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Trump Digs in as Cultural Change Sweeps Across U.S.; Trump Defiant about Social Distancing, Masks at Campaign Events; 19 States See Increase in New Coronavirus Cases; Judge Lina Hidalgo Discusses Harris County, TX, Seeing Biggest Spike Yet in Cases; Dr. William Schaffner Discusses Growing Concerns over Coronavirus Resurgence in America; Alicia Andrews, Oklahoma Democratic Party chair, Discusses Growing Backlash to Trump Campaign's Tulsa Rally on Juneteenth, Campaign Requiring No-Sue Waivers, Trump Saying Racism Can Be Solved Quickly, Easily. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired June 12, 2020 - 11:00   ET




KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thanks so much for joining us for the next couple of hours.

As the groundswell of calls for change grows, President Trump is showing no sign that he's ready to adapt. CNN has learned that a number of Trump advisers, from White House aides to lawmakers to business executives, have encouraged the president to adapt his tone because of the reality on the ground and also because of the reality of his political standing right now.

Still, he refuses. And so more and more, the president is increasingly on an island, out of step with where the country appears to be, moving on racial justice, including even Republicans, and out of step with the scientific facts of the coronavirus pandemic.

There's a lot to get to. Let's start with CNN's John Harwood who joins me now from the White House.

John, what are you hearing about how the president is responding to this pressure?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we can see how he's responding, Kate. We saw it in Dallas at the roundtable yesterday. And what he's doing is seeing this wave for change that is sweeping across public opinion and the country, black and white, and he's pushing back against it.

The president is stuck in the world view that has characterized his life. Racial conflict has been a big part of his life when he was in private business and as a political strategy.

And now he leads a political party that relies almost exclusively on white votes. And base he leads within that party is the most racially conservative whites, the kind of people who think that discrimination against whites or excessive concern for equal rights is as much a problem as racism is.

So you saw him in that roundtable saying that we're not going to solve this problem by accusing a bunch of good people of bigotry or on police, when he was talking about the video of George Floyd's murder.

He said that, well, people are going to react to that and say all police are bad. They are not all bad. Of course, most Americans are taking the view that that indicates a problem.

And the president said on this idea of radically changing police departments, we're not going to do that either. Take a listen.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're not defunding police. If anything, we're going the other route. We're going to make sure that our police are well trained, perfectly trained, that they have the best equipment.


HARWOOD: Probably the strongest illustration of this, Kate, was when the president was celebrating the way that federal officers have -- and National Guard have cut through protesters, he said, "like a knife through butter." The forceful put down of protests is something that he was hailing as a good thing.

BOLDUAN: John, the president also seems to be ignoring the guidance of medical experts when it comes to the danger of the coronavirus. I mean, we have the video from Dallas yesterday. No social distancing, no masks.

The big campaign rally that he's moving ahead with in Tulsa next week completely violating guidelines from his own government against large gatherings but, yet, is requiring -- but, yet, they are requiring anyone who attends the rally next week to sign a waiver. Seriously?

HARWOOD: Look, Kate, he -- the Trump campaign knows what it's doing here. He's trying to aggressively move past COVID. He's all but given up on the fight to contain COVID in terms of his own personal efforts.

But they understand that there's a risk out there. And that's why they are pushing this waiver from liability and telling people, if you want to come, and there are -- he's going to have a big crowd at that rally, they need to sign that waiver.

It reflection what's going on in Congress where Republican legislators are saying, if we're going to pass aid to cities and other steps to try to mitigate the problem with the coronavirus, we need to provide liability for businesses.

They understand, too, that there's a lot of risk involved. And they are trying, both the Republicans in the Congress, as well as Trump campaign, trying to get around that risk and mitigate it for themselves.

BOLDUAN: Yet, the CDC is still -- still suggesting and telling everyone that large gatherings like that are not where any state need to be at this moment.

HARWOOD: That's correct.

BOLDUAN: It's good to see you, John. Thanks very much.

Let's take a closer look at the reality of where we are with the pandemic. Nineteen states are seeing an increasing number of cases, some facing troubling spikes, and even more troubling spikes in hospitalizations.

