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Trump Under Fire Over U.S. Troop Deaths in Afghanistan; Coronavirus Cases Rising in U.S.; Supreme Court Strikes Down Louisiana Abortion Law. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired June 29, 2020 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: The U.S., with less than 5 percent of the world's population, has around 25 percent of the world's coronavirus deaths, according to official numbers.

No way to spin this as anything other than an abject failure by the Trump administration and many state governments to keep their people safe.

CNN's Nick Watt is in hard-hit California.

Nick, state's Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom, saying moments ago that California has seen a 45 percent increase in cases that have tested positive over just the last week.

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Jake, the news is not good from out here in California.

We are setting new records, unwanted records. The positivity rate is rising. The average new case count every day is rising. The number of people in the hospital is rising. In fact, the governor said that, over the past two weeks, the numbers in the hospital is up over 40 percent.

So he's closing bars here in Los Angeles and six other counties. He has a bunch of counties on a watch list. He is, like other leaders around the country, pausing or rolling back on the reopening.


WATT (voice-over): Because of this, this and this...

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We had to change a tube on somebody that has no oxygen. He could have died.

WATT: ... we are now hearing this:

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Arizona is on pause.

GOV. GREG ABBOTT (R-TX): We will continue to take action based upon the data.

WATT: Fourteen states now pausing or tweaking their reopening plans.

ALEX AZAR, U.S. HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: The window is closing for us to take action and get this under control.

WATT: And in states that still won't mandate masks, some mayors now making that call, in Nashville, Kansas City, Tupelo, and now Jacksonville, where the president had hoped to hold an unmasked convention later this summer.

Is his no mask mantra now evolving?

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He encourages people to make whatever decision is best for their safety, but he did say to me he has problem with masks and to do whatever your local jurisdiction requests of you.

WATT: Meanwhile, long lines for tests in Florida, where the new case counts are now more than six times what they were a month ago. So, South Florida's beaches will be closed again for the Fourth of July.

In only four small states are new case counts actually falling, while, in these six states, COVID-19 hospitalizations are now at an all-time high. Bars across Texas have closed again.

DEE MARGO (R), MAYOR OF EL PASO, TEXAS: Forty-six percent of our policies were 20-to-30-year-olds. And we think that was a direct result of congregations in the bars.

WATT: And infections among a younger crowd create a problem.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: What you're seeing is community- based spread where 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.

WATT: Even in New York City, which is doing relatively well right now, Broadway will be dark now until next year, 2021.

We need, say the experts, around 30 contact racers per 100,000 people. CNN has learned that right now Florida has about seven, Arizona about five, and Georgia as few as two.

Dr. Fauci now says he'd settle for a vaccine that's 70 to 75 percent effective, but maybe not everybody would be willing to take it, making herd immunity.

FAUCI: Unlikely. And that's one of the reasons why we have to make sure we engage the community, as we're doing now.


WATT: Now, up until this point, the message on masks has really been one kind of love thy neighbor, where one to protect somebody else.

But now Dr. Birx from the White House Coronavirus Task Force says that there is also signs to suggest that they do partially protect the wearer, and she is also warning, young people, you could be out there, you could be asymptomatic.

So, if you're saying hi to grandma and grandpa, wear a mask -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Nick Watt in Los Angeles, thanks so much.

Joining me now is CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Sanjay, you heard HHS Secretary Azar tell me yesterday that the window to get this virus under control is closing. How long do we have? Or might it already be too late?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it depends how you define too late.

I mean, I think action is always going to be better than inaction at this point. But there's no question Jake, as we have been talking about, you and I, since February and March, that, the earlier you act, the better.

I mean, if we're thinking about this as a metaphor of a body and you're treating a cancer or something, you want to treat early. We have been waiting. And there's been spread of this infection now through the country. So it's going to require treatment. It's going to require more aggressive treatment in some areas vs. others.


I think that, at this point, it almost becomes an existential question. What are we willing to tolerate in terms of people actually getting sick and possibly dying, before we start imposing some of these actions, Jake?

We know what needs to be done. We have seen it around the world. We have evidence that it works. We just need to apply some of these things here uniformly across the country.

TAPPER: And, Sanjay, take a look at this graphic.

