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Full transcript of “Face the Nation” on July 11, 2021

On this week’s broadcast of “Face the Nation,” moderated by John Dickerson:

  • Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Biden and director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
  • Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former FDA commissioner
  • Jeh Johnson, former Homeland Security Secretary
  • Scott Kirby, United Airlines CEO 

Click here to browse full transcripts of “Face the Nation.”  


JOHN DICKERSON: I’m John Dickerson in Washington. And this week on FACE THE NATION, warning signs about new coronavirus cases, extreme weather affecting tens of millions, and the threat to Russia, following the latest cyberattack. Just one week after America declared its independence from COVID-19, there is even more scientific evidence that freedom from vaccination comes with a price.

JEFF ZIENTS: But the sad reality is that despite our progress, we’re still losing people to this virus, which is especially tragic given, at this point, it is unnecessary and preventable. Virtually all COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths in the United States are now occurring among unvaccinated individuals.

JOHN DICKERSON: We’ll check in with Doctor Anthony Fauci and former FDA Commissioner Doctor Scott Gottlieb.

Then, June went down in the record books as the hottest month of June ever in the U.S. Is July shaping up to be even hotter? We’ll take a look at what’s causing this extreme weather.

Plus, President Biden puts pressure on Russian President Vladimir Putin after U.S. intelligence links Russian hackers to the ransomware attack that infiltrated computer servers of dozens of companies a week ago.

MAN: You said three weeks ago there would be consequences. Will there be, Sir?

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: Yes.

JOHN DICKERSON: We’ll talk with former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson about what those consequences could be. And as Americans hit the road and the skies for summer travel, we’ll talk with United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby about the industry’s recovery. Then, after two decades, the U.S. military presence in Afghanistan is nearing its end. We’ll have a report from Kabul. And finally, a look to the heavens, where billionaires are engaged in a space race.

It’s all just ahead on FACE THE NATION.

Good morning, and welcome to FACE THE NATION. More than one hundred and fifty-one million American adults are fully vaccinated. That’s just under sixty percent. But just under a third of American adults have not had even a single shot, which is worrisome to health officials. The Delta variant now makes up more than half of all new cases in the U.S. In addition, there is new confusion over the role of a booster shot. We begin today with Doctor Anthony Fauci. Good morning, Doctor Fauci.

ANTHONY FAUCI, M.D. (Chief Medical Adviser to President Biden/Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases): Good morning, John.

JOHN DICKERSON: Let’s start with the Delta variant. It seems to be making the case for vaccination more clear than ever with those who are being seriously affected coming from the population of those who are unvaccinated. That would seem to make a clear case. Is it that the facts are not getting to people? Or is it the people delivering the message to those who are unvaccinated that that needs to change?

ANTHONY FAUCI: Well, I– I think maybe all of the above. You know it is almost inexplicable why people, when they see the data in front of them that they don’t get vaccinated. We have a Delta variant that you mentioned, John, that is easily transmissible much more easily and readily and efficiently from person to person than the other viruses, the other variants that we’ve dealt with. That’s the first thing. The second thing, the data that’s hitting you right between the eyes is– is that 99.5 percent of all the deaths to COVID-19 are in unvaccinated people. So you’re talking about something that’s life saving. So the idea of why some people, for whatever reasons–and we know some of them are ideological–we know when you look geographically in– in the situations where you have under-vaccinated states; where you have thirty percent or less of the people vaccinated. I mean– we’ve really got to get beyond that and we’ve got to put those kinds of differences aside and say this is a public health issue. When you hear people at rallies talking, don’t get vaccinated, don’t get vaccinated, John, it doesn’t make any sense because we’re talking about a public health issue that is life saving for you, your family, as well as your community. So you’re right, we are in a very difficult position. We have more vaccines in this country than we know what to do with everybody and anybody can get vaccinated. And we have people throughout the world who would do anything to get vaccinated because they appreciate the importance of safeguarding their health. So it’s a very, very frustrating situation.

JOHN DICKERSON: I want to get to the science of the Delta variant in a minute, but let’s stay on this question for a moment and ask you about human psychology. You say the facts are hitting people between the eyes. Is it possible that people are a little scared, a little nervous, and the more facts they hear, they don’t hear evidence. What they hear is you’re a dummy for not getting this and that– essentially, people feel insulted when– when the evidence is presented as if it should be clearly obvious to any normal person and that all that does is put them back in their corner.

ANTHONY FAUCI: You know you have a point there, and that’s the reason, John, we’re what’s going on right now is getting trusted messengers, not government officials like myself, but trusted messengers in the community to outreach to people. And those messages could be your family doctor. It could be a clergy person. It could be a community leader. It could be a sports figure. It could be the people who are really trusted by the community. So you’re absolutely right. I mean, telling people, you know, you’ve got to get vaccinated, you’ve got to get vaccinated. I mean I think it’s important to point that out. People do need to know, not in a pejorative way, not in a finger pointing way, but just look at the data: ninety-nine point five percent of all of the deaths are among unvaccinated people. So we have vaccines that are highly, highly effective. And what we need to do is to get those trusted messengers, which we’re trying to do to get out into the community and explain to people, you know, in a non-finger-pointing way why it’s important to get vaccinated.

JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask you about– let’s take two different states, because the Delta variant operates differently depending on the vaccine rates in different states. So describe for me, let’s take two states. Massachusetts has a high vaccination rate. Mississippi has a low one. If the Delta variant appear– it’s the majority variant in the country, it’s only going to get worse. Tell me how people who live in those two states should think about the Delta variant, given the levels of vaccination in those two places.

ANTHONY FAUCI: Okay. John, that’s a great question and– and it’s a pretty simple answer. The vaccines that we have available to people, for example, as you mentioned, in Massachusetts and other states who have a high degree of vaccination, quite protected against the Delta variant. All the data that we have from this country and from several other countries, not just the United States, show that the vaccines that we are using right now do very well in protecting against the Delta variant, particularly protecting you against severe disease that might lead to hospitalization. For those states that have a very, very low level of vaccination, you’re dealing with a virus, the Delta variant, that’s highly efficient and spreading from person to person. And the numbers don’t lie in those states where you have a low degree of vaccination. That’s where we are seeing surges of infection, which are followed by surges in hospitalization, which will ultimately lead to increases in deaths. So it’s pretty clear from the data, John, that if you were vaccinated, your risk is extraordinarily low. If you are unvaccinated, you have a high risk of this very nasty variant, the Delta variant.

JOHN DICKERSON: Let me switch to the question of boosters, Pfizer this week said that there was evidence that immunity diminishes from the vaccine and they’ve called for a– a booster shot. The CDC and the FDA said in a joint statement, Americans who have been fully vaccinated do not need a booster shot at this time. Any statement that says at this time can, of course, change tomorrow. So what exactly is the situation with boosters–

ANTHONY FAUCI: Right.

JOHN DICKERSON: –and– and the future possibility of needing one?

ANTHONY FAUCI: Well, certainly it is entirely conceivable, maybe likely that at some time we will need a boost, it may be differentially needed depending upon the age of individuals and their underlying conditions. For example, people who have underlying conditions that make them more likely to have a severe outcome. The situation– and you’re right, John, it could be confusing. When you’re talking about an official recommendation from a public health organization like the CDC or a regulatory agency like the FDA it will have to be based on solid data from both laboratory and clinical studies. And in real time those agencies follow and do studies. We at the NIH are doing a number of studies to determine do we have solid evidence for doing this now? Right now what the CDC and the FDA said in a joint statement is that at this time we don’t see the need for it. What the pharmaceutical company Pfizer did they did their own study and said, you know, we think you’re going to need a booster so we’re preparing to boost. That’s fine. We want companies. We want academic institutions, and we want the government to continue to collect data. So it really is a question of a firm recommendation versus an opinion.

JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask you about that timing question, though. Some people in nursing homes, for example, vulnerable populations, got their shots many months ago. The clock is ticking. So is it going to be possible to begin the process of preparing for a boost so that when it’s needed, if officials decide it’s needed, companies and the process will be in place to give it at the right time? Or will the machinery have to get going to get a boost and it’ll be the window will have closed essentially to give it to people.

ANTHONY FAUCI: No. Great question, John. No, the process is going on right now. We at the NIH are doing a number of studies looking at the feasibility of boosting the kinds of boost you might want to get, what kind of timetable for the boost. Those studies are going on right now. So it is really a very good question. It isn’t as if we’re going to start from square one, if it looks like there are breakthroughs, infection, or if it looked like the laboratory data indicate that there’s a diminution in immunity. By no means, right now, we are preparing full throttle for doing boosters if we need them.

JOHN DICKERSON: All right. Doctor Anthony Fauci, thank you so much for being with us.

And we go now to former FDA Commissioner Doctor Scott Gottlieb, who is on the board of Pfizer. He joins us from Bluffton, South Carolina. Good morning, Doctor Gottlieb.

SCOTT GOTTLIEB, M.D. (Former FDA Commissioner/@ScottGottliebMD): Good morning.

JOHN DICKERSON: So let’s start with this booster question. What led Pfizer to request emergency authorization for a boost?

