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Don Lemon Tonight

President Biden Might Extend Deadline Of Evacuation In Afghanistan; President Biden's Agenda Threatened By Own Party; Former Afghan Translator For The Marines Describes His Family's Desperation To Leave Afghanistan; House Select Committee Seeking Phone Records Of Certain Lawmakers; Rising Cases And Deaths Due To COVID-19 And The Frustration Of The Vaccinated; Pfizer Vaccine Gets Full Approval From FDA; Tennessee Flash Floods Kills At Least 21 People. Aired 11p-12a ET

Aired August 23, 2021 - 23:00   ET




DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Tonight, CNN is learning that President Biden is still deciding whether to extend the August 31st deadline for removing all U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Pentagon officials say that they need to know by tomorrow in order to have enough time to get all troops and equipment out of Kabul airport by the 31st.

Also tonight, the House Select Committee investigating the January 6th attack on the capitol expected to ask telecommunications companies to preserve phone records of certain people including some members of Congress.

And the FDA giving full approval to Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine. It's also an important week for the president's domestic agenda as House Democrats are divided on infrastructure strategy. Lots to get to. Let's bring in now CNN White House correspondent John Harwood and senior political analyst Mr. John Avlon. Good evening one and all. Both Johns, by the way.

John Harwood, you first. Let's start with this critical week for the president's domestic agenda. This is where the rubber really is going to hit the -- meet the road here, and it comes down to the Democrats this time. So, give us the latest. What do you think? What do you know?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUST CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, Don, the Democrats are going to have to decide whether to hang together or hang separately. And this is -- any -- the margins are so small in the House and Senate that anybody or any small group of people in the House can take down the president's agenda if they want to.

So you've had this group of moderate Democrats in the House who have been threatening to withhold support for the larger budget bill that they're going to do with Democrats only votes, the $3.5 trillion, unless they first get a vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill. Nancy Pelosi doesn't want to do that because they're trying to manage

the support of the progressives and the moderates at the same time. She has shown historically a lot of skill at legislating and so you'd have to bet at this moment that she works it out.

But Democrats are going to have to decide again how unified they're going to be and are any one of these groups of Democrats willing to take down Joe Biden's agenda. They can if they want to. I think the White House is betting that they won't want to, but there is some sweaty hours ahead.

LEMON: Okay. That was -- that was vivid. So listen, John Avlon, a new NBC News poll showing that the president's approval rating dipping below 50 percent. It is like 49 percent now for the first time since it was 53, now it's 49 percent. If he can get this infrastructure deal over the finish line, do you think that's going to get him more public support after the shock of Afghanistan's fall?

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: It will help. The more wins you can put on the board the more things you can do to boost the economy and deliver on your agenda in ways that the American people can feel particularly outside Democratic strongholds. That will give them a boost.

The reality check here though is that Biden while he's dipped below 49, Donald Trump never was above below 50 percent. The only president in the history of Gallup polling never to be above 50 percent in his entire presidency. So, this is no reason for panic, but it does speak to the very real damage and there will be a lasting mark on this botched withdrawal from Afghanistan.

It will not drive the decisions of most folks come next November in the midterm elections. But there is no getting away from it. This has been a botched withdrawal despite the enormous numbers they have put on the board in the last several days in terms of getting people out. But I wouldn't over index this particular poll. See it with a sense of perspective and Democrats should be focused on delivering and getting their job to pass the House.

LEMON: Hey John, do you think you should over index this particular poll, but do you think maybe people are over indexing actually the -- what's coming out of (inaudible), yes. You know, most people agree that it was botched.


LEMON: The administration doesn't believe that. They said it was going to be chaos regardless of what have you. So, that's their thing. All right, so, give them that. But, listen, I think most people don't agree.

