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CDC Releases Alarming Study Detailing Delta Variant's Aggressive Threat, Warns the War Has Changed; Fauci Says New Evidence Shows Delta Variant is so Transmissible Even a Vaccinated Person With a Breakthrough Infection Can Spread It; CNN Reports, Trump Pressured Justice Department to Say the Election was Corrupt in December and Leave the Rest to Me. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired July 30, 2021 - 18:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: That's at 9:00 A.M. and noon Eastern. And you can follow me until then on Facebook, on Instagram, on Twitter, on the TikTok @jaketapper. You can tweet the show @theleadcnn.

Our coverage continues now with one Mr. Wolf Blitzer next door in The Situation Room. I will see you Sunday morning.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, the war has changed. The CDC shares alarming new information about the delta variant's rapid spread of the risk for the fully vaccinated.

Also tonight, we'll take you inside COVID hot spots in Florida and Louisiana as we ask two key mayors about the challenges as they plead with residents to mask up again.

A new evidence of former President Trump's fixation on the big lie. Notes show, we pressured the U.S. Justice Department to say the election was corrupt. On top of that, there's a new order for Trump's taxes to be turned over to Congress.

We want to welcome 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 new revelations that prompted a very dramatic shift in COVID policy over at the CDC and the White House.

Our Senior White House Correspondent Phil Mattingly has details for us. Phil, the CDC went public with what it's calling a pivotal discovery.

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, and you said it best, we have seen over the course of the week urgent action by public health officials by the Biden administration underscoring just how big of a threat they thought the delta variant was. Now, we're seeing the public data that backs up just how different and potentially dangerous this variant is from its predecessors.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) MATTINGLY (voice over): Tonight, the new data driving urgent concern and action. Public health officials say the war has changed. A new CDC study showing the delta COVID-19 variant produced similar amounts of virus in vaccinated and unvaccinated people if they get infected. All as internal agency documents warned it appears to spread as easily as chickenpox. It was, CDC officials say, a central motivation behind the sudden agency's shift this week to recommend fully vaccinated Americans wear masks indoors in areas of substantial and high transmission.

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR (voice over): In those cases, those are rare cases that we have breakthrough infections, we felt it important for people to understand that they have the potential to transmit virus to others.

MATTINGLY: And it's a window into the dangerous evolution of a virus that top government officials thought was nearly under control just weeks ago. The study describing 469 Massachusetts residents infected in the July outbreak in province town, Massachusetts. About 74 percent of those cases had been fully vaccinated.

Researchers finding the viral loads in the infected similar among the vaccinated and unvaccinated, the CDC director calling a pivotal discovery. But, critically, the new data also underscoring the primary thrust of the administration's response.

JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: It's so darn important that everyone get vaccinated.

MATTINGLY: Among the participants in the study, zero died. Only five were hospitalized, making clear that while break-through cases are occurring and transmission is possible, it remains the unvaccinated driving the surge in hospitalizations and deaths around the country.

BIDEN: This is a much different variant than the one we dealt with previously. It is highly transmissible and it is causing a new wave of cases in those who are not vaccinated.

MATTINGLY: It is a driving force behind the sharp White House pivot this week to address the challenge, rolling out a new series of incentives and, for the first time, the requirement that federal workers attest to their vaccination status, or face stringent masking and travel restrictions.

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

MATTINGLY: It is a message the White House sought repeatedly once again to drive home on Friday.

KARINE JEAN-PIERRE, WHITE HOUSE DEPUTY PRESS SECRETARY: We need more people to get vaccinated. That's the answer. We need more people to get vaccinated.

(END VIDEOTAPE) MATTINGLY (on camera): And, Wolf, the backsliding in the numbers and the progress that you have seen when it comes to the COVID-19 pandemic is also leading to problems downstream. In particular, one emergency eviction moratorium that had been in place now for several months is crucial to millions of people. It is expiring on July 31st. And the Biden administration has made clear, because of a Supreme Court ruling, they don't believe they have the authority, legal authority anymore to extend it.

Well, that expiration comes in a matter of days. The Biden administration has called on Congress to act. Congress right now in the House trying to figure out some pathway forward, no clear one to this point. With very real questions, what happens to those millions of people.

President Biden, just a short while ago, putting out a statement alluding to the fact it doesn't look like legislation will be passed, making clear that his administration's commitment, as he says, will not rest nor should state and local governments until the $47 billion in rental assistance that was passed into law is dispersed, very real problems not just on the vaccines and the uptick of them but also the economic effects, Wolf.


