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Trump Blames Protesters for Keeping Crowds from Rally; Trump Calls Coronavirus "Kung Flu," "Chinese Virus"; Trump Says he Wanted to "Slow the Testing Down" on Coronavirus; Trump Proposes One Year Prison Term for Flag Burning; U.S. Attorney Leaving Office Immediately after Standoff with Attorney General Barr. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired June 20, 2020 - 21:00   ET




ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: 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.

Faced with a smaller than expected crowd in Tulsa, Oklahoma, tonight, President Trump is lashing out and he's blaming what he calls radical protesters. Listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Our incredible success in rebuilding America stands in sore contrast to the extremism and destruction and violence of the radical left. We just saw it outside. We just saw it outside. You saw these thugs that came along. These people, call them protesters, isn't it beautiful, it's so beautiful. So wonderful.


BLITZER: CNN is covering all angles tonight with our teams of reporters who are on the ground in Tulsa, Abby Phillips, Ryan Nobles, Gary Tuchman is there for us.

Ryan, you've been there all day. You've been inside this hall. Have you heard anyone discussing what the president is talking about?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: No, we haven't, frankly, Wolf. It was one of the first things out of the president's mouth as he came out here to speak. He's been speaking for almost an hour now. And he mentioned almost immediately this idea that there were protesters trying to prevent people from coming into the venue tonight. And that's something that his campaign has put out a statement as well.

We've had reporters all around this building today. We've had no reports like that. There's been no reports from local police or even the Secret Service. So, we're not exactly sure what he's talking about.

What we do know, Wolf, is that he is trying to downplay the size of this crowd. Now, this is an impressive crowd by campaign standards, but it is far lower than the expectations that the White House and the president himself put out. They expected this arena to be full. You can see behind me that there are seats that are not filled especially in the upper deck of this venue and there is no presence outside.

The president said that he expected some 40,000 people to fill an overflow crowd. He ended up not even giving a speech outside as well.

So, obviously, there were a lot of concerns about coronavirus. It's something many people have been reporting on leading up to this event. It's something that health officials here in Tulsa have warned folks about. The president also blaming the media for their reporting on this for being part of the reason that these crowds fell below expectations.

And I should also point out, Wolf, the contents of the speech here tonight. The president has talked about a number of issues and he spent close to 10 minutes explaining away his awkward walk down the ramp at West Point. And he's even blaming the media for that suggesting that he needed to walk gingerly down that ramp because he had saluted the cadets at West Point 600 different times. And that he was afraid that the media was going to essentially kick on him if slipped and fell down that ramp. It's kind of an awkward moment in the speech.

And as we mentioned, Wolf, he's been talking about it for almost an hour spending a lot of time attacking Vice President Biden as we would expect. And he doesn't look like he's wrapping up any time soon. Wolf?

BLITZER: Yes. And most of the people there inside, you're wearing a facemask, which is totally, totally the right thing to do, Ryan. But most of the people, I take it, are not wearing facemasks even though they were distributed when people entered that arena.

NOBLES: Yes, that's right, Wolf. You know the campaign talked quite a bit leading up to this, about the safety precautions that they were taking. They did offer every single person who enter with facemask. There were temperature checks at the gate as you walk in, sand sanitizer offered. But none of it was mandatory aside from the temperature check. And there were very few people that are rally goers that are wearing masks.

Here tonight, of course, the president behind me, he's not wearing a mask, neither did the vice president when he spoke earlier. And there's also a pretty significant congressional delegation here as well, Wolf. Most of the members of Congress not wearing masks. We should point out though the two senators from Oklahoma, Jim Inhofe and his colleague James Lankford. Senator Inhofe not wearing a mask. James Lankford is wearing a mask. So, there are some people taking up precaution here in Tulsa tonight. Wolf?

