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Coronavirus Surging in Florida; President Trump Defends Roger Stone Commutation. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired July 13, 2020 - 15:00   ET



QUESTION: And, Mr. President, have you given any consideration to using your clemency powers to stop these executions and commute them to life sentences?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I have looked at it very strongly.

And, in this particular case, I'm dealing with Bill and all of the people at Justice. And it is always tough. You're talking about the death penalty. But when you talk about people that did what this particular person did, that is tough also.

So, we're going to see what happens. Right now, they have a stay, I believe, right? They have a stay. And we will let the courts determine the final outcome, and that's what's going to happen. OK?

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) You're asking Americans to have full faith in law enforcement. How do you respond to critics who say you undermined your own federal law enforcement agency, the DOJ, when you commuted the sentence of Roger Stone?

TRUMP: Well, if you look back on it, this was an investigation that should have never taken place.

You have guys like Comey. You have McCabe. You have Strzok. You have his lover Lisa Page. You have all of these people running around. You have Brennan and Clapper, who lied to Congress.

You have many, many people. You have people that changed documents going into the FISA courts. And it's a terrible thing. And this is an investigation that they said should have ended before it started. It shouldn't have started. And if it did, it should have ended immediately, because they found, as you know as well as I do, they found nothing initially, but it went on for two years or longer.

And, no, I did -- I'm getting rave reviews for what I did for Roger Stone. And he, frankly, is going to go and now appeal his case. He had a jury forewoman who hated Roger Stone, and who hated probably me. But she went on a false pretense, and he wasn't given a fair trial. He wasn't -- it's not a fair trial. He wasn't given another trial. He should have been given another

trial. I won't say more. I won't talk about the judge. I'm not going to -- why would I ever talk about a judge? But this was a judge that gave, I believe, solitary confinement to Paul Manafort. Al Capone didn't have solitary confinement.

So these are things that happened. And if you look at President Bush, President Clinton, President Obama, take a look at what they did. Frankly, it's a very unfair -- Roger Stone was treated very unfairly, in my opinion. And so were many others on this side.

In the meantime, you have the other ones who are admitted lying before -- they admitted. They lied before Congress. They leaked. They leaked classified information, which is something you just can't do. And what are they doing?

So we will see what happens. But, no, we're getting rave reviews for what I did. OK?

QUESTION: Are you going to be able to hold the convention in Jacksonville with all this virus spreading?

TRUMP: Well, we're going to see.

It built up a little bit, but we're going to do something that will be great. We think we're doing very well. We had some poll numbers a little while ago that are great.

You know, it's the same story. It's suppression polls that we had in 2016, phony polls, fake news, phony polls, same thing. And we're doing very well. We're doing well in Georgia. We're doing well in Texas. I have read where I was one point up in Texas. I'm not one point up in Texas. We're many points up.

I saved the oil industry. Two months ago, I saved the oil industry. There would have been -- I created it. We became number one. We have millions of jobs. And we saved it. So Texas is not going to have to let go of millions and millions of people, Oklahoma, North Dakota, many states.

We have -- we're at $40 a barrel, and yet you can buy gasoline for under $2. Nobody's ever seen like that. So we have the biggest energy in the world. We're number one in oil, as you know, oil and gas, by far. We're now number one in the world.

And we would have had millions of people out of work. I saved it. And then they say I'm leading by one point in Texas? They said it last time too. They said Texas is too close to call. This was like three months before the election. And then I won Texas in a blowout. They called it the minute the polls closed.

They said that about Utah. They said that about Georgia. They said the same thing. Georgia is, oh, we can't -- it's too close. They will never be able to determine. We will have to wait until election night. On election night, two seconds after the poll closed, they called Georgia. So, you know, it's the same thing. We have the same thing. They're

phony polls. They're suppression polls. But to think that, after saving the oil and gas business, and millions and millions of jobs, I'm leading Texas by one point? I don't think so.

Go ahead.

QUESTION: The China phase one deal still intact, or is it -- do you see it in jeopardy?

TRUMP: It's intact. It's intact.

But I'm -- I'm -- I think what China has done to the world, with what took place, the China plague, you can call it with the China virus, you can call it whatever you want to call it, about 20 different names.

What they did to the world should not be forgotten. But it's intact. They're buying. Whether they buy or not, that's up to them. They're buying.


QUESTION: Mr. President, Los Angeles just announced that they are delaying the opening of their schools. New York already said they were going to delay them.

Other school districts are giving parents the choice whether to send their kids to school or not. What do you tell parents who look at this, who look at Arizona, where a school teacher recently died teaching summer school, parents who are worried about the safety of their children in public schools?

TRUMP: Yes. The schools should be opened. Schools should be opened.

Kids want to go to school. You're losing a lot of lives by keeping things closed. We did the right thing. We saved millions of lives. We saved millions of lives when we did the initial closure.

Had we not done what we did, we would have had two to -- Mike and I were talking about it before -- two to three million lives lost. But we did that. So, we're at about 135,000. And we will be at somewhat higher than that by the time it ends.

