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CDC Says, Even Fully Vaccinated People Should Now Wear Masks Indoors; GOP Senators Say, Major Progress on Infrastructure Deal; Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-MS) Says Subpoenas Coming Soon from January 6 Committee. Aired 1-1:30p ET

Aired July 28, 2021 - 13:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN ANCHORS: But the DOJ says, these comments, listen here, at that January 6th rally, were not within the scope of Brooks' duties as an elected official.


REP. MO BROOKS (R-AL): Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass.


I appreciate your time today. See you tomorrow. Ana Cabrera picks up right now.

ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and thanks for being with us. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.

Vaccinated or not, the CDC is now urging all Americans to wear a mask indoors in areas with high or substantial COVID transmission rates.

Now, that covers about two-thirds of counties in the U.S. right now and it reflects where we are as a country. Not even 50 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated.

The reality is that America is trending in the wrong direction in the fight against the pandemic. New cases are spiking nationwide, mostly in areas with low vaccination rates.

And tomorrow, President Biden is expected to announce that all federal employees will be required to get vaccinated or undergo regular testing. Why? Because vaccines work and because it might be our only way out of this, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: All of this could be avoided if we get the overwhelming proportion of the population vaccinated. We have 100 million people in this country who are eligible to be vaccinated who have not gotten vaccinated. If you want to end this back and forth, let's get the overwhelming proportion of the population vaccinated and all of this will go away because the virus won't have any room to change, to mutate, to become a different variant.


CABRERA: Joining us now is CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen. And, Elizabeth, on top of the president's announcement coming tomorrow requiring all federal workers to get vaccinated or undergo mandatory testing, we just learned that New York Governor Andrew Cuomo will require all patient-facing health care workers in this state, in state hospitals, to get the vaccine. Testing will not be an option. So, it seems like this might be where it's all headed. What more are you learning?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Ana, I think you're right. I think we're going to see more and more places, whether it's the government or employers, saying you need to get vaccinated. Governor Cuomo said dramatic action is needed, and so that's the dramatic action that he's taking.

As you said, patient-facing health care workers have to be vaccinated. There's no testing option. You can't get tested every week as an alternative to vaccination.

I think this is really -- when the history of this outbreak is written in the United States, this is really a turning point. I think public health experts for, really, a year and something now have thought people will get vaccinated. We'll give them a good vaccine, they'll get vaccinated. If some are hesitant, we'll explain why they need to be vaccinated. It will all work, people will listen to us.

Now, what they're learning is that, no, people aren't listening. At first, it was thought, oh, people weren't getting vaccinated because they can't find the vaccine or they don't want to take a day off of work. No, that wasn't the reason. They're not getting vaccinated because they are listening to nonsense from their neighbors, from social media about this vaccine instead of listening to the people who actually know what they're talking about.

So, let's take a look at the tweet that Governor Cuomo put out just about an hour-and-a-half ago. He wrote, our health care workers carried us through this pandemic and we owe it to them to do what we can to keep delta under control. New York State will require patient- facing health care workers at state hospitals to get vaccinated to help keep both patients and workers safe.

Now, it's interesting, for federal workers, it was announced that you could get vaccinated or take a test once a week. It will be interesting to see if they keep that testing option.

CABRERA: And, Elizabeth, there was new data presented from Pfizer today on boosters and more. Fill us in. COHEN: Right. It's an interesting question. This delta variant has been such a challenge in so many ways. Will it help to prevent infection if you give someone three shots instead of two? Because as we're seeing, people are getting breakthrough cases, that's not good. The good thing is that, for the most part, I mean, the overwhelming majority, they are not getting very sick, but still you want as few breakthrough cases as possible. And so will a third shot help?

So, this is especially true for people who are older or who are immunecompromised. Sometimes they don't always have a really strong reaction to the shots. So let's take a look at what Pfizer found.

When they tested out this third shot, you can call it a booster shot, a third shot, when they tested for folks ages 18 to 55, their antibodies against the delta variant were five times higher with a third shot than when you just gave them two. When you look at 65 to 85, which is even more the group you're concerned about, antibodies were greater than 11 times higher.

Dr. Fauci and others have said for a long time we probably are headed towards a booster.


It's just a matter of when. It's not going to be right this minute but this gives you even more reason to think that we will be headed towards a third shot.

