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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Tennessee Halts All Outreach On Vaccines To Adolescents, Including For COVID-19; Pop Star Olivia Rodrigo Visits White House To Urge Young People To Get Vaccinated; Biden Makes The Case For $3.5 Trillion In New Spending; Biden Admin Launches Plan To Evacuate Afghan Allies; Facebook And Russian Disinformation; Interview With Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA); Federal Reserve Chair: Prices Will Keep Rising Before Cooling Off. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired July 14, 2021 - 16:00   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: More than 93,000 Americans died from an overdose. The primary causes were fentanyl, methamphetamine, cocaine, prescription pain medications. If you or someone you know is struggling, call the national substance abuse hotline line at 1-800- 662-HELP.

"THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER" starts right now.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: One state reaching a whole new level of anti- vaccine insanity.

THE LEAD starts right now.

With young and unvaccinated people fueling this new explosion in COVID cases, the government of the state of Tennessee caves to anti-vaxers and ditches all vaccine outreach to kids, not just for the COVID vaccine. How deadly might this ascientific move prove to be?

A ticket out. As the Taliban hunts them down, President Biden gives a timetable for beginning to get Afghan allies who help the U.S. military safely away from Taliban guns. Okay, but when? When will the flights begin and what's the actual plan?

Plus, backpacks, notebooks, new kicks, lunches, why back-to-school season could have parents paying more and punching the air.


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

We start today with our health lead, and a surprising and dismaying move to stop all vaccine outreach to children despite the growing number of coronavirus cases among the unvaccinated. The decision made by Tennessee health officials just one day after firing their vaccine chief because she tried to promote shots for teenagers. The move coming as the COVID situation in the United States continues to get worse, not just in Tennessee but across the country. The U.S. now averaging roughly 24,000 new cases per day. That's a 75

percent jump from last week. And a whopping 93 percent spike from two weeks ago while vaccination rates continue to go way down, 41 percent down from just last week.

A big chunk of this problem is that far too many Republican leaders in the United States have decided to spew what conservative writer Jonah Goldberg calls a, quote, geyser of paranoia and asininity. They rejected science -- specifically, the science that created the very vaccines that then President Trump helped to fund and create through Operation Warp Speed, rejecting these vaccines is sadly tragically becoming a Republican policy position, even though 99.5 percent of the people dying of COVID in the United States, 99.5 percent are unvaccinated.

The White House's solution, such as it is, is to battle the misinformation about vaccines with a PR blitz, one that today included a pop star's appearance in the briefing room.

CNN's Erica Hill gets us started.


ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The White House calling in pop star Olivia Rodrigo --

OLIVIA RODRIGO, SINGER: It doesn't matter if you're young and healthy, get the vaccines to protect yourself, your friends and your family. Let's get vaccinated.

HILL: -- in an effort to boost vaccinations especially among teens and young adults as misinformation and politics threaten to derail vaccine progress.

DR. MICHELLE FISCUS, FORMER DIRECTOR OF IMMUNIZATION PROGRAMS, TENNESSEE DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH: It's pretty clear who they're listening to and it's not the scientists.

HILL: After sharing information on Tennessee's vaccine policy for minor, one of the state's medical directors was fired this week. Now according to documents obtained by CNN, the state has ordered a halt to all vaccine outreach for kids.

FISCUS: It is any kind of outreach around the importance of vaccines for children, around the importance of COVID-19 vaccine for adolescents, especially has been halted even going so far as to cancel events that are scheduled well into the fall for flu vaccination within schools.

HILL: The American Academy of Pediatrics calling her firing the most recent example of politicizing public health expertise.

DR. PETER HOTEZ, CO-DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR VACCINE DEVELOPMENT, TEXAS CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: What we'll see and the ones who will also pay the price other than the unvaccinated adolescents are the little kids who depend on the adults and adolescents to get vaccinated in order to slow or halt transmission.

HILL: In Mississippi, which has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country, seven children are in the ICU with COVID, two are on ventilators.

DR. CHRIS PERNELL, FELLOW, AMERICAN COLLEGE OF PREVENTIVE MEDICINE: We're too often falling back onto human behavior thinking that people will do what's in the best interest of the most, but that hasn't been proven to be true so far.

