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CNN NEWSROOM

Rep. Kinzinger: Expect a Significant Number of Subpoenas; Montel Williams: Vaccine Prevented My Hospitalization From COVID; Analysis: Fewer Than 1 Percent of Vaccinated Get Infected; Florida State Rep: Voting Suppression Rising to Whole New Level; Defense Official Assessment of Afghanistan: It's not Going Well. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired August 2, 2021 - 15:30   ET

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


[15:30:00]

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REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL) JAN. 6 SELECT COMMITTEE: But I know that we're going to get to the information. If he has unique information that's one thing. But I think there's a lot of people around him that knew some things.

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VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Yes, a lot of people around him. Who do you expect we'll see testify?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he was laying the groundwork for -- to kind of warning people that we're likely not going to see a subpoena by and for the -- not by, for the former president. He is definitely in the camp of getting to the bottom of things, despite the fact that he has an 'R' next to his name.

But it was also noteworthy that he left the door wide open for subpoenas for his own colleagues, maybe even his own party leader in the House, Kevin McCarthy, who we were talking about earlier. That is mind blowing, but it is also very likely given the fact that one of two Republicans on the committee said, you know, it is possible, maybe even probable.

BLACKWELL: Yes. And the Chairman, Bennie Thompson, suggested that we will see hearings before the end of the August recess. So, we'll stand by for that. Dana Bash, thank you.

BASH: Good to see you.

BLACKWELL: Likewise. Famed talk show host Montel Williams is pleading with people to get the vaccine. He says it's what kept him out of the hospital while experiencing a breakthrough COVID case. Montel joins me next. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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BLACKWELL: The CDC found that 99.99 percent of fully vaccinated Americans have not had a breakthrough infection that's resulted in death or hospitalization. And according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, less than 1 percent of the vaccinated have had any kind of breakthrough infection.

Talk show host Montel Williams went on social media to reveal that he contracted COVID-19 even though he's been vaccinated. Now Montel has an autoimmune disease. He believes he got COVID from someone standing next to him who said -- he said did not have a mask on. Montel Williams is the host of the podcast "Let's Be Blunt with Montel," and he joins me now. Good to see you. First, how are you feeling?

MONTEL WILLIAMS, TALK SHOW HOST: I'm feeling better, way better. This happened to me about 2.5 weeks ago, a little over two weeks ago. I literally, Victor, I will tell you, I and my wife over the course of the last year and half have done everything possible to keep ourselves safe from exposure to COVID. From wearing masks to staying socially distanced, to staying in our apartment to not going out, staying away from other people.

And then all of a sudden, I kid you not, I literally, two Tuesdays ago, went to a laboratory, hear me now, went to a laboratory to take a test to see if I had antibodies because I had been vaccinated back in January and February. But I wanted to go on a trip. And so, I went to take a test for antibodies. That Tuesday I'm standing in the lab, and in the laboratory on their door they had, no masks, no entry.

BLACKWELL: Yes.

WILLIAMS: And while standing there talking to the attendant, a guy comes walking in the door and literally invaded my personal space. Got up about less than half a foot away from me and had no mask on. And I hate to say it this way, but I mean I looked at him -- I looked him in the face like are you crazy, and then I realized he looked like he was little sick.

I mean he was mouth breathing -- and you know, he wanted to get to the counter, and I moved away. I sat down, oh, a good six feet away from him, texted my wife at that moment and said, you can't believe that some butthead walked in here where it says clearly, no entry no mask without a mask on, and I think this guy gave me a cold. And my wife said, no, you'll be fine.

I took the antibody test. I had antibodies. I was getting ready to go on my trip two days later. But them I'm telling you, two hours after I left that laboratory, got home, I started sneezing. The next morning, I woke up with a blistering headache, all day long sneezed about six or seven times. The next day was a Thursday. I just wasn't feeling right. And I decided to go take a test and bingo-bango, the test came back positive. BLACKWELL: And Montel, you know that there will be people who try to

manipulate this story -- see, Montel got the vaccine, he stayed at home, he wore the mask, and he still got COVID, why should I get the vaccine? To those people you say what?

WILLIAMS: Because had I not gotten it, I might not be talking to you today. I have a compromised immune system. And because of my compromised immune system this infection would have been probably -- no, it would have been much worse than what it was.

So, I am blessed that I am able to talk to you. I'm blessed that I was -- I'm fortunate that my symptoms lasted only about 2.5 days. They were gone. I've been keeping them in check with the over-the-counter medication. My wife did not get it, she tested negative about four days ago, so I know she didn't get it.

