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White House Could Push Through Infrastructure Plan without G.O.P. Support; NYT Reports Trump Campaign Duped Supporters into Repeat Donations; Toxic Wastewater in Florida in Danger of Collapse. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired April 5, 2021 - 08:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Remarkable, as always.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Incredible. Getting that exclusive, that's the first time that we are seeing that and hearing that, because she is there on the ground.

BERMAN: And to have the military around her all the time, she is not going to be intimidated.

CAMEROTA: I could tell.

BERMAN: No, period.

NEW DAY continues right now.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Experts warn the U.S. may be on the cusp of another surge.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We really are in a category five hurricane status with regard to the rest of the world. In terms of the United States, we're just at the beginning of this surge.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The more people on a daily passive you get vaccinated, the better chance you have of blunting or preventing that surge.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A record-setting weekend for air travel during the pandemic.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Having the vaccine, people are starting to feel a little like they can go back out again.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Top U.S. health official says vaccination is the solution to COVID-19 fatigue.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Every day three to four million people are getting vaccinated. That is going to be the solution.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

BERMAN: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. In the eye of a category five hurricane, that blunt warning from a leading public health expert on where the U.S. stands more than a year into the coronavirus pandemic. The U.S. is averaging northern 63,000 new cases a day now. That's on par with the surge last summer.

Other warning signs, look at Michigan, a steep rise in new cases. There's a steep rise in hospitalizations there as well. But there is good news, there is a lot of good news on the vaccination front. Almost 19 percent of the country is now fully vaccinated. This weekend saw more than 5 million vaccine doses given in one day. I was one of them. That is a new record.

CAMEROTA: And prosecutors in the Derek Chauvin trial will resume their case this morning after a week of heart-wrenching testimony. We expect to hear from a hospital emergency room doctor and the Minneapolis police chief who has already called George Floyd's death a murder. The chief fired Derek Chauvin and the other officers involved in that deadly encounter.

BERMAN: Let's begin with the pandemic. Joining us now, Dr Ashish Jha. He's the Dean of Brown University's School of School of Public Health. Dr. Jha, thanks so much for being with us. When we hear eye of a category five hurricane from Professor Michael Osterholm, that sounds alarming. When you look at the numbers in Michigan, you see the hospitalizations, a steep rise there, that looks alarming. So what are you seeing, and what should the real concerns be this morning?

DR. ASHISH JHA, DEAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: So good morning, and thank you for having me on. Look, it is a concerning situation, and I have enormous respect for the Dr. Osterholm. I'm not sure I think we're in quite as bad shape as that. But the issue is that we've got these variants. They are now widespread. The B-117 is the vast majority of infections in the United States at this moment. And what we're seeing in Michigan we're also seeing in several other states.

The good news is we have a lot of people vaccinated, and vaccinations are going incredibly well. And most importantly, people over 65, a vast majority of them have gotten at least one shot. So I'm not expecting a massive surge in hospitalizations and deaths. But what we are seeing, what concerns me is more and more young people getting hospitalized, and unfortunately, some of them dying. That is a newer feature of this pandemic that is not obviously great to see, and that's the area of concern right now.

CAMEROTA: Also, can I just drill down on the variants for a second, because the U.K. variant, the B-117, seems to be receptive to the vaccines. You don't get as sick if you have had one of the vaccines, if you happen to get that variant. But there are other variants, and I keep zeroing in on the so called California variant, the B-1427 that does seem to be resistant to the vaccines. That worries me.

JHA: Yes. So let's talk about these various variants and how to think about them in terms of vaccine. So some of the variants are very susceptible to our vaccines, as you say. With other variants, the California one, the one originally from South Africa, we do see more breakthrough infections, people are vaccinated getting infected. But here's why I still remain very comfortable with where we are on vaccinations, which is that we are not seeing those people who have breakthrough infection get particularly sick.

So it may not prevent infections quite as well against some of those variants, but it still protect from you hospitalizations and deaths against those variants. We've seen, for instance, with the J&J but now with Pfizer, people will get some occasional infections, but nobody has gotten hospitalized or died from any of these variants who has been vaccinated. So I remain very, very confident that our vaccines are going to hold up.

BERMAN: If you want to feel good about vaccinations, go to one of these federal sites I was at this weekend. It's miraculous. Honest to God, you go there and you want to cheer like you are watching the moon landing with people just -- it's teeming with people getting shots in their arms. You see 4 million people a day. It's a reason to feel good. We should celebrate that.


