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Minority Leader McCarthy Says He Didn't Watch Hearing; Cheney: We Must Account for Every Minute at White House on January 6; Simone Biles Withdraws from Team Final Event, Cites Mental Health; Kinzinger: GOP Toxic Response to January 5 a Disservice to Officers; Group of New Jersey Parents Files Lawsuit to Block Mask Mandates. Aired 3:30-4p ET.

Aired July 27, 2021 - 15:30   ET



MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There's going to be a deep dive investigation. Not just Nancy Pelosi but also on the other side of Capitol, the Senate, at the time the majority leader was Mitch McConnell. If there just questions about what Nancy Pelosi did and did not do. There undoubtedly will be questions about what Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader did or did not do.

But that's unlikely to be the main focus of this investigation even as Republicans who are not on this committee want this to be, but the investigation in the days ahead is the members are going to start to lay out a road map exactly how to pursue some key questions about the break downs in intelligence. About reasons why additional troops and National Guard were not called in a timely manner.

But also, everything that Donald Trump did. The communications that he had, his allies. How he promoted the rally. Things the Republicans like Kevin McCarthy don't want to focus on knowing that's not necessarily good politics for them going forward.

But Liz Cheney who of course is one of the two Republicans named to the committee by Nancy Pelosi does want to go that far. I asked her directly about that. She says she wants to know every communication, discussion, things that happened at the Trump White House right around the time of January 6th and subpoenas could be coming soon. That is the message from Chairman Bennie Thompson who told me earlier that they do want to issue subpoenas. Because they want to get to the bottom everything that happened quickly.

So, they're going to make some decisions quickly as well, including whether to have another hearing potentially in month of August as they begin that work to try to get documents, sending out documents and letters for documents and subpoenas as part of this investigation.

But even as they want to move rapidly, guys, this is going to spill into next year, go into the election year and undoubtedly that will affect how they decide to pursue things. It could get close to the election and that's one thing the Republicans in particular are concerned about. They don't this to be an election year issue but it very well could be.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Let me ask you a big picture question, Jennifer, I mean what we watched today was riveting. I mean, calls were shortened, meetings were postponed so that we could continue to watch what has happening. But from an investigatory position, and it seems like General Honore is back. But Jennifer, from an investigatory position, the value of what we heard to try to get to the bottom of what led up to January 6th.

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it wasn't such blockbuster news in terms of new information that we didn't know or piecing together why this happened. You know, this is compelling testimony. It has as a lot of human interest, you know, it's very gripping. But we didn't learn much that was new. So, I wouldn't say it's super valuable in the investigatory, you know, meaning. But, you know, it set the stage.

You know, it really reminded people this is why this is important. Everyone should be paying attention to this. And so, you hope that that lays the foundation for when they do start calling witnesses who tell us things that we don't know about putting these pieces together. Why this happened? How the groups were preparing? What coordination they had with former government official, members of Congress, et cetera that people will be focusing on this and will really kind of turn their attention to it fully.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Yes, we just had not heard it all in one place from the people who were most -- from the brave police officers who were most impacted and just how it affected their lives that day and beyond. I just couldn't turn away from listening to how this, you know, they're still traumatized obviously physically and emotionally. Manu Raju, Jennifer Rodgers, General Honore, thank you all very much.

Now to the Olympics. Heartbreak there. Gymnastics powerhouse Simone Biles suddenly withdraws from the women's team final event. We're going to speak to Olympic Gold medalist Amanda Borden-Cochran about what she thinks went wrong here, next.



CAMEROTA: Fans stunned by the turn of events at the Tokyo Olympics. Simone Biles, the world's top gymnast withdrew from the women's team final competition. Biles later said there was no physical injury, but she had been struggling mentally and that that was her greater concern.


SIMON BILES, TEAM USA OLYMPIC GYMNAST: I just felt like it would be a little bit better to take a backseat and 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 worked way too hard for that.


BLACKWELL: So, Russia's team pulled a major upset and beat the U.S. to take the gold. The U.S. earned the silver medal. CNN's Will Ripley is in Tokyo. So, tell us more about Simon Biles' decision.

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, she's the second major Olympic star after Naomi Osaka to talk about mental health and the distraction and the lack of mindfulness being a factor in pulling out of the games.

