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Delta's CEO is Interviewed about the Airlines; Clemency for Stone; California Combats Covid-19 Increases. Aired 9:30-10a

Aired July 10, 2020 - 09:30   ET




ED BASTIAN, CEO, DELTA AIR LINES: So I'd say we're in -- we're in a -- kind of a cautious pause right now in terms of any additional growth.

HARLOW: Are you bookings, future bookings, tumbling the way United said just on Monday theirs are?

BASTIAN: I wouldn't say bookings are tumbling. I would say bookings have stalled. We came through in June, week after week, we're seeing some pretty nice demand pickup as economies were opening up, particularly in the south. But then as you've seen the spread of the virus pick up, those same bookings have stalled.

HARLOW: We just heard United warn 45 percent of their front line workers, that's 36,000 workers, that they could lose their job come October 1st. Is Delta facing the same scenario in terms of potential layoffs?

BASTIAN: We are facing potential layoffs, but not nearly the level that United communicated. Close to half of our staff have taken voluntary leaves for the month with no pay at all, just voluntary unpaid leaves. Second thing we're doing is we've got an early retirement offer with our employees that's still open.

And, you know, we're expecting -- we already know there's thousands of employees who have signed up to take that offer. And, as a result of that, we're looking at, you know, probably a much lower impact number come October 1 and our goal is to try to eliminate, not have any furloughs.

HARLOW: Is there a chance at this point maybe you don't have to lay anyone off in the fall?

BASTIAN: Absolutely. Absolutely. There's a real chance of that happening.

HARLOW: Delta has mandated masks for anyone who wants to get on your planes, but the federal government isn't, right? They're just recommending it.

How hard does that make your job, right? Do you want the federal government to mandate masks on all commercial airlines?

BASTIAN: It would certainly help. And I -- I do believe that would be a -- be a good action. I -- I don't expect it to happen, though. So what they're -- the federal government has done is left it up to each airline to make their own decisions. So masks are mandated on Delta. And for any customer who's not wearing a mask, will not gain access to the airplane.

If a customer does not choose to keep their mask on, that customer is going to lose their right to fly Delta for a period of time. And we -- we warned them several times during the flight. We have had some customers we've had to put on those lists. But, generally speaking, compliance is pretty good.

HARLOW: It sounds like a federal mandate would help so much in terms of requiring masks. Have you called the White House? Have you called the administration and asked them to do this?

BASTIAN: Well, it's my -- we have -- we've had those discussions with the White House. You know, the industry collectively hasn't given a strong point of view on it. At Delta, I feel strongly about that, but I'm not sure some of my peers at other airlines feel the same way. So as a practical matter, I'm not sure it's going to happen.

HARLOW: Does it trouble you though how political some of this has gotten, Ed, that, you know, discussions over masks have become political, that there's, you know, vocal disagreement between the president contradicting what Dr. Fauci says? I mean I know it confuses many Americans. I wonder what it's like for you as a business leader.

BASTIAN: Well, I think the -- one of the challenges we're facing is that we've got a pandemic going on in an important election cycle. And as a result of that, you know, everything, it seems these days, are politicized, not just the pandemic. So I'm frustrated. I think I can speak for, you know, corporate America, we're all frustrated with the politicization of safeguarding the health and well-being of our employees, as well as our customers.

HARLOW: Let's talk middle seats. Delta's promising flyers right now an empty seat next to you. Does that mean under no circumstance will the middle seat be booked?

BASTIAN: That's correct. So we've announced through the end of September that we're going to cap our load factors at 60 percent. So the plane will not carry more than 60 percent of the customers on board the plane, and that we are going to block all middle seats on those planes.

HARLOW: The head of PR at United says, quote, when it comes to blocking middle seats, that's a PR strategy, not a safety strategy.

Is it a PR strategy?

BASTIAN: I think it's a really important safety feature and all the medical experts, and we have the Mayo Clinic, we're working down here in Atlanta with Emery. We've got a lot of -- a lot of -- a lot of council on this that indicates why you can't logistically expect airplanes to only -- or customers to sit six feet apart on planes. Distance matters. Space matters.

HARLOW: So Delta, all the big carriers, received money from the government through the CARES Act at the beginning of this pandemic. For Delta it was $5.4 billion, which is basically a taxpayer funded government loan.

You have now, just this week, signed a letter of intent to receive additional government funding through that. How much do you think Delta is going to need?


BASTIAN: We've not made a decision to take the money. We've signed a term sheet with the Treasury Department to hold our opportunity to make a decision to the end of September. So we'll decide in the next couple months, but we haven't made that decision yet.

