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Surgeon General; "You Are in Trouble" If You're Not Vaccinated; Delta Variant Forcing Officials to Rethink Mask Guidelines; Bill Cosby Released from Prison after Conviction Overturned; House Set to Vote on January 6 Select Committee. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired June 30, 2021 - 14:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: The CDC says the highly contagious Delta coronavirus variant now accounts for one in four cases in the United States, making it the most prevalent strain nationwide.

The surgeon general issuing this warning.

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DR. VIVEK MURTHY, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: If you are vaccinated and fully vaccinated, that means two weeks after your last shot, then there's good evidence that you have a high degree of protection against this virus.

But if you are not vaccinated, then you are in trouble. This is, again, a serious threat, And we're seeing it spread among unvaccinated people.

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CAMEROTA: Here's another development. This variant is forcing health officials to rethink mask mandates, sparking confusion and irritation across the country.

Dr. Jonathan Reiner is a CNN medical analyst and professor of medicine at George Washington University.

Dr. Reiner, great to see you.

Why, why after we have just been liberated from masks, would doubly vaccinated people, like you and I, need to go back to wearing masks?

DR. JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, the short answer is you don't. But the problem is that we have 150 million unvaccinated people in this country and Delta is coming for them.

[14:35:00]

And when we relaxed masking requirements for vaccinated folks in this country, the unvaccinated took that as an opportunity also to drop their masking habits.

So where Delta is on the rise, and where the virus is on the rise, those folks are in great danger. The only way to get them masked is probably in some places to repost masking requirements for everybody.

CAMEROTA: So you're saying that there could be some local officials, state officials, governors, who in the states where we're seeing it spike -- and the spike of coronavirus is directly related to the unvaccinated places -- that you predict we could see some new mask mandates?

REINER: Absolutely.

So it's really a tale of two countries. So where I'm sitting now, in D.C., the positivity rate is 0.7 percent. In Missouri, it's 11 percent. In Alabama, it's 11 percent. In Mississippi, it's 12 percent.

There's a lot of virus in parts of this country. It corresponds to places where there are a lot of unvaccinated people, where the percent of adults vaccinated is less than 50 percent, 55 percent.

So how do you protect the population when you can't get them to vaccinate? You have to get them to mask up.

People need to understand that we have a solution to masking and that's to get a vaccine.

We know that the mRNA vaccines, for instance, are wonderfully effective. The Pfizer vaccine is over 90 percent effective at preventing infection, about 96 percent effective at preventing illness serious enough to be hospitalized.

So if you don't want to mask, great, but get vaccinated. But you can't have it both ways.

Because if you're unvaccinated, with Delta surging, you are very likely to get infected and this virus can still kill you.

CAMEROTA: And very quickly, Dr. Reiner, kids who can't get vaccinated, what should parents be doing for them under 14.

REINER: That's a great question. Those kids obviously need to keep masks on when they're in public places, particularly when they're indoors in public places.

And, you know, although the vaccines are very effective at preventing infection amongst those who are vaccinated, they're not perfect.

And I think parents of kids who are not yet vaccinated should consider wearing a mask when they're around other people, particularly those that they don't know the vaccine status of.

CAMEROTA: Dr. Jonathan Reiner, thank you very much.

REINER: My pleasure. CAMEROTA: We have breaking news. Bill Cosby is now a free man. We're

learning that he has been released from prison after the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court overturned the 83-year-old former actor's conviction today. They said that he was denied a fair trial back in 2018.

CNN's Brynn Gingras is on the story with us. We also have senior legal analysts, Elie Honig and Laura Coates.

Brynn, he was just released. We wondered when it was going to happen. We heard it was this afternoon. This is the fastest turn-around we have ever seen.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT; I was going to say --

CAMEROTA: So he's walking out a free man now. His conviction overturned.

GINGRAS: I'm still trying to catch my breath just from reading the opinion. I can't imagine what these accusers are feeling right now. This opinion comes down and now he's out of prison right now.

We are waiting to see if he will actually speak. There were some times during trial where he would say a few words. Not even sure if that's possible but we'll see. Of course, we'll stay on this for you.

We do know that his lawyer had said that he planned on getting Bill Cosby into his car and then bringing him to the Cosby home.

In the meantime, we're still sort of digesting exactly what did unfold here just within the last few hours.

And that is that the appellate court there in the state of Pennsylvania overturned his 10-year conviction of Bill Cosby, stunning so many people.

