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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Biden Meets German Chancellor Angela Merkel at White House; Surgeon General: Misinformation a Serious Public Health Threat; House Minority Leader McCarthy Meets with Trump Allegedly to Discuss 2022; CNN Visits Louisiana Hospital with Most COVID Patients in the State; In Rare Interview, Justice Breyer Talks Possible Retirement. Aired 4- 5p ET

Aired July 15, 2021 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: For once, having a kid is good for your bank account.

THE LEAD starts right now.

President Biden saying it can be life-changing for many families. The much-anticipated child tax credit that passed Congress in March hits bank accounts today and just in the nick of time as the cost of living soars.

The Biden White House firing back against vaccine lies and conspiracy theories as CNN visits a hospital where younger, sicker patients are gasping through an entirely preventable fourth wave.

And speaking of the fountains of misinformation, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy meets with former President Trump today to kiss his ring before McCarthy decides who to put on the select House committee to investigate that MAGA riot.


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

We begin today with the politics lead. Any moment, we expect President Joe Biden to hold a news conference along with German Chancellor Angela Merkel who is visiting the White House for likely her last time after 15 years at the helm. And while this is expected to be a publicly friendly exchange, Biden plans to bring up some issues related to China as well as the controversial Russian pipeline while Merkel will likely be looking for clarity about Biden's plans for Afghanistan given the almost complete withdrawal of U.S. troops and the recent successes of the Taliban.

At the same time, the White House today is fighting a different kind of war, one against misinformation and the coronavirus. Speaking today at the White House press briefing Surgeon General Vivek Murthy said, quote, health information has cost us lives, unquote, and nearly every death we're seeing from COVID-19 could have been prevented. Dr. Murthy referred to 10 members of his own family who have died from

COVID-19. And as CNN's Kaitlan Collins reports, Murthy's urgent calls come as vaccination rates across the country are plummeting.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The surgeon general issuing a dire warning today calling COVID-19 misinformation an urgent threat.

DR. VIVEK MURTHY, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: We must confront misinformation as a nation.

COLLINS: The stark words coming during a rare appearance in the briefing room by Dr. Murthy on his unprecedented advisory.

MURTHY: Surgeon general advisories are reserved for urgent public health threats. Today, we live in a world where misinformation poses an imminent and insidious threat to our nation's health.

COLLINS: The surgeon general citing studies showing that even the briefest exposure to misinformation made people of less likely to get vaccinated.

MURTHY: It's painful for me to know that nearly every death we are seeing now from COVID-19 could have been prevented. I say that as someone who has lost ten family members.

COLLINS: Much of that misinformation circulates on social media platforms like Facebook, but Biden's top aides have declined to say whether those companies should be held accountable.

MURTHY: Much, much more has to be done and we can't wait longer for them to take aggressive action because it's costing people their lives.

COLLINS: President Biden turning the focus to his economic agenda, touting monthly payments known as child tax credits that started going out to families today.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: This can be life-changing for so many families.

COLLINS: Established as part of his coronavirus relief package, the Biden administration will send up to $300 per child per month to most American families for the rest of the year, and single parents with incomes up to $112,000 and married couples with incomes up to $150,000 are eligible for the full benefit.

BIDEN: I think this will be one of the things that the vice president and I will be most proud of when our terms are up.

COLLINS: Parents that filed recent tax returns or got stimulus checks are expected to get paid automatically, but one difficulty facing the White House is finding those outside the tax system. JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: And, certainly, we will

vigilant and do everything we can to reach every single person who is eligible.

COLLINS: The White House has indicated they want to make the child tax credit permanent, but tonight, they are also tamping down concerns about inflation amid fears the economy could overheat.

PSAKI: The data shows and the Federal Reserve chair who operates independently conveyed yesterday that most of the price increases we are seeing are expected to be temporary.


COLLINS: Now Jake, a big crux of the surgeon general's argument today was that the companies like Facebook have really allowed misinformation to poison our information environment with little accountability to their users, though the White House is still declining to say whether or not they believe those companies should be regulated over misinformation when it relates to coronavirus vaccines.

