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THE SITUATION ROOM

John Bolton Tells Daily Telegraph He Will Vote for Joe Biden; Interview with Miami Mayor Francis Suarez about Coronavirus Crisis; TikTok Users Take Credit for Empty Seats in Trump Rally in Tulsa; Trump Resorts to Divisive Rhetoric as Nation Faces Pandemic, Protests; Spokesperson for John Bolton Denies He's Voting for Joe Biden; Virus Surging in Several States Including Texas and Florida; Trump Held Off on Sanctions Against Chinese Officials. Aired 8-9p ET

Aired June 21, 2020 - 20:00   ET

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


[20:00:00]

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.

Breaking news in the last hour, an endorsement from Joe Biden from a surprising source and what the president will see as an ultimate betrayal. John Bolton, his former National Security adviser, now says he'll be voting for the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee in November, Joe Biden, despite being a lifelong Republican.

This admission comes in an exclusive new interview with "The Daily Telegraph." CNN's Kristen Holmes is joining us right now from White House.

Kristen, first of all, what can you tell us about this reveal from Bolton and the reaction coming out of the White House?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we have reached out to the White House. We have yet to hear back. But I can tell you that this is an absolutely striking admission. As you said, Bolton is a lifelong Republican and a staunch conservative.

Now in this interview, I want to pull up exactly what he said because he talked about Hillary Clinton as well. He says, "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 does not represent the Republican cause that I want to back."

Now he insisted in this interview that voting for Biden was not betraying the Republican Party because he said he didn't believe that President Trump represented the party. He goes on to say the president does not have a philosophical grounding or strategy. He says there's confusion over the national interest and his personal interest, which is very dangerous for the country.

Now what makes this even more stunning is the history that Joe Biden and John Bolton have. Back in 2005 and 2006 then Senator Biden was a big part of scuttling John Bolton's nomination to become the permanent ambassador for the U.S. to the United Nations. It ultimately led to Bolton's resignation from that position. He of course had been nominated at a certain point by Bush.

So this complicated history here, Bolton saying I have forgotten all about that and I am voting for Biden over Trump. And as you said, it's going to be a stinging rebuke of the president. We await to hear what he has to say about it.

BLITZER: We'll see if any of the other former presidential aides make a similar announcement in the weeks and months ahead. We'll watch that closely.

Kristen Holmes at the White House, thanks very much.

Meantime, the U.S. death toll from coronavirus nearing what once seen like an unfathomable number. 120,000. That's more than the number of Americans who perished during World War I and it's a number that will continue to rise as the nation moves forward with a relaxed restrictions by all account.

In Florida, there's more evidence the state is becoming the new potential epicenter of coronavirus here in the United States. There are now more than 97,000 confirmed cases in Florida and more than 3,000 deaths in that state. But take a look at this. The -- I want you to see these shocking numbers at the same time. The Florida Department of Health says there were more than 4,000 new cases confirmed just on Saturday, the state's highest number yet and today another 3500, that's more than 7500 new cases in Florida this weekend alone.

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez is joining us now.

Mayor Suarez, thanks so much for joining us. And as you know, Miami- Dade County, Palm Beach County, the counties are home to a significant percentage of the people who have tested positive for the virus. Broward County as well, where Ft. Lauderdale is.

Are you worried about becoming potentially the epicenter of this coronavirus here in the United States?

MAYOR FRANCIS SUAREZ, MIAMI: We're extremely worried, Wolf. To put those numbers in context, when we all put in stay-at-home orders, the high water mark for Florida was 1300 cases. As you just mentioned, we had two consecutive days where it was almost three times the high water mark from I think it was late March, early April.

Now just in Miami-Dade County along, yesterday we had 930 cases, or over 900 cases which is very close to the high water mark that the state had when we implemented the stay-at-home order. So it's incredibly -- you know, it's incredibly concerning. We're starting to see our hospital numbers tick up. We do know that a great majority of the new positives are at the 18 to 35-year demographic.

