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First Lady Jill Biden Arrives in Japan for Olympics; CNN Member's Personal Stories of Tragedy in the Pandemic; Senate Republicans Have Blocked a Vote to Begin Debate on the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired July 22, 2021 - 10:30   ET



JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: But this -- this -- you know Manu's (ph) reporting that Adam Kinzinger could be connect -- attached to this, that is actually saying he's expressed interest in.

I think that would be a great move. And to Margaret's point, my brilliant Republican bride, that she should -- she should reach out to John Katko as well and many of the other 35 to make it as close to a bipartisan panel committed to the truth and democracy as humanly possible.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, I think she does have that power, Lauren Fox just went back and looked at the language and sent it over to me. So it looks like she -- she may have that power.

John Avlon, the significance in your mind of having, if -- if he accepts it, if Kinzinger accepts this offer of having John -- Adam Kinzinger there, what are your thoughts?

AVLON: Bring it on. He should do it. They should fill all five slots with patriotic Republicans who recognize the reality and truth and want to back democracy. Our politics are not as divided as people may have perceived.

We have around a third of the country that's believing the big lie. A third of the country is also, you know, anti-vaxxer. May not be a precise over lay but we need to realize that there's actually a single litmus test when it comes to patriotism in this current context.

That's believing in and supporting democracy. And there are plenty of Republicans who do. Not as many as I'd like to see, but any of those 35, people who didn't vote to overturn the election, they should be asked to join and -- and -- and fill those five slots that McCarthy has abandoned in an attempt to distract from the fact that he opposed and killed a bipartisan commission from the beginning.

HARLOW: Margaret, if we can switch gears here. I mean in a sense it's related because it has to do with working together, that concept that the Senate was formed around and that is the comments last night from President Biden on the filibuster and Don's great line of questioning to him about -- about voting rights. You know and Don said, look, as -- I'm paraphrasing here -- as a black

man in America I watch my grandmother who didn't know how to read and talked about counting jellybeans to be able to vote for example and, you know, he asked is -- is -- is the filibuster -- maintaining a legislative filibuster more important to you than getting movement on federal protections for voting rights? What did you make of Biden's response?

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, what -- a couple of things. I would like to say two things about that, Poppy. First, with respect to Biden's response, I mean what we see again and again and again is Joe Biden, the president of the United States, a Democrat, is actually an institutionalist.

And there is a narrative on the right, I've talked to a lot of Republican members of Congress lately, especially on the far right, and they are trying very hard to paint Joe Biden as overtaken by the progressive left of his party and he just showed us once again that he is not going to be overrun.

He is an institutionalist. He wants the Senate to work. He wants to maybe reform the filibuster but not destroy it. So every time he answers like that, it does blunt that criticism from the far right. It just makes it fall on deaf ears.

The second thing and I'll go real quick is the -- there is a bit of a false choice between voting rights and protecting African-American and black Americans right to vote and the filibuster. And I think setting that up as either/or undermines the discussion, it undermines progress.

You can support HR-4 without supporting HR-1. There are a lot of ways to protect voting expand voting in this country besides destroying the filibuster.

HARLOW: And there's the Manchin compromise. It was only a month ago, I think, that he put it out there. What do you think, John?

AVLON: Exactly. I'm going to disagree with Margaret a little bit on this one.

HARLOW: Never.

AVLON: Look, I mean first of all -- oh yes, you'd be shocked at what happens across the dinner table. Look, here's the deal. You know it is a false choice that it's either just nuke the filibuster or keep the current status quo in place. You can mend it, not end it. A talking filibuster would be a step in the right direction.

When they got rid of that is when things started really going off the rails. You could carve out an exception for voting rights, you know, as it's in the Constitution. The problem is of course that support for -- you don't -- you know the difference between HR-1 and the John Lewis Voting Rights Act where the Manchin compromise may be vast but Republicans have committed to filibustering all of them at the same time that they are actively trying to undercut voting in the south designed to slowly (ph) stack the deck.

