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Trump Announces Ambitious Plan To Develop Vaccine By The End Of The Year; Pence To Take First Trip Since His Press Secretary's Positive Test; Tensions Rise Between The White House And CDC; Mexico Reports 2,400-Plus New Cases For Second Straight Day; Protesters Arrested At Anti-Lockdown Demonstration In London As U.K. Lowers Coronavirus Threat Level; Trump Fires State Department Inspector General Steve Linick. Aired 1-2p ET

Aired May 16, 2020 - 13:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:00:20]

FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello again, everyone. Thank you so much for joining me. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. We begin with the massive efforts underway to get the U.S. economy back on track. In less than 48 hours nearly every state in the country will be easing restrictions or be partially reopen for business. Take a look at this map. You can see 41 states have seen the number of new cases hold steady or fall over the last week.

But the nine states that are labeled in orange or red are seeing a rise in new cases. All of this comes as President Trump launches operation warp speed promising that millions of doses of vaccine will be available by the end of this year. But adding the U.S. economy is open with or without a vaccine.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

WHITFIELD: There are serious doubts about how realistic that timetable actually is, with many health experts saying it will take at least 12 to 18 months to actually have a viable vaccine ready. CNN Kristen Holmes begins our coverage from the White House. So Kristen, how will this plan for vaccines actually get done?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that is the question that all of these Health and Science experts are asking. I do want to note that even that 12 to 18-month timeline that was an expedited timeline, so having it done by the end of the year is even more so on that effect. And again, these health experts they warn that they need to be cautious, particularly with a virus, light coronavirus. We're still learning the effects it has on the human body.

However, President Trump says this is how he is going to ramp up that production. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Typically, pharmaceutical companies wait to manufacture a vaccine until it is received all of the regulatory approvals necessary. And this can delay vaccines availability to the public as much as a year and even more than that. However, our task is so urgent that under operation warp speed, the Federal government will invest in manufacturing, all of the top vaccine candidates before they're approved. So we're knowing exactly what we're doing before they're approved.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: So two things to note here. One is that manufacturing is incredibly important. We know that the administration has already signed contracts for syringes and needles, things that are needed for that vaccine. But it's not just the manufacturing.

It is also the science and the testing, and that is what those experts say will take a long time. And just to point out something Dr. Fauci said earlier this week when he was testifying, he said that the 12 to 18-month, it was possible that they'd have a vaccine, but there was no guarantee that it would work.

And this raised a lot of red flags within this health science community who's already concerned about an anti-vaccination movement. They don't want Americans to lose faith in vaccines.

WHITFIELD: And Kristen, let's talk about the Vice President. He's said to take his first trip since his press secretary tested positive for coronavirus. What are you learning about that trip?

HOLMES: Well, that's right. So Vice President Mike Pence has really been out of the limelight. We know he had stayed away from the President since his aide, vice -- his press secretary tested positive for coronavirus.

This is the first time he'll be traveling. He's going to Orlando, Florida to meet with the Florida Governor Ron DeSantis to talk about the reopening of that economy and that state but it'll be interesting to see what exactly his travel looks like. Will he still travel with the same amount of staffers? Will he wear a mask?

Will he board in the plane in the mask? We're going to be watching this very carefully because things have changed and shifted since his press secretary did test positive.

WHITFIELD: Uh-hmm. And then, you know, what's at the root of this reported tension between the White House and the CDC?

HOLMES: Well, we're looking at two sides that seem to equally distrust each other which is incredibly dangerous or at least seemingly, so at a time in which the country is trying to fight this pandemic, essentially, Dr. Burks, who is on the task force, very close to President Trump has expressed her distrust for the CDC. And it comes down to one thing in particular, which is this antiquated data collection process that the CDC is still using.

She says that it's dangerous to be using this getting the data almost days up two weeks later after its input because of their technology at a time when we're reopening the country. On the other side, you have CDC officials who have grown weary of the White House and Dr. Birx in particular. They say that they're disappointed in the fact that she hasn't pushed back more on President Trump on things that he has said that are not true about the virus.

