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Trump: "Vaccine or No Vaccine, We're Back"; 48 States Partially Reopened or Easing Restrictions by this Weekend; Protesters Demand Michigan Governor Speed Up Reopening; White House Defends Scrapping Of Obama Pandemic Playbook; U.S. Coronavirus Death Toll Surpasses 87,000; WH: Trump "Streamlined" The National Security Council; China Softens Tone Toward U.S. After Weeks Of Growing Tension; CNN: DOJ Officials Were At Odds Before Deciding To Drop Flynn Case; Tracking The Pandemic's Impact On Communities Of Color; CDC Director Forecasts 100,000 U.S. Coronavirus Deaths By June 1. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired May 15, 2020 - 17:00   ET

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


[17:00:15]

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: And welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We're following breaking news. The coronavirus death toll in the United States has now surpassed 86,000 and confirmed cases are nearing 1.5 million.

Meanwhile, President Trump is touting his administration's "operation warp speed" effort, raising hopes that a fully approved vaccine could be available to the public by end of the year. That would be much sooner than the 12 to 18-month timeline cited by so many experts. But the president is pushing ahead with efforts to reopen the economy, no matter what. Proclaiming, I'm quoting him now, "Vaccine or no vaccine, we're back."

Nearly every state in the U.S. Has loosened at least some restrictions as the overall rate of new cases and new deaths declines across much of the country.

Let's begin our coverage this hour with our chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta. Jim, the president is raising serious hopes now that the search for a coronavirus vaccine could pay off by the end of the year.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. And President Trump sent some conflicting signals today on the development of a coronavirus vaccine as the president and other top administration officials were touting what they're calling a warp speed effort to have a vaccine ready by the end of the year. Mr. Trump also said he wants to reopen the country with or without one. At one point, the president told reporters he doesn't see a reopening as dependent on a vaccine.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) ACOSTA (voice-over): As President Trump introduced the two men who will lead the government's race for a coronavirus vaccine, he made one thing clear. He's ready to reopen the country even without a medical breakthrough.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I just want to make something clear. It's very important. Vaccine or no vaccine, we're back. And we're starting the process.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Still, one of the two leaders of what's being called "operation warp speed," Moncef Slaoui, said he's optimistic the U.S. could have hundreds of millions of doses of the vaccine ready by the end of the year.

MONCEF SLAOUI, CHIEF ADVISER, "OPERATION WARP SPEED" VACCINE EFFORT: I have very recently seen early data from a clinical trial with a coronavirus vaccine. And these data made me feel even more confident that we will be able to deliver a few hundred million doses of vaccine by the end of 2020. And we will do the best we can.

ACOSTA (voice-over): That's an ambitious timeline. And many health experts aren't so sure it's achievable. Coronavirus Task Force, Dr. Anthony Fauci, is hopeful the government can meet that goal but cautions Americans should be realistic.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: There's no guarantee that the vaccine is actually going to be effective. You can have everything you think that's in place, and you don't induce the kind of immune response that turns out to be protective and durably protective.

Given the way the body responds to viruses at this type, I'm cautiously optimistic that we will, with one of the candidates get an efficacy signal.

ACOSTA (voice-over): At his own Rose Garden event, Mr. Trump appeared at times to downplay the importance of a vaccine.

TRUMP: Other things have never had a vaccine and they go away. So, I don't want people to think that this is all dependent on vaccine. But a vaccine would be a tremendous thing.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The president also speculated that many Americans may already be immune to the virus even though the scientific community isn't certain of that.

TRUMP: The vast majority - many people don't even know they have it. They have it or they have sniffles or they have a very minor sign. And they recover -- not only recover, they probably have immunity, whether it's short term or long term, but they have, probably, immunity.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Mr. Trump's comments came one day after he questioned the helpfulness of testing.

