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Vaccine Progress; Republican Civil War?. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired May 3, 2021 - 15:00   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Top of the hour now. I'm Alisyn Camerota.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: I'm Victor Blackwell. It's good to be with you.

We start this hour with the member of the Republican House leadership who is standing her ground, even as members of her party are trying to get rid of her.

Let me bring you up to speed on what's happened so far today. Former President Trump, he's trying to now rebrand the phrase the big lie. His lie is that he won the 2020 election. He's trying to flip it now with this statement: "The fraudulent presidential election of 2020 will be from this day forth known as the big lie."

CAMEROTA: Soon after he put out that statement, Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney sent a tweet of her own -- quote -- "The 2020 presidential election was not stolen. Anyone who claims it was is spreading the big lie, turning their back on the rule of law and poisoning our democratic system."

Cheney tweeting that despite the reporting that Republicans may call another vote to try to oust her again from her leadership post.

BLACKWELL: And she's not the only Republican facing some punishment for standing up to the former president over the weekend. You can probably hear it. Mitt Romney, the Utah senator, was booed in his home state for his votes to convict the president during the impeachment trials.


SEN. MITT ROMNEY (R-UT): Now, you know me as a person who says what he thinks. And I don't hide the fact that I wasn't a fan of our last president's character issues.


ROMNEY: Aren't you embarrassed?

You might call me an old-fashioned Republican. I am. I have been in our party--


ROMNEY: Oh, yes, you can -- you can boo all you want. But I have been a Republican all my life. If you don't recall, I was the Republican nominee for president in 2012.



BLACKWELL: So, Romney narrowly avoided censure in Utah, but at least 15 other sitting Republican lawmakers have been censured by either their state or local parties.

CAMEROTA: And two Republican secretaries of state in Nevada and Georgia were also censured.

And they, along with the secretaries of state in Michigan and Arizona, have received death threats for certifying the election and refusing to cave into the laws. At the state and local level, a number of Republican officials have been forced to step down for criticizing President Trump's actions on January 6, right before the insurrection.

Our next guest is one of them.

Dave Millage is the former GOP chair in Scott County, Iowa.

Dave, great to have you here.


CAMEROTA: So, Dave, you were called a traitor because you spoke out against the insurrection and said that President Trump should be impeached as a result of inciting that insurrection. You were ousted as the party chair. So, can you relate to what Liz Cheney is going through now? And do you think that she will survive this?

MILLAGE: Well, yes, I can relate to it.

But, yes, I think she will survive. I think she received like 141 votes the last time they tried to remove her with the minority. I mean, it was not even close. She had a great deal of support, which shows me that a lot of people, a lot of Republicans, agree with her position, even though they're not -- they're unwilling to say so.

CAMEROTA: Yes, it was 145 last time in favor of her to 61.

But, this time, it's going to be a secret ballot. And this time, what they say is that, because she keeps saying that President Trump is propagating the big lie, that more Republicans are kind of fed up. Do you think that the tide is turning against her?

MILLAGE: I certainly hope not. I fear it may be, based upon the reports I'm seeing. But I certainly hope not. If you voted to keep her before, the fact that she continues in her position is no reason to get rid of her.

CAMEROTA: Dave, let me show you this recent CNN polling, OK? Seventy percent of Republicans in this poll believe that -- Donald Trump's lie. They believe that he somehow won and that Biden lost, OK?

Can you -- I mean, even despite all the evidence to the contrary, the Republicans in your party still believe that. That's -- I mean, that's beyond wishful thinking. That's beyond willful blindness. What is that?

MILLAGE: Blind loyalty to Trump, worshipping at the altar of Trump.

It's just mind-boggling to me that Republicans could be this way. This was a legitimate question. He tried to delegitimize the election. He was attacking American democracy itself. Yet they're standing by him.


That just -- it just astounds me. And I know a lot of Republicans feel like I do that this was unconscionable conduct by Donald Trump. And let's not apologize for it. Let's say for what it is and move on.

He was trying to undermine our system of government.

CAMEROTA: I mean, in other words, an insurrection, trying to call secretaries of state and demand that they change the results. That's not democracy. That's not the definition of democracy.

MILLAGE: No, it's not.

CAMEROTA: How do you define what that is? What is it?

MILLAGE: It's being a bully, which is what he is.

CAMEROTA: Do you believe that he is the head of the Republican Party today?

MILLAGE: Well, yes, he is. He's the nominee for president, the current nominee for president. That makes him the head of the party, in a sense, but--

CAMEROTA: But meaning -- I mean, you think that he's the front-runner to be -- to run for president next time?

