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Russia Reports Second-Highest Coronavirus Infections; Michael Flynn Judge to Wait Before Ruling on Justice Department's Request to Dismiss Charges; Alameda County to Allow Tesla Factory Reopening. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired May 13, 2020 - 10:30   ET




POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. So this morning, the U.S. government issued an official warning about the threat that China could be trying to steal U.S. coronavirus research on vaccines and treatments. CNN national security correspondent Kylie Atwood is at the State Department.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Kylie, I wonder --


SCIUTTO: -- is this a warning that this hacking is happening now by China and other countries? Or may happen?

ATWOOD: This is a warning that what they are seeing is that it is happening now. But they are careful in their language here. They say that this is likely targeting a network compromise by China. So they've very specific there in saying that it is likely happening.

But what is important here is that we have heard from U.S. officials over the last few weeks, saying that these cyberattacks on research entities here in the U.S. -- so these pharmaceutical companies, these research labs, these universities -- who are looking into research -- to try and find a vaccine to the coronavirus, are facing an increasing attack from these cyber entities.

And so this is an official warning all. It also provides some things that these research entities can do. So it tells them to essentially shut down actors who are on their network and are acting suspiciously, and to reach out to the FBI because they say that this poses a serious threat to the ability for the U.S. to defend and research when it comes to the coronavirus.


SCIUTTO: Kylie Atwood, good to have you there and we know you're going to stay on top of it.

Russia now has the second-highest number of coronavirus cases in the world. This, after recording more than 10,000 new cases for the 11th day in a row. We have reporters around the globe, covering the pandemic.

HARLOW: Nick Paton Walsh is standing by, but let's begin with Matthew Chance, on this reporting out of Russia. What is Russian leader Vladimir Putin saying?

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Vladimir Putin is trying to lift the tight lockdown across the country, but it's a vast country and he's leaving it up to individual governors and mayors to decide what restrictions should be lifted, and if any should be tightened. In fact, in Moscow, which is the epicenter of the pandemic inside Russia, they've extended the lockdown restrictions until the end of this month. And so people in that city aren't going anywhere.

But you're right, the numbers are absolutely grim, 10,000 a day for the 11th consecutive day, 240,000 or more total confirmed as having coronavirus. But even Russian officials say that that number is going to go much, much higher. The Moscow mayor says that there are 300,000 people that he believes infected in that city alone. So in the final toll, it's going to be a much higher total in Russia.

SCIUTTO: Yes. After Putin initially had denied it was a problem at all.

Let's go to Nick Paton Walsh, he's in London. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, he also, of course, in the early stages, was for a much more conservative response to this. Now, warning about rising infection rates around the world as the U.K. moves towards reopening. What is the plan there and how is the U.K. responding to those rising infection rates?

NICK PATON WALSH, CNN INTERNATIONAL SECURITY EDITOR: Well, this is, Jim and Poppy, the first day in which people are encouraged to go back to work, if they can't work from home. But here at King's Cross in Central London, it isn't massively different, frankly, to when it was pretty quiet in the lockdown. Rush hour today, about 60 percent, staff here say, of the people were coming through as you would normally expect.

But one staff member I overheard, saying people are still scared. Part of that is justified because countries that have eased the restrictions have seen that infection rate, that R number, go back over one again. We're below it, here in the U.K., and there are deep concerns about the damage it's doing to the economy.

But the U.K. prime minister -- who was at first cavalier, then caught the virus, now is quite conservative about how he wants to open the country up again -- is certainly making many concerned that we could see a very slow easing of lockdown and a stark summer ahead. They're saying, frankly, don't book a holiday. If you do so, it's at your own risk.

HARLOW: Wow. Thank you, Nick, for that.

Matthew Chance as well, Kylie Atwood, we appreciate all the reporting.

Former Watergate prosecutors are urging a judge to buck the Justice Department's push to dismiss the case against Michael Flynn. We'll explain what's happening, next.



SCIUTTO: Well, several major airlines are grappling with how to enforce their own mandatory mask requirements. For the most part, the police rely on -- policy, rather, relies on passenger cooperation.

HARLOW: But what happens if a passenger doesn't want to wear a mask on a plane? Let's talk about this with CNN aviation correspondent Pete Muntean.

I'm sure this has happened, and I'm sure it's going to keep happening. So what do you do? I mean, you've had the head of these airlines saying they can't have their flight attendants basically being police.

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: It's a trick situation that airline employees have been put in, and that's actually now laid out in these airline memos that I obtained, sent to employees by pretty much every major airline late last night.

It says that flight attendants should essentially not worry about enforcing those mask policies once passengers are on board. The goal is to avoid confrontation, but without federal rules in place it's up to the airlines to figure out how to keep you safe.


MUNTEAN (voice-over): -- norm right now, according to major airlines. But more scenes like this are raising new concerns about whether you can maintain social distancing while flying.

Change or cancel a trip because of coronavirus, and you are not entitled to a refund, according to new guidance just laid out by the Department of Transportation. It says you can get your money back within a week if it is the airline that cancels. But if you cancel, what you get back is up to the airline.

In the U.S., more than half of all airliners are now parked, but more passengers are stepping on board a shrinking fleet. The number of people passing through security has climbed to the highest level in six weeks.

BARRY BIFFLE, FRONTIER AIRLINES: So we're already seeing visiting friends and relatives, kind of our backbone of our business, we're already seeing that start to come back, but it's at a very small level.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): United Airlines will now warn passengers if a flight is near capacity, and let them re-book even though it stresses that most flights are less than half full. All major airlines are now mandating that passengers wear masks, but

are not guaranteeing that every middle seat will be empty.


