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CNN NEWSROOM

Trump Threatens to Pull GOP Convention Out of Charlotte, NC; Poll: 60% Disapprove of Trump's Handling of Coronavirus; Trump Spends Memorial Day Weekend Tweeting Political Attacks & Peddling Conspiracy Theory; NY Governor Cuomo Gives Update on Coronavirus Response; Biden Lays Wreath at Delaware Veterans Memorial Park; COVID-19 Cluster in Arkansas Linked to High School Swim Party; Brazil Sees Record Number of Daily Coronavirus Cases. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired May 25, 2020 - 11:30   ET

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


[11:30:00]

SEUNG MIN KIM, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "WASHINGTON POST": We are about to hit 100,000 people who have died from this virus in the coming days.

And the president is still using his old playbook. He is digging up these old grievances against Hillary Clinton, and particularly after Jeff Sessions, who is fighting in a Senate primary in July -- that he is likely going to lose because of all this antipathy that the president has towards his former attorney general.

What you're not hearing from the president on his Twitter feed, his preferred method of communication, his preferred megaphone is, you know, very solemn messages about Memorial Day.

I mean, he is retweeting some public health guidance from the CDC on what to do and keep yourself safe, but this is part of this kind of back-to-normalcy theme. We see him wanting to make sure that the convention goes on.

He is, like with the convention, he surprised us by saying the G-7 is back on in person. And the White House is scrambling to hold that by the end of June because he knows that the handling of the pandemic and Republicans know that the longer that the focus stays on him, the worse it is for his re-election of the party.

JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: And yet, Toluse, the president does understand politics, whether you agree or disagree with the president at home, he is guided by his politics, which is why his travel is to battleground states.

The ABC poll, 39 percent approve, 60 percent disapprove of how the president is handing the coronavirus. We know this will be a referendum on him because he's the incumbent in a pandemic. Six in 10 Americans disapprove. That means at least a small, a modest amount of Republicans disapprove, number one. And, number two, any Republican will tell you, Nancy Pelosi is

speaker, in part, because of tweet rants and rages like this. Suburban women have turned on this president because they watch him. They have to run their lives, run their families, keep it together at times of stress and crisis like this, and they see how he behaves.

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, "WASHINGTON POST": Yes, that's exactly right. One of the things that have kept voters in President Trump's camp, members of his base, the fact that we had a strong economy. People maybe didn't like the tweets or some of his antics, decided that, you know, the economy was strong, he had pretty good approval ratings on the economy, and now that's really out of the window.

Now you see the president talking about a transition to greatness, talking about opening up the economy, talking the third and fourth quarter being big rebound opportunities for the American economy because he wants people to focus more on the economic side of things rather than on the pandemic and the fact that we still have thousands of cases every day and hundreds of people dying on a daily basis.

And he's trying to figure out how to change the narrative away from the pandemic back towards the economic rebound that he hopes will come in the later part of this year.

KING: And so, Seung Min, this is another one of those moments where Republicans are not only worried they might lose the White House in this election, they might lose the Senate as well and see no chance of regaining the House majority.

The headlines over the weekend about the president's Twitter rants, in the "New York Times," "Trump tweets and golfs makes no mention of the virus toll." In the newspaper, "The Post," "A weekend dedicated to war dead, Trump tweet insults and baseless claims and plays golf." On Slate, "Trump shares sexist messages about prominent female Democrats in Twitter spree."

"Breitbart," which is in the president's camp, "Democrats trying to exploit coronavirus for vote-by-mail scam." The president and "Breitbart" not factual. There's zero evidence that voting by mail increases fraud. Evidence that it increases participation and is relatively fraud-free.

But the president is a contrarian here. Republicans, his own campaign team tell him dial it back. And he thinks, I got this.

KIM: And he is his own strategist and he does what he thinks is best for his political campaign.

But you're right. Right now, Republicans are really concerned not just about the White House and not -- but the down-ballot effects. You and I both know how silent Mitch McConnell can be. But the fact that he is talking up now, six months before the election, that he does -- he is very closely watching, and he is concerned about the Senate majority, it tells a lot. You know, the Republican Senators are looking at the president's

handling of the pandemic in the key swing states where the Senate majority will be won. North Carolina, earlier, for the convention, that is one of the states. We're looking at Maine, Colorado.

And again, as always it puts these Republican Senators in a difficult position because they can't, you know, ever really completely extricate themselves from the president. They have to rally their base voters and they have to turn out their own party members.

But they also know that --

(CROSSTALK)

KING: Seung Kim, I'm sorry. I'm sorry to interrupt.

