Return to Transcripts main page
The Situation Room
Officers Attacked At The Capitol Testify At Insurrection Hearing; CDC Urges Masks In Schools Nationwide And Indoors In COVID Hot Spots; Biden's Infrastructure Deal In Peril, Dems Push To Wrap Up Talks; Interview With Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL); Select Committee Shows Never-Before-Seen Video Of January 6 Attack; Simone Biles Cites Mental Health Struggles After Pulling Out Of Olympic Team Gymnastics Final. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired July 27, 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: You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and the TikTok @jaketapper. You can tweet the show @theleadcnn. We actually read them.
Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer, right next door in "THE SITUATION ROOM." I'll see you tomorrow.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, officers attacked by Capitol rioters testify about the violent assault on democracy that took them, quote, to hell and back. This hour, I'll speak with the chairman of the January 6 select committee, Congressman Bennie Thompson.
The insurrection hearing revealed never before seen video of police holding the line against rioters. We're putting together all the chilling images. Stand by for that.
And the CDC is now urging many vaccinated Americans to go back to wearing masks indoors as President Biden is on the brink of new vaccine mandates for federal workers. I'll discuss it all with the U.S. surgeon general, Dr. Vivek Murthy.
Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer and you're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
We begin with a very emotional and very powerful testimony about the Capitol riot. Let's go to our Congressional Correspondent Ryan Nobles. Ryan, these officers shared graphic details of the horrors they faced on January 6th and the consequences.
RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: No doubt about that, Wolf. This explosive hearing shocked many of us who thought we had learned so much about the Capitol insurrection already. Even the members of Congress asking the questions seem surprised at the serious risk against their lives on that day.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So help you God. NOBLES (voice over): From its opening moments, the first hearing of the select committee to investigate the January 6th insurrection was a jarring display of the violence on that day. Never before seen video and clips previously released showing frontline officers dragged into the mob and beaten and then crushed between doors. One had his gun taken from him while another was sprayed with chemicals. That video was coupled with the raw memories of the officers who experienced it.
SGT. AQUILINO GONELL, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE: I could feel myself losing oxygen and recall thinking to myself, this is how I'm going to die, defending this entrance.
OFFICER DANIEL HODGES, D.C. METROPOLITAN POLICE: One latched on to my face and got his thumb in my right eye, attempting to gouge it out. I cried out in pain, managed to shake him off.
NOBLES: All four of the officers who testified and many of their other colleagues are still suffering from the physical and mental scars from that day. In addition to the brute violence --
OFFICER MICHAEL FANONE, D.C. METROPOLITAN POLICE: I heard chanting from some in the crowd, get his gun and kill him with his own gun.
NOBLES: The mob was also racist, screaming at this officer.
OFFICER HARRY DUNN, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE: 20 people joined in screaming, boo, fucking nigger. No one had ever, ever called me a nigger while wearing the uniform of a Capitol Police officer.
NOBLES: And these officers made it clear, the terrorists were there with specific purpose.
DUNN: No, man, this is our house. President Trump invited us here. We're here to stop the steal.
HODGES: Especially with the razor-thin margins on Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate, if any single one person was kidnapped or killed, which I had no doubt in my mind is what they intended, that would affect the outcome of legislation and all of your duties for years to come.
NOBLES: The root causes of that day are an important part of the mission of the committee, and the role of the former president to fire up his supporters is part of their investigation. Representative Liz Cheney, one of only two Republicans on the panel, vowed to follow the investigation wherever it leads them.
REP. LIZ CHENEY (R-WY): We must also know what happened every minute of that day in the White House, every phone call, every conversation, every meeting, leading up to, during and after the attack.
NOBLES: And Representative Adam Kinzinger was clearly moved by the officer's testimony.
REP. ADAM KINZINGER (R-IL): I never expected today to be quite as emotional for me as it has been. NOBLES: Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy saying he didn't watch the hearing, instead holding a press conference beforehand blaming Speaker Pelosi.
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): On January 6th, these brave officers were put into a vulnerable and impossible position because of the leadership at the top has failed.
NOBLES: And Alabama Republican Mo Brooks who spoke at the rally on January 6th before the Capitol riot.
Do you have anything to say about the Capitol Police officers that testified?
REP. MO BROOKS (R-AL): I didn't watch it, I don't know what happened.
NOBLES: In the hearing, officers expressed outrage over Republicans unwilling to accept the reality of what occurred on that day.
FANONE: I feel like I went to hell and back to protect them and the people in this room.
But too many are now telling me that hell doesn't exist, or that hell actually wasn't that bad. The indifference shown to my colleagues is disgraceful.