[13:05:08]

HOLMES: Again though, this is a time where we'd like to see the White House working in tandem with the nation's top health agencies not fighting or having tension. Fred?

WHITFIELD: All right. Kristen Holmes, thank you so much at the White House. All right. In New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo says several beaches and upstate communities will be open for Memorial Day weekend. He also announced that horse racing tracks will reopen without fans starting on June 1st and that elective surgeries can now resume in certain counties. CNN Polo Sandoval joining me now. So Polo, the governor made it clear that even as New York reopens residents must still be vigilant.

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Fred, those two are among the key points that we took away from Governor Cuomo's latest press conference took place just today but one of them that really stood out is the question of what can we expect as more New York regions begin to shift into phase one of reopening. Remember, only about a fifth of the state at this point is beginning to reopen non-essential businesses.

We're in one of those in upstate New York right now. But of course, New York City remains largely closed at the moment here. The governor saying that ultimately, we are likely going to see an increase in the numbers as we begin to see more and more New York communities begin to open but the key will be people's actions and whether or not it's an increase or it's an actual spike which is something that the governor and of course health officials do not want to see because it would overwhelm some of the hospitals as we saw here the last several months.

Secondly, is this persistent infection rate of about 400 people a day. The governor initially said that one of his theories was that it could be possibly essential workers that are getting sick as they leave their homes to perform their duties. But now it seems that it's something else according to health officials. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): I want to know where are those new cases coming from? I had a theory which turns out to be wrong. Like many of my theories, I thought it might be predominantly essential workers who were still out there working, showing up. And that's where the new cases may have come from. That was exactly wrong. The infection rate among the essential workers is lower than the general population. And those new cases are coming predominantly from people who are not working and they are at home.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SANDOVAL: Not working and staying at home, which now begs the question of how exactly are they -- are they getting sick. Governor Cuomo saying, it's likely people who are leaving their homes to run those necessary errands, to pick up groceries they possibly become infected and then return home. So that's something that they're certainly looking into. And then finally, two things that you touched on briefly. Yes, there are two additional counties in New York State where patients will not be eligible for some of those elective surgeries.

And finally, of course, horse racing. It is an industry that the Governor feels that at least it can get back to normal, at least as normal as possible. Do not expect the stands to be crowded. This would be fanless, without crowds, simply televised races, it would be a way for that portion of the economy to slowly get back up and running.

WHITFIELD: All right. Polo Sandoval, thank you so much. All right. New Jersey is also hoping to reopen beaches for Memorial Day. And the state is doing a dry run today to see if that's at all feasible. CNN Evan McMorris-Santoro is Ocean City, New Jersey and one of those beaches in the middle of its dry run and so far, it looks like a hit. You've got a lot of people behind you.

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Fred. What I'm standing in effectively is an experiment. All the beaches in New Jersey are scheduled to reopen on Memorial Day. But here in this town and neighboring towns, they're doing an early version.

They're opening a week early to see just what happens when you let people come back to the beach. One of the mayors of an area town said in a press conference with the governor of New Jersey last week that it's a strange situation for him because he has to -- usually what they want to do is bring everybody as many people as they can down to the beach.

But now they have to say come down to the beach and be responsible while you're here. So, you can see -- we brought a drone down here and tried to sort of illustrate what this looks like. Here where I'm standing on the main drag, there's a lot of people and people are not wearing masks, some of them are, social distancing is somewhat questionable in some cases.

But out on the beaches which are farther down from where I am, you can see from the drone footage shot about an hour and a half ago that there are -- people are on the beach but they're staying in sort of groups far apart from each other.

And that is the kind of thing that officials want to see to keep these beaches safe as they reopen them. This is a very important economic engine for New Jersey, this shoreline, these beaches. And they're really leaving it up to the people to be responsible to

see if they can keep them open and keep that economic engine driving and also just make it a nice place to hang out which of course it is on a beautiful day like today.

