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The Situation Room

Biden Finishes Meeting With House Progressives As Agenda In Peril; Facebook Suffering Outage As Company Comes Under Fire; New Details Of Trump's 2024 Plans And Unofficial Candidacy; Probe Reveals Money Moves of World Leaders & the Super-Rich; Oil Company: Ship's Anchor Might Have Hit Pipeline, Causing Leak. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired October 04, 2021 - 18:00   ET




WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Happening now, President Biden meets with progressives as Democrats scramble to rescue this agenda from weeks of deadlock and division. The president juggling multiple crises right now as the country faces down the potential debt default on his watch.

I'll speak with one of the key Democrats who was in the meeting with President Biden, Congressman Ro Khanna is standing by live.

Also breaking news tonight, Instagram and WhatsApp are down along with the parent company Facebook, which is facing fierce criticism over whistleblower allegations at very evidence of spreading hatred and violence and misinformation. And we've just received a copy of the testimony the whistleblower will give to Congress tomorrow.

Plus, new details of former President Trump's plans for a 2024 race for the White House, is he already an unofficial candidate?

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.

Let's go straight to Capitol Hill right now. Our Congressional Correspondent Ryan Nobles is joining us. Ryan, President Biden just wrapped up a virtual meeting with key house progressives as part of the ongoing negotiations to get his multitrillion dollars economic agenda passed. First of all, what are you learning about what actually happened in the meeting.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're told, Wolf, that this was basically an opportunity for progressives and the White House to get on the same page in terms of their messaging over the next couple of weeks as these negotiations play out. And that in particular the members of the progressive caucus reiterated their support for the president's build back better initiative, which is what he's calling this multitrillion dollars expansion of the social safety net and climate change package.

And they also promised to do whatever they call to pass what they are calling as robust as possible a package through both the House and Senate. And that seems to be somewhat of an acknowledgment that it is not going to be that big $3.5 trillion number they had initially wanted but they're going to work to make it as big as possible.

And there was also an acknowledgement by some of the members of this caucus that they need to get something out of this deal and the goal here is to find some consensus and that something is better than nothing. But more than anything, this was the progressive caucus promising the president that they were going to do everything they could do get his agenda over the finish line.

They have really been partners with the White House throughout this process and they are -- what they told the president on this call today is they want to continue in that role. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right, Ryan, I want you to stand by. Thank you very, very much. The looming debt limit disaster is unfolding right now. Our Chief National Affairs Correspondent Jeff Zeleny is over at the White House for us right now.

Jeff, the president can't guaranteed that the debt ceiling will be raised in the next few weeks. What is at stake?

JEFF ZELENY, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the stakes are incredibly high and President Biden repeatedly made that clear today, talking about the full faith and credit of the United States government is indeed at risk here. And you're right, he did say that he could not guarantee that the U.S. would not hit up against that debt limit because of the inaction in the Senate, calling out Republicans specifically.

Now, he also took care to draw a difference between the agenda that is -- that Ryan was just talking about right now and what the debt ceiling actually is. This, of course, is on things that have already happened, in the Trump era that Republicans who voted for. It is that bill that he's trying to make clear that the U.S. now has to pay for. But he essentially scolded Republicans for not acting in good faith.


JOE BIDEN, U.S. PRESIDENT: Not only are Republicans refusing to do their job, they're threatening to use the power, their power, to prevent us from doing our job, saving the economy from a catastrophic event. I think, quite frankly, it is hypocritical, dangerous and disgraceful.

As soon as this week, your savings in your pocketbook could be directly impacted by this Republican stunt. It is as simple as that.


ZELENY: So, of course, Democrats voted with Republicans during the Trump era to raise the debt ceiling. It is something, Wolf, that we've seen year after year after year, both parties, despite the partisanship, generally come together to do this. But Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said Republicans simply will not join Democrats in trying to pass the debt ceiling.

Now, we do know that Senator McConnell sent a letter to President Biden trying to open a dialogue here. We do not believe they've spoken yet on this.


