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Variety: "Jeopardy!" Producer in Talks to be Permanent Host; Delta Variant Accounts for 93 Percent of U.S. COVID Cases; White House: FL, TX, MO, AR, LA, AL and MS Account for Half of New Cases; New: GOP Fears Trump Ally Herschel Walker Could Cost Party Winnable Seat; ALF-CIO President Richard Trumka Dead at 72. Aired 12-12:30p ET

Aired August 05, 2021 - 12:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Hello, everybody and welcome to "Inside Politics". I'm John King in Washington, a packed hour ahead. A critical Coronavirus briefing just last hour, the Biden COVID team says another nasty or deadly or COVID variant may displace Delta. The solution to stopping that quite simple the White House says, get your shot.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: The ultimate endgame of all this is vaccination. If we do that in the immediate intermediate and long term and do the mitigation right now we will turn the Delta surge around. I will guarantee you that that will happen.


KING: Plus, Andrew Cuomo is still the Governor of New York. How long can he hold on and how quickly should Democrats move to impeach him if he won't step down? We'll ask the New York Mayoral Candidate Eric Adams ahead.

And brand new CNN reporting on the Republican hunt for help in Georgia, Football Star Herschel Walker is Donald Trump's celebrity pick but Team McConnell fears Walker will implode and imperil the GOP's chance to retake the Senate.

But we begin this hour with more COVID warnings from the Biden Medical Team. Just last hour Florida, Texas, Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi are the big trouble spots. Those seven states the Biden Team says now account for half of all COVID cases and all COVID hospitalizations nationwide.

Let's get straight to the White House and our Chief Correspondent Kaitlan Collins, Caitlin new urgency from Team Biden.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, they did have some positive news to share, John, which is that yesterday 864,000 doses of the Coronavirus vaccine were recorded administered according to the CDC and the latest figures they have John that is the highest number since July 3rd.

And of course it comes amid this urgent new push to get more people vaccinated since we know the White House believes there's about 90 million people who are eligible to get the vaccine that have not yet done so.

And so Jeff Zients the President's Coronavirus Coordinator was praising that number. He was praising businesses that you were seeing put in vaccine mandates across the country saying that they believe this is an effective tool to try to get more people vaccinated.

One group he was not praising was the State of Texas and the State of Florida, which he says now account for a third of the new cases nationwide, as we are seeing the case numbers go up and reach their highest seven day average since February in recent days John.

He also confirmed what CNN and other outlets including Reuters reported yesterday, which is that the administration is currently looking at developing a plan that would require all foreign nationals to be vaccinated to get into the United States once they lift travel restrictions.

Jeff Zients said this is simply something that is under consideration. He did not say that it is confirmed that they are going to go that route. And he did say we are not lifting travel restrictions right now. And I'm told privately, it is not an imminent decision.

But John, I also want to mention something else that we just learned from this briefing and from the CDC Director, Rochelle Walensky, and that are some figures that they have been citing recently saying that 99 percent of deaths from Coronavirus are among unvaccinated people, they say about 95 percent of those that are in the hospital are among unvaccinated people.

We asked if that data still stands with this recent surge in the Delta variant that we've seen in breakthrough cases that are happening. She said essentially, no, John did that data is based on numbers from January through June.

Of course, we know that we've seen the Delta variant pop up and really show its face since then. So she says they're actively working to update those numbers, but essentially argued that that was before the Delta variant's surge that we've seen play out across the U.S.

However, she did say that still overwhelmingly, the numbers of deaths and hospitalizations are among unvaccinated people. But it does sound like those numbers - those numbers have changed some John.

KING: Important to get the new numbers when they can crunch them and release them. Kaitlan Collins live at the White House I appreciate that on the breaking news. Let's look more closely now at the COVID situation right now.

And number one, just the case count. The case count is up 48 brand new infections being reported up 48 percent since last week up 524 percent since last month. Remember about a month ago we were talking about 15,000 cases we had pushed the baseline way down here.

A week ago is at 64,000 now the United States averaging 94,000 new COVID infections a day. You see it going back up again. This is from the CDC. This is the map of community spread by county it's hard to see a lot of these counties right because there's so much red across the United States.

95 percent of the American population lives in a county where the CDC says you should mask up that means there is either high or substantial community transmission and you see all that red, that 93 or so percent in high transmission communities right now.

If you look at this right down here, the darker the state you see down here, the pink and the orange, those are the states with the highest percentage of new cases seven day average per 100,000 residents you see across the southeast here is the big problem in the country right now.

There's transmission everywhere, but it's the White House says a lot of the cases are coming from right down in here. And when you have more cases you have this, hospitalizations more than three times the number of Americans hospitalized right now than a month ago because of COVID.


