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The Situation Room
U.S. Hits Biden's Goal To Get 70 Percent Of Adults One Vaccine Dose About One Month Late As Delta Variant Drives Major Surge; Progressives Push Biden To Extend Eviction Moratorium; Sen. Lindsey Graham Announces Breakthrough COVID Case; Third Capitol Police Officer Dies By Suicide After Capitol Riot; Interview With Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT); Interview With Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms (D); Rep. McCarthy In Hot Water After "Joke" About Hitting Pelosi With Gavel. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired August 02, 2021 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Let's go to our chief White House correspondent, Kaitlan Collins.
Kaitlan, this is another life and death moment in the pandemic. What's the administration saying tonight?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're making a concerted effort this week, Wolf, to try to get the messaging more clearly, stated to Americans who were understandable confused by that new CDC guidance for fully vaccinated Americans last week. That guidance, it said they needed to wear a mask indoors in certain places in the U.S. where you are seeing cases rising.
And that is something the CDC director in a briefing tonight talked about, the casing going up, hospitalizations as well going up as they are lamenting the fact that there are still 90 million Americans who are eligible to get vaccinated who still haven't made the choice to do so.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS (voiceover): With the delta variant fueling outbreaks nationwide, President Biden is hitting a key vaccine goal tonight, almost one month late.
JEN PSAKI, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I would say it's a significant step that we have hit 70 percent.
COLLINS (voiceover): 70 percent of adults in the U.S. have now received at least one shot, a milestone Biden hoped to reach by July 4th. The U.S. reported over 800,000 new shots were administered yesterday, making it the fifth straight day with over 700,000 shots in arms, still far from peak levels. Amid a renewed push to get more people vaccinated, the pandemic is once again consuming Biden's agenda.
PSAKI: We're not going back to the shutdowns of March of 2020. We are not going back to the economy shutting down. We have made too much progress.
COLLINS (voiceover): After getting briefed by his COVID-19 team today, the president will give a speech on the pandemic tomorrow and meet with a top science adviser on Wednesday to prepare for future pandemics. With hospitalizations increasing, the CDC director is warning of how contagious the delta variant can be.
DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CDC DIRECTOR: If you get sick with the delta variant, we estimate that you could infect about five other unvaccinated people, more than twice as many as the original strain.
COLLINS (voiceover): Less than 1 percent of those who are fully vaccinated have experienced a breakthrough infection, according to an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Senator Lindsey Graham announcing he is one of them, adding, "I am very glad I was vaccinated." Not everyone is taking the CDC's mask advice.
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): There will be no restrictions and no mandates in the State of Florida.
COLLINS (voiceover): Today, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio urged vaccinated New Yorkers to wear masks inside but stopped short of issuing a new mandate.
MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D-NY): But we thought that was the right balance. Still want to respect the fact that vaccination does give you different opportunities and rights than unvaccinated people.
COLLINS (voiceover): Right now, five states are accounting for nearly half of all new COVID-19 cases. Meanwhile, a federal freeze on evictions expired over the weekend, putting millions of tenants at risk as infections are spiking nationwide. The White House says a Supreme Court ruling has prevented them from extending it, but made one last appeal to the CDC yesterday, which was denied.
GENE SPERLING, SENIOR ADVISER TO THE PRESIDENT: I think what you are seeing is a president who is just trying to do everything that he can in his power.
COLLINS (voiceover): Democrats didn't have the votes to get an extension passed last week, but progressives are turning up the heat on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ (D-NY): We have to really just call a spade a spade. We cannot in good faith blame the Republican Party when House Democrats have the majority.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS (on camera): And, Wolf, after Senator Lindsey Graham tested positive for coronavirus despite being fully vaccinated, we are now learning that he spent a portion of the weekend on Senator Joe Manchin's houseboat here in Washington. Not just Senator Graham and Senator Manchin, but there were several other senators on that boat as well. Of course, now, several of their offices are putting out statements of them following CDC guidance which now says, if you are fully vaccinated and around someone who tests positive, you still need to get tested within three to five days of that contact. And Dr. Fauci told us earlier today that these instances of breakthrough cases are rare for fully vaccinated people. But clearly, Wolf, they're happening across the country and even here in Washington tonight.
