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The Lead with Jake Tapper

White House Braces For Defeat On Election Reform; Interview With Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT); NYC Voting Now After Chaotic Final 24 Hours Of Mayoral Race; Senator Whitehouse Faces Questions Over Private Beach Club Membership; Interview With Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director Of NIAID; Country Set To Miss 70 Percent Vaccination Mark By July 4; Testimony Reveals Dire Conditions For Migrant Children At Border; Kim Jong-un's Sister Downplays Hope For Better U.S. Relations. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired June 22, 2021 - 16:00   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: We just did a minute and a half on sausage-making.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: It's not long enough as far as I'm concerned.


"THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER" starts right now.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: President Biden bracing himself for a major part of his agenda to die on the Senate floor.

THE LEAD starts right now.

A showdown in the U.S. Senate just minutes away with the Democrats sweeping election reform bill likely to fail a key vote. Are there really not ten Republicans willing to cross the aisle just to start debating this?

The shot clock winding down. The U.S. on pace to miss President Biden's Fourth of July vaccination goal. So now to mix sports metaphors, Biden is moving the goal posts. Dr. Anthony Fauci will join us live.

Plus, Kim Jong-un's sister taking a swipe at the U.S. The new warning from nuclear North Korea.


TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

And we start with breaking news in our politics lead, and one of President Biden's top priorities about to die an ugly death on the floor of the U.S. Senate. In the next hour, the Senate is set to vote to advance a sweeping election reform bill, the so-called For the People Act. The bill would, among other things, make Election Day a public holiday. It would expand early voting to at least 15 consecutive days. It would ban partisan gerrymandering.

Some of the other more controversial measures include expanding public financing of campaigns, requiring many states to overhaul their voting machines. Tonight's vote is nearly guaranteed to fail because as of now, zero Republicans support the legislation, though we should point out, this is not a vote to pass the legislation today. It's just a vote to open debate on the act and begin amendments.

Are there really not ten Republicans who are willing to at least discuss and debate this legislation? Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon predicted on CNN today that he thinks at least a few Republicans might vote with Democrats, but perhaps he's being naive.

CNN's Ryan Nobles is live for us on Capitol Hill.

Ryan, this afternoon, Democrats were able to get West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin on board with today's vote.

What do we know about the legislation and the negotiations?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this was an important step for Democrats no doubt, Jake, because even without those ten Republicans who are likely to block this measure from moving forward, they didn't even have 50 Democrats on board with moving the legislation forward. That changed after a breakthrough in negotiations this afternoon.

And essentially what Manchin has agreed to is allowing the motion to proceed and then have a vote on a separate amendment should the legislation make it to that next stage. The problem is it's unlikely to get to that stage because there is just no indication that there are ten Republicans willing to continue this debate. In fact, this is a piece of policy where you see a sharp divide between Democrats and Republicans.

Democrats believe that this issue of voting rights is fundamental to the core of American democracy where Republicans feel exactly the opposite. They believe that states should be able to conduct their elections any way they see fit.

And, as a result, we are at an impasse here, Jake. Democrats want to see something happen here, Republicans aren't interested at all. That is why it's very likely when the votes are cast later this evening that this bill is going nowhere.

TAPPER: Democratic Senator Merkley seems to think that a few Republicans might vote with Democrats tonight on just opening the process of debate and amendments. Are there any indications that might happen?

NOBLES: The short answer to that is no, Jake. We know of no Republican that plans to vote to proceed with this motion, to allow the legislation to move forward. If there is one, they certainly aren't raising their hands and saying that they want to be a part of this process. Even if there is one or two wayward Republicans, and to be clear, we don't think there are any, there is not the ten necessary to keep this legislation from moving forward.

So while Senator Manchin, other Democrats have had conversations with Republicans, they've just not been able to crack that group that is very much entrenched in preventing this legislation from moving forward -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Ryan, thank you so much, from Capitol Hill.