Whether it's voter suppression or actually election subversion, trying to make the administration elections more partisan, which is incredible dangerous in the time we're in. So I think this is a real testing time for our democracy. There needs to be some form of election reform and voting rights reform and I don't see how it passes without at least some amendment to the filibuster process, unless Republicans are going to find religion on this subject and I don't see that.

HARLOW: Also back to the commission and where this goes; it's notable, Margaret, how different the current president and former president once again sound on this. So I want to play some sound from the town hall last night.

This is Biden talking about what actually happened on the 6th of January at the Capitol and then people are going to hear an audio recording of former President Trump to Washington Poster reporters Carol Leonnig and Philip Rucker about what he thinks of that day. Here they are.



JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: I don't care if you think I'm Satan reincarnated. The fact is, you can't look at that television and say nothing happened on the 6th. You can't listen to people who say this was a peaceful march.

DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: It was a loving crowd, too, by the way. There was a lot of love. I've heard that from everybody. Many, many people have told me. That was a loving crowd. In all fairness, the Capitol Police were ushering people in. The Capitol Police were very friendly. They were hugging and kissing. You don't see that.


HARLOW: Margaret, I mean, this is emblematic of half and half of the country.

HOOVER: Well, about a third of the country --




HOOEVER: -- maybe more than half of the Republican Party. But -- but look, this is why you need an official report that's bipartisan that -- that actually frankly gets Kevin McCarthy and Jim Jordan and many of these people subpoenaed and -- and under oath about what happened that day. Even the president -- the former president of the United States, we

need a full judicious and truthful accounting that is bipartisan of what happened that day. That's why we need this. But we have a larger problem, Poppy, too.

Which is that even with that report, even if we have a totally bulletproof solid report, there are going to be a fraction of percentage of the country that, the same fraction that -- that don't believe the vaccines work, that don't believe -- you know that believe in space lasers that aren't going to believe that report and so we have -- we have larger mixed truths and misinformation that we need to get to the bottom of and tackle as well.

HARLOW: For sure. For sure.

AVLON: Yes. But -- but just because it's being amplified by the ex president doesn't mean it's remotely true or emblematic of anything representing a majority or a plurality of Americans. You know these are not equivalent positions. We need subpoena power. We need to get to the bottom of this. There are people who desperately don't want that to happen because they are afraid of the truth. They probably should be.

HARLOW: Thank you both. Margaret, we'll see you on "Firing Line." John, we'll see you on "New Day" tomorrow. Thank you both.

HOOVER: Thanks, Poppy

AVLON: All right, take care guys.

HARLO: We'll be right back.



HARLOW: Welcome back. Take a look at this. First lady Jill Biden arriving in Japan this morning where she will lead the U.S. delegation to the Olympics opening ceremonies. The games kick off tomorrow amid growing COVID concerns.

The number of cases linked to the games is now 91. And Tokyo now reports nearly 2,000 new COVID-19 cases one day out from the games. Our Selina Wang reporting on a Olympics mired in controversy.


SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The first lady starts her first solo trip overseas. Jill Biden arriving in Tokyo in support of close U.S. ally, Japan, a country in a day by day fright to keep the Olympics going. Even before the games have officially started.

As Biden travels in more Olympic hopefuls are set to travel out after testing positive for COVID-19. Five athletes from team USA alone have been cut from the games due to coronavirus. The NBA star Kevin Durant said he feels well looked after. KEVIN DURAN, NBA BASKETBALL PLAYER: USA basketball has made this

experience so easy for all us, especially throughout the circumstances of COVID, especially here in Japan where cases have risen. So I think USA basketball is keeping us as safe as they could.

WANG: Yet, nothing is certain when it comes to COVID. Around 100 people connected to the games have now come down with the virus, as Tokyo is now reporting more than 10 times that number of cases each day. And if the pandemic wasn't enough to worry about, Olympic organizers are getting hit with another controversy.

