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New COVID Cases Rising in Every U.S. State; Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) Seeks Seat on Special January 6th Committee to Defend Trump; Federal Judge DACA Program Illegal, Blocks New Applications; Expert Warn Japan is Dangerously Unprepared for Olympics. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired July 16, 2021 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Republican Senator Rob Portman of Ohio and Democratic Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, that's at 9:00 A.M. and noon Eastern.
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Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer. He's right next door in The Situation Room. I'll see you Monday.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, new data confirms what experts have feared for weeks, COVID cases are now on the rise in every single American state. And now deaths and hospitalizations are climbing as well.
Also, CNN has learned that New York prosecutors are working to gain the cooperation of a top executive at the Trump Organization as they build a case against the former president's company.
And the Tokyo Olympics are set to begin just one week from today under the cloud of a surging COVID pandemic. Tonight, experts say Japan is dangerously unprepared to safely host the summer games.
We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer. You are in The Situation Room.
And our coverage tonight begins with very disturbing new numbers, a dramatic, very bad rise in COVID cases here in the United States. It has now reached all 50 states.
CNN's Erica Hill is joining us from New York right now. Erica, every trend seems to be heading in the wrong direction.
ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's exactly right, Wolf. We are seeing new cases rises, as you point out, rising in all 50 states. That's something we haven't seen in months. Deaths, hospitalizations also up as vaccinations continue to slip.
One county health official from Missouri telling CNN earlier today that she actually doesn't think we have seen the worst of it. And that, it is fears like that that is promising this change we're seeing in Southern California.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HILL (voice over): Masks back off in Los Angeles County where new cases are surging.
DR. MUNTU DAVIS, HEALTH OFFICER FOR LOS ANGELES COUNTY: Anything is on the table, you know, if things continue to get worse, which is why we want to take action now.
HILL: Starting Sunday, faces must be covered indoors, even if you are fully vaccinated. Nationwide, new infections are up 67 percent in the last week, rising in every state and D.C. for the first time since January.
DR. JENNIFER AVEGNO, DIRECTOR, NEW ORLIEANS HEALTH DEPARTMENT: The danger is, as more unvaccinated people get infected, and delta is so contagious, it's really transmitting at a speed that I haven't seen since the very beginning --
HILL: Deaths up 26 percent, hospitalizations 36 percent in the last seven days. The president placing the blame on Facebook and other social media platforms for not doing more to stop the spread of misinformation.
JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: The only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated, and they're killing people.
HILL: The FDA confirming Friday it's prioritizing the review of Pfizer's vaccine, noting it is among the agency's highest priorities. One official telling CNN full approval could come in the next two months.
DR. VIVEK MURTHY, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: For some people, the FDA approval process may make a difference. But I do think that we have a fair amount of experience right now, a tremendous amount of experience that tells us that, again, the benefits of this vaccine far outweigh any risks.
HILL: Vaccinations are down 11 percent in the last week. Tennessee, one of the states with the lowest vaccinations in the country, just 38 percent, saw new cases increased 84 percent in the last week. Florida accounts for one in five new cases in the country. Some states now asking for help.
JEFF ZIENTS, WHITE HOUSE COVID 19 RESPONSE COORDINATOR: This week, at the request of the Nevada governor, we are deploying more than 100 people to the state to help enhance vaccine access and support vaccine outreach efforts.
HILL: As the administration beefs up its own outreach --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wear your mask and get your vaccine.
HILL: -- new questions about so-called breakthrough infections in fully vaccinated Americans. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the reality is that no vaccine is 100 percent effective. Fortunately, these breakthrough cases are generally asymptomatic cases or mild cases. The vaccines do a tremendous job of protecting against severe infection and death.
HILL: A message Noelle Collier is also sharing after losing her unvaccinated mother.
NOELLE COLLIER, LOST UNVACCINATED MOTHER TO COVID-19: I want people to understand that COVID is not gone. I'm fully vaccinated and I still got COVID but I recovered. The vaccine is worth it.
