Return to Transcripts main page
FBI Recovered 11 Sets Of Classified Documents In Trump Search; Actress Anne Heche Brain Dead After Los Angeles Car Crash; Vanessa Bryant Takes On L.A. County Over Kobe Crash Photos; Russia Confirms For First Time Prisoner Swap Negotiations With U.S.; Suspect In Salman Rushdie Attack Charged With Second-Degree Attempted Murder And Assault; CDC Ends Social Distancing Guidelines For COVID-19 Control; CDC Official Warns NY Polio Outbreak Is "Tip Of The Iceberg". Aired 3- 4p ET
Aired August 13, 2022 - 15:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: OK. I'm not laughing. I actually can really empathize. If you've done a triathlon, and of course, I have not done an Ironman, you just might be dehydrated and you will cramp up. But you know what, as determined as he is, he's going to go through this anyway.
He did cramp up in both of his legs. Here he had the ring in hand, through gritted teeth he finally asks his girlfriend to marry him. And you can see the celebration. And everybody joined in to help. And yes, after that, she better say yes, right? Congratulations to them.
All right. Thanks so much for joining me today. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. The "CNN NEWSROOM" continues with Jim Acosta right now.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Jim Acosta in Atlanta.
The newly unsealed Mar-a-Lago search warrant sparks unprecedented threats of violence, the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security today are warning that federal government personnel could be in danger as violent extremists are now seizing on the FBI search of former President Donald Trump's home.
Now we are learning more about the events leading up to that search. Two sources telling CNN, in June a Trump lawyer signed a letter saying that all documents marked as classified at Mar-a-Lago had been given back. Of course that's what they're saying. But Monday's search revealed Mar-a-Lago was still harboring secrets, top secrets. The FBI on Monday removed 11 sets of classified documents including top secret ones meant to be viewed in secured government facilities.
We now know the Justice Department has probable cause to investigate three possible federal crimes, violations of the Espionage Act, obstruction of justice and criminal handling of government records. As of now no one has been charged with a crime.
Trump's first line of defense was to baselessly suggest that the FBI may have planted evidence while in his home. Nobody has presented any evidence of that. Plan B involved claiming that Trump had declassified documents before the FBI seized them but the Espionage Act does not hinge on whether documents are classified. So the Trump team's latest move is to blame a government agency for moving boxes of classified info to Mar-a-Lago claiming that's not on the president. That's their quote.
CNN's Katelyn Polantz joins me now.
Katelyn, what new information do we have about the communication Trump's legal team had with the Justice Department? This is a new development.
KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jim. So just today we are learning a little bit more about that timeline of what led up to the search and why it was so necessary for the Justice Department to go in there Monday at Mar-a-Lago. So Evan Perez, Kaitlan Collins and Sara Murray were able to confirm a "New York Times" today that a lawyer for the former president who was in touched with the Justice Department and the FBI back in June had asserted in writing that there was no more classified information stored at the Mar-a-Lago resort.
Now of course, there were at least 11 places or sets of classified documents that were marked as such that the FBI was able to take out of the building on Monday as part of that search and seizure. We have seen this timeline flushed out throughout the week since the search. It didn't come out of nowhere. The attorney general had even said in his announcement earlier this week that they would have tried less intrusive means if they could have before doing a search. Something so drastic as this.
And we do know that in addition to this attestation from the lawyer that the FBI, the Justice Department were working with witnesses to try and gain information. They had subpoenaed surveillance video of Mar-a-Lago. They had made sure there was a padlock on the door.
So the big picture, if you step back here is that there was quite a bit of information the Justice Department was gathering leading up to the search, and also it means that Donald Trump himself could potentially be someone with a legal risk here but also his lawyers or whoever signed that piece of paper saying there was no classified information left, that that person could have criminal exposure as well.