HILL: Hospitalizations skyrocketing in several states with one common thread.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The people who are being hospitalized are those who are unvaccinated. And we think that that's come with a lot of the unmasking.

HILL: They're also younger. South Florida seeing a surge in patients in their 30s and 40s. Meantime, the more contagious delta variant now accounts for nearly 60 percent of new infections in the U.S.


Nationwide, all but four states seeing a jump in new cases over the past week.

BEAU TIDWELL, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, NEW ORLEANS MAYOR'S OFFICE: The delta variant and the delta plus variant are here in Louisiana. It is real, and it is very frightening.


HILL (on camera): Jake, that is the message that we're hearing from officials across the country including here in New York City where we're told it is that delta variant that is fueling a new rise in cases in the city. We also learned today that from January to June, new cases, hospitalizations, and deaths in the city, nearly all of those were among the unvaccinated.

And this comes on the same day that the CDC is updating its ensemble forecast, predicting hospitalizations are likely to rise in the coming weeks, and this is after months of decline -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Erica Hill, thank you so much.

Let's go to Tennessee now. Let's talk to the chairman of the Nashville COVID-19 Task Force, Dr. Alex Jahangir.

Thank you so much for joining us.

Were you consulted at all about this change in the guidance on vaccinations for adolescents? And what do you make of what's going on in your state?

DR. ALEX JAHANGIR, CHAIRMAN, DAVIDSON COUNTY BOARD OF HEALTH: Well, good afternoon. Thanks for having me. You know, here in Tennessee, the National Metro Health Department is

independent of the State Health Department. So, no, we were not consulted regarding this. And, frankly, what the state is doing doesn't impact what we're doing here in Nashville. In fact, here in Nashville, we believe that vaccination's critical right before school starts, there are required vaccinations for kindergartners and seventh graders.

So, we are actively pursuing vaccinating everyone. In fact, we have a vaccine drive at a local school and we'll have drive every day for this next two weeks at local schools because vaccinations is extremely critical, and that's the best way we're going to keep you from getting sick. So, that's where we stand.

TAPPER: Well, that's great for the citizens of Nashville and that county. But what about the rest of your state? Are you not concerned as a physician that the decision to fire the vaccine director, to stop outreach about the COVID vaccine to minors, to teenagers, and also to stop outreach when it comes to just other vaccines that this is going to lead to a spike in COVID cases in Tennessee and other preventable illnesses and diseases?

JAHANGIR: Well, yes, of course I'm worried. I think the science has shown for decades now. You know, we don't see rubella, measles, and so forth in schools in kids. We have healthy children in America. And the reason we have that is there has been a robust immunization program now for multiple decades.

So, I think the best way to save millions of Tennesseans is to encourage vaccinations, to make it easy, and not buy into any rhetoric that vaccinations are problematic or there's anything bad about them. I think the politicization of vaccinations can truly have a really negative impact on Tennesseans and people around the U.S.

So, yes, I am concerned as a physician and as somebody who leads a local health department here in Tennessee.

TAPPER: So, I guess, what's happening? I mean, is there a pro-polio lobby in Tennessee? Why would anybody make these decisions?

I admit I'm biased, my dad's a pediatrician, I believe that immunizing children and saving their lives is a good idea. That's my bias. Who's running your state? What's leading them to make these decisions?

JAHANGIR: Well, you know, that's a question that I can't fully answer. I know the politicization of vaccines seems to be a relatively new trend because vaccinations in my both adult and childhood have never been political, right? So, we need to not politicize vaccines. We need to let science drive decisions.

We need to make sure the people and the children in Tennessee grow up healthy. And so, I -- there are some great people working at the Tennessee department of health. I know a lot of them, and I think it's really important to let these professionals do their job in a way that doesn't politicize the great work that they're doing.

TAPPER: All right. Dr. Alex Jahangir, thank you so much for what you do, and I that's for talking to us today. I appreciate it.

