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The Situation Room

GOP's Rep. McCarthy Pulls All His Picks For Jan. 6 Committee After House Speaker Pelosi Rejects Election Deniers Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) And Rep. Jim Banks (R-IN); Tonight, Biden Takes Part In CNN Town Hall; CDC Forecast That Deaths, Hospitalizations Likely To Increase Over Next Four Weeks As Delta Variant Rages; At Least 11 Trump Associates Now Charged With Crimes After Tom Barrack Accused Of Illegal Foreign Lobbying. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired July 21, 2021 - 18:00   ET



JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Jim Acosta. And you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

And you're looking at live pictures from Cincinnati where President Biden will take part in CNN's exclusive Town Hall in about two hours. Our Jeff Zeleny is there for us. He will have a full report in just a moment.

But, first, we go to CNN Congressional Correspondent Lauren Fox covering the Republican exodus from the January 6th committee. Lauren, tell us what happened.

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, look, there has been a quick succession of events up here on Capitol Hill today, Jim. We always knew the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had the ability to block key Republicans who Kevin McCarthy selected for the select committee.

Today, she made the decision that that's exactly what she was going to do. She argued in statement earlier today that there were two members, Jim Jordan and Jim Banks, who she said were not adequate picks for the select committee.

As a result, Kevin McCarthy said he wasn't going to seat a single one of his picks. That, of course, means that this select committee is ultimately not going to have bipartisan support from McCarthy and Pelosi. Instead, here is what McCarthy was threatening.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): We think it's too important that those two questions why were we ill prepared? Why did they know on December 14th? Why would they jeopardize the lives of the Capitol Police? We will write our own investigation.


FOX: Now, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had already asked Liz Cheney, a Republican member who was a former member of GOP leadership just a couple of months ago, to serve with her Democratic members on this committee. So there is one Republican and she said today that she was standing by the speaker's decision not the seat Jim Banks and Jim Jordan.

Here is what Liz Cheney said on the steps to the Capitol a few hours ago.


REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): I think that any person who would be third in line to the presidency must demonstrate a commitment to the Constitution and a commitment to the rule of law and Minority Leader McCarthy has not done that.

At every opportunity, the minority leader has attempted to prevent the American people from understanding what happened, to block this investigation. Today, the speaker objected to two Republican members. She accepted three others. She objected to two.

One of whom may well be a material witness to events that led to that day, that led to January 6th. The other who disqualified himself by his comments in particular over the last 24 hours demonstrating that he is not taking this seriously, he is not dealing with facts of this investigation but rather viewed it as a political platform.

This investigation must go forward. The idea anybody would be playing politics with an attack on the United States Capitol is despicable and it's disgraceful. And I am absolutely dedicated and committed to making sure that this investigation holds those accountable who did this and ensures that it never happens again. And the American people deserve that and that is what we're going to do.


FOX: And so much has shifted today, Jim. But one thing hasn't. Next week, we are going to have that first hearing of the select committee where they are going to hear from Capitol Hill Police officers and Metropolitan Police officers about what they encountered as the mob was storming the Capitol on January 6th. That is not going to change, according to sources CNN is talking to tonight. Jim?

ACOSTA: All right. Lauren Fox, thanks and standby. We'll be back to you in a moment.

Now, to President Biden and his reaction to the new turmoil surrounding the January 6th investigation. Our Chief National Affairs Correspondent Jeff Zeleny is back with us in Cincinnati, Ohio, at the site of CNN's exclusive town hall tonight.

Jeff, as we stand by for the Town Hall in less than two hours, what are you hearing from the White House about Republicans quitting this committee?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NAITONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, we do know that the White House supports the actions of Speaker Nancy Pelosi. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki in a briefing at boarder Air Force One issues as she was flying here in Cincinnati with the president. So the president does indeed strongly support to her decision today.

And the reality is the White House is never really wanted to get involved in this. They did support an independent commission to investigate. The White House decided to not investigation on its own. That they do say for the matter of history, for the sake of history, it's important to get to the root causes of all this.

But President Biden right now is touring a union facility, a training center here in Cincinnati. That is one sign the White House clearly wants to keep the focus of this trip to Ohio on the economy.


ZELENY (voice over): President Biden arriving in Cincinnati tonight for a CNN town hall meeting as the White House urgently trying to sell its domestic agenda.

