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New Vaccine Mandates In California, New York City And U.S. Veterans Affairs As COVID Cases Surge Among The Unvaccinated; Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) Feud Over January 6 Committee Boils Over With Tensions Hitting A New High; Trump Ally Tom Barrack Pleads Not Guilty To Illegal Foreign Lobbying Charges After $250 Million Bail Deal; Biden's Infrastructure Deal On Shaky Ground; Growing Questions About Possible Vaccine Passports In U.S. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired July 26, 2021 - 18:00   ET



WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, new vaccine mandates for many public workers in California, New York City and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs amid a serious warning that the pandemic here in the United States is spiraling out of control.

Also tonight, the partisan feud over the Capitol riot is boiling over at the highest levels of the House of Representatives on this, the eve of the January 6th committee's first public hearing.

And we're sizing up the criminal case against Trump ally Tom Barrack after his not guilty plea on charges of illegal foreign lobbying.

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 with the new COVID-19 vaccine mandates. Our National Correspondent Athena Jones is in New York. She has the late, breaking details for us. Athena, these are truly landmark moves by a state, a major city and now a federal agency.

ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf, that's exactly right. With new daily COVID cases now passing 50,000 for the first time since April, we're seeing more and more mandates, not just from states and health care providers but also individual cities.

Starting Thursday in San Francisco, more than 300 bars across the city will be requiring patrons to provide proof of vaccination or a negative COVID result in order to enter. Those who don't will have to sit outside or in other spaces.



A. JONES (voice over): America facing a crisis all over again and more and more health care systems, states and localities are responding with mandates. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio today announcing all city employees, including public school teachers, must either be vaccinated by September 13th or begin testing weekly, urging private employers to do the same.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK CITY, NY: I would strongly urge a vaccination mandate whenever possible or as close to it as possible.

A. JONES: California also announcing a requirement for vaccination or regular testing for all state employees and health care workers.

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): You don't have a choice to go out and drink and drive and put everybody else's lives at risk. That's the equivalent of this moment with the deadliness and efficiency of the delta virus. You are putting other people's -- innocent people's lives at risk.

A. JONES: Kansas City, Missouri's mayor is considering a similar requirement while the indoor mask mandate in St. Louis goes into effect today.

DR. SAM PAGE, ST. LOUIS COUNTY EXECUTIVE: Masks will allow businesses to remain open. Masks will allow our economy to continue growing and will keep people employed.

A. JONES: Meanwhile, major medical groups are calling for all health care and long-term care employers to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for workers. And vaccinations are now required for some health care personnel at the Department of Veterans Affairs, the first federal agency to mandate COVID vaccines.

Officials in Provincetown, Massachusetts, adopting an indoor mask mandate effective immediately after the more contagious delta variant drove an outbreak of 430 confirmed COVID cases, 69 percent of them in people who were fully vaccinated.

With new coronavirus cases surging in nearly every state, the country is averaging more than 50,000 new COVID-19 cases a day, up more than 60 percent over last week's seven-day average. Hospitalizations nationwide more than doubling over the last three weeks.

DR. JEROME ADAMS, FORMER U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: This pandemic is spiraling out of control yet again, and it's spiraling out of control because we don't have enough people vaccinated.

A. JONES: More than four in ten people are living in a county with what the CDC considers to be high transmission, like every county in Florida and Arkansas, which, along with Louisiana, lead the nation in new cases per capita, daily COVID cases in the Sunshine State tripling over the last two weeks.

FAUCI: Since we have 50 percent of the country is not fully vaccinated, that's a problem, particularly when you have a variant like delta.

A. JONES: As doctors warn -- DR. JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: If you are not vaccinated right now in the United States, you should not go into a bar. You should probably not eat in a restaurant. You are at great risk of becoming infected.


A. JONES (on camera): And one more thing about those mandates. The Justice Department -- lawyers at the Justice Department have said that federal law does not prohibit mandates. It doesn't keep public agencies or private businesses from issuing mandates related to COVID- 19 and vaccines, even though the vaccines only have an emergency use authorization.

