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President Plans To Sign Executive Order Aimed At Social Media Companies; U.S. Surpasses 100,000 Coronavirus Deaths; Minnesota Governor Demands Answers Amid Calls For Four Fired Officers To Be Charged In Death Of Unarmed Black Man. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired May 27, 2020 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: With breaking news on the huge and horrific toll from the coronavirus.
The number of deaths here in the United States has just crossed 100,000. That is 100,000 men, women, children, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, grandparents, 100,000-plus gone.
As we remember all those who have been lost, there are so many tough questions Americans should still be asking about what could have been done and what still needs to be done right now to save lives.
And behind tonight's heartbreaking number, there are more than 100,000 people with names and stories. We certainly can't share them all with you right now, but here are just a few.
BLITZER (voice-over): Valentina Blackhorse was a member of the Navajo Nation. She won several pageants, including Miss Western Navajo.
As the pandemic swept through her reservation, she warned others to stay home, wash their hands, and wear masks. She died one day after testing positive for coronavirus. She was 28.
Wilson Roosevelt Jerman worked at the White House under 11 U.S. presidents. He started as a cleaner during the Eisenhower administration. He was promoted to butler under President Kennedy, a move his granddaughter says was orchestrated by then first lady Jacqueline Kennedy.
In all, he served more than 50 years, ending with President Obama.
Forty-two-year-old Sundee Rutter was in remission from breast cancer when she became ill with the coronavirus. Her six children said their last words to her through a walkie-talkie placed at her bedside. Rutter had been a single mother since her husband's death in 2012, her six children, aged 13 to 24, now left without a father or a mother.
Leslie Leake, her daughter, Enekee, and her son John Leake Jr. all died in the span of one month. Surviving daughter Shanta says her mother always helped others, despite being on a fixed income herself. She says her sister was the social butterfly of the family and her brother, John, was the chef who cooked at every family gathering.
Ellis Marsalis Jr. was a New Orleans jazz legend and the patriarch of the Marsalis family. The mayor of New Orleans called him a teacher, a father and an icon. Ellis Marsalis was 85.
Mary and Wilford Kepler were married for more than 73 years. They went to the same high school in Wisconsin and wed in 1946. They had three children, eight grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren. Because they both had coronavirus, they were able to stay in the same hospital room with their beds pushed together.
They died within six hours of each other. Their family says, in their final hours, they were able to hold hands and say "I love you" to each other one last time.
Assistant school principal Joe Lewinger was a father of three. In his final moments, doctors handed him his phone so his wife, Maura, could say goodbye.
MAURA LEWINGER, WIFE OF CORONAVIRUS VICTIM: Every single day, my husband wrote me beautiful love letters on my lunch box, not just, have a great day, but just beautiful letters about what I meant to him.
I thanked him. I thanked him. And then I prayed. And then the doctor took the phone. And he said, "I'm sorry, but there's no more pulse."
And then I played our wedding song for him. And then -- and then that was it.
BLITZER: Our hearts go out to all of those families. May they those -- who pass, now more than 100,000 Americans, may they rest in peace. May their memories be a blessing.
Let's talk about this terrible milestone, 100,000-plus deaths here in the United States.
Our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, is still with us.
Sanjay, it's hard to grasp. It's hard to grasp the enormity of this crisis here in the United States, indeed, in so much of the world right now. In less than three months, less than three months, more Americans have died in the Vietnam War, the Korean War, the other wars, the war in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, it is awful, Wolf. And that was very -- it was a very moving story you just did at the end of the show there.
I mean, it's just a reminder of these folks. And I have known people who have died of this disease. And I have seen patients very sick in the hospital. And I think that's really where the -- I think a lot of the thoughts
are probably right now. You think about 100,000. It's a terrible virus. It's a contagious virus, very contagious. It's very lethal, as we're learning. It affects certain segments of the population more than others, but we're still learning so much about this virus.
I was reading today, Wolf, that one in seven Americans will likely know someone who has died from this disease, something that we didn't even know five, six months ago, really had never heard of before that.
So it is pretty stunning.
I will say -- and I know you have Dr. Jeffrey Shaman as -- here as well -- there are lessons to be learned here. And there are lessons that can be applied quickly here, I think, because, as tragic as this is, the virus is still out there.