The director of Friday's opening ceremony dumped from his role for past remarks making light of the holocaust.

I'd like to extend my sincere apology, she says. Not the press that they Olympics needed as it hobbles toward an opening ceremony sure to be subdued. One person who will be there is the state premier of Queensland, Australia; Annastacia Palaszczuk led Brisbane's successful bid to host the 2032 event. But that didn't spare her condescension from IOC Vice President John Coates late Wednesday.

JOHN COATES, VICE PRESIDENT, IOC: And the other thing is I was reading some questions about you're going to the opening ceremony. You are going to the opening ceremony.

WANG: As the COVID controversy continues to stir, sports stars in action, including soccer teams who took the chance to take the knee in protest of racial inequality.


WANG: And Poppy as COVID-19 cases are surging here in Tokyo, that opening ceremony just getting hit by one scandal after another. The director now out just days after the music composer resigned after a former previous interview from the 1990s surface where he was describing severe abuse of its formers (ph) classmates and this just comes months after the former creative director resigned for making offensive comments about a female Japanese celebrity.

So Poppy, not a promising start for an opening ceremony that is supposed to be a much-needed symbol of unity and hope.

HARLOW: Yes, and let's hope the COVID situation does not get worse there, Selina. Thank you for your reporting on the ground in Tokyo.

Well, this morning we want to bring you one of our colleague's personal stories of tragedy in this pandemic. It really sheds light on the critically important issue of vaccine inequality.

Larry Madowo's family in Kenya is one of many who've had to bury loved ones because of COVID. He has already lost three relatives to the virus including his uncle, who you see there; his grandmother is currently hospitalized on a ventilator. About half of Americans are fully vaccinated compared to just over 1 percent of Kenyans.

And the continent of Africa has received the fewest doses of vaccine so far in the world. Larry writes in his beautiful and haunting piece, quote, all I needed to get protection was to walk to a nearby drug store in Washington, D.C. but many people like my grandmother have died or will die because of the accident of where they live. Her heart is now failing and mine is breaking.

Larry joins us now. Larry, thank you for being here. But thank you for writing this. It -- it -- it just broke my heart and I know it has affected so many people who have read it. Tell me why you wrote it.

LARRY MADOWO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I hope that people would put a face to the tragedy. Because you probably don't know somebody in this part of the world who is affected by this. But people should not take for granted that you can walk into CVS or Walgreens like I did and get a vaccine. That in the U.S. people are getting bribed with cash or beer and donuts to get a life saving protection.

There are so many people in this part of the world who are dying for it, literally, and when we see protest in Europe against mandatory vaccines, when we see that resistance to vaccines in the U.S. and African are just like can they give us the vaccines they don't want.

I now know that because my uncle died in just -- in his 60s. He had a whole life ahead of him. My grandmother is a brilliant, brave woman fighting for her life for several weeks now. If she had a vaccine, maybe we wouldn't be talking about this.

HARLOW: How is she doing this morning, Larry? Your grandmother.

MADOWO: She's doing slightly better. She is saturating at higher oxygen levels than in recent days. So we're hopeful. This is such a roller coaster, Poppy, because some days she's doing well and some days she's not. So you never know when the next call, what it's going to say.

HARLOW: I know that in just the last few weeks you have spent time reporting in five African countries and so many people you talk to are baffled at the skepticism among so many Americans when they have too many vaccines here to vaccinate the whole population time and time again.

MADOWO: Not only are Africans baffled, a lot of people are even insulted that there are people who have more vaccines than they need and they don't want it either for because of hesitancy or just for whatever conspiracy theories and there's so much -- such a great need here.

Anybody the age of 12 in the U.S. can get vaccinated. People in their 80s and 90s here in Kenya around Africa still don't have access to vaccines here. And as you know, this is now the pandemic of the unvaccinated. Only 1.5 percent of Africans are so far vaccinated. That is how great the need is.

