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Larry Madowo Shares his Personal COVID Story; Jill Biden Arrives at Tokyo Olympics; Cuomo Faces Repercussions; Wildfire Smoke Reaches NYC; New Details in Epstein's Death. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired July 22, 2021 - 06:30   ET




BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: This morning, we want to bring you one CNN reporter's personal story of tragedy from the coronavirus, revealing a global inequality when it comes to vaccine availability and also acceptance. Larry Madowo's family in Kenya is one of many who have had to bury loved ones because of COVID. Just 1.1 percent of Kenyans are vaccinated. And, as a continent, Africa has received the fewest vaccines in the world so far, while millions of Americans resist readily available inoculation.

In a new piece on CNN, Larry writes this. He says, some Americans are even getting bribed with beer, donuts or cash to get COVID-19 shots when many Africans would happily take them for free with they were available. While the world's wealthiest appear to be entering a post- pandemic life, the rest of us in the global south are still in the throes of a devastating crisis with no way out for the foreseeable future.

And Larry is with us now.

Larry, thank you so much for sharing your personal story and really putting a face, the face of your family on this disparity in vaccines. It is, you know, it's unacceptable, quite frankly.

LARRY MADOWO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is because I've kind of had this roller coaster of emotions, Brianna, between, obviously, heart break for losing family members, but also not just anger, outrage, because it was preventable.

My uncle got COVID just last month and died within a few days. He didn't get vaccinated. So we can't help wondering, if he did get a vaccine, maybe he would still be here. He was only in his 60s. He still had a whole life ahead of him.

And the most heartbreaking part for me is my grandmother, who's 96, and also did not get a vaccine on time and has now been on a ventilator for five weeks, struggling to breathe, battling for her life. And she's a brave, brilliant woman who outlived her husband by 25 years. She has great sense of humor. And she's in this position where I'm constantly -- I'm just dreading whenever I see a call from home, Brianna, because it might be somebody calling to say she's gone. And maybe, again, she should not have been in this position to start with if we had more vaccines available here.

KEILAR: What has to happen, Larry, to turn this around, to close this gap?

MADOWO: So, the big picture here is that wealthy nations like the U.S. have more vaccines than they need. You have more vaccines that you could vaccinate everybody several times over.

If you look at countries like the U.K. has eight vaccines per person. The EU, 6.6 per person. In the U.S., maybe 5 per person. Canada, even higher. And African countries are scrambling to just get vaccines to -- for the elders, for the seniors, for frontline workers, and it's not available. In the entire African continent, only 1.5 percent of people are vaccinated.

But that's not just the story that I'm covering. I have seen what COVID does to people. I devastates people.

I was in New York -- living in New York at the beginning of the pandemic. It was the epicenter. And now for me it's a personal tragedy because I see how much pain it's brought us.

South Sudan is completely out of vaccines The world's youngest nation has shut down (INAUDIBLE), this program, because they don't know when they're getting more.

If rich countries give more of the vaccines they have, the excess (ph) they don't need, then people here can get protected.

But here's the bigger danger, we're not safe -- you're not safe in the U.S., you're not safe in the rest of the world until we're safe because viruses mutate. There will be new variants that will attack everybody in the world, the vaccinated and the unvaccinated alike.


KEILAR: Yes, that's a very good point, even appealing to Americans or other developed nations, that this is a global issue. This doesn't end at borders.

Larry, thank you so much. We're so sorry about your uncle. And we certainly hope that your grandmother pulls through. Thanks for being with us this morning.

MADOWO: Thank you.

KEILAR: Dreams are being dashed as more athletes are forced out of the Olympics for testing positive. We're going to take you live to the games.

JOHN AVLON, CNN ANCHOR: Plus, is the Andrew Cuomo administration tampering with witnesses in the investigation of the governor? A new warning after an aide's tweet.


KEILAR: First Lady Jill Biden arriving in Japan this morning where she is leading the U.S. delegation to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. The number of coronavirus cases linked to the games now stands at 91.


And CNN's Selina Wang is live in Tokyo with more.


SELINA WANG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Brianna, it's going to be surreal tomorrow at the Olympic opening ceremony to see that nearly 68,000 seat capacity national stadium largely empty. Just 950 VIP guests will be allowed.

This as Tokyo reports nearly 2,000 new COVID-19 cases, the highest in six months. And behind me there's a growing line of people waiting to take a photo in front of five rings, but the broader public here, Brianna, banned from the event.


WANG (voice over): The first lady starts her first solo trip overseas. Jill Biden arriving in Tokyo in support of close U.S. ally, Japan, a country in a day by day fight to keep the Olympics going, even before the games have officially started.

