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Trump Digs in on Failed Strategy as Virus Cases Surge; Multiple States Pause Reopening as Cases Surge; Texas Reports Highest Single- Day Number of New Cases; Number of New Coronavirus Cases Trending Higher in 31 States; New Poll: Biden Building Lead in Swing States Trump Won in 2016; Powerful Dem Trailing Progressive Challenger in New York Race. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired June 25, 2020 - 19:00   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: You can always follow me on Twitter and Instagram @WOLFBLITZER. Tweet the show @CNNSITROOM.

Erin Burnett OUTFRONT starts right now.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT next, surging record coronavirus numbers across the country. Hospitalizations spiking in key states. Where is the President?

Plus, Texas halting its reopening. Hospitalizations and deaths both skyrocketing there, 18 members of one family in the state of Texas testing positive after a surprise birthday party.

And what could be the political upset of the year, one of the most powerful Democrats in congress now trailing a political newcomer. The vote count coming in Jamaal Bowman, Eliot Engel's challenger is my guest. Let's go OUTFRONT.

Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett.

OUTFRONT tonight, failure of leadership. On a day when the number of deaths in the United States tops 122,000, 31 states are seeing an increase in cases. Infections are breaking records across the country. The President not leading on this. Today, the only tweet was this tired claim, cases go up because of great testing in caps.

Of course, this puts us in the position of having to explain again that that is not the reason that cases are going up and we could show that too many ways, but I'll stick with this one. At least seven states are seeing record hospitalizations this week, according to The Washington Post. Obviously, that's not because of testing.

Take California alone, hospitalizations there up a third, 32 percent in just the past two weeks because of coronavirus. That's not because of testing. In Texas, they're stopping elective surgeries because they need to have more space for people coming in the hospital because of coronavirus.

What is true is that from the start of the pandemic, the President has not offered clear concise leadership. I know we've been a broken record here but he won't wear a mask when masks save lives. He wants to cut funding for testing now and testing sites in states that are actually seeing a spike in cases. He's threatening to do that, even he's staunch allies like Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn are begging him not to do it in Texas. But this is what the President's been doing. He has spent the past five months downplaying the pandemic.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have it totally under control. It's one person coming in from China and we have it under control. It's going to be just fine.

It looks like by April, in theory, when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away.

You can just stay calm it will go away.

It's going to go away. This is going to go away.

And eventually, it's going to be gone.

It's going away.


BURNETT: The President's failure to lead has had serious and deadly consequences. Now, according to a new government watchdog report, Trump's administration was unprepared at several points, testing, obviously, a big failure there, PPE and dealing with the economic fallout. The way they wanted to deal with that was just reopen everything and now you see states like Texas closing.

Today, we learned that dead people got more than $1 billion in stimulus checks. That's how that was managed and the CDC is warning the real number of confirmed coronavirus cases could be more than 20 million, 10 times what is known right now. That would put the death rate at six-tenths of 1 percent.

The country needs a president with a plan to fight the virus and keep the economy open, not to deny reality. But Trump of the past, by the way, had absolutely no problem calling out failed leadership when he saw it.


TRUMP: Our country is going to hell. We must stop it. We need leadership.


BURNETT: The Trump of today needs to change course. But that involves, again, the basic, basic thing, right? Let's start with wearing a mask, something that he is scared and apparently ashamed to do.

Kaitlan Collins is OUTFRONT live outside the White House. So Kaitlan, what are you learning about what's going on behind the scenes tonight? KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Erin, it's not

that they aren't aware of these numbers. They had a taskforce meeting yesterday on the day that you saw the highest case numbers since April. They're well aware of where these outbreaks are and what's going on.

But basically what we've heard from sources is instead they are looking at the glass half full as opposed to half empty and you're only seeing the administration officials focus on that, talking about these outbreaks.

Larry Kudlow saying that he does not believe there are going to be any widespread shutdowns because of these outbreaks and really downplaying them as the President himself is trying to put the Coronavirus behind him by returning to a normal presidential schedule welcoming a first foreign leader here at the White House yesterday, visiting a battleground state today basically trying to resume a schedule that he would have if there wasn't a pandemic happening.