BLITZER: And I thought it was significant that Senator Lindsey Graham said in his statement, I am very glad I was vaccinated, because without vaccination I am certain I would not feel as well as I do now. My symptoms would be far worse. Bottom line, he's recommending everyone go get vaccinated.
BLITZER: Kaitlan, thank you very, very much.
Now, to New York City as the first epicenter of the pandemic battles a new rise of COVID cases right now. Let's go to our National Correspondent Jason Carroll. He's in New York.
Jason, the largest city in the country is breaking with some other big metro areas, stopping short actually of a new mask mandate. What is the latest?
JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. Stopping short. And a number of the mayor's critics are asking why stopping short of a mask mandate given that the city is seeing an uptick in cases in the city. The mayor is urging people who are going inside restaurants, bars, clubs, grocery stores, whatever the case may be, public places, to wear masks inside. But, again, not issuing a mandate.
The mayor when pressed on that issue said a couple of things, look, he says he's following the science and the data. He says that he's providing the safe guidance that the CDC gave last week. But, again, no mandate. And, so, some people are wondering, how is this going to affect businesses going forward? Well, already, what we have heard from Equinox, which put out a statement late this afternoon basically saying that going forward, all of their members must provide proof of a vaccination before entry. So, that's going to be for all Equinoxes and Soul Cycles going forward.
We also checked with the restaurant behind me, cafeteria, very popular spot here in New York City, asked the owners here how their policy might be affected given what the mayor has now recommended.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MONICA NOVO, RESTAURANT OWNER: I think it's a great approach. Ultimately, you know, as we have all been saying, New York is a resilient city. I mean, I think it's important that everybody take part and do, you know, whatever is needed to try to, you know, eradicate as much as we can, this virus. If it's just a short little step back in wearing a mask for a little bit longer indoors or any part where there is a high-level amount of people, I think we should do it. I think it's important. We should try to do as much as we can to save our city and save our businesses.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CARROLL: It should also be noted that the mayor said that in terms of the city's perspective, everything they're doing going forward is going to be "vaccine centric." We should also point out New York's governor also held a briefing today where he also encouraged all businesses going forward, he says, look, what they should try to do is adopt some sort of vaccine admission policy. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right. Jason, thank you very much. Jason Carroll in New York.
Let's discuss all of this and more with Dr. Tom Frieden, the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Dr. Frieden, thank you so much for joining us.
Just about a month late, the U.S. now has hit the goal of 70 percent of adults receiving at least one dose of the coronavirus vaccine. This level of vaccination wasn't enough to stop the delta variant from taking off. But will it be enough, do you believe, Dr. Frieden, to stop the next variant?
DR. TOM FRIEDEN, FORMER CDC DIRECTOR, PRESIDENT AND CEO, RESOLVE TO SAVE LIVES, AN INITIATIVE OF VITAL STRATEGIES: Well, it's clear that the virus is upping its game, and we need to up our game. Delta is doubly infectious. We need to double down on layers of protection. That means vaccination and masking.
Wolf, you were just talking about Senator Lindsey Graham who had symptoms. He was vaccinated. He exposed other people. Good example of why it makes sense to wear a mask when the virus is spreading widely, because those people could get sick and they could spread the infection to others.
The vaccine is working. I think people need to understand breakthrough doesn't mean that -- you know, the dam is broken. They, in fact, if you look at more than 160 million people vaccinated, less than 1 in 100,000 of those people have died from COVID. And those individuals who have had severe breakthrough infections, we need to understand more, it may be people with kidney transplants or other health problems that put them at higher risk, they may need a different approach to be protected more effectively. But our vaccines are working.
