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Global Coronavirus Deaths Surpass 500,000; Dr. Anthony Fauci Discusses Coronavirus Surge With CNN; Pence Wears A Mask During Texas Visit As U.S. Cases Surge; Florida Reports 8,530 New COVID-19 Cases In A Single Day; Mayors Heckled As They Announce 4Th Of July Beach Closures; Man Lost His Father To COVID, 28 Of His Family Members Tested Positive; Russian Bounties To Taliban Fighters Believed To Have Resulted In Deaths Of U.S. Troops, Intelligence Assessment Shows. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired June 28, 2020 - 21:00   ET




WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. This is a special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM.

Tonight, the world reaches a number that just A few months ago seemed unthinkable. More than half a million dead from coronavirus, a full 25 percent of those deaths right here in the United States. Over 125,000 Americans have died over the past few months. And the U.S. trends that suggest a pandemic is not letting up at all.

Only two states Rhode Island and Connecticut, two of the smaller states reporting a decline in new coronavirus cases compared to last week. Over that same time 36 states reporting an increase in new cases. Despite this dangerous surge only 13 states have paused they're reopening plans to try and slow down the spread, the rest at least for now hoping they can boost their economies without boosting the virus.

In the face of a growing public health disaster, President Trump still refusing to wear a mask in public. This says members of his own party and his own Coronavirus Task Force are now imploring all Americans to start wearing masks even the Vice President Mike Pence, finally joining the chorus today in both word and deed as he was seen wearing a mask as well.

With most of the country facing a very dangerous spike in cases, guidance from the nation's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci will be crucial to try to dig us all out of this broadening crisis. Dr. Fauci may not necessarily be in the spotlight, as much now since the White House scrapped his daily Coronavirus Task Force briefing, but our senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen had the chance to sit down with him for an hour -- for a very important interview.

She's joining us right now, with more of that interview, which was part of the Aspen Ideas Festival presented by the Aspen Institute. Elizabeth, we heard some of the interview in the last hour, but tell us what he's saying now about these latest very, very disturbing trends.

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I've known Dr. Fauci for many, many years now. This is a man who has devoted himself to getting rid of outbreaks, whether it's HIV or H1N1 flu. And so I asked him, how disturbing is it now for you to see six months in these surges in cases?


ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NIAID: Well, you know, you, it's a good question. And I like the way you framed it, Elizabeth, because we live in such a heterogeneous country. I mean, both geographically, demographically, economically, it's so different so that it's almost unfair. Because if you give the country a grade, you're really neglecting those areas that did it really well, that listen, that shut down that are opening up with care.

There are others that actually didn't listen, or they jumped over these guideposts that we had. Others got hit really badly, like the metropolitan area, and are doing very well now. I mean, if you look at what's happening in the New York metropolitan area, you know, they doing it really well, they're slowing down.

They're watching what's happening as they go from one phase to another. And when they see things that might endanger the flow and maybe precipitate an outbreak, they call a timeout, maybe come back a little. That's what everyone has to do.

So some grades are going to be A plus, some are going to be a in some going to be down in C somewhere.


BLITZER: Elizabeth, I know you also specifically asked him about the critically important issue of contact tracing. Tell us about that.

COHEN: So Wolf as part of my reporting. And also just personally, I've spoken with many people who have been positive for coronavirus, and I've asked them did you get a call from a contact tracer that someone from a health department asking you who were you in contact for this period of time over this many days? Please give me their phone numbers. I need to tell them to quarantine. Not one person that I've talked to Wolf and I've talked to many has actually received this call


And so I asked Dr. Fauci, how do you think we're doing in this country with contact tracing?


FAUCI: I don't think we're doing very well for a number of reasons, not all of which is the fault of the system. And that, you know, I mentioned this over the past few days, that if you go into the community and call up and say, how's the contact tracing going, the dots are not connected, because a lot of it is done by phone, you make a contact 50 percent of the people because you're coming from an authority don't even want to talk to you. If you're in an area where there are a lot of brown people, people who are Latinx at the border, they're concerned if they'll give you -- if you give them confidential information, it's going to work against them.