And the fallout is continuing tonight, though. They learned today that campaign staffers are in quarantine now after that rally on Saturday. The President spent the day in Wisconsin where he is trailing to Joe Biden in several major polls. And one thing, Erin, that we should note as we're looking at these poll numbers that have been coming in is several of them in multiple different ones, CNN, Fox News, New York Times have shown that voters do not approve of the way that the President has handled the coronavirus outbreak so far.


It's not really comfortable territory for him. If you talk to people who know the President well and a lot of people say that's likely why he's focusing on fights over monuments and confederate statues and military bases named after confederate leaders, because being in that cultural of war territory is much more comfortable than him than it is to deal with this pandemic that he does want to go away that he says he believes is dying out, even though, of course, the numbers lately have been showing otherwise.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much, Kaitlan.

I want to go now to Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Dr. Jonathan Reiner who advised the White House medical team under President George W. Bush.

So Sanjay, how did this happen? And, of course, I will point out it is not happening where it happened before as in where you have the original epicenter of New York is not where you're seeing this and New York is obviously now only just starting to reopen. But when it comes to cases across the country, the total, we're back to where we were months ago.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I think that there's places that that close too late that have been opening too early and now we're getting a sense that there was a lot of virus spreading much earlier than we realized. So I think we're getting better sort of glimpse of how significant the problem is. At the same time, I mean, we haven't had enough testing. We don't have

enough contact tracers to be able to handle what is needed to actually find people and quarantine them, so the virus transmission starts to slow down and we're having this silly debate still about masks, public health 101 stuff here.

So I'll tell you this, Erin, think if you look at the map, it's concerning. There's a lot of places that are bright red now, you had significant increases. But we're the United States of America, you still have to worry about other places that have even had drops in their overall infection rates, because people are still moving around back and forth. So we have to deal with this as a country, not in this sort of piecemeal fashion.

BURNETT: Right. And even when you look at places where, the numbers have fallen dramatically, let's take New York the most populous city in the country, even there where a lot more people have had it than anywhere else, even if you say that number is 20 percent, it's nowhere close to herd immunity. It could happen again in New York what happened as it as it reopens and I hope people realize that.

I mean, Dr. Reiner, my colleague, Crystal (ph), has appointed out today that it was 156 days ago, 156 days ago, that the President declared of coronavirus we have it totally under control. And he's been saying that basically ever since, 15 cases going to zero, reopen, reopen, reopen and yet here we are with our case count back to where it was at the peak.

JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Yes. Unfortunately, magical thinking is not an effective strategy. A hundred and fifty days ago, the President had an opportunity to lead up. Ronald Reagan once said that the greatest leaders aren't necessarily the ones who do the greatest things, but the ones who get the people to do great things and he had an opportunity to do that.

He had an opportunity to tell the country that we're going to have to do some hard things. We would shut down for as long as we had to, that we would open carefully, that we would test like crazy and continue to ramp that up and that we would all wear masks when we go out in public.

If he had done all of that, we would be in a much different place, we would be where the European Union is, right now. Instead, the President focused frankly on himself. He saw the pandemic as a threat to himself and as a threat to his reelection and he's tried to wish it away.

It won't go away. We have to put it away and we have to do difficult things. And we need leadership that gets the people behind it. Americans have done hard things before we'll do that again. We just need a leader who leads the way.

BURNETT: Sanjay, what are your view accounts for those charts that we have now all seen, right? You see the big surge and then a little bit here and then the plunge, you see that in European country after European country also in Asia, but in Europe now most recently, whereas in the United States it goes up and then it comes down a little bit and then it just kind of sits. What accounts for that given that Europe is reopening now? They've got hotspots, but they are reopening and yet here in the U.S. we're reopening and yet the numbers didn't come down.

GUPTA: That's right. Well, I think it's just like Dr. Reiner is saying and, by the way, I think he would be a great leader of a task force of some sort, I'd be honest with you. But that aside, I think it's because they stuck with the plan in the European Union.

I mean, this isn't that hard. We're not we're not building a rocket ship and sending it to space. All we're trying to do is basically say, let cases come down for 14 days before you start to reopen. Why is that important? It's important because you get the case numbers low enough, where you can start to get your arms around it. You can actually find the people who are infected.

You can contact trace and then slow down the transmission of this virus. Right now, it would be actually very hard to contact trace in this country, because there's too many new infections a day. Can you imagine, 30,000 new people a day would have to be contact trace, that's like picking up the phone, calling people, going to people's houses, knocking on the door.


