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Republican Opponents of Trump Raising Big Money; Climate Change Impacts; Pandemic of the Unvaccinated. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired July 16, 2021 - 15:00   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: New hour. And it is good to be with you. I'm Victor Blackwell.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: And I'm Alisyn Camerota.

The head of the CDC now calls the coronavirus crisis -- quote -- "a pandemic of the unvaccinated." Unvaccinated people are fueling the increase of infections that we're seeing in every state. More than 30 states are experiencing a surge of 50 percent or more this week, as you can see by all of the deep red across that map.

Meanwhile, vaccinations are down to 300,000 a day.


DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: 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.

And communities that are fully vaccinated are generally faring well.


BLACKWELL: And the surge of new cases is offering this greater opportunity for variants to emerge. The World Health Organization is also warning of a strong likelihood of new variants which could be more dangerous and more difficult to control.

We're going to go now to CNN's Stephanie Elam in Los Angeles County, where officials are bringing back a mask mandate even for those who are fully vaccinated.

So what led to this decision, Stephanie?


It's really easy when you just take a look at the data, Victor and Alisyn. It's really clear what is happening here. And just to paint the picture on why we're here, since the state reopened on June 15, L.A. County has said that they have seen a 700 percent increase in the number of cases that are coming through.

They're also saying that if you look at the test positivity rate, at June 15, it was about half-a-percent. Yesterday, it was 3.7 percent. So they're saying these numbers are showing us that everything's going in the wrong direction.

There have been 1,000-plus new cases every day for the last seven days. So that is why they're saying beginning tomorrow night at 11:59 p.m. local time, masks will be required indoors, whether you're in a restaurant, if you're inside a store, you're going to the theater, wherever you're going, restaurants as well. So it's going to be like where you sat down before, take your mask off after you order, that type of thing again.

All of this because they're trying to slow down the transmission. And they're saying this is for everyone involved. And now you have got a lot of people here who have at least gotten one shot. I think the actual number here in L.A. County for residents 16 and older is almost 70 percent that have gotten one shot.

What needs to happen here is that people need to remember that they have got to go back and get their second shot if they have Pfizer or Moderna, the J&J obviously being one shot, but getting those people to be fully vaccinated. And they're saying that there's still nearly four million people in L.A. County -- and we're a county of about 10 million people -- that still are not vaccinated.

And that's what they want to do. Earlier this week, just to let you guys know, the county also said everyone who was hospitalized with COVID was not vaccinated.

CAMEROTA: Those numbers are stunning. When it's 100 percent of something, it really takes away the second-guessing of what's causing it.

Stephanie Elam, thank you very much for all that reporting.

Also today, a significant step for the Pfizer vaccine and full FDA approval. The FDA just granted the company a priority review designation.

BLACKWELL: Well, that means a goal date has been set to have a decision in six months, so by January 2022, but the FDA could make its final call before that. A White House official believes the FDA could announce its decision in just a few weeks.

CAMEROTA: OK, now to this. The consequences of climate change, they are on full, disturbing display in two parts of the world right now.

So, in the Western United States, there's extremely high temperatures and drought conditions that are fueling all of these very dangerous wildfires, as you can see on the left side of your screen, more than 71 big wildfires burning right now. Then, in Western Europe, catastrophic flooding on the right side of

your screen that's killed at least 125 people, and more than 1,000 others are still unaccounted for.

BLACKWELL: So let's bring in Atika Shubert. She's in Germany. Josh Campbell is in Los Angeles.

And started with Atika, you're showing us around some of just the really dramatic pictures, trees, cars in piles ripped up. What are you seeing there?

ATIKA SHUBERT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, last time, I was close to the river. We have now moved slightly into town. And you can see just how widespread the destruction is.

The water just picked up cars and deposited them here. You can see this one wedged in between these two cars here, another one flipped upside down there. And this whole street was just blanketed with mud and debris.

If you look on the other side of the street, a lot of townspeople are hearing now completely covered in mud, trying to recover their belongings. These are dining tables, beds, whole household items that have just been picked up and thrown around town by the floodwaters. It is an incredible amount of destruction. There's still a lot of emergency crews coming through as well.


Unfortunately, like I told you before, I think that death toll is likely to rise. You have seen a lot of emergency crews going through with sniffer dogs, looking for any bodies. There are still a lot of people missing. So I think we're still going to have a few more days of some pretty grim news.

CAMEROTA: My gosh, what a horrible situation there.

Atika, thank you for that reporting.