But of course those people -- people in that demographic go home, they interact with their parents, with their grandparents, and so that's a tremendous concern because it's a vulnerable population.

BLITZER: Because even if they don't have major symptoms or even completely asymptomatic, they can still, Mayor, as you know, pass on this virus. As you say to their parents, their grandparents, other friends, brothers and sisters, as well. And that's really disturbing.

SUAREZ: Absolutely. Absolutely. It's a big concern and we're monitoring.

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Tomorrow we have another meeting, we have a Monday meeting -- Monday morning meeting with the Department of Health, where we look at the trends. We have our biostatistician and our epidemiologist analyze all the new information that we're getting. And we make decisions. I decided last Monday not to go into phase three, sounding the alarm bells for this new rise in the data that we were seeing. That upset some, you know, members of my community who were hoping that I was going to open up, you know, bars and nightclubs.

We're also going to begin cracking down on restaurants that -- you know, they're acting as if they're bars and nightclubs, and that's already begun this week. The counties already started to do it. The state is going to start doing it as well. We're meeting with mayors from a variety of different cities. Tomorrow to have a press conference to make that announcement.

BLITZER: Your governor, the Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is at least partially blaming the spike in cases in Florida on increased testing. Also he's publicly blamed migrant workers, communities, for spreading the virus. Do those kinds of distinctions matter right now?

SUAREZ: I don't think any of those distinctions matter right now. I think we have to look at the numbers wholly. You know, when we have 900 new cases, which is close to what we had in terms of a high water mark, you know, for the entire state in Dade County. I think those -- that's what's most significant. Our hospitalization numbers are what's most significant.

And we're starting to see an update on that, although tomorrow we'll know more about our, you know, ventilation numbers, ventilator numbers, as well as ICU numbers which are the critical numbers that we're looking at.

Right now we have not decided to go backwards. And understanding that, you know, we're in a situation where we have, you know, 40 million people unemployed in the United States, 400,000 approximately in Miami-Dade County. And those are our unemployed working for a fraction of what their salary is.

So, you know, we just don't know how long the government can sustain feeding people, which we've been doing in the state every single day and keeping people afloat. So it's a very delicate balance. We're trying to do it the very best that we can. But the numbers are very alarming. BLITZER: Mayor Suarez, have your medical experts, and I know you're

working very closely with your medical team, have they offered an explanation to you? The latest very troubling evidence that younger people seem to be getting sick in greater numbers right now. We're talking about people in their 20s and 30s.

SUAREZ: Yes, I think without a doubt when we started opening up restaurants, which was on -- we actually lagged behind Miami-Dade County. We're the last ones in all of Florida to start opening up restaurants with Miami Beach. And we started opening up our restaurants I think, you know, unfortunately, I think the society started to think that, you know, we're signaling the all clear.

And that's why last Monday I met with -- you know, and I had a press conference with Mayor Gelber from Miami Beach to say, look, we unfortunately are seeing a disturbing trend. We're seeing a continued uptick, a reversal. And if we don't act now and if we're not disciplined this could get out of control. And we're starting to see that evidence of that later in the week.

BLITZER: And as you say, you've already, what, officially delayed phase three reopening because of this large number of new cases. I understand Miami Police, and you know this better than I do, they've actually closed down several restaurants for violating the existing regulations. Will you bring back stricter measures if the numbers continue to rise in Miami?

SUAREZ: What I've said, Wolf, from the beginning is we cannot take that off the table. We know that when our stay-at-home order was implemented, we had a rise of cases at a pace of 35 cases per day. Now I'll know tomorrow what the rise is because there's obviously a rise. What the per case -- per day rise is. And based on that information, we'll be making decisions.

We know that once we implemented our stay-at-home order, we had a significant decrease and we're able to, you know, as they say stem the tide of the curve from continuing to increase. But we also have to weigh that against the impact on the economy. And we know that that's been something that's been devastating.

When we did it initially we're at full employment and things were going low. Now, you know, people, are desperate and times are very, very difficult. So we have to weigh that as well.