And then there are those who they'll give you the contact, but you don't exactly isolate them. They get lost in the shuffle. That's very, very difficult situation that we've got to do better on. But what's even more confounding, Elizabeth was even more confounding is that when you have a community based outbreak, like going on right now, in several states, Florida, California, Texas, Arizona, et cetera. What you're seeing is community based spread, were 20 to 40 percent of the people who are infected, don't have any symptoms.

So the standard classic paradigm of identification, isolation, contact tracing, doesn't work, no matter how good you are, because you don't know who you're tracing. They're out there, they don't even know that they're infected.

So, as I mentioned a few times recently, one of the things that we are considering doing is completely blanketing these communities with tests to get a feel for what the penetrance is in the community of infection. You can do that by a number of ways. You can do pooled testing of large numbers of people together in one shot, you can get community people to get boots on the ground. And to go out there and look for the people instead of getting on a phone and doing so-called contact tracing by phone.


BLITZER: That's so important. We heard Elizabeth, Dr. Fauci at the very end there mentioned what's called pool testing. Explain to our viewers what that is.

COHEN: Yes, this is very interesting, Wolf. It's been done with other infections. Most people test negative thank goodness, right? Most people test negative. So a way to speed this up is you pull a bunch of tests together, let's, you know, several dozen people.

And if the whole thing is negative, if the whole test is negative, you can tell all those people all of you are negative. If the pool test comes out positive, you need to retest each individual person. And while that may sound tedious, it helps because if you get large groups of people over and over again that are negative, you have saved yourself a lot of time, resources and money.

Wolf, I also talked to Dr. Fauci, I said what is different about this virus that is making it so difficult to get under control?


FAUCI: In all the years that I've been chasing viruses, I've never seen a situation that could lead to such confusion. Because with the same pathogen, you have 20 to 40 percent of the people don't even know they're infected, then you get another proportion that they know they're infected because they have mild symptoms than another group that have moderately severe symptoms, they stay home for a week, or two or more and don't feel well for another month. Others require hospitalization, of those some require oxygen of those some require intubation, others require ventilation and some die.

So, when you have a young person who has little chance, not zero, because young people are getting into trouble too, but have little chance of getting seriously involved. The thing what's the big deal about? I mean, people are getting affected my friends, I'm in my 20s or whatever, I'm not going to be getting affected.

So they do things to propagate the pandemic, in a -- in an innocent, understandable, but a regrettable way. And that is they don't realize that why they're getting infected. It is likely they're going to infect someone else who will infect someone else who ultimately will infect a vulnerable person. And then you have hospitalizations, and deaths.

So, like it or not, by getting infected yourself, you're not in a vacuum. You're part of the propagation of the dynamics of a pandemic. So you have your own individual responsibility to protect yourself, but you really do have a societal responsibility to be not part of the problem. But to be proud of the solution.


BLITZER: Are really important interview Elizabeth Cohen doing it for us, Elizabeth, thank you so much for doing that interview. I want to thank the Aspen Institute, the Aspen Ideas Festival for organizing it, appreciate it very much. Will continue these conversations and your excellent reporting down the road.


Meanwhile, after days of dodging the question the Vice President Mike Pence finally today addressed wearing masks as he met with officials in Dallas earlier in the afternoon. I want to go to our White House correspondent, Jeremy Diamond. Jeremy. So tell our viewers what the Vice President had to say.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, if as you said, we have not heard very much from the Vice President or the President as far as encouraging Americans to wear masks, but that is exactly what we heard from the Vice President today during a visit to Texas, which is one of those states Wolf, that is seeing a troubling surge in Coronavirus cases listen to what the Vice President has to say.


MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: Wash your hands, avoid touching your face and wear a mask wherever it's indicated, or wherever you're not able to practice the kind of social distancing that would prevent the spread of the coronavirus.


DIAMOND: And we also heard the Vice President say that wearing a mask is just a good idea. And the Vice President though as far as modeling that behavior, it was done to mixed results today, Wolf. We saw him land in Texas, he was wearing a mask as -- a mask as he descended the steps of Air Force Two.

And then after that he was at a church in Dallas where he was wearing a mask, but it was also at an event where he saw a lot of people not wearing masks, including the church choir who was singing as a church choir, as you would expect them to do without wearing any masks. But ultimately, Wolf when it comes to this messaging around the masks, and frankly, the politicization that we have seen of this very basic, you know, preventative steps that Americans can take, which is to wear a mask, it all comes from the top and President Trump has not been vocal about the importance of wearing masks.

