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U.S. Attorney for Southern District of New York Denies He is Resigning after Attorney General Bill Barr Announced He was Stepping Down; President Trump Holding Campaign Rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Despite Concerns over Coronavirus Spread; Coronavirus Case Rise in Florida; Judge Denies Government Request for Injunction to Stop Publication of Former National Security Advisor John Bolton's Book about His Time at White House; School Resource Officer in Ohio Goes Door to Door to Congratulate Students on Graduating High School. Aired 10-11a ET
Aired June 20, 2020 - 10:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning to you. We begin this hour with breaking news. A standoff between Attorney General Bill Barr and a powerful U.S. attorney who has investigated a number of the president's associates.
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: The Justice Department announced that the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York is stepping down. But Geoffrey Berman says he's not going to resign. He has no intention of doing so. During his tenure, Berman has handled several high-profile cases. The prosecution of Michael Cohen, President Trump's former personal attorney, Jeffrey Epstein as well. His office is currently investigating Rudy Giuliani and two of his associates.
CNN's Kara Scannell is joining us now. Kara, this dispute happens as the attorney general continues to face these accusations that he's politicizing DOJ.
KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: That's right, Victor. Good morning. This turn of events last night began with a statement from Bill Barr, the attorney general, saying that Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York had agreed to step down and that he was being replaced.
About two hours later, Geoffrey Berman issued an extraordinary statement saying that he did not resign and he does not intend to resign. Here is what he said. He said, "I will step down when a presidentially-appointed nominee is confirmed by the Senate. Until then, our investigations will move forward without delay or interruption. I cherish every day that I work with the men and women of this office to pursue justice without fear or favor and intend to ensure that this office's important cases continue unimpeded."
Now, they're at a standoff right now, but this does come as there are questions about Bill Barr and whether some of the actions he's taking is to undercut cases or undercut the Justice Department by bringing politics into their cases. There was talk that Barr was going to replace Berman last fall, but then Berman's office indicted Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, those two Giuliani associates. That would have made it seem too political. And then Barr himself has been political, where there were questions about his characterization of the Mueller Report, and then earlier this year him stepping into the sentencing of Roger Stone. At the time, back in March, Geoffrey Berman in New York was asked if Bill Barr had interfered in the Giuliani investigation. Here is what he said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GEOFFREY BERMAN, U.S. ATTORNEY, SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK: The Southern District of New York has a long history of integrity and pursuing cases and declining to pursue cases based only on the facts and the law and the equities without regard to partisan political concerns. My primary commitment is and has been to maintain those core values. And that's how our office is operate operating.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SCANNELL: And that's how Jeff Berman is behaving right now, saying that he will not resign until there is a Senate-confirmed position. Christi, Victor?
PAUL: Response from the Democrats, Kara, what are you hearing?
SCANNELL: Yes. So last night, Jerry Nadler, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said he would welcome Geoffrey Berman to testify next week. Chuck Schumer, the Senate minority leader, issued a statement where he said "The late Friday night dismissal reeks of potential corruption in the legal process. What is angering President Trump? A previous action by this U.S. attorney or one that is ongoing?" So raising questions again about the motivations behind this attempt or first step toward a firing. Christi, Victor?
BLACKWELL: Kara Scannell for us. Kara, thanks so much.
PAUL: Thank you.
Paul Callan, a former homicide prosecutor in New York and a CNN legal analyst is with us now. Paul, so good to see you again. We know that SDNY is regarded as one of the most independent prosecutorial offices in the U.S. With that said, what power does Berman have to fight for his position?
PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Berman is in a remarkably strong position because he essentially was appointed by the district court judges of the federal district that he sits in. And that happened because Trump never submitted his name for approval to the Senate. So the judges stepped in and said there are ongoing investigations, and they renewed his appointment.
Now, he cannot be replaced until the Senate approves Trump's choice for the job, which is the head of the SEC, Jay Clayton. But in order to get him approved, you've got to have Senate hearings. And that's going to open up testimony from Berman about embarrassing Trump investigations that are ongoing, the Michael Cohen cooperation, issues that came up in the John Bolton book about a Turkish bank under investigation, all kinds of embarrassing things could come up during these hearings.
