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Sources Say, White House and Health Officials Discuss Revising Mask Guidance; Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) and Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) Battle over January 6th Committee. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired July 22, 2021 - 13:00   ET


ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Understand that Biden, he also just enjoys, right, being face to face with people and not just at the White House.


So I think you'd probably will see him out more.

JOHN KING, CNN INSIDE POLITICS: And he did know that that bridge from Cincinnati goes to Mitch McConnell's Kentucky. He did remember that.

Thanks for joining us today on Inside Politics. We'll see you back here this time tomorrow. Don't go anywhere, a busy day. Erica Hill picks up right now.

ERICA HILL, CNN NEWSROOM: Hi. Thanks for joining us today. I'm Erica Hill in for Ana Cabrera. You're in the CNN Newsroom.

President Biden once again calling this the pandemic of the unvaccinated. For the millions of Americans though who got the shot may not feel like it. The White House reportedly in talks with top health officials about whether to push for updated mask guidance as the delta variant surges.

We're following that and also this, a CDC adviser's meeting underway right now on the agenda, safety issues concerning the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and the possible need for booster shots. Right now, the daily pace of people becoming fully vaccinated has its lowest point since January.

And we know new cases are surging nationwide, new cases surging among the unvaccinated. Those cases are surging especially in Florida, which now leads the nation in new cases. CNN's Leyla Santiago is live in Miami for us.

Let's begin though with CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen, who is following today's advisory meeting.

So, Elizabeth, what can we expect out of this?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: So, these are vaccine advisers, Erica, to the CDC. And the CDC brings them in to help sort through various vaccine issues. And for this one, the issue is what to do with millions of people who are immune-compromised maybe because of a disease or condition that they have, or maybe because of medicines that they take.

So, right now, let's take a look at what the CDC guidance is for these millions of people who are immune-compromised. The CDC warns that vaccines may not be protective. Studies have shown that for many of these folks, just two doses of Pfizer or Moderna or one dose of Johnson & Johnson may not work and they can tell by testing their antibodies. And so the CDC has been telling people for the past week or so, they've been telling immune-compromised people, they should take precautions as if they were not vaccinated, meaning things like masking and social distancing.

But the CDC Has not gone so far as to tell immunocompromised people, hey, go out and get a third dose. Some studies have shown that a third dose does work for this group. The CDC has not told them to do that. So, we're expecting the vaccine advisers will bring this up as a topic. Should people who are immune-compromised take a third dose of the vaccine? Erica?

HILL: We'll be looking for more on that. Elizabeth, thank you. That meeting is still happening, as Elizabeth said.

I want to turn now to CNN's Leyla Santiago in Miami. Communities there really dealing with the surge. I know you've been reporting on hospitals and how they're dealing with it. So, what are you seeing on the ground with Florida now leading the nation for new cases?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Erica, we visited a testing site this morning, and we can tell you there was quite a bit. When we talked to the folks running that testing site, as well as some others here in Miami-Dade, they told us that they had seen a lull in testing for a while. And just in the last few weeks, they've seen a significant increase, and they're attributing that to higher case numbers and people who are traveling.

So, let's talk about those numbers. Put this in perspective. The average cases in Florida have doubled since last week, quadrupled since a month ago.

Now, we just heard from the White House and they say this is a bit of a positive trend here. They say that in terms of vaccination rates, the newly vaccinated, for those states that have the highest case rates, which, of course, includes Florida, they are seeing a higher vaccination, newly vaccination rate in the last week compared to the national average.

I talked to some of the doctors here at Jackson Health System, and they point out that, yes, it is the unvaccinated that are the majority here in the ICU, 95 percent of COVID patients are unvaccinated.

Listen to what else this doctor told me.


DR. LILIAN ABBO, CHIEF OF INFECTION PREVENTION, JACKSON HEALTH SYSTEM: I think we jumped the gun in the entire United States. And I think I would have kept the mask mandate until we got the majority of the population vaccinated, because we need to admit that this honor system is not working.


SANTIAGO: From someone who sees the impacts here in the health system firsthand, she was very clear that she believes masks are still very important, not quite what we're hearing from the governor. He spoke this morning saying that he is encouraging vaccinations, the science is there, but he is still very much speaking against masks in any sort of mandate or lockdown in the state with one of the highest rates in the country. Erica?

HILL: Leyla Santiago with the latest for us from Miami, Leyla, thank you.

