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At This Hour

Fauci, GOP Sen. Paul Spar Again Over Senator's Misleading Info; White House Monitoring Fuel Supply Shortages After Pipeline Cyberattack; Rep. Jim Langevin (D-RI) is Interviewed About the Pipeline Cyberattack; House GOP to Vote Tomorrow on Ousting Liz Cheney from Leadership. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired May 11, 2021 - 11:00   ET


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO THE PRESIDENT: Does not do gain of function research.


And if it is, it's according to the guidelines, and it is being conducted in North Carolina, not China.

SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): You don't think concerning a bat virus spike protein that he got from the Wuhan Institute into the SARS virus is gain of function?

FAUCI: That is not --

PAUL: You would be in a minority, because at least 200 scientists have signed a statement from the Cambridge Working Group --

FAUCI: Yeah.

PAUL: -- saying that it is gain of function.

FAUCI: Well, it is not, and if you look at the grant and you look at the progress reports, it is not gain of function despite the fact that people tweet that, lie (ph) about it.


PAUL: So, do you support sending money to the Wuhan Virology Institute?

FAUCI: We do not send money now to Wuhan Virology --

PAUL: Do you support spending money?

We did. Under tutelage, we were sending it through Eco Health. It was sub-agency and a sub-grant. Do you support that the money from NIH that was going to the Wuhan Institute?

FAUCI: Let me explain to you why that was done. The SARS-CoV-1 originated in bats in China. It would have been irresponsible of us if we did not investigate the bat viruses and serology to see who might have been infected in China.

PAUL: Or perhaps it would be irresponsible to send it to the Chinese government that we may not be able to trust with this knowledge and with this incredibly dangerous viruses.

Government scientists like yourself who favor gain of function research --


FAUCI: I don't favor gain of function research. You're saying things that are not correct.

PAUL: Government defenders of gain of function such as yourself say that COVID-19 mutations were random and not designed by man. But interestingly, the technique that Dr. Baric developed forces mutations by serial passage through cell culture that the mutations appear to be natural.

In fact, Dr. Baric (ph) named the technique the no-see-um technique because mutations appear naturally. Nicholas Baker of "The New York Magazine" said, nobody would know if the virus had been fabricated in a laboratory or grown in nature.

Government authorities in the U.S. including yourself unequivocally deny that COVID-19 could have escaped a lab. But even Dr. Shi in Wuhan wasn't sure.

According to Nicholas Baker, Dr. Shi wondered, could the new virus come from our own laboratory? She checked her records frantically and found no matches. That really took a load off my mind, she said. I had not slept for days.

The director of the gain of function research at Wuhan couldn't sleep because she was terrified that it might be in it her lab.

Dr. Baric, an advocate of gain of function research, admits the main problem that the Institute of the Virology has is the outbreak occurred in close proximity. What are the odds? Baric responded, could you rule out a laboratory escape? The answer to this case is probably not.

Will you in front of this group categorically say that the COVID-19 could not have occurred through serial passage in a laboratory?

FAUCI: I do not have any accounting of what the Chinese may have done, and I'm fully in favor of any further investigation of what went on in China.

However, I will repeat again, the NIH and NIAID categorically has not funded gain of function research to be conducted in the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

PAUL: Do you support it in the U.S.? We have 11 labs doing it. And you have allowed it here. We have a committee to do it. But the committee has granted every exemption. You're fooling with Mother Nature here. You're allowing super viruses

to be created with 15 percent mortality. It's very dangerous and it was a huge mistake to share this with China and it's a huge mistake to allow this to continue in the United States. We should be very careful to investigate where this virus came from.

FAUCI: I fully agree that you should investigate where the virus came from. But again, we have not funded gain of function research on this virus in the Wuhan Institute of Virology. No matter how many times --

PAUL: You're parsing words.

FAUCI: -- you say it.


PAUL: There was research -- there was research done with Dr. Shi and Dr. Baric. They have collaborated on gain of function research where they enhance the SARS virus to infect human airway cells and they did it by merging a new spike protein on it.

That is gain of function. That was joint research between the Wuhan Institute and Dr. Baric. You can't deny it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Senator Paul, your time expired.

