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Louisiana Leads Nation In New COVID Case Growth; Los Angeles County Tops 3,000 New Daily Cases; Georgia Congressman Arrested At Voting Rights Protest; Biden: Eliminating Filibuster Would Lead To "Chaos" In Congress; Tom Manger Takes Over As New Chief Of U.S. Capitol Police; Vaccine Debate Divides Sports World; New Book Looks At Presidential Friendships That Shaped U.S. History. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired July 24, 2021 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Jim Acosta in Washington with a 65 percent jump in new coronavirus cases. It's clear the Delta variant is here and it's targeting the most vulnerable, the unvaccinated. Just three states account for 40 percent of all new cases, Missouri, Texas and Florida.
In fact, Florida accounts alone for one and five of all new cases nationally with a stunning 73,000 cases reported in just the last week. The Governor and rumored 2024 presidential candidate Ron DeSantis has refused to put stricter COVID protocols in place. So the numbers they're only likely to climb.
And for anyone who thinks the worst is behind us, I have an alarming visual that might make you think twice. Let's see it. Louisiana spike, Louisiana spike in new cases is rising to levels not seen since the winter search. That's right. It now has the highest rate of new cases per capita in the nation. And its hospitalizations have quadrupled, quadrupled in just the last three weeks. Rising cases, rising hospitalizations, you know what's coming next, unfortunately, rising numbers of dead.
And unlike the holiday surge, this time, we have the vaccines, all of this is preventable. CNN National Correspondent Suzanne Malveaux is in Jefferson Parish near New Orleans. Susan, how concerned are Louisiana officials right now? It sounds like this is really getting out of control down there?
SUZANNE MALVEAUX, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Jim, we're in crisis mode at this point, the governor, Governor Edwards saying that this was a perfect storm in the confluence of many different factors including a storm, of course, that could have been prevented if more had been vaccinated prior to this.
But Jim, we are at this pop-up vaccination site here at the Oakwood Center, and folks seem to be taking it very seriously. And that the people are changing their minds, they're educating themselves and the health care professionals here say that they put some of this on themselves, the messaging itself.
And so, just take a look at the sheer numbers. I mean, this really paints the picture here. As you had mentioned, Louisiana is number one now for the number of new cases per capita of COVID. Just last couple of weeks, 208 percent increase in those numbers.
One of the things that is happening too, as you take a look at it, it is 80 percent of the Delta variant that is making the difference here. And one of the big problems is the fact that there's such a low rate among those vaccinated in this state, 40 percent having received perhaps one of the two doses necessary vaccination.
And so, if you take all of that together, despite the fact that there's some 1,400 vaccination sites where folks can get it for free, this is how it is playing out here among those who are not fully vaccinated. If you look at these alarming numbers, Jim, we are talking about case loads from those test positive, 92 percent not fully vaccinated of those hospitals -- hospitalized rather, 90 percent not fully vaccinated. And of those who have since died, that number is at 91 percent of those not fully vaccinated.
So speaking with health professionals here, what is the problem? What do they need to do to turn the tide? Well, I had a chance to talk to Dr. Laborde, he is with the Ochsner Health group here. He is also in charge of global outreach, and this center here, and here's how he outlined where they need to go.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. YVENS LABORDE, OCHSNER HEALTH CARE: When you look at vaccine and the barriers to vaccination, there are four major factors that impact that. And the way that I categorize them is number one is the issue of mistrust. The second one is misinformation. The third is complacency, and that alludes to that fact. And the fourth is convenience.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MALVEAUX: And so they are trying to make this convenient, Jim, for those here at the mall to get that vaccination. They may expand this pop up beyond the three-day window and extended its -- depends on those numbers so far, looking at 56 who've been vaccinated today to tell them a couple hours left for the mall to close. And those numbers they sound small, Jim, but they're actually very significant in this community.
ACOSTA: Yes, and those statistics that you were just showing us was on the percentage of people who were unvaccinated in the hospital suffering from this illness. It's just so terrible because it was all preventable.