SCOTT GOTTLIEB: It was data coming out of Israel that suggests that people who were vaccinated a while ago, particularly older individuals, might be more vulnerable to the infection. So we see declining efficacy of the vaccine in Israel against the Delta variant. But that declining efficacy seems to be clustered among people who are older and who are vaccinated a while ago. And, remember, in the United States, we vaccinated some of our oldest and most vulnerable citizens at the beginning of the campaign. So many nursing home residents, for example, were vaccinated last December. Many physicians were also vaccinated last December. With respect to the boosters what we’re talking about is a third dose of the existing vaccine. And we also need to remember that anyone who gets vaccinated right now will not need a booster. If you go out and get vaccinated right now that vaccine is going to carry you through the– through the fall and the winter. What we’re really talking about is people who were vaccinated a while ago where there may be some declining efficacy. And because Delta is such a difficult variant, because you get such high viral titers from the Delta variant, what could be happening is that as people’s antibodies start to decline because they’re further out from their vaccine, the Delta variant is able to overwhelm their residual antibodies, the antibodies that they have left, and it takes a little bit of time for their memory B cells, the other components of the immune system to kick in and start producing more antibodies. And that’s why they’re more prone to infection. The vaccines still seem very protective against severe disease. What we’re seeing in Israel is people becoming mildly and asymptomatically infected. But there also are some people who are (AUDIO CUT) and that’s what caused a concern (AUDIO CUT)

JOHN DICKERSON: –Israel have this data because they just decided to study it or is it because they started the process of distributing the vaccines earlier? And, therefore, they have people in their population who are further along than in the States.

SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Both. I mean Israel did vaccinate their elderly population early. We did as well, but they do a very good job of tracking people who have been vaccinated. So they’re collecting this data very aggressively. So it’s not a surprise that they might be first to spot these trends. We’re a little bit behind here in the United States. The United Kingdom has already made a decision that they’re going to provide boosters to those above the age of seventy as they get into September and then walk it down the age continuum. Israel just announced today they’re going to provide boosters to people who are immunocompromised, who have immune disorders that might leave them more vulnerable to the infection. I think we need to start the process here in the United States. And that’s really what Pfizer, the company I’m on the board of, is trying to do. We’re doing these studies. We’re going to be submitting that information to the Food and Drug Administration, asking for authorization to provide a third booster should it be needed. Ultimately, that decision is going to be up to the FDA and then up to the CDC to make a general recommendation. But that’s a multi-month process. So if we don’t get started right now, we’re not going to be in a position to have boosters available should we need it come the fall. I think, quite frankly, we’ve probably missed the window in terms of providing boosters for the Delta variant. The Delta variant is likely to play out really over the months of August and September and maybe into October. This wave of infection will have passed us. But you still want to consider boosters for people going forward, particularly, vulnerable elderly people in nursing homes, people who we know are more vulnerable to the infection. We want to maintain a sufficiently high level of neutralizing antibodies in their blood so that you protect them from any infection, even a mild infection, because in a vulnerable individual, some people will get in trouble with the virus.

JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask you on that timing question. Doctor Fauci seemed to suggest that there– there wasn’t a timing issue. Educate me here. If it’s just a third shot of what’s already on the shelf, why does there have to be a lot of time? Why can’t somebody make that decision and then it’s available in the doctor’s office?

SCOTT GOTTLIEB.: Well, so F– Pfizer’s doing the study right now, looking at a third dose, the data looks very good. They put out some top-line information about that. You get five to ten times number of antibodies that you had from the second dose. And so far, from a safety standpoint, it looks clean. Now, that study isn’t done. It’s got to be submitted to FDA– FDA. It’s got to be independently reviewed. Pfizer is going to publish those results for public scrutiny. That’s probably a month or two process, going through the FDA process, trying to get an emergency use authorization to use the vaccine as a third dose. And then, ultimately, it needs to go to CDC and their advisory body, which makes a recommendation on who would get boosted. I would suspect that if there is a recommendation on providing boosters, it’s going to be for a select portion of the population, perhaps, people who are older, who are more than seven or eight months from completing their original vaccination. It’s not going to be a general recommendation for the entire public, because for most people, most people who are younger, who have intact immune systems, they’re probably going to have sufficient protection from their original vaccination that they’re not going to need a booster. We’re really talking about a more vulnerable population who not only have declining protection from a vaccine over time. We know vaccines don’t work quite as well in older individuals, but they’re also more vulnerable to infection. You want to– you want to prevent even mild infection from a vulnerable person because, you know, at least some people are going to get in trouble if they do get infected with the virus. So ACIP ultimately needs the issue that general recommendation. You’re talking about a process that’s probably at least a couple of months long, could take a little bit more time than that. So I think starting it right now, frankly, is prudent and that’s what’s happening.

JOHN DICKERSON: You mentioned that anybody getting a vaccine right now doesn’t have to worry about a booster. You were careful to make that distinction. Do you think that’s a public health challenge for the administration, for public officials, as they’re desperate to try to get people vaccinated in the first place? That discussion of a booster kind of complicates things for them.

