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26 States Report Increases In Coronavirus Cases; Appeals Court Orders Judge To Dismiss Michael Flynn Case; Police Officer Involved In Breonna Taylor's Death Fired. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired June 24, 2020 - 10:00   ET

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


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POPPY HARLOW, CNN NEWSROOM: Top of the hour. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: And I'm Jim Sciutto.

As we always say on this broadcast, simply watch the numbers. These are the facts. 26 states are now headed in the wrong direction, that is dealing with an increase, a spike in coronavirus cases. Those are the red and orange areas on that map, hospitalizations rising, as well in Texas, Florida and Arizona. That means more people are getting sick, not just being tested more.

Dr. Anthony Fauci called the rise of infections disturbing, warning that the next two weeks in particular will be critical to stopping it, but the president's actions doing nothing to prevent more infections, in fact, the opposite. He just packed an indoor venue in one of the states seeing a rise without a mask himself and most folks in the crowd not wearing masks either.

Remember, just days ago, he said the virus is dying out.

HARLOW: Right. It's not dying out, clearly.

And in Texas, Governor Greg Abott, a key ally of the president, notably, is urging people to stay home. In Florida, the southern part of the state, is seeing more young people fill hospital beds who seem less sick, but are still contracting this.

Let's begin in Texas. Our Correspondent, Lucy Kafanov, is live for us this morning in Dallas. Good morning, Lucy.

LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Poppy.

Texas is just one of 26 states seeing a surge in these coronavirus cases, this as President Donald Trump's top health adviser say this epidemic, this pandemic has brought America to its knees. Dr. Anthony Fauci describing this as a disturbing rise, a disturbing surge in cases, warning, expressing concern about this aggressive plan to economically reopen certain states that have been championed by the president.

He is also saying that it's going to be critical how we operate over the next few weeks in terms of getting this pandemic under control.

Now, California and Texas, the two most populous states inundated by a number of cases, here in Texas, a record spike, 5,000 new cases announced. There's also a surge in hospitalizations, those increasing by 10 percent. There is concern about bed availability, especially in intensive care units, to the point that some places like Houston, which has seen a large number of cases, the Children's Hospital there now making room, making space for adult patients, patients sick with COVID-19.

Now, the governor says that they will not be going under another economic lockdown. He is urging folks to stay at home, not to go out into the streets when possible, especially in light of the July 4th holiday that's coming up, but he is announcing some new restrictions, for example, empowering local authorities to be able to limit gatherings of over 100 people or more. The previous threshold that he had set was at 500 people. Poppy?

HARLOW: That's a big change. Lucy, thanks very much for that.

Let's go to Florida now. Our colleague, Rosa Flores, is there where the governor is resisting statewide maks mandates despite another record day of cases.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You're absolutely right, Poppy. And we just talked to Baptist Health South Florida and they say they're seeing a rise in the number of hospitalizations of younger people who are less sick. This, of course, makes sense because as you know, we've been reporting about this, there are more and more younger people who are getting sick with the coronavirus between the ages of 18 and 35.

And if you look at just Miami-Dade alone, which is the epicenter of this crisis here in the State of Florida, the mayor just released numbers yesterday, 25 percent of the people tested in that one day came back positive. Two weeks ago, that number was 9 percent. If you look at the hospitalizations between that same time period of two weeks, it's increased by 42 percent.

Just to give you another sliver of information, Jackson Health, one of the largest health systems here in the State of Florida, reporting a 100.1 percent increase in the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the past 15 days.

Now, despite all of this information, Governor Ron DeSantis is saying that he is not shutting down the economy, he is not going to require masks to be worn statewide.

Here is what he is doing. He's sending out inspectors to businesses that are behaving badly, allowing people to gather in large groups. He reported yesterday that one -- in one location in Orlando, they lifted the liquor license of one business. And, Jim, this one business alone apparently had 13 employees and 28 customers test positive for COVID- 19. This, the governor said, was not acceptable. Jim? SCIUTTO: Rosa Flores in Florida, thanks very much.

[10:05:01]

Key members of the White House coronavirus task force say the coronavirus is not, in fact, under control, contradicting the president, as they tell lawmakers they have not spoken to President Trump in weeks.

