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Pompeo Defends Recommendation to Fire I.G. Investigating Him; NY Governor Cuomo Gives Update on Coronavirus Response. Aired 11:30a- 12p ET

Aired May 20, 2020 - 11:30   ET




JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: I remind you, we're standing by for the governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, his daily briefing. Should be any minutes from now.

And just moments ago, Mike Pompeo defending the controversial firing of the State Department inspector general. And the secretary's admission that he told the president, asked the president, to terminate him, even as they watchdog was actively investigating Secretary Pompeo.

The secretary also calling recent reports about his actions as secretary of state, quote, "crazy."


MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: I have seen the various stories that someone was walking my dog to sell arms to my dry cleaner. I mean, it's all just crazy. It's all crazy stuff.

So I didn't have access to that information. So I couldn't possibly have retaliated. It would have been in possible.

There's one exception. I was asked a series of questions in writing. I responded to those questions with respect to a particular investigation. That was some time earlier this year, as best I can recall.


KING: Our national security correspondent, Kylie Atwood, is live at the State Department for us.

Kylie, you were there for the event. Walk us through it.

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, well, Secretary Pompeo leaned into what we have already heard from President Trump, which is he is the one who recommended that the president fire the inspector general at the State Department, Steve Linick.

But what Pompeo did not provide during this press conference was his rationale for doing so.

Earlier this week, the secretary gave an interview to the "Washington Post," where he said that Steve Linick had been undermining the State Department and not acting in a way that the department wanted him to.

But during this press conference, Pompeo really didn't get into the details of his rationale for why he suggested President Trump should fire Linick. Instead, he said it is up to the president. Those who serve as inspector generals for the president are there as the choice of the president.

So let's listen to how he described that.


POMPEO: The president has the unilateral right to choose who he wants to be his inspector general at every agency in the federal government. They are prejudicially confirmed positions and those positions just like all of us serve at the pleasure of the president of the United States.

In this case, I recommended to the president that Steve Linick be terminated. I, frankly, should have done it some time ago.


ATWOOD: Now, Pompeo also said that it is patently false, the reports that are out there, that he suggested that Trump fire Steve Linick as retaliation for the investigations that Linick was carrying out that involved the secretary himself. He said there would be no way for him to know about the investigations.

But we do know if someone is at the center of the investigation, we're alerted to that --


KING: Kylie, I'm sorry. I need to interrupt you.

The governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, in Albany today.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): -- all smiles. Melisa DeRosa, secretary to the governor. To my far right, we have Dr. James Manacha (ph), Dr. Howard Zucker.

To my immediate right, Mariah Cuomo, who is on special volunteer assignment for the state, working for her father. Very pleasant boss.

We're a little sad today, Mariah and I, because the boyfriend has left the premises, returned to his home state. But that's OK. That old expression, if you love something, let it go and it will return to you. And if it doesn't return, then it was never meant to be. Words to that effect.

[11:35:04] Numbers are headed in the right direction today. Hospitalizations are down. Net change in hospitalizations are down. Intubations are down again. Number of new cases down. But it was a long road down. Slow decline. Fast spike, slow decline. This is what has happened all across the country.

Number of deaths still painfully high. Not down. Up a little bit. The overall direction is right, but this is a painful, painful, tragic number of lives lost. And they're all in our thoughts and prayers.

You look at the entire experience, you see we're stabilized basically with where we were before we had this dramatic increase.

And one of the things we have learned through this is smart wins. It's not about politics. It's not about emotion. You're dealing with a virus. The virus doesn't respond to politics. The virus doesn't have an ideology. The virus isn't red or blue.

It is a virus that is attacking people. It's about science. It's about numbers. It's about data. And smart wins the battle.

If you follow that guidance and that theory, we're always looking at and researching the numbers, where the cases are coming from, how do we reduce the numbers.

You look all across the country, it's lower income communities, predominantly minority, where we're still seeing an increase in the numbers.

