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CNN Reports, White House Officials Raise Questions About Fauci For Openly Disagreeing With President In Favor Of Science; Arizona Teacher Dies Of Virus, Two Colleagues Also Get Sick After Sharing Classroom; Seventeen Sailors, Four Civilians Taken To Hospitals After Fire Explosion On USS Bonhomme Richard; President Trump Defends Decision To Commute Sentence Of Roger Stone; Robert Mueller Defends Stone Prosecution In Rare Public Remarks. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired July 12, 2020 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:01]

ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: To be clear, Dr. Fauci has openly disagreed with the president to inform Americans what the science actually says, so that people know the reality of what we are up against with this virus.

CNN's Kristen Holmes joins us from the White House. Kristen, what else have you learned about this growing rift between Dr. Fauci and the president?

KRISTEN HOLMES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, it really has taken quite a turn. We now have a statement from the White House that appears to be aiming to discredit one of the nation's top health experts, Anthony Fauci.

When asked about his relationship with President Trump, which we have seen play out in the media the last several weeks, the tension growing, the White House said that several White House officials are concerned about the number of times that Dr. Fauci has been wrong on things and then they listed out interviews and comments that made early in the pandemic. And to be clear, these are things that he later changed as this pandemic developed.

So these are actual interviews with links here really looking quite a bit more like opposition research than in response to someone like Dr. Fauci, one of your top infectious disease experts.

It would be extraordinary for a White House to lash out at a top health expert at any point. But the fact that it's happening now is during a pandemic, we are starting to see those cases surge is really quite striking.

And, Ana, just to kind of take a step back here, we've seen the tension growing between President Trump and Dr. Fauci. Fauci, at certain points, really contradicting what the president was saying. The president's main message, this entire time, through the surge at the beginning of the pandemic, has always been the same, that the government has done a great job. They have done a great, beautiful job at fighting and responding to coronavirus. Well, this is what Fauci said about that last week.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HOLMES: And in another interview, at one point, Fauci said he wasn't sure where President Trump was getting certain information.

Now, President Trump was asked about Fauci on Fox News. He said he was a nice man but he had made a lot of mistakes. Now, apparently, the White House seems to be making this official and, again, seems to be aiming to discredit Dr. Fauci by releasing all of these comments he made early on in the pandemic.

CABRERA: Kristen Holmes at the White House, thank you for your reporting.

Joining us is Dr. Jonathan Reiner, CNN Medical Analyst and Professor of Medicine at George Washington University.

Dr. Reiner, at a time when facts are sorry important, how concerned are you about this reporting that some White House officials don't trust Dr. Fauci?

DR. JONATHAN REINER, DIRECTOR OF CARDIAC CATHETERIZATION LABORATORY, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL: Well, it was just a matter of time. Dr. Fauci has really been the only consistent member of the task force who has been willing to say things the president doesn't like. That is the truth. Almost every other public face on the task force, he was very closely to the administration's line. And this is why Tony Fauci has been increasingly ostracized.

Look, what the public needs is the voice of physicians and scientists simply telling them what they need to know, not what the president wants them to know, not what the president would want in a fantasy world the public to know, or what the public absolutely has to know. And that's what Tony Fauci has been doing.

And what this highlights is the, really, essential conflict of interest created by a White House that's actively running for reelection during a pandemic. The public needs to know the truth. Tony Fauci has been telling truth and we need more of that.

CABRERA: So, Dr. Fauci is being sidelined from public briefings, being denied opportunities to go on-air with people like us at CNN and other networks. What would you like to see him do to try to still help the American people?

REINER: Well, to be clear, the president really can't directly fire Tony Fauci. He's not really a direct hire of the president's. I suppose he can be fired from the task force, but Tony Fauci should continue to speak out and he should continue to do what's right for the country.

But I think we need to start to see something else. I think we need an independent task force, independent of this administration, one that perhaps answers to maybe the governors' association to provide unbiased, apolitical information to the public and to the governors, because, really, the governors now are the -- our legislators and leaders who are really on the frontline.

This administration has really taken a backseat that made themselves irrelevant. So maybe we need a new group of advisers that answers to the governors of the United States.

