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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Trump Under Fire Over Russia Bounty Intelligence; Coronavirus Surging; Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) is Interviewed About the Russian Bounty Intel.Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired June 30, 2020 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:02]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Those are the numbers in yellow, compared to the surge in the United States. That's the line in green at the top of your screen there going north. That's not where you want that line to be.

The United States of America, which makes up less than 5 percent of the world's population, has 25 percent of the world's coronavirus deaths, according to official numbers.

That failure in leadership at the state and federal level is prompting a number of Democratic and Republican governors to roll back their reopenings, for fear that the public health crisis is only going to get worse.

As CNN's Jason Carroll reports for us now, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut are now requiring that residents from 16 other states self-quarantine for two weeks upon arrival there.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: Clearly, we are not in total control right now.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The nation's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, delivering a stark prediction Capitol Hill, if the U.S. cannot control the surge in coronavirus cases.

FAUCI: We are now having 40-plus-thousand new cases a day. I would not be surprised if we go up to 100,000 a day if this does not turn around. And so I am very concerned.

CARROLL: Fifteen states now seeing their highest seven-day averages for new cases. More than half do not require masks statewide. Dr. Fauci and others from the Coronavirus Task Force advising the American public to do what the president won't, wear a mask.

DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, CDC DIRECTOR: It is critical that we all take the personal responsibility to slow the transmission of COVID-19 and embrace the universal use of face coverings.

FAUCI: We recommend masks for everyone on the outside.

CARROLL: Ahead of the Fourth of July holiday weekend, 17 states have paused or rolled back reopening plans, bars and beaches closed from coast to coast in California and Florida, where more than 6,000 new cases were announced today.

DAN GELBER (D), MAYOR OF MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA: We don't have a lot of tools left in the kit right now. So we're trying everything we can to stop this spread and reverse what is a very enormous spike in our community and in our state.

CARROLL: In Arizona, concerns over the death rate ticking up.

Governor Ducey, who was quick to reopen businesses, ordered bars, movie theaters, gyms and pools closed for the next 30 days.

GOV. DOUG DUCEY (R-AZ): Our expectation is that, next week, our numbers will be worse.

CARROLL: Doctors worried they cannot handle the influx of patients.

DR. BRANDON BIKOWSKI, INTERNAL MEDICINE HOSPITALIST: It's something that we don't know how to deal with as medical professionals. I think people should probably be as scared as I am.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: That is discrimination.

CARROLL: In Texas, bar owners protesting the governor's decision to force them to re-close, some of them now suing the governor and state alcohol regulators, while one Houston doctor is warning the patients he is seeing are getting worse.

DR. JOSEPH VARON, UNITED MEMORIAL MEDICAL CENTER: Patents are coming in pin time sicker that when they were, let's say, eight weeks ago, 10 times sicker. People are waiting a little too long to come into the hospital. And by the time they come to me, they're near death.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CARROLL: So, Jake, again, we're hearing repeated warnings coming from health officials about the need to wear masks, especially when you're out in public.

Here in the state of New York, it's a requirement when you're out in public. You must have your mask. Nowhere is that more apparent when you go to New York City Public Library. Take a look outside there. You can see those two iconic statues, aptly named Patience and Fortitude, both of them donning a mask there -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Jason Carroll in New York, thank you so much for that report.

Joining us now to discuss, CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Sanjay, Dr. Fauci and CDC Director Redfield, they could not have been more clear. The virus had declined, but it's now surging. That's being seen in an increased number of cases, community spread, hospitalizations.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: They have been sounding the alarm on this for some time.

I think the only thing that has changed sort of maybe is how frustrated and how emphatic they are now being, because, clearly, their message hasn't been heard -- 100,000 new patients infected a day, Jake, if you just do the math, looking at the right side of the screen, right now, if you look at the numbers, 5 percent fatality rate. That's 5,000 people a day, Jake.

And I think that that's part of, obviously, the huge concern in terms of what's driving this. I think what Dr. Fauci has been saying and what others have been saying as well is that this isn't a binary thing, either you're open or you're closed. And, again, Jake, I know you know this. Many people who are watching know this.

There is a middle ground here. It involves wearing masks. Let's show you how effective masks are. It involves physical distancing. Let's remind you how effective that is.

Governor Cuomo this past Thursday said -- I thought this was interesting -- health care workers in New York state actually tested for the coronavirus at a less positive rate than the general population. They're exposed more, and yet they got it less, because they wear masks.

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TAPPER: That's fascinating.

Fauci reiterated, as you and I have been discussing for weeks now, that not one state met the reopening criteria put out by the Coronavirus Task Force, and a number of governors decidedly did not follow the guidelines on how to reopen.

And now we have at least 17 states rolling back their reopenings in a piecemeal fashion. Will those rollbacks and pauses be enough to get this pandemic under control?

