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Fate of January 6 Commission Uncertain in Senate after Passing House; Fauci Says, Highly Likely Americans will Need Booster Shots; Sources Say, Biden Growing Increasingly Impatient with Netanyahu. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired May 20, 2021 - 10:30   ET


REP. CHRISSY HOULAHAN (D-PA): This was an attack on all of us on January 6th, that it was an attack on the democracy itself.


It's not a coincidence that it happened at around 1:00 on January 6th when we were beginning the process of validating their results of the people's election.

And so I would encourage people to give a call to their senators and ask them to do the right thing, which to make sure that we can understand what happened that day and make sure that it does not happen again.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: So, Speaker Pelosi's plan B, we're hearing is, all right, if you guys don't get behind this in the Senate, going to go on our own and we're going to have a select committee. And when I think of select committee, and I think a lot of Americans may be in this camp, I think of Benghazi, just because of one of the more recent select committees, and how that went. And I worry that if you have that, and I wonder if you worry you're not going to have the same amount of Americans believing it, like they did with the 9/11 commission, it became a book that people bought at the airport, right? So, you're nodding. Is that a concern of yours?

HOULAHAN: 100 percent. With all things that we do here in this Congress, with all of the effort that I make on behalf of the people of Pennsylvania's sixth congressional district, I hope for bipartisanship. I hope for us to be able to work together. I hope that we're working on behalf of all the people who brought us here. And so it would certainly be my preference that we do this bipartisanly, a- partisanaly, and that the Senate does the right thing and moves that forward.

I don't know when I think about the independent commission. It would strongly be my preference, however, that we move forward with it as designed. It was frankly negotiated bipartisanly, by members of our body, both Democrat and Republican. And so a lot of compromise was made to get it this far and we really need to make sure we finish it out.

HARLOW: McCarthy got a lot of what he asked Katko to get for him, by the way. That's based on the fact.

Look, it was interesting. Last hour, we had your former colleague, Republican colleague from Congress, Denver Riggleman, on the show. And repeated something that he tweeted, which is this call for, if you can't get this thing through the Senate, then have a two-commission solution, is what he's calling it, one focused on January 6th and the other spotlighting what he writes as digital radicalization, violence and a polarization commission. Is that a palatable idea to you?

HOULAHAN: It's the first that I've heard of it and I very much respect Mr. Riggleman, and it doesn't sound like a ridiculous solution. There are things we need to get to the bottom of in addition to January 6th, some of the radicalization, frankly, of members of our service is something I'm also concerned about and something that I'm working within the Armed Services Committee and the NDAA process, which is the annual appropriations process or authorization process, to also understand. We need to make sure that we are providing digital literacy to everybody in our nation and particularly those of us who serve in uniform as well.

HARLOW: Yes. Let me just switch gears here as we end the interview, Congresswoman. I do want to ask you a question on Israel, given your statement last week on Israel when you wrote then, quote, I call upon Israeli and Palestinian leaders to immediately engage in diplomatic efforts to take de-escalatory measures. Well, that hasn't happened. You've seen what has played out in the subsequent days. And we just, in the last 24 hours, heard Benjamin Netanyahu say, I am determined to continue this operation until its objective is achieved.

Given where we are this morning on this, do you believe it's time for the Biden administration, President Biden, to publicly call for a ceasefire?

HOULAHAN: So, I think that the president has been working on that. I, in fact, joined some of my colleagues in a letter just signed yesterday regarding the fact that we really need to implore both sides, both Israel and the Palestinians, to stop, to have a ceasefire and to move forward.

Innocent lives, particularly children -- it's a tragic, tragic situation that's happening there. We've seen the displacement of tens of thousands of people, both the Israeli and Palestinian people. And I am hopeful that our government, in the form of our president, will be part of that solution.

HARLOW: I hear you. I think we're all hopeful. But I'm asking, do you now agree with some of your more progressive colleagues who say he needs to say more to Bibi Netanyahu publicly?

HOULAHAN: Yes, my impression is that he has been doing that behind the scenes. And I would think it would be useful if we saw a little bit more forcefulness in the same way that I believe my position in documenting and signing my position in letters or tweets is that hopefully the impetus to ask him to do more.

HARLOW: Thank you, Congresswoman Chrissy Houlahan, we appreciate it. HOULAHAN: You're welcome. Thank you.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: The next big question when it comes to the pandemic, will you need a coronavirus booster shot and when. What Dr. Anthony Fauci is saying, next.



HARLOW: All right, welcome back. If you were one of the first Americans to get a COVID-19 vaccine, the CEOs of both Pfizer and Moderna say you could potentially need a booster as early as September.