And now let's talk about the wildfires, where Josh is.

Josh, you have a feel for these firefighters. I'm sure they're exhausted. How are they handling all of these at the same time?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: It truly is an all-hands- on-deck moment right now.

And just to take a look at what the preparation level is, the national agency responsible for coordinating has raised the alertness to the highest state of alert. We're talking about planning level five. That's because they're continuing to see these wildfires continue. They're seeing these large, complex fires.

This new designation means that 80 percent of the firefighters available are now dedicated to these incidents. It also means that all federally qualified firefighters are now on standby, ready to assist. And as we see the federal government responding, states are also helping out their neighbors.

We're learning this week that the state of California is sending resources up to Oregon to help that state battle the so-called Bootleg Fire that continues to ravage so many parts of Oregon. Now, just to give you a sense of where we are today vs. last year, take a look at this graphic from Cal Fire.

This time last year, there were nearly 40,000 acres that were burned here in California. Today, we're talking about over 140,000 acres, 100,000 more acres ablaze here in this state vs. last year. It shows you just how widespread of an issue this is.

And, of course, as we see these compelling images, we cover so many of these fires, we also have to focus on the cause. Experts tell us that climate change remains a key driver here. Take a look at this quote from Cal Fire.

They say that: "While wildfires are a natural part of California's landscape, the fire season in California and across the West is starting earlier and ending later each year. Climate change is considered a key driver of this trend."

And I can tell you just what is so baffling, covering these fires, as we hear from witnesses, as we hear from people who have lost their livelihood, who have lost loved ones, as you mentioned, the firefighters that are out there bravely fighting these battles in sweltering heat with dozens and dozens of pounds of gear trying to triage whose home gets saved who doesn't.

It is truly agonizing and stunning to think that this is manmade. And, of course, experts continue to tell us this is real. Climate change is here. This is not academic.

CAMEROTA: It certainly is not. We are watching it.

Josh Campbell, Atika Shubert, thank you both.

Up next: Some conservatives are up in arms over a White House effort to stop COVID misinformation online. We're going to get into the free speech fears.


QUESTION: The big concern, though, I think for a lot of people on Facebook is that now this is Big Brother watching you.

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: They're more concerned about that than people dying across the country because of a pandemic where misinformation is traveling on social media platforms?


CAMEROTA: Plus, Vice President Harris just wrapped up a meeting with a group of black women who were arrested during a voting rights protest at the Capitol.

One of them joins us live with their next move.



BLACKWELL: This really is pretty frustrating, the map that we're seeing, all 50 states now seeing a resurgence of positive COVID cases.

CDC officials are convinced the surge is driven by unvaccinated Americans. And the White House is now asking social media companies to help them combat COVID-19 disinformation, arguing it's impeding progress in the pandemic.

The president was just asked minutes ago about this as he was leaving the White House.


QUESTION: On COVID misinformation, on COVID misinformation, what's your message to platforms like Facebook?


I mean, it really -- look, the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated. And that's -- and they're killing people.


CAMEROTA: But some Republicans are attacking that move.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy tweeting -- quote -- "Big tech and big government want the same thing, to control you."

BLACKWELL: And this from Senator Josh Hawley: "So now the Biden administration is using Facebook to impose its COVID-19 speech code. The social media platforms are increasingly just arms of the federal government and the Biden White House."

Let's talk about this now.

CNN political commentator Ana Navarro and Jeremy Hunt here. He's a conservative writer, Army veteran and Yale law student.

Jeremy, I want to start with you.

You think that this effort by the White House to combat disinformation and misinformation won't work. Why?


I mean, well, first off, people keep saying that the Biden administration is cracking down on big tech and Facebook. But really what they're doing is, they're just using Facebook and big tech to crack down on the free speech of many Americans in this country who have some concerns. And, look, I just -- I think the first thing we have to ask, what is

leading people to flock to misinformation? And I think the root of it is that a lot of people have -- distrust government.

And as a student of history, I mean, I can see where they're coming from in a lot of this, but -- so the way to combat that is by us talking to people, reaching out to communities. I'm vaccinated. My wife and I, we have worked hard to talk to our friends and loved ones about it, having those tough conversations.

But when the Biden administration makes it their aim to crack down on free speech and go door to door, it really undermines a lot of those efforts a lot of people around this country are trying to make in growing support for the vaccine.


CAMEROTA: But, Jeremy, look, as you know, there's all sorts of cable hosts who are not just asking questions. It may be it's their free speech, but they are planting lots of misinformation and doubt about the vaccines.

