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The Lead with Jake Tapper

Tokyo 2020 Chief Not Ruling Out An 11th Hour Cancellation Amid Rising COVID-19 Cases; COVID Surge Could Slow Biden Plans To Scrap Trump-Era Border Policy; Interview With Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX); Biden Admin Plans To Evacuate Afghan Allies To Virginia; Alabama City Plagued By Spike In Shootings, Homicides; CDC Director: Delta Variant Now Represents 83 Percent Of Cases; Huge & Intense Oregon Wildfire Creating Its Own Weather. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired July 20, 2021 - 17:00   ET



WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Details about the opening ceremony remain shrouded in mystery. It's already known no regular spectators will be in attendance.

Just how many athletes will participate? What sponsors and dignitaries will attend? All remain open questions. This as COVID-19 cases are surging in Tokyo, sparking the jaw dropping statement by the head of the Tokyo organizing committee that a last minute cancellation of the games themselves is still an option.

TOSHIRO MUTO, CEO, TOKYO 2020 OLYMPICS (through translator): We cannot predict what the epidemic will look like in the future. So, for what to do, should there be any surge of positive cases, we'll discuss accordingly if that happens.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Infections are already creeping up among athletes and those connected to the Olympics, at least 71 so far. That includes Kara Eaker, an alternate for the U.S. gymnastics team. Her dad told "New Day" she feels OK and does not have any symptoms.

MARK EAKER, FATHER OF OLYMPIC GYMNAST KARA EAKER: Definitely a disappointment for her and heartbreaking for us.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Eaker will return to the U.S. after 10 days isolation.

Despite all the restrictions, the so called bubble of the Olympic Village has been punctured, with several positive COVID cases detected among the South African soccer team. Tokyo officials insist the village is still safe.

MASA TAKAYA, TOKYO 2020 SPOKESPERSON: On the IOC and Tokyo 2020 are absolutely clear, that the only people race is a safe place to stay.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Health experts say the wider strategy of keeping the visiting foreigners away from locals is failing. DR. KENJI SHIBUYA, PRESIDENT JAPAN INSTITUTE FOR GLOBAL HEALTH: It's obvious that bubbles (ph) system is kind of broken. So, there seems to be some sort of interaction between guests and visitors and also local people.

RIPLEY (voice-over): Tokyo officials insist they are containing the situation with only a few dozen cases among some 22,000 foreigners who've arrived for the game so far.

BRIAN MCCLOSKEY, OLYMPIC GAMES LEADING HEALTH ADVISER: If I thought all the tests that we did were going to be negative then I wouldn't bother doing the tests in the first place. And the numbers we're seeing are actually extremely low. They're probably lower than we expected to see if anything.

RIPLEY (voice-over): But with more transmissible variants like the Delta, and more than 11,000 athletes descending on Japan for more than 200 countries, fears are growing about the risk to those visiting Tokyo and the local population. And apprehension on the rise as more athletes test positive, knocking them out of contention on whether the games will actually be a true representation of Olympic greatness.


RIPLEY: Barring some 11th hour cancellation if these games go ahead, and it's stunning that three days out. We're saying if they go ahead, what will their legacy be? Will this be the victory over COVID-19 that Japan promised when the games were postponed by a year after the pandemic began? Or will this turn out to be a public health disaster fueled by placing ad revenue over lives? Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right. Will Ripley in Tokyo, thank you so much.

Let's go to CNN's Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, also live in Tokyo.

Sanjay, you just heard the Tokyo 2020 Olympic chief saying he's not ruling out an 11th hour cancellation of the games. What's your reaction?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, it's really surprising in some ways because we're here. I mean, there's obviously been a lot of preparations. But at the same time, from a public health standpoint, not that surprising.

You know, you are dealing with obviously the Olympic Games, 200 countries more than that being represented states and territories. Many of these places, they don't have adequate vaccine programs. In Japan itself, only 12 percent of the country has been vaccinated. The numbers have been going up over here.

Eighty percent of Japanese locals did not want these Olympics to happen here at this time. So, you know, it's one of these things, Jake, I think historically, we'll look back on this and say, was it the right move, trying to do the Olympics in the middle of a pandemic, especially in this country with the vaccination status?

So, we'll see. But from a public health standpoint, I don't think people are that surprised.