CNN's John Harwood joins us now from Washington. And, John, the president is deliberately attacking the facts here, claiming it's disappearing, when it is not, but also taking what appears to be a deliberate political strategy to defy the measures necessary to control the outbreak, right, such as wearing masks.

I just wonder, is anyone telling him to do that? Is the president making this decision? Anyone guiding him away from that?

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, certainly as public health officials, Jim, are not guiding him in that direction. The president is showing his determination to sprint as far away from dealing with coronavirus as you can. The problem is he's running straight into a brick wall. It's not rational.

When you see the president have this failed rally in Tulsa last weekend, one-third full, eight advanced staffers, two Secret Service agents testing positive. You have this explosion of cases in the sunbelt, Texas, Florida, California, Arizona, those Republicans governors, Ducey in Arizona, Abbott in Texas, now changing their tune, pulling back, signaling that they are concerned about their hospital capacity and about their reaction.

You see the E.U. suggesting that they may bar travel from Americans into Europe because the United States is becoming an epicenter. It just doesn't make sense. And combine that with the nutty comments on testing and suggesting that while we have more cases because we have more tests, the rate of positive tests is rising. The epidemic is expanding. And what the president is making clear is that his concern is not with the cases themselves, but with the cases becoming known and therefore being a negative report card on him.

What makes this so hard to explain is that all of this is going to have a negative effect. It can't not help but having negative effect on the economy, which he sees as critical to his re-election. And when you have people more and more frightened about the virus, they're going to pull back from economic activity, make his problems worse. And while all this is going on, he is sliding into a deeper and deeper hole for his re-election.

New NBC -- excuse me, new New York Times/Siena poll out this morning, Poppy, shows the president down 14 percentage points to Joe Biden, 15 to 36, driven by condemnation from the public of his response to both race relations and the aftermath of George Floyd and the handling of the coronavirus.

HARLOW: Yes, and the independents splitting way toward Biden as well in that poll. That was interesting. John, thanks a lot.

Our CNN Medical Analyst and former CDC Disease Detective, Dr. Seema Yasmin, joins us. Good morning, Doctor.

So, Dr. Fauci says if you don't get a handle on this this summer, it's going to be like a forest fire and the next two weeks are critical to stop the surge. Will anything change if a state like Florida, for example, does not mandate masks and does not reverse course?

DR. SEEMA YASMIN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Good morning, Poppy. And Jim said that we need to look at the numbers and, of course, I do that obsessively as an epidemiologist. And it's depressing as heck because nationally and especially regionally we're seeing the numbers trend in the wrong direction. We talked about these 23 states with an increase in cases but actually there are seven states that are setting absolute records, terrible records, including California and Texas.

Both California and Texas just in the last day saw an increase of 5,000 new cases within a 24-hour period. And we can link some of this back to people flocking to beaches on Memorial Day. We can see that the states reopened too early. So we need to see, as we're seeing in some places, these governors backtrack and trying to fix their errors in terms of giving the public that guidance about exactly what they need to do to stay safe.

We're seeing in Miami-Dade ICU beds at capacity. That's really alarming when our messaging for the past three months was we have to do everything we can do to flatten the curve. And for epidemiologists like me, we have been saying let's get past the first wave because, historically, second waves have been much more deadly.

But, honestly, what it looks like with 26,000 Americans diagnosed each day, 32,000 some days last week, we're going in the wrong direction and it just feels like we won't get out of the first wave itself. We're seeing peak after peak within the first wave. That is terrible news overall.

SCIUTTO: So let's tune out the president for a moment here because we know that his position on this defies both the facts and the best advice of the experts.

So, let's say you live in one of these states where the cases are going up, Florida or Texas or elsewhere, what is the smart thing to do?

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Set aside what governments are requiring. If you want to protect your health and the health of others and protect your -- of your family, what's the smart thing to do?

YASMIN: So, the onus becomes on us then to try and reduce the risk exposure if our leaders are not giving us the right guidance. As you said, Jim, you have to look at the numbers and then make some of those decisions yourself. In California, as we started to reopen, the governor then did say, wait, everyone is not wearing a mask as they should be when they're in indoor places, let me mandate that statewide. Not every state is doing that. So individuals are then going to have to make those decisions for themselves, really think about the fact that we're seeing surges in 20-year-olds and 30-year-olds. They might be okay in some cases.