On the left side of the screen is the map showing the case trends in the United States. Right now, 31 states have increased levels of new coronavirus cases, 15 states holding steady. Only four are trending down.

Now, compare that to the map on the right, which is from Memorial Day, about a month ago. It's a stunning difference. It's worse now, much more red today, many more cases increasing.

GUPTA: If you stay with this metaphor, Jake, of looking at those maps as the body, the disease is more widespread now.

Where it was localized before, you had certain things that you could have done in localized areas to bring it down, I look at that map, Jake, and if -- I see the entire country now at risk, because people do travel around. We are the United States. But if you start to get these significant increases in places around

the country, 102 percent increase in Florida, 78 percent in Georgia, where I am Texas, Arizona, 27 percent over the last seven days, these are significant increases.

And we're likely starting to see some exponential growth. I don't think you can look at any part of the country and say that it's not vulnerable now. That's the tough news. Because of what's happening in some of these other places, it affects the entire country.

TAPPER: At the height of the virus, hospitals were overwhelmed. There was a desperate need for ventilators and PPE, personal protective equipment. Thousands of Americans were dying every day.

Here's what HHS Secretary Azar said to me yesterday on "STATE OF THE UNION."


AZAR: Things are very different from two months ago. We now have three therapeutics. We have hospital capacity. We have reserves of personal protective equipment. We're speeding our way towards having vaccines.

So, it is a very different situation.


TAPPER: Do you agree? Is it a very different situation right now?

GUPTA: In some ways, it's different. I think he's obviously doing what he should be doing, putting a positive spin on this, Jake.

I mean the three therapeutics he's talking about, remember, that's one that does shorten the duration of recovery a bit. Dexamethasone is a steroid medication for the sickest patients. Convalescence serum, I think is the third therapeutic he's talking about. That hasn't been shown to be effective yet, but there's a lot of promise around that.

They are making progress on a vaccine. It's -- we're not there yet. As far as personal protective equipment, I watched your interview. I thought that was a good follow-up that you had. The way they figure this out is, they say, hey, look, let's look at the past five months and figure out which was the worst 30 days.

And if we want to have a 90-day supply, we're going to multiply that 30-day worst window by three, and see if we can have 90 days. There's two issues. One is that, when are you going to have that? That plan was for October during this possible second wave.

Well, as you're showing from these maps, there may not be a second wave, in the sense that we may not really get out of the first wave here. We're having a significant peak.

The other issue is that the worst 30-day period over the last five months, we may supersede that 30 -- we may have a worse period over the next couple of months. So are we going to have enough personal protective equipment?

Miguel Marquez's piece out of Houston today shows these health care workers using PPE, switching them out several times a day. You get more and more patients coming to these hospitals, it's not clear to me that we're going to have enough of some of that basic equipment.

TAPPER: I want to play for you what Dr. Fauci said about the prospect of a coronavirus vaccine.


FAUCI: I doubt seriously that any vaccine will ever be 100 percent protective.

The best we have ever done is measles, which is 97 to 98 percent effective. Oh, that would be wonderful if we get there. I don't think we will. I would settle for a 70, 75 percent effective vaccine, because that would bring you to that level of would be herd immunity level.


TAPPER: Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious diseases expert, talking to our own Elizabeth Cohen.

What do you make of that?

GUPTA: Well, I mean, if it's a 70 to 75 percent effective vaccine, and everyone takes it, that's going to be -- that's going to be a good thing. We will get to that herd immunity.

I think the rest of that conversation with Elizabeth basically was that right now you got about a third of the country in some of this polling that says that they are vaccine-hesitant or they would -- they right out come out and say they wouldn't take it, which means you're not going to get to herd immunity from this.

So, one of two things has to happen. It's simple math. Either it has to be a better vaccine, has to be more protective, or more people have to be taking this vaccine.


You might get to a situation where enough people get infected and develop their own antibodies, where that could help with herd immunity. But it's tough.

If you create a good vaccine and people don't take it in the middle of a pandemic, I mean, at that point, you aren't left with a lot of options, other than more people will get infected than should.

TAPPER: What is the reason that we're having this spike right now?

If it's about a four-week lag time, is this all just because, in May, all of these governors just reopened businesses way too quickly, not adhering to the White House's own guidelines, cheered on by the president, who wanted to get the economy going, not wearing masks, going into bars, lots of group activities?

