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Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) Discusses U.S. to Continue Airstrikes in Support of Afghan Forces After Withdrawal & the Bipartisan Blame Game as Infrastructure Talks Hit Hurdles; Parents Split on Vaccinations as Student Return to School; Team USA Off to a Mixed Start in Tokyo; 13-Year-Old From Japan Takes Gold in Women's Street Skateboarding; Trump Ally Tom Barrack Pleads Not Guilty to Illegal Lobbying Charges; Clark Atlanta University Clears Student Account Balances. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired July 26, 2021 - 13:30   ET



ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: I think anybody would agree that that's important. I just want to be clear here. Can airstrikes keep the Taliban at bay?

SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D-HI): To the extent that it can help keep them at bay, then it makes it a lot harder for them to take over much more of the country and, therefore, imposing their will on women and girls.

So, yes, I think that it does have a role. However, it can't continue. That is not the way that we are going to, long-term, protect women and girls in Afghanistan.

CABRERA: OK. Let's change gears to infrastructure now. Today's the day President Biden promised a deal would be announced, on Monday, today. Listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The expectation is Monday. How much time do you think they need to get this done?



BIDEN: No, I'm not being facetious.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You think it's going to move forward in the Senate on Monday?

BIDEN: I do.


CABRERA: Right now, we have no indication it's going to move forward today. After working through the weekend, the bipartisan group of Senators still has key sticking points to work out. Here's the thing. A bipartisan deal, we were told, was first announced

back on June 11th. So more than six weeks ago.

Last week, there was this failed Senate vote. Today we have both sides pointing fingers.

Do you think a deal will actually get done?

HIRONO: My hope was that we could get a bipartisan traditional infrastructure bill done because, Republicans or Democrats, we all want support for our roads, highways, bridges, et cetera, in our states.

However, if the Republicans are continuing to say, well, that's not good enough, that's not good enough, how long are the Democrats going to wait for them to say, OK, it's finally good enough?

I thought last week, toward the end of last week, that things were looking good, especially after we voted down the infrastructure procedural vote.

I thought that was going to focus everybody's minds, the negotiator's minds on what we need to do. But at some point, the Democrats apparently are going to have to say that's enough of delay.

And the people of our country are waiting for us to get these things done. And we are going to get on with it. That is my view.


CABRERA: How much longer do you think that Democrats should wait?

HIRONO: For me? Right now.

But because people are -- as long as people are negotiating in good faith, that doesn't mean good faith negotiations that goes on for a year, which is what happened with the Affordable Care Act, at the end of which the Republicans said we have no intention of voting for it.

Well, you know what? At some point, we come to the conclusion that the negotiations, so-called bipartisan negotiations come to an end and we're going to need to proceed.

Because for me, the traditional infrastructure bill is part and parcel of the American Family Plan that also needs to go forward under reconciliation.

And if we need to put in some of the traditional infrastructure items into the other process, then we're going to say the traditional infrastructure bill negotiations have not succeeded.


HIRONO: And we're going to put as much of that into the other infrastructure plan as possible. And we'll do it through reconciliation. (CROSSTALK)

CABRERA: But you still need 50 votes, all Democrats on board to do the reconciliation.


CABRERA: Are you confident that --


CABRERA: -- right now you have those votes?

HIRONO: At some point, all the Democrats are going to say this is -- this has gone on long enough. Including the people who are not going to change a filibuster in order to get it done.

But for all the Democrats, they are committed to getting these things done, everyone is going to say, OK, that's enough. We're going to move through reconciliation.

CABRERA: Do you think Republicans are negotiating in good faith right now?

Because I keep thinking about that statement Mitch McConnell made back in the springtime saying he was 100 percent focused on blocking the Biden agenda.

HIRONO: And that is why some of us were quite a while ago prepared to deal with the priorities of the Biden administration to help the American people through regular reconciliation.

But I was more than willing to wait while the then negotiations occurred in good faith.

So we have a number of Democrats who are participating in that good faith process. And they will have to come to a conclusion that this is not going to happen.

