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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
WHO: Largest Single-Day Rise In Reported Coronavirus Cases; Sources: Fate Of CDC Chief In Question As Tensions With WH Rise; Trump Touts Hydroxychloroquine As WHO Warns The Drug Has Not Been Found To Be Effective To Prevent Virus; Northeast China In "War Time" Mode Amid New Outbreak; Trump Threatens To Withhold State Funding Over Mail-In Voting; Pompeo Defends Firing Of State Department I.G. Investigating Him. Aired 7-8p ET
Aired May 20, 2020 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. We'll continue to follow all the breaking news.
Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next breaking news, the WHO reporting the largest single day increase in reported coronavirus cases worldwide as tensions rise between the White House and what should be the lead agency during the pandemic, the CDC. Are the CDC Director is days numbered?
Plus, what one doctor in China says he's seeing in a new outbreak there. He says dozens of patients are taking longer to develop symptoms. That could be crucial.
And the Secretary of State defiant tonight, saying he couldn't have retaliated against his Inspector General. He didn't know he was being investigated. Does this explanation add up? We have new details this hour.
Let's go OUTFRONT.
And good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.
OUTFRONT tonight, the breaking news. The World Health Organization reporting the alarm single-day increase in reported coronavirus cases across the globe since the pandemic began. According to the organization, 106,000 cases were reported over the last 24 hours. The worldwide death count now more than 326,000, with nearly one third of those in the United States of America.
This grim milestone comes as the fate of the man helping lead the American response is now in question. Distrust between the White House and the CDC has been building for weeks and now. A top administration official telling CNN that there have been conversations about quote, what to do with the CDC Director Robert Redfield.
Redfield has been concerned there could be a target on his back as tensions escalate between the White House and his agency according to another source. Trump and his aides have been privately and publicly criticizing the CDC response to the outbreak. Publicly tonight the President said this about Redfield.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No, I think he's done a very good job. I think that my whole team has done a very good job. CDC has done a, I think, really good job.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: This comes after the CDC quietly and finally released much delayed guidelines on reopening last night. Here they are. We finally got them, just hours before the last state in the country partially reopened.
So it is 60 pages, OK. It details schools, businesses, how they can reopen. All kinds of links to every single document that they have.
The thing about this is as you go through it, it's detailed, but talk about too late. I mean, a delay of weeks for this. It's not much different than what was in their original draft that was shelved weeks ago, when states were actually beginning to reopen and it would have been extremely helpful then.
But now, of course, it's been the Wild West out there for how states have chosen to reopen and now officials at the CDC tell CNN they did try to act earlier but that they've been 'muzzled' that their response has been hindered by a White House putting politics ahead of science.
So at a time when Americans need more information than ever and information from a trusted source, the organization that we all as Americans would turn to for truth in this situation, the CDC was essentially silent.
Erica Hill is OUTFRONT live in New York. And Erica, more states are feeling the pressure to make additional reopening moves. Holiday weekend approaching and as we said, you've got these guidelines now, but it really has been a sort of complete, as I said, Wild West in terms of how they reopen.
ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR AND NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It has. It's really a patchwork approach. And we know there is no one size fits all approach to this for any state or even the country. That being said, without that guidance, as you point out, Erin, we're seeing a very different response and we are seeing that push, you can feel the desire for Americans to get back at some sort of normalcy, but officials, of course, have to balance that with the very real concerns for public health.
HILL (voice over): A 50-state experiment now in full swing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) JONATHAN RESSLER, ARCHIE MOORE'S: It's been a rough time, two months
without normal operations is not easy in the restaurant business when there are such thin margins.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HILL (voice over): Restaurants offering outdoor dining in Connecticut. Hair salons originally slated to reopen today, now on hold until June 1st.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A lot of us here today, we did what was necessary and what was called for us to do and it just - the rug got pulled out from underneath us.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HILL (voice over): Salons in Miami Beach can open today, but beaches there remain closed.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR DAN GELBER (D) MIAMI BEACH: We don't want to do is rush so fast that we create a spike in the virus.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HILL (voice over): In-person car sales now allowed in New Jersey. Los Angeles County setting a goal of reopening on July 4th, as Alaska declares everything will be open Friday morning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. MIKE DUNLEAVY (R) ALASKA: We now have the knowledge of this virus. We all know how it operates. So it's going to be up to us as individuals to deal with it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HILL (voice over): Alaska is one of 18 states seeing an uptick in new cases over the past week, along with Kentucky.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. ANDY BESHEAR (D) KENTUCKY: And we're humble enough to know that it's very possible we make a decision that we've got to pull back.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HILL (voice over): The Missouri School Board Association releasing a draft plan for K through 12 schools.
