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Johnson & Johnson Booster Needed For Delta Variant?; Republicans Pull Out of Insurrection Commission. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired July 21, 2021 - 15:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[15:01:04]

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Welcome to a busy NEWSROOM. Top of the hour. I'm Alisyn Camerota.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: I'm Victor Blackwell. Good to be with you.

Listen, the hope of landing on a universally accepted set of facts over what led to the deadly Capitol insurrection was diminished earlier, but, today, it's just out the window.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy has pulled all five of his GOP appointees from the January 6 select committee, and he says the Republicans will now conduct their own investigation into the attack.

Now, this came moments after Speaker Pelosi rejected two of McCarthy's picks, Congressman Jim Banks and Jim Jordan.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Speaker Pelosi has taken the unprecedented step of denying the minority party's picks for the select committee on January 6.

This represents something that has not happened in the House before for a select committee by the historian. It's an egregious abuse of power. Pelosi has broken this institution.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: CNN's Manu Raju is live on Capitol Hill.

As you said, a busy day in the NEWSROOM. It all happened so quickly. Walk us through how we got here, Manu.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it really started in the aftermath of the refusal of the Senate Republicans to allow an outside bipartisan commission to move forward. They blocked that in the Senate. There were not 10 Republicans, because of concerns they viewed that that outside commission would have been evenly divided by 10 people selected by both sides, none of them members of Congress, to investigate what happened.

They said that was too slanted. So, as a result, it was -- Nancy Pelosi took matters into her own hands, said that we need to have an investigation into what happened here. So she created the select committee in the House that would be eight Democratic appointees, five Republican appointees.

But in that resolution to create the select committee, it allowed her the ability to veto any picks by the Republican leader. And what we saw today was her vetoing two of those pick. This, as she said in her statement, was an unprecedented move. She said it was dictated by the unprecedented events of January 6 and the concerns about the statements of Jordan and Banks over the election and they have made about this investigation going forward questioning legitimacy of an investigation right now.

Those two, of course, among some of the staunchest Trump defenders there are.

Moments earlier, before -- right after that announcement, I did ask the speaker about her concerns that Republicans would pull out of this investigation. She made clear they're moving ahead.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): We have a bipartisan quorum. We can proceed.

RAJU: What was it about Jordan and Banks in particular? Because Nehls also voted to overturn the election.

PELOSI: That was not the criterion, as I told you yesterday.

RAJU: Yes, what was the criteria?

PELOSI: Read my statement.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

RAJU: So, the reason why she says there is a bipartisan quorum going forward is the reason -- is the selection of Liz Cheney. That was one of her eight picks, the Republican from Wyoming, the person who was pushed out of the Republican leadership because she had challenged Donald Trump, criticized Donald Trump after voting to impeach him for inciting the insurrection, also questioning his efforts to say the lie that the election was stolen.

Those fights with Donald Trump lost her that spot, but won her a position on the select committee. Now, in a matter of moments, Cheney is expected to come and talk to us, brief reporters about this decision, but she had made clear to our colleague Melanie Zanona and others on the run-up to this that she did not believe that Republicans who questioned the legitimacy of the election should be allowed on this committee.

So I expect her to support what Pelosi did, but she will address reporters in a matter of minutes and explain how she views this decision. But regardless of the move, the investigation is moving ahead, and Republicans are already painting this as political -- guys.

CAMEROTA: Dogged reporter with the patience of Job.

Manu Raju, thank you very much for that.

With us now, CNN political director David Chalian and CNN political commentator and former Republican Congressman Charlie Dent.

[15:05:01]

Charlie, I want to start with you.

I know that you do not think that Speaker Pelosi should have pulled these two, Jordan and Banks, from the committee. But let me just push back on that a little bit. They had already this week on Monday begun denigrating the work of the committee that they were supposed to be serving on.

They had already started saying things like: "Make no mistake. Nancy Pelosi created this committee solely to malign conservatives and to justify the left's authoritarian agenda."