This is an important opinion from the Office of Legal Council that paves the way for more federal agencies and private businesses to introduce these types of mandates. Wolf?

BLITZER: Yes, that's a very significant development from the Justice Department right there.


Athena, thank you very, very much, Athena Jones reporting.

Let's discuss this and more with the former acting director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Richard Besser.

And let me get your reaction to this news right away. I think it is significant that this opinion from the Justice Department now says that the government, as well as private companies, can mandate vaccinations for their employees. What is your reaction to that? What does that suggest to you?

DR. RICHARD BESSER, FORMER ACTING DIRECTOR, CDC: Well, Wolf, you know, I think what we're going to see is that a number of people who have been on the fence who may not have been very excited about getting vaccinated will get vaccinated because of mandates. We see that -- I'm a general pediatrician and we see that with children with school mandates, where there are some parents who aren't big fans of vaccination but they get their children vaccinated because it is required to attend school.

BLITZER: Yes, I think it is a significant move. And let's see what flows from that. Remember, 163 million Americans may be fully vaccinated but the other half of the country, 163 million Americans are not vaccinated, and that is a real, real serious problem in this country right now.

As you heard, Dr. Besser, the V.A. will now mandate vaccines for all its health care workers. California, by the way, is doing the same, New York City expanding its vaccine mandates for city employees. Is this a sign of where our country is now headed?

BESSER: Well, I hope so. I hope that employers look at this and think about what's best for their work environment. At the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, we are opening our doors after Labor Day and only employees who are fully vaccinated are going to be able to work in the building. Other people will need to work remotely.

What we recognize is that we vaccinate to protect ourselves but also to protect those around us who either can't get vaccinated or who may have medical conditions for which vaccines don't provide protection. And if you are someone who is deciding not to get vaccinated, places of employment have the right to say, I'm sorry but you are not going to be able to work here.

BLITZER: Yes. That's, as I keep saying, a serious move right now. A lot of cities across the country now, Dr. Besser, are re-implementing these mask mandates. You're someone who previously led the CDC. Do you think it is time for the CDC's guidance to follow suit and issue the same kind of guidance as a lot of these cities are now doing?

BESSER: Well, I think the CDC guidance allows for local decision- making, and that's really important, because public health takes place in each locality. What you want to be able to do is look at each town, look at each community and say what is going on here? Is this a setting in which we want to do more? We want to do more to prevent transmission.

One of the things we're seeing with the dramatic rise of the delta variant is that in any community where vaccination rates are low, we're going to see more cases. And given that it's next to impossible for a business or other place that has an indoor space to police this, to require proof of vaccination, I think we're going to see more and more places saying, you know what, because the numbers are going up, we're going to re-implement indoor vaccination.

This is something we can turn on, we can turn it off. I would not be at all surprised if CDC recommends that based on local community conditions.

BLITZER: Yes, I think that's significant as well. Look at this map. I'm going to put it up on the screen. There you see the red, that's where there is high transmission. That's nearly half of the country right now. And in Florida, Arkansas, every single county over there is in red right now. How bad could this get, Dr. Besser, before we start to turn things around?

BESSER: Well, we're going to see continued dramatic increase in the number of cases. Thankfully, we have very high rates of vaccination for those 65 and above. So while the number of cases is going to continue to rise dramatically, hospitalizations will go up but not as much and deaths will go up but not as much.

But, Wolf, every day, more than 200 people are dying from COVID. And the vast majority of those deaths are preventable with vaccination. We need to increase the efforts to reach people where they are, to create space for people to change their mind so there is no stigma involved there, no shame and provide opportunities for people to get vaccinated.

Different communities have different reasons for low vaccination rates. We have to understand those and address them.

BLITZER: Yes. The Johns Hopkins University now reports more than 50,000 Americans every day on average right now are coming down with COVID. That's a huge, huge number. Dr. Besser, thanks as usual for joining us.

BESSER: Thanks so much, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Just ahead, the January 6th committee is now preparing for its first day of testimony. Stay with us. We're going to bring you new details right after the short break.