Delta, however, is upping the bar. And we're going to need to vaccinate many more people and have layered protection, especially, Wolf, to keep our schools open. That is what has me most worried. Schools are opening now. And if we don't vaccinate, mask up and have layered protection, the risk is that some won't open or some that open will close. And getting our kids learning in person is crucially important. BLITZER: On Sunday, Dr. Frieden, we did see the fifth day in a row
with more than 700,000 shots in arms here in the U.S. That's an increase. But is it enough to ease your concerns about vaccine hesitancy? About 90 million Americans still have not received one shot. 90 million who are eligible, I should say.
FRIEDEN: That's 90 million people who are avoidably susceptible to getting killed by COVID or getting long COVID and ill for weeks, months or maybe even years. So, no, it is not enough. We need to ramp up vaccination more. We need to mask up, especially where the virus is spreading widely. We can do this but it does require that we up our game. The virus has changed and adapted. We need to change and adapt also.
BLITZER: I'm curious what you think about this third shot, this booster shot. We now see that the experts in Israel, the U.K., Germany, they're taking steps to give people at-risk, especially those over 60 with underlying health conditions who are fully vaccinated five or six months ago a third shot. Should the U.S. be doing the same thing right now?
FRIEDEN: We don't have the data we need to make that decision. We need to know who is getting severe breakthrough infections. And if there is a group that looks like they need a third shot, for example, I think kidney transplant recipients, there's now good data that they probably aren't well protected with two shots, and a third shot might help them.
That's different, Wolf, from a booster after six or 12 months if there is waning immunity. I don't think we have seen data to convince that that is necessary. But for some groups that have underlying conditions and aren't responding as well as nearly everyone else to the vaccine, such as people with a kidney transplant, that's a group that I expect will see some new recommendations on in the coming weeks.
BLITZER: All right. We'll see what happens here in the U.S. in the coming weeks. Dr. Friedan, thanks as usual for joining us. Appreciate it very much.
FRYER: Thank you.
BLITZER: Just ahead, the devastating aftermath of January 6th as a third police officer who responded to the riot up on Capitol Hill dies by suicide. This comes as a Republican senator is now brazenly pouring fuel on a January 6th conspiracy theory involving the FBI. You are going to hear it for yourself. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Tonight, the insurrection continues to take a devastating toll. A third police officer who confronted rioters on January 6th has died by suicide. Our Justice Correspondent Jessica Schneider is here with us in "The Situation Room."
Jessica, what are you learning about this police officer? It's such a sad development.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Just another difficult day for the police department here In Washington D.C. It was Officer Gunther Hashida. He was a member of the emergency response team for the special operations division. And in fact, the police department confirms that he was found in his home last Thursday. He did respond to the capitol on January 6th, Wolf. He is the third officer now who has died by suicide after responding to the capitol attack.
Now, it is unclear at this point if Officer Hashida was facing any trauma from January 6th. You know, a lot of the officers who have -- who did respond on January 6th, they have spoken out about the trauma of that day and the mental health toll that it has taken. In fact, Officer Michael Fanone who has been very outspoken, he worked with Officer Hashida at the Metropolitan Police Department. He issued a lengthy statement.
I'll read it for you. He says, I worked with him for a number of years. Gunther was the most professional police officer that I ever worked with in my entire career. I have always felt that way. He was incredibly meticulous, detail oriented and dedicated to every aspect of the job. Incredibly reserved, quiet and soft-spoken but very positive. He was loved by everyone. There is no one in the law enforcement profession loved by everyone. Most are not loved by some. He literally was that guy who everyone loved.
For me, the takeaway is that so much more needs to be done to normalize the conversation around mental health, not just in our profession. We need to take away the stigma of talking about these issues, grappling with mental health issues should not be deemed a weakness. If anything, it's a strength.
So, a lot of people talking about the mental health aspect of this and how it does need to be addressed. The Metropolitan Police Department, they issued a statement saying that the department is grieving. Officer Hashida had been with the department, Wolf, since 2003.
BLITZER: Yes. Such a -- our deepest, deepest condolences to his family and his friends. May he rest in peace and may his memory be a blessing. As we always say, amidst all of this, as you know, Jessica, some Republicans are actually continuing to downplay the -- what happened on January 6th on Capitol Hill. Some are even fueling these conspiracy theories out there. "The Washington Post," as you know, has obtained video of Republican Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin throwing out some new idea involving the FBI, what it knew, didn't know about January 6th. What about that?