SCOTT GOTTLIEB: They clearly have data that shows that when you start having a discussion about boosters, that discourages some people from seeking a vaccination. So I think that has weighed on them as they try to meet the deadline for trying to get a certain percentage of the population vaccinated. The President set out to vaccinate seventy percent of adults over the age of eighteen by July Fourth. And they were pushing hard to meet that deadline and they almost did. I mean they did a good job getting close to the stretch goal that they set out for themselves. So I think they are worried that if you start a conversation around boosters now, it could discourage people who haven’t been vaccinated from going out and seeking vaccination. I quite frankly, think that there’s a way to bifurcate this message. When we talk about boosters, we’re not talking about people who go out and get vaccinated now, who, by and large, are younger, healthier people because we vaccinated many of our elderly individuals much earlier. What we’re really talking about is people who were vaccinated last December, last January, people over the age of sixty-five who now are a significant amount of time out from their original vaccination. Do you really want them going into the 2021, 2022 COVID season this fall and winter with a vaccine that’s more than a year old? Remember, we vaccinated the 1.34 million residents of nursing homes, the most vulnerable people in our country to COVID, we vaccinated them last December. We also vaccinated our front-line health care workers last December. Our physicians are going to want to go into this fall and winter season with a vaccine that’s more than a year old, particularly if they’re more vulnerable than older individuals as well. Those are the questions we need to start asking. I’m glad we started the process. Tony talked about the meeting that’s going to take place tomorrow with the company. And we’re doing the studies to take a hard look at this.

JOHN DICKERSON: As the last question, let me ask you about the– about schools. The CDC gave recommendations, said schools, if you’re vaccinated as a teacher or a student, you don’t have to wear masks. How do you think those schools are going to sort through those who aren’t vaccinated and checking up on whether they’re wearing their masks? How do you think that’ll play out?

SCOTT GOTTLIEB: Yeah, I don’t think they’re really going to do checking. I think what’s going to happen is some schools are going to implement mask mandates, others won’t, depending on what state you’re in. Eight states have announced already that they’re not going to allow masks in schools. California announced that they will. I don’t think you’re going to create a situation where you can have some students wearing masks and others not. Schools are going to be wearing masks or not, depending on what the prevalence is in different states and what the risk tolerance is. The other components of that guidance the CDC put out was also looking at podding students, improving air filtration and doing testing. This was the first time the CDC recommended testing in schools.

JOHN DICKERSON: All right. Doctor Scott Gottlieb, as always, we’re grateful. Thanks for being with us. FACE THE NATION will be back in one minute. Stay with us.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

JOHN DICKERSON: More than thirty million Americans are enjoying their weekend under excessive heat warnings yet again. This is the third heat wave in as many weeks in the Western United States. Mark Strassmann reports from Las Cruces, New Mexico.

(Begin VT)

MARK STRASSMANN (CBS News Senior National Correspondent): California bakes and burns this weekend. Wildfires here and in fifteen states, blistering triple-digit heat. The worst drought in modern history. Death Valley hit one hundred thirty degrees, among the highest temperatures ever recorded on Earth.

JEFF BERARDELLI (CBS News Meteorologist and Climate Specialist): Northern California, all the way down to Palm Springs, where it will be probably above a hundred and twenty degrees, which, for any other year, would be beyond alarming, but for this year it just seems like it’s routine.

MARK STRASSMANN: Look at today’s forecast for highs in the west. Las Vegas, one seventeen, the current record. Redding, California, one twelve. Phoenix, one ten.

WOMAN: It feels like I’m walking into an oven when I walk out.

MARK STRASSMANN: Across the West, it’s the same oven. Temperatures could climb up to twenty-five degrees above average. Farmers watch crops die.

MAN #1: Water the best of it and the rest of it will have to burn.

MARK STRASSMANN: Here in New Mexico Saturday’s high hit one hundred, and if you’re thinking but it’s dry heat. Trust me, one hundred degrees feels like one hundred degrees. Climatologists say get used to it.

JEFF BERARDELLI: Climate change enhances the extreme. So that’s what we’re seeing happen across the country.

MARK STRASSMANN: The middle of the country is under an enhanced risk of thunderstorms, a dual threat of high winds and possible hail. And as the West gets hotter, the East gets wetter, now drying out from Elsa. It formed nearly a month earlier than similar storms in the past.

MAN #2: We got hit hard. We got a lot of water in the house. A lot of neighbors got water in the house.

MARK STRASSMANN: Thursday’s rainfall totals came straight from the Old Testament. Key West and Port Charlotte, Florida, almost eleven inches. Savannah, eight inches. Gainesville, seven. Elsa moved up a coast already plagued by severe storms. Hail fell in New Jersey. To climatologists all this extreme weather this coast-to-coast misery looks like a moment of reckoning. And because California arguably has it the worst this weekend its governor gets today’s final word.

GOVERNOR GAVIN NEWSOM (D-California): The hots are getting a lot hotter, the dries are getting a lot drier, and climate change is real and it’s here, and if you don’t believe it, because you don’t believe science, you’ve got to believe your own eyes.