CABRERA: A day ago, we saw the president wear a mask publicly for the first time, something public health experts have been urging all Americans to do for months, the very least, several weeks now.

[18:05:08]

And at this point, 135,000 Americans have died.

I know it's an impossible question to answer, but do you wonder how many lives could have been saved if the president had done this sooner?

REINER: Well, we know how many lives that could have been saved. If you look at the country of Japan. Japan had their first case of coronavirus four days before the United States did. Japan is a bit small. They have 130 million people in that country. But that entire country has had 20,000 cases of coronavirus. The United States has had over 3 million. The entire country of Japan has had about 970 deaths. The United States has had 137,000 deaths.

And one major difference between Japan and the United States is that they masked up from the beginning. So I know precisely how many deaths could have been avoided.

So, pardon me if I don't give the president props for wearing a face mask in a hospital. A photo op is not policy. I want to see policy from the White House. I want to see the president say unequivocally every American who leaves their home should wear a face mask. It's not that hard and it will still save lives.

CABRERA: Take a listen to the U.S. surgeon general this morning. He was wearing a mask, by the way.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DR. JEROME ADAMS, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: It is the force, it's 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 dot right thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Dr. Reiner, I want to believe every word but thinking how it's taken New York months to turn things around here. He says this could all be turned around in two to three weeks, if everybody does the right things. Do you think that's realistic?

REINER: No. Dr. Adams was also the person who scolded the public at the end of February about wearing masks. So, pardon me, I'm not a giant fan of Dr. Adams.

This virus has about a seven to ten-day incubation period. It then takes people about a week to get sick. So, really, when people are starting to get sick and becoming admitted to the hospital, they're really showing you what happened two weeks before.

So any intervention starting tomorrow will only start to have an impact in maybe three weeks, maybe a month. We need to do aggressive maneuvers to shut this down, and the only way to do that in places like Florida is really to have a shut down. Masking is not enough.

Masking is an important step, and I applaud the surgeon general on being very vocal about that now, but that's really not going to put the fire out in places like Florida where there are 15,000 new cases today. That's more than New York State saw during the hottest part of the pandemic.

CABRERA: Exactly. And as we see these cases surge, not only in Florida, but in many states across the country, we are hearing from White House coronavirus testing czar, Admiral Brett Giroir saying today, we are in a much better place than we were in April in regard both PPE and testing. Are you as confident?

REINER: Well, we certainly are in a better place with testing. You know, we -- we've -- and I think our biggest day tested maybe 700,000 people in a single day. That's a lot. It's probably still not enough. We're better at testing.

The problem now is that, in many places, there is a huge lag in the return of test results. And you wonder about how beneficial a test result is if it takes more than a week to come back, and that's the lag in some places. So we need to do better than that.

As for PPE, many of us have really wondered about what the reserves are. N95 masks are still not easy to come by. Everyone I know continues to reuse N95 masks. And very ominously this week, we heard the vice president of the United States suggest that healthcare providers start to reuse PPE.

How is that possible six months into this pandemic that we haven't, you know, rebuilt a huge stockpile of PPE? To have the vice president suggest that we start to reuse PPE is outrageous and unacceptable. So I'd like an accounting from people, like Admiral Giroir, about what we have in our strategic reserves. How many masks do we have? How many ventilators do we have? [18:10:00]

How many gowns do we have? How many swabs do we have to do the testing?

CABRERA: Dr. Jonathan Reiner, thank you.

REINER: My pleasure.

CABRERA: The president is demanding schools reopen, but some teachers aren't sure it's safe, and here is an example of why. Three teachers in Arizona who shared a classroom this summer all contracted the coronavirus. One of them died. Her story next live in the CNN Newsroom.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: How, if at all, will teachers and children go back to school this fall? The White House state governors, principals, parents, they're all debating the risk of reopening schools while the coronavirus racks up scores of new cases and hundreds of deaths every day.

The risk is real. And three teachers in Arizona who shared a classroom this summer all contracted the virus, and it caused one of those teachers her life.

CNN's Evan McMorris-Santoro joins us now.