That's from Congressmen Banks. So they didn't take their mission seriously. Why wouldn't she have pulled them?

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, because she's setting such a precedent.

Look, I question the motivations of the two she pulled as well. But they really weren't her -- it wasn't really for her to make those selections. And she made it too easy then for Kevin McCarthy to say, oh, this just going to be a partisan endeavor. And then he pulled his other three, which I think was a mistake.

Now, if I'm Nancy Pelosi right now, I'm picking up the phone. I'm calling Adam Kinzinger and Peter Meijer and Fred Upton and other members who would take a very serious approach to this select committee.

I mean, the country is so, sadly, divided, and it's reflected now in the political leadership. But, hopefully, we could still have a -- Pelosi should move forward with Liz Cheney, and if she can get some of these other Republicans who will take this seriously, put them on and move forward.

But I don't think she should have pulled. And I don't think Kevin should have pulled either.

BLACKWELL: So, David, as Alisyn pointed out, the Republicans have already been criticizing the committee. We know that this was something they were going to move.

Has Speaker Pelosi's move today just made that case far easier to make to voters? DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yes, I mean, I think what voters will see here is this, again, is sort of the broken politics of Washington.

Now, when the Republicans prevented in the Senate, as Manu was talking about, an independent nonpartisan commission that would have been authorized by Congress, but would have been doing its work sort of above and beyond the political halls of Congress, from that moment on, this thing was going to become very political.

Obviously, Nancy Pelosi appointing Liz Cheney was trying to hope and keep that sense of bipartisanship, that she would be able to sell this as a really agreed-upon set of facts at the end of the day. But what became crystal clear is that Kevin McCarthy made his appointees, including some real bomb throwers. That was going to add to the circus environment.

And now Nancy Pelosi, taking this move and rejecting them, is now also sort of confirming that this is broken down into complete partisan politics. And the losers here are going to be the American people, because we're not going to get that agreed-upon set of facts for the purpose -- we have to remember this.

This is all for the purpose of getting an authoritative, definitive accounting of what led up to that attack, what occurred on that day in the aftermath, so that it can never happen again. The American people are going to lose out on that kind of authoritative opportunity now.

CAMEROTA: But, David, just to challenge you on that, with Congressman Jordan and Banks on there, were we ever going to get an agreed-on set of facts, or was it going to be a circus, with them bringing up Black Lives Matter, when the point was what happened on January 6, and what President Trump's role is in it?

I mean, wasn't it going to devolve into a circus?

CHALIAN: Yes, I -- that's what I was saying, Alisyn.

From the moment that the nonpartisan commission was scuttled, this was going to sort of fit into the Kabuki theater of Washington, D.C., in its current state of broken politics. And, yes, McCarthy, when he appointed the likes of Jim Jordan, was saying, hey, this is going to be a circus atmosphere. I'm going to have this full-throated defender who is not going to be about trying to get an authoritative set of facts here, but is going to just defend sort of President Trump's position on things related to January 6.

And now Nancy Pelosi, by taking this move and saying, OK, well, they have no business being on this, I have the authority to do this, but it is unprecedented, and she's giving an open -- an opening politically here to Kevin McCarthy to make this point that it is solidified into these partisan sort of--

(CROSSTALK)

BLACKWELL: All right, David, we need to interrupt you. Congresswoman Liz Cheney is speaking at Capitol Hill.

REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): The attack on this building on January 6 was the worst attack on this Capitol since 1814.

It was an attack on our Constitution. We supported what would have been the very best option, which was a bipartisan, independent commission. The minority leader opposed that. He lobbied against it in the Senate. And the Senate blocked it.

[15:10:06]

The American people deserve to know what happened. The people who did this must be held accountable. There must be an investigation that is nonpartisan, that is sober, that is serious, that gets to the facts, wherever they may lead.

And at every opportunity, the minority leader has attempted to prevent the American people from understanding what happened, to block this investigation.

