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Family of American Student Killed in Russia Fundraising to Cover Cost of Repatriation, Biden Walk-Back Puts Infrastructure Back on Rails, U.S. Forces in Syria Come Under Rocket Fire After U.S. Airstrikes, Pressure Mounts to Vaccinate More Americans as Delta Variant Spreads. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired June 28, 2021 - 15:30   ET



MARIE-CLAIRE SEROU, SISTER OF CATHERINE SEROU, STUDENT MURDERED IN RUSSIA: ... so, we need to first do a lot of documentation and fill out tons of paperwork and pay tons of fees to get visas. Hopefully expedited and then we need to travel to Russia. Me and my mom have that image of going into her apartment and just being there with her. And meeting her friends there and getting the stories that we didn't get to hear.

And then we need to come back to the States and hold a memorial service for her and repatriate her remains and hold a funeral service for her and lay her to rest with her grandparents, our grandparents who she loved very dearly.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Yes. Well, we hope that you can get some help. I know it was at $21,000. I'm sure that our viewers will want to contribute and we just appreciate you telling us this story. We're so again terribly sorry for your loss, Becky and Marie Clair. We will keep our viewers updated on what's happening. Thank you for being with us.

SEROU: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Still ahead, President Biden is trying to salvage a bipartisan infrastructure deal. Senator Mitch McConnell says the fate is in Democrats' hands. What that means.



CAMEROTA: In just about 30 minutes President Biden is expected to host outgoing Israeli President Reuven Rivlin at the White House.

Meanwhile, the president is trying to salvage bipartisan infrastructure deal. His comments last week angered some Republicans when he appeared to suggest there were strings attached to his support. Over the weekend President Biden tried to walk that back saying, that statement understandably upset some Republicans. My comments also created the impression that I was issuing a veto threat on the very plan I had just agreed to which was certainly not my intent.

CNN senior White House correspondent Phil Mattingly joins us now. So Phil, how did this unforced error happen?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: You know, look, it was literally just the president's words. And I think let's make something very clear, the White House, Democratic leaders have been very clear throughout this entire process that they viewed the bipartisan process and the Democratic only process on a second bill on a parallel track the entire time.

What the president did that fired up Republicans who were at the Oval Office, inside the Oval Office, just a few hours prior was say that he wasn't going to sign the bipartisan deal unless the Democrat only deal had made its way to its desk as well.

Look, Alisyn, on a Saturday afternoon when the president of the United States has to release a 600-word statement walking back something from a press conference 48 hours prior, that's when you know things aren't in a good place.

Now, that being said, the Republicans who were very upset, had private calls with both White House officials and the Senate Democrats in the negotiation have mostly said to this point, they are happy with where the president ended up. They are happy with the statement. They believe that they can move forward.

However, what this has done is it's opened the door for other Republicans to try to create more issues about this including Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell who now says it's up to Democratic leaders to make the same commitment. Take a listen.


SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY) MINORITY LEADER: What I did this morning is to call on the president to ask that majority leader and the speaker to deal with these issues separately. To deal with them separately. That's the way the deal was negotiated according to the 10 Republicans I can assure you who were in the discussion. There was no agreement that they would be linked.


MATTINGLY (on camera): Alisyn, I'll make this quite clear, that's not going to happen. Speaker Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer will be giving no such commitment. But I think this underscores just how delicate a balance there is right now. Obviously, the president wanted the bipartisan deal. Felt like bipartisan deal was a necessity in order to make sure his moderate Democrats, people like Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema would vote for that second Democrat-only bill. But if there's no substantive second Democrat-only bill then you have

a major problem with progressives. It's a bit of a high wire act right now and you've seen over the course of the last 72 to 90 hours just how tenuous this process can be both on the bipartisan track and on the Democrat-only track. This is going to be very interesting to watch over the next several weeks. But for now the bipartisan bill looks like mostly it's back in line -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK. There you have it. Thank you for explaining all of that. Phill Mattingly, great to see you.

All right, we're following some breaking news out of Syria. U.S. forces coming under fire. We have all of that for you next.



CAMEROTA: This just into CNN's NEWSROOM, American forces coming under fire in Syria. CNN Pentagon correspondent Oren Liebermann joins us now. What do we know, Oren?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, just a short time ago, multiple rockets fired at U.S. military base in eastern Syria known as the "Green Village." A facility that houses part of the 900 troops that operate in Syria.

There were with multiple rockets. It's unclear exactly how many -- according to U.S. defense official with direct knowledge of the information. As of right now according to a spokesman for Operation Inherent Resolve there are no reports of injuries at this military facility.

Of course, the timing here very significant. This is right about 24 hours after the U.S. carried out air strikes along the Iraq-Syria border not far from where this rocket attack took place against Iranian backed Shia militias. And the assessment -- the early assessment, it should be noted -- is that it was those Iranian backed militias in the immediate vicinity of this U.S. military base that may well have carried out the rocket attacks against that military base.


The Biden administration announced that it was carrying out these rocket attacks -- or rather air strikes -- last night after a series of drone attacks viewed as potentially lethal drone attacks against U.S. military facilities and U.S. personnel operating in the region.