MILLAGE: Absolutely, he's the front-runner. Regrettably, he's the front-runner.

CAMEROTA: And do you think that that means that people like Mike Pence and Ron DeSantis and Ted Cruz and anybody else who has presidential ambitions will step aside for him?

MILLAGE: Yes, I think they will. They have all been big supporters of Trump. If Trump runs, I don't think they run.

I don't know who would run against Trump, certainly not Mitt Romney.

CAMEROTA: I mean, just to remind everybody, Donald Trump lost the Senate while he was president. He lost the House for Republicans and he lost the presidency.

Do you understand why Republicans are sticking with him?

MILLAGE: I can only say what I pick up in my conversations with other Republicans. He speaks to their concerns. He attacks political correctness. They love him for that.

He speaks their voice. He's -- and, from my viewpoint, he did a good job as president on a lot of issues, on a lot of policy issues. His deregulation and tax cuts, his nominees, not just to the Supreme Court, but to the appellate and district courts, his pro-drilling, energy policies, certainly worked. We had abundant energy while he was president.

And, during the pandemic, he did what needed to be done. He got industry behind Operation Warp Speed. And, my God, they developed a vaccine and nine months.


CAMEROTA: That part was great. I mean, I agree. The vaccine has been a miracle.

But he also -- I would say his messaging was all over the map. He at one point suggested that people might want to inject bleach, as you may recall.

MILLAGE: I think he was joking. Come on.


MILLAGE: That's not -- he wasn't serious.

CAMEROTA: I don't know.

I mean, I think that the COVID task force worried that he was serious.

But, either way, David -- I mean, Dave Millage, I appreciate you coming in and helping us channel where your party, the Republican Party, is right now in terms of President Trump and beyond.

Thank you very much for your thoughts.

MILLAGE: You're welcome.

BLACKWELL: Joining us now, CNN political analyst Rachael Bade and CNN chief political analyst Gloria Borger.

Welcome to you both.

Rachael, let me start with you and what -- the optimism at least for Liz Cheney that we heard from Dave Millage there. He thinks that she will survive another vote. But the ground is shifting there beneath her.

RACHAEL BADE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I mean, the reality is, he's not sort of in the House Republican Conference right now.

And there absolutely has been a change of tone. I mean, the big difference between when Cheney defeated the motion to oust her last time in February and now is that she has lost the trust and the backing, I should say, of Kevin McCarthy.

Kevin McCarthy has been turning on her publicly. He's criticized her for going after Trump, said it's a distraction. And I think we sort of read the writing on the wall when, over the weekend, one of his new allies, Jim Banks, who runs this conservative conference within the House Republican Conference, went on record and said, basically, if she doesn't change, then she could lose her seat.

And so I think that's the big difference between then and now, is McCarthy is clearly part of these conversations. And without his backing, it's really TBD if she will keep her seat.


I do think another thing we can take away from this from her tweet is that she's not going to be a coward. Obviously, she's getting criticism from her party. They want her to stop criticizing Trump. She's not going to do that. If Trump -- rise, she's going to push back.

And if that cost her, her position in leadership, then it sounds like so be it in terms of what -- she is going to respond.

CAMEROTA: I was so struck by that also, Gloria. She didn't have to send a tweet out today about the big lie. She just keeps doing that. She didn't have to -- when a reporter asks, what do you think of Donald Trump, she doesn't have to ask -- honestly.

There are all sorts of Republicans who are trying to thread the needle. I mean, you have heard the doublespeak of so many of them.


CAMEROTA: But she's not doing that.

BORGER: She's doubling down every time she gets an opportunity.

And I think this is something she believes very, very deeply. Let's just state that right out front, that this is a woman who believes that what Donald Trump did and continues to do by charging that this election was rigged is an existential threat to democracy, period.

And she's going to continue to fight that. It is annoying, at the very least, and angering to Kevin McCarthy, who wants his conference to start talking about Joe Biden and Joe Biden's alleged socialism, et cetera, et cetera.

They want to -- they want to be on the same page about the president's economic plan. And, instead, now they're talking about Donald Trump, the insurrection, and Liz Cheney and whether she ought to be thrown out of the caucus.

Personally, I have talked to a couple of Republicans today, and they have come to the conclusion, House Republicans, they have come to the conclusion that she's kind of fine with losing her leadership post. Otherwise, she wouldn't be doing this.

And, at one point, she wanted to be speaker of the House, you might say, and gave up an opportunity to run for a nicely wrapped Senate seat in the state of Wyoming and saw her future in the House. And maybe now she thinks that's not the place for her.