(End VT)

JOHN DICKERSON: That’s our Mark Strassmann reporting from New Mexico. Mark’s going to be back later in the broadcast to tell us about billionaire Richard Branson’s space flight. Let’s take a look at Branson and his five crew members taking off on what they’re calling the Unity 22 mission. The takeoff happened just a short while ago. 22 is the number of flights for this particular space plane. Branson said he will be evaluating the overall Virgin Galactic customer experience during today’s flight. If all goes well, that means the six-hundred-person waiting list to buy a flight to space could be taking off as early as next year. We’ll be right back.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

JOHN DICKERSON: If you’re not able to watch the full FACE THE NATION, you can set your DVR. We’re also available on demand through your cable service, plus you can watch us through our CBS or Paramount+ app. We’ll be right back.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

JOHN DICKERSON: And we’ll be right back with former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby. Stay with us.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN (Thursday): After twenty years a trillion-dollar spent training and equipping hundreds of thousands of Afghan national security and defense forces, two thousand four hundred forty-eight Americans killed. Twenty thousand seven hundred and twenty-two more wounded, an untold thousands coming home with unseen trauma to their mental health. I will not send another generation of Americans to war in Afghanistan with no reasonable expectation of achieving a different outcome. The United States cannot afford to remain tethered to policies creating a response to a world as it was twenty years ago. We need to meet the threats where they are today.

JOHN DICKERSON: Welcome back to FACE THE NATION. That was President Biden announcing on Thursday that U.S. troops would be out of Afghanistan by the end of August. It will be the end of America’s longest war. CBS News foreign correspondent Charlie D’Agata reports from Kabul.

(Begin VT)

CHARLIE D’AGATA (CBS News Senior Foreign Correspondent): They gather here at sunset, especially on Fridays, the Muslim day of rest–families enjoying the last rays of sunshine and the cool breeze from the valley below. So much has changed in the past twenty years, especially for young women who can look forward to an education, the prospect at meaningful jobs. But with the Taliban on the march like never before, those freedoms have become less certain. In all the years of coming here I have never known so many to be so worried about the future. And the last of America’s troops slipping silently from Bagram Airfield has done little to steady the nerves.

In reality the U.S. has been drawing down troops here for years, but shutting down Bagram, the center of American military might, that just made things real for ordinary Afghans. And as American forces have been pulling out, the Taliban has gone charging in.

The Taliban rampage has accelerated as U.S. forces have withdrawn. Defense officials told us the Taliban plan is to surround provincial capitals and wait for the Americans to leave before striking. They’re closer than ever to Kabul, too. As we found out ourselves at a combat outpost, coming under Taliban fire just a short drive from the city.

As the Taliban inches closer to the capital, there is a lot of talk of what if. What if they take Kabul? What if they storm the embassy? And as history has proven, a security situation can change in a flash.

Like what happened in Saigon in 1975, when Americans had to be rescued by helicopter from the roof of the U.S. embassy in the then-Vietnamese capital, fears President Biden had to address after his speech on Afghanistan on Thursday.

PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN: There’s going to be no circumstance where you’re going to see people being lifted off the roof of a embassy in the– of the United States from Afghanistan. It is not at all comparable.

CHARLIE D’AGATA: America’s top diplomat, Ross Wilson, told us the embassy is cranking up security protocols.

ROSS WILSON: We have added some additional– some additional quick-reaction capabilities in the event that something happens.

CHARLIE D’AGATA: Worst-case scenario, evacuation plans in place?

ROSS WILSON: I– at this point, I– I don’t think it’s eminent. Planning for evacuations at any post like this is serious business.

CHARLIE D’AGATA: He said the embassy is determined to stay open whatever may come. Afghans say they’re grateful to America for its sacrifice. But now can only depend on their U.S.-trained troops to succeed. No one has more to lose should they fail.

(End VT)

JOHN DICKERSON: Our Charlie D’Agata filed that report from Afghanistan. We want to thank Charlie and his producers, Steve Berriman and Ahmad Mukhtar, plus, cameraman Thorsten Hoefle along with all of the CBS News journalists, translators, and security personnel, who’ve helped us in the last twenty years. They’ve put themselves in danger to bring us the story of America’s longest war, a war that’s not quite over yet.

We want to go now to former Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, who is in Annapolis, Maryland. Good morning.

JEH JOHNSON (Former Secretary of Homeland Security): Good morning, John. Thanks for having me.

JOHN DICKERSON: Mister Secretary, let’s start with Afghanistan. You were the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, which was created after a terrorist attack that was born in Afghanistan. Give me your assessment of the situation there now. And if it still has the possibility to harbor terrorism in the way that people worried about twenty years ago.