Joining us now, Dr. Kathleen Neuzil, she's the director of the Center for Vaccine Development and Global Health at the University of Maryland's School of Medicine.


Good to have you with us.

I want to pick up what we were talking about with my colleague, Elizabeth Cohen. She's talking about the CDC meeting right now talking about the J&J vaccine and specifically discussing the immunocompromised and what makes sense moving forward in terms of protection even with a vaccine.

One of our medical analysts yesterday on the air, who, she, herself, received the J&J vaccine, said if she had a patient who had also had J&J was immunocompromised and perhaps a little concerned about what they're seeing in terms of the delta variant right now, she would recommend that person, again, who already had J&J, that that person go out and get a shot of Pfizer. Would you say the same and how feasible is that?

DR. KATHLEEN NEUZIL, VACCINE DEVELOPMENT AND GLOBAL HEALTH DIRECTOR, UNNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND MEDICAL SCHOOL: Yes. I think, currently, the government does not recommend booster doses, including for the immunosuppressed. And, again, this will be an active discussion today. I absolutely understand the concern from friends, family member, patients, I get these same questions all the time.

But we really need to approach this booster dose question in the same way we have approached other questions, with a careful, rigorous assessment of the safety and the potential benefit.

You know, we just heard how people are not getting vaccinated. And so trust in the process, confidence in the process is really important. So we need to maintain that rigorous review.

HILL: In terms of that trust and that confidence, I want to bring in as well CNN Medical Analyst Jonathan Reiner, who's a Professor of Medicine and Surgery at George Washington University.

In terms of trust and confidence, we know the White House has been, especially in the last week or so, really talking about how much damage misinformation has done in this push to get more people vaccinated. But there was a moment at CNN's town hall that I think gave a lot of people pause. Take a listen.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: One last thing that's really important is we're not in a position where we think that any virus, including the delta virus, which is much more transmissible, and more deadly in terms of non-vaccinated people, the various shots that people are getting now cover that. You're okay. You're not going to -- you're not going to get COVID if you have these vaccinations.


HILL: So, part of that, yes, we know that these vaccines, from what we know so far, from the studies and the data that we have so far, that they do protect you against the delta variant, but they don't, Dr. Reiner, none of these vaccines mean that you will never get the virus. How do you think -- how damaging is that statement?

DR. JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Right. Well, I don't think it's damaging. I think, look, the spirit of what the president said is that if you've been vaccinated, you are protected from serious illness or hospitalization. We have a very robust data to show that. A very recent study, actually, data that came out yesterday shows that the Pfizer vaccine is 88 percent effective against infection, and even more robustly effective against severe illness and death.

The problem is that we don't have data for J&J. We have small in vitro studies, lab studies that show -- one study shows that the vaccine holds up very well over time, another study shows that it doesn't hold up very well over time. We need the CDC to (INAUDIBLE) two things. We need the CDC to say whether we should (INAUDIBLE) we have a data that shows the vaccine is effective enough against delta. And, secondly, we need the CDC to tell the 13 million Americans who have been vaccinated with J&J whether they indeed need a boost from mRNA. That's what I want to hear from them today.

HILL: And we'll be waiting for what we hear coming out of that meeting.

Dr. Neuzil, as we look at the unvaccinated in this country, there's -- look, there's a large portion of this country that is not even eligible, kids 11 and under. President Biden last night saying he believes that kids under 12 will actually be able to get a COVID vaccine soon. The next eligible group, it's my understanding, most likely to be kids 5 to 11 years old. The chances of that happening before they go back to school, pretty slim.

So I just wonder, in terms of parents who may have a child on the cusp of being eligible, let's say they're 11 1/2 or let's say they're 11 3/4, do you think there could be some change or some wiggle room there to get those kids vaccinated?

NEUZIL: Yes. For the same reasons I gave before, I think there is unlikely to be that flexibility. And, again, it's that very careful rigorous assessment that's so important, and I would say it's even more important in an understanding of giving vaccine to children.


You know, you can delete a headline or you can refute a headline, but the doubt that that headline causes is there, you know, that fear that that false headline causes is there.

So, again, I believe in our rigorous processes. I believe we are following the science. And I would encourage us to continue to do that with these pediatric decisions.