[18:15:01]

Evan, that small community has got to be hurting from this awful news about three of their teachers. What more can you tell us about them?

EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, as you say, this tragedy is really a story about how classrooms can be reopened safely. These three teachers thought that they knew how to do it. They all got together and decided to co-teach their online classes from a classroom at the Hayden-Winkelman School District, which is about half way between Tucson and Phoenix.

And they went into their classroom and they brought in masks, and they brought in hand sanitizer and they sat at distance, and yet all three of them got coronavirus. And one of them, 61-year-old Kimberly Chavez Lopez Byrd died on June 26th. Her other two colleagues told CNN about the tragedy.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ANGELA SKILLINGS, TEACHER WHO CONTRACTED COVID-19: It's very heartbreaking what we have gone through, and my main thing is if we can't stay safe, how our students can say safe?

Last year, I had 20 students. And I was lucky if they were six inches apart. I can't imagine keeping them six feet apart. JENA MARTINEZ, TEACHER WHO CONTRACTED COVID-19: Today is my best day yet in about a month. I still have a cough. I still am taking breathing treatments to relieve the tightness in my chest.

SKILLINGS: Feeling the worst today than I have in the last month, I retested a week ago, came back positive again. So, next week, I will go back and get tested again. Hopefully, this time it's negative.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Ana, this question about what to do about schools comes earlier in Arizona than almost anywhere else. Schools open very early here. This school, the Holbrook High School in Holbrook, Arizona, was slated to open in just 17 days, on June 29th. But as you can see, the gates are still closed.

Governor Doug Ducey said at the beginning of this new wave they were pushing the school year back by two weeks to August 17th. It's part of his attempt to try to mitigate the crisis but it's also about trying to answer the question that everybody in America is trying to answer, which is how do you open gates like this in a way that's safe? Ana?

CABRERA: And, obviously, Evan, Arizona is such a hotspot right now when it comes to some of the biggest issues that we're facing in this pandemic around the country. I understand Phoenix is setting new records for ventilator use?

MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Every day in Arizona, we get more bad news about hospital capacity and the medical care being strained by the spike in coronavirus here. We've been here for weeks. And about every day we've been here, there's been a 90 percent capacity or less, or more, I should say, on ICU beds.

And ventilators being just another thing that medical science needs to treat this disease. But as the numbers start to rise, that medical science gets strained here in Arizona and around the whole country, Ana.

CABRERA: Okay. Evan McMorris-Santoro, thank you.

Florida is also setting new records, recording more than 15,000 new coronavirus cases. This is the nation's largest single-day jump for any state. Right now, more than 7,000 patients hospitalized with the virus.

And I want to bring in social studies teacher Christy Karwatt, who teaches at Sarasota High School in St. Petersburg, Florida. Christy, thanks for being here.

CHRISTY KARWATT, SOCIAL STUDIES TEACHER IN FLORIDA: You're very welcome. May I make a correction? I teach in Sarasota, Florida.

CABRERA: Okay, thank you. I appreciate you correcting that.

The New York Times reports that internal CDC documents warned that full reopening of schools is, quote, the highest risk for coronavirus spread, and yet Florida this week, we heard ordered schools to reopen for in-person classes in the fall. If you had to make a decision today, would you return to the classroom?

KARWATT: I would not. I'm 61 years old so I'm at the older age group. I'm very physically fit, but so is my colleague, who's the exact same age, who is presently fighting for his life, in a local hospital. So that kind of was what really was the deciding factor for me.

CABRERA: I'm so sorry to hear that, and our very best wishes to your colleague.

I want you to hear what Education Secretary Betsy DeVos had to say this morning when asked about the lack of school reopening guidelines comes from her department.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BETSY DEVOS, EDUCATION SECRETARY: -- for a short period of time.

DANA BASH, CNN ANCHOR: So 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?

[18:20:00]

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 --

BASH: I'm not -- okay --

BEVOS: -- referenced by school leaders.

BASH: But I'm not --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Christy, what goes through your mind as you listen to that?

