Return to Transcripts main page

THE SITUATION ROOM

U.S. Death Toll Nears 126,000 As 31 States Report Surging Cases Of Coronavirus; White House Says Trump And Pence Not Briefed On Russia Putting Bounties On U.S. Troops; Interview With Gov. Phil Murphy (D- NJ); Interview With Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA); Sources: Senior Officials Concluded Trump Was A Danger To National Security After Phone Calls With Foreign Leaders. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired June 29, 2020 - 17:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[17:00:00]

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: We are already seeing a rise in the number of detainees they're getting, Jake.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right, Omar Jimenez, thank you so much. Our coverage on CNN continues right now.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I am Jim Acosta in THE SITUATION ROOM and we're following breaking news.

The U.S. death toll in the coronavirus pandemic is now nearing 126,000 people with hot spots in some of the country's largest states, including Florida, Texas, Arizona, and California. The crisis so severe that 14 states are pausing or even rolling back their reopening plans.

Also breaking, we're just learning from a source that the White House will brief Democrats tomorrow morning on reports of Russian intelligence officers bribing the Taliban to target American forces in Afghanistan.

Eight Republican lawmakers were briefed today, but the White House is downplaying the reports, saying there's no consensus among U.S. intelligence and it denies President Trump was briefed on that.

Let's begin with breaking news in the coronavirus pandemic. CNN National Correspondent Jason Carroll is live from New York right now. Jason, cases are on the rise in more than half the states.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Without a doubt, Jim. Troubling numbers coming in from across the country. Take the state of California, for example. That state seeing a 45 percent increase in coronavirus cases just over the past week. Health experts are now warning if more people don't practice social distancing, this could just be the beginning.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

CARROLL (voice-over): Tonight, coronavirus cases are surging across sections of the country, prompting at least a dozen states to pause or roll back reopening plans. The country's health secretary warning the window is closing to get the virus under control.

ALEX AZAR, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: This is a real call to action. We have all got to as Americans act responsibly.

CARROLL (voice-over): Nationwide, Florida now leads in new coronavirus cases. The spread primarily among young people.

CARLOS GIMENEZ (R), MAYOR OF MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, FLORIDA: We're seeing a rise in the infection rate of young people. They will then in turn eventually bring it in and to their parents and their grandparents, and then we're really going to have a problem.

CARROLL (voice-over): Bars in the state now closed for the second time. Several counties also closing beaches ahead of the Fourth of July holiday. The mayor of Hallandale Beach in Florida, heckled when she made the announcement.

JOY COOPER, MAYOR OF HALLANDALE BEACH, FLORIDA: We're all in this together now and we will get through it if everyone cooperates.

CARROLL (voice-over): In Texas, health experts seeing a sharp increase in infections among young people there as well. Bars now closed to help slow the spread. The governor says over the past two weeks, the daily number of cases have spiked from an average of 2,000 to roughly 5,000. Some people now lining up and waiting hours for a COVID test.

CLAY JENKINS, DALLAS COUNTY, TEXAS: Hospitalizations here in Dallas have doubled for COVID just this month, and also in our region. We're at the tipping point down in Harris County where Houston is. And so the doctors are asking for us to have universal masking.

CARROLL (voice-over): One bar in East Lansing, Michigan shows how infectious the virus can be. The health department is asking patrons who visited Harper's Restaurant and Brew Pub earlier this month to self-quarantine after some 85 people contracted COVID-19.

Bars ordered closed in seven counties now in California. It was one of the first states to issue a stay at home order, and now sounding the alarm after seeing a surge in cases.

ELENI KOUNALAKIS, LIEUTENANT GOVERNORE OF CALIFORNIA: We're not out of the woods. We have to continue to take every single possible precaution. And I do think people in California believe science and are going to pay attention and adjust their behavior.

CARROLL (voice-over): New data obtained by CNN shows some of the hardest-hit states, including Texas, Florida, and Arizona, do not have the amount of contact tracers they need to stop the spread of the virus. Contact tracers follow and monitor contacts of an infected person to see whether they become ill. This as Dr. Anthony Fauci warns that a vaccine if and when it is developed may not end the outbreak. His concern, people may refuse to take it.

ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: That's one of the reasons why we have to make sure we engage the community as we're doing now to get community people to help us for people to understand that we are doing everything we can to show that it is safe and that it is effective.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CARROLL (on camera): So Jim, while you have states like Florida rolling back or putting a pause on things there, take the city of Jacksonville, for example. The site of the RNC, now mandating folks there wear masks whether you're inside or outside.

[17:05:00]

And the flip side, you have states like Arizona which has also seen a surge in cases there, but not putting a pause on things there yet so far. Businesses, bars, restaurants operating, business as usual, Jim?

ACOSTA: All right, CNN's Jason Carroll, thank you very much.

Now to the White House and CNN White House correspondent Jeremy Diamond. Jeremy, we're learning Democrats will be briefed tomorrow on these disturbing reports of Russian bounties on U.S. troops. What can you tell us?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jim. Today eight Republican lawmakers were briefed at the White House on this intelligence. The White House has said that it did invite Democrats to the briefing as well, but they didn't come to an agreement before this briefing.

But now, an aide to the number two House Democrat, Steny Hoyer, says that Democrat have indeed reached that agreement and that a handful of Democrats will get a briefing tomorrow at 8:00 a.m. from White House officials.

Now they're saying though, Jim, that this is not a substitute for the all House members briefing that Democrats are demanding. Now, amid all of this, Jim, there is still a coronavirus pandemic that is escalating as you know, and the president though, Jim, he is focusing on anything but that.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DIAMOND (voice-over): With the coronavirus surging to record levels in the United States, President Trump is talking about anything but the pandemic, instead inflaming racial tensions between Americans, attacking Democrats and knocking down reports about an alleged Russian plot to kill American troops.

With cases climbing in 31 states, the president referencing the coronavirus in just two out of more than 100 tweets in Saturday.

AZAR: This is a very serious situation and the window is closing to take action and get this under control.

DIAMOND (voice-over): And Vice President Mike Pence making a rare plea for Americans to do the same.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We encourage everyone to wear a mask in the affected areas. Wearing a mask is just a good idea.

DIAMOND (voice-over): Those comments a notable shift after he and President Trump rallied thousands of maskless supporters indoors just last week, and where campaign staffers removed stickers urging attendees to socially distance, according to this video obtained by "The Washington Post." As for the president.

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: It's the personal choice of any individual as to whether to wear a mask or not. He encourages people to make whatever decision is best for their safety.

DIAMOND (voice-over): But the president is still refusing to lead by example.

SEN. LAMAR ALEXANDER (R-TN) (via telephone): I wish the president would wear a mask when it's appropriate because millions of Americans admire him, and they would follow his lead.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES: Real men wear masks. Be an example to the country and wear the mask.

DIAMOND (voice-over): The White House is also confronting reports that Russian intelligence officers tried to bribe Taliban fighters to kill U.S. troops. The White House press secretary disputing a "New York Times" report that Trump was briefed on the intelligence, but struggling to explain why he was not informed.

MCENANY: There was not a consensus among the intelligence community, in fact, there were dissenting opinions within the intelligence community and it would not be elevated to the president until it was verified.

DIAMOND (voice-over): But that's not true according to a former CIA officer who has conducted presidential daily briefings.

DAVID PRIESS, CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER, LAWFARE: You don't put things into the president's daily brief only when they are completely corroborated and verified because then it's not intelligence any more, then it is fact. This is the kind of thing that is designed to go to the president of the United States.

DIAMOND (voice-over): Trump has taken to twitter to decry reporting about the intelligence claiming, "Intel just reported to me that they did not find this info credible and therefore did not report it to me or #VP."

But McEnany said Trump still had not been briefed on the intelligence, even as the White House briefed seven Republican members of Congress today.

The White House press secretary also defending the president after he approvingly retweeted this video of one of his supporters. (VIDEO PLAYING)

DIAMOND (voice-over): McEnany, claiming Trump didn't hear that racist slogan.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- listen to the video before retweeting it?

MCENANY: He did and he did not hear that particular phrase.

DIAMOND (voice-over): But Trump has previously said he always knows what he is retweeting.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Did you notice that when you retweeted it?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes, I notice everything.

DIAMOND (voice-over): Trump deleted the tweet three hours later amid widespread criticism.