But do you think they're over indexing this because at the end of the day, getting out of Afghanistan, he's got the public squarely, clearly on his side. And as you say, I Don't know, a month, two months, three months, four months, six months from now, will this even register? AVLON: Yes and it should because there is a humanitarian crisis and

things will get worse. You know, Taliban aren't going to offer amnesty to women and girls behind their borders. This is going to become worse. And it will be a mark. That said, it will be seen a perspective.

As you pointed out in the CBS/YouGov poll that just showed, the majority of Americans do want to get out of Afghanistan, but they disapprove of the way Joe Biden has done it to date. That's just the reality that the White House has got to face. You can't spin your way out of that. What you can do is focus on your domestic agenda. But this has been a mistake.

LEMON: And focus on getting people out of Afghanistan as many as possible.

AVLON: Absolutely, 100 percent.


LEMON: Right on. John Harwood, also today, the FDA officially giving the full approval to Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine. Does the White House think that this is going to have a really big impact daily, on the daily numbers of shots going into arms?

HARWOOD: I think it's going to have some impact on the margins. You know, there is about a third of the country has not been vaccinated, not all of them are firmly fixed in terms of not wanting to get the vaccine. Some are hesitant. Some are slow to move. Some are waiting for a little more authentication.

And so there is a quantum of people who they believe are going to get pushed over into getting vaccinated. Every little bit helps. But Joe Biden was quick to note today that aside from people who individually would be persuaded to take the vaccine, he's hoping that companies, universities, other institutions begin requiring vaccination as a condition of employment, condition of entry, to consume a business and services.

Some of those things piled on top of the individual decisions that people would make on their own may get those numbers start creeping up. They got to creep up for the United States to get on top of the delta variant.


HARWOOD: And saying that, by the way, Don, is the most important thing for Joe Biden's agenda. More -- even more important than getting the infrastructure deal passed. Getting control of the pandemic, that's his top priority, that's related to the health of the economy. It's all of a piece.

If he can get all those going, if he get vaccinations up and get these economic bills that will make a real difference in people's lives, that will be a significant step forward for him to try to get past the Afghanistan situation. LEMON: Look, I got a lot of guff for saying that it was absurd to

think that the current president should somehow get the former president to help him encourage people to get the vaccine. The proof of that was this weekend when the former guy said hey, you should get the vaccine and got very loudly booed for saying it. So, he did.

AVLON: Going towards on its creator, Don.


AVLON: Big pat on the back there for predicting that.

LEMON: Never going to happen. Ridiculous. So I was like, what? What are you people thinking? Thank you both, appreciate it. I'll see you soon.

I want to turn to the race to get thousands of Americans and U.S. allies out of Afghanistan. White House official say that during a 12- hour span today, approximately 10,900 people were flown out of Kabul. CNN's Oren Liebermann has the story now.


OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): At Kabul International Airport, the end of the month is coming too quickly. The U.S. is trying to hit its self-imposed August 31st deadline to complete the evacuation from Afghanistan.

JAKE SULLIVA, WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: In the days remaining, we believe we have the wherewithal to get out the American citizens who want to leave Kabul.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): The Taliban warning there will be consequences if it takes any longer. A fire fight at the airport Sunday that left one Afghan security member dead underscoring the tense security situation as the U.S. tries to maximize the number of people it can fly out.

STEVE LYINS, COMMANDER, U.S. TRANSPORTATION COMMAND: We are pushing the limits to do everything we can to get every single evacuee out of Kabul.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): In order to speed up evacuations, the Pentagon activating the Civil Reserve Air Fleet for only the third time, using 18 aircraft from commercial carriers like United and American to move evacuees from the Middle East onwards.

For now, though, the U.S. prioritizing getting American citizens out. Several thousand have left the country already the Pentagon says. A senior State Department official says there are still several thousand more. The Pentagon acknowledging helicopters have left the airport not once but twice to pick up evacuees. Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby hinting at more.

JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: On occasion, where there is a need and there is a capability to meet that need, our commanders on the ground are doing what they feel they need to do to help Americans reach the airport.

