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House Set to Receive Trump Tax Returns; CDC Sounds Alarm on Delta Variant. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired July 30, 2021 - 15:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[15:00:00]

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: This is compared to the original strain.

And then there's that cluster in Provincetown, Massachusetts; 469 residents there got infected with COVID in a July 4 outbreak. And, of those, 74 percent, meaning 346 people, had been vaccinated. Most of them did show COVID symptoms, although no one died and only four people had to be hospitalized.

Well, so, what does this say about vaccines? Well, the vaccines still are very effective against severe disease, hospitalization, and death, according to the CDC. And that's critical, as COVID cases are surging again across the country, largely fueled, of course, by this Delta variant. All of that red you're seeing, those are the viral hot spots right now.

So, while vaccinations are inching up, infections, hospitalizations, and deaths are rising, too. And, as kids head back to the classrooms, many parents are worried that their children who are too young to be vaccinated, will contract the virus.

So, in Georgia, that fear has become a reality. Just two days after starting their school year, more than 100 students at one school in Atlanta are now in quarantine after nine students and five staffers tested positive.

So, CNN's Natasha Chen is following that story for us.

Natasha, you have some breaking news about what that school is now discussing. What have you learned?

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Alisyn, just within the past hour, we got the update with the number of cases, as of this afternoon, as you mentioned, 14 total cases, more than 100 students in quarantine.

And now the Drew Charter School behind us is discussing possibly having mandatory vaccination for staff. The head of school, Peter McKnight, told me that about three-quarters of the staff were -- are already vaccinated, but now there's discussion about whether to make that mandatory for all employees.

Now, of the positive test cases, only one of the staff members who tested positive was actually vaccinated, so one breakthrough case. We talked to a parent and his child who attends this school about the frustration of this happening just a few days after school started on Tuesday.

Here's what he said about kind of having seen this coming.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRANDON, PARENT: It's too early in the school year for this to be going on. And we're just going back, so it makes you on edge and not at ease.

We don't have is a mandate where you have got to get vaccinated. So it's hard to say, well, the teacher shouldn't have been there, which I figure that they shouldn't have been in school if they're not vaccinated. I mean, that's why they should have held up until we got everything under control.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHEN: The most impacted grade level is the sixth grade, where nearly a hundred of those students are in quarantine.

And because of a large number of eighth grade staff in quarantine, now eighth grade classes are being done virtually. Now, masks are required here, social distancing. But, as we can see, this situation is very difficult with the rapid spread of the Delta variant, the uptick in cases.

And so the parent you just saw there, it's not clear whether his children were in close contact with the positive cases, but he is taking them home anyway -- Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, Natasha Chen, thank you very much for that breaking news.

Meanwhile, in Florida, despite case number spiking statewide, Governor Ron DeSantis vowed just a short time ago there will be no lockdowns or -- and no school closures. He also announced he will be signing an executive order allowing parents to ignore any school-implemented mask mandates.

CNN's as Leyla Santiago is in Miami.

So what's his plan for getting out of this spike of COVID?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, he is saying that he is going to have the Department of Health and Department of Education issue emergency rules that will allow parents to make the decision when it comes to masks in schools and not the school districts.

And this is something that has been very controversial. We have heard from parents on both sides. We have seen parents very much on DeSantis' side, very vocal, even burning masks at school board meetings, saying they don't want that in the school.

But we have also talked to school board members that say they have gotten countless e-mails from parents saying, please continue to have the masks enforced.

Now, all of this comes, of course, after the new CDC guidelines came out saying, vaccinated or not, you should be wearing a mask in public indoor settings. Listen to what the DeSantis had to say about that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): We have a lot of push from the CDC and others to make every single person, kids, staff, have to wear masks all day regardless of their immune status, regardless of the effect it has on their educational experience.

And that would be a huge mistake.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANTIAGO: And so now CNN checked in with Broward County, one school board member from the Broward County school board.