It's laborious work. There's no way we could do it right now. You've got to get the case counts down. That's what they did in the EU. That's what they did in many places in Asia, it works.

BURNETT: So Dr. Reiner, the GAO, the Government Accountability Office has a new report, basically talking how unprepared the U.S. government was to tackle the coronavirus on so many levels, testing, PPE, hospitals, has the response improved enough since then? I mean, I understand we're still not where we should be. Has it improved enough?

REINER: Well, it certainly improved and Sanjay speaks about this all of the time, even though we're doing about a half a million tests per day, there are many groups, the harbor group among them who thinks we need to be doing maybe 10 times that amount every single day. So testing is not overrated as the President says. It's essential.

I'm worried about PPE. I'd like to know what we have in the National Strategic Stockpile. I want to know what our reservoir of N95 masks is, have we increased U.S. domestic production of this. There's a lot that we learned from the early months of this, and I don't want to repeat the same mistakes.


BURNETT: And Sanjay, when you look at the CDC saying it's 10 times more than we knew, that still puts your death rate at, right now, that would just be an implied death rate of six tenths of 1 percent versus - assuming, by the way, we know deaths are undercounted, so it'd be a little bit higher than that. But six-tenths of 1 percent, that's three times higher, at least, in the flu, maybe even six times or more higher than the flu, right?

GUPTA: That's right. I mean, if you look at the numbers now and calculate them, you would say it's around 5 percent is the death rate. We don't really know the death rate, just to your point, Erin, because we don't know the true numbers of either one of these things because of the lack of testing.

And it's interesting, what is the right number of tests? Everyone is going to throw a number at that Harvard as Jonathan mentioned has said 5 million tests a day. Let's give these young people the benefit of the doubt for a second, okay, and say, look, if they were able to get tested regularly and have some idea of whether or not they had the virus, they came back positive, maybe they would have stayed home.

They didn't know. They thought they were invulnerable and now they've created this forest fire of infections, but that could have been addressed pretty well by just having widely available accurate tests. We just didn't get there.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you both as always. And Dr. Sanjay Gupta will be back in less than an hour for CNN's Coronavirus Town Hall starting at eight o'clock Eastern. As you can see, Bill Gates will be his guest.

And OUTFRONT next, L.A. County has the most cases in the country now. I'm going to talk to the top health official in Los Angeles about the surge and why she is getting death threats. But the CDC with a warning tonight about young people contracting coronavirus.


LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You think you would have died?

CHRISTOPHER MARSHALL, GRADUATE STUDENT; CORONAVIRUS SURVIVOR: I think I would have died, it didn't got that serious.


BURNETT: And Texas halting its reopening as cases surge. The Governor telling everyone to stay home. And in just one family, 18 people have tested positive after a surprise birthday party.



BURNETT: Breaking news, Arizona just announcing its pausing reopening plans, joining Texas and Florida as coronavirus cases soar. The Governor of California warning he may have to do the same. Nick Watt is OUTFRONT.


NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Partiers pack this Fort Worth bar Saturday night, but the reopening of the Lone Star State is now on hold as case counts climb at record rates and hospitals fill up.


MAYOR RON NIRENBERG (D-TX), SAN ANTONIO: If this acceleration continues unabated, we're going to find ourselves overwhelmed.


WATT(voice-over): Nevada, North Carolina and Louisiana also now pumping the brakes on reopening.


GOV. JOHN BEL EDWARDS (D-LA): I think these numbers make crystal clear the correctness of the decision not to move forward.


WATT(voice-over): In California, Disneyland now won't reopen July 17 as planned.


GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): That is an example of the data informing decision making.


WATT (voice-over): California and Florida along with Texas are reporting record high new case counts. So our three most populous states are going in the wrong direction fast and they're home to more than a quarter of all Americans.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): We've seen most of this case growth in those under 40 category.


WATT (voice-over): A focus now in efforts to staunch the spread younger asymptomatic spreaders.


ERIN BROMAGE, UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS DARTMOUTH: We're seeing the infection rates, especially in Texas, Florida and Arizona, just skyrocket in that demographic.


WATT (voice-over): Arizona now has the most cases per capita in the entire country.


GOV. DOUG DOCEY (R-AZ): There is no consideration of increasing activity. Arizona is on pause.