SCHNEIDER: Yes. This is video from just this past weekend that was uncovered by "The Washington Post." And in it, Senator Ron Johnson is suggesting that the FBI had more knowledge and details about the January 6th capitol attack than they actually had. Now, Senator Johnson has floated these wild conspiracy theories repeatedly, but this one really takes it a step farther. And in this clip, he references the kidnapping plot against Michigan governor, Gretchen Whitmer, and the fact that some of the defendants in that case are saying that the FBI entrapped them by stoking their anger. And then, Senator Johnson, in this clip, compares it to what happened on January 6th. Here he is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SEN. RON JOHNSON (R-WI): And by the way, by the way, and I don't say this publicly, but are you watching what's happening in Michigan? Are you wathing -- OK. You're former CIA?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
JOHNSON: OK. So, you think that the FBI had fully infiltrated the militias in Michigan, but they don't know squat about what was happening on January 6 or what was happening with these groups? I'd say there is, there is way more to the story.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCHNEIDER: And to be clear here, Wolf, despite what Senator Johnson said, there is no credible evidence that the FBI had any detailed evidence about exactly what would unfold at the capitol. And there is no allegation that the FBI even played any role in this attack. And really, the Senate report here, it did pin some blame on the FBI for not taking those online messages that suggested there would be violence at the capitol seriously. But of course, that is a far cry from the allegations, the false allegations that Senator Johnson is making in this video.
BLITZER: Yes. Good point, Jessica. Thank you very much. Jessica Schneider reporting.
Let's get some more on this. Former Washington, D.C. police chief, Charles Ramsey, is joining us, former CIA counterterrorism official, Phil Mudd, is with us as well.
Phil, at one point in your career, you were actually sent over to work over at the FBI. What goes through your mind hearing this latest statement from Republican Senator Ron Johnson?
PHIL MUDD, CNN COUNTERTERRORISM ANALYST: Boy, we used to be in a place where the Democrats attacked law enforcement and the military and we're attacked by the republicans for doing that, including after the Vietnam War. Now, we're in a place where routinely, after January 6th, Republicans attack law enforcement and vilify the people who are protecting the Congress.
Let me give you one fact from an intelligence officer. There is a small group of people in Michigan, one state, a small group of people conspiring to attack the governor in a violent attack. That's obviously a crime. In Washington, D.C., on January 6th and before January 6th, there were thousands of people converging to hear the president speak at a political rally.
And you are telling me the intelligence about a small group is the same as the intelligence you might acquire about a political rally for a U.S. politician? You have got to be kidding me. Ignorance is bliss. He doesn't know what he's talking about, Wolf.
BLITZER: You know, Chief Ramsey, all this comes as we've learned, very sadly, of this suicide of this police officer, Gunther Hashida. You heard that emotional tribute from the Police Officer Michael Fanone. How hard is it to hear that yet another officer has taken his own life since responding to the January 6th attack?
CHARLES RAMSEY, FORMER WASHING, D.C. POLICE CHIEF: Well, first, Wolf, let me offer my condolences to that officer's family and also to the men and women of MPD. It's tough to lose an officer under any circumstances.
I think Officer Fanone really hit the nail on the head when he talked about mental health. A lot of people don't realize that, you know, police officers take their own lives at a much higher rate than just about any other profession. And yet, you know, our ability to give them the kind of mental health support and services that they need is still lacking in many jurisdictions. I'm not saying that's the case in Washington, but it is the case in many jurisdictions where because of the stigma associated with mental health, officers are reluctant to come forward. It's suck it up and keep moving on.
But, you know, these things take their toll over time. And unfortunately, this officer, who is assigned to ERT and special operations division, which is one of the units assigned to help protect the president and vice president, visiting dignitaries and the like and also, it is my understanding he suffered a tragic loss of his 15-year-old son a few years ago. All these things combined can lead to tragic outcomes.
