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More States Close Beaches, Bars, End Indoor Dining; Study Shows U.S. Deaths May be 28 Percent Higher than Reported; Trump Says I'm All for Masks, I Think Masks are Good; Trump Saying Russia Afghanistan Accusations are a Hoax; Russia Accusations Intel Dates Back to Last Year; Trump's Contribution to Putin's Enduring Appeal. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired July 2, 2020 - 04:00   ET



ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello and welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM and I'm Rosemary Church.

Just ahead, it took about two months for the U.S. to report its first 50,000 coronavirus cases. Now the country has recorded that many cases in a single day.

As outrage grows over the alleged Russian bounty plot, former Trump administration officials say they had started briefing the President less often about Russian intelligence. We'll find out why.

And we ask a member of China's National People's Congress how a 15- year-old girl may be a threat to the country after police arrested her and hundreds more under a new national security law.

Good to have you with us. Well, more than 50,000 Americans were diagnosed with COVID-19 on Wednesday, the highest one-day total by far. The World Health Organization says the virus is spreading so rapidly that 60 percent of the total cases across the globe were diagnosed just in the past month.

Arizona, California, Texas, Tennessee, and North Carolina all reported a surge of new cases in the last 24 hours. Nearly two dozen states have been forced to pause or roll back reopening plans. But there's no sense of a crisis at the Trump White House. The President plans to attend an event on Friday at Mt. Rushmore.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think we're going to be very good with the coronavirus. I think that at some point that's going to sort of just disappear, I hope.


CHURCH: Well, there is zero evidence the virus is on the decline, and U.S. health experts fear the upcoming July 4th holiday is going to make it worse.


ADMIRAL DR. BRETT GIROIR, ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR HEALTH, DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: We must be disciplined about our own personal behavior, especially around the July 4th holiday and especially among the young adults, and I mean 35 and under, who are driving the current outbreaks in many states. Please, please, please, avoid mass gatherings, wear face coverings, use hygiene.


CHURCH: California, Texas, Florida, and Arizona are being hit especially hard. CNN's Jason Carroll has more.


GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D) CALIFORNIA: Bottom line is the spread of this virus continues at a rate that is particularly concerning.

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT(voice over): California's Governor, Gavin Newsom, announcing new restrictions this afternoon, halting all indoor activities in businesses, including restaurants, museums, zoos and movie theaters in 19 counties, which represents 72 percent of the state's population.

NEWSOM: We are now requiring to close their indoor operations due to the spread of the virus.

CARROLL: Thirty-seven states seeing a surge over the past week and now results of a new study say the actual us death count might be higher than the official numbers show. Research published in the medical journal JAMA Internal Medicine says the number of excess U.S. deaths from March to May was 28 percent higher than what was attributed to COVID-19.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D) NEW YORK: There are storm clouds on the horizon.

CARROLL: The alarming rise in cases nationwide, prompting New York Governor, Andrew Cuomo, to stop restaurants in New York City from opening indoor dining next week. Cuomo warned if people do not comply, the state which has seen its numbers moving in the right direction could end up back where it was two months ago.

CUOMO: We're back to the mountain. That is what is going to happen.

CARROLL: Troubling numbers continue coming in from Texas, Arizona and Florida where that state's Department of Health reported more than 6,500 additional COVID cases today. The Governor continues to push back on critics who say he reopened too soon and should by now have had a state mandate to wear a mask.

In Texas, 8,076 new cases reported today, a record high, and topping yesterday's total by more than 1,000 cases. In the face of those numbers, the state's Lieutenant Governor says he will stop listening to recommendations from the nation's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, who cautions States against skipping over CDC guidelines when reopening.

LT. GOV. DAN PATRICK (R-TX): He doesn't know what he's talking about.


We haven't skipped over anything. The only thing I'm skipping over is listening to him.

CARROLL: Peyton Chesser, a 23-year-old Texan, blames all of the mixed messages on part of the reason she got the virus.

