Return to Transcripts main page

The Lead with Jake Tapper

COVID-19 Cases Rising in All 50 States & DC; Biden Says Facebook is "Killing People" with COVID Misinformation; Biden's Hill Agenda in Trouble As Bipartisan Talks Fray; CDC: 2020 Saw Highest Overdose Deaths Ever Recorded; New CNN Reporting: U.S. Intel Warning Taliban Are Advancing at Accelerated Pace in Afghanistan. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired July 16, 2021 - 16:00   ET



VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: Yeah, Matt Rivers is there doing some fantastic reporting. Still a lot of questions that we're trying to get answers to.

THE LEAD with Jake Tapper starts right now.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: There is no state in the United States where you can hide.

THE LEAD starts right now.

Every single state in the nation seeing a rise in COVID cases as the United States hits a fourth wave largely because of the tens of millions of Americans who refuse to get vaccinated. And one of the biggest cities in the United States is now bringing back masks.

Women and girls living in fear of a return to the dark oppressive rule of the Taliban as the U.S. leaves Afghanistan. Will they lose their freedom, their chance at an education, even their lives?

Plus, rivers exploding their banks. Hundreds missing, dozens dead after the heaviest rainfall in a century in Europe.


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

And we begin today with the health lead and the pandemic of the unvaccinated. That's what the White House is calling the alarming rise of new COVID cases across the United States.

That's right. For the first time in months, every single state in the U.S. is seeing a rise in new cases. The majority of the country shockingly red as you see in that graph. Deaths, hospitalizations, they're also up from last week. And that's because the delta variant is surging, and not nearly enough Americans are vaccinated.

The White House says that four states, Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, and Nevada account for more than 40 percent of all the cases in the past week. The White House also says that one in five of all cases is in Florida.

The Biden administration is blaming misinformation, not just on far- right TV channels. They're singling out social media, specifically Facebook, for enabling misleading claims about vaccines to spread.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They're killing people. I mean, really -- look, the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated. And they're killing people.


TAPPER: CNN's Erica Hill starts us off now with those alarming new COVID numbers.


ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Masks back on in Los Angeles County where new cases are surging.

DR. MINTU DAVIS, HEALTH OFFICER FOR LOS ANGELES COUNTY: Anything is on the table, you know, if things continue to get worse, which is why we want to take action now.

HILL: Starting Sunday, faces must be covered indoors even if you're fully vaccinated. Nationwide, new infections are up 67 percent in the last week rising in every state in D.C. for the first time since January.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The danger is as more unvaccinated people get infected, and delta is so contagious, it's really transmitting at a speed that I haven't seen since the very beginning.

HILL: Deaths up 26 percent. Hospitalizations, 36 percent in the last seven days.

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: This is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated.

HILL: Vaccinations down 11 percent in the last week. Tennessee one of the states with the lowest vaccination rates in the country just 38 percent saw new cases increase 84 percent in the last week.

Florida accounts for one in five new cases in the U.S.

WALENSKY: Our biggest concern is that we are going to continue to see preventable cases, hospitalizations, and, sadly, deaths among the unvaccinated.

HILL: As the administration beefs up outreach --

OLIVIA RODRIGO, POP SINGER: Wear your mask and get your vaccine.

HILL: -- new questions about breakthrough infections in fully vaccinated Americans. The Yankees forced to cancel Thursday's game after six players tested positive.

NFL anchor Rich Eisen announcing he too tested positive, crediting the vaccine for sparing him from a far worse experience.

DR. JASON YAUN, VP, TENN, CHAPTER OF THE AMERICAN ACADEMY OF PEDIATRICS: In reality, no vaccine is 100 percent effective. Fortunately, these breakthrough cases are generally asymptomatic cases or mild cases. The vaccines do a tremendous job of protecting against severe infection and death.

HILL: A message Noelle Collier is also sharing after losing her unvaccinated mother.

NOELLE COLLIER, LOST UNVACCINATED MOTHER TO C OVID-19: I want people to understand that COVID is not gone. I'm fully vaccinated, and I still got COVID. But I recovered. The vaccine is worth it.


HILL: Jake, the FDA is confirming today that it is prioritizing its review of Pfizer's vaccine. In fact, the acting FDA commissioner even tweeting that this is among the agency's highest priorities. One official telling CNN that full FDA approval for that vaccine could come in the next two months -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Erica Hill, thanks so much.