Let's go to CNN's chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Now, Sanjay, what concerns you the most about what the government of Tennessee is doing in terms of no longer encouraging outreach when it comes to the COVID vaccination for teens or vaccinations in general to minors?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's a clear sort of politicalization of a very sacred part of public health. I mean, we've seen this before. I've been reporting on these types of things before even before COVID, you remember there were measles outbreaks in various places around the country. This is a clear politicalization of it. I think that's the bad news.

The good news I think what the doctor was sort of alluding to is that Tennessee in 2020-2021 were doing pretty well with regard to pediatric and adolescent vaccinations. But now, you know, will this lack of postcards going out to remind people of second doses, outreach programs to remind people to get some of these pediatric vaccinations, will it make a difference?


Will people still go ahead and get vaccinated, you know, despite this politicalization? I hope so. I think that's the hope.

And we saw this throughout the pandemic, right, Jake. I mean, there would be -- mask mandates would be lifted and people would still wear masks in some of these places. So now it's becoming a question of will people still do the right thing despite the obvious very clear politicalization now of these sacred public health programs?

TAPPER: I hope that it's worth it. I mean, all these kids that could get sick with preventable illnesses, it's a disgrace.

GUPTA: Yeah.

TAPPER: Sanjay, you have a brand-new essay out this morning on the importance of being vaccinated. And what it means to be unvaccinated about the coronavirus. Tell us about the essay.

GUPTA: Well, first of all, we talk about this race often, Jake, the vaccines versus the variants. I've been following it closely. To be fair, we were very close to sort of crossing the finish line of how public health experts define this.

Fewer than 10,000 cases per day. It's at that point where you feel like you can get your arms and hands around this and feel that it's contained.

We got to 11,299, and the cases started to go up. They've gone up 100 percent roughly last week. At the same time, vaccinations have gone down 50 percent since the last week.

So that's -- that's the curve right now. The concern is that you're going to start to see those numbers persistently go up. And after that, as we saw this time last year, Jake, hospitalizations and deaths could follow. I can't believe I'm even saying that given how effective these vaccines are.

I think somebody told me, Barney Graham who's a deputy director at the NIH, said the country is basically now being fractured into vaccinated and infected. It's not vaccinated and unvaccinated.


GUPTA: This delta variant is so contagious, people have more than a thousand-fold higher viral load if they are carrying the delta variant in their bodies as opposed to the original strain. And as a result they are that much more contagious, Jake.

Casual encounters, even just walking by somebody, sharing air space a few meters away can be enough for transmission. So I'm worried, Jake. I mean, you know, I did not think we'd be having this discussion at this point about the pandemic.

TAPPER: Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thank you so much. I appreciate it. And I share your concern.

GUPTA: Yeah.

TAPPER: The Select Committee in Congress just announced the date for its first hearing on the January 6th insurrection. But there is one glaring issue outstanding.

GUPTA: Plus, in just moments the hearing begins that could help decide the future of Britney Spears. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our politics lead, President Biden today going all out for infrastructure. Moments ago, he met with a group of governors and mayors from across the country trying to sell them on the bipartisan Senate plan for roads and bridges.

Earlier today, he also met with Senate Democrats on Capitol Hill urging them to also support the $3.5 trillion budget blueprint. That also includes funding for Biden's sweeping social agenda, what he calls human infrastructure.

But as CNN's Jeff Zeleny reports, the future for both of these avenues remains anything but clear.


JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Biden making a rare return to Capitol Hill today, hoping to unify Democrats around his sweeping domestic agenda.


BIDEN: We're going to get this done.

ZELENY: With Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer by his side, the president is digging in to a sales job in two parts, a $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure and jobs plan and a $3.5 trillion budget package with the rest of the administration's priorities.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MAJORITY LEADER: Every major program that President Biden has asked for is funded in a robust way.

ZELENY: The $3.5 trillion economic proposal includes key pieces of Biden's American families plan, including extending the child tax credit for working families, overhauling the prescription drug program, expanding paid family leave programs, and offering two free years of community college.

For Biden, it's the biggest test of Democratic unity yet. With progressives clamoring for more spending on social programs and some moderates alarmed by this amount.

After appearing in a closed-door lunch with Senate Democrats, the president kept his conversations and any concerns close to the vest.