The fight is not over. That's the message from the White House today, which seems to acknowledge that this key Senate vote is doomed to fail. Press Secretary Jen Psaki saying that making it easier for Americans to vote will be a priority for the entire Biden presidency, and she says they will use every lever of government forward to try to expand ballot access.

But the White House has also not laid out any specific plans at all about what might come next, as CNN's Kaitlan Collins reports.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The White House bracing for defeat.



No matter the outcome today, it is going to continue.

COLLINS: President Biden's top aides vowing to push ahead as the Democratic-led voting rights bill heads for a Republican roadblock.

PSAKI: It will be a fight of his presidency long past today.

COLLINS: Last month, the president predicted that June would be a month of action on Capitol Hill and pledged to advocate for the For the People Act.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm going to fight like heck with every tool at my disposal for its passage.

COLLINS: Now as the bill is expected to fail, the White House is framing it as a symbolic victory, not a legislative one.

PSAKI: And he will continue to use the bully pulpit but also every lever in government to continue to advocate for moving forward.

COLLINS: Press Secretary Jen Psaki suggesting the loss could spur Democrats to rethink the filibuster which requires 60 votes to pass any legislation, even though Senator Joe Manchin has made his opposition clear.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): I'm not ready to destroy the government, no.

COLLINS: Senator Kyrsten Sinema reiterating hers today, writing in "The Washington Post" that it's no secret I oppose eliminating the Senate's 60-vote threshold, warning if we eliminate it, we will lose much more than we gain.

Biden assigned Vice President Kamala Harris to lead the charge on voting rights, but despite calls and meetings with advocates, she hasn't taken concrete steps on the matter.

PSAKI: What the president and what the vice president will do is engage with voting rights groups, engage with legislatures who are supportive of expanding access.

COLLINS: Some progressives say neither Biden nor Harris has been forceful enough.

REP. JAMAAL BROWN (D-NY): He's not absent but he needs to be a lot more vocal and a lot more out front.

COLLINS: The White House pushing back on Congressman Jamaal Bowman.

PSAKI: Those words are fight against their own opponent. I would say that's hardly being silent. That's hardly sitting on the back bench. And we are -- he will be standing with advocates in this fight for the foreseeable future.


COLLINS (on camera): Now, Jake, Vice President Harris was on Capitol Hill earlier today to cast a tie-breaking vote to get a nominee confirmed. But we are now being told by a White House official that she's expected to stay up there and in a rare move preside over the Senate as this drama is going to happen tonight, even though the White House knows -- believes they know what the outcome of this is going to be, that it's going to fail. It seems that they are trying to send a message by having Harris up there on the Hill.

So, sending that message while we do expect to get a message from President Biden after this is expected to fail later today commenting on it all, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Kaitlan, thanks so much.

Joining us now to discuss, Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.

Senator, let me get a reaction from you to the news that Kaitlan just mentioned that Vice President Harris is actually going to be presiding over the Senate in her position as president of the Senate for this vote. That's not a normal situation. It obviously seems to be symbolic.

What do you take from it?

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): It is symbolic, but it is a powerful symbol of the White House's engagement and the importance of this vote. It's only an opening round, as you well know. It's a vote to move forward and debate that is just talk about the bill.

The Republicans are going to be unanimous in shutting down the debate, but it is profoundly important to access to the ballot, overcoming restrictions that state legislatures are imposing and ending the corruption of our present campaign finance system. And that's why her presence is going to be really important.

TAPPER: Well, Senator, if you know that it's going to fail, why put it up for a vote? Why not work to find ten Republicans who will vote for something and get something passed as opposed to putting up a bill that you know is doomed?

BLUMENTHAL: That's exactly what we are going to do, but we're giving them the first choice about whether to support this bill, which is our best option, Senator Manchin has proposed another version, which I would support. It has the essentials here and we'll move forward with that one, and then the conversation will continue.

