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CNN NEWSROOM

CDC Says, Delta Variant Now Makes Up More Than Half of New U.S. Cases; Book Says, Trump Told John Kelly That Hitler Did a Lot of Good Things; Two Injured in Rocket Attacks on Iraq Air Base Housing U.S. Troops. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired July 7, 2021 - 10:30   ET

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


LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Investigation is ramping up.

[10:30:01]

On Tuesday, more federal partners arrived on site to investigate the building collapse. As task force members searched through debris, all distinguishable items found at the site are transported by police to another site for further investigation.

MAYOR DANIELLA LEVINE CAVA (D-MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, FL): This is all evidentiary debris. It's been sorted on site, and any objects that can be distinguished are put in certain bins and labeled as to their exact location.

DIRECTOR ALFREDO RAMIREZ, MIAMI-DADE POLICE: It's in the custody of the Miami-Dade Police Department where we're securing the site and cataloguing and documenting all evidence that's being sorted.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SANTIAGO: We've also learned this morning that a safety task force has been established to review the laws governing Florida's condominium development industry. Now, in the next half hour or so, we are expecting officials to give us more updates on the latest for the search and the investigation. Jim?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: Leyla Santiago, thanks so much.

Well, the CDC is confirming that the highly contagious delta variant now makes up more than half of all new infections here in the U.S. It's particularly serious threat to areas with low vaccination rates.

In Southwestern Missouri, a state where under 30 percent of the eligible population is vaccinated, one hospital now must transfer COVID patients to nearby hospitals because of a surge in COVID infections is straining resources there.

Dr. Anthony Fauci warned, quote, if ever there was a reason to get vaccinated, this is it. By the way, you're hearing that from lots of folks, including Republican lawmakers. Here to discuss is Dr. Dana Hawkinson. He is the medical director of infection prevention and control with the University of Kansas Health System. Doctor, thanks for joining us this morning.

DR. DANA HAWKINSON, MEDICAL DIRECTOR OF INFECTION PREVENTION AND CONTROL, UNIVERSITY OF KANSAS HEALTH SYSTEM: Hi. Thank you.

SCIUTTO: So, I wonder what we're seeing, for instance, in a state like Missouri now, with a low vaccination rate, a jump in infections and a lot involving this new delta variant. Should we consider that a canary in a coal mine, as it were, about another spike in cases in the country more broadly?

HAWKINSON: Yes. I think, absolutely. Early on in the pandemic, after a lot of those surges in the big cities, we did start to see that people, especially Dr. Fauci and the public health guidance, was talking about we now will be looking at local hot spots or local infection dynamics. I think that's exactly what we're seeing here.

And it's not just the Springfield, Missouri, or rural Missouri area. We know that there are a lot of areas that don't have very good or optimal vaccine uptake. We know that if you are vaccinated, many of these problems, hospitalizations, deaths, can be prevented by vaccination, even against the delta variant.

So I agree with you. I think it is a canary in the coal mine, but we can prevent this and we can save these people if we continue to endorse and get a lot of the population 12 and over vaccinated.

SCIUTTO: How do you convince those who are still hesitant to take the vaccine? The Biden administration tried and still is trying to go through G.P.s, individual doctors, because people tend to trust their doctors more than, say, a health official in a city far away. But they're also now trying to get companies, for instance, to have clinics in-house, give people time off to get vaccinated. In your experience, as you speak to folks who are hesitant, what works?

HAWKINSON: Yes. I think it depends on the person, on the patient. It is multi-factorial. We know there are a variety of reasons why people don't. There's still that concern of, I don't want to be experimented on. Well, really, the data does not show that. The data shows that these vaccines are extremely safe and extremely effective.

There are still, for lack of better words, there are myopic opinions and people trying narratives to support their opinion when that doesn't work in the truly reality or going on the basis of true science.

There are people who are just otherwise hesitant, in general. And that's okay, but we know that there are other medicines out there that are regularly advertised on T.V., which have a multitude of side effects and problems, but people are still clamoring to get those.

So I think you have to, number one, see what those issues are for that individual patient. I know even in my infectious disease clinic, I had a patient in the last few weeks who refuses to believe of the reality of COVID-19 and the severe problems it causes. But it's talking to those patients, understanding what it is, also endorsing for people they do trust, whether it's their pastors, their priests, other counselors that can give them good information.

So I think it's a multitude of reasons, but we continue to have to address that head on.

