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Georgia Shatters Record; Trump Repeats False Claim; Federal Funding Of Schools; Trump Speaks Ahead Of Walter Reed Medical Center Visit Where He's Expected To Wear A Mask; GOP Senators Mitt Romney, Pat Toomey Call Out Trump For Commuting Roger Stone's Sentence; Biden Tweets Trump Is "Most Corrupt" President In Response To Roger Stone's Commutation. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired July 11, 2020 - 17:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Thank you for staying with me. You are in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.

And the number of Americans infected with the Coronavirus is now equal to the populations of 21 states, Washington, D.C., and Puerto Rico combined. Look at that number there on the right side of your screen, 3.2 million people infected in the United States. And this just in. Texas is reporting their highest number of new COVID-19 positive cases, more than 10,000 in one day.

The state of Florida also reporting more than 10,000 new cases. This map showing you where they are concentrated. And the governor of Louisiana today issuing a statewide face mask order for everyone eight years and older. That goes into effect Monday.

The CDC is also updating its estimate of how many people are infected with the Coronavirus and have no symptoms at all. About 40 percent, they say, of people with the virus are not physically sick. This is, again, according to the CDC. That is up from their estimate from 35 percent back in May.

Researchers also saying they believe half of all COVID-19 cases are transmitted before people show signs of being sick. Again, why it's so important to wear those masks.

Let's begin this hour in Los Angeles at the famous Dodgers Stadium, where two stark scenes are unfolding right now. Outside, you have a major Coronavirus testing site. Inside, major league baseball is slowly coming back to life, and we're going to give you a rare glimpse inside as the Dodgers hit the field for an intrasquad game.

And CNN's Paul Vercammen is joining us. He is live inside Dodgers Stadium. Paul, you're one of the few lucky people right now who get to watch baseball live inside of a ballpark. Let us live vicariously through you. What is it like?

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is really strange for a lot of reasons. First off, Justin Turner is at bat for the Dodgers, the Dodgers third baseman. I have been here where it is so loud it is ear- splitting. And, right now, you can hear the players talking to each other. And major league baseball is sort of a litmus test for a lot of other arenas, because they are going to start up here in just 12 days. They have a lot of COVID-19 protocols.

We'll watch a little of the game for you, Ana. Your timing is unbelievable. That's Josiah Gray pitching for the Dodgers against Justin Turner. Josiah Gray, a six-four righthander with a lot of promise.

About these rules. So, the players are going to have their temperatures taken twice every day. They will also be tested every other day. For the most part, what we've been seeing, they've been trying to honor the staying six feet apart rule. There's a lot of other things that they are encouraging.

As the pitch comes to Turner and he swings and misses. And they'll switch sides right now in this intrasquad's game. They're also doing a lot of things inside the clubhouse itself. It is well known in many circles that baseball players will grab their food off what's called the spread. And, from now on, they're going to individually wrap meals.

There's a lot of other caveats as well. They don't want players fist bumping. They don't want any high fives. They want all that to be avoided, once the season starts. And then there's a lot of other things that are, well, basically just theories of how they want the players to behave with each other, staying away from each other.

But one thing that we've heard is if you get within six feet of an umpire, you're ejected or if you leave your position to argue with an umpire, you're ejected. They want to make sure the umpires, the players and all support staff are supported.

And if you look, again, behind me, no one in the stands here at Dodgers Stadium but the Dodgers, having an intrasquad game. The curtain is going to raise -- it's going to raise late. But they're going to bring the curtain up in 12 days here in Los Angeles.

And the Dodgers are beloved in this community. A lot of people anxiously awaiting the start of the season. They know they can't go but I'm hearing a lot of people say to me, at least we can try to watch it on T.V. -- Ana.

CABRERA: We gave them a glimpse ourselves. Is this the first time they've allowed cameras inside for a game since this pandemic hit?

VERCAMMEN: No, they allowed some cameras in last night, but this is just, sort of, a matter of timing because it's a very small window. And you just happened to come to me, well, we'll say because of you and your very smart team, right when they started playing. So, therefore, we were able to catch a glimpse of that.

And if you want to see what a six-six flamethrower looks like, here's another Dodger rooky who's warming up. That's Dustin May. He's from Texas. And a lot of teams were asking if they could trade for Dustin May, and it didn't work out because the Dodgers wouldn't trade him. So, we're seeing a lot of experimentation here as well on the field. And everybody's trying to get used to these new protocols and these new rules in the COVID-19 era.