HILL (on camera): On the heels of that change that will go into effect again this weekend in L.A. County, that new indoor mask mandate that's coming back, there have been a lot of questions about other cities. Here in New York City, Mayor Bill de Blasio saying that there are no plans at this point to change course in the city. The city's health commissioner telling CNN this morning, they will be watching the data in the weeks ahead but echoing what the mayor had to say that, again, Wolf, right now in New York City, no plans to bring back an indoor mask mandate.
BLITZER: We'll see if that changes. All right, Erica, thank you very much.
Now to some new CNN reporting on the investigation into the origins of the coronavirus. Our Senior Washington Correspondent Pamela Brown is joining us here in The Situation Room. You've got new details, Pamela. What are you learning?
PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, we know the COVID origins review that Biden ordered is underway. And we have learned that several senior Biden administration officials, including Biden's national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, believed the theory that the coronavirus accidentally escaped from a lab in Wuhan is at least as credible as the possibility as it emerges naturally from an animal directly to a human. This is according to multiple sources involved or who's familiar with the COVID origins review.
Now, to be clear, this does not mean they believe the virus was engineered in a lab or was intentionally released, but rather that it could have been studied in a lab and then escaped accidentally. But this is a dramatic shift from a year ago when Democrats publically downplayed the so-called lab leak theory and made then President Trump politicizing the virus.
It is important to note this is the view of some senior Biden officials involved with the intelligence review. There are scientists, as we know, who study coronaviruses and who have investigated the origins of the pandemic who still say the evidence strongly supports a natural origin for the virus and that it's unlikely, these scientists say, that it accidentally leaked out of a lab. But from both the science and from an intelligence perspective, officials say they need more information from China. That's the bottom line. China, we're told, has not been any more forthcoming during this review, according to the sources we spoke with. The White House has begun making public threats as well with Jake Sullivan using stronger language toward China publicly for more cooperation.
And adding to thing mounting pressure, on Thursday, the director general of the World Health Organization said it had been premature to dismiss the possibility that a lab leak had spawned the pandemic and it urged China to provide more information.
Now, in response to this, China's foreign ministry spokesperson said in a statement, quote, since the beginning of the pandemic, China has taken a scientific, professional, serious and responsible attitude in tracing the origins of the virus.
But bottom line here, Wolf, there still hasn't been any smoking gun evidence to lead to a conclusion. But it is worth noting that these senior officials view the lab leak theory, the accidental leak just as credible as the natural origin.
BLITZER: And as you point out, a dramatic shift from a year ago when they were saying something very different. All right, Pamela, excellent reporting.
BROWN: Thank you.
BLITZER: Thank you very, very much.
Let's get some more analysis right now. Joining us, CNN Medical Analyst Dr. Leana Wen, and the dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, Dr. Ashish Jha. Doctors, thank you so much for joining us.
Dr. Wen, I want to discuss this lab leak theory with you in a few moments. But first, take a look at this map. Coronavirus cases are rising right now in all 50 states while less than 50 percent of Americans are fully vaccinated. Did we ever expect we would be looking at this alarming map once again and see these images so soon?
DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, it's really unfortunate that this is where we are, but I have to say that many of us predicted that we would be here right now, and we predicted this when the CDC released their guidance for fully vaccinated people that then led to widespread chaos and confusion and the precipitous and premature ending of mask mandates.
Unfortunately, we just didn't have enough people vaccinated at that time. The honor system was not working. The whole idea was that vaccinated people would take off their mask, but if you're unvaccinated, you still have to behave as you did before. But what end up happening was, unvaccinated people also said, well, I don't have any restrictions on my activities anymore.
And so we are now seeing this pandemic spiral out of control again. And I really wish the CDC would take a much more proactive role right now and make it clear that if you are fully vaccinated, you are protected if you are around fully vaccinated people. But if you are around people who are unvaccinated, that's still a risk to you. And that's why vaccination is so important. It is important for not just the individual but for others around them too.
BLITZER: Yes. Let's not forget that nearly half of the population is fully vaccinated. But more than half of the population is not fully vaccinated. That's where the 160 million Americans who are not vaccinated and they potentially could spread this disease, they could potentially get very sick and they could potentially even die.