But, make no mistake, Jake, we are by no means done at the end of today. It is just the beginning. And the American people should understand what's at stake here -- truly is preserving the right to vote and stopping billionaires literally from buying elections. And we are in no way going to abandon this fight.

TAPPER: Well -- I mean, Democrats control the White House, they control the House, they control the Senate. I mean, what are you talking about preventing billionaires from controlling politics? I mean, you guys control everything right now.

BLUMENTHAL: We may have an evenly divided Senate and control because the vice president can break a tie. But the filibuster rules, as the American people are beginning to understand, require us to have 60 votes just to proceed to debate, just to talk about the bill.


And that's why a lot of us, including many of our leaders, believe that we should tremendously modify the filibuster. I'm in favor of abolishing it, but in the meantime, we can mobilize support among the American people to understand that dark money, the money that goes to elections without disclosure is determining the outcomes. And that's what we need disclosure to shine a light on. And that's why this bill is so important to end that kind of corruption.

TAPPER: Senator, haven't you voted in favor of filibustering Republican legislation, not allowing them to even proceed to a discussion, an amendment process and debate on a bill?

BLUMENTHAL: We have used the 60-vote threshold a number of times. For example --

TAPPER: But you're talking about it being corrupt, but you've used it, too. BLUMENTHAL: The dark money is corrupt. The current finance system and

its corruption is what we want to end. The filibuster is a rule that stymies majority vote. And I actually voted, I think it was my third or fourth vote in the Senate, ten years ago when I first came here to abolish the filibuster. I was one of only 12.

And in the ten years since I've seen my colleagues one by one decide that Republicans overuse, abuse, and misuse of the filibuster rule, that 60-vote threshold, has led them to conclude enough is enough. And that's why there are just a handful of Democrats left who are in favor of preserving this arcane and abhorrent rule that the Founders would have absolutely rejected.

TAPPER: So, there are a number of Democrats who are not with you on getting rid of the filibuster. It's not just Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, but they are probably the most prominent.

Senator Sinema wrote in a new op-ed, quote: The filibuster compels moderation and helps protect the country from wild swings between opposing policy poles. To those who want to eliminate the legislative filibuster to pass the For the People Act, I would ask, would it be good for our country if we did only to see that legislation rescinded a few years from now and replaced, unquote.

Does she not have a point? The 60-vote threshold is there to encourage compromise. And Democrats could very well be in the minority again very soon.

BLUMENTHAL: There are two points there, Jake. And both of them are excellent to raise. Number one, yes, democracy could, if the majority in a few years or a decade or so from now requires a different vote on policy, reverse or modify healthcare policy or immigration policy, that's democracy, majority vote.

And, yes, the filibuster is sometimes understood to promote compromise, but actually it inhibits compromise because in order to reach a solution -- let's say on voting rights -- you need 10 Republicans, not just one or two, but 10 of them, which is a high threshold. So, actually, it works against compromise.

And my hope is that Senator Sinema and Senator Manchin like many of my colleagues, I've seen them one by one over these 10 years, come around to my point of view, we need to abolish or radically reform the filibuster because it inhibits democracy, that they will reach that same conclusion, and move forward on voting rights.

And, remember, we're talking here about a core right. It's not just a matter of policy. It's not just another bill.

It goes to the core of people's access to democracy, polling places and polling hours, limited. The rights of access to absentee ballots and mail-in ballots, restricted. Gerrymandering, promoted. Dark money, enabled.

We're talking about essential democratic rights here. And I'm really hopeful that my two colleagues and others who may still have reservations about radically reforming or abolishing the filibuster will come around to a point of view this time is really different.

TAPPER: Democratic Senator Blumenthal of Connecticut, thanks so much for your time today, sir. We appreciate it.

BLUMENTHAL: Thank you.

TAPPER: Why counting the votes in the critical New York City mayor's race could take longer than Friday traffic on the George Washington Bridge.