ACOSTA: And Kaitlan, we know Trump is saying a lot. I mean, there's a lot of noise, there's a lot of fog coming out of Mar-a-Lago, or wherever the former president is right now. But what is he saying when it comes to these allegations? It's very serious, what's being said and alleged right now.
POLANTZ: Right. Well, we did ask for a statement from Trump world in response to this reporting specifically. What we got back from Trump's spokesman Taylor Budowich was he pointed to the media and said that this is water being carried by the media. It's all suggested leaks, anonymous sources, no hard facts. Of course, there are hard facts here. There are hard facts assembled
by the Justice Department investigators in a criminal investigation. They were submitted to a federal judge that reviewed them. The search warrant itself is a hard fact. The receipt of what was taken out of Mar-a-Lago, that is a fact as well. That list that there are classified information, that, too. And then the other thing that Trump is saying himself is that he has said that they could have gotten everything if they had just asked.
Well, clearly on this timeline that we're building out, they had asked and that information was not turned over. The other thing that is being said, not just by Donald Trump but by others who are records custodians now for him, they're saying that all of the information he had declassified while he was president. That is a possibility. Now Trump did lose the power to declassify information the moment he left the presidency. It would be hard to nail down.
POLANTZ: And then the other thing I should mention, though, is that whenever there are these three laws that are being investigated outlined in that search warrant, the Espionage Act, obstruction of justice, and other criminal records retention law, none of them specify that it must be the mishandling of classified information. It's just any information that could harm the national defense or that is federal records that was mishandled. So, Jim, there's a lot going on here.
ACOSTA: Absolutely, and they're attacking the media, which has always been a warning sign for me. It's a red flag that they know they're in some trouble.
All right, Katelyn, thank you very much.
Joining me now senior law enforcement analyst for CNN and former deputy director of the FBI, Andrew McCabe, and CNN senior legal analyst and former U.S. attorney at the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara.
Gentlemen, thanks so much for being with us on a Saturday afternoon.
Andrew, let me start with you first. The Department of Homeland Security and FBI, they're both warning of violent threats against federal law enforcements, courts, government personnel. This is not surprising given the rhetoric that we've seen coming from the former president and his acolytes up on Capitol Hill. Let's listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RICK SCOTT (R-FL): This should scare the living daylights out of American citizens. The way our federal government has gone, it's like what we thought about the Gestapo, people like that, they just go after people.
SEN. MARCO RUBIO (R-FL): I actually don't think they went in looking for documents. I think that was probably their excuse.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A ruse.
RUBIO: I think they went in to look and to see whatever they could find.
SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): Do I know that the boxes of material they took from Mar-a-Lago that they won't put things in those boxes to entrap him? How do we know that they're going to be honest with us?
SEN. CHUCK GRASSLEY (R-IA): We need to have trust in the department of FBI and this just destroys that confidence.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Andrew, how worried are you when you hear all of that?
ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Extremely worried, Jim. And I should say that one of the other reasons this isn't a surprise is the warnings we're hearing from FBI and DHS are entirely consistent with the warnings they gave us months and months ago. You know, this -- the concern about extremists being motivated by political grievance and turning that motivation and those grievances into acts of violence has been something we've been dealing with since January 6th.
And, you know, the problem is that we still have a large group of politicians in this country, largely on the right, who have figured out that there is a political advantage for them to hold people in a perpetual state of grievance. And so fanning those flames because it's politically advantageous but by doing that they are creating a real and present danger to law enforcement, judges, people associated with government. We've seen a target at election workers, at school board members around the country. The temperature is rising in this country around political violence. And I think it's inevitable we're going to see more of it.
ACOSTA: Yes. I have to think you're right about that, Andrew. And Preet, you know, we have just learned that back in June -- you know, some of this is coming into focus. The details are coming in, you know, almost hour by hour in all of this, with Trump lawyers signed a statement to the Department of Justice that all documents marked classified that have been kept at Mar-a-Lago were handed over but as we now know that was not true. So, I mean, what is this? I mean, is this what spurred the obstruction of justice charge, do you think?
PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I think that's a reasonable possibility, I think that's why it's there likely. Look, you know, we were talking a few minutes ago about the Republican reaction, about how aggressive this tactic was, you know, going to a federal judge and seeking a search warrant, it sounds like, as the picture is emerging more clearly that the Department of Justice and the FBI was fairly solicitous and accommodating with respect to these documents and with respect to the former president and respectful.
Some documents were turned over in 15 boxes back in January. There was a visit to Mar-a-Lago. There was a subpoena issued, statements were made, apparently in writing and signed by a lawyer for the president, former president, saying that these documents had been turned over and it turns out that they were not. So at some point I think there's an end and a limit to the patience of officials who were responsible for protecting sensitive, confidential and classified data and information that the president should know about.
The irony here is the former president said repeatedly during his campaign in 2015, 2016, and again as president, that he was going to enforce the laws related to confidential and classified information more strictly than anyone has done so before.
BHARARA: So there's some irony here, there's some hypocrisy here, and obviously the retention of those documents is very troubling.
ACOSTA: Right. He also blasted people who would take the Fifth and, of course, we've seen him do that in recent day.
Andrew, I want to show everyone the list of items taken from Trump's home. It says one set of documents marked topped secret sensitive, compartmentalized information. Four sets of top secret documents and three sets each marked secret or confidential. For people who don't understand these terms, help us understand the significance of this.
MCCABE: Sure. So there are three levels of classification, confidential, secret and top secret. Top secret being the most important. And for something to be classified as top secret, and original classification authority has to determine that the disclosure of that information would cause grave damage to national security. So this is really serious stuff.
Within that top secret community of information, the most sensitive material that you further limit access to, even from people who have a top secret clearance is SCI material. SCI material can't be taken outside of a government facility. You can only examine it in what's known as a SCIT, a sensitive compartmented information facility. These are like very -- we refer to them as vaults and for a good reason. Like heavy doors, fortified walls.
There's all sorts of electrostatic shielding so that you can't be observed or listened to while you're in those rooms, you can't bring a cell phone in so it's all very serious. So the idea that you have this stuff in some, you know, basement room of your beach house sitting next to the water heater, it boggles my mind.
When I was deputy director, I had to have the ability to bring secret material home, that's not even top secret. And to do that the government sent people to my home, they'd all sorts of security modifications, constructed a room with special container was installed. Had to have special alarms put on the house. So the government takes the security of these documents very, very seriously and for good reason. ACOSTA: Right. It's not -- you know, it's not like some of the stuff
they were hauling out of the White House at the Trump administration, there was stuffed birds and that sort of thing that they were putting in the back of moving vans. And top secret documents in a slightly different category, obviously.
And Preet, you know, one of the things that I think needs to be point out is we're not talking about January 6th, we're not talking about inciting an insurrection, all of that is being put to the side in this conversation. And yet even when it comes to this stuff, the Trump team cannot seem to get its story straight. Trump said I declassified everything. But we also heard one Trump aide tasked with handling issues with his presidential records, Kash Patel, he told FOX News this. Let's watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KASH PATEL, HANDLING ISSUES RELATED TO TRUMP'S PRESIDENTIAL RECORDS: The GSA has since come out, the Government Service Administration, said they mistakenly packed some boxes and moved them to Mar-a-Lago. That's not on the president. That's on the National Archives to sort that material out.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: I mean, what do you make of that, Preet? You know, they're pointing the finger at everybody but themselves, obviously.
BHARARA: Yes. That's standard operating procedure for the former president and the people around him. On the notion they declassified this information conveniently before he left the White House and before these documents were transported to Mar-a-Lago, you know, interesting point. Where's the evidence of that? Where's the evidence that he followed the protocols and the procedures for declassifying information? Where's the evidence that the documents that are denoted as classified that they had changed the designation on those documents.
