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Eleven Sailors Injured In Explosion On USS Bonhomme Richard; Secretary Betsy DeVos Calls On Schools To Reopen As Cases Surge Nationwide; White House Officials Raise Questions About Dr. Fauci; Trump Claims He "Aced" Recent Cognitive Test; Trump Shifts Reelection Rhetoric To Stoking Divisions, Culture Wars; Poll: 67 Percent Of Americans Disapprove Of Trump's Handling Of Pandemic; Florida Breaks Daily Record For COVID-19 Cases. Aired 4-5p ET

Aired July 12, 2020 - 16:00   ET



ERICA HILL, CNN HOST: San Diego Fire Chief Colin Stowell, my friend and colleague, CNN producer Konstantin Toropin, appreciate you both joining us with your expertise this hour. CNN is going to continue to follow this developing story out of San Diego so please stay with us for that.

Thanks for joining me this afternoon on NEWSROOM. We continue right now with Ana Cabrera.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. We are following this breaking news.

An explosion and fire onboard a U.S. Navy ship. This is based in San Diego. 11 sailors treated for what has been described as minor injuries.

CNN's Paul Vercammen is following the story.

Paul first, what are we learning about this ship?

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's the Bonhomme Richard, and its home port is San Diego. It's an amphibious assault vehicle. It has the capacity to launch helicopters and whatnot from its deck and it can also launch what we call LCACs from its old, and they can transport tanks and various personnel carriers, other things.

This ship that you're seeing on fire was commissioned in 1998. You might be wondering about that name. Bonhomme Richard is actually the third Navy Bonhomme Richard. This vessel was named after Benjamin Franklin. The French had said to him he's a good man, Richard, therefore, Bonhomme Richard.

The smoke indicates that there's possibly fuels burning up into the sky and I know the previous guest was talking about the toxicity of it. This vessel also played a big role in Operation Iraqi Freedom and it was involved in the rescue efforts after a ferry accident in the waters off South Korea.

The Bonhomme Richard, they say, at full capacity can carry some 3500 members, but because this was a weekend in San Diego, perhaps the silver lining in all this is there were very few people aboard. And as you pointed out, Ana, 11 treated for minor injuries as they battle this blaze and you can see the fire boats working away in that harbor.

CABRERA: And we should point out the entire crew is off the ship and all are accounted for, according to the Naval Surface Force's tweet that was put out. When we talk about 11 people with minor injuries, do you have any details, Paul, on what those injuries looked like?

VERCAMMEN: No. None of those details have been released to us. We should also note that at one point, according to the tweets, firefighters were told to get away because they were going to put fire suppressing foam on the vessel. So they cleared the vessel of all of those sailors, but, Ana, no details emerging yet. Just that term minor injuries and that's also a glimmer of hope.

CABRERA: OK. But they were taken to the hospital, we understand.

Paul, please stand by. Joining us by phone is CNN military analyst and retired rear admiral, John Kirby.

Admiral, how many people would be aboard this type of ship when it's docked typically?

REAR ADM. JOHN KIRBY, CNN MILITARY AND DIPLOMATIC ANALYST (via phone): Well, on a Sunday, you know, weekend, you'd have only what we call the duty section. You divide the crew up into sections. And on the weekends, in particular, there wouldn't be any real work going on down the ship. So probably between 200, 250 would be my best estimate.

CABRERA: Given what you know about the ship's layout, what could cause an explosion and fire like this?

KIRBY: Well, it's difficult to say obviously at this point. But I mean, you know, fire is a huge threat aboard any Navy warship. You have all kinds of opportunities for fire whether it's electrical gear, it could be fuel-related, it could be in the engine room. Of course, there's all kinds of flammable material there. Ammunition, storage facilities, or it could be that, you know, welding was going on and perhaps that caused a fire, too.

It's just very hard to tell. But they said that the ship was going through a maintenance period. And if you look on the deck of that ship, Ana, you can see there's all kinds of storage containers. That tells me that this maintenance period is probably still ongoing. Now is this a maintenance-related fire, we don't know. But clearly, when a ship is in a serious period of maintenance and you have workers doing work onboard ship that really escalates the threat of fire.