HILL: We've heard so much. There really is so much positive that we can talk about when it comes to these vaccines in terms of how effective they are. I mean, I keep going back to if you look at this versus a flu shot, there's a pretty big difference there in terms of efficacy.

But what's happening right now as we're seeing the spike in cases fueled by the delta variant largely among the unvaccinated, as we know from the hospitalization and the death numbers, unfortunately, I've had conversations lately with people who have done everything right for the last 18 months. They masked up. They socially distanced. They got their vaccine. They did their best to help others get their vaccines around them. And now, there are potentially new mask mandates or recommendations coming at them. And they're feeling really frustrated that they did everything right and there's a smaller portion of people in the country who are fueling this surge.

I'm just curious, what's your advice to some of those people as they're trying the navigate this new normal and they've gone out and gotten the vaccine?

NEUZIL: Yes. I would say it is very frustrating. I think they have a right to be frustrated. Again, this is a transmissible illness. We try to stress to people and this is true for the immunocompromised as well. We're doing it for ourselves but we're doing it for those around us. And everybody that could be in contact with anyone who is immunosuppressed should be vaccinated.

Rather than the delta is fueling the surge, I would say the unvaccinated are fueling this surge. Delta will not be the last variant and we really need to figure out a way to get the vaccination coverage higher.

HILL: Dr. Kathleen Neuzil, Dr. Jonathan Reiner, thank you both.

NEUZIL: Thank you.

HILL: Just one day after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected two Republican picks for the committee investigating January 6th, she's now telling us more about why. Plus, new audio of former President Trump, nonsensical, just playing false claims about what happened January 6th, lies are now the base for how some Republicans are rewriting history.

And First Lady Jill Biden touching down in Tokyo one day ahead of the opening ceremony for an Olympic Games that will certainly be like no other.



HILL: Moments ago, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy blasted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for rejecting two Republicans he had recommended to be on the January 6th select committee. Earlier, Pelosi explained why she couldn't allow Congressman Jim Jordan and Jim Banks to participate in the investigation into the attack on the Capitol.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): This is deadly serious. This is about our Constitution. It's about our country. It's about assault on the Capitol that is being mischaracterized for some reason at the expense of finding the truth for the American people.

The other two made statements and took actions that just made it ridiculous to put them on such a committee seeking the truth.


HILL: Chief Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju i joining us now from the Hill. So, Manu, what did McCarthy say this afternoon?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he pushed back on what Pelosi is saying and he responded to questions about the potential addition of another Republican being added to this committee by Nancy Pelosi, that being Adam Kinzinger. He was one of two Republicans who voted to create this select committee. He's been outspoken critic of Donald Trump's actions after the election, particularly in the aftermath, in the run up to January 6th.

We are told from multiple sources that Nancy Pelosi is considering adding Kinzinger to this position. That's been something that's been discussed, according to the chairman, Bennie Thompson. And Liz Cheney, as we know, has already been appointed to this committee by Nancy Pelosi and has sharply critical of McCarthy himself.

I asked Kevin McCarthy directly what is wrong with having Republicans, members of his conference, serve as part of the committee investigating what happened, and he pushed back.


RAJU: In your view, what is so wrong with having Liz Cheney and potentially Adam Kinzinger serve on the select committee and potentially they could provide some level of ideological balance to this committee? What is wrong with having one or two members of your conference join with Democrats to investigate what happened here?

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): You know it and we predicted it back at the very beginning. This is a sham committee that's just politically driven by Speaker Pelosi.


RAJU: So, this has been the refrain from the Republican leader since really the beginning here, the outside commission, which would have had five members equally divided on both sides, ten members, five on each side being appointed who will not be members of Congress. That outside commission bill was a opposed by Kevin McCarthy. He contended it was still too slanted.

And then the Republicans in the Senate blocked that, forcing Pelosi, who said that there needs to be an investigation to take matters into her own hands and create this Democratic-led select committee.

But now that Kevin McCarthy has said that he won't appoint anyone after Pelosi rejected those two of his selections, the speaker is making it very clear here, Erica, that she is pushing ahead, she will still have this investigation.


She says there's a bipartisan quorum with Liz Cheney serving there and potentially with the addition of Adam Kinzinger.

And right now, they are meeting, Erica, to discuss their game plan for the first hearing that is going to take place next week. Capitol Police officers, Metro Police and D.C. will testify about their experiences. And then they're going to map out the larger investigative strategy going forward.

