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Trump Shifts Culture Wars As 100,000+ Die in The U.S.; President Trump to Sign Executive Order Targeting Social Media; COVID Takes A Disproportional Death Toll on African Americans; 40 Million People File for Unemployment Since Mid-March. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired May 28, 2020 - 15:30   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Today President Trump is waging a war against social media. Yes, this is the man who utilizes this very platform to reach his more than 80 million followers at all hours of the day with tweets that often times have a loose relationship with the truth. And today with the backdrop of coronavirus having reached this grim milestone 100,000 deaths, and outrage over America's knee on the necks of black men in this country. The President of the United States is using his time today to sign an executive order against social media companies. And again, not that you need reminding, but Trump loves to tweet.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I wrote something out this morning on a thing called Twitter, whether we like it or not. It's a good way -- it is a good way of getting the word out.

I think that Twitter is a way I get out the word when we have a corrupt media.

That's the great thing about Twitter, OK. You know, when the press is dishonest, which is most of the time, and when they say, like, I don't want to build the wall, I can tweet, that was a false story, boom, boom, boom.


BALDWIN: And just this morning the President tweeted and retweeted over 20 times nearly all of those tweets before he acknowledged that 100,000 Americans have died to coronavirus, which he did finally acknowledge in a tweet. Now the President is looking to rein in the power and legal protections of social media platforms after Twitter labeled two of the President's tweets as misleading with fact checks earlier this week.

This morning President Trump offered a hint at what is to come from this executive order writing a tweet claiming today will be a, quote, big day for social media and fairness in all capital letters. With me now are CNN chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta and CNN tech reporter Brian Fung. And, Jim, first to you. What's really going on here? Why is the President trying do this? JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well obviously, the

President is trying to change the subject right now. It took him more than 12 hours to tweet about the 100,000 deaths from coronavirus here in the U.S.

And so clearly the President is trying to change the topic, change the conversation in this country. He did just tell reporters in the last several minutes that he'll be holding a news conference in the next hour or so to talk about this executive order that he is expected to sign to go after social media companies. It's essentially designed to rattle their cages. There's not a whole lot legally that he can do to these private companies. And it does raise the question why is the President going after his favorite website, which is Twitter, of course,

I asked the White House Press Secretary during the briefing, just a short while ago, Kayleigh McEnany, why the President is doing this, does he feel like he shouldn't be fact checked? And isn't he trying to silence fact checkers? We had a bit of a back and forth. And I pointed out to McEnany that the President has told thousands of false or misleading statements, that he has told outright lies to the American people, and she has pledged not to lie in that briefing room, and does she believe the President never lied before? And this is what she said.

She said, quote, his intent is to always give truthful information to the American people.

Well, that is not the end result of much of what the President said. That was a whopper of her own, I suppose you might say when it comes to the White House Press Secretary.

But, Brooke, what this all boils down to is that the President is trying to silence fact checking. He doesn't want the people at various news organizations or even social media platforms to stamp what he says as false when he says false things.

BALDWIN: So, piggybacking off one of your points, Brian, to you, you know, I know he's the President of the United States, but legally speaking can he really do this?

BRIAN FUNG, CNN TECH REPORTER: Well, legal experts are raising serious doubts about whether this could survive legal scrutiny. A number of legal experts have said that this could be unconstitutional because it risks infringing on the First Amendment rights of companies like Twitter and Facebook because those are private entities. It also risks bypassing the Congress and the courts to reach a different interpretation of the law than what Congress intended.

So those are all really tough details that the White House is going to have to overcome if it intends to roll out this policy. And ultimately, you know, even if the policies are adopted by the Federal Communications Commission and the Federal Trade Commission, those are subject to legal review also.

BALDWIN: You brought up Facebook because, again, you know, we keep talking about Twitter, but this you know is social media and this whole thing has really exposed this rift, Brian, between the CEOs of Facebook and Twitter, hasn't it?

FUNG: It absolutely has. You have these two massive companies kind of squaring off with different perspectives on how to handle the topic of the President's tweets. And Facebook's CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, has said that he believes social media shouldn't be the arbitrator of truth.


Meanwhile you have Twitter's CEO Jack Dorsey saying, you know, Twitter is just adding context to the President's tweets, but they are not going to shy away from pointing out incorrect or disputed information about elections.