Dr. Fauci, I will let you respond to that. We need to move on.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Okay. Hello, everyone. We're going to jump out of that. I'm Kate Bolduan. You've been listening to the Senate hearing with the COVID-19 response team.

Let me just start off really quickly if we can bring in Dr. Peter Hotez.

Because, Doctor, I'm sorry, I -- it is unclear I think to everyone who is watching what tangent just happened with Rand Paul and what he -- why he was going so mercilessly attacking Dr. Fauci.


Can you just tell me what you think just transpired?

DR. PETER HOTEZ, PROFESSOR AND DEAN OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Well, you know, Senator Paul, had it in for Tony, for Dr. Fauci, for this whole COVID-19 pandemic. And he likes to spar with Dr. Fauci at these Senate hearings and always brings up, you know, a weird herd immunity numbers and this kind of thing.

Look, the evidence that COVID-19 originated from the Wuhan lab is very weak. And my point is always been we don't have to post -- we don't really have to postulate that. Remember, SARS 1 arose out of China, in southern China.

And we -- and the reason we started making coronavirus vaccines is we said it's a matter of time before another coronavirus arises out of China. China is this perfect mixing bowl of reservoir animals and bats and we know that they were at high risk. And that's why we started getting involved in coronavirus vaccines.

So we knew this was high likelihood. There is no reason to have to invoke a laboratory to say that really happened. Now, the one thing that hasn't happened is we've not had a comprehensive initiative to really look for the origin of COVID-19. We need international team of scientists --

BOLDUAN: Which Dr. Fauci and everybody, right, agrees needs to happen. But it seems that --

HOTEZ: Absolutely.

BOLDUAN: Well, everyone seems to be in agreement on that.

What doesn't make any sense is where Rand Paul was going -- where Senator Paul was going other than as he seemed to have foreshadowed in a tweet ahead of this hearing that he was just ready to fight, and just wanted to attack Dr. Fauci.

HOTEZ: Yeah. And he's echoing Peter Navarro's comments. Remember last year, that's was -- you know, he -- Peter Navarro was going around saying it was a Chinese communist party plot to create the SARS coronavirus type two. It was a distraction so people wouldn't criticize the Trump administration. But there was never any evidence for it, and there's still no evidence for it. It's still a hypothesis.

Now, it's not impossible. But so far, I -- you know, why bring -- why raise this possibility if we already know that SARS like coronavirus are emerging routinely in China. And this is why a number of groups began investigating coronaviruses 20 years ago.

BOLDUAN: Let me bring in Lauren Fox into this because, Laure, I know you were looking in the not so way back machine this morning about every time Dr. Fauci testifies before this committee and Senator Paul is there, it becomes contentious. If it isn't about masks, it is about misleading information on vaccines. And now it is about wherever rand Paul wanted to take folks down a rabbit hole today.

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, right. I mean, this is a question about funding. Did NIH fund this specific kind of research or didn't they? Senator Rand Paul saying that yes, they did. Senator -- Dr. Fauci, excuse me, saying that, no, they did not, unequivocally no, they did not.

And I thought that the exchange was very interesting because, clearly, Fauci came into this hearing very aware of what he was up against when it came to Senator Paul. He was very calm as usual, but also very, very firm in disagreeing with the senator on those key proposals.

You know, one of the biggest takeaways of this hearing before we saw the interaction between Senator Paul and Dr. Fauci was the fact that the health care providers in this country, Dr. Fauci making it very clear that he is more optimistic than he nab a long time about getting out of this pandemic. I think that that is really a silver lining of what we are seeing here on Capitol Hill. I have watched many of these hearings.

And I was sort of taken aback by what a different place we are in as a country than we were in. Fauci very clear that Americans need to continue getting vaccinated if they want to get back to a semblance of normal life. Very clear that, you know, children between the ages of 12 and 15 should be getting -- excuse me, between 15 and 18 should be getting vaccinated at this point. Obviously, another clear indication that life should be getting back to normal.

But important distinction here this morning, Kate, that seems like Senator Paul came in ready to have this disagreement with Dr. Fauci.


David Chalian is joining us as well.

David, can you weigh in on what you -- what your reaction to what -- to that?