CABRERA: All right. Elizabeth Cohen, thank you.

COHEN: Thanks.

CABRERA: And right now, Florida leads the nation in new coronavirus cases. The number of reported infections there has nearly tripled from two weeks ago. Every one of that state's counties is listed as having high levels of community transmission, according to the CDC. And the number of people hospitalized with the virus is also surging.

CNN's Leyla Santiago is in Miami for us. Leyla, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has publicly questioned health experts, has downplayed the virus, most recently calling masks an unspeakable burden for children. What is going on there?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, and Governor DeSantis spoke before the media today, this morning, actually, and didn't mention COVID cases, the surge or the plan on how to tackle in the near future.

I will say he has encouraged vaccinations for quite some time now. But as I've checked in with a lot of school districts today who are trying to process the new CDC guidelines, you can hear from school officials that they're trying to make sense of the new guidelines and plan for the upcoming school year.

In Broward County last night, the school board was meeting, actually had to postpone their meeting because of parents and protesters upset over this new guidance and the idea that kids will be masked in school. I should also mention that that meeting was postponed to today and is happening as we speak, parents talking to school board members about how they feel that the policy should go for the upcoming school year.

But many of the school districts we talk to say they are still trying to figure out exactly what will be best moving forward. I can tell you here in Miami-Dade, the mayor said that she plans to put new measures in place to tackle this surge of COVID-19 cases.

But also, we should note, that back in May, the governor signed legislation that limits what mayors can do, what local municipalities can do in terms of measures to combat COVID-19.

Where I am right now, this is one of the vaccination and testing sites that has been opened and expanded in terms of hours to try to get people tested and vaccinated, on average, they're seeing about 2,000 people daily coming in for tests. But here's perspective for you, when it comes to vaccination, much lower number, only about 300 people coming in for vaccines in a state where roughly 48 percent of residents are fully vaccinated. Ana?

CABRERA: Leyla Santiago, thank you. Let's get to a doctor now in the heat of the battle in Florida, Dr. Murtaza Akhter, he is an Emergency Physician at Florida International University, as well as Arizona College of Medicine in Phoenix.

And, Dr. Akhter, we first spoke when you were in the heat of the battle in that tremendous surge last summer in Arizona. Now, you're working in Miami. Put this latest surge there and what you're seeing and experiencing into perspective for our viewers.

DR. MURTAZA AKHTER, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN, FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL UNIVERSITY: Yes, Ana. I'm sorry that we have to talk on this topic again. I was really hoping it would get better, but it's actually, quite frankly, pretty terrible.

I was working in Phoenix last week and in Miami this week, AND it was horrid in the E.R. last night. My colleagues here have been saying that for the last couple days at least. There have been hospitals who have been on divert (ph) throughout Miami-Dade County and it was an extremely stressful shift, lots of COVID cases. It reminded me a lot of last summer in Arizona. And on top of that, remember, everybody else is also coming in.

Last summer, there was a sense of I won't go to the E.R. unless I really, really need to, almost too much so, so that it was heavily COVID-biased, as everybody else was staying. Now, all those other people seem to think that life has gone back to normal. So, all of those other kids are coming to E.R. as well. It's almost a double- whammy, everybody is being delayed in the E.R. and they're extremely sick.

CABRERA: And you said that you actually treated a woman who had COVID who was screaming out in pain and yet saying she would rather die of COVID than get the


AKHTER: Yes. That was not only ironic, to say the least. To come to the E.R. looking for help but refusing to get the most effective treatment possible and really the only treatment makes us at a loss for words.

And it's also very frustrating. We're human too. As physicians, nurses, respiratory therapists, et cetera, we have basically a miracle drug. We have something that can help prevent infection and especially completely prevent severe infection and yet people refuse to get it. And they come in begging for help but also refusing the vaccine.

It's utterly ironic. It's very, quite frankly, anger-inducing. And, honestly, it backs up care for everybody else who's trying to do the right thing, so it's very selfish also.


CABRERA: Yes, and people won't even do what's best for themselves. You have people literally burning masks in Florida to protest the new indoor mask guidance from the CDC. What's your message to those folks?

AKHTER: By the time you're at the level of burning masks, there's probably little I can do to convince you. I have no idea what burning a mask does than being a political trigger point. Clearly, there is nothing about science that says you should burn a mask, whatever is on it.

