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Trump Pressured the DOJ over the Election; Unvaccinated Cases Rise as Variant Spreads; Biles Returns for Balance Beam; Belarusian Sprinter Seeks Asylum. Aired 9:30-10a ET.

Aired August 2, 2021 - 09:30   ET

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


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[09:33:12]

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Follow the money, as they say. The big lie is leading to a big financial haul for former President Trump. His political organization has claimed an unprecedented $102 million political war chest. This as new details emerge surrounding his push to flat-out overturn the election. According to the former acting deputy attorney general, Richard Donahue, Trump pressured the Justice Department to declare the election illegal and corrupt. Pressured the Justice Department to do so.

CNN's senior political analyst John Avlon joins me now to talk about this.

One famed lawyer said it was, quote, the worst crime any president has ever committed. I mean I think that folks, John, they're kind of overwhelmed with details about the efforts this former president made to overturn the election. But when you look at the message he communicated to the Justice Department in those crucial days and weeks after the election, I mean it's truly disturbing.

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It's beyond that. And as you point out, there's a tendency to normalize this amid the noise, right, saying, oh, you -- are you really surprised that Trump told the deputy attorney general that he should try to say the election was corrupt? Yes, you should be surprised because this is completely unprecedented in American history.

The pattern is clear, but this example is particularly damning. The president of the United States trying to use the power of his office to pressure the Justice Department to denounce the results of an election so he and the Republican Congress could presumably take steps to try to overturn it.

That's a coup d'etat, right? That is an attempt to destroy our democracy and to hold on to power for political gain. So don't normalize it. Stay focused on it. And I think we're going to -- the fact that this came out months later shows how much we still don't know about the president's actions and how chose our democracy was to being destroyed by this ex-president.

[09:35:09]

SCIUTTO: He went on to say, based on these notes, leave the rest to me. Do we know what he meant by that?

AVLON: So we don't know precisely what he meant, but he did invoke the r's in Congress. And that would suggest that he would then try to take that statement to gin up public outrage with a particular focus on Republicans in Congress to see if perhaps he could delay the certification or increase that vote total not only in the House but perhaps in the Senate. But, clearly, he was going to take that declaration, quote/unquote, to the court of public opinion to try to pressure Republicans to overturn the election results.

SCIUTTO: And this is why, in this select committee in the House, that those Republicans who spoke to the president in those hours and days, their testimony could be key. The question is, will those subpoenas hold up?

AVLON: Yes.

SCIUTTO: OK, so the president's and, frankly, other Republican candidates are raising money on the big lie. They use the big lie and people open up their checkbooks. A lot of them are small donors. Do we know what the president plans to do with this money?

AVLON: We know what he hasn't done, which is actually try to use that money for -- to do hat -- allegedly it was raised to do in many cases, which is to try to push these recounts, right? So the president's not putting his money where his mouth is. Perhaps that's not surprising. But it does indicate the extent to which this is all agrift (ph). People are getting played about the big lie. And then the president's taking -- the ex-president's taking their money and not spending it on doing anything on that. He's hoarding it.

Now, typically what a pact does is support other candidates. There's no evidence this president's doing that necessarily directly with cash infusions. And, in fact,, in the most recent case his attempt to endorse a special candidate in a special election in Texas was unsuccessful.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

AVLON: But he's raised all the money from these people who have been duped. Now let's see how he uses it.

But one of the things it does is it freezes the Republican field for 2024.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

AVLON: And you've got to wonder when one Republican's going to realize the smart way to differentiate yourself is to actually condemn an attempt to overturn an election. Let's see if maybe that, though, whatever the partisan headwinds may be in the short run, it might be a smart move in the long run.

SCIUTTO: We'll see, right, because a lot of politicians who have done exactly that have paid a political price for it.

AVLON: Yes.

SCIUTTO: John Avlon, thanks very much.

AVLON: Thanks, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Well, as new COVID infections rise, many parents are understandably wondering how unvaccinated children can safely head back to class. What is the level of risk here? We're going to speak to an expert on what you as parents need to know as some schools are reopening today.