We go to the former vice president of the United States, Joe Biden, speaking in his home state of Delaware.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You got the whole country behind you.

JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES & DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thanks for your service.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK. Guys, thank you. Thank you for coming here today.

[11:35:09]

KING: We don't see the vice president out and about that much. The presumptive Democratic nominee. You see him now getting back into his motor vehicle. This is New Castle, Delaware, at Veterans Memorial Park.

Again -- and the governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, speaking at his daily briefing. A lot of events. Let's go to the governor of New York in New York City.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): -- wreath in honor of Memorial Day.

To her left Gareth Rhodes, who has been working with us from the onset of this tragic COVID situation.

We're at the "USS Intrepid" Sea, Air and Space Museum. This is a remarkable, remarkable facility. And it's always a pleasure to be here.

It was started by the Fisher family, one of the great families of the state of New York. Susan Marenoff-Zausner is here with us today, the president of the organization. We want to thank her for her kindness.

Today, we honor the servicemembers who have lost their lives. We remember their families and the pain that they've dealt with. We thank them all for their service, their bravery and their sacrifice.

I want to thank the Geldban (ph) family, Stu and Ellen, for being with us today and giving us the honor.

And let's take a moment of silence in memory of all those who have fallen and wishing their families peace on this difficult day.

(MOMENT OF SILENCE)

CUOMO: Thank you.

This is the "USS INTREPID." I've been here a number of times. Every time I come I learn something else.

Remarkable history itself. Launched in 1943, over 30 years of service. Served in World War II, the Cold War, Vietnam War. It really is a phenomenal walk through history visiting this great ship. And 250 Americans who served on board lost their lives while they were serving on this ship. And that is -- brings home the message of today.

President Kennedy was speaking about Memorial Day and giving thanks to those who served and who made the ultimate sacrifice, but he reminded us that, as we express our gratitude, never forget that highest appreciation is not about uttering the words, but to live them. That is the greatest acknowledgement of the sacrifice that has been made, to carry it forward.

And this Memorial Day, I think it's especially poignant and powerful when this country is going through what it's going through. And we know something about loss because we're living it again. Over 100,000 Americans will lose their lives to this COVID virus. How do we honor them? We honor them by growing stronger together.

And during these times, there are so many Americans who have really risen to the challenge, done more than anyone could ask, more than anyone could expect. And we want to make sure that we remember them and we thank our heroes of today.

And they're all around us. And they did extraordinary service to allow us to continue doing what we're doing. I can just imagine the responsibility of a chief executive who has to call men and women into war and how they deal with that responsibility.

I know that I feel a grave responsibility to our frontline and essential workers who understood the dangers of this COVID virus but went to work anyway because we needed them to.

We needed the nurses and the doctors to perform phenomenal service in the hospitals. We needed the police, the fire department, the EMS to show up. We needed the frontline workers in grocery stores to show up so others could stay home and be safe.

And I bare heavy the responsibility of explaining to the people of this state and beyond what we were dealing with when we were dealing with the COVID virus and how dangerous it was and, in the same breath, to ask people to please show up tomorrow, having just explained how dangerous it was. And many of those people who showed up and did their duty and served with honor lost their lives to keep others of us safe.

[11:40:10]

And in many ways, that is a microcosm of what we're here talking about today on Memorial Day.

But as John F. Kennedy said, remember with your actions. And today, we're saying we honor that service. And we're going to make sure that every government in the state of New York provides death benefits to those public heroes who died from COVID-19 during this emergency.

I also believe the federal government should be doing the same, honoring the frontline workers, showing Americans that we appreciate what you did, that you showed up when it was hard, that you worked when it was hard, you appeared for duty when it was troubling to do so. And I'm sure many people were afraid to show up, but they showed up anyway.

And they deserve not just words of thanks, but actions that show the appreciation. And I think the federal government should dedicate federal funds and pay hazard pay to those workers who showed up.

It's a way of saying thank you, we understand what you did, we appreciate what you did. And it's a way of showing Americans that when there's a next time -- and there's a next time -- that we truly appreciate those people who show up and do their duty.

Today, we also honor the veterans who we lost to coronavirus during this epidemic, Jack Conyers, Steven Patty (ph), Cleveland Jesup (ph). And those are just a handful of people from New York.

We're still in the midst of this COVID battle. We are making progress here in New York. Again, the hospitalization rate is down. The net change in hospitalizations is down. Intubations is down, which is very good news.