KARWATT: As a teacher, when I expect answers for my students, I expect evidence based on facts and also I know when my administrators come and evaluate me and look for my lessons. And if I laid out a plan like that, I don't think I would be teaching very long.

This is about the lives of our students. This is about the lives of my colleagues and their families. And I think sometimes we also forget that many of our students live in multi-generational homes. Many of our students from low-income families and they themselves have to go to work. So if they are exposed to this virus and take it home to their families, it's going to be very devastating.

CABRERA: I know you've been teaching more than 20 years. How badly do you want go back in the classroom? KARWATT: I look forward to it every single year and I do want to get back to the classroom. And I do think education is far better when you're face-to-face with your students. But under the circumstances, when we're mask-to-mask in a high school setting, there's no way there's going to be social distancing.

And if you walk through the hall, it's like a sea of students. There's not going to be social distancing. It's impossible for social distancing at the high school level, if you go to school every single day. And I even worry about some of these hybrid programs, because there's still going to be exposure.

And we have to be realistic. These are high school students. I can't even get them on some days to remember to bring their name tags or their I.D. badges that their required to wear for safety reasons, because we have to know who is actually a student on campus. So I can't imagine the difficulty we're going to have in trying to ensure students are social distancing and to ensure that they don't forget their mask.

It's going to be a very difficult situation, and there's been very little time educating and more time trying to get them to social distance to get through the halls. We're going to need more passing time between classes.

CABRERA: I want to go through some of the guidelines the CDC has recommended in order for schools reopen. Some of the guidelines include wearing masks, keeping desks six feet apart, staying home when appropriate, staggering arrival and dismissal times, backup staffing plans, no field trips or large gatherings, and the closing of communal spaces.

The president called these guidelines too tough, too expensive. You are expressing, I guess, some concern about whether this is possible. Do you think it's too tough to do this?

KARWATT: I do think it's too tough, but if those are the guidelines and my understanding they're the minimum guidelines, then I have concerns about opening up fate-to-face in the classroom, because I want my students protected, I want their families protected, and I want my co-workers to be protected as well.

CABRERA: You're right, because the president is saying these are too tough. So throw out the guidelines, just reopen.

KARWATT: Right. And I want this not to be about politics, not to be about the economics. I want it to be about what is best for my students and their health, because we are in a health crisis. And once we get that crisis solved, then we can be concerned about the economy. Because then we'll be able to deal with the economy.

CABRERA: So the first day of classes at Sarasota High School right now is tentatively scheduled for August. Christy, what would you need to see happen between now and then to make you feel safe about returning?

KARWATT: I don't think it's possible at this point with the numbers spiking here in Florida, and the number of people that I know that have contracted the virus already. Some have had very minor symptoms. There're some of the younger people that I know. I have known young people in their early 30s that have been quite sick. I know a woman right now that's 46 years old, and she's on her third week. She didn't go to the hospital.

But I don't think we should brag about, oh, the number in the hospital, this is a good number, or, we only have this many deaths. I don't want anybody to get sick. And so until we know even the long- term impact and effects of this disease, we need to tread very cautiously.

CABRERA: Christy Karwatt, I really appreciate your perspective. Thank you for joining us.

KARWATT: Thank you for having me, Ana.

CABRERA: And good luck to you and all of your colleagues as we figure out what to do about the schools.

Up next, an update on that naval ship continuing to burn in San Diego, at least 17 sailors and four civilians are injured. We'll get a live update in the CNN Newsroom when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

CABRERA: We're following breaking news out of San Diego where a fire and explosion onboard a Navy warship sent at least 17 sailors and four civilians to local hospitals. This is the USS Bonhomme Richard, an amphibious assault ship commissioned in 1998.

[18:30:05]

I want to bring in CNN's Paul Vercammen following the story.

And Paul, what more are you learning?

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, as you said, they have these 21 people sent to the hospital and the Navy telling us that 160 sailors were aboard the Bonhomme Richard on this a maintenance Sunday. We're also hearing from the Defense Department source telling us they believe that the fire may have started in the well deck.