KING: You see a month ago, about 18,000 people. On Wednesday, it was closing in on 60,000 people. At this point let's bring in to share her expertise and her insights Dr. Jayne Morgan, Executive Director of the Piedmont Health Care's COVID Task Force Dr. Morgan, grateful for your time.

You just heard Kaitlan Collins asked a very interesting question out of the briefing today. Are we still seeing in hospitals mostly overwhelmingly 90 percent plus, unvaccinated? Are you beginning to see more people with these breakthrough infections who have been vaccinated who are now back in the hospital?

DR. JAYNE MORGAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, PIEDMONT HEATHCARE COVID TASK FORCE: Hi, John. And thanks for having me today. We definitely see more breakthrough cases with this Delta variant. And it's one of the reasons that we want to take this variant very seriously. And not just in hospitalized cases where the majority of our patients are still unvaccinated.

But we do see these breakthrough cases even if patients are not being hospitalized. And we need to understand the severity and the seriousness of this very stealthy variant called the Delta variant, which is actually a new version of COVID-19.

You can think of it a little bit as COVID-21 a new updated version stealthier deadlier, more evasive, more infectious. This is the new and improved version and we have to take this seriously.

KING: And o as we try to get people to take it seriously. Showing up map here right now on the - White House is saying the key is to increase the vaccination rate. On average, the seven day average now it's just below 500,000 people at the White House briefing, Jeff Zients, the top coordinator said in the last 24 hours they've gotten among above 800,000.

Dr. Fauci says you need to get this up to a million or more a day to start to make progress against the Delta variants to shove that new case count down. Are you seeing any progress on that front? And is that the right number a million or more a day?

DR. MORGAN: We are seeing progress and that number probably needs to be closer to 2 or 3 million. Dr. Fauci is exactly correct. We are seeing progress. However, we do see our vaccination rates increasing. We also see our rates of infection increasing as well. And our hospitalizations have probably increased seven or eight fold in the last five or six weeks.

KING: That's a striking number. They're one of the big questions we have now is that we're having a conversation in August, some communities in the south are back to school, other communities will be next week or the week after that.

Most American children will be going back to school, college elementary school and the like. This is the vaccination rate right now by age group. Dr. Morgan, you probably can't see this, but I do know you know the numbers. Only 29 percent of those aged 12 to 15 are fully vaccinated. Only 41 percent of those aged 16 to 17, fully vaccinated. 44 percent of those 18 to 24 fully vaccinated.

These are all eligible to be vaccinated but not vaccinated at this moment, and about to go back to school and be in crowded group settings. How do you fix that?

DR. MORGAN: And so we certainly have some concern for this. Certainly in the schools that have low vaccination rates, schools are going back early. We're in a warm season and we see this Delta variant really taking hold when we know that those viruses really proliferate more so in the fall months.

We even see the respiratory censorship syncytial virus RSV virus increasing in prevalence in these summer months. So we have to begin to take this very seriously. Hopefully, the FDA will move forward as it now has an all hands on deck approach to moving forward with full approval of these vaccines such that people who are on the fence can perhaps have more confidence, and we can move safely with our school openings.

We understand children need these in person sessions for socialization, because we are all very social humans, very social beings. But we also know that it is a risk to be there in this closed indoor setting. And so I do have concern for schools opening early certainly in these areas of low vaccination rates without mask and without vaccinations I have concerned about that.

KING: Right, the weeks ahead are going to be interesting. I just want to come back to this map for a second of community transmission. When you have 95 percent of the country living in counties where the CDC says even if you're vaccinated, you should mask up indoors because of high or substantial transmission.

You come out of the White House briefing where you know they cannot federally mandate you get a vaccine, but they are increasingly praising these steps by the private sector businesses, state and local governments, private employers, even this new thing on Yelp, if you're going to go to a restaurant or go visit a business, you can check out on Yelp do they require their workers to be vaccinated?

You know, one of the requirements again to that building, et cetera. From your perspective, what's the right mix of government mandates marketplace pressure public health push? How do we get this right?


DR. MORGAN: I think we absolutely have to begin to address this misinformation hit on that is a great question and a great topic, John. We have got to address misinformation and do it aggressively. It is very important for people to understand the facts versus all of the propaganda that's moving forward.

The right balance is different depending on your region. It might be different for Vermont, as opposed to Alabama. And it's going to depend on your background vaccination rates, and that compliance with voluntary masking.

This variant, which is a new version of the original virus, is 1200 times higher with the breed to the viral load that it carried than the previous ones. So we have to take this very serious, highly infectious, highly contagious, and creates more severe disease.

KING: Dr. Jayne Morgan, grateful for your help and making that case and we will continue to make it about the evolving challenge we have in front of us grateful for your time today. We'll continue the conversation.