Let's bring in CNN's senior data reporter Harry Enten right now.


Harry, you wanted to find out if the people who are unvaccinated because they don't trust the vaccine, they don't trust science, were the same people who believe the big lie about the election that it was stolen and that there was fraud? Are they the same?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: I mean, look, if you believe that Joe Biden won the election legitimately, more than 80 percent of those folks have been vaccinated. That's a pretty clear correlation. If in fact you believe the op sis opposite, which is that Joe Biden won only because of election fraud, only about a third of those folks have been vaccinated.

So, clearly, what we're seeing is a correlation between your beliefs about the election and whether or not you've been vaccinated.

TAPPER: Okay. So, there's an overlap, but it's not like just a -- the Venn diagram is not just a circle. What are the differences?

ENTEN: Yeah, this to me is so incredible. Only 51 percent of Americans believe, one, that Joe Biden won the election legitimately, and, two, have received at least one dose of the vaccine. Forty-five percent of Americans either don't believe Biden won the election legitimately and/or have gotten a first dose of the vaccine. So, we're basically a 50/50 nation at this point not just with our elections but when it comes to conspiracy theories, that 51 percent versus 45 percent, one of the scariest statistics I've seen. And you know I look at stats all the time.

TAPPER: Yeah, you do. Is this surprising to you?

ENTEN: You know, no. If I'm being honest with you, it's not surprising to me. Why is that? It's because we know that Americans love to believe in conspiracy theories. There was a study back in 2012 that looked at a bunch of different conspiracy theories. What it found was that 63 percent of Americans believed in at least one conspiracy theory.

So the 45 percent who either haven't gotten the vaccine at this point and/or believe that Biden only won because of election fraud tends to line up with it. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people who just don't want to believe in the truth and they're endangering a lot of us.

TAPPER: And conspiracy theories that you're referring to, we're not talking about something fun and Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster.


TAPPER: This is about whether the government knew about 9/11 ahead of time, like really dark stuff.

ENTEN: That's exactly right. These are dark conspiracy theories -- 9/11, believe the '04, the '12 election were stolen. Believe something false about Barack Obama's upbringing, that he wasn't born in the United States.

So, we're talking about deep dark stuff here. A lot of Americans believe this false information out there, and unfortunately, Jake, there are a lot of people peddling it and people believe those people.

TAPPER: A lot of people on the Internet. Some people on other channels.

ENTEN: It's just -- I wish people would be much more honest with their viewers like you and I are being right now.

TAPPER: All right. Harry Enten, thanks so much for being here.

ENTEN: Thank you.

TAPPER: Always good to see you.

Let's discuss the medical side of this with Dr. Megan Ranney. She's a professor of emergency medicine at Brown University.

Dr. Ranney, thanks for joining us as always.

The surgeon general told me yesterday that the misinformation, these lies around vaccines have a lot to do with social media. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DR. VIVEK MURTHY, SURGEON GENERAL: Millions of people don't have access to accurate information right now because on social media platforms and other tech platforms, we are seeing the rampant spread of misinformation and it's costing people their lives.


TAPPER: So Dr. Ranney, I guess the question is what can health professionals do about it?

DR. MEGAN RANNEY, PROFESSOR OF EMERGENCY MEDICINE, BROWN UNIVERSITY: You know, Jake, I hear these lies every day in the ER when I ask my patients if they've been vaccinated or not. So many of them repeat back to me this misinformation or untruths they've heard on social media.

There are a few things that we can do. The first thing we can do is to have those conversations. Whether it's doctors and patients or whether as friends and family members at the dinner table, at a bar, sitting outside at a barbecue that we can talk about the truth about vaccines. That's a first step.

A second thing, of course, is there needs to be societal-level action. We can identify bots and spreaders of lies on social media. You and I both have probably reported, muted, or blocked a lot of them. And it's time for social media companies for big tech to step up and do the same.

TAPPER: Yeah, there was a study that came out in May identifying just 12 individuals as being the source of most of the misinformation, disinformation about the vaccines on Facebook. They included Robert Kennedy Jr., who his false posts about the vaccine, I think he was removed. He was bumped off Instagram. But he's still on Facebook.

There are people who have concerns about whether or not it's appropriate for any White House to lean on any social media company about the information they pose. I know that's not a subject that's your expertise.

But do you think if the social media companies were going to try to combat this more, that it would make a difference in saving lives?

