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Interview with Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego; Tucker Carlson Questions Tammy Duckworth's Patriotism Over Confederate Statue Remark; Lieutenant Colonel Vindman to Retire from Army. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired July 8, 2020 - 10:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


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[10:31:20]

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Well, this just in, tomorrow will be the final day of opinions from the Supreme Court this term, and we are learning that they will issue opinions on the two cases related to the president's financial records and his taxes.

The cases center on whether or not the House of Representatives can subpoena the president's accounting firms and banks for his financial documents, and also whether the Southern District of New York can access the president's tax returns that he has so closely guarded, for examination by a grand jury.

The president's lawyers have argued that the president should enjoy immunity from both because he's president, but it is the High Court that will have the final word and we will all know at 10:00 a.m. tomorrow.

The coronavirus crisis in Arizona is growing dire. Hospitalizations are spiking as cases in the state now top 100,000. Some E.R. doctors there, saying they're losing hope and Phoenix mayor Kate Gallego says she fears her city is nearing an unbearable level of crisis. She joins me now.

Mayor, thank you for being here and I'm just so sorry about this, and what everyone is going through in your city right now. What is the update in terms of -- you say "dire situation," what is the update? Last I saw, 200 ICU beds available across the state and that's it?

MAYOR KATE GALLEGO (D), PHOENIX, ARIZONA: Yes, and we are a large state, Phoenix is the fifth-largest city in the entire country. Our medical professionals are already feeling exhausted, asking for reinforcements and they tell me the worst is yet to come.

We have a huge testing shortage. People have been in line for eight hours in a hot car while they ache, waiting for a test. We are looking to highs, this weekend, of 117 degrees. We are five months in in the United States of America. People who want a test should not have to wait that long.

HARLOW: Yes. You also asked the federal government, you asked FEMA for a mass testing site in Phoenix. And as I understand that, that request was declined, the federal government saying you're better off having smaller community-based testing.

Do you still need that, do you still need a mass testing location and what difference would that make? I mean, I cannot imagine, for example, you know, elderly people waiting in their car for eight hours in 117-degree weather to get tested.

GALLEGO: I watched a constituent of mine who was an older man, struggling to breathe. His car ran out of gasoline, and he had to deal with that while waiting for a test.

Particularly the west and southern portions of our cities have a huge need for low-barrier testing. I believe a testing surge could help us with a backlog, and we also need help processing those tests. People are having to wait more than a week to get results.

This is critical health information that they need to live their daily lives. Texas, Florida, Louisiana have received testing surges recently. I've been asking for months, Phoenix is literally the per capita hotspot. We need our federal government to partner with us.

I am taking any city resources we can and putting them towards testing. We have librarians and Parks workers who are helping with testing, but their force and their efficacy could be magnified if we had specialized medical experts who know about testing.

HARLOW: Sure. Mayor, I'd like your reaction to something we just heard from a former Harvard Medical School professor, Dr. William Haseltine. Listen to what he told me about what he says is happening in your state right now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM A. HASELTINE, CHAIRMAN AND PRESIDENT, ACCESS HEALTH INTERNATIONAL: There's something called crisis standards of care that is about to be -- it's already implemented in Arizona, and it may be in a number of these other states. What does that actually mean? It means that if you're old, you get sent home without care and you die. That's what it means.

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[10:35:11]

HARLOW: Is that happening in Phoenix?

GALLEGO: Unfortunately, our medical professionals don't have the resources they need, and so they are being asked to make difficult decisions. I want to stress, if you are having a heart attack, if you think you may be having a stroke, please go to the emergency room. There is the ability to care for individuals.

But we are not meeting the standards of care in all cases that we want. We've been very stretched with intensive care beds. We also need the federal government to help us with both more resources for our medical personnel, more medical personnel and then additional funding, particularly for our safety net health care system.

HARLOW: That is a sobering reality, that yes indeed you in Phoenix have people that you cannot treat, no matter their age, that is -- that's tragic. Mayor, good luck.

GALLEGO: Thank you.

HARLOW: Senator Tammy Duckworth, an Iraq War veteran, as you know, a double amputee, she received a Purple Heart. And now, the highest- rated cable news host on television is trying to smear her in the most shocking of ways.

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[10:41:03]

HARLOW: Well, a cable news host is using his platform to attack a decorated American war veteran. Conservative Fox News host Tucker Carlson, falsely labelling Democratic Senator Tammy Duckworth, a Purple Heart recipient who lost both of her legs in the war in Iraq, as a coward who doesn't love America. Our John Avlon has a "Reality Check."