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: There's nothing in America is unable to do when we do it together.


ZELENY: But in Congress, both sides are far from together. That divide was on full display again today as Senate Republicans voting against the president's bipartisan infrastructure plan in a key test vote.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): So who is playing games?

ZELENY: Raising questions about whether a deal can still be reached before Democrats try passing a bill on their own, which is complicated in its own right.

SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): We all want the same thing here, to pass a bipartisan infrastructure bill. But in order to finish the bill, we first need to start.

ZELENY: At the six month mark of Biden's presidency, the list of summer challenges facing the administration is daunting. COVID cases are spiking with the delta variant. Inflation is up. Border crossings are rising. The Taliban is taking over Afghanistan and the signature piece of the domestic agenda, the jobs and infrastructure plan, is teetering.

White House officials concede the coming weeks hold the cards to the future of the president's agenda before the midterm elections consume Washington and make deals even harder to reach. A senior Biden adviser telling CNN the clock is running. We all know that. The president certainly knows that.

Tonight, Biden will appear on stage at Mount St. Joseph University, taking questions from Ohio voters on those topics and more. Here in Cincinnati, like many parts of the country, infrastructure is a critical issue. The Brent Spence Bridge, which crosses the Ohio River on one of the busiest trucking routes in the country, has long been labeled functionally obsolete. It's an unfilled promise of the Obama and Trump administrations. Biden hopes not to fall short.

BIDEN: I think we're on the verge of me being able to get something really done, rebuilding roads and bridges.

ZELENY: Protecting voting rights likely by eliminating the Senate filibuster is also something many Democrats say they would like to hear Biden speak about more forcefully.

ALICIA REESE, VICE PRESIDENT, HAMILTON COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS: I would hope that this administration would put their weight because it is the foundation of who we are. This is what makes us America.

ZELENY: So far, Biden has largely kept Democrats united behind him in face of stiff Republican opposition. But the White House selected Ohio, a state Biden lost, to show he's making his case to a far bigger cross-section of the country.


ZELENY (on camera): And the infrastructure plan clearly is at the heart of the White House's efforts this summer to get a big legislative package right them through. Jim, just a few moments ago, President Biden here in Cincinnati, as he's touring a union training center, was asked a question about his view of that infrastructure plan.


REPORTER: Do you think you'll get an infrastructure deal, sir?

BIDEN: Yes, we will.


ZELENY: So, yes, we will, those three short words clearly is expressing the optimism. We are still hearing from White House officials. They do believe that there is goodwill among the Senate Republicans who are negotiating with Democrats on at least one-half of this infrastructure bill. Of course, the matter failed in test vote today in the Senate. But that was a procedural matter. So look for this potentially to work out in coming days. If not, Democrats will try going it alone.

But, Jim, all of this is just adding to that long list of challenges for the Biden White House in this hot summer.

ACOSTA: Absolutely. Jeff, we will see if they can get to yes.

Stay with us as we bring back CNN Congressional Correspondent Lauren Fox along with former Ohio Governor and Senior Commentator here at CNN, John Kasich.

Governor Kasich, let me go to you first, your reaction to the House minority leader pulling all of his choices to the January 6th committee and Congresswoman Liz Cheney calling him out for trying to hide the truth to the American people. What did you make of that?

JOHN KASICH, CNN SENIOR COMMENTATOR: Yes. My initial reaction is I don't think Nancy should have done that. Speaker Pelosi shouldn't have done that. You're going to have somebody on that committee. I mean, the guy has been a denier and we know all that. But I'm just afraid it's more entangled. So what I would have done is leave them on there.

And there are a couple of good people that McCarthy appointed who would be fair-minded and let the facts speak for themselves, that you were going to have some disruption for a member or two. But that could have been overcome. And now, it's sort of -- I'm just concerned that it may have spoiled the way this committee is going to be treated.

But -- so it's important we have this committee. We should have had the bipartisan investigation without the Congress having to do this in this manner and shame on Republicans for not going along with that. I just think in this case, it may have been better to leave well enough alone.

ACOSTA: And, Lauren, was it a surprise, do you think, that House Speaker Pelosi would reject some of these choices who voted to reject the 2020 election results? Their strategy seems to be blaming her for the violence on January 6th.

