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Trump Says He Wanted to Slow the Testing Down on Coronavirus; Trump Heads to Arizona Where Cases Have Nearly Doubles in Two Weeks; Interview with Phoenix, Arizona, Mayor Kate Gallego (D) about Trump's Planned Event; Protesters Call for Justice After Man Killed by Los Angeles Deputy; John Bolton Says He Will Vote for Joe Biden. Aired 7- 8p ET

Aired June 21, 2020 - 19:00   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.

We begin tonight with President Trump's campaign now facing serious questions about whether it needs a reboot. Tulsa's fire department says attendance at last night's rally was just 6,200 people. The president's campaign strongly disputes the accuracy of that number. But no one is disputing that there were plenty of empty seats in an arena that can fit 19,000. And for a campaign that boasted of a million requests for tickets, the outcome was undeniably a serious disappointment.

Now the president's advisers are trying to figure out what went wrong to make sure it doesn't happen again. And of course, while the campaign worries about voter enthusiasm, there's another number which is far more troubling for the entire country.

The U.S. death toll from coronavirus is creeping closer and closer to an ominous mark, 120,000 dead. More than the number of Americans that perished in World War I. A catastrophic number and one that will only continue to rise.

It was just four months ago, at the end of February, that we saw the first death in the United States from the virus. The CDC is now actually warning that we could see -- we could see another 25,000 Americans lose their lives to this virus in just over the next three weeks.

And a very grim reminder that even as cities and states relax restrictions, this pandemic is far from over.

Let's begin our coverage this hour over at the White House where administration officials are playing defense on multiple fronts. A Trump campaign source telling CNN's Jim Acosta that Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump are angry at campaign manager Brad Parscale over his promises on the crowd size. And a spokesperson for Kushner disputed the report. Parscale declined to comment.

Let's go to CNN's Kristen Holmes. She's over at the White House for us.

Kristen, White House officials today are defending the president's remarks on coronavirus testing. What else can you tell us the latest developments?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, they're not only defending it, they're actually saying that he was joking around. And just a reminder here, as the country is nearing, as you said, this critical mark of 120 deaths from coronavirus, President Trump said last night that he asked his people to slow down testing.

Now an administration official told us last night that he was, quote, "obviously joking," and this is a defense that we've heard from the administration time and time again when President Trump says something that is very controversial. But, again, given the timing here. However, White House Trade adviser Peter Navarro double down on that narrative in an interview with our Jake Tapper. Take a listen.


PETER NAVARRO, WHITE HOUSE TRADE ADVISER: You know, it was tongue in cheek. Come on now. Come on now. That was tongue in cheek. Please.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: I don't know that it was -- I don't know that it was tongue in cheek at all.

NAVARRO: I know it was tongue in cheek.

TAPPER: He has said similar things for months.

NAVARRO: That's news for you. Tongue in cheek. OK.

TAPPER: He has said similar things for months.

NAVARRO: But, we got --

TAPPER: But he has said similar things for months that --

NAVARRO: We've got over 30 million people unemployed.

TAPPER: Go ahead.

NAVARRO: And we've seen over 100,000 people die because of the China Wuhan virus.


HOLMES: And one thing to point out here is that when you hear him say the China Wuhan virus, I do want to note that President Trump used "kung flu" last night during that rally. Another thing that Navarro told reporters later was a light moment. But one thing to point out here is how much backlash these comments about the testing are getting particularly from President Trump's adversaries who have long said that this was the case. That President Trump cares more about his appearance, meaning low coronavirus case numbers, than he does about the health of the American people, meaning getting those tests, trying to stop the virus before people are too sick to do so.

So no surprise here that we're already hearing from Democrats who say that these Democratic organizations, Joe Biden's campaign, has started to cut this, they want to put this on the air, they want to get that out there as part of their narrative as we head closer and closer to November.

BLITZER: Kristen, the president is set to campaign in Phoenix, Arizona, on Tuesday. Arizona has just seen coronavirus cases almost double over the past two weeks. So what are the expectations for that upcoming trip?