SEN. TIM SCOTT (R-SC): Well, there's no question, he should not have retweeted it and he should just take it down.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

DIAMOND (on camera): And Jim, what we have not heard from the president or the White House press secretary is any kind of concern about the fact that this intelligence could very well be real, that Russia may in fact have paid these bounties to Taliban militants in order to kill U.S. troops.

And what we also haven't heard is any kind of a commitment to get to the bottom of this and determine whether any American lives were lost because of Russian actions. The White House press secretary, Jim, she was also asked whether she had or whether the president has any message for Moscow. And she simply said once again that the president has not been briefed. The question still remains, Jim, why?

[17:10:05]

ACOSTA: And a lot of inconsistencies. All right, Jeremy Diamond, thank you very much.

Let's get back to breaking news on the coronavirus crisis. I am joined now by New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy. Governor, thanks for joining us. We appreciate it. You just announced you will no longer allow indoor dining to resume in New Jersey on Thursday.

That's going to come as a shock to a lot of people in your state. What led you to decide to the pause on this as part of your reopening plan?

GOV. PHIL MURPHY (D-NJ): Good to be with you, Jim. A number of factors. And by the way, we have outdoor dining, and that is for the most part going very well and we're going to continue to promote that. And this isn't a forever and for always, but this virus indoors, sedentary, lack of ventilation, close proximity is just a lot more lethal than it is outdoors.

And when you look at what's going on in other parts of the country right now, we've gone through hell in New Jersey. We've lost over 13,000 people. We're trying to do everything we can to not to go through hell again and we think if we could push off indoor dining even for a few weeks, we can better run this virus to the ground and that's what we're going to try to do.

ACOSTA: And governor, as you know, New Jersey is one of 14 states currently slowing their reopening as you watched this new hot spots emerge around the country. Do you think premature reopening is to blame for this rise in coronavirus cases?

MURPHY: Listen, Jim, my visibility is 100 percent focused on Jersey so I'm only looking at the other states from afar. And by the way, we wish them nothing but a quick resolution here and they're all in our prayers.

I do know this. We closed down hard in March and we stayed closed hard, and then when we reopened, we did it outdoors first and we did it incrementally. We're not in the end zone ourselves, by the way.

We announced fatalities today, but I personally believe that series of events or that series of steps is the right way to think about this. Incremental, outside first, be aggressive when you shut, and be cautious when you open.

ACOSTA: And you said today if you could build a wall around us, meaning New Jersey and around our region, you would. Are you considering further restrictions in an attempt to protect your citizens? Could you do more than just what you're announcing today?

MURPHY: You know, I mean, the Constitution doesn't allow us to stop people at the border and we're the United States of America. We're all Americans. We're all in this together, but we have pleaded in an advisory for folks, if they have been in a hot spot in the country to self-quarantine for 14 days, to get a test, get tested.

One of the things we have done that's at our disposal that wasn't there in March is we have among the highest per capita testing capacity in the country. We've got a contact tracing core (ph) that's growing by the day.

So God willing, we could spot this much more quickly, surround it, and drive it to the ground. But we do want folks again, if you have been in a hot spot, self-quarantine, get tested.

ACOSTA: And you said wearing a mask is not a political statement, it's a statement that you're smart. What is your message to those who are politicizing mask wearing? You've spent some time with the president. He seems to be politicizing mask wearing. What's your message on masks?

MURPHY: Listen, we're big believers in masks and face coverings. You know, the basic stuff still matters here. Social distancing, face coverings, washing hands with soap and water, staying away from others if you're not feeling well. We believe in that. Inside, we mandate it, outside we strongly encourage it. We think it is a game changer.

ACOSTA: All right. New Jersey governor Phil Murphy, thank you very much for joining us. We appreciate it.

Up next, more on the White House downplaying reports of Russian bounties on U.S. troops in Afghanistan. I'll talk with it -- or talk about this with the House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff.

Plus, more on the disturbing spike in coronavirus cases ahead of the Fourth of July weekend.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:15:00]

ACOSTA: More now on the reports of Russian bounties on U.S forces in Afghanistan and the White House denial that President Trump was briefed on them. CNN's special correspondent Jamie Gangel joins us. And Jamie, you've been talking to former senior intelligence officials. What are you learning from those conversations?

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Jim, they say that in their experience, and these are former senior officials who have worked with multiple presidents, that it is, "inconceivable" to them that the president would not have been briefed on something like this especially because of the potential threat to the U.S. military.

