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THE SITUATION ROOM
Interview With Gov. Jared Polis (D-CO); Trump Announces He's Taking Hydroxychloroquine; Interview With Gov. Jared Polis (D-CO); Texas Governor Announces Sweeping New Reopening Moves For Offices, Childcare And Pro-Sports; Trump Says Secretary Pompeo Asked For Firing Of Inspector General; States Are Reopening, But Are Residents Social Distancing? Aired 6-7p ET
Aired May 18, 2020 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM with breaking news on the coronavirus pandemic.
The U.S. death toll rising above 90,000 just a little while ago, with more than 1.5 million confirmed cases in the United States, grim new milestones, as two of the biggest states in the nation just announced major new moves to reopen.
California's governor easing guidelines in a way that will allow most of the states' counties to begin restarting their economies, Texas allowing office buildings and child care centers to reopen immediately and giving the green light for pro sports to resume in the coming days.
All this as one company is now reporting significant progress in developing a coronavirus vaccine, news that helped the U.S. stock prices rally today, the Dow closing up more than 900 points.
First, let's go to our White House Correspondent, Kaitlan Collins. She's got more breaking news.
Kaitlan, President Trump revealed a little while ago he's taking the very controversial drug he's been touting as a coronavirus treatment, despite FDA warnings.
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, it's a drug that the president touted for some time, and then he had actually gone pretty quiet on it after there were multiple studies showing that it did not prevent or treat coronavirus, and it actually had some concerning side effects that even his own FDA has warned about.
But the president doesn't seem concerned about those warnings and he said he has been taking hydroxychloroquine in a pill form for about a week-and-a-half now and that he takes it almost every single day.
He made this announcement unprompted, Wolf, just a few moments ago here at the White House.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The front-line workers, many, many are taking it. I happen to be taking it. I happen to be taking it.
QUESTION: You're taking hydroxychloroquine?
TRUMP: I'm taking it -- hydroxychloroquine.
QUESTION: Right now?
TRUMP: Right now. Yes. A couple of weeks ago, I started taking it.
QUESTION: Why, sir?
TRUMP: Because I think it's good. I've heard a lot of good stories. And if it's not good, I will tell you right -- you know, I'm not going to get hurt by it. It's been around for 40 years for malaria, for lupus, for other things.
I take it. Front-line workers take it. A lot of doctors take it.
TRUMP: Excuse me. A lot of doctors take it. I take it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COLLINS: Now, Wolf, he says he's taking it.
Of course, that is in direct contradiction with what the FDA actually said people should be doing and guidance that they issued in April, saying that hydroxychloroquine should not be used outside of a clinical trial or a hospital setting, because they were concerned about the side effects that it could have.
And they said there were no material signs or evidence that it was actually helping with coronavirus. But, Wolf, the president said there he'd been taking it for about a week-and-a-half. And if you look at what happened a week-and-a-half ago, that was when his personal valet tested positive for coronavirus, as well as the vice president's press secretary.
Now, we do not know that those two are linked, but that would be about the timeline that the president offered to reporters. And so the question still is going to be, what did his White House physician say about this? Because he says he went to Dr. Sean Conley about it, though it's unclear what the doctor's advice was.
So we have reached out to the White House Medical Office. We were trying to get a statement about how long they expect the president to continue to take this drug. And, Wolf, we should also note we have reached out to the vice president's office as well to ask if he is taking hydroxychloroquine, despite these concerns and the lack of evidence that it actually does anything for coronavirus.
BLITZER: Because you need a prescription to get this drug. If you have arthritis, lupus, malaria, you can get hydroxychloroquine.
So, can we assume that the official White House physician wrote out a prescription allowing the president to start taking it?
COLLINS: That would be the question. If not, it's the question of where did he get it if his own physician did not recommend it?
And the president did not elaborate on any of those details when he announced this unprompted, Wolf, that he's taking hydroxychloroquine, not something that the reporters were aware of.
And you could hear the surprise in the room as the president was revealing that he's taking this. So, there's still a lot of questions about this.
