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Wisconsin Protests; Did Roger Stone Receive Special Treatment?; Mandatory Quarantine For Some Travelers?. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired June 24, 2020 - 15:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: I'm Brooke Baldwin. Thank you so much for being with me.

Health officials now are warning that the coronavirus is -- quote -- "spiraling out of control," as more states report record cases, and the U.S. becomes home to one-fourth of all global infections and deaths.

Tuesday marking the third biggest day of new reported cases since the start of the outbreak. And for the first time, more than half of U.S. states are currently seeing an increase in new infections, along with hospitalizations.

California now reporting a new record, more than 7,000 cases Tuesday. That eclipses the previous record. Texas also hitting a new record, nearly 5,500 cases there yesterday. The previous record was just set on Saturday.

And moments from now, President Trump, whose handling of the crisis has definitely come under sharp criticism, will face reporters, as he holds a news conference with the president of Poland, the first foreign leader to visit the White House since the pandemic began. And we will bring that to you live as soon as that begins.

Now, in the early stages of this U.S. outbreak, New York had a distinction that no state wanted, the epicenter of the U.S. pandemic, and cases and deaths skyrocketed. But now, amid signs of a sharp turnaround there, and in neighboring New Jersey and Connecticut, officials are coming together to make sure those numbers keep declining.

And they announced a regional quarantine for visitors from states seeing a spike in infections beginning tonight.

Here is New York Governor Andrew Cuomo:


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): 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.


BALDWIN: CNN's Alexandra Field is with me now.

And so, Alex, which states would be impacted? And then what happens if out-of-towners don't follow the rules?

ALEXANDRA FIELD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: OK, so, Brooke, the states will change depending on what happens to the infection rate in various states but, essentially, New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, they determine the threshold.

If you have got a high infection rate, you will have to quarantine when you come to any of these three states. So, as of today, the states that are affected would include this list, people traveling in from Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Washington, Utah, and Texas.

The governors are saying that it is the responsibility of people who are traveling into the three states to go ahead and do those 14-day- long self-quarantines. What happens if you violate the quarantine? Well, if you are found to be in violation, each state can handle it differently.

Here in New York, the governor is saying that you could face a fine, a first-time violation $2,000, then $5,000. And then if you cause some kind of harm, up to $10,000. On top of that, you could then be put into a mandatory quarantine.

So these three governors teaming up, taking this very seriously in order to preserve the progress that we have seen in this part of the country, when you see a markedly different picture in other parts of the country -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Alex, thank you.

And then I want to talk about Florida, right, Florida, where the state health department announced more than 5,500 new coronaviruses in -- let me say that again -- coronavirus cases in just one day. That is also a record high.

And now the 13 Democrats who represent the state in Congress want the governor, Ron DeSantis, to mandate that people wear masks when they are outside of their homes. In a letter obtained by "The South Florida Sun-Sentinel," the lawmakers tell the Republican governor in part that -- quote -- "Floridians need strong universal guidance from you during this time of uncertainty" end quote.

With me now, Andy Slavitt, former acting administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services during the Obama administration.

So, Andy, welcome to you. And when we look at these numbers, they show what a shift we have seen in the last couple of months with the virus, Florida now posting record levels, New York, as I mentioned a second ago, leveling off. Do you think this quarantine will be effective in keeping those New

York numbers down? Is that a good tool, so to speak, for any official concerned about stopping the spread?

ANDY SLAVITT, FORMER ACTING ADMINISTRATOR, CENTERS FOR MEDICARE AND MEDICAID SERVICES: Well, it's really important, Brooke, that people do respect the fact that, even if they don't feel personally in danger, the way this virus works, it spreads very easily.

And I hope people respect the fact that it's not -- doesn't make sense to travel out of state, it doesn't make sense to mingle in large crowds anyway. So, this is, I think, a smart step by the governors.

We are -- at the same time, we have a bill proposed by McSally -- by Senator McSally in Arizona encouraging people to travel across the country. And I think that is just not very smart.

BALDWIN: How about in Florida, where officials say that it's younger people accounting for a significant number of these positive tests?

And yesterday, up on Capitol Hill at that congressional hearing, we heard from Dr. Fauci testifying that health officials are now seeing more and more coronavirus complications in younger Americans. And you think back to the beginning, which seems like forever ago, right, but we all thought, OK, no, the focus is on the elderly and those with underlying conditions.


