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Lakshmi Kode Sammarco, Coroner of Hamilton County, Ohio, Discusses Cincinnati City Council Vote Mandating Wearing a Mask; Airports Prepare for Spike in Travelers This Holiday Weekend; Masks Optional, No Social Distancing at Trump's July 4th Mt. Rushmore Event; Intel Agencies Briefed Trump Less on Russian Threats; CNN's Jake Tapper Discusses Movie Out Today Based on His Book, "The Outpost". Aired 1:30-2p ET

Aired July 3, 2020 - 13:30   ET




BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Today, Cincinnati city council is voting to mandate masks in the city. One reason, take a look at the numbers in Hamilton County where Cincinnati is located. In June, the number of cases per day, 30. By the end of the month, that number has quadrupled to 120 new cases per day.

The Ohio Department of Health has designated a red level-three public emergency.

The Hamilton County coroner flagged this on her Twitter account. Dr. Lakshmi Sammarco also took to social media after seeing the issue of wearing a face mask politicized, tweeting, "Do we really need some politicians to tell us to wear a mask? Do we not have common sense? Wear it?"

Dr. Sammarco is with me now.

Dr. Sammarco, thank you for taking the time.

And what happened for you to say, this is it, I need to get more voice out there?

LAKSHMI KODE SAMMARCO, CORONER, HAMILTON COUNTY, OHIO: You know, I just saw a lot of conversation, a lot of social media comments about this is an infringement of my freedoms and I shouldn't have to do this and told what to do.

I guess I just look at it as a health care issue. This is a health care issue. I don't understand what the real objection is to something as simple as wearing a mask.

BALDWIN: For people, there are the people who say, I feel claustrophobic, I have a hard time breathing. As a doctor, what do you say to them?

KODE SAMMARCO: There are a lot of different options for face coverings and for protection and you don't have to wear a very constricting facial mask, a surgical grade mask or an N-95. Wear something more comfortable, anything that will at least mostly cover nose and mouth will protect you to some degree.

There are face shields that are very clear that just go around your head. And wear some as glasses with a clear shield and protect your eyes and nose and mouth from anything hitting towards or heading toward them.

And also protect other people from you and anything that you -- anything that might come out of your nose or mouth and any particles.

BALDWIN: For everyone that says, it's OK, I don't need to wear a mask, it is my right, you are the county coroner, and without making the segment turn too grim and keeping us in check, you know, what would you tell people about how bad it can be, the severity of the situation?

KODE SAMMARCO: This truly is a health care issue. And even if you wanted to talk about politics and you wanted to talk about what your rights are, I think a friend of mine reminded the Declaration of Independence is about the common good and this is the common good.

And, you know, if we don't get control of this, and we see a lot more people being affected and a lot more communities we are talking about jobs, businesses, we are talking about a lot more deaths.

And, frankly, we have a lot of elderly in the community and, how come we're not talking about the infringement of their freedom. They're scared at home staying away from people and parks. And, you know, it is horrible for them to be scared and alone and not with their families.

But if just the majority of the popular wearing a mask -- it doesn't have to be everybody, but it would be great. But if the majority of the popular wore marks, we can significantly decrease the transmission of the disease in the country.

BALDWIN: Like you said, it for the greater good.

Doctor Sammarco, thank you so much.

KODE SAMMARCO: Thank you very much.

BALDWIN: For anyone flying this weekend, this whole situation looks different because of the pandemic and the precautions airlines and passengers are taking. We'll talk about that.


An annual festival in Arizona is moving ahead with plans this weekend despite the state going back into lockdown mode. Hear how they're doing it a little later.



BALDWIN: Airports are preparing for an uptick in passengers this holiday week. On Wednesday, the TSA reported 626,000 travelers, relatively high during the pandemic, but a fraction of the 2.5 million travelers on this day last year. The reason, COVID-19. And the big question, is it safe to fly again.

One person raising the concerns is Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley, who tweeted out this photo and a sharp criticism to American Airlines writing, "How many Americans will die from full flights?"

CNN's Pete Muntean is at Reagan National Airport there in D.C.

Pete, are you seeing a bunch of people or no?

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: It is pretty light right now, Brooke. I've been talking to passengers getting off of flights here at Reagan National Airport. They're telling me they were aware of the change in policy allowing full flights.

That's what they were expecting, although, they're finding that flights were a little bit less than full, in spite of the fact that American said that yesterday was its busiest day of the pandemic, the most passengers since March 17th. American says flights are about 63 percent full on average.