But it remains to be seen what the path out of this is. But, clearly, the stakes so high for the financial markets, to social security checks, to military payment and so much more, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. Millions and millions of Americans are going to be hurt if this isn't done. So, walk us through specifically, Jeff, what happens between now and two weeks from today, October 18th, that is the deadline.

ZELENY: It is the deadline. So any number of things could happen. Democrats could go it alone. That is what they are asking to do, asking Republicans not to stand in the way of this, not filibuster this measure and allow them to pass this on a simple majority vote. It's unclear if that will happen. They could also do it through reconciliation, of course, that term we've been talking so much about. That is using Democrats-only as well. But that would take some time because it would open up a considerable process on the Senate floor where you could vote for absolutely anything. So, clearly, that would gum up the works even longer. But Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer had this to say about the timeline on the Senate floor.


SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY): We will need to get a bill extending the debt ceiling to the president's desk by the end of this week. We aren't asking Republicans to vote, yes, even though it is debt that they incurred, we are simply asking that they get out of the way.


ZELENY: So, obviously, the stakes for not acting incredibly high but there is not a single obvious route to how they get this accomplished. So, Wolf, it is Monday, of course, there is a long time before Friday there when Senator Schumer says, they want to see a bill on the president's desk, unclear how or if that will happen by the deadline, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. Simply put, they have got to do it. No alternative. All right, Jeff Zeleny at White House. Thanks very much.

Let's get some more in all of this. Joining us now, Democratic Congressman Ro Khanna, he's the Progressive Caucus Deputy Whip. Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.

I know you just met with President Biden. What was his message to you and other progressives on this path forward for his agenda right now?

REP. RO KHANNA (D-CA): Wolf, the message of the president was simple, we have to get this done. There are three things that I observed. One, this is a president who is on top of all of the details. He knew exactly what was in the package, he was talking about all of the specifics, including the numbers. Two, he's a very likeable person. He was joking around with members of Congress. He was very comfortable and he wasn't lecturing or forcing people's hands. He was humble, wanting to seek input. And, three, the progressive caucus made it very clear to the president that we're behind him, we understand that there's a need for compromise and we're going to support him in getting this done.

BLITZER: Because, as you point out, and a source has told CNN, that the group, the progressives agreed that, quote, something is better than nothing when it comes to the larger $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill. So, what does that look like, Congressman? How much are you willing to compromise?

KHANNA: We're willing to compromise as long as the priorities are in there, as long as we still have every American going to preschool, as long as we still have childcare, as long as we still have bold climate provisions. But the amounts of these programs can be compromised. And the president said something that really struck me. He said, when the new deal started, it wasn't the new deal that we study in the history books. It started with some small programs and then it grew. And I think that, that is compelling. If we can get a number of these programs funded, we establish the base for which they can dwell in the future.

BLITZER: Would it be okay, instead of using ten-year funding, let's say, do everything you want but five-year funding? That would lower the overall price drag dramatically, right? Are you open to that?

KHANNA: Yes, I am. And I think that that would be one compelling way of dramatically lowering the price tag and then we can have the American people decide in '24 whether they like the fact that seniors now can get dental care, whether they like the fact that they could get paid leave if they have a sick child, whether they like the fact that they can go to college and not go into all of this debt.

BLITZER: Yes. If you cut it in half, five years instead of ten years that, number would go way down, close to $1.5 trillion which is what Manchin has proposed. Let's see if that happens. That sounds like a reasonable compromise.

On another sensitive issue right now, Congressman, I want to get your thoughts, the president says he can't guarantee that the United States of America won't default on its debt two weeks from today, October 18th. That is the deadline. But if Republicans refuse to blink, are you willing to let the U.S. economy and millions and millions of American citizens pay an enormous price?

KHANNA: No, but it is sad that it has come to this. I mean, Senator McConnell on the one hand is saying we can't lose to China and on the other hand he's not able or willing to have a basic vote to increase the debt ceiling, which I voted for two or three times with President Trump. Every time the oppositional party votes to give this to the president because it is the United States security and prestige on the line but we will get it done. We will get it done through whatever means is necessary because the Democrats are responsible and there is no way we're going to default on the debt ceiling.


