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White House Rejects CDC Guidelines For Safe Reopening As U.S. Death Toll Surpasses 75,000; 44 States Partially Reopening By Sunday As New Cases Climb In At Least 19 States; Justice Department Drops Case Against Michael Flynn; FDA Clears New Vaccine For Expanded Trial; Valet To President Trump Tests Positive For Coronavirus; Federal Government Not Tracking Antibody Testing From All States; Justice Department Drops Case Against Michael Flynn; New W.H. Press Secretary Once Called Trump For "Racist Statement". Aired 5-6p ET

Aired May 7, 2020 - 17:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[17:00:00]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Our coverage on CNN continues right now. Stay healthy, stay safe.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in "The Situation Room". We're following new developments in the coronavirus pandemic including of the White House now rejecting CDC guidelines for the safe reopening of the country guidelines the White House asked for even as the death toll now surpasses 75,000 people here in the U.S.

And tonight, there are new concerns over President Trump's possible exposure to the virus as a member of the U.S. Navy, who serves as one of the President's personal valets tested positive. The President says he's since tested negative. The White House has not enforced social distancing guidelines for staffers and few people inside the building by the way wear masks including the valets.

Tonight, more states are moving forward with plans to reopen at least 44 of them are scheduled to be partially back to business by Sunday. But the pandemic is raging on new coronavirus cases have climbed right now in at least 19 more states.

Let's begin this hour over at the White House. Our Chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta is joining us, Jim, the presidential valet testing positive is raising lots of concern about people that wearing masks inside the White House.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And that's just the beginning, Wolf. President Trump is downplaying the revelation that one of his military valets at the White House tested positive for the coronavirus. White House officials on top of that tell us there are very few aides around the President who wear masks as they work here in the West Wing on a regular basis. In the meantime, the White House has shelving guidelines, reopening businesses and schools and putting less of a focus on its Coronavirus Task Force. It all adds up to a White House that desperately wants to reopen the country, but doesn't seem to know how. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: At the highest --

ACOSTA (voice-over): For President Trump, the pandemic just hit home as in the White House, as one of his military valets has tested positive for the coronavirus. But the President is insisting it's no big deal that a personal aide was infected.

TRUMP: No who is good person, but I've had very little contact, Mike has had very little contact with him. But Mike was tested and I was tested. We both test.

Yes, it's a little bit strange, but it's one of those things.

ACOSTA (voice-over): But the potential for the virus to spread around the White House does exist. White House officials tell CNN few aides to the President actually wear masks around the West Wing, just as the President decided to forgo putting on one earlier this week during a factory tour in Arizona.

TRUMP: I just don't want to wear one myself. I think wearing a face mask as agreed, presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens, I don't know it's somehow I don't see it for myself. I just I just don't.

ACOSTA (voice-over): One White House official said that the President, he's a unique individual. He can't be seen walking around wearing a mask. Another close advisor pointed fingers at the press.

KELLYANNE CONWAY, WHITE HOUSE COUNSELOR: I think if anybody should start wearing masks in showing more respect to see the media.

ACOSTA (voice-over): White House officials have said it's not necessary for the President to wear a mask as he and aides around him are routinely tested for the virus. But the director of the National Institutes of Health said one of the tests often used by the White House has a notable false negative rate.

FRANCIS COLLINS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: I think the other concern has been that it does have about a 15 percent false negative rate. If you're in a circumstance where you really, really don't want to miss a diagnosis of somebody who's already carrying the virus, you'd like to have something that has a higher sensitivity than that, and I know they're working on how to make that happen.

ACOSTA (voice-over): As we're restarting the economy, the White House is rejecting proposed guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control, offering recommendations on just how to reopen restaurants, schools and other public spaces. The Coronavirus Task Force official told CNN issuing overly specific instructions that CDC leadership never cleared for how various types of businesses open up would be overly prescriptive and broad. Guidance in rural Tennessee shouldn't be the same guidance for urban New York City.