I want to show you what the country looks like as a whole. We've got governors -- as you look at this, know that there are governors in Utah and Oregon right now so worried about the trends that they are putting a pause on their reopening plans.

Experts also very concerned about what is happening in Arizona, in South Carolina and also Texas.


Here's a look at where the country is seeing an uptick in hospitalizations. And you see Texas is on that list. Harris County, the third-largest county in Texas, is particularly concerning.

The top elected official in the county there saying this yesterday: "We may be approaching the precipice of a disaster."

That official, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo, joins me right now.

Judge, thank you so much for coming in. I really appreciate it.

You also describe the situation in your county as out of hand right now. What are you seeing that is troubling you so much?

LINA HIDALGO, (D), JUDGE, HARRIS COUNTY, TEXAS & DIRECTOR, HARRIS COUNTY GOVERNING BODY: Look, here are the facts. First, we had the highest numbers in our general population of our hospitals on Monday, and it only went up from there.

Second, we are seeing a statistically significant increase over the last seven days and the last 14 days in our hospitalizations. So that only continues to grow.

And finally, despite our best efforts -- we've got a small army of contact tracers testing, isolating for folks and homelessness -- we don't see evidence that our public health interventions are being able to contain, to control the spread of that virus.

So I want to give our community -- light that alarm, sound that alarm that we've got to take action now so that we avoid a shutdown in the future. BOLDUAN: And that is so important because, short of -- until there's a

vaccine, it is only contact tracing and testing and those kind of mitigation efforts that can be used as we have well known at this point to stop the spread. You're saying, despite best efforts, it's not best efforts not up to par.

Do you think the state opened too quickly, or people just aren't being careful enough?

HIDALGO: I've always said I think the reopening timeline is a little too fast. I wouldn't have done it that quickly. My commitment has been to try and make it work. And that's what we're still trying to do.

But, you know, we've thrown everything we can at it. And the reality of it is where it comes a point where folks are having so many contacts because there's a message that they can, that it's impossible to keep up.

So what I'm telling the community is, look, we're not at red. We unveiled a four-level system. We're at orange. If we keep going in this direction, we would be at red.

The good news is we've got plenty of hospital space still. But if that rate is increasing too quickly, we should be concerned.

So my message is, despite, you know, whatever messages you're hearing otherwise, people right now should be minimizing all contact.

And, please, take personal responsibility because, if we don't -- you know, ever since that trend started, it was about two, three weeks after the phase-one reopening by the state.

And since we've only had two more phases of reopening -- we had Memorial Day, Mother's Day, of course, all of the demonstrations -- we're seeing now the impacts of what happened two, three, four weeks ago, is right. But since then, we've only had more and more contacts.

So I really -- I want the economy to reopen as much as anyone. I just want it to be sustainable. I don't want us to be ping-ponging between open and close.

And that's why it's important for us, local officials to have the bandwidth to really figure out, do we have the tools to be able to reopen before we do so.

BOLDUAN: Judge, you are suggesting and talking about getting closer to needing to shut down again, to issue a stay-at-home order again. I'm curious as to how close you think you are.

And do you have the power to shut down in Harris County? Because I know the governor had broad power in terms of reopening, ordering reopening of the state.

HIDALGO: Yes. So in terms of what would get us there, we're watching the rate with which those admissions are increasing. Right now, it's not quite linear, but it's not exponential either. It's a slight curve. So we have to see if that speeds up.

Right now, over 15 percent of our ICU space is being taken by COVID patients, which is alarming. So if that percentage grows again, that would get us closer to that place. So every single day, I'm watching those numbers.

In terms of the authority, yes, I no longer have -- initially, I had the authority to order things shut. No longer do I have that authority. The governor has preempted that authority.

That said, number one, I'm in communication with him. We spoke just last night. I'm saying: Governor, are you seeing what I'm seeing? And let's work together on this. Those are ongoing communications.

But I'm also responsible for my community, for my county. It's Houston and 33 other cities. And that's why I'm saying, you know, the orders always were guidelines. They weren't about being a police state.

And so, you know, it was successful because people were part of the solution. We couldn't have cops on every street corner making sure that folks were doing what they were supposed to do.