We looked at that in New York City. We did a very extensive research project. And it is true. You can look at where the cases are coming. Look at the testing data. By geographic area, by zip code, and find out where the cases are coming from.

We asked Northwell Health, which is the largest health system in the state, to do an extensive test for us. We're in the midst of that test. But we had back about 8,000 tests, which is a very large sample. And the data is very powerful. And informs what we're doing going forward. The test was done in New York City because that's where we have the highest predominance of cases.

But in low-income communities, communities of color, we partnered with the faith-based community, with churches, to conduct tests. We found about 27 percent of the individuals testing positive, 27 percent. That's compared to the New York City general population of about 19 percent. OK.

The Bronx had the highest percentage, 34 percent. Again, compared to a city-wide average of 19 percent. Then Brooklyn, then Manhattan, then Queens. Staten Island was right at the New York City overall number.

But you think a place like the Bronx, it's 34 percent compared to 19 percent. Just to give you an idea. And the data shows not just a high positive, not just a high number of people had the positive but the spread is continuing in those communities. And that's where the new cases are coming from. OK. And you can literally do that on a zip code basis.

For example, we're seeing it in the Bronx, 43 percent of the people tested positive, 43 percent. Compared to New York City general average of 19 percent. Hospitalization rate, 3.2 people for every 100,000. Compared to 1.8. It is double the hospitalization rate. OK.

So be smart. Let's use the numbers. Let's research, where are people who are infected, where are the new cases coming from, where is the spread continuing? Low-income communities, communities of color. They tend to be high Latino, high African-American population.


And we're seeing that pattern continue in zip codes, lower income, predominantly minority. Brownsville, Brooklyn, 41 percent. Double the city average. That happens to be 80 percent African-American. But again, just about double the rate of hospitalization. So that's where the cases are still coming from. That's where the virus is still spreading.

But again, you look at the data. You see it over and over again, by zip code, by select communities within the city.

My old neighborhood, Hollis, Queens, 35 percent compared to 19 percent. So it's all across the city. Less in Staten Island. Higher in communities of color and lower-income communities.

I want to thank the congressional delegation who helped organize this partnership between Northwell and the faith-based community, getting 8,000 tests in a short period of time is not easily done.

Congressman Hakeem Jeffries came up with this idea about 10 days ago. Organized it quickly. I want to thank Hakeem.

I also want to thank Congresswoman Velazquez and Congresswoman Clark for helping us get it organized.

The faith-based community has been great here. Reverend Braley (ph) and Reverend Rivera organized those churches for us. So we have the data, we have the research.

And now we have to take the next step. OK. We did the research. We have the data. We know it's happening. Now, what do we do about it? That's always step two. We're going to develop targeted strategies to these highly impacted communities.

What we're seeing in New York City is going to be true across the state. Northwell Health is going to double the number of churches that they're working in, 44 total churches.

We're going to partner with SOMOS Community Care. And I want to thank them very much for stepping up. They're going to open up 28 additional testing sites in these zip codes that fit this profile.

We're going to focus on public housing. When you think about everything we're talking about, socially distance, et cetera, and then think about public housing and how hard it is in public housing to do the things we're talking about.

I worked in public housing all across this country when I was the Housing and Urban Development secretary during the Clinton administration.

Socially distance. How do you socially distance in an elevator, in a public housing complex? How do you socially distance in the hallways of a public housing complex? How do you socially distance in the lobby? How do you socially distance in a small playground that is attached to public housing? So we understand the challenge.

And ready responders are going to increase the testing in 40 public housing developments in New York City.

So this is going to be a very extensive effort between Northwell and SOMOS, with 72 faith-based sites. You'll then have ready responders in public housing.

And we want to now take the next step, which is outreach programs, getting the PPE into the community, getting the hand sanitizer into the community, explaining social distancing and why that's so important, and explain how this virus spreads. It's a public health education effort.

And you know, I have been all across the state. You drive through some of these communities, and you can see that social distancing isn't happening. PPE is not being used. And hence, the virus spreads.

And again, we did the research in New York City because that's where we have the predominance of cases. But it is going to be true in every community across this state and across this nation.