Suzanne Malveaux, thank you so much for that great report. We appreciate it.
And joining us now, the Assistant State Health Officer for the Louisiana Department of Health, Dr. Joseph Kanter. Doctor, thank you so much for joining us. Your state, I hate to say it, unfortunately, is leading in the country right now in new cases per capita. We're looking at it on screen right now.
Why is that do you think? What's happening?
DR. JOSEPH KANTER, ASSISTANT STATE HEALTH OFFICER, LOUISIANA DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH: Thanks, Jim. It's good to be with you. Unfortunately, under challenging circumstances, I think it is a perfect storm kind of mentioned it. And this is what Governor Edwards explained yesterday during the press conference, we have high rates of Delta, you know, we've been ahead of the national average for Delta right now, about 84 percent of all new cases here. Delta, it's been high.
The past few weeks, we have a relatively low vaccination rate, as you mentioned, about 40 percent of the general public has initiated. And, you know, down here in the south, what happens during the summer months is analogous to what happens up north in the winter, which is the weather drops people indoors, and that increases transmission.
So, all of that is coming together. And to compound the problem, our hospitals are already quite busy. We're seeing a lot of RSV, a lot of other respiratory viruses. So they're busy with more patients than they normally see now, even without COVID.
And we're dealing with the same nursing shortage that everywhere in the country is, it's hard to retain nurses, hard to recruit new nurses for good reasons. But all of that is added to the stress right now.
ACOSTA: And you may have seen the CBS News interview to COVID patient in your state while he was still in the hospital. Let's take a listen to this and talk about it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT ROE, COVID PATIENT WHO CONTINUES TO REFUSE VACCINATION: Here I am recovering, getting out of here finally, tomorrow. Am I going to get a vaccine? No.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Why not?
ROE: Because there's too many issues with these vaccines.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If you would have had a chance to get the vaccine and prevent this, would you have taken vaccine?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you'd gone through this?
ROE: I'd gone through this. Yes, sir. Don't shove it down my throat. That's what's local, state federal administration is trying to do is shove it down your throat.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What are they shoving, the science?
ROSE: No, they're shoving the fact that that's their agenda. The agenda is to get you vaccinated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Doctor, what's your response to that?
KANTER: It really does break my heart, Jim. I tell you, you know, I don't think that that's representative of people who are in the hospital now with COVID. Not on a 10 people who are hospitalized right now in Louisiana with COVID are unvaccinated. But the accounts that we hear from clinicians, and I've heard a lot of them this past week, is patients and their families telling docs, listen, Doc, I wish I had gotten vaccinated. Can I do it now?
KANTER: And usually the response is, well, you can do it once you, you know, recover from this illness, but right now it's probably too late. That's what we hear more of and it really is heartbreaking. I think one of the obligations we have now is to try and help families learn that lesson without having to live through it themselves.
ACOSTA: Right, you're hearing that from health professionals. They're seeing patients who are saying, give me the vaccine now. And these health professionals are saying, you're already sick, that we can't give it to you now. You already have it.
The Governor released new guidance yesterday urging everyone vaccinated or not to wear a mask. Why not implement a mask mandate if you're seeing these kinds of surges there? Or do you think people are just so resistant to this, that they're just not going to listen?
KANTER: Well, Governor Edwards was very clear that he is taking absolutely nothing off the table. And as he's said throughout this pandemic, he will not allow this state to jeopardize the capacity of hospitals to provide acute care. So, listen, if cases continue to go up at this clip, and we pray they don't, then there'll be more discussions to be had. I do think, you know, this advisory, the masking, distancing advisory, you know, we need to be cognizant that we're out ahead of CDC guidance right now.
And for a leading-edge state like Louisiana that's ahead of the country with COVID -- Delta COVID, there's just not a lot of experience yet. And I have, you know, good faith that the data collected now, the lessons learned in Louisiana will benefit the country on how to deal with this particular variant. But we don't want to wait around for too long down here.