[13:10:02]

WHITFIELD: Oh, yes. It's a gorgeous day. But you said, you know, social distancing, masks, among the things being recommended and I look behind you, it doesn't look like a whole lot of people are wearing mask. And from this angle it's difficult to see if social distancing is being honored. Is it?

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: I would say that from what we've seen people are -- a lot of people are not wearing them, people are walking with their families. It's hard to tell and what the police are doing, what the officials are doing here is just sort of gently reminding people. It doesn't have a very juicy tone to it. It comes on the air over the P.A. system, they say, listen, please be responsible. Thank you for maintaining social distance.

You see signs coming in when you drive in to say be kind. This is one of the reasons why we're doing a dry run here in New Jersey as they're trying to figure out just what will people do when being asked to be responsible.

WHITFIELD: Uh-hmm. All right. Well, now, I am seeing a smattering of people who are wearing masks behind you. So, I guess you know, it's about 50-50 maybe. Just by my vantage point.

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Listen, I wear when I'm out on camera. I promise you, Fred.

WHITFIELD: All right. Got you. Evan McMorris-Santoro, thank you so much. Appreciate it. All right. It's a similar story in Southern California, beaches can reopen but with strict rules. CNN's Paul Vercammen is on Zuma Beach in Malibu, one of my all-time favorite features for that end of the year triathlon. So what kind of activity or lack thereof is there right now?

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN REPORTER: Well, we're seeing some of that activity. In fact, I saw some triathletes go running by and they're inside the rules when it comes to Zuma now. They want you to wear a mask, they want you to socially distance. Surfing is okay but they don't want you clustering up and trying to set up a barbecue pit. And nearby in the Santa Monica Mountains, same rule Fred.

They want you to wear a mask even on the hiking trails and some of the park rangers got together. I did a little TikTok dance to show you how to socially distance while hiking. Back here on Zuma Beach, we just saw the lifeguards give someone a warning for clustering up. This is big graduation week in Southern California. In fact, that USC this weekend, 19,000 graduates and no doubt some would come down to the beach with the cake and set up the decorations. But now it's graduation via Zoom or WebEx. Ana Gonzalez, 59 years young received her master's in social work. She watched from St. Gabriel with her family. She talked about tough times. When she first started, she hardly had enough money for gas to get to the campus and now she's telling others if you lead on financial aid and explore other options, you too can get a degree.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANA GONZALEZ, MASTERS DEGREE GRADUATE, USC SOCIAL WORK: So, I work with kids, I work with foster youth, I work with special aid and high school students. And I always want to tell them, there is somebody who's going to give you the right information. For you, it'll make your dream come true.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

VERCAMMEN: And this is what graduation looks like 2020, done from home via the web. Some formal ceremonies to come later. And then back here live at Zuma Beach, so far here in L.A. County, 10 million people, by the way, everyone is respecting the social distancing rules as this grand experiment of coming, you know, out of the middle of the extreme social distancing rules is going on here in Southern California.

WHITFIELD: All right, thank you.

VERCAMMEN: Back to you now, Fred.

WHITFIELD: Fantastic. And congrats to the Gonzales family and if only I could catch up with those triathletes and get my training back on, I need to hop on the next plane. I'll bring my mask too, Paul.

VERCAMMEN: They got a nice trail for you right here, Fred.

WHITFIELD: I see.

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: I am ready and inspired. Appreciate it. I'm there. Paul Vercammen, thank you so. All right. Still ahead. The CDC now warning doctors about serious illness showing up in children. At least 18 states are seeing this and it's related to coronavirus. We'll speak with a pediatrician about what parents need to know.

And tonight, CNN honors the graduates of 2020 with a two-hour event starting with class of 2020 in this together at 7:00. Featuring former President Bill Clinton and actress Gal Gadot, Wonder Woman.