BLITZER: Tonight, tensions between the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, and the House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, they are now reaching a boiling point as the January 6th committee makes final preparations for its first day of testimony.

Let's go to our Congressional Correspondent Ryan Nobles, he's joining us live from Capitol Hill right now. So, give us a preview, Ryan. This is a big deal.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It certainly is, Wolf. And Democrats are doing everything they can to make this panel appear as bipartisan as possible. And to that end, tomorrow, there will be two opening statements at this hearing. One delivered by a chairman, a Democrat, Bennie Thompson, the other from one of the Republicans on the committee, Liz Cheney.



NOBLES (voice over): Tonight, the House select committee designed to investigate the January 6th insurrection is preparing for their first hearing. The hearing will feature police officers who were on the frontlines defending the Capitol on that day, like Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Fanone.


OFFICER MICHAEL FANONE, D.C. METROPOLITAN POLICE DEPARTMENT: We don't get to, you know, address and face the reality that it was a political insurrection, which was incited by former President Donald Trump, then I don't think that we're going to be able to move forward as a nation.

NOBLES: The committee will also unveil never before released video of the violence and chaos on that day as they begin their task of getting to the bottom of what led to the riots.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): We will find the truth. That truth will have the confidence of the American people. NOBLES: But despite that mission, the committee's work is being over shadowed by a bitter partisan feud. Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy attacking his fellow Republicans Adam Kinzinger and Liz Cheney for accepting roles on the panel.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Who is that? Adam and Liz? Aren't they kind of like Pelosi Republicans?

NOBLES: McCarthy pulled off five of his GOP picks after Speaker Nancy Pelosi vetoed two of them, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, because she believed they would distract from the committee's work. That showdown led to a contentious call between the two leaders, further damaging their already fractured relationship.

MCCARTHY: Well, I think it was contentious, yes, because I don't think -- I don't think the speaker doing something unprecedented to Congress.

NOBLES: Some Republicans now want McCarthy to attempt to strip Cheney and Kinzinger from their other committee assignments, an effort Democrats can block.

The threat and the attacks by McCarthy did not seem to face the duo.

REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): Look, it's very serious business here. We have important work to do, and I think that's pretty childish.

REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): If the conference decides or if Kevin decides they want to punish, you know, Liz Cheney and I for getting to the bottom and telling the truth, I think that probably says more about them than it does for us.

NOBLES: Meanwhile, Republicans are hatching a plan to counterprogram tomorrow's hearing. Democrats have promised that the committee's work will not be interrupted.

REP. STENY HOYER (D-MD): That ought not to be a partisan issue. Truth ought to be an intellectually honest pursuit. And that's what Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger are going to do.


NOBLES (on camera): And that counterprogramming effort by Republicans is going to come in many forms and fashions tomorrow. The House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, plans a press conference for 8:00 A.M. before the hearing kicks off, where they're going to focus on the security lapses on the day of January 6th.

But the far-right of the Republican Party has plans of their own. Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz, Paul Gosar and others planning a press conference in front of the Department of Justice, demanding answers for those that have been in prison after being arrested for their role in partaking in what happened here on January 6th. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right. Ryan, thank you very much, Ryan Nobles up on Capitol Hill.

Let's get some analysis from the former Ohio governor, CNN Senior Commentator John Kasich, and CNN Political Commentator Van Jones.

Governor Kasich, as you know, Congressman Kinzinger says he wants answers on this deadly attack. So, what does it say that he and Congresswoman Liz Cheney are now forced to have to fend off retaliation by members of their own party?

JOHN KASICH, CNN SENIOR COMMENTATOR: You know, it's funny, it's just beyond anything that I can quite grasp. But I don't think they will be disciplined. I mean, I just don't know that happening, Wolf. But even the suggestion of it is crazy.

Originally, I thought that Pelosi had made a bad decision when she kicked those three people off. But I think she's come back and she's been able to create some bipartisanship. I mean, Kinzinger and Cheney are Republicans. They are. And I think that the whole investigation, I think the media will be focused on it.

