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California and Coronavirus; Supreme Court Rules on Trump Tax Returns; Pandemic Crisis Escalating; U.S. Deaths Top 133,000, New Cases Approach Record Highs As Virus Surges In 33 States; Trump Claims Children's Strong Immune System Is So Powerful, So Strong, Pushes To Reopen Schools; Supreme Court Rules on Trump Tax Records. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired July 9, 2020 - 18:00   ET



ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. We're following breaking news.

The coronavirus death toll here in the United States is on the verge of passing 133,000, as several states are reporting record new cases. Florida, California and Texas are especially troubling hot spots, all three states, the most populous in the country, just announced single- day records for deaths.

Dr. Anthony Fauci is offering a very bleak assessment of the situation in the U.S., saying -- and I'm quoting him now -- "I don't think he can say we're doing great. We're just not."

The dramatic setback in recent weeks is raising two serious questions. After months of progress in the fight against the virus, what went so horribly wrong? And what happens now?

Let's begin CNN coverage this hour with Erica Hill. She's joining us with more on today's coronavirus developments.

Erica, Dr. Fauci is singling out some states for criticism. What can you tell us?


He's singling out Florida and Arizona, noting that their reopening plans have led to an uptick in cases. He said they jumped over some of the measures that they needed to make sure they had met some of that criteria before opening, and also noted that citizens, as he said, in that state ended up with this attitude of, either I'm in lockdown or I'm going to let it all rip.

And he says, you could see what the decision was, as you saw pictures of people out in bars congregating without masks. And, as we all know, that is what fuels community spread.


MAYOR FRANCIS SUAREZ (R-FL), MIAMI: We need contact tracing in our community immediately.

HILL (voice-over): The mayor of Miami blasting the Florida Department of Health Thursday, the same day his state posted a daily high for COVID-related deaths.

SUAREZ: We have to make very serious decisions, very tough decisions that affect many, many people, their livelihoods. And we can't make that in the absence of information.

HILL: According to the mayor, the Health Department was able to trace 92 percent of cases on June 15. By July 8, that number had plummeted to just 17 percent right.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now, I mean, this should keep people awake at night.

HILL: Two hundred and fifty tracers will now be sent to Miami-Dade County.

Testing also a major concern, long lines and an even longer wait for results.

ANDY SLAVITT, FORMER ACTING ADMINISTRATOR, CENTERS FOR MEDICARE AND MEDICAID SERVICES: We have lately eight to 10 more -- times more people getting the cases every day than can get tested. So this is both a failure of containment. It's a failure to test. And, of course, it's a failure to tell the truth.

HILL: The reality, cases are surging, 33 states moving in the wrong direction. Arizona has added more cases per capita in the past week than any other country.

DR. ROSS GOLDBERG, PRESIDENT, ARIZONA MEDICAL ASSOCIATION: We all hoped for a flattening and a stabilization. We haven't seen it yet.

HILL: And it's not just hot spots like Florida and Arizona. In Kentucky, new cases jumped 40 percent in the last week. In Oklahoma, they're up 45 percent.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Any state that is having a serious problem, that state should seriously look at shutting down.

HILL: Hospitalizations rising in nearly a dozen states; 48 ICUs in Florida are out of beds. Another 52 have less than 10 percent available, Texas ordering more counties to suspend elective surgeries.

DR. OGECHIKA ALOZIE, TEXAS MEDICAL ASSOCIATION: There's no immediate fix to this. So, we're going to have to really put in the work to get ahead of this epidemic.

HILL: California announcing a new daily high for COVID-related deaths.

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): The mortality rates are still front and center and should be in your consciousness.

HILL: Even in states holding steady, like Maryland, officials remain cautious.

GOV. LARRY HOGAN (R-MD): Look, we're very concerned about what's happening around the country. And I don't want to take any kind of a victory lap.