Dr. Jha, in L.A. County right now, the mask mandate is going back into effect. How long do you think it will be before mandates like that are reinstated elsewhere around the country?
DR. ASHISH JHA, DEAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Yes, Wolf. I suspect, as we see cases continue to rise in community after community that you are going to have more places put indoor mask mandates back in. Indoor mask mandates are important whenever you have a population that doesn't have a high level of vaccination and infection numbers that are rising. That is L.A. County right now. It is certainly part of Missouri and Arkansas and other places with low vaccination rates. I suspect you are going to see a lot of places putting in mask mandates again in the days and weeks ahead.
BLITZER: Yes. I suspect you are right. You know, Dr. Jha, one other thing I just want to make sure we get to this point. The CDC director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, says this is becoming a pandemic of the unvaccinated, pandemic of the unvaccinated, but even though unvaccinated people are the ones getting sick and potentially spreading this disease, this will impact all of us when all is said and done, right?
JHA: Absolutely. You know, because we all live in one country, one community, unvaccinated people are spreading the disease, but it is spilling over into the vaccinated through breakthrough infections. Most people who have a breakthrough infection will do well, will do fine. But you are still going to have a few people get sick.
And so the way to bring this pandemic under control is to just substantially ramp up vaccination. If we could do that, we could put this pandemic behind us. We just aren't doing that fast enough.
BLITZER: Yes. And 160 million Americans are still not vaccinated, and there is a lot of folks out there who could be spreading this disease. Dr. Wen, we're now learning, as you heard, that Biden administration officials are considering the theory that the coronavirus leaked from a lab, they're considering that to be as credible as the natural origins explanation, which they originally held a year or so ago. What do you make of all this?
WEN: I think we need more data. Really, what's happening is that the Chinese government has not been forthcoming. And as a result, everybody is suspicious. Now, we don't know exactly what they're hiding. Maybe they're hiding information about a possible lab leak. I also suspect that they could be hiding information about timing. What if it turns out, for example, that they knew about the threat of COVID-19 prior to what they actually disclosed? So we really need a scientific process going forward, not a political process to determine what is the cause of COVID-19.
BLITZER: We need a lot more cooperation from the Chinese in this investigation as well. Dr. Wen, Dr. Jha, guys, thank you very, very much.
Just ahead, controversial Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene says she wants to be on the special House committee investigating the January 6th U.S. Capitol Siege so she can defend, she says, the former president. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: Controversial Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia says she's seeking a seat on the Democrat-led select committee to investigate the January 6th attack on the U.S. Capitol.
She tweets this. Take a look. She says the Republicans assigned to the January 6th committee should be the toughest fighters that will stand up to Pelosi's witch hunt 2.0. and defend President Trump, Republicans who objected and political abuse against the January 6th protesters. The people know who the fighters are. I've asked to be assigned.
Now, joining us now to discuss this and a lot more, Democratic Congressman Adam Schiff of California, he's a key member of the select committee, also the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.
Let me get your quick reaction to the tweet from the congresswoman.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): Well, it's not surprising. You know, that's certainly where she's coming from, QAnon conspiracy theory and an ardent Trump defender. We hope of course that McCarthy will appoint people who are serious, who are interested in getting to the bottom of what happened on January 6th, all the preparation for that tragic day, what happened on the 6th itself. But I fully expect that Kevin McCarthy will do whatever Donald Trump wants him to do. I just have to hope that's not putting on people who are fundamentally unserious and basically conspiracy theorists.
BLITZER: I wonder if you make of McCarthy actually making the pilgrimage to Bedminster, to visit Trump yesterday as he's poised to make the selection for the January 6th committee.
SCHIFF: Well, it is reminiscent of the pilgrimage he made to Mar-a- Lago just shortly after the insurrection. There was a fleeting moment of conscience where he recognized the president's role in inciting the insurrection, but that quickly gave way to personal ambition. He felt the party's future was with Donald Trump. That's where he wanted to make his future. So it is not surprising he would again make his way to kiss the ring and show his fealty to Donald Trump.
