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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Right Now: AG Garland Meets with Top Media Execs Targeted in Leak Investigation; FBI to Lawmakers: QAnon Followers May Turn Violent; Republicans Target Ilhan Omar; Russian Mercenaries in Africa; Biden Prepares to Meet Putin; Former FDA Chief Warns India COVID Variant Could Spark New Outbreaks in Low Vaccinated Areas; U.S. Assessing Reported Leak at Chinese Nuclear Power Facility. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired June 14, 2021 - 16:00   ET



PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: And I think that that's telling that he can do that.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right, and he also has said that he talked to them about what he was going the say to Putin. So, he essentially consulted them. I couldn't agree with Nia more.

This is a new president trying to turn the battleship around and say, you know, we are headed in a very different direction with Putin. And they have a relationship in the past, and it's not pleasant and it's not pretty.

And Biden said, I don't want to tell you what I'm going to tell him, except he told us what he's going to tell him. And he said, you know, where we can cooperate, we will. But if you don't cut this stuff out, we're going to respond.

Now, you remember in Helsinki, President Trump stood up there and said, well, I believe Vladimir Putin had nothing to do with election meddling. That's clearly not where Joe Biden sits right now, and in terms of Navalny he couldn't have been clearer. He says, Russia has little or no attention of abiding basic or fundamental human rights if Navalny dies, period. I mean, that is a striking comment from a president of the United States, and then what does the United States in our relationship.

So I think there's a lot on the table here, and Biden knows it, and I think he wants it.

BROWN: Right, before that our colleague Jeff Zeleny had asked him, do you still stand by your comment comments that he is a killer? As you noticed, he did not want to directly go there and answer that. It's clear he was choosing his words carefully, but in Navalny, he was saying the message loud and clear. Josh Rogin, I want to bring you in, global opinion columnist for "The Washington Post".

Josh, Biden has met with Putin before. What is your view, is he at an advantage?

JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I do think that Biden has set the table here by meeting with almost every NATO and allied leader he could before sitting down with Putin, and that was designed to put the wind at his back so he could represent not just himself but the transatlantic alliance. It says despite the fact that, of course, there are a lot of differences in that alliance for sure, but, you know, we have a history in the United States of having a relationship are Russia that's contentious and cooperative at the same time.

I remember a president who was laser focused on human rights in the Soviet Union but also associated with the Soviets, his name was Ronald Reagan. And he was able to do both as once. And, you know, that's called walking and chewing up. It's called carrots and sticks.

It's the stuff of diplomacy that we were really missing in our politics for the last four years because the Trump administration was so chaotic and nobody knew what was going on and the president was saying different things than his national security officials and Putin had an advantage because of that. Our chaos was Putin's advantage. So, maybe our confidence can be our advantage.

BROWN: We'll see.

Kaitlan, I want to bring you back in. Here's how Biden described Putin.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have met with him. He's bright, he's tough, and I have found that he is a, as they say, when I used to play ball, a worthy adversary.


BROWN: Worthy adversary. Kaitlan, what do you make of that.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I think that this is President Biden's way of setting himself up for this meeting and how they're going into it. Of course, they're just days away. I do think it's notable when he was asked if maintained his stance that Putin is a killer, he turned back to note that he was asked that in an interview when he was responding to a question, an interview that he did with ABC News. But he said he doesn't think that calculus that he does believe Putin is a killer plays a factor into them going into this meeting, which is very interesting given, of course, that is certainly a condition for not meeting with other world leaders considering their past acts.

But he was saying there that essentially that he doesn't feel as though the playing field is level between the two of them when they're going into this and what that's going to look like. I do think that those are maneuvers you see Putin use when he's met with several other presidents in the past, is he's really tried to really outsmart them or embarrass them at times in public settings. That is part of the calculus going into them not having a joint press conference after.

The Secretary of State Tony Blinken when he was asked by Dana why they weren't having one cited something about the free press not being able to answer questions. But when Biden himself was asked by reporters the other day, he said it's because he didn't want their meeting and their sit-down to be judged by their interactions at that press conference, whether or not they shook hands or tried to embarrass one another.

So, I think he's recognizing the kind of world leader that Putin is and that he's going to be sitting down with. But it will be fascinating given the White House has said they do not expect any deliverables to really come out of this meeting.

So, I think it's more of a leveling situation where they're going to see if this could be a meeting that they have again in the future or if this could be the only meeting we ever see between President Biden and President Putin. There are a lot of unknowns walking into Geneva just a few days from now.