RANNEY: I do. And a really important fact is that this did not start with COVID. A lot of these anti-vaccine lies date back decades, and they've expanded as people have had access to social media.


So it started with some false publications around the measles vaccine and autism. That has been disproved and retracted. But as we know led to a lot of folks deciding not to get the measles vaccine.

There are similar lies around other vaccines, flu, HPV and so on. So, there is a track record here, and this is not about differences of opinion, this is about frank untruths that are being spread purposefully. There's a difference between making a mistake, between the human misunderstanding sometimes of statistics and actually spreading these conspiracy theories with an intention to mislead others. And that's very identifiable and certainly is something that we can do something about.

I mean, we do fact-checking, and sometimes folks make mistakes and then you correct yourself. There's a big difference between that and what's on social media right now.

TAPPER: Robert Kennedy Jr. is a disgrace and a menace, as are the other individuals who share these lies.

According to census survey data, there are millions of Americans who say they're not going to get a COVID vaccine because they're concerned about side effects, they don't trust vaccines in general, they don't believe they need vaccines, they don't trust the government.

How do we convince these people? How do we reach out to them in a constructive way?

RANNEY: So there's a couple things. Here at Brown we're doing a project with communities across the country to work with community- based organizations to help both identify these misinformations or frank lies that are spreading among communities and then to help trusted messengers within the community to combat those messages. Again, on a one-on-one basis, on a community level from trusted messenger to family members, neighbors, church members, and folks like that.

So, that's one way to combat it. The other way is to keep sharing truth, to call out the untruths and to say, hey, here is the reality. An example there, there was a paper published in JAMA Pediatrics a couple of weeks ago making false statements around masks and kids. A lot of us in the scientific community called it out and it got retracted today.

Now we need to spread the news that that was retracted. That's another way to combat misinformation and lies.

TAPPER: And just to underline this point. 97 percent of the COVID cases and deaths in Louisiana where there's a surge right now, 97 percent are of those who are not fully vaccinated. And in other places we're hearing statistics like 99.5 percent of the deaths are unvaccinated people. If that ugly fact is not enough, what more can be done?

RANNEY: I think it needs to be said over and over that the vaccines protect you from severe disease, hospitalization, and death even with the delta variant. There may be this moment of like the woman whose story you just played, hearing those stories from people around you of the fact that someone who wasn't vaccinated got sick and died and someone who was vaccinated did fine. Those personal interactions are often the thing that change our mind. I wish we didn't have to get to that point. But it seems that that's where we're heading.

TAPPER: Dr. Megan Ranney, thanks so much. Good to see you as always.

Coming up, how a plan to go after tax cheats could sink the chances of the bipartisan infrastructure deal. That's next.

And the pandemic super-charging another health catastrophe, the shocking number of drug overdoses has been revealed.



TAPPER: In our politics lead today, President Biden's $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal is in danger of buckling. Republicans are recoiling at the idea of giving the IRS more money for enforcement. Democrats say that's one of the best ways to pay for the plan, and that's just the bipartisan part of Biden's two-pronged legislative push, as CNN's congressional correspondent Ryan Nobles reports.


RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The legislation hasn't even been drafted. But already, President Joe Biden's agenda is in serious trouble on Capitol Hill.

BIDEN: I don't think it's dead, I think it's still alive.

NOBLES: Biden and congressional Democrats are attempting to shepherd through two massive pieces of budget spending, a more than $4 trillion expansion of the federal government along two tracks, one with GOP support, the other without. The bipartisan plan close to $1 trillion infrastructure package now facing a critical test, a Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer wants to put a procedural vote on the floor to begin the process.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), MAJORITY LEADER: I've talked to some of our Democratic members of the bipartisan group. They're making very good progress.

NOBLES: While a collection of Republicans have agreed to the concept in principle, the details are still being hammered out, including actually writing the bill and figuring out how to pay for it. Many are not ready to start voting next week. And one provision in particular empowering the IRS to step up their enforcement of unpaid taxes has Republicans concerned.

SEN. JOHN CORNYN (R-TX): The biggest, most important issue is the pay- fors. We simply can't afford to spend more borrowed money, especially on nonemergency matters.

NOBLES: The White House remains confident the bill remains on track.

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We certainly understand the ups and downs, no one better than the president. That's the period of time we're in at this point.

