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At This Hour

Former Chief of Staff to VP Pence Testifies Before Grand Jury Investigating The Jan 6th Insurrection; China Wants Pelosi's Visit To Taiwan Canceled; WH Holds Summit Focused On The Next Generation Of COVID Vaccines; California's Oak Fire Expands Rapidly Near Yosemite National Park. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired July 26, 2022 - 11:00   ET




BIANNA GOLODRYGA, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. AT THIS HOUR, a potentially huge revelation in the January 6th investigation suggests the Department of Justice could be moving closer to criminal charges.

The Federal Reserve considers a major move to control inflation.

And public health officials meet to discuss whether the time is right for a new round of COVID booster shots. This is what we're watching AT THIS HOUR.


GOLODRYGA: Hello, everyone. I'm Bianna Golodryga. Kate Bolduan is on assignment.

We begin with the developments in the criminal investigation into January 6th. The top aide to former vice president, Mike Pence, Marc Short, has confirmed he testified before a grand jury investigating the attack on the Capitol, a potentially major development.


MARC SHORT, FORMER PENCE CHIEF OF STAFF: I can confirm that I did receive a subpoena for the federal grand jury. And I complied with that subpoena. But under advice of counsel, I really can't say much more than that.

That was my only appearance before the grand jury. I'm not going to comment on what others on the team have had to testify or not regarding subpoenas and what they testified to.


GOLODRYGA: Short is the highest profile witness known to have testified in the criminal investigation. It also signals prosecutors are moving beyond the rioters into looking into the actions of the Trump administration itself. "The New York Times" and "The Wall Street Journal" are also reporting

that a second aide to Pence, Greg Jacob, testified before the grand jury as well. Jacob countered efforts to persuade Pence not to certify the electoral results. Let's start with CNN's Evan Perez.

Quite significant developments here.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SR. JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Bianna. This is prosecutors, criminal investigators reaching into the Trump White House. We're talking about two of the closest aides to former vice president, Mike Pence: Greg Jacob, who was his counsel; Marc Short, who was his chief of staff.

Importantly, they were in some meetings, including January 4th.

There was a meeting at the White House, where the former president Trump and John Eastman, his lawyer, were trying to persuade Mike Pence that he had the power to set aside the election results and to find a way to seat these fake electors that could keep the former president in office.

Obviously, Mike Pence decided that he didn't have that power, he didn't do that. But what these two men were a part of were some of these conversations were, the former vice president was being pressured, not only by these lawyers who were working for him but by the president himself.

So what we have here is, you know, inside the Justice Department, there had to have been conversations. Before you take this really momentous step, you had to have a conversation about the implications of this criminal investigation for the former president.

A huge, huge development for the criminal investigation at the Justice Department, Bianna.

GOLODRYGA: The development, as you rightly note, took quite a while to put all this together.

I want to bring in Elliott Williams, a former federal prosecutor and former deputy assistant attorney general.

Good to see you. So Marc Short confirmed that he testified before the grand jury.

What does his appearance indicate to you about where this investigation is headed?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: To pick up on the point that Evan made a little bit earlier, it shows that the Justice Department is moving beyond just investigating rioters that were at the Capitol.

And that was a big criticism of the Justice Department, that they were going after these 800 or so low-level folks who might have been at the White House. It's a pretty significant escalation.

It's also significant in light of the fact, that just a week ago, the attorney general was criticized for saying in an interview, "Nobody is above the law," in a sort of generic terms but not really indicating what the Justice Department was doing.

It's clear that they're talking to senior White House staff from the Trump administration. So it will be interesting to see where they go from here.

GOLODRYGA: Evan, I want to pick up on that, as we just heard from Elliot, we just saw increased pressure, mostly from Democrats on the DOJ, on the attorney general, Merrick Garland, getting uncharacteristically frustrated last week, reiterating that no one is above the law.

He's speaking today with NBC and Lester Holt.

Does this suggest the DOJ might have a new approach as to how they're handling this investigation, at least publicly?


PEREZ: Yes, I think perhaps a new approach in trying to explain themselves -- you have an attorney general who is loath to say much about what is going on behind the scenes. But for those of us follow this very closely, I think Elliot is among those people, we have seen signs that they were moving beyond the rioters.

We know that the deputy attorney general told me in an interview in January that they were looking at the broader electors issue. We know that in the last few months they served subpoenas on some of these fake electors and asked for communications with people who were involved in the Trump campaign.

We have seen judges -- for instance, a judge in California, David O. Carter, say that he believed what Eastman and Trump were involved in was essentially a conspiracy, a criminal conspiracy or, at least, you know, something that appeared to be that.

So there's been plenty of signs that there is more to this investigation. It's just that, under Merrick Garland, there's very little that they say publicly. And I think you see some of his frustration at the criticism, which I guess the attorney general reads and sees the press. He knows what people are saying about it.

GOLODRYGA: And we should note to viewers at home, as the January 6th committee has noted themselves, this is not a legal investigation that they are conducting and that's their two separate paths going on at the same time.

Elliot, what does this say in terms of how close this may be getting to the former president himself in light of the news of Marc Short testifying?

WILLIAMS: It's hard to say how close. Certainly it's closer to the president. Look, the people that this is obviously closest to, based on the information publicly available, is Jeffrey Clark, who was number three or four at the Justice Department, but involved in this scheme, the fake elector scheme that Evan talked about.

John Eastman, the former legal aide to the president, also clearly being investigated here. So it will be interesting to see what Pence -- pardon me -- what Greg Jacob and Marc Short fill in.

It's usually these senior aides who aren't the principles themselves who have the most to say because you're likely not going to see Mike Pence brought into a grand jury. That's highly unlikely to happen for both legal and political reasons. But it's the folks that were also in the room that seem to be filling out the whole story.

GOLODRYGA: It will be interesting to hear what the attorney general says later in this interview.

Elliot Williams and Evan Perez, thank you both so much.

We turn now to China. The Biden administration growing increasingly worried that Beijing could take new actions against Taiwan. That's according to "The New York Times."

This comes as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appears to be preparing to travel to Taiwan. And China's defense department is warning her not to. Kylie Atwood is live at the State Department with details.

So the rhetoric is getting more and more heated here.

What more are you learning?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: That's right. The rhetoric is getting increasingly tense right now. What U.S. officials are concerned about, however, is what China would actually do if Pelosi were to take this trip to Taiwan, that we have reported is in the works for next month.

And things that they are looking at as possibilities is China doing something like trying to create a no-fly zone in the area. That would make it hard for Pelosi to make that trip. Or doing something like sending fighter jets into Taiwan's self-declared airspace, that is something that China has done increasingly in recent months.

And U.S. officials have condemned those actions. They're fearful that those further actions could further escalate this situation, which is already tense between China and Taiwan.

Now the Chinese foreign ministry has been very clear that they oppose this potential trip by Pelosi to Taiwan. And Chinese state-backed media has gone even further in warning of tremendous military action, military response that they could take, China, if Pelosi made this trip.

Now the National Security Council, John Kirby, has called that rhetoric unhelpful. Here's what he said earlier.


ADM. JOHN KIRBY (RET.), COORDINATOR FOR STRATEGIC COMMUNICATIONS, WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL: There's no call for that kind of escalatory rhetoric. Again, none of this has to devolve into conflict. Nothing has changed about our policies with respect to One China or supporting Taiwan's ability to defend itself. So there's no reason for this to be escalated, even in just rhetoric.


ATWOOD: Now this all comes as U.S. officials have said that China is closely watching what Russia has done in Ukraine to take away lessons with the CIA director Bill Burns saying last week that one of the things that they have likely taken away is that they would need to amass an overwhelming force if they took any action against Taiwan.


GOLODRYGA: And President Biden scheduled to speak with Xi Jinping in the coming days. Kylie Atwood, thank you.

Now to the economy and a big week for learning more about the economic picture of our country as we prepare for a potentially historic rate hike, yet another one, from the Federal Reserve. CNN's Matt Egan joins me with more.

What does the new data show us?

MATT EGAN, CNN BUSINESS SENIOR WRITER: High inflation continues to cast a shadow over this economy. New numbers show the consumer confidence declined in July for the third month in a row, sinking to the lowest levels in 17 months.

Just 17 percent of consumers say business conditions are good right now; 24 percent say conditions are bad. Both figures are moving in the wrong direction in the last month.

Not only are consumers getting crushed by the worst inflation in over 40 years but they're also being squeezed by this big increase in borrowing costs, as the Federal Reserve ramps up its war on inflation.

In just over 24 hours, the Fed is expected to announce another major interest rate hike, 0.75 percent is expected. So that's higher financing costs for families on credit cards, mortgages, new cars and this is already having an impact on the economy.

The conference board said today, as the Fed raises interest rates to rein in inflation, purchasing intentions for cars, homes and major appliances pulled back further in July.

Another report out this morning showed that new home sales in June declined by more than expected, sinking to the lowest level in two years, this reflecting higher mortgage rates, high prices and this is a feature, not a bug of the Fed's plan.

They want to cool things off but if they do too much, they cause a recession. If they don't do enough, inflation stays too high.

GOLODRYGA: The unemployment rate still remains at a healthy low level. And it's interesting to get this headline from the IMF, saying the U.S. has, quote, "a very narrow path" to avoid a recession. We continue to hear from the president, the administration that they think a recession can be avoided. Matt Egan, thank you.

Coming up, what's next for the COVID vaccine?

That's the focus of a White House summit with top scientists and drugmakers. We'll discuss, up next.





GOLODRYGA: At this hour, the White House is holding a summit focused on the next generation COVID vaccine, one that would offer longer lasting protection against both infection and transmission of the virus, not just serious illness and death.

Many people have asked whether to hold off on getting booster shots until the fall when they might get a new vaccine. Here's Dr. Anthony Fauci with more on that this morning.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF COVID-19 MEDICAL ADVISER: One thing you don't want to do, John, you don't want to withhold a vaccine for someone who hasn't had a vaccine for a while, who is at risk.

If I had someone at risk that hasn't been vaccinated with a boost in several months, I would not want to wait a few months. I would want to get them covered now. And then when you get to the fall, then you are concerned about when you give them that additional boost. But you don't want to hold back in a high-risk person.


GOLODRYGA: Joining me now for more on this is Dr. Carlos Del Rio, executive associate dean of Emory University School of Medicine.

Doctor, always great to see you. So this White House summit comes as people under the age of 50 still aren't eligible for their fourth shot or their second booster.

At this point, should they wait for one of these next generation vaccines or just get a shot now if they are not one of the highly vulnerable group of people we just heard from Dr. Fauci?

DR. CARLOS DEL RIO, EXECUTIVE ASSOCIATION DEAN, EMORY UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE AT GRADY HEALTH SYSTEM: I think you're talking about two different things. We definitely need next generation vaccines. The vaccines we currently have, we're chasing variants. And chasing variants is not a good strategy. We've also seen waning immunity. So the White House summit is to try

to find -- there are basically two strategies going forward. One is to develop nasal vaccines; the other is to develop vaccines that are more broadly pan-coronavirus vaccines that you don't need to be changing every time.

What we may have in the fall is vaccines that are working against the current variants in circulation, BA.4, BA.5. The problem is that, by the fall, the variants in circulation may be very different.

So it's a little bit of, again, chasing variants, which is not very useful. If you are under the age of 50 with an underlying disease and you had your third booster more than six months ago, I would encourage a fourth booster.

However, if you are under the age of 50, no underlying conditions and you had a third booster in the previous six months, I would hold off until the fall. So it's really a personalized decision, based on your risk factors and when you took your third booster.

GOLODRYGA: That's interesting. So hold off if you don't fall into that high risk category.

Let me ask you about children. Thankfully now, all children under the age of 6 months are able to get vaccines. But we keep hearing from more and more parents and there's empirical research that it shows, in terms of data from polls, like the Kaiser Family Foundation poll, that shows more that over 40 percent of parents of young kids say they will not get their child a COVID vaccine.

This is -- now, how many months into this, we continue to ask this question about why we're not seeing more children vaccinated.

Why do you think that is?

DEL RIO: You know, Bianna, I would say, first of all, it's disappointing but not surprising. Many parents who are not themselves vaccinated are not going to vaccinate their children. But there are other people that have doubts and questions.


DEL RIO: We know that pediatricians are a very trusted source of information for parents. I would encourage people to talk to their pediatricians and I would encourage pediatricians to talk to parents about the importance of vaccinating children.

My personal decision, what I'm recommending for my grandchildren under the age of 5 is that they get vaccinated when they get to be 6 months or older. I think it's the right thing to do. I have seen too many sick children and too many consequences of COVID. So my advice is to get vaccinated.

GOLODRYGA: What should schools be doing in terms of protocol as we approach the fall? We continue to see an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases and the president himself. In some parts of the country, school starts next week.

Should masks be part of the curriculum now for many schools?

DEL RIO: I would look at the community transmission indicators. If there's a lot of transmission in your community and the CDC recommends that masks be used indoors, I would recommend that people mask in those situations.

But also it's very important to have adequate ventilation. I think it's very important to have as many people as possible vaccinated. There are many strategies. And then what we have to rely on, on testing and all our strategies, we want to make sure that in-person instruction at schools continues as much as possible.

We don't want to go back to virtual schooling. And we need to do whatever it takes to continue to have kids in school be in school and continue their education.

GOLODRYGA: Let me ask you about monkeypox. The U.S. has now surpassed Spain for the most known monkeypox infections of any country, over 3,400 now. CNN is reporting that the White House is currently working on naming a monkeypox coordinator to ramp up the government's response to monkeypox.

What more can the administration be doing?

And how alarmed are you by this increased number of cases?

DEL RIO: I'm pretty concerned. I think we haven't done enough and we haven't done enough quickly enough and there's many reasons for that. I think we're starting to do important things but we still have a ways to go.

We need vaccines. We need testing. We really need to work closely with the LGBTQ community to really get the information out there, get people tested and vaccinated. We have to contain this outbreak.

You know, basically going into full containment mode so we can limit this outbreak and stop transmission. We can do that. We have vaccines. We now have treatments for those with severe disease. So we need to have a coordinated approach. But we have to do it quickly. We don't have much time.

GOLODRYGA: Dr. Carlos Del Rio, thank you as always.

Coming up, fires and floods: a wildfire rages near Yosemite National Park, while St. Louis copes with its wettest day ever. I'll speak with the governor of Washington state, working to fight the threat of climate change while Congress fails to act.




GOLODRYGA: It is the wettest day on record in St. Louis in nearly 150 years of recordkeeping. The record rainfall is triggering major flooding, forcing officials to carry out multiple water rescues from homes and cars.

Many vehicles completely covered in water as streets turned into rivers and interstates were flooded. Right now, a flash flood warning remains in effect, up to nine inches of rain falling just this morning alone.

And some progress for California firefighters, battling a raging fire near Yosemite National Park. Officials say it's now 26 percent contained but has already burned more than 18,000 acres since Friday.

Camila Bernal is there.

Camila, what is the latest here?

CAMILA BERNAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, the latest is that we are seeing some progress, Bianna. As you mentioned, that 26 percent containment, that is an improvement. We're seeing that number increasing.

But we're also seeing the acreage burned increasing. You mentioned 18,000; we have gone from 14,000 to 15,000, now 18,000. The priority is protecting homes. I want to show you one of those homes here.

It's difficult to tell you exactly what's here, because I can't make out what's left of this property. Officials say it's actually really hard to get to people in this area, because it is surrounded by a forest.

And so what they say is that, when they're trying to come here and get people out, they see the forest, it is dry and it is overgrown. And it is a result of the drought here in California, this ongoing drought, which is also a result of the climate change.

So you can see how close these trees are to the cars, really there surrounding this property. So what's left is the work of firefighters -- and these wildfires that require so much resources to be put out, we're talking almost 30,000 people at this wildfire right now, working on the flames.

They say that they dumped about 300,000 gallons of water yesterday. So the efforts on the air and on the ground are really helping in terms of that containment number. The lower temperatures and the higher humidity is also helping.

But there is a lot of work to be done. Thankfully, there are a lot of resources here.