NOBLES: And then President Trump's conduct afterwards, defending the riots and calling them, quote, very loving cuts these frontline officers deeply.
GONELL: He's a pathetic excuse for his behavior for something that he himself helped to create, this monstrosity. I'm still recovering from those hugs and kisses that day that he claimed that so many rioters, terrorists were assaulting was that day.
NOBLES: And many want the former president to be held responsible for the role he played.
DUNN: If a hitman is hired and he kills somebody, the hitman goes to jail. But not only does the hitman go to jail but the person who hired them does. There was an attack carried out on January 6th and a hitman sent them. I want you to get to the bottom of that.
NOBLES (on camera): And it could be some time before we see another public hearing from this select committee, but their work will continue throughout the month of August. Representative Liz Cheney saying that subpoenas for information and future witness testimony could come very soon. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right, Ryan, thank you very much, Ryan Nobles up on Capitol Hill. Let's break all this down with CNN Special Correspondent Jaime Gangel, CNN Senior Legal Analyst, former Federal Prosecutor Laura Coates and CNN Senior Law Enforcement Analyst, the former D.C. Police chief, Charles Ramsey.
Chief Ramsey, you know and you actually know some of these brave officers who testified today. They testified under oath. What went through your mind hearing the torture that they had to go through back on January 6th?
CHARLES RAMSEY, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, first of all, Wolf, it was very powerful testimony, and in some ways, listening to them tell their story in my mind was even more powerful than watching the video because when you put the two together, you get -- it's in context in a different way.
And I think it was very smart on the committee's part to have these officers start because there's been so much said about, you know, the crowd wasn't violent and hugs and kisses and a normal tour. And absolutely nothing could be further from the truth.
I do know a couple of those officers in particular, Fanone, I actually swore him in when I was Chief of MPD, a very, very good police officer. All of them are good police officers. But the heroism displayed that day was just unbelievable to actually be in hand-to- hand combat for not just five minutes but in some cases a couple of hours. Get injured, get back up and get back on the line. I mean, I also felt proud, proud of them and what they accomplished.
BLITZER: You know, Laura, these police officers, they didn't hold back at all, all four of them very chilling, powerful remarks. We heard them calling the rioters terrorists repeatedly, terrorists. That cuts straight through the attempt to rewrite history, doesn't it?
LAURA COATES, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: It absolutely does. And you also heard Officer, you know, Hodges actually read a definition of what it means to be a domestic terrorist, talking about he had brought his own receipt, he had done research. But his research was also firsthand experience of what he saw.
We all know that this was not something that was somehow a casual occurrence or coincidence. It was intended to stop Congress from certifying the Electoral College after a fair and free election. And don't take my word for it. Take the words of the former attorney general, William Barr, who saw no evidence of widespread voter fraud or abuse or anything that's been ever articulated in the courts of law across this country even by those who are proposing that big lie.
And so I echo what the commissioner says. And what I thought was so striking across all of it was their undying adherence to their oath and that they were juxtaposing their willingness to get back up to fight another minute, let alone another day, they continue to serve, even those who were taking their service for granted, who anticipated they will come back day after day.
And the idea of them being willing to fill their obligations and the way of their re-crafting and recasting of this narrative as if those members of Congress who say they would like the truth are abiding by their oath. That was quite a poignant display and dynamic for me.
BLITZER: It certainly was. You know, Jaime, it's interesting. The Republican congresswoman, Liz Cheney, one of two Republicans on this panel, she took fellow Republicans to task for downplaying what actually happened on January 6th. And it was noted today that both the Republican leader in the House, Kevin McCarthy, the Republican leader in the Senate, Mitch McConnell, they didn't even have time to watch this hearing.
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORREPONDENT: Yes, too busy to watch, really?
On January 6th, they were running for their lives and hiding. And for a few days afterwards, they were speaking honestly about it before they went back to Trump.
What we're seeing with Republicans other than Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger is this is still the party of Donald Trump.
That said, this was a bad day for Kevin McCarthy. This was a bad day for Mitch McConnell. And it was a very bad day for Donald Trump. None of them wanted this hearing to happen or these hearings to happen. They did everything they could to block it. It's going forward. And starting with today, the testimony was devastating.
BLITZER: It certainly was. It was so powerful in the new video that was released also very, very powerful.
BLITZER: Chief Ramsey, it was so difficult to hear Officer Harry Dunn describe the racist attacks of that day. But, sadly, you say you're not surprised. How much do you think that racism actually fuels these rioters?
RAMSEY: I think, to an extent, it does. I mean, it was just so much anger. But when you looked at members of the crowd, some of the groups that were represented there, I mean, obviously, some of them are hate groups. So it would stand to reason that any person of color, police officer, would be subject to, you know, racial slurs and so forth.
