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The Situation Room

Senate January 6 Report Details Sweeping Security Failures But Omits The Word 'Insurrection' And Trump's Role In It; White House Negotiations With GOP Senators On Biden Jobs And Spending Plan Collapse; Obama Sounds Alarm About State Of Democracy, Trump And GOP; CDC: 42 Percent Of Americans Fully Vaccinated, 13 States Have Met Biden's Goal To Partially Vaccinate 70 Percent Of Adults By July 4; VP Harris Makes Remarks In Mexico City. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired June 08, 2021 - 18:00   ET


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right, Jomana Karadsheh, thank you so much. I appreciate it.

Our coverage on CNN continues right now. Thanks for watching.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, new revelations about the sweeping security failures that allowed the U.S. Capitol insurrection to happen. I'll ask the homeland security secretary about the January 6th report and its glaring omission of former president Trump's role.

President Biden's negotiations with a key Republican just collapsed without reaching a deal on infrastructure. Is he running out of options to get a top priority passed?

And we're also standing by for a news conference by Vice President Harris in Mexico, facing her first diplomatic tests abroad.

And former President Obama warns the Republican Party's view of democracy is, quote, unrecognizable and unacceptable, as he talks to CNN about Trump, the 2020 election and race in America.

We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You're in The Situation Room.

We begin our coverage with our Congressional Correspondent Ryan Nobles and that new U.S. Senate report on the Capitol insurrection. Ryan, this is the most detailed account yet of what happened on January 6th right here in the nation's Capitol but it's also notable for what was left out.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: There's no doubt about that, Wolf. We learned a lot from this report about what went wrong on January 6th, but it is what is missing that is leading Democrats here on Capitol Hill to once again renew their calls for an independent bipartisan commission to look into the January 6th insurrection.


NOBLES (voice over): It is to date the most comprehensive examination of what went wrong on January 6th. A bipartisan report released by the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee that examined security failures and a lack of preparation that failed to anticipate and stop the violence.

The report concludes that Capitol Police were aware of the potential for violence on January 6th, that intelligence agencies failed to interpret that threat from a wide range of online chatter and there was a lack of communication between agencies about the extent of the threat.

SEN. GARY PETERS (D-MI): There really was a wakeup call for the intelligence community and silos that existed that they weren't talking together, like they should.

NOBLES: It also reveals a significant lack of training for Capitol Police to deal with a threat like January 6th. And as it became clear rioters would breach the Capitol complex, it took too long for other law enforcement agencies to gear up and respond.

PETERS: This was a moment for us, a singular event. And, you know, I say it's similar to what we saw on 9/11, where we had this attack on our soil.

NOBLES: But while the report reveals a lot about what went wrong on that day, it does little to examine what led to the riots in particular the role former President Donald Trump played in fuelling the violence.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): With the exception of a brief referral to President Trump's remarks at the Ellipse, Senate Republicans insisted that the report exclude anything having to do with the cause of the insurrection.

NOBLES: Sources tell CNN, in order for the report to reach a bipartisan consensus, the language in the report had to be carefully crafted, that meant not specifically referring to the attack as an insurrection. Today, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell refusing to call January 6th an insurrection.

Would you define the events of January 6th as an insurrection?

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Look, I said a lot about that already. I said it on January 6th. I said it again February 13th. I covered that comprehensibly and I really don't think there's anything I can add.

NOBLES: Leaving Democrats to once again push for an independent bipartisan commission that Republicans voted down a week ago.

SCHUMER: If anything, the joint report by the Homeland Security and Rules Committees has strengthened the argument for an independent commission on the January 6th.


NOBLES (on camera): But Republicans are not budging. And McConnell said today that he does not believe an independent commission is necessary. He believes that reports like these are shedding light on what happened on January 6th. That coupled with the Department of Justice investigating and arresting those who stormed the Capitol on that day are sufficient. Wolf, though, as you can see, Democrats say that is just not enough.

BLITZER: Yes, certainly true. All right, Ryan Nobles reporting for us, thank you.

Let's bring in the secretary of Homeland Security, Alejandro Mayorkas. Mr. Secretary, thank you so much for joining us, especially on a very busy day like today.

Are the findings of this U.S. Senate report comprehensive enough to ensure nothing as horrific as that January 6th attack on the Capitol will ever happen again?

ALEJANDRO MAYORKAS, HOMELAND SECURITY SECRETARY: Wolf, it's a pleasure to be on the show.


I need to say at the outset that January 6th was one of the saddest days for our country. One of the primary pillars of our democracy, a pillar of democracy that led my family to flee communism and come to the United States was horrifically attacked.

I think we can always learn more. There's more studying to be done. And we in the Department of Homeland Security are already very focused on the lessons learned and how we can use our office of intelligence and analysis to collect information in most productively and effectively share it with our critical state, local, tribal, territorial partners.