FOX: Well, look, Jim, she always had the option of rejecting these choices but, yesterday, something that she said I thought was very interesting. She said that how people voted on whether or not to certify the results of the election was not going to be a factor in whether or not she decided they should serve on the committee.

Initially, that struck me as potentially resetting the table that these members would get through.


But I think one of the factors that played into this, according to Democratic sources I've been talking to today, is the fact that Jim Banks, right after being named as the top Republican on this committee, sent out a pretty fiery statement, saying the only reason this had been created was to malign conservatives. I think that struck a lot of rank and file Democrats and the speaker as inappropriate.

Of course, there's also the relationship between Jim Jordan and former President Trump Donald Trump. Not to mention the fact that Democrats have argued that perhaps Jim Jordan should testify before the select committee. So there were factors independent of whether or not someone voted to certify the election or not that really weighed in on the speaker's decision making properties here.

ACOSTA: And, Jeff, Democrats want to set the record straight on January 6th, but if Republicans refuse to cooperate, won't a large part of the country reject the results of the investigation right off the bat?

ZELENY: Well, Jim, there's no question the well has been poisoned on all of these, really, since the hours of the insurrection that we all saw unfolding on television and so much more that we have learned since largely through all these videotapes that have been released by FBI and others. But, still, you a big part of the Trump base if you will, simply does not believe what happened.

I do still think this congressional committee does have the ability to get to the bottom of at least to some of this. So I think you know, we are now not talking necessarily about changing minds or informing base voters but there is still, for the sake of history, getting to the bottom and having witnesses testify and those police officers testify. It will essentially put this all into one place. Put this all into one sort of chronological book of what happened that day.

No, it's not as good as the 9/11 commission. You know, we are already almost at the end of July here. And there's real questions why this couldn't have already been under way. But, still, you're not going to change the minds of some Americans but I think for the sake of history, that is why there's still a big sense of support at least among many that at least some type of inquiry should move forward.

ACOSTA: And, Governor Kasich, President Biden was dealt to setback --

KASICH: That was a good analysis by the way, what Jeff has said, and that was really well put, really well put. And it should proceed forward. It is just shame that, you know, every -- we can't seem to take one step forward without taking three steps back. And shame on those members for coming out and making those statements that I think were, frankly, they're borderline inflammatory. I agree with that.

ACOSTA: Well, let me follow up on what happened on infrastructure, Governor Kasich, because the President was dealt to setback on that infrastructure plan earlier today. He's facing a COVID resurgence, a disaster in Afghanistan. You ran for president. How do you think President Biden will address all of these challenges? These are historic challenges facing any president at our town hall tonight.

KASICH: Well, right. I think on COVID, look, the answer on COVID, fundamentally, is neighbor to neighbor, family member to family member. There are limits to what the president can do. If you take a look across the board, young people think that they probably won't get very sick, it's going to be family members.

When you look at the minority communities, a lot of fear about the way that African-Americans particularly have been treated in the past, that has to be churches, that has to be family members, that has to neighbors.

And when it comes to those that live in rural communities, they live there for reason. They don't want to listen to anybody else. They want to be independent. And that, again, is going to go through organizations like the farm bureau, neighbor to neighbor again to solve that. So let's not put that all on the president.

On infrastructure, I hope we're going to get a deal. Speaking of the Brent Spence Bridge, the reason why we haven't had it fixed is because the people, the legislatures in Kentucky played politics and they didn't want to vote for, you use the bridge, you pay for it. And we did it in Ohio. They should -- it's what we suggested and passed in Ohio. They didn't do it in Kentucky. And now they want to bailout from the federal government. It's really ridiculous.

But I hope we're going to get infrastructure package. I think it will be good. When it comes to the $3.5 trillion dollar bill now, I hope they don't try to jam that through because that will be purely partisan and, frankly, I'm not sure they can accomplish that.

ACOSTA: Well, Lauren, I think Governor Kasich raises a good point, it is complicated to get any of these agenda items through the Congress these days, especially when things are so hyper-polarized. But when you look at Biden agenda right now on issue after issue, the agenda is stuck up on Capitol Hill. I mean, Governor Kasich was just talking about infrastructure and bridges.

I mean, that used to be one of the -- the one issue that just about every member of Congress could agree on to pass. Everybody wants bridges and roads and that kind of infrastructure in their district or in their state and even that is having trouble getting across the finish line.