Like, is that -- is that why we are where we are? I mean, I have heard some people say maybe it's -- some of it is the protests, although I'm not sure the timeline works out.

GUPTA: I think that the protests are probably contributing to this as well. I think the reopening early is contributing.

I think, fundamentally, Jake, what it is, is that we knew what the treatment was for this infection. And, again, I'm using this metaphor, maybe overusing it, of the body as the country here. But we knew what the treatment was for this infection.

We saw that treatment work in other countries around the world. The -- it's not a medicine. It is the stay at home. It is slowing down the transmission of this virus. And that treatment works. We have seen it work in other places.

Problem was, we got about partway through the treatment, and we got bored, and we stopped the treatment. We started to reopen early. All those other things, I think, are offshoots of it, people thinking, well, we're through it. You open up the country, why do we need to wear masks anymore? Why do we need to maintain the physical distance?

All these things, I think, contributed to this. And now we're seeing the ramifications. We need this treatment one way or the other, whether it's going to be in our hands or it's going to be forced upon us. We have to have this treatment. Otherwise, this infection is just going to continue to spread.

TAPPER: All right, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thank you so much.

Coming up: An intel report says that Russians offered bounties to Taliban terrorists to kill U.S. and U.K. troops. Today, the White House said the president never heard about it?

Speaker Pelosi will react live in minutes.

Then: reports of crime surging across the United States, a 1-year-old among those killed in Chicago, a troubling situation the ground in places such as New York, as the nation debates the future of policing.



TAPPER: What did President Trump know about Russians allegedly putting a bounty on American lives in Afghanistan and when did he know it?

As first reported by "New York Times" and confirmed by multiple outlets, including CNN, U.S. intelligence found that Russians offered a bounty if Taliban terrorists killed U.S. and British troops in Afghanistan. Now, "The Washington Post", citing intelligence assessments, reports that the blood money did, in fact, lead to U.S. service members being killed. But the White House is denying that the president was briefed on this,

instead saying there was not a consensus among U.S. intelligence agencies on the credibility of the intel.

But CNN's Kaitlan Collins reports that's not going to fly for many lawmakers.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER (voice-over): The White House adamant today that President Trump was never briefed on intelligence reports that Russia was willing to pay militants to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He was not personally briefed on the matter.

COLLINS: But the press secretary struggled to explain why Trump wasn't told about the stunning intelligence or what he'll do in response.

MCENANY: I won't speculate whether this intelligence is verified or not verified, I won't get ahead of the president on further actions. But I just point out that no one --


COLLINS (on camera): You're not disputing that that's not true.

MCENANY: There are dissenting opinions within the intelligence community, I can confirm with you right now that there's no consensus within the intelligence community on these allegations.

COLLINS (voice-over): There doesn't have to be a consensus among the intelligence community to brief the commander in chief. Mac Thornberry, the top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee said he is concerned that Trump wasn't briefed on anything with a hint of credibility that would endanger our service members much less put a bounty on their lives.

A congressional briefing was hastily thrown together today after lawmakers, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called on the administration to tell Congress what they know.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): I don't know what the Russians have on the president politically, personally, financially, or whatever it is, but he wants to ignore. Something is wrong with this picture.

COLLINS: The press secretary says Pelosi is playing politics. But the calls for more information have been bipartisan. Liz Cheney, the third highest ranking Republican in the House, also said the White House must explain what's being done in response to hold Vladimir Putin accountable if the intelligence is accurate.

Today, the White House did not say what its response would be, or whether there will be one at all. (on camera): You don't think the report is true?

MCENANY: I'm telling you this, that there's no consensus in the intelligence community and that the dissenting opinions from some of the intelligence community exist.

COLLINS (voice-over): The intelligence was first reported by "The New York Times," and has been confirmed by several outlets, including CNN. And "The Washington Post" is now citing intelligence assessments that say those bounties resulted in the deaths of U.S. several troops.


COLLINS: Now, Jake, we should be clear, CNN has not confirmed that "Washington Post" reporting. What we do know is that eight GOP lawmakers were briefed this morning about these reports, about these Russian bounties. They were briefed by the national security adviser, Robert O'Brien, the Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe and the chief of staff here at the White House, Mark Meadows.