[15:05:00]

They did pass -- they voted, rather, to call for masks to be required of students in the upcoming school year. Now they're trying to figure out how they can safely have students in school. Governor Ron DeSantis, though, doubling down, saying there will be no mandate, there will be no lockdowns, no kind of shutdown in the state of Florida moving forward, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK, Leyla Santiago, thank you for the latest from there.

Joining us now is Dr. Abdul El-Sayed. He is the former Detroit health commissioner and an epidemiologist.

Dr. El-Sayed, great to see you.

Now that we have seen this new data on the Delta variant just out today that the CDC shared, now I get it. Now I get why they're sounding the alarm on masks. I mean, the Delta variant, knowing that the unvaccinated and the vaccinated can both spread this to eight to nine people and that it's as contagious as the chicken pox, I mean, this is a game-changer.

DR. ABDUL EL-SAYED, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Alisyn, first thank you for having me and always good to be speaking with you.

It is a game-changer. We really have to start treating this as a very different kind of phenomenon than the original coronavirus, which we have dealt with now for 16 months. And I think a lot of folks are super frustrated, because, of course, it feels like a step back.

But we have to remember what our ultimate goal is here. Our ultimate goal here is to save our own lives, the lives in our community, and the lives of people we don't even know. And the best single thing that we can do right now is to be vaccinated, but also to reconsider whether or not we should be wearing masks, particularly given the fact that what we understand now is that, with Delta, people who are vaccinated can still harbor virus and can still pass it

on. And so it really is a different phenomenon here, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: I have been reporting on the Delta variant -- we all have -- for it feels like months now, I mean, at least two months.

And I'm not trying to be critical of the researchers. I know that they're working around the clock, but why are we just figuring out now how very transmissible it is even for vaccinated people?

EL-SAYED: It really is frustrating, unfortunately.

Most of the time, scientists have a lot more time both to be setting up studies, interpreting those studies, and making policy from those studies. And, unfortunately, during COVID, it really has forced scientists to work at the speed at which this pandemic moves.

And as we can tell now, Delta moves a lot faster even than the original coronavirus that we have been talking about for the last 16, 17 months. But really what it's been is that, as CDC officials have been tracking the spread of this virus across different transmission chains, they have noticed a lot more people who are vaccinated.

And with the other variants, that wasn't really the case. And so the question became, well, is it the case that these people are harboring more virus than we had thought, and more likely to pass it on? And as they looked at what they call the cycle thresholds, which measure the amount of virus that is a nasopharynx of an infected person, they realized that in fact these are the same.

And then they had to be making policy. I mean, this is data that still hasn't been published, still hasn't gone through peer review. But the implications are astounding and demand a policy response, which is what we have seen from the CDC here.

CAMEROTA: Yes, because if the vaccine isn't preventing you from making your neighbor sick, isn't preventing you, vaccinated people, from passing it around, only masks can.

I mean, that's our last line of defense. Only masks can prevent it. But would you say that in places that are not having high transmission right now, in the Northeast, say, vs. Florida, for instance, are people supposed to start wearing masks again every day in the Northeast when they go indoors?

EL-SAYED: Well, I will tell you this.

The implications here are that, yes, vaccinated people can be passing along the virus. But vaccines are still the most important way to protect yourself from having a symptomatic illness, winding up in the hospital or even dying. And so vaccines are still the most important thing we can do.

And we need to be wearing the masks, because, of course, Delta has figured out how to remain infectious even in the context of vaccines. Now, I personally, I carry a mask around everywhere I go. I wear it simply because I have got a 3-year-old at home, and I don't want to be the reason that she gets sick.

And if this Delta variant can in fact be transmitted by me as a vaccinated person, I want to make sure that I am not picking it up and I'm not passing it along. And so I'm choosing to wear my mask indoors in circumstances where I could be exposed.

CAMEROTA: What would you say to people, the vaccine-hesitant, who say, see, there's no difference between the vaccinated and the unvaccinated?

