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Doctors Breaking Down Barriers to Boost Vaccination Access; Biden Speaks on Government Response to Devastating Wildfires; Internal CDC Doctor: Vaccinated People Capable of Spreading Virus; Internal CDC Document Sounds Alarm on Delta's Deadly Spread; CNN; Trump Pressed DOJ in December to say Election was Corrupt. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired July 30, 2021 - 12:00   ET





UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Getting the vaccine to this population absolutely is saving lives. I just feel that everyone matters and has value and that everyone should be included.


KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: To learn more, go to Thanks for being here. "Inside Politics" with John King starts now.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Hello, everybody and welcome to "Inside Politics". I'm John King in Washington. Thanks for sharing your day with us. A blistering new CDC document says the Delta variant is COVID wildfire as contagious as chickenpox.


DR. CHRISTOPHER THOMAS, CRITICAL CARE PHYSICIAN, OUR LADY OF THE LAKE REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER: We're becoming victims of the unvaccinated. You cannot avoid Delta, it is not possible.

DR. RICHINA BICETTE, MEDICAL DIRECTOR, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: And over the last two weeks, not a single shift has gone by where there hasn't been a vaccinated person that I've still diagnosed with COVID- 19.


KING: Plus who still hasn't gotten the vaccine, and can they be convinced to get it? And the bipartisan infrastructure deal facing another hurdle this our progressives are not happy, some promise to tank top Biden priority if they don't see action now on voting rights, a pathway to citizenship and police reform.

But up first today, four chilling words, the war has changed. The war has changed. That's the rethink everything takeaway from a brand new alarming CDC document that says the Delta COVID variant is as infectious as chickenpox, and that because of that new precautions are urgently needed.

Think about this, just days ago, scientists put the Delta Variants on par with the common cold, believing each infected person transmit the virus to maybe two other people on average. The new CDC analysis says no, each infected person on average, is actually infecting eight or nine others CNN National Correspondent Kristen Holmes here with more on these alarming, alarming findings Kristen?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John. I mean, there's no doubt about it here. These are incredibly sobering numbers. And it gives us some insight into what exactly the CDC was looking at when it issued that new masking guidance.

So let's actually take a dive into what this internal document showed? It starts with exactly what you said that this is likely as infectious as the chickenpox it spreads faster than SARS, Ebola, the flu, the common cold, and fully vaccinated people may spread at the same rate that unvaccinated individuals spread.

That goes to of course, what I was just mentioning, that CDC masking guidance that really lines up there. Higher hospitalization and death risk to older groups, regardless of their vaccination status. And here's what I think is the most important thing I want to point out, which is vaccines prevent more than 90 percent of severe disease.

The reason we really have to emphasize this is because yes, those numbers are incredibly scary. But vaccinations work. And we've been looking through these documents, and one of the things they talk about is a potential for a communication issue because people are seeing this rise in cases or experiencing Delta variant, they might not believe in the vaccine. And this data shows that that's not true. Listen to how one top health expert put it.


DR. ROBERT WACHTER, CHAIR, UCSF DEPARTMENT OF MEDICINE: The average case of Delta may infect more people. And then we now know that at least according to this, that the severity of cases may be higher, we have to get more people vaccinated because this virus is better at its job than the original. We have to go back to more universal masking what we have or else this thing is going to spread like wildfire.


HOLMES: So we have to get more people vaccinated. That is the key there. That is what we are all talking about. And when you look at this data that is what this supports. Again, vaccines prevent more than 90 percent of severe disease.

So even if people are hesitant right now, even if they are saying they're seeing this in their community, they are experiencing it. They know people who are getting hospitalized, that should not scare them. But what do you think - what should they should do instead is go out and make sure that they are vaccinated because the facts show that this could be an issue of life and death and if you are vaccinated, you are less likely to have that severe illness John. KING: Kristen Holmes thanks for the live update. I want to take you straight to the White House, the President of the United States getting a briefing on wildfires.


JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: You know, one month ago we convened the first what will be a regular presidential briefing on wildfire preparedness. And we're joined by many of the governors who we were joined by many governors are with us today as well as experts from across administration and leaders from the electric utility sector.

I said then that the threat of Western wildfires this year was as severe as it's ever been. And in the past month, we've sadly seeing the truth of that being played out. Since our last meeting the number of large uncontained wildfires has nearly doubled to 66, 66 of those fires. The number of firefighters in the job the battled them has tripled.

