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Trump Campaign Moves Forward with Tulsa Rally Despite Health Concerns; COVID-19 Hotspots Emerge Across Africa; U.S. Attorney General Tries to Oust Powerful New York Attorney; COVID-19 Diverting Resources for Refugees. Aired 3-3:30a ET

Aired June 20, 2020 - 03:00   ET




MICHAEL HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Hello and welcome live from the CNN Center in Atlanta, I'm Michael Holmes.

And coming up on CNN NEWSROOM, crowds gathering in Tulsa, Oklahoma, despite warnings that a Trump rally there could be a super spreader of coronavirus.

Refusing to step down, a powerful U.S. attorney who investigated associates of the U.S. president is in a standoff with the Trump administration.

And breaking point: we look at the plight of the displaced on this World Refugee Day. War and conflict made even worse by a global pandemic.


HOLMES: Health experts call it the perfect storm of disease transmission and an absolutely horrible idea. But President Trump's campaign rally will go on as planned Saturday night in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

People have been lining up for days outside the BOK Center. They will be given masks and will be given hand sanitizer but won't be required to use either. At least 20,000 people will be packed shoulder to shoulder for hours on end, maybe tens of thousands more outside.

That's the one thing the nation 's top infectious disease doctor says they should not do.

But the White House says, so what?


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: The best way to protect yourself and to prevent acquisition of and spread of infection, is to avoid crowds.


KAYLEIGH MCENANY, TRUMP CAMPAIGN SPOKESPERSON: It's a personal choice. I won't be wearing a mask.


HOLMES: Well, all of this coming as the state of Oklahoma sees a massive spike in cases. Just look at that chart. Also, the largest single day increase of new cases since the pandemic began. CNN's Ryan Nobles reports from Tulsa.


RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: President Donald Trump's rally here in Tulsa, set to take place on Saturday. This, despite a lot of concerns from public health officials here and of course, the overtones of the racial strife going on across the country.

We are here in Greenwood, which is the neighborhood where the 1921 Black Wall Street massacre took place. A lot of the folks, here on Saturday, celebrating the Juneteenth holiday.

The tone could be a little different on Saturday. There are protests expected, people coming to protest the president's appearance here and of course, we expect thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of supporters of the president to show up at the BOK Center where this will take place.

The campaign says more than 1 million people have RSVP'd for the event, perhaps 100,000 could show up. Only 20,000 can fit inside of the event itself, so, there is expected to be a big overflow crowd outside, the president expects to speak to that group.

But the concern is inside that arena. That is where 19,000 people will be packed in. Yes, they will get hand sanitizer, they will get a mask, all temperatures will be checked but there will be very little, to no, social distancing, at all.

That is what has many public health officials, even here in Tulsa concerned. But the president is committed to moving ahead with the rally, seeing this as the restart of his campaign, in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

They want to demonstrate that if they can pull this off safely, it is a sign that the country is ready to reopen and that will go a long way to helping his reelection chances --Ryan Nobles, CNN, Tulsa, Oklahoma.


HOLMES: Now Oklahoma isn't the only state with a new influx of coronavirus cases in this record-breaking week. Nick Watt with the latest.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Florida, Arizona, California, Oklahoma, scene of tomorrow's Trump rally, all setting records, seeing the most new cases in a day since all this began.

DR. ALI KHAN, DEAN OF THE COLLEGE OF PUBLIC HEALTH, UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA MEDICAL CENTER: We're in the midst of the greatest public health failure in American history and if we're going to continue to open up and not open up safely, we're going to continue to see increased cases.

WATT: These eight states home to roughly a third of all Americans right now seeing their highest ever average new case counts. Apple now closing some stores in Arizona, the Carolinas and Florida, the Phillies just shutdown spring training in Clearwater after five players tested positive.

This is not over. Masks work. Those are facts. But they are now politicized.


WATT: Take the governor of Nebraska, reportedly now withholding federal coronavirus emergency money from any county mandating masks and government buildings.

Dallas County, Texas, now mandating masks in the workplace, but the governor of the state won't. Orange County, Florida now mandating masks for all, but the governor won't.

KHAN: It's simple. No vaccine, no treatment, right? All you need is test and trace of good public health, combine it with good personal responsibility, masks, social distancing, hand washing. Put the two together and you can become New Zealand, go to zero cases in this country.

WATT: You heard that right. New Zealand routinely reports zero cases in a day. A small country, sure. So let's take Europe, a steep drop are now fewer than 5,000 new cases a day. Here in the U.S., nearing five times that and climbing.

