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U.S. Coronavirus Cases Surging; Pelosi: Trump Failing in His Role as Commander in Chief; Sen. Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY) is Interviewed on Russia Bounty Intel and the White House's Response; Texas Governor Issues Executive Order Requiring Masks in Public. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired July 2, 2020 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Dr. Anthony Fauci today saying that only about half the country really locked down when it was asked to, meaning the outbreak continued to grow and the virus continued to spread.

And the U.S. has not been able to get coronavirus under control. Despite all this, of course, Vice President Pence said today that, while the administration supports states pulling back or pausing reopening measures -- quote -- "We're going to keep opening up America again" -- unquote.

The vice president sticking with a plan that is, by all empirical data, failing.

And, as CNN's Jason Carroll reports for us now, Dr. Fauci is now fully stating that the United States is losing the battle against coronavirus.


JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): While coronavirus cases across the country surge, some potentially promising development on the vaccine front.

DR. FRANCIS COLLINS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: We are all optimistic the goal we have set to have a vaccine that works and is safe by the end of 2020 will be met by one of the vaccines.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have three vaccine candidates. We have had many more, but three are really, really looking good.

CARROLL: That news comes as the U.S. saw a single-day record for new cases on Wednesday, and just today Florida reporting more than 10,000 new cases, a new daily record high for the state.

DEAN TRANTALIS (D), MAYOR OF FORT LAUDERDALE, FLORIDA: Our capacity in the hospitals is becoming less and less available, and we're seeing a return of a disease that everyone dread from day one. CARROLL: Doctors in Texas overwhelmed by the number of COVID

patients, so many, in some parts, there are wait lists for ventilators.

I got 10 calls, all of whom young people who otherwise would be excellent candidates to be able to put on ECMO. They -- they're so sick that, if they don't get put on, they don't get that support, they're probably going to die. I had three beds.

CARROLL: At least 23 states have changed or pause reopening plans due to spikes in COVID cases. Today, the nation's top disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, telling the BBC, some states may have reopened too soon.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: In the United States, even in the most strict lockdown, only about 50 percent of the country locked down. That allowed the perpetuation of the outbreak that we never did get under very good control.

CARROLL: For now, New Jersey is continuing some of its reopening efforts, casinos opening their doors today, the pandemic not stopping some in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, from what one city council member describes as COVID parties.

City officials say tickets were sold where the first person confirmed to have contracted the virus wins cash.

WALT MADDOX (D), MAYOR OF TUSCALOOSA, ALABAMA: Unfortunately, I don't believe that they're taking this as seriously as they need to, especially because, in Tuscaloosa, and probably like a lot of places in Alabama, the spread has been asymptomatic.

CARROLL: Just about an hour outside New York City, health officials in Rockland County investigating a new cluster of COVID cases linked to a party. County officials issuing fines and subpoenas to compel people to speak to contact tracers.

ED DAY (R), ROCKLAND COUNTY, NEW YORK, EXECUTIVE: We are deadly serious. I will not allow to have the health Of our county compromised because of ignorance, stupidity or obstinance.

CARROLL: Dr. Fauci bluntly asked today if the U.S. is winning the war against the coronavirus.

QUESTION: You have been losing this battle, haven't you, recently?

FAUCI: Admittedly, yes, we have. We cannot give up because it appears that we're losing the battle.


CARROLL: And a little bit more from Dr. Fauci, Jake.

Late today, he gave an interview where we talked more about the potential for vaccine and projections going forward. He said they should know by winter or by early 2021 if they have a safe and effective vaccine.

And already, Jake, there are discussions among health officials about who would be the first to get it, first responders, possibly those over the age of 65, those in long-term care facilities.

But, obviously, first thing first, you have to get that effective vaccine -- Jake.

TAPPER: That's right. Jason Carroll, thanks so much.

Let's bring in CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Sanjay, there's this new study out today that shows there's a new mutation of the novel coronavirus that makes the virus more infectious, although just as deadly, not more deadly. What can you tell us about this?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I think that last point is probably the most critical point. And while it makes it more likely to spread, it doesn't appear to make it more lethal.

Jake, we had some hints of this before. We knew that there was a different strain that was primarily coming out of Asia and a different strain that was primarily coming out of Europe. In fact, if you look at the Eastern part of the United States vs. the Western part of the United States, probably different versions of the virus were affecting this.

It appears to be a mutation in what is known as the spike protein. That is the protein that allows these viruses to enter the cell and allows them to replicate more easily inside the cell.


But I think the two critical points is, while it may make it more likely to spread, it does not appear more lethal, and also doesn't seem to affect a possible future vaccine.

It's not a big enough mutation that should affect that, Jake.

TAPPER: We have heard President Trump say that, the more testing we do, the more cases we get, and that makes the country look bad.

At a Senate hearing today, Trump's testing czar, Admiral Brett Giroir, said this surge cannot just be attributed to more testing. Take a listen.


ADM. BRETT GIROIR, U.S. ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: There is no question that, the more testing you get, the more you will uncover. But we do believe this is a real increase in cases, because the percent positivities are going up. So this is real increases in cases.

(END VIDEO CLIP) TAPPER: I guess it's notable that somebody telling the truth about this virus is newsworthy, but we did want to point that out.

GUPTA: Yes, I mean, that is obviously in direct opposition to what we have heard recently, that the narrative has been, you test more, you're going to find more cases, makes us look bad. That's not the case.

I mean, it's counterintuitive, perhaps, but as you test more ultimately, you should have less -- fewer cases, because you isolate people, you quarantine them. And that's how you break the transmission spread.

I don't know if we have the graphs of Texas, but you can see. We have looked at what's been going on. We know the number of cases have been going up in Texas. But what's also been happening there is that the positivity rate has hovered pretty high, around 15 percent or so over the last few days.

That that's too high. That means, as you're testing more, there's evidence of greater spread than you realize. So you're not just going up because of the testing. You're going up because the virus has spread more.

You need that positivity to be closer to 5 percent or so.

TAPPER: And, Sanjay, Dr. Fauci acknowledged today that the mixed messaging on masks from officials in the early days of the pandemic might have set the U.S. back, and that the U.S. never really fully shut down during the shutdown to get the virus under control.

How concerned are you about where the U.S. is right now in battling this virus?

GUPTA: Well, I'm pretty concerned.

I mean, I realize, Jake, that we still have many tools, basic public health tools, that can make a huge difference. I mean, you and I have been talking about some of these for months now. And they can make a big difference.

I will -- I think Dr. Fauci and others would concede that, at the beginning of this pandemic, there was a lot of things about this virus that we didn't know. It was a novel coronavirus. So think things were being learned along the way.

But I think there was some pretty basic rules that were put into place. When should a state reopen? Dr. Fauci talked about the fact that 50 percent of the country really didn't shut down. That's a problem, because other countries did shut down and had tremendous success.

But, then, when should they open? If you look at Texas again, one of the basic rules was that you had to have 14 days of downward trend before you started to open. So, here, Jake are the 14 days before Texas opened. We just want to

pull the data. They opened up May 1. That was always their plan, to open on May 1. They closed on March 30. I mean, Jake, the numbers speak for themselves. That is part of the reason we're in this problem.

And part of those guidelines also said, if you go up five days in a row, you probably need to go back into shutdown mode. So, some states are hitting those benchmarks as well.

TAPPER: We should point out, Sanjay, you and I were (AUDIO GAP) this out at the time they were reopening, even though they were violating all of the gateway suggestions from the Coronavirus Task Force.

We were saying, they have not met those criteria. And here we are with an explosion of new cases and, in some cases, in some states, an explosion of hospitalizations and, sadly, deaths.

GUPTA: That -- I mean, that was the reason you had the criteria. And it seemed like they were thrown out the window almost as quickly as they were released.

They were just put out there sort of name only to sort of get the sense that, here they are, but you don't really have to follow them.

The reason you want 14 day downward trend is that that gets you down to a manageable level of new infections. If you get that manageable level, then you can isolate, then you can quarantine, contact trace, all of that.

When the numbers are as high as they are, it's just -- it's tough to do, Jake.

TAPPER: Also at the Senate hearing today, a Health and Human Services official leading the efforts for a vaccine said the U.S. could have more than one coronavirus vaccine by early next year. Are you encouraged? Are you optimistic?

GUPTA: I am, Jake.

And I -- this is a deep area of reporting for us. We have been talking to lots of sources in the companies, at the NIH. And you heard Francis Collins talk about this today, who's the head of the NIH, being very optimistic about this, saying it's going to happen.

There are several different vaccine platforms that are being worked on. Some are progressing more rapidly than others. But it is kind of amazing.