And so you have to decide at this point, are you going to look in the rearview mirror or forward? And I think, right now, we have to look forward. The will be plenty of time to look at what went right, what went wrong, but there are lessons that we need to apply, I think, right now, Wolf, in terms of how we go forward.
BLITZER: And I think -- and let me bring in Dr. Jeffrey Shaman, a professor and epidemiologist at Columbia University in New York.
Dr. Shaman, there's so much of this coronavirus that even the greatest experts in the world, like Dr. Fauci, for example, that they acknowledge themselves they have a lot more to learn about it.
DR. JEFFREY SHAMAN, PROFESSOR, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY NEW YORK: Absolutely.
Unfortunately, this is some new entity, it's a new virus that's dropped in our midst. And we're still scrambling to fully understand it, to understand what kind of long-term implications infections have. Obviously, there's this new pediatric inflammatory syndrome that's been identified that occurs in a minority of infections in children.
There are other long-term consequences that we don't see. We don't understand the epidemiological characteristics of it. We don't know if the virus is seasonal, in that it will be less transmissible in July and August, and then be more transmissible again come wintertime.
These are things that really have important ramifications for how we control the virus on a patient-by-patient level, how we treat people, and how we prepare for it as a society and in our public health interventions.
BLITZER: Let me bring in our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, who's also monitoring this horrific moment in American history right now.
More than 100,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus in less than three months. The president was down, Jim, in Florida. Unfortunately, they had to cancel, they had to postpone the space shuttle taking off.
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes.
BLITZER: But tell us a little bit about what he's saying and what he's doing now.
ACOSTA: Well, Wolf, he was not asked about the U.S. approaching this milestone of 100,000 deaths, earlier this afternoon, when we were still not officially at 100,000 deaths.
But he's on his way back to the White House right now from Florida after that scrubbed launch, and he will have an opportunity to talk to reporters as he arrives back on the South Lawn in about a half-an-hour to an hour from now. So we will wait and see if the president has anything to say.
He hasn't tweeted about reaching this awful milestone and he hasn't really talked about it in recent days. And so one of the things that we will be watching for, obviously, Wolf, is just how he responds to this.
He has not shown at all times the ability to express empathy to what's happened, this terrible, terrible toll that has been inflicted on the American people over the last three months.
We do know, Wolf, if you just look at -- back at how the president has handled this and responded to this over the last several months, he has -- he has had some terrible missteps along the way. That's not opining on anything.
He just has, from the very beginning, when he downplayed the virus over and over again, the moments when he seemed to embrace Chinese President Xi Jinping and defend their handling of the coronavirus, later on becoming a critic of China's handling of the coronavirus.
To his very strange embrace of the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for the coronavirus. We heard Dr. Anthony Fauci earlier today saying, it's just not an effective treatment for the coronavirus.
At one point, we all remember the president speculating about the possibility of injecting people with disinfectants as a way to cure the coronavirus. And so he has had, throughout all of this, misstep after misstep.
In addition to that, the administration has struggled to get a grip on this virus, on this pandemic, slowly rolling out testing, slowly rolling out personal protective equipment and so on.
And so it is going to be one of these, I think, metrics that voters are going to be judging this president by come November, because you were just talking about comparing this virus and this pandemic to the death toll from Vietnam and the Iraq War and other wars, the war in Afghanistan and so on. The president has described himself throughout this crisis as a
wartime president. And it is difficult, I think, for the president to declare he's won this war, when the United States stands at 100,000 deaths.
And my guess is, Wolf, is, we will get a chance to ask the president questions about all this, perhaps not tonight. Perhaps it'll have to wait until tomorrow. But you know, Wolf, from covering the White House, this is one of those moments where the president of the United States really just has to comment on something terrible that has happened to the American people and reflect on it.
The president hasn't always been very good at that. But he will have the opportunity to do it, I suspect, in short order. Whether or not he takes that opportunity this evening, that's what we will be watching for in the next several minutes, Wolf.
BLITZER: We certainly will, and he should be arriving back on the South Lawn fairly soon.
Maggie Haberman is with us as well.
Maggie, you have been doing some really outstanding reporting on all of this.
What do you anticipate? Are we going to hear from the president tonight? Will he show his concern, his anger over the awful nature of what has just happened to so many American people?
MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: The White House, Wolf, is struggling with how to have the president respond to this, because, as Jim correctly said, showing empathy, whether because he can't or won't, is just not something that the president is good at.