NOBLES: This while the process begins to pass a separate $3.5 trillion budget package with only Democratic support. The bill could be filled with long-held Democratic priorities including things like a major Medicare expansion, climate change provisions like putting limits on fossil fuel consumption, and immigration reform, something progressives are cheering.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): This bill is absolutely a progressive victory.

NOBLES: But that has some moderates like West Virginia's Joe Manchin concerned. At this point though, he doesn't plan to stand in the way.


SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): I'm going to evaluate everything they put forward. I'm not saying what I support and what I don't support.


NOBLES: As an example of there being so many things that could knock this bill off track, it has yet to have been scored by the Congressional Budget Office in part because it hasn't been written. But the CBO could determine that many of the ways to pay for this bill just aren't based in reality, and, Jake, that could cause some Republicans and even some Democrats to back away from the process -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Ryan. Thanks so much. Appreciate it. While the White House is dealing with infrastructure, Biden is going on the offensive against Facebook for vaccine disinformation. Let's listen to what the president said this afternoon.


BIDEN: They're killing people. I mean, really -- look, the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated. And they're killing people.


TAPPER: The question was specifically about what's his message to social media companies such as Facebook. And he basically said they're killing people. The White House has really been on the offensive on this. What do you think and why go after Facebook and not the individuals like Robert Kennedy Jr. who are putting these lies on Facebook?

SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: The White House has made it very clear this week that these social media companies, Facebook, Twitter, other information providers, really have a major role to play in controlling and stopping this misinformation that's going out there, which is why I think you've been so aggressive. They know that obviously, Facebook itself is not the original purveyor of that information, but they are pushing the tech companies saying you have a responsibility here to make sure that this disinformation doesn't spread, because we've seen -- we're at the point now in terms of vaccine availability that if you want the vaccine, if you know about its benefits, you've probably gotten it by now. So they're really reaching out to people who are, you know, hesitant

for whatever reason, and a lot of that comes from this fundamental misunderstanding of the benefits, of information about the vaccine. That's kind of the phase where they're really trying to combat right now.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: But we should note that Facebook knows this is a problem. This is a known issue. The infrastructure for vaccine misinformation was very much there in the Facebook and in particular space. Robert Kennedy Jr., you mentioned him. But there are anti-vax influencers that are out there that have used that platform to spread misinformation.

So, the fact that it's coming out now I'm actually a little surprised because this was a huge issue when the measles was going around and that information was getting out. Facebook knows this is happening, and these people are still slipping through the cracks.

TAPPER: The White House cited a report that came out in May. The report identifies what they call the disinformation dozen, 12 people including Robert Kennedy Jr. But then a bunch of other people that you might not know their names, who are sources of lies about the vaccine, providing these 12 people I think more than 60 percent of the lies on Facebook -- I don't have an issue with Facebook dealing with it, but I guess a couple things.

First of all, is there not a problem here with the White House telling private companies what content to allow and what content not to allow? We see the opposite of this from conservatives who get mad when Nazis are taken off of Twitter or Facebook.

KIM: Actually, Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked variations of that question several times in her briefing earlier today. And her response to those questions were actually pretty aggressive. She was, like, at the end of the day, these platforms are still contributing misinformation, and we all care about people being healthy, making sure people don't die because they're unvaccinated.

So, that's -- I'm sure they understand some of the concerns about -- concerns that some of the conservatives have been raising. But for them, the message that they're sending at the end of the day is that, look, what matters here is that people are not getting the right information, and that is having a fatal impact on the rest of the country.

TAPPER: So, House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy tweeted yesterday following the surgeon general urging social media companies to get control of this misinformation that they say is killing people.

McCarthy wrote: The Biden administration just announced they're working with Facebook to censor more Americans. Big tech and big government want the same thing. To control you. As a reminder, America is a land of freedom.

What do you think?

KUCINICH: Sounds like a fundraising request to me.



KUCINICH: The entire Republican Party has just kind of adopted this as part of the whole culture war package that has been -- that has been part of their messaging structure this cycle. And I don't -- it seems to be resonating, right? They have no incentive to stop it because it is resonating with their base, cash is flowing in, and I guess public health be damned.


TAPPER: Well, if you don't -- if facts and decency aren't important to you, then there is no incentive. I mean, facts and decency mean a lot to a lot of us but for McCarthy, I guess not.

At the same briefing somebody from Fox, which also has a lot of people on who say things about the vaccine that are not true, asked a question premised on a lie, which was that the White House was going through people's Facebook pages and private information to come up with this list. It's not true.

