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Rally For Trump In Oklahoma; U.S. Attorney Leaving Office Immediately After Standoff With Attorney General Barr; Trump Blames "Left-Wing Mob" For "Desecrating History"; Health Experts Worry Trump Rally Could Be "Super-Spreader Event". Aired 8-9p ET

Aired June 20, 2020 - 20:00   ET


ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. This is a special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM.

Today, the president is in Tulsa, Oklahoma, at a political campaign rally that public health officials asked him to cancel and suggested, potentially, could lead to the spread of the virus which has already killed nearly 120,000 Americans in just three months.

But in a surprising development, turnout for the event has been smaller than expected. The campaign is blaming protesters, the campaign is blaming the news media for the crowd size. Clearly, not a full house. But it also comes on the heels of a tumultuous day, truly for the White House with questions over the handling of the firing of a top federal prosecutor.

President Trump is due to take the stage this hour in Tulsa. CNN is covering all the angles tonight with Abby Phillip, Ryan Nobles, Martin Savidge, Gary Tuchman. They are all in Tulsa for us.

Ryan, let me start with you. Earlier, the Trump campaign texted, there's still space. They wanted more people to show up, but there's still plenty of space right now.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Wolf. There have been people that come into the arena since we spoke to you last hour. But, as you can see behind me, this arena is definitely not full. Now, this is still a pretty good crowd by campaign standards.

It's hard to estimate exactly how many people are here. It is close to full but it is certainly not full. The entire bowl in the upper deck has yet to fill up and we're expecting President Trump to appear at any moment. Vice President Pence just wrapped up his remarks a few minutes ago.

And it's important to put this into context, Wolf. As I mentioned before, in terms of political crowds, this is a very impressive crowd, but it is not anywhere near the expectations that the Trump campaign, themselves, and the president, himself, set for this event. They expected to fill this entire 19,000 seat arena, and they also expected a tremendous overflow crowd. They said that somewhere in the range of a million people had RSVPed to come to the event, and the president said there could be as many as 40,000 outside. Well, that outdoor event never materialized. The president and the vice president chose not to speak outside. They pushed everybody that was outside inside here and it still wasn't enough to fill this venue.

Now, we're told that the president is here in Oklahoma. He's getting set to speak to this crowd. Just a few minutes ago, the vice president spoke, he was very energetic talking about this being the start of what he called the great American comeback.

But, again, Wolf, the Trump campaign was hoping that they were going to be able to demonstrate an enormous amount of enthusiasm behind his campaign and also make the point that the country and the economy were ready to reopen. And, at least by their own standards, they fell well short of those goals -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, they certainly did. Stand by.

Abby, you've been outside the arena all day. The campaign had planned, as Ryan said, a huge overflow event. They anticipated 10s of thousands of people. They didn't -- clearly, they didn't show up. That entire event was cancelled at the last minute. They're breaking down that stage right now.

Tell us what you've seen over the last several hours.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, just a few minutes ago, some crews came out here and started breaking down that stage, taking down the ballistic glass that had been put up, in expectation that President Trump would be speaking to this crowd here tonight.

Over the course of the last several hours, we watched as people walked in through the checkpoint that is just right here next to where we are standing and walked through this area. It never really got more than, you know, maybe a fifth full. It was very empty for most of this time.

They had some pre-programming with Trump surrogates, giving remarks and, sort of, trying to rile up the crowd. But, as time went on, the crowd actually got smaller and smaller. Eventually, it seemed that campaign staffers were pushing people into the indoor part of this event, because there were, clearly, not enough people coming out to this outdoor portion.

The imagery here that you can kind of tell, based on how it's set up, is that, had this area been full, they had said that they would -- were expecting 40,000 people, it would have looked like a sea of people in front of a stage.


PHILLIP: And in another kind of indication of how it seemed that this event was planned. As the president was flying into Tulsa this afternoon, we could see Air Force One flying low over the city. And, literally, over this arena, some of the people who were out -- still out here, perhaps a few dozen, cheered when it happened. But it was so few people, it would have been one of the moments, I think, had there been the thousands and thousands of people that were expected to be out here.