But despite their different positions this executive order could still be bad news for them both because even if it's on shaky legal ground it still serves the political purpose of driving a conversation in Congress about potentially changing a quarter century old law that has so far been very successful at protecting these companies and start- ups and websites from litigation, which could now be a more serious threat to them if this law gets changed.

BALDWIN: We'll watch to see where it goes. Jim, we'll watch to see what President said later as well. Jim and Brian, thank you both very much.

This COVID pandemic is taking its deadliest toll on African-Americans in this country. And we're now learning new information on how coronavirus is specifically impacting their health. We're live next.



BALDWIN: From coast to coast this pandemic has disproportionately impacted communities of color. African-Americans for example are seeing a higher number of cases and a higher death rate than any other race. And new research may help explain this grim trend we are witnessing. Autopsies of ten African-American COVID victims revealed that their lungs were clogged with blood clots.The researchers behind the findings at LSU Health, New Orleans School of Medicine, suggested that genetic factors may be in play.

So, CNN's Abby Phillip is with me now. And, Abby, so good to see you. I know you went to your hometown of Prince Georges County, Maryland which is for folks who don't know is majority African American. What did you find?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brooke, one of the big questions is really what is the scope of this problem? And the data is pretty stunning. In more than half of the states and territories in this country there is a massive disparity between the African-American population and the number of COVID deaths that they're responsible for. The question is why. There are these health disparities but there are also -- are some other issues the experts I spoke to said. We're talking about access to healthy foods. Access to hospitals, and also the fact that many of the African-American people in this country are front line workers.


PHILLIP (voice-over): Terrance Burke was a doting father, a Navy veteran and a hard charging high school basketball coach.

ARNETHA BURKE, DAUGHTER OF TERRANCE BURKE: He was really big on family. He loved coaching.

PHILLIP: In March the Prince George's County, Maryland resident became one of the first people in the state to die from the coronavirus.

BURKE: It's just very surreal. I didn't really expect it to happen like -- my dad should be the example for the state of Maryland.

PHILLIP: Burke's death was a canary in the coal mine and for his community in the Washington D.C. suburbs and for the entire nation.


PHILLIP: Just miles outside of the nation's capital, one of the wealthiest majority black counties in the nation has been ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic.

ALSOBROOKS: We heard what the aggravating factors were, we started saying, oh, my god, you know, that's us.

PHILLIP: In Prince George's County black residents like Burke have been contracting and dying from coronavirus at alarming rates.

STEPHEN B. THOMAS, MARYLAND CENTER FOR HEALTH EQUITY, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND: We have some of the highest per capita PhDs, college educated black folk in the nation, and it is not protecting us.

PHILLIP: And the data shows it's a trend playing out all over the country in urban, suburban, rural, wealthy and poor areas and in more than half of the country according to a recent study by the nonpartisan APM Research Lab.

In Detroit, 65 percent of cases and more than 80 percent of people who have died of COVID are black. In Washington, D.C., black residents account for nearly 75 percent of coronavirus deaths. In New York, the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak, 26 percent of deaths have been among black residents, even though they are just 14 percent of the population. And in Maryland, black residents account for 42 percent of COVID deaths, but 29 percent of the population. Prince George's County Executive Angela Alsobrooks says decades of racism are having a devastating impact here and all over the country.

ALSOBROOKS: We also have had a really, really difficult time just trying to attract restaurants to come here, the grocers to come here. And it's not because we don't have the wealth and income. It infuriates me for people to say that people here are sicker because of our life choices.

PHILLIP: Coronavirus deaths are concentrated mostly among older Americans, and those with pre-existing conditions such as hypertension, diabetes and heart disease that are common among black Americans. But that doesn't explain all of the disparities.

THOMAS: Our workers are residents of senior living facilities. Who works in those facilities? Low paid workers who have now been designated essential.

PHILLIP: Maryland officials are moving to ramp up testing at sites like these, now testing asymptomatic residents to stop outbreaks before they start. Thomas says more help will undoubtedly be needed, including from the federal government.

THOMAS: We're going to have to save ourselves.


We need a national commission on the colors of COVID-19. One that addresses all people of color.


PHILLIP: And the Prince George's County Executive Angela Alsobrooks also pointed out that the county has a higher median income than Washington, D.C. and yet they've had a lot of trouble over the years getting grocery store chains to want to come to the county and also to get additional hospital beds. That became a huge problem obviously during the coronavirus crisis, but there is some good news, the county will begin to start slowly and carefully reopening soon. The case numbers are going in the right direction heading down -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Thank you for going to PG County and telling their story. Abby, thank you.

