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A 7.2 Magnitude Earthquake Strikes Haiti; COVID Patients Overwhelm U.S. Hospitals In Repeat Of 2020 Surges; Afghanistan On Verge Of Collapse As Taliban Take Over; School Mask Debate Grows Heated Nationwide; DeSantis Blasts "Medical Authoritarianism" As COVID Cases Surge; Trump Supporter Lindell's "Cyber Symposium" Ends Up Being A Dud; Southern Border Crossings Hit Two-Decade High In July. Aired 3- 4p ET

Aired August 14, 2021 - 15:00   ET

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


[15:00:24]

JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Jim Acosta in Washington. And we begin with breaking news.

A 7.2 magnitude earthquake has struck near Haiti and the damage could be devastating. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates a large number of casualties. At least 29 people have been confirmed dead as of now but that number is likely to go much higher. We're getting video from the ground.

Look at this street right now filled with rubble and dust in the air. The man in the video that you're seeing right now saying there are a lot of wounded people on the street. More images show destruction after a building was completely shaken off kilter.

It must be all too familiar to so many Haitians. They're still feeling the impact of a major earthquake in 2010 that killed at least 220,000 people. And remember, this country is in the midst of another crisis. Haiti's president was brutally assassinated in his bedroom last month in front of his wife.

And today's unfolding disaster could also be compounded by this. Tropical storm Grace is expected to hit the area as soon as Monday. It just doesn't stop for the people in Haiti.

CNN correspondent Patrick Oppmann joins me now from Havana, Cuba.

Patrick, this is just another devastating blow for Haiti. What are you learning about the extent of the damage right now?

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, there are whole areas of this part of Haiti where the earthquake struck where the government has not been able to reach. We've not been able to have contact with because the damage is so extensive. I mean you see large hotels, buildings, completely devastated. People running out into the street as the structures around them collapse down upon them.

And the danger really here, Jim, is the aftershocks. This will continue, as you know from previous earthquakes, that this isn't over. People have already reported aftershocks. That could bring down buildings that are standing right now. We've seen images of people being treated outside really nothing more than beds that have been pulled out of the buildings that did survive, so it's very, very precarious.

There's a state of emergency. A month-long state of emergency that has been called by Haiti's new prime minister Ariel Henry who replaces the president of Haiti who was assassinated just last month. And as you mentioned, Tropical Storm Grace is heading in, and is expected to go over Haiti and dump lots of rain the beginning of this week. That will just complicate the search and rescue efforts, or the efforts to get people out of this rubble to really come up with an accurate number of dead.

In this area, Jim, it was also devastated by Hurricane Matthew in 2016. So certainly, no strangers to tragedy and the worst may be yet to come as they deal with these aftershocks and as this tropical storm approaches the same area today that was completely devastated by this very, very strong earthquake.

ACOSTA: Just an awful situation there, and they are going to need a lot of help in Haiti in the days to come.

All right, Patrick Oppmann, thank you so much for that.

Turning now to the COVID crisis in the United States. For weeks we've seen the graphs, cases and hospitalizations surpassing some of 2020's scariest peaks. We've seen the maps, a sea of red fueled by the Delta variant. But the infographics don't give the full scope of the desperation on the ground. The hardest-hit states, Alabama, Texas, Georgia, Florida and Mississippi all have one thing in common, they're running low on ICU beds.

In Mississippi, a hospital parking garage is now a field unit for COVID patients in Jackson. In Tennessee, a fire chief tells residents if they call for an ambulance, there may not be one available. In Texas, a judge paints the grim reality. If your child needs to go to the ICU, you may have to wait for someone else's child to die for a bed to open up.

It's a dark reminder of last year's surges but this time we do have the silver bullet, a safe, effective vaccine. So some cities are getting serious about using it. Starting Monday everyone in New Orleans must show proof of vaccination or a negative test for certain indoor activities. And on Friday San Francisco follows, requiring proof of full COVID vaccination to enter places like restaurants, gyms and theaters.