Over 3.4 million acres have already burned. In Oregon, the bootleg fire has destroyed more 400 structures including more than 160 homes.


BIDEN: In California, the Dixie fire has grown to over 220,000 acres and our firefighters are working in really rugged and dangerous conditions and terrain. The number of states is experiencing the impacts of smoke from these fires, degrading their air quality, not just where the fires are burning but all the States moving east not all but most.

In short, we've got a big complex wildfires burning across multiple areas. And despite the incredible I'm not just not being solicitous, the incredible bravery and heroism of our firefighters, our resources already been stretched to keep up.

We need more help, particularly when we also factor in additional nationwide challenges of pandemic related supply chain disruptions and our ongoing efforts to fight COVID. We've had a few COVID clusters at our fire camps, which have further limits resources.

It's just one more reason why it's so darn important that everyone get vaccinated, I might add. Sadly, we've also lost two brave firefighters in the last month in a plane crash in Arizona and five were seriously injured last week, battling Devil's Creek Fire in Montana.

It's to state the obvious and you governors know better than anybody. It is really, really dangerous work. And it takes incredible bravery to do it. And these heroes deserve to be paid and paid well for their work.

That's why last month, I was able to announce and it's not paying that well, in my view, to be honest with you immediate action to make all federal firefighters making at least $15 an hour, I think they deserve more than that. We're also working with Congress to make sure that our firefighters are paid better permanently, permanently. So far, FEMA has approved 20 fire management assistance grants, totaling up to $100 million to help states pay for the cost of fighting these fires.

We're also working with FEMA and the Defense Logistics Agency to get ahead of this emergency supply chain challenges and we still have some supply chain challenges relating to hoses and a number of other things.

We're trapped; we've tapped additional aircraft from the Department of Defense to aid in the fire, detection and firefighting. We also welcome the support of our allies from Australia, for example sending large air tanker to which is going to begin flying missions this week.

And last month I also noted that the EPA would be launching an upgrade app for mobile phones to easily share location specific information with the public about the effects of fire and smoke and air quality for them.

It's now even more important, because smoke for many of these fires burning in the West and along the Canadian border is affecting air quality in states across the country. As of the day, the upgrade app, the upgrade "Air Now App" is live and ready for use. Folks in affected areas should download this important tool as quickly as possible.


KING: You're listening to the President of the United States there. He's receiving a briefing you hear him talking at the top about the urgent federal efforts now to help state after state after state. A deal with wildfire challenges across the United States right now.

We'll continue to track that meeting for news. I want to get back though, today's dramatic breaking news from the CDC. And I'll put it right up here on the wall for you to look at the numbers the CDC dramatically updating its assessment of the threat of the COVID Delta variant.

As of yesterday, CDC scientists they rated the Delta variant just like a common cold as in if you were sick, you were likely to infect two people. The new guidance says no, the Delta variant is much more of a threat. If you are sick meaning infected with Delta, you are likely to infect eight or nine people on average, think about the exponential math here infecting to in a common cold scenario.

This is like chickenpox; eight or nine people. What does that mean? It means the Delta variant is much more transmissible much more of a threat. Now there's a conversation about what needs to be done to deal with this new science.

At that point let's bring in to share his insights and expertise Dr. Peter Hotez, the Co-Director of the Center for Vaccine Development at Texas Children's Hospital, and the Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine. Dr. Hotez, yesterday the conversation was this is like a common cold. Be careful, wash your hands keep your distance; you're probably going to affect one or two people. This is a whole new world especially when you talk about the exponential growth of cases if one person is infecting on average eight or nine people.

DR. PETER HOTEZ, CHAIR, TROPICAL PEDIATRICS, TEXAS CHILDREN'S HEALTH: Yes, that's right. And the initial numbers we saw, we knew that this was going to be twice as transmissible as the original lineage. But now we're getting an even higher numbers.

We're not quite in measles territory yet which is among the most infectious viruses we know about but it's really, really infectious and contagious and that's why this thing spread like wildfire across the Indian subcontinent.


DR. HOTEZ: And why did the same in the UK and why it's going to happen in the Southern United States and in the Mountain States where so few people are vaccinated, especially young people are vaccinated?

The other piece to this that we're hearing and this is not as firm as the how transmissible it is, is whether it's producing more severe illness as well. And again, this, you know, this makes us understand why the president was literally pleading with the country yesterday to please, please vaccinate.