There has been very good evidence about masks preventing transmission. We're now seeing breakthrough cases amongst vaccinated people, not nearly as often as the unvaccinated were much more likely to get sick. But to burn a mask is just completely pointless, especially when it's something that can help save so many lives.

Remember, Ana, there are plenty of countries that actually basically defeated the pandemic even without the vaccine, and did it by masking and distancing. We refuse to do that. We got a blockbuster drug, the mRNA vaccines, that are extremely effective, and we refuse to take those as well.

Other countries are looking at us and saying what is wrong with you guys? And I'm with them. This is ridiculous that we're helping spread the disease not only in our country but the rest of the world also.

CABRERA: And I'm glad you reminded us all of the fact that masks work too. And meantime, you have Governor DeSantis arguing mask requirements in schools just aren't necessary and that they could actually be harmful, saying in a statement, masking children can negatively impact their learning, speech, emotional and social development and physical health. Doctor, how do you respond to that argument? Give us the facts.

AKHTER: You know what impedes learning? Being sick with COVID, being hospitalized with COVID, being in the ICU with COVID, having family members who are sick with COVID, that impedes learning. A mask is basically not intrusive completely. I've yet to see a child whose mask was bothering him or her. In fact, in the emergency department, the kids are the best ones at wearing masks and the often help their parents put masks on correctly.

So, for Governor DeSantis to say something medical that, for once, is completely wrong and is completely out of his lane is ridiculous.

CABRERA: In terms of the vaccine, you talk about that being really the solution here, what's your thought on vaccine requirements or mandates, whether at the state and local or federal level? What is the risk/reward on that at this point in this pandemic?

AKHTER: The reward versus the risk is so massive that I'm surprised we're even still talking about this. Again, this has basically become a political point. And most other countries, if they had the evidence, and we do, would have mandated.

Remember, there are lots of vaccines that are already mandated. And just yesterday, I was talking to a patient who was afraid of an allergic reaction from the vaccine or side effects who had gotten all the other vaccines. Again, utterly ironic, makes no sense. Clearly, if the other vaccines that you've gotten as a child and as an adult had been okay for you to think the mRNA vaccine is going to cause a severe reaction, it really makes no sense.

The government in various counties, various states has mandated vaccines for everything else. Why this one? Why this one hasn't been mandated yet? I can get that people have trepidations because it's somewhat new, but when there's a global pandemic killing so many people and in a country where, clearly, we refuse to distance or wear masks, the only solution is vaccines. And we know that mandating will help improve vaccination rates. We've done it for other things. We've beaten polio. We can beat this too, but you got to get vaccinated.

CABRERA: Well, thank you for speaking out so passionately, Dr. Murtaza Akhter. It's good to see you. Thank you for all you do and, again, really appreciate your expertise. Thanks for being here.

AKHTER: Thanks for having me, Ana. I'm sorry we had to do it again. Stay safe.

CABRERA: Likewise. Please stay safe too. Keep up the good work.

All right, could we finally have a deal? I know what you're thinking, but it appears lawmakers are now closer than ever before to a final bipartisan infrastructure deal. A key vote could come as soon as tonight, we are told. That's next.

Plus, widespread praise pouring in for Simone Biles after the world's greatest gymnast pulled out of another Olympic event to focus on her mental health. But there are some critics. We'll discuss.

And how to throw an elbow at 30,000 feet, why the TSA has re-launched a program training flight attendants how to keep unruly passengers in check.


CABRERA: It may not be quite as rare as a Bigfoot sighting, but right now, there is a glimmer of bipartisanship taking shape on Capitol Hill. Republican senators say there is major progress on the hard- fought infrastructure deal. It's a virtual pillar of the Biden presidency and considered a key test of the toxic partisanship that is increasingly dividing the two parties.

CNN's Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill. What's the latest, Manu?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Right now, senators are getting briefed about the outlines of this deal, which would be about $1.2 trillion over eight years. It would be less than $600 billion in new spending. That money would be offset by a range of efforts, such as redirecting already enacted COVID relief money.

But a lot of those details are essential here. And whether or not enough senators vote to ultimately pass this bill remains an open question. And there are plenty of hurdles ahead, but one thing that appears increasingly likely that the Senate could vote to open debate on this bill as soon as tonight.