WATT (voice-over): The CDC just added pregnant women to the at risk demographics. They say just over 5 percent of women with COVID-19 require hospitalization, for pregnant women, that soars to over 30 percent. They also now say our actual infection rate might be 10 times the confirmed cases, so not around 2.4 million but around 24 million and they say that social distancing is now our most powerful weapon.


DR. WILLIAM SCHAFFNER, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: The time to normalize wearing masks and social distancing behavior is now so that we get used to it by the time the fall arrives. And I'm very concerned that the second wave this fall will be substantially greater than what we have experienced so far.



WATT: Now, of course, as we move forward, the number that we've really got to keep an eye on is hospitalizations. How many people with COVID- 19 are in the hospital? Here in California, over just the past two weeks, that number has gone up by a third and here in Los Angeles County, which by the way is now the county in this country with the most COVID cases, they've noticed the past couple of days that hospitalization rate is climbing, which is something that the Director of Public Health here, she called that extra ordinarily worrisome, Erin.


BURNETT: And Nick is so you're now seeing in some of these states that reopened early and that the President, of course, was celebrating doing that things on pause. I mean, you just saw there in Arizona, I mean, ally of the President making it very clear he's not moving forward now.

WATT: Absolutely. Listen, there is very little political appetite anywhere to roll things back. That is not going to be a popular decision. In fact, today, though, we just saw one of the major nurses unions in this country asking everywhere that has reopened to close down again and work harder, but that is a very hard decision to make.

But here in California, the Governor, he swears he's going by the data and he said that if it does get bad, we will roll back as you say we've seen a pause in Texas, a pause in Arizona, a pause is easier to do than a roll back so we can expect to see a few more states pausing over the next few weeks as, Erin, these numbers just keep on getting worse and worse.

BURNETT: Right. As you said and you see it on hospitalizations, which everyone understands. All right. Thank you very much Nick Watt. And next, as more Americans are getting together, a warning after 18

members of a Texas family have all tested positive for coronavirus. Plus, a top Republican refusing to respond to CNN's question about the President using a racist phrase to describe coronavirus.


REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Every time I've come here, you've always had those type of questions.




BURNETT: Breaking news, Texas reporting its highest single day jump in cases just short of 6,000 new coronavirus cases in the state. This as Texas Gov. Greg Abbott urges people to stay home. And a top expert warns the state could see apocalyptic numbers. Lucy Kafanov is OUTFRONT.


KAFANOV (voice-over): The coronavirus nearly killed Christopher Marshall.


MARSHALL: I got so sick that it was acute respiratory distress syndrome with septic shock.


KAFANOV (voice-over): The 37-year-old University of North Texas graduate student spent weeks at Dallas area hospitals.


KAFANOV: You think you would have died?

MARSHALL: I definitely would have died. It didn't got that serious.

I'm going home.


KAFANOV (voice-over): Though doctor saved him, Marshall now lives in fear of getting sick again due to the surge in infections across Texas. He's rarely leaving his home, struggling with survivor's guilt.


MARSHALL: The hardest part for me initially waking up and see how many people died from COVID-19, because it's like why did I live and everybody has died. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KAFANOV (voice-over): Texas, one of the first states to push an aggressive reopening is now seeing new cases and hospitalization rates reaching record highs.


GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R-TX): There is a massive outbreak of COVID-19 across the State of Texas.


KAFANOV (voice-over): So many getting sick that in Houston, Texas Children's Hospital is now admitting adult patients.


DR. PETER HOTEZ, DEAN, NATIONAL SCHOOL OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Our big metro areas seem to be rising very quickly and some of the models are on the verge of being apocalyptic.


KAFANOV (voice-over): Minority communities are bearing the brunt of the pandemic. In Dallas, Hispanics account for more than 60 percent of cases. Among them is Dallas ISD Police Officer Vincent Remediz in the hospital for 82 days.


VINCENT REMEDIZ, DALLAS ISD POLICE OFFICER, CORONAVIRUS SURVIVOR: Take that COVID stuff serious. I wish I never caught it. I wish I never heard of it. But I tell everybody else take it seriously.


KAFANOV (voice-over): The father of six was on a ventilator for more than a month. His brother says the Vicente barely survived.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The family was worried about him passing away.


KAFANOV (voice-over): Bishop Greg Kelly worries most about undocumented patients, many of whom are essential workers.


