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Police Retell Horrors Of January 6 As Capitol Riot Probe Begins; Simone Biles Withdraws From Gold Medal Event Citing Mental Health; Twenty-Four-Year-Old Gets Double-Lung Transplant Because Of COVID; Special Runoff Election In Texas Could Hinge On Endorsements, Testing Trump's Political Clout; Trump Endorses Ken Paxton In TX A.G. Race Instead Of George P. Bush. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired July 27, 2021 - 14:30   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: There were rebar, flag poles, Trump flag poles. There was the stolen shields from other police officers, bear spray, insecticide, like wasp spray, that they kept getting a face full of.

Frankly, one of them talked about the possibility of gunfire. I can't believe there wasn't more gunfire that day.

Because what happened was one of them said that they -- he could hear the crowd saying, let's take his gun, let's take his gun.

And one of them also threatened him and said, if you use your gun on us, we all have guns and we're going to fire back.

It is astounding that there wasn't more gun violence actually that day.

ANTHONY BARKSDALE, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: They were professional throughout this incident, well, this terrorist attack because that's what it was. Their professionalism is just amazing.

But at the same time, when they did not take those actions, they were willing to basically die right there because, sure, they could have opened fire but they were thinking, this won't work, this isn't the route. Unfortunately, they suffered for it.

But I want to go really quickly to the intelligence factor of this. Those officers depend on the top to pass down preparation, intelligence to them to prepare for what they may face.

This was a huge letdown for those officers, and they must move this investigation to the top.

They must get information and figure out who had any intelligence on chatter for that day, where they did not pass that information down and leave those officers vulnerable to this domestic act of terrorism.

It has got to be done.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Very important question, of course. This committee is going to try to get an answer to.

Anthony Barksdale, Manu Raju, Evan Perez and Asha Rangappa, thank you all.

CAMEROTA: We are waiting for an address from President Biden. It is the first time he is addressing the Intelligence Community following the turbulence of the Trump administration. We will bring it to you live.

BLACKWELL: Plus, a shocker at the Olympics. Simone Biles withdraws from the women's gymnastics team's final event to focus on her mental health.


SIMONE BILES, U.S. OLYMPIC GYMNAST: It has been stressful, these Olympic games, I think just as a whole, not having an audience, a lot of different variables going into it. Has been a long week, it has been a long Olympic process, it has been a long year.


It is just part of her answer there. We will have more on what she says was behind this decision.



BLACKWELL: This was a stunning announcement at the Tokyo Olympics. American superstar gymnast, Simone Biles, withdrew from the women's team final competition today.

And afterwards, she explained she wasn't dealing with a physical injury but, instead, she needed to focus on her mental health.


BILES: I just felt like it would be a little bit better to take a backseat, work on my mindfulness. And I knew that the girls would do an absolutely great job and I didn't want to risk the team a medal for kind of my screw-ups because they've worked way too hard for that.


BLACKWELL: CNN's Coy Wire in Tokyo with more.

Coy, Biles had struggled on the vault before she withdrew. So was it a physical issue, a mental health issue or can you just not divorce the two?

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Yes, Alisyn, she said afterwards that she felt off and she wasn't going to let her poor performance hurt the team and cost them a medal. So she pulled herself out of that women's team gymnastics' competition.

As you mentioned, she later confirmed that she withdrew due to mental issues. She said usually she perseveres, but this time was different.

Here is how she described what happened before the competition.


BILES: I was just shaking, could barely nap. I never felt like this before a competition before. I tried to go out and have fun. In the back, warm up a little bit.

But when I came out, there I was like, no, mental is not there so I just need to let the girls do it and focus on myself.


WIRE: So the big question now, Alisyn, Victor, is will the mentals, as Biles phrased it, return. She said she has been fighting demons, she has to focus on her mental health.

Biles said the team is planning to have a mental rest day, a half day Wednesday here.

She has one team silver already. Individual competitions start Thursday. So she could still win six medals overall, that's if she chooses to compete.

The world is waiting to see if she's going to be OK and if she can continue, Alisyn and Victor, here in Tokyo.

CAMEROTA: Gosh, it has been just so fascinating to hear some of the athletes begin talking this openly and candidly about mental health struggles through all of this.

BLACKWELL: Yes, Naomi Osaka pulled out of the French Open. She lost her match and is out as well.

We will have more conversations about mental health as the athletes are having them.

CAMEROTA: Coy Wire, thank you for the update.


BLACKWELL: So if you have ever had a doubt about the long-term effects of COVID, you will meet a 24-year-old man who is now a double-lung transplant recipient and still battling for his health.