The reason for it, according to the appellate court, was that Bill Cosby's due process, his rights were violated.

Essentially saying a deal that was made with the former Montgomery County district attorney many years ago, which said essentially that he could not be criminally prosecuted, which then led the way for Bill Cosby to sit down in a civil deposition and give incriminating testimony.

Which then was part of the reasons why he was brought forth with criminal charges later and then eventually convicted, that it wasn't fair. Again, that his due process rights were violated here.

I'm sure the legal analysts will spell this out better than I did there.

But certainly, at this point, we're just now getting reaction from accusers.

[14:40:00] Gloria Allred, who represented many of his accusers, called this devastating.

She said, "My heart especially goes out to those who bravely testified in both of his criminal cases. Despite the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's decision, this was an important fight for justice."

"And even though the court overturned the conviction on technical grounds, it did not vindicate Bill Cosby's conduct and should not be interpreted as a statement or finding that he did not engage in acts of which he has been accused."

Also, let's remember that was a -- 10 years was sentence that he obliged. He said he would take so he wouldn't have to incriminate himself and admit to what he was being accused of doing. So that's a very important statement to make.

Of course, we're getting more in.

But again, I think everyone at this point is just trying to catch their breath.

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GINGRAS: It's incredible.

CAMEROTA: I know that's how the accusers feel.

By the way, we're watching one of our affiliates here following this white vehicle. We know that Bill Cosby was just released half an hour -- I'm sorry, 10 minutes ago, 10 minutes, according to the Department of Corrections.

But we have not been able to confirm who is in that white car or why our affiliates are so convinced that this is connected to Bill Cosby, but we're working on that.

Elie, I want to bring you and Laura in right now.

I'm hearing from all of the accusers. This is obviously a huge blow to them. It's been a very emotional couple of hours for them.

They basically wanting to know, whose fault is this? How did this happen? How is it that they lived through a trial and he was convicted and he went to prison and now it's been overturned?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Alisyn, this just has to be devastating for all of the victims. You have to think of them first and foremost.

This is important. Bill Cosby has not been exonerated. Nobody has said he didn't do it. Nobody has said he is innocent.

The people to blame here are the prosecutors. There's two aspects to that. First of all, Bruce Castor, the district attorney who made this deal

back in 2004-2005, where he essentially said, I don't believe we have enough evidence to prosecute him criminally. That enabled Bill Cosby, forced Bill Cosby to testify in his criminal deposition.

That's why -- that's the deal that Bruce Castor made. Can he be faulted for that? Absolutely. He bears blame for that.

And then part two is that future prosecutors came along after Bruce Castor and said, we're not playing by that deal. We're not observing that deal.

That's what the Pennsylvania Supreme Court said is the legal problem here. They said, once Bruce Castor made that deal, we're not going to prosecute you, like it or not, good deal or bad deal., future prosecutors that came after him were bound by that.

And when they went back on that deal and tried him, that's what they say violated Bill Cosby's rights and that's what this decision was about.

CAMEROTA: Laura, as Brynn was just pointing out, he's never -- Bill Cosby has never admitted guilt and always maintained his innocence.

However, in the deposition in 2005, when he thought that this was a civil case and he was never going to be prosecuted, he did admit what he did.

So all of these accusers, I mean, the vast majority, say that he drugged them unknowingly and then had sex with them against their will.

In that deposition, the question from Andrea Constand, one of the accusers, from her attorney was, when you got the quaaludes, was it in your mind that you were going to use these quaaludes for young women that you wanted to have sex with? Bill Cosby replies yes.

And so this is why it is so maddening for the accusers. Not only do they say they lived through it but he did at one point admit it.

LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, and that's part of the conundrum here. Remember, the attorneys for Bill Cosby fought tooth and nail trying to talk about how to interpret that one-word answer, yes.

They were very keen to say that he did not make an admission to having committed sexual assault against multiple women, that he was simply answering a question. These were the arguments they were making.

In fact, the arguments that he made at the time also found their way towards the criminal trial with an eye towards being able to even use that.

The defense attorneys believe that that statement alone did not somehow transform into an admission that could be used at trial. They did not have a particular reference point to the actual victim

whose case was being litigated and tried at that time, Andrea Constand.

And they teed this issue up. That's why this is not surprising it was an appellate issue. But the outcome is very shocking for the reasons we talked about here.

