Return to Transcripts main page

NEW DAY SATURDAY

U.S. Attorney Refuses To Step Down After Barr Tries To Push Him Out; CDC Forecast Projects 135,461 U.S. Deaths By July 11; Eight States See Highest Weekly Averages Of New Cases Per Day; Trump Moves Forward With Tulsa Rally Despite Health Concerns; Florida Reports Record Single Day Increase Of Nearly 4,000 New Cases; White House Press Secretary Won't Wear Mask At Rally: "It's A Personal Choice"; Death Of Rayshard Brooks: Officer Charged In Death Spends Weekend In Jail. Aired 8-9a ET

Aired June 20, 2020 - 08:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:00:00]

ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY WEEKEND with Victor Blackwell and Christi Paul.

CHRISTI PAUL, CNN ANCHOR: Clouds over Capitol Hill on this first day of summer. Welcome to Saturday and your weekend. We're always grateful for your company. This morning, as we look at Washington D.C., we know that the country's ongoing racial, political tension, the coronavirus pandemic, the President's response to all of it, all of those things are converging not in D.C. this morning but in Tulsa Oklahoma.

VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN ANCHOR: Yes. That's where the President will hold his first rally in months. Thousands of people are expected inside the arena and outside, and health experts worry that this could be a super spreader event for coronavirus infections. A Tulsa County has the most confirmed COVID-19 cases in Oklahoma and the State of Oklahoma is one of nearly a dozen where cases are up more than 50 percent this week over last.

PAUL: We're also talking about the story that's broken overnight, a standoff between Attorney General Bill Barr and a powerful U.S. attorney who's investigated a number of the president's associates.

The Justice Department announced the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York is stepping down. But that man, Geoffrey Berman, says he did not resign and he has no intention of doing so. During his tenure, by the way, Berman has overseen the prosecution of Michael Cohen, President Trump's former personal attorney, and Jeffrey Epstein. Of course, in his office is currently investigating Rudy Giuliani and two of his associates.

BLACKWELL: Let's bring in CNN's Kara Scannell. Kara, this comes late on a Friday night. Typically, when these news dumps, as they're call, come heading into the weekend. It's something that they really don't want you to see if it comes so late in the evening. KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Yes, Victor, that's a pattern that we have seen with a number of high profile cabinet positions in the administration and this one was no different, except that the person, Geoffrey Berman, said he's not going to resign.

So this all unfolded around 9:00 o'clock last night when Attorney General Bill Barr said that Berman was stepping down in early July and that he would be replaced. About two hours later Jeffrey Berman issued an extraordinary statement saying that he did not resign and he did not intend to resign.

In that statement 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."

And here's his attempt at removal comes as you know the President and Bill Barr have been somewhat frustrated with Berman's office. They have conducted those high profile investigations, including into Michael Cohen, into the Trump Organization, into Trump's inauguration and into Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani in the work he was doing in the Ukraine on behalf of the President.

There were efforts to, or at least discussions, to remove Berman in the fall, but those were set aside after Berman's office charged those two associates of Giuliani Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman.

Barr as Attorney General has kept a tighter leash on the Southern District of New York, which is well known for its independence. He is required and requested more frequent updates on cases from Berman. And Barr himself has raised questions about whether he is undercutting the usually non-political nature of the Justice Department.

[08:05:00]

There were a series of moves earlier this year with Roger Stone's case and Barr's office stepping into that. At the time, Geoffrey Berman - this was back in March, he was asked about the Southern District and their independence. Here's what he said then.

(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 offices operate.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SCANNELL: And so now we'll wait to see what unfolds in the next few hours and days. There's already reaction from Capitol Hill. Jerry Nadler, the Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee said he would welcome Geoffrey Berman to testify next week. And Chuck Schumer, the Senate Minority Leader issued a statement last night where he said that, "The late Friday night dismissal reeks of potential corruption in a legal process. What is angering President Trump, a previous action by the U.S. attorney or one that is ongoing." Victor, Christi?