TAPPER: There are now 71 cases that we know of now associated with these Olympic Games. We don't know much about the 71 cases. Theoretically, they could all be asymptomatic, but who knows. But in terms of 71, that number, is that better or worse or about what you expected?

GUPTA: It's a little bit hard to know, Jake, because there's not vaccine requirements for the Olympic Village. That may surprise a lot of people. But again, there are many countries around the world that simply don't have adequate vaccine, and therefore the decisions were made.

Look, are we going to give vaccine to athletes over the vulnerable, over healthcare workers? I mean, these are all discussions happening behind the scenes. So, I bring that up to say we don't know exactly what the status is of the 71 people in terms of their overall vaccine status.

But if you look at it, just from a positivity rate, it's still low, it's still below 1 percent, you know, in terms of overall positivity rates. We'll see over the next several days as more people are getting tested. You know, we got -- we're getting tested every day, ourselves as journalists, the same things happening in the village.


If more and more cases pop up, I think it may tell us something about the true nature of breakthrough infections, Jake. You know, you and I've talked about this a lot. We don't really test vaccinated people in the United States, vaccine testing has gone down 80 percent since the end of last year.

What is true breakthrough infection rates? What's the significance of that? One thing -- this is one thing that may be learned from these Olympic Games.

TAPPER: Let's talk about the -- what you just mentioned, the fact that there is no vaccine requirement for the athletes because so many countries don't have access to the vaccine. I mean, just taking a step back, that's shocking. It's shocking, that so much of the world doesn't even have access to this vaccine, which so many Americans are just glibly refusing to take.

GUPTA: It is incredibly shocking, Jake, especially when you know, you're here now, we're here on the ground, and we see the impact of this on a global scale. Just -- you take the continent of Africa, only about 1 percent of that population has been fully vaccinated because of access. Haiti just began their vaccination programs three days ago because of access. So you know, at the same time that we can't give away the vaccines in the United States.

I can tell you being on the ground here in Tokyo, seeing the representation of these countries, there are places where people are begging for these vaccines at the same time. So, it is shocking. Eighty percent of the vaccine so far that have been distributed around the world have gone to wealthy countries. And again, there's countries around the world that are just now beginning their vaccine programs.

TAPPER: There's going to be about 11,000 athletes there representing more than 200 countries, but not all of the athletes are going to be in Tokyo for the whole duration of all the games. Theoretically, that should help prevent against COVID spreading, I would think.

GUPTA: Yes, I think so too. I mean, what they're saying is you can come five days before your event, and you get to leave two days after your event is over. So they're trying to really minimize the number of people here at any given time.

You know, they're also doing a lot of testing. They're trying to create a bubble like environment. But it's hard, Jake. I mean, you know, the NBA, getting a resort in Orlando and creating a bubble there is one thing.

Trying to do a bubble, you know, when you have so many countries involved, people coming in and out, you just saw from Will Ripley's report, that bubbles constantly getting pierced. I mean, it's just you have to anticipate these sorts of things. And if you start to see, you know, a dramatic increase in numbers as a result, I think that's going to sort of force some decisions for the International Olympic Committee.

TAPPER: This -- it seems as though people are taking precautions in terms of the daily testing of journalists and athletes. But obviously, we're all hoping that this doesn't become a huge super spreader event. What's preventing it from becoming that?

GUPTA: You know, there's a few things that's interesting, if you look at some of the protocols that have gone into place, they are really based on summer 2020 data, you know, you see Plexiglas (ph), for example, between athletes working out. We know that this virus can be aerosolized. So Plexiglas (ph) doesn't do as much.

Those kinds of things I think are working against, you know, they're making it more likely it's going to turn into a super spreader. The two things that I think are going to be most beneficial are the testing. I mean, they're being really diligent about testing.

I talked to Dr. Brian McCloskey, who has been charged with trying to oversee the protocols here. And he says, we're going to err on the side of false negatives. So, you know, we realize that a false positive is a really, really damaging thing for an athlete because they are told they're positive, they aren't, they don't get to compete, that's awful.

But what's even more awful are false negatives, where you miss some of these cases. So they're being really stringent about that, they're doing PCR testing. You know, we know the different types of testing out there, PCR is going to be the most accurate, it's going to be the most sensitive, more so than antigen testing, which does have a role. But again, they're focusing on these false negatives.