BROWN: All right. Kaitlan, thanks for that.

So, on that note, Nia, what metric would be considered a success at the end of this meeting? I mean, as we just heard from Kaitlan, the White House is trying to set a low bar for expectations.


NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Yeah, and I think that's smart going in. In some ways, it is the tone, right? It is the massive shift from what we saw from Donald Trump siding with Putin --

BROWN: Over U.S. intelligence.

HENDERSON: Over the U.S. intelligence folks in terms of what happened in the 2016 election. It's the posture of the United States and Biden embodying that posture and going in with the wind at his back, right? All of these leaders cheering him on essentially, right? I mean, that's what he said.

BROWN: Uh-huh.

HENDERSON: He said every one is happy. All of those leaders from NATO and the G7 are happy he's having this meeting.

So, I think that's pretty much what it is, as a return to normalcy coming out in a press conference and underscoring this idea that America is back. America is leading. America is part of the world. America wants to uphold and cheer-lead a democracy.

So, as we know, we sort of have a problem with our own democracy here. I think that really is what they going to try to do tomorrow, and I think they are -- Wednesday. I think they are smart to lower the stakes and say they probably won't be any deliverables, any signing ceremonies or anything like that or agreements with Putin.

BROWN: I wonder talking about democracy, Biden alluded to this. Democracy is being challenged in many ways in an unprecedented way. Does that put President Biden in weaker position at all in this meeting?

BORGER: Well, you know, he was asked that question by "The Washington Post". I think, you know, here you are as a president, your own elections being challenged at home and he ended up talking about the phony populism of -- you know, we know who he was referring to there, and the Republican Party and how it's being diminished.

And there's a lot of controversy over whether that is, in fact, true or not true, because here he is trying to say, look, unless we defend democracy, this Russia trying to become an existential threat to us when, in fact, he's looking at what could be an existential threat at home and the question is, how do our allies respond to what's going on in the United States.

And I don't think we really know the answer of that. What he was trying to do today is say we're here. We're back. We're strong. We got it.

But I think everybody is probably nodding and saying, well, let's just -- let's just see how this gets handled back in the United States but also they are glad he's there.

BROWN: They have also, like you point out, there's been a bit of whiplash for them, right?


BROWN: To say the least. So, they are also treading carefully.

But, you know, Josh, I want to bring you back in because President Biden said the U.S. will respond in kind if Russia continues to act aggressively. But we also know and we just heard it recently from the energy secretary that Russia is in the United States power grid. I mean, Russia has a very aggressive cyber operation.

So, what exactly could the U.S. do to respond in kind if Russia continues to act aggressively that couldn't continue to elevate into state of war?

ROGIN: It's a great question. I think you've got two types of action. You've got the covert actions and then you've got the overt actions. And, you know, the Biden people say we're respond. Time plays of our choosing. That's indicating that there are going to be some covert actions to respond.

But I think what the public and what Congress are calling for are for some overt actions. Some sanctions on individual who are directly responsibility or directly supervising some of these units and some of these Russian entities that are attacking us, that are attacking our infrastructure and our companies.

I think that the farther you go up with the sanctions, the more biting they get. I think that has to be the next step if this doesn't stop. I think the only way to really communicate that is have at the leader level.

That's why the Biden-Putin meeting can be valuable, because Biden can tell Putin what he really cares about. What he really cares about is protecting American democracy and American companies but also things like Syria. You mentioned where they can work together. The president of the United States said yesterday, he called it Libya. He was talking about Syria. Anyway, he was talking about humanitarian aid routes in Syria.

So, this is another thing that will be on the agenda that I've written about. So, you know, when you talk about how we can deal with a Russia that's going to continue to be autocratic. Putin will always be a killer. They're also going to have -- wish us harm. But at the same time, we have to find a way to be frenemies because there are lots of things in the world where we're going to work with them one way or another.

BROWN: Absolutely. Kaitlan, if you would remind us what the circumstances are around this meeting. We know under President Trump, we both covered that. He would sometimes ditch the note-takers during the meetings.

If you would remind us what we expect to see and what happens next for President Biden before that meeting with Putin?

COLLINS: Yeah, we're in some of those meetings. They would only have a note-taker in the room and then Trump took his notes afterward or they don't have translators in the room.