Today, the speaker objected to two Republican members. She accepted three others. She objected to two, one of whom may well be a material witness to events that led to that day, that led to January 6, the other who disqualified himself by his comments in particular over the last 24 hours, demonstrating that he is not taking this seriously, he is not dealing with the facts of this investigation, but rather viewed it as a political platform.

This investigation must go forward. The idea that anybody would be playing politics with an attack on the United States Capitol is despicable and is disgraceful.

And I am absolutely dedicated and committed to making sure that this investigation holds those accountable who did this and ensures that it never happens again.

And the American people deserve that. And that is what we're going to do.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Do you think you can still get that nonpartisan investigation you want, given that no other Republican but yourself will participate?

CHENEY: I am absolutely confident that we will have a nonpartisan investigation, that it will look at the facts, that it will go wherever the facts may lead.

There are three members that the minority leader proposed that the speaker did not object to. She has objected to two members. And the rhetoric around this from the minority leader and from those two members has been disgraceful.

This must be an investigation that is focused on facts. And the idea that any of this has become politicized is really unworthy of the office that we all hold and unworthy of our republic.

(CROSSTALK)

RAJU: Do you personally -- did you personally urge the speaker to take this step?

CHENEY: I agree with what the speaker has done.

RAJU: And also, McCarthy, of course, wants to become speaker next year. Do you think that he deserves to be speaker, in the aftermath of his actions here?

CHENEY: I think that any person who would be third in line to the presidency must demonstrate a commitment to the Constitution and a commitment to the rule of law.

And Minority Leader McCarthy has not done that.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Are there other Republicans that you or Speaker Pelosi believe should be part of this investigation? The other three you mentioned that she did not veto are not going to participate. Are there others? Are there other colleagues you have spoken to?

CHENEY: There are many Republicans, the vast majority of the Republicans, both in the House, as well as across the country, recognize and understand that this was an assault on our democracy, an assault on our Constitution, and that there must be a fact-based investigation, so that this never happens again.

And we cannot allow those voices who are attempting to prevent the American people from getting the truth to prevail. And we certainly will not allow that.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Doesn't play right into Republican messaging that this committee was going to be partisan from the beginning?

CHENEY: Absolutely not.

This committee has been focused and I am certainly focused on ensuring that we get to the facts. And, in fact, there were 35 Republicans who supported an independent, bipartisan commission, which, as I have said, would have been the far preferable way to go.

Minority Leader McCarthy opposed that actively and aggressively, and he lobbied against it in the Senate, and the Senate blocked it. We must have this select committee investigation. This is our only option left. And people must be willing to put their oath to the Constitution above partisan politics and above party.

And I am absolutely committed to doing that. And I'm committed to ensuring that this investigation be one that gets to the truth of what happened here on January 6. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thanks, everybody. Thanks. Thanks. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

BLACKWELL: All right, so we just listened to the single Republican member of this select committee to investigate 1/6, the January 6 commission.

She's talking again. Let's go back.

All right, so we thought we were going to hear just a little bit more.

CAMEROTA: She was walking, not talking.

BLACKWELL: But OK.

CAMEROTA: That was the mistake.

(CROSSTALK)

BLACKWELL: Well, listen, wanted to take every opportunity we had.

Let's bring back David Chalian and Congressman Dent.

David, to your point, as you were saying that this was going to be a circus after the commission was voted down in the Senate, Congresswoman Cheney says that they will get to the nonpartisan, sober, serious investigation.

Hearing that, does that give you any more confidence that they will?

CHALIAN: Well, I know that that's their goal, their mission.

I have no doubt that Congresswoman Cheney has faith that they're going to be able to do that. But what I think today's moves have done is ensure that it's going -- Kevin McCarthy is going to continually try and frame everything this committee is doing in a purely partisan way.

[15:15:13]

We will have to see where the American people land on this.

But can we just take a moment and again just sort of step back and see how extraordinary it is to see Liz Cheney, the former number three in the House leadership, just take on Kevin McCarthy?