Up next for us, Donald Trump sees the football hero Herschel Walker as the best GOP hope in a giant Georgia Senate race, but we have some brand new CNN reporting highlighting growing Republican worries, the party is about to fumble away a golden opportunity.



KING: Some brand new CNN reporting now about Republican establishment worries that what Donald Trump wants might once again cost the party dearly in the battle to control the United States Senate. The Former Heisman Trophy Winner and NFL Running Back Herschel Walker is the celebrity central player in this drama.

Trump sees Walker as the best candidate to run in Georgia Senate contest next year. The Republican leadership though, well, it has a very different takes. Let's get to our Chief Congressional Correspondent Manu Raju, he's here with this new reporting, Manu what do you know? MANU RAJU, CNN CHIEF CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, concerns growing in Republican circles, not just in Washington, but in Georgia as well about Trump's poised to get Herschel Walker to run in that Senate race in Georgia.

They view that race is eminently winnable, but they are concerned Republicans are about Walker's viability. And this comes in the aftermath of a pretty damaging report that came out of "The Associated Press" just about a week ago or so ago that detailed controversies in his past, including him threatening violence allegedly against his ex- wife.

Now at the same time, this comes as Mitch McConnell, the Republican Leader has expressed concerns himself about Walker's candidacy and we're told multiple sources tell me and my colleagues Alex Rogers and Mike Warren, that McConnell has suggested that Former Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue should take a second look at potentially running in that race.

Purdue has already taken that off the table. Loeffler has suggested she's not ruling it out. Both of them met with McConnell earlier this year. And of course, both of them lost their Senate races in January that led to the Democrats taking control of the United States Senate.

Now McConnell is also meeting with other potential candidates as well, including a person named Latham Saddler. He's a former Trump national security official he raised about more than a million dollars in the last quarter and has gotten some Republicans eager that potentially he could be a candidate, but McConnell is looking at other candidates as well.

Now Republican leader's people are close to McConnell also expressing concerns about Walker. John Cornyn, who is a McConnell ally, told me yesterday, all I know is what I read in the paper. I want to win that race. And so I want the best nominee. I don't know whether he is it.

Now Walker has not said what he will do John. He is still a Texas resident. He has suggested that he's moving back to the state and could run but several people have suggested they could be consultants for him, including the Former Chief of Staff to Mike Pence have reached out to him. These consultants have not signed on yet. So it's still uncertain what he will do John.

KING: It is still uncertain but a source of some concern to the Republican Leader in the building you are in today. Manu Raju appreciate the new reporting.

Let's discuss it now with our panel here with us to share their reporting and their insights. Our Capitol Hill Reporter Melanie Zanona, our White House Correspondent John Harwood, "Time National" Political Correspondent Molly Ball and Washington Post Congressional Reporter Marianna Sotomayor.

This is about one race, but it's also about a bigger dynamic. Republicans think and in midterm year, they should be able to take back both the House and the Senate, given the narrow margins 50/50. But let's just take Georgia for a minute.

If you are Mitch McConnell, you believe today you would still be the majority leader if Trump had not gotten involved post-election in the two special elections in Georgia. So for Mitch McConnell, this is deja vu all over again.

MARIANNA SOTOMAYOR, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes, that's exactly it. He's really just trying to more or less have these races happen again. You saw with Loeffler in particular, and we're not which is that race that he's trying to see happen. It was very tight. And it's possible that they could face off in that way again.

KING: Yes. And so let's just listen to the former president to a part of this is there essentially are two Republican parties right now. Donald Trump has a Republican Party, and the establishment is trying to have a Republican Party. We will see that's what the elections are about.

And over the next several months, we're going to go through many of these races and Republican primaries in this state and that state, Donald Trump wants Herschel Walker though.


DONALD TRUMP, 45TH U.S. PRESIDENT: He told me he's going to and he's and I think he will. I had dinner with him a week ago. He's a great guy. He's a - he's a patriot, and he's a very loyal person. He's a very strong person. They love him in Georgia. I think he'd win. I think it would be very, very hard to beat Herschel.


KING: Trump knows Molly that Mitch McConnell is trying to run this sort of alternate parallel universe campaign against him. And he criticizes McConnell at every opportunity he can get this is just last week under the weak leadership of Mitch McConnell.

Senate Republicans continue to lose he lost Arizona he lost Georgia he ignored election fraud. He doesn't fight. Nothing in that Trump statement is actually factual. I don't think.


KING: Yes shocker, shocker!


KING: But this is a giant tension and McConnell tries to navigate it privately. I'm going to go behind closed doors; I'm going to find the best candidate. But can you?

MOLLY BALL, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, TIME: Well, like you said, this is the same movie that the Republican Party has been waking up to every day since 2015. You know, Trump seems to like nothing better than tormenting Mitch McConnell in the Republican establishment, it's arguably the reason he became president. The difference now is that he is free to do it basically full time. And it really, it's really a testament to how concerned Republicans are about what's definitely going to be one of the marquee races of the midterms that they would rather have a candidate who's already lost than this guy just because he's such an unknown.

