Return to Transcripts main page

At This Hour

Fans Banned from Olympics a Japan Declares COVID Emergency; Texas GOP Resumes Push for Voting Restrictions in Special Session; CNN: Dems Aim to Avoid "Circus" With Insurrection Investigation. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired July 08, 2021 - 11:00   ET



CHRISTOPHER KNIGHT, ACTOR, "THE BRADY BUNCH": Perhaps it has been compressed in the acceptable of its content to the age of the audience. It might have been originally invented to four years, to 14 years old. Today, it might be 4-year-olds to 11-year-olds.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: I hate to -- I hate to leave it there because I could talk forever about this Christopher Knight, but it was a real pleasure to have you on. The new CNN original series "History of the Sitcom" airs this Sunday 9:00 p.m., only on CNN.

Thank you so much for joining us today. I'm Jim Sciutto.

AT THIS HOUR with my colleague Bris Sanchez starts right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Hello. I'm Boris Sanchez in for Kate Bolduan. Thank you so much for joining us.

We begin at this hour with major breaking news. The Tokyo Olympics will be held without any fans in attendance. Japan declaring a state of emergency just two weeks before the Summer Games are set to begin. Organizers have been under intense criticism for insisting that the games could be held safely amid a global pandemic.

Let's begin our coverage with CNN's Selena Wang. She's live in Tokyo with the breaking details.

And, Selena, officials have essentially said that because of the conditions that they're facing, they don't have a choice.

SELENA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Exactly, Boris. This is actually a big relief for public health experts and much of the public, experts have been saying these games should not be held with spectators. They are dealing with a major surge in COVID cases reaching the highest level in months. More different by the delta variant, and, Boris, the vaccination rates are still low, just 15 percent of the population has been fully vaccinated.

Now we already knew months before that overseas' spectators would be banned but now at least for Tokyo venues, local fans are banned too. That reverses an earlier decision to allow up to 10,000 people per venue. We still don't know at this point how many spectators will be allowed outside of the Tokyo area.

Now for Japan and for the Olympic organizers, this is obviously a huge blow. Japan had spent more than $15 billion preparing for these games, more than a billion dollars alone rebuilding the national stadium where the opening ceremony will be held. And it is going to be striking and astonishing to see those stands completely empty.

And the public here, meanwhile, even without any spectators, they are still anxious. I was just at an anti-Olympics protests here in the Shinjuku area, I was speaking to them and they were frustrated that the government was still going ahead with the games in the middle of a pandemic while their lives were being restricted, still allowing the world's largest sporting event to happen in their street and in their stands.

And a lot of anger targeted at the IOC chief Thomas Bach who she see as representing corporate greed and IOC moving ahead with the big games at the expense of people's health and lives -- Boris.

SANCHEZ: Yeah, an enormous investment by the IOC and by Japan but the risks in this case outweigh the rewards.

Selena Wang from Tokyo, thank you so much.

We should also tell you, we're monitoring a press briefing from the White House on COVID-19. We'll keep you updated with any details.

But let's dig deeper on the Olympics and all things COVID with Dr. Megan Ranney. She's an emergency physician at Brown University.

And also joining us is Dr. Ali Khan. He's the dean of the University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Public Health. Dr. Khan actually advised Major League Baseball on their plans to resume play during the pandemic.

Dr. Ranney, I want to start with you, because you wrote about your concerns of the Olympics back in February. Given the state of the global pandemic, was it ever realistic that Japan was going to hold these games with spectators in a safe and secure way?

DR. MEGAN RANNEY, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY: No, I don't think it was. Not with a rate of vaccinations on a global level. I mean, look at Japan's numbers. They only have about 11 percent of folks within Japan itself vaccinated. If you go globally, we're looking in the single-digits at the percentage of people that are vaccinated.

Back when I wrote that piece, we were worried about the B117 or alpha variant and we knew it was just a time before the variants emerged and sure enough here we have the delta variant just in time for these games. Banning spectators is the appropriate thing to do but I worry about the athletes brought together across the world and the host communities being exposed not just to the delta variant but to other variants that we haven't identified yet.

SANCHEZ: Yeah, there's troubling study about the delta variant that's out today. I'll ask you both about that.

