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THE SITUATION ROOM

Trump Wears Face Mask On Visit To Walter Reed Medical Center; Mueller: Stone Committed Federal Crimes, Remains A Convicted Felon, And Rightly So; Disney World Reopens As Florida Reports 10,000-Plus New Cases; CDC Estimates 40 Percent Of People Infected With COVID-19 Don't Have Any Symptoms; President Trump Commutes Roger Stone Sentence. Aired 7-8p ET

Aired July 11, 2020 - 19:00   ET

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


[19:00:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 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 Washington. This is a special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM.

We begin tonight with an image that many people believe we should have been seeing much more of for weeks, even months. This is the President of the United States last hour at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center here in Washington, D.C. He's actually wearing a mask, finally. It's only the second time we've seen him do so.

And following the repeated guidance of his own top health officials who say this is crucial in not only saving lives but ending the pandemic in our country. This comes on a day that seems symbolic of just how bad this pandemic has become here in the United States.

Tonight, the national death toll in the United States from the coronavirus stands at nearly 135,000. That follows four straight days where the death toll in the U.S. was over 800 each day. If you need another sign of how bad this has become, Texas today broke its all- time record for new cases in a single day. And all of this is happening on a day when the President is trying to defend a decision that has absolutely nothing to do with the virus, his move to commute the sentence of his former adviser, Roger Stone.

Let's get straight to Kristen Holmes over at the White House for us.

Kristen, the President telling reporters just a little while ago that there was a time and a place to wear a mask. Today, he finally wore one. So what else did he have to say?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, he made it clear, Wolf, that this might be the only time that we'll see him in a mask. And just to kind of take a few steps back here, as you said, President Trump has not worn a mask in almost any scenario. We had one picture of him that, again, was not a public photo. It was taken by someone in a factory behind closed doors and leaked out to the media.

This is the first time that he has done any sort of photo op with a mask on. As he said - he said, there isn't a - there is a time and place. I'm not against - I want you to listen to what he said was appropriate about this time.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT, UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: So, he says he's never been against masks, but we know that he said that he didn't think needing with presidents or dictators or anyone in the White House, that it wouldn't be for him. We know at another point behind closed doors he was telling his aides and staffers he thought that wearing a mask would send the wrong idea as he was trying to move away from the pandemic.

So, lots of questions here as to whether or not this actually sends the message that these aides were hoping it would. Remember, we have reporting from earlier in the week that staffers and advisers around him begged him to do this photo op, to be seen publicly in a mask.

As we know, as we have been reporting on, wearing a mask has somehow become political and much to the chagrin of his top medical advisers who have come out day-after-day, really for months now, saying that there is nothing controversial about wearing a mask, that you should do so.

President Trump making it clear that in this very limited setting, it was appropriate to wear a mask. Not sure if that really sends the message these aides were hoping it would, with him as a champion or endorsing masks, as we've seen other leaders, both Democrats and Republicans, do in the last several weeks.

BLITZER: Kristen, on another sensitive issue, we're also hearing for the first time from Robert Mueller, the former special counsel who prosecuted Roger Stone, talking about the President's decision to offer clemency to Roger Stone. Tell us what Mueller is saying.

HOLMES: Right. So this is in a "Washington Post" op-ed that really came out moments ago, and it's fascinating, because Mueller is not a public figure. This is the first time we are hearing from him publicly about his investigation since he testified in front of Congress last July.

And he says that he felt he needed to issue this op-ed because he wanted to respond to broad claims that the investigation, the Russia investigation, was illegitimate and their motives were improper and that Roger Stone was a victim of their office. So he lays out here very clearly. And he says, "Stone was prosecuted and convicted because he committed federal crimes. He remains a convicted felon, and rightly so. Then he walks through a strong defense of the Russia investigation."

Keep in mind, there are many who see the granting of clemency to Roger Stone as an effort for President Trump to undermine the Russia investigation that has really plagued President Trump for almost his entire tenure here.