ACOSTA: No, we certainly don't. All right, Dr. Joseph Kanter, thanks so much for that. We appreciate your time.
KANTER: My pleasure, thanks to you.
ACOSTA: And the Delta variant is also behind a sharp surge of coronavirus in California. On Friday, L.A. County reported over 3,000 new cases for the first time since February. There's also a comparatively sharp rise in hospitalizations since mid-July. This despite, L.A. County being one of the only places in the country still enforcing an indoor mask mandate, even for people who are fully vaccinated.
CNN's Paul Vercammen is live in Los Angeles for us with the Director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health, Dr. Barbara Ferrer. Paul, what do you have for us?
PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, let's get right to it. The numbers are bad again in Los Angeles. And Dr. Ferrer, go ahead and tell us what are the latest numbers in this explosion of cases?
DR. BARBARA FERRER, DIR., LOS ANGELES COUNTY DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Sure. Unfortunately today, we're again seeing 2,600 new cases of COVID. We have 10 more people who have passed away from COVID. Hospitalizations, again, jumped to about 688 people are hospitalized today. And our test positivity has stabilized at about 5 percent.
VERCAMMEN: And as we look behind you, we see there's a vaccination clinic. A little earlier today, I saw a 12-year-old who came in here, his name was Joseph Romero (ph). He got a second Pfizer shot. Why are you having such a hard time as you have fanned out of the neighborhood to talk to people getting some people to get a vaccination?
FERRER: Yes, it's such a good question. I mean, I do want to again, you know, thank Jose (ph) and all of the other people who have come into our site today. And I do also want to note, you know, I just spent a couple of hours door knocking, and about half of the people we talked to have, in fact, been vaccinated. But that leaves a lot of people that haven't come in.
We hear different things. There's a whole group of people who really are still struggling to understand how easy it is to get vaccinated. We got a lot of questions. Could they be helped getting a ride to come to this site? Absolutely. You know, transportation, we'll provide anybody with transportation.
We also got questions about whether they had to show their papers, can they get vaccinated if they're Mexican? You know, no, you know, you don't need any papers to get vaccinated. And of course, you can get vaccinated here in L.A. County, regardless of immigration status, or what country you come from.
We also heard a lot of misinformation, people scared to get the vaccine. The most two dominant themes today where we don't trust the government's numbers, we think they're not telling us the truth about the vaccine and how safe it is. And we have heard of people that we think had a bad experience with the vaccine.
So you know, I think we, again, we have to work hard with all of our community partners. So it's not just government that saying how safe the vaccines are, but it's the person at your pharmacy who's telling you it's safe. It's your doctor, it's your neighbor, so that we can really counter that sense that government can't be trusted. By having lots of other people say, I had a good experience, I got vaccinated, and now I feel really safe being out and about.
VERCAMMEN: But when an elected official, the sheriff of this county doing a waiver (ph) says that he's not going to enforce the indoor mask mandate, and the science doesn't support that. What does that do to the messaging?
FERRER: You know, I again, it's always better if we can all be on the same page. I don't think there's any scientists or researchers that are doubting the effectiveness of masking. And when you have high rates of transmission from Dr. Fauci, to the CDC Director, to the American Academy of Pediatrics, adding back that layer of making sure that we're all matched up makes perfect sense when we're indoors.
VERCAMMEN: I super appreciate your taking time out Dr. Ferrer. As you can see, hands on in here today, Jim, helping people get shots in their arms, and we're seeing some reluctant stragglers indeed come in and get that vaccination. Back you to you.
ACOSTA: I'm sure because they're worried about that Delta variant.
All right, thanks very much to the doctor and to you as well. Paul Vercammen, thanks so much.
Coming up, I'll talk to the Georgia Congressman arrested during a peaceful protest over voting rights. His rest comes as at least 18 states passed laws that make it harder for people to vote. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
ACOSTA: A sitting Congressman was arrested by Capitol Police on Thursday. Georgia Democrat Hank Johnson was arrested during a protest urging the Senate to act on voting rights. He is the second House Democrat to be arrested in as many weeks for protesting on that message. But still, no movement on two major election bills in the Senate.