But, Dr. Khan, about the Olympics even without spectators as Dr. Ranney points out, there are athletes coming all over the world to one place, closed quarters, some athletes have reportedly tested positive after arriving in Japan. Isn't there still a big risk in just holding the games?


DR. ALI KHAN, DIRECTOR, ST. LOUIS COUNTY DEPT. OF PUBLIC HEALTH: So, the games could be held quite safely. They need to do is talk to the MLB Commissioner Manfred and ask how he did it in a pre-vaccine era using excellent health and safety protocols, working with the players and working with the University of Nebraska Medical Center.

So now we expect that 80 percent of these athletes are going to be vaccinated. So, a much better position. However, they need excellent health and safe protocols and there is also two issues of concern for me when I look at this is that they've had some athletes who were positive, that should not have happened based on the protocols. And they just had two local villagers positive in the two -- two workers in the village positive.

SANCHEZ: Yeah, it seems given the disparities around the world, regarding COVID cases it is a recipe for disaster to bring people all over together in one place.

I do want to pivot to the United States now. New research suggesting that the delta variant could be resistant to certain antibodies including the ones that you get from a single shot of some of the most popular vaccine, the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine, the AstraZeneca vaccine. Some experts have been arguing that it's time to restart widespread testing, even for people who've been vaccinated.

Dr. Ranney, starting with you (AUDIO GAP).

RANNEY: I think that folks who are symptomatic got this point with the Delta variant, whether or not you've been vaccinated, if you are systematic, you should get tested. But to me, the big takeaway is that it provides further proof behind what we've been saying for weeks now is that a single shot of the vaccines is not sufficient. You are not protected until you get two shots. But if you have gotten the two shots of Pfizer or Moderna or to a lesser extent AstraZeneca, or the single shot of Johnson & Johnson, you are still for the most part protected.

So, yes, if you're symptomatic, get tested but you're not in pre- vaccine era if you have been fully vaccinated. It does provide a large degree of protection once you've gotten your full vaccine set of doses. SANCHEZ: No doubt that is a relief.

Dr. Khan, what was your reaction to this news?

KHAN: It supports once again the critical message which is go out and get vaccinated.

So, yes, the vaccines are less effective with delta variants, not surprising. Monoclonal antibodies are less effective but still effective. What is driving this pandemic in the U.S. now is the unvaccinated, severe disease, 99 percent of cases are unvaccinated. Please go out there and get vaccinated. If you live in a state with a whole lot of cases even if you're vaccinated, wear a mask when you're indoors.

SANCHEZ: I want to drive the point you made home because literally moments ago before we went on air there was a press release from North Carolina stressing that more than 99 percent of new cases there have occurred in people who are not fully vaccinated.

There is also this new research, this new analysis by researchers I should say at Georgetown University, Dr. Ranney, they identified 30 clusters of large populations, help us understand how just a small number of these areas, these different pockets of the country put the entire country at risk.

RANNEY: So there is two things. One is to remember that the way that this virus spreads is exponentially. So one infection leads to two, leads to four, leads to eight, leads to 16 and suddenly you have hundreds of thousands of infections.

You start with a small pocket and spreads from there. The second thing, of course, is that every time the virus spreads, we're at risk of mutations so these little pockets and clusters can potentially serve as breeding grounds for further variants. Even when the delta variant, the vaccine does protect us but we never know when the next variant will come about when the vaccine is less effective. And so, it puts us at risk not just by exposing us all to delta but by serving as the place where new variants develop.

SANCHEZ: We have to leave the conversation there. Dr. Megan Ranney, Dr. Ali Khan, thank you both so much. Appreciate your expertise.

KHAN: Thank you, Boris.

RANNEY: Thank you, Boris.

SANCHEZ: We're also following a major developing story at this hour with huge implications. The battle over voting rights, once again, taking center stage. Texas Republicans mounting another push for restricting voting laws.

A special session of the Texas legislation just got underway in Austin. You're looking at live pictures of it now.

This is hours after Republicans introduced a new election bill that includes a slew of new voting restrictions. All of this comes as President Biden holds meeting about protecting voting rights.