And I think this is really going to bring this topic more to the forefront of the conversation. Because the athletes who are winning gold are talking about the focus and in some cases the focus that comes from not having spectators. The focus from meditating every day in the case of Carissa Moore who won gold for Team USA in surfing.

Tom Daley who won gold for synchronized diving said he would visualize a perfect dive every morning. He said he was distracted in his head back in Rio when he didn't win in 2016. And now you have Simone Biles saying the same thing. That she didn't have the mindfulness. She was too distracted, feeling the pressure.

And former gymnast from Team USA, this powerhouse that is used to turning out gold medals for decades have said that mental health really isn't part of the conversation. It's about physical athletic performance. Now it seems as if this is going to force mental fitness also to forefront just like it's been for many of us during the pandemic. It's been a huge issue during the pandemic.

Now there was a really great moment and I think we have this video from Alaska of Lydia's Jacoby's hometown watching her amazing gold medal achievement. I mean because fans are not watching in person but you can see these images and you can even feel the energy through that video. The first gold medal swimmer from Alaska. Incredible. Those are the moments that make you smile here -- Victor and Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: God, Will, I think we're all a little tongue tied after watching this, boy, Alaskan knows how to celebrate.

BLACKWELL: That is fantastic.

CAMEROTA: Look at the energy --

BLACKWELL: A folding chairs night, safe in that room.

All right, Will Ripley, thank you.

CAMEROTA: All right. So, moments ago President Biden addressed the intelligence community for the first time as president of the United States.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- I was going to leave and I have the check you noticed. Thank you, again.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Will you require all federal employees to get vaccinated?

BIDEN: Beg your pardon.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Will you require all federal employees to get vaccinated?

BIDEN: That's under consideration right now. But if you're not vaccinated, you're not nearly as smart as I thought you were.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE REPORTER: Are you concerned that the CDC new mask guidance could sow confusion?


BIDEN: We have a pandemic because of the unvaccinated. They are sewing enormous confusion. And the more we learn, the more we learn about this virus and the delta variation, the more we have to be worried and concerned.

And in only one thing we know for sure, if those other 100 million people got vaccinated, we'd be in a very different world. So, get vaccinated. If you haven't, you're not nearly as smart as I said you were.

Thank you.


CAMEROTA: All right, we just wanted to play that for you because that was the first time President Biden was responding to the new CDC guidance that just came out in our hour about now vaccinated Americans in high transmission areas having to wear masks again. And he just said if more people, if millions for people would get vaccinated, we wouldn't be in the situation.

BLACKWELL: Because that's the focus for the White House is to get more people vaccinated. Of course, you heard that pithy answer from the president saying that if you're not vaccinated by now, you're not as smart as I thought you were. But that will continue to be their focus to get more people vaccinated. As now we've got all 50 states where cases are headed up. 35 of them 50 percent more than they were a week ago.

CAMEROTA: OK, let's go back to the Olympics for a moment. We want to bring in Amanda Borden-Cochran She was an Olympic gold medalist at the 1996 games as captain of U.S. Gymnastics Team known as the Magnificent 7. The first U.S. women's gymnastics team ever to win gold. And she now runs a Gold Medal Gymnastics Gym in Arizona.

Amanda, great to have you. And we just we wanted to get your take on what we heard from Simone. I mean that caught so many people by surprise when Simone Biles said she was going to take a backseat now. It sounded like not because of a physical injury but because of mental health.

AMANDA BORDEN-COCHRAN, OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST 1996 GAMES: Yes, I definitely think, you know, it shocked many but ultimately, you know, she's not where she wanted to be. She made a mistake and it's just a reminder that, you know, every Olympian can make mistakes and it does happen. But she has been resilient and tough before. And I think anybody that that's followed her career knows that she's going to definitely try to make a push and come back to finish the Olympics out.

BLACKWELL: Yes, you told our producers that people who ask can she not take the pressure, this is not about her ability to stand the pressure. We've seen her stand up to it before. If it's not that then, explain from someone who's been in that position, what it is.

BORDEN-COCHRAN: Well, I can tell you from my own personal experience right before we took the team finals, one of my team members basically squatted down and kind of got emotional and upset. And I said what's wrong. And she said I'm just nervous.