And I want to just point out a couple of other things here. He talks about the case directly as it related to Roger Stone, why was it they focused in on him, talks about the jury finding Roger Stone guilty.

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They say that the jury determined that he lied repeatedly to members of Congress. He even gets into more detail. He says, "He lied about the identity of his intermediary to WikiLeaks. He lied about the existence of written communications with his intermediary, he lied by denying he communicated with Trump campaign about the timing of the WikiLeaks releases." It goes on here.

And I think the most powerful part of this entire op-ed is this. And I'm not sure - we might have it as a full screen here, but I'll read it to you directly. It says, "We made every decision in Stone's case, as in all our cases, based solely on the facts and the law and in accordance with the rule of law." In accordance with the rule of law. "The women and men who conducted these investigations and prosecutions acted with the highest integrity. Claims to the contrary are false."

Wolf?

BLITZER: And we're going to have a lot more on this coming up on the Roger Stone decision. The President, as he was leaving the White House earlier, he said, "Roger Stone was treated horribly. Roger Stone was treated very unfairly." I went back and checked what the Attorney General said earlier in the week in an interview with "ABC News". The Attorney General Bill Barr said, "I think the prosecution was righteous, and I think the sentence the judge ultimately gave was fair."

A lot more on this coming up.

Kristen, thank you very much. Don't go too far away.

As we mentioned earlier, cases across many states are surging this week. Florida reported 10,000 new cases in one single day. The state is now being seen as the epicenter of the virus here in the United States, and that isn't stopping one of the top tourist attractions anywhere. We're talking about Disney World in Orlando from opening up today.

CNN's Natasha Chen has been following the reopening for us.

Natasha, so what precautions have been taken? I assume a lot. NATASHA CHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely. There is so much that it

will be new for anyone who steps foot on Disney property, Wolf. And that includes even before you get there, because if you have a ticket, you now have to make an advanced reservation to go into the parks. Disney wants to know what day you're coming, so they can keep the numbers low and operate at a significantly reduced capacity.

Now, we saw a little bit of that with the annual pass-holder preview in the last couple of days. Very few people. So, people were able to do their favorite rides multiple times. But there are more people today for the public reopening of Magic Kingdom and Animal Kingdom.

Everyone must go through a temperature check. 100.4 degree fever and above, and you're asked to come back later when you feel better. And people need to wear face masks, for kids two and up. And so the type of face mask that actually goes around your ears with a loop, not just the gator or bandana type masks.

Also, there's social distancing markers everywhere. In fact, one pass- holder told me that she stepped off of her circle just to take a photo and someone immediately came and asked her, could you please step back into your circle? So, they're vigilant about this, loading rides, by keeping parties separate from the next. Hand washing, hand sanitizing stations everywhere.

Now, in speaking to a pass-holder who went back today for public reopening, she said that for the most part, everything had gone so well, but today she found herself in a very crowded walkway all of a sudden with a line that formed that was not expected, and she felt so uncomfortable she turned around and left.

Here's what she told me about that situation.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CARLYE WISEL, THEME PARK JOURNALIST: Every procedure they've laid out, for the most part, works extremely well. It's everything in between that. And once you start putting a group of people in the parks, those issues start popping up, like what I saw today and a few other things.

It's just that when there's lines, people stand in them, and it's working incredibly well. It's been working at Universal Orlando well. But it's the type of thing where when there's a line you don't expect like today and there aren't those lines, we don't know what to do because all of us haven't been in this situation. The employees, the guests, everyone.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CHEN: And she did say that when she was leaving, she knew that there were some employees taking care of that situation. So, things pop up, and we will continue to observe how this goes. Their other two parks, Epcot and Hollywood Studios, will open on July 15th, Wolf.

BLITZER: Natasha Chen reported for us. Thank you very much.