BLITZER: Yes, certainly all related, all connected. Phil Mattingly over at the White House, thanks very much.

Dr. Leana Wen is joining us right now to put all of this new information, very disturbing information into perspective. She's a CNN Medical Analyst and an Emergency Room Physician, and very important, she's the author of a brand-new incredibly significant, very timely book entitled, Lifelines, A Doctor's Journey in The Fight for Public Health. Dr. Wen, thank you so much for joining us. Thanks for writing this really important book too. You have really amazing information here. We'll discuss that in a moment.

But let's talk about your biggest takeaway from this new information we're getting from the CDC about this delta variant and how it impacts not only those who are unvaccinated, but those like you and me who are fully vaccinated.

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, the biggest takeaway that people should have right now is that the vaccines still work extremely well. What we know is that the vaccines are doing exactly what they're supposed to, which is protect against severe disease, severe enough to cause hospitalization and death.

We also knew that breakthrough infections can happen. And it does appear that they are happening and actually why are they happening. They are occurring because of all the unvaccinated people around us. If you are vaccinated but you are exposed to so many people who are unvaccinated, who are potentially carrying COVID-19, at some point, you could have a breakthrough infection.

Now, the CDC is also saying that if you have a breakthrough infection, you could also infect other people. For example, you could go home to your family members who are not vaccinated or vulnerable, they could be in danger. So that's the reason why, for us, if we are living at home with vulnerable people, we should still be masking in indoor public places.

At the end of the day though, the indoor mask mandate of the CDC is applying is about the unvaccinated. The unvaccinated are the problem. Let's get that clear, the vaccines are still our best and only way out of this pandemic.

BLITZER: The new delta variant though is incredibly, incredibly contagious, much more so than the original COVID-19 virus. Look at this. We put it up on the screen. Dr. Fauci just told NPR we're dealing with a very, very different virus. If you look at these numbers put out by the CDC in the original common cold or the early COVID-19 strain, a sick person could affect maybe two people. Under the delta variant, a person who has the delta variant could infect eight or nine people. This is a major change.

WEN: There is no doubt that we are dealing with something that is extremely contagious. And, by the way, look at the initial variant. If we keep on talking about this original variant as, oh, well, this is so much more contagious, that caused a global pandemic. And so we are really dealing with something that we have take additional precautions.

And, again, I think that we have to come back to this message though that it is the unvaccinated who are spreading it to other people, who are unvaccinated and even to the vaccinated. And so, yes, we should all be masking in the meantime so that we can prevent the spread of COVID-19. But at the end of the day, it is vaccination that's going to get us out of this.

BLITZER: And the fact is that those of us who are fully vaccinated over these last several weeks and even months since we have been fully vaccinated, we have been out there, going to restaurant, eating outside, eating inside, hanging out at sports stadiums, doing a lot of stuff without wearing a mask. But that looks like potentially a lot of that -- those considerations have to change.

WEN: I think that we need to calibrate based on our own level of risk. As in, if you are generally healthy, you live with other people who are healthy and vaccinated, that's one thing. But on the other hand, if you have unvaccinated younger children --

BLITZER: Like you do.

WEN: Like I do. I have two little kids or if you have parents or other people who are immunocompromised in your life, then maybe if you go to an indoor restaurant and then go to a bar and then go to a concert or movie, maybe you should wait a few days before seeing those relatives, or, in my case, I see my kids every night, and so I would want to be sure that I wear a mask in grocery stores and churches, in other indoor settings, so that I don't get COVID-19 and transmit it to my children. BLITZER: In this the book, Lifelines, A Doctor's Journey in the Fight for Public Health, you write this, and it is really important. You write that lifelines, public health can change that these health issues can change and that does happen, that if people disagree, getting them onboard requires incremental steps. In other words, convincing a lot of people, half of the American population right now is not vaccinated at all, even with one shot. How do you convince these people that this potentially could save their lives and safe the lives of their kids, elderly parents, grandparents and others?

WEN: It is really hard. Public health depends on public trust. In Lifelines, I talk a lot about my experience as the health commissioner in Baltimore. Understanding that public health is based on science, but public health is also about values. Public health also to be effective, you have to win over hearts and minds. And part of that is showing up for people.