And there are going to be questions raised about the example this is setting and whether or not it's going to convince people that they too should be taking hydroxychloroquine, even though the president's own FDA has recommended against it, because remember, Wolf, it wasn't that long ago at that briefing where the president was going from a DHS study about what sunlight and disinfectant could do to coronavirus on a hard surface, where the president said that they should explore ways to use it as a possible treatment, something he later said that he was being sarcastic about.
BLITZER: Yes. You mentioned the vice president. He was there sitting right next to the president. Nobody was wearing masks, first time, what, in more than a week they have actually been together ever since the vice president's press secretary, Katie Miller, was confirmed with a positive -- a positive confirmation of coronavirus.
All right, Kaitlan, thank you very, very much.
Let's get back to the breaking news we're following on the reopening moves in some of the nation's largest states, including California.
CNN's Nick Watt is in California for us.
And the governor there made a major announcement, Nick, today.
NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: He did, Wolf.
He has just eased and tweet the criteria that counties must meet to reopen. And now more than 90 percent of California is apparently eligible to get back in business.
Fewer than half the counties have pulled a trigger so far, but, today, some big ones, those counties up in San Francisco that were the first to tell people to stay home 63 days ago. They have allowed retail curbside pickup as of today.
And, Wolf, by the middle of this week, in every single state in this country, we will have taken at least the first steps back towards normality.
WATT (voice-over): In the world wide scramble for a vaccine, good news.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is really a very first important step in the journey towards having a vaccine.
WATT: All eight subjects in a phase one trial developed effective COVID-19 antibodies. Next up, phase two, with maybe 600 subjects.
DR. ASHISH JHA, DIRECTOR, HARVARD GLOBAL HEALTH INSTITUTE: If they can enter into phase three by July, again, the goal of being able to get to a vaccine by early next year, I think, becomes more realistic.
WATT: So, today, Massachusetts became the 50th and final state to lay out its plan to reopen. Construction and manufacturing are back.
GOV. CHARLIE BAKER (R-MA): On May 25, retail establishments may also offer curbside service, and some personal services, such as barbershops and hair salons, may reopen.
WATT: In roughly a third of states, the new case count is now going down, holding steady in another third, and, in the final third, it's actually going up. Texas, two weeks after reopening began, saw some busy bars and the biggest number of new cases in a single day on Saturday.
Yes, there is more testing now, but:
ERIC JOHNSON (D), MAYOR OF DALLAS, TEXAS: The opening of restaurants and movie theaters and retail and our malls up to 25 percent occupancy a couple of weeks ago, so I think that's probably the main reason.
WATT: Still, gyms opened up at reduced capacity in Texas today, and the governor announced phase two.
GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R-TX): Starting immediately, child care services are able to open. Beginning this Friday, May the 22nd, a long list of businesses can now reopen or expand capacity.
WATT: Gyms in New Jersey are not yet allowed to reopen. This one did anyway. Here's how Camden County cops reacted.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Have a good day.
(CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)
WATT: Restaurants also reopening today in Miami, as Florida's most populous and hardest-hit counties start their process today. Today, the lines started rolling again in Michigan's three major
automakers. Beaches were open with restrictions on both coasts this past weekend.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It was amazing, yes. We have been pretty cooped up, like everybody.
WATT: Are those folks really far enough apart?
New York City beaches remain closed, but the Big Apple might start reopening first half of June.
BILL DE BLASIO (D), MAYOR OF NEW YORK CITY: There's been clear progress.
WATT: In South Carolina, some stores opened exactly a month ago, and in-person classes will resume at the University of South Carolina in the fall. But they will revert to remote learning after Thanksgiving, because, "Our best current modeling predicts a spike in cases of COVID-19 at the beginning of December."
The WHO says it will start ASAP a review of the global reaction to this coronavirus, saying, we must learn to prevent a repeat.
TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS, DIRECTOR GENERAL, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: We have been humbled by this very small microbe.
WATT: Good news for sports fans.