I mean, I think this is one of the bright spots in all this, Jake. The pace, I think, of medical innovation will be forever accelerated by this pandemic.

We have done things in weeks that typically took years in the past, because we had to, because our backs are up against the wall. Sometimes, that really forces the innovation. And I think, with the vaccine, a couple of the platform vaccines in particular, you have really seen that.

I mean, within days, they had their plans after receiving the genetic sequence. So, we will see still. But if the question is, am I optimistic, the answer is yes, absolutely yes.

TAPPER: Great. That's at least something.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thank you so much. I will take it.

GUPTA: You got it.

TAPPER: President Trump skipping out on questions over whether he was briefed on the alleged Russian bounty program that targeted U.S. and British troops in Afghanistan.

We're going to talk to one of the senators briefed next.

Then: They are some of the voters who helped Trump win in 2016 in an incredibly important state, but, for some, 2020 might be a different story.

We're going to go talk to one key group of voters in one key state coming up.



TAPPER: Our world lead now, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accusing President Trump of dereliction of duty following a classified briefing on alleged Russian bounty program that reportedly paid Taliban terrorists to target U.S. and British service members in Afghanistan.

As Jeremy Diamond reports, this all comes amid new questions about what exactly the president knew and whether he should have acted.



JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Today, President Trump dodging questions about an alleged Russian plot to reward the killing of American troops in Afghanistan. Six days after that bombshell report and amid mounting evidence --

TRUMP: I think it's a hoax. I think it's a hoax by the newspapers and the Democrats.

DIAMOND: Trump has focused on undermining the intelligence and showed no concern that Russia may have targeted U.S. troops even as "The New York Times" reports more details that U.S. officials identified an Afghan contractor as the alleged middleman in the Russian bounty scheme and that rewards of up to $100,000 were offered for every dead American service member according to Afghan officials.

And today, top intelligence officials hit Capitol Hill to brief the congressional gang of eight. Coming out of the briefing, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi slamming the White House's explanation for why Trump wasn't orally brief.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: The White House put on a con, that if you don't have 100 percent consensus on intelligence, that we shouldn't be -- it shouldn't rise to a certain level. Well, we would practically be investigating nothing if you had to start off at 100 percent.

So don't buy into that. Of course the president should have been briefed. This is of the highest priority, force protection, a threat to our men and women in uniform.

DIAMOND: Former national security adviser John Bolton echoing those comments.

JOHN BOLTON, FORMER WHITE HOUSE NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: The fact there might have been disagreement in the intelligence agencies, that happens all the time. So I'm confused by the White House's confusion over this. I don't think they have a grip on what actually is going on.

DIAMOND: As for the virus --

TRUMP: Our health experts continue to address the temporary hot spots in certain cities and the crisis is being handled.

DIAMOND: The president insisting the U.S. is getting the virus under control, even as 37 states are experiencing rises in new coronavirus cases.


DIAMOND: Jake, no members of that congressional Gang of Eight got into any details of what went on in that briefing today. But the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi you saw her clearly saying she thinks the president should have been briefed on this and questioned why none of the White House officials who were briefed on this intelligence about Russian bounties didn't stop the president when he went and invited Russia to join the G7 again this year -- Jake.

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

Joining me now to talk about this is New York Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. She sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Senator, good to see you. Thanks for joining us.

I want to get your reaction to something former national security adviser John Bolton told just a few minutes ago that he's confused by the White House's confusion over this briefing mix-up and they don't have a grip on this. SEN. KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND (D-NY): Yes. The president really has failed

in his job as commander-in-chief. He has not taken his responsibility of force protection seriously.

The fact that we have intelligence reports of money going between Russia and members of the Taliban and go-betweens with the Taliban, the fact that we found $500,000 in one of these individual's houses in Afghanistan just shows how out of touch the president is.

He should be briefed on these issues. If he wasn't, we have understanding that he was briefed on these issues, it's shocking. He should have done something.

But even more concerning is the fact that he's been unwilling to stand up to Putin his entire presidency. We all watched what he did in Helsinki. We now are watching him had multiple calls with Putin during this time when he would have known and said nothing. It's an outrage.

So, we need a full investigation, Jake. We need to have investigations through the Senate Intelligence Committee and Senate Armed Services Committee, and we have an obligation for our service members to get to the bottom of this.