I want to get to breaking news now. Remember the State Department watchdog who was fired by President Trump two weeks ago after he investigated Secretary of State Mike Pompeo? He was accused of leaking details to the press. We are now learning the Pentagon cleared him of that months ago. That's ahead.



BALDWIN: Breaking news, we are now learning the State Department's independent watchdog who was fired not even two weeks ago for allegedly leaking to the press was actually cleared by the Pentagon months ago. Here's what we know up to this point. President Trump fired Inspector General Steve Linick earlier this year at the recommendation of the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. That decision drew headlines. The reason the White House gave is that Linick was a leaker. They lost trust in him. But the timing was suspicious. This happened as Linick was investigating allegations that Mike Pompeo used a political appointee for personal tasks like waking his dog and personal errands. And now these new details undermine the reason the White House gave for firing the inspector.

So, let's get right to National Security Correspondent Kylie Atwood. Kylie, this is not adding up.

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: No, Brooke, so there was, we are learning, a formal investigation which had cleared Steve Linick the ousted Inspector General and his office from alleged leaks out of his office. That investigation happened earlier this year and the results of that investigation were provided to the State Department.

Now, this is important. Because what this tells us is that it creates new questions. Because the State Department officials had been saying that one of the reasons that Steve Linick was ousted at the request of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was because there were a series of leaks that they suspected were coming from his office.

But what this report finds is that there was no such thing with regard to a specific incident last year that State Department officials have actually referred to when discussing their frustrations with Steve Linick's ouster.

Now, the other thing to consider here, is that President Trump said that this was the decision of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. And he noted that there were issues that he was told that Linick had with the Pentagon. Now, our reporting --

BALDWIN: All right. Lost you, Kylie. Kylie Atwood there on what's going on with Steve Linick. We'll try to get her back up in just a little bit.

Ahead here, more than 40 million American have filed for unemployment since this pandemic started. Nearly one in four American workers is now struggling just to keep food on the table. We'll tell you which states are hardest hit, next.



BALDWIN: One in every four workers in America has now filed for unemployment benefits. A staggering statistic that the unemployment numbers across the country passed those during The Great Depression. Just last week an additional 2.1 people filed for unemployment bringing the total to more than 40 million people unemployed since the start of this whole thing back in March.

So, let's go to straight to Alison Kosik, she's our CNN business correspondent. And when you look, I know there's so many numbers, but the U.S. unemployment rate is around 15 percent. But there is a chance that number could actually be much higher, isn't there?

ALISON KOSIK, CNN BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: You are absolutely right. It is very likely that right now our unemployment rate is really 25 percent. You know, the President of the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis spoke with Poppy Harlow yesterday. Saying you know what, it wouldn't be surprising if the real unemployment rate winds up hitting 30 percent before it hits bottom which, yes, gets into those Great Depression numbers. And then, of course, we got that grim news today of another 2.1 million Americans filing unemployment benefits. That's as employers continue to furlough and lay off workers.

I do want in some good news here, that we saw with the numbers today, I'm throwing it in with a little caution. Because we don't know which way this virus is going to go. But we are seeing these claims numbers bottom. If you look at the chart, you'll see that the claims numbers, the last week in March peaked at 6.9 million. And they've been going down since. We're also seeing improvement in the number of American who are currently (INAUDIBLE) they're known as continuing claims numbers. We're seeing those numbers fall as well. They fell another 3.9 million at the end of May 16th. The week ending May 16th. These are good signs. But you know what the grim reality, Brooke, is? There are still millions of Americans who are out of work. And these are not data points. These are actual human beings, these are Americans who are out of work just trying to pay their bills -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: And of course, they are. They're humans who are having a tough go at this whole thing and we don't know when it's going to end. But with the awful economic numbers, Alison, just 30 seconds, how is it that we are seeing double digit gains in the stock market lately?

KOSIK: Yes, I mean, there's no doubt about it. There's a huge disconnect between the stock market and the economy, and despite President Trump using the stock market as his personal success barometer. The reality is the stock market is not the economy. It doesn't reflect reality.

I mean, come on, look, a decade of job gains, (INAUDIBLE) the reality is that the stock market winds up seeing the recovery way before the economic numbers start to see it. And that's why you are seeing that disconnect (INAUDIBLE).

BALDWIN: Alison Kosik, thank you very much.