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Dramatic Shift By White House On COVID Strategy; Capitol Riot Cmte. "No Reluctance" To Issuing Subpoenas. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired July 28, 2021 - 12:30   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: That's simply not true. We know it's simply not true. How do you combat the misinformation when you hear it like that spreading in your communities?

DR. JOSEPH KANTER, STATE HEALTH OFFICER, LOUISIANA: I'm not giving up by addressing it each and every time and we hear it all the time. And look, I would never thought someone for falling victim to these myths or deliberate misinformation. Everything about COVID has been fast paced and confusing. It's hard. It's hard for people.

But for the folks who are deliberately spreading this stuff, knowing better, shame on them, really. You can bet it each and every time, and I'll tell you, what gives us optimism is we still have people saying, you know what, I've been on the fence about getting vaccinated. I'm doing it now. In fact, we're on track to quadruple our daily vaccinations over the past two weeks, I think because people look around and realize how serious it really is.

So you can't give up. You got to keep coming back. There still are a lot of people who will get vaccinated. They've not dug in their heels. And I think that they can get vaccinated sooner rather than later if we meet questions with facts and confidence.

KING: Well, you're one of several people we've talked to in the past week who say, when you look at the vaccination rate, I'm just bringing the map up here, you're at 37 percent right now, who say you see at least some modest progress in recent days. Why? Is there a key? Is it communicating a different way? Is it doctors getting on the phone directly to their patients? Is it fear when people see the case count going up like it is?

KANTER: Yes, I really think it's all of the above. We've done a good job engaging, trusted messengers. We're going to continue that work. Our physician community has stepped up. Hospitals have spoken loud and clear about what they're seeing on the front lines and it's terrifying. People now know people who are sick, you know, it's a relatively small state, people know people who are sick. We have a very exciting lottery incentive program.

I think all of that combines to increase the vaccinations now. And what's good news is that it hasn't slowed. It continues to go up, which is going to really help protect us down the road.

KING: Well, I hope that trend continues Dr. Kanter, grateful for your time today. It's sad to hear you say progress loss but hopefully next time we have a conversation, things are looking in the other direction. Appreciate your time, Sir.

Up next for us, team Biden was upbeat about its COVID progress remember back at the 100 day mark it is facing a mounting crisis as day 200 approaches.



KING: The Biden White House right now staring down a most ask debates are back. And a once remarkable vaccine rollout is stalled, a President who prides himself on being an optimist to train some clear frustration. Listen.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And then only one thing we know for sure, if those other 100 million people got vaccinated, we'd be in a very different world. So get vaccinated. If you haven't, you're not nearly as smart as I said you were.


KING: The panel is back with us now. President there you cover him every day. Maybe you're not as smart as I said you were is what he's essentially saying to the unvaccinated there. That's not a happy camper.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It's fascinating to see the White House's reversed on a lot of their messaging on this because just last week, they were saying we are not going to blame the unvaccinated. We don't think that's the right route. We're starting to see that shift. We could see it shift even more by the speech that President Biden is going to give tomorrow.

And I think the White House is realizing they have a real issue here with the Delta variant. Obviously, that is what led to this change in the guidance from the CDC yesterday. But also, this guidance has never been clear. It has always been kind of muddled. I don't think it makes a lot of sense to people. And this idea that now that the CDC says, oh, well vaccinated people need to be wearing a mask indoors in areas of high transmission. That's not really easily communicated.

I don't think most people know what high transmission means or looking at a map like what we have put up on CNN. And this idea that people are going to start following the CDC guidance when the ones who have been ignoring it are the ones who are the problem. And the reason we have to change the CDC guidance, I think is a real challenge facing the White House that thought they were kind of on the cusp of victory about eight weeks ago, and are now are dealing with a new reality of mask wearing and everything that comes with this. KING: And this is his calling card. This is why Joe Biden is President. He said Donald Trump disrespected science, I will follow science. Donald Trump did not use the government to solve big problems. I will show you with COVID how to do it. And you do see some of the impact right here. This is the President's approval rating. It's not just COVID I get to more that in a minute. There are other things, inflation is out there in the country. A lot of things in Washington don't seem to be moving very quickly.