PEYTON CHESSER, 23-YEAR-OLD RECOVERED FROM CORONAVIRUS: If some states are completely locked down and my state is almost operation on full capacity, it was hard to know exactly where the line stood just because there was so much conflicting information that I was receiving.

CARROLL (on camera): And late Wednesday, Arizona's governor has asked for 500 additional medical personnel to help with the spread of the virus there. Some other numbers coming out of Arizona, hospital beds now at 85 percent capacity, ICU beds at 88 percent capacity.

Jason Carroll, CNN, New York.


CHURCH: And since the pandemic began, President Trump has resisted wearing a facemask and at times he's mocked and belittled people who do. But as mask wearing has become more urgent across the country and more common place, the President has been increasingly isolated on this issue. And on Wednesday he appeared to bend.


TRUMP: I'm all for masks. I think masks are good. If I were in a group of people and I was close.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You would wear one?

TRUMP: Oh, I would, I would -- oh, I have. I mean, people have seen me wearing one. I sort of liked the way I looked.


CHURCH: Well, large parties have been identified as breeding grounds for the virus among young people in the United States. But as one man in Arizona found out after visiting a bar, getting infected was incredibly easy but terrifying to live through.


JIMMY FLORES, INFECTED AFTER VISITING BAR: On the sixth or seventh day when I was sick, I started getting a cough issue and it was very light to where if I took a deep breath, I would go ahead and have like a cough. Within 24 hours it turned into a cough attack where I couldn't take a small breath without fearing for my life. On that Monday where I decided to go to the hospital, I was literally laying on my bed in a position to just breathe like a person that smoked for 50 years.

It was very scary. I feared for my life, and when I decided to go to the hospital, I also decided to make the message public because I knew I made a mistake. I knew that I didn't take this seriously and I wanted other people to experience my experience. Because that's how I knew other people would get this message, is through a personal experience with someone they probably knew and they could relate to.


CHURCH: And Flores also told us the bar was packed with up to 500 people that day. Just chilling.

Well, dozens of potential vaccines are being studied all over the world. Drug maker Pfizer and German biotechnology company, Biotech, say preliminary trials of one of them, have shown some promise. The most recent study only included about 45 patients and the results have not yet been published for peer review.

So let's bring in Dr. Kent Sepkowitz, a professor of medicine and infectious diseases at Weill Cornell Medical College. Thank you so much for joining us.


CHURCH: So the U.S. death toll is now above 128,000. Cases are surging in 37 states. 22 of those states have paused or rolled back reopening and most of California is now shut down again. Why are we seeing this sudden surge in cases and what drastic measures need to be taken right now to stop the surge?

SEPKOWITZ: Well, we're seeing the surge because we didn't pay attention to the rules of the shutdown the first time through. People got itchy. They felt like it was party time again and they had been indoors for too long. It's very hard to maintain. The package of social distancing, sheltering at home is a very boring slog, but it works. Masks work, washing your hands work. The whole package is monotonous and people got tired of it. Once it was like school was out and jumping for joy and that was the mistake. There was never the thought that we could go from total lockdown, total quarantine to, hey, everybody back in the pool. You know, but everybody heard it and so resumed improvident behavior.

CHURCH: Right, and of course, in the midst of this health crisis that we confront, President Trump appears to be changing his opinion on face coverings. Now saying masks are good, but he won't mandate them and he hasn't told his supporters to wear them.


If he did that, and also took the lead and actually wore a mask himself in public, could that be enough to stop this alarming surge in cases?

SEPKOWITZ: It would be a factor that would have some effect. I think that getting people to stay home, getting people to not go to bars and drink, getting people to stay away from each other in a social sense, those are much harder. But I think for him to take this seriously, for him to take human behavior seriously and containing oneself seriously, that would be big. And if he would wear a mask all the time, non- sarcastically, or derisively, I think it would matter. I don't think he will, and it's everything news, but I would love to see it.

CHURCH: And President Trump also said Wednesday that the coronavirus will sort of just disappear, his words exactly. What medical advice would you give him on that statement?

