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FBI's Investigation of Brett Kavanaugh Under Fire; U.S. and Russia to Launch Strategic Stability Talks; Republican Governor Blames Unvaccinated For Continuing Pandemic. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired July 23, 2021 - 15:00   ET

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


[15:00:00]

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: So, you can obviously understand the hurt in this community right now with what they heard in the council meeting, all caught on video.

You don't even have to really put any wrapping around this. You just have to play it for itself and see how it kind of worked out there, Alisyn.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Yes, I'm not sensing a lot of self- reflection from that councilman at the moment.

Ryan Young, thank you.

Top of the hour. I'm Alisyn Camerota. Thanks so much for joining me.

The governor of the least vaccinated state in the nation says it's time to start blaming the unvaccinated for the resurgence of coronavirus. Republican Governor Kay Ivey of Alabama says: "The unvaccinated are letting us down" -- end quote.

The U.S. now averaging 43,000 new COVID cases a day. That's a 65 percent increase from just last week. Just one month ago, the daily average of new cases was under 12,000. About a third of the U.S. population lives in a community considered to have high COVID-19 transmission.

One of our medical experts says the Delta variant is like nothing he's ever seen before. And he worries about the coming school year, specifically in states with lower vaccination rates.

Here's what he said to us just last hour.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. PETER HOTEZ, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: In the Northeast, where you have all the adults and adolescents vaccinated, the kids are probably going to do pretty well this school year. But down here in the South, in Houston, the school year's going to begin in a few weeks. We start early.

What that means is, we have got so few adolescents and young adults vaccinated, and now we don't even -- we're not even allowed to have mask mandates in the schools. What makes people think this is going to go well? I mean, we're going to have an enormous amount of transmission. We're going to see a lot of young people and even adolescents and kids get sick.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: So there's his prediction.

And CNN's Nick Watt joins us now from Los Angeles.

Nick, the Delta variant is so infectious that it is now impacting some people who are fully vaccinated. So tell us what you're seeing.

NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, Alisyn, the headline sounds scary. More than 800 people, 20 percent of new cases in June, were fully vaccinated people, so they're breakthrough infections.

The majority of them, though, were asymptomatic, or very mild symptoms. Very few of them were admitted to the hospital, very, very few deaths among this group. The headlines sounds scary, the reality not quite so much.

You know. And there's also more evidence today out of Britain that the vaccines really do work against this virus, and the various variants. So, they're not 100 percent. There will be breakthrough cases.

The real issue with Delta -- and, by the way, last week in L.A., Delta was 84 percent of new cases. The real issue with Delta is among the unvaccinated. So, 20 percent of cases here in L.A. were vaccinated, which means 80 percent of cases in June were among the unvaccinated.

And you were mentioning Kay Ivey just there. Alabama, only about 33 percent of people have been fully vaccinated. And it's states like that where really the Delta variant could wreak more and more havoc in the weeks and months to come.

Now, here in L.A., they say that the numbers for July could be worse. They are bracing themselves for that. And what are they doing about it? Well, they are, like other officials across the country, encouraging people to get vaccinated. And here in Los Angeles, mask mandates were lifted across the state middle of June. In L.A., the mask mandate is now back, because they say you need a sort of suspenders-and-belt approach.

Even the fully vaccinated should be wearing masks indoors, because we need all the protection we can get to stifle Delta -- back to you.

CAMEROTA: And because the unvaccinated are ruining the freedom of the vaccinated at this point, basically what Governor Kay Ivey was talking about.

Nick Watt, thank you very much.

So, this week, Arkansas had its biggest spike in cases since February, and it has the worst-case rate in the country. Now some nurses there tell CNN that they're not only fighting for unvaccinated people's lives, but they're fighting against a torrent of verbal abuse by people who still do not believe in the vaccine.

One nurse, who only wants to use her first name, spoke to CNN's Elle Reeve about how she and her co-workers are being pushed to the brink.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

"SUNNY, " ARKANSAS NURSE: They dubbed us health care heroes. It just -- it gave the public this really wrong impression that we were sacrificial lambs and willing to die for them. We want to help people.

I want to save lives. I want people to get better, but not at the expense of my family's lives either. Then you have the public going, well, you signed up for this. No, I didn't. When I was 17, I enlisted in the Army. I knew that I might die for my country. When I was 22, I went to nursing school. That wasn't on the agenda, you know? the

[15:05:00]

Like, I didn't volunteer to die for everybody. And even with the vaccine now, it's still a highly politicized thing, for no good reason.