But if you look at what the President was, 57 percent back to the beginning, 50 to 45 right now, that's trending in the wrong direction. You don't want to be there. And if you look at it here, just in terms of how the American people view them on COVID, that's still a pretty good number when you look at a 63 percent, you would think, you know, wow, that's OK, six -- and, you know, more than six in 10 Americans, but that was 72 last time they took this same poll was up at 72.

So you're beginning to see the President slide, which is to Kaitlan's point why, what they're doing isn't working. Let's try something else.

FRANCESCA CHAMBERS, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, MCCLATCHY: Well, and, you know, progressives would say that there are potentially other political reasons for why the President's approval rating at least among Democrats has seen a little bit of slippage. But when it, you know, when it comes to COVID, the White House is torn. They've indicated that they do -- they are not ready yet to require the federal employees all get vaccinated.

At the same time, they said today that they are having serious discussions though about mandating masks for federal employees, then documenting whether or not for their employees have potentially had the vaccine. So they are trying to look for other ways to provide this additional guidance. And John, what I'm hearing from medical experts is that they do want to hear more guidance from the White House from the CDC about what unvaccinated individual or vaccinated individuals should do including how often they should be testing.


KING: And so one of the questions is how much presidential time should go into this? The President did a couple times a week early on talk about COVID. His team was briefing I think, three or four times a week. Now they brief a couple times a week. So Doug Brinkley, who tracks these things very well, a great presidential historian, he talks about this. He says, why can't Biden be more mobile and out there talking to people? No president can be above the fray in a pandemic.

Should the President, you know, look, he wants to get the economy back on track as well. He's trying to be involved in these infrastructure negotiations. Should it be COVID, COVID, COVID?

CARL HULSE, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Well, these are all connected. If you can't get COVID under control, you're not going to get the economy under control. And, you know, there -- I think the Democrats were looking at 2022, they were going to go out there. Look, we solved COVID. And look at all the great things we've done. We're giving you these bridges and roads, and we're going to give you all these new social benefits.

You know, they don't want to be in this mask fight. And it's a muddled mask fight, as you say. So I think this is bad politically. And Biden probably really does need to get out in front of it somehow. But their messaging has not been good the last few days at all.

KING: And it leaves you open to, and I'm going to use the word, rich. You know, there are a lot of Republican governors out there who could look in the mirror themselves at their own record on COVID and what has happened in their states and their own positions on mask mandates and restrictions and the like. Governor Doug Ducey of Arizona, talking about the new CDC guidelines, recommending that we wear masks in school and indoors, regardless of our vaccination status, another example of the Biden-Harris administration's inability to enough -- to effectively confront the pandemic, again, if you took this in historical context might be a little rich, but welcome to politics, Republicans see an opening.

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's exactly right. I mean, you are seeing this play out on Capitol Hill today in a very micro environment, which is that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said masks need to come back, right, because of the spread of the Delta variant and the fact that there are still several Republicans that have not said if they're vaccinated or not. That's a concern.

And you hear all these Republicans on the Hill saying this isn't following science. You heard McCarthy say that earlier today. But the bottom line is, then you have to get everyone vaccinated. And at this point, we don't have answers on whether 90 plus members of the House Republican Conference are vaccinated.

KING: And one would hope in a pandemic leaders of both parties could come together. But to your point just on this mask, Speaker Pelosi, the House physician says masks are back. Kevin McCarthy says where's the science? This is the Speaker of the House today.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Leader McCarthy's -- Leader McCarthy says it's against the science.



KING: He's such a moron, call you spent more than a day or three up on Capitol Hill. It just gets to the -- there's no trust there's no respect. There's no bipartisanship even on a pandemic facing the country.

HULSE: Yes, in fact, it's -- it gets worse and worse. And then you had January the 6th hearing this week that further divided people. And that's one of the reasons everyone's struggling so hard to move this legislation. But that is pretty tough language from a speaker directed towards the head of the other party. I can't remember certainly publicly hearing anything like that over the years.