BLITZER: As if, if we don't learn from those mistakes that were made leading up to January 6th, God forbid, we're bound to repeat those mistakes.

The report that the Senate just released did not look into the specific role the former president of the United States, Trump, played in encouraging violence, nor did it call the attack an insurrection. Mr. Secretary, is that a mistake?

MAYORKAS: Wolf, I think that there's more study to be done. I know there are investigations underway and so I want to be careful in what I say. But I think that what contributed to that terrible day is something that needs to be understood and revealed and communicated to the American people.

BLITZER: What, do you want to talk about the role that Trump played?

MAYORKAS: I do not.

BLITZER: But you believe it was an insurrection. You're willing to say that, right?

MAYORKAS: I sure am. And I will say this, Wolf. Words matter and words from our leaders matter a lot.

BLITZER: How concerned are you that the words that Trump -- the words his uttering right now potentially could lead to another insurrection- style attack?

MAYORKAS: We are always worried about the connectivity between ideologies of hate and acts of violence. We are carefully reviewing words that are articulated not only in the public discourse but elsewhere.

And so we are concerned. It is our job to be concerned, to be vigilant and to be a partner with our state and local officials to make sure everyone is aware of what is being said, the activity that we are seeing and to keep our communities safe.

BLITZER: You have a wide portfolio. I want to get to some other very important issues while I have this opportunity, Mr. Secretary. We just saw one of the most serious cyberattacks on the nation's infrastructure with that Colonial Pipeline hack. When you were here in The Situation Room back in February, you told us, and I'm quoting now, in the cyber arena specifically, there's a saying that we're only as strong as our weakest link. Is our weakest link any stronger today than it was four months ago?

MAYORKAS: I think, Wolf, that we are getting stronger every single day. We continue to have weak links and we need to be committed as a nation. And Colonial Pipeline, the ransomware attack that hit that company, should be a wakeup call to everyone. No one is too small to be under the radar screen of our adversaries, whether the state adversary or individuals who are acting with a criminal intent.

And so we have to be committed to being stronger tomorrow than we are today. I do think we are stronger today than we were four months ago.

BLITZER: The Biden administration is urging private companies to take cyber threats more seriously, to modernize their defenses. But to a certain degree, Mr. Secretary, is that passing the buck?

MAYORKAS: Oh, we are all in this together. We cannot do it alone as a federal government. And the private sector is very well equipped to share information with us so that we together can raise the cyber hygiene of the entire ecosystem. That's what it's all about.

BLITZER: Well, what else should the federal government be doing to prevent these kinds of attacks? We know so many of them are originating in Russia.

MAYORKAS: So we have, of course, the critical role of driving prevention. That is the key in the first instance. Let's all be stronger from a cyber security perspective so that actually those who wish to do us harm cannot succeed in doing so.


Then, of course, we have our resilience should, in fact we be attacked, how resilient are we, how quickly can we get our systems back up and running. And then we have to have the consequence regime, which we do indeed have. And across all of these lines of action, the president has been an extraordinary leader in prioritizing each and every one of them.

BLITZER: I want to move on to some other important issues. But I assume, and you can correct me if I'm wrong, this will be a high priority issue when the president meets with Putin in Geneva next Wednesday.

MAYORKAS: It most certainly will. And he has expressly articulated that, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, we're waiting right now, Mr. Secretary, to hear from the vice president, Kamala Harris, who issued a very strong warning to migrants while in Guatemala on her first international trip. Let me play the clip. Listen to that warning.


KAMALA HARRIS, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to be clear to folks in this region who are thinking about making that dangerous trek to the United States-Mexico border, do not come, do not come.


BLITZER: That do not come, is that message, do not come to the United States, the message you'll bring to Mexico, you're going there next week as well, does that extend to people seeking asylum, trying to escape persecution, like your family did, like my family did many years ago? We're both children of immigrants.

MAYORKAS: The message is do not come, do not come irregularly. It is perilous and too often the journey results in tragic consequences. What we are saying is do not come. We are building back our lawful processes so people do not need to take the perilous journey and can avail themselves of the humanitarian laws that define our proudest traditions without that terrible risk, without the tragic consequences.

BLITZER: But are you comfortable when you heard the vice president say to these people who are struggling, who fear for their lives right now, who simply seek to come to the United States to get asylum, and like our families, create a new life, a new opportunity in this country? Are you comfortable hearing her say to these folks, these moms and dads, children, do not come?

MAYORKAS: Wolf, we have a number of different efforts underway. The vice president traveled south of our border in furtherance of her critical mission to address the root causes of irregular migration, what leads people to leave in the first place their homes and take that perilous journey.

We are also building safe and secure, lawful pathways so people do not need to take that journey and can avail themselves of the humanitarian laws that our families benefitted so profoundly from. And we are improving things here in terms of our ability to receive individuals who do avail themselves of those safe and secure pathways. It's a multilayered approach.

