Return to Transcripts main page


White House to Brief House Democrats on Russian Bounty Intel Soon; Sources: Senior Officials Concluded Trump was a Danger to National Security After Phone Calls with World Leaders; Houston Hospitals Strained By Surging Coronavirus Outbreak. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired June 30, 2020 - 07:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CO-ANCHOR, NEW DAY: In Afghanistan. Joining me now, CNN national security commentator Mike Rogers; he's the former house Intelligence chair. Mr. Chairman, thank you so much for being with us. If we can, I want to take a big step back here, and it really sets the stage for this whole discussion. Explain why the nature of these allegations that Russia was willing to pay bounty money to Taliban to kill U.S. troops. Why is that so serious?

MIKE ROGERS, CNN HOST OF "DECLASSIFIED": Well, for one reason, you have a nation state who is encouraging activity to kill U.S. soldiers or our NATO allies across Afghanistan, which is really significant. Imagine if this was on the other foot. Imagine if it had come out that the U.S. was paying a bounty to kill Russian soldiers anywhere in the world, right? We would have -- we would be in a kerfuffle.

Well, I would argue this is a kerfuffle. You have -- I'm going to guess it wasn't just money and you go do it. I imagine there was probably other things associated with it. We know that the Russians were supplying the Taliban weapons, bad enough. But now, if they're paying a bounty, meaning we're encouraging you to go and shoot and try to kill an American, that is serious. But we have troops in the field. Nothing more important than making sure they have all the tools they need to be safe and to be effective.

BERMAN: So, it doesn't get more serious than this, basically, is what you're saying. Given that, then, what do you make of this hair- splitting from the White House, them saying that he wasn't -- the president wasn't verbally briefed on this. But our reporting is that this information was in the president's daily briefing, in written form. What's the difference?

ROGERS: Well, you know, I think that is splitting hairs. The pertinent -- my angst in all of this is, why was this not presented through the National Security Council? Why were not options laid on the table? And by the way, it's OK to say, this is not -- we don't have a high degree of confidence in this information, but think about the things that were happening during all of the last few months, releasing 2,000 Taliban prisoners, who by the way, are they going back and collecting a Russian weapon and a Russian bounty to turn right around and kill Americans? You know, there's no way to determine that. That's why this is so

important to me. We also tried to do a peace arrangement. By the way, that the government -- the Afghan government had to be pulled into with -- by the way, the Russians involved in those discussions. So I -- again, my whole thing is, this needed to be taken at a level of severity, even if you couldn't say I know for sure this happened they had indicators.

And then you have folks who are providing analytical details. They may have been in the dissent that are important to have on the table. Again, maybe it doesn't change your decision, but I don't want policy- makers to go into something as serious as, don't worry about it, when you have troops in the field, number one.

And number two, when you're negotiating and trying to bring the Russians into your equation, this is a significant problem. It tells me there's some dysfunction. And by the way, Congress is dysfunctional as well. They should have been briefed together on this, not Republicans and Democrats. This is not a Republican or Democrat issue. This is a national security issue. They should have been briefed together. They should have come out and tried to find some unified way forward on this and try to do something about this dysfunction about how information and intelligence gets to policy-makers --

BERMAN: Yes --

ROGERS: Really important.

BERMAN: Yes, the White House argument is the fact that there was conflicting information, somehow precludes the need to tell the president on the one hand, and also precludes the need for the White House now to address the substance of the reporting.

ROGERS: Yes, again, my concern was they spent more time in the first three days trying to tell folks that it was either fake news or it wasn't important or I didn't know or somebody didn't know or somebody didn't tell him. All of that is nonsense. I would have felt better if the president would have come out and said, you know what, I didn't get that brief or at least I don't remember getting that brief, and I'm going to -- by the end of the day, I'm going to get that brief.

I'm going to find out what the heck is going on. Troops are my most important priority. That didn't happen. They spent all this time in machination, twisting themselves around, and by the way, the truth will come out in this.

BERMAN: Yes --

ROGERS: It looks and appears to me that, that information did make it at least to the National Security Council, but what took so long? Why did they do it? Those are the questions I hope these committees get at.

BERMAN: And remember, it doesn't get more serious than this. We're talking about U.S. lives on the line here overseas. So, this is how the president has chosen to address it over the last 12 hours. He has retweeted something that Geraldo Rivera said. He basically retweeted Geraldo, not addressing the substance of U.S. lives perhaps being on the line in Afghanistan because of Russian money. Instead, he's retweeting Geraldo. What does that tell you about how seriously the president is taking this?


ROGERS: Well, again, you know, if there is any ounce of credibility -- and apparently, there is enough that members of our Intelligence Committee say, you know what? This happened. And remember, we had the commander that was in Afghanistan, Nicholson, I believe it was, in 2018, say we know that the Russians were giving them weapons, bad enough, and that there were raids where there were large sums of cash where the folks interrogated said it came from the Russians.

