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Inside Politics

Pfizer Says It's Time For a COVID Booster Shot, CDC & FDA Say No; CDC: Vaccinated Children Don't Have to Wear Masks in School; CDC: Unvaccinated Kids Must Mask in School; Fringe GOP Representatives Threaten Republican 2022 Message; Book: Pence Told Trump "Get Your Facts Straight" in 2018 Oval Office Fight. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired July 09, 2021 - 12:00   ET




JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Hello everybody and welcome to "Inside Politics". I'm John King in Washington. Thank you for sharing your day with us important breaking news that matters to every parent.

The Centers for Disease Control says vaccinated children do not have to wear masks in school and it says school should make reopening in person the top priority this fall. Plus a COVID red flag, Pfizer says immunity from its vaccine fades over time. The company wants Americans to get booster shots.

But the government the FDA and the CDC say not yet. And "The crazies have taken over". A new book gives a play by play of Donald Trump's last weeks in office and his post presidency anger. There is one constant, the former president's obsession with the 2020 election he lost.

We begin this Friday though with important breaking news a new and significant change in Centers for Disease Control guidance about COVID and schools that just released new guidelines say it is critical to get students back in the classroom this fall.

And the CDC says children and teachers who are not vaccine -- who are vaccinated excuse me do not have to wear masks in the classroom children who are under 12 and not yet eligible for vaccines should still wear masks the CDC says.

The guidelines also give school districts more leeway in setting social distancing rules putting an emphasis this is important on get back in the classroom, even if a school cannot guarantee students, for example, can be kept three feet apart.

Let's get right to our Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen to explain these new guidelines, Elizabeth?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: John, these have been long awaited guidelines where you know many school systems are going to start up really in the next month or so. And they're wondering what precautions do they need to take? There's one overarching principle behind all of this COVID rates are

very, very different across the country. In some places, the numbers are steady in other places; they're going up quite actually dramatically. Vaccination rates also very different so different systems across the country are going to decide to do different things.

But as you said, the priority is to go back to school. So let's take a look at some of the specifics from this very new CDC guidance just coming out this morning. So first of all, if not everyone is vaccinated in a school, then participant -- sorry, social distancing needs to be practiced if not everyone is vaccinated you have to practice social distancing.

And I think it's kind of a given that in most schools, if not nearly all schools, social distancing, I'm sorry, everyone will not be vaccinated. If you are not vaccinated whether you're an adult or a child, you need to wear a mask and also offer weekly testing for unvaccinated people or for weekly testing called screening testing.

Now in some areas of the country, if the numbers are low enough children wouldn't need that kind of testing. But it will be interesting to see if schools are able to offer that kind of weekly testing John?

KING: Elizabeth Cohen, grateful for the hustle on the breaking news. And let's explore this some more now with Dr. Megan Ranney. She's an Emergency Room Physician and a Researcher at Brown University. Dr. Ranney is good to see you.

We have talked about this for months about the CDC giving more clarity to parents about what to do? When you read these new guidelines the takeaways I'm going to read the first line of the key takeaway students benefit from in person learning and safely returning to in person instruction in the fall is a priority.

That to me is the most significant part here, the details matter. But the tone, the CDC is not saying as it was before, if you have safety concerns, keep kids out of school, the CDC is now saying get kids into school and deal with the safety concerns there.

DR. MEGAN RANNEY, PROFESSOR OF EMERGENCY MEDICINE & ASSOCIATE DEAN OF PUBLIC HEALTH, BROWN UNIVERSITY: That's right. And the reason that they're saying that is because we have growing evidence that there are ways to get kids back to school safely, right?

So over the last year, we have shown that if you mask kids, if you do testing protocols, even without vaccinations, you can keep kids safe. Now add on to it the fact that all kids aged 12 enough, and certainly all teachers have had the chance to get vaccinated, and you have a very different environment from the one that we had during the last school year. There's really now no scientific reason to keep kids home at this point.

KING: And help to explain the significance of this. Remember, we started with if your kids are back in school, keep them six feet apart. Then the CDC late in the school year changed and said no, you could do this safely, three feet apart.

Now the CDC saying it is preferable to keep children three feet apart. But they're also saying the priority should be getting kids back in the classroom. And if you cannot keep them three feet apart, put them in the classroom and then use masks or use other mitigation efforts but get them back in the classroom. Why is that so important?

DR. RANNEY: So let's be clear about how COVID spreads? Back a year and a half ago when we first put those guidelines in place, we thought that COVID spread through droplets. So distance was going to be really important.


DR. RANNEY: We now know that it spreads through the air through aerosol. So whether you're one foot apart or six feet apart doesn't make as much of a difference as wearing a mask and having good filtration or ventilation, having HIPAA filters having windows open, those things make a much bigger difference than that physical distance.