BLACKWELL: Kara Scannell, thank you.

PAUL: Thank you, Kara. Paul Callan, a former homicide prosecutor in New York and a CNN Legal Analyst with us now. Paul so good to see you this morning. I want to expand a little bit on what we just heard there from Attorney Berman. Because the SDNY, and Kara mentioned this as well, is really regarded as one of the most independent prosecute that prosecutorial offices in the U.S. What power does Berman have to hold onto his position?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, they are considered to be one of the most independent officers in the United States. You know, there are 93 U.S. attorneys in the U.S., but I have to say the Southern District has always been the most prestigious and independent.

As a matter of fact, they even have a nickname. They're called the Sovereign District of New York, as if they're a separate nation. That's how independent they're often considered. I think the President is going to have a great deal of difficulty enforcing Mr. Berman out of office, because he came in under strange circumstances.

The President replaced Preet Bharara, who, as you know, is a CNN Legal Analyst and was the former U.S. attorney, with Mr. Berman. And Berman was kind of suspect as being too close to Trump, because he came out of the same law firm as Rudy Giuliani.

But legal professionals have come to respect Berman, because he started a lot of investigations, many of them touching on the president and his associates. And because he has not been approved by the Senate, a panel of judges in New York renewed his appointment as attorney general and he's supposed to remain in office until the Senate confirms a new attorney general.

So I think it Berman insists on staying in office, the President is going to have a difficult time forcing him out, unless of course he gets the Senate to approve a replacement.

BLACKWELL: Hey, Paul, let's take a few steps back and fill in the context here as we watch the chapters of this fill out into the late evening of what was announced that was not true - the response from Berman. And then let's add in what we've watched for the last couple of months, the President then firing or reassigning inspectors' general across several departments. What do you see in front of you when we look at the fuller context?

CALLAN: Well, I think that since Trump prevailed in the impeachment proceedings, he's really trying to clean house in terms of knocking out inspector generals who may be investigating aspects of his administration and now trying to knock out the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, who, of course, has the ability to investigate the Trump family, the Trump family businesses and not to mention other associates of the President.

There have been talk or had been talk that Giuliani was being looked at by the Southern District. Of course, his associate Lev Parnas was actively investigated. And Michael Cohen the President's personal attorney is in prison as a result of the Southern District investigating.

So, clearly, he's trying to get his own person into office, the President, in the southern district and it would look to a lot of lawyers like he's trying to control prosecutorial investigations of himself, which of course, would be completely improper.

PAUL: Paul Callan, always thankful to have your expertise and that you are willing to wake up early for us on a Saturday.

CALLAN: Thank you, Christi. Always my pleasure.

BLACKWELL: Thanks Paul.

So the CDC predicts that the U.S. will surpass 135,000 coronavirus deaths over the next three weeks. And this morning cases are rising in 24 states, at least eight of them are seeing their highest weekly averages of new cases per day since the beginning of the pandemic.

[08:10:00]

PAUL: And these new models suggest Florida is the next epicenter of the pandemic. According to officials there, less than 25 percent of ICU beds are even available. Polo Sandoval has the latest.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

POLO SANDOVAL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): From coast to coast, these are the states that seem to be going in the wrong direction. This week they recorded their highest seven day averages new COVID cases. In Texas, some local officials fear a rise in hospitalizations and death rates.

LINA HIDALGO, HARRIS COUNTY JUDGE: The spike in the hospitalizations is real and it's more dangerous than it's ever been.

SANDOVAL (voice-over): Oklahoma also seeing a steady COVID climb as President Trump prepares to pack an indoor arena in Tulsa that could hold up to 20,000 of his supporters. With masks only optional, there's concern that the rally will be a COVID super spreader as it violates nearly all the guidelines set up by the CDC.