BLITZER: Yes. We don't know, Phil, why the Officer Hashida took his life. But clearly, these police officers have dealt with enormous trauma, both from the January 6th attack and the aftermath all these months since then, haven't they?
MUDD: They have. I think we have forgotten, as Chief Ramsey said, that this isn't about politics. It is about mental health. We read about what officers deal with. That is somebody murdered, going to the house of a family who's lost a kid to drunken driving, going to see child abuse, watching domestic abuse. They deal with this every day.
And then you have to go into a situation where mental health is not only ignored, in this case, as we saw and partly in the response to the testimony on Capitol Hill, it's mocked. We have an Olympic athlete who separates herself from the games and it's applauded, as she should be, for being honest about mental health.
In this case, we have officers who respond to an attack and they are mocked. They're mocked. And then we get this. You draw the conclusion, Wolf. I have drawn my own.
BLITZER: What's your message, Chief Ramsey, to those police officers who are still struggling right now?
RAMSEY: Well, seek help. But I think it is really incumbent upon police departments and leadership to make this just a routine almost like a physical, a mental health checkup, every year, every other year. Remove the stigma. When Philly, when we went to a period of time during my time as commissioner, we had eight officers killed in the line of duty within an eight-year period. Five of them died within nine months.
I mean, we had to partner with the University of Pennsylvania Behavioral Health in order to provide the kind of counseling and services that officers needed. I needed it myself and actually went through counseling along with my command staff. You have to take these steps in order to show officers it's OK to not be okay. And we really do need to emphasize that, to make sure that they have the right balance and can perform their duties and live a long healthy life.
BLITZER: Well said indeed. Chief Ramsey, thank you. Phil Mudd, thanks to you as well.
Coming up, the U.S. Senate is moving toward a vote on the newly finalized infrastructure bill. I'll ask the Senate Budget Committee chairman, Bernie Sanders, about its chances and the pushback among progressives. Stay with us.
BLITZER: Tonight, the U.S. Senate is bracing for a final battle over a massive bipartisan infrastructure bill. A floor vote could happen within days after weeks of intense negotiations.
Let's go to our Congressional Correspondent Jessica Dean.
Jessica, so what are the chances this bill can get passed?
JESSICA DEAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, in the Senate, things are looking pretty good. We're seeing things progress, albeit, pretty slowly. Of course, they worked all throughout the weekend to get text finalized.
And just here in the last few minutes, we did see the first bipartisan amendment for this bill passed. So what we're looking at right now is a lot of legislative. We're going to see various amendments coming to the floor. They have to have unanimous consent to be brought to the floor. So there's a lot of behind the scenes negotiating over which amendments will be brought forth, and how they will be voted on that sort of thing.
We're going to see that play out, at least for the next day or so as they make their way through this. Again, this is now a question of timing, how quickly this can wrap up. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said he wants to see it done by the end of the week. It remains to be seen if they can move that quickly.
Again, this is an over $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill, taking a peek at kind of what's inside of it and top lines, broadband $65 billion, power infrastructure $73 billion, bridges and roads getting $110 billion, train 66 billion, clean water 55 billion. So again, a lot of this hard infrastructure, Wolf, that's what's in this bill.
And it's looking good. Like I said, on the Senate side, the question is what will happen in the House. A lot of House progressives have said they want to see a reconciliation bill, which would have a lot of Democratic priorities in it, that gets put forth before they're willing to vote on this. That's where some of these questions will lead us to, Wolf?
BLITZER: Important issues indeed. All right, Jessica, thank you very much. Let's discuss this and more with the Senate Budget Committee Chairman, Bernie Sanders. Senator Sanders thanks, as usual for joining us. As you know, the Senate is starting to consider various amendments to this $1 trillion plus infrastructure bill, but you only have a handful of days before the Senate recess. So how do you get this done?