Remember, one of the reasons that the newer prosecutors decided to bring this matter in spite of what Elie and I have been talking about, about that former deal, is because they believed the circumstances had changed to such a degree because of additional accusers, because of the pattern of evidence here, because it appeared to be his M.O.

And they made the judgment call to say, in spite of that earlier agreement, because there had been new developments in the form of the deposition testimony now being allowed to be used, the idea of other accusers having come forward, they believed they had enough then to transform that otherwise iron-clad deal into being, you know, fungible.

[14:45:07]

Of course, what the courts are saying here is, look, one prosecutor leaving does not essentially absolve or give you a clean slate for the future prosecutors.

If it was the government that took action, if it was the actual commonwealth that decided to bring the case, not an individual lawyer or the commonwealth itself made the deal, then the commonwealth will be bound going forward.

Now, this can have effects in other cases, of course.

You can imagine, outside of the context of Bill Cosby, the idea of why if a prosecutor was allowed to renege on a deal, it would have a chilling effect on the ability of cooperators to come forward or cases to be resolved in other facets.

So the Supreme Court was probably looking at this in a way not simply toward this case, which, of course, is devastating for all involved but with an eye towards the future cases where a prosecutor makes a deal, attempts to renege and then tries to prosecute, nonetheless.

This is what the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania had to grapple with and they decided that the deal was the deal.

CAMEROTA: Brynn, I just want to remind people of the amount of accusers who came forward. We have a picture of some of the accusers.

We interviewed -- I personally interviewed many of these women. And it was incredibly painful and emotional for them to come forward after all of this time.

Here are just some of the ones that I -- well, there are at least -- well, there are at least 50 that we know of. And I interviewed probably a dozen.

And the point is, is that some of these were from the '70s, some were from the '80s, some were from the '90s.

This was one of these cases that kind of opened all of our eyes and changed the way we saw statute of limitations with rape and sexual assault.

Because sometimes, particularly, if you are sedated and drugged, as these women say they were, you don't remember what happened for several years. It comes -- it pixelates back. The pieces come back.

So the idea that, in some cases, there was a seven-year statute of limitations, the women said that's not fair, we're just figuring out what happened to us.

GINGRAS: Right.

CAMEROTA: So as you've pointed out, this was kind of a landmark decision.

GINGRAS: It was in the "Me Too" movement. It was courageous of these women.

Honestly -- listen, I've never been in that position myself. I can't imagine the emotions that they're feeling right now.

But I hear "deal" and immediately my mind goes to Jeffrey Epstein, the deal he made, the sweetheart deal that everybody was talking about.

What is it with these deals that are being made that's just basically -- of course, we have to say they're separate cases, separate circumstances. But when you were victimized, does that really matter?

I just can't imagine what they're feeling, thinking that they had some sort of, you know, justice to them and then, all of a sudden, now it's like gone. Again, in minutes really.

This happened -- we were breaking this on the air just a few hours ago and now we believe that might be his car that he's riding in possibly.

CAMEROTA: Yes. I'm just hearing from some of the accusers and how hard this day is for them and how emotional it is.

So, Elie, what now for them? Where do they go now for justice?

HONIG: Yes, I'm afraid I don't have great answers for them on this case.

This is a decision by the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court. The only place you can appeal that is to the United States Supreme Court. The United States Supreme Court only takes a fraction of a fraction, well under -- usually under 3 percent of the cases brought to it.

I don't think it's particularly likely the U.S. Supreme Court will take this case, even if prosecutors make the decision to try to get it to the U.S. Supreme Court, which itself isn't particularly likely.

The court here, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court, also said Bill Cosby cannot be retried on the charges relating to this victim.

So prosecutors are going to have to sit down, take a hard look at what they have from all the other victims, all the other people that have gone forward.

And decide whether there's a different case relating to a different victim that is still within the statute of limitations -- as you said, a lot of this happened in the '70s, '80s, '90s -- that they can charge against Bill Cosby.

CAMEROTA: Laura, we are just getting in a new statement from the district attorney. I want to read it now for the first time for everyone.

This is from Kevin Steele. He had previously prosecuted Bill Cosby.

He says, "The majority decision by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court orders the release of William H. Cosby Jr from state prison."

"He was found guilty by a jury and now goes free on a procedural issue that is irrelevant to the facts of the crime."

"I want to commend Cosby's victim, Andrea Constand, for her bravery in coming forward and remaining steadfast throughout this long ordeal, as well as all the other women who have shared similar experiences."