But I'm also happy that I didn't give it to anybody else. I mean that's the thing -- look, people talking about whether or not your patriotic or not patriotic, forget all that noise. This is all about do you care about anybody else in this world. And if you care anything about another human being, then get the vaccination.

BLACKWELL: I know one of your appeals is that for people like you especially because you're living with multiple sclerosis, to get the vaccine, if not for yourself but for people who have autoimmune diseases.

[15:40:02]

But if we look at some of the interviews that our correspondents, our counterparts, colleagues have done, it's not for people -- they won't do it for their children, they won't do it for their communities, they won't do it for classrooms. What's the case that you make to people that they should do it for you?

WILLIAMS: Be selfish. Well, I don't they should do it for me. Be selfish, do it for yourself. Listen to the number of people who are in the hospital right now who are begging doctors, please, can I have the vaccine? Right before they get ready to be intubated. Listen to the people who are begging with their last breath. I wish I had the vaccine -- be selfish. Be ignorant. Think about only yourself. And if you do so, then go out and get this vaccine so that you yourself are safe and we can guarantee that that may help the next person.

And the person like me, I got to tell you -- and you know, I go back to wearing masks and socially distance. How dare you step up on another person. The rules are out there, the word has been there. Stay off people's backs. Stay away from another person, especially if you think you're sick.

BLACKWELL: I see up in the upper left corner here you're talking to me from Miami Beach, Florida, there. And I wonder as we've this afternoon been talking about the new executive order signed by the governor there that threatens funding for schools that essentially tries to give the decision to the parents in lieu of mask mandates for schools there, we see record new cases for Florida, one in five last week coming from the state. Hospitalizations climbing again. What do you think about how the governor there is handling COVID in Florida?

WILLIAMS: I got to tell you, it's a sad commentary when our leadership can't think enough about the people that they want to have vote for them to give them information that will help protect their lives. It's a sad state. And I'm so sorry that, you know, I mean I live here, I'm one of those 10,000 extra people in the two last weeks who just came down with COVID.

But we can turn this around. We know we can. It's right here in our grasp. Man has been able to do things, and phenomenal things. When we all do things together, we can get things done. But if we don't make an attempt at doing this together, we're all going to hang together.

BLACKWELL: Montel Williams, good to see you. Good to hear you're feeling better. Thanks for your time.

WILLIAMS: Thank you. And please, get the vaccine.

BLACKWELL: All right.

Calling for back up. Texas State Democrats, they will now soon be joined by lawmakers from at least 20 other states to help pressure Congress to act on voting rights legislation. We've got that story ahead.

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BLACKWELL: Civil rights icon Reverend Jesse Jackson was arrested in Washington, D.C., today. He was protesting in support of voting rights legislation. Now Jackson was with other demonstrators who are calling for the passage of the comprehensive voting rights legislation, the For the People Act that's been going nowhere in the Senate.

And now dozens of legislators from states across the country are heading to D.C. this week to join Texas lawmakers who have been there for weeks in a push to pressure their federal counterparts to protect voting rights. At least 18 states have pushed through new laws that make it harder to vote.

Florida State Representative Anna V. Eskamani is going to D.C. on Wednesday, and she joins me now. Thank you so much for being with me. Let's start here with the question that I think is most important. Texas Democrats have been in Washington for several weeks now. And it does not appear that they have changed one mind that they need to change to get this legislation passed. So, what do you expect to do that will change those minds that they have not?

STATE REP. ANNA V. ESKAMANI (D-FL): Well, thank you so much, Victor, for the invitation. We got to put the pressure on. You know, there's so much focus on this infrastructure bill, which is critically important, as well. But the democracy of this country, our democratic infrastructure matters, too. And I'm hopeful that with lawmakers from state legislatures coming across the country we can take the picture of the urgency to our Democratic colleagues and push the White House to prioritize this issue, as well.

BLACKWELL: So, you say push the White House to prioritize this. Are you not satisfied with what you're seeing out of the White House?

ESKAMANI: Respectfully, I am not. You know, I know there are so many important issues right now. I mean, I am in Florida where we are navigating, as you mentioned earlier, a huge spike in COVID-19 cases, an eviction crisis, and a governor that could care less.

I realize that if we don't see equitable voting in states like Florida and this past session, my colleagues on the right passed one of the most extreme voter suppression bills in the country, that if we don't put federal protections in place, it's going to be the same results from our elected officials time and time again.

So, the Biden administration, if we have any hope to achieve the goals that he set on the campaign trail, then we to have free and equitable elections. We have to push back against election subversion, and it must be the federal government that takes a leadership position on this issue.

