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Inside Politics

Lindell "Symposium" Comes Up Empty On Election Fraud Proof; U.S. Embassy Urges Americans To Leave Afghanistan "Immediately"; Incoming NY Gov. Vows To End "Toxic" Culture. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired August 12, 2021 - 12:30   ET



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He is in critically ill condition.


JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Put that moment in the fuller context of what you're seeing in terms of you mentioned, they're sicker, I believe a respirator is in use there. And it also takes a lot more resources at the hospital, right?

DR. SONAL BHAKTA, CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER, MERCY HOSPITAL NORTHWEST ARKANSAS: Absolutely. It's not just even about ventilator that the patients are on, it's the staff that we are required to have, or that we need to provide safe care for patients that are requiring that level of ICU care. The patients are, you know, the average age right now in the area of the hospitals -- the hospitalized patients is 43.

A couple of weeks ago, the average age was 39. So yes, our -- it definitely stresses our system, especially as we continue to take care of non COVID patients. Taking care of such critically ill COVID patients consistently is just, it's very heavy, it's very hard.

All of our staff are doing the best I can and picking up extra shifts. And I think, you know, previously with the previous strains are, you know, at the very beginning of all this pandemic, our worries were things like supplies, ventilators, that sort of thing.

Our current worries, our staffing, our health care workers, our physicians, our respiratory therapists, our nurses, down to our EVS coworkers. Everybody's experiencing some form of burnout at this point. And we have critical staffing shortages. So those are kind of the things that we're dealing with in the hospital space.

KING: Right. Help me if you could clear up sometimes you see I faced this when we go through the numbers here, you get some criticism. People will say one of the areas now that comes up as well. We keep hearing about all these breakthrough infections, meaning people who have been vaccinated, getting COVID. So why should I bother to get my vaccine, everybody can get it even if

you're vaccinated. Walk through that for me. Help me get through to people that the people you are seeing in dire shape they are unvaccinated, right, that the people who come in who've been vaccinated with a breakthrough infection, nowhere near the seriousness, correct?

BHAKTA: Absolutely correct. But it's actually over 90 percent. I believe this morning, it was in the higher 90s of the unvaccinated population that we see get sick. The benefit of vaccination right now, yes, there are breakthrough cases. But the benefit of vaccination is you can potentially have a preventable hospitalization, a preventable deaths, a preventable severe disease.

So a lot of the breakthrough cases that we are seeing those patients get to stay home, they don't feel good, but they get to stay home. They don't have to come to the hospital. They don't experience the ventilator. They don't have to experience all that. That is the benefit of the vaccine right now because we are seeing breakthrough cases with this particular variant. But yes, most of our patients that we in the hospital are unvaccinated and even our deaths or mortalities are almost all unvaccinated. So that's the benefit.

KING: It is. Dr. Bhakta, grateful for your time and the very important insights, more importantly, grateful for the work that you and your team doing every single day in Arkansas there and around the country as well, health care professionals once again, being called on to help us this time out of a mess that largely preventable, Dr. Bhakta, grateful for you.


When we come back we shift back to politics with My Pillow guys conspiracy roadshow. Mike Lindell says his cyber symposium, you see pictures of it there, he says it proves China hacked the 2020 election. Spoiler alert, no, it does not.


KING: My Pillow guy and Donald Trump buddy, Mike Lindell, is on the road this week promoting his obsession. Think of it as a game of conspiracy clue. China did it at the ballot box with a cyber-hack. This quick but very important reminder, here in the real world, Joe Biden won the election. Donald Trump's claims of massive fraud were investigated, looked at, and there was no evidence. The results the Biden victory were certified in every state.

Now look at this, this is not the real world. This is Lindell so called cyber symposium in South Dakota. He arranged it to share data, Lindell says proves Trump one. There's one problem though. Lindell's data proves no such thing.

And even many big linebackers who came all the way to South Dakota hoping it would prove their case are leaving disappointed. Among those watching this play out is CNN's Donie O'Sullivan. He's there in Sioux Falls watching this and he joins us. Donie, tell us what you've been seeing this week and maybe just as importantly, what you have not been seeing?

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, exactly, John. This has been a very long three days. It's a three-day event here. Yes, we have seen no evidence. Lindell has been making a very serious and very specific claim that China hacked American voting systems and stole the election away from Donald Trump. And I want to play a clip for you, John, of a comment made by an attendee here at this conference yesterday, which I really think sums up the sort of bizarre nature of all of this. Have a listen.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, I'm not a computer guy. I don't know what most of this stuff means. But I've been researching this election since November 3rd. But the CNN's of the world, you guys need to start reporting this and stop fact checking it.



O'SULLIVAN: So the journalist should stop fact checking. You heard it there. Look, that guy obviously is not a cyber-expert as he mentioned. But there are some cyber-experts here and we have been speaking to them. And they are very disappointed. They came here expecting to at least see some data, something to get their teeth into.