And when you look at the map, Jeremy, I mean, just look at this sea of red right now that we're dealing with. In every single state, we almost had -- we had a few days where it was all green. And now we're back in all red.

Is that freedom of speech to you? I mean, is this a victory for conservatives that we're back here?

HUNT: I think we have to ask, well, what will work? What will reverse the trends that we're seeing? What will work to make the trends on that map disappear?

And I can tell you right now that these kind of draconian measures, the cracking down of free speech, that's not the way to do it. The way to do it is by making inroads in local communities, talking to local pastors, local community leaders, and having those tough conversations.

But the way to be sure that the vaccine rates continue to decrease is by cracking down on free speech. And so I think that we have to look at, what is the remedy that will actually fix the issue? And that's what I'm here to share.

CAMEROTA: Ana, Jeremy has said cracking down on free speech three, four times now, so we know that there's a line he's trying to sell.

What do you believe about what we're seeing from the Biden administration?

ANA NAVARRO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Look, I think it's desperate times take desperate measures type of approach here.

And I think it's very scary when you see the trend. I can tell you, as a Floridian, I am dismayed and heartbroken to see where we are in the state of Florida, where the cases this last week have almost doubled from the week before. We're almost at 45,000 cases. One out of every five new cases is coming out of Florida.

And in the meantime, you have got Governor Ron DeSantis, who I just saw work in a cooperative manner with the Biden administration and the mayor of Miami-Dade when it came to the Surfside collapse.

But now he is playing to the cheap seats. He is preying on those who want to turn this into an outrage and wedge issue and selling beer cozies, profiting and making campaign money off of COVID and minimizing the pain of those who have lost loved ones in Florida and across the country.

I think that's grotesque. And I think it's irresponsible. And I don't think this should be a political issue. Look, I commend Republican governors like Jim Justice of West Virginia, Asa Hutchinson in Arkansas, Mike DeWine in Ohio, Larry Hogan, who have been out there exhorting their constituents to get vaccinated and figuring out ways to make it more popular amongst all those constituencies.

That's what we all should be doing, because this idea of spiting ourselves, of harming ourselves in order to own the liberals is just, frankly, stupid.

And people like Ron DeSantis. I mean, for God's sakes, he's a magna cum laude from Yale. He knows better than this. What he is doing is irresponsible and it is grotesque.

CAMEROTA: Jeremy, I just want to understand your position a little bit better.

When people like Tucker Carlson say at night maybe the vaccine doesn't work and they're simply not telling you that, or when Laura Ingraham says there's nothing more anti-democratic and anti-freedom than basically the vaccination effort, is that irresponsible, to you?

HUNT: Yes, so I think we have draw a distinction on, what is misinformation, right?

I think it is perfectly fine for people to ask questions. In fact, I think that actually might lead to positive results. If people are asking questions and actually engaging on these issues, I think we will actually see a lot of these trends reversed?

CAMEROTA: Right, but the question--


CAMEROTA: But hold on.

Let me just -- I'm sorry, Jeremy. Let me just interrupt you, because the way Tucker Carlson often phrases it is in a question. Maybe the vaccines don't work.

We know they work. That's not just a question. That's misinformation. We know they work. Ask any emergency room doctor; 100 percent of their emergency rooms are unvaccinated. We know they work. So, that's -- is that just the question to your ears?

HUNT: What I'm saying is that the Biden administration is selling the American people a false dichotomy.

They're saying that either we're going to have decreased rates of vaccinations or we will have to crack down on free speech. There are many of us that look at this issue and say, actually, we can increase vaccination rates without having to do it on the backs of Americans who just want to share their concerns in a public forum.

So I think we can do both/and. I don't think we have to accept this false dichotomy that we're getting from the Biden administration right now.

BLACKWELL: Ana, we heard from the -- go ahead. You jump in.

NAVARRO: No, listen, I just -- Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, all of these social media platforms have policies.

And what I think people need to ask them to do is enforce those policies. And, certainly, the policies include not allowing misinformation when it comes to something as important as COVID, not allowing things that put people in danger.


And I -- one of the things that I wish we did more of is remind everyone, remind people that these vaccines were developed during the Trump administration. They were -- they went through an expedited approval under the FDA managed by the Trump administration.

Ivanka Trump is vaccinated. Ron DeSantis is vaccinated. Donald Trump is vaccinated. Melania Trump is vaccinated. Guess what? They're all Floridians.