I actually think that what the CDC and importantly local and state health departments need to be doing right now is to tell them about the other work public health agencies are doing every day. For example, when contact tracers are calling individuals, sometimes they find somebody needs housing assistance or food assistance. We should be uplifting those stories of all the positive that public health are doing. We also know that public health depends on trusted credible messengers.

And so that work has to continue, although we also have to recognize, you can't just keep on doing the same thing. We've been doing that education and outreach, and at some point you need to take dramatic action, which includes, in this case vaccine mandates.

BLITZER: Thank you very much, Dr. Wen. You have been joining us now over these many, many months. We will continue this conversation. Once again, this book, really, really powerful, important book, Lifelines, A Doctor's Journey in the Fight for Public Health. You have done a public service writing this book. Really must read. Thank you very much.

WEN: Thank you.

BLITZER: Just ahead, the messaging challenges for the White House on masks and vaccines that this coronavirus keeps changing. A former top COVID adviser to President Biden, Andy Slavitt, there he is, he's standing by live. We'll discuss with him when we come back.



BLITZER: Tonight, Dr. Anthony Fauci is driving home the significance of new data on the delta variant, saying the new strain is so transmissible that even a fully vaccinated person with a breakthrough infection can spread it. Let's discuss this and more with Andy Slavitt, he is the former Senior Adviser to the Biden White House COVID Response Team. He's also the author of an important brand-new book entitled, Preventable, The Inside Story of How Leadership Failure, Politics and Selfishness Doomed The U.S. Coronavirus Response. Andy, thanks very much for joining us.

And as you well know, this internal CDC document just released says the war has changed in fighting the pandemic. And Dr. Fauci just told NPR the delta variant is so transmissible, it is essentially, and I'm quoting him now, a different virus. So how does the country emerge from this pandemic when vaccinated people are spreading the virus potentially as much as the unvaccinated?

ANDY SLAVITT, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO THE BIDEN WHITE HOUSE COVID RESPONSE TEAM: Well, Wolf, that CDC report had some really important information in it. It did say that there are several thousand breakthrough cases a day of the 160 million people in the country that are fully vaccinated but it also said that if you are vaccinated, you are one-eighth as likely to get a case of COVID as if you are not vaccinated and you are 1/25th as likely of getting hospitalized. So, if someone told you hey, jump out of this airplane, but if you put on a parachute you have 1/25th the chance of getting injured when you land, we'd all put on that parachute.

And I think this is really good, clear information that, while it is not perfect, it will have a significant impact on your health if you get vaccinated. I think we now see that in starker terms.

BLITZER: The White House, as you know, is strongly defending its messaging, but a lot of Americans are obviously very confused right now. They're exhausted. It feels like the start of the pandemic. First, you didn't need masks. Then you do need masks. So how does the Biden administration now cut through all this confusion that is out there?

SLAVITT: Well, one seeming truism is that people don't like bad news. When cases are going up, people are upset. They're angry. Nobody likes it. And when cases are going down, people think, you're a genius. The best thing the White House can do is what they're doing. Just tell people the truth. Just get people the facts as you know them. And you know if people are upset about those facts, then, you know, then that's going to be the case.

But it is much better, as CDC Director Walensky did, to go out in the middle of the week and say look, here is the recommendation. Before you put all the data together and tie it, tell people as soon as you know. Then come behind it as they did today with the data. It does take people a while to adjust. Nobody likes the fact that cases are going up. But by doing this, I think they're going to turn the tide more quickly and cases will soon be back down again.

BLITZER: You served as President Biden's COVID adviser at the start of his presidency, when there was, as we all know, a lot of optimism about the vaccine rollout. How much of a surprise is it to you, Andy, when you think about how the administration is seeing what's going on, how the administration is dealing with this problem right now, which seems to be going in the wrong direction?

SLAVITT: Well, delta is worse than anyone thought, no question about it. It's worse than I thought, no question about it. It is much more contagious. It is much more contagious among vaccinated people than we knew. And, look, I think that is new news to us. We wish it wasn't the case. But the best thing that you can do when faced with bad news is tell the public, explain it to the public, share the data, show them the data and make adjustments.

I'm quite confident that this White House has all the tools to adjust. And seeing them respond very quickly this week, as soon as we saw these reports to get out there to the public, to talk to the public, that is ultimately reassuring. Again, people may not love the news but the fact that the White House is not holding it back, it's not going to paint a glossy picture, it's not going to -- like we have experienced over the last year -- pretend that things are better than they are. They're going to give us straight, we are going to adjust, and they will help manage us.