It's the same thing as, guys, we need your cooperation right now. Of course, it's easier if they receive consistent messages. And so that's why we're in touch with the state as well.


BOLDUAN: Judge, thank you for coming on.

I'm really struck by -- we're having this conversation in mid-June, right, and this sounds like a conversation I would have with the governor of New York back three months ago when this was really starting to kick up. It's really striking what you're facing right now in Harris County.

Thanks, Judge. I really appreciate your time.

HIDALGO: Thank you.

BOLDUAN: Also joining me right now is Dr. William Schaffner. He's a professor of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical School.

Dr. Schaffner, we always lean on you in times like this to understand the course of a virus, what we're looking at right now.

But your reaction to what we just heard from the judge in Texas, and what is happening in the third-largest county in the country. It seems really troubling.

DR. WILLIAM SCHAFFNER, PROFESSOR OF PREVENTATIVE MEDICINE & INFECTIOUS DISEASES, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY MEDICAL SCHOOL: Well, Kate, the judge is telling us something that's happening not only in Harris County but across entire country. COVID has not taken a vacation. And it's not going away in the summer.

And, indeed, as we have opened up at various degrees of speed across the country, COVID is taking advantage of that.

COVID is transmitted readily from person to person when we are in close proximity, particularly indoors, but it can also happen outdoors.

But as we get in close proximity, as we get closer to more people for more prolong period of time, as we are opening up, COVID will take advantage of that and spread. It will spread and make people sick. Some of those sick people will have to be hospitalized.

This is a lesson for us throughout the whole country. So mask-wearing is the new normal. Six-foot distancing, the new normal. Not going out very much, staying at home, the new normal. Avoiding large groups, the new normal. That's something all of us can do in order to keep the curve flattened.

I wish every opening business in the entire United States would put a big sign on the front door: Please, do not enter unless you are wearing a mask. Please respect the people who are working here to serve you.

That would normalize wearing masks. It's very important. I know it's become politicized. Put that aside. The virus knows no politics.

BOLDUAN: Doctor, your words are so important in this moment.

When -- I have been told -- obviously I'm not an expert -- but I'm told by folks much smarter than I that, for not looking at the -- the total number of case numbers but looking at the uptick in hospitalizations is where you can focus and what is particularly troubling.

What does that indicate? What can the layman take from this?

SCHAFFNER: The number that we like to look at, which is the firmest number, is hospitalizations of people who have had laboratory- diagnosed COVID.

You see, hospitals have had testing available for really sick people in a sustained fashion over the last several months. So that hasn't varied with testing availability. And so that is a very steady number.

And if hospitalizations are increasing, that means COVID is being more transmitted. It's more infectious in your community. That's a number you can look at that really tells you where you're at.

It's different in different parts. But what you want to do is see that number go down, not up. And certainly, if you're marking time and that number of hospitalizations is steady, you're holding even, but you're marking time.

What we need is for the number to go down. And to do that, we all have to help each other and all pitch in to do our best. BOLDUAN: Doctor, with the trends that we've seeing at the moment, do

you think, as the judge was indicating just before you, do you think that states and communities should start preparing or, quite frankly, warning and thinking about shutting parts of the economy back down again?

SCHAFFNER: Oh, I think you've just hit my heart. You know, it's always been a balancing act. And look at what's happened by the previous shutdown, which was effective in lowering the curve and flattening the curve.

But it's caused -- the shutdown has caused so much distress, so much social and cultural turbulence. People wanting to get out again, having cabin fever. I think it's unlikely that we will have a substantial shutdown again.


But in order to minimize the medical impact as we open up, we must do it carefully, not carelessly. And so it's -- it's important for each of us, each individual throughout the country, to behave carefully. Wearing a mask is very, very important.

BOLDUAN: Yes. This is hitting at what we have thought and heard all along, which is, no matter what policies are put in place, consistent messaging is exactly what is needed, absolutely most.

Doctor, thank you so much.

SCHAFFNER: Yes. Thank you.

BOLDUAN: We'll be right back.



BOLDUAN: The president returning to the campaign trail next week for the first time since the pandemic began with a big rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma. A reminder, as I just said and we discussed in the last segment, we're still in the midst of a pandemic.

With that, the Trump campaign we now learn is requiring all rally- goers to sign a coronavirus waiver, protecting the campaign from liability if anyone gets sick at the rally.

They are facing backlash for that, and also the date and location that they're holding this first big rally.

Ninety-nine years ago this month, Tulsa was the site of the worst incident of racial violence in the country, called the Tulsa Massacre, and the rally will be held on June 19th. Juneteenth, the day marking the emancipation of slaves.

Joining me is the chairwoman of the Oklahoma Democratic Party, Alicia Andrews. Thank you very much for being here.

I like to first get your reaction about what we have learned overnight about people attending this rally having to sign this waiver.

ALICIA ANDREWS, (D), CHAIRWOMAN, OKLAHOMA DEMOCRATIC PARTY: So, we're getting mixed messages from the president's campaign. First, he said he's coming here to commemorate Juneteenth. And then he says he's coming here because we're in phase three of opening after COVID.

The reality is our numbers are spiking, and he knows are numbers are spiking, or else why do they need the clause telling people they can't sue. It's inconsistent.

BOLDUAN: What do you say to anyone going out to a rally right now? And I'm saying even if Joe Biden would begin holding rallies again, what would you say if the Joe Biden campaign would make a move like this, asking rally-goers to sign a waiver like this?

ANDREWS: Here's the reality. It's unsafe. We are still in the middle of COVID. And even in our town, our mayor has asked us to limit our gatherings.

And so the fact that we've been asked to limit our gatherings, and a lot of our Juneteenth events have been cancelled, and then the president is coming in, planning to pack a stadium with people.

Somehow, masks have become a partisan issue. And so it is safe to assume that most of the people attending will not have masks. And I am confident there will be no social distancing.

And so I anticipate a spike, which means I'm quarantined to my house for a little bit more time. I've been here since March.

BOLDUAN: You and a lot of people.

You have been outspoken about how painful it is that the president is holding this rally on Juneteenth in Tulsa.

The president's spokesperson is defending the decision. And here's how she said it. She said, "It's a meaningful day to him and it's a day where he wants to share some of the progress that's been made as we look forward and more that needs to be done."

What's your reaction to that?

ANDREWS: Those are beautiful words. They are not in any way connected to the truth.

He's coming on Juneteenth. Juneteenth means nothing to the president. He's done nothing in the three and a half years since he's been there to indicate that it means anything to him.

He did not reach out to any of the leaders around Black Wall Street and around the massacre site or around Greenwood or Juneteenth. They didn't reach out. And every other dignitary who has been to town in the last year has reached out, has steeped themselves in our history.

And so, though the spokesperson wrote pretty words, they are not grounded in the truth. No one believes them.

BOLDUAN: Can I ask you, Alicia -- I want to play something that the president said yesterday when he was in Dallas about tackling and trying to solve, even make progress with the problem of racism in this country.

Let me play this for you.


TRUMP: I think we're going to do it very easily. It will go quickly and it will go very easily.


BOLDUAN: It's going to go quickly and very easily.

When you hear that -- and we obviously know that there's nothing easy about it. But when you -- when you hear that's what the president said just yesterday, do you want to hear him talk about race, social justice?

ANDREWS: Absolutely not.


ANDREWS: Absolutely not. Absolutely not.

We all know that when he speaks extemporaneously, he gaffs. I would rather have him not talk about racial justice, racial inequality because he will say it wrong. I'd rather him not talk about it at all. That's less insulting than when he goes off the cuff and he insults.

If it were something that can be done quickly and easily, we wouldn't be having the conversation now. We've been a nation for quite a long time, and if we could have resolved it already, we would have or we should have.


And if -- if he really believes it's something that can be resolved quickly, why hasn't he done it yet? Why hasn't he even addressed it with meaningful policies?

BOLDUAN: I'm now even more curious to hear what happens at this rally next week.

Alicia, thanks so much for coming on. I appreciate your time.

ANDREWS: Thank you for having me.

BOLDUAN: Coming up next, definitely not the finest moment for the Chicago police. Wait until you see this. What more than a dozen police officers were doing while protests and violence were raging all around them in the city.

We'll be right back.