BLITZER: Florida's Governor DeSantis has issued several new advisories the state wants, what 20 million cloth masks to hand out to folks in Florida. A couple of questions, if Florida reopened too early and should there be greater requirements that folks when they were getting crowds, especially indoors where it's most dangerous to wear masks?

SUAREZ: We are required indoors. We also actually got a donation as well. Our 50,000 masks that we're going to be passing out. Tomorrow we're going to be talking to the Department of Health about is if they can give us an idea, almost like a heat map of where the clusters are so that we can go out into those community and give out masks. We also don't know to what extent the protests have influenced the

numbers as well. So there's a variety of factors that are coming together. You know, I think, you know, the delicacy here of course is making sure that, you know, the economy, which has been devastated as a result of COVID-19 and people who are basically, you know, either out of work, who are r making so much less than they were before, we have to take that all into consideration.

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Understanding that, you know, our government can't continue to prop up the economy like it has through some of the stimulations that it's giving at the beginning.

BLITZER: Mayor Suarez, thanks very much for joining us. We'll continue this conversation down the road. Good luck to everyone in Miami right now. I know these are difficult, very difficult days. Thanks for joining us.

SUAREZ: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Despite President Trump's campaign bragging that a million people RSVP'd for his event in Tulsa last night, only about 6,000 or so actually showed up in the arena. So what could social media platform TikTok have to do with that? We have details, stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: President Trump making his return to the campaign trail in Tulsa, Oklahoma, last night with a smaller-than-expected crowd.

[20:15:03]

Now the arena which holds more than 19,000 people only had about 6200 in attendance. That according to the Tulsa fire marshal. Last week the president boasted on Twitter that more than a million people actually requested tickets to see him speak, but that certainly was not reflected in Saturday's turnout.

CNN's Donie O'Sullivan is joining us now right now.

Donie, you've been doing a lot of reporting on this. We're learning that while the stunt organized on the social media platform TikTok may have something to do with all of this. Tell our viewers what you're learning.

DONIE O'SULLIVAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. The social media platform TikTok, which is extremely popular with teenagers here in the United States and all around the world, we should point out here that there wasn't a cap on the number of people that could request tickets for the rally. So it wasn't as if the TikTok users were blocking real Trump supporters from going to the rally in some way.

So the fact that the Trump campaign was unable to fill this 20,000- capacity arena isn't necessarily the TikTokers' fault. But I want to show you what this campaign looked like on TikTok. It involved a whole lot of teenagers, but also a grandmother in Iowa as well. Take a look at this video.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARY JO LAUPP, STARTED TIKTOK CAMPAIGN AGAINST TRUMP RALLY: If you've been paying attention to the news, you know that Donald Trump is planning on holding his first political rally post-quarantine on June 19th in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Now if you don't know why that's a big deal, I want you to Google two phrases, Juneteenth and Black Wall Street. You'll find out why people are really upset about this. Why it's a slap in the face to the black community.

Somebody on another TikTok post commented that he was offering two free tickets on his campaign Web site to go to this rally. So I went and investigated it. It's two free tickets per cell phone number. Because when you register, you have to give them your cell phone number. They send you a code, you put a code in, and your tickets are reserved for you.

So I recommend all of those that want to see this 19,000-seat auditorium barely filled or completely empty, go reserve tickets now and leave him standing there alone on the stage. What do you say?

KARA HANLEY, TIKTOK USER: Tickets are available by two for free on his Web site if you just put in your phone number, saying, BTS stand should do this but what I'm absolutely saying is that they should absolutely go and spin that Web site and take up all the tickets so you don't have any people at the rally.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

O'SULLIVAN: And that teenager there, Wolf, her name is Kara Hanley and you heard her calling on BTS fans. BTS, would you believe, is actually a South Korean band, a K-Pop band, and K-Pop fans are known as some of the most organized people on the Internet. And it looks like that some of them even got involved in this online protest against Donald Trump -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Donie, the Trump campaign is already dismissing all of this. Tell our viewers what they are saying.