That's what the majority leader, Chuck Schumer, indicated earlier. He would need 50 Democrats, assuming all of them vote in line, the same way, ten Republicans, assuming they move forward.


A number of Republicans indicated they're willing to at least start debate, which is a shift from last week.

But there are still questions about what's in the plan. But there are still questions about what's in the plan, will there be enough to ultimately break a filibuster, to get off the bill, to get to final passage.

And there's a question about the House. Will the House change this in any way? I asked the speaker earlier today if she would commit to passing any Senate bill unchanged in her chamber. She said, no. She said, I need to see the language. There may be some discussion with the Senate.

And then there's also discussion about what happens to the larger $3.5 trillion Democratic-only package. Pelosi says, the Senate must pass that before they move on a bipartisan infrastructure deal in her chamber. So, a lot of moving parts here, but at the moment, some progress towards a bipartisan deal and at least the likelihood that a debate could be opened. Can they get it passed? Still an open question, Ana.

CABRERA: And let's talk about what's next with the January 6th Select Committee, because we're hearing lawmakers on that committee want to issue subpoenas quickly, Congresswoman Liz Cheney, one of the two Republicans on the committee among those pushing forward. So what is next, Manu, for the committee? What do we expect going forward? RAJU: yes. The chairman of the committee, Bennie Thompson, told me that they will issue subpoenas soon. They're not saying to whom but they're prepared to try to move forward. And they're not going to go through the voluntary letter writing effort that has been common in past investigations, instead, going straight to subpoenas.

And just moments ago, I asked Congresswoman Liz Cheney if she's concerned about the prospect that a litigation could occur if they issued subpoenas, and she downplayed that possibility.


RAJU: Yesterday, you said you would like to see every Trump White House communication around January 6th. Are you worried all that this could be hard to accomplish given the way that they have fought subpoenas in the past?

REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): Look, I think we absolutely -- we have got to make sure that we get to every piece of information that matters. And I think the speaker has been very clear and the chairman that we're going to issue subpoenas quickly, that we're going to enforce those subpoenas. And I think we've got to make sure the facts be followed where they lead.


RAJU: And after yesterday's hearing that heard testimony from police officers who defended the Capitol, their accounts of everything they went through, it could be hearing as soon as August, during the Congress' seven-week recess. They could come back early, have a hearing. That's what's expected at the moment. Ana?

CABRERA: Manu Raju on Capitol Hill, thank you.

I want to bring in our guests now. CNN Political Commentator and former GOP Congressman Charlie Dent, plus Democrat and former U.S. senator from Alabama Doug Jones, and Robert Wray, former Federal Prosecutor and former Whitewater Independent Counsel, he also served on Donald Trump's defense team in the first impeachment proceedings. Thank you all for being with us.

Robert, let's just start where Manu left off. We know the DOJ has said former Justice Department officials don't have executive privilege in this case. So, former DOJ officials, like acting A.G. Jeffrey Rosen, could be subpoenaed, possibly members of Congress could be subpoenaed, like Kevin McCarthy, who we know spoke to former President Trump during the insurrection.

And just last night, we learned Congressman Jim Jordan spoke to Trump on January 6th as well. Listen.


REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): I talk to the president numerous times. I continue to talk to the president.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, I mean, on January 6th, Congressman.

JORDAN: Yes. I mean, I've talked to the president -- I've talked to the president so many -- I can't remember all the days I've talked to him, but I've certainly talked to the president.


CABRERA: Robert, is he now a potential witness? Could he and should he be subpoenaed?

ROBERT WRAY, MEMBER, TRUMP DEFENSE TEAM IN FIRST IMPEACHMENT: Look, anything is possible. Obviously, he wouldn't have the ability to assert executive privilege. He's a sitting member of Congress. So I imagine if a subpoena is issued, it's fair game. He would be required to appear.

If the attempt though is to try to get inside the White House of the former president, former President Trump, and access communications between the former president and his aides, I would imagine there would be an assertion of executive privilege, which I think was the issue that was being addressed with Congresswoman Cheney. So, obviously, if that were to happen, I imagine that there would be or potentially could be litigation, which would slow things down.