The commander of U.S. Central Command had said these drone attacks repeatedly over the course of the last few months are an increasing threat, one he takes very seriously and it is because of that that the U.S. carried out these air strikes.

Of course, with these rocket attacks, the question is what happens next and how does this proceed from here? Is this exchange of fire over or is the beginning of an escalation between the U.S. military and Iranian backed Shia militias operating that work in that area that the U.S. keeps track of?

The broader context here also can't be ignored, this is just a short time after the election of a new Iranian president, a hardline president, and of course the ongoing negotiations around Iran's nuclear program.

CAMEROTA: Oren Liebermann, thank you for the breaking news.

OK, up next, renewed urgency to get Americans vaccinated because of the spreading delta variant. We'll speak to an expert in one state of specific concern.



CAMEROTA: New warnings as the delta variant spreads across the country. Experts warn that the states with low vaccination rates will have outbreaks. One of those is Alabama where a little more than 32 percent of the population is fully vaccinated.

Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo is there, she's the Director of the Division of Infectious Disease at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Dr. Marrazzo, always great to see you. Just tell us what's happening in Alabama and that region. What are you seeing?

DR. JEANNE MARRAZZO, PROFESSOR OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES, UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA, BIRMINGHAM: Yes, Alisyn, great to be here. So we have clearly leveled off in our efforts to get the vaccine, particularly to younger people. If you look at older folks, people above 65, 75, we're actually doing a very good job here.

The majority of those people are fully vaccinated. Where we are falling short and having a big challenge is with young adults, people who are 30 to 49 years old. And I think there could be a few reasons for that.

What we don't want to see is what other parts of the country are seeing, particularly Arkansas, Oklahoma and Missouri. They are actually seeing hospitalizations in that age group probably largely due to the delta variant. So, we have a window to get these folks vaccinated, and we really want to try to ramp that up. But it's challenging.

CAMEROTA: Let's take a look at the areas that have the highest vaccination rates and the lowest. So the top five states, Vermont, 65 percent fully vaccinated. Massachusetts, 61 percent. Maine, 61. Connecticut, 61. Rhode Island, 59.

The areas with the least vaccination, Mississippi, Alabama, Virgin Islands, Arkansas, and Wyoming. It must just be so frustrating for you as a doctor to know that at this point the hospitalizations that you just spoke of and the deaths don't have to happen. They don't have to happen anymore. I mean, a year ago they did. But now it's our choice.

MARRAZZO: Absolutely, and I think what people, particularly younger people don't appreciate, is that the reason we are in this very good moment is because we've had a successful vaccine rollout, right.

We are only here -- the virus is not getting weaker. I mean the virus, if anything, is continuing to evolve. We are in this space because many people have gone ahead and gotten vaccinated. So really important for people to remember that.

The other thing I'll mention is that if you look at people who are now dying of COVID or hospitalized, the vast majority of them are occurring in unvaccinated people. So, I think if that doesn't really get you motivated to get out there and get vaccinated, it's hard to say what else will.

We do expect that the FDA is going to approve those vaccines hopefully soon, because remember, we're still under that EUA, the Emergency Use Authorization. And I'm really hopeful that that's going to give people the measure of security they need to move forward with this.

CAMEROTA: I think that will help. I mean just from the vaccine hesitant people that I've spoken to I think that that will sway some people. But on that note, Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin is holding an event this afternoon with families who will share their experiences regarding adverse reactions to the COVID-19 vaccine.

What's so interesting about this, doctor, is that, yes, there can be adverse reactions. We know that. We've reported on it, we've talked about it. But that's not the news. The bigger news, I mean, the more earth-shattering news is that 180 million Americans are at least partially vaccinated, and, thereby, those lives have been saved. I mean, the idea that in such a short time we've been able to save 180 million Americans, that's the news.

And so for him to do this kind of anomaly and hold, you know, a press conference about that, how do you counter that message that he's trying to get out?

MARRAZZO: First of all, I think you need to recognize that I'm sure the families are hurting from whatever they experience. And I think it's important to acknowledge that.

And you said just now that adverse events do occur. So we need to recognize that. But we need to put them in perspective. They are a minute proportion of what the benefit of these vaccines are, as you've said.

The other thing is that you're probably familiar with the CDC's committee, the ACIP who recommends all the vaccine regimens that we deal with. They are an extraordinary group of committed people who have been meeting throughout this pandemic practically daily. They carefully, carefully review these things.


So, I feel very confident when I see the recommendations they are making, and I would follow them without concern in terms of safety.

CAMEROTA: Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo, we always appreciate talking to you. Thank you.

Up next, we take you back to Florida. New reporting on the incredible cost of repairs the condo owners were facing in Surfside.


CAMEROTA: Just into CNN, condo owners in Champlain Towers South were facing assessments for $15 million worth of repairs. Those payments were days away from beginning when the building collapsed. We will continue to follow all of the latest developments out of South Florida for you. And The Lead with Jake Tapper starts right now.