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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER
Trump and Fauci Not Talking?; Coronavirus Spiking in Florida. Aired 4-4:30p ET
Aired July 10, 2020 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Have a wonderful weekend.
Stay right here. "THE LEAD" starts right now.
PAMELA BROWN, CNN HOST: And welcome to THE LEAD on this Friday. I'm Pamela Brown, in today for Jake Tapper.
President Trump right now is visiting the epicenter of coronavirus in the United States, Florida. The presidential visit is not at all related to the pandemic, as Florida continues to set all the wrong records, with new cases skyrocketing more than 1200 percent since May 4, when the state began reopening.
But, despite this, President Trump and the nation's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, have not spoken in more than a month, even as Fauci is warning the U.S. is in the middle of a -- quote -- "very serious problem."
And we have just learned that it's now New York state sending help to Florida; 280 COVID-19 patients in the state will be getting remdesivir medication while they wait for federal aid.
And, as CNN's Martin Savidge reports, Dr. Fauci specifically pointed to Florida as a state that reopened too quickly. Now the state's Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, maintains he did the right thing at the right time.
MARTIN SAVIDGE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Florida is paying a painful price. In addition to a record single-day death toll of 120, including the death of an 11-year-old child, Miami-Dade County reports hospitalizations are up 74 percent in less than two weeks, and the use of ventilators soaring by 123 percent.
And 88 percent of ICU beds are currently in use, though the governor today pushed back.
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): You have got a lot of beds available.
SAVIDGE: The county is also seeing a staggering 28 percent positivity rate of tests being taken, according to the mayor's office.
The nation's infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, says the coronavirus search can be traced back to states opening too soon.
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: In some of the states, the governors or the mayors of cities eventually jumped over the guidelines and the checkpoints and opened up a little bit too soon. Certainly, Florida, I know, I think, jumped over a couple of checkpoints.
DESANTIS: There was really no justification to not move forward.
SAVIDGE: Meanwhile, demand for testing triggering long lines, so much so, the governor is trying to streamline the process.
DESANTIS: We're going to work on doing -- we will do that at the Orange County Convention Center -- is to have lanes for people who are actually symptomatic. Somebody is actually ill, they need to know whether that's coronavirus or not as quickly as possible.
SAVIDGE: Getting tested is one thing, but waiting on results from labs that are overwhelmed has people anxiously waiting for a week or more for answers, while still possibly spreading the contagion.
ANA NAVARRO, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Look, I have eight people around me right now who are either going through COVID, who -- or who think they have COVID. But I have two who had tests done a week ago and are still waiting for results. And they're just going under the assumption, based on the assumption that they have it.
SAVIDGE: Even as Florida grapples with a deadly surge, Disney World reopens this weekend, bringing thousands of families to the state.
President Trump's also in Florida today, not planning to focus on the pandemic, but discussing drug trafficking and attending a fund-raiser.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's an honor to be with you.
SAVIDGE: But, as he campaigns, the virus continues to spread, with the U.S. seeing its highest single day of new COVID-19 cases.
And the contagion goes far beyond just those who are infected. With so many still unemployed, the lines at free food distribution sites, like this one in San Antonio, Texas, demonstrate a different misery.
Meanwhile, an ominous warning today from the World Health Organization.
DR. MICHAEL J. RYAN, WORLD HEALTH ORGANIZATION: In our current situation, it is very unlikely that we can eradicate or eliminate this virus.
SAVIDGE: Georgia is also one of those early reopening states that's now seeing a surge of new cases.
In fact, it saw 4,484 new cases in the last 24 hours. In fact, the governor has just this afternoon announced that the Georgia World Congress Center, a large convention center downtown, is to be activated and ready to stand by as a possible overflow treatment site for COVID-19 patients -- Pamela.
BROWN: All right, Martin Savidge there are in Atlanta for us, thank you so much, Martin.
Meantime, President Trump now on his way to a fund-raiser in Hillsborough Beach, Florida, after spending the day in Miami-Dade County, only acknowledging coronavirus in the context of the economy.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: In the United States, at least before the COVID came to us, the flu, the virus, the China virus, whatever you would like to call it -- it's got many different names -- but, before it hit, we were doing really well. We're still doing very well. But now we're getting back on track.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BROWN: I want to bring on CNN's Kristen Holmes, who is live in Doral for us.
So, Kristen, look, it's not a surprise that the president, someone who's running for reelection, would go to a swing state just a few months before the election, but what is a surprise here is why the president would decide to visit a coronavirus hot spot at this time on matters unrelated to COVID.
KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right, Pamela. I mean, you're hitting the nail on the head.
There are a couple of things going on here. You have his daily activities, which are clear. They're involved in the election. It's talking about shoring up Hispanic voters, appealing to his base at a briefing at SOUTHCOM here in Doral, at a fund-raiser.
But the president with this trip is sending a larger message when it comes to coronavirus, and that is, nothing to see here, it's business as usual. As you mentioned, not only were there not any events on coronavirus, but he barely mentioned the disease at all.
You played that sound about the economy. Later, he talked about it. The only thing he said about what was currently going on, he said that they were fighting it and we're going to do very well, and then he went into his traditional rhetoric about how strong the government's response has been.
Now, this isn't surprising. We know we have talked to advisers who say the president is ready to move on. They want to be away from the coronavirus. They want to be focused on the economy, the things that make President Trump himself feel strongest, feel best, and what he does best in the polls. But it feels like even more of a disconnect when he's giving these
messages that have nothing to do with the virus on the ground in a state that is clearly in the middle of a health crisis, Pam.
BROWN: Right. It's clear that he is avoiding it on purpose.
And then we're learning, Kristen, that President Trump hasn't spoken with the nation's top infectious disease doctor, Anthony Fauci, in weeks. What is going on?
Well, in an interview, Fauci said that he actually hadn't briefed the president in person in about two months, which is really striking. What we have watched here is this sort of back and forth unfold between President Trump and Dr. Fauci over the media, through the media. They're not talking to each other directly, but they're definitely sending a message to each other there.
We have Dr. Fauci, who is one of the leading medical experts, and he's supposed to be one of President Trump's top medical advisers, a member of the Coronavirus Task Force. And here they are going back and forth.
And it's at the point where Dr. Fauci in an interview actually said he didn't know what President Trump was talking about at one point, when the president said that 99 percent of cases were totally harmless.
President Trump last night on FOX News saying that Fauci was a nice man, but had made a lot of mistakes -- Pamela.
BROWN: Yes, Dr. Fauci also saying that he is a straight shooter and doesn't like to sugarcoat things, perhaps something that President Trump does not like.
All right, thank you so much, Kristen Holmes. We appreciate it.
And joining me now is CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
Dr. Gupta, good to see you again.
So, as we were just talking about, the president is in South Florida, the epicenter of the virus. We haven't seen him wear a mask today, though we should note he does get tested every day. How much is he putting himself and those around him at risk?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, this is a significant hot spot. So the idea that you may come in contact with somebody inadvertently who's carrying the virus is going to be just much higher in a place that that's a hot spot.
Keep in mind that there's a lot of people who may not have any symptoms who may still be harboring the virus. And that's a huge concern. You're right, he gets tested a lot. But what about the people around him? And keep in mind, as you well know, Pamela, there's a significant
contingent of people that then accompany the president on these trips. There are people who go basically scout out hospitals ahead of time, in case the president should need hospitalization. They take personal protective equipment.
They have to keep sort of resources aside for all of that. We know, when the president went to the rally in Tulsa, for example, there were Secret Service agents who subsequently were diagnosed with COVID. So it's a risk, certainly in certain places more than others, Florida being one of those places.
And there's just no way about it. It's a contagious virus and it's out there.
BROWN: Right. And sources we have spoken to, in the Secret Service, have said that they view some of these trips as an unnecessary risk, because, as you noted, several agents have come down with coronavirus.
And then we're learning, at the same time, Sanjay, that President Trump hasn't spoken with Dr. Fauci in more than a month. He has increasingly been at odds with his health officials. Are you concerned about this?
GUPTA: Yes, I mean, I think we should all be concerned about this. I mean, there's tough news that I think the president, the Coronavirus Task Force needs to give about what's happening now. We need to acknowledge a significant problem.
Luckily, I get to talk to Dr. Fauci and other members of the Coronavirus Task Force quite a bit. I try and keep up with things with them. But they're really -- they have really made it more difficult for them to go out and talk to the public, via television at least. So that's a challenge.
You know, Pamela, a source told me -- it's -- it was interesting, the way they framed it. They said that the president's not necessarily mad at Dr. Fauci, as much as Dr. Fauci reminds him of something he doesn't really want to talk about, which is COVID, and how big a problem this is.
There's also been this open criticism. I did this interview with Dr. Fauci about football, and just how the NFL may or may not return this fall. And Dr. Fauci did this interview. The next day, the president tweeted, what does Dr. Fauci know about football?
