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The Lead with Jake Tapper
CDC Director: Delta Variant Now Represents 83 Percent Of Cases; Trump Ally, Tom Barrack Arrested, Accused Of Acting As Foreign Agent; Pelosi Won't Say If She'll Veto GOP Commission Picks; Tom Brady Visits White House; Jeff Bezos Heads To Space; Suicide Bomber Attacks Baghdad Market Ahead Of Religious Holiday. Aired 4-5p ET
Aired July 20, 2021 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Can't wait to see the Trump tweet trashing Tom Brady. Oh, wait.
THE LEAD starts right now.
A shocking explosion in COVID cases related to the highly contagious delta variant, feeding off low vaccination and misinformation in the U.S. as the summer surge threatens to wipe away so much of the progress the U.S. has made with the pandemic.
Same-day delivery. Amazon founder Jeff Bezos travels to the edge of space and back, and seats are available for future flights if you have the stomach and the bank account.
And, who knew Tom Brady could dunk, too? The election joke he cracked in the White House Rose Garden about something he has in common with President Biden.
TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.
And we begin today in the health lead where the summer COVID surge is showing no signs of slowing. Right now, the United States is averaging about 35,000 new cases a day, which is almost up 50 percent from last week, 50 percent. And the CDC director today said the more contagious delta variant accounts for more than 80 percent of all those cases.
But more than one account, it appears that the United States of America is going backwards when it comes to the pandemic. The debate over mask mandates has returned. Investors are worried that the resurgence will threaten the economic recovery.
Now, disinformation is one of the main problems. And while it's not just a problem of MAGA resistance to the vaccine, it is also just empirically true partisan politics, specifically Republican leaders and affiliated media spewing lies about the vaccine, that is getting in the way of science and health.
One reason a poll found 47 percent of Republicans said they were not likely to get vaccinated. That compares with just 6 percent of Democrats, which brings us to this latest twist in the misinformation battle -- after spending months and months downplaying the risks of COVID, undermining the science of vaccinations, even spreading lies about the life-saving vaccine, it now appears as though some in MAGA media may be feeling the heat about the bad medical advice they've been giving their viewers and readers.
And today, we're learning that the White House has been reaching out to news executives about their coverage of the vaccine.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We understand also the importance of reaching Fox's audience about the COVID-19 vaccines and their benefits. And like we are with all of you here today, we of course are in regular contact.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: CNN's Erica Hill starts us off today with how we got here.
ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Dreams of a COVID-free summer turning into a nightmare.
DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CNN DIRECTOR: The delta variant now represents 83 percent of sequenced cases. This is a dramatic increase up from 50 percent the week of July 3rd. In some parts of the country, the percentage is even higher, particularly in areas of low vaccination rates.
HILL: Efforts to get more shots in arms have hit a wall with just under half of the population now fully vaccinated as a new poll finds the majority of those who haven't yet had a shot are unlikely to get one. Yet, it's the unvaccinated fueling new surges in cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.
DR. LEANA WEN, EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN: We are trending in the wrong direction again.
HILL: In the past two weeks, hospitalizations are up 50 percent. HHS renewing the nation's public health emergency this morning.
CHAD NIELSEN, DIRECTOR OF ACCREDITATION & INFECTION PREVENTION, UF HEALTH JACKSONVILLE: My greatest fear is that patients continue to pour in and we're unable to give them the care that they need because we don't have staff or resources.
HILL: Nearly half of California residents are now under mask mandates or recommendations. In L.A. County alone, cases are up 700 percent in the last month.
DR. VIVEK MURTHY, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: We've got kids at home or you're immuno-compromised and you're thinking, hmm, should I be more cautious and put my mask on when going to indoor spaces? I would strongly consider that. This is not the time to let down our guard.
HILL: While at least nine states have enacted legislation that prohibits local districts from requiring masks in schools, others have added mask requirements. As for the vaccines, at least nine states banning public schools and universities from requiring proof of vaccination. Some because it doesn't have full FDA approval.