He has resisted wearing one himself, saying that he would not do it out of spite frankly, for the fact that the press has urged him to wear a mask and we certainly have not seen him model that behavior and the results of it were shown Wolf during his rally in total Oklahoma last week, when we saw the President, many of his supporters there certainly were not wearing masks in an indoor space where they were not able to socially distance. These are the results of the President's lack of leadership on this question of masks wearing.

BLITZER: All right, Jeremy. Thanks very much. Jeremy Diamond reporting from the White House.

Coming up, experts are warning that Florida could become the next epicenter of the coronavirus here in the United States. The governor is pausing reopening efforts and local officials are closing the state's famous beaches for the Fourth of July weekend. The mayor of Miami Beach, Dan Gelber, he's standing by live, we'll discuss what's going on. Stay with us here in THE SITUATION ROOM.



BLITZER: In Florida Sunday's, a number of new coronavirus cases hit 8, 530, the good news that number falls about 1,000 cases short of Saturday's record high. But it's still very troubling proof that the virus is running rampant in the sunshine state. According to the Florida Department of Health, the state has more than 141,000 confirmed cases and more than 3,500 COVID-19 related deaths.

CNN's Natasha Chen is joining us now from Pensacola Beach in Florida. Natasha, the Governor Ron De Santis pointed the finger specifically young people in Florida for apparently not doing enough to stop the spread. Is that exactly what you've been seeing in Pensacola beach?

NATASH CHEN, CNN CORRESPODNENT: Oh, Wolf, we have seen a lot of young people gathering and especially waiting for a table at the restaurants that are still open. Now remember, on Friday, the states shut down all the standalone bars so they can't sell alcohol for consumption on premises anymore. That means the restaurants that have bars everybody's going to them.

Now the visit that De Santis made to Pensacola today, he wanted to emphasize that now this younger cohort is the leading group of people with positive COVID cases and he said that this has been such a rise in recent weeks, recent days, he's reminding everyone to avoid closed spaces and crowds and close contact settings. These are just the very -- the very things that would be happening in a gathering like the Republican National Convention that's happening less than two months from now in Jacksonville.

You know, I asked today about the fact that President Trump had some disagreements originally with the state of North Carolina when the convention was supposed to be in Charlotte, about potential requirements that they would have had to face with social distancing and masks. So here's what I asked Governor Ron De Santis, about the convention in Florida.


CHEN (voice-over): With Florida's numbers as high as they are now and you just told people to avoid the three C's, close spaces, crowded places and close contacts, have you assured the President you can have a convention of thousands of people indoors, with no face mask requirement?

GOV. RON DE SANTIS (R-FL): We always said look, it's a work in progress. We're going to -- we'll try to get to yes. But it was never anything where, you know, obviously we're in a dynamic situation. So, so they know that and -- but I think we're going to I think we'll be fine by that time a couple months away. And we look forward to seeing that.


CHEN: Our producer followed up later after that to check in with the medical experts on that panel today, whether they believe this situation would be better two months from now. One of them said that is hopeful if everyone follows the guidelines, and we've seen that's been somewhat problematic so far, Wolf.

BLITZER: That's what we've seen to be sure. Natasha, thank you very much.

Let's bring in the mayor of Miami Beach, Dan Gelber. Mayor Gelber, thanks so much for joining us.

I know you've called for a special commission meeting to discuss mask how to get people to comply with wearing them. Tell us why you believe this is such a critically important step right now. And what options do you have Mayor for enforcement?

MAYOR DAN GELBER (D), MIAMI BEACH: Well, the problem is, there's not a lot of tools left in the kit. You know, we had masks as mandatory for months inside and in some places outside, but obviously people aren't complying. So tomorrow our commission will meet and figure out how to expand that how to come up with some other ideas. I think you're going to see in our city, hundreds of ambassadors with handing out masks everywhere, because it's certainly in our entertainment district we see so many people still congregating.


And we don't want to arrest people. But on the other hand, we have to have an enforcement tool and a persuasion tool and we're hoping we can come up with something that will be effective, because up to now, nothing's really been effective.