Texas also talking about the return of some pro sports as early as a week from Sunday. They're talking basketball, baseball, some auto racing.
New York and California also making similar noises today, but let's be clear. We're not talking about fans in the stands. But we are talking about maybe something new that we can all watch on TV -- Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, Nick Watt on the scene for us in California, thank you.
Let's talk about the breaking news right now with the governor of Colorado, Jared Polis.
Governor, thanks so much for joining us.
The sad news, more than 90,000 Americans, as of right now, are dead from this virus. I understand you just got off of a conference call with President Trump, you and your fellow governors around the country.
Where does his focus seem to be right now?
GOV. JARED POLIS (D-CO): Well, the focus of today's call was really about mental health. And I think it's really an unspoken problem, where so many people are
isolated, non-contacting others. We have a free hot line that people in Colorado can call. We have had 300 to 400 calls a day to support them.
So, looking out for our mental health is really important during this crisis, which is often called a health crisis or an economic crisis. Well, it's also a mental health crisis.
BLITZER: Well, what was his main focus in the conversation you had with the president? The economy or the health, the situation involving the continuing huge numbers of dead?
POLIS: Well it's not exactly a linear conversation with this president, so a little bit of everything.
Here in Colorado, we're certainly focused on both. I don't believe that you can address the economic crisis without addressing the health crisis. People need confidence. We're moving soon. We have most of our businesses open, manufacturing offices, hopefully restaurants in the next week or so. We're working on those guidelines.
It's really important to get that going. But being open isn't enough. You also have to make sure you're inspiring confidence among the general public that actually is -- knows that they can do it in a reasonably safe way.
BLITZER: The other the breaking news that we have been following for the last hour or so, do you worry that the president perhaps is setting a bad example by announcing he's taking this unproven drug, hydroxychloroquine, that potentially could have some very serious and dangerous side effects?
POLIS: Well, at least he won't be getting malaria any time soon, Wolf.
But no, I -- obviously, when he says something like that, it creates a run on the drug. I mean, he has a lot of people that listen to every word he says.
I really wish he would use this platform to say, let's all wear masks. I mean, the difference that that would make, as opposed to recommending a questionable drug, with mixed evidence, at best, about its clinical benefit is really -- is really substantial.
So, I just hope he uses that soapbox that he has, and we all use the soapboxes we have, to talk about the need for staying apart from others six feet and wearing masks when we're in public.
BLITZER: Yes, and I hope there's going to be enough hydroxychloroquine for those people who really need it for lupus or malaria or arthritis.
Those are the people who need that prescription. And there could be a run on that drug, as we know. We have gotten, as you also know, some very promising early results from the Moderna vaccine trial. But the president has been emphasizing that a vaccine isn't necessarily the only path to beating this virus.
Without a real vaccine, an effective, safe vaccine, what's the best- case scenario for Colorado's so-called new normal?
POLIS: Yes, I mean, we do need the vaccine to be able to move past this.
And I think we need to go past the normal approach, phase one, phase two, phase three, this 12-month, two-year thing. Forget about that. Let's do it all right away. Let's see what we can get, gear up to manufacture several. If one of them works, we do it. The worst case is, we have to throw away things that don't work.
But we got to move that way. In the meantime, we have to enshrine social distancing and how we work. So, as we look at getting, for instance, restaurants back, we're looking at how they can have more tables outdoors, on sidewalks, in their parking lot, so that people can be eight, 10 feet apart in a reasonably safe way.
Our stores are doing a great job. They have been open for two weeks here, really having social distancing, every employee wearing a mask. All that is part of the way we need to live. And I don't think we want to live like that forever, Wolf.
I mean, we really look forward to the date when a vaccine helps put this behind us.
BLITZER: Well, it's a good thing the weather is getting better, the spring and the summer, so people will be able to eat outside.
Colorado, as you know, was one of the first states in the country to begin reopening. And now you're working on the safety guidelines for the restaurants, the schools, the houses of worship.
