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Surgeon General Says, Misinformation Serious Threat to Public Health; Justice Stephen Breyer Says He Hasn't Decided When He'll Retire; Trump Says He will Meet with House GOP Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) Today. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired July 15, 2021 - 10:00   ET




But, hopefully, he will work with her and proceed with exactly what she says that she wants, because that's what her lawyer should do.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: And just to note here, her father, Jamie Spears, who she made the accusations against yesterday, put out a statement about a month ago saying he is sorry to see his daughter suffering and in so much pain, this is from his team, Mr. Spears loves daughter, misses her very much. We're going to see exactly where this goes in the coming months.

Thank you, Zoey Brennan-Krohn, very much.


HARLOW: Good morning, everyone. It is the top of hour. I'm Poppy Harlow.


The U.S. is calling on you to help stamp out lies about coronavirus vaccines. There are so many of them out there, so much disinformation. U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy is speaking out about the cost of vaccine misinformation this morning, warning that false information is a, quote, serious threat to public health. It loses lives, frankly.

HARLOW: The Biden administration is growing increasingly concerned about vaccine lies as the delta variant fuels a rise in cases in 47 states, new infections are up by more than 50 percent in 35 of those states.

Our John Harwood joins us from the White House with more. So, look, I mean the White House has done a lot to try to get a handle on this disinformation. Clearly, it is not having enough of an effect. And it is not all on them, as Jim pointed so importantly last hour, it is a lot of Republican lawmakers continuing these false claims, state governments, you know, making moves to discourage people to take a vaccine and then the social media platforms. JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, that is exactly the situation. And the answer to it is very difficult to find because calling it out in partisan terms would only serve to further polarize the situation. So, what you've got today is this 22-page paper advisory from Vivek Murthy, the surgeon general, calling on average citizens to take on to themselves, to not forward on social media what might be disinformation about vaccines and try to take this out of the realm of partisan politics and make it more on a human level.

Because, on a human level, as you've indicated, Poppy, we've got these variants spreading and it is killing people who are not vaccinated. We know that you if get vaccinated you're not going to -- the odds are almost infinitesimal that you would be hospitalized and die if you were vaccinated. And we have got about a third of the population right now that has not gotten one shot.

And so the challenge is to try to accentuate that, not push back directly by name on, say, Fox News or other conservative media outlets pushing this disinformation, but try to put it in the hands of people outside of partisan labeling and see if that can make a dent. It is very difficult to do but they're giving it a shot.

SCIUTTO: The data is so clear. Literally, more than 99 percent of the deaths now are among the unvaccinated, clear. John Harwood at the White House, thank you.

As vaccination rates among adults fall, those most at risk now are children who at least under 12, still hasn't been approved to have the vaccine.

HARLOW: Our Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is back with us this hour. So, I mean, what can we do? Jim and I have kids under 12 and we cannot control other people's decisions. So, what does that mean for our kids?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You certainly can't. So, what this means right now is that people need to get their children 12 to 17 vaccinated. That is so important because they have younger siblings, they play with younger children and so it is so important that those kids get vaccinated. And right now, we're still waiting for the vaccine for younger children.

Let's take a look at the timeline for when we think that that might happen. So, we're thinking that -- this is according to Pfizer. Pfizer says that for children ages 5 to 11, they're think that they could be asking the FDA for emergency use authorization in September. So that means that we'll not have a shot by the start of the school year. They'll be asking for an EUA in September, they think, and then it takes several weeks to process that.

For younger children, Pfizer says they could have data later in the fall. They say for the youngest of that said, it might not be until November. And Pfizer is ahead of the game here, Moderna seems to be a bit behind them. So the bottom line here is we might have a shot for Poppy's children, for Jim's children, for all young children, hopefully sometime this fall. HARLOW: Fingers crossed, very crossed. Thank you, Elizabeth.

COHEN: Thanks.

HARLOW: States around the country are seeing a rise in cases, sadly, among those states seeing a surge, Louisiana.