[21:05:01] BLITZER: Which is the right thing to do. All right. Thanks very much. Let's go to Abby Phillip. She's there in Tulsa for us as well. We know, Abby, you were outside. Remaining Trump supporters had been camping out for days. They wanted to be first in line to get into that arena, but it seems that beyond those early birds, not as many people showed up once the doors were actually opened earlier today. Tell us what you saw.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf. I mean, the expectations for this event were so extraordinarily high that it would have been really extraordinary had the campaign met their own projections. They said that they were expecting to see some 40,000 people outside in that space behind me and the overflow in addition to roughly 19,000 who were expected to be inside. Neither of those projections appear to have come to fruition.

Yes, there were people were lined up for days, the diehard Trump supporters. Some who came from all over the country who go to many, many Trump rallies on a regular basis. But the kinds of numbers that we were expecting did not materialize.

We saw over the course of this afternoon the doors have been opened for quite some time. People trickling into this area. They stayed outside listening to some of the pre-programming from Trump circuits, from some members of the Trump campaign, but then as I get closer and closer to the event, this space started to empty out.

So much so that by the time Vice President Pence was expected to be out here speaking to the overflow crowd, there was almost no one here. Almost no one in the crowd. Both the vice president and the president cancelled their appearances we saw as they dismantled parts of that setup including the ballistic glass that had been set up to protect President Trump when he was outside on that stage.

And now we're seeing people trickling out heading home even as the president remains on that stage. There are some small groups of protests. We saw a group sort of gathering over at this gate, nobody is being let in or out from this gate but they are outside. We couldn't hear them, but we could see them.

I do want to make one point about what the president is saying at this rally. We should remind folks we are here in Tulsa, Oklahoma. One of the reasons this was so controversial is because President Trump is coming to a place that is of great significance in terms of this 1921 race massacre that occurred here 99 years ago. The president went on an extended rift about defending confederate symbols. And I think for the many people who I talked to here in this city, the protesters who were outside of this gates, that kind of rhetoric is the reason they did not want President Trump here in the city a day after the anniversary after Juneteenth which commemorates freedom of slaves in America. Wolf?

BLITZER: Yes, an important point, indeed. All right thanks very much Abby. We'll get back to you.

Gary Tuchman is in Tulsa for us. Gary, you told us last hour that the Trump campaign actually wanted you to move your camera. So, what's happening where you are now?

GARY TUCHMAN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I've been standing here in the overflow area all day. And for the Trump campaign the overflow area has been underwhelming. The hope was at this time there would be thousands of people standing along - on the street, clogging the street next to the BOK Center. But instead it's a virtual ghost town.

The idea was - you see that stage behind me, that's where President Trump was supposed to speak before he began the speech that's taking place inside right now with the security put up there. Looked like a plastic cube to protect him. A police officer told me it's for conventional security reasons and also for COVID reasons and that big screen TV that you see President Trump talking on right now live, people were supposed to be here, thousands of people watching the big screen right now. But as it turns out, we have about 15 to 20 people who are in this overflow area watching President Trump speak at the big screen right now and the president did not speak at all on the stage.

At some point, about four or five hours ago it was semi-crowded here as people went into the BOK Center. As people came into this area today, they were offered a mask. You did not have to take it. Most people seemed not to take it. Even fewer people seemed to wear it. My rough estimate, I was trying to count as the people on line, one out of every 10 people seemed to be wearing a mask.

There were a number of people we saw here, Wolf, especially parents and grandparents, children who just wanted to be here in the overflow area. They were looking forward to see the president speak here and looking forward to watch him on TV. They don't want to go in there. They were a little concerned about the COVID situation. But once they found out that this wasn't going to happen. They, too, left. Wolf?

BLITZER: It's an interesting development because the expectations as far as the campaign was concerned, were enormous. A full house, 20,000 - 19,000 or 20,000 people inside. We see huge numbers of the upper deck especially empty right now. And then they thought there would be what, 40,000 people where you are. And what I hear you saying, Gary, is what, only a few hundred people showed up outside if that?


