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White House Considering "Red Phone" for Emergency Contact with China; Bush: Consequences of Afghanistan Troop Withdrawal Will Be "Unbelievable Bad"; Cheney Defends Being Part of Jan 6 Committee in CNN Interview; Mississippi Children Battling COVID in Intensive Care Units; Soon, Latest Britney Spears Hearing over Bid to End Conservatorship. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired July 14, 2021 - 13:30   ET




ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: We're learning the White House is mulling an emergency hotline with China as tensions remain high.

If the U.S. wants to talk to Chinese leaders, it needs a way to get through quickly. A so-called red phone, like the one used during the Cold War, might be the answer.

CNN global affairs analyst and staff writer for the "New Yorker," Susan Glasser, is with us now.

Susan, we're told this hotline could be used to share information like sudden military movements or warning messages about cyber hacks. Is this a good idea?

SUSAN GLASSER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: It really is an interesting report. I would say it does have a strong Cold War echo to me in a way. That's a good thing. Obviously, more communication.

However, it also suggests perhaps people in the White House are anticipating a future where there might be more chance for misunderstanding and more potential conflict.

One thing I consistently heard over the years is that the Chinese at the highest levels of their military are much less interested in engaging with their counterparts in the U.S. than even the Soviets in the latter stages of the Cold War.

There's not as robust a dialogue right now as perhaps there should be. I think that's what's motivating this.

CABRERA: What's interesting to me is, I guess, there's already a similar hotline to China that exists and it's exclusively for military purposes. But one official tells CNN that the couple of times this hotline has

been used, no one answered. It just rang and rang and rang for hours.

What does that tell you about the challenges in terms of communication between the U.S. and China?

GLASSER: It's a metaphor, in some ways, for the entire relationship, isn't it? We're not only not speaking each other's language, but we can't get through even when we think we have the right number.

For example, think about something as important as nuclear arms control and the strategic dialogue, both on nuclear weapons or cyber weapons. The Chinese have been very reluctant to participate.

The last administration, the Trump administration wanted to have a three-way negotiation with the Russians and the Chinese over such issues. No go.

I think that's also the case now as the new Biden administration is trying to think about things like that.

Right now, the old order has sort of broken down. And it's not clear what the new order is going to be in terms of an international framework for dealing with conflicts between great powers like the U.S. and China.

CABRERA: I want to shift gears. Former President Bush, who launched the war in Afghanistan, spoke out on the possible consequences of the U.S. troop withdrawal. Take a listen.


GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Sadly, I'm afraid Afghan women and girls are going to suffer unspeakable harm.

UNIDENTIFIED CORRESPONDENT: Is it a mistake to withdraw?

BUSH: You know, I think it is, yes, because I think the consequences are going to be unbelievably bad.


CABRERA: Susan, what's your reaction?

GLASSER: It's very interesting to hear former President Bush speaking out in this way.

As you know, he's been very circumspect in the years since he left the White House, even when Donald Trump was in office. As you know, Trump often attacks Bush. Bush did not tend to respond publicly in kind.

You know, Afghan, in particular, the situation with women and girls, that's something that was a big issue not only for President Bush, who launched the operation there 20 years ago, but also his wife.

Former first lady, Laura Bush, was always active on this specific issue of the status of women and girls in Afghanistan.

I think what you're seeing there a little bit is a reversion to the foreign policy norm of the Republican Party.

Trump, at times, took positions that many in the Republican establishment were very uncomfortable with.

And Trump had set in motion this withdrawal from Afghanistan with his peace deal with the Taliban and would certainly have gone through with it had he gotten a second term.

Many Republicans might not have spoken out as forcefully at that time, but they certainly are more willing to be critical of Biden for doing the same thing.

CABRERA: Susan Glasser, I always learn so much from you. Thank you for being with us.

GLASSER: Thank you.


CABRERA: Children fighting COVID in a Mississippi hospital. They didn't have the vaccination choice, but the adults around them did. We talk to one of the doctors seeing it all firsthand, and what parents need to know, next.


CABRERA: A CNN exclusive. Less than two weeks after defying the top House Republican, Congresswoman Liz Cheney defends being the only GOP representative to join the select committee investigating the capitol riot.

Cheney, who's been punished by her party for her anti-Trump words and deeds, is pushing back even harder now in her latest challenge to minority leader, Kevin McCarthy.