TAPPER: All right. Kaitlan Collins at the White House, thanks so much.

The U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, joins us now.

Dr. Murthy, today, you said this is personal for you. You lost 10 family members to coronavirus, family members who did not have the opportunity to get vaccinated. You're also the father of two young children who aren't eligible for the vaccine.


What is your biggest fear here?

MURTHY: Well, Jake, my biggest worry is that we have the ability to save people's lives, to protect them from COVID-19. And we're not making full use of that opportunity. We're not bringing that life- saving potential to people who otherwise have it. And one of the things that's standing in our way is misinformation.

And I think everyone, Jake, has the right to have accurate information so they can make their own decisions about their health and the health of their families. But millions of people don't have access to accurate information right now because on social media platforms and other tech platforms, we're seeing the rampant spread of misinformation, and it's costing people their lives.

TAPPER: The solution to this, of course, is -- is difficult because obviously, there is a First Amendment right to free speech and freedom of the press in this country. So what exactly is the solution? We can't be telling -- the government can't be telling organizations that they cannot publish or cannot post things on media.

How do you propose fixing the issue?

MURTHY: Well, Jake, in the advisory I issued today, we called for an all of society response because it turns out there are steps many of us can take to help address the spread of misinformation. Yes, there's a role for technology companies in being more transparent with the data they have and changing their algorithms to avoid, again, sending misinformation to people again and again.

But as individuals, we have a choice about what we choose to share online. And if we pause before we share, if we check our sources to make sure they are coming from credible scientific resources, if we choose not to share if we're not sure about the sources, that's one way that we can help prevent the spread of misinformation. But it's going to take all of us, Jake, doctors and nurses speaking directly to communities, educators helping to build digital health literacy, government bringing people together to take aggressive action and certainly companies as well, the technology companies, being more responsible, being more transparent and accountable when it comes to stopping the spread and minister information online.

TAPPER: Well, what do you want the tech companies to do? Because, like, for instance, one of the big sources of misinformation, are, you know, politicians on the right wing. In the past when it comes to different kinds of vaccines, we've seen left wing people. But -- well, Robert Kennedy Jr. is a big anti-vaxxer and has been out there for years with an anti-vax message spreading misinformation and telling lies.

What do you want tech companies to do when it comes, to you know, either being Marjorie Taylor Greene on the right or Robert Kennedy Jr. on the left?

MURTHY: Well, Jake, there are a number of steps tech companies can take to prevent the spread of misinformation. Number one, they can identify people who are super-spreaders of misinformation and limit the information that they share. Number two, they can take the data that they have that tells us how much misinformation is really spreading, who it's affecting. They can share that publicly and transparently with researchers.

They can also, Jake, take a closer look at modifying their algorithms which, again, serve up content that's false to people. Sometimes again and again, if they look at the false content once because that's the way the algorithms are designed. Tech companies will say they have taken some steps forward, and they have, but we need much more action from technology companies.

This is not a problem we can take years to solve. People are losing their lives. Their health is being impacted right now. And so, it's really incumbent on these companies to step up their game.

TAPPER: What is the most specific misinformation that you're seeing that is according to data and studies stopping people from getting vaccines?

I mean, we see lies from people like such as Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene just taking numbers and statistics and twisting them or just inventing them. What -- according to your research what is the information that comes back from people when you survey them as to why they think it isn't safe, even though obviously it isn't safe, I've been vaccinated, you've been vaccinated, et cetera?

MURTHY: Well, Jake, it depends a bit on the age group that you're talking about, but I'll tell you some of the top myths that appear to be influencing people are, number one, the myth that the COVID vaccine causes COVID. It does not.

Among young people in particular, there's a myth that the COVID vaccine may cause infertility or DNA mutations. In both cases, that is also false. There's no scientific evidence that suggests that. But what we're seeing is that is in fact affecting people's decisions.

The last one is the idea that if you've had COVID in the past, you certainly don't need a vaccine now. That also is not true.

