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19 States See Increase in New Coronavirus Cases; Trump Plans to Hold Big Rallies Starting Next Week; Chicago Police Investigating Officers Caught Lounging Amid Looting; Trump Doubles Down on Threats to Intervene in Seattle Protests; Seattle Police Look to Return to Precinct Vacated Due to Protests. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired June 12, 2020 - 09:00   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: A good Friday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto. Poppy is off today.

This morning, new signs that the coronavirus threat in this country is not only still with us, it is rising in some places. Nineteen states are now seeing an uptick in new cases. Those are the places in red and orange there. States such as Florida and Texas, both with aggressive reopening plans despite warnings from health officials now both face disturbing trends, breaking records for new cases as they forge ahead to reopen their states.

Despite the recent rise, President Trump is planning to hold big campaign rallies indoors with thousands of people in close proximity starting next week in Tulsa, but note this. Those who attend will have to sign a waiver and agree not to sue the campaign or the venue if they contract the virus while at the event. Notable.

The president is also digging in and denying as the country shows signs of what could be a remarkable cultural change. Republican-led Senate panel approved a plan to remove Confederate names from military bases. This morning GOP Senator Marco Rubio said that he is opening -- open to doing so as long as it's a thoughtful and orderly process.

Some police departments around the country, they're now banning chokeholds as well as no-knock warrants following the police killings of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Breonna Taylor in Louisville and elsewhere. A national ban is now under consideration in Congress as well.

And even though President Trump has said fixing racism will somehow be easy he has remained defiant, resistant to change, and this morning we're learning that he thinks that is a winning strategy for him in the election. That it's deliberate and his own advisers are saying that about him.

We're covering all the angles. First let's get to Florida and CNN's Rosa Flores on cases rising there.

Rosa, Florida was slow to close, early to reopen. How concerning are the numbers there now?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, they're very concerning. The governor very concerned as well saying yesterday that the uptick in cases is due in part to outbreaks in rural communities and areas like Palm Beach and Collier County where he says, according to the governor, up to 50 percent of the people in some of these areas are testing positive for the coronavirus.

Despite this uptick, we of course have learned the announcement from the RNC that it will be holding a portion of the convention here in Florida and despite the uptick, Governor Ron DeSantis recommending that schools reopen in the fall.

A reporter asked him about this yesterday, how could he recommend that, opening safely schools in the fall, and according to the governor he listed a few things saying that hospitalizations in the state are flat, that the risk to children are low, and that the majority of the fatalities in the state of Florida are in nursing homes.

We consulted with an expert at FIU about this uptick and she mentioned a few things that we could expect. She says that people are not wearing face masks, that they're not social distancing and she says that due to the recent protests and the use of tear gas, the situation could be exasperated. Take a listen.


DR. AILEEN MARTY, INFECTIOUS DISEASE SPECIALIST: Moreover, the use of these gases is very serious in and of itself because it damages the airways, it damages the exact airways that our bodies need to fend off this virus.


FLORES: Now, here's a quick snapshot for the state of Florida. It is nearing 69,000 cases and deaths exceed 28,000 -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: Rosa Flores in Florida there. Let's go to CNN's Natasha Chen -- sorry? Did Rosa have a correction there. Apologies. Should we go back to her?

Rosa, sorry. I wanted to make sure you were clear about your reporting was. Tell us.

FLORES: Yes, I wanted to clarify, I believe I said 28,000, it should be 2800 deaths in the state of Florida. Thank you, Jim.

SCIUTTO: All right. Notable change. Thanks for correcting.


Let's go to CNN's Natasha Chen. She is in Greenville, South Carolina, where a state health official says that she is more concerned about coronavirus now than ever before. And Natasha, tell us about the numbers there and crucially, is that

changing state political leaders' approach to the problem there or not?

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jim, the short answer to that is no. Governor Henry McMaster was seen in the same conference -- press conference alongside the state epidemiologist saying he believes -- he is very resolved at having businesses stay open safely because he said people need a way to make a living and so his group that he put together back in April called Accelerate SC for businesses to figure out how to reopen safely, that is still going full steam ahead.