BIDEN: I have no comment.

I think we're going to get a lot done.

ZELENY: Several senators said they were still digesting the plan, which has no margin for a single defection in the Senate and room for less than a handful of dissenters in the House.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): I've been very clear, I want to see the pay- fors.

ZELENY: Yet both pieces of the Biden economic agenda are very still much a work in progress. Later at the White House, he met with a group of mayors and governors, Democrats and Republicans alike, to build support for the bipartisan infrastructure plan.

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president expects to sign both pieces of legislation into law. They're on a dual track as he long said they would be on.

ZELENY: The two-part approach is something of a high-wire act with the White House counting on GOP votes for the bipartisan infrastructure piece even as some of those same Republicans bristle at the price tag on the other spending plan.

REP. ROB PORTMAN (R-OH): A lot of Republicans are going to vote no. I believe every Republican will vote no on $3.5 trillion of new spending at a time when we are facing unprecedented levels of debt and probably historic levels of deficit this year.

(END VIDEOTAPE) ZELENY (on camera): So the president's schedule, Jake, tells the whole story. Earlier today, we saw him on Capitol Hill talking to Democrats only, but just right now he is meeting with a bipartisan group of mayors and governors in the Roosevelt Room here at the White House. So, clearly operating on two tracks.

We just came from that meeting and we asked the president briefly if those two tracks are a complication.


ZELENY: Mr. President, any concern that having two tracks here will disrupt the bipartisan agreement --

BIDEN: No. I think it's the only way to get it done is having two tracks.



ZELENY: So, the only way to get it done. That, of course, is the president's view. Jake, the timeline uncertain, this could take weeks or perhaps months -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Jeff Zeleny, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Also in our politics lead, media outlets in Detroit and "The Atlantic" are reporting this afternoon that the Michigan Republican Party executive director has stepped down after facing tons of pushback for telling the truth. Jason Rowe who took over the state's Republican Party in February in hopes of turning the page from Trump's big lie has resigned after continuing to get pressure from the Republican Party base for saying back in November that the election was not stolen, which is a factual matter. It's just true.

Let's bring in the "New York Times'" Maggie Haberman.

Maggie, just another example of Trump's stranglehold on the Republican Party. It is a fact that the election was not stolen, and yet this poor guy trying to lead the Michigan GOP to the future basically shown the door.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: You're going to see this over and over, I think, Jake, potentially where you're going to have the former president and his allies pressuring people in a handful of key states. We've seen it in places like Georgia. We obviously have seen it in Arizona, Michigan was another one of their key states where they are going to try to pressure people to take a look at this again.

And getting rid of the official is a part of that, because it is a way to try to undermine the basic fact as you said, the election was not stolen, but to try to call it into question, to try to order a review again. But this is a purge. I mean, that is what this is.

There is no other way to describe it. He said he resigned, this official, he wouldn't get into details, but everybody around the Michigan GOP is obviously pretty familiar with this story that this is still going on six months after the inauguration is really telling about where the party is and how frozen the party is and how Donald Trump has frozen it in place.

TAPPER: It's lunacy. In my home commonwealth of Pennsylvania, most Republicans, not Pat Toomey and not a couple others, but most of the House Republicans who are from Pennsylvania voted against counting the votes of Pennsylvanians during the election.

HABERMAN: Right. I mean, this is -- this is where we are at. We are at a place where one person says this is where I want it to be, and not every official but a number of officials are following along, either because they fear that he will undermine them in their own districts or he will come after them.

Look, he doesn't have the power to go after people the way he used to without Twitter. I mean, that's just the fact, and most Republicans --


HABERMAN: -- will privately admit that they are relieved. But he still has the ability to make life very complicated for Republicans and their districts and that is what they are afraid of.

TAPPER: The House Select Committee investigating the January 6th insurrection is going to hold their first hearing on July 27th coming up. How do you set a state without even knowing who's on the committee? The Republicans, Kevin McCarthy hasn't named anybody.

HABERMAN: No. And it's a great point. It speaks to this kind of fractured effort, right, where you've had Democrats having to move along after there was an attempt at a bipartisan effort, almost anything that is truly bipartisan in Congress and the infrastructure conversation aside, but almost anything that is truly bipartisan doesn't exist at the moment and certainly around January 6th and what took place that day.