TUCHMAN: Well, at one point outside there were maybe several hundred people. And there were people listening to music, they're watching TV, they were in the line to go inside the stadium. Then we saw it thin out very quickly. And that's what made us realize before we had any official word, there wasn't going to be an overflow in the overflow area. It seems very unlikely that President Trump is going to speak to 20 people. And then we heard the official word that the president decided not to speak, just to speak inside the stadium.

BLITZER: All right. Gary, standby. We'll get back to you as well. I want to bring in our analysts and our correspondents, more of them. Our chief political analyst Gloria Borger is with us, our CNN chief political correspondent Dana Bash, CNN reporter and fact checker Daniel Dale and our chief medical correspondet Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Also with us, our CNN political analyst April Ryan.

April, let me play something that the president said just moments ago. Listen to this.


TRUMP: Our incredible success in rebuilding America stands in stark contrast to the extremism and destruction and violence of the radical left. We just saw it outside. We just saw it outside. You saw these thugs that came along. These people, call them protesters, isn't it beautiful, it's so beautiful. So wonderful.

By the way, it's a disease without question, has more names than any disease in history. I can name, "Kung flu." I can name, 19 different versions of names. Many call it a virus, which it is. Many call it a flu, what difference? I think we have 19 or 20 versions of the name.


BLITZER: Let me get April. Let me get your reaction when he labeled the coronavirus what he just said.

APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Wolf, you know this is not the first time we've heard "Kung Flu." The reporter from CBS, when she asked the president that question a couple of weeks ago about China, the president said go ask them. But if you remember, we were told by staffers in the White House, in the press office. They called it "Kung Flu" at the time. So this is not new, but what is unfortunate is that this president is risking lives to say these things, to be who he normally is, to conflate issues, to bring race into a rally where it should not be in the way he's doing it. He is risking lives.

And I said it before and I'm going to say it again and I think I have the right to say this after covering four presidents over the last 23 years. He is not considered the commander in chief at this moment, the spreader in chief. Over what? Over this rally? You know some people, we're looking at the craziness of the fire festival. It's not the fire festival of political rallies, this is coronapalooza.

BLITZER: And Gloria, let me get your thoughts because when he brands the coronavirus with what a lot of people are going to see as a racist name. It's pretty awkward.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, it is. Well, it is. Wolf, look, let me -- it is a racist epithet and to hear it come out of the mouth of the president of the United States is disgraceful. And let me take a step back for a moment. The nation is facing the greatest crises perhaps in modern American history. You have the pandemic and you have these issues of race that the country is trying to grapple with at the same time and the president finally gets to the podium to give a speech to the American people and to his supporters but to try to bring in more supporters one would think and what does he do?

He uses racial epithets to talk about COVID. He said we shouldn't do more testing. He said I think the quote was, he told his people to "slow down the testing" on COVID. It was almost as if, Wolf, he was trying to make fun of COVID in some way. He was trying to be an entertainer up there on the stage and spent 20 minutes riffing on his walk down that ramp at West Point as if the American public really is focusing on that these days.

The American public wants to hear how this president wants to get the country out of the hole that it's in and instead this is what the American people were listening to tonight. I honestly think it's shameful that the president could not get up there and talk to the country about the problems we have and how he's trying to fix them.


BLITZER: And Dana, what's also shameful is the president saying maybe there's too much testing going on right now in the United States. And let me play that clip for you one more time. This is really, really - you know I think it's fair to say shameful. 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 has done a lot.

They called me, they said, the job you're doing -- here's the bad part. 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: It's hard to believe, Dana, he says slow the testing down because you're going to find more cases. That's why testing is so important. You want to find more cases to make sure the virus is not spread especially by those who are asymptomatic. They can spread the virus. That's why you want as many people as possible to be tested.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know it's one thing for the president to use racial epithet - as - as epithet as Gloria Borger just said. It's another thing to -- in addition to that, really downplay and make fun of the substance of an unprecedented pandemic that we're seeing right now, global pandemic, and one that he is at the helm of. And he is not getting very good marks from people who are key voters coming up.