LIEBERMANN (voice-over): For now, the U.S. embassy in Kabul is telling Afghan Special Immigrant Visa applicants and evacuees not to come to the airport until they're told. With potentially a little more than a week left at this evacuation effort, fear of the totalitarian Taliban regime is growing.

The brother of an Afghan interpreter received these letters from the Taliban. A court date for helping U.S. troops and shielding his brother, and then a notification of his death sentence. These court decisions are final and you will not have the right to object, the third and final letter reads. You chose this path for yourself and your death is imminent, god willing.

There are still some 13,000 people at the airport and more trying to get through every day. But a new terror threat from ISIS-K, an offshoot of ISIS in the Middle East forcing the U.S. to develop alternate routes for safety even when there is so little time left to evacuate.

(On camera): Tuesday marks one week until the end of the month and a defense official familiar with the conversations and the discussions around the U.S. troop presence in Afghanistan says it is a crucial day, decision day. If the U.S. wants to get all of its troops, now there is 5,800 in Afghanistan, out of the country by the end of the month, the decision needs to come on Tuesday. Don?


LEMON: The dire situation at the Kabul airport is sparking fear, confusion, and grief for thousands of Afghans who helped the U.S. military over the course of this two decade war. Many are desperate to escape waiting for visa approval including the family of Yaser.

Yaser is a former translator for the Marines and he came to the U.S. seven years ago and he is worried the Taliban may retaliate against his family still living in Kabul. They sent Yaser a video that they recorded from their window panicking as they saw Taliban militants scouring the neighborhood and jumping over a neighbor's fence.




LEMON: Yaser joins me now and we're not revealing his full name in order to protect his family still in Afghanistan. We're so happy that you could join us. We are really hoping that your family will be able to get out all intact. Hello to you.

We know that you're frightened the Taliban will go after your family because you worked with the Marines and I understand that you have just learned that they have made it to the airport just within the last couple of hours. How did they get there? YASER: Yes, well, first, Don, thank you for having me over here. I've

been working on their, you know, paperwork for the past three days with my teammates, all of my, you know, friends and colleagues that I've been working from 2012 to 2014.

There was some progress on their paper works but it was very unfortunate for them like, you know, they couldn't get their visa like the embassy was getting shut down in Kabul. My family was just like very, you know, frustrated and exhausted about this process like it would take for too long for them to wait it for.

And I was just doing my best to just get them out of there and promise them like, you know, anything I can do for you, I will definitely do it. And right now, they're just like -- you know, I've heard from, you know, my team that they were just like about to, you know, they made it inside luckily and right now they're just like -- I have no contact with them as for past 30 minutes. I have no idea what is happening.

LEMON: All right. So you said that they don't have their visas. Do they have the proper paperwork other than that that they may need to get out?

YASER: Yes. I've been reaching out to one of my major. He wrote it down like a letter for them saying there is no trade for them to be in the United States and also -- I also processed, you know, their passports and identification card through the U.S. embassy in Kabul. I've sent them all my documents, my citizenship, my U.S. passport, you know, all the documents that they are asking me and requires for them.

They're absolutely, you know, everything that they will need for them to just have us, you know, process their visa, they have it in hand right now. The only thing I'm just like waiting for them to just get their visa, but I Don't know how like, you know, it's very confusing and like very hard for me to even think about how they will, you know, process a visa this quick for them.

LEMON: But at least they have made it to the airport and that is a journey and a struggle within itself. That's an accomplishment that they've made it this far. So let's be positive and hopefully that they will, you know, make -- get the visas and get everything that they needed.

So, let's talk a little bit more about your family, okay, Yaser. Up until tonight, your loved ones have been in hiding. You had told your family to burn all the documents about you, even pictures of you. Why did you do that?

YASER: Absolutely. Absolutely. As I've been witnessing, you know, videos coming and then photos just coming through social media, you know, they started searching houses, you know. It started out like past two days. And the only reason for me to keep them safe that I Don't have to leave any evidence as I was working with the U.S. Marines back, you know, from 2012 all the way down to 2014.

