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Brian Murphy is Interviewed about being the DHS Whistleblower; West Virginia Vaccination Numbers; Gupta's Hospital Faces Tough Choices; McConnell Won't Rule out Blocking Nominee. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired September 27, 2021 - 08:30   ET



BRIAN MURPHY, FORMER DHS WHISTLEBLOWER: And other things, you know, in that time era that it would make the president look bad. I mean that were his exact words.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: So, this -- look, we know this was a big threat, white supremacy, anti-government extremism. We saw some of the fruits of that on January 6th during the insurrection.

Do you think this denialism affected preparedness for January 6th?

MURPHY: Absolutely. And the organization that I led, you know I was removed in July, everything that we were doing to find violence on social media, regardless of where it was coming from, were shut down by my predecessor. And, you know, my predecessor, strikingly now, is on the January 6th committee and he is the one that shut all of those things down. All of those safeguards we had in place. And I'm pretty confident my team would have found it. I'm positive they would have found it. But, strikingly, Joseph Maher now sits on the committee investigating himself, which I am baffled why, one, he we would take that job, and, two, why he -- they chose to put him on the committee.

KEILAR: I do want to ask you about the response from some of these officials that you, of course, pointed a finger at. For instance, Chad Wolf, the then DHS chief, has disparaged your credibility and said that you are essentially part of violating legal requirements when it came to reporting on journalists during the activities in Portland, the Portland violence that we saw. I want to listen to something that Chad Wolf said.


CHAD WOLF, THEN-ACTING HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Regarding the intelligence and analysis whistleblower complaint from Mr. Murphy is patently false. It's a fabrication, completely. I reject any claim that I attempted to influence or retaliate against any individual at DHS but specifically Mr. Murphy.


KEILAR: What's your reaction to that?

MURPHY: So my reaction is that there was a pattern at DHS covering many areas of which I've just articulated and Chad was a part of that. At no point did me or any member of my team ever collect information on reporters or violate any law or anything along those lines.

KEILAR: He -- he -- so he's lying?

MURPHY: I think that he has a credibility problem that, when he removed me, he told me that he knew that there was no violations in place but he was tired of me not being a team player and that he was up for confirmation and he was concerned about the optics that he would to have face from the media.

And I'm not surprised the media reacted the way they did. Everything that was coming from the department at that time, I didn't even believe it. It was just like walking in a hall of mirrors on a supplanted floor, and it was all twisted and turned upside down.

But, yes, let me be unequivocally clear, at no point did me or anyone else collect on, you know, journalists for journalists' sake. We were collecting on content which was publicly available.

And I would also add that I've been told by multiple people now the inspector general has completed the report on my organization's activity in Portland and completely cleared me. And I would like to see that report come out. I've never read it, so I can't -- you know, I don't know fully what it says, but I'm willing to see what it has to say, but that's what I've been told. So I would like to see the inspector general release it. I have no idea why they haven't.

KEILAR: Brian, thank you so much for joining us in studio today to talk about this. It is great to finally hear from you personally about this.

MURPHY: Thank you.

KEILAR: Thank you.

Brian Murphy.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: There's something so powerful about hearing someone so matter-of-fact about something so important. It really -- to hear him just flat out say, yes, they made my lie because they told me it would make the president look bad, it really, it blows you away.

KEILAR: Yes. And to be going into work day in, day out and that's what you're hearing, you know? But I think that's also part of the pattern that we're seeing, John, with some of these whistleblowers is, you just get the sense that -- truly a lot of these folks, these folks are really just, you know, they're just servants. They are just going about their work. A lot of them are not trying to attract the attention that certainly being a whistleblower does. And, initially, a lot of these complaints that they filed were just things to deal with the situation internally and then eventually it becomes public and they find themselves thrust into the spotlight.

BERMAN: Look, and these are about really important things. We're talking about the rise of white supremacy, white supremacist violations. Brush it under the rug. We don't want to talk about that because it makes the president look bad. It really, I mean, this makes you sit up straight when you hear Brian Murphy talk about that.

