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Trump Falsely Claims He Didn't Suggest Looking into Internal Disinfectant as Coronavirus Treatment; Georgia Reopens Hair Salons, Gyms, Despite Rise in Cases; State Rep. Bee Nguyen (D-GA) Discusses Georgia Opening Businesses; E-mails Reveal Trump Aides' Effort to Push Unproven Drug. Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired April 24, 2020 - 13:30   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: But the fact that all of these people are standing around as if this is normal, that this is somehow -- there's some degree of sense to this, which there's just not.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It is normal in the Trump White House where the president has made remarks like this and later said he was being sarcastic.

There are multiplications where he uses defense, several. Like where he said President Obama was the founder of ISIS, other comments like that. And later, they said he was just kidding and we took him out of context.

The question of who is put in an awkward position, it was not just Dr. Birx sitting there and asked to comment on this, but also the senior DHS officials where the president says that doctor should check it out and doctors should look into this.

We played his remarks from yesterday. You could him saying people should look into this, not being sarcastic, not implying that there.

The president made that remark, Anderson, I should note, potentially being a treatment unprompted. He has not asked by a reporter about that. That came out as the president was musing about these finds that the DHS official presented.

We heard in the past where the president made comments like this and they don't know if that's a directive for them to go find and look into what he's suggesting or it's something they should wait and try to see if it goes away and that's no longer an issue they deal with.

Now, we've seen the president circle back after he was widely criticized. And like, you noted, the founders and the makers of Lysol did not think the president was being sarcastic where they felt they had to put out a statement on this earlier.

COOPER: Gloria, given we are in a global pandemic and more than 50,000 people are dead, there's nothing funny about this. What's so remarkable to me is that we've grown used to this daily Coronavirus Task Force briefing -- or that's what it's supposed to be. But what it really is, is the president early on saw Dr. Fauci and Dr.

Birx gaining credibility and he saw the focus a lot on the Coronavirus Task Force briefings. So he then decided to get in on them and take them over and hijack them. That's what he's done.

He made them into the Trump show. And he quotes about his ratings on them and says he does not care about his ratings. We know he does because he knows he's tweeted about it and talked about it.

And in the midst of a pandemic, at the very least, you would think or you might hope that scientists would be able to just freely and in an unfettered way directly address the American public with the best scientific information and do that on a daily basis.

I guess, as a citizen, I kind of wish that there were Coronavirus Task Force briefings that were scientists and you know the vice president, who starts every sentence at the president's direct directive anyway. He could be included in this. But have scientist information to give to the American people.

If the president wants to have his own musing briefing, have a separate one. But let the American people, let the world hear from actual scientists unfettered and not scared and not, you know, tiptoeing around musings of the president.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: This is a president who want to give himself an "A" every single day to the American people because he can't be out there campaigning.

One thing he discovered is that he can't spin science and he can't spin Americans who are getting sick. He can't spin Americans who, according to the polls, don't want to open up the country very quickly because they are afraid of getting sick.

What he wants to do because he's running for reelection, because he wants to go out to that room every day and tell the American public how great he's doing and he wants to be the person who finds the cure for coronavirus in five minutes.

COOPER: Sure. First, it was Hydroxychloroquine.

BORGER: Five minutes. Right.


BORGER: Hydroxychloroquine.


BORGER: Right. Yes, disinfectant and sunlight and whatever it is.

When he gets asked questions by journalist about why are you talking about things that is are unproven to the American public, we see him get nasty because he's not used to getting asked these kinds of questions either in public because he does not do a lot of press conferences with anybody else other than FOX News so now he's doing it and nor does he get questions that way in private. You see his nastiness coming out.


Instead of being the person liberating the calm or taking a complex issues as this is and breaking it down with the American public, here is the person who goes to the podium and says listen to this guy who discovers that sunlight may be the great disinfectant here for all of us. That's feeding Americans false hope, and it might be dangerous --


BORGER: -- which is what they don't need. And I don't think people can be fooled, particularly when you have this videotape. He wasn't sarcastic.

