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Father Hospitalized with COVID Urges People to Get Vaccinated; Florida Shatters Hospitalization Record as Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) Remains Defiant; Damning New Evidence Shows Trump and Loyalists Attempted Coup. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired August 6, 2021 - 10:00   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: A very good Friday morning to you, I'm Jim Sciutto.

A father's desperate plea, don't make the same mistake I did, he said this morning right here on CNN, a man speaking from his bed while on oxygen struggling to breathe. Travis Campbell wishes he and his family had gotten vaccinated. He's asking other parents now to get themselves and their children vaccinated right away.


TRAVIS CAMPBELL, HOSPITALIZED WITH COVID AFTER NOT GETTING VACCINATED: I'm just so thankful that I pray that people will just really stop and evaluate what is the value of your decisions on your life.

There is more people unvaccinated than they are vaccinated. And we, we've got to have value of life. We got to be able to trust our doctors.

I'm so blessed and thankful to be surrounded by my children. And I pray that other fathers and single moms and single dads, single grandparents, please evaluate your situation and get vaccinated for others.


SCIUTTO: Please listen. Please listen. Mr. Campbell's change of heart, it's not unique. We've heard from numerous health professionals who say they've had sick unvaccinated patients sharing the same regrets as they face the consequences of this.

It comes as CNN has learned that the Biden administration is now discussing a new, aggressive strategy to boost vaccination rates, including the possibility of withholding federal funding from places such as nursing homes, that receive some federal funding unless their staff are vaccinated. It is important to note that those discussions remain in the early stages.

It is up clear how far the administration will decide to go, thus get to the urgency of all this.

A lot of headlines to get to this hour. We're going to begin in Florida, the current national epicenter of the pandemic today, Leyla Santiago joins me now.

Leyla, so school is opening there. Several school districts, they are getting around or trying to the governor's executive order on masks in schools by requiring only employees to wear them. I mean, what kind of dance are they being forced to do here to institute what are kind of basic public health measures?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. Some school officials telling us it is a tough, tough balancing act, Jim. Let's start with Orange County, just announcing that they will be mandating masks for employees. All of this coming after we have seen this surge in hospitalizations as well as cases here in the epicenter, here in Florida.

And Orange County, not alone, Alachua County, they will begin school next week and the students there will be required to wear masks for the first two weeks until they can revisit their policy in mid-August. Go to Duval, just northeast of Alachua County. And there, they are telling parents, if you don't want your kid to wear a mask, you will have to opt out. That requires more time and more paperwork. So they're making it a little more difficult not to wear a mask.

And then in Broward County, South Florida, they are mandating masks for all students as well as employees. So they are trying to find ways to stop the spread of the very contagious delta variant that is a factor in the surge in cases that we're seeing.

It is not just schools, Jim. Yesterday, the head of Jackson Health System announcing that there will be vaccine mandates for all employees in the hospitals and also Miami-Dade County mayor announcing that she will be requiring testing now for any unvaccinated county employees.


So, schools are trying to find a way to stop the spread. Local municipalities and health systems are trying to find a way to stop the spread, but the governor continues to say that Florida will not be the state of lockdowns or mandates. Jim?

SCIUTTO: Leyla Santiago following it all, thanks very much.

Joining me now is Dr. Rosalind Osgood. She is Chairwoman of the Broward County, Florida School Board. Dr. Osgood, thanks so much for joining us this morning.


SCIUTTO: So, last week, your school board voted unanimously, we should note, unanimous vote to require masks for all students, teachers and staff and visitors at its school, had to backtrack when Governor DeSantis issued his threat to withhold funding to districts who did that. But now, Broward public schools, they say its mask mandate will be in place until further notice. I wonder, where do you stand now? In effect, are you defying the governor here?

OSGOOD: Well, we did not backtrack. We have not met again since we voted last week. We will meet on Tuesday to see how we move forward. I personally will continue to speak up and speak out and vote to require masks and make it mandatory for both staff and students. I'm not willing to take a risk with somebody's life when we have a deadly pandemic that has shown us how devastating it can be.

SCIUTTO: Rosalind Osgood, has the governor responded by saying, hey, we're going to hold back some money on you? Where does that threat stand?

OSGOOD: Well, the Department of Education is meeting today to make what we call a ruling to see what they're going to do. So they have mask mandates on the agenda and they also have another item where they are trying to give parents who want their children to be without a mask, our Hope Scholarship to take them out of the public school and use that scholarship to go to private schools.