CAMEROTA: We're following breaking news. In the next few minutes, the CDC is expected to issue new mask guidelines for vaccinated Americans. So we will bring you that live as soon as it starts.

The current spikes of COVID are being fueled by unvaccinated Americans.

The CDC now says nearly half of U.S. counties have high COVID transmission rates. The U.S. is averaging more than 57,000 cases every day.

Joining us now, someone who knows all too well the devastating effects of this virus.

Blake Bargatze spent more than three months in a hospital ICU after contracting COVID-19. He needed a double-lung transplant to survive, and he's only 24 years old.

He's joined by his mother, Cheryl.

Blake and Cheryl, we are so happy to have you.

Blake, we are happy to see how well you are doing. I mean you -- as we just said, you are just 24 years old and you almost died from COVID.

How are you doing today?

BLAKE BARGATZE, RECEIVED DOUBLE-LUNG TRANSPLANT BECAUSE OF COVID: I'm doing a lot better now. In fact, I am actually close to being discharged from the hospital to go to an in-patient physical rehabilitation center.

I'm getting stronger day by day. I can't walk just yet, but that's the goal. And, you know, I'm going to spend some time at that center just to get strong and back on my own two feet again.

CAMEROTA: Well, we know it is going to be a really long road.


And just tell people of what the ordeal is that you have already been through.

Just to recap a little bit of the history. On March 27th, you went to an indoor concert. That was weeks before you were even eligible to get the vaccine, so you were not yet vaccinated.

I know that you think --

BARGATZE: That's right.

CAMEROTA: -- that you caught COVID at that concert and you regret going to that concert.

Two days later, you felt sick. Within a few days of that you were in the hospital with bilateral COVID pneumonia, meaning in both lungs.

I know you have been honest that you were a vapor. You vaped before that.

But, again, you are 24 years old. Is that why doctors think you got so ill?

CHERYL NUCLO, MOTHER OF BLAKE BARGATZE: No, actually that was a question that I approached his doctor with yesterday, and Dr. Reed (ph) said it wasn't only the vaping. He thinks he just got a full viral load, that somebody probably just

coughed directly in his face, particles went up his nose, in his eyes, in his mouth.

So the vaping doesn't help, but for the way that Blake responded he just got a full direct contact with it.


Cheryl, obviously, as his mom, this has been terrifying for you. It only got worse. I mean, after he was hospitalized, it only got worse. Within two weeks --


CAMEROTA: -- he was on a ventilator. Two weeks after that his heart stop, I think three separate times, one of them on Mother's Day.

I can imagine how helpless you must have felt. Did you think he was going to make it?

NUCLO: Actually, no. You kind of go numb, you know. I never gave up hope. Initially the problem was trying to find an bed for him. We had him flown to Atlanta. Actually, Dr. Barrett flew down and got him and put him on ECMO.

CAMEROTA: And that's a super-charged ventilator?

NUCLO: Like a lung machine. He would still be on the ventilator, kind of letting his lungs rest.

But the blood would be taken out of his body going through an oxygenator, giving going good, rich, oxygenated blood to his organs.

He was on that nine weeks? Nine weeks.

CAMEROTA: And at some point, you got the news he was going to need a double-lung transplant.

Blake, were you conscious during this? Were you aware that you were going to need a lung transplant?

BARGATZE: I was -- I was asleep for most of my hospitalization. But I do recall when they said that I needed a pair of new lungs and my mom talked to me about the pros and cons. And obviously if I chose to decline it, I would have died.

So I took the chance. I took the operation and it went well, and I'm happy to be alive. Obviously, I have a second chance.

CAMEROTA: Blake, I know that you are weak right now. You are coming to us from your hospital bed, but you feel so strongly about getting a message out to all of our viewers.

So what is your message today to young people like yourself? BARGATZE: Well, I've got a few. Number one, get vaccinated.

Originally, I was skeptical of the vaccine just because of how politicized it became. But it is very important to get that out there.

You know, I don't want people to make the same mistake that I did because too many people are losing their lives to this virus. There's something out there that can help.

Number two, obviously I was a vapor. It definitely doesn't help. So the people my age, it is not worth it. Become short of breath, it is hard to breathe.

And obviously, the long-term effects on your body definitely won't help and, ultimately, it can shorten your life span.

Last thing is organ donation. Obviously, I wouldn't be here today if it weren't for the fact that someone was selfless enough to donate their organs after they passed.

I just think it is important that everyone signs up as a donor because, obviously, you know, you're not around anymore, someone else could benefit from it. You can save plenty of lives.