But this is a grim and awful milestone. And it is important for citizens to hear from their leaders around moments like this. That has been something that not just the president, but, candidly, a lot of advisers have struggled with understanding or communicating to him that it's important for the public to hear from the president in a moment like this.
We hear a lot about the president's feelings, about how he feels attacked, or he feels criticized, or he feels upset because television has criticized him. But, at the end of the day, there's 100,000 people who have lost their lives.
The existence of the virus is obviously not the president's fault, but how his administration has handled it and how he has personally responded to it, that is much more in his control. And I think that we will see whether he is feeling up for talking to reporters when he gets back to the White House.
Clearly, he flew all the way down to Florida to see a space launch that didn't happen. I imagine there will be some disappointment. It would be, I think, advantageous for him to recognize the moment and to try to address the public. I think, if we don't hear from him today, we will tomorrow. But as we
have seen, Wolf, he has been incredibly combative in recent days, more so than normal, although he's often very combative. And it's just not necessarily what people want to hear right now.
BLITZER: Sanjay, I want to once again take a look at the numbers of coronavirus deaths in the United States compared to other countries.
And you can see over there, more than 100,000 Americans now have died in less than three months. All these other countries basically were getting coronavirus deaths around the same time, end of February, early March; 8,428 in Germany have passed away, 846 in Japan, 269 in South Korea.
Obviously, those countries have smaller populations than the United States. But it's still such an awful situation to try to look at, even per capita, because the loss is so heartbreaking. We saw some of the pictures of some of those families, some of those wonderful people who passed away.
And so often, Sanjay, their closest family members could not even get close to them and say goodbye.
GUPTA: Yes, Wolf, I mean, for some people out there who have not been directly affected by this, it's not something that they obviously think about in the same way.
But for people who have been directly affected by this, it's all they think about. So, it's -- there's a little bit of a dichotomy there. But I think it's fair to look at these other countries. There wasn't a particular magic drug or vaccine or anything else that they had that we didn't have.
And when you look at South Korea, obviously, these are smaller countries, but, even if you account for that difference, I mean, if they're one-seventh the size, they have had fewer than 300 deaths. Even if you multiply that by seven, you're still talking about 2,000 people.
I mean, it's just very different. And, again, Jeffrey Shaman's work out of Columbia estimated sort of what the impact would have been if we did things earlier.
It's a question of, did you do things, but also when did you do things? When did you act? That's going to be, I, think one of the great lessons as we go forward.
If we're thinking about a second wave, we have to think about doing things earlier, much earlier. And I think the -- it's pretty clear, looking at other countries, looking at Dr. Shaman's work, that that would make a significant difference.
I think -- I mean, Dr. Shaman, I think, said 80 percent reduction potentially in deaths had the country acted two weeks earlier, just two weeks earlier.
And, just clearly, South Korea and Japan began working right away in early March, basically closing down big portions of the country, closing off schools, and doing a lot of testing and contact tracing and face masks and all of that.
Very quickly, Dr. Shaman, what should we be bracing for? Are we reopening these states too quickly, too early?
SHAMAN: It's really hard to say one way or another.
I do think it's a little bit too early. I think we're loosening restrictions where we don't have the virus fully under control. Look, we have models to work off of. We really should be looking at how South Korea and New Zealand and Germany and Taiwan and Israel and Iceland have controlled this disease.
They're among the few countries around the globe that have managed to really suppress the activity and then reboot their economy. And they're threading a really difficult situation, which is simultaneously keeping the activity of the virus low while reintroducing economic activity.
South Korea has done it best. They have really suppressed this disease, and they have kept it at very low numbers. We are instead, unfortunately, playing a dangerous game, because we haven't really fully suppressed. We're at around 20,000 cases a day right now.
South Korea is at around 20. That is -- we're 1,000 times more cases in a country that's only seven times larger. South Korea has not had the explosion of unemployment we have either, because they have really aggressively gone after this virus, controlled it, and then measuredly taken their economy back online.
If we don't start to model our own activities and our control of this virus through testing, contact tracing and vigilance to really suppress this down, we are going to have to continue to deal with this virus. It's going to flare up. It is growing in a number of states right now. It's on downward trends in others that are more on top of it.
We need a collective and united approach to this that is centrally supported and really goes after this thing, if we're going to bring it to heel.