As Andrew knows and other people know who dealt with these documents, they're designated as such and when there's a change, appropriate declassification, those designations are crossed out and new designations are put in their place so people know if they can look at the documents, if they can be transported, if they can be read at home, et cetera, et cetera. And on the issue of whether or not Donald Trump and the people around him are responsible for the secretion of these documents at Mar-a-Lago, where's the evidence of that?
BHARARA: It's one thing to say that maybe as an initial matter that was true, it's been 18 months. It's been months and months of back and forth as we know between the Archives and the president's team, between DOJ and FBI and the president's team. Even if it's true that at some point there was an inadvertent transmission of these documents there was no reason for the retention of them, particularly after a subpoena was issued and after a lawyer attested to their absence. ACOSTA: And Preet, just very quickly, you are accustomed to bringing
cases against high profile subjects and individuals. Based on what we know right now, is there enough to bring a case against the former president when it comes to this matter of what was going on with these documents down at Mar-a-Lago?
BHARARA: So I don't make those proclamations on television until I know all the facts.
ACOSTA: Of course.
BHARARA: But obviously a judge found there was probable cause a crime had been committed and there was evidence of a crime. So they're pretty far along.
Now I don't know what reasonable and credible and evidence-based offenses the former president might have, maybe he has some but the ones we've heard so far don't hold a lot of water. But I think he's in serious jeopardy. The department can decide at the end of the day, even if there's evidence of a violation of these statutes that the interest of justice would not be served by bringing a criminal case, maybe there's some other way to hold someone accountable, or they're rarely applied in prior cases and can make an equitable determination about whether or not to bring a charge but there seems to be substantial evidence and we'll see what ultimately they decide.
ACOSTA: All right. Andrew and Preet, thank you, gentlemen, very much for your time. We appreciate it very much. Thank you so much.
Coming up, author Salman Rushdie on a ventilator this afternoon after being stabbed multiple times just before giving a lecture. The charges just filed against the subject. We have that information coming up.
Plus, the family of actress Anne Heche in mourning after a week after a fiery car crash.
ACOSTA: The suspect in the brutal onstage stabling of renowned author Salman Rushdie has now been charged with second degree attempted murder and assault. He was arraigned in court today in western New York and was refused bail.
New video shows people rushing on stage to pull the assailant away from Rushdie at a lecture event yesterday. Rushdie was air lifted to a hospital and underwent surgery. His agent told the "New York Times" he is on a ventilator and could lose one of his eyes.
CNN's Polo Sandoval is following all of this for us. Polo, this is just absolutely terrifying what happened.
POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: In that hospital he was air lifted to, Jim, according to authorities is the one you see behind me here in Erie, Pennsylvania. And look, it's been over 24 hours and no matter how many times you have seen this footage, it is just extremely disturbing that footage shot some 40 miles east of where we are, where that lecture event was taking place. The video picks up the moment that the 75-year-old celebrated author basically takes a seat, getting ready to participate in the speaking event when an individual then rushes the stage repeatedly stabbing Salman Rushdie.
The literary agent representing him telling "The New York Times" yesterday that he is currently on a ventilator. That he suffered damage not just to some of his nerves but also to his liver and possibly may lose his eye. We have repeatedly attempted to not just contact the agent but also a hospital spokesperson here in Erie, Pennsylvania, and they have declined at this point to offer an update right now on Rushdie's condition. So that's still a big question.
But the other is just the motive. There are so many people really not just here but around the world that are trying to get to the bottom of just what led to this attack here. Of course there's no secret that Rushdie had been living under constant death threat since the publication of "Satanic Verses" back in 1989. That eventually even prompting Iranian leaders to issue that religious decree calling for Rushdie's death, one that was basically reaffirmed by the Iranian regime as recently as 2017.
