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Biden Intensifies Plea for Vaccinations, Orders New Requirements for Federal Workers, it's About Life and Death; Florida Reports Highest Number of Daily Cases Since January; Republicans Stage Mask-Free Walk In Revolt Against House Mask Mandate. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired July 29, 2021 - 18:00   ET



CARLY PATTERSON CALDWELL, 2004 GYMNASTICS ALL-AROUND OLYMPIC GOLD MEDAL WINNER: Gymnastics is a very dangerous sport to begin with. So when you're doing dangerous skills like she's doing of that crazy caliber, it can be life threatening if you are not mentally there and prepared.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Carly Patterson Caldwell, thanks so much, enjoyed, to have you on the show.

Our coverage on CNN continues right now.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, breaking news. President Biden announces new orders and incentives to encourage COVID-19 vaccinations, telling Americans who haven't gotten their shots, you don't have to die.

Also tonight, the nation's Capitol joins the growing list of cities re-imposing mask mandates as the delta variant rages. It is more fuel for a Republican revolt against mask rules.

And Congress approves $2 billion in funding aimed at better securing the U.S. Capitol after the deadly insurrection. I'll ask the Capitol Police chief about his top priority to prevent a repeat of the riot.

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

And we begin with President Biden taking direct action to try to combat what he calls the pandemic of the unvaccinated. Let's get straight to our Senior White House Correspondent Phil Mattingly. Phil, the president laid out new vaccine incentives and the stakes saying this is about life and death.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. It is a stark reminder about the moment the country finds itself in where despite months of work by the administration, more than 163 million people fully vaccinated, have a vaccine that actually works, there are still major problems. When you look at the data, there is backsliding across the county and the hospitalizations in cases and even deaths.

Now the president is moving to try to address it. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: We need some straight talk right now.

MATTINGLY (voice over): Tonight, palpable frustration turning into a dramatic policy shift.

BIDEN: With incentives and mandates, we can make a huge difference and save a lot of lives.

MATTINGLY: President Biden who declared this just three weeks ago.

BIDEN: Today, we are closer than ever to declaring our independence from a deadly virus.

MATTINGLY: Now staring at a delta variant that has left just 1 percent of the country with a low rate of transmission and moving sharply to escalate the vaccination push.

BIDEN: It is time to impose requirements on key groups to make sure they're vaccinated.

MATTINGLY: Requiring federal workers to attest to being vaccinated or face stringent testing and mitigation protocols paired with new in Senate, including federal funds for local officials to pay $100 to newly vaccinated Americans.

BIDEN: If incentives help us beat this virus, I believe we should do some.

MATTINGLY: The scale, of the policy shift matched only by Biden's shift in message. Moving all subtly from why the country is back in a moment, surge in cases, hospitalizations and death.

BIDEN: And talk to the people who are going to understand that getting vaccinated makes a difference. And what happened was the new variant came along. They didn't get vaccinated. It was spread more rapidly, and people were getting sick.

MATTINGLY: Now, policy shift, matching that of the private sector where an array of blue chip companies from Silicon Valley to Wall Street are imposing vaccine mandates on employees or, in the case of famed Restaurateur Danny Meyer, even just to eat in their popular restaurants.

DANNY MEYER, FOUNDER & CEO, UNION SQUARE HOSPITALITY GROUP: If you really want to go unvaccinated, you can dine somewhere else and you can also go work somewhere else.

MATTINGLY: Billionaire businessman Ken Langone mincing no words.

KEN LANGONE, CO-FOUNDER, HOME DEPOT: You get the FDA to say it's final, it's approved and I can guarantee you all the places I'm involved in, if you don't get vaccinated, you will get fired. Your obligation to your fellow man, to protect him as well as yourself. MATTINGLY: White House officials viewing the federal requirement as a roadmap of sorts for the private sector. And privately hoping it pushes even more companies towards those mandates, officials say, all as the delta variant continues to surge cases, hospitalization and death.