Suggestions include a delayed start and a blend of in-person and virtual learning, noting there cannot be one plan for all schools.
The CDC also releasing long-awaited guidance for schools and businesses, though not for religious institutions. Despite a separate CDC report detailing the spread of the virus at an Arkansas Church.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
FATHER EDWARD BECK, CNN RELIGIOUS COMMENTATOR: Other congregants have been infected with the virus. So I think we really have to be smart about this and I think it should have included the guidelines for all groups that gather and including religious ones.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HILL (voice over): Rhode Island announcing in-person worship can begin next weekend at 25 percent capacity. Indiana State Parks summer day camps and baseball fields will open in most of the state this Friday.
Ford resuming production at a Chicago facility today, while temporarily closing its truck plant in Dearborn, Michigan after an employee there tested positive for the virus.
In New York City, still weeks away from reopening, new UV lights will help disinfect subway cars and buses, a crucial step in getting millions of New Yorkers back to work safely.
HILL: Also, here in New York State, the Governor announcing that starting tomorrow, Erin, there can be religious services 10 people or less strict social distancing and masks need to be worn. He said drive-in and parking lot services will also be allowed. And the governor is convening an interfaith advisory council to look at services moving forward.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Erica, that will make a lot of difference for a lot of people just in terms of ability to socialize. I know even 10 or fewer will still make a big difference. Thank you.
And OUTFRONT now, Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Dr. William Schaffner, former CDC official and now a professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.
So, Sanjay, the President, obviously, said good things about Redfield tonight, but we do know there has been tension building between he and the CDC for weeks. We get these guidelines. They are detailed, but this is what we needed weeks ago and now we got them tonight. Sources at the CDC are saying they were muzzled, that's their word.
SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, I think that there's increasing evidence of that. And I mean, Erin, as someone who has been sort of reporting on this for some time, I think it's gone back more than just the last few weeks. There were daily briefings, even telephone briefings from the CDC that all of us reporters would listen to and get a lot of our initial information. I'm talking into February even into early March. There was the Chief
of Respiratory Diseases at the CDC, Nancy Messonnier, she said at the end of February one time on one of these calls, it's not a question of if, it's a question of when this becomes a pandemic and affects the United States.
And I'll tell you, it was really after that, I think, Erin, that we really started to see the relationship, significantly changed. CDC is typically, as Dr. Schaffner knows, very much at the forefront of these things and it was around that time and along with the testing rollout and things like that, that we've seen the CDC just not be listened to or at the forefront of this at all.
BURNETT: And Dr. Schaffner, as Sanjay points out, it's interesting that he said what Dr. Messonnier said about that it's not a question of if, but when. Not the message the White House wanted then or at any time. But he also mentioned testing and the CDC did have a big misstep early on with testing.
That was a big problem. It caused some major delays. And reportedly, the President was very upset about that fairly so. As a former CDC official, how do you put this in context. You trust the CDC at this point to be running point on this pandemic response.
DR. WILLIAM SCHAFFNER, PROFESSOR, INFECTIOUS DISEASES DIVISION, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: Yes, absolutely. And as an alumnus of the CDC, I'm so called President of the CDC fan club and I am really saddened that it's been sidelined this way. Because it continues to be the premier public health agency in the world.
It ought to be leading the response against coronavirus both here and in many ways influencing what's going on around the world. We would have liked that. It certainly happened in previous outbreaks, whether it's Ebola, Zika, chikungunya virus, the 2009 H1N1 flu outbreak. The CDC actually led wonderfully and instructed us gave us information about what to do locally and there was harmony between the CDC, state and local health departments.
Those relationships are still there. They need to be activated. The CDC, I would love to see, come back to the fore.
BURNETT: So Sanjay, many states have been moving to the reopening process. The vast majority of them for weeks without these guidelines and that's just the facts. Now, they have done so, obviously, you don't want a one size fits all, but they have done so counter to the White House guidelines which were developed in apart with some from the CDC, even the two weeks of declining cases you were supposed to have.