I just want to read you some quotes. They said that, "as soon as it came in because of the nature of the threat, you would immediately brief the principals, the Secretary of Defense, the National Security Adviser, and in their opinion, the President and the Vice President."

I went on to ask one source if it was any other president, would the intelligence community make sure the president knew about it and the source said, "100 percent because it is the Russians, absolutely, absolutely."

And both sources, Jim, were stunned that Congressional leadership, the intelligence committee, the Gang of Eight had not been briefed.

[17:20:03]

And finally they said to me, "The question you have to ask yourself is if the president wasn't briefed, why in the world wasn't he?" Jim.

ACOSTA: It's a very good question and a lot of people are asking that question tonight. Jamie Gangel, thank you so much. And joining us now is the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, California Democratic Representative Adam Schiff. Chairman Schiff, thank you so much for joining us.

Eight of your Republican colleagues received a detailed briefing on this intelligence today. We're now learning some Democrats will be briefed tomorrow. As the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, will you be part of that briefing? REP. ADAM SCHIFF (D-CA), CHAIRMAN, HOUSE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE: Yes.

My understanding is that I will be there tomorrow morning. We're also, though asking for a briefing for all of our committee members, that the intelligence community come in and give them an in person briefing on it.

And of course the speaker has asked that the intelligence community brief the entire membership of the House. And I think that's appropriate given the threat to our troops if these allegations prove to be accurate. We also want to look into this issue of whether the president was briefed on this, and if he was not briefed, why that was.

Is this again a concern with speaking truth to power that Donald Trump doesn't want to hear anything negative about Vladimir Putin because after all, the president was in inviting Russia back into the G8.

And it's kind of unfathomable that he would do that if he was knowing of the fact that his friend, Vladimir Putin, and the Kremlin or Russian intelligence services, if these public reports are accurate, were offering a bounty on the heads of American troops.

ACOSTA: And let me ask you about this because it goes to what Jamie Gangel was just talking about a few moments ago. The White House insists there was no consensus within the intelligence community about this bounty matter. Is that reason enough for you to not present this intelligence to the president?

SCHIFF: Not at all. I mean, and it is frequently the case that the president will be briefed, should be briefed on matters where there is no absolute certainty about the intelligence on a given topic.

And what we expect our intelligence agency leaders to do is say Mr. President, we have intelligence that shows X, Y or Z. We have low confidence in this intelligence or we have high confidence or we have moderate confidence in this, so that the president can evaluate the significance of it, but also ask for more information.

So no, it's not sufficient to say we didn't tell him because we couldn't, you know, dot every I, cross every T, prove every point. If your president is making decisions about the U.S./Russia relationship, which we do all the time, if it goes to the protection of our troops, that's something that needs to be briefed to the commander-in-chief.

ACOSTA: And the White House says the president was not briefed on this as you were just saying, but Mr. Trump's tweet, he tweeted about this last night, saying he had spoken to the intel community about what was going on in Afghanistan when it came to these Russian bounties. His tweet seems to suggest otherwise. Does that add up to you?

SCHIFF: You know, the fact of the matter is, Jim, we can't rely on anything the president says or anything the president's people say about him, and certainly can't rely on the press secretary to give the honest truth about something, so we just don't know.

But it's really I think a problem either way and that is the agencies either told him and he is denying it or they didn't tell him and, you know, we'd like to find out why.

Is this again an issue where like Russian interference in our election, bringing this up to the president is a great way to get a one way ticket out of the cabinet?

Are they simply afraid to confront him with evidence and information that contradicts the rosy narrative he wants to tell about Vladimir Putin's Russia or, you know, as the speaker has asked, is this an issue of them not trusting the president because there have been public reports of the president compromising intelligence, even in the Oval Office with Russian diplomats?

So, is that a question, too? I would think if we're briefing our allies, if those reports are accurate, that ought to be certainly something that would have been briefed to the president.

ACOSTA: And I want to get to coronavirus just very quickly. On this matter of these Russian bounties, would you like to see hearings on this? Do there need to be hearings on this?

SCHIFF: Yes. We've asked -- this week, we asked the intelligence agencies to come in and brief us in person, and so we would be doing a classified briefing or hearing on it and we hope that we can arrange that ASAP.