So I wasn't surprised. It's all disappointing. I mean, you know, we're all Americans. We're at the nation's Capitol and yet you have this sort of thing go on. But it is just very unfortunate.
But, you know, again, Officer Dunn as well as the others, they fought side by side, black, white, Hispanic, men, women. They took their oath seriously. I just wish members of Congress would take their oath seriously because many of them don't. And that's the -- that's the sad part of all this. It's just pathetic.
BLITZER: Well said indeed. Chief Ramsey, thank you very much. Laura, Jaime, guys, thanks to you as well.
Just ahead, I will speak live with the January 6th committee chairman, Congressman Bennie Thompson. There he is. We have lots to discuss. He'll talk about the impact of today's hearing and what happens next.
Stay with us. You are in THE SITUATION ROOM.
BLITZER: The horrors of January 6th relived up on Capitol Hill today by officers who survived the insurrection. Here is another sample of what we heard during the very painful, awful, awful description of what happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GONELL: I could feel myself losing oxygen and recall thinking to myself, this is how I'm going to die.
FANONE: The indifference shown to my colleagues is disgraceful.
KINZINGER: You know, you talk about the impact of that day, but you guys won. You guys held. You know, democracies are not defined by our bad days. We're defined by how we come back from bad days.
REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA): And we're so driven by bigotry and hate that we attack our fellow citizens as traitors if they're born in other country or they don't look like us, then God help us. But I have faith because of folks like you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Joining us now, the chairman of the January 6th select committee, Representative Bennie Thompson. Mr. Chairman, thank you so much for joining us. A very important, painful day today as we saw the video. We heard the testimony. You could see the emotion on display, as you well saw chairing this hearing from both the police officers, the members of your own committee, the sadness, the anger, the frustration. If you can, briefly, take us a little bit inside that room.
REP. BENNIE THOMPSON (D-MS): Well, let me tell you, Wolf, thank you for having me, by the way. It was a tough hearing. I have been in hundreds of hearings since I have been here in Congress, but nothing has come close to what I experienced today. But when I sat there listening, looking at my colleagues to my left and right, I could see the emotions on their faces. I could see they're hurt. I could see in their just demeanor that some of what they heard they have not heard before. But it also needed to happen.
One of the things we really needed to do with today's hearing is establish why a select committee is needed, to give evidence to the public that something did happen and something did happen very, very wrongly. And, so, our job after hearing this testimony is to fix it. There is no question that a riot occurred on January 6th. Men and women got hurt, members of Congress, staff, the employees, lives were almost lost and the certification of the election could have seriously been compromise if the ballots had been stolen.
So there is a lot that these men and others like them did on January 6th that we will, as a country, forever be indebted to them. And for that, they are our true heroes and they are the reason that this select committee will go to all ends to get the facts and circumstances surrounding this riot.
BLITZER: Because this -- it does as we always say, if we don't learn from history, we're bound to repeat history in this particular case, pretty awful, American history. The House minority leader, Kevin McCarthy, the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, say they were both too busy to watch today's testimony. What is your reaction to that?
THOMPSON: Well, can you believe that those two people who say they back the blue, that they support law and order and a number of other things would be too busy to at least acknowledge the service that these men and others like them did on January 6th that basically saved their life. They ran like a lot of members of Congress ran on January 6th for their very lives.
But those two men had security details that whisked them away. But there are a lot of people who didn't have security detail who had to stay and endure all the things that occurred.
So I am disappointed as a member of this body that someone in leadership would not take the time to acknowledge the good work and the good deeds done by law enforcement on January 6th.
So -- but our committee will go on. We have a stellar group of members who are committed to doing it. And, again, Wolf, they felt really that the selection of law enforcement to be the first individuals to talk, it makes a tremendous statement about when we care about the job they did but also acknowledging them as true patriots and true heroes for not allowing the Capitol to get compromised.
THOMPSON: They held on long enough until reinforcements finally came. And it was only because the reinforcements finally came where we able to save this democracy of ours.
So our job now is, after hearing this testimony, is look into every nook and cranny and make sure that we find any and all evidence as to who participated in organizing, financing, encouraging the acts of January 6th and ultimately present that along with recommendations as to what we need to do to make sure that, on anyone's watch in the United States of America, this never happens again.