And so the message of do not come is do not come because we are doing so much to bring relief to you in a safe, orderly and humane way, as the president has outlined.

BLITZER: Yes, so many of these people as you and I well know. They are simply seeking asylum. They want to escape what they're living through right now and come to our country. I know it's a difficult issue for you, and for the vice president, everyone. But it's obviously going to continue. Mr. Secretary, I know you got a tough job. Thank you so much for joining us.

MAYORKAS: Thank you for having me.

BLITZER: Just ahead, we expect the vice president, Kamala Harris, to take questions in Mexico City very soon. We'll have live coverage. Stand by for that.

And can President Biden find a path forward for his infrastructure plan after failing to strike a deal with a top Republican negotiator?

We're going to discuss the top take a ways from former President Obama's candid CNN interview as well, and his warnings about the pro- Trump fervor in the Republican Party.



BLITZER: We're standing by for Vice President Kamala Harris to speak and take questions in Mexico City. We're going to bring you that as soon as it begins.

We're also following breaking news here in the United States. Weeks of negotiations between the White House and a group of Senate Republicans have collapsed, collapsed, ending hopes now for a bipartisan deal on President Biden's top legislative priority.

Let's go to our Senior White House Correspondent Phil Mattingly. Phil, walk us through precisely what happened and what options are still out there.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, it's been something that I think people on both sides of these talks thought was coming over the course of the last several weeks, counterproposals traded back and forth, never really bridging gaps between how much needed to be spent and things on the view of both sides and how it would be paid for.

The president directly delivering the message to Senator Shelly Moore Capito, the top GOP negotiator in that group of six Republican by phone this afternoon, just a short five-minute call making clear he was moving on from those talks, making clear that, well, he enjoyed, and I think by according to White House officials, respected the conversations and negotiations he'd had with Senator Capito, he did not see a path forward and therefore he was going to be looking elsewhere.

And that elsewhere, Wolf, is a group of 20 bipartisan senators have been working behind the scenes, kind of a backup plan to those ongoing talks between Senator Capito and President Biden. They are now moving to center stage. In fact, the President calling three members of that group this afternoon. Senator Bill Cassidy, a Republican from Louisiana, Senators Joe Manchin from West Virginia and Senator Kyrsten Sinema from Arizona, making clear they are now the ball game.


The president, while he leaves tomorrow for a European trip, he is having his top cabinet secretaries as well as his top advisers meet personally with that group of senators over the course of the coming days just to see if something can be moved forward.

The reality right now for the president, who has made so clear, Wolf, that he wants a bipartisan agreement, at least on a scale back infrastructure package is one simply has not been in the making up to this point, continuing to be willing to look toward pathways, to find some agreement. But at this point in time, the pathway with Republicans, Wolf, is now closed.

BLITZER: So is the next step, for all practical purposes, Democrats trying to go it alone?

MATTINGLY: You know, not yet, Wolf. And I think White House officials have been clear. The president is willing to pursue something with this bipartisan group of senators. But another very important thing that occurred today, the president made phone calls to both Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and in that phone call with Senator Schumer, he made clear, it is time for Democrats to start laying the groundwork to move a budget resolution.

Now, why does that matter, move it in July. Why does that matter? Wolf, as you know quite well, a budget resolution unlocks the ability to move through reconciliation, in other words, Democrats being able to move the president's sweeping package, not just infrastructure, $4 trillion economic package through a simple majority vote.

Now, they are not committing to going that route, even though progressives and many Democrats in the party have asked the president to go that route, making clear they think the window is closing. Instead, the White House uses really a dual track process, pursue bipartisan negotiation, see if something can come to be, but if it cannot, have reconciliation waiting in the back pocket and hit the green light if talks fall apart.

Wolf, one thing to keep in very close mind, Senator Joe Manchin and Senator Kyrsten Sinema have been very clear, they want bipartisan agreement. They want bipartisan talks. Those talks will continue as long as there in that place, but the president signaling he's willing to move on if he has to, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Phil. I want you to stand by. I want to bring our Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash, our Senior Political Commentator David Axelrod as well.

So what do you think, Dana? This is -- the talks for now have collapsed but what's next?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, what's next is actually happening as we speak, Wolf. That group that Phil was talking about, 20 senators, Republicans and Democrats, ten and ten, they're meeting in the United States Capitol right now. And so those conversations are continuing and the president knows very well that that is happening.

And one of the questions is whether or not they can emulate what we saw at the end of 2020 with the COVID bill. And what they did was, frankly, over the objections of Mitch McConnell, those Republicans in that meeting, they made an agreement, a very big bipartisan deal to pass a COVID bill.

