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President Trump Informs He is Taking Hydroxychloroquine as Prophylactic against COVID-19; President Trump Threatens to Remove American Funding from World Health Organization; Pompeo Says He Asked Trump to Fire Inspector General; Some Colleges Plan to Limit In-Person Classes This Fall. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired May 19, 2020 - 08:00   ET

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


ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: So President Trump is defying science again by self-medicating with a potentially dangerous drug. NEW DAY continues right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I happen to be taking it. Hydroxychloroquine, I think it's good. I've heard a lot of good stories.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is in direct contradiction of the FDA's own guidance.

REP. NANCY PELOSI, (D-CA) HOUSE SPEAKER: I would rather he not be taking something that has not been approved by the scientists.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He must have had quite extensive exposure for them to go ahead and begin hydroxychloroquine.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Gyms in multiple states are open, 17 states seeing a rise in new cases over the past week.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: University of South Carolina says face to face instruction will also end after the Thanksgiving holiday.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Social distancing, the face coverings, you're speeding up the day when we can open up more.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. And every day is a new opportunity to save lives. As of this morning, more than 90,000 Americans have been killed by coronavirus. As we just said, every day is a new chance to keep that number from going higher. Instead, the president is preening over taking a drug that has not been proven to work. In fact, studies have shown it can be dangerous. So why is he doing it? (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: A lot of good things have come out about the hydroxy. A lot of good things have come out. You'd be surprised at how many people are taking it, especially the frontline workers, before you catch it. The frontline workers, many, many are taking it. I happen to be taking it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BERMAN: Studies as of now have shown it is not effective and can be dangerous. The president is 73-years-old, obese, has coronary artery disease, and is being treated for high cholesterol. So why is he so proud about taking a drug that there is no proof works? Likewise, what does he flaunt not wearing a mask? The answers might be the same.

CAMEROTA: Also John, breaking overnight, the president delivering an ultimatum, threatening to pull all money from the World Health Organization just as the group is meeting to discuss a potential investigation into the outbreak of coronavirus. President Trump blames the WHO for not doing more to stop the spread in December, and for praising China's transparency in January. But, of course, in January the president did the same thing himself. He said The United States greatly appreciates China's efforts and transparency. He often thanked China's president.

BERMAN: Joining us now, CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Dr. Leanna Wen. She's the former Baltimore City health commissioner and an emergency room physician. And Sanjay, I just want to start with you here, because there is a risk to the president himself, to the 73-year-old man who is obese, and there is a risk to the health of America as well for this statement that he was so proud about making. I want you to weigh in on whichever one you think might be more important.

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I think the potential concern for America is a significant one. This is a medication that has not been proven to work as either a prophylaxis, as a preventative, or a treatment, number one, because those are two different things. It has been shown to cause harm in people who are taking it as a treatment.

The studies that came out initially, they were sort of anecdotal, it wasn't clear. They were followed up, even in France, even in Brazil, here in the United States, showing no benefit in people who are already ill with COVID, and possible harm, actually causing these fatal cardiac arrhythmias, heart arrhythmias.

As far as prophylaxis goes, meaning that you're taking it try to prevent the infection, maybe you become exposed, you're trying to not get the infection after an exposure, those studies are still forthcoming. There is a couple of studies that are looking at healthcare workers with significant exposures. We'll see what those studies show. But his own FDA, the president's own FDA has said this medication should not be used outside of a clinical trial or in hospitalized patients. So it's irresponsible, sends the wrong message, and potentially is

dangerous to his health. As you mentioned, he has these preexisting conditions. So I don't know how this decision got made. I'm sure it was a conversation between him and his doctor. But I'm worried it sends a wrong message.

CAMEROTA: I think that there is actually a connection, Dr. Wen, between the health of the president of the United States and all of our health and the health of Americans. I think that you can't actually separate them. One of the side effects of hydroxychloroquine are mood swings. And so if the president is taking hydroxychloroquine, of course mood swings and any other emotional impact that the drug has affects judgment, and you can play out the consequences from there. The president continues to make decisions. And we just don't know what hydroxychloroquine's effect is at the moment on him. What concerns you?

[08:05:00]

DR. LEANA WEN, EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN: Well, you're right, Alisyn there are very substantial side effects that we need to talk about, including the real harm of cardiac damage, that this is a medication that causes damage to the liver, potentially, and also to the heart, that there could be fatal cardiac arrhythmias with irregular heartbeats that could kill.