So, there is a cart before the horse aspect of this. I'm not sure who Kevin McCarthy will put on. I think it's a pretty limited group of people, frankly, who he is likely to choose from. But, yes, this seems to be going in reverse order.

TAPPER: I'm sure it will be a bunch of sane and sober legislators. Maggie Haberman, good to see you.

With a target on their backs, Afghan allies who risked their lives for the United States will soon be flown to safety, we are told. But when and where are they going?

Stay with us.


[16:28:22] TAPPER: New in our world lead, a potential life line for thousands of Afghans who risked their lives by working with the U.S. military and whose lives are at risk if they stay in their own homeland as the Taliban continues its brutal campaign.

Today, the White House announced Operation Allies Refuge which will start relocating those allies, many of them interpreters at the end of July. But the Biden administration still is not saying where they will go or how many of the thousands requesting help will be evacuated or how they will get from their homes to wherever they're going.

CNN's Oren Liebermann now reports.


OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): For General Scott Miller, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, the war is over. But for thousands of others, the fight to follow him is just beginning. On Wednesday, the White House finally announced its plan to evacuate Afghan interpreters and their families who helped the U.S. during 20 years of war, calling it Operation Allies Refuge.

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Our objective is to get individuals who are eligible relocated out of the country in advance of the withdrawal of troops at the end of August.

LIEBERMANN: The flights are set to begin next week, but the White House won't say exactly when or where the flights will go for security reasons. President Joe Biden last week promised a safe haven, a place in the U.S. for the Afghans who wanted to come.

BIDEN: We will stand with you just as you stood with us.

LIEBERMANN: But the U.S. has processed only 2,035 special immigrant visa applications since the start of the year, less than Biden's claim of 2,500, and there are still more than 15,000 Afghans whose applications are still being processed, something that typically takes two years.


Complicating matters, some of these applicants are in remote areas of the country, not in Kabul.

KIM STAFFIERI, CO-FOUNDER, ASSOCIATION OF WARTIME ALLIES: All the major highways and all the checkpoints have been taken over by the Taliban. Many of the airports have already shut down.

LIEBERMANN: Kim Staffieri and the Association of Wartime Allies spoke with one man trying to get his visa as the Taliban closes in on his home.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm very, very worried about myself. They're going to cut off my head off and they're going to kill me.

LIEBERMANN: The Biden administration has faced criticism from both Democrats and Republicans for its lack of a plan to evacuate Afghans and their families who helped the U.S.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): As the Taliban moves toward threatening cobble, the Biden administration seems to have no plan to efficiently process special visas of the Afghans who helped us.

LIEBERMANN: The entire process is under pressure. The withdrawal of U.S. forces will be finished at the end of August. It's already more than 95 percent complete. And that leaves little time and protection for the thousands of Afghans and their families who also want out.


LIEBERMANN: A U.S. official with direct knowledge of the discussions around where to bring these Afghan applicants for Special Immigrant Visas says it is likely that some of these Africans would will be brought to U.S. military installations in the United States.

Other options include installations overseas or third countries.

Jake, the question, it seems, is not one of where to put them, even if the administration isn't telling us where. It's a question of the pressure and the timeline to get this done and do it quickly.

TAPPER: All right, Oren at the Pentagon, thank you so much, Oren Liebermann.

Joining us now, Massachusetts Democratic Congressman Seth Moulton. He's a Marine captain who served for tours in Iraq.

Congressman, you and, frankly, a bipartisan coalition have been calling for a detailed plan to evacuate Afghan allies. Are you satisfied with what you have heard from the White House about Operation Allies Refuge?

REP. SETH MOULTON (D-MA): I'm very happy, Jake.

This is a massive step in the right direction. For the last few weeks, I have been asking very specifically for three things, a plan, a commander and a commitment to see this through. We now obviously have a plan. They have identified a commander. And now we just need to keep pressure on the White House to ensure they see this through until all our Afghan allies are evacuated to safety.