TRUMP: It could be that testing is, frankly, overrated, maybe it is overrated. When you test, you have a case. When you test, you find something is wrong. With people, if we didn't do any testing, we would have very few cases. They don't want to write that. It's common sense.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The president returned to his argument that schools should reopen in the fall but without older teachers. Mr. Trump didn't sound concerned students could bring the virus home to their families.

TRUMP: I don't think that you should have, 70-year-old teachers back, yet. They should wait until everything is gone. I don't think you should have a professor that's 65 and has diabetes or has a bad heart, back, necessarily, or somebody that's older than that. But, we want to see our schools back. We want to see our country start to work again.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Fauci warned earlier this week that is risky.

FAUCI: I think we've got to be careful if we are not cavalier in thinking that children are completely immune to the deleterious effects.

ACOSTA (voice-over): As for a vaccine, the president said he would be willing to accept one from China. Even as he's been warning of halting trade talks with Beijing.

[17:05:03]

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What happens if it's China? Will the U.S. still have access to that vaccine?

TRUMP: I would say the answer to that would be yes.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The president was touting other potential advances like a new high-speed missile for Mr. Trump's pet project, "The Space Force."

TRUMP: I call it the "super-duper missile." The space is going to be - it's going to be the future. We're now the leader in space.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: Now, in case people were wondering what all of that noise was during the news conference, those were truckers in Washington, honking their horns and protesting that their industry, and there's some video right there, is being hammered during the pandemic. The president said the truckers were demonstrating in some kind of show of support for him.

That's not true, though. The truckers were protesting on behalf of their industry. And as for Vice President Mike Pence, he was notably absent earlier today. Officials say he is steering clear some of the White House events that were taking place today out of an abundance of caution, but he is healthy. We're told by White House officials and he'll be more visible next week. Wolf?

BLITZER: It's because his Press Secretary Katie Miller did a confirmation, she does have coronavirus. So, out of an abundance precaution, as you say, he's staying away from the president at least publicly. All right, Jim Acosta, thank you very much. Let's get an update from CNN's Erica Hill. She's joining us from New York right now with all the late breaking developments. Erica, the reopening movement is certainly gaining steam across the country.

ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT; That it is, in fact, just a few moments ago restrictions were lifted in Maryland. That happened at 5:00 tonight. It's just one of the states we're seeing reopen. By the end of the weekend, Wolf, 48 states will be partially reopened. Although what this looks like really depends once again on where you are.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HILL (voice-over): A nationwide experiment shifting into high gear.

JEAN-FRANCOIS FLECHET, OWNER, TASTE OF BELGIUM: The one thing that we know is that tomorrow will be different than today. That's the only certainty we have.

HILL (voice-over): Restaurants in Ohio and Virginia can now offer table service outside. Florida's hardest-hit counties, Miami-Dade and Broward will begin seating customers on Monday. In Maryland, barbershops, salons, and churches can reopen at half capacity. Casinos are back in Louisiana as stores large and small adapt.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am excited. But it's -- you know, like I said, it's just nerve-wracking.

HILL (voice-over): Consumer spending, the lifeblood of the American economy, has taken a massive hit. Retail sales plunging more than 16 percent in April. The largest drop in nearly 30 years.

NICOLE FORD, PITTSBURGH BUSINESS OWNER: I'm sinking. The calvary never showed up as promised. It's either open or close my doors for good.

HILL (voice-over): The number of new cases is trending lower. In 28 states, including Colorado, Georgia, and Oklahoma, which started lifting restrictions weeks ago. New cases each day in Texas, however, are 20 to 30 percent higher than they were when stay-at-home orders were relaxed on May 1st. So, what do those numbers tell us about the impact of reopening?

DR. JENNIFER LEE, EMERGENCY MEDICINE ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY: These numbers that we're looking at are not real time. What we're seeing is actually a reflection of what's probably the virus was doing a week or two weeks ago.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Open your business now!

HILL (voice-over): Protests continue in Michigan where the stay-at- home order was extended through May 28th.

GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D-MI): When people are showing up with guns, when people are showing up with things like, you know, confederate flags, it tells you that this really isn't about the lockdown or about a perception of a stay-at-home order. It's really an organized political statement.

HILL (voice-over): Resistance is also brewing in North Carolina, where some restrictions were lifted last week, though not for large gatherings, including religious services.

SHERIFF STEVE BIZZELL, JONSTON COUNTY, NORTH CAROLINA: How long is this going to last? They didn't build sanctuaries to sit in their cars in the parking lot and look at.

HILL (voice-over): Several regions in New York state moving into phase I of reopening on Friday. Still, the stay-at-home order extended for the most populated areas including New York City until May 28th. Though there is some relief in sight. Governor Andrew Cuomo announcing a multistate plan to reopen beaches in time for Memorial Day.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): What one state does will affect other states. That is probably nowhere more clear than when it comes to opening beaches. One state doesn't open beaches, another state does open beaches, you will see people flood to that state.

HILL (voice-over): New jersey, Connecticut, and Delaware all part of that effort, as Americans across the country prepare for summer.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HILL: And as folks here in New York City are preparing for summer, it's important to point out, Mayor Bill de Blasio said this is really a day to day operation as they're looking at things. New York City beaches not expected to be open by Memorial Day. The mayor saying this summer is going to look very different. Also said it's supposed to be a beautiful weekend, and it's a beautiful day here in New York City. They will be limiting capacity at some of the city's parks.

[17:10:02]

And also moving forward, he said they're buying 74,000 air conditioners for low income seniors in the city. There is a real concern about what could be to come this summer, especially if they can't do cooling centers and people can't get out as they would normally.

BLITZER: It's a beautiful day here in Washington, D.C., Erica, as well, about 85 degrees and sunny. Erica, thank you very much.

Let's continue the discussion with the mayor of Baltimore, Maryland, Jack Young. Mayor Young, thank you so much for joining us. Maryland's stay-at-home order was lifted just a few minutes ago. We're at the top of the hour. But you've extended the city of Baltimore stay-at-home order. Tell us why you decided your city is not yet ready to join much of the state of Maryland in beginning to reopen.

MAYOR JACK YOUNG (D-MD), BALTIMORE: Well, Wolf, the reason why is because we haven't seen a decrease in the number of cases that we've seen here in Baltimore. We had over 3,600 cases, almost 400 hospitalizations and Baltimore, and 183 deaths. And, you know, we just don't feel that we're ready to open right now. And I'm going by what our health professionals are telling us. Leading institutions like Johns Hopkins are saying that we're not ready to open at this time. I would love to open up because I know businesses are suffering, restaurants are suffering. But my responsibility is to protect the life and safety of the citizens of Baltimore and that's what I intend to do.

BLITZER: Yes. These are life and death decisions you've got to make. Marylanders in other parts of the state, they can now return to stores, hair salons, other nonessential businesses. Do you fear, Mayor, that your residents of Baltimore will simply travel to other counties, take a quick drive elsewhere with fewer restrictions, that kind of partial reopening, put your residents potentially at greater risk?

YOUNG: I think so, but I'm hoping that our citizens will heed to my executive order and only travel for essential businesses that they have to take care of right here in the city of Baltimore. Because like you said, those other cities and other states are opening, and if they can go, I know they'll get in their cars and go. There's a possibility of them doing that and come back and spreading, you know, whatever stuff that they have to their family members and friends, and I'm very afraid of that.

BLITZER: Yes. I'm sure you are. The president said today, you probably saw his remarks, he said that health officials -- he said vaccine or no vaccine, I'm quoting him now, "we're back." Health officials continue to point to the need for a vaccine to truly stop the pandemic. Can you safely reopen your city completely without a vaccine?