HOLMES: Well, look, we're going to have to wait and see. We have just gotten the schedule. We know he's going to be down on the border.


He's going to be doing a roundtable with these Border Patrol agents. He's going to be talking to them. Then he's going to be going to Phoenix and doing this other rally where he's talking to these turning point students, which of course is that conservative network. But a lot of questions still. We're going to be watching those numbers out of Tulsa. We're going to be seeing if there is any sort of increase in cases there and we're looking at the backlash of this last rally.

What are the numbers going to look like as we head forward? Again as you note, this is another place where there's a spike in cases and we can't stress this enough that even if there are 6,000 people, which is a low expectation for the Trump campaign as we saw last night, that's still 6,000 people who are exposed in an arena without a mask on which is thousands and thousands more than what the CDC and the administration's guidelines say should be the case.

BLITZER: Yes. Indeed. All right, Kristen, thank you very much. We'll get back to you.

Meanwhile, this coming Tuesday, as we just said, the president is scheduled to speak at a Students for Trump event in Phoenix. Right now Arizona has more than 52,000 confirmed cases and more than 1300 coronavirus deaths. Infections in the state have nearly doubled over the last two weeks alone.

CNN's Ryan Nobles is joining us right now live from Phoenix.

Ryan, this event comes on the heels of his Tulsa rally last night where attendance was clearly less than anticipated and you were reporting from Tulsa last night. So what more are you hearing from the Trump campaign?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, what we're hearing from the Trump campaign is a series of excuses to explain away this lower-than- expected turnout at the event last night in Tulsa. They blamed it on protesters intimidating Trump supporters as they were attempting to get into the arena. There's just not a lot of evidence that that actually took place. They're blaming the news media for hyping the threat of coronavirus inside the arena last night. They're even saying that children, parents and families were afraid to come to the event because of all of what they're describing as fear mongering leading up to it.

But they can use all those excuses that they want, Wolf. The simple fact of the matter is it was the Trump campaign that told us to expect a full house of 20,000 people inside that arena and then another 40,000 people outside. And it simply did not materialize. And so that is now starting to raise questions about what we should expect here in Phoenix in just a couple of days.

Now this event that the president is going to speak at, a Students for Trump event, this is something that's been in the works for quite some time. An offshoot of the Turning Point USA group which Kristen was talking about. Now this is a group that's not affiliated with the campaign. It's not affiliated with the White House. The president essentially coming as their guest.

So it will be their job to build a crowd here. But, Wolf, again, there's going to be these questions about the impact of the coronavirus here in Arizona and a mass gathering like this. You know, the cases are on the rise here in Phoenix and the city of Phoenix actually just implemented a mandatory mask law that says you must wear a mask when inside to cut down on the threat of coronavirus.

In fact, when we checked into our hotel here in Phoenix, they made us aware of that mandate and made sure that if we were inside, we had masks on. Of course the president has resisted wearing masks in public and we'll have to see, of course, at that event in Tulsa last night, Wolf, as you mentioned I was inside there, even though everyone entering the building was given the opportunity to have a mask for free, very few if any of the Trump supporters were wearing masks last night.

So there's a lot here on the line for the president heading into this event here on Tuesday. He was hoping last night was going to be the restart of this energy and enthusiasm behind his campaign. Perhaps we'll start to see it in a much bigger way on Tuesday night -- Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll see what happens. Ryan Nobles, thank you very much for that.

The Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego is joining us right now.

Mayor, thank you so much for joining us especially when you have so much going on in Phoenix right now. First of all, what do you make of the reports that we're hearing that this Phoenix mega church where the president is scheduled to appear on Tuesday, do we know -- apparently they did not know he was coming when it rented a facility to the group hosting the event. What's the latest on that?

MAYOR KATE GALLEGO (D), PHOENIX: We do understand that the Original Outreach did not mention who would be the speaker. But what I'm very concerned about is we are actually seeing the fastest rate of growth among our young people in the community and here it is a rally specifically focused on that demographic.