BLITZER: Do you expect that McCarthy will avoid appointing firebrands, let's say like Represent Green or Matt Gaetz, since Speaker Pelosi, she does have the power to veto his picks, right?
SCHIFF: She does. Essentially, he has the power to advice as to what members he would like to see. But, ultimately, it will be the speaker's decision. I don't think it will be as obvious as that. I think he will put on staunch defenders of the president but probably not be as obvious and subject to criticism for putting people on like Marjorie Taylor Greene.
BLITZER: In a series of new books that we're all going through right now, we're seeing a truly damning portrait of Trump's final days in office from the prospective of General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Would you like to see Milley called to testify before the January 6th select committee?
SCHIFF: Well, that's a decision we will make when we're fully comprised of members and have a chance to organize and scope out the investigation.
But, look, we want to look into everything that went into that day, the efforts to overturn the election, the efforts to perpetuate the president's -- the former president's position in office if that contributed, as we know it. It certainly did in part to the January 6th. So we want to get the full facts.
Our goal is to produce a report like the 9/11 commission report that is objective and thorough. So we will follow the evidence wherever it leads us.
BLITZER: While I have you, let's get to the very disturbing coronavirus pandemic, a very disturbing news, including coming out from L.A. County where the mask mandate is going back into effect in your county out there. Listen to what the president said when asked about coronavirus misinformation. Listen to what he said today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: On COVID misinformation, what's your message to platforms like Facebook?
BIDEN: They're killing people. I mean, it really -- look, the only pandemic we have is among the unvaccinated, and they're killing people.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Do you agree with the president?
SCHIFF: I agree that the platforms are going to have to do a much better job pushing out good information and making sure they're not pushing misinformation that gets people killed. You know, I raised this issue with Facebook and other social media companies years ago with respect to flu vaccines, and they did take action and they're going to need to take stronger action here.
This pandemic is killing people. It doesn't have to be killing people. We could turn the corner on this if people would just get vaccinated. And to those that are watching, anyone who is watching who is still not vaccinated, please get vaccinated. Do it for yourself, your family. Don't be that guy that ends up dying because they wouldn't get vaccinated. So ask your doctor if you have any concerns.
But, yes, the social media companies, all of us will have to do a far better job pushing information if we want to finally turn the corner on this awful virus.
BLITZER: Congressman Adam Schiff of California, thanks so much for joining us.
SCHIFF: Thank you, Wolf.
BLITZER: Coming up, there is new CNN reporting right now on discussions between New York prosecutors and a top executive at the Trump Organization. Will that executive turn on the former president?
BLITZER: All right. There's an important development just coming in to The Situation Room right now. A federal judge in Texas has just ruled that the Obama-era program known as DACA is illegal and has blocked new applications that defer action for childhood arrivals program. DACA shields certain undocumented immigrants who arrived in the United States as children from deportation.
Our Justice Correspondent Jessica Schneider is working the story for us. So, Jessica, tell us what we're learning right now.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, this ruling just came in minutes ago. This a federal judge in Texas ruling that all new applicants to DACA will be blocked. Of course, this is significant because this is the Obama era program that grants work permits and also protects people from deportation who were brought here illegally as children.
This is Judge Andrew Hanan out of Texas. He's a Republican appointee. He was nominated by President George W. Bush. He has now sided with Texas as well as other states ruling that President Obama back in 2012 overstepped his authority when he created the program. But this judge also acknowledged that really short-circuited this program at this point, a program that protects more than 700,000 so-called DREAMERs. The judge here saying that would be unfair to all of those who have come to rely on it.
So the judge is saying that the program will continue for those whose applications have already been granted but that no new applications will be process. And, of course, this is a major defeat for immigration activists and in particular for the Biden administration. President Biden has pledged to fortify the program. And, Wolf, this really will now throw urgency to Democrats in Congress to legislate when it comes to DACA and make sure that this program doesn't go away because, eventually, those who are already protected under DACA, they will have to renew under the program. And if it is not in existence, as this ruling says, it's going to be big problems for 700,000 plus.
