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Early Start with John Berman and Zoraida Sambolin

White House Considers Withholding Funds to Spur Vaccinations; Vaccination Increase as the Message Gets Through; DeSantis Facing Pushback for Banning Mask Mandates in Schools; California's Largest Active Wildfire Prompts More Evacuations; Democrats Centralizing Trump Probes Under Jan. 6 Committee. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired August 06, 2021 - 05:00   ET



LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is EARLY START.

We have reports this morning from Miami, London, Jerusalem, Tehran, Tokyo, Alabama and the White House, as only EARLY START can. I'm Laura Jarrett.

AMARA WALKER, CNN ANCHOR: Busy morning. And I'm Amara Walker. It's Friday, August 6th. Happy Fri-yay. It's 5:00 a.m. in New York.

JARRETT: We begin this morning with a White House searching for any possible way to get more Americans vaccinated. A senior administration official telling CNN the latest strategy being explored is possibly withholding federal funding from states as a way to increase shots in arms. If the plan is adopted, funding for nursing homes and similar facilities could be leveraged unless employees are vaccinated.

Phil Mattingly has more from the White House.


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Laura and Amara, there's no question that the surge in the delta variant has translated into a significant shift in terms of how the Biden administration is approaching policy as it relates to vaccinations. Administration officials are clear, vaccinations are the answer out of what we're seeing right now across the country.

And it now appears that they're at least having discussions about going even further than they'd ever considered before. In that phase, it would be using federal regulatory powers, perhaps even restricting federal funds, as a kind of stick to convince people or force people to get vaccinated.

Now, there are limits to what you can actually utilize in a situation like that. Now, it's not clear the administration is going to go through with this proposal. They are just high-level discussions at this point in time. But the fact the discussions are happening at all just underscores, one, how serious a moment the administration believes this is. How urgent it is.

But it also underscore ifs the administration is very serious about this policy shift. You saw the change on the federal level as related to requirements for vaccines for federal workers. You've seen them work with private industry, trying to compel in any way they possibly can private companies to impose vaccine mandates -- something the president doesn't have the power to do, but certainly he can use his bully pulpit.

Now they're considering other options. Federal regulations, federal funding, as some type of way to try to spur vaccinations. How they actually get people to do that -- well, that appears to be the primary issue they're still exploring at the moment -- guys.


WALKER: All right. Phil Mattingly, thank you for that.

We are failing one another. That is a heartfelt banner headline on the front page of "USA Today's" weekend edition, which comes out today.

And that message may finally be getting through. Take a look here. More shots in arms yesterday than any day since July 3rd.

JARRETT: More Americans are getting vaccinated as mandates and states ramp up. Kids are heading back to school, and more families suffer heartbreak, like 43-year-old Travis Campbell, who thought he was invincible and now can't help but think about plans for his own funeral.


TRAVIS CAMPBELL, HOSPITALIZED VIRGINIAN URGES EVERYONE TO GET VACCINATED: Try to get the message out. Please, please don't wait. Don't procrastinate. The delta variant is stronger and faster and it attacks those who are not vaccinated or have more medical conditions. A diabetic or a person with arthritis will be attacked ten times faster and harder and it's not worth it.


JARRETT: Travis Campbell will be on NEW DAY, at the top of the 8:00 hour.

WALKER: Schools in Minneapolis, Nashville, and New Jersey now on a growing list of districts to require masks. A CNN analysis shows that some states that have banned mask mandates in schools like Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Arkansas also have the fewest teens vaccinated.

Education Secretary Miguel Cardona says we have the tools to keep schools open, if only we would use them.


MIGUEL CARDONA, SECRETARY OF EDUCATION: You know what I'm worried about? The adult actions getting in the way of schools safely reopening. Let our educators educate, let our leaders, school leaders lead and we can get our schools reopened safely.


JARRETT: Some states still won't allow schools to actually require kids to wear masks, like Florida where Governor Ron DeSantis is facing growing pushback for threatening to cut funding to schools that require masks. DeSantis is not backing down.

CNN's Leyla Santiago has more from Miami.


LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Laura, Amara, Florida now leading the nation when it comes to hospitalization and the Florida hospital association now warning that many hospitals will see critical staffing shortages very soon.


So we're seeing many additional measures being taken. Where I am right now, at Jackson Health System, they have just announced that they will be mandating vaccines of workers. Miami-Dade mayor also announcing that she will be requiring weekly testing of someone who cannot provide proof of vaccination.