BLITZER: And you've already passed it in the House. It is something that the Senate right now where there is a 50/50 deadlock over there, as we all know. We will see what happens.

If Americans lose their jobs though in huge numbers, lose their social security checks, isn't the reality thought that they'll blame the party in control of the White House, the House of Representatives and the Senate, namely the Democrats?

KHANNA: They may. But this isn't about politics. This is about -- if you care about the United States and you care about the economy, we have to raise the debt ceiling. I will say I was reading someone who said that there are three presidents who added to the most to the debt. Abraham Lincoln, understandably, we were in the civil war. The next were Donald Trump and George W. Bush.

So, the Democrats, as usual, are cleaning up from the debt added by Republican presidents but if that is what we have to do, we'll do it. We are in it to govern responsibly. I don't care about the blame or not. We have to do the right thing. We have to raise the debt ceiling even if it is only Democratic votes.

BLITZER: And getting back to that reconciliation package, the $3.5 trillion proposed package, which includes a lot of important details, did the president of the United States give you and your fellow progressives a spending range of what kind of number might be good as far as he's concerned.

KHANNA: I don't want to go into the details, Wolf, of what the president said in a private meeting. What I can say is the president asked us to be open to compromise. He said he wants the whole thing but we're not going to get that because of the reality of two senators. And the president said tell me what is important to you and tell me what your minimums are and we're planning to do that.

It is clear it is going to be significantly less than $3.5 trillion. But it will have the key provisions in there and we made it clear it has to have bold climate provisions, it has to have childcare, preschool, free community college, things that are important to the American people.

BLITZER: Did you and your fellow progressives give the president a number that you won't go below?

KHANNA: I did not, and I don't want to characterize what others in the meeting said. That is for them. But most people spoke about what their priorities are and what we have to deliver for the American people.

BLITZER: I do think, Congressman Khanna, you made some news in suggesting you might be open to a five-year plan instead of a ten-year plan. That would bring the overall number dramatically lower indeed. Let's see if that is something that's in the works. KHANNA: It always makes me nervous if I'm making news, Wolf, but we're willing to compromise.

BLITZER: I could hear compromise as far as that is concerned. I've heard it from others as well, Congressman Khanna. Instead of the ten year proposal, do a five-year proposal and the number goes dramatically lower. That might be acceptable. And then in a few years from now, they could figure out what to do then.

Congressman Ro Khanna, as usual appreciate it very much. Thanks so much for joining us.

KHANNA: Thank you.

BLITZER: Just ahead, Facebook is reeling from two major crises tonight, a global outage and a fallout from a truly stunning whistleblower report. We're going to bring you new details on both right after the break.



BLITZER: We have breaking news. Facebook is beginning, beginning to recover tonight from a global outage that crippled the social media giant for hours. Our Chief Media Correspondent Brian Stelter is following this story for us. So, update our viewers, Brian, what is the latest.

BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Just off the phone with a Facebook spokesman. They say they're not ready to explain why this happened or how this happened, but that the sites are starting to come back online, Facebook and Instagram and WhatsApp.

For many people around the world, these apps are the internet. They are the main way to communicate. To see a six-hour outage is incredibly rare. And it all comes as Facebook is on defense, like they have never been before, speaking about a whistleblower who says the company is doing harm to its users.


FRANCES HAUGEN, FACEBOOK WHISTLEBLOWER: It was substantially worse than Facebook than anything I've seen before.

STELTER (voice over): Tonight Frances Haugen is preparing to testify under oath.

HAUGEN: It is subsidizing, it is paying for its profits with our safety.

STELTER: Bringing her explosive comments on 60 Minutes to a Capitol Hill audience.

SEN. RICHARD BLUMENTHAL (D-CT): A whistleblower approached my office to provide information about Facebook and instagram. STELTER: That whistleblower was Haugen. But she says she's not out to destroy the company, she wants to save it.