It's, clearly, a disappointment for this campaign, for a president who has been banking on crowds, who's been bragging that there would not be a seat empty. And that they would have 10s of thousands of people in overflow. And despite what the campaign is saying, in terms of protesters blocking entrances, Wolf, it's important to note, there are many entrances to this event, including the one that is closest to where we are right now for this overflow section.

As we were coming in, there were just a trickle of people coming in along with us. Not a huge crowd but, also, absolutely no protesters at all. We've seen no indication that protesters have been preventing people from coming into this event. People are coming in at a leisurely pace. But it appears that many people are simply choosing to be in the area for the environment and not choosing to come inside shoulder to shoulder with these packed crowds during this pandemic -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And most of the people inside are not wearing masks, even though they were available at the door as they were going in. Abby, stand by. We'll get back to you.

Martin is -- Martin Savidge is with us. You're with -- you're with the crowds protesting the rally over there in Tulsa. The Trump campaign is blaming protestors, blaming the news media. But the protesters, specifically they're saying, are blocking entry for people trying to get into the arena. Have you seen any evidence of that at all, Martin?

MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, if that is what the Trump administration is maintaining, then they will have to say that just 200 protesters had the ability to prevent 100,000 people from participating. And that's just not true.

There are protesters here. But compared to the demonstrations that this country has seen over the past few weeks, with no disrespect to those who are protesting, these are very small numbers. Maybe 175 people that are protesting. And there are a lot of people who are protesting also on the conservative side as well. They do fill up part of the street which people might have to pass down to get to the security checkpoint. But the sidewalks are still open. Security teams are still saying, you can pass by. You can come in.

So, it's clear that the protesters are not a major obstruction to anyone who wants to get in. And as Abby has already pointed out, there are other ways to enter the facility. This is the crowd. It's been, for the most part, orderly. They haven't done anything out of the ordinary. There's been, as far as we know, only one arrest, and even that person was released and allowed to go to the rally.

So, you can't really point to this and say, it's the whole reason that they didn't have the turnout they wanted to have. It was clear this morning, Wolf. We were there when the gates opened at 10:30 this morning local time. And, yes, there was a rush of people who had waited for days.

But, after that, it was evident then there weren't 100,000 people in the city as had been predicted. And, in fact, you would be hard pressed to say there were even 20,000 that could fill the facility. As to why? I don't believe Trump voters are scared away by protesters. I have spent a lot of time with them. This wouldn't cause them to stay away, if they really wanted to be here -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Martin, thank you very much. Gary Tuchman is with us as well. Gary, I understand you're at that outdoor stage where President Trump and Vice President Pence were going to speak to this huge overflow crowd which never, clearly, materialized. They're taking down that stage right now. Do people seem to be surprised by the turnout?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's a lot of surprise about that, Wolf. And here's an interesting story. We've been at this overflow area all day, and we were expecting to see President Trump and Vice President Pence speak up there. And, right now, as you say and as Abby said and Martin said, they are breaking down the stage.

Something out of the ordinary just happened. We were, actually, standing right next to the stage ready to deliver this report, and a secret service man came over to me and said, you have to leave. And we said, why do we have to leave? There is nothing going on here anymore. It's empty. And he says, because the campaign has asked you to leave.

They heard us talking about our upcoming report about how this was cancelled, this outdoor speech, by the president. And it appears that the campaign asked the secret service to ask CNN to get the heck out of there. So, that's why we're standing here right now but you can still see the stage and still see what happened.

One thing I want to tell you, Wolf. Like I said, we've been here all day. And I've been talking to people all day if they've seen any protesters. Almost everyone we've talked to haven't seen any protesters, even blocks away. But nobody saw any protesters when they went through security.


That wasn't an issue. As a matter of fact, one man told me, what are you talking about? There were no protesters there. Another man said, if there were protesters, the Tulsa police would've taken care of them. There were no protesters at the security area.