KING: And it's -- well, I will need end on that point, I guess.

FOX: Do we?

KING: Do you want to keep going, do you want to keep going.


Up next, the January 6th Committee holds an emotional first hearing and says it will move quickly now, quickly, to demand testimony from key witnesses.


KING: The January 6th Select Committee opened with a dramatic retelling of the insurrection from four of the heroic officers on the front line. Now, the Committee moves to assemble the facts and that mission will likely require some legal combat. Listen to this morning to the Chairman, Bennie Thompson. He wants a minute by minute accounting of what happened inside the Trump White House as the rioters tried to overthrow the American government.


REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS), JANUARY 6 SELECT CMTE. CHAIRMAN: Nothing is off limits in this investigation. We're absolutely committed to getting to the bottom of what happened. As, you know, I have been about I have no reluctance whatsoever in issuing subpoenas for information, telephone logs to the White House, especially during the times of January 6th.


KING: When? Do they have a plan? Does the Committee have a plan? If you're going to, first you ask politely, we expect the answer from Team Trump will be, no, if not stronger than that. So then you use subpoenas then you end up in court. How fast?

FOX: Well, look, yesterday, Thompson said they're going to skip that first step, the ask politely step. They're going straight to subpoenas here. And I think that that is significant. And that shows that they are not wanting to waste any time here because look, 37 months passed the insurrection. They know that they have to move to get the answers that they want to. And a minute by minute accounting that they are calling for and have repeatedly said they are going to go after including Cheney. That's going to be tough to come by if you drag your feet out here.

KING: And the minute by minute accounting, forgive me one second, a minute by minute accounting would include a phone call with the House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy, what was discussed on that call. It could include a phone call with another Trump supporter in the House, Jim Jordan, who was asked about this yesterday, and several accounts have noted he spoke to the president that day. He was asked about this last night quite directly. The answer is not so direct.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you talk to the former president that day?

REP. JIM JORDAN (R-OH): I've talked to the former president umpteen times, thousands. I mean, may not thousands.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mean on January 6th.

JORDAN: But countless, countless times. I talked to the President. I never talked about what we talked about, but I just don't think that's appropriate. It's like I don't talk about what how happens in Republican conferences.



JORDAN So I've talked to the President numerous times. I continue to talk to the President since he left office.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, no, I mean on January 6th, Congressman.

JORDAN: Yes, I mean, I've talked to the President -- I've talked to the President, so many I can't remember all the days I've talked to him. But I've certainly talked to the President.


KING: That may have been a yes at the end there, a potential witness. Normally, normally, they're nice to each other, if you will, in Congress, they get deferential. Are they going to end up in the chair? Is Jim Jordan going to end up in the chair? Is Leader McCarthy going to end up in the chair?

HULSE: Well, I think there's certainly going to be an effort to make that happen. And we'll see how it plays out in court. Now, Leader McCarthy had said that he would gladly I think he's said this multiple times talk about what went on that day so.

KING: Yes, before he tried to blow up the idea of having any committee at all.

HULSE: Right. But so I mean, he's already volunteered. But from watching that, and I had read that transcript earlier, I'm not sure that Congressman Jordan is going to be in a big hurry to get in there and talk about his phone calls that day, obviously, really was reluctant to admit that they had been talking. But I know that we're all hopeful that they do get a minute by minute accounting of President Trump's actions that day.

COLLINS: Yes, that's a lot of deflection in that answer. He obviously did speak to the President that day. We know that from reporting on that day. And so that's why this call log situation will be so interesting, because we have talked about that since impeachment. This was something that had been floated. And there was a concern that we heard from a lot of the people who had spoken with the President that day or in the White House, that they were going to have to speak about what they knew, what they saw, what they witnessed.

I mean call logs could be difficult to get. Obviously, there are a presidential call log. And they are covered by the Presidential Records Act right now. The White House says the log of people who were there on that day is with the National Archives. And we know typically they don't start to release that information for five years until they've left office.