KEILAR: Yes, it does. We need to know about these topics, for sure.

Today, New York may tap the National Guard to replace unvaccinated health care workers to fill hospital staffing shortages.

BERMAN: Plus, the governor of West Virginia begging his state to get vaccinated nearly every day. How is it working? That's coming up.



BERMAN: West Virginia Governor Jim Justice is pleading to his residents to get vaccinated.


GOV. JIM JUSTICE (R-WV): This is our fourth surge and it didn't have to happen. It didn't have to happen. If we would have just gotten vaccinated. Everybody is encouraging you to get vaccinated. And we know this, that if you don't, it will be more and more and more and it's just going to keep on going.

You don't need to die. And you don't need to get sick to make a point.

The only thing that I have in my arsenal that will make this get better is for you to get vaccinated. That's all I've got.


BERMAN: Joining me now, Harry Enten, CNN senior data reporter.

Why is Governor Justice pleading this much, this hard right now?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR DATA REPORTER: It's pretty simple why he's pleading this much this hard. Less than 50 percent of the adult population fully vaccinated. It's only one state, folks. It's only West Virginia, with just 48 percent of the adult population fully vaccinated. Every single other state in the nation has at least 50 percent of all adults vaccinated. West Virginia, unfortunately, is last.


BERMAN: Now, the reason we are focusing on this, Harry, is this -- it was not always us.


BERMAN: West Virginia was a success story about vaccinations early on.

ENTEN: It was a success story. You can -- I can remember back -- it wasn't that long ago, on March 5th, where did they rank on adult vaccinations? They ranked fourth. They were in the top five. They were consistently held up as the success story. Unfortunately, now 50th, last, from fourth to 50th. Terrible.

BERMAN: So, what happened?

ENTEN: Politics, that's essentially what happened. Look, we know that there are variables that are correlated -- highly correlated with lower vaccine uptick. Non-college educate adults, the higher you are in that, the less your state gets vaccinated. Look at that, first in the nation, West Virginia. We know Trump's share of the vote, highly correlated. The higher that goes, lower vaccination rates. West Virginia, second highest Trump vote in the nation.

So national politics is getting in the way of public health. That's what's happening.

BERMAN: And every way you look at it, their rankings are just ugly right now.

ENTEN: Yes, so, you know, if they had more vaccinations, I would think that these numbers would not nearly be as bad. Look at this, seven-day new case average, third highest. Current hospitalizations, highest. Seven-day new death average, fifth highest. This is as of Sunday. Again, lower vaccinations, higher caseloads, higher hospitalizations, higher deaths.

BERMAN: Are they listening to him? Justice is pleading with them to get vaccinated. Are they listening?

ENTEN: Unfortunately, not. What we have generally seen is that as cases go up, states that even have low vaccination levels, they tend to go in and get more vaccinated. That has not happened in West Virginia. In the last week, they ranked 50th in new vaccinations among adults. And, look at this, since September 1st, again, 50th. So, no, they are not listening.


Now, Governor Justice is pleading for his people to get vaccinated. He's been pushing vaccines very hard. One thing he's not in favor of is vaccine mandates. What have we seen in terms of how effective they can be in certain situations?

ENTEN: Yes, you know, I think the airlines kind of prove a pretty good test of this, right? We have United, who's essentially saying, if you aren't going to get vaccinated, you're going to be terminated. Look at this, 97 percent of United employees are fully vaccinated. Now look at what happens with Delta, right? What they're essentially saying is, you're going to pay a $200 monthly fee if you're not vaccinated. It's not really a full mandate. Just 82 percent of them are, quote/unquote, vaccinated. So when you compare these two, what we're seeing is that when you put in a full and actual mandate, it really, really, really works.

So perhaps this might be something the governor might want to think more about. BERMAN: You know, it was interesting, we had a guy from Delta in last week and they were touting their plans. They have 13,000, as of last week, 13,000 people unvaccinated and the question is, you know, why not do the United plan if it's that much more effective?

ENTEN: You know what, you're going to have to ask them. I can just say that the numbers clearly show that vaccine mandates do work.