TAPPER: Well, when you say all, how many are we talking about? Because the numbers are very unclear.

Biden has talked about approving 2, 500 Special Immigrant Visas, SIVs, since he took office, but, as you know, more than 9,000 have successfully filled out the paperwork. And there's a backlog. So there's about 19,000 that are at least in the pipeline, not to mention many of them have families, wives or husbands and children and others that they want to bring so they don't get slaughtered too.

How many people ultimately do you think the Biden administration is going to be able to get out?

MOULTON: So, look, this is a key issue. And this is -- you have done a good job of laying out the range of numbers.

If you take what I have heard as a planning number, 3.5 family members for every Afghan in the pipeline, you multiply the 19,000, 18,000 or 19,000 in the pipeline by 3.5 to get to 70,000. So we have a range that goes from 2, 500 that the president used in his speech last week up to 70,000.

This is one of the key areas where we continue to press the administration for answers. And, obviously, we want that number to be as big as it has to be. We have got to plan for a big number like 70,000. And then if it comes in lower than that, because not all these Afghans want to leave or they don't want to bring as many family members as we anticipate, that's OK.


And, Congressman, I have to say, I mean, 70,000 people, that's a very optimistic look at how many people the Biden administration is planning to pull out. I'm skeptical it's going to be that many.

But Afghanistan's about the size of Texas. You just heard in Oren's piece half of these allies, Afghan allies, can't get into the safety zone in order to evacuate because the Taliban controls major highways, checkpoints, much of the country. How are they going to get from these far -- these provinces far from Kabul, far from Bagram to the refuge in Afghanistan to be flown out?

MOULTON: And you're right, Jake. This is another major issue. And it gets worse by the day, as long as the Taliban keeps taking over district senators, provinces and checkpoints.

And I want to just put the 70,000 number in perspective, though. You're right. That's a lot of people. To be perfectly honest, I don't expect it will be that many that we ultimately evacuate.

But that's still only half of the number that we brought out of Vietnam. So this is something America can do, no matter how big the number is. And, look, the fact that we're going forward with this, the fact that we're doing this is a real victory, not just for Afghan translators, but for American values.

This is the right thing to do. And it's just fantastic across the board that the Biden administration is moving forward.


TAPPER: Well, I hope that your optimism is well-earned, ultimately.

Congressman Seth Moulton, thank you so much for your time today, sir. Appreciate it. And thank you for your service, as always.

A new book reveals the ugly truth about how Facebook amplified misinformation, enabled Russian hackers. And the details are, quite frankly, shocking. The book's authors will join me next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) TAPPER: We're back with our tech lead and damning new details about

just how much Facebook executives knew, knew about Russian interference during the 2016 election and how little the company did to stop it.


The stunning revelations come from the new book "An Ugly Truth: Inside Facebook's Battle for Domination, " which details one instance, for example, where a Facebook security analyst watched in real time as a Russian hacker traded messages with a right-wing American journalist and, days later, that journalist posted excerpts from the hacked Clinton campaign e-mails, a hack that the Justice Department says was carried out by the Russians.

This Facebook employee who watched this says his team knew about Russian efforts like this for months before the 2016 election and tried to sound the alarm to executives multiple times, and were ignored.

The book's authors, Sheera Frenkel and Cecilia Kang, join me now. They're both also reporters for "The New York Times."

Congratulations on the book. It's fantastic. It's upsetting. It's very upsetting. I thought when I started reading it, you have all these details about these creepy Facebook people stalking women. And I thought, oh, God, this is bad. And that's nothing. That's the appetizer.

So let me ask you. Sheera, I will start with you. You write that the Facebook security team was anticipating that the Russians would try and use Facebook to interfere in the 2016 election, but they had no plan, Facebook had no plan to deal with that?

SHEERA FRENKEL, CO-AUTHOR, "AN UGLY TRUTH: INSIDE FACEBOOK'S BATTLE FOR DOMINATION": They were looking for the kind of traditional hacks that they'd always seen. So they thought they might try to breach the network, they might try to hack into Facebook, the company itself.