They didn't have this 60-page document and all of these details. The former FDA Commissioner under President Trump, Dr. Scott Gottlieb, just sent this chart out of new hospitalizations now. So we've got - we're weeks into the reopening here and we're about to see a surgeon reopening. You see two weeks of decline in hospitalizations and now there appears
to be a week of flattening out, so this is hospitalizations, not new cases. You can't put this one on testing, an increase in testing. This is actual hospitalizations. What do you attribute that to?
GUPTA: Well, I mean, it's a little bit concerning. If it was going to continue to go down, maybe we would have seen it continue to go down. But the fact that it's plateauing, if you look at it as a larger sort of picture, is that maybe some early signals that the numbers may start to tick back up. We don't know. I mean, that's why we have to follow these things over weeks as opposed to days.
I mean, you look at that graph and May 13th was a significant day, obviously. But that's just one day and it's going to increase the rolling average. So I want to see - I want to widen the aperture a little bit on this and see what this looks like a little bit over time. There's no question the numbers are going to go back up as we reopen.
I mean, everybody acknowledges that. I think it's a question of how much. One thing I will say about the data, just going back to the question about the CDC. Previously, we were getting the data from the CDC and then when the CDC said we're going to let the states start reporting data, it was still supposed to funnel through the CDC. So we had some better sense that the data was - we're looking at national pictures and it's all been validated in some way by the CDC.
I don't think that we have that right now. It's tough to really read into especially some of these state by state numbers.
BURNETT: Well, it's hard because you don't even know if you're looking at apples to apples count of what you're looking at, which is I think a really basic way of explaining to people some of the very fundamentally important things that the CDC would ordinarily be doing.
Dr. Schaffner, there's also this point about whether there's going to be who's vetting all these announcements about vaccine progress and cure progress. And there was an op-ed in the Washington Post today written by William Haseltine, a former Harvard Medical School professor, founder of the university's cancer and HIV/AIDS research departments.
And he wrote and I quote him, "Faith in medicine and science is based on trust. But today in the rush to share scientific progress in combating COVID-19, that trust is being undermined. Private companies, governments and research institutes are holding news conferences to report potential breakthroughs that cannot be verified. The results are always favorable, but the full data on which the announcements are based are not immediately available for critical review.
And Dr. Schaffner, he went on. He gave multiple examples. He talked about Moderna, the vaccine makers claim this week favorable results from its trial, when you talk about an antibody increase. We have no idea how big that was. We never saw the underlying data. We saw nothing. And again, you don't have anybody sort of vetting through all of this.
Does his point hold with you? Does this worry that all we hear is this - and then the market goes up a thousand points on this unvetted report.
SCHAFFNER: Yes. Well, it is confusing out there to professionals as well as to the lay public. And in this instance, we know that vaccine development is often not a straight line and our whole circumstance regarding coronavirus and what we're learning about it changes constantly. We ought to have a sustained single source of information that would help.
And I always say don't over promise and under deliver. Better to be a little reticent and modest under promise and then over deliver, and everybody will be happy. BURNETT: Yes. Well, that's certainly not what we're seeing and then I know it's unprecedented times, but that is not what we're seeing from anybody with these announcements. Thank you both very much.
GUPTA: Got it.
BURNETT: And next, thinking of hyping things. New details about the President's hydroxychloroquine regimen and what the WHO is now warning about that drug this evening.
Plus, a new outbreak of coronavirus in China. One doctor who has seen nearly 40 patients with it says it's now quite different about these new cases he's seeing. This is important.
And Secretary of State Mike Pompeo defending his request to fire an Inspector General who was investigating him.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE POMPEO, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF STATE: Frankly, I should have done it some time ago.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: President Trump announcing he'll stop taking hydroxychloroquine after about two weeks on the unproven drug.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: I think the regimen finishes in a day or two. I think it's two days.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: That comes as the World Health Organization warned today about side effects of hydroxychloroquine. Saying there's no proof it prevents the virus as the President suggests, which is actually very significant because, of course, we know it has been proven in large studies to do nothing to combat the virus, but the who saying nothing to actually prevent it.
And we're still, of course, awaiting those formal studies, but that's significant from the WHO. Jeremy Diamond is OUTFRONT. So, Jeremy, the President has been taking this drug for nearly two weeks as a preventative measure. So why is he stopping now?
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, it sounds like the President was prescribed a two-week regimen of this drug and that period of time is coming to an end in just a couple of days. Remember, while the President told us just this week that he's been taking hydroxychloroquine, a daily dose of hydroxychloroquine, he was actually prescribed it nearly two weeks ago after one of his military valets in the Oval Office tested positive for the virus.
Now, since we learned that the President has been taking this drug, we have heard him repeatedly defend the drug, insisting that he believes it works despite a total lack of scientific evidence that it works either to treat coronavirus or to prevent the infection.
And he's also gone on the attack, attacking all of these clinical studies that have shown no effect in treating coronavirus including one that was funded by the government's own National Institutes of Health and that was conducted in VA hospitals.
What hasn't happened in the two weeks that the President has been taking this drug is that there hasn't been any study that has shown it is effective in treating coronavirus or that it is effective in preventing that infection.
And what also stands, Erin, since the President began taking this drug is the FDA's warning that you shouldn't be using this outside of a hospital setting or outside of a clinical trial because of those concerns that it could cause heart problems in certain patients, Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Jeremy, thank you very much.
And I want to go now to our Medical Analyst, Dr. Jonathan Reiner, who advise the White House medical team under President George W. Bush.
So Dr. Reiner, you hear the President says his regime is, basically, two weeks he's done in two days. Does it make sense to take this drug for that period of time?
Obviously, we know there's no proof that it does what he says it does. It is being studied to see whether it's preventative, although it doesn't work in terms of treatment. But does this period of time make sense to you or do you read anything into that?
JONATHAN REINER, DIRECTOR OF CARDIAC CATHETERIZATION LABORATORY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL: Hi, Erin. Boy, what an unnecessary distraction, this whole hydroxychloroquine thing has become. Look, there are three potential settings that you could take this drug. You can take it, if you're really sick with the virus and there's a growing established amount of data that shows pretty convincingly that it doesn't work there.
You can take it after you've been exposed to the virus, what we call post exposure prophylaxis, which is apparently how the President has taken it. And again, there's no data, although we're promised data soon. And finally, you can take it pre exposure, all of the time and there's zero data to point in that direction.
So, either the President knows something that we don't know and if he does, then let's hear it or more likely the rest of us in medicine know more than he does and we just really need to stop this nonsense. There's no data existing, convincing data that shows that this drug does anything to improve outcomes either after someone acquires the virus or before. So we need to really pivot away from this.
It really makes no sense for him to have taken it for two weeks. This was trialed at University of Minnesota and Columbia in a five-day regimen. So I don't know why he's been on it for much longer than that.
BURNETT: Right. I mean, I guess that's a real question. I knew you'd said he would have had to have had extensive exposure. Those are the words you use to the virus for his medical team to give him this drug and he obviously made it clear he had requested them to do so. They reached out to talk to somebody who's running the study.
We talked to that doctor yesterday, who said, they don't have results yet, but they hadn't seen negative side effects. But what does this mean that he was, obviously, he's been obsessed with this drug, but able to get his medical team on board.
SCHAFFNER: I think it's impossible for him to admit that he's wrong about something. So he's going to take the drug to just prove everyone wrong. And the fact that he's still alive after taking the drug, doesn't mean it was the right thing to do.
BURNETT: So I want to ask you one other thing here because, obviously, he doesn't wear his mask, maybe had he and the valet been wearing a mask, which we understand neither were, this wouldn't have even come up. But today Vice President Mike Pence was - with the Florida Governor, Ron DeSantis, they visited a restaurant it appeared to be crowded, no masks, no social distancing, as you can see, just there it is.
Tomorrow, President Trump is going to a Ford plant Michigan which required masks, but he wouldn't commit to wearing one today and he has not worn one at any masked facility as of yet. Two Ford plants, obviously, have to close temporarily because of positive cases in just past day. So what do you make of this? I mean, Mike Pence going to a crowded restaurant, not wearing a mask today?
REINER: Yes. So he should have an audience of 330 million. He has an audience of one. The only person he's trying to please is the President of the United States. Look, his behavior is silly. Everyone should have a mask on in every public place. The other thing he did, which is kind of horrifying to me, is he used
a public soda fountain. So if you think about how people use that, when they fill their cup up and then maybe they take off the lid and they drink some of the ice and then they go back for a little refill in the COVID air, I would never fill a soda from a public soda dispenser like that. So, that's really, really disturbing to me.
But no, this is just for show. It's disgraceful. It's an insult to the healthcare workers who have been really risking their lives to take care of people with this virus. Put a mask on, show it - be an example, be a leader.
BURNETT: All right. Dr. Reiner, thank you.
REINER: My pleasure.
BURNETT: And next, a new outbreak in China. One doctor says he's seeing something very different in the nearly 40 coronavirus patients he has now treated. And this, obviously, could be important for the whole world. Plus, President Trump threatening to withhold funding from states that are giving people the opportunity to vote by mail, claiming falsely that what they're doing is illegal.
BURNETT: Tonight, a new outbreak in northeast China forcing the region into 'war time mode'. One doctor who has seen nearly 40 coronavirus patients there says patients appear to carry the virus for a longer period of time and then take longer to test negative.
This doctor happens to be one of China's top critical care doctors who traveled to the site of the new outbreak after treating patients in Wuhan for nearly 100 days. So this is a - it's one doctor, but it's a very informed doctor on this topic.
OUTFRONT now Dr. Ian Lipkin, Director of the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University. He was the scientific consultant for the movie Contagion and is also recovered from coronavirus and yourself spent time in China, talking with them and researching the genesis of this virus.
So, Dr. Lipkin, what do you make of what this doctor is seeing in the new Chinese outbreak, given his obviously extensive experience with the original outbreak? Does this mean that the virus could be changing in any way?
DR. W. IAN LIPKIN, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR INFECTION AND IMMUNITY, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: This is a virus that appears to be fairly stable. That's not to say that it won't evolve and that it won't mutate. The question is whether or not the observations are accurate. And if so, whether or not this can be attributed to some sort of evolution of the virus. We just don't have enough information yet to be certain.
We can, however, say the following; it's unlikely that this is going to impact the value of the vaccine because the vaccines that we're building right now are directed against a large portion of the virus and probably won't be infected by -- by a small mutation even as it continues to evolve.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: Even if it's a significant mutation, I mean, in terms of its impact on us, which is -- I understand your point obviously does to finding a vaccine. But, you know --
BURNETT: Go ahead.
LIPKIN: It would have to change the whole envelope protein of this virus which is what we're targeting with the vaccine. So, I don't want people to take, you know, that this means that what we're doing at present isn't going to be effective.
BURNETT: OK. So, that is good news. But when it comes to the deadliness of this virus in terms of how many people could get it or get sick, you know, even if your -- even if your -- you know, your percentage death rate doesn't change, if it is such that people have, as he's saying, even a longer, you know, incubation period, right?
So, they could be contagious for a longer period of time, asymptomatically. That could mean more spread and more death hypothetically from what he's saying.
What do you read into that when he says this incubation period in these new cases is longer than the one to two weeks which we had understood was the case in -- around the world now?
LIPKIN: Well, for the most part, the incubation period is five to seven days. The two weeks are really outliers. We will need to look into this very, very closely. There's much we don't know about this virus, and this may be some example.
I just wanted to go back to your last segment because when I had COVID, I took hydroxychloroquine. I don't think it had any impact at all. It was prescribed for me by infectious disease physicians earlier in the course when people thought it might be effective.
BURNETT: Well, that's important to say. I know obviously we're waiting for some of the prophylaxis trials. But I think your experience matters a lot. I know you had the virus and you were -- you were obviously very sick.
You know, I think it's important what you just said, Dr. Lipkin, about the -- whatever changes may happen or mutations in the virus if there are some wouldn't affect the efficacy of the vaccine. However, some of these possibly could affect the deadliness of the virus. I spoke last week to the director of the Kawasaki disease center in Seattle, with the kids, with the mysterious illness they get weeks after exposure a virus, an immune response. He said one reason we could be seeing it in the United States, largely
in the East Coast, and seeing it in Europe, but not in Asia is because of genetics. But he also said another reason could be this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. MICHAEL PORTMAN, DIRECTOR OF THE KAWASAKI DISEASE CLINIC AT SEATTLE CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: The other possibility is there's a change in the virus. We know that the virus has had some mutations as it travelled from China to Europe and then Europe, it sort of reached the eastern coast of the United States.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: Do you believe there could be notable mutations like this or others yet to come?
LIPKIN: Well, I've been studying Kawasaki disease for many years, chiefly with Jane Burns at UCST. And this is an immune mediated disease, so it's not the virus per se causing damage in vessels. It's the immune response to it.
Is it possible? Anything is possible. When we began studying this virus, all we knew about was the lung complications. And then we started developing multi-organ failure and strokes and heart attacks and loss of sense of smell and so forth.
So, nothing would surprise me at this point with this virus. It's extraordinarily unusual.
BURNETT: Well, Dr. Lipkin, I appreciate your time. I always do.
As I said to all of you, Dr. Lipkin has been extensively studying the origins of this virus. This weekend, don't miss Fareed Zakaria's special report on the origins of the pandemic, "China's Deadly Secret" airs Sunday night at 9:00 on CNN.
And next, President Trump attacking and threatening two key swing states for making it easier for people to vote by mail. Tonight, doubling down on his baseless claim. We have a fact check ahead.
Plus, the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo defending his request to fire an inspector general, even though that inspector general was investigating Pompeo. Senator Chuck Schumer responds.
BURNETT: Tonight, President Trump is threatening to withhold funding to Michigan and Nevada over their efforts to expand mail-in voting. But his claims about alleged illegal activity do not add up.
Abby Phillip is OUTFRONT.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: If people mail in ballots, there's a lot of illegality.
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump firing off a barrage of tweets attacking officials in two key swing states, Michigan and Nevada, for making it easier for people to vote by mail. The tweets wrongly accusing Michigan of sending ballots to all voters and threatening to withhold federal funding to both states because of election changes due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Michigan is sending absentee applications to all voters and the state's law allows any voter to cast a mail ballot for any reason.
The tweet prompting this response from Michigan's Governor Gretchen Whitmer.
GOV. GRETCHEN WHITMER (D), MICHIGAN: To see Twitter this morning and rhetoric like this is disheartening because I think it first shows you that there maybe was a lack of understanding of what the secretary of state was doing.
PHILLIP: Legal experts say Trump is also unlikely to be able to unilaterally withhold funding Congress has already appropriated because he dislikes how states are running their elections. Hours later, Trump correcting his tweet about Michigan's ballot applications but still claiming the secretary of state, Jocelyn Benson, acted illegally.
Benson responding, still wrong, every Michigan registered voter has the right to vote by mail. I have the authority and responsibility to make sure that they know how to exercise in right.
White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany declining to say what was illegal about Benson's actions or whether Trump could actually withhold federal funding and defending the president's opposition to vote by mail.
REPORTER: There are several Republican states that are also doing these mail-in applications for ballots so I'm confused what is it he thinks that's illegal happening in Michigan. He doesn't really specify.
KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: So, first, with regards to the president doing a mail-in vote, the president is after all the president. He's here in Washington. He's unable to cast his vote down in Florida, his state of residence.
So, for him that's why he had to do a mail-in vote. But he supports mail-in voting for a reason when you have a reason you're unable to be present.
PHILLIP: In Nevada, Republican Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske pushing back on the president's accusation that the state is sending out, quote, illegal vote by mail ballots, saying she lawfully exercised authority granted to her by the state law to call for a primary election conducted primarily by mail-in ballot.
In recent weeks, Trump has been fixated on the issue, sources tell CNN, pushing his political aides to be aggressive in combating Democratic lawsuits over vote my mail expansions all across the country, Trump's frustration growing as Democrats' legal victories pile up. Most recently in Texas, where a federal judge ruled that voters who are afraid of contracting the coronavirus can cast their absentee ballots by mail. That decision temporarily halted by another federal court on Wednesday.
PHILLIP: Now, this may be yet another case where President Trump is tweeting before checking with his own government about whether this is even possible. He said today at the White House he had not spoken to Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer about withholding federal funds. He says now that he doesn't think it'll be necessary.
I also spoke to a senior administration official who says no decision has been made about this funding but that official would not say what funding the president was even talking about and what authority he would have to withhold it -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Abby.
And I want to go next to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says he didn't know he was under investigation before pushing to have the guy investigating him fired. Does that claim add up?
Senator Chuck Schumer is my guest.
Plus, a new hit to Michigan's auto industry just days after reopening, Ford forced to shut down a plant because of coronavirus cases.
BURNETT: Tonight, a defiant Mike Pompeo denying any wrongdoing over the firing of the State Department inspector general who was investigating Pompeo's involvement in the Saudi arms sale and the use of an aide to do personal errands.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: I recommended to the president that Steve Linick be terminated. Frankly, I should have done it some time ago. I didn't have access to that information so I couldn't possibly have retaliated. It would have been impossible.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BURNETT: So, that information is the fact that the person he fired was investigating him. He says he didn't have access to that information.
Our Kylie Atwood, though, is reporting tonight that Pompeo most likely did know of the investigations. Sources telling her that the subject of a State Department inspector general investigation is almost always made aware of the probe.
OUTFRONT now, the Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer.
So, Senator Schumer, let me ask you this, you know, point blank. Do you believe that Secretary of State Pompeo knew that he was under investigation, or do you believe him when he says he didn't know?
SEN. CHUCK SCHUMER (D-NY), SENATE MINORITY LEADER: Well, I don't have direct knowledge of that, so I couldn't comment. I will tell you one thing. This administration led by the president just hides from the truth. They hate the truth. And that's why this is not the only inspector general who's been fired. I think there have been four in the last three months.
Inspector generals are supposed to uncover the truth and make it known. And that's uncomfortable for cabinet secretaries, any cabinet secretary. They're supposed to have independent and sometimes adversarial relationship. Every other president has listened to attorneys general, has listened to inspectors general when they told the truth and tried to correct things.
This president fires them. And this is probably the biggest problem in this administration. They skew the truth. When the president hears something he doesn't like, he fires the person who says it. The person who speaks truth to power is gone.
And, ultimately, it relates to the COVID crisis. If the president had listened to the truth, had not COVID was a hoax, had not said that COVID would go away in a month, had not said every person who wants a test could get a test, we would be a lot better off today.
Other countries have followed the truth and the inspectors general are just a symptom of this president who run away from the truth when he doesn't want to hear it to the detriment of the citizens of this country in a very, very serious way, Erin.
This is a big, big issue. I don't know the details in the State Department, but I do know that he shouldn't have been fired, period.
BURNETT: Do you think Secretary of State Pompeo broke the law by doing what he did?
SCHUMER: Well, I just don't -- we don't know enough facts. That's why the inspector general should have been allowed to pursue these cases on his own without interference from either the secretary of state and certainly without being fired by the president. It's outrageous. It's outrageous. And he's done this time and time again.
The head of BARDA -- the head of BARDA said hydroxychloroquine is bad for you. Trump didn't like to hear that. He fired the guy.
It's like a dictatorship. It's not like a democracy. We depend on truth in this democracy, and this president runs away from it. And it's hurting the American people every single day. BURNETT: So, when you talk about the firing, obviously, the president
has fired four inspectors general in the past six weeks. That is something President Obama never did.
As you point out, inspector generals often have adversarial relationships with the people that they are, you know, supposed to be looking over whether that's the president or whoever it might be. There were 47 officials back in 2014 that sent a letter to President Obama saying, look, you're hindering our work.
You're not we're not able to do our full work.
And Trump defenders are trying to say, well, that's the same thing.
SCHUMER: Oh, jeez.
BURNETT: Look, Obama was hindering. Look at this letter he got. Why is this different?
SCHUMER: Obama didn't fire -- the inspector general was designed to be separate and independent so that he could uncover or she could uncover wrongdoing. And every president -- presidents don't like hearing when they're wrong, but no one he's had this pattern of any time someone tells you the truth, someone starts uncovering something wrong in your administration. Instead of trying to correct it, this president fires the person and lets everything fester.
And that's why we're in -- that's why things get worse and worse and worse. And COVID is the most glaring example of that.
BURNETT: Now, sources are telling CNN tonight, Senator, that CNN -- that the inspector general had also recently inquired about Pompeo having these dinners at the State Department. They were all funded by taxpayers.
NBC News had a breakdown of the guests. They said 30 percent were political leaders. All of those were Republican. Media figures 40 percent from just Fox News alone, 14 percent, that's it, were diplomats or foreign officials.
What do you make of that, is that problematic?
SCHUMER: What I make of that is it sounds problematic. What I make of it is the inspector general should have been allowed to get to the bottom of this, make recommendations and bring it public. That's what should have happened here.
Again, I don't know all the exact specific details, but those don't matter. He should have been allowed to get to the bottom of it and present the facts as he saw them. He was not allowed. He was fired prematurely. And obviously, obviously, people had something to hide or they wouldn't have fired him.
BURNETT: And do you think any Republicans will stand up to him? Obviously when the president does a firing like this, he has to give notice. We've heard either nothing or pretty limp response from Republicans other than Senator Romney who's obviously been very outspoken. Any chance that your Republican colleagues will stand up?
SCHUMER: Erin, this is the problem with the Republican senate. We wish they would work with us, for instance, on COVID. We wish they would stand up to the president when he does the wrong thing. But they are in total obeisance to this president. We know he's wrong, it doesn't matter.
We've had Republicans in the past stand up for inspectors general, but I haven't heard them do it in the same way now, and most of them don't do it at all. It's the same thing with every issue we now face. Why aren't we sitting down together and trying to figure out how to deal with this COVID problem in the COVID 4 bill the House passed? Because President Trump doesn't want to.
He goes to the lunch that they had yesterday and it becomes a lunch pep rally, and a pep rally for what? To do nothing. He says he doesn't want to do anything. They bow down and say, OK.
We need our Republican senators, whether it's on inspectors general, on COVID --
SCHUMER: -- on the president not telling the truth, to start standing up to him. They refuse to do it, to their detriment, to the country's detriment.
BURNETT: Senator Schumer, thank you very much. I appreciate your time, sir.
SCHUMER: Thank you, Erin. Good to be here. Thank you.
BURNETT: And we'll be right back.
BURNETT: Tonight, the future of the auto industry uncertain tonight.
Miguel Marquez is OUTFRONT.
MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The auto industry, all important to the Michigan economy, slowly inching back into gear.
(on camera): You opted for the face shield, the goggles and the face mask.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, yes, you want to stay as safe as possible. MARQUEZ (voice-over): Safety and making employees feel comfortable, a
temperature check before they start, some areas cordoned off to avoid crowding. First steps for a company like Vintech Industries that supplies parts for the auto industry worldwide
JIM SCHOONOVER, PRESIDENT, VINTECH INDUSTRIES: If you don't feel safe what can I make you to do to feel safe? If you don't feel safe, then go home, right? What are you going to do?
MARQUEZ: Employers everywhere facing similar questions, how to reopen with COVID-19 still a threat.
(on camera): When do you see full production?
SCHOONOVER: I don't see full production -- I don't know, I don't think it's going to come back full production until January.
MARQUEZ (voice-over): Vintech says it doesn't expect new orders for at least another couple weeks, because automakers are inching back to work. This video from Fiat-Chrysler shows new entrances, thermal scans, masks, sanitizer and socially distant work and break stations -- the new workplace reality.
LYDIA VASQUEZ, CHASSIS UNIT LEADER, FIAT CHRYSLER: In stations we could not physically move, we had to hang barriers to create the distance for the employees.
MARQUEZ: The industry may be stuck in first gear for a long time. The University of Michigan's research seminar and quantitative economics forecast, Detroit's big three auto maker sales won't get back to near where they were until late 2022.
A slow recovery in the auto industry will have enormous impacts across the entire state.
LAURA WINN, OWNER, TWO GIRLS AND A BUCKET: Financially, it's very difficult. My business is closed. And you don't have any income.
MARQUEZ: Laura Winn built her business, Two Girls and a Bucket, cleaning homes and offices for 26 years. Eight employees and three family members count on its income.
WINN: I worked too many years and too hard to lose it. I'm a very hard worker. My girls are hard workers. And this is the livelihood. So when you take it away, what do you have? Nothing.
MARQUEZ: Winn faces a double hurdle. Clients who might not want others in their homes and offices, and others who may not want to spend on cleaners for now. Reopening Michigan won't come easy or fast.
MARQUEZ: Now, another thing concerning economists are a couple of things. A big second wave, which would create another lockdown and crater consumer confidence and state budgets. The state of Michigan on track to record a $6.2 billion shortfall in just the next 18 months. That will be a drag on the economy as well -- Erin.
BURNETT: Yes, it's worse than any of us realized. Thank you so much, Miguel. Thanks to all of you for watching.
Anderson takes it now.