Again, that said, it was a Sunday. So it's not like we've had a lot of maintenance work that's going on today.

CABRERA: And would a ship just typically be docked on a weekend like this?

KIRBY: Yes. You know, some ships are under way and some ships are in port. Roughly one-third of the Navy somewhere around there is at sea at any given time and the rest is in port. Either going through maintenance, because they just came back from sea and things need repairing, or they're in some sort of import training period getting ready to go to sea. So, you know, on any given day, a majority of the Navy ships are going to be pier-side for any number of reasons.

CABRERA: As we continue to look at these images, again, 11 people transported to the hospital for what we are told are minor injuries, and everybody onboard that ship is off the ship now and accounted for.


Joining us by phone as well is former New York Fire Department commissioner, Tom Von Essen and, Commissioner, I just want to get your expertise in responding to an incident like this. We've learned San Diego fire personnel were all instructed to leave the pier as they continue to fight this fire. What does that tell you?

THOMAS VON ESSEN, FORMER FDNY COMMISSIONER: Well, it tells me it's a fire that could -- like the chief said could burn for days. The last thing the firefighters want is to give up on it, because the most efficient way to do it is to get in there with a line, put some foam on it and douse the fire and smother it. When you can't get to the seat of the fire because of one reason or another, like the admiral just talked about, the ordnance, whatever else you have down there, and then you start to hear explosions.

The chief said it was an oil, 50-gallon drum of oil, but they didn't know what it was. It could have been ordnance. It could have been, you know, a real explosive material. So now you've got to pull the firefighters out. Now you're worried about really bigger explosions with all those containers there that you have on the ship. Now you've got to get the people off the pier. So now this is going to just delay the firefighter operation.

You'll have to do it with the fire boats and they're just not as efficient as you would want them to be on something that they can't really get to the seat of the fire.

CABRERA: When you look at the smoke coming off the ship, does the color of the smoke tell you anything? At first, you know, it was black or dark gray. Right now it appears to be a lighter gray, closer to white?

VON ESSEN: Yes. You know, you have some hope before. There was a section that was, a lot of gray, light gray smoke, which made you think they were getting to it, then there was an area of black smoke and that's the area they were trying to get to. So now it looks like maybe the oil isn't burning but now who knows what the heck is burning down there. They've got an awful lot of material, like the admiral talks about.

You're in there for maintenance. It could have all kinds of equipment down there to do maintenance. They could have been doing well and they could be removing partitions. There could be just so many things that could be burning at this point. It's going to be a while and there'll be a tremendous amount of damage that could have been avoided if they were able to get in there quickly and put it out.

CABRERA: I understand there are a number of different agencies working together to try to fight this fire right now. You talked about having to do it from a boat. The fact that this is having to be done from the water, what else does that entail?

VON ESSEN: Well, you know, you've got -- it's a big base at San Diego. And it's used to this type of ship being in for routine maintenance. Plus they have a tremendous amount of ships there, like the admiral talked that's just normally, you know, guys come in, go on leave, or whatever, the sailors. And just maintenance or just waiting for a new assignment. So that's a naval base that's ready for this.

They've got federal firefighters there. They have people that run the base. They have the San Diego firefighters. It sounds like the chief said the San Diego firefighters have given the job over to the people on the base. So this is not something that they can't handle. It will just create a lot more physical damage to the ship, which who knows when the ship will be able to get back in service after the amount of fire.

It's burning a long time. They said it started 9:00 this morning. So that's a long time and a lot of heat. So there's going to be a tremendous amount of damage.

CABRERA: Well, 9:00 local time there. Of course that's noon Eastern so it's been burning for about four hours now.

Commissioner Von Essen, thank you for taking the time. Also my thanks also to Admiral John Kirby, and Paul Vercammen will continue to follow the story and bring you all updates as we learn new information. But the good news here is everybody is off the ship. Everyone is accounted for. 11 people injured with what we are told are minor injuries.