But there is a stronger messaging now about wearing face masks in public, trying to avoid groups, frequent hand washing, social distancing, messages that local residents tell me they wish was out there with much more emphasis earlier on. In fact, we talked to a resident here who said that he feels there hasn't been enough information about how bad it's gotten here.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But they opened and this is exactly what we thought would happen, wound be the number of cases would go up and it's -- it's gone up pretty rapidly. I don't know what the double rate is, but, you know, I'd like to know that information, but nobody is doing the math.


CHEN: Well, CNN has done some of the math here. According to Johns Hopkins data, the numbers, the case numbers in South Carolina are doubling about every three weeks. The seven-day average of new cases has gone up in the last few days. So has the seven-day average of new deaths -- Jim.

SCIUTTO: I mean, look at the graph, that looks like a spike in the numbers.

Natasha Chen in South Carolina, thanks very much.

Well, you have heard the president downplay the risk of the virus, say that the country is ready to move on. The Trump campaign, however, is requiring those planning to attend the president's rally in Tulsa next week not to sue if they get coronavirus.

It will be President Trump's first rally since the pandemic started, though he's planning others. CNN's John Harwood joins me now from Washington.

So, John, as you know, you cover that building behind you every day. The president has deliberately tried to move on from the outbreak. He's downplayed it in public, he's refused to wear a mask which is health officials say the best way to prevent the spread. But he's telling people to come to his rallies, don't sue me if you get it. JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Jim, it really shows the

consciousness, the awareness within the White House of exactly what they're asking people to leave behind, and this is across the board of course.

The president as he moves toward his re-election he's trying to get past the George Floyd protests we saw in that -- roundtable in Dallas yesterday. He expressed greater concern about the false accusations in his mind of racism against white conservatives in his base than dealing with the systemic problems.

And on coronavirus, he has pushed the task force aside. He has obscured the advice of Deborah Birx and Tony Fauci. He has moved the culmination of the Republican convention out of Charlotte to Jacksonville because North Carolina was insisting on protective measures. Social distancing, masks and that sort of thing to prevent a spike in cases.

Now the president is starting -- beginning next week to have his MAGA rallies. He's going to have one in Tulsa on Juneteenth which is a separate controversy, but while he is bringing people together in a closed space, large numbers, and he says explicitly I want them shoulder to shoulder, I want the rallies just like they used to be. Those are things that give him a great amount of positive feedback and he bathes in that, they are signaling that they understand they're putting people at risk by bringing them together.

So looking for a waiver of liability against the venue, waiver of liability against the campaign, and it echoes what's going on in Congress, where Republicans who are eager to reopen businesses are insisting on liabilities for businesses for that very thing. So across the board, Republicans want to move ahead on reopening. They want to move ahead politically and economically but they understand they're putting people at risk.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Listen, as I say, listen -- watch what people do, not what they say and what the campaign is doing is requiring people to sign a waiver because they believe there's a risk.

John Harwood at the White House. Thank you,

Joining me now to discuss, Senator -- Dr. Leanna Wen, she's an emergency room physician and former health commissioner for the city of Baltimore.

Doctor, always good to have you on. First let's talk about the data because now 19 states they're seeing an increase in new cases. Some of these states, not all of them, are ones who are more aggressive in reopening, South Carolina, Florida. Oregon's governor has said she's now delaying local reopening plans by a week because of the spikes in her state.

I wonder from a health perspective should other states seeing similar -- a similar jump in numbers do the same and dial back some of this reopening? DR. LEANNA WEN, EMERGENCY ROOM PHYSICIAN: Jim, the increase in the

number of infections is actually expected because as people are getting up and about more, we know that the virus has a chance to spread more. So we knew that this increase was going to happen. The key was, can we control that increase? Do we have the testing, contact tracing, isolation, to keep it in check?

And if we're getting to the point that we are seeing an increase in the hospitalization, that means that we could then overtax our health care system, the same way that we saw back in New York in March. And so it is I think the right thing to do, to look at, at what point do you start dialing back these restrictions that we're removing? And at what point do we delay the next stage in reopening?

So I think what the Oregon governor is doing, what many other -- actually local officials are considering, that's the right thing, that's the prudent thing, and I hope that everyone will have the surveillance in place to detect when these surges are going to happen and be willing to dial back these reopening plans.