BLITZER: Yes. It should never ever, ever happen again. I want to play this very powerful moment, Mr. Chairman, when the officer, Harry Dunn, described the ugly racist attacks he faced on January 6th. It is difficult to hear this language but it is important to document what these courageous, heroic police officers went through. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DUNN: One woman in a pink MAGA shirt yelled, you hear that, guys? This nigger voted for Joe Biden. Then the crowd, perhaps around 20 people, joined in screaming, boo, fucking nigger. No one had ever, ever called me a nigger while wearing the uniform of a Capitol Police officer.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: What does it say to you, Mr. Chairman, that it was so much vile, racist hatred among this mob?
THOMPSON: Well, a lot of people who came to Washington came with that attitude on January 6th. A lot of people were encouraged to come to Washington on January 6th by people who also had that same attitude.
So our job, as difficult as it might be, is to figure out who those individuals that encouraged this kind of activity and make sure that we identify them so that everyone will know. This is not a situation where you can throw a brick and hide your hand.
Our committee is committed to going to wherever the facts are, interviewing, subpoenaing and doing whatever is required to get to the truth. And, you know, in my neck of the woods, truth is a real disinfectant for a problem.
BLITZER: When is the next hearing going to take place?
THOMPSON: Well, we will reveal what we did today. We started collecting information, and we have a meeting set just with the committee before our August recess. In all probability, we will do some hearings while we're on break during August. Staff will be about the business of collecting information. I will be about the business of issuing some of that information, if it's difficult to get.
But we're committed to doing it, that we felt that it was important to set the predicate of thank you for the men and women who protected the Capitol. We felt that it was important that the country see the men and women who protected this Capitol on January 6th.
And if for no other reason that a group of supporters out here who, likewise, want to thank them for the job they did. You know, they go to work every day. They have families. You heard the kind of stories that very seldom the men we had before us get a chance to tell the public.
And we felt that it is important that the story we heard today needed to be heard by as many people as possible. And we were convinced that we satisfied that. Now, they have tasked us with the responsibility of coming up with the long-term strategy of guaranteeing that this will never, ever happen again in the United States of America.
BLITZER: Yes. It was a really, really powerful opening. This is going to go on, I know, for weeks and months. It is going to go on for a long time. But you really got to come up with the answers, how this was organized, who was responsible, what exactly happened. As we keep saying, we have got to learn all those specific details. Do you -- are you confident, Mr. Chairman, you are going to get all that cooperation from all of the authorities to learn precisely how this awful moment in our history unfolded?
THOMPSON: Well, let me say that we will make every effort to get all the information that's available. We will scour every major organization who has a responsibility of collecting data and maintaining that data. If there is any resistance, we will not hesitate one bit to issue a subpoena for that data.
And I'd like to say on your show here. I didn't say that at the hearing, but if there are citizens who think they have information as to individuals or organizations who might have been involved in January 6th, they need to let us know because we are absolutely going to do everything we can to identify any and all those individuals so they can never have an opportunity to do it again.
BLITZER: More than 550 people already have been arrested. And I suspect many more are going to be arrested in the coming weeks and months. And it was so painful, as your well know, and I'll leave you with this thought and, Mr. Chairman, to hear the vile, racist words that were uttered to these heroic police officers.
It was -- and I remember also how painful it was for many of us to see the anti-Semitism that unfolded there as well, including those individuals wearing that Camp Auschwitz sweatshirt in an event like this. Hard to believe, Mr. Chairman, this was going on in our country on such an important day. But I'm grateful to you and your committee members for doing what you are doing, getting to the bottom of this. It is so, so important. Mr. Chairman, thank you so much for joining us.
THOMPSON: Thank you for having me. Let me say, Wolf, those men and women helped the peaceful transfer of power that they were supposed to do. If they had not done their job, I shudder to think what situation we'd be in at this point.
BLITZER: Yes, well said. Mr. Chairman, thanks for all you are doing. Thanks to the committee members who we're deeply appreciative to what you are doing. Thank you so much for joining us.
THOMPSON: Thank you.
BLITZER: All right. We're going to get more on what happened today in the January 6th hearing, but there is other major news unfolding right now. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention just released a major update to masking guidance for Americans living in coronavirus hot spots. [18:30:05]
People in communities with substantial or high COVID transmission are now being urged to once again wear masks indoors even if they have been fully vaccinated.
Let's go to our Chief White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins, she is joining us right now. Kaitlan, this is a very significant development today. We're also just learning that President Biden plans to mandate vaccines or regular testing for all federal employees. Update our viewers.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Wolf. And President Biden is going to make that in a speech, the announcement in a speech that he is giving on the state of the pandemic here at the White House on Thursday. He is going to say, for the first time, that all federal employees must get the vaccine or submit to regular testing, according to my colleague, Phil Mattingly.