HILL: Maryland seeing a spike in cases among those under 35. Michigan reporting one in five COVID patients is between 25 and 34 years old.

In New York state, the early epicenter, less than 1 percent of tests are now positive for the virus, a sliver of hope amid grim numbers in the new hot spots, positivity rates skyrocketing in Arizona, Texas and Florida.

DR. ALI KHAN, FORMER CDC OFFICIAL: This is an outbreak that's uncontained, in freefall.

HILL: And for those who expected a dip in the summer, a blunt assessment from the nation's top infectious disease expert.

FAUCI: For the people who expected to see a sharp decline in the number of cases as the weather became warm and moist, I think we're seeing that that's absolutely not the case.


HILL: And, in fact, Dr. Fauci went on to once again in that interview single out Florida as a perfect example of how heat and humidity is not killing the virus.


We do have some pictures, though, we can show you, Wolf, of Walt Disney World in Orlando today opening to annual pass holders, a big day, obviously for the park.

The mayor of Orange County, Jerry Demings, saying that the park actually put people over profits when it closed back in March. Folks there, local officials saying they're confident that people will be safe in the area. We should point out, though, there was an uptick in the county in cases that was reported.

BLITZER: Erica Hill reporting for us -- Erica, thank you.

Let's get an update right now from our White House correspondent, Jeremy Diamond.

Jeremy, the president is not backing down at all for his push to reopen schools all over the country.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: He certainly is not, Wolf, the president renewing that call today for schools to begin reopening. And the president isn't looking at this in terms of where cases are high and surging and where cases are lower and it might be safer to reopen schools. This is a blanket call from the president, who today talked about children's immune systems as being -- quote -- "so powerful."

That, of course, Wolf doesn't take into account the risk to teachers, as well as the risk that children could pose by spreading this in their communities.


DIAMOND (voice-over): Despite pressure from the president, the Centers for Disease Control says it will not change its health guidelines for school reopenings.

DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, CDC DIRECTOR: Our guidelines are our guidelines.

DIAMOND: One day after President Trump trashed those guidelines as very tough and expensive, CDC Director Robert Redfield said his agency will provide additional reference documents, but the published guidelines, which are six feet between students, closing communal spaces and daily temperature checks, those aren't changing.

REDFIELD: I want to clarify, really, what we're providing is different reference documents. It's not a revision of the guidelines. It's just to provide additional information to help schools be able to use the guidance that we put forward.

DIAMOND: Those comments marking a reversal from Vice President Mike Pence's claim just yesterday.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The CDC will be issuing new guidance next week. We just don't want the guidance to be too tough. And that's the reason why, next week, the CDC is going to be issuing a new set of tools.

DIAMOND: Trump pressing the issue again today, casting aside the worrying rise in coronavirus cases.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Children in many cases, the immune system is so powerful, so strong. We have to open our schools, open our schools. Stop this nonsense.

DIAMOND: The White House press secretary insisting there's no daylight with the CDC.

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We're on the same page with Dr. Redfield, who has said, I don't want this guidance to be a reason for schools not to be -- to reopen.

DIAMOND: While also minimizing the value of those guidelines.

MCENANY: I would also note that the CDC recognizes in their guidelines that many of these things that they're recommending are not feasible, which is why they used the words not possible 18 times and not feasible nine times.

DIAMOND: At odds with the CDC, the president is also feuding with the facts.

TRUMP: Because we're doing more testing, we have more cases.

DIAMOND: Claiming the surge in cases across the country is caused by increased testing, tweeting: "We have tested 40 million people. If we did 20 million instead, cases would be half."

But that's not true. In the hardest-hit states, new cases are rising faster than testing over the last month. Florida is testing 141 percent more people, but cases have increased by 1061 percent, in Texas, a 118 percent increase in tests outpaced by a 422 percent jump in cases, and, in Arizona, 134 percent more tests, while cases surged by 579 percent.