But as I said before, in southern California, with the Dodgers drawing almost four million in attendance a year, this team is beloved.

[17:05:00]

VERCAMMEN: And a lot of people, ana, just can't wait for the season to start, even though they won't be in the stands. I'll send it on back to you now.

CABRERA: OK. That is a sign of hope for people to see players in action. Paul Vercammen in Los Angeles, thank you.

Let's head down south. Another Georgia mayor, this time in the city of Augusta, has ordered face coverings, making them mandatory in public following similar orders by the mayors of Savannah and Atlanta. Sticking with Atlanta for a moment, Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has announced she's actually rolling back the city's reopening back to phase one. That's back to sheltering in place, in defiance of the governor who calls that unenforceable.

Our Natasha Chen is in Atlanta for us. Natasha, what are you hearing about this, I guess, you could call a turf war of sorts between Georgia's Governor and Atlanta's mayor?

NATASHA CHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is, Ana, a turf war. And what it does is create some confusion for people who live here. And that's something that we saw also at the beginning of this pandemic with different jurisdictions, different leaders calling for different levels of restrictions.

Let's talk about what phase one actually means here in Atlanta. Rolling back would mean staying at home, unless you have essential trips to go out of the house, wearing a mask in public, going to curbside and takeout only again for restaurants and retail, and teleworking from home. Now, remember, even when Georgia started reopening restaurants, there were a lot of Atlanta businesses that, by choice, decided not to. They hung on a little bit longer before doing so.

So, I am still -- I'm reaching out to some restaurants and seeing what they're choosing to do now in Atlanta. And, remember, the Atlanta mayor, herself, has tested positive for COVID-19. She tweeted, within the last hour, a chart of Georgia data on this with just one word, hashtag facts.

But the Georgia governor does not agree with this strategy. Here is a statement he gave, saying, mayor Bottoms' action is merely guidance, both nonbinding and legally unenforceable. As clearly stated in the governor's executive order, no local action can be more or less restrictive, and that rule applies statewide.

So, let's talk about why they are having this back and forth. If you look at the seven-day moving average of new cases, you can see that, for a while there, it was a bit stable. And then, in late June, early July, it really took off. Those numbers exploded.

The governor also acknowledged that hospitalizations are up and the type of people in hospitals different from what we saw in the beginning. These are younger people in the hospitals now. Despite that, they are staying in the hospital for shorter stays and they have less acute symptoms. Still, it's very concerning. And he did reactivate the makeshift hospital at the Georgia World Congress Center downtown.

So, a lot happening here, but different leaders calling for different action -- Ana.

CABRERA: OK. Natasha Chen, thank you.

I want to bring in Dr. Walensky, CNN Medical Analyst, and chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital. And, Dr. Walensky, you just heard our report there in Georgia, Atlanta, reverting back to phase one of reopening. Do you feel that's necessary?

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Good afternoon, Ana. Absolutely. I think that these communities have to act locally. I think that when you have a community like Atlanta, like what you see in Phoenix, like what you're seeing in Miami, where those communities are literally bathing in a sea of Coronavirus, that we need to back up and make sure that the population understands the risk out there. And that the population needs to do their part.

You know, when we were at our peak in the middle of April, when our hospitals were really overwhelmed with patients, when we were low on ventilators, low on hospital beds, when we were using our convention center for beds as they are talking about doing in Atlanta, the one peace of mind we had, as we were working so hard and worried so much, was that the community was doing their part. And I think now, when you see the footage of people in those places, you need to have the community doing their part, because, otherwise, what happens is you just layer on more and more cases.

CABRERA: The CDC now estimates 40 percent of people infected with COVID-19 don't have any symptoms. With that in mind, how dangerous or risky is it to send children back to school in the fall?

WALENSKY: Again, I think there are safe ways to reopen school, and I think there are safe places to reopen school. We do know that children tend to do well with this disease. That they have been less likely to be the transmitters.

However, if you have communities with so much Coronavirus out there, and schools, you know, certainly vary in age from the very young, who tend to do well, to teenagers who may be more at risk of both bad outcomes as well as transmission. We also know that in addition to those 40 percent that many people are transmitting before they have symptoms. And so, I think that we need to look, again, locally and see how people are doing. [17:10:00]

WALENSKY: How communities are doing and make decisions about school opening to keep things safe.

CABRERA: What concerns you most about the surge in cases right now? Is it lack of PPE? A lack of beds? Lack of ventilators?