And so the good news is that the administration has purchased enough vaccines. If people need boosts, they're putting the data out so that people can respond to it intelligently. Ultimately, that's going to be the better answer.


BLITZER: Well, very quickly, do you think in the next few weeks, they will tell us, we do need a third booster shot?

SLAVITT: I don't know the timing. But my suggestion, and I had an interview with Albert Bourla on my Podcast in The Bubble this week. And, you know, he shared some of the data that he saw. And he shows that he believes that there is significant waning at six months.

And the sense that I get is that if you are over 65 or you're immunocompromised, we will probably see recommendations from the FDA after they review the data that suggest that it makes sense going into the fall and winter season for those folks to have boost. And other people who have gone six months or so, it may be optional for them as well.

But the FDA is on the case. I think we're going to see what they come up with.

BLITZER: Yes, I was told by one expert today, that might happen in the next two to four weeks, that they might recommend Pfizer, especially Pfizer give us a third shot, that that could happen for people 60, 65 and older, at least to start like that.

Andy Slavitt, thanks so much for joining us. Let me remind our viewers about your important, also very timely new book entitled Preventable, The Inside Story of How Leadership Failures, Politics And Selfishness Doomed the U.S. Coronavirus Response. Andy, thanks so much for joining us.

Coming up, we're going to get an update on the impact the delta surge is now having on communities all across the country. Just ahead, I'll speak with mayors from two major COVID hot spots.

Stay with us. You are in The Situation Room.



BLITZER: Tonight, new data from the CDC has officials all across the United States alarmed by the rapid growth of the very dangerous and highly transmissible delta variant. Dr. Anthony Fauci says delta is so much more contagious, and I'm quoting him now, we are dealing with a different virus. That's from Dr. Fauci.

CNN's Athena Jones has more on all the late breaking COVID headlines.


ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice over): A pivotal moment in the pandemic. Internal CDC data warning the war against COVID has changed.

WILLIAM HASELTINE, FORMER PROFESSOR, HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL: We have underestimated this. And it's time to consider this as a very long haul.

JONES: The new data showing the delta variant of the coronavirus appears to spread as easily as the chickenpox, with one infected person, on average, infecting eight or nine other people as opposed to two or three others with the original COVID strain. The stunning new document raising the stakes for everyone, including the fully vaccinated, who appear to be able to spread the delta variant to others at the same rate the unvaccinated can.

GOV. PHIL MURPHY (D-NJ): The more we learn about it, the more sobering it is, frankly.

JONES: Today, the CDC also publishing a study that helped drive the decision to revive their mask guidance this week, urging everyone in areas of substantial or high transmission to mask up indoors regardless of vaccination status. It looks at an outbreak in Provincetown, Massachusetts with 469 people were infected in July.

ALEX MORSE, TOWN MANAGER, PROVINCETOWN: 74 percent of the overall cases are among fully vaccinated individuals. And I think that came as a surprise to many folks.

JONES: The latest data coming as the U.S. average is now 67,000 new cases a day. Hospitalizations up in 35 states, deaths in many states rising, too, echoes of last year.

DR. COLLEEN KRAFT, ASSOCIATE CHEF MEDICAL OFFICER, EMORY UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL: What the hospital feels like right now is really like we're back in March of 2020 or July of 2020.


JONES: The CDC estimating there are 35,000 symptomatic infections per week among 162 million vaccinated Americans. Still, the vaccinated are much safer. Vaccines reduce the risk of severe disease or death at least tenfold.

THOMAS: You cannot avoid delta. It is not possible. So you have a decision. And the decision is get vaccinated or not. And the results you are telling us, if you are not vaccinated, you have a really poor outcome.

JONES: In the case of Provincetown, only four vaccinated people required hospitalization, two of whom had underlying health conditions. No one died. Measures like mask mandates and social distancing now more urgent than ever. And some are predicting --

JEROME ADAMS, FORMER U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: I'm predicting closures in the future because we are not going to be able to rein this variant back in.


JONES (on camera): Some are already heeding the new warning. All 41 Broadway theaters will require vaccinations for audiences, performances and staff with some exemptions for all performances through October and proof of vaccination required for entry. Masks will be required except when eating of drinking. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, Athena, thank you very much, Athena Jones reporting. Let's bring in two mayors from communities where COVID is surging right now. Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava is joining us as well as New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell.

