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Interview with Karine Jean-Pierre, White House Principal Deputy Press Secretary, Cabinet Meeting Focus on the Pandemic, Infrastructure and Climate Change; White House Holds Talks with Fox News Over Its COVID Coverage; Infrastructure Deal on Life Support as Key Senate Vote Looms; Biden Holds Second Cabinet Meeting Marking Six Months in Office. Aired 3:30-4p ET.

Aired July 20, 2021 - 15:30   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: This afternoon President Biden is holding his second full cabinet meeting to mark six months in office. The meeting is expected to focus on the pandemic, infrastructure, climate change and cyber security. And of course, the White House is still grappling with how to get more Americans vaccinated.

So joining us now is the White House Principal Deputy Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre. Great to see you again.

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE PRINCIPAL DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: Good to see you, Alisyn, good to see you as well, Victor.

CAMEROTA: Thanks -- for he's smiling.


CAMEROTA: He's answering hello.

OK, let's start with COVID. As of today less than half the country as you know is fully vaccinated. The delta variant is raging. This was the top priority for the incoming Biden administration. And then these past six months as well. So how frustrated is President Biden behind the scenes that he hasn't been able to persuade more Americans to get vaccinated?

JEAN-PIERRE: So Alisyn, let me step back for a second.


You know six months ago when the president walked into this White House, he had a very clear message for his team which is let's hit the ground running. And when we walked in, there wasn't a comprehensive vaccination program. As we know the economic -- there was a true economic crisis. COVID was at its highest. We were seeing 3,000 deaths a day, more than 180,000 cases. And we

were in a crisis. Multiple crises that this president had to deal with. And one of the major pieces of legislation that he signed into law was the American Rescue Plan. And what that was able to do was put doses in arms and now we see COVID cases go down. We have put -- we have given more than 2.3 --

CAMEROTA: But they are going back up. I mean I hear you but now this week they are going back up because not enough Americans are vaccinated.

JEAN-PIERRE: Well, yes, I just wanted to lay out a little bit what we have done in the six months. And I'll address that, Alisyn, for sure.

And what I was trying to say there was we have seen more than 2.3 million stimulus checks go out. And we have seen the child tax credit, which is historical, which is going to cut poverty by half which is something that was part of the American Rescue Plan. Look --


JEAN-PIERRE: -- what we're seeing now is certainly something that we are very aware of, that we are paying close attention to. And that's why our message has been clear on COVID which is people need to get vaccinated. We have to listen to the experts. We have to make sure that we're doing everything we can. We all play a role here. And so what we're doing, Alisyn, as you've heard us say many times, is we're going into the community, we're having those conversations, we're making sure those trusted voices are out there.

But we have seen some successes. Many would have said, I would argue, Alisyn, that a year ago or six months ago they wouldn't have thought we would have been as successful as we are now. And coming in September --

CAMEROTA: Look, I hear you, I mean I just know that you didn't hit your --

JEAN-PIERRE: -- nearly all closed schools are going to be open.

CAMEROTA: I'm sorry to interrupt -- but I just know that you didn't hit your mark. I mean I think that President Biden was more optimistic than I guess actually ended up paying off. I mean he thought he would be able to persuade more people. And I know that you're doing all of that stuff but he didn't hit his goal of July 4th.

JEAN-PIERRE: But we are going to hit that goal. But here's what's the most important. We're going to hit that 70 percent goal, which I think is the goal that you're speaking of, Alisyn.

Here's what is important, we are doing everything that we can and we have seen successes. We have seen Americans go out there and get vaccinated, which is so critical and really important as you were asking me about the delta variant. What we know and what the CDC has told us that if you are fully vaccinated, you are protected. Highly protected from this virus. Less likely to be in the hospital. Less likely to get really ill and sick.

And so this is the message that this White House is continuing to do and this is our focus moving forward because it is so critical, as you know, Alisyn, to make sure in order to get back to normal as we're kind of been seeing these last several weeks, we have to continue to work towards getting people vaccinated. And that's been the White House's message.

