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Jeff Bezos in Space; Delta Variant Rising; Trump Ally Indicted. Aired 3-3:30p ET.

Aired July 20, 2021 - 15:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: All right, brand-new hour. I'm Victor Blackwell.

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

We're following some breaking news, because charges have been just leveled against a close ally of former President Donald Trump. His name is Tom Barrack. You will recognize him there from the inauguration and other things.

Let's find out what this is about.

Let's bring in CNN senior justice correspondent Evan Perez.

Evan, what happened?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, Victor, these are charges against Tom Barrack, who, as you mentioned, led the former president's inaugural committee.

He's charged with acting as an agent of a foreign power without registering with the Justice Department. In this case, he was working for his clients in the United Arab Emirates. And according to two prosecutors, when confronted with the evidence of this, he also obstructed. He'd lied to federal agents when they were questioning him back in 2019.

Barrack was a prominent donor to then candidate Donald Trump back in 2016. He played a big role at the Republican National Convention, helped extol obviously the virtues of having Donald Trump become president. And his influence grew, especially after his role in the inauguration.

According to prosecutors, he had enough juice, enough power within the Trump administration that he managed to get some praise of the UAE inserted into a may 2019 speech that President Trump was delivering. That's one of the things that the prosecutors list here as an example of the type of power and influence Tom Barrack has -- had during the previous administration.

They also mentioned that he promoted the candidacy of someone who the UAE wanted to be ambassador to that country within the administration, managed to provide information, non-public information to his clients back into UAE. None of this, of course, was disclosed to the Justice Department, which is the law.

So, right now, Barrack and two others are charged with violating the law known as FARA, as well as obstruction and with lying to federal agents, when -- in this case, when Barrack was questioned. Again, this is serious charges, when you consider the amount of influence and then how high up Barrack was as an adviser to the former president, the former administration -- Victor, Alisyn.

BLACKWELL: Evan, I know this is just breaking and maybe you don't have the answer to this, but Barrack was arrested. Do we know if he's in federal custody now or if he's been released?

PEREZ: We know he was arrested. We don't know exactly where he is. I mean, typically, what you have is he would appear in court. In this case, it appears he was not arrested in -- he's being charged by prosecutors in Brooklyn. It's not clear exactly where he is at this moment.

But he would be brought to face these charges in federal court in Brooklyn at a certain point. Again, he's under arrest at this point. We don't know where he is exactly right now.


CAMEROTA: All right, Evan Perez, thank you very much. Bring us more details as soon as you have them on this breaking news.

OK, turning now to the coronavirus. The head of the CDC told the Senate committee today that the highly transmissible Delta variant now makes up 83 percent of the sequenced cases.

BLACKWELL: And the nation's top health officials told senators the Delta variant is targeting the unvaccinated, who make up now nearly all of the COVID deaths and hospitalizations.

The U.S. is now averaging 34,000 new infections a day.

CAMEROTA: Let's bring in CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen.

Elizabeth, we know that the Delta variant is rampaging through the country. We know that it's so much more highly transmissible, but to hear that it's more than 80 percent of the cases that they know of, that they have sequenced, that's the highest we have heard of.


I mean, it feels, Alisyn, like we just started hearing about the Delta variant after the U.K. variant and the South African one. This Delta one feels new, but it's now 83 percent of the cases out there in the U.S. And that means in some parts of the U.S., it's actually even higher than that.

And one of the big reason for this is that the Delta variant is very clever at how it replicates. When it gets inside you, it makes copies of itself very, very quickly, and that makes you, in turn, much more likely to pass it on to someone else.

So let's take a look at what this means for unvaccinated people. When we look at everyone who is hospitalized in the U.S., 97 percent of them are unvaccinated.


When we look at people who've died recently in the United States, 99.5 percent of them are unvaccinated. Those numbers you would think on their own would be enough to convince people to get vaccinated.