And U.S. on pace to fall short of President Biden's Fourth of July vaccine goal. But the White House is saying there is still much to celebrate. Dr. Anthony Fauci will join me ahead.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our politics lead, New Yorkers have just a few more hours to vote in the city's Democratic mayoral primary. But because the city is frankly so sclerotic when it comes to administering elections, it may take several weeks before we actually know who the winner is in this crowded field of 13 candidates.

The city is rolling out a new ranked-choice voting system. That will also serve as a big test for this chaotic race.

CNN's Athena Jones joins us from a New York polling site on the upper west side.

Athena, what are voters telling you about this new voting system?


Well, most voters we've talked to, we've been here since the polls opened at 6:00 a.m. this morning off and on. These are voters who are excited to be participating in this election. It's being called the most significant election in New York City in a generation.

You mentioned 13 Democrats running for the nomination, but there are really four names that have risen to the top in recent weeks in the scant public polling we've seen. Those are Eric Adams, a former NYPD police captain; Kathryn Garcia, the former sanitation commissioner; Andrew Yang, a businessman who is a former presidential candidate; and Maya Wiley, a civil rights lawyer who was counsel to the current mayor, Mayor Bill de Blasio.


And those are the name that we're hearing most from the voters we speak to around here. What's important here is what you mentioned, this idea that this is the first big test of ranked-choice voting. New York City is the largest jurisdiction in the country to be using this method. They're using it for the first time. It allows voters to rank up to five candidates in order of preference. This allows for an instant runoff.

That means that the lowest vote-getter, if no one wins a majority or a majority plus one in the first round of voting, the lowest vote-getter is eliminated. Their votes reallocated to second vote choices. It sounds completed. It could be a multi-round process, but speaking to voters here, they were excited about it, they didn't think it was confusing. Here's what a few of them had to say.


ANDREW YELDER, NEW YORK VOTER: It was easy. I'm a big fan of ranked choice voting.

BECKY CURTIS, NEW YORK VOTER: Was it confusing? Well, I don't think it was confusing.

It did give me the chance to vote for a lot of women.

ANNE, NEW YORK VOTER: You had to come prepared knowing what rank you had or you'd be there all day. But once you did -- once you have a list with you, it's not hard.


JONES: So those voters were excited to be voting here and excited about ranked choice voting. And several I spoke to including Ray Maguire, one of the candidates running for mayor, he came here earlier to vote. And I asked, all of them, are they concerned about the fact that it's going to be a while, until mid-July before we know who the final winner of this ranked-choice voting tabulation is. And most of them said that's fine, at least I get to have more of a say in the ultimate outcome.

But I should tell you that the board of elections does expect to be able to release the first choices of in-person and early votes tonight. That could give us some sense of whether any one of these candidates may have opened up a bit of a wide lead.

But we really are going to have to wait and see how this ranked tabulation breaks down over the course of the next several weeks. You mentioned New York state laws that govern when absentee ballots can be opened, when mail ballots can be counted. We've really got to pack our patience here.

TAPPER: All right. Athena Jones, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Sticking with our politics lead, Democratic senator from Rhode Island, Sheldon Whitehouse, facing questions about his family's membership in an elite exclusive private beach club known as Bailey's Beach Club. There are accusations that the Newport beach club has only white members after a local news outlet questioned the senator about the club.

CNN's Sunlen Serfaty has been reaching out to the club and the senator trying to get clear answers which has not been easy.

So, Sunlen, what have they said?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, they really haven't said much. They are being very evasive here. I've had multiple short conversations with them over the last two days, and they, point blank, have not cleared up the reporting that's out there about their club. They've even hung up on me multiple times. This is the total extent of what they have told me.

Quote: We are a private club so I am not allowed to give out names of members or people associated with our club. I have no comment at this time, we have no comment at this time. And that is when they would typically hang up on me.