Asked about whether it should be required in schools like so many other vaccines, Dr. Fauci said --
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I would not be surprised that in the future this is something that would be seriously considered.
HILL: A federal judge just ruled Indiana University can't require the vaccine for those returning to campus. Opponents about to appeal the decision.
FAUCI: We have the tools to end this epidemic. It is up to us to utilize those tools to the maximum.
HILL (on camera): And in the last week or so, 23,000 children have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
That's according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. That's nearly double the number of cases and cases that is being reported at the end of June.
Just to note, there was always a lot of talk, Jake, about how illness in children when it comes to COVID-19 is typically not as severe. And that is true. But it doesn't make it less concerning, in fact, that came up at today's Senate hearing, and the specifically the deaths in children nearly 400, as Dr. Rochelle Walensky said, quote, children are not supposed to die -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Erica Hill, thanks so much.
Let's bring in Dr. Richard Besser. He's a former acting CDC director and the president and CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.
Dr. Besser, good to see you.
So, the CDC director says the delta variant, which is more contagious, makes up 83 percent of cases in the U.S., what does that tell you about how bad this resurgence might get?
DR. RICHARD BESSER, FORMER ACTING CDC DIRECTOR: Well, Jake, what it says to me is that any community where vaccination rates are low is going to see a major increase in cases. And even in states where the numbers look good at a statewide basis, here in New Jersey it's about 70 percent of adults who are fully vaccinated. When you look at the community level, my town of Princeton, it's 75
percent of adults fully vaccinated. Next town over in Trenton, it's 44 percent. And that strain will find pockets of people who are under- vaccinated, and it will spread and it will put a real pressure on our healthcare system.
TAPPER: One of the reasons that so many people are still not vaccinated is because of vaccine conspiracy theories, lies, misinformation. Those thrive on social media and right-wing media circles and have been for months. The Biden administration trying to combat this.
As a former acting CDC director, did you ever have to deal with the misinformation campaign like this? Did you ever reach out to your media outlets to say, hey, you're killing your viewers?
BESSER: You know, it's a much more challenging situation now, Jake, than it was in 2009 when I was the acting director at the CDC. Now, there's so much information available on the Internet. We're seeing among media that there's such a polarization, people are going to their own sources, and we're not -- we don't have a common data set, a common source of information. So it's much more challenging.
I wouldn't lump everyone into the same bucket here. So there are people who are affected by this misinformation. There are people where when vaccines are brought to them, we're seeing a continuing to see an uptake in vaccine. We are seeing people as they get to know friends and family members who have successfully been vaccinated increasing their uptake.
So, there's different pockets here, and the needs have to be addressed in very different ways.
TAPPER: Right. I mean, the people that we're talking about in Trenton, New Jersey, for example, that's not exactly MAGA central. There's other reasons why lots of communities are vaccine skeptical, resistant, or just procrastinating.
Indiana University is one of hundreds of colleges mandating COVID-19 vaccinations this year. A federal judge just affirmed that decision. Do you think vaccine mandates should be the new norm for universities, high schools, grade schools?
BESSER: Not grade schools, but I would say for high schools, colleges, and universities, it's a good way to go. What it does is it ensures that everyone on campus is protected, those who can be. It ensures that those people who have immune problems where they can't get vaccinated have a cushion around them because they'll know that their fellow students are vaccinated.
And just think about it. If we could get every child 12 and older vaccinated, what middle school and high school would look like this fall. It would be back to the kind of normal situation or near normal situation that we want for our children. But the politicization here of vaccination of kids and of adults has meant that this life-saving measure is viewed as a team sport if your team is saying no to vaccine, you're not going to get vaccination. And that is something we have to change in America.
TAPPER: Yeah, and obviously just to clarify, obviously if you're under 12, you can't get a vaccine as of right now. When those are approved for kids, do you think then grade schools should mandate them?
BESSER: You know, we'll need to look at that time, thankfully, Jake, the younger you are, the less severe this infection is. There's still a lot we don't know in terms of long-term effect. But it's definitely something that should be considered.