GUPTA: I'm not sure they will, Jake, at this point. And I don't like saying that, but I think that that's the truth, in part because you are in a different situation now, compared to when we were talking about this before.

Take a look at the gating criteria specifically. They existed for a reason. The reason was, if you saw that 14-day downward trend, that meant you would probably get to a manageable level when it came to these new infections.

If you got to a manageable level, you can then contact trace. You could find the people. You could quarantine them. You could keep the hospitals from becoming overwhelmed. There's not a sufficient testing program in place. Basically, none of the criteria that were put out by the task force itself from the White House were actually met. I mean, what else can you really say at that point, Jake? On top of that, there were criteria that were put out that said, hey, look, by the way, if you get into phase one, and then these things happen, a sustained five-day increase in cases, you got to go backwards.

So they shouldn't have gone into phase one in the first place. And most of, many of them, at least, should have actually gone back into the stay-at-home orders, by their own guidelines.

TAPPER: And that's the governors messing up. And we should make that very clear.

But we should also point out that, when these guidelines were introduced, the president said that, if governors didn't stick by them, he was going to call them out. Not only did President Trump not call them out when they didn't adhere to the guidelines being put out.

President Trump was probably the single largest voice using his bully pulpit telling governors and mayors to reopen their cities prematurely, which created a huge amount of pressure on mayors and governors to reopen early, although, ultimately, it was their decision.

But we should point that out, because the White House put out these guidelines, and then the president led the charge for states to violate them.

GUPTA: It was infuriating, Jake. I mean, you and I were covering that real time when it was happening.

I live here in Georgia. That was happening real time. The governors were getting cover from the White House to go ahead and open up almost immediately after the gating criteria were released. Governor DeSantis was at the White House basically criticizing public health officials, saying that they blew it in terms of calling Florida a potential hot zone.

And now, obviously, we see what has happened. This isn't to point fingers. But, look, the virus has been constant. And the public health officials have been pretty consistent. And we have all learned as we have gone along. It's not like anybody knew everything from the very start.

But, clearly, we're in a really bad spot now because of these premature reopenings, in addition to other things.

TAPPER: Fauci again said today there are no guarantees when it comes to developing an effective vaccine. They hope to have the efficacy data for vaccines by the winter or by the spring of 2021.

What if there is no vaccine? Or what if it isn't as effective as it needs to be? What then, Sanjay?

GUPTA: Well, one thing I will say is that this is a deep area of reporting for us.

And so I'm talking to sources in this every day, sometimes several times a day. And, Jake, I will just tell you, I remain optimistic. There is going to be some data that's going to be coming out over the next few days, I can tell you, that is going to continue to beat the drum on what we have seen as some pretty positive developments.

Sometimes, you get some positive developments and, all of a sudden, it stalls. That does not appear to be what has happened as of yet. So, I still think there is warranted optimism here.

I want to be careful, but I think there's warranted optimism around the vaccine. There's also other things, Jake. We talk about these therapeutics like remdesivir and dexamethasone.

Another one that I think we need to be paying very close attention to and almost think of it as a bridge to the vaccine is this idea of convalescence serum, basically using antibodies either from people who've recovered or antibodies that have been created, cloned in a lab, and using those at least as a temporary fix to get people protected against this virus.

It can help for several months. It's not like a vaccine, which would last longer than that, but it could be a bridge to the vaccine. So I remain optimistic about that.

TAPPER: And, Sanjay, all of the witnesses today implored Americans to wear masks.

A new study out today found that the design and material of face masks can impact how effective they are. So, what are the most important factors in mask efficacy?

GUPTA: Well, we are learning so much about just how these viruses spread.

[16:10:00]

You look at this and you get an idea, when someone's coughing, sneezing or even talking, how far this -- these particles can actually spread.

If you wear a mask, as you might guess, it obviously makes a huge difference. There's a lot of data that's now coming out around the country and around the world.

But let me show you specifically the different types of masks and the difference they can make. No mask at all, how likely is the -- these particles to spread? Several feet. If you're starting to wear a bandana type mask, then you will get roughly about 3.6 feet. If it's a folded handkerchief, something that you're actually folding one on top of the other, it's closer to 1.5 feet.

If it's a commercial cone mask, eight inches, stitched mass, 2.5 inches. Look, these numbers are not exact, Jake, but this is part of why we

say six feet away, right? If you do this and you wear a mask, you're going to -- this is not a hardy virus. As scary as it is, it can't jump very far. It can be pretty much contained by a mask.

We can get behind this and around this and contain this by doing some simple public health measures.

TAPPER: Yes, it does look like bandanas aren't as strong as some people might think they are, though.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Thanks so much. Appreciate it.

