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At This Hour

Senators Brace for Budget Office Analysis of Infrastructure Bill; New Evidence Shows Trump's Blatant Attempt at Coup; White House Says 864,000 Vaccinations in Last 24 Hours, Highest Since Early July. Aired 11:30a-12p E

Aired August 05, 2021 - 11:30   ET



PEDRO MARTINEZ, SUPERINTENDENT, SAN ANTONIO INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT: And we're really working with our parents, our community partners to make sure that it's as easy as possible.

And we're also encouraging community members that are not vaccinated. As you know, the majority, almost all, exclusively the deaths and hospitalizations right now of individuals with COVID are unvaccinated individuals. And so we're just reminding our community that we're going to make it as easy as possible for them to get vaccinations.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Talk to me about opt out, because it is a little counterintuitive, right? Why do you think this opt out strategy is working? Is it like the good side of peer pressure?

MARTINEZ: It is. And I know, I've been here now, this is my seventh year, Kate, so I have a good sense of our community. The majority of our community is with us and we gained their trust last year. And when our teachers and all of our staff will be wearing masks, when our teachers are modeling that, our parents support that.

And we do know that we have a few families that will remind us that we can't mandate it. It's part of the governor's directive, which is why we decided with the opt out strategy. But it was less than 2 percent with our children that we had in the last two weeks.

BOLDUAN: You told me of the last time that you were on that 90 percent of your students live in poverty, which just really drives home the importance of in-classroom learning for your kids. You talked about what it did when things had to shut down last time. It was heartbreaking to hear the way you described it.

So what do -- I wonder what your biggest fear is if an outbreak happens. Because, look, there are other schools in other states, one school district in Arkansas right now where there is 700 people under quarantine because of an outbreak and school just started there. I mean, could that happen in your school district?

MARTINEZ: It could happen, Kate. But here is what we learned last year. So we have COVID testing from November all through the end of the year. Our positivity rate never hit above 1 percent. In fact, we ended with 0.3 of a percent and with 70 percent of our children at the elementary level in-person, much higher than what we started with.

And what we learned was our schools are safe. As long as family, as long as children were wearing their mask, as long as and staff are wearing their masks, we had no transmission in our classrooms. We are continuing to just message that to families, republish our cases every week and so we have the trust of the families but I think we're going to be a good model for country at how to navigate through this pandemic.

Now, if we shut down again, I can tell you right now, Kate, our children did not do well academically and all of the parents share with us they're children suffered with mental health and social and emotional challenges. And so because of that, we're actually investing in therapists in every one of our school because the need is just so great.

BOLDUAN: Yes. It's just really reinforcing for me why local controls of school is important as well as giving the control of what is best for your schools in your hands, as you are making it very clear. And sometimes politicians may get very much in your way. But thank you for coming on. I really appreciate it, Pedro.

Coming up for us, the train seems to be leaving the station on the massive infrastructure deal struck by Democrats, Republicans and the White House. Yet one very important voice has not weighed in and is about to today. We're going to have a live report from Capitol Hill.



BOLDUAN: At this hour, Senate lawmakers are resuming debate over possible changes to the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer says that he is hoping to bring the bill to a close in the, quote, very near future. But the official score keeper in budgetary issues in Congress, the Congressional Budget Office, has yet to weigh in and is about to.

CNN's Lauren Fox is live on Capitol Hill with more. Lauren, what could possibly go wrong? What are you learning?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, I think that this isn't over until it's over, Kate. The expectation is that this could wrap as soon as this weekend when it comes to final passage of this piece of legislation. But a big question mark has been how much money this bill will actually cost.

And part of that question mark is because we haven't actually seen the Congressional Budget Committee' score yet. And I think that that is going to be really important here, because there are some Republicans who are withholding their support and haven't voted to advance this bill yet until they see what that score is.

Someone like Jerry Moran, who is part of this broader bipartisan group, ultimately has not voted for this piece of legislation yet or even to advance it because he wanted to see how much it costs. He's up for reelection in his state. So I think that that is one of the key factors here for some Republicans who are on the fence.

But, look, ultimately, this deal was negotiated by a close group of Republicans and Democrats who I don't see that support slipping even if this Congressional Budget Office review comes back costing more money than what people anticipated.

So I think that the key question mark here is when this bill actually passes, not if. But, obviously, we're all keeping an eye on the CBO score because it could make a difference for some of the members who have been on the fence, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Lauren, thank you so much for that.

Also out of Washington, new evidence of former President Trump's efforts to get the Justice Department to overturn the 2020 election. But this goes beyond the big lie. CNN has learned a top DOJ official drafted a resignation letter over what he said were Trump's direct instructions to use the department to support his big lie about election fraud.