And I personally believe Mitch McConnell when he says he has no intention of supporting any kind of process that will enable Joe Biden's major initiatives to succeed.

I believe Mitch McConnell when he says that.

CABRERA: Senator Mazie Hirono, thank you for your time. I appreciate you joining us.

HIRONO: Thank you. Aloha.



What were you doing when you were 13 years old? This one was winning an Olympic gold medal. The incredible story just ahead. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: Today, a new study showing just how split parents are when it comes to vaccinating their children.

For those with kids between the ages of 12 and 18, 39 percent say they have already gotten the shot. And 21 percent say they plan to. And 40 percent say they will not vaccinate their child.


This, as students are heading back to class already, and schools are being forced to make some really tough decisions.

CNN's Amber Walker is on this.

Amber, how are schools across the country approaching the start of classes?


Well, you know, the question has been for many schools and states whether or not to require a mask in schools. And the response really has been a patchwork of rules across the country.

So here in Georgia, for instance, the decision has been left to the superintendents, many of whom have been consulting with their own team of medical experts and listening to the public health guidance.

But that's the other issue. There's been conflicting public health guidance.

As you know, the CDC is recommending that, in schools, only the unvaccinated over the age of two should be wearing masks.

With the American Academy of Pediatrics taking it a step further, saying everyone, regardless of vaccination status, should be wearing masks in school.

Atlanta public schools, including this middle school behind me, they resume classes next Thursday. There will be a universal mask mandate in effect.

The same goes for DeKalb County schools.

And the districts tell me the Delta variant did play a role in this decision.

But Gwinnett public schools, the largest in the state, is taking a different approach. They're making masks optional, citing Governor Brian Kemp's executive order that tried to restrict masks in schools but stopped short of banning masks outright.

We do want to mention eight states, total, we've seen have passed laws banning mask mandates in schools. I spoke with one mother whose six-year-old daughter has been enrolled

for in-person learning at a Gwinnett public school where masks are optional. She tells me she's furious.


SARA HOLTON GARD, PARENT OF GWINNETT COUNTY SCHOOL STUDENT: I'm confident in her wearing a mask at school. But I don't have confidence that the rest of the kids will. That makes me nervous.

And I know that none of them are eligible to be vaccinated yet. And so I -- I worry that she's going to get into school, come home one day and say nobody is wearing their masks. Then I'm going to say I have to pull you out of school.

I want a mask mandate at school because I know my child can't be vaccinated yet.


WALKER: And to further illustrate this piecemeal approach we're seeing, Ana, at least 13 out of 30 of the largest school districts are going to be keeping masks optional.

Another 13 will actually be requiring masks regardless of vaccination status. That includes the largest school districts, New York, L.A., and Chicago -- Ana?

CABRERA: I hope my district requires one.

Thank you, Amber Walker. Appreciate it.

To Tokyo, where we're following the rising number of COVID cases and some pretty incredible stories.

First, the update on COVID infections. Cases related to the games jumped to 156 with 60 new cases reported yesterday. Three of them are athletes.

At least two dozen athletes from around the world have already been forced to drop out due to a positive test.

Outside of the Olympic Village, Tokyo reported more than 1700 new cases on Sunday.

And now let's get to the competition. The U.S. has already snagged 14 medals, seven of them gold. But it was a rocky start for some Team USA favorites.

CNN's Don Riddell joins us now.

Don, give us the highs and lows.

DON RIDDELL, CNN ANCHOR & CNN HOST, "WORLD SPORTS": We'll start with the bad news first and then we'll get to the good news.

Yes, it's been definitely interesting for the team events for the Americans at these Olympics.

We'll start with the basketball. If you are watching their warmup games before the Olympics, you wouldn't have had high hopes. They were not great in the warmups.

They lost the opening game to France over the weekend. They're not out of it. This is the group-stage situation. They still have games against Iran and the Czech Republic to come.

But having won gold in the last three Olympics, perhaps we want to recalibrate out expectations.

The women's gymnastics, led by Simone Biles in the team event, were absolutely dominant over the last decade and more.