Now, there are lots of similarities but there also lots of differences, namely, Trump was in the White House, not Joe Biden, but it is a model that some of the members of that group, that I've been talking to, they are saying that that is what they're trying to base it on. Because the idea is you have 20 members, 20 percent of the Senate potentially agreeing on something, that it will be hard not to bring the wings in or at least enough of them to pass.

BLITZER: You know, David, this bipartisan breakdown over infrastructure right now is potentially significant for the entire Biden agenda going forward. If there's no deal on infrastructure, what does that suggest to you?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I think, one of the most important things that Phil said was at the end there. The two people who are participating in this group of 20, Sinema and Manchin particularly, are really, really important. Because, you know, you hear a lot of talk from Democrats saying it's time to go it alone, it's time to go through reconciliation.

Well, that's all well and good, but you have to have 50 votes to do it and you have to have every single Democrat in the caucus, in the Senate on board. And it's obvious that Manchin and Sinema are very committed to this bipartisan course.

I think that they have to really exhaust this in order to make the case to them that if we're going to do anything, we're going to have to do it through reconciliation. So, yes, but if it all were to fail, Wolf, these are the -- there are three planks to the president's economic plan, the rescue plan, the jobs plan and the family plan. If the second two planks don't make it, that would be a big disappointment for the president.

BLITZER: It certainly would be. And, Phil, as you know, the president campaigned as a negotiator, whose long record with 36 years in the U.S. Senate meant he could work with Republicans. But so far that's not coming through.

MATTINGLY: Yes. And, look, I think the president, to some degree, has been frustrated by it. I think when you talk to White House officials, they make clear that as these negotiations with Senator Capito and her negotiating team move forward, the president dropped his top line by more than a trillion dollars. He was willing to kind of address one of the Republican red lines, which was not to change the 2017 tax law. He took the increase in the corporate tax rate off the table.

Now, Republican have countered they don't believe the president came anywhere near what they thought was possible.


But I think there's some sense inside the White House right now that there might not be ten votes for anything when it comes to this Senate Republican conference. And if that's the case, that's in large part why they are setting up this parallel process where they can move Democrats only.

But, David, kind to hit the key point here, right? You can't go if you don't have 50 or you don't have a sense that you're going to get 50. And you can't get 50 without Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. They're now center stage, they're in this group, Wolf. And so they will be able to witness whether or not these talks are possible in terms of reaching a deal, whether or not they're going to fall apart.

I think the view from the White House perspective is they'll be able to see it, they'll know. If this collapses, there are no other options but to go through reconciliation. At least that's the hope, that's the play right now. It obviously is largely contingent on those two Democratic senators.

BLITZER: You know, Dana, I want to shift gears to talk about the vice president, Kamala Harris momentarily. We expect her to make a statement. She's going to do a news conference in Mexico City. This is her first trip outside of the United States. It's a major moment right now.

And the pressure is enormous on what's going on along the border. This is something that is a tough mission for her, especially given the enormous problems that the U.S. is facing along the border.

BASH: It is. And, you know, I talked to her last month, I believe it was, about the fact that she want to go to do this, because the mission, as she defines it, and now as the White House defines it under President Biden, is to deal specifically with the northern triangle countries, specifically with, as she says over and over again, the root causes of migration and specifically undocumented immigrants coming to America.

What she has been claimed with, in some ways, by, you know, conservative media, in other ways some legitimate questions is, well, is it -- are you limited to that or are you going to also look at and talk about the actual border, the U.S./Mexican border.

And she hasn't liked those questions that she's gotten on this trip. She first with Lester Holt in an interview on NBC said that she -- well, you know I'm not going to the U.S. border just like I haven't gone to Europe. And she got a little -- she got clearly agitated when somebody asked her that question.

You know, in some ways, it's understandable because that's not the mission she's on specifically now while she's there. But in other ways, it will be interesting to see how she handles it now, because she will be asked.

BLITZER: Yes. She certainly will be. And, David, as you know, she's getting criticized for the right for not showing up and viewing what's going on along the border, per se, she's in Guatemala and Mexico City. But she's also getting criticism from the left when she says, do not come. She's telling these folks do not come to the United States. They want to escape an awful situation and seek asylum here in the United States and she's telling these folks do not come.

AXELROD: Yes. And I think the president's language was a little bit different earlier. He said do not come now. And that is -- there's a substantive difference between the two. You know, America, I mean, I'm the son of a refugee, America has always been a place where people came who were fleeing the kinds of conditions that people see there. And I heard someone in an interview earlier, someone in Guatemala say, it's the dream land. It's where we want to go to build a life. You don't want to deny them that.

But the reality is that she's quite right. The trip is dangerous right now. We can't -- we're not in a position to process them in the way that we should be able to in the future. So, you know, but I think that, what she is learning is language on these trips are listened to very, very carefully.