But for those for whom it's been authorized and approved right now, there are things you can do. You could require this in high schools. You could require it for colleges and universities. And that would change the outlook for this fall in really big ways.
I think there are a lot of people who if they're in a situation where their workplace requires vaccination or school requires vaccination, they'll go ahead and get vaccinated. We've seen this with childhood immunization as well when mandates are there, more and more people say, hey, it's not worth fighting this.
I'm just going to go ahead and do it.
TAPPER: And lots of schools have mandates for vaccinations, just not the COVID vaccination.
I want to talk about breakthrough infections because with this continued problem of so many tens of millions of Americans still not vaccinated we see this more. Breakthrough infections, that's a reference to people who are fully vaccinated getting COVID.
Now, to be clear, the vaccine's credited with keeping most of these people out of the hospital. But it still is alarming. Today, we found out a White House official as well as an aide to Speaker Pelosi who were both fully vaccinated, both of them tested positive, though we're told again their symptoms are mild.
Is it true that we would see fewer breakthrough cases if more Americans got vaccinated?
BESSER: Definitely. You know, if you had the majority of people vaccinated, there's less virus circulating in the community. And so, there's less opportunity for breakthrough infections. The critical thing about breakthrough infection that's we vaccinate to prevent serious infection, hospitalization and death. These vaccines are extremely effective against that.
Even in Israel where they've started doing boosters, they hadn't been seeing an increase in hospitalizations and deaths among people who are fully vaccinated. One thing we need to look at here, and I think this is really important and I haven't seen data on it yet is whether, and these people who are having breakthrough infections they're seeing high levels of virus in their noses. And that would be important because it might mean that they could spread this. And the recommendations to not wear masks are based on the idea that
breakthrough infections in people who are vaccinated won't lead to further transmission.
TAPPER: All right, more study needed on that, Dr. Richard Besser. Thanks so much as always for joining us.
Another one of Donald Trump's longtime allies has been arrested on federal charges. The breaking details about his inaugural committee chair, next.
And another billionaire blasts into space. How long could it be before thousandaires have the opportunity? We'll ask a former NASA astronaut.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: We have a breaking news story in our politics lead. We just learned that a former Trump adviser and chairman of the Trump Inaugural Committee was arrested today and charged with federal crimes. Prosecutors say Tom Barrack illegally lobbied on behalf of the United Arab Emirates and tried to sway the Trump campaign and incoming administration.
CNN's Evan Perez joins us now.
Evan, what are federal investigators saying specifically that Tom Barrack did?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, he was acting on behalf of the UAE without registering with the Justice Department as a foreign agent. And so that's what he's charged with. But among the things that prosecutors say he did is back in 2016, then candidate Donald Trump is making a speech on energy at the request of his clients in the UAE, barrack allegedly inserted language praising the UAE which the president delivered or the candidate Trump then delivered during his speech.
In another instance that prosecutors describe, they apparently -- the UAE provided talking points for Barrack's TV appearances. He was a prominent voice for Trump if you remember during the years there, and apparently after one of those appearances, he sent an email to someone in the Emirates saying, quote, I nailed it for the home team, according to prosecutors, that was a reference to the UAE, not the United States.
They also say that at one point the Emiratis were pushing a particular person for the ambassadorship in Abu Dhabi. Barrack was coordinating with them, trying to promote that person with the administration. We did get a statement from Tom Barrack's spokesperson who says, quote, from Barrack has made himself voluntarily available to investigators from the outset, he is not guilty and he will be pleading not guilty, I should note that among the charges he's facing, it's obstruction and making false statements during an interview he had with the FBI in 2019.
TAPPER: And, Evan, two others were charged with Tom Barrack. What do we know about them?
PEREZ: One of them works in Barrack's company. The other one according to prosecutors fled. He's an Emirati who is also charged in this case. According to prosecutors he fled after he was interviewed by the FBI in 2018. He has not returned to this country.
So one of the things that the prosecutors are pointing out is that Barrack has all these international ties, and perhaps because of this presents a flight risk.
TAPPER: All right, interesting. Evan Perez, thanks so much.