And, frankly, they're not going to be focused on Republican antics because I got to tell you, Wolf, every time I see those films, every time I see those images, I'm just stunned and sickened by it. And I remember the day it happened. It's seminole in American history. And no matter how they try to wash it away or say these were Democrats, whatever crazy things they say, it's not going to change.

And I think that these hearings will be good and I think we're going to get more information. And I hope it will wake up some of the American people that have been in denial, and I'd like to tell them denial is a river in Egypt, not a position to take in regard to this January 6th.

BLITZER: And you're right about Kinzinger and Cheney. They're both not only Republicans, they're both very conservative Republicans and have a long track record in that area.

You know, Van, things are clearly getting very heated between the speaker, Nancy Pelosi, the minority leader, Kevin McCarthy. They had a rather tense call, we're told, about this committee. Is this a sign just how badly things have devolved here in Washington?

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, absolutely. And especially because, you know, Kevin McCarthy knows better. You know, when this thing first happened, he sounded like every other American, appalled and frustrated with the behavior of the president.


In fact, he called the president to try to get it called off. He didn't call Nancy Pelosi to get it called off. He called Barack Obama to get it called off. He didn't call Oprah Winfrey. He called Donald Trump to get the attack called off. That lets you know right there that he knows exactly what this was. He knows exactly who was responsible because that's who he calls. And to watch the deterioration and the collapse of Kevin McCarthy these weeks and months, as he's become a defender of someone who could have been responsible for taking his life or taking the life of Vice President Pence is just really sad.

I do hope that people will do themselves the courtesy of actually watching these hearings. Because when you hear from real people and you see real video, you don't have to take the left-wing word or the right-wing word, the truth speaks for itself and it will in these hearings.

BLITZER: Yes, I suspect they will be very dramatic and informative as well.

Governor Kasich, what do you expect from the two Republican members from the select committee in tomorrow's hearing?

KASICH: Well, listen, you said it, Wolf, and I think Van said it. I mean, when you take Liz Cheney, Liz Cheney is the daughter of the vice president under George Bush, Dick Cheney. She's a conservative Republican. Kinzinger is the same way. I think they will conduct themselves admirably. I think they will be above it. And I hope that the committee stays above it and that they don't, you know, resort to anything that can play into any politics here.

But, look, picture is worth a thousand words and you listen to this police officer talk about what he went through. I mean, you know, Wolf, I guess the only thing I can say is that people when they get frightened or they feel under attack, they see a narrative only they want to believe.

And to turn a blind's eye to what happened at that Capitol today, the people who were so severely hurt, you know, God bless them. Open your eyes, please, folks. This is our country we're talking about. This is not some charade. It's just not. It is too important to the heartbeat of America.

BLITZER: Van, what do you expect to see and hear tomorrow?

V. JONES: Look, I think we're going to -- I think people feel upset. They feel this is outrageous. But I think people are going to be reminded how bad this was. A joint session of Congress, to do one of the most sacred acts, ensuring the peaceful transfer of power interrupted by a howling mob of murderous lunatics causing the loss of life, people had to literally flee the inner sanctum, the most sacred part of our democracy, to live because they thought they were going to get murdered.

This is a complete outrage and a disgrace, a global embarrassment, and there is going to be video people have not seen before. I think people are going to be sobered and reminded and also embarrassed that we have not been able to come together as a country even over this just to get the facts, just to get the facts.

BLITZER: Van Jones and Governor Kasich, guys, thank you very, very much. Coming up, did Trump ally Tom Barrack give any hints of his legal strategy and his arraignment on our charges of illegal foreign lobbying? Our experts are standing by.



BLITZER: Tonight, the latest Trump ally to face criminal charges has now been arraigned, Tom Barrack pleading not guilty just a few days after he was released from jail as part of a whopping $250 million bail deal.

CNN's Kara Scannell is covering it all for us. She's joining us live from Brooklyn right now. Kara, so what are you learning about the prosecution's case?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Well, Wolf, that's right. So, Tom Barrack entered his plea of not guilty just a few hours ago in the courthouse behind me. Now, prosecutors have charged him in a seven-count indictment. They say that he made multiple false statements to the FBI and that he was acting as an agent of the UAE trying to influence the foreign policy positions of Donald Trump's campaign and the administration.