(AUDIO GAP) Dianne Gallagher live in Austin, Texas, outside of the state capitol with more.

Dianne, what are Republicans trying to achieve with the new provisions?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Boris, they're trying to achieve what they couldn't achieve during the regular session because Democrats did that dramatic walk-out in the final hours of the regular session and denied quorum, thus preventing them from passing any kind of election legislation that would add new restrictions.


That is essentially why the governor said he was calling this special session, that should be getting underway any moment now. The House Republicans dropped a bill last night. It is HB-3, that has a lot of similarities to the regular session bill SB-7, including items like banning drive-thru and 24 hour voting making it a felony for election officials to send unsolicited vote by mail applications and empowered poll watcher and new ID requirement to vote by mail.

But there are some of key differences that likely stemmed from that walkout, one of the most controversial measures like lowering the threshold to overturn elections and banning Sunday morning voting, this is not in this particular draft. I will say that Senate version has published a text yet but it was just filed and Democrats, Boris, have said that they're listening and watching and they want to see-- want to see what the legislation but they came here to fight. So I was told to expect fireworks during this special session.

SANCHEZ: Yeah, Dianne, it is so important to remember that much of the basis for these actions in Texas and across the country are based on falsehoods from the former president, the big lie regarding the last election.

Dianne Gallagher from Austin, keep us posted on what happens there.

Speaking of the former president, we have new developments in the battle to investigate the Capitol insurrection. CNN has learned the House Democrats are getting a strategy to make sure the probe doesn't turn into a circus including keeping some of the work behind closed doors.

CNN's Lauren Fox joins us live on Capitol Hill with more of her reporting.

And, Lauren, you've been speaking to Democrats who indicate that they don't want this to turn into another impeachment of Donald Trump. They want to focus on an array of different issues.

Bring us up to speed with what that means.

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Boris, this is about Democrats trying to strike the right balance. Look, they know that the former president The big lie leading up to the January 6 insurrection, all might have an impact on what they have to investigate.

They realize they may have to bring some Republicans, Kevin McCarthy, other Republicans up to testify. But they are very careful that they still want to investigate other pieces of the January 6 insurrection, excuse me, as well.

Right here at the Capitol, they are having a drill right now, Capitol Police officers, to try and make sure that they are prepared if something like that were to ever happen again. That is what you're hearing and that is why you're seeing all of the people around the Russell Office Building that I'm standing at. Lawmakers want to make sure they get to the bottom of the security failures because that is another key piece. They want to look forward.

So Democrats are going be having some discussions if private, doing some interviews in private, they're looking at documents. All of that may happen outside of the glare of TV cameras and I think, Boris, that is exactly the kind of balance that Democrats are hoping to strike knowing that Republicans and who McCarthy appoints for the committee may make that hard to actually achieve -- Boris.

SANCHEZ: Yeah, an important point to keep in mind. The big question whether Democrats will call Trump or McCarthy to testify and how they will respond.

Lauren Fox from Capitol Hill, thank you so much.

Coming up, we should let you know that we're speaking about the investigation and about voting rights with CNN political director.

Also, turmoil in Haiti this morning as police hunt for the killers who assassinated the president there. The latest details in a live report, next.



SANCHEZ: Developing at this hour, you're looking at live pictures of a special session of the Texas legislature that just got underway in Austin. Republicans have introduced a new election bill that includes a bunch of new voting restrictions. This afternoon, President Biden and Vice President Harris are going to meet with civil rights leaders about the efforts to protect voting rights.

Joining us now to discuss this and more is CNN political director David Chalian. He's also the host of the CNN political briefing podcast, everything you need to know about the day in politics in ten minutes or less, I highly recommend it.

David, let's start in Texas. Republicans attempting to pass a revised election law that includes a slew of restrictions on voting. This similar to the one that Democrats walked out on a couple of months ago. Though it does not include two controversial proposals from that earlier bill, delaying the start time for early Sunday voting and lower the standard for over turning an election based on fraud. I can't imagine that is enough to quiet concerns that people are being


CHALIAN: Right. Certainly, it won't be enough to quiet concerns. The Democratic opposition to this, though they are clearly outnumbered in Texas, will still remain.