Let's talk more about this with Elie Honig, CNN senior legal analyst and former federal prosecutor.
Elie, according to the charges Tom Barrack had a dedicated cell phone with a secure message app for the purpose for communicating with senior UAE officials. Based on what you've seen so far, does this sound like a compelling case to you?
ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: It does, Jake. The evidence looks not just strong but overwhelming to me. This is a 46-page indictment, it goes into great detail.
Really the main crime here has three components. One was Barrack lobbying the United States government, and not just lobbying but successfully in the ways that Evan just laid out. Two, was he doing so on behalf of UAE? It looks like DOJ has emails and texts proving just that.
And, third, did Barrack fail to register with DOJ as a foreign lobbyist? Plainly, he did that as well.
So, it looks like they have a very strong case to me.
TAPPER: Barrack is 74 years old. This is serious prison time theoretically if he's convicted. And let's keep in mind, he said he is not guilty, his spokesman said he's not guilty, and allegations, accusations are not convictions.
But do you think it's possible that he might try to make a deal with prosecutors?
HONIG: Absolutely possible. Any defendant has to think hard about that because, generally speaking, the best way to save yourself to reduce your own risk of prison time is by cooperating with prosecutors. Important to keep in mind in the federal system, anyone who cooperates has to tell everything they know about anything they did or anything anyone else did and be willing to testify.
And remember, Barrack was in charge of the 2016 inaugural committee, which at one point was reportedly being investigated by DOJ as well.
TAPPER: Now you say that the foreign agent charge is not even the most damning charge among the charges from prosecutors when it comes to possible prison time. Explain why.
HONIG: Yeah. So, Barrack is also charged with obstruction of justice, of making a series of false statements to FBI agents. He denied that one of the other defendant what's in communication with him about working for UAE. Clearly, that was a lie. They have texts, they have emails that contradict that.
First of all, obstruction of justice, believe it or not, actually can carry a higher penalty than the foreign agent violation. And second of all, obstruction of justice is really powerful evidence because it enables a prosecutor to stand in front of a jury and say this shows he knew he was guilty, this shows he had a guilty mind. Why else would somebody lie to the FBI?
TAPPER: No one in the Trump campaign or the Trump administration has been even accused in this indictment. Tom Barrack was not in the administration, although he worked on the inaugural committee.
But what does today's news tell you about what federal prosecutors and federal investigators are looking at when it comes to Trump allies?
HONIG: Yeah, I think there's two levels of concern here for Trump and other people around him. One, if Tom Barrack does flip, does cooperate, what information can he give to prosecutors? And second of all it raises questions about just how careful the Trump administration was.
We have a person here who's very powerful, very highly placed, and apparently he was secretly lobbying on behalf of a foreign country. That raises real national security concerns, Jake.
TAPPER: All right. Elie Honig, thank you so much. I appreciate your insights there.
Former president Trump taking a very public aim at a very fellow -- at a fellow Republican. And her response is, bring it on.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: And we're back with our politics lead. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi refusing today -- refusing to say today if she plans to veto any of the Republican picks for that January 6th Commission. They include Congressman Jim Banks of Indiana, Kelly Armstrong of North Dakota, Rodney Davis of Illinois, Jim Jordan of Ohio, and Troy Nehls of Texas.
Let's discuss. Hilary, let me start with you, because three of those Republicans on
the committee to investigate what happened on January 6th, three of them voted to overturn the election results. But Pelosi says that's not a disqualifier for serving on the committee. Do you think it should be?
HILARY ROSEN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You know, I don't. I think if leader McCarthy didn't appoint some of those members, then this commission would have -- this committee would have no chance of success. Look, I think it's totally valid, the Republicans are now saying this isn't about Donald Trump or inciting riots or violence from people not accepting the election. This shouldn't be all about why didn't Nancy Pelosi provide enough security at the House.
And look, both issues are going to be important and they should investigate both issues. Why are the rioters incited and how did that happen? And does the Capitol have enough security?