BLITZER: Yes. These are kids that were brought here, little children, have only known the United States, have grown up here in the United States and at issue what's going to happen with these people. All right, thanks very much, Jessica Schneider reporting.
Let's get some analysis from our Chief Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin. He's joining us on the phone right now. So, Jeffrey, what does this ruling mean from your perspective for the undocumented immigrants who are currently in the U.S. and they're protected from deportation under this DACA program?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST (voice over): Well, for the time being, they are safe. But unfortunately for them, it's only for the time being, because this judge who has repeatedly ruled against the Obama administration, whether it's on the Obamacare law or here now with DACA, you know, he has been a favorite of conservative plaintiffs to try to get Democratic programs overturned.
The issue now is what happens to this ruling as it begins to move through the legal system? Because even though he said these 700,000- plus DREAMERs are safe for now, he has said the program is illegal. So as this moves through the court system, their status is more in jeopardy than it was before.
BLITZER: Will this make it more difficult, Jeffrey, for the Biden administration to actually strengthen this program through new legislation, for example, as the Biden administration has promised?
TOOBIN: Well, it does not limit the Biden administration from passing legislation. The problem is they haven't been able to pass legislation. President Obama tried to do it. President Trump tried to do away with the program altogether. There is no doubt and the judge's ruling does not affect the ability of Congress to pass a law to protect the DREAMERs.
The issue in this case is whether a president, whether President Obama or President Biden, has the authority to do it on his own. That's what the -- that's what this court ruling says the president can't do. The issue is can Congress address this issue? They have failed repeatedly since almost doing it in 2013. But this ruling will increase the pressure for Congress to do something about it. We'll see, of course, whether they actually do.
BLITZER: We certainly will. All right, lots at stake. Jeffrey, thank you very, very much, Jeffrey Toobin.
Also just coming in to The Situation Room right now, prosecutors on the Trump Organization tax fraud case, they are now trying to gain cooperation from a top company executive, Chief Operating Officer Matthew Calamari.
Our Senior Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid is joining us right now. So tell us about this, the possibility that Calamari can be flipped. That's what they're trying to do, I assume.
PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That's what they're trying to do in the big problem prosecutors have right now, Wolf, is that they don't have any cooperating witness from inside the Trump Organization. The controller testified before the grand jury, but this new reporting, it indicates this investigation is active, ongoing and they are really focused on trying to secure one of these top executives.
Now, Calamari, he is just one of a few folks at the top of this corporation who's incredibly close to the former president. This a guy who went from working security for the former president all the way up to COO. He's incredibly loyal. He has no incentive to actually cooperate, especially if he's not going to be charged.
So could he potentially be charged? Well, our reporting indicate that both he and his son, who also worked for the Trump Organization, they are under scrutiny for possibly not properly disclosing some of the perks or benefits they got in addition to their compensation, like subsidized rent and cars.
Now, we know that is very similar to the charges that were filed against the chief financial officer and the Trump Organization itself. But when I asked his lawyer, Mr. Calamari's lawyer, would he ever cooperate, his response is, cooperate about what? They insist, their defense is that he has nothing to cooperate about, that this is a guy who is focused on security. They argue he's not involved in financial matters.
So at this point, it is not clear that prosecutors will actually charge him. And if he's not charged, why would he cooperate? It is a big problem right now for prosecutors.
BLITZER: Calamari is the Chief Operating Officer, that's a major job at the Trump Organization, clearly.
BLITZER: All right, Paula, Thank you very much. Let's get some analysis from the State Attorney for Palm Beach County, Florida, Dave Aronberg. So what does it tell you, Dave, that prosecutors are now trying to get Matthew Calamari, the chief operating officer of the Trump Organization, to cooperate?
DAVE ARONBERG, STATE ATTORNEY, PALM BEACH COUNTY, FLORIDA: Good evening, Wolf. It definitely turns up the heat on Allen Weisselberg, who is out there on an island by himself. You know, the indictment of Weisselberg and of the Trump Organization, Wolf, said that there were two other employees who received substantial amounts of compensation in the form of lodging in New York City and car leases. And that means those who unnamed employees would be subject to the same legal liability as Allen Weisselberg. And that Calamari, according to reports, both live in Trump apartment buildings. So it is no surprise that the Calamaris would be grilled by Manhattan prosecutors. I'm sorry. I had to use that pun, Wolf. I guess it's better than being fried by prosecutors.