FOX: Yes. I think a really telling sign, Jim, is the fact that it was almost a month ago now that the president announced this bipartisan deal with his bipartisan group of lawmakers outside the White House.


They were celebrating. We still don't have actual legislation yet. We don't have bill text. Basically, they are still working to figure out how to pay for this.

I think that just an indication of how much has changed up here on Capitol Hill and how difficult it really is to get anything done. You know, you think about voting rights. Of course, that's an issue they do not have 60 votes for. They're not going to convince the Republican colleagues to vote for it and they aren't going to get Joe Manchin to change his mind about the filibuster. So that is an issue that is stuck.

You also have the issue of immigration that they are basically trying to push through in this broader infrastructure and social safety net bill that they're going to try to pass along Democratic lines. And I think that is going to be a really long shot too. I think they have a lot of work to do. And we are at a critical moment whether or not the president's agenda can really move past that COVID relief bill they passed earlier this year.

ACOSTA: All right, thanks to all of you for those insights.

KASICH: Jim, I will tell you one thing. I do think there's a lot of signs that they will get an infrastructure bill when you have Romney and Portman saying it. And, look, it takes time to work out these kinds of massive programs.

ACOSTA: Absolutely.

KASICH: I think there's a reason to think that this could happen.


KASICH: So, I would say this is not atypical of what it is when you deal with complicated legislation. Thanks for letting me have that last word. Thank you.

ACOSTA: No problem. And, Governor Kasich, we're going to hold you to it. You're optimistic. And in a time of hyper-partisanship, you need some of that these days.

KASICH: On that one.


KASICH: On that one. We're going to see.

ACOSTA: All right. We'll see if we can build some bridges here in the coming days. All right, thank you so much. Stay with CNN for our exclusive Town Hall with Joe Biden. That begins in less than two hours from now. At 8:00 P.M. Eastern. You don't want to missed that. Much more coming up on that front.

Just ahead, a disturbing new forecast of how the delta variant will kill Americans in the weeks ahead. I'll talk with the director of the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Francis Collins, he is standing by, and you are in THE SITUATION ROOM.



ACOSTA: And we are less than two hours away from CNN's town hall with President Biden live in Cincinnati, Ohio. We are told the President has just arrived on site. He's likely to face a lot of questions about the pandemic, COVID vaccines and the delta variant. And the CDC is now forecasting that COVID deaths and hospitalizations are likely to increase in next four weeks.

Let's discuss that and much more with the director of the National Institutes for Health, Dr. Francis Collins. Dr. Collins, thank you so much for being with us.

These are some very sobering projections from the CDC, up to 625,000 total COVID-19 deaths and as many as 14,000 new hospitalizations by mid-August. After many weeks of good news, how alarming is this to you?

DR. FRANCIS COLLINS, DIRECTOR, NAIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: We'll, it certainly is alarming. I don't know that we should be panicked but we should certainly be deeply concerned. But, by the way, before we go to the bad stuff, if you are somebody who is fully vaccinated, take a little breath here. You are still really well protected by this vaccine and you can do a lot of stuff that you could not have done six months ago. But for those who are not vaccinated, this is becoming a pandemic that has you in its sights and basically as we are now seeing hospitalizations going up as much as twofold in just the last two weeks and cases, which, for a while, were looking like they were headed down in a lovely trajectory two months ago are now going back up again fairly steeply and the delta variant, which is so incredibly contagious, is contributing a lot to this.

So we are in for trouble as CDC's projections have laid out in the coming weeks especially in those parts of the country where vaccination rates are low and delta is widespread. And that's pretty much now getting to be a lot of the country. Delta is now 83 percent of the viral isolations in the U.S. That happened really fast.

ACOSTA: Yes. And these were not empty warnings from health officials like yourself. And we are starting to see some of these awful cases in the hospitals right now, in hospital across the country. But starting next month in New York City, health care workers will either have to get vaccinated or be tested for the coronavirus every week. Do you think it is time to mandate vaccines in this country? What do you think?

COLLINS: Well, there is an active debate going on about that. Part of the debate, Jim, is whether, in fact, it's possible to do that for a vaccine that's approved under emergency use. If it was approved with the full approval from FDA, which we all anticipate may be coming pretty soon, maybe in the next couple of months, then the legal ability to mandate becomes a lot stronger.