We're seeing a lot of nurses with compassion fatigue, and I am really scared how that's going to play out, because a lot of the cases that we're seeing are in nonvaccinated individuals.

And if I had a patient come in that wasn't vaccinated with COVID, like I have, like, I'm obviously still going to treat them to the best of my ability, but I do know some nurses that had to quit because they just don't have it in them to do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: Everybody should check out Elle Reeve's full piece on CNN.COMER: .

In Missouri, meanwhile, some hospital wards are more overwhelmed now than they were even this past winter. Missouri is in the top five for states experiencing the most new infections this week.

And in the midst of one of all that, one Springfield hospital administrator is expressing his own guilt. Steve Edwards of CoxHealth tweets -- quote -- "162 COVID-positive in patients. A week ago, we sadly surpassed the 500 lost lives mark. We have lost 26 more in the last seven days. To all the families, I am so sorry. I feel riddled with guilt, that we have not been able to speak loud and clearly enough to encourage more vaccinations."

And Steve Edwards joins me now. Steve, that's really sad to read your tweet. Why do you feel this way?

STEVE EDWARDS, PRESIDENT AND CEO, COXHEALTH: Well, we have lost 534 patients now, eight more from that tweet yesterday, and none of them were vaccinated.

The majority of them didn't have a chance to be vaccinated, but we have lost more than 100 now since vaccines were readily available in the last eight weeks. And the reluctance, the hesitancy hasn't seen in our community is unfathomable to me. And I think it's incumbent upon the health care leaders to communicate, to be louder than cacophony of all the misinformation.

And so it's hard not to feel guilty, when you have got the most prominent voice in health care in your community, and you're not being effective. We have got too many people dying from this disease unnecessarily.

CAMEROTA: But how are you missing the mark?

EDWARDS: I don't know.

I mean, I think we look at -- the hesitation is -- has a lot to do, I think, with trust, and maybe mistrust of government or mistrust of institutions. But if I knew how I was missing the mark, we would correct and change.

We need to get 80, 90-plus percent of our community protected, immune from acquiring the disease or, more importantly, from being vaccinated, and we're not nearly halfway there. This will roar on for quite some time.

CAMEROTA: But, Steve, I mean, you know this isn't your fault, right? You all are the ones trying to save lives.

EDWARDS: Well, Alisyn, thanks for the therapy. I appreciate it.

But it is that they're uneducated voices out there that are drowning out the educated voices. And it seems like we should find a more sophisticated way to communicate. Of course, I think we have tried everything we know how, but we're missing something. I don't know what it is.

But I will tell you, the people that are dying, they're innocent people who had misunderstanding, misinformation. Someone got into their head that the vaccine is not safe. It might be the safest vaccine in the history of man. And we have somehow not overcome that.

So there's a sense of duty. Maybe it's the sense of a parent who has a child that's putting himself in harm's way. You want to protect them, and you still feel guilty. This is a town I grew up in. I just found out that a classmate died three years ago -- three days ago. It's very personal to us.

And you feel like, if your voice could be heard better, you would have saved lives. Every vaccine can save a life. CAMEROTA: I'm sorry for your loss. I know that that's really, really

hard.

Steve, here's what you're up against, OK? I mean, yes, you have a megaphone, but not as big as the megaphone of some of the FOX prime- time hosts. So here's the kinds of things they say and tell people.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS: If vaccines work, why are vaccinated people still banned from living normal lives? Honestly, what's the answer to that? It doesn't make any sense at all. If the vaccine is effective, there is no reason for people who have received the vaccine to wear masks or avoid physical contact.

So maybe it doesn't work, and they're simply not telling you that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: How do you fight that?

EDWARDS: Well, I mean, you -- the misinformation, sometimes, the motivations are impure.

There are people that are trying to make political or financial gain. I suspect that many of those people that are undermining the vaccine are properly vaccinated themselves, know better. They're playing on people for financial gain, I suspect. It breaks my heart.

We have that nationally. We have it locally. And it's very, very disappointing.

CAMEROTA: Do you hear that echoed back at you? When sick people come into the hospital system, are those the kinds of messages you hear? What are they telling you?

EDWARDS: Like, I mean, very direct. It's as if they're quoting Tucker Carlson themselves.

[15:10:00]

We have we physicians that we will be working with a patient. It's too late. The patients may ask for a vaccine. At that point, it's too late. They will ask for monoclonal antibodies, which are also under the emergency use authorization. And because maybe national cable news encouraged them to think that was the right choice, for some reason, they're choosing that.