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: Yeah. I was just checking my e-mail inbox to see if Rand Paul had put out a fund-raising appeal yet with this video exchange, because it seems that that's what this is geared towards.

As Dr. Hotez and Lauren were saying, Kate, this has been a months- long, nearly a year-long project now, political project that Rand Paul has been on, to try and sully Dr. Fauci and besmirch his character and his expertise.


And, you know, that is something that he can then turn around and take to Republican base voters that he's taking it to this doctor who was seen as sort of the antithesis to Donald Trump's handling of the COVID pandemic.

And so, that's purely what this is. It is political theater for the purpose of incentivizing donors, grassroots donors to commit to Rand Paul, give some money and for Rand Paul to continue to build his base support. There is nothing in that exchange that was actually about illuminating the American public or searching for answers. That wasn't the purpose of that exchange.

BOLDUAN: Yeah, David, thank you for laying out like that as always. I really appreciate it.

One more on -- one of the big headlines on, Dr. Hotez, coming out of today is Pfizer is now, that vaccine is now approved down to for children down to the as young as 12 years old. As a pediatrician by training yourself, what's your reaction? What do you think of this?

HOTEZ: Yeah. It's really important and there's a few reasons for it. One is the fact that we are seeing now with this B.1.1.7 variant, a lot of adolescents get sick from COVID-19. They're accounting for the lion share of hospitalizations. It's happening in younger groups. So, we need to protect those groups. We're also seeing long haul

COVID-19 in younger people as well, and high percentage. So there is urgent need to vaccinate that group. And then we need to do this in order to make middle schools and high schools safe places, which they will be, because we'll have the kids vaccinated. We'll have the teachers the staff, the bus drivers.

And so, and then if we can really get to a high percentage of the nation vaccinated upwards around 70 percent of not just the adults but the whole population, we're going to slow our halt transmission. I think the one thing I didn't really hear, they didn't want to go there was how they're going to deal with that vaccine refusal to get to the last mile. That's one piece that I didn't really hear about, because we still have a pretty dug in population.

And if you look at the vaccination rates across the country, overall, they're good. But the real story is they're great up in the Northeast and New York and California and New Mexico, approaching Israel vaccination rates where they halted transmission. But down in the deep red states here in the South and Southern States and in Wyoming and Idaho, only about half that rate. So, that's really scary, the fact that we may become two nations by the summer. One where we halted transmission and one where the epidemic is still flourishing and we still have not heard what the Biden plan is for dealing with that.

BOLDUAN: Dr. Hotez, thank you so much. David, Lauren, thank you as well. Really appreciate it, guys.

Coming up for us, the Colonial Pipeline begins to get back on line after that major cyberattack. Now authorities are trying to figure out how hackers infiltrated the system in the first place and whether it could happen again.

Plus, Congresswoman Liz Cheney stood up to the big lie and now she's about to lose her leadership spot for speaking the truth. Coming up with us, former congressman who quit the Republican Party over Trump's effort to overturn the election. His take on this moment. That's coming up.



BOLDUAN: This morning, one of the Colonial Pipeline fuel lines is back online after the major cyber attack that brought the pipeline to a stand still this week. Still, the other mainlines remain shut down. This is critically important because these pipelines are responsible for transporting nearly half of the East Coast's fuel.

The FBI confirmed that hacking group DarkSide was behind the attack. But the federal government still does not yet know the extent of the damage done by the intrusion. There are huge questions that still remain.

Joining me right now is Democratic congressman from Rhode Island, Jim Langevin. He's the co-chair of the House Cybersecurity Caucus. He also chairs a key subcommittee on cybersecurity.

Congressman, thank you for coming in.

The latest that we know about this is that Colonial Pipeline has yet to share with the federal government any info about how the attackers got in. What vulnerability they exploited, for example. Do you think they do not know that yet or they are holding something back? What is your biggest concern right now?

DR. JIM LANGEVIN (D-RI): Well, we certainly hope they're not holding anything back. But this is where congressional oversight is going to be so critical.

I sit on the Homeland Security Committee. And I sit on the subcommittee of the jurisdiction over cybersecurity. I give great credit to our chairman that placed a priority on cybersecurity. We will be holding hearings on this no doubt, and getting the answers that we need.