You know, I'm an old FBI guy, we would call that a clue. It is something we're going to have to worry about. It worries me that the president spends more time worried about what people think is happening versus just trying to fix it. Get your national security team engaged in giving him options. There are options to these kinds of things, including we could have directly confronted the Russians.

There's covert action activity that we could have made their lives pretty miserable if they're going to continue this activity in Afghanistan. There's lots of things we could have done, and some of that by the way would never have been in public. But this whole twisting around about what I want you to believe happened to me is nonsense. Not everything is perfect --

BERMAN: Right --

ROGERS: Mr. President. Engage so that the troops on the ground know that they're getting the best, A, intelligence, and B, the best protection we can give them and still allow them to be successful in a dangerous mission.

BERMAN: Some people look at this --

ROGERS: That's our priority it should be here --

BERMAN: Some people look at this -- some people of course, look at this and see it as part of a pattern, where the president is being overly solicitous or forgiving of Russia and Vladimir Putin. And it comes as our Carl Bernstein over the last 12 hours has put out this extraordinary reporting he's been working on over the last four months, from concern -- of concern, from senior national security officials over the president's conversations with world leaders, including Vladimir Putin.

Let me just read you part of this, Mike. He says, "in numerous calls with Putin that were described to CNN, Trump left top national security aides and his chiefs of staff flabbergasted, less because of specific concessions he made than because of his manner, inordinately solicitous of Putin's admiration and seemingly seeking his approval." Again, just begs more questions about the president's attitude toward Vladimir Putin. ROGERS: Completely. And if you look at this, this is what worries me,

they are on a mad drive to get a peace deal with the Taliban. You know, the Taliban that, by the way, just a few short years ago made it illegal for girls to read. I mean, this is a pretty tough group, they're still killing people. They're still taking hostages. And if you want a peace deal -- and I have seen this in other administrations by the way including the Obama administration, you want it so bad, you're willing to look past what the intelligence is telling you.

That's why to me it's so important that this intelligence get in the mix for discussion, so that you don't run out and invite, you know, Vladimir Putin back to the G7 right in the midst of him paying cash, maybe, to the Taliban to kill U.S. soldiers or our allies. I mean, there has to be consequences for that kind of behavior. And inviting to the G7 isn't it, right? That's a gift. You don't want to -- you want to make sure that they're feeling the pain for making this decision to put our soldiers at higher risk.

BERMAN: Mr. Chairman, Mike Rogers, always an education to have you on. Thanks so much for being here with us.

ROGERS: Thanks for having me.

BERMAN: So, if you really want to learn about coronavirus, ask a doctor who's fighting it on the front lines.


JOSEPH VARON, CHIEF OF CRITICAL CARE, UNITED MEMORIAL CENTER: COVID is a very fluid illness. It's an illness that changes. And what I knew four months ago is completely different than what I do now.


BERMAN: We're going to speak to that doctor live about what he's seeing at a hospital in Houston, next.




VARON: That's the first one for today.


VARON: We cut to change the tube on somebody that has no oxygen. People have -- his tube was malfunctioning. Because I know at the end, it was ruptured, so he was not getting enough oxygen.


ERICA HILL, CO-ANCHOR, NEW DAY: That is the head doctor at Houston's United Memorial Medical Center in action. The hospital transforming into a sort of coronavirus specialty center as a positivity rate in Houston has increased 10 percent according to the city's mayor. Joining me now, Dr. Joseph Varon, doctor, great to have you with us. Many people likely saw you in that great piece from our colleague Miguel Marquez yesterday.

One of the things that we saw yesterday was that your hospital was nearing capacity, 117 beds. Where do you stand this morning?

VARON: Well, unfortunately, you know, the COVID unit is full this morning. We're hoping to be able to discharge some patients, but you know, things escalated fairly fast since Miguel came to see us over the weekend.

HILL: So, you're now full? I mean, that seems like pretty fast, yes, but that seems -- I mean, almost exponential, that in the span of what, 48 hours that happened?

VARON: That is correct. I mean, we went full -- we are expected now to even open another area. We're going to be able to accommodate another 30 patients just because all of our COVID beds are full.

HILL: Do you have the staff? Do you have everything that you need for those 30 beds? I know you, yourself, have been working within 100 days straight at this point.

VARON: Yes, you know, and again, and that's the problem. You can't have all the beds in the world, but if you have -- you don't have the staff, that's not going to help you. It is difficult to get the staff, our staff is overworked. They are tired and we're trying. We're trying to preclude and preclude and preclude, but that is becoming a very difficult task.