I also really worry about the message that President Trump is sending the country in what he's doing. Is he also providing a type of false reassurance that, don't worry, if you end up getting exposed to COVID- 19 or if you get it, don't worry, there is this magic pill, and I'm taking it too, so you can as well. And I think we know what happens when the president models this type of behavior. When he first talked about hydroxychloroquine back in March, the number of prescriptions jumped nearly 50 times in the population. And so I worry about people taking this medication and experiencing harm and maybe changing their own behaviors in a way that counters public health.

BERMAN: And Sanjay, I think it's the same thing as not wearing a mask, flaunting the fact that he is choosing not to wear a mask, even in situations where it would seem appropriate.

GUPTA: Yes, I think this is really concerning. And, Jonathan Reiner brought this up last hour that, look, did the president have a significant exposure to coronavirus? We know that there are people, obviously, within the White House that have contracted the virus, but did he have significant exposure, one that was significant enough to now warrant this discussion about hydroxychloroquine? I don't know. Again, there is no discussion that should be taking place around hydroxychloroquine.

But the idea that people weren't wearing masks, now they are, maybe, I don't know, but they weren't wearing masks despite the fact that the rest of the country was told to wear masks, and that as a result the president of the United States may have been exposed, had a significant exposure, as someone who is a vulnerable patient, someone who is in his 70s, has these preexisting conditions -- we're telling elderly people all across America, please stay at home, please do the right thing. You're vulnerable. And yet within his own house there are people with this virus who are not wearing masks and he had a significant exposure. This is absolutely the wrong message.

We're trying -- public health officials around the country are trying to do their job here. They're trying to send the right message. They're trying to help people in the wake of a pandemic that does not have a vaccine or a magic therapeutic at this point. Wearing masks makes a difference, and yet what we're seeing modeled in the White House did not reflect that. I'm really worried about that. It makes it very hard for these people and us, frankly, to do our jobs.

CAMEROTA: I don't blame you, Sanjay, for being worried, because, as we know, a couple of weeks ago, when President Trump suggested that maybe injecting bleach could just help clean out your insides, clean your insides, Dr. Wen, of this virus, we saw medical hotlines spike. The traffic to them spiked with people questioning whether taking bleach could help fight coronavirus. So the president of the United States words and actions matter, and they have consequences that you then all have to deal with.

WEN: Right. And there are many people in this country for whom the president is the most credible messenger. They might not be listening to public health experts, they're not listening to Sanjay. They're listening to the president of the United States. And so what he says, he's taking this medication, what is the harm? What do you have to lose? Then so many other people are going to follow suit with really potentially dangerous consequences when you apply it to that many people across the country.

And I think it also really distracts us from what we should be talking about, which is why we should have continued good hand hygiene, why we should wear masks, and also why that physical distancing remains really important. Just because we have reopened doesn't mean that it is now safe to go about and do all your normal activities. But I think that there is a lot of misunderstanding around this. People are thinking, now it is fine to go back to bars and restaurants and my gym and my salon without realizing that the virus itself has not changed, that this is still a highly contagious disease, and that we still need to practice physical distancing or else this is an infection that is going to skyrocket, and all the sacrifices that people have been making for the last couple of months will be in vain.

BERMAN: Sanjay, Nancy Pelosi called the president morbidly obese yesterday. We're waiting to see if he responds to that. That was, I think, a political statement and a barb on her part. The obese part is true. Morbidly obese not so much. He's clinically obese. What does that mean, and what risk does that put him in.

GUPTA: He would be considered a vulnerable patient. That's the thing. One thing we have a clearer idea on is who is most at risk from this infection, of getting very sick from this infection. And, again, maybe that's what's driving some of this decision and, frankly, these bad decisions within the White House about taking unproven, potentially dangerous medications.

[08:05:00]

But I think that the other issue is that if you have these underlying conditions, and then you take something, as Leana was saying, that is associated with these cardiac arrhythmias, might it even be worse for him? He already has heart disease. Now you're layering on this medication. This is potentially -- not even potentially, this is irresponsible. This is really irresponsible, and I think sends the wrong message to people.

INGRAHAM: Dr. Wen, as we're speaking, we're just getting word that the WHO Assembly, which is going on right now, has just launched, or announced that they will launch an independent investigation into their coronavirus response. So President Trump has been threatening to permanently withhold funds, U.S. funds, from the WHO, and to withdraw as a member of the WHO. And so what would be the consequences of the U.S. getting out?

