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U.S. President Biden Begins First Foreign Trip Soon; Leaders to Focus on Pandemic and Its Economic Fallout; Biden's Talks with GOP on Infrastructure Fall Apart; Senate Report Details Security Failures Ahead of Attack; Republican States Overriding Their Democrat-Led Cities; U.S. Senate Passes Bipartisan Bill to Compete with China; Growing Backlash to Businesses Requiring Vaccines. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired June 9, 2021 - 04:00   ET



ROBYN CURNOW, CNN ANCHOR: Hi, welcome to all of our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world. I'm Robyn Curnow at the CNN Center in Atlanta.

So just ahead on CNN, U.S. President Joe Biden is set for his first international tour, aiming to bolster alliances in Europe and tackle challenges posed by China and Russia.

Plus the U.S. passes a sweeping bipartisan bill aimed at countering China's global economic reach. What China is saying about that.

Plus --


KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've spent a lot of time on the border and both going there physically and aware of the issues.


CURNOW: Vice President Kamala Harris defending her comments on migrants at the U.S./Mexico border, while the president is abroad the next few days could pose a test of leadership for her.

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN Center, this is CNN NEWSROOM with Robyn Curnow.

CURNOW: Great to have you with me this hour. So the U.S. president will soon embark on a high stakes tour overseas, his first since taking office. After four years of Mr. Trump and America First, Joe Biden is expected to be laser focused on reestablishing America's role in the world. On mending damaged alliances and fighting for democracy over autocracy.

President Biden will leave the U.S. in less than five hours' time. When he arrives in the U.K. ahead of the G7 Summit, he'll meet with the American Air Force personnel and their families before heading off to Cornwall for talks with the British Prime Minister. This will be a very busy week for Mr. Biden. After the G7 he will meet with Queen Elizabeth, then it's off to the NATO summit in Brussels.

And then comes perhaps the most highly anticipated part of the trip, President Biden's first face-to-face meeting in Geneva with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. This follows allegations of Russian cyberattacks and election interference. The White House has already been tempering expectations of any big breakthroughs, though, and pointing to areas where common ground is possible, like nuclear issues and arms control.

Well Nic Robertson is standing by live in Cornwall and he can give us a look ahead to what we can expect in the coming week. But no doubt for Mr. Biden and many of those who are going to be joining you there in Cornwall, China will continue to be a focus.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: It is, and we've already heard from Scott Morrison, the Australian Prime Minister, not a member of the G7 but on his way here, part of the sort of Pacific allies of the United States. The United States is looking to sort of shore up an international coalition of democracies that are going to stand up against China's trade practices, against their human rights abuses. Scott Morrison along with the Indian Prime Minister, South Korean Prime Minister as well all invited here to the G7.

The big issue here of course will be China, we've heard from President Biden's National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan saying that the issue of Russia and the ransomware hacks will be a topic of discussion. Again Biden looking for support to align allies, both the G7 and when he gets to NATO and when he speaks the U.S.-EU Summit as well to align allies there to have a firm common position and to stand up against abuses like that. But also the example of Belarus, forcing that civilian passenger jet down and arresting a Belarus journalist off that flight.

So all of these are going to be topics, but I think the big broad issues -- and this is what we heard the G7 leaders talk about when they had their virtual meeting in February. This of course so important because it's around the table face-to-face now but it will be helping the world recover from the COVID pandemic. Economically, but also in terms of vaccine. And host Boris Johnson has set a target that the G7 should aim for of having everyone in the world vaccinated by the end of 2022. There are other projects as well and initiatives, but I think it's going Covid that will sort of dominate the agenda on the first day or so at least -- Robyn.

CURNOW: Thanks so much Nic Robertson there in Cornwall, appreciate it.

Back at home President Biden's top domestic priorities are hitting a brick wall and many Democrats are growing frustrated. Some are even considering abandoning the president's hopes of bipartisan support all together.


The party is already facing the collapse of a massive bill to rewrite election laws and efforts to reform gun laws, immigration and policing practices are also hitting roadblocks. Infrastructure talks between Mr. Biden and a group of Republicans led by Senator Shelley Moore Capito have broken down. Phil Mattingly has more on all of that.


