Return to Transcripts main page
New York, New Jersey, Connecticut Announce 14-Day Quarantine For Hot Spot Visitors; Prosecutor Testifies On DOJ Handling Of Roger Stone Case; Doctors Warn Virus In U.S. Is Spiraling Out Of Control. Aired 1-1:30p ET
Aired June 24, 2020 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN KING, CNN HOST: Protesters want action. We will see if Washington answers it. Not today. But, Manu, I appreciate that, live in the Hill.
Thanks for joining us on a busy breaking news day. We'll see you back here tomorrow. Brianna Keilar picks up our coverage right now. Have a good day.
BRIANNA KEILAR, HOST: Hello. I'm Brianna Keilar and I want to welcome viewers here in the United States and around the world.
As coronavirus cases and hospitalizations surge across America, a dramatic new initiative to stop the virus in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. A short time ago, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced new restrictions for travelers coming from states with spikes in coronavirus cases.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): We're announcing today a joint travel advisory. People coming in from states that have a high infection rate must quarantine for 14 days. And we have a calibration for the infection rate, and any state that goes over that infection rate, that state will be subject to the quarantine.
It's only for the simple reason that we worked very hard to get the viral transmission rate down. We don't want to see it go up, because a lot of people come into this region, and they could literally bring the infection with them.
KEILAR: So how is all of this going to work? CNN's Alexandra Field is in New York to tell us. How would they implement this?
ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey there, Brianna. Look, what we're hearing from the governors is that this is a travel advisory, that it will be the personal responsibility of people who chooses to come to New York, Connecticut or New Jersey to take this seriously and to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in the state. The governor of New York is saying that people who choose to violate that quarantine and are found out would then face judicial orders, they could face fines in the thousands of dollars and then a mandatory quarantine. These are the states that this affects today. We're talking about people coming in from Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Washington, Utah and Texas. Those are all states with high infection rates. If you're coming from those states, you will have to do the quarantine. But, Brianna, this is not a fixed list. This list will, of course, change as the infection rate in states around the nation changes.
But, really, this is a pretty remarkable 180. We're talking about the region that was initially hit hardest by this virus. We're talking about a place where other states have said, if you're traveling from New York, you're going to have to quarantine, if you travel out of New York, and now we are seeing the reversal. It speaks to the fact New York and this region has been able to lower their numbers so drastically at a time where we're seeing the cases rise and spike in other states around the nation.
KEILAR: All right, Alexandra, thank you for walking us through that.
Other state officials are making desperate calls for residents to stay home, wear a masks, keep their distance, as 26 states are unflattening the curve.
Actually, let's listen in now to a key hearing on the actions of Attorney General Bill Barr.
AARON ZELINSKY, FORMER ROGER STONE PROSECUTOR: -- subpoena, I'm here today to testify about the United States versus Roger Stone. I apologize for not appearing before you in person, and I thank the committee for allowing me to appear remotely today. For family reasons, I should not risk infection.
As the chairman mentioned I'm privileged to serve as an assistant United States attorney, a non-partisan career prosecutor. Our job is to see that justice is done in every case, without fear or favor, without party or politics. It's unusual for prosecutors like myself to testify about a criminal case, and as outlined further in my written remarks, there may be reasons why my testimony will be therefore be limited in some respects. The Department of Justice has cleared me today to discuss matters related to the Roger Stone sentencing.
Let me now turn to the Stone case. The first thing every AUSA learns that we treat every defendant equally and fairly. In the United States of America, we do not prosecute people based on politics, and we don't cut them a break based on politics either. But that wasn't what happened here. Roger Stone was treated differently because of politics.
At the time of these events, February of 2020, I was a career assistant United States attorney, as I am proud to be now. I was not privy to discussions with political leadership at the Department of Justice. Understanding what happened is based on two things, what I saw and what I heard.
What I saw was Roger Stone was being treated differently from every other defendant. He received breaks that are, in my experience, unheard of, and all the more so for a defendant in his circumstances, a defendant who lied to Congress, who remained unrepentant and who made threats against a judge and a witness in his case.
And what I heard repeatedly was that this leniency was happening because of Stone's relationship to the president, that the acting U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia was receiving heavy pressure from the highest levels of the Department of Justice and that his instructions to us were based on political considerations. And I was told that the acting U.S. attorney was giving Stone a break because he was afraid of the president of the United States.
I believe that was wrong and together with my fellow aligning prosecutors, I immediately and repeatedly said so. Unfortunately, our objection was not heeded. First, we were pressured to reduce the initial sentencing guidelines calculation for Mr. Stone without any clear, legal rationale for doing so.
When we refused to go along, we were instructed to disregard the guidelines entirely and to recommend and unspecified lower sentence for Mr. Stone. I was told that to the best of anyone's recollection, such a recommendation has never been made by the fraud and corruption section of the United States attorneys' office.