So, I think, I hope it's not a circus. I think Jim Jordan on there is the most troublesome. That congressman has, as Mia knows well, has a tendency to play to the cameras every moment.
ROSEN: But I think you were going to have people of different views anyway.
TAPPER: Well, I agree the question of why wasn't there enough adequate security and what role did Pelosi or McConnell or whomever play in that is relevant.
But I do want to ask you as a former congresswoman, Congresswoman Love, you know, three of these people, at least, engaged in the big lie. I mean, voted to undermine and disenfranchise Arizonans and Pennsylvanians. I think two of them signed onto that crazy Texas lawsuit that was based on lies. I mean, how can they be relied upon for anything credible when it comes to this?
MIA LOVE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I hope everyone knows this, and if they don't, members of Congress that go into these hearings, they already have their mind made up about a whole lot of things.
LOVE: What they're looking for is they're looking for information that supports what they believe they already know, which going into a commission like a January 6th Commission is really troublesome because this is supposed to be a fact-finding commission. This is not for them or not to have a social media moment. But it's to actually be open and maybe find something or learn something that you didn't know that would prevent a January 6th from happening again. And so, that's what concerns me about all of this.
There was an interesting moment earlier today, President Biden hosted the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. And quarterback Tom Brady, if you haven't been paying attention, he's not on the Patriots anymore, he's on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he had a few election-related jokes up his sleeve. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TOM BRADY, TAMPA BAY BUCCANEERS QUARTERBACK: Not a lot of people, you know, think that we could have won. And the fact I think about 40 percent of the people still don't think we won --
JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I understand.
BRADY: Do you understand that, Mr. President?
BIDEN: I understand that.
BRADY: We had a game in Chicago where I forgot what down it was. I lost track of one down in 21 years of playing and they started calling me Sleepy Tom.
BRADY: Why would they do that to me?
BIDEN: I don't know.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Waka, waka.
It's kind of interesting though, given how much Tom Brady has in the past been associated with Trump.
You might remember there was that time he had a MAGA hat in his locker.
NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: Right.
TAPPER: But here he is kind of seemingly siding with Biden?
HENDERSON: Yes, siding with Biden.
Biden clearly enjoyed the jokes that Tom Brady told. I'm probably the wrong person to talk about Tom Brady because I'm not really a Tom Brady fan.
TAPPER: Do we have any Tom Brady fans at this table?
TAPPER: OK. OK. There we go. There's the diversity I was looking for.
TAPPER: Diversity in thought. Diversity in sports.
HENDERSON: Yes, I mean, it went over well. People laughed. Joe Biden clearly was enjoying himself.
It's good to see teams returning to the White House because a lot of teams didn't necessarily want to go and be in Donald Trump's company when they won championships. So, yay, Tom Brady.
TAPPER: I saw Sonny Bunch on Twitter saying like it's times like this that he wishes that Trump had Twitter, because it would be fun to get that peek into the id of Donald Trump when he sees his buddy Tom Brady, who, according to Ivana Trump, I think, in her book, she's claimed that Donald Trump wanted to set Tom Brady up with Ivanka way back when.
Do you remember that?
LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, a little bit.
TAPPER: Too much information?
BARRON-LOPEZ: Yes, it is a lot of information.
BARRON-LOPEZ: Yes, it would be -- Twitter is clearly the forum where we would have used to have seen an immediate tweet in reaction to this, whether he would have knocked Tom Brady or gone on and spewed more about the fact that he thinks the election was stolen, when it wasn't.
But I just wanted to go back to something Congresswoman Love said about the January 6 commission.
TAPPER: Yes. Yes.
BARRON-LOPEZ: Because Jim Banks, like you mentioned that members already have their mind up when they go into this. You can see that in Congressman Jim Banks' statement when he was announced to be on.
He said that he wants to seek out and have oversight over the less authoritarian agenda. That was in -- that's what he said, so a bit of flipping the script, because you see that Biden and Democrats are repeatedly saying that they're worried about this flirtation from Republicans with authoritarianism.
And him also saying that he wants answers from the Biden administration about the event, even though Biden wasn't in power.