Now, Barrack's co-defendant in this case, Matthew Grimes, also entered a plea of not guilty. The judge releasing both men on bail, he said he found it to be quite substantial and would mitigate the risk of any flight.

Now, these bail conditions are just like the ones that were negotiated on Friday. Barrack was released on a $250 million bond. That bond is supported by his ex-wife, his son and a former business partner.

Now, the judge had all three of those participants participate in hearing today remotely, saying he wanted to make sure that they understood the risk that they were taking if Barrack violated any of the terms of his release.

So, in addition to the money, Barrack also has GPS monitoring, that means he is wearing an ankle bracelet. He is no longer allowed to fly on any private planes and prosecutors also got the judge to agree to prohibit Barrack from making any overseas financial transactions.

So, a lot of restrictions on Barrack, also for his co-defendant, Matthew Grimes, he was released on a $5 million bond today.

Now, Barrack has said in a statement after the hearings that, of course, I'm innocent of these charges and we will prove that in court. Now, both defendants are expected to be back before the judge in early September. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right. Kara, thank you very much, Kara Scannell reporting.

Let's bring in CNN Legal Analyst and Criminal Defense Attorney Joey Jackson, along with David Aronberg, the state attorney of Palm Beach County down in Florida.

Dave, what does this not guilty plea from Barrack and a statement, his public statement that he made, tell you about his strategy to fight these serious charges?


DAVID ARONBERG, STATE ATTORNEY, PALM BEACH COUNTY, FLORIDA: Good evening, Wolf. It doesn't tell you very much. He did what most criminal defendants do in that he pled not guilty, he claimed his innocence in a statement afterwards, and he even referenced the Statue of Liberty.

He talked about the Statue of Liberty's promise of tolerance, liberty and justice, which is kind of ironic for a guy that introduced the America first candidate at the 2016 Republican National Convention and raised $32 million for his Super PAC. But when he gets in trouble, he hides behind Lady Liberty. He's not the first defendant to do so. They have different ways of finding religion when they're facing years in prison.

BLITZER: You know, Joey, how strong do you believe the case against Barrack is? Does he have a major uphill battle ahead of him?

JOEY JACKSON, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: So, let me say this, Wolf. You always have a major uphill battle when you face the federal government. I say that because what happens is, in a federal prosecution, generally, they investigate, they investigate and they investigate.

So by the time they actually pick you up and they charge you and indict you, they have done their homework, right? They have a number of things. They have documents. They may have emails. They have text messages. They may have other witnesses. They have got statements.

So, that in and of itself, having said that, I hasten to add this, let's keep in mind that an indictment is an accusation and a person certainly is entitled to the presumption of innocence, right? But the reason that the federal government has over a 95 percent conviction rate is because, unlike the state when you are arrested and then the investigation begins, the federal government do all of that and then they decide that there is probable cause to ultimately go into a grand jury, produce that information to the grand jury, get that indictment and get you.

But, again, having said that, Wolf, an indictment as us defense lawyers remind jurors day in and day out their accusations, their accusations that are very powerful with respect to failing to register, with respect to obstructing justice, with respect to giving false statements but they're always viable defenses.

And we'll see when the discovery, because that's where in the stage, briefly, at this point, having been indicted, he'll get a treasure trove of information. His defense lawyers will. They will look. They will evaluate that. And that's when the fight will really begin and we'll be able to assess the strength of the case or the lack thereof. BLITZER: Dave, what does Barrack face if he's found guilty of these charges? Can he still avoid that if he changes his mind and, let's say, potentially down the road, decides to cooperate?

ARONBERG: He needs to because he's a guy who is 74 years old, he's used to living high on the hog and he's facing about 50 years in prison, ten years for the session 951 espionage count. Then you have got all this lying and obstruction of justice, which adds about 40 more years.