And Congressman Hank Johnson joins me now. Thank you so much for your time. We appreciate it on this Saturday afternoon. Congressman, I see these images of you peacefully chanting outside the Senate Hart Office building and getting put in handcuffs. And I can't help but contrast that with most of the violent rioters who fought their way into the Capitol on January 6. They weren't arrested until much later and many -- so many walked out freely. Does that frustrate you?
REP. HANK JOHNSON (D-GA): Well, Jim, thank you for having me. And we did not seek to overwhelm the police presence at the Hart building. We went --
JOHNSON: -- as a group of black men in peace, but yet determination to assert our right to vote and to assert the fact that, you know, this is an issue of vital importance to us. It is our number one priority that we see passage of H.R. 1 For The People, Senate 1, the For The People Act, and also H.R. 4, The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, and if it takes reform of the filibuster to get that done, then we want to see that happen.
And we're getting a little anxious about it. It may not be a priority to as many people as it needs to be, but it certainly is with us, and we wanted to demonstrate that by protesting on Friday.
ACOSTA: And let's talk about the filibuster, which is holding up these bills. Here's what President Biden said about it this week on CNN.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If it's a relic of Jim Crow, it's been used to fight against civil rights legislation historically, why protect it?
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's no reason to protect it other than you're going to throw the entire Congress in the chaos, nothing will get done.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All right.
BIDEN: Nothing at all will get done. And there's a lot at stake. The most important one is the right to vote.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Are you satisfied with that answer?
JOHNSON: Well, it was a little conflicting, but I think overall, I believe that Joe Biden, our President, recognizes the importance of the Voting Rights Act. He recognizes how important an unfettered right to vote is.
He's lived through a lot. He's seen a lot, he was back there during the days of the old segregationists in the Senate. And some folks want to go back to those times where you could sit down and work out and deal with those guys. But we're dealing with a different set of opponents this time. They are more -- I mean, their game is a little bit more complicated than the old segregationist. And they're playing from the segregationist playbook, but yet, it's a Jim Crow 2.0 situation.
And so, Joe Biden has to understand the fact that, you know, back in 1965, when the Voting Rights Act was passed, it was legislation that was written by President Johnson. President Johnson wrote that legislation, presented it to Congress, and then leaned on his colleagues in the House and Senate to pass it. And fortunately, today, the President does not have to draft H.R. 1 and H.R. 4. We're doing H.R. 4, we've already done H.R. 1.
And the only thing he has to do is, is put his muscle -- the muscle of the presidency behind it, so that we can get it passed. And that's what we're anxious about. We want to see here and have that accomplished. We want to see it happen. We want to hear it happening. And we want to make sure that it gets accomplished. ACOSTA: Congressman, though, do you want to see President Biden doing
more leaning on his fellow Democrats more in the way that LBJ did back in the 1960s? Is that what you would like to see?
JOHNSON: Yes, I have a picture in my mind of President Johnson standing almost nose to nose with some southern segregationists laying the law down to that person about what he expected, and that person responded affirmatively. And so -- and, you know, I know that President Biden has a lot that's going on behind the scenes that we don't know about. And we give him the space that he needs to do, what we want him to do and what we expect that he will do.
But at the same time, we want to see some public affirmations of it. And we want to see, we're getting a little anxious because we're heading towards the August recess. When we come back, it'll be September and October, and we're heading towards the end of the year, we're careening towards the end of the year with nothing done on voting right.
ACOSTA: Do you think that you're running out of time, is what it sounds like. It sounds like you feel you're running out of time.
JOHNSON: Yes, the time is escaping us. And so, the time for action is now and that's why people are literally putting their bodies on the line. Representative Joyce Beatty last week and a group of women did the same thing that the group of men did yesterday. They put their bodies on the line, they were arrested.