Meanwhile, the economic blowback of the pandemic still unfolding. Even as the unemployment rate ticked down last month, another 1.3 million Americans filing for unemployment for the first time last week, marking the 16th week with more than one million new unemployment claims.

And, today, the president raging at the Supreme Court, which ruled the president is not immune from a New York prosecutor's subpoena for his financial records, while sending the case back to the lower courts.

TRUMP: From a certain point, I'm satisfied. From another point, I'm not satisfied, because, frankly, this is a political witch-hunt, the likes of which nobody's ever seen before.

DIAMOND: The president once again calling himself the victim of a hoax.

TRUMP: It's a pure witch-hunt. It's a hoax, just like the Mueller investigation was a hoax that I won. And this is another hoax.


DIAMOND: And, today, we saw the White House press secretary try and characterize this Supreme Court ruling involving the president's tax returns and this New York prosecutor, she described it as a win for the president.

But the president seemed to see it very differently, Wolf. He lashed out, saying that the Supreme Court would never have treated any other president this way.

That, of course, discounts the fact that two of those who ruled against the president today were his own nominees. And, ultimately, Wolf, the president's decision to lash out here is really just casting a spotlight once again on the fact that the president is still refusing to release his tax returns to the general public, and, of course, the question of why that is -- Wolf.

[18:10:15] BLITZER: Yes. On Twitter, he called it today presidential harassment, prosecutorial misconduct, all in caps.

All right, Jeremy, thank you very much.

Dr. Anthony Fauci is reacting to this growing crisis here in the United States. Here he is just moments ago. Watch.


FAUCI: Well, let me say there was parts of the United States, like where you live right now, that are doing really well, that you have been through something really bad, and you have things under control, and you have a governor and mayor in the city who understand what it means to go by the guidelines for the gateway, phase one, phase two, phase three.

So you're doing well. Other cities are doing well. But, as a country, when you compare us to other countries, I don't think you can say we're doing great. I mean, we're just not.


BLITZER: All right, let's get some analysis from the former acting CDC Director Dr. Richard Besser.

Dr. Besser, thanks so much for joining us.

So you just heard Dr. Fauci say, we're simply not doing great right now. How did we get to this point? What went so horribly wrong? And perhaps, more importantly, right now, how do we fix it?


And one of those is that there's been such a total disconnect between what every public health leader in this nation is calling on us to do and what we're hearing from politicians, and not all politicians. There's a divide between those in red and blue states, who are saying follow the lead of public health, and those who are saying, there's nothing to worry about, let's get back to work and our social life.

So, that's a big challenge. As Dr. Fauci was saying, the White House put out criteria that states should follow in terms of what should be in place before they start to reopen. And it's two weeks of declining case numbers, two weeks of declining hospitalizations, making sure you have enough room in your hospitals for COVID patients and for others, making sure you have testing capabilities in place.

Those things all made sense. And we were on the road to doing that. And in the states that did that, even those like mine of New Jersey and New York that were seeing such overwhelming numbers of cases, they're on the right road and the right track to reopening.

But in other places, there's been this move to getting people out there, disregarding the simple measures of mask wearing and social distancing and handwashing. And what we're seeing is something that's quite frightening.

BLITZER: Dr. Fauci is also calling on some states to pause their reopening, before they lead to surges elsewhere.

If states can't get transmission under control, do you fear shutdowns, stay-at-home orders will become necessary once again?


The road recovery isn't one-way. It's a step-by-step, careful process, and you try certain things. And if they don't work, then you're going to have to roll them back. And in places that aren't taking that careful approach, what you're seeing is numbers getting out of control.

And what that's going to necessitate is stay-at-home orders again, and starting afresh, and waiting until you see the declines. The idea that we're talking about opening schools in places that haven't controlled community spread, it's just a nonstarter. There's no way to open schools until you get community transmission under control.

BLITZER: The CDC director now says they're not actually revising their guidelines on reopening schools.