BLACKWELL: Rachael, I want to talk about this video that we saw, Mitt Romney being booed in Utah, 2012 Republican nominee for president. He won the Senate primary by more than 40 points, the general by more than 30.

And if this is the reaction he gets in Utah, what's the -- what does this portend for other Republicans who might be of Liz Cheney's ilk who want to step out, but are not there yet?

BADE: I mean, look, it's clear that Romney and Cheney are becoming sort of pariahs in their party right now.

A lot of Republicans know that Trump is popular with their base. And so they don't want to talk about the big lie and his sort of claims of election fraud that are totally false. They don't want to push back on him. And these people that are continuing to do it, Romney and Cheney, are sort of increasingly finding themselves on an island.

I think one of the interesting dynamics that has sort of been unreported in the House is, if you actually go and look at the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump, you will notice that some of them are continuing to speak up and some of them are not.

And the reason is, quietly, some and leadership has sent the signal that, if you want help with your reelection campaign, if you want to be seen as part of the team, even though you took that vote, you have got to keep your head down.

And we're very quickly learning who is willing to do that and who's not. And the people who are not our people like Cheney and Romney. But, again, they're just increasingly finding themselves on an island in this purge that is going on more than six months, by the way, after Trump lost the election.

CAMEROTA: I mean, I'm also just struck, Gloria, that Republicans, this is becoming a pattern.

If they don't like the results of a vote, then they want to recount or revote or engage in revisionist history. That's not -- I that's anti- democratic. They don't -- so, they don't like the vote for Cheney. Well, we're going to have another vote. They don't like what happened with Donald Trump. So we're going to say it didn't happen.

BORGER: Right.

And, look, and you look at those election officials who are being threatened, who are being thrown out of office, those are the folks, during the last election, we actually stood up and said, we have done the recounts. The recounts are fine. This election, Joe Biden won. And those are the people who are being threatened.

And I think that is in -- that is very much in Liz Cheney's mind, which is, the Republican Party cannot stand for something that she believes is anti-democratic. Where she goes from this and how she takes that message to Republicans.

I mean, remember, she's a really conservative Republican who voted with Donald Trump more than 90 percent of the time. So, where does she take this? Someone suggested to me, oh, maybe she runs in her own lane for the presidency. Who knows? That's a long way down the road.

But I think this is dangerous for the Republican Party. People have to believe that their elections are safe and secure and fair, whether you're a Democrat or whether you're a Republican.


CAMEROTA: Gloria Borger, Rachael Bade, thank you very much for all of the reporting and analysis.


CAMEROTA: OK, so the CDC says 40 percent of American adults are now fully vaccinated. But, as that number grows, we are seeing vaccine hesitancy also grow.

BLACKWELL: Also ahead, CNN goes back to the Southern border, as miles of construction wall has stopped, no more construction on that border wall.



CAMEROTA: Coronavirus cases continue to drop in the U.S. to levels not seen since last fall, hospitalizations and deaths also declining.

Experts credit much of the improvement to vaccines. Forty percent of American adults are now fully vaccinated. But CDC guidance over mask- wearing continues to confuse and confound some city and state officials across the country, as they attempt to return to normalcy.

CNN's Nick Watt is tracking the developments for us.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm looking for my mask, I'm in trouble.

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): No, you're not, Mr. President, not anymore. You're not in the crowd and you're outside. CDC says you don't need one.

The rules are now confusing and perhaps too cautious for the fully vaccinated.

DR. JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: You are very well immune, and you no longer need masks in public. You can go into places without masks. And it's time for the CDC to start embracing this kind of a bifurcated strategy.

WATT: More confusion, Massachusetts just loosened its outdoor mask rules, but the town of Brookline, Mass., kept them tight.

DR. ASHISH JHA, DEAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Part of the deal that I think we should be cutting with the American people is, when there are restrictions that are not necessary, we should absolutely lift them.

WATT: Florida just went further, invalidated all local COVID-19 restrictions for everyone.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): The approach here is showing Florida leading the way again.

WATT: The national average daily case count just fell below 50,000 for the first time since October.

DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB, FORMER FDA COMMISSIONER: Right now, the gains that we're seeing across the country are locked in. But I think, in the coming weeks, we're going to see an acceleration, the decline in cases. And one of the big reasons is vaccination.

WATT: But that pace slowing. By percentage of population vaccinated, top three performing states are all in the Northeast. New Mexico is also doing well. Worst performing, mainly in the South and Utah.

DR. JAY VARKEY, EMORY UNIVERSITY: Herd immunity is going to be challenging any way you cut or slice it.