Now, what does it mean if you are vaccinated? There is a chance that you will get infected with COVID-19. But the chances are very, very small that you will get sick enough that you will end up in the hospital. In other words, the vaccine protects you.

In the words of vaccine researcher Paul Offit, it keeps you out of the morgue, and it keeps you out of the hospital. And that's what vaccines are supposed to do.

BLACKWELL: Yes, we're getting it seems like every day some -- a few of these breakthrough cases, a White House official, a senior aide in speaker Pelosi's office. The latest too is also the U.S. gymnast and the Texas lawmakers who were in Washington.

Of course, you say that getting the vaccine, as we all know, is better than not having for protection. But when should we get tested to determine if we, vaccinated people, are positive?

COHEN: Yes, so the CDC, Victor, is actually quite specific about this.

They say, essentially, there are two situations, two conditions under which you should get tested for COVID-19 if you are vaccinated. Do get tested before and after international travel. That's what's recommended. Also, do get tested any time you have symptoms of COVID- 19, and the CDC adds if indicated. In other words, they're saying -- it's sort of their way of saying, if your doctor feels you should get tested because you have symptoms, go ahead and do it.

And those symptoms, of course, are things like cough and shortness of breath and fever and loss of sense of taste and smell. And what's interesting is they don't say to get tested if let's say you're vaccinated person who went and hung out at your friend's house for several hours and then your friend calls the next day and says, hey, guess what, I have COVID.

They say that they don't tell you to get vaccinated -- I'm sorry -- to get tested under those circumstances. If all you are is exposed, they are not telling you to get vaccinated. Some -- telling you to get tested. Now, some people think you should get tested. There are doctors out

there who say, if you have been exposed like that, do get tested, but the CDC is not telling people to get tested under those circumstances, only if you actively have symptoms.

BLACKWELL: All right. Good to know.

Elizabeth Cohen, thank you.

COHEN: Thanks.

CAMEROTA: So there were some hot moments during this hearing on Capitol Hill this morning. There was testimony from Dr. Anthony Fauci. And we also heard from Senator Rand Paul there. They were sparring again.

CAMEROTA: So, Senator Rand Paul accused Dr. Fauci of lying, and Dr. Fauci, at that point, had had enough.


SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): Dr. Fauci, knowing 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 in Wuhan?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: Senator Paul, you do not know what you are talking about, quite frankly. And I want to say that officially. You do not know what you are talking about.

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.


CAMEROTA: Dana Bash is CNN's chief political correspondent.

Dana, great to see you.

Dr. Fauci -- we have just been talking about how Dr. Fauci in every interview for the past 16 months that we have been talking to him, he's very even-keeled. He listens to everybody's questions. He tries to answer them. But that was a different tone than he had taken. It sounded like he had really sort of hit his limit.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Because this was not the first time, not even the second time, maybe not even the third time that he has had this kind of questioning from Senator Paul.

And it has gotten more and more tense, these exchanges, when Dr. Fauci has appeared before a committee in which Senator Paul is one of the committee members. But, as you said, you said it perfectly, he's done. He's had enough, Alisyn.

And it is because this started out as some kind of jockeying and using Anthony Fauci as a political punching bag. And an example of that some people, frankly, on the right -- and it's a precursor to this misinformation campaign we're seeing right now -- want to use him as an example of how what you're seeing, what you're feeling, what you're hearing with regard to COVID is not actually true.

And Rand Paul is somebody who has medical experience, who would know and should know that, when it comes to science, this particular line of questioning was a bit different, but, more broadly, what Dr. Fauci is accused of doing is changing the rules.

But the rules do change in science. That is how science works. You get more -- especially with somebody that is -- something that is a novel virus, like COVID, you, as a scientist, don't know everything about it. You have to follow what goes on.


And so the rules do change. The recommendations do change. The science changes. And so he had clearly had enough. And it's hard to imagine that he, in his mind, doesn't see Senator Paul as one of the original deniers, maybe not about the vaccine, but about the way that the government is and should function with regard to a pandemic.