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[09:42:19]

SCIUTTO: Well, this morning, it is back to school for children in a number of districts across the states of Georgia and Alabama where, unfortunately, COVID infection rates are on the rise, particularly among the unvaccinated. Classrooms and other hot COVID spots, including Florida and Louisiana, will welcome students next week amid growing concern over the delta variant. The director of the National Institutes of Health says the best way to protect our children is to get vaccinated.

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DR. FRANCIS COLLINS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: If you're really worried about the kids, well, let's get the people who can be vaccinated at a higher rate. We've got a long way to go in some of those communities to get to the point where people are protected.

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SCIUTTO: Yes. The concern is unvaccinated, infected folks then infect kids.

Joining me now to discuss, Dr. Uzma Hasan, division chief of pediatric infectious diseases at Saint Barnabas Medical Center.

Doctor, thanks so much for coming on this morning.

I want to help parents who are watching now, because, as you know, folks are constantly inundated with good and bad news on the pandemic. So first question is here. Based on what we know about the delta variant so far and its risk to children specifically, how does it compare to the risk of serious disease, hospitalization, to something like seasonal flu?

DR. UZMA HASAN, DIVISION CHIEF OF PEDIATRIC INFECTIOUS DISEASES, SAINT BARNABAS MEDICAL CENTER: Good morning. Thank you for having me. Thanks for taking up this important topic. What we know is that children account for about 14 percent of the

total cases of COVID. There's been about 4.1 million cases of COVID so far. And a total of about 17,000 hospitalizations, 349 deaths.

The delta variant is highly transmissible. Its transmissibility is about two-fold what we saw with the Wuhan original strain and about 40 to 60 percent more than the alpha variant. And we know that children less than 12 years of age are not protected by the vaccine.

SCIUTTO: Right.

HASAN: But we must do everything to protect children around us. And we know that children who have underlying medical conditions are vulnerable to significant illness.

SCIUTTO: No question. I guess just for comparison, though, even as it rises, the risk to children relative to the original variant of COVID- 19, is it markedly more dangerous, more deadly, sadly, for children than something like seasonal flu?

HASAN: Correct. So what we know is that the rates of hospitalization just from the period between October 2020 to April 2021 related to COVID are about greater, three, four (ph) greater than the last three flu seasons.

[09:45:06]

And that gives you an idea of the severity.

SCIUTTO: Yes. OK. So relevant as schools open today in some areas, then next week, and then, of course, as we get into September, elsewhere around the country.

With mitigation, and I'm speaking specifically of masks and other measures like ventilation, is it safe, in your view, for children, who are largely unvaccinated, you know, of course under the age of 12, is it safe for them to return to school?

HASAN: I think there's a lot of factors that we need to weigh in on that, Jim. You know, over the last year, children have lost about 50 percent of their reading skills, 70 percent of their mathematical skills.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

HASAN: We've seen a rise in mental health illnesses in children. And we know children thrive in a classroom setting.

I think with all of these mitigation measures in place, we can get them safely back to school. Obviously, we want all the adults around them vaccinated to give them the extra level of protection until the vaccinations for kids less than 12 years of age are approved.

SCIUTTO: So you, as a doctor, see children suffering through these infections. As you know, the question of masking has, sadly, become a political issue, not a medical issue. And you're seeing some states, such as Florida, you know, you know, outright, you know, threatening to withdraw money from school districts who don't give parents a choice.

What is your message to parents who may be watching right now who are reluctant to have their children mask -- wear masks as they go back to school? What would you say to them?

HASAN: I would say please listen to the guidance given by the leading authorities in pediatrics and infectious disease in the country. What we have seen is that in the last early July, there was a cluster of cases reported out of Provincetown, Massachusetts. And this was mostly because of relaxing of masking measures post-vaccination. And about 75 percent of these individuals were vaccinated. However, they had much milder disease.

What we do know is that in children who cannot be protected with vaccination we must afford them the extra level of protection with vaccination with -- when they're (INAUDIBLE) and until that becomes prevenient, you know, at least masking until then.