WALENSKY: Lack of healthcare workers. Lack of Remdesivir. Lack of -- you know, I think the thing that worries me the most is looking at the right side of that screen every day, realizing that we have had almost 135,000 deaths and there's a complete willful disregard for the severity of what's going on in this country. For the catastrophic urgency with which we need to face this pandemic. For the indifference of the footage that we're seeing in the hospital.

And, you know, I just think that while the healthcare workforce, the essential workers are doing their part, while people are lying in hospital beds, dying, it can't be in a public health emergency that people are completely ignoring the warning signs.

CABRERA: President Trump repeated a claim about why cases are going up. He tweeted, the reason we show so many cases, compared to other countries that haven't done nearly as well as we have, is that our testing is much bigger and better. We have tested 40 million people. If we did 20 million instead, cases could be half, et cetera. Not reported.

I mean, we know that's just not true. Can you, once again, fact check that for us? And what would happen if the U.S. did less testing, not more?

WALENSKY: Right. So, this has come up time and time again. We are seeing states, like Arizona, with 30 percent positive test results. Florida, up to 15 percent, 20 percent positive test results. I -- you know, I think if we had less testing, then the lines of people waiting for their tests would be longer. I think that if we had less testing, then the turnaround time of now still seven to 10 days would be longer.

The one thing I can tell you. People don't come to the hospital because they are air hungry, because they are coughing, because they are short of breath, because they're positive tests. They come to the hospital because they are sick with a disease, regardless of the amount of tests that are being done. And those people will still come, no matter how many tests you do or do not do.

CABRERA: And we know that a lot of states are showing record high number of people coming to the hospital. So, again, a perfect example of the severity of the illness in our communities. Dr. Rochelle Walensky, thank you so much for all you do and for sharing your knowledge with us.

WALENSKY: Thanks for having me, Ana.

CABRERA: Soon, we expect to see a rare sight, and that is President Trump in a face mask. Something the CDC has recommended all Americans do when they can't socially distance. We'll take you live to the White House. Stay with us.

[17:12:58]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: In a federal Coronavirus briefing packet, the CDC warns that fully reopening schools would be, quote, "highest risk." That's according to a 69-page internal document obtained by "The New York Times."

Now, it's not known whether the president has seen it, but he, and other members of his administration, have been pushing for students and teachers to return in person to classrooms. Even going so far as to threaten to withhold federal funding for those who teach only online.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Children, in many cases, the immune system is so powerful, so strong. But the young and the healthy to safely return to work and to school. We have to open our schools. Open our schools. Stop this nonsense. We open our schools.

LARRY KUDLOW, WHITE HOUSE ECONOMIC ADVISER: Just go back to school. We can do that. And you know, you can social distance. You can get your temperature taken. You can be tested. You can have distancing. Come on, it's not that hard.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: It's not that hard? Well, the clock is ticking. Many states are just weeks away from the scheduled start of the school year. I want to get Randi Weingarten in. She is the president of the American Federation of Teachers, a union of more than 1.7 million education professionals. First, your reaction to the president and his advisor.

RANDI WEINGARTEN, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN FEDERATION OF TEACHERS: You know, I'm just -- you know me, Ana. I don't normally stumble over my words. It's just stunning, their malpractice. So, teachers want to be back in school with our kids. And, in fact, we actually put a school reopening plan out in April, as you know. I carry a copy with me almost all the time. You know, it's right here.

And -- but it has to be safe. And there is a common-sense group of safeguards that are far less than what the president and Mike Pence and Betsy Devos get every day. They get tested every day. Everyone who's around them gets tested every day.

But you need to have the kind of six feet of physical distancing, the appropriate PPE, cleaning and ventilation. And because of all of that -- and that's assuming that community spread is down, like in New York, which is not the case in Florida.

So, because of all of that, it pretty much means that our schools are going to be opened on a hybrid basis. And it's a logistical challenge. But if you -- we do this for kids and for teachers, then 76 percent of my members say they're good with it because they know that kids need to be back in school because of learning loss and because of the emotional need.

So, I'm glad that the president has woken up, that kids are important. But I am really mad. How dare they go out and say directly the opposite of what their own report said.

[17:20:03]

WEINGARTEN: And no doubt he saw a report that says, it is the highest risk to put kids in school for five days. I don't care if he wants to be reckless with people at his rallies. But don't be reckless with kids or with educators or with our future.

CABRERA: You just said, six-foot distancing, PPE, you know, community spread.

WEINGARTEN: Cleaning and ventilation.