Senator Whitehouse responded yesterday to CNN when asked about the reports of his family's continued membership to this club, and he says, quote: The club informs me that it does in fact have diversity in membership. But when he was asked if he personally was aware of any diverse members of the club, the senator said, quote, I believe that there were, I don't spend a lot of time there so I couldn't tell you who the members are.

Now, Whitehouse's office tells me that the club has no restrictive all-white policy and says that the club has had and has members of color, but, importantly, they did not show us any evidence, Jake, that there are actually members of color who are members at this club.

TAPPER: These clubs, unfortunately, clubs that have, you know, exclusionary practices don't necessarily always have exclusionary policies. And Senator Whitehouse, we should point out, has built a reputation for himself fighting for equal rights and diversity and progressive civil rights causes.

SERFATY: That's right. He's a known progressive. He's someone who fights for diversity on a regular basis publicly. Last week, he co- sponsored the Juneteenth bill, making it a federal holiday.

This week, the senator in answering questions about this, he actually did defend the club as having a long tradition of being a family club. He has said that in the past he would push for them to work on improving diversity, but he's not put forward any evidence of those conversations or pushed them to release the statistics of membership that he of course has cited in this statement.

TAPPER: And I didn't hear in any of the statements from the club or the senator just a point-blank statement, the club has African- American members. No one has said that.

SERFATY: That's right.

TAPPER: They use words like diverse, nonwhite. Could clear it up, they haven't.

Sunlen, thank you so much. I appreciate it.

Is the White House now moving the goal post on the Fourth of July vaccination target? [16:25:01]

I'm going to ask Dr. Anthony Fauci, next.


TAPPER: In our health lead, celebrating a missed deadline? That's what the White House appears to be doing despite experts saying we will not meet President Biden's goal of 70 percent of adults with at least one shot by July 4th. The White House is planning a 1,000-person celebration on that day to mark, quote, independence from the virus.


And, today, they're trotting out numbers other than the ones the president set as a benchmark to justify the pending balloons, as CNN's Nick Valencia reports.


NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The U.S. poised to fall short of the president's vaccination goal.

JEFF ZIENTS, WHITE HOUSE COVID-19 RESPONSE COORDINATOR: So, as to our goal of 70 percent for all adults, we're going to hit it for adults 27 and older.

VALENCIA: After weeks of pushing, President Joe Biden's July 4 aim to get 70 percent of adults vaccinated with at least one dose of a COVID- 19 vaccine, the White House is moving the goalposts, the COVID response coordinator now claiming July 4 wasn't Biden's goal. It was an aspiration.

ZIENTS: We set 70 percent of adults as our aspirational target. And we have met or exceeded it for most of the adult population. This is a remarkable achievement.

VALENCIA: But that's not how the president has been describing it over the past few weeks.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our goal by July 4 is to have 70 percent of adult Americans with at least one shot. Getting 70 percent of adults their first shot by July the 4th. Get to 70 percent of adult Americans vaccinated.

VALENCIA: Right now, according to the CDC, just over 65 percent of American adults have had at least one dose. Even incentives like free cars, free beer and million-dollar lotto prizes were not enough to get more shots in arms.

Now the White House is focusing on younger Americans, 18 to 26.

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Even if we do sail past the 70 percent goal, we're still going to be vaccinating people on July 5, on July 7, on July 10.

VALENCIA: Currently, less than 2 percent of adults under 30 are getting vaccinated each week.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: The endgame is to go well beyond that, beyond July 4, into the summer and beyond, with the ultimate goal of crushing the outbreak completely in the United States.

VALENCIA: Meanwhile, the rapidly spreading Delta variant first identified in India remains. In Missouri, a health care CEO says they have seen a dramatic increase in hospitalizations as a result of the variant.

STEVE EDWARDS, PRESIDENT AND CEO, COXHEALTH: Well, we have seen now in four-and-a-half weeks almost a sixfold increase in COVID patients. So we were sitting around 14. We're at 83 this morning. So, we're seeing this sort of unexpected increase in cases. We never imagined this big of an increase.