No, see, I mean, this is the thing. It was a deadly event. It was an interaction. It was a blight on our history. And that's what Congressman Banks is saying. I want to talk a little bit about one of the other political victims
of the January 6 controversy, which is Liz Cheney, who lost her leadership position as a result because she refuses to lie. And now Donald Trump from Mar-a-Lago and Bedminster is going after her congressional seat in Wyoming.
He put out a statement today saying: "Paying close attention to the Wyoming House primary against loser RINO Liz Cheney. Some highly respected pollsters telling me she's toast in Wyoming after siding with crazy Nancy Pelosi and supporting the Democratic impeachment hoax. I will be meeting with some of her opponents in Bedminster next week and will be making my decision who to endorse in the next few months," clearly going after her political, political assassination.
When asked for a response, Cheney's team referred CNN to this statement she made in May -- quote -- "If they think they're going to come into Wyoming and make the argument that the people of Wyoming should vote for someone who is loyal to Donald Trump over somebody who is loyal to the Constitution, I welcome that debate."
But as somebody who admires Liz Cheney, aren't you a little bit worried?
LOVE: I'm always worried. I am. I'm always worried, because, believe it or not, Donald Trump still has this following, people who will willingly follow him blindly.
We have Liz Cheney, who I believe was pretty darn courageous in doing what she believes is right. So Liz Cheney has a choice to make. And I think she's already made that choice. She said it on the floor, that this is about the Constitution. It's about what I have sworn to uphold.
And so she is going to do everything that she believes is right for Wisconsin, not what's...
LOVE: Wyoming. Excuse me.
Not for -- not what is right for Donald Trump. And so I wish her luck. I hope that people realize that she's doing work for them. And at the end of the day, she's willing to throw herself under the bus to make sure that she is able to sleep well at night.
TAPPER: It is a true profile in courage. You don't see a lot of them in this town.
Nia, Mia, Laura, and Hilary, thanks so much for being here. I appreciate it.
Be sure to join CNN tomorrow night, an exclusive presidential town hall. President Joe Biden joins CNN Don Lemon, this live at 8:00.
Coming up: to boldly go where no other U.S. billionaire, except for one, has gone before. How Jeff Bezos' trip to space could get us all closer to the stars, theoretically.
TAPPER: In our out-of-this-world lead today, a space version of same- day delivery for the man who created Amazon.
A successful launch and landing today for billionaire Jeff Bezos and three other passengers, their journey lasting a mere 10 minutes and 10 seconds, went just past the edge of space.
As CNN's Rachel Crane reports, this kind of manned mission is by far not the first. The first American was Alan Shepard on may 5, 1961. But this could be a giant step towards many more trips for wealthy civilians.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And start, two, one.
RACHEL CRANE, CNN INNOVATION AND SPACE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Blastoff of Blue Origin's New Shepard on its first human flight carrying the richest man in the world, billionaire Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, into space.
JEFF BEZOS, FOUNDER, AMAZON: Best ever. And I couldn't pick -- I couldn't pick a best part. Could you pick a best part?
CRANE: Also on board, Bezos' brother, Mark, pilot Wally Funk...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Everything you thought it would be?
CRANE: ... at 82, the oldest person ever to go into space, and the youngest, 18-year-old paying passenger Oliver Daemen.
BEZOS: We see this giant atmosphere that we live in. We think it's big when we're here on the ground. You get up there, it's so tiny. It's a small little thing. And it is fragile.
CRANE: Touchdown in Texas after a little more than a 10-minute flight.
(on camera): And the booster landing upright here on the landing pardon, Blue Origin saying reusable components like this are critical to driving down the cost and accessibility of space travel.
(voice-over): And it all comes nine days after Richard Branson blasted off in his Virgin Galactic spaceship too, advancing the era of billionaire-funded human spaceflight. Branson reached 53 miles above the Earth, Bezos soaring higher, pass the 62-mile high carbon line, often referred to as the altitude at which space begins.
Today is the first human step for Bezos' space company, Blue Origin, which foresees a world where millions of people are living and working in space.
