Return to Transcripts main page


Report: DOJ Official Wanted to Push False GA Election Fraud Claims; Biden Fighting Fires on Multiple Fronts as COVID Cases Spike; Biden Tells GOP Governors in TX and FL: Help Or "Get Out of the Way"; Obama Scales Back Big Birthday Bash Amid Spike in Cases; School Superintendent Issues Warning after 500 Quarantined; Report: Cases Among Children and Teens Up 84% In a Week; Frontier Airlines Backs Flight Crew That Duct-Taped Unruly Passenger. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired August 4, 2021 - 13:30   ET



JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: These are newly surfaced e-mails and a draft letter obtained by ABC News.

They show just how far this Justice Department official went to promote these false claims of election fraud and, ultimately, how other top DOJ officials forcefully pushed back.

This was Jeffrey Clark. He was the top official in DOJ's Civil Division.

He drafted a letter on December 2020 to urge Georgia's governor and state lawmakers to investigate these false claims of voter fraud, these false claims.

This letter, crucially, was drafted one day after we know that then- President Trump pressured the top two officials at DOJ to say the election was corrupt.

We know from previous reporting that Trump had an ally in Jeffrey Clark.

Clark wanted the acting attorney general, Jeffrey Rosen, and his deputy, Richard Donoghue, to sign off on this letter to Georgia's officials.

And the letter states that the DOJ had found voting irregularities that impacted the election outcome in several states, which wasn't true.

But what we're seeing in e-mails that accompany this letter is how Rosen and Donoghue swiftly stopped this effort, saying there was no widespread election fraud, of course, something that the A.G., Bill Barr, had publicly stated.

And that there was absolutely no basis for this letter to be sent to Georgia or any other state.

In fact, we're seeing it in black and white. Richard Donoghue put it bluntly in an e-mail.

He said this. He said, "There is no chance I would sign this letter or anything remotely like this."

So the letter was never sent.

But, Ana, it's part of this trove of evidence that lawmakers and also likely the DOJ inspector general are now sifting through to uncover the lengths Donald Trump and allies went to push their claims of election fraud and to ultimately overturn the election.

This likely won't be the last we heard because DOJ has told Trump officials that they can participate in Congress' investigation into the January 6th attack.

We already know the House Oversight Committee, they are investigating Trump's election fraud claims. It appears maybe some of these DOJ officials are already talking.

As we see here, Ana, they're sharing their notes and their documents from what turned out to be those fateful weeks between the election and January 6th, when the president and an ally, at least, at the DOJ were trying to push to overturn the election.

It obviously did not succeed -- Ana?

ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Yes. All these new details are helping to paint a clearer picture of what was happening behind the scenes.

Jessica Schneider, thank you.


CABRERA: I want to bring in our guests. Amanda Carpenter is a CNN political commentator and political columnist at "The Bulwark." And CNN political commentator, Joe Lockhart, is with us as well. He served as a White House press secretary under President Clinton.

First, just a quick reaction from both of you on this new reporting.

Joe, your thoughts first?

JOE LOCKHART, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: As dramatic as the testimony was last week from the Capitol Police, this is really what Congress and DOJ needs to get at.

January 6th was the symptom. The disease was trying to overturn an election. That is as serious as you can get, you know, in U.S. politics.

I hope Congress and DOJ really dig in and get at that and who was involved and what they did.

CABRERA: Amanda?

AMANDA CARPENTER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, I think we all know this was a systemic, deliberate attempt over many months to overturn the election.

What we've learned from the reporting, thus far, are mainly about the very fragile guardrails that held, right?

Like the people who said, no, we won't do this. Bill Barr walking away, the officials down in Georgia, various lawmakers and canvassing boards in Michigan.

What we don't have a full picture of are the people in government who said yes, the people who were in on this coordinated attempt.

That is what the January 6th investigation has to be about. Who were the people inside the White House telling Donald Trump, yes, we will do this, we will help you?

Because we need to know each and every one of those names to drum them out of public service ever again.

CABRERA: Let's talk about the current president and this moment the country is facing with COVID.

Joe, communication is key in a time of crisis. You're a former White House press secretary. How can this White House reset its muddled messaging on COVID and get the Delta surge under control?

LOCKHART: I don't know how muddled the message is. The science is muddled. They're learning things every single day.

What distinguishes Biden from many others is he's dealing with this as a public health issue.

Many of the Republican governors are dealing with this as a political issue, as something they can take advantage of at the expense of the lives of their constituents.

So I think what the president needs to keep doing is pushing like he did yesterday. He may have to get a little harder politically. But ultimately he treats this as a public health issue. That's the way it should be.

CABRERA: Why hasn't he mandated vaccines if it's all about public health? We saw him go over what he though was the legal boundaries when it came to the eviction moratorium yesterday and extend that.

He could do that with the vaccine mandates, no?