EL-SAYED: Well, I would say, see, there's a huge difference. In fact, the probability of getting symptomatically ill is so much higher if you're not vaccinated.

And in the context of this particular variant, which we know is way more transmissible and also evidence suggests may be more virulent, causes worst disease, I would say getting vaccinated is more important now than it's ever been.

And so please don't wait. Don't be one of these people who is saying, if only I would have gotten vaccinated, if only I would have listened to what the experts were telling me, I wouldn't have wound up in this ICU, I wouldn't have wound up on a ventilator.

[15:10:06]

Don't be that person. Please do get vaccinated. And if all of us can be vaccinated, the society-wide implications are huge. We know the risk of even vaccinated people getting symptomatically ill or getting infected in the first place goes up based on how likely it is that the virus is spreading.

And that has everything to do with where people are vaccinated. It's no coincidence that there is more spread in places where there's less vaccine, so please do your part.

CAMEROTA: And, by the way, I'm not even sure that unvaccinated people are saying my little hypothetical right there, because vaccinations have ticked up this week.

They are higher in the past couple of days than they were even a few days prior. So the Delta variant is scaring people. I mean, it is being a motivator for people to go get vaccinated. It has gotten people's attention.

Let's turn to schools. You just heard our reporter Leyla Santiago report on the governor of Florida is very determined not to have vaccine mandates, not to have mask mandates. What does this mean for school kids, who are some -- in some states are starting schools this -- in the coming week?

EL-SAYED: Yes, well, we know that our kids are increasingly at risk.

This particular variant, there's some evidence that it may be causing more disease among young people, who cannot be vaccinated right now. And I would tell Governor DeSantis, please don't make your political stand over the bodies of our children. They matter most. I think a lot of us right now are asking, what can we do to protect those who can't be vaccinated most of all, and to protect ourselves and our loved ones?

And I think trying to make a stand over this political point that seems to be rooted in some anti-science opposition, I think, is playing a really dangerous game. And it just takes one kid getting really sick, one kid potentially passing away that we could have prevented to show the folly of this. Let's not get there.

Let's do what we can right now to end this pandemic and finally get to the point where none of us have to worry about being -- about wearing masks or none of us have to be worried about any sort of lockdowns, because we have finally done what it took collectively to get past this.

I know that, for a lot of people, it feels like we're taking a step back. And here we go again. The 5k turned into a 10k, which turned into a marathon. But we have got to have hope that we can get through this if we do what we can. So let's do that.

CAMEROTA: So you're saying that if we get to a certain level of herd immunity, we will stamp out the Delta variant?

EL-SAYED: Yes, look, if you look at the evidence of where this variant has gone in societies that it's hit harder than it's even hit us quite yet, you look at India, you look at the U.K., there have been reductions in caseloads.

And so what we have got to do is do our part to get there, and also recognize that there is a light at the end of this tunnel, there is a valley at the this hill, but let's do our part. We wear our masks now. We protect our loved ones. We get vaccinated, and hopefully, like it has been in the past, that we get through this particular increase right now.

CAMEROTA: Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, thank you very much for your expertise.

EL-SAYED: Alisyn, thank you.

CAMEROTA: Coming up, two developments about former President Trump, one about his tax returns and one about just how far he tried to go to overturn the election that he lost.

And, later, a heartbreaking plea, after an unvaccinated father of five loses his battle to COVID.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's only 39. Our babies now don't have a dad. You can't say I'm young and it won't affect me, because it will.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: His fiancee has a dire message for those opting out of the vaccine. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:18:08]

CAMEROTA: We're tracking to developing stories on former President Trump.

The Justice Department now says it has advised the Treasury Department to hand over former President Trump's tax returns to Congress.

Plus, CNN has learned new details on how exactly the former president pressured the Justice Department officials to declare the 2020 election corrupt.

CNN's Lauren Fox and Evan Perez are here with the details.

Lauren, to you first.