RICHARD BESSER, FMR ACTING DIRECTOR, CDC: I find it very concerning. You don't want to get into a situation where public health and public health science is set up as the enemy of restarting the economy.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The economy could use a shot in the arm after 3.2 million people filed Unemployment Claims last week making for a stunning 33.5 million since mid-March.

TRUMP: He was an innocent man.

ACOSTA (voice-over): But the President is welcoming a development away from the pandemic after the Justice Department drop charges against former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who had pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators after once firing Flynn for lying to Vice President Mike Pence about the Russia investigation. The President now views Flynn as an innocent man. Mr. Trump appear to signal what was coming last week.

TRUMP: I tell you here, when I looked at what they did to him, they tormented him, dirty cups tormented General Flynn because he's in the process of being exonerated.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: Now after taking precautions here at the White House, the President said he will be receiving coronavirus tests on a daily basis. The Vice President said he and other aides around the President will also be receiving coronavirus tests on a daily basis. That is a major change in protocols here at the White House and provides a stark contrast with what most Americans have experienced across the country that it is sometimes difficult to actually get tested.

[17:05:20]

There's also something of a contradiction with what the press secretary just said about testing that it's nonsensical to test every American because people would have to be tested over and over. But now the White House seems to be saying more is better. Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jim. Thank you, Jim Acosta at the White House.

Now, let's get the latest on the move by most states to begin reopening CNN's Nick Watt is in Los Angeles for us. Nick, California is among the states that will begin reopening tomorrow.

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf today might be the last day that we see Hollywood Boulevard, quite this quiet. Retail will begin to open tomorrow but just for curbside pickup, we got golf courses and trails opening Saturday. Tell you what will not be opening anytime soon here nail salons. California says that they have just traced the first instance of community spread of this virus in California to a nail salon. So they are going to be way further down the line.

I've got to say the atmosphere around this reopening here is more stoical than celebratory. You know the mayor of Los Angeles, Eric Garcetti said that to get through this next crucial phase, we're going to need patience, persistence, and partnership.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WATT (voice-over): In Three Forks, Montana this morning, kids walked back into school with tweaks.

BONNIE LOWER, SUPERINTENDENT, WILLOW CREEK: We have six foot distant marks on the playground so that they can play games at recess and save six feet away from each other.

WATT (voice-over): Montana hasn't suffered as much as most. Meanwhile, with Lady Liberty looking on bodies now being stored frozen in trucks, in New York City, our epicenter was waiting for overwhelmed funeral directors to catch up.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): If you're going through hell keep going. And that's what we're doing. We're going through hell. But what we're doing is working so we're going to keep going.

WATT (voice-over): Going slow on reopening, even though New York's new case counts are falling, daily new case counts continue to climb in 19 states, still every one of them among the 44 that will begin to reopen by this weekend.

In Texas cases climbing but haircuts, manicures are a go as of tomorrow morning.

UNIDENTIFED SPEAKERS (in unison): Shall live free, shall live free.

WATT (voice-over): The State Supreme Court just ordered the release of a salon owner jailed for operating under lockdown.

In Oregon, the Trailblazers practice facility will also open tomorrow and that's OK says the NBA up to four players can train solo at any one time, as long as local restrictions are followed. And there are now different detailed directions in different places.

GOV. NED LAMONT (D-CT): Restaurants outside only you're 90 percent more likely to get infected inside than outside.

WATT (voice-over): Meanwhile, the CDC its national reopening guidelines shelved by the White House's too strict.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What do you got to hide I think would be very helpful for us.

WATT (voice-over): More than 33 million Americans have now lost their jobs during the pandemic, depression era numbers. Others have worked on and paid a price. Tin Ai (ph) a meatpacking worker in Colorado couldn't afford to quit. Now she's infected and fighting for her life. Three of the country's biggest pork processing plants partially reopening today, after outbreaks union and management working on how to keep workers safe.

MARK ZANDI, CHIEF ECONOMIST, MOODY'S: I really don't think the economy kicks into any kind of gear until we get a vaccine or some kind of therapy that everyone feels comfortable about. And even then it's going to take several years to get those jobs back. WATT (voice-over): The FDA did just approve another potential vaccine moving into phase two testing, more than 100 now in various stages of development, but you can only rush so much needs to be safe, needs to work.

MARK MULLIGAN, LEAD RESEARCHER, NYU LANGONE VACCINE CENTER: I do really think we're talking about getting through to the end of the year and into early next year before we would have a definitive answer.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WATT: And some good news from New York. Finally, they say that antibody tests show that health care workers are not being infected at a higher proportional rate than the general population, which the governor says means that masks, gloves and hand sanitizer really do work against this virus.

BLITZER: Nick Watt reporting for us. Thank you, Nick.

Joining us now, the governor of Rhode Island, Gina Raimondo.

Governor Raimondo, thank you so much for joining us. And I know you're moving into phase one of the reopening as early as this weekend but the White House decided not to put out specific reopening guidelines drawn up by the CDC. Would you welcome a national set of recommendations or do you prefer to tailor your plans specifically to your state?

[17:10:07]

GOV. GINA RAIMONDO (D-RI): Good evening Wolf, and thanks for having me. I think we need both, you know, certainly all governors I believe would welcome as much guidance that as we can have from the CDC. And so that would be very useful. Having said that what we know about this virus is it is different in every location. Know, for example, here in Rhode Island, we are nestled between two hotspots in New York City and in Boston. We're very densely populated state and that has made it very difficult here. We're holding our own, I plan to start our reopening on Saturday. But obviously our experience here is very different than say Montana.

So we do need some guidelines and guidance and best practices but also I think, governor certainly need to do what we think is best based on the facts on the ground of our states.

BLITZER: You say a governor that this phase, this phase one of the reopening is not about socializing. It's about getting people back to work. So what will all this look like in the coming days and weeks?

RAIMONDO: Yes, thank you. So listen, like most states, we have a very high unemployment rate. And that is what is weighing on me every day all day. The number of people who are out of work is absolutely untenable and unprecedented. And we need to get folks back to work. But of course, we need to do it slowly and safely. So what I have said is in the first phase, my goal is to get folks back to work. We're going to keep our social gatherings limited to five, which I realize is difficult and is trying on our patients, but I want to keep social gatherings to five.

We're going to let retail open, we're going to start elective surgeries back up at our hospitals. We're going to let healthcare providers get back into business, and we're going to allow just some more commerce, you know, manufacturers, construction. With new regulations taking it slow. We're very well prepared. We're doing the most tests per capita of any state in the country. We're doing contact tracing within 24 hours of someone being tested positive. But I want to keep a lid on the social gatherings and really focus on getting people back to work.

BLITZER: The White House says, you know, was actually planning to disband the Coronavirus Task Force until that was met with a lot of backlash. You've now joined a consortium with other states to buy critical medical supplies. Do you feel that you have a partner in the federal government going forward?

RAIMONDO: I would say yes, but you know, President Trump has been very crystal clear on this point, which is that it's on the governor's to secure the medical supplies and supplies that we need for our states, and that the federal government was kind of a place of last resort. So governors are on it every day on it developing supply chains. We've decided as a region to collaborate as governors, frankly, Wolf, it just doesn't make sense for me to be in the market competing against Massachusetts and Connecticut. It's much better for us to pool our resources, keeps prices down and allows us all to access to markets.

So, you know, in an ideal world, you would have had the federal government stepping up earlier. That's not happening. So governors are getting it done.

BLITZER: That's an important point. You're requiring I take it residence to where masks and you'll be enforcing that with penalties. But the mayor of Providence says of resident see someone not following the rules, they should -- and I'm quoting the mayor now, they should socially shame them so that they do fall in line. Is that something you endorse?

RAIMONDO: Not really. Look, I get his intent. His intent is I think a good intent. We want everyone wearing masks. I don't think shaming is helpful right now. It actually -- we should just be supporting people, you know, if somebody walks and doesn't have a mask on, offer them a mask, ask them why they're not wearing it. But I think it's a time to be kind, patient, supportive. You know, the, the cliche of we're all in this together really, truly applies right now. If people don't follow the rules, then we're all going to suffer.

You know, here, for instance, in Rhode Island a couple of weeks after Passover and Easter, we saw a spike in hospitalizations. And we believe that's probably because folks congregated over that religious holidays, and then we all suffer. So, you know, give somebody a hand. I wouldn't shame them. But the fact is, it works. Mask wearing is cheap. It's effective. It's a heck of a lot better than shutting down the economy. And I want to encourage people to do that, frankly, so we can all get back to work.

BLITZER: You make a very important point, Governor Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island, thanks for much for joining us. You're always welcome here in "The Situation Room". We appreciate it very much. Good luck.

[17:15:04]

RAIMONDO: Thank you

BLITZER: Up next, the medical experts are react to the administration's decision to dismiss the CDC safety guidelines --

RAIMONDO: Very good, thank you.

BLITZER: -- and pushing states and businesses to reopen.

Plus, we'll have more on the implications of one of the President's personal military valets now testing positive for the coronavirus.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The White House confirmed a member of the U.S. military who attends to President Trump's personal needs in the Oval Office has tested positive for the coronavirus.

Let's discuss the implications with Dr. Luciana Borio, the former director of the National Security Council's Medical and Biodefense Preparedness. And Dr. Boris Lushniak, who was the acting U.S. Surgeon General during the Obama administration.

[17:20:06]

Dr. Lushniak up as -- the you're the former acting Surgeon General, we know the President has been in contact with somebody who's not tested positive for coronavirus over the past few days, would you have advised him to go ahead with his normal events and schedule?

BORIS LUSHNIAK, FMR U.S. ACTING SURGEON GENERAL: Well, you know, the major premise right now is we're advising other individuals who have had contact with a person who test positive is what is to go into 14 days of quarantine, is to behave as if they are potential spreaders of this disease to others, and to take that into account. So my sense is that the President should be counseled to make sure that he is careful with his exposing others because he himself has been exposed. And that's just basically the premise that we're following it at a local public health level at the state level and yes, at the national level.

BLITZER: Should he be wearing -- should he be wearing a mask at all times?

LUSHNIAK: I'm sorry.

BLITZER: Should he be wearing a mask?

LUSHNIAK: Well, you know, it's the whole idea of quarantining that individual from others. And when he's out there, yes, the whole idea of being able to wear that mask is about what, it's about protecting others from you. If there has been an exposure, and again, I don't know how close that exposure has been. But this is of concern. He has now been in contact with a person who's tested positive. And if it's been the close exposure, he should follow the regulations, the guidances that are out there for anybody who's been exposed to a person who's tested positive.

BLITZER: But Dr. Borio, we're also following the news that the White House will not implement the reopening guidelines that it asked the CDC to write up, but you worked on global health on President Trump's National Security Council until that unit was disbanded. Why do you believe the White House is now backing off from providing national recommendations on a critically important issue like this?

LUCIANA BORIO, FMR DIRECTOR, NSC MEDICAL AND BIODEFENSE PREPAREDNESS: Sure, Wolf. So the CDC guidelines that were shared seemed to be very reasonable and science based, they did a very nice job in striking the right balance. And I'm also curious to know exactly what the issues might be that are preventing that their official release. And I think that Governor Raimondo is actually right that it's very important for states, local governments, public health officials at state and local levels to have the CDC provide public health guidance in that regard. They can always adapt to their immediate needs. But that national guidance is very critical.

BLITZER: On the appoint Dr. Lushniak, the CDC document lays out specific very detailed guidelines for restaurants, schools, mass transit, communities of faith, businesses with vulnerable workers. Is that something each state should be left on its own to figure up?

LUSHNIAK: Well, the CDC is a national treasure. Yes, I was part of CDC for 16 years in my career path, and it is after all, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. It should provide that guidance, right, those recommendations to the rest of the nation to follow. I do think and I agree with the governor that spoke beforehand about the idea that states have the ability to implement things at their own level. But the guidances that CDC has puts out there is for that specific mission. It's for Disease Control and Prevention. We should take those recommendations at heart.

BLITZER: Let me switch gears a little bit. Dr. Borio, I want your thoughts on the company Moderna getting approved to start a phase two trial of its coronavirus max -- a vaccine, how significant is this?

BORIO: Well, Wolf, if that is actually great news. It shows that things are moving forward as fast as possible. I think Dr. Fauci early on alluded to the fact that, you know, things could be expedited, provided that things work as we had hoped they would. And I think it's signals that, you know, that things aren't moving as we had hoped. No, it's as fast as the science allows. Now, it's the one candidate of many, and we can't, you know, stop focusing on the fact that the vaccine is going to get it -- going to help get us out of this pandemic, it's going to be essential to contain it, to have the economy reopen so that people can be comfortable again to resume their normal lives. And we -- you know, it's only one of many candidates and they all need to be supported at the stage because we don't know which one is going to eventually be proven to be safe and effective,

BLITZER: Important point as well. Dr. Borio, thank you very much, Dr. Lushniak, thanks to you as well. Thanks to both of you for the important critical work that you both do.

Coming up, a CNN investigation of coronavirus antibody testing uncovers confusion that could hamper efforts to fight the pandemic.

And later, our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta, he's here. He'll answer your questions about the coronavirus pandemic. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:24:43]

BLITZER: Antibody tests are key to getting the country back to work, but a CNN investigation finds unreliable tests are leading to lots of confusion across the country.

Let's go to our senior investigative correspondent Drew Griffin, he's got details. Drew, what are you learning?

DREW GRIFFIN, CNN SENIOR INVESTIGATIVE CORRESPONDENT: That the confusion surrounding this antibody test is leading to a lot of problems with knowing what to do with the data. And as far as we can tell Wolf, there is no national plan to use that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

GRIFFIN (voice-over): The antibody test, a blood test that can tell whether someone has COVID-19 even without symptoms has been so important. President Trump last month announced the test would be a major decision maker in getting America back to work.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're also working to bring blood based serology tests to the market as quickly as possible so that Americans can determine whether or not they have already had the virus and potentially have immunity.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): But as millions of antibody tests are being shipped across the country, a CNN analysis finds there's no coordinated effort by the federal government to track the full number or all the raw data of those tests from every state. Like other areas of the U.S.'s coronavirus response, the antibody testing process has been confusing. A mix of false starts, changing rules, and no coherent plan for all the states to report results.

DR. PETER HOTEZ, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: The way it usually works is that data is fed into the various state health departments and the state health departments will often funnel information to the CDC.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): But many states aren't collecting any antibody testing data. Of the 41 state health departments that responded to CNN questions, only 22 states said they are currently collecting some data on antibody testing, and only California, New York and Louisiana so they require it.

HOTEZ: One of the problems has been that the -- a lot of the tests that have been given temporary authorization turned out to be not very accurate.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): As CNN has reported in its rush to jumpstart antibody testing across the country, in March, the FDA allowed antibody tests to be sold without any federal review, and many inaccurate tests flooded the market. This week, the FDA reversed that policy, now requiring test makers to prove tests work like they should, but the damage was already done. Oregon's Health Department said antibody testing data are of dubious reliability. Several other states like Vermont, saying the tests are not accurate enough to use them for any public planning.

CAROLINE BUCKEE, HARVARD T.H. CHAN SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: There are a couple of reasons that we really want to know who's had this virus. The first is just to figure out where we are on the epidemic curve. And that has really important implications for policies like whether we're going to go back to work and whether we're going to reopen schools.

GRIFFIN (voice-over): The CDC is only collecting data from some states, but it's also doing what's called seroprevalence surveys, collecting blood samples from labs across the country that were originally used for other purposes, like routine cholesterol tests and performing testing to look for antibodies in the blood sample. For now, real number of people who've been infected with COVID in the U.S. is still unknown.

HOTEZ: Saying 1.2 million people have been infected is almost certainly a vast underestimate. The problem is we don't know if that real number is 10 times more or 20 times more. And by having widespread antibody testing, that would give us a better idea.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

GRIFFIN: And, Wolf, just this afternoon, the CDC told us they're now trying to work with states that are gathering this antibody testing data. So if they can get the results, I must tell you, that is news to many of the states that we talked to, because they're not even keeping the results themselves. Wolf?

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Interesting. All right, Drew Griffin reporting for us. Thank you.

And stay with us, CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta is getting ready to join us. He'll answer your questions about the coronavirus and coping with the pandemic. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:38:15] BLITZER: We'll get back to all the latest developments of the coronavirus pandemic in just a few moments. But, first, the Justice Department announced a little while ago that is dropping the case against the former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. He resigned less than one month after the President was inaugurated. And in December of 2017, he pled guilty to lying to the FBI.

Let's get some insight from our Chief National Security Correspondent Jim Sciutto and our Chief Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin. Jeffrey Toobin, by the way, has just finished a brand new book entitled, "True Crimes and Misdemeanors: The Investigation of Donald Trump" and we're looking forward to reading that book. Jim, let me start with you. You've covered Flynn extensively, from his admitted lies about his contacts with Russia to his cooperation with Robert Muller's overall investigation. Does this new development makes sense to you?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Listen, there are two levels here, one, right, he lied. We know he lied because he pleaded guilty to lying and he pleaded guilty to lying under oath. We also know that the President fired him and said that his reason for firing him was that he lied to the Vice President. So he lied. That's one that matters in the justice system. Jeffrey Toobin knows that better than anyone.

Two, though, is the substance of the lies, what he lied about. He lied about contacts with Russians during the transition, specific to the question of encouraging Russia so those the allegation not to retaliate for Obama administration sanctions for Russia's interference in the 2016 election. Why did he lie about his contacts with Russians? Russia, of course, an adversary that just interfered in the U.S. presidential election and who directed him to lie. That's remains an open question. It's something that the Muller investigation could not get to the bottom of in part because Michael Flynn wouldn't go there.

[17:40:03]

So it's the lie itself but it's also the substance of the lie which gets to a key national security moment in this country. Russia just interfered in the election, the Trump administration reaches out to Russians, communicates in the National Security Adviser, lies about those communications. That matters.

BLITZER: You know, Jeffrey, you've been reading through this very lengthy Justice Department filing, what's their argument for dropping the case and do you believe it's legitimate?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: The argument is that even if he did lie, even if the Flynn did lie, this was not a legitimate investigation at that point in January of 2017. It is one of the most incredible legal documents I have read and certainly something that I never expected to see from the United States Department of Justice. The idea that the Justice Department would invent an argument and argument that the judge in this case has already rejected and say that's a basis for dropping a case where the defendant admitted his guilt shows that this is a case where the fix was in. Donald Trump has been saying for months, if not years, he feels sorry for Michael Flynn. He wanted to help Michael Flynn. That's what this case is about, not the equal protection of the law.

BLITZER: Very interesting. And Jim, none of this changes the fact that President Trump actually fired Michael Flynn and Michael Flynn pleaded guilty.

SCIUTTO: Indeed. And listen, remember, there's another national security aspect to the lies and this is something that Sally Yates, at the time the acting Attorney General, spoke to in those -- that period when Flynn was fired, which is he lied, and the Russians knew that he lied because they knew the substance of those conversations during the transition. And when the adversary knows that you lied, and the American public to that point does not, that is a pressure point that that is something that you could use to influence the most senior national security official in the country at the time that the national security adviser to the President.

So many layers as to why the lies mattered. And here you have that whitewashed in effect. I mean, it has enormous national security implications.

BLITZER: And Jeffrey, what's the role of the Attorney General Bill Barr in all of this?

TOOBIN: He's the boss. This is his work. I mean, this is part of the story where they are trying to undermine the work of the Special Counsel, of Robert Muller. You saw it when they tried to get a lesser sentence for Roger Stone. You saw it here where they're trying to get rid of the Michael Flynn case. You see it as the President keeps talking about the possibilities of pardons. He doesn't need to pardon Flynn anymore, but George Papadopoulos, Roger Stone, Paul Manafort, all are betting on pardons. And that's where this is all heading. It's all heading towards the President wiping the Muller investigation out of the history books, at least as far as criminal convictions are concerned.

BLITZER: Jeffrey Toobin, thanks very much. Jim Sciutto, thanks to you as well.

More news we're following right now. She's one of President Trump's fiercest defenders. But the new White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany once called him out, accusing him of making a racist statement. CNN KFile Senior Editor, Andrew Kaczynski, he and his team have been investigating all of this for us. Andrew, tell us what you found out.

ANDREW KACZYNSKI, CNN KFILE SENIOR EDITOR : Yes, so before Kayleigh McEnany became one of President Trump's most prominent and loudest defenders. Actually on our network a couple of times, she criticized him pretty harshly, saying he had made hateful, derogatory racist statements when he launched his campaign with those comments, well remember about Mexicans that he made it up first campaign rally. At times, she said he didn't deserve to be pulling so high and said this was not welcomed rhetoric in the party. Let's just take a listen to one of those statements from her.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How sick the polls are people in New Hampshire right now?

MCENANY: Probably very sick especially when they see that Donald Trump is number two and doesn't deserve to be there.

Donald Trump has shown himself to be a showman. I don't think he's a serious candidate.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Kaleigh, this is your guy. He's number two in the polls.

MCENANY: Hey, I don't want to claim this guy. I -- Donald Trump, if we're going to be honest, is it progressive?

What's the expiration date then on a racist statements? To me a racist statement is a racist statement. I don't like what Donald Trump said. I don't like what Al Sharpton says and at what point does it expire and become something that's in the past.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KACZYNSKI: Yes, so all those comments came in June of 2015. She would later go on to be a prominent defender of Donald Trump on our network RNC spokesman, Trump campaign spokesman, now the White House Press Secretary.

[17:45:00]

What we found very interesting was when we get to July and October, she not only very abruptly started defending candidate Trump, but she actually even defeated those comments that he made that she had previously called racist.

BLITZER: I know Andrew you asked for her reaction to all these statements. What did she tell you?

KACZYNSKI: So we reached out to the White House a couple of times this morning, e-mailed her personally, but we still have not heard back.

BLITZER: Once we do, we'll report what she has to say of course. Andrew Kaczynski, thanks very much for that.

Coming up, our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta, he will answer your questions about the coronavirus pandemic. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:50:34]

BLITZER: Time now for your questions about the coronavirus and the pandemic. Our Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta has got some answers. Got a lot of questions from our viewers. This one first, Sanjay, "How accurate are the rapid coronavirus tests?" Those are the ones where in about 15 minutes you get the results?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, some of them can be even faster than that. The one that's gotten a lot of attention is this Abbott ID NOW test, which, you know, is generally a pretty good test. The problem has been that the sensitivity or the likelihood that someone will get a false negative in some of these studies have been, you know, 15 percent, even 25 percent in some of these studies. So that means if 100 people tested they all have the virus, 15 of them, we told that they don't have the virus and even if they do, if they don't have symptoms, Wolf, the concern is they may go out and, you know, be in public and spread the virus thinking that they are free and clear. So that's the issue.

You know, the maker of the test, Abbott says, they've identified a specific problem with one of the transport mediums. So hopefully that will get fixed. But, Wolf, we need to have tests that give back results quickly like that, but they've got to be accurate and they've got to be more widely available.

BLITZER: Yes, you certainly does. They certainly do. Here's another question from a viewer. "Restaurants are opening up in my town, is it safer to eat outside or could wind spread the germs farther?"

GUPTA: Yes. I would not worry as much about the wind sort of spreading the germs farther. That's not really the issue. And I would say that outside is going to be a better bet than inside generally speaking. And, by the way, it's good to go outside. I mean, a lot of parks and things like that are opening, I think it's good for physical health, it's good for mental health. Just want to maintain the physical distance. I mean that that's the whole point.

This is not a germ that travels very far. But we know, you know, 6 feet or so if you maintain that distance, you should be good. Watch surfaces when you go outside. That's one of the issues. When you're home, you can kind of control your environment. You got outside, you know, you touch a rail, was that rail contaminated? You know, does it have the virus, then you touch your eyes, nose or mouth.

So you just got to be more mindful when you're outside. Keep your distance. You should be fine to be out there.

BLITZER: Good advice. Here's another question from a viewer. "Should I wear a mask when running, cycling or otherwise exercising outside?"

GUPTA: This is a one of the questions I think I get more than any other. And I'll just tell you what I do right away. I run outside and I will always carry a mask with me. I think that if you're confident that you're not going to, you know, run into other people or come too close to them, then I think you're fine. Again, it's that physical distance.

Some say when you're running, you may be putting more virus into the air, you're just breathing harder. So some have suggested 10 feet away instead of 6 feet away. I keep a mask if I am going to encounter people for some reason, I try not to then I'll just put the mask on. I think it helps protect the environment from the virus and the person that's coming up next to me.

And I think, Wolf, it's also one of these things that may be more subjectively just shows that you're taking this seriously. That, you know, there's a gravity to it and, you know, the person knows you're trying to protect them.

BLITZER: We got another question from a viewer named Wolf, who spends a lot of time on the treadmill every morning. Indoors, inside the house then goes outside for a walk, especially if the weather is nice. What happens if you're in a neighborhood where there aren't a whole lot of people, nobody is there. Do you still need to wear a mask?

GUPTA: Yes. Well first of all, good for you for doing the treadmill. Well, if you look great, that's important. Take care of your physical health. I think the same thing with the walks as with the runs. I -- this is what I do. I carry the mask with me. I think this is important.

And, you know, people are going to have to wear masks. If you're out on your walk, you don't run into anybody, I think you're fine not to wear a mask. But I think you carry it with you in case somebody is, you know, you're walking on a path where you're going to encounter somebody else. But as a general rule, that physical distance, I think is the key component.

BLITZER: That's very good advice. Sanjay, don't go too far away. We have more news that we need your analysis for coming up very soon. And in a very important note to our viewers, stay with us later tonight for a new CNN Global Town Hall Coronavirus Facts and Fears. The former Vice President Al Gore, Spike Lee and the author of the book "The Coming Plague" Laurie Garrett, they will join Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta live tonight 8:00 p.m. Eastern. This is their 10th CNN Special Global Town Hall we'll be watching.

Coming up, the White House rejects CDC guidelines and asks for on safely reopening the country as the coronavirus death toll now surpasses 70,000 people here in the United States, even as more states move to reopen.

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[17:59:33]

BLITZER: We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in "The Situation Room". Tonight, the White House is rejecting guidelines developed by the CDC for safely reopening the country even as the death toll in the U.S. now surpasses 75,000. Forty-four states are on track for partial reopening by Sunday, but very few actually meet the benchmarks released by the White House last month and new cases are still climbing in many of those states.

President Trump is touting the reopening but the virus is hitting close to home. A personal valet to the President at the White House has tested positive for the coronavirus, raising serious concerns about protocols inside the West Wing.