When we again refused, we were told we could be fired if we didn't go along. I notified the office that I intended to withdraw from the case rather than file a memo that was a result of wrongful political pressure. And while all of this happened, I was repeatedly told the department's actions were not based on the law or the facts but rather on political considerations, Mr. Stone's political relationships and that the acting U.S. attorney was afraid of the president.
Shortly after I informed the office of my intent to withdraw, office leadership changed its position and allowed us to file a sentencing memorandum properly calculated the guidelines and seeking of guideline sentence, we filed a memo and heard nothing until that evening. But at 2:48 that morning, the president tweeted that the sentencing memo was horrible and very unfair and cannot allow this miscarriage of justice.
Later that day, we learned the department was going to issue a new sentencing memorandum mischaracterizing the application of the sentencing guidelines and asking for an open-ended downward departure for Mr. Stone. We were not allowed to see that new proposed memo. We weren't even told who was writing it.
At this point, I made a difficult choice to resign from the case and my assignment in the U.S. attorneys' office in D.C. I resigned because following orders would have violated the oath I swore when I took my job.
To be clear, my concern is not with the sentence Mr. Stone received. I am not here to criticize a sentence or a reason (INAUDIBLE) process. The Department of Justice treated Roger Stone differently from everyone else. And I was told that the department cut Roger Stone a break because of his relationship to the president. I take no satisfaction in publicly criticizing the actions of the
Department of Justice, where I have spent most of my legal career. I have always been and I remain proud to be an assistant United States attorney. It pains me to describe these events. But as Judge Jackson said in this case, the truth still matters, and so I'm here today to tell you the truth.
I would be pleased to answer your questions.
REP. JERRY NADLER (D-NY): Thank you very much. We will now proceed under the five-minute rule --
KEILAR: All right. You're listening there to Aaron Zelinsky. He was a former prosecutor of Roger Stone, who resigned from the case after under pressure from the president's tweets that Roger Stone sentencing guideline was too much even though it was very standard, as we heard Aaron Zelinsky testifying there.
That recommendation was downgraded, forcing him, he felt, to resign from the case and resign from his position in the DOJ because he said it would have violated the oath that he swore when he took the job if he were to continue.
I want to bring Gloria Borger, our Chief Analyst, and Greg Brower, former FBI General Counsel.
Gloria, he was very straightforward in his description here of what happened. And what also stood out was he talks about even before his initial filing of what was a pretty standard sentencing recommendation for Roger Stone, there had been drama behind the scenes, and he actually had talked about stepping down from the case before then. What did you think about what you heard here from Aaron Zelinsky?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think it's kind of stunning testimony from somebody who currently works for the Justice Department. Remember, he resigned from this case but not from the Justice Department. And what he said at the beginning of his testimony is, I am only going to tell you what I saw and what I heard. And what he heard and what he saw were people saying that we were going to treat Roger Stone differently because of his relationship with the president of the United States.
And, clearly, he feels strongly enough about that to be a whistleblower and to say that following the directions of what they wanted him to do would have been in violation of his oath to the Justice Department. And he said, quite frankly, look, they cut him a break. They cut him a break, and he believes they shouldn't have done that.
Now, he says, look, I'm not going to argue. People disagree all the time about sentencing guidelines. However, the reason he is upset and the reason he left the case is because the differences were about politics and not about the law. KEILAR: He said, Greg, that this was unheard of, the way that Roger Stone was treated, unheard of, Greg, to him and to folks around him working in the U.S. attorneys' office.
GREG BROWER, FORMER DEPUTY FBI GENERAL COUNSEL: Well, in my experience, I would agree with that. As a former federal prosecutor, I can tell you that, typically, the way that sentencing recommendations are made by the department is to seek the maximum sentence that's allowable under the guidelines, the sentencing guidelines. The judge makes the ultimate decision. But federal prosecutors, in my experience, are not known to pull punches or take it easy on defendants when it comes to the recommended sentence. That is what Zelinsky is saying happen here.
We actually know that that happened. We didn't know when it happened several weeks ago. We didn't know exactly why he is coming forward with his understanding of why the department did that. There will be a lot of questions, of course, by committee members today to kind of drill down on the details, but this is unprecedented, in my experience, that a line prosecutor from DOJ would come forward with this sort of information for the Congress.
KEILAR: And, Evan, Aaron Zelinsky essentially said that, that it's very unusual for him to be there in this role. I guess I wonder what does this mean going forward though even though there is this congressional oversight? What's going to be done about this?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Look, I think we know that the attorney general has now agreed to testify before the House Judiciary Committee at the end of July, July 28th. That just -- the department just announced that. So we know that at least in about a month's time the attorney general is going to be answering some questions and you can bet this is going to be one of them.