I was bewildered by her answer to Lester Holt in why she hadn't visited the border only because she's been preparing for this trip for weeks and weeks and weeks and anyone who was briefing her would have said this question is certainly going to come up, and so how are we going to answer it.

And she looked like she was -- well she -- that she was irritated. She also look like she was kind of winging it on that answer. And as someone who's been involved on the other side of this process, that struck me as very, very odd.

BLITZER: Yes. And she said she explained why she's not visiting the U.S./Mexico border and she said, and, Phil, I just want to get your reaction to what you're hearing over there at the White House. She said, she hasn't been to Europe either.

MATTINGLY: Yes. I don't think that -- I think if White House officials are being candid, they would acknowledge that probably wasn't the smoothest answer that she could have provided.

But I think that White House officials acknowledge that this is an important foreign trip and they understand that there's been some frustration in the vice president's team about confusion about what her mandate was, right, her mandate, root causes. Her mandate is diplomacy as it becomes -- as it comes to northern triangle countries and obviously in the case today with Mexico as well. But I think to David's point, they would be appreciated if there was a smoother response to things, but they also want to see the outcomes are.


And they're hopeful the outcomes will be positive to stop on something, and it's been a big issue for this administration.

BLITZER: We'll see how she tries to clean up some of those comments at this news conference momentarily, we're told, she's going to making a statement and answering reporters' questions. We'll have live coverage and I want all of you to stand by.

In the meantime, let's move on to the former president of the United States, Barack Obama. He's ratcheting up his warnings about the state of American democracy and how it's being threatened by the Republican Party embraced of Donald Trump, various conspiracies and lies.

Take a listen to some of the 44th president's interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Are we still just teetering on the brink, or are we in crisis?

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Well, I think we have to worry when one of our major political parties is willing to embrace a way of thinking about our democracy that would be unrecognizable and unacceptable even five years ago or a decade ago.

When you look at some of the laws that are being passed at the state legislative level, where legislators are basically saying, we're going to take away the certification of election processes from civil servants, you know, secretaries of state, people who are just counting ballots, and we're going to put it in the hands of partisan legislatures who may or may not decide that a state's electoral votes should go to one person or another. And when that's all done, I guess the backdrop of large numbers of Republicans having been convinced, wrongly, that there was something fishy about the last election, we've got a problem.


BLITZER: Let's talk about this important Obama interview with CNN's Don Lemon, the Anchor of Don Lemon Tonight, also the Author of the book, This is the Fire, What I Say to My Friends About Racism. There is the cover.

So what do you think, Don? You heard Obama say the Republican Party's embrace of election conspiracies would have been, quote, in his words, unrecognizable and unacceptable even five years ago. But is that really true? Was the election of Donald Trump really the beginning, or was the alarm sounding well before that? DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. First, I want to say I had to commend my colleague, Anderson, for that interview. I thought it was the best interview I've seen with the former president. Wolf, I mean, the honest answer to your question is I think it was happening long before that.

You know, listen I agree and quite respectfully I have to disagree with some of what the former president said. And he was speaking, he said five years ago, and maybe even a decade. But you remember, I'm sure, covering the Barack Obama running, then Senator Barack Obama running for president.

He was a Muslim, right? He wasn't born in this country and so on and so forth. In large part, the tea party was started because of Barack Obama. This -- you know John McCain having to tell people, you know, that he was not a Muslim and all of these things with effigies of President Obama or then-Senator Barack Obama who became president.

So I think that the makings of this were, it was all happening with the Republican Party. This is a progression. It has not been -- I think it's been a slow progression in some ways, but Donald Trump certainly accelerated it. So I think it was happening even while the former president was still a senator and running for president. And this is just a natural progression.

If you believe a conspiracy theory that Donald Trump helped to spread about birtherism, then the natural progression is, especially if you elect him as president, is that you're going to believe other conspiracy theories, that if he tells you the election was stolen when there's no evidence that it was stolen, you're going to believe that as well, natural progression.

BLITZER: Yes, I agree with you. I thought the Anderson interview with the former president was excellent, very, very strong.

Obama talked to Anderson about his frustration that he wasn't able to shift the conversation about race in America while he was president. Watch this.


COOPER: Looking back, as president, did you tell the story of race in America enough, do you think?

OBAMA: Yes. Well, look, I tried. I think I told a lot of stories. You take a look at the speeches I gave in Selma and the speech I gave during the campaign about Reverend Wright and that whole episode. And each and every time I tried to describe why it is that we are still not fully reconciled with our history.

But the fact is that it is a hard thing to hear.


It's hard for the majority in this country of white Americans to recognize that, look, you can be proud of this country and its traditions and its history our forefathers and yet it is also true that this terrible stuff happened and that the vestiges of that linger and continue.


BLITZER: So, Don, given everything that has happened, do you think he should, the former president, should he be playing a more proactive role right now, now that he's the ex-president?