And so, waves are coming of social unrest. We must make sure that the people understand that this is our priority. And if you stand with us, then you stand for democracy. And those who don't support us are anti- democratic, and we must move to overpower them and we must win this battle. It's an important battle, a crucial battle.
ACOSTA: All right, Congressman Hank Johnson, we'll be watching that battle unfold. And we know you'll be there on the front lines. Thanks so much for your time. We appreciate it.
JOHNSON: Thank you so much, Jim.
ACOSTA: Thank you, sir.
And coming up, CNN speaks to the new Capitol Police Chief. His response to Trump and other Republicans trying to downplay the deadly insurrection.
ACOSTA: You're looking at live pictures from Phoenix, Arizona where former President Trump is expected to take the stage in just a few minutes. Trump is speaking at a turning point USA rally extensively about protecting election security. That's what they're calling it. But he'll be spreading his lies as usual. The former president's visit comes as Arizona is in the middle of a so-called audit. It's really a sham on it of the 2020 election results in Maricopa County. And as these lies about the election continue to spread, the brand new Chief of the U.S. Capitol Police says he is certainly concerned about the threat of more violent attacks there.
Tom Manger was sworn in as Capitol Police Chief yesterday, more than six months since the deadly insurrection. Not only does he face the possibility of future riots, he's also dealing with the complete denial about what happened from the very lawmakers he's sworn to protect.
And CNN Security Correspondent Josh Campbell is here. Josh, you sat down with the new Chief. He has a lot on his plate. No question about it right now.
JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. And, you know, he knows that this is a challenging stepping into but he's someone who's been in law enforcement for over 40 years. This was a nationwide selection. They picked him to lead this department that has come under such scrutiny.
And despite that scrutiny, what we're hearing from him is that he's not afraid to step up and actually talk to the press.
If you remember, back after the insurrection, weeks went by before we heard anyone from Capitol Police leadership stepping to the microphones.
Here he is less than 24 hours on the job sitting down with me, taking our questions.
We talked about the insurrection. We talked about some of the reforms that are in place. We also talked about this looming threat.
A lot of it goes back to what you just showed at that rally. It's these ongoing election lies that he is having to contend with.
Because experts tell us that there's this bizarre notion that maybe Trump will be reinstated. If that doesn't happen, there could be more violence.
I asked him about that, if he's concerned about another attack. He said he would be a fool not to be.
I also asked him about some of these prominent officials who are downplaying the significance of that attack and what that means for morale in his department.
Take a listen to what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM MANGER, CHIEF, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE DEPARTMENT: I cannot waste my time worrying about how somebody interprets a tape.
I know what the men and women of this agency went through. I know the challenges that they faced. I also know the courage that they displayed that day.
CAMPBELL: What's your view when people say this was tourism or this was a lovefest? We all saw that video of your officers on the receiving end of so much violence.
As the leader of the department, what do you think when you hear it characterized that way?
MANGER: Well, I don't agree with it. That's not the way I saw it. But again, everybody is entitled to their opinion.
And frankly, as the chief of this police department now, I'm in a position to do things to ensure that that wouldn't happen again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMPBELL: He's not afraid to step up and tell the public when he sees something that he doesn't believe is true.
ACOSTA: Josh, you asked the chief whether he will allow more Capitol Police officers to speak publicly about the violence that they faced on January 6th.
That has been one of, I think, the glaring things that we've all witnessed since January 6th is that so many of them have not told their stories.
What was his response to that?
CAMPBELL: That's right. We've only heard from a small number. You think about all of the officers that were there. We've seen the video of them receiving all of this violence.
I asked him point blank, will he allow Capitol Police officers to speak up and speak publicly. Here's what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CAMPBELL: Should officers be given more freedom to speak out about what they endured on January 6th?
MANGER: Look, we need to hear their stories.
CAMPBELL: Will you allow them to speak out?
MANGER: Absolutely. Absolutely. Yes. They need to be heard.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMPBELL: Now, we know on Tuesday this will be the first meeting of the select committee looking into the insurrection. We'll hear from four officers then. Our colleague, Wolf Blitzer, will be anchoring special live coverage
at 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday.