But, Andy, what do we do about this now with regard to young folks?

SLAVITT: Well, look, first of all, as you said, this can be very hard on young people. You know that firsthand.

Secondly, we have to understand that this virus travels from young people to old people. And there's a lot of reason to believe that, in New York, it was passed around among young people for a fair bit of time, before it started to get to older people.

It's not OK to say, let's just take the older people and isolate them. Let's just take people of color, who are more likely to get this, and isolate them. Let's just take people who have high blood pressure or diabetes and isolate them. People have to go to work. People have to -- they're essential workers.

And, by the way, it's not nice. It's just not nice to say, I want to go to a bar and mingle, and everyone else be damned. I think people have to take a little bit of responsibility now and understand that, even if they're young and they don't feel at risk, A, they are more risk than they think, and, B, they're really at risk of running into somebody that they're going to pass the virus to.

BALDWIN: Totally. I think it's the younger people -- and thank you for calling me young, Andy, but it's the younger people, then, who have to be so cognizant of who they're hanging out with, and especially if their -- their parents or their grandparents. That's how -- to use that forest fire metaphor, that's how the embers really, really ignite and spread.

The other piece of news that we have been reporting on is the fact that the E.U., the European Union, is considering blocking Americans from traveling to its member countries. And just if you look at this graphic, just to look at the trajectory of the disease between the two, both had a spike back in March, but then things diverged sharply in late April.

And now new cases in the E.U. are a fraction of what we see here. And so if they do block the U.S., that would essentially be lumping Americans in with the Russians. Just putting that out there. What did the E.U. get so right and what did the U.S. gets so wrong?

SLAVITT: Well, if you look around the world, whether you look in Europe, whether you look in Asia, whether you look in Australia and New Zealand, there are strategies to beat this virus, to live alongside this virus.

But they do require a strategy. And that strategy, whether it's in Greece or the Czech Republic or Hong Kong or Singapore, but it's masks, it's testing, it's contact tracing. It's implementing a strategy like the one that Dr. Birx introduced that lasted about a day, before President Trump said, time to liberate Michigan, time to liberate Minnesota.

And so it's not a secret. There is a best practice. This can be done. The virus hasn't gone anywhere. It's still out there. And unless you actually implement a strategy, it's not going to go away.

And I think President Trump wants to keep hoping it away, until the stock market tells him he can't ignore it any longer, which is what happened last time. And I think it's -- unfortunately, it looked like it might happen again this time.

BALDWIN: No, I hear you on this utter lack of leadership in that regard, but then you think of people who've done things so right.

Like, you look at California, right? This is my last question. They have posted this increase that's really surprised a lot of people. California set this daily record now for new cases for the three consecutive days. And that is despite shutting down, urging social distancing, people wearing masks, that kind of thing.

What do you think is happening there?

SLAVITT: Well, it's two things.

So, first of all, they're -- this is what viruses do. And so we have to recognize that, even before we hold the president accountable and governors accountable and ourselves and so forth, which is all -- I'm sure we all should be doing that -- the virus is the bad guy here. The virus spreads, the virus spreads.

And if it hasn't been in your location, it will probably eventually get there. So, we can't be guilty of letting our guard down, even if -- because we think that things have gotten better. This -- it will come up and hit us. So that's number one.

Number two, I think acting quickly is important here. And even if you do everything right, you still -- we still are going to need to be careful. The elected leaders will not be able to fully protect us, even if they did a perfect job.

BALDWIN: Totally.

Andy Slavitt, great to have you on. Thank you very much. Hopefully, we will talk again on all of this, which doesn't appear to go anywhere any time soon.

Speaking of President Trump, we will soon hear from him. He is set to address the media after holding White House talks with the president of Poland. That news conference comes as he insists on downplaying, as Andy was just talking about, downplaying the realities of the pandemic, while egging on his base by repeating a racist term for the virus.

Here he was:


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's got all different names. Wuhan.


TRUMP: Wuhan was catching on. Coronavirus, right? Kung-flu, yes.


TRUMP: Kung-flu.



BALDWIN: With me now, CNN White House correspondent Boris Sanchez.

And I just -- we keep saying it, but you hear the crowd responding to it. I mean, obviously, he's stoking his base. And the timing, Boris, of it is noteworthy, as he's slipping pretty far behind in some of the latest polls.