But one of the things that I think really stands out from this case is this, Brianna. The fact is that under the Trump administration, beginning with Jeff Sessions, the attorney general at the time, they decided that they were going to take a tough on crime approach, which is that prosecutors did not have permission to do this, to depart from the toughest guidelines.
And so what the prosecutors in this case, including what Zelinsky was doing, they were doing, was following the rules, following the rules of the Justice Department. And as a matter of fact, they would have had to come up with excuses and all kinds of internal reasons to be able to go away from that, and so they ended up getting in trouble for following the rules that are this administration's own rules.
And so one of the things we learned, by the way, in Zelinsky's statement there is that he threatened to withdraw from the case. And so in the end, that's why the tough sentencing recommendation was filed in the first place, because he was already behind the scenes saying, if we're not allowed to do our job, then I'm going to pull out of it. It was something that we suspected was the case.
But for the first time we've heard him say that that was what was going on behind the scenes. Of course, in the end, the attorney general chastised them and publicly rebuked them, he withdrew anyway and resigned from the case. So it's a remarkable turn of events.
And, by the way, one of the prosecutors resigned entirely from the Justice Department. We haven't heard from him yet on this case. But the Democrats want to keep investigating this. There's a lot more questions to be answered.
KEILAR: Asha Rangappa is joining us, one of our analysts on this. What do you think, Asha? What's your reaction to what you've heard from Aaron Zelinsky?
ASHA RANGAPPA, CNN LEGAL AND NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: What I heard is that basically what's happening in the Justice Department is exactly what Barr claims he's investigating from the prior administration, which is investigations that are being motivated by political considerations. You know, the fact that somebody would be pressured to take a more lenient stance because they're a friend of the president is just not something that the Department of Justice does.
And I think we also have to see this in the bigger picture here, which is that the former U.S. attorney for D.C. was forced out, Jessie Liu, a close associate of Barr brought in to the (INAUDIBLE), this kind of echoes what he's later tried to do in the Southern District of New York.
And then in addition to the Stone case, they are also trying to drop the charges against Michael Flynn. So there is a systematic attempt to undo the special counsel investigation here as well.
KEILAR: All right. Thank you guys so much, Gloria, Asha, Evan.
I want to get back now to our breaking news as doctors say that coronavirus is spiraling out of control. There are several states that are hitting new records, several of them. And New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are issuing restrictions to Americans traveling in from states with these high infection rates.
This is CNN special live coverage.
KEILAR: As they fight the coronavirus pandemic, state officials are making desperate calls for residents to stay home, wear masks, keep their distance, as 26 states are now unflattening the curve. Leading the surge in new cases, you have California, Texas, Arizona, Georgia and Florida, and CNN's Tom Foreman is with me now.
Tom, tell us about this trend that you're seeing here.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's really all over the country. But if you look west of the Mississippi River, look at that sea of red in the map right now, new cases compared to last week, the only places that are not at best stable and most of them getting worse, the Dakotas and Alaska. That's west of the Mississippi, plenty going on on the east side too.
You mentioned those five states. Take a look a little more closely at the numbers there, the single day results from Tuesday, California, way over 6,000 cases, Texas, way up there too. It gets a little bit easier when you go to Arizona, Florida and Georgia, but still these are whopping, bad numbers.
And if we look at the details of California, look at the average here. If you look at the change and the trend there in California, if you see that spike at the end there, that's the line moving up, and at the end, it just rockets straight up. That is exactly what people have not wanted to see. And if you look at Texas, the 14-day trend, you see it there as well. Those are the states where you're hearing more call for people saying, look, not only you have to wear a mask all the time and social distance all the time, but maybe you just ought to stay home.
As our Sanjay Gupta stated, Brianna, really, what we're seeing right now is that places have tried to reopen, as they've tried to say let's get back to normal, an awful lot of the good work done early on by people staying home, losing their jobs in some cases, kids not going to school, a lot of that is being undone by too many people rushing out and the numbers are the proof in the pudding. Brianna?
KEILAR: Yes, it's the sad lesson we're learning, right? It requires maintenance to keep these numbers down and that is affecting everyone's lives so negatively. Tom Foreman, thank you.
Florida is setting a new record for the highest number of new cases in a single day. They have more than 5,500 new cases just today.
I want to go to Miami and CNN's Rosa Flores on this story. At one point, it looked like Florida was doing all right, Rosa, and now this. Why are we seeing a spike?
ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: As one expert put it, Brianna, this is a lot of young people who are asymptomatic, they're out partying, not social distancing, not wearing masks and then going home and infecting their parents, their grandparents and going to work and sharing and spreading the disease with co-workers as well.