And CNN's Melanie Zanona got the exclusive interview.

Melanie, what message is Cheney sending to the top House Republican?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Well, Liz Cheney had some strong words for McCarthy about who he should and should not appoint to his side of the select committee.

In an interview, she said, quote, "It's very important that we have members who are committed to upholding the rule of law and members committed to their oath to the Constitution. And I would certainly hope that the minority leader will be guided by that as he makes his choices."

She didn't name names here, but this means Republicans who are still trying to challenge the legitimacy of the 2020 election, Republicans who are still trying to whitewash January 6th.

That characterization would apply to a large swath of her House Republican colleagues.

These comments underscore how Cheney is approaching this committee and how she is not shying away from calling out partisanship wherever she sees it.

CABRERA: She's taking a big risk, right, in how this plays with voters in her home state of Wyoming. Is she worried this is going to cost her, her seat?

ZANONA: The short answer is no. I asked Cheney whether she was worried about the political blowback for agreeing to serve on this panel at the behest of Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

She said this is bigger than politics. And that she felt a sense of duty to be on this panel. She knows her presence will bring some credibility and bipartisanship to the investigative panel's work.

She also framed it in really dire terms. She said it's really dangerous to have Donald Trump still out there spreading lies about the election that incited violence.

And she felt like she had to put politics and calculations aside.

Of course, Ana, the reality is this could be an issue for her in her primary race.

This panel is likely going to drag into the next year. It's going to be high profile. It's going to guarantee that Liz Cheney is in the spotlight. And her opponents are going to try to seize on it and use it against her in any way they can.

CABRERA: Melanie Zanona, I'm sorry I got stuck on your name when I introduced you.

ZANONA: That's OK.

CABRERA: So great to have you as part of the CNN family.

ZANONA: Happy to be here.

CABRERA: And you've been bringing it with you reporting.

Thank you.

ZANONA: Happy to be here.

CABRERA: Now to it's just a heartbreaking situation in Mississippi right now. The state says seven children there are in the ICU with COVID, two of them on ventilators.

Their infections come months after vaccines became widely available, completely free of charge to adults and, more recently, to anyone 12 and older. Some of these children are being treated at the University of

Mississippi Medical Center.

And Dr. Alan Jones is the associate vice chancellor for clinical affairs for that hospital and joins us now.

Doctor, this is really concerning. Tell us about the cases you're seeing involving children. What's the age range? What condition are they in? What else can you tell us?

DR. ALAN JONES, ASSOCIATE VICE CHANCELLOR FOR CLINICAL AFFAIRS, UNIVERSITY OF MISSISSIPPI MEDICAL CENTER: So we are seeing an increase in the number of hospitalizations of children. Most of them are -- we've had infants as small as 6 to 8 months old but up to the teenage years.

Many of them are not ICU-level patients and are just in the hospital on a regular floor. But we have seen an increase in both ICU patients as well as patients on the regular floor.

CABRERA: Are you seeing similarities in terms of what would have made these children more vulnerable to COVID?

JONES: A lot of the patients that we're seeing, particularly the ones ending up in the ICU, do have some type of chronic comorbid condition that would predispose them to having COVID or having hospitalization or a bad outcome from COVID.

But we also are seeing some that don't have any underlying medical conditions and are just a little bit more ill than they could stay at home for.

CABRERA: Are their symptoms similar to what adults are experiencing?

JONES: We are seeing mostly the same symptoms, a lot of fever and cough among these patients. So not a whole lot of difference in the original symptoms that we saw in kids and the ones that we're seeing now.

CABRERA: You're say you're seeing more pediatric admissions now than you were early on in the pandemic. Why do you think that is?

JONES: Well, I think it's probably for several reasons.

The first is, we do know, in Mississippi, that the predominant strain that's circulating, probably 88 to 90 percent of it is the Delta variant.

That variant is more infectious than some of the viruses that we saw earlier in the pandemic.

That, associated with the fact that we are seeing a lot less mask usage now is another variable that plays into the equation of why we're seeing more.

[13:45:01] And then, finally, it appears as though this particular variant, the Delta variant, while being more infectious, is also causing more children to be symptomatic.

Whether that is what causes a little more severe illness than other variants or that it is just more prevalent and so we're seeing more symptomatic cases, we're not sure.