MUNTEAN (voice-over): High-ranking House Democrats say there is inconsistency and uncertainty in airline policies, and want federal agencies to act.

DEFAZIO: I think that we should look carefully at whether or not we require distancing on airplanes, and that could require leaving middle seats open.

MUNTEAN (voice-over): In a statement to CNN, the FAA says its authority lies in safe operation of aircraft, and that it is lending aviation expertise to health officials and airlines.


Airline workers want more intervention.

JOE DEPETE, PRESIDENT, AIR LINE PILOTS ASSOCIATION: There's a smart way to do this. We need to ensure that we're doing everything we can to prevent unnecessary additional preventable risk for our (INAUDIBLE).

MUNTEAN (voice-over): Without federal mandates, industry groups say each airline is coming up with its own protocols. Frontier, for instance, will do temperature checks at the gate and may turn you away with a fever higher than 100.4.

BIFFLE: We believe you're safer on board Frontier -- and most airlines, for that matter -- than most enclosed buildings.


MUNTEAN: Now, while fares on airlines might be low right now, the industry says it can't stay that way for long. One industry group says if middle seats are eradicated from airlines for an extended period of time, airlines will have to raise fares by more than 50 percent just to break even -- Jim, Poppy.

SCIUTTO: It makes sense, right? I mean, you'd be taking out a third of the seats on board. Pete Muntean, thanks very much.

HARLOW: Moving ahead to this, a federal judge has decided to take some more time before deciding whether or not to honor the Justice Department's request to dismiss the criminal case against Michael Flynn.

SCIUTTO: This, as 16 former Watergate prosecutors have called on the judge to buck the DOJ and send President Trump's former national security advisor to prison for lying to the FBI, which of course he pleaded guilty to. CNN's Evan Perez joins us now on the phone. So, Evan, I mean, the swings back and forth in this case have been

remarkable, it seemed to be all over under Bill Barr just a few days ago. What happens now with this judge's ruling?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Well, Jim, we now have to see what the judge exactly is going to do. But for now at least, he is going to open the door to allowing third parties, people outside of the Justice Department, outside of Flynn's legal team, to essentially comment on what should happen to Michael Flynn.

And these 16 former Watergate prosecutors sent essentially a letter, a memo to the judge, describing what they think he can do. They say he can actually disregard the Justice Department's move to dismiss charges, and they draw direct parallels to the Watergate controversy.

I'll read you just a part of it. It says, of what they said to the judge and that Sullivan, it says, "If ever there were a case where the public interest counseled the court to take a long, hard look at the government's explanation and the evidence, it is this one."

So for now, the judge says that he is going to lay out a timeline to allow people to come (ph) -- outside parties, to essentially provide amicus briefs, and then he'll make a final decision. So as you said, a lot of twists and turns in this. We expected the judge to essentially rule that there is no case to do go forward here with, but for now he says he wants to entertain these outside vices before making a final decision -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Goodness. Watch this space, as they say. Evan Perez, thanks very much.


And we will be right back.


SCIUTTO: A potential end to a very public dispute between Tesla and authorities in Alameda County, California. This, over the reopening of some of the automaker's factories. Health officials said the Fremont, California plant can conduct minimum business operations as long as the plant agrees to safety precautions.

HARLOW: Let's go to Dan Simon. He joins us now in California.

I mean, it's been stunning to watch, a standoff, really, between Elon Musk and the state of California.

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Let's put this in the right framing, guys. So Alameda County is saying that Tesla can resume its operations next week, which had already started this week.

Yes, it's a bit confusing but what we should point out is, despite this fiery rhetoric coming from Elon Musk, where he all but dared officials to essentially arrest him on the factory floor, there have been discussions going on behind the scenes between Tesla representatives and Alameda County health officials, and they apparently came to an agreement last night where Tesla can resume its operations.

And this is part of the statement. And it says, "We will be working with the Fremont Police Department to verify Tesla is adhering to physical distancing and that agreed upon health and safety measures are in place for the safety of their workers as they prepare for full production."

So it looks like this is going to be all blown over next week, but this has been quite an extraordinary story. Here, you have one of the great innovators of our time in Elon Musk, a company that has a cultlike following -- we're talking about Tesla and its cars -- and here, he has publicly downplayed the threat of this virus.

He has called the stay-at-home orders unconstitutional, he has said that the order is fascist. And then you have Tesla employees. What do they think about this? Well, we know that at least one of them told the "Mercury News" that he and his colleagues, they didn't feel comfortable coming back to work but they felt compelled to do so.

The bottom line here is you do have 10,000 people at this operation. Elon Musk says it is safe to come back to work, and now Alameda County is saying it's safe as long as we verify for you to come back to work -- Poppy, Jim.

HARLOW: Dan, and the story becomes even more complex by other states sort of trying to woo Musk to bring Tesla there, right? Texas, Colorado?

SIMON: That's right. These states are saying, we would love to have you in our state. You know, Texas, Greg Abbott said he had some discussions with Elon Musk; same applies with the governor of Colorado, tweeting, Hey, we'd love to have you move to Colorado.


Whether or not this is real remains to be seen. Obviously, moving an entire factory to a different state and -- and firing things up, that would take many years to accomplish. But obviously, these governors are trying to woo Tesla.

HARLOW: They are indeed. Thanks, Dan, for the reporting.

Coming up, new models suggest an increase in deaths as states move to reopen. How could that affect schools in the fall? Stay with us.