JEH JOHNSON: Well, in many respects, much has changed in Afghanistan and much has stayed the same. I went to Bagram Air Base for the first time in 2009 when I was general counsel of the Department of Defense, and I recall a missile attack on the base the night I arrived. The missile landed about five hundred feet from where I put my head on the pillow. The mission in Afghanistan was, is and should be preventing another terrorist organization from establishing a caliphate in Afghanistan with the ability to launch a large-scale attack on our nation like a 9/11. We have, to a very large degree, achieved that over the last twenty years. President Biden asked, when are we leaving? If not now, when? If I were advising the President, I probably would have recommended that we keep in place– in-country highly trained force of about twenty-five hundred or so for counterterrorism purposes. The President, I know, understands the stakes. He’s heard it before eight years as vice president and has decided, along with the support of most Americans, apparently, that it is simply time to get out. We will, it seems, maintain a quick response force on the borders on the outskirts of Afghanistan in the event we see that a terrorist organization is beginning to plant another foot there.

JOHN DICKERSON: How much better has the U.S. gotten in twenty years in that kind of quick response and in hardening targets to terrorists? Things have changed a great deal in terms of our capabilities in twenty years to react if something does go sideways in Afghanistan.

JEH JOHNSON: Good question. Just since the time I’ve been in national security, beginning in the early years of the Obama administration, I’ve seen our capabilities grow enormously. The accuracy of our targeting, the sophistication of our intelligence collection capabilities has grown enormously just over the last twelve years. I have a lot of confidence in our ability to– to do that and to monitor threats from beyond Afghanistan. So I do take some comfort in where we are today, even though we will no longer have a troop presence there in Afghanistan.

JOHN DICKERSON: President Biden said, and I’m going to switch topics now. He said that one of the reasons to remove focus on Afghanistan was that– that he and national security has to focus on the world of today, not the world of twenty years ago. The world of today is a world of cyber conflict. And I want to rely on your experience as Secretary of Homeland Security, but also as general counsel to the Pentagon. How do you define in this murky new world what an act of war is? What conflict looks like? How should we think about this?

JEH JOHNSON: Good question. You have to look at it in four categories. One is basic surveillance, traditional spying, and though we– we— we cannot minimize it, there is an aspect of all’s fair among thieves. And when you’re dealing with surveillance, reconnaissance and spying, there is theft, theft of intellectual property by private enterprise overseas and very often by the government. The Chinese government, but– for example, engages in theft of our intellectual property here in this country. And then there is an offensive cyberattack for purposes of degrading or destroying capability, most notably, in critical infrastructure. And from a national security perspective, that’s what we most worry about. And then there’s ransomware, the– the encryption or theft of a private businesses data for purposes of collecting a fee for returning it. It is prevalent. It is growing. They– they are devilishly clever by implanting malware, for example, in– in the software used to promote cybersecurity. And so this, obviously, is a big priority right now for the administration. And I’m quite sure that they’re weighing a number of options on how to deal with it. I’m sure President Biden is thinking now I’m six months into my presidency and this is a test for me. And he’s drawing– he’s drawing a very public red line with Vladimir Putin and that government. And I’m sure they’re weighing the options about what to do right now. We cannot afford to do nothing.

JOHN DICKERSON: Let me–

JEH JOHNSON: Sorry about the earpiece.

JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask you about that– they’re very– yeah, they’re a devil, those earpieces. Let me ask you about that– that red line–

JEH JOHNSON: Yeah.

JOHN DICKERSON: –that the President drew, because it– it makes those categories you drew murky. He has told Vladimir Putin that he knows these ransomware attacks are coming from within Russia and he will, essentially, hold the Putin government responsible for that. So you’ve been in the– in the national security meetings in the Situation Room. The President had a National Security meeting this week on this and he talked with President Putin. Give us a sense of what you think some of the options are he’s considering as he manages this murky world.

JEH JOHNSON: My educated speculation is that they’re probably presenting to the President a diplomatic option, expelling diplomats. They’re probably presenting to the President an economic option, the Treasury Department sanctioning additional Russian officials. And they’re probably presenting to the president something in the nature of a military option through some combination of U.S. Cyber Command, NSA, our intelligence community. They may be weighing an option of a– a cyber response proportionate in nature to degrade the capability of those in Russia to engage in this attack. From the public rhetoric it seems as if President Biden and his administration has accepted that it’s not the Russian government itself, but that the Russian government seems to be harboring this threat. And under principles of international law, one can act in self-defense if the host nation is unwilling or unable to deal with the threat itself. That was the international legal basis for us going into Pakistan to get Osama bin Laden, for example, ten years ago.

JOHN DICKERSON: All right. Secretary Johnson, thank you so much for being with us. We appreciate your help on this issue.

And we’ll be right back in a moment.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

JOHN DICKERSON: As pandemic restrictions ease, demand for travel this summer has risen, and airlines are struggling to keep up. We want to go now to the CEO of United Airlines, Scott Kirby, in Beaver Creek, Colorado. Good morning.

SCOTT KIRBY (United Airlines CEO): Good morning, John.

JOHN DICKERSON: Let’s start with the way you see it, there was some strong travel couple of the days during the July 4th holiday, almost to pre-2019 pandemic levels. What does it look like to you?