CAMEROTA: Those are such valuable messages.

Blake, I mean, again, your strength of being willing to from your -- we can tell how weak you are and being willing to come from your hospital bed to get the word out.

Cheryl, I see you, of course, wearing your mask. You are in the hospital there. What do you say to people who don't want to wear masks in public?


NUCLO: Well, continuing to wear a mask is not that big of a deal. If it can help me from getting sick or others.

And I'm fully vaccinated, too. I've been vaccinated since January.

I will continue to wear a mask, especially because my son will have to wear one. I definitely don't want to bring anything around him.

I just would say wear the mask. Be careful, wash your hands. Don't take unnecessary precautions.

What we have been through is has been not even a nightmare. The things that have happened and it's just been horrific. But he looks great.

CAMEROTA: Yes, he's alive. Probably because he's 24 years old.


NUCLO: He's alive.

CAMEROTA: And the kindness of a stranger. NUCLO: Yes.

CAMEROTA: Of organ donation, as Blake just said.

Also, though, to be realistic, he is going to have years, probably of a tough road ahead.

I know you have a GoFundMe page.


CAMEROTA: Tell us where people can find that for all of his medical bills and rehab.

NUCLO: Oh, honestly. GoFundMe. And it's under Blake Bargatze.

CAMEROTA: Got it. We're showing it right now on our screen.

NUCLO: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: Cheryl Nuclo, Blake Bargatze, thank you. Thank you for the message. Thank you for taking the time.

NUCLO: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: I know that this is not easy to talk about, particularly when you're so sick. We're really happy that you seem to have turned a corner. Best of luck.

BARGATZE: Thank you.

NUCLO: Thank you. Appreciate it.

BLACKWELL: Twenty-four years old.

You know how many times we have the conversation about young people who are staying away from the vaccine because they think they're invincible. We don't know. There's so much we don't know about the virus.

When you see him after double-lung transplant, it just reaffirms that.

CAMEROTA: He didn't have to come on today. You can hear how weak his voice is. He wanted to tell young people the hell that he has livered through and get that message out.

BLACKWELL: People that were listening on the radio, you can support him and the GoFundMe account.

Coming up soon, former President Trump's influence on the Republican Party will be put to the test in Texas. We'll talk about a special election run off happening there right now and what it could mean for GOP races across the country.

We want to tell you about a very special upcoming event. We Love New York City, the homecoming concert announced by New York Mayor Bill De Blasio. It's way to celebrate New York City's comeback.

It will take place in New York Central Park. Star-studded lineup. You can watch on Saturday, August 21st, starting at 5:00 p.m., exclusively on CNN, CNN International, CNN Espanol.

We'll be right back.



BLACKWELL: The potency of former President Trump's political is being put to the test. A special congressional election runoff has come down to dueling endorsements.

CAMEROTA: Trump is giving his support to the widow of Congressman Ron Wright, who died of COVID in February.

Her opponent is state representative, Jake Ellzey, who has the backing of high-profile Texans, including former governor and Trump energy secretary, Rick Perry.

CNN political director, David Chalian, joins us to talk about this.

David, who has the Midas touch?


CAMEROTA: Donald Trump or a true Texan?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: This is the test. We'll see tonight. Trump is all in on this. His super PAC has put money in here. He's put robo calls into the district. This is a district outside of Dallas.

It's a special election. And two Republicans in this runoff.

This is the question of American politics right now. Does Donald Trump still dictate the state of play inside the Republican Party?

Seeing a contest like this where he's all in for one candidate and yet it's a close contest is going to go some way to answer that question.

BLACKWELL: Speaking of all in for one candidate, let's talk about George P. Bush, son of Jeb Bush. So he's done everything possible to get the endorsement from President Trump.

Former President Trump backed Ken Paxton in the A.G. race. It has to be humiliating considering all Bush did to try to get his support.

CHALIAN: You think it would be humiliating enough to fly across the country to go to New Jersey, go to Bedminster, grovel and ask for his endorsement after he treated your father so terribly and disrespectfully the way he did during that 2015, '16 campaign.

It's now doubly humiliating because it didn't work. He didn't get the endorsement.

Again, Donald Trump has a pretty decent track record inside Republican primaries. If he can keep that up, this can be a potential fatal blow to George P. Bush. We'll see how he moves on from here.

It was an endorsement he worked hard to get despite all the storied history of the Trump-Bush relationship, of lack thereof.


CAMEROTA: I know. I keep hearing it being likened to Charlie Brown and Lucy, Lucy with the football.