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Fulton County, GA, Elections Director, Discusses Election Falsehoods; Death Threats Haunting Election Workers Nationwide; Slavitt: Delta Variant Is Like "COVID on Steroids"; Nearly 25 Percent of COVID Patients Have Post-COVID Condition; Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) Discusses Biden Fighting for Domestic Agenda, Manchin Voting Rights Proposal Getting Boost from Stacey Abrams, McConnell Already Nixing Manchin Compromise, Whether Justice Breyer Should Retire. Aired 1:30- 2p ET

Aired June 17, 2021 - 13:30   ET



ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas says the DHS review of the January 6th attack on the U.S. capitol is going on.

But we know this. The big lie fueled the riot at the capitol. And it is fueling death threats against election officials across the country.

A new survey, in fact, shows nearly one in three local elections officials say they feel unsafe because of their jobs. One in six say they have received threats.

In Georgia, a state Trump lost, the election director for the state's largest county, Richard Barron, says he received at least 150 hateful calls in the immediate aftermath of the presidential election, 150.

One voice mail Barron received actually said, "You deserve to hang." Another said, "You belong in Communist China because you're a crook."

Police even posted up outside his house and his office after he received a threat from a caller saying he would be killed by firing squad.

And Barron's staff has also received threats and racist verbal attacks.

One person calling his registration chief the "N" word, saying he should be shot. Another threatened to kill him by dragging his body around with a truck.

Richard Barron is joining us now from Atlanta.

Richard, this is just so horrific. It's so disturbing. What has this been like for you? RICHARD BARRON, FULTON COUNTY, GEORGIA, DIRECTOR OF REGISTRATIONS &

ELECTIONS: Well, I think mostly I'm more concerned with my staff. My staff is almost exclusively African-American, and the slurs that they've been subjected to -- we received many calls about motorcycle gangs coming to kill them all on their chairs while they work.

It was disturbing. And the overt racism was sickening. I never expected to be in such a hurricane of hate.

CABRERA: What has been the impact?

BARRON: Well, I mean, morale has suffered. And it's -- a lot of it has to do with -- we still are litigating a case to count our absentee ballots for a fourth time.

And that and just the number of open records requests that we're receiving and all the publicity that those generate then start the calls up again.

We've also -- we've started receiving calls over the last two weeks. It's like November is starting up all over again with the number of calls we're getting.

Mr. Jones, who had people visit him at his House outside, they came to his house, said there was new neighbors one night. You know, that was scary for him.

And he's been receiving five to six calls a day on his line here in the office.

We've received a call earlier this week saying that somebody was going to come down here and use his Second Amendment rights on everyone in the office.

So it's just -- it's not letting up.

CABRERA: And just today, in fact, the former President Trump said that things are unraveling fast, the scam is unraveling fast. He is continuing to push this lie, specific to Georgia, specific to your county, in Fulton County.

What's your reaction?

BARRON: Yes. Well, you know, all that we can do is try to be as transparent as possible and to -- when we have the facts, then we will respond with factual information.

There are some online tabloids that are making claims based on information they have, and they've either misinterpreted it or they don't understand it. They make these claims and then it inflames the situation.

There needs to be responsible journalism that is followed, even by these tabloids, on these online tabloids that are popping up.

I think the mainstream media needs to look at some of those online tabloids with some skepticism.

And it seems like they are acting responsibly because they are calling and trying to get information in order to fact check some of these organizations or media outlets that are popping up that are making all sorts of outlandish claims.

CABRERA: There's only so much I think mainstream organizations can do if the people who are making these threats aren't listening to the mainstream media organizations, if they're getting their information from other platforms.

And I have to wonder, you know, if these threats continue against election workers, if the political climate remains, are you worried about election workers quitting, or, you know, having a shortage of people willing to work elections out of fear?

BARRON: Oh, that is a concern for us. And it's also just a concern about full-time staff.


I read something earlier this year from the elections group, and they indicated that they have never seen so many -- so much attrition after a presidential election cycle as they did this year.

And, you know, you look on election line, and look at the number of jobs that are open across the country, you can see that there's something different going on this year.

And I talked to colleagues who are -- they're warn out by all of this.

CABRERA: I bet you're warn out.

Have you had second thoughts? After working elections for 22 years, are you thinking about calling it a day?

BARRON: I mean, the thought crosses my mind sometimes. But, you know, I like working with my staff.

