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THE SITUATION ROOM

Trump Golfs at His Virginia Club Amid Pandemic; Trump Calls on Jeff Sessions to Drop Out of Alabama Senate Race; Interview with Miami Mayor Francis Suarez (R) About Memorial Day Weekend Activities; Officials, Health Experts Urge Social Distancing This Holiday Weekend; Air Travel on the Rise Heading into Memorial Day Weekend. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired May 23, 2020 - 20:00   ET

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


[20:00:40]

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. This is a special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM.

Across the United States right now, parks, public swimming pools, beaches are either partially or completely open, as officials relax stay-at-home orders in some places for the first time in weeks.

On this stretch of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, look at this, the umbrellas are practically touching while the country's public health officials continue to ask people to cover their faces and avoid gatherings in groups. Out in California the famous Santa Monica Pier is closed but the beach is open. Most of the state is moving forward toward reopening despite reporting 2,000 new cases of coronavirus every day for the past four days.

Two other states today with alarming public health news. The governor of Arkansas, Asa Hutchinson, announcing that his state is seeing what he calls a second peak of coronavirus infections reporting more new cases today than in the previous high one month ago. The governor says they were able to track down a cluster of new infections to one seemingly minor incident.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON (R), ARKANSAS: They were positive cases coming out of a high school swim party. A high school swim party that I'm sure everybody thought was harmless. They're young, they're swimming. They're just having activity and positive cases resulted from that. And so, it's just an encouragement for us to be disciplined in our activities and during this memorial weekend.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Good advice from Governor Hutchinson.

Out in North Carolina, health officials reporting the single highest one-day total of new cases yet. More than 1100 people confirmed with coronavirus in North Carolina just today. Public health officials are concerned about tomorrow. Fearful that large crowds of people will attend Sunday worship services in person. That's after President Trump declared churches and other houses of worship essential and warned state governors very sharply to make sure churches are open on Sunday.

All of that is happening while the coronavirus death toll just here in the United States inches closer to the once unthinkable height of 100,000 people. Worldwide right now 5.2 million are infected with the virus. More than 340,000 people have died.

Let's go to the White House right now where you might expect the president to be hunkered down, as he has been over these past several weeks. But earlier today he golfed at one of his properties out in Virginia not far from Washington. His first such visit since March, making it one of the longest stretches he's actually gone without golfing as president.

Jeremy Diamond, our White House correspondent, is joining us right now.

So, Jeremy, what can you tell us about this golf outing by the president and how it fits into the White House narrative of trying to reopen the country?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Wolf, there's no question that the president going out golfing today for the first time in more than two months definitely fits into the narrative that he has been portraying in recent weeks which is reopen the country. This transition to greatness that he continually has been tweeting about in recent days.

President Trump is trying to will this pandemic away, trying to encourage Americans to go back to how things used to be, to go back to normal. And certainly this golf outing appears to be part of that. And it's not just the president, the White House as a whole encouraging Americans to resume some of their activities today.

We saw Dr. Deborah Birx yesterday from the White House briefing room encouraging Americans to go out this Memorial Day weekend, as long as they're safe and practice social distancing. The president may have missed that last part of it, though, Wolf, even though Secret Service agents who were with the president, they were wearing masks, but we did not see the president or any of his three other golf partners wearing masks, nor were they -- did they appear to be maintaining that six feet of social distancing.

Now, Wolf, it's interesting because, you know, President Trump hasn't been golfing in more than two months. But in the past back 2014 he criticized former President Obama for golfing after there were two cases of Ebola reported in the United States. But I think that's actually the point, is that President Trump would like Americans to see the United States as past a point of crisis at this time and that's it's OK for him to go golfing. It's OK for Americans to resume their activities.

[20:05:05]

But of course, Wolf, what we do know is that there are still concerning signs amid those second spikes that are happening in some parts of the country. And even here in the D.C. area, it was just yesterday that Dr. Deborah Birx warned that Washington, D.C. and this metropolitan area is experiencing a very high plateau. So, people in this region, in particular, should continue to take those additional precautions -- Wolf.

