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The Lead with Jake Tapper
January 6 Select Committee To Hold First Hearing; Interview With Rep. Kelly Armstrong (R-ND); Michael Flynn's Remarks After Being Gifted A Gun; Biden Confirms U.S. To End Its Combat Mission In Iraq; Florida Daily COVID-19 Cases Triple Over Past Two Weeks; COVID-19 Hospitalizations Surge To 870 In Alabama; COVID Cases Linked To Olympics Jump To 153; Mayor: All 98 People Killed In Condo Collapse Now Found, Identified. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired July 26, 2021 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The two had a contentious phone call, sign of just their deteriorating relationship between the two leaders, voices were rising, and at one point, McCarthy said, "what you are doing is making an unprecedented decision."
Publicly, Nancy Pelosi agreed, it was an unprecedented decision. She said it was unprecedented because of what happened on January 6th. And this comes as investigation is going to pick up pace once this hearing goes forward tomorrow, hearing testimony from four police officers who will give their experiences about what they encountered that day while defending this capitol.
Afterwards, the members of this committee will lay out their investigative path going forward and whether they will call forward any witnesses who had conversations with Donald Trump, potentially Kevin McCarthy himself. Potentially other Republicans as well. That is something that the Democrats and the Republicans who sit on this committee have not ruled out.
Congressman Adam Kinzinger, one of the Republicans added by Nancy Pelosi, told me earlier today that he is open to potentially calling some Republican members of Congress as well. So, that is something that will take shape, Jake, in the weeks and months ahead, as this investigation picks up pace.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: And Manu, Congresswoman Liz Cheney, she is one of the two House Republicans appointed on this select committee by Speaker Pelosi. And today we learned that Cheney is expected to give an opening statement at this committee's first hearing tomorrow. Do we have any idea what she plans to say?
RAJU: Yes. She will speak right after the chairman, Bennie Thompson, and expect her to talk about how this issue, in her view, is bigger than politics and say that this is essential for Congress to understand everything that happened in the run-up to the attack.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): And a really important opportunity to remind everybody about the necessity of accountability for what happened, for making sure that it never happens again.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RAJU (on camera): So now the question, too, also remains on Capitol Hill, whether anything will happen about Cheney and Kinzinger for accepting an appointment from Nancy Pelosi. Some Republican conservative members are pushing their leadership to punish these two members, potentially try to strip them of their committee assignments. But Kinzinger himself and Cheney have dismissed those threats. Jake?
TAPPER: All right, Manu, thank you so much.
Ahead of tomorrow's first hearing, members of this January 6 Select Committee met this afternoon to finalize specifics. They firmed up lines of questioning and plans to introduce new video from the four police officers who are set to testify.
CNN's Josh Campbell sat down with all four of those officers in a story you will now see first now on THE LEAD.
MICHAEL FANONE, DC METROPOLITAN POLICE OFFICER: I felt like they were trying to kill me.
JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): That's the message the House Select Committee will hear tomorrow when four police officers testify, including Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone.
FANONE: I experienced the most brutal savage hand-to-hand combat of my entire life, let alone my policing career, which spans almost two decades.
CAMPBELL (voice-over): New images like this previously released body- worn camera video are also expected to be released.
UNKNOWN: I got one.
CAMPBELL (voice-over): Showing the perspective of officers that deadly day.
Fanone's camera released to CNN earlier this year shows him being swept into the crowd before passing out and being carried back inside. Fanone suffered a heart attack and a traumatic brain injury and is still suffering from post-traumatic stress.
FANONE: I want people to understand the significance of January 6th. I want people to understand that thousands of rioters came to the Capitol hell bent on violence and destruction and murder.
CAMPBELL (voice-over): Also testifying, MPD Officer Daniel Hodges. He was crushed protecting the entrance of the capitol as the mob pinned him in the doorway.
DANIEL HODGES, DC METROPOLITAN POLICE OFFICER: He was able to rip away my baton, beat me with it. And he was practically foaming at the mouth. These people were true believers in the worst way.
CAMPBELL (voice-over): Hodges managed to escape with minimal physical injuries.
HODGES: I was calling out for all I was worth, and an officer behind me was able to get me enough room to pull me out of there.