SEPKOWITZ: Wake up, dude. There's no indication scientifically or what we've seen or just ask your grandma if it's just going to magically disappear. There's no one other than the President, I don't know that he totally thinks it. It's just magical thinking. He thought those pills, the malaria pills were going to make it go away. It's not accepted that there is a real crisis on his hands that requires decision making. He's just refusing to go (INAUDIBLE) --

CHURCH: And, doctor, a new study is now suggesting that COVID-19 deaths could actually be about 28 percent higher. How likely is it we've underestimated the death toll in the U.S.?

SEPKOWITZ: Well surely, we have. People die without diagnosis. People don't get their test. People die suddenly in their home, et cetera. Public health has known about that phenomenon all the time for every disease, influenza, et cetera. They have ways to estimate a more accurate number. But inevitably at the end of a season of flue or whatever they're counting, the true number, which is the incremental number of deaths above the baseline that is seen every year, more or less the same per month, it's adjusted (INAUDIBLE). So this is an old, non-politically charged statistic adjustment that has been made for decades. And yet 20, 25 percent under count, that feels about right for other diseases.

Dr. Sepkowitz, thank you for talking with us, we appreciate it.

SEPKOWITZ: Thank you very much.

CHURCH: This is CNN NEWSROOM. Stunning revelations about what President Trump hears about Russia during his intelligence briefings from former administration officials who were there. We will have the disturbing details. That's coming up.

Meantime, Russia is releasing early results from its controversial vote. What it means for President Putin and how the U.S. President could be boosting his popularity. We're back in a moment.



CHURCH: Well, we are hearing more details now about the allegations that Russia paid bounties to the Taliban to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan. "The New York Times" says an Afghan contractor handed out Russian cash to kill Americans according to officials. The paper describes, and I'm quoting here, a key middleman who for years handed out money from a Russian military intelligence unit to reward Taliban- linked fighters for targeting American troops in Afghanistan according to American and Afghan officials.

Multiple knowledgeable sources tell CNN that President Trump has been resistant to warnings about Russia so former administration officials who gave Trump intelligence briefings and others who were there say his national security team has been verbally briefing him less often on Russia-related threats to the U.S. The President denies he was briefed on the intelligence surrounding alleged Russian bounties in Afghanistan and is calling the accusations a hoax. Here's the President speaking to Fox News earlier.


TRUMP: We never heard about it because intelligence never found it to be of the -- of that level where it would rise to that -- just didn't rise to the occasion. And from what I hear, and I hear it pretty good, the intelligence people didn't even -- many of them didn't believe it happened at all. I think it's a hoax. I think it's a hoax by the newspapers and the Democrats.


CHURCH: But as CNN's Kylie Atwood tells us, the intel on the accusations, dates back to last year.


KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: The origins of this intelligence date back to 2019. We have reported that in 2019 the White House was provided with intelligence that Russian actors had offered Taliban bounties to kill U.S. soldiers and then this information came back to the fore earlier this year. It was provided in the President's daily brief. That's the intelligence document that he is receiving every single day. And then there was an interagency meeting earlier this year to discuss potential responses by the U.S. government if this information, if this intelligence did, indeed, turn out to be true.

Now national security advisor Robert O'Brien confirmed that today and he defended the fact that President Trump was not actually orally briefed on this intelligence.


Now despite the fact that it was in his PDB, his Presidential Daily Brief, the President does not normally read that document. So the onus is on those who work around him to provide that information to him orally. Now national security advisor Robert O'Brien said that the information was not fully verified and that's why they didn't give it to the President. And Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also defended the White House's response to this intelligence when he spoke at the State Department yesterday.

Now later this morning we are going to see a briefing for the gang of eight from the intelligence community leaders on this Russian bounty intelligence. The folks who are going to be briefing include the CIA director, Dena Haskell, the director of national intelligence John Radcliffe. And this is expected to provide potentially more answers to those members of Congress who have not felt they have had sufficient answers to their questions provided in briefings by the White House earlier this week.