With us now is Dr. Catherine O'Neal, she's a Chief Medical Officer of Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center in Baton Rouge, she's also an infectious disease specialist and Assistant Professor of Clinical Medicine at LSU. Good morning, Doctor, and thank you.


HARLOW: You've talked about having flashbacks of the summer surge. And it must be just jaw-dropping to see it happen again when we have numerous very effective vaccines out there. The patients you're seeing now, I understand, are younger and healthier than those you were treating before?

O'NEAL: Absolutely. It is a little bit disheartening. Honestly it is a lot disheartening to see people continue come in again and a surge happening again when we really have made this a preventable disease. Unfortunately, this surge is different than our previous surges for a couple of reasons, because we dropped our masking and our mitigation, we are having a winter time season in the summer.

So our hospitals were full starting about end of May with RSV. In fact, 65 percent of our admits to our children's hospital this month are RSV cases. So we have a huge viral influx before our COVID numbers started to go up. And so a preventable disease that we're seeing people not choosing the prevention is tough.

The cases are younger. They're largely unvaccinated, almost predominantly unvaccinated. And there are also people who made this choice. And so they have knowledge and they have the knowledge in their hand but they choose not to take the life raft that we've been throwing at them.

SCIUTTO: The consequences of not getting vaccinated are so clear. We just had that number up on the screen. 94 percent of the -- roughly 20,000 COVID-19 infections reported statewide since May unvaccinated, more than 99 percent of deaths in June were among the unvaccinated.

You have conversations with people who are refusing to get the vaccine. I'm just wondering, how do you change their minds? Have you had any success doing that?

O'NEAL: You know, yes, yes, it's tough. And as an educator, we're not here to change people's minds, we're here to educate them and help them and make better informed decisions. So we have a lot of conversations about risk, about what it means for you, about what it means for the community. And in the end, you have to end with do you want to see a lot more death or do you want an end to the pandemic?

Because the choice for vaccination right now is really boils down to those two things, either a lot more people will die because everybody is going to get this or will end the pandemic through vaccination. And which side of that do you want to be on? And how do you want to contribute to this process?

And I hope we make the right choice. We don't have an option out of it. We're going to either be in this pandemic a long time and watch a lot of death occur or everybody is going to line up at our vaccine station.

HARLOW: Governor John Bel Edwards vetoed a bill that would prohibited some vaccine requirements for schools and educational facilities. He said it wasn't necessary. He said that it contributed to the false narrative that COVID vaccines are anything other than safe and effective. You've seen some opposite moves in other states by governors right now. What do you think this will mean for Louisiana and, I suppose, your message to other state leaders?

O'NEAL: I'm lucky to be in a state where we are allowed to really communicate well with our state leaders. And we do that and have been doing that for 16 months. I'm also really lucky to have a state in which our health care organizations have worked together really well to provide vaccination in multiple ways, by buses, by walking the streets, by massive vaccination campaigns, we've put it out there in any way that you can imagine.

And so I don't think that we're going to have to go through those steps because I think that, at this point, everybody in the state understands what the best thing to do for our children, for our middle-aged people, for our elderly people are. I think, now, we really are going to focus on keeping our eye on the ball, which is helping people understand that their risks can't be mitigated any other way besides vaccination, even in our children. We're all looking forward to starting school in a normal way in August and this is the way we're going to get there.

SCIUTTO: Dr. O'Neal, thank you for being a voice of truth in the midst of this downpour of disinformation. I mean, it is a battle. We appreciate your efforts.

O'NEAL: It is a crazy time for us. We appreciate you having us on and promoting the vaccine. That is -- we're looking forward to getting out of this.

SCIUTTO: It's the best we could do, share the data.

Well, new this morning, will Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer retire before the midterms, as some liberals have been urging him to do? Will he stay on the bench? What does that mean for the bench?

HARLOW: CNN Supreme Court Analyst Joan Biskupic sat down exclusively with Justice Breyer and she joins us now.

People don't know, they should, how rare it is to get a Supreme Court justice to talk to you, let alone Breyer, when he's all anyone is talking about. And the question, the key question is, is he going to retire.