SCIUTTO: Yes.

It's a consistent message from doctors.

Dr. Uzma Hasan, thanks so much.

HASAN: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Well, some good news from the Olympics. Biles is back in action. The gymnast is scheduled to compete in the Olympics again. Her last chance there to win a medal. We're going to tell you when that is so you don't miss it. That's coming right up.

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[09:52:12]

SCIUTTO: Bit news and it's good news from the Olympics. Simone Biles is back. USA Gymnastics announcing this morning that she will participate in tomorrow's balance beam final.

Coy Wire is in Tokyo with more.

COY WIRE, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: (INAUDIBLE) greatest of all time. This is like Tom Brady pulling himself from the first quarter of the Super Bowl because his mentals not right, as Simone Biles called it, but then saying, game on for the fourth quarter. Now everyone's wondering what's going to happen.

USA Gymnastics tweeting, quote, we are so excited to confirm that you will see two U.S. athletes in the balance beam final tomorrow, Suni Lee and Simone Biles. Can't wait to watch you both, unquote.

Now, on Friday, Biles revealed in a new deleted post that she couldn't tell up from down, Jim, in a practice session here in Tokyo on Friday. The 24-year-old said that when she's had the twisties, as she's called them in the past, it's taken two or more weeks for them to go away.

Well, earlier today, Jim, Biles was on hand to see her teammate, and cheer her on, Jade Carey winning gold in the floor exercise. The 21- year-old from Arizona becomes the third consecutive American to win the event following Ali Raisman in 2012 and Biles in 2016.

Now, Jim, as you know, some of the best moments of the Olympics are stories of the undominable (ph) will of these athletes and we're seeing plenty of that here in Tokyo.

A shining example, Dutch runner Sifan Hassan, early on in the final lap of the 1,500 meter qualifier, she bumped into another runner, falls to the track, but Hassan gets back up to her feet and finishes the heat in first place, pulling off one of the most impressive comebacks of these games to keep her medal chances live. Hassan showing why she was the favorite in that event.

And, Jim, just moments ago she won the women's 5,000 meters gold, becoming the first Dutch woman to win an Olympic medal in a women's long distance event. Incredible stuff here in Tokyo.

SCIUTTO: Oh, it was great to see that comeback.

Coy Wire, thanks so much.

Other news from the Olympics.

Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, an Olympic sprinter from Belarus, is now said to be seeking asylum in Poland after refusing to get on a flight leaving Tokyo for home. She says that she feared being arrested in her home country.

CNN's Selina Wang is in Tokyo with the latest. And, of course, we know Belarus is a country that has been horrible. It's imprisoned many dissidents. How is this playing out there?

SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, right now I'm outside of the Polish embassy in Tokyo where Krystsina Tsimanouskaya had earlier entered. We've learned that she has, in fact, received a humanitarian visa from Poland. The foreign minister said that she will be traveling in the coming days.

Now, she was set to compete in the 200 meter heats at the Olympics on Monday. But, Jim, on Sunday, representatives for the Belarus national team went to the Olympic village, told her to pack up her bags and go back to Belarus.

[09:55:01]

Now, she went to the airport. She approached a Japanese police officer. She said she wanted to seek asylum and she did not want to go back to Belarus. She was fearful of being jailed. She was fearful for her own safety.

Now this fear comes after she had spoken out against national sporting authorities. She had complained on Instagram that she was entered in a 4 by 400 heat without her consent.

Jim.

SCIUTTO: Selina Wang in Tokyo for us.

Well, the leader of the opposition in Belarus, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya, who is in exile herself from her country fearing for her safety, she was on this program, you may remember, just a couple of weeks ago. And she just shared this exclusive comment with me about the sprinter's situation, saying in part, we're quoting here, no doubt Krystsina Tsimanouskaya is our hero. She found the courage to speak out and faced repressions for her bravery. We should express solidarity and stand with her. We will be asking for international protection for her as well as an investigation of the incident.

We're going to stay on top of this story and others.

And we'll be right back.

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