Let's bring in CNN medical analyst and professor of medicine and surgery at George Washington University, Dr. Jonathan Reiner.

Dr. Reiner, great to have you again here in person as always. But when you hear about hospital beds being put in a parking garage in Mississippi or if you call for an ambulance in Memphis, Tennessee, it may not come. What goes through your mind?

DR. JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: The system is breaking. It's not just the beds.

[15:05:02]

You know, many hospitals can find beds in places like parking structures or cafeterias, but it's qualified people to staff those beds. And the United States is critically short on ICU nurses. So finding the qualified staff to take care of critically ill patients becomes increasingly hard.

And what you see happen is hospitals pay large sums of money to try and attract staff from all over the country to come into these surge areas and that leads to problem staffing hospitals, even in not the hottest parts of the country. So it's a -- it's sort of a series of dominos that starts to fall when the system breaks like this.

ACOSTA: And is it going to help, the fact that the CDC has endorsed this additional vaccine dose for immunocompromised people? Is that going to help put a dent in all of this, do you think?

REINER: Well, it will help about 10 million people who remain at risk because their immune systems haven't responded in a sort of typical fashion to the first two doses. There is data that shows that a third dose of an MRNA vaccine will significantly increase neutralizing antibodies. But it's just the beginning. We should be boosting the entire country. And we should be boosting older Americans, we should be boosting health care providers, we should be boosting --

ACOSTA: Right now?

REINER: We should be doing all of these right now. We should open this up to the general public. I think in particular we should be boosting health care personnel, many of whom like me who were immunized eight months ago. And we know that the efficacy of the vaccine starts to drop after about the first six months. And now with the Delta, a waning immunity from the vaccine and surging Delta and rising numbers of patients in hospitals is a very toxic mix.

So I would start boosting health care providers right now. We're seeing people outside of the immunocompromised going to pharmacies to get boosted. So rather than having sort of this black market process, the federal government should just open this up and create a process for the entire country and maybe in a tiered prioritized way. Let's just start boosting everybody. It's coming.

ACOSTA: Yes. It is coming. And the White House says in the past week Florida has more COVID cases than the 30 states with the lowest case rates combined. I mean, that's extraordinary. And yet let's listen to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis. He is still continuing this battle against mask mandates. Let's take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: They are basically saying that we are all just subservient to medical authoritarianism. Whatever they think needs to be done, we have to submit to it. It's probably, Tucker, the most significant threat to freedom in my lifetime, certainly since the fall of the Berlin wall.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: The Berlin wall?

REINER: Right. I have news for the governor. A greater threat to freedom is being paralyzed in a drug-induced coma on a ventilator in an ICU. The governor of Florida is violating the rule of holes. You know the rule of holes, when you find yourself in a hole, stop digging?

ACOSTA: Right.

REINER: He has dug himself an enormous hole in Florida. And he has handcuffed himself. He has removed the tools that a governor has to try and suppress a pandemic like this. Enforcing masking requirements, closing down crowded venues, incentivizing people either positively or negatively to get vaccinated. He has removed all of these tools and he's found himself in a deep, deep hole, yet he keeps digging.

ACOSTA: Yes. And Tucker Carlson will just have him on to continue that digging. It's incredible.

Louisiana is another hotspot, as you know. My colleague, Don Lemon, went down there and he did some great reporting. He was asking COVID patients in a Baton Rouge hospital why they didn't get the vaccine and the comments are interesting. Let's watch.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Why didn't you get vaccinated?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just hadn't had time. I guess just didn't do it.

LEMON: So you're not anti-vaccine.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, sir, no, sir.

LEMON: Why didn't you get vaccinated?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just apprehensive, you know. My husband got vaccinated and wanted me to, and I just, thought, oh, I'll be careful.