SCOTT KIRBY: Yeah. So we see a huge desire for people to get back out, reunite with friends and family and connect with the world, and that leisure demand is more than a hundred percent recovered, lots of pent-up demand, demonstrates the human desire to reconnect. Business demand is still off sixty percent. And, of course, a lot of international borders are still closed in long-haul market. So we aren’t back to a hundred percent, but we’re certainly headed in the right direction.

JOHN DICKERSON: And what’s your timeline for getting back to what– what, for lack of a better word, we’ll call them normal?

SCOTT KIRBY: Yeah. Well, I don’t think anything will be normal on the other side of this, but we expect that business demand is really going to pick up in September as most of these schools are back in. A lot of people are back in offices, but we don’t think it really recovers in full until 2023. Europe, we expect to be as soon as the borders are open. That will come back largely in full. Probably next summer will be the biggest year in history for Europe. And Asia is probably another eighteen to twenty-four months away. It’s going to take a little longer to get Asia opened.

JOHN DICKERSON: When you say as soon as the borders open, that– that’s a complicated business. It’s hard to, you know, American citizens can travel to Europe.

SCOTT KIRBY: Yeah.

JOHN DICKERSON: But it’s not so easy going the other way. What– what are your expectations about when that gets sorted out? And let me just piggyback onto that. Secretary Treasury– Treasury Secretary Yellen said today that she’s very worried that the Delta variant could cripple the global recovery that’s happening.

SCOTT KIRBY: Yeah. So, first, you know, the good news is in Europe, the statistics look very much like the United States, both in terms of vaccinations, case rates. The Delta– Delta variant was fifty-two percent in the United States last year– or last week. So it’s here. I think what’s going to happen with this, though, is that all the evidence says that the vaccines are effective at least preventing severe infection and hospitalizations or deaths from the Delta variant. And so we’re going to continue to be on this road to recovery. We’ll probably have to get booster shots. I think you guys talked about it in the previous hour. That’s going to be a normal part of life. This is going to be, I suspect, a lot like the common flu, where we get a booster shot every year. And it just– it’s endemic in society.

JOHN DICKERSON: But in terms of what you see for travel, when– when are the masks going to come off in the planes? When are people going to stop worrying in the way that really, you know, it affects people at their fingertips in the airline– travel business? When do you think that clears up?

SCOTT KIRBY: Yeah. Well, one of the great things about flying on an airplane is it’s literally if you’re going to be indoors with other people, it’s the safest place to be, particularly because the air filtration on the airplane. My guess is that the current government order expires on September 13th. And fingers crossed, my guess is it will expire on September 13th, but we’ll wait and see for sure.

JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask you about jobs. What is the economic picture look like for– for employees. And– and in the airline industry, there’s– relies on a lot of contractors. Some of the reports of this heavy travel have been pretty bumpy. People like to complain about travel. They’ve been complaining even more. What are some of the biggest obstacles in terms of bringing back jobs and then also just being able to find enough people to fill the jobs that are necessary for smooth travel?

SCOTT KIRBY: Well, for an airline like United Airlines, you know, we don’t have a lot of problems hiring for our jobs because they’re careers. You know people can once they get to the top of the union pay scale make six-digit incomes. So those are the kinds of really attractive jobs that we can hire for. We also negotiated the only U.S. airline with our pilots’ union to keep our pilots all employed. So we haven’t had some of those crew shortages that others have had. But there is infrastructure around the airports. The contractors, the– all the vendors that support everything in aviation, even if the TSA security screeners and they’ve done a heroic job on coming back up quickly. But it’s been so fast, the recovery has been so rapid that there certainly are some– there’s some rust and some strains in the system.

JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask you about climate change. We’ve had another week of extreme weather; and I know you’ve made some commitments to changing the footprint of United Airlines. But let me ask you another question, which is climate is changing the way we travel, more delays. It’s actually changing the way the planes fly. How do you have to think through in business the effects of climate change on the airline industry?

SCOTT KIRBY: Well, first, solving climate change is the most important problem for our generation. I believe that personally; and United Airlines is– is doing all kinds of things that are innovative and– and the only one to do it. It is impacting our business. I mean hurricane last week, you know, the first hurricane. This is the earliest I can ever remember hurricanes, the number of thunderstorm– thunderstorm activity. As there’s more heat in the atmosphere, more thunderstorms. It’s making it harder and harder. So what we have to do as an aviation industry at United Airlines is get better at dealing with bad weather because we are going to have more weather extremes.

JOHN DICKERSON: But that sounds easier than, I mean, get better at bad weather. I mean that sounds like a lot of people being stuck in airports waiting for planes to start to fly again.

SCOTT KIRBY: Yeah, it’s really– it is. It’s much more difficult. We are working on technology to do things like keep the ramp open. That’s one of the biggest things that shuts down airports. If there’s a lightning strike within five miles of the airport, it’s closed for thirty minutes and trying to figure out ways that we can keep the ramp open as an example to fly when there is weather in the vicinity, but it’s not as bad.

JOHN DICKERSON: Let me ask you as a final question. You’re the leader of an organization with tens of thousands of people who are working in it and a lot of leaders are finding that the world is different as they come back. People have different views about the nature of work in their lives. How do you see that as a leader in terms of what people are feeling and what work is going to be like after the pandemic?

SCOTT KIRBY: Well, you know, look, United Airlines in particular, going through the pandemic, I– I think, strengthened our culture and the– the sense of the role that we play in the global humanitarian response. Early in the crisis only people on our airplanes were medical professionals coming into New York carrying equipment, ventilators and such, back from Asia, carrying ventilators and oxygen canisters to India. So I think it sort of– it strengthened our esprit de corps and realized that what we do is more than just flying airplanes. It’s really, in a crisis, it’s even more significant and important.

JOHN DICKERSON: All right. And, Scott Kirby, CEO of United Airlines, thanks so much for being with us.

And we’ll be back in a moment.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

JOHN DICKERSON: Virgin Galactic’s Richard Branson is up in the air right now, looking to check out what space looks like. Mark Strassmann has his feet on the ground in New Mexico with more on the historic flight. Mark.

MARK STRASSMANN: Good morning, John. After a delay of close to two hours from a distance, it all has seemed to go perfectly, gone just the way Richard Branson might have imagined in his space dreams. Right now, they’re still climbing. Eve, the mothership, will release Unity 22, the spaceship, which will rocket to the edge of space roughly fifty miles above Earth. Unity’s four passengers, including Branson and its two pilots will then experience the money moment, several minutes of weightlessness. Remember, Virgin Galactic is in business to enhance the cu– the space customer experience. Unity 22 will flip upside down so everyone inside can get a good look down on Earth. Its cabin has twelve windows to give the passengers that view of a lifetime. By next year, Branson hopes to start regular flights to space from the company’s close waiting list, the first group of wannabe astronauts has prepaid a quarter million dollars for their chance at space. For Branson, this out-of-the-world trip has been a bucket-list wish for decades, but no doubt, this moment is also a milestone in commercial space.

(Begin VT)

MARK STRASSMANN: Space tourism, it’s an emerging market in the battle of the space billionaires. Elon Musk of SpaceX, Jeff Bezos of Blue Origin, and the star passenger of this morning’s space drama.

MAN #1 (Virgin Galactic): Astronaut 001, Richard Branson.

MARK STRASSMANN: Starting next year, Branson’s company, Virgin Galactic, wants to sell costumers the ultimate joy ride at the edge of space.

RICHARD BRANSON (Founder, The Virgin Group): They’ll be able to unbuckle, they’ll be able to float around, they’ll be able to look back on– on– on our Earth. And they will become an astronaut.

WOMAN: And liftoff.

MARK STRASSMANN: With SpaceX and Blue Origin, rockets start the experience vertically, not virgin galactic. Its mothership, VMS Eve, is a twin fuselage plane with two pilots. In its middle, the space plane, VSS Unity, with two more pilots. At about forty-five thousand feet, Eve releases Unity.

MAN #2 (Virgin Galactic): Release, release, release.

MARK STRASSMANN: The space plane rockets straight up–

MAN #3 (Virgin Galactic): Fire. Fire.

MARK STRASSMANN: –more than fifty miles above Earth. Passengers can experience several minutes of weightlessness.

MAN #4 (Virgin Galactic): Welcome to the club, astronauts.

MARK STRASSMANN: Unity glides back to Earth. Total trip time, about ninety minutes. Since 2004, Virgin Galactic has pushed through setbacks, including a fatal test flight seven years ago.

(2019): Any question that’s been more challenging than you would have expected?

RICHARD BRANSON (2019): We’ve had our tears; we’ve had our joys. But I’ll tell you what, the joys have been fantastic.

MARK STRASSMANN: Virgin Galactic’s competitors know the future of space tourism also rode on this morning’s flight. A catastrophe would affect them all.

MIKE MOSES: But it’s really not a race. It’s not a competition. I know that sounds maybe a little shallow or– or disingenuous. But it’s not. And I wish every single one of them the best.

(End VT)

MARK STRASSMANN: We just had a spectacular moment of the livestream, where the mothership released the spaceship. Big applause from the crowd here. So, these folks, the passengers of– four passengers, two crew members, now on their way to the edge of space. In the battle for billionaire space-bragging rights, Branson looks as though he’s going to beat Jeff Bezos into space by nine days. Bezos will launch on July 20th. Elon Musk is here watching. Bezos, on his Instagram account, wished Branson luck on multiple levels, John. I– I– I have to think that Richard Blan– Branson right now is floating on air.

JOHN DICKERSON: Indeed, he is. Mark Strassmann, thanks so much for doing double duty for us today.

And we’ll be right back in a moment.

(ANNOUNCEMENTS)

JOHN DICKERSON: That’s it for us today. Thanks for watching. Until next week, for FACE THE NATION, I’m John Dickerson.



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