Mayor Cava, as you know better than anyone, Miami-Dade, Broward County as well as Fort Lauderdale is admitted the most COVID patients to hospitals of any counties in the country this past week. Just how bad is the situation, Mayor Cava, where you are?

MAYOR DANIELLA LEVINE CAVA (D) MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, FLORIDA: It is really bad, Wolf. We're over 11 percent positivity. We got down below 3 percent. And, so, this is really shocking for us. Our hospitals are getting overwhelmed. And this despite the fact that we have a 75 percent plus vaccination rate for those over 12.

BLITZER: Mayor Cantrell, how is this awful delta variant, the surge in the delta variant, impacting New Orleans


MAYOR LATOYA CANTRELL (D) NEW ORLEANS: Well, the city of New Orleans is the most vaccinated in the state of Louisiana at 65 percent. However, Orleans Parish, our hospitalizations are much lower than the state but the state hospitalizations have doubled more than what they are in Orleans. So that means that the transfers are coming to Orleans Parish. They're coming to the city of New Orleans. BLITZER: Mayor Cava, as you know, kids are preparing to go back to school in Florida. But your governor, Ron DeSantis, just signed an executive order blocking mask mandates in schools. He says it is up to the parents. What does that mean with this delta variant spreading from your perspective? You are the mayor of Miami-Dade County.

CAVA: Yes. I am very concerned. And I know lots of parents and teachers are concerned as well. Look, we have Walmart, Disney, Publix all mandating masks and quite a few now mandating vaccines. So I really think that you know the school system needs to do what they think best.

BLITZER: But what about New Orleans, Mayor Cantrell? Vaccinations are obviously key to getting through this pandemic. But an average of recent poll shows, what, that only 56 percent of African-Americans have gotten at least one dose. How do you reach people who still have questions or concerns? How do you help them get vaccinated?

CANTRELL: Well, in the city of New Orleans, we go to the census track. So we look at our data by census track and we do vaccination sites set up where people are. We're going to be setting up another site, a larger site, not only for testing but for vaccines on next week. But it is really going to those census tracks and pushing more people to be vaccinated.

Our challenge, quite frankly, is with the parishes around us who are at a dismal rate in terms of those being vaccinated. I think the mandatory mask to date, as well as mandatory vaccinations for all city employees and contractors, those who have contracts with the city.

BLITZER: Mayor Cava, so what do you recommend? What of your constituents over there in Miami-Dade County need to do right now to protect themselves, to protect their loved ones as well?

CAVA: We're going back to basics. We've got to take the shot. We have to going to wear those masks. We've got to do the social distancing and stay out of crowds, you know, it's all the disinfection and so on. We really know what to do here, and we are doubling down on -- we're doing more vaccination and testing than anyone in the state of Florida and, really, we're working super hard. And yes, and finally the hospitals. We're supporting the hospitals, too.

BLITZER: Hold on for a second. The president answered some reporters questions as he was leaving the White House, the hectic campaign there.


BIDEN: Pardon me?

REPORTER: Do you have a plan to invite the Polish president to White House, the Polish president?

BIDEN: The Polish president?

REPORTER: Yes. BIDEN: No, I haven't yet.

REPORTER: Do Americans expecting more guidelines coming out more restrictions because of COVID?

BIDEN: In all probability. By the way, we had a good day yesterday. Almost a million people got vaccinated about half a million of those people, for the first time, for the second shot. And so I'm hopeful that people are beginning to realize how essential it is to move.

REPORTER: Mr. President, do you have (INAUDIBLE) of those rounds?

BIDEN: they're unprocessed. And I'm hopeful. Thank you.

BLITZER: All right. So, Mayor Cava, Mayor Cantrell, you just heard the president say he does expect there will be more guidelines, more restrictions coming from the Biden administration in the coming days. And obviously that's not a huge surprise. But what would you like to see Washington -- Mayor Cava, first, to you, what would you like to see Washington do?

CAVA: I'd love to see not only doubling down on the vaccines with help to us here and promotional campaigns of every possible kind but also support from pushing forward with requirements.

BLITZER: And, Mayor Cantrell, what do you think?

CANTRELL: Well, I would like to see mandatory vaccinations being called for. I know they're waiting for the FDA. We cannot wait. We're seeing it on the ground. And local leaders, we really do need that federal leadership, you know? And even in the state of Louisiana, I'm the first in the state to push for a mask mandate. It shouldn't be. People are dying. Children are dying.