BLITZER: I know you like do that. You know Dave, two years into this investigation, it still doesn't look -- and you heard Paula Reid report this, it still doesn't look like anyone at the Trump Organization has actually flipped and decided to cooperate with the prosecutors. What else could prosecutors do in their search for this kind of cooperation?
ARONBERG: Well, Wolf, I think you have seen someone flip, Jeff McConney, the controller of the Trump Organization. He testified before the grand jury and received immunity as a result. And then in the indictment, you had things that only an insider would have known, like the keeping of two separate sets of books, one for the IRS and one internally.
And so I think you have seen someone flip. He just is not going to be facing any prison time. And it has been made public. He was -- if it is true, he was referred to in the indictment as unindicted coconspirator number one.
So there is more aside from that that prosecutors could do. They could indict the Calamaris. They could get them to flip or go after Weisselberg's son, Barry, who, according to reports, also has the same legal liability as the Calamaris who live in Trump housing.
So this is just the early innings of all of this, Wolf. I think there will be people who will flip and the heat will turn up on Allen Weisselberg.
BLITZER: Dave Aronberg, we always appreciate your expertise. Thank you very, very much.
Just ahead, we're getting new details coming in to The Situation Room involving the Joint Chiefs chairman, General Mark Milley's blunt warning to former President Trump against missile strikes on Iran during Trump's final days in office.
BLITZER: We are getting new insight tonight into the very serious fears that the Joint Chiefs chairman, General Mark Milley, had about very drastic moves former President Trump might make in his final days in office in order to hold on to power despite his election loss.
Let's discuss with the former national security adviser, to then- President Trump, John Bolton. He's the author of the book, The Room Where It Happened, a White House Memoir. Ambassador Bolton thanks very much for joining us. As you know the New Yorker Magazine is reporting that General Milley, he actually worried that the outgoing president, the outgoing President Trump would launch airstrikes in Iran to start a crisis that could keep him in office. And he said, and I'm quoting now from the article, if you do this, you're going to have an f'ing war. For the top general to be that concerned about the commander in chief, what do you think? How astounding is this?
JOHN BOLTON, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: Well, unfortunately, it is not astounding. I was a strong supporter of Mark Milley becoming the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff because I knew we were in dangerous territory, and I thought he would be the kind of rock he has proven to be.
He was very worried both about this wag the dog scenario from Donald Trump but also, generally, the misuse of the military, getting it involved in American politics, something our officers are trained not to accept. And having had the experience of the famous march across Lafayette Square in the summer of 2020, Milley was acutely aware of the dangers, and I think he behaved in a proper and commendable way.
BLITZER: So, when you became then President Trump's national security adviser, were you already concerned that the president -- the then- president was unstable?
BOLTON: Well, I didn't think he was fit to be president. Unfortunately, that became clear very early. And it became clear as well as I tried to explain in the book that what dominated his thinking was his own political wellbeing.
So I was long gone from the White House by the time these events right after the election occurred. But the fascination, the obsession with Trump's political welfare as opposed to the national welfare, sadly, I think it's well established by that point.
BLITZER: As you know, Trump is pushing back on some of General Milley's claims saying, and I'm quoting now, he said, never once that I have a discussion with Milley about bringing in the military or a coup, which makes sense, because I lost total confidence in him and the way he handled himself on our little walk to the church.
I want to take a look back at what happened during that walk and what happened before that little walk to the church as peaceful protesters were forcibly removed. Watch this.
So you could see them being forcibly removed. They were peaceful at the time. What did you think?
BOLTON: Well, you know, there is controversy about that. There is an inspector general report from, I think, the Homeland Security Department that said that they were removed properly, unrelated to the walk across Lafayette Park. But I think what Trump did in that walk was use senior advisers, including Milley and Mark Esper, who is then- secretary of defense for his own political purposes.