Anything I would have left over in Kabul with them, I would just like, you know, told them to burn the hell out of it and don't leave any evidence in the house. Just clean everything that I have over there. That's just for their safety reasons.

And I haven't, you know, seen them for this past seven years and that's, you know, another reason for them that I, you know, for safety reason, that I couldn't go over there. So right now, that I don't want them to go through, you know, this humanitarian crisis now that's happening in Afghanistan, absolutely, you know, a disaster. I told them that do not leave any evidence behind and anything you have on me, just burn it up.

LEMON: Yaser, I know you want to speak directly to the president. What do you want to say to the president?


YASER: I want to say to the president, I know he is a family person and I have known he has lost his family in a very tragedy where his son and also his wife that had just, you know, was involved in an accident. I don't want to be another victim of losing my family in a very tragic way.

My hope that as a U.S. citizen right now that have suffered and sacrificed just to prove my family that I can provide for them. I can make them proud that their son can achieve a lot of stuff. And I just come all the way down from Afghanistan as a teenager to the U.S. And I waited for seven years to get my citizenship.

And once I got it, I promised them that I would get you out -- get you guys out of there with my citizenship process. But unfortunately, everything just falls apart and I, you know, I was just speechless. I couldn't even talk to them anymore like, how can I resolve this problem right now? My --

LEMON: I think that you may be -- I think -- Don't get too ahead of yourself. You may be able to help them get out. There is still hope. They've made it to the airport. So let's see what happens, and you're going to keep us updated, and we're all rooting for you and we're hoping that your family gets out safely and you -- I know you're anxious. I can tell -- I can hear it in your voice.

You're trying to get everything out as anybody would be. But we're rooting for you and we're praying for you and our thoughts are with you and your family, okay. Thank you, Yaser. Thank you so much. Let us know what happens. Okay?

YASER: Thank you very much for having me here and thanks for making this happen. I absolutely appreciate you guys. Thank you very much.

LEMON: And there is also news tonight on the investigation of one of the darkest days in American history. The House Select Committee investigating January 6th plans to ask companies to preserve the phone records of multiple people including some members of Congress. What are they looking for?


[23:20:00] LEMON: There's a new development tonight in the investigations into the January 6th insurrection. The chairman of the House Select Committee confirming that they will send notices to multiple telecommunications companies requesting that they preserve the phone records of several people including some members of Congress.

CNN national security analyst Juliette Kayyem joins me. She is a former Department of Homeland Security official and a senior legal -- and senior legal analyst Elie Honig joins us as well. Good evening to both of you. Good to see you.

Elie, you're up first. So, you say that this is a crucial step in the January 6th investigation. How is this going to help the committee get to the bottom of what happened that day?

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, Don. This is absolutely essential information. Just so people understand what these records actually look like, what they show is what cell phone number called to what other number when and for how long. And I think investigators need to look for two specific things here.

One, was there contact between members of Congress or their staff and the people who actually rioted on January 6th in the days and hours leading up to that? If so, they need to followup. What were you talking about? Why?

Number two, were there communications between Congress and the staff and the White House? We need to know who was talking to who in the White House. We know McCarthy, we know Jim Jordan were in contact with Donald Trump. How many times? Who else? And that will give Congress a road map on how they answer the most important questions in this investigation.

LEMON: Juliette, we're told that the committee is looking to get phone and e-mail records from several hundred people including members of Congress. Why so many people? I mean, what do you think they're looking for, investigators here?

JULIETTE KAYYEM, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: So, as exactly what -- as Elie said, what calls were coming in, and what were going out, and when? And so what's key here is not just for a legal case. Remember, this is not a legal proceeding. This is a commission to determine sort of a narrative of what happened.