BLACKWELL: Yes. That's really the question of why and why now. The Bolton book not in everyone's hand, but some people are getting copies of it. And that line about the president potentially interfering according to an accusation from Bolton in an Erdogan investigation related to a bank.
CALLAN: Yes. I think that's of particular embarrassment. Of course, a lot of the things going on in the Bolton book have to do with Trump doing things to help his political campaign and not the United States. And one of those things supposedly was a promise to the Turkish president that when he got all the Obama people out of the Justice Department, he would be able to quash an investigation into a Turkish bank regarding Iranian sanctions.
Now, all of the details about this may come out during Senate approval hearings of his new appointee, Jay Clayton. And this creates a problem for Trump and gives, I think, Berman a lot of leverage to remain in position as U.S. attorney for the Southern District.
PAUL: Paul, I understand that you noticed a correlation between what we see happening now and something that happened during the Nixon administration. What is it that you noticed?
CALLAN: Well, this is interesting because this has never happened before. You have to go back really to the Nixon administration when Robert Morgenthau, who later became the district attorney of Manhattan, was the U.S. attorney in the Southern District. He had been appointed by Democrats, and Nixon was trying to force him out. He refused to resign, much as Berman is doing. Now, eventually Morgenthau did resign, but that's the last, you have to go that far back in history to the Nixon administration to see a U.S. attorney refusing the order of an attorney general and a president to resign.
BLACKWELL: So we take a look back at precedent here, let's take a look ahead now. The significance of Jay Clayton, someone who I learned this morning does not have prosecutorial experience, now potentially leading up SDNY.
CALLAN: Yes, very unusual. He's a corporate lawyer, comes from a big Wall Street law firm, Sullivan and Cromwell. And he's the guy in charge of the SEC. But he has no criminal prosecutorial experience. Usually, especially for this U.S. attorney position in the Southern District, which prosecutes organized crime, terrorists, white collar criminals, sophisticated white-collar schemes, because it's in charge of Wall Street. So normally you want to see an experienced criminal prosecutor in that job. Clayton has no criminal prosecutorial experience. And that could be a problem at his confirmation hearings, which we'll see.
PAUL: How is Berman regarded, Paul?
CALLAN: Well, Berman was a guy who came in with a lot of skepticism. He came out of the same law firm that Giuliani was out of, Greenberg Traurig. And there was a thought that he was too close to Trump. People were suspicious of him. But he's turned out to be a sterling U.S. attorney. And a lot of the U.S. attorneys in Manhattan who were skeptical, I think, have felt him to be an honest and dedicated prosecutor willing to go after whatever administration happens to be in office.
Now, remember, he's the guy who prosecuted Michael Cohen. He also prosecuted Michael Avenatti, who at the sometime was a popular guy in Democratic circles. So he's been a nonpartisan prosecutor of both sides of the aisle, and I think he's earned the respect of lawyers throughout New York.
BLACKWELL: What's the potential impact on the DOJ beyond just this office?
CALLAN: Well, I think that this causes a lot of embarrassment for the Department of Justice because in the area of political investigations, the DOJ has always tried to create sort of an independent unit. Within all of the offices the guys who prosecute and the women who prosecute politicians tend to be career prosecutors and they try to wall them off really from political aspects of the Department of Justice. And now, the Department of Justice is starting to just look like a political arm of the Trump administration. And I think that's very disturbing to the country and to a lot of lawyers who are seeing the reputation of the Department of Justice being smeared by the way it's being run.
PAUL: Paul Callan, so appreciate your knowledge and your sharing of all of this with us this morning. Take good care. Thank you.
CALLAN: Thank you, Christi.
And getting back on the campaign trail is the president's focus today. We know that supporters are already waiting. Take a look at these live pictures from Tulsa. They have been in line, some of them, overnight. Tonight's event is moving forward despite this rising coronavirus case count in Oklahoma and in neighboring states such as Texas. And of course there's the advice of health experts from Tulsa to his own administration, saying, please, do not do this without masks, without social distancing.
BLACKWELL: Let's start with CNN's Sarah Westwood. She is following this from the White House. Sarah, what's the expectation of what we're going to see here tonight? I understand that the campaign supporters call this a celebration.
SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: That's right, Victor and Christi. The president billing this tonight as a really big night. And it is. The campaign is looking at this as something of a reboot for his reelection effort, which has more of less stalled over the past three months. The president has not held a rally since before the country shut down for coronavirus.
And campaign aides and advisers recognize that the political landscape has really shifted in that time and it's really moving away from President Trump, they recognize. For example, that his path to reelection could be narrowing because of the economic downturn and the racial tensions that we've seen in this country and what's been perceived, according to the polls, it's reflected that the president's efforts have not been received well by a number of Americans. So that is a problem that the campaign hopes to address by getting the president back out there on the road. He can push his message that the country is reopening for business, and that is something that the campaign is retooling his message around now that what was his strongest case for re-election, the booming economy, has all be disappeared because of coronavirus.
There are still risks to the president holding this rally, though, as public health officials have been saying for weeks leading up to this event. The president himself acknowledged that in an interview with the "Wall Street Journal" earlier this week. I want to read you a key part of the interview. "The Wall Street Journal" asked President Trump "What happens if your supporters get sick at one of these rallies?" And Trump responded, "Well, people have to know that, yes, you do. But it's tiny, you know. It's a very small percentage." So there the president acknowledging the near certainty that some people in this setting could contract coronavirus.
The campaign is taking a number of measures to try to mitigate this. They're going to have hand sanitizer stations. They'll be conducting temperature checks. And they'll be handing out masks, but it's not mandatory that people wear them. In fact, the tone for that could be being set at the top. I want you to take a listen to White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany yesterday saying that she would not personally be wearing her mask at the rally.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It's a personal choice. I won't be wearing a mask. I can't speak for my colleagues.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And why won't you wear a mask? Is it sort of a personal, political statement? Is it because the president would be disappointed in you if you don't wear a mask?
MCENANY: It's a personal decision. I'm tested regularly. I feel that it's safe for me not to be wearing a mask, and I'm in compliance with CDC guidelines, which are recommended but not required.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WESTWOOD: Local officials say as many as 100,000 people could be convening near the Bank of Oklahoma Center tonight, 20,000 inside the arena alone. The president will depart for Tulsa later this afternoon from the White House, Victor and Christi. PAUL: Sarah Westwood, thank you so much. Appreciate it.
BLACKWELL: Let's go to Martin Savidge now. He is in Tulsa. Martin, good morning to you. And Tulsa County has the most confirmed COVID-19 cases in Oklahoma. The worry is that this could be a super spreader event. What are the people behind you, are they planning to do at this rally? Will they wear the mask? Will they try to create some distance?
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Victor. Good morning, Christi. I think pictures probably can tell you the answer to that maybe more than my words. This is the crowd, right at the front of the line, by the way, of people waiting to get in through the security gates and eventually, they hope, to get into the rally itself. Some of these people have been in line for a week now. That's right, since last Saturday. You may notice not a whole lot of masks being worn by anybody. And you may also notice that there's really not a whole lot of social distancing that's taking place.
So, this line gives you an indication maybe of what to anticipate for this evening. They aren't concerned. I've talked to many people here. Their health concerns are not about COVID. They realize the potential is there, but they're not worried. Here are some of those we spoke with.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DOLLY CAMPBELL, OKLAHOMA CITY RESIDENT: I don't mind going into the arena with the pandemic and the spikes because that's the beautiful thing about our country. I know that I am fully taking on the risk of possibly encountering or being exposed to it. But as an American, that's my right.
LONDY MARRACINO, STEUBENVILLE, OHIO, RESIDENT: It doesn't worry me that much because I have my health. So, I was never really worried about it in the first place.
AARON, NORMAN, OKLAHOMA, RESIDENT: If I think everyone is keeping some hand sanitizer around them a little bit, and do this a little bit right here, I think it will be all right. Wear the masks. Wear the masks.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
SAVIDGE: Sarah Westwood already mentioned the numbers they're anticipating. The city thinks maybe 100,000 people, of which only 20,000 will be able to get into the BOK center. Still, 20,000 people packed in there for hours at a time, health officials know that there will be people who will have coronavirus. That's just by the sheer numbers, and you do the math. And so undoubtedly it is going to spread inside of that facility, and then once people leave and go back to their respective homes and communities, and many have come from all over, they'll be taking that kind of medical souvenir with them.
And that is, of course, the real concern for health officials here. Maybe not for those attending, but the worry is that this event by itself could spread coronavirus far and wide.
BLACKWELL: We'll see in the next couple of weeks as potentially those numbers continue to increase. Martin Savidge live there in Tulsa, thank you.
Still ahead, we'll get reaction from two Oklahoma leaders from opposite sides of the aisle on tonight's rally, their thoughts on the health concerns and what they hope to hear from the president.
PAUL: And a growing number of local officials all over the country are requiring residents to wear face masks. As you just saw, obviously there are some that are reluctant. There's a Florida mayor, though, who says he is about to sign an order mandating them.
BLACKWELL: Live look now at Tulsa, Oklahoma, where crowds are now gathering for the president's reelection kickoff tonight. It's moving forward during these warnings from health officials there in Tulsa County, with the most confirmed COVID-19 cases in Oklahoma. Up to 20,000 inside the BOK, and tens of thousands more in overflow in outdoor spaces as well. Let's bring in now Congressman Markwayne Mullin, represents Oklahoma's second congressional district. He is a Trump campaign surrogate attending the president's rally tonight in Tulsa. Congressman, thank you so much for being on today.
REP. MARKWAYNE MULLIN (R-OK): Victor, thanks for having me on.
BLACKWELL: First let's start here. CDC says that -- let's put on the screen -- the highest risk gatherings are large indoor events with attendees from outside the local area where it's difficult to practice social distancing. So, why hold this event that meets all of these criteria, where there will be chanting and singing and shouting, with all the aerosol in the air. Why is this right for Oklahoma?
MULLIN: Look, Victor, it doesn't really make any difference what the president is going to do. There's going to be some people in the media that are going to find something to criticize him about. The fact is we're all responsible for our health. There's a certain mitigated risk we do everyday living life. There's a certain amount of risk you live going to work. You get gas. You go grocery shopping. And we all are responsible for our own health.
At the end of the day, if you're one of those individuals that's high at risk, this probably isn't a place that you should go to. But we all have a separate level of mitigating that risk, And we're responsible for it. At the end of the day, the people that are there are there because they want to be there, because we have the right to be there, and they're going to exercise that right. And we're excited about it. In Tulsa, Oklahoma, in Oklahoma as a whole, we are super excited that the president of the United States is choosing to kick off his campaign in Oklahoma. That doesn't happen that often for us.
BLACKWELL: I get that, to kick off in Oklahoma, a state that he's likely going to win pretty easily. My question is --
MULLIN: Absolutely. He won all seven counties last time.
BLACKWELL: I get it. You say that it's up to the individual person to make the decision.
BLACKWELL: Is it not irresponsible to host an event putting 19,000 people potentially into a room when the CDC during his administration says that this is the highest possible risk? Why is the president the first to offer this type of opportunity for spread?
MULLIN: Victor, this gathering is no different than all the protests and all the events that's been going on all over the country in the streets with more than 20,000 people gathering at times. And they're definitely not practicing social distancing.
BLACKWELL: Yes, it is. Let me ask you about that, congressman. Why not take it outside then?
MULLIN: -- and we're expressing our views. We are for President Trump and we're going to gather and show support.
BLACKWELL: Fine. Why not take it outside?
MULLIN: We would rather it be, honestly, outside in an open stadium because you can set more people and we could fill the stadium. Unfortunately, I think for security reasons, I'm not 100 percent sure on that, I wasn't part of that decision making, they decided not to do that.
BLACKWELL: The president just spoke at the West Point graduation outside last week. So we know the president can do it outside.
MULLIN: Yes, well, the West Point grounds are a little bit more secure than an open stadium in the middle of a town. We both know that.
BLACKWELL: Yes, but we also know that presidents have spoken in stadiums before.
MULLIN: Oh, I agree.
BLACKWELL: And they've been secure. Again, I hear you, though. I understand you don't understand why it's not outside, but as a surrogate for the campaign, my question was just that. Let me ask you --
MULLIN: Also --
BLACKWELL: I'm running out of time, but I want to get to message --
MULLIN: -- always really sketchy right now.
BLACKWELL: I want to get to the message, specifically, of what the president wants to say. MULLIN: Yes, absolutely.
BLACKWELL: We know that he is expected to in part talk about race and healing today. What case --
BLACKWELL: -- can he make about that when members of his administration don't acknowledge that there is systemic racism?
MULLIN: Look, I can't speak for other people. Obviously there has been a problem, there is a problem inside the United States. In all starts in our home. I wasn't raised seeing color at all. In fact, my parents raised my brother, who is black, and Josh and I we never saw any difference.
However, Josh's life experiences since we left home has been quite different than mine. He works hard, but he does speak a little bit different when it comes to his interaction with certain individuals. And that should never happen. And so first of all, race starts at home to some degree. And I wasn't raised to see color. But at the end of the day --
BLACKWELL: I get that. But you're not speaking today. The president is. What do you want to hear from the president?
MULLIN: I know but what I'm getting at is the president has from day one always talked about making America great. I think you're going to continue to hear that unity and focus more on the unity of all of us. That means all of us. When he speaks about make America great or keep America great, he's talking about all of us. He's not talking specifically about any particular race. He has a positive message to share for those that want to hear it.
BLACKWELL: That is remarkably vague. But I've got to wrap here.
MULLIN: We can dig into it further if you want to, Victor. But what we're giving you is an overview of what we expect to hear. You know, you've been hearing him talk about it. It's been his slogan. Make America great and keep America great.
BLACKWELL: It is remarkably vague. But if you'll come back tomorrow after the president says what he's actually going to say, I would love to continue the conversation.
MULLIN: Victor, if we can make it happen, most definitely we will.
BLACKWELL: OK. Thank you so much. Oklahoma Congressman Markwayne Mullin, thank you so much.
MULLIN: Thank you, Victor.
BLACKWELL: Let's bring in now Alicia Andrews, chair of the Oklahoma Democratic Party. Your response, first, to what you just heard. ALICIA ANDREWS, CHAIR OF THE OKLAHOMA DEMOCRATIC PARTY: There's a lot
to unpack there. You mentioned that members of his administration won't admit there's systematic racism. The vice president couldn't even say "Black Lives Matter." So I'm not sure the president is going to address reconciliation, which is a conversation he needs to start having.
BLACKWELL: I read that you don't even want to hear the president bring up race in Tulsa.
ANDREWS: That is correct, and for the very reasons I just said. Right now, the president isn't prepared to have a conversation about reconciliation and systemic racism. If you can't say it, you can't admit that it's a thing, it's not something that you can deal with. And right now, the president is not in a position where he's ready to have that conversation. He's admitting he just now understood what Juneteenth was.
BLACKWELL: You put up -- I want the team in the control room to put up the president's tweet. You called the president's response after the killing of George Floyd and the conversation about policing dismal. The president tweeted this, "Any protesters, anarchists, agitators, looters or lowlifes who are going to Oklahoma, please understand you will not be treated like you have been in New York, Seattle, or Minneapolis. It will be a much different scene." The president coming there to Tulsa, the site of the 1921 race massacre, saying you're going to get worse than teargas. You're going to get worse than rubber bullets. Your reaction to this tweet from the president?
ANDREWS: So, now he knows what Juneteenth is, and then he chooses to start the morning off by threatening folks in Tulsa who have that history. To say that it's disappointing is an understatement. The president is treating Tulsa sort of like collateral damage. He knows what Juneteenth is. He knows the significance of the date. He's still coming. He knows what our COVID numbers are. He's still coming. Not only is he not caring about African-Americans, he's just really not caring about Tulsa.
BLACKWELL: So, I challenged the congressman about these crowds. I understand that there have been calls for anti-Trump events. I know that you, if I read correctly, want people to stay away from the arena, but if there's a concern for the spread of the virus, why call for more people to gather?
ANDREWS: Well, that's exactly what I'm saying. I'm not encouraging protests, but I don't control everyone. And I know that some people need to be at a protest. It feeds their soul. It makes them feel like they're doing something. And I absolutely respect that because we all have different lanes. I'm encouraging people to stay away from the arena, first and foremost, just for safety measures. And then also I went to an event last night where they were encouraging social distancing and there were hand washing stations and they were handing out free masks. And that's the kind of gathering that people need to go to, because as everyone knows, our COVID numbers are spiking, and safety needs to be our first concern.
BLACKWELL: Chairwoman Alicia Andrews, thanks so much for your time.
ANDREWS: Thank you.
PAUL: And speaking of COVID, the cases are spiking in Florida. The governor there says it's all due to an increase in testing, but some local officials disagree. One mayor calls that, quote, "a silly argument."
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.
PAUL: The news we're just learning about this hour, a judge has denied the Trump administration's attempt to block the release of John Bolton's book.
BLACKWELL: The former national security advisor's book is filled with some pretty shocking revelations about his time in the administration. The Justice Department claimed it had classified information, something that Bolton's attorney has denied. CNN's Brian Stelter is joining us on the phone. First, the reaction to this decision from this judge.
BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Yes. This is Judge Royce Lamberth, a Reagan appointee, who is saying that the government's attempt to get an injunction to immediately stop this book from coming out has been rejected. Remember, it's already been shipped to the stores. So there was no real way to stop this book from coming out. But the government was trying to ask Bolton, trying to compel Bolton to do whatever he could to stop the book. And the government is also trying to claw back all the money he's getting for writing the book, which is a reported $2 million.
So this initial attempt by the government has been rejected by the judge, who wrote, in a motion critical of Bolton -- here it is, here's the quote -- "Bolton has gambled with the national security of the United States. He has exposed his country to harm and himself to civil and potentially criminal liability. But," and this is the important part, the "but," "those facts do not control the motion before the court. The government has failed to establish this injunction will prevent irreparable harm, and thus the motion" -- the judge is saying this cat is long out of the bag. This horse has left that proverbial barn. The book is coming out. And the government can't stop it.
But I think the news, Victor and Christi, is that the government may still be able in the months to come punish Bolton by taking away his book money, and we will see if that ends up continuing to happen in court.
PAUL: So, Stelter, there is a lot of -- there are a lot of conversations about why Bolton is doing this certainly. But one of the conversations surrounding the impact this book may have on 2020. STELTER: Yes, absolutely, because this is a nearly 600-page book full
of embarrassing information about the president, unflattering claims about his competency for office. Bolton clearly believes the president is unfit for office, and he is launching a book tour tomorrow appearing on ABC and CNN and every other network, criticizing the president.
This issue with the lawsuit is more about national security and the claims there's classified information in the book. The judge says he can't rule on that yet. That's going to be down the road. But for the initial urgent demand to try and stop it from being sold and put in bookstores, the judge says the government loses on that front. So I do think this issue about national security and what's been revealed in the book is going to continue to be an issue. Bolton will continue to be criticized for it. But I also think that the comments Bolton is making about the president and the claims about the president's incompetency, that is going to bubble up front and center. And by the way, I expect the president might talk more about Bolton at the rally tonight.
BLACKWELL: More from this judge, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth also writes "Any injunction considered by this court would be so toothless as to not substantively injure anyone, and perhaps the public interest would be nominally served by the gesture, but an injunction remains an untimely solution resolving these third and fourth winter factors in the government's favor does not revive the motion's prospects."
Let's go to Kristen Holmes, reporter there at the White House. This obviously not what the White House wanted, trying to keep what they say were national security secrets private.
KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right. And it's not that big of a surprise. We were, of course, waiting for this. But the judge had said really yesterday while he was admonishing Bolton for writing this book, he said there was really nothing he believed he would be able to do in terms of stopping this. Now, watching the messaging come out of the White House, we, of course, will be in touch with them on this. As you heard Brian say, it is likely President Trump himself will address this. He has spent roughly the last several days on Twitter lashing out at Bolton, saying the book is full of lies. We then heard from the White House who tried to clear that up, saying, well, it can be full of lies, but also have classified information in it.
And this was part of this narrative that was really a back and forth, a push/pull between John Bolton and President Trump. As you heard there, Brian Stelter talking about, is this going to play into the 2020 election? Well, we know one thing, that it's not going to help President Trump. Whereas his supporters will likely not care about anything that John Bolton has to say, they believe the president. If he says it's lies, they think it's lies. It goes to a larger picture of whether or not a Biden can paint Trump as incompetent for office. Can Democrats paint President Trump like that? So it will be interesting to see how this narrative plays out. And of course, we will get back to you as soon as we have some sort of response from the White House.
PAUL: All right, Kristen Holmes, Brian Stelter, we appreciate both of you so much. Thank you.
We're going to be right back. Stay close.
BLACKWELL: The CDC predicts that the U.S. will surpass 135,000 coronavirus deaths over the next three weeks. New models suggest Florida will be the next epicenter of the pandemic.
PAUL: The state broke records again, reporting nearly 4,000 new cases yesterday. And according to state data, less than 25 percent of ICU beds are even available. CNN's Randi Kaye is following the latest there in Florida. She is with us from Riviera Beach. Randi, good morning to you. What are you seeing there in Florida this morning?
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning to you both. We're seeing a lot of people, actually, a steady stream of people going to the beach here behind me. So people are out and about here in Riviera Beach in the West Palm Beach area of Florida. For weeks people here have been saying Florida did everything right, they got this under control. People stayed home even before the governor locked down the state. The counties locked down their own counties. They took it upon themselves to do so.
But now it's a different story. The beaches are open. The restaurants are open, the retailers, the salons. So people are out and about. And yesterday, as you mentioned, nearly 4,000 cases, that is the highest number of reported new cases in a single day of coronavirus since this started here in Florida. The governor is downplaying this. He said that's due to more testing. He's also saying that most of the new cases are younger people. In fact, the median age for the cases in the last few weeks is 37 years old. So, here in Palm Beach County the median age is about 40 years old. Those are also mostly asymptomatic. They're not dying at the rate of older people. So the governor wasn't sounding the alarm at all. In fact, he said that 86 percent of the deaths in Florida are from people 65 or older.
But the big issue, as you mentioned as well, is the hospital beds. Three quarters of the hospital beds are apparently occupied. ICU beds are also very hard to come by and running low, apparently, according to reports. But the governor yesterday saying that is absolutely not true at all. He says that ICU beds and ventilators are widely available throughout this state. And he said that, in fact, twice as many hospital beds are available now as were available in March when this really started to get bad. He also said that most people going to the hospital are going for elective surgery.
We spoke to some people here this morning about the rising case numbers, and this is what they told us. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have heard that it's going up. So, yes, we're concerned. But taking precautions.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm following the signs. I mean, there is a virus going on, so yes. Playing it safe. Better be safe than sorry.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're very concerned. We try to keep the kids three feet apart. It's very serious. People need to take it serious.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KAYE: The experts are really concerned that these numbers could start doubling and things could get out of control very quickly, but the governor is not taking any action. He's not pulling back on the reopening at all. And he's not mandating masks throughout the state either. He's leaving that up to the local governments.
And some are doing something about it. I can tell you that Tampa yesterday at 5:00 p.m. put in a mandatory mask rule. If you can't be six feet apart indoors, you have to wear a mask. Today, starting today, Orange County, which is the Orlando area, they will have a mandatory mask order for anyone visiting the county, anyone living in the county, doing work in the county.
And on Tuesday, Palm Beach County, this very county, is going to take up the issue and possibly put a mask order in place as well. So they're not waiting for state action. Once again, they plan to do it on their own. Victor, Christi, back to you.
BLACKWELL: Some scary numbers. Randi Kaye, good to see you. Thank you.
So facemasks, they seem to be a flash point for some governors, local officials. Randi was just talking about them. But the mayor of St. Petersburg, Florida, he says that he's about to sign an order requiring them.
PAUL: Florida's governor, as you heard us say, says the spike in cases is linked to an increase in testing. But Mayor Kriseman says that's not accurate.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR RICK KRISEMAN, (D) ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA: Well, I have a lot of concern. What we've seen, as your reporting was just saying, over the last seven days in my city, we've seen a significant increase in the percentage of positive tests. And I go back just as a marker to just before Memorial Day weekend. We were at roughly 1.4 percent positive tests. For the last seven days we're over seven percent of positive tests. That has me greatly concerned.
To argue that it's because there's more testing is really, it's a pretty silly argument. The highest percentage of positive testing right now is in the age of 25 to 34. And in St. Pete, that doesn't actually surprise me because when you look at our restaurants and our bars, that's the majority of who is there in the evenings. And a shutdown would be devastating to our economy. Psychologically and emotionally it would be devastating. And so, we're trying to do everything we can to avoid that. That means wearing masks. That means mandating a social distancing and limiting mass gatherings. That's what we have to do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PAUL: And again, the mayor will be mandating masks for everyone there in St. Pete as of Monday. That's what he told us this morning.
A school resource officer is on a mission to honor each and every graduating student. His story is next.
PAUL: A school resource officer in Ohio goes beyond the call of duty during the pandemic. He is making hundreds of house calls to graduating seniors.
BLACKWELL: CNN's Brynn Gingras has the story.
BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: When a sheriff's deputy knocks on a teenager's door.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I thought I was in trouble or something.
DEPUTY TODD HART, SCHOOL RESOURCE OFFICER, GREEN HIGHT SCHOOL, SUMMIT COUNTY SHERIFF: Andrew, how are you doing?
GINGRAS: But this visit a special one.
HART: Congratulations on graduating high school.
GINGRAS: Ohio Deputy Todd Hart made the personal visit to Andrew McHale (ph), and for the past several weeks -- to every Green High School senior.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're going around to everybody?
GINGRAS: All 317 of them. Hart has been the resource officer at this high school for 12 years. The coronavirus stripped the class of 2020 of prom, a formal graduation --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I didn't get to really see my friends for the last time or see my teachers for the last time.
GINGRAS: Hart wouldn't let the chance to say goodbye be on that list.
HART: You see people day in and day out, you build these relationships. You wouldn't let your kid go off to college and not say goodbye to them. So, that's basically what this is for me.
GINGRAS: In years past, hart would make it a point to high five or shake hands with each graduate as they receive their diploma. But COVID-19 forced the deputy to improvise. For some, the socially distant house call feels much more personal.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's pretty cool. At least it's some form of congratulation.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it's great. I love Deputy Hart, all he does for us. I see him -- I used to see him in the hallway every day.
GINGRAS: And Hart pushed for a little more, recently deciding with the town that a drive-through graduation could be possible. Hart was able to greet the students again, this time leaving them with a bit of advice.
HART: My grandmother always told me, go see the world. Make memories.
GINGRAS: Hart's gesture a memory these graduates won't soon forget.
Brynn Gingras, CNN.
PAUL: Good for them. Happy graduation to everybody out there who probably feels they got gypped a little bit.
BLACKWELL: Little bit.
PAUL: So yes. Make good memories today.
BLACKWELL: Much more ahead in the next hour.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is CNN breaking news.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, everyone and thank you so much for joining me this Saturday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.