LEMON: Let me ask you, why didn't you get vaccinated?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Me, myself, I thought that I was being safe.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: These aren't unreasonable responses. They don't always sound like folks who are reading garbage off of the internet. In some cases people are just saying I'm not getting around to it, I wasn't motivated to go do it and so on. Where are we failing in getting the message out if you're hearing those kinds of responses?

REINER: Yes, it breaks my heart because it's our job, our jobs as medical professionals, public health officials, to educate the population, educate people about why it's important. And if folks like that, you know, as you say, really reasonable people haven't quite understood, then we have failed in our job.

[15:10:04]

So we have to double down. We want to hear this from local official, from people that they respect about why this is so important. Sadly in places like Louisiana, and Florida, and Mississippi, more and more people are seeing people that they know and love get sick, and be hospitalized or even die. That's why you're seeing vaccinations rising in these places because people are learning the hard way. We are failing, you know, large swaths of America.

ACOSTA: And it's not just the people in the hospital who are learning the hard way, their family members, their friends, they are seeing what's happening to their loved ones, and they're saying oh, my goodness, I better go out and get vaccinated. It's a hard way to learn that lesson.

All right, Dr. Jonathan Reiner, great to see you as always. Thank so very much.

REINER: My pleasure. I appreciate it.

ACOSTA: And up next, city after city is falling to the Taliban as they take over Afghanistan at a stunning pace. Is the fall of Kabul next?

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:15:01]

ACOSTA: Afghanistan is falling apart. There's no two ways to say it. Taliban militants now control 22 of the country's provincial capitals. Only two major cities, Kabul and Jalalabad, remain in the government's control. Afghanistan's president says he is consulting with Afghan leaders and international allies to prevent further destruction. But right now there are serious concerns over how long the government will last.

Three thousand U.S. troops are in Afghanistan this weekend to assist with the departure of embassy staff in Kabul who are being told to destroy sensitive documents before they go.

I spoke to retired Rear Admiral John Kirby, the Pentagon press secretary, yesterday and he says he's surprised by how fast the Taliban are gaining ground.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: What we couldn't predict was the lack of resistance that they were going to get from Afghan forces on the ground. And as you heard the president speak just a couple of days ago, what's really needed is for political and military leadership in Afghanistan. No outcome here has to be inevitable. I think what has been disconcerting to see is that there hasn't been that will, that political leadership and military leadership, and the ability to push back on the Taliban as they have advanced.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: Joining us now, retired U.S. Army General Wesley Clark, former Supreme Allied commander of NATO and a CNN military analyst.

General Clark, great to see you. The situation in Afghanistan is deteriorating at shocking speed. It's just incredible. We just heard John Kirby say he's surprised by this lack of resistance that the Taliban is facing. What has happened to these Afghan security forces? It is just remarkable to see them melt away in the fashion that they have been.

GEN WESLEY CLARK (RET), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: Well, it's years and years of mismanagement and corruption, and people who were half- heartedly committed in order to get a paycheck and leaders who took pay from them and didn't provide logistics and at the top politicians who lined their own pockets. Corruption from top to bottom. And no real support from the citizenry of the government and no loyalty up and down the chain of command. So once the momentum started, it unraveled pretty quickly.

A lot of observers have noticed this over the years and yet we lived with this illusion that we were doing something really profound there and trying to really shape up these forces. And now we see that it wasn't strong enough. The morale, the cohesion, starting at the top with the leadership of the president and his commanders. It wasn't strong enough to withstand the surge. And there was no reason to believe that had we stayed there for another year or two and kept another 5,000, that anything would have changed.

And one country that hasn't been mentioned in this is Pakistan. Pakistan has enormous influence over the Taliban. What are they doing right now? What are they saying? Are they restraining the Taliban? They armed them, promoted them, guided them for over 20 years. It's time for Pakistan to step up and stop the humanitarian tragedy that's unfolding there.

ACOSTA: Do you think they're just taking advantage of the situation?