VALENCIA: A stark reminder about the dangers of the virus for the unvaccinated. Still, some states are returning to pre-pandemic life.

GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D-MI): Our vaccinations are upwards of 61.2 percent. So we're really hitting this virus on a lot of fronts. And we're in a stronger position now.


VALENCIA: In places like Georgia, there was never a grand reopening, because things never really shut down, especially outside the city, many carried on with their pre-pandemic lives.

Now, though, Jake, as we're seeing a stronger push nationally to get younger Americans targeted, we are seeing events like here today at this popular brewery, where they are hosting a pop-up vaccine event.

Georgia ranks near the bottom in the nation when it comes to vaccinations -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Nick Valencia in Atlanta, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Joining us now to discuss, the chief medical adviser to President Biden, Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Dr. Fauci, good to see you, as always.

You said this about President Biden's 70 percent goal at the White House coronavirus briefing today. I want to play for our viewers.


FAUCI: That is not the goal line, nor is it the endgame. The end game is to go well beyond that, beyond July 4.


TAPPER: So, as you just heard with our last report, President Biden repeatedly called the 70 percent of American adults with at least one shot, he called it a goal. It sounds like the White House is kind of walking this goal messaging back a bit.

FAUCI: Not necessarily Jake. You set a goal. If you reach it, great. If you don't, you keep going to try and reach it and go beyond it.

So, I don't really see any, to be honest with you, big deal here. We were trying for 70 percent of adults by July 4. If you get to 67 or 68, there's not that much statistical difference between the two. But you want to go beyond it.

And that's what I said at the press conference today. Yes, it was a goal. And we want to go beyond the goal. If you don't exactly meet it on July 4, you don't stop. You just keep going. And that's what we're going to do. We're going to try and get as many more than 70 percent as we possibly can, particularly in light of the fact that we are now getting into the summer.

We want to get things back to normal. The country is really striving and craving to get back to normal. And we're going to be very much there by the summer.

TAPPER: When exactly do you think the U.S. will reach the goal of 70 percent of adults with at least one shot?

FAUCI: Jake, if you look at the rate now, it's probably getting to be within the first couple of weeks of July, maybe the second or third week of July.

TAPPER: And what is the reason why the U.S. was not able to reach that goal? Is it because have adults under 30? Because there is information suggesting that they are the big holdouts. They're the big reason.


There's a poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation suggesting that, in March, 26 percent of 18-to-29-year-old said they would only get the vaccine if required, or they definitely would not get the vaccine, and that number went to 24 percent in April, stayed 24 percent in May.

It's a pretty constant statistic. Why do you think it's not working, the messaging for young adults?

FAUCI: You know what?

Well, first of all, Jake, I think it's two things. It is certainly an issue with younger individuals. You want to concentrate on individuals between the ages of 18 and 26. But also, unfortunately, in some states, when you look at the totality of the population, they're well below where they need them to be.

There are four states that are below 50 percent. And there are some that are between 50 and 70 percent. So it's a combination of some states and regions that are below where we need them to be. And within that context, it's younger people, particularly 18 to 26, where you really want to try and get them to get vaccinated. So you're right about the young people. But it goes beyond the young

people in some states and some regions.

TAPPER: Research from the Urban Institute released on Monday shows that people who say they will not get vaccinated often rely on social media as a key source for their information about vaccines.

Is that of concern to you?

FAUCI: Well, in some respects, it's concern, particularly when disinformation or misinformation gets on social media.

I mean, you could counter it within the context of social media. I have been doing something I never would have imagined in my wildest dreams I was doing, would be doing TikTok with people today and in the next couple of days.

And it's -- you are surprised at the number of followers some of these influencers, as we call it, young people that have two, three, four, five, 10 million followers. So we have got to go out there and push the envelope out in the media, including the media that's giving misinformation.

TAPPER: So you started a TikTok? And you're talking to your besties on the TikTok there and playing music and all that?