BEZOS: What we need to do is build a road to space so that future generations can take all heavy industry and polluting industry on Earth and move it up into space, so that we can keep this gem of a planet as it is, instead of ruining it.
CRANE: Passenger tickets for future Blue Origin flights are on sale for the select few, the price tag not yet revealed.
But Bezos says he will be flying again.
BEZOS: Hell yes.
BEZOS: I'm thinking, how fast can you refuel that thing? Let's go.
CRANE: Now, Jake, the company saying they have two more flights planned for 2021 with paying customers on board New Shepard.
And Jeff Bezos telling me that, now that he is no longer CEO of Amazon, stepping down just a few weeks ago, he intends to spend a lot more of his focus on his space endeavors with Blue Origin in the near future -- Jake.
TAPPER: All right, Rachel Crane, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
Let's talk more about this with retired astronaut Garrett Reisman. He flew on three NASA shuttles and is now an adviser for SpaceX, which is the private company owned by billionaire Elon Musk.
Garrett, thanks for joining us.
So you have met Wally Funk, the 82-year-old aviator who joined Bezos for today's flight. What was your reaction after watching today's successful launch and landing?
GARRETT REISMAN, FORMER NASA ASTRONAUT: You know, she was a real hoot.
I think any of you that watch the coverage today know that. She came to SpaceX. And I gave lots of tours of SpaceX to former astronauts, flight directors, actors and rock stars, and they were all there to satisfy their curiosity.
But Wally came with a mission. She was just interested in getting to space. That was what it was all about. She showed up in a flight suit. And I will never forget her visit. It was quite -- and it left quite an impression.
TAPPER: Team Bezos went just beyond what's internationally considered the edge of space. Richard Branson reached what the U.S. considers the beginning of outer space.
Now, in September, SpaceX, which you're a part of, will take a flight beyond Earth's orbit. Yes, you work for SpaceX, but we should note that there is a difference in the distances of these flights by private companies.
So, yes, there is a difference in altitude. Jeff today went a little bit higher than Sir Richard did last week. And I think that's kind of silly. It doesn't really matter. It's arbitrary where they draw that line. And I don't think the experience was very different as far as the view or the feelings of acceleration.
So I don't think that really matters. What does matter is that both Jeff and Richard went suborbital. They went straight up and straight down. So that takes about 10 minutes or so and you land right at the same spot you take off from. You get the view and you get those few minutes of weightlessness.
But from a practical standpoint, it doesn't really help, the way it helps when you get into orbit. If you go into orbit, then you can meet up with the space station, you can stay in orbit around the Earth, and you can go to other places, whether it's on to the moon and Mars. And that's a big, big difference.
TAPPER: Take us inside the technology a bit.
For those of us who remember the days of the huge space shuttles, seeing a much smaller jet was a little disorienting. How are these flights possible?
REISMAN: Well, I think two of the main enabling technologies, especially for today's flight, I would point to reusability and also automation.
So, reusability, in the sense that you get the rocket back. In the days -- in the old days of the Saturn V or the Gemini missions, those rockets would launch, and the only thing that would come back is a little tiny capsule at the top. Everything else was thrown away. That's very expensive.
I mean, you can imagine, if you were flying on the 787 from Los Angeles to New York, and had to throw the thing away and build a whole new one to come home, flying on airplanes would be really expensive.
But that's what we're doing with rockets. But these rockets, as you saw today, the booster, the rocket itself went up and came back down and landed, and also the capsule came back down and the parachute. Both will be used again. And that changes the economics of space flight. Then the automation --
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: How -- go ahead.
REISMAN: -- which means that anybody can go and you don't have a test pilot necessarily.
TAPPER: How long until you think these flights become more common for people who are not billionaires or even millionaires?
REISMAN: Still going to be expensive for a while. And these suborbital flights will cost hundreds of thousands if not a million dollars. As Rachel mentioned, we don't know exactly what the price will be for Blue Origin.