But I noticed that Indiana University, which was mandating all of their student's to be vaccinated, the judge stood up for them and said, yes, that's a legal thing to do and many colleges are doing that, including the ones where is my two grandchildren will be freshmen coming up in the fall and I'm personally glad to see that. It's so straightforward here to try to keep us from having outbreaks on college campuses, with vaccines that are safe and effective. I can see why they want to try to avoid more trouble, more sickness, more deaths.

What's not to be in favor of if we could try to prevent the kind of terrible tragedies that are happening all around us including to young people who have thought they were immune, but look at the statistics now. An awful lot of the people in the hospital, in the ICU and some of them in the morgue are well under 30 years old.

ACOSTA: Yes. It is so disturbing. And Senator Rand Paul, as you know -- I want to ask you about this -- leveled some serious accusations at your organization, the National Institute of Health, during a congressional hearing yesterday. I want you to listen to what he said to what he said and Dr. Anthony Fauci's forceful response, as you know, they got into it yesterday.


Let's watch.


SEN. RAND PAUL (R-KY): Dr. Fauci, knowing that it is a crime to lie to Congress, do you wish to retract your statement of May 11th where you claimed that the NIH never funded gain of function research in Wuhan.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Senator Paul, I have never lied before the Congress. And I do not retract that statement. This paper that you're referring to was judged by qualified staff up and down the chain as not being gain of function. What was -- let me finish.

PAUL: You take an animal virus and you increase this transferability to humans, you're saying that's not gain of function.

FAUCI: Yes, that is correct. And, Senator Paul, you do not know what you're talking about, quite frankly, and I want to say that officially. You do not know what you are talking about.

Those viruses are molecularly impossible to result --

PAUL: No one is saying they are. No one saying those viruses caused the pandemic.

FAUCI: -- in SARS-Cov-2.

You are implying that what we did was responsible for the deaths of individual. I totally resent that.

PAUL: It could have been --

FAUCI: And if anybody is lying here, Senator, it is you.


ACOSTA: Dr. Collins, what is your response to what happened there?

COLLINS: Well, it's very unfortunate to have something that I think could be readily resolved in terms understanding the meaning of the term, gain of function. But, instead, this has turned into political theatrics. It's really unfortunate. We have so many more important things to spend our time on right now but it's a diagnosis of just how polarized everything has become.

And so that even the face of this terrible pandemic, that is taken more than 600,000 lives in this country, this kind of time is being wasted on this kind of posturing.

ACOSTA: And I just want to be clear, Dr. Collins, you do stand by what Dr. Fauci said in response to Senator Paul at this hearing, is that correct?

COLLINS: I absolutely support Tony Fauci in every way. I have never known him to be anything other than completely truthful. He is a public servant that people should all be thankful to. And to see him attacked and demonized this way on political grounds is really hard to watch. ACOSTA: And just very quickly, are you alarmed, are you concerned by how much Dr. Fauci has been demonized out there? Is this a concern to you and other people at the NIH?

COLLINS: I'm very concerned when I see probably the most highly respected infectious disease doctor on the planet being treated this way, having these accusations without any basis thrown at him, stirring up all kinds of nasty outreaches to him that require him now to have 24/7 security detail to protect him and his family. What has happened to us that somebody who is trying to help the public by telling the truth is turned into this kind of demonized character for political purposes? It is unacceptable.

ACOSTA: It is totally unacceptable and it should be condemned. Any of these attacks on Dr. Fauci are just way, way outside the bounds. You and he are both trying to do good work for the American people. And, Dr. Francis Collins, we appreciate your time this evening. Thank you so much.

COLLINS: Thank you, Jim.

ACOSTA: All right. Coming up, we're about 90 minutes away from the start of CNN's exclusive Town Hall with President Biden.

Also, I'll ask one of the progressive leaders in Congress about the political mess surrounding the House committee investigation of the January 6th insurrection.



ACOSTA: We're following two major stories here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Right now, we're less than two hours from the start of CNN's exclusive town hall with President Biden. And back here in Washington, Representative Liz Cheney this afternoon blasted House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy, calling his rhetoric on the January 6th committee investigation disgraceful.

McCarthy pulled three of his picks off the committee today after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi rejected two others. Take a listen.