When we were here a few hours ago, Wolf, it was very crowded. It was a festive atmosphere. People were -- a lot of people said they didn't want to go inside. They wanted to hear the president speak here.

But, then, they saw it thinning out. The crowds went inside, most people without masks, I might add. We were up close and personal with everybody. I would say it was 10 percent at best mask usage. When you came in, you were offered a mask. It wasn't mandatory to take it. It wasn't mandatory to wear it. Most people made the decision not to wear it. But after a couple of hours, it got very empty here.

And one last thing I want to tell you, Wolf. The Trump campaign said they had a million replies to come to this. That number was never verified by anybody. But let's say it's true, a million replies. That means that there are about 980,000 people who cancelled. That's a large no-show rate -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, that's a huge no-show rate. Tim Murtagh, one of the campaign spokesman, told our Ryan Nobles, you know, Gary, and I'll read the quote, "Sadly, protesters interfered with supporters, even blocking access to the metal detectors which prevented people from entering the rally. Radical protesters, coupled with a relentless onslaught from the media, attempted to frighten off the president's supporters."

You're there. You're an eyewitness. Did you see anything along those lines?

TUCHMAN: Yes. Nothing -- there were no protesters near any of the security areas to come in. As a matter of fact, the security people were very kind and pleasant all day. It was nice talking with them. By the end of the day, they got kind of bored because few people were going through.

Now, the argument about whether the news media scared people. There's that possibility. That's not our job to scare people. But our job is to tell the story. I've been in Oklahoma all week. Tulsa county has the highest number of COVID cases since this all began. This is something people have to be careful about.

It's your right to inside there and get sick if you want to. It's not your right to come out and get other people sick that you encounter. Whether it's people you don't know or your parents or grandparents. That's an important story. It's a story we told. It could have affected people. There's no question about that.

BLITZER: All right, Gary, be careful over there. We'll get back to you. We'll get back to all of our reporters. We're going to be checking all the late breaking developments.

We're also continuing to monitor the president's first rally. He's expected to speak to a smaller crowd than expected. Still plenty of people there, but you can see the upper deck not very full. There's the president right there. We'll follow all these developments and much more of our coverage when we come back.



BLITZER: Clearly, an important day out on the campaign trail. Right now, I want to discuss with our Chief Political Analyst Gloria Borger, our Chief Political Correspondent Dana Bash, and our CNN Reporter, and fact-checker, Daniel Dale.

Dana, you've been doing some reporting. How much concern is there from the Trump campaign about the optics of this event, a large indoor event in a state with rising cases, six campaign staffers, advanced team testing positive for Coronavirus earlier. What are you hearing?

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That there was concern from the president, himself, even before it was clear that the crowd was not what the campaign and what the president, himself, had predicted and had promised.

And what the president was upset about, and our colleague, Kevin Liptak, had some reporting on this earlier, I was also told from a source who's familiar with the president's thinking, that he was very upset, as the morning and afternoon went on. Because of the intense reporting about the remarkable move that he made in firing -- well, first asking for the resignation of the U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York who has been involved in investigating his associates.

But then, also, obviously, firing him when that didn't go as planned. That the president was lamenting to -- according to the source who I talked to, was lamenting the fact that why people were upset about it. Given the fact that he has the right to do it, not obviously fully comprehending that just because he has the right doesn't make it right. And what he was lamenting was that it was overshadowing this rally that he was hoping would be the real reset for him with his sinking poll numbers.

Again, that was before what we see now which is a crowd that is much lower, much smaller than he wanted. As our colleagues out there were reporting, the overflow crowd, which they spent a lot of money and time and effort to build a stage for, didn't even materialize at all.

Look, if you look at those pictures, this is a very big crowd. But if you are Donald Trump and crowd size is the end all be all for you and you make a promise and it doesn't materialize, he has got to be seething right now.