Her warnings are dire.

HAUGEN: Facebook's own research says it is not just that Instagram is dangerous for teenagers, that it harms teenagers. Is that it is distinctly worse than other forms of social media.

STELTER: Haugen provide an internal research to back up her claims and lodging complaints with the SEC.


STELTER: Her Attorney John Tye suggesting Facebook could be legally vulnerable.

TYE: Everything from how much hate speech is removed from the platform to some of the very serious problems that they've had expanding user demographics.

STELTER: Now, Facebook is aggressively defending itself, calling many of Haugen's claims misleading and saying users benefit from its services, a sharp contrast to Haugen who makes it sound like a toxic swamp.

HAUGEN: People enjoy engaging with things that illicit an emotional reaction. And the more anger that they get expose you, the more they interact, the more they consume.

STELTER: A global problem causing a vicious cycle of poisonous politics. Facebook V.P. Nick Clegg, however, saying advertisers don't want anything to do with that. So neither does Facebook.

NICK CLEGG, VICE PRESIDENT, FACEBOOK: We have absolutely no commercial incentive, no companywide incentive to do anything other than try and give the maximum number of people as much as a positive experience as possible and that is what we do day in and day out.

STELTER: New today, Facebook's Global Head of Safety Antigone Davis calling to CNBC to defend the company and try to reassure investors, saying Facebook wants to be regulated.


ANTIGONE DAVIS, GLOBAL HEAD OF SAFETY, FACEBOOK (voice over): It's one of the things that we've been pushing for.

STELTER: Haugen also says regulation is the answer.

HAUGEN: I'm hoping that this will have a big enough impact on the world, that they get the fortitude and the motivation to actually go put those regulations into place.

(END VIDEOTAPE) STELTER (on camera): And tonight, Wolf, we've obtained the prepared testimony by the whistleblower. She said she knows Facebook or believes Facebook could destroy her for speaking out. But she said time is of the essence, quote, Congress can change the rules Facebook plays by and stop the harm it is causing, but we must act now.

BLITZER: Brian, I want you to stand by. I also want to bring in our Chief Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin. But, Brian, I got a question for you. Do we know yet if there is any connection between this enormous outage for hours and hours today and the timing of this whistleblower coming forward?

STELTER: Right now, there is no indication about that, no indication of a cyber tack either. But it is exceedingly rare to see these platforms go down for more than a few minutes. You might see a hiccup or two as they're surfing the web, there might be sporadic outages, but never for more than hour or two.

So, this is a very unusual set of circumstances and I think it does draw even more attention, Wolf, on to tomorrow morning's hearing.

BLITZER: You know, Jeffrey, in her prepared statement, just before testimony tomorrow before Congress, Haugen writes that sometimes this algorithm amplifies talk that leads to, quote, actual violence that harms and even kills people. How dangerous is this, first of all, for American democracy, and for the American public, for American public's health amid this pandemic?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: One need only look at January 6, many -- some of which was planned using Facebook, or the plot to kidnap the governor of Michigan, which was used -- which was, in many respects, planned over Facebook messages.

The problem is that all the laws that govern Facebook were written before Facebook or social media even existed. So, there is no connection between how we regulate communications in this country with how communications actually work. It is interesting that Facebook is saying we want to be regulated. Democrats and Republicans actually agree that Facebook should be regulated. But how that it is regulated and what those regulations say is very far from clear and it is not imminent that those regulations are going to go into place.

BLITZER: You know, Jeffrey, Haugen's argument is that Facebook misled investors. The White House responded today saying it's clear that self-regulation is not working. What options are there in terms of legal consequences and legal guardrails for that matter?

TOOBIN: Well, the whistleblower and her lawyer have said that they are reporting some of this to the Securities and Exchange Commission on the theory that this information is misleading investors and is a kind of fraud on the investing public.

