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Former Military Leaders Speaking Out Against Trump; Coronavirus Treatment Supply Shortage?; Will Coronavirus Spikes Follow Mass Protests?; Interview With Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI). Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired June 8, 2020 - 16:30   ET



REP. ELISSA SLOTKIN (D-MI): Hey, we want to be on this bill. Can you include us in the conversation? We want to be able to vote on something.

That is how you know that things are really different and people are really hearing things, I hope, that are on the street.

So, I'm really hoping that this will be bipartisan. The stuff that I'm seeing so far is something that I think we should all be able to rally around. It's not the stuff that's being put out in the press, as you mentioned at the top of the -- your segment here. So I'm hoping that it will be bipartisan.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: I don't think any Republicans have endorsed the bill. And I think, in fact, a lot of Republicans are already attacking it. That's not necessarily a statement about the bill itself.

But were Republicans consulted? I mean, is this a bipartisan process?

SLOTKIN: Well, listen, I can just tell you what I witnessed, where the head of the Black Caucus came in and sat with a bipartisan group and took questions and gave a briefing. And there was a really long, hour-long exchange of ideas.

I know that Leader McCarthy came forward and said he wanted to do something. I think that's a good sign. But -- and I do think that, certainly in my experience, people have gotten the chance to give some of their views. I hope they read it thoroughly. And I hope people make independent decisions, decisions based on what we're seeing and hearing from people on the ground, not just kind of sitting in lockstep because one party supports something and another party doesn't.

TAPPER: A new CNN poll out today finds that two-thirds of the country, two-thirds of the American people polled, 67 percent, believe that the country's criminal justice system favors whites over blacks, as opposed to 24 percent who say both groups are treated equally.

So, public sentiment would seemingly be on your side, the side of the Democrats when it comes to realizing that there is an issue when it comes to judicial inequities. Is public sentiment going to be enough, though?

SLOTKIN: Well, we will see. I mean, this is certainly different. I mean, having this many people protesting in this many communities, communities that have never seen protests before, including in my own district, this is completely new for some communities.

And I have been really heartened, again, by what I have seen on the ground. But we will see. I mean, we have a divided Washington. And I hope that not only the Senate, but also the president says that this is an opportune moment to hear what people are saying and move this legislation forward.

But I don't know. I don't know if it's enough. I hope it will be.

TAPPER: You saw the president's tweet claiming that Democrats want to defund and abolish the police.

We saw the Minneapolis City Council vote last night to dismantle its police department as it exists right now, although there are no plans yet on what would replace it.

What do you make of the defund the police chants that we're hearing from protesters and even some of your colleagues, Democratic colleagues in the House of Representatives, support? Is this something that you're concerned about when it comes to getting legislation through and also, of course, winning in November?

SLOTKIN: Yes, I mean, I don't support defunding the police.

And I had a big meeting with 80-plus leaders from around my district this past weekend. And the -- a lot of the African-American leaders were saying, listen, it's not about just straight defunding the police. It's about having a conversation about how resources are spent, how people are held or not held accountable, how we have oversight over that process.

That's what I think people are asking for. That's what I think this bill actually speaks to. It doesn't defund the police. It doesn't yank money away from anybody. But it does say, like, we have to grapple with what is more than just isolated incidents.

And I think I'm a CIA analyst. If you have got three data points, that makes a trend, and we have got way, way beyond three data points on this conversation. So let's have it. Let's have some uncomfortable moments. It's not defunding, but it is questioning how resources are spent.

TAPPER: All right, Democratic Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin of Michigan, thank you so much. Appreciate your time, as always. Good to see you.

Coming up next: continued concerns about protests and other gatherings with a dozen new coronavirus cases all relating to one person -- those details next.


TAPPER: In our health lead today: The United States is close to hitting a new grim milestone of two million confirmed cases of coronavirus, 22 states reporting an increase in cases.

As of now, the death toll in the United States is approaching 111,000 dead.

And, as CNN's Erica Hill reports, with large-scale protests happening across the country, not to mention beaches reopening from coast to coast, health officials are worried that a spike in cases could be looming.


BILL DE BLASIO (D), MAYOR OF NEW YORK CITY, NY: This is a triumphant moment for New Yorkers, who fought back against this disease. This was the epicenter.

ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Today, New York City marks a major milestone, phase one of reopening.

Construction can resume at more than 30,000 sites. There's curbside pickup for retail.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Oh, it's fantastic.

HILL: Some 400,000 people expected to be back on the job, many commuting by train or bus, subway riders reminded to wear a mask and try to keep their distance.

The city also says it will conduct 35,000 tests a day. Overall, New York state and much of the Northeast trending down when it comes to new cases over the past week.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): New Yorkers bent the curve by being smart.