I mean, she took on the minority leader in ways that Nancy Pelosi doesn't always do. She was really out there defending the speaker's decision for what she did, and calling into question McCarthy's commitment to the Constitution and to democracy and said he's not qualified to be speaker.

This was just a couple months ago her partner in leadership. It was just yet again an extraordinary moment to see Liz Cheney standing all by herself, obviously, in this moment in time as the only Republican that is a part of this committee right now.

CAMEROTA: How about that, Congressman?

DENT: Well, yes, Liz Cheney toward the bark off the minority leader.

But there's an opportunity here, though. There can be a serious, sober investigation, just as Liz said. Nancy Pelosi should be calling Adam Kinzinger right now and Peter Meijer, Fred Upton, Dan Newhouse. There are a number of members who voted, Republican members who voted to certify the election or voted to impeach who would be -- who would offer a real bipartisan investigation.

I mean, this--

CAMEROTA: And, Congressman, just to interrupt you for a second, she's so strategic, Speaker Pelosi, don't you think she might already have done that before she rejected the two Republican congressmen?

Do you think that that's already in the works?

DENT: I bet it is in the works.

The challenge, though, for the speaker is that, will any of these Republicans serve on that committee? I suspect they will be under tremendous pressure from their leadership not to serve. John Katko would be a great member.

I mean, he -- we -- it's so sad that there's no independent commission, but he helped negotiate the independent commission. So she has opportunities. I'm sure she's calling--

(CROSSTALK)

CHALIAN: But, Charlie, he already said -- Charlie, John Katko has already said he would not serve.

DENT: Yes. Well--

CHALIAN: Only Adam Kinzinger is the only other Republican out there who has said he's willing to serve on this committee.

DENT: That's right. But that was then. And this is now.

I mean, we're in a little different place. I agree, David, they all made statements. But we're in a different place right now. Why not reach out to them? And maybe a few will. Who says that all of them are going to run for reelection? Maybe not.

Politically, this is not in their best interest, perhaps, to serve on this committee. And for their primaries, this is not a good thing. But who knows what their future plans are.

So I think she might be able to make some lemonade out of this, if she's smart about it.

CAMEROTA: We shall see.

I mean, there's just breaking news every minute on this front. Gentlemen, thanks so much. We really appreciate you walking us through

all of this.

DENT: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: And CNN's exclusive presidential town hall airs tonight live at 8:00 p.m. with Don Lemon. Don't miss it.

BLACKWELL: So the first test of a bipartisan infrastructure plan is scheduled to happen any minute now. The Senate is going to vote. It's expected that this vote will fail. So, we will tell you what happens next.

CAMEROTA: And a sudden about-face from conservatives on vaccinations. Why now? And what impact will it have?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:22:55]

CAMEROTA: Researchers say they have found some evidence that people who got the Johnson & Johnson shot may need to -- oh, sorry -- that Johnson & Johnson itself may need to roll out a booster shot to protect against the new coronavirus variant.

BLACKWELL: Also, a former surgeon general says the CDC needs to make a change. This is from Dr. Jerome Adams.

He wrote for "The Washington Post" today: "Given the rapid increase in COVID cases driven by the Delta variant, the CDC urgently needs to revise its guidance to vaccinate and mask in places where cases are rising, yet vaccination rates remain low."

CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen is with us now.

So let's start with this Johnson & Johnson study and what we need to know.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, so the Johnson & Johnson study, I want to first start off by saying it's a lab study. It is hardly definitive.

But the conclusion of it is that the virus -- the vaccine -- I'm sorry -- the virus, the variant, the Delta variant might evade the one dose of Johnson & Johnson that people are getting and that people might benefit by going out and getting an additional dose of either Pfizer or Moderna.

Now, there's another study that came out recently that contradicts this. I think there's -- the bottom line here is that if you got Johnson & Johnson and you're wondering about what to do, talk to your doctor. You can go out and get a third shot. I don't think anyone's going to stop you.