And I think what - I'm trying to stay committed to this job and the prevention, just to do whatever I can.

We're going to bring in proactively to work with a consulting group to go through all of our processes, all of our procedures, and make that transparent.

So that, going forward, no one can question anything that we're doing with regard to how we handle chain of custody, how we deliver equipment, how we train poll workers, in order to try to combat some of this in the future.

You know, I think that's the only thing we can do at this point, is just to try to be proactive and try to be transparent going forward.

CABRERA: Richard Barron, stay strong. I'm so sorry to hear about the threats you and your staff are receiving. Thank you for sharing with us.

BARRON: Thank you for having me. It was a pleasure.

CABRERA: Likewise.

Need more proof that vaccines are important? Two words: Delta variant.



CABRERA: As the U.S. begins to open up, there's new concern about a dangerous about a dangerous coronavirus variant. It is more contagious and its effects are far more severe.

This is how Andy Slavitt, the former White House senior advisor for the COVID response, described the Delta variant, first identified in India.


ANDY SLAVITT, FORMER WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISOR ON COVID RESPONSE: This is a more virulent strain. This is like COVID on steroids. You can be around people for less time and still get exposed.

What you will see is in communities, perhaps in the southeast, where vaccination rates are lower, I think you'll see outbreaks, particularly come fall.


CABRERA: But Dr. Fauci says there's one crucial thing you can do to protect yourself.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY & INFECTIOUS DISEASES (voice-over): I'm not concerned about the people who were vaccinated. Because the good news about all this among the seriousness of the situation with regard to the variant is that the vaccines work really quite well.


CABRERA: Dr. Richina Bicette is a board-certified emergency medicine physician and she's also the medical director at the Baylor College of Medicine.

Doctor, thank you for being here.

The CDC has labeled this variant a variant of concern. Just how concerned are you?

DR. RICHINA BICETTE, EMERGENCY MEDICINE PHYSICIAN & MEDICAL DIRECTOR, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Well, I'm going to echo Dr. Fauci's sentiments, Ana. I'm not concerned about myself because I'm part of the fully vaccinated crew.

And our current vaccines do offer very high levels of protection against this new variant.

However, for those who are unvaccinated, and from a public health standpoint, there's a lot to be concerned about.

It's not just the appearance of another variant. It's the behavior of this variant.

Last month, there were estimates that the variant made up 1 percent of cases in the United States and it was in about 40 countries worldwide.

Right now, this CDC is estimating that Delta makes up 10 percent of cases in the U.S. It's in over 75 countries worldwide.

And it's likely responsible for the current surge we're seeing in the U.K., making up over 90 percent of their new COVID cases.

CABRERA: We're also learning a significant number of people who get the virus end up with ongoing health issues.

This new study this week shows more than 23 percent had at least one post-COVID condition 30 days or more after their initial COVID diagnosis, including people who initially had asymptomatic cases of the virus.

What kind of post-COVID conditions are we talking about?

BICETTE: That's what we, in the medical community, are referring to as the COVID long haulers. And I'm not sure if there's any scientific explanation behind this, thus far.

We have no idea who is more at risk of having ongoing symptoms versus people who never have symptoms again. It could be an older adult. It could be a child.

I have had a pediatric patient, 14 years old, tested positive for COVID in October, tested positive again for COVID in March.

And by the time I saw him in May, he was still having significant shortness of breath and cough that brought him into the Emergency Department, two months after his last diagnosis.

So this can affect any and everyone, which is a big part of the reason why we are pushing these vaccines as much as possible.

CABRERA: We've talked about physical health. Let's talk more about mental health now.

Because a new study shows adults in the U.S. are feeling less depressed than they were at the height of the pandemic. That's certainly good news. But mental health is improving at uneven rates.


Why do you think that is?

BICETTE: Mental health has unfortunately always been one of the less glamorous and less publicized aspects of medicine. But it's been an extremely important part of this pandemic, and one that we haven't spoken about enough.

For people who already have underlying mental health issues, and even for some who may not have underlying mental health issues, the process of being isolated, away from family, away from friends, and not being able to interact with people was extremely detrimental for a lot of persons' mental and emotional well-being.

Now, as the country is starting to open again, people are learning to reacclimate. And some people are doing a little bit better shifting back to what was our normal state than others.