BISHOP GREG KELLY, AUXILIARY BISHOP FOR THE CATHOLIC DIOCESE OF DALLAS: They feel vulnerable because they live in very crowded conditions sometimes and some have lost their homes, so they come, they move in. They have large families, so social distancing doesn't work.


KAFANOV (voice-over): And it's not just Latinos, health officials say an increasing number of infections are among young adults like Chris Marshall.


MARSHALL: Stop thinking that you're so invincible that you're young and that this cannot happen to you. It can happen. I'm 37, it happened.



KAFANOV: Now, Dallas City hospitals are not overwhelmed just yet but officials are taking no chances. They met today to identify this location in front of the convention center as a potential area where they could set up a pop up field hospital for coronavirus patients if these cases continue to rise, Erin.

BURNETT: All right. Thank you very much.

And I want to go now to the former Acting Director of the CDC under President Obama, Dr. Richard Besser. Dr. Besser, I appreciate your time tonight. So as you hear there from that report, so many new cases in Texas now that the Gov. Abbott is pausing future reopening plans asking people to stay home, urging them to stay home. A top doctor saying we could see apocalyptic numbers there. How serious is the situation ahead in Texas?

DR. RICHARD BESSER, FORMER ACTING CDC DIRECTOR UNDER OBAMA: Well, Erin, I think the situation in Texas is a warning shot for the situation that could occur in any state where this isn't being taken seriously enough. And part of this comes down to this clash of messages where you hear some political leaders downplaying the seriousness of the pandemic telling people to get back to work, get back to their social lives, while every public health leader in the country is saying, this is really serious. This is early days in the pandemic, we need to take actions. We need to wear masks and social distance and wash our hands.

What we're seeing in Texas is a healthcare system that is in many places on the verge of getting overwhelmed and we know what that looks like from what happened in New York City. And hopefully the actions that are being taken now aren't too little too late.

BURNETT: So we also just saw that story, that surprise birthday party late last month in northern Texas.


It's now being linked to at least 18 cases of coronavirus just to emphasize how easily this thing spreads when you're in a group. It comes as the CDC director, Dr. Robert Redfield, said social distancing is the most powerful tool we have.

Does that party really prove the point?

DR. RICHARD BESSER, FORMER CDC ACTING DIRECTOR UNDER OBAMA: Yeah, I mean that party is an example of what's seen all over the country, whether it's a gathering at a church or a gathering for a party, choir coming together. These kinds of events are what are called super spreader events, where for some reasons that are unknown, a lot of cases occur from the exposure to one or two people.

But it's a sign that we have to take this seriously. And in each place where we're seeing cases going up, we have to support public health to do the work to understand why is it going up? What's happening?

In Florida, we're seeing a lot of increases in cases because of the activities of young people. So, that has to be targeted.

And when you look at who really bears the brunt of this, young people in general will have a lower chance of having severe disease. But they'll put at risk older people. They'll put at risk people who have underlying medical condition. And they put at risk essential workers, millions of people in America who are keeping our stores open, they're keeping food there for us to buy.

A lot of people of color, a lot of low-income workers, they've been dying at very high rates during this pandemic. And if we don't take this seriously as we go about more activity, they're the same groups that are going to continue to bear the brunt of this.

BURNETT: All right. Well, thank you very much, Dr. Besser. I appreciate your time.

BESSER: Thank you, Erin.

BURNETT: And next, Los Angeles County leading the nation with the most coronavirus cases as the top health official there is now receiving death threats and she's OUTFRONT.

Plus, new polls tonight, Joe Biden with a strong lead in six battleground states, all of which Trump carried in 2016. Obviously, we're still months away from the election. Is Trump in trouble or not?



BURNETT: Tonight, Los Angeles County, now the county in the United States with the highest coronavirus cases in the nation. It comes as the director of the Department of Health there is receiving death threats over the state's response of the pandemic.

OUTFRONT, Barbara Ferrer, director of the Los Angeles County Public Department of Public Health.

And it is -- it is good to have you back with me. So, California, you were ahead of the curve when you shut down in March. You did it early and reopening carefully. You've now seen the second largest number of daily cases so far. Hospitalizations today at an all time high.

Why do you think this is happening?

BARBARA FERRER, RECEIVED DEATH THREATS DUE TO COVID-19 PANDEMIC: Thanks a lot for having me, Erin, and I really appreciate the coverage on COVID-19 in general. I think we're experiencing what many other counties and states are experiencing.