You're the former acting director of the CDC. What are parents and students supposed to believe if officials can't get on the same page, because we're hearing a lot of conflicting assessments coming in from the political leadership, as opposed to the medical experts?

BESSER: Well, we will have to see what the revised guidelines look like when they come out.

When I was at CDC, we revised guidelines all the time, but it was based on new science. When there was new science, you would reconsider your guidance. You never want to be in a situation where you think that guidance might be revised for political reasons.

But what CDC put forward in that guidance makes a lot of sense. It calls for community control before you start. It calls for making sure that you're protecting, not just students -- and, thankfully, children will do pretty well with this.

I'm a pediatrician. And it's one of the things that I'm very thankful for about COVID is that children tend to do well. But staff, teachers, they have to be protected.

And when you're talking about making modifications in schools, improving airflow, and decreasing the number of children in a classroom, you have to ask, which schools are going to be able to do that and which ones won't?

We fund schools here in America in so many places off of property taxes. And what does that say about which children we value and which children will be able to go back to school? The federal government is going to need to kick in a lot of money to make sure that all children are valued and all children can go back to school safely.


BLITZER: In an interview today, Dr. Fauci also said that, even with a vaccine, keeping the pandemic under control, is going to be -- that's even going to be a real problem. If a vaccine isn't the solution, then what is?

Because he says, if there's a vaccine, it might not necessarily completely do the job.

BESSER: Well, he is right.

You think about vaccines in the movies, and they're a magic bullet, a silver bullet at the end, and everyone is protected. But when you think about vaccines in real time, some vaccines, like the measles vaccine, provide almost 95 percent protection.

But others, like the seasonal flu vaccine, they don't provide that level of protection. A good vaccine for flu is 50 or 60 percent protective. That means you still need to take other measures to reduce the risk, until there's been enough disease through a community that there's there's protection from infection, as well as from vaccination.

But we don't know you whether we're going to have a vaccine for this, and so the measures we're taking, the public health road map to reopening, is the best we have. And we have to be led by public health science here.

BLITZER: And as far as flu shots are concerned, we got to get a new one every year. And there's no guarantee it's going to actually completely work, as we all know.

Dr. Besser, thanks, as usual, for joining us.

BESSER: It's a pleasure, Wolf. Thank you.

BLITZER: Just ahead: How did California go from a coronavirus leader to a new hot spot? I will ask the state's top public health expert -- there she is -- when we come back.



BLITZER: California just reported a single-day record for new coronavirus deaths. It's a grim setback for a state that was once a national leader in fighting the pandemic.

Let's discuss with California's public health director, Dr. Sonia Angell.

Dr. Angell, thank you so much for joining us. Thanks for everything you're doing. As you well know, this is the highest death toll California's reported

since the pandemic began months ago, 149 deaths in one day. How did your state, California, go from being a leader in fighting this virus to the situation that we're seeing unfold right now?


So what the numbers represent today, as you noted, is 149 lives reported lost. Those represent families and individuals today that are mourning across our state. And that adds to the numbers that have already lost their lives, 6,700 in California alone.

This has happened in a in a way that has progressed over time. As you know, and, as you mentioned. Following our stay-at-home order, we were very proud for having bended the curb -- bent the curve. And at that point, having watched stabilizations, we made the decisions to thoughtfully start to allow for specific sectors to open with modifications, like other states across the country as well.

And slowly, over time, what we have seen are the numbers of cases starting to creep up. The cases start to increase, the hospitalizations increase. And now we're seeing a reflection in the number of deaths.

Certainly, that number of deaths that we're reporting today is our record high. It does include some extra cases that were backlogged and added in. But the reality is that the numbers are increasing over time. Our seven-day rate average is 80 for this past week.

That's 23 percent higher than the week before. We think this has occurred because, as people move more, they increase the opportunity to spread infection in the community. That's absolutely the case.