So, that's probably going to be the biggest thing in terms of keeping this from becoming a super spreading event. If you test positive, you're not getting on a plane, you're not interacting with people that can hopefully help.

TAPPER: All right, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thank you so much. Good to see you.

And it's not just in Tokyo, how COVID could force a change in plans for the Biden administration at the U.S. Mexico border.

Plus, CNN on the street says gun violence spikes in yet another American city. The type of gun the police say is specifically leading to a rise in homicides there. Stay with us.



TAPPER: One crisis compounding another in the national lead this summer, surge of COVID and the explosion of the highly contagious Delta variant could delay the Biden administration's plan to end a Trump-era border policy, one that allows border agents to quickly expel migrants over health concern.

CNN's Priscilla Alvarez joins me now.

And Priscilla, Biden has been under a lot of pressure from progressives and immigrant rights groups to end this policy.

PRISCILLA ALVAREZ, CNN REPORTER: And add to that list health experts who say there's no public health rationale for this policy. So, to take a step back, this is a policy that went into effect at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic during the Trump administration. And what it allows is border authorities to turn away migrants that they encounter at the U.S. Mexico border.

To put this into perspective, they have turned away more than half a million migrants since last October. Now, we previously reported that the administration was considering winding down this policy at the end of July, but I'm now being told that those conversations are changing and the timeline is in flux. And the reason for that is because of concerns over the variant.


So the Biden administration now grappling with those variants here in the United States. And it's also now playing a part in their discussions over how they, you know, move away from this policy at the U.S. Mexico border.

TAPPER: And you spoke with officials at the Biden White House about this, what do they have to say?

ALVAREZ: Quite simply, White House officials told me the public the -- there is still a public health need. And so, they're saying public health metrics will determine how they move forward with this policy. And they're looking at things like vaccination rates among migrants, transmission rates from the countries of origin. But that doesn't mean the pressure is going to lay off.

In fact, immigrant advocates were quite disappointed that that is still the answer that they are getting, and they are putting pressure for them to move on from this policy.

TAPPER: All right, Priscilla Alvarez, thank you so much for that report. Appreciate it.

In our politics lead, as restrictive, voting rights legislation sweeps through the Texas Legislature, so is coronavirus. A group of Texas Democrats flew to Washington D.C. to deny the Republicans quorum, so as to prevent that legislation from being voted on in passing.

Since then, six of those Texas House Democrats have tested positive for coronavirus. Because all of them are fully vaccinated, thankfully, none of them have severe symptoms.

Joining us now, Republican Congressman Mike McCaul from Texas.

Congressman, thanks for joining us.

The Texas Tribune reports that a Republican state legislator has offered to charter a private plane for these infected Democratic state lawmakers to get back to Texas and devote. Could they theoretically be brought back against their will?

REP. MICHAEL MCCAUL (R-TX): Well, no, I don't think so. But I do think they have a responsibility to do their job.

I mean, Jake, I don't -- I'm in the -- we're in the minority up here and Congress, and I don't always like what Nancy Pelosi puts on the floor. But I don't run away from my job, and I don't cut and run. I will show up on the floor and vote elections. Do you have consequences?

And I think what they need to do is go back in the special session and vote their position. And then, that's what democracy is all about. And they want to go back home to my state of Texas and make the case why they should be in the majority, then that's what they should do. But I think running away from your job and your responsibilities is not the answer.

TAPPER: Now, since you and I last spoke about this legislation, some of the more onerous provisions have been removed.

MCCAUL: Right.

TAPPER: There was a piece, pardon me, that would have basically blocked the souls to the polls provision. That's not there anymore. There was a piece that would have made it easier for elections to be overturned, that's been removed. But still, this legislation bans drive thru voting, it bans counties from allowing 24 hours of voting if they want, it bans officials from sending out absentee ballot applications, just applications, if they're not specifically requested. I mean, theoretically, why make it harder to vote? I mean, Texas's elections seem to go pretty well, they seem to go pretty well for Republicans.

MCCAUL: Well, listen, you know, fundamentally, what this bill is I understand it I'm not in the state legislature does is when you vote in person, you have to show and identify that you're the person that's legally can vote, and you have to have that identification.

This essentially ensures that people that have mail-in ballots, mail- in votes are the same person that they say they are through identification. I would argue what, we do have early voting in Texas, and it's been expanded and it was expanded under COVID. I think early voting is a good idea.