One thing we should note, Wolf, this does not right now apply to the Department of Defense, whether or not they change that decision comes at a later date. That remains to be seen. But, Wolf, this comes as the White House is trying to find new ways to combat the delta variant, including changing mask guidance for fully vaccinated American, who, for the last two months, have been told, they did not need to wear a mask outdoors or indoors. Now, that is changing.
And the CDC director, Wolf, she says it is a decision she did not make slightly.
COLLINS (voice over): In a massive reversal, the CDC is changing its mask guidance tonight.
ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR (voice over): This new science is worrisome. And unfortunately warrants an update to our recommendations.
COLLINS: Two months after telling those who are fully vaccinated they could take off their masks, Dr. Rochelle Walensky is now recommending putting them back on when inside in areas where the virus is surging.
WALENSKY (voice over): In a rare occasion, some vaccinated people infected with the delta variant after vaccination may be contagious and spread the virus to others.
COLLINS: The CDC is now actively investigating breakthrough cases among the fully vaccinated, while offering new warnings about the delta variant mainly being spread by the millions who remain unvaccinated.
WALENSKY (voice over): The delta variant is showing every day its willingness to outsmart us. The big concern is that the next variant that might emerge just a few mutations potentially away could evade our vaccines. COLLINS: More than two-thirds of the U.S. lives in a county that, according to the new CDC guidance, should be wearing a mask indoors. Eight weeks ago, officials thought they were on the cusp of victory.
JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: I think it is a great milestone, a great day.
COLLINS: But with the U.S. now averaging 57,000 new cases per day, a 65 percent increase over the last week, the CDC Director is warning it all could have been avoided.
WALENSKY (voice over): This moment and most importantly the associated illness, suffering and death could have been avoided with higher vaccination coverage.
COLLINS: With schools set to reopen, the CDC is also recommending that everyone wear a mask, regardless of vaccination status.
WALENSKY (voice over): CDC recommends that everyone in K through 12 schools wear a mask indoors, including teachers, staff, students and visitors, regardless of vaccination status.
COLLINS: But several states have banned districts from requiring them.
So what are parents who have children in those schools, in those states supposed to do?
JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I'm happy not to live in the state where that is the guidance. I don't know how we'll influence local elected officials in these states.
COLLINS: Tonight, new questions are being raised about vaccine mandates. The Justice Department has determined that federal law doesn't stop private businesses from requiring them.
PSAKI: Can we mandate vaccines across the country? No. That's not a role that the federal government I think even has the power to make.
COLLINS (on camera): And, Wolf, of course the question of what happens now in the meantime as President Biden is going to give this speech on Thursday is he is saying you have got to get vaccinated and wear a mask.
And in a new statement tonight on these changes from the CDC, President Biden says that more vaccinations and mask wearing in the areas that are most impacted by the delta variant will enable us to avoid the lockdowns, shutdowns, school closures and disruptions that we faced in 2020. This is unlike 2020, we both have the scientific knowledge and the tools to prevent the spread of this disease. We are not going back to that.
Though, Wolf, we are seeing some of the previous restrictions return here, even in Washington, D.C. and on the grounds of the White House tonight, with an email going out to the staff here in the west wing that starting tomorrow, all individuals, regardless of whether or not they are vaccinated or not, are going to have to start wearing a mask, given the rise in the number of cases that are in D.C. according to this new CDC guidance, Wolf.
BLITZER: Very, very important news indeed. Kaitlan, thank you very much.
Joining us now for his first interview since the new mask guidance was released, the surgeon general of the United States Dr. Vivek Murthy.
Dr. Murthy, thank you so much for joining us.
And, what, it was just two months or so ago that the CDC said vaccinated people here in the U.S. didn't have to wear masks indoors, so why the change, why the change now?
DR. VIVEK MURTHY, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: Well, Wolf, it has to do with the delta variant. And here is what we have learned. You know, over the last several weeks, we have been seeing a real time how dangerous the delta variant is and how easily it can spread.
But the new data the CDC gathered by recent days found that in unusual circumstances where vaccinated people get breakthrough infections with delta, they seem more able to transmit than people who had break- through infections with other variants. It is another example of how delta is more dangerous.
And that is why the CDC advised in areas that would have substantial or high degrees of transmission that even if people who are vaccinated should wear masks in indoor settings, this will help reduce transmission.
But what's really important also is to say what has not changed. And what has not changed is that vaccines still work. They still save lives. They still prevent hospitalizations at a remarkably high rate. And that's why 97 percent of people who are hospitalized with COVID right now are unvaccinated. And even those who have unusual breakthrough infections have mild or asymptomatic infections.
So, the bottom line is the masks will help us reduce spread further but the vaccinations remain the bedrock of ending this pandemic.