BLITZER: Right now, people are supposed to wear masks indoors and outdoors if they can't keep social distancing. So where are you seeing the biggest problems with non compliance? Are they the young people in Miami Beach?

GELBER: Yes, absolutely. And you can see -- it's not at Miami Beach, I think our residents probably are all pretty are doing better than most other folks in the sense that it's a residential community. It's the -- you know, we're 92,000 people live here. Were hundreds of thousands they come to visit every day. And it's -- I think that cohort that's coming here to be entertained, to eat to, you know, not go to bars, but they're still drinking and going on our promenades on the beaches. They're coming here with that atmosphere.

So, getting them to adhere to these guidelines is very difficult. And we've really got a seven sample and frankly, we -- you know, as I point out pretty regularly now, during a hurricane, we all get together, we know what to do. We help people we don't even know, we help pets we don't even know. It's amazing, but there's no sense of communal spirit right now, though unity of purpose allowing this community to come in to everybody to care as much as they should.

BLITZER: Yes, that's a good point. I understand that some people are really pushing back down in Florida. I want you to watch and listen to what happened earlier today in Broward County that's just north of Miami and the Fort Lauderdale area when area mayor's announced beach closures for the July 4 upcoming weekend. Listen to the -- what happened?


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You should stay at home, celebrate with your families, be grateful for the wonderful America that we have. We're all in this together now. And we will get through it if everyone cooperates and continues to social distance. Wear a mask, wash your hands and make sure we care for one another.


BLITZER: You can hear in the background, Mayor, people screaming at her saying this is unacceptable. Are you facing that kind of reaction in Miami Beach as well?

GELBER: Absolutely. And a lot of this is look, I tried very hard not to be a finger pointer during this thing. But honestly, this is one of those things where in the -- what has always gotten our country through this has been working together and you need leadership. And honestly, I feel like we should be solving this with the leadership of the President, but we're going to have to solve it in spite of the President, because he isn't sending out signals to people.

There are too many people who think this is a political battle. And it's nothing like that I have elderly people in my community, and many of them Republicans who care so -- are so concerned about their health and rightfully so, or the health of a spouse or a friend. And it's the idea that we can't get on the same page for something that simple is maddening to me. And I don't understand why people are heckling anybody right now.

BLITZER: That's why it's so important for the President to start wearing a mask and telling everyone to wear a mask and tell his supporters this is not a political issue at all. This is a life and death issue that you have to understand.

Mayor Gelber as usual, thanks so much for joining us. Good luck to everyone in Miami Beach.

GELBER: Thank you Wolf.

BLITZER: So from Florida to California, the coronavirus pandemic is surging and states across the country, we're going to take you live to the west coast for an update. Much more of our special coverage right here in THE SITUATION ROOM.



BLITZER: The California Governor Gavin Newsom is ordering bars to close in seven counties because of recent surge in coronavirus cases in California, is also recommending eight other counties take similar action on their own.

CNN's Paul Vercammen is joining us now from Los Angeles. So Paul, what more can you tell us about this decision from the governor and what you're seeing there on the ground?

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, what happened is the governor says it's actually getting worse than many of these counties, so effective immediately we'll look at a map. He has shut down bars and taverns and brew pubs in the seven counties including right here in Los Angeles County, that also includes Fresno, Imperial, Kern, Kings, San Joaquin and Tulare.

We should note that San Joaquin was among those counties and Imperial that was already close. He doesn't want them reopening. Then there's recommendations for other counties to go ahead and close their pubs. In an interesting statement from the California Department of Health, they said people were dropping their guard in the bars. They were forgetting to wear their masks. They weren't social distancing. And they were speaking loudly which can send projectiles into the air, airborne droplets, if you will, that could spread COVID-19. And while this news broke, I was speaking with Richard Garay. He says that 28 members of his family contracted COVID-19, this includes his father, 62-yeard-old (INAUDIBLE). He died the day before Father's Day. He had pre existing conditions. And Richard wants everyone to listen to his cautionary tale, because he says the family was very thorough in washing their hands, wearing their masks and social distancing.