And while you have hard line conservative newspapers in Iran essentially celebrating yesterday's attack, you heard leaders in the West that are strongly condemning this, calling it an attack on freedom of expression, speech, and are certainly praying for the quick recovery of Rushdie.
As for the suspect, police have identified him as 24-year-old Hadi Matar of New Jersey. He's been officially charged with attempted murder, as well as assault since one of the other individuals on the stage did suffer some injuries but has since recovered here. We should mention his attorney saying that he pleaded not guilty.
But it's interesting, Jim, investigators are now trying to piece this together. "Satanic Verses," that was written even before this suspect was born. So investigators are certainly puzzled but at the same time moving forward with the investigation trying to find out what led him to the attack.
ACOSTA: That's a very disturbing case. All right. Polo Sandoval, thank you very much.
The family of Anne Heche is paying tribute to the actress who has been declared brain dead following a car crash last week. Heche's 20-year- old son said in a statement, "My brother Atlas and I lost our mom after six days of almost unbelievable emotional swings. I am left with a deep wordless sadness. Hopefully my mom is free from pain and beginning to explore what I like to imagine as her eternal freedom."
CNN's Chloe Melas joins me now. Chloe, just an awful, sad case. What have we learned from her family? CHLOE MELAS, CNN ENTERTAINMENT CORRESPONDENT: So her family has
released a couple statements. You just read parts of her 20-year-old son Homer's statement and then we received a statement yesterday from the family. And they refer to her in the past tense but at CNN we can tell you that she is -- her heart is still beating, she is connected to a ventilator and other machines to keep her alive so that the One Legacy Committee at the hospital, this is an organization that is responsible for getting her organs to the right recipients because Anne Heche, in her wishes she wanted to be an organ donor.
So technically in the state of California, according to the family, the fact that she is brain dead means that she is technically legally dead in the state of California. So this is why you are seeing headlines that she has passed away and obituaries and this is why the family has been releasing tributes, Jim. And also I can tell you that her, you know, former girlfriend from the late '90s, Ellen DeGeneres, she finally broke her silence taking to Twitter yesterday and tweeting this. "This is a sad day. I'm sending Anne's children, family and friends all of my love" -- Jim.
ACOSTA: And Chloe, I know other news coming from L.A., I wanted to ask about a lawsuit filed by Vanessa Bryant, the widow of basketball legend Kobe Bryant, went to court this week. She's suing Los Angeles County over some gruesome pictures leaked from the crash scene. Vanessa Bryant apparently became so emotional during this testimony this past week that she had to leave. Can you fill us in on that?
MELAS: Unbelievable allegations. So let me just break this down for you all. So on the second day of testimony, Vanessa Bryant visibly emotional, crying. She had to ask the judge to leave the courtroom. Why? Because she was listening to testimony of witnesses claiming that they saw pictures of Kobe Bryant, their daughter, of their dead bodies that were taken allegedly by the Los Angeles County Sheriff's and Fire Department, Jim, and that they were sharing these photos at places like a bar.
Other places like different get togethers, in unauthorized settings to people not part of the department. Almost showing it like a party gag. And in one instance, Vanessa Bryant's lawyer, she alleges that these photos, Jim, were shared during a "Call of Duty" game by these officers. So Vanessa -- you know, CNN was in the courtroom, she was upset, she was crying, she had to leave.
And it was actually during the testimony of a bartender named Victor Gutierrez saying that he saw those photos by a Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputy at the bar. Allegedly sharing the photos that were taken the day that the helicopter crashed right outside of Los Angeles. So an absolutely awful situation. And Vanessa Bryant, she is suing Los Angeles County for emotional distress and for all of this.
ACOSTA: Wow. OK. All right. Chloe Melas, thank you very much. As always we appreciate it.
Coming up, the Department of Justice investigators are looking into possible violations of the Espionage Act and obstruction of justice and criminal handling of government records. And at the center of it all, the former president of the United States, Donald Trump. We'll get reaction from former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Bill Richardson. He's coming up next.