And when you vote in person, you can always ensure it's the same person. When you have mail one, we need to put these provisions in to make sure it's the same person.

You know in Delaware, the President's home state, they don't even have early voting. And so, you know, like, each state varies, as you know, under the Constitution. Founding Fathers gave the states that prerogative.

TAPPER: Let's turn to Afghanistan and issue you and I talked about a lot. The Biden administration is launched a plan to evacuate the Afghan allies, translators and others who helped us with crucial services during the war. Now, we're told about 700 of these allies and 1,800 of their family members, so 2,500 total are expected to arrive at Fort Lee in Virginia. But that still leaves 10s of 1000s of other Afghan allies and their families in Afghanistan, what's being done about them?

MCCAUL: Well, that's the big question, Jake. And look, I think, look, even pressing this issue, I have to -- I think it's had an influence on the administration to try to get these interpreters who works with our special forces. And we promised them we would protect them and give them an immigrant visa.

"No one left behind" is a phrase. And I'm glad the administration has finally woken up to this fact and they are getting the first 700 that have been fully vetted in the process. So that's a positive step.


However, to your point, I mean, there's about 9,000 interpreters, probably total when it comes interpreters and contractors and Afghan partners, about 20,000, not to include family, that doesn't include family members, we'll be voting on a provision to raise the cut by 8,000 more this week, which I'll be supportive.

But the administration really went into this decision, I think, in some ways, very haphazardly, without planning for the aftermath of what will happen, particularly when our military pulls out. And I think part of it is getting these people that worked with our special forces at a country, I'm glad to 700 are coming to Fort Lee in Virginia.

But we need to find a safe third country that is close to the Afghan area, one of our allies in that area, where they can be fully processed. This will take probably one to two years. Many of them haven't even filed their applications yet.

TAPPER: So, do you support going to one of these third countries that the Biden administration has talked about? Because there was also some talk about letting them go to Guam, and the governor of Guam, which is a U.S. territory has even said that he welcomes that.

But the issue there is that once they're there, they would have, even if there -- they failed the vetting process, they would have more of a claim to apply for asylum because they're on U.S. territory, on U.S. ground. So you don't support the Guam prospect, the Guam plan, you like the third country idea?

MCCAUL: Well, that would be my preference. I mean, if we can save their lives, and sure, Guam, it would be effective. But I think it's a U.S. territory, therefore, the Constitution applies, as you talked about, and we don't know about their vetting.

We do know the 700 have been fully vetted and cleared. But I think it's important that we find, you know, there's some in Kazakhstan for a while, they're talking about UAE, Qatar, Kuwait, other neighboring countries where they could be properly vetted, without all the full protections of the Constitution.

And in the event, we get a bad apple, for instance, remember, this is a very dangerous part of the world with a lot of dangerous actors. So we don't want to bring anybody in the United States that hasn't been fully vetted.

TAPPER: Yes. You've called President Biden's plan to withdraw poorly planned, and you've said he'll quote own the images of innocent Afghans are slaughtered. The State Department spokesman said this afternoon, quote, "credible reports of atrocities are emerging right now." Horrible news. How would you have ended America's longest war?

MCCAUL: I would have kept a small residual force at one of our basis, probably in southern Afghanistan, as we did. We fully pulled out of Iraq. You saw the consequences of ISIS, the Caliphate. Syria, I was able to argue successfully within President Trump to keep residual. I would have done the same here, even a small footprint for stability. Whereas now you're going to see a nightmare unfolding, where the Taliban has already taken huge swaths of territory.

The Presidential Palace just got fired rockets at the palace today. And also, we're getting reports the Taliban are sending letters to the (INAUDIBLE) to get a list of all women between the ages of 15 to 40 to be married off to the Taliban. I think what we're going to see with the women unfolding, I think it's going to be will be the toughest visuals to look at. TAPPER: Yes, I hope you're wrong, but I fear you're right.

Republican Congressman Mike McCaul of Texas, thank you so much. Appreciate your time, sir.

MCCAUL: Yes, thank you, Jake.

TAPPER: House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy has selected which members of his party will join the January 6 select committee. And the response from Speaker Pelosi may say a lot about the panel's future. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our politics lead today, three out of five House Republicans pick to sit on the January 6 committee. Three of them have for months been pushing the lie that the 2020 election was stolen. Three of them even voted to disenfranchise all the voters of Arizona and all the voters of Pennsylvania based on those lies.

