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COVID Rising in All 50 States; COVID Cases Surge in Florida; Xavier Becerra is Interviewed about Vaccine Hesitancy; COVID Rises in Tokyo before Olympics; Milley Feared Trump Would Strike Iran. Aired 9- 9:30a ET

Aired July 16, 2021 - 09:00   ET

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


[09:00:00]

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: This has been like a lifetime honor for me. Thank you so much for joining -- I watched the Bradys every day on channel 56 for like six years at the reruns.

ROBBIE RIST, ACTOR, PLAYED "COUSIN OLIVER" ON "THE BRADY BUNCH": Wow. Wow. Right on.

BERMAN: You helped raise me. So thank you for your work.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Did we do good, Berman?

RIST: Well, you know, it's funny, you were saying that -- I'll do this really quick, but, you know, when I -- when I was -- at one point some guy walked up to me and everyone kind of has a Brady story. And this guy walked up to me and said, you know, I -- when I was young, I was -- I was poor. I lived with my mom. And my mom had like three jobs. And he said that, you know, he was locked in the apartment after school up till dinner. And he said that those episodes helped him get through that phase of his life because Oliver was a kid trapped in a world he never made either. And that's why that show is not silly.

BERMAN: Yes.

RIST: I used to think it was and now I'm like, it really helped people.

BERMAN: Robbie --

KEILAR: You are the best, Robbie.

Robbie, thank you so much.

BERMAN: Thank you.

RIST: Thank you. You guys have a great day.

BERMAN: You can watch the "History of the Sitcom" -- "History of the Sitcom" Sunday at 9:00 only at CNN.

And then CNN's coverage continues right now. JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: A very good Friday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Poppy Harlow. We're so glad you're with us.

We do begin, though, this morning with troubling news. COVID cases are now increasing in all 50 states, fueled by a disturbing drop in vaccination rates and, of course, the surging delta variant.

Take a look at this map. What you're looking at is 38 states seeing at least a 50 percent increase in cases. Those are the deep red states there on the map. Thirty-eight of them. And while that is bad, the director of the CDC says things can still get worse.

SCIUTTO: Los Angeles County, a place that has seen -- that had seen cases drop to low levels, is now reinstating its indoor mask mandate regardless of vaccination status in an effort to battle this new surge in cases. Health officials say this -- note this, all COVID patients now in hospitals there are unvaccinated. Unvaccinated. All the patients in hospitals.

The nation had seen a steep drop in the pace now of vaccinations, and the surgeon general is warning about the potentially deadly danger of vaccine disinformation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. VIVEK MURTHY, SURGEON GENERAL: It's led them to turn down proven treatments and to choose not to get vaccinated. This has led to avoidable illnesses and death. Simply put, health information has cost us lives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCIUTTO: Spreading into Major League Baseball now. Last night's New York Yankees game against the Boston Red Sox was postponed after six Yankees players tested positive. Three of those players were fully vaccinated.

HARLOW: So let's begin with our senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen.

Wow, to be here when it is preventable.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HARLOW: What's your read?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's -- you know, Poppy, I know we just saw this map, but I'm going to ask to pull it up again, the one with all the dark red on it.

HARLOW: Sure.

COHEN: It is so disheartening. The three of us have sat here month after month. We were all so happy when that map was mostly yellow and green. And look at this, guys. What have we done as a country that this map is mostly dark red, cases going up again?

I'm going to show you another graph, another disheartening graphic that explains why we're seeing all this dark red, all this increase in cases, and that is that vaccines are at -- vaccinations, rather, are at a low. Take a look at that. It shouldn't be on the far-right. That's where we are now. Look at the low rate of vaccinations in this country.

With nearly a third of eligible Americans not getting vaccinated, that's tens of millions of Americans who could be vaccinated who are choosing not to. Instead, basically they're choosing death. It doesn't make any sense to me. I can't explain this misinformation. Why are they believing this misinformation and not believing their own doctors? It's when you choose not to get vaccinated, you are risking getting sick, you're risking putting doctors and nurses -- burdening them. I mean I don't know how someone lives with themselves when they don't get vaccinated. They end up in the hospital and they overburden these poor doctors and nurses who are already working so hard and putting them at risk. It doesn't make any sense.

SCIUTTO: And, by the way, putting your family members at risk.