RICHARD GARAY, FATHER DIED OF CORONAVIRUS: And if we want to get out of this, then we need to do everything within our power, within your power to follow those guidelines and help stop the spread of coronavirus. And that's our message. That's what my father would have wanted. That's the type of person that my father was, and I just want people to understand that, and I just want people to grieve with us because we know that we are not the only ones.


VERCAMMEN: And one member of the family, they thought did not have the virus was Richard's wife, but she is now in quarantine. They suspect she does. He just wants everyone to heed what happened to his family, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Paul, thanks very much for that.

Let's bring in CNN Medical Analyst, the Former New York City Assistant Commissioner of Health, Dr. Celine Gounder. Dr. Gounder, thanks so much for joining us. As you know, 36 states are now seeing this dramatic increase in cases. Only two states are seeing numbers decline. Little states, Connecticut and Rhode Island. What's your reaction when you hear this and where are we heading if we don't turn things around and don't do so quickly?

DR. CELINE GOUNDER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, Wolf, some states did a really excellent job, I mean, as Tony Fauci eluded, New York State, where I live myself, did a really thorough job of suppressing, transmission and a very slowly stage by stage, lifting social distancing measures. And, you know, that's really the model across the U.S. for how this should be done. And I can tell you, it's been painful for all of us who've been on lockdown for months. But it's really paid off.

Unfortunately, the dirty secret about what's happening in the rest of the country is they are probably looking at having to go back on a very strict lockdown to supress the transmission and then try to emulate what we've done here, which is again, a very phased in lifting of restrictions and having preventive measures in place to prevent transmission from picking up again as it has in the rest of the country.

BLITZER: As you know, the President has linked the rising case numbers across the country to more testing. But health experts have said, that more testing should show a downward trend, if in fact, cases are dwindling. How serious should states be taking this?

GOUNDER: Well, I think we all need to be taking this very seriously. Whether you're in a state that's managed to supress transmission like New York or whether you're in a state like Arizona or Florida or Texas where cases are exploding. You know, because we are one country, people do travel around, so this is a threat to everyone.

You know, one thing that has me very concerned right now is the lack of transparency and lack of reporting of some of the data. So states like Florida and Texas are not reporting publicly their ICU hospitalization data, how many people are in ICUs, on ventilators right now. And to me, that indicates that they're trying to conceal the severity, the gravity of the situation right now.

BLITZER: That's a significant development too. I want you to listen to something that Dr. Deborah Birx, a key member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, said about wearing masks. Listen to this.


DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE RESPONSE COORDINATOR: We know now there's scientific evidence that masks both keep you from infecting other but may also partially protect you from getting infected. I think that's a new discovery and a new finding.


BLITZER: What do you think about that?

GOUNDER: Well, Wolf, it's sort of been a moving target figuring out to what degree masks protect ourselves, to what degree they protect other people. And clearly they are tremendously beneficial, they may not be 100 percent effective in protecting ourselves and other people, but they do cut the risk dramatically. And there's really nothing to lose when you consider the benefits here.

I think, unfortunately, we have this anti-science, anti-government streak here, and whether that applies to wearing masks or complying with contract tracing or eventually getting a vaccine. I that streak of being anti-government and anti-science is really hurting us as a nation right now.

BLITZER: I think you're right. Dr. Gounder, thanks as usual for joining us. Stay safe out there.

Coming up, we're going to get back to our coronavirus coverage in just a few moments. But we're also following breaking news. Get this, "The Washington Post" is now reporting that the alleged Russian bounties to Taliban fighters in Afghanistan are believed to have resulted in the deaths of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, this according to intelligence assessments.

We're going to bring you more details. This is a shocking story that we're watching. Much more of our coverage right after this.


BLITZER: We got back to the coronavirus in a few moments. But we're following a breaking story right now, very disturbing story after a U.S. official confirmed to CNN, that a Russian intelligence unit was reaching out to Taliban-linked militias in Afghanistan to offer bounties in exchange for killing American and coalition forces.

"The Washington Post" is now reporting that the bounties are, are believed to have resulted in the deaths of several U.S. Service members in Afghanistan, according to intelligence assessment. This comes after a European intelligence official on Saturday told CNN, that in their assessment the bounties did, in fact, lead to coalition casualties. That official did not specify the date, number or the nationality, or whether those were fatalities or injuries.