And of course, there's that last part again of vaccination. You don't need masks or great filtration, if you are fully vaccinated. The challenge for some states John is going to be we know that a lot of states, many of the kids are not vaccinated.

And so those masking and ventilation requirements are going to be a lot more important in those communities where the kids are not yet vaccinated.

KING: Well, if that will be the challenge as we get into late August and September and school start to reopen. This is clarity that parents want that school districts wants that school administrators want there's also some confusion in the COVID world today.

And that is because Pfizer yesterday said that it sees some evidence that its immunity levels for its vaccine wane over time, and it says maybe we need a third shot or maybe we need a booster shot. And within hours, the CDC and the FDA come out with a joint statement saying no wait a minute.

People who are fully vaccinated are protected from severe disease and death, including from the variants currently circulating in the country, such as Delta. Americans who have been fully vaccinated do not need a booster shot at this time. Is this a break? Is this a feud? Or is this just a different emphasis in tone and timing?

DR. RANNEY: This is just a different emphasis in tone and timing. This is Pfizer trying to get ahead of the curve getting approval for that third booster shot before it's needed. The test results that they report are really only about the antibodies. And we know that there are other parts of the immune system that the vaccines help to stimulate that protect you from COVID.

Now it's certainly possible that there's going to be another variant and or that three months from now we're going to see that immunity wings even further and the boosters are needed doesn't hurt for Pfizer to start that process.

But as of today, at the same time that that Pfizer press release came out, there were also two really important publications that proved that even eight nine months after the vaccine, you have adequate immunity against even the Delta variant. So you don't need a third booster shot today.

KING: I want to wander through some of the latest numbers, and some of them are encouraging. But then you see things that look like danger signs, you can tell me if you agree. This is the current, just the track of new COVID infections were at 13,589 on July 2nd, Thursday, 15,867.

Cases are going up nearly 17 percent according to this Johns Hopkins data in the last week. COVID cases are going up. From a low baseline yes, nowhere near the horrors of the winter but it's still trending in the wrong direction right now.

If you look at it by counties, I just focus your attention on the middle of this map as we go through the next several slides here. You see the darker blue in here, that is county seeing 100 plus cases per week for 100,000 people so cases where you have a case count growing watch the middle of the country.

Why? Because this is the CDC's map about current community transmission here, red is bad. You see the red in the same area I just showed you where the blue was bad in terms of the cases red out here and red out in the West. This is high community transmission high.

And you see the yellow is moderate. There's a lot of moderate to high community transmission right now in the CDC has linked this into these clusters. These are low vaccination rate clusters, again, low vaccination rate; you see where the clusters are. And then you look at where the case rates are.

Dr. Ranney, if you look at where this virus is spreading, and where you see in the middle of the country here, the vaccination rates are low, what is the most urgent challenge right now.

DR. RANNEY: So there are two things. One is to get people in those communities where spread is low to take precautions to stop spread. That is about masking, particularly indoors, particularly in public settings and trying to avoid crowded activities.

The second important activity is vaccination. But let's be clear, if you put a first shot in someone's arm today, they're not going to be fully protected for another five or six weeks. We can't wait six weeks to stop transmission in these communities.

That's why you're seeing places like L.A. put into our math mandates back in place so that they don't see this small little amber turned into a wildfire yet again, while also trying to get people vaccinated.

KING: Let me try to circle back to where we started, which is on the new school guidance. Now, when you see 40 percent in Missouri, fully vaccinated. 35 percent in Arkansas fully vaccinated 36 percent Louisiana, and then you come up 62 percent in Maine 66 percent in Vermont 60 percent where you are in Rhode Island 62 percent in Massachusetts.

How different is the challenge of reopening schools? Now we know the youngest children are on eligibility vaccinated. But how different is the challenge in a New England state where you're the dark green meaning high vaccination rate or out here where you're still well below 50 percent in terms of fully vaccinated, how different is the challenge of reopening schools at the end of August or early September?

DR. RANNEY: So let's go back to last year, I was one of many folks that advocated for schools being open even before we had vaccines right? So even before we had that New England was in a good space and Missouri is in a bad space, it was still possible to have school safely open with universal masking and testing.


DR. RANNEY: So I don't think there should be any difference in in the fact that we can open schools across the country. The thing that I'm actually worried about John is that those states that have low vaccination rates are also the states that are less likely to put the non-pharmaceutical interventions in place, they're going to be less likely to say that kids should mask in school.

And so they're going to be setting up their communities, not just for the spread of the virus within the kids, but also within the larger community because those kids are then going to spread COVID on to their parents and grandparents and extra-curricular school instructors. That's what worries me even more than whether we can open the schools or not.

KING: Well, for that reason, we'll keep it especially close eyes on these numbers as we get through the rest of the summer and into the beginning of the school year Dr. Ranney grateful for your insights on this very important day full of breaking news thanks much.