COHEN: Exactly.

SCIUTTO: And so on.

Elizabeth Cohen, thanks so much.

COHEN: Thanks.

HARLOW: Well, the unvaccinated and young people are being hit particularly hard by this surge in COVID and hospitalizations in the state of Florida.

SCIUTTO: Leyla Santiago joins us now live from Miami.

Leyla, there's now an effort to get those two groups vaccinated. I mean it is, younger people are one of the big holdouts now.

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. Right. I talked to a group of doctors from the University of Miami Health System and they said that the increasing infection rates among the young and unvaccinated, extremely worrisome.

So let's look at the numbers first. Let's see exactly where we are right now. In the state of Florida, in the last two weeks, we have seen the rates of cases -- or, excuse me, we've seen the cases double.

[09:05:02]

And this is a state where only 47 percent of residents -- so not even half -- are fully vaccinated. That group of doctors I mentioned earlier, they are ramping up their

efforts through a mobile vaccination clinic that they have going to target the young, the unvaccinated, and the underserved communities.

One of the things -- and they echoed the sentiment from the U.S. surgeon general that you aired earlier. One of their biggest problems is misinformation, particularly on social media.

So here is what I did. While we were there, I spoke to one mother who opted to get three of her children vaccinated for COVID-19. And I spoke to one mother who went to that clinic to vaccinate her child, but not for COVID-19, for other vaccinations required for school.

Listen to their reasoning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have a brand-new baby, which is in the NICU, and I need to be safe for her.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't have a problem with the vaccine. I don't. Some people do for whatever reason. But I really don't. I just want to wait it out to see how it affects them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANTIAGO: And so Shamika Hodge (ph), the woman you heard from who said she wasn't ready, you know, it was clearly an issue of trust. She has heard what the health officials are saying, but she wanted to see it with her own eyes. She told me that her 26-year-old daughter was going to be getting vaccinated, and she wanted to see what sort of side- effects her daughter has. So there you go. Clearly health officials are having to work hard to combat misinformation right now.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Some of it's deliberate. Leyla Santiago, thanks very much.

HARLOW: Thank you, Leyla.

Well, the Biden administration is working to combat dangerous health disinformation that is putting lives at risk as we are seeing play out here now in all 50 states. At the same time they are just now announcing a 30-day push to try to get more people enrolled in the Obamacare health exchanges before the August 15th deadline.

Joining me now to talk about all of this is the nation's top health official, U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra.

Good morning, Mr. Secretary, and thank you for your time.

XAVIER BECERRA, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: Good morning, Poppy.

HARLOW: Incredibly troubling when you look at the numbers obviously in all 50 states. I can't believe we're here. And then CNN's new analysis of census data this week showed 48 percent of people who said they definitely or probably will not get a COVID vaccine is because of a mistrust in the vaccines.

What specifically do you believe is causing that?

BECERRA: Well, as you heard the surgeon general announce earlier this week, there is a lot of misinformation out there -- disinformation. People are being told things that aren't true and they're becoming more hesitant.

But, fortunately, there are people who are seeing the facts. They're seeing a loved one, unfortunately, get hospitalized, maybe die, and they're changing their minds. But we have to reach everyone. And so we're going to make every effort we can with trusted voices out in the community, going door to door, reaching out into the community and schools just to let folks know, through trusted voices locally, that we want you to get vaccinated.

HARLOW: Yes.

These numbers, Mr. Secretary, are even worse than they were a month ago. Even worse in terms of mistrust. And here was the Surgeon General Vivek Murthy with Jake.

Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. VIVEK MURTHY, SURGEON GENERAL: It's on social media platforms and other tech platforms, we are seeing the rampant spread of misinformation and it's costing people their lives.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: Does the Biden administration, this morning, believe at this point, given Mark Zuckerberg's responses in the last few days, that FaceBook is now doing enough to combat this misinformation or not?

BECERRA: Well, I'm not sure there was anything that changed that FaceBook is doing from before. We all have to do what we can. We all have a responsibility for the way we conduct our business. And we certainly need people to help us make sure that if the information is peddled, it's real information, it's the truth, not lies.

HARLOW: Well, but that -- it's not what's happening. I mean you heard Jen Psaki at the White House say 65 percent of the COVID misinformation on FaceBook, the White House believes, is coming from 12 users. I mean 12 people responsible for 65 percent.