WEN: Look, diseases know no boundaries. If it is anything that COVID- 19 has shown us, is that you can't have a piecemeal approach. It doesn't work in the U.S. to have 50 different approaches, and it certainly does not work worldwide, that we're only as strong as our weakest state, we're only as strong as our weakest country. And this is really the last time, in the middle of a pandemic, that we should be withdrawing funding from the World Health Organization. We should be doing everything we can to strengthen public health infrastructure in the U.S. and around the world. We should be strengthening our local health departments here, strengthening the CDC, strengthening the WHO.

Now, of course, there are mistakes that the World Health Organization made, just as there are mistakes that the U.S. has made. Certainly, China should have been a lot more transparent. There should have been much more oversight of what is happening in China. There are things that can be done, and in retrospect we should fix them. But we should be strengthening the capacity, not reducing it while we're having this major outbreak that is claiming so many lives around the world.

BERMAN: And it should be noted the president specifically praised China for its transparency in January. That's it Sanjay, an investigation into how this was handled, I'm just reading the details right now, if the WHO is up and running, that shouldn't affect their ability to continue to administer to the world as much as losing funding would.

GUPTA: Yes. No, absolutely. And I agree, there was some real problems here. I still was a little baffled by how slow we were getting information from the WHO about even declaring this a public health emergency, declaring this a pandemic, all of that. And maybe there will be some lessons learned real time that can be applied so that as we go through this, because we're still very much in this pandemic, could be beneficial to the world.

But there's two things the WHO I think is still very important in terms of the roles for everybody. One is that because these trials, looking at these large trials, you need lots of patients from all over the world, they have been able to do these solidarity trials, actually accumulating lots of patients. We need the data. We need the data on the therapeutics, be to figure out what is going to work and potentially be effective for people.

The second thing is, the United States is the United States. We're a wealthy country. For these countries that have poor healthcare systems that are disenfranchised, if you start to see significant outbreaks and clusters of cases in these places, and people are still traveling around the world, we can start to see the rest of the world again. That's one of the things the WHO is hopefully going to help address in these other places. As we always say, an infection anywhere is an infection everywhere. So we've got to be mindful of that.

CAMEROTA: OK, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Dr. Leana Wen, thank you very much for all of the information.

Now this, we now know whose idea it was for President Trump to fire the State Department's inspector general. We have the details for you next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:17:22]

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo now says he asked President Trump to remove the State Department inspector general because he was, quote, undermining the State Department.

The president then fired that inspector general, Steve Linick, on Friday.

Joining us now is CNN White House correspondent John Harwood.

So, we have more information about this. This inspector general was looking into an $8 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia that the White House had used an end run around Congress to achieve and they had some questions for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about this and he refused to sit for the investigation or the interview.

So then what happened?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we learned that from House Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel and what happened was that Mike Pompeo asked the president to fire Steve Linick. The president let that cat out of the bag yesterday at his availability and then Mike Pompeo confirmed it, said, yes, he was undermining the department.

We know that this is not an administration that values oversight of its work, that in fact tries to shut down oversight of its work. We know that the administration has been especially skeptical toward what it calls the deep state, which is another way of saying professional government public servants in the government. Mike Pompeo, like Rex Tillerson before him, has been very brusque and tough with the diplomats within the State Department, don't like being constrained by them.

So, here, you had a perfect recipe for ditching the inspector general. There was also that investigation of personal errands that the secretary of state allegedly was having performed for him by aides, but we don't know what the inspector general has found in either of those cases. We just know that Pompeo didn't like the scrutiny.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, and we know now that the inspector general is gone. Those are two big things to know in this situation. You know, we also know the president --

HARWOOD: Exactly.

BERMAN: -- came out with the hydroxychloroquine thing yesterday. Was he trying to pull focus from the purge of inspectors general? Was he trying to pull focus from the revelation yesterday of what was the first foreign coordinated terror attack on U.S. soil since September 11th that largely got swept under the rug we covered today?

There was also the issue of his attorney general, Bill Barr, who came out and said, despite the president for days pointing the finger at former President Obama and Joe Biden, you know, the attorney general said there's no criminal investigation. We're not going to issue criminal charges on what they're doing.

[08:20:00]

John Durham, his appointed attorney, looking into this, doesn't seem to be holding back in any other ways, John, Bill Barr said, no, there's not going to be a crime here.

HARWOOD: It is always hard, John, to make a judgment about whether the president's talking about A to distract from B because there are so many problematic stories from the administration and the ones you're distracting with aren't much better than the ones you're switching to. But in this case, you had the president going out, saying wild things with no basis, Obamagate, suggesting the former President Obama committed crimes or former Vice President Biden committed crimes, zero basis for believing that.