And if you want to go into orbit, and again that's much more difficult, it's about going about ten times as fast. Today, Jeff Bezos reached about 2,000 miles per hour. To get into orbit you need to get closer to 20,000. So, that's about 10 times as fast, but that's a hundred times as much energy.
So that's a big, big difference. And if you want to do that, it's going to cost you tens of millions.
But, look, over time that's going to come down, and space, the technology as we fly more, it's going to get cheaper. And I think eventually everybody will have a chance.
TAPPER: And you got it, you didn't have to pay anything.
Garrett Reisman, thank you so much.
TAPPER: I really appreciate your time today.
And tonight just hours after their return to Earth, Jeff Bezos and his brother Mark will join CNN to talk about their flight. That's at 8:00 p.m. Eastern on "ANDERSON COOPER 360" on CNN.
Coming up, a suicide bomber explodes in a busy Baghdad market, and a terrorist group we haven't heard from in a little bit is claiming responsibility.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: In our world lead, Iraqi citizens ran for their lives at a Baghdad market when a suicide bomber killed 30 people and injured 50. ISIS is claiming responsibility for the attack. Many of the shoppers were preparing for big family meals around the Islamic religious holiday, Eid al Adha. Iraqi officials say children were among the killed.
Joining us now CNN senior international correspondent Arwa Damon.
Arwa, what do we know about the blast and the people who survived?
ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, let's just talk for a minute about what this scene was like before the blast took place as we look at the image of the moments just afterwards. This is one of Baghdad's busy crowded outdoor neighborhoods, markets in a predominantly Shia area.
And parents would have been hurrying their children along, dragging them by their hands, trying to make sure they didn't get lost in the crowd, stuffing their bags with produce to prepare their Eid al Adha meal, grabbing some last-minute gifts. Kids would have been so excited because the next day they would have been able to eat all the sticky sweets that they want and gotten their presents, and then all of a sudden, in an instant, that detonation that just brings back so many memories of all of the violence that Iraq has gone through.
The death toll now is at more than 30 dead, more than 50 wounded. Among them, women and children.
And, Jake, this goes beyond the devastating impact on the families that lost loved ones. This reverberates throughout every single Iraqi household, bringing back the fear that the violence of the past may very well be happening again, Jake.
TAPPER: Yeah, and that's what I was going to ask you about next because blasts like this, horrific, suicide bombers, it used to be common in Iraq in the aftermath of the Iraq war. What is the significance of this?
Is this ISIS saying they're back? Is this another start of Sunni versus Shia/Shia versus Sunni violence? What do you think?
DAMON: Well, ISIS has claimed responsibility. The Iraqi authorities say that they are investigating.
And if this was in fact carried out by ISIS, this isn't necessarily the group saying we are back, Jake. It's more of the group saying we are still here. We never went away. Remember our history.
Back when ISIS was ISI, the Islamic State of Iraq, they were defeated or degraded by the U.S. military. This is back in 2010.
But all they did was actually go to ground, regroup and wait. This is a group that is very well-versed at exploiting Iraq sectarian tensions. It is also a group that is very patient and strategic. And that is why so many Iraqis fear its potential impact, not just in terms of what it can do to the security situation but also, Jake, the impact on the psychology of the Iraqi population.
TAPPER: CNN's Arwa Damon, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
The guy who helped make the Olympics happen in Tokyo is now saying that the games could still be canceled with just days until the opening ceremony.
Stay with us.
TAPPER: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper. This hour, three House Republicans picked to be on the January 6th
committee backed the big lie that led to the violence to begin with. Is the House minority leader stacking the deck against the truth?
A West Coast wildfire so huge and so intense, it's creating its own weather and causing hazy skies all the way in New York city.
And leading this hour, cases among athletes are rising big time sponsors are bailing arenas will be empty. And now, with about two days before the opening ceremony, the Tokyo 2020 CEO says he's not ruling out an 11th hour cancelation of the Olympic Games, as CNN's Will Ripley now reports.
WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Three days before the Olympics are set to begin, details about the opening ceremony remains shrouded in mystery. It's already known no regular spectators will be in attendance. Just how many athletes will participate?