CHURCH: And one Congressman not mincing his words is Seth Moulton, a Democrat from Massachusetts and an Iraq war veteran. Take a listen to what he said about the President's handling of intelligence.


REP. SETH MOULTON (D-MA): I was a platoon commander in Iraq. If I led my Marines into an ambush because I didn't bother to read the intelligence report I was given, that said we would get ambushed there. I wouldn't be tweeting that it wasn't my fault because I didn't read the report. I would be in prison. If this is not treasonous behavior, I don't know what is. But stop ignoring it or defending it and find it out of political courage, an ounce of patriotism, an ounce of that oath we all took to our Constitution to for once stand up not for your Republican party leader but for our troops and for our country.


CHURCH: And a former national security advisor to President Barack Obama is speaking out against President Trump as well. Susan Rice who many believe is in the running to be Joe Biden's running mate told our Jim Sciutto there must be some reason the President ignored the information in his briefings but no one knows what it is.


SUSAN RICE, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT OBAMA: It is mind boggling and one cannot help but question what are his motivations? Why? Is it money? Is it something that they have on him? Is it some fascination with Putin and his power? There is something that must explain this, and I don't have the answer any more than his advisers do. But it's deeply, deeply troubling when any President would put loyalty to somebody in a foreign government or to a foreign government above the health and safety of American forces.


CHURCH: Meantime, in Russia President Vladimir Putin could hang on to power for another 16 years. Early results from Russia's central elections commission show more than 3/4 of voters have approved constitutional changes. They could allow Mr. Putin to seek two more six-year terms as President. His critics are slamming the vote. One of them calling it a huge lie. Independent organizations say the numbers aren't accurate and vote monitoring groups say there wasn't adequate regulation.

But despite this, it doesn't look like President Putin is leaving any time soon. And he might owe some of that staying power to President Trump. CNN's Matthew Chance explains.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With Putin tightening his grip on the Kremlin he could point to the U.S. President as one reason for his enduring appeal.

I would elect him for another ten years, says Antonina. He's voting for constitutional changes that could keep Putin in power until 2036.

When Trump won in 2016, they celebrated in Russia. Finally the U.S. leader, critical of NATO and the EU, who they believe saw the world their way, Putin's way. Still, few expected him to back the Russian President over his own intelligence agencies, on allegations of U.S. election meddling. Even Putin looked uncomfortable at the 2018 Helsinki Summit. Intervening to insist President Trump had disagreed with him on something.

VLADIMIR PUTIN, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT (through translator): President Trump's stance on Crimea is well known and he sticks to it. We have a different view.


CHANCE: But apparent bows to Kremlin interests didn't end. In 2019 President Trump announced the southern pullout of U.S. forces from Syria abandoning Kurdish allies allowing Russian forces to take over deserted U.S. bases filling the vacuum and a long-standing Kremlin goal. U.S. officials later clarified some forces would stay to secure the oil.

But in other conflicts, like Ukraine, Trump also played well to the Russian audience. Threats to suspend vital military aid fueled bitter impeachment hearings in Washington, it was music to the Kremlin's ears as their forces backed rebels in the country.

Now as Russians look set to endorse Putin for potentially another 16 years, Trump's apparent soft spot for the Kremlin's strong man amid allegations of Russian bounties to kill U.S. troops is being tested again.

Matthew Chance, CNN.


CHURCH: Hundreds hit Hong Kong streets to protest China's national security law and face off against the police. Ahead, we will hear from the one Hong Kong official involved in drafting that legislation. Back in a moment.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) CHURCH: On the streets of Hong Kong there have been protests and hundreds of arrests as China's sweeping national security law takes effect. The fresh clashes between police and protesters come after the passing of that law which broadens Beijing's powers to investigate and punish dissenters. Supporters say it will bring back stability, but critics say it has stripped Hong Kong of its autonomy and freedoms. And in just the past few hours Hong Kong police say they have arrested a man on a flight from Hong Kong to London on suspicion of attacking and wounding a police officer during the protests.