So whether or not this investigation changes that with the subpoena power remains to be seen, but the call log would be the most interesting, I think, because we know who was with Trump that day, Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, Pat Cipollone, Mark Meadows, he had a lot of phone calls to members on the Hill trying to get him to calm the rioters down. And so that would be fascinating if that does happen.

KING: We'll watch as the Committee goes forward. And part of it is that this is all part of the Republican effort to rewrite what happened that day or wipe away what happened that day. One of the members, you know, Congressman Clyde, said it was tourists and after the hearing, if you watch the four options yesterday, whatever your political view, just a compelling testimony about the horrors of the day and the risks they took to save lives.

Jamie Raskin, one of the members of the Committee was at a later meeting with Congressman Clyde who has said these were a bunch of tourists. They had an interesting exchange.


REP. JAMIE RASKIN (D-MD): Did you watch the testimony of the Capitol officers who defended our lives on January 6th, or did you not? It's a yes or no question.

REP. ANDREW CLYDE (R-GA): It's irrelevant.


CLYDE: It's absolutely irrelevant to this --


CLYDE: -- right here.

RASKIN: You know, if you didn't know the T.V. footage was a video from January 6th, you would actually think it was a normal tourist visit. Those are your words.

CLYDE: And I stand by that exact statement as I said it.


KING: The Congressman stands by the statement, which is ludicrous, which is ludicrous. But it gets to the point of just the rawness between the Democrats and the Republicans about that day.

CHAMBERS: And what was effective about yesterday's hearing and hearing from those officers was that lawmakers, including Liz Cheney had the opportunity and use it to go through all the things that the former president has been saying and asked the officers who were there that day, if they found those to be accurate, whether or not there's -- there was more that could have been done beforehand. One of the things they've tried to do to deflect blame is shifted on to Nancy Pelosi.

They've -- he's also tried to claim that it was Antifa or BLM, we heard the officers say it was not Antifa, it was not BLM. We also heard them say that even people who were brandishing weapons, per se, they were using flag poles and other regular items, so really hitting on those things before they get more into the testimony that we're talking about potentially White House officials and others.

KING: Mitch McConnell say he didn't watch, Carl. Now he's the Republican leader in the Senate. Sometimes there are other things to do. You can catch up later in the day. But this this effort, essentially to say this doesn't matter. Why?

HULSE: Well, I, you know, the Senate Republicans have been really candid about this. They think it's just playing to the advantage of the Democrats in the midterms. They've been clear about that. That's why they, you know, they kind of wish that it would go away, but it's not going away. And I think that yesterday's hearing shows, this is a serious effort. And I think pretty much the unanimous opinion among most people except maybe House Republicans on Capitol Hill was that they made a really big mistake by not participating on this hearing.

KING: Right. Well, that will play out in the weeks ahead as we go through this. Appreciate everybody coming in today.


Up next, here's a question for you. Is Donald Trump losing sway with voters?


KING: Topping our Political Radar today, Texas voters defy Donald Trump. CNN now projects Republican State Representative Jake Ellzey will win that special election runoff in Texas 6th Congressional District. You see it right there beating Trump endorsed candidate Susan Wright. She was running to replace her late husband Ron he died earlier this year after contracting COVID. Now, beware of reading too much into any one election especially a mid-summer special election. But Trump did call into to right Town Hall events and he reported a robo call of her campaign.

The Department of Justice says it will not protect Republican Congressman Mo Brooks from a lawsuit. A Democratic House colleague is suing Brooks over comments the Alabama Republican made back on January 6th. Now, the Congressman, Congressman Brooks, argues he was acting in his official capacity as a member of Congress when speaking to Trump supporters on the ellipse. But the DOJ says these comments, listen here at that January 6th rally, were not within the scope of Brooks's duties as an elected official.



REP. MO BROOKS (R-AL): Today is the day American patrons' start taking down names and kicking ass.


KING: Appreciate your time today. See you tomorrow. Ana Cabrera picks up right now.