We've asked the White House who they expect to be in the room when Biden and Putin do meet. They have not told us yet. I think that really speaks to just how last-minute the negotiations between the U.S. side and the Russian side really are going to be. We do expect them to go essentially until the last minute in Geneva.

So, we have been told they do expect a smaller session and one bigger session. The smaller session does appear can be a one-on-one between the two leaders. That really remains to be seen. But he did one on one with Erdogan earlier today and according to President Biden, they were one on one for quite some time.

We know he did want to talk to the Turkish leader about Putin. And so, whether or not they were comparing notes, what the looks like remains to be seen. But then they said there also is going to be a larger meeting. That would likely be with their staffs while they are in Geneva. And so, we'll likely see how that actually ends up the day of. I don't think we'll get a lot of concrete information on that before hand. We should note that tomorrow, he does have the E.U. summit as well.

And the White House really says all of this building to that sit down with Putin. They used that as a justification, saying that he's meeting with these allies and President Biden maintaining there that he has not heard from a single world leader that doesn't believe now is the time for the United States to meet with Russia. We'll see if that's still the understanding after the summit happens and it remains to be seen.

BROWN: And, Jeff Zeleny, I want you to join us now. You were there. You were there questioning the president, asking him about his personal views of Putin.

What was your take away with his response?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Pamela, it's clear that President Biden still views Vladimir Putin as a killer. We asked that question because over the weekend, in an interview with NBC News, Vladimir Putin laughed when asked his reaction to President Biden suggesting earlier this spring that Putin was a killer.

So, I asked President Biden that, he laughed back, laughed as well. And then he essentially went on the say that, you know, indeed he does but that does not really change anything. He knows exactly what he is walking into.

But, Pamela, I think the interesting part of this, President Biden stayed here at NATO really until -- he's one of last leaders here, if not the last leader here talking to variety of world leaders, you know, most of whom are in the region, who have some direct dealing or a concern with Russia, the Baltic states, others. So, this is something he's been gathering information all day long.

But asking him, he's repeatedly said if Russia finds that it's in their own interest, he hopes they will agree to cooperation in some respects. So, I asked him, what if they do agree to cooperate, how will you ever trust Vladimir Putin? He said you verify first and then trust. So, of course, the play obviously on Ronald Reagan's famous line with Mikhail Gorbachev, which actually their first summit, also in Geneva. So, some historical context there.

But President Biden said as far as he is concerned, he will verify first and then trust.

But, Pamela, there's no question what happens at the meeting on Wednesday is going to set the tone for the relationship between President Biden and Vladimir Putin. He's the fifth American president to meet with Putin. We'll see if Biden is any different -- Pamela.

BROWN: We will see and that is why those first question questions from reporters were focused on this subject. We did glean a little bit about Biden's mindset going into it.

Thanks so much, everyone, for the great discussion there. And as Biden repairs to meet Putin, there are new potential war crimes

by Russia. Mass killings and torture carried out by Russian mercenaries abroad. The story you'll see only on CNN.

Plus, conspiracy theories potentially going from digital soldiers to real life violence. The terrifying warning from the FBI, up next.



BROWN: Breaking news in our politics lead. Right now, Attorney General Merrick Garland is meeting with executives from CNN, "The New York Times" and "The Washington Post" on Trump's Justice Department secretly seizing reports from reporters and Democratic lawmakers who were also on former President Trump's enemies list.

There's still a lot we don't know but I'm going to bring in CNN's Evan Perez to help us better understand this.

But, first off, Evan, what do we know about this meeting with media executives and the attorney general today?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Pamela, that meeting just got under way just a couple floors above where I'm sitting, and you can hear -- you can believe the media executives are going to be pressing the attorney general for what permanent changes might be made as a result of the seizures of these reporters' records.

But he's also dealing with another fire that's already sort of burning, which has to do with the seizure of records belonging to lawmakers, who knew about it. It appears that everybody that you and I and some of our colleagues have been calling, nobody says that they knew about the seizure of phone and email and account information belonging to Adam Schiff, Eric Swalwell, as well as staff members and some of their family members.

But what we now know is the attorney general asked Lisa Monaco, the deputy attorney general, to essentially go find where the bodies are buried here in this building. I'll read you a part of what the statement that issued this morning from the attorney general, the first time, by the way, that he has actually said anything about this.

He said: Political or other improper considerations must play no role in any investigative or prosecutorial decisions. These principles that have long been held as sacrosanct by the Justice Department carrier workforce will be vigorously guarded on my watch and any failure to live up to them will be met with strict accountability.