YOUNG: Well, I think we can reopen our city with testing. If we can get the testing kits that we need, so we can get a handle on whether we have the majority of our population with signs of COVID-19 or whether there's a decrease in COVID-19. No one wants to keep their city locked down. All of us want to be able to go out safely and enjoy ourselves and go to restaurants and go to the movies and those kinds of things. And I'm quite sure we'll get there one day, but right now is not the time.

BLITZER: You've suggested, Mayor, the communities of color are being a hardest hit by the coronavirus at your city of Baltimore, about 63 percent we checked, of the residents of Baltimore are African American. What steps are you taking to protect those who are at greater risk right now for this virus?

YOUNG: What we're doing is we're setting up testing centers in these areas where there's the highest concentration of COVID-19. We just stood up some mobile operations that will travel to communities and they don't have to have a doctor's orders or any of that. And they're being tested. And we're looking at setting up even more around the city of Baltimore. But we have to get those test kits. Our state of Maryland needs to make sure that they provide these testing kits to all of the local governments in the state of Maryland so that we can get our people tested.

BLITZER: I know you're relying on data to determine the timeline for reopening Baltimore. What do you need to see specifically before you'll begin to relax these stay-at-home restrictions?

YOUNG: I would need to say data that suggests that we're on a downward trend. Right now, we're on an upward trend - upward trend. We have 3,600, you know, cases. We have almost 400 people hospitalized. And 183 deaths. My job is to protect, like I said earlier, the life and welfare of the citizens of Baltimore and I'm following the guidelines that are being established by our health professionals and our scientists who know what to do in these cases.

BLITZER: And you've got Johns Hopkins University, the medical school, the experts are right there in Baltimore. I'm sure you're relying on their expertise as well. Mayor Jack Young, thank you so much for joining us.

[17:15:06]

YOUNG: Thank you too, I really appreciate coming on.

BLITZER: Thank you. Good luck.

Up next, we're going to ask our experts about the Trump administration's claim that a coronavirus vaccine will be widely available by the end of this year.

And with just about every state now reopening in various ways, why are coronavirus cases actually dropping in so many of them? We'll be right back

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: At the White House today, President Trump claimed a fully approved coronavirus vaccine will be available to the public by the end of this year. Let's discuss the medical realities of this with our chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Also joining us, Dr. Leana Wen, the former city health commissioner of Baltimore.

[17:20:09]

Sanjay, the president seemed to downplay the need for a vaccine at one point today, declaring, and I'm quoting him now, "Vaccine or no vaccine, we're back."

How critical is a vaccine to our nation's recovy?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think it's pretty critical. I mean, there's no guarantee, Wolf, that we're going to have one. I mean, everybody wants one, everyone on the planet is hoping that these vaccine trials bear fruit. But, you know, it's a critical part of this. The virus itself is still there, Wolf. I mean, it's still a contagious virus, it's still in the communities. I think, you know, for the most part, the United States for a while has done a really good job of you know staying at home and decreasing the amount of spread of this virus and it's made an impact. But it's really going to be the vaccine ultimately, Wolf, that allows us, I think, to -- I don't know that we're ever going to have a complete normalcy again but it's going to allow us to get back to as close to normalcy as possible.

BLITZER: You know, Dr. Wen, the new vaccine chief announced today said a few hundred million doses of the vaccine could actually be available by the end of this year. Is that realistic, that timeline?

DR. LEANA WEN, FORMER BALTIMORE CITY HEALTH COMMISSIONER: I mean, I would love that to be true. I think that's what we all hope for more than anything else. But I'm really struggling to see how this will happen. It's already going to be extraordinary if we can get the vaccine, if we can develop this vaccine in time. It will already be record-breaking to develop a vaccine by the end of the year. And then we're talking about manufacturing hundreds of millions of doses of this medication, and then administering it, which I think is - you know, it's not like manufacturing a machine.