Stay with us. We'll continue to bring you more information.

Now let's talk about the pandemic. Florida shattering all records. Not just statewide but countrywide with 15,000 new cases yesterday alone, as the secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, failed to give any guidance, any plan on how to safely reopen schools.

Stay with us. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.



CABRERA: The coronavirus is winning. People are dying. And instead of a plan, what is the administration doing? They are raising questions about their top coronavirus expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, a man who has served six presidents. One senior administration official tells CNN that some officials

within the White House do not trust Dr. Fauci. According to this source, those officials think Dr. Fauci is more out for himself and that it is clear he doesn't have the best interests of the president when he openly disagrees with him.

To be clear, Dr. Fauci has openly disagreed with the president to tell the American people what the science actually says so that people know the reality of what we are up against with this virus. Just today the state of Florida alone reporting more than 15,000 new cases. A new single-day record. Not just for Florida but for any state in the U.S. 15,000 in a single day.

Add to that a bunch of mixed messaging and non-answers when it comes to the number one thing that is keeping parents up at night. Is it safe for our children to go back to school?

I'm going to play you just some of what the Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was asked about on CNN today and let you decide if her answers make anything any clearer.


DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: So I want to be clear from you. As the secretary of Education, should schools in the United States follow the CDC recommendations or not?

BETSY DEVOS, EDUCATION SECRETARY: Dr. Redfield has clearly said these are recommendations and every situation is going to look slightly different.


And the key for education leaders, and these are smart people who can figure things out --


BASH: What I want to know if the federal government is all on the same page. As the secretary of Education, should schools follow the guidelines of the CDC?

DEVOS: It's very much on the same page. Kids need to get back to school, they need to get back in the classroom. Families need for kids to get back in the classroom and it can be done safely.

BASH: Well, OK. Let me --

DEVOS: There are guidelines that are very clear and also very acknowledging that situations are going to be different.

BASH: What are experts telling you about the appropriate level of transmission for a school before it has to shut down?

DEVOS: Well, I know that that's an area that the CDC is helping to provide further insight into. I can't as a non-physician or a non- medical expert tell you precisely what to do in the case of one child in the classroom or five children in a classroom, but the key is, every school should have plans for that situation to be able to pivot --

BASH: Right. But --

DEVOS: -- and ensure that kids can continue learning at a distance if they have to for a short period of time.

BASH: But you're the secretary of Education. You're asking students to go back. So why do you not have guidance on what a school should do just weeks before you want those schools to reopen and what happens if it faces an outbreak?

DEVOS: You know, there's really good examples that have been utilized in the private sector and in -- elsewhere. Also with frontline workers and hospitals, and all of that data and all of that information and all of those examples can be referenced --

BASH: I'm not -- OK.

DEVOS: -- by school leaders.

BASH: But I'm hearing a plan --

DEVOS: -- who have the opportunity --

BASH: -- as secretary of Education. Do you have a plan for students --

DEVOS: But the plan --

BASH: -- and what schools should do?

DEVOS: So schools should do what's right on the ground at that time for their students and for their situation.

BASH: You are arguing over and over that they should handle this on a local level but at the same time as the secretary of Education you were trying to push them to do a one-size-fits-all approach, which is go back and reopen schools. You can't have it both ways.

DEVOS: I am urging all schools to be -- to open and to be providing their students a full-time education. We all acknowledge that that could and may well look different in a certain area that has a flare- up of the virus.

BASH: Just to be clear --

DEVOS: A situation where a child is a vulnerable -- has a vulnerable, you know, underlying condition that the parents could have a choice to be able to --

BASH: OK. So just to be clear. Are you saying in areas where there is a flare-up that schools should revert to remote learning?

DEVOS: I'm saying that schools should have plans. (END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: So what's her plan? How should schools reopen safely? The Education secretary won't say if schools should follow CDC guidelines. They should just have a plan and figure it out.