As Biden travels in, more Olympic hopefuls are set to travel out after testing positive for COVID-19. Five athletes from Team USA alone have been cut from the games due to coronavirus. But NBA star Kevin Durant says he feels well looked after.

KEVIN DURANT, TEAM USA BASKETBALL: USA Basketball has made this experience so easy for all of us, especially throughout the circumstances of COVID, especially here in Japan where cases have risen. So I think, USA Basketball is keeping us as safe as they could.

WANG: Yet nothing is certain when it comes to COVID. Around 100 people connected to the games have now come down with the virus as Tokyo is now recording more than ten times that number of cases each day.

And if the pandemic wasn't enough to worry about, Olympic organizers are getting hit with another controversy. The director of Friday's opening ceremony dumped from his role for past remarks making light of the Holocaust.

I'd like to extend my sincere apology, she says.

Not the press that the Olympics needed as it hobbles toward an opening ceremony sure to be subdued. One person who will be there is the state premier of Queensland, Australia, Annastacia Palaszczuk led Brisbane's successful bid to host the 2032 event, but that didn't spare her condescension from IOC Vice President John Coates late Wednesday.

JOHN COATES, IOC VICE PRESIDENT: The other thing is, I was reading some questions about you going to the opening ceremony. You are going to the opening ceremony.

WANG: As the COVID controversy continues to stir sports stars in action, including soccer teams who took the chance to take the knee in protest of racial inequality.


WANG: Brianna, just one scandal after another for that opening ceremony. The director out just days after the music composer resigned after a previous interview surfaced of him describing abuse and torture of his former classmate and just months before the creative direct resigned after making offensive comments about a female Japanese celebrity.

So, Brianna, not a promising start for a ceremony that's supposed to be about hope and unity.

KEILAR: Indeed not.

Selina, thank you so much for that report, live for us from Tokyo.

AVLON: New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is facing severe repercussions over a tweet that was posted by his spokesman earlier this month. And that warning comes from the top investigator in Cuomo's impeachment probe.

Brynn Gingras is here with all the details.


BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, John, it was just last week when we were here talking about the governor getting ready to sit down with investigators in the AG's office. Well, after that story broke, a Cuomo aide made a statement on Twitter in regards to news circulating about that upcoming deposition, insinuating the news leaked from the attorney general's office and he accused it was politically motivated but didn't provide any proof. And that tweet has since been deleted.

So really that's what this is all about. New York Assembly Judicial Chair Charles Lavine, who, by the way, is leading a separate investigation, as you said, John, into a number of controversies surrounding the governor, wrote a letter to Cuomo last night reminding him that in mid-March he warned the governor and anyone associated with him to not intimidate or retaliate against any potential witnesses or complaintants (ph) in the probe.

Well, Lavine went on to say essentially that he can't understand then why Cuomo's senior aide is making remarks like the one he did, writing, quote, it is obvious that attempts to demean the attorney general serve as well to undermine the investigation and send profoundly negative signals to witnesses. He also warned the governor that the comments could, quote, merit severe repercussions.

Now, Cuomo's office has fired back. His acting council saying this in a statement. There was a clear difference between actionable retaliation and protected speech and it is clear that the chairman doesn't understand the difference.

We, of course, are still waiting for the attorney general's report looking into allegations of sexual harassment lodged against the governor by several former and current staff members and other women. Cuomo has denied those allegations and apologized to those he say may have misinterpreted his comments.


AVLON: OK. Brynn, thank you very much.

All right, just in to CNN, the Biden administration's new plan to combat a rise in gun violence in big cities.

KEILAR: And a new book explores the Jeffrey Epstein case and the lingering questions about his death in prison.



KEILAR: We are keeping our eyes on the west this morning where extreme heat is fueling raging wildfires. There are millions of acres that have burned so far. It sent smoke clear across the U.S., all the way to the East Coast. Poor air quality and harmful health effects on thousands of people, thousands of miles away from the flames.

So let's get now to CNN meteorologist Chad Myers.

Chad, this is huge. Just look at what we're seeing on your map. It's -- it's nuts.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: It is. Two million acres now and more in the U.S., 3 million acres and more in Canada have already burned and this is the beginning of what we consider wildfire season. It goes all the way through summer.

Seventy-eight big fires right now. Your air quality not good in many cities across the country.


The Weather Service in Chicago, a couple of days ago, said, we didn't even get a sunrise. We never saw the sun come up because the smoke was so thick.

Worst quality in the U.S. in 15 years in New York City yesterday. And now that's going to get a little bit farther to the south, pushed into Nashville and Atlanta for the next couple of days.