In the meantime, Governor Ron DeSantis, doubling down saying that Florida will not be a state of mandates or lockdowns.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: It's parent's choice in Florida and government can't override the parents. And so we believe the parents are the ones that have the choice. And we obviously have an executive order to that effect.

SANTIAGO: And the governor is standing by his executive order, which threatens to cut state funds to any school that mandates masks. The Leon County superintendent has written him a letter, asking him to, quote, not allow pride or politics to cloud our better judgment -- Laura, Amara.


WALKER: Leyla Santiago, thank you.

President Biden spent the week begging leaders, including in Florida, to contain COVID, drawing fire from Governor DeSantis. Here's Mr. Biden's reaction to that.


REPORTER: DeSantis who was using your words about, don't be in the way, and he's saying, I am in the way to block too much from the federal government.

Your response, Mr. President?



WALKER: As of Thursday, more children are hospitalized in Florida with COVID than any other state.

JARRETT: All right. Still ahead, there's no secret that Donald Trump wanted to overturn the 2020 election, but new details show how he tried to co-opt the Justice Department in his attempted coup, next.



WALKER: Welcome back.

The Dixie Fire, California's largest active wildfire, prompting more evacuations. The fire destroyed nearly 75 percent of the historic town of Greenville in northern California. Officials ordered the nearby town of Taylorsville to evacuate. Firefighters say they have been frustrated by residents not heeding these orders.

JARRETT: The Dixie Fire is now the sixth largest in California's history. Six of the top seven largest fires happening in just the past year. California's devastating drought is worsening these fires. On Thursday, for the first time ever, officials had to shut down a hydropower plant at one of the state's key reservoirs. Water levels at Lake Oroville are at record lows now.

WALKER: An attempted coup, hiding in plain sight. New details of the lengths the former president went to overturn the election he lost emerging by the day. House investigators have found that Trump pressured Justice Department officials like then Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen to, quote, just say that the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and the Republican congressmen.

JARRETT: Yeah. A day later, another justice official, Jeffrey Clark, drafted a memo aimed at pressuring election officials in Georgia. It suggested, falsely, that DOJ was investigating nonexistent election irregularities. Thankfully, DOJ higher-ups rejected Clark's letter.

And all of this was before Trump made this call to Georgia's secretary of state.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER PRESIDENT: So, look, all I want to do is this. I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have, because we won the state.


WALKER: With all of this evidence coming together and Trump still the de facto leader of the GOP, Democrats are now centralizing their investigations. More now from CNN's Evan Perez in Washington.


EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Laura and Amara, House Democrats are consolidating the investigations into the former president's efforts to pressure federal and state officials into overturning last November's election results, and all of the events that led up to the January 6th Capitol attack. The newly formed house select committee is taking the lead and other committees are turning over their documents and their work done so far.

Now, that means that interviews of key former Trump administration officials which were scheduled in the coming days will be postponed and handled by this new January 6th committee. Sources say that that includes former top Justice Department officials, Jeffrey Rosen and Richard Donoghue, the acting attorney general and deputy attorney general in the closing days of the former administration.

Now, the change of strategy came abruptly, just a couple of days after the House Oversight Committee conducted an interview with another former Justice official, Patrick Hovakimian. Hovakimian wrote a draft resignation letter accusing the former president of trying to use the Justice Department to advance his election fraud claims.

He was prepared to resign if Trump fired Rosen over his refusal to say that there was fraud. The letter was never sent, because Rosen held on, until Joe Biden's inauguration -- Laura, Amara.


WALKER: Evan, thank you.

President Biden awarding congressional gold medals to law enforcement officers who defended the U.S. Capitol against the pro-Trump mob on January 6th.

The president thanked officers for protecting the Constitution and election officials themselves.

JARRETT: Twenty-one House Republicans voted against awarding those medals, as insurrection denialism permeates the GOP.


BIDEN: Not even during the civil war did insurrectionists breach the Capitol of the United States of America.


My fellow Americans, the tragedy of that day deserves the truth above all else. We cannot allow history to be re-written. We cannot allow the heroism of these officers to be forgotten.

We have to understand what happened, the honest and unvarnished truth. We have to face it. America owes you a debt we can never fully repay. (END VIDEO CLIP)

JARRETT: Four officers who responded to that vicious attack have died by suicide since January. Capitol Police Officer Brian Sicknick suffered two strokes and died the next day.

WALKER: A bump in the road. Why are so many pregnant women opting out of the coronavirus vaccine? We'll explain, next.