CARPENTER: Was that for me?

CABRERA: Sorry, that was Joe.

Joe, I was just following up with you, real fast.

LOCKHART: Yes. I think actually doing mandates would be good politics. Most of the country is behind that.

But I think what President Biden is doing is he's trying not to make the politics worse. He's trying not to inflame Trump supporters and Abbott and DeSantis.

But I think he may have to push harder. And mandates may be in our future.

CABRERA: The president has told Republican governors, like DeSantis and Abbott, to get out of the way if they're not going to help.

Amanda, are Republican governors taking this virus seriously enough?

Of course not. There's going to be a clear contrast between the red states and the blue states.

In terms of what Joe Biden could do, of course, he could be urging faster FDA approval for this vaccine, which would certainly help a lot.

Enforce mandates among the various branches of the federal government, which we've seen.

But most importantly, speaking as a parent, make sure schools are open this fall.

I do not understand the reluctance to go harder at the teachers unions. Those teachers were the first in to get the vaccines and now they're saying, oh, we don't know how we're going to open schools.

This is where Joe Biden needs to have a leadership role in pushing back on his party a little bit.

These kids have not had normal schools for a year. Parents are looking at a nightmare scenario here.

We didn't have school for a year. Everyone went out and partied for the summer. And those kids are going to be locked down again, masked up all year long?

I understand that schools have to do what's best and masking might be an option.

But let's be clear about who is to blame for this. It's the people who didn't get vaccinated and teachers who are not willing to get back in the classroom.

If the teachers are vaccinated, the kids should be there, too.

We need a lot more flexible solutions. Everything should be geared toward getting school open this fall. End of story. Maybe it's smaller classrooms. Maybe it's rotating classrooms.

But parents need to hear, yes, it's going to happen. No more wait and see.

CABRERA: I'm going to be talking with a pediatrician about schools and the vaccine in our next block.

But let me come back to you, Joe.

Because another casualty of COVID-19 is former President Obama's 60th birthday party. He had to completely scale it back.

This was supposed to be a huge bash with hundreds of people and celebrities and so forth. Now it's just going to be close family and friends.

Was a party of that size during a pandemic always going to be a mistake?

LOCKHART: Listen, I think as this thing developed you saw something from President Obama that you don't see that often among politicians, particularly Republican leaders, which is leadership.

People are looking to people like Obama, President Biden and others, political leaders, to take their cues on how serious to take this.

I think he did the right thing by saying this sends the wrong message to people and, as a leader, I need to continue to send the right message to people.

So whatever the timing of this is, he's done the right thing.

CABRERA: Joe Lockhart, Amanda Carpenter, really great to have both of you with us. Thank you.


Up next, a new study finds COVID cases among children and teens jumped 84 percent in a week. As parents grapple with how to keep their kids safe in class as schools reopen, I will ask a pediatrician if she thinks it's time to mandate masks and vaccines for school staff.



CABRERA: As kids return to school, a dire warning from one Arkansas school district that's already dealing with 500 students and staff in quarantine after just one week back in the classroom.

Marion school superintendent telling lawmakers, quote, "It is clear that we are, as many others will soon be, fighting a battle we are not appropriately equipped to win, a battle that, if lost, could well lead to mandated school closings and the subsequent economic upheaval we all witnessed during the previous wave of the pandemic.

Dr. Andrea Shane is the chief of the Division of Pediatric and Infectious Disease at Emory University School of Medicine. She's also medical director of infectious disease at Children's Health Care of Atlanta.

Doctor, thanks for being here.

Not all students are eligible for the vaccine based on age, but all adults are.

Let me ask you this. Is it time to start mandating school staff vaccinations?


I think what we do know is that if we can vaccinate everybody who is eligible to be vaccinated, that will then protect those who are unable to be vaccinated, like all of our children under the age of 12.

Unfortunately, there's not a one-size-fits-all solution to this.

In some communities, mandates do help to increase vaccination rates. In those situations, a mandate would be appropriate.

We would hope that everybody would want to be vaccinated. But clearly, there's some concern and some hesitancy. So mandating might be the way to get us to that next step of more complete vaccination.


CABRERA: And the question a lot of parents have is: When can I get my child vaccinated?

"The New York Times" says FDA approval for the Pfizer vaccine could happen by Labor Day. We're talking about full approval, not just emergency use authorization.

Dr. Fauci says that might accelerate vaccines for children under 12 who aren't currently eligible. What do you think?

SHANE: I'm hoping it happens as soon as possible as many parents around the United States hope as well.

Clearly, there has to be ap in evaluation of all the safety. The FDA is taking that under consideration as they make the recommendation.

Obviously, we want it to be as soon as possible, but we also want all the steps of evaluation to have gone through.

CABRERA: Can you remind our viewers why it takes much longer for this age group to have a vaccine approved for use?