But I'm joined now by one of the reporters who broke the story for the "The Washington Post," the National Security Reporter Ellen Nakashima. Ellen, thank you so much for joining us, thanks for your excellent journalism in your reporting. Tell our viewers what you found out.

ELLEN NAKASHIMA, NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER, THE WASHINGTON POST (via telephone): According to forces, they have told us tonight that these Russian bounties offered to the Taliban-linked militias resulting in the deaths of several, maybe a handful of U.S. Service members in Afghanistan.


We're not sure exactly what years, we were told that the targeting took place in 2018 and 2019. And they could have had -- there were total of 10 deaths of American Service members in 2018 and 16 in 2019. So, could have been in one or both years.

BLITZER: And did they explain what the Russian motivation was in paying these Taliban fighters specific bounties to go out there and kill U.S. and coalition forces?

NAKASHIMA: Yes. No, that is the odd thing that's got people scratching their heads. The motive is not entirely clear. There's been a lot of speculation that perhaps this was in some sense, some retaliation for the U.S. attacks that killed several hundred Russian mercenaries and pro-assault forces in Syria in 2018. After those mercenaries attempted and assault on a base guarding oil fields in Syria, or of course, there was also the U.S. and western retaliation for the poisoning of the GRU spy -- ex former spy Sergei Skripal in Britain in 2018.

But, you know, more broadly, I would put this in the frame of just increased Russian GRU Brazen this in -- over the last decade against the west, against the United States. Whether you're looking at Russian interference in the 2016 election, cyberattacks in Ukraine or other interference in Ukraine, in their own elections. And it's just part of a troubling pattern of greater hostility and aggression without really paying much attention or therapy to even covering up their tracks.

BLITZER: Good reporting as usual. Ellen, thank you very much to you and your colleagues for breaking the story in "The Washington Post."

I want to bring in a Democratic Congressman, John Garamendi, he's a key member of the House Armed Services Committee. Congressman, so what's your reaction to "The Washington Post" reporting, the CNN reporting, "The New York Times" reporting, "The Wall Street Journal" reporting that the Russian bounty program was there, and now we're learning it actually succeeded in leading to the deaths of American troops.

REP. JOHN GARAMENDI (D-CA): Multiple, multiple emotions. First, anger. Anger at Russia, anger at the President for not stepping out and putting at least a hard word to Putin. And sorrow, sorrow for those American families that whose family members were killed for a bounty by Russia. I mean, it is unbelievable and maybe it is believable, but it is absolutely outrageous. And even more outrageous is the President should have been -- should have known way back in late March.

And here we are two months later, and he denies knowledge. It's just hard to fathom how such irresponsibility and dereliction could take place.

BLITZER: Do you know, Congressman, if key members of the Armed Services Committee or the Intelligence Committee, key member, the leadership, the so-called Gang Of Eight in the House and Senate, where they briefed on this? Do you have any information on that?

GARAMENDI: Well, only what was said today, Pelosi said there was no briefing. And I think Lindsey Graham and the Senate side said the same. We should have been briefed. At least the chairman of the committee and the ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, as well as the Senate. I've not had a chance to talk about them. I will tomorrow when we reconvene the Congress, and I'll have a chance to talk to Adam Smith about it.

But I suspect that we were not briefed. Keep in mind that the administration has been very, very unwilling to share any information with Congress. And that continues on. And we also have a President who cannot be believed. I don't know, what are we approaching 20,000 misstatements lies and half-truths along the way? So where does the truth live?

We need to have our own hearings. If they have to be confidential, secret hearings, fine. But we need a briefing. We need to understand what's going on. And more than anything, we need a president's willing to stand up to Putin and say, stop it.

And here are the consequences that are in place now, and more to come. You've done bad things. You've interfered in our elections. You're doing it again and stop it and not or else here is what is going to happen to you right now.


BLITZER: Yes. I know you're obviously represent your district from California, which is having serious coronavirus problems right now. President Trump denies having any knowledge of this intelligence that's going on. But I want to play something that the former National Security Adviser John Bolton said on CNN earlier. Listen to this.