BLITZER: Yes, he's not very happy for sure. Daniel, the president boasted all week about the expected high turnout for the rally in Tulsa tonight. But you can see, there are plenty of empty seats, especially in the upper deck right now.

They were -- they were projecting about a million people, supposedly, who wanted tickets to get inside. The arena could hold maybe 19,000 or 20,000 and there were supposed to be 40,000 or 50,000 at this overflow outside. There were maybe a few hundred that showed up for that. But what about the actual numbers? What do you see unfolding right now?

DANIEL DALE, CNN REPORTER: Well, I don't want to get into my own estimates, Wolf, but it's clearly far short of not only what the president campaign team said, but the president, himself, said. He said they would not only going to fill the arena with 20,000 or so people, but he said they would probably have 40,000 or so in a second venue he suggested they might need to use. As you said, they didn't get anywhere close to that.

This is a president who repeatedly lies that he has never had an empty seat. He says that over and over. And he said that even at events where they have had empty seats. And so, I'm curious as to whether that boast will persist, whether he'll make that ever again after tonight -- Wolf.


BLITZER: And, Gloria, what was the strategic reasoning for holding this state, the president's first political campaign rally in months since the Coronavirus pandemic really escalated, holding this rally clearly Republican stronghold?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, that's right. I mean, he won this state, Wolf, with 65 percent of the vote. And when they started planning this event, it looks like the COVID -- you know, they thought that the COVID line was pretty flat in the state of Oklahoma. As we all know, it has since spiked.

And so, if you're planning a rally and you want to make this the great comeback of Donald Trump, and the first in a series of campaign rallies and the president's excited about it, you want to go to where you know the president is quite popular. And, of course, they chose Oklahoma. It's a natural place -- it's a natural place for them to pick.

But, tonight, what we see is a real disappointment. And, as Dana was talking about earlier, this has got to disappoint this president who wanted this, you know, come out of the box to a huge sell-out crowd. And we know he started his administration by talking about crowd size, if you'll recall at the inauguration. And this is not empty seats, in the -- even if they are the bleacher seats, is not what he wanted to see. He talks about, you know, I'd like to see people at my rallies, together. He didn't want -- he talked about how social distancing could kind of interrupt that.

We're not seeing social distancing at this rally so far, Wolf. We -- what we are seeing are empty stands of seats in the bleachers that the campaign expected to be full. And the question I asked is, who is the president going to blame for this?

BLITZER: Well, we know. They're blaming the news media, Gloria. They're blaming protesters. The news media supposedly.

BORGER: Right.

BLITZER: Because we reminded people that there was a pandemic underway and it was getting worse in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

BORGER: I have a feeling he might blame his campaign manager. I don't know. Dana might -- Dana can weigh in on this but I'm just wondering whether he's going to look at the people around him and say, who's to blame?

BLITZER: Well, let me ask Dana. What do you think, Dana?

BASH: Well, listen. It was four years ago today that Corey Lewandowski, his first campaign manager, was fired, believe it or not. He was in the job for, you know, more than a year and he was fired. He's still in the president's orbit, but he is not the campaign manager.

That is Brad Parskale, who has been very, very out front, along with the president and others in the campaign, about the need to get -- and the hope and the expectation, more importantly. That's the keyword, expectation. That this would be such a huge event and a huge crowd.

Again, I want to emphasize. If you look at that crowd for any regular run-of-the-mill politician, that is a very big crowd. That's not what this is about. This is about setting expectations. And, look, there has been tension. There has -- there have been fights that our own Jeremy Diamond reported about between the campaign manager and the president. But my understanding is that they have a very good relationship.

And the most important part of this is that he has a very close relationship with Jared Kushner, who is a huge, huge influence in this campaign. Maybe the biggest influence behind the scenes, that is not really talked about very much and that is a factor that we can't forget.

BLITZER: Yes. That what I'm hearing as well. Everybody stand by. We're continuing to follow the breaking news this hour. We're going to have much more on our other breaking news story that could potentially overshadow this political campaign rally. One of the most important federal prosecutors in the United States suddenly fired. Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.