CABRERA: These are all factors. Cleaning and ventilation. Thank you for reminding me of those other factors. So, you have it clear cut in your mind what is needed. Do you think that --

WEINGARTEN: Yes.

CABRERA: -- and you mentioned, also, there are places in the country right now where you see the community spread is low enough to potentially reopen schools. Do you believe that, at this point, if the teachers had to make a decision, in certain parts of the country, do you think it's not a one size fits all? It's a --

WEINGARTEN: Correct.

CABRERA: -- go time for certain areas and maybe not so much in other places?

WEINGARTEN: Correct. And that's why, as I said, we have been working on this since the end of -- since the middle of April. Because we were not going to be put in a situation where reopening was as chaotic as closing, you know, where teachers basically had to turn on a dime to try to do remote education. We've known that remote education doesn't work the way in-school does. We always said that it is a supplement, not a -- not a substitute.

But the key here is that the president -- neither the president nor the secretary want to put a plan together, nor do they want to give us resources. And when all these states have 20 percent fewer resources because their budgets have crashed because of the imposed, you know, COVID shutdown, we need 20 percent more to do this work.

So, they don't want to give us the money. They've actually lied to the -- if you believe the C -- this new CDC report, they actually just lied to the public this week. And they don't want to work with people. Let me say one more thing which is, the secretary of education has not done anything that helped teachers in the last several weeks.

And so, you can imagine why teachers are leery of anything that she says. So, we can do reasonable accommodations. My members are ready to go back to school if we have the safety precautions in place in the places where there is low risk like in New York right now.

CABRERA: I mean, there are a couple things I want to follow up on with you. You talked about money. And for our viewers, we're talking about billions of additional dollars needed throughout the education system across the country.

Also, in terms of remote learning. You're right. It doesn't work for everybody. There are gaps, in terms of who has access to the Internet and to computers. And how families are able to, you know, structure learning within their households.

There's a report -- reporting in "The New York Times" that Boston reported that roughly 20 percent of enrolled students never even logged in when everybody moved to remote learning in the spring. Education secretary Betsy Devos says too many schools just didn't find a way to make remote learning worthwhile. Here she is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BETSY DEVOS, U.S. SECRETARY OF EDUCATION: There were a lot in which I, and state school leaders, were disappointed in that they didn't figure out how to continue to serve their students. Too many of them just gave up. The Center for Reinventing Public Education said that only 10 percent across the board provided any kind of real curriculum and instruction program.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Randi, is she right? Did teachers and --

WEINGARTEN: No, she's just --

CABRERA: -- principals just give up?

WEINGARTEN: This is what I mean about her. She's just completely wrong. During the three months of March and April and May that teachers across America were turning their lives upside down to do this, we were working with civil rights groups to get more digital to the kids that didn't have it. Silence from the secretary. She didn't help us at all.

So, how dare she, after the fact, be on her perch and criticize and chide people. She didn't provide a clearinghouse for school lessons. She didn't provide a clearinghouse for grab and goes. I know teachers who didn't have Internet and kids who didn't have Internet where they would drive to the schoolhouse parking lot to do -- to get Internet access. I know bus drivers that would take grab and goes to kids all around a community and then pick up lessons from kids and from teachers because there was no Internet.

[17:25:02] WEINGARTEN: Do we -- do we think that the remote education -- my members, 86 percent, say, look, we were prepared or we tried to be prepared, but we know it doesn't work as well as getting kids in school. On that issue, I totally agree with her and Donald Trump. So, help us. Don't just chide us after the fact. Help us do what we need to do for kids.

In terms of the money, you know, with the -- McConnell has spent -- Senator McConnell, cruise industry, other industries, over trillions of dollars. Let's actually make students as important as the cruise industry.

CABRERA: Randi Weingarten, thank you for the conversation. I think I've shared with you before, my dad is a lifelong educator.

WEINGARTEN: I know.

CABRERA: I have brother, sister-in-law who are also educators. It's something that is very personal to me. And I'm a parent. And I have been doing home schooling and it's hard. It's so hard.

WEINGARTEN: It's hard.

CABRERA: So, Randi --

WEINGARTEN: But we really want to -- we really want to get back to school. We want to do it safely --

CABRERA: Yes.

WEINGARTEN: -- so that we don't -- we actually help our kids succeed and make sure our kids and our teachers are safe.

CABRERA: Absolutely. Let's continue the conversation as we --

WEINGARTEN: Of course.

CABRERA: -- get closer and closer to the start of the school year. Thank you. Thank for be --

WEINGARTEN: Thank you.

