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Man with Loaded AK-47 Arrested Near Iranian Journalist's Home; House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Planning Trip to Taiwan Despite Warnings from Chinese Government; At Least 28 People Dead from Severe Flooding in Kentucky; President Biden Tests Positive Again for COVID-19 after Previously Testing Negative. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired August 01, 2022 - 08:00   ET




BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to viewers here in the U.S. and around the world. It's Monday, August 1st. I'm Brianna Keilar, and John Berman is off. And John Avlon is with us this morning.


KEILAR: Good morning to you.

New this morning, and first on CNN, sources say House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is expected to visit Taiwan during her Asia trip. It's unclear when exactly she will land in Taipei.

AVLON: The trip would come despite warnings from the Biden administration officials who are concerned about China's response to that high-profile visit. China claims Taiwan as part of its territory, despite never having controlled it, and has repeatedly warned against Pelosi visiting the island, vowing to take resolute and forceful measures if the visit goes forward.

White House National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby addressed the trip on CNN last hour.


JOHN KIRBY, PENTAGON PRESS SECRETARY: There's no reason for the Chinese rhetoric, there's no reason for any actions to be taken. It is not uncommon for congressional leaders to travel to Taiwan. It is very much in keeping with our policy and consistent with our support to Taiwan under the Taiwan Relations Act. We shouldn't be, as a country, we shouldn't be intimidated by that rhetoric or those potential actions. This is an important trip for the speaker to be on, and we're going to do whatever we can to support her.


AVLON: CNN's Sunlen Serfaty is on Capitol Hill, but we begin with Will Ripley in Taipei, Taiwan. Will, what can you tell us the latest about this announcement of the speaker's trip?

WILL RIPLEY, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, for one thing, this is not going to be a fueling brief stop lasting a few hours like other congressional visits have been in an attempt to dial back the tension with China. It seems as if Speaker Pelosi will spend the night in Taipei. She will have a more substantive experience, a longer experience on the ground. And she will be the highest ranking American official in 25 years, since Speaker Newt Gingrich, to visit this self- governing democracy.

Taiwan is a really awkward position because they have kept very quiet about this, knowing that there is some sort of discord between the Biden administration and Speaker Pelosi's people. Speaker Pelosi has been a supporter of Taiwan, an advocate. She did have a virtual meeting with Taiwan's vice president earlier this year, and had made plans, actually, to visit Taipei sooner before she was diagnosed with COVID. So this is now an opportunity for her to do this in what could be the final months of her position as speaker, ahead of the midterm elections. And it's also a chance for her to bring this delegation to see the situation on the ground in Taiwan at a time of heightened tensions, because that helps shape Taiwan policy back in Washington.

That's what, of course, the leadership here in Taipei wants to have happen, but they don't want to be seen as is to be perceived by Beijing as some sort of a cheerleader or champion for Speaker Pelosi's visit, something that could push China's leader, Xi Jinping, the most powerful leader since Mao, to take an action to try to show his own strength just months before his really crucial party congress.

So it's a complicated situation. I don't think any side is deliberately hoping for some kind of military conflict, but there certainly could be a miscalculation, especially if the hardware, the military hardware starts to really increase on the Chinese/U.S. side in the Taiwan Strait.

KEILAR: Is China responding yet, Will?

RIPLEY: They've been responding with increasing furor ever since this leaked information came out. Even before Pelosi's people were even talking about this or officially confirming it, before President Biden went on camera and said that the military thought this was a bad idea, you had Chinese state media commentators calling for a shocking military response. And so, frankly, there's been so much discussion within China on their own media, they're going to have to do something. They're going to have to do something to respond. And they're going to have to show strength.

What the American intelligence officials need to figure out is what is that most likely to be? Are there any measures that need to be put in place to protect Speaker Pelosi and her delegation?

KEILAR: It's pretty interesting, Sunlen. You have the speaker, she's not phoning it in. She's going to go and spend the night. We all know that's a real trip. If you spend the night somewhere, then you've really been there.

AVLON: Then I've actually visited.

KEILAR: You've actually visited. What's your reaction that you're hearing?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: We certainly will hear some fresh reaction on Capitol Hill likely later this morning, but leading up to this trip, there were some rare, very rare moments of bipartisan agreements. Many Democrats and Republicans urging her to go up here on Capitol Hill, saying, look, if the speaker wants to go, she should have the freedom to do that and she should that makes the decision, not another country.


And we also have been hearing lawmakers leading up to this trip express concern that if after all this very, very public back and forth that has played out in the press across the world, that if she backs down, that would be seen as cowering towards Beijing and that they didn't want to send that message.