That reality, however, appears to at least somewhat have contributed to an uptick in vaccinations in recent days with numbers hitting levels in the last two days that hadn't been reached since the start of the month. But with more than 100 million Americans still unvaccinated, no question about the increasing bumpy road ahead.

BIDEN: This is no time to be despondent and let our guard down. We just need to finish the job with science, with facts, with the truth. And together as Americans, we're going to be able to beat this.


MATTINGLY (on camera): And, Wolf, there is no question the administration moving to require vaccination from federal workers is a definite shift.


But there is a bigger question of is it possible for the federal government to impose a vaccine mandate across the country. The president was asked that today, and he said he didn't know. They still don't know yet.

Now, we're not told that's under consideration, but the president not explicitly taking it off the table or throughout the course of this day, the last several weeks even underscoring the administration is trying to find out a way, any way, Wolf, to get tens of millions of people vaccinated and put a halt to the surge of the delta variant.

BLITZER: Clearly a lot of frustration out there. Phil Mattingly at the White House, thanks very much.

Let's discuss this and more with the president's vaccine policy coordinator, for the COVID-19 Coordinator, Jeff Zients. Jeff, thank you so much for joining us. I know you got a lot going on over there.

What led the Biden administration to determine that now is the time to require federal employees to get vaccinated or to submit to weekly testing?

JEFF ZIENTS, WHITE HOUSE COVID-19 RESPONSE COORDINATOR: Well, first of all, thank you, Wolf, for allowing me to come on the show. I think it is important to start with how much progress we have made over the last six months. 163 million, more than 163 million Americans fully vaccinated, which means they are -- they have a high degree of protection against the COVID virus.

As President Biden talked about, this is now a pandemic of the unvaccinated, so we need people to get vaccinated. We have seen an acceleration in the number of people getting vaccinated, which is good news but we need more. We need everybody to get vaccinated.

And the president deciding to have a mandate at the Veterans Administration Health Care System that all doctors and nurses get vaccinated is part of what we believe is right to protect veterans and it is consistent with what many health care systems are doing across the country.

The system where if an individual attests to being vaccinated, they are able to come back to work in the straightforward fashion, versus if they refuse to get vaccinated or refuse to attest to being vaccinated, it's a difficult system of regular testing, masking, social distancing, and you can't travel for work. Why? To protect people but also to incent people to get vaccinated.

And this serves as a model for private employers and other institutions. And as we heard in your opening, many are following suit. And that's good news. Everything we can do to incent people and where appropriate require people to get vaccinated. The more people we get vaccinated, the faster we beat this pandemic.

BLITZER: Which is true, Jeff, but what happens to those who refuse to comply? There are millions of federal employees, millions of federal contractors out there, and many of them don't want to get the vaccine. What if they refuse to get the vaccine? What if they refuse to get tested every few days? Do they get fired?

ZIENTS: Well, first of all, I think you point out an important thing, which is the president not only called on federal employees but also those who want to do business with the federal government will need to have these types of standards, these types of models, these types of systems in place.

We believe people will get vaccinated. It's the right thing to do. If it's required, people will do it. We have seen that across the economy in different locations across the country. And, therefore, we believe that people will do the right thing, protect themselves, protect their loved ones, protect their community and get vaccinated.

BLITZER: Why isn't the president ordering all military personnel, he's the commander in chief, to get vaccinated? We did some checking. As of early July, only 58 percent of the U.S. Marine Corps had been vaccinated, Army 70 percent vaccinated, Navy 77 percent. Why not mandate that all U.S. military personnel get the shots just as they're required to get other shots?

ZIENTS: Well, Wolf, it is a good and timely question across the military. The vaccination rate is about 70 percent. It's picked up quite a bit across the last couple of months, which is the good news. Today, the president asked Secretary Austin to come back with a recommendation as to vaccination requirements across the military as vaccines -- many vaccines are already required in the military. So, Secretary Austin will make that recommendation in short order.