Listen to what passengers told me about that policy in light of the pandemic.


UNIDENTIFIED AIRLINE PASSENGER: I don't think that's wise. I think that you should give more time and block the seat because, what they're doing is eliminating the number of flights that they have, and they're just trying to get the people spread across, like, eight flights a day to two flights a day. And I don't think that was wise.

UNIDENTIFIED AIRLINE PASSENGER: I thought it would be worse in terms of number of people traveling. I thought it would be few and far between. But there's actually a decent amount of people.


MUNTEAN: American Airlines joined United Airlines in selling all seats on board the aircraft. The bottom line, you have a higher chance of being on a completely full flight.

What is so interesting is this admission by United Airlines saying the move by competing airlines to block middle seats was more of a public- relations move rather than a vital public-health mover.

That whole idea drew ire from public health officials on Capitol Hill this week, calling for a review of American Airlines policy, calling it troubling and disturbing.

Now we will find out if passengers agree with that sentiment -- Brooke?

BALDWIN: Here's my follow-up. If someone is flying and they have purposely booked the window seat, American, Delta, United, Alaska, whatever airline, for the most part, should people be prepared to have someone in the middle seat? Have the rules really all changed?

MUNTEAN: The bottom line is a plane can be completely full on most airlines short of a couple. I have to tell you that masks are required on board all the flights. Really required in most airports.

And things have changed in security, too. The TSA says it's opening up more lanes of security checkpoints across the country. The goal to move passengers through more quickly and to keep exposure down for workers. About 899 TSA workers have tested positive for coronavirus -- Brooke?

BALDWIN: Pete Muntean, thank you, at Reagan National Airport.

A quick programming note. Dana Bash and Don Lemon will be hosting CNN's "FOURTH OF JULY IN AMERICAN." It's an evening of fireworks and an all-star musical lineup. And it begins tomorrow, 11:00 p.m. Eastern, right here on CNN.

The president is set to attend another massive event in the middle of a national pandemic. With not social distancing, no mask requirement. The warning from South Dakota health officials ahead of the holiday celebration at Mt. Rushmore.



BALDWIN: Just a couple hours from now, President Trump and Melania Trump will be heading to Keystone, South Dakota. They're holding a Fourth of July celebration at Mt. Rushmore.

And despite the president's own administration saying to social distance and wear masks, neither of those protective measures will be required when more than 7,000 people gather there this evening.

With me now is CNN chief Washington correspondent and anchor of "THE LEAD," Jake Tapper.

Jake, we'll get to really your big news here in a second.

But I want to get your comment on this Mt. Rushmore event tonight. We know the plans are moving ahead. Big fireworks display. Had a conversation with the fire chief about how dangerous that area is for fires.

Why is the president doing this?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: I don't know. I can't get into his head. I do not understand the mixed messages coming from the president and the White House when it comes to this pandemic. It doesn't make any sense. The White House tells us to -- the White House Coronavirus Task Force

tells us to wear masks and avoid crowds. And the evidence, the data as Dr. Fauci acknowledges, shows we're losing the battle.

And you have President Trump having rallies indoors where nobody is social distancing or physical distancing, very few people wear masks. That happened twice.

At least today's event, tonight's even is outdoors. That's something. But the idea that, the pride that seems to come with individuals like the governor, Kristi Noem, of South Dakota, saying proudly that they're not going to practice social distancing, it doesn't make any sense.

I mean, just based on the data, the United States is losing this battle. And we are alone among wealthy western countries. Other countries were able to get this under control. We have not.

So why the president and his team continue to send the opposite message based on their behavior from what they're telling us to do is nonsensical.


BALDWIN: What about the other piece of news not related to coronavirus but the intel reports on Afghanistan, that the Russians offered money to Taliban militants to kill coalition troops, which would include our own Americans.

And our Jim Sciutto reported that the president's resistant to intelligence warnings about Russia actually led his national security team to brief him less often on Russia-related threats.

And you had John Bolton on yesterday and he all but confirmed that. What did he tell you?

TAPPER: He said he's had the scars on his body from trying to bring up information with President Trump about Putin and how Putin's Russia consistently is trying to undermine the United States in various ways and President Trump doesn't like to hear about that.

I can't understand why that would be. It's the responsibility to know where the threats are, from friend or foe.