And you know, your heart broke, as you saw him do everything possible in his powers, at the federal government level to try to get people vaccinated. But we still need help from this, the leadership of the states, especially in the south, to take ownership of this and recognize that schools are about to open in the south in a few weeks.

You know some of the parishes in Louisiana and its August 9th, we're talking about, and I'm really worried with this highly infectious agent with as you say, a reproductive number of eight or nine, meaning eight or nine people will get it if a single person has it.

Plus the low vaccination rates 15, 16 percent of adolescence, in many of the southern states, maybe 30, 40 percent of the young adults, and the refusal to implement masks mandates. This only spells trouble for the nation.

KING: Right. And so to that point, I just want to bring up this is how we know about half of Americans just shy of that are fully vaccinated. But this shows you by age and older Americans tend to be more protected because they were first in line early in line to get vaccinated.

You were just talking about adolescence; you see school aged children here; only 28 percent of children 12 to 15, only 40 percent of children 16 to 17, 18 to 24 are 44 percent. A lot of this group up at the top here, they're going back to school soon as you know, Dr. Hotez. And again, if this doesn't show it to you, if you don't - if you're unvaccinated out there, and you don't get this, that if you're sick, you're going to infect two people we thought as of yesterday, now, no, it's eight or nine. There are other ways to look at this.

And this, the numbers simply don't lie. This is where we were a year ago 65,000 new infections a day. We are now past that, 67,000 new infections a day. Remember from that 65,000 ladies and gentlemen watching we got up here into the horrific winter. We all went through.

So this we thought the summer surge was bad. Then we had this I just want to put it more into context, Dr. Hotez for this to the point you were just making on May 13th, when the CDC relaxed, its previous masks guidance, it thought and it was right. We were on a slope down.

New infections were down COVID appeared to be under control, or at least under better control. We got down here to 11,299 infections on the 11th of June. But you mentioned the global perspective. We know now about Delta.

It's starting to take root that's what we were down here. We knew it was out there. It was taking root once it takes root. It's like a weed. It's like a weed. Look at this June 22 11,300. If you round that up new infections just a little over a month later, just shy of 67,000 new infections. I guess the question Dr. Hotez is, if it's a weed, and we're going up that fast, how high can we go?

DR. HOTEZ: Yes, I mean, this is so heartbreaking. I mean, we had the chance, I think, to vaccinate our way out of this epidemic, had we maintain high vaccination rates, especially across the south, the Southern States and in the Mountain West, and we had done as good a job as they're doing in Vermont and Massachusetts, across the country.

We would not be having this discussion right now, but that this is the reality. And John, remember when you show that average of adolescence in terms of X, and you remember that's an average, but that's not the way this works.

When you look at the numbers of adolescents, 70 percent of the adolescents in the Northern States are vaccinated 17 percent are vaccinated in the South. Nobody's vaccinated. And we know what's going to happen, Mother Nature's told this, this over and over again, with each wave of COVID. This thing is going to accelerate with catastrophic consequences.

KING: Right. I want to emphasize the point you just made because you're right. I'm showing national averages when I show those numbers and it's very different than disparities by region. This map helps with that.

In 30 states less than half of the population is fully vaccinated. Less than half of the population fully vaccinated. You see, as Dr. Hotez says a lot of them are down here in the south are Arkansas 36 percent Louisiana 37, 34 percent in Alabama, 39 percent in Georgia.

Schools are about to reopen here. And here's just again, if you have not received a vaccine, look at these numbers. In states where you have more than 50 percent of the population vaccinated on average, five people per 100,000 of the population are in the hospital 4.9 for 100,000 people hospitalized from COVID.

In states where the vaccination rate is below 50 percent it is nearly three times that. Dr. Hotez the numbers don't lie? They hit you in the head like a two by four and yet and yet there's still a lot of vaccine hesitancy out there.

DR. HOTEZ: Yes, and you know, again, this is why the president's out there why you see the Surgeon General out there. It's why I'm out here.


DR. HOTEZ: I mean we're doing everything we can to get this message home. And I think one of the really important parts of this narrative that needs to be better told is, you know, one of the fakery that's out there and coming from the anti-vaccine aggression is they're saying, hey, look, this is, it's only old. It's all exclusively old people who are going to get sick.

Look at the death rates among old people. That's not the way it works. This is - we're now seeing lots of young people get hospitalized. Even with the original lineage, the data coming out of the journal, the American Medical Association a couple of months ago showed that 26 percent of young adults are getting long COVID.