And then at 8:00, join LeBron James and former President Barack Obama for graduate together. The celebration begins tonight, right here on CNN 7:00 p.m.

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[13:18:40]

WHITFIELD: The CDC is warning doctors to be on alert for a COVID- related illness appearing in children. It's called pediatric inflammatory syndrome and it's similar to Kawasaki disease. CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta has more.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JULIET DALY, KAWASKI-LIKE DISEASE PATIENT: My stomach start to hurt pretty bad and it felt like my legs were kind of really weak and I was pretty tired.

SEAN DALY, FATHER OF KAWASKI-LIKE DISEASE PATIENT: She start having blue lips and her extremities were cold. So that's when it was like, hmm, this is not a, you know, normal flu.

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Sean Daly is Juliet's dad.

Did you think that this might be a COVID or coronavirus?

S. DALY: My wife thought it was a possibility. She called to try to see if she could get tested. She didn't meet the criteria. You know, she was more or less a healthy 12-year-old.

GUPTA: By that evening, Juliette was nearly dead.

S. DALY: They had me leave the room to intubate her. So, they put her under anesthesia and then she went into cardiac arrest for a little less than two minutes and they have to perform CPR.

GUPTA: What was her condition when you first saw Juliette?

DR. JAKE KLEINMAHON, PEDIATRIC CARDIOLOGIST, OCHSNER HOSPITAL FOR CHILDREN: She was about as close to death as you can get.

GUPTA: Dr. Jake Kleinmahon is a pediatric cardiologist at Ochsner Hospital for Children in New Orleans.

KLEINMAHON: Her heart was barely squeezing. She was going into kidney failure. Liver failure. Intubated emergently and put on a ventilator.

[13:20:08]

GUPTA: It's hard to believe we are talking about this same beautiful little girl. But it's also hard to believe that all of this was possibly related to COVID-19. A disease that wasn't really supposed to severely effect kids. Now it even has a name. It's called multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children.

KLEINMAHON: There's a lot of cells and cell signaling in the body that is just going crazy. And what's that doing is it's creating a lot of inflammation that's affecting the heart, the liver, the kidney, and really all the cells of the body.

GUPTA: It's been described as a Kawasaki-like disease. That's another inflammatory disease most commonly diagnose in children. Awful rashes, a strawberry appearing tongue and destructive inflammation. But this is also different. There are so many questions. Like why now? Why months into this pandemic are we first seeing this? And why is it so devastating to children in the United States and Europe, but not so much in Asia, where some of the first children were infected?

DR. JANE BURNS, DIRECTOR, KAWASAKI DISEASE CLINIC AT RADY CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: We have interesting information coming in from Japan. As well as Korea and Taiwan that no one there that we have been in contact with has seen this severe form of cardiovascular collapse in children.

GUPTA: Dr. Jane Burns is director of the Kawasaki Disease Clinic at Rady Children's Hospital- San Diego.

BURNS: No one can tell you for sure that these SARS CoV-2 virus is a trigger for Kawasaki disease but there's certainly is circumstantial evidence.

KLEINMAHON: We're seeing this in kids who don't have an active COVID infection. Some of them do but a lot of them are testing positive for antibodies.

GUPTA: A study published on The Lancet on Wednesday found that the number of children diagnosed with the Kawasaki-like disease in Bergamo, Italy jumped 30-fold after the pandemic over took the region. Still in the United States as frightening as it is, for now it still appears rare. Juliette was discharged after 10 days in the hospital.

How are you feeling now? You look great.

J. DALY: Now I am feeling good. And there doesn't seem to be a long- term effects.

GUPTA: Are you back 100 percent, would you say? Back to normal.

