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Spears' Mom asks Judge to let her Choose Lawyer; Keeping the Insurrection Probe from Becoming a Spectacle; Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-FL) is Interviewed about the House Select Committee; Suspects Killed and Captured in Hattian President's Assassination; No Spectators for Olympics; Five Clusters with High Rates in U.S. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired July 8, 2021 - 09:00   ET



CHLOE MELAS, CNN ENTERTAINMENT REPORTER: Jodi, her family members has filed a petition, her attorney, to terminate the conservatorship.

That's what Britney wants. So all these petitions, all these filings, but none of it is what Britney's asked for, which is a petition to terminate. So it will be interesting to see if between now and next week's hearing, is that going to happen? Who's going to step up to the plate to do that?

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, thank you for your reporting on this. I know you will keep us posted. And I'm sure there will be something new tomorrow.


BERMAN: All right, CNN's coverage continues right now.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: A very good Thursday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto. Poppy has the week off.

A political tight rope. New CNN reporting this morning on how Democrats on the select committee to investigate January 6th plan to get to the bottom of what happened that day without letting Republican politics dictate the investigation.

CNN is learning that the Democrat-led panel will try to keep some of their work behind closed doors in an effort to avoid something of a part two of the partisan Benghazi investigation which dragged on for years during the Obama presidency.

Questions are swirling around who House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy will appoint to the committee. Will it be a pragmatic Republican determined to work in good faith and get to the truth or Trump loyalists devoted to derailing the work? We're going to speak to a member of the committee in just a moment.

First, I do want to get to CNN's Lauren Fox on Capitol Hill. Lauren, of course, Democrats have a majority of members of the select

committee. The House speaker also has veto power that she may or may not use. What do the -- what is the strategy, in effect, right, to keep this focused on the questions of January 6th?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, there's really a dual strategy here. One of them, of course, is to get to the bottom of what caused the insurrection, what were the factors leading up to it. And you can't ignore the former president's role. They know that. They realize that Trump is going to be a big piece of this.

But in the meantime, they want to make sure that they are not letting this get off the rails, become a circus, have some kind of spectacle. And in order to try to do that, to contain sort of the politicization of this committee, what they're trying to do is ensure that some of the work gets done behind the scenes, and some of that means having interviews behind closed doors, not having a public hearing every time you're trying to have a witness come and give you new information.

Remember, this isn't just about public hearings, this is also about trying to get documents, trying to understand what led to this, how individuals were able to communicate with one another before they got to the Capitol on January 6th. What was happening in the lead-up to this to foster an environment where something like this could have occurred? So, Democrats are trying to be very careful here in towing that line.

Another reminder is that it's going to be very difficult to set this committee up quickly. They have to ramp up staffing. But some of that staff is going to have to have security clearances. They're going to probably try to have to get some individuals from other committees who already have those clearances, but that takes time, as you know, Jim. And so they're going to be doing all of this as the 2022 midterm elections ramp up. And that's going to be a real challenge here moving forward.

SCIUTTO: No question, Lauren Fox, thanks very much.

Joining me now to discuss is Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy, she's a Democrat from Florida, and she's been selected to join the House Select Committee to investigate January 6th.

Congresswoman, thanks so much for taking time this morning.

REP. STEPHANIE MURPHY (D-FL): Great to be with you, Jim.

SCIUTTO: First question is, do you believe that your Republican colleagues are interested in a good faith effort to investigate what happened on January 6th?

MURPHY: I certainly hope that they are interested because what happened on January 6th was a violent attack on the Capitol. And the victims were law enforcement officers, the press core, and Republican and Democratic staffing members, not to mention the Republican vice president. So this was an attack on our democracy. I think they have an obligation to put in a good-faith effort to get all the facts. SCIUTTO: One key question is who would be called to testify. One

potential witness is the president himself. What did he do and not do on that day to respond to this? Do you believe that President Trump should be called to testify, former President Trump?

MURPHY: I believe that this committee will call in whoever we need to, to get a full view of what happened that day. Obviously the president has a role in that day, but so do law enforcement officers, as well as members of Congress. And I know that we're going to start with having law enforcement officers testify to share their experiences that day.


MURPHY: They were failed that day, too.

SCIUTTO: No question. But a key question is, how did the government respond? How did the Trump administration respond? And we know that House Minority Leader McCarthy spoke to Trump on that day, and in CNN's and others reporting, that he begged, he pleaded with the president to call off his supporters. And they got in an argument over it. That, in effect, the former president would not.


And that just seems such a central question here. So if not Trump, should McCarthy be called to testify under oath?