The key here, though, isn't when, but how people started to move. And that's where we're really focusing our energies. As we opened up sectors, we did provide guidance, over 30 different guidances, over time to provide information for sectors about how to modify the environment where people would be either working or patrons would be using the premises in ways that would reduce risk.

But what we have seen over time is, things haven't actually turned out the way they should have. And we're really now focusing again on enforcing the ways in which our businesses are opening and also supporting individuals and maintaining those specific changes, like face coverings, distance and washing hands frequently, that we know also helps to reduce transmission.

BLITZER: All of that saves lives.

And, as you well know, Dr. Angell, the hospitalization rate in California is up more than 40 percent over the last two weeks alone.

So, what are the biggest factors driving this surge?

ANGELL: So, there are a few things. First of all, it's individuals and, as they move in the environment outside in the community, people are starting to gather more. That shouldn't be happening. And when they're doing it, they're not doing it in ways that prevent the transmission of COVID from one individual to another.

As I mentioned, they're not wearing face masks, washing their hands and keeping distances. We also know that there's been very focused outbreaks in some people congregant environments. We have done really well at reducing the spread in our skilled nursing facilities and some of other congregant environments.

But now we're also seeing increased cases in jails and in prisons. And we're being very aggressive in our response to that to try to control those outbreaks. The third area where we're also seeing and have some concerns are in some of our essential work forces.

In agricultural workers, in some of our manufacturers, where we're seeing outbreaks, again, we're working directly with those specific workplaces to see what we can do on the ground individually, but also trying to look for, what are standard themes? What are standard ways in which we can be supporting the entire sector to modify the way that it is reopening and the way in which workers are in the environment or customers are in the environment to really reduce the risk of exposure?

The final area where we see also increased rates of transmission are in multigenerational households, where there are people that live in more dense settings. We know that they're coming together.

After a number of months with the stay-at-home order, people really want to be together again. One of the greatest factors for resilience in some of our communities, like our Latino community in particular, which we're seeing high numbers in, is that we have very strong, expansive families, and people really are close-knit.


But what -- that very factor that helps keep a community very strong is also the thing that brings people together and creates a risk for infection.

And so we need to work very closely, also, with our communities to make sure that people understand how to stay safe together. And that's not particularly comfortable. That means not necessarily hugging your grandmother and spending time with people.

But these are all ways that we need to work to help to reduce risk.

BLITZER: These are critical ways.

Bottom line, Dr. Angell, did California reopen too quickly?

ANGELL: We followed the data. We used the data to make decisions.

And we are continuing to follow the data to make decisions about how to modify what's occurring now, how to change and, in some instances, close sectors when necessary or modify them further by state order.

So, for example, we are following 28 counties with higher rates, using the data to understand where the needs are. And, as a result, we have now made movement to close some sectors, closing bars in a subset of the counties where we know there are high rates of transmission and also changing the way other places, other restaurants and other places where people gather do their business, so making sure that dining goes from inside to outside.

So we are following the data, and we're doing everything we can to make sure that our next step is the one that helps to protect Californians from getting infected.

BLITZER: Good luck, Dr. Sonia Angell. Good luck to you. We will stay in close touch. Thanks so much for joining us. We really appreciate it.

ANGELL: Thank you.

BLITZER: Just ahead, we will have more on President Trump's handling of the surging coronavirus crisis here in the United States.

How did the U.S. lose its progress in the fight against the pandemic?



BLITZER: The resurgence of the coronavirus is accelerating here in the United States, squandering months of very painful but steady progress against the pandemic. So how did we get here and what happens now?

Let's discuss with our Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and CNN Senior Political Commentator, David Axelrod.