CAMEROTA: I do know that another one of your messages, and another one of your focus's is on misinformation and trying to stamp out misinformation. And we have new reporting that the White House has been in regular conversation with Fox News Channel about their coverage of the vaccine. So what's been your message to them?

JEAN-PIERRE: Well, here is the thing, as I was saying just a moment ago, everybody has a role to play in this. And it is so important to make sure that we get out the efficacy of COVID-19. How important it is to get vaccinated. So it's important to see personalities like on Fox and other networks because we have been talking to everyone, not just Fox about how to use their platforms in a way that's affective. So we are glad to see that. We are heartened to see that. Like I said everybody plays a role and it is critical and important that we communicate transparently to the American people.

CAMEROTA: Have you talked to Tucker Carlson?

JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I can't say specifically who we've spoken to but we have been in touch with the media across the board.

CAMEROTA: Well, last night Sean Hannity did something interesting and he gave a pretty full throated endorsement for him of the vaccines. I mean, he basically said I believe in science. I believe in science of vaccination. He suggested that it would save lives and that is different than we had heard. Do you think that that's a result of the conversations that you've been having?

JEAN-PIERRE: Well here's what I'll say, it is important to reach out to -- just like we're reaching out to CNN voters today to also Fox viewers -- voters -- CNN viewers, but also Fox viewers as well. Because all of that matters to make sure that the American public is hearing true, full and honest and transparent kind of you know feedback or explanations on what COVID-19, the importance of getting COVID-19 and that vaccine.


Because it does save lives. What we're seeing right now -- and the president has said this -- right now, the pandemic is for the unvaccinated. And more than 97 percent of people who are in the hospital are people who are not fully vaccinated. And that should not be the case because there is a way to truly deal with this. And that is getting fully vaccinated.

CAMEROTA: I want to move on to infrastructure. We're just getting some reporting that Senate Republicans, all of them, plan to block the procedural vote that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer had planned to hold on infrastructure tomorrow. Republicans basically say that it's premature to have that procedural vote because they don't know the details of what would be in the bill. What will President Biden do if negotiations on infrastructure break down?

JEAN-PIERRE: Well, let me first say, let's see how tomorrow goes. We strongly support Senator Chuck Schumer's push to move this forward. What we're seeing tomorrow is a procedural vote, is a vote to move this forward, a vehicle. We're not -- they're not voting on the full piece of legislation just yet. But it is a vehicle. And it is critical to move this bipartisan infrastructure framework forward, which by the way, was -- which was announced here not too long ago. Not far from where I'm standing here in front of you today.

So the president is proud of that framework that he came together with, Republicans and Democrats. And look, the past 24 hours, Republicans, Democrats and Chuck Schumer's team has been working very, very hard dealing, trying to come up with solutions on things that -- on issues that have come up. So that is incredibly important. We'll see how tomorrow goes. But we support --

CAMEROTA: So you're still hopeful. I mean even though there's the reporting that the Republicans say that they are not going to vote for this procedural vote, you think something might change in the next 24 hours.

JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I mean -- I'll say, look, Alisyn, I'll say this -- this bipartisan infrastructure framework has bipartisan support from governors, from mayors. We're talk about labor leaders, business leaders and even when you look at polling, we saw polling this weekend, 59 percent of American voters support the bipartisan infrastructure framework.

So this is not about red states or blue states. This is about the American people. We're talking about a real investment in infrastructure, roads, rails. When you're looking at, you know, the electric vehicle that we've talked about, you know, clean water. This is what we're talking about here. Something that we haven't seen in a generation.

So it's critical and the president is going to continue to talk about that and White House officials you'll see them and as they have been these past several weeks continuing to work with Congress.