O'SULLIVAN: Yes, so the Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale who had been boasting that a million people have registered to attend the event said in a statement today that, "Leftists and online trolls doing a victory lap thinking they somehow impacted rally attendance don't know what they're talking about or how our rallies work. Registering for a rally means you've RSVPed with a cell phone number and we constantly weed out bogus numbers. These phony ticket requests never factor into our thinking."

But if that is the case and if they really did weed out all these -- the bogus requests as Parscale described is, you know, that leaves the question still lingers of where were those one million people last night that didn't show up in Tulsa -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Interesting indeed. All right, Donie O'Sullivan, with us, reporting for us. Thank you.

As the country endures a cultural reckoning right now with Americans in the streets now for a 27th straight day demanding an end to racial injustice, the president was back out on the campaign trail and back to fanning divisions with some racially charged remarks.

We'll update you on that when we come back.

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BLITZER: As the nation reckons with the coronavirus pandemic that hasn't subsided at all, more than 45 million jobless claims have formally been considered since March and nationwide protests over racial inequality, White House messaging has focused in on trying to return the country to business as usual.

And in keeping with that theme, President Trump returned to the campaign trail last night where he stoked some racial division and downplayed the severity of the coronavirus pandemic in front of a much smaller crowd than he was touting all week.

The former senior adviser to President Obama, Valerie Jarrett, is joining us right now. She's also the author of the book, "Finding My Voice: My Journey to the West Wing and the Path Forward." You see the book cover right there.

Valerie, thanks for joining us. I want to play for you just some of what the president's racially charged remarks were last night. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So if you want to save your house, you want to save that beautiful heritage of ours, we have a great heritage. We're a great country. You are so lucky I'm president. That's all I can tell you.

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 is even asking. We will never kneel to our national anthem or our great American flag.

It's a disease. We have questions. Has more names than any disease in history. I can name kung flu.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: So, Valerie, what's your reaction when you hear those comments from a sitting president?

VALERIE JARRETT, FORMER SENIOR ADVISER TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: Wolf, it's terrifying because he's giving permission to all of his supporters to behave in the same way.

[20:25:03]

He also said last night that -- about those, quote, "lunatics in the street," that we should be expletive glad we have guns. I mean, he's really trying to stoke racial tensions as opposed to healing us. Comments that he's making about the Chinese Americans who are right here in our country who we've seen upticks of hate crimes towards them.

So his behavior is having direct consequences that are terrifying families all across America. And for what purpose? To try to play to a shrinking base of support when as the leader of the country he should be trying to pull us together.

BLITZER: The president of course is from New York. New York City, born and raised. Spent most of his life there. When he defends Confederate statues as part of, quote, "our heritage, our history," what do you think that message is intended for? Who was it designed intended to reach?

JARRETT: It's intended to reach a portion of his base. And look, I think we should teach all of our children our heritage in the history books, but I don't think we should be commemorating and honoring people who believed in slavery who are actually fighting against our country. And we don't need to have statues. Just imagine what it's like for black families to have to walk through by statues that are holding up these figures who were supportive of the Confederacy.

The flag itself, and I was so delighted to see NASCAR banned it, sending a very positive message, for our folks on military bases who are prepared to sacrifice their lives. And they are working or living at a base that's named after someone again who was a supporter of slavery? What part of that heritage should make people proud? And I think it's really just nonsense.

And the issue of taking the knee is not directed at the national anthem. And the whole purpose of it was to draw attention at a -- respectfully, at a time when everyone is quiet to say we must stop this tension between police and communities of color. It was nonverbal. It was simply taking a knee. And the fact that now all across our country members of law enforcement are joining in, Americans and all 50 states of all races and backgrounds and ages are protesting, it shows me that President Trump is out of sync with the vast majority of our country.