HILL: The death toll is slowing across the country. Yet, in a dozen states, deep red on the map, there is a sharp increase. Overall, new cases are up in 22 states, including Florida, which added more than 1,000 cases a day for five straight days last week, Arizona, California, Texas and Michigan also on the rise.


While testing is up, so is the number of people who are out.

DR. RYAN STANTON, EMERGENCY MEDICINE PHYSICIAN: Where we have seen areas that have significantly increased have been areas that either, one, are very popular for a lot of people to flock to, or areas that opened up very early.

HILL: The CDC warning, large gatherings, including protests, could put people at risk.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: For me, the moment that I chose to protest, I was willing to die for this.

HILL: Officials urging protesters to get tested. A third of the new cases in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, announced on Saturday were traced to one person who attended several beach house gatherings on the New Jersey Shore.

And at least five colleges, including Auburn University, reporting athletes who returned to campus have tested positive. Many were asymptomatic.

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: How many COVID cases will we except to have our college football this fall?

HILL: Tough questions, as Americans decide what they're willing to risk for a return to normal.


HILL: And, Jake, a new modeling study published today in the journal "Nature" found that perhaps as many as 60 million infections were actually averted because of these large-scale shutdown measures that went into effect.

In fact, the lead author from U.C. Berkeley noting -- and I'm quoting him here -- "I don't think any human endeavor has ever saved so many lives in such a short period of time." He went on to say, "By using science and cooperating, we changed the course of history" -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Erica Hill, thank you so much.

A new warning from a top official: The U.S. government's supply of the only confirmed drug to work against coronavirus, well, that supply is running out.

I'm going to talk to Dr. Sanjay Gupta about that and more next.



TAPPER: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is bracing for a potential spike in coronavirus cases linked to the recent protests.

A spokesperson noted that the large gatherings make it difficult for anyone to maintain social distancing. And, of course, we can all observe that not everyone's wearing masks.

I want to bring in CNN chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta.

Sanjay, there has been this contact racing program where these Bucks County, Pennsylvania, residents, 12 of them who contracted coronavirus, it was all tied to some gatherings in the Jersey Shore.

Is contact tracing the only way to determine whether any future spike might be linked to the protests?


I mean, you get you get some idea, obviously, because you can see what's happening and the lack of physical distancing. And you can show that, obviously, there's going to be an increase in infection rates there.

I think what is challenging is then trying to directly link. People arrive at these protests. They then go back to their homes, their communities even. People then may get secondary, possibly, hopefully not, but could possibly get secondary infections. Being able to trace those all back is challenging.

Typically, right now, someone was infected, you would ask them, who have you been in contact with, who have you been in contact with for more than 10 minutes in close proximity, and go back and figure out who those people are.

They don't know at a protest. You don't know who these people are next to you. So it can be challenging. Add into that, memorial Day weekend was a couple weeks ago. So we may start to see some increase in cases from that.

And, obviously, states are reopening, Jake. So, all these things combined may make it challenging to go back and specifically trace to the protests.

TAPPER: And we're learning this hour that the Trump campaign wants to resume rallies. The president loves going to these rallies.

The campaign thinks that these protests for police reform, civil rights have made it more palatable for them to have rallies too. Obviously, the virus doesn't care what your political ideology is or the righteousness of your cause.

What recommendations might you have for anyone attending rallies, whether for President Trump, for George Floyd, whatever? What should people in these rallies be doing?

GUPTA: Well, it's a risk, no matter what. I mean, I guess life is a series of risk/reward sort of decisions. And this is a big one.

I mean, I guess I would say, what is clear is, the virus is still out there. It is still contagious. That hasn't changed. What are the potential things you could do to decrease your risk?

I don't think anybody would say, here's what you do to make it safe. Here's what you might do to make it safer. Being outside, for example, we know, according to some of the studies, can provide significant protection, because the virus has more room to disperse.

Wearing a mask. I mean, some -- according to some early evidence studies now says it may decrease transmission sixfold. So, wearing a mask obviously is beneficial. Not being next to a certain individual for more than 10 minutes or so, that's considered a close contact.

So, are you moving? Are you able to keep space? Are you able to wear a mask? Can you do this outside? Those things would help. But, again, none of that is to say that's going to make it OK. There are still probably going to be people who would otherwise get infected that would not if they didn't attend any of these types of gatherings.


And lastly, quickly, if you can, remdesivir, it's the only drug known to work against coronavirus, not for prevention, but for treatment. And now we're being told by an HHS official that the supply of remdesivir could run out by the end of the month. That's just in three weeks.

Sanjay, should somebody be hitting a panic button about this?

GUPTA: Yes, I mean, we should be planning ahead for these types of things.

The problem is ,that production of that drug is a nine-to-12-month sort of production timeline. And if you don't have the raw ingredients, because everybody on the planet wants the same raw ingredients, it can be tough to make it, so that's going to be a problem.