The three congressmen I'm referring to our Congressman Jim Banks, Jim Jordan, and Troy Nehls. The question is, will House Speaker Nancy Pelosi approve Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy's selections for this committee?

CNN's Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill.

And Manu, Republicans are telling CNN, they also want to investigate Pelosi now and her role in improving security.

MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's going to be one of the focuses that Republicans will have going forward looking at the role of Nancy Pelosi, what she did and she did not do on January 6.

What they're not saying is whether they'll look into or they'll be willing to look into what Donald Trump did in the run up to January 6. I asked several of them, they simply would not say. They said they want to investigate everything and go where the facts lie. But they also made the point that Nancy Pelosi to be part of it.

One of the things to look forward to also, Jake, is whether or not Democrats call Republicans who are in contact with Donald Trump in the run up to January 6 to testify. That could include Jim Jordan himself.

I asked Jordan today if he'd be willing to testify before this committee, he said he has nothing to hide and would be willing to go there if necessary. So something to watch in the weeks ahead after we see the first hearing next week, hearing testimony from Capitol Police, and then they'll get into the other issues and potentially into those interactions with Donald Trump.

TAPPER: Is there any indication, Manu, that Speaker Pelosi might reject these picks because just on its face, it doesn't make a lot of sense to have three people who deny reality about the election, investigate an insurrection based on the very lies that they tell?

RAJU: Well, I asked her directly today if she's willing to veto any of Kevin McCarthy's picks.


And she said she is considering his proposals. She said she would make a decision when she's ready. And then she would not say what she is weighing. But she importantly said that one of the criteria is not -- whether or not they voted to overturn the election or voted to certify Joe Biden's victory on January 6. He said it is not going to be her factor.

She will not detail what her factors ultimately would be. But if she were to overturn one of McCarthy specs (ph), undoubtedly, that would spark outrage from Republicans, and we'll see if she does go that route at the moment though. Expectational CEO (ph) she'll say yes, but she has to say that herself.

TAPPER: All right. Manu Raju on Capitol Hill, thanks so much.

In our national lead today, investigators are gathering evidence and a pair of fatal shootings that happened in a space of roughly two hours on Monday afternoon. The incidents are unrelated except for where they took place near Birmingham, Alabama, not Chicago, not New York, not Washington, D.C., Birmingham, Alabama. The nation's gun violence epidemic is not confined to big cities, it's everywhere.

CNN's Ryan young went to Birmingham, looking for reasons why.


RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A spike in homicides in Alabama's most populous city.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So easy to get a gun.

YOUNG (voice-over): Birmingham police say homicides are up more than 16 percent. In 2020, Birmingham saw the city's most homicides in 25 years. 122 people reported killed, leaving residents desperate for change.

KATRINA GRADY, MOTHER OF KAITLYNN GRADY: I hate thinking about it, because I never would have thought something that ever happened to my family.

YOUNG (voice-over): Katrina Grady is still coming to grips with what happened to her daughter in May.

GRADY: I froze up because I couldn't believe my baby just got shot.

YOUNG (voice-over): A nursing assistant, Grady had stopped to help a car she saw on the side of the road. When shots rang out, her eight- year-old daughter, Kaitlynn was caught in the crossfire.

GRADY: She didn't even know that she was shot in the head nor in the arm.

OFC. TRUMAN FITZGERALD, BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA POLICE: Right in this area here is where Ms. Grady stopped to offer some space (ph).

YOUNG (voice-over): Kaitlynn is just one of several children who've been the victim of uptick in gun violence in the city this past year.

CHIEF PATRICK SMITH, BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA POLICE: What we're seeing is an overabundance of guns.

YOUNG (voice-over): Birmingham Police Chief Patrick Smith says his officers are also dealing with an unprecedent number of guns on the street. And not just any type of weapon, Smith points to the availability of more high powered assault weapons, leading to an increase in homicides across the city.

SMITH: We no longer have that argument or fistfight in the back yard anymore. It's an argument that leads directly to a handgun.

YOUNG (voice-over): What's behind the surge? Chief Smith points to a number of things including COVID-19. And its wide ranging impacts from less officers on the street to the impact on the city's court system.