Many lawmakers understanding the diplomatic sensitivities of this moment, but also acknowledging that it really does put the speaker in a kind of awkward and sensitive time with the administration, given she is at odds with the administration here whether she should go or not. And that is not lost on many lawmakers, likely not lost on Pelosi as well. Many lawmakers up here on the Hill, they have been pushing for the White House to be more assertive with their policy towards Taiwan, that they want them to firmly come out and state their policy. So this certainly shines a very bright spotlight on that and certainly a huge moment on the world's stage for the speaker.

AVLON: Bipartisan support on Capitol Hill in support of Taiwan, high- stakes trip by Nancy Pelosi. Excellent reporting, and we're going to have much more on this ahead. Thank you both.

KEILAR: So, our other big story this morning, round-the-clock rescues under way in eastern Kentucky as the death toll from devastating floods there rises. At least 28 people have died, and that includes four children from one family. The floodwaters lifting homes off of their foundations. More than 50 bridges just washed away. Rescue teams are desperately searching for victims in areas that have been hard to reach. In the meantime, the region is bracing for exactly what it does not need, and that is more rain. CNN's Evan McMorris-Santoro is live for us in hard-hit Hazard, Kentucky. It was raining when we talked to you a couple of hours ago. What's it like now?

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's been raining since we talked. It's now more of a drizzle right now, but it's been steady that whole time. And this creek next to us here on 28 in Perry County right near Hazard, as you mentioned, the water level has gone up, I would say a good foot since we've been here. Obviously, nowhere near as high as had had gone, but that's the kind of surge that they're seeing that makes it hard to do some of these rescues that you're talking about.

And I want to talk a bit about the terrain, why things are so difficult out here. A lot of people in this area live in what are called hollers. These are like small valleys that maybe a family has lived in in multiple houses scattered around this area for generations. There's often one way in, a bridge or a road. And when the floodwaters came through, these unprecedented historic floodwaters came through, they ripped out the access to some of these places, leaving people trapped. And that's what rescuers are trying to do is trying to get true there and in there to talk to people.

I spoke to one local resident in Knott County nearby, one of the hardest hit counties here in this flood, who talked about his family trapped in the holler that he is from and the work he has to do to try to help them.


ZACK HALL, KENTUCKY RESIDENT: A lot of people are still trapped up in there, going on three days now. No food, no water. I take what I can in ATVs. A lot of people are doing the same thing. And it's just a real tragedy, that there's a lot of older people. The older people here -- our population is mostly elderly. I get emotional thinking about it. But it's -- it's -- I don't know. I don't know. I won't say it. I get choked up.


MCMORRIS-SANTORO: So, think about that image. One guy on an ATV, a few bottles of water, some food, making his way through this treacherous terrain trying to deliver supplies to his loved ones. This issue with these bridges and these roads, I can illustrate it for you right where I'm standing here in Perry County. So right behind me, you see that bunch of plywood and those slats there, some toys on top, sadly. That used to be the bottom of a house. That house was ripped off the foundation and sent down the river. You can over here see where I am, this is where the house started out. And when that house got picked up by this creek and taken down the -- taken down the creek, it smashed into a bridge. And that bridge blocked all the people who were behind -- right behind over here, by my camera guy right over here. They were blocked off from, access for all the days since that house hit that bridge.

Yesterday crews came in and tore that house down, ripped it off so people can get back and forth. But there are dozens and dozens and dozens of stories like that all over this area. They have to get those places clear so they can get to those people and get them the help they need. That's how active this still is. Even though there's a long way to go, and with the long-term recovery, the short-term rescue operation is very much under way and really hampered by that terrain, Brianna.

KEILAR: I think that's really the story here. This isn't over because people are stuck.


They haven't been able to speak to their loved ones, and a lot of people are taking it on themselves just to help whoever they can. So we'll see this evolving here over today and even in the coming days. Evan, thank you so much. We appreciate it.

President Biden is back in isolation this morning after once again testing positive for a rebound case of COVID. He had actually just come out of isolation, right, last week after being treated with the antiviral drug, Paxlovid.

So let's bring in Dr. Chris T. Pernell. She is the Regent-at-Large for the American College of Preventive Medicine to tell us about this. So a totally nonscientific sampling of my friends who have taken Paxlovid, I've heard of this happening a lot. If you talk to people, they'll say, I know, I had a friend or a loved one or somebody who took Paxlovid. We hear about this happening. How often is it happening? What is happening here?