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: The talks between President Biden and a group of Republican Senators have officially collapsed as it pertains to infrastructure, raising real questions about what the potential pathway forward is for a bipartisan deal. Something several moderate Democrats have made clear to the president and to Republicans they believe is a necessity to move forward on a key central component of President Biden's sweeping $4 trillion agenda.

The president informing Senator Shelley Moore Capito, the top Republican negotiator, that those talks would come to an end in a brief phone call on Tuesday and making clear that he is going to pursue another group, a bipartisan group of Senators, in their efforts to find a deal.

While he is traveling overseas, leaves on Wednesday morning, he will have some of his top adviser, some of his top cabinet officials meet with members of that have group in person. Also placed phone calls to three members of that group, one Republican, Senator Bill Cassidy, and and two crucial moderate Democrats, Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia, all in a process of making clear that the weeks long effort with this group of six Republicans is now officially off the table. On the table is that effort with bipartisan Senators and the White House making clear the effort to bind bipartisanship is genuine. Take a listen.

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We know there are a lot of Democrats who are eager to move forward, as are we, but we think there are a lot of paths forward where it's worth continuing to pursue bipartisan discussion.

MATTINGLY: But another very key component of this, the president also made a phone call to Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer and made clear he is ready for the Senate to start moving the process of budget reconciliation. That basically would allow Democrats in both the House and the Senate to move through the president's infrastructure proposal, really the entirety of his sweeping agenda, by a simple majority vote. It's something the president has been wary of going forward on as he searches for that bipartisan agreement. Now starting the process, really kind of viewing it through parallel tracks.

Yes, continue to pursue bipartisan negotiations on infrastructure but make clear if those talks fall apart there is a backup plan that will be Democrats only. Of course, the real linchpin here Senator Joe Manchin, Senator Kyrsten Sinema, those moderate Democrats, whether they will be on board if those bipartisan talks fall apart. Now however, they will be central players in those bipartisan talks. The White House making clear action still inaction is the president's one red line, lying down parallel tracks to ensure somehow, someway his agenda moves forward at some point over the course of the next several weeks.

Phil Mattingly, CNN, the White House.


CURNOW: Thanks Phil for that.

So one of the Democrats now leading the new set of bipartisan talks on infrastructure is Senator Jon Tester. He's taking an optimistic approach and says a compromise is possible.


SEN. JON TESTER (D-MT): Making legislation is a messy proposition at best, but I think there's an opportunity here to get something meaningful done in the area of infrastructure. Is it going to be everything that I would want? No. Is it going to include some things that potentially some Republicans might be uncomfortable with but will still vote for, yes. But the bottom line that's what it's about. It's about compromise and coming up with something that works for the country.

If we're going to compete and we're going to maintain our position in this world as the leader of the world, our infrastructure is as important as our defense budget. So we need to make sure that the infrastructure is a bold vision, a bold plan and allows us to compete in the 21st century we live in.


CURNOW: But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell struck a different tone with this swift rebuke of those efforts. Take a listen.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): If you to the present majority leader has in mind for June it's pretty clear the era of bipartisanship is over.


CURNOW: A new report from the U.S. Senate details the stunning security failures leading up to January's attack on the U.S. Capitol. It's most detailed breakdown of what happened to date. Still it contains several glaring omissions. Congressional correspondent Ryan Nobles has a closer look -- Ryan.


RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): It is to date the most comprehensive examination of what went wrong on January 6th. A bipartisan report released by the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee that examined security failures and a lack of preparation that failed to anticipate and stop the violence.

The report concludes that Capitol Police were aware of the potential for violence on January 6th, that intelligence agencies failed to interpret that threat from a wide range of online chatter and that there was a lack of communication between agencies about the extent of the threat.


SEN. GARY PETERS (D-MI): There really was a wakeup call for the intelligence community and the silos that existed that they weren't talking together, like they should.

NOBLES (voice-over): It also reveals a significant lack of training for Capitol Police to deal with a threat like January 6th. And as it became clear rioters would breach the Capitol complex, it took too long for other law enforcement agencies to gear up and respond.