ACOSTA: And the governor of your home state of California, chairman, says there is a 45 percent rise in positive coronavirus tests over the last week.

[17:25:00]

What is your reaction to the messaging coming out of the White House as your state, many of these other states are fighting this virus and yet we're seeing these cases going up pretty dramatically in some states like yours?

SCHIFF: Well, the trends across the country and in my home state of California are deeply alarming and they're not helped at all, in fact, they're made infinitely worse by the president essentially counter messaging against what the health experts are saying, including the rise of the presence of the virus, the increase in hospitalizations.

The president falsely blaming this just on increased testing when expert after expert, state after state has confirmed no, this isn't just about more testing. This is about more people getting sick.

And what's more, you know, the counter messaging on wearing a mask, one of the most cost effective things we can do in addition to social distancing and merely washing our hands, the continual counter messaging from the president and politicization of that issue is deeply destructive.

I introduced a bill last week to allow every American to get a mask by simply requesting it, delivered by the postal service, to do PSAs on wearing masks as well as for the research. But these are things that we can that will help every state in the union and it's just negligent for the administration not to be leading right now.

ACOSTA: Okay, Chairman Adam Schiff. Thank you very much for your time. We appreciate it.

And coming up, a new warning from Dr. Anthony Fauci about the limits of a coronavirus vaccine if and when we get one. And with coronavirus cases spiking, Florida authorities order beaches closed even through the Fourth of July weekend as that is coming up just around the corner.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:31:33]

ACOSTA: More now on the breaking news, the U.S. coronavirus death toll nearing 126,000 people as cases rise and more than half the states and continue to surge in Florida, Texas, Arizona and California. Let's get more with CNN's Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta and the Director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, Dr. Ashish Jha. Thank you both so much doctors for being with us.

And Dr. Gupta, Sanjay, when you look at these side by side maps coronavirus cases in the U.S. today compared to Memorial Day just one month ago, what does this tell you about what lies ahead if we proceed down this path of reopening? I mean, these maps are just jarring to look at. I mean, it really should be the reverse of this.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, right. I mean, I thought we'd be having a much different conversation by now Jim, you know, sort of ended June going into July 4 weekend, maybe some celebration over heading in the right direction but, obviously, we're not.

I mean, I think as a doctor, if you sort of looked at that map and think of that as a human body, I see that the infection has worsened throughout the body, throughout the country. While there were some localized areas before you thought, maybe you could treat those localized areas and hopefully, you know, put the country in better shape. Now it seems like it's become really consuming for the body.

So I look at that, and honestly, Jim, it makes me worried about the whole country, even though there are some brighter spots in there. I'm worried. I mean, we're the United States. This is a contagious virus that can continue to spread. So I look at that and say treatment is needed, action is needed now. There's no sense in waiting.

ACOSTA: And Dr. Jha, 14 states are now pausing some reopening efforts, would you encourage others to follow their lead and slow down efforts so we can return to something resembling where we were perhaps around Memorial Day weekend?

DR. ASHISH JHA, DIRECTOR, HARVARD GLOBAL HEALTH INSTITUTE: Yes, Jim. So I would and I think all the states across the country have to look at what's happening across the south and southwest and really see that as a warning signal that says, you know, I think part of what happened was after Memorial Day. We all sort of had this feeling of maybe the pandemic is behind us. It's clearly not.

And I think the states that are not necessarily having big outbreaks really do need to look at whether they can really open up bars and restaurants and nightclubs. I think the diagnosis here is that we probably cannot do those things and really need to try to preserve whatever amount of freedom before things get worse.

ACOSTA: And Sanjay, what more are you learning about how children fare against the coronavirus linked pediatric inflammatory syndrome? It's just so scary for a lot of parents out there to hear about this.

GUPTA: Yes. No, it is scary. And, you know, thankfully, it still seems to be relatively rare. Although now 26 states, you know, have reported at least one child who's dealt with this MIS-C multi-inflammatory syndrome. You know, thankfully, it's rare because when kids do get it, they get pretty sick from this.

A couple things that we're learning is that these kids most likely had been infected within the last couple of weeks prior to them starting to develop these symptoms. 80 percent of the children needed to be in an intensive care unit, 20 percent needed to be on a breathing machine and about 2 percent died.