CHENEY: The rhetoric around this from the minority leader and from those two members has been disgraceful. This must be an investigation that is focused on facts. And the idea that any of this has become politicized is really unworthy of the office that we all hold and unworthy of our republic.

And we cannot allowed those voice who is are attempting to prevent the American people from getting the truth to prevail and we certainly will not.


ACOSTA: And joining us now is Representative Ro Khanna, Democrat of California. Congressman, thank you so much for being with us.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, as you know, she accepted three of McCarthy's picks for this committee. What does it tell you and how do you respond from McCarthy pulling all of them back?

REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA): It's so unfortunate. I mean, Speaker Pelosi has appointed a bipartisan commission with Liz Cheney on it. She has wanted this to be bipartisan and to get to the facts. Look, I served with Representative Jim Jordan on the Oversight Committee. If someone tried to take him off the Oversight Committee, I'd said, no, he has every right to be on the oversight committee. But you can't have people who have said that there wasn't an insurrection be on a committee to investigate an insurrection. It's not personal. It's factual.

ACOSTA: And we heard earlier today the minority leader trying to blame House Speaker Nancy Pelosi for the intelligence failures, the security failures that we saw on January 6th. This appears to be a GOP talking point. What's your response?

KHANNA: You know, what would make that a lot more credible is if there actually was an investigation. Instead of lobbying charges that have no basis, why not have a factual inquiry, which is all speaker wants into this.

Look, the speaker is a deep institutionalist.


She tells the story of a young girl coming by the Capitol and how moved she was by that. This is not about politics. This was an attack on our democracy and attack on an institution where she served for over 30 years. And she wants a bipartisan investigation. And that's what Liz Cheney wants. That's why you see both of them coming together on this issue.

ACOSTA: And on a different issue, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, I'm sure you saw this earlier today, Mark Milley, General Mark Milley was asked about the reporting that we have seen in these Trump books that have come out that he feared that former President Trump would attempt a coup to stay in power. Let's watch how the general responded.


GENERAL MARK MILLEY, CHAIRMAN, JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF: I'm not going to comment here to books. But I want you know and I want everyone to know, I want America to know, that the United States military is an apolitical institution. We were then. We are now. And our oath is to the Constitution, not to any individual at all.

And the military did not and will not and should not ever get involved in domestic politics. We don't arbitrate elections. That's the job the judiciary and legislature and the American people. It is not a job of the U.S. in the military. We stayed out of politics. We are an apolitical institution. (END VIDEO CLIP)

ACOSTA: Now, General Milley did not respond to the allegations in those books. He didn't address those allegations but he came pretty darn close to it in making that comment that they serve the Constitution of the United States. What was your response to hearing General Milley say those words earlier today?

KHANNA: Well, Jim, I'm on the Armed Services Committee. I have a tremendous amount of respect for General Milley. We don't always agree on military strategy but he is widely read. He cares about the Constitution. And I have confidence in him and our senior military leadership that they are loyal to the Constitution.

The concerning thing is what do you do when a president violates basic norms and what are we going to do to make sure that never happens again, because we came awfully close to a major violation of our Constitution.

ACOSTA: And, very quickly, on the January 6th committee, should they try to bring in former President Trump to testify, do you think?

KHANNA: Yes. I mean, I don't see how you don't. They should bring in every relevant person on the hearing. It should be bipartisan. It should be factual. But how can you not say that President Trump, who he was giving speeches encouraging people to go into the Capitol, isn't a material witness?

ACOSTA: All right. Congressman, thank you very much. Ro Khanna, representative from California, thanks so much as always.

And just ahead, we're counting down to CNN's exclusive Town Hall with President Biden less than 90 minutes from now.

Plus, why are some prominent Republicans apparently changing their tune on vaccines? We're looking into that, next.



ACOSTA: We're getting closer to CNN's Town Hall with President Biden as he marks six months in office and facing new challenges in pandemic. Stand by for that.

Right now, some Republicans appear to be changing their tunes COVID vaccination after members of the party have been spreading misinformation for months.

CNN's Jessica Dean is digging on that. Jessica, what are you hearing from Republicans and what message are they sending now?

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, we're certainly seeing a very big shift in tone from right-wing media encouraging people now to get the vaccine. We're also hearing from Republican lawmakers who are becoming even more outspoken in their message to their constituents, which is get the vaccine.