SMITH: COVID caused everything to shut down. People were let out of jail to eliminate the possibility of health threats to them for COVID.

YOUNG (voice-over): The city of Birmingham just allocated just under $100 million to the police department in next year's budget.

MAYOR RANDALL WOODFIN (D), BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA: Every time I get the alert that someone has been killed or shot in our city, I think about my own mother. I consider the grieving mothers out here in our community.

YOUNG (voice-over): While the mayor says supporting the police department is a priority, he says they also need cooperation from the community.

WOODFIN: Not going to arrest your way out of the -- out of decreasing homicides, right? You need prevention measures, you need enforcement reentry measures, and that requires community, that requires partners.

GRADY: Help me find the person responsible.

YOUNG (voice-over): Katrina Grady is encouraging people to say something when they see a crime take place. Police are still looking for who's responsible for Kaitlynn's shooting, but Grady is thankful she still has her daughter.



K. GRADY: Thank you for praying for me.

GRADY: Just to know the (INAUDIBLE) here and just to know that my child could have been going through as well. So, I won't wish (ph) that on nobody.


YOUNG: Jake, when you think about these numbers, just think about it, Ms. Grady is a nurse. She stopped to help somebody who was in need, and that her family was shot at because someone was starting to shooting at the car, but she stopped to help. They still haven't caught that shooter.

These incidents sort of stick out. And over and over again, as I talked to police chiefs across the country, they keep coming back to the same subject, guns, guns and more guns. They need more help getting them off the street. Jake?

TAPPER: Ryan Young with a tragic story. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Coming up next, Dr. Anthony Fauci like you've probably never seen him before. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our politics lead, the White House scrambling to tamp down on vaccine disinformation confirmed today that it has had conversations with executives from Fox News about that network's coverage of vaccinations and the pandemic as a whole. The announcement comes just hours after President Biden once again urged Facebook executives to stop allowing the rampant spread of lies about the vaccine throughout their site.

And as we'd learned just how many new cases are of the highly contagious Delta variant as CNN's Kaitlan Collins now reports.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Fresh concerns about the Delta variant reverberating through Washington tonight.

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: The Delta variant now represents 83 percent of sequenced cases. In some parts of the country, the percentage is even higher, particularly in areas of low vaccination rates.

COLLINS (voice-over): CDC Director Rochelle Walensky warning of a dramatic increase in the highly contagious variant as Press Secretary Jen Psaki confirmed a vaccinated White House staffer has tested positive.

JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The individual has mild symptoms. We know that there will be breakthrough cases. But as this instance (ph) chose, cases in vaccinated individuals are typically mild.

[17:40:00] COLLINS (voice-over): Psaki also revealing there have been other undisclosed breakthrough infections among staff as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office also confirmed one of her aides tested positive after coming into contact with the delegation of Texas Democrats. Six months since President Biden took office, the dynamics of the pandemic have shifted.

PSAKI: When the President took office, he knew that his number one priority would be getting the pandemic under control.

COLLINS (voice-over): Federal health officials say those who are vaccinated are well protected from the Delta variant while voicing concerns for those who aren't.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY & INFECTIOUS DISEASES: A lot of people are not vaccinated and those are the ones that are getting infected.

COLLINS (voice-over): Tonight, CNN is learning about the extent of the White House's effort to get more people vaccinated, including ongoing discussions with Fox News about their COVID-19 coverage as the network is amplifying vaccine skepticism during the pandemic.

PSAKI: We understand also the importance of reaching Fox's audience about the COVID-19 vaccines and their benefits. We don't see it as a partisan issue. We don't see vaccines as a political issue.

COLLINS (voice-over): After attempting to deescalate their feud with Facebook over the spread of misinformation, top Biden aides say they're reviewing the law that shields social media companies from liability for content created by their users.

KATE BEDINGFIELD, WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: We're reviewing that, and certainly they should be held accountable. And I think you've heard the President speak very aggressively about this.


COLLINS: And Jake, today, President Biden on six months since taking office held his second Cabinet meeting, the first one actually in the Cabinet Room with the full Cabinet due to coronavirus restrictions previously. And Jake, during this meeting, when reporters and cameras were in the room, the President was urging people to stay vigilant in the wake of the Delta variants spreading throughout the United States at the great rate that it is according to the CDC Director.