SCIUTTO: I mean, it's kind of like flu shots, right? This as Dr. Anthony Fauci says it is highly likely they will be needed, foolish if we don't consider them.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I really don't think it's accurate to say that we will need boosters, you know, X number of months from now. We may not need it for quite a while. We are preparing for the eventuality that we might need boosters.


SCIUTTO: Joining us now, CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen, former city of Baltimore Health Commissioner. Dr. Wen, always good to have you.


I mean, like I'm not bothered by this, right? You do it with flu shots, right, every year because of the strains, variants change every year and it just helps to boost your immunity. I mean, is that something people should expect and is that smart?

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, I think it's important for the science to continue here. We really need to understand about breakthrough infections. So, for people who are fully vaccinated, is there a point at which their immunity begins to wane or are there variants that somehow are not being protective where the vaccines are not protective against these variants? So we need to study this.

And actually, the CDC recently announced that they're cutting back on the reporting of breakthrough infections. So we really need to do more studies about this. But I also think we need to be careful about how we talk about booster shots. Because while there are some people, probably like the three of us, who are happy to get a booster shot if needed, there are also a lot of people actually a lot of vaccine- hesitant individuals, name the possibility of a booster as the reason they don't want to get vaccinated in the first place. They just think that, hey, this pandemic is never going to be over, what's the point of even getting a shot now if I have to get another one later? We have to be aware of that mentality and not jump the gun.

HARLOW: You are -- I think it's fair to say -- up in arms after reading your op-ed about the CDC's mask guidance that has come out lately, so much so that you think the Biden administration needs to step in and correct them?

WEN: Yes. I mean, I think that the CDC was trying to do something good, which was to explain to individuals who are fully vaccinated that we are now very well protected. And that's an important message. But the CDC is not an individual doctor talking to an individual patient. The CDC is a public health entity, and public health is about communities.

One of the unintended consequences that we now see happen is, as a result of this guidance, a lot of states and businesses and local jurisdictions have removed their mask mandates. And I really think this was premature when only less than 38 percent of the population is fully vaccinated. We are putting unvaccinated people, including children, we're putting immunocompromised individuals at a lot of risk, because they are now going to be in public places mixing with unvaccinated people who are now also going to be taking off their mask.

And I think there's something that still could be done. I think maybe local jurisdictions can say, here are businesses that are really essential. And we differentiate between the grocery stores and pharmacies that are Essential and should keep indoor mask mandates versus, you could say, theaters and bars. People go at their own risk. But let's at least keep those essential businesses with mask mandates.

SCIUTTO: Okay. So, forgive me, because I'm going to talk about some good news here on this to try to accentuate the positive. One thing I've notice lately is that with each of these variants that has been devastating in some countries, the U.K. variant, right, Brazil variant, now, as we speak, the Indian variant, is that the science seems to show that the existing vaccines still provide a large amount of protection against these new variants.

Tell us, do you agree with that assessment, having looked at the data, and how significant of a development is that?

WEN: Yes. I do think that there is great news. Thank you for making sure that we talk about the great news on this day. Yes, it's very true that the vaccines we have, the more evidence we have, the more we find that the vaccines are so good at protecting against illness, especially severe illness, but it also reduces the likelihood of transmission of COVID-19, which is so important. And they seem to work against all these different variants of concern.

And that's why we're seeing across the country, we're seeing rates of COVID-19 really dropping. And I think that's -- kudos to the Biden administration for what they've done to help expedite vaccine delivery and administration in this way.

HARLOW: For confused parents out there of little kids, how are you handling this CDC guidance in your activities with your kids right now?

WEN: Well, we're saying that outdoors is absolutely the best place to be. So when our three-year-old has play dates, we are doing that outdoors without masks, although indoors, especially if he is going to be around other unvaccinated people, whether they are little kids or unvaccinated adults, we absolutely try to limit that time, but also everybody must be wearing masks.

For my husband and I, we're still using caution because while the risk of transmitting to our children is very low, that risk is still there. And so we'll feel totally fine outdoors and around other fully vaccinated people indoors. But if we're going to places that are crowded, especially with unvaccinated, unmasked people, we will be wearing masks. So we'll wear masks in churches, in grocery stores and we're going to keep on avoiding bars and other high-risk settings.

SCIUTTO: Dr. Leana Wen, thank you so much.

WEN: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Well, at least nine Yankees players and staff have now tested positive for COVID-19, that despite being fully vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, experts say, breakthrough cases such as this, are to be expected as the country continues to reopen.


HARLOW: So our Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta spoke to an expert, who says the Yankee cluster actually proves that vaccines are working really well. Watch this.