BERMAN: Harry Enten, thank you very much.

ENTEN: Thank you.

BERMAN: So the surge in cases among the unvaccinated is forcing a top Georgia hospital that's built for trauma to resort to deciding if it even has the room to take in all emergency patients.

CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta works there and he gives us an inside look.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: How unusual is what we're experiencing right now?


GUPTA (voice over): Grady Memorial Hospital. This is the hospital where I work. Where I've been a neurosurgeon now for more than 20 years. It's a level one trauma center. And I can tell you, there's almost nothing a hospital like this can't handle.

JANSEN: There was one Sunday evening, there were 27 gunshot victims brought to Grady in the span of a couple of hours.

GUPTA (on camera): Wow.

JANSEN: Twenty-seven. We didn't go on diversion then.

GUPTA: But, take a pandemic and a bunch of unvaccinated people.

JANSEN: Yes. Right. We can't do it now.

GUPTA (voice over): Diversion is just what it sounds like, you have to divert patients away. It's something Chief Medical Officer Dr. Robert Jansen never wants to happen. But the thing is, COVID-19 has changed everything here.

JANSEN: It's a 20-bed unit. This morning we had 14 COVID patients just on this unit alone.

GUPTA: Up in the intensive care unit, it's almost eerily quiet. There's no indication of the tremendous suffering that's happening behind closed doors. The yellow bags are full of PPE, and everyone knows those are the rooms with COVID patients.

GUPTA: (on camera): How much of what you're seeing is truly due to the unvaccinated?

JANSEN: Ninety-five percent of our patients are unvaccinated.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's more challenging than the first COVID wave we had because it seems like they're going more quick. It's a -- this variant is quick.

JANSEN: This is the board we use in the GCC to help coordinate ambulances.

GUPTA (voice over): We're now in the Georgia Coordinating Center. This is where they work moment to moment, trying to decide where ambulances can actually take patients.

JANSEN: So if it's red, that means they're full, basically.


And so there are occasions when they're made to wait without taking the patient inside. It's called on the wall, where they're actually kept outside of the emergency room with the patient in the back of the ambulance waiting to be able to go inside. And we don't allow that here.

GUPTA (on camera): Even if you're vaccinated, you've done all the right things, because of this pandemic now and the unvaccinated, it affects you.

JANSEN: Well, it is. We talk delaying surgery because we don't have a place to put you after the operation. That is a consequence of this pandemic and related directly to the lack of vaccination.

GUPTA (voice over): And it's when hospitals are on diversion that the toughest decisions of all need to be made. Who gets treated. Who doesn't.

GUPTA (on camera): What's the practical impact on me? As if I -- as I was driving here I got in a car accident?

JANSEN: You know, we do still take care of anybody who comes. So what we've had to do is cancel patients who would require hospitalization following surgery and even now we've canceled other patients who wouldn't require hospitalizations. The downstream effect that has on patients is devastating at times.

Every morning I come in and go through every COVID patient, determine who's on ventilators. I have to report the deaths.

GUPTA: Even as we're talking, we learned that someone passed away around the corner.

JENSEN: Yes. Yes, unfortunately, it's a -- it's a daily event.

GUPTA: How frustrating is all this for you?

JENSEN: Well, personally it's frustrating. But what I worry about is our staff.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just the natural humanistic part of you that says, how many more can you take? But when it's in your heart to care, you keep coming. You keep coming.

GUPTA (voice over): Keep coming, because that's exactly what the virus will do.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN, Atlanta.


BERMAN: Consequences, right? I mean this is the consequences of a lot of people's decisions right now. It has an impact across the board.

KEILAR: It is so upsetting to know that all of that could have been averted, and they're just talking about it like someone else died. It's just happening every day. It's happening multiple times a day. And not only is it affecting the people who are passing away. We think of their families. And also just thinking of the hospital staff there. We've heard this, John, from so many doctors who are talking about what their nurses are dealing with. I can't imagine it. I can't imagine the trauma that they're going through.