BLITZER: So what --

GALLEGO: Public health professionals in Phoenix are trying to tell young people to take this seriously.

BLITZER: So do you want this event canceled?

GALLEGO: I would ask the president to talk to his advisory council about, the coronavirus advisory team about whether it makes sense to come to a community that has seen a third of our COVID-19 cases in the last week and particularly young people are the ones where we're seeing the fastest increase.

I am trying to challenge everyone from athletes to celebrities to send the message to young people to take this seriously and I would love to have partners at every level of government saying this is not something that only those over 65 need to be worried about.


BLITZER: Well, just to be precise, Mayor, if they asked you, you would say, cancel this event, reschedule it down the road?

GALLEGO: I have tried to give the same advice to people hosting any type of large event, whether it's a political figure, a religious figure or sports. Right now the Centers for Disease Control does not advise large indoor events take place. This is a very concentrated environment. It is not safe right now to have any large events, whether it be the president of the United States or a large indoor sporting event.

BLITZER: Will everyone who goes to that mega church for that event with the president on Tuesday in Phoenix be required to wear a mask?

GALLEGO: Yes. The city council passed, as did our county, a requirement for face coverings.

BLITZER: Does that include the --

GALLEGO: We know --


BLITZER: Does that include -- Mayor, does that include the president? Will he be required to wear a mask?

GALLEGO: The requirement is that everyone who is within six feet of other people be wearing a mask. We would -- if -- look, we're not going to cite the president of the United States, but we would ask all our elected officials and every other type of leader to lead by example and to say we need to take this seriously. One of the reasons we have this growth in Arizona is complacency. We've had elected officials say that the worst was over a month ago. That was not the case and we are seeing records of the type we don't want to break. BLITZER: We know and you know this better than anyone, Arizona health

officials say coronavirus cases in your state have nearly doubled in the past two weeks alone. So how worried are you about people in your city and perhaps from outside the city traveling to Phoenix for this event?

GALLEGO: Our hospital beds have about 17 percent left in capacity. We're hearing stories about treatment in hallways, nurses who are exhausted, infection control specialists who don't have time to enter all the data. We are in a crisis situation. We need partners to help us make it better. We do not need to increase the spread in Phoenix.

BLITZER: Yes. It's a serious problem. They've said they recommended that people before they go to the event in Tulsa last night, they should get a test before they go. They get a test after they go. Would you recommend that to anyone who shows up for the president's event in Phoenix on Tuesday?

GALLEGO: Unfortunately, we don't have the testing capacity to make that possible right now. I am deeply concerned about the lack of access to testing in my community. I would certainly want everyone to be able to get a test, but right now the city is actually getting into public health even though we've never done it before because there is such a need for testing in this community.

BLITZER: And as of yesterday, as we noted, Phoenix started requiring people to wear masks and refusing to wear a mask -- a face covering could bring, what, a $250 fine? How would you enforce that at a political rally that's upcoming on Tuesday?

GALLEGO: We are not going to be focused on enforcement during the rally. But we would hope that our governor who is there can send a strong message. He believes in masks and he could be a great spokesman for telling the young people who are there to wear masks. But the best spokesman would be the president. If he told everyone at that rally it was important to wear masks, I believe they would do it.

BLITZER: So let's assume the president is watching us right now. What would you say to him?

GALLEGO: I would consider whether it's appropriate to have this event in Phoenix while we are increasing the amount of COVID in our community. But if you are going to have it, please send the strongest signals to everyone. They need to wash their hands, they need to wear masks and they have to stay home if there's any question about whether they are sick.

BLITZER: Well, it's good advice. Mayor Kate Gallego of Phoenix, thanks so much for joining us. Good luck to you. And good luck to everyone in Phoenix, and we'll of course watch all of this very closely.

GALLEGO: Thank you.

BLITZER: Meanwhile, there are pictures of live protests this hour in Los Angeles where protesters are marching against racial injustice. This the 27th straight day protesters have taken to the streets nationwide. We'll update you on that and all of the day's important news.