But it was a sloppy performance in the qualifiers over the weekend. A lot of mistakes meant they qualified for the finals but in second place. Usually, they go in with flying colors.

Their performance director believes, when the pressure is on in the finals, then these athletes will thrive.

Katie Ledecky in the pool. Might seem like a disappointing result. She actually lost the 400-meter free-style to an Australian. But it was an absolutely incredible race.

And Ledecky said she couldn't be too disappointed because it was her second-fastest time ever and one of the fastest ever times by Ledecky.

And we should expect her to dominate once she's taking part in the longer distance events.

The Americans are doing pretty well in the pool, led by Caeleb Dressel. They won the four-by-100 meter free-style on Monday.


Dressel going for potentially half a dozen medals. So he has already got one on the board.

That's the situation for the Americans. But this is a global event. And there are some wonderful international stories.

I don't think there's any better than the skateboarding, which is a brand-new event at the Olympics.

Just check this out. Japan's 13-year-old Momiji Nishiya winning the gold medal in this event. One of the youngest Olympians ever. One of the youngest gold medalists ever.

Ana, I'll tell you this. The combined age of the athletes on the podium was 42. I'm older than that.


RIDDELL: And I take absolutely no joy in admitting that. But there you go. It's a young squad.

CABRERA: The combined age of 42 and a 13-year-old who can say I was an Olympic champ already. Talk about a story for his classmates.


CABRERA: Don Riddell, thank you for bringing all of that to us.

Back here at home, they overcame a lot to stick with their studies during the pandemic. But now one Atlanta University is paying its students back in a big way.


CABRERA: Happening, to Trump associate, Tom Barrett, facing charges of illegal foreign lobbying for the United Arab Emirates.

Here he is just out of court.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's go. Come on.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Back up. Let's go. Let's go. Back up. Let's go.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I can't back up.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's go. Back up.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Watch your back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Watch your back.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: To the right, Peter. To the right.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Don't push. Don't push.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Watch it, guys. Watch it.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Watch your step.



(END VIDEO CLIP) CABRERA: OK. I'm told he did speak to the camera. I, like you, probably had a really hard time hearing what he said, but we have a reporter on the ground.

Paula Reid is covering the hearing itself and these following developments.

What was said at the hearing and did you hear what he said after court?

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: I didn't quite make out what he said. He's only a few feet from me. I couldn't quite make it out. We'll have to roll the tape back.

We know, in the arraignment, he and his co-defendant both entered a plea of not guilty to charges including allegations Mr. Barrack was acting as a foreign agent.

Prosecutors alleged he used his influence he had in the Trump campaign and then in the Trump administration to lobby and work on behalf of the United Arab Emirates without properly disclosing that.

He's also accused of lying to federal investigators and trying to obstruct this investigation.

It's notable we're seeing him in person for the first time here at this arraignment because he was just released from federal custody on Friday as part of a quarter billion-dollar bail deal.

Now, prosecutors had argued that he was a significant flight risk. Ana, they pointed to the fact that the man is a billionaire. He has a significant global network.

And his co-defendant in this case fled the country shortly after being interviewed by FBI agents about this case.


But he and his lawyers were able to negotiate a deal with prosecutors so he will remain. He's expected to remain free and out on bail as he awaits a trial.

They say he's going to fight these charges.

CABRERA: All right, Paula Reid, thank you.

Let me bring in quickly Elie Honig, out CNN senior legal analyst here to catch the latest developments here.

Elie, what do you think about this case, and what happened today?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it's a tough case for Tom Barrack. If you look at the indictment, Ana, this is not the kind of case that defense lawyers are really going to be able to poke holes in because the evidence is based largely on Barrack's own statements.

What happened here today was expected, him pleading not guilty. Virtually every defendant does at his initial appearance like this.

But what I'm looking for, are there signs he's going to cooperate? There's one of two avenues he can take now. One, he can say these charges are unjust, I'm innocent, I'm going to fight them.

The other, the more sort of gentle way to take this, is for him to say things like, we're going let this play out, we'll see how it goes.