So as the secretary of Education refuses to bring any real clarity to the matter, superintendents across the country are facing a nearly impossible task. Adhere to the administration's demands, and follow the CDC's guidance how to keep students and teachers safe.

Here's the superintendent of Fairfax County, Virginia.


SCOTT BRABRAND, SUPERINTENDENT, FAIRFAX COUNTY, VIRGINIA: Our default on a normal school day in Fairfax County is 18 inches. Not six feet. Not three feet. Eighteen inches. We're the size of five Pentagons. You would need another five Pentagons of space to be able to safely accommodate all of the students in Fairfax public schools.


CABRERA: Dr, William Schaffner is a professor of Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and Dr. Saju Mathew is a CNN medical analyst and public health specialist.

Gentlemen, thank you for being here with me this afternoon.

Dr. Mathew, if schools are unable to logistically follow CDC guidelines like Fairfax County, what measures would make you as a medical professional comfortable with children returning to the classroom?

DR. SAJU MATHEW, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Good afternoon, Ana. You know, it sounds like we're just talking about schools and children like they exist in a vacuum. You know, ultimately we have to realize that if the viral count in your community is greater than 8 percent to 10 percent, then to me it's a no-brainer. You can't open schools.

Remember, it's easy to open a school. The question is, can you keep the school open? I looked at the CDC guidelines, Ana. And to me, in my opinion, it's the bear minimum. My question would be, if a teacher falls sick or a student falls sick, or a school nurse falls sick, what is the plan? What are we going to do?


Remember, that can easily spread in a closed environment where people are spending lots of time together. So I still have a lot of questions as to even if we're ready, especially states where the cases are surging.

CABRERA: And I just want to make sure our viewers are aware of what those CDC guidelines currently are. They're talking about installing physical barriers in common areas. Increased cleaning. Daily health checks. Again, six-foot distancing for that social distancing. Wearing masks.

Dr. Schaffner, Secretary DeVos continues to punt this issue on reopening down to the state and local level. We heard at least some of those metrics that Dr. Mathew is watching. But I wonder what data points or metrics like death rate, average caseload hospitalizations should school officials be tracking to help inform their decision?

DR. WILLIAM SCHAFFNER, PROFESSOR, DIVISION OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: Well, obviously, Ana, the local circumstances are terribly important and actually the fact is that the countries that have opened up schools successfully have been those where the rate of infection in the general community has been largely controlled and is really quite low. So we're heading into a large, difficult area.

Every school system in the country is working on this. The CDC guidelines are a wonderful way to start, but then as in the national school system, they have a group of local public health and infectious disease pediatricians working with them to try to interpret the national guidelines to the local level. They don't have all the answers yet locally. I'm sure the answers are being worked out across the country.

This is the single most difficult issue regarding this outbreak that we're facing in the country right now.

CABRERA: Dr. Mathew, what are your biggest health concerns for children and also what have we learned about the transmissibility between children to others?

MATHEW: You know, as I've said before, Ana, this is still a new virus. We just have really known more about COVID-19 in the past six months and things change every day, but what we know overall, to be fair, is that, yes, kids seem to do OK generally. They have cold-like symptoms, maybe some abdominal pain. But let's not forget they can be vectors. They can transmit the virus to teachers, to school nurses, to officials, and take it back home.

If there's an elderly person living with that kid, we have known of cases where kids have transmitted the virus and it has resulted in a few people dying. So that, to me, is worrisome. And again, in an environment where it's getting so difficult to get a COVID-19 test, I mean, good luck in Atlanta if you want to get tested, it's really difficult.

So I think there are a lot of things that we need to think about and we should not talk about schools and children and teachers in a vacuum.

CABRERA: Yes. Just this weekend we learned of a case in Arizona in which three teachers who shared a classroom during some summer school instruction, all three of them ended up infected with the coronavirus and one of them died.