It is a serious, serious matter. And this delta variant is entirely different than the original. It is very, very highly transmissible. Mayors LaToya Cantreall, Mayor Daniella Levine Cava, good luck to both of you. You've got great cities over there. We're hoping for the best. Thanks to both of you for joining us.

CANTRELL: Thank you, Wolf.

CAVA: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you.

We're going to have much more coming up this hour on the pandemic, the delta variant threat that's unfolding. We're also following major developments involving former President Trump, his campaign to overturn the election, his taxes. Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) BLITZER: Tonight, we have new details on former President Trump's brazen, dangerous attempt to try to overturn the presidential election he lost.

Our Senior Legal Affairs Correspondent Paula Reid has been tracking this story for us. Paula, the former president wanted the acting attorney general of the United States to take steps to try this process of overturning the election.


PAULA REID, CNN SENIOR LEGAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And these new details are all coming from these contemporaneous, handwritten notes that the then-Acting Deputy Attorney General Richard Donoghue took about this December 27th call between Trump, Donoghue and the then-Acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen.

And according to this notes, in this call, Trump pressured his two top justice officials to declare the election results illegal and corrupt. According to these notes, he told them, just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and Republican Congressmen.

Now, according to these notes, Rosen told him, look, that's not the way this works. I can't just snap my fingers and change the outcome here.

So, again, this is a really extraordinary example of how the former president was applying pressure to an agency that was supposed to be independent of the White House as part of his wide-ranging campaign to try to delegitimize the election results. Now, these notes are going to be part of several investigations on the Hill. And both of these former justice officials could be called and testify.

BLITZER: I suspect they will be called to testify before the select committee.

On another legal matter, the Justice Department today said that Trump's tax returns, which Democrats in Congress have been fighting to get for, what, two years or so, they can be made available.

REID: That's right. This has been a long-simmering legal dispute. But today, the Justice Department ordered the Treasury Department to turn over Trump's tax returns to Congress. The House Ways and Means Committee requested these documents over two years ago. And the Trump Justice Department actually tried to cast doubt on whether they had a legitimate reason for requesting these documents.

Now, it is not clear at this point as whether the former president will try to fight this release, whether he will go to court. I think that is very likely but it is not clear at this point. We know a Manhattan grand jury has already gotten some similar documents, tax returns. They have obviously not leaked. But we know sometimes things do leak off the Hill. Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. Certainly do. All right, thanks very much, Paula Reid reporting for us. Let's get some insight from our CNN Legal Analyst Elliot Williams and the state attorney for Palm Beach County in Florida, Dave Aronberg.

So, Elliot, how outrageous is this? These handwritten notes that we now have of Trump trying to pressure Justice Department, top Justice Department officials to go ahead and take steps to try to overturn the election results?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, of course they're outrageous, Wolf, but weeks or months of attempting to subvert the election, the January 2nd call to Brad Raffensperger, the secretary of state of Georgia, were also egregious and brazen. So we shouldn't really be surprised about this conduct based on everything we know about the president right now -- the former president and his conduct.

The big story today is the fact that the Justice Department has agreed to make these available to Congress, and that's the way the government should be working, Wolf, where Congress has the authority to investigate wrongdoing by a president, former or sitting, and they're now going to be able to take that step. That's the big move.

BLITZER: That's a very, very big move. Dave, what would have happened potentially if the then-acting attorney general, Rosen, hadn't stood up to the president of the United States?

DAVE ARONBERG, STATE ATTORNEY, PALM BEACH COUNTY, FLORIDA: Yes. Good evening, Wolf and Elliot. I think we owe Jeff Rosen a great deal of gratitude, because with each passing day, we see how he was a guardrail that saved our democracy.

And not only did he rebut the former president's demand that he declared the election fraudulent, but he also refused to appoint special prosecutors and seek court action to overturn election results in various states, as many in the MAGA world wanted to. He also fought and survived a coup attempt by a Trump sycophant named Jeff Clark, who was part of an effort to oust Jeffrey Rosen. And that could have been a key moment. By surviving that coup attempt, that may have saved our democracy.

I guess, in the end, if you look back on this Wolf and say, if only the former administration's competence had matched their nefariousness, we would be in a lot more trouble.