BURNETT: Is -- is this DarkSide -- if this DarkSide group really is only looking for financial gain, which there is some reporting that is what they say and not motivated by politics at all, I'm still kind of stuck in it this place how is it that the United States is in a place of facing such a massive disruption all because someone's looking for a ransom payment?

LANGEVIN: Well, this goes to the heart of why we need more coordination and collaboration between government and the private sector critical infrastructure. Critical infrastructure whether it's our electric grid, our fuel supply infrastructure, whether it's financial sector or telecommunications, it's owned and operated by the private sector.


Government doesn't have any real control over that and so in many respects in terms of compelling them to yet do more.

So we need to collaborate more closely with them so that left hand knows what the right hand is doing. We have them stronger intelligence sharing. We have to have stronger planning which is what CISA, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, does. That is the premier agency within the federal government that is charged with protecting the dot-gov network force against cyber vulnerabilities and also supposed to be the agency working closely with private sector to prevent these types of things from happening.

BURNETT: Look, you've been trying to draw attention to threats like this for years. I mean, how far behind is the United States? What is stopping other critical infrastructure like you laid out from facing this very same attack and disruption?

LANGEVIN: Well, we're getting -- unfortunately, until we -- the government and we work with the infrastructure, we're going to see these types of things continue to happen. Now, I was just a member of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission --

still sit on that commission. We did a year long study, charged with protecting the country against cyber vulnerabilities, against attacks of significant consequence. We issued 80 recommendations. We had 55 legislative proposals.

They came -- we were able to get 27 of the proposals through the Congress. One of which was to create a joint cyber planning office at CISA, and to anticipate and plan for and determine response if these types of things have to happen, but CISA isn't funded enough. We need more money going into there. I'm advocating for another $400 million for CISA.

And we also need collaboration in it intelligence sharing between the government, as well as critical infrastructure so that we sharing information in real time to more readily address and identify threats and head them off.

BOLDUAN: Yeah, it needs to happen. That needs to happen in real time. But this all needs to happen now as we can see from this, what was just happened here.

Congressman, thank you for coming on. Appreciate it.

Coming up for us --

LANGEVIN: Thank you very much.

BOLDUAN: Liz Cheney is likely to be removed from House leadership tomorrow. Another Republican who left the party over the lies that Cheney is standing up against is our guest.



BOLDUAN: Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy has set the vote for tomorrow to oust Congresswoman Liz Cheney from her leadership post. That may be a forgone conclusion at this point. But it is important to remember what Liz Cheney actually said. What Liz Cheney actually stood for that was so wrong in Republican eyes that they need to push her out.

She put out this statement about the January 6th insurrection when she said: The president of the United States summoned this mob, assembled the mob and lit the flame of this attack. Everything that followed was his doing.

She also said this --


REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WI): We need to make sure that we as Republicans are the party of truth and that we're being honest about what really did happen in 2020, so we actually have a chance to win in 2022 and win the White House back in 2024. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: And in an op-ed in "The Washington Post", Cheney laid it out this way: History is watching. Our children are watching. We must be brave enough to defend the basic principles that underpin and protect our freedom and our Democratic process. I'm committed to doing that. No matter what the short term political consequences might be.

And that is the inexcusable crime that Cheney seems to have committed -- voting her conscience, speaking the truth, and standing up for democracy. Not bowing to pressure or to any one leader. That is not what leadership in the Republican House looks like right now. That is the upside down reality that they're living in.

Joining me now is former congressman, former Republican, he left the party over Trump's efforts to overturn the election results, Paul Mitchell.

Congressman, thank you for being here. You left the party over Trump's refusal to accept defeat in 2020.

Now you have Liz Cheney, about to be expelled over telling the very same truth that you stood up for. What do you find in this moment that we find ourselves in?

PAUL MITCHELL, LEFT GOP IN DECEMBER 2020: Look, Kate, I felt in December I had no choice but to leave the party given that other leaders in the party simply weren't standing up and telling the truth about the election and we're supporting what turned out to be the big lie and in my opinion led to the insurrection in January.

Liz is right. She's standing for the right principles. Unfortunately, these days in Republican Party, it's not conservatism that matters, it's loyalty to Trump. And I don't believe that blind loyalty to any person is a healthy thing in our democracy.