I want you, gentlemen, to take a listen to the surgeon general this morning. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. JEROME ADAMS, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: The disease course is about two to three weeks. So just as we've seen cases skyrocket we can turn this thing around in two to three weeks if we can get a critical mass of people wearing face coverings, practicing at least six feet of social distancing, doing the things that we know are effective. And it's important for the American people to understand when we're talking about the fall, we have the ability to turn this around very quickly, if people will do the right thing.


CABRERA: You notice the surgeon general wearing his face mask even in the studio practicing, you know, being a good example here, but Dr. Schaffner, he says this could all be turned around in just two to three weeks if everybody does the right things like wearing face masks and social distancing. Do you think two to three weeks of doing that is realistic to turn this around?

SCHAFFNER: Well, Dr. Adams' heart is in the right place, but I think he's a bit ambitious in being able to turn it around quite that quickly. What we certainly do need is a national concurrence that we all should be wearing masks, social distancing, because that's clearly what's necessary in order to flatten the curve and try to get control of this virus, which at the moment is spreading throughout the United States really out of control.

CABRERA: All right. Doctor William Schaffner, Dr. Saju Mathew, as always, we really appreciate your expertise. Thank you for being here.

MATHEW: Thank you, Ana.

CABRERA: Coming up, the rift between the White House and its top coronavirus expert grows wider in the middle of a national health emergency. Brand new CNN reporting about why White House officials are taking issue with Dr. Anthony Fauci.



CABRERA: In the midst of a national health crisis President Trump and Dr. Anthony Fauci haven't spoken in weeks. And now CNN is learning some officials in the White House do not trust Dr. Fauci, at least partly because he has been willing to publicly contradict the president.

CNN's Kristen Holmes joins us from the White House.

Kristen, what more did we learn from this senior administration official?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this official talked exactly about what you said. This, quote, "willingness to talk against the president," they say that this leads other officials within the White House to believe that Fauci doesn't have the best interests of the president because he is openly disagreeing with him.


And one thing I will point out is we have heard more and more of this disagreement in the last several weeks. Keep in mind, one of the biggest things that President Trump has said over and over again even now as these cases surge is how well the government has responded. Listen to what Dr. Fauci said in an interview this week about that.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: When you compare us to other countries, I don't think you can say we're doing great. I mean, we're just not.


HOLMES: So, clearly that contradicts the narrative out of the White House directly, but there was more than that. At one point, Fauci said he wasn't sure where President Trump got certain information from. President Trump, in an interview with "Fox", said that Fauci was a nice guy but had made a lot of mistakes.

And now, Ana, it seems as though the White House is activity working to discredit Dr. Fauci. Keep in mind, this is a top adviser to President Trump or supposedly a top adviser. He was a member of the coronavirus task force.

He is one of the nation's top health experts and they sent out a response, a White House official, in a statement that said several White House officials are concerned about the number of times Dr. Fauci has been wrong on things and then provided a list that was akin to opposition research. It listed out all of the early comments that Fauci made when it came to masks or locking down the country, asymptomatic spread.

So, really clearly here, putting out this message that Fauci has made mistakes as we heard from President Trump. It's just interesting that it's coming from this White House in the middle of a time where we're in this pandemic and the cases continue to surge.

CABRERA: OK, Kristen Holmes, thank you for that reporting.

I'm joined now by former adviser to four U.S. presidents, David Gergen, and author of "Team of Five: The Presidents Club in the Age of Trump", Kate Andersen Brower.

And David, I want to get your reaction to this new CNN reporting that some Trump administration officials don't trust Dr. Fauci and believe it's clear he doesn't have the best interests of the president.

DAVID GERGEN, FORMER ADVISER TO PRESIDENTS NIXON, FORD, REAGAN & CLINTON: This is deeply troubling, Ana. Here we are in the midst of a virus that is just taking off all around the country. The numbers are skyrocketing. We're in the middle of a battle and to go out and discredit your top general when you're the commander in chief and you undercut the top general, that cuts his legs off, you know.

But it's just astonishing to me with -- Dr. Fauci had an interview in "The Times" this weekend in which he said he hadn't really talked to the president and briefed him since June 2, and it's been two months. I think it's been two months since he really been in the White House.