ACOSTA: We continue to follow the developing story out of Mar-a-Lago. Investigators removing 11 sets of classified documents at Trump's home, including one marked "Top Secret SCI," one of the nation's highest levels of classification.
Joining me to talk about this, former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, former energy secretary, former governor, Bill Richardson.
Governor, great to see you as always.
A lot to talk about here. Let's talk about what took place at Mar-a- Lago. You know the search warrant was carried out at his home. Had top secret just sitting there.
What goes through your mind, the fact that all of this classified, top-secret information was there? And obviously not, you know, with any kind of level of security that one would expect when it comes to these kinds of documents?
BILL RICHARDSON, FORMER U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: This is obviously very troublesome and unusual.
Because one of the lessons you are taught when you go in the cabinet, obviously the president, is from security officers is that you should not have any intelligence paper near you. It should go in a vault. It should be taken away.
But what is clear here is there's only five members in the cabinet, the U.N. ambassador, the CIA director, secretary of state, defense, and the president, that get very sensitive intelligence, top secret compartmentalized.
And then there's top secret. Then there's confidential. But the top- secret security is very, very sensitive stuff. You're reading reports about nuclear codes.
A cabinet member wouldn't see those, probably. But all the other intelligent assessments, like on President Macron, on very sensitive, possibly covert operations.
That's what is very troubling, that they're not secured, especially in the president's home. So it's troubling. But we don't have all the facts, Jim.
ACOSTA: That's right. We're waiting for all the facts to come in. We're going to see that come into focus and we'll keep tabs on it. I want to ask you about the efforts to free the WNBA Star Britney
Griner, American Paul Whelan. You've been working very hard to bring them home. You said you're optimistic they'll be freed in a prisoner swap with Russia.
Do we have any sense whether we're getting close to that?
RICHARDSON: I'm not replacing the administration. This is a government-to-government, because it involves the president, if involves -- it's a prisoner swab, which I think it will be, some kind of commutation at the Justice Department of one Russian or two Russians.
I think the president, President Biden is correct, trying to get Brittney Griner and a Marine. You know, he's not as glamorous, as well known as the basketball star.
But the fact that the Russians have done a prisoner swap -- I was a little bit involved in that one of Trevor Reed a couple months ago. The fact that the Russian court process is over and now you can negotiate. They say now our court process is over.
And then lastly, I think Brittney Griner's and the Whelan family have handled this very well. The Griner family, low key, contrition.
So I'm optimistic. And we should be. Because we should do everything we can to bring our hostages home.
Even if it involves an unseemly prisoner swap, which it might be, because it involves this terrible arms dealer, named Bout, who has caused a lot of harm around the world, in Africa, in Aisa, in Latin America. They're Americans.
But you have to do that to bring our hostages home. And we have 70 hostages around the world, in Iran, Venezuelans, Africa and the Middle East, that deserves to come home, including a journalist, Austin Tise in Syria.
ACOSTA: Yes, we want all of them to come home. You're absolutely right, Governor.
Ambassador, I want to ask you about the attack on Salman Rushdie. Very disturbing details in all of this. You know Iran well. A suspect is under arrest. We should caution our viewers we don't know that person's motive.
But as you know, Salman Rushdie has been living under this cloud, this Iranian death sentence decree that was issued way back in the late 1980s. That was never lifted.
I can't imagine what it's been like all these years for Salman Rushdie to be living with this hanging over his head.
What are your thoughts? What were your thoughts when you saw this happen?
RICHARDSON: Well, I was -- it was tragic. Because he's a great writer. He's a symbol of freedom. And the fact that he's lived in hiding for so many years.
It's troubling because, recently John Bolton, possibly in assassination attempt that never happened, thankfully.
RICHARDSON: But also, I recall being at a rally in Paris at a rally of opposition to the Iranian regime and there were credible reports that there was going to be an attempted bombing. And thanks to European security it didn't happen.