DR. RANNEY: Thank you.

KING: And up next for us new CNN reporting on how the House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy deals with Republican family members who dabble in conspiracy associate with white supremacists and like to make Nazi comparisons?



KING: Just this week two House Republicans made Nazi comparisons crossing a line that their leader Kevin McCarthy publicly told his members not to cross. It is just the latest episode that demonstrates the top Republican cannot or will not control his party's most extreme members.

Now, Kevin McCarthy is not a disciplinarian, and has been hesitant to dole out punishment inside his own caucus. Aides, advisors and lawmakers say McCarthy relies on a behind the scenes carrot over stick approach to try to bring members in line.

CNN has learned those efforts include a key McCarthy Advisor brokering Marjorie Taylor Greene's visit recently to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial that was just last month. Greene toured the museum on June 14th, and she said she had learned an important lesson.

Well, if so she very quickly had forgotten. Here's a Greene tweet just from Tuesday, branding Biden vaccine response teams as "Medical brown shirts". With me in studio to share the reporting and their insights CNN's Kaitlan Collins CNN's Melanie Zanona "POLITICO'S" Laura Barron- Lopez and Tia Mitchell of "The Atlanta Journal Constitution".

Melanie, this is your reporting largely about Leader McCarthy, he draws a line. So let's stop with the stupid reckless, hurtful, painful Nazi references.


KING: And it was listened to for what second's minutes, maybe a day?

ZANONA: Three weeks? Listen, this is a slap on the wrist for these members. Kevin McCarthy has taken a very soft touch approach with these more extreme members in his conference. And part of the calculation there is that he doesn't want to alienate this group of Republicans who are aligned with Donald Trump, who he probably needs if he wants to be speaker one day, and he would much rather keep the divisions on the Democratic side.

The issue is that strategy obviously isn't working. And these members are continuing to act out. And it's not just Marjorie Taylor Greene, you have Paul Gosar, for example, spoke at a conference organized by a known white nationalist, and he suffered no consequences within the party.

KING: And so the question is his title is leader? When in if does the leadership come? Again here's his pilot. This is him on Twitter I mean, back on May 25th, Marjorie is wrong. And her intentional decision to compare the horrors of the Holocaust with wearing masks is appalling.

Let me be clear, the House Republican Conference condemns this language that's the leader. You're supposed to follow the leader on big issues. This is Lauren Gilbert, a member of that same caucus.

Biden has deployed his needle Nazis to Mesa County, the people my district more that's far enough to make their own decisions about the experimental vaccine and don't need coercion by federal agents. Did I wake up in Communist China?

Number one, it's not an experimental vaccine. That is a misstatement of right. But again, you have Republican members; the leader says we're trying to win the majority next year. Can we please be careful? And by the way, shouldn't we be responsible? And these members just blow right by? TIA MITCHELL, WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE ATLANTA JOURNAL- CONSTITUTION: Yeah, I think specific -- particularly with Marjorie Taylor Greene, she's talking to her base her audience, which is the QAnon conspiracy theorists, those who believe the big lie, people who might be anti-Semitic racist or xenophobic, and when she talks to them, she says these things, and she doesn't necessarily ever take them back.

You know, we talked about the apology she made last month, but that was to members of Congress and the media, not necessarily with her base.

KING: Right. And so do you have the inside Washington versus back in your district? In America, this is going to be important in the midterm elections; the Republicans think they have a pretty easy path to the majority. History would say that's true, except they have members like this and the Democrats are going to say, put them in power. This is what you get.

Put them in power, you're putting Trump back in power. This is from your excellent reporting today. Defenders of McCarthy also point out that his ability to deal with unwieldy members is limited, especially when it comes to Greene, who already had our committee assignments taken away by Democrats earlier this year.

What leverage does he have? What tools does he have said one GOP lawmaker? He talks to them a lot. He does what he can. He sits them down and makes clear what his expectations are. But there's only so much he can do. There's only so much you can do if your goal is make sure those people still vote for us.

If your goal is this is about power more than anything else he could try to expel them. He could take it further adopt a two or three strikes rule. And if you keep crossing him do more about it, but he won't.

LAURA BARRON-LOPEZ, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, POLITICO: Yeah, there have been multiple times. Well, Trump was in power that Republicans could have tried to sever the cord could have tried to show more distance with him, whether it was the impeachment vote, whether it was the vote on the January 6th Commission, which Republicans like McConnell could have voted for and decided let's uncover whatever we can even if it leads all the way to the president, to the former president.

They didn't do that. They've decided time and time again that they want to keep that base the base that Trump plays to the base Marjorie Taylor Greene plays to which likes the big lie which thinks that it's true and thinks that Biden is a legitimate despite that being false, they want to keep them in the fold.