MURPHY: I think that members of Congress should be and will be probably called to testify under oath about their different perspectives on that day. But this is a key part of the committee, is that we need to piece together all of the different federal, state and local agencies, all of the people who were involved in responding to that day, as well as the people who were involved in preparing for that day. Did we prepare our law enforcement properly? Did we respond in a way that was the most effective way? How do we close the seams between the different agencies? And then, what people -- what individuals had particular roles in that day?


MURPHY: I don't think that anybody is above the law and we'll follow the facts wherever they lead and to whomever they lead.

SCIUTTO: We are, as you know, six months and two days since January 6th. There's already been a security review. It was led by retired Lieutenant General Russel Honore, which recommended a host of urgent changes, among them, hiring close to 1,000 new U.S. Capitol Police officers, establishing a National Guard quick reaction force, the possibility of installing retractable fencing around the Capitol. None of those changes have been implemented. We're more than six months since the attack and there are genuine questions about the continued threat to the Capitol. Why haven't any of these changes been made?

MURPHY: You know, really it's been because of Republican obstructionism. You know we passed --

SCIUTTO: But you have the majority. You've got the majority.

MURPHY: We passed -- we passed in the House the resources to begin implementing some of those changes, but in the Senate it hasn't been able to find ten Republican senators who believe that they want to provide resources to the very people who are keeping them safe when they come to work every day at the Capitol.


MURPHY: And I think that's a shame.

SCIUTTO: It -- that is, of course, an obstacle. The Democrats have run to repeatedly, even with having both the Senate and the House and the White House here. And I just wonder, when you look at something like that, urgent security changes to the Capitol, but also voting rights legislation that run consistently into that filibuster issue, and, frankly, you don't -- you have two Democratic senators resisting changing or reforming filibuster rules.

From your point of view, given those frustrations, do you believe it's time to reform or change the filibuster?

MURPHY: I think that we need to continue to work on our Republican counterparts. The reality is, is that none of the things that you have put forward are things that should be partisan. But as we have heard Republicans in recent day admit out loud, their real target and their objective is to obstruct. We need to have Republicans who are willing to govern.

SCIUTTO: But you don't have them, right? I mean you certainly don't have enough on these issues. Got -- I mean you couldn't even -- you couldn't even pass, you know, a bipartisan commission negotiated by Republicans and Democrats to investigate January 6th, which is why we have this select committee.

I just wonder, has your patience run out? Do you believe that President Biden should say, listen, I tried, but now we're going to go it alone?

MURPHY: I think that our country is at a very pivotal moment where there is great division within this country. And in order for us to show the American public that we -- democracy still works, to show the world that democracy still works, we should use all of the -- within the rules that exist, use all of the tools that we have at hand in order to get something done.

I really have some concerns about changing our system. We can't play by their rules. And that -- and that -- that's what the Republicans have done in the past is that they've changed the system because they don't have good values or good ideas to run on.

Democrats are different. And I think that if we take our case to the American people, we'll be able to make progress on the issues that matter so much.

SCIUTTO: Well, it's a noble idea. We'll see where -- we'll see where it goes.

Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy, thanks so much for joining us this morning.

MURPHY: Great to be with you.

SCIUTTO: Authorities in Haiti say police have now killed four suspects and arrested two others that they believe were connected to the assassination of President Jovenel Moise. Haiti's ambassador to the U.S. told CNN last night that the suspects are believed to be foreign mercenaries. Police are now trying to determine their identities. President Moise was killed during an attack inside his home around 1:00 a.m. on Wednesday morning. The first lady, Martine Moise, was flown to a Miami hospital after being shot as well. She is said to be in stable but critical condition.

CNN's Matt Rivers joins me now from outside that hospital where she's being treated.


The attackers are said to have been speaking English and Spanish. Do we have any -- do Haitian authorities have any ideas or theories as to who hired them for this attack?

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's -- so many open questions remain at this point, Jim. And it feels like every hour that goes by we're getting, you know, these kind of incremental updates from Haitian authorities.

As you said, the latest information that we have right now, four people believed to be involved in this attack killed by Haitian authorities, two people have been detained. So six in total. But the ambassador to the U.S. from Haiti also saying that there could be more than six people involved. That a manhunt continues at this point. And that all of those six people that were either detained or killed, they're foreign nationals. They're still trying to determine the nationalities of those six people. But that just adds so much more mystery to all of this that's going on.

But in terms of the people speaking English, I want to play for you some video that we have. CNN can't confirm exactly its authenticity, however, we can play for you some sound as to why people are saying they heard people speaking English.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: DEA operation. Everybody stand down.

DEA operation. Everybody back up, stand down.