We know we reopened. We have a lot more people back at work. We have a lot more people out and about.

We've seen a pretty significant increase like many other places and younger people who are testing positive for COVID-19. And that's translated to going from about 1,200 cases a day to about 1,900 cases a day.

Hospitalizations also are now up from about 1,400 people being in the hospital any given day, to about 1,600 people being in the hospital any given day. And I think as we had anticipated with more people out, we would have seen the increase. I think the increase has happened much quicker than we thought it would.

BURNETT: So, I know that you have -- as you have been trying to handle this -- received numerous death threats from people upset about the restrictions placed on them during the pandemic. It's just an example. I mean, it's awful. And I'm sure it's deeply upsetting to you.

What kinds of messages are you getting? What are people angry about?

FERRER: I mean, I want to say, you know, I really appreciate how devastating the impact of this pandemic has been on so many different people and how angry people are.


FERRER: And I understand that, you know, sometimes when people are angry, unfortunately they do things that are really inappropriate and unacceptable. And I think the threats on all of us who are in public health fall in that group.

You know, really it's not appropriate. We do need to work together. We all, you know, have a part to play. Public health people have their role to play. It's really the use of science.

And help make sure that that's what's informing decisions that we make about what to do and what not to do. And especially in this pandemic where it's a new virus and the science is changing. That's a complicated task.


FERRER: And I really appreciate it. We have so much support and so many people doing the right thing. But obviously when your numbers start going in the wrong direction, it means that more people need to do the right thing.

More people need to get back on track. They need to take the steps that protect each other. They need to wear those face coverings all the time when they're around other people. They need to keep their distance. They need to avoid crowds.

And this is our unfortunate reality. I know many, many, many people are kind of done with this virus. But the virus isn't done with us. We have many, many weeks ahead.


FERRER: We've got to work together.

BURNETT: And I just want to ask you because, you know, when you point out what we don't know, you know, we were told it spreads in the air. Then we were told it wasn't. Then we were told it does.

Then we were told it survives (ph) on surfaces. Then we were told it doesn't. Then we're being told by a French study that it does, even though the CDC said it doesn't spreads easily.

Do you feel like you really have all the information you need on that, of knowing about how it spreads, and just this most basic thing?

FERRER: You know, it's a new virus and we're living in a time of uncertainty. And we have to really do the best we can with the information at hand.


And, you know, I'm the first person to admit I was out there saying we don't need to wear masks. There's no evidence that there's asymptomatic spread. People just really need to stay home when they're sick. They need to be very conscious of identifying close contacts.

And that's all changed.


FERRER: The good news is there are researchers and scientists to give us good information. And public health departments can actually be very flexible and use the information. But it does create confusion and it is always hard to manage in an environment you don't have the information you wish you had.

BURNETT: All right. Barbara Ferrer, I appreciate your time again. Thank you.

FERRER: Thank you for having me.

BURNETT: And OUTFRONT next, Carly Fiorina ran for the Republican nomination in 2016. In 2020, she says she will vote for Joe Biden. Is Trump in trouble with his own party? Plus, it could be the biggest upset of the year, one of the most powerful Democrats in the House is trailing a political newcomer, Jamaal Bowman. Eliot Engel's challenger is claiming victory tonight and he is my guest.



BURNETT: Tonight, the top Republican in the House refusing to answer our Manu Raju's question about whether Trump should be calling the coronavirus Kung Flu.


MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The president has been describing the coronavirus, he's been calling it the kung-flu. Do you think that's the appropriate way to address the coronavirus?

REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Do you think that's the most pressing issue you have about the coronavirus?

RAJU: What do you think about that?

MCCARTHY: I know but what I'm thinking about is why is that the most pressing issue as a question. When we're just seeing spike in coronavirus, you're concerned about somebody and the way they name it. That's appalling to me.

You know what? I think we should all focus, learn more about the disease and stop this virus.

Every time I've come here, you've always had those type of questions. It's interesting to me if that's what your viewers care most about --

RAJU: But can you say if it's racist or not?

MCCARTHY: -- because you know what my constituents care most about? Their safety and their health. And if you want to debate what's it called and what's it not, that's not what they're debating. They want to make sure they see a vaccine for it. That's what we're moving towards, therapies for it, and you see great movement.

