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Trump Behind Closed Doors; Flooding in Europe; Interview With Former Senior White House COVID Response Adviser Andy Slavitt; Pandemic of the Unvaccinated. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired July 16, 2021 - 14:00   ET



BARBARA EDEN, ACTRESS: Well, I appreciate it. Thank you, Ana.

ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Be sure to tune in, the all-new CNN original series "HISTORY OF THE SITCOM," Sunday at 9:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific only on CNN.

That does it for me. Thank you all for joining me. Follow me on Twitter @AnaCabrera. And I'm wishing you a wonderful weekend. Stay well.

The news continues next with Alisyn and Victor.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone. Welcome to NEWSROOM. I'm Alisyn Camerota.


The director of the CDC is now calling the coronavirus crisis the pandemic of the unvaccinated, because the unvaccinated are fueling the increase of infections that we're seeing in every state. Look at this map, mostly red, most states seeing a surge of 50 percent or more indicated by the sea of deep red across the country. Only Montana has a case increase of under 10 percent. Vaccinations have slowed to just 300,000 a day.


DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: There is a clear message that is coming through. This is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated.

We are seeing outbreaks of cases in parts of the country that have low vaccination coverage, because unvaccinated people are at risk. The good news is, that if you're fully vaccinated, you are protected against severe COVID, hospitalization and death and are even protected against the known variants, including the Delta variant.

And, importantly, over 97 percent of people who are entering the hospital right now are unvaccinated.


CAMEROTA: Here's something interesting. The White House says one out of every five COVID cases this week is in Florida.

Why there? Might it have something to do with the governor's pet slogan "Don't Fauci my Florida"? Sadly for everyone, unvaccinated people are now ruining the freedom the rest of us enjoyed this month.

Starting tomorrow, everyone in the country's most populous county, Los Angeles County, will have to wear masks indoors in public places whether they are vaccinated or not.

The World Health Organization warns that because of the huge number of unvaccinated people, there's a -- quote -- "strong likelihood" of new, possibly more dangerous variants emerging that could be harder to control.

Meanwhile, Tennessee has one of the lowest rates of vaccination in the country, with just 38 percent of the residents fully vaccinated. Cases there have jumped 84 percent in the last week.

CNN's Martin Savidge is in Nashville for us.

So, Martin, we're seeing this spike of cases while the state is also pausing its regular public service campaign to get children immunized. Why?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, doctors and medical teams here say this controversy couldn't come at a worse time.

Just as you point out, you're seeing the numbers spike in this state, especially in areas like Chattanooga and Memphis, not so much here in Nashville, but numbers are going up. And at the same time, you have got a Health Department that is in total disarray. That's the state Health Department.

And then you have this political battle that has been only growing more intense, primarily between Republicans and anti-vaxxers, who have been saying, hey, you cannot keep pushing this vaccine on young people, when actually the law in the state of Tennessee says they can. They can reach out to those 14 to 17 because those young people under Tennessee law have the right to determine if they want to get the vaccine on their own. They don't need parental permission.

The Republicans say they don't care what the law is. They actually talked about trying to defund the state Health Department. That's how angry they are.

Meanwhile, the medical personnel are seeing more and more young people show up in their ICUs. And the other problem they're trying to fight against, it's misinformation, social media. Take a listen.


DR. JASON MARTIN, CRITICAL CARE PHYSICIAN: Misinformation is a large part of what we deal with, and it's part of health care right now. People are sometimes more willing to listen to Facebook than they are to their health care providers. So what I encourage people to do, please do ask questions. We want you to ask your questions about the vaccine. We want you to ask, what's the data for the safety and efficacy? Please bring us those questions, but get your information from a trusted and trained source and not from a Facebook post.


SAVIDGE: Just a real quick snapshot of numbers.

On June 23, the number of new cases of coronavirus in the state stood at 160. As of yesterday, they reported 539 new cases. That is tripling the numbers in about a span of three weeks. Doesn't mean the E.R.s and the ICUs are overflowing.