But I asked the chief, should we be hearing from more of the officers that were injured and saw that violence, and he said absolutely.
ACOSTA: Josh Campbell, thanks so much for that report.
Next, how the life-saving COVID vaccines are dividing the sports world.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Have you gotten a vaccine?
UNIDENTIFIED ATHLETE: I don't necessarily think that's exactly important, Clarence. I think that's HIPPA.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: This just in. For the first time in nearly 50 years, the United States has failed to win a medal on day one of the summer Olympics games. Americans competed in five of the seven events today.
In the meantime, the issue of vaccinations is proving divisive in the sports world.
Omar Jimenez has the story.
OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As professional sports returned to full capacity, so do fresh concerns over COVID-19, driven by the Delta variant.
ANNOUNCER: Jonathan Bornstein is playing the drums in there.
JIMENEZ: Jonathan Bornstein is the defender for the Chicago Fire, the city's major league soccer team.
ANNOUNCER: He has double points right there.
JIMENEZ: He has played all over the world, even stints in the World Cup for Team USA. He could not wait to get the vaccine.
JONATHAN BORNSTEIN, DEFENDER, CHICAGO FIRE: I wanted it for myself to be able to protect myself and protect the people around me. I was one of those very open people to follow what was going on and when I got the opportunity, to take advantage of it.
JIMENEZ (on camera): Not everyone feels that way, as I'm sure you know, even within the professional sports world. (Voice-over): Some have been reluctant to share where they stand.
LEBRON JAMES, LOS ANGELES LAKERS: Me being available to my teammates on the floor is me taking care of my body. You know, me doing everything I can do to make sure I'm available mentally, physically, and spiritually as well.
JIMENEZ: And do you mind me asking if that -- if you're confirming that you did get the vaccine?
JAMES: It's not a big deal.
JIMENEZ (voice-over): And as the Olympics begin in Tokyo, notably, without fans, several American athletes won't be there either after testing positive for COVID-19, raising suspicions over whether they were vaccinated.
Swimmer Michael Andrew says he wasn't.
MICHAEL ANDREW, SWIMMER: I didn't want to put anything in my body that I did know how I would potentially react to. I didn't want to risk any days out.
JIMENEZ: It's still possible to get COVID post-vaccine but the effects are less likely to be severe, according to the CDC. But some still prefer the freedom of choice over a threat of health.
Buffalo Bills wide receiver, Cole Beasley, made that clear in June, tweeting, "If you are scared of me, then steer clear, or get vaccinated. Point blank. Period. I may die of COVID, but I'd rather die actually living."
The NFL's policy is vaccinated players get tested once every two weeks, while unvaccinated players get tested every day.
The league also told teams any COVID-19 outbreak among unvaccinated players would lead to the team's forfeit and loss, if the game cannot be made up.
MIGUEL CABRERA, FIRST BASEMAN, DETROIT TIGERS: Hi. I am Miguel Cabrera with the Detroit Tigers.
JIMENEZ: Across leagues, vaccination rates have climbed in recent months.
CABRERA: COVID-19 vaccine.
JIMENEZ: The WNBA has led the way, announcing in late June, 99 percent of its athletes were fully vaccinated. And Major League Soccer hopes to follow the trend.
BORNSTEIN: I think the most important thing was always education. Our team doctors were always available for any types of questions that we had for them. JIMENEZ (on camera): Do you worry at all, in any way, that somehow, because someone else is unvaccinated, that it would be affect your health in any way?
BORNSTEIN: A lot of guys are taking care of themselves both on and off the field. So it hasn't been something that has been in my mind a lot lately.
But the more that you hear about the Delta variant and other variants that have been going around, it starts to creep in a little bit, just because a lot more people are starting to get sick again.
ACOSTA: Thanks for that reporting.
Coming up, "All the President's Friends." The new book on the remarkable relationships that have shaped U.S. presidencies behind the scenes.