I think that as we are starting to see a lot of health care providers go back to in-person work, and we can kind of get rid of virtual visits as our vaccination rates increase, that will help with mental health aspects.

The personal interaction is what people were missing that were contributing to the problem.

CABRERA: Dr. Richina Bicette, it's great to see you as always. Thank you.

BICETTE: Thank you.

CABRERA: President Biden back home to fight for his domestic agenda now, but who in Congress is with him?



CABRERA: Welcome back.

A senior White House official says there are very encouraging signs for the president's agenda.

One issue could be voting rights after Stacey Abrams, a key progressive leader on this issue, signaled support for Senator Joe Manchin's compromise.

Manchin says he's hopeful Republicans aren't far behind. But Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, already nixing the idea.

Democratic Senator Ben Cardin, of Maryland, is joining us now.

Senator, do you support Senator Manchin's voting rights compromise?

SEN. BEN CARDIN (D-MD): Ana, I'm certainly in favor of reasonable changes in this legislation that can bring broader support, as long as we don't compromise the principles. And that's to protect voter integrity, to end dark money in our political system, deal with political gerrymandering and conflicts of interest. Senator Manchin's proposal includes all four of those items.

So I'm encouraged by his bill. We have to sit down and look at the details and make sure it accomplishes our mission. But I'm very encouraged by these discussions.

CABRERA: Let's talk infrastructure because that's the other area of contention. How strong is the support for the new bipartisan bill? Are the votes there?

CARDIN: When you look at the bipartisan proposal from the Democrats' point of view, everything that's in there's in President Biden's proposal.

And it's consistent with the action of our committees that worked in a bipartisan manner, including the committee I serve on, the Environment and Public Works Committee on the Highway and Roads Program.

I think there's support among Democrats provided that that's not the last chapter, that we have another vehicle to allow us to make up for those issues that have not been adequately addressed in a bipartisan bill.

I can't speak for the Republican support as to how solid that is. I know that the proposal has 10 Republicans that are supporting it.

I would assume that, if we can get the bipartisan bill moving forward and have the ability to have a second vehicle that may be a partisan vehicle make up for what's not in the bipartisan package, that may be a path forward.

CABRERA: Do you need to have a guarantee from Manchin and Sinema who are trying to court Democrats to back this bipartisan bill, that doesn't give Democrats, particularly progressive Democrats, everything they want?

Does there need to be a "we'll vote for this as long as you support and vote for us on reconciliation?"

CARDIN: Ana, there has to be an agreement in our caucus about the process we'll use moving forward before we can move any bill in regard to the infrastructure.

As a practical matter, I think we need to know the end game, and how we'll get there. And we have to have consensus in our caucus to accomplish that.

CABRERA: Senator Mitch McConnell made it clear, if Republicans take the Senate next year in midterm elections, any Supreme Court vacancies under President Biden probably won't get filled. We saw today the importance of the makeup of the Supreme Court.

Should Justice Stephen Breyer, who is 82, retire while Democrats still have the majority? CARDIN: First let's look at the problem. The problem is Mitch

McConnell. That's an outrageous statement he made.

The Constitution gives the president the power to nominate to the Supreme Court. The Senate has the right to either confirm or not confirm that nominee. It doesn't have the right to hold off a president's nominee for two years and not vote on it.

I would hope that the Republican members of the Senate would not follow Senator McConnell's suggestion.

By the way, I also hope the Democrats will maintain control after the midterm elections.

In regard to individual decisions by justices, these are lifetime appointments. I think they have to make their own decision. I don't know about his future intentions or his health or those types of issues. I think he has to make his own judgment.

Quite frankly, Senator McConnell is wrong. And I hope his caucus would never support that.

By the way, I hope he's acting as the minority leader, not the majority leader of the Senate.

CABRERA: I hear what you're saying. But McConnell made moves to suggest that what he's doing today is exactly what he would do going forward if Republicans retake the Senate.


So at this point, it sounds like you're willing to say, Justice Breyer, do what you've got to do.

CARDIN: I'm prepared to say that Senator McConnell has said things in the past that he has not followed. I hope this is one of those. I hope he never has the chance to do that.

Justice Breyer has to make his own decisions. I don't think it's right for us to make decisions for him.

CABRERA: Senator Ben Cardin, thank you for your time.

CARDIN: Thank you.

CABRERA: Thank you all for joining me today. I'll see you back here tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. Eastern.

The news continues next with Alisyn and Victor.