I'm not saying it's a walk in the park for every 20 or 30-year-olds who live through COVID-19, but we have to think about who they might spread the infection too. And if they're spreading the infection to older people, people with chronic diseases right now, we'll see an increase in deaths potentially two weeks from now, and that's what I'm really worried about.

HARLOW: In terms of testing, we heard the CDC director testify yesterday, the U.S. has done 22 million tests. But to put that into context, I mean, you have China doing 90 million and you have this Harvard study saying that the U.S. needs 5 million tests per day just to like start getting by and start turning the corner here, and 20 million would be required per day to fully mobilize the economy, right? Because if you test positive, you can act differently, and you can trace the people you've been in contact with. We're so far away from that and we just don't need to be.

YASMIN: Right. And, Poppy, the whole reason that Americans made this almost three-month long sacrifice of sheltering in place was to buy time for the government to do things, like roll out mass testing on a much wider scale. That's why people made that sacrifice and we haven't seen that pan out.

I honestly just can't believe, Poppy, that three months into the pandemic, we're still having conversations about something as basic as testing, which in many ways, has been botched over and over and just makes it so much more difficult to get a handle on where we are within this first wave.

We have to overprepare for the second wave, because, like I said, those can be much worse than the first wave. But as an epidemiologist, I'm just concerned that we're not getting even past the first wave, which other countries are.

I get very depressed looking at graphs of the U.S. compared to the European Union or Australia, where, yes, they were hit early. They saw a spike in cases. But then they saw a decline because they acted aggressively early on. America did not do that. We lost precious time. And now we're seeing more spikes, actually, across 33 states when you look at average new cases.

SCIUTTO: And no one is following the U.S. example. They're just not. It's in the numbers. Dr. Seema Yasmin, thanks very much.

HARLOW: Thank you.

SCIUTTO: Today, Senate Democrats are vowing to block the Republicans' police reform bill. Why are they doing this? Why not debate it? Plus, remarkable congressional testimony expected today. Two prosecutors from the Justice Department accuse the attorney general, William Barr, of politicizing key Justice Department investigations under pressure from the president.

HARLOW: Also, one New York paramedic issuing a dire warning to people heading out to bars and restaurants. He says, quote, the virus is still out there. He joins us.

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HARLOW: Significant breaking news just in to CNN, a D.C. appeals court has just ordered a federal judge to dismiss, Jim, the entire case against Michael Flynn.

SCIUTTO: Well, it's remarkable, right, because this was a case brought by this Justice Department and then reversed by this Justice Department. By the way, he pleaded guilty. Surprise conclusion, long- running fight.

For more on this let's go to Senior Justice Correspondent Evan Perez.

Evan, a 2-1 decision here, obviously, a tight decision, was this a surprise, and is this the end of the road here?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it was a bit of a surprise because of the way the judges were asking questions. It seemed at least that they were going to let the judge have his hearing -- that judge, Sullivan, Sullivan had scheduled a hearing in a couple of weeks to hear some of this, and we thought at least they would let that proceed.

But now, the judges have come back and said that, really, in the end, there is only one answer, which is that prosecutors, that the Justice Department has the discretion to dismiss this case. They are the only ones that can prosecute a case. They are the only ones that can actually bring charges and that's just the way the system works.

Neomi Rao, the Trump appointee, wrote the decision and she explains essentially that there is no other choice here, that the judge must follow the Justice Department argument, which is that new information has come forward and that is the reason why they want to drop these charges against Michael Flynn.

HARLOW: It's fascinating, and as Jim said, that he had pleaded guilty originally and then withdrawn that. Such a reversal --

PEREZ: Twice.

HARLOW: Twice, you're right.

In hours, by the way, something else pretty remarkable is going to happen. Two federal prosecutors are going to go under oath before the Judiciary Committee and testify that Attorney General Barr and the Justice Department have politicized multiple recent investigations.

PEREZ: Yes, this is a big deal. The idea that you have two current career prosecutors going before the House of Representatives to say that, you know, from their experience, from what they have witnessed, the Justice Department under Attorney General Barr is operating in a politicized manner, that he is intervening on things for the sake of politics is a very -- is not a very normal thing to see.

[10:20:16]

And so what we'll hear from Aaron Zelinsky, who was one of the prosecutors in the case against Roger Stone, he said that what he was told is that the defendant in this case, Roger Stone, was being treated specially simply because of his relationship with the president.