CABRERA: -- thanks for being here.

WEINGARTEN: Thank you, Ana.

CABRERA: The president is expected to head to Walter Reed any minute, where we are told he will wear a mask, after aides begged him to do so. We'll head to Washington for his trip. Stay with us.

[17:26:35]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:30:59] CABRERA: Breaking news, the president speaking just moments ago ahead of a visit to Walter Reed Medical Center where he is expected to publicly wear a mask. Let's listen.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Hello, everybody. It's very hot. It's very hot.

So, we're going to Walter Reed hospital. And we're going to be seeing soldiers, our great heroes, our wounded, and some badly wounded. And they're incredibly brave and great people.

And we're going to see also the warriors on the frontline of COVID, and quite a few of them, and we're going to spend some good time with them. And I look forward to doing it, and it will be my honor to be there.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Are you wearing a mask today?

TRUMP: Well, I'll probably have a mask, if you must know. I mean, I'll probably have a mask.

I think when you're in a hospital, especially in that particular setting, where you're talking to a lot of soldiers and people that, in some cases, just got off the operating tables, I think it's a great thing to wear a mask.

I've never been against masks. But I do believe they have a time and a place.

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE QUESTION)

TRUMP: He didn't say that. No. The attorney general, about a week or two ago, had made a statement, but that was long before anybody knew what I was going to do.

Roger Stone was treated horribly. Roger Stone was treated very unfairly. Roger Stone was brought into this witch hunt, this whole political witch hunt and the Mueller scam. It's a scam because it's been proven false.

And he was treated very unfairly, just like General Flynn was treated unfairly, just like Papadopoulos was treated unfairly. They've all been treated unfairly.

And what I did --

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: What I did, I will tell you this, people are extremely happy because, in this country, they want justice. And Roger Stone was not treated properly. So, I'm very happy with what I did. I commuted his sentence. And by

commuting, he now has the right to go and -- hey, look, he had a forewoman --

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Quiet, quiet.

He had a forewoman -- he had a forewoman who was horrendous. She should have never been on the jury. The judge should have so ruled. The judge didn't do that.

Take a look at the record. The judge didn't do that. Take a look at the forewoman. He should have had another trial. Roger Stone was treated very badly.

Now, take a look at Comey. Take a look at McCabe. Take a look at the two lovers, Strzok and Paige. Take a look at all these people that are walking around. And they lied to Congress, and they leaked and they did everything else, a lot of other things.

Take a look at Biden, Sleepy Joe. Take a look at Obama. And they spied on Donald Trump's campaign.

Those are the people -- let me just tell you something. Those are the people that should be in trouble.

Thank you. Thank you.

(CROSSTALK)

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CABRERA: Again, those comments as the president is headed to Walter Reed. And once he gets there, we expect to see a sight we've only seen one other time during this entire pandemic, and that is President Trump in a face mask, something the CDC has recommended all Americans do when they can't socially distance.

At least he says, "I will probably wear a mask."

CNN's Kristen Holmes is live at the White House.

And, Kristen, what did it take to get this potential photo-op with him wearing a mask?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, it took a lot of begging and pleading from White House aides, from allies, from advisors who really believed that it was time that he got on board.

Keep in mind, we have watched for weeks as Republican leader after Republican leader came out and endorsed wearing a mask, and yet, President Trump still did not.

Now, I want to note what exactly this is meant to do, and if it's going to achieve that goal, which, right now, is unknown. The idea here, from speaking to aides, from speaking to sources close to the president, they say they want to encourage mask wearing.

[17:35:05]

We have seen this now from other level of his administration. We heard from Kellyanne Conway last week who said it is stupid not to wear a mask. She talked about how important it was for people to wear a mask.

We have now heard from all --

(CROSSTALK)

CABRERA: The president is wearing a mask. We just got live pictures of him inside Walter Reed, just a moment ago. Those were live pictures with the president walking by wearing a mask.

And I'm sorry to interrupt you, Kristen. I hate having to talk over you.

(CROSSTALK)

CABRERA: I just didn't want our viewers confused as to what we were seeing.

HOLMES: No. That is completely fine.

This is the first time we have seen this. There was one photo that was released on another uncredited Web site that we saw go viral of President Trump in a mask.

But this is the first time that the pool, the White House press corps, which gives the media to the public, has had access to President Trump in a mask.

We know in the early days, President Trump said he didn't want to wear a mask, he thought that it wouldn't look good, why would he be wearing it in these big important meetings.