WATT: But even 50/55 percent vaccinated can be game-changing.

JHA: You really see case numbers plummet. So we may not get to zero. We probably won't. But if we can get infections at very low levels, most of us can get back to our lives in normal ways. I think we can probably live with that.


WATT: Two interesting numbers to end on.

Yesterday was the busiest day of air travel in this country since the pandemic began, 10 times the number of passengers passing through American airports as the same day last year. And here in Los Angeles County, where nearly 24,000 people have died with COVID-19, Sunday, not a single death was reported -- Alisyn

CAMEROTA: Wow, that's incredible to be able to report. Nick Watt, thank you very much.

Dr. Richina Bicette is the medical director at the Baylor College of Medicine and an emergency medicine physician.

Doctor, great to see you.

You just listened to Nick Watt's report there. I don't blame people for being confused. If you are doubly vaccinated, do you still need to wear your mask outside?

DR. RICHINA BICETTE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Outside, probably not, especially if you're outside and not in a crowded environment.

But the thing is, numbers in this country are still high. This pandemic is still on and popping, 50,000 cases per day, 42,000 people hospitalized, and we're still averaging about 700 deaths per day.

So, although the guidelines may be a little bit confusing, I think community numbers are still too high for the CDC to throw all caution to the wind.

BLACKWELL: So, let me ask you about kids.

I have friends who have children who wonder, OK, so I'm vaccinated, my spouse is vaccinated, the children are not. So do the children still have to wear masks outdoors?

BICETTE: If the children are with their family members, and only their family members, they likely don't need to wear a mask.

Vaccines are still -- soon going to become available for children, at least for children 12 to 15, as Pfizer has applied for emergency use authorization. So the number of unvaccinated children is likely going to start dropping significantly soon.

CAMEROTA: Let's talk about herd immunity, because we heard so much about that over the past few months.

And now some experts are saying that, given where we are with vaccine rates, we will never get to herd immunity. And what does that mean for the rest of our lives?

BICETTE: So, I don't think that we're thinking right now we will never get to herd immunity.

But a few months ago, when there weren't many variants of coronavirus circulating, the thought was that, once we get a vaccine, we can get enough people vaccinated so that COVID can't infect people anymore and it will essentially disappear.

As we have seen coronavirus start to evolve, we're starting to realize that we're probably not going to get to a level where it disappears. But what our new goal should be is that we want infection numbers in the community to drop significantly and for deaths to drop significantly. [15:25:08]

BLACKWELL: Let me take you to Louisville for the Kentucky Derby.

And we saw the video of people out there in their hats, and not a lot of masks on most people there. The rule was that you had to wear it unless you were eating or drinking, and there was plenty of eating and drinking.

But are you concerned about what we saw over the weekend? I mean, this is why people got vaccinated, so they could do things like this.

BICETTE: I will say, on the positive side, they did significantly restrict attendance to about 30 percent capacity.

A lot of the Derby activities were outside. And we know that being outside is typically a low-risk environment. So, for those people who weren't wearing masks at all or weren't wearing their masks properly, I just hope that they were vaccinated.

CAMEROTA: Let's talk about for a second what's happening in India. It's just shocking.

Our Clarissa Ward is there on the ground. She's just been showing us the most gut-wrenching videos of what's happening in the hospitals. Does the crisis in India pose a jeopardy to all of us? I mean, we like to think that, here in the U.S., we're obviously on the other side of this, but does what's happening in India put us all in jeopardy somehow?

BICETTE: I think what's happening in India is definitely a danger to everyone else across the world.

But, aside from it being a danger, it's a big red flashing warning sign. What's going on in India right now is a combination of what complacency and poor vaccination efforts will get you. India is a huge country, 1.3 billion people. And despite that population size, they had been able to keep their COVID numbers pretty low for quite some time.

And that added to their complacency. At the beginning of April, we saw massive religious gatherings. The prime minister himself was holding mass political rallies. And that's when we start to saw COVID cases pick up.

They have vaccinated 150 million people with their first shot. But when it comes to the second shot, only 26 million people received it, so only about 2 percent of India is fully vaccinated. Those are the kinds of things that are contributing to the surge over there and the warning signs we need to heed.

BLACKWELL: All right, Dr. Bicette, thank you so much for being with us.

BICETTE: Thank you for having me. BLACKWELL: Next: Four families who were separated under Trump era border policies will be reunited tomorrow, but the homeland security secretary says there are still hundreds more.

Plus, an update on that deadly boat crash off the California coast that is suspected of being part of a human smuggling operation.