But, once again, we see another example of just lies making their way into the air waves. But, again, you know, that Fox correspondent has every right to lie or be mistaken about this.

KIM: Right. That question was part of the broader question that -- broader points that we discussed a couple of minutes ago about concerns about, quote, government control of kind of these platforms and information platforms. Again, at the end of the day, the White House is really focused on making sure that having this misinformation out there is what matters.

They see how powerful Fox News and other news media and other information platforms, and how damaging they can be when it comes to the basic issue of public health and the efficacy of vaccines, and that's why you're seeing this escalated push. I'd be really interested to see what more they do in the coming days and weeks to kind of go on the offensive against Facebook to battle this misinformation.

TAPPER: Yeah. I mean, it's attention we see a lot in America, which is security versus freedom. And they're not always together.

Seung Min Kim, Jackie Kucinich, thanks so much for joining us.

The Taliban already rounding up unmarried women, barring girls from schools. What horrors could be ahead as the U.S. leaves Afghanistan?



TAPPER: In our health lead, 93,000 families in the United States mourned loved ones last year, not because of the coronavirus but because of an all-together different but no less devastating health crisis. The CDC says that opioid overdose deaths rose 30 percent last year, the highest number of overdose deaths ever recorded in the United States.

CNN's Elizabeth Cohen finds out how we got here.


ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Michelle Branch watched her brother Craig struggle with drugs ever since he was 12.

MICHELLE BRANCH, BROTHER DIED OF DRUG OVERDOSE: Alcohol was always his drug of choice but he would use anything that would help with his anxiety.

COHEN: In September, Craig didn't show up to take care of an elderly relative and Michelle got a call that he might be in trouble.

BRANCH: I just screamed and cried. I knew my brother was gone.

COHEN: Her worst fears confirmed. Craig died from an overdose of fentanyl at the age of 56.

While the U.S. was in the throes of a global pandemic, there was another health crisis tearing through the country, and Craig was just one of the victims. Preliminary data shows that in 2020, U.S. drug overdose deaths rose by nearly 30 percent, hitting the highest number on record. More than 93,000 people died from drug overdoses in 2020 compared to 72,000 in 2019.

DR. JOSH SHARFSTEIN, JOHNS HOPKINS BLOOMBERG SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: The pandemic caused a tremendous amount of grief, trauma, economic, and social dislocation. And all of that contributes to people using drugs.

COHEN: PJ Champion Sallie has lost both of her two children to drugs. Her daughter Ashley just this past January. He runs a support group for moms like her.

As a mom who runs this website, you have an eye on what's going on. Did you notice an increase during the pandemic?

PJ CHAMPION SALLIE, DAUGHTERS DIED OF DRUG OVERDOSES: Oh, yeah. I can't tell you the number of moms that have lost a second child. It is absolutely gotten to be worse than an epidemic. They had no support system anymore. They didn't have their shelters. They didn't have their meetings. Those things are absolutely crucial.

COHEN: Michelle says the pandemic played a role in her brother's death.

Because this was during the pandemic, was it more difficult to get your brother help?

BRANCH: Yes, absolutely. There were no AA -- in-person AA meetings. It was all virtual.

COHEN: She said she hated losing her brother, but she knew he was at peace.

BRANCH: A calm came over me because I just felt like, he's free, he's free, he's free from everything that he's gone through since he was 12.


COHEN (on camera): People suffering from addiction will tell you that the best treatment is connection, connection with other people who are also suffering. Jake, obviously that was such a tough thing to do during the throes of the pandemic and we're seeing the results unfortunately.

TAPPER: So sad. Elizabeth Cohen, thank you so much for that report.

Afghan women and girls now living in fear that their lives will be set back decades as the U.S. leaves Afghanistan. That's next.



TAPPER: In our world lead, new CNN reporting about U.S. intelligence assessments warning that the Taliban are advancing their grip across Afghanistan, quote, at an accelerating pace as the U.S. nears the final stretch of withdrawal.

CNN's Kylie Atwood joins us now live from the State Department.

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: These intelligence assessments continue to paint an increasingly bleak picture of Afghanistan as the Taliban continues to make these gains potentially creating a situation where there could be threats to the outer edges of Kabul and also to the greater country as a whole.

Now, we are told that there is no imminent threat to a Taliban takeover of Kabul itself of that city center of up to 6 million people who live there.


But this is a quickly evolving situation, and folks are watching what the Taliban does next.