You could describe the Bonhomme Richard as sort of a trojan horse. On the flight deck they can launch helicopters, they can take off from there, but inside the bows of the ship, if you will, by that well deck, are these LCACs, also known as landing craft air cushions. These hovercrafts could be deployed quickly and bring with them tanks and armored personnel carriers.

So they're going to look at that part of the ship as a possible source of this fire. As you could see there were numerous harbor boats trying to fight the flames with their hoses. We had a joint effort between federal firefighters as well as San Diego City, national city and other firefighters. Everyone is off that ship now including the injured. They have said that these injuries are not life-threatening, but we don't, frankly, have extreme clarification on the nature of those injuries.

So we need to get that. The Navy not able to give us details on that right yet. In any event, Ana, we've heard from the experts that this fire could burn for quite some time.

CABRERA: Yes. It's still going. OK. Thank you, Paul Vercammen.

Up next, a new report that Roger Stone said he was under enormous pressure to turn on the president and didn't. So was his commutation a reward for keeping quiet? And if so, is that legal? We'll discuss that, next.

You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:35:58]

CABRERA: Welcome back. President Trump is defending his decision to commute the sentence of his longtime friend Roger Stone following growing bipartisan outrage and some members of Congress are now alleging corruption.

Writing in "The Washington Post," NBC analyst Howard Fineman says Stone told him by phone on Friday after this happened, quote, he, Trump, never knows -- excuse me. "He, Trump, knows I was under enormous pressure to turn on him. It would have eased my situation considerably. But I didn't."

Here's a reminder of what Attorney General Bill Barr said during this confirmation hearing in January of last year.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. PATRICK LEAHY (D-VT): Do you believe a president can lawfully issue a pardon in exchange for the recipient's promise to not incriminate him?

WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL: No. That would be a crime.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: With us now is the White House correspondent for American Urban Radio Networks and CNN political analyst, April Ryan, and CNN legal analyst Carrie Cordero.

Carrie, is this a crime?

CARRIE CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, the act of the president to commute the sentence of Roger Stone is certainly corrupt, and so what we have, it's an act of the president, the president has wide authority to grant pardons or clemency, like he did in this case, but there is such thing as an abuse of that authority, and so the crime would be obstruction. So if we're thinking about what was the crime that the attorney general would have mind there, it would be obstruction. The president is not going to be charged with obstruction in this

case, and so it's really theoretical to think about whether or not there's a crime here. The main point is that it's a corrupt use of presidential authority, and I just worry, Ana, that the public is going to start to be resigned to this kind of corruption that we're seeing out of the White House.

CABRERA: As I mentioned, April, there has been bipartisan backlash. Mitt Romney saying unprecedented, historic corruption about this. We heard Senator Toomey call it a mistake. Is there, perhaps, an appetite for another impeachment inquiry especially this close to an election?

APRIL RYAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: No. Because you don't have time. You have to gather information. What will be the impeachment process will be the voting, if you will, in November. That's the only way to remove a president. The Senate had its opportunity to vote the president out after he was impeached in the House, but if you look at this president, this is just what he does.

This president calls himself the law and order president, but history will record this president as someone who rewards his cronies for criminal behavior and also between now and election, now and election, is a critical time. This president does things, he does bad things and he just keeps getting worse. He's not punished. But at issue, the question is, will he do something for Manafort and Flynn the same way he did for Roger Stone who lied to Congress.

CABRERA: Take a listen to what the president said about Stone yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: He was treated very unfairly. Just like General Flynn is treated unfairly. Just like Papadopoulos was treated unfairly. They've all been treated unfairly, and 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: April, in terms of the impact of this move on the election, do you think it will hurt Trump with his base, with Republicans or does it just not matter?

RYAN: Well, depending upon what side of the spectrum you sit. His base loves this irreverent breaking of the rule of law and changing the traditional dynamic of what a president looks like and what a president should be. But when it comes to majority of America, they believe that this president is not fit to serve, the poll numbers are showing it, and it will definitely -- it's all translating in polls now.

[18:40:07]

If the election were to happen now, and we see Joe Biden win from approval ratings, with Joe Biden versus the president of the United States. So this president is trying to rally his base, as others are rallying, and we'll see how it plays out at the polls. But if polls number today stand true, the president will leave office and Joe Biden will be the new president, just because of his irreverent breaking the rule of law behavior that has been consistent for the last three and a half-plus years.