I will say quickly, Jake, there are some 230 different medication trials we're keeping an eye on. This is one. There are other ones that are in phase two, phase three that may prove promising as well. So, hopefully, something else will click.

TAPPER: All right, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thank you, as always.

And you can listen to Sanjay's daily podcast, "Coronavirus: Fact vs. Fiction," wherever you access your podcasts.

Coming up: The president has drifted away from the Constitution, according to General Colin Powell. The warnings from a growing battalion of former top generals and admirals speaking out against President Trump, that's next.



TAPPER: In our politics lead: Former Republican Secretary of State Colin Powell is speaking out against President Trump's response to the George Floyd protests and much more, telling me that the president has -- quote -- "drifted away from the U.S. Constitution" and that Trump is a liar and dangerous for the country.

Powell endorsed Hillary Clinton in 2016, but his outspokenness about his opposition to Trump's reelection in a "STATE OF THE UNION" interview with me yesterday was remarkable.

And it comes as a veritable battalion of former top generals and admirals have launched a rhetorical assault on Mr. Trump's actions and rhetoric.


TAPPER (voice-over): One of the nation's most respected living generals unleashing over President Trump's handling of the nationwide protests.

COLIN POWELL, FORMER U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: We have a Constitution, and we have to follow that Constitution. And the president's drifted away from it.

TAPPER: Former Joint Chiefs Chairman General Colin Powell is just the latest voice in what has become a growing chorus of outrage from former prominent military leaders over Trump's threat to use military force to handle protests over the death of George Floyd.

POWELL: The most massive protest movement I have ever seen in my life, I think this suggests that the country is getting wise to this, and we're not going to put up with it anymore.

TAPPER: Retired four-star generals and admirals, who normally avoid airing their political opinions, are now forcefully speaking out one after another, including the president's first secretary of defense, retired Marine General James Mattis, who has avoided criticizing Trump until now, but just wrote, his former boss -- quote -- "is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people, does not even pretend to try. Instead, he tries to divide us."

Mattis was quickly backed up by Trump's old chief of staff, retired Marine General John Kelly.

JOHN KELLY, FORMER WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: He's quite a man, General Jim Mattis. And for him to do that tells you where he is relative to the concern he has for our country.

TAPPER: Many of these men say the watershed moment to speak out came after Trump threatened to use active-duty U.S. military against the very people they are supposed to protect.

ADM. MICHAEL MULLEN (RET.), FORMER JOINTS CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: Our military should never be caught be called to fight our own people as enemies of the state.

GEN. MARTIN DEMPSEY (RET.), FORMER JOINT CHIEFS OF STAFF CHAIRMAN: We have a wonderful relationship with the people in this country, and I thought it important to continue to work to try to keep that relationship sound and solid. And inflammatory language can be an impediment to that.

TAPPER: Other cited their tipping point as watching officers clear out peaceful protesters from outside the White House, so the president could pose for a photo-op holding a Bible.

ADM. WILLIAM MCRAVEN (RET.), FORMER COMMANDER, U.S. SPECIAL OPERATIONS: You're not going to use whether it's a military or the National Guard or law enforcement to clear peaceful American citizens for the president of the United States to do a photo-op. There is nothing morally right about that.

LT. GEN. JOHN ALLEN (RET.), FORMER U.S. FORCES IN AFGHANISTAN COMMANDER: That is what happens in authoritarian regimes.

TAPPER: The list of former top military leaders pushing back against President Trump continues to grow, all saying their decision to speak out boils down to where their ultimate loyalties lie.

MCRAVEN: We all raise our right hand and we swear an oath to the Constitution of the United States. It is not to the president of the United States. It is to the Constitution.

TAPPER: Now, for some of these former officials, their concerns over President Trump predated the recent unrest and go beyond his handling of the U.S. military.

Admiral McRaven, the man who oversaw the Osama bin Laden raid, wrote a scathing op-ed last year accusing the president of assaulting -- quote -- "the intelligence and law enforcement community, the State Department and the press."

In 2016, General Powell called the birther movement Trump led against then President Obama racist in leaked e-mails.

POWELL: Birthers movement had to do with the fact that the president of the United States, President Obama, was a black man.

TAPPER: General Powell, whom Ronald Reagan saw as the future of the Republican Party and who served as secretary of state for George W. Bush, is once again not voting for Donald Trump. Instead, he threw his support behind former Vice President Joe Biden.

(on camera): Why is it so important to you that President Trump not be reelected?

POWELL: Because I think he has been not an effective president. He lies all the time.

Every American citizen has to sit down, think it through, and make a decision on their own. Don't listen to the -- everybody out there. Don't read every newspaper. Think it through. Use your common sense and say, is this good for my country, before you say, this is good for me.


TAPPER: Earlier today, I reached out to the White House for comment. They did not get back to me.

Our coverage on CNN continues right now. Thanks for watching.