And to be clear, studies have found that Pfizer and Moderna, the two doses of those vaccines clearly do give a strong and broad immune response to the Delta variant. So you don't need to worry about this if you got Pfizer or Moderna. This is a question really for people who got Johnson & Johnson.

CAMEROTA: Elizabeth, what about the former surgeon general, Jerome Adams, talking about maybe having to revisit mask guidance?

I mean, that is so disappointing for the doubly vaccinated among us. The unvaccinated are now ruining our freedom.

COHEN: That's right.

It's interesting, because people who aren't getting vaccinated, many of them say, this is my freedom. And it's like, well, yes, but you're treading on our freedom and you're making other people sick, and, really, you're killing other people. So you might want to rethink this whole freedom bit.

So, yes, it has gotten to the point where Dr. Adams and others are saying that people, especially those who live in places where there's a lot of COVID transmission going on, even if you're fully vaccinated, might want to start wearing a mask.

[15:25:07]

And, of course, the CDC says that vaccinated people do not need to wear masks. And they are holding to that.

So let's take a look. You read a quote from his "Washington Post" piece. Let's look at this tweet that he put out.

He said: "Instead of vax it or mask it, the emerging data suggests the CDC should be advising to vax it and mask it in areas with high cases and positivity until we see numbers going back down again."

Let's take a look at what he means by high rates. This is a transmission map. Those red areas are seeing high transmission. That's a lot. That's a big chunk of the country. It's about 24 percent. It's interesting, because, in early June, it was only about 2 percent, so you can see how things have changed.

But that's a lot of areas with high transmission. I think the bottom line here is that we're each going to have to make a decision for ourselves based on our particular situations and the situations of the people who we spend time with.

Wearing a mask is certainly not a big deal. And some people might choose to wear one, even though they are vaccinated.

CAMEROTA: Elizabeth Cohen, thank you for all the information.

COHEN: Thanks.

CAMEROTA: All right, right now, senators are voting on the much- discussed bipartisan infrastructure package.

But this procedural vote is almost certain to fail. Majority Leader Schumer is pushing for this vote before the details of the bill have even been announced. So what does that mean for this vote?

CNN's Lauren Fox joins us now.

So, Lauren, what is going to happen?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, we expect that this vote is going to fail, Alisyn. It's that simple.

But what happens next is really the most important piece of this discussion, because this bipartisan group has been working furiously behind the scenes for the last several days trying to meet or at least get close to meeting that deadline that Schumer set for them.

Now, there's a few things happening here. Essentially, what you know is that Schumer wanted to move this group along. They have been talking for weeks, for months. They announced a deal last month. They still didn't have legislative text, and there was the sense that they needed to get things moving because the August recess is right around the corner.

So Schumer set this vote in motion. But Republicans who are part of this bipartisan group had been arguing all along, if they didn't have final legislative text, how could they agree to vote to move forward on a bill that they argued didn't exist?

So what we expect to happen is, after this vote, Senator Mark Warner, who's a top Democrat in the committee, told me this bipartisan group is going to have a statement. We expect that statement is going to underscore the fact that the bipartisan group is still very committed to their work, and they want to keep moving forward.

The expectation and hope is that they can get legislative text by this weekend or early next week. And we also know that Democratic leaders may be willing to bring this back up for another vote when they're ready.

But, look, the vote today was always about trying to get these lawmakers to move forward because it started to feel like things were dragging. And that's a problem when you also consider the fact that Democrats have that $3.5 trillion budget package that they need to try to pass before the August recess -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Lauren, thank you very much. Keep us posted on what happens there.

So, the head of the World Health Organization officially showing his support for the Olympic Games today, but some health officials are warning that a COVID-free bubble to protect the athletes has already been popped.

BLACKWELL: And, tonight, President Joe Biden will face questions from Americans who voted for him and those who did not.

We will take a look at the most pressing issues President Biden needs to address tonight at CNN's exclusive town hall.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)