I mean you would think like, oh, just put it in a box and ship it off to India or some other country that needs it.

There are all sorts of legal reasons why you can't quite do that, not to mention logistical reasons. It's not as easy as just shipping it off, especially if it is near expiration date, you certainly don't want to be shipping drugs that are about to expire.

HARLOW: Yes. Well, all right, Elizabeth, thank you.

Dr. Anthony Fauci has a stark warning about the delta variant of COVID, the first one, of course, that was identified in India. He says it is rapidly emerging as the dominant variant in the U.K. and that we cannot let that happen in the United States.

SCIUTTO: Yes, it's more contagious.

With us now infectious diseases specialist and CNN medical analyst, Dr. Celine Gounder. She also served on President Biden's Coronavirus Task Force during the transition.

Dr. Gounder, we've had multiple variant comes through. There was a U.K. variant, the South African variant, Brazilian, now you have the Delta variant here.

The good news, as they've emerged, is that the existing vaccines, Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, have shown very good protection against it. Is the same true for the delta variant as far as we know?

DR. CELINE GOUNDER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Jim, the delta variant really is a double threat because it is both more infectious and it can evade our immune responses. Our immune response to natural infection. And if you've only gotten one shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccines, you are not protected against the delta variant. So you really need to get both shots to be protected against that.

HARLOW: What do you do -- like is that -- what else can be done to protect against what Fauci said is happening in the U.K., not happening here? Is it only in people getting both doses?

GOUNDER: So what we saw with the U.K. variant is that we were really concerned we were going to experience surges here in the United States as they did in Europe. And we were lucky that we were farther along in our vaccine rollout here in the United States. We saw a more localized surge in states like Michigan, Minnesota, you know, the upper Midwest.

And I think what we really need to be doing is realizing that was a warning sign if you have states where vaccination rates are lower, they are still vulnerable, especially with this new delta variant, which is even more infectious. And so some of the places we all have an eye on right now are the southern states, the states that had a surge last summer.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HARLOW: Yes.

SCIUTTO: I mean, and their rates are massively lower, right? I mean you have states up in the northeast, 70 percent of the adult population, down south some that are less than half that. I mean and that's part of the message here, is it not, right, that it's not just about protecting your own health, it's protecting everyone's health.

What is the status of -- what's the progress on reaching that portion of the population that remains hesitant or outright opposed to getting vaccinated?

GOUNDER: Look, my message to folks who have not been vaccinated yet is, this is the time to get vaccinated before this hits because we will probably see localized surges in parts of the country where vaccination rates are lower. If you are not vaccinated, you are simply not protected. You are at risk.

And what we are seeing right now is that in communities where vaccination rates are low, the transmission of coronavirus is just as high as it was nationally back in January. So you have sort of two different Americas. You have the people who have been vaccinated and you have the people who are not. And the pandemic is definitely not over for those who are not vaccinated.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HARLOW: Can we just end on the flu because it is so true that this season, the year, I mean the evidence shows so few people had the flu, although oddly my daughter got the flu last week. I am not sure how since she's always wearing a mask, but that's what the test said.

But, look, I just wonder what your thoughts are as people take off masks, not little kids right now, but as the country opens up, are we going to see the flu come back with a vengeance?

GOUNDER: There's a lot we don't know about that. I mean certainly the mask wearing and the social distancing protected us against the flu this past season. That also means we have less natural immunity. People also got vaccinated less against the flu because they just didn't go to the doctor's office.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HARLOW: That's a great point.

GOUNDER: So we don't know quite how it's going to play out.

HARLOW: So it sounds like you're saying it could be worse? GOUNDER: It could be worse. You know, some of these behaviors that we

picked up over the pandemic, maybe we'll go back to wearing masks once flu season starts. Maybe we'll just be better about, you know, staying away from people who are sick, washing our hands.

[09:25:01]

HARLOW: Right.

GOUNDER: So it's really hard to know how that's going to play out.

SCIUTTO: Yes. It was amazing to see the flu drop off during the pandemic, right, because of social distancing and mask wearing.

Dr. Celine Gounder, thanks so much to you.

Well, Dr. Anthony Fauci will join CNN's Erica Hill live at 11:00 a.m. to discuss the delta variant and other health headlines. A chance to get some of those questions answered. Please stay tuned.

Ahead, Vice President Kamala Harris on defense after taking heat over the border and how she's responding to a question about why she hasn't visited there yet.

HARLOW: Also, a new ProPublica report from leaked IRS documents show the wealthiest -- 25 wealthiest Americans, many of them paying very little or close to nothing in federal income tax. More on that ahead.

And we're moments away from the opening bell on Wall Street. U.S. stock futures, well, a little bit mixed right now here ahead of the open. The S&P 500 has been subdued for much of the last two weeks as investors weigh the reopening of this economy with rising inflation and supply chain concerns. A key inflation metric due out tomorrow. We'll stay on it.

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