Here in Miami-Dade, in the past two weeks, there has been a 42 percent increase in hospitalizations. We just talked to the chief of infection control at Jackson Health. Now, this is a health system that is one of the biggest here in the State of Florida. And she says that their hospitalizations reflect that people of all ages are getting hospitalized. But when it comes to young people, she says that most of the people that ending up at the hospital with COVID-19 are obese and they also have multiple chronic conditions.
Now, this physician was very frustrated. She says that whenever she sees people out not wearing masks or saying that they're not having the proper hygiene, not social distancing, it's very frustrating because she's on the frontlines and her message is personal. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. LILIAN ABBO, CHIEF OF INFECTION CONTROL, JACKSON HEALTH SYSTEM: It's tragic. I've lost family members. I lost my uncle in my ICU. And I was the only family member at his bedside when he passed away. I've had family and friends, I have co-workers sick. It's not where you want to be. I you don't like wearing a mask, you're not going to like wearing a ventilator.
So that's the message, please, this is a public health issue, we're at the frontlines risking our lives to save others.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FLORES: A very moving message there from that physician.
And, Brianna, she says that it's not enough for local authorities or for even states to issue mandates for people to wear masks. She says it should be a federal mandate, because when the economy is open and people are allowed to go from one state to the other, you need a mandate that comes from the federal government. Brianna?
KEILAR: Better a mask, as she put it, than a ventilator. Rosa, thank you.
For more on the disturbing trend of coronavirus cases that we're seeing just surging in the U.S., I'm joined by internal medicine and virus specialist, Dr. Jorge Rodriguez. Doctor, always good to see you and get your expertise on this.
And you're watching these spikes in states, and what is that going to mean just for everyday life? Are we going to have to go into lockdown essentially again?
DR. JORGE RODRIGUEZ, INTERNAL MEDICINE AND VIRAL SPECIALIST: Well, it may very well mean that and I think it should mean that. Listen, right here, I'm in what might be the hot bed. I already started to see an increase in the people coming into my office over the past week with symptoms.
People have got to start taking this seriously.
Older people, young people, we need to stop spreading the myth that this is just a disease of older people. Young people in their 20s and 30s are getting this. And I think that not only do we need a federal mandate, as the physician from Florida, my home state, mentioned, I think a lot of these states, including California, need to start putting some teeth into their mandates, in other words, fining people who are not following the law, or the mandate, which is basically not wearing masks in public places. Listen, we do it for seat belts, we do it for motorcycle helmets. This is no joke, folks. This is no joke.
KEILAR: It is no joke. And you're seeing in these numbers here younger folks, right, people who are in their 20s, in their 30s, they're getting sick. Does that mean that we're going to be seeing, following that, I mean, would you expect that we'd see even more younger people sick, or are we going to be seeing older and more vulnerable people kind of people getting sick after that?
RODRIGUEZ: I think that we're going to seeing both. Of course, the people who end up getting more seriously ill are the people that are not just older but have certain medical conditions, obesity, heart disease, diabetes. And as an aside, we're wasting so much time during this pandemic not encouraging people to get healthier while we're in lockdown because that's very important.
But 20-year-olds, 30-year-olds, are not immune to this especially if they have underlying conditions. And they're going to be a big vector, which is who spreads the disease. So, yes, we're going to be seeing sicker younger people and sicker older people. We're going to see sicker people, period.
KEILAR: The governors of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are implementing these new restrictions so that people who are traveling in from states who are having these big spikes. So you can see them here on your screen, Washington, Utah, Arizona, and then basically across the south. And there -- how is that -- do you think that's going to work? Because we just heard from our reporter that it's kind of at first an honor system and then there is going to be some sort of teeth to implementing this. Do you think that's going to work?
RODRIGUEZ: I think it's going to implement it, and that seems to be word of the day, teeth, if they really do follow-up on it. Listen, I commend the tri-state area back east. They have done an incredible job, and, of course, now it's not time to ruin it.
Listen, Hawaii is doing something similar to this. If you're in Hawaii, around Honolulu, and they suspect that you are from somewhere else, you have to show your driver's license, they have to verify when you came in and you're going to get fined. And, I think, eventually, New York and New Jersey and Connecticut are going to have to do that. Yes, it's going to work.
So, people, this is like taking just a little bit medicine or not finishing your antibiotic prescription. It may have helped a little bit. But unless you do it right, you're just going to keep doing this over and over, and we've already lost 120,000 souls in this country. So, you know, it's just time to buckle up.
KEILAR: Yes, because you're not just hurting yourself, right, you're hurting other people as well. Dr. Jorge Rodriguez, thank you. Thank you so much --
RODRIGUEZ: Thank you, Brianna.
KEILAR: -- for joining us from L.A.
The president is making it clear that he is using lies and racism to help win re-election. We're going to discuss that strategy.
Plus, the National Guard in Washington, D.C. and Wisconsin on standby to protect statues and monuments from protesters.