TAPPER: On this topic, Kylie, former President Bush issued a rare public criticism of a fellow president, Joe Biden. Take a listen to his response this week when he was asked if he thinks the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan is a mistake.


GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT: I think it is, yeah. Because I think the consequences are going to be unbelievably bad. And I'm sad. I spent -- Laura and I spend a lot of time with Afghan women, and they're scared. I think about all the interpreters and people that helped, not only U.S. troops but NATO troops and it seems like they're going to be left behind to be slaughtered by these very brutal people. And it breaks my heart.


TAPPER: Kylie, has the White House responded to Bush's comments?

ATWOOD: Well, the White House has said they respect the former president's right to voice his opinion. They just disagree with him. But what they did say is that they do agree with him, saying that the U.S. needs to continue supporting Afghan women.

Now, we are already seeing the rights of those women rolled back, demolished in some places as the Taliban makes their gains across the country.


ATWOOD (voice-over): With just week away from a full withdrawal from Afghanistan, and the Taliban making massive gains across the region, the man most responsible for first sending in U.S. troops back in 2001 is now sounding the alarm about pulling out.

BUSH: I'm afraid Afghan women and girls are going to suffer unspeakable harm.

ATWOOD: A fear shared by many women and girls being left behind.

MAHBOUBA SERJA, AFGHAN WOMEN'S RIGHTS ACTIVIST: We are going to lose our voices and we will have no room, no place.

ATWOOD: A recent intelligence U.S. report finds Afghan women's rights would be at risk after coalition withdrawal and that the Taliban still had a restrictive approach to women's rights and would roll back much of the last two decade's progress if the group regained national power.

HEATHER BARR, INTERIM CO-DIRECTOR, WOMEN'S RIGHTS DIVISION, HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH: The overall picture is deeply alarming for women and girls.

ATWOOD: Experts say the Taliban is already quickly restricting women's rights in the regions they have taken over, banning women from leaving home without a male escort, rounding up unmarried girls and widows to force them into marriage, even restricting their access to basic medical care or education, barring girls from attending schools beyond sixth grade.

BARR: The Taliban essentially wants women and girls to be prisoners in their own homes.

ATWOOD: More is at risk for the generations of women's rights activists in the country. There are fears they could be assassinated for their advocacy, and experts worry even the women living normal lives with careers could face deadly consequences.

BARR: They're also killing off women and girls who they see as having stepped out of this kind of world they see as acceptable for women. The message is clear if you don't a boy the restrictions, the consequences can be death.

ATWOOD: But some members of the Taliban say they're more evolved on these issues than they were 20 years ago.

SUHAIL SHAHEEN, TALIBAN SPOKESMAN: We are not against the basic rights of women. That is education and their work.

ATWOOD: But there is little evidence of that on the ground right now.

BARR: One of the things they're doing very quickly is imposing restrictions on women and girls. And the restrictions that they are imposing are pretty similar to the types of policies they had in the period before 2001 when they were in control.

ATWOOD: And now, 20 years after the Taliban lost control, there's a generation of women that have only known more freedom and choice. But many now dread the horrors that their mothers endured.

BARR: The war in Afghanistan was sold to U.S. voters using imagery and stories about how the Taliban were mistreating Afghan women. I don't think that you get to disown all responsibility after that level of intervention.


ATWOOD: Now, the State Department, the Biden administration, is in the process right now of preparing a plan to relocate thousands of Afghans who worked alongside U.S. troops and U.S. diplomats in recent years and are facing threats from the Taliban. What the State Department has not said is if they are considering doing the same -- relocating Afghan women and potentially providing them visas to the United States. They said they are providing them with assistance, but we are waiting to see if they are going to also provide them with visas.

TAPPER: All right. Kylie Atwood at the State Department, thanks for that report.

More bad news out of Afghanistan, a photojournalist for "Reuters" died while covering a clash between Afghan security forces and the Taliban.


Danish Siddiqui (ph) was embedded with Afghan special forces when the cross fire erupted. Here you see some footage he shot just days before he was killed. "Reuters" said in a statement, quote, we are currently seeking more information, working with authorities in the region. Danish was an outstanding journalist, a devoted husband and father, and a much loved colleague.