And this is -- it is, what was the extent of the conspiracy and was it as big as the 600 or 700 or 800 that we anticipated at least were in the Capitol building at the time. If it's much smaller, than who was directing it and then that comes to members of Congress.

So part of this is just sort of what is that narrative of how we got here? A lot of us -- we know what it is, right? Trump insights something that then builds to this. So they're just creating that narrative.

The other is really important. This is what we've talked about before, which is we still have to worry about this threat and one way to undermine or to dissipate a terrorism threat is to make the terrorist organization look like losers, like they can't actually function.

So I really love what's going on now is because it is -- you cannot have a winning team because that is how terrorists recruit and raise money. And so what you're seeing now I think is, you know, people are going to run scared, that congressman are going to be on defense, and I love it. I mean, that's the way you break this thing up. No recruitment, no money.

LEMON: Elie, look, what about the -- let's talk to the legal issues. Are there any legal issues obtaining records from members of Congress? Could they fight this?

HONIG: Yes. So, they could try to fight it, Don. It's hard to do that as a third party because remember, the members of Congress are not parties to this. This is Congress telling the phone companies, hey, hold onto those records because we're going to need them.

Now, Congress could try to sort of intercede or members of Congress. A, that looks terrible, right? What are you hiding? Why are you so afraid of these records coming out? And B, it's an uphill climb. I mean, this is a congressional subpoena. Courts are generally going to honor it.

That said, Congress needs to be careful here. They need to have some basis to request these records. They can't just do it willy-nilly. And if they get these records, they do need to preserve the confidentiality except whatever is relevant to go into the report, of course.

LEMON: Yes. So Juliette, Jim Jordan said he's got nothing to hide, but this was just him last month. Watch this.


TAYLOR POPIELARZ, SPECTRUM NEWS: Did you speak with president Trump on January 6th?

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): Yes, I mean, I speak -- I spoke with the president last week. I speak with the president all the time. I spoke with him on January 6th. I mean, I talk with President Trump all the time and that's -- I don't think that's unusual.


I would expect members of Congress to talk with the president of the United States when they're trying to get done the things they told the voters in their district to do. I'm actually kind of amazed sometimes that people think keep asking this question. Of course, I talk with the president all the time. I talked to him, like I said, I talked with him last week.

POPIELARZ: On January 6th, did you speak with him before, during or after the capitol was attacked?

JORDAN: I'd have to go -- I spoke with him that day after. I think after. I don't know if I spoke with him in the morning or not. I just don't know. I'd have to go back and -- I mean, I don't know that -- when those conversations happened, but what I know is I spoke with him all the time.


LEMON: Okay. So look --


I mean, so anyways, do you expect --


LEMON: He's not going to remember. The day there was a big insurrection, I don't remember exactly.

KAYYEM: Right. I got -- I called him after to talk policy, which Trump wanted to do throughout his presidency, right? That, you know, called him after.

LEMON: Him and Kevin McCarthy, do you think they're going to be called?

KAYYEM: Yes, I think his phone record -- they both admitted to phone conversations and what I -- what Jim Jordan has -- the trap he's gotten himself into is not just, you know, when did he talk to Trump on January 6th?


KAYYEM: He kept saying he consistently talked to Donald Trump. Well, that's going to be really easy to figure out. Were they actually in communication daily, twice a week? Is the last time you talked to him a month ago, two months before January 6th? So that -- he's sort of just given his hand. Look, if Jim Jordan is talking to the president -- former President Trump 20 times a day, that's going to appear in the record. So --

LEMON: Got it.

KAYYEM: So, he's going to have to prove that.

LEMON: All right, got it. Hey Elie, just real quick, five seconds, ten seconds. You have that person as a witness --


HONIG: I wouldn't ask him a single thing. I would say ladies and gentlemen of the jury, you saw him. I'm done. I'm good.

LEMON: Thank you both. I appreciate it.

All right. So, are you angry because you feel like anti-vaxxers and anti-maskers are controlling your summer plans? Our next guest calls that feeling the rage of the responsible -- Paul Krugman.