BLITZER: That is so, so true, Dr. Murthy. And I want you to look, and our viewers to look at the map. Look at this, nearly two-thirds of the United States right now seeing what's called substantial or high COVID transmission, as you point out, two-thirds. Can you really put the toothpaste back in the tube? Do you think all of those areas will adapt to these new mask rules?
MURTHY: Well, Wolf, the guidance is really an appeal first to individuals and to urge them to take actions in their own lives that can help reduce spread. That includes putting masks on in indoor settings. And I do think that many people will respond to that because I think all of us want to prevent the spread of this terrible illness, especially now.
I know that localities are starting to move in that direction as well. I recognized this is going to be harder in some parts of the country than other. But what I don't what people to think is it somehow we have lost all the progress we made because that is not the case.
In fact, still, we are even that we've seen this significant rise in infections with delta, what we have also seen is that we have been able to prevent many hospitalizations and deaths because of the millions of people who are protected from the vaccine.
So this -- the mask guidance today represents an additional step that we can take to prevent infections and the vaccinations, though, that's going to be critical for preventing the long-term progression of this pandemic, which I know we all want to come to an end.
BLITZER: With hindsight, Dr. Murthy, was it a mistake to relax the mask rules back in May.
MURTHY: Well, Wolf, the CDC made their decision in May based on the data they had again, largely based on the alpha variant and other variants. That said that, if you are infected, if you are vaccinated, your chances of getting infected and transmitting it to others are really quite low. And what they saw with delta was a change in that data. Delta behaves differently. And when the data changed, they changed the recommendations.
This is actually what you want to happen with science. You want science to be dynamic. You want recommendations to reflect the latest science. And that's what you see in the recommendations that were issued today.
BLITZER: The White House is now back to requiring masks inside. And on Thursday, the president is expected to announce that all federal employees need to get vaccinated or do weekly testing. Does the Biden administration, Dr. Murthy, want private companies, private companies to follow this lead?
MURTHY: Well, Wolf, private institutions, I know many of them are considering putting requirements for vaccination in place. Many of them already do consider and have been considering having masks required in indoor settings. But what we would say is, again, if you were in an area that has moderate or high transmission, then you should absolutely think about what you can do to encourage masking in indoor spaces.
I think as far as vaccination requirements go, those are decisions that institutions are going to make. But I want to point in particular to hospitals, because we saw just this past week, Wolf, that the American Hospital Association and more than 60 health care organizations across the country, including those representing doctors and nurses, came out as a strong endorsement of requirements in hospitals and other health care settings or vaccination among health care workers.
This is so important, Wolf, to protect the patients that were all charged with caring for in health care settings. And those are decisions the federal government is not going to make. It is going to be institutions that make them. But I do think that they are very reasonable because this is a time when you have got to take all steps possible to protect not just ourselves but the people around us from COVID-19.
BLITZER: And as you know, Dr. Murthy, the CDC is now also reversing course on mask guidance for K through 12 schools. Now their recommendation is that masks for everyone be used regardless of vaccination status. How are schools and parents supposed to wade through this rapidly changing guidance, the rules that are changing?
MURTHY: Well, Wolf, certainly I can empathize with how challenging this whole situation of this last year and change has been for parents. So, I say that as a parent myself whose two children are supposed to start in school in the fall. And, you know, like any parent, I want to keep my kids safe and I want to do what the best science tells us to do to make sure that that's possible.
I think today's guidance for schools is actually one step closer, in fact, to making sure that school is safe for our children. The CDC, about a week ago, laid out, in fact, guidance in the form of layers of precautions that schools need to take, from masking to testing, to ensuring there is good ventilation, to keeping kids home when they're safe.
This latest update in the guidance to now recommend that all children, regardless of vaccination status, mask in indoor setting, this reflects what we have seen about transmission and about the fact that delta, again, is a different virus and it allows us -- it allows for transmission even among vaccinated people in unusual cases.
So this is one more step I believe toward protecting our kids. I think it's the right move to make in terms of changing that mask guidance for children, and I think it will help keep our kids safe and keep them in school.
BLITZER: Well, Dr. Murthy, we are grateful to you for all you are doing. Thanks so much for joining us.
MURTHY: Of course. Thank you so much, Wolf. Take care.
BLITZER: All right, good luck to you. Good luck to everyone. This is a really, really serious and dangerous time.
All right, just ahead. Democrats are feeling the heat to finalize an infrastructure deal or to move on. I'll ask the number two Senate Democrat where negotiations stand right now, the majority whip, Dick Durbin, is standing by live.
[18:46:29] BLITZER: Tonight, President Biden's infrastructure agenda remains in peril as Democrats are in a critical moment in their struggle to try to close a bipartisan deal.