But yet and still he can incite danger from those folks who do follow him, who do support him and who do what he does. I mean, the fact that last night we're talking about it wasn't a very big crowd, but you know what, the people who did show up didn't have masks. Because why? The president doesn't wear a mask.

And why would you have a rally in the middle of a pandemic, particularly in a state where the numbers are going up and it was reported last night that several members of his own advanced team and a Secret Service contracted it while they were out in Oklahoma, in Tulsa, preparing for his visit? Are there no end to which he would go to get the adulation he needs by putting everybody at risk? And not just the folks who showed up at the rallies. Their families back home, the people who they come in contact with as they travel around. It puts us all at risk and for what purpose? So it's just --

BLITZER: That's an important point --

JARRETT: Profoundly disappointing, Wolf. To say the least.

BLITZER: Yes. Very important. Let me ask a couple political questions, Valerie, while I have you. As you know, this week Senator Amy Klobuchar dropped out of contention to be Joe Biden's vice presidential running mate and actually urged him to choose a woman of color. What's your stance on that?

JARRETT: I trust Vice President Biden to know exactly who he needs. Not just to win, but frankly, Wolf, when you think about the challenges a new administration will face, hopefully getting over a pandemic but preparing for another wave perhaps, trying to jump start our economy with this horrible, horrible job loss that we have seen that has affected millions of families around our country.

Trying to make sure that we do heal the racial tensions that are frayed right now. Knowing or reestablishing our stature in the world which is crumbling. He has a lot of business to take care of. And so I trust him to find the right running mate for him and the right person who will help him govern. He had the job for eight years himself. Nobody knows better than he what the job entails.

And the good news is, is that he has an embarrassment of riches from which to choose. And I am confident that his overall Cabinet including the vice president, when you look at them in total, it will reflect the diversity of our country. So for this choice, I trust Vice President Biden to make the right choice for himself.

BLITZER: Do you think the former vice president is effective in reacting to the Black Lives Matter movement in recent weeks? Are there certain things you'd like to see him do in addition?

JARRETT: I think he has been very sensitive and empathetic. I heard from folks who were with the family when he was -- when he both called them on the telephone and listened to what they had to say.

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And obviously he suffered great loss himself. So he has an understanding of what it means to lose one's loved ones. And then going down to Houston and being sensitive to not going to the funeral so that the Secret Service wouldn't disrupt the ceremony, but going the day ahead of time and against spending more time. And in doing like that was a very moving video that they played during the ceremony.

So I think he's hit it just right because it's authentic. You know, one thing we do know of Vice President Biden. He doesn't pretend. He is who he is. And I think the way he has conducted himself has resonated broadly within the African-American community, and the country as a whole. And he has the leadership skills and the temperament and the empathy to pull us together. We of all races together.

BLITZER: Valerie Jarrett, thanks so much for joining us.

JARRETT: You're welcome. Happy Father's Day, Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you very much. Appreciate it.

The president and some in his circle would like to think the coronavirus pandemic is, in his words, dying out. But it isn't. In fact new cases are spiking across 23 states right now. And as we near 120,000 dead Americans tonight, there are new CDC guidelines that are actually predicting more Americans, maybe as many as 25,000 additional Americans will lose their lives by July 11th. That's only in three weeks.

We'll discuss that and more, when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[20:35:42]

BLITZER: Let's get back to the breaking news this hour. Now a spokeswoman for former Trump National Security adviser John Bolton saying that he won't, after all, be voting for either Donald Trump or his opponent Democrat Joe Biden. Previously "The Daily Telegraph" reported that in an exclusive interview Bolton said he would be voting for Biden. The spokeswoman for Bolton now says that Bolton will be writing in a name of a conservative Republican.

Let's go back to CNN's Ryan Nobles joining us from Phoenix, Arizona, where the president will be holding a campaign event on Tuesday.

Ryan, Bolton's certainly a thorn in the side of the Trump campaign this week. Give us the latest. What else are you hearing?

RYAN NOBLES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, Wolf, when we first talked about this story and reading that "Daily Telegraph" report, it did seem surprising that John Bolton would take this step to not only disassociate himself from President Trump but then take the step of voting for a Democrat. It just seems surprising. And it turned out it was surprising for a reason and that's because the spokesperson for the former ambassador Sarah Tinsley telling CNN that the "Daily Telegraph" interpreted his quote incorrectly.

That he does not plan to vote for President Trump. He's definitely not going to vote for President Trump. But instead, he plans to write in the name of a conservative Republican for president. And that he's not going to vote for a Democrat. And so even though, you know, Bolton is not taking the step of actually voting for Joe Biden, he's certainly not doing President Trump any favors.

He's been very critical of President Trump and his handling of a number of foreign policy issues from his perch as the role of the National Security adviser. And of course he has this scathing tell-all book which is expected to come out in just a couple of days. Now the president and his campaign have pushed back very hard on what

has been revealed in this book. They've called it all lies. They've also said that Bolton has broken classification agreements by writing this book. And they've actually taken him to court to prevent the book from being published, but a judge turned that back and it is going to be released.

You know, we know that John Bolton is doing a series of television interviews over the next couple of days, Wolf. I know you're doing one with him next week. It would be interesting to get his take to try and explain exactly how this was misinterpreted. If you read the quote from the "Daily Telegraph," he makes it clear he's not going to vote for Donald Trump.

He never actually says the words that he's going to vote for Joe Biden. You can understand why they interpreted the way he did, but tonight, his spokesperson pushing back saying he is indeed not voting for President Trump, but he's also not voting for Vice President Biden -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. The spokeswoman also saying they've asked the "Daily Telegraph" for a correction. We'll see when that comes, if that comes.

Ryan Nobles reporting for us, thank you very much.

Other important news we're following. As the U.S. death toll from coronavirus now approaches 120,000, 23 states are seeing coronavirus cases rise. And in 10, the states in red in this map, the cases are actually surging up 50 percent or more.

Doctor Ashish Jha is joining us right now.

Dr. Jha, some of these states were among the first to reopen but not all of them necessarily. So what's behind these numbers that are so disturbing?

DR. ASHISH JHA, DIRECTOR, HARVARD GLOBAL HEALTH INSTITUTE: Yes, Wolf, thanks for having me on. So what we're learning about this virus is it looks like it takes about three weeks from when you open up for activity to start picking up again, for us to be able to start detecting new cases. We've seen cases rising in Arizona and Texas and Florida in the last week.

Different states I think are doing differently. Partly because they have had different policies about how quickly they have opened up, how much social distancing has been in place, how much mask wearing is happening. And all of that has had a big effect as well on how many cases we're seeing right now.

BLITZER: What's also very disturbing, Dr. Jha, that we're seeing more young people in their 20s and 30s, especially in some of these southern states testing positive for the virus. What could be causing that lax attitude, state policies? Are people more vulnerable than we earlier thought? Young people we're talking about.

JHA: Yes. There has been this campaign by a lot of folks who say young people don't really get sick. It's not a big deal if you're young. We do know young people do better than older people when they get infected. But this virus can still be quite deadly for young people. And more important, even if it doesn't kill them can cause pretty substantial illness. So I think the messaging on this hasn't quite been right. We've been saying it's no big deal, but I think in fact the truth is it is a big deal even for some young folks, especially if they have any kind of chronic disease.

[20:40:09]

BLITZER: And these young folks, even if they are asymptomatic or have very limited symptoms, they can still pass it on to their parents or their grandparents or other friends. There are still potentially a lot of danger there.

The White House says, Dr. Jha, that it's filling stockpiles to get ready for a possible second wave of the coronavirus in the fall. But we're still in the first wave right now, aren't we?

JHA: We absolutely are, Wolf. Some states are coming out of that first wave. You know, the ones that were hit the hardest in New York and New Jersey and Massachusetts. But large chunks of the country are going through their first wave now. So I think it's great that we're stockpiling. We've got to be going, you know, kind of 100 miles per hour on getting equipment ready because we're going to use some of it I think in this first wave over the summer. And then probably the whole country will need more of that once we get into the fall. So stockpiling is a really good idea right now.

