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White House COVID-19 Adviser Dr. Anthony Fauci Interviewed on Progress in Vaccinating Americans, Threat of Outbreak from Upcoming Tokyo Olympics, Origins of COVID-19, and Public Release of His Emails Regarding COVID-19 Pandemic. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired June 03, 2021 - 08:00   ET



BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, I'm Brianna Keilar alongside Joe Biden. On this NEW DAY, Dr. Anthony Fauci speaking out. He is standing by right now to talk to us about President Biden's ambitious new push to get Americans vaccinated and the rightwing backlash to his emails from the early days of the pandemic.

Plus, a police officer who was brutally beaten by insurrectionists at the Capitol not holding back on Republicans who blocked the January 6th commission. His harshest words are for Mitch McConnell.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: New this morning, tens of thousands of Olympic volunteers just quit ahead of the summer games in COVID- ravaged Tokyo. And bystanders step in to save a police officer under attack. We'll ask one of them why he decided to take action.

KEILAR: Good morning to viewers here in the United States and around the world. It is Thursday, June 3rd. And President Biden is determined to do whatever it takes to get Americans to roll up their sleeves. He's hoping to get at least one vaccine dose into the arms of 70 percent of all adults in the U.S. by July 4th. And he's even rolling out some new incentives like free beer. Who doesn't like that? Free babysitting. Who doesn't need that? To bribe people.

BERMAN: So the vaccine rollout has been an unqualified success. For the first time in 14 months, the U.S. is averaging fewer than 20,000 new cases per day. Hospitalizations at the lowest point in more than a year and declining steadily as more people get vaccinated. But the U.S. is now averaging only 1.1 million vaccinations per day. That number was three times higher in mid-April.

Joining us now is Dr. Anthony Fauci, the chief medical adviser on COVID-19 to President Biden and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. Dr. Fauci, America is your patient this morning. What's the prognosis?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, CHIEF MEDICAL ADVISER TO PRESIDENT BIDEN: The prognosis is good if the patient continues to do what the patient is doing, and that is continuing as a country, if you want to make that metaphor go, continue to get vaccinated. You showed the numbers, John, that are very encouraging. I think the last few times we spoke we went from 60,000 to 50,000 to 40,000 to 30,000, and now we're below 20,000 per day on a weekly average. That was highly predictable when you get more and more people vaccinated. You and I had that conversation not too long ago.

The one thing we want to make sure is that we don't declare victory prematurely and feel that because things are going in the right direction that we don't have to keep vaccinating people. We're on a really good track now to really crush this outbreak, and the more people we get vaccinated, the more assuredness that we're going to have that we're going to be able to do that.

So we want to reach the president's goal of 70 percent of adults getting at least one dose by July 4th. But we even want to surpass that. And that's the reason why you see what the president is doing and all of us are doing in his leadership is to get people as vaccinated as quickly as possible as many as possible, whatever it takes. Make it extremely easy for people to get vaccinated. Give incentives. Do whatever you can to get people to get vaccinated. That's what we really need to do, John.

BERMAN: So we just had Memorial Day. More people out and about that we've seen before. Fewer people wearing masks because they don't have to anymore, but what are your concerns that we will see an uptick in cases?

FAUCI: Well, you know, it's going to be -- it's not going to be uniform throughout the country, John, because if you look at the map of the percentage of people in different states that have reached a certain level of vaccinated people, certain percentage, that if you have a very high percentage of people vaccinated, you're not going to see a substantial blip. You may see a little, but not anything that even resembles the surge.

What my concern is in those states in which you have relatively few, compared to others, people vaccinated. When you are below 50 percent of the people being vaccinated, that's when you're going to have a problem. I think given the country as a whole, the fact that we have now about 50 percent of adults fully vaccinated and about 62 percent of adults having received at least one dose, as a nation, I feel fairly certain you're not going to see the kind of surges we've seen in the past.