JARRETT: Calls for pregnant women to get vaccinated are growing louder this morning. One recent CDC study in the U.S. found only 11 percent of pregnant women are fully vaccinated and data from England shows that 98 percent of expectant mothers admitted to the hospital with COVID since may were unvaccinated.

This despite nearly all major physician groups and the WHO urging women to get the vaccine.

Salma Abdelaziz joins us live from London.

Salma, good morning. You spoke to some expectant moms. What did they tell you?

SALMA ABDELAZIZ, CNN REPORTER: Laura, when vaccines were first rolled out, pregnant people were told not to take them. That's because pregnant people were not a part of initial vaccine trials, so doctors couldn't recommend it.

Since that time, advice has, of course, changed 180 degrees, now with multiple groups urging women to get the vaccine. And there's that very real threat out there of the delta variant, which health experts say puts pregnant people at greater risk than ever before, at any point in this pandemic.

If a pregnant woman contracts COVID here in England, she has a 1 in 7 chance of ending up in ICU, and even more worryingly, a 1 in 5 chance of preterm labor. Of course, in that scenario, emergency C-sections are extremely likely.

Still, pregnant women told me, it's really difficult to get clear guidance from your doctor, clear advice from health officials which makes it tough to make an informed decision, Laura. Take a look.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ready? So that tummy has got to come in.

ABDELAZIZ (voice-over): Pregnancy in the time of pandemic comes with a big question, whether or not to get vaccinated.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Staying up at night and be searching. It became slightly like an obsession. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Being told one minute not to have it, the next

minute to have it. It was just a bit confusing.

ABDELAZIZ: Guidance keeps changing. British officials first advised expectant mothers against vaccination. But since July, strongly urge it.

In the U.S., the CDC does not directly recommend it for pregnant people, but say they are eligible. While two leading obstetric groups say that expectant mothers should be immunized.

Unable to find clear answers, Christine Coffman in Maryland decided not to get vaccinated.

CHRISTINE COFFMAN, CONTRACTED CORONAVIRUS WHILE PREGNANT: I was definitely worried about it being so new and us not having a lot of research on it.

ABDELAZIZ: One week before her due date, she tested positive for COVID-19.

COFFMAN: At that time, I thought that I was going to die. It was terrifying knowing that I had this infection coursing through my body.

ABDELAZIZ: As mom and baby got sicker, doctors performed an emergency C-section.

COFFMAN: They took her to the NICU and I didn't see my baby for two days, because I had COVID.

ABDELAZIZ: Both are now back home, happy and healthy.



I just really want my story to be advice, if you're thinking about getting the vaccine, get it.

ABDELAZIZ: Ninety-eight percent of the expectant mothers admitted to hospital with COVID-19 in England since may were unvaccinated.

MARIAN KNIGHT, PROFESSOR OF MATERNAL AND CHILD POPULATION HEALTH: The balance is very much in favor of the benefits of vaccination versus the risks of the infection.

ABDELAZIZ: Initial vaccine trials did not include pregnant women, but experts point to the nearly 200,000 pregnant people now safely vaccinated across the U.S. and U.K. Back in the park, we ask if the real-world evidence is enough.

Raise your hand if you've gotten the vaccine?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For me, there's not enough data there. Personally, from what I've researched, to make me feel comfortable getting it. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just felt more comfortable and safer knowing

that I had some protection than no protection at all.

ABDELAZIZ: A majority of pregnant people in the U.S., in the U.K., remain unvaccinated, with many still waiting for answers.


ABDELAZIZ (on camera): You can see how each and every one of the women in that report, Laura, really struggled with that decision. They all told me they received conflicting advice from their doctors, contradictory information online.

Take the case of Christine Coffman in that story. She said, I'm a scientist by profession, I believe in this stuff, but I simply couldn't get answers. That's how she ended up with COVID-19 in hospital a week before her due date. It's absolutely concerning to all of these parents that there's no clear guidance, no clear advice from health officials trickling down to their doctors.


And in the meanwhile, there's this very real threat out there, the delta variant, putting pregnant people at risk more than ever before -- Laura.

JARRETT: You see the risk so clearly in that piece with the mom who got it just a week before she was due. I get it, the conflicting information is hard. But the data is clear on what happens if you do get COVID and it's not pretty.

Salma, thank you so much for that reporting. It's just really incredible. Thanks.

WALKER: A very important story.

Well, tensions rising between Israel and Iran. How the new regime is responding after Israel suggested it's ready to strike Iran following a deadly attack on a tanker.