You tell me the zip codes that have the predominantly minority community, lower-income community, I will tell you the communities where you're going to have a higher positive. And you're going to have increased spread, and you're going to have increased hospitalization.

I'm asking all local governments to do the same thing that we did in New York City. Focus on low-income communities. Do the testing. And do the outreach. Do the testing and do the outreach.

That's where the cases are coming from. That's where the new hospitalizations are coming from. That's what's going into the hospital system. That's where you're going to see the highest number of deaths. So that is our challenge.


On reopening, which we're doing across the state, we do it on the numbers. We do it on the metrics. Every New Yorker can go to the Web site and find out where their community is. Capital district will reopen today.

We're working with religious institutions right now. They can have up to 10 people with strict social distancing guidelines at religious gatherings. We have asked them to consider drive-in and parking lot services for religious ceremonies. But we're going to be working with our interfaith advisory council.

Our Interfaith Advisory Council has representatives of the religious community across the state, all different religions. I understand their desire to get back to religious ceremonies as soon as possible. As a former altar boy, I get it.

I think, even at this time of stress and when people are so anxious and so confused, I think those religious ceremonies can be very comforting. But we need to find out how to do it and do it safely and do it smartly. The last thing we want to do is have a religious ceremony that winds up having more people infected.

Religious ceremony, by definition is a gathering. Right? It's a large number of people coming together.

We know from New Rochelle, Westchester, the first hot spot, that religious ceremonies can be very dangerous. So we all want to do the same thing. The question is, how do we do it and how do we do it smartly and efficiently.

I'll be talking with members of the religious community in doing just that. And I'm sure that we can come up with a way that does it but does it intelligently.

People ask all the time, now we're reopening, what's going to happen. What's going to happen is what we make happen. There's no predestined course here. There's nothing that is preordained. What is going to happen is a consequence of our choices and a consequence of our actions. It's that simple.

If people are smart and if people are responsible and if the employers who are opening those businesses do it responsibly, if employees are responsible, if individuals are responsible, then you will see the infection rates stay low.

If people get arrogant, if people get cocky, if people get casual, if people become undisciplined, you will see that infection rate go up. It is that simple.

This has always been about what we do. It's never been about what government mandated. Government cannot mandate behavior of people. And it certainly can't mandate behavior of 19 million people.

They can give you the facts. It can give you the facts that lead to an inevitable conclusion. And New Yorkers have been great about following the facts. But we're at another pivot point.

Yes, we're reopening. Yes, the numbers are down. Yes, we can increase activity and increase economic activity.

What is the consequence of that? It depends on what we do.

Do your part, wear a mask. Now, wearing a mask, I have been trying to communicate in a whole different set of ways. Mariah is heading up a project that she'll report on in a moment that's helping to communicate this message. But it seems like a simple thing, wearing a mask. And it's apparently

so simple that people think it's of no consequence. It happens to be of tremendous consequence. It is amazing how effective that mask actually is.

And don't take my word for it. I'm not a doctor. I'm not a public health expert. Again, look at the facts.

What shocks me to this day -- and I would have lost a lot of money on this bet -- how do frontline workers have a lower infection rate than the general population?

If I said to you, who is going to have a higher infection rate, nurses in an emergency room, doctors in an emergency room, or the general population, who has a higher infection rate. I think most people would have said the nurses in the emergency room, the doctors in the emergency room, the hospital staff. They're going to have a higher infection rate because they're dealing with COVID-positive people all day long. Not true.


How do nurses and doctors have a lower infection rate than the general population? How do transit workers, who are on the buses and subways all day long, have a lower infection rate than the general population?

How does the NYPD, police officers who show up who are dealing with people all day long, how do they have a lower infection rate? How does the NYPD have almost half the infection rate of New York City? How can it be? They're the police officers.

They're wearing the mask. The mask works. Those surgical masks work. And it's in the data. It's not that I'm saying it. It's in the data. And otherwise, it's inexplicable.

