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Biden Departs for First Overseas Trip as Agenda Stalls at Home; Fauci Says, We Cannot Let Delta Variant Become Dominant in U.S.; Democrats Frustrated on Way Forward as Biden Agenda Stalls. Aired 10- 10:30a ET

Aired June 9, 2021 - 10:00   ET




POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: Top of the hour. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.


Crucial moments ahead for President Biden, hours from now, he will touch down in the U.K. kicking off his first international trip as president. Over the next eight days, he'll meet with several global leaders including, most notably, Russian President Vladimir Putin, as well as leaders of the close U.S. allies. The goal, define America's role abroad and restore traditional alliances that, Poppy, as we know, Donald Trump did not have such an appetite for.

HARLOW: Yes. This will be markedly different than the last time around. All of this as hopes for legislative win here at home seem to be fading. Infrastructure talks pretty stalled after weeks of trying to find compromise, but new talks on that front are emerging. Let's see if they can get it across the finish line.

But let's begin on this foreign trip with our Arlette Saenz. She's in Falmouth, England. Arlette, good morning -- good afternoon to you.

Again, his first international trip as president, ending with arguably his most critical/difficult conversation with Vladimir Putin. What's ahead?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin might well be the most important and critical of this seven, eight-day tour across Europe as the president is on his first international trip. President Biden has made clear that he wants to show that the U.S. is committed to its allies, but also that it is ready to confront adversaries like China and Russia.

And shortly before the president took off from Joint Base Andrews just within the past few hours, he talked about the goals he has for this trip. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: Step into the alliance, make it clear to Putin and to China that Europe and the United States are tight and the G7 is going to move.


SAENZ: Now, when the president lands here in the United Kingdom later this evening, his first order of business will be meeting with service members and their families stationed at Mildenhall Air Base here just outside of London. The president and the first lady, Jill Biden, will be meeting with families and service members there. And the president will also give remarks before he heads to this region of Cornwall where the G7 summit is being held.

The president also has a meeting with Prime Minister Boris Johnson tomorrow before those G7 meetings get under way. COVID-19, climate and countering China are expected to be at the top of the agenda for that summit. And the president, while in the U.K., also will meet with Queen Elizabeth, the 13th American president the queen will sit down with face-to-face.

Noiw, from the U.K., the president travels to Brussels for a NATO summit as well as an E.U. summit and a side meeting with Turkey's Erdogan. And that comes just ahead of that critical meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, where the president himself has said he plans to address some of the cyberattacks that have recently been occurring.

So many high-stakes issues under debate during this first foreign trip for the president, a trip he has been preparing for for most of his lifetime. As you know, he circled the international stage for so many years and now he's finally president of the United States.


HARLOW: Arlette, thanks for the reporting from Falmouth, England.

SCIUTTO: Back here at home, a setback for the Biden administration on infrastructure after negotiations that went on for weeks between President Biden and a Senate GOP group led by Senator Shelley Moore Capito, those negotiations, well, they came to an end. Now the White House is setting its hopes on another bipartisan Senate group. We'll see if that one makes a difference.

HARLOW: This comes as the House Problem Solvers Caucus proposes its own deal that includes $761 billion in new spending, still questions on how that would be exactly paid for.

Our Chief Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill. Is there a reason to be more hopeful of this group and the work now being done between Biden and Senator Cassidy than there was between Biden and Senator Capito?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I can tell you the prospects are very steep here in order to get a deal.


The Democrats are very concerned. A number of them I talked to don't like the direction this is going. And others -- it's unclear whether or not any deal that may be reached among this group of mostly moderate and right-leaning Republican senators can come to an agreement that can pass muster in the Democratic-led Senate and the Democratic-led House.

And just moments ago, a key sign here that's going to cause some concern about Democrats is that they're saying that tax increases to pay for this package are off the table. That is coming from two key senators who I just spoke to who are part of these negotiations. That's Senator Mitt Romney and Senator Rob Portman. Both of them made clear that there will be no tax increases in any sort of bipartisan deal to pay for an infrastructure package.


SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): I can't predict what all my colleagues will do. Our working group subcommittee of our 20 reached tentative conclusions on pay-fors and what the spending will be used for. But we're going to be talking to other members and seeing if we can get enough support for this to have the necessary votes to be successful. So, it's a process, ongoing process.


RAJU: So, I asked him what about raising taxes. He said, we are not raising taxes. Those are his exact words, we are not raising taxes. And that was reiterated by Rob Portman.

And that is important because, of course, the White House's infrastructure proposal had called for an increase in taxes, mainly corporate taxes, including the latest version to set a 15 percent minimum corporate tax to pay for this proposal. But what Rob Portman told me just moments ago, he said they're looking at other ways to pay for a package, whether it's repurposing money that has not spent by the COVID relief law. Democrats don't want to go down that route. He's saying user fees, even though some Democrats -- the White House too raised concerns about whether that could impact people that make less than $400,000 a year or so.

It's very clear here, guys, that even though these talks are ongoing, even though the White House is encouraging these talks, getting a deal that can pass Congress, that is a completely different question.

SCIUTTO: All right. The other issue, well, attempted bipartisan negotiation is on a police reform plan. You're saying a source familiar tells you progress there? We always take that with an ounce of salt given past breakdowns. But are things based on your reporting in a positive direction?

RAJU: They are. According to multiple sources, they believe that they can reach a deal as soon as next week. This will be a significant achievement if they were able to get a deal here. Now, still, they're not there yet. They have resolve some key issues. The one big issue is about whether or not police officers can be sued in civil court. Democrats had pushed for that change in the so-called qualified immunity standard. What they're talking about here is instead of having the police departments, cities to be liable for victims of police violence, to take them to civil court, no to sue individual officers.

But still, even when they get a deal, they've got to sell it to both sides. It's got to be approved by both chambers of Congress. And Republican Senators in particular that I've talked to are concerned about changes to that qualified immunity standard.

So, progress in getting a deal, then they have to sell it and get it passed, so it's still a process here. But positive signs for the negotiators are trying to get a deal here in the days ahead, guys.

SCIUTTO: Manu Raju, we will watch that closely. That would be a significant bipartisan agreement.

Joining us to talk about so much, CNN Senior Political Analyst David Gergen, former presidential advisers just to Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton. David, always good to have you on.

DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Thank you, Jim. It's good to be here.

SCIUTTO: So we've seen -- I mean, infrastructure does not look great. I mean, they're going to take another shot at it. And, of course, COVID wasn't all Democratic package here. But other issues on the Biden agenda in danger now beyond infrastructure, right, voting rights, even some of his own caucus against that. Police reform, maybe we have positive development there. Do you think Biden gave too much time to working with Republicans on some of these issues, Biden and Manchin, for that matter? And do you think there's a path forward now for his agenda?

GERGEN: I think the chances of getting a full agreement now on infrastructure are much less than 50/50. It's possible they could divide the package in two or three pieces and get, say, one piece done, especially on the more traditional infrastructure side. But overall, Jim and Poppy, I think that, look, he campaigned as someone who was seriously interested in bipartisanship. He's shown that all through his career, including on foreign policy. He does want to be a person who brings people together.

So I think it was legitimate and important to show that he wants a compromise and that he's getting held up by Republicans. It opens a way for him possibly to get some smaller packages through on his own. But let's face it, he's coming into now the really tough part of his presidency.


This is the time when the rubber hits the road. And you figure out what you're going to get passed, what you're not going to get passed. He has to get most of that done.

Usually, a new president has until about August of his first year to show what he really is made of and what he ultimately can get done. And Joe Biden has some tough, tough questions to answer as he goes forward.

HARLOW: Well, look, if he can't get those things done here domestically, he certainly hopes he can get a lot done and sort of reset the table on the world stage in terms of America's place. And this is a president who has more experience on the world stage than the last four presidents combined, and he loves this stuff.

GERGEN: So true.

HARLOW: The question is, David, how does the world see America now? Because you read Biden writing in The Washington Post this week, this week is about revitalizing and realizing America's renewed commitment to our allies and partners. The question becomes how do those allies and partners see America now? Because they definitely see the Republican Party, or much of it right now, they definitely saw the insurrection and they definitely know that there is an election not that far away and there could be a different president in 2024.