What I am concerned about, of those states in which the level of vaccination is low, that you may continue to see higher levels of cases as we get into the summer. That's what my concern is.

BERMAN: What are the current risks for unvaccinated people?


FAUCI: Well, John, you can't give a numerical value to that because unvaccinated people has to be linked with where you are. If you are in an area where there's a considerable amount of viral dynamics, a lot of circulating virus in a community, and you are unvaccinated and don't wear a mask, your risk clearly is higher than if you're in a situation where most of the people are vaccinated and the level of virus is very low. So you can't give a unidimensional number of what a risk is. It's all relative to where you are and what the level of virus in the community is.

BERMAN: Let's talk about cruise ships because there's a fight right now in Florida where cruise ship operators are trying to require vaccinations for passengers. Governor Ron DeSantis is fighting that requirement. How risky would it be to be on a boat filled with unvaccinated people?

FAUCI: Well, if you are on a boat with unvaccinated people and you have a person who is infected, we know from experience with cruise ships what can happen. You can have considerable outbreaks because you are in a closed space where people are not going to be able to get away from each other because of what you see on a cruise ship. When there's no problem, it's wonderful. People are enjoying it, they're having a great time. But if you have a couple of infected people there, you have a risk of spreading, as we have seen historically with cruise ships.

BERMAN: You have said you expect, or you believe that children younger than 12, some may need to wear masks when they go back to school depending on where they live in the fall. Why?

FAUCI: First of all, let me make it clear because whenever I do say that, they say I'm saying that. This is a CDC recommendation of highly trained epidemiologists who analyzed the data and make these kinds of determinations. The fact is, if you have a situation where you are in a region, a state, a city, a county, or what have you, where there's a high level of infection, and you have children who are unvaccinated, which will likely be the case for a while, of children 12 and younger -- we know 12 and 15, we now are able to vaccinate them -- what you're going to see a situation where it is very likely in some places you may need to have them wear masks. And I think we should just follow carefully the CDC recommendations as we approach the fall term.

BERMAN: If you are a parent of a 12-year-old or somewhere 12 or younger right now, how hopeful should you be that they will get a vaccine dose before, say, Thanksgiving?

FAUCI: I'm cautiously optimistic about that, John, because we are now doing studies that are ongoing as we're speaking, studies that are looking at what we call age de-escalation, children from 12 to nine, and then nine to six, and then six to two, and then six months to two years. We hope that as we approach the end of this calendar year we'll have enough information to vaccinate children of any age. So I'm cautiously optimistic we might be there by the end of the year.

BERMAN: All right, Shigeru Omi, who is in charge of the COVID-19 response in Japan, this morning did an interview saying that expect an impact on infections due to the Olympics right now, an impact on infections due to the Olympics. He does anticipate something like that will happen. What do you think is going to happen with the Olympics?

FAUCI: Well, it depends on several things. John, again, it depends on what the level of infection that's circulating there at the time of the Olympics, what the percentage of people that come in vaccinated, and what the precautions are taken by the Olympic officials regarding testing and/or requirements for vaccination. I don't know what the officials that are running the Japan Olympics are going to do. But all of those factors come into play.

The safest thing that Olympic athletes can do when they go is to go vaccinated. If you are vaccinated, you are going to be quite safe from getting infected. We are fortunate enough, John, to have highly, highly effective vaccines. So that's what we recommend.

BERMAN: Should the games be held?

FAUCI: I'm not going to opine on that, John. That's up to the Japanese officials.

BERMAN: Would you feel safe going?

FAUCI: I said, it depends on what the situation is at the time. Right now, I am vaccinated, so I would feel reasonably safe under any circumstances. There's not a chance in the world that I would have the time to go, so that's a moot point.

BERMAN: You have had the distinct honor and pleasure of having some of your emails, many of your emails released to the public over the last few days. And there have been questions, or controversy, some ginned up, but some questions raised about some of them, and I want to get you on the record addressing some of them.