Joining us now, the Mayor of Orange County, Florida, the home of Walt Disney World, Jerry Demings.

Mayor, thank you so much for joining us. I know you've said you're, quote, "fairly comfortable" with the decision that Disney has made to reopen. Tell us what you mean by "fairly comfortable?" Are you still feeling that way, given the huge numbers exploding in Florida right now?

MAYOR JERRY DEMINGS (D), ORANGE COUNTY, FLORIDA: Well, that's really what I mean by that. We have seen our numbers increase here within the metropolitan Orlando area, but I must say that the one thing that is in our favor, we have not seen the numbers exceed capacity within our local hospitals. And that's something that we pay very close attention to. So the criticality of the patients or the individuals who are testing positive now is well within hand.

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And I must say that if there's one place on planet earth that can get it right, it's Walt Disney World. And so I have the utmost confidence after reviewing their plans with health officials here within the area that Disney will be able to pull this off.

None of us have gone through this experience before. So it is much like a living lab, if you will. But as this virus continues to live amongst us, we have to figure out how to live with the virus. And so I believe that this is an opportunity as we reopen commerce here in our area to be able to do just that, to get it right, to figure out how to live with the virus.

BLITZER: I know you trust Disney. The authorities there, all the workers there, and you've worked with them for a long time. But so many people are coming in from out of Orlando, from all around the country. They want to go back to Disney World. And the CDC now says 40 percent of those with coronavirus are asymptomatic right now. How worried are you? And if there are infections at Disney World, would you want to see it shut down?

DEMINGS: Well, fortunately, before Disney opened up, some of the other theme parks in the area have done a test run, and we have not been able to track any type of outbreak to any of the other theme parks as they have opened up. Some of them have been open for a month now.

And so I'm highly confident that we won't have that type of situation occur here. If we do, certainly we will have to make some adjustments. But given all of the different sanitary measures that have been put in place, we should be able to conclude that we now see the willingness of most of the people who come here to the area and who live here, willing to wear masks.

And so what medical science is telling us, and that is one of the major things that we must all do, is wear a mask and then make certain that we are continuously washing our hands and doing all of those things that the CDC has talked about for an extended period of time.

We also have the NBA that is starting to play its games here at the Disney Wide World of Sports at the ESPN complex there. So we are highly optimistic about that. In fact, the players who are going to be playing there will not have spectators watching the games, at least not live. But what they will be is put in this bubble, this very isolated environment.

And I believe that that environment will be far more safe than in the general community at large because the players will be screened on a regular basis and tested for the virus. And it's a very secluded area that they will be in. So, all of that gives Disney and gives us here in the metropolitan Orlando area to show case what we can do as we endeavor to live with the virus.

BLITZER: Well, we all love the NBA and we all love Disney World. Let's hope it works out. I know you've got a lot in your plate. Mayor, you've also warned about gyms as potential places where the virus could spread. Are you going to close down gyms to prevent that like some other areas have clearly done?

DEMINGS: We won't volunteer in compliance. This week, just a couple of days ago, we gave a fairly staunch warning to gyms who have not been complying with doing all of the things that the CDC guidelines have put in place. So what I've said to them is that they control their destiny. If we don't see compliance, as we begin to do some spot checks and inspections of the gyms to make certain that they're compliant, then we have to make adjustments there as well.

BLITZER: You've got a lot going on. Mayor Jerry Demings, good luck. Thanks so much for joining us.

DEMINGS: Thank you very much. Have a great evening.

BLITZER: OK. Thank you.

Doctors and medical experts for months now have been urging Americans to do something very, very simple - simply wear a mask in public. And for months, the President has totally resisted calls for him and those around him actually to do so. But now, as new cases are surging across the United States, the President is relenting at least today when he was at the Walter Reed Hospital. But what about the general public? We have new information, and we'll update you when we come back.