CLARK: I think there's no doubt about it. I mean Pakistan has always looked at Afghanistan as its strategic rear in its confrontation with India. And it wanted also to make sure that its Pashtun tribal members in the northwest frontier area and their relatives over in Afghanistan weren't a part of a fifth column against Pakistan. So they always played two sides in this.

We've known it. We've known it for 20 years. We've never been able to deal with it effectively. And now the fact that Pakistani leadership and support for two decades of the Taliban is coming home to roost in terms of the humanitarian tragedy that the people of Afghanistan are facing. ACOSTA: And General Clark, President Biden held a briefing with his

National Security team on Afghanistan today. If Kabul falls, what happens? What does that mean for the Afghan people? And do the last 20 years of trying to build up this country, does that just all go to waste?

CLARK: Well, first of all, there are a lot of individual Afghans who have benefitted not just financially but culturally, educationally and so forth for 20 years in the United States. Many of these people are all over the world and many of them are going to be great, great citizens of whatever countries they've landed in. But for the institutions of Afghanistan that we put in place there, yes, those institutions are going to disappear.

But some of the trained civil servants, they're going to have to stay. The Taliban is going to have to have utilities in the country, they're going to have to have communications, they're going to have to repair the roads, they're going to have to face the responsibilities of governing. And this may, it may soften the image of the Taliban and their actions.

[15:20:00]

If they want any support from the United States and the world community they're going to have to slow down right now on their rush into Kabul and stop the overwhelming violence and the humanitarian outrages that are already being reported in places like Kandahar.

ACOSTA: Yes.

CLARK: So can they control their own troops? Can they form a government? Can they do something for the people? It remains to be seen. But here's the thing. The biggest losers in this really, China, Russia, India, Iran. The neighbors of Afghanistan who now don't have the United States to help hold stability in the region and will themselves have to take actions to maintain stability in that region against a resurgent Taliban.

ACOSTA: All right. It does not sound like a good situation over there, General Wesley Clark, but thanks for those insights. We'll get back in touch with you again real soon to talk about this further. But thanks in the meantime, appreciate it.

And coming up, how masks are becoming a flash point at school board meetings across the country.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We know who you are.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We know who you are.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can leave freely, but we're going to find you and we know who you are.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You will never be allowed in public again. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We know who you are.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You will never be allowed -- we'll never let it be allowed in public again.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:25:50]

ACOSTA: Many of the unvaccinated children in America have no choice, they are ineligible to get the shots. That's why much of the mass debate growing louder across the country is now centered around them.

CNN's Randi Kaye takes a closer look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: Masks in class.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In Cobb County, Georgia, this afternoon parents face off on the issue of masks.

(CROSSTALK)

KAYE: In this school district, masks are optional.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our children, our choice. Our children, our choice.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Kids are dying right now from COVID.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You have a --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Can't be vaccinated. Mask up.

KAYE: Despite the science that supports the efficacy of masks this protester believes they are dangerous for children.

CHRIS GREGORY, GRANDMOTHER AGAINST MASK MANDATE: The germs that they're just having to breathe in and out, day in and day out, from the masks, to me is more harmful than the mask, you know, of not having the mask on.

KAYE: This was the scene recently in Warren County, Kentucky, where masks are required in school.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hey, I've got a grandson that I have custody of and that is my choice.

JEG MILLER, PARENT AGAINST MASKING KIDS: Kids don't need to breathe carbon dioxide all day. Kids need to learn about facial recognition, how to communicate. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think children should wear a mask also.

KAYE: In Williamson County, Tennessee, outside Nashville --

UNIDENTIFIED PROTESTERS: We'll not comply. We'll not comply.

KAYE: Parents clashed at a recent protest.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We know who you are.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We know who you are.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We know who you are.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You can leave freely, but we will find you and we know who you are.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You will never be allowed in public again.

KAYE: It got so heated police stepped in.

(CHEERS AND APPLAUSE)

KAYE: At the school board meeting Wednesday night, masks were debated for hours, with board members becoming the target.