GERGEN: Joe Biden still has work to do on that front as well. He is well liked and well respected across Europe and he has many friends in Asia. But the United States is no longer regarded as a reliable partner. Everybody knows that the midterm elections could tip power in Washington toward Republican hands. Everybody knows in 2024, we're going to have another election, a presidential election and we might get another Trump-type in there.

And so if you're a European, you're wondering how reliable is the United States, how much can I count on them to be there when we reach an agreement now but the next president throws it out. That's a hard one. But I think Joe Biden is the best person we have to make the case that America is coming back. We are more reliable than the last four years suggest. We have a strong team pushing on this.

And we're getting to make some headways as the agreement on minimum taxation for corporations global, a global agreement. That agreement was basically hammered out by Janet Yellen, the U.S. secretary of treasury. He's just gotten a deal through the Congress, or at least through the Senate, to curb China, some. And the Europeans are worried that he may get too aggressive.

He may be too hard lined with Iran and China and may get into another cold war. But I do think he's sending a clear message, the United States wants to be back sitting in the seated of leadership. And before I see Putin, I'm going to rally -- this is the Biden deal. Before I see Putin, I want to rally our friends and our long-term allies so that Putin knows he's not just facing the United States, but a more united group of nations than he's seen in the last four years.

SCIUTTO: Okay, so there's messaging, and that's important. I mean, very low bar for Biden, just not to have a Helsinki moment, right, not to stand up to Putin and say, I believe him but not my own intel agencies. But there's messaging and then there's policy.

And the fact is that Russia continues to challenge the U.S. and the west, I mean, cyberattacks just one of them, China does, Belarus, right, took a plane out of the sky over Europe, basically a hijacking. Does the Biden administration have a new strategy in addition to a new message to respond to these kinds of countries?

GERGEN: Well, they certainly have a new strategy compared to Trump. But whether it's a new as part of the United States, new strategy, I don't quite see that as materializing yet. We're making a transitions and things are evolving. How can you say we have a clear strategy on climate? We don't. We're sort of into a holding pattern.

And on China, there are differences between the United States and others in Europe. The Europeans want to have -- be more respectful of China, to not see them as a cold war adversary. There are growing numbers of the United States on both sides of the political aisle who want to see -- want to beat up on China and say a lot of our problems come if this overly aggressive, hostile China and we have to curb them. And then you'll see the voting in the Senate.

I think what makes this trip so interesting is there are two phases. First, to rally friends and allies, and then to go to Putin and say, look, you've got to change your behavior. I don't want just speeches. I want actual changes in behavior. I want to be able to say our Intelligence Community discovered there doing this, this and this. That's why he has to have some -- I think you're absolutely right, Jim, he needs some concrete measures to move forward. Otherwise his presidency, given the problems he's facing on the domestic front right now in the infrastructure, and if he has a sort of a set of allies scuffling and don't really believe in the United States is back and still sees us as untrustworthy, his whole presidency could go into crisis over that.

So, these are important days, important weeks for the president, these next three, four, five weeks, even more important than the first 100 days.


HARLOW: Wow. Okay, David, thank you. I'm sure you'll be with us as we track this or the next --

GERGEN: I look forward to it. Thank you.

HARLOW: -- eight days. Thank you so much.

Still to come, Dr. Anthony Fauci has a serious new warning about the growing threat of the delta COVID variant, the one first identified in India, why he is urging young people to get fully vaccinated.

SCIUTTO: Plus, Vice President Kamala Harris back in Washington after her trip to Mexico and Guatemala, but facing questions from both parties based upon her response to a simple question about her visit or not visiting the border. And Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau vowing to fight far-right hate groups after three generations of a Muslim were killed in what he called a terrorist attack. We're going to live with the latest on that case just ahead.



SCIUTTO: There are some new questions about how much vaccines will be effective against new coronavirus variants. Dr. Anthony Fauci says the U.S. cannot let the highly contagious delta variant, which was first identified in India, where things have just been horrid the last few weeks, become the dominant strain here in the U.S.