SCIUTTO: What's amazing is the contrast, really, at this point. I mean, you have a tale of two cities, two countries. I mean, an example right now in New York, where I am, they're holding a hometown heroes parade to celebrate, in effect, the end of the pandemic and to honor health care workers who are really at the forefront of this.

[10:35:12]

Meanwhile, in Missouri, you have got this hospital transferring patients to other hospitals because they can't handle the influx. Is that what we're going to see, sort of two different realities in this country going forward?

HAWKINSON: I hope not. A lot of division started really early on in the pandemic. Hopefully, we are decreasing that division. But right now, as we stated a little bit earlier on the interview, there are so many areas with low vaccine uptake. We need to get those people vaccinated, those communities vaccinated because it helps them individually. It helps them with their loved ones and in their social bubbles. It keeps places open. It keeps restrictions lessened. It keeps supply chains moving and people in jobs.

So I think we have to address all of those head on, really try to decrease this division and continue to endorse the positives about vaccination. There are people who are, day in and day out, 24 hours a day, Dr. Fauci notwithstanding, Dr. Birx, the only thing they want to do is protect the American people and protect the health really of everybody in America and around the world.

SCIUTTO: It saves lives. I mean, literally 99 percent -- in fact, more than 99 percent of the COVID deaths in June were among unvaccinated people. Dr. Dana Hawkinson, thanks so much.

HAWKINSON: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Stunning claims this morning from a new book which alleges that former President Trump said Adolf Hitler, quote, did a lot of good things. You heard that right. We're going to discuss the details, next.

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[10:40:00]

SCIUTTO: According to a new book written by the Wall Street Journal's Michael Bender, former President Trump, while president, insisted to John Kelly during a 2018 trip, and we're quoting here, that Hitler did a lot of good things. In an excerpt, Bender writes, on his way to Paris to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the First World War armistice, for example, Trump listened to John Kelly, his chief of staff at the time, reminded the president which countries were on which side during the war.

Kelly continued the discussion by connecting the dots from the First World War to the Second World War and all of Hitler's atrocities. Well, Hitler did a lot of good things, Trump told Kelly. When I asked Trump about the remark, he claimed the conversation had never happened and he denied praising Hitler.

CNN's calls to General John Kelly and President Trump seeking comment have not been returned. CNN Political Director David Chalian joins me now.

In a long list of outrageous and offensive comments by Trump, some on camera, right, and some via private descriptions like this one, this one stands out. I mean, it's just incredible. What are your thoughts when you hear this?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Well, I mean, it's a perverted view of history, obviously, from Donald Trump, but it's more powerful than that, this anecdote. And, again, as you noted, Bender reports Trump denies this conversation actually took place in the book.

But if you take the reporting on its face value, Jim, what you see here is a president who either doesn't believe in the power of his words. I doubt that very highly considering his political success. So, is actually trying to use words like this, I think it shows you his mentality, what he traffics in, the kind of information that's coming into him.

And I can't disconnect that Trump frame of mind and mentality from what we see from the likes of Marjorie Taylor Greene today talking about the vaccine and saying we're not going to have your sort of science brown shirts, making a Nazi reference, in her displeasure with the Biden administration's effort to get all of America vaccinated.

I mean, there's a direct line between that Trump mentality and somebody who is a Trump follower, like Marjorie Taylor Greene, making those kinds of comments.

SCIUTTO: Well, there's also a direct line between public comments by Trump, in which he praises someone like Vladimir Putin, who we know guilty of horrendous crimes to this day. He's not Hitler, but guilty of horrendous crimes, and yet Trump has praised him or Kim Jong-un or Erdogan, the leader of Turkey.

But what you note is that line particularly on Holocaust denial or anti-Semitic comments like this. I mean, notably, on January 6th, some of the rioters were wearing T-shirts that had phrases, phraseology of holocaust deniers. What is the connection there, right? Like where does that come from? Why does that have a life in the far-right in this country today?

CHALIAN: Yes. I mean, it's a dangerous life, as you know. Law enforcement has pointed to this kind of mentality as part of what's feeding one of the biggest concerns out there right now, which is white supremacy, and anti-Semitism is a huge part of that.

But, as you noted, this isn't just private comments. There's no doubt that Donald Trump praises strong men and anti-democratic leaders, Jim. You're right. But you saw the tiki torches in Charlottesville, Jews will not replace us, and Donald Trump came out afterwards and said there were fine people on both sides of that event.

[10:45:03]

SCIUTTO: Yes. I mean, I was just thinking that. I mean, that was a brown shirts moment in this country in Charlottesville.

CHALIAN: Precisely.