And, again, the vaccines are happening and the therapeutics are happening, but I'm not even talking about that. So we will be at a somewhat high. But we would have lost two million, three million lives had we not done it.

Now we understand it also. We understand there are certain vulnerabilities. Young children. I was with -- talking to Governor Murphy, and they have thousands of lives. I won't even say how many, just thousands of lives. Hard to believe in New Jersey.

And he said there was only one life that was 18 or younger. One person died. And that was a person, a young man that had some medical difficulty. So, when you think of that, with thousands of lives, and you have one person that was under 18, that's something that tells you, for some reason, I guess the immune system is much stronger with young people than it is for others.

So, we have to watch the group that does have the difficulty, does have the problem. We all know what that is. We all know who they are, especially if they have a medical problem. If they have a medical problem, diabetes or heart or anything, it's a -- it's a big problem.

But we're being very careful. But we have to open the schools. Would you agree with that? Do you agree? Yes. We have to open the schools. We have to get them open.

And I think there's a lot of politics going along. I think they think they will do better if they can keep the schools closed in the election. I don't think it's going to help them, frankly. But I think they feel that, by keeping schools closed, that's a bad thing for the country, and, therefore, that's a good thing for them.

But they're the ones whose city is burning. I mean, can you imagine if the country was run like Chicago and like New York and like some of these other Democrat super radical left cities are run? You wouldn't have a country for very long, and the economy would crash.

So, we just set a brand-new record today on Nasdaq again. This is now, I think, the 18th time since, and this is since -- after the problem. So we have a new stock market high for Nasdaq. And the other ones are getting very close.

When I came here, the stock market was up almost 500 points today. The economy is rebuilding. Jobs are being produced at a record pace. We have never had a pace like this. And I will tell you, if Biden got in, this economy would be destroyed.

He was in -- he was in office for 48 years. And what he did was not great. Almost every decision was a wrong decision. And now he's going to come in and try and help us? We didn't need any help. We built the greatest economy in history, greatest economy we have ever had, the greatest economy the world has ever seen.

And then the plague came in from China. And we start -- oh, we did the right thing. We had to close it down. Now we're opening it up. He can't do it. He doesn't have the capability to do it.

Thank you all very much. I appreciate it. Thank you. Good luck with everything. Thank you. Thank you. Appreciate it.



So you have been listening to President Donald Trump right there.

Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thank you so much for joining us right now.

As we heard from the president, let me get over to the White House, where the president is.

Kaitlan Collins has been standing by, listening to this as well.

Kaitlan, on coronavirus, I have to say, it's like the president still is not taking an actual scientific -- scientific information, because he's claiming, again that, if the country tested less, there would be less cases.

I can't talk about -- I can't even count the number of times that that's been fact-checked.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I mean, it's not only fact-checked by people in the media, by critics of the president. It's fact-checked by his own health experts inside the administration who have said that is not the case.

We are not seeing more cases and a national surge in cases because there is more testing being done. All the health experts have said, yes, that plays a role in it, but that is certainly not the only excuse for why we are seeing hot spots getting worse and new hot spots emerging.

Yet the president has continued to repeat that false claim, as he did just there, despite no matter how many times there have been multiple fact-checks. And the other thing he did was, he insisted he has a good relationship with Dr. Fauci.


It's unclear if they have spoken today. But we know, Dr. Fauci, said they had not spoken in over a month and he had not briefed the president in over two -- in two months. And, of course, this weekend, we saw those White House attempts to undercut Dr. Fauci by anonymously releasing a list to reporters of statements he made in previous months, compared to what he was saying now, things like Americans don't need to be wearing masks.

Of course, that guidance has done a 180 throughout the administration. And that comes after the press secretary said it wasn't opposition research on Fauci, though it was anonymously being distributed, and it came with a statement that had no name on it that was saying officials were concerned about the times that Dr. Fauci had been wrong before, without pointing to other administration officials on the task force who said similar things or misstatements made and false claims made by the president about the virus, things like what he was just repeating about testing.

I do want to point out one other thing that the president was talking about in probably the longest back and forth with reporters that he's had in about two or three weeks. The president defended commuting the sentence of his longtime friend Roger Stone on Friday night.

And his Attorney General Bill Barr was sitting just a few seats away from the president. And Kate, of course, he previously said he believed the prosecution of Stone was righteous and the sentence that he ended up with was fair. Of course, the president commuted that sentence, so he is not going to be spending any time in jail.

BOLDUAN: Yes, a lot there. It's always good to have you here, Kaitlan, to try to weed through fact and fiction. Really appreciate it.

All right, we're going to have much more on that. There's much more to fact-check on that ahead.

But we're also going to return to focus on the science and the real data, because you can't deny the fact that Florida broke a record yesterday, reporting more than 15,000 new cases of coronavirus. That broke a record. Those numbers do matter, despite what the president says.

So what's happening on the ground there? What's being done? We will get to it. That's next.



BOLDUAN: So, it is only Monday, and this week is already looking worse than last week.