[19:15:00]

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The President finally agrees to be seen in public wearing a mask, and it came during a visit to the Walter Reed Military Hospital here in Washington earlier today. Meanwhile, spiking numbers are being seen across much of the country, especially in states that rushed to reopen.

Joining us now, Dr. Patrice Harris - she's the immediate past president of the American Medical Association - and Dr. Jeremy Faust - he's an emergency room physician at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital.

Dr. Faust, yes, the President wore a mask on camera today. We've all seen the picture now. But what do you make of him saying it made sense in a hospital setting to do so and not that it makes sense necessarily whenever you're around people? Because whenever he's around a lot of people, we never see him wearing a mask.

DR. JEREMY FAUST, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN, BRIGHAM AND WOMEN'S HOSPITAL: Good evening. When I see the images of the President wearing a mask, I welcome it. That's the first thing. Better late than never. What he does ripples down. People see that, especially in his coalition, and they say if the President is doing so, I should do so.

We need to make wearing masks patriotic. Let's make America safe. And that's good leadership, and I'm glad to see it. Hopefully it'll spread to other activities as well. No one is immune from this virus. I think we've learned that. We've gambled. We've opened early in many places. And when you gamble against this house, you don't win.

BLITZER: Because thousands - thousands of Americans, Dr. Harris, will live over the next few months if everyone in the country starts wearing a mask right now, which unfortunately is not happening, right?

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DR. PATRICE HARRIS, FORMER PRESIDENT, AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION & PSYCHIATRIST: There is no question about that. Wolf, we are six months into this pandemic in this country, and we are absolutely headed in the wrong direction with the recent surge in cases. We see long lines to even get tests. And then you can't get your results for days.

And we also see a worry about the ability to get PPE now. This is something that we were talking about four months ago. So we know that the one tool we have in our tool box that we know works is wearing masks, in addition to making sure we are staying six feet apart from one another. So it is so important that everyone wears a mask.

BLITZER: It's so interesting, Dr. Faust, because you're an emergency room physician, you work at a hospital. We see these hospitals across the country right now in the midst of a huge crisis, health care workers under enormous strain. What worries you, Dr. Faust, the most?

FAUST: I worry that we have not learned enough from the past several months. It's one thing to say we didn't know what we were dealing with and trying to make changes in real-time. But we just haven't seemed to have picked up what matters.

We keep hoping for some savior, maybe hydroxychloroquine, maybe Remdesivir, maybe the weather. All of these things have been shown to not matter in a real systemic way in keeping us from having success. We really need to acknowledge that our behavior is the savior. What we do matters.

So, I do hear doctors saying what do we do. I'm seeing a lot of people reaching out and saying, how do you handle this virus? And we've tried - those of us who've dealt with it are sharing as much as we can. I am concerned that I think people continue to believe that just because it happens somewhere else, it won't happen to us. And we need to stop thinking that way. We need to start realizing that we are all at risk. BLITZER: Yes, we certainly are. And Dr. Harris, we used to have one

huge epicenter. We're talking about the New York City area. But now we have multiple hotspots all around the country. How does that complicate the national response?

HARRIS: Well, certainly this virus, as Dr. Faust said, knows no boundaries. It doesn't respect seasons. And so we have known all along that it was possible and likely that this virus would spread from the initial epicenters. And that's why it's so important to be proactive and to plan, to make sure we have enough supplies. But the one thing that cannot be produced immediately are physicians and other health staff. And so we need to make sure that we do all that we can to be proactive.

We are late in the game when we are in the midst of a surge. And so, even though we have a lot of states where we are seeing increased cases, I also want the states and the regions that don't have the surge right now to still know that they can become affected as well.

BLITZER: And Dr. Faust, let me ask you about Florida right now, specifically Disney World reopening today. What's your reaction to that?

FAUST: I think it's another example of how we have - people think that opening the economy or opening schools, that those are policies. Those aren't policies. Those are goals. And the way you achieve those goals is through hard work. I've diagnosed patients with heart attacks. And so often say, they say, doc, this is a wakeup call, I'm going to make those changes, I'm going to make myself a healthier person.