I know they felt uncomfortable with it. Milley and Esper both, I think, later apologized. They were in a very, very difficult position. But this was typical of Trump who didn't know boundaries or proprieties if it got in the way of something he thought was for his political interest.
BLITZER: We're now learning, based on our reporting here at CNN, Ambassador, that U.S. intelligence is warning that the Taliban could soon have a stranglehold on much of Afghanistan, maybe even Kabul, as U.S. troops are being withdrawn. Do you share those concerns? What are the potential implications by this complete U.S. military withdrawal and NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan by the end of August?
BOLTON: Well, I think it is a potential strategic disaster. And I think the risk for the situation in Afghanistan right now is not that there's going to be a civil war between Taliban and the current Afghan government, it's that the Afghan national army will just collapse. That moral is so bad as the U.S. and NATO have gone, as you say, as we pull our interpreters and others that worked with us, people are going to conclude we're not going to be able to help them out and that they will be at the mercy of the Taliban. That's bad for Afghanistan.
What's bad for the United States is what comes after that. If Taliban return to power, allow terrorist groups, like ISIS and Al-Qaeda to use their territory as a sanctuary, we could be vulnerable to another 9/11 attack.
BLITZER: That's all very, very worrisome. Ambassador Bolton, thanks so much for joining us.
BOLTON: Thanks for having me.
BLITZER: Coming up, experts say Japan is now dangerously unprepared for the summer Olympics set to begin just one week from today. Stay with us. You are in The Situation Room.
BLITZER: The Olympic opening ceremonies are just one week away, but the surging COVID pandemic in Japan is raising serious questions about Tokyo's ability to safely host the games.
CNN's Brian Todd is on the story.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The Olympic Games will not spread COVID infections, at least according to Thomas Bach, president of the International Olympic Committee. He voices the utmost confidence that the summer Olympics in Tokyo will be safe, insisting --
THOMAS BACH, PRESIDENT, INTERNATIONAL OLYMPIC COMMITTEE: Eighty-five percent of the residents of the Olympic Village will be vaccinated and there is almost 100 percent of all of the IOC members and staff will be vaccinated here in Japan. TODD: But just one week until the opening ceremonies, a doctor who
advised the IOC on safety protocols does not share Bach's confidence.
DR. ANNIE SPARROW, ICAHN SCHOOL OF MEDICINE, MOUNT SINAI HOSPITAL: It is like the IOC is the drunk guy in the bar determined to get behind the wheel of his car. He's always behind the wheel of his car. All we have been trying to do is to get him home without killing anybody on the way.
TODD: Dr. Annie Sparrow says she and other medical experts gave the IOC safety recommendations in recent weeks that she says the IOC didn't take, like installing extra strength HEPA filters at its venues.
SPARROW: The IOC's plan to open a window for a few minutes every half hour is just laughable.
TODD: And tonight so many trends in Japan regarding the pandemic are going in the wrong direction. Tokyo has reached a 6 month high for new daily COVID cases, more than 1000 new cases per day for several days running. The cities on its 4th COVID state of emergency, only around 20 percent of the country's population is fully vaccinated. Anti-Olympic protests have been staged in major Japanese cities.
A recent poll showed that nearly 80 percent of people in Japan say the games should not go ahead as scheduled.
HIKARU KINEFUCHI, RESIDENT OF SHIZUOK PREFECTURE, JAPAN: I think they should cancel it. I think the Olympics could become a coronavirus spreader event.
TODD: That is exactly what Dr. Sparrow is warning tonight.
SPARROW: All the risk is there.
If they don't do these things, we are going to see more cases in Tokyo. And we fear that athletes could also take these variants back with them to unprotected, unvaccinated populations.
TODD: But the organizers believe that their protocols will work. They ban spectators from most events. Medals will be placed on trays for the winners to pick up rather than have them hung around their necks.
Still the stakes are enormous if the COVID surge in Japan gets worse because of the Olympics.
DAVE ZIRIN, SPORTS EDITOR, THE NATION MAGAZINE: There is a strong possibility that these Olympics are going to do permanent harm to what is seen as the Olympic movement. The idea that the Olympics are an event that will unite people, that can bring people together. Already these Olympics have torn Japan asunder.