But this came after begging and pleading of his staff to get out there, to give this photo-op, to tell people it was right to wear a mask.

And we're told that several staffers were deeply uncomfortable when they looked around that Tulsa rally and saw all of those faces completely maskless. They wanted to get this message out.

But, Ana, there are a lot of questions as to whether or not this photo-op does that. You heard President Trump just now saying that, in a certain setting, particularly in one, where soldiers had just gotten off of the operating table, that it was important or very good to wear a mask.

That is not the recommendation of the CDC. Of course, yes, in that situation, you should be wearing a mask. But likely, even if there wasn't COVID, you'd be wearing a mask and have some sort of protection with people in that vulnerable of a state. Is this going to convince people that you should be wearing a mask in

public when you can't socially distance? Is this going to stop those videos of people that we see going into stores, being asked to wear a mask, and essentially refusing to do so, and, in some scenes, getting violent or angry?

It's not clear that him talking about just wearing a mask in this particular hospital setting is going to change what we have seen really become a polarized issue.

Again, we cannot stress enough that even his top health officials are saying that this should not be political. There should be nothing polarizing about wearing a mask. This is the safe thing to do. You not only protecting yourself but you are protecting those around you, you're protecting the country's most vulnerable.

President Trump is saying that he's protected the most vulnerable. But he's also saying that this is the time, this is the setting to wear a mask.

But what about everyday life for everyday Americans, those people who are watching him to set that example? He wasn't even wearing a mask when he got off of the helicopter to get into the car to go to Walter Reed. So you can see here, he himself is really limiting this experience, this setting to this one tiny fraction of society.

Does that send the message to everyone that you should be wearing a mask? It's just unclear that it does.

CABRERA: OK, Kristen Holmes, at the White House, thank you.

I want to bring in CNN Political Commentators, Paul Begala and Mia Love. Love is a former Republican congresswoman from Utah. And Begala is a Democratic strategist who served in the Clinton administration.

Paul, first, your reaction to seeing that shot of the president finally wearing a mask publicly.

PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, if he's at Walter Reed, he needs to wear a bag over his head. He ought to be ashamed of himself.

It may well be that some of those wounded warriors, those heroes he talked about, are wounded because the Taliban targeted our troops because of bounties Putin paid.

He's trying to distract from that. He's trying to divert from that. But it is the most shameful act a president has committed in my lifetime.

And for him to go to the sacred halls of Walter Reed -- I've been there. I've met with those wounded warriors and it is a heartbreaking, emotional experience.

For this guy, who's covering up for Putin, protecting Putin instead of protecting our troops, it's just disgusting. And so, yes, it's good he's wearing a mask. That's fine. But I'm

serious, he ought to just put a bag over his head in shame.

CABRERA: Mia, your thoughts?

MIA LOVE, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, OK, so, wearing a mask is obviously important. I think he needs to be a leader. I don't know if we needed to bring all of these other things into it --

(CROSSTALK)

LOVE: -- because there are a lot of people who have been president that have done some very shameful things.

But let me just say this. Even in the state of Utah, we've seen an increase in COVID, 867 in one day alone. We were going from the most- heavy times, coming from a red to orange. We were seeing no more than 200 cases of COVID.

So, if we want the economy to keep going, if we want people to be able to get back to work, if we really want kids to be able to go back to school, the least we can do, especially the president of the United States, is send a message and wear a mask and leave it there.

I mean, just do the right thing. And just leave it at that and be a leader.

CABRERA: The president, he held a rally in Tulsa where the campaign removed thousands of social-distancing stickers meant to space out the crowd. Two weeks later, the city reports a surge in cases. Then he's holding this speech at Mt. Rushmore last week where the chairs are literally zip tied together. Then he travels to a coronavirus hot spot in Florida.

[17:40:02]

Yesterday, he barely says anything about the virus. His aides beg him to wear a mask at Walter Reed. He hasn't talked to Dr. Fauci, we've learned, in more than a month.

Congresswoman, if you're trying to convince people you are the best to handle this virus, how do you do that after all of those things?

LOVE: You have to be a leader. And it's just -- it's not what's happening. I mean, you have to get rid of your own pride and put the American people first.

Now, even if that means you don't believe in wearing a mask, even if it means you don't want to. Sometimes as a -- actually, all the time, as a president, you do things for the American people.

So, if you want, again, for people to get back to work, if you want the American -- the American people to be able to feed their families, if you really want people to get back to school and get this country going again, do the right thing.