You know, a lot of times we feel an additional pressure to represent the U.S. But I stood her right up and I said, hey, you've done the hard work. We've all done the hard work. It's time to go out and have fun.

And I think Simone even said something like that. You know, it's just a good reminder that while we're trying to represent the country and bring hold those gold medals, these athletes started their journey because they love the sport they are doing. And to not forget that and if I could talk to her personally, I would just remind her to enjoy the moment and things happen for a reason and, you know, just celebrate being there. Because regardless of what medals they bring home, we're proud of Team USA. So, it doesn't matter.

CAMEROTA: But it sounded to me like something more was going on with her. It wasn't just one mistake on the vault, or it wasn't just an off day. It sounded like from what she was saying that it had been a hard year. That it had been a particularly hard, stressful year and that it had begun to affect her, you know, mental health basically. Did you hear that?

BORDEN-COCHRAN: Yes, obviously, I haven't had the chance to talk to her personally, but I think a lot of us can relate with the added stress pressure of this year.

And then you add in delay the Olympics for a year. You add in no fans which I know as an athlete I fed off the energy from the fans. That played a huge role in not just my personal success but our team success.

Also not having your normal support system. My family was able to be at the Olympics with me and I remember making eye contact with them in stands knowing win or lose or if I fall off the balance beam, I get to go home with my family. And all of those things I think play a really big role in our experience. And I think I heard Simone say, you know, she has a workout, it wasn't

great and then she had to sit in a room for five hours. And you know you wonder during those five hours, you know, you begin to over think, and you begin to over analyze. And those are all things that you know obviously we're just guessing but, you know, she's an incredible athlete. She can handle the pressure. I think, you know, just finding that zone again. Relaxing having fun and doing what Simon Biles does best and that's incredible gymnastics.

BLACKWELL: Yes, incredible athlete, indeed and of course now, Simon Biles, Naomi Osaka after the French Open a couple of months ago, we'll continue this conversation about mental health of athletes. Amanda Borden-Cochran, thank you.

BORDEN-COCHRAN: Thank you for having me.

BLACKWELL: So, the Republicans on the January 6th insurrection committee hearing, they are being hammered by their colleagues. We'll tell you what they are saying.




REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL) SELECT COMMITTEE ON JANUARY 6TH ATTACK: We still don't know exactly what happened, why. Because many in my party have treated this as just another partisan fight. It's toxic and it's a disservice to the officers and their families, to the staff and the employees on the Capitol complex. to the American people who deserve the truth, and to those generations before us who went to war to defend self-governance.


BLACKWELL: That was Congressman Adam Kinzinger, one of just two Republicans on the House's January 6th Select Committee, blasting his own party during the hearing.

CAMEROTA: Most Republicans have simply refused to participate whatsoever. Some have even refused to watch it. All while attempting to whitewash the horrifying events of the Capitol insurrection. And now Congressman Adam Kinzinger and fellow Republican on the committee Liz Cheney are facing calls that people want them removed from their committee assignments.

Let's talk about everything that we heard today. Here with us CNN Capitol Hill reporter Melanie Zanona, CNN political commentator Charlie Dent, and CNN senior political analyst John Avlon. Great to see all of you.

John Avlon, I just want to start with you, I listened to Congressman Jim Banks respond on Fox TV after this. And he went on, and I mean he just came filled with the Republican talking points of Nancy Pelosi doesn't want to get to the bottom of what happened. She's afraid because it'll all lead back to her and they're not going to figure out why the Capitol wasn't protected.

That's what they're trying to do is to figure out how to stop this from happening again. I mean it's just a complete fallacy.


CAMEROTA: It's lie.

AVLON: These aren't talking points. These are lies. And this is an attempt to whitewash what happened because they can't deal with the facts, they can't deal with the truth. They had an opportunity to participate in a bipartisan commission.

McCarthy set forward three conditions. Pelosi met them. Then they pulled the plug because they don't want to deal. But Kinzinger and Cheney are stepping up. And it's very clear that, you know, this is about patriotism. This is not about party. And the people who are trying to attack it are going to be the villains in American history because they are aiding and abetting by trying to hide what happened, an attack on our Capitol. And it's totally disgraceful without precedent.