J. DALY: I still feel a bit out of place. Kind of like 99 percent.

S. DALY: We'll take 99 percent.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: All right. Thanks so much to Dr. Sanjay Gupta and to Juliet and her family there. Let's talk more about this. Joining me right now. Dr. Edith Bracho-Sanchez, a primary care pediatrician and an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at Columbia University. Doctor, good to see you. So, New York is --

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: Great. So New York is ground zero for this pediatric, you know, inflammatory syndrome, some 100 cases. What have you been seeing in any number of these children?

DR. EDITH BRACHO-SANCHEZ, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF PEDIATRICS, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: Fredricka, anytime we see a new illness, we see the illness itself and we see fear of the illness. We've seen the few kids because remember, this is so rare who developed this condition. But we've also seen a lot of parents who are scared, understandably so, who are calling us, who are asking, could this possibly be?

And so it is -- it is a hard time, I think I want us all to take a deep breath and remember that this is so rare and just learn the signs and make sure you have a way to communicate with your pediatrician.

WHITFIELD: So, it's rare but then when you see those images, I mean that strawberry-like tongue, I mean, as a parent, I would just freak out if I -- if I saw something like that. So what do parents need to look out for because it's so much information that it's hard, you know, to discern, you know, how seriously ill is my child when I see any number of those symptoms?

BRACHO-SANCHEZ: That's exactly right. So here's the thing, these kids are sick, Fredricka. This is not something that's going to happen and parents are not going to notice. These kids have a number of days of fever. We're talking four or more days of fever.

And we're talking about that fever coming with a number of symptoms, abdominal pain, the rash, the shrubbery, tongue that you were referring to, the red eyes, the swollen lymph nodes, the swollen hands and feet.

So, if you're getting (INAUDIBLE) fever, and you're noticing some of these symptoms, or if something doesn't feel right, call your pediatrician. This is where that partnership, that ability to get in touch with your pediatrician in a timely fashion is going to be key as we learn more about this.

WHITFIELD: Uh-hmm. You mentioned it's rare, but because we know so little, you know, about this syndrome, its origin, where does it come from, et cetera. Are you so convinced that it is indeed linked to coronavirus?

[13:55:05]

BRACHO-SANCHEZ: I am. And I'll tell you why. This illness does seem to be a new illness. It is not exactly Kawasaki. It is not exactly toxic shock. It has some features of both of them. And it wasn't here before COVID-19 hits. So -- and we're also seeing an excess number of kids, right? We know to expect in children's hospitals, a certain number of kids every month they get Kawasaki disease. Where were they before this happened, right?

We're seeing an excess number now. And so I really do believe -- and these kids are also testing positive. Let's not forget about that, that these kids are testing positive. So when we keep all of this information combined, it truly does seem like this is linked to COVID- 19.

WHITFIELD: Let's talk more broadly now because the FDA has just authorized the first standalone at home sample collection kit which will allow people to self-collect a nasal sample at home that they can then send off to a lab for coronavirus testing. Is this significant in your view? BRACHO-SANCHEZ: I do think it is. I just urge people and I think a number of experts have expressed this, but I really do urge people to be careful. Some of these tests have a high false negative rates. What that means is that you might have negative, but you might actually still have the illness. And so I think when we get our results, we just have to be really careful that we continue to keep our distance, that we continue to remember those hygiene technique that we have learned throughout this pandemic.

WHITFIELD: All right, Dr. Edith Bracho-Sanchez, thank you so much. Be well.

BRACHO-SANCHEZ: Thank you and take care.

WHITFIELD: All right. Coming up. Mexico's mounting death toll have some worry. The outbreak is more serious than they thought. A live report from there, next.

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[13:31:20]

WHITFIELD: Mexico reported more than 2400 new coronavirus cases for the second day in a row on Friday. That's the highest day-to-day increase for the country, which says it now has more than 45,000 cases.

This, as some people in Mexico worry that the outbreak is far worse than they're being told.

CNN's Matt Rivers joins me from Mexico City.

Matt, is there reason to be skeptical about these numbers coming from the Mexican government?