BLACKWELL: OK, so let's point out here that Republicans are the ones who are obstructing this legislation moving forward. Every Republican there unified and united against stopping this. So that's where the conversation on why the For the People Act is not moving forward begins. But in your criticism of the White House, what do you want to see the White House do that it is not doing?

ESKAMANI: Thanks for that question, Victor. And you're right, I mean the bulk of opposition is coming from the right. And this is the same party that didn't even want to investigate the January 6th insurrection.

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So, it's pretty clear to me that the position of the Republican Party in D.C. is not in the best interests of the people of Florida. Just like the Republican majority in my state is.

But to the White House, we want to see more weight when it comes to pushing For the People Act to be prioritized. And one of the -- White House's legislative agendas, you know, the White House has mentioned the need for voter protection resources, which of course is also important. But voter protection services are a band-aid. This is a systematic problem that we're seeing extreme politicians across the country push for these voter suppression bills. And we need the White House and Congress to not convene a recess, to step up, and to pass voter protection legislation.

BLACKWELL: All right, Florida State Representative Anna V. Eskamani, thank you.

ESKAMANI: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: Now, turning to the U.S.'s withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Taliban attacks, they are intensifying in Afghanistan, and a U.S. defense official says the Afghan military's mission to stop it is, quote, not going well. We'll have more for you, ahead.

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BLACKWELL: Breaking news. Just into CNN, Louisiana's governor is reinstating the statewide mask mandate there. Starting Wednesday vaccinated and unvaccinated people aged 5 and older in the state must wear masks in public places. The state is dealing with a surge in COVID cases, and Governor John Bel Edwards says this is necessary to deal with that crisis.

A grim assessment coming in from a U.S. defense official who tells CNN, quote, it is not going well in Afghanistan. And this is coming as the U.S. continues hitting Taliban targets with airstrikes in Afghanistan trying to turn back the advances the militants have made in several cities. Just a short time ago the Taliban took over state- run radio and TV in an Afghan Helmand Province.

Fighting has intensified across the country in recent days. The escalation and violence is also prompting the U.S. to expand an Afghan refugee program amid the fears of Taliban reprisals as U.S. troops are in the final stages of withdrawing from that region.

CNN national security correspondent Kylie Atwood has more for us now. What are you learning about the airstrikes and the expansion of this refugee program?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, the expansion of this refugee program is going to be welcome in Afghanistan where a lot of these Afghans who worked with U.S. organizations, who worked as U.S. contractors weren't eligible to apply for refugee status in the U.S., also weren't eligible for those special immigrant visas that we've been talking about that were for Afghan translators.

So, what this program's expansion is doing is allowing them to apply for refugee status. But what we should note is that these Afghans are going to have to get out of the country before they can actually officially enter into this process where they can be given this status. And that is going to be an incredible challenge, given the uprise in these Taliban offenses on the ground.

Secretary of State Tony Blinken took the podium earlier today and acknowledged that it's going to be incredibly hard for these Afghans to get out of the country but also said that is the case for many other refugees around the world who want to apply for refugee status.

BLACKWELL: You also have some reporting on the frustration with diplomats and rank and file staffers over the State Department's handling of the Havana syndrome. Tell us about that.

ATWOOD: Yes, State Department officials are frustrated with the Department because they haven't been given basic information about those who are experiencing these symptoms similar to the Havana syndrome. They want to know the number of people who have come and faced these symptoms in the last few months and the locations of where these folks are.

Now, that's information the department used to share from the State Department podium when this started happening in Cuba and China. And the department tells me that they are aware of these frustrations of these officials, and they are working on how to provide more information.

They're also trying to, you know, do it very carefully because they don't want to create too much fear and unnecessarily so about these incidents. But I can tell you that there is some fear within the workforce here because they don't really know things. And so, then you try and fill in the blanks on your own.

BLACKWELL: Understood. Kylie Atwood for us there at the State Department, thank you.

All right, just into CNN, moving forward on the breaking news from earlier this hour that Senator Lindsey Graham who just revealed that he tested positive of COVID, he was on Senator Joe Manchin's houseboat this weekend.

And Manchin entertained a small group of Senators on his houseboat and Graham was in attendance. According to a source with knowledge of the situation.

Manchin's office declined to comment on the attendance on his boat. Senator Manchin is fully vaccinated, they say, and followed the guidelines from the CDC for those exposed to a COVID positive individual. That's from Manchin's spokeswoman.

All right, THE LEAD with Jake Tapper starts right now with Pamela Brown filling in.

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