Day to day hospitalizations are down, which is continued good news and, in many ways, the most important news. That means the number of people who are coming into our hospitals on a day-to-day basis continues to drop.

And the most important number to me, the number of lives lost, 96, is still painfully high. But only in the relative absurdity of our situation is that relatively good news. And we remember those 96 families today.

John F. Kennedy's words of appreciation were echoes of the thoughts of Abraham Lincoln after thanking the -- those who lost their lives in the Civil War. "It is for us, the living, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work that they have, thus far, so nobly carried on."

It's about the unfinished work. That's what Abraham Lincoln said. That's what John F. Kennedy said. That's what almost every great leader of this country has said. It's about dedicating ourselves to the unfinished work.

And we do that here in New York. We honor the memory of the fallen by going forward, by living, by growing, by advancing, by learning from it, by being stronger than ever before, by taking the values and principles of America that they lived and died for and rising -- raising them to a new level. By rising even higher and even stronger than ever before.

We will do that. We will do that here in New York. We'll do that in this country because America and New York are tough, smart, united, disciplined, and loving, at the end of the day.

And that has brought us to this point where this country is the strongest, best country on the globe, and it will take us forward.

Questions?

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Yes, Governor, when you had required people in nursing homes, who are working there, to get tested twice a week, were you also requiring the patients to be tested as well?

CUOMO: We are testing the patients. It's not really -- it is a requirement that staff be tested twice a week. Some of the nursing home operators have pointed out that that's a burdensome task. And I understand that it is. But it is a requirement to maintain your nursing home license in the state of New York.

[11:45:10]

We've known from day one that the nursing homes are the most vulnerable places for this COVID virus. We were introduced to it, Seattle, Washington, in a nursing home, vulnerable population in the most vulnerable place in a congregant setting.

So I understand the burden. We're working with them to get the testing. But we can all say, at the end of the day, that we did everything we could.

We still lost 96 people yesterday. God and Mother Nature had a hand in this, but we did everything we could. They got the best hospital care, the best nurses, the best doctors and still we lost 96 people.

I want to make sure we can say that all across the board and we say that about nursing homes. That's why it is a requirement to test the staff.

We're also testing the patients, the residents of nursing homes. I wouldn't call it a requirement. So to -- you know, that -- but we are testing all the people in nursing homes.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: What's the criteria for that? When would they be tested?

CUOMO: They're tested on an ongoing basis. It's happening now. They're tested by nursing home staff or we have state personnel who are doing the testing.

But the whole thing with this virus is to find it early and isolate. And, again, nursing homes are the prime breeding ground for this killer.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Governor, on the death benefits, this is funded by the state given the state's finances? I'm sure it's difficult. Who qualifies as a frontline worker on this?

CUOMO: Yes, it's funded -- any public employee who works in the state of New York, whether a city, county, state employee, those -- that local pension fund or state pension fund will pay those benefits.

Frontline workers, we have a full list. But they're the people we've been discussing. It's the frontline public health care workers, police workers, EMS workers, fire department workers, the people who showed up.

Look, they showed up because I asked them to show up. They showed up because I required them to show up. There's not a transit worker who drove a bus or conducted a train or a nurse who didn't walk into an emergency room who wasn't scared to death. They knew what we were talking about.

I mean, it was enough to shut down society, right, tell everyone to stay home. But then, in the same breath, I say to them you have to go to work in the morning.

It weighed heavily on me, and it still does, that I had to ask people to do that, to put their lives literally in danger. And we knew they were putting their lives in danger and that they did it anyway.

I have such respect and esteem for what they did. And I want to make sure that we repay that, not just by saying thank you and running nice television commercials, right?

That's why I use the words of JFK and Abraham Lincoln. If you want to say thank you, show that you're grateful, show the respect. And the least we can do -- and I would say what we must do -- is for their families, those who died from the COVID virus, make sure they get the appropriate death benefits.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: It's based on numbers, but given the --

KING: The governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, his coronavirus briefing on this Memorial Day, on the deck of the "USS Intrepid." That's a former aircraft carrier, now a military museum in New York City, a fantastic museum.

The governor going through the case count as he always does. Encouraging news in New York. Hospitalizations down, intubations down, new cases down.

The governor also saying he wants to pay tribute to those state and local government workers who are on the frontlines, transit workers, police, firefighters, public health workers, who lost their lives to COVID-19, by guaranteeing that they are paid death benefits. And the governor also saying it's time for the federal government to ante up as well. On this Memorial Day, the governor of New York also paying tribute to

the fallen, as we all do annually to those who died in service to this nation and saying the loss in the COVID-19 makes it all the more poignant.

Also, moments ago, on this Memorial Day, the former vice president and the current presumptive Democratic nominee, Joe Biden -- you see him here with his wife, Jill Biden -- laying a wreath at the Delaware Memorial Bridge Veterans Memorial Park.

Let's listen for a moment.

BIDEN: CNN's Arlette Saenz joins us now.

[11:50:00]

Arlette, on this Memorial Day, the former president is at home paying tribute to the fallen, as it is appropriate. And it's worth noting, we have not seen him out in public in quite some time.

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, John. This is Joe Biden's first public appearance since March 12th when he gave the speech related to coronavirus right here in Wilmington, Delaware.

You saw the former vice president and his wife, Jill Biden, laying the wreath at that memorial for those who served and died during World War II and the Korean War.

You saw the precautions they took. They were wearing those face masks. Biden has talked about, while he's been home, he's been wearing face masks and gloves around Secret Service or other aides who maybe have come into his home.

But now, in his first public appearance, we are seeing he's following through with that protocol as well.

Both of the Bidens have a strong tie to the military families. Jill Biden, while she was second lady, worked a lot, extensively with military families and children. And their own son, Bo Biden, served in Iraq as part of the Delaware Army National Guard. The five-year anniversary of his passing from brain cancer is later this week.

So the Bidens today making their first public appearance since the coronavirus pandemic really put the country and the nation at a standstill. And this is the first time that we have seen Biden out in public since March 12th -- John?

KING: Arlette Saenz for us in Delaware. Again, just pause and watch the video. The former vice president of the United States, Joe Biden, out on this Memorial Day.

Arlette, thank you so much.

Still ahead for us, Arkansas now experiencing a second peak because of a cluster of new coronavirus cases. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[11:56:33]

KING: To Arkansas now, where the governor, Asa Hutchinson, saying his state is now seeing a second peak of coronavirus cases. The comments came after a new outbreak that is linked to a high school swim party. Arkansas, unlike many other states, was never under a stay-at-home order.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is live for us at Little Rock.

Ed, when this happens, the question is: Is it a one-time spike or does Arkansas have a growing problem?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's the question that health experts continue to monitor here, John, in the coming days. We should be clear that Arkansas has not seen the widespread case numbers and deaths that have been seen in many parts of country.

But when you dig deeper as to what has happened here over the last four days, there are signs of concerns. There are about 5,900 overall cases seen here in the state of Arkansas. And 900 of those have been reported in just the last four days. So that's a troubling trend.

The governor here, Asa Hutchinson, described it as a second peak. The first peak happened around April 20th. It has been about a month.

This is in a state where there was no stay-at-home order by the governor but there were other restrictions put on businesses and restaurants and school closures.

But the governor here says this is more of a product of widespread testing. But he does say that people need to be mindful of their actions.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ASA HUTCHINSON (R-AR): I don't think we'll say you can't invite anybody over to a pool in the backyard of your home. I think you have to exercise discipline and make sure you have the right constraints in place.

We've got to think about next fall. Where are we going to be? We're not going to be cloistered in our home. That's contrary to the American spirt. We've got to manage the risks next fall by the infrastructure that we are building now.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LAVANDERA: So, John, the reopening phases have begun here in Arkansas where restaurants are able to open and limit capacity. None of that, based on these new numbers and these new trends, appears to be in the process of changing any minds of how the reopening of the economy here will continue in the days and weeks ahead -- John?

KING: Ed Lavandera, live on the ground in Little Rock for us, thank you for that.

Let's take a global perspective. Now checking in with CNN's correspondents on global headlines around the world.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Here in Brazil, the coronavirus outbreak is far from peaking. With the number of new cases exceeding 15,000 every day for the last week, making it the country with the second-most infectious worldwide.

Over the weekend, the United States announced it was barring entries to foreigners who have recently been to Brazil. No official reaction from the Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. Although, Brazil itself closed its borders to foreigners back in March.

Bolsonaro has repeatedly downplayed the epidemic and attacked governors and mayors who implemented quarantines, arguing those measures will have a worse impact that the virus itself.

He appeared at yet another pro-government rally over the weekend. He wasn't wearing a mask. Taking pictures with supporters.

Now, in the meantime, the mayor of Manaus, in the Amazon region, one of the hardest-hit areas of Brazil, told CNN that he considers Bolsonaro co-responsible for the mounting death toll now about 22,000.

Shasta Darlington, CNN, Sao Paulo.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[12:00:06]

KING: Welcome to a special Memorial Day edition of the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm John King, in Washington.