We still have to actually get this vaccine to people. We have to have the vials, the syringes, we have to have the staff. And I just really worry, looking at the efforts thus far by the federal government, we still don't have widespread testing. There is still no widespread testing in sight. How are we going to get it together in time to have this national effort, massive effort that's going to be required to vaccinate hundreds of millions of people?

BLITZER: And you have to convince the American public that it's safe. There are no side effects that don't worry, if you take it, it will help you. There will be a lot of nervous people out there as well when it comes to a new vaccine. Sanjay, the president says the federal government is working with the pharmaceutical companies to manufacture multiple vaccines before they're even approved. Explain the thinking behind this strategy.

GUPTA: Yes, I've had some conversations with people who are working on these vaccines. And the basic idea is this, that typically you know you would wait for a vaccine to go through all phases of these clinical trial and prove that it is safe and effective, and at that point to start doing the mass production of the vaccine.

Here, within phase II, even, what I'm hearing is they're going to be looking for what is called efficacy signals. And this is not proof that it's going to work in larger populations, but it's a signal that it has some effectiveness. And based on whether there's enough of these efficacy signals, what the country may start doing is saying, OK, we're going to go ahead and take a gamble. We're going to bet on this one. And we're going to start manufacturing it and producing it and getting it ready for distribution before we've proven more convincingly that it's going to work in larger populations of people.

So, it's a risk, Wolf, but it's the kind of risk, I guess, that may be justified by the situation that we're in. There may be a few vaccine candidates that are looking promising, again, not definitive, but promising enough where they start to accelerate the process ahead of time, Wolf.

BLITZER: Very interesting. Dr. Wen, when asked today about concerns that the Abbott lab's rapid coronavirus test used by the White House produces potentially inaccurate results, false negatives, for example, the president said it's a great test that can be very rapidly double- checked. Those were his words. Can a test simply be double-checked? Is that how medical testing is supposed to work?

WEN: Well, I think that the president means there is another test that you default to. So, if this one test ends up having a particular result, there's another test that can be done to double-check it. But I think that the whole issue of testing at the White House, I'm glad that the president is still talking about it, because I think it's something that the American people should really model. What the White House has, this daily test for staff members, I think that's what the American people are also asking for. This type of reassurance. Ideally, we have as reliable of a test as possible.

Certainly, we don't want to have false negatives, we don't want to falsely reassure people that they're negative when they're not. We want a rapid test that's point of care so you find out those results within minutes, and it's widely available, ideally people can get tested as they go to school, as they go to work. If that's what the White House needs in order for the president to feel safe, then I think that's what the American people are saying that we need in order to feel safe returning to school and to work too.

[17:25:07]

BLITZER: Because as you pointed out, Sanjay, and others have pointed out, 15 percent of those who get this rapid test get what's called that false negative, they're told you're fine, go ahead, you go home, and you spend the next several days potentially giving this rapid test get what's called that false negative, they're told you're fine, go ahead, you go home, and you spend the next several days potentially giving this virus to other people, you may be asymptomatic in the process. That's a serious problem.

GUPTA: Yes, that's exactly the problem, Wolf. And I should point out that the FDA put out an alert about this Abbott I.D. now test as well, saying that you know practitioners need to be aware that it's been giving, as Leana said, these false negatives, 15 percent in one study, 25 percent in another study, and then a third study that came out of NYU this week showed that the false negative rate was up to 48 percent. So, you think about that, that's really no better than flipping a coin. Abbott says they want to look at that study and see if maybe something was done incorrectly with the testing. But those are not good numbers. That's the point. People are going to think that they're not carrying the virus and they are.

BLITZER: That's really potentially very, very dangerous as well. Sanjay, we'll have you back. Thank you so much, Dr. Wen, as always, we appreciate your expertise.