But some cities are making masks mandatory. Starting today, Dallas is one of the latest Texas cities requiring face coverings for businesses. Violators risk up to a $500 fine. In the Houston area, local officials are pleading with people to put politics aside when it comes to covering up.

HIDALGO: The idea is not to politicize, to express full outrage to try and have a minute in the limelight. Let's work together. The evidence is clear. Face coverings prevent the spread of the disease. SANDOVAL (voice-over): Masks also a must in Phoenix, Arizona. It's the city's response to a massive jump in COVID cases across the state. Just look at the stats. Arizona saw record breaking numbers nearly every day this week. You look around this business district in the City of Tempe, there are plenty of exposed faces now wearing a mask.

CHARLES GBEKIA, TEMPE RESIDENT: I'm not wearing a mask. I think the masks are good, but I think they kind of act as a placebo to some extent.

SANDOVAL (voice-over): Another round of reopenings are expected in the days ahead. Perhaps the most notable and anticipated will be in New York City. It enters Phase 2 on Monday, allowing outdoor dining, the reopening of salons and barber shops as well as some offices.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO, NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK: If people are thinking about getting together with anyone they don't live under the same roof with, they need to really practice distancing.

SANDOVAL (voice-over): There is, however, a retail giant taking a step back. Apple announced its reclosing some stores in Florida, the Carolinas and Arizona, blaming the closures on the spike in coronavirus cases.

SANDOVAL: Exactly what's behind those spikes in other parts of the country it really depends on who you ask. The governors of Florida and Texas say that increased testing likely a factor, though that really does contradict what we've heard from epidemiologists here in New York City.

Those preparations are underway for reopening, Victor and Christi. It could just be about 48 hours before we see some of these sidewalks set up for that outdoor dining. It will slowly begin to help the city get back on its feet when it comes to the economy.

BLACKWELL: Yes. Polo Sandoval there for us in New York. Thanks so much.

PAUL: Mayor Rick Kriseman of St. Petersburg, Florida with us now to talk about all the happenings. Mayor thank you so much for being with us. What is your reaction, first of all, and your concern for the state of Florida right now and the predictions that are being put out there?

MAYOR RICK KRISEMAN (D), ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA: Well, I have a lot of concern. What we've seen, as you're 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 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 7 percent of positive tests. That has me greatly concerned.

PAUL: Do you attribute that to the fact that there is more testing or to the fact that perhaps there might have been some problems in reopening?

KRISEMAN: Yes. To argue that it's because there's more testing is really - it's a pretty silly argument. It's - what we've got is people who are not engaged in social distancing, we don't have enough face mask wearing that's going on right now. And with the reopening that we've had in the state of Florida, it's exposing more people to the spread. And so that's why we're mandating face masks in our city. We're mandating social distancing. Our governor is simply encouraging behaviors and that's just not going far enough.

PAUL: So what would you say to the governor?

KRISEMAN: I'd say you have a job to do sir. You represent the entire State of Florida and your job is to keep us safe and healthy. And while I understand wanting to reopen the economy, you've got to do it safely if you're going to do it. And we should have orders in place that mandate, not just simply encourage.

PAUL: I know that you do have mask mandates for businesses there in St. Petersburg. There are reports that you asked the city attorney to draft an order requiring all residents also be mandated for masks. And Tampa, which of course, is right near you, they have that that mandate and a $500 civil fine if you flout that mandate. Do you expect to replicate a fine such as that?

[08:15:00]

KRISEMAN: Yes. I expect to sign an order on Monday that will require any of our residents to enter businesses or indoor spaces in which - that are open to the public, that there'll be up to a $500 fine also for a violation of that.

PAUL: One of the things that's surprising about this, I think, to a lot of people is when Governor DeSantis said the median age for COVID cases in Florida is 37 years old. Did that surprise you?

KRISEMAN: Well, we've seen the same thing here in Pinellas County where my city is located. That 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's there in the evenings.