So there's this sort of undermining that's going on, in addition to not talking to someone who is providing this sort of counsel. So, it's concerning, and especially given the way the numbers have been traveling in these various states.
BROWN: Yes, as Kristen noted, they're sort of talking to each other through the media, through these different channels. It's just -- it's bizarre to watch during a time when we're in this public health crisis.
BROWN: And we're learning, Sanjay, that the World Health Organization said we may never be able to eradicate this.
One of the companies making the vaccine says it could be a decade until there's immunity. So, just from a practical standpoint, I mean, what does this mean for all of us, long term, big picture, for our daily lives moving forward? What does it mean?
GUPTA: You know, I think it means that there's going to be a change in our lives for some time to come.
And I think we have sort of understood that. It doesn't have to be as seismic as I think maybe people have thought it needed to be. We have seen countries around the world that have been able to go through this, bring their case numbers down significantly, probably still have some sort of limitations in terms of huge gatherings, more of an emphasis on masks, things like that.
But you can have a relative return to normalcy. I think what these vaccine manufacturers are talking about is, first, if we have a vaccine by the end of the year -- there's still no guarantees about this. There's still a process by which these things are being trialed.
Then you got to make sure you manufacture it, you have got to distribute it, and then, if the vaccine requires a booster shot, it may be something that you take once and you have to have another shot. There may be a certain percentage of the world that doesn't want to take the vaccine.
And it's important, when you talk about a pandemic, Pamela, that people all over the world get the vaccine, because one thing we learned from Ebola, and from before that as well, is that an infection anywhere is an infection everywhere.
So you have got to really make sure that people can get vaccinated to that point of 60, 70 percent immunity all over the world. And that could just take a while.
BROWN: Yes, and you're right. Some people may not want to get vaccinated. I mean, it's not like we're out of the woods yet.
GUPTA: They say about a third.
BROWN: Yes, exactly.
So, even if it is created, manufactured, there's still a lot of unanswered questions there.
All right, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, stick around. We have more to discuss.
And, as the country faces an escalating coronavirus pandemic, President Trump is bragging passing a cognitive test. We're going to discuss that coming up. Plus, the NBA reportedly getting coronavirus test results back in a day, while many Americans are waiting a week -- the league's response ahead.
BROWN: Turning to our politics lead now, Dr. Anthony Fauci says he has not personally briefed the president in two months or even seen him since the beginning of June, despite the U.S. hitting a record number of cases. And during this deadly pandemic, the president is calling into his favorite channel to rail against his perceived political enemies.
And as CNN's Jeremy Diamond reports, boasting about acing a cognitive test.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I proved I was all there because I aced it.
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As the pandemic rages on, President Trump is focused on dismissing questions about his mental acuity, claiming he recently aced a cognitive test as he called into question Joe Biden's mental fitness.
TRUMP: Took it at Walter Reed Medical Center in front of doctors. And they were very surprised. They said that's an unbelievable thing.
DIAMOND: The White House would not say when he took the test or provide any details. But CNN previously reported Trump took the Montreal cognitive assessment in 2018, scoring highly on a test that includes simple memory and mental tasks, which only indicates he is not suffering any mild cognitive dysfunction.
Today, Trump's spending the day in the country's biggest coronavirus hot spot. But his trip to Florida has nothing to do with the pandemic. Instead, Trump appears focused on shoring up his re-election prospects in this critical battleground state, posing with seized drugs, accusing his Democratic rival of supporting socialism, and attending a high-dollar fundraiser.
But his chances at a second term may be tied to the crisis he is all but ignoring. A new poll revealing that just one-third of Americans approve of Trump's handling of the pandemic, down from 41 percent just three weeks ago. Even Republicans are starting to lose faith. Support for Trump's handling of coronavirus dipping from 90 to 78 percent in his own party.
TRUMP: Dr. Fauci's a nice man, but he's made a lot of mistakes.
DIAMOND: Meanwhile, the president is locked in an increasingly public feud with the country's most trusted doctor, whose assessment of the surge in coronavirus cases is growing gloomier, while the president tries to spin a rosier version of reality.
TRUMP: We have tested almost 40 million people. By so doing, we show cases 99 percent of which are totally harmless.
DIAMOND: Dr. Fauci who says he hasn't seen Trump in more than five weeks making clear that's not true, telling "The Financial Times" what I think happened is that someone told him that the general mortality is about 1 percent. And he interpreted therefore that 99 percent is not a problem, when that's obviously not the case.
DIAMOND: And, Pam, as you know, President Trump has stubbornly refused to wear a mask in public, even mocking his rival Joe Biden for doing so.