There was an email sent to you from an executive at EcoHealth Alliance, and this is one of the companies that funded some of the research at the Wuhan lab. And this email thanked you for basically saying you believed that the origins of the coronavirus were natural. This email said, quote, "I wanted to say a personal thank you on behalf of our staff and collaborators for publicly standing up and stating the scientific evidence supports a natural origin for COVID-19 from bat to human spillover, not a lab release from the Wuhan Institute of Virology." That email was April 18th. Now, there are some of your critics who say this shows you have too cozy of a relationship with the people behind the Wuhan lab research. What do you say to that?

FAUCI: That's nonsense. I don't even see how they get that from that email. That email was sent to me from them. I have always said, and will say today to you, John, that I still believe the most likely origin is from an animal species to a human. But I keep an absolutely open mind that if there may be other origins of that, there may be another reason, it could have been a lab leak. I believe, if you look historically what happens in the animal-human interface that, in fact, the more likelihood is that you're dealing with a jump of species. But I keep an open mind all the time. And that's the reason why I have been public that we should continue to look for the origin.

That email in no way -- you can misconstrue is however you want. That email was from a person to me saying thank you for whatever it is he thought I said. And I said I think the most likely origin is a jumping of species. I still do think it is at the same time as I'm keeping an open mind that it might be a lab leak. BERMAN: There was an email on April 16th, an email exchange between

you and NIH Director Francis Collins. The email sent to you said conspiracy theory gains momentum, and this again was the idea of the lab leak. Those emails, though, as you can see on the screen, or I can see on the screen, was all redacted between you and Francis Collins. Do you happen to remember? Do you remember what was said?

FAUCI: John, they only took about 10,000 emails from me. Of course, I remember. I remember all 10,000 of them. Give me a break.

BERMAN: But to be clear, you're saying you don't remember, or you can't tell us what was in the body of that exchange?

FAUCI: I don't remember what's in that redacted. But the idea, I think, is quite far-fetched that the Chinese deliberately engineered someone so that they could kill themselves as well as other people. I think that's a bit far out, John.

BERMAN: And then finally, there was an email from you to Sylvia Burwell, the former HHS secretary, that had to do with masks. And this is getting a great deal of attention. And the date here is February 5th, which I think is hugely important. She apparently had asked you whether she should wear a mask on a trip, and you responded to her, "concluding, I do not recommend that you wear a mask, particularly since you're going to a very low risk location." That was February 5th. A lot has transpired since then. If you had to go back and do it all over again, would you tell her something different? Do you regret that?

FAUCI: Well, John, let's get real here. If you look at scientific information as it accumulates, what is going on in January and February, what you know as a fact as data guides what you tell people and your policies. If March, April, may occur, you accumulate a lot more information and you modify and adjust your opinion and your recommendation based on the current science and current data. So, of course, if we knew back then that a substantial amount of transmission was asymptomatic people, if we knew then that the data show that masks outside of a hospital setting actually do work when we didn't know it then, if we realize all of those things back then, of course. You are asking a question, would you have done something different if you know what you know now. Of course, people would have done that. That's so obvious.

BERMAN: So President Biden yesterday was talking about the success that this country has had with vaccinations. And it is remarkable. I have to pinch myself sometimes to think about what we've done and how far we've come. My 14-year-old boys each have their first dose, get their second dose on Monday. I couldn't be more excited about that. I want you to listen to what the president said about how we got to this point.


JOE BIDEN, (D) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Getting the vaccine is not a partisan act. The science was done under Democratic and Republican administrations. And in fact, the first vaccines were authorized under a Republican president and widely developed by a Democratic president, deployed by a Democratic president.



BERMAN: People look at that and say President Biden there giving credit to the Republican administration that preceded him for getting the authorization for the first vaccine.

What do you make of that credit there?

