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Simone Biles Withdraws from All-Around Final; U.S. Report: China May Be Expanding Its Nuclear Arsenal; Biden Visits Intel Community for First Time as President; Trump Allies Still Downplaying Implications of Attack; How Riot Testimony Played on Right-Wind Media. Aired 4:30-5a ET

Aired July 28, 2021 - 04:30   ET



PEDRAM JAVAHERI, CNN METEOROLOGIST: That's exactly what's happening across eastern Europe. Temperatures about 40 to 45 degrees Celsius. That puts it in that range of 105 to 110 degrees. And you'll see that is well above the average where it typically is hot this time of year. So excessive heat on top of the fire conditions.

ISA SOARES, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, the elements unfortunately there weren't paying much attention to you, Pedram, do not be offended. Pedram Javaheri there for us. Thanks very much, Pedram.

Now gymnastics sensation Simone Biles bows out of another Olympic event. We'll get reaction to the big announcement and talk about the immense pressure she's under. That's next.


SOARES: Now superstar American gymnast Simone Biles is withdrawing from another Olympic event to focus on her mental health. This time it's the women's all-around final tomorrow. USA gymnastics says Biles will be evaluated daily to determine whether she'll take part in next week's competition. And applauded her bravery calling her a role model for many. Many of course, in the world of sports support her decisions including her former teammates. Take a listen.


ALY RAISMAN, THREE-TIME OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST: Even the best athletes in the world, they have good days and bad days and I commend her for her bravery and speaking up and doing what was right for her and what she felt was right for the team. It is not easy, but you know, even the greatest athletes of all time, they're not perfect and they're human too.


SOARES: And my next guest writes in the "Washington Post."

(04:35:00) Here's the problem with establishing yourself as best at your chosen profession. Maintaining that standard over weeks and months and years takes its toll even if we can't see it. The customers, the public, know only that standard and the job is to continue to deliver or stop. That is a burden regardless of the trade. At that wrong time, it can become crippling.

"Washington Post" sports columnist Barry Svrluga is with us from Tokyo. Barry, thank you very much for joining us. And I think that we are all surprised not just yesterday but also today to see Simone Biles pull out because of course she is so loved and so incredibly talented at what she does. But it is this expectation that perhaps is proving too much for her.

BARRY SVRLUGA, SPORTS COLUMNIST, THE WASHINGTON POST: Absolutely. I mean, it was stunning, you're right, to sit there in the arena last night, Simone Biles was expected to lead the American team to another gold medal. That's what she had done five years ago in Rio de Janeiro. There was no reason despite all the hardships over the last year in particular after the delay of the Olympics, after another year of training, after putting off retirement, that to believe that she wouldn't go out and do what she always does which is just totally marvel you.

Instead, she was unable to pull off even a warm-up jump that was to her normal standard. She was clearly out of sorts. And I think there was some bravery to say, you know what, I'm going to do more harm than help here if I stay in this competition. And it is furthering the discussion about athletes taking care of themselves. It's a discussion that started with Naomi Osaka at the French Open and it's pushing through to Tokyo now.

SOARES: It's so courageous. And I think the signs were there because on her Instagram page which I follow -- if you can bring it up -- she said that I truly do feel like I have the weight of the world on my shoulders at times.

So, Barry, I mean, what does this pressure, this expectation, this burden as you say in your article do to an athlete's mental state?

SVRLUGA: I think that it gets it tied in knots essentially. And you think about gymnastics, one of the reasons why Biles is so beloved is she just does these things that we can't imagine doing ourselves. But if you're not in the right frame of mind to pull off these things that you've trained so hard for, that they are just second nature almost, if the second nature is no longer right at your fingertips, then in a sport like gymnastics, you are putting yourself in harm's way.

You are not only putting yourself in a position to not perform for the team which is what Biles said one of the reasons she was stepping back from last night's competition, but you are also putting yourself in potential of getting injured. Think about what Simone Biles has been through since Rio. The burden of carrying, and kind of being the face of the games in the United States, was really on her. And that's a lot to handle for a 24-year-old or someone of any age. SOARES: And thanks for reminding us, she's just 24. And it's how much

burden is on her to actually continue being the greatest of all time. But how much, Barry -- I mean, I thought about this this morning, the pandemic, how much of the games and the fact that it's been pushed back to 2021, that meant probably another year of training, the whole kind of long Olympic process, the COVID measures being put in place. How much do you think that has worsened the stress?

SVRLUGA: I mean, just enormously. If you think about what a normal Olympic cycle is and think about how often these athletes by and large enter our consciousness, it's once every four years. And you ramp up, and you as somebody in one of those sports knows the deal. You know that you have to be ready at that fourth year so that when the spotlight comes on, you're there to absorb it all and take advantage of the moment and everything that follows.