But, because, as you pointed out, that low vaccination rate in this state, about 38.1 percent, it means that the coronavirus has a lot of room, especially the Delta variant, to run. So the fear is, what's going to happen, say, come September?

And like you point out, everybody currently hospitalized and in the ICU has one thing in common. They didn't get vaccinated. And there's plenty of vaccine to go around here -- Alisyn and Victor.


CAMEROTA: Martin Savidge, thank you very much for giving us that status report.

BLACKWELL: All right, joining us now, Andy Slavitt, who served as White House senior adviser for the COVID response.

Andy, welcome back.

Let's start in L.A. County, where, I mean, it's obvious that the honor system is not working. The CDC guidance was that people who are vaccinated no longer have to wear masks indoors. But the problem is that people who were unvaccinated, they also took the masks off.

So is it the right call, considering the numbers we're seeing, for L.A. County to return to this mandate for masks indoors for everybody?

ANDY SLAVITT, FORMER SENIOR WHITE HOUSE ADVISER FOR COVID RESPONSE: Well, L.A. County is specific trouble getting certain populations to take the vaccine seriously and to get vaccinated. And it's not for lack of effort.

And I think, as they see cases go up, they have to act in the best interests of everybody. And I think their judgment is that they want to do everything they can to reduce the spread. So they're asking people, even those who've been vaccinated, to wear masks probably to keep the burden away from businesses who really don't know how to police this.

And, again, so people who've been vaccinated are going to be wearing masks because of the fact that much -- many people in the community have decided at least so far not to get vaccinated.

BLACKWELL: But the spread is not unique to L.A. County. Let's put up the map. We see the red across the country, the spread of the Delta variant among those unvaccinated.

Should the guidance from the CDC change?

SLAVITT: Well, look, I think the reality is that we have such a diverse country, even if you put aside the question of what the CDC says, that when you're in places like Florida or Texas, they are not going to respond the same way as people have in California and as the government has here.

And I think we know by now that this has become a little bit of a drawing of a political battleground, as opposed to what's best for public health. What the CDC will do is, they will follow the science. And when the prevalence -- if there's enough prevalence, they will tell people that it is certainly advisable or an option for them to wear a mask.

I don't know that they will go so far as a mandate. But I do think you're going to have parts of the country who have been so resistant so far are going to be continued to be defiant. I wouldn't expect the governor of Florida, for example, to react unless his hospitals started filling up again.

But until that time, I think he's going to say it's not a problem.

BLACKWELL: Yes, but we are seeing governors like we're seeing in California who are responding and requiring the masks to come back.

Let's talk about these eight states that are now banning schools from requiring -- at least public schools -- from requiring vaccinations or proof of vaccination to return to the classroom. Three of those states, Arizona, Arkansas, and Oklahoma, have also banned mask mandates for these schools.

So if you have got classrooms where they're not required to get vaccinations, the ones who are old enough to get it, and they're not required to wear masks, I mean, will schools be safe come the fall?

SLAVITT: Well, what they're doing is, they're putting the burden directly on parents and students, because they're not saying you can't wear a mask. They're saying you can't be requiring people to wear a mask.

So what that means is -- and, look, we know that courage is sometimes difficult when you're in middle school or in grammar school. That means that if you feel like you have a someone at home who's immunocompromised, or you have another reason to be concerned, which many people will feel, if there are unvaccinated kids, that they're going to have to go wear a mask on their own.

And I think we're going to need to ask schools, school districts, parents, everybody to be incredibly understanding and tolerant. You know, the bullying that goes on to begin with isn't a good thing. But we're going to be facing situations where people are going to be making their own decisions. It's going to be a little more challenging.

And I just hope parents realize that they should do whatever they think is in the best interests of their kids, and likewise for the kids.

BLACKWELL: So, let's talk about the best interests there.

And there are a lot of people who question the safety, the efficacy of the vaccines. They think it is in the best interests of their families to avoid them. There's a survey of those -- the reasons for those who are definitely or probably won't get COVID vaccinations.