The letter was drafted when Trump was contemplating replacing then- Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen at the tail end of his administration with a man named Jeffrey Clark, who is a Trump loyalist at the Justice Department, who had circulated a draft letter he wanted to send to Georgia officials, laying out claims of fraud that did not exist. Hence, why, fortunately, top justice officials did not let that move forward.

Joining me right now is CNN's Dana Bash and Elliot Williams, CNN Legal Analyst and former Deputy Assistant Attorney General at the Justice Department.

Dana, we have talked about and so many people have heard about Donald Trump trying to overturn the election many times before. Donald Trump has made that very clear himself that he wanted that to be done, I mean, obviously publicly. But this reporting kind of taken altogether, it really lays out that this goes beyond, beyond any lie filled campaign speech or fundraising pitch, beyond propaganda T.V. commentators and Facebook posts and Twitter rants. This was an active and knowing attempt to stop the democratic process.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And to use the levers of the government that he came in to disrupt in order to do that. And that is really the important thing here. He was trying every avenue he could think of. And when his power of persuasion didn't work over local officials in Georgia and Arizona, for example, then he tried to use his own Justice Department to do it.

And we have that now as part of a paper trail. And that seems to be a paper trail that his now former acting attorney general intentionally made when somebody who worked for him tried to say, you know, we need to use the Justice Department to go in and overturn the Georgia election results, and they said, no, clearly wanting to memorialize that in the documents that we now see. It is absolutely remarkable. But the thing to keep in mind, and we've talked about this, Kate, is that this isn't just for history's sake.

BOLDUAN: Right, exactly.

BASH: This is for the future because -- and the now, because what we see right now in states like Georgia and likely Arizona, these key swing states, is that those states have changed their laws so that the guardrails that were up legally are not there. So that if Donald Trump or somebody else comes in, it will be easier to do what he tried to do on a federal level, and that is the most important thing for everybody to remember right now.

BOLDUAN: And also, a little bit of what is scary about all of this reporting taken together, Elliot, is the role of any particular one Justice Department official trying to do Donald Trump's bidding. I mean, can you weigh in on Jeffrey Clark's role here. I mean, a lot of people don't know who this person is. But the fact that he actually wrote this down, drafted a letter, and according to ABC News that saw it, wanted to get Georgia officials to essentially get together in a special session to effectively what would end up happening was to throw out the election results.

And he wrote in this letter that DOJ had identified significant concerns that may have impacted the outcome of the election in multiple states, including the state of Georgia, I mean, which is totally false.

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Right. And, moreover, it is not just his role, the role of his supervisors or superiors who were also senior Justice Department officials that had been appointed by the president, they pushed back on it as well. And so this isn't -- it's not like these were deep state people career appointees who had trouble with this, it's also other political appointees. It is clear how egregious his conduct was.

So what this says, Kate, is that there is really two big things that need to happen right now. Number one, Congress needs to investigate. I know that -- I believe the House Oversight Committee is already looking into this. There are a number of committees in Congress that can look into this, including the January 6th commission. They have the power to subpoena to call witnesses and bring people up there to get to the bottom of what happened.

Two, the Justice Department independent inspector general can go in and also have an investigation. They could subpoena current Justice Department employees, they can ask people from outside of the Justice Department employees, wink, wink, Jeffrey Clark, are you listening, because he can be brought in and ask to testify as well. All of this is to either make the information public, or get to the bottom of the rot that existed in the department at that time.

BOLDUAN: Yes. One, I wonder what Merrick Garland does, says, or doesn't about this, and, two, Dana, what Congress does. And, man, it would be nice to have an independent bipartisan 9/11-style commission right now. BASH: Yes, it would. And what Congress is doing is trying to get information for history's sake, trying to get information so that the people who lived this, that the worst attack almost ever on American democracy from within, you know, let's take the civil war aside, but just in terms of the United States Capitol, that is the most important role that it is playing and it certainly would be quite different. You're right, if it was a bipartisan independent commission.


But you mentioned Merrick Garland. It is interesting that it is still an open question whether or not these are open to criminal charges. And that would only be something, and Elliot can correct me if I'm wrong because you're the attorney here, it seems as though that would only be something that could be addressed by the Department of Justice.

And, so far, Merrick Garland, the Biden attorney general, has not seemed to have any interest, any stomach for continuing to litigate this in a criminal way despite the fact that there are lots of Democratic calls for him to do that going all the way up to the former president. So it is -- it will be interesting to see how that played out at DOJ.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Elliot nods in agreement and we have all learned you never correct Dana Bash. It's good to see you guys.

BASH: That is so not true.

BOLDUAN: And it is never needed. It's good to see you. Thank you, guys, very much. I really appreciate it.

Just into CNN, with the delta variant raging, two big numbers that we learned just moments ago, we will bring it to you, one giving us reason for hope, the other, a reason again for everyone to be worried.

Stay with us.