And our big concern is, while we're not seeing, thankfully, that age group being hospitalized or deaths in that age group. We're seeing it in our older population. It's that age group that then goes home or goes to visit family and spreads the virus to their family members who are more susceptible and who are hospitalized in greater numbers and are dying in greater numbers.

PAUL: I want to listen with you to Dr. Ashish Jha, who spoke with CNN about a mask mandate, no large gatherings and ramping up testing and tracing and isolation saying, those are keys. And the goal in all of this outside of just saving lives, which is obviously the biggest intention here. But let's listen to what he had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DR. ASHISH JHA, DIRECTOR, HARVARD GLOBAL HEALTH INSTITUTE: Shutdown is the most extreme version of what you need to do. And so what many of us in the public health community have been advocating is that let's do everything to prevent this shut shutdown.

So what are the things we can do? Let's make sure that a large gathering, especially indoors where people aren't wearing masks, let's not do that. Let's actually encourage, and I believe in mask mandates as a way to maintain public health. And let's ramp up testing and tracing and isolation, so we can identify cases and isolate folks.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: There's a lot of concern for jobs, for the economy, for mental health as to what another shutdown might do. Are you confident that you can avoid a shutdown?

KRISEMAN: Well, that's why we're taking the action that we're taking right now. And I can't agree with that doctor more. He's absolutely right. 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.

PAUL: Mayor Rick Kriseman of St. Petersburg, Florida. Mr. Mayor I always appreciate your insight and taking the time for us. Thank you, sir.

KRISEMAN: Thanks for having me on again.

PAUL: So the president will rally with supporters in Tulsa, Oklahoma today. Health experts concerned that that could spark an outbreak of new COVID-19 cases there. How worried are his supporters though? They've been camping out together at this rally for days. We'll tell you what they're saying.

BLACKWELL: Plus, the move for justice has a lot of athletes becoming activists. We're going to talk with one star who is stepping away from the Pro League to commit to police reform.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:20:00]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have absolutely no concern whatsoever.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I want to be front row, front and center.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It just doesn't concern me at all.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PAUL: They're just not concerned. The handful of Trump supporters, they're echoing what so many already in line for tonight's rally in Tulsa. Really feel about that health risk from coronavirus.

BLACKWELL: Now, health experts warn that the rise in coronavirus case count in Oklahoma and the states nearby, plus a large crowd rallying in an indoor space could be - really offer the perfect ingredients for a super spreader event.

PAUL: Thousands are expected to pack an area in Tulsa Oklahoma, though, for tonight's Trump rally. A lot of them camping out. Look at this. They were in line to hold their spot inside. That it is a first come first serve situation. Thousands more planned to be among the overflow crowds outside. But inside that building is what a lot of health officials are most concerned about.

BLACKWELL: CNN's Sarah Westwood is following this from the White House. So tell us about how the president is using this to restart his re-election campaign?

SARAH WESTWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Well, Victor and Christi, many members of the campaign advisers to the President do view this campaign - this campaign rally tonight as a way for the president to reboot his re-election effort that was really put on hold for the past three months as the President has been dealing with coronavirus.

This is the first rally that he will be holding in more than three months. And there's a recognition among the President's advisers that the political landscape really has changed since the last time President Trump was out there campaigning for his re-election and it has not changed in his favor.

The economic numbers that were seen as key to his re-election, those have all but disappeared. And so now this rally will be a chance, according to sources who spoke with CNN, for the President to showcase what could become his new message which is that the economy is becoming renewed and that we will see some revival, some bounce back of those numbers.

But as you mentioned, public health experts are worried and the President even acknowledged in an interview with "The Wall Street Journal" earlier this week that it is likely that some people could contract coronavirus from attending his rally in those close quarters indoors. That's something that public health officials have expressly warned against.