And one of the things the surgeon general said is they need FaceBook -- you guys need FaceBook to identify those so-called super spreaders of misinformation and limit the information they can spread.

Is that something you think would be effective?

BECERRA: Well, we need people to step up, including the private sector. If they are in charge, they have responsibility to make sure that their platforms are being used in the right way. They -- you know, this is the private sector. It's not government. FaceBook has a lot of latitude as a private company. But everyone has responsibilities. And we hope that everyone steps to the plate.

And so far too much disinformation is out there. Clearly this information, which is giving people this sense of insecurity is out there harming Americans.

[09:10:05]

Ninety-nine percent of the people who are dying today in hospitals throughout the country with COVID are people who are not vaccinated.

HARLOW: Yes, when it's right in front of your face constantly it just -- it just reinforces the misinformation.

I want you to listen to this exchange that I found fascinating last night between my colleague, Chris Cuomo, and former assistant secretary of health, Admiral Brett Giroir.

Here they were.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: How powerful do you think it would be if President Biden were to reach out to former President Trump and say, these are predominantly your people and you were the one who brought us Operation Warp Speed and this vaccine in record time, please join me and tell people to take the vaccine?

ADM. BRETT GIROIR: I think for people of the Trump persuasion, yes, I do believe that former President Trump has enormous influence over people who support him. Vice President Pence, you know, as well.

But I will say again, Chris, you know, the low vaccination rates in Detroit, the low vaccination rates among African-Americans, these are generally not Trump people. So I don't want to simplify this in -- to just a political issue of red versus blue.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: It was -- it was notable to hear him say that. And given that President Biden has campaigned and wanted to govern on bipartisanship, do you believe it would be helpful if he were to reach out to President Trump and ask him to do that?

BECERRA: Well, here's where the president, Biden, has said very clearly, we want trusted voices to help us reach all Americans who have not yet been vaccinated. Donald Trump was president when this vaccine was discovered, and Donald Trump was president when it first started getting used. Donald Trump got the vaccine. Donald Trump is a trusted voice for many Americans. Donald Trump, I would hope, as the former president, would consider that he could help make sure that the vaccine that was discovered and deployed when he was president should be out there saving lots of lives. And so I would hope that everyone who has, as I said, a sense of personal responsibility would help make sure we're helping saving Americans lives. HARLOW: Let's talk about what the White House can do in terms of what

it shows the American people. And there was a big event -- I think we have some images of it -- for about a thousand first responders and health care workers on the 4th of July. But the White House chose not to mandate vaccination for that event. Dr. Leana Wen wrote in "The Washington Post," that's not nearly enough. Biden needs to get behind proof of vaccination starting with his own White House events.

In retrospect, was that a missed opportunity not to mandate vaccines for people that wanted to go?

BECERRA: So, I think the president's been very clear on this. He has relied on the experts, the science to drive his decisions. We have provided that science and information and fact through guidance. And as a result of that guidance, everyone has a chance to make a decision, including those in our states, our governors, our mayors, our county supervisors to decide how to best protect their people. And those decisions should be made on facts.

HARLOW: But it's not working. I hear you, Mr. Secretary, but look where we are this morning, increasing COVID cases in all 50 states. I mean you have, for example, the Minneapolis Federal Reserve Bank, Neel Kashkari, who worked in the Bush and Obama administrations, mandating -- that's a government entity -- mandating vaccines for anyone who wants to continue working there.

Is it time for the Biden administration to at least show more mandatory vaccinations, at least for their own events?

BECERRA: Well, Poppy, remember, we have certain amounts of authority. At the federal level, we can mandate things that the Constitution allows, but not beyond that. And so the president's been very clear --

HARLOW: But you can mandate -- you could have mandated it for a White House event. That's my point.

BECERRA: Well, if you still go to an airport today, and if you try to board a plane today, you will wear a mask. If you are doing -- using mass transit, like a train, Amtrak and so forth, you will have to use a mask.

The president has used his authority to keep Americans safe, but he has said, at the end of the day, those decisions, whether it's at a school or some other local event or activity, that will be decided by the local leaders.

HARLOW: OK, that's not an answer to the question that I was asking was about the White House's own decisions on its grounds to show the American people how important they think the vaccine is.