And he said, their next phase of the response here when it comes to COVID-19 is making sure the unvaccinated get vaccinated. And he noted it's going to be an uphill climb but he does feel like they are making progress even if it is gradual progress.

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

Joining us now to discuss, Dr. Paul Offit, he's the director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Dr. Offit, I want to start with another kind of misinformation. The constant MAGA Media and Republican lawmakers attacks on health experts especially on Dr. Anthony Fauci. Today on Capitol Hill, Fauci was confronted with an accusation basically from Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul. Take a listen.


SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): Dr. Fauci, knowing that it is a crime to lie to Congress, do you wish to retract your statement of May 11th where you claimed that the NIH never funded gain of function research and move on?

FAUCI: Senator Paul, you do not know what you are talking about, quite frankly. And I want to say that, officially, you do not know what you are talking about. This is a pattern that Senator Paul has been doing now at multiple hearings. Based on no reality, he keeps talking about gain of function.

This has been evaluated multiple times by qualified people to not fall under the gain of function definition. I have not lied before Congress. I have never lied, certainly not before Congress. Case closed.


TAPPER: I don't want to get into the details of what Senator Paul was attacking there and all that, but just the bigger picture here as a health professional. We keep seeing this, Trump allies in Congress, in Governor's offices, in the media, trying to make Fauci a COVID bogeyman. He's a 40-year public servant, he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President George W. Bush.

Now look, nobody is flawless. Nobody has never made a mistake. And I'm not saying he shouldn't be criticized, but they're really trying to attack him in a way that I've never seen before. What's your response?

DR. PAUL OFFIT, DIRECTOR OF THE VACCINE EDUCATION CENTER, CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL OF PHILADELPHIA: You think it started with the last administration where you saw attacks on science based agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency, asked to take this phrase climate change off their website, or the Food and Drug Administration because they weren't moving quickly enough for the CDC.

And I think what's so sad about this to me. I've known Dr. Fauci, for more than 30 years. He's a dedicated public servant, and he represents the best of science. And in that what I mean is that as there's new information that's generated, as we learn more and more, he's open- minded enough to potentially change recommendations if need be.

I think for some people, and maybe Rand Paul is one of them, the fluidity of that is disconcerting. They want just absolutism, they want a guru who's never wrong, and science and medicine doesn't work that way. You learn as you go. And Dr. Fauci represents the best of that.

TAPPER: And again, I'm not suggesting in any way that he can't be criticized, but there's just this effort to really just undermine everything he ever says, almost accusing him of crimes. But let's move on because I also want to ask you since you're a pediatrician, today, the Director the CDC Rochelle Walensky, she said unvaccinated children can and should wear masks in school.


Do you agree should all kids going to school this fall be wearing masks if they're not fully vaccinated?

OFFIT: Actually, I think it puts a lot of burden on the school to figure out who's vaccinated and who's not. I think it practically (ph) would be easier just to have mandates as we move in -- mask mandates as we move into the winter months, because you have a virus like the Delta virus, which is clearly more contagious in the original spans. You're going to have a lot of children less than 12 years of age who don't even have the option of getting a vaccine.

And I think as compared to last winter, when we were pretty good about masking and social distancing, I don't think there's going to be that efficient this winter. So I think children are at risk. I think if people have children or 10 years old, 11 years old, and they're thinking, you know, there's no vaccine, I think my child's going to be risk. If I was a parent of a child that age, I would want all those children to wear masks.

TAPPER: What do you tell parents of children who are eligible for the vaccine 12 and over who are skeptical? What's your advice to them? How do you convince them to get their kids vaccinated?

OFFIT: I think you should be skeptical o anything you put into your body. I mean, now we have an abundance of information. If you look at sort of the 12 to 15-year-old, we knew that there was a 2,300 child study, half children got the vaccine, half the children got a placebo, there were 18 cases of COVID in that study, 18 children suffered that that virus all in the placebo group. Now parents don't have to hope that their coin flip puts them on the right side, meaning the vaccine side, they can choose to get the vaccine and protect their child.

But I think it's fair to be skeptical. What upsets me is when people are cynical, they just don't believe the data that they're showing. And I don't know how you address that.

TAPPER: All right, Dr. Paul Offit, thanks so much. Good to see you again.