SCIUTTO: And the president's comments there public and repeated.

Another topic, if we can, and that's just the state of politics between Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill. Amid criticism of Joe Biden for not being bipartisan enough from some Republicans, Chip Roy, GOP representative, we want to play some comments he made about what the Republican Party's role is now before 2022. Have a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. CHIP ROY (R-TX): Honestly, right now, for the next 18 months, our job is to do everything we can to slow all that down to get to December of 2022 and then get in here and lead.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Does that pierce Biden's efforts to go as bipartisan as possible, as patience thins among many in his party?

CHALIAN: Yes. I mean, I don't think it will surprise anyone, right, that Chip Roy is not in favor of Nancy Pelosi's agenda in the House of Representatives. But I think what these comments get at is just how broken down our politics is, just what a tall mountain Joe Biden is trying to climb with his push for bipartisan.

There is a clear political strategy that Chip Roy is laying bear here, which is that agree on nothing, make no progress on behalf of the American people, there's not a governing phase and let's just try and win the House of Representatives so we can have a different agenda in place. That is just broken down politics right there.

SCIUTTO: Yes, and evocative of Mitch McConnell and Barack Obama's first term, right, saying, my job is to make him a one-term president.

David Chalian, always good to have you on.

CHALIAN: Thanks a lot, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Well, CNN is live in Kabul as the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan nears completion. Why one Afghan translator says working with the Americans is now a death sentence.

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[10:50:00]

SCIUTTO: This morning, Iraqi officials say this morning's attack on Al Asad Air Base and other recent attacks are terrorist acts and attempts to undermine the government. At least 14 rockets hit the base today. They injured two people. The air base, we should note, houses both U.S. and coalition forces.

CNN International Correspondent Anna Coren, she is live in Kabul this morning. Before we get to the situation in Afghanistan, can you tell us what we know about these attacks on Iraq?

ANNA COREN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: We don't know the nationalities yet, Jim, of those two people who were injured. As you say, it houses U.S. coalition and Iraqi forces at Al Asad Air Base in Anbar Province in Western Iraq. 14 rockets hit the base and the perimeter of this air base.

And no group has claimed responsibility yet, Jim. But officials say that they think it's Iranian-backed militia. They vowed revenge attacks after the U.S. airstrikes on the Iraqi/Syrian border, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Okay. Now about Afghanistan, Taliban fighters, I mean, they have been making enormous progress in terms of gaining territory very quickly. In many circumstances, Afghan forces letting them come in, the latest in Badghis Province claiming to free local prisoners as well. Is that what's happening now?

COREN: Yes, those incredible footage coming out of Badghis Province. At one side (ph), it looks like the provincial capital, Qala-e-Naw, had actually fallen to the Taliban. And as you say, they released hundreds of Taliban prisoners. You could hear them being cheered as they rode their motorbikes through the streets.

But we have since heard from the ministry of defense. They said the Afghan Air Force has launched airstrikes around the provincial capital and have sent in commandos as well pushing back the Taliban. They say they have now reclaimed that area.

But you're absolutely right, the Taliban gaining huge ground, particularly across the north, across many provinces. We now believe they're in control of more than 160 districts in the last two months, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Goodness, just so quickly. Finally, there's been enormous concern about translators who worked for the U.S. military during the time there. A report an Afghan translator has been beheaded?

COREN: Yes, that's right. We've met so many Afghan translators who worked for the U.S. military and had their special immigrant visas rejected. They say that this has now signed their death sentence. And this is not just paranoia. Only two months ago, one of their friends who had been lobbying for the United States to review their cases, he was pulled over at a checkpoint by the Taliban and beheaded.

We've seen the photos. We've spoken to his family. It's absolutely gruesome. He had been receiving death threats from the Taliban for months. And the Afghan interpreters who we've spoken to here, they are pleading with President Biden and the U.S. government to review their cases. They say, often, their contracts were shortened, were cut just before the two months or that they failed these polygraph tests, many of them saying, we don't know what we did wrong.

[10:55:00]

We served loyally, we fought alongside the Americans, we helped save lives.

They're now pleading, Jim, with the American government to review their cases. Otherwise, they say they will meet the same fate as their friend, Sahil (ph), who's beheaded by the Taliban.

SCIUTTO: These poor, poor people and their families as well, Anna, thanks so much for bringing us the latest.

And thanks so much to all of you for joining us today. We hope you're enjoying the week following the holiday weekend. I'm Jim Sciutto.

At This Hour with Boris Sanchez will start after a quick break.

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