Frankly, that strikes me as a long shot. The SEC usually investigates financial impropriety, putting out false numbers, statements about what Facebook is doing about fraud about violence, that strikes me as extremely unlikely to generate interest from the SEC. But Congress, starting with this hearing tomorrow, is clearly struggling to come up with some sort of regulatory framework but there is no framework on the table yet and Facebook will continue to operate with impunity, as things stand now.

BLITZER: You know, Brian, you compared your interview yesterday on Reliable Source with the Facebook vice president interviewing big tobacco. Is this addictive nature, the damage Facebook is doing, all part of the business model?

STELTER: I think that is the big context here. Whether you think about it as big tobacco or you think about Facebook as a giant casino or you think about of them as a liquor producer. This is about addiction. One of my favorite Writers, Derek Thompson of The Atlantic, said social media is addiction alcohol -- is a form of alcohol in that it's attention alcohol, so it causes people to get addicted and come back for more. And, yes, there can be some benefits, whether you're at a casino or you're having a beer. And there can be so many down sides and so many dangers and that is why those industries are regulated.

Now, as Jeffrey said, this bipartisan consensus, there should be some kind of regulation in place. But exactly what and won't Facebook try to help to write those rules to favor the company. Ultimately, Facebook is trying to pass the buck by saying, it is not our problem. Let D.C. figure out how we should run our platforms, and in the meantime there are real victims in this stories, including the teenager girls we're going to hear about tomorrow at the hearing who feel so much worse because of the time they spent looking on their phones at sites like Instagram.


BLITZER: Certainly awful. All right, Brian Stelter, Jeffrey Toobin, guys, thank you very much.

Coming up, we're getting new information about former President Trump's 2024 plans and how close he came to actually declaring his candidacy just weeks ago.


BLITZER: We're learning new information tonight about the House investigation into the January 6th Capitol insurrection. CNN's Brian Todd is working the story for us. So, Brian, what are you learning?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, two sources familiar with the matter tell CNN tonight that at least two people who are subpoenaed last week by that House committee had already cooperated with investigators, handing over all relevant communication.


This committee is looking into whether anyone in Donald Trump's inner circle in the White House was involved in any possible planning of the January 6 insurrection. And while this investigation proceeds, there is new information tonight on whether the former president might launch another campaign for the White House.


DONALD TRUMP, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: We won the election twice.

TODD (voice over): Tonight, the eyes of the political world are squarely on Donald J. Trump. Four of the former president's former aides have until Thursday to respond to a request for their documents on who knew what and when among Trump's inner circle leading up to the January 6 attack on the Capitol.

That request comes from a House select committee investigating January 6, which has subpoenaed the aides to testify. It is unclear if Trump himself might be subpoenaed. But if he is --

MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, AUTHOR, THE TRUTH ABOUT TRUMP: If they ask him to testify, he will definitely refuse and fight it in court.

TODD: This comes as there are more rumblings about Trump seeking a return to the White House.

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: At the moment he is doing everything that one would be doing if they were running.

TODD: The Washington Post reports that in August, as the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan spiraled into chaos, Trump discussed with advisers the possibility of announcing right then that he would run for president again in 2024. The Post reports his advisers talked Trump out of making that announcement.

MICHAEL SCHERER, THE WASHINGTON POST: There were concerns that he would give a boost to Democrats in the midterm elections if he announces too early. Clearly, that helps Democrats in the 2018 midterm election when he wasn't on the ballot. And so, President Trump settled on the strategy that he's been using ever since, which is to basically act as if he is a candidate very far out from an election.

TRUMP: There are thousands of people trying to get in.

TODD: That means holding campaign-style rallies. This weekend Trump will travel to Iowa for a rally, a state where according to a Des Moines Register Mediacom poll, Trump has a 53 percent favorability rating, higher than it ever was there when he was president.

TRUMP: Thank you.

TODD: Trump has also sent a strong signal to at least one potential presidential opponent within the Republican Party, saying this to Yahoo! Finance about Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.