BLITZER: We're going to stay on top of this.
It's an awful, awful situation right now; 100,047 Americans have died in less than three months, in less than three months, from the coronavirus.
Our special coverage will continue right after this.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [18:22:15]
BLITZER: We're back reporting on one of the most disturbing milestones yet in this coronavirus pandemic.
The death toll here in the United States has now climbed above 100,000, 100,047 as of this minute.
Our Senior Medical Correspondent, Elizabeth Cohen, is with us.
You have been covering this from the beginning, Elizabeth,
Tell us what's going through your mind as you begin to get the enormity of this crisis that all of us are facing right now, when you think of the men and women who, over less than three months, have passed away.
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I go back to the beginning, to use your words. I go back to the beginning.
And I think about those early CDC press conferences and interviews I did with CDC and other public health officials. And from the beginning, it was very -- it was unrecognized that this could be different than what they had seen before.
This wasn't going to be like SARS. This wasn't going to be like Zika. And they missed early signs. I remember writing a story in the middle of March saying, hey, it looks like this spreads asymptomatically in a significant way. And the CDC said, no. The CDC said, no, that's not the case. We don't think it spreads significantly in an asymptomatic way, even though all sorts of experts around the world were saying, hey, CDC, wake up.
And I think that it's important that we remember this. I mean, I know hindsight is always 20/20, but we remember this because sometimes viruses do things that we don't expect, and that we remember for the next time that viruses can surprise us. Viruses do things that we don't expect.
So that's one of the things that goes through my mind. Also, back in the beginning, that we figured -- the CDC thought that they could control this, that they had the first case, the second case, that it wasn't spreading in the community, when it really was.
So I think one of the lessons that might be learned here is that increased vigilance is necessary, even when it seems like it's not spreading that fast.
BLITZER: Yes, it's a -- they're going to go back and learn the lessons, lessons learned, to make sure that we're better prepared the next time.
And, Sanjay, you're a physician. You're a journalist. I know you feared this moment. All of us feared this moment. But we have to learn from what has just happened, because this crisis, this pandemic is by no means over, and it has the potential to kill many, many thousands more Americans and, indeed, people all over the world.
GUPTA: Yes, there's no question, Wolf. I mean, it is a very somber moment. And I'm really glad you're telling the stories of people who've been directly affected by this.
I mean, I have known people who have died of this disease and seen patients in hospitals get very sick of this disease.
So, it's -- I really think about the families today. And they say one in seven Americans will know someone who has died of this disease, something that we didn't really know much about six, seven months ago. We hadn't really even heard of it.
So, it is staggering, sort of, in that sense. But there are some lessons. I mean, the numbers will go up. You're right, Wolf. And that's tragic.
But how much they will go up, I think, is still very much within our hands. I mean, we have seen examples around the world where maybe smaller countries, but sort of affected with this disease around the same time as the United States, and because, not only did they act, but they acted quickly.
It's not just a question of your actions, but when you actually perform those actions, that seem to make such a big difference. As Elizabeth said, there was a lot about this disease we didn't know in the beginning, but it becomes a question, how do you react with limited information?
In other countries around the world, they were aggressive. In this country, we were not initially. And I think that that's why you're seeing such a discrepancy in the numbers.
There will be plenty of time to look back and figure out what really drove some of that inaction early on. But, right now, there are lessons that can be applied now, I mean, because, as you point out, Wolf, we're reopening.
How do we do this in a way that is as safe as possible? And does it mean that there's certain places that still can't reopen? As tough as that is to hear, the numbers, I think, sort of are a great reminder of what might happen if we don't.
BLITZER: One hundred thousand, 100,000 Americans, 100,047, to be precise right now, according to the Johns Hopkins University, have died from the coronavirus in the past three months alone.
Everyone, stand by.
We're going to continue our coverage of this awful milestone right after this.
BLITZER: Tonight, the moment we knew was coming, that moment is now here. It's a punch in the gut for this country. The battle against the coronavirus continues. The U.S. death though just surpassed 100,000, 100,047 right now, according to John Hopkins University. That is in less than 3 months. First deaths here in the United States with the end of February, early March.
Let's bring in our National Correspondent, Jason Carroll in New York. Jason, so many of those who have died here in the United States, died in New York.
JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's true. I mean, you really feel that number right here in New York City, Wolf. As you say, so many of the victims were right here in New York State, right here in New York City, the epicenter of this pandemic. And even though the numbers at this point in New York are trending in the right direction, health officials keep stressing the importance of wearing a mask. I've got mine right here in order to beat this virus.
CARROLL: A grim milestone in America. Moments ago the coronavirus death toll passing 100,000 lives lost. Still, the nation's leading expert on the pandemic telling CNN one thing is certain, social distancing and wearing masks works to help stop the spread.
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: We are seeing in certain areas a significant plateauing and diminution. That's sort of sobered by the fact that in other areas, unfortunately, we are seeing some uptick. So when the areas that are going down, it means when you do the mitigation, it works.
CARROLL: Something Dr. Anthony Fauci says he regrets seeing this weekend at this now infamous lakeside pool party in Missouri.
FAUCI: We all want to reopen. Everyone understands that. But when you see some of the scenes that were shown just now, that's very troubling because that's inviting there to be an issue.
CARROLL: 14 states are still seeing increases of new cases, several of those in the south. Today, the nation's capitol becoming the latest major city to announce its reopening. Starting Friday barbershops, hair salons and outdoor restaurant dining all allowed but with a warning.
MAYOR MURIEL BOWSER (D), DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Moving into phase one means that more people can get infected.
CARROLL: In Florida, Disney World and some of the surrounding theme parks announce they hope to reopen to the public in July with some new rules.
JIM MCPHEE, SENIOR V.P., WALT DISNEY WORLD: All of our cast members are on social distancing squad understand the policy and are encouraging and persuading just to ensure that they keep their masks on at all times.
CARROLL: And late this afternoon MGM Resorts announced several of its key properties in Las Vegas will be opening, June 4th, including the Bellagio, the hotel New York, New York and the MGM Grand.
While in hard hit Miami-Dade County, the beaches and hotels will welcome people again starting Monday with some restrictions. Restaurants on south beach's famed Ocean Drive have already opened their doors today. On the other coast retail businesses, churches and pools can reopen in California, again, with limitations and a word of caution.
GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): We stopped and gotten through the first wave.
CARROLL: The numbers continue trending in the right direction in nearly 20 states, including Texas and New York, the epicenter of the pandemic.
New York City still under a stay-at-home order while Long island, just outside New York City, has already begun phase one of reopening with some construction, manufacturing and curbside retail.
Looking ahead many businesses banking on hopes a vaccine will be developed by the end of the year. Dr. Fauci says it may not just be wishful thinking.
FAUCI: I still think that we have a good chance if all the things fall in the right place that we might have a vaccine that would be deployable by the end of the year.
CARROLL: A lot of people certainly hoping that is the case.
And, Wolf, that 100,000 number it's personal to New Yorkers. And I can explain that by just saying this. You know, when you're in a place like New York City, it's really hard to find someone when you look around who has not been affected by COVID-19 or worse, someone who has probably passed or has gotten very sick. Wolf?
BLITZER: Jason Carroll reporting in New York, thank you.
The Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, announcing today she is lifting the city's stay-at-home order a bit and will gradually ease restrictions starting Friday after the district saw a 14-day decline in community spread virus cases.
Mayor Bowser, joining us right now. Thanks, Mayor, for joining us.
BOWSER: Thank you Wolf.
BLITZER: It's a sad moment, very sad moment. More than 100,000 Americans have now died throughout this pandemic in less than three months. What's your message to the residents here in the nation's capitol as we all try to process this awful news?
BOWSER: Well, D.C. residents have taken this virus very seriously, Wolf, and closely adhered to the stay-at-home guidance of the last several weeks, which is allowing us to see some declines in community transmission.
But we're clear on this. While I'm lifting the stay at home order, I call it stay at home lite. We are able to go out of our houses for non-essential work. We can go to parks. We can dine out at restaurants and outside seating and get some personal services that we've missed. But we can't go crazy, or we know that this virus can get out of hand in our city and in our region, and we could be back to square one.
So my message is we've all made a lot of sacrifices, but we have to continue to be smart.
BLITZER: You continue to remind D.C. residents that the public health emergency, as you just did just now, is far from over. Does this awful milestone, 100,000 Americans dead as a result of coronavirus, serve as a further reminder of that sobering fact?