DANIEL JORDAN, PARENT: Actions have consequences. If you vote for this, we will come for you in a nonviolent way.

KAYE: In the end, the Board of Ed approved a temporary mask requirement. And in Broward County, Florida's second largest school district, protests were also heated. Here, masks are mandatory, allowing parents to opt out only for medical reasons.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My child is not coming to school masked.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Are you going to bully him into wearing your mask?

KAYE: Even with the mandate in place, those opposed to it aren't giving up.

HEATHER TANNER, PARENT: Would you show us a clinical trial that is peer reviewed that masks actually do work?

JOSEPH CARTER, BROWARD COUNTY RESIDENT: Your job is not to make medical decisions for our children. I believe my wife and I are doing a fine job of that, and we don't need your help, nor do we ask for it.

KAYE: Randi Kaye, CNN, Palm Beach County, Florida.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: In one Florida county COVID has claimed the lives of two teachers and a teaching assistant all before the start of the school year. All three were unvaccinated and all three died within one day of one another.

And I want to bring in Anna Fusco, she is the president of the Broward County Teachers Union.

Anna, this is all so tragic. How are your teachers coping?

ANNA FUSCO, PRESIDENT, BROWARD COUNTY TEACHERS UNION: Our teachers are coping because they're having faith in our Broward County Public School elected board members and our newly appointed interim superintendent. You know, they are standing really strong and really giving out some great conversations that they really care about the community.

They voted in favor of the mask mandate, keeping all of our protocols that we had in from last school year, and what we put in through our summer experience to make sure that everybody that comes onto campuses and into school buildings in any Broward County public school buildings that they will be safe to, you know, not have the spread coming through.

And masks are one of these protocols that we had and, you know, they helped. We didn't have a spread in Broward County public schools last school year. We didn't have a spread through our summer experience.

ACOSTA: So there's definitely a difference. The Broward County School Board voted to keep its mask mandate in place this week despite the objections of some of these parents.

[15:30:00]

The same kind of objections I guess you saw in that piece we just heard a few moments ago.

Let's show our viewers where you were caught in the middle.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want my child to go to school free and unmasked.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wish they could if we didn't have the COVID.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want my child to go to school free and unmasked.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I want my child to get a quality education without all this bureaucracy and no choice.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: How do you deal with that?

FUSCO: Well, you know, they have come through our school board meetings a couple of times.

You know, to be frank with you, Jim, I believe that they're not all parents. I believe it's a paid group that's out there.

I saw some of them with flyers from the very right-wing side. They keep having that same narrative.

When you try to rationalize with them or reason with them and just talk about where their children go to school, they openly admit that their children don't even attend our Broward County public schools.

They didn't know the names of our board members. They didn't know the name of our superintendent.

They just seem to have this real divisiveness, antagonistic, negative position about them just to come out and show division and inciting anger.

I don't believe they were all parents. That particular person --

(CROSSTALK)

ACOSTA: So you really think that somebody is shipping in these protesters to rile folks up over there? Is that what you're observing?

FUSCO: Absolutely.

Some of the comments that they're making and the derogatory way about them, that's not how parents -- last school year, when we were opening up our schools and we had some divisiveness on whether to go five days a week, full face-to-face, hybrid or virtual, we had upset and angry parents.

What a difference between the real parent that has children attending our Broward County public schools than this group, that seems to have the same exact narrative.

And we're watching them in different parts of our state and different parts of our country.

ACOSTA: Interesting.

As you know, the governor of your state has been railing against these mandates, saying it should be up to the parents to decide if their kids want to wear masks. He's talking about it being a threat to freedom.

What's your message to the governor right now?

FUSCO: There's absolutely no threat to freedom. They have a right to choose to wear masks when they're in their own possession.

When they're in a certain type of institution, in a school, in a hospital and someone else's place of business, whether it be a grocery store or restaurant, there are policies, there's rules, there's procedures. You know, you should be teaching the children to respect that.