TRUMP: Number one, I don't think I will face him. I think most people would drop out. I think he would drop out. And if I faced him, I would beat him, like I would beat everyone else, frankly.

TODD: Which frightened one former Trump's loyalist Stephanie Grisham, former White House Press Secretary, who worked with Trump for more than five years, and who is now out with a tell-all book, said this to ABC's Good Morning America.

STEPHANIE GRISHAM, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I am terrified of him running for president in 2024.

TODD: A Trump biographer worries what the former president could do just in launching a candidacy.

D'ANTONIO: Think about the violence of January 6. Think about how he fomented that violence and really crusaded to make it happen from the day that he lost the election of 2020 and imagine that applied to the nation as a whole between today and 2024.


TODD (on camera): The analysts we spoke to say at this point the only thing they think that might prevent Trump from running for president from 2024 is his health. Trump is 75-years-old now and will be approaching 80 at the time of that election. But Author Michael D'Antonio says he doesn't think Trump's ego will allow him to sit out the 2024 race, Wolf. The weeks and months ahead are going to be very interesting with Donald Trump.

BLITZER: Certainly will. All right Brian, thank you very much, Brian Todd reporting.

Let's dig deeper right now. Our Senior Commentator, former Ohio Governor John Kasich is joining us, and CNN's Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash is with us as well.

Dana, based on the reporting, it certainly looks like a real possibility that Trump will run for president once again in 2024, doesn't it?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: It does. This reporting and reporting that we have been doing, frankly, since the day that he left office in defeat that he has been talking nonstop about the fact that he wants to be president again, that he wants to run again in 2024. And people who know him and talk to him say that is his plan until it's not.

Brian mentioned a question about whether or not he's 75 now, whether or not his health would be an issue. But there's something else. And that is one person who I talked to who knows him very well has said to me, the other thing is that his whole campaign right now still, since he lost in 2020, is to pretend like he won and he's convinced a lot of people unfortunately with very dire consequences.

But what if he runs again and actually loses. Does he want to -- because in his mind being a loser is the worst thing in the world, does he want to go down as a two-time loser or does he want to end it here where he has convinced himself and most -- many of his supporters, not most of his supporters -- many of his supporters that he didn't actually lose, that is a real question that he is going to be asking himself whether or not he talks about it with advisers or not in the near term.


BLITZER: That is a good point. You know, Governor Kasich, Trump also says he thinks Florida Governor Ron DeSantis would drop out of the presidential race but if he doesn't Trump says he would beat him, and I'm quoting him now, like I would beat everyone else. What do you make of that very clear message from the former president?

JOHN KASICH, CNN SENIOR COMMENTATOR: Not much, Wolf. And you know, look, 2024 is going to be much different than 2016. You know, in 2016, I could tell you what was happening, people never thought that he was going to be able to go the distance. Secondly, kind of the unbelievable amount of publicity that he generated, think about it, the media was covering his platform before he even walked onto it. He's not going to get that. And, secondly, there are going to be a lot of people waiting for this to happen and he is not going to be able to bully everybody out of the race.

In regard to his numbers in Iowa, Iowa is a place that is kind of filled with skin flints. And they look at what Joe Biden is doing and they don't like all of the spending. So, to some degree, Republicans and including Trump do better when Biden is not faring well. And my advice to Biden is you get this infrastructure package for roads and bridges through, that gives you a really good victory. Forget this other stuff or do it in pieces. I think your numbers would go up. That is what I would advise him to do.

And I would also advise the Republicans in the House to put the votes together to work with those Democrats who want to see an infrastructure package happen, and that is good for the country, it is good for the party, it is good for America. So, a lot in play here, as Dana says, a lot in play.

BLITZER: It certainly is. And, Dana, we have grown to expect party leaders to promote rising stars, but on the contrary, Trump is continuing to ensure the GOP is a one-man show. What impact does this have on the overall party?