And I look at these things in places where cases are, quite frankly, getting out of control, and I think that they're not that patient. They're not saying, you know what, maybe, doc, today is the day I'm going to make the changes that are going to make my life healthier - is going to make my life healthier.

So when I see that, I worry that if not hitting home as a whole community that we really control this and we can help make it better.

BLITZER: And Dr. Harris, is there one thing you wish everyone would be doing right now in terms of the leadership from the President on down?

HARRIS: It's so important to have consistent messaging. So I'm, like Dr. Faust, glad that the President wore a mask today. Clearly he was in the hospital. So, that was certainly critical. But now that message needs to be sustained, and not just the President, really any elected official.

So, elected officials should be listening to their public health officials, should be listening to their health professionals. That's where we need to drive policy and change based on the facts and the evidence. And so I hope all elected officials wear masks, first of all, model the behavior they expect of others, and then let and allow the science to lead policy tactics and strategy.

BLITZER: Let's not forget hundreds - hundreds of Americans are dying every single day as a result of this pandemic.

Dr. Harris, Dr. Faust, thanks to both of you for joining us.

HARRIS: Thank you, Wolf.

FAUST: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: The results of a new CDC study, as we've been reporting, show - get this - 40 percent of the people infected with the coronavirus here in the United States don't show any symptoms.

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We'll take a closer look at the role that that is having in spreading this deadly disease.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: Amid huge spikes in new cases of the coronavirus across the United States, the CDC now estimates - get this - it now estimates that 40 percent of the people infected with the virus here in the United States don't have any symptoms at all.

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And while they may not show any symptoms, health experts warn they could be spreading it to a whole lot of other people.

CNN's Brian Todd has more on a new study of the so-called silent spreaders.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JASON HARTELIUS, TV SPORTS PRODUCER: I've had oxygen coming in at my nose, coming out of the wall.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): Before he was admitted to a hospital in Pennsylvania this spring, TV sports producer Jason Hartelius believes he carried the coronavirus in his system while he moved around and his work for about a week. A danger that Hartelius warned about as he was recovering.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

HARTELIUS: You may say you're fine, you may say your low risk. You know what? You might get it, not know it, go back to work thinking you're fine, never have any symptoms. You could give it to people you work with who could get very sick or die.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD (voice over): That danger of silent unknown transmission of coronavirus is coming into greater focus. A new study published by the National Academy of Sciences says people

who are so-called silent spreaders could be responsible for about half of all coronavirus cases.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALISON GALVANI, DIRECTOR, YALE UNIV. CENTER FOR INFECTIOUS DISEASE MODELING AND ANALYSIS: This makes control of COVID-19 particularly challenging.

With COVID-19, people are infectious before any symptoms. So most people who are transmitting the virus are doing so inadvertently without even realizing that they are sick.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD (voice over): Study author, Alison Galvani says that means the silent spreaders are mostly people who are going through those few days just before symptoms show themselves or who are completely asymptomatic.

And she says younger, seemingly healthy people are disproportionately responsible for silent transmissions.

A key question now, given this new study, how do we combat silence spreading? Experts say it means doubling down on the basics.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JENNIFER NUZZO, EPIDEMIOLOGIST, JOHNS HOPKINS BLOOMBERG SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: First thing is distance. Second thing is if you do have to go out, you know, try to physically separate yourself from others, and try to avoid those crowded indoor spaces, and wear masks to reduce the chances that you could transmit your virus to others if you have it and don't know about it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD (voice over): And experts say this new information on silent transmission does not mean we should panic when we venture out or think that everyone we see, is a silent spreader of coronavirus.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

NUZZO: We still very much think that this virus is spread by close prolonged contact. So we shouldn't take from this that if you're just out in the streets or in the grocery store, and you're maintaining distance from people that this puts you at even greater risk than we may have thought otherwise.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TODD (on camera): Still, tracking silent spreaders of coronavirus is going to be a huge challenge in the months and years ahead. This new study says more than one-third of silent infections would need to be identified and isolated in order to suppress any future outbreaks. And the author of the study says, we are not there yet, pointing out

there's not enough contact tracing available and not even enough tests for people who have symptoms, let alone people who are asymptomatic.

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Brian Todd, thank you very, very much. We're going to have much more on the coronavirus pandemic and the huge numbers unfolding here in the United States ahead, but also today, the President forcefully defending his decision to intervene in the case of his former aide.

And now the special -- the former Special Counsel Robert Mueller is making a very rare public statement against what the President has done. Details on that coming up.

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[19:37:30]

BLITZER: We'll have much more in the latest developments of the coronavirus pandemic coming up. But earlier this afternoon, President Trump did not hold back at all, as he strongly defended his decision to commute the sentence of Roger Stone, his longtime friend and adviser despite what his own Attorney General said just a few days ago about the sentence for Stone.

Listen to the President and listen to Bill Barr.

(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.

WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: Well, as you 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)

BLITZER: The White House's Friday night bombshell came just days before the longtime Trump ally was set to begin serving 40 months behind bars for seven felonies, including lying to Congress, lies that Federal prosecutors said we're meant to protect President Trump himself.

I'm joined now by our CNN Senior Political Commentator, David Axelrod and our Chief Legal Analyst, Jeffrey Toobin.

Jeffrey, just moments ago, Robert Mueller, the former special counsel involved, of course, leading the Russia investigation made a very rare public statement in an op-ed reacting to all of this, writing in "The Washington Post." And let me put it up on the screen. There you see it.

He says this, quote, "I feel compelled to respond both to broad claims that our investigation was legitimate, and our motives were improper, and to specific claims that Roger Stone was a victim of our office."

"The Russia investigation was of paramount importance. Stone was prosecuted and convicted because he committed Federal crimes. He remains a convicted felon, and rightly so."

So, Jeffrey, what's your reaction to all of this?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: You know, the whole Stone commutation feels almost like the Emperor's New Clothes. It's so obviously egregiously wrong. I mean, it's not just cronyism. You know the president reaching down to one friend of his who was convicted of crimes, all the people who are convicted of crimes in the country, the one person who gets a commutation is his friend.

[19:40:14]

TOOBIN: But it's not just that, it's corruption because he refused to cooperate with Mueller's investigation of Donald Trump. So, he's not just rewarding a friend, he is keeping a witness away from an investigation of himself.

I mean, it's just egregiously inappropriate, and you know, part of the legacy of the Trump administration.

BLITZER: David, what do you think? When you heard it Friday night, what went through your mind?

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, first of all, what went through my mind is that Friday nights are going to be really eventful from now to the election because the President seems to want to bury these kinds of stories every Friday night.

But look, this President said, you know, very publicly as these investigations were going on that the people who talked were rats, that the people who didn't cooperate with prosecutors were admirable.

He has been signaling right along that he would do what he did today and so -- or what he did yesterday, and you know, Stone would have gone to prison on Tuesday, so he felt, I think that he had to act to keep Stone out of prison, but he is basically taking care of someone who took care of him in this investigation.

Mitt Romney, I thought said it best today in a tweet. He said, "Unprecedented historic corruption in America. President commutes the sentence of a person convicted by a jury of lying to shield that very President." That's it in a nutshell, Wolf. BLITZER: Yes, that's a really significant statement from Mitt Romney.

You know, Jeffrey, I read your article in "The New Yorker" that was just posted, and you make a strong case that what the President of the United States has now done, Richard Nixon would have never done when he was President of the United States and faced a whole lot of problems.

"The Roger Stone case shows why Trump is worse than Nixon." That's the headline in your article, and what's interesting is that Robert Mueller, as far as Roger Stone is concerned, and Bill Barr, the Attorney General, they seem to be on the same page right now as opposed to the President.