CABRERA: I will remind our viewers what Senator Susan Collins said following the impeachment inquiry.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. SUSAN COLLINS (R-ME): I believe that the president has learned from this case.

UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: But the president says he did nothing wrong. Why do you think he learned something?

COLLINS: He was impeached and there has been criticism by both Republican and Democratic senators of his call. I believe that he will be much more cautious in the future.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CABRERA: Carrie, did the president learn his lesson?

CORDERO: No. Susan Collins was wrong then, and she's been awfully quiet this weekend. The fact of the matter is that the only thing that the president learned from the Senate acquittal of impeachment was that he could act with impunity. That he could do things like grant clemency to Roger Stone, who was convicted on seven counts of lying to Congress and witness tampering, that he can potentially pardon or grant clemency to others who are political allies or friends, and that he can do that, and there will be absolutely no consequences.

The only lesson that he learned from impeachment is that he can act without consequence except for as April mentioned in November, but there is so much that he is doing to damage the institution of the presidency along the way that is a corrupt use of that office.

CABRERA: Former special counsel Robert Mueller clearly took issue with the White House's characterization of the Russia investigation and their treatment of Stone. Writing in an op-ed in the "Washington Post," quote, "The Russian investigation was a paramount importance. Stone was prosecuted and convicted because he committed federal crimes. He remains a convicted felon, and rightly so."

Carrie, let me come back to you because now Senator Lindsey Graham is saying he is open to Mueller testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Do you think that's a good idea? Should Mueller testify again?

CORDERO: I think probably they'll just turn it into a circus. The special counsel did testify in front of the House Judiciary Committee about the report. He was very reluctant to do so at the time. He was asked questions in a bipartisan way. So I honestly don't know what else would come from that hearing, except for political theater.

The special counsel's report stands on its own two feet. And what's happening is actually over time through some litigation, more pieces of that report that were originally redacted and originally not able to be seen by the public are starting to become more revealed through released versions of that report.

The report shows that there was extensive communication between Roger Stone and the campaign and that the campaign knew he was -- that there would be potentially information coming from WikiLeaks that would benefit them. They knew that there was Russian government maligned activity being conducted against the elections and they welcomed that assistance.

And so that welcoming of foreign interference was documented in the report. There's nothing in a hearing that is going to change what's in the report, and I suspect that a hearing would just be an opportunity for political posturing in front of the cameras at this point.

CABRERA: April, quickly, if you will. Are you surprised Mueller wrote this op-ed considering he hasn't spoken about the Russia probe publicly since the report was completed and he testified before the House? That was nearly one year ago.

RYAN: No. Because when facts were wrong before, Mueller has come out. And this is something that's needed to make people understand that this is very wrong, what the president did. So I'm not surprised but at the end of the day, what will it do? What will Mueller's statement in this op-ed do? Will the American public catch it to see the severity of what the president is doing?

He is breaking the rule of law for a man who knows all the key players, knows everything about Russia, and knows everything about Russia's involvement in the 2016 presidential election.

CABRERA: April Ryan and Carrie Cordero, thank you, ladies. Good to have you here.

RYAN: Thank you.

CORDERO: Thank you.

CABRERA: A, quote, "large number of U.S. Marines" in Japan have now tested positive for coronavirus.

[18:45:05]

This is according to the governor of Okinawa. The governor saying he can't help but have doubts now about the kind of infection prevention measures the U.S. has been taking. This and much more next in your "Weekend Presidential Brief."

But first companies report their second quarter earnings this week. They're not expected to be pretty.

Christine Romans has a preview with your "Before the Bell" report. CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Ana. Wall

Street bracing for the worst earning season since the Great Recession. Companies begin reporting second quarter results this week. Now profits for the S&P 500 are expected to decline by nearly 44 percent. That's the biggest drop since the fourth quarter of 2008.