TAPPER: So you were briefed on the Russian bounty intelligence yesterday. The White House has pointed out that there is a dispute among intelligence agencies about the veracity of this report. Did you question the veracity of it?


Did you find anything unreliable on what you were told?

GILLIBRAND: So, I can't speak to what we heard in the briefing because it had a top secret level. But what I can tell you is what I read in "The New York Times" and the fact that they got information from not only Special Forces but CIA operatives, and the information that they have has been corroborated.

And so, I believe there's enough information that's publicly available today that this is something that should have been taken very seriously by the White House, by the president, and he should have done everything to protect our service members.

We have concerns that perhaps three service members were killed because of a bounty. We need to know if that's true. One of those service members is a New Yorker. And we've heard from his father that he has a right and demands the facts. And every member of the Senate should be willing to have full investigations to get to the bottom of it.

TAPPER: The White House is saying that it was the decision of the CIA briefer to not verbally tell the president, though obviously it's been reported by CNN and others that the information was in the president's daily brief earlier this year.

Take a listen to the White House press secretary seeming to point the finger about why there was no action. And take a listen.


KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There were under President Obama just 39 on average criminal leak referrals. In this administration, we've seen 100 criminal leak referrals to DOJ in 2017, 88 in 2018, and 104 on average per year.

REPORTER: Members of the IC are going after Trump, is that what you're saying?

MCENANY: It very possibly could be.


GILLIBRAND: OK. Well, that's absurd, because -- sorry. Go ahead.

TAPPER: No, no, I'm just saying Kayleigh McEnany saying that it's possible, very possibly that this is a leak with members of the intelligence community going after President Trump, and I wanted to get your reaction.

GILLIBRAND: I think she's obfuscating and trying to protect her boss. But the fact that president doesn't read his daily readings is concerning, the fact that he doesn't understand what the national security risks are at any given time for our country just means it is a dereliction of duty of his job as commander in chief.

TAPPER: So, you're demanding congressional hearings. You said the Senate Intelligence and the Senate Armed Services Committee should look into this. Obviously, you're in the minority. Republicans control the Senate.

Are your Republican colleagues going to hold hearings over this? Have you talked with them about it?

GILLIBRAND: Well, the first hearing that we did have in the Armed Services Committee was inadequate. I can tell you the people who briefed us did not know the essential facts of these intelligence reports. Some of the intelligence reports that we reviewed before the hearing, they hadn't reviewed.

So, I was very dissatisfied with their lack of preparation and their lack of knowledge of the relevant facts that we are entitled to know.

And so, we made it clear to the chairman and the ranking member that we expect further briefings specifically from CIA and people who will know the facts behind these intelligence reports.

TAPPER: Well, what about hearings, though? Because you want hearings. Will Republicans have hearings?

GILLIBRAND: We need hearings. I don't know. But I think the next step is to have another briefing again on a secret platform.

But you can have hearings that are classified as well. You can have hearings both open and classified, and I don't think any Republican should be afraid of getting the facts.

I can tell you based on the questioning I heard from my Republican colleagues, there is concern. And they are not satisfied with the amount of information they have been given to date. So, hopefully, that will lead to a bipartisan request for hearings.

TAPPER: All right. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, thank you so much. Good to see you again.

Our next guest says there are some states that are dangerously close to entering, quote, apocalyptic territory. These places they say that are running out of the one drug that we know helps treat COVID-19.

Stay with us.


TAPPER: And welcome back.

In our health lead, five states are driving more than half of the new cases of coronavirus across the country. Those states are Texas, California, Florida, Arizona, and Georgia.

Four of those states were also among the first in the nation to reopen their economies, now all five are battling rising hospitalization rates.

CNN's Lucy Kafanov joins us now live from Houston, Texas.

Lucy, yesterday, Texas saw a record number of hospitalizations. And some hospitals are nearing maximum capacity.

And you have some breaking news now from the governor of Texas, Greg Abbott.

What is it?

LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I do, Jake. Just a few minutes ago, the governor issued an executive order requiring a statewide mask mandate. This applies to any county that has 20 coronavirus cases, positive cases or more. This affects nearly 70 percent of counties across the state, including Harris County, home to Houston where we are right now.

As you point out, these numbers have been going up day by day, 7 -- pardon me, nearly 8,000, more than 8,000 new cases yesterday. Nearly 7,000 people across the state hospitalized. In about 30 minutes, we'll get the new numbers for today.