Now, he's more likely to get within the sentencing guidelines of probably within five to eight years. But when you're a guy like Tom Barrack, you don't want to serve any time in prison, let alone during a pandemic. So there is every incentive for him to cop a deal with the feds.

And he knows a lot. The Eastern District of New York is also allegedly investigating the inaugural committee, and he was the head of the Trump inaugural committee. So he has very valuable information to give up if he chooses to go down that path. And something tells me he probably will.

BLITZER: Very quickly, Joey, before I let you go, $250 million bond arrangement keeping him out of jail at least for now, that's pretty extraordinary, isn't it?

JACKSON: It is. But when you look at the fact that his company made $1.5 billion over the last three years that he was presiding, you want to have really meat (ph). And so what I mean is if you want to ensure someone's return to court, you back that up with significant money. That's what they did here. He's got a private jet. He has got Lebanese citizenship. They want to be very careful that they give him an incentive to return, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Joey, David, guys, thank you very much.

Just ahead, the disgraced former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, makes a dangerous joke about assassination here in Washington. We have new video of his remarks. Stay with us.



BLITZER: We're getting some new video of the disgraced former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, making very dangerous and irresponsible remarks. Watch this.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is one of our top quality guns and --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe I'll find somebody in Washington, D.C.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BLITZER: All right. Let's discuss this and more with Carol Leonnig, the co-author of the important new book just out, I Alone Can Fix It, Donald J. Trump's Catastrophic Final Year, there you see the book cover. Carol, thanks so much for joining us.

Really disgusting joke, I don't even know if you can call it that, given the climate that's going on right now here in Washington. You describe in your book about how Michael Flynn actually stoked chaos in the final weeks of the Trump presidency.

When you hear this latest dangerous insinuation about assassination, does it reflect the type of reckless advice the former president was getting?

CAROL LEONNIG, CO-AUTHOR, "I ALONE CAN FIX IT": You know, Wolf, that's such an important insight about the through line of the people who were whispering in Donald Trump's ear and were literally getting his ear in the final harrowing days of the Trump presidency.

You know, General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was worried about a coup. And it's statements like Michael Flynn recently made and also statements he made during those final days that set the chairman and other leaders in the Pentagon on edge.

You will remember, of course, that Mike Flynn had said he thought there should be martial law to reclaim all the election machines and re-run -- quote/unquote, re-run the election, whatever that means. The idea that he mentioned just in passing on television led Donald Trump to bring him in to the oval to talk about this great idea.

You'll also remember from reading our book, Phil and I learned in our reporting for I Alone Can Fix It, that Michael Flynn was talking about, really, basically declaring war on those who would not agree that Donald Trump was the rightful president and deserved a second term.


This language was really unsettling again to leaders in the Pentagon who believed Michael Flynn represented a part, a fringe part of the Trump sort of diaspora that might push democracy off the rails.

BLITZER: Yes. And I want to remind our viewers, Carol, what the former president, former President Trump, told you in his own words about the mob of insurrectionists who attacked the U.S. Capitol on January 6th. You spent and your co-author, Phil Rucker, you spent two and a half hours interviewing the former president. Listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: It was a loving crowd too, by the way. There was a lot of love. I've heard that from everybody. Many, many people told me that was a loving crowd.

They were ushered in by the police. I mean, in all fairness, the Capitol Police were ushering people in. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: He continues to try to rewrite history, the latest example this past weekend in Arizona. But the House select committee will try to get to the bottom of this starting with their first hearing tomorrow.

So what more did you guys learn in all your excellent reporting for this book about how that January 6th insurrection actually unfolded for the then-president?

LEONNIG: There were some jaw-dropping moments that day, Wolf, as a result of the president basically being pretty supportive of this group. As you know, again, because you have read our interview with the president, he told us that it was this incredible, loving crowd and that it was the largest crowd he had ever seen, that they were hugged and kissed when they arrived at the Capitol.

They were ushered in by the Capitol Police. We all know that's not true. But the president was watching television that day, kind of giddy at the idea that his supporters were charging up Capitol Hill to, quote/unquote, stop the steal.