Based on the metrics you're tracking, Governor, right now, how confident are you that this won't necessarily lead -- and we hope it won't -- to a new spike in cases?
POLIS: Hopefully, the way that Colorado has been doing it can be a model for other states.
We have had stores open for a couple weeks. I encourage other states to look at those guidelines. We're really being thoughtful about the restaurant process. They're already open in about 10 counties in our state for limited in-room dining. They were actually never shot for takeout or delivery.
I was jealous of these governors that are opening their beaches. I told my people, we got to open Colorado's beaches, but the only beach we have is Great Sand Dunes, which, if you have been there, is incredible. And the federal government is going to be opening that very soon.
So, Colorado's beaches will soon be open.
BLITZER: You got the Rocky Mountains. You got a lot going on in Colorado, as we all know.
Governor, thank you so much for joining us.
POLIS: Always a pleasure, Wolf.
BLITZER: Good luck.
Just ahead: more reaction to the president's surprise announcement today that he's now taking hydroxychloroquine, despite the potential risks.
We will have our medical experts' analysis when we come back.
And we're also learning more about Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's role in the firing of the State Department's inspector general.
BLITZER: We're following breaking news.
President Trump says he is taking an unproven coronavirus treatment that he's repeatedly touted. His use of hydroxychloroquine flies in the face of warnings by the Food and Drug Administration and many medical experts.
We're joined by the former acting director of the CDC Dr. Richard Besser, along with our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and our CNN White House correspondent, Kaitlan Collins.
Dr. Gupta, you have done extensive reporting on the president's health. Is it advisable for him to be taking hydroxychloroquine?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: No, he shouldn't be taking this.
There's no evidence that it works as a prophylactic drug. That is something that is still being studied. There is evidence that, in people who already have the COVID disease, it could be harmful, cause problems to the heart.
He has a history of heart disease. So, that's a particular concern. His own FDA has said this is not a medication that should be used outside of clinical trials or outside of hospitalization.
There is a trial going on for prophylaxis on health care workers who have had significant exposure. And he obviously doesn't fit that. So, I -- this is going to send the wrong message. I'm worried that people will go out, as they did last time he talked about this, and start hoarding this medication. [18:20:08]
And there are people who use it for legitimate reasons. So, this is very concerning Wolf.
BLITZER: What do you think, Dr. Besser?
DR. RICHARD BESSER, FORMER ACTING DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: No, I agree with Sanjay.
Where we get our medical information really matters. And the FDA is a trusted source of information for what drugs are safe and effective. And I worry that people will hear that and think that there's evidence that this works, and that people could be harmed, because all drugs have side effects.
People on other medications, people with medical conditions who take this could be harmed by it. So, no, it's not a good thing for the general public to do. Let's wait and see what these studies show in terms of prevention.
But, no, it's not indicated.
BLITZER: It is an effective drug, Dr. Besser, for malaria, lupus, arthritis. Are you worried, though, that if the president is now touting it, others are going to simply rush off, get a prescription, get this drug, and there might not be enough for those people who really need it?
BESSER: Well, we have seen that before.
We saw that in 2001, after the anthrax letters were sent, the drugs that were used to treat anthrax. There was a rush on those. So, yes, hoarding is a real phenomenon. People worry about their own health and say, well, he must know something that we don't know, so we're going to grab it.
Well, the truth is that the science says, this is not a good thing to have. Leave it for people who need it for the conditions where it has been shown to be safe and effective. Don't go and get it for this.
BLITZER: You know, Kaitlan, I know you have been doing a lot of reporting on this.
What are you hearing? Do you have any understanding as to why the president keeps pushing this particular drug, despite the FDA warning against it?
And, Wolf, he had actually gotten a lot quieter about hydroxychloroquine after not only the FDA issued that guidance recommending against it, like Sanjay said, but also there were other trials, including a VA one, talking about the effects that it had on patients who were at risk and other concerns about whether or not it had any effects. And so there wasn't a lot of encouragement or excitement around it.