This is a protocol that has helped with stopping the spread. We did a survey with our members last year. About 5,000 did the survey on just asking, how many common colds did you get, how many times did you get the flu, and over 5,000 responded with less than one.

So, you know, do we have all the answers that this mask helps stop the spread of COVID? Well, with other protocols put in place and wearing the mask, we have shown in Broward County public schools that we had no spread in our school.

One more thing to the governor, if he would release the billions of dollars that our president and our federal dollars that were sent off to him to give to our public schools and stop holding it hostage, we can do so much more to help keep more better safety protocols and everybody get vaccinated.

ACOSTA: That's a great message. Anything we can do to keep those schools open, that's what we need, those kids to keep learning with great educators like yourself running the schools for us.

Anna Fusco, thanks for being with us. We appreciate it. It was great talking to you.

FUSCO: Thanks. Have a great afternoon.

ACOSTA: Hang in there with those protests. We appreciate it.

Coming up, he promised proof of election fraud. Instead, he delivered an epic fail. CNN's Donie O'Sullivan reports on a total meltdown at the My Pillow guy's election symposium.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN REPORTER: If you're correct, if you have that evidence --

[15:34:09]

MIKE LINDELL, CEO, MY PILLOW: No, what -- just forget about the evidence.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ACOSTA: The Department of Homeland Security is warning there's an alarming amount of chatter right now from extremists online.

The department's head of intelligence, John Cohen, says the rhetoric is strikingly similar to what was out there before the January 6th attack on the capitol.

That includes comments like, "the system is broken," "bring out the gallows," or telling people to take matters into their own hands. While the chatter has stopped short of specific dates and threats, all

of it is being fed by the Big Lie that Donald Trump actually won the election and that Joe Biden is not the legitimate president, all falsehoods, obviously.

One of those people feeding the Big Lie is TV pitchman-turned- conspiracy theorist, Mike Lindell.

The My Pillow CEO has said over and over again that he has proof of a stolen election and he was going to present it to true believers.

You would think after a judge ruled a billion-dollar defamation lawsuit against him could go forward, that could be a good time for him to show his evidence to the world.

Instead, it all came apart in front of a live audience.

Donie O'Sullivan has the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

LINDELL: We got attacked by China and they flipped this election and down tickets to the tune of tens of million. This is crazy. And all you have to do is come to the symposium.

[15:39:59]

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): For weeks, My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell has been touting his so-called Cyber Symposium in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, claiming he would present data that would prove to the world China hacked the 2020 election and stole it from Donald Trump.

O'SULLIVAN (on camera): If you're correct, if you have that evidence --

LINDELL: No, what -- just forget about the evidence. If I'm right, then China took our country. Right now, do you care? Would that bother you? Would that bother you?

O'SULLIVAN: Well, you have to show the proof right now.

LINDELL: No, no. Would that bother you?

O'SULLIVAN: Of course, I would.

LINDELL: OK, then why do you think I keep going? Do you think I like getting attacked?

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): Lindell invited the media and cyber experts to the symposium to vet his claims. We went along and brought Harri Hursti, a world renowned cyber and voting machines expert.

O'SULLIVAN (on camera): If you see something in there, if you see some data, that does seem legit, that does show that there was some sort of fraud, you're ready to investigate it, right?

HARRI HURSTI, ELECTRONIC VOTING SECURITY EXPERT: Absolutely. I will follow the evidence wherever the evidence will go.

LINDELL: This was an attacked -- the whole technology was attacked.

O'SULLIVAN: So, the conference was supposed to begin about an hour ago. But Lindell is having some problems with streaming live the event on his website.

He's claiming without any evidence that it's because of an attack, that his systems have been attacked.

LINDELL: There's attacks and cyber-attacks every day, as you can see.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): And it went downhill from there. Lindell ultimately didn't produce the data to prove his claim the election was stolen by China.