So what did you get?

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SUPREME COURT ANALYST: Not any time soon, Poppy and Jim. When I spoke with him yesterday up in New Hampshire near where he has a family cabin, I asked him directly, have you made a decision on retirement? Because as you know, there is so much wild speculation about what will he do. Will he step down and give President Biden his first lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court?

And when I asked him whether he decided and he said flatly, no. I asked him what he's considering, what would be the overriding priorities as he weighed this. And he said, first, his health. He's thinking about his health.

Now, he's going to be 83 next month. He's a pretty vigorous 82-year- old right now. He hasn't had any kind of health complications that Justice Ginsburg, who passed away last year, had. So he's in good health at this point. But his second consideration is the court, the court itself. And by that, I took it to mean the institutional integrity of this place where he's served since 1994.

So he's weighing those things. I think he's here at least for the next year. He knows that the Senate is Democratic now. And I'm sure he hopes that it stays Democratic, at least until the midterms and maybe after the midterms. He was an appointee of Democrat, Bill Clinton, and can appreciate the calculation that any presidential appointment would have, having to go through the Senate.

So these are all things, Poppy and Jim, that are on his mind as he figures out what he does next.

SCIUTTO: Let me ask you this, Joan, do you even have for sure until the midterms, right, because might Mitch McConnell next year say, well, we have the midterms coming? I mean, it is been so watered down over time, this idea of the president appointing and the Senate advising on this. But could he potentially even block next year a Biden appointment?

BISKUPIC: Well, it will depend and what power Mitch McConnell has. Right now, he's the minority leader. If something happens to the one vote margin that Senate Democrats hold right now, and suddenly Mitch McConnell is in control again, everyone will remember even more what he did in 2016 when he blocked an appointment by then-President Barack Obama of Merrick Garland to the court.

So, people are so aware of Mitch McConnell's interest in the courts and they do not want -- the Democrats do not want him to be in charge and that is why they're hoping that Justice Breyer does go maybe next year.

HARLOW: We'll see. Joan, great scoop, thank you. BISKUPIC: Sure.

HARLOW: Still to come, a top U.S. general's bombshell and that word doesn't do it justice, just remarkable, significantly important comments about former President Trump. General Mark Milley saying feared Trump would stage a coup following his election loss. This is according to a brand new book. We'll dig into all those stunning revelations about Trump's final days in office, next.



SCIUTTO: New this morning, former President Trump says he's going to meet with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy later today. The minority leader, we should note, still deciding which Republicans to assign to the January 6 special committee. We also remind people that on, January 6, CNN has reported he made a call to the president, he said call these people off, an angry phone call. I wonder if that will come up today.

HARLOW: Our Capitol Hill Reporter Melanie Zanona is following this. Melanie, it's notable, as Lauren Fox pointed out last hour, that Trump put out the statement, not McCarthy's office at their meeting.

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Right. It is notable, Trump wanted to go first here in making this announcement. And here is what we do know so far about the purpose of this meeting. My sources are telling that they're going to talk midterm strategy. There's a couple of special elections that are coming up, they're going to talk about vulnerable Democrats in 2022 and they're going to talk about the GOP's record-breaking fundraising numbers.

But, of course, this meeting also comes as Kevin McCarthy is weighing his picks for a select committee on January 6. And as we know, the former president has had very strong opinions about who he wants defending him, whether it was his first impeachment or now on Capitol Hill. So it is hard to imagine that that wouldn't come up in some shape or form.

But, look, the bottom line here is that the Republican Party is still taking its cues from Donald Trump.

HARLOW: For sure. Melanie, thanks very much.

ZANONA: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Joining us now, Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash. Dana, talking about what we're learning from this book, detailing the final days of the Trump administration, and, by the way, Trump is continuing his assault on the election. But let's talk about when he was still president.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Mark MILLEY concerned that post-January 6th, these guys would then go and attack the inauguration as well, quoting from the book here. Here is the deal, guys. These guys are Nazis, they're Boogaloo Boys, they're Proud Boys. These are the same people we fought in World War II. Everyone in this room, whether you're a cop, whether you're a soldier, we're going to stop these guys to make sure we have a peaceful transfer of power.