BLITZER: Can you define short order?

ZIENTS: You know, I think in a matter of certainly the next few weeks. BLITZER: All right. The president also left open the possibility that the federal government could require vaccines for all Americans. Is that something the administration right now is exploring?

ZIENTS: No. That's not an authority that we're exploring at all. But I think what the president was referring to is his Justice Department has said that it is legal for employers to require vaccination. And there are, as we talked about at the top, many businesses, local governments stepping up, requiring vaccination or following the type of system that we talked about, which is that those that are vaccinated have a straightforward path back to work.


Those who are not vaccinated need to go through regular testing, masking, social distancing and other requirements.

BLITZER: The president says mask requirements depend on the level of vaccination out there. But just two days ago, the CDC director said it depends on case rates. Which is it? Because Americans right now are understandably confused.

ZIENTS: Well, let's be clear that this is driven, this need to, in certain locations, mask up again is driven by the delta variant. It is much more transmissible. It is much more contagious. So the guidance from the CDC is that if you're in an area with a high level of cases, you should mask in indoor public settings.

What the president is referring to is disproportionately those areas that have high case rates are those areas that have lower levels of vaccination. But the CDC guidance is clear. If you are in an area that currently has high levels of cases, everyone should mask in an indoor setting.

BLITZER: But you understand why this is confusing to millions of Americans out there, right?

ZIENTS: Well, you know, I think the thing that's changed here, Wolf, is the delta variant and how transmissible and contagious it is. So we're following the science here. The president said from the beginning he will always follow the science and the facts. And the CDC recommends in those areas of high transmission, where cases are high, given the contagious nature of the delta variant that people do wear masks indoors.

What we need to do is to get people vaccinated, beat this pandemic, drive cases down, and then we can be back to no masking. But in this situation with the delta variant, the prudent right thing to do following the science is for people to wear masking in those locations where the case rates are high in indoor settings.

BLITZER: The president says, as of now, Americans do not need booster shots. But as you know, the Israeli government today announced that it's recommending a third booster dose of the coronavirus vaccine for people over the age of 60. Why is the White House saying otherwise? Why is the president reluctant to go forward with that announcement right now?

ZIENTS: Well, let me be clear. This is not the White House. This is the FDA, its scientists, which I think everyone would agree is the gold standard. They're evaluating the data, the clinical trials, laboratory data, taking all the inputs. And they will decide when and if Americans need boosters.

Right now, they are certain that no Americans need boosters. They have said that. But I will tell you, Wolf, if we do -- if they do decide that Americans need boosters, we are ready. We have the supply and people will be able to get a booster shot if it's needed in a fast and efficient manner.

BLITZER: And even the 12 million Americans that got the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, a single dose, they don't need a booster; is that what I'm hearing?

ZIENTS: That's right. The FDA and the president's scientific and medical advisers do not recommend a booster shot at this stage.

BLITZER: Key words at this stage. Let's see what happens in the coming weeks. Jeff Zients, thanks so much for joining us. Thanks for all you are doing.

ZIENTS: I appreciate it, Wolf. Thank you.

BLITZER: Thank you.

Just ahead, we are going to take you to some COVID hot spots around the United States to see how officials are fighting or dismissing the surge of infections among the unvaccinated.

Stay with us. You're in The Situation Room.



BLITZER: The resurging coronavirus pandemic is forcing cities all across the United States to confront the threat posed by the delta variant. Let's get an update from Florida right now where hospitals are filling up as the COVID crisis escalates.

CNN's Leyla Santiago has the latest. Leyla?

LEYLA SANTIAGO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, Governor Ron DeSantis is doubling down on his stance when it comes to masks. He does not believe government or school officials should be requiring students to wear them in the upcoming school year. That said, where I am right now in Broward County, the school board decided to require masks for the upcoming school year, given the new CDC guidelines.