Be the leader. Wear a mask. Talk about the problem so that you can actually face the problem. Don't ignore that it's here.

CABRERA: Paul, 67 percent of Americans in the latest polling disapprove of the way this president has handled the coronavirus. By wearing this mask, is this an opportunity for a reset?

BEGALA: No. There's no reset for 134,600 Americans who have lost their lives to this pandemic. They didn't all have to die.

Obviously, the virus is not the president's fault. But the response is his responsibility. And he has shirked that responsibility again and again and again by being rolled by the Chinese at the beginning of this and sucking up to Xi Jinping and the Communist Chinese leadership to all the way through today, even leaving the White House, not even hardly talking about coronavirus.

He has talked to Roger Stone more in the last two months than he has to Anthony Fauci. Talking to his corrupt political cronies instead of talking to the world's foremost expert on infectious diseases.

We lost 895 souls yesterday alone. Yesterday alone. We've had 40 9/11s due to coronavirus under this man's regime. Ad his incompetence is spectacularly on display on a day like today when we see him now wandering around wearing a mask.

You know, he wants your kids to go back to school. I thought the interview with Randi Weingarten, from the American Federation of Teachers, was really instructive as a dad.

We all want to protect our children, but our president doesn't seem to want to protect anybody but himself and his cronies.

CABRERA: President Trump's visit to Walter Reed does come on the heels of that controversial move to commute Roger Stone's sentence for lying to Congress about WikiLeaks, among other things. He was convicted on a total of seven counts.

Congresswoman, two members of your party coming forward today to criticize the president for that move.

Senator Pat Toomey, of Pennsylvania, releasing this statement: "The president clearly has the legal and constitutional authority to grant clemency for federal crimes. However, this authority should be used judiciously and very rarely by any president. While I understand the frustration with the badly flawed Russia collusion investigation," he says, "in my view, commuting Roger Stone's sentence is a mistake."

Again, those words from Senator Pat Toomey.

Now, these words from Senator Mitt Romney, who tweeted: "Unprecedented. Historic corruption. An American president commutes the sentence of a person convicted by a jury of lying to shield that very president."

Congresswoman, do you agree with this?

LOVE: Unfortunately, it's one of those areas where I have to call him out again. Just because you can, doesn't mean you should. It doesn't look good.

One of the problems that we have is that the distrust in Washington is just horrible. Congress, the executive branch, and the Supreme Court.

But when you send a message that if you are well-connected and that you are a -- you're wealthy and you have the friends in the right places, the law is not -- you're above the law, and it doesn't apply to you.

And that is the message that that -- I think that -- I really believe that that sends. I think it was just a poor decision.

Most presidents also wait until the end of an election before they do something like this. But to do it just -- to do it right now, to send a message that you are above the law as long as you stick with me and you're a good friend of mine, is really not the message that the American people want to hear.

CABRERA: I thought he was supposed to be the law-and-order president.

Paul, let me get your reaction to Joe Biden's tweet just moments ago: "I've said it before," he says, "and I'll say it again. Donald Trump is the most corrupt president in modern American history. Every day that he remains in office, he further threatens the future of our democracy. We have to vote him out this November."

Your thoughts?

BEGALA: It's hard to argue with that. You know, maybe people would have said Nixon, who resigned in disgrace, but I think this guy makes Nixon look like a choir boy. It is just shocking.

I need, as a Democrat, need to salute Mitt Romney, the Senator from Mia's state of Utah, who actually has a spine. The rest of the Republicans in the Senate, you couldn't find a spine with an MRI and a CAT scan and an electron microscope. They make jelly fish look stout.

[17:45:14]

But at least Senator Romney -- and I'm somebody who worked against him when Mia was supporting him when he was running for president. But he's showing that he puts his country ahead of his party. And I think that's really important.

And the rest of these folks are going to go down in history as, I think, as enablers of the most corrupt president in history. What do you tell your children?

You know, we teach in schools that it's equal justice under the law and that's what makes America great and better than every other country in the world and then we have a president who is this corrupt. It's very difficult to explain that to kids.

CABRERA: Paul Begala, Congresswoman Mia Love, I appreciate both of you. Thank you.

LOVE: Thank you.

BEGALA: Thanks, Ana.

Thank you, Mia.