AARON BOONE, MANAGER, NEW YORK YANKEES: I just wanted to share that we have had another positive test.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Judge, he scores.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Nine members of the Yankees organization have tested positive for COVID-19 despite being fully vaccinated with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. But these so-called breakthrough cases don't necessarily mean game over.

DR. COSTI SIFRI, INFECTIOUS DISEASE PHYSICIAN, UVA HEALTH: Johnson & Johnson vaccine does work. It's preventing serious infections in those staff and players with the Yankees. So the vaccine has done its job.

GUPTA: Dr. Costi Sifri, an infectious disease physician at the University of Virginia, says breakthrough cases, which are infections after full vaccination, are to be expected.

SIFRI: Those infections that occur, these so-called breakthrough infections, importantly were, for the most part, very mild infections, mild to moderate infections.

GUPTA: Expected but still uncommon, according to CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky.

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: Finally, we know that in a rare event that people get infected after a vaccine, the resulting infection is more likely to have a lower viral load, shorter in duration and likely less risky of transmission to others.

GUPTA: As of late April, CDC had reported fewer than 10,000 breakthrough cases, and that was out of 95 million fully vaccinated Americans. In fact, the reason the Yankees cases were caught was because the Utah lab that was once used to test for doping by MLB players now only tests for COVID-19. They can even identify which variants are actually causing those infections.

You call it the alternative variant analysis. What does that mean exactly?

DR. DANIEL EICHNER, PRESIDENT, THE SPORTS MEDICINE RESEARCH AND TESTING LABORATORY: Variant analysis program, and that will specifically look for the certain region on the virus that we know their mutations. They're indicative of the different variants that are known.

BRIAN CASHMAN, GENERAL MANAGER, NEW YORK YANKEES: Ultimately, I believe the variant that we're dealing with has been pretty aggressive.

GUPTA: Understanding which variants are circulating in the United States is especially critical now that many Americans are taking off their masks.

SIFRI: I think this cluster positive test is predictable as, you know, you ease social distancing and mask wearing. And this is probably at the core of why some people felt very uncomfortable or uneasy with CDC's relaxed guidance.

GUPTA: Variant or not, Sifri still believes that what's important to remember is the vaccine is saving lives, and as the country opens back up, you can expect to see breakthrough cases as part of our post- pandemic world.

SIFRI: These vaccines have converted what was once a deadly disease for nearly 600,000 people in the United States to something that is a mild infection, at best.

GUPTA: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, reporting.


HARLOW: Sanjay, thank you very much.

Well, sources say President Biden has set a deadline for the violence to ease between the Israelis and Palestinians. He's growing increasingly impatient with Israel prime minister. More on that, next.



SCIUTTO: This morning, CNN has learned that President Biden is growing increasingly impatient with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. It comes after the president's stern warning to Netanyahu on Wednesday calling for a de-escalation in the violence.

HARLOW: So, Biden is facing mounting pressure from within his own party. Senator Bernie Sanders is expected to propose a resolution today opposing the sale of $735 million worth of weapons to Israel.

John Harwood joins us with the latest. Interesting, Gregory Meeks on the House was going to do it, then backed off, now Bernie Sanders is going to do it. It's really sending a message to Biden, right?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It's sending a message to Biden, it's not likely to stop that arms sale. In fact, it's highly unlikely to stop that arms sale, but it's a reflection of pressure that is being placed on the president.

Keep in mind, this president, throughout his, has been a very strong supporter of Israel, still is. And his statements from beginning of this conflict have been punctuated by assertions that Israel has the right to defend itself.

But over the years, you've had resistance not just from Democrats but also from Republicans. We all remember President George H.W. Bush very strongly pressed the Israelis in the name of peace to halt settlements.

What's happened over time is that as the leadership of Israel has moved ever firmly to the right under Netanyahu, so the Republican party moved right, so whatever dissent there is from Israel resides within the Democratic Party, as the Democratic Party has become more diverse, you've seen more and more, especially younger members but not exclusively them, see issues of the Israeli/Palestinian conflicts through the lens of civil rights. That is a source of pressure on Biden.

Biden, a week ago, said he expected and hoped this would end soon. It continued a full other week, and that's why we've seen the president express greater amount of frustration and impatience in his public statements, in his private statements to Netanyahu.


And the hope is that we are seeing a somewhat diminution of the violence on both sides that suggests that the two sides are moving closer toward a ceasefire. And that would be the result that not just President Biden, but France, other U.S. allies, United Nations are all looking for.

HARLOW: That's right. Okay, John Harwood at the White House for us, thank you very much for that reporting.

And thanks to all of you for joining us today. We'll see you back here tomorrow morning. I'm Poppy Harlow. SCIUTTO: And I'm Jim Sciutto.

At This Hour with Kate Bolduan starts right after a quick break.