Sanjay, what nearly 133,000 American lives have been lost, the virus is spreading right now at an alarming rate throughout much of the country. How did we get here? Was our nation's response flawed from the very beginning? And I ask the question, because as you and I know, and you've said this many times in early March, there was, what, five or ten confirmed deaths here in the United States. In South Korea, the country have more than 50 million people, there were 20 or 25 confirmed deaths. Now, we are approaching 33,000 confirmed deaths, they still have under 300 confirmed deaths.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, Wolf, and the first patient was diagnose in the United States on the same day the first patient was diagnose in South Korea. So there's a lot of similarities there, obviously, aside from the size of the population.

But I think there was a lack of seriousness about it. I think that's the one sort of unifying thing that was problematic from the start. I mean there was a bad test from the beginning, that's been discussed quite a bit. But even after that, that was in January, I mean, here we are in July and we still don't have the enough testing. So the people who want to get tested, who want to get back to some sort of way of life can reliably get tested and get a result back quickly and be confident in the result. That's still not the case.

I just went through this with my own family, my wife and three daughters took almost four hours, four and half hours to get tested. It's just -- and then take a couple of days to get the results back. It's challenging still.

But then, from that lack of seriousness, there was a lack of seriousness about closing things down, or when they needed to be close down. They opened too early. There's still this back and forth on mask, which we know can make have tremendous difference, they could have tremendous difference in countries around the world.

So, I think it's just that lack of seriousness, lack of organization. There wasn't a tsunami of activity around this, like there should have been. There wasn't a decision that needed to be made in the phase of uncertainty, which there should have been. So that's the big problem I think, Wolf.

BLITZER: You're absolutely right. You know, and, David, as someone who has served in the most senior levels of government, how difficult is it to overall the federal response when the president has all but decided to move past this crisis while the country is still right in the middle of it all?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, the thing that I would add to Sanjay's analysis is that so much of this has been subjugated to the president's policy. He didn't want to acknowledge the seriousness of it from the beginning, because he was on a winning scheme. The economy was strong, he didn't want to take the steps necessary to deal with the virus because he felt it would hurt the economy. And then when he finally did acknowledge it, he didn't stick to the task at hand and he sort of pulled away from his own administration when it became difficult, when you're asking for sacrifice.

I did serve in an administration that we dealt with the H1N1 flu in the first year that I was in the White House in the Obama administration. The thing, Wolf, that I remember most clearly is that there was one briefing at the beginning in the White House. Every other briefing came from the CDC. And I think the lesson that we learned is follow the science.

In this case and any case of any pandemic, good politics -- good government really is good politics.


Follow the experts, follow their advice, deliver clear, factual messages, let people know what they need to do to help control the virus and be consistent. And all of those rules have been violated in dealing with what is a much more serious pandemic right now.

BLITZER: Yes, more than 133,000 Americans have now died from this virus. Sanjay, Dr. Fauci, was also asked today if he thinks the country's hyperpartisan environment has made it more difficult to fight the virus. Let's listen to what he told 5:38, listen to this. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: You know, I think, you would have to admit that that's the case. We live -- I mean, you have to be, having blindfolds is on and cover your ears, to think that we don't live in a very divisive society now from a political standpoint. I mean, it's just unfortunate, but it is what it is.


BLITZER: So, Sanjay, what is the nation's top infectious disease doctor telegraphing with this admission?

GUPTA: Well, you know, I think there's always been some politicization of science. I mean, even before this -- whether it comes to vaccines and autism, you know, the discussion round climate change. I think what Dr. Fauci is saying, and he's sort of telegraphed this before, is that this is very urgent right now. The sort of co-mingling in the politicization of science has real-time consequences right now.

And by the way, some of the things that they're saying from a scientific perspective aren't that complicated. I mean, yes, we need a vaccine, yes, we would love to have plasma therapy and great therapeutics and those are some of the bright spots in the United States in terms of some of the works that's been done on those areas.

But wearing masks, getting tested, those types of things should not be political and they are basic tried and true public health strategies that have help eradicated diseases in the world. We eradicated smallpox through testing tracing sort of strategy.

So, I think that what he's saying. We know this works. We've done it in the past, and now, the only thing getting in the way is the politics.