BASH: Well, just an example of what the governor just said, talking about infrastructure in the House. The infrastructure bill passed in a bipartisan way with overwhelming Republican support in the Senate. Even Mitch McConnell voted yes on that. And what happened? Well, first of all, they did it in defiance of Donald Trump who said that he wanted everybody to vote, no, because he doesn't want Joe Biden to have a win. But the people in the House, the Republican leadership took that to heart and they are whipping against it. So, that is a perfect example of how much power Donald Trump still has.

BLITZER: Dana Bash and John Kasich, guys thank you very, very much.

Just ahead, Dr. Anthony Fauci says the U.S. is finally turning the corner on COVID but warns that tens of millions of unvaccinated Americans are still at risk.


[18:40:00] BLITZER: Some encouraging words tonight from Dr. Fauci who says that the U.S. may be, and I'm quoting now, turning the corner in the latest deadly surge of COVID cases. But he warns the country is still in the danger zone with some 70 million unvaccinated Americans.

Joining us now is Dr. Ashish Jha, the Dean of the Brown University School of Public Health. Dr. Jha, thanks so much for joining us.

As you know coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths, they're all trending down a bit here in the United States. Are we potentially turning a corner?

DR. ASHISH JHA, DEAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: You know, thank you, Wolf, for having me back. I think we are. I think we are. About three or four weeks ago, we saw the surge of cases peak, especially in the south. They have come down substantially. We've seen a few states still increasing but mostly not at the levels that we saw and now deaths are turning down, exactly as we had expected. I'm hoping this is the very worst behind us. Obviously, winter ahead, so we still have some bumps ahead. But I think the worst days of this pandemic should be behind us.

BLITZER: These trends certainly are heading in the right direction now but are you concerned, Dr. Jha, that fall and winter potentially will bring new challenges and potentially new surges?

JHA: I am. I am. Look, the thing is that even though we are doing reasonably well on vaccines, we have got to do much better because the delta variant is very good at finding people who are unvaccinated and infecting them. So, I am worried that we still have some tough days ahead.

But I think the horrible summer surge, or the horrible winter surge we saw last winter, I don't think we're going to get to those levels yet. I think we're going to avoid that mostly because we've done a pretty good job on vaccinations.

BLITZER: What worries me, and I've spoken to experts, is that this delta variant, which is deadly, as we all know, it could continue to mutate and there could be an even worse variant down the road. Are you worried about that?

JHA: Yes, I think anybody who says that they're unconcerned has not been paying attention. We've had a lot of curveballs in this pandemic. Again, I'm hoping that if we do a better job with vaccinating the rest of Americans, we get the global vaccine situation under much better control because, again, it is a global pandemic, we could avoid that. But I think at end of the day we all have to remain concerns that another variable is, of course, possible.

BLITZER: 70 million Americans, once again, are still unvaccinated.

A real life study looking at the medical records of more than 3 million people confirms that the protection against mild infection provided by Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine wanes gradually over time. How should that influence how vaccinated people behave? JHA: Yes. It is a really well done study and it is very consistent with what we've seen out of Israel, we've seen out of other places, that what it means is that if you're fully vaccinated and you're more than six months out, if you're in one of those high risk group, you should go get a booster. And if you're a young healthy person, again, mild infections are not going to be a major problem, my guess is young healthy people will need boosters too, we want to for the data. But if you are all at risk, you need to get that booster.


BLITZER: May have to get a shot, like the flu shot every year. Who knows? We'll see what happens. Dr. Jha, as usual, thanks so much for joining us.

JHA: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Coming up, the new revelations of a massive leak of financial documents showing where the world's rich put their wealth.


BLITZER: We have an eye-opening look right now at how some world leaders, celebrities and billionaires move their money around, taking advantage of offshore companies, bank accounts and trust to park money and assets and in some cases, allegedly evade taxes.

As CNN senior international correspondent Matthew Chance explains. It's all being exposed thanks to an investigation by an international group of journalists, in what's called the Pandora Papers.