An important note, tomorrow night CNN honors the graduates of 2020 with a two-hour event that begins at 7:00 Eastern, "The Class of 2020: in this Together," featuring former President Bill Clinton, Gal Gadot and others. Then at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, join LeBron James and former President Obama for "Graduate Together." Again, the two-hour celebration starts tomorrow night, 7:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN. I'll anchor a special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM immediately thereafter at 9:00 p.m. We'll join you then as well.

Coming up, why did the Trump administration disregard the pandemic response plan left by the Obama administration? And President Trump says, vaccine or no vaccine, the United States is back. Is it really?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:32:02]

BLITZER: The Trump White House today downplayed a decision to scrap a pandemic response plan left by the Obama administration. Listen to what the press secretary Kayleigh McEnany told reporters.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Some have erroneously suggested that the Trump administration throughout the pandemic response playbook left by the Obama-Biden administration. What the critics fail to note, however, is that this thin packet of paper was replaced by too detailed robust pandemic response reports commissioned by the Trump administration. So we exchanged this one which I will hand over to my assistant Wendy for these two pandemic response plans.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: All right. Joining us now in "The Situation Room", our chief political analyst Gloria Borger, and Dr. Luciana Borio, the former director of the National Security Council's Medical and Biodefense Preparedness.

Dr. Borio, you worked at the FDA during the Obama administration, but then you worked on medical preparedness on President Trump's national security consul unit that was disbanded. What's your response to the statement? We just heard from the White House press secretary.

LUCIANA BORIO, FORMER DIRECTOR, NSC MEDICAL BIODEFENSE PREPAREDNESS: Sure Wolf. So, you know, there was a pandemic playbook -- there is a pandemic playbook that was left behind. And I think it's important to realize, though, that this pandemic is the biggest public health crisis we've had in a century. And it's much bigger than any playbook. OK, much bigger. And I don't know that it's fair to say that had a playbook been followed, that we'd be in a very different situation today than we are now. I don't think a playbook was a solution here.

And, you know, on the other hand, it's important to realize that we have about a third of the global cases of COVID-19 are here in the United States, and we have to really have a lot of work going forward to be able to change this trajectory. There are plans continued and I think she's right that there are -- there's a national defense strategy that was developed, there's an influenza vaccines executive order to modernize our domestic manufacturing of influenza vaccines. So work on by a defense continued.

BLITZER: And you were warning of this potential disaster when you were on the NSC, right? BORIO: That's right. This work was supported and I was warning and we convened the interagency our work admittedly was a lot more focused on influenza because there was an epidemic of avian flu in eastern China when I was there, and that was, you know, very concerning for us and for the CDC and for others. So a lot of the work that was effectuated was around pandemic influenza.

BLITZER: You know, Gloria doesn't work to blame the Obama administration, when what the Trump administration is more than three years in the White House right now.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Of course, it doesn't Wolf, but you know, this president likes to have enemies that he can blame things on. You know, sometimes when you make mistakes, they're actually your own mistakes, but I think questions need to be asked about why, for example, the White House disbanded the global health security team. What happened during that last month of February, for example? Why was the White House consistently downplaying the virus? Why was the President of the United States consistently saying China was doing a great job? And there was a lot of transparency now, there?

[17:35:21]

Now, you know, China's the great enemy. He's chosen a new one in addition to Obama. But what happened during the early in January and in February, when the President was saying things were great. China was doing a terrific job. I think those questions really need to be asked. I mean, blaming the Obama administration three years into your own administration is ridiculous.

BLITZER: Let me get Dr. Boria to weigh in Kayleigh McEnany, the Press Secretary also said that President Trump in her words, streamline the National Security Council and did away with what she called a confusing organizational chart. Did that change make the administration more or less prepared to handle this current crisis?

BORIO: Look, Wolf, I think it'd be a time to look back at those decisions. And when I was there, the work was very supported by the National Security Adviser that I reported to Ambassador Bolton. It was a supportive work, there was an Ebola epidemic in the DRC. We are working very actively to help contain it. So there was a lot of work around by defense, I don't want people to think that there was, you know, that this was completely neglected, at least when I was there.