We've done things this country has never done when it comes to the FDA and others. So, no, that's not my biggest concern. My biggest concern is the safety of Americans and that's what I look for.

RAJU: Should testing be ramped up?

MCCARTHY: Thank you all very much. I appreciate your time.


BURNETT: And, of course, setting up a false choice. Everyone's concerned about the things he says. That's stating the obvious. But hate crimes have been rising against Asians as the president has

been calling it the China virus and things like that, the Chinese virus and after he used the racist term twice in a matter of days, kung flu. Here he is.



"Kung flu".


BURNETT: OUTFRONT now, Lanhee Chen, former policy director for Mitt Romney's 2012 campaign.

So, Lanhee, do you -- what is your response to the president using this term?

LANHEE CHEN, FORMER POLICY DIRECTOR FOR 2012 ROMNEY PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN: Well, it's offensive. I think it racializes something that shouldn't be racialized. And let's set aside something that's it's not a flu which I think we've talked about before.

Obviously, it is -- it is a source of offense. By the way, not everything -- not all of the names the president has given the virus I take issue with. I also don't take issue with the idea you have a whole China accountable for the role they played.

But in this particular situation, the way the "kung flu" moniker is deployed, the way it is used to gin up crowds, those are things I personally find offensive and I think a number of people of Asian descent find offensive as well.

BURNETT: As I've said, we've seen a number of hate crimes. What do you say to Kevin McCarthy, though? He's absolutely refusing to engage with it all and said even asking the question was showing you didn't care about whether we get a vaccine, which obviously is a false choice. He just didn't want to go there.

CHEN: Look, I think Republicans need to realize there should be room to criticize the president when he says things that they don't believe are right, that they believe are offensive. I think there should that room.

Now, we haven't seen that in the case of this administration many times, but I think it's important for Republicans to realize, by the way, they've criticized past Republican nominees. When Mitt Romney was a nominee, they've criticized plenty of things Mitt Romney said during that campaign.

So, there should be room for that. And I hope Republicans would know where that line is to call that out. They could still support the president and want him reelected but realize that when he says things like this, there are consequences not just for him but for the party as well. BURNETT: Right, they (INAUDIBLE) to be lemmings.

New polls show Biden holding a strong lead in six battleground states that Trump carried in 2016, Lanhee, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Florida, Arizona, and North Carolina. Obviously, there's a long time until November and we all know things can change dramatically, but when you compare those numbers to Hillary Clinton's in 2016, Biden is up among nearly every group of voters, right? It's not just one group -- women, white college educated voters, most age groups, you're seeing it in many different groups.

How significant is it?

CHEN: Well, I think the deeper concern for the Trump campaign lies in states like Florida, like North Carolina, like Arizona, three states the president won in 2016. And in those states, Florida in particular, is worrisome. His lack of support among seniors I think is also particularly worrisome.

So, there are definitely trends they need to watch for. This is not a hole the president cannot climb out of, but it is a deep hole to be sure.

BURNETT: Former Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina ran against Trump in 2016. She voted for him, though. She now has said she's going to vote for Biden, calling him a person of humility and character. She uses the word empathy.


Senator Lisa Murkowski says she's struggling on whether she'll back Trump this year.

Is the president in trouble with his own party?

CHEN: I don't know that he is, Erin. I think that his support with Republicans is still strong.

Now, remember, if he -- if his support declines even a little bit amongst his own party, it does potentially put his re-election in jeopardy. So it doesn't take that many Republicans.

But as a general matter, the president is performing very well with Republicans still. There is that margin, though, where I think he needs to be concerned. And people like Murkowski and Carly Fiorina certainly elucidate the problem he has.

BURNETT: Right. And, of course, we should keep in mind, right, fewer than a quarter of registered voters are actually registered Republicans. So, he can do extremely well with registered Republicans, but he needs more than that to win.

Are you -- where are you on voting for him? Are you set that you will or have not decided?

CHEN: No, I'm still trying to figure things out with this electoral cycle and see kind of where things go. And I think a lot of Republicans, by the way, Erin, are in the same boat.

BURNETT: All right. Lanhee, I appreciate your time. Thank you.

And next, it could be one of the biggest political upsets of the year. I'm going to speak to the political newcomer who is declaring victory in a major, major race over a top Democrat in Congress.