BLACKWELL: Yes, certainly a passionate response from Dr. Fauci today.

You brought up misinformation in your comments there. And speaking of misinformation, this reporting, new from CNN, I find pretty fascinating.

White House has consulted FOX News over its COVID coverage, especially as the daily vaccine numbers have dropped. And it's happened regularly at a high level. I mean, it's not unusual for a network to -- the White House to reach out to a network, but FOX News?

What's your reaction to that reporting?

BASH: It makes sense. It really does.

And it makes sense because this is a news organization that is represented in the White House Briefing Room. And this is by name one of the one of the outlets, the media outlets that the administration has called out as one of the culprits of misinformation and, depending on the hour that you're watching, disinformation, almost intentional -- actually not almost -- intentional, lying about the vaccine and about its efficacy and why you should get it or shouldn't get it and so forth.

And so the fact that the administration, and the surgeon general in particular, went to the really unique length of calling out misinformation as a public health emergency or threat, why wouldn't they reach out to an organization like FOX?

And if there is a silver lining, I don't want to give them too much credit here, but if there is a silver lining, it appears that some of their hosts are starting to get the message. And why they're not -- while they're not having a telethon to vaccinate people who watch their network, they are -- some of the hosts are starting to take step towards -- steps towards -- forgive me -- the reality of how important a vaccine is.

BLACKWELL: But if it was regular that it was happening -- it took a while for it to break through.

CAMEROTA: Well, case in point, last night, it seems like something changed, because Sean Hannity, basically, it sounded like endorsed getting the vaccine.

So let's play for you the difference with what Sean Hannity said last night.


SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: Please take COVID seriously. I can't say it enough. Enough people have died. We don't need any more death.

Research like crazy. Talk to your doctor or your doctors, medical professionals you trust, based on your unique medical history, your current medical condition, and you and your doctor make a very important decision for your own safety. Take it seriously.

You also have a right to medical privacy. Doctor-patient confidentiality is also important. And it absolutely makes sense for many Americans to get vaccinated. I believe in science. I believe in the science of vaccination.


CAMEROTA: I mean, who knows how he got there, Dana. Who knows if it was because of these White House conversations, what the impetus was for him making that kind of statement last night, but kudos to Sean. People listen to -- the people who watch his show trust his judgment. And kudos to him for saying that the vaccine will keep you from being killed.

I mean, I'm paraphrasing, but it was something like that. And I don't know how he got there. But I think that was his version of a public service.

BASH: I totally agree.

And never mind the fact that this is the same man and the same network that was trying to get credit to and for Donald Trump for starting what he called Operation Warp Speed, for pushing the pharmaceutical companies to get the vaccine quickly.

I mean, that was a Donald Trump project. And how it was executed and dispersed around the country, that was definitely a Biden project. But can you think of any sort of conservative host, media figure who's closer to Donald Trump or had been historically than Sean Hannity? I can't. My question for you, Alisyn, is, does Sean Hannity have Tucker

Carlson's phone number, and do you think he can use it to call him and say, see what I did, can you do that too, because this is a public -- as you said, this is a public health emergency.

And we, as they, as media figures, and as people who -- for whom their viewers really, really take what they say seriously, they got to do it.

CAMEROTA: Yes, well, don't hold your breath, I would say. That's my first advice.


CAMEROTA: Don't hold your breath, because every show does their own thing over there.



BASH: Right. know.

CAMEROTA: So, we don't -- I don't know.

Obviously, I have no visibility into whether or not the White House is talking to Tucker Carlson's show. But I do know that something changed last night, because, earlier in the pandemic, Sean Hannity had even referred to coronavirus as a hoax. So something has changed.

And, again, however he got there is to be applauded.

BLACKWELL: Just glad he did. Yes.

CAMEROTA: Yes, let's just be glad for that message last night. That will help people.

BLACKWELL: Thank you, Dana Bash.