DR. ASHISH JHA, DIRECTOR HARVARD GLOBAL HEALTH INSTITUTE: What Europe did differently is they stayed locked down a bit longer, a bit more uniformly.

WATT: Today, Florida started phase one reopening, there were fewer than 1,000 new cases reported in this state. Today, nearly 4,000, a new record high.

MELISSA MCKINLAY, COMMISSIONER, PALM BEACH COUNTY, FLORIDA: I don't think we can scale back how we opened, but we can simply slow down how we move forward and put these precautions in place, like wearing a mask.

WATT: The governor thinks the spike in cases is down to more testing, so does the president. But even his own adviser disagrees. KEVIN HASSETT, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE ECONOMIC ADVISER: There are about 18 states right now where the positivity rates are going up, which means that if the cases are going up, it's not just because you're doing more testing.

WATT: But the northeast is doing well lately. So pushing ahead with reopening today was the New York governor's last daily COVID briefing.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): Today, we are seeing the virus spreading in many places. More people will die. And it doesn't have to be that way. Forget the politics. Be smart.

WATT: And even more bad news for sports fans late Friday. The Toronto Blue Jays baseball team has also closed down their spring training facility after a player showed symptoms. The Tampa Bay Lightning hockey team also closed down after three players tested positive. And a PGA golfer has also now tested positive for COVID-19 -- Nick Watt, CNN, Los Angeles.


HOLMES: Well, Hawaii is another state that has had a surge in new cases in the past seven days. Earlier I spoke about this with emergency medicine specialist Dr. Darragh O'Carroll in Honolulu.


HOLMES: Alarming figures in a number of states, Florida, Arizona, notably, Florida breaking its one day record. Arizona, more alarming than most, the numbers there, going up 29 percent, higher than the day before.

What do these trends say to you?

What are you seeing in your own state?

DR. DARRAGH O'CARROLL, EMERGENCY MEDICINE SPECIALIST: What it says, is that I think we are all experiencing a little bit of a pandemic or isolation fatigue. You can expect a bit of that. We're all humans, we're all social beings and we are all going a little zany at home and wanting to interact with each other.

But we have to remember there is still a pandemic out, there the virus is still out there. And the more we interact, the more we give the opportunity for the virus to do what it does. And that is to transfer from person to person.

And we know this is a very, very, contagious disease. The more that we open up our economies too quickly, it might be a testament to one of our greatest strengths of this nation, as 50 independent states come together and make this great country.

But it could be one of our greatest weaknesses when it comes to a pandemic, that every, state and every municipality, has its own way and own opinions, on opening up. HOLMES: Indeed. I have to ask you about the president's rally on

Saturday. Our own Dr. Sanjay Gupta pointed out that in Oklahoma, COVID cases are more than double the previous week. Yet, there will be 20,000 people in an enclosed arena, chanting, cheering and in close quarters, breaking every single guideline issued by the Trump administration.

Some people say 100,000 people could turn up.

What do you make of what could happen and the decision itself to hold this?

O'CARROLL: It's curious. If we rewind to the last large upper respiratory illness pandemic, the Spanish flu of 1918, we went through the exact same issues we're experiencing now. People recommended masks, people protested against masks, saying it's against their liberties.

So it's a repeat of history and it is showing that if we look back to even the beginning of this pandemic, when South Korea had a huge outbreak that stemmed from a religious gathering, that was the beginning of their big wave.


O'CARROLL: So this could be another huge case burden for not only Tulsa but however many people come to Tulsa from across the country and I wouldn't say internationally but across the country and they could have higher rates than Tulsa does.

It's a bit late comparing apples and oranges when the Trump administration and President Trump's press secretary's pointing to, hey, we have lots of rallies and demonstrations already for Black Lives Matter movement.

Those were all outdoors and they were all in response to something extremely tragic. It is completely different when you put it indoors. We know that the major transmission points of this virus are when there is a lack of ventilation, air recirculating and that happens indoors.

So it's extremely frightening, for me, as an emergency physician, who could later see the acute cases of suffocating, blue and dying patients, coming at my doors, as a direct result of this. It's frightening, to be quite honest.

HOLMES: I can't imagine. I think people are not confronted with that. And if they don't know someone who's had one, it is easy to say it's all overblown, when it's not.

One thing, an area of particular concern, the high risk age group has always been or at least earlier on, 60 and above. And in many places, that is changing. There was a news conference with the Florida governor, where he said that the median age range now, over the past few weeks, it's 37.