So, you know, it's something that we obviously have to take seriously. Still not entirely clear why some children develop, others do not. What's protective, what puts kids more at risk.

[17:35:03]

Also, Jim, you remember, I mean, it wasn't until just over the last, you know, several weeks that we really started to notice this here in the United States, in the U.K. We don't see much of this in Asia for some reason. So what exactly is making this more common in this part of the world versus the other part of the world? Why did it take longer? Why that becomes sort of delayed? These are answers that people are still sort of looking for, Jim.

ACOSTA: Very important information. And we're still looking for answers. That is absolutely correct. All right. Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Dr. Ashish Jha, thank you very much. We appreciate it.

Coming up, President Trump's post (ph) racial division with a retweet but the White House claims he didn't hear the white supremacist message in it, was how a shortage of contact tracers is preventing states from controlling the spread of the coronavirus.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:40:24]

ACOSTA: Tonight, an exclusively report from CNN's Carl Bernstein. According to the sources familiar with 100 of highly classified phone calls with foreign leaders, President Trump was so repeatedly unprepared outplayed by adversaries and hostile towards traditional allies that several senior U.S. officials concluded the President himself posed a danger to national security. Sources say the calls convinced former top Trump deputies including

National Security Advisors, H.R. McMaster and John Bolton, Defense Secretary James Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Chief of Staff John Kelly that the President was delusional. And several sources noted he often pursued goals aligned with his own agenda rather than the national interest.

Carl Bernstein joins us now with more on this jaw-dropping new report. And Carl, you write that one source said these calls were such an abomination that have members of Congress do the content. Even Republicans would not have confidence in the President. What were his calls with Russian President Vladimir Putin like?

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: When his calls with Putin, he was almost slavishly seeking Putin's approval, trying to prop himself up. Trump is a great businessman, demeaning his predecessors, George Bush and Barack Obama in foul terms, vulgar language, calling them incompetent. But now that, he, Trump was there that they could deal directly.

But the overall tenor of the calls as well as the specifics of them, show the President of the United States in terms of allies bullying them, almost sadistically dealing with women on the call, namely Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor. And Theresa May, the Prime Minister of Great Britain, those calls with those women are described in almost sadistic terms by the sources. A spokesman for the German Embassy here in the United States confirmed that those calls are very aggressive and problematic.

So what we have is a President, very much like we saw the sources said in the coronavirus briefings out of control, facts be damned, attacking people, all about himself, but also unable to handle the most basic national security matters that the President of United States is expected to handle competently with foreign leaders.

ACOSTA: And it's consistent with the behavior we've seen throughout this presidency call, you report that Turkish President Erdogan enjoys an almost direct line to President Trump calling the White House during one period at least twice a week. What was Erdogan after?

BERNSTEIN: The first call, he didn't just call the White House, he would find Trump on the golf course and get through to him because Trump had given standing orders that Erdogan should be put through, which was to the consternation of his national security aides, because you're supposed to in ordinary presidencies, the President is briefed by his aides. They're in the room with him when he takes calls from foreign leaders to make sure that there's no foul up.

It's understood that the leader is on the other side that their security services are recording these calls. And that's one of the problems especially the calls with Erdogan and with Putin that the Russians and the Turks have these actual calls in which the President's conduct is really open to question.

And if they were ever heard, I'm told, it would really cause great consternation to anyone when the -- who heard earned them. But in Erdogan's case, it was thought by national security aides that somehow the Turkish security services had found out the President's schedule when Erdogan could get through to him.

And, of course, the most grievous thing that I was told on almost all of the calls are those discussions having to do with the United States pulling these forces out of Syria at Erdogan's urging, thereby, setting up the situation where our allies, the Kurds, our allies in Iraq and in Syria, would be subject to slaughter by Erdogan who has been after the Kurds for all of his time. As the Turkish leader, there's historic animosity between the Kurds and other Turkish people. And this was something that Vladimir Putin wanted is one of the sources said Trump gave away the store in Syria, partly on these phone calls with Erdogan.

ACOSTA: And Carl, but the President wasn't always so deferential.

[17:45:02]

And this is an important part of your story. You write that Trump's calls with female leaders were near sadistic, quote, near sadistic. He demeaned and denigrated them according to reporting telling U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May, she was weak and German Chancellor Angela Merkel that she was stupid. What was the reaction on the other side?