And he said that there was an order to soften the recommended sentence for Roger Stone simply because the U.S. attorney, the acting U.S. attorney, was afraid of the president. You know, the president had been tweeting about the case, had been assailing the Justice Department and the order came from Attorney General Barr to lower that sentence.

So we'll hear from Zelinsky and another prosecutor also making the same allegations that Barr is politicizing the department, guys.

SCIUTTO: Yes. And that allegation comes from inside the department, right? These are Justice Department lawyers themselves. Evan Perez, good to have you on both stories.

So let's break it down a bit. With us now, Elie Honig, he is, himself, a former federal and state prosecutor, former assistant U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.

So you got experience on the inside, Elie. Look at the collection of these cases here. Let's start with overturning the whole Flynn investigation, which is brought by the Justice Department under a Trump appointee and then reversed by the Justice Department under a Trump appointee. Are you surprised by this? Do you see politics in this?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: I am a bit surprised, Jim, and I do see politics. But I think it's important for people to understand the decision that just came out from the court of appeals, what it is and is not. What it is is a procedural decision. The ruling is, like it or not, it's up to the Justice Department, not the judiciary, not judges, to decide whether to proceed with the prosecution here. What decision is not is essentially a blessing or saying anything that happened in Flynn is okay. The court does not address that.

And if you look at what happened in Michael Flynn, it's completely abnormal, it's completely unacceptable to have the Justice Department come in for a defendant who has pled guilty and say, now we want to drop the case. That is not normal. That is not okay. Court opinion does not bless that. HARLOW: Right, it doesn't, and that's a good point, because it says that the district judge currently presiding over the case has yet to decide on the government's motion. They talk about a scheduled hearing for July 16th, 2020. Where could this go next or is it case closed for Michael Flynn?

HONIG: It's pretty close to case closed. There could be what's called en banc review, meaning review by the entire court of appeals. We're actually seeing that now in the Don McGahn dispute. That is very rarely granted. And, theoretically, this opinion could be appealed to the Supreme Court, although it's not clear who would do that. The district judge, that's sort of procedurally awkward. So it's pretty close to the end of the road.

But, again, let's not let this go down as if everything that happened in the Michael Flynn case was okay because it's not and that's not what today's ruling says.

SCIUTTO: True, except he would go free, right? I mean, you've got to look at the bottom line sometimes, I suppose.

Okay, other thing happening today, and here you have Justice Department prosecutors, career Justice Department prosecutors, accusing the Barr-led Justice Department of politicizing two major cases, right? One on the Roger Stone sentencing, but also on an anti- trust case against marijuana firms. Tell us the significance of this.

HONIG: Yes. Jim, this is something that I've never seen before and I keep saying that I've never seen anything like this, and then it gets worse and worse. But to see an active, career prosecutor, like Aaron Zelinsky, get on the stand, we've read his opening statement today and say, the reason that we acted a certain way in the Roger Stone case, the reason that the Department of Justice recommended leniency is for political reasons. It's because supervisors, high-ranking people at the Justice Department were trying to do Donald Trump's bidding. That is just completely unprecedented.

And, by the way, it's no surprise, it's part of a pattern. I mean, Bill Barr has been in office as attorney general for about a year-and- a-half, We've seen him whitewash the Mueller report, tried to squash the Ukraine whistleblower complaint. We saw the Michael Flynn case. We saw just this weekend with Bill Barr trying moving new people into the Southern District of New York.

So it's not like this is coming out of the blue. This is part of a pattern of abuse by Bill Barr.

HARLOW: Elie Honig, thanks, a big day ahead for that hearing. We appreciate you.

Senate Democrats are going to block the Republican police reform bill, block it from debate. We'll talk to one senator and ask why, next.

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[10:25:00] HARLOW: One of three Kentucky police officers involved in the fatal shooting of Breonna Taylor has now been fired more than three months after she was killed. Louisville police chief says that Detective Brett Hankinson's actions, quote, displayed an extreme indifference to the value of human life when he fired ten rounds into Taylor's apartment while executing a raid in March.

The chief says that Hankinson violated the department's use of deadly force. The two other officers though are not fired. They are still on administrative leave. Remember, Breonna Taylor was a 26-year-old EMT. She died after being shot eight times in bed while she was sleeping.

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No drugs were found. Her family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit.

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