BLITZER: You know, it is interesting, Elliot, to see these contemporaneous notes. You've seen them, I've seen them now, then- President Trump said this and I'm quoting, just say the election was corrupt and leave the rest to me and they are the Republican Congressmen. It is no wonder that some GOP members are worried about what is going to emerge over these next several months from this January 6th investigation.

WILLIAMS: And, Wolf, I think it is really important that you said the word, contemporaneous. Because, look, in the law, contemporaneous notes that someone takes at the moment something is happening can often make it into court. Now, obviously, this isn't a trial but because they're inherently reliable. This is what he heard at that moment. I don't think anyone has any doubt that the president said it. And, certainly, this should all come out and be made available to the January 6th committee. This should all obviously go over to Congress. And you know, to help the American people and Congress get to the bottom of it.

BLITZER: I'm sure, all of it will be made available to the committee members.

You know, Dave, in that separate investigation, the word we got, the Treasury Department has now been ordered by the Justice Department to hand over former President Trump's tax returns to Congress.


Democrats in Congress have been trying to get their hands on these tax returns for a couple of years. How revealing, potentially, could that be?

DAVE ARONBERG, STATE ATTORNEY, PALM BEACH COUNTY, FLORIDA: Well, it could be very revealing. After all, these tax returns are the subject of a criminal investigation in Manhattan. They were so important that Cyrus Vance Jr., my counterpart in Manhattan, went up to the U.S. Supreme Court not once but twice to get them and Congress was supposed to get them.

Under the law, it's clear. They are entitled to these tax returns. But Bill Barr served more as the president's personal defense lawyer than as the attorney general of the United States. So they tried to run out the clock and obstruct, and it worked for a time.

But now when you have a Department of Justice under new management, we will finally get a chance to see these documents.

BLITZER: What do you think, Elliot?

ELLIOT WILLIAMS, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: No, absolutely. And this gets back to this question. Keeps -- the word of the day today is "oversight," and Congress's ability as a co-equal branch of government to investigate wrongdoing by a president. This is the kind of stuff they should be requesting, that the committee should be seeing. And, you know, this is all in the pursuit of truth and very important it gets out there.

BLITZER: Trump is not very happy that all this is emerging right now.

Elliot Williams, David Aronberg, guys, thank you very, very much.

Coming up, unvaccinated Americans are bearing the brunt of the delta surge, especially in conservative corners of the country. So, why are conservative politicians mocking masks and vaccines?


[18:50:55] BLITZER: Tonight, we have more hard evidence of a real, very urgent danger from this delta variant. Yet, we are continuing to see many Republican officials mocking recommendations to wear masks and get vaccinated.

Brian Todd has been looking into this for us.

Brian, there seems to be a disconnect here since Republican areas around the country with low vaccination rates are getting hit the hardest with the surge from this delta variant.

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Many of those areas are indeed suffering, Wolf. And in some of those places, their leaders are simply not leading.

Unvaccinated Americans are suffering tonight as politics, again, creeped into the pandemic response.


TODD (voice-over): Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio, mocking defense Secretary Lloyd Austin for wearing a mask and a face shield on an official visit overseas, tweeting this, quote: Our SecDef is vaccinated, but he arrives in the Philippines wearing a mask and a face shield, embarrassing COVID theater.

DR. CELINE GROUNDER, FORMER NEW YORK CITY ASSISTANT COMMISSIONER OF HEALTH: This is akin to making fun of police officers and soldiers who want to wear bullet proof vests and body armor in the line of fire.

TODD: A defense spokesperson responded to Rubio by telling CNN General Austin was abiding by the Philippine government's health guidelines.

Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis is bypassing the CDC's masking guidelines. Today, signing an executive order leaving it up to parents to decide if their kids should wear masks and schools.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: These kids are in school. They have the mask on. When they go out of school and hang out, do you think they are wearing the masks when they are in each other's house? Of course not. So, it's terribly uncomfortable, and it is something that a lot of parents have been frustrated about.

TODD: All of this despite the government's push to get more Americans to vaccinate and wear masks indoors.

GROUNDER: What these Republican leaders are doing is very detrimental to people's health, because they are actively discouraging them from doing the very things that will protect their health.

TODD: Meantime, other Republican leaders like Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell are pushing Americans to get vaccinated. McConnell narrating this new radio ad in his home state of Kentucky recalling his own battle with polio.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Every American should take advantage of this miracle and get vaccinated. It's the only way we're going to beat COVID. This is not complicated.