So, we're in a situation now that is unprecedented. We've seen it with this president on many other -- in many other occasions. You know, we had a secretary of state he said who was terrific and then he dumped all over him, and basically fire him, Jim Mattis, over the defense department. You can go down a long list of people who have bitten the dust because of disagreeing with the president in public.

But here, it's so vital that citizens and that leaders in school districts know what voice to listen to in Washington, D.C. What is the message that helps them navigate this as they have to make the decisions on the ground? And right now, the president is sending out a message, you can't trust his top adviser when he comes and talk to you about what to do next.

CABRERA: Kate, last weekend for the Fourth of July, we spoke as we witnessed both the president and first lady at the White House for their celebration surrounded by people on the lawn and neither were wearing a mask.

Fast-forward a week, very different story. President Trump wore a mask to Walter Reed. Melania Trump shared a video on "Twitter" of her wearing a mask while visiting a nonprofit. Why the change?

KATE ANDERSEN BROWER, AUTHOR, "TEAM OF FIVE": Well, I think that they, you know, see that the CDC recommends wearing a mask. They can't ignore this fact that science has shown that that is one way to kind of send this rising tide of this deadly virus.

CABRERA: And yet, they did ignore it for months because science has said as much for several weeks now.

BROWER: Absolutely. I mean, and it's surprising. I think it would be surprising to many people that it was the first lady who was the first person to wear the mask. I mean, she wore it last week. The president wore the mask publicly for the first time yesterday when he went to Walter Reed.

And so, yes. I mean, it was really kind of astonishing to see that there was no leadership there. And I think, you know, we saw the Carters release a video of both Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter wearing masks saying that masks save lives.

And so, in many ways, as David was saying, we're kind of hungry for national leadership and usually it comes from the president. And I think that people don't seem to know what to do now. And so, we're looking to anybody we can find. And Dr. Fauci, obviously, you know, the top doctor dealing with these issues in this country and the fact that the president is at odds with him is a problem.

[16:35:04] CABRERA: But David, is this now an acknowledgement by the president that masks work? That they do help stop the spread? Are we about to see "MAGA" masks for sale on Trump's website?

GERGEN: One would like to think that, Ana. I mean, you've always want your president to succeed in things like this. But I must tell you, one wearing of a mask does not make a presidential leader. You have to be much more consistent than this.

For leadership, trust comes when you're consistent. When you sell the truth from the start and you keep telling the same truth and you don't keep changing your views. And if you've got -- you know, if you're sitting back home now on a school board, you say, well, what are we learning from the CDC? What are we learning from this and this? What are we learning from Dr. Fauci? What if it's somewhat different from the CDC? What are we learning from the White House?

Well, that's very different. Whose advice is trustworthy? You know, we have a crisis in this country already when people don't trust the government and for many good reasons. But when this comes along, a lot of people die when you don't have more leadership on (INAUDIBLE).

CABRERA: Kate, this week, the president bragged that he had recently aced a cognitive test taken at Walter Reed and that doctors were surprised. To be clear, cognitive test is not an IQ test. It really doesn't test intelligence. As I understand it, it tests brain function. Why would this be something the president felt like he needed to share?

BROWER: Ana, if you look at what the past three and a half years have shown is that, you know, the president often brags. He doesn't offer any actual concrete data to support what he's saying. And I think we see in Mary Trump's book that's coming out this week, times where, you know, this is built into the Trump family DNA that, you know, that lying is something that's rewarded. There is no point in telling the truth. She even talks about him as a sociopath, you know.

So -- and she's a clinical psychologist. So, she's somebody who studies this kind of behavior. She talks about him getting -- paying somebody to take the S.A.T. for him. So, there's constant bragging, not a lot to back it up.

Most presidents are very understated. I don't think we saw President Obama or President Bush, you know, come out feeling the need to constantly talk about their intelligence. It's something that's unusual I think in the modern presidency, and so it's really baffling.