BASH: Good to see you guys.

BLACKWELL: Yes, likewise.

So, Jeff Bezos, he's now returned from the edge of space. He may not have beaten Richard Branson to the launch, but he did go further into space, so that's something.

CAMEROTA: Sixty-three miles into the sky.

BLACKWELL: Yes, that's great.

We are live in Texas next.


[15:20:20] CAMEROTA: Sixty-three miles straight up into the sky, then a perfect landing and nearly 11 minutes of weightless joy.

Blue Origin founder and former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos making history today, alongside his civilian space crew, as they traveled to the edge of space.

BLACKWELL: Bezos was joined by his brother and the oldest, also the youngest persons ever to travel into space. Inside the capsule, the team felt what it was like to be weightless for a couple of minutes .They even tried to eat floating Skittles.

CAMEROTA: That sounds important.

BLACKWELL: It would be on my list.


BLACKWELL: Bezos later described to CNN what it was like to gaze back at the Earth.


JEFF BEZOS, FOUNDER, AMAZON: 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.


BLACKWELL: Kristin Fisher, CNN space and defense correspondent, is at the site of today's launch.

Kristin, Bezos now sounds like a kid at the end of a roller coaster. He's saying again, again. He wants to do it again.

KRISTIN FISHER, CNN SPACE AND DEFENSE CORRESPONDENT: He wants to go again. And so does Blue Origin.

In fact, they are planning to more crewed flights of this new Shepard reusable spacecraft before the end of the year. And something else that Jeff Bezos was talking about when he was describing what it was like to be in space was, he said that, when you're weightless, when you're in zero g, he thought it felt so normal, so natural.

He said he got the sense that being weightless is what humanity is supposed to evolve to. And so this is -- it all kind of ties in and fits in to Blue Origin's grand vision, which is that, ultimately, many, many, many years from now, humanity is going to move heavy industry, mining, things of that nature that are detrimental to the planet and depleting resources, move all that into space, so you can preserve our resources, protect the planet, and protect the species.

So a lot of what Jeff Bezos experienced today, I think, really reinforced his founding mission for this company.

CAMEROTA: Kristin, Bezos also said that he wants to make tourism, space tourism travel affordable for the masses. Is that possible? What's the plan for that?

FISHER: Well, right now, it's certainly not possible, right?

I mean, the winner of this seat paid $28 million. The goal, of course, to lower that substantially. And so Jeff Bezos and Blue Origin's plan to do that is right in line with the company's motto, which is launch, land, repeat, launch, land, repeat.

They believe that by doing this over and over again, by reusing all of these rockets, that they will eventually be able to bring the cost down, so that maybe not everybody, but certainly more people than the elite few right now will ultimately be able to go into space.

BLACKWELL: All right, Kristin Fisher for us there at the launch site, thank you so much.

CAMEROTA: And be sure to tune in tonight to "A.C. 360" at 8:00 p.m. Anderson Cooper will be joined by the newly minted astronaut. Is that what we call him now, astronaut Jeff Bezos?

BLACKWELL: He made it 63 miles. It's space.

CAMEROTA: OK. Sort of.


CAMEROTA: I mean, isn't it sort of the edge or--

BLACKWELL: It's enough.

CAMEROTA: Well, Jeff Bezos will be on. And it'll be a great conversation.

BLACKWELL: All right.

CAMEROTA: OK, another new disturbing coronavirus statistic. More than 23,000 kids tested positive for COVID-19 last week, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

That's nearly double the number that was reported at the end of June. So, that increase comes as students across the country are preparing to return to school in just weeks. And, of course, there's this debate over masks in school. Will they be necessary? Will they not be?

BLACKWELL: Yes, more than a half-dozen states have banned local school districts from requiring masks.

Arkansas is one of those states. And, today, a top Arkansas health official says that he expects significant outbreaks.