What does that suggest to you?

O'CARROLL: That suggests it is likely the younger persons, in the younger age groups, who are moving about and contracting the virus the most.

We have always seen that the highest number of cases are in that middle age group. But it is not taking away that your highest risk of death from this disease or having very serious consequences from it are still in the older age groups.

That is really because your immune system reacts a little slower but also you have higher rates in comorbidities as you age -- diabetes, blood pressure, possibly obesity. So it's a reflection on that. Those haven't changed but the predominant people who are moving, around and contracting this illness, may be on the younger, skewing slightly.


HOLMES: Well, Brazil is now reporting more than 1 million cases of coronavirus and experts warn it could soon have more infections than the U.S. Brazil also confirming that almost 49,000 people have now lost their lives because of the virus.

And so far, the curve of infection showing no signs of flattening there. Cases are surging, not just in Latin America but also in South Asia and the Middle East as well. The map you are looking at there shows where deaths are going up the most from one week to the next.

Now the head of the World Health Organization says a record number of new cases was reported globally on Thursday alone. And he has a warning, listen.


DR. TEDROS ADHANOM GHEBREYESUS, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: The world is in a new and dangerous phase. Many people are understandably fed up with being at home. Countries are understandably eager to open up their societies and economies. But the virus is still spreading fast. It is still deadly. And most people are still susceptible.


HOLMES: Cases are also going up across the African continent, with Egypt and South Africa the hardest hit so far. The World Health Organization urging African leaders not to be caught off guard and warning that COVID-19 patients could quickly overwhelm their hospitals. CNN's Farai Sevenzo joins me now live from Nairobi.

And there are many countries in Africa that do not have the medical infrastructure to deal with a sudden uptick.

FARAI SEVENZO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Michael. I mean, that has always been the fear when COVID-19 arrived here. Remember as well that, even though Africa only accounted for 3 percent of the global total of those now affected, the World Health Organization, as you rightly said, the director for Africa said the cases are accelerating and take a look. There are 265,000 cases, she said, and 7,000 people have died. But let's mitigate that with the other side of it.

Before people talked about the health systems not being able to cope but the mitigating factor really was a real step up by African governments to introduce lockdowns immediately. And remember, of course, that those who were infected initially came from travelers and people who had been on planes.


SEVENZO: Now it's in the community. Today as well is World Refugee Day, Michael. And in the west of Uganda two cases in March, now they have got some 40 to cases. They look after refugees from Burundi, from the DRC and, of course, there is the other thing. At the moment planes have been grounded.

So the supply chain, for essential PPE testing kits and really been slowed down by this. It is the WHO's hope that more people will start getting tested. But at the moment it is the tale of 2 stories. The figures are accelerating but at the same time they have not reached those huge numbers that have been predicted long before.

And that's where we are at the moment. Whether or not African governments with their lockdowns and curfews can continue to protect their citizens in the face of this pandemic, Michael.

HOLMES: Well, hopefully they can keep it under control. Farai, good to see you. Farai Sevenzo there in Nairobi.

We will take a quick break. When we come back on CNN NEWSROOM, the U.S. attorney general trying to fire the New York prosecutor responsible for, yes, investigating several Trump associates. Why that attorney says he is not going anywhere just yet.




HOLMES: Welcome back. The U.S. attorney general, William Barr, has tried to make a late night shakeup, attempting to oust Geoffrey Berman. He is the powerful U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.

Berman, though not budging, yet and not accepting that he has been fired. The thing about Berman, he has investigated a number of President Trump's associates, including Michael Cohen and Rudy Giuliani.

"The New York Times" reporting that a person familiar with the matter the president Trump himself has discussed removing Berman. CNN's Evan Perez with details.


EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Manhattan U.S. attorney Geoffrey Berman is refusing to resign. The attorney general, Bill Barr, met with Berman in New York on Friday and asked him to step down.

But Berman says he's not going anywhere. Hours after the Justice Department announced that Berman was indeed leaving his office, Berman released a statement saying, in part, quote, "I learned in a press release from the attorney general tonight that I was stepping down as United States attorney.

"I have not resigned and I have no intention of resigning. My position, to which I was appointed by the judges of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.

"I will step down when a presidential appointed nominee is confirmed by the Senate."

The Justice Department says that the president intends to nominate Jay Clayton, the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission, to take over the office in the Manhattan U.S. attorney.