LEMON: A surge of COVID cases and deaths has proved that we are still far from the end of this pandemic. So for all of us who got vaccinated and have kept up mask wearing when it was needed, how are you feeling? Angry perhaps?

Well, my next guest, economist professor and "New York Times" columnist Paul Krugman lays it out in "The Times" calling what many are feeling, and that is the quiet rage of the responsible. And Professor Krugman joins me now.

Thank you, professor. I really appreciate what you wrote here. So let's talk about this. Good evening to you. Dr. Fauci told Anderson just a bit earlier here on CNN that if most people eligible to be vaccinated get the shot, the U.S. could have control over the virus entering into next spring.

The rage of the responsible may be quiet now but how long do you think people are going to willing to have their lives and their children's lives disrupted, even endanger because of anti-vax and anti-maskers?

PAUL KRUGMAN, COLUMNIST, NEW YORK TIMES: Well, I hope that people won't take it, you know, a minute longer. This is the most amazing -- the self-indulgence of people who are deciding that they don't want to do this because it's -- since they have various reasons.

But this is one of those things where, you know, this is not a personal choice. Your decision not to get vaccinated, your refusal to wear a mask puts other people in danger. It disrupts life. It's keeping kids out of school. This is -- and we spent so much time being careful about the feelings, you know, we don't want people to feel ba. Well, you know, people's feelings doesn't entitle them to endanger the rest of us.

LEMON: Yes. Well, and folks that, you know, the Trumpers saying it used to be I don't care about your feelings or whatever. Give me facts or facts, whatever it was. Facts don't have feelings. But here is the thing. You talk about the responsible, the quiet responsible, right? But then you have the folks who are the loudest voices and that's the rage of the irresponsible.

It is everywhere. You see it everywhere. We cover the Tennessee school board meeting where pro-mask parents were threatened and verbally assaulted. Last week, and I talked to an L.A. Times reporter who witnessed a stabbing at an anti-vaccine protest.

In Texas, a teacher was attacked and had her mask ripped off her face at a meet the teacher night. How do responsible people deal with that?

KRUGMAN: Well, I think that at a certain point you have to say okay, we can't -- you know, we can try to keep on explaining why masks and vaccines are a good idea, but at some point you just have to say look, we're angry, too. And you are the ones who are inflicting harm on other people. I think one of the important things, even if this was sincere, even if

it was really about freedom, you know, freedom in quotes, they wouldn't have the right to do this. This is, you know, your freedom doesn't mean the freedom to put my health at risk, but it's not even really about freedom.

It's clear that the kind of people who are opposed to this it's not just that they insist on their right not to wear a mask but they get angry if someone else does wear a mask.


This is just not about -- this is something -- you know, at a certain point, I'm just tired of trying to psychoanalyze. I'm tired of, you know, talking to guys in diners and trying to figure out what it is that's motivating them.

At a certain point you have to say, okay, those of us who've been doing the right thing, I'm mad as hell now and I think we're not going to take it anymore.

LEMON: Amen. Amen. I agree with you 100 percent. The Kaiser Family Foundation says that COVID hospitalizations in unvaccinated people cost the U.S. health system $2.3 billion in June and July alone, professor. You're the Noble Prize winning economist. It's not just patients who are going to be footing this bill, right? It's all of us.

KRUGMAN: Yes, I mean, health care even if you're not on a government program, health care is very heavily subsidized, meaning, we do not have a free market health care system and its -- furthermore, the insurance cost, you know, all of it is tied together.

So, but I mean, in some ways, the direct health care cost is the least of it. The, you know, it's a few billion dollars, you know, which is a lot of money but it's big economy. But to think about all of the things we that can't do, all of the damage being done.

So even if you just want to put it in dollar and cents terms, this is a huge cost in addition, to sort if you're dying, but it's also a huge financial cost as being imposed upon the nation at large by the, you know, at this point, relatively small minority who are anti-vaccine and anti-mask.