Let's move a little further south. Miami-Dade, the school board there, is also going back the drawing board after those guidelines came out. And they too are reconsidering how they will move forward when it comes to mask policies for the upcoming school year. We checked in with a handful of districts.

And many of them sort of echoed that sentiment that they are now trying to figure out how they will move forward with mask policy for the upcoming school year, given what the governor is saying, given what the CDC guidelines and what is best for their students. Wolf?

BLITZER: Leyla, thank you very much. Let's get an update right now on the situation in Chicago, where a massive music festival is requiring proof of vaccination or a negative test to attend.

CNN's Adrienne Broaddus has details. Adrienne, tell us what you are learning.

ADRIENNE BROADDUS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, despite the rising number of COVID cases, that could not keep this crowd behind me away from Lollapalooza. If ticketholders want to get inside, they will have to follow a few rules.

First, if you are vaccinated, you have to show proof. So bring a printed version of your vaccine card. If you don't have the COVID-19 vaccine, you will be required to obtain a negative COVID test at least 72 hours prior to entry.

Some people are concerned events like this will be a super-spreader event. The city's top health officials said there is always that risk.


There is a chance we could see a spike in the number of COVID cases not only here in Chicago but across the state. But she said she feels confident and comfortable because the event is outside.

Tonight, Miley Cyrus is taking the stage. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, Adrienne, thank you very, very much.

Let's go to Atlanta right now where a new mask mandate has just been announced. CNN's Natasha Chen is on the story for us. Natasha, give us the latest.

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the Atlanta mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms, issued an executive order yesterday requiring masks and face coverings in all indoor public spaces, that includes private businesses. A press release from her office says this is response to an uptick in COVID cases, the impact of the delta variant and new CDC guidance.

The city of Atlanta falls in both Fulton and DeKalb Counties, areas designated as having high levels of community transmission according to the latest CDC data.

This follows the Savannah mayor's emergency order on Monday, also requiring masks indoors. Mayor Van Johnson said, yes, effectively this punishes the minority of people who are unvaccinated due to the inaction of the majority of people who did not do so. But Georgia Governor Brian Kemp tweeted yesterday there would not be any lockdown or statewide mask mandate. Georgia's seven-day rolling average of new cases is at its highest level since early March. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, Natasha, thank you very much.

Let's get some more on today's coronavirus developments. I want to bring in the dean of Brown University School of Public Health, Dr. Ashish Jha. Dr. Jha, thank you so much for joining us.

As you heard, President Biden just told Americans that if you are in an area with high levels of vaccination, you don't need to wear a mask. But the CDC says it depends on case rates. Can you set the record straight for us? A lot of us remain confused.

DR. ASHISH JHA, DEAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Yes, absolutely, Wolf. Thanks for having me here. So the CDC is right. It really should be driven by local transmission or case rates in your community. The more infections you have, the higher the risk for everybody, again, mostly for the unvaccinated, but it is spilling over to the vaccinated as well.

I think what the president was probably referring to, I'm guessing, is, of course, low vaccination places are where the big outbreaks are happening. So there is a correlation there. But you have to follow the case rates, the infection numbers to make that decision.

BLITZER: Are you optimistic, Dr. Jha, that vaccine mandates from both the president or private companies are actually going to work?

JHA: I am. You know, the experience so far has been really terrific. We saw this with one of the leaders Houston Methodist, in Houston Texas. 99 percent-plus of their employees ended up getting vaccinated. We see that at universities including the one where I worked, where most -- for almost everybody is getting vaccinated. So I think these mandates are really going to make a big difference.

BLITZER: But these mandates, some fear, are too little too late because the U.S. is now averages nearly 64,000 new COVID cases each day. That's a 59 percent increase from last week alone.

JHA: Yes. There is no doubt about it, like things are pretty tough right now. We have seen a massive increase in infections during this month. I wish we had done these mandates a month earlier. That it would have made a bigger difference. But even doing it now will help.