While you likely have some degree of protection if you've been infected in the past, we don't know how long that immunity lasts. And we've also seen that the immunity that you get from the vaccine appears based on antibody levels to be potentially superior to what you get from natural infection alone.

So, these are some of the myths that are out there, Jake. We see them spreading on social media and see them showing up in survey results. Two-third of the unvaccinated either believe one of these myths or think they might be true.


So that's what we've got to address.

TAPPER: This anti-vax paranoia and hysteria, while it does exist on the left and the right and in groups regardless of politics, it is now seeping in an official way, in many ways, into the Republican Party, even though President Donald Trump is the one who began Operation Warp Speed that got us these vaccines. Are you worried that in states such as Tennessee where officials are not even relaying information on just the COVID vaccine but on any vaccines to adolescents, we're headed towards a real public health crisis?

MURTHY: Well, Jake, I'm very worried about what's happening with the flow of scientific information to the public at this point. Science has allowed us to save lives. It's what is the underpinning of good medicine.

And when we have good scientific data that tells us how to prevent COVID, whether it's information about vaccinations for adults or for adolescents, it's essential that we get this information to people.

Blocking that information, attacking the public health officials who are trying to bring that life-saving information to adolescents and parents, this is not in line with saving lives. It's counterproductive, and it ultimately is a disservice to people who depend on all of us as health professionals to get them the right information so they can make decisions about things like vaccines.

So I am worried. I do think what has happened is many parts of this pandemic have become, unfortunately, controversial and politicized. We've got to get away from the politics of it. We've got to focus back on getting people evidence-based scientific information so they can protect themselves and their families.

TAPPER: A lot of ignorant demagogues out there with blood on their hands.

U.S. surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy, thank you so much for your time and our deepest condolences --

MURTHY: Thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: -- on your family members who you have lost to COVID.

MURTHY: Thank you so much, Jake. Appreciate it.

TAPPER: House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy meeting with former President Trump before he makes his picks for the January 6th select committee, the guy top generals feared wanted to stage a coup that day, according to a new book. That's next.

And some progressives are trying to push him out fearing results of future elections. But is Justice Breyer about to retire? What did he tell CNN exclusively?

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our politics lead today, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California met with former President Trump today at Trump's Bedminster golf club. The meeting coming as McCarthy continues to weigh which House Republicans he will tap for the Select House Committee to investigate the January 6th Capitol Hill insurrection. This following reports that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, was concerned that Trump could try to stage a coup in the aftermath of his 2020 loss.

CNN's Ryan Nobles joins me now from Capitol Hill.

Ryan do, we know why McCarthy met with Trump and what they discussed?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, the only two people who know for sure what happened in that meeting are the former president and the House minority leader. At this point, neither side offering a readout of that conversation.

But we know going in that McCarthy's purpose was to talk to Trump about the record fund-raising totals that he and his House Republicans have brought in over the past couple of months and also to talk about vulnerable Democrats that they're going to go after in the 2022 mid- terms. But the timing of this, Jake, is, of course, very suspicious. It comes right at the time that Kevin McCarthy has to name his five picks to the house select committee to investigate the January 6th insurrection. He's yet to do that, and that committee will hold its first hearing at the end of July.

So it stands to question whether or not that is a topic of conversation between Trump and McCarthy given the fact that Trump could be a big focus of this committee's work -- Jake.

TAPPER: And, Ryan, are Republicans on board with this meeting?

NOBLES: You know, it's interesting. A leader reflects the people that he leads, right, and it's not a surprise that most House Republicans have no problem with Kevin McCarthy meeting with President Trump.

I caught up with Tom Cole from Oklahoma. He's certainly a conservative, but he's not a more controversial member of the House Republican caucus. This is what he told me of the meeting earlier today.


REP. TOM COLE (R-OK): I think it's perfectly appropriate for him to be visiting, you know, with the former president or any other political figure that, you know, people that might be running. That's sort of his business, and, you know, he's our -- you know, our leader.