LEMON: Well, the U.S. cite a record 10 million available jobs in June but there is a shortage of workers to fill those positions. So, I mean, let's talk about overall the economy of what you were talking about. What gives here? How does it affect the economy overall?

KRUGMAN: Well, we are, look, in spite of all of that, we are in fact adding jobs. We've been adding, you know, around 800,000 jobs a month in recent months, which is pretty good. I mean, we're right up there with Morning in America rates of job creation.

But it's clear that people are, in various ways, are reluctant. People -- I think that the right way to say this is that people learn some things. You know, the pandemic disrupted our routines, forced people to do things differently. If you were lucky, you were able to work remotely and lots of people do not want to go back to commuting.

And if -- a lot of other people were temporarily unemployed for a fairly long stretch of time, which gave them enough time to realize that, you know, the poorly paid jobs, particularly poorly paid jobs in leisure and hospitality were not really, you know, were not worth taking back.

They're not willing to take those jobs unless they're offered more wages or they're offered better working conditions or both. And so we really have had a kind of a wakeup call saying okay, you know, life is too short to be stuck in these really terrible jobs if people have alternatives and even without government benefits, many people do have alternatives.

LEMON: Do you think that's -- listen, I was having a conversation last night about someone who doesn't want to return to work and she said look, I'm more productive working remotely than when I'm in the office. I really don't see a need to return back to work. You think that's legitimate for many workers or for some?

KRUGMAN: Oh, yes. It's going to be minority. There is lots of things you can't do face-to-face. Delivery services. You can't operate an assembly line remotely, but in some cases we've learned that remote learning doesn't work for younger kids, but other things. I mean, you know, we all have our particular things.

A lot of what I do, I mean, I've been teaching classes like to graduate students remotely and that actually for a small class of graduate students, it works fine. So, in some ways it's better. So, it's going to be very selective but clearly, remote work is one of those things that has gone from being a marginal, you know, curiosity to being something that's going to be a major part of the economy from now on.

LEMON: I got to tell you, way more productive working. I didn't work remotely for this job, but for other things I do. Writing a book, promoting a book, Zoom. I didn't have to go from city to city to city and sign books. I signed them in my house. I did a book signing tour on Zoom and was very, you know, I was surprised.

KRUGMAN: I was just giving speeches in Asia. It's a whole lot more pleasant when you actually don't have to take a 14-hour plane flight.

LEMON: Thank you, professor. It's always a pleasure. Best of luck to you, okay.

KRUGMAN: Same to you.

LEMON: Thank you.

Schools are opening but kids under 12 still can't get the shot. What you need to know about keeping your family safe as they head back to school. Next.



LEMON: The FDA granting full approval today to Pfizer's COVID vaccine for people 16 and older. Children 12 to 15 are able to get it under the emergency use authorization. Children under 12 are still not eligible to get the vaccine. However, that's expected to change in the next few months.

And with schools reopening, thousands of kids are already under quarantine. In Nashville for example, 4,000 students and school employees have been quarantined.


And I want to bring in now Dr. Dimitri Christakis. He's a director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle's Children's Hospital. He's also editor-in-chief of JAMA Pediatrics, and we're always grateful to have him with us because he gives such great information and great advice, perspective here.

Good evening to you doctor. Thank you. Let's start with the big news. FDA approval, full approval to Pfizer's vaccine for 16 -- people 16 years and older. Kids 12 to 16 years and old are able to get it under the emergency use authorization. You know, I've said that in the introduction. So, what do you think? Why can't they take the same shots, kids who are under 12 as everybody else?

DIMITRI CHRISTAKIS, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR CHILD HEALTH, BEHAVIOR AND DEVELOPMENT AT SEATTLE CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: Well, it's a really good question. The short answer is that the dose that's being tested in kids is about a third of the dose that's been used in adults. And even though it's going to be very tempting for people now to want to immunize the youngest children, it's not advisable.