So you don't know if this is connected. We don't have the facts of Iranian Revolutionary Guard, the Iranian religious leaders or independent. We don't know.
But it's just this cloud that exists involving Iran is just very troublesome. Not just grudges. This is long term. You mentioned the "Satanic Verses" years ago.
RICHARDSON: And still the poor man, a great author, is under siege.
ACOSTA: It really is tragic. And, indeed, troubling.
And of course, we'll get the latest information out to our viewers as it comes in.
But always appreciates your insights, Ambassador Bill Richardson. Thank you so much for coming on with us. We appreciate it.
RICHARDSON: Thanks, Jim.
ACOSTA: Good to see you, sir.
Coming up, the CDC ends its social distancing recommendations to prevent the spread of COVID. What else has changed as kids across the country are heading back to school?
A new level of concern at the CDC about the spread of polio. That's important. Why they say a single case in New York may just be the tip of the iceberg. We'll keep tabs on that in just a few moments.
ACOSTA: More than two years after everyone was urged to change everyday habits, the CDC is now loosening their COVID-19 guidelines.
One of the biggest changes no more social distancing of six feet or more. Remember that one. And the CDC says people without symptoms or with known exposure no longer need to be tested regularly. And quarantine is no longer recommended when you've been exposed. That's changed as well.
CNN medical analyst, Dr. Jonathan Reiner, joins me now.
Dr. Reiner, what do you think about these changes?
DR. JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: I think the CDC has given up on trying to prevent transmission of this virus across the country and they're focusing now on trying to reduce the amount of disruption to American society.
We have about as much COVID circulating in this country as we ever had. Despite sort of the sense among some people that, you know, we're past this pandemic, the pandemic is over, still about 3,000 people are dying every week in the United States. There are 40,000 people hospitalized. So we're far from the pandemic being over.
But -- and when I see the CDC sort of tell people don't worry about social distancing anymore, to me, it's like they've thrown their hands up in the air.
Particularly, when we're officially recording over 100,000 new cases per day at a time when most people are testing at home and those tests aren't being recorded. So the number is almost certainly several times that.
So at a time of high viral transmission, and as we're learning more about long COVID and the consequences of that and how frequent that is, the CDC is trying to minimize disruption to the country rather than minimize infection, particularly when schools are about to open.
ACOSTA: One of the reasons we're in the shape we're in right now is because of all of the misinformation that's been out there, people not taking this seriously enough because they've been fed a bunch of nonsense about COVID and so on.
Which leads me to my next question. Because it has teed up other potential public health problems.
Health officials say the polio virus has been detected in wastewater samples in New York City. This comes after a single confirmed case in Rockland County, New York.
I remember you and I talking about this there were concerns that polio could come back, other illnesses could come back. Does this have the potential to get out of control, do you think?
REINER: It does. In the 1950s, about 15,000 people in this country every year would develop paralysis after a case of polio. You only see what's called acute paralysis in about one of 200 cases in polio.
Which raises concern now in New York where there was a case of paralysis this past june. If they're seeing something that occurs in one of 200 cases of that viral infection and now we're seeing it in wastewater, the concern is it's out in the community now. [15:45:06]
And only 92 percent of our children in this country have been vaccinated for polio. Now that sounds like a high number but it's a shamefully low number.
That means about 75,000 kids in this country have not been vaccinated for this -- for this virus, and they are sitting targets for this.
If you remember the photos from the 1940s and the 1950s, of these massive wards of iron lungs. We do not want to go back to that time.
This is a completely preventable disease. The vaccine is 99 percent effective. And we have safety data dating back half a century.
Every state requires children to be vaccinated for this illness prior to going to school. And every parent should vaccinate their kids. This is a big concern this is out in the community now.
ACOSTA: I remember you tweeting the pictures of the iron lungs. we were showing images of this to our viewers a few moments ago. We can put it back up again.