It's no silver bullet, but it can be helpful early on. But choosing that over a vaccine, it's frustrating. I don't know how you hold people accountable for that sort of behavior. But I think it undermines the well-being of our community. And it's undermining the well-being of the nation.

CAMEROTA: Tucker Carlson, conspicuously, won't tell his viewers if he's been vaccinated or not. Do you think he has been? EDWARDS: I don't know.

CAMEROTA: Sorry. Tell me that again. You don't know.

EDWARDS: I don't know, right.

CAMEROTA: I mean, yes, it's unknowable.

But there is a feeling that he's being secretive about it for some reason., again, these are folks, at least at FOX, who have a lot of accessibility to the vaccine, who are not crazy, who want to live, who want to protect their families. And it stands to reason to think that they are vaccinated, but they are not telling their viewers that.

And if that's the case, I mean, that's what you're dealing with, the consequences of that.

EDWARDS: Yes, we have had a lot of influential leaders in our region in the last week or two become more pronounced about their support for vaccines.

And, as I talked to them, I found out that they were vaccinated six months ago. And so the hesitation, maybe because of the worry about their political base, or -- I can't answer the reason why. But if you're going to stand up for something, there's no reason to wait six months.

Honestly, if we had vaccine rates where they would be, we would not have lost an extra 150 lives in our community. That's what's happened really in the last about eight to 10 weeks.

CAMEROTA: Steve Edwards, we're thinking of you. Hang in there. Thank you very much for sharing your own experience and even your loss with us.

EDWARDS: Thank you, Alisyn.We appreciate you.

CAMEROTA: We appreciate you helping to get the message out.

That's a lot right there to take in, the guilt that the nurses and doctors and heads of hospital systems are feeling because they're not able to get the message out, because they don't have as big of a megaphone.

We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:17:22]

CAMEROTA: Just into CNN, the State Department announcing that the United States and Russia will launch strategic stability talks next week focused on arms control and risk reduction.

Presidents Biden and Putin agreed to talks during their summit in Geneva last month. CNN chief White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins is here.

Kaitlan, what can you tell us about this?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, this is one of the few concrete deliverables that actually came out of that summit between the two sides in Geneva earlier this year, earlier this summer.

And so now these talks are actually going to start happening next week. They're actually going back to Geneva. It will not involve President Biden or President Putin, but it's going to instead have the deputy secretary of state, her Russian counterpart there, and several other officials, as they are getting these talks under way to talk about arms control and what the dialogue going forward between the United States in Russia in this space is going to look like.

It is something that the Russians had pushed for, that they definitely wanted to have coming out of that summit. They have pushed for new agreements, even though you saw Putin and Biden sign on to that new arms agreement. They renewed that agreement during Biden's first month in office.

But this is a way where both sides have said they need that -- they agree that more needs to be done in this space. So they will be sitting down in Geneva starting next week. And the question, of course, is going to be, what does it actually look like after this first meeting? How long does it take them to come to an agreement and what that agreement looks like by the end of those talks.

CAMEROTA: Kaitlan, I want to also ask you.

There are new revelations coming out about all of these -- from all these different Trump books. This one is from "I Alone Can Fix It." And, as your notes written by two "Washington Post" and journalists, Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker.

And it's a stunning admission from former President Trump. Nine months into the pandemic, he did not know the science behind masks. So this is a conversation, they say, with his then HHS Secretary Alex Azar.

And Trump says: "'I can't hear you when you talk through those things, ' Trump said. 'I hate those things.' 'Mr. President, they work, ' Azar said. 'The evidence is conclusive that they work.' He described data showing that at one-meter distance between two people, both wearing masks, the chance of infection was reduced by 72 percent. 'Really?' Trump asked. He sounded genuinely surprised. 'Yes, ' Azar said. Trump pondered this for a moment. 'Well, just be sure you take it off when you go to the microphone, ' he said. 'It looks silly.'"

So, hold your thoughts on that, because I'm sure you have some thoughts, having been in all of that -- those press briefings with them.

Then, number two, here's another excerpt. This was during an interview with those same authors for the book. He said: "'In a certain way, I had two presidencies, ' he said.'In the

first when the economy was roaring, Trump argued that he had been unbeatable. 'I think it would be hard if George Washington came back from the dead and he chose Abraham Lincoln as his vice president. I think it would have been very hard for them to beat me, ' Trump said. Then, he lamented, came his second presidency, the pandemic killed his chances. He lamented all about the pandemic."