What is advisable is for everybody else to get immunized and hopefully this will move the needle. Don, let me give you a little perspective here and give your audience a little perspective. The delta variant has really been a game changer. We're still learning about it, but what we know so far is it's much more contagious than other strains of coronavirus.

And it appears to be at least slightly more virulent which is -- in children. That means it's easier to spread and it causes more severe symptoms and even death in children than previous variants. In fact, the early evidence suggest that it's about as contagious as chickenpox.

Now, most parents of young children really won't remember how contagious chickenpox is because, because, their children are immunized for it. But it used to be that chickenpox would spread through schools rapidly. And this virus is way more deadly than chickenpox and guess what? We immunize children for chickenpox, which is why we don't see it.

The south and many of those states that have opened up with low vaccination rates and no masking have showed us just how dangerous it will be to open schools up without masks and with low immunization rates.

LEMON: Well, to your point, to your point, when I was -- when I got the chickenpox, almost everyone in my class got it. One person got it and then everybody got it.


LEMON: But to your point, though, because I laid out that thousands of students and staff who are getting exposed to COVID and either getting sick or quarantining. The country's biggest school district announcing today, all school employees have to get the shot. Should teachers be mandated to get vaccinated?

CHRISTAKIS: I think so. You know, obviously there can be exceptions for medical or religious reasons. But this is an unprecedented situation and I was in favor of mandatory vaccinations for teachers even before the FDA approval.

I think some people said that was an unreasonable expectation until the vaccine had passed this very, very high hurdle of being tested, studied, extensively vetted and approved like all other vaccines.

But now that we're there I think it has to happen and here is why. We simply have to get children back in school. I've been talking about this on your show, Don, for a year and a half and it's reached a critical point. We already now know that depression and anxiety rates in children are twice what they were pre-pandemic.

We know that children are 10 to 15 percent behind where they were supposed to be. Distance learning has not been working for many, many children, particularly low income children, children of color, children with special needs.

We cannot afford to not get them back into school. And it just pains me so much that they are being kind of sacrificed as collateral damage in this political debate around masking. The idea that we're not going to mask people just because it's an expression of our freedom not to mask is absurd.

LEMON: Well, then, let's talk practicalities then, okay. What can parents do to keep their kids safe? I mean, how should kids get to school? Is a school bus safe? Carpooling safe? Should parents be taking their kids and only their kids every day? I mean, talk to me about that.

CHRISTAKIS: That's a really -- it's really good questions. You know, the truth is we know so much more than we knew 18 months ago when we started having this debate about getting kids back to school, and we have a lot more weapons than we ever had before, right?

We now have, we now know that masking works. We now have wide spread available cheap testing. And most importantly, we have vaccines for people 12 and older. If we implement all of these public health strategies, we can really make schools very, very safe. This is another way that we failed children.

We're in this situation because so many people have chosen not to get vaccinated when they could have.


But even now going forward, if children wear masks, children can wear mask, which is really every child over two is developmentally normal, yes. They can be safely in school and we should absolutely do that for them.

LEMON: All right. Doctor, as I say, it's always great to have you. And get your perspective. Thank you so much. I appreciate it.

CHRISTAKIS: My pleasure. Thanks for having me, Don.

LEMON: We'll be right back.



LEMON: People in Tennessee just west of Nashville trying to put their lives back together after a devastating flash flooding over the weekend. At least 21 people were killed near the city of Waverly and authorities say up to 10 others are still missing.

The flooding caused by record-breaking rain, catching people off guard. Hundreds of homes in Humphreys County are now completely uninhabitable. And thousands of people are still without power in the summer heat. Search and rescue teams are digging through debris looking for victims. Devastating.

Thank you for watching, everyone. Our coverage continues.



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: Good evening. Today has been a day of truly good news in the fight against COVID, but it is tempered.