MATT RIVERS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I think the answer is sort of. Basically, the numbers - Mexico admits the numbers they've reported aren't representative of what's going on with this outbreak around the rest of the country.

And that's because they've only done about 160,000 tests in total. And that's actually by design. The Mexican government says you don't need to mass test to understand how bad the outbreak is. They look at their small number tests like a scientific sample. From that you can extrapolate how bad the outbreak is and where.

The country's top epidemiologist said he wouldn't be surprised if the actual number of cases is well into the millions and if the death toll, which stands at well 4,800 right now, could be double that or higher.

The criticism there, of course, is twofold. On the one hand, you're giving people perhaps a false sense of security in the sense that people aren't talking about epidemiological models and extrapolating data. They're talking about the low number of cases and, therefore, do people think this isn't as bad as it actually is. And without mass testing, Fred, it's really just a guess. You don't exactly know how bad this outbreak is and where.

WHITFIELD: And what, if any, measures are people able to take there?

RIVERS: The government has prescribed the similar things we've seen in the United States, with quarantine measures, stay-at-home measures. If you walk around Mexico City right now, a city of some 20-plus million people, there are people out and about all over the place without any personal protective equipment.

There definitely is -- not amongst all Mexicans but among some -- there's a sense that this outbreak is not as bad as they probably think it should be.

And some of the people we're speaking to say that's, in part, because the government is only saying there's 45,000 or so cases when, in reality, we can be talking about millions of cases overall throughout the entire country.

WHITFIELD: Matt Rivers, in Mexico City, thank you so much.

At least 13 protesters have been arrested at an anti-lockdown demonstration in London today. Dozens of people gathering to protest against safety restrictions put in place by the government as the U.K. says it's ready to lower the coronavirus threat level.

CNN's Bianca Nobilo joining me from London.

So, Bianca, what more are you learning?

BIANCA NOBILO, CNN ANCHOR: You would expect the threat level to be correlated to the rate of infection in the country, or the R number as it's called.

When Boris Johnson said the U.K.'s threat level was going from level four to level three, which means the virus is spread within the community but not rising, the R number, the rate of infection, was between 0.5 and 0.9. So under that critical threshold of one, after which the virus can begin to multiply exponentially.

Now the governmental advice in the U.K. is the R number is between 0.7 and one. So it is nearing that critical point where it could begin to multiply. So you'd expect that the government may want to lock down conservatively.

And this is further complicated, Fred, by the fact this data is old. The R number is analyzed and modeled based on data three weeks old. This doesn't take into account the fact that this country this week has relaxed restrictions. I'm sure you've seen images of packed compartments on the London underground and on buses. So we don't yet know the impact that's had on the spread of the infection around the United Kingdom.

[13:35:21]

So the government isn't opting for that more conservative approach to keep restrictions really tight. They are looking for other options.

And, in fact, one option that they're looking at, which is a little bit more out of the box, is this idea of using sniffer dogs to try and detect coronavirus in people. This is a mixture of Labradors and Cocker Spaniels, that supposedly can detect the odors of certain diseases. They can do it with malaria, Parkinson's and some cancers.

So the hope is here because some respiratory illnesses create this odor that dogs can detect, that they may well be a potential non- invasive detection measure, which the government could rely on in future if they intend to keep the lockdown on the path towards easing. And they don't want to keep the country at home to control the spread.

WHITFIELD: Well, that's something new. I didn't know that sniffer dogs could also detect coronavirus.

Bianca Nobilo, thank you so much, in London.

Coming up, as air travel resumes amid the pandemic, a new policy might become part of your flying experience, temperature checks. We'll explain.

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[13:40:39]

WHITFIELD: Expect a new normal for air travel. The TSA will begin temperature checks for passengers at multiple airports across the country. This could start as early as next week. However, when it comes to face masks on flights, there's disagreement on the best policy.

CNN Aviation Correspondent, Pete Muntean, has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Packed in passengers might not be the 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, PRESIDENT/CEO, 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: United Airlines will now warn passengers if a flight is near capacity and let them rebook, 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.