RIVERS: So you can clearly hear them saying this is a DEA, Drug Enforcement Agency, operation. Now, the State Department has categorically denied that DEA agents were somehow involved in this assassination. The government of Haiti, Jim, also saying they do not believe that these were DEA agents. They believe that these were highly trained mercenaries, in their words, posing as DEA agents. But that is just adding so much mystery to all of this, Jim, and as authorities try and figure out who, in fact, is behind this brutal assassination.

SCIUTTO: Wow. If confirmed, that is just a remarkable piece of video and audio from the moments of that attack. So many more questions to be answered.

Matt Rivers, thanks very much.

And still to come this hour, as the delta variant surges in this country, researchers have pinpointed five significant clusters which happen to be under vaccinated areas in the U.S. that experts warn could put the entire country at risk. This is why getting those shots are important. Details next.

And voting rights fight. The Texas legislature gavels in for a special session today on the agenda, a so-called election integrity bill that, frankly, would make it harder to vote in that state. We're going to speak to a Texas Democrat who led a walkout of lawmakers in June to block a previous attempt at this. We'll see what happens now.

Plus, from rescue, sadly, to simply recovery. We're live in Surfside, speaking to crews working at the site of the collapse.



SCIUTTO: Breaking news just in to CNN, in the last few minutes, that is that there will be no spectators at Tokyo venues for the Olympics. Fans are no longer allowed. This after the Japanese prime minister issued a fourth coronavirus state of emergency in Tokyo, which will cover the entire 16 days of the games.

CNN's Selina Wang joins me now live from Tokyo.

Selina, this decision just came in. There's been an enormous amount of debate there, as you know. Tell us what drove the decision and now.

SELINA WANG, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, medical experts, including Japan's top COVID-19 adviser, have for months now been recommending that these games be held without any spectators. Overseas fans have already been banned for several months now. But now finally announcing that at least for Tokyo venues, no fans, local or international, will be allowed.

This is a major blow to Japan. They've spent more than $15 billion on these games. They're not going to get that economic boost they were hoping for. It is going to be extraordinary to see these athletes competing in completely empty stands. I've also spoken to athletes who say it's going to be more challenging

to derive that excitement and energy that they get from these crowds. But as the medical experts have been saying, Jim, it just doesn't make sense to have large groups of people gathering. The original decision was to allow up to 10,000 people per venue when Japan and Tokyo is dealing with another surge in COVID cases.

Cases here in Tokyo are reaching the highest level in months, the fourth state of emergency now being declared here. This is not a hard lockdown but it does mean that people's lives have to be restricted once again. Bars and restaurants are going to have to close early. No alcohol allowed.

And, Jim, another key point here is that the public here in Japan is incredibly anxious and it would have been extremely difficult politically for the government to explain why they would allow spectators at these games. People here are scared.


SCIUTTO: Understandable.

Selina Wang in Tokyo, thanks so much.

Here to discuss this development, emergency physician and CNN medical analyst Dr. Leana Wen. She's also the former Baltimore health commission. Also a column for "The Washington Post."

Dr. Wen, good to have you on.

First question to you, this decision in Tokyo regarding the Olympics, is it the right decision?

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Yes, I am really relieved that they made this decision because I was getting very worried. I mean Japan has a fairly low vaccination rate. And I was worried about what would happen when you get a lot of people together. Even if there is spacing and masking at the venue, I was concerned about the message this would send. And people, when they travel from other places, tend to gather in restaurants and in other informal settings as well.

So I think this was exactly the right thing. Lots of athletes have been working their entire lives to compete, but without the risk of super spreader events.


SCIUTTO: Understand.

OK, Dr. Wen, stand by because I do have other questions for you.

But first, back here at home in the U.S., 24 states are now seeing at least a 10 percent uptick in new COVID infections. This just in the last week. Why? Well, it's the spread of this more contagious delta variant. This morning, a new analysis by Georgetown University researchers has identified five particular clusters in the U.S., mainly in the south, and not in coincidentally with rates of unvaccinated people. That is, low rates of vaccination. Experts warn those areas could become a breeding ground for more deadly variants and, sadly, put the entire U.S. at risk at a crucial time.

CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen joins me now.

So, Elizabeth, tell us where these five clusters are.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Jim, you know, we know that about half of America is not fully vaccinated. If those folks were spread out evenly around the country, you know, we might be able to protect them. Those of us who are vaccinated might be able to protect them. But that is not the case. They are clustered together which means they could be very easily spreading this virus to each other because they are clustered together.

So Georgetown University has been following the vaccination rollout since December and they've tracked clusters. Let's take a look at the five most significant clusters that they found.