BLITZER: In addition to some golf today, the president was also busy tweeting and retweeting. And one tweet going after one of his favorite targets. Tell us about that, Jeremy.

DIAMOND: That's right, Wolf. Well, a couple of days ago President Trump warned voters in Alabama who are going to be voting on a Senate run-off election in July not to trust his former attorney general, Jeff Sessions. President Trump has endorsed his opponent, the former coach Tommy Tuberville in the race instead.

Jeff Sessions actually responded to the president yesterday, saying that Alabama can and does trust me and it's going to make its own decisions. And just moments ago, Wolf, we heard from the president once again, firing back at his former attorney general. And let me read you part of that tweet. He says, "Jeff, you had your chance and you blew it. Recuse yourself on day one. You never told me of a problem and ran for the hills. You had no courage and ruined many lives. The dirty cops and others got caught by better and stronger people than you. Hopefully this slime will pay a big price."

And he encourages Jeff Sessions then to drop out of the race and pray that the current senator from Alabama, Doug Jones, a Democrat, loses in that election.

Now, Wolf, this is just the latest escalation of that feud between President Trump and his former attorney general. The president never forgave Jeff Sessions for recusing himself, as he needed to do, as he was required to do by Justice Department regulations to recuse himself from that Russia investigation. But President Trump never forgave Sessions for that, in particular, because it led to the appointment ultimately of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

And we know how President Trump feels not only about the special counsel but about his investigation as a whole. But that election coming up in July, Wolf. And President Trump rooting against a former member of his own cabinet -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. He did not mince any words at all.

Jeremy Diamond, at the White House, thanks very much.

During this Memorial Day weekend, a remarkable site in the Miami area. The beaches themselves, they remain closed. They will remain closed, we're told, until June 1st, more than a week from now. Neighboring Broward County, Fort Lauderdale, Hollywood, Florida, not expecting to open its beaches until Tuesday. The number of coronavirus cases in Florida just topped, by the way, 50,000. Joining us now the mayor of Miami, Francis Suarez.

Mayor, thank you so much for joining us. I know you're incredibly busy. The hotels, I take it, in Miami, are still closed.

How much of a financial hit, first of all, is your city taking? This weekend, this Memorial Day weekend, when it's usually pretty crowded down there in Miami?

MAYOR FRANCIS SUAREZ (R), MIAMI: It's hard to calculate. I mean, it's unprecedented what we're going through. And as you sort of mentioned, a big part of our economy is tourism based. And so, you know, yes, I can't even imagine how much this is going to impact our economy once we're able to look at the numbers. But it's going to be catastrophic.

BLITZER: So what difference, Mayor, will a week -- will a week made? Will it make things safer for people to go to the beaches in Miami? And you've got some beautiful beaches.

SUAREZ: We've taken a very cautious approach. Miami, in most cases in the entire state of Florida. And our governor has allowed the southern part of the state of Florida to sort of open at its own pace. And in the city, and in Miami Beach, and I agree with Mayor Gelber, who's the mayor of Miami Beach, in deciding to wait until June 1st to open the beaches.

We've seen unfortunately, you know, throughout the country, beaches have opened a tremendous amount of irresponsible behavior. And we've opened our waterways gradually in the city. We waited a few weeks out for the county to open our marinas and we're already starting to see, and I've been sent images of people who are not acting responsibly on our waterways as well.

So it's a major concern. All we want is to make sure that people continue to act, you know, cautiously, to be disciplined, so that we can continue along the path of reopening which we started this week.

BLITZER: We're showing our viewers, Mayor, some images, some video from Hollywood Beach in Broward County, just north of Miami. And you can see people walking on the broad walk over there. They're not on the beach themselves. People appear to be staying off the beach, as they should be. Lots of folks are on that walkway over there.

From what you've seen so far in Miami, in your city, are people generally following the rules?

SUAREZ: I think they're generally following the rules. I've seen a lot of people, a very high percentage of people, 80 percent to 90 percent, wearing masks outside. I just -- you know, it's obviously as a mayor it's nerve racking when you start seeing the volume of people that are back out on the streets and obviously inevitably in close -- somewhat close proximity.