And they've essentially been given nothing. There is nothing here, even though Lindell will claim that there is something on these big screens, from all the experts we've been speaking to, everything that's been presented here is meaningless. And it shows no proof of any widespread fraud and does not support Lindell's claims. John?

KING: Then Donie, looking at your report, I think that's what jumps out at me. So even people who believe this wildness, nonfactual, not of planet Earth, big lie, even those who come there, even they're disappointed.

O'SULLIVAN: Exactly. People who were positively bias towards wanting this to prove election fraud, they are leaving here disappointed. And, John, finally, I should just say, you know, as bizarre and as wacky as all of this is, people we speak to around the country, they listen to Lindell. They listen to these dangerous conspiracy theories, and they believe them, and it is undermining American democracy.

KING: Yes, they do, which is the key point. Donie O'Sullivan in South Dakota, thank you. As we bring it back into the room with the panel. That's the key point. We were talking about this during the commercial break.

This would be hilarious as a Saturday Night Live skit as a Monty Python skit, but people who believe what Lindell is selling are the people who attack the Capitol, are the people who for some reason, think Donald Trump is going to be reinstated, who for some reason, don't trust anything. I say anything, the current President of the United States says, just about anything that comes out of any big institution, because this is undermined faith in everything.

JULIE PACE, WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF & ASST. MANAGING EDITOR, ASSOCIATED PRESS: There are real world consequences to what we are seeing here to people who continue to push these conspiracies, these completely unproven theories. And, you know, it is dangerous to our democracy.

I think that it, you know, puts some of the burden on us as fact-based journalists to figure out ways to keep presenting these facts in compelling ways to keep, you know, not just rolling our eyes at this to find ways to make sure that we are committed to being transparent and show all of the information that is available, because there is so much information that is available to prove that there was not widespread fraud in this election.

And there is no actual evidence to back up the idea that there was. And closing that gap, which really exists, I think is like one of our great challenges but our responsibilities too.

BRITTANY SHEPHERD, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, YAHOO! NEWS: Well, Julie, oh I'm sorry. I see a glimmer of hope in all of this. You hear Mike which is so bizarre to say. Mike Lindell was really bashing "Fox" for the past couple of days, because they've even lost the "Fox" constituency. I believe they weren't streaming this. And all of these conspiracy theories, they're lies. I feel like we should keep saying it every time you open our mouth on this. It only gets more dangerous when those flames are fanned, that's when January 6th happened.

But when you take away some of that mainstream coverage from something as powerful as "Fox News," it gives me the journalist, the fact checker, a little bit of hope that if those guys aren't interested, then maybe voters will begin to make informed decisions for themselves.

KING: The motivation there though is a little bit sketchy in the sense we can show you a headline from the "Daily Beast," "Fox News" is stubbing Mike Lindell shit show symposium. I filled in the blank for you. I'm sorry.

And the My Pillow guy is pissed. "Fox" is not, yes, "Fox" is not but let me show you another graphic. Rudy Giuliani, Sidney Powell, and Mike Lindell a part of lawsuits "Dominion" is suing them because of all the things they say. Guess what, "Dominion" is also suing "Fox News." Because for the longest time they did back the big lie, it is great, great, it is progress, that they're not covering it now. I just suspect that they're doing it because their lawyers say don't get us deeper --

KAROUN DEMIRJIAN, CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST: Yes. I mean the other question is like, you know, you need a little bit more, I suppose self-immolation of all this to have it really kind of undo itself. So as your correspondent was saying, people are coming away disappointed and saying, I'm not seeing anything here.

The question is, are they going to take that bad news out to the masses and say, guys, nothing to see here? Are they going to keep doubling down and just looking for it under some other stone? And I think that's the big question, right? Because if it's the former, good, maybe you'll start to, you know, choke itself out. But that's not usually the way conspiracy theories work.

KING: Right. That's a great point made by a Berkeley law professor, Orin Kerr, we can show you his tweet. First rule of conspiracy theories, never actually tried to show the evidence. So, you know, Mike Lindell calls all these people together and says, I have the evidence when he has none. The question is, will it? That's a great point. Are there people out there who believe the big lie, who will now start to think, you know what, I'm being lied too, you're being lied too?

PACE: It's been one of the great questions of this whole period, because we keep going through these sort of these benchmarks in the conspiracy, right? The dates that Donald Trump is supposed to be reinstated into office, that hasn't happened and it's not going to happen, you know, and I constantly got, you know, talking to our reporters around the country, what is the reaction when that happens?

What do people say when this, the promise that they're, you know, sort of holding on to doesn't actually follow through. It seems like there's always another conspiracy theory to sort of replace that that they can latch on to it. But eventually you do wonder, you know, does it run out when none of these things that they are being sold actually are being proven to be true or coming true?


KING: Right. And that's why it's not funny. That's why it's not funny. But it -- because there are people who believe this and we shall see.