GERARD RYLE, DIRECTOR, INTERNATIONAL CONSORTIUM OF INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISTS: This is the Pandora Papers because we think we're opening a box on a lot of things.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): It's one of the biggest ever leaks of financial documents, nearly 12 million private files exposing the secret wealth of world leaders, billionaires and celebrities, crucially, where it's stashed.

RYLE: These documents for the first time it's showing the U.S. as a tax haven itself.

CHANCE: Among the most high-profile is King Abdullah of Jordan, whose nation benefits from hundreds of millions of dollars every year in international aid, including from the United States. The Pandora Papers allege the king funneled more than $100 million into 14 luxury homes in Britain and the U.S., including three mansions in Malibu overlooking the Pacific coast.

In a written statement, the Jordanian royal court said the allegations included inaccuracies and distorted the facts saying these properties are not publicized out of security and privacy concerns and not out of secrecy or an attempt to hide them. Other leaders like the Czech prime minister facing elections this week

are under more immediate pressure. He says allegations he secretly bought a lavish estate on the French Riviera by moving $22 million to offshore shell companies were timed to damage his campaign.

I've never done anything unlawful or bad, he tweeted in response. But that does not prevent them from trying to slander me again and to influence the Czech parliamentary elections, he added.

RYLE: We're talking about some of the most famous people in the world that are in these documents, presidents, prime ministers.

CHANCE: Most of the transactions detailed in the papers are not illegal. But some of the figures named are no strangers to allegations of corruption. For instance, the Pandora Papers contains documents linking the Russian President Vladimir Putin to a multimillion-dollar property in Monaco, the lobby pictured here, bought for a woman with whom he's alleged to have had an affair and a child.

The Kremlin refuses to comment on Putin's private life saying it's never heard of the woman concerned. And on the Pandora allegations, Putin's spokesperson told reporters they were unsubstantiated and would not be investigated further.


CHANCE (on camera): Well, Wolf, elsewhere the Pandora Papers have had a significant impact. At least, eight countries governments enacting investigations into what they reveal. About that complex and secretive financial web that the world's rich and power use to hide their wealth -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Matthew, thank you. Matthew Chance reporting.

There's more breaking news next. You information about what might have caused a huge oil spill that is killing wildlife and polluting the waters of southern California.



BLITZER: We are following breaking news from an environmental disaster along the southern California coast, where a pipeline leaked about 126,000 gallons of oil.

Let's go to CNN's Camila Bernal in Huntington Beach out there in California.

Camilla, we're learning more about the company that owns the pipeline, right?

CAMILA BERNAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right. And this Amplify Energy. They are a small independent company with about 122 employees. And they own the operating company, that's the Data Operating Company. And the problem here that we're seeing is that 11 years, they have been citing violations more than 100 times.

We also know that just last month, they received a warning from the Bureau of Environmental Enforcement here, and it's unclear whether these violations and warnings are linked to the spill. But people here have a lot of questions.

And the company, they are saying that they believe that the possibility here is that the anchor from a passing ship hit that pipeline and caused the leak. But they still have a lot of explanation here to do. They say they have divers out there doing everything they can to figure this out, but it has not been enough for the district attorney here in Orange County, who says someone needs to be held accountable.

Here's what he said.


TODD SPITZER, ORANGE COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY: They shouldn't be able to go anywhere near that pipeline. They are biased. They are self interested, and they're going to do everything they can to try and reduce their damages. And no one should touch that pipeline. No one from this company.


BERNAL: And he says someone needs to be responsible for the economic a loss, but also for the environmental loss. And, you know, take a look behind because it puts things into perspective. There are crews out here. That barrier is to contain the oil. Incredibly, there are crews picking up chunks of oil.

And the concern here is, of course, for the animals. People are very worried about what could happen in the coming days, because as time goes on, we could see the number of dead fish and birds continuing to go up. And of course, that is a huge concern for the people here in California -- Wolf.

BLITZER: It certainly is. Camila Bernal, thank you very, very much.

And to our viewers, thank you very much for watching. You can always follow me on Twitter and Instagram @WolfBlitzer. You can always tweet the show @CNNSitRoom.

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