CAMPBELL (voice-over): Capitol Police Sergeant Aquilino Gonell was standing near Hodges.
AQUILINO GONELL, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE: All I could think was we can't let these people in. There's going to be a slaughter inside.
CAMPBELL (voice-over): An Army veteran who served in Iraq, Gonell thought he was going to die on January 6th.
GONELL: I went overseas to protect our homeland from foreign threats, but yet here I am battling them in our own capitol.
CAMPBELL (voice-over): Gonnell was beaten with a flag pole, his hands cut open and he was hit with so much chemical spray, it soaked into his skin. When he finally made it home to his wife --
GONELL: She wanted to hug me and I told her no because I was covered in -- I was covered in pepper spray.
CAMPBELL (voice-over): Capitol Police Officer Harry Dunn says in addition to the physical assaults, black officers faced an onslaught of racial epithets.
HARRY DUNN, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE: It was just so overwhelming that here we are giving so much and putting our lives on the line to protect democracy and keep it and we're being called racial slurs, traitors.
CAMPBELL (voice-over): Dunn has been outspoken on his experience which has led to rhetorical attacks from conservative media.
DUNN: When you have footage released and people telling you first-hand experience what's they went through, for people to contradict that, it's insulting. It's a slap in the face.
CAMPBELL (voice-over): Few officers have spoken out since the insurrection, although some have discussed their views anonymously. Now, newly named Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger has given his support for officers to testify about a day that brought unprecedented violence and death to those sworn to protect the peaceful transfer of power.
TOM MANGER, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE CHIEF: We need to hear their stories.
CAMPBELL (on camera): Will you allow them to speak out?
MANGER: Absolutely. Yes, I mean, they need to be heard.
CAMPBELL (on camera): Now, for more on these four officers, Jake, our viewers can go to CNN.com, read the story that was just posted by our colleagues Zachary Cohen and Marshall Cohen, telling our viewer what it was like that day on January 6th.
Of course, these four officers are set to testify tomorrow. They will be serving as a public voice for the hundreds of other officers who were there on that day at the capitol working to stop an insurrection and protect American democracy.
TAPPER: All right, Josh Campbell, thanks so much. I want to bring in Republican Congressman Kelly Armstrong of North Dakota. He was one of the five Republican members recommended by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to sit on the committee before Pelosi vetoed two of them and then McCarthy pulled the other three including this congressman right here. Thanks for joining us, sir. I appreciate it.
I want to ask you, tomorrow, four officers, you just heard some of them, describing how rioters beat them and tazed them, one was crushed in a door. We are expected to see new video from that day. Despite your differences with Pelosi and the Democrats, do you think that these officers will be able to shed light to the public on what happened on January 6th?
REP. KELLY ARMSTRONG (R-ND): Well, I know they deserve to have their voices heard and I was in the capitol the day of January 6th, and the men and women wearing uniforms and all across that place were doing everything they could to keep staff, press, and members safe.
There's nothing short of heroic to how they acted that day. And they absolutely deserve to have their voices heard. I wish they were being heard in a less partisan forum, but, yes, they absolutely get to have their voices heard and I'm glad they're testifying.
TAPPER: McCarthy is being pushed by some of your fellow House Republicans to punish Congresswoman Liz Cheney and Congressman Adam Kinzinger because they've accepted Pelosi's invitations to be on this January 6th panel. Do you agree that Kinzinger and Cheney should be punished?
ARMSTRONG: I don't. I think electoral consequences happen the second Tuesday in November. I think we need to continue to move forward and go from there. I mean, the problem isn't that there's Republicans serving on the committee. The problem is who picked the Republicans and the Republicans that are picked.
If they think this is going to get any credibility with 50 percent of the country, I would actually argue that those two are probably -- there's a special level of disdain across the country for those two as even compared to some of the Democrats on the committee. TAPPER: Why is there disdain for them? They say Cheney and Kinzinger
that they want to get to the bottom of what happened. Liz Cheney is more conservative than Kevin McCarthy when it comes to voting records. What's wrong with them wanting to get to the bottom of what happened?
ARMSTRONG: Because when you serve on the committee at the call of the Speaker and the minority members aren't allowed to put their own members on the committee, you just completely make this thing partisan and move it forward in a way that just, I'm just telling you, 50 percent of the country is not going to take anything going on with it with any credibility whatsoever.