COOPER: Sanjay, I want to end on facts and science. The idea of bringing U.V. light into the body and the idea of using disinfectant, the Lysol, Purell stuff internally, not feasible, very danger dangerous, don't. You can even burn yourself if you are trying to use some lights inside your body. Scientifically, your perspective on it.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Does not work, dangerous. Does not need to be studied. We know the answer to this. Most kids know the answer to this. We should not hedge on that at all.

I was surprised the scientific officials around the president were hedging on this, couching a little bit, perhaps words like that.

I want to say, I am not trying to be critical of these scientists. These are some of the foremost scientists in the country. I would be critical of how they are handling this particular thing.

I think, behind the scenes, what Dr. Fauci, Ambassador Birx, they are doing incredible work. Sometimes, the public-facing before the public is frustrating. I know this from some of my conversations.

Despite that, even with the stay-at-home order, it was 15 days, Dr. Fauci knew right from the beginning it was not just 15 days. So how he presidents things versus what he knows has to be done are sometimes at odds with each other. It's confusing.

But I do have faith in these scientists. I hope that people don't lose faith in the scientists because of this. They are our way outs of this mess. And we have to have faith in them and conference, despite some of these shenanigans that are going on right now, they're actually doing the important work and getting important work done behind the scenes.

COOPER: Liberate the scientists.

Thank you all. Appreciate it.

The mayor of Atlanta is shooting a new warning as Georgia starts to reopen today. Why she says is too soon.

Plus, new documents reveal how the president's political appointees pushed the use of Hydroxychloroquine after President Trump started touting the drug.



COOPER: Georgia today is opening, in part. Despite criticism, Governor Brian Kemp is moving ahead with his plans to reopen the state. Phase one going into effect this morning as the state continues to an increase in coronavirus cases with nearly 22,000 confirmed cases and 881 deaths.

President Trump initially supported Kemp's move to reopen before. Later, contradicting himself and walking it back. This morning, President Trump tweeted he never gave the OK for non-essential businesses to open.

The move has also pitted the governor against mayors in several cities, including Atlanta.


MAYOR KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS (D-GA): We have expanded hospital capacity in this state and in this city but it doesn't mean that we need to work to feel up those beds. Those are there in case we need them, not for the sake of reopening the economy.

I was competing on the open market, as the mayor, to get PPE for my sanitation workers. How can I expect my hair stylist will also be able to access PEE and then have all of the information she needs to put in on when we have health care professionals who are struggling?


COOPER: Georgia Representative Bee Nguyen joins us now.

You represent Atlanta. It seems the mayor there talking about the safety of works. She also said this morning there are some people who are ready to sacrifice lives for the economy. What's your reaction on what's going on in Georgia?

STATE REP. BEE NGUYEN (D-GA): This is a premature and reckless decision on the behalf of the governor and he did not consult with any mayors, county officials, any of the Democratic colleagues when he chose to make this decision.

We know we are putting our lives of workers on the line, often workers who are most vulnerable. These are non-essential services.

But it reflects a failure of federal and state government to provide the necessarily economic relief these workers and businesses having experienced through COVID-19.

COOPER: This morning, one of our reporters in Atlanta saw a line forming outside a barber shop that was before it was even open in a hair salon later on. What would you say to constituents right now, both to those going to the businesses and those staying home? NGUYEN: We need to be clear of the guidelines we are putting forward

by the governor's office requires few mandates. The employees are required to wear PPE but the customers themselves are not required to wear any type of protective gears.

The protocols put in place is inferior and help spread this virus and something that our own governor admitted just a few weeks ago when he decided to issue the statewide shelter-in-place.

I am asking my constituents and my neighbors and my family and friends and my colleagues to continue to stay at home. We don't need to put these workers at risk.


If you decide to go to one of these elected services, please wear the PPE because you are going to be putting these workers at a greater risk and know that spread is going to go down to everybody else.

I would also say that we really need to think about the message this is sending to workers and industries, such as lawn and barbershops, nail salons who are minority owned.

What are we saying when our own state government decides our legislature is not going to go back into June 11th because of unsafe environment, but we are choosing to send these workers out and taking them off un unemployment rolls and we are choosing to sacrifice our lives for what we perceive as a chance to reopen the economy.