Ultimately, Wolf, it is going to be high levels of vaccinations that's going to bring this pandemic under control. I think the other things we are doing right now will help in the short run, I do think the mandates will going to be a part of that long-term solution.

BLITZER: The president says as of now, and you heard it in his speech, Americans do not need booster shots. Israel is now recommending that people over the age of 60 get a third booster dose. How will we know when we need to get these boosters, those of us who have had the two shots five, six months later? Is it time to get a third shot? JHA: Yes. I think this is going to be driven by data with the FDA. The FDA really is the gold standard for making these decisions. They're looking at data right now. I would not be surprised if in the upcoming weeks we see a recommendation for boosters for immunocompromised people, maybe for frail elderly people living in nursing homes. I think those are likely coming. Whether we will do it for all older Americans or for all Americans, I'm more skeptical. But we'll see what the data says and we'll see what the FDA says on that.

BLITZER: Will see what the science says and then will move. Dr. Ashish Jha, thank you as usual for joining us. I really appreciate it.

JHA: Thank you.

BLITZER: Coming up, I will ask the chief of the U.S. Capitol Police about his most urgent needs right now to defend against any future attacks. The chief, Tom Manger, is standing by live. We will discuss.



BLITZER: CNN has learned that members of the January 6th Select House Committee are preparing to hold a strategy session tomorrow morning. They plan to meet in Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office as they consider their next moves, including subpoenas.

CNN Congressional Correspondent Jessica Dean is joining us live from Capitol Hill right now. Jessica, what are you learning about the committee's next step?

JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we know that they are very interested in those subpoenas, that they want to move quickly to that. We also know that they're looking into more witnesses and that they want to make sure that they're taking depositions before they have more hearings.

We also know that we can expect, although it remains to be seen and be made official, but we're expecting that some members of Congress could be called to testify before the committee. Some of the names that could pop up include House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, include Congressman Jim Jordan and Congressman Mo Brooks.


Those are some of the potential witnesses that could be called in addition to potentially others.

We also heard McCarthy talking a little bit more about his phone call with then-President Trump on January 6th during the insurrection. That happened today. Take a listen.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): When I called the president, I was telling him about what was happening in the Capitol because none of you would know unless you were in the Capitol.


DEAN: And there is a lot of speculation about what was said between those two men. There has been talk that the committee will want to talk to McCarthy about what was said to President Trump as that insurrection was happening, as rioters were making their way through the Capitol Hill -- through Capitol Hill and all throughout Congress that day.

Now, all of this is happening, Wolf, as we're also seeing the Senate unanimously passing security funding for the Capitol Police, for the National Guard and for other law enforcement that is covering spending that was incurred during the insurrection and beyond. That then immediately went to the House this afternoon where they passed that 416-11, was the vote over there with 6 Democrats and 5 Republicans voting against it. Again, Wolf, this is $2 billion that will go to Capitol Police, to National Guard and other law enforcement that will cover those causes costs.

If you remember, just a couple weeks ago, Capitol police saying they expected to run out of money by August, if they did not get these funding, that their overtime had already been tapped out. So this was critical money that will now go to law enforcement that risked their lives on January 6th. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, Jessica, thank you very much, Jessica Dean, reporting. Let's discuss this and more with the new U.S. Capitol Police chief, Tom Manger. Chief Manger, thank you so much for joining us. Good luck in the new assignment.

How critical, Chief, is this $2 billion legislation to your mission up on Capitol Hill? What specific security enhancements are your top priorities?

CHIEF TOM MANGER, U.S. CAPITOL POLICE: Well, when you look at the reports that have been done since January 6th, General Honore's report, the inspector general's report, the report that came out of the Senate, there are recommendations that were in every one of those reports. And it was really a blueprint of what improvements needed to be made within the police department.

And so we have already started and the leadership here had already started working on implementing these recommendations. And some of them could be done for no cost, some of them was just the stroke of a pen but so many of these recommendations required additional resources. And with what happened today, and I'm so grateful that the Congress was able to pass this supplemental, we can now really accelerate getting many of these recommendations implemented.

