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Refusing to Denounce Confederate Flag; Well-Connected Companies get PPP; Billionaire Scientist Joins Race for Vaccine. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired July 7, 2020 - 08:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: We talked about it.


BERMAN: All right, Peter, I do appreciate all the time we spend together. We hope you'll --

NAVARRO: I do appreciate it.

BERMAN: A wide range of subjects.


BERMAN: Thank you -- thank you for coming on.

NAVARRO: Yes, sir.

BERMAN: Alisyn.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Joining us now, CNN political analyst Maggie Haberman. She's a White House correspondent for "The New York Times."

I appreciate you as well, Maggie, and all the time we spend together.


CAMEROTA: So what did you -- what jumped out at you there from what Peter Navarro just told John?

HABERMAN: Peter Navarro really wants to talk about Hydroxychloroquine still. That's what -- that's what jumped out at me.

Look, I mean, listening to Peter Navarro talk, and he's been an evangelist for -- for the chloroquine's for a while in the administration, but it's almost as if he works for somebody who controls the federal government and the federal government rescinded and emergency use authorization for the chloroquine's in conjunction with treating coronavirus. So maybe it will turn out great, but we don't know. And there clearly needs to be more studies, but I don't think it's because the media isn't talking about it. In terms of what he didn't want to talk about, which was his boss'

comments about the confederate flag yesterday, that also jumped out at me because there is really nobody in the administration who seems to want to take up the mantel of what the president himself said and explain why it is the president thought it was a mistake that Nascar got rid of the confederate flag at its events.

BERMAN: It was interesting that he did that.

Look, I'm most interested in what the administration is doing about the pandemic right now. And it was surprising to me that Peter Navarro, who I actually do -- I think he cares about masks. I mean he worked hard to get masks --

HABERMAN: Oh, no, and I think he cares -- and he cares about this issue.

BERMAN: Right.

HABERMAN: He was very early on, concern about the -- the -- no question.


But he's still on the issue of the White House role in promoting mask wearing now. He still doesn't feel like he can get near it because it's still a sensitive issue for the president.

HABERMAN: Look, I think that he was -- he was -- he was trying -- and I understand why, not to answer a question that you were asking, which was about the president's role. And it has nothing to do with whether the president gets sick, which is the question that he answered. And it has to do with whether the president is modeling for other people by wearing a mask.

We have yet to actually see the president wear a mask at an event, which we have seen Vice President Mike Pence do. Maybe we will at some point, but a lot of people are trying to tell the president that he ought to be setting an example on this. He's changed his language somewhat, but, you know, he complains that mask wearing, he sees it as some kind of a political act against him. There are -- there are widespread mask orders now, or at least widespread mask recommendations, including by Republican mayors, other Republican leaders. So he would be taking a step that others have and for whatever reason he just doesn't want to do it.

CAMEROTA: The president would prefer to talk about the confederate flag. I mean he would talk about that. He prefers to tweet about the confederate flag than about coronavirus. And what's interesting, Maggie, and I think that you pointed this out on Twitter, is that he feels differently today than he did in 2015.


CAMEROTA: Candidate Donald Trump was ready to retire the confederate flag in 2015. Let's just play that clip for everyone to remind them. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're the lone Republican presidential candidate who has yet to weigh in on whether or not you think the confederate flag should be flying above the state house in South Carolina. Do you think it needs to go?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think it probably does and I think they should put it in the museum. Let it go. Respect whatever it is that you have to respect because it was a point in time and put it in the museum. But I would take it down, yes.


CAMEROTA: Five years ago he thought it should be -- he believed it should be relegated to a museum. So why now, five years later, is he arguably at a more archaic position?

So he wasn't taking a stand that I think was -- it wasn't out of -- it was not out of nowhere. It was after a horrific shooting in a black church by a white supremacist. And that was when the national conversation was. So that's what the conversation was in the politically expedient position seemed to be against it and now he has decided the expedient position is to be for it.

Now, whether that is because he truly believes it now, because he's older, because he believe that it's something that (INAUDIBLE) his people, as he puts it, meaning his supporters want him to say, or is it just something that he's throwing off the cuff, I don't think that he has a deeply held necessarily position on the flag based on that clip that we just saw, but I think he is saying something that he considers to be advantageous now.

To your point, it's so against the grain of where the majority of the rest of the country is right now, and that's what makes it stand out so much, you know, including some Republicans.

BERMAN: So, Maggie -- I think that's so important. And, Maggie, I've been dying to ask you this question because you are a long-time skeptic of the notion that the president does things to distract, that there's some grand strategy, that there's multidimensional chess here.

On this subject though, I'll ask it, you know, for the tenth time, ten millionth time in this administration, it strikes me that he would rather fight a battle about statues, even a losing battle about statues, than talk extensively about the pandemic.


HABERMAN: So, John, I think -- I just want to clarify what I think. What I think is that sometimes he is doing something as a distraction but not the 99 percent of the time that people think, such as -- it's often the equivalent of lighting his arm on fire to distract from his burning leg. These are not well thought out plans.