HILL: You're also doing a significant amount of testing at your hospital, more than 85,000 test. We saw the lines of cars yesterday in the early morning hours lining up for people coming in. The positivity rate that you're finding is 16.5 percent?

VARON: That is correct. That's the most-recent numbers that we have. And you know, in specific populations, we actually have seen even in a higher rate. Over a month ago, we tested the Mexican consulate and we found 20 percent among them, and now we tested again the Mexican consulate last weekend, and we're just waiting to get the results back, but I expect it's going to be higher.


HILL: What do you attribute that to?

VARON: Well, again, I mean, there are too many reasons. One of them is that -- I mean, Hispanic-American people, African-American people are very warm people, you know, they like to hug, they like to kiss. There is not too much of social distancing. That's the reason why we tend to see higher levels of positivity among them.

HILL: You're also, in terms of what you're seeing, so, there are the higher positivity rates, there are, you know, certain areas of population that are impacted more. What are you seeing, though, from the patients that are coming in now? Are you seeing a change at all in their symptoms, how they're presenting, from what you saw in the early days of the pandemic?

VARON: Absolutely. I mean, when you look at what I'm seeing now, patients are coming in ten times sicker than when they were, let's say eight weeks ago. Ten 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.

HILL: Wow. So, they're coming in sicker. I know you were having more issues with oxygen. We heard something similar from a doctor in Miami just this morning who said they're having more oxygen issues, and specifically in younger people.

VARON: We have. I mean, we have seen throughout -- I mean, that -- you know, age is really not a limited factor. And so many that would think that a young is going to do better than an old. I mean, we have seen it throughout. I have seen the young, for example, personal trainer with no health issues that gets very ill. And I've also seen a 92-year-old person with cancer everywhere that leaves the hospital in one piece.

So, age is not too much of a factor. What we're seeing is we're seeing that this illness has no mercy against any kind of gender, age or race.

HILL: The virus is the virus, and it's going to impact everyone as we've learned. So, what's your message then? You know, whether it's people in the community or the people who are making the decisions at the top, locally, at a state level, on the federal level. Do you think the measures being put in place are going to help slow or even stop the spread at this point?

VARON: You see, the problem is that the cow is out of the barn. I mean, it is too late. There are already too many people out there that have the virus. The only way by which we are able to contain or flatten this curve is by getting people to have a little common sense. That means, if you don't have to be out there, don't be out. Don't go -- don't leave your house if you don't have to.

If you've got to work, then make sure that you have your social distancing, use your face mask, wash your hands, you know, simple, little things. But you know, allowing mass gatherings, doing those kinds of things, that's not going to help us.

HILL: Dr. Varon, appreciate you joining us again this morning. Appreciate everything that you are doing there in Houston especially for the last 100-plus days. We'll continue to check in with you. Thank you.

VARON: Thank you very much.

BERMAN: Our appreciation to him and all the work he's doing. The virus knows no mercy, Dr. Varon says. We want to remember some of the more than 126,000 Americans lost to coronavirus. Sixty five-year-old Lilly Sossi(ph) worked nearly half of her life at a hospital in Farmington, New Mexico. Her daughter tells the "Farmington Daily Times" that EMS crews marked their respect by escorting her body all the way home on the three-hour drive from Albuquerque, where she died.

Joe Quintas(ph) was a church deacon and restaurant worker in Champaign, Illinois. His nephew tells CNN affiliate "WCIA", he was only 39 years old. He had no underlying health problems. The nephew says the whole family got sick, but his uncle, unfortunately, quote, "got the bad end of it". He leaves behind a wife and two sons. We'll be right back.



HILL: A breaking news. Police in riot gear clashing with protesters. These pictures are from outside City Hall in New York City, and it comes ahead of a vote today on the mayor's proposal to cut a billion dollars from the NYPD's budget. CNN's Brynn Gingras is live in Lower Manhattan with more for us. It looks like it may have calmed down a little bit, but very heated this morning, Brynn.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it definitely calmed down. It was heated this morning, it's been heated over the last week, Erica. We've heard all these nationwide rally cries for defunding the police, we've seen them here in New York City where those protesters that were in the streets essentially formed an encampment. I want to get out of the way so you can see.

They've been here for the last week in front of City Hall up until this moment where this budget is going to be voted on and needs to be approved by today. Today is the deadline, it goes into effect for the next fiscal year tomorrow. And this group as you can see, they're calling for what we just said, defunding the police. They want at least -- at least a billion dollars removed from the NYPD's $6 billion budget.

And there are times that they have clashed with police like this morning. The video that you guys were showing where this morning, they were going into the street here in front of City Hall and police were trying to push them back. But there have been other moments within the last week or so. Now, the mayor as far as the budget is concerned has proposed a billion-dollar cut to the NYPD. And he hasn't ruled out the fact that it could mean a hiring freeze of police officers.