Let's discuss with the second ranking Senate Democrat, Majority Whip Dick Durbin.
Senator, thanks so much for joining us.
As you know, the White House says President Biden still optimistic about this bipartisan talks but it's been, what, more than a month since senators came to the microphone outside the White House, announced an agreement in principle.
How much frustration, Senator, is there that you still have at least right now nothing to show for all these talks?
SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): Well, I can tell you that the first requirement of serving in the Senate is patience. And time and again during the years that I have served here, I have had to wait in the hopes that something good would come of it.
I think we're close. I have a positive feeling. I talked to the negotiator. They tell me two or three issues that we're down to. And it's encouraging to me.
Keep in mind, this is one of the largest, if not the largest infrastructure bills in our history. It really holds out the possibility of turning this economy around and putting thousands of people to work. It's worth getting it right, but we've got to get it done.
BLITZER: The August recess is coming up. Will you have an agreement hammered out, or are senators willing to stay here in D.C. and get this done?
DURBIN: Well, listen, I want to go home and be with my family as much as anyone, but we've got a job to do. Chuck Schumer said we're going to stay here until we get this done. I support him completely.
And I realize that when it comes down to decision-making, often, the prospect of leaving town, going into recess, returning with your family home can entice people to finally make the right decision.
BLITZER: Let's hope they do.
All right. Senator Durbin, thanks so much for joining us. Good luck.
DURBIN: You bet.
BLITZER: Today's riveting opening testimony from the January 6th Committee featured never before seen video of rioters viciously attacking police officers defending the U.S. Capitol.
Our Brian Todd has a closer look.
Brian, this is very, very disturbing footage, but it's important to watch.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. It is important to watch. Because each time we see new footage from the attack, we get even more heightened sense of the viciousness of it. We do have to warn viewers, this piece contains video and language that many my find disturbing.
POLICE OFFICER: This is now effectively a riot!
TODD (voice-over): Officers desperately, trying to hold the line are overrun. Some never before seen footage of the January 6th attack on the Capitol played today by the House Select Committee investigating the attack.
This video is from D.C. Metropolitan Police Officer Daniel Hodges's body camera. Hodges coughs and spits, readies his gas mask, moves into a hallway where he and other officers are engulfed in smoke.
Hodges and other officers are wedged so tightly into a hallway, they're almost crashed.
TODD: At one point, the footage we have seen before. Officer Hodges crushed in a doorway, pleading for help.
TODD: The committee also played clips of the assault on D.C. Metropolitan Police Officer Michael Phone.
As a colleague tries to help him, Fanone's face is seen as he's crushed behind a shield.
This is Fanone's own body camera footage, as he's dragged away from his line.
OFFICER MICHAEL FANONE, WASHINGTON, DC METROPOLITAN POLICE: I just remember getting violently assaulted from every direction, and eventually found myself out, probably about 250, maybe 300 feet away from the mouth of the tunnel, where the other officers were at.
TODD: Fanone thought rioters would kill him. His fellow officers weren't able to get to him, one of them pleading with him to stay conscious.
POLICE OFFICER: Mike, stay in there, buddy.
TODD: One video montage showed clips of the different weapons used to attack police, like U.S. Capitol Officer Aquilino Gonell, a baseball bat, hockey stick, and a flag pole are swung violently. A large speaker is thrown at them.
On the footage played today, we hear internal communications from the rioters themselves, taken from a Stop the Steal Zello Channel.
RIOTERS' INTERNAL COMMUNICATIONS, STOP THE STEAL ZELLO CHANNEL: Okay, guys, apparently, the tip of the spear has entered the Capitol building.
TODD: And footage of rioters taunting and joking about hunting down officials inside the Capitol.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can I speak with Pelosi? We're coming, bitch. Oh, Mike Pence, we're coming for you too, fucking traitor.
CROWD: We want Pence! We want Pence! We want Pence!
RIOTERS' INTERNAL COMMUNICATIONS, STOP THE STEAL ZELLO CHANNEL: They've got the gallows set up outside this Capitol building. It's time to start fucking using them.
TODD (on camera): As these videos were being played as the four officers were testifying at this hearing, the criminal investigation into January 6 reached a critical milestone when the 550th person was charged in connection with the attack.
Also, while the hearing was underway, a married couple, Lori and Thomas Vinson, who stormed the Capitol, pleaded guilty to this demeanor charges. A few days after the riot, lawyer Lori Vinson said in an interview, she was not sorry for what she had done. That she would, quote, do it tomorrow.
She was fired from her job as a nurse after the riot -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Brian Todd reporting for us. Thank you very much.