SCIUTTO: Understood. I spoke to Orange County Mayor Jerry Demings yesterday because he's facing a similar challenge there, wants to institute local public emergency measures, being pushed by the governor. And here is how he described the governor's is approach here, and I wonder if you agree. Have a listen.


MAYOR JERRY DEMINGS (D-ORANGE COUNTY, FL): There is no question that the governor in this case has placed his political future over the life, health and well being of the residents here within the state of Florida. And I say that because this is the same governor that just last year did put mandates in place that restricted businesses and he did a number of things in that regard. The only thing that has changed is his polling amongst his base.


SCIUTTO: Do you agree he's placing his political future over the life, health and well being of residents?

OSGOOD: I do. I mean, it is very obvious that it is a political decision. There is no way that any moral being can be okay with a pandemic that is killing people and not using their authority to put things in place to protect the lives of our staff and our students. It is just ridiculous that we're now prioritizing politics instead of prioritizing the lives of people.

SCIUTTO: And young people, right, because right now, at least folks under 12 have not been authorized to get the vaccine so they are largely unprotected.

I wonder how parents speak to you about this? Because though some oppose masks, I know that many are concerned about the health of their children.

OSGOOD: Yes. We've seen a major outpour from parents, some not wanting masks, but more just very afraid and very concerned. They've worked the last year-and-a-half to keep their children safe. And now, to have to even think about sending them into a small classroom environment on a school bus where somebody is not wearing a mask is really traumatic to these parents.

What the governor is doing right now is causing that extra level of trauma on our parents and on our community. We have to mandate masks so that we can keep people alive.

SCIUTTO: Well, Dr. Rosalind Osgood, we appreciate the work you're doing. We know you've got a lot of work going forward and we wish you the best of luck.

OSGOOD: Thank you. I'm going to stand my ground and protect my community.

SCIUTTO: I don't doubt it.

Well, in New York, the Department of Health says that it will not be releasing guidance on school reopenings, will leave it up to the school districts. Right across state line, New Jersey Governor Murphy set to sent a different message. Later today, he is expected to announce that masks will be required for all students in grades K through 12 beginning this fall.

CNN's Evan McMorris-Santoro joins me now live from New York. Evan, kind of a tale of two states right now as they approach this. What is next?

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, these tales are actually being told in states all across the country as millions of students go back to school this month and next month.


And the tales fall into three basic categories, the right way, the confusing way and the wrong way.

And what we have in New Jersey -- we'll start with New Jersey. That is the easiest one to explain. The governor of New Jersey is expected to say today that when schools reopen there in the first week of September, everyone inside a school building will have to wear a mask. That is very simple and it's also exactly what the CDC says to do. They say that in order to prevent the spread of the delta variant, everyone inside a school building should be masked up.

Now, New York, across the river, is a little bit more confusing. They're having kind of a battle right now. I mean, I don't know if you've noticed but politics in the state are dicey especially at the executive level. And what's happening is two executive departments are arguing about what they can actually do about this.

The Department of Health says that because the order, the emergency order creating all these COVID rules has expired, they can no longer order schools to do anything when it comes to COVID safety. The Department of Education saying, no, you actually can do that. We don't know how that's going to work out. We have seen individual districts popping up and saying they're going to l have mask mandates when the schools reopen.

Now, that is the confusing way. The wrong way is what you're hearing about in places like Florida and seven other states across the country where the governors have banned these mask mandates and we're seeing people having -- districts having to try to work their way around them, as you mentioned in the previous part of this segment.

So that is sort of where we're at right now when it comes to school reopening. We have the New Jersey style, which is sort of following exactly what the CDC says, this New York thing, where it's like individual districts can do whatever they want. It is very confusing as to what that's actually going to mean for individual parents and this battle in these state where they say that schools can't make the decision if they want to. And that is the kind of -- the environment where we're in as schools are about to open, Jim.

SCIUTTO: I mean, yes, you look at Texas, I mean, the guidance is the exact opposite of the public health guidance. They're not even allowing contact tracing, which is remarkable. Evan McMorris-Santoro, thanks for bringing it all together for us.

Still to come this hour, new details in former President Trump's attempts to orchestrate a coup after losing the 2020 election, now getting close attention in Congress. There is more evidence as investigations into attempts to overturn the elections probes and January 6 attack begin to come together.

Plus the man who testified in Trump's first impeachment over a foreign election interference, Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, he's going to join me live, next. He has got a new book.

Plus, the GOP has eyes on retaking Congress next year and they are leaning on Republican women to do it. A top House Democrat calling out progressives for targeting moderates. Could so-called woke culture threaten Democrats' chances in the midterms?