COVID will be one of many topics up for discussion in a special CNN Presidential Town Hall when President Biden join CNN's Don Lemon, that's tomorrow night at 8:00 Eastern here on CNN.

Coming up on top of the COVID dangers of wildfire, so large now, it's bigger than the city of Los Angeles and it's even creating its own weather. How that's creating an even bigger challenge for firefighters next.



TAPPER: You are looking right now at an Oregon wildfire that has burned an area about half the size of the state of Rhode Island and is so intense. It's creating its own weather. It's called the Bootleg Fire. It's one of at least 80 wildfires in 13 states, deadlier and more destructive wildfires. Sadly the new normal. It's another manifestation of the climate crisis which is real and is here.

CNN's Dan Simon is near a fast-moving fire that's forcing mandatory evacuations along the California Nevada border.


DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The monstrous blue lake fire in Oregon has scorch more than 600 square miles in area larger than Los Angeles

GOV. KATE BROWN (D-OR): Right now, this is the fourth largest fire to burn in Oregon since 1900.

SIMON (voice-over): It is so massive and so dangerous that fire crews have had to escape the fire nine days in a row.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You saw multiple pyrocumulus clouds.

SIMON (voice-over): The fire also so intense it's creating its own weather. The formation of pyrocumulus clouds is a phenomenon that enables the fire to create its own thunderstorms, which in turn can produce lightning, strong winds and even fire tornadoes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We just continue to see day after day after day of conditions that are not in our favor.

SIMON (voice-over): In a typical wildfire, the weather will dictate the path and intensity. But with the Bootleg, experts say, the fire is predicting what the weather will do. Nearly 1,100 acres burning per hour and containment hovering just around 30 percent. Nearly 70 homes have been destroyed.

BROWN: After last year, what is very clear is that no corner of our state is immune to fire. On the west coast and here in Oregon, the urgent and dangerous climate crisis has exacerbated conditions on the ground.

SIMON (voice-over): The Bootleg Fire far from alone, more than 80 large wildfires are raging in 13 states across the country, burning more than 1 million acres. In California, the Tamarack Fire has forced the evacuation of at least a half dozen communities. Most were only given a few minutes to evacuate when the fire exploded Saturday going from 500 acres to now nearly 40,000.

JOHN LYNCH, WILDFIRE EVACUEE: We had 10 minutes to grab, you know, what we could and the dog and got out of there.

SIMON (voice-over): Anxious residents allowed to return to their homes today with an escort to look around and grab some essentials. JUANITA HATFIELD, WILDFIRE EVACUEE: Just hoping to see our house still standing. I know, you know, they say it's OK but I really want to see it for myself. It's scary.

DAVID DAVIS, WILDFIRE EVACUEE: The deputy just told us that our house is still standing, that we just want to check it all out.


SIMON: And Jake, you can see that giant plume of smoke behind me. This is one of the fires burning with the Tamarack wildfire and progress unfortunately has been slow. This fire is 0 percent contained. We have seen helicopters trying to make water drops all day long. But they've hardly made a dent. Jake?

TAPPER: 0 percent contained. Dan Simon, thank you so much.

Coming up next, Ben & Jerry's at the center of a controversy and it has to do with the Middle East. Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our money lead, under fire from Pro-Palestinian and progressive groups, Ben & Jerry's ice cream just announced it will no longer sell its ice cream in the West Bank when its contract runs out in 2022. The company said, quote, we believe it is inconsistent with our values for Ben & Jerry's ice cream to be sold in the occupied Palestinian territory, unquote. But in 2015, Ben & Jerry's believed its presence in the region could affect positive change.

The new Israeli Prime Minister today said that the move by Ben & Jerry's makes it the anti-Israel ice cream, though the company founded by Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield will continue to sell their products in Israel, just not in the West Bank. This is not the progressive liberal cause Ben & Jerry's has taken up, the first, this one. Last year, the owners called for diverting more police funds into community programs and they called on Americans to end white supremacy as they launched a podcast on racism.

Back in December, Ben & Jerry's launched a Colin Kaepernick inspired non-dairy ice cream flavor called Change the Whirled, W-H-I-R-L-E-D.

Quick reminder tonight on CNN billionaire Jeff Bezos will join CNN's Anderson Cooper for an interview after his space launch and landing that's at 8:00 Eastern only on CNN. Our coverage continues right now with Jim Acosta right next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM."