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Warrant Shows FBI Investigating Possible Espionage Act Violations; Author Salman Rushdie Stabbed At New York Book Event; U.S. CDC Eases Some Of Its COVID Recommendations. Aired 3-4a ET

Aired August 13, 2022 - 03:00   ET




KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to all you of watching us here in the United States, Canada and around the world. I'm Kim Brunhuber.

Ahead on CNN NEWSROOM, unprecedented, what the FBI removed from Donald Trump's home in Florida while investigating possible violations of the Espionage Act.

Plus, reaction from all over the world after author Salman Rushdie is stabbed before an event in New York. We'll have an update on his condition ahead.

And the CDC relaxes guidelines in the fight against COVID-19. Social distancing and quarantining are no longer recommended. One prominent doctor says the measure proves the agency has failed the country.

We now know why FBI agents searched former U.S. President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago home and we're learning details about some of the items they took. According to a warrant that was unsealed Friday, agents were looking for evidence of possible crimes, including potential violations of the Espionage Act related to the gathering, loss or destruction of U.S. defense information.

Property receipts also unsealed on Friday reveals that FBI agents recovered 11 sets of classified documents, including several marked top secret. They also seized several photo binders, information about the president of France and a document about pardoning Roger Stone, a staunch Trump ally who was convicted of lying to Congress.

CNN's Katelyn Polantz explains what the unsealed documents tell us about the ongoing investigation

KATELYN POLANTZ, CNN SENIOR CRIME AND JUSTICE REPORTER: on Friday, a federal court in Florida released seven pages of documents that represent that unprecedented search and seizure that took place at Mar-a-Lago, the home of former President Trump in South Florida.

So, what we learned from these records is that there were 33 different boxes or items carried out of Mar-a-Lago that become evidence in this ongoing criminal probe into the handling of federal records. That includes a leather-bound box of documents with various classified top secret specialized compartmented information. So, that's a label in the classification system, the highest type of secrecy level that you can have in the federal government, TSSCI. There also are secret documents, top secret documents, confidential documents all taken out of Mar-a-Lago by the FBI when they conducted that search.

We also know from these documents that were released that there are three different criminal statutes being investigated here, that investigators believe there would be evidence of these crimes that they would find if they conducted this search, if and when they conducted the search. That includes the espionage act, the mishandling of records pertaining to the national defense.

So, the type of forms, documents, papers that could be very harmful to the United States if they got into the wrong hands, also there is the obstruction of federal investigation, obstruction of justice that is being investigated, a very serious felony. There is also a criminal statute over records, maintenance of records, the concealment of records that prohibits removing them or hurting them in some way, destroying them. All of this is being investigated.

No one at this point has been charged in this and the documents did not identify who was even under investigation here, but there is a clear statement being made by this search by these documents of the search warrant that it's showing that there was a search for presidential records and also national defense secrets being conducted at Mar-a-Lago on Monday. And that search was fruitful.

At the end of the day we did get a statement from Donald Trump saying that all they had to do was ask, all the feds needed to do was ask for this and we would have returned it to them, but that clearly has not been the case given that in the history of this investigation so far, we know that the National Archives was asking for the return of these. They had been subpoenaed and then finally it prompted the search that took place on Monday.

Katelyn Polantz, CNN, Washington.

BRUNHUBER Joining me now is Civil Rights Attorney and CNN Legal Analyst Areva Martin. She joins us from Edgartown, Massachusetts. Thanks so much for being here with us.

So, starting big picture here, what do you make of the unsealed search warrant? What surprised you the most here?

AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, what surprised, I think, all of us is the level of detail that the Justice Department provided to this judge that ultimately signed off on this search warrant.


We know that Donald Trump and many Republicans are complaining and suggesting that somehow this is a politically motivated action and that this is some kind of nefarious act against the former president. But what's clear from what we have been told by the Department of Justice is that there were grounds, there was sufficient evidence, so sufficient that a federal judge signed off on a search warrant of this former president's private residence.

We know this is unprecedented in U.S. history, but the acts that Donald Trump engaged in, in terms of taking secret, confidential, highly sensitive documents from the White House, very serious allegations against him and very serious actions that required this level of intervention from the FBI and the Department of Justice.

BRUNHUBER: Yes. I mean, in that list of potential crimes, some come under the Espionage Act, but that doesn't necessarily mean spying as it sort of sounds to the layperson, I guess. It's pretty broad. Take us through that.

MARTIN: Yes, you're right, Kim. When we hear the word, espionage, automatically, I think people think that it relates to spying on the U.S. government, but that act covers things broader than just spying. It covers things such as the removal of sensitive documents that could land in the hands of a foreign adversary, someone or some governmental entity that is adverse to the United States.

And we don't know exactly what is in the documents that Donald Trump removed from the White House, but we know those documents are highly sensitive, many of them documents that were only meant to be reviewed inside the White House, in the skiff, documents that were never meant to be removed from the inner sanctum of the White House. And the fact that these documents have been taken to a private residence could potentially end up again in the hands of a foreign adversary warranted the level of intervention that we've seen with respect to this search warrant.

BRUNHUBER: Yes. But, you know, former President Trump has claimed that he declassified all the documents, which doesn't necessarily matter in terms of breaking the rules of taking them home, but how valid is this, you know, so-called declassification magic wand as a defense?

MARTIN: Yes. What we hear Donald Trump claiming, as you said, Kim, is that he as the president at the time had the authority to declassify these document. But the three laws, the potential laws that were broken by Donald Trump by removal of these documents, the fact that he may, in his opinion, declassify these documents doesn't justify the removal, still creates the possible for criminal actions on his part.

Again, these documents highly sensitive documents, document that if landed in the hands of a foreign adversary could be adverse to the United States. And this judge knew full well that Donald Trump had the authority as president to declassify some documents but still went forward in signing off on this search warrant.

So, it's not going to be a defense that he has the power as the sitting president to declassify documents. These are very serious -- potentially, Donald Trump is facing very serious charges. We don't know if there will be an indictment of the president for the removal of the documents.

But I think one thing that's important to note, Kim, is that this didn't happen in a vacuum. There have been multiple, multiple actions on the part of the Department of Justice, on the part of the FBI to communicate with Donald Trump's legal team, to try to negotiate with his legal team for the return of these documents. We know a subpoena was issued to Donald Trump in an effort to get documents returned and we know that some document were returned to the United States government, but not all of the documents.

So, the fact that Donald Trump refused to return these sensitive documents again suggests that he may be, again, not certain, but definitely the potential is there that he could be facing some very serious charges.

BRUNHUBER: We'll keep watching this fast developing story. Areva Martin, thank you so much for being here with us, I really appreciate it.

MARTIN: Thanks, Kim.

BRUNHUBER: Now, among the 11 sets of classified documents taken from Trump's home, one was labeled with the highest classification, top secret SCI, for sensitive compartmented information.


Former U.S. Defense Secretary William Cohen spoke to CNN about why these types of documents should never have been at Mar-a-Lago. Here he is.


WILLIAM COHEN, FORMER U.S. DEFENSE SECRETARY: There's no plausible reason for the former president to have this kind of information in his presence or in that of his home. Anyone involved in intelligence matters knows how serious this is.

Going back to my own experience at the Defense Department, the Defense Department spends almost $800 billion a year. With that money, we recruit, we train and equip the men and women of our military to be the finest fighting force on Earth. They give up their limbs and lives for us. We should never do anything that compromises their security in any fashion.

That's the reason for the top level, top secret SCI, compartmentization.


BRUNHUBER: FBI Director Christopher Wray is warning bureau agents and employees to be vigilant and alert due to an unprecedented wave of threats against the agency following the Mar-a-Lago search. Sources tell CNN that the two agents who signed the warrant as well as the federal judge who authorized it are among those seeing threats.

Wray said the bureau is adjusting its security posture and called on the public to immediately report anything suspicious.

And we're learning more about the suspect who attempted to breach an FBI field office in Cincinnati, Ohio. CNN's Brynn Gingras has the story.


BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): New details tonight about the armed suspect who was shot and killed after allegedly trying to get into the FBI's Cincinnati field office, including how the recent FBI search at Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate may have inspired him.

The Ohio State Highway Patrol identifying the suspect as 42-year-old Ricky Shiffer of Columbus, a former U.S. Navy fire control technician who a source tells CNN brought a high powered rifle to the FBI office. We've learned minutes after the attempted breach a post was made by an account bearing Shiffer's name on the Donald Trump-founded site Truth Social.

At 9:29 A.M., the user posted, well, I thought I had a way through bulletproof glass and I didn't. If you don't hear from me, it is true. I tried attacking the FBI and it will mean either I was taken off the internet, the FBI got me or they sent the regular cops while. The post abruptly ends presumably as the chase ensued.

The account saw an uptick in posts in the days following the FBI search in Mar-a-Lago. On August 8th the user wrote, this is your call to arms from me. Get whatever you need to be ready for combat. And evil already won. Now, we need to fight a civil war to take back the country.

On August 9th, the day after the Mar-a-Lago search, the user encouraged people to go to Palm Beach and if FBI agents broke up the group, quote, kill them. Investigators have not yet confirmed if that account belonged to Shiffer, but a law enforcement source tells CNN an image on the account matched a government id photo of him.

ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Donald Trump has an amazing amount of influence over people who harbor these sort of beliefs when he baselessly floats out an allegation, as he did on Monday, about the FBI possibly planting evidence in his residence, which we all know there's been absolutely zero proof produced for that.

GINGRAS: After Shiffer took off from the field office, troopers located him, exchanged fire and surrounded him.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Law enforcement officers attempted to negotiate with the suspect.

GINGRAS: He was killed at the scene.

Two sources tell CNN Shiffer was previously known to the FBI in connection to January 6th and because of his link to associates within the Proud Boys.

MICHAEL MOORE, FORMER UNITED STATES ATTORNEY: I mean, it was troubling officers to see what happened in Cincinnati and the concern isn't the proof, really, to see how the rhetoric sparks people's violent tendencies.

GINGRAS: Brynn Gingras, CNN, New York.


BRUNHUBER: Award-winning author Salman Rushdie attacked at a book event Friday. We've got the latest on his condition, plus a look at the death threats that have followed him for decades.

Plus, fears are growing about the possibility of a nuclear incident after the shelling of Ukraine's Zaporizhzhia power plant. Now, experts talk to CNN about possible nightmare scenarios.

Stay with us.



BRUNHUBER: Author Salman Rushdie remains hospitalized after he was attacked at a book event in New York State Friday morning. Witnesses say a man rushed the stage stabbing him at least once in the neck and abdomen. That suspect is now in custody.

Rushdie's agent told The New York Times that he's on a ventilator with damage to his liver and the nerves in his arm and that he will likely lose an eye.

CNN's Shimon Prokupecz has the latest.


SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Famed author Salman Rushdie was scheduled to speak at a lecture series at the Chautauqua Institution when witnesses say a man jumped onto the stage just as the event was getting underway and began punching and stabbing Rushdie. One witness tells CNN she counted roughly seven to ten stabbing motions before fleeing for her own safety.

Rushdie suffered stab wounds to the neck and abdomen, according to New York State Police and was airlifted to an area hospital.

GOV. KATHY HOCHUL (D-NY): It's a state police officer who stood up and saved his life, protected him as well as the moderator who was attacked as well.

PROKUPECZ: The suspect was quickly taken into custody. New York State Police identified him as 24-year-old Hadi Matar.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There was a lot of screaming and crying and everything, people rushing from the audience up on the stage.

PROKUPECZ: The 75-year-old author was born in Mumbai and later moved to the U.K.

[03:20:00] Rushdie is accustomed to living under threat. His controversial fourth novel, The Satanic Verses, published in 1988 sparked public demonstrations all over the world. Some Muslims considered the book sacrilegious. In 1989, the late Iranian leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini issued a fatwa, a religious decree on Rushdie for his death.

Rushdie lived under British protection for nearly ten years before the Iranian government announced it would no longer enforce the fatwa. Rushdie wrote a memoir about that era of his life called Joseph Antoine, the name he used while in hiding. He has been outspoken over the years about living through that time.

SALMAN RUSHDIE, AUTHOR: The best was that I can -- what I can do to fight this is to show that in the way that the child shows a bully in the playground, I ain't scared of you. And the best thing I can do is go on being the best writer I can be and to lead as open a professional and personal life as I can. And it's just a way of saying that there may be this danger and it's a terrible thing and it's an ugly thing and we need to fight it and we need to defeat it, but we don't have to hide under the bed.


PROKUPECZ (on camera): The FBI is now part of this investigation, helping authorities learn more about the suspect, the motivation and whether or not this was part of some bigger plot to kill Salman Rushdie. Of course, investigators still trying to go through a lot of information that they're gathering, including a backpack. They were waiting for a search warrant to go through that and also electronics and phones. So, authorities still have a lot more to work through and we still have yet to learn a lot more.

Shimon Prokupecz, CNN, New York.

BRUNHUBER: In Ukraine, a stern warning about the situation at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. The nation's nuclear operator says the facility is now at risk of violating radiation safety and fire safety standards. The company is blaming damage from recent shelling of the plant, which Russia and Ukraine are pinning on each other.

In the east, Ukraine says Russian troops gained some ground in one area near Bakhmut after attacking the city from multiple directions. The Ukrainian defenses held in other areas.

About 31 miles to the northwest, the Ukraine says, the sea of Kramatorsk came under artillery fire, which damaged 20 residential buildings. Ukraine says, five people were killed in attacks across the Donetsk region, including in Kramatorsk on Friday. 35 others were reportedly wounded.

In Kyiv, President Zelenskyy is making a case against letting Russian citizens travel to Europe. He says they shouldn't be allowed to use the so-called Schengen Visas that allow holders unrestricted travel through most European countries. Here he is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) VOLODYMYR ZELENSKYY, UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT: First of all, it should be guaranteed that Russian murderers and accomplices of state terror cannot use visas. Secondly, the idea of Europe itself cannot get destroyed. Our common European values cannot get destroyed, meaning that we cannot turn Europe into a supermarket where it doesn't matter who is coming. What matters is only that the purchases are paid for.


BRUNHUBER: The shelling of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant sounded the alarm, as we mentioned, about a potential nuclear incident. The U.N. secretary general called the attacks suicidal, while the top U.N. nuclear watchdog warned the risk of a disaster is very real.

CNN's David McKenzie looks into what could go wrong if the attacks continue.

DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Now, I've been speaking to experts. They say the biggest worry isn't necessarily of ammunition or rocket hitting the reactor plant itself. Those are very heavily protected with a great deal of concrete, unlikely that it would spark any issue, though, of course, that is a worry.

The bigger issue is, they say, if there is in the medium term a shutdown of power and a backup of power to that site to stop the cooling of the fuel rods, from which could then lead to a meltdown or possibly a leakage of some kind.

The last few days certainly have been very alarming. There's been yesterday at least ten rocket strikes or munition strikes against the general area of the site, according to Ukrainians. Russia continues to blame the Ukrainian side for this and there doesn't seem to be any movement in solution that stops this zone and its workers there from being put at risk.

But one other thing people are asking for is to have blue helmets, a peace keeping force of some kind, placed inside that site. I think in the short-term, that's highly unlikely. Never say never. But at the U.N. Security Council, you had diplomats of both Ukraine and Russia yet again blaming each other for what is happening, which indicates that maybe we're a long way off of some kind of settlement.

Let's listen to Ukraine's ambassador first.


SERGIY KYSLYTSYA, UKRAINIAN AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: Dear colleagues, none of us can stop the wind if it carries radiation.


But together, we are capable of stopping a terrorist state.


MCKENZIE: Now, the Russian ambassador continues to say that Ukraine is at fault and using language very similar to the Ukrainian side just pointed in the other direction.


VASILY NEBENZYA, RUSSIAN AMBASSADOR TO U.N.: We repeatedly warned our western colleagues that if they didn't talk some sense into the Kyiv regime, it would take the most monstrous and irrational steps.


MCKENZIE: The big issue here, right, is that the two side are very far apart on those statements, both sides flinging mud at the other. The bigger problem right now is not necessarily who is doing the shelling but that the site is right there on the frontlines, unsecured, and as an expert told me, everything with nuclear power is long-term. You can't just turn off the lights and leave the site. You need ongoing cooling and safety of those spent fuel rods even. And that requires a long-term solution that might be difficult given this war that shows no sign of being resolved one way or the other.

BRUNHUBER: At least 11 people, including two children, were killed in a mass shooting in Montenegro Friday, that's according to state media. Local police say the suspect first attacked a family living in his home as tenants, then went outside and shot other residents of the neighborhood. The witness said the shooter indiscriminately shot people as he walked through the street.

Authorities say the attacker is a 34-year-old man and his rampage ended when he was shot dead by a civilian.

A vigil in Mexico for ten miners trapped more than a week now, relatives are growing impatient. Some say they are not being kept informed about any progress in the rescue efforts. Authorities say the response team made three descents into the mine shaft on Friday to remove debris blocking the rescuers. It also announced divers would enter the flooded part of the mine, but water levels were still too high. Mexico's Attorney General's Office is requesting a judicial hearing to file charges against the mine owner.

The FBI search of former U.S. President Donald Trump's home netted a trove of classified documents that belong to the government, including some of the highest level of secrecy. We'll have more details just ahead.

Plus, U.S. lawmakers have adopted landmark legislation, including the biggest investment to combat the climate crisis in American history. We'll break it all down when we come back.

Stay with us.



BRUNHUBER: We have now learned the FBI took more than 20 boxes of materials from Donald Trump's Florida home on Monday. According to the property receipt, agents found 11 sets of classified documents, including some labeled top secret. Why they were at Mar-a-Lago remains a mystery.

The warrant unsealed Friday revealed the search was executed based on potential violations of the Espionage Act and possible obstruction of justice.

After Monday's search of Mar-a-Lago, many of Donald Trump's supporters and congress were howling for the U.S. Justice Department to unseal the search warrant, but now that it has, while there's been little reaction from them on Capitol Hill.

We have more from CNN's Melanie Zanona.

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: Well, we are hearing a slightly more muted response from House Republicans, at least compared to their tone earlier when they were threatening investigations into the Department of Justice and attacking the FBI.

But Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee held a press conference on Friday where they heaped praise on law enforcement. They called on Attorney General Merrick Garland to release more information and they acknowledge there are at least some scenarios in which they thought it could be problematic if Trump was hanging onto highly classified documents. Take a listen.


REP. CHRIS STEWART (R-UT): Look at the premise of most of your questions. Was it nuclear? Was it -- heck, maybe it was aliens. That's the point. We don't know. We're asking them to tell us.

REP. MIKE TURNER (R-OH): There are a number of things that they could show us, and I don't want to speculate what those would be, that would obviously rise to the level of maybe you didn't have any options. But I'd be very, very, very surprised as to what those are considering the breadth of what they could have done besides this.


ZANONA: I also caught with House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy and he too called on Garland to release more information beyond just the search warrant on Mar-a-Lago, but he dodged questions about whether he thought there were any scenarios that he thought would be justified to conduct that search on Mar-a-Lago.

Now, we should point out that Republicans are still standing by Trump. They are still vowing to pursue oversight and investigations into the Department of Justice if they win back the majority, but it is clear that they are starting to calibrate their response after The Washington Post report Donald Trump might be in possession of highly sensitive nuclear documents.

Melanie Zanona, CNN, Capitol Hill.

BRUNHUBER: David Laufman led the U.S. Justice Department's counterintelligence section until 2018. He oversaw investigations into both Hillary Clinton's and former CIA Director David Petraeus' handling of classified records. Here is what he has to say about the seizure of top secret documents from Trump's residence.


DAVID LAUFMAN, FORMER CHIEF OF DOJ'S COUNTERINTELLIGENCE SECTION: In some respects it's not that surprising given this president's consistent flagrant disregard for the protection of classified information and disregard for the intelligence community throughout his presidency, his careless, reckless disclosure of sensitive classified information not only to foreign nationals but to the heads of governments of our foreign adversaries. And it could be said that this is just another version of that flagrant disregard and contempt.

Having said that, it is, nonetheless, shocking to me having overseen prosecutions of multiple defendants under provisions of the Espionage Act to see that same statute leveled as a foundation for a search warrant executed on the home of a former president of the United States.


BRUNHUBER: Meanwhile, there are new concerns over the safety of FBI agents. As CNN's Brian Todd explains, the Mar-a-Lago search appears to have amplified hostility in some quarters towards law enforcement officials.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Multiple law enforcement sources tell CNN they're closely monitoring violent rhetoric and threats that have spiked in online forums and other platforms since the FBI's raid on former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago compound Monday. Shortly after the raid in an online forum dedicated to Trump, the phrase, lock and load, was one of the top comments posted.


Another post said, Attorney General Merrick Garland, quote, needs to be assassinated, simple as that. One user posted, kill all feds.

JONATHAN GREENBLATT, CEO AND NATIONAL DIRECTOR, ANTI-DEFAMATION LEAGUE: We have never seen anything like this. As soon as the news broke about the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago, we saw angry cries from radical supporters of President Trump, from a range of right-wing extremists.

TODD: One post that CNN found called for violence against FBI agents. Former FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe is now worried about agents' safety.

MCCABE: Potentially, each one of those people as they go through communities, as they knock on people's doors, show up at businesses, talk to sources of information and witnesses and victims of all sorts could potentially be a target.

TODD: Democratic Congressman Eric Swalwell, a frequent target of the far-right, posted on his Twitter account a recording of a threat against him and his family, which he says came in after the Mar-a-Lago raid.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Cut his (BLEEP) head off. Swalwell is worthless piece of (BLEEP). Cut his wife's head off. Cut his kids' head off.

TODD: But other members of Congress, hard line Republicans, have contributed to the violent rhetoric since the raid on Trump's Florida home.

GREENBLATT: We've seen Paul Gosar, an elected member of Congress, suggest we need to, quote, destroy the FBI.

TODD: The extremist online postings after the Mar-a-Lago raid were found by CNN Correspondent Donie O'Sullivan, who tracks extremists online. He said this about that online forum supporting Trump where some of those threats popped up.

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That website is one of the very same websites where many people were talking about plans for January 6th in advance of the attack on the Capitol, people discussing how to attack police officers.

TODD: In fact, one reply to the lock and load threat came from an account run by Capitol insurrectionist Tyler Schleicher, according to the group, Advance Democracy, which investigates cases like this. The reply said, quote, are we not in a cold civil war at this point? Tyler Schleicher's lawyer did not respond to CNN's request for comment. The Anti-Defamation League worries about what comes next.

GREENBLATT: It could be the lone wolf who now feels impelled to commit an act of violence against the law enforcement official or against some other person. It could be an organized group.


TODD (on camera): A congressional security official told CNN shortly after the news of the Mar-a-Lago raid broke, the U.S. Capitol police began discussions about monitoring and planning for potential violent rhetoric. That official saying they have particular concern about violence being directed against members of congress and federal law enforcement. The Capitol police would not comment on security plans.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.

BRUNHUBER: And coming up, I'll speak with the director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism on how the Mar-a-Lago search could fuel violence. That's ahead in the next hour of CNN NEWSROOM.

U.S. House has given Democrats and President Biden something they so desperately wanted, passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, a $750 billion climate, energy and healthcare package and to also cut inflation.

CNN's Jessica Dean has details what's inside the sweeping new bill.

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Democrats and President Biden scoring a big win as we saw their massive package focused on climate, taxes and health care passing out of the House. It is now headed to President Biden's desk for his signature. We spent the day hearing debate from both sides.

But it was very clear from the beginning that this had full Democratic support in the House, this is something that passed along party lines, just like it did in the Senate. The reason behind that, they are using a budget process that requires them only to have Democratic support so they can pass this out of Congress with just their Democratic majorities and that's exactly what happened.

Just a reminder to everyone a little bit what's in this. There're three different planks. There's the climate plank. It's the largest investment in climate that we've ever seen come out of Congress, some $369 billion in climate initiatives. There's also healthcare provisions in there. They're extending the Affordable Care Act subsidies by three years. They're capping out of pocket Medicare expenses at $2,000. It's also allowing Medicare for the very first time to negotiate the price of certain drug prices.

Additionally, there are tax provisions in there, namely among them, a corporate minimum tax of 15 percent that's going to be for the country's largest businesses. They will pay that 15 percent minimum tax. But, again, lawmakers now headed out on August recess. They're going back to their districts, back to their states. And for those who are running for reelection, it was very important for Democrats to be able to talk about this when they went home and say that it had passed and be able to discuss what had been put in there. They are now going to be able to do that.

For their part, Republicans continue to criticize this legislation, saying that it will only add to inflation, not bring it down, that it will actually harm businesses, not help them.


And you can expect to hear more from them on that as we head into November. They are certainly going to be talking very much about inflation and the economy.

But the big picture here as the House makes this very historic vote is that it is a win for Democrats and it's one they certainly, even about a month ago, didn't think that they would be seeing.

Jessica Dean, CNN, Capitol Hill.

BRUNHUBER: The CDC is easing some of its COVID recommendations. Coming up, I'll ask a COVID expert if it's the right thing to do.

Stay with us.


BRUNHUBER: Top U.S. health officials are easing up on much of their COVID-19 guidance and dropping many of the long held recommendations for preventing the spread of the virus.

CNN's Elizabeth Cohen has the details.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's a bit of an end of an era. The U.S. Centers for Disease control saying this week that they're easing up on many COVID- 19 restrictions. It's really a sign omicron is much more mild than previous variants, so not as many precautions are necessary. Also, most of the country, the vast majority of the country, has some immunity to COVID-19 through previous infection or through vaccine or for some people both.

Let's take a look at what the CDC is doing. The CDC is saying no more six feet social distancing recommendations, all those little stickers can be scraped off the floor. Also they say no more screening in most circumstances, the screening, for example, that schoolchildren have been doing. Also no more quarantining after you've been exposed to someone with COVID-19. They have been telling people to quarantine. They've eased up on that a bit, but this says no more quarantining.

But there are some measures that the CDC is keeping. They're still recommending indoor mask usage for most of the United States.


Also they're telling people if you're actually infected with COVID-19, you do still need to isolate.

The CDC's new guidelines are much more tailored to specific groups. For example, they tell people who are immune compromised that they should talk to their doctor about a drug called Evusheld. They also say that if you're at high risk for getting very sick from COVID-19, that you should be wearing a mask in a much larger part of the country than is recommended for the general population. So, different directions for people.

BRUNHUBER: Dr. Scott Miskovich is the president and CEO of Premier USA. He's also a national consultant in the U.S. for COVID-19 testing and he joins us from Kailua, Hawaii. Thank you so much for being here with us, Doctor.

So, we just heard there, the CDC says COVID, it is here to stay, we're in a different place now, time for different rules. They won't focus on slowing transmission necessarily. They'll focus on preventing severe illness. So, do you agree with the new approach and new guidelines?

DR. SCOTT MISCOVICH, U.S. NATIONAL CONSULTANT FOR COVID-19 TESTING: No. This is in my mind almost strike three for the CDC because they keep -- you know, at a time when we are asking them from a public health perspective to do the right thing, they go back and they do something that's almost a political move again. And this is not a public health decision.

One of the things we were looking for is an honest answer to the people that, hey, we screwed up. Five days doesn't work. Five days after you've been were positive, if you go back around others, 50 percent will still be positive. We were hoping they were going to push it out to seven days, but we found out that wasn't the case. And, Kim, this is now as infectious as measles. We're right at the verge of this being the most infectious disease as we go into BA.5 being so contagious and we're doing away with the six feet guideline for social distancing. We're taking it away in schools, which is going to turn schools into super spreader events. So, there are some things we could have done a lot better.

BRUNHUBER: Okay, but let me push back here. I mean, the good news is the death rates have fallen consistently over the last 2.5 years. They're getting closer and closer to the numbers that we see with the annual flu, though it should be said the COVID death rate is still twice that as the flu normally is, but it has been going down partially because of vaccination and treatment, but also because it seems as though this current virus isn't causing infections deep in the lungs, like the previous strains, which, again, bolsters the argument we should be treating this more like the flu. You don't agree?

MISCOVICH: No. I don't think we're at that stage yet, because, right now, if you look at the BA.5, I think what we're seeing up to 500 deaths a day still occurring in the United States. That's still fairly significant. Are we at the days of delta? No. Have we come a long way? Absolutely, but, Kim, we're still in a pandemic. And we still know that we will have another surge likely occurring through this fall.

So, you are correct that death rates are going down, but with BA.5, we saw the over 70s start ticking back up and that combines with the fact that we have just, what, 60 percent of those individuals have the boosters that are necessary. We thought that we'd be standing on a rooftop pushing for the next vaccine that will be coming out in October and talking about getting your boosters because the United States is, what, 60th in the world when it comes to the overall vaccinations and boosters. But again, I will say, you are correct, death rate is going down, but we're still in a pandemic.

BRUNHUBER: Yes. The problem is, though, people have kind of moved on. So, I guess is it not fair to say that it's very hard to enforce rules that people, to a large extent, may not believe in anymore?

MISCOVICH: I totally agree and that's what has been happening every time they come out with a guideline that kind of has more of a political overtone versus a public health overtone, which is it's hard to go backward, right? And that's what our concern about this is right now.

Essentially, this guideline is we're done. CDC is kind of saying it's off to the local departments of health. It's really now they're saying it's up to the individual people. Is there anything wrong with that? No, but what we wanted is more science guidance to really give the people a true understanding and also a caveat because what about Germany? They made it crystal clear that this fall they're saying there's a good chance you could go back to mandates.

I think it's really, really going to be hard in our country to have any type of local health department or state health department create any type of mandate. [03:50:05]

So, that's the concern is there was no caveat to say we're still watching.

BRUNHUBER: Yes. Then I guess the other worries are we're seeing upticks in other countries, Japan, for instance. We're seeing other variants emerging, like one in India. Is that right?

MISCOVICH: Absolutely. I mean, you probably saw that India has reinstated in New Delhi a broad mask mandate because they're seeing a significant uptick from a variant that is one that we have our eye on right now. And we know southern hemisphere winters have been where we're seeing the variants that then come up and turn into our winter COVID variant that caused a lot more infectivity.

So, again, more concern about science, more concern about the facts and evidence and caution. You know, a perfect example is when is it good wearing a mask? They keep caveating that, wear a good mask. Well, I'm out there in the streets, I'm out there in the offices, even seeing patients, and I think everybody would agree with me, one, you don't see any masks. Number two, when you do, it's usually not a well- fitting mask. And so that's one of the caveats they put in all these guidelines. There's no definition even of what that is.

BRUNHUBER: Yes. Well, listen, as you say, the burden is shifting more to the individuals. So, hopefully, people are watching this, listening to your words and taking their advice there from what you're saying. Dr. Scott Miscovich, thanks so much for being here with us, I really appreciate it.

MISCOVICH: Thank you, Kim.

BRUNHUBER: Tragedy strikes Hollywood, we'll have an update on award winning actress Ann Heche's condition when we come back.



BRUNHUBER: The Emmy Award-winning actress, Ann Heche, is still on life support, although according to the law in California, she's now considered legally dead. Her family says she is brain dead. But doctors are still working to determine if she has a match for organ donations.

Her family called Heche a bright light, a kind and most joyful soul, a loving mother and a loyal friend and Hollywood co-stars remembering her as a lovely woman. The actress was badly burned a week ago when she slammed her car into a house in Los Angeles setting off a fire. The accident is still under investigation.

The all-star shortstop of the San Diego Padres is out for the rest of the baseball season after he tested positive for a banned substance. Fernando Tatis Jr. was suspended 80 games after testing positive for the performance enhancing steroid Clostebol. El Nino, as he's called, apologized to his team. In a statement, he said he took the drug inadvertently to treat ring worm but failed to check if it was legal. Tatis had been out all season due to a wrist injury and he was on the verge of returning when the suspension was announced.

That wraps this hour of CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Kim Brunhuber. I'll be back in just a short minute with more news. Please do stay with us.