So I'm -- you know, folks had asked me, what are you going to do if you run out of money? I really was confident that the Congress knew how profoundly vital this money was to the police department. And, so, I'm very grateful today and we start right now using those resources to get -- to make the improvements that need to be made. BLITZER: Yes. Because these improvements are critically important, especially for those of for those of us who love Capitol Hill, who love the Congress, want to make sure it's secure.

One of the Capitol police officers who testified this week, Sergeant Aquilino Gonell, spoke about how demoralizing it is to have risk his life protecting lawmakers who are now downplaying that entire attack. How do you improve morale, Chief, among your officers when there are still members of Congress comparing rioters to tourists?

MANGER: You know, one of the things that I -- the messages that I have really harped on when I have been to roll calls and I'm going around meeting officers on their posts and trying to talk to as many cops as I can is to let them know, to remind them that they, in fact, did prevail on January 6th. Not a member of Congress was harmed and the legislative process was ultimately completed. And so we, in fact, did prevail.

And I remind these cops of that because there is a lot of folks that are focused on what went wrong that day, that talk about the failures that day. But there is one thing that did not fail, and that was the courage and the resolve of the men and women that were out there fighting to protect -- to protect this institution.

BLITZER: Yes. It's so important. The Capitol, as you know better than anyone, is also dealing with the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. And there is some serious pushback right now to the reinstated mask requirement. Today, some House Republicans actually held a protest against these masks. What is the role of the Capitol Police force, and you're in charge, in enforcing these rules?


MANGER: Well, you know, we do have the responsibility to enforce the rules here. But whether a person wears a mask or doesn't wear a mask, it is not a law to rule. And so what our role is to encourage people to comply with the rule. If they don't, we give them the alternative. They can either comply or they will have to leave. And, so, it's -- we're just monitoring that.

The last thing anybody wants is for somebody to be arrested for a situation like that, and that's certainly -- it hasn't happened yet and we have had this rule before here. We never had any arrests, and we don't -- I don't anticipate there being any. But it is up to my officers to make sure people are complying with that mandate and we give folks a choice, you can either put the mask on or you can leave.

BLITZER: Yes, that's so important right now. Good luck. You have got a difficult assignment, Chief. I appreciate it very much. Thanks for joining us.

MANGER: Thank you.

BLITZER: Just ahead, I'll speak with a key member of the January 6th committee, Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy. We have lots to discuss.

Stay with us. You are in The Situation Room.



BLITZER: We're following breaking news. President Biden says all federal employees and contractors must get the COVID vaccine or face weekly testing or other major restrictions.

Let's discuss this and more with Democratic Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy of Florida. She's a key member of the January 6th Select Committee as well. Congresswoman, thanks so much for joining us.

As you know, the entire country right now is grappling with this delta surge, enacting new rules, but there has been some harsh blowback to the reinstated mask requirement where you are in the House of Representatives with some of your Republican colleagues actually staging a protest today. Do you feel safe with so many bucking these rules and apparently so many Republican members refusing to say whether they have been vaccinated?

REP. STEPHANIE MURPHY (D-FL): You know, first let me just say it is great to be with you, Wolf. But I'm deeply saddened by the fact that the response to this pandemic has become so politicized. It is a pretty simple thing to wear a mask or to get vaccinated. I have small children who are not vaccinated. I wear a mask so that I'm not infected and carrying that home to them or to any of my immunocompromised constituents because I get on a plane every single week and travel back and forth.

Wearing a mask is such a simple thing. It is a patriotic thing to do because we all saw that this summer we had a -- just a small nano second where it was a return to normal. And I don't know about everybody else, but that was so exciting for me. And now we're back in this place with hospital rooms being filled and having, you know, our health care system overburdened by people who are suffering from COVID and people, families, losing their loved ones from COVID.