BERNSTEIN: In Theresa May's case, according to the sources that I spoke with, she was very flustered, she was agitated, she was really very difficult for her to handle the call. And, in fact, the intimidation that was put forth in the call by Trump was intended. It was intended to shake her up, because the President was furious that the Brits -- that Theresa May's plans for Brexit are not the same that he wanted. He called her weak, he called her spineless.

And also the whole question of our closest allies, not paying a larger share of NATO and other defense dues, has preoccupied the President and with some justification, certainly, a larger share probably should be paid by the allies.

But in these calls, he raises the question with the allies, including Macron, including Theresa May and Merkel in such vicious personal terms, to the exclusion of the more important larger questions of the Western Alliance, human rights defense, all of the questions, health, that are so important to these allies, that have been allies for 75 years, and instead he has this grievance about paying their fair share. And he becomes like a whipping boy, as somebody put it, but especially with the women, there's really abusive to these two women in these calls.

ACOSTA: Well, it's incredible reporting, Carl, and we encourage everybody to check it out on our website. Carl Bernstein, legendary reporter with more terrific reporting on this Trump presidency. Carl, thank you very much. We appreciate it.

And coming up --

BERNSTEIN: Good to be with you. ACOSTA: Good to be with you. The desperate need for more contact tracers as the coronavirus pandemic spreads across the U.S. Plus, hospitals in Houston, straining under a surge of patients as the Texas Governor warns of what he calls a swift and very dangerous turn in the pandemic.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:52:26]

ACOSTA: And we continue to get lots of questions about the coronavirus pandemic. So CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Sanjay Gupta, Dr. Sanjay Gupta is back with us to provide some answers. And Sanjay, I know wearing a mask protects people from me. I have mine right here. But does it also protect me too? I mean, this is something that a lot of people --

GUPTA: Yes.

ACOSTA: -- don't seem to get that it can protect you as well.

GUPTA: Yes. This is a critical point and, you know, Ambassador Birx sort of made reference to this over the weekend and the CDC has said that they're going to release more specific data around this. But the answer is yes, I think Jim, to your point. We don't know how much the N95 fitted mask, that's the kind of mask that I'll wear if I'm going into a respiratory environment in the hospital, that's the one that's going to provide the most protection to the user.

These cloth masks provide a lot of protection in terms of not getting the virus out into the environment, but as you say, probably provides some protection to the user as well. Still trying to learn that. What I can tell you though, Jim, is on a macro scale. If you look at countries around the world that have had the lowest rates of this infection, many of them are mask-wearing countries. So the masks decrease the transmission significantly and make a huge difference overall for a big community or the country as a whole.

ACOSTA: And here's another question we get a lot, Sanjay. I am trying to make some plans, is it OK to stay in a hotel? I was over in Arizona last week on an assignment had to stay in a hotel, and people may be concerned about that, whether it's safe. Obviously, you try to make it as safe as possible. What do you have to say about that? What do you think?

GUPTA: Here's what I would say. I'd say the basics still apply. I think the -- it can be safe to stay in a hotel. The biggest risk is really still the contact with other people. So, you know, you want to maintain your physical distance. You want to maintain -- you know, wear the mask if you can indoors, even if you can't maintain that physical distance in particular.

There's this saying it says, it's more people, not porcelain that spread the virus. So we do worry about surfaces, you know, disinfect, if you can surfaces. I carry wipes with me now, Jim. This is becoming a thing that people carry around if they can. But for the most part, your biggest risk is going to come from other people. Indoors worse than outdoors. So if you're standing in line, if you're waiting for the elevator, try and maintain that distance, wear a mask and that should go a long way.

ACOSTA: That's right, there's no substitute for social distancing. Have to do that as well as the masks. All right. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thank you so much.

Coming up --

GUPTA: Yes.

ACOSTA: -- more states pause or rollback reopening as the coronavirus pandemic worsens in the U.S.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:59:40]

ACOSTA: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. Wolf Blitzer is off today. I'm Jim Acosta in THE SITUATION ROOM. We're following breaking news. Coronavirus death toll in the United States now approaching 126,000. New cases are also on the rise. Hotspots, including Florida, Texas and California are emerging all over across the country, forcing at least 14 states to pause or rollback plans to reopen.

First to CNN's Nick Watt in Los Angeles.