CABRERA: David, you've served four U.S. presidents. Are you aware of any of them taking cognitive tests?

GERGEN: No. It's not only true of all contemporary presidents. It's been true to the presidency since George Washington was there, and presidents just don't like so massively as this. And no, I'm not aware.

But I do -- as you read about the cognitive test, what is very, very apparent and behind this is that Trump intends to make Joe Biden's cognitive capacities a centerpiece of his campaign for the White House. And therefore, him bragging on himself in anticipation of how he's going after Biden in a variety of ways of coming out (ph) --

CABRERA: Do you think that's an effective strategy?

GERGEN: No. That's why his polls continue to go down. And very disturbingly, we have multiple crises we all know. In the last few days, we've learned that only a third of the public trust what the or have approved what the president has done on the virus crisis, and only a third approved of the way he's handling racial issues in the country. Two-thirds of the country disapproved of the way he's taking on each of these crises. I don't think we've seen that either.

CABRERA: David Gergen, Kate Andersen Brower, I always appreciate your wealth of experience and knowledge. Thanks for being here.

GERGEN: Thank you.

CABRERA: We're just four months away from what will be an unprecedented election, an election amid a pandemic. And is that crisis going to make Trump a one-term president? We're going to dig in to the numbers what the poll show. You're live in the CNN "Newsroom."



CABRERA: In addition to being in a national and international crisis right now, the coronavirus pandemic is a key issue on voters' minds as they decide which candidate they will pick in just under four months. As Trump's approval numbers on handling the coronavirus drop, the president is shifting his rhetoric of his re-election campaign to culture wars and highlighting divisions, a similar tactic he used ahead of the 2016 election. But will that strategy work this time around?

With us now is CNN senior political writer and analyst, Harry Enten. Harry, things look very different now than they did in 2016. Can a strategy that focuses on anything but the coronavirus work in 2020? What do polls tell you?

HARRY ENTEN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL WRITER AND ANALYST: Yes. I mean, Ana, take a look at this. What's so key is that the president's approval rating on coronavirus continues to drop. If went all the way back to March, which you saw on "ABC News/Ipsos poll", he's approval rating was actually 55%. But that dropped to low 40's come June. And then, an "ABC/Ipsos poll" that came out just this past week showed his approval rating dropping all the way to 33%, the worst numbers I've seen for him by far.

But of course, come the fall, he'll be facing off against former vice president, Joe Biden. And what's key here, is take a look at the two key issues that we've seen over the last month, both the coronavirus and race relations. And what do we see? We see double digit leads for Joe Biden on who voters trust more on those two key issues. So obviously, the president is losing there and he wants to shift the ground over to law and order. But what we see in the polls, voters don't want that. A "Washington Post" poll taken last month showed, which would you rather have in your president? Would you have them either address the racial divisions in this country or focus on law and order? And what we see is by an eight-point margin voters prefer someone who will address the racial divisions in this country rather than someone who focuses on law and order.


CABRERA: So, even if voters are choosing who to support based on a candidate's handling of law enforcement, would that play in Trump's favor?

ENTEN: This, to me, is one of the most fascinating statistics, right, because President Trump clearly wants to play on law and order but there were two polls that were taken in the last month which asked essentially, who would you prefer on law and order, Biden or Trump?

And what we see in the average of those two polls is that voters actually prefer Biden by seven points. So, it seems to me Trump is trying to shift the focus to an area in which he's losing, which, of course, is a key difference with 2016, whereby it seemed like Trump seemed to be reading the electorate. It doesn't seem to be the case this year. He is misreading the electorate, Ana.

CABRERA: If history is any lesson, what can the 2018 midterms teach us about the, you know, whether the strategy of stoking divisions might work in 2020?

ENTEN: Yes. You know, a lot of times people focus on 2016 and sort of think Trump can pull, you know, magic out of his hat, right? He's like this magician. But remember in the 2018 midterms in October, he, all of a sudden, started talking about that caravan that was coming up from the south when he's party was doing so poorly?