LEMON: Short answer, yes. He should be. I mean, if you look at what's happening now in our country on the political stage and beyond, there is not a lot of, quite frankly, logic and reasoning as to -- especially coming from one party. And someone -- I think the current president and the current administration needs as much help as they can get to fight back against misinformation, against lies.

And as far as he talks about the history of this country and some people not being able to reconcile our history, I think we need to learn the truth about our history. It needs to be taught in schools. We need to learn about things like the Tulsa massacre that we just had the anniversary of.

We need to learn about those things, about slavery, about what happened after slavery that was maybe even harder on some people in the African-American community or black folks then, because they were used as labor. People who were prisoners or prisoner exchanges and so on where they had to work and were not paid for, but were supposed to be free people.

I mean, there's a lot to the history of this country that we need to learn about, that we just aren't taught and people are fighting back in this country because they don't want it taught, because they don't want to reconcile with the history of this country. So I think the former president is right on all counts. We need to reconcile the history, learn the history and begin to try to correct that by having relationships with each other.

But, you know, yes, he should be more involved. The short answer, I gave along, I went along way around. But the short answer is yes. And I think people, especially Democrats, would like to hear more from, and black folks, would like to hear more from the former president.

BLITZER: I think a lot of people would like to hear a lot more from the former president. We'll see if that happens.

Don, thank you very, very much. And to our viewers, be sure to watch Don Lemon Tonight 10:00 P.M. eastern only here on CNN.

Coming up, we expect Vice President Harris to take questions in Mexico City at any moment now. There you see live pictures coming in. We'll have live coverage when we come back.


BLITZER: Once again, we're standing by for remarks from the vice president, Kamala Harris, in Mexico City. We see live pictures coming in. We expect her to speak, take questions in just a few minutes. We will have coverage, of course.

Also tonight, the CDC now says just over 42 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated over -- against COVID-19. 13 states have now met President Biden goal of getting at least one dose into 70 percent of adults. And there's a growing backlash to companies requiring their employees to get vaccinated.

Brian Todd is working this story for us. So, Brian, some businesses are also mandating that customers be vaccinated. Update our viewers.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Many businesses are mandating that, Wolf, and there seems to be pushback to vaccine mandates all over the place, including a hospital in Houston that was hit particularly hard by the pandemic at its peak.


TODD (voice over): Tonight, nurses and other staffers of Houston Methodist Hospital protesting their own workplace and its new mandate that every employee has to have the COVID-19 vaccination or face getting suspended and then fired.

JENNIFER BRIDGES, REGISTERED NURSE SUING HOUSTON METHODIST HOSPITAL: Everybody across the nation is going to be forced to get things into their body that they don't want and that's not right.

TODD: Nurse Jennifer Bridges is one of more than a hundred employees suing the Houston Methodist Hospital system over the new policy. Plaintiffs call the vaccines unapproved, experimental and say they're being treated like guinea pigs.

The hospital CEO says it's unfortunate that those employees refuse to get vaccinated and put our patients first. This comes as the governor of Texas has sign the bill banning businesses from requirement customers approved they've been vaccinated.

GOV. GREG ABBOT (R-TX): Texas is open 100 percent. And we want to make sure that you have the freedom to go where you want without limits.

TODD: A number of states now forbid vaccination requirements. But over 400 colleges and universities are requiring them. And the debate is spreading to sport arenas, Broadway shows, cruises and airlines. This restaurant in Salt Lake City got nasty calls when it went vaccinated patrons only.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wake up -- I hope you're business sinks.

TODD: One expert says businesses will likely have stronger cases requiring employees to get vaccinated than they will making customers prove they've had the shot.

PROF. ARTHUR CAPLAN, MEDICAL ETHICS DIRECTOR, NYU LANGONE MEDICAL CENTER: In a certain sense you may lose business if people start to say I don't want to prove that I'm vaccinated. I don't want to get into all that or I just don't want to do it. I'm not going to patronize you. (END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD (on camera): One doctor at Houston Methodist tells CNN that doctors and hospital administrators are perplexed over the lawsuit but that the protesting employees have not caused a disruption in patient care. Still, this issue is likely to only get more controversial.

Jennifer Bridges, the nurse leading this protest at Houston Methodist, says if they lose their jobs over this, they'll go to the Supreme Court with a wrongful termination lawsuit -- Wolf.


BLITZER: All right, Brian. Thank you. Brian Todd reporting.

Let's discuss with Dr. Marc Boom. He's president and CEO of the Houston Methodist Hospital.

Dr. Boom, thank you so much for joining us.

Your message to employees is that if you're not vaccinated, you won't have a job in hospital, is that right?