[20:10:04]

Just simply by the very nature of the way -- you know, the sheer number of them and the way that they're set up in either restaurants which we have not yet opened until this upcoming Wednesday, but other cities, neighboring cities have. And so it's just creating anxiety on elected officials at the same time, you know, people are dying to get out. You know, the economy has been, you know, just ground to a halt over the last two months. Obviously it's not sustainable for the long term.

BLITZER: On a personal note, Mayor, you became infected with the coronavirus in early March. We spoke at that time. We were all worried about you.

First of all, tell us how you're doing now. Are there any lingering side effects at all?

SUAREZ: I've been really fortunate. I feel great. There haven't been any lingering side effects. I've taken more tests than I can remember. I've sort of been a guinea pig for my government so I've taken different kind of tests, antibody tests, antigen tests, to see what tests work. So that we can potentially buy them in bulk.

We're now testing people that are asymptomatic. People that have tested positive. So we have created the most liberal and comprehensive testing standards possible. But I feel great and I appreciate you asking, Wolf.

BLITZER: Do you have to take any special medication or anything along those lines? So some cases we do hear people have some lingering effects.

SUAREZ: I don't, and I'm very fortunate. I didn't have to take any special medication while I was sick, thankfully. I didn't get severe symptoms. I never got fever, just had some congestion and some body aches. But I was very, very lucky.

BLITZER: Well, we were grateful for that and we're appreciative, Mayor Suarez, of your joining us here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Thank you so much. Good luck to you and good luck to all the folks in Miami. You got a great city over there. We hope it gets back to at least a new normal fairly soon. Appreciate it very much.

SUAREZ: We do, too. Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: So, with so many people going to the beaches this Memorial Day weekend, and so many of them not wearing mask, what could someone do to protect themselves? I'll ask a pair of medical experts when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:16:12]

BLITZER: While we've heard more urgent pleas from public health officials to keep social distancing, that may have fallen on deaf ears in Ocean City, Maryland. This was the boardwalk this afternoon, look at this. Packed with beachgoers while groups of 10 or more are prohibited by law. Masks are recommended but not required. While this weekend certainly marks the unofficial beginning of summer,

as we can see, even a global pandemic can't stop crowds from flocking to the beach. In many cases, once again, without masks and then ignoring the social distancing guidelines.

Let's discuss this and more, joining us the epidemiologist, the public health expert, Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, who is also the author of an important book entitled, "Healing Politics: A Doctor's Journey into the Heart of Our Political Epidemic." Also with us Dr. James Phillips, a physician at George Washington University Hospital.

Dr. El-Sayed, as you see these videos of people not social distancing, not wearing masks, what goes through your mind as an epidemiologist?

DR. ABDUL EL-SAYED, EPIDEMIOLOGIST AND PUBLIC HEALTH EXPERT: I'll be honest with you. God, I really hope we don't have to go back into social distancing again because we get that dreaded second wave. We all know that we came out of one to two months of really painful social distancing. Everything was shut down. And I get the itch to go out, it's beautiful weather. It's Memorial Day, unofficial start to summer.

But let's be clear, this is not going to be a usual Memorial Day weekend. We can't pretend like that's over and behind us. However much the president wants to think that it is. We've got to be really thoughtful about this. And following safe social distancing protocols, wearing a mask when you're out in public, making sure that you're staying at least six to -- maybe even 10 to 14 feet and avoiding going out if you can, maybe going to the backyard or grilling out at home. Those are the best things to prevent that dreaded second wave that we all want to avoid.

BLITZER: As we know, Dr. Phillips, you and I live here in the Washington, D.C. area. A lot of people from the greater Washington area, they go to Ocean City.

If they go there, what do you think? How should they be protecting themselves? What should they be doing?

DR. JAMES PHILLIPS, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Yes, I've been to Ocean City. It's beautiful. You know, it's the same things that we've been talking about for several months that are going to be the most protective. That is, physically distancing from other people, at least six feet as Dr. El-Sayed had mentioned. But even more, if possible.