It could mean that overtime, it needs to get reined back in. It could mean that there are going to be less officers on the street. Now, the NYPD has said they are all for reallocating NYPD funds to different social services like for the youth in this community.


But they have said to me directly from the NYPD brass that having less officers is not -- on the streets is not a good thing especially when violent crime has been on the rise. So certainly, today, it's going to get a little more intense as the day goes on. As again, that budget needs to be approved. And this group I can tell you, Erica, has said they are not going to leave unless that billion dollars is stripped from the NYPD's budget specifically and reallocated back into the community. Guys?

HILL: I will be watching for those updates, Brynn, thank you. The City Council in Louisville will investigate the mayor's handling of the police shooting that killed Breonna Taylor. Officials announcing plans for a bipartisan resolution to probe Mayor Greg Fischer's actions they say the public is demanding and has a right to know what happened. Taylor was shot and killed by police who mistakenly came into her apartment to serve a no-knock warrant. The suspect police were looking for was already in custody.

BERMAN: So Rockies outfielder Ian Desmond says he is opting out of the upcoming baseball season and he announced it in this really powerful social media post. Carolyn Manno with more in the "BLEACHER REPORT". Carolyn?

CAROLYN MANNO, CNN SPORTS REPORTER: Good morning, John, it was beautiful and sincere and it explained how both coronavirus and also the Black Lives Matter movement together have shaped this decision for him. He said the fields where he feels like he needs to be right now are not professional baseball fields, but the one that he grew up on in his hometown of Sarasota, Florida.

He really described the impact that youth baseball has made in his life, and detailed the racism that he dealt with as a biracial kid. He said he's going to spend the next few months improving those programs in his community, spending time with his family. The Rockies outfielder writing in part, "home is where I need to be right now. Home for my wife, Chelsey, home to help. Home to guide. Home to answer my older three boys questions about coronavirus and civil rights and life. Home to be their dad."

Two-time all star also highlighting a multitude of issues that he feels are plaguing Major League Baseball right now, including a lack of racial diversity as players and staff begin reporting to Spring training. Later today, Desmond, one of several big names who is not going to be there. In the meantime, the NBA and its players association are working to highlight social justice issues when play resumes a month from today.

Big sources telling CNN that the words "black lives matter" will be painted on all of the courts at the Disney Complex near Orlando. NBA players have used that platform to speak out on systemic racism, police brutality and social injustice in recent weeks. And just one last note for you, John and Erica, in the NHL, 26 confirmed cases of coronavirus since voluntary workouts began three weeks ago. The NHL also putting a plan together for how to resume their season, they're shooting for the end of July or early August.

BERMAN: You know, it's just such a constant reminder. We think of athletes sometimes -- and I think sometimes we forget they're human beings. And for many of these athletes, particularly the black athletes, they're shouldering a lot right now. There is a lot weighing on them, and I think we all have to keep that in mind as many of us are itching for something to watch on TV which may not be as important as the things that they're dealing with right now.

MANNO: Yes, absolutely. And they're all going to make decisions for different reasons across leagues in sports and its entirety. So it's going to be something that we continue to report on.

BERMAN: Yes, Ryan Zimmerman announced he's not coming back and play in this season. We have NBA players who have been testing positive for coronavirus, DeAndre Jordan, Spencer Dinwiddie testing positive for coronavirus, so they made it by coming back and playing, so stay tuned, stay tuned on all this. Carolyn Manno, thanks so much for the report, I really do appreciate it. NEW DAY continues right now.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Coronavirus cases are surging across sections of the country.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Our expectation is that next week, our numbers will be worse.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Behind the reality is, this is not even close to being over.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The White House adamant President Trump was never briefed on intelligence reports that Russia was secretly offering to pay Taliban-linked militants to kill U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was not a consensus among the intelligence community. It would not be elevated to the president until it was verified.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The question is, were they afraid to approach him on the subject of Russia?


BERMAN: Good morning, welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY, Alisyn is off, Erica Hill with me again this morning. Great to have you here.

HILL: Good to be back with you.

BERMAN: So this morning, an alarming warning from a top CDC official, coronavirus is spreading too quickly and too broadly, she says for the U.S. to bring it under control. We heard a short time ago from our security analyst Julia Kiam. She says she is writing off 2020 in terms of this pandemic. We heard from a Houston doctor a few moments ago who said patients are coming in ten times sicker than he was seeing two months ago.

The virus, he says has no mercy. Sixteen states are now pausing or changing their reopening plans. Look at that map. More than 41,000 new cases reported yesterday alone. The curve rising. And at this moment, 36 states are seeing an increase in new cases, only two states, those two states. END