JOHN BOLTON, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: It looks bad if Russians are paying to kill Americans and we're not doing anything about it. So what is the presidential reaction is to say, it's not my responsibility, nobody told me about it. And therefore to duck any complaints that he hasn't acted effectively, this is part of the problem with Trump -- President Trump's decision making in the national security space. It's just unconnected to the reality he's dealing with. It's about his personal position.


BLITZER: And he told me, Bolton, who was the President's National Security Adviser for a year and a half approximately, he said the President was turning a blind eye to all the early signs about coronavirus. He said there was an empty chair in the Oval Office. So he's got that. But also now these reports about Russian bounty payments to Afghan Taliban to kill Americans.

GARAMENDI: Well, there you have it. We have a President that is not paying attention, or just not wanting to deal with Russia. Take a look at what's happened here during his administration. First of all, during the campaign, the Intelligence Committee said Russia's actively engaged in the U.S. campaign in 2016. And the President, actually -- or his team actually reached out and accepted that help. That was all in the Mueller report.

And then what did he do? Well, more recently, he -- we set up following the Crimea incursion by Russia into the Ukraine. We set up what was called the European Defense Initiative, spent about $26 billion over the last years. And last year, the President wrapped in and ripped off nearly a billion dollars of necessary improvements for our military in Europe, followed up just this last month by moving one quarter of the U.S. troops -- or trying to move one quarter of the U.S. troops out of Germany and doing his level best to diminish the power of NATO despite very, very strong support for NATO both in money and in rhetoric and in policy from the Congress.

I think the rest of Bolton's comments are probably correct. And that is Putin place Trump like a fiddle. You go back through all of this Helsinki. The President wants to believe Putin over his own intelligence agency. It goes on and on and on. It's not only a dereliction of duty, it is a serious problem for the United States. It's obviously a serious problem for our military, who are the targets of bounty hunters paid by Putin and the Russian GRU operation.

BLITZER: Congressman John Garamendi of the Armed Services Committee. Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.

GARAMENDI: My pleasure.

BLITZER: All right. We'll take a quick break. More news right after this.



BLITZER: We have new information about the controversial firing of one of the country's most powerful federal prosecutors. The Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman was fired by President Trump last weekend. But that came after a very public standoff with the Attorney General William Barr. And apparently the tension between the two had been building for quite a while.

CNN's Kara Scannell is joining us from New York right now. So Kara, what are you learning?

KARA SCANNELL, CNN REPORTER: Yes, Wolf. So the tension between Bill Barr and the U.S. Attorney in Manhattan, Geoffrey Berman, had been building nearly since the beginning when Barr came in and took over last January, in February. Berman, you know, had briefed the U.S. -- the A.G. on the investigation into Trump's Attorney Rudy Giuliani's associates, but Barr did not think that the U.S. prosecutors in Manhattan had given him enough information about where the investigation was going and how much of it was focused on Rudy Giuliani.

You know, the tensions have simmered over the past several months. Barr is known as a hands-on manager. But for the U.S. Attorney in Manhattan that was viewed as a bit more meddlesome. They believe that Barr was trying to steer certain investigations in different directions. This also came to a head and another investigation involving a very politically sensitive Turkish bank hopping.

Now, the A.G. was trying to push for a settlement with the bank that would result in no criminal charges, what's known as a deferred prosecution agreement. But in New York, the prosecutors, they were pushing to indict the bank. This was a bank that can come up in conversations the President Trump had with the Turkish president. It was very politically sensitive.

Ultimately, the U.S. Attorney Manhattan got their way and the bank was indicted. So this all boiled over to ahead, you know, just last week. And a lot of that has to do with the fact that the U.S. Attorney Manhattan is not providing Bill Barr with frequent updates on their investigation into Giuliani and their associates.


Barr is very sensitive to the election coming up, and that's just four months away. Ultimately, Barr who does like to have control over the cases pushed out Berman. And now this investigation with four months to go to the election, it remains to be seen whether or not Giuliani will be charged here, Wolf.

BLITZER: We'll see what happens. Good reporting. Kara. Thank you very much.

And to our viewers, joined Jake Tapper to new CNN Special Report, Trump and The Law after Impeachment, that airs -- that's coming up right after our situation room right at the top of the hour.

That does it for me. To all of our viewers, thanks very much for watching. Have a good night. Stay safe.