DR. MARC BOOM, PRESIDENT & CEO, HOUSTON METHODIST: Yeah, at the end of the day, we have a sacred obligation as health care employees and physicians and nurses and others to keep our patients safe. So, we mandated the vaccine. I'm very proud of over 25,500 of our employees who have been vaccinated to date. And yesterday was the deadline.

And as you heard there, a little less than 200 individuals right now are suspended and we hope they get their vaccine over the next 2 weeks but if they don't, they will be finding work elsewhere.

But at the end of the day, we are 9 -- over 99 percent vaccinated now, the safest hospital system really anywhere when it comes to COVID.

BLITZER: A lot of hospitals across the country are allowing some of their employees to continue working without a vaccination, but how dangerous is that if you have unvaccinated workers, nurses and others dealing with patients, many of them a very sick, very critically ill. How dangerous is that?

BOOM: Well as you point out, Wolf, hospital patients are by definition vulnerable, right? We take care of patients with cancer. We take care of patients with immunological diseases. We take care of the elderly and people who are ill from a number of reasons that would make them for more vulnerable and the people who have been dying of COVID around our country and around the world.

And so, we want to do everything we possibly can to do to keep those patients safe. And that's what the vaccine is all about. I liken it to going to -- have in your car and having a seatbelt in place. That's going to a hospital that's put PPE in place, personal protection equipment et cetera.

Coming to a hospital that's also got vaccine, that's like going into a car with an airbag. It's more protection for you as a patient and ultimately prevents those tragic situations.

We've seen nursing homes for example recently where many people died because of unvaccinated health care workers coming in and unintentionally bringing the virus into a vulnerable population. We just can't let that happen.

BLITZER: But do you say to some of your employees who are protesting your decision to say the vaccine is an approved, it's experimental, other hospitals are dealing with employees who share those concerns as well. How big of a problem is that for the entire health care industry in the U.S.?

BOOM: Well, we have a particular obligation as health care providers and really physicians, nurses, technologies and others. Every one of our professional tenets require us to put patients first, requires to keep our patients safe by anything we possibly can do.

So those individuals who are choosing not to get vaccinated and are basically saying they're going against the tenets of our profession and they're not putting patients first. That is ultimately not consistent with who we are as an institution and why we do this to keep our patients safe.

BLITZER: I know you've had conversations, let's say you are dealing with a health care professional, a nurse let's say, don't they understand how critically important to these vaccines are?

BOOM: Well, as I said, the vast majority do and I'm still appreciative to 25,500 plus employees who have done the right thing. We're talking about a very small, very vocal group whose messaging frankly has been co-opted by an organized anti vaccination movement that is really trying to unwind of the benefits of vaccine more broadly than just with COVID.

At the end of the day, these are remarkably safe vaccines, they are remarkably effective and they save lives and we should be doing everything we can do to save lives and to prevent illness for our patients and to get out of this pandemic.

BLITZER: Where does your governor fit into all of this? We know what his position has been, not requiring vaccines necessarily for people -- for customers who want to go certain places.

BOOM: Well, I think, you know, everybody recognizes that health care is a special circumstance. I think we can get into lots of debates over other types of businesses and frankly, I don't run those and I don't have the expertise there.

But in health care, particularly in hospitals where we care for sick, vulnerable patients, I found very few people who disagree with this. We see a vocal minority but would I get our countless thank-yous from politicians, from patients, from community members who say thank you for putting our patients first and frankly ask, why aren't other hospitals doing this more quickly as well to protect us as well to protect us as patients? BLITZER: So you say, what, about 200 of your employees, health care

workers are refusing to get vaccinated and you are telling them, they no longer have jobs, is that right?

BOOM: Yeah, they went on suspension, unpaid, unpaid leave as of last night and we're hoping that some of them will get vaccinated. They have time to get J&J if they want to get a single vaccine.


There's actually about 45 or so of those individuals who have already gotten one dose, so they just need to close the deal, so to speak with getting a second dose over the next couple of weeks.

So I'm hopeful will bring that number down, even substantially more. And at the end of the day, as I said, we know that we can look ourselves in the mirror and say we have done everything we possibly can to keep patients safe. And that's what we are all about.

BLITZER: Dr. Marc Boom of the Houston Methodist Hospital, good luck to you, I know you've got a lot going on. These are life and death issues that I know you and your colleagues are facing, not only in Houston but all over the country. Thanks so much for joining us.

BOOM: Thank you, Wolf. Appreciate it.

BLITZER: Once again, we're standing by to hear from the Vice President Kamala Harris. She's going to be speaking in Mexico City momentarily in Mexico City, making a statement about her visit, the Guatemala and now Mexico, on what's happening along the U.S. Mexico border. We'll have live coverage of that. That's coming up we're told man monetarily.

Meanwhile, President Biden is getting ready to leave the United States for his first international trip since taking office. He's vowing to renew America's commitment to its NATO allies.