STEVE DOOCY, FOX NEWS HOST: If you have the chance, get the shot. But if you don't --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It can save your life.

DEAN (voice over): A shift in tone in the right wing media when it comes to the COVID-19 vaccine. Fox and Friends Host Steve Doocy talking over his Co-Host to encourage viewers to get vaccinated. Doocy has been advocating the benefits of the vaccine since the winter. But now, other Fox News hosts are following suit.

SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: I believe in science.

DEAN: Sean Hannity, who, in January, said he was beginning to have doubts about getting the shot, made this plea to viewers this week.

HANNITY: Just like we have been saying, please take COVID seriously. I can't say it enough. Enough people have died.

DEAN: The CEO of the far-right network, Newsmax, Chris Ruddy, published an op-ed saying he's been vaccinated and writing, President Biden should be quote applauded for his administration's vaccine efforts.

That shift in tone coincides with the delta variant tearing across the U.S., hitting conservative leaning state especially hard where vaccination rates are some of the lowest in the country.

REP. STEVE SCALISE (R-LA): It's safe and effective. I took it, and I wanted to show the picture to just encourage people.

DEAN: Now, some Republican lawmakers are being more outspoken and they're effort to encourage people to get the shots. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise announced he got first dose of the vaccine on Sunday after seeing the COVID cases rise due to the delta variant.

SCALISE: I was ready to get the vaccine. I have always felt that it was safe and effective.

DEAN: In his state of Louisiana la, only 36 percent of people are fully vaccinated and the daily case rate is three times the national average.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who survived polio and has consistently advocated for people to get vaccinated, did not mince words this week.

MCCONNELL: This is not complicated. 97 percent of the people who are in the hospital now for COVID are unvaccinated. So if there's anybody out there willing to listen, get vaccinated.

DEAN: But there are still a number of Republican lawmakers who did not face any public rebuke from their Republican peers for pushing vaccine lies.

REP. MADISON CAWTHORN (R-NC): Now, they start to talk about going door-to-door to be able to take vaccines to the people.

They can go door-to-door to take your guns. They can go door-to-door to take your bibles.


DEAN (on camera): And again that's the other key thing. Jim, we're not seeing that public rebuke of their fellow Republican colleagues who are putting out -- still putting out disinformation about the vaccine.

And all of this happening as we're hearing from the Capitol attending physician here on the Hill saying that the delta variant has been detected, asking anyone who hasn't been vaccinated to get the vaccine. And all of that unfolding as we still know that some Republican members either aren't sharing their vaccination status or haven't been vaccinated.



ACOSTA: It's important to get those vaccines. They do work.

DEAN: Yeah.

ACOSTA: All right. Jessica Dean, thank you very much for that.

Stay with us. We're just a little over an hour away from tonight's exclusive CNN town hall with President Biden.

And next, legal trouble for another prominent associate of former President Trump. This makes 11 who face criminal charges. What does it mean for Trump himself?


ACOSTA: We're counting down to the start of tonight's CNN town hall with President Biden. But we're also counting up as another name is added to the list of prominent Trump associates facing criminal charges. We're now at 11 after Tom Barrack, who chaired Trump's inaugural committee, was charged with illegal lobbying.


Let's bring in CNN senior justice correspondent Evan Perez.

Evan, what's the latest? This is still evolving, this case.

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: It is evolving. One of the big questions people have is will Tom Barrack flip? Will he -- does he have something to give to prosecutors? At this point, Barrack and his team, his lawyers are saying no chance. They say that they're going to will fight these charges. They say that there's no chance he is going to cooperate with prosecutors.

I got to tell you reading the pages of this indictment, it's pretty clear that prosecutors weren't expecting him to. They view him as the sort of the big fish essentially because after all, he is multimillionaire, $100 million at his disposal. He has a lot of money to fight these charges. The Justice Department knows they're going to have a tough fight if and when this goes to trial. And so, you know, it's clear they believe they had to work on this case before they could bring it to the court in Brooklyn.

ACOSTA: And let me ask you about the fact we've had so many Trump associates ensnared in the legal system over the last several years. In terms of ranking, where does Tom Barrack fit in that? The head of the inaugural committee, that is not small -- that's not the coffee boy.