Much more right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.



BLITZER: For 27 straight days, protesters have marched in the streets across the country demanding an end to police brutality and racial injustice. Over in Compton, California, there are new calls for an independent inquiry into the death of a man killed by a sheriff's deputy.

CNN's Paul Vercammen is joining us right now.

So, Paul, tell us where you are and what things are like where you are.

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, they're heating up dramatically, Wolf. I'm here at the Compton, L.A. County Sheriff's substation. Officers from here on Thursday at around 6:00 fatally shot 18-year-old Andres Guardado. According to family members, he was working as a security guard at an auto shop. The sheriff's investigation continues. They're actively looking for video.

But so far, no officers have been disciplined and it's still unclear if the officers have been fully interviewed. The family members of Andres Guardado, they trace back to El Salvador. That's why you're seeing so many white and blue. They are livid and furious and asking for answers and I want to talk to one of the demonstrators right now to give you a sense for what the feeling is on the streets here in Compton.

And Omar, you were saying, to you, this really hits you hard as it's Father's Day.

OMAR CORLETTO, FRIEND OF FAMILY: Well, yesterday, I met with the father at the site where he was killed and he went into tears. And I can, you know, identify this pain as a father. I am a father of two as well. And it's a very sad Father's Day for him today, mourning the death of his son who all he was doing is trying to make some few bucks because he recently lost his job.


So it's a sad day for the family and we're here in solidarity with him and with the rest of the family and also to demand justice for his son.

VERCAMMEN: And really quick, come on in here, Dahlia. What would you like to impart to people today at this demonstration?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You know, in my mere two decades on the planet, I have seen too much suffering for my black and brown brothers and sisters, and we are here to demand a thorough investigation and justice for all the lives lost at the hands of police brutality. VERCAMMEN: Thank you so much.

So the L.A. County sheriff did come out yesterday, we should note, and they said they found a handgun on Guardado that hasn't, you know, been corroborated by the family. They said they never knew him to have a gun. But they said its serial number had been scrubbed and it had an illegal magazine on it. So this is an ongoing and developing story.

Back to you now, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. Paul, we'll stay in very close touch with you out in California.

Meanwhile, there's breaking news coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now. An endorsement, perhaps a stunning endorsement, for Joe Biden. John Bolton, the former National Security adviser for President Trump, says he'll be voting for the Democratic presidential candidate in November.

The admission comes in an exclusive interview with the "Daily Telegraph." Bolton saying, and I'm quoting him now, Trump does not represent the Republican cause that I want to back.

Let's bring back CNN's Ryan Nobles. He's covering the Trump campaign for us right now.

Given all the bitter things that Bolton says in his brand-new book, I guess we shouldn't be all that surprised, Ryan.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: No, I think you're right about that, Wolf. I mean, it is pretty interesting that John Bolton served in such an important position in the Trump administration just a few months ago as the president's National Security adviser before he was pushed out. It is pretty remarkable, though, that at this stage, that John Bolton has said that he's going to vote for Joe Biden.

Now of course he has put out this tell-all book where he has said a number of disparaging things about President Trump in the way that he handles the presidency. But I think it's important to point out, Wolf, that John Bolton is a lifelong Republican. This is someone that served under a number of Republican presidents. And we've seen some Republicans that don't necessarily have an affinity for President Trump just choose to sit out the election or maybe cast a ballot for President Trump with reservations.

Bolton is someone who the step he is taking here that is pretty astonishing is actually saying that he's going to cast a ballot for a Democrat for president of the United States. I mean, if you've told someone that back when he was serving during the George W. Bush administration, they will probably find that hard to believe.

Now we've reached out to the Trump campaign to get their response to this revelation from John Bolton. I would expect, Wolf, that they are not going to be surprised and they are actually going to push back pretty hard on this. The president has been very critical of John Bolton in the wake of this book's release. He's called him a liar, he said everything in the book is not true. He's also accused him of breaking classification laws, and even suggesting perhaps that he could be brought up on criminal charges.