DR. JOSE ROMERO, CHAIRMAN, CDC ADVISORY COMMITTEE ON IMMUNIZATION PRACTICES: We actually last year kept our schools open and did so successfully.

And that was in part because we had these physical distancing, physical barriers of spread, and didn't see large outbreaks. I expect to see this year significant outbreaks within the school system.



BLACKWELL: With us now to discuss all of this is Dr. Rick Barr. He's the chief clinical officer at Arkansas Children's Health System.

Dr. Barr, thanks for being here.

Listen, we know that you are treating children who have COVID-19. So let me ask you, for the children of Arkansas, not a national ban or mandate, but for the children of Arkansas, should masks be required when school returns, when they return to the classroom

DR. RICK BARR, CHIEF CLINICAL OFFICER, ARKANSAS CHILDREN'S HEALTH SYSTEM: We are highly recommending that all children wear masks over the age of 2 when they go back to school.

It's probably one of the most important things you can do to prevent transmission of the virus. But we're following the AAP recommendations and highly recommending to parents and to children that they were masks.

CAMEROTA: Dr. Barr, one of the things that we parents took solace in a year ago in this pandemic was that kids didn't seem to be getting very sick. But now there are kids -- are their kids in your hospital? And how sick are they?

BARR: Yes, this -- the Delta variant is different than what we're seeing.

We have 12 children admitted to the hospital now with COVID. That's triple our usual numbers we saw during the previous months of the pandemic. And they seem to be much sicker. Most of them are teenagers, and a number of them are in the ICU and had COVID pneumonia and acute respiratory failure on mechanical ventilation.


CAMEROTA: I'm sorry, Dr Barr. I just want to stop you for a second.

You have children, teenagers who are in the ICU on ventilators right now? I mean, that's just -- that does feel very different.

BARR: That does feel very different. We saw a number of children previously with the multiinflammatory

syndrome that occurs late after a COVID infection. We really hadn't seen the COVID pneumonia in children. We're seeing it now. And it's really scary. And those children are unvaccinated. We have not admitted a child to the children's hospital who has been previously vaccinated.

BLACKWELL: So every teenager there, everyone who's eligible to get the vaccine at your hospital has not gotten the vaccine?

BARR: No, they haven't.


BARR: And so we highly encourage parents to vaccinate yourselves and vaccinate your children as the best way to protect them.

BLACKWELL: Let me ask you also about this new study that's been announced by NIH about long COVID for children.

Of course, we have known for a while that adults have these lingering symptoms, and sometimes they get worse over time. Are you seeing evidence of long COVID in the children you have treated throughout this pandemic?

BARR: We have certainly seen prolonged effects of the multiinflammatory syndrome.

We had a number of children early on in the pandemic that developed kidney problems, heart problems that have persisted beyond the COVID infection. So, yes, it is something that we really worry about, we monitor for in children that have been diagnosed with a COVID infection.

CAMEROTA: Dr. Barr, I can only imagine how scary it is for the parents of the kids that you're talking about, the kids that you're treating who are in the ICU and who are on ventilators.

Have they -- I don't know if you have had any conversations with them. But have they shared with you that they didn't think that their kids could get this sick? I mean, is that -- was that part of their reasoning?

BARR: Well, they didn't think their kids could get that sick.

And we actually had one of our parents that went on the news and encouraged other parents to vaccinate their children, that please don't do the same -- act the same as she did, in not getting her daughter vaccinated.

I thought that was an incredibly powerful message, and to be coming from a parent.

CAMEROTA: Dr. Rick Barr, thank you for taking time to talk to us and getting the message out that it is time to -- for everybody to vaccinate their teenagers, because you are living proof of what can happen otherwise.

We really appreciate your time.

BLACKWELL: Thank you, Dr. Barr.

BARR: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: All right, any moment now, President Biden will hold his second full Cabinet meeting marking six months in office today.

CAMEROTA: So, the White House deputy press secretary is going to join us to tell us how the administration feels at this point, six months in, and the fight against coronavirus.