FAUCI: Oh, it's well-deserved. I mean, I've said that all along. You want to go back on emails, go back and look at the ones -- the good ones. I have never really done anything of sharply critical at all of the Trump administration. Not at all. And I've also given them credit.

The idea of Operation Warp Speed and the investment of that amount of money to get that amount of vaccines ready to go clearly is something that should be given as credit to the Trump administration. There's no doubt about that.

And just as President Biden in his usual way was fair and open and says the credit for this goes to multiple administrations because, John, if you look at the real thing that made this work, the fundamental basic science that led to the immunogen that's being used right now that's highly, highly successful, it transcends multiple administrations.

It was things that were supported by Clinton, by Bush, by Obama, by Trump, and now by Biden. So, I mean, yes, there's credit to go all around on this.

BERMAN: The virus is certainly nonpartisan, doesn't know any parties. So, beating it will be nonpartisan as well.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, we know you're not going to have time to go the Olympics, but we do hope you get some kind of summer vacation, and a break from all of this in the next few months.

FAUCI: Thank you, John. Thank you. Appreciate it.

KEILAR: That was a great interview. I mean, we learned a lot. And it was so interesting to hear him talking -- you know, I come at this from the perspective of a mother of small children but he's talking about kids being vaccinated. I am kind of operating in a way at times, John, like I am not vaccinated even though I am because, you know, these little guys that I live with, I've got to keep them safe and there's a lot of things we can't do right now.

BERMAN: Look, I have to tell you it changes the way -- don't know if it changes the way you live but it changes the way you think when you wake up in the morning when everyone in your house has a dose of the vaccine. It has just changed the way that I look at things.

You know, it was really interesting to hear from him, certainly on the steps and where exactly he thinks we are right now and the fact he doesn't think there's a risk of a significant uptick in cases. That's notable to me. That's highly optimistic right there.

But also, I think to see his -- I think frustration with some of the questions that continue to be asked and raised about what he has said over time and the master of a perfect example. If I knew in February what I know now, of course I would have told the former HHS secretary something different, but I didn't.

KEILAR: Yeah, they were learning new things all the time, right? And even as we're seeing some of these expectations for vaccinations shifting. Any given moment, what we know, what we can expect, it's changing.

BERMAN: Yeah, imagine actually learning things.

So, up next, the police officer brutally attacked at the Capitol unloads on Mitch McConnell for blocking a January 6th commission.

KEILAR: Plus, new surveillance video of the moment that a gunman opened fire on a crowd of people outside Miami.

And also, new concerns about the troubling chatter between Trump supporters and lesser known social media sites.



KEILAR: D.C. Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone who defended the U.S. Capitol during the insurrection is speaking out about his experience testifying in support of a January 6th commission.

Here's footage from his body camera on that day.






KEILAR: You can hear Officer Fanone pleading for his life, telling the insurrectionists that he had kids as they brutally beat him and tased him.

He spoke with Don Lemon last night. He said he's, quote, sickened by Republicans' actions behind the scenes.


DON LEMON, CNN HOST: While you were on Capitol Hill talking to senators, were you -- you were told, I'm sure, that Mitch McConnell was calling his colleagues saying to vote against the commission as a personal favor to him. How did that make you feel? FANONE: I mean, I was absolutely sickened. You know, here I am

escorting the mother of a dead policeman while she and myself advocate for, you know, the formation of a commission to investigate the circumstances which resulted in her son's death.

And you have, you know, a leader on Capitol Hill who is making phone calls asking for personal favors and doling out political capital to push for a no vote on that commission. It was absolutely disgraceful in a lot of cases. We can't look to our elected leaders anymore. We need to make a decision, a conscious decision as to, you know, what type of country do we want to live in.

And do we want to send people to Washington who espoused, you know, hateful, vitriol rhetoric and fearmongering, or do we want people that lead with -- or are guided by principles like honor, integrity, compassion and empathy? I prefer the latter.


KEILAR: Joining us now is the host of "DON LEMON TONIGHT" and the author of "This is Fire: What I Say to My Friends About Racism", Don Lemon, our friend, here with us this morning.


