Return to Transcripts main page


Intel Officials Draft Classified Report on COVID Origins; Baltimore Mayor Blames Unvaccinated for Indoor Mask Mandate; Former U.S. Attorney Who Quit Amid Trump's Attacks on Georgia Election Results Speaks to Senate Committee; Americans Paying More for Gas, Food, Hotels. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired August 11, 2021 - 15:30   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: U.S. intelligence officials are getting close to the end of a 90-day investigation into the origins of COVID- 19. Now, this probe was ordered by President Biden and CNN national security correspondent Kylie Atwood has the latest details. So, officials have spent the last three months looking through the data, the raw intelligence. What have they found?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, we're told that that the intelligence officials have drafted a report. This is a classified report, it's a draft report as it stands now. This report does not provide a definitive conclusion as to the origins of COVID- 19. That is according to sources familiar with this report as it stands now. It says that the intelligence community is still split over these two leading theories that we have repeatedly heard in the last year, right.

The first being that this COVID-19 pandemic originated naturally from animals spreading to humans and that the other that it originated in a Chinese lab through an accidental leak.


Now, this report is currently being reviewed at the interagency level by intelligence officials, by outside experts. And it is the result of President Biden having tasked the intelligence community with redoubling their efforts to look into what information they had, to collect more information about the COVID-19 origins.

The fact that as it stands now this draft report does not provide a definitive conclusion about the origins of this pandemic is insightful because what it means is that over the last few months, as the intelligence community have really dug into the details here, they still haven't been able to find enough information that is definitive. There are still questions out there.

Of course, we will wait to see the final report. There will be an unclassified version that we are told they are also working on right now and that could provide some nuance. But the bottom line, when you talk to folks in the intelligence community, when you talk to scientists, when you talk to folks who have been looking at this question of the origin of this pandemic, is that China has been a key problem here, right.

They have repeatedly not shared information after multiple requests and really demands for that information about the early days of this pandemic. And that information is really, really essential to getting to the bottom of this.

We'll see if President Biden orders another review after this one is released later this month. We are told that is possible -- Victor.

BLACKWELL: We'll look forward to that unclassified summary. Kylie Atwood, thank you.

So, the mayor of Baltimore has one simple message for the unvaccinated.


BRANDON SCOTT, MAYOR OF BALTIMORE: If you're not vaccinated, shut up, don't complain.


BLACKWELL: Mayor Brandon Scott, the mayor of my hometown, has more to say about this. He joins me next.



BLACKWELL: If you are going to Baltimore, take along your mask. The city's new indoor mask mandate began Monday morning. Now the combination of the Delta variant and vaccine holdouts has put all but two Maryland counties in the high or substantial COVID transmission category and Baltimore's mayor was clear about who's to blame.


SCOTT: For anyone that's frustrated about wearing a mask and you're not vaccinated, then look in the mirror. It's your fault that we're going back to having an indoor mask mandate. Make sure that folks get vaccinated. If you're not vaccinated, shut up, don't complain.


BLACKWELL: And Mayor Brandon Scott joins me now. Mr. Mayor, thank you for being with me. I want to start with -- you know, usually when we have the conversations, they're in the states with low percentage of the fully vaccinated people. Maryland is not one of those states. Sixty percent of the residents are fully vaccinated. I think that puts you about sixth in the ranking of states. There's certainly cities across the country that are far worse off. Why did you decide to bring back the mask mandate?

SCOTT: Well, listen, it's very simple. And thanks for having me. We're seeing a big increase in our cases in all of the numbers that we know we don't want to see. For example, over the previous four weeks we have a 680 percent increase in cases. A 409 percent increase in positivity.

We're seeing our hospital beds being utilized. ICU beds are at 88 percent. That is acute care beds and ICUs are at 84 percent. And knowing that here in Baltimore, as you know, our 11 hospitals don't just serve the city, they serve the region and really the state.