The flipside, though, is something you said about the younger people, and I say this as a parent of 14-year-olds. Alisyn is the parent of 16-year-olds. When you talk about younger people being infected at higher rates, what are the implications of that going forward?

JHA: One of the small silver linings in this pandemic has been that kids in general, don't get as sick. That said, it's not like they're immune. We don't know about the long-term effect of COVID in kids or young adults. So I have always felt like we shouldn't be cavalier about letting young people get infected. And given we are so close to vaccinating everybody over 16 who wants one, probably in the next month or so, we should really be working very hard to protect people, including young people. Even if the consequences are not that they're going to die, I don't want long term complications, I don't want long COVID, I don't want all the things that still end up affecting people in the long run.

CAMEROTA: We talk about vaccine hesitancy as something that is a political statement, but I think that it's much more than that. And I think that we do it a disservice when we think that it's just people trying to make a statement. It's people who may have some sort of underlying condition, some sort of health condition, they're just afraid. That's it. They're just afraid because it hasn't been around long. These vaccines are also new and it's also experimental. And they fear, well, maybe we will learn something a year from now that will affect my clotting disorder, I hear women say my fertility. I think that that's natural. But I don't know what you can say to people who are just sort of waiting for more information before they get vaccinated. JHA: Yes. I completely agree, Alisyn. I think we should not be

demonizing people who are saying, I want to wait and see. I think we should understand. I understand why people want to wait. They want to understand more.

Here's what I say to them. With every other vaccine that we have developed as humanity, almost every one of them -- like all the side effects that are important show up within the first two weeks, and certainly by the first two months. So one of the reasons why many of us last fall were asking for the FDA to wait at least two months before making decisions about these vaccine, because if there were going to problems, including fertility problems, or other types of immune problems, that they would become apparent within two months of people getting vaccinated.

That's what the FDA waited for. We didn't see those. Not we have got 104 million Americans have gotten a shot. We're not seeing complications in any meaningful numbers. And all of that to seems to me extremely reassuring. I think that's the message we have got to keep giving people.

BERMAN: 165 Americans -- well, 164 million doses have been administered.

JHA: Shots, 104 million people.

BERMAN: Which is astounding. Again, I look at that number, my eyes pop open every time I see it. Dr. Ashish Jha, thanks so much for being with us this morning. As always, we appreciate your time.

So just into CNN, the TSA says it has screened 1.5 million air travelers on Sunday, that's just short of Friday's pandemic era record. More than 6 million people have flown since Thursday. CNN's Pete Muntean is live at Reagan National Airport. And these airports now look like they haven't looked in over a year, Pete.

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Things are getting back to normal, but still a long way to go. These numbers are huge, but only for the pandemic. The TSA screened 1.58 million people at airports across the country on Friday. That is the TSA pandemic record, 1.4 million on Saturday, 1.54 million on Sunday, just shy of that record. All of this means in the last seven days, there have been three days where TSA checkpoint throughput has been higher than 1.5 million.

Compare these numbers to a year ago. These new numbers are 10 times higher than the low point of the pandemic, but still only about two- thirds of the numbers we saw pre-pandemic in 2019. Even still, these numbers are big enough that Delta Airlines had to actually fill some middle seats on its flights over the weekend. It said it just simply had to keep up with demand. There were staffing issues. It had to cancel about 100 flights. And it had to do this early, even those Delta's cap on capacity does not end until May 1st.

Numbers probably only keep going up from here, especially after the CDC said on Friday that those who are fully vaccinated can travel with low risk to themselves, but the CDC is still advising against travel, and it says if you do travel, be smart about it. Continue to wear a mask on board planes and in airports. It's federally mandated, John, Alisyn.

BERMAN: Why not? That's something that maybe people are going to want to consider doing going forward at this point. Pete Muntean, thanks, so much for being with us. Keep us posted.

President Biden not waiting for Republicans to come along with the huge infrastructure plan. So will this White House get this through without Republican support?



CAMEROTA: Republicans are pushing back on President Biden's $2 billion infrastructure plan. But the Biden administration is hinting that they will press ahead without Republicans, if necessary.


JENNIFER GRANHOLM, SECRETARY OF ENERGY: Well, as he has said, he was sent to the presidency to do a job for America. And if the vast majority of Americans, Democrats and Republicans across the country, support spending on our country and not allowing us to lose the race globally, then he's going to do that. However, his sincere preference, his open hand is to Republicans to come to the table and say if you don't like this, how would you pay for it? If you don't like this, what would you include?