In terms of what you're asking though, it is absolutely true that the president would rather be talking about issues of race and issues of culture than he would about the coronavirus because -- or than he would about police brutality because neither of those are issues that he is going to do very well on. The coronavirus, that is the number one issue for voters in the fall. The president's advisers know the president has a big problem. So it's not a surprise to me that that's what he wants to talk about.

But, again, to the strategy point, is it strategic to support the -- are you helping yourself with suburban voters by supporting the confederate flag? Is that a distraction, the multidimensional strategic chess that everyone's always talking about? I just have a hard time seeing it.

CAMEROTA: Well, that's why --

HABERMAN: I agree he would rather talk about that. That doesn't make it strategic.

CAMEROTA: Yes, I mean, Maggie, that's why it's so interesting to hear you say, and I think that it's really insightful that he goes with whatever is politically expedient at the moment. And that's why this one is just hard for every -- for people to wrap their head around when you see, as you say, Republicans -- I mean Senator Lindsey Graham doesn't share this position anymore.

HABERMAN: No, he does not.

I will say, Alisyn, I wrote about this with my colleague, Andy Carnie (ph), a couple of weeks ago. There are a lot of people around the president who question whether he's actively trying to win anymore. And there are reasons to question that. I think that he would react pretty angrily if somebody said that directly to him. But the reality is, he's taking a number of incredibly self-damaging actions and this is one of them.

And, by the way, you know, he did this after a weekend where they kept him to a script and a couple of people close to the president said to me, you know, the speeches that he gave this weekend at Mt. Rushmore and then at the White House were not speeches they necessarily would have recommend for him, but at least he stuck to the script. You can talk about confederate statues with -- explicitly. It was a little more -- a little more tailored. And then he goes right back to it on Twitter on Monday morning. So this is not how somebody who is running a careful, controlled effort behaves.

BERMAN: Yes, I mean, the tweet undercut everything the speechwriters tried so carefully to do over the weekend, it seems.


BERMAN: Maggie, it's great to have you with us. Thanks for being here this morning.

HABERMAN: Thanks, guys.

CAMEROTA: All right, so we finally have a list of businesses and nonprofits that received millions of dollars in loans under the Paycheck Protection plan. We have details for you in a live report, next.



CAMEROTA: The federal government has released info on who exactly got that $660 billion worth of taxpayer money in the Paycheck Protection Program. Turns out some recipients had powerful connections.

CNN's Lauren Fox is live on Capitol Hill with more.

What have you learned, Lauren?

LAUREN FOX, CNN CONGRESSIONAL REPORTER: Well, basically, Alisyn, we now know some of the names of businesses who received more than $150,000 in these PPP loans. And one thing to remember is 4.9 million loans went out to nail salons, your local construction company, your favorite local restaurant, but they also went to some very well- connected people, including a couple of members of Congress.

I want to point out a few of them. And this list isn't exhaustive, but Vicky Hartzler, who's a Republican from Missouri, her family supply family business received loans totaling $480,000. Now, there were also loans for Mike Kelly, who's a Republican from Pennsylvania. He owns car dealership. And while his office says he's not involved in the day to day operations, the businesses received between $150,000 and $350,000 each. Three separate loans. So that could total up to $1 million.

So that gives you a sense of some of the members of Congress who received these loans, but there were also people who are connected to President Donald Trump, including Marc Kasowitz, who was a long time lawyer for the president. He briefly served on the legal team as part of the Mueller probe. His law firm, which does employs more than 400 people, it received a PPP loan.

Now, none of the partners were involved in getting those loans, but it just shows that some of the bigger, more connected companies also were recipients of these PPP loans, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: What about political organizations? Did they get any?

FOX: Well, there are, of course, a few very well-known political organizations in D.C. Here are a couple of foundations, includes American for Tax Reform Foundation. That, of course, is the group that has long lobbied against getting any kind of government spending. They've also argued, you know, for keeping government spending low and not bloated. So that, of course, is a notable one. This is their non- profit arm, of course, so this isn't a political organization. But that is something to keep in mind, as well as the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation and the Congressional Hispanic Institute. They also received loans between $350,000 and $1 million.

Now, one thing I want to note, Alisyn, is there is still $130 billion available through August if businesses who were not recipients of these PPP loans want to get them. So that money is still out there and available. Just because some of these well-connected organizations got the money doesn't mean that you couldn't get the money if you still wanted it.


CAMEROTA: That is really important for mom and pop shops to know. But just out of curiosity, the Tax Reform Foundation that doesn't believe in government spending, have they explained their hypocrisy?

FOX: Yes, I mean -- yes, the reason that many of these well-connected businesses say that they got these loans is they still have people on their payroll. That has been the rationale. You know, Mike Kelly, who's the congressman in Pennsylvania, he said, you know, these car dealerships, they employ 200 western Pennsylvanians. Yes, he might be a congressman, but that doesn't mean that the people who work for him are well connected and they are still getting paid because of these loans.


So that is the rationalization of why some of these politically well- connected groups got these loans.