BLACKWELL: Yes, Congressman, something that officer Dunn said stood out to me. He said that everything is different, but nothing has changed. About the context he comes to the job with, and you still got people who are buying and selling the big lie on Capitol Hill. I wonder as you listen to what happened today, how much more difficult did they make it for leader McCarthy and others to dismiss this committee?

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think those officers did an extraordinary job today. The proceeding was very dignified, and the witnesses, the four officers, were very compelling. And there was not the usual grandstanding that you see at these hearings. All the members behaved. They asked questions, they were seeking to get answers. I thought this was a very useful hearing.

So, all those who are out there trying to distract and blame Nancy Pelosi, Manu had said it just right. Are they going to blame Mitch McConnell? Well, he wasn't responsible, nor was Nancy Pelosi. It's unfair, it's unreasonable. We didn't blame George Bush for 9/11. These are distractions.

But I think if they keep up these proceedings as they have with this level of dignity and this type of compelling testimony, it's not going to look good for the House GOP.

CAMEROTA: Melanie, it was emotional. I mean it was certainly emotional for Congressman Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney. I mean there were cutaways of them at times. And Adam Kinzinger, even when he was asking questions his voice was cracking and he explained. He actually led by saying how emotional all of this was for him. He too has served in a way that some of those veterans had served. And, yet, then we heard afterwards from some of the Republicans that

they didn't even bother to watch it, they didn't have time to watch it. So, doesn't that sort of fly in the face of them saying they want answers?

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Yes, I talked to House Leader -- GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy after the hearings, asked him if he was watching. And he said he couldn't because he had back-to-back meetings.

Jim Jordan, a Republican who was one of McCarthy's initial picks for that panel that Pelosi vetoed also said he didn't have much time to watch these hearings.

But look, the bottom line here is that McCarthy and his allies are trying to keep a message focused tightly on the security failures in the Capitol that day. I talked to some Republican sources who's said they're very, very reluctant to be seen as anti-cop or impugning the testimony of these police officers.

Yet at the same time there are conservatives in the party like Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene who held a press conference outside the DOJ in defense of the January 6th rioters calling them political prisoners.

And so, this is a very tough messaging position for McCarthy to be in. And that's why you're seeing them essentially trying to avoid this at all costs.

BLACKWELL: So, John, let's listen to officer Dunn talking specifically about those two Republicans on the committee, Congressman Kinzinger and Congresswoman Cheney.


OFFICER HARRY DUNN, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE: Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger are being lauded as courageous heroes. And while I agree with that notion, why? Because they told the truth? Why is telling the truth hard. I guess in this America, it is.


BLACKWELL: Yes, that's the cutaway that Alisyn was talking about and seeing him there.

AVLON: And he's right. We shouldn't call people heroes just for telling the truth. But it is a mark of political courage. And let's be very clear why it is. It's because the people who are standing up to the big lie in their own party are being attacked. They're being sidelined. They're being stripped of committees. They are being called un-Republican if not outright un-American.

That's what people say when they're trying to defend a lie. They attack the truthtellers. That is a barometer of our politics today and it's a reflection of the Republican Party. And how divided we are as a result of the embrace of that lie for short term political game. They deserve credit for telling the truth. It is a profile in courage moment, but it's a low bar and that's speaks volumes about where we are today.

CAMEROTA: Charlie, I mean, from what you saw today, some of these things as you well know devolve into a circus. It didn't seem like that's going to be the tone of this. I could be wrong, but it didn't seem like there is, as you said, going to be lots of grandstanding and everything. So, do you think we are going to get to the bottom of what happened and what President Trump's role was? And if the Republicans, the other Republicans aren't going to watch, where will that leave us?

DENT: Well, Alisyn, the good news, you know, is it seemed like all the members on both sides of the aisle, you know, are there to seek accountability to get answers. They see this as a duty standing up for the constitutional order and the rule of law.

So, I think that's why this is -- to at least day one, went extremely well. I would encourage my former House Republican colleagues to watch these proceedings. Because I think this is very instructive, it's very helpful. And you know, we need an historical record, everybody knows this, everybody knows that there are terrible failures that day. And it seems like the members are trying to get answers.

And so, I think they're providing a very useful service to the American people by, you know, delving in the way they have. And I hope they keep it up and maintain this level of dignity and decorum.


And God bless Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney for doing their duty and taking all the arrows. They really are to be commended.