DR. CHRIS T. PERNELL, REGENT-AT-LARGE, AMERICAN COLLEGE OF PREVENTIVE MEDICINE: Right, Brianna. So originally, studies said that you could experience rebound in one percent to two percent of persons who have been on Paxlovid. But then we have additional research to say that could be as high as five percent of patients or even in the double digits, approximately 10 percent. So it's not quite correct to say that it's rare, but it still is uncommon.

I even had COVID recently in the past six weeks. We're not sure if maybe I experienced some rebound symptoms, and we just didn't catch it with serial testing. So, it's happening, it's out there. If you have any inkling that you have a resurgence of symptoms or if you're doing serial testing, go back and isolate.

AVLON: So many questions about this. First of all, is the increase in rebounds related to the new variant? Second, is this the reason for people to be cautious about taking Paxlovid? Or, and I took it when I had COVID and it helped my symptoms -- or is it something that actually will still benefit you even if there's a rebound case in terms of the severity of the rebound?

PERNELL: So John, let's emphasize for everyone in the public. If you are at risk for severe disease, and that could be because of age, that could be because of chronic health conditions, you should take Paxlovid. You should take Paxlovid in those first five days of testing positive or showing symptoms. So, I don't want anyone to walk away with, maybe I shouldn't take the Paxlovid.

But there is a phenomenon that in some subset of patients that you might experience rebound symptoms. Why that's happening? It's not quite clear. There have been case studies to say maybe that person hasn't gotten adequate exposure to the drug. Maybe you're metabolizing it more quickly. Maybe the dosage needs to be across a longer period of time. We don't have those answers. But we do know it is a very, very good tool in our toolkit.

KEILAR: New York City declaring monkeypox a public health emergency. What do we need to know here?

PERNELL: What we need to know is that preparedness, preparedness, preparedness must become the American way. And what I mean by that, Brianna is at the first sign that we have an outbreak where there's data that something is happening, we need to go into full press mode. And I think we were a little bit slow. I think we were delayed getting out of the gate. We need to be able to adequately communicate to people who is at risk. Let's not stigmatize one group. It's not just persons who are having sex with others of the same gender or sexual orientation, but actually it's any direct contact, skin-on-skin contact. It can be respiratory secretions. So let's get accurate information out there, and let's ensure that we have the processes and the systems in place to keep the most amount of people safe.

KEILAR: Dr. Pernell, always great to see you. Thank you.

PERNELL: Great to be here.

KEILAR: So a man armed with an assault rifle arrested near the New York City home of an Iranian journalist. She says she's once again being targeted by the Iranian government. What is going on here? She's going to join us live next.

Also, we'll speak to the attorney for the convicted Russian arms dealer at the center of the Brittney Griner and Paul Whelan proposed prisoner swap.

AVLON: Plus, America losing two pop culture icons. The life and legacy of Bill Russell and Nichelle Nichols.


NICHELLE NICHOLS, ACTOR: I see you're so busy at your command. And I would hear your voice from all parts of the ship, and my feelings would fade, and now they're making me choose. But I'm not afraid.




KEILAR: An Iranian journalist and activist says she is being targeted once again after law enforcement officials arrested a man near her Brooklyn home.

Officials say they found a suitcase containing a loaded AK-47 style assault rifle and an additional second magazine while searching the suspect's car last week.

Journalist, Masih Alinejad joins us now. She has been critical of the Islamic Republic and was also targeted in an alleged kidnapping plot last year, separately.

The indictment in this case is alleging the plot or in that case, alleges the plot was organized by an Iranian Intelligence official, but Iran's Ministry of Foreign Affairs denied any involvement, calling the accusation baseless and ridiculous.

Masih, it is great to see you now under the circumstances. You've been through so much. How are you feeling after this happened? MASIH ALINEJAD, IRANIAN JOURNALIST AND ACTIVIST: To be honest, last

year when I was here, it was a time when the FBI announced that they stopped the kidnapping plot and I was like, "Okay, I'm safe. Finally, I'm going to enjoy my freedom in America to give voice to voiceless people inside Iran."

But now, I've been told a few days ago that I have to move from my house, because this time, a man was in front of my house with loaded guns to kill me. And I was like, shocked because it's not about me. My stepchildren lived in the same house, and just imagine if the guy was like -- had opened fire, who knows how many of my neighbors would have been killed, my beautiful and supportive neighbors.

So for me, it was shocking. I keep watching his video and his face. I'm not scared of my life at all because I know what I'm doing. I have only one life and I dedicated my life to give voice to Iranian people inside Iran who bravely go to the street, face guns and bullets to protest against Iranian regime.