The pandemic put that off by a year. It was the only decision that could have been made in the moment. But Biles said in the run-up to these games, you know I thought, well the finish line was going to be 2020, whether there were the games there or not, maybe I'll just give up -- not give up, but retire because that's when I had set the finish line at for myself mentally. The extra year absolutely took its toll on her. And not just her. Every single athlete here expected to be competing in July of 2020, there is no telling how many athletes here are feeling the exact same thing.

SOARES: Incredibly courageous of her, she was incredibly gracious with her team members and of course we are rooting for her. Barry Svrluga, thank you very much for taking the time there from Japan. Barry Svrluga who has written a piece in the "Washington Post," Simone Biles and the price of being the goat. Thank you.

SVRLUGA: Thanks very much.

SOARES: Now researchers sent out a warning about China's nuclear arsenal and how fast it could be growing. We'll talk about that and what these satellite image show, that's next.



SOARES: Welcome back everyone. Now a new study warns China may be ramping up its nuclear capabilities. The Federation of American Scientists says China is building a new field of missile silos in its western deserts. It was spotted by satellites. And this is the second apparent missile base identified this month. The report says together the two sites mark, quote, the most significant expansion of the Chinese nuclear arsenal ever.

CNN's Steven Jiang is tracking this live from Beijing. And Stephen, talk to us about this rapid buildup. Because no doubt of your concerns to many. And critically what China is saying about this report in particular.

STEPHEN JIANG, CNN SENIOR PRODUCER: Well Isa, we have reached out to the Chinese authorities. So far, they have not responded. But as you say, we are talking about at least 230 new missile silos that appear to be under construction in the country's vast western deserts. And capable of handling Intercontinental ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads. Now this member is more than ten times the current number of missile silos.

So, we have not, you know, obviously received official explanation, but experts say that this could be several reasons. One of course is China simply wants to have a bigger nuclear arsenal to match its superpower status. And also, could be because the Chinese leadership is worried about its ground-based missiles being vulnerable. That's why they want to build this large number of silos to easily move its active missiles randomly among the silos to make it difficult for its enemies to target.

And then of course, this is happening at a time when tensions are really ratcheting up between the United States and China and state media outlets here have suggested that the Chinese nuclear policy should not be tied down by United States. And it's long stated a policy of minimum deterrents. The word minimum should change according to its changing security needs.


Now this policy, of course, is interesting because what it means is China has long said that it won't use its nuclear weapons unless it's attacked. And also, officials say its nuclear forces are maintained at a minimum level to safeguard its national security. But now this reported massive buildup of course, experts say it's anything but minimum. So, a lot of alarm already being raised about a potential new arms race between the world's two most powerful economies and militaries.

But some experts have also said, even and if when these reported new missile silos are operational, the Chinese arsenal would still be much smaller than the United States. So a warning against the arms race, but the problem with the argument, Isa, of course is, this kind of actions from Beijing would only embolden its critics in Washington to say arms control is naive in the face of these growing Chinese threats -- Isa.

SOARES: Steven Jiang there for us in Beijing. Thanks very much, Stephen, great to see you.

Now critical American pipelines operators have reported more than 200 cyber incidents since May. That is according to the transportation security administration. And U.S. President Joe Biden is warning that Russia is already interfering in next year's midterm elections and cyberattacks could lead to war. CNN's Alex Marquardt has more on the threat from Washington.


ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: For the first time since President Joe Biden took office, he has visited the U.S. intelligence community in an effort he said to get back to basics. That means, Biden says, no outside political influence or partisanship, an expectation that the intelligence agencies will give him unvarnished information and as is their mission to speak truth to power.

Biden spoke at the office of the director of national intelligence which is the umbrella organization that sits a atop all the U.S. intelligence agencies. It was of course, in stark contrast to the acrimonious relationship that former President Trump had with the intelligence world during his term. Starting on his first full day in office when he stood in front of the CIA's memorial wall which is hallowed ground for the CIA with its stars for the fallen. And Trump bragged about his inauguration size, never mentioning once the sacrifices of the agency. Trump was distrustful of intelligence assessments and installed political loyalists as top intelligence officials.

President Biden on Tuesday was introduced by his director of national intelligence Avril Haines who said that Biden wants his intelligence leaders to push back and offered different points of view. In Biden's speech, he also took shots at Russia. Saying they are ramping up their disinformation efforts for the 2022 midterm elections. Calling it a violation of U.S. sovereignty. Biden also warned that as cyber-attacks are on the rise, a cyber breach could lead to a real war between the U.S. and a major foreign power.

Alex Marquardt, CNN, Washington.