Look, in most situations, the best course is to try to do on both sides that which both sides can agree to and get access to the information that the committee appropriately should have. If you're going to prompt or provoke a fight and get into the weeds of executive privilege, I don't think that really serves anybody's interest.

CABRERA: Well, and it seems that at this point though that Republicans aren't even willing to agree there was an insurrection, in which they were victimized and were having to be protected in that instance.


In fact, Congressman Dent, Jordan said he only watched part of yesterday's hearing. McCarthy and McConnell said they didn't watch. The reality is those officers who testified protected every one of those lawmakers.

Officer Fanone, he said it was like going to hell and back, and Republicans didn't even watch or listen to these officers.

WRAY: I watched more than a part of it. So, look, that's -- the important thing is not so much what the questioners have to say. It's -- what's more interesting is what the witnesses have to say.

CABRERA: Yes. Let's get Congressman Dent to respond as well.

CHARLIE DENT, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes. Look, Ana, yesterday was a -- that was a very serious, dignified hearing yesterday, very serious and compelling testimony. I think Republicans made a mistake by not appointing people to the committee. I think it's a big mistake. And Kinzinger and Cheney looked very good, as did the other members. So, I think right now this is not a good look. If I'm in the House GOP conference, I would be saying, we need to be represented beyond Cheney and Kinzinger and make whatever arguments you want. Because I think many of these members are potential witnesses. They're going to have problems. They're going to be asked to testify voluntarily, I suspect. And if they don't, they're going to be subpoenaed.

So, I think they should be watching. They may not be watching, but they're paying close attention, I can assure you.

CABRERA: And, Senator Jones, one Republican congressman, Andrew Clyde, he is still standing by his previous comments comparing the insurrection to a tourist visit. Watch this.


REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): Watching the T.V. footage of those who entered the Capitol and walked through Statuary Hall showed people in an orderly fashion, staying between the stanchions and ropes, taking videos and pictures. If you didn't know the T.V. footage was a video from January 6th, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit. Those are your words.

REP. ANDREW CLYDE (R-GA): And I stand by that exact statement as I said it.


CABRERA: Senator, this was after the testimony yesterday.

FMR. SEN. DOUG JONES (D-AL): It is stunning. I mean, that's only what you can say, that it is stunning. But you know what, Ana, I think that the folks on that committee really need to just ignore that kind of thing right now. They've got a job to do and the job is to get the facts. The job is not to try to catch Republican congressmen in a gotcha moment. The issue is the facts.

And that's what the American people demand and that's what I think this committee did such a great job yesterday, drawing out the facts of those that were on the frontlines at the Capitol building and what all happened. And we'll let the American people decide for themselves that despite what may -- some may politically think is in their best interest.

CABRERA: In fact, on that note, I want you all to listen to Officer Fanone this morning.


OFFICER MICHAEL FANONE, D.C. METROPOLITAN POLICE DEPARTMENT: This is what happens when you tell the truth in Trump's America. I thought about all the other public servants whose service to this country and the military had been disparaged and besmirched by Trump and his supporters simply because they told the truth.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CABRERA: Congressman Dent, I know you have received hate mail for going against Trump, not walking the line. What do you think is going on right now privately for Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney? What are they facing?

DENT: Look, I know those two, I'm sure, feel a bit isolated right now. Look, they have company. I think there are many members who still have a great deal of respect for them in the Republican conference. They were part of the impeachment votes. And I know those folks tend to talk to each other pretty regularly. But they're a bit isolated.

And by taking such a high profile position in this committee, they're not helping themselves in their primaries, but that's not why they're doing this. They're doing it for all the right reasons. They're doing it because they believe in the constitutional order, they believe in the rule of law, they believe in the truth. And so this is not just about politics to them.

And I think the good news is they both have big shoulders. They're tough people and they can take the heat. So, I'm not that worried about them. They're going to be fine. And no matter what happens, if they win their primaries or not, they're going to be fine. Life will be good to them. And that's where -- they've resigned themselves to that fact. But I think they're a little lonely though at times in the conference.

CABRERA: Also new, the Justice Department will not represent and defend Congressman Mo Brooks, who's facing a lawsuit over his potential insurrection involvement, including this.


BROOKS: Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass.


CABRERA: Robert, Brooks claimed he was acting in his official capacity as a government employee, so the Department of Justice should defend him.


The Justice Department though said, no, that wasn't part of official duties.