But this is happening in America, this is happening second time they try to assassinate to kill and kidnap American citizen in US soil, so I'm not scared of my life, but this is scary that it is happening in front of the eyes of the whole world, especially the US administration.


JOHN AVLON, CNN ANCHOR: What was your reaction when you first became aware of this stranger outside your home with a gun?

MALINEJAD: Look, the moment that the guy came to my house, I was on a Zoom meeting, very important meeting with Gary Kasparov and Leopoldo Lopez about how the Russian government, the dictators from Iran and Venezuela got united, how we can be united.

So I was focused on my work. I didn't realize that, but when I learned from the FBI, that he was there, I kept watching the image and I was like, "Wow, in here in front of my house in Brooklyn?" And I saw the gun, and I was like, "Oh, my God, this is the gun being used by Russian against the Ukrainian. Now it is during the war, this gun being used many times now being used in Brooklyn, in front of my house, I don't have any weapon."

My weapon is this. My weapon is my mobile. And I have like followers on my Instagram and my social media, I publish the videos of Iranian mothers who the Iranian regime killed their sons. I just give them voice. I give voice to these women.

I want to actually use your platform because you never see these women. This brave woman protested against forced hijab, in the bus. That was her face and Iranian regime brought her on TV and forced hijab last week, Sepideh Rashno, she denounced herself on TV, she denounced me, only last week.

Four women protested against forced hijab, I published their video. Their video went viral, being watched millions time, and the government took them on Iranian national television, forced them in a hijab saying that this is all about Masih, Masih being -- it is not about me. It's about Iranian brave women within this society, and all I do, I just give them a voice.

KEILAR: In the case of this perpetrator, he is a resident of New York, walked right up to a video camera near your front door, doesn't seem particularly smart to do that. Why do you see that he is linked to this former plot? How do you see this working out? What do you think police are going to find?

MALINEJAD: That's a very good question.

Look, I have only one enemy. First, they put my brother in jail to punish me. Second, they brought my sister on TV to disown me publicly. Third, they interrogated my mother for hours and hours and asked her to take me to Turkey.

If it was not my brother exposing this, I would have gone there and hugged my mom because I missed my family. And then they arrested all these women and brought them on TV to disown me publicly. What it shows to you? I don't have any enemy. I'm not a criminal. So of course, this is the Iranian regime.

When the US government do not take a strong action, of course, they feel more powerful to continue this. I see this as a pattern, a continuation of oppressing women, oppressing dissidents outside Iran.

AVLON: And it's clear that your voice is a threat to the autocracy.

MALINEJAD: My voice is more powerful than a weapon.

AVLON: And my question to you is, as you look at current events unfold, you look at the new alliance apparently between Russia and Iran. You look at the Biden administration trying to get democracies to stand up to autocracies.

What do those alliances make you think about the threat that autocracies represent?

MALINEJAD: That's very good point.

Look, all these dictators, they learn from each other. It is like they have a book and they follow all the rules. They assassinate people, Russian government, Venezuelan Government -- it's not about just me.

If the US government, the European do not get united, as much as the dictators are united, we're not going to be safe. Even you are not going to be sick.

I'm an American citizen. I was practicing my freedom of speech. I love Iran to be safe here in America. It has been one year I moved from different safe houses. I deserve to have to have a normal life.

The dictators are helping each other, but the democratic countries know. My demand, I mean, I'm being very honest. It's clearly that the Iranian regime is watching me. They are reading my words, they are following me.

I have only one message for them. Can I use your camera and talk to them?

KEILAR: Please?

AVLON: Go ahead.

MALINEJAD: Which camera? I really -- I know that they're listening to me.

KEILAR: This one.

MALINEJAD: I want to tell you. (Speaking in foreign language.) Go to hell. I'm not scared of you. I have only one life. You care about power, I care about my dignity and freedom like millions of other people inside Iran.


MALINEJAD: I'm not scared of you. You can kill me, but you cannot kill the idea -- the idea is just fighting for freedom, dignity, and here I have a message for Biden administration, shut down the Islamic Republic intersection throughout all the Iranian diplomats.

Why they are here? The Iranian regime twice challenged the US government on US soil. I deserve to have freedom in the United States of America.

Kick them out. If you don't believe me, they're going to come after more American citizens.

KEILAR: Masih, thank you so much for being with us.

AVLON: Thank you for joining us.

MALINEJAD: Thank you so much for giving me this platform. Appreciate it.

KEILAR: Several companies set to report their earnings amid inflation and a shrinking economy. What those numbers could signal?

AVLON: Plus, a deadly midair mystery. Did a copilot fall or jump from a small plane? We've got the details ahead.