SCIUTTO: But the sad fact is that there's really in many places no political will to do that. In fact, the politics pressure in the opposite direction. You have the president downplaying the outbreak as it's happening and you have state leaders doing the same in places like South Carolina and Florida.

I just wonder from a public health perspective, given that politics has infected this, pardon the use of that word, are you confident as a health professional that there is the will to take the moves that are necessary to protect people's health and tamp down some of these outbreaks?

WEN: I'm not confident at all because that's not the direction that we have seen this administration on the federal level and also many state administrations go in. They've talked about reopening as a one-way street, that it seems that once we reopened, somehow it means that we can all let down our guard. It means that everything -- you can go back to normal.

You can even have large rallies when that's really not the case. You look at other countries that have been successful in reducing their number of infections and containing COVID-19, and what they did was to treat this as a dial that you dial up the restrictions, if you see the cases surge and you dial back as needed. And I don't know that we have the will to do that here. And I think it's too bad because we know what the consequence is going to be. We will have more preventable suffering and death if we don't follow public health best practices.

SCIUTTO: It's in the numbers. So tell us from a health care professional's perspective what it will look like for the president to defy all this advice and jam-packed indoor arenas with people shoulder to shoulder, as you heard our White House reporter say there, in the midst this while requiring them to sign a waiver so that they don't sue if they get infected? Tell us, is that smart?

WEN: Well, we know that the types of conditions that lead to the highest rate of COVID-19 transmission are crowded, indoor spaces with a lot of people who are shouting and screaming and expelling respiratory droplets who are there for hours, for prolonged period of time. Those are all the conditions that are involved in these large indoor campaign rallies, and I'm really concerned.

I mean, I think it's almost certain that we will see super sputter events come from these rallies. And also I fear that when we start doing contact tracing of these large rallies, that will really overwhelm the public health infrastructure. We don't have enough contact tracers as it is. Imagine trying to contact trace thousands of people who went to these rallies, and frankly it's irresponsible because we have such an overtaxed health care system as it is. Why add this to the mix?

SCIUTTO: Well, and notable, the president has frequent testing and contact tracing for himself. He's done it, White House staff have done it. But the people going to the rallies will not have it.

Dr. Leanna Wen, thanks very much.

An investigation is under way after more than a dozen Chicago officers are caught on camera lounging inside a congressman's office during protests and looting. The mayor called it one of the most disgraceful things she's ever seen.

Plus, Seattle Police are looking to return to a precinct left empty after protesters began occupying the area around it. The situation prompting a war of words between the president and local officials. We're going to take you there live.

And could Derek Chauvin, the former officer charged with murder now in George Floyd's death, still receive a police pension payout? We'll have new details.



SCIUTTO: Chicago police are now investigating after 13 officers were caught lounging in a congressman's office after violence broke out during protests last month. Security camera video shows the officers eating popcorn, drinking coffee, even sleeping on a couch all while looting occurred throughout the city. CNN's Ryan Young is live now in Chicago. Ryan, what's to explain this? And what are city leaders -- what are police leaders saying about this video?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: As you can imagine, Jim, people have been very upset about this. I watched the entire news conference with Lori Lightfoot yesterday, the mayor of Chicago talking about this. She was very upset.


And when you think about this, 13 officers inside that congressman's campaign office all while looting was going on especially in the south and the west side of Chicago. And you can look at these images for yourself. They were there for up to five hours, and the congressman talked about the idea they were on his couch, they were drinking coffee, they were just hanging out.

And this was during one of the most violent days of any of the protests. In fact, almost a record number of homicides during that single day, so you could understand why people were upset. In fact, the mayor even pointed out that there were other officers who are in need during this time. In fact, take a listen to her sharp words.


MAYOR LORI LIGHTFOOT, CHICAGO, ILLINOIS: As shameful as this content is, there are people who literally saying, making excuses, and saying we're being too harsh. No, we have not been too harsh. You can be supportive of people who do their job the right way and still hold the bad ones accountable. That's what has to happen.