BLITZER: Yes, very important indeed. David, for the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden, today, criticized President Trump's response to the virus, saying, Mr. Trump has waved the white flag. How big of a factor is President Trump's response to this pandemic in terms of his re-election bid?

AXELROD: Well, I think it's damaged him dramatically. You know, he was in a very good position earlier in the year. The economy was strong. His numbers were up. And, Wolf, here is the thing. I think had he handled this differently, he would have gain -- you see governors across this country who have been firm and consistent and followed the science. And they have seen their approval rating explode and become -- explode is the wrong word, but they've gone up dramatically. And I think the same could have happened for him had he led the nation in the way the nation needed to be led.

So, I think it's made a huge difference for him.

BLITZER: It certainly has. All right, guys, thank you very, very much. We have an important programming note for our viewers. Dr. Sanjay Gupta will be back later on tonight along with Anderson Cooper for a brand new CNN Global Town Hall, Coronavirus, Facts and Fears. Their special guest include the CDC Director, Dr. Robert Redfield. That's tonight 8:00 P.M. Eastern only here on CNN.

And just ahead, President Trump is pushing ahead with his campaign to reopen all schools in the United States in the fall, claiming children's immune systems are so powerful and strong.



BLITZER: President Trump is brushing off concerns over reopening schools, claiming children's immune systems are, in his word, so powerful and so strong. but many local officials are pushing back on the president's demands right now.

We are joined by the Miami-Dade County Florida Superintendent of Schools, Alberto Carvalho. Alberto, thank you so much for joining us.

Your county, Miami-Dade, currently seeing a dramatic surge in cases. This is really a life and death decision about when on how to reopen schools. And you have to make this decision. If you had to decide today, Alberto, what would you do?

ALBERTO CARVALHO, SUPERINTENDENT, MIAMI-DADE COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Well, on the basis of the three metrics that are important to us, the COVID positivity, the number of hospitalizations and the number of ICU beds that are currently occupied by COVID positive individuals, on the basis of that alone, and the fact that our county right now is not in a declining position, it is in a position of progressively higher numbers of COVID positive cases.

I would say to you, I have a fundamental responsibility not only to educate kids but also to protect their well-being. And right now, under federal and state guidelines, the county is under phase one, that does not permit us to physically open schools.

BLITZER: Yes. That's a real issue. As you may have heard that National just decided today it will not reopen schools in August but will begin the year with simply virtual learning. Are you prepared to join them and defy, let's say, the president, the governor, if you don't feel students and teachers can safely return to the classroom on August 24th?

CARVALHO: Look, our board unanimously approved just last week a reopening plan for schools.


That includes a five days a week, if conditions permit it, but also includes a number of options, innovative options that maintain the distance necessary to protect everyone. That includes continuous remote learning, done by our teachers with appropriate platforms. So, we are ready to pivot to that modality if the conditions in Miami- Dade do not improve. And, look, Wolf, there is agreement between elected officials, the county mayor, myself, about the current conditions in Miami-Dade.

Just last, week the mayor made the right decision to close restaurants. So, it doesn't make any sense whatsoever to empty restaurants but packed schools. I think that defies logic, and quite frankly, it's a proposition that I am not ready to impose on our parents, our teachers, and our community.

BLITZER: Let me ask you about the president. He says he will cut off funding if schools are not reopened completely. Are you prepared to lose federal funding if necessary? I am not exactly sure what he means, but what effect with this have on the kids, the students in Miami-Dade County?

CARVALHO: You know, across the country, public school systems get roughly 6 to 7 percent of their total budget from the federal government. It may seem like it's not much, but it is a lot. In terms of Title I funding, which protects programs that serve poor students in our communities, assistance to those who are English language learners, students with disabilities. If there are reductions in those programs, the most fragile children in America will be the victims.