CAMEROTA: Karine, I know I have to let you go soon. But I just have one last question which is January 6th -- the Select Committee. Kevin McCarthy has now chosen his five Republicans. Three of whom voted to overturn the election results. OK, so three of these folks are not people who are rooted in reality. So how much confidence does the White House have that this Select Committee will actually be able to get to the bottom of what happened on January 6th and what President Trump's role was?

JEAN-PIERRE: Well, I'll say this, Alisyn, the president has complete confidence in Speaker Pelosi. From what we understand she's currently reviewing the minority leader's selection what he put forward as you just mentioned and so leave that in her hands. Like we said, we have complete confidence in her. But the president

has not, you know, has not waivered at all, He's been very clear what we saw on January 6th was an attack on our democracy and we need to make sure we have an independent, straightforward, clear committee to get to the bottom of what happened on January 6th.

CAMEROTA: Karine Jean-Pierre, great to see you. Thanks so much.

JEAN-PIERRE: Great to see you, Alisyn, thank you so much.

CAMEROTA: For coming on NEWSROOM, see you again.

JEAN-PIERRE: Absolutely, thanks.

CAMEROTA: Be sure to tune in tomorrow night. President Joe Biden joins Don Lemon for an exclusive CNN Presidential Town Hall. That's tomorrow at 8:00 p.m. right here on CNN.

BLACKWELL: So we're just three days from the opening ceremonies of the Tokyo Olympics. With dozens of coronavirus cases already linked to the games and its CEO says that there's a possibility it could all be cancelled. We'll go live to Japan, next.



JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- where I think we are and the job you're doing the first six months.

First, the pandemic. I know folks are watching the number of cases rising again and wondering, quite frankly, what it means to them? But overall, overall COVID-19 deaths are done dramatically, dramatically in these last six months. About 90 percent down due to our vaccination program. And I want to thank you all for the great job you did in getting that done.

But we have to stay vigilant, especially with the delta variant that's out there. While COVID-19 cases are rising, virtually all of the COVID deaths, virtually all of the COVID deaths and hospitalizations are from unvaccinated people. Let me say it again, virtually all are from unvaccinated people. And that means the safest thing to do is to get vaccinated, get vaccinated. And that's why we're focusing on our next phase on getting the unvaccinated vaccinated. I know it seems like a constant uphill climb, but it's gradually we're making progress, but we've got a way to go yet.

Secondly, the economy. Yesterday that I spoke of the historic economic progress we've made which starts with the American Rescue Plan. Shots in arms that saved a lot of lives. Checks and tax cuts to give them just a little extra breathing room, ordinary Americans. And lower healthcare costs just when so many Americans needed that help. And it's helped create 3 million, 3 million jobs, more than any administration has done in the first six months of being in office. Again, thanks to all of you. And with our bipartisan infrastructure framework and our Build Back

Better plan, I think we can turn this great movement into economic boom for some time to come. And I really mean that. I think we're in a cusp at not only getting us out of the hole but setting us on a path that's going to generate significant continued economic growth.

And the American people are overwhelmingly supportive of all our plans. That support that a lot of our friends on the other team kind of miss. The polling data shows that they strongly support, strongly support our efforts for infrastructure. I think they're a little tired of infrastructure week for four years in a row. I think we're on the verge of maybe be able to get something really done. Rebuilding roads and bridges, replacing lead water pipes. Delivering high speed internet to every American, rural and inner city.

And taking on the climate crisis with American jobs. And I want us to build back to build back better. They don't know the name necessarily but they know that they support universal pre-K and two years of community college, paid leave and childcare, which is essentially a significant tax cut for working-class families. And allowing Medicare to negotiate lower drug costs, which will significantly reduce drug prices across the board for people.


And they support asking the wealthiest one percent of Americans and corporate America not to pay more than they should, just begin to pay their fair share, just step up a little bit.

The idea that 50 of the largest corporations in America pay no tax, I think people should be able to be millionaires and billionaires if they have the ideas, but, Lord's sake, the idea let's start paying your fair share.

And third thing is -- and by the way, there's overwhelming evidence in the polling data they support what we're doing is how to pay for these programs.