You have the longest-serving national security advisor for President Trump, a man of impeccable conservative credentials, saying that President Trump did not like hearing negative news about Putin's Russia.

Again, and I don't understand it. I don't know if this intelligence is accurate. If it has been briefed by the U.S. to the U.K., which it has, that would suggest a certain amount of credibility that the intel has.

But the president's response has been to attack the "New York Times," which broke the story, to attack those who have been covering it in the media and Democrats on Capitol Hill, although Republicans have also expressed concern.

I have not heard him express concern about what the Russian GRU is doing by allegedly paying Taliban terrorists to kill U.S. servicemembers. That, to me, is a much better focus of his ire than the "New York Times."

BALDWIN: And you can't not think about all of that, as we watch your movie.

That's right, people. You heard me right.

Jake Tapper, you wrote this best-selling book, "The Outpost." Came out in 2012. Today is the day the film, based upon the book, comes out in theaters. It's a real-life story based on your book, as I mentioned.

So, we have a clip.


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Everyone's worried about the new C.O..


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: He doesn't know what he's doing. He's scared and it's obvious. He doesn't leave except to take a (EXPLETIVE DELETED). I carry his piss every other day. They're calling him a coward.

UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: Carter, take a seat. Take a seat, Carter. Come on.

You ever heard of Captain Bostic (ph) or Colonel Benty (ph)?


UNIDENTIFIED ACTOR: They're two commanders who lost their lives in this (EXPLETIVE DELETED) hole. This commander is a 37-year-old captain who's seen a whole lot of death in Iraq before you got here. And he's probably seen more firefights than you have seen in the movies.


BALDWIN: Jake Tapper, first, congratulations on this film.

We talked about your book. But give me the back story, a little more about the story your book is based on. And how did this become a movie?

TAPPER: So, first of all, let me say, for anybody who wants to see the movie but concerned about going to a theater, it's available right now on video on demand. So, if you have that through DirectTV or Comcast, Amazon Prime or Apple, you watch it right now.

This outpost was built in 2006. And it was always a very dangerous place. You heard in that clip saying Lieutenant Colonel Benty (ph) died and Major Tom Bostick (ph) died in serving the interests of this outpost. Others were killed as well. It was a very deadly place to serve.

And the book tries to look at the war in Afghanistan by looking at one outpost, one small outpost. All the troops that rotated in and out. Their wives and family members at home worrying about him. What they were able to accomplish and not able to accomplish.

Then in 2009, 53 U.S. troops up to 400 Taliban attacking from the high ground, because the outpost was built at the bottom of two steep mountains. And it was the deadliest day for the U.S. in Afghanistan, 2009.

Now, this book, which is based on a true story, and much of the movie is very real and based on actual events and things the soldiers said that people have a greater appreciation for what they do for us.


Brooke, you and I are part of the 99 percent. We enjoy the liberty they help fight for.


TAPPER: And this 1 percent does all of this for us.


I was reading one of the film reviews in the "Rolling Stone" today. There have been other films about the Afghan war but "The Outpost" brings it home as heroism as a collective action.

I'm sure it's fun to hear from family and friends. But the Gold Star families, folks like that, that have seen their loved ones portrayed on the big screen. What has that been like for them?

TAPPER: Well, let me say that "Rolling Stone" review was nice. And we've gotten a lot of great reviews for the movie. And that's important. And I hope people see it.

But the reviews we really cared about, the director and I and producers and screen writers, we had a special screening around the 10-year anniversary of this battle in Washington. They flew a bunch of the Gold Star families here to Washington to watch the movie. And those were the reviews we were worried about. It's nice to get good reviews.

What is it like to see your loved one depicted by actors, by Hollywood actors? And what is it like to see your loved ones death re-created on the screen? And we were really nervous.

But to a person, every one of the Gold Star families and troops there thought that the movie honored their loved one's sacrifice and service. And those are the reviews that meant the most to us.

I can't tell you what it's like to watch it as someone who's lost a husband or son in battle. I can't. But I know it mattered more to me than anything that they thought the film honored their loved ones. BALDWIN: How extraordinary.

And this weekend, as we celebrate the Fourth of July and think about our freedoms, take a moment and watch the film. As you pointed out, on video on demand. You can sit in the comfort of your home, the safety of your houses and watch it. It's called "The Outpost."

Jake Tapper, congratulations. Thank you.

TAPPER: Thanks, Brooke. Happy Fourth to you and yours.

BALDWIN: Thank you, thank you.

We'll be right back.