YOUNG: Jim, if you think about this, this is not happening in a vacuum. You're talking about the Chicago Police Department. A police department that's trying to do outreach in the black and brown communities throughout this city. You take the fact that there were other officers who were relieved of their police duties for their action during the looting when they pulled some women out of the car.

Now you add to this, the congressman actually went back and watched this video and then shared it with the mayor. He threw his entire support behind her, and I can tell you the mayor here in Chicago is aiming directly at the police department, saying there needs to be massive changes. In fact, they want to create a licensing board that would put them under more scrutiny and change the union contract. There's a lot going on here in this city, this did not help. Jim?

SCIUTTO: Ryan Young there in Chicago. Right now as the White House works on finalizing an executive order on policing standards, we are learning why President Trump is resisting these cultural changes even as the country -- many Republicans move forward. It is simply all about election politics. I want to get to CNN's Joe Johns in Washington with more. Joe, this is remarkable because his own advisors are laying bare the president's motivations here. Tell us what they are.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it's pretty clear, there are advisors on both sides, in fact. Some advising the president to sort of embrace unity. There are other advisors who are telling the president to stay with this strategy, but for the president himself, it's our understanding, our reporting is that the president believes the strategy of cultural and racial division in the country that he used very successfully in 2016 to win the Oval Office is still viewed by the president as a winning strategy, and that's the reason the president has been sticking with this.

Because he understands it worked for him before. On the other hand, we do also know the president has said they're going to put out an executive order very soon, that executive order really is just working around the edges of some of the cultural changes and shifts that are going on out in the cities, the states and even among some Republicans up on Capitol Hill, Jim.

SCIUTTO: Just to put a final point on it, his own advisors are saying he's deliberately stoking racial division because he thinks it will help him in November. I have that right?

JOHNS: Yes, that seems to be the case or it certainly seems the case that the president thinks that the strategy which he used in 2016, which certainly was a strategy of racial and cultural division. You remember the kinds of things this president said about Mexicans being rapists from the very beginning. When he came down the escalator at Trump Tower, and that's the strategy that the president thinks will work. Jim?

SCIUTTO: And notably in the midterms, the president pursued a kind of people invading the borders message, although the data from the Republican Party is that did not work for him in 2018 midterms. Joe Johns, remarkable, regardless of how it plays out. Thanks very much.

Seattle's mayor is firing back after the president doubled down on his threat to intervene in protests there. This as police are looking to return now to a downtown precinct they abandoned when protesters there filled the streets. CNN's Dan Simon is in Seattle with the latest. Tell us what it looks there now, and how out-of-control did it get as the police withdrew?

DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, hi, Jim. This is a 24/7 occupation, but you can see the streets are relatively empty. This is typically the time when people sort of go down to sleep after being up all night. But you do sort of have this core group around, just keeping an eye on things. Behind me is the police station that is essentially been overtaken by these protesters.


You can see the graffiti on the signs, Seattle People Department and now says and you see the windows have been boarded up. This after the police department essentially abandoned this particular station. They wanted to de-escalate the tension that had really been rising between the protesters and some of these officers. Things had gotten ugly, when you have these clashes, tear gas was deployed, and so they decided they would leave, that created this void and it was filled by all these protesters.

That said, since this happened on Monday, things have been relatively peaceful, but of course, you do have these fiery tweets from the president saying that both the city and the state really need to come in and crack down. The mayor of Seattle responding to those tweets. Take a look.


MAYOR JENNY DURKAN, SEATTLE, WASHINGTON: There is no threat right now to the public, and we're looking -- we're taking that very seriously. We're meeting with businesses and residents, but what the president threatened is illegal and unconstitutional. And the fact that he can think he can just tweet that and not have ramifications is just wrong.


SIMON: Well, while city leaders do acknowledge that things have been relatively peaceful, you do have one problem, Jim, and that's with the chief of the police department saying that because the station is now essentially vacant, that response times for people who live in this area, officers response times, have tripled. And right now, there seems to be no clear strategy in place in terms of when officers will eventually want to reclaim the station. Jim?

SCIUTTO: Dan Simon there in Seattle, thanks very much. As researchers pushed to create a vaccine, could mutations in the coronavirus impact the effectiveness of it going forward? We're going to have more on that, other questions, just ahead.