They didn't think about things like propaganda. They didn't think about what the Internet Research Agency was doing all over Eastern Europe. And I don't think it's necessarily on the security team, but on the company executives who on a very high level were hearing from their people in Europe that these things were problematic, that Russia was getting really creative and how it attacked democracies, and they just didn't pass those warnings down to the security team.

TAPPER: And, Cecilia, when did the Facebook security team first realize that Russia was using, Russians were using the platform to try to interfere in the election? And what were the first indications that this was going on?

CECILIA KANG, CO-AUTHOR, "AN UGLY TRUTH: INSIDE FACEBOOK'S BATTLE FOR DOMINATION": It was many, many months before they actually became public, went public with their discoveries. And, really, one very important thing that we tried to do in this book

is to show how this particular incident -- and we really spool out that anecdote -- was part of a pattern, a pattern of warnings to top executives, and the warnings not heed -- the executives not heeding the warnings or taking action.

And so Sheera can tell you a little bit more about the background of that one.

FRENKEL: Yes, I mean, they find the Russian hackers in the spring of 2017. And it takes them until the summer to find the IRA, to find the trolls that were buying advertisements and all that.

And still the American public has to wait a number of months before they find out. I mean, I think in one very telling scene, you have Facebook's security team actually finding Russian ads in one part of the building. And then just down the hallway, you have a member of Facebook's P.R. team telling journalists that there were still no Russian ads found.

TAPPER: Really?

And in the days after the 2016 election, Facebook was being blamed for information -- for allowing misinformation to spread, which helped Trump win. Chief security officer Alex Stamos called a meeting with Mark Zuckerberg and Sheryl Sandberg to present a report about everything his team knew, everything they knew about Russia's efforts on Facebook.

You write that the executives were -- Zuckerberg in particular was caught off-guard. What were the findings and how could he be caught off-guard?

KANG: Well, he -- what was what was really astounding and very surprising to us is that there was a whole trail of reports that were handed -- actually that was supposed to be sent up to reach Zuckerberg eventually.

But the security team was finding -- they were finding a dead end every single time that they're trying to warn executives. They were finding evidence of election interference really many months before it became public.

And in a very famous scene, Zuckerberg calls many executives in what's known as his aquarium, his office, his conference room, and he says -- he uses explicit expletive and says, oh, my goodness, how did we miss this?

And that was really the first time that he had acknowledged some of the reports that the security team had been trying to push up to him.

TAPPER: Yes, I want to read this response from Facebook, just out of fairness, because we asked Facebook for a response to the book's claims about Russian interference and Facebook.

And they said -- quote -- "Much has been written about the fact that, in 2016, we and those in the government and media did not fully recognize the nature and scope of foreign interference in our elections. Since 2017, we have removed over 150 covert influence operations originating in more than 50 countries and a dedicated investigative team continues to vigilantly protect democracy on our platform both here and abroad."

Do you have faith that they have done enough? I mean, weren't a bunch of the January 6 insurrectionists, a bunch of those violent white supremacist groups that participated, weren't they messaging and posting on Facebook?


I mean, Facebook is very good at answering the question that they want to answer. So have they fixed some of the problems around disinformation and specifically Russia, Iran, China launching campaigns? Yes, they have done an immense job in hiring up security officials and expanding the security team that looks for it.

But they haven't solved their misinformation problem.


They haven't solved Americans spreading conspiracies, false rumors and, you know, highly partisan news to one another. And in the lead up to January 6th, that was the problem. The problem was that they were allowing President Trump himself to spread, you know, all sorts of conspiracies about voter fraud, about the election being stolen. And to this day, they don't really have a clear policy on what they're going to do.

It's just a matter of time before this happens again. I think that's the important thing to take out of this book is that unless the policies change, unless really the executives making the policies change, how is this just not going to repeat itself over and over again?

TAPPER: And we should note, this is not a company that is struggling. It's not like they don't have the money to hire people. They make tens of billions of dollars.

KANG: Yes.

TAPPER: So, what's holding them back? What is holding Zuckerberg back from actually hiring the people that can at least try to get a finger on this problem?

KANG: Yeah. They are -- they are a company that's at such incredible scale with 3 billion users around the world. And if you count the other apps, WhatsApp and Instagram, they have 3.4 billion users around the world.