ACOSTA: The U.S. presidency is often called the loneliest job in the world because of the enormous scrutiny and responsibility it brings.
But after all those hours alone in the Oval Office, everyone needs a friend. Now a new book is pulling the curtain back on presidential inner circles.
Gary Ginsberg joins me now. He's the author of the book, "First Friends: The Powerful and Unsung and Unelected People Who Shape our Presidents."
Gary, great idea for a book. Fascinating subjects.
The inspiration for your book came from observing two political figures, Gary Hart and years later Donald Trump. Explain that for us.
GARY GINSBERG, AUTHOR: Sure. Well, since I was a kid, I've just been endlessly fascinated by the presidency. When I got older I started working on presidential campaigns.
The first one was Gary Hart's 1984 campaign. I watched how the very famous Hollywood actor, Warren Beatty, would parachute in for the most important events.
He was the only person around Hart who could tell -- talk to him and tell him in a way -- he would say to him stop talking and acting like a politician in a way that no other aide or staffer could.
Hart would listen in a way he wouldn't to any other staffer or aide.
At the same time, Beatty would relax with these late-night meals and conversations and give him the respite that he needed. Then I saw it again, in 1992, with Bill Clinton's campaign and then
his presidency with his best friend, Vernon Jordan, and how he had equal stature and didn't need or want anything from him. It created a really special dynamic.
So I looked in presidential literature to see if there had been anything written with these first friends.
I realized there had been books about first wives, first chefs, first butlers, first pets, but nothing about the first friend. So I thought I would fill it.
As you pointed out in your introduction, the lack of a first friend in the presidency of Donald Trump, I think, added a certain urgency to showing how this first friend can add really real value, both on a substantive level at times.
But also on a very personal level to give that president the respite and calm that he needs to fulfill the functions of the office.
ACOSTA: Well, we could spend the rest of this segment psychoanalyzing Trump and whether he had true friends or just friends who mooched off him, no pun intended.
Let me ask you, going back to Bill Clinton and Vernon Jordan, you write how Jordan -- this was a fascinating friendship.
I remember watching this unfold as a viewer and somebody interested in the presidency like yourself. Jordan may have very well saved the Clinton marriage between bill and Hillary Clinton.
Tell us about that.
GINSBERG: He did. I was able to confirm that with a couple of people very close to the president and then the president himself.
After he admitted to the affair with Monica Lewinsky, both to Hillary upstairs in the residence and then to the country, he realized that his marriage was in deep trouble, that the first lady was seriously contemplating leaving him.
He asked his best friend, Vernon Jordan, the man he told me was the only person he trusted, to have that conversation and the only person Hillary would have listened to as seriously as she did.
He dispatched Vernon Jordan to talk to her. She listened to him, stayed in the marriage and the rest is history.
ACOSTA: There's a darker relationship, friendship between Richard Nixon and Bebe Rebozo. Some of these names might be a little dated for some of our younger viewers.
But fascinating in that Rebozo enabled some of Nixon's bad instincts during the thousands of hours that they spent together.
This may be a bit more Trumpian. I suppose that might resonate with those who lived through the Trump era.
Talk about what happened with Richard Nixon and his friend.
GINSBERG: What intrigued me most about this friendship between Nixon and Rebozo was how completely different they were in personality and temperament.
Nixon was a dark, brooding intellectual. Rebozo was a high school graduate whose first job as an airline steward. But together it just worked.
Nixon was this loner. But thankfully, he had the self-awareness to realize that he needed a friend around him or else he would have angst and melancholy.
Bebe could entertain Nixon when he needed a break, he could make martinis or cook steaks or sit for hours when Nixon was deep in thought.
Here's where it all went wrong, and you allude to it. He was loyal to a fault.
When Nixon got into office as president, he started to involve Bebe Rebozo in his nefarious acts and deeds. He asked him to take a million-dollar bribe.