We're expecting the president, though, tomorrow to take a step in the other direction. He is expected to wear a mask when he visits Walter Reed National Military Medical Center tomorrow. And I'm told that he will be photographed wearing one. That comes after a private and quite quiet lobbying campaign by some White House aides and campaign officials to urge the president to wear a mask to show his supporters that it's okay to do that.
We know that a number of Republican officials have tried recently to depoliticize mask wearing, and now the question is whether the president in wearing this mask tomorrow, whether that's going to do anything to change it after all these weeks during which he's downplayed this effective public health initiative -- Pam.
BROWN: Yes, we'll have to wait and see. I know that's there's -- that's been a big discussion in the White House.
All right. Thanks so much, Jeremy Diamond. We appreciate it.
And meantime, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, a neurosurgeon, will be back in just a moment to talk about this cognitive test that the president referred to.
Stay with us.
(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)
TRUMP: I aced it. I aced the test.
I took it at Walter Reed Medical Center in front of doctors. And they were very surprised. They said that's an unbelievable thing. Rarely does anybody do what you just did.
(END AUDIO CLIP) BROWN: So you just heard there, President Trump bragging about his cognitive ability in an interview with his favorite network.
And it comes as a new poll out today finds more and more Americans disapprove of his handling of the coronavirus pandemic.
Back with me now to discuss all of this, CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta and CNN political director David Chalian.
All right. Sanjay, let's talk about this test. The one we know about that's been publicly disclosed is this cognitive test for the president that was in 2018. That was the Montreal cognitive assessment.
What do we know about that test, and what does it mean exactly to ace it?
GUPTA: Right. Well, that's not a term that I think most -- the medical community would use to describe doing on the test. It's not like the SAT or something or a test that you take in school. It's more of a screening test.
We can show you some of the types of questions that are asked here. It's trying to find whether someone is suffering from some cognitive dysfunction that they themselves may not recognize. So, you know, the top of the test, you get a sort of sense, the one goes to the A, the two is going to go to the B, and three is going to go to a C.
That -- can you draw a cube? Can you draw the face of a clock, a certain time? Can you identify animals? I mean, it's a pretty basic test. And it's really more of a screening test.
So, you know, when we're talking about trying to evaluate someone's cognitive function, it's usually pretty involved, right, either maybe imaging. There may be blood work. There may be more detailed neurological assessment.
This is sort of a screening test. So it sounds like he got a perfect score on it. But you can see the sorts of questions on there.
If somebody had a significant problem, it would probably screen that. You know, it would be a screening test and sort of a call for more sophisticated testing.
I don't even know which test he's talking about because he say it's was a recent test. Is this the 2018 test?
BROWN: Right, yes.
GUPTA: Is this something that happened in 2019? He went to Walter Reed in 2019. That was sort of an unplanned visit. Was he getting a cognitive workup at that point? If so, why? Why there versus the White House?
There's all sorts of questions more than answers, you know, after this comment. BROWN: Absolutely. And the White House isn't providing any
clarification on whether or not, how recent this test was. And just to be clear, so, the test we're talking about in 2018, if you get a perfect score, that wouldn't necessarily in your view be an unbelievable thing or something that would rarely happen, as the president tried to portray it, just to be clear?
GUPTA: You can see the nature of the questions there. Can you identify a camel? Can you identify a lion? Can you say that a goes to one? It's not a hard test.
If somebody wasn't doing well on that or was getting things wrong, that would be a cause for concern. Most people should get those types of questions.
BROWN: OK. So let's talk about this polling, David. The polling today showing two-thirds of Americans disapprove of the president's handling of coronavirus. How concerning is that to the White House, to the president?
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: In a word "very." And take a look. Not just -- this is the highest disapproval, that 67 percent that we've seen on his handling on this major issue, top of mind to voters.
But look at the trend, Pam. I mean, it goes from 58 percent disapproval in June and it jumps up nine points to 67 percent. That's one big concern. It's also the partisan breakdown.
The president is losing his own Republicans on this. In June, he had 90 percent of approval among Republicans for his handling of the virus. It's down 12 points to 78 percent. And you see he's bleeding even more with independents from 40 percent now all the way down to 26 percent.
These are some of the most alarming poll numbers that the president has seen. He has not been seeing great poll numbers in these last several weeks.
ROMANS: And what's interesting is that like the president's strategy seems to be right now -- you know, look, there's nothing to see here, things are getting better with coronavirus. But if you look at these poll numbers, that messaging doesn't appear to be working in his favor, particularly as you point out among Republicans.