As a country, we need to be able to pull together, do the simple things. It is simple to put a mask on. Go get vaccinated if you can. And let's fight this pandemic together so that we can return to fully normal lives.

BLITZER: Yes, let's hope. I know your district is in Florida. You got a lot of problems down in that state specifically. But I want to get to the investigation, Congresswoman, into the January 6th attack. Your committee will meet tomorrow morning, we are told, at 9:00 A.M. What is on the agenda? How will you decide, for example, the timeline for your work, which documents testimony you need to go forward?

MURPHY: We're going to take as long as we need to in order to paint the full picture of what led up to January 6th, how January 6th unfolded and then what do we need to do to make changes so that we can protect our democracy and our country and our Capitol.

And, so, I don't know that we're working on any specific timeline but rather on the outcome that we need, looking towards the 9/11 commission report as the gold standard of how we do that because a lot of this is about laying out the facts for the American people to see what happened.

Obviously, it is a little bit harder in this situation because there is so much disinformation that is happening at the same time. But it underscores the importance of this committee moving forward in a somber, non-partisan way, collecting the details, collecting the facts and sharing that with the American people.

BLITZER: We now know, Congresswoman, that one of your colleagues, Republican Congressman Jim Jordan, spoke to then-President Trump on January 6th. And Congressman Mo Brooks actually wore body armor to his speech, riling up the crowd ahead of the riot. Will you subpoena them to testify?

MURPHY: We will subpoena whoever we need to subpoena in order to have a full picture of that day. But I think one of the interesting things is that my colleague, Representative Brooks, knew to wear body armor. I also knew to come to work in civilian clothes. I basically wore running clothes to work that day because I understood that that day could get dicey. I packed a go-bag and left it in my office the night before knowing that it might get tough.

So the question then becomes why didn't our intelligence agencies and our departments understand that there was a threat? If I knew to come to work in disguise, why didn't they know to equip our Capitol Police and preposition National Guard?

BLITZER: Those are great questions. And you need to come up with the answers. We have got to learn exactly what happens to make sure it never ever happens again. Representative Stephanie Murphy, thank you so much for joining us. Good luck.

MURPHY: Thanks so much. Have a good day.

BLITZER: Thank you.


Coming up, more on the Republican revolt against a renewed mask mandate in the House of Representatives, including a rather crude statement by Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene.


BLITZER: Right now, we're following the escalating Republican revolt against the reimposed mask mandate in the House of Representatives.

Brian Todd is joining us with all the late breaking details for us.

Brian, the mask wars seem to be back. Republican lawmakers -- they are now finding new ways to protest.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: The mask wars are back, Wolf. As you mentioned, they are intensely political, and it is especially vitriolic in the House of Representatives.


So much name calling and finger pointing across the aisle.


TODD (voice-over): A symbol of open revolt. Republicans in the House of Representatives today staging a symbolic mask-free walk to the Senate, where masks are not required. They're battling a new rule saying House members have to wear masks inside chambers.

GOP Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene tweeted her own video of the protests. In her video, she writes on Twitter, quote, crossing back into speaker maskhole's land of COVID, referring to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

That was just one display.

REP. CHIP ROY (R-TX): This institution is a sham! And we should adjourn and shut this place down.


TOIDD: Texas Republican Congressman Chip Roy led an unsuccessful vote to shut down the House over the new mask rules.

ROY: We have a crisis at our border, and we're playing footsie with mask mandates in the People's House. You all put masks, masks up front here? Which is it, vaccines or masks? The vaccines work or they don't work. Do the masks work or they don't work.

TODD: House Republicans also held a tense meeting with the House attending physician, Dr. Brian Monahan.

Sources in the room telling CNN they grilled Monahan on whether he was pressured by Democratic leaders to institute the mask rule. Monahan insisted he wasn't pressured, the sources say.

Still, the debate over the CDC's new guidelines for mask wearing across the country has not only gotten political in Washington, it's gotten personal.