That was the impetus for why Nixon decided to bug the Watergate, which led to his impeachment and resignation. A good friend would have said, no, Dick, you have to appeal to your better angels.
ACOSTA: That's when good friends are helpful, you need good friends to tell you the hard truths, right?
Let me ask you about --
ACOSTA: Go ahead.
GINSBERG: Go ahead.
ACOSTA: I was just going to ask you about Joe Biden, one of the things that I noticed about Biden is that he has a sort of insular circle around him. He has a tight-knit group of family members and friends that he relies upon.
What would he write about Joe Biden, given the experience you had writing this book?
GINSBERG: After he was elected, I actually went in search of who was Joe Biden's first friend. It's a very easy answer. If you ask a hundred people close to the president, they'll tell you it's Ted Kaufman. I had a chance to talk to Ted Kaufman at some length. He's very
skittish about labeling himself as the first friend but the White House has confirmed that with others.
He was his chief of staff for 22 years when the average tenure of a chief of staff now is three years.
They not only worked together in Washington but they took the train back and forth between Wilmington and Washington. He has been Joe Biden's soulmate, his chief political adviser, his consoler in chief when his son beau died.
He asked Ted Kaufman to come to Washington and be a special government employee for 120 days.
Ted Kaufman is his closest friend, the first person to have slept in the White House.
He's a man who knows his limits. He says, I will not advise the president on policy issues because the issues are too complex, they're beyond my knowledge base.
He's a wise, wise man, and a great friend of the president.
ACOSTA: All right, Gary Ginsberg, it sounds like a great book. I'm going to check this out because I just find this to be so fascinating. These are the people that you don't think about who are very involved in the lives of our presidents.
"First Friends: The Powerful Unsung and Unelected People Who Shape Our Presidents."
Gary Ginsberg, author of that book, thanks so much for joining us. We appreciate it.
GINSBERG: Thanks for having me.
ACOSTA: In the -- thank you so much.
In the sitcom world, the workplace is an endless source of comedy, from "Murphy Brown," to "The Office" and "Veep" and "30 Rock." Next, "THE HISTORY OF THE SITCOM" looks at iconic characters who are
working for laughs.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Get out of my way. I'm going to kill everybody until I get out of here.
HAL LINDEN, ACTOR: Boy, do I hate to start a day like this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hal Linden is basically the Bob Newhart of that office, surrounded by all the craziness.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Lenny is my other personality.
UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Got the same address?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The workplace comedy is great because all the characters come in and they're not related. So they don't have something in common.
LINDEN: Turned out to be a diverse cast, which was I guess different in those days.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jack Su, Gregory Sierra, Ron Glass, that was pretty unusual and revolutionary.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: And be sure to tune in. "THE HISTORY OF THE SITCOM" airs tomorrow night at 9:00 right here on CNN.
It may seem like cutting grass as a chore many kids would prefer to avoid. But one man has convinced hundreds of young people across the U.S. to volunteer to mow lawns for people who could use the help.
This week's "CNN Heroes" salutes Rodney Smith Jr who created the 50- Yard Challenge.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RODNEY SMITH JR, CNN HERO: My 50-Yard Challenge is a challenge we have issued to kids nationwide and worldwide to mow 50 free yards in their community.
In returning, we will send them a T-shirt along with safety glasses and ear protection.
Once they mow 50 lawns, I drive wherever they are, present them a brand-new mower, weed eater and blower.
To date, we have about 2,000 kids nationwide.
Kids are responsible for finding their own lawns. That's a way they can go out in their community and meet people they normally wouldn't have met.
At a young age, I used to mow lawns as a chore and I disliked it. But now, I love to do it. And every single day I get to mow free lawns and encourage kids to get out there and make a difference, one lawn at a time.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: What a great story. To get the full story of Rodney Smith Jr, go to CNNheroes.com. While you're there, nominate someone you think should be a "CNN Hero."
That's the news. Reporting from Washington, I'm Jim Acosta.
Pamela Brown takes over the CNN NEWSROOM, live, after a quick break.
Have a good night.