Now the campaign is taking a number of measures, including handing out masks, that are not mandatory for attendees to wear. They'll be providing hand sanitizer and conducting temperature checks. But the tone for that mask wearing could be set at the top.

[08:25:00]

I want you to take a listen to White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany, who told reporters yesterday that she does not plan to wear a mask.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It's a personal choice. I won't be wearing a mask and I can't speak for my colleagues.

REPORTER: 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: Now even as some states continue to recommend that people not gather in groups larger than just a few dozen, there will be 20,000 people inside the Bank of Oklahoma Center where the main event is set to take place tonight. But local officials say they expect as many as 100,000 people to convene in that area. There'll be some overflow areas outside for attendees to also to view the rally. The President leaves from the White House for Tulsa later this afternoon, Victor and Christi.

BLACKWELL: All right, Sarah Westwood, live at the White House. Thank you, Sarah.

PAUL: So the officer who shot and killed Rayshard Brooks is waking up in jail today, as a Georgia lawmaker says he believes the charges against him are purely political. We have the latest on the case just ahead. Stay close.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:30:00]

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TREVOR NOAH, HOST, THE DAILY SHOW: My overwhelming feeling about the entire thing is sadness. Sadness, because I think a lot of people have tried to frame the story as a win or lose. You know people are like, oh, this is a victory that the cop was charged. This is a victory.

But I can't help thinking to myself that this is more losing. Not that this shouldn't have happened, but rather that people forget that this is what the entire movement is fighting for or against is two members of society could be lost to us. We've lost Rayshard Brooks, his life has gone, and this police officer could also lose his life.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: That's the Host of The Daily Show, Trevor Noah, reflecting on the death of Rashad Brooks in Atlanta, June 12th.

PAUL: Noah also said, cell phone videos like the one in the Rayshard Brooks case are forcing Americans and people to see what really happens in society. The officer who shot and killed Brooks, by the way, is spending the weekend in an Atlanta area jail.

BLACKWELL: Yes. ex-officer Garrett Rolfe waived his first court appearance and sent his attorneys instead. Now this battle continues over the charges against him and another officer. Correspondent Natasha Chen is with us from Atlanta. There is one Congressman that says that he wants an investigation.

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. Victor. Representative Doug Collins says he wants an independent district attorney investigation, saying that the decision to charge these officers before the Georgia Bureau of Investigation has completed its report was a political decision, not a legal one.

The Georgia Sheriffs Association has also come out with a statement condemning the D.A. here. But the D.A. tells CNN, his office is independent and can make decisions regardless of what the GBI report produces.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHEN (voice-over): Former Atlanta Police Officer Garrett Rolfe waived his first appearance in court on Friday and is being held without bond. This comes one week after he fired the shots that killed 27- year-old Rayshard Brooks at a Wendy's drive-thru. A drive-thru filled with other people, including families with children.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I parked the car and I got out to kind of assess and talk with the other people who were in the drive-thru. You know the people behind me, I asked them mostly, did they shoot him? They shoot him?

CHEN (voice-over): These witnesses said they saw Rayshard Brooks having a long civil conversation with police before they heard Tasers and bullets.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Just kept screaming not again, not again and that they keep doing this.

CHEN (voice-over): The Fulton County district attorney has filed 11 charges against Rolfe, including felony murder and three charges against the other officer on scene Devin Brosnan. Attorneys for both officers have said they are not guilty.

DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Critics think that you overcharged here.

PAUL HOWARD, DISTRICT ATTORNEY, FULTON COUNTY, GEORGIA: Well I think that's untrue. But we did it based upon the evidence, Don. We had an opportunity to speak with three eyewitnesses. We also had a chance to talk with seven other witnesses who were present at the scene of the incident, but we also had eight videotapes and the tapes are of really good quality, so we had a great chance to see what happened --

CHEN (voice-over): Rolfe's attorney said, in his 25-year career he has never, "Seen a district attorney act so unethically without regard for his professional obligations in pursuit of re-election." Law enforcement sources told CNN, the charges prompted some Atlanta officers to call out sick this week, forcing the department to put major crime unit officers on the street in uniform to respond to 911 calls. The protests that began after George Floyd's death in Minneapolis reached a fever pitch in Atlanta after Brooks's death. While peaceful groups dominated the daytime demonstrations people at night have blocked freeways and set the Wendy's on fire. The other officer charged Devin Brosnan told MSNBC this was a tragic event.