We are seeing a few deaths but we know what can happen. This is about something very simple. The Delta variant is causing our cases to ramp up. People are getting the virus. People are spreading this virus and in a much more rapid fashion. People are getting sick and we know that getting people vaccinated helps to not only prevent the disease from being spread but keeps people who even get it at a lot less risk of dying or getting severely sick.

It's about the data, it's about the science, it's about the health of our population.

BLACKWELL: So, you have been clear that you want to encourage people to get vaccinated. We have seen mayors, and governors, even the president of the United States create mandates for people to get vaccinated who work in local, state or federal government.

As I understand it, you have not done that. Is that something you're planning or considering?

SCOTT: Yes, actually, we are considering that. We have our law department looking at all the legal issues around that.

When I do anything, I want it to be done in the appropriate way with the appropriate speed but having every "T" crossed and every "I" dotted and having conversations with all of those who are going to be impacted. So, we're considering that. And we're still doing a great job of making sure that we get people vaccinated.

We have been telling folks that if you're home bound, you can't get out we'll come to you. We have been using the data to show us where to go. Where we're actually going into our neighborhoods, we'll file clinics, we'll file pop-up vaccinations, we'll file partners not just in health but with our medical partners across city, in the zip codes, in the neighborhoods where people need the vaccine.

We're going to continue to do that. We're going to have people masking and are really trying to make sure that we fight this virus on every front.

BLACKWELL: Mr. Mayor, you got a timeline on making that decision for mandating vaccines for government employees?

SCOTT: Yes, I think that that decision will be made to the next few weeks and in a month. BLACKWELL: OK. All right. Here in New York, the mayor has now

instituted this policy that will be in effect in a couple of weeks of requiring vaccination, proof of vaccination for indoor dining, indoor entertainment, also for gyms. Is that under consideration?

SCOTT: We haven't gone that far yet right? I think that what you know, we are a place where we want to be able to have people to do the things that they want to do. We started with this indoor mask mandate because we know that's the first step and we know it's been proven to help slow the spread.

We want everyone to get vaccinated. We understand -- you know, I know better than most mayors in the country about how we have to have open, honest conversations with communities like the black community, about the history of the medical industry and what happened to so many of us right here in Baltimore city.

We want to get all those questions answered. We want to put people's fears at ease, but we want them to get the vaccine. We want to do -- take it, take that approach first. Do the masking approach first before considering going that far, were we're going to be limiting people's access to stuff because that I think brings up a big issue of question of equity and some other concerns that will come with that.


BLACKWELL: Let me get your take on another topic that has really plagued Baltimore for quite a long time and that's crime. There's an increase in crime there. We understand that that members of the state's Congressional delegation are now asking the Attorney General, Merrick Garland, for federal resources. I know you had a meeting about a month ago.

What are you asking for and what are you expecting this will do to try to hold off that trend of growing crime there in Baltimore?

SCOTT: Well, I would say that one, that's a misconception. Total violent crime in Baltimore is down, we were the exception to the rule last year, but we have too many, too much in Baltimore city. And as you know violence in Baltimore has been a disease that has been plaguing, a cancer that's been plaguing Baltimore all of our lives.

And really when we talk about our partnership with our federal partners which is stronger than ever, it's about making sure that Baltimore gets the attention that other cities get. It's about making sure that our great local federal partners have the resources they need to accomplish their goals and helping us break up folks who are trafficking weapons into Baltimore, a city that that 60 percent of the guns come from another state.

It's about we are able to make cases to remove folks who creating havoc, violence and get them out of these neighborhoods but it's not just about them. We know that two weeks ago I released Baltimore's first-ever comprehensive violence prevention plan alongside local, state and our federal delegation. It's a plan that understands that we're going to have three pillars. A public health approach to violence, community engagement and interagency coordination and evaluation and accountability.

We understand that we're no longer going to put this solely on the backs of our police department. We're going to have community prevention programs. We're going to focus on public health, focus on substance abuse and addiction. All of it is how we'll reduce violence in Baltimore for an extensive period of time.