TODD: Alabama's Republican Governor Kay Ivey who state has some of the lowest vaccination rates has been more blunt about who is responsible for the spikes in new COVID cases.

GOV. KAY IVEY (R), ALABAMA: It's time to start blaming the unvaccinated folks. Not the regular folks. It's the unvaccinated folks that let us down.

TODD: Now some of the unvaccinated and their loved ones are settled with crushing pain and regret. William Thomas Ball from Mississippi and his wife Alicia initially decided not to get vaccinated. Alicia has since gotten the shot, but her husband's case of COVID has kept him in the hospital for 3 weeks.

ALICIA BALL, HUSBAND IS UNVACCINATED AND HOSPITALIZED WITH COVID-19: He means so much to our family. He is the wealth of our family. We just want him to get better and come home.

TODD: Christy Carpenter and her family had been hesitant to get the vaccine. Coming off her own battle with the virus, the hospital employee from Alabama is now telling journalists what she misses most about her 20-year-old son Kurt who died of COVID.

CHRISTY CARPENTER, ALABAMA MOTHER WHO LOST SON TO COVID-19: You're going to make me cry. Just -- his infectious laugh. He would laugh from his toes. He was so sweet and loving, and just really caring.


TODD (on camera): Infectious disease specialist, Dr. Celine Gounder, acknowledges that Americans are burned out from all of this, and that the new messaging on masking, at least, has been confusing for many Americans. But she says the public has to understand the messaging will change again as the science keeps changing.

She's urging patients tonight, as America's top scientist, try to get ahead of this dangerous moving target, the delta variant, Wolf.

BLITZER: So important, and getting the vaccinations, so, so critically important, obviously.

All right. Brian, thank you.

Just ahead, Afghan interpreters are beginning to arrive here in the United States after nearly two decades, helping the American war effort, as the U.S. finally, keeping its promise.



BLITZER: The United States is finally beginning to make good on a promise to Afghan interpreters who missed everything to help American troops during the war.

CNN national security correspondent Kylie Atwood is on the story for us right now.

Kylie, this has been, what, nearly two decades in the making? And with the Taliban advancing in Afghanistan, the U.S. and NATO troops pulling out. Not a moment too soon.

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: No, that's right. Wolf, these Afghans came here with their immediate family members, but they left their entire lives behind in Afghanistan. This is a decision that many of them had to make in order to save their lives.


ATWOOD (voice-over): It's the beginning of an effort to uphold a promise. Those buses are carrying about 200 Afghan interpreters and their families, pulling into U.S. Army base Ft. Lee in Virginia, now safe on U.S. soil.

JOE BIDEN, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is a home for you in the United States if you so choose.

ATWOOD: President Biden welcomed the interpreters home and thanked them for putting their lives on the line alongside U.S. troops in America's longest war. Those arriving today are part of a group of 700 special immigrant visas or SIV applicants who have completed the majority of their background screening process. It'll be at Fort Lee for about a week, some in temporary housing and hotels.

Securing a medical clearance and getting the opportunity to receive a COVID-19 vaccine.

Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia talked about their arrival.

SEN. TIM KAINE (D-VA): We feel particularly supportive and even proud that we could be the initial place of touching soil in the United States as these Afghan SIVs and their family members began and next exciting challenging chapter of opportunity in this country.

ATWOOD: These Afghans were essential to America's efforts on the ground in Afghanistan over the last 20 years.

Army Captain Sayre Paine who served in the country described the wartime commodity.

SAYRE PAINE, FORMER ARMY CAPTAIN: I'm grateful to anybody that sat in the trenches with me fully knowing the hazards that we faced that more than likely one of us was going to die. And the interpreter was right there with us. And I owe them a duty as much as I owe any soldier that I was with.

ATWOOD: Of the 20,000 Afghans in the SIV pipeline, about 10,000 of them have just begun the application process, according to the State Department. Applications can take years to process.

That could be a deadly problem for some, with the Taliban issuing death threats for Afghans who worked with the U.S. and seizing control of the country. NAYAB, SIV APPLICANT: If I don't get out of Afghanistan, I am counting

down my end of life.


ATWOOD (on camera): Now, wolf, today was a step in the right direction, but what remains unclear is exactly how many Afghan interpreters the United States will be able to relocate before the U.S. completely withdraw their troops from Afghanistan in September -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Kylie, thanks very much. Kylie Atwood reporting. An important story.

And to our viewers, thanks for watching.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.