TAPPER: Jim Jordan and Banks, Congressman Banks, not just according to Speaker Pelosi but according to Liz Cheney had said things to make it clear that they didn't believe with the goals of the committee. They didn't -- obviously I'm not talking about you, but there are things that they had said about, first of all, they had been putting forward the election lie that Donald Trump actually won the election, something that you have not done. That was the reason.
But beyond that, Pelosi wanted to keep you on the committee, you and the other two. Congressman Adam Schiff said today it would be appropriate if you were seated. I know it's not your call, but don't you think just in terms of what's best for the nation, don't you think you could do more good on this committee than off this committee?
ARMSTRONG: I think absolutely what's best for the nation, best for this institution in the short term and best for this institution in the long term is for the minority members to be able to put their people on a committee.
I was on judiciary with Jim Jordan as ranking member. I served in the Republican Study Committee with Jim Banks and they're both, I mean, I spent two years in judiciary with Jim and a lot of time with Jim Banks, and they have every right just like any other member of the minority to be on this committee.
TAPPER: Well, they have a right to, but the question is if the purpose of the committee is to get to the truth of what happened and you have these two members that are constantly spewing these lies about the election, how much can you actually rely on them to be effective members of Congress in terms of the mission of the committee?
ARMSTRONG: So, select committees, I mean, we populate committees with minority leaders. We get to continue to do this. I serve through this. And to -- I mean, just to say that this is a somber, sober affair, I mean, you can sell that to other people, but I served on judiciary and oversight with members on the other side, and I spent two years with them. I spent two months in a bunker in a skiff with them.
So, to say -- I mean, we can come on here and be all solemn, but this is a partisan town, all committees are partisan and the members should get to put who they want on there, and that's the way -- and that's how it has to be, that's how it always should be. I used to try cases and you don't get to change the law or change the
rules the harder the case gets. If you do those types of things, the function of the building, the function of the institution cease to work.
TAPPER: Yes, but I guess -- the question I have, I understand that you don't like this committee although there was this 50/50 commission that most Republicans voted against, 35 of them voted for it and the Senate Republicans killed it. It would've been completely bipartisan. But McCarthy and others voted against that.
Don't you think for the good of the nation if Pelosi asked you to be on this committee, it would be better for the nation, forget Kevin McCarthy, forget partisan politics, but for the good of the nation if you served on this committee?
ARMSTRONG: No. I think if you -- first of all, I don't take positions from the speaker's office, I take them from our leader and on our side because that's the way this place works. And I think for the good of the nation, to have any credibility at all to allow in a very, very partisan body, to allow the opposing side to pick your team members is just simply never going to work.
And I don't think -- I think it's a terrible mistake and I think we should continue to move forward, particularly considering I've worked with and been in numerous hearings with members on the other side. And to say that they're not some of their best partisan warriors is just simply not true.
TAPPER: All right, Republican Congressman Kelly Armstrong of North Dakota, thank you so much. I really appreciate it sir.
ARMSTRONG: Thanks for having me.
TAPPER: Coming up, Michael Flynn's stunning remark when he was gifted a gun. We'll show that to you next.
Plus, the Olympics as you've never seen them before. A gold medal- winning gymnast will join us ahead. Stay with us.
TAPPER: And we're back with our "Politics Lead." Just weeks after he seemed to endorse a Myanmar-style coup in the United States, former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn made these questionable comments over the weekend after being gifted a rifle during a church event in California.
(BEGIN VDEO CLIP)
UNKNOWN: This is one of our top-quality guns and --.
MICHAEL FLYNN, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER FOR TRUMP: Maybe I'll find somebody in Washington D.C. (LAUGHTER)
TAPPER: Let's discuss. So I want to be clear first of all, Flynn's team said the Myanmar comments when which he seem to endorse a coup were distorted, although it seems pretty clear from the tape, they've not responded to requests for comment about this latest remarks. But Rachael, this is yet another very bizarre, troubling comment from a man who used to be a very highly esteemed general.
RACHAEL BADE, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I mean, absolutely disgusting. I mean, you think about the timing of this right now. There are lawmakers on Capitol Hill who are dealing with death threats on a regular basis.