TODD: That's Speaker Pelosi saying, quote, he's such a moron, slamming the GOP Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy for his tweet saying new calls for mask wearing are not a decision based on science. McCarthy fired back at Pelosi, accusing her of politicizing medicine and of outright hypocrisy.

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), MINORITY LEADER: Just today, I watched her in a private meeting not wearing a mask.

TODD: On the first day of the new mask requirement for the House, at least 24 Republicans seen defying it, including Congresswoman Lauren Boebert.

REP. LAUREN BOEBERT (R-CO): We know science is real.

TODD: A witness tells CNN Boebert threw a mask. Boebert's office says she simply slid the mask back across a table. One analyst says while politicians like Lauren Boebert may not be household names across the country, their resistance to mask wearing can have a real impact.

CARL HULSE, CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT, THE NEW YORK TIMES: Seeing her say no, we're not going to do it, people say, we don't have to either. They're mainly trying to appeal to this -- the part of their constituencies who think this is all a conspiracy against them by the Democrats to impose their will on them.

TODD: And an epidemiologist has a warning tonight about America making mask wearing political again.

PROF. ANNE RIMOIN, EPIDEMIOLOGIST: We'll see what happened last year, when politics got in the way of public health. We're going to see the virus win.


TODD: Anne Rimoin and other public health experts say part of the problem with the resistance to mask wearing across the country is that the guidance is no longer all encompassing for Americans. It instead requires every American to look up where they need a mask depending on a map like this one, on how much transmission there is in their area. Another problem, a top psychologist tells CNN, you're asking a lot of everyone when you move the finish line on the pandemic.

That kind of frustration, Wolf, is a lot of what's behind all this.

BLITZER: Good point. Brian Todd reporting. Thank you very much.

We're going to have much more news just ahead, including an update from Tokyo, where American gymnast Suni Lee put on a phenomenal show on her way to earning a gold medal for Team USA.



BLITZER: Team USA gymnastics scored a huge victory today, despite the absence of Simone Biles. American gymnast Suni Lee turned in the performance of a lifetime to claim the gold in the women's all around final.

CNN's Will Ripley has more on her remarkable story.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: From a family of Southeast Asian refugees, to Olympic gold for Team USA.

SUNISA LEE, AMERICAN GYMNAST: It's like it doesn't even feel like real life.

RIPLEY: Eighteen-year-old Sunisa Lee, the first Hmong American Olympic gymnast, stepping up when Simone Biles stepped back, taking women's individual all around gold, win number six in the event for Team USA, tying the former Soviet Union's record.

S. LEE: This medal would not be possible would my coaches, the medical team, my parents, and it's just so surreal and I haven't even let it sink in yet.


RIPLEY: Nearly 6,000 miles away in Oakdale, Minnesota, the small Hmong refugee community celebrating big time. Lee's parents fled Laos for the U.S.

Her dad says winning gold is the greatest achievement of any Hmong American.

JOHN LEE, SUNISA LEE'S DAD: All the hard work, all the broken bones, all the time you missed vacationing with us, it paid off.

RIPLEY: Lee's road to gold, tougher than most. In 2019, her father fell from a ladder, leaving him paralyzed from the chest down. In 2020, her aunt and uncle died of COVID-19.

S. LEE: Because there was a point in time where I wanted to quit and I just didn't think I would ever get here, including injuries and stuff. So, there's definitely a lot of emotions, but I'm super proud of myself for sticking with it and believing in myself.

RIPLEY: And now, Suni Lee, making Olympic history.


RIPLEY: The most coveted gold medal at all of the Olympics, Wolf, is the all-around gymnastics final for individuals. Suni Lee has it. Simone Biles was there cheering her on, and tweeting that she herself is receiving an outpouring of support that's made her realized her accomplishments, Simone's accomplishments go beyond gymnastics.

BLITZER: Congratulations to Suni. We're so, so proud of her.

All right, Will. Thank you very much.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.