NOBLES: So he's the leader of the Republican Party, the Republicans in the House have no problem with Donald Trump playing an important role in their future, and that goes what happened in the midterms and beyond -- Jake.

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

This McCarthy/Trump meeting comes amid the release of a slew of new and explosive books that paint a disturbing picture of Trump's time in the White House.

Joining me now to discuss is presidential historian, Douglas Brinkley.

Professor Brinkley, thanks so much for joining us.

A new book by "Washington Post" reporters Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker claims that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Milley thought Trump was the classic authoritarian leader with nothing to lose, unquote, and allegedly told his aides in regards to Trump's continued lies about the election results, quote, this is a Reichstag moment, the gospel of the fuhrer.

Now for people who aren't that familiar with World War II history, Reichstag moment, that refers to the 1933 attack on Germany's parliament building that Hitler used as a pretext to establish a Nazi dictatorship. Now, a source close to Milley says the general was not calling Trump a Nazi but was concerned that Trump's rhetoric could lead to an environment of that kind of seizing power in the midst of controversy and insecurity.

[16:20:06] DOUGLAS BRINKLEY, CNN PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, "I Alone Can Fix It" is a stunning book people have to read, and it has a lot of Nazi symbolism in it. General Mark Milley talked about the Trump supporters. He fears them as being brown shirts, referring to Adolf Hitler's followers.

Now, of course, nobody is equating Trump to Hitler, but what's powerful here is that the U.S. military leaders, our top generals, admirals, Joint Chiefs of Staff are worried that Trump has a fascist fixation of staying in power, and they even -- Milley calls the Boogaloo Boys and the Proud Boys, these fascist groups Hitler-like troops and we all know at times, Donald Trump seems different at a Charlottesville event or during a debate just says, I tell the Proud Boys to, you know, stand back and stand ready.

So Trump dabbles in this sort of fascist Hitler-like imagery from time to time, and he dabbled enough in it that it frightened our Joint Chiefs of Staff and top military brass that Trump is unglued. And, in fact, Milley, Jake, says that's what we fought World War II against, the very type of people that were assembling on January 6th at the Capitol.

TAPPER: Well, and that's the thing. It's not really about the Nazi part of it so much as it is about the authoritarian part of it, the idea --


TAPPER: -- that this country actually came closer than we possibly ever have, at least in the last century, to having a leader seriously attempt to overturn a democratic election. It was done rhetorically. It was done in courts. It was done before election boards, and -- and he continues to lie about this, and then we saw what happened on January 6th.

How concerned are you given the fact that Trump has not gone away and this authoritarian impulse, this desire to make it easier to overturn the will of the people is if anything gaining steam?

BRINKLEY: Yeah. I'm deeply concerned. In "I Alone Can Fix It", Nancy Pelosi talks about talking to General Milley, saying, how do we know Trump won't use a nuclear weapon? This guy is unstable, he'll do anything to stay in power and there weren't any guarantees. And in the military, they were talking about a mad man being in the White House and we've got to land this aircraft, you know, safely.

The fact that our best and the brightest in the military, someone like General Milley who went to Princeton and Columbia graduate degrees, Naval War College, just an incredible intellectual, was this deeply concerned about what Trump was up to.

And what it is, it's a rise of fascism in America and Donald Trump is the leader of it, and these books that are coming out now are just building a portrait of an authoritarian president, Donald Trump, that was completely hell-bent on not relinquishing power, truth be damned. TAPPER: Yeah. And it's not just the Nancy Pelosis of the world. I

mean, it's people who served under Trump. It's former General John Kelly, it's General Mattis. It's John Bolton. Now, on these allegations Trump responded by -- with a statement today in which he said in part: I never threatened or spoke to anyone a coup of our government, so ridiculous. Sorry to inform you, but an election is my form of coup. And if I was going to do a coup, one of the last people I want to do that with is General Mark Milley.

That is quite a statement. If I was going to do a coup, one of the last people I would do it with is General Milley.