I mean, they are right now trying to play whack-a-mole. But their hammer that they have to play whack-a-mole is so small compared to what they're up against. This is just an immense amount of information that is either toxic, false, harmful in some way that's coursing through these apps every single day.

So they are trying to solve this through expanding the security team and hiring content moderators. But it's a huge problem and they are playing catch-up and they're very far behind.

TAPPER: All right. Well, the book is "An Ugly Truth" by Sheera Frenkel and Cecilia Kang -- thank you so much for joining us. And best of luck with this excellent and rather upsetting and chilling book. Good to see you both.

Everything from food and clothing to cars and gas, why is life so much more expensive? How long will this last? That's next.



TAPPER: In our money lead today -- today, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, Jerome Powell, said eventually the surge in prices will cool off -- the keyword, of course, there "eventually". For now, everything from used cars to groceries is costing us more, and the Fed expects prices to keep going up for a while.

Let's bring in Matt Egan. He's the lead writer for CNN Business.

Matt, how long are we talking here? When do economists expect prices to level off or even go back down?

MATT EGAN, CNN BUSINESS LEAD WRITER: Well, Jake, Powell said today that prices will likely stay elevated for some time before eventually cooling off. And they're definitely elevated right now. Consumer prices rose in June at the fastest annual pace since 2008.

Let me give you just a few examples.

Used cars up 45 percent over that last 12 months. That means a car that was $20,000 a year ago is now fetching $29,000.

Gasoline also up 45 percent, that means $2 a gallon a year ago is now $3.

One more example for you, milk is up 6 percent. That means you're paying almost 25 cents more for a gallon of milk.

And, Jake, and note on used cars, it's gotten to the point where some people who bought cars last year are now selling them for a nice profit. That is not normal. Cars typically lose value as soon as they are driven off the lot. But this is an unusual circumstance.

It is important to keep all this in context. Prices were crashing last spring. But that's because the pandemic had shut the economy down. People weren't doing anything. They were staying home.

Right now, the economy is coming back, and the rising prices is evidence of that. The problem is that supply is having a hard time catching up to demand. TAPPER: And we should note, I mean, a good segment of the American

population simply cannot afford these price hikes.

EGAN: Yeah, Jake, no one likes higher prices, but it's so important to remember that inflation is the most painful to those who can least afford it, low-income families. And remember, those are the same families who are hit the hardest by the pandemic.

TAPPER: Parents are starting to think about going back to school, going back to work. But they are paying for more food and gas and we'll see the federal child tax credit kick in tomorrow, I know to help some families, but there are economists cautioning Biden against too much federal stimulus.

EGAN: Yeah, there is this ongoing debate right now. In one camp, you've got economists like Larry Summers. They're worried that Washington is actually going to make inflation worse by essentially overmedicating the patient. You've also got the CEOs of JPMorgan and Blackrock. They have come out and said, listen, we don't think that inflation is going to be temporary.

The Fed and the White House think that the prices will cool off. Jake, at the end of the day, no one knows for sure. That's because there's no playbook for what happens to inflation after a once in a century pandemic.

TAPPER: Matt Egan, thanks so much. Appreciate your time.

Britney's battle is back in court. A hearing going on right now as she fights to get back control of her life and her pop empire. But can she handle it? We'll hear from her.

Stay with us.



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

This hour, the president who launched the war in Afghanistan and then proceeded to shift most man power resources and forces to Iraq tells Biden that he's making a mistake ending America's longest war. What are the unbelievably consequences for Afghanistan that Bush is now warning Biden about?

Plus, right now, the case of Britney Spears' conservatorship. Back in court, the pop star fighting for control of her life. What might she say this time and what are the facts beyond the hashtags?

And leading this hour, a brazen plot to kidnap a U.S. journalist from New York City and take her to Iran. Prosecutors have charged four Iranian nationals in the scheme allegedly backed by the Iranian government.

Masih Alinejad is an outspoken critic of the Iranian regime and its brutality and misogyny, and not long ago, she says the FBI came to her house in the U.S. and said it's not safe for you here. In moments, she will join us live to talk about her experience.