SEN. BERNIE SANDERS (I-VT): By working very hard and working long hours. My hope and expectation is that this hard infrastructure bipartisan bill will get done by the end of the week. And then we will immediately turn to what we call the reconciliation bill, a bill which I think will have an extraordinarily positive impact on working families. And that will deal with the issues of extending the child tax credit, the $300 a month, a check for working families for their kids, which has cut childhood poverty in America by 61 percent, will reform in a very comprehensive way.
Child care, we're going to expand Medicare, to cover dental care, eyeglasses, hearing aids, we're going to finally get the United States have paid family and medical leave. We're going to put a whole lot of money into affordable housing. And of course, in the midst of this horrible climate crisis that we face, we're going to begin the process of transforming our energy system away from fossil fuel. And when we do all of those things, Wolf, we're going to create millions of good paying jobs.
BLITZER: You say, Senator, there could be no infrastructure bill, and that's a $1 trillion plus bill. Without a reconciliation bill, that's another $3.5 trillion. But can Moderate Democrats trust Progressives to deliver the votes for infrastructure? And can you trust the Moderates to back that $3.5 trillion deal that you want? This is really complicated?
SANDERS: It is. It is extremely complicated. And we look forward to the White House playing an active role in terms of making sure that we have the votes that we need to pass reconciliation, unlike obvious the bipartisan bill, the reconciliation bill, which is really transformative. It begins to address the reality that for decades, Congress has paid a whole lot of attention to the rich, and the powerful and campaign contributors and ignore the needs of the working class in this country. So having said that, and demanding that the wealthy stop paying their fair share of taxes, we're not going to get any Republican support. So we have zero Democratic votes to spare. But at the end of the day, the House and the Senate are going to have to come together to do something which is overwhelmingly popular among working families.
People are sick and tired of seeing the rich get richer and everybody else struggling. They want action. And we're going to give them what I think is long overdue.
BLITZER: Are you worried senator that the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi will bow to pressure from Moderate Democrats to decouple the infrastructure deal from the $3.5 trillion spending then?
SANDERS: Well, Speaker Pelosi I think has been very strong. And what she understands it is that it is imperative that we pass both that we cannot go forward with just the bipartisan bill. Look, to be very honest with you, Wolf, a physical, I'm a former mayor, so I know a little bit about roads and sidewalks and bridges and all that stuff.
It is terribly important. We have an enormous amount of work to be done in that area. But human infrastructure, the needs of working family, families, and our children and our elderly, that's actually more important. So, both of these bills have got to go forward together. And when we do that, we will create many, many good paying jobs.
And one of the things I'm really excited about as we go forward in transforming our energy system and trying to reverse climate change, we're going to create a civilian climate corps, which will provide hundreds of thousands of good paying jobs for young people, and give them the opportunity to lead the effort in trying to save this planet.
So there's just a lot that we have to do, now is the time to do it. And I will tell you, that you got a lot of special interest the drug companies were going to lower the cost of the prescription drugs, the health care industry, the fossil fuel industry, you name the big money interests, they're going to try to defeat us. But it's important that we hang in there together, and that we pass this bill.
BLITZER: We'll see what happens this week and in the coming weeks. Senator Sanders thanks as usual for joining us.
SANDERS: Thank you.
BLITZER: Just ahead. It's reopening day for many schools in the COVID hotspot of Georgia. I'll ask the Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, there she is, how she's planning to keep students and teachers safe.
BLITZER: It's back to school time in the COVID hotspot of Georgia. Let's talk about the challenges for the students, the teachers, the officials as the Delta variant hammers areas with low vaccination rates. Joining us now, the Mayor of Atlanta, Keisha Lance Bottoms.
Ms. Mayor, thank you so much for joining us. As you know, better than I do some of the Atlanta area schools, they're back in session, some of them actually today others later in the week, some next week. How do you plan to keep kids, teachers, and staff safe this school year as this coronavirus transmission remains high and so many students are actually too young to be vaccinated?
MAYOR KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS (D), ATLANTA: Well, thank you for having me, Wolf. So let me be clear, I don't have purview over our schools as the mayor. We are a separate entity but with the leadership of our superintendent in Atlanta, thankfully, there will be a mask requirement for our kids. I've also signed an executive order requiring a mask mandate in the city of Atlanta.