BRINKLEY: What we're dealing with in Donald Trump is somebody who's clever and smart but is a bit of an imbecile and has no sense of history. And in the famous moment when General Kelly went to Europe with Donald Trump and Trump started praising Hitler about the autobahn and roads, and Kelly looked at him and said, don't ever say anything nice about Hitler.

We all know not to do that. Nobody would do that. But Trump maybe didn't read the memos about World War II perhaps. I mean -- and I think, you know, the late writer, Jake, Norman Mailer, used to tell me about -- you know, that in history, sometimes only a few names get now, you know? So, Andy Warhol will pay Mao Tse Tung or Elvis Presley.

I think Trump wanted to always be in that class of a known name, and he never took the time to know that you don't want to be considered with Mao or Mussolini or Hitler in any way, shape or form. He saw them more as celebrities because he never did the deep reading on what their policies represented and how heinous they were to the world.

TAPPER: Yeah. That anecdote you just mentioned about Trump praising Hitler, saying he did do some things right, that comes from Mike Bender's new book, and Trump denies that story, but a source familiar with that conversation confirms to me that Bender's account is correct.

Douglas Brinkley, thank you much for your time and your perspective.


Younger patients staying sicker longer, 99 percent of them are unvaccinated. A look inside a COVID wave that did not have to happen. That's next.


TAPPER: In our health lead today, America's children who have not yet been cleared for vaccines are depending on the rest of us to get vaccinated. That was part of the surgeon general's plea today to get vaccine procrastinators or vaccine skeptics on board, as individual states struggle to vaccinate, inform and keep that highly infectious delta variant at bay.


CNN's Miguel Marquez takes us to Louisiana today where the state is experiencing an entirely preventable fourth wave on the bayou.


MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The latest coronavirus surge hitting hospitals across Louisiana. Patients struggling to breathe, now younger, sicker and staying in the hospital longer, say doctors, treating them.

DR. FRANK COURMIER, ICU INTENSIVIST, OUR LADY OF LOURDES REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER: Something new that I'm having to struggle with is now having to tell 4 and 5 and 9-year-olds about their loved one and not being able to get them hem or being able to see them and that's difficult, and I don't want to go that over and over again.

MARQUEZ: Doctors and nurses stressed a long year getting longer. Lafayette's Our Lady of Lourdes Regional Medical Center has had the highest number of COVID patients admitted in the state.

COURMIER: We're going to exhibit now more stress on the system, more stress on us as we're having to take care of these patients. Once they arrive they are in the hospital for weeks and months.

MARQUEZ: The Bayou State entering its fourth coronavirus surge driven by low vaccination rates currently only about 36 percent of residents here are fully vaccinated, and the rapidly spreading delta variant, accounting for 60 percent of infections here.

How fast is the virus growing in the community here?

DR. JOSEPH KANTER, LOUISIANA STATE HEALTH OFFICER: Well, right now, we've had the highest number of new cases, almost 2,000 new cases today than we over had going back three or four months. Delta variant up until last week was doubling in prevalence, every two weeks.

MARQUEZ: In Monroe, in northern Louisiana, St. Francis Medical Center has admitted the second highest number of COVID patients in the state.

DR. JOHN BRUCHHAUS, CRITICAL CARE SPECIALIST & CO-ICU DIRECTOR, ST. FRANCIS MEDICAL CENTER: We're seeing patients in their 30s and 40s. Ninety-nine percent of the patients that are presenting are unvaccinated, people that are having symptoms to the emergency room.

MARQUEZ: The hospital now expanding its capacity for COVID-19 patients.

Dr. John Bruchhaus is in an ICU that usually cares for patients getting out of surgery. It's been emptied and is again being prepared for coronavirus patients.

BRUCHHAUS: We know that our area has about 25 percent to 30 percent influx of the delta variant. We expect every seven to 10 days for that to increase by 10 to 12 percent. So, we're concerned that over the next three to six weeks that the large majority of the virus in Louisiana will be the delta variant.