HARLOW: If you decide to do that, I wonder if you will also commit to no layoffs for a longer period of time? If you take additional government money, we don't know what the conditions will be on that. It's a little bit different. But, obviously, you know it wouldn't sit well with people to then have job cuts.

Where's your head on that?

BASTIAN: I think that's right. I think there's a sensitivity that if you take the government, the second tranche, and then you turn around and use that money to fund a fairly significant reduction in staff, there -- that would be something that that airline would have to explain, both to the government as well as to its employees and community.

HARLOW: Warren Buffett said, I don't know if two to three years from now that as many people will flying as many passenger miles as they did last year. You've got too many planes.

Do you think he's right?

BASTIAN: I think he is right. I think it's going to take us two to three years as an industry to find that new level of normal. We're flying at scale, both for business as well as for leisure.

On a global basis comes about. And I -- I've said many times myself, not only is it going to take two to three years, but this industry will be smaller when we get there to that new level of normal. I think there's a portion of business level that is inefficient today that probably will not come back.

HARLOW: How do you think this crisis will define Delta?

BASTIAN: This will be the crisis that will define Delta. We have a real opportunity to get through this crisis as a more resilient airline. I think resiliency is going to be something that's going to be redefined across corporate America, across our society. Resiliency, both financially, our -- our health, our -- our -- the stability of our business practices and business models.

HARLOW: You're the only major U.S. carrier that didn't sign on to buy Boeing's 737 Max given what they have gone through, but what about now, with the changes and the testing, would you feel comfortable adding a 737 Max to Delta's fleet?

BASTIAN: Absolutely. At some point in time, could we -- could I see Delta flying the Max? Absolutely. I think that's a possibility.

HARLOW: Let's move on, Ed, if we could, to race relations and what has been happening in this country for years but it's finally getting the deserved attention. Delta's hometown, obviously, is Atlanta. We had the killing of Rayshard Brooks there by police. You know, the second home, really, for Delta is my hometown, is Minneapolis.

We saw the killing of George Floyd. There was the killing of Breonna Taylor in Louisville. And I wonder, as an executive of one of America's most iconic, biggest companies, how do you think about it when you consider that this is happening in America in 2020?

BASTIAN: Well, it's heartbreaking. It's been eye opening. I think it's -- you know, we don't -- we don't look at those -- those killings in isolation. I think that the juxtaposition of the pandemic, with the -- of the killings and the social injustice and the systemic racism that allowed and enabled those killings to occur have to be seen together in concert and it's amplified the voices, particularly of our black and brown colleagues, as to what they've been living with, not for years, decades, centuries in society.

And so I -- I think right now, Poppy, as a -- as a leader of a large corporate company, you know, I hurt for my people. I mean I hurt for the members of our black and brown community, our colleagues. Almost half of our employees at Delta are either black or brown skinned. And, you know, they're family, they're my family and I have a responsibility to do a better job to understand the shoes they walk in.

HARLOW: What do you think you can do to actually change the opportunities they have to rise higher up at the company, right? I know you have some black members of leadership, but if you look at your top 11, you don't have any black leaders around you in the top circle, right?

BASTIAN: That's right. That's correct.

HARLOW: Does that need to change?

BASTIAN: Absolutely. And it's my responsibility to make that change happen. I'm ashamed to say that, you know, I have not paid the level of attention to that component of the analysis that I need to pay. And I will pay extraordinary attention to it going forward and doing my very best to make sure that they're getting every opportunity for advancement. I need to own their advancement.

HARLOW: Well, my thanks to Ed Bastian from Delta for that interview. You can hear more of it on Sanjay Gupta's podcast. His fantastic,

daily "Coronavirus: Fact vs. Fiction" podcast. Much more of our interview with the Delta CEO right there, right now.


Well, Roger Stone says he's praying for a presidential pardon. The president says those prayers may be answered soon. Why Roger Stone may avoid his three-year prison sentence, next.

Also, from the farms of Oklahoma to the beaches of Miami, W. Kamau Bell is taking on injustice and inequality across America. It's an all-new season of the "United Shades of America" with W. Kamau Bell. It starts this Sunday, July 19th, 10:00 Eastern, only on CNN.


HARLOW: Welcome back.

So the president is now implying that he may grant clemency to Roger Stone, of course, a long-time political ally and friend of the presidents.


This comes just days before Stone is set to report to federal prison. He's supposed to do that on Tuesday. The president says that Stone was framed and treated, quote, so badly after his own Justice Department, his own DOJ, prosecuted Stone for lying to Congress.

Evan Perez joins me now from Washington.

I mean even the attorney general, Bill Barr, continues to call the conviction and the sentence righteous, but now he may get clemency from the president?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Poppy. We don't expect that Roger Stone will actually have to go to prison on Tuesday. All signs indicate and are pointing to the fact that the president plans to provide some kind of clemency, either commutation of the -- of the sentence or an outright pardon.