BLITZER: It certainly is. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now says it's going to update its recommendations regarding face masks. Do you think wearing face masks should be mandatory in public places, especially indoors as opposed to simply being a recommendation?

JHA: You know, Wolf, I do. I do. Just like we have passed laws banning people from smoking indoors because we know there is a major public health benefit I think we should absolutely have rules in the middle of this pandemic saying it's against -- you know, it's against a law for you not to be wearing a mask because you are causing other people to be at risk and potentially getting other people sick.

So I see it very, very similarly. For the period of the pandemic, I think rules and laws like that would be very wise.

BLITZER: We're approaching 120,000 confirmed deaths here in the United States over the past maybe three, three and a half, four months. The CDC is now warning that the death toll from the virus in the U.S. could actually reach 145,000 by July 11th. That's the next three weeks or so. You've suggested it may go up to 200,000 by September or October. So we're still right in the middle of this, aren't we?

JHA: We are. We have a long way to go. You know, I've often said, I think we're in the third inning of what is probably going to be a nine-inning baseball game. We're hoping it doesn't go into extra innings, but the bottom line is we have a long way to go on this. And we need our leaders to be communicating that, Wolf, so that people understand that this isn't going to be over in a month or two months or even by September. And we've got to act in ways that really acknowledge that reality.

BLITZER: We're grateful to you, Dr. Jha, for what you're doing. Thanks so much for joining us.

JHA: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: We will stay on top of this story, which continues to escalate.

Other important news we're following right now. For 27 straight days, protesters have marched in the streets here in the United States. And moments ago a protest in Los Angeles unfortunately turned violent.

Paul Vercammen is with the protesters there. I understand police were deployed rubber bullets were used. What's the latest, Paul?

PAU VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I'm here in Compton, California. You can see behind me another standoff between demonstrators and these are L.A. County Sheriff's deputies. This is Compton, California, where the courthouse and the sheriff's substation and city hall are all-in-one complex.

The demonstrators came out today to protest the police -- the officer- involved killing and shooting of Andres Guardado who family members say was working as a security guard. The sheriff's department saying among other things that he produced an illegal weapon. This is still an ongoing investigation and that's why they're chanting justice now.

As they were leaving in another part of this complex there was a very tense moment with a standoff. And that's when sheriff's deputies started firing rubber bullets. We heard at least one or two flash bangs. And some sort of a substance that was like a pepper spray was also shot in the air. Some of the demonstrators were hit. And then we also saw -- we can't say they were arrested, but at least five or six people were detained behind this line of sheriff's deputies here.

All of this coming to a boiling point again over the death of 18-year- old Andres Guardado on Thursday who relatives said was simply doing his job as a security guard in an auto body shop. But the sheriff had come out and said there is much more to this than just that. They are investigating. And he was urging everyone to be patient over this.

But the protest -- the big protest is over. And now we're seeing these standoffs if you will, Wolf, between the demonstrators and sheriff's deputies here in Compton, California.

BLITZER: All right, Paul. We'll check back with you. Be careful over there. You'll update us. We'll be getting more information. Thank you very much.

[20:45:00]

In a new interview, President Trump admits he held off sanctions against Chinese officials involved in detention camps for Muslim minorities inside China, get this, in order to help chances of a trade deal. We have details, when we come back.

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BLITZER: New tonight, President Trump now telling Axios News he delayed sanctions against Chinese officials involved with detention camps for Uighurs and other Muslim minorities because doing so would have, quote, "interfered" with his trade deal with China's government. President Trump telling Axios' Jonathan Swan that he put tariffs on China and tariffs, in his words, and I'm quoting him now, "are far worse than any sanction you can think of."

[20:50:06]

I want to bring in CNN's national security correspondent Vivian Salama who's in Washington and our senior international correspondent Ivan Watson is joining us live from Hong Kong right now.