Atlanta in the state of Georgia still has some of the lowest vaccination rates in the country. In Georgia, we're about 46 percent fully vaccinated. City of Atlanta is a little better at about 49 percent. And the CDC has designated us as an area of high transmission. So it's important that we have a mask mandate in our city. And thankfully, we are on one accord with our school superintendent who's also required the mask mandate in Atlanta public schools.
BLITZER: Yes. I wanted to show our viewers that map, the vast majority of Georgia, including your city of Atlanta in bright red indicating a high level of community transmission. Yet Governor Brian Kemp says he will not issue any mask mandates or lockdowns. I know you're requiring mask in the Atlanta. But just how difficult is it to change the course of this pandemic with a message at the state level contradicts your message?
BOTTOMS: Well, it's the reason that we are so low in vaccinations and transmission is still so high. This is not a political issue. It's not a partisan issue. We are looking at data and metrics. And that's what our decision making is based upon. And so not only is the governor not requiring a mask mandate, he's doubling down on his position that somehow there's something wrong with our mask mandate in the city of Atlanta. And this is nothing new.
I've been in battle with this governor before, if you recall. He filed a lawsuit against the city of Atlanta and me personally, when I last instituted a mask mandate. It's my hope that we won't go down that path again. And I would just simply ask that he look at the science, this is about keeping people alive. I have four children, two of whom are not vaccine eligible, one who has severe asthma.
So this is of grave concern not just for people with underlying health conditions, but our children who are going back to school. And even in the metro area there are some school systems that are making mask optional, but it's still a concern for parents and teachers throughout this state.
BLITZER: Yes, it's such a serious problem this Delta variant. The Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, good luck to you. Good luck to everyone in Atlanta right now. Thanks for joining us.
BOTTOMS: Thank you.
BLITZER: Coming up, calls are growing right now for the House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to resign. The off color comments he made that are causing outrage up on Capitol Hill, that's coming.
BLITZER: Some Capitol Hill lawmakers are now calling for the House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy to resign after an off color remark he made should he become the speaker of the House.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA), MINORITY LEADER: I want you to watch Nancy Pelosi hand me that gavel. It'll be hard not to hit we are with it, but I will bang it down.
(END AUDIO CLIP)
BLITZER: Let's discuss with CNN political commentators Van Jones and Mia Love. They're both joining us right now.
Mia, as a former Republican congresswoman, does it bother you see the GOP leader of the House making joke like this, rallying the party around attacks of the House speaker? Especially, when she was actually threatened back on January 6th.
MIA LOVE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, of course it does. I think anytime anybody makes any threat of another member of Congress or anybody, it is definitely a warming. I honestly believe that those two, there is a genuine dislike. Nancy Pelosi called Kevin McCarthy a moron. Everybody is just -- they need to stop acting like high schoolers, really just start acting like legislators.
There are some people that really need their leadership right now. And for these leaders to go out and just stay with their saying, it is I think childish and uncalled for. It is inappropriate.
BLITZER: This relationship, Van, between Pelosi and McCarthy seems to be at an all time low. I've covered Congress for a long time. As Mia points out, Pelosi publicly called McCarthy and more on because of his position on masks and COVID, just last week.
How badly, Van, have things deteriorated?
VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, quite badly and it is really a shame. I mean, you know, Kevin McCarthy knows better.
[18:50:02] I mean, you know, those of us who know him when he is not playing to the cheap seats and trying to a court Donald Trump and doing this weird stuff he's doing because he's just so interested in becoming speaker of the House, even if he destroys the House in the process, he destroys faith in democratic process -- and the process.
Look, I think that this is very, very bad because you look at what is not getting done. You look at the fact that all of these evictions are going to happen now. They weren't able to get stuff done. You know, this kind of playing to the cheap seats in that kind of stuff. It has real consequences for real people when governing is not happening.
BLITZER: This comes, Mia, me as we have just learned of a third suicide of a police officer who responded to the January 6th attack up on Capitol Hill. We don't know why this police officer took his life. But is this all a reminder that there are obviously real world implications to the political rhetoric that's thrown around out there?