As you can see from this map, most of them are in the southeastern United States. Actually, all of them. They go into southern Missouri, but other than that it's pretty much the southeast and parts of Texas.

This is really a problem that's a lot of unvaccinated people potentially spreading to each other. And the more the virus spreads, the more likely we are going to get a variant that possibly could be resistant to the vaccine.

Let's take a look at the characteristics of these clusters. When you put all those five clusters together, that's 15 million people in five clusters. The average vaccination rate for the counties in these clusters is 28 percent. Nationally, it's 48 percent. So you can see, that's a very significant difference. There are a few -- there are some relatively big cities in these clusters. Amarillo, Texas, Montgomery, Alabama. But 92 percent of the counties have fewer than 100,000 people. So these are relatively small counties for the most part.

And I've spoken with public health officers in these counties. It is a challenge, they say, to get people to take the vaccine.


SCIUTTO: Goodness. With enormous consequence for those people, for their families and the people around them.

COHEN: That's right.

SCIUTTO: Elizabeth Cohen.

COHEN: And for us.

SCIUTTO: And for us.

COHEN: Yes. SCIUTTO: And for us and our children who aren't vaccinated yet.

COHEN: Right. Right.

SCIUTTO: Thank you, Elizabeth Cohen.

COHEN: Thanks.

SCIUTTO: Back with us now is Dr. Leana Wen. You just wrote a new op-ed in "The Washington Post" where you argue it's time for President Biden to consider vaccine mandates. Tell us why.

WEN: There is this narrative that the Biden administration and many others have been putting out, which is, once you're vaccinated, you're fine. And so the natural conclusion from that is, why would you care if others around you are vaccinated or not? If you're protected, then why not let everybody else just do whatever they want?

The fact, though, is that the unvaccinated also affect the vaccinated. If you are a vaccinated person, but you're living among a lot of unvaccinated individuals, as Elizabeth was just showing in these clusters, your chance of having a breakthrough infection increases. Your chance to infecting others around you who are unvaccinated also increases. And, by the way, the more unvaccinated people there are, the longer this pandemic is going to be.

We have this delta variant that's so contagious, and that actually increases the threshold of how many people have to be vaccinated in order to reach herd immunity. We could have other variants that make it even harder for us to end this pandemic. And so my point is that this is not just about the individual. This is about our society. And I hope that the Biden administration gets on board with that kind of a societal approach to health and well-being.

SCIUTTO: It's just so exasperating. It works. It makes a difference. There are so many reasons to do it.

I wonder, on the good news side, the vaccines, the existing vaccines still have very good protection against infection from the delta variant, and extremely good protection in terms of keeping people alive and out of the hospital, right, with the delta variant.

I wonder, is enough of the country vaccinated to keep this largely a regional outbreak problem as opposed to a national outbreak problem?

WEN: I think so. And I certainly hope so. I doubt that we're going to see the kind of national surge as we did last winter where hospitals were overwhelmed in all of these different parts of the country.

But that said, I do think that we're going to have these regional outbreaks because we're already seeing that, that in some parts of the country we're already having staff once again being overwhelmed and over tired caring for patients and potentially patients with other medical problems, having difficulty seeking medical care as a result.

[09:25:02] And so I think we really need to acknowledge the existential threat that we're still facing of COVID-19 and how disappointing it is right now because we actually do have a vaccine, exactly as you said, that's so effective at essentially reducing your chance of dying to zero.

SCIUTTO: So, here's a question then. For you and me, we're vaccinated. Maybe a situation not everybody in my family's vaccinated, for instance, because some of them are too young. What do we do now? And should folks who are vaccinated rethink their own kind of reopening, right, in terms of how much they travel, where they travel, and when and how often they wear masks?

WEN: I think that will depend on a couple of factors. One factor is your own medical situation, and that includes the medical situation of those in your family. If you're healthy, everybody else in your family is healthy and you're vaccinated, then I think the risk to you is still going to be very low. And I don't think you should have restrictions on your own activities.

On the other hand, if you live at home with someone who is immuno compromised or with young children who are not vaccinated, I still think that you should take some additional caution and, in that case, look around you and see what is the situation around you. Do you live in a community with high vaccination rates and low infection? If so, you're OK. But, otherwise, take additional precautions.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Goodness, it's sad that's a necessity.

Dr. Leana Wen, thanks so much.

Well, we are moments away from the opening bell on Wall Street. As you just heard, there are concerns about the delta variant, including on Wall Street, where futures are down this morning. Investors are not only concerned about the variant, also worried about inflation, labor shortages, as the economy heats up. Our Christine Romans will join us as we wait to see how the markets end up opening.

Stay with us.