And I mean, January 6th, the storming of the capitol, a terrorist attack in our own country, and you have somebody who used to be, you know, working in our government saying, I'm going to take a gun to Washington suggesting he could shoot people.
I mean, it's just -- it's the height of irresponsibility and, you know, it's just absolutely appalling, and there needs to be more Republicans who call it out and say this is unacceptable.
TAPPER: Let's turn to the January 6th insurrection because the committee is obviously beginning its first hearing tomorrow. Today, Ramesh, we heard Liz Cheney respond to Kevin McCarthy's claim that she and Adam Kinzinger were, "Pelosi Republicans." Here's Cheney responding.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHENEY: We have important work to do and I think that's pretty childish.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: We should note, Kevin McCarthy does vote more with Nancy Pelosi than Liz Cheney votes with Pelosi in terms of whose -- but I guess the litmus test of whether you're a Pelosi Republican or a Trump Republican is whether or not you support Trump and not conservative values, in some ways.
RAMESH PONNURU, SENIOR EDITOR, NATIONAL REVIEW: Well, it may be a childish taunt on McCarthy's part, but it's also one that could have a real sting. It is the sort of thing that could really stick and hurt Cheney and other like-minded Republicans, a few like-minded Republicans in their primaries this next year.
It's right that she votes with conservative Republicans. She agrees with McCarthy on abortion and guns and taxes and all the issues. The question is, is agreement with Trump and taking the Trump line on the events of January 6th, is that going to become the defining issue? Do Republicans really want to tie themselves not just to Trump but to the worst aspect of the Trump administration? TAPPER: But I think they do.
TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, ATLANTA JOURNAL-CONSTITUTION: I mean, so far --
TAPPER: The evidence seems to suggest.
MITCHELL: That's what the evidence suggests. And even to the point that now some House Republicans are talking about possibly stripping Cheney and Kinzinger of their committee assignments to show that they are no longer considered part of the Republican caucus in a way.
And it shows that, you know, at least right now in America the Republican Party is Trump's party, and you've got to be with him 100 percent or certain people want to kick you out.
TAPPER: You know, it's funny because today McCarthy objected to the fact that Pelosi vetoed two members of the committee that he'd put up including Congressman Banks, who is an Afghan veteran, a veteran of the war of Afghanistan.
And yet, it's nothing about turning around and insulting Adam Kinzinger, another decorated veteran, calling him a Pelosi Republican. So I guess that war service only matters if you're on the right side of the Donald Trump issue.
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, and ideals don't matter anymore either, right? Liz Cheney has a 78 percent career rating for the American conservative view. Adam Kinzinger, who I think of as much more moderate, 59.6. Liz was replaced in leadership by Elise Stefanik of New York, 44 percent conservative rating.
So it's not about a diss. They didn't even produce a platform. You know, I mean, I was raised to believe politics is about mediating disputes peacefully and allocating resources equitably and so we can argue about that. That's no longer the Trump Republican view.
It's like we think taxes should go down or a wall should go up, all they want is fealty to this insurrectionist and I think it's a political dead end, but it's a tragedy for democracy.
TAPPER: And Rachael, we just learned that at the same time as tomorrow's hearing, four Republican members of Congress in an alternate universe would be considered fringe members, but here are their mainstream Republicans, Matt Gaetz, Louie Gohmert, Paul Gozar, who flirts with white nationalists, and Marjorie Taylor Greene.
These four are going to hold a press conference demanding answers on treatment of January 6th prisoners, January 6th prisoners like they're political prisoners.
Now, Brian Walsh who used to work for the National Republican Senatorial Committee, we probably are familiar with Brian. I still follow him on Twitter. He tweeted, "Stating the obvious, but you can't credibly claim to support our brave men and women in law enforcement especially the Capitol Police, but then side with their attackers."
BADE: Tomorrow is going to be a disastrous day for McCarthy on both ends of the spectrum here. I mean, you are going to have men and women in uniform testifying about the violence they witnessed on January 6th. McCarthy is still sticking with Trump. That, number one, is going to be tough for the party and tough for him.