Just look at that list. Transit workers are lower. Health care workers are lower. The police department is lower. The fire department is lower, which also has the EMTs, who show up first and help a person get into an ambulance. They have a lower infection rate.

The dockworkers are the corrections officers who are in a prison. They're at 7 percent. State police, 3 percent. They wear the masks. Wear a mask.

Remember all those pictures of people in China always wearing masks? Oh, I wonder why they wear all those masks. They were right. The masks work. They are protective and they work. Wear a mask.

So, on May 5th, we launched a contest to come up with video messages prepared by New Yorkers to try to communicate of wear a mask better than I was communicating a message of wear a mask, because my daughters were, which was preventing the communication of the wear the mask message.

Caveat is my daughters often say it is my communication skills, which are the problem in the home, in society at large. So, Mariah volunteered to run a competition where we asked New Yorkers

to do a 30-second ad. And the winner of the competition would be the ad that the state runs.

With that, I will turn it over to Mariah for her update and her report.

MARIAH KENNEDY CUOMO, DAUGHTER OF GOVERNOR ANDREW CUOMO: Today, we're excited to be sharing the five ad finalists that our team has selected for the New York state Wear a Mask ad contest. And these ad finalists, which we'll be showing shortly, are in the running for winning this contest and being shown as a public service announcement.

Starting today, people can go to to vote for their favorite ad. And voting will be open through Memorial Day. On May 26th, we'll be announcing the final winning ad.

And we're so grateful to all of the New Yorkers who have submitted one of the over 600 submissions. And we will be sharing honorable mentions as well so that you can see the great videos.

CUOMO: Great, 600 submissions. And these are the five finalists that people can view and vote on.

OK. Let's see the five finalists.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wear a mask for my fellow New Yorkers.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My mama, who's a health care worker.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Nurses and doctors.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For the marginalized communities who don't have access to adequate health care.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For my community.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Essential workers.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The immunocompromised.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wear a mask so we can get back to work.





UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Go to the theater.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: See our families.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Continue to show support.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Take care of each other.







UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We'll be stuck inside our homes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: While our everyday heroes have been working overtime.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For New York to reopen --


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We all need to do our part.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And show that we care.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I wear a mask to protect you.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You wear a mask to protect me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Let's all wear a mask.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To stop the spread of coronavirus.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When we show up in a mask --

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're showing up for each other.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Show your love for New Yorkers.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because New York loves you. CUOMO: The textbook says politicians lead. No, sometimes the people

lead. And the politicians follow. Follow the American people. They will do the right thing. There's still a right thing. Maybe right thing is a New York expression.



CUOMO: Great. I know that guy, by the way. I see him all the time.

So, those are the five finalists. People can vote. They go to the,wearamask to vote. Vote now between May and 25th. Winner announced May 26th.

How many times can a person vote?

M.K. CUOMO: Once.

CUOMO: Once. No voter fraud on this election. No absentee ballots. No polling places.

Is there early voting? I don't think so.

All right. So, that's great.

Thank you very much for doing that.

We'll announce that winner May 26th.

Over 600 submissions, though. And they are really great. I've seen a number of them. We're going to post the honorable mentions also, but all 600 will be available to look at, and they're really creative and they have different voices from all across the state.

So, I want to thank very much everyone who participated, because they really are, they are special.

And with that, we'll take any questions that you might have.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Governor, will you be testing --

KING: The governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, giving his update on the state of New York, saying all the numbers are headed in the right direction, discussing the plans to reopen. Announcing five finalists in a public service announcement contest to convince New Yorkers to keep wearing a mask.

We'll take a quick break. We'll be right back.


KING: Hello to our viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm John, King in Washington. This is CNN continuing coverage of the coronavirus pandemic. The focus of the New York governor's message you just heard, wear a

mask. The governor says trends in his state, the hardest hit here in the United States, moving in the right direction. But if people get cocky and undisciplined, the governor says, watch out, that infection rate could climb again.


Also today, potentially encouraging answer to two big coronavirus questions --