And then he goes on to say he asked the inspector general to look for this investigation, to investigate that happened here, and if during that process, there are things that were done improperly, he says he will make -- fixes it immediately.

[16:20:00] BROWN: I notice just looking at the statement, he didn't talk about the Don McGahn seizure as well, who, of course, he was the White House counsel back in 2019 when DOJ also seized his records. What more do we know about that?

PEREZ: Well, we don't know a -- of a lot. We know that a lot more frankly about the seizure of records belonging to lawmakers and to reporters. We don't even know what information Apple turned over the prosecutors who made that request, and similarly, Pamela, we have not been able to figure out what this investigation is about and who authorized it.

Again, it appears from the statement from the Justice Department today Merrick Garland saying that perhaps there needs to be a change of procedure if some high profile person is being targeted. And the prosecutors and the agents who are working the case, they need to be able to tell the bosses up high so they can get at least the proper approvals.

BROWN: Right. The mystery in my ways continues as we try to piece this together.

Evan Perez, thank you for bringing us the latest there from the Justice Department.

I want to turn now to our politics lead. An FBI warning to lawmakers that QAnon followers may start targeting them with actual violence. It's a story you'll see first on CNN.

Let's bring in senior national correspondent Alex Marquardt.

So, what's behind this warning? Any new intelligence?

ALEXANDER MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is a two-page unclassified FBI report that was obtained by our colleague Zach Cohen. What it essentially says is some adherents of QAnon, the conspiracy theory, are going to start taking matters into their own hands in a violent way, because a lot of who they believed would come true has not come to pass. Things like President Trump reassuming the presidency back in March. That obviously was never going happen.

Remember, Pamela, at its core this was a conspiracy theory rooted in the belief that the deep state of the global elites as they call them, are running a satanic child sex trafficking ring, that is often referred to as a cabal by the followers of QAnon. So, because of the predictions, that are just crazy, have not come true, some, the FBI says, may now turn to violence.

I want to read part of this unclassified report that we obtained today. It says, some violent adherents to QAnon will likely begin to believe they can no longer trust the plan reference in the QAnon posts and they have an obligation to change from serving as digital soldiers towards engaging in real world violence, including harming perceived members of the cabal such as Democrats and other political opposition, instead of continually awaiting Q's promised actions which have not occurred.

So, the report does go on to say that because some are disillusioned that they may leave the movement, also because they're seeing less of his material online and this stuff is getting kicked off the major media sites. But there is what the FBI are calling a fork in the road. Some will leave and hopefully go back to their normal lives and others will become more extreme and possibly turn to violence.

BROWN: And, of course, you hear about this warning you think, what about January 6th? Weren't there QAnon followers there engaging in violence? I mean, this warning is really consistent with what we've been hearing for national security officials for months now, right?

MARQUARDT: That's absolutely right. The FBI has said there are at least 20 who took part in January 6th who are self-described adherence of QAnon. You could imagine, Pam, that there probably are a lot more.

The Department of Homeland, the FBI save consistently said that the most persistent threat to this country are white extremists who are disillusioned, who believe that Donald Trump was robbed, who believed that January 6th was a good thing.

And so, there's a lot of overlap between some of the violence that we've already seen and is being predicted, and this adherence of QAnon.

BROWN: All right. Thanks so much, Alex. Appreciate it.

And coming up, Vladimir Putin couldn't even say Alexey Navalny's name earlier. Or he could but he just didn't want to. Now, President Biden just sent a warning if the Kremlin critic were to die in Russia's custody.



BROWN: In our world lead, President Biden is laying down a marker ahead of his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin, saying if Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny were to die, it would be a, quote, tragedy.


BIDEN: Navalny's death would be another indication that Russia has little or no intention of abiding by basic fundamental human rights. It would be a tragedy. It would do nothing but hurt his relationships with the rest of the world, in my view, and with me.


BROWN: CNN's chief international correspondent Clarissa Ward joins us live now.

So, Clarissa, you have been following the Navalny story closely for months. The Kremlin says, as we know, Navalny is not on the agenda, the White House says Biden will be bringing it up. What are you hearing?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it looks like this is really set now, Pamela, to be something of a face-off between the two leaders. President Putin has made it clear that he considers Navalny a no-go topic of conversation. He'd use it as an internal domestic political issue, not something that concerns President Biden. But as you heard there, President Biden feels strongly it does concern him.


When he was pressed on this topic by NBC News in their interview with President Putin, President Putin once again refused even to say Navalny's name or to give any assurance that he would not die in prison. Take a listen.


QUESTION: Will you commit that you will personally ensure that Alexei Navalny will leave prison alive?

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): I proceed from the premise that the person that you have mentioned, the same kind of measures will apply, not in any way worse than to anybody else who happens to be in prison.

QUESTION: His name is Alexei Navalny. People will note that you--


PUTIN (through translator): I don't care. I don't care.


WARD: And there you heard it: "I don't care. I don't care."

This is definitely shaping up to be something of an awkward confrontation, with both of the leaders drawing their line in the sand on the issue of Navalny, Pamela.

BROWN: And how are NATO allies responding to Biden's meeting with Putin?

WARD: Well, you heard the president saying that everybody is very positive about it, that everybody he had spoken to had come forward and said that they were very glad that he was going to deliver a tough message to Putin.

And I think that's the most important thing here. There are certain member states who really wanted to hear an assurance from President Biden that it was going to be a stern message and that he did have the backs of other NATO member allies, some of whom, particularly the Baltic states, really views Russia as something of an existential threat, Pamela.

BROWN: And you also have some exclusive reporting, Clarissa, about Russian mercenaries in the Central African Republic facing multiple allegations of war crimes, including torture, rape, and murder.

What else do you learn?

WARD: That's right.

So it's no secret that Russian mercenaries are active in at least half-a-dozen countries around the world. They have been accused of fomenting instability. But now, according to our investigation, they may well be guilty of war crimes.

We wanted to travel to the Central African Republic, but we were refused access on the grounds of our previous reporting on the Russian presence there. Still, we managed to send someone to interview victims and witnesses of these crimes. We had to change their names and disguise their faces for their own protection.

And I do want to warn our viewers that some of this material is graphic.


WARD (voice-over): The aftermath of a massacre at a mosque in the city of Bambari in the Central African Republic. At least 12 bodies are visible on the ground. A woman and a child are among the dead.

Dozens of civilians had taken shelter in the Al-Taqwa Mosque that day, after witnesses say Russian mercenaries and government troops came hunting for rebel fighters.

Abdoulaye was inside the mosque. But instead of finding sanctuary, he told CNN they became targets.

ABDOULAYE, VICTIM (through translator): Gendarmerie and the Russians asked us to take the women and children out of the mosque. Six of us walked out with our hands raised. They searched us and found nothing. We hadn't even gone five meters when they started shooting at us.

Four people died. One jumped to wall and I was shot in the right foot.

WARD (voice-over): That same day, Djibrilia told CNN her 15-year-old son was killed by Russians firing from a helicopter. When her husband went out to find him, he was shot down too.

DJIBRILIA, VICTIM (through translator): My husband was buried together with my 15-year-old son. When the burial was over, we couldn't even say a word. I was crying. My children also came next to me, wailing. It was the Russians who killed my husband, leaving me with children in pain.

WARD (voice-over): A confidential U.N. report found that abuses were carried out on both sides in Bambari, but that the Russians may have committed war crimes. And it does not appear to be an isolated incident.

Over several months, CNN and the independent investigative group The Sentry have obtained testimony and documents implicating Russian contractors deployed to train the Central African army in a wide range of atrocities during fighting between government and rebel forces, including mass shootings, torture and the burning of villages.

Sorcha MacLeod is on the U.N. Working Group on Mercenaries. In March, it sent details of alleged abuses to the Russian and Central African Republic governments.

WARD: "Grave human rights abuses, including rape, summary executions, targeted killings, torture, forced disappearances, murders and other abuses."


I mean, we're talking about war crimes here, potentially, are we not?

SORCHA MACLEOD, UNITED NATIONS: Yes, we are. We are seeing some of some of the most serious human rights violations and humanitarian law violations. And we're seeing them on a widespread scale. People on the ground are absolutely terrified.

WARD (voice-over): It is a stark contrast from the story Russia tells. In this recent movie, "Tourist," funded by a company associated with the Russian mercenaries, they are lauded as heroic defenders who have liberated Central Africa.

In reality, Russia's presence in this war-torn mineral-rich nation has always been controversial, even as it has ballooned from 170 contracted trainers in 2017 to around 2,300 now, according to a U.N. document obtained by The Sentry, with more than 30 bases spread out across the country; 39-year-old teacher Nemory (ph) shows our camera the scars from wounds he says were inflicted by Russian mercenaries at an outpost outside Bambari.