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JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: You know what's unpatriotic? Calling your opponents unpatriotic. This week, the slur came for U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth, who's often mentioned at the top tier of Biden's V.P. picks.

But Fox News' Tucker Carlson might have picked on the wrong combat veteran.

TUCKER CARLSON, FOX NEWS HOST, TUCKER CARLSON TONIGHT: You're not supposed to criticize Tammy Duckworth in any way because she once served in the military. Most people just ignore her. But when Duckworth does speak in public, you're reminded what a deeply silly and unimpressive person she is.

AVLON: Now, before we get into what so offended Carlson, here's a little bit more about the person he called "deeply silly and unimpressive."

Duckworth was born in Thailand to an American father, veteran of World War II, Korea and Vietnam, and a Chinese Thai mother. By the way, the Duckworth family has served in every American war since the Revolution.

As for Tammy Duckworth, she joined ROTC as a graduate student, became a commissioned officer. In 2004, she went to Iraq as one of the first American female combat pilots. Her Black Hawk helicopter was hit by an RPG, and she lost both her legs along with half the blood in her body.

She earned the Purple Heart, among many other medals, and spent more than a year recuperating. But she never let her disability hold her back. "This didn't change who I am," she said, "I'm not about to let some guy who got lucky with an RPG decide how to live my life."

She became director of the Illinois V.A. the same year that Tucker Carlson was on "Dancing With the Stars," after a career as a conservative writer and co-host of "Crossfire."

In 2009, Duckworth became assistant secretary of the V.A.; 2012, she was elected to the House; 2016, the Senate; and went on to become the first U.S. senator to give birth while in office.

Got all that? Now, here's what she said that really teed off Tucker.

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Should statues -- for example, of George Washington -- come down?

SEN. TAMMY DUCKWORTH (D-IL): Well, let me just say that we should start off by having a national dialogue on it. What really struck me about the speech that the president gave at Mount Rushmore, was that he spent more time worried about honoring dead Confederates, than he did talking about the lives of our -- the 130,000 Americans who lost their lives to COVID-19, or by warning Russia off of the bounty they're putting on Americans' heads.

AVLON (voice-over): To which Tucker replied.

CARLSON: It's long been considered out of bounds to question a person's patriotism, the conclusion can't be avoided. These people actually hate America, there's no longer a question about that.

AVLON: In response, the senator tweeted, "Does @TuckerCarlson want to walk a mile in my legs and then tell me whether or not I love America?"

This isn't just about whether Tucker Carlson or Donald Trump served and sacrificed for their country the way that Tammy Duckworth did -- they didn't. It's about the ugly rush to demonize your political opponents, which Carlson did again last night, desperately calling Senator Duckworth a moron, a coward, a fraud, someone who was once injured while serving in the Illinois National Guard; and because irony is dead, a callous hack.

He did all of this -- allegedly -- to defend George Washington, whose statues Duckworth never said should be taken down. And, for what it's worth, I don't think they should be. But he might want to refer back to Washington's warning, that we should "guard against the impostures of pretended patriotism." Some folks fearmonger when they don't have facts on their side.

And, speaking of facts, here's something to ponder, if you're wondering just who you can trust in this hailstorm of hate.

Fox News' own lawyer argued in federal court three weeks ago that Tucker Carlson's audience doesn't expect him to report the facts. And that's your "Reality Check."

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HARLOW: Thank you, John, for that reality check --

AVLON: Poppy.

HARLOW: -- we all needed it. Thank you very much for that.

I mean, look, it's not wholly surprising that Tucker Carlson would do this. The president himself, you'll remember when he attacked the war hero, the late Senator, John McCain. But I guess my fundamental question for you this morning, is why? To what end? All she said to Dana -- and I watched the whole interview -- was, We should talk about these memorials, we should have a national conversation.

[10:45:21]

AVLON: It's the narrative that Tucker's pumping up, that (ph) with increasingly a feedback loop with Trump, between the two, that this election isn't about COVID or deaths or the economy, but about defending America and American history.

Here's the thing that I think we really want to drill down on. This is much bigger, much worse than simply questioning someone's patriotism. What Tucker is saying -- and the president has echoed -- is that Democrats hate America, including a decorated war veteran who was deeply wounded in the service of our country.