BOWSER: I think so. And just as people have mentioned, a lot of people in our city know someone who's been affected by COVID either by being sick or having lost a loved one, and we know that people want to get back to more normal activities, and we're going to see that.
But the very specific advice, like we're not allowing groups together that are over ten, we're asking people to avoid crowds, we're asking them to be very smart about wearing their masks, social distancing and hand washing. Those are all things that can help keep us safe.
BLITZER: You decided to lift the stay-at-home order for Washington, D.C. on this coming Friday, allowing the district as you point out to move into what's called phase one of reopening. What will this initial phase of reopening look like to most people here in Washington, D.C.?
BOWSER: Well, it's turning on some activity that people have been missing, so we're no longer restricting people's movements to essential work or going out for food or recreation. So people we know will be moving around more.
Our non-essential businesses, retailers in particular, are now open for curbside pickup. Our restaurants that have previously been only grab-and-go can now have seating outside, in the outside parts of their restaurants.
We also have barber and hair salons are able to operate by appointment. No queuing inside. And that we know is going to be very important to people. And our own parks, our department of parks and recreation is opening up parks for passive use of the parks. So people can get out and have more space to recreate and social distance.
BLITZER: As you know, the president, his intent on holding some special events on July 4th, that's not too far away, maybe even a big parade. Is Washington D.C. ready for that kind of activity? BOWSER: Well, the 4th of July organizers, the 4th -- who organized the parade every year have already canceled that, and we won't permit any parades in phase one in the district.
We'll continue to work with the National Park Service and the Department of Interior what they plan to do on the National Mall. We know that we are in a position to have large gatherings in our cities and we're going to work with park service to make sure that whatever they have planned, that it won't be huge gatherings of people, and that people can safely socially distance.
BLITZER: Good luck, Mayor. We're obviously very, very worried about what's happening not only here in the Washington, D.C. but all over the country indeed and so much of the world. Mayor Muriel Bowser of Washington, D.C. --
BOWSER: Thank you.
BLITZER: -- thank you.
We have some breaking news coming in from the White House. I want to go to our Chief White House Correspondent, Jim Acosta. Jim, what are you learning?
ACOSTA: Yes. Wolf, as the president was landing on Air Force One over at Joint Base Andrews, he's on his way to the White House right now on Marine One. Kayleigh McEnany, the White House press secretary, told reporters the president plans to sign an executive order aimed at social media companies.
She said she didn't want to get ahead of the president, didn't offer any details. She initially indicated that this executive order would be signed this evening. We're now told by the White House that this executive order is going to be signed tomorrow.
Obviously, Wolf, the president is highly annoyed the fact that Twitter, just last night for the first time, flagged one of his tweets or a couple of his tweets as being false and directing users on Twitter to get the facts, as the platform put it. And so it remains to be seen exactly what the president is going to do.
It should be noted, Wolf, that Twitter flagging tweets from the president as perhaps not in line with the facts is not terribly different than what media companies do, traditional media companies do all the time. We fact-check the president. Twitter was simply trying to do the same thing. But that got under the president's skin.
As we all know, Twitter is his favorite social media platform. He looks at it as a way to get around the mainstream news media and get his -- whatever he wants to say out to his followers. So this has obviously been under his skin. He wants to do something about it. And he plans to sign an executive order tomorrow, according to the White House. They're not saying specifically what that executive order is going to be, and, of course, there are people on all sides of the political spectrum wondering exactly what specifically the president can do to crack down on social media companies.
After all, Twitter is a private company, and can essentially do whatever it wants with its social media platform. It has a whole slew of instructions to user on that website as to how they're supposed to abide by social media restrictions laid out by Twitter.
The president obviously being the president of the United States has been able to escape a lot of those rules of the road. If other people were tweeting things that the president was tweeting they would have Twitter going after them much more forcefully than they've gone after the president just in the last 24 hours. But he feels the need to respond. He's been complaining about this on Twitter earlier today.
And now, apparently, we're going to see what the president plans to do about all of this tomorrow, planning to sign some sort of executive order. White House saying they don't want to get ahead of the president and say specifically what's that's going to be.
And, of course, all of this is happening as the U.S. has hit more than 100,000 deaths from the coronavirus. And one of the things that we'll be waiting for in just a few moments when the president lands on the south lawn of the White House is whether or not he'll comment on that, which obviously appears to be -- not appears to be, but is a much higher priority to the American people than what's being said on Twitter, Wolf?