Now, I think right now, it's time for us to look forward. The pandemic is still in the background, the pandemic is still in our communities. We cannot -- as we reopen, we have to be really careful not to lose all the progress that we made in the last few weeks to bring it down turn in the number of cases. I was really happy to see a very serious effort put forward today to accelerate vaccine development. I think it's highly ambitious. It's very ambitious, but it's -- want us to be ambitious about this, we'll need a vaccine to be able to restore our health and economic security. So I think there'll be a time to go and ask those questions about what happened in the reorganization. But right now we need to come together and actually develop this vaccine so that Americans can resume their lives. BLITZER: And the whole world if the vaccine could do that, as well. You're right. You know, Gloria, we're approaching what 90,000 deaths here in the United States from the coronavirus. Does the President's rhetoric what we heard, for example, for him today, his message that was delivered to the Rose Garden, does it match that reality?

BORGER: Well, look, I agree that moving towards a vaccine at warp speed as the White House calls it, is a good idea and a great thing to do. But this is a president, as you know, Wolf doesn't have a great deal of empathy. It doesn't come naturally to him. So he doesn't like to talk about the number of deaths and the growing death toll. In fact, he said today one death is one death too many. And of course, we all agree with that. But then he turns the page very quickly and says this never should have happened and blames it all on China.

And, of course, then continues to make this a political issue by saying that the states who are holding back on opening up as quickly as he would like, are doing it for political reasons. And he has called it a matter of freedom, for example. And I think, you know, putting the politics into this right now, is not a good idea. He's doing it for political reasons, but these governors are doing -- are going more slowly because they're trying to save lives.

BLITZER: Gloria Borger and Dr. Luciana Borio, thank you to both of you for joining us good conversation.

And to our viewers stay with us. We have much more ahead on today's surprise claim that the U.S. will have millions of doses of a coronavirus vaccine ready to go by the end of this year.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:43:27]

BLITZER: In coronavirus headlines from around the world today a surprising new tone from China. CNN's Ivan Watson is watching developments from Hong Kong. Ivan, what's happening?

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, the Chinese Foreign Ministry struck a surprisingly moderate tone on Friday after weeks of rancor between Washington and Beijing over each government's handling of the coronavirus pandemic. The Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson was stressing the need for stable relations, bilateral relations between the U.S. and China. But there are still very much voices hardliners within the Chinese establishment that do not hesitate to bash the U.S. And the Global Times newspaper, which is pretty much can be relied upon to do this. It's raised the scenario of listing American companies as, quote, unreliable entities and suggested the possibility of decoupling between the U.S. and China, the world's two largest economies. Wolf.

BLITZER: Ivan Watson, thank you.

There's a breaking news, we're getting -- ready to get back to the coronavirus pandemic in just a little bit. But, there's another story that's just coming in to "The Situation Room". We're learning more about a deep split that developed within the U.S. Justice Department just before the decision to ask a federal judge to drop the case against President Trump's former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn.

I want to bring in our senior justice correspondent Evan Perez. Evan, what are you learning?

[17:45:01]

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we noticed that the two of the prosecutors who were doing the Michael Flynn case were prosecuting the Michael Flynn case. We're not on -- did not sign their names to the document that was calling for the dismissal of these charges. And now we know a lot of what was going on behind the scenes, a lot of the infighting that was happening behind the scenes between the Justice Department among the prosecutors and the Justice Department over exactly how to do this. And one of the issues that emerged was whether or not the department should defend the work of these prosecutors saying essentially that they did nothing wrong that these documents that the Justice Department was producing to Michael Flynn's attorneys did not necessarily have to be turned over, there was a big disagreement behind the scenes over that.