Number two, he decided to withdraw all his members from this committee so he is not going to have anybody to push back on anything that is being said up there, which is going to create a real messaging problem for him when he's trying to deflect or whenever change the story.
And then you have these members who are going get the Justice Department talking about prisoners, January 6th prisoners. These people were rioters. Calling them prisoners now? It's just -- it's going to be impossible for McCarthy. He's going to have to answer for the people who are testifying, the law enforcement officers, but also these people on the very far fringe of the right who are saying these crazy things, and he needs to push back on them.
TAPPER: And then, Tia, take a listen to Donald Trump over the weekend in his big lie rally in Arizona.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- when they say, well, sir, we have to get on to the future. Let me tell you, you're not going to have a future. First of all, our nation is being destroyed, but you're not going to have a future in '22 or '24 if you don't find out how they cheated.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: So he seems to be acknowledging there that he is hearing from Republicans we need to move on. And he's like, I don't care.
MITCHELL: Right. And right now, Republican leaders are following his lead. Representative Barry Loudermilk who's in Georgia's delegation, he was just on T.V. last week talking about why he feels like Georgia's election results need to be audited yet again, you know. So, that has become such a focus for Republicans, is to continue to try to re-litigate the 2020 election that was more than six months ago.
PONNURU: Trump arguably threw away the presidency by hyping this vote fraud idea and discouraging mail-in voting by Republicans. He threw away the Republican Senate by convincing a lot of Republican voters in Georgia not to vote because votes couldn't be trusted. But apparently he's not yet done and he wants to throw away some seats in 2022 as well.
TAPPER: All right, wonderful panel. Thanks so much for being here. Appreciate it. You always know how to make me feel so depressed.
TAPPER: Coming up next, the U.S. says it's ending the combat mission in Iraq. What this means for the situation on the ground, next. Stay with us.
TAPPER: In our "World Lead" now, you might not know this but the United States still has about 2,500 troops in Iraq. They are there to provide stability to combat ISIS and to help with training Iraqi forces.
Today, during an Oval Office meeting with the Iraqi prime minister, President Biden confirmed that the U.S. will end its combat mission in Iraq by the end of the year. However, the White House is going out of its way to label this a change of mission rather than a mission accomplished moment.
Let's bring in CNN chief White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins as well as CNN's senior international correspondent Arwa Damon. Kaitlan, tell us what happened at this afternoon's meeting between Biden and the prime minister of Iraq.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: So this is actually the first time that they came face to face and we got to see them while they were in the Oval Office as President Biden was describing what this end of a combat mission was going to look like in his mind. He was saying that it is a shift in the mission as they were framing it, saying that it's going to move to training and what not and dealing with ISIS as it shows up there.
But one big question, Jake, that remains is those 2,500 forces that are on the ground right now are all 2,500 leaving? What does that look like? Because a shift in mission could mean renaming what exactly it is that their role is while they do stay on the ground.
And this is a question that we've asked repeatedly to the White House, but today they have declined to say what exactly that number is going to look like by the time this combat mission comes to an end.
COLLINS: How many -- what's the number that we expect to be there by December given it's by the end of the year?
JEN PSAKI, mission and that the mission is changing in Iraq, and that it will be driven by WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Well, I would just say the most important part is that it is a change in what is needed for the mission. So I'm not going to give you operational nor will I have operational details.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: And, Jake, of course, we should also note, this comes on the heels of President Biden's decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Afghanistan. This is a little bit different, though, because this comes at the urging of the government of Iraq wanting the United States to leave as they've got these anti-American forces there that wanted the U.S. to go.
TAPPER: Arwa, what's the situation on the ground in Iraq? Is the Iraqi government able to control the country? Is it stable?
ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, let me preface all of this, Jake, by saying that the bar in Iraq when it comes to Iraq is quite low. And the Iraqi government is unable to control these Iranian-backed Shia militias, and the Iraqi security forces on their own would most likely not be able to prevent the resurgence of ISIS.
And it is for those two reasons that we have seen this agreement come to pass, the fact that no matter what you're going to call them, U.S. forces will be staying in Iraq. And this is quite the contrast to what we saw happening back towards the end of 2011, under the Obama administration, when the U.S. and Iraq could not agree on an extension of a U.S. troop presence.