"They took us to the Russian base, tied us up with rope and started to torture us. They even use the bayonet to injure my left foot deeply," he says. "Their actions were evil and barbaric."

MACLEOD: We are seeing a pattern of behavior by these Russian private contractors. This has happened in other countries. We have seen it, for example, in relation to Libya, where Russian private contractors were involved in a variety of human rights violations, in a variety of international humanitarian law violations.

WARD (voice-over): But for the victims of these alleged crimes, there is little hope for justice. Private military contractors are technically illegal in Russia, and so don't officially exist.

And many locals live in fear of repercussions from a shadowy and unaccountable force.


WARD (on camera): CNN obviously tried to reach out to multiple people to get some response from the Russian side.

We approached Yevgeny Prigozhin. He is the Russian oligarch with close ties to President Putin who is believed to be behind these mercenary groups. He's also the architect of the famous troll factory that was involved with the meddling in the U.S. election back in 2016.

Unsurprisingly, he did not respond to our request for comment. And the Russian government also did not respond, but they did respond to the U.N. Working Group on Mercenaries, letters of allegation saying that Russian trainers in the Central African Republic are unarmed and not participating in hostilities.

Well, we can say definitively, Pamela, based on our extensive reporting, that that simply is not true.

BROWN: Such important reporting there.

Clarissa, thank you so much.

And coming up right here on THE LEAD: Republicans looking to punish progressive Congresswoman Ilhan Omar and the so-called Squad. What they're looking to do next.



BROWN: In our politics lead: A group of House Republicans want to censure Democratic Congresswoman Ilhan Omar of Minnesota and members of the so-called Squad after controversial comments Omar made last week seemingly comparing the U.S. and Israel to the Taliban and Hamas, which the State Department considers a terrorist group.

Omar later clarified. But Florida Republican Congressman Mike Waltz said in a statement: "For members of the U.S. Congress to make equivalencies to Israel and the American military, which puts its own soldiers at risk to avoid civilian casualties, is ignorant of the facts, shameful and should be condemned in the strongest terms."

CNN's Ryan Nobles joins me now.

So, Ryan, what would censuring these congresswomen to mean? And is it likely to happen?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I will answer the second question first, Pam. And it's not likely to happen.

But what we see Republicans doing here -- and it's not just this attempt by Congressman Waltz, but we're also told the House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, may attempt to bring a privileged resolution to the floor that would strip Congresswoman Omar of her position on the Foreign Affairs Committee.

There's another resolution that's floating around amongst Republicans attempting to censure the congresswoman. What this is all about is attempting to make Democrats take a position on these comments that the congresswoman has made and essentially try and find a divide between the progressive members of the House Democratic Caucus and the more moderate and middle-of-the-road members of the Democratic Caucus. Democrats aren't interested in having that public of a fight. This

certainly played out on Twitter last week. But we did see over the weekend both the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has rushed to Omar's defense. They were on CNN this weekend, both saying that they -- both sides have already moved past this.

They don't want this to become a big problem. But what we're seeing Republicans do is do everything they can to continue to sow that discord between the different factions of the Democratic Conference -- Pam.

BROWN: So, what more can you tell us about how the House Democrats are responding to this?

NOBLES: Well, first of all, they're essentially singing from the same playbook now. They're saying that they are thankful that Omar clarified her remarks and that they're ready to move on.


And then, just in the last few minutes, we saw that Representative Brad Schneider of Illinois who is a Jewish Democrat and among the group of Democrats most critical of Ilhan Omar's comments, he just put out a statement saying that he plans to bring a resolution to the floor this week to censure Marjorie Taylor Greene, the controversial Republican congresswoman for the comments that she has made comparing mask mandate to the Holocaust and talking about Hitler in those terms.

This shows that Schneider is much more concerned about green's rhetoric than he was about what Omar has to say and he's hopeful that Omar has clarified the remarks and they are able to move on. Now, we're not exactly how much people will get involved with this resolution, whether or not that will even be passed on the House floor. This may be a fight that Nancy Pelosi isn't interested in having.

What we're seeing right now is an attempt by Democrats to quell this uprising within their ranks and talk about things that they would much rather talk about which is infrastructure, a police reform bill, things along those lines. Pam, we'll have to see if they are successful.

PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: We will have to see. Ryan Nobles, thanks so much.