SCIUTTO: Right now, the bipartisan House Select Committee is digging into the timeline of events surrounding then-President Trump's attempts to overturn the 2020 election. We're learning new details about the days leading up to the January 6th attacks and the final days of Trump's presidency. We expect more details to emerge as House investigators interview former Trump officials.

CNN's Jessica Schneider, she is following all of this. Jessica, I mean, what you see here are more details about explicit attempts, right, to overturn the election and use, for instance, the Justice Department, among others, to do that. JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Right, that is exactly what we're seeing in the details that are emerging every day now, Jim. And they've so far, like you said, been centered around how Trump and his allies pressured top DOJ officials to overturn the election.

And so, House investigators we learned, they will be going through a lot more details in coming days since the top officials from the time, the acting attorney general, Jeff Rosen, and his deputy, Richard Donoghue, they are slated to be interviewed by the select committee in the next few days, and they could give more insight into the records that they kept from late December, early January, when that pressure was amped up from the president and pressure even from the head of DOJ's Civil Division, Jeffrey Clark. That is someone whom investigators also want to talk to.

So, the timeline that is emerging here is especially disturbing. So we know this, based on handwritten notes from Deputy A.G. Donoghue, it was December 27th, and it was during a phone call with Trump where he told DOJ officials this. He said, just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the R congressman, the Republican congressmen, presumably. We don't know exactly who.

Then it was one day later, December 28th, when Jeffrey Clark, he was head of the civil division. That's a division that wouldn't have any part in investigating election issues but he was taking it on. And he drafted a letter to be sent to governor and lawmakers in Georgia where he falsely wrote that DOJ had found voting issues that impacted the outcome in several states, something that was wrong. And he wanted Donoghue and Rosen to sign off but they wouldn't.

And, in fact, Donoghue swiftly put his foot down and he wrote back this, there is no chance that I would sign this letter or anything remotely like this. From where I stand this is not even within the realm of possibility.

But beyond this, there is likely more that we will learn since Trump was obviously so focused on getting DOJ to interject itself into the electorate process to overturn the election. The good news though, Jim, is that DOJ has cleared the way for top officials who were there at the time to testify, to hand over documents, we're expecting that the House Select Committee will hear from them in the coming days.


So, a lot more likely to come out about exactly what the pressures were beyond what we already know, Jim.

SCIUTTO: We'll see if they're able to interview them under oath. Jessica Schneider, thanks very much.

It was grave concerns for our democracy that led my next guest to help set in motion the first of two impeachments of former President Donald Trump. It all began when Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman reported the now infamous phone call between then-President Trump and the president of Ukraine, and at the cost of putting his distinguished military career on the line. He reassured his family he would be fine for telling the truth. You may remember these words.


LT. COL. ALEXANDER VINDMAND, U.S. ARMY (RET.): This is America. This is the country I have served and defended, that all of my brothers have served and, here, right matters.


SCIUTTO: Those words are now the title of the new book, Here, Right Matters, an American Story.

Retired U.S. Army Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman joins me now to talk about this more. Thank you so much for taking the type. Thank you for the service.

VINDMAN: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Here, Right Matters. I wonder -- you paid a cost for this, personally. You were forced out, your brother as well. The president, to date, has not faced legal consequences over this. He was acquitted in not one but two impeachment trials. Do you still believe that?

VINDMAN: I do believe it. But I also believe that in order for right to matter, we have to make it matter, and that means doubling down on accountability, that means he doesn't get a pass nor do his enablers in Congress, still serving congress men and senators, and those officials that I think that they locked away could reintegrate back into kind of normal business profit off their positions, they don't get a pass either.

SCIUTTO: Yes. When you look back at the Ukraine case, and so much has happened since then, that people may forget the details of it, but here is a case of a U.S. president willing to use military assistance to an ally in need, still under attack today by Russia, for political gains. Say, hey, investigate my likely opponent in the next election and you help expose that.

From your view inside of that instance, was that revealing, in your view, of a pattern with this president, not isolated to Ukraine, but just the way he used the office?

VINDMAN: Absolutely. Everything was transactional. Everything was self-serving. There was no action that the president personally took that wasn't self-serving.