You know, if you're at the beach and you're going to go to the concession stands or, you know, in Ocean City, there's an enormous boardwalk with games and bars, you've got to protect yourself when you go there. Not only do you need to be wearing a mask around other folks, you need to insist that they're wearing one near you and your kids.

You should probably limit your alcohol so that you minimize your lapses and those sort of nonpharmaceutical interventions to prevent disease. And importantly, as your physician, I want you to wear sunscreen to prevent sunburn and future cancer risks as well. BLITZER: Would you feel comfortable, Dr. Phillips, going to a beach or

even a pool right now?

PHILLIPS: You know, it depends. So if I'm at a very uncrowded pool, if it was my own pool or a place like that, I think I would potentially feel comfortable as long as I could stay far enough away from other people. However, going to a beach like Ocean City is a little bit more risky. I understand everyone has their own risk tolerance. Mine as a father and as an emergency physician, someone who is essential for the well-being of the public, that exceeds my risk tolerance and I wouldn't go.

BLITZER: You know, Dr. El-Sayed, you heard the news today. It's pretty dramatic. The Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson saying that his state is experiencing right now what he calls a second peak. And we also saw North Carolina. North Carolina had its highest one-day increase in cases just one day after beginning what it calls its phase two of reopening.

What's your assessment as you see these developments unfolding, as restrictions are being eased?

[20:20:03]

EL-SAYED: It's deeply concerning. And, you know, we have to ask again, are we being driven by politics? Are we being driven by science? Because the science tells us that we have still a long way to go until we really are, quote-unquote, "out of the woods."

And I will say this, even when you see data coming out like that, remember, that data is about a week to two weeks behind just because of how long it takes to get test back and because of the natural biology of this virus. And so in that amount of time, we've seen what coronavirus can do. It doesn't increase on a linear scale, Wolf. It increases on an exponential scale. And so it really is concerning when you start seeing spikes like that after opening up.

And I do hope that other leaders, other governors in particular, look at this and ask, well, should we be pumping the breaks just a little bit to protect our population?

BLITZER: Do you believe, Dr. Phillips, the nation's health system is fully prepared God forbid for potential spikes or a second wave right now?

PHILLIPS: Well, we're certainly better off than we were as far as our knowledge base and our preparation goes compared to three months ago. You know, my specialty is disaster in medicine and we think of things in terms of space, staff, systems and stuff. And we got our systems down pretty well, as far as knowing how to triage and care for these patients who come into the hospital.

Our staff have been well trained over the last few months. Our space has been regulated from or we've changed it to accommodate COVID patients in ICUs in a different respiratory area ERs to try to keep them separate from the general population without COVID symptoms. But it's still the stuff part that worries me.

Now we're also looking at places where ICU beds are becoming short again, places like Montgomery. And we're also looking at the fact that we still have severe PPE shortages. We haven't talked much about that in the last month but it's still a real problem for the rest of the United States and it's going to get worse as this goes on.

So are we better prepared than we were three months ago? Yes, in terms of training and readiness. But we still have problems.

BLITZER: We certainly do. And I'm grateful to both of you.

And Dr. Phillips, I know, what, five days ago you had a little baby boy? Is that right?

PHILLIPS: 'That's right. Harrison James joined us. He's healthy and so is mom.

BLITZER: Well, congratulations on that second little son. We appreciate it very much. Good work. Congratulations, Dr. Phillips.

Dr. El-Sayed, always good to have you here in THE SITUATION ROOM. Thanks for your expertise.

PHILLIPS: Thank you.

EL-SAYED: Thank you. And congrats, James.

PHILLIPS: Thanks.

BLITZER: Thank you. Air travel is picking up this holiday weekend. The head of the flight attendants union standing by live to discuss the future of air travel here in the United States and indeed around the world. Stay with us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:25:15]

BLITZER: Here in the United States the friendly skies have been largely empty for about two months. That is changing now with the holiday weekend as the country is slowly opening up after weeks of stay-at-home orders in most states. The TSA says nearly 350,000 people passed through security checkpoints in the U.S. yesterday. The last time it was that high, by the way, was at the end of March.

With more passengers flying and a lot of people asking if it's really safe, what will it be like when even more people start traveling in the coming weeks and months, presumably?

Sara Nelson is joining us right now. She is the president of the Association of Flight Attendants.

Sara, thank you so much for joining us. As you know, and you know this better than any of us, a number of airlines have mandated masks on planes. They aren't seating passengers necessarily in the middle seats. But when you think about the threat from the virus and your flight attendants, specifically, what keeps you up, Sarah, at night?

SARA NELSON, PRESIDENT, ASSOCIATION OF FLIGHT ATTENDANTS-CWA: Well, the issue here, Wolf, is that we're aviation's first responders and we are charged with the safety, health and security of the passengers in our care. And we know that if we were properly provisioned with PPE, we would have N-95 masks and all the things that they actually need on the frontlines of the healthcare workforce.

And it's not even fully available there. So we don't have those things. So we actually implore the government to put -- bring together a task force and put in place a plan that everyone could follow in aviation. The airlines stepped up after that and one of the main requests that we had was to require that everyone wear masks on board. There is no way to properly socially distance on an airplane. But we do need social distancing policies that allow flight attendants to be able to separate people when they're not able to wear a mask.

BLITZER: A U.S. airline industry group, and I'm sure you know this, Sara, found nearly 500 U.S. flights per day depart with more than 70 percent full, more than 70 percent full that some passengers will arrive at the airport, find their flight is too full to allow for a neighboring seat, let's say, to remain empty.

If passengers kept social distance aboard planes, especially on long flights, what kind of risk does that create for them, as well as for flight attendants and other crew members?

NELSON: Look, we follow the healthcare authorities on this and the healthcare authorities would say that it's still better to be socially distanced, at least six feet away from someone else. Having everyone wear a mask is helpful and having deep cleaning and sanitizing procedures between each of the flights is important. But we also have to be able to move people away, if they have to take that mask off for some reason, if we have a medical emergency on board or we have a child or something.

[20:30:00]

You know, Wolf, part of the problem here is that the airline industry nearly collapsed. And if it were not for federal funding to continue to pay the salaries of the workers on the front lines, our airlines would not be operating at all right now, they can't operate with 10 percent demand, which is where we are.

So they've pulled down aircraft out of the sky. And that has meant that even though there's so many fewer people flying, when it goes up just a little bit, you start to see full aircraft. And we're not fully provisioned with all the things we need in order to make sure that everyone can remain safe on board, a full aircraft.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Well, what happens if someone -- everybody's supposed to wear a mask of these flights, as you know, Sara, but let's say somebody wants to drink something or eat something, they're going to have to take off that mask, is that OK?

NELSON: Well, of course, I mean, people are going to need to do those things. And that's why we need additional social distancing. We can't have full aircraft because there are going to be times when people need to take a drink, need to take that mask off for a little bit, and there's going to be the opportunity for the virus to spread. There's also common touch areas, you can't be certain that that person has washed their hands since they had the mask on.

And so there is a much higher risk there. We're trying to mitigate that every way we possibly can with these mask policies with a sort of social distancing policies that help flight attendants to be able to move people around the plane, to be able to cut down on the amount of spread that is happening there and with the cleaning policies between times.

But the truth is that it's a very difficult thing to ensure that when you have people so jammed together, that you're not going to have a higher risk of spreading that virus. So that is why we are saying that we really need the federal government to step in here with a coordinated action with the healthcare authorities, we have a plan for aviation, because we can't simply cannot go without our aviation industry.

BLITZER: What happens, Sara, if you're on a flight and you're flying at 30,000 feet, and a passenger takes off his or her mask and refuses to put it on? What do the flight attendants do at a point like that?

NELSON: Well, the flight attendants do what we do all the time and try to manage these issues and use our de-escalation skills. We will make it very clear to the person that it's because of not only their safety, but the safety of everyone around them, just like when we are in turbulent skies, that they need to follow the safety procedures on board.

If we can't get them to do that, then we're going to have to work to try to move people away from them, try to accommodate the other people in other ways, because really what they're doing is putting everyone else at risk. And we just -- we can't have that. And what we hope is that the other passengers will help to apply a little peer pressure there and get people to comply. Because the only way that we can remain safe in air travel is if everyone comes to the airplane door with the spirit that we're all in this together. Everyone has to be wearing those masks in order to limit the risk of the spread of coronavirus.

BLITZER: Well, that individual, very quickly, Sara, potentially, will you alert the police upon landing, will that person potentially be arrested?

NELSON: At the end of the day, it is a federal requirement that passengers follow crew member instructions. And if someone is willfully putting other people in danger, then they are putting themselves at risk of having to face the consequences of failing to comply with those crew remember instructions.

BLITZER: Sara Nelson, thanks so much for what you and all your colleagues are doing. We're grateful to you. You are first responders and we're so appreciative of everything you do. Sara Nelson is the international president of the Association of Flight attendants. Appreciate it very much.

NELSON: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Stay safe up there.

One company and that's promising results for a possible coronavirus vaccine as its stock price shot up. Some of the company's executives decided to sell making millions. Now, those transactions are raising some serious eyebrows. We're going to explain what's going on when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:35:03]

BLITZER: While Americans celebrate this holiday weekend, it's clear the threat from coronavirus has not vanished. And some people who are on the beaches today maybe putting themselves at risk. The only way this ends for good in the minds of public health experts is with a vaccine down the road. That's why, by the way, the stock in the biotech firm Moderna shot up big time on Monday, amid some encouraging early results from a coronavirus vaccine test. But as that was happening, the company's CFO and its chief medical officer sold nearly $30 million worth of shares.

Let's bring in CNN's Cristina Alesci right now. She's in New York for us. Cristina, a lot of this may sound unfair to so many people, but were any laws or rules actually broken?

CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN BUSINESS AND POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: In short, Wolf, no. Actually, the experts we spoke with said that there are no red flags based on the information that we have at this point. And that's because the sales were done through what are known as 10 B5-1 plans. These are plans that allow company's insiders to exercise options and sell shares in a way that is set up automatically. They regulate the way that executives sell shares and companies.

Now, optically, it's a much different story, it doesn't look great for the company that the insider sold, especially because the company's shares ended up dropping after all of that selling, because experts were saying there wasn't enough information to determine how significant those phase one trial results were until. Dr. Anthony Fauci came out and expressed some cautious optimism, the shares did rebound. But optically, it's not great to see the company insiders sell in such, you know, in such large portions.

BLITZER: You've also been doing, Cristina, some truly excellent reporting on China, both Beijing and Washington is, you know, they're trying to take advantage of this crisis but in different ways. What did you find out?

[20:40:05]

ALESCI: That's right, Wolf. Really interesting here, but the U.S. administration is trying to use the new security law that China has proposed on Hong Kong to really galvanize support in the international community to condemn China. And we're hearing that U.S. officials want to float new measures against China at the G7 next month.

Now, this shouldn't come as too much of a surprise because we've seen China hawks in the administration, and on the Hill, really ratchet up pressure on China. And this is causing a lot of unease among my source space, business people who run businesses in the U.S. and China, for example, Congress moved to make it the Senate, I should say, move to make it more difficult for Chinese companies to list here in the U.S. Just last night, the Commerce Department listed 24 Chinese companies to their export control list, making it more difficult for those companies to acquire U.S. technology.

But what is different is Trump's tone in all of this because he was touting his friendship with President Xi Jinping, just a couple of months ago, when they signed that phase one trade deal. And now he's moving and pivoting to blaming China for the coronavirus pandemic because he sees it as politically expedient for his re-election, Wolf.

BLITZER: Which leads us to our next guest.

Cristina Alesci, thanks for your really terrific reporting. Appreciate it very much.

The -- so has the coronavirus done with nothing else could do in the White House, that is get everyone apparently on the same page when it comes to confronting China. An article of the Washington Post says among other things this. "As recently as January, the administration appeared to be prioritizing good relations with Beijing in order to preserve the phase one trade deal. But now, given China's gross mishandling of the pandemic, those arguing internally for more leniency have largely come aground around to a more hawkish stance, tracking Trump's own turn away from his praise of China and its friendship with Chinese President Xi Jinping."

The author of that column, Josh Rogin, is joining us right now. He writes for The Washington Post, he's a CNN analyst. So tell us what you've discovered, because you really did some important reporting on all of this, how the administration when it comes to China is getting its act pretty much in sync.

JOSH ROGIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure, well, what Christina said is right, US China relations are souring fast. The bromance between President Trump and President Xi seems to be over.

Now, you could say that the Trump administration is using the pandemic to blame China, and that's partially true. But it's also the fact that China's behavior has convinced a lot of people inside the administration who weren't previously for harsher measures to take on those harsher measures, to stand up to a lot of things that the Chinese government has done that are pandemic related and not pandemic related.

Those 24 companies that Xi mentioned, they got blacklisted. They got blacklisted because they're contributing to atrocities against Uyghur Muslims inside China. Right? That G7 statement against Hong Kong, that's a reaction to China's clamp down with a new national security law that violates their agreements on Hong Kong. So there's plenty of blame to go around. But what we see is that everyone is coming around to the realization that more needs to be done on China.

BLITZER: And as you right -- and point out, President Trump himself has clearly shifted on his position as far as China is current, but you think he's taking as hard line of U.S., some other key members of the Trump administration?

ROGIN: Yes. President Trump has soured on China. He feels betrayed by President Xi, because he did praise China and President Xi at the beginning of the pandemic, only to learn later that a lot of what the Chinese government was putting out was false, and a lot of what they weren't putting out was important and they're still hiding it.

So, yes, President Trump has decided that preserving whatever was going well in the relationship, which wasn't a lot, but it was something is no longer enough to stop the people in his administration for doing a lot of things that a lot of people think are overdue, like standing up the Chinese economic aggression, standing up to Chinese repression, and also pushing back on the security sphere.

So you're seeing a big shift, but it's not just Trump. It's Trump, it's his administration, it's Congress, both parties. And if you read the poll, the American people agree, something has to change in the U.S.-China relationship. It's a risky way to go. But at this point, a lot of people inside and outside of the administration don't feel we have a lot of other options.

BLITZER: And certainly, the Vice President Mike Pence, he pushed this messaging during an interview on Sirius. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, China let the world down. And the World Health Organization was their willing partner in withholding from the United States and the wider world, vital information about the coronavirus that would have made it possible for us to stand up a national response sooner.

[20:45:07]

And it's remarkable to think we -- China didn't even let American CDC personnel in on the ground until mid-February to find out what was going on.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The Vice President didn't have specifics of what the U.S. would do to hold China accountable. But do you have any insight, any sense of what might happen?

ROGIN: Sure. Well, there's not a lot to do right now against China regarding the pandemic. In particular, what you see is a lot of other measures coming off the shelf that had been sitting there for a while, including the blacklisting of companies, including banning Wall Street, indexes from sending American investor money to China, including the Human Rights stuff, the Congress will pass the Uyghur Human Rights Bill next week, and the President is expected to sign it. So if you look around sort of the U.S.-China relationship, you'll see a lot of things that are going to start to happen that the Chinese government is not going to like.

Now again, of course, the Trump administration is using this to distract from their own domestic failures. And they're going to have a big problem rallying a lot of countries to the cause, considering how they've treated all of our allies and partners over the last three years,.

But at the same time, we have to recognize that part of the blame for this belongs on the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese government, which did do a lot of the things that Pence just said, they did hide information, they did lie about the virus, and they are perpetrating atrocities at home and expansion abroad. So it's a complex relationship that has to be carefully managed. But right now, it's all going in one direction and that direction is down.

BLITZER: Very strong reporting by Josh Rogin. Thank you very much, Josh, for joining us.

ROGIN: Thank you.

BLITZER: And by the way, don't miss tomorrow night CNN's Fareed Zakaria investigates the moment a pandemic was born, CNN's special report, "China's Deadly Secret," that will air tomorrow night 9:00 p.m. Eastern.

To wear a mask or to not wear a mask. It used to be rather simple question, but now it's become a political issue at the same time. We're going to take a closer look at the conflict when we come back.

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[20:50:32]

BLITZER: The decision over whether to wear a mask should it be about your health, but in some places, it's almost becoming a political statement. Today, North Dakota's governor pushed back against that idea. He got emotional and choked up while talking about it.

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GOV. DOUG BURGUM (R-ND): Either it's ideological or political or something around mask versus no mask. This is a -- I would say senseless dividing line. If someone is wearing a mask, they're not doing it to represent what political party they're in or what candidates they support. They might be doing it because they've got a five-year-old child who's been going through cancer treatments.

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BLITZER: So the issue is becoming a flashpoint in some places around the country leading the confrontations that have even cost lives. CNN's Brian Todd has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A confrontation over wearing masks gets deadly at a Family Dollar Store in Michigan. Three people charged with killing a security guard who police say had asked a customer to wear a state mandated facemask. It's unclear if the three defendants have entered pleas. The guard's uncle couldn't make sense of it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My nephew lost his life trying to help save lives.

TODD: At this Waffle House in Aurora, Colorado, police say a man threatened a cook who refused to serve him because he wasn't wearing a mask. Police say the man returned later wearing a mask and shot the cook after the cook refused to serve him again. The man is charged with attempted first-degree murder. He has not yet entered a plea.

At a Publix grocery store in Miami Beach earlier this month, this was the scene when a man was not let in because he wasn't wearing a mask.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- violation my (BLEEP) constitutional rights and my civil rights.

TODD: Miami Beach Police tell CNN this video was captured on a code enforcement officer's body camera.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's no pandemic. I'm filing a (BLEEP) lawsuit.

TODD: The sign on the store's front door clearly says customers have to cover their mouths and noses. CNN reached out to Publix for comment and more information on the incident like what precipitated it. We didn't hear back from them.

Miami Beach Police did not have information on what started the confrontation, but told CNN no arrests were made.

Tension, confrontation, and violence seemed to have escalated in recent weeks as businesses have opened up and customers have brushed back on the rules requiring face masks.

JAMES GAGLIANO, FORMER FBI SUPERVISORY SPECIAL AGENT: And it's frightening, a lot of these stores are trying to follow the rules and regulations that have been placed out there. But without additional security, it's become very difficult for them. People are angry, people are frustrated. What this means for individual businesses, it puts them and their employees at a greater risk.

TODD: We asked a psychiatrist who's worked with law enforcement, what is it about being asked to wear face masks, which might set off confrontations?

DR. LISE VAN SUSTEREN, FORENSIC PSYCHIATRIST: The face is a very personal our most personal space, when we're telling people you have to cover that up, it really kind of evoke a very primitive sense about the fact that you are trying to dominate me, you are trying to humiliate me, you are trying to control me, and I'm not going to do it.

TODD: Some who have resisted wearing masks have said they have a right not to wear one. And many people have been confused over mask wearing because so many jurisdictions have different ordinances about them. But health experts are unequivocal about why they're important.

DR. PETER HOTEZ, DEAN OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: As you go into the workplace or as you're going into any area where there's significant numbers of people, it's life-saving you're actually saving other people's lives by wearing that mask and preventing aerosol, release of COVID-19 virus.

[20:55:10]

TODD: But law enforcement analysts are worried that as more businesses and public spaces reopen, that the confrontations over wearing face masks will only escalate, stretching the resources not only of law enforcement agencies, but also of businesses, which may have to hire extra security now.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.

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BLITZER: Thank you, Brian.

Just ahead, we already may be seeing a second wave of coronavirus in one state that says Americans in many states, they're rushing to the beaches, eager to escape isolation but possibly endangering their lives in the process. Stay with us. You're in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

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