But let me ask you one more question because one of the reasons why you're here this morning and speaking out is because of the White House push over the next 30 days to get more people registered for Obamacare exchanges, for the Affordable Care Act.

What is your message to the American people on that front ahead of the August 15th deadline?

[09:15:01]

BECERRA: Let's be protected. And the best way to be protected is to have your insurance coverage up front, not when you have to go to the emergency room. And today Americans are finding out that they can afford to have health insurance coverage. More than 2 million Americans have taken advantage of President Biden's special enrollment period to sign up for care, for insurance coverage through the Affordable Care Act. They have found they can afford it. In fact, more than 1.2 million of those folks who are new enrollees, along with some who returned to the website to see if they could get a better deal, are today receiving health insurance for themselves for premiums of about $10 a month. And that's great health coverage for a very affordable rate. And we hope that people continue to come to the website to sign up for health insurance coverage and join the 31 million Americans who today have health insurance coverage and peace of mind as a result of the Affordable Care Act.

HARLOW: Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra, thank you for your time. I know you guys have a lot of work in front of you. We appreciate you being with us this morning.

BECERRA: Thanks, Poppy.

HARLOW: Jim.

SCIUTTO: The Olympic games, they start in just one week as new infections rise in Tokyo. And there are serious concerns about the threat from the more transmissible delta variant.

CNN's Will Ripley, he joins me now from Tokyo.

Will, is it all things go ahead, I mean, regardless of this rise in new infections?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, despite the fact that the delta variant is expected to be the predominant variant here in Japan by the end of the month, they're seeing their highest daily case numbers since January. There were two protests in Hiroshima and Tokyo against the Olympics with eight out of ten Japanese, according to public opinion polls, saying that the Olympics should be canceled.

It is still happening. And some athletes are now testing positive, including one from Uganda who is hospitalized right now -- I should say the Ugandan athlete skipped the COVID test and is now missing somewhere in Japan. A Nigerian athlete has tested positive and is now in the hospital. And even Team USA being affected by health and safety protocols, Bradley Beal with the Washington Wizards, is out of the roster because of what the USA is calling an over abundance of caution.

Even athletes who somebody tests positive on their plane, if they had no contact with them, they are put into isolation, which cuts into their practice time. And there's even a new development that now they won't be presented with their medals in the usual way. Somebody's going to come up with a tray, hand them the medal and they put it on themselves.

So this is truly going to be an Olympics like none other because, of course, there's also the first-ever spectator ban in Olympic history, which means they'll be playing in empty venues with none of their friends and families in attendance.

SCIUTTO: It will look different, no question, in a lot of ways.

Will Ripley, thanks very much.

Still to come this hour, new reporting about concerns within the Pentagon that former President Trump would try to start a war with Iran to attempt to stay in power after he lost the election.

Plus, new intelligence assessments paint an increasingly bleak picture for Afghanistan and the Taliban advance. The reality on the ground could be even worse. My and others new reporting just ahead.

HARLOW: Flooding. Just a disaster in western Europe. More than 100 people are dead from it this morning, many more missing in Germany and Belgium. We're live on the scene.

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[09:22:42]

SCIUTTO: This morning we are learning new details from inside the Trump administration about the threat former President Trump posed during his final days in office. New reporting from "The New Yorker" reveals it was not just a coup, just a coup, that Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley feared, something worse.

HARLOW: The report says Milley also worried about the possibility the former president would launch airstrikes against Iran in order to start a crisis or even a full-blown war, all in hopes of keeping himself in power after losing the election.

Our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, is with us.

Barbara, good morning to you.

Wow, to have this revelation. What do we know?

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Well, good morning to both of you.

I think, as Jim and you both know, because we've all covered it, during that time there was a lot of conversation about whether President Trump was going to order a strike against Iran. The military had pushed back on that for some very specific reasons. They were worried that if the U.S. struck Iran, Iran would retaliate significantly. Iran has about 3,000 ballistic missiles in the region and they could target Israel, U.S. interests in the region and Gulf allies.

So General Milley was very concerned about this, as were other commanders, and they made clear to the White House just how dire it could get.

And let me read you one of the things this article said about General Milley's view at the time, and I quote him saying, if you do this, you're going to have an f-ing war, Milley would say, you're going to have an f-ing war.