Never mind what he just should do election be damned as the leader of this country right now. But in keeping in character for President Trump, he -- there's transparency in what he's doing. I mean, the fact that he said out loud maybe we shouldn't test is in keeping with the fact that he wants this thing to go away. He just wants to move on and he wants to will it away and that is what he meant by saying we shouldn't test because if you don't test, then we won't know anybody has coronavirus. It's like it won't be happening. It doesn't make it responsible. It is remarkably irresponsible but he's always willing to say the quiet part out loud and that was the case at this rally. BLITZER: Yes. I mean, awful. And Sanjay, I know this really struck a chord with you when the president of the United States says, too much testing. Let's slow down with the testing. Stand by. I want to get your analysis. We'll take a quick break. Much more of our coverage right here on THE SITUATION ROOM right after this.



BLITZER: We're continuing to monitor what the president of the United States is telling his supporters at a huge political rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma. A rally that's still very large but certainly there are plenty of empty seats as we have shown our viewers especially in the upper deck, by no means as large as the president had hoped the campaign billed. We've seen plenty of empty seats up above and there was supposed to be a huge outdoor overflow rally. That did not materialize either.

You know, Sanjay, what's very disturbing about what the president just told his supporters and anyone who was listening. There's too much testing going on. And we've got to slow down on the testing for people who might have coronavirus. It's pretty outrageous to hear that that you want to find out who has this disease and who might be able to spread it.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, no question, Wolf. I think that particular statement sort of took my breath away, probably took a lot of people's breath away, certainly people in the public health world. The idea that I told them to slow down testing. I mean, it's -- you can't think of a better metaphor for burying your head in the sand on this. I told people to stop doing colonoscopies, they're finding too much colon cancer.

I mean, it's just a level of ignorance that I'm dumfounded by five months into this now. The idea that we're still not doing enough testing and I told them to slow down testing. That's the only thing we really have, Wolf. Testing and masks. There's no super effective medicine. Obviously, there's not a vaccine. And yet, countries around the world, you know their death counts number in the hundreds, not the thousands or the hundreds of thousands like we have in the United States.

Why? Because they tested. They tested early. They did enough testing and they were able to isolate people and stop the transmission of this virus. To suggest now that I told them to slow down testing. First of all, who did he tell to slow down testing? Is this the Coronavirus Task Force that was told to slow down testing?

This is obviously something we're going to want to dig into a little bit. But this is suggesting a complicity in the worst public health travesty of our lifetime. I mean it's criminal from a public health perspective to say that that was the right answer. That was the directive given to people around the country to slow down testing.

We needed to increase testing. We've done 25 million tests so far in this country. We should be doing 5 million a day. We've done 25 million in 4.5 months. We should be doing 5 million a day. Now 20 million a day by the middle of July according to the Harvard roadmap to global health. I mean, that is how we get to the point where we can start to get our arms around this thing. Right now, we have a situation because of slowed down inadequate testing that, you know, is spiraling out of control, Wolf.

BLITZER: And let's not forget, Sanjay, you can correct me if I'm wrong, people who have no symptoms at all are totally asymptomatic, they may be young, they may be old. Although younger people are more likely to be asymptomatic than older people I understand. If you are asymptomatic, you can still spread this disease to your friends, your loved ones and all sorts of others you might come in contact with.


GUPTA: Yes, that's right, Wolf. I mean asymptomatic spread is definitely a particular concern about this virus. I mean for a lot of infections people will have symptoms, they're coughing, they're sneezing, they don't feel well. So, they're more likely to stay home hopefully.

With this not only can you spread this virus without symptoms, what studies have shown is a couple days before you start to develop symptoms you could be at your most contagious. So when we looked at just trying to model an event like the event tonight had there actually been 19 to 20,000 people in there, the expectation was about 100 people would show up to an event like that who are infected already.

Probably hopefully don't know it. They don't have any symptoms. But 20 of them are likely to be these big spreaders of the virus. And those 20 could spread it to another 40 or 50 people. A lot of numbers there but basically, it means another thousand people could get infected just to an event like this. And then, they go back to their communities, they go back to their homes and potentially spread it more. So that's one of the - that's one of the big concerns. That's why there's no way to do this safely, to do an event like the one we're seeing tonight safely.

BLITZER: All right, standby. I want to bring back in Daniel Dale. I know you've been listening very carefully to what the president is saying. He said something else, Daniel, about the NFL, the NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, what he was saying over the past few days. I think we have that clip. Let me play it for our viewers.


TRUMP: And explain this to the NFL. I like the NFL. I like Roger Goodell, but I didn't like what he said a week ago. I said, "Where did that come from in the middle of the summer? Nobody's even asking?" We will never kneel to our national anthem or our great American flag. We will stand proud and we will stand tall.


BLITZER: All right. Daniel, what's your reaction when you heard the president say that?

DANIEL DALE, CNN REPORTER: Wolf, the president keeps saying that no one even asked Roger Goodell to make the statement that he did. And that's just flat out false. Goodell was responding to a specific request by some of the league's most prominent black players. I mean, Patrick Mahomes, Odell Beckham, Jr. who had asked him to denounce racism against black people and to acknowledge that the NFL believes that black lives matter.

In fact, Goodell used verbatim, word for word, two of the sentences that the players had asked that he use. Now this is perhaps more trivial than some of the false claims that the president makes about things like coronavirus testing, but I think it's important because correctly or incorrectly -- intentionally or unintentionally the president is erasing prominent black Americans saying that they're nobody.

And Wolf, I think another significant false claim the president made during this segment of the rally, he said again that Joe Biden is silent in his basement. And that's just not true. Biden was in his home because of the pandemic between mid-March and late May. But since he emerged on Memorial Day, he has done a number of events. He met with the family of George Floyd in Houston, Texas. He's done a speech and a round table in Philadelphia. In fact, the president made this claim that Biden is stuck in the basement on Fox News the other night as Fox was rolling footage of Biden that day doing events in Pennsylvania. So, Biden, yes, was in his home for a while but no, he's very much not there anymore.

BLITZER: And I take it, Gloria, you're working on a long documentary on Joe Biden. We're going to be seeing more of him out there potentially on the campaign trail, although he'll abide with a lot more social distancing and other regulations of facemask as opposed to the president.

BORGER: Yes, he will. And I think we saw the personal and tasteless line of attack that the president is going to use against Joe Biden. And he had one particularly tasteless line about you know Biden confusing his wife with his sister. And this is a -- not a secret that the president is going to try and portray Joe Biden as hiding in his basement, as somewhat feeble and that's why it was so crucial to the president, not only because of his personal feeling but crucial to the president, that he had to go back and talk about how he walked down that ramp at West Point and how he held up that glass of water because while he is criticizing Biden for his age, the worst thing he knows that could happen to him, one of the worst things, is if he is being portrayed as weak, as he is trying to portray Biden. It's his narcissism of course that you know that makes him say, look, I'm strong. And I'm everything else. And Biden is weak. But he had to go over it over and over again because his line of attack against Biden is so personal. And he wants to be seen as someone strong versus you know someone who is weak.


BLITZER: Everybody standby. We have a lot more to assess, a lot more to discuss, including what the president had to say about supposed protesters tearing down monuments to the confederacy. That's what's happening. The president is railing on that. Much more right after this.



BLITZER: We're continuing our coverage here in THE SITUATION ROOM where the president has been speaking for quite a while. And Dana, he said this about those who burn the American flag. And I want to discuss this with you. Listen to what he said.



TRUMP: Two days ago, leftist radicals in Portland, Oregon ripped down a statue of George Washington and wrapped it in an American flag and set the American flag on fire. Democrat, all Democrat. Everything I tell you is Democrat and you know we ought to do something, Mr. Senators, we have two great senators, we ought to come up with legislation that if you burn the American flag, you go to jail for one year. One year.


BLITZER: Now in 1990 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that burning the American flag, as bad as it might be, was a form of free expression protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution. But now the president says he wants legislation that would say you burn the American flag, you go to jail for a year.

BASH: Right. I mean, that's the fact, which is very, very important to point out, but here is kind of the political reality of what the president is trying to do. And this is the first time we've seen him in this environment, of course, since the protests have been out there in earnest. And that is he kept using the term radical left and that's no accident. He's talking about that. He's talking about statues like George Washington, like Thomas Jefferson, or least that he's talking about the monument here in D.C. where he claimed that protesters were trying to desecrate that monument.

He is trying to stoke culture wars in a way that really might work for him frankly. And I'm not just saying that, that's not my opinion, that is something that Democrats, some Democrats I talked to are worried about, that this whole idea of taking statues down. I'm not talking about confederate leaders, military experts, or things like that.

I'm talking about people like George Washington who it might not play that well in places where Democrats really do need voters to get out and are worried and might really listen to something like the radical left is going to change this country. That is a possibility. And I'm sure we're going to hear a lot more from the president on that as he is given ammunition for that by some of the things that we're seeing in this country. It doesn't mean the anger isn't real, it doesn't mean that the reason for doing it doesn't you know - doesn't have a lot of logic to it, but that is the reality of the very real cultural divide that still exists and is playing out right now and it will clearly be a big issue on the campaign trail.

BLITZER: April Ryan is still with us. April has covered the White House now for, what, more than two decades, several presidents. What did you think about this cultural warfare issue?

RYAN: Dana is absolutely right. Basically at the end of the day the president is trying to rally his base, and we know that this president began his politics on birtherism, trying to delegitimize the first black president. And now he's doing this yet again in the midst of COVID-19. He's doing it yet again as his poll numbers are horrific. His internal numbers, he is so upset about from what we're hearing.

So, once again, he's trying to rally his base on the same issue. As he's talking about making it a law to ban burning the flag, we still are in a time in 2020 when there is no federal law against lynching. Lynching black people or any people. We are at a time when we're seeing black people say that it's time for reckoning. This moment is about reckoning.

And this movement is against any oppression over 401 years that they see and maybe not even see. So right now, this moment particularly as this president is in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the site of the burning of Black Wall Street, the destruction of black economics at its best and he's talking this. It's a slap in the face to those who believe in the democracy for all people, not just for some who don't believe in the browning of America.

BLITZER: All right. Everybody standby. Sanjay's still with us as well. I want to get his assessment of what the president was saying. He was very defensive about the suggestion that he wasn't necessarily all that strong at the end of his speech at West Point last week when he was walking down a ramp. Sanjay, hold your thought for a moment. We'll take a quick break. We'll play for our viewers what the president has just said and get your medical analysis.



BLITZER: We're continuing our coverage, what the president of the United States has been saying at this rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma. You know Sanjay, as all of our viewers probably remember a week ago when the president delivered the commencement address at the West Point Military Academy.

At the end he was walking down a ramp. Let me show or remind our viewers what happened. He was very cautious as he was walking down the ramp. You can see him at the very end just before the end, he picked it up a little bit as he was walking -- yes, that's at the very end. That's what -- and people were wondering is he OK? Earlier during the course of this speech, he wanted to drink some water. Let's show our viewers what happened then. He picked up a glass and we'll get that video for our viewers of him drinking the water. Here he's walking down the ramp. Let's show our viewers the drinking of the water.



TRUMP: Because when I was 10 feet short, I said, "General, I'm sorry," and I ran down the rest, right? I looked very handsome. That was the only good. I wouldn't want to run down the whole thing because the fall there would be definitely bad. So I took these little steps, I ran down the last 10, and by the way their tape, take a look. In almost every instance, it ends just before I run.


BLITZER: Sanjay, he's very sensitive -- any suggestion that he's not in perfect health right now. We didn't have that video of him raising the glass and then bringing -- there you can see it. Right there on the right part of the screen when he was drinking that water. It's a very, very sensitive issue for him.

GUPTA: Yes. Obviously, I mean, it's kind of remarkable to hear how he describes it now however many days later, still talking about it the way he is, saying he's handsome and running down the ramp. It's weird, right? I mean no doubt about it.

But you know I think from a medical perspective, you can't really speculate. You don't know what to make of this. I've been doing this job for 20 years, Wolf. We know less of this president's health than I think anybody I've ever covered.

I mean the initial doctors that were caring for him essentially had the letters that they wrote dictated to them by the White House. We had another doctor saying that the president could live to 200 years old. He has this emergency visit on a Saturday to Walter Reed, unscheduled, unannounced visit to Walter Reed on a Saturday in November. We never really know what that is all about.

I mean - so we just don't know. And I think that's the reason people are curious, when they see something that's unusual, that's why they ask these medical questions. But to be clear, it's speculation. We don't know. Nobody should diagnose, I think, via television. Nobody should be doing that. I don't know why these things -- why, you know, you see these behaviors after that West Point speech but you know I do wish and I do hope the medical teams around him, if there's a problem, are caring for him, and telling him that he should be checked or scanned or whatever needs to be done.

BLITZER: And providing that kind of information to the American public at the same time. He is the president of the United States. Sanjay, standby. Daniel, I want to get your analysis of something else the president said. We've been talking about it because it was pretty outrageous when the president said there's too much testing going on for the coronavirus. Let me play that clip one more time.


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 has done a lot. They called me, they said, the job you're doing ... Here's the bad part. 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: Slow the testing down. Now an official -- an administration official just told our reporters, told CNN, and I'm quoting this official now, "He was obviously kidding. We are leading the world in testing and have conducted 25 million plus in testing. He didn't sound like he was kidding, but what was your analysis when you hear the explanation that the president was, quote, "obviously kidding?"

Wolf, this is something we've heard over and over during this presidency after the president has made incendiary claims. The standard Trump three step. Trump makes an incendiary claim. An aide or ally claims that he was obviously just joking. And then they go back to Trump and he makes clear that he wasn't joking. We saw for example when he encouraged China to investigate Joe Biden, prominent Republican senator. That was clearly a joke. And then Trump went back and said, no, I think China might as well investigate the Bidens.

We saw this when Trump praised a Montana congressman for body slamming a reporter during his campaign. That was an assault. Trump praised it. Aides and allies at all clearly joking. And then Trump made clear, no, he liked how the congressman body slammed the reporter.

So you know I'm not in the president's head. I don't know what his intentions were there. But I can't say, one, is it was a pattern? And two, it's important to note that that supposed joke was very much in line with his indisputably serious thoughts that keeps repeating over and over, including tonight, that testing is quote, a "double edged sword" because it can make the U.S. look bad. So, if it was a joke, well, it's almost perfectly nauseous the serious stuff he's been saying for weeks now.

BLITZER: That's upper deck, nearly 120,000 Americans over the past few months have died from the coronavirus. Everybody stay with us. There's a lot more we need to discuss. There's more breaking news we're following today.

The firing of one of the top U.S. federal prosecutors and the back and forth when he refused to step aside. Stay with us. Much more of our coverage right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.



BLITZER: In addition to the president's return to the campaign trail tonight, there was a remarkable ouster of one of the nation's most powerful and important prosecutors, federal prosecutors. The drama began late last night when the attorney general of the United States, Bill Barr announced that Geoffrey Berman was stepping down as the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. Berman's team is investigating Rudy Giuliani, indicted two of Giuliani's associates, sent Michael Cohen, the president's former lawyer to prison.

Berman said he knew nothing about leaving and showed up for work today, ignoring Barr's decision. Only after Barr then said he convinced President Trump to order the firing himself, then Berman announce he would leave immediately.


Let's discuss with Gloria, Dana, April and Daniel Dale. Gloria, let me play the clip of what the president said upon leaving the White House earlier today for Tulsa. Listen to this.


TRUMP: I called up to the attorney general. Attorney General Barr is working on that. That's his department, not my department. But we have a very capable attorney general, so that's really up to him. I'm not involved.


BLITZER: But the attorney general said he was involved, he ordered it. What do you think?

BORGER: Well, because the attorney general, after a day, knew that he didn't have to authority to do what with he did, Berman went back to work and the only person really who has the authority to fire Mr. Berman is the president of the United States. So, then the attorney general said, I am doing this because the president asked me to.

So, the one time the president of the United States actually should have said yes, I was involved in the that, he didn't. And that causes confusion and complications. But I think the real question here, Wolf, in this entire story, is why? Why is he being fired? What did he do that so angered the attorney general and/or the president of the United States? Was it investigations of the president's friends? Is it perhaps his investigation into banking issues dealing with Turkey? We don't know the answer to this. Nobody has yet said why Mr. Berman needs to be removed from his job in the Southern District.

BLITZER: You know, Dana, and it's very, very awkward the whole thing coming, what, just a few months before the election.

BASH: I think awkward is a mild way of putting it. It is something that gives absolute credence and fuel to the fire of people saying, what is this guy doing? What he's doing is using his office in a way that maybe technically he can fire Berman or other people who are political appointees, but it doesn't make it right, particularly when the main reason is because he has been investigating the president's political allies, including Rudy Giuliani.

BLITZER: Yes, I'm sure that's a sensitive issue for the president himself. April, what do you think?

RYAN: You know, Wolf, this reminds me of an episode of a reality show we've seen before, namely James Comey. Dana and Gloria are absolutely right. But this is something that's probably going to cause the president a lot of heartburn during the day and at night. Because this firing now allows Berman to go to Capitol Hill and testify if he's called with all the information that he has. And mind you, that all the unsealed indictments still can move forward. So, just firing Berman does not stop a bad chain reaction that's set to come.

BLITZER: Daniel Dale, what about you?

DALE: Well, I just think it's remarkable, Wolf, how little trust we can place in statements from the administration. I mean, we have the attorney general telling us that someone had resigned, and then we had that individual tell us, no, he had not resigned. Then we had the attorney general say the president had fired him. Then we had to president saying, no, I was not involved. And so, it's just a - you know not a comedy of errors, but a tragic comedy of dishonesty where there are just nothing you hear from this president or the people around him that you can just take at face value.

BLITZER: Is it a familiar story you're seeing unfold, Daniel? Because you cover him very closely.

DALE: Yes. I mean, we hear the most trivial lies from the president. He lies about crowd sizes, about walks down ramps. But also, of course, about the serious stuff about matters of life and death, coronavirus, matters of justice like this one. So, it's the big stuff, it's the small stuff, you just have to apply intense scrutiny and put a critical eye toward literally every statement you hear from this administration.

BLITZER: Yes. We'll watch it very, very closely. Guys, excellent coverage. Thanks to all of you, Gloria Borger, Dana Bash, April Ryan, Daniel Dale, Sanjay. He's gone already. But of course, he is the best.

To our viewers, thanks very much for watching. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

I'll be back tomorrow night 7:00 p.m. Eastern for another special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM. CNN's special coverage of President Trump's rally in Tulsa, also our special coverage of the firing of Geoffrey Berman, the U.S. attorney -- now the former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York. And the coronavirus pandemic.

Our special coverage continues right now with Boris Sanchez in the CNN "Newsroom." Thanks for watching.