PEREZ: Berman's office has been overseeing a number of sensitive cases, including the investigation into the president's personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani -- Evan Perez, CNN, Washington.


HOLMES: On Friday, massive crowds gathered from New York to California to commemorate Juneteenth and the emancipation of slaves in the United States. The day came at a time when protesters have been denouncing racial injustice for weeks, marchers carrying signs reading, "We will not move on," and listing the names of people who have died in racially charged incidents.

Some people are calling for Juneteenth to become an official U.S. holiday. Congressman James Clyburn saying he will remember Juneteenth 2020 for this exact reason.


REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-S.C.), MAJORITY WHIP: The American people are beginning to communicate. We've been talking at each other, we've been talking past each other. All of a sudden, we seem to be talking with each other.

The value to communicate. So if anything that I'm going to remember about Juneteenth 2020, is the period of time when the American people finally began to talk with each other.


HOLMES: Meanwhile, the mayor of Louisville, Kentucky, preparing to fire a police officer involved in the fatal shooting of a 26-year-old African American woman back in March. Officer Brett Hankison is accused of blindly firing 10 rounds into the

apartment of Breonna Taylor as part of a drug sting. Taylor was killed when police broke down her apartment door and shot her eight times.

Taylor's family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit. Their attorney says news of the possible termination is good but it does not go far enough.

Driven from their homes amid a pandemic, when we come back, why the fight against COVID-19 is leaving traumatized refugees with few places to turn for help. We will be right back.




HOLMES: Welcome back.

June 20th marks World Refugee Day, meant to honor the courage and the sacrifice made by displaced people all around the globe. According to the U.N. Global Trends Report, released on Thursday, nearly 80 million people were forced to leave their homes in 2019 due to war, conflict and persecution. That is nearly 9 million more than 2018.

The report also notes that 68 percent of those who were displaced come from five countries, including Syria, Venezuela, Afghanistan, South Sudan and Myanmar.

The coronavirus pandemic, of course, making life even more dangerous and difficult for many of those refugees. CNN's Arwa Damon spoke to an uprooted Syrian family in Istanbul.


ARWA DAMON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Yimama's voice does not hint at the depths of her pain, a pain she fights to hide from her children.

"I'm afraid to have my children sleep next to me, because of the nightmares I have," she tells us.

"I wake up and find fingernail marks on my skin, because of the fear I experience in my dreams."

Yimama (ph) says she was in prison in Syria for over a year.


DAMON: She was sentenced to death and they only got her out by basically selling their home, selling belongings and paying a bribe.

DAMON (voice-over): When Yimama (ph) emerged, she was scared of everything: a door slamming, a car hulking. Her mother, Basma (ph), went to prison four separate times, endured


DAMON: She can't raise that arm.

DAMON (voice-over): Her ex-husband, Yimama's father, died behind bars. The Syrian government accused all of them to supporting the armed groups fighting the regime, the family says. They were arbitrarily detained.

When the family arrived in Turkey, both women received counseling from an NGO. That ended with the arrival of the pandemic. The walls started to close in. A family of 11, confined to just two rooms. There is no more work for Yimama's (ph) husband, the sole provider for the family.

DAMON: She says it's been three months, the landlord is coming, asking for rent but they have no idea where they are get the right money from.

DAMON (voice-over): They can't even afford baby formula for the twins and have to beg neighbors for diapers. The weight they carried from Syria, just grew heavier in Turkey.

For Yimama (ph), the stresses brought on by COVID-19 pushed her to a breaking point. She says, lately, I've been thinking a lot about killing myself. Her husband has hidden all sharp objects, he will not let her stay in a room alone.

The only support she can get is from the NGO therapist on the phone. Basma (ph) doesn't know how to help her daughter, she can barely help herself. She says she feels like a solitary planet, that is just spinning in endless pain -- Arwa Damon, CNN, Istanbul.


HOLMES: Malala Yousafzai is a Nobel Prize winner, of course, and advocate for human rights and girls' education and now, a university graduate. The 22-year-old earned her philosophy, politics and economics degree from Oxford this week.

She was just 15 when Taliban gunmen in Pakistan shot her in the head as she was on her way home from school. Now she is celebrating her hard earned achievement with some rest, tweeting, "I don't know what's ahead. For now, it will be Netflix, reading and sleep."

A remarkable young woman.

Thank you for spending part of your day with me, I'm Michael Holmes, this has been CNN NEWSROOM. "AFRICA AVANT-GARDE" is coming up next.