CAMEROTA: Lauren Fox, thank you very much for all of that reporting.

The U.S. government is moving fast to develop a coronavirus vaccine. How soon could one hit the market? We'll give you the latest.


BERMAN: So the race is on to develop a potential vaccine for coronavirus and my next guest says his two companies are on the short list among 14 other candidates being assessed by the Trump administration's Operation Warp Speed, which aims to have a vaccine available by January.

Joining me now is Dr. Patrick7 Soon-Shiong. He's the chairman and CEO of NantKwest.

Doctor, thank you so much for being with us right now.

The vaccine that you are working on is interesting and unique in that the goal is not just to produce antibodies, but also stimulate the growth of t-cells.


In a way that someone as dim as me can understand, explain why that's important.

DR. PATRICK SOON-SHIONG, CHAIRMAN AND CEO, NANTKWEST: Well, John, thank you for having us. The issue is the duration of immunity and your body has two ways of

killing this virus. One -- or blocking the virus. One is antibodies and the one is the actual cell in your body called a t-cell. And the t-cell actually generates what we call memory. So if you have t-cells I think there's a higher chance of generating a long-term duration of the vaccine to protect you.

BERMAN: And that seems particularly important this morning because we are seeing more research and hearing new questions asked about how long the antibodies even naturally produced antibodies from having the virus remain in your body. In other words, how long we have natural immunity.

SOON-SHIONG: Well, that's a great question. And, in fact, there's just now -- a new report just came out of France that patients that were infected, some of them actually showed no antibodies in their blood, but actually showed t-cells. So I think it's really important to find a way to generate t-cells. And the way we've approached that is to go after both the innards of the virus as well as the outer spike. And the innards of the virus is a protein called nuclearcapsit (ph), the nucleus of the virus. So I think we've taken the approach of having both in our viral construct, our vaccine construct.

BERMAN: Where are you right now in the process?

SOON-SHIONG: Well, we've taken a little bit of a turn because one of the things that we were developing was the injectable version of the adno (ph) virus. And what's exciting, as we began to sort of see the need to have a potential capsule, and we've now found the way of actually putting a vaccine into a capsule. And that's very exciting and the opportunity now to take a capsule by mouth and generate what we call immunity not just through t-cells but through the mucosals (ph), and that's what we call mucosaling (ph) protection. And that's where we are now. We're now developing it in the form of a capsule.

BERMAN: You obviously are based in California now. What's happened there? Why have we seen the rise in cases that we have over the last three weeks?

SOON-SHIONG: I think it's because the young people feel that because they're young and strong that the absent of a need for social distancing and masking. I don't think people realize the droplet or the aerosol form of injection. I also don't think that the young people realize that even if you're asymptomatic, over 60 percent of them have what we call ground glass lungs, which means this is a -- it's lifelong implications. And I'm sure -- I'm sadly I think they weren't taking this as seriously as they should. And we're now having this -- you know, we saw it in the first wave and we're having a surge again.

BERMAN: Among many other things, you are a part owner of the Los Angeles Lakers. I'm a huge basketball fan. Avery Bradley, who used to play for the Celtics, is sitting this season out. He doesn't, frankly, want to take the risk with coronavirus to go play for the team.

What do you think the likelihood is that these games will happen, that they will play, and what are the risks involved?

SOON-SHIONG: Well, look, I think it is risky. I'm not sure what the likelihood. I think, you know, I think there's -- as you can see, even in -- amongst baseball and basketball, the players have a risk of getting infected. Again, the idea of this droplet infection and the aerosolized infection and, look, I don't blame Avery, and he's got a young child. I think he made the right decision, if that's what he needed to do for his family.

BERMAN: So, listen, we just had Peter Navarro on, who works at the White House and has been working to get supplies out around the country. And I -- I lost count of how many times he referred to coronavirus as the China virus. The president has called it the kung flu. In the past three months in California alone there have been 832 -- and I'm reading this here, self-reported incidents of discrimination and harassment against Asian-Americans.

What are you concerns here in terms of the rhetoric we're hearing and perhaps the results that we're seeing of it?

SOON-SHIONG: Well, I think it's -- it's not only sad and disappointing, I think this is a virus that affects humanity and I -- you know, and racial discrimination, as I said, including what we've done at "The L.A. Times," There's no place for that. And we really are all in this together and it's a very sad statement and we should be leading rather than disparaging nations and race.


BERMAN: When you say "we," do you specifically mean the White House to change how it talks about this?

SOON-SHIONG: Well, I mean, the White House, I mean, our country. I think our country, as a nation should be taking the lead of -- in terms of leading the charge in bringing us all together to work on this. It's -- this is a problem for humanity, it's not a -- it's not a political or a national issue. It's a problem if you all put out -- put our efforts together we could beat this virus.

BERMAN: Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong, we thank you for the wide-ranging discussion on a number of subjects. We wish you the best of luck going forward on a vaccine development. I think it's something that everyone in America is pulling for.

SOON-SHIONG: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, John.

BERMAN: All right, a lot of news developing. CNN's coverage continues right after this.