They were losing by about eight point on the generic congressional ballot come mid-October and he started focusing on the caravan. Well, that eight-point lead that Democrats had in mid-October turned into about a nine-point victory in the House of vote come the actual voting time.

So, you know, he's tried this before during his presidency where he focuses more on a, say, divisive issue, a social divisive issue and didn't work in 2018. And to be honest with you, Ana, I see no reason looking at polls now that it's going to work come 2020.

CABRERA: All right, Harry Enten. And as I'm look at you, I'm noticing your beautiful collection of colorful books behind you. You must be going for a high score on the room rater?

ENTEN: You know, I've tried my best. You know, I got to be honest with you. Not all of these books are mine, but I've come a long way since I was in a little corner with just a little wall behind me.

CABRERA: Well done, my friend. Good to see you. Thank you.

ENTEN: Thank you. Be well.

CABRERA: Coming up, Florida shattering its record for new coronavirus cases, the daily record. On the same weekend, "Disney World" is welcoming back guests. So, what is the park like amid this pandemic? We'll get a live report, straight ahead.



CABRERA: In Florida, alarming new numbers today as that state records more than 15,000 new coronavirus cases, smashing its own previous records and every other states for that matter. This is the nation's largest single day jump for any state.

That news comes the same weekend "Disney World" begins to reopen the "Magic Kingdom" and "Animal Kingdom", both now open to visitors. They'll be followed by "Epcot" and "Hollywood Studios" on Wednesday. CNN's, Natasha Chen, joins us now. Natasha, how is "Disney" doing with this reopening? And any word if these new numbers will give them pause?

NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the numbers, Ana, are definitely scary. And I was just speaking with a "Disney" official about this who told me that they're going to be monitoring all new information, following the guidance of government and health authorities, and making adjustments as needed.

The "Disney" chairman of parks, experiences, and products did speak to our colleague, Frank Pallotta, yesterday and he talked about the fact that we're in a new normal. He said that, you know, the world outside the park gates is a different place now. Of course, it's a very different experience inside the park gates as well.

But he said that they feel prepared to operate in this environment, and that does mean very serious temperature checks when guests come in, social distancing strictly enforced, face mask required with the loops around the ears. A huge one-pass holder and a theme park journalist who talked to me about her experience in the park so far.


CARLYE WISEL, THEME PARK JOURNALIST: Everything they put into place fits CDC guidelines and is what you would want. They have casts wearing masks and face shields. They are spraying down the attractions every two hours. They're being extremely cognizant of what is happening. So, in a way, you kind of have to wonder -- is it safer at "Disney World" than it is outside of Florida or is it not worth going at all? And I think that's a question that is ever evolving as the data changes, as we see things go well, things go not so well. It's just a bit of a mixed bag.

(END OF VIDEO CLIP) CHEN: We did hear from an Orange County health official on Thursday who was asked whether people had seen problems of COVID cases coming from theme parks that had already been opened for the past month. That official said that while individual isolated cases may have mentioned theme parks, they've done the research and found that there's no evidence at this time of any outbreak stemming from theme parks, Ana.

CABRERA: OK. Natasha Chen, thank you for the update. We'll be right back.



CABRERA: From rock star to all-star dishwasher, this week's CNN "Hero" Jon Bon Jovi took a break from power ballads to focus on feeding the hungry during the pandemic.


JON BON JOVI, SINGER-SONGWRITER, PHILANTROPHIST: The COVID-19 epidemic has affected everybody. For me, it slowed the world down. Record releases are trivial.

So, this is the "JBJ Soul Kitchen", one of three that we have here in New Jersey. There's an in-need population here who depend on us. Our doors remain open for take-out. Anyone who needs a meal knows that we'll provide them with that nutritious meal.

We're unable to have our volunteers. Hence, the all-star, hall of fame dishwasher is back in business, and I'm here helping out five days a week. My wife, Dorothea, took a picture of me washing dishes. She said, well, what's the caption? And I said, "Do what you can."


CABRERA: Do what you can.