TOOBIN: Well, you know, what's so remarkable about the history here is that there's this conversation on the White House tapes from March 21, 1973, where Richard Nixon and his White House Counsel are talking about the demands of E. Howard Hunt, one of the Watergate burglars for a pardon for clemency.

And, and they say, well, you know, you can't do that. You can't give clemency to someone who might implicate you, and it's just obvious to both of them that, you know, even though they are engaged in the Watergate cover up, that's just too obvious. It's too transparent. It's too wrong to give clemency to someone who might implicate you.

Here, President Trump just completely ignored that wise counsel and said, well, I'm going to give -- I'm going to give clemency to someone who might implicate me, and I think it's just indicative of the degradation of standards that has gone on during the Trump administration.

And, you know, I don't know if anyone or the voters will care, but the standards and the difference was really striking to me.

BLITZER: Well, let me ask David Axelrod, is anybody going to care over the next four months as we approach the presidential election in November?

AXELROD: You know, what I suspect, Wolf, is that those who are already disinclined to vote for the President will view this as one more reason not to vote for the President and that his core constituency will buy the line of the White House that somehow the whole investigation was improper, and therefore the fact that Roger Stone lied repeatedly to Congress, tried to obstruct their investigation, witness tampered and so on, doesn't matter because the underlying investigation was corrupt in their words.

I think that's a smaller group of Americans. I don't think this is going to help Trump. But remember, he is knee deep in a pandemic that he is not handling well right now. He has poured kerosene on racial strife in this country in a way that has been really overt.

There are a lot of brush fires -- not brush fires, there are a lot of raging fires around him right now, and this is just one of them. And I'm not sure this is the one that's going to make the difference.

BLITZER: Do you think, Jeffrey we're going to see more pardons and more commutations as the President's first term winds down?

TOOBIN: Well, we'll look at what we've already seen with Michael Flynn. You know, he got his loyal Attorney General to try to get rid of the case.

I mean, Michael Flynn pleaded guilty, yet the Attorney General of the United States said the case should be dismissed. I think the person to keep to keep your eye on now is Paul Manafort, the President's former campaign chairman who was convicted after a trial of multiple felonies, who pleaded guilty to multiple felonies, but the President has praised him as well.

[19:45:17]

TOOBIN: So I think, it's entirely possible that the President is going to either pardon or commute the sentence of Paul Manafort, trying to wipe out entirely the legal legacy of the Mueller investigation. He has that authority under the Constitution, but the abuse of power it would represent would really be profound.

BLITZER: We'll see if that happens. All right, Jeffrey Toobin, thank you. David Axelrod, thanks to you as well.

There's much more coming up here in our special SITUATION ROOM, even as coronavirus cases are surging across multiple states in the United States, the virus is also spreading rapidly through Latin America and the Caribbean -- four countries in the region are now among the top 10 most affected in the world, but one country has found a way to buck the trend.

Stay with us. You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.

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BLITZER: Central and South America are grappling with their own surges of COVID. Brazil, Peru, Chile, and Mexico they make the top 10 list of countries with the most confirmed cases. Caribbean nations also are struggling to get control of the virus.

More than 121,000 people have died of the coronavirus in the Caribbean and South America, so far, but the island nation of Cuba has managed to buck the trend, about 2,400 confirmed cases so far in Cuba and 87 deaths.

CNN's Patrick Oppmann is joining us live from Havana right now. Patrick, Cuba's population is only a little more than 11 million, but still has managed to flatten the curve, as they say more successfully than its neighbors here in our hemisphere. Tell us why.