CABRERA: Up next, Roger Stone's loyalty to the president may have just saved him from a lengthy prison sentence. So is it legal? My next guest is a former federal prosecutor. We'll ask him, next.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:50:10]

CABRERA: Moments ago, the president defending his decision to commute Roger Stone's sentence.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Roger Stone was treated horribly. Roger Stone was treated very unfairly. Roger Stone was brought into this witch hunt, this whole political witch hunt and the Mueller scam. It's a scam because it's been proven false. And he was treated very unfairly.

What I did, what I did, I will tell you this, people are extremely happy because, in this country, they want justice. And Roger Stone was not treated properly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: I want to bring in CNN Legal Analyst, Elie Honig, for our weekly "CROSS EXAM" segment.

Elie, the president does have broad constitutional power. But one viewer wants to know: Could it be a crime if the intent was to keep a person from testifying?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Ana, no doubt the constitutional pardon power is very broad but it's also not unlimited. I think there absolutely is a potential criminal angle here.

Let me break it down. The federal crime of bribery is defined as the exchange of a thing of value for an official act. There's no question that a commutation is an official act. So what's the thing of value? The argument would be Roger Stone's silence, his refusal to testify and to cooperate against the president.

The best evidence of that, the president's own tweets. He's tweeted out praising Roger Stone for not testifying, praising his guts.

Now, the defense is what we just heard minutes ago from the president. He would say I just felt like this is a grave injustice. I would gladly argue that to a jury. I would point to the president's own tweets. There could be potential on obstruction of justice and witness

tampering if the intent was to silence Roger Stone and prevent his cooperation.

There is precedent. In 2001, when President Bill Clinton pardoned Bill Rich, the FBI opened an investigation. There were no charged but they were in play.

So if investigators can investigate a pardon, then I think they can and potentially should here as well.

CABRERA: Another viewer asks: Is there any way in our system to challenge or reverse a pardon or commutation?

HONIG: A lot of people asking that, Ana. There's almost no way. Article II gives the president extraordinarily broad pardon power. There's no limit or qualification set forth in the Constitution. There's no precedent of Congress undoing a president.

Now, there's some question about whether a president can undo or rescind a pardon. There was a bizarre incident in 2008 when George W. Bush pardoned somebody and then unpardoned him the very next day. But that was an isolated incident. No modern president has ever tried to undo a pardon issued by a prior president.

But this whole commutation and pardon situation presents a unique situation because the very crime Roger Stone was convicted of was lying to Congress to protect this president and the president turns around and saves him from prison. I believe that is a flagrant abuse of power.

CABRERA: Let me pivot because another important issue is what to do about schools. Yesterday, the president doubled down on a threat to slash federal funding from schools if they don't reopen in the fall, despite the surge in coronavirus cases across the country.

And on this, one viewer asks: Does the president actually have the power to withhold federal funds from states and cities if they do not reopen schools?

HONIG: Ana, I'm watching this one, you're watching this one, all parents are watching this one closely.

The short answer is there's very little the president can do on his own. Article I gives Congress the spending power. The president can request to hold back some of that money but Congress has to agree.

Also, if the federal government wants to condition funds, that condition has to relate to the general welfare. I think it's awfully hard to argue here that forcing schools to reopen in the hardest-hit areas will promote the general welfare.

So also funds cannot be cut off midstream. If there's conditions, they have to be put in place right up front. So money that's been allocated for this school year, that's out the door. That cannot be pulled back now. Ana, a lot of tough talk but there's really almost nothing the

president can do to take money away from the schools.

CABRERA: Real quick, Elie, because there was such a flood of legal news --

HONIG: Yes.

CABRERA: -- this week and many cases that we're still watching. New developments in the Flynn case and the judge not letting go there. Where does that go next?

HONIG: It ain't over til it's over.

So the judge asked the entire court of appeals to rehear the case, to not force the judge to throw out Flynn's case. The court of appeals said, OK, we'll hear briefs.

Now the court of appeals may re-re-reconsider. And we could be back to a point where Michael Flynn's conviction remains in place. We'll see.

CABRERA: OK, Elie Honig, as always, good to have you with us. Thank you so much.

HONIG: Thanks, Ana.

CABRERA: A quick programming note. Join Michael Smerconish for an entertaining and poignant look at his one-of-a-kind career. CNN presents "THINGS I WISH I KNEW BEFORE I STARTED TALKING." That's tonight at 10:00 eastern right here on CNN.

[17:55:06]

We're back after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: Thanks again for being with me. You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera, in New York.

[17:59:57]

Our breaking news off the top here. For the first time since the coronavirus pandemic began, President Trump finally wore a mask in public. This was just a short time ago at Walter Reed Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.