And so you saw the president stop talking about it as much as he had been before, because we know that, before, he'd been touting it so often, saying, what do you have to lose, a sentiment he repeated today.
And that is even something that Rick Bright, the former vaccine chief who testified last week, said he believed led to his ouster, because he wasn't as enthusiastic about promoting hydroxychloroquine. And he actually was cautioning against the widespread distribution of it, he said, and he said that's why he believes he was pushed out of his job.
So, the president has had this relationship with hydroxychloroquine ever since we have been dealing with this pandemic. And so today he kind of caught people off-guard when he announced he's been taking it for a week-and-a-half now.
And the question is, why did he start taking it a week-and-a-half ago? Because the president hasn't worn a mask, no gloves, anything like that, though he is tested daily, he's noted.
But, remember, Wolf, a week-and-a-half ago, two people who work closely with him and with the vice president tested positive for coronavirus. So, we're still waiting on more details on this. We have reached out to the White House. And we haven't gotten a lot of clarity from his physician this yet.
BLITZER: You know, Sanjay, we are getting some potentially very good news today.
Patients in a study who received a Moderna vaccine produced virus- fighting antibodies and had no serious side effects. How encouraging potentially is this news?
GUPTA: Yes, I think it's potentially very encouraging.
It's early data. It's small data. But the type of vaccine that we're talking about here is not one that we have seen before. We have not had a vaccine like this. So the idea now that we're seeing evidence that it could do what they thought it was going to do, that you give essentially a blueprint of a little piece of the virus to somebody, and their body makes that piece of the virus, and then generates antibodies to it, that seems to happen.
And there was eight patients, where they then took those antibodies and they put it in a test tube with the virus. And they found that there was a certain amount of neutralizing activity. The antibodies were neutralizing the virus, which is exactly what you want to see.
So, this was -- these are still just phase one studies, which are designed to look at safety. But they're getting some evidence that there's some actual effectiveness to this.
They have got to see if it plays out with phase two and phase three. But we could have gotten bad news about this, that it wasn't making antibodies, that the antibodies weren't good antibodies. We didn't hear that. We heard this much better news.
So, we just got to make sure that it gets confirmed in larger numbers of people.
BLITZER: Yes, potentially very significant.
Dr. Besser, this is one of several vaccine candidates out there right now. Does the administration need to make sure all these different efforts are well-funded to increase the odds of success?
BESSER: I think so.
This is encouraging news, but it's truly a baby step. It's a proof of concept in eight people, healthy -- healthy adults. It's very far from this to a vaccine that goes into people. And it's the first time a vaccine would be made using this technology.
So, you want to make sure that there are a lot of different candidates that are moving forward to increase the chances that there actually will be a safe and effective vaccine in as short a time as possible.
BLITZER: You know, Dr. Besser, as you're the former acting CDC director, what do you make of the role the CDC has played in this crisis? You're hearing a lot of criticism. Is that criticism valid?
BESSER: Well, Wolf, I think that we are really challenged in this response because we're not hearing from CDC every single day with trusted science information.
We should be hearing from the nation's most trusted public health agency, the world's most trusted public health agency. They're being defined by others, rather than letting us hear what they're learning, what they're finding.
They just put out some guidance on contact tracing that looked pretty good. We should be hearing about that and how that could be used. And we should be understanding these kind of vaccine trials from scientists, rather than politicians.
BLITZER: Important point.
All right, guys, thank you very, very much.
Just ahead, we will have a special report coming in from Texas on sweeping new steps to further reopen the state, as the U.S. death toll now rises above 90,000.
And we're also getting new details on an investigation of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo by the State Department inspector general who was just fired by President Trump.
[18:30:00] BLITZER: All right. There's some breaking news in Texas right now, where the governor has just announced a sweeping new series of reopening. CNN's Ed Lavandera is joining us from Dallas.
Ed, what are you learning?
ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Wolf. Well, the governor here in Texas is now saying that childcare centers can open up across the state immediately. And then, this Friday, bars can open up and restaurants can open up in a 50 percent capacity. Bars can open up at a 25 percent capacity. And then, next month, June 1st, you will see the opening up of youth sports camp for the summer. Some sports summer schools as well as professional sports, including baseball and auto racing.
So, the full push ahead continues here in Texas to reopen the economy. This despite a weekend where we saw a dramatic increase in the number of new coronavirus cases being reported, 1,800 alone on Saturday. Many state officials and health officials here saying that the bulk of those were connected to meatpacking plants in the Panhandle Area.
Governor Abbott here today saying that he doesn't see any reason why this opening of the economy shouldn't continue, that he's listening to the data and the doctors and all of these, and he feels he has a good plan. But, Wolf, there is a great deal of trepidation here with all of this opening up, and especially in the big cities in Texas.
As many of these leaders say that the state remains in a precarious situation with this uptick of coronavirus cases, but state officials say that there's also -- that has also come with an increase in testing and that is one of the reasons that those numbers are being driven up.
But as I mention, barring any jarring medical data that comes out to sway this, one way or the other, the governor here in Texas remains kind of full throttle on the opening up the economy here. Wolf?
BLITZER: All right, Ed Lavandera reporting with the latest from Dallas. Ed, thank you.
Let's go to Florida right now, where two big counties in the southern part of the state are reopening today. We're joined by the mayor Miami-Dade Country, Carlos Gimenez. Mayor Gimenez, thank you so much for joining us.
Miami-Dade, your country, is moving it to what's call Phase 1 of reopening today. Considering through the upward trend in Florida cases, how are you sure that that isn't necessarily putting more people at risk?
MAYOR CARLOS GIMENEZ (R), MIAMI-DADE, FL: Well, because we -- you know, the more you test, the more positives you are going to get. And Florida has a lot of testing, we get a lot of testing here. What we look is hospital data, how many people are actually going into the hospital. And that has been pretty steady or actually declining for a number of weeks now. And so, we have a great capacity and empty hospital room beds, ICU beds, ventilators. We have a very low number of people here, on ventilators. So that's the data that we're really looking at. We know, through our -- we had a study, a medical study here, and we tested randomly and throughout the county, probably 200,000 people in Miami- Dade were either infected at one time or infected right now.
And so the number of 15,000 cases that we have is underreported by a factor of 10 or 15. So it's really the hospital data, how many of those are actually going into the hospital. And it's been pretty steady. And we have never really been able close to anywhere to the capacity that we have here to treat patients. So we are pretty confident of the things we're doing to move forward.
BLITZER: But even within Miami-Dade County, some cities in your county are moving more slowly. Last night I spoke, for example, to the Mayor of Miami Beach, Dan Gelber. They're not reopening restaurants for at least another week. What are you telling leaders within your county who aren't necessarily happy with how quickly all this reopening is going?
GIMENEZ: Well, the -- we had a very thorough process. All of our decisions are based with medical experts here, from the University of Miami, from FIU, from Jackson Health System, from the University of Miami Health System.
And all of the measures that we're taking, we're taking it so that they're safe. I mean, we have social distancing, mask wearing, we have to keep six feet apart --
BLITZER: I think that we just lost our connection with Mayor Gimenez, the mayor of Miami-Dade County. We'll to try to fix that up. We apologize for that loss, but that's what happens nowadays.
All right, we'll continue to monitor what's happening in Miami-Dade County in South Florida.
Just ahead. New details, emerging of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo's refusal to be interviewed by the inspector general over at the State Department, and inspector general who was just fired.
Plus, while health experts are so worried about the risk of reopening, based on what we've seen so far. We'll be right back.
BLITZER: We're following breaking news on the firing of the State Department's inspector general, Steve Linick. President Trump telling reporters at the White House just a little while ago, the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, asked to fire Linick, and he did. CNN has learned Linick was investigating Pompeo's role in a fast tracking a multi- billion-dollar U.S. arms sale to Saudi Arabia. And Pompeo was refusing to cooperate. Here is what the president said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REPORTER: Sir, why did you decided to fire the inspector general at the State Department?