Moments ago at the White House, President Trump's press secretary pushing back strongly at intelligence reports that the Russian GRU was offering bounties to the Taliban and other terrorists to attack U.S. and British troops -- the focus of her ire, of course, not Russia.

Plus, a look at what happens to an airport when it has fewer than five flights a day because of a pandemic.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

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TAPPER: In our world lead today, it is not enough. That message from 11 House Democrats who were briefed today at the White House on intelligence reports that the Russian GRU offered bounty to Taliban terrorists to kill U.S. and British troops. Democrats say they want all intelligence chiefs to update Congress, claiming that the White House only gave their perspective on the intelligence.

Moments ago, the White House press secretary said that the president has now been briefed on this intelligence, but only because it is now public. She also pushed back on the reports that the president was briefed about it earlier this year.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The president was never briefed on this, and the intelligence still has not been verified, and there is no consensus among the intelligence community.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: A U.S. official familiar with the latest information refutes that claim telling CNN that, that intelligence was included in the president's intelligence briefing this spring. "The New York Times" adding, quote: Officials provided a written briefing in late February to President Trump laying out their conclusion that a Russian military intelligence unit offered and paid bounties to Taliban-linked militants to kill U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan, unquote.

One source telling "The Times" that the day that that information was given to the president in his written briefing was February 27th. "The Times" also reporting that officials are looking at an April 2019 Taliban attack that killed three marines as possibly being tied to the Russian bounty plot.

Those marines who were killed: Staff Sergeant Christopher Slutman of Newark, Delaware, Sergeant Benjamin Hines of York, Pennsylvania, and Corporal Robert Hendriks of Locust Valley, New York.

Now, CNN cannot confirm that any deaths in combat in Afghanistan can definitely be traced back to alleged Russian plot, which we should note Russia denies. But U.S. intelligence is still investigating.

And in any case, if indeed this information was included in the president's daily brief on February 27th, it is worth asking, what did Mr. Trump do on that day instead of paying attention to this information about Russians allegedly offering a bounty to kill U.S. service members?

Well, for one thing, on February 27th, president Trump met with black supporters of his, including Diamond and Silk at the White House. And, in fact, at that meeting, President Trump said the coronavirus would be over soon.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: One day like a miracle, it will disappear. And from our shores, you know, it could get worse before it gets better, could maybe go away.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Flash forward to June, President Trump has, instead of expressing concern about the alleged Russian bounty, focused instead on saying that he has never been briefed about it.

Former national security adviser John Bolton reacted this way --

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOHN BOLTON, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: The fact that the president feels compelled to tweet about the news story here shows that what his fundamental focus is not the security of our forces but whether he looks like he wasn't paying attention. So, he's saying, well, nobody told me, therefore, you can't blame me.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: In Bolton's new book, the former national security adviser to President Trump details a conversation he had with then-White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, who lost his son in Afghanistan.

Has there ever been a presidency like this, Kelly asked me, and I assured him there had not. In what by this point was already an emotional discussion by both of us, Kelly showed me a picture of his son killed in Afghanistan in 2010. Trump had referred to him earlier that day, saying to Kelly, you suffered the worst, since Trump was disparaging the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq at the time. He seemingly implied Kelly's son died needlessly. Trump doesn't care what happens to these guys, Kelly said.

[16:20:04]

CNN's White House correspondent Jeremy Diamond joins me now.

And, Jeremy, the White House press secretary just came out strongly about all this new reporting. What did she have to say?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, amid mounding evidence that Russia may, indeed, have carried out this plot to incentivize the killing of American soldiers, what you're hearing from the White House podium today, Jake, is not attacks on Russia but attacks on the media. The White House press secretary spending the first several minutes of her briefing today going after "The New York Times" for exposing this intelligence that, again, we have seen several outlets, including CNN since confirmed, that Russia -- supposedly a Russian military intelligence unit offered bounties to Taliban fighters to try and kill U.S. troops.

Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany also was talking about this notion of whether or not the president was briefed. We know over the last several days, Jake, she has focused on the fact that the president was not briefed despite the fact that an official was told, indeed, it was in the president's briefing book.

Today, McEnany also tried to say that the president was the most informed person. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MCENANY: This president, I'll tell you, is the most informed person on planet earth when it comes to the threats that we face. You have Ambassador O'Brien who sees him --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DIAMOND: So you hear the press secretary there saying that the president is the most informed person on earth while at the same time saying that he wasn't briefed on this threat that had apparently the intelligence of which had been apparently been shared with U.S. allies before it was at least orally briefed to the president of the United States.

And, Jake, one more note, is that we did hear the press secretary there suggest at one point, at least accept the notion, that members of the intelligence community could have been going after the president by leaking this information. There's, of course, no corroboration for that. But it is interesting the White House press secretary seems more interested in entertaining that notion rather than entertaining the notion that this intelligence about Russia could be true.