PEREZ: He's not the coffee boy. He is a person who was deeply, you know, inside Trump's circle. He's known him for 40 years. He was key in helping pick some of the people around Trump, including some of the people who ended up going to prison, and, you know, he talked to Trump, as you know, he was in regular contact with Trump in the early part of his presidency and this is the reason why he was being exploited essentially according to prosecutors by the Emiratis who viewed as a way to get to Trump and to people inside the administration. He ranks pretty high if you want to look at that.

ACOSTA: And how long have they been looking at Barrack? It seems this is -- he's been on their radar screen.

PEREZ: He's been in their radar screen. Certainly, some of these charges -- some of these allegations go back to 2016 during the campaign but the last thing in 2019 when he's interviewed by the FBI, it's clear to us and talking to sources that the prosecutors were ready to bring this case, Jim, early last year.

And there was some opposition from inside the Brooklyn U.S. attorney's office, from the U.S. attorney at the time, Rich Donoghue. We know that in the end, they ran into the election and so now, they were able to do it under the Biden administration.

ACOSTA: All right. Very interesting reporting.

Evan Perez, we know you'll stay on top of it. Thanks so much. We appreciate it.

Coming up, as we count down to CNN's presidential town hall, a Biden biographer will tell us what he'll be watching for tonight.



ACOSTA: We're closing in on CNN's exclusive town hall with President Biden. It begins in a little over an hour and joining me now is CNN contributor Evan Osnos. He's also a staff writer for the "New Yorker" and author of "Joe Biden: The Life, the Run and What Matters Now." Evan, thanks so much for being with us.

Six months into the presidency of Joe Biden, the president faces a series of very big challenges. COVID resurges, stalled legislation, new foreign policy hurdles, trying to get out of Afghanistan without things blowing up there.

How do you expect him to address these challenges at this town hall tonight?

EVAN OSNOS, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, if you compare it to where he was say, four or five months ago, the last time he did a town hall, it's interesting, at that point, he was saying, we've got to pass the American relief act, we've got to begin to -- American Rescue Act, we've got to try to get things going. We've got to try to put Donald Trump in the rearview mirror.

To some degree, he's made good on those promises. Obviously, big COVID relief act. People are happy about it. Even Republicans that voted against him in some cases are taking credit for it but you also have the delta variant beginning to storm its way back and part of the message is to appeal to people and say look, this is on us. If you want to get this over with, you can't expect the government to do it alone. You need to be part of it.

ACOSTA: And you've researched and written about President Biden's career. What experience do you think he's going to draw on during this pivotal moment in this presidency because he has not -- I think the one thing that voters entrusted to him more than anything was defeating COVID, and this resurgence of COVID in the delta variant I think puts that somewhat in jeopardy, does it not? That promise and that hope that a lot of Americans had for his presidency.

OSNOS: That's been a signature hallmark of the presidency so far and part of his message tonight is to say, if we want that, if you like being able to go see your grandparents and get your kids back into school, this is on all of us. This is about getting the vaccine and putting this in the rearview mirror.

It's also about him appealing directly to the American public.

You know, this is a great statistic, Jim. If you go back to the very beginning of the administration, 71 percent of Americans said they wanted to see Republicans cooperate with Joe Biden, try to breakthrough some of the paralysis. We haven't seen that happen.

And what he's going to do today is say to people, you can put pressure on your lawmakers, try to make this happen.

ACOSTA: And I wonder how much voting rights and the rollback on voting that we've seen in states around the country and whether or not that comes up tonight. That's a big challenge for this president because progressives want him to go harder on that issue.

OSNOS: You're absolutely right. You heard him give the big speech where he said this is the responsibility of our generation to see this through. It's unconscionable not to work on it.

He also, of course, said he wasn't -- or indicated, didn't give a sign that he was going to get rid of the filibuster and push for that. That is also a recognition that he knows that some moderates that will meet in 2022 and ultimately in 2024 for Democrats, that they're uneasy about the idea of getting rid of the filibuster. So, he's trying to meet both of those constituents.

ACOSTA: Yeah. He'll be walking a tight rope tonight there in Cincinnati, a key state for the president.

All right. Thanks so much, Evan Osnos. Thanks so much for that.

And CNN's exclusive town hall event with President Biden begins in about an hour. Don lemon hosts live from Cincinnati beginning at 8:00 Eastern.


Our special coverage continues right now with "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT".