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Six Donald Trump Campaign Staffers Working In Tulsa Rally Test Positive For COVID-19; U.S. Attorney Leaving Office Immediately After Standoff With A.G. William Barr; Trump Campaign Cancels Address To "Overflow Crowd," As Overflow Crowd Fails To Materialize Outside Tulsa Rally. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired June 20, 2020 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: President Trump is tempting fate by holding a campaign rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma. And now, we are learning six Trump campaign staffers doing advanced work on this rally have tested positive for the coronavirus. This information coming to light as 19,000 people who haven't taken rapid same day tests are all gathering under the same roof.
Masks are being handed out but they're optional. We are told temperatures are being taken but clearly social distancing doesn't seem to be happening or really doable.
Meanwhile, Oklahoma, the state where all of this is happening is already experiencing a surge in new cases with Tulsa County being hit the hardest. It recorded 136 new cases overnight, a new record -- a new record for the fifth time by the way this week, bringing the county total to now more than 2,000 cases and CNN's Ryan Nobles is inside that rally. Ryan, what are you seeing? What are you hearing?
RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know, Ana, I had the chance since we were last on to talk to some of the folks that are at this event here tonight to get their sense of what they're anticipating and what they're looking forward to and why they came out. And we also got to talk to them about their concerns about the coronavirus, the potential spread here at this arena that's expected to be packed later tonight.
And the sense we got is that folks just do not believe that there is a huge threat here, that the coronavirus is certainly out there, it is something that people do acquire, but it is not something that has people all that nervous.
In fact, I talked to one gentleman who drove six hours to get here from Kansas to be a part of this rally and this is what he told me about his worry or lack thereof about the coronavirus at this rally tonight. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JASON YEADON, TRUMP SUPPORTER FROM KANSAS: I'm not concerned about the spread. I think in the general population, I'm seeing like 0.4 or 0.2 percent mortality rate.
NOBLES: Even if you got it, you're not worried about it.
YEADON: No, and even if I did get sick from it. I mean, there are so many positive studies with the hydrochloroquine and zinc.
NOBLES: The FDA got rid of it. They said you can't prescribe it for the coronavirus.
YEADON: No, the FDA is saying that it is able to be prescribed. They only shut it down for a certain thing. And actually, in Trump's Roundtable, the other day, they explained it very well.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
NOBLES: And so you get a sense there of kind of the perspective of a lot of the folks that are in attendance here and their view of the coronavirus and the way it's impacted American life and this, despite the fact that cases are on the rise here in Oklahoma.
Now, as you mentioned, Ana, you are able to get a mask as you walk in. They do hand a mask to anyone who is willing to take one, but they are not required.
We do see some people wearing masks in the crowd. We did catch the campaign manager, Brad Parscale. He made a walk through the venue not too long ago. He is wearing a mask.
But most Trump campaign staffers are not in fact, Eric Trump, the President's son made a run through media row. He was not wearing a mask.
But there are warnings across the building about the threat of coronavirus. In fact, when you walk into the venue, there is a sign that warns every single person about the risk they are taking and being inside this venue with the threat of coronavirus.
Still, regardless of all those warnings, a warning not only from national public health officials, but public health officials here in Tulsa that asked for this rally to be postponed, this rally is happening here tonight.
And Ana, we should point out we're about three hours away from the President's appearance. There are still a lot of seats available here in this arena. There's still a long way to go before he arrives and the overflow area where the President is scheduled to speak, that is a very small crowd right now and there is a lot of people crushing to get into the venue at this point.
Still a long way to go, Ana, but we do expect the President here in just a couple of hours.
CABRERA: Right, two hours until we expect his remarks. Trump obviously has been very eager to resume these rallies. He believes they were a key to his 2016 victory. But what is the campaign saying? How are they addressing even just the
optics of holding this indoor political rally, they could have, you know, held it outdoors, which would have been less risky, perhaps in a location where COVID cases are on the rise right now.
NOBLES: Well, the campaign's argument, Ana, is that they are taking steps to protect folks, as we talked about, everyone is given hand sanitizers as they come in. There are temperature checks for every person that walks in as well.
But the big argument the Trump campaign is making is that this is a state that is in the process of reopening and that they feel comfortable moving forward with an event like this, and that essentially, the threat isn't as great as maybe even some within the public health community make it.
Over and over again, Ana, they say that this is safe. We're not going to know that for sure probably for a couple of weeks.
CABRERA: OK, Ryan, thank you. Health experts are concerned that tonight's rally has the potential to become a super spreader event, and attendees had to sign a waiver promising they won't sue if they get sick. CNN's Gary Tuchman is outside with supporters.
Gary, you've been talking to Trump supporters about whether they're concerned about their health. Tell us more.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: There's not a lot of serious concern about health. I'll start with that, Ana. But first of all, I do want to mention to you there's an outdoor component of this rally, and this is where it is.
Before the rally starts indoors, President Trump is expected to make about 20 minutes or remarks outdoors at the so-called overflow area, and you could see surrounding the podium, it looks like a queue. People sort of look like a ship in a bottle.
Policemen tells me, it is there for conventional security reasons and also for COVID security reasons. Right now, in this overflow area, it is not particularly crowded.
The idea is though, it will be the overflow people to show up in the next couple of hours because as Ryan told you, it doesn't start for three hours.
But you'll also see here, he was talking about not every seat being taken inside. Right now, there was a crush of people here about an hour ago going through, but for the first time, we do see some social distancing, because it's not particularly crowded going in right now. What you don't see are a lot of masks.
When people walked in, they were offered masks. They weren't mandated to take the masks, and therefore, people don't seem to be wearing the masks. Maybe 10 percent of the people we see are putting on masks. And like I said before this, for the last three hours when people
started coming in, we saw no social distancing whatsoever, but now you're seeing it because they're not as many people.
But starting off with what I said in the beginning, Ana, people just really aren't overwhelmingly concerned. They feel this is an issue of personal responsibility. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I am not going to get it. I'm not going to give it to someone else.
TUCHMAN: How do you know that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, it's the same thing with the damn cold.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have absolutely no -- no concern whatsoever.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It just doesn't concern me at all.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I went to dinner house over in Nebraska and nobody had masks on, and the lady says, you want more coffee? I felt normal -- normal.
TUCHMAN: So nothing about this concerns you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: None, zero.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
TUCHMAN: This is the home of the Tulsa Oilers Minor League hockey team. They suspended the season in March. The League -- because they didn't think we're safe to play hockey with 19,100 people in that building, tonight that's how many people will be in that building -- Ana.
CABRERA: Again, Gary, there's still time, but that very thin crowd in the overflow area was interesting to see. The President claimed you know, over a million people have been, you know, expressing interest in being part of this event.
I'm curious as to why those people are choosing to stay in the overflow versus going in if it isn't filled inside.
TUCHMAN: Well, first of all, it's important to emphasize journalistically, Ana, no one has ever offered any proof that a million people said they would come to the event, so we don't know if that's true.
That being said, the fact that not every seat is filled yet, that doesn't mean it won't be. It is very hot outside and it's very humid. We were just helping a very nice older woman who felt like she was going to faint and we gave her water and we gave her our little shady spot and she is okay now. It's a dangerous time to be out here for so many hours. So, that could
diminish turnout. There's no question about it. Although there's some shade now for the first time all day.
But the fact is, we just don't know right now how it all will be, but right now, all I can tell you factually is that not as many people going in as we saw an hour ago.
CABRERA: We will check back. Thank you very much, Gary Tuchman. We also have Martin Savidge. And Martin, last time we checked in with you protesters were confronting some of the Trump supporters trying to get into the rally. What's the latest?
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's the same situation, Ana. You can see, here you've got the Sheriff and Police Department. They're all lined up here and ready to protect what is the primary way for much of the public to get into this facility.
And the problem has been that protesters have taken over the main part of the street. We will even show them to you. They're off in this direction here. And this would be the main way that anybody who wants to go to the rally would have to pass through.
So essentially, all those that are trying to go see the President have to run this gauntlet of protesters here. There are security teams that are trying to redirect people down other streets to try to gain entrance to the arena, but it's a combination of concern over of course, protests, people may be fearful of coronavirus now they've heard so much of it spiking.
And it could be also, too, all the talk of how large the crowd was going to be, may have in fact caused some people to second guess whether they really wanted to go through all of it.
So right now, the protests continue to play out. It's all peaceful. We've only heard of one arrest, but it clearly could be having a factor as far as causing people to have second thoughts on attending -- Ana.
CABRERA: OK, Martin Savidge. Thank you for being our eyes and ears on the ground. Our thanks to Gary Tuchman as well.
And we're following more Breaking News this hour, one of America's most powerful prosecutors has now been fired and confirms he is leaving his office effective immediately after an extraordinary standoff with the Attorney General.
CABRERA: Joining us now CNN Senior Justice Correspondent, Evan Perez.
Evan, what just happened?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR U.S. JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Geoff Berman has now accepted that he is fired and he says he is leaving effective immediately, and he essentially is pointing out that the reason why -- the reason for the standoff, Ana, is because of the way the Attorney General has tried to carry this out.
He had tried to appoint the New Jersey U.S. Attorney to take over the job passing over the Deputy in his office who is under normal process would be the person who takes over essentially going outside of that chain of command.
And so what Berman seems to be suggesting in his statement, that he is accepting that the Attorney General has now decided to go through the normal process, that he is accepting that he is fired.
The Attorney General just in the last two hours had sent a letter to Berman saying that because he had refused to step down, he was now issuing an order from the President saying that he fired, essentially.
And so now Berman is accepting that fate, Ana. Obviously, you know, the part of the issue here is this issue that this is an office that's doing a lot of sensitive investigations and Berman makes reference to that in his refusal to resign last night.
He makes reference to the fact that there were sensitive investigations, and he wanted to make sure that he was protecting those and it appears that the fact that his deputy, Audrey Strauss is taking over, he believes that those investigations are now protected.
CABRERA: I am just looking at this statement from Berman and he writes, "I know that under her leadership (the person who is replacing him), this office is unparalleled. Attorneys for the U.S., investigators, paralegals and staff will continue to safeguard the Southern District's enduring tradition of integrity and independence."
Evan Perez, thank you for being there with all of these latest developments.
We are now less than two hours away from the start of President Trump's campaign rally, and there are reports that the President is upset that his triumphant return is being overshadowed by the fact that six of his campaign staffers in Tulsa have tested positive for the coronavirus. Stay with us.
CABRERA: We are just a short time away from President Trump's first campaign rally since the coronavirus pandemic hit and as 19,000 supporters continue to file in, CNN has learned six campaign staffers who have been working on the event have tested positive for the virus.
The rally comes as Oklahoma averaged 265 new cases per day this past week. A 121 percent increase over the previous week.
But masks are only optional, a decision that flies in the face of the guidelines put out by Trump's own health officials.
David Gergen is a CNN senior political analyst and former presidential adviser to Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton; and April Ryan is a CNN political analyst and White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks.
April sources are telling CNN the President has spent much of today upset because he sees the coverage of U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman's firing as well as, you know, this news of six campaign staffers testing positive for COVID-19 overshadowing his return to the campaign trail. Your reaction.
APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: This President likes the winning picture and today is not a winning picture with everything you listed, plus the fact that six of his staffers who advanced this program today are sick.
And you know, one might say that this is not the Commander-in-Chief, but the spreader in chief, spreader of COVID-19. Something he is trying to downplay as he is once again trying to show strength and trying to show that he is in this to win it, meaning, the reelection.
He cannot get away from negative press. And at the end of the day when it comes to Tulsa, and this event, death does not know politics. And this President is in the midst of trying to figure out what to say, but also more negative press is coming. How do you turn this and spin this? This is not a winning picture for this President today.
CABRERA: David, your thoughts?
DAVID GERGEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, you reap what you sow, and no better example here. The President has been on a rampage to undermine the very program of trying to protect people from the coronavirus. Yes, he is refusing to wear a mask. His own team coming in here, his option was, they were mask.
But now, six of his advance team have come down testing positive. The people were supposed to be checked on a regular basis at the White House, it is not a big team, Ana, so that six people is a lot to have fallen sick this way.
And I do think it's going to make this President's ask harder, essentially he is trying to stop -- he has been in freefall, and he needs to stop that so he can stabilize.
So, this kind of -- what he needs is that -- bringing a microphone back to his agenda. This story about the six and there are going to be additional stories, and there may be -- I hope not -- but there may be violence before this is over. It could well be a long night with all of this. It certainly started in a wild way.
CABRERA: April, the fact that the President is able to convince tens of thousands of voters to come out and support him despite the nearly 120,000 Americans who have already died from coronavirus and continued warnings from health experts, including members of his own administration, what does this say about the way President Trump has been able to simply discredit science and our institutions?
RYAN: You know, I think, it's deeper than that. I believe that many of these people are going there risking everything, because they are not as informed as they should be. Recently, the Gallup and the Knight Foundation came together and did a
poll about misinformation as it relates to COVID. And the number one piece of misinformation was social media. Number two, the President of the United States, followed by number three, the media.
RYAN: So the question is, are these people really as informed about it, listening to the President of the United States as they risk it all, and the science is there, it's still evolving. The C.D.C., as well as the government in Oklahoma is warning against even going and many people are there without a mask.
So the question is, do they really understand the consequences? Do they really understand this as some still think, oh, it's just the flu. Oh, I won't get it. Yes, they can.
Again, as I said, death does not know politics.
CABRERA: David, the Governor of Oklahoma said, part of the reason the President is holding a rally there is that his state is the most open state in America in terms of the coronavirus, yet we know coronavirus cases are on the rise. But is also a deeply red state, a stronghold for Republicans. Why hold a rally there right now?
GERGEN: I think -- I think, Ana, he is coming back out of this cave of the White House slowly. They want to test the waters with a state that he has an audience. It is obviously going to be really boisterous and in support of him.
He is going to have a lot of pictures over the next few days of people cheering and yelling at one another in his favor. He does have a base that he can rally and choosing Oklahoma, I think was quite intentional.
Clearly, they didn't do their homework about race. Clearly, when you have a Cabinet with only one member who is black and clear when you have a staff, an advance team that is almost all white that you get almost the idea that you are not going to get the big picture and I think this racial issue is going to hurt him just like the health issue is going to hurt him.
Tonight, people stand back and you're looking at the audience tonight, you know, are they really doing the job that they should be doing to protect me and my fellowmen?
CABRERA: April, you said today is not a winning day for this President, but let's just talk about the week that was. Coronavirus on the rise, ongoing protests, two Supreme Court rulings against the Trump administration, new bombshell revelations from the John Bolton book which will go forward with publication and a slew of polls showing Biden leading Trump by double digits right now.
And yet, you know, you've seen the crowds of enthusiastic Trump supporters out there, some who have been waiting for almost a week to hear him speak tonight. Is tonight about boosting his base or his ego after a tumultuous week?
RYAN: I love hearing David like that. Yes, I think it's both, but I think mostly his ego and it's going to give him a big boost. People are risking their lives, literally going to Tulsa, Oklahoma that is seeing spikes in COVID. His own advanced team, six members have now tested positive for COVID.
This is about big ego boost. This people are risking it all to get there. But it also strengthens his base. As he is in a place that saw 99 years ago, a race riots and destroyed the black economy.
In this speech, he will deal with race, but this is a message, in this place and in a space that was supposed to happen yesterday on Juneteenth. It's going to be about ways to galvanize that base.
He began his politics -- he began his politics, on the fact that he thought that Barack Obama was born not in the United States. Well, this is going back to the base of his politics, race, matters of race and creating a bigger divide.
GERGEN: Ana, the thing that strikes me so much is just the beginning of a Republic. In times of crisis, Americans look to the President as Commander-in-Chief and as a father figure, and George Washington was father of our country. Abraham Lincoln was Honest Abe. He looked after people and you were able to trust him in the White House. He was our father figure then.
And now we've got a President who has completely thrown that out the window. He has no interest in being a Father figure. And first time in my lifetime, we've had a President invite American citizens into a place that's fundamentally not safe, inviting them to come here and speak, he is inviting them into a place where they put their lives in danger. We have never had that before in my lifetime.
CABRERA: April, let's talk about this issue of race relations playing in the election, and just this moment we're in as a country. We know Senator, Amy Klobuchar from Minnesota withdrew her consideration to be Biden's VP pick and said he should choose a woman of color.
Is Biden making a mistake if he doesn't put a woman of color on the ticket?
RYAN: Well, let me say this, what Joe Biden is going to have to do whether it's a black woman or a white woman, or any woman of any color, he is going to have to find someone who is sensitive to this moment in history, who is transformational when it comes to issues of race, even if it's not a black person.
RYAN: It could be a black person, but it has to be a black person who feels that. If it's a white person, it has to be a white person that feels that. If it's an Asian person, it has to be an Asian person that feels that. We cannot discount this moment. This moment is not a moment. It's a
movement. And let's see, because he's going to make the announcement we understand from what I'm hearing from my sources, and the story that I've wrote, it is the end of July, early August.
So right now, time is on their side. They're watching the protests. They're watching what the President is doing. They're also watching those who are the smallest of people who are being vetted, and Amy Klobuchar sent a salvo basically to save herself for history's sake, because she left because of exactly her connection to George Floyd, but she came back saying it should be a black woman.
So, she will go down in history looking better than she would have if she had not said that. But the nation has taken heed to that. This is a moment and a movement that Biden has got to pay attention to when he makes that pick for Vice President.
CABRERA: April Ryan and David Gergen, thank you so much for the conversation. I really appreciate having you here.
GERGEN: Thank you, Ana, good to talk with you.
CABRERA: Thanks. Here is a live look at Tulsa. The President holding a rally there in less than two hours, even though public health experts have warned against it and six of his own campaign staffers have now contracted the virus as they were part of the team setting up for this rally.
Be right back.
CABRERA: Six of President Trump's campaign staffers working on tonight's rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma have tested positive for the coronavirus. This as the President is set to speak at this rally in just a couple of hours. A live look inside the arena.
Health experts have warned the President against holding this rally, fearing it could be a super spreader event. Joining us now Dr. F. Perry Wilson, Associate Professor of Medicine at Yale University. And Dr. Wilson, when you hear that six campaign staffers in Tulsa have tested positive, what does that tell you about the current health risk at this rally?
F. PERRY WILSON, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF MEDICINE, YALE UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: Hi, Ana. Thanks. It's obviously quite concerning. First, I'd like to say it's great that these people were being tested. It's important this reminds us how important testing is in our efforts to fight the coronavirus.
It also reminds us that people who are asymptomatic as I assume these staffers were can still transmit the virus and that is something that's really concerning when you have so many people together in a rally like this. And finally, what it suggests is that the prevalence of this disease,
how common this disease is in the population is not trivial. If you extrapolate the number of staffers to the people in that stadium, it's likely that there are anywhere between a hundred and a thousand of those 20,000 people in the stadium who may be carrying coronavirus and actively shedding virus right now and that is a high risk situation.
CABRERA: And as we look at these pictures and the crowds, just distant - how far they are and how close they really are to the stage and when you think of as many as 19,000 people possibly tearing and yelling, is the President at risk of contracting this virus or is his distance from the crowd enough?
WILSON: Well, the six feet distance that is recommended for social distancing is based on decent data and others indoor places where the virus has been transmitted, restaurants and whatnot do show that your highest risk when you're right close to someone who is actively shedding the virus. And so my perception is that the President will have a significant distance between him and the nearest crowd members.
So the risk to him is probably relatively low, but the risk to those people in the crowd to his supporters is certainly substantial.
CABRERA: Now, among the Trump campaign safety precautions for the Tulsa rally, hand sanitizer, temperature checks, masks provided to attendees though actually wearing a mask is not required and as we're just scanning the crowd, it's hard to see anybody wearing a mask. What is your assessment doctor? Is the Trump campaign being responsible?
WILSON: Well, they did the bare minimum here. They handed out masks, but the fact that no one is wearing them is something that is really baffled me how this seems to become a political issue. The President himself apparently said that he thinks that mask wearing is a sign of disapproval of him personally to a physician like me who is caring for patients with COVID-19, this is akin to saying that real Republicans don't wash their hands.
This is simply a public health measure and I wish the President would get on board with this simple intervention that has the potential to shut this pandemic down. If you could just encourage people to come together, wear masks and stop the spread.
CABRERA: Let me ask you, though, further about the mask issue because inform us what is the data showing as far as the effectiveness of wearing a mask or a face covering when it comes to COVID-19?
WILSON: Well, we've learned a lot in the six months or so since coronavirus hit our shores. And I've been writing about coronavirus research for that entire period of time and mask wearing has really emerged as the central point of the public health response.
It is very effective. In fact, there's one study that suggested if 50 percent of the population wore masks when they're out in public, that the epidemic curve would trend down to zero, that the average infected person would infect less than one additional person, which is this key metric that shows that the epidemic is going to go away. So this is a low cost intervention. It really does boggle my mind why this wouldn't be widely embraced.
CABRERA: We've been talking about how cases are going up in several states around the country. President Trump this week telling The Wall Street Journal, "I personally think testing is overrated, even though I created the greatest testing machine in history. In many ways, it makes us look bad." What's your reaction to that?
WILSON: Well, I think the President is trying to compare the U.S. to other countries and he recognizes that we have more people than any other country and he wants to say that's just because we do more testing. Now, that is not entirely true.
One thing we can look at outside of testing is the hospitalization rate. So just because you test more people, you pick up more cases, that shouldn't increase the hospitalization rate. It should increase the death rate and yet we're already seeing hospitalization rates go up in some of those states where the case rates are going up.
So we know that this is more than just we're testing, we're catching these people with minimal symptoms. This disease is spreading and part of the - one of the major reasons it is spreading is because many Americans don't appreciate the risk that they have to themselves and to their loved ones when they're going out in public if they're not social distancing, if they're not wearing masks.
CABRERA: I mean, in fact, when you talk about the hospitalization rate, it makes me think of what I learned today in a news alert from Washington State where I have family, where I went to school in Yakima County, they are out of hospital beds right now. They are in dire circumstances, so it is starting to catch up to certain areas, unfortunately.
I just wonder, after tonight's rally, when will we know if this does turn into a super spreader event? When will that be reflected in the data?
WILSON: It can honestly be very hard to tell and so while I personally believe there will be significant transmission of coronavirus at this event, I do want to make clear that these are people coming from many states, it sounds like, not just Oklahoma.
They're going to sort of spread out and it can be difficult to tell if there's any one event that causes a spike, although obviously we can look at that data and ask people whether they were at the rally or not, but we're not doing robust contact tracing as you know in this country, we're not figuring out where every infected person has been.
And so we may not know for sure what exactly happened at this rally. But the biology is very clear, putting this many people together, many of whom aren't wearing masks, many of whom are shouting and expelling particles and many of whom may be a symptomatically infected will spread the coronavirus.
CABRERA: Dr. F. Perry Wilson, important information. Thank you.
WILSON: Thank you.
CABRERA: We are standing by in Tulsa less than two hours away from the start of President Trump's rally. Will the public health risk be worth the possible political payoff? Sources telling CNN the president is already upset today that this triumphant return to the trail is being overshadowed. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
CABRERA: Breaking news, we are awaiting Trump's arrival at his rally in Tulsa. But outside, as you can see, a large overflow crowd they expected just hasn't materialized and that's led to a change of plans for the President.
CNN's Abby Phillip is in Tulsa. Abby, what's happening?
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, this just in to our Ryan Nobles. The campaign has said that President Trump and Vice President Pence both will not speak outdoors as they had originally planned. Both had planned to give remarks.
The Vice President were supposed to be about 20 minutes, 30 minutes ago, the Vice President instead went straight into the indoor part of the arena. The President will not come outside as he originally planned and that's because as you can see, there is almost no one here. The outdoor part of this event has been completely emptied out.
There were perhaps a few dozen people earlier in the afternoon when they had some surrogates speaking on the stage. Those folks are all gone now. And it seems that the estimates that the campaign had originally put forward they thought they could see up to 40,000 people in this outdoor portion of the rally. It hasn't even nearly come to pass.
And so the question now is what's going to happen inside. Inside that rally area is still filling up. We can still see people actually streaming past us walking towards the BOK Center, presumptively those people are going to try to get inside the rally where there's still room for them to go. But it seems that the expectations for extraordinarily high turnout that the campaign had been had been touting for days now are really far below expectations.
They'd said about a million people that RSVP'd. Of course, RSVPs are not actual tickets. They're also not people in seats and it seems that more people than they anticipated perhaps are, in fact, concerned about being in such a large crowded environment during the midst of this pandemic, Ana.
CABRERA: And for good reason as we've been reporting, even six members of Trump's campaign staff working on tonight's rally have tested positive for coronavirus. What more have you learned on that front, Abby? PHILLIP: Yes. This is something that we learned just today and it's
not clear when exactly those staffers tested positive. But these are people who would have been here in Tulsa in the days leading up to this events trying to set up and arrange the logistics around an event like this.
And six of them have now tested positive for the coronavirus. The campaign says they will not be attending the event and that anybody who has had contact with them will not be attending the event, but it has really put a cloud over this entire event.
Lots of questions now about how effectively they've been able to contact trace these individuals to make sure they know who they'd been in contact with and then beyond that, what do we not know about who in this crowd who's attending this event that the thousands and thousands of people who are here who might also be positive for the coronavirus in may not even know it.
We, as we were coming in, experienced the same kind of screening that regular attendees would have experienced. They took our temperatures as we walked in. There were people offering masks, offering hand sanitizer, but I will note, Ana, the offer of a mask was also optional in addition to the fact that it is optional to wear a mask indoors in that arena.
CABRERA: OK. Abby Phillip, and we just got some news into CNN that the Trump campaign just sent out a text saying, let me read this to you, "The great American comeback celebrations almost here. Doors are open at the BOK Center. President Trump can't wait. There's still space."
So they're encouraging people to come on down. Thank you very much, Abby Phillip. We know you're going to continue to be our eyes and ears and bring us the very latest.
All right. Now, as we continue to follow this breaking news, we know the President has canceled his address to the overflow crowd because of a lack of an overflow crowd. But his indoor rally kicks off soon and that crowd gathered indoors is what is worrying health experts.
Stay right there. You're alive in the CNN NEWSROOM.
CABRERA: Welcome back and we're just a little over an hour away now from the President's address in Tulsa, Oklahoma, his reelection campaign rally and these are the images outside the event. They expected a huge crowd and as you can see, nobody is outside the President scrapping plans to make remarks outside before heading inside and his campaign just putting out a text to their supporters that there's still room for people to come and participate at this rally tonight. I want to bring in CNN's Chief Media Correspondent Brian Stelter with
us now. And Brian, the image is striking because we know from day one of this presidency ...
BRIAN STELTER, CNN CHIEF MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it is.
CABRERA: ... the President has been all about crowd size.
STELTER: Right. I always think about the inauguration crowd size controversy, which started because the President was watching CNN the next morning. And remember, the Women's March took over Washington the next day and what the Women's March did was it underestimated support and then it exceeded expectations.
What the President often does is he overestimates support and then he undersells, he does not reach those expectations. And Tulsa might be another one of those cases. Look, it's only, nearly 6pm there, let's see what happens.
But this might be another case of the President over promising and under delivering and that has been a narrative theme of the Trump presidency. We know that for the President, this entire presidency is about crowds, whether he's thinking about the crowd at his rallies or the ratings for his television shows. And we also know those people crowds have dissipated over time.
If you talk to reporters who cover Trump rallies pre pandemic, they will tell you it's always odd how people start to leave during the rally. I saw that firsthand in 2018, so we might be seeing another one of these cases where there's so much build up, Ana, there so much expectation, anticipation and it doesn't actually deliver to that degree.
In fact, the Democratic National Committee Spokesperson is already mocking Trump for not being able to deliver an overflow crowd to Tulsa. And it occurs to me, Ana, what is good for public health in this case is bad for President Trump.
It should never be that way. It should never be that way that what is good for public health is bad for the President. But in this case, what is good for the health of the community might be embarrassing to the President tonight.
CABRERA: I mean, we don't know exactly why people haven't shown up. Oklahoma is a reliably red state. Every county voted for President Trump in 2016 and yet campaign set very, very high expectations. They were the ones who were building it up to say that they had ...
STELTER: That's what I mean, yes.
CABRERA: ... more or around a million people who had RSVP'd for this event.
STELTER: Yes. This is kind of television 101 or politics 101. You want to set the bar low, so that you can easily clear it. You don't want to set the bar too high, so that you fail. And already the Trump campaigns put out a statement blaming protesters and blaming the media.
They say the media has frightened people away from this event by talking about the dangers of the pandemic and they say that Democrats or not Democrats, protesters have caused folks to have a hard time getting to the arena.
There's not a lot of evidence, not a lot of visible evidence of that, the protesters have been kept very far away from the arena's site. But that's going to be the narrative. They said it was the media's fault. It was the protester's fault that folks could not get there.
The reality is going to be more complicated that we are in the midst of a very dangerous pandemic and, yes, were there was their concern about people protesting and getting sick? Yes.
Sure, there'll be concerned tonight about people attending to getting sick, yes, perhaps that message was heated more than the President wanted it to be.
CABRERA: All right. Brian Stelter, good to have you here. Thank you. And don't forget Brian's show tomorrow morning at 11 a.m. Eastern here on CNN, "RELIABLE SOURCES."
Now, this Trump rally is in about an hour and that means I'm going to turn it over to Wolf Blitzer. Thank you for being here with me. We'll be right back. Stay with CNN.