TAPPER: But, Jeremy, don't we think they're parsing, they're saying he wasn't briefed, meaning that nobody sat him down and made him listen and they told him this is happening as opposed to giving him information, which any other previous president would then read?

DIAMOND: Yeah. This absolutely appears to be a semantics game that the White House press secretary is playing. Yesterday she was asked specifically whether or not it had been -- this information had been shared with the president through the PDB, the president's daily brief. She said he was not personally briefed on this.

So, all the reporting, including our reporting that this was in the president's daily brief, does appear to be true. Again, it does fall on the president, it's incumbent upon him to actually read that information. Interestingly, the former Vice President Joe Biden today said that it was a dereliction of duty for the president to not have read this. He pointed out when he was vice president, he read that daily briefing every single day -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right. Jeremy Diamond at the White House, thanks so much.

Joining me now is Democratic Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin of Michigan, who was briefed by the White House this morning about the intelligence on Russian bounties -- alleged Russian bounties.

Congresswoman, thanks for joining us.

So, just so our viewers understand, you've been in the CIA. You've also worked in the NSC, the National Security Council, under both about Presidents Bush and President Obama. So, you have some experience gleaning information, reading intelligence.

What did you learn from this briefing?

REP. ELISSA SLOTKIN (D-MI): Yes, well, we had a conversation in the Situation Room. A lot of the conversation was about the veracity of the reporting, right? And hearing from some of the senior staff at the White House on, you know, their concerns about some of the intelligence. What bothered me about that is we didn't have any representatives from the CIA, from the NSA, from any of the big intelligence communities there to speak to that very issue. It was just senior staff of the president.

So, they talked about the veracity of the reporting and then, you know, what I spent my time asking about was, I get it, that there might be questions with the intelligence, that's fair. As a CIA analyst, that happens.

But I just imagine myself as a staffer in the White House under Bush, under Obama, if something like this had come across my desk, I think either of the national security advisers, either of the chiefs of staff that I worked for would have said, you know what, we just need to alert the president.

And that goes twice as -- you know, it's twice as important if you think about the fact that between March 30th and June 3rd, the president spoke to Vladimir Putin five times on the phone. So, to staff a phone call, to get the president prepped, I just couldn't understand and asked this question to the senior staff, how could you not have at least just flagged it for him and said, Mr. President, we're looking into this but we want you to know?

TAPPER: So, just to bring people up to speed, based on my reporting, what seems to be going on here in terms of agencies having different views of the reliability of this intelligence, it seems like this came from human intelligence, which is something that a lot of spy agencies use as opposed to signals intelligence, which is picking up communications electronically.

[16:25:03]

The National Security Agency focuses on SIGINT or signals intelligence, as opposed to human intelligence.

I know you can't disclose what the -- what the argument is here, but how common are these kinds of disputes within the larger intelligence community?

SLOTKIN: They do happen. And I -- actually, I want to say, it's actually a good thing that there's debate, right? I mean, I became an Iraq analyst right after some of the failed assessments of what weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. So, I was trained that it's important that people speak up if they don't believe the intelligence is really strong. And agencies should meter that out, like have that debate, get together and figure it out.

So, I don't -- it's not rare. I mean, it does happen from time to time. But then that's a signal, and especially with something that involves our troops, the safety of our troops, I would expect that everybody would just jump on the opportunity to say, OK, let's dig into this. What more do we need to find out? How do we get that information?

To find out if this is really true. Because if it's true and there's a bounty on the heads of U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, you know, my stepdaughter's in the Army, she could easily go to Afghanistan in the next year. Like I want to know they're doing everything they can to run this down one way or another.

TAPPER: Well, do you have any confidence that they are running it down? Do you be -- do you believe the intel? And if it is true, what do you think the U.S. should do?

SLOTKIN: I think there -- I think it's fair to say that there were questions and that certainly going back a few months in the story, there were real debates in the intelligence community. And I believe that. But I think it's also important that they just do the work of digging into it and figuring it out.

Now, obviously, now that this story is everywhere, there's a lot of discussion about what's ahead and how do we make sure we learn more now. I'm glad that's happening. What I want to hear, I guess, as the step mom of an Army officer is I want to hear that the president say himself that if this is true, then I'm not going to let it stand. That I'm not going to, as commander-in-chief, just stand by while Russia targets our troops and pays for blood on their hands. So, that I still want to hear. And I get that they're being pressured

and so now he's being briefed and all that stuff. I want to hear a clear signal from the commander-in-chief so that people in the military know that he has their back.

TAPPER: Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin, thank you so much for your time today. We appreciate it.

SLOTKIN: Thank you.

TAPPER: A former CIA counterterrorism analyst and former FBI senior intelligence officer will take a look at this story and President Trump's response to the Russian bounty intelligence. That's next.

Stay with us.

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