"My hope is that this decision will not dampen the reporting of sexual assault by victims."

"Prosecutors in my office will continue to follow the evidence wherever and to whomever it leads."

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"We still believe that no one is above the law, including those who are rich, famous, and powerful."

Those are moving words.

What are your thoughts, Laura?

COATES: Exceptionally moving.

And my immediate thought goes back to my days prosecuting sexual assault cases involving delayed reporting.

The deck is stacked against those who are victimized by sexual assault. Let alone, those who delayed in their reporting.

And there's a whole host of reasons why somebody may delay in the reporting. There's a psychology involved. There's victim blaming that's involved. There's the ideas of people believing that somehow they themselves were at fault. And then there's hurdles like this. When you believe that you're using your voice, you have reclaimed it, you are advocating. You have the attention of the prosecutors and they have exercise or discretion to now prosecute.

And now it feels like it's been transformed into an exercise in futility where people will believe, look, not only do I risk being public about this, particularly, on the rich and the famous, but now, at the end of the day, even if I have some semblance of justice, it might be fleeting.

One thing to keep in mind here is his sentence was a range, three to 10 years. He was approaching the three-year mark recently and he was denied parole in this case.

So just as recently as last week, I believe, you probably had survivors who believed they were continuously vindicated. There was still justice in motion. It's not been arrested with his release.

CAMEROTA: Yes, that is what they thought. That is what they thought, in fact.

I've spoken to some, who thought he, at 83 years old, would never get out of prison and that this would be a life sentence for him. That's not the case and he has just walked free.

Laura Coates, Brynn Gingras, Elie Honig, thank you all for the analysis.

OK, also happening right now, we're keeping an eye on Capitol Hill where the House is set to vote on a select committee to investigate the January 6th insurrection. We'll bring you the latest from there.

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CAMEROTA: Any moment, we expect the House of Representatives to vote on establishing a select committee to investigate the January 6th insurrection.

You'll remember that Senate Republicans killed the bipartisan independent commission last month, the possibility of one.

Thought several Republicans did vote in favor of forming that commission but some of them now say they will vote against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's panel today.

CNN congressional correspondent, Ryan Nobles, joins us live from Capitol Hill.

So, Ryan, we do know some members of the D.C. Police and the Capitol Police are invited to the gallery for this vote today. So what do we expect is going to happen?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Alisyn.

In fact, that group of police officers, both from the Capitol Police Department and the Metropolitan D.C. Police Department, are seated in the gallery as we speak watching the closing minutes of the debate on this bill, which is expected to be voted on here in the next few minutes.

You saw House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrapping up the debate on the House floor just a few minutes ago.

As you point out, this -- it will be interesting to see how this vote plays out today. It will pass. There's no concern about it passing.

Because it's a House-only action, it does not require the approval of the Senate. So this will allow the House speaker to begin the process of forming the select committee right away.

But unlike the independent bipartisan commission, which we saw quite a few Republicans vote for, we don't expect nearly that much support from Republicans this time around.

In fact, some of those key players, like the ranking member on the Homeland Security Committee, John Katko, who has been very critical of former President Trump, he said this select committee does not accomplish the goals he hoped the independent bipartisan committee will do.

That doesn't mean there won't be some Republicans that vote for it. We're watching to see what Liz Cheney, of Wyoming, if she votes in favor of this select committee, or Adam Kinzinger, of Illinois, if he will vote for it.

Both of those players are important as well because Nancy Pelosi said she may appoint a Republican as part of the eight members of the committee that she'll have complete authority over as to who to appoint.

So their votes could be critical here because they could be one of the two that she ends up appointing to this committee once it gets moving.

This -- it's going to be an interesting vote to see how it plays out.

The last hour was interesting, watching both Republican and Democrats go back and forth over why they believe the committee should be in place. And Republicans saying it was unnecessary.

So, Alisyn, we'll figure out exactly where this goes here in the next few minutes.

CAMEROTA: OK, Ryan, come back to us as soon as you have any more information.

Thank you very much.

Meanwhile, our breaking news coverage continues. Bill Cosby just walked out of prison after his conviction for sex crimes was overturned. How did this happen? And what his accusers are now saying.

Also, more bodies are pulled from the rubble of that condo collapse. Of course, there's anger. Of course, there's fear and sadness. We'll talk to one of the many people still hoping for a miracle in Surfside.

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