There's a lot more uncertainty than usual this time. More than half of S&P 500 companies simply withdrew their previous guidance or never even issued it. With Wall Street flying blind, the volatility could spike. Big banks are the first to report. Citigroup, JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and Bank of America are among the companies delivering results. Banks are likely to show significant loan losses despite fees from the Paycheck Protection Program.

Netflix also reports results this week, and analysts predict strong subscriber growth. The streaming giant has benefited from the stay-at- home economy with shares up more than 50 percent this year.

In New York, I'm Christine Romans.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:51:08]

CABRERA: In a rare and sharp defense, former special counsel Robert Mueller is defending his office's prosecution of longtime Trump ally Roger Stone after the president commuted Stone's prison sentence on Friday. Mueller, writing in a "Washington Post" op-ed this weekend, quote, "Stone became a central figure in our investigation for two key reasons.

He communicated in 2016 with individuals known to us to be Russian intelligence officers and he claimed advanced knowledge of WikiLeaks released e-mails stolen by those Russian intelligence officers."

Joining us now is CNN National Security Analyst, Sam Vinograd.

And Sam, last year, Stone was convicted of seven charges, including lying to Congress and what prosecutors say was in part to protect the president. You tweeted that the president's decision to commute Stone deals a major blow to our election security. How so?

SAMANTHA VINOGRAD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, Ana, our justice system is designed to punish crimes and in doing so to deter future ones. Trump's actions directly undercut that. The commutation is like an all hands announcement to the campaign that working with foreign governments is OK.

As you just read, Mueller detailed the fact that Roger Stone engaged in a host of dangerous activities with foreign actors during the campaign. Trump's willingness to just throw this all under the rug really signals to members of his current campaign that he won't impose costs if they work with foreign actors. This doesn't discourage campaign associates from mimicking Stone's behavior. It really encourages them to follow his lead. And for that reason, the commutation of Roger Stone's sentence really

just adds more election insecurity months ahead of the presidential election.

CABRERA: He being with the 2020 race, China is a hot button issue right now and, you know, Biden and Trump are trying to paint each other as soft on China. You worked with Biden, I know you support the Biden campaign. What reaction do you expect from China this week?

VINOGRAD: Well, Ana, Trump hasn't just been soft on China, he's literally been their surrogate for almost four years. Trump has parroted PRC propaganda on issues like COVID-19, Hong Kong and more. While members of his administration have tried to hold China accountable, Trump was seemingly willing to do everything possible to placate China in order to safeguard his trade deal whose benefits, by the way, have not come to fruition.

Now, non-coincidentally, while he's trying to distract from his own failures, he has started to align more with members of his own administration on issues that he was so out of sync with them on just very recently. According to John Bolton, President Trump reportedly told Xi Jinping that he was OK with concentration camps in Xinjiang.

Now months before the election, the administration finally rolled out sanctions to hold officials accountable for these human rights abuses. It is not a surprise that Trump is doubling down on looking tough on China in the run-up to the election and we should expect more aggressive policies out of the White House because of the political exigencies at hand.

CABRERA: Sam, we're also learning now a large number of U.S. Marines stationed in Okinawa, Japan have tested positive for the coronavirus according to the governor there. What more are you learning about that?

VINOGRAD: Well, we have about 50,000 service members in Japan and what we're learning is about 61 service members at two separate facilities have tested positive. In the near term, the facilities appear to be engaging in more stringent protective measures like lockdowns and at the same time officials in Okinawa are demanding more transparency from the Marine Corps about how they're going to safeguard people within Japan.

[18:55:01]

This is unfortunately just a metaphor for the U.S. government's failure to protect Americans more broadly. This is not the first instance of infection within the military. We all remember the USS Theodore Roosevelt. And unfortunately foreigners have good reason to view Americans as health risks abroad.

CABRERA: Sam Vinograd, thank you for our "Weekend President Brief."

VINOGRAD: Thank you.

CABRERA: Before we go, a programming note, W. Kamau Bell is taking on injustice and inequality across America as part of an all new season of 'UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA" which premieres next Sunday right here on CNN at 10:00 p.m. Eastern.

That does it for me this evening. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. Thank you for spending part of your weekend with me. My colleague, Wolf Blitzer, takes over right after this.

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