OK, so Trump's tax returns must now go to Congress. When could that happen?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, look, the Office of Legal Counsel is making this announcement today that they believe it is in the interest that the Treasury has to turn over those tax returns to the Ways and Means chairman, Richard Neal.

He asked for these returns in April of 2019, arguing that he had the authority to get them under a little known statute known as 6103. He then subpoenaed them in addition to that. This is essentially the Justice Department giving this legal guidance that it is Treasury's responsibility to turn those returns over.

When this would occur is still an open question. And we also are still awaiting more detail as to what Treasury's plans are. So I think that that's something to keep in mind here.

But we're also looking at whether or not the former President Donald Trump would try to block this action, given the fact that these are his tax returns. So a lot of moving pieces here, but the bottom line is, this is coming after months of delays over whether or not the Biden administration was going to keep fighting to block these tax returns or whether or not they believed that it was the responsibility of the Treasury Department to turn them over.

So we are getting that additional clarity today. And that's really what's new here, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: OK.

Evan, now to you.

[15:20:00]

So, we're now seeing with our own eyes some of the pressure that former President Trump applied to top DOJ officials to promote his lies about the 2020 election. What have you learned? EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right.

So, what has now happened is some notes that were taken by Richard Donoghue, who was the acting deputy attorney general in the closing days of the Trump administration, they have been turned over to members of Congress who were investigating what happened in those days.

And it's pretty stark to see the pressure that these officials were under directly, not only from the White House, but from the president himself. And, in particular, there's a December 27 phone call with Deputy Attorney General -- well, the acting attorney general, Jeffrey Rosen -- Richard Donoghue was his deputy.

They're listening to the president pressuring for him -- for them to essentially say that the Justice Department has discovered that the election was corrupt, was fraudulent. And they pushed back, saying, we haven't found any of that evidence.

And Trump says the following. He says: "Just say that the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican congressmen."

Over and over, Alisyn, you see from these notes that Donoghue took from those calls the president is pressuring them. And they're saying, what you're hearing, Mr. President, is false. The allegations of this fraud, we have looked into it, we have launched hundreds of investigations, and we haven't found any.

Trump responds: "You guys may not be following the Internet the way I do," again, a sharp -- a really stark illustration of the kind of pressure that was being put on these officials, who, in the end, didn't change what the Justice Department had found.

CAMEROTA: It's remarkable, really, to watch, to listen to or read the notes of sane people trying to tamp down delusion.

PEREZ: Right.

CAMEROTA: It's just remarkable. Everybody should read it with their own eyes.

Evan Perez, Lauren Fox, thank you both very much.

OK, let's bring in now our CNN political director, David Chalian, and CNN legal analyst Jennifer Rodgers.

Great to have you both.

Let's start with President Trump's taxes.

David, it would have been more helpful for voters to see his tax returns before he was elected president. Is there a political advantage or disadvantage now?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: You know, I'm not even sure we know what sway having his taxes would have caused in the election before he was elected.

But you are right. It should have been that way, because that's what precedent has been because presidents -- people seeking the highest office of the land should be transparent in that way with the people whose votes they are seeking.

So, yes, that would have been the preferred way. I just don't even know that anyone would truly be surprised to find out that Donald Trump did everything he possibly could to avoid paying taxes.

CAMEROTA: Good point.

Jennifer, Donald Trump has fought tooth and nail to keep his taxes from being public. We're not sure what he's afraid of people seeing, but what's his legal recourse now to try to stop it again?

JENNIFER RODGERS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, not much, Alisyn.

I mean, as we all know, you can go to court to file a lawsuit, and it takes some time to sort it out, even if you have no legal basis for that whatsoever. So he may try to file a lawsuit to force DOJ to not turn over the taxes -- force Treasury, rather, to not turn over the tax returns.

But they are on really solid legal ground here and saying that the provision requires the turning over of the tax returns. It was wrong to withhold them for the two years. So while it may take a little bit of time, a few weeks, to sort out a frivolous lawsuit like that, eventually, the Ways and Means Committee is going to get those tax returns.