BLITZER: There's more breaking news we're covering here in THE SITUATION ROOM. A truly dramatic showdown between President Trump, his attorney general and one of the most powerful federal prosecutors in America has just ended after a standoff that began late last night. The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Geoffrey Berman, announced late today that he is leaving his post immediately, but only after firing back at the attorney general Bill Barr's sudden announcement last night that Berman was stepping down.

Berman said he wasn't going anywhere and showed up for work today. But after Barr then announced that President Trump was firing Berman and his replacement, at least for now, would be Berman's own chief deputy, Berman relented.

Let's bring in our Senior Legal Analyst Preet Bharara, who, himself, is a former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. He too, by the way, was fired by President Trump shortly after President Trump took office.

So, Preet, thanks for joining us. This was all very complicated, all very bizarre. What's your reaction to what we have all seen over these last several hours? PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: So, it was very dramatic and

also, unnecessary. You had a situation where the attorney general of the United States, Bill Barr, clearly and demonstrably, lied about what was going to happen to Geoff Berman. Geoff Berman independently appointed by the president through a process by which not confirmed by the Senate. And then, put into office on a permanent basis by the court, but who has an independent responsibility to administer the law fairly in other district.


BHARARA: Bill Barr said about him that he agreed to step down, and that was a lie. And I believe Geoff Berman over believing Bill Barr for a variety of reasons.

So then you have the standoff over the course of almost 24 hours, where Berman was saying one thing, and the Treasury of the United States was saying something else. And the Attorney General of the United States also was trying to put in place a bunch of things, including the intent to nominate to the President, the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission, and also as an acting U.S. Attorney -- the sitting U.S. attorney in New Jersey, who he said was Craig Carpenito, who he said was going to take over both the FDNY, I guess, part time, while also overseeing a very large and important office in New Jersey.

And there's some legal basis for Geoff Berman to say, well, I was appointed by the court. So you can't get rid of me, only the court can get rid of me. And I think when we were talking about this last night, everyone, it was unclear who had the better argument under the law. I think the combination of there being, you know, a fairly good basis to say that the President can fire a sitting U.S. attorney, even if he was appointed by the court like in this case.

That issue combined with, I think, an extraordinary retreat and concession on the part of the Attorney General, made the difference. The Attorney General sent a letter that had a lot of name calling in it and accused Geoff Berman of engaging in spectacle over public service.

But I think what some people have missed in that letter is that he took away, without mentioning, that he was doing so -- he took away the idea of imposing on the Southern District, the U.S. attorney from New Jersey and instead said they're going to operate along the normal -- in the normal course, like what happened when I was fired by the President.

The career principal was in the office, Audrey Strauss, the number two person in the office, is taking over as the acting U.S. Attorney. And as Geoff Berman said in his statement, saying that he would leave, that gives a lot of assurance to the office, a lot of assurance to the district and should give a lot of assurance to the public, that the cases will continue without interference.

And I think that's a substantial concession on the part of Bill Barr, and cause Geoff Berman, even though he might have had some argument and could have fought it out to stay, given the nature of his appointment, I think he cared about the office, the institution of the office and was satisfied that Audrey Strauss would continue the mission of the place that's been so for generations of folks who have led it and a tough decision probably for him, and probably the right one.

BLITZER: Yes. And as Jeffrey Toobin pointed out in the last hour, Audrey Strauss, who's going to be the acting U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York is highly regarded.

As you will know, Preet, Berman in the Southern District of New York, they were investigating. They have been investigating Rudy Giuliani. And under Berman, the SDNY has indicted two Giuliani associates kind of conviction and prison time for the President's former lawyer, Michael Cohen. Do you believe any of that has anything to do with the timing of the firing?

BHARARA: It's all speculation. It may -- it may be. It may be that the United States and Bill Barr are fed up with anybody who doesn't tow the party line. We've been hearing reports for some time, that they're not happy with Geoff Berman, we have the book by John Bolton that just came out in which Donald Trump himself personally said to President Erdogan of Turkey, you know, I don't have my people at the SDNY yet, and I have in my own instance, I'm aware of the fact that the President, you know, wants -- wanted someone who was loyal to him.