So we are going to have basically a generation of young people in the South and in the Mountain West, getting long COVID we don't know how long that duration is going to be at least six months, in many cases, probably longer. And then we're going to see a lot of young people going to the hospitals.

Right now all we have are the anecdotes, I mean, terrible stories of young people losing their lives. We're only going to see more of this and that will move the needle somewhat. People will get scared enough realize, hey, maybe this thing really is real and get vaccinated, but we still have to find a way to get our conservative champions to step up.

KING: Dr. Peter Hotez a sober day, a very sober, but I appreciate your thoughts and your insights. We'll continue this conversation after the break. When we come back, the new CDC warning only adds to the urgency of getting a COVID vaccine.

Up next, a closer look at the unvaccinated. More than half of them say they will never roll up their sleeves.



KING: Some important breaking news this hour, brand new documents provided to lawmakers and first obtained by "The New York Times" show us now the depth and the intensity of the Former President Donald Trump's effort to overturn the 2020 election.

Mr. Trump repeatedly pressured top Justice Department officials to declare the election corrupt; even though the Justice Department kept telling him they had zero evidence of any major fraud. Notes from December 27th call with the acting Attorney General and his deputy record the former president saying this "Just say that the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me".

CNN's Paula Reid is with us to share some more on this important development. Paula we knew the President Trump was making calls to the Justice Department that he was unhappy, but specifically asking the then Acting Attorney General declare the election corrupt with the goal then that his allies in Congress could use that to refuse to accept the Electoral College.

PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That's exactly right. His exact words were just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and Republican Congressman. These are contemporaneous notes from then Acting Deputy Attorney General about this conversation.

And it is remarkable because these are additional details additional evidence of exactly how the president was trying to pressure the Justice Department in the final weeks of his administration to try to overturn the election.

Now, of course, the Justice Department is usually supposed to be independent of the White House. But we saw repeated examples throughout the Trump Administration of how the president continued to try to pressure them.

Now here, according to these new notes, the president wanted the Justice Department to make this declaration so that he and his allies could then try to go and overturn the election results. And you see in these notes, were these acting top justice officials say look, we don't have the power to overturn these results.

Again, they had no evidence of widespread fraud. But the president said that's fine. He and his allies could then take their declaration and use it in their efforts to overturn the election. Again, an extraordinary instance of the president trying to pressure the Justice Department in his long standing campaign at the end of his administration and Donahue, that then Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donahue, he took these notes.

And what's another thing that's interesting, John, in these notes that I came across is the fact that the president does allude to some of who these allies are, who he believes his allies would be, including Representative Jim Jordan. It's another instance of the president really tying some specific Republicans to this effort to overturn the election.

KING: Paula Reid I appreciate the hustle on this breaking news and significant breaking news. Let's discuss now with me in studio to share their reporting and their expertise Anita Kumar "POLITICO" CNN's Jeff Zeleny NPR's Ayesha Rascoe and Russell Contreras of AXIOS. On the one hand, it is not surprising because we knew the president was trying this. But on the other hand, it is shocking the level of detail and the specific ask not just complaining that we know he rants he complains he vents, where is the fraud? Where is the fraud?

To ask the Attorney General of the United States to publicly declare the election is corrupt is an extraordinary what, abuse of power overreach?

ANITA KUMAR, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT & ASSOCIATE EDITOR, POLITICO: All of the above, I think. I mean, it's what we saw last year. And what we heard about, we've heard about from state officials we've heard about from members of Congress, but to see it is still extraordinary.

And it's exactly what President Biden campaigned on. He said, look, I'm going to be independent from the Justice Department. This is something that, you know, Donald Trump wouldn't do.

KING: And the Biden Justice Department is turning these records over to Congress, which tells me two things. Number one, they are - let's shut sunshine. Let's put sunshine on this. Number two, I assume Jeffrey Rosen would get a heads up if this were happening and would run to court if he objected.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: You would certainly think so. And I think that look; this is shining a deeper light on it. But as Paula was just reporting, perhaps another interesting thing about this is the degree in detail in which the president went in naming members of Congress from Jim Jordan to Scott Perry to Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, showing that he had been having these detailed conversations with them.

He described Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, as someone who's getting to the bottom of things, describing Jim Jordan as a fighter. So clearly trying to build his case here of a potential conspiracy. But this is what Rudy Giuliani had been saying into the former president's ear, really, from Election Day onward.


ZELENY: Say it's corrupt. And we'll sort of fill in the blanks from there and that's exactly what Mr. Donahue is, is quoting the former president saying just said the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me. So not giving details here, but they desperately wanted.

This is two days after Christmas last year. So this is the Biden transition well underway here. So again, just to fill in more of the blanks of a very chaotic and urgent scene in the--

KING: Right. And the flaming red light here flashing it says beyond a flashing warning sign. The flaming red light is the former president can say it. But we know it's not true. Rudy Giuliani could say it; he lost touch with reality, a long time ago.

For the United States Justice Department, which is supposed to be independent of the president, to say it would have been a huge deal. That would have been a huge deal, because it would have given those Republicans in Congress the foundation to say, the attorney general has said it's corrupt. Therefore, we refuse to accept the results from the state.

Carolyn Maloney, who's the Chairwoman of the Oversight Committee, just to put a tweet, she says Trump directly instructed DOJ to take steps to overturn the election. She goes on to say I will use every tool at my disposal to ensure all witness testimony is secured without delay.

So I assume that means she's got to not only ask for the Attorney General Rosen, he was acting at the time his deputy, Mr. Donahue but we're going to see - we've already asked this question in the context of the January 6 Select Committee Congressman Jordan, Congressman Perry, Senator Johnson?

AYESHA RASCOE, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, NPR: Yes. That's the thing is that over and over again, we see how closest country came to having an election that would really be under question. It's under question now.

But how close democracy came to not actually playing out like and all that was standing between us were these people at the DOJ saying we're not going to do that. But this matters, because you still have the former president making these same claims.

You have the January 6 Committee, but you have people saying that what happened on January 6, that the violence we saw all of this, you have lawmaker saying that didn't happen? You have a rewriting of history. So you still have these fights going on?

And are you always going to have people at the DOJ who will stand up to a president saying no, say that election was corrupt. We don't know that.

KING: But and so it raises a ton of legal questions about lines of authority lines - are supposed to be lines between the justice from the White House. I want to get to that in a second. But the political question here is to we keep learning about things like this.

The President of United States calling his Acting Attorney General saying lie, corrupt the law corrupt the system. And yet we have Republicans everyday still kissing the ring of Donald Trump still using him to raise money. It is mind numbing.

RUSSELL CONTRERAS, RACE AND JUSTICE REPORTER, AXIOS: Yes. And it continues after that. We have to remember that this election, we saw record turnout among African Americans, Mexican Americans and tribal people across the board.

They fundamentally changed Arizona, Georgia and parts of Nevada. And then after that Republicans said, well, we still - will still need voter registration laws. And that's occurring right now. Not only is that occurring, but it's continuing and we're having challenges all the way to the Supreme Court, allowing people of color to vote and seeing these voter restrictions. He set the tone of what he's saying. He's saying dog whistles to say the number of people of color voting is corrupt. They are fundamentally changing our country. And there's a problem and then these Republicans are saying we agree with you. And now we need state laws to prevent that.

KING: Elie Honig is our CNN Contributor, Former Federal Prosecutor, and our Senior Legal Analyst. Elie, so just walk us through. Number one, I'm not a lawyer. I know this is grossly inappropriate, just grossly inappropriate for the President of the United States to call the country's chief law enforcement officer and say, help me lie and cheat. But walk us through the specifics of why this is such a morass.

ELIE HONIG, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, John. First of all, this is a colossal abuse of power by the president. I think it's important that we not take this for granted or get numb to it. Because we've seen plenty of evidence that the president was willing to do anything to overturn the election.

Here, we are getting confirmation that he reached out to the Justice Department, which really ought to be the last bastion of truth and independence and didn't just enlist their help. As you said, John, he essentially asked them to make it up DOJ told him; we don't have evidence of that.

And the president essentially said; just say it and I'll take care of it from there. So it's an absolute abuse of power abuse of presidential authority. DOJ deserves some credit here. I've been - I was certainly critical of the Justice Department under Trump but for taking the standard for doing what DOJ does and standing up for truth and in a sense, justice, as the name suggests.

So this really is an astonishing abuse of power by the president and there needs to be accountability in Congress and potentially elsewhere.

KING: Well, obviously Chairwoman Maloney says she's going to bring witnesses in the chair to be fascinating if the Former Acting Attorney General's Deputy publicly testifies, about this. Elie Honig I appreciate the hustle too in this breaking news.

HONIG: Thanks.

KING: When we come back, there's another big breaking news story. We thought the president's infrastructure plan would clear another procedural vote today but there is a hiccup. There's a hiccup in the Senate vote debate, we'll tell you what's going on next?