May his memory be a blessing Coming up, homes and business under water, and caked in mud. Hundreds

still missing in historic flooding in Europe as scientists warned this might not be so rare in the near future. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our Earth Matters series now, as the Western United States endures yet another record heat wave on top of a long-running drought, it is not just experts who are alarmed. Citizens throughout the world are seeing dramatic changes to where they live.

CNN's Lucy Kafanov has one dramatic example now. Salt Lake City's Great Salt Lake is disappearing.


LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is one of Utah's most unique natural treasures, the Great Salt Lake, also known as America's dead sea, spanning an area nearly the size of Delaware, it's the biggest salt lake in the western hemisphere.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Oh, so beautiful.

KAFANOV: But there is a big problem with this picture-perfect destination. The Great Salt Lake could soon be no more. Years of water diversions, climate change, and an unprecedented drought has pushed the lake's levels towards historic lows. Sail boats pulled from the dry marina. The receding water leaving behind stretches of parched soil.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Twenty years ago this was under about ten feet of water.

KAFANOV: Today, about half of the lake's surface, nearly 750 square miles roughly the size of Maui is dry. And that's a major worry for Kevin Perry, an atmospheric scientist at the University of Utah. Perry says the dried lakebed soil could send naturally-occurring arsenic- laced dust into the air that millions breathe.

KEVIN PERRY, UNIVERSITY OF UTAH ATMOSPHERIC SCIENTIST: One of the concerns we have is the particles that are coming off the lake getting into people's lungs and it might contain potentially harmful arsenic.

KAFANOV: If nothing was done to change the current trajectory, what's the worst case fear?

PERRY: This lake could become one of the larger dust emission sources in north America. The ecosystem itself is on the verge of collapse.

KAFANOV: The Great Salt Lake is also a critically important habitat for millions of birds and happens to be one of the largest breeding grounds for pelicans in the United States.

If we don't take action, what's going to happen to the Great Salt Lake?

JAIMI BUTLER, WILDLIFE BIOLOGIST: Great Salt Lake will be an environmental, economic, and really cultural catastrophe all in one.

There's all of these brine fly larva.

KAFANOV: Jaimi Butler is a wildlife biologist who's dedicated her entire career to studying the Great Salt Lake's ecosystem. For her the crisis is personal.

BUTLER: I grew up here. Like, you know a place becomes you. It, like, becomes you. We are Great Salt Lake, all of us are, and we shouldn't let it go away.

KAFANOV: Andy Wallace has spent years working on the Great Salt Lake as a commercial pilot.


KAFANOV: Have you ever seen it look like this?

WALLACE: I've never seen it this bad, not in my lifetime. We're seeing the start of a major environmental catastrophe.

KAFANOV: From up above the scale of the problem is obvious.

From 6,000 feet up, there's no question that this is a crisis, the Great Salt Lake is vanishing before our eyes.

WALLACE: You can see on this side, the water is purple.

KAFANOV: The beautiful purple color actually means it's an unhealthy dying lake.

WALLACE: It is. It's going to become an environmental catastrophe and we're going to see so much dust laden with heavy metals and mercury. It's going to blow into the salt lake valley on a regular basis, and exacerbate the health conditions.

KAFANOV: For years, people have been diverting water to water crops and supply homes.

Jaimi Butler argues that needs to change.

Is this a man-made problem?

BUTLER: Yes. This is like a human-made problem. We need to change our behaviors to keep incredible ecosystems that include humans like here at Great Salt Lake.


KAFANOV (on camera): And, Jake, you can see the impacts. This may look like a beach, but last summer all of this was under water. The loss of Great Salt Lake will have devastating consequences far beyond this region. One thing nearly everyone we've interviewed says is that it might not be too late to save it. The question is whether there's a will to act -- Jake.

TAPPER: Lucy Kafanov, thank you so much for that report.

A week from the opening ceremonies and still in a COVID crisis, is Japan ready for the Olympics? We're live in Tokyo.

Stay with us.



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

This hour, the United States near the end of the Trump presidency was on the verge of war with Iran. New revelations about the war Trump almost began abroad while he was simultaneously pushing the U.S. into civil strife at home.

Plus, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo set to face the state attorney general's office over sexual harassment allegations and more. Might this mean that the investigation is almost over?

And leading this hour, coronavirus cases now rising in every single state in the U.S., a trend that did not have to happen but with less than half the nation fully vaccinated, the virus is surging once again. In moments, we're going to go to Los Angeles where the county is telling residents that they have to put their masks back on.

But first we have brand new reporting on the origins of the coronavirus.