DEVIN BROSNAN, OFFICER CHARGED IN DEATH OF RAYSHARD BROOKS: For my initial encounter with him, I felt he was friendly. He was respectful. I was respectful to him and I felt that this seemed like someone who potentially needed my help. And I was really just there to see what I could do for him and make sure he was safe.

BROSNAN: What's your name sir?

RAYSHARD BROOKS: Rayshard Brooks.

CHEN (voice-over): But critics question how a calm conversation for more than 20 minutes that night could suddenly escalate.

BROOKS: I just don't want to be in violation of anybody. I can walk. My sister's house is right here.

CHEN (voice-over): This is footage that Brooks's widow Tomika Miller told me she has not been able to watch.

[08:35:00]

TOMIKA MILLER, WIDOW OF RAYSHARD BROOKS: Do they feel sorry for what they took away? If they had the chance to do it again, would they do it the same way or would they do it totally different?

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHEN: There is a public viewing for Rayshard Brooks on Monday afternoon at Ebenezer Baptist Church here in Atlanta where social distancing and masks will be required. There will be a private funeral on Tuesday. Victor and Christi, back to you.

PAUL: Natasha Chen, thank you so much. We appreciate it.

BLACKWELL: So when the WNBA returns for a shorter season, one of its stars will not be playing. Coming up, I'll speak with Atlanta Dreams Renee Montgomery about her commitment to social justice reform.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:40:00]

BLACKWELL: Well, as professional sports leagues are trying to figure out how to start their seasons. There is one WNBA player who says she's going to sit out. Renee Montgomery, guard for the Atlanta Dream says she's skipping the remainder of the 2020 season to focus on social justice reform. And Renee is with me now. Rene good morning to you.

RENEE MONTGOMERY, GUARD, ATLANTA DREAM: Good morning. Thank you for having me.

BLACKWELL: So your tweet initially that announced this, and we'll talk about your longer write in "The Players Tribune," you said that, "Now is the time and moments equal momentum." What about this moment has led you to make this decision?

MONTGOMERY: I think right now in this moment there's a lot of people, businesses companies that are looking to do something. Like they know that a change needs to happen and people are looking to do it. They may not be like that in four months. So for me I'm like if we can just keep this momentum and keep this ball rolling, then then a lot can get done.

BLACKWELL: So you won't be part of the upcoming season? How long did it take you to come to this decision?

MONTGOMERY: Well I told my parents first, of course. And they told me to pray on it, think about it. So I would say like two weeks ago I told my parents, I called my head coach about four days ago. So I kind of let everyone know that needed to know that was close to me that it might affect. And then when everybody kind of gave me the OK, I was like, all right, I'm ready to tell everyone.

BLACKWELL: Yes. You know, you've wrote and I read this morning your piece in "The Players Tribune." You wrote about your experiences being a black person in majority white spaces for most of your life. And then the move to Atlanta. More than half of the people are black. Black people with economic and political power. How has that life experience inform this decision, beyond the specific moment?

MONTGOMERY: Yes. It was it was everything. Just to see how successful and how many minorities here in Atlanta are thriving, it gave you this sense of pride. And so now I know that I'm in Atlanta, I feel comfortable in trying to do it here. And, hopefully, it goes global and goes further. But I know Atlanta is the place to start because of those things.

BLACKWELL: So you won't be playing pro ball, what will you be doing to progress social justice?