I have confidence that my governor, I have confidence that our commissioner of education, will intercede on behalf of the South Florida community, to not allow those reductions to be imposed on the most fragile communities in America. Seventy-three percent of our kids live at or below the poverty line. We're talking about imposing crisis conditions on kids who are in crisis before COVID-19.

BLITZER: Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, I know you got one of the largest school district in the United States right now. You got a lot on your plate. We're grateful for everything you're doing.

Thanks so much for joining us.

CARVALHO: Thank you very much, Wolf.

BLITZER: And good luck.

Just ahead, the U.S. Supreme Court rules New York prosecutors can subpoena the president's financial records, even while he is an office. We will update you on that when we come back.



BLITZER: So, the president's financial records and tax returns will remain private, at least for now, after a pair of rulings from the U.S. Supreme Court today denying Congress's attempt to gain the records right away. But the court did rule in favor of a New York prosecutor's efforts to subpoena these tax returns.

Let's bring in our senior legal analyst, Preet Bharara.

Preet, what does today's decision mean in the long term for the president?

PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: Well, it means he might have a moment of victory in the very immediate short term, because he doesn't have to turn over financial or his advisers don't have to turn over his financial documents immediately.

But the court essentially said -- the court essentially said by 9 to 0 margin, on the question of whether or not the president has absolute immunity from a state -- criminal state subpoena, they said no. In fact, one of the justices he appointed, Brett Kavanaugh, is a person who stated at the beginning of his opinion, his concurring opinion that it was a unanimous decision of the court that there is no absolute immunity.

So, what it means in almost certain likelihood is that in the medium term, those professionals who've worked for the president will have to turn over his financial records, and that can't be a win by any stretch of the imagination for him.

BLITZER: But it's probably not going to happen before the election.

The president tweeted that this is, in his words, political persecution. He says prosecutorial misconduct, presidential harassment. But as you point out, the two justices appointed by the president ruled against him, right?

BHARARA: They did on this question of whether or not these subpoenas are enforceable. Now, they didn't make any determination at all about whether or not the prosecution, and there isn't one yet, but weather and eventual prosecution is valid or sound or appropriate. And they said the president of the United States like any other citizen has an opportunity to make motions and arguments to a court when the time is right, which is not now.

This is a narrow decision on whether or not the president is above the law, which reflect to replying to subpoenas from a state prosecutor. And they've said that for 200 years, going back to Thomas Jefferson, Justice Roberts writes, presidents are answerable to criminal process, including this president.

BLITZER: On another legal issue, Geoffrey Berman, the former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, a job you once held, he testified today before Congress that the attorney general's plans to replace him, we're in his, words unprecedented, unnecessary, and unexplained.

Tell us what is really going on here. Why was Berman forced out of his role?

BHARARA: Well, I wish I knew. I mean, Berman, I understand from his testimony today, himself, has not able to identify the precise reason. What we do know is there has been a pattern of practice on the part of this attorney general to interpose himself in cases, which cases, even though there are hundreds of thousands of cases going through the justice system, on the cases that affect a personal associate of the president, whether it's Michael Cohen, or Roger Stone, or Michael Flynn. And perhaps he wanted somebody more malleable in Southern District, and we'll wait to see, you know, what other testimony brings to light.

BLITZER: We certainly will.


Preet Bharara, as usual, thanks very much for joining us.

BHARARA: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: More news, just ahead.


BLITZER: Finally tonight, we share stories of people who have died from the coronavirus.

Sundee Rutter of Washington was only 42 years old, a single mother raising six children after the death of her husband. She had just gone into remission from breast cancer when she fell ill. Her sister Shawna (ph) called Sundee a hero, who always put her children first.

Luis Gonzalez of New York was 49 years old. We're told he loved science fiction and "Star Wars". His sister Cassandra (ph) says his death has left a huge hole in the hearts of their family. She hopes to get a tattoo soon to honor him.

May they rest in peace and may their memories be a blessing.

"ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts right now.