Now, as you pointed out, this is a -- a prosecution that even Bill Barr -- this was carried out under Bill Barr, the attorney general, current attorney general, and he has stood by those charges. Here's him talking a little bit about the case a couple months ago.


WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, as you know, the Stone case was prosecuted while I was attorney general and I supported it. I think it was established, he was convicted of obstructing Congress and witness tampering, and I thought that was a righteous prosecution. And I was happy that he was convicted.

(END VIDEO CLIP) PEREZ: And as you pointed out, Poppy, this is a case that, obviously, is entwined in the fact that the president and Roger Stone are very close. They are close friends.

Stone was very, very helpful to the president during the campaign. And the fact that he was, you know -- he was convicted on these things, obstruction, witness tampering, lying to Congress, you know, none of that matters to the president because he's had a history of giving pardons and clemency to people who essentially are his supporters. You could look at the list of people, some of the people who he has given clemency to, including Joe Arpaio, Rod Blagojevich, Bernie Kerik.

So we expect that Roger Stone will be added to that list before he has to report to prison on Tuesday. We may hear something as soon as today. The president is supposed to head down to Florida, which is where Roger Stone makes his home.

HARLOW: Well, what would be so unique, I think, Evan, about clemency or a pardon for Roger Stone would be that it -- it is someone who actively tried again and again and then lied about it to help the president in the election via WikiLeaks and information, you know, that the Mueller report said was given to WikiLeaks from Russia.

PEREZ: Right. And has shown no sign of any remorse.


PEREZ: And usually, Poppy, one of the things you do is, essentially, if you -- if you're going to get clemency through this building at the Justice Department, one of the things that you have to show is that you're sorry for what you did. Roger Stone has shown no indication of that. So, again, that makes it additionally unusual.

HARLOW: But it's fully in the president's hands and he has the constitutional authority to do it.


HARLOW: Evan, thank you for the reporting.

PEREZ: Sure.

HARLOW: A small southeast county in California now the biggest contributor to the state's record death toll. One hospital CEO there is calling their tent-filled parking lot a war zone.



HARLOW: In California, the state now reporting its highest number of single-day deaths from coronavirus since the pandemic began. Hospitalizations there are up 44 percent over just the last two weeks. In one southeastern county, tents fill half the parking lot at a hospital where 90 percent of patients, 90 percent, have tested positive for Covid. The death rate there, the highest in the state. Let's go to my colleague, Kyung Lah, she joins us in El Centro,


Kyung, what is it like?

KYUNG LAH, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you just step into this hospital, and we were invited inside El Centro Regional Medical Center because they wanted us to understand what that felt like. The numbers you're talking about, Poppy, in the state, yesterday, California recorded a record, 149 deaths per capita. The county that I'm standing in has the highest death rate. It is 85 percent Latino. It is highly, deeply underserved.

And what the medical professionals here wanted us to understand is what a 44 percent increase in hospitalization feels like.

Take a look.


ADOLPHE EDWARD, CEO, EL CENTRO REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER: When folks say, hey, it's a war zone, well, a war zone of what? A war zone of us trying to combat the Covid-19.


LAH: And they do describe it as combat. You see these tents here. These are tents that you would see in a war zone. And it's not just this one, Poppy, it's on all sides of this hospital. They say they could use more. They need more beds. They need more nurses. They need more doctors. And they need it as soon as next week.

And one last thing, Poppy. While we've been here in just the last couple of hours, we've heard the helicopters landing and taking off. It is happening around the clock trying to transfer patients out of here.


HARLOW: My goodness. Oh, wow.

Kyung, thank you very much for being there, for going inside, for talking to them and bringing us that reporting.

Well, soon, the president is going to head to what has become another epicenter of this crisis, and that is Florida. He'll be in Miami-Dade County where the positivity rate for those tested for Covid is over 33 percent. That's one in three. More on that visit ahead.



HARLOW: Top of the hour. Good morning, everyone. I'm Poppy Harlow.

And as the nation sees a record surge of coronavirus cases, the growing divide between the president and one of the nation's top health experts is real. And it has real repercussions. Dr. Anthony Fauci boldly saying that he's, quote, trying to figure out where the president got that number when he said 99 percent of coronavirus cases are harmless. He's also contradicting the president's claim that the U.S. is in a good place.

Listen to this.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: 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.


HARLOW: Well, minutes from now, we have just learned that the White House coronavirus task force will meet in the Situation Room. This as a brand new poll this morning showed 67 percent of Americans at this point disapprove of the president's handling of this pandemic. That's an all-time record low for the president with 33 percent only who approve.


Let's go to Miami.