MARQUEZ: One vaccination clinic here putting a couple dozen into arms daily. They were doing hundreds a day just a few months ago. They say overcoming anti-vaccination conspiracies, the hardest part of their job.

KATIE BARBER, DIRECTOR, PRIMARY CARE SERVICE LINE, ST. FRANCIS MEDICAL GROUP: Seeing people, seeing their loved ones seeing other people that they know love and trust receive it and seeing that they are perfectly fine, I think that's what it really takes is making it personal. Or someone in their family becoming very sick, then makes it a priority.


MARQUEZ (on camera): Now, as impossible as it may seem for some to get vaccinated, doctors, health professionals we spoke to said, look, if you are vaccinated and there is someone you love that is not, don't harangue them, don't tease them, don't mock them, just stay on them, keep asking them, give them good information. Keep working on them. There is a large persuadable number out there that will eventually get the vaccine -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Miguel Marquez in New Orleans, thank you so much.

Joining us now to discuss, Dr. Joseph Kanter. He's the state health officer and medical director for Louisiana. Dr. Kanter, thanks for joining us.

You heard in Miguel's piece from a doctor in northern Louisiana saying that 99 percent of the patients coming to the emergency department with COVID, 99 percent are unvaccinated. That squares with what we're seeing across the country.

Right now, only about 36 percent of the entire state of Louisiana's population is vaccinated. Governor John Bel Edwards, he's been very pro-vaccine from the beginning. Why are so many Louisianans not getting the shot?

DR. JOSEPH KANTER, LOUISIANA STATE HEALTH OFFICER: Thanks, Jake. It's good to be with you.

Governor Edwards has been pro-vaccine and pro-science. We're very thankful for that.

It's challenging and our challenges are very similar to our neighbors, Arkansas and Mississippi. When you get into rural locations, particularly in the South, there's a lot of mistrust out there, and then there's a lot of misinformation and deliberate disinformation, and I'll tell you, it's really challenging.

I was so happy to see the surgeon general put out the advisory against misinformation today, because we feel it every day. People read things on social media, and it gets into their head. It's usually based on nothing at all. But these myths have become so pervasive and they do so much damage.

You know, last week, we had a 24-year-old ER nurse in Lafayette died of COVID.


We had a 30-year-old clergy member from the town of Eunice died of COVID. Those families are really suffering and at the end of the day, it's preventable. That's the real kick in the gut here.

TAPPER: Those two individuals you mentioned, I assume you're saying that they were not vaccinated is the point you were making?

KANTER: Yeah. I can't talk about their cases more than that. But, I mean, 97 percent to 99 percent of both the cases and the deaths that we've seen over the past five months have been unvaccinated individuals. When breakthrough cases do happen, which is someone that's fully vaccinated that still gets COVID, and they do. You know, it needs to be said, these vaccines provide excellent but not absolute protection.


TAPPER: There are no 100 percent vaccines, right? I mean, there's no vaccine in the world that is 100 percent on anything.

KANTER: No, that's right. I mean, 94 percent, 95 percent efficacy is a grand slam for vaccines. You know, few vaccines come that close, but it's not 100.

TAPPER: Right.

KANTER: When we do see breakthrough cases, they're usually mild or asymptomatic. So much suffering, morbidity, mortality is due to unvaccinated individuals getting it, spreading it, and then infecting their family members.

TAPPER: Dr. Kanter, let's talk about misinformation from the vaccine. What are you hearing and, how is the state of Louisiana combating it?

KANTER: Yeah, we're really trying a kitchen sink approach right now. We work really hard to engage trusted messengers. And at this stage in the vaccine campaign, I think a lot of us need to be humble enough, I need to be humble to know I am probably not the best messenger for everyone. The governor is probably not the best messenger for everyone. My department is not the best messenger.

But somebody is a good messenger -- a community member, a physician, a leader, a member of their church. So, what we're trying to do is partner with organizations, find those trusted messages and empower them with facts and resources to go talk to people and get their questions answered. Like Miguel said a minute ago, there's a large moveable middle amongst the people that have yet to choose to get vaccinated that probably will get vaccinated. They just haven't done so yet. They're on the fence. They have questions and I think we can still reach those people.