BLACKWELL: All right, Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott, thank you, sir.

SCOTT: Thank you.

BLACKWELL: All right. Former U.S. Attorney who abruptly resigned because of then-President Trump's unrelenting attacks against Georgia's election is testifying before lawmakers. We'll tell you what we're learning.



BLACKWELL: A former Georgia U.S. Attorney is testifying today before a Senate judiciary committee panel. It is investigating former President Trump's efforts to overturn the 2020 election. B.J. Pak abruptly resigned in January during Trump's unrelenting attacks on the state's election results and its secretary of state.

CNN correspondent justice correspondent Jessica Schneider is with us now. Jessica, good to see you, tell us about his testimony.

JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know, Victor, Pak's testimony, it's taking place virtually and behind closed doors.

But you know what he's revealing to lawmakers, it will be of great intrigue because his abrupt resignation on January 4th, it's still shrouded in mystery. I've been in touch with him, he's declined any comment. So, we really only know a few details about what happened to possibly prompt him his departure several months ago.

So, he resigned on January 4th. And that was just after a key weekend where former President Trump had considered overhauling DOJ's top officials because they refused to buy into those false claims of voter fraud.

Then we know the "New York Times" reported that the night before Pak's resignation, the Deputy Attorney General at the time, Richard Donoghue, he talked to him on the phone and he said that the White House was frustrated by Pak's failure to bring voter fraud investigations.

And of course, Pak was at the center of the storm, he was the U.S. Attorney in Atlanta, Georgia, and he quit just two days after that now infamous phone call that Trump had with Georgia Secretary of State where the former president really pleaded for officials there to find him more votes.

So today members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, they should be getting some more insight into any direct pressure that the former U.S. Attorney in Atlanta B.J. Pak faced. He's speaking behind closed doors in this virtual testimony, Victor. But he could illuminate at lot of what the pressure was and from which White House officials maybe other than the former president it actually came from --Victor.

BLACKWELL: All right, Jessica Schneider, for us there in Washington, thank you.

You know this. The price of just about everything is going up. Gas, milk, everything. Listen, we're going to tell you when you would expect some relief, next.



BLACKWELL: Eating, shopping, vacationing, it's all getting more expensive. U.S. inflation is at its highest level in almost 13 years. CNN business's Matt Egan is with me now. So, Matt, how long will this last, how high potentially will these prices go?

MATT EGAN, CNN BUSINESS LEAD WRITER: Well, Victor, prices are still rising rapidly. And it's because supply is just having a hard time catching up with surging demand as the U.S. economy reopens.

Now, in July U.S. consumer prices rose 5.4 percent over the prior 12 months. We've rarely seen price gains like that in modern times. In fact, that is tied with June as the biggest annual gain in consumer prices since 2008. Let me just break down a few items that are getting a lot more expensive.

Women's dresses, they're at 19 percent more expensive over the last 12 months. Used cars and gasoline up 42 percent. Rental cars up more than 73 percent. Americans are also paying more for food at grocery stores like the one behind me. The price of milk and apples up 6 percent over the last 12 months. Fresh fruit and meat also getting more expensive. Even veteran grocery store executives are telling me that they are shocked by what they're seeing.


ORLANDO OLAVE, SENIOR DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS, MORTON WILLIAMS: Oh, I've been in the industry now 38 years. This is the highest we've ever seen inflation go up in our company. I mean it's incredible how many things are going up now.


EGAN (on camera): But the good news is that core inflation which takes out food and energy, that has actually moderated. And some things like car rentals, fruit and laundry machines, they've actually gotten cheaper between June and July. So, Victor, that's giving economists hope that perhaps inflation is peaking here.

BLACKWELL: All right, car rentals and laundry machines, some good news at least. Matt Egan, thank you so much. I'm Victor Blackwell in New York, thank you for spending some part of the last two hours with me.

"THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper starts right now.