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes, I don't know him at all. I never even heard of him, but I was asked to by the state department, by Mike.
So I don't know him, I never heard of him, but they asked me to terminate him. I have the absolute right as president to terminate. I've said who appointed him. And they said President Obama. I said, look, I will terminate him.
I was happy to do it. Mike requested that I do it. He should have done it a long time ago, in my opinion. He's an Obama appointment and he had some difficulty. But I just don't know who he is. I really -- I don't know, I never heard his name.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: All right, let's bring in our Senior National Security Correspondent Alex Marquardt. Alex, walk us through what the secretary of state is accused of doing here.
ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, there were two investigations that the inspector general, Steve Linick, was carrying out and looking into Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. The one that you just mention about that Saudi arms sale, he refused to sit down with Linick's office with the inspector general's office.
And, essentially, what happen was the Trump administration had declared an emergency and carried out that sale of $8 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia. That declaration of an emergency allowed the Trump administration to circumvent Congress. So that was met with quite a bit of an uproar in Congress.
Of course, that was tied back, Wolf, if you remember well to the killing of The Washington Post journalist, Jamal Khashoggi. That was tied to the Crown Prince. And so Linick was looking into that arms sale, that fast track arms sale. Pompeo refusing to sit down with his office.
Now, Pompeo did speak with The Washington Post earlier today. He was asked about Linick. He did not specifically say why Linick was fired, saying only more broadly, I went to the president and made clear to him that Inspector General Linick wasn't performing a function in a way that we had tried to get him to that was additive for the State Department.
Wolf, that language that we had tried to get him to is pretty interesting, because inspectors general are supposed to act independently of the departments and the agencies that they are working in. Now, the first investigation was that Saudi arms sale. The second investigation that Linick was carrying out into Pompeo was more of a personal nature. He was looking into whether Pompeo had used a political appointee for personal tasks, whether this appointee had carried out things like dinner reservation, had picked up dry cleaning, had walked his dog. And that is according to the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Eliot Engel.
And now you have certainly lots of Democrats crying foul. Engel and his Senate Counterpart, Senator Mendez, with the House -- Senate Foreign Relations Committee, both launching an investigation to determine whether or not this firing of Linick was illegal, Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, I want to play the clip, this is how the president reacted to the second investigation, whether that political appointee was improperly being used for these various reasons by the secretary of state. Listen, Alex, to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: And now I have you telling me about dog walking, washing dishes. And you know what, I'd rather have him on the phone with some world leader than have him wash dishes because maybe his wife isn't there or his kids aren't there. What are you telling me? It's terrible. It's so stupid. You know stupid that sounds to the world? Unbelievable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Alex, big picture, the Trump administration now, the president has removed four government inspectors general in just two months. Isn't the role of these watchdogs to operate independently of what the administration necessarily wants them to do?
MARQUARDT: Yes. Well, Wolf, it's even less that. Four watchdogs, replaced, removed in the past six weeks, since the beginning of April. And you're absolutely right, someone like Steve Linick and the others are meant to be independent. Yes, they're political appointees.
Yes, Linick was appointed by President Barack Obama, but they are meant to work inside these departments and these agencies with a certain level of independence and keep a watch out for, for wrongdoing, for anything untoward, to investigate it and then to report it.
And one of the other big ones in that group of four, Wolf, one of the famous cases is Michael Atkinson. He was the inspector general for the intelligence committee. If you remember last fall, the whistleblower in the White House who saw -- who saw a problem with how the president had been speaking with the president of Ukraine, he took that complaint to Michael Atkinson who then took it to Congress.
That launched the Ukrainian investigation and then the impeachment of the president. That was back in September when Atkinson did that. Fast forward to last month, and you have Atkinson who was fired by the president.
So, you have these four inspectors general or officials acting as inspectors general who were removed or replaced just in the past six weeks. And so, now, you have critics of the Trump administration calling this an unprecedented purge of watchdogs by the Trump administration -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Alex Marquardt, reporting for us, thank you very much.