TAPPER: Operation Warp Speed, through which so many of the vaccines were discovered or at least funding for distribution came, that was started by President Trump, who has said a few things here and there praising the vaccine, but has not used the force of his platform and his popularity among many voters to push people to get the vaccine.

What would be the impact, do you think, if President Trump did a tour of Louisiana, urging -- focused entirely on urging Louisianans to get vaccinated?

KANTER: I think it would move the needle. But I hold every elected official to that. If you're an elected official and you're not talking truth about the science right now, if you're spreading disinformation, there are literally lives on your hands, on your shoulders right now.

And, look, Trump did not make this vaccine. Biden did not make this vaccine. The scientists, a lot of them, made this vaccine, and now it's been proven over eight-plus months.

TAPPER: Yeah. Dr. Joseph Kanter, thank you so much for joining us. Thank you for what you do. Good luck out there.

With some liberals trying to nudge him out the door, in a rare interview, Justice Stephen Breyer of the Supreme Court tells CNN whether he has plans to step down.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: A CNN exclusive in our politics lead. He's not trading the bench for a rocking chair just yet. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, the high court's most senior liberal-leaning justice, will turn 83 next month, spoke -- speaking to CNN, revealing for the first time his thoughts on a possible retirement.

CNN legal analyst and Supreme Court biographer, Joan Biskupic, spoke exclusively to Breyer.

So, Joan, big scoop here. What did he have to say to you?

JOAN BISKUPIC, CNN SUPREME COURT ANALYST: Well, you know, I was curious. There's been so much speculation about what Stephen Breyer would do. Would he give Joe Biden his first chance to put a lifetime appointee on the court?

So I went up to see him, and I said, have you decided when you're going to retire? He said no. He just still has not made that choice. I asked him what kind of factors would lead to it. He said number one his health.

And he's feeling really good right now. You mentioned he's going to be 83 next year -- next month. He's pretty vigorous 83. He stays active. He jogs. He travels.

And he said the second consideration would be the court, the integrity of the court. And here's a man who thinks of himself as a consensus builder and he's now in the new role that you mentioned, the senior liberal, somebody who speaks sooner in their private meetings. He feels like he's got a chance to influence the court, to bring about more cross-ideological consensus as he did on the Affordable Care Act cases term.

He actually feels like he's a force for good right now. And I know there are so many voices saying, it's good you have been a voice for good, but it's time to leave because we don't want to risk what happened with Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

TAPPER: Bader Ginsburg.

And that's the thing. It's not how good he is or how influential he is.

BISKUPIC: That's right.

TAPPER: There are a bunch of Democrats and progressives out there saying, if you stick around and Republicans take the Senate or you stick around longer and Republicans take the White House and the Senate, your seat is going to become hard conservative.

What does he make of all the calls for him to resign?

BISKUPIC: OK. So, first of all, I think he's trying to tune them out. You know, he's trying to -- during the court term he was basically working on his cases. Now he's up in New Hampshire away from it all.


He's got a book coming out in September that is thinking about the promotion for that. He's trying to promote it as a sitting justice. And I think his idea about what happened with Ginsburg and the kind of dice he may be rolling here is that he has another year for sure, because, theoretically, Jake, the Senate would say Democratic.

I mean, obviously, it's a one-vote Democratic Senate right now. There's a risk there but something could happen to someone.

TAPPER: A Democratic senator could die, right, right.

BISKUPIC: Yeah, exactly right. But let's say that doesn't happen and let's hope it doesn't happen for all the reasons we wouldn't want somebody to die, you know, unexpectedly. The midterm elections would be next November of 2022, and he could -- he could go at the end of the next term, stick around, decide some of the abortion and gun rights cases, things that he believes he could have a strong hand in.

TAPPER: All right, interesting. So maybe he'll retire next June, but who knows? No indications that he will.