We see that 51 percent of people are concerned about possible side effects. That's the top reason. But as we hear from the administration that there's the start of this campaign to combat disinformation, more than a third of people just don't trust the government.

I don't know if you ever reach those people with a government- sponsored campaign. What works here to try to get people to take this vaccine, the half of the country who have not taken it yet?

SLAVITT: Victor, the most astounding piece of information that's come out is, that of all the people that are unvaccinated, two-thirds of them believe or suspect is true one of five things that are provably false, things like that vaccine will alter your DNA, or that the vaccine itself will give you COVID-19.


Things that we know are scientifically false, two-thirds of people who haven't been vaccinated believe that. So we have to call out the social media platforms by name. We have to call out the bad actors like Tucker Carlson who perpetuate these myths by name.

And we do know that the good news is that they're about 10 percent of the public, adults, who haven't been vaccinated yet who are still considering it. And so some people are reachable. Unfortunately, they're reachable by these lies and this misinformation as much as they are from the truth.

So we need to combat this effort to essentially lie to people to prevent them from looking after their interests. Obviously, the record of these vaccines from an effectiveness and a safety standpoint is as positive as they can be, billions of people now around the globe vaccinated, very, very few cases of issues, and incredible effectiveness.

BLACKWELL: Yes, that map of the sea of red and cases rising in all 50 states shows that there is certainly a lot of work to do.

Andy Slavitt, thanks for being with us.

SLAVITT: Thank you, Victor.

CAMEROTA: OK, now to this. Parts of Western Europe are seeing the worst flooding in more than a century.

The death toll at the moment is 125 people across Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. But massive search-and-rescue operations are still under way for more than 1,000 people still missing.

In some areas, entire villages are flooded. Here's how one survivor described the moment that the water came rushing in.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): The water had such enormous power. We were in the House. It blew the door open and I was thrown against the chimney stove. That's how much pressure the water had when filling the house.


BLACKWELL: The damage in that town and many others is catastrophic.

Atika Shubert joins us now from Germany.

What are you seeing there?

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're seeing an incredible amount of destruction.

This behind me is a tree, a very large tree, that the water's just ripped up by its roots and deposited here on top of this bridge. You can still see some of the water rushing through at a pretty steady clip. Even though there hasn't been any rain today, the rivers are still swelling over.

So what we have seen is people just trying to pick up from their lives, trying to recover what they can.

The water swept through so quickly here that they barely had time to escape. Many of them were stranded on top of the rooftops. I'm just going to step over this tree here for a little bit to show you a little bit more of this river here.

This river is still moving quite quickly. We saw a chunk of a tree just bobbing along like it was a piece of styrofoam here. And that area there that's all clear, well, that used to be a bridge. There was a bridge there, but the waters just broke it down, swept it further downstream.

And all along the banks of the river here like many towns in Germany, or houses and residences. They're built specifically along the river. The water swept right through. And it's really incredible, the amount of destruction that we have seen, cars pushed to the side, garden sheds tipped over.

It's now the second day of recovery for this area. And so what we have seen is that people have been bringing all of their stuff outside just trying to recover and pick up the pieces, and they're just splattered in mud. But there's a kind of resilience here, people saying, well, this is

terrible, but we're going to try and clean up and move on from this. Unfortunately, we have also seen emergency crews here with sniffer dogs looking for our bodies. I think it's very likely that death toll that we have been seeing will rise -- Alisyn, Victor.

BLACKWELL: All right, Atika Shubert for us there, just really dramatic pictures for us. Thank you so much for being with us.

We're learning more about Donald Trump's final days in office. New reports detail the concerns of top military and State Department officials that Trump might look to start an international conflict to hold onto power.

We will talk to the author of a new book about the former president. That's next.

CAMEROTA: And two men arrested, charged with plotting to attack the Democratic headquarters in Sacramento. All the disturbing details ahead.



BLACKWELL: A new report details the breadth of conflicts that former President Trump had with his top military brass in the final days in office.