The New York City area, Boston, D.C., you get better because of that north wind. It's going to be a hazy couple days, though, across the East Coast and really all of our thoughts and prayers to those firefighters trying to battle these completely out of control wildfires in the west.


KEILAR: Yes, they have a huge season ahead of them. As you said, it is just the beginning.

Chad, thanks for that.

MYERS: You're welcome.

AVLON: All right, in 2006, wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein was arrested following an investigation into his sexual activities with teenage girls, which Epstein was given a plea bargain, serving just 13 months in a county jail. More than a decade later, "Miami Herald" reporter Julie K. Brown decided to revisit the case, which she calls a horrendous miscarriage of justice. Her work led to the indictment of Epstein and his partner and the resignation of the sitting Labor secretary.

Julie K. Brown, one of America's great investigative reporters, joins me now. Her new book, "Perversion of Justice: The Jeffrey Epstein Story," is out now.

Julie, it is a pleasure to talk with you. I have admired your reporting for years.

And you've been investigating Epstein and those associated with him for more than a decade. So building on your initial reporting, what more did you learn, especially around this strangely light plea deal that he got in the initial investigation?


Well, you know, the original series that I did in 2008 only scratched the surface of this story. Epstein had -- we now know he had a far reaching web of people that were helping him with his sex trafficking operation. You know, to some degree, I mean, he -- the circle around him who -- the people who enabled him started from the butler who answered the door to the schedulers that were arranging his visits with all these underage girls, the pilots that were transporting these women and as well as the people that he socialized with, the powerful people.

So this book connects the dots in a way that I was unable to do in -- with a short series that I did in 2018.

AVLON: Sure. You don't have the same constraints.

You write specifically about the immunity deal and how it covered any potential accomplices of Jeffrey Epstein. This is what you write. His lawyers were successful in getting prosecutors to insert a little noticed provision in the deal giving him immunity to any potential criminal accomplices.

I'm curious, Ghislaine Maxwell was not listed. But the agreements vague wording seemed to leave the door open for others to be covered by the global agreement. But why do you think Ghislaine Maxwell was not included explicitly in that? BROWN: Well, police didn't have at the time -- back in 2007/2008, when

this case -- and even when the FBI was investigated, Maxwell's name came up frequently but the -- but she had sort of moved on and was not as much involved in his life. She was still, you know, friends with him. We don't really know how much she was still working for him. But the evidence back then really centered on the people that were around him in Palm Beach.

And, to some degree, that was one of the failures of this investigation. It should have gone beyond the borders of Florida. It should have looked at every other place that Epstein was. And I think because Ghislaine's name didn't really come up very much, they thought inserting it would implicate her at the time.

AVLON: Uh-huh.

Now, you also deal with the suspicious events surrounding Epstein's death. And I want to say, you know, there are a lot of conspiracy theories and, in my experience, governments usually not organized enough to pull off conspiracy theories. But depending on what account you read, his cell mate, a corrupt former cop named Nick Tartaglione, either tried to kill Epstein or prevented Epstein from hanging himself. This is a quote from your book. For reasons that remain unexplained to this day, The Metropolitan Correctional Center of New York had bunked a hulking (ph) abused quadruple murder with a 66-year- old nerd, you write, who happened to be the nation's most famous child molester.

Now, Tartaglione's attorney said his client claimed he was friendly with Epstein, had nothing to do with what happened, but what else did you learn during your investigation and what surprised you the most?

BROWN: Well, that incident with Tartaglione was prior to his death. It was an incident that happened weeks before where they found him in his cell. And they never really explained what happened in that particular case. So he, you know, Epstein is on suicide watch. They somehow decide to -- he convinces the doctor that he's fine.


They put him in another cell where he's supposed to be monitored quite closely. And then they inexplicably again have him in there with his cell mate. They pull his cell mate out for reasons, again, that we don't know and they leave him alone. His cell mate, by the way, is taken to another prison that is generally used for people who are like cooperating witnesses. And, you know, and then there's just so many other, you know, unanswered questions. We not only have one guard asleep at the wheel, so to speak, we have two corrections officers asleep at the wheel. We have, you know, cameras that don't work. There's tons of things in his cell, things that you would not leave in a cell that -- from a person who had tried -- you know, who had been on suicide watch. There were wires. There was a sleep apnea machine. So --

AVLON: But, very quickly, though, you -- based on all that, do you think the Biden administration should do an additional investigation into this?

BROWN: Well, the Justice Department still has an open investigation that we're waiting to feel the -- to hear the results of. It's curious that it's been taking this long.

AVLON: Julie Brown, thank you very much.

BROWN: Thank you.

AVLON: All right, new this morning, the Biden administration and CDC now considering revising mask guidance for the vaccinated as the delta variant spreads.