BARRON-LOPEZ: And now the question is are they going to be able to grow beyond that base? Because they have to if they are going to win back, not just in 2022, but also potentially the presidency? KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Also how are you going to grow your base when you're actively encouraging people not to get a lifesaving vaccine? That's the issue that I really take the most with those two statements from those two elected lawmakers that people trust and listen to.

That's the issue here we talk about whether or not Biden or Trump or whoever is doing enough oftentimes it is sometimes those local lawmakers that can make a big difference in that and Marjorie Taylor Greene saying that it does not have FDA approval. It has been an emergency use authorized by the FDA doesn't have full FDA approval yet.

They are working on that right now. It's a very long and complicated process that I've been personally covering for over a year now. And then Lauren -- calling people needle Nazis and saying that it's an experimental vaccine. None of those things are true.

And so then they're going after the president for saying we're going to go door to door and encourage people to get vaccinated. They're not walking door to door with needles trying to give people the vaccine or just informing them about it, telling them how can make your life better. And so it's just stunning to see that misinformation coming from elected lawmakers.

KING: It's the -- in many ways the party of the parallel universe and they want power in next year's election. Everybody sit tight, up next for us Donald Trump's fixation on the Oval Office. A new book sheds light on the former president's obsession with becoming commander in chief again.



KING: A new inside the Trump Administration book by "The Wall Street Journal" Reporter Michael Bender details never before told fight. 2018 Oval Office showdown between Mike Pence and Donald Trump the then president the book says got mad over reading the Pence's Political Committee had hired Former Trump Strategist Corey Lewandowski.

Trump crumpled the article and threw it at his vice president so disloyal, Mr. Trump said. Mr. Pence lost it. Mr. Kushner had asked him to hire Mr. Lewandowski and he had discussed the plan with Mr. Trump over lunch.

Mr. Pence, the book says picked up the article and threw it back at Mr. Trump, he leaned toward the president and pointed a finger a few inches from his chest. We walked through every detail of this, Mr. Pence snarled. We did this for you as a favor. And this is how you respond. You need to get your facts straight.

KING: Remarkable, Kaitlan Collins, someone who covered the Trump White House, and that not only this is a fascinating inside, look at the tension. But most of the stories have been the president sort of pushing the vice president aside. This is the vice president getting worked up.

COLLINS: And it didn't happen often. But it did happen. You know, contrary to what you saw out in public between the two of them and their dynamic. This was something that often happened and it was something that was kind of fascinating to watch, when you were reporting on Mike Pence and reporting on Trump was how he did navigate that relationship?

And he was normally very deferential to the president. Of course, that was the former president that was the kind of the attitude that you had to take to survive, even though Pence we joked was the one person he could not fire.

But this does reveal that at times, there were points of tension between the two. And also it was a -- this is something that was very common, where the president would see the coverage of something that he didn't like, and even though he was involved in it, he would then deflect blame to other people.

KING: Now, you look at books about a president one way if that president is retired, and gone from the public scene. This former president tells us every day that he wants to come back, tell some people he'll be reinstated next month. We'll just leave that lunacy for another moment.

So but that's -- this is why they're important things in the book about the president's conduct on January 6th, during the insurrection at the Capitol. Michael Bender writes this initially, Mr. Trump seemed to be enjoying the melee heartened to see his supporters fighting so vigorously on his behalf.

He ignored the public and private pleas from advisors who begged him to quell the riots. If there are a couple of damning sentences about Donald J. Trump, there they are right there about he wants to be still be the leader of the Republican Party.

He talks about still coming back either running in 2024, or this fantasy that he's going to be reinstated seem to be enjoying the melee.

MITCHELL: Yeah, and I think these sentences, these passages more than anything else, re instills the need for those congressional hearings, that investigation because we still don't know, you know, what the White House could have done to perhaps prevent or quell the insurrection?

And it indicates that Trump at least initially, was okay with letting things occur. And perhaps he didn't know that it would get to the point that it got to, but it indicates he knew that there was, you know, there was a riot starting at the Capitol and he didn't stop it immediately.

KING: He was enjoying it. Another thing you learned about is to people around Trump. We just had the anecdote about the vice president, the Former Secretary of State initially the CIA Director Mike Pompeo is going to be in South Carolina big fundraiser. A lot of people think he wants to run for president in 2024. We'll see what if Trump doesn't run maybe it's another time. But listen to this. Trump had replaced a lineup of veteran defensive intelligence officials with inexperienced loyalists hungry to appease the boss.

General Mark Milley asked some Pentagon officials, whether the new hires had ties to neo Nazi groups, "The crazies have taken over". Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned a colleague. That is not how Secretary Pompeo talks now about Trump in public quite the contrary.

ZANONA: No. And you'd have to think this could be very damaging for him if he does try to run in 2024 because embracing Trump.