TONY BAKER, EVENT ATTENDEE: I think the guy makes a wonderful pillow. But I wish some of this information would have been organized a little better.

O'SULLIVAN (on camera): Were you given any data at all, from the 2020 election, anything useful. Anything that would show any sort of fraud?

HURSTI: We were not given any kind of raw data, which we would even be able to ask to start to look in that.

O'SULLIVAN: But if your stuff is legit, if the data is legit, wouldn't it be better for you to hand it over to as many cyber experts as possible?

LINDELL: You know what I'll give you the answer, because I've been told that they can go out there and corrupt it and make fake stuff and put fake news out.

So, I don't need your people to go out and doctor the evidence and put out a -- Mike Lindell is a conspiracy theorist.

O'SULLIVAN: But you have been saying for months, media, experts, everybody come see the data.

LINDELL: We're showing it right on screen right now. So, you can't sit here and do a hit piece when it's on screen right now.

O'SULLIVAN: To your knowledge was anything on those screens proof of Lindell's claims that the election had been stolen?

HURSTI: Based on everything we've found. that is meaningless. There was nothing there even to compare to draw any conclusions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, I'm not a computer guy. I don't know what most of this stuff means. But I've been researching this election since November 3.

But the CNN's of the world, you guys need to start reporting this and stop fact checking it.

(APPLAUSE)

(CHEERING)

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): And in case you needed more proof, this is a sham Ron Watkins spoke remotely at the conference for hours.

RON WATKINS, AMERICAN CONSPIRACY THEORIST: And so, what I said was --

O'SULLIVAN: He was allegedly behind the QAnon movement according to a HBO documentary, an allegation he denies.

LINDELL: Do you understand, all I need is for all those experts to say, yup, it's from the 2020 election.

O'SULLIVAN (on camera): But that's --

LINDELL: That's all you need --

O'SULLIVAN: That's not proven the election was rigged?

LINDELL: Yes, I have that prove with my people that we're bringing the Supreme Court. I don't need the media to drive in the narrow chip before my case to the Supreme Court.

HURSTI: We expected a huge pile of data which we couldn't -- which we wouldn't be able to understand and how it can be evidence. We didn't expect there's no pile of anything.

O'SULLIVAN: There's not even a pile of bullshit here? There's just a pile of nothing?

HURSTI: There's only pile of nothing.

O'SULLIVAN (voice-over): No evidence of election fraud here, but plenty of promotions for pillows and other products.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Bathrobes, slippers, pajamas, bathmats. So go look at what you like. There's so much cool stuff.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: Donie O'Sullivan joins us now.

Donie, I feel like I need a My Pillow to rest my head after watching that piece.

What -- I mean. just very strange and surreal symposium there that you attended.

O'SULLIVAN: Yes, Jim. As you know, I've been to my fair share of weird and wacky events over this past year, QAnon events. This is up there. This was bizarre more than anything else.

As you saw, it was a big production. There was a big stage. Lindell seemingly put up a lot of his own money for this.

People who went to the conference were invited. They ate for free for the week. It was catered.

What was stunning about it all, there was all this circus essentially.

As you heard our cyber expert, Harri Hursti, there, there was no anything.

There wasn't even -- you know, he was sort of expecting to go and be handed over some form of data that might potentially, you know, involve more investigation at least, something they could really dig into. There wasn't even that.

[15:45:06]

ACOSTA: Shocker.

And this just in. Donald Trump is not going to be reinstated as president. Especially based on what you saw.

Now, you noted the event included plenty of promotions for pillows and other products. How is Lindell doing financially considering he's facing this massive lawsuit from Dominion?

It almost sounded like, at the end of your piece, that he's got a bit of a fire sale going for some of his products.

O'SULLIVAN: Yes. Look, to be honest with you, I think there's questions to be asked of who it is that Lindell is getting this data from, who he's been paying to analyze this data. If he's sort of being taken for a bit of a ride here as well.