CAMEROTA: Joining us now are CNN White House correspondent John Harwood, also with us, CNN political analyst Seung Min Kim. She's a White House reporter for "The Washington Post". Seung Min, if President Biden's sincere hope is that he can have some bipartisan support for infrastructure, and Republicans say their sincere hope is they can find bipartisan ground for infrastructure, should be easy, I would think.

BERMAN: Sincerely.

CAMEROTA: Sincerely. Here is what Senator Roy Blunt said about the bipartisanship on this.



SEN. ROY BLUNT (R-MO): My advice to the White House has been take that bipartisan win, do this in a more traditional infrastructure way and then if you want to force the rest of the package on Republicans in the Congress and the country, you can certainly do that and you'd still have all the tools available for what is clearly going to turn out to be another purely partisan exercise. I think it's a big mistake for the administration. (END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: Seung Min, what is that common ground of which he speaks?

SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, the common ground is a very narrowly targeted package of improving roads, bridges, ports and what not. It's certainly not this expansive package that the White House proposed earlier today. It is certainly not one that is paid for using the way that the Biden administration has proposed which is rolling back significant parts of that 2017 Tax Law that was pushed through under President Trump and with Republican-only vote.

So it's hard to see where that as sincere as the two sides maybe or they say they are, it is really hard to see how the two sides come together because of their vast differences on this, and I think the tone that's already coming out of the White House and of the Biden administration is really important here in terms of their determination to do this, you know, when they keep getting asked about, you know, how much are you willing to negotiate with Republicans, especially with their posture right now.

Their line is one way or the other, we're getting this done. So, sure, they welcome bipartisanship, if you can get it. But I think they know that this is going to be an uphill battle to get Republican votes and they know they have some procedural tools, reconciliation in their back pocket that they will be able to get through with Democratic votes if they need to.

BERMAN: So then this question becomes like other questions we've faced already, John Harwood, what does Joe Manchin really think about this? Right? And we can save a lot of time over this --

CAMEROTA: But we ask every morning.

BERMAN: If we just get Joe Manchin and say, okay, Senator Manchin, what exactly are you going to agree to here? And this is important, as you know, John, because, look, this is something that the White House and many Democrats want as a generational achievement, a historic measure discussed.

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: John, I think Joe Manchin wants a big infrastructure package. I think he wants a lot of infrastructure spending, a lot of broadband, a lot of road building, a lot of bridge repair in the State of West Virginia.

But I think he wants it to be demonstrated that President Biden first tried in an aggressivist way as possible to get Republican support. But I think we have to step back and remember. When you had a Republican President, who said he wanted an enormous infrastructure plan and Republican control of Congress, they did not do it. Why didn't they do it?

Well, Republicans didn't really want to spend the money and they certainly didn't want to finance it. If they wanted to add to -- they didn't want to raise taxes on anybody and if they wanted to spend a bunch of money, they would rather spend it on tax cuts than on infrastructure.

So, I will make this assessment with some humility as somebody who is skeptical that Joe Biden was ever going to win the Democratic nomination in the first place, I think it is highly unlikely that they get significant Republican support for this package, certainly not with the full throated opposition of Mitch McConnell.

We haven't gone much a sign that the people on the edges of the Republican Caucus are really embracing anything of the scale Joe Biden wants. I think, really the question now is once they go through the theatrical exercise of demonstrating that they tried to get Republican support and couldn't, do they try to see if they can move this package in smaller bits or do they end up rolling it together in one big package that they try to push through with Democratic votes alone as they did on COVID-19 relief.

CAMEROTA: Seung Min, speaking of money, let's talk about this big "New York Times" article that talked about all of the devoted Donald Trump supporters who thought that they were making one-time donations to President Trump at that time struggling financial campaign or at least that's what he said, but ended up having money sort of siphoned from their bank accounts every single week or month, unbeknownst to them.

Here is how "The New York Times" put it: "Facing a cash crunch and getting badly outspent by the Democrats, the Trump Campaign have begun last September to set up recurring donations by default for online donors for every week until the election. Contributors had to wade through a fine print disclaimer and manually uncheck a box to opt out. As the election neared, the Trump Team made that disclaimer increasingly opaque. It introduced a second pre-checked box known internally as a quote, 'money bomb' that doubles the contribution."

And we find out, all of these retirees and people who were sick, et cetera who just didn't have enough money to be doing this had lost thousands and thousands of dollars because of this.