When we come back, we're following some breaking news, not good news, troubling news from Afghanistan, strong warnings from the State Department that all Americans should leave the country immediately.



KING: Some breaking news today from Afghanistan, the United States Embassy in Kabul repeating its warning to Americans in the country to leave immediately. The alarming alert follows rapid gains by the Taliban over the course of recent days, 11 provincial Capitols, 11, now captured so far including today, the third largest city in Afghanistan, Herat. There's also word groups of fighters are wreaking havoc in Afghanistan's second largest city Kandahar. CNN's Barbara Starr is following this in the Pentagon and joins us now live, Barbara, another turn for the worse.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: They are coming every day now, John, the State Department warning even more dire telling Americans not just to get out immediately. But if you don't have the money for a ticket, we'll loan it to you. If you're waiting for a visa for a spouse or child, don't wait, call us. We will help you out immediately. That is how much the U.S. wants to get the number of Americans down to a bare minimum in Afghanistan.

And of course, everyone is waiting to see what the next development might be for the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan. As security deteriorates, can they keep it open in Kabul, no word on that yet. The Taliban taking a number of key critical cities around the perimeter of the country, the latest being Kandahar. Why is that so important?

Well, it's not just a major population center, but it sits on a direct highway to Kabul, the capitol and that appears to be part of the key Taliban strategy, cut off the highways, the supply routes into the city into the Capitol and basically isolate Kabul.

There are intelligence estimates now that the Taliban might succeed in that isolation in the next 30 to 60 days. Different assessments one even says 90 days, but the way it's going right now, the bad news is coming each and every day, John.

KING: It is bad news but important breaking news, Barbara Starr grateful for the live reporting from the Pentagon. We you'll stay on top of it as the situation at the moment continues to deteriorate.

Ahead for us, New York's next governor says she is ready to lead and she says she is ready to clean House.



KING: The incoming New York Governor Kathy Hochul not wasting any time letting people know that change is coming and soon. In a series of interviews and statements in just the past day, Hochul says she and Cuomo are not close that she will clean house and the executive branch when she takes office.

She promises an immediate change in tone and she says she will definitely run for a full term as governor next year. CNN's MJ Lee is tracking all this, joins us now live from New York. It's been an interesting first day for Kathy Hochul making pretty clear that this is going to be different.

MJ LEE, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John, you know, there are still 12 days until Kathy Hochul becomes the new governor. But she is making clear that as far as she is concerned, the Cuomo administration is in the rearview mirror. She has been lieutenant governor since 2015.

But she has communicated in a number of different ways over the last 36 hours or so that her administration, as you said is going to be very different, that she's going to be running things differently that she was not aware of the allegations that came out in this AG report that came out last week that she intends to hire her own people that she is not interested in keeping anyone that might have had some ethical problems under the Cuomo administration. And she also confirmed yesterday that she does in fact plan on running for full term next year. Here she is.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We understand you formed a political team. Does this mean you're going to seek a full term in 2022?

LT. GOV. KATHY HOCHUL (D-NY): Yes, it's not the time to talk politics, but I am prepared to run for reelection and begin the process as soon as we get everything under control in the state.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Been fundraising?

HOCHUL: Yes, I've been fundraising to run for reelection as Lieutenant Governor and I have a war chest I plan to expand but that's not going to be my main focus. My main focus is going to be working for the people in the state of New York.


LEE: And Hochul also did say yesterday that she has spoken with Governor Cuomo and that he promised her a seamless transition. As for the outgoing governor, John, there are still investigations that are underway. There's the impeachment investigation that is still happening in Albany. There's also of course, the criminal investigation that is being conducted by the Albany Sheriff's Office. So just because he has announced his resignation does not mean that some of these troubles are going away for the outgoing governor. John?

KING: Not at all, not at all. And we'll keep track of that, MJ Lee grateful for the live reporting, thank you very much.

Topping our Political Radar today, some other stories as well, Senator Rand Paul's wife bought stocks and Gilead Sciences, the maker of that COVID-19 antiviral drug, Remdesivir, back -- the purchase was made back in February 2020. The Kentucky Republican disclosed it just yesterday, 16 months later than required. Senator Paul of course just suspended from YouTube after posting a video claiming masks don't work and fighting the coronavirus.

New information continues to drip in on the extent of the former President Donald Trump's pressure campaign on the Justice Department after the 2020 election. One former U.S. Attorney telling congressional investigators he quit back in January after being warned Trump wanted to fire him, B. J. Pak's offense apparently not backing the former president's claims of widespread election fraud in Georgia that all parts of a very congressional investigation on going now.

Remember all those kids separated from their parents at the border, the Biden administration is still looking for the parents of 337 of those migrant children who were separated under the Trump administration's zero tolerance policy.

Thanks for joining us today, a busy, busy day. I hope to see you back here tomorrow. Ana Cabrera picks up our coverage right now, have a good day.


ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Hello, I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.