MONTGOMERY: So I hope - so right now November - it's a simple concept. We have a timeline. If you start in November that's when elections are. You work all the way up there to educating people about why they should vote.

Making sure the polls are open and steady in a sense of we had a lot of people waiting five plus hours last time. That can't happen, because now some people might leave. So we have to be checking in, making sure are you ready. We know there's going to be a lot of people. We're just making sure it's smooth.

BLACKWELL: Yes. You described some conversations with coaches in which they asked you the question that I'm sure everybody who is watching, they consider, do you know what this could mean for your career? And you've had some time to think about it. What's your answer to that and how comfortable are you with that answer? MONTGOMERY: Yes. I mean, hopefully, it doesn't mean the end of my career. Hopefully, it doesn't mean anything other than this season. But if it does, I understand that and I'm ready for whatever happens, because I feel that strongly about what I'm doing.

BLACKWELL: You're right and this is how you finish the piece. "There is something deep inside of me that's giving me a lot of courage in this moment. Some might call it ignorant optimism, but to me it feels like hope, faith. Renee Montgomery, the best to you. Thank you so much for your time this morning. It's been a great conversation.

MONTGOMERY: Thank you for having me. And so if you're interested in more conversations like this, Don Lemon is taking on some really hard conversations about being black in America and the conversation that so many people black and people who are not are having in this country. This is a new CNN podcast, "Silence Is Not An Option." Find it on Apple podcast or your favorite podcast app.

PAUL: You know the pandemic has really hit sports hard. This week, a lot of major leagues trying to find a way back to playing. Major League Baseball hasn't even started playing but they already shut down all its spring training facilities in Florida and Arizona after at least four teams reported positive tests.

BLACKWELL: The NHL reports nearly a dozen cases it's own yesterday. The league had been hoping to restart the season in August.

PAUL: And the cases keep stacking up around college sports. More than a dozen major colleges have reported cases. Clemson, the latest, with 28 cases.

[08:45:00]

BLACKWELL: All this while President Trump takes a swipe at Dr. Anthony Fauci for his comments on the state of sports. The President tweeted "Tony Fauci has nothing to do with NFL football. They are planning a very safe and controlled opening."

PAUL: And you know restaurants have been hit hard by the pandemic as well. Many may never recover. But there's a diner in Queens New York, it was on the verge of closing its doors until it found some inspiration from the past and now business is booming. Good story for you next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[08:50:00]

PAUL: So are you physically returning to the office and wondering, all right, I don't know how to stay safe. Well, Dr. Sanjay Gupta has some ideas.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: If you can, it's probably always a better idea to take the stairs. But if you have to take an elevator, keep in mind, this is going to be one of the higher risk situations. It's, obviously, a small space. It's indoors. Try and find an elevator that's not that crowded. Everyone should face in the same direction to reduce the spread of the virus. And use something like a pen to push the button.

So it goes without saying you want to think about every surface you touch. It's got to be thinking about this constantly. Doors will likely be propped open so you don't touch the handles. Everyone's going to be disinfecting all their surfaces. This is going to be a very common thing.

Also, thinking about where you're sitting, and who's sitting next to you. You're going to want to leave space, obviously, this way, but also try not to sit directly across from someone, that's because you want to reduce the viral transfer.

There was a single floor in South Korea, according to this one study where 94 people got infected. That's what you're trying to avoid here. And by the way, this whole process I just described starts even before you come to work. Take your temperature at home and if you have any symptoms you should obviously stay there.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLACKWELL: Thank you, Sanjay. You know what. The challenge is going to be and you and I have on air had this difficulty and even off air, maintaining the social environment of work. We've been doing this show in separate rooms for months now and how do you maintain what people enjoy about work is sometimes that that socialization with their co- workers.

PAUL: It's hard at it. It - Oh, I mean we feel everybody's pain out there. It just has been - it felt very heavy and certainly very hard. And even for Victor you know all the other small businesses and the companies out there, the restaurants, I don't know about you, we've been frequenting some of our favorite restaurants just to try to make sure that they can stay in business.

BLACKWELL: So I went to my first restaurants, Leo and I went Tuesday.

PAUL: Yes.

BLACKWELL: Monday or Tuesday we sat outside and it was fine. It was fine. Social distant.

PAUL: Yes, yes.

BLACKWELL: So you know we took a step out there.

PAUL: Yes. But there are some restaurants that have just been - they've really been suffering during this.

BLACKWELL: Yes. So let's talk about this diner in Queens, New York. It's managed to stay open and rehire its employees by turning itself into a drive-in.

CNN's Bill Weir takes us there.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BILL WEIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): You've heard the slogan always open, well the Bel-Aire Diner in Queens hasn't locked their doors in 22 years.

WEIR: What was it like to realize that you had to shut down?

KALERGIS DELLAPORTAS, GENERAL MANAGER BEL-AIRE DINER: Oh man, it was scary, depressing, you know, we've been continuously open 24/7 for 22 years.

WEIR (voice-over): When pandemic business dropped 70 percent and they were forced to lay off 20 year employees, it looked like that iron streak would end, until a flash of inspiration from the past.

WEIR: So, what are you looking for? A blue Honda in the third row?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Blue Honda third row.

WEIR: I should have brought my roller blades. Oh look, there's two milkshakes going that way.

WEIR (voice-over): Welcome to New York City's first ever pandemic drive-in theater. At $32 a car patrons get films like "Ferris Bueller's Day Off." And after ordering online they get masked carhops.

WEIR: Have you ever been to a drive-in movie before?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, this is my first time.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, no I've never been to one.

WEIR: Welcome to the pinnacle of entertainment in 1955. Now, back in my day in order to go to a drive-in movie we snuck people in in the trunk so we wouldn't have to pay full price. Do you have anybody in your trunk?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We do not. A tip for next time.

WEIR (voice-over): To maximize sales they have two seatings or parkings, starting with dueling pianos or standup comedy.

ROBYN SCHALL, STANDUP COMEDIAN: Believe it or not, this is - this is not the weirdest thing I've done in a parking lot. WEIR: Very funny set.

SCHALL: Thank you. It feels so good to be doing standup live.

WEIR: I bet.

SCHALL: I'm like on such a high.

WEIR: Even though you can't hear laughter.

SCHALL: I did - I could see the laugh, I could feel it, it was a vibe. It was a vibe. And they would like flash their lights.

WEIR (voice-over): Tickets sell out in minutes. There are even scalpers on Instagram.

DELLAPORTAS: I would have never ever, every imagined like driving and then now we've become like Ticketmaster. I - I made a joke with someone, like oh, we're the Beatles now, we sell out - you know we sell out in five minutes.

WEIR (voice-over): Between this and a government loan they've hired back almost all of the staff. But equally important is how they've again become a hub of human connection, as neighbors cut off for months can finally share something in person.

DELLAPORTAS: Next door neighbors, they ended up in the same parking spaces, and yet they hadn't seen each other in seven weeks, and it was just like, oh my God. So, like really upbeat. People thank us constantly. It's an awesome feeling.

WEIR (voice-over): As the last few hundred drive-ins in the U.S. experience a reissuance, the Bel-Aire may be inspiration for other struggling restaurants, willing to turn an empty lot into profit and a much needed taste of better days.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Life moves pretty fast.

WEIR (voice-over): Bill Weir, CNN Queens, New York.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[08:55:00]

PAUL: Good for them.

BLACKWELL: Yes. That is creative. Doing what you can with what you have.

PAUL: Yes.

BLACKWELL: All right. Stay with us. We're back at 10:00 eastern. We'll talk about the president's rally with the Chair of the Oklahoma Democratic Party.

PAUL: "SMERCONISH" is with you next, though. We'll see you in an hour.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)