You know, Don, I think one of the things -- you've interviewed Officer Fanone multiple times now and we can kind of see this progression, I think, of how he is feeling about this situation at any given time. And, you know, I have an idea of sort of how he feels just by even the way he is talking but you spoke to him last night. What did you think?

LEMON: I think your progression is a good word but first of all, let me just say, and I said this to John when I sat down. What a great guy he is. It's been an honor really getting to know him and quite honestly, I think before the insurrection, Brianna, he was on the conservative side of things, you know, politically independent but on the conservative side.

And I think this really changed his perspective. Not that it made him a liberal or Democrat but opened his eyes to what's really happening in the country. What support for police officers really means.

What it is to be a true patriot. What it is to live in reality. What it is to be affected by the political rhetoric and co-opted by that political rhetoric and exploited by the political rhetoric as so many people are, especially conservatives or what used to be traditional Republicans in this country.

And I think it was, obviously, a real eye opening for him and how -- why wouldn't it be? How could it not be considering what happened to him?

The people who he thought were his biggest supporters, the people who espouse this whole thing about blue lives matter, we support the police, we are patriots, we are Americans, we support and love the flag. All those things in an instant changed for him because he was then being beaten by blue lives matter -- with blue lives matter flags, with American flags, by the very people who said that they supported and love people like him.

It was -- it has been a complete eye-opening, awakening for him.

BERMAN: It was interesting. He took it personally as someone who was beaten up during the insurrection. He took it personally when Mitch McConnell was asking for a personal favor to vote against the insurrection. That really came through --

LEMON: It was disgraceful to him. He was just -- yeah.

BERMAN: He also during this interview, which was fascinating. I stayed up, watched the whole thing. Like an hour before I have to wake up.

You also talked about Michael Flynn and what Michael Flynn has been saying in his response to whether or not he believes there should be a Myanmar-style coup in the United States, seeming to endorse the idea of a coup here. And Fanone told you he absolutely thinks could lead to more violence here.

LEMON: They are concerned about more violence. And he said directly, I know that this rhetoric led to the violence that happened on January 6th. And, of course, I'm concerned about it because people are not living in reality.

And you still have people on Capitol Hill now who are somehow trying to minimize what happened on January 6th, trying to make excuses for it, trying to pretend that it is okay and this is just business as usual.

John and Brianna, this is not business as usual. Anybody who has -- and this is not about right versus left. This is about right versus wrong, and anyone who has any say or any sort of platform or any degree of celebrity, whatever it is in this society, should be speaking up against this and that includes -- that includes the police officers who fought that day on Capitol Hill and quite frankly, the few police officers that I have spoken to on the air and those who won't come on television yet but they will. I'm working on them. We'll get them to come on.

It's cathartic for them to be able to talk about this because they felt helpless and hopeless in this moment. Especially when the very people they were protecting are lying about what happened and they are completely trying to erase their contributions.

So, for Officer Fanone, for Officer Harry Dunn, it has been cathartic for them and empowers them in a way they hadn't been before. They felt helpless.

KEILAR: I mean, I sense the anger from him, Don, and he's been forsaken by Republicans who are not for this commission and it would be one thing if it felt like there were lessons that had been learned.

But CNN is reporting that Trump is more obsessed with the election than ever. That, you know, he's pushing even this B.S. about being reinstated. So it's not like that's clearing up. This is crazy nonsense, but a lot of people believe it.

LEMON: Yeah. They do. I always get in trouble --

BERMAN: This pause. I think they know you're about --

LEMON: This is our struggle every single day for at least on my show and I'm sure it is for you, is how much -- how much platform do we give that? Because we say it's a lot of people. Yeah, it's a lot of people.

It's not the majority of people in this country. It is a number -- I don't believe it's the majority of people in the Republican Party. So, remember, you have to look at the percentage of the electorate.