On the other hand, you had a host of public servants, career public servants that, on a hat day-to-day basis, toiled to do the right thing and advance U.S. interests. And, oftentimes, the -- it was a clash between the president upsetting the way things are supposed to work. This is not a policy disagreement. This is the president just throwing hand grenades constantly into the good order and governance and public servants having to continue to figure out how to navigate policy as it was designed. SCIUTTO: You took a lot of flack, right? I remember, I remember just poisonous comments about you. Even folks saying, because you wore your military uniform, which, by the way, was standard direction at that time, and somehow you were trying to profit from that, et cetera. I mean, beyond the consistent pattern of Trump's behavior, right, is the pattern of the behavior by Trump's enablers, right, that they'll attack anybody, even someone with distinguished military service if they somehow criticize or question the president. What do you say to those people who came after you personally for felling the truth?

VINDMAN: So, I have little regard for those people. And, frankly, I could care less about them except in a way to punch back and show them up for who they are, basically self-serving individuals. They did the same thing to those honorable police officers that defended this country and the Capitol on January 6th. So that is not something that I will tolerate.

But in a lot of ways, I just -- the president happens to be an important foil in this book I wrote and a book about doing the right thing in the right way, navigating very, very difficult affairs. And the president is incidental. Unfortunately, he's been -- continues to have an adverse impact on this country. But it is about the good people doing right thing. That is why I tell the story.

SCIUTTO: There was an example of not good people not doing the right thing on there that you experienced, right, which was an effort to deny you a promotion. Tell us about that.

VINDMAN: So I think there was a calculation that the good -- I hope the calculation was simply that the functioning of the institutions, the Army and Department of Defense, required maybe the sacrifice of one individual. If it is something that simple, actually, it is something I could live with. Because this is an important institution, it needs to be strong, it needs to have -- it needs to maintain the -- it needs to maintain pride of place in U.S. government.


At the same time, there is also in the back of my mind that this was self-serving, this was a way for people in power to preserve their currency, to preserve their position. What I find hard to understand is, in my case, my twin brother and I left the White House, I was marginalized and at the same time Michael Flynn's brother, Charlie Flynn, was elevated in that same administration because somebody thought it was useful to cater to the president's interests.

This is not a dig on Charlie Flynn, who has a stellar reputation, but people in power thought it was wise to advance an individual while, in my case, my brother and I were ostracized.

SCIUTTO: I mean, it's disappointing, right, because we've talked many times about the military, the Pentagon standing up to this president. There were instances where they did. But you're describing an instance there where they bent.

VINDMAN: They did bend and I think they bent early in a way that indicated to the president that there were vulnerabilities or exploitations and that enabled the president to parade the secretary of defense and the chief of staff, chairman of the Joint Chiefs out on Lafayette Park after protesters were -- peaceful protesters were cleared out.

And I think that bit of weakness encouraged the president that he could do more and potentially encouraged them to continue to press towards stealing an election. He was the one that tried to steal the election rightfully won by President Biden.

SCIUTTO: It is a remarkable point. I mean, are you saying, in effect, that by getting away with Ukraine -- I mean, he was impeached but he was acquitted -- that that helped spur, gave him a sign that, hey, I can get away with more?

VINDMAN: Absolutely. It was Ukraine that allowed him to believe that he could act in whatever -- in whatever way he felt he needed to going into the COVID pandemic, mismanaging that pandemic, mismanaging the economic fallout, mismanaging and inflaming public unrest in the summer of the 2020, all the way into trying to steal an election through the rest of year.

SCIUTTO: Just very quickly, of course, you have a new administration, they have called out Russia for a whole host of bad activities in Ukraine and elsewhere in a way that Trump has not. But Biden administration has let the Nord Stream pipeline go through, which, of course, Ukraine opposes and says it empowers Russia. Have you been disappointing by the Biden administration's approach to Ukraine.

VINDMAN: I have not -- it is too early to judge, frankly. We have an engagement between President Zelensky and President Biden on the horizon. We'll see how that goes. Ukrainian needs to do a lot more on reforms, anti-corruption, the U.S. needs to press them to do more. Ukraine wants to integrate into Europe. In order to do that, it needs to take these steps.

But Ukraine also needs support, major support from the United States in order to push back on Russian aggression, to be a bulwark against Russian aggression towards Europe and even closer interest to the United States. So that is yet to be determined and I'm hopeful that they'll do the right thing.

SCIUTTO: Well, here is the book. I'm lucky enough to have a copy and began reading it, Here, Right Matters, an American Story. Retired U.S Army Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, we thank you for your service, your willingness to speak to truth and also for taking the time today.

VINDMAN: Thank you, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Well, a top Democratic has some choice words for the so- called woke liberals in his own party. Could the rift between moderates and the far-left damage Democrats in the midterms?