[15:20:23]

So, OK, first things first about masks. He did not like it when reporters wore the masks. I remember that.

COLLINS: Right.

He often would claim that he could not hear our questions if we were wearing a mask and talking to him, even though it's pretty audible. That was something that was a new reality for so many Americans, wearing a mask. And, obviously, safety was a priority for those of us who were still coming into work here at the White House.

And we were often the only people in the West Wing actually wearing a mask. Once reporters and the White House Correspondents Association had made it mandatory, you often saw that we were wearing them, and a lot of the White House officials that we were interacting with on a daily basis were not.

And it started with the president, who did not want to see people wearing a mask, as so much of his response to this pandemic was guided by optics and not by science. And he often did not want to appear with his own officials on stage, as he was noting there and Phil and Carol get at in their book, because he didn't like the way it looked.

And, at times, you saw officials pushing back on him and you would see some of the top federal health officials wearing a mask even though they were on stage with him, but you would see the political aides not wearing them.

CAMEROTA: OK, now to the next part.

I don't know if there was any polling as to whether George Washington and Abraham Lincoln could have beaten President Trump.

(LAUGHTER)

CAMEROTA: I don't remember that polling in particular. But I do think it's interesting that, there, he acknowledged that his handling of COVID -- I mean, he's not acknowledging that it was his handling, but that the COVID pandemic really hurt his chances.

So this is different than rigged election and different than all voting irregularities that he likes to talk about. This is where he sounds, frankly, saner, and knows that that really hurt his reelection chances.

COLLINS: But I also think it's why so many of the decisions that he made during that year of the -- during the pandemic, in his last year of his presidency, they were guided by politics, and not by what he thought was the best for the country going forward, regardless of his political ambitions and his hopes to have a second term in office.

And so saying there that he believed he had one presidency before the pandemic and another after that led to his defeat, his aides and his political advisers did not share that view. They thought he could have done this better. And they say still to this day, when you talk to former Trump officials, the number one issue he had was that first question, masks, and not enforcing people or encouraging people to wear a mask.

And they believe that is what led to the massive political divide, not all of it, but part of it that we are seeing now still over wearing a mask. And it was something that they believe led to his ultimate downfall, and was a huge part of the reason why he did not win reelection.

CAMEROTA: Yes, I mean, and telling people to inject bleach also didn't imbue trust in his judgment about the pandemic--

COLLINS: Yes.

CAMEROTA: -- I mean, along with a host of other things.

But at least he's acknowledging there that COVID was a big problem for his presidency, because of how he handled -- I mean, he's not acknowledging this part, but it's because of how he handled it.

Anyway, Kaitlan, I have to let you go. Thank you very much for all of the analysis and reporting.

So, the FBI has disclosed it got thousands of tips as part of a background investigation into then Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. So we're going to tell you which were sent to then President Trump's White House counsel and which were not.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:28:18]

CAMEROTA: We're learning new details about the 2018 investigation into then Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

A senator now disclosing a letter from the FBI which reveals the agency received more than 4, 500 tips into its phone line. Attorneys for Christine Blasey Ford, who accused Kavanaugh of sexual assault when they were in high school, released this statement -- quote -- "The FBI's investigation into Dr. Christine Blasey Ford's serious allegations about justice Brett M. Kavanaugh sexual misconduct was a sham and a major institutional failure. Instead, it handed the information over to the White House, allowing those who supported Kavanaugh to falsely claim that the FBI had found no wrongdoing."

CNN Supreme Court reporter Ariane de Vogue joins me now.

So, Ariane, we knew that that investigation was limited, but we didn't know about all of those tips. So what did the FBI do with those tips?

ARIANE DE VOGUE, CNN SUPREME COURT REPORTER: Well, that's what's interesting.

In this new revelation, what the FBI said is that there are these 4, 500 tips that came on this tip line, and the FBI did send that to the White House Counsel's Office. But they also said this in that new disclosure. They said that they took sort of a portion of those, a portion of the tips that they thought might be relevant and highlighted those for the White House Counsel's Office.

And it's -- that is the thing that's really infuriating lawyers for Ford, as well as Senate Democrats, because I talked to a Senate staffer yesterday. And he said that the Senate did get to see sort of all the raw data of all the tips, but what it didn't get to see is what the FBI said was relevant.

And that shows that the FBI may have done some kind of limited look at these, at least to show that the tips were relevant.