KIM: Right. It is a fascinating and really important investigation by "The New York Times" and it reminds you just how much of these first time participants in politics that Donald Trump really brought into the fold in so many ways, whether it's voters who hadn't been to the polls in a while, or first time donors to political campaigns. And it appears that with the way that the donations were structured, it made it incredibly opaque for these donors.

I mean, there was one anecdote in the story where this retiree, I believe, was making -- he wanted to make a one time you know, $900.00 something donation, and then that turned into a recurring donation where, you know, suddenly, all of a sudden, $8,000.00 went out his bank account. That's a lot of money.

So it really is just a stunning tale of what the Campaign was doing for so many of its small dollar donors that really was the engine of their campaign. BERMAN: Yes, this is no small thing. I mean, I've never seen anything

like this, John. The Trump Campaign and the R.N.C. accounts associated with it had to make $530,000.00 refunds worth more than $64 million.

Again, I've never heard anything close to that in campaigns before. This shows you this is an epic, you know, an epic systemic issue.

HARWOOD: John, it's a little late for anybody to be shocked at this kind of behavior from Donald Trump. Remember, during the 2016 campaign, when Marco Rubio was running against him for the Republican nomination, he said that Donald Trump was a con artist.

But it is not too late to be appalled by this. On behalf of those people who loyally stood with Donald Trump, who backed him believing he was their champion and then to find that the for-profit company that worked with the Trump Campaign set up this situation where they would extract money out of your bank account, they would even double the amount that you had said that you wanted to contribute by having pre-checked a box that said you want to double your contribution. Yes, sure.

Yes, the Trump Campaign wants you to double their contribution, but you may have had to double without even knowing it. It is -- it is one of the sad realities of the way Donald Trump operated that he fooled a large number of people who are paying for it now.

CAMEROTA: Yes, you're so right. I mean, the stories are tragic in terms of the people who found themselves in debt and unable to pay their rent et cetera.

John, Seung Min, thank you both very much.

Now to this warning of a potential catastrophic event in Florida, a pond filled with toxic wastewater on the verge of collapse. We have a live update next.



CAMEROTA: Manatee County, Florida is under a state of emergency and an evacuation order this morning as a toxic wastewater reservoir is on the brink of collapse.

CNN's Bill Weir is live in Palmetto, Florida with more. What's the status, Bill?

BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the status is people are very much on edge. They're a little calmer today than they were on Easter Sunday, worried that this -- basically this manmade castle of radioactive waste that holds back this huge pond, really a small lake of this polluted water could give away.

It's already leaking. It's already beyond repair. The worst case scenario is that a 20-foot wall of water comes down through an area that has about 300 homes or so, these are the folks that have been evacuated.

But this is a ticking time bomb problem in Florida.

You've got to understand this state is the nation's leader when it comes to making phosphorus fertilizer, and in order to make this stuff and dig it up and mine it, every ton of fertilizer creates about five tons of this slightly radioactive toxic waste, phosphogypsum.

And so they don't know what to do with this stuff. The E.P.A. states they have never figured out a good way to get rid of it, so they just pile it in giant stacks. They are the highest points in Florida, these sort of 500-foot manmade mountains of this phosphogypsum, and at the top of all of these are these toxic pools there.

And activists and environmentalists have been warning for years, this is the land of sinkholes, a big sinkhole opened up under Mosaic -- that is the name of the company, phosphorous stack gypped stack and leaked millions, hundreds of millions of gallons of this toxic water into the Florida aquifer where everybody in this state gets their drinking water.

So the main concern right now is the sort of landlocked tsunami that might come if this thing breaks. But the only way to fix this problem is to get rid of all of that polluted water that is at the top of that gyp stack, and right now, they are pumping it into Tampa Bay in order to release that pressure, millions of gallons, tens of millions of gallons a day are being pumped into Tampa Bay and that water is full of sort of nutrient pollution, which turns out is basically steroids for the red tides that have plagued Florida in recent years that kill millions of fish and litter the beaches with fish kills right now.

So it's a damned if you do situation, damned if you don't, but right now, everybody is just keeping an eye on that gyp stack hoping it doesn't fail so all that water doesn't come all at once.

CAMEROTA: Oh my god. I mean, Bill, every word out of your mouth sounds horrible and catastrophic. I mean, starting with castle of toxic waste. That is just a horrible situation and we really appreciate you being on the ground for us and keeping us apprised of what's happening hour by hour.

We will check that -- John.

BERMAN: All right, for the first time, we're seeing incredible images of a World War II U.S. Navy destroyer found in the world's deepest shipwreck dive, we're talking more than 21,000 feet under the Pacific, CNN's Ivan Watson with the incredible images.