That's a new low, at a time when you don't think there's any bottom. That's a very dangerous ratcheting-up of rhetoric because it delegitimizes the opposition, it demonizes them and it will further inflame the divisions in our country, intentionally, simply to try to profit from polarization.

HARLOW: Wow. John Avlon, we appreciate you. Thank you for that.

AVLON: Thank you, Poppy.

HARLOW: From the farms of Oklahoma to the beaches of Miami, you're going to want to watch this. Our friend and colleague W. Kamau Bell is taking on injustice and inequality across America. This is an all-new season of "THE UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA." It starts Sunday night, July 19th, 10:00 Eastern, right here on CNN.

We'll be right back.

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[10:51:04]

HARLOW: Well, now to a CNN exclusive. Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, a key witness in the president's impeachment inquiry, is retiring from the U.S. Army after more than 21 years of service.

His attorney says he decided to retire after determining his future in the armed services would be forever limited due to political retaliation from the president and his allies. Remember, the president fired Vindman as the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council in February.

This exclusive reporting comes from our very own Jim Sciutto. It's really significant. What are you learning about why, and why now?

JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: So Lieutenant Colonel Vindman -- who, of course, we should note, testified under subpoena from Congress in the impeachment inquiry -- he's going to retire from the military via memo to U.S. Army Command at noon today.

This, according to his lawyer, Ambassador David Pressman, who cites, in his words, "a campaign of bullying, intimidation and retaliation by the president and his allies." Of course, just as a reminder, he served 21 years in the Army, Alexander Vindman; he earned a Purple Heart after being injured by an IED in Iraq; he still carries shrapnel in his body from that injury.

I'm going to read a more complete statement from his lawyer, again, Ambassador David Pressman, explaining his decision-making here. It goes, "The president of the United States attempted to force Lieutenant Colonel Vindman to choose between adhering to the law or pleasing a president, between honoring his oath or protecting his career. Between protecting his promotion or the promotion of his fellow soldiers...

"These are choices that no one in the United States should confront, especially one who has dedicated his life to serving it. [Vindman] did what the law compelled him to do. And for that, he was bullied by the president and his proxies."

So a remarkable end to a distinguished career in the military. And as you hear there, his lawyer, pointing the finger directly at the president and retaliation for his testimony in the impeachment inquiry.

HARLOW: Yes, remember, Senator Marsha Blackburn in those tweets, questioning his patriotism and receiving the Purple Heart.

Jim, apparently, your reporting is that senior Army officials told Vindman that he wouldn't be deployable any more in his area of expertise?

SCIUTTO: Yes. Well, this is -- and this is how Lieutenant Colonel Vindman came to the conclusion that his career would forever be limited under these circumstances.

He was told that he would need -- by senior military officials -- a quote-unquote "rehabilitative" assignment after what would have been his next posting at the Army War College, to kind of make up for his testimony, to resurrect his career. One senior officer joked to him that he would need to man a radar station in Alaska.

But more seriously, he was told that he would no longer be deployable in his area of expertise, which is Eurasia, which of course encompasses Ukraine, the former Soviet Union, Russia, that part of Europe, which was his expertise. In fact, that was the position that he had in the White House, as an expert on Ukraine, which of course led to his involvement in the impeachment inquiry.

HARLOW: And he was indeed up for a promotion, is that right?

SCIUTTO: That's right. Normally, this would have been the process and it would have proceeded without any obstacle. But here's the remarkable thing -- and his lawyer, David Pressman, says that there was White House interest in his promotion, getting status updates on it, interference, they were concerned. And his lawyers said, it is absurd and frightening to imagine the White House getting involved in promotions at this level.

Now, the DOD's response, the Pentagon's response to this, according to military officials who spoke to Vindman and his team, is that they were considering options such as sending his promotion on in a list of one. In other words, not with other promotions, so that it wouldn't hold up the others.

[10:55:05]

But I should note this finally, Lieutenant Colonel Vindman did not want his promotion to get into the way of many of his friends and fellow officers as a result of the president's retaliation.

HARLOW: Yes. Well, Jim, look, we all remember when he said, Do not worry, I will be fine for telling the truth.

Thank you so much for -- you know, people wondering why you're not sitting here next to me, you're on vacation but still working, of course, breaking this news. Jim, great work. We'll see you back here next week.

SCIUTTO: Thank you.

HARLOW: And thanks to all of you for joining us today. I'll see you back here tomorrow. I'm Poppy Harlow. NEWSROOM With Kate Bolduan is next.

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