If he's making the latter type statements, that, to me, suggests there could be cooperation in the offing.

And really cooperation is Barrack's best chance for -- to avoid any type of significant prison sentence here.

CABRERA: OK, Elie Honig and Paula Reid, thanks to both of you.

Students have faced a lot of curveballs in this pandemic. But for the ones attending Clark Atlanta University, this is a good one.

They just got this message from the school's president:

"We are pleased to inform you that we are canceling all CAU student account balances with the university for the spring 2020, fall 2020, spring 2021, and summer 2021 semesters by bringing them to a zero balance."

And the president of Clark Atlanta University, George T. French Jr, joins us now.

What an amazing gift. This sounds like a lot of money. Just how much are we talking, and how many students will be impacted?


Clark Atlanta University is the largest private HBCU in the state of Georgia. We have about 4,000 students.

So we were able to tell our students thank you for being resilient and diligent during the COVID. They have not been on campus for a year.

So, we decided to set aside about $2 million and to eliminate all of that I have balances.

So, Ana, I tell you, over the last few months, I've received calls and texts and e-mails from students who otherwise would not be able to return to school in the fall.

But now, they woke this morning, and they have zero balances.

CABRERA: Incredible.

Explain exactly what this covers. Does this cover 100 percent cost of tuition and room and board?

FRENCH: Well, it covers your balance. It's not that we're paying the tuition.

It's that, if you had a tuition balance, if you had a room or dining balance, then we forgave that balance.

And, Ana, we used federal funds. We used HEERF funds, which that's the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, which is part of the CARES Act.

So the AUC presidents we were instrumental in getting that through Congress.

We were grateful that UNCF made the hardest push to get this money for students. And we decided to use ours at Clark Atlanta University to return it directly to the students.

CABRERA: And how much money is that, then?

FRENCH: So, that's $2 million.

CABRERA: So $2 million.

FRENCH: Approximately $2 million.

And to be honest with you, my COO and CFO this morning, they suggested that we do a little bit more. So we're going back to the drawing board to see if we can do some more for our students.

CABRERA: Does that mean potentially people, who are incoming freshmen who also have suffered through the pandemic and whose families have struggled, might see some kind of relief as well?

FRENCH: Well, we don't -- we won't make that promise yet. But that's exactly -- you get it. That's exactly what we're working.

We have had several high-net-worth individuals to approach us in the last few days that want to do exactly what you just described for the incoming class.

CABRERA: This has obviously been such a hard year for everyone. I mean, at the height of the pandemic, there were 22 million jobs lost. And right now, the U.S. is still down nearly seven million jobs.

What have you heard from students about, you know, how this will impact them? Do any -- any stories stand out to you?

FRENCH: Well, you know, it's interesting that you bring that up because those statistics, you're imminently correct.

However, when you disaggregate those data, you see that of all of those businesses in the United States, 50 percent of minority businesses went under during the pandemic.

So there's a huge void within the African-American community as far as entrepreneurship.

So, our students, yes, our students, they were -- had some difficult days. They had to go to 42 different cities across the nation, going back home.


So many of them didn't have laptops. So we purchased 4,000 laptops, gave them to all of our students. Purchased hot spots, put checks in the mail to our students.

We did everything that we could to make sure that they could continue to matriculate and graduate from Clark Atlanta University.

CABRERA: George French, president of Clark Atlanta University, thank you for sharing all that with us.

FRENCH: Thanks. Thank you.

CABRERA: Congrats to the students.

I want to take a quick moment to say a few words to a viewer who's been going through a tough time right now, who just lost his Yorkie, his best buddy, Max.

I'm told Sur Enriques (ph) watches this show every day. And I was so touched to learn this has been a bright spot in his daily routine. And it was a reminder to me of what a special job this is.

And, Sur (ph), I know right now is hard. And to others who may be hurting right now, too, I just want you to know, you are not alone.

That does it for me today. Thank you for joining me. See you back here tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. Eastern. Until then, follow me on Twitter, @AnaCabrera.

And the news continues next with Alisyn and Victor.