So it's not as if they were in search of John Bolton's endorsement, but, still, the fact here, it's not a surprise that he isn't supporting Donald Trump. The bigger news here, Wolf, is that he is taking the step of supporting a Democrat for president. That is something that I think at the beginning of this year, few if any people would have predicted was going to happen -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. That's an important point, Ryan, and I'm reading the article in the "Daily Telegraph," the interview among other things. Bolton says this, "In 2016 I voted for Trump over Hillary Clinton. Now having seen this president up close, I cannot do this again. My concern is for the country and he does not represent the Republican cause that I want to back." He then goes on to say, "The president does not have a philosophical grounding or a strategy, the president does not know the difference between the national interest of the U.S. and the interest of Donald Trump."

That's more of what he says in his new book, "The Room Where It Happened." Copies obviously which are widely available by now.

NOBLES: Wolf, and I should point out to you that just in the last few seconds, I just received a text message from Tim Murtaugh, who's of course the communications director for the Donald Trump campaign. I'm going to read it to you now. He says, quote, "John Bolton has shown that he's willing to lie and disclose classified information to sell books as even former President George W. Bush has said about him, he has no credibility."

So that is the first response that we are getting from the Trump campaign to this revelation that John Bolton is going to vote for Joe Biden. And Wolf, not a surprise. As we've talked about before, they are no longer fans of John Bolton in the Trump world. They feel that his tenure as National Security adviser was damaging not just to the administration, but to the country as well.

So it's not a surprise that they're pushing back and also not a surprise that they don't seem all that surprised, that he's decided to come out in support of Joe Biden -- Wolf.

BLITZER: John Bolton will join me in THE SITUATION ROOM Wednesday, this coming Wednesday, during our 6:00 p.m. Eastern hour.

Ryan Nobles, thanks very much for that.


As protests over injustice enter yet another week, listen to how the president is responding to calls to remove Confederate statues around the country. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The unhinged left-wing mob is trying to vandalize our history, desecrate our monuments, our beautiful monuments. You want to save that beautiful heritage of ours. We have a great heritage. We're a great country. You are so lucky I am president. That's all I can tell you.




BLITZER: As the nation faces two crises that magnify our society's racial disparities, the coronavirus pandemic and widespread protests over police brutality and inequality.

The President returned to the campaign trail and rather than strike a tone of unity, President Trump doubled down on divisive rhetoric and racist coronavirus jokes. Ben Jealous is joining us right now. He is the former President of the NAACP. He is now the President of People for the American way.

Ben, thanks so much for joining us, and I want to get your reaction to the President's comments last night on the Confederate statues being taken down in so many parts of the country right now. Listen to this.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The unhinged leftwing mob is trying to vandalize our history, desecrate our monuments, our beautiful monuments.


TRUMP: 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, Ben. So what do you say to that?

BEN JEALOUS, FORMER PRESIDENT, NAACP: You know, our country stands for freedom and equality, and those statues stand for hatred and slavery. Republicans have defended them for a long time to speak to their base, and that's what you see him doing there.

But he'd be wise to call his friend here, Larry Hogan, who kept defending the statues until about two years ago, and he realized he had to switch his tone.

This country has given up on defending Confederate statues, precisely because they stand for hatred, and they stand for slavery.

BLITZER: Larry Hogan is the Republican Governor of Maryland. Some local governments, as you know, Ben, are actually taking down Confederate monuments. Officially some companies made Juneteenth a holiday. Are these steps from your perspective, enough to address systemic change? What more do you want to see?

JEALOUS: These are ultimately small steps, things that should have been done a long time ago. We have to transform public safety. We have to deal with the massive inequality in our country.

Whenever you see these types of uprisings, the spark is always police brutality. But what determines whether or not that catches blaze is inequality, and in these COVID times, we've seen inequality around joblessness and unemployment and housing and healthcare go through the roof.

That's what we should really be talking about as a country is how do we transform public safety? But also how do we deal with inequality head on.

BLITZER: The President's son, Eric Trump also spoke about the Black Lives Matter protesters at that political rally last night. Listen to this.


ERIC TRUMP, PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP'S SON: ... keep the moral fabric of this country because when you watch the nonsense on TV, when you see these animals literally taking over our cities, right, burning down churches. This isn't -- this isn't America. That -- that's not what Americans do.


BLITZER: So, animals. What's your reaction to that?

JEALOUS: You know, the President and his family lavishes in very danger -- very dangerous and divisive, racist rhetoric. And that you know, what Eric is doing there, shows you that. This is a family with a long tradition of racism.

Of all of the racist slumlords in New York City, the only one that Woody Guthrie ever wrote a song about was old man Trump.

And so, it's not surprising to see the Trump family do this, but what -- in this moment when we're, you know, rapidly approaching a hundred days before the presidential election, what this signals is that they're starting to give up on swing voters.

What this signals is that they're doubling down on the most racist part of their base hoping that that can save them, and if they keep doing that, what I think you'll see is that Joe Biden will keep rising.

BLITZER: Let me get your reaction with the President who was just tweeting a few minutes ago. I'll read you this latest tweet, "The Democratic House wants to pass a Bill this week that will destroy our police. Republican congressmen and congresswomen will hopefully fight hard to defeat it. We must protect and cherish our police. They keep us safe."

What's your reaction to that?

JEALOUS: Now, this is again, him speaking to his base. He really needs to rise in this moment as President and really find some moral footing and try to pull people together. And yes, acknowledge that most officers are out there just trying to keep us safe, but also acknowledge that there's too many out there who are killing our neighbors, and who are acting in ways that don't represent our country or their community well.

Here in Baltimore, we've had years of anti-corruption trials, most of them are about law enforcement and not small numbers. And so people know that there are real issues. Yes, most officers are good people, but too many officers aren't and we've got to deal with that if all of us can finally be safe.


BLITZER: Ben Jealous, thanks so much for joining us.

JEALOUS: Thank you.

BLITZER: The President is falsely claiming the coronavirus is dying out. Right now, 23 states are actually seeing dramatic increases and experts worry Florida could become a new epicenter. We'll have the latest on that when we come back.


BLITZER: The total number of deaths here in the United States from the coronavirus is down nearly 120,000. That's all coming in the span of just four months. Twenty three states are not reporting higher new case counts than the week before, and a new model predicts Florida will become the next large epicenter of this pandemic.

Florida has seen more than 3,000 new cases in just the past 24 hours, but President Trump said at his political rally last night in Tulsa that he wanted testing slowed.


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: 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: CNN medical analysts, Dr. Celine Gounder is joining us right now. Dr. Gounder, the White House says the President was simply joking, but this is not the first time he actually said something like that. What's your take on this? DR. CELINE GOUNDER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, this is not the first

time, Wolf, as you say, back when we had the Diamond Princess, right outside of Oakland, he had said similar things about testing of those folks, that people who are coming off the ship.

This has been an ongoing pattern of not wanting to acknowledge the problem, not wanting to see the problem. You know, if I had a patient who came into the hospital coughing up blood, it would be like me saying, well, I'm not going to do a chest x-ray or a CAT scan on you, because that might drive up our lung cancer statistics for the hospital. It just doesn't make any sense.

You absolutely need to have your finger on the pulse of what's happening in order to address the problem.

BLITZER: And even if he was joking, this is no joking matter with 120,000 Americans are already dead from coronavirus, and many more unfortunately, going to die in the process as well.

There are some new warnings that more young people in southern states, young people in their 20s and 30s and 40s are testing positive for the virus. These are the states that were some of the first to reopen. What, if anything, can we learn from these new statistics?

GOUNDER: Well, I think it's reflective of a couple of things, Wolf. I think for one, older people and people who have other medical conditions, I think are probably being more cautious. And then you know, the young, we think we're invulnerable, we take more risks. Not that I'm not young myself anymore, but you know, I do remember those years and I think that's a lot of what you're seeing is that divide.

The problem is, if you're young and you're getting infected, even if you you're yourself, don't get that sick, you are bringing it home to your parents and your grandparents and other people you love in your community.

BLITZER: Yes, so sad indeed. As you know, in the past couple of days, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a warning that the death toll from the coronavirus here in the United States could actually reach 145,000 over the next three weeks. That's an additional 25,000. Right now, it's approaching 120,000 confirmed us deaths in the United States.

What do you think when you hear those numbers and by then, it's by no means over, it is simply going to continue in the weeks and months ahead?

GOUNDER: Honestly, to me this feels like massive medical malpractice on a nationwide scale. This is shocking. This is a completely preventable disaster. Other countries, similar developed countries for example, Australia, countries like Germany, Singapore, South Korea, they have been able to control the outbreak in such a way that they haven't seen this kind of scale of death, and it just doesn't make any sense to me.

We're a highly developed, we have the best scientists in the world, the best doctors in the world, the highest technology in the world. But this is really a question of political will and not wanting to see the problem and address the problem.

BLITZER: Dr. Celine Gounder, thanks so much for joining us. We'll continue obviously, our conversations down the road.

Meantime, John Bolton's new tell-all book hits bookshelves formally officially on Tuesday, but in a new interview, he makes a very surprised endorsement, one that most people in the White House will see as yet another betrayal on his part.



BLITZER: More of the breaking news this hour here in THE SITUATION ROOM. The former Trump National Security Adviser and longtime Republican, John Bolton now says in a new interview with "The Daily Telegraph," he'll be voting for the Democratic presidential candidate, Joe Biden, this November.

This revelation comes as Bolton's new tell-all book is set to release Tuesday despite unsuccessful legal challenges from the Trump administration.

Joining us now CNN global affairs analyst, Max Boot. He is also a senior fellow with the Council on Foreign Relations, and a "Washington Post" columnist.

So, what's your reaction to this news, Max?

MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: Well, I'm happy to hear it Wolf, because it's the logical conclusion of the devastating indictment that John Bolton has laid out against President Trump if in fact Trump is as incompetent, erratic and out for himself as Bolton asserts in the book, and as I fully believe to be the case, then there is no way you could possibly endorse Donald Trump for reelection.

But, you know, I have to give Bolton some credit here, I mean, he has gotten a lot of criticism, including from me, but, you know, I think he is doing something that's very hard because he is a lifelong Republican. He is campaigning for Republicans. He has been part of the Republican Party for decades, and here he is saying that the Republican President should not continue in office and he is going to endorse the Democrat. That's a huge step.

And that's something that nobody could have expected, you know, a couple of years ago.

BLITZER: Max, stay with us. I want to bring in our CNN legal analyst, Elie Honig, who's a former assistant U.S. attorney with the Southern District of New York.

Elie, I also want to turn to Bolton's controversial book, a copy of which we have, claiming President Trump may have committed obstruction of justice, listen to this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN BOLTON, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: The President said to Erdogan at one point, look those prosecutors in New York are Obama people, wait until I get my people in, and then we'll take care of this.

And I thought to myself, and I'm a Department of Justice alumnus myself, I've never heard any president say anything like that -- ever.

QUESTION: Do you see that is criminal? Do you see that as high crimes and misdemeanors?

BOLTON: I don't think I know enough about all of the circumstances. But I'll tell you, it did feel like obstruction of justice to me.



BLITZER: So Elie, what what's your reaction when you heard that?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, first of all, Wolf, it's absolutely outrageous. It is unconscionable to me. And I believe it is obstruction of justice.

For the President of the United States to make a promise or some assurance to a foreign leader that he will try to put a lid on or limit a criminal investigation being done by his own Justice Department, I've never heard of anything like that.

Look, it's obstruction of justice if you try to get one witness to change one detail of their testimony. Here, we have the President trying to take out the investigation in its entirety.

This is something John Bolton -- it's good that he's come forward with now, but he needs to be put under oath and he needs to say that in a more formal setting as well.

BLITZER: Max, what's your reaction?

BOOT: Well, it certainly sounds like there is a pattern of obstruction of justice. In fact, we know there is a pattern of obstruction of justice. I mean, all you have to do is read the Mueller report where he finds at least 10 examples where the evidence strongly suggests that Trump was guilty of obstruction of justice, and now Bolton is adding to those examples.

I mean, there's no question that, you know, obstruction of justice as a way of life for this President and he feels like he can get away with it because he managed to avoid getting convicted after being impeached by the House. And so he feels empowered to continue acting in this manner, which, you know, Bolton, I think has correctly identified.

BLITZER: You know, Elie, let me get your thoughts on the very controversial firing of New York's top federal prosecutor, the former U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Geoffrey Berman. Do you see this, basically, as a political move? When you heard what was going on over the past 48 hours, what was your reaction?

HONIG: Wolf, there's no question to me that this is a political move. There's so many unanswered questions. First of all, why did they want to remove Geoffrey Berman? It certainly was not because of competency. We know that because they reportedly offered him a high ranking job at D.O.J. headquarters.

Why announce this now? Why try to remove an appointed U.S. Attorney less than five months before an election? I've never heard of anything like that and just look at the cases the SDNY has brought against powerful people in the President's close orbit -- Michael Cohen, Rudy Giuliani, Lev Parnas, Jeffrey Epstein, Halkbank, the case we were just talking about with the Turkish bank.

So the motivation certainly is there. And I think there's some real serious questions that need to be asked and answered. But to me, Wolf, there's no question. This is an attempt to inject politics into the SDNY where I grew up as a prosecutor, which is famous for its political independence. There's a real threat here.

BLITZER: Max, do you have thoughts on this?

BOOT: Yes, no, I think it is a huge threat. I think, you know, the way the President is behaving is an affront to our democratic norms, an affront to our Constitution, and it's been going on for a long time. You know, I remember one his very first acts in office was to fire F.B.I. Director Comey because he wanted Comey to stop investigating what he called this Russia thing.

And unfortunately, you know, Trump has gotten away with it. I think what we've seen in the last week or so is there has been some pushback from our judiciary. The Trump administration has lost some cases before the Supreme Court.

What that shows is that the rule of law still does prevail to some extent, but it's truly embattled. And you can see that Trump with Bill Barr, his willing accomplice, they are assaulting the rule of law on a daily basis because they are trying to eliminate anybody within the Executive Branch who can provide any kind of independent oversight over the President, whether it's Inspectors General or Geoff Berman, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District.

This is a very disturbing pattern. It's really been enabled by the Republicans who refuse to convict Donald Trump when the evidence was so clear cut, it was guilt in the impeachment trial.

This is really on them. They have created this. They have empowered this. And you know, one of the really scary things in both his book is that he says that Trump has to some extent been restrained by the need to win reelection. So, can you imagine what he would do if you were to actually win a second term?

BLITZER: Yes. And very quickly, Elie, the way the White House and the President has responded to Bolton's book, what do you think?

HONIG: Oh, I mean, they clearly are terrified. The fact that they went to court and tried to get this book stopped before it came out, I mean, that is exactly what our First Amendment says the government cannot do. I think they tipped their hand there. I think they're very worried about the contents of that book.

BLITZER: Elie Honig, Max Boot, guys, thanks very much. Important discussion.

And note to our viewers, don't miss this coming Wednesday, President Trump's former National Security Adviser, John Bolton, he will join me in THE SITUATION ROOM. We'll discuss his new book and a whole lot more. That's Wednesday, during our 6:00 p.m. Eastern hour right here on CNN.

Meanwhile, the coronavirus is surging across 23 states right now, and nearly 120,000 lives have been lost here in the United States. But the President is still trying to downplay this threat and announcing a new rally this week.


BLITZER: Much more of our coverage right after this.


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BLITZER: 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.