SOARES: Well, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is in India and will meet with Prime Minister Narendra Modi in just a few hours. They are expected to discuss regional security, Afghanistan, as well as the Covid crisis. Blinken will also meet other top Indian officials before leaving for Kuwait.

What viewers take away from the hearings on the U.S. Capitol riots, depends really on where they're getting their news coverage. Ahead, how the testimony was covered by right wing outlets, we'll explain.



SOARES: Now Donald Trump's Congressional allies continue to downplay the Capitol insurrection and in some cases are ignoring the select committee investigation all together. They didn't dispute the four officers' description of the violence on January 6, but they're offering conflicting narratives on why they oppose the probe. Some call it a political ploy, while others blame security failures on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Take a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, you think some of the protestors were actually -- had good intentions on that day? Is that what you're -- SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): I think some of those protectors tried -- protestors tried to protect that police officer. I think that ought to be noted.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But do you think that, you know --

JOHNSON: There were tens of thousands of people that day that engaged in peaceful protests. There were a few hundred that committed agents of violence. And those people I condemn.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you think your life was saved though by these police officers?

JOHNSON: Yes and I commend them for it.


JOHNSON: I didn't watch it. I don't know what happened.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you believe their testimony at all? I mean, you've heard what they've said in the past haven't you?

JOHNSON: It's difficult to have an opinion on whether you believe somebody when you haven't heard what they had to say.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, well many said that they feared for their lives, sir. Do you think that that was true?

JOHNSON: If they say, if they said that, then I agree 100 percent.


SOARES: Well, the committee hearing merited wall to wall coverage here on CNN as well as other networks. But for some right-wing channels, the coverage was very different. CNN's chief media correspondent Brian Stelter reports.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So, in a matter --

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For a few short hours on Tuesday, Fox and Newsmax viewers did hear the violent truth.

OFC. MICHAEL FANONE, DC METROPOLITAN POLICE DEPARTMENT: I heard people in the crowd yelling, get his gun, kill him with his own gun.

STELTER (voice-over): But then right-wing media reverted to form.

GRANT STINCHFIELD, NEWSMAX HOST: I refuse to lead my show with it tonight.

STELTER (voice-over): Newsmax host Grant Stinchfield dismissing the hearing.

STINCHFIELD: It is all theater.

STELTER (voice-over): And distributing talking points that can be heard all across the right-wing web, radio and TV.

STINCHFIELD: I'm having a real hard time believing a lot of what I'm hearing because the video doesn't back up nearly all of it. One officer said he thought it was going to be the moment he died. Well, there were no guns at this place.

STELTER (voice-over): Of course, there were guns and there were weapons that injured scores of officers.

SGT. AQUILINO GONELL, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE: Rebars, bats, PVC pipes, copper pipes, rocks, table legs, breaking -- broken down.

STELTER (voice-over): Newsmax and Fox did air the hearing live but wrapped it in Republican commentary.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What they already know this is a political stunt by Pelosi and Democrats and nothing more.

STELTER (voice-over): It's hard to know whether the testimony and the terrifying video montages will change any MAGA minds.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Putting it all together and seeing it again, is jarring.


STELTER (voice-over): But there's been months of propaganda excusing the attack. One of Donald Trump's favorite channels One America News skipped airing Tuesday's hearing all together.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On the highly partisan January 6 commission --

STELTER (voice-over): But OAN aired two press conferences by Republicans bashing Democrats, including a far-right group of lawmakers calling riot suspects political prisoners.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our reports say they are being treated inhumanely in jails.

STELTER (voice-over): That presser was interrupted by protesters.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To that guy that's blowing the whistle. We are not deterred.

STELTER (voice-over): So, One America News went back to its top story.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Potential vote fraud.

STELTER (voice-over): While Newsmax cast to the insurrection in a favorable light.

CASEY CUSICK, CHARGED IN CONNECTION TO CAPITOL RIOT: There was an open door -- STELTER (voice-over): After the hearing a sympathetic interview with a father and son charged with violent entry and disorderly conduct at the Capitol.

CUSICK: There were officers just inside the doors. Nobody was saying anything to anybody. There was no pushing, shoving going on inside the Capitol.

STELTER: So, in other words, Newsmax was trying to counter what had happened at the hearing earlier in the day. Misinformation is certainly a factor in riot denialism, but it's a lack of accurate information reaching Trump fans that is often an issue. If you look at the channels where the MAGA universe lives and thrives, information about the riot and the aftermath is rarely covered. So, it's the lack of accurate information that is fueling the fire of Trump's base -- Isa.


SOARES: Such an important piece. Our thanks to Brian Stelter for that report.

And thank you for joining us on CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Isa Soares in London. "EARLY START" with Christine Romans and Laura Jarrett is up next. Do stay right here with CNN, have a good day, bye-bye.