BLITZER: Yes, and we'll see what the president says if he says anything. We saw some live pictures of the president and first lady boarding Marine One to take them from Joint Base Andrews, outside of Washington D.C. to the south lawn of the White House. That's usually about an eight or nine minute little flight on Marine One.
We'll see if the president stops and makes a statement about this horrendous moment that we're all going through right now. More than 100,000 Americans in less than three months have died from the coronavirus.
We're going to continue our breaking news coverage right after this.
BLITZER: We're following the breaking news as the United States reaches a very painful moment in the coronavirus pandemic, with now the death toll surpassing 100,000, 100,047, according to Johns Hopkins University right now. We're going to have more on that coming up.
But there's another major story we're also following here in THE SITUATION ROOM. There are new calls for charges to be brought against four Minneapolis police officers involved in the death of an unarmed African-American man. Let's go to our national correspondent Sara Sidner. She's on the scene
for us in Minneapolis right now.
Sara, will the officers actually be brought up on charges?
SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I don't know the answer to that, Wolf. What I do know the answer to is that folks here are getting very agitated, throwing water bottles. The police are also shooting bean bags from the top of precinct three here in Minneapolis.
There have been bottles, bottle just thrown there. There's water bottles, they are being met with bean bags that have pellets in them. And, boy, did they hurt if you get hit with them.
There's also been some tear gas that has been deployed here in the streets. You'll notice the crowd has gotten quite large, definitely hundreds, if not 1,000 or so people who are here.
But every time you hear those noises, every time you see that, look, you'll see -- see on his leg there where he's got the green on his leg? This is all because people are so upset about what happened here in this town, when a police officer put his knee on the neck of George Floyd -- sorry, got a little gas on my throat-- people are so, so distraught. That sort of pain and anger has led to a will to fight.
People are very, very, very upset. Not just angry, they're hurt. Because they watched this video, and it was so difficult for them to watch somebody perish basically in front of them because that video, and according to police, that video -- we're going to back up here. There's more bean bags being shot.
That video, the police even said their officers did not act in accordance with their regulations. You are not supposed to be using that kind of procedure where you put a knee in someone's neck for that long a period of time, if they're not resisting or if there's even passive resistance. Now, the police initially said he was resisting arrest.
But it turns out if you look at all the video available to the public and media, so far, none of that video reveals there was any kind of resistance, and if you look at the fact that his hands were already cuffed behind his back when the officer was putting his knee down on his neck, that goes against all procedures.
That's why so many people are coming out, including the mayor and governor, the mayor saying prosecutors with the Hennepin County attorney's office need to prosecute this case against the officers. Four officers have been fired at this point. We have not yet heard anything about whether there are charges.
There's a lot of rumors going around, a lot of things being said. They have not heard anything about whether or not there have been any arrests. We don't believe there have been in this case. But people are hurt and angry and frustrated because they feel like
they keep playing the same old tape over and over again. A lot of people mentioning Eric Garner. You see the "I can't breathe" signs. Now, they're literally hearing that from someone who is dying in front of our eyes on videotape. And that really has people going.
You're hearing the screaming because of this gentleman right here. A lot of folks out here excited to see him. There's a lot of Black Lives Matter signs out here. A lot of people, both black and white, are here to support the family in this who has asked that the officers be charged with murder -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Yes, that video was simply horrific to see that police officer with his knee on that -- on George Floyd's neck for so long as he's screaming, "I can't breathe, I can't breathe, I can't breathe."
Stand by, Sara, I want to talk more about what's happening in Minneapolis in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Don Lemon, the anchor of "CNN TONIGHT", is with us, as is our legal analyst, the former federal prosecutor Laura Coates.
Don, you say -- you say the country is suffering right now from two viruses. You said it on your show last night, coronavirus and racism. How difficult is it right now for the African-American community to face both of these crises head on?
DON LEMON, CNN HOST, "CNN TONIGHT": Yes. I said that this country was infected by two viruses, and one was COVID-19 and racism-20.
And listen, I think these pictures illustrate just how frustrated people are. It's not only African-Americans. And I think it's incumbent upon white people in the try as well to join in the outrage because people are sick of seeing of this. They're sick of what's happening on the street and when you see videos like this of Mr. Floyd, they're sick of what happened to situations that happened to Mr. Cooper in Central Park over the weekend.