BURNETT: Tonight, what could be the biggest political upset of the year. One of the top Democrats in Congress may be on the verge of losing his seat after a primary. Eliot Engel from New York, the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, currently trailing progressive challenger Jamaal Bowman, 61 percent to 34 percent. He's town nearly 12,000 votes, and that's before absentee ballots.

It's clearly an ominous sign for Engel. He has been in Congress since 1989. Chair of a committee, this is obviously a very, very major upset, as these numbers come in if this is what happens.

Jamaal Bowman is now OUTFRONT.

And I appreciate your time, Jamaal.

You've declared victory in an email to supporters. Obviously, as I said, because of those absentee ballots, we haven't formally protected a winner because there's so many absentee ballots. But you're very confident that you've won.

Tell me why.

JAMAAL BOWMAN (D), RUNNING FOR CONGRESS, SEEKING TO REPRESENT NY'S 16TH DISTRICT: Well, the voters have spoken, and they've spoken throughout the district. When you look at our district, it's broken up between the Northeast Bronx and Lower Westchester County. Right now, we're winning the Northeast Bronx about -- the North Bronx, excuse me, by 29 points and we're winning Westchester County about 23 to 25 points.

So, we're doing very well and there's no statistical reason to believe that the mail-in ballot count is going to be much different than what we -- what we're already seeing.

BURNETT: So, you came in here and you fought hard. And, you know, if you're the winner here, this is not the way a lot of people thought it was going to go, to state the obvious.

Governor Cuomo endorsed Congressman Engel. Senate Minority Leader Schumer endorsed him. The House Speaker Pelosi endorsed. Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, the current chair of the House Democratic Caucus, senior member of the Congressional Black Caucus.

What do you say to them tonight? BOWMAN: Well, you know, again, the people have spoken. You know, we

worked really hard from the very beginning of the campaign to build deep, authentic relationships with people across the district, across race, across class, across religion, across age, again, from Co-op City to Eden Walt (ph) to Rye, New York.

So, we did that work very urgently in the very beginning. We had hundreds of volunteers working with our campaign, knocking doors, left-letting making phone calls.

So those relationships matter. And we have always felt confident that those relationships would translate into votes. Even when the pandemic hit, we were able to pivot pretty efficiently to a virtual campaign. And it led us to the point where we're up now by many, many points.

BURNETT: So when it comes to calls for racial justice and the protests, which also have defined so much of this race, you have joined those calling to defund the police. So, I wanted to play part of a conversation I had with a Democratic congressman and House majority whip, Jim Clyburn. He wants police reform, but here's what he told me about how he views the defund movement.

Here he is.


REP. JIM CLYBURN (D-SC): History is instructive. I was there with John Lewis back in the '60s and the early '70s. We saw how our movement got hijacked. We did a lot back then that led to where we are today.

We would have done even more if we had not got overtaken by the sloganeering, "burn, baby, burn", took off in this country. Be careful that we don't get hijacked this time like we got the last time.


BURNETT: What do you think when you -- when you hear his thoughts?

BOWMAN: Well, defunding the police is about a reallocation of resources. It's about a demilitarization of the police, and investing in public health, investing in housing, investing in jobs, investing in education, health care, and environmental justice, investing in mental health support. You know, 50 percent of those killed by the police suffer from some mental or physical disability.

What that means is we need to take a different approach. Not a lethal approach. Defunding the police also means the end of sending military equipment to local police forces that they then use on people within the community.

So, it's not -- defunding is a rallying cry, but what it means is it's a reallocation of resources towards public health and other areas that we've neglected for quite some time.

BURNETT: So, it sounds like what you're saying is you understand his point, sometimes words can come to mean something to people that may not actually be what you're saying. I mean, you're saying reallocate, you're not saying you don't want police -- I'm presuming, right? You're not saying you don't want police providing safety. You want them to be trained differently and behave differently, right? As opposed to going away?

BOWMAN: Well, there's a role for police, but I push back on the notion that, you know, police and safety have to go hand in hand. When we talk about safety, the number one thing that makes me safety -- safe and secure is making sure that I have food security, housing security.


Well, I appreciate your time and explaining it.

BOWMAN: Thank you.

BURNETT: Thank you so much. I'll look forward to talking to you again. Thanks, Jamaal.

BOWMAN: Thank you.

BURNETT: And thanks to all of you for joining us.

Our global town hall "CORONAVIRUS: FACTS AND FEARS", starts right now.