Just ahead, as states reopened, crowds are turning out from beaches to bars and health experts, they are worried.
Plus, more on the potential risk to President Trump as reveals he is now taking hydroxychloroquine despite FDA warnings.
BLITZER: As stay at home restrictions are eased, crowds are returning to some bars, beaches and other reopened businesses across the country, concerning some health expert we may be going too quickly.
CNN's Brian Todd is looking into this for us.
Brian, what are you learning?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, health experts are worried about new cases possibly stemming from these re-openings happening too fast, not moving gradually enough. They're especially concerned after images that we've seen in recent days of crowded beaches, bars and restaurants.
TODD (voice-over): On New York's Upper West Side, a cluster of people gathers outside a newly reopened bar. In L.A. County, thousands flock back to reopened beaches, many not adhering to the rule to keep moving.
On some of Hawaii's most popular beaches, the crowds have returned. Beach goers appear to avoid gathering in large clusters but many not wearing masks.
In Wisconsin, social distancing went out the window. People crowding into a bar in Oshkosh.
With so many states and cities reopening and people eager to get out scenes like the one in Wisconsin are becoming more common, but in some cases worrisome to health experts.
PROF. WILLIAM HANAGE, EPIDEMIOLOGIST, HARVARD UNIVERSITY: People crowded together in bars like what happened in Wisconsin, people in noisy places shouting into each others ears, stuff like that, those are the kinds of things, especially in poorly ventilated areas are absolutely -- those are the kinds of conditions in which the virus thrives.
TODD: But some establishments aren't leaving it up to their customers. At the Fish Tales restaurant in Ocean City, Maryland, they've made individual tables for customers attached to large inner tubes to ensure distancing.
But are these measures working? Most indications are that new coronavirus cases and deaths in the United States have slowed in recent days. The broad scope restrictions across the country in place since early March seem to have made a significant difference. A new study published in the journal "Health Affairs" calculates that the state of Kentucky would have had far more cases by now if no lockdown or distancing policies were put in place.
Nationally, the numbers could have been 35 times higher. The study's chief author told CNN which measures they believe worked best.
PROF. CHARLES COURTEMANCHE, ECONOMIST, UNIVERSITY OF KENTUCKY: The shelter in place order had the largest effect. The other restriction that had a clear impact was the closing of these entertainment-related businesses like restaurants.
TODD: The jury is still out on whether the states which had the earliest re-openings made the right call. Georgia made some of the earliest and most extensive moves to reopen. Cases there have remained steady over three weeks.
But in Texas, where places like this Houston gym have been opened for a couple of weeks, there's been a recent spike in cases. The confusion could be due to uneven testing rates. One health expert predicts these early re-openings with more people moving around will lead to an uptick in coronavirus infections, and he spoke about when we could see that larger second wave.
HANAGE: That second wave, that second surge could be on us sooner than we think. However, we should be absolutely prepared for it to be coming in the fall.
TODD: But the leader of that study published in "Health Affairs" says we're on dangerous ground right now with these early re-openings and the intermediate restrictions in place. He says new cases could shoot- up drastically if we get these measures wrong and he says that's absolutely critical to go very slowly with these reopenings -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Brian Todd reporting for us, thank you.
Much more news right after this.
BLITZER: Finally, tonight, we remember more wonderful people who died from the coronavirus.
Robin Greenfield of New York was 66-year-old. Her husband and son described her as a force of nature. She rose through the ranks of New York City's education department working tirelessly to help hundreds of children over more than three decades.
Mervin Alfredo Maxwell-Kennedy Sr. was 78 years old, also from New York. He was born in Costa Rica and like so many came to the United States simply seeking a better life. We're told he passed down his love of laughter and strong work ethic to his six children, 14 grandchildren and two great granddaughters.
May they rest in peace and may their memories be a blessing.
To our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.
You can follow me on Twitter and Instagram @WolfBlitzer. You can always tweet the show @CNNsitroom.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.