President Trump really retreating to his red meat rhetoric on the campaign trail, similar to what we saw in 2016. And, notably, in that clip, you actually hear his supporters egging him on to say it. And they respond enthusiastically when he finally does. The president making similar remarks back in 2016 about Mexicans, Muslims and others, when things got rough on the campaign trail. He also wants to make immigration a central focus of his campaign. That's part of the reason he visited the border wall yesterday in Arizona.

He also went back to talking about conspiracy theories, this time falsely claiming that mail-in ballot fraud is occurring in the 2020 election. The president obviously concerned about recent polling. Take a look at this coming from "The New York Times" and Siena College today, their poll showing former Vice President Joe Biden 14 points ahead of President Trump.

This is the third poll in the last month showing the former vice president with a double-digit lead on President Trump. Of course, the fact that he's out there on the campaign trail signals part of his major concern about a rebound from coronavirus, the president eager to turn the page, show that the country is ready for a reopening, despite evidence to the contrary.

Of course, we should point out we just got a Quinnipiac University poll a few moments ago showing that the president was also losing in two key states that he won in 2016, Joe Biden with an eight-point lead in Wisconsin and with a lead in Ohio of a single point -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: Boris Sanchez, thank you.

And we will bring you President Trump live, as we have mentioned, as he faces reporters in the Rose Garden moments from now.

Also ahead, a former prosecutor is speaking out today, accusing top officials in the Justice Department of going easy on Roger Stone because he's close to the president.

And the governor of Wisconsin says he is prepared to call in the National Guard after a violent night of protests that included a state senator being assaulted.

You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.



BALDWIN: Justice is not blind, if you're a friend of the president. That is what an assistant U.S. attorney told the House Judiciary Committee today in sworn testimony.

Aaron Zelinsky is one of the four prosecutors who quit the Roger Stone case after top Department of Justice officials intervene to recommend a lighter sentence.

And so, today, he is accusing those officials of making that move to please the president.


AARON ZELINSKY, FORMER ROGER STONE PROSECUTOR: What I saw was that Roger Stone was being treated differently from every other defendant.

He received breaks that are, in my experience, unheard of. 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.


BALDWIN: And now the DOJ is announcing that Attorney General Bill Barr has agreed to testify before this very same committee in late July.

So, joining me now, CNN senior justice correspondent Evan Perez and CNN legal analyst and former federal prosecutor Elie Honig.

And so, Evan, just starting with you, this is unprecedented, right, to see a current federal prosecutor making these kinds of charges like this against his bosses in public. What else did Zelinsky say?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Zelinsky said, Brooke, that one of the reasons why they ended up filing the first memo, the one that called for the guideline sentence, the sentence that is in line with the Justice Department policy, the reason why they did that was because, behind the scenes, he was threatening to withdraw from the case.

Now, this is something we had heard from sources, but for the first time we heard him actually say it in his testimony today. That gives you an indication of the fighting, the infighting that was happening behind the scenes as these prosecutors were essentially trying to follow the rules that the Justice Department, this current administration, which is like this tough-on-crime approach, they were trying to follow those rules.

And they were being told to essentially go away from those rules, in their belief, because of the president -- it was the president's friend that was at play here. This is Roger Stone.

So, that was an extraordinary allegation by Aaron Zelinsky. And one of the things that I was struck by today, Brooke, is simply the fact that, coming on the heels of the ouster of Geoff Berman in New York, you get the sense that the attorney general is starting to lose this building.

And that's got to be something that he's worried -- he's got to be worried about this. These prosecutors have kind of sat quietly as the attorney general has used some of the president's rhetoric, but you're starting to see them speak out.

And that spells trouble for the attorney general, perhaps.

BALDWIN: Elie, what do you think, especially as a former U.S. attorney yourself?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, Brooke, I just don't recognize this Department of Justice. And it pains me to say that, because I worked there for eight years.

I'm enormously proud of the place. But I don't recognize what the Justice Department has become.

The way I was trained is, you have -- the two most important things are your independence and your credibility. And now we have a Justice Department where the leadership is routinely bending cases to political agendas and routinely misstating the truth, lying to the American public.


And I want to say this. This is not a Republican thing or a Democratic thing. This is a Donald Trump thing and a Bill Barr thing, because I worked under three Republican-appointed A.G.s, one Democratic- appointed A.G., and there was nothing like this.

Bill Barr has taken the DOJ to really a disturbing new level.

BALDWIN: Let me get in what the DOJ spokesperson said, obviously dismissing Zelinsky's exclaims.

This is a -- quote -- "Notably, Mr. Zelinsky, a line prosecutor, did not have any discussion with the attorney general, the U.S. attorney or any other member of political leadership at the department about the sentencing. Instead, Mr. Zelinsky's allegations concerning the U.S. attorney's motivation are based on his own interpretation of events and hearsay, at best, not firsthand knowledge."

So, Elie, just back to you. can Zelinsky's testimony from today be dismissed as hearsay?

HONIG: Absolutely not.

First of all, I give Aaron Zelinsky an awful lot of credit. He still works at the Justice Department. That is a gutsy thing to do, to get up and give testimony about corruption at the top. I'm, candidly, not sure I would have had the guts to do that back when I was on the line at DOJ.

But let me say this. If Aaron Zelinsky's allegations were coming out of nowhere, were not like anything we'd seen before, there might be reason to question them. But it's part of a pattern that you cannot ignore of this DOJ bending cases to the political will of the president.

We saw it after the Mueller case. We saw when Bill Barr tried to squash the Ukraine complaint. We saw it with Michael Flynn. It just played out earlier this morning. We saw this weekend with the dismissal of the Southern District of New York U.S. attorney.

So what Aaron Zelinsky is saying should come as a surprise to absolutely nobody.


And then, Evan, lastly, this is a right turn, but it's all big picture just on how the cannabis industry fits into all this, right, because the committee also heard from this guy John Elias, a career Justice Department antitrust attorney, who says that Bill Barr seemed to unfairly target the cannabis industry because he didn't like the business.

And just when you combine those charges with what we heard today from Zelinsky, and you get this portrait of an A.G. who seems to be serving a political agenda, and just set the scene for when Bill Barr testifies next month in front of this committee.

PEREZ: Look, one of the big questions is going to be for the attorney general, beyond the cannabis industry, is also -- he also tried to intervene on these auto companies that had made a deal with California on emissions that really upset the president.

The president started tweeting about it. And right next -- the following day, the Justice Department opened an investigation. And I think one of the things that the attorney general is going to be facing questions on is, when else has the Justice Department intervened or gotten involved in things if it wasn't because of the president?

The president -- the attorney general is known as a bit of a micromanager, Brooke, but we don't know of any other cases where he has personally gotten involved, tried to change things, because he had an interest in it or because he just thought something was going wrong.

It just seems to be happening when it has to do with the president or his friends. And that's where the appearance of politicization comes from. That's the reason why people are asking these questions.

And I think you can see that that is starting to really kind of gain ground. And that's the reason why you have these two current prosecutors testifying today. I think it gives you a sense that people in this building are beginning to sort of speak up, because they're very concerned.

BALDWIN: Well, Bill Barr's turn to be in the hot seat next month. We will talk about it then.

Guys, thank you very much, Elie and Evan.

Soon, President Trump will face reporters live from the White House Rose Garden, as several states are breaking records in coronavirus infections. We will bring that to live.

And the governor of Wisconsin is warning that he is prepared to call in the National Guard after a violent night of protest there. We have those details.



BALDWIN: Violent protests gripping the city of Madison, Wisconsin, last night.

Statues were toppled, and a Democratic state senator was assaulted after trying to just take a picture. The governor addressed the violence in a statement today, saying -- quote -- "The people who committed these acts of violence will be held accountable. We are prepared to activate the Wisconsin National Guard to protect state buildings and infrastructure and are continuing to work with local law enforcement to understand their response to last night's events and their plan to respond to similar events in the future."

And CNN's Omar Jimenez is there and with us.

And so, Omar, tell me more.

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brooke, for starters, Governor Tony Evers said that this -- these types of protests, or the nature of it, came in stark contrast to what they have seen in recent weeks that has been largely peaceful protests in the name of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others.

Now, specifically, what sparked last night's demonstrations came from a black man that was arrested, seen on video carrying a baseball bat and yelling through a bullhorn inside and outside of a restaurant.

It was during those protests that we saw some of those statues toppled, one of them for someone who fought for the Union during the Civil War.