FAUCI: I haven't started it, Jake. I got on a TikTok discussion with a bunch of really dynamic young people.


So, you also said today that the Delta variant is the greatest threat to progress against COVID-19. So, if convincing folks to get vaccinated doesn't work, is there any chance that we're going to be able to eliminate this threat?

FAUCI: Well, certainly, if you have a substantial proportion of people not vaccinated, and you have a variant like the Delta variant, which now clearly has been shown to spread more efficiently and to cause more serious disease, we absolutely know that from other countries, then those people who are not vaccinated will be at risk.

And there will be more infections, the way we're seeing. And with that will come serious disease and hospitalization. And that's the reason why we're pulling out all the stops, Jake, about getting people -- going with a local type of trusted messengers, even in those recalcitrant pockets of people who don't seem to want to get vaccinated.

And I just got off a call with the Conference of Mayors talking about getting people at the local level, literally to going, knocking on doors in neighborhoods. I did that myself this past weekend with Mayor Muriel Bowser in D.C., literally going in the Anacostia section, knocking on doors house to house. That's what we have got to do. We have got to do it at the grassroots

at the local level. We're beyond the large massive vaccine centers. We have got to go local now.

TAPPER: Is it fair to say that the people who are still dying of coronavirus or serious -- or in serious medical conditions, are they almost entirely, if not entirely unvaccinated Americans?

FAUCI: Yes, they are overwhelmingly so.

And that's the thing that's so painful, Jake, as a physician, a scientist and a public health person that I am, is that that's entirely avoidable. And that's really the tragedy, when people don't want to get vaccinated for reasons that they can't even explain. They just don't want to get vaccinated.

For those who don't want to get vaccinated because they need more information, it's on us to get that information to them. And that's what we're trying to do.

But it's always -- every death from COVID-19 is avoidable, and it's a tragedy when it happens.

TAPPER: Dr. Anthony Fauci, thanks so much for joining us. Good to see you again.

FAUCI: Thanks, Jake. Good to be with you.

TAPPER: One child saying they had to wear the same clothes for 15 days straight shot. Shocking, heartbreaking stories coming from inside U.S. border facilities.


Stay with us.


TAPPER: In our national lead today: new details about what life is like for migrant children currently stuck in temporary border facilities in the U.S.

At last count, this past Sunday, the Biden administration reported more than 14,000 children, 14,000 currently in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services, many of them for 60 days or longer.

And we should note, the Biden administration has only allowed lawmakers to see the children inside these facilities.


The Biden administration continues to deny repeated requests to let journalists into the facilities.

Let's bring in CNN reporter Priscilla Alvarez who covers immigration for us.

And, Priscilla, you've learned of what some of these kids are dealing with.

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN REPORTER: That's right. And the communications really vary across temporary facilities. But generally, what children are reporting is limited outdoors for recreation, limited access to showers, limited phone access to talk to family, and, generally speaking, just limited -- just sleeping to pass the time really.

And we learn from these kids through testimonials. Here's what a 17 from El Salvador said. He said during the day and night, we were told that we had to stay on our beds and could only get up to go to the bathroom or to shower. We had to eat on our beds because there was no other place to eat.

He goes on to say I had to wear the same clothes for 15 days. The staff members told us to wear the same underwear and just turn it inside out because there wasn't any laundry to clean our clothes.

We know this because attorneys have been visiting these facilities to assess the conditions as part of an ongoing settlement. And what they really captured was just a sense of desperation among children who are waiting to reunite with family in the United States.

TAPPER: What does the Biden administration have to say about this? This is deplorable.

ALVAREZ: The Health and Human Services Department oversees these facilities. What they told us in a statement is that they're working around the clock to improve conditions, to improve services, and that they are reuniting children with family or a legal guardian. But attorneys say it's just not happening fast enough. And these facilities are not prepared to hold them for 60 days or longer.