I mean, I bring that up because you and I, we covered the inauguration, we remember that ring of steel around the city, the National Guard troops there. I mean, this speaks to how concerned they were that January 6 was not the end of this but the beginning of something.


DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That is exactly right. It was a fortress. It was like nothing you and I haven't seen probably since we were in Baghdad. And that was, we're now learning, because we knew at the time because of credible concerns and threats following January 6th, the same ones that were known leading up to January 6th, I might add.

But the fact that you have the top military official in the United States of America concerned, according to this new reporting, that the president would use the Insurrection Act and as a way to take over the military and to do away with the norms of that were so fragile at that time because of the actions of the president of the United States is really telling.

And I remember, I don't know if you heard this too, Jim and Poppy as well, on that day, on January 6th, as everything was unfolding, I was hearing from people close to the Pentagon that they were concerned about us in the media using the term, insurrection, because they were worried that the president, then-president, would use that as an excuse to invoke the Insurrection Act.

So, you put the pieces together of what we knew real-time versus behind what is behind the curtain that is being pulled out in this book.

HARLOW: There is something else I want to read to you, if we could pull it up in the control room. This is what he said. I'm trying to find it here, but it was really striking from the book, another of the excerpts here. He told his deputies, Milley, quote, they may try but they're not going to f'ing succeed. He's talking about a potential coup. And he said, you can't do this without the military, you can't do this without the CIA and the FBI. We are the guys with the guns.

It's notable, especially given the comments he made a few days after the election about following law and order.

BASH: No, that is exactly right. Look, I mean we also have to put in context here General Milley as part of this book, it appears, that there are some reputation refining going on, particularly after the fact that he got hurt when it came to his reputation because he was at that photo op during the Black Lives Matter protests back in the summer of 2020. He apologized for that, for being there in his uniform. But regardless of that, I think what the other thing that we should note here is that General Milley, unlike the other people who are still in leadership and knew what they -- what he knew, or at least most of what he knew at the time, he's speaking out. He's not a politician. He doesn't have to worry about his political viability.

Just contrast that with Mitch McConnell, Kevin McCarthy, who Melanie just reported, is going to meet with the former president today. There is no way he doesn't have knowledge of some of this that is happening. But because he believes that Trump and Trump supporters are the pathway to him being speaker, he is continuing down that road, never mind the fact that the former president put him in danger, put this country at risk of losing its fragile democracy. And it sounds like hyperbole, unfortunately it's not.

SCIUTTO: Dana, you speak to Republican lawmakers frequently. I press them on this as well. Does any of this move them? The president every day is lying about the election. I don't repeat them on the air. He puts out statements lying about false results. He's defending the January 6th rioters today, six months after they attacked the Capitol. McCarthy is going there to genuflect, right, to show who leads the party. Mark Milley is not an alarmist. He was worried about a coup. Do any of these accounts move them or is it politics that rules?

BASH: It's politics that rules for those who haven't already spoken out. We've already seen the Liz Cheneys and the Adam Kinzingers. We've seen long time friends like the former New Jersey governor, Chris Christie, who call out the lies on a consistent basis, and others. But those are the minority voices in the minority party. And many of those voices believe that the Republican Party will continue to be the minority party if they go down this road and follow the former president blindly with his lies.

Again, I cannot say this enough, This is not about a question about whether we should lower taxes in America or raise taxes or cut the budget or don't cut the budget.


This is about truth and lies and the basics of what makes this country the way it is. That is teetering right now because the people who are still in power, would are leading the Republican Party, are continuing to be silent and the silence is deafening.

SCIUTTO: And disinformation works. We see it with the vaccine and we see it that majority of Republicans buys the lie that the election was stolen. Damn the consequences, I imagine, they think. Dana Bash, thanks very much.

BASH: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Coming up, Texas House Democrats take their state's voting rights battle here to Washington as a prominent national civil right as attorney announces his bid for Texas attorney general.