We also know from our reporting that Ivanka Trump, his daughter, and his chief of staff, Mark Meadows, were working double time for two hours to try to get the president to essentially call off the dogs, to get him to stop his ralliers, his supporters from engaging in something that was a felony and now has, you know, killed five people and also spawned the largest FBI investigation in its history.

BLITZER: Do you think he is going to run again in 2024?

LEONNIG: Everybody asks me that, Wolf, and I've got to tell you from sitting down with him across some pretty silk brocade sofas, he sounds like a guy who is running. And as you know, he's the standard bear for the Republican Party. If the primary was held next week, he'd be the nominee for president for the Republican Party.

We don't know though. It is a long time off. We don't know his goals and his interests. We know that he loved being president and he fought like heck to keep the job. We just don't know what his final decision will be for 2024.

BLITZER: Yes, good point. The book is really an amazing book, I Alone Can Fix It, Donald J. Trump's Catastrophic Final Year. Carol Leonnig, Philip Rucker, you guys have done an amazing job, good work. Thanks, Carol, so much for joining us.

LEONNIG: Thank you for the good questions, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you.

Meanwhile, there is an urgent infrastructure talks underway right now as a bipartisan deal is potentially in danger right now of collapsing. We're getting more information.



BLITZER: President Biden's infrastructure deal is now on shaky ground after he had hoped to make significant progress by today.

Let's go to our senior White House correspondent Phil Mattingly. He's tracking the negotiations, difficult negotiations.

Phil, a bipartisan group is holding infrastructure talks as we meet right now. What's the latest?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, it's a critical meeting between the top negotiators coming at the end of the day that was defined far more bipartisan back and forth, blaming one another than it was about any progress whatsoever, just underscoring that this framework that GOP officials, Democratic lawmakers and the president agree to more than a month ago still is not close to a final agreement.

And at this point, seems to be teetering. It is a long way away from what President Biden himself was saying just last week when it came to today. It was supposed to be the deadline. Take a listen.


DON LEMON, CNN HOST: They expect a vote on Monday, but how much time do you think they need to get this done?

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Until Monday. Look, no, I'm not being facetious.

LEMON: You think it's going to move forward in the Senate on Monday?

BIDEN: I do.


MATTINGLY: Wolf, to put it bluntly, it is not moving forward in the United States Senate on Monday. However, when you take a look at the issues that are still standing there are a lot of them. And until everything is closed up, lawmakers on both sides and White House officials making clear there is no path forward. Whether it's funding for highways, bridges and water systems, transit funding, broadband, prevailing wage lost, how to use unspent COVID-19 money in order to finance the proposal.

All of these issues are still open. Now, despite the partisan blame game that went back and forth throughout the course of the day, multiple officials I've spoken to here at the White House were trying to pull back a little bit, trying to cool down the temperatures, making clear, talks will continue.

They believe there is a path forward here. What that path is though, lawmakers right now in a meeting that just broke up, they will continue, Wolf, having calls in, Zoom meetings throughout the course the night. Those will go a long way to determining what that pathway maybe, if it exists at all.


BLITZER: You know, different subject, major foreign policy decision, the president met with the visiting Iraqi prime minister at the White House today, and made this significant announcement about U.S. troops in Iraq.

Tell us about that.

MATTINGLY: That's exactly right, Wolf.

President Biden, while meeting with Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, the Iraqi prime minister, announcing that combat mission in Iraq will end by the end of this year. Now, to some degree, it's symbolic. U.S. troops, unlike Afghanistan, are not withdrawing in their entirety, about 2,500 there right now. Somewhere around that number is expected to stay.

But they will stay an advisory role, working to advise and assist troops, particularly, on the intelligence side of things in the air support side of things as well, very different mission to what you're seeing take place right now in Afghanistan.