And you know, maybe Trump is right. Trump obviously has some political instincts connection to the base. He sees Walker's celebrity, the incredible, you know, affection that people in Georgia have for him, maybe he's right about that.

But if you're Mitch McConnell, you want a candidate who's tested, you want a more conventional candidate, someone you feel like you can trust to put through the motions of what's going to be a very intense Senate campaign.

KING: That's a fascinating point, John, in the sense that just look at the AP headline here about this normally, you're thinking OK, it's 50/50 Senate, you know, handful majority in the House, we can take back both chambers next year.

And see that headline, Herschel Walker; I said it run a turbulent past emerges. Most party leadership would say, you know what, let's keep looking. But Donald Trump says, access Hollywood tape, I can stand on Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody. He says, no, I want my guy.

HARWOOD: The difference between Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell is that Donald Trump couldn't care less about the Republican Party. He makes decisions based on who he thinks are his friends and punishing his enemies.

Mitch McConnell's job and power depend on winning these races. And so he takes a vastly different level of scrutiny to it. You look at somebody like David Perdue, who barely lost in a race that were Trump hurt the party, and he looks like a much, much safer bet than Herschel Walker, you have no idea what kind of a candidate Herschel Walker is going to be. And the issues of that with his ex-wife, the Personality Disorder he's talked about, very dicey.

MELANIE ZANONA, CNN CAPITOL HILL REPORTER: We could also point out this is not just isolated to Georgia, I can tell you there is a lot of concern in the Republican party that Trump is going to step in and other races boost a candidate that might not be able to win in the general I mean, look at North Carolina, that's a perfect example as well.

He endorsed Ted Budd, a member of the House Conservative Freedom Caucus, over Pat McCrory, the Former North Carolina Governor and that is a very critical battleground. It's a purple state. So there's just a lot of concern in the party right now.

KING: You mentioned North Carolina you could say Pennsylvania, you could say Ohio, you could say even Missouri which is a red state Republicans are even worried there because they have - they have recent experience of nominating someone who costs them a state they should win. I just want to play one ad one of the other Republican candidates is Gary Black. And remember what Manu just said, Herschel Walker. Yes was a Georgia Bulldog. But he lives in Texas now, Texas now. Gary Black says, yes, he lives in Texas now.


GARY BLACK, GEORGIA AGRICULTURE COMMISSIONER: I'm getting ready. And we can run with the big dogs. I'm ready. I've been ready and partial already run with the big dogs. For fun, my - the tracker and I've had Georgia plates all my life.


KING: To me just one of the interesting dynamics when you have you know, Trump's involved a celebrity like Herschel Walker, who has instant name recognition already has. So when you watch the lesser known candidates, let - do I run from this? Do I hide from this? Or do I try to take advantage of this?

BALL: You know and I don't think anybody knows. I will say it is a little bit of an odd strategy to attack a candidate who's not in the race. But again, it's clear that like this has become the dominant dynamic in this particular race.

KING: All right, we'll watch it play out. As you know, there are many of them, which is why we're here. We've got an interesting several months ahead of us. We got the first of the primaries and then into the midterms. Up next for us, the man who is all but certain be New York City's next Mayor Eric Adams joins us. How will he handle COVID rising crime and does he believe Andrew Cuomo can survive as governor?



KING: Some sad news to report today a giant of the American Labor Movement Richard Trumka has passed away at age 72. Trumka has served as the President of the AFL-CIO and representative's 12.5 million members for more than a decade just moments ago, the Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer pausing to honor him on the Senate floor.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): I rise today with some sad some horrible news about the passing of a great friend, Rich Trumka. The working people of America have lost a fierce warrior at a time when we needed him most.


KING: Mr. Trumka was an important ally of the Biden White House, the president explaining just a short time ago; he was running late to an event after learning of Mr. Trumka's death calling him a close friend.

Other big political news in Washington this week progressive Democrats right now taking a hard look at the chessboard you might say. Led by the Missouri Congresswoman Cori Bush, the left wing of the party pushed the White House to renew an eviction moratorium. They won. They also lost a winnable primary in Ohio.

So emboldened on the one hand, discouraged on the other. So now what? Some progressive see proof in the evictions fight, they can move the Biden White House their way. Some moderate Democrats, though seek proof in the Ohio prior results that the president should worry more about the middle and less about the left.

Our panel is back with us now to discuss. Molly Ball, this is one week, two big episodes in one week. We should be careful not to count any one is decisive. But this is going to be the constant tug of war of the Biden Presidency, isn't it because there is an ideological generational movement in the Democratic Party, but many of the moderates say it just gets too much attention.