We are told Wolf that as they were drafting these documents, there was this language in there that said that there had been no misconduct by the prosecutors. It was removed before it was filed and that has left open the question among the lawyers as to whether or not the Justice Department is essentially saying that they might be disciplined in the future over how to over the way they handled this case. And this is a big deal, Wolf simply because we know that the President and his allies have been attacking these prosecutors have been attacking the work that was done here.

You know, that the Attorney General and this brief that they that they filed in court to dismiss the charges says that they should have turned over this information, but they never explicitly say that they wrongly withheld it.

BLITZER: Very interesting. Indeed. Ivan, thank you very much. I'm impressed with the latest on that front.

Coming up, CNN's Don Lemon he's standing by. They'll join me live,we'll discuss the impact of the pandemic on communities of color here in the United States. And a special program on the subject "The Color of COVID" that airs later tonight. We'll be right back.

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[17:51:42]

BLITZER: The coronavirus pandemic is taking a truly brutal toll on communities of color all across the United States. CNN's Don Lemon is joining us right now to talk about a special program that will air later tonight on CNN "The Color of COVID".

Don, I'm so happy you're doing this. This is the second color of COVID special, you and Van Jones have done. Explain why you felt it was so important to do another special?

DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Well, first, I have to say, I am very proud of this network Wolf for meeting the moment when there was a study that came out recently that said that almost 60 percent of the deaths from COVID-19 or coronavirus, was from African-Americans. And I presented it to our bosses. And we looked at it and we said that something had to be done about it, we needed to get the message out, because we did the first color of COVID. And that study had not come out or those studies had not come out showing those numbers.

And so this network is meeting the moment by doing another special on it and trying to present to people what needs to be done. And the very simple fact that if it was any population or any demographic for to have something like this a pandemic or any illness that was killing people who -- was people who were 13 to 14 percent of the population and having 60 percent of the deaths. It is just unfathomable and unbelievable. So we're trying to present to people what to do and why this is going on to -- it's going to be tonight at 10:00. Van Jones and I are going to do it.

BLITZER: Yes. It's really, really important. The first one was excellent. Who will you be talking to tonight? What kinds of solutions? Will you be addressing?

LEMON: The former Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin is going to be on with this as well as she's going to obviously talk about the medical aspect of this, why this is happening and offering up solutions. I don't know, Wolf, if there is -- I'm not a doctor, not a medical person. I'll leave that up to the doctor types like Dr. Benjamin and Dr. Sanjay Gupta, who does an excellent job every day on this network as well as his town halls with Anderson Cooper. I don't know if there is a biological reason. I don't know if it's reasons because of, you know, the -- what happens in our society, because of inequities in our society, underlying conditions and all that I'm going to leave that to Dr. Benjamin to explain and also the spiritual aspect of it and how to get it over across in the communities.

We're going to have Reverend T.D. Jakes on as well. As well as Robert Smith on this, CEO Robert Smith, you may remember him remember him at Morehouse when he offered the class to pay their pay off their student loans. He's going to be on to talk to us about how we deal with all of these issues and all of these disparities in our society and how to help heal this and make it better for everyone.

BLITZER: Well, the reaction to the first, your first special was amazing was really terrific. We're looking forward to this one later tonight.

Don, thanks so much. Thanks for doing it as well --

LEMON: Thanks Wolf.

BLITZER: -- and thanks Van, as well.

An important note to our viewers stay with CNN for "The Color of COVID", once again hosted by Don Lemon and Van Jones it will air later tonight at 10:00 p.m. Eastern.

Coming up, a very sobering new death toll forecast from the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Stay with us, your in "The Situation Room".

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[17:59:29]

BLITZER: We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in "The Situation Room".

We're following breaking news on a new forecast for coronavirus deaths here in the United States. The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has just revealed that new models now estimate that a total of 100,000 Americans will die from coronavirus over the next two weeks, another hundred thousand in total by June 1st. Right now the death toll in the United States is above 87,000. So, he's now saying another 13,000 will die over the next two weeks. That's the latest model that the CDC is projecting.