Joan Biskupic with another great scoop, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

BISKUPIC: Thank you.

TAPPER: We're just one week away from the Olympics and we're learning one of the most iconic parts of the medal ceremony is going away because of COVID.

Stick around.



TAPPER: In our faith lead today, as Israel and Gaza continue the attempt to pick up the pieces from their recent conflict, CNN is taking a close look at Jerusalem, the city considered a holy site for three of the world's most prominent religions, Judaism, Islam and Christianity.

A new CNN original series, "Jerusalem: City of Faith and Fury", dives into the tension that dates back thousands of years.


NARRATOR: The 12 tribes of ancient Israel have united under King Saul and met the Philistines in battle.

JODI MAGNESS, ARCHAEOLOGIST, UNIVERSITY OF NORTH CAROLINA: The Philistines have sent a man, Goliath, out on to the battlefield who has challenged any other Israelite to battle. And because of his size, none of the Israelites were willing to take him up on the offer.

So, at this point, David enters the story. David was the youngest of eight sons, and the story goes that David was basically a shepherd boy who would take his father's flocks out.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: All together he's one of history's most fascinating characters. He was a poet, a singer.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He's a little guy. He's not a smooth politician. He's not an administrator. He's not a schemer. He's the on sift all of that. He acts on impulse.


TAPPER: CNN's Pentagon correspondent Oren Liebermann joins us. Before covering the Pentagon, Oren was stationed in Jerusalem for CNN for years.

Oren, what is the current dynamic in Jerusalem?

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: Jake, it would be a mistake to think that the current tensions are something new to the city. This has been a city because of its religious importance to Christianity, Islam and Jerusalem, has been in conflict for thousand of years, and that's what this series dives into, religious conflict because at different times in history it's been ruled under Jewish rule, Christian rule and Islamic rule, but then political conflict as well. With the religion so close together, the political and national identities that tie into that, it's all part of it.

And it's not just the past that makes Jerusalem significant, it is the future because of Jerusalem's place in prophecy when it comes to biblical prophecy and it's important and fascinating to remember that when it comes to Jerusalem, the power of the stories for Jerusalem is very often more powerful than the truth of the stories. And that's why it has such an impact on people and that's why the series dives into the conflicts that have defined the city and in many ways defined human history over the course of thousand of years here.

TAPPER: And, in fact, the most recent military conflict between the Palestinians in Gaza and the Israelis have to do with East Jerusalem, and who was there and how long and who has a claim to it. Is there any movement at all towards trying to find a solution towards Jerusalem?

LIEBERMANN: I think a conclusion talking about it, theorizing about it is a nice thing to do. I think it's hard to look at the conflict right now and say there is a solution in the foreseeable future. Certainly not one that satisfies the political, national and religious aspirations of everyone there and everyone around it. Critically, there's an attempt to find a solution that makes the city much more livable. Nothing that makes it happy but something that makes it possible to live in what is an incredible city for all its faults, for all its issues and for all its problems.

TAPPER: All right. Oren Liebermann, thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Check out the premiere of this new CNN original series, "Jerusalem: City of Faith and Fury" this Sunday on CNN at 10:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific.

Coming up, President Biden will take reporters' questions after his meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. We'll bring that to you live.

Plus, leaders of America's military were on alert for a coup attempt on January 6, according to a new book, and that's not the only shocking thing we've learned about Trump's final days in office.

Stay with us.



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

This hour, President Biden faces reporters questions alongside German Chancellor Angela Merkel. And when it comes to some top issues, the two allies are not on the same page. Plus, the health crisis wrapped in a pandemic. A surge in deaths from drug overdoses, reaching record highs.

What's being done about it?

And leading this hour, a serious fear at the time that then outgoing President Trump was on the precipice of staging a coup. That stunning revelation that the nation's top military officer, General Mark Milley, was that worried comes in a new explosive book about the final days of the Trump presidency. It's one of a couple of books that are revealing for the first time the extent to which democracy was in even more peril than we knew at the time.

And if you're wondering where the Republican Party goes from here?