In the meantime, in the meantime, you have got my governor trying to make this into a political issue. We saw -- we just saw what happened at CPAC, where people cheered when there was a conversation about not having the vaccines.

So let's not pretend that this has not become a political wedge issue exploited by the right as they play to the cheap seats in order to get people out to vote based on fear and outrage.

Let us not pretend that that is not happening.

BLACKWELL: Yes, we put up on the screen the "Don't Fauci My Florida" T-shirt.

He's also so selling this beer cozy, this cooler,"How the hell am I going to be able to drink a beer with a mask on?" there in Florida.

CAMEROTA: It's hard to drink it with a ventilator also, by the way.

BLACKWELL: Yes, really tough to drink with a ventilator.

Jeremy, let me come to you.

NAVARRO: How the hell are you going to drink a beer if you're dead? How the hell are you going to drink a beer if you're dead?

And I speak as somebody whose husband was hospitalized for five days with COVID. And I speak as somebody who has family and friends who lost loved ones because of COVID in Florida.

HUNT: Look, I want to say I hear your pain. I think it is horrible what this disease has done to our country.

I think that, most importantly, most importantly, we have to look at creative solutions to address this issue.


BLACKWELL: But is this a solution?

Is this a solution, Jeremy, when the governor of Florida is selling merchandise to raise funds on how the hell am I going to drink a beer from drinking -- if I'm wearing a mask or don't Fauci my Florida?

Is that solution-based?

HUNT: I can tell you that Governor DeSantis has a lot more trust with the people of Florida than the Biden administration does.

And that's what's key here.


BLACKWELL: That's also not an answer to the question.

HUNT: Look, building trust into communities and being able to tell people the positive reasons to get the vaccine.

And he's promoted the vaccine. So, I mean, look, we can get into the politics of it all.

NAVARRO: But that's exactly my point. Instead of promoting the vaccine, he's doing this, you know?

HUNT: But what I'm saying is that we cannot just completely default to whatever the Biden administration cooks up.

And, no, and we know a lot of people don't trust the social media companies either to enforce their policies fairly. We have seen the way they deplatform conservatives and shadowban people. No one trusts that they're going to actually enforce their policies fairly.

And we also don't even have a running definition of what actually means misinformation. Is it simply voicing a concern, asking a question? Will you be kicked off of Facebook for that?

So, we -- a lot of people have a lot of questions. And so I think it's fair to have a real dialogue about this, instead of trying to silence anybody who might have a different view.

BLACKWELL: Jeremy Hunt, Ana Navarro, we have to wrap it there.

HUNT: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: But the line from the president at the top here, saying that these social media companies -- he said -- quote -- "They're killing people. The only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated."

Thank you both for being part of that conversation.

CAMEROTA: Thank you, guys.

BLACKWELL: All right, just into CNN, Republican critics of President Trump bring in an impressive fund-raising haul, despite their primary challengers.

Plus, new details about the Biden administration's ongoing review of the origins of the coronavirus. The intelligence community now is giving new credence to the lab leak theory.



CAMEROTA: We're just getting some new numbers into CNN.

And fund-raising numbers are in for a host of Republican congressional candidates. Listen to this. It looks like the 10 who voted to impeach former President Trump are raking in the most donations.

CNN's chief congressional correspondent, Manu Raju, is on Capitol Hill.

Manu, this is a big headline.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and, look, it shows the enduring strength of incumbency in a lot of ways. And it's testing that against the strength of Donald Trump, who has vowed revenge against those 10 Republicans, vowing to find primary foes, endorse those primary foes, raise money for those primary foes, and defeat the Republicans who voted to impeach him for inciting the January 6 insurrection.

But what is important to show here, in the last quarter of this past year, the Republicans who voted to impeach are raising more money, a significant amount in some cases, than their opponents. Liz Cheney, for one, she announced earlier this week that she had raised $1.9 million in the last quarter. That is more than $1.6 million of her closest primary challenger.

Adam Kinzinger, one of the most vocal opponents of the former president, announced raising $806,000. He has a campaign war chest of over $3 million. That's 20 times more his closest challenger.

And the last congressman, Anthony Gonzalez, you see there on your screen, he has in this past quarter raised $600,000. It's more of a narrow advantage over his opponent, but he does have more than three times the amount of the cash on hand of his foe.

And, of course, Donald Trump went to Ohio to campaign against Anthony Gonzalez. And I asked him about that campaign event. And he told me, he says: "I could care less what Donald Trump says about me."

So, he's not too concerned. We will see what happens next November.

CAMEROTA: OK, Manu, thank you.