What was interesting is FOX News didn't show up to the event, which was noted throughout the conference. You know, many Trump supporters say they no longer like FOX News.

But it is a reminder that there's a huge ecosystem of other right-wing outlets, like OAN, like the Bannon show, that are willing to continue to promote the Big Lie.

All of those networks, all of those right-wing outlets that are online, they were all pushing promotion codes for pillows.

ACOSTA: Fascinating. You can't make this stuff up.

Donie O'Sullivan -- although, they make up a lot of stuff. Donie O'Sullivan, thanks so much for that illuminating report. We appreciate it as always.

Breaking news. A heartbreaking update on the situation in Haiti. The death toll from the earthquake in Haiti is now at least 227 people.

That number has risen dramatically in just the last hour. Just an indication as how things are developing there in Haiti.

A 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit the island nation this morning. We're following this breaking news and we will bring you the very latest.

But this just in a few moments ago. That death toll number is rising. We'll stay on top of it, bring you the latest as it comes in.

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[15:51:25]

ACOSTA: Now to the growing crisis at the southern border. The U.S. reporting that, in the month of July, more than 200,000 migrants illegally crossed into the U.S. from Mexico, a rate not seen in over two decades.

CNN's Nick Valencia reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: We are facing a serious challenge at our southern border. And the challenge is, of course, made more acute and more difficult because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A surge in migrant traffic unseen in over two decades. An unprecedented number of migrants are escaping worsening conditions in their home countries, braving the summit of the sweltering summer heat.

Global temperatures in July, the hottest on record. Last month alone, over 212,000 apprehensions were made along the border during a time of the year when numbers historically drop.

The astronomical numbers were helped by repeat offenders. An estimated 27 percent of July crossings were made by those who tried and failed to cross in the last year, due to a Trump-era policy that allowed authorities to turn migrants away at the border.

Pleas from the secretary of Homeland Security to migrants not to come to the U.S., warning they will be denied entry or expelled, not enough to deter those seeking refuge.

MAYORKAS: It is critical that intending migrants understand clearly that they will be turned back if they enter the United States illegally and do not have a basis for relief under our laws.

VALENCIA: Customs and Border Protection also managing an unprecedented wave of unaccompanied children, with almost 19,000 arriving and arrested at the border in July.

Surpassing the previous record set in March, when border facilities were overcrowded and flooded with minors who waited on average over 120 hours in Border Patrol custody.

MAYORKAS: Just as we did with the challenge of unaccompanied children in March of this year, we have a plan, we are executing our plan, and that takes time.

VALENCIA: The Biden administration has been careful not to call the border surge a crisis. Instead, insisting the real problem involves diagnosing and addressing the conditions the migrants are fleeing. JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The crisis in Central America,

the dire circumstances that many are fleeing from, that that is a situation we need to spend our time, our effort on.

And we need to address it if we're going to prevent more of an influx of migrants from coming in years to come.

VALENCIA: But for some who live along the southern border, that is not good enough.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Hire more immigration judges, more asylum officers to process these asylums faster.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: In the meantime, the world has lost more than four million people to COVID and the waves of grief for those left behind has been tremendous.

This week's "CNN Hero" knows how difficult and isolating it is to lose a spouse. Michele Neff Hernandez created a community of widows that heals together.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I would tell the nurse, tell him I love him, or put the phone by him, because they would not let me in.

Sometimes I'd just go sit in the parking lot just to be close to him.

You know, April 13th, they told me he was gone. I needed someone to understand what it was like to be widowed.

MICHELE NEFF HERNANDEZ, CNN HERO: Initially, you imagine that when someone dies, the worst day is the day they die. And the truth is, that living without them is the hard part. But you have to make your way through.

[15:55:05]

Thank you for being here and showing up for each other.

We hope people live, and live through something that, many times, they did not think that they would survive.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: To see the full story, go to CNNheroes.com.

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