Thirdly, restoring American leadership in the world. I know you all have those of you who have traveled around the world I know our Ambassador to the United Nations knows it full well that America was really behind the eight ball the last four years. We've lost a lot of our standing. I don't have to tell that to my buddy sitting on my right here, the Secretary of State. He understands it well.

And as I've said before, we are -- we are defining -- in a defining competition right now for the 21st century -- for the second quarter of the 21st century -- with China and many other nations. And many of these nations believe that autocracy is the future. That democracies cannot compete with autocracies because it's so hard -- things are moving so rapidly, technologically and otherwise, that democracies can't get the act together enough to get a consensus on how to move.

Well, I reject that most -- notion completely, and I think the vast majority of American people do as well.

You know, in my conversations and meetings with world leaders -- just coming back from, I guess, about eight, nine days over there, ending with a meeting with Putin -- you know, I'm making it absolutely clear that democracy is more capable -- more capable, and America is back, whether it's helping vaccinate the world.

And we're not just vaccinating ourselves. We're going to do -- we're going to vac- -- help vaccinate the world. We're building back better to create jobs and grow the middle class not just at home, everywhere. It's in our interests the economic -- the economies of these other nations grow.

And we're going to lead the fight against the climate crisis and tackling the challenges of cybersecurity. We've been very clear to our other nations as to what we expect in terms of their conduct.

And finally, there's much more to be done and so much more to do -- tackling voting rights, which is an existential threat to democracy right now. The things that are being asked are just beyond the pale. And the Vice President has been working hard on this issue and is going to continue to -- we all are -- but there's much more to do. We have to tackle the immigration problem, which we're working really hard to get done in a humane and serious way. Police reform and crime.

And the bottom line is, we're delivering on our promises. We have to deliver on all of the promises we made. Because I think we're in a situation where the vast majority of the public agrees with the essence of what we're trying to do. And so, I just think that we're showing there's nothing that America is unable to do when we do it together.

And so, you know, I think it's time for us to -- to stop now so we can get started with our meeting. So, are you ready, folks, to go to work?


BIDEN: We're going to work now. We'll have plenty of time to take --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: As for vaccinated people --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bye, bye, thank you, thank you.

CAMEROTA: The press was not taking that hint. That you've been listening to President Biden's second full cabinet meeting there. And you just heard him spell out his priorities.

CNN's senior White House correspondent Phil Mattingly was listening along as well. Phil, there is something so stunning. This is not the first time that President Biden has done this. He is having to sell democracy, the virtues of democracy he believes -- because he keeps saying it, they were in some sort of mortal struggle between democracy and autocracy. He's team democracy and he keeps feeling as though he has to sell the merits of democracy given this world we're in right now.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Look, and I think if you've paid attention to what the president has said over the course of the last six months, whether here domestically, on his foreign trip through Europe and to meet with President Vladimir Putin of Russia, that has been kind of a central animating feature of his time in office. That is kind of what animates all of his pursuits, both on the foreign policy side but also on the domestic side of things.

And what you heard the president go through is obviously a lookback at the last six months, areas where the administration feels like they have legitimate accomplishments on both the public health side of things and on the economic side of things.

But when you listen to the president kind of put those stakes on the table -- he also said something else that I think aligns with that, which is we have to deliver on our promises. And I think that's the view that you hear from White House officials as they look forward.


They acknowledge that while they believe they made real accomplishments in the first six months, which is we have to deliver on our promises. And I think that's the view that you hear from White House officials as they look forward.

They acknowledge that while they believe made real accomplishments in the first six months, the real challenges are ahead on that agenda, on the foreign policy front as well. And the president knows he needs to confront them.

BLACKWELL: All right, Phil Mattingly for us there at the White House. Phil, thanks so much. That statement will be heard from the president over the last several minutes, far less self-congratulatory and more aspirational of what the team still has to do.

All right, coverage continues on THE LEAD with Jake Tapper, starts right after a break.