Folks just have to understand and realize this is not a giant conspiracy to get you to take vaccines and so on. That's not what's going on here. It's called public health. It's about keeping people safe.
I have to wonder, are we prepared for something like this, Dr. Reiner? Is there a reliable antibody test to detect if you've had the polio vaccine? My team and I were talking about this earlier, wondering are enough of us vaccinated for this?
REINER: Just about everybody -- if you've been alive in this country, you've been born -- if you were born in this country, from the -- mid 1950s on, you've been vaccinated for this virus.
Originally, with -- perhaps with a oral polio vaccine. For the last 20 years, with the inactivated injectable form of it. Every child in this country gets a four-dose regiment of this.
I think, look, if a child in the United States gets polio, it's child abuse. If a family is withholding vaccinating a child for a completely preventable illness, that's child abuse.
ACOSTA: All right. Dr. Jonathan Reiner, great to see you as always. We love that you don't hold back on this. It's a huge help.
Thanks as always. Good to see you.
REINER: Thanks, Jim.
ACOSTA: Appreciate it.
Coming up, the former president's reaction and blame shifting, as well as the excuses his supporters are making for him. There's a lot of it to unpack. CNN's Daniel Dale is standing by with a Fact Check.
ACOSTA: One person is dead and 17 others injured after a stagve collapsed at a music festival in Spain. It happened early this morning at the Madusa Festival near the town of Valencia.
Police say a strong gust of wind tore through the venue just after 4:00 a.m. collapsing the main entrance and the main stage. Look at this video here.
And 50,000 there were being evacuated due to the bad weather. Organizers have canceled the rest of the festival to ensure everyone's safety and to show respect to those affected by the disaster.
On a brand-new episode of "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA," W. Kamau Bell travels to the back hills of South Dakota to meet with the indigenous leaders of the Land Back campaign and to learn about the fight to reclaim their ancestral lands.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
W. KAMAU BELL, CNN HOST, "AMERICAN SHADES OF AMERICA: I would encourage every tourist to come here do what I'm going. Don't just look at the statues. Look up the president and Google them and Native Americans. We will all learn something together. We will all learn together.
Hello, Andrew Jackson, the 7th president.
He's in the eternals. It's a bird. It's a plane. It's super bigot.
Oh, whoa. A man nicknamed "Indian Killer" and "Sharp Knife" surely deserves the top spot on a list of worst U.S. presidents.
I mean, we could keep looking up stuff. But I think that basically tells us all we need to know.
I'm going to take my hand off your shoulder.
Andrew Jackson, you get an "F."
Martin Van Buren. Martin Van Buren. Native Americans.
Martin Van Buren, the force behind the Trail of Tears. No wonder you wanted me to sit down for this one.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: Be sure to tune in. An all-new episode of "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA" airs tomorrow night at 10:00 right here on CNN.
Like many veterans, this week's "CNN Hero" struggled with the effects of serving in Iraq. When Marine veteran, Richard Casper, discovered he could use visual art as an outlet, he realized other veterans could benefit, too.
Today, his organization CreatiVets helps wounded combat veterans process their trauma while creating art and writing and recording music.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
RICHARD CASPER, CNN HERO: Art is so emotional and vulnerable. It's what allows you to understand, it's OK to not be OK.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My artwork is a presentation of some of the guys that we lost when we were deployed. They built a complete mockup of a casket.
CASPER: Most of the veterans have never really told their story to anybody before.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They will shoulder the burden as they already have done.
CASPER: And I try to explain to them in the beginning, it's going to be easier to tell your story once you create your art piece. You're not going to be talking about you. You're going to be talking about your art piece and focusing on it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's something breaking out of me. I know there's a life. Chorus!
CASPER: I want them to know that art's an option for healing.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ACOSTA: And to see Richard's full story on the art and music he's helping veterans create with CreatiVets, go to CNNheroes.com.
And we'll be right back.