A new COVID variant warning that could impact every one. That's next.



BROWN: To our health lead now. The reopening of America continues with California set to lift most COVID restrictions tomorrow but today, there are some serious reminders of where we have been and where we could go again if vaccination rates continue to plunge, with the former FDA chief warning that areas with low vaccination rates could be inviting the severe new variant that ravaged India -- as CNN's Nick Watt reports.


NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Looks like today, we will pass 600,000 people killed by this virus in this country. Yes, average new case counts are now a tiny fraction of the peak but the so-called Delta variant could cause more pain.

DR. SCOTT GOTTLIEB, FORMER FDA COMMISSIONER: Right now, the United States it's about 10 percent of infections. It's doubling every two weeks.

Today in England --

BORIS JOHNSON, BRITISH PRIME MINISTER: I think it is sensible to wait just a little longer.

WATT: They delayed reopening due to a Delta-driven surge.

GOTTLIEB: This could spike a new epidemic heading into the fall. The vaccine seemed to be effective.

DR. ASHISH JHA, DEAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY MEDICAL SCHOOL: The real risk is the unvaccinated people who are very, very vulnerable to this variant.

WATT: In part why President Joe Biden wants 70 percent of American adults to have had one shot by July 4th.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I need you. I need every American to do their part.

WATT: Current projection will fall short in large part because of a stark partisan divide, 14 states already reached 70 percent and every single one went for Biden in the last election. Not a single state that went for Trump has been reached 65 percent.

DR. MEGAN RANNEY, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY: It's exactly where I expect to see it start spreading. It makes me so sad that this virus has become politicized.

WATT: Another potential issue come the fall, schools.

MIGUEL CARDONA, EDUCATION SECRETARY: We have to do better. We have to maintain a level of urgency.

WATT: In April, 90 percent of K through 8 schools were open. Doesn't mean 90 percent of kids take the fourth grade. Only about 50 percent attended fully in person in large part because --

CARDONA: Families couldn't handle the hybrid option. They either need them in every day or home remote. So, we need all students to have in person learning every day in the fall. Hybrid should not be an option as a primary option. It can be done.


WATT: Now, another issue for the fall, are there going to be things that only vaccinated people are allowed to do? Well, New York Presbyterian, that is a massive hospital systems, just said all its staff must be vaccinated by September 1 and starting tomorrow in Disneyland, starting tomorrow, if you're vaccinated, fully, you no longer need to wear mask in the happiest place on earth -- Pamela.

BROWN: All right. Thanks so much, Nick.

And up next, a CNN exclusive, a possible nuclear plant leak that could pose an imminent threat.



BROWN: Turning to a world lead now. A CNN exclusive, problems at a nuclear power plant in China.

CNN is learning the U.S. government is assessing a possible leak at a plant after a French company that owns and helps operate the plant warned of an imminent radiological threat.

Let's bring CNN's Kylie Atwood. She's here with the latest.

So, Kylie, as we know, China is not exactly the gold standard when it comes to sharing information. But what more are you learning?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, the company -- I'm sorry, the power plant itself is now coming out and saying that the environmental readings at the plant and the surrounding areas are normal and there was an issue that's been resolved. It's been overhauled, they said. They haven't given us many details about what that means.

And the French company that helps to operate and owns part of this nuclear power plant in China said that there was an issue, but it's been resolved, and now, this plant is operating, within safety parameters. But, of course, that is a stark contrast to what the same company said to the U.S. government, to the department of energy, in a memo that was obtained by our colleague Zach Cohen warning of an imminent radiological threat.

Now, of course, you know, that sent off some alarm bells here in the United States. The reason that this French company even reached out to the U.S., as we understand it, is because they wanted the U.S. government to write some technical support to try and resolve this issue. Now, one source tells us that this is an urgent threat at this point. This is not an urgent matter. It's something, though, that has obviously caught the attention of U.S. government officials. They've been meeting on this matter.

And folks at State and the Department of Energy wouldn't provide us with their holistic assessment. But they did say that this pose an imminent threat to any of the Chinese folks who are working at this plant or in the region. They would have been forced to make it known publicly.

BROWN: And right, there's so much that doesn't add up right now with this story and this French company reaching out to the U.S., which usually doesn't happen.

Thanks so much, Kylie. Appreciate it.

Follow me on Twitter @PamelaBrownCNN or tweet the show @TheLeadCNN.

Our coverage continues now with Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM" live from Geneva, Switzerland.