CAMEROTA: Reporter Susan Glasser in "The New Yorker" writes that, after the 2020 election, President Trump repeatedly brought up the subject of Iran with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs General Mark Milley. Milley had to argue against President Trump taking military action to strike Iran.

BLACKWELL: Here's some of Susan report.

"Milley was worried that Trump might set in motion a full-scale conflict that was not justified. Trump had a circle of Iran hawks around him and was close with the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who was also urging the administration to act against Iran after it was clear that Trump had lost the election."

Quote: "If you do this, you're going to have an F-ing war," Milley would say.

CAMEROTA: OK, you think that's compelling?

Listen to our next guest. He has a revealing and gripping new book on President Trump called "Frankly, We Did Win This Election: The Inside Story of How Trump Lost."

Michael Bender is also a White House reporter for "The Wall Street Journal."


STORY OF HOW TRUMP LOST": Thank you so much.

CAMEROTA: Your book is fascinating, all of the details that you have in there, all of the people you spoke to around the president, particularly as the wheels were coming off the bus at different times.

But let's just start with the title,"Frankly, We Did Win This Election." What is that based on?

BENDER: Well, I kind of think of it as one big title, Alisyn.


"Frankly, We Did Win This Election: The Inside Story of How Trump Lost" is really -- you have to get the whole bit of it to sort of get the joke there.

The first part is a direct quote from Donald Trump. And it's election night, November 3, after 2:00 in the morning. And this scene is in the book. His advisers forced him down into the East Room in order to address the nation on election results that are still in -- still undecided. It's not clear if Biden has won or Trump has won.

And Trump, in a moment no one was really quite surprised in, but shocked everybody, went off-script and declared victory without really a single shred of evidence.

BLACKWELL: Yes, he was hinting that before the election, though, that if he wins -- if he loses, that he was going to say it was rigged.

BENDER: Right.

BLACKWELL: So, as you said, nobody was really surprised.

CAMEROTA: It came to pass.

BLACKWELL: It came to pass, of course.

Let's go into some of the revelations in the book, because there's many interesting ones. I want to start here with former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in which you write he said: "'The crazies have take over, ' Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned a colleague. He conveyed concern to others that Mr. Trump might be more willing to engage in an international conflict to strengthen his political argument for remaining in office."

We just talked about Susan Glasser's reporting. Clearly, he wasn't the only one. Any indication how close the country was to getting into some military conflict?

BENDER: Well, I think that the concern from the top diplomat is emblematic of a concern that it was getting fairly close there.

I mean, I think you mentioned there's been a lot of reporting. There's been plenty of Trump books for decades, right? I mean, this is a -- but what this one does that no one else has is look at Trumpism in three ways.

We go behind the scenes in the Oval Office, behind the curtains at the campaign, and embedded with Trump supporters for two years on the road. And one of the takeaways, Mike Pompeo example being a good one here, is that this is not a book about the Trump chaos. We know the story of Trump chaos.

This shows how dangerous and reckless that some of the people closest to Trump thought he was for the country and how close to the brink we really did come to some very dangerous situations, this one. There's another situation in there where Trump tells Mark Milley and others, Mark Esper, others in the National Security Council that he wants to shoot Americans.

Peaceful protesters protesting civil rights abuses, he wants shot in the leg, shot in the foot, their skulls to be cracked, the president the United States making these orders.

CAMEROTA: He also wants somebody around him to be executed when it is revealed that during some of the protests outside of the White House President Trump and the first family were ferried into a bunker for their safety.

He did not want anybody to know that he had to take cover in the bunker. You write: "Trump's top military, law enforcement and West Wing advisers knew he must be upset when he summoned them to the Oval Office for a meeting first thing in the morning, several hours before he usually emerged from the residence.

"Those suspicions proved correct. Trump boiled over about the bunker story as soon as they arrived and shouted at them to smoke out whoever had leaked it. It was the most upset some aides had ever seen him. 'Who ever did that, they should be charged with treason, ' Trump yelled. 'They should be executed.'"

Why was he so exercised about being kept safe in the White House?

BENDER: I mean, this is a really, really key moment in the race, in the year, and revealing of where Trump's mind was.