PETERS: This was a moment for us, a singular event. And, you know, I say it's similar to what we saw on 9/11, where we had this attack on our soil.

NOBLES (voice-over): But while the report reveals a lot about what went wrong on that day, it does little to examine what led to the riots in particular the role former President Donald Trump played in fueling the violence.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): With the exception of a brief reference to former President Trump's remarks at the Ellipse, Senate Republicans insisted that the report exclude anything having to do with the cause of the insurrection.

NOBLES (voice-over): Sources tell CNN, in order for the report to reach a bipartisan consensus, the language in the report had to be carefully crafted, that meant not specifically referring to the attack as an insurrection. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell refusing to call January 6th an insurrection.

NOBLES: Would you define the events of January 6th as an insurrection?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Look, I've said a lot about that already. I said it on January 6th. I said it again February 13th. I covered that comprehensibly and I really don't think there's anything I can add.

NOBLES (voice-over): Leaving Democrats to once again push for an independent bipartisan commission that Republicans voted down a week ago.

SCHUMER: If anything, the joint report by the Homeland Security and Rules Committees has strengthened the argument for an independent commission on January 6th.

NOBLES: And despite the Democratic calls for another independent bipartisan commission to look into January 6th, Republicans aren't budging. McConnell saying today that he believes this report issued by the Senate in addition to the other investigations taking place by the Congress and the Department of Justice arresting and prosecuting those who stormed the Capitol on January 6th are more than enough. Democrats, though, say they will continue their push to make the commission a reality.

Ryan Nobles, CNN, on Capitol Hill.


CURNOW: And there's nothing bipartisan about Republican efforts to change voting laws across the U.S. Lawmakers in Republican-led states are moving quickly to restrict voting access and preempting initiatives in Democratically controlled cities and counties. Some Republican governors also overrode local public health rules for the pandemic.

Well Ron Brownstein says this is all started about a decade ago.


RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: This pattern of increased preemption by red states of blue cities began after the big Republican gains in 2010. It's kind of percolated along through the decade. It took a huge leap forward during the pandemic when you saw governors like Kemp in Georgia and Abbott in Texas and DeSantis at the head of the line in Florida under pressure from Trump, repeatedly overriding the decisions by Democratic county executives and mayors. Whether to close down businesses or to require masks or to fine people who weren't wearing masks and that more aggressive posture has just rolled right into this legislative session.

I mean, we are seeing the state over Key West, Florida, passed a ballot referendum to limit the docking of large cruise ships and the state is overriding even that. So there's almost no area that seems to be out of bounds at this point. And again, it is part of this larger pattern of all of these issues where the red states are moving very aggressively to the right in almost a coordinated fashion since Biden's victory.


CURNOW: Beijing is accusing the U.S. of paranoid delusion after a rare bipartisan bill passed in the U.S. Senate on Tuesday.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On this vote the yays are 68, the nays are 32, the 60 vote threshold having been achieved the bill is passed.


CURNOW: The bill is aimed at curbing China's economic influence. It would invest more than $200 billion in U.S. technology, science and research. A hard line research to Beijing is one of the few issues that unites an increasingly divided U.S. Congress.


SEN. TODD YOUNG (R-IN): The Chinese Communist Party aims to exploit all of these divisions. They aim to exploit the insecurities of a global age. They aim to ensure that their power and their capabilities continue to grow and they are indeed locked in a global competition with the United States of America and with our partners and allies. So let's do what we've always done as Americans in times like this, let's come together and let's use this as an opportunity to become a better version of ourselves.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): I believe that this legislation will enable the United States to out-innovate, outproduce and outcompete the world in the industries of the future.


And I believe that the strongly bipartisan work on this bill has revealed that in this chamber we all believe that another American century lies on the horizon.