We're going to have more news just ahead, including a closer look at Simone Biles' stunning decision to pull out of the women's gymnastics team final and focus in on her mental health.
BLITZER: American superstar Simone Biles says that she pulled out of the Olympic team gymnastics final to focus in on her mental health.
Listen to Biles explain her decision.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) SIMONE BILLS, U.S. OLYMPIC GYMNAST: I was just like shaking, could barely nap could barely nap. I just never I just never felt like this going into a competition before. Once I came out here, I was like no, mental is not there. So I just need to let the girls do it and focus on myself.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Biles withdrawal comes after Japan's Naomi Osaka cited her own struggles with mental health following a stunning defeat in the women's tennis competition.
Let's get some insight from CNN sports analyst Christine Brennan.
Christine, thanks so much for joining us.
How are athletes like Simone Biles, Naomi Osaka changing the conversation when it comes to the mental aspect of performing at such a high-level?
CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: Wolf, this really is a movement. And it is those two fabulous athletes, Michael Phelps also, Allison Schmidt, another Olympic swimmer, more and more athletes feel more comfortable talking about mental health issues, as they should.
It's -- it's a great development, it's about time. Our heart goes out to Simone Biles. My goodness, what a stunning turn of events. No one saw that coming.
And yet, she has turned, that's such a sad and devastating moment for herself and the U.S. team into a positive national, international conversation, which again, sports often takes to us, Wolf, as you know.
And here we are, again, Simone Biles now leading the way in a very different way than we expected.
BLITZER: You are there in Tokyo for us. Will we see, Christine, Simone Biles compete in the individual events still to come in these Olympics?
BRENNAN: Wolf, that is still to be determined. My gut feeling, from covering a few Olympic Games is that is going to be very difficult for her because of this. She said her mind is not there. Obviously, that's a huge issue.
If you are a swimmer, if you are a track star, if you're a basketball player, you can kind of go through the motions and it very at least we hope you not injured yourself seriously.
What Simone Biles does, the greatest of all time, those routines, those high flying high wire act, those twists and turns in the air, that could be very dangerous if her mind is not into this.
So I have no idea. We need to play this day by day, minute by minute, this is just breaking news over the last, what, 8 hours or so in Tokyo.
But I think if my gut feeling is it's going to be very hard for her to continue because of the nature of her sport, because of the difficulty level, and the potential danger to herself if she were to go into something and not be fully present, not -- as she said, not have the mental game going as well as the physical.
BLITZER: Yeah, that's so, so important. And also, let's not forget, it's still an incredible accomplishment for the USA gymnastics team to win silver.
In light of all the challenges of this Olympics, amid a pandemic, how is Team USA, Christina, across all these sports, all these events, how are they coming together right now, based on what you are seen?
BRENNAN: Wolf, I think they're doing very well, considering. I mean, masks and social distancing and no fans in the stands, and they really -- we can punch (ph) ourselves back into last year in the United States, is pretty much like 2020 in terms of how we are living our lives. But the athletes are so appreciative, wolf, of having the opportunity.
Katie Ledecky, obviously, one of the greatest sports women of our time, talking time and time again about how lucky she is to even be here. And U.S. athletes are doing quite well. A lot of gold medals. The women swimmers, the male swimmers, so many others around the surfer, on and on it goes.
So there's really, it's a three-ring circus of events, and the U.S. athletes, and the other athletes, are doing well and they are coping well. Not necessarily in the best times, or the best performances, but there is still having that Olympic experience. Or at least a sliver of what the Olympics would have been last year.
BLITZER: What's the latest as far as Naomi Osaka is concerned?
BRENNAN: Well, she's out of the containment, she lost. And so, again, you know, the story, she lit the cauldron. One of the great owners, Wolf, for any athlete from the home country that she will be remembered forever for that. She lost yesterday, Tokyo time, and -- and so, she now moves on.
The question for her is, will she continue to play on the pro circuit? Obviously, the U.S. Open is coming up soon. Again, lots of questions. But hopefully, there will be answers for Naomi, Simone, and all of the others.
BLITZER: Well, we wish all of them only the best. Thanks so much, Christine, for that report.
Christine Brennan in Tokyo for us.
Finally, tonight, I want to take a moment to celebrate a remarkable achievement for CNN, which just received a network record, 44 -- 44 Emmy nominations. I'm very proud to also announce that THE SITUATION ROOM received five of those nominations, including, including in the category of outstanding live interview for my interview last September with then Attorney General William Barr.
Congratulations to everyone at CNN. This is truly an honor to be recognized. Thanks very, very much.
And to our viewers, thanks for watching.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.