We're told that Democrats were offered a briefing by Meadows. It is unclear if they have accepted, and when exactly that briefing is going to happen.

TAPPER: All right. Kaitlan Collins, thank you so much.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle are demanding answers about these Russian bounties.


House Speaker Pelosi said this is as bad as it gets. She will join us next.



TAPPER: The health lead. In a major ruling today, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down a law that would have imposed regulations on medical centers to provide abortion services that ultimately would have closed all but one such clinic in the state of Louisiana.

In the 5-4 decision, the court struck down Louisiana's law. This marks the third time in two weeks that conservative Chief Justice John Roberts has sided with the more liberal justices.

I want to bring in CNN chief legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin. Also with me, Mary Ziegler, who wrote "Abortion and the Law in America".

Mary, let me start with you. In this case, Louisiana wanted doctors at abortion clinics to have admitting privileges at hospitals within 30 miles. Chief Justice Roberts has never before ruled in favor of abortion rights or against abortion restrictions, yet in his opinion today, he wrote, quote: The Louisiana law imposes a burden on access to abortion, just as severe as that imposed by the Texas law for the same reasons. Therefore, Louisiana's law cannot stand under precedence.

What does this opinion signal as other states try to bring similar abortion restrictions onto the table and before the court?

MARY ZIEGLER, AUTHOR, "ABORTION AND THE LAW IN AMERICA": Well, I think there's kind of a glass half-empty, glass half full reading of this for supporters of abortion rights. Roberts has talked a big game for a long time about caring about precedent. And today, we saw that he is going to walk the walk, too, to an extent.

At the same time, Roberts didn't join the liberal plurality, and I think went out of his way to suggest that he would be open to some other kinds of abortion restrictions, perhaps ones that wouldn't require the court to repudiate precedence as quickly. So, I think the future of abortion rights, especially the future of Roe v. Wade very much remains up for grabs, although Roberts is certainly a swing justice on these cases.

TAPPER: Jeffrey, the Trump administration had sided with the state of Louisiana, and the Democratic governor, John Bel Edwards, on this abortion case. Two weeks ago, Chief Justice Roberts ruled in favor of worker protections for LBGTQ individuals. He also sided with the liberal wing when it came to the president's efforts to take away DACA, for the so-called Dreamers, immigration protections.

What do you make of Roberts bucking the Trump administration and siding with the liberal justices on these cases, especially in an election year?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN CHIEF LEGAL ANALYST: It's a very big deal, and frankly, Jake, it's very surprising to me. You know, John Roberts has had a handful of liberal rulings in the 15 years he's been chief justice, most famously, of course, he cast the deciding vote to keep Obamacare alive back when -- back in the -- in President Obama's first term.

But these are three very consequential decisions that effect real people's lives and they were hotly debated at the court. And the fact that he joined with liberals on all three is I think indicative of an evolution of his views. And, you know, I think it does signal that John Roberts is not going to be the fifth vote to overturn Roe versus Wade, and that's a big deal. That was not at all clear from his prior jurisprudence.

So, I think we are seeing the evolution of a justice. He is not going to turn into some big liberal, but he is certainly not as conservative as the other four Republican appointees on the court.

TAPPER: And, Mary, in this world of the coronavirus pandemic, some states have suggested that abortion is an elective surgery and therefore should be prevented when they cancel elective surgeries because of emergency rooms. Could you see a restriction like that ultimately perhaps setting up a challenge to Roe v. Wade?

ZEIGLER: Potentially. It is less likely now that we've seen red states roll back a lot of stay at home orders in general, states that have tended to treat abortion as a nonessential service or nonessential medical procedure have also been the states that opened rapidly, but as we have seen states like Texas rethink that decision, it is certainly possible.

There's no shortage of other abortion restrictions in the pipeline, and I think a lot of anti-abortion organizations are willing to test Jeff's theory that Roberts has, in fact, evolved on abortion and isn't more interested kind of in the court's reputation or legacy or in kind of face-saving. So, we're likely to see abortion restrictions that don't as obviously fly in the face of precedent come before the court sooner rather than later.

TAPPER: And, Jeffrey, when rulings earlier this month did not go his way, President Trump questioned whether the Supreme Court liked him.