So there was considerable concern about it. And President Trump clearly never did order such a strike. One of the things that Milley was very focused on doing was simply getting to Inauguration Day, getting Joe Biden sworn in, having a new president in charge, and a very peaceful transition of power. And he got it.

Jim. Poppy.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Only just, perhaps.

Barbara Starr, thanks very much.

For more let's speak to CNN political commentator S.E. Cupp.

And just for a moment, before we get to how close we came, I mean, my curiosity is how close we might come again. I mean because the fact is Trump still owns the GOP. He's the front runner for nominee in 2024. And given how divided an approval rating among Republicans that he still, you know, holds, I mean is the country in danger of re-electing an unstable, incompetent president?

[09:25:06]

I mean is that something that folks discount far to quickly at this point?

S.E. CUPP, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Oh, certainly. I've seen no evidence that the GOP and Republicans are even considering running anyone else. I don't think the GOP has tried to win without Trump or even consider it. And that's -- I mean that's to their own -- you know, they own that.

I think if the Republican Party, the RNC, Republican leadership were interested in trying this without Trump, they might actually have some success. But it would -- it would, you know, require a total abandonment of everything they have supported thus far. But, yes, I think, as long as the RNC and Republican leadership are backing Trump, I think it's -- I think it's probable that Republicans, by a large majority, will vote for him in 2024.

HARLOW: It's interesting in the wake of McCarthy going back to another meeting with former President Trump yesterday after going down to Mar- a-Lago not, you know, that long after the insurrection, that, you know, he went and then he put out this sort of statement about a cordial and effective, you know, meeting the two of them had, but nothing from Mitch McConnell. Like, McConnell has not made that same effort, S.E. And I just wonder what you make of that. Obviously, McCarthy wants to be speaker, there's a lot there, but notable?

CUPP: Yes, I think -- look, I think the Pollyanna spin on the McCarthy-Trump meeting is what they have been saying, this sort of anodyne, you know, going to check on fundraising and talk about 2022, and then maybe even 2024. But I think the more cynical interpretation is that Kevin McCarthy and Donald Trump are two men who are at the very least material witnesses on what happened on January 6th --

HARLOW: Right.

CUPP: Could very well be deposed and maybe are even, I don't know the word, conspiring to, you know, to talk about how they will defend it. And so I think some Republicans are maybe really disturbed by that, and others are more willing to kind of just sit by and let Kevin McCarthy maybe go out on his own limb here.

SCIUTTO: Yes, there's a word for what you're describing, or a phrase, witness tampering, illegal.

CUPP: Exactly.

SCIUTTO: You tweeted something that kind of gets to the big picture here yesterday, and so I'm quoting you to you for a second. All these on the brink end of days reports about Trump almost taking the nation off the deep end belie one crucial point. None of that happened overnight. It happened every day, little by little, over four years as Republicans looked on either silently or approvingly.

The thing is, that's continuing now. Six months after January 6th, you have the same looking on as the president continues to spread the big lie, is now defending January 6th rioters. McCarthy and others -- and, by the way, the McConnell plan of hoping that Trump goes away is failing, too.

CUPP: Yes. Yes. No, you can't -- you can't be passive -- a passive in this effort. You have to be active if you are interested in ridding Trump of the party. And like I said, very few are interested in ridding Trump of the party.

But if you go back, you know, forensically to look at all of the -- I mean they weren't red flags. They were blaring, you know, megaphone warnings about Trump, what he wanted to do from -- from lying about COVID data and then pressuring other government agencies to lie about their data, pressuring the economic council of advisers to lie about economic data. Tillerson saying that Trump repeatedly asked him to do things that would have violated the law or treaties, and being very disappointed when told he couldn't.

Trump's entire presidency was about testing the guardrails and in many cases blowing right through them. But the worst part to me is how many Republicans let him do it and are now sort of acting like in the final hours they were really concerned. Well, Trump might have built the car that he wanted to take the country over the cliff in, but Republicans put the gas in it.

HARLOW: Can't go anywhere without a full tank.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HARLOW: S.E., thank you very much. We always love having you. Thanks.

SCIUTTO: Right now CNN is learning the security situation is deteriorating in Afghanistan as the U.S. nears completing its withdrawal with the Taliban posing an increasing threat to large parts of the country, potentially Kabul as well. Our new reporting, next.

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