LOVE: Hands down, absolutely. Anytime a person who is -- has a platform says something, they have to be careful because there are implications.
Wolf, I knew these people and there are specific members, there are specific police officers right now, Capitol Hill police officers, that I've no doubt would've given their lives to make sure that I was safe. These are people with children, with wives -- with one wife. With children, they really just want to do their job.
And we have to understand that there is a human aspect behind them. They -- it is just really upsetting to me that we, as members of Congress, don't really take that into consideration. They need to start acting like adults and understand that there's so much more that they need to do.
BLITZER: What's your take, Van?
JONES: You know, I think heroes should be embraced. They should be celebrated. I think they should be hugged and held and healed.
When you go through something like that and half the country doesn't come to your side, I mean look at people who are veterans who lose their way. You know, these are people who had one of the worst experiences of their lives broadcasting cable television. To have half the country possibly saying what you went through you didn't go through, it doesn't help the healing. It doesn't help the healing. So, it's really sad.
BLITZER: It's very sad indeed.
All right. Van, Mia, guys, thank you very much.
We'll have more news just ahead. Including gymnast Simone Biles set to return to the Olympics for one final Olympic event. Team USA is saying, that's next.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [18:57:09]
BLITZER: Gymnast Simone Biles will compete in the Olympics balance beam final and just in a few hours. This after Biles withdrew from the competition last week citing, mental health concerns.
CNN sports analyst Christine Brennan joining us right now live from Tokyo.
So, what are you learning Christina about why Biles now feels she can safely return to the competition for this balance beam final?
CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: Wolf, you know, this is -- this is going to be a huge event in a huge moment at these Olympic Games, the biggest by far, and if she feels comfortable in the air or more comfortable anyway. She believes that the twisty's, you know, getting lost in the air -- she believes that she has conquered that, hopes that continues to be the case.
Balancing though, Wolf, it's four inches up there, several feet in the air. For mere mortals like you and I, I mean, it's almost impossible just to stand on it. She will be flipping and doing all those routines. Turning around on it. There is great risk.
But she thinks she's got it. She thinks she is ready. And what a lovely punctuation mark this exclamation point at the end of her Olympics. If she's going to pull this off, the world will be holding its breath.
BLITZER: I will be among them. I'll be wonderful to watch, every second of that.
One of the most unexpected stories, Christine, of these Olympic Games is how Biles decision to step back, actually opened up doors for her fellow USA gymnast to bring home medals of their own. Tell us about that.
BRENNAN: Yes. Well, Suni Lee, of course, was the all around champion, the 5th straight American woman to win that prestigious title, Wolf, the most significant and gymnastics, the women's all around. Mary Lou Retton won it back in 1984. So, it shows the depth of the Americans that Simone Biles could be out of this competition and her teammate, Sunisa Lee, comes right in and wins it.
And Jade Carey won on the floor exercise last night early morning in the U.S., and another great performance. A gold medal as well. So, it shows the depth of the U.S. women's gymnastics team. It shows just how strongly are. Of course, the biggest cheerleader in the stand is Simone Biles. Now, will finally leave the stands, come back to the floor a week. Literally, a week after she left and, of course, the drama all began as we started to hear her story about her struggles with mental health.
BLITZER: And, Christine, what will you be looking for the next week as these games continue in finally wrap up? BRENNAN: You know, Wolf, the issue of protesting athletes protesting.
Protesting Raven Saunders won the shock with silver medals, then the protest on the medal stand. The U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee is defending her, saying that was okay to do that.
The International Olympic Committee's going to answer the next hour or two. It's against their rules to do anything on the medal podium, even though she crossed her arms and an X for oppressed people she said. That was Saunders from the United States.
So, we will see who wins that battle, the IOC or the U.S.
BLITZER: We shall see.
Christine Brennan in Tokyo -- thank you very, very much.
And to our viewers thanks very much for watching.
"ERIN BURNETTT OUTFRONT" starts right now.