SHANE: So one of the issues is federal government figuring out what the exact and precise dose is challenging. We want to combine safety with efficacy.

Children are not just small adults, so we have to figure out the appropriate dose, that we get that right balance between safety and efficacy.

And after we have the correct dose, testing it in a larger number of children, both children who get the active vaccine and those who get a placebo, so we can understand and make sure the vaccine is working.

It's really finding the correct dose first and then doing the studies in larger numbers of children to make sure we get exactly what we need.

CABRERA: As we reported at the top of the show, there was a huge jump in the number of children and teens infected by COVID in the past week, 84 percent jump, about 72,000 new infections.

This Delta variant is more transmissible, but, for kids, is it proving to be more dangerous?

SHANE: It depends on what we're looking at. What we're definitely seeing is a lot more children are testing positive. And most of those children, thankfully, do not have to be admitted to the hospital.

Among the children who do have to be admitted to the hospital, we are seeing more severe infections.

Part of that might be because now children with underlying medical conditions have been out in the community and going on holidays and mixing with other children.

So we're seeing children who are having underlying medical conditions having more severe COVID infections.

There's also circulation of other respiratory viruses, like RSV and parainfluenza III, which is also complicating the situation as well.

CABRERA: Dr. Andrea Shane, I really appreciate your expertise and insights. Thanks for being with us.

SHANE: Thank you very much, Ana.

CABRERA: Meantime, people are still traveling. Chaos onboard a Frontier flight. Cameras rolling as a crew duct tapes a passenger to his seat. Why they say they had no choice.

Plus, another chance to see the greatest of all time. What Simone Biles is saying about her future at the next Olympics.



CABRERA: Now to a wild scene onboard a Frontier flight. The airline now throwing its support behind the crew members that helped subdue an unruly passenger. As you can see, literally taping the man to his seat.

CNN aviation correspondent, Pete Muntean, is joining us now.

Pete, help us understand how it got to this.

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Ana, flight attendants are calling this one of the ugliest incidents yet.

This happened Saturday on a flight from Philadelphia to Miami. Police say this passenger was fueled by alcohol, spilled a drink on himself. Came back from the bathroom with his shirt off and then groped two flight attendants.

A third flight attendant was assigned to watch this passenger and that is when this happened.






MUNTEAN: This is where it gets really interesting, though. The flight attendants restrained this passenger to his seat using something called restraint tape.

That's something that flight attendants have to deal with unruly passengers and other emergencies.

Frontier Airlines said it was suspending this flight crew. They got a lot of pushback from airline unions.

Now it's changing its tune, saying it supports this flight crew and prosecution of this passenger.

He is 22-year-old Maxwell Berry of Ohio. Miami-Dade police have charged him with three counts of battery.

There have been 3,700 cases of unruly passengers this year along according to the FAA, 100 in the last week. And 99 cases this year have only gone to enforcement action.

So flight attendants are pointing to this as an example of swift prosecution that needs to happen in all of these cases -- Ana?

CABRERA: What a wild story.

Pete Muntean, thank you.

Now, imagine breaking a world record and having to settle for silver.

The women's Olympic 400-meter hurdles final was billed as a showdown between the two fastest women ever to run this race and it lived up to the hype.

Americans Sydney McLaughlin, the world record holder, and Dalilah Muhammad, the defending Olympic champ, went head-to-head in this rase. As you can see, it was so close.

McLaughlin shattered her own world record by nearly half a second to win gold. Muhammad took the silver, even though her time beat the previous world record as well.

Go Americans. Go Team USA.

In the meantime, gymnastics great, Simone Biles, says she's leaving the door open for a potential returning to the Olympics in the future.

Here's what she told NBC.


UNIDENTIFIED NBC ANCHOR: Was that beam routine the last time we're going to see you compete at the Olympic games?

SIMONE BILES, U.S. OLYMPIC GYMNAST: I think I have to relish and take this Olympics in and kind of recognize what I've done with my career because after 2016 I didn't get to do that.


UNIDENTIFIED NBC ANCHOR: So you're keeping the door open?

BILES: Yes, keeping the door open.


CABRERA: You'll recall Biles withdrew from the team all-around, the individual all-around, the vault, the floor exercise, the uneven bars as she battled the twisties.

Now we've learned her aunt also died during the Olympics. Biles says the bronze medal that she ultimately won on the beam is extremely meaningful to her.

A quick programming not. Join CNN for "We Love New York City," the homecoming concert. This is a once-in-a-lifetime concert event Saturday, August 21st, exclusively on CNN.

Thanks so much for being with me. I'll see you back here tomorrow at 1:00 p.m. Eastern. Don't forget to follow me on Twitter, @AnaCabrera.

The news continues next with Alisyn and Victor.

Have a great afternoon.



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone, welcome to NEWSROOM. I'm Alisyn Camerota.