It's in the middle of the summer -- or early in the summer, in the middle of the year, June, June 1, when he is talked to -- he wants to use the Insurrection Act to bring military troops into major American cities to put down protests.

He ends up bringing his top advisers in one of the most controversial political moments, photo-ops that we will ever see in front of St. John's waving the Bible. And behind -- and what is underscoring all of this is that he's furious that news has leaked out by our good friends at "The New York Times" that he had been taken into a bunker for a night when the protest got too close to the White House, a safety measure that security -- that Secret Service would do for any president.

But he saw that as a sign of weakness on his part. He took this -- this is where he started to take it personally. And he's lashing out at people who were -- could have put a very dangerous situation in play for the country.

BLACKWELL: These protests, of course, started after the video was released of the murder of George Floyd.

And this element, I find especially interesting, what the president thought vs. what he said about law enforcement.

You write that he said -- quote -- "'I know these F-ing cops, ' Trump said and recalled stories he had heard growing up in Queens about savage police tactics. 'They can get out of control sometimes. They can be rough.' Trump's assessment struck some in the room as surprisingly critical of police. And the president showed a level of empathy for Floyd behind closed doors that he would never fully reveal in public. He tried -- had he tried," rather,"it might have helped dial down the tension."


Of course, we never heard that from the president.

BENDER: That's right.

BLACKWELL: And it likely would not have resonated with all those people showing up at his rallies, of course.

BENDER: Right.

And I think that's definitely part of it. But he's a very visual learner, right? He reacts more to video and what he sees on screens than printed word or in books. But he -- they show him the video. And I also point out here in the book that it does take him a day or two to watch the video, which is obviously a lot longer than most Americans watched this.

And it is -- it's a gruesome, disturbing video, and he was affected by it. And he was affected in the moment by it. But what happens is, he sees -- he looks up and then he sees all of the protests. And he sees protests coming from the black community, which obviously is an indication of decades and centuries of race -- of shouldering racism in large and small ways on a daily basis.

Nothing to do with Donald Trump. But he sees that as -- he takes it, again, in very personal terms. He had shepherded some criminal justice reform laws. He had secured some money for HBCUs. And in his mind, he wants to -- he assumes that that means that the black community is going to automatically support him and views those protests as a sign that none of that did any good.

And, really, the reality is, is that one has nothing to do with the other.

CAMEROTA: So, Michael, in our final seconds here with you, because you embedded with the Trump supporters for so long, and really had -- got a handle on their thinking, why do they support and elevate and revere someone who is such a sore loser, and he has such a track record of making things up from whole cloth, and his lies have been documented?

What is that magic?

BENDER: Yes, so I embedded with some people, a group called the Front Row Joes.

And these are retirees are a little bit older. And this is not like -- I'm not talking about the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers or anything like that, people who are involved in politics for the first time, maybe didn't have kids or estranged from their families.

And what they found around Trump at the Trump rallies were people who also liked going to these rallies. And it gave them a sense of community and made their lives fuller and richer. And they started standing up for themselves at work at Walmart in the patio and garden department telling the boss like when they did want to take days off, and emboldened them in their own relationships and in a lot of positive ways in their lives.

But what I document through the book is just how they're misled on COVID first and foremost, and then finally in the end on the big lie, and told -- they have been told so often that Trump can't lose, if there's -- unless there's fraud, that we end up with January 6.

And it's still important right now, it's still a relevant question right now about what's bringing these people out, because he's drawing thousands to Ohio last month. This month, he drew thousands to Florida.

And he's going to be obviously a very important political figure for the next couple of years at least.

CAMEROTA: I think you have hit the nail on the head. Tribal -- our tribal nature is really strong. We do like finding community.

Michael Bender, the book again is "Frankly, We Did Win This Election: The Inside Story of How Trump Lost."

Thanks so much for giving us an insight into the pages.

BENDER: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Thank you, Michael.

BENDER: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: OK, the FAA is ordering inspections of all Boeing 737 planes -- the source of their concern next.