HARLOW: Yes. Yes. I wonder if you have a message for the Biden administration. What they can do additionally right now? Obviously they join COVAX, which is an important entity to distribute vaccines in an affordable way around the world that the Trump administration had decided not to join. Can they do anything else?

MADOWO: Yes, they can. The Biden administration has been great in terms of committing vaccines to COVAX to low and middle income countries. Donating a lot of AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer and those are already getting distributed in the rest of the world. But they're still a drop in the ocean. The need is still so much greater.

And part of the problem here is that the U.S. and lots of other western nations just stockpiled and hoarded vaccines. They have 250 percent more vaccines than they need and people here are dying. It's being called vaccine apartheid, a catastrophic moral failure. And one doctor told me, Poppy, that a vaccine delayed is a vaccine denied.

HARLOW: It's true. A moral failure. Larry, thank you for bringing it rightly to everyone's attention. And we are all rooting for your grandmother. Keep us posted on her.

MADOWO: Thank you.

HARLOW: Thank you, Larry. We'll be right back.



HARLOW: Senate Republicans have blocked a vote to begin debate on the bipartisan infrastructure bill or they're working on the final text of it. And they have successfully pushed for more time to finalize their agreement with Democrats on this $1.2 trillion piece of legislation.

Manu Raju joins us now from Capitol Hill. Manu, Biden was pretty optimistic last night in the CNN town hall saying Monday. Monday. What are we looking at here?

MANU RAJU, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Monday it seems like a very good possibility that they can at least open debate in the Senate on this bipartisan infrastructure bill, $1.2 trillion. The negotiators say they're making good progress, they do expect a deal to move forward.

Now can they get off the bill -- can they get -- ultimately get 60 votes to move ahead and then actually pass it. Those are still separate questions we don't know the answer to yet. On a separate track, Democrats are looking at moving a $3.5 trillion package.

And Chuck Schumer, the majority leader, asked for all 50 Democrats to be on board by yesterday behind the idea of moving ahead with the budget resolution but one key Democrat, West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin told me earlier this morning he is still not yet on board.


RAJU: We're not there yet on $3.5 trillion?

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): No, I haven't gotten -- I haven't made a comment at all. RAJU: Senator, just on the -- on the budget, how concerned are you

about the -- what your party is talking about like climate change and who that means for your industry (ph)?

MANCHIN: Well, one thing, we have a difference. You know that. You've heard me talk on that. I'm an all in policy. I'm all in energy. We have to have everything. The United States of America has to be energy independent. We can't --

RAJU: Well, what their proposing, is that going to decimate your industry?

MANCHIN: Well, what they're proposing, the -- the -- the timing of what they're proposing would make it almost impossible to achieve that.


RAJU: So very significant comments that he is making there. Just essentially telling his party, Poppy, they have to change the -- how climate change is dealt with in that larger $3.5 trillion bill in order to get his support. But a lot of liberals want exactly what is detailed and how to deal with climate change. So a lot of questions still about whether Joe Biden's agenda can pass.

You got a bipartisan track that narrower infrastructure bill or the larger party line approach. Questions still, negotiations to be had. But Biden is optimistic. We'll see if he's able to achieve his results. Poppy.

HARLOW: Monday we'll watch. Thanks, Manu, very much for that reporting.

Also this, CNN first hit the air 41 years ago and today something cool is happening. We're opening up for our video archives for the first time to offer collectors the opportunity to own a piece of history digitally.

These are NFTs and they release at 1:00 p.m. eastern today. They feature the presidential election calls for Joe Biden in 2020 and Donald Trump in 2016. A thousand of each election call will be available plus a very limited number of special editions of the framed copy. You can find out more about these at Thank you so much for being with me today. I'll see you back here tomorrow morning. I'm Poppy Harlow. "At This Hour" with Kate Bolduan is next.