PATRICK OPPMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It is a very different picture here. Just today on Saturday according to Cuban health officials, there are only seven cases on this island, like you said, it has a population of 11 million -- and one death. And that's the first death related to coronavirus in almost two weeks. So very, very different from the rest of Latin America. And you know,

here's how it's worked. You have a government that has total authority to tell people to wear face masks, which they have done. Anyone who gets sick is taken to the hospital, even sometimes their contacts, people that they've been in contact with are taken to the hospital as a preventative measure.

And so, you know, initially there was some concern that because Cuba does not have the resources that other countries do, that it's under some of the U.S. sanctions, which it has been for decades that Cuba would not be able to adequately deal all with this pandemic.

But it has been the exact opposite. Cuba closed borders. There's no tourism here right now. That has come at a great cost to this country. But it has been very effective that you cannot have any more cases come in, Wolf.

And the government has been able to slowly begin reopening the economy. There's still a few neighborhoods in Havana under lockdown. But what we've seen over the last week now is businesses reopening, even the beach reopening. The big question though is when the airports, when they will begin to reopen because once you start to let tourists back in, you do run the risk of re-exposing the population to this virus.

But for the moment, Cuba is somehow beating back the coronavirus, a very, very different picture than so many other countries in the region.

BLITZER: Very interesting indeed. Patrick out in Havana for us. Thank you very much.

We have a quick programming note for our viewers. Be sure to tune in tonight for a special event. CNN Presents: "Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started Talking."

It's an entertaining and very poignant look at Michael Smerconish's one of the kind career. That's later tonight, 10:00 p.m. Eastern right after our special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM.

As states across the country report record numbers of new coronavirus cases, many people are simply very anxious about simply getting on a plane.

But even a road trip potentially could be hazardous. We're going to explain why when we come back.

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BLITZER: New data shows summer road trips could be driving perhaps much of the surge of the new coronavirus cases here in the United States.

After months of staying home, a growing number of Americans are now deciding to hit the road and it's a trend that has experts sounding the alarm.

CNN's Pete Muntean reports.

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DR. DAVID DAMSKER, DIRECTOR, BUCKS COUNTRY HEALTH DEPARTMENT: People are feeling a little bit bottled up, right now.

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PETE MUNTEAN, CNN AVIATION CORRESPONDENT: Dr. David Damsker thought his county was out of the woods. He leads public health for Bucks County, Pennsylvania outside Philadelphia.

In a recent four-day period it, recorded 100 new coronavirus cases. Damsker says many of those were people who traveled to Myrtle Beach in South Carolina, now considered a hotspot.

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DAMSKER: We're seeing about a half of our new cases are people that are infected while traveling.

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MUNTEAN (voice over): It is a story backed up by new findings from the University of Maryland. Aref Darzi and a team of researchers are using smart phone data to see where people are going.

Over the July 4th, holiday the rate at which people traveled hit a new pandemic high nationwide.

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AREF DARZI, RESEARCH ASSOCIATE, MARYLAND TRANSPORTATION INSTITUTE: We expect to see more travel during the holidays. But getting back to where we were before the pandemic, it was a big surprise for us.

MUNTEAN: So people feel safe to make a road trip.

DARZI: Exactly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MUNTEAN (voice over): The traveling trend could spread new cases from new exposure, says the University's, Louisa Fanzini.

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DR. LOUISA FRANZINI, UNIVERSITY OF MARYLAND: I am concerned because, soon when people travel, they bring the virus with them.

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MUNTEAN (voice over): She is urging states to consider more travel advisories. New Jersey just expanded its list telling travelers from more states

to quarantine for 14 days.

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FRANZINI: In some states, they would need to be renewed because the virus is out of control.

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MUNTEAN (voice over): AAA forecasted that road trips would drop only three percent this summer. Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, stresses now is the time for vigilance, not vacations.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. LARRY HOGAN (R-MD): This virus kind of has a mind of its own and it doesn't recognize borders. So people travel from one state to another, we're very much watching it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MUNTEAN (voice over): Pete Muntean, CNN, College Park, Maryland.

(END VIDEOTAPE) 9

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