BOLDUAN: Moments ago, a major announcement from the White House COVID briefing, in the last 24 hours, the nation has seen the most vaccinations in one day since early July, progress. Here is the White House COVID response coordinator, Jeffrey Zients.


JEFFREY ZIENTS, WHITE HOUSE COVID-19 RESPONSE COORDINATOR: And we're doing everything we can to keep getting shots in arms and we are seeing results. Over the past 24 hours, we've recorded 864,000 vaccinations, the highest in a day since July 3rd. And, importantly, 585,000 first shots, that's the highest since July 1st.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BOLDUAN: This news comes as the World Health Organization is also calling for a pause on COVID booster shots in an effort to make sure first shots actually get to developing and poor countries around the world first. The WHO's goal is to get 10 percent of every population vaccinated by the end of September. That is going to be tough.

Joining me now is Dr. Carlos del Rio, he's the executive associate dean of Emory University School of Medicine at Grady Health System. It's good to see you, Doctor. Thank you for being here.

I want to start with the WHO. Because what they are raising is something a lot of viewers are asking about as well, and we've been getting a lot of viewer questions about booster shots. And I wanted to raise that with you. As viewers have been asking, here's one of them, do we need COVID booster shots? If not, how will we know when we might need them?

DR. CARLOS DEL RIO, EXECUTIVE ASSOCIATE DEAN, EMORY UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE AT GRADY HEALTH SYSTEM: Kate, it's a very good question, and the data is slowly coming, but I think, increasingly, we are realizing that some individuals, not everybody, will be benefit from an additional shot.

I don't like to call it booster because booster, in my mind, is a vaccine that you take regularly, like we do with the flu shot. And I don't think that's going to be the case. We may need an additional shot, especially people that are immunosuppressed, especially people that are older. But the reality is the data is not fully out there and I think we need to wait and not panic and not get everybody going out and finding a vaccine.

Personally, you know, I'm 62, I was vaccinated back in December, January, so I'm eight months away from vaccination, and I'm not running out there to get a shot myself.

BOLDUAN: You know, you've actually signed onto a letter with an impressive group of public health advocates, an open letter to private sector leaders, private businesses, and basically making a plea in this moment of a massive surge of COVID going across the country, asking them for COVID safe zones. What exactly do you all want?

DEL RIO: Well, what we think is that the private sector plays a really important role. I mean, 145 million people are employed in the private sector. And the private sector can be an amazing partner in facilitating vaccinations and encouraging vaccination, in making sure that people who they -- that work at their places of employment are vaccinated, in making sure mask mandates are in place and places of employment.

I mean, there're a variety of different things in making testing available. There are so many things that the private sector can do to make the workplace safe to the customers, but also to the people that work there. If you have healthy employees, the economy, your business will do well.

BOLDUAN: There's a lot of questions that we've also been getting in, and this gets to all back to the delta variant, right, just because that's what's crushing the country right now. And even on the most basic level, viewers have been wondering, and I'll sum it up because this was a lot are asking, why do we keep getting contagious variants? Can you help them understand?

DEL RIO: Yes. What happens is viruses evolve, right, and viruses mutate and evolve as they are being transmitted from one person to the other. So, as long as there is transmission globally, new variants are going to emerge.

And when the virus mutates, some of those mutations make the virus less fit, less capable of infecting others. Those disappear. But some of those mutations make the virus more capable of infecting cells, of being transmitted. And then those are more prevalent, are more -- they stay around and get transmitted more.

The current variant, the delta variant, when we think about it, it emerged in India. So, look at how important it is for us to have helped control the pandemic in India. Because from India, it slowly traveled, went to England, and now we have it in our country. Now it's the most prevalent strain in our country.

And this delta variant is probably 60 to 70 percent more transmissible than prior variants, which means that, essentially, it's going to crowd out the others and it's going to become the more prevalent variant.

So, the way we stop variants from occurring is we stop transmission. And the way we stop transmission is by vaccinating, by masking and by doing all of those things that we talked about. But we have to do it globally but there's no point on just stopping transmission in the U.S. if we don't help stop it globally. There will be variants emerge throughout the world.

BOLDUAN: We're not done with this pandemic in the United States until we are done with this pandemic around the world. That is definitely the case. Thank you, Doctor, it's good to see you.

Still ahead for us, a possible answer to a big jeopardy question, not even Ken Jennings would have been able to probably get right.


I don't know. I don't want to question his abilities. He's that smart. Who is the game show host's next host?


BOLDUAN: Who is Mike Richards? That may be the answer to the toughest Jeopardy question yet. Who is going to be the show's next host?

After a long line of guest hosts after Trebek's death, his successor may actually end up being the show's current executive producer.

[12:00:06] Variety reports, advanced negotiations are underway, and Richards, he has hosted game shows before, but again, it's not a done deal yet. We will see.

Thanks for being here. I'm Kate Bolduan. "Inside Politics" starts now.