Our international diplomatic editor Nic Robertson is joining us right now, in Carbis Bay, England, where the president will attend the G7 Summit before he heads to Brussels for the NATO summit and then Geneva work for the summit with the Russian president, Putin.

So as we wait for the vice president, Nic, walk us through President Biden's visit. What do you anticipate?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Yeah, Wolf, this is a big deal. The g7, it's the first face to face meeting, face to face summit of world leaders in almost 2 years. Japan, Canada, France, the U.K., Germany, Italy and, of course, the United States. President Biden will be the big dominant player here. He has a lot of his agenda about Russia and about China.

But I think the big things we're going to get out of the G7 and President Biden gets in here about this time tomorrow night, he'll have a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Boris Johnson who wants to strengthen ties with the United States, wants to make a strong ally and friend out of President Biden. But the big things, as I, say coming out of the G7 will be an effort to rollout the vaccine for COVID-19, not just to the different nations of the member states of the G7 but globally.

And Prime Minister Johnson has already said, let's roll it out across the whole globe, guaranteed by the end of 2020. There is also going to be talk about building back better, greener, environmentally more sound, carbon neutral targets set, we've already heard that the G7 finance minister has agreed a 15 percent global corporate tax minimum and we're also --

BLITZER: Hold on for a moment, Nic, the Vice President Kamala Harris is going to make a statement in Mexico City.


I have a few thoughts about the trip and then I'm happy to answer your questions.

As I have been both in Guatemala and here in Mexico over the last two days, this trip has reinforced essential theme in the conversations that I've had both with the leaders of these two countries and the members of civil society and people who have so much invested in the present and in the future.

And one of the themes is that there is no doubt that we are entering a new era around the globe and this new era has made it quite clear that we are interconnected and interdependent. That one affects one country, affects the globe. And certainly when we look at the relationships between the United States and our neighbors in the western hemisphere, we know that to be true.

The president and I feel very strongly that what happens abroad matters to the people of the United States. We believe, not only in the importance and to our national security, to our economic security, to our well-being that it is critical that we work on and continue to reengage with our allies around the globe, but we also understand that those relationships have an impact to us domestically.

We understand that what happens abroad matters to the United States. And that is why the president will be traveling tomorrow to Europe and why as my first trip as vice president of the United States, I decided to come here to this region and to visit our neighbors in Mexico now, most recently and before that in Guatemala.

On the issue of migration, as we have discussed a bit during this trip, it is a complicated issue.


It is complex. There are many factors at play when we look at migration historically and currently.

It is also an issue that we must tackle then at every level. In the United States, we are tackling it from the perspective of not only what we must do to address the root causes of migration, which is the primary purpose for my travels over the last two days and the work that we have been doing for the last couple of months, but we also must, of course, tackle the issues that are inherent and the situation at the border, and what we must do to strengthen legal pathways for people to enter the United States.

I want to be very clear that the problem at the border in large part, if not entirely, stems from the problems in these countries. I cannot say it enough. Most people don't want to leave home. And when they do, it is usually for one of two reasons: either they are fleeing harm or to stay home means that they cannot satisfy the basic needs to sustain and take care of their families.

I work with another principle, which is that we, as a government of the United States, together with our allies and our partners, such as Mexico, such as Japan and South Korea and all of those who are internationalizing our efforts, connected through the U.N., we understand and through leadership, we understand that we have the capacity to give people a sense of hope.

That if they stay where they want to stay in the town, in the neighborhood, in the place where they grew up, where they speak their language, they know the culture. They go to that church every Sunday, the place where their grandmother lives, we know that if we give them a sense of hope, that help is on the way, that they will follow their first preference, which is to stay at home.

During the course of this trip, I have met people from all walks of life. I've met, of course, with President Giammattei. I met with President Lopez Obrador.

I also met with members of civil society. I met with youth. I met with members of labor. I met with farmers. I met with young people who are creating things that are only imaginable in fiction, but they're making it a reality.

And what I know to be clear is that if we are to address the issues that impact the southern border of the United States, and I've had a conversation with President Lopez Obrador, but also the southern border of Mexico. We have to have the ability to address the root causes of why people leave. And we have to understand, if it is a priority to us to be concerned about what is happening at our border, then it must be a priority for us to understand why people leave.

And the reality is that most people, when they leave, they don't want to leave and most want to go back. So that is the spirit with which we approach these issues.

I also believe that if you want to fix a problem, you have to go to where the problem exists. If you want to address the needs of a people, you must meet those people. We must spend time with those people. Because the only way we can actually fix the problem is to understand the problem.

And that is another reason for this trip over the last couple of days and for the work that we have been doing for the last couple of months -- to meet with people who range from CEOs in some of the largest corporations of the United States about what they can do to participate in a public-private partnership to create economic resources and possibilities for people in this region.