CAMEROTA: And then maybe the public will finally see them at some point.

OK, let's move on to the January 6 select committee. They had a strategy session today. And they say, David, that they're -- the chairman of the committee has said that there will be quite a few subpoenas.

Who? Who will be getting subpoenaed?

CHALIAN: Well, let's refer to what you were just talking to Evan Perez about. I would certainly hope that the former acting Deputy Attorney General Donoghue is going to be one of them, given the transcript that existed, what was that, 10, 12 days before the insurrection?

I mean, to me, if part of what the committee is investigating is what led up to that interaction, a call from the president to what is supposed to be his sort of independent Justice Department to demand that this body, which is to oversee the laws of the land, upend that to overturn an election with no justification, and saying time is running out, as his supporters are preparing to gather January 6, it seems to me that there are some dots there.

So you can imagine those kinds of folks, but obviously also members of Congress, even those referenced in that conversation, Jim Jordan, who Donald Trump claimed would be an ally in this, or Scott Perry, his conversation with Kevin McCarthy, the former president.

So, the list could be endless. It is going to be an exhaustive investigation to what led up to and what occurred on that day.

[15:25:00]

CAMEROTA: Jennifer, do you think that President Trump can be forced to testify before the select committee?

RODGERS: Well, he can be, in the sense that he can be subpoenaed. He may assert a Fifth Amendment right, in the sense that he could have criminal liability, of course, for his actions leading up to and on January 6.

So, the real question for him would be, if they decide to subpoena him -- and that's -- that gets into a whole bunch of political calculation. So I don't know how they will decide those. But when he gets subpoenaed, if he does, he has to think about whether he wants to assert that Fifth Amendment right and actually admit to the public that he has some potential criminal exposure for what happened on that day.

CAMEROTA: Let's talk, David, about what Senator James Lankford is doing and feeling.

He is now facing a lot of backlash from Trump supporters because he changed his vote on January 6, after the insurrection. He ultimately chose to certify the 2020 election results, something he had not planned to do. But now he seems to not be sure about what the election results really were.

So here's his exchange with CNN's Lauren Fox.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

FOX: But do you still think that Biden won the election rightfully?

SEN. JAMES LANKFORD (R-OK): Biden is the constitutional president, no question about that. Are there questions that are still hanging out there? Yes. No question about that.

FOX: But are those questions things that would have ultimately changed the outcome of the election?

LANKFORD: Nobody knows, because we can't get a full answer on some of them. But we don't -- so we don't know.

I'm not trying to be coy about it. It's unknown at this point. I just want all the questions answered, and so that people can know one way or the other on it.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

CAMEROTA: David, he says, what so many of these sort of misinformation peddlers say: I'm just asking questions. We just don't have the full answers. I'm trying to get the answers. The answers are out there. The answers have been out there. Ask the

judges, the 60-plus judges who have adjudicated this. The answers exist.

CHALIAN: Exactly.

There are no answers we're waiting for. You're absolutely right, Alisyn. It was a legitimate result. And Joe Biden was legitimately elected. And there is not a question about election integrity, in terms of an overall sense of fraud in this election. It didn't exist.

So when he says he's not been trying to be coy about it, that's not truthful. He is trying to be quiet about it, because what Lankford is trying to do is to not go into complete crazy conspiracy town, but to hold enough sway with voters to not get crosswise with the base as he's facing primary pressures.

It's just a -- it's a pretty shameful position, if you can't just simply come out and say the 2020 election was fair and square, Joe Biden was legitimately elected, Donald Trump lost, end of sentence, end of paragraph.

CAMEROTA: David Chalian, Jennifer Rodgers, thank you for the political and legal take on these stories.

All right, next -- quote -- "I should have gotten the damn vaccine." Those are some of the last words of a father of five who lost his fight with COVID at just 39 years old -- his story and his family's plea next.

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