So this next story has Democrats saying here we go again. Mitch McConnell not ruling out blocking a potential Biden Supreme Court pick.



KEILAR: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is reminding Democrats just how important the 2020 midterms are shaping up to be. When asked by "Politico" if he'll blocking a potential Biden Supreme Court pick if Republicans take back the Senate next year, he said that he'll, quote, cross those bridges when I get there. We are focusing on '22. I don't rule anything in or out about how to handle nominations if I'm in the majority position.

And, of course, you'll remember that McConnell blocked the nomination of Merrick Garland with nearly a year left in the Obama administration in 2016.

Joining us now to discuss, Elie Mystal. He is the justice correspondent for "The Nation Magazine."

OK, tell us, first off, how you think this is affecting Justice Breyer's calculation about what he's going to do?

ELIE MYSTAL, JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT, "THE NATION MAGAZINE": I -- I -- it's hard for me to answer that question because Stephen Breyer might be the only person on the planet to think that this is a news story, right? Because Mitch McConnell saying that he's going to block -- he's potentially going to block another nominee is not news. That's just Mitch McConnell promising to continue being Mitch McConnell, right? Nothing's changed here. We all know that this is what he's going to do.

But Stephen Breyer has been on a national gaslighting tour where he's trying to explain to America without evidence that the Supreme Court is not a partisan institution. Either -- he's completely wrong about that. If he really believes that, he is as naive as like Little Red Riding Hood bouncing around the woods. But even she had sense to run away from the wolf when the wolf bared his teeth. Mitch McConnell is baring his teeth. I have no idea if Stephen Breyer is smart enough to run away like an adult human. He -- he -- he might not -- he might not care. He just straight up might not care. It's hard to get inside the head of a man who thinks that his own -- his own self-regard is such that he has to be in this job forever and ever and ever.

KEILAR: So what -- look, he may decide he doesn't want to be. We'll see, you know. I mean there's, obviously, a political component that has gotten significantly more, I don't want to say severe -- I guess you could say severe -- to the appointment process for Supreme Court justices. What is the long-term effect of that?

MYSTAL: I -- the -- the Supreme Court nomination process is broken. The person who broke it was Mitch McConnell. He took the unprecedented step of blocking a nominee, refusing to even have a hearing, refusing to even have a meeting on a nominee by the president. And he received no punishment for that. Democrats didn't punish him. Voters didn't punish him. The court itself didn't punish him. Neil Gorsuch didn't like grow a conscience and say, no, I will not accept this appointment under these -- nobody stopped him. And so he will continue -- Mitch McConnell will continue do his court-breaking political maneuvers. And until Democrats, again, grow some kind of -- I don't want to say backbone because that gets so like -- it sounds like I'm pulling things out of the air. There are concrete things the Democrats could do to depoliticize the court.


One of them would be to expand the number of justices on the Supreme Court so that each individual confirmation battle is not a life or death decision for the part out of power, right? Nine justices. If one of them goes down, that's a huge political ideal. If there were 19 justices, if there were 29 justices, as there are on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, it wouldn't be a make or break battle every time. Democrats could expand the court. They could do it in a bipartisan commission. You get five. I get five. They could do things to depoliticize the confirmation process. They won't do that. So Mitch McConnell is just going to keep winning the street brawl as long as we let him.

KEILAR: This is going to certainly continue to be a battleground, you're for sure about that.

Elie Mystal, thanks for being with us.

MYSTAL: Thanks for having me on.

KEILAR: We're going to take you back to Capitol Hill. Lawmakers there waking up this morning and bracing for a week of hell. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On its way. It bounces off the crossbar and it's good.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my goodness.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, my goodness.


BERMAN: All right, this isn't just "The Good Stuff." It's the record- breaking stuff. Justin Tucker of the Baltimore Ravens with a 66-yard field goal, the longest in NFL history. It gave the Ravens a 19-7 victory over the Lions. And, yes, it represents a new painful way for the Lions to lose.

But the story here is Tucker.


That may be one of the most amazing things you will ever see in sports, bouncing off the crossbar to go in. Just stunning.