It's unusual to do that to somebody that you yourself interviewed, like Geoff Berman. It may be a combination of those things. It may be a specific case. I don't think we know; I don't think we will know. Or it could just been anchor.

Like the funny thing about all this is at the end of the day, if Trump cared about that, he didn't accomplish anything, because Geoff Berman's own handpicked number two looks like she's taking over the office. And I don't think that anything with respect to how they go about doing their cases is going to change.

And by the way, in another sort of at least lip service, if not more, in the letter that Bill Barr sent back to Geoff Berman, he invoked the idea that prosecutions should, you know, maintain their continuity in the U.S. Attorney's Office. And if anyone thinks -- if any supervisor thinks that there's going to be interference with the case, they're welcome to and encouraged to talk to the Inspector General.

So, to me, it was a weird play based on the lie by the attorney general of the United States, a retreat, and the Southern District of New York looks like it's in better shape going forward than it was as of last night.

And whether or not it's Rudy Giuliani case or some other case, I think we know by now the record is the president states doesn't like anybody who is not loyal, and who looks at his associates and doesn't do some bad stuff to the people who are his adversaries like Joe Biden or someone else, but we don't know for sure.

BLITZER: We'll continue to watch it together with you, Preet. Thank you so much for joining us. Preet Bharara, our CNN senior legal analyst.

We're continuing to follow all the breaking news this hour, the president holding his first campaign rally to a smaller crowd than expected. We'll be right back.



BLITZER: The day after Juneteenth, as we've seen massive crowds demanding racial justice all over the United States, the President Right now in Tulsa speaking in a rally.

I want to discuss this and more with Derrick Johnson, the President and CEO of the NAACP, he's joining us right now. Derrick, thanks very much for joining us. We've got lots to discuss. But I want you to listen to what the President said just a little while ago.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The unhinged left-wing mob is trying to vandalize our history, desecrate our monuments, our beautiful monument, tear down our statues and punish, cancel, and persecute anyone who does not conform to their demands for absolute and total control. We're not conforming that's why we're here, actually.


BLITZER: All right. So, Derrick, what do you think?

DERRICK JOHNSON, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF COLORED PEOPLE: It's very dangerous. What the President doing now is fanning the flames of racial hatred, anti-Semitic behavior, ABL, Color Change, and others, we are we have launched a campaign to get Facebook to take down white supremacy ad purchases.


But what he's doing right now is setting the stage for a very dangerous course between now and November. We all must stand united, and be careful that that this moment will not grow to be something else.

This is the type of speech that created the massacre in Emanuel, the shooting in Pittsburgh. We have to stand united. That is the most divisive racial hate speech that I've heard in a very long time and ever in my life coming from the person who occupies the White House. That is dangerous.

BLITZER: Well, he seems to be defending some of the Confederate statues that are out there. Is that your understanding?

JOHNSON: But my understanding is those Confederate statues, most of them were erected in the 30s and the 40s. When the Klan growth took place, when the South was seeking to reestablish his way of life, the heritage that he's talking about is a heritage of racial hatred, white supremacy.

So statues are individuals who took up arms against this nation as traitors, not people who stood up for this nation. What he's doing now is really what he's fanning the flames of racial hatred. And he can incite some courses of actions that we all should be aware of. This should not be tolerated.

BLITZER: You know, he strongly defends the names of some of the major U.S. military bases in the United States who were named after Confederate commanders, Confederate leaders, Fort Bragg, Fort Hood. He says, don't change those names because so many U.S. military personnel left those bases and went off to defend the United States in a wartime situation. What's your reaction to that?

JOHNSON: These are faces named after individuals who took up arms against the United States. Under any definition, that was a treasonous action. We should not celebrate that these are names of individuals who were defending the course of white supremacy and the institution of slavery that should no longer be honored. We shall be looking forward, not backwards.