But overall, if you take a look at President Biden has put into place, Afghanistan and Iraq, the two post-9/11 combat missions for the United States military withdrawing your or at least putting an end to the combat mission in both, making very clear from his perspective, that time, that effort from the U.S. military, it's time to turn the page on that, did it with Afghanistan, making clear that by the end of August, all those trips will be withdrawn, most are already out, Wolf, with Iraq, combat mission will end by the end of this year, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yeah, for those of us who covered the first Iraq War back in 1991, then the 2nd Iraq War in 2003, and all of these wars and Iraq and Afghanistan over these past 30 years, very significant development, both in Iraq and Afghanistan unfolding right now.

Phil Mattingly, thank you very much.

Just ahead, many European countries are planning to ban unvaccinated citizens from public spaces if they don't get their COVID shot. Are vaccine passports coming to the United States as well?



BLITZER: Amid the growing threat from the delta variant, many European leaders right now are giving citizens a choice: get the vaccine or lose access to bars, restaurants, night clubs and other public spaces.

CNN's Brian Todd is joining us on this trend.

Some are wondering, Brian, whether these so-called vaccine passports will be required here in the U.S. as well. BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, Wolf, and some experts believe

we're not far from having to show vaccine passports at least in some areas of the country. But there is resistance to that idea, including in Europe where the rules are already in place.


TODD (voice-over): Police and protesters square off, tens of thousands in Paris voicing their outrage over a new role to curb the spike in coronavirus cases. A mandatory health pass that people will have to show to get into restaurants, bars and other venues. The pass confirms the holder has been vaccinated against coronavirus or has had a recent negative test.

Other European countries requiring similar passes. One analyst says the U.S. could follow suit.

PROF. ARTHUR CAPLAN, ETHICS DIVISION DIRECTOR, NYU LANGONE MEDICAL CENTER: Some states are definitely going to be turning to more mandates. That means they get into concerts, sports, restaurants somebody is going to want to see their vaccination status.

TODD: But can so-called COVID passports work in the U.S.?

A few states are offering residents a way to volunteer show digitally that they've been vaccinated. But those states don't blatantly require all the residents to show those passes in order to get into restaurants, bars and other places.

Certain individuals require it like Yankee stadium in New York. In Atlanta, this restaurant is requiring customers to show they're fully vaccinated or no service. It's getting mixed reactions.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's unfortunate because I don't get the vaccination.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I personally don't have a problem with it. Again, I am vaccinated.

TODD: COVID passports are so controversial that several states with Texas and Florida leading the way, have banned businesses from making potential customers show proof of vaccination.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: You have a right to participate in society, go to a restaurant, movie, a ballgame all of these things without having to divulge this type of information.

TODD: But with the delta variant sparking coronavirus surgeons and increasing numbers of deaths all over the country, the pressure for passports in America could grow.

PROF. ARTHUR CAPLAN, ETHICS DIVISION DIRECTOR, NYU LANGONE MEDICAL CENTER: If we are really going to get the cities reopened, if we're going to be able to keep the schools open this fall and winter, if we're going to be able to keep doing recreation we can't just allow the unvaccinated to go where they want. That means passports. TODD: So far, the Biden administration estate out of the passports

debate, leaving it up to the states. But the White House may soon enter the debate.

LISA LERER, POLITICAL REPORTER, THE NEW YORK TIMES: If we see that rates spike, if they continue to go up with the delta variant, the administration may have to weigh in more forcefully when it comes to the issue of mandates.


TODD (on camera): Medical ethics expert Arthur Kaplan says even if the White House avoids weighing on with the states do with vaccine passports, the federal government may soon have to create some kind of international vaccine passport, a way proving to other countries that Americans going there have been vaccinated, and proving that people coming into the U.S. are vaccinated.

Wolf, it could be coming.

BLITZER: All right. We'll see what happens.

Brian, thank you very, very much.

Finally tonight, a very somber update on the story we've been falling from the very beginning. Officials in Miami-Dade County announced today that the final victim of the Surfside Florida condo disaster has been accounted for and the family notified. It's been more than a month since the Champlain Towers South building partially crumbled in the early morning hours of June 24th.

In total, 98 people, 98 people died in the collapse. Our deepest condolences to their families.

May they rest in peace and may their memories be a blessing.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.