They're sick of situations like what happened to Mr. Arbery in Georgia back in February and taking months and months for people to be arrested when there is videotape out there which shows how they handled Mr. Arbery and, frankly, gunned him down.
So, it is difficult. These are the two viruses that we're dealing with in our country right now. The sad thing is, right now this new virus has killed 100,000 people. This virus that has been with us since the beginning of this country, who knows how many people it has killed? Hundreds, if not millions of people, and it continues to go on.
People are wearing masks now for the coronavirus. I think it is time we take the masks off of racism in this country, stop making excuses for it.
And it's incumbent upon all people in this country, including as they say good white people and liberals and Republicans, all of us to come together and say enough is enough. And not just leave it to black people to protest and say Black Lives Matter, because black people are frankly exhausted right now.
BLITZER: Yes, you make important points, Don.
And, Laura, we saw the deaths of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Ahmaud Arbery down in Georgia captured on video. We also saw that video of a white woman in Central Park calling the police and lying to them about the situation after a black man merely asked her to put her dog on a leash.
These incidents led to an opinion piece, here it is on CNN entitled "There's one epidemic we may never find a vaccine for, fear of black men in public spaces."
So what's your reaction when you see this?
LAURA COATES, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, I'm the daughter and wife of and mother of a black man. And to think about this, and talking about what Don is saying, it hits home particularly for me literally here, Wolf, because I was raised in Minnesota. The first home I was able to buy was about four blocks from where this man was killed, four blocks.
So this hits very close to home to me to see, especially given that this is representing a string, at least in my home state alone, from Philando Castile, to Jamar Clark, to now what we're seeing with George Floyd. And we're seeing that even after there are bystanders who are saying, please let him breathe, even after you saw the killing of Jamar Clark, when you actually had the legislature change laws to had a duty to intervene written into criminal code in Minnesota to say if you are a police officer who is witnessing excessive force, you have a duty to intervene.
And yet still we see four officers fired, and one having a knee on the neck of obviously a devalued life in his mind. And it's hard to not look at this and draw a comparison as Don is talking about, just a few years ago, people were lamenting, vilifying Colin Kaepernick for kneeling. And now, we have an officer who is literally kneeling on the neck of somebody.
And why? Wolf, a year ago we were talking about putting Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill. Now we have that this man was accused potentially of having handed a counterfeit $20 bill, and this is where we stand right now?
When the people are calling for there to be justice, when they're calling for charges, remember, this did not happen in a split second what we normally give police officers the benefit of the doubt to say you make split second decisions all the time. You have a sustained period of time where it appears they were more than aware he was dying. They were more than aware they were causing injury, that he was begging for his life and even calling for his own mother.
People call for justice, looking for not just the firing, but pure accountability. As Don says, even more than that, a realization, the devaluation of human life, while many people are talking about 100,000 lives lost, and that is a terrible tragedy of COVID-19 and what one virus can do to the human lungs, African-Americans in this country when it comes to law enforcement, apparently, still are not allowed to breathe.
BLITZER: Yes. Laura Coates, Don Lemon --
LEMON: Just in the time we have been doing this interview between the time that Sarah and you and I have been talking has been about nine minutes. That's how long the officer had his knee on the neck of Mr. Floyd.
BLITZER: And this is so personal for so many African-Americans. I've gotten calls from many of my friends say thing is personal, and I'm sure it is for you, Don, as well. I know you'll be continuing this conversation later tonight. And I want our viewers to join you. It will be a very important program, "CNN TONIGHT" coming up at 10:00 p.m. Eastern.
Finally tonight, as we mark more than 100,000 coronavirus deaths here in the United States, we have a couple more stories to share about those we have lost.
Sarah Washington of California was 82 years old. A high school and church choir director for more than 25 years, she brought joy to others by playing the piano and singing. Her granddaughter says she spread the love of music throughout her family.
Carlos Arturo Garcia of New Jersey was 70 years old. He was born in Colombia. He became a U.S. citizen last year. Even after suffering a stroke, Carlos put on his uniform and rode with his wife as she took over his job delivering medicine to nursing homes. His daughter says he never stopped working to support the family he loved so much.
May they rest in peace, and may their memories be a blessing.
To our viewers, thanks very much for watching.
"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.