BLITZER: Are you encouraged now? Do you think we are on the verge, all of us here in the United States about in terms of some major changes as far as race relations are concerned?

JOHNSON: What gives me hope is when I see individuals who are peacefully protesting, it looks like America is young. It's old, it's black, white, male, female.

What scares me right now is this president using that platform to fan this level of division. The clashes between these cultures can be a dangerous, dangerous course. We must be concerned at this moment.

BLITZER: Derrick Johnson, the President and CEO of the NAACP. Derrick, as usual, thanks so much for joining us.

JOHNSON: Thank you.

BLITZER: We're going to have much more and all the news unfolding right now including what the President is saying about the surging cases of the coronavirus here in the United States. We'll be right back.



BLITZER: Face masks, clearly, have been provided to Trump supporters at tonight's rally, but our CNN team inside the arena reports that most people are not, repeat, not wearing those masks.

Joining us now, our Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta and our CNN Reporter, Daniel Dale.

Sanjay, moments ago, we heard the President suggest something that seems stunning to a lot of us, but I want you to listen and get your reaction. Listen to this.


TRUMP: You know, testing is a double-edged sword. We've tested now 25 million people. It's probably 20 million people more than anybody else, Germany's done a lot. South Korea's that a lot. They call me they said the job you're doing. Here's the bad part. When you test stuff -- when you do testing to that extent, you're going to find more people, you're going to find more cases. So I said to my people, slow the testing down, please.


BLITZER: All right. That's a pretty outrageous, slow the testing down because you're going to find more people who have coronavirus who potentially could spread that virus without any symptoms, sometimes to other people, their moms, their dads, their grandparents to other people.

What was your reaction, Sanjay, as a medical professional when you heard the President just say that?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I mean, where to begin with something like this? Right? Wolf, I mean, first of all, the reason that we've been -- we've had to do testing is because we were so far behind in this country where we didn't pay much attention to this, didn't treat this with a sense of urgency, didn't test early on that this virus started to spread robustly around the country.

That's why it took more testing, ultimately, to try and get a handle on where this virus is. Just to give some context here, 25 million tests roughly, the United States has performed total in four and a half, five months.

The -- if you look at the Harvard School of Public Health, they say you need to be doing five million tests a day, by this point 20 million tests a day by middle of July, just to give some context here. So we're not doing nearly enough for what needs to be done in this country, number one.

Number two is there really is no correlation in the way the President is describing it between increasing testing and increasing cases, of course, you're going to find more cases.


The whole reason you do more testing is to find people, isolate them, slow down transmission, and decrease the number of cases. If you're doing testing right, that's the way it should work. We have not been doing testing right.

The final point is, and this is I guess, the one that is kind of makes you catch your breath for a second. But -- did he just say that I told people to slow down testing?

BLITZER: Yes. GUPTA: Is he suggesting that along the way, he said, don't test or slow down the testing because I don't want to see these increased number of cases? If so, Wolf, I mean, that's a travesty. That is a public health travesty. That is the one tool we potentially had to try and curb this pandemic, to curb the awful numbers that people have been seeing on their screen now for the last several months.

I mean, what did these other countries have that that count their number of dead in the hundreds, not the thousands or hundreds of thousands like we have, what do they have? They had testing. They did it, they actually got the numbers, they then isolated people, they did all the things that we should have been doing.

So if he's suggesting at this point that I've told people to slow down testing, I mean, that really makes your heart stop, Wolf, from a public health perspective, it's the only thing we really have to try and curb this pandemic.

BLITZER: That's -- it's really significant. And Daniel Dale, you monitor every word the President says, you're our fact checker. Clearly, they blame the increased testing for the increased number of confirmed coronavirus cases. They don't like to see these numbers going up in Oklahoma or in other states around the country in Florida, California, for example.

They keep saying, well, we're doing more testing, that's why there are more confirmed cases. But have you ever heard the President say what he just said in Tulsa right now, slow down the number of tests?

DALE: No, Wolf, that's the first time he's said it. This is a an accusation that his opponents have made suggesting that the President has made clear he doesn't like these high numbers and they've insinuated argued lames that he must have been interested in testing, and therefore the U.S. was slow to get off the ground with testing.

But that's never been proven. And this is another example where the President, you know, he says the quiet part loud, he just admits things and dares people to do something about it. So as Sanjay said, I think this is a remarkable moment for the President to say that explicitly.

Wolf, to do some more fact checking, the President also at this rally repeated what we call a lie, and that is his claim that he is the one responsible for getting the veterans choice health care program passed, that was signed into law by Barack Obama in 2014. Trump didn't create it. He also exaggerated, yet again, in claiming that he banned travel from China and Europe with the pandemic. He exempted the entire European countries and exempted citizens, permanent residents and many of their family members from both countries.

And then he told a very long story almost absurdly long story, making excuses for his halting walk down a ramp at the West Point Military Academy. He had some criticism questions over that. And he claimed that he ran down the last 10 feet or so. He keeps saying that. He didn't run, that's on camera. That seems trivial, Wolf, but I think it's another example of the president lying to Americans about something that they can see with their own eyes is just not true.

BLITZER: And I'm sure the President was very angry, Sanjay, earlier today when the campaign, the Trump campaign itself announced that six Trump campaign staffers have now tested positive for the coronavirus just ahead of tonight's rally. They were part of an advanced team that went to Tulsa to prepare for this political rally.

Give us a little sense of the potential six campaign advanced team staffers testing positive, potentially others have been in contact with them.

GUPTA: That's right, Wolf, I mean, that's the real concern. The big challenge with this virus, and I think most people get this by now, is that people can still spread it even if they don't have any symptoms. Hopefully they didn't have any symptoms because, obviously, if they had had symptoms, they shouldn't have been, you know, doing this event at all as advanced people or whatever role they were in, so.

But now, you know, you're left with these logistical challenges. I think you're alluding to, Wolf, who have they come in contact with. We know people tend to be the most contagious a day or two before they develop symptoms. So, they may be shedding virus right now significantly, who they come in contact with. Are they going to be quarantined? It sounds like they -- I mean, they should be, and I think they are going to be quarantined.

But all these sort of contact tracing that now needs to be done. Also, if they were working at the White House, Wolf, I mean, as we know, there's been a real concern at the White House. We -- I think the President's been getting tested every day. But if people around him also that are coming in contact with him not wearing a mask, also getting tested on some regular level, because that becomes a real security sort of concern, just like he would try and protect the health of the president in any other way, the Vice President, you would do the same with the virus, but it doesn't look like that's happening here.

We did the calculations, Wolf. If you take -- you take a look when we -- when we thought there might be some 20,000 people there, there's not that number there, so people should probably spread out in the arena since there's extra room so keep that physical distance.


But when we thought there was going to be 20,000 people there and did the calculations, we figured about 100 people would likely show up there that are carrying the virus, they probably hopefully don't know, in the sense of not having symptoms, about 20 of them, 20 percent are likely to be these sort of more super spreaders.

And in an environment like that, they could each spread it to 40 to 50 people, that's according to these calculations. So 20 people spread it to potentially 1,000 people, Wolf. So think about that. You walk into an event like that, a thousand people who are not infected before walk out potentially infected, go home, go to their communities, potentially spread it more. I mean, this is -- this is basic infectious disease dynamics. Everybody knows this. Everyone has cautioned against this. And yet, it's still happening.

BLITZER: And very few of the -- it's a large crowd inside, not a full house, but a large crowd and most of the people are not wearing face masks.

Sanjay, stay with us. Daniel, stay with us as well. We're going to continue to follow up this -- the President's first political campaign rally.

Also, there are new developments unfolding in Atlanta right now. Police issuing a warrant for the arrest of the person behind the arson of that Wendy's where Rayshard Brooks was shot last weekend. Much more of our coverage after this.