And then, of course, we had the emergence of the Islamic State of Iraq which then, of course, became ISIS. Neither country wants to see that happen again, Jake. But this mission, no matter what is being publicly said, is not just about combating ISIS or preventing its resurgence. It's also about creating a counterbalance to Iran's extending and growing influence.
TAPPER: And what about ISIS? The terrorist group is claiming responsibility for this month's terrorist bombing at that Baghdad market, right?
DAMON: Yes, devastating bombing that happened on the night before Eids (ph), which is one of the holiest religious holidays in Islam. Now, ISIS, obviously, does not exist in the same capacity that it used to before, it does not fully control large swathes of Iraq, but it does manage to operate and move with a certain level of freedom in some parts of the country, remote, rugged, terrain.
Remember, ISIS knows this land very well, because before it was ISIS, it was ISI. And before that, it was Al-Qaeda in Iraq. And this is also an organization that knows how to go to ground, wait and bide its time. That's what it did the last time around. They waited for that void in security after U.S. forces left. They waited for anti-Iraqi government sentiment to rise.
The concern is that they could be playing those very same cards right now, which is another reason why it's critical for U.S. forces to remain. Because, yes, Iraq does not necessarily need them in this combat role right now, but the Iraqi security forces most definitely do need more training. And as the rocky Prime Minister himself said, Jake, they need the various different intelligence assets that a U.S. military troop presence brings to the table.
TAPPER: Arwa Damon, Kaitlan Collins, thanks to both of you.
Coming up next, breaking news on whether your boss can legally, legally require you to get the COVID vaccine. Stay with us.
TAPPER: Some breaking news now in our health lead, the Justice Department now says all government agencies and private businesses can legally require workers to get a coronavirus vaccine if they so decide. This decision was made after a review of current federal laws and comes just hours after the Department of Veterans Affairs became the first federal agencies to enact such a mandate.
We have also seen new mask mandates popping up around the country today in New York and California. But not so in Florida where the pandemic is sadly surging once again, every single county in the sunshine state is seeing high levels of community spread and transmission with an average of more than 10,000 new cases per day. Florida accounting for nearly a quarter of all cases in the U.S.
CNN's Leyla Santiago joins us now live from Miami. And Leyla, it's particularly bad in South Florida, why is that?
LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, we asked the folks running this vaccination and testing site where we are right now and they told us they believe it's because folks are going back to their tendency pre-pandemic. You know, to put things in perspective as to where Florida is, the Florida has seen more than tripled average cases and we did two weeks ago. That's according to data from John Hopkins University.
The mayor of Miami Dade has opened up more sites extended hours and the company running these sites tells me that they've seen a moderate increase when it comes to vaccination, a significant increase when it comes to testing. We asked why, here's the response.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RON GONCALVES, GENERAL MANAGER, NOMI HEALTH FLORIDA, TRAVEL & HOSPITALITY: We've seen that people have felt somewhat unchained to do what they'd like to do. And, obviously, as travel and other plans kick in and more of a desire to go back to pre-pandemic, we're definitely seeing that those behaviors are contributing to the increase in cases.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SANTIAGO: And Jake, right now in the state of Florida, they are right about roughly 48 percent of residents fully vaccinated.
TAPPER: Leyla, Republican Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida has been pushing the vaccine for month, though he's also been attacking Dr. Fauci and what DeSantis calls Faucism. Did DeSantis's critics think he could be doing more to contain the outbreak in his state?
SANTIAGO: Right, his critics want him to focus on vaccination, get it to go much higher than 48 percent here in Florida in stop focusing on Dr. Fauci. You know, I hear a lot of folks asking for more data. It's still being released weekly, not daily. And I got to tell you, Jake, I spoke to one hospital up in Jacksonville, University of Florida, Jacks Health (ph) in Jacksonville, and the epidemiologists there told me that they've seen 140 percent increase in cases in less than a week.
We visited them last Monday, they had three COVID-19 patient units. Today, they have five and they are begging for more help, more help from the state and more help from federal government, saying, they need more funding to deal with staffing shortages, to hire more travel nurses, as well as more logistic resources. Otherwise, this is a health system that will break very soon.
TAPPER: All right, Leyla Santiago in Miami, thank you so much.