(END VIDEOTAPE) TODD (voice-over): Already at least 2 prominent American Olympic athletes have been infected by COVID. NBA stars Bradley Beal and Jeremy Grant, who are on the U.S. men's basketball team, have been placed in COVID safety protocols. Beal has already been declared out of the games. And it's not like sports leagues back home are out of the woods. Six players on the New York Yankees have tested positive, at least three of them so-called breakthrough cases, players who were vaccinated -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Brian, thank you very much.
We'll have more news in just a moment.
BLITZER: Three thousand years, three major faiths, one city. In order to understand the conflict in Jerusalem today, at the know the complex story of Jerusalem's past. Now as we prepared to debut the new CNN original series, "Jerusalem: A City of Faith and Fury," I'm taking you on a personal tour of one of the most coveted cities in the world.
BLITZER (voice-over): An ancient city at the crossroads of history, Jerusalem hosts some of the most holy sites in the world, venerated by 3 major religious faiths, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, as well as the seat of the Israeli government.
SULEIMAN MOURAD, PROFESSOR OF RELIGION, SMITH COLLEGE: Jerusalem, beside it's religious significance is the center of national inspiration to communities, the Israelite and the Palestinian community.
BLITZER: This center of power and prestige in the volatile Middle East is home to a diverse and resilient population as I've seen over my many visits to Jerusalem over the years, including after terrorist attacks, such as the bombing of Cafe Moment in 2002.
The people that live here refused to let the terrorists when.
The hallowed ground of the city has been the backdrop of violence and conflict, and the tensions between Israelis and Palestinians sadly show little sign of abating. These stories and so many others have brought me to Jerusalem as a CNN reporter.
I've been coming to this region for many years.
I've learned so much about the people who live there and even made some deeply personal discoveries.
It's part of my effort to find out more about my own personal roots.
Jerusalem today extends far beyond its original boundaries. Walls rebuild by the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century that now for what is called the old city, a U.N. designated world heritage site. The old city is divided into four quarters, Muslim, Christian, Jewish and Armenian.
The Temple Mount or Haram al Sharif is where the bible says King Solomon built the first temple around 1000 BC. It was subsequently destroyed 400 years later by Babylonian invaders.
Also located on the Temple Mount, the Al Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock. Nearby is the western wall where Jews pray. It is also commonly visited by world leaders and dignitaries.
In the Christian quarters, the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. It holds the site where Christians believed Jesus was crucified and rose from the dead.
The Armenian quarter is one of the locations where more than a century ago, thousands of Armenians from one is now modern-day Turkey fled to escape what President Biden recognize this year as a genocide.
Beyond the ancient walls is a city divided between east and west. East Jerusalem came under Israeli control after the Six-Day War in 1967, though Israel's authority there is not internationally recognized, and Palestinians make up a majority of the East Jerusalem residents. The Palestinian Authority would like to get to be its capital in a future state.
West Jerusalem has been under Israeli control since Israel gained its independence in 1948. It hosts the Knesset, the Israeli parliament. And it's where President Trump moved the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv in 2018, officially recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel amid sharp Palestinian protest.
President Biden has kept the U.S. embassy there.
West Jerusalem is also the location of the world renowned Holocaust Rural Museum, Yad Vashem.
ALEXANDER AVRAM, DIRECTOR, YAD VASHEM HALL OF NAMES: This is a place where we are trying to give back to victims their names, instead of numbers.
BLITZER: I always knew my grandparents were killed during the Holocaust. But it was at this museum in 2014 where lured my paternal grandparents died at Auschwitz.
AVRAM: It's important the names are registered here for generations to come.
BLITZER: A museum of remembrance, and a lasting memorial, in a city that is witnessed thousands of years of history.
BLITZER: And join CNN this Sunday night for the premiere of the new original series, "JERUSALEM: CITY OF FAITH AND FURY". That is at 10:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific, only here on CNN. Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @WolfBlitzer. Tweet the show @CNNSitRoom.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.