HARLOW: Our Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta is with us. Good morning, Sanjay.

How effective are the current vaccines being used in the United States with both doses, if it's a dual-dose vaccine, how effective are they against the delta variant?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: We can show you some data on this. And the way that -- when you look at these sort of numbers, keep in mind that they basically take this variant and put it in a test tube with the vaccine and see how many if these antibodies are generated. Antibodies protect you. Then you could see, compared to the U.K., if you have two doses of the Pfizer, for example, you have a little of a drop-off in terms of overall antibody activity, but pretty good. You can see it drops off for AstraZeneca.

But look at the far right. This is an important piece of data here, one dose versus two doses. Remember, we talked about this a few months ago, thinking, hey, we may run out of doses, let's just give people one dose instead. People pushed back and said, no, two doses. You're seeing why now a few months later. These variants are much more protective if you actually get both doses.

SCIUTTO: Okay, that's good to hear and it's a reminder, right, complete. You're not vaccinated until you get both shots and get two or three weeks afterwards.

All right, so interesting approach here, yesterday was the deadline for all Houston Methodist Hospital employees to be vaccinated. That was announced in April. Those who chose not to be vaccinated, they've now been suspended without pay. They have two weeks to get fully vaccinated or they will be fire. The hospital president said those who didn't get vaccinated have mistaken priorities. Your response to a policy like this one?

GUPTA: I think health care organizations are going to have to be different. I mean, one thing we've all learned is that there are vulnerable populations who are most adversely affected by this virus. And that's where they -- in the hospitals is where they are. So, I mean, there is a real obligation here. And there have been vaccine requirements for health care providers for other things in the past. I have got to show proof of vaccination for flu every year, for example.

So, just to give context of what's happening in Houston, I think the health care system has some 25,000 employees. All but 200, roughly, have been vaccinated. So this is a small group of people.

HARLOW: Yes, that's important, the context.

Let's ask you about what's going on with what looks to be maybe millions of doses of the J&J vaccine that could expire before they're administered. Dr. Ashish Jha tweeted this, many of us have been warning this was coming. Vaccines are starting to expire, sitting on shelves, instead of working on trying to see if we can still use it after expiration. Maybe we can share with countries that could use vaccines now to save lives.

But as our colleague, Elizabeth Cohen, told us last hour, that's complicated. And there's a lot of legal red tape and logistical red tape. So, what can be done?

GUPTA: Yes, right. From a common sense standpoint, you'd say we have them, they're expiring, they need them, let's send them. But it is a lot more involved in that in terms of the liability issues around this. This is -- I think Ashish is exactly right mainly because we could have anticipated this. There was the pause in the J&J trial, there were people up taking Pfizer and Moderna at a more rapid rate. So we should have predicted it.

Having said that, here we are now. And it's going to be, I think, a really bad situation where expired doses will probably have to be discarded. I don't know what numbers we're looking at right now, but that could certainly happen, and it shouldn't have at a time when there's so much need in many places around the world.

HARLOW: So many lessons to learn, for sure, God forbid a next time, a lot we've learned. Sanjay, thanks very much.

You're going to see Dr. Anthony Fauci next hour live right here on CNN. He will join our colleague, Erica Hill, to talk about the delta variant and all other health headlines tied to COVID. Don't miss it.

Up next, the push to restart the economy after the pandemic, President Biden signed a $1.9 trillion rescue plan to save the economy. Critics say pouring all that money and maybe a lot more into the economy is not the answer right now. We'll speak with the former chairman of President Obama's Council of Economic Advisers, next.



HARLOW: President Biden's $1.9 trillion American rescue plan brought out familiar battle lines with Republicans saying it was too much money, Democrats saying it was all needed to boost the post-COVID economy. But every once in a while, you see someone who does not stick to the party line script, like the man Politico recently called the Biden friendly economist creating a headache for the president. Jason Furman joins me now, he's a former council -- Chairman of the Obama Council of Economic Advisers, current economics professor at Harvard, and the man who didn't write that headline, right, Jason?



HARLOW: But it's true.