We know the risks are great and we expect we'll see another spike.

COOPER: Representative Bee Nguyen, I appreciate your time. Thank you so much.

NGUYEN: Thank you so much.

COOPER: Back to breaking news. President Trump trying to walk back his dangerous comment using disinfectants internally, being injected with them, and somehow can help treat coronavirus and it should be studies. Now trying to claim he was being sarcastic in talking to reporters, not talking to Bill Brian, from DHS, which was the person he was talking to.

Plus, a new report from "Vanity Fair" shedding the light on how the administration was trying to push another unproven treatment that the president was touting. The reporter who broke that story joins me next.



COOPER: As we mentioned earlier, the FDA is warning serious side effects of two drugs, Hydroxychloroquine and Chloroquine that have been touted by President Trump as a possible game changer in the treatment of COVID-19. The HHS says the drugs reportedly cause serious heart rhythm problems

and only should be used in hospital settings in clinical trials.

That, as a "Vanity Fear" piece reveals a behind-the-scenes push by Trump political appointees to make the drugs more widely available. Even scientists within the Health and Human Services Department warned of potential risk.

Katherine Eban, is the investigative journalist behind the piece. She joins me now. She is also the author of "The Bottle of Lies, the Inside Story of the Generic Drug Boom."

Thanks so much for being with us.

President Trump begin discussing Hydroxychloroquine during White House briefings in mid-March. How did the drugs even get on the president's radar?

KATHERINE EBAN, CONTRIBUTOR, "VANITY FAIR": Well, that's a question I think still needs more exploration but it was being pushed up to him through various bloggers. Larry Ellison, Oracle founder, talking about it. There was a French doctor promoting it. It somehow got pushed up to the president and I think there's still more there that needs to be understood.

But the White House went all in on a campaign to make this drug widely available to any American who essentially wanted it and that created tremendous hurdles because there are regulatory safeguards in place for a good reason that officials were trying to circumvent.

COOPER: You obtain an email by an assistant health secretary at HHS that says the following, quote, "White House called, really want to flood New York and New Jersey with treatment courses. Hospitals have it, sit-out patients don't and can't get. Go through distribution channels as discussed. If we have 29 million, send a few million ASAP, question mark. White House wants follow-up in a.m. We can get a lot more of this, right, Bob? Millions per week, question mark."

This email was sent after a group within HHS said widespread use should be avoided. Was science just overruled because the White House was pushing this?

EBAN: I mean, it looks from the documents obtained they were simply ignored. There was an HHS working group of top clinicians in the government that created an internal consensus statement on March 24th which said the drugs are dangerous, there's no proof that they actually work, and so these need to be studied in clinical trials inside of hospitals.

But despite that recommendation, it's clear that the Trump administration set out on this plan to distribute a mass of stockpile Chloroquine drugs directly to drugstores, in violation of the FDA's own emergency rules.

COOPER: By the way, patients who were using this, like people with lupus and others, are then having difficulties actually getting this drug because some of the demand was increased when the president started touting it.

The same assistant health secretary wanted the drugs being expanded to pharmacies despite an emergency use authorization that limited them to hospitalized COVID-19 patients under a doctor's supervision. Do we know if those drugs ever reach pharmacies?


EBAN: Well, according to some statements that I got during the reporting, it appears that some of the drugs, in fact, did reach pharmacies. But you know, I was told they were not sold for profit. They were donated. It's still very unclear.

It is not clear how the drugs and the stockpile were being controlled, so I think there's just more reporting here that needs to be done.

But it's clear that career clinicians within the government, top clinicians in addition felt under remarkable pressure by political appointees and had extreme concerns about a plan that would leave patients not monitored, just going and getting these drugs at pharmacies, facing potential adverse events.

Really, it rang all the alarm bells within the federal system.

COOPER: Fascinating.

Katherine Eban, I appreciate your reporting. Thank you very much.

EBAN: Thank you so much.

COOPER: Back to breaking news. President Trump just lied about his suggestion that disinfectant could be used as a potential treatment and should be experimented on using injections. What he's saying now. We'll show you the lie in real time. It's just blatant and sad.

We'll be right back.