The pandemic resurgence is also looking grim in Alabama where the number of hospitalized COVID patients has spiked to 870. That's a number that is more than quadrupled since the Fourth of July. Republican Governor Kay Ivey last week shared a blunt message for the unvaccinated.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. KAY IVEY (R-AL): These folks are choosing a horrible lifestyle of self-inflicted pain. Folks supposed to have common sense. But it's time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks, not the regular folks. It's the unvaccinated folks that letting us down.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TAPPER: Joining me now live to discuss, Dr. Karen Landers, she's the Assistant State Health Officer at the Alabama Department of Public Health. Dr. Landers, Dr. Fauci told me yesterday that he understands Governor Ivey's frustration but that her message is not what he would say. What do you think about her remarks that the unvaccinated folks are letting us down?
DR. KAREN LANDERS, ASSISTANT STATE HEALTH OFFICER, ALABAMA DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Well, I think the most important message that we can deliver right now in Alabama is that we're at a critical juncture. But we as Alabamians have the capability within our own state and within our own communities to return to a level of normalcy if we will just increase our vaccination rates. And in the meantime, follow our mitigation standards if we are not vaccinated.
TAPPER: Take a look at the leading headline on the Birmingham news website, quote, Alabama's COVID vaccination efforts have failed. The University of Alabama has offered to pay students 20 bucks to get the shot. The popular football coach Nick Saban pushed vaccines, the governor, why aren't these messengers having more success?
LANDERS: You know, I think that's a very, very important question and a real challenge to me as a physician personally, as well as a public health official. The misinformation that continues to circulate on social media and through other channels has been a huge challenge in Alabama. And we continue to return people to the information that is science based, that is fact based. Just today, our medical center in Birmingham, UAB, had a very important message from Dr. Saag and Rod (ph). So, again, speaking to the issue of facts, and the facts are that this is a deadly virus. We have a safe, effective and free vaccine. This is what works. And we need for Alabamians to listen to those experts, as well as those of us who have experience in public health and have done this for a number of years. We must continue to fight misinformation.
TAPPER: All over the country, we've seen different groups that are disproportionately refusing to get vaccinated. Members of the black community, members of the Hispanic community, people under 30, Trump's supporting Republicans, what groups in Alabama are disproportionately holding out and refusing to get the vaccine?
LANDERS: Well, actually, if you look at our data in Alabama, and specifically on our vaccine dashboard, you will see that our African American community has really been very forward thinking and really taking the vaccine. And our African American leaders, including our medical community, have stepped up throughout this entire pandemic, to really discuss the inequity and to highlight their equity.
So I think our African American community in Alabama overall has done a very, very good job in getting vaccinated where the problem appears to be for the most part in Alabama is really still in the younger age group. And I say younger actually, ages 12 to 49. That's really, really where our problem is reaching people who perceive that they're younger, they're healthier and so therefore they don't need the vaccine or continuing to buy into misinformation.
And I think that is the group we have to continue to message to, not only reminding parents absolutely that we must protect their children, but also by doing this to protect the immunosuppressed other people that might not have as good response to vaccine.
TAPPER: All right, lots of misinformation out there, unfortunately. Dr. Karen Landers, thank you so much and thanks for the work that you do.
Coming up, the next Olympic sport, the 15-minute dash to a 7-Eleven to get a snack. The new challenges of the COVID Olympics, that's next.
TAPPER: In our sports league today, the number of COVID cases linked to the Olympic Games has risen to 153, 16 of which are from inside the Olympic Village.
We still do not know how serious any of those cases are, if at all, but despite those infections and a year of delays and the scramble to manage a public health emergency, the Olympic spirit is shining through, even if it's in empty arenas and gyms, even the skateboard park as the athletes remind us why so many people wanted the games to go on.
Joining us now to talk about the Tokyo games, former U.S. Olympic gymnast who won two gold medals at the 1984 Los Angeles games, Bart Conner. Bart, first of all, if I had two gold medals, I don't think I ever would not be wearing them, but so congratulations on your humility.
BART CONNER, 1984 OLYMPIC GOLD MEDAL GYMNAST: I'll wear it next time, Jim.