REP. PETER DEFAZIO (D-0R): We need federal rules.

MUNTEAN: 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: In a statement to CNN, the FAA says its authority lie in safe operation of aircraft and that it is lending aviation expertise to help officials and airlines. Airline workers want more intervention.

CAPT. JOE DEPETE, PRESIDENT, AIRLINE 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 risks for our passengers.

MUNTEAN: 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 onboard Frontier, and most airlines for that matter, than most -- most enclosed buildings.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WHITFIELD: It doesn't end there. Amtrak and Greyhound are making it clear, no mask, no ride. The companies say they will deny boarding to passengers who refuse to wear face coverings. Amtrak is also requiring all of their passengers to wear masks inside train stations, although it's unclear how strictly Amtrak and Greyhound will enforce their mask policies once people are on board.

A U.S. State Department official becomes the latest watchdog fired by the president. And now an ally of Vice President Mike Pence will step in. Next, what led to the dismissal.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[13:48:16]

WHITFIELD: President Trump has fired yet another independent government watchdog. U.S. State Department inspector general, Steve Linick, was fired late last night.

CNN White House Reporter, Sarah Westwood, joining us right now.

This is now, Sarah, the third firing of an inspector general in recent months. Why was Linick fired?

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Fred, there's still a lot we don't know about why President Trump decided to remove Steve Linick, the State Department inspector general last night.

We do know he sent a later to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi late Friday evening saying he no longer had full confidence in Linick. And unsurprisingly, that has sparked a lot of backlash from Democrats already, including from Speaker Pelosi.

I want to read you part of the statement she released last night. She said, "The president's late-night weekend firing of the State Department inspector general has accelerated his dangerous pattern of retaliation against patriotic public servants charged with conducting oversight on behalf of the American people."

She went on to say, "Inspector General Linick was punished for honorably performing his duty to protect the Constitution and our national security as required by law and by his oath."

Now Democratic chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Eliot Engel, said last night that Linick's office had undertaken an investigation into Mike Pompeo.

And that's something the State Department -- State Department official confirmed to CNN today, that that was an investigation into allegations that Pompeo had improperly used a political appointee to perform personal tasks for him and his wife.

And as you mentioned, this is not the first inspector general that President Trump has removed recently. The third one since April. The president also removed the inspector general for the Intelligence Community, Michael Atkinson, and also the acting inspector general for the Pentagon, Glenn Fine.

[13:50:06]

Now the latter was seen by Trump as an Obama holdover. But the former Michael Atkinson was someone who played a major role in the impeachment inquiry. Linick did also played but an important role in the impeachment committee. He briefed committees on Ukraine-related documents that the president's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, had provided.

So there's still a lot of confusion about the timing of this move now and how it may or may not be related, Fred, to that investigation that Linick did.

WHITFIELD: All right, Sarah Westwood, thanks so much.

Let's talk further about all of this with Ron Brownstein, senior editor for "The Atlantic" and a CNN senior political analyst.

Good to see you, Ron.

RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Good to see you, Fred.

WHITFIELD: What do you make of the timing of this firing? It happens just as we learn the inspector general may have been investigating the secretary of state.

BROWNSTEIN: Well, that is just -- if, in fact, that is correct, that is an unbelievable red line that the president here has crossed. It completely obliterates the idea of independence in the inspector general corps. And raises enormous questions for the Republicans in Congress who have been acquiesce sent in this.

Each time we have a firing, I think about what Susan Collins said after --

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: You and me both.

(CROSSTALK)

WHITFIELD: I thought the same thing.

BROWNSTEIN: -- has learned a big lesson. And, in fact, the lesson he learned is that if the Republican Senate will not hold him accountable for barreling past the boundaries, the limits on presidential authority, he is in effect uncheckable. And that is the lesson that he has taken from this.

