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Interview With Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ); Jeff Bezos in Space. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired July 20, 2021 - 14:00   ET



ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: This is the second championship team President Biden has now hosted since taking office earlier this month. He welcomed the World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers.

Thanks so much for being with us today. You can follow me on Twitter @AnaCabrera.

The news continues next with Alisyn and Victor.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Reach the edge of space and then return to Earth, 10 minute, 10 second trip. Took same-day delivery to a new level.

You like that?




CAMEROTA: I didn't know if you were going to say it. I really like it.


BLACKWELL: Listen, a short time ago, Bezos' space travel company, Blue Origin, released video from inside the capsule of this fully autonomous rocket ship called The New Shepard.

And you could see Bezos, his brother Mark, 82-year-old Wally Funk, and 18-year-old Oliver Daemen having a bit of a flip around here. It's a little tighter than I expected. But do you care if you're leaving Earth?

CAMEROTA: They seemed to be having a grand old time.

BLACKWELL: It looks like it's fun.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is it everything you thought it would be?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hey, look, Oliver, move your head just a little.

FUNK: Oh, that's great.


CAMEROTA: I couldn't tell if they were hugging each other or just running into each other.

In a feat of engineering, the rocket's booster is recyclable. It landed back in its designated spot, so it can be reused, which is a major advance that could keep costs down for future space travelers.


RACHEL CRANE, CNN INNOVATION AND SPACE CORRESPONDENT: See, we can see it right there, that pinpoint landing.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: That's incredible.

CRANE: I mean, Anderson, that's a thing of beauty for Blue Origin. I mean, look at that thing. Nailed that landing.


CAMEROTA: So Bezos described this landmark moment as -- quote -- "the best day" and talked about his hope to make space travel more accessible for all.


JEFF BEZOS, FOUNDER, AMAZON: You got to do it the same way we did it with commercial airline travel. We are still at -- we're not even -- we're really almost in the barnstormer phase, right?

So, these are biplanes and they're flying into a farmer's field and charging a small price to fly people around for a few minutes in the air. That's what we're doing right now. But you know where that barnstorming phase leads? To 787s. And that's what we have to do.


CAMEROTA: CNN's Rachel Crane has had a front-row seat on all of this excitement.

So, Rachel, what does he mean? I mean, what is the next step? What happens now?

CRANE: Well, Alisyn and Victor, what happens immediately is celebration and ticket sales. I was just out at the landing pad with Bezos himself and his fellow

passengers, and they were basking in the glory of that booster that made that incredible landing.

Now, that was the third time that booster has been used after today's successful flight. But back to those ticket sales, I mean, we still don't know how much these are going to cost. But we do know that Blue Origin already has two flights lined up and paid for in 2021 alone.

Now, the company hoping to increase the pace of these flights. But today's flight was really a dream come true for Blue Origin's founder, Jeff Bezos, Mark Bezos, Oliver, but no one more so than Wally Funk, 82-year-old Wally Funk, breaking John Glenn's record of being the oldest person in space.

Now, she trained to be an astronaut back in the '60s, part of the Mercury 13. But she was never given the opportunity to fly because of her gender. But that all changed today. And she got her astronaut wings.

She was so excited, Alisyn and Victor, at this press conference. I mean, she really couldn't sit -- she couldn't stay in her seat. I was in the front row. And I thought she was going to leap into my lap.

Take a listen to what she had to say.


FUNK: I was going into space. And I want to thank you, sweetheart, because you made it possible for me. I have been waiting a long time to finally get it up there. I felt so charged. I was not nervous. I was just normal, normal person going up into space. And that's what I wanted to feel.


CRANE: So, Alisyn and Victor, a lot of people have thought Bezos was crazy to get into this capsule and go on this flight. That's because this vehicle had never flown humans before.

That was the historic first today. They'd had 15 consecutive successful test flights, but none of them have ever -- had ever been manned.


So, this crew, they were really guinea pigs. And at that press conference, I had the opportunity to ask Bezos about what his next steps were. Take a listen to what he had to say.


BEZOS: So I'm going to split my time between Blue Origin and the Bezos Earth Fund. The Bezos Earth Fund is about climate change and sustainability. And that is -- those two things, and there's going to be a third

thing, and maybe a fourth thing, but I don't know what those are yet. I'm not very good at doing one thing.


CRANE: Alisyn and Victor, we do know, as you just heard Bezos say, that he's leaning into his philanthropic endeavors and making an announcement today in that lane, announcing the two recipients of a new philanthropic endeavor, an award called the Courage and Civility Award, $100 million dollars going to CNN's Van Jones and also chef Jose Andres, going to their nonprofit of choice, no strings attached, he says, so $100 million going to CNN's Van Jones and chef Jose Andres -- Victor, Alisyn.

BLACKWELL: It was certainly remarkable to watch, exciting this morning to watch.

CAMEROTA: That was a wonderful surprise, it seemed, even to Van Jones.

BLACKWELL: Yes. Yes. Right.

So I was watching. And I said, why is Van Jones there? I turned up the volume, and $100 million.

CAMEROTA: It's like, what?

BLACKWELL: Congratulations to Van and all those charities that will benefit.

Rachel Crane, thanks so much.

CAMEROTA: So, CNN's Anderson Cooper caught up with Bezos and his younger brother, Mark, right after their flight. Here's what they said.


J. BEZOS: Amazing, I mean, really.

COOPER: When you landed, you said best day ever.

J. BEZOS: Best day ever. And I couldn't pick -- I couldn't pick a best part. Could you pick a best part? It was really -- I don't have the talent to put into words what we just experienced. I will try. But I don't.

COOPER: Was it different than you thought it was going to be?

J. BEZOS: My expectations were up here, and they were exceeded.

MARK BEZOS, BROTHER OF JEFF BEZOS: So I would say the zero g was certainly different than I thought it was going to be. And it was surprisingly natural to move around in that environment, which is not what I was anticipating. J. BEZOS: That's really true.

It felt like it was almost like we were evolved to be in zero g, even though I know that's impossible.

It was so serene and peaceful and calm and floating.

COOPER: Did you want to spend more weight -- like floating or looking out the window?

Which were you...


M. BEZOS: My favorite part was probably looking out the window while I was upside down.


J. BEZOS: The good news is you could do both at the same time. We also did toss some Skittles at each other and catch them in our mouths.

And we did some of the traditional zero g stuff.

COOPER: Was it different than it was going to be?

J. BEZOS: It was easier.

It's exactly what you're saying. The thing that was most different for me was the view of Earth. That's the thing I was surprised by. I had read a lot about it. I have read what astronauts have written about it. But it was more profound for me than I expected.

We see this giant atmosphere that we live in. We think it's big when we're here on the ground. You get up there and it's so tiny, Anderson. It's a small little thing. And it is fragile, and it gives you -- it kind of drives home that point that we know theoretically that we have to be careful with Earth's atmosphere. But it really makes it very powerful and real.

COOPER: Does this harden your commitment to space exploration?


BLACKWELL: All right, fascinating conversation there.

Let's bring in now particle physicist Don Lincoln. He's also the author of the book "Alien Universe: Extraterrestrial Life in Our Minds and in the Cosmos."

Don, I don't think I have ever spoken with a particle physicist. So this is a first for me. It's an honor to have you on the show.

When you watch what happened today, put it into context for us what happened. DON LINCOLN, PARTICLE PHYSICIST: Well, I think it was amazing.

I mean, the change from what NASA used to do, which would be to shoot a rocket up and have it come back down and crash into the ocean, vs. having a reusable spacecraft is amazing. And, of course, today's flight just shows that it's possible to take people up there and bring them back down.

So I'm very excited.

CAMEROTA: But, Don, explain.

I mean, to some of us, it feels like this is a billionaire's lark. That's great. I'm glad Jeff Bezos had his best day ever.

BLACKWELL: Yes, great day.

CAMEROTA: But what does it mean for the rest of us Earthlings? What is the significance of what they did going to this new frontier-ish and how will it affect the rest of our lives?

LINCOLN: Well, I mean, it would be just as exciting if Jeff Bezos and Branson nine days ago weren't in the capsule.

What matters is that we were able or that they were able to bring people up and bring them down. Now, the real thing is that it reduces the costs of flying in space by a huge amount. For instance, NASA's spacecraft, they shoot them up once and then land in the ocean.

It's kind of like if you drove to the grocery store and had to burn the car, and then you had to buy another car to go to the grocery store another time. So the fact that it's reusable, it....



BLACKWELL: Even particle physicists can have bad connections.


CAMEROTA: Technology does not work, even if you're a particle physicist.


BLACKWELL: You hate to it.

Thank you, Don.

CAMEROTA: All right. Today's triumph of science comes at a time when the country is dealing with science denial, of course, as you know, in the coronavirus pandemic.

BLACKWELL: So, top health officials testified before a Senate committee today talking about the disturbing rises in cases primarily among the unvaccinated.

Look at this. The U.S. is now averaging more than 34,000 new infections each day. Cases are surging in 44 states. Again, this is happening among the unvaccinated.

CNN's Erica Hill reports.


ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Dreams of a COVID-free summer turning into a nightmare.

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: The Delta variant now represents 83 percent of sequenced cases. This is a dramatic increase from -- up from 50 percent for the week of July 3. In some parts of the country, the percentage is even higher, particularly in areas of low vaccination rates.

HILL: Efforts to get more shots in arms hitting a wall with just under half of the population now fully vaccinated, as the unvaccinated fuel new surges in cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

WALENSKY: In areas where vaccine coverage is low, cases and hospitalizations are starting to climb again.

HILL: In the past two weeks, hospitalizations are up 50 percent. HHS renewing the nation's public health emergency this morning.

CHAD NEILSEN, U.F. HEALTH JACKSONVILLE: My greatest fear is that patients continue to pour in and we're unable to give them the care that they need because we don't have staff or resources.

HILL: Nearly half of California residents are now under mask mandates or recommendations.

In L.A. County alone, cases are up 700 percent in the last month.

DR. VIVEK MURTHY, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: You have got kids at home or you're immunocompromised and you're thinking, hmm, should I be more cautious and put my mask on when I'm going to indoor spaces, I would strongly consider that. This is not the time to let down our guard.

HILL: New guidance from the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends masks in schools for everyone over age 2, regardless of vaccination status.

But at least nine states have enacted legislation that prohibits local districts from requiring masks in schools. Some states have also banned public schools and universities from requiring the vaccine, some because it doesn't have full FDA approval.

Asked about whether he should be required in schools, like so many other vaccines, Dr. Fauci said:

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: I would not be surprised that in the future this is something that would be seriously considered.

HILL: A federal judge just ruled Indiana University can't require the vaccine for those returning to campus. Opponents have vowed to appeal the decision.

FAUCI: We have the tools to end this epidemic. It is up to us to utilize those tools to their maximum.


HILL: Look, we know the vaccine works. It works against the Delta variant. The reason the unvaccinated are at such higher risk now is because that one, the Delta variant, is spreading so much more quickly.

I just want to point out too there was a really remarkable moment earlier at this Senate hearing today. So Dr. Fauci was also testifying along with Dr. Walensky. And we have watched Dr. Fauci and Rand Paul have some back-and-forth before at these different hearings. It was clear today that Dr. Fauci was done, he was over it.

Take a look at this exchange.


SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): It is a crime to lie to Congress. Do you wish to retract your statement of May 11, where you claimed at the NIH never funded gain of function research and move on?



FAUCI: Senator Paul, I have never lied before the Congress. And I do not retract that statement.

I have never lied before the Congress, and I do not retract that statement.

This paper that you're referring to was judged by qualified staff up and down the chain as not being gain of function.


FAUCI: Let me finish.

PAUL: So, you're saying, when you take an animal virus and you increase its transmissibility to humans, you're saying that's not gain of function?


FAUCI: Yes, that is correct.

And, Senator Paul, you do not know what you are talking about, quite frankly. And I want to say that officially. (CROSSTALK)

PAUL: We don't know.

We know if it did come from the lab. But all the evidence is pointing that it came from the lab. And there will be responsibility for those who funded the lab, including yourself.

FAUCI: I totally resent...

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This committee will allow the witness to respond.

FAUCI: I totally resent the lie that you are now propagating, Senator.

That is not...

PAUL: You can't get away from it. It meets your definition and you are obfuscating the truth.

FAUCI: I'm not obfuscating the truth. You're the one...


FAUCI: ... to result in SARS-CoV-2.


PAUL: No one is saying those viruses caused the pandemic. We're saying they are gain of function viruses because they were animal viruses that became more transmissible in human. And you funded it.


PAUL: ... admit the truth.

FAUCI: And you are implying that what we did was responsible for the deaths of individual.


I totally resent that.

PAUL: And it could have been. And it could have been.

FAUCI: And if anybody is lying here, Senator, it is you.

This is a pattern that Senator Paul has been doing now at multiple hearings, based on no reality. He keeps talking about gain of function. This has been evaluated multiple times by qualified people to not fall under the gain of function definition.

I have not lied before Congress. I have never lied, certainly not before Congress. Case closed.


HILL: Case closed, according to Dr. Fauci.

I mean, it is remarkable, I think, when you watched Dr. Fauci today vs. what we have seen over the last, where are we now, 18 months at this point, more. He's had -- he's fed up. He's had it.

CAMEROTA: That was a doozy.

PAUL: You can't blame him.


CAMEROTA: That exchange was a doozy.

He's the most, as you point out, even-keeled person normally. I mean, he's sat for dozens and dozens of interviews with tough questions, challenging questions, and he has never -- I mean, that was a different Dr. Fauci. I agree with you.

BLACKWELL: He's never been that exercised on camera.


BLACKWELL: Yes. All right, Erica Hill, thank you so much.

HILL: Thanks, guys.

BLACKWELL: So, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, he is announcing his picks for the January 6 select committee. We will discuss the members he chose and what Speaker Nancy Pelosi is saying about giving her approval to those choices.

CAMEROTA: And are the Olympics in limbo? An organizer of the big Games not ruling out a last-minute cancellation.



CAMEROTA: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is not saying if she will except House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's Picks for the select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection.

BLACKWELL: You can see some of the picks here, actually, all five of them, and some of them are former President Trump's most vocal supporters, three election deniers among them who pushed the big lie that Donald Trump did not lose the 2020 election.

Congressman Jim Jordan tells CNN he's willing to talk to committee members about his conversations with the former president if he's asked.


MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Democrats say that you should testify before the select committee because of your conversations with Trump.

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): I talk to the president all the time. I talked with him last week, so...

RAJU: Would you talk to them?

JORDAN: Well, if they call me. But, I mean, I don't know why.

RAJU: But if they said -- if they asked you to come, you would say sure, you would talk to them?

JORDAN: Well, yes, if they call me. I got nothing to hide. I didn't do anything wrong.


BLACKWELL: Joining us now is Democratic Congressman Ruben Gallego of Arizona. He was on the House floor when that mob attacked on the 6th, and helped some of his colleagues out of the House chamber.

Congressman, thanks for being with us.

I first want to get your reaction to the list of these additions to the committee, potentially. Three of them voted to object to the 2020 Electoral College. Two of them also signed on to that Texas lawsuit that challenge the votes from some swing states. Your reaction to the choices?

REP. RUBEN GALLEGO (D-AZ): Well, look, this is Kevin McCarthy's attempt at basically bringing a clown show to Congress, especially with the lead clown being Jim Jordan.

This is a very serious event. There was an attempted insurrection. We have police officers that died. We had police officers that were injured. And the fact that Kevin McCarthy still is not taking this serious tells us more about who's in control. And that's more likely Donald Trump than Kevin McCarthy.

So the fact that Donald Trump's making the calls and who is on this committee, I think, should really disturb us, because that's the person that at the end should be investigated in this whole process.

BLACKWELL: Well, Speaker Pelosi has the final call here. And she told our Manu Raju that their votes on the 6th, that's not a criterion for if they will be appointed to the commission. Should that be one of them?

GALLEGO: I certainly think it should be one of them. That doesn't have to be the whole equation.

But certainly allowing someone like Jim Jordan, who is a -- again, a walking clown show, on to a very serious committee is just ridiculous idea.

That'd be like putting someone of that caliber on the 9/11 Commission, something that I think everyone took very seriously. So you can't have that type of distraction for something that we seriously have to investigate. With Jim Jordan, all he really does is throw bombs and will just basically obstruct for the president and overall the whole investigation.

BLACKWELL: I want to get your reaction to something that Jim Jordan said in just a moment, but just so we clear this up, a vote to object to the certification of those electors, you don't believe that should be a disqualifier to be a part of the committee?

GALLEGO: I think it has to be part of it. It has to be part of overall their whole portfolio of what they have done since they have gotten to Congress, what they have done since January 6.

It'd be difficult, I think, for us to start knocking out a lot of Republicans, because most of them did vote in a majority for questioning the vote. But, again, it's also your comportment since January 6. And Jim Jordan has been an unabashed obstructionist for the president and, again, is just not professional enough to be on this very serious select committee.

BLACKWELL: All right, here's that aforementioned statement from Jim Jordan, I want your reaction the other side.


JORDAN: We know what this is about. This is about going after President Trump. I mean, the Democrats, they don't want to talk about anything else. So they got to talk about this.


BLACKWELL: What do you say to that?

GALLEGO: Well, this is about not -- this is about us stopping another insurrection.

And it's not just Donald Trump. It's the enablers like Jim Jordan, like the Stephen Millers, people that were in the media, in the punditry world that helped build up the insurrection of January 6.

So it's not just about Donald Trump. This is about our country. It's about our country and preserving democracy and the safe transference of power from one party to another. And that's why Jim Jordan wants to distract about this, because once we start getting down to the meat of it, we're going to see that there were certain Republicans and certain Trump enablers that really put this country on a lifeline, and nearly destroyed our wonderful democracy.


And this is why people like Jim Jordan should not be anywhere near this select committee.

BLACKWELL: Yes, as I mentioned, you were at the Capitol that day.

And we now have the first sentence for one of the rioters. Paul Hodgkins pleaded guilty to obstructing the congressional proceedings. Sentencing guidelines were 15 to 20 months. Prosecutors wanted 18. The judge sentenced him to eight.

You believe that's too lenient. What's the message from that sentence?

GALLEGO: Well, the message from that sentence, especially for many of them that are being prosecuted right now, is to try to hold out and see if you could at minimum get eight years.

I think there was a very bad decision made by this judge. I know people that have been busted with small amounts of weed that are spending more time in jail, and this person tried to get themselves involved in an insurrection.

And the excuse that they got taken up in the moment is not an excuse when you're a person of that age. So I'm very disappointed. I hope that that's not a trend that we're going to see. We seriously need to punish and harshly a lot of these insurrectionists, or else we will have another insurrection at some point.

BLACKWELL: One more before you go, Congressman, and this is on Afghanistan, leaning on your membership with the Armed Services Committee there in the House.

ISIS, a division of ISIS, has now claimed responsibility for rocket attacks near Kabul this morning, ISIS, not the Taliban. We know the Taliban is stronger there than it has been over the last 20 years. And U.S. troops are leaving over the next several weeks.

Are you convinced, are you sure that the U.S. will not have to go back or send troops right back into Afghanistan after leaving, considering what we're seeing there now?

GALLEGO: Look, I'm not convinced that we're not going to be somehow involved in one way or the other back in Afghanistan.

Certainly, what we're not going to be involved is another occupation, because, clearly, after 20 years, occupation has not brought any stability to Afghanistan, and we're just going to find ourselves in an endless rotation of troops there.

We have the capability to strike from afar. We have had the capability for quite a while. When it becomes a real threat to the United States, then I think we will take care of it then. But this idea that us having more troops there for another 20 years, an endless mission, in which Afghanistan does not stabilize itself, is not in our national security.

At the end of the day, we have to look out for our national security and hope that the -- and assist where we can with the Afghans stabilizing themselves. But, clearly, having thousands and thousands of troops there over 20 years has not made a difference. And we shouldn't really follow 20 years of bad experience with 20 more years of even worse experience.

BLACKWELL: All right, Arizona Congressman Ruben Gallego, thanks so much.

GALLEGO: Thank you for your time.

CAMEROTA: All right, be sure to watch tomorrow night as President Joe Biden joins Don Lemon for an exclusive CNN presidential town hall. That's live tomorrow night 8:00 p.m. Eastern, only on CNN.

All right, coronavirus cases in children are on the rise and a top health official in Arkansas is predicting -- quote -- "significant outbreaks" in schools this coming year.

So we're going to talk to a doctor about the rise in cases of children who are actually in the ICU.