ACOSTA: Next time. The Olympics in any year put so much pressure on these athletes, I can't even imagine it. And then you have this year with COVID restrictions, empty stadiums not as much in person support, how much harder do you think it is for these athletes to compete?
CONNER: Yes, you know, Jake, if anything, it makes me admire them even more, considering the adversity that they go through just to be an elite athlete these days at the highest level in their sports, and then the postponement of the games. And then the uncertainty, every single day, they're in the gym training, they're doing their hard work and not knowing whether the whole thing is going to be pulled out from underneath them at any moment. Even the other day, the organizers in Tokyo said they reserve the right to cancel the games, even mid games.
So, if anything, it's just made me appreciate them more. And I watched their performances, and to me it adds another layer of just great respect for their resiliency, their grit, and what they put themselves through.
TAPPER: So some of the athletes have said that they're allowed only 15 minutes to go to their local 7-Eleven to get food and they're even timed. Now, we should note --
TAPPER: -- 7-Elevens in Japan are nothing like 7-Elevens here. Our head writer has been to them and says describes them as the greatest places on earth. Either way, how difficult do you think it is for the athletes to handle this isolation, 15 minutes running to the 7-Eleven to get food and back?
CONNER: Yes. And, you know, it really changes what the Olympics are all about. If you think back, it's a cultural experiences and exchange. That's the world coming together in peace and, you know, in fair play, you know, and trying to blend cultures and celebrate the best athletes on the planet. And so, a lot of that Olympic spirit, a lot of that Olympic culture is just not allowed to happen this year.
And it really is unfortunate I feel for the athletes and their families because you know, you see the families cheering from home on their couches, but, you know, normally you want your loved ones to be there. I know when I won my gold medals in 1984, I mean, looking up in the stands and seeing my parents was just an overwhelming experience to think, my God, look what we did together and we're all here.
And they can't share that, they can enjoy that, and so, yes, they've been cheated out of a lot of things. But once again, it just makes me admire the Olympians and Paralympians even more.
TAPPER: U.S. women's gymnastics were considered a lock for the gold and the team competition. The Russians topped them in the qualifying round. And even though the GOAT Simone Biles has -- had a -- even she had a couple stumbles. What's happened here? And are you still confident that the women's gymnastics team, Team USA, can still pull it off?
CONNER: Well, that was certainly a big shock. Because, you know, for the last decade, the U.S. women have dominated. In fact, they haven't lost a team competition since 2010, to anyone in any venue. And that was a shocker. But the U.S. was a little sloppy, they made some mistakes. And, of course, Simone is so powerful and dynamic that she flew out of the floor area, and almost off the beam podium.
So, I think they were nervous. Obviously, you know, there's an enormous amount of pressure when you go to the Olympics, and the athletes know what it's at stake. I mean, they've been in many major world competitions, but the intensity of the Olympics goes to a whole nother level and perhaps just those expectations got to them. But I think it'll be a little bit of a wake up call.
You know, the U.S. team has a huge advantage in terms of the difficulty scores that they bring to the competition, that's largely because it's Simone Biles. If there's any knock on the U.S. team, they don't quite have the artistry and execution of the Russians and the Chinese. And that's where the equalizer is. So that's what happened the other day, the Russian team was so clean and so precise, and good execution scores that they, you know, edged out the U.S. women by a point.
So, it's going to make it really exciting. It added a whole nother layer of drama that I don't think any of us expected coming into these games.
TAPPER: Yes, but I think they're going to pull it off at the end of the day, the U.S. Team USA.
CONNER: I do, too.
TAPPER: Bart Conner, thank you so much. What an honor to have you on the show today. Appreciate it.
CONNER: Thank you so much. A pleasure, Jake.
TAPPER: Officials just gave an update on that deadly building collapse in Surfside, Florida. What they just announced, that's next.
TAPPER: And we have some breaking news for you in our national lead. All 98 people killed in the Surfside condo collapse have now been identified and accounted for. Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava made the announcement just moments ago, more than one month after the Florida condo collapsed in the middle of the night. Mayor Levine Cava says crews will continue to search through rubble to see if they can find any personal artifacts to give to the grieving families.
The city of Surfside has not decided how to move forward with the site. Some families hope to see a memorial there. Some survivors hope they can go back to living there in a new condo building.
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