One other quick point, it's important to understand in the context of everything else happening, it is really a systemic effort to undermine any measures, any structures, any institutions that can impose accountability on the president.

He has flatly said he will not allow anyone from the administration to testify before the House, the Democratic controlled House, on a pandemic that affects members, you know, in every district in the country.

And he is arguing just this last week at the Supreme Court that he should be except from a subpoena not only from the Congress but from local district attorneys.

This is a broad and systematic effort to strip away the checks and balances, and the tools of accountability that have really governed the system since the outset.

WHITFIELD: House Speaker Pelosi said this is a dangerous pattern of retaliation. And if, indeed, this is retaliation, what is the penalty? How is it that this could go on if this is a pattern and it go unchecked?

BROWNSTEIN: Yes, it is clearly a pattern. I mean, I think there's no question. In addition to the ones Sarah mentioned, he dismissed, I believe, the

deputy inspector general at Health and Human Services who had led the report that contradicted his claims about hospitals and local medical professionals showing there are widespread shortages of PPE in the early stages of the outbreak.

So it is clearly a pattern. And the only remedy is congressional action that would limit his ability to -- or the ability of future presidents to kind of pursue this kind of purge.

Chuck Grassley, in the Senate for much of his long career, has, you know, positioned himself as the champion of whistleblowers. Where is his voice? He has raised some notes of concern but there simply has not been action.

And to come back to as what Collins said. The president took from the impeachment process the lesson, if Republicans in the Senate would not impose any consequence for the actions, the pressure he put on the president of Ukraine, that was effective, the question becomes, what, if anything, would they sanction.

And we are seeing, week by week, him testing those boundaries and continually finding the answer is not this.

WHITFIELD: And does it appear as though the president kind of is dug in on his presumption that there's no, you know, repercussion for this while the firings, you know, continue with this pattern as Pelosi says.

I mean, even when he was in the Rose Garden yesterday, I mean, he was talking about what he's going to do next year, a presumption that, you know, he is going to win re-election.

And his approach to the pandemic is largely a reason why, that vaccine or no vaccine, you know, we are open for business.

BROWNSTEIN: Right. Well, a couple of things. I mean, first, there's no question of the trajectory we're looking at here. And I think any of the trends that we are seeing, no one can have any doubt that there would be even less respect for accountability or checks and balances in a second term unless a Congress was willing to try to stop him.

And the president made very clear that he is a -- he takes the measure of these politicians very effectively. And whatever they say, he watches what they do. And if they are not willing to impose any restrictions or limits on him, he will keep going further. That is the unmistakable lesson.

As to whether there will be a second term, look, we are kind of know where we always were with the president, I think, having a very long odds of winning the popular vote.

[13:55:08]

It's pretty clear in polling that his support is somewhere around 45 percent, 46 percent, which is what he got in 2016, which is what Republicans won in 2018. But that doesn't mean he can't squeeze out the Electoral College by holding onto Wisconsin, Arizona and Florida, in particular.

It is a competitive race for the fall. But he is still facing the reality that he has never been able to persuade a majority of the country to support him. His job approval has never hit 50 percent. And on the coronavirus, it's been sinking back into the low 40s.

WHITFIELD: Yes. However, he does continue to be popular among those in which he's always been popular before.

BROWNSTEIN: Exactly.

WHITFIELD: Ron Brownstein, thank you so much. Appreciate it. Be well.

BROWNSTEIN: Thank you.

WHITFIELD: Good to see you.

All right, straight ahead, in the next hour, a panel of experts will join me to help answer your questions about health, family and food during this coronavirus pandemic.

And tonight, CNN honors the graduates of 2020 with a two-hour event starting with "CLASS OF 2020: IN THIS TOGETHER," at 7:00, featuring Former President Bill Clinton and Actress Gal Godot and more. And at 8:00, join Lebron James and former President Obama for "GRADUATE TOGETHER." That celebration beginning tonight 7:00 right here on CNN.

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