The question will be, will there be anybody else? Will Adam Kinzinger get that position? He declined to comment to me earlier, but there's expectation that could be announced today or tomorrow. Erica?

HILL: It would be interesting. We'll be watching. And we know you'll keep asking the important questions even when they don't get answers, like today. Manu, I appreciate, as always, my friend. Thank you.

Joining us now, former Virginia Republican Congresswoman Barbara Comstock. Great to have you with us.

First, CNN has just learned that the speaker may be considering GOP adviser roles for this January 6th select committee. Has the speaker reached out to you?

FMR. REP. BARBARA COMSTOCK (R-VA): No, but I certainly hope somebody like Denver Riggleman is considered. And I certainly hope we will see Adam Kinzinger on the committee.

But I think more importantly than who is on the committee is what and who is going to be subpoenaed. And we know that documents between November 3rd and January 20th at the White House have yet to be subpoenaed by anybody on Capitol Hill. And there's important work to be done there, because I think what we will find out in what is already a bipartisan committee, because Liz Cheney is on there, we will find out that in real-time, the president's lawyers, Bill Barr, Pat Cipollone were telling him his allegations of fraud were B.S., in the words of Attorney General Bill Barr.

And I think we'll also find out when we subpoena, when we, the Congress, I'm referring to the Congress, when Congress subpoenas people like Mark Meadows, Trump Junior, Steven Miller, Ivanka, Jared, Laura and Eric Trump, who were very involved in all these activities on January 6th but all the way leading up to them, we will find out a lot of activities that were going on there that we don't yet know.

So, I think the important thing is what and who is subpoenaed, and not all the drama that we've seen on who will serve on the committee, because the facts and the records that are out there and exist no matter who subpoenas them will tell that story for history and for the importance of the American people understanding it, and so that we can know that the president is still lying to the American people, and that his own staff and his own advisers in real-time, as many of these books are now showing, told him they were lies.

HILL: In terms of that lie that we continue to hear from the president, I just want to play some audio that was just released. Now, this was a conversation in March, but this is a former president talking about what happened January 6th. Take a listen.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT (voice over): It was a loving crowd too, by the way. There was a lot of love. I've heard that from everybody. Many, many people have told me, that was a loving crowd.

In all fairness, the Capitol Police were ushering people in. The Capitol Police were very friendly. They were hugging and kissing. You don't see that.


HILL: You talk about the importance of the documents, right, that you would like to see subpoena leading up to January 6th. These are obviously comments in March. But, really, to your point, they really fuel this lie that we've been hearing that has become now the narrative and is being used to rewrite history.

COMSTOCK: Right. And I'm so glad that the first witnesses next week before what is a bipartisan committee already will be Officers Harry Dunn and Michael Fanone and other officers who were on the frontline and can very easily disprove those lies from the president, and we've seen that video. But a lot of American people still haven't seen all that violent video. And, again, that's why all of these subpoenas need to go out.

And I would make a point, because before I was in Congress, I was a chief council on an investigative committee in Congress, and we personally subpoenaed people like the White House chief of staff and advisers who were involved in activities. And by personally subpoenaing those people out there, as well as going through the official rounds, you can get information faster.

But I think it's going to be wonderful for the American people, and I would encourage all of your listeners, but even more, you know, just be out there to listen to these officers, on some of whom are -- have stated that they are Republicans. You know, Brian Sicknick, who died after the insurrection, he and his girlfriend voted for Donald Trump, who never called them, never called or reached out and gave any sympathy to the families.


Of course, Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney have. And they, I think, carry the weight of making sure those officers who serve every day and protect those very members who also are lying about what happened.

So those officers needed to be heard from for months, and I am thrilled that they will be front and center next week.

HILL: Before I let you go, just a quick yes or no, when I asked if you have been contacted by the speaker, you talked about how you felt Denver Riggleman would be a great addition. Would you consider, were the speaker to contact, would you consider joining?

COMSTOCK: Well, I'm already talking to people and helping obviously just in what I'm advising here. So I will wait for others to make those decisions, but I think this is an important work that a lot of people on a bipartisan basis are going to be engaged in.

HILL: I'm going to take that as not a no. Barbara Comstock, I always appreciate you joining us. Thank you.

COMSTOCK: Thank you.

HILL: The first lady arriving in Tokyo for tomorrow's opening ceremonies, plus an update on COVID's impact on the Olympic Games.