TAPPER: All right. Priscilla, very important. Keep up and keep reporting for us on this important issue.

North Korea says it has bad news for the Biden administration if it plans to restart nuclear talks soon. That's next.



TAPPER: In our world lead today, North Korea not quite engaging in saber-rattling, more like olive branch trampling. Kim Jong-un's sister, a top-ranking official in her own right, just stomped on hopes for better relations for the U.S. Her comments come only days after her brother said North Korea should be ready for dialogue in confrontation with the U.S.

CNN's Will Ripley has been to North Korea 19 times and joins us from Taiwan.

This past weekend, Will, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said that the Biden administration was, quote, awaiting a clear signal from North Korea. Is this it?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, there's never really a clear signal from North Korea, Jake, as you well know. But when Kim Yo-jong spoke out saying that the U.S. should not expect much given that their special North Korea envoy, Sung Kim, is in the region right now, it was certainly an indication that North Korea is not interested in sitting down with the United States.

Clearly, ever since President Trump walked out of the summit talks in Hanoi in 2019, North Korea has completely turned away from engagement with the United States. And, at the moment, they're also tackling a number of issues at home including, Jake, a self-proclaimed food crisis that many observers fear may be the worst that North Korea has faced since the famine of the late 1990s.

So, Kim Jong-un has a lot on his hands, talking with the U.S. not high on his list right now.

TAPPER: How do escalating tensions between the U.S. and China over issues such as Taiwan, how does that factor into any possibility of talks with North Korea?

RIPLEY: China's role is perhaps more crucial now than it was even during the Trump administration, Jake, because of the fact that North Korea is pinning its hopes on somehow resuming trade, cross-border trade with China to get food into the country. North Korean policy has completely shifted towards Beijing right now.

But given that the U.S. and China are really locked in a series of escalations. You have the guided missile destroyer, the USS Curtis Wilbur crossing the Taiwan Straits just yesterday. This comes just days after China's largest-ever recorded air incursion, 28 planes flying at air defense identification zone.

So if President Biden wants to work with President Xi on issues like North Korea, they have a lot of other things that are higher up on their list as well. And you have North Korea more isolated than perhaps it's been in decades, because most foreign diplomats and aide workers have been forced to leave the country because of the COVID-19 border shut down. And really they're running out of everything in North Korea from food to medical supplies.

It's a dire situation and not many international eyes on the ground in Pyongyang and the rural areas of North Korea right now, Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Will Ripley, thank you so much. I appreciate it.

The key Senate vote on election reform expected in the next hour as some frustrated progressive Democrats point their finger at President Biden.

Stay with us.


[16:58:32] TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

This hour, New York state of mind as voters head to the polls to pick the next mayor. CNN goes on a ride-along to see how Gotham is dealing with a stunning surge in violent crime as well as a deficit of trust in the police.

And you can stop obsessively refreshing your package link. It's probably going to be a while as COVID delays clog shipping lanes and ports around the world.

But, first, leading this hour, a vote on whether or not to debate and demand the Democrats' sweeping election reform bill just minutes away, their answer to big lie legislation being passed in many red states. Will any Senate Republicans be willing to vote to consider the legislation?

At least one Democratic senator seems to think a few of his Republican colleagues might be willing to play ball tonight.

Let's get straight to CNN chief congressional correspondent Manu Raju on Capitol Hill.

Manu, this vote is destined to fail. But is there a chance that at least having some sort of debate might enjoy bipartisan support?

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It doesn't appear that way, Jake. In fact, two of the key Senate Republicans who every once in a while break ranks, they join with Democrats, Senators Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins both came out on the floor minutes ago and criticized the Democrats bill as a federal overreach, calling it overly partisan and not indicating that they plan to move ahead with this legislation.

Murkowski at the moment, though, is meeting with Vice President Kamala Harris who's on the Senate right now as she plans to do something pretty rare in the Senate to preside over the vote that's expected to happen later this hour.