CURNOW: For more now on the China bill and the U.S. Senate vote let's approximate go to Will Ripley. Will is in Taiwan. And we have had some reaction from the Chinese. What do you make of it?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, China is basically consistently towing the same line that they've been saying now for years, that they think the United States is trying to contain the rise of China. And this started really to intensify during the Trump years where relations between Washington and Beijing sunk to arguably their lowest level in many, many decades. And that has continued under the Biden administration because as you just pointed out it's one of the few issues in the U.S. right now that can actually bring together lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

Democrats and Republicans both united in this push against China which is seen by the U.S. and much of the Western Democratic world as authoritarian, militaristic, a bully that is suppressing human rights. In Hong Kong with democracy moment, in Xinjian, the treatment of the Uighur Muslims. And so now you have this bill -- and I have to put it in context. $200 billion is what they're saying they're going to pledge to invest in American technology and science. And I think we have a breakdown graphic that shows where this money is going to go in different sectors.

That is a drop in the bucket compared to what China is throwing into its own tech industry right now. Because they are trying to give China a competitive edge and trying to make sure that China is self- sufficient because they think that the United States is deliberately trying to undermine companies like Huawei and others. So you can see the break down semi-conductor manufacturing, regional technology hubs in the U.S., wireless innovation.

But it's what else is in this act that is really infuriating from the Beijing perspective. Listing state-owned Chinese enterprises that the U.S. believes are engaged in unfair trade practices. Banning U.S. officials from the 2022 Beijing Olympics over some of those human rights issues that I talked about a moment ago. Strengthening military alliances here in Taiwan and across the Pacific. Declaring genocide in Xinjiang over the treatment of Uighur Muslims. And also making sure that American made iron, steel and materials are used for federal infrastructure projects. For many years China has contributed to American infrastructure projects simply because they gave a more competitive price. But this bill aims to cut off that as well.

Now, obviously there's still a huge trade relationship between the U.S. and China. But what this does and particularly for allies like Taiwan -- this is a small island of 23 million people that China claims as its territory -- but the United States is opening up these doors and kind of asking Taiwan to walk through and develop a closer relationship. But from the Beijing perspective they could view that as Taiwan trying to separate from the mainland which could put this island in big jeopardy analysts say. And so, it is a delicate balancing act and an awkward position when the United States gets behind an issue and then allies around the world, like Taiwan, have to figure out a way to dance that dance and balance the relationship between the mainland and the United States.

CURNOW: OK, so it's great having you there. Will Ripley, thanks so much as always.

You're watching CNN. Still to come, a group of Texas nurses say they are stunned after their employee made vaccinations mandatory. Details of that.

Plus what's sparking outrage among political leaders in France. Details on that.



CURNOW: We are tracking severe weather and fires across the U.S., parts of Arkansas and Mississippi saw extensive flash flooding on Tuesday, the water covered streets and threatened businesses -- as you can see here. Some 6 million people were under flash flood alerts as of Tuesday.

But parts of the western U.S. could all use -- could use all that water. In Arizona, several neighborhoods are under evacuation orders as twin wildfires burn near the city of Globe. They've burned through more than 100,000 acres. As of Tuesday one wildfire called the Mescal fire is 23 percent contained, the other called the Telegraph fire is believed to be human caused. It's still growing and was only 18 percent contained.

Then another wildfire, this time in California, take a look at these images, the blaze sparked Tuesday near Wheatland in Yuba County. Hundreds of people had to evacuate including those living at Beale Air Force Base. At least one home has been destroyed as of several hours ago the wildfire had burned 900 acres and was 40 percent contained.

So some positive signs in the fight against COVID, the World Health Organization reports that global cases have declined now for a sixth week in a row. The U.S. and the -- in the U.S., the CDC says that half of those 12 and older are now fully vaccinated against the virus and it also reports that 42 percent of Americans are now fully vaccinated with 13 states having already reached Joe Biden's goal of having 70 percent vaccinated with at least one dose by July 4th. But a fast spreading variant is cause for concern.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: In the U.K., the Delta variant is the rapidly emerging as the dominant variant, greater than 60 percent. It is replacing the B.1.1.7, the transmission is peaking in the younger group of 12- to 20-year-olds, mainly that group that we're concerned about here about making sure they get vaccinated. If you had your first dose, make sure you get that second dose. And for those who have been not vaccinated yet, please get vaccinated.


CURNOW: And as vaccinations become the main push to return to normal life, there's growing backlash against companies requiring their employees to get a shot. Here is Brian Todd.



BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Nurses and other staffers of Houston Methodist Hospital protesting their own workplace and its new mandate that every employee has to have the COVID-19 vaccination or face getting suspended and then fired.

JENNIFER BRIDGES, REGISTERED NURSE SUING HUSTON METHODIST HOSPITAL: Everybody across the nation is going to be forced to get things into their body that they don't want and that's not right.

TODD (voice-over): Nurse Jennifer Bridges is one of more than 100 employees suing the Houston Methodist Hospital system over the new policy. Plaintiffs call the vaccines unapproved, experimental and say they're being treated like guinea pigs. The hospital's CEO says it's unfortunate that those employees refuse to get vaccinated and put our patients first. This comes as the governor of Texas has signed a bill banning businesses from requiring customers to prove they've been vaccinated.

GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R) TEXAS: Texas is open 100 percent. And we want to make sure that you have the freedom to go where you want without limits.

TODD (voice-over): A number of states now forbid vaccination requirements, but over 400 colleges and universities are requiring them and the debate is spreading to sports arenas, Broadway shows, cruises and airlines. This restaurant in Salt Lake City got nasty calls when it went vaccinated patrons only.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wake the (BLEEP) up. I hope your business tanks.

TODD (voice-over): One expert says businesses will likely have stronger cases requiring employees to get vaccinated than they will making customers prove they've had the shot.

ARTHUR CAPLAN, MEDICAL ETHICS DIR., NYU LANGONE MEDICAL CENTER: In a certain sense you may lose business if people start to say I don't want to prove that I'm vaccinated. I don't want to get into all of that or I just don't want to do it I'm not going to patronize you.

TODD: One doctor at Houston Methodist Hospital tells CNN that doctors and hospital administrations are perplexed over the lawsuit but that protesting employees have not caused a disruption in patient care. Still this issue is likely to only get more controversial. Jennifer Bridges, the nurse leading the protests at Houston Methodist, says if they lose their jobs over this they will go to the Supreme Court with a wrongful termination lawsuit.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


CURNOW: Europe is now ready to open up more borders. The European Parliament just approved a special pass to allow travel across the EU. Now Parliament members voted on the deal on Tuesday and the results were just announced. The travel certificate will prove that a person has been vaccinated against COVID, tested negative for the virus or has recovered from the disease. The pass is expected to go into effect by July 1st in all EU countries, some non-EU countries are also in the pipeline to start using this certificate.

And a visit to France is lifting -- lifting of more Covid restrictions took quite a turn when an onlooker slapped President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday. A man struck him on the cheek while yelling, down with "Macroni" -- a slang for Macron's presidency. Two men have been arrested and the incident is being widely condemned.

For morn now let's go to Melissa Bell. Melissa joins me in Paris. What's the reaction to this slap on the face?

MELISSA BELL, CNN PARIS CORRESPONDENT: Indignation across the political class, what we've seen is condemnation of the violence from across the vast spectrum of French politics from the very far left to the very far right.

This was of course in the context of, as you say, all of these reopenings, the lifting of restrictions, today still further liftings with people being able to go inside restaurants now to eat and gyms reopening, for instance, a little more freedom of movement, exactly what people had been hoping for. But it is also in the context of what looks -- said to be a very acrimonious political campaign ahead of next year's election, looking fairly tight for Emmanuel Macron. This was part of his term offensive.

He was out and about because he's hoping to regain the trust of the public ahead of that crucial vote next spring. So off to a bad start for him there. But what we have seen, Robyn, I think what's interesting is as restrictions lift his popularity in the polling anyway seems to go up. So the reopening of restaurants very good news for many and of course that system that will allow by July 1st not only Europeans to get across borders far more easily but foreigners to be able once again to come to Europe, which will be a great help to a continent that's very beleaguered tourism industry -- Robyn.

CURNOW: OK, thanks so much. Some good news for many people who want to come and visit Paris. Melissa Bell there.

You're watching CNN. Still to come, as Kamala Harris wrapped up the first big diplomatic test as a Vice President, she's facing another high stakes test back in the U.S. We have that story.

Also how one app helped authorities deal a major blow to organized crime around the world. We will have the details.