So in one sense, Bill Barr was getting out ahead of that and cutting off pressure that he might have been feeling from the president and saying, no, we're not going there. On the other hand, he does have John Durham looking into various issues related to the start of the Russia -- Trump Russia investigation and maybe Bill Barr thinks that by saying I'm not going to prosecute former President Obama he looked reasonable if he tries to prosecute other people.

Again, Bill Barr has shown himself to be pretty aggressive in trying to defend the interests of the president of the United States as if it were his client, rather than the traditional role of the attorney general. And this is the case where the president may have been pushing even too hard for Bill Barr.

CAMEROTA: Yes, but, John, I'm not sure that Bill Barr's statement lasts into perpetuity. What he said here was now as --

HARWOOD: Maybe not. CAMEROTA: He suggests -- I'll quickly say, he said based on the

information I have today I don't expect Mr. Durham's work will lead to a criminal investigation of either man. I mean, he sometimes changes his opinion.

HARWOOD: Absolutely. Nothing is set in stone with this administration. One additional consideration to keep in mind is he said he wasn't going to pursue those prosecutions based on what he knows now, in the interests of not politicizing the administration of justice, the prosecuting a former president would look too political. That's something that President Trump might have a keen interest in, in 2021, if he should lose the election, he's got some jeopardy given the investigations that have gone on both by the Southern District of New York and the Mueller investigation and I think he will not -- if that's the case, if he should be former President Trump at that point, he's not going to want politicized justice either.

BERMAN: John, very quickly, because we have to let you go, Nancy Pelosi called the president morbidly obese overnight. I can't imagine he liked that.

Has there been any White House response yet?

HARWOOD: No. And we've all been waiting for the Twitter response from President Trump. But, look, he doesn't take kindly to personal insults and we know that he hits back very hard when he gets insults like that. He posted a loser tweet yesterday about Mitt Romney. I can expect something that maybe amps up his normal crazy Nancy response sometime today. But we'll have to see.

CAMEROTA: OK. John Harwood, thank you very much.

HARWOOD: You bet.

CAMEROTA: Now to what September will look like. Some colleges and universities are coming up with a new plan for fall semester. The president of Rice University joins us to explain.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:27:23]

CAMEROTA: Many colleges and universities are announcing their plans for how to safely bring students back in the fall. Some are planning to wrap up in person classes by Thanksgiving. Rice University was one of the first universities to make that announcement.

Joining us now is David Leebron. He's the president of Rice University.

President Leebron, thank you very much for being here.

Every -- all parents are waiting with great anticipation to see what September brings. And there are all sorts of universities who -- that have already announced, I'm thinking of, for instance, Cal State, that they're not going to have in-person, on-campus classes, but you're trying a different tact.

So, what's your thinking?

DAVID LEEBRON, PRESIDENT, RICE UNIVERSITY: Yes, our thinking based on the -- we looked at the data from various sources and look at the projections was that we thought it was probable we could reopen in person in the fall, in August, for us, and that's the path that we're pursuing, but really keeping in mind that we have to re-evaluate that at every step of the way based on the most recent data and based on guidance for the Centers for Disease Control. Our larger concern as we made this decision was the potential for resurgence of the pandemic, and that's the reason we decided to shorten the semester, just really a little bit, for us, and conclude on campus classes before Thanksgiving.

CAMEROTA: I'm interested in that because we've already heard from places like Notre Dame, University of South Carolina today, that what they plan to do is start their fall semester earlier, in August, and conclude by Thanksgiving.

You're doing something -- a different creative take on the calendar. So you're not starting early, but what are you doing instead?

LEEBRON: Yes, so our semester already begins in August. So, a wonderful time in Houston. And so, what we found is we really could reschedule just a couple of classes potentially that would ordinarily take place after Thanksgiving, and that would enable us to conclude before Thanksgiving.

We haven't yet decided whether that would mean concluding on the Friday before Thanksgiving or the Tuesday before Thanksgiving. That's something we still have to work out.

CAMEROTA: Is your thinking based on the idea that coronavirus will spike between Thanksgiving and the end of the year?

LEEBRON: Yes, the best information is that these viruses tend to return around the winter, particularly and possibly late November, December, maybe January.

And so, we wanted to be prepared for that. I think as we thought about it, the important thing was really to be very flexible, very agile, and very adaptable. And that meant if we had to make quick decisions

END