BLACKWELL: All right, Congressman Dent, Melanie Zanona, John Avon, thank you all.

All right, in the new guidance the CDC is now recommending that people including those vaccinated go back to wearing masks indoors in regions of the country that are seeing substantial or high rates of COVID-19 spread. With cases rising in every state right now, that designation applies to the majority of counties across the country. And the head of the CDC says everyone in and around schools should wear masks even if they're vaccinated.

A group of New Jersey parents is taking legal action to block any mask mandates in public schools this fall. I'm joined now by Kelly Ford, the mom leading the lawsuit, and Bruce Afran the group's attorney. Thank you so much for being with us. Kelly, I first want to start with you, your reaction to what we heard today from the CDC.

KELLY FORD, MOM LEADING ANTI-MASK CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT: Well, it's eerily similar to last year when they talked about how the COVID virus was becoming more of a pandemic and that they decided to forcibly mask all kids going back to school.

So, I accepted it because it was a temporary executive emergency order. And the emotional, psychological, and physical toll that a year and a half of masks on kids, specifically my children and the parents who have spoken to me have taken, greatly outweighs the impact that the virus including the delta variant has on kids.

BLACKWELL: So, let me ask you this, do you believe masks work as a measure to -- or to mitigate the spread of the virus? Let's just start there.

FORD: Well, I think that the more important question is, does the government have a right to force children to wear masks for up to eight hours a day.

BLACKWELL: I hear that. But I'd like an answer to the question I asked, please. Do you believe that masks work to stop the spread of the virus?

FORD: I think there's many cases where especially with kids, the masks don't work because they're not being worn properly. There's arguments where people aren't wearing the correct type of mask. So, I think that that is something that cannot be controlled in all of New Jersey's schools.

BLACKWELL: Bruce, I think we probably should stop the conversation right there. If we're having a conversation about whether masks work or not, I really believe the rest of this is futile because we know that the science shows that masks work.



AFRAN: Kelly, let me say this. Victor, you brought up the subject so don't tell me you're stopping the conversation when you bring up the subject.

BLACKWELL: Wait, wait a minute, hold on. We invited you here to talk about the lawsuit, right? Of course, if you believe that masks should not be mandated in schools, it is natural for me to ask, do you believe that masks work?

Because the follow-up then is then what should you do to stop the spread of the virus? But if you're starting with, well, maybe the mask works, maybe it doesn't, I think the rest of what you have to say is moot because we have to start with a science base. We have to agree on the facts.

AFRAN: You want to hear the guests just you give the talk. Now the answer is simple -- excuse me. We live in a constitutional democracy --

BLACKWELL: Go ahead.

AFRAN: We do not have government by doctors meeting in conference rooms at CDC and issuing press releases. CDC is an adviser to the government.

BLACKWELL: Yes. I understand that.

AFRAN: Let me finish. It should issue studies and Congress and legislature should take this up. We do not have government by private conference room and governors making judgments based on four or five unknown doctors in CDC headquarters. That is not how our Constitution works.

BLACKWELL: These are not unknown doctors, first of all. Second, the police powers given to the government allow them to make rules based on public health, based on public safety.

AFRAN: Absolutely not.

BLACKWELL: Jacobson V. Massachusetts allows them to make these types of rules if necessary.

AFRAN: (INAUDIBLE) by decision, Victor, that has been discredited by modern constitutional law. No serious jurist at any appellate level relies on a 1905 Jacobson decision. If you want to learn law before you start lecturing law professors on CNN.

BLACKWELL: So, I've got your lawsuit in front of me. You say that you ridicule the use of dividers. You call them imprisoning children. You don't want them to use masks. You don't want masks used. You also ridicule social distancing. So then how do you stop the spread of a virus in a school if all three of those are off the table?

AFRAN: Well, it's very simple, Victor. We've lived through 18 months of social distancing and masks and plastic dividers, and obviously it doesn't work. And every time a coronavirus shows up, the government says, well, we have no answers, let's lock people down and mask them again.

We need to do this through Congress and state legislatures, not through private conference rooms at CDC and press releases and governors who issue unilateral orders. That has never been American democracy.

BLACKWELL: I've got to end it right there. Thank you very much, Kelly Ford, Bruce Afran. The Lead with Jake Tapper starts right now.