We saw actually something similar, Boris, in Georgia, if you remember back when that state passed its voting bill initially dealing with Sunday voting hours and trying to sort of chip away at the souls to the poles that is very prominent in the African-American community and churches and Democratic voters mostly in that case that I'm speaking of use that as a huge push at the end of an election season.


And yet the controversy there and the pressure and the backlash caused Republican legislators in Georgia to rewrite that and revise that. So we have seen a couple of times where the pressure does actually result in altering the legislation. But your note is the right one overall which is that we're still seeing in state after state where Republicans are in control of the process, a real attempt to try and restrict some of the voting access that exists in the country.

And this is something that is going to become one of the major battleground issues, if you will, in the 2022 midterm elections. This notion of voting rights, voting access, I think you're going to see it motivate both parties and be a real point of contention on the campaign trail.

SANCHEZ: Yeah, I'm glad you mentioned Georgia because a federal judge upheld parts of Georgia's restrictive voting law yesterday. Last week we saw the Supreme Court upholding provisions of that Arizona GOP voting law.

How do you think that the Supreme Court's decision is going to ultimately weigh on the calculus, the political calculation around voting rights moving forward?

CHALIAN: Right, I think you're going to see this is playing out in the states in much greater fashion than it was going to be able to play out here in Washington. The Supreme Court has shown no interest in sort of trying to fortify the Voting Rights Act. They're sort of supporting -- they have decisions that have come down, Arizona you mentioned, obviously the huge case back eight years ago, the Shelby County case where they have chiseled away at the case.

So, you're not going to see the court doing something and clearly, the math is not there in the United States Congress. So, while you mentioned at the top, the Biden administration's effort and the president, and the vice president meeting behind closed door and meeting with voting rights actives and how passionate the president is about the issue, and he's going to give speeches and we haven't seen that on the schedule yet. The deal is that President Biden understanding where the math is on this and there aren't the votes in the United States Senate to move through a big voting rights legislation federally.

SANCHEZ: Yeah, and that is been such a part -- a big part of push to try to get Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema to undue the filibuster to pass voting rights legislation.

I want to pivot to the Democrats' moments ago Lauren Fox reporting that Democrats will do everything they could to prevent it from becoming a circus. The comparison are the Benghazi hearings from about a decade ago.

Given the partisan divide, is it a possibility to not have this turn into a circus? It seems like Republicans are bent on casting any investigation in a January 6th in a certain direction.

CHALIAN: Well, there is no doubt that Republicans are going to try to paint this as a purely partisan effort. So that in and of itself will create some of the circus atmosphere would like to avoid here.

But you may recall at the beginning of the Benghazi hearing progress, Kevin McCarthy said the quiet part out loud, he said that contributed to taking down Hillary Clinton's favorable numbers an that is a clear goal of what they were doing. Nancy Pelosi is trying to frame everything for Democrats right now in terms of getting the heft historical record and getting the accountability pieces in place and ensuring something like this never happens again.

So I don't think the goal going in from the Democrats is quite the same as what the Republicans were doing with Benghazi and Hillary Clinton. But it is Congress, Boris. Of course, there is some circus aspect of it.

SANCHEZ: Yeah, no question, perhaps a bit of projection from Minority Leader McCarthy when he accuses Democrats of trying to use this issue in the next election. David Chalian, thank you so much.


SANCHEZ: So two weeks after the condo collapse in Florida, authorities conceding now there is no chance of life. The latest on the recovery efforts in Surfside in a live report in just a few minutes.



SANCHEZ: At this hour, Tropical Storm Elsa is dumping heavy rain over the Carolinas as it move as long the I-95 corridor and up the northeast overnight suspected tornados tore through parts of the southeast. You're looking at aerials now of damage in one neighborhood in Jacksonville, Florida.

CNN meteorologist Chad Myers joins us now with the newest forecast.

Chad, walk us through what you're seeing. CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: As you said, Boris, the storm moved

into North Carolina over the North Carolina/South Carolina border in the last 30 minutes.

We are seeing a little bit of lighter colors here. Not as bright as we were and that means the storm isn't as high as they were which means it is trying to fall apart because it's over land. That's the good news.