But it's probably multifactorial and related to all of those things.

CABRERA: Unfortunately, children under the age of 12 aren't eligible to get vaccinated now, which is our best defense against this virus.

Mississippi, at large, only has 34 percent of the total population fully vaccinated. That is the second-lowest rate in the country right now.

As you've discussed, the Delta variant is surging. So what needs to change?

JONES: We would really like to see that percent of the population in Mississippi that have been vaccinated fully vaccinated increase.

We obviously are encouraging --


CABRERA: What's stopping people from getting vaccinated?

JONES: I'm sorry. Could you repeat that question?

CABRERA: What's stopping more people from getting vaccinated?

JONES: You know, I don't really know the answer to that question. Of the eligible people that are in the state, as you said, we know that approximately a third have been vaccinated.

Obviously, we would like for as many people to get vaccinated as possible.

But there's -- you know, we are relatively a rural state and there's some difficulty getting out to some of those rural areas and offering them within those communities.

There also seems to be some hesitancy in uptake, probably for various reasons.

But the important thing here is that we think that most of these hospitalizations and, unfortunately, some of the deaths we're seeing are preventable if people that are eligible would get out and get the vaccine.

CABRERA: What are you hearing from the parents of these children who are now hospitalized with COVID?

JONES: Well, we're seeing a lot of respiratory illness now, both COVID and particularly RSV. Respiratory Syncytial Virus is going around real heavily right now.

You know, and I think that parents would like to have a situation where their children are as protected as they can be. But that requires everybody to do their part, wear masks when appropriate and get vaccinated.

CABRERA: Dr. Alan Jones, thank you for taking the time to share with us what's happening in your area. Good luck.

JONES: Of course. Thank you.

CABRERA: Britney Spears, her fight for freedom heads back to court this afternoon. What could be different this time?



CABRERA: In just a few hours, Britney Spears is expected to be back in court, at least virtually, in hopes of ending her 13-year-long conservatorship.

It's been three weeks now since that powerful testimony she gave where she described the arrangement as abusive.

She said she's been forced to perform, that she's been given lithium against her will, and was prevented from having children.

CNN entertainment reporter, Chloe Melas, is on it for us.

Chloe, a lot has happened in the weeks since Spears made those explosive revelations in court. What's expected to happen today?


There have been a slew of resignations from Britney's legal team and her management team since that explosive testimony.

We have Bessemer Trust, the co-conservator of their $60 million estate, saying they don't want to be part of this anymore.

You have Spears' long-time attorney, Samuel Ingham, who has been with her since the beginning of this conservatorship in 2008, submitting his resignation, which the judge will hear today.

We also have Larry Rudolph, Britney Spears' long-time manager of 25 years, saying that he doesn't want to be her manager anymore because she's going to be retiring.

Which we have never heard Britney say that she has plans to retire, but that's what Larry Rudolph says.

In the meantime, the big thing on the table today is, is the judge going to allow Britney to retain her own counsel? She said it repeatedly at the last hearing. Britney has always had a court- appointed lawyer. Earlier, I actually saw former federal prosecutor, Mathew Rosengart. I

reported recently that she has been in talks with him to represent her.

That would be a huge moment if Judge Brenda Penny says that Mathew Rosengart can be your new attorney.

Because we are expecting him to finally file that petition to terminate the conservatorship or perhaps circumvent the Los Angeles Superior Court and go to the appellate court to have this completely overturned.

CABRERA: So could the judge actually end the conservatorship today or is this just one more steppingstone?

MELAS: Yes. In theory, Judge Brenda Penny could say, you know what, Britney Spears does not need to be in a conservatorship anymore, I heard you loud and clear just a few weeks ago, Britany, and let's just stop this right now, and you can go free to live your life the way that you want to.


But that is a very, very, very, very small-percent chance that will happen.

What will most likely happen is perhaps a guardian-ad-litem, an intermediary from the court, will help Britney find an attorney. And Britney will then -- this will drag out, I would assume, over the next few months.

CABRERA: OK, we'll be watching closely.

Chloe Melas, thanks so much.

And thank you for joining me today. I'll see you back here tomorrow at 1:00 eastern. In the meantime, please join me on Twitter, @AnaCabrera.

The news continues next with Alisyn and Victor.

Have a great afternoon.