Vivian, how controversial is the president's comments claiming tariffs are worse than sanctions?

VIVIAN SALAMA, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, frankly, Wolf, it depends who you ask. Tariffs essentially are taxes on imports and the president has really favored them because of the fact that he thinks it gives him leverage in his economic negotiations, his trade negotiations. And so he has used that quite diligently with the Chinese.

But sanctions on the other hand are a political tool and they have much larger ramifications. You know, tariffs can easily come on and off with the president ordering that. But with sanctions, it's a political process that is very tedious and it impacts companies and individuals. And so, you know, for the president, yes, he believes that tariffs are worse because economically, you get an immediate impact.

But sanctions tend to have a much bigger political implication. And so a lot of times when you're unhappy with a country and especially in the case with China where there were unfair trade practices, but also human rights violations and various other issues, sanctions tend to be the way to go for an American administrations. And the president has just ultimately chosen to stay away from that where China in particular is concerned.

BLITZER: You know, Ivan, according to this new interview with Axios, President Trump talked to China's leader about his controversial moves to detain Muslim minorities, the Uighurs. What did President Trump have to say to China's President Xi about all of this? Update our viewers.

IVAN WATSON, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is the allegations that China has been rounding up members of the Muslim minorities in China's western Xinjiang region on an almost industrial scale of mass internment program with an estimate of more than a million people who were thrown into this vast network of internment camps.

And China's line all along was initially to deny that this was happening and then to come up with this Orwellian explanation calling these reeducation camps and vocational training centers that are aimed at rooting out violent extremism.

And I have done extensive reporting over the past couple of years talking to survivors of these camps who described the situation and the conditions like modern-day concentration camps where you're subjected to torture. Also I talked to dozens of people who have been cut off from their loved ones in China and unable to even call home to find out if their mother, their father, their sister is still alive or where they are.

It's really chilling the scale of this. And it is so big that China was hoovering up citizens of other countries, citizens of Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. Now according to John Bolton's book, at trade talks in Japan in 2019, in June, Xi Jinping, the Chinese president, according to Bolton, basically admitted that this was taking place. And Bolton accuses Trump of responding by saying, quote, "That Xi should go ahead with building the camps." That it was exactly the right thing to do.

In his interview with Axios on Friday, President Trump was asked about this and he said, hey, imposing kind of new sanctions over these allegations of grotesque human rights abuses would have essentially really gotten in the way of a big trade deal -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes. That's a significant development.

And Vivian, what's the potential impact of all of these new revelations as far as the U.S.-China relationship is concerned?

SALAMA: Well, tensions are at the ultimate high right now because of coronavirus. The administration has essentially directed much of its blame for a lag in response on China. They say that the Chinese failed to alert the WHO in a timely manner and covered up a lot of its knowledge about what was happening domestically when the virus began to spread even beyond Wuhan.

And so the administration has really taken to hammering China for this and putting at risk the trade deal that was negotiated and any kind of progress that the Trump administration may have ultimately achieved. We heard President Trump at his rally in Tulsa on Saturday going back to his language of calling it the kung flu virus, an expression that many widely say it's racist, of course.

And so, you know, the president has essentially said that he would rather hammer China and go after them politically about the coronavirus because ultimately the gains are going to pay off more than, for example, anything that might have been achieved with the trade deal, which right now is on ice. We don't know if the trade deal is actually going to be as successful as the administration had initially intended it to be.

[20:55:03] And so for that they're saying we have five months left until the election. It's better that we hammer China and go after them for the failures during the coronavirus -- because of the coronavirus than to try to embrace them economically or as a partner politically.

BLITZER: Vivian Salama, thanks very much. Ivan Watson, in Hong Kong, thanks to you as well.

Important note to our viewers. Don't miss this Wednesday, the former National Security adviser to President Trump, John Bolton. He will join me in THE SITUATION ROOM to discuss his new bombshell book. Our interview during our 6:00 p.m. Eastern hour right here on CNN.

We'll be right back.

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