The numbers in the United States are still going in the wrong direction; 35 states continue to see an increase in the number of new infections, now more than 3.3 million cases across the country and about 60,000 new cases every day, almost twice as many as we saw during the first peak back in April.

Leading the way, Florida, Arizona, Texas and California, all seeing rising numbers of COVID patients in their hospitals. And with all this, the president of the United States is not only ignoring the science here. He's actively trying to undermine the scientists that are the only experts we have to get us out of this.

This morning, he turned to a game show host, a guy best known for hosting "Love Connection," for public health advice, retweeting and then deleting a message accusing -- quote, unquote -- "everyone," including the CDC, of lying about the virus.

And his White House staff is now putting out what amounts to opposition research on Dr. Anthony Fauci. The intent can only be one thing, to discredit the nation's top infectious disease expert, the doctor that the president depended on in the beginning, the doctor who has guided the country through public health crises for decades.

That doctor, the president doesn't want you to hear from anymore. But the country needs to hear the science to get through this. So we're going to play for you what you will likely want to hear, which is Dr. Fauci speaking, speaking today with Stanford University.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: This is a really serious problem. It is truly historic. We haven't even begun to see the end of it yet. We made it set of guidelines a few months ago that had good what we

call checkpoints. We had situations where you do entry. Then you would have phase one, phase two, phase three. Unfortunately, it did not work very well for us in an attempt to do that. Tests assessed the increase that we have seen.

So we can get a handle on that. I am really confident we can, if we step back. You don't necessarily need to shut down again. But pull back a bit, and then proceed in a very prudent way of observing the guidelines of going from step to step.


BOLDUAN: And one of those key guidelines was waiting, seeing a 14-day decrease in infections before reopening, but most states did not do.

Like, let's focus in now on Florida. The state recorded more than 15,000 new cases yesterday, the highest number of new cases in a single day for any state, shattering a record every state is trying to avoid.

Today, Florida is reporting another 12,000 new cases.

Rosa Flores is joining me now. She's in Miami for us.

Rosa, what are you seeing there today?

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Kate, it's not getting any better.

I was just text messaging with city of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, asking him if he had any new information regarding contact tracing. And, according to him, the latest data shows that 36 percent of new COVID-19 patients, the transmission is by family transmission, family spread.

That is how this virus is spreading here in the epicenter of this crisis in the state of Florida. Miami-Dade County accounts for about 24 percent of the now more than 280,000 cases in this state.

And if you look at the metrics in this particular county, the latest ones released yesterday, they are not good, the number of hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients increasing 65 percent over a 14- day period, ICUs 67 percent, when it comes to ventilators, 129 percent.


And just to give you an idea of the number of individuals, back on June 29, 90 people were on ventilators here in Miami-Dade County. Just yesterday, that number grew to 209.

Now, Kate, transparency is important. We pressed Governor Ron DeSantis last week to release the number of COVID-19 hospitalizations across the state. Very quietly, on Friday, Florida released that number for Friday, only. That number was 7,000. But the state did not release the historical data. So it's impossible

for us to analyze it. What I can tell you is that that number today, just a few days after Friday, has grown to more than 8,000 -- Kate.

BOLDUAN: Rosa, thank you so much for your diligence on the ground. We will be back to you. I appreciate it.

Joining me right now is Jay Wolfson, professor of public health medicine at the University of South Florida. And Dr. Celine Gounder is back with us, CNN medical analyst, former New York City assistant commissioner of health.

Dr. Gounder, I almost feel like we need to start with -- do the exact replay of a conversation we had last week, which was fact-checking the president talking about, if you tested less, you would have less cases, but we have done it. It still isn't true. Let's move on.

I do want to ask you, though, the continued -- it's not just silencing or dismissing science and scientists. The White House and its efforts, they're undermining the scientists that are the only experts that can actually give us the information to get out of this as safely as possible.

You are one of those experts. You are on the front lines. What is your reaction to seeing the White House putting out opposition research, effectively, to -- on Dr. Anthony Fauci?

DR. CELINE GOUNDER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: This is one of the most damaging things the administration could be doing right now, Kate.

They are literally the ones politicizing a public health emergency. And, really, we should all be standing together, doctors, scientists, leading through this very difficult time for the country.

And, instead, we're all exhausted, seeing patients, doing these interviews, trying to get information out there. And at the same time, our reputations are being destroyed by people with a political agenda. And that's incredibly demoralizing in this moment.

BOLDUAN: And, Dr. Gounder, in the context of all of this, you also have the president wearing a mask for the first time in public this weekend, acknowledging the reality that we have all been talking about for so long.

I mean, what do you do with that?

GOUNDER: I think he really makes decisions on the basis of his gut, as he's said himself many times. And I think this has a lot to do with public perception and pressure from his aides.

I don't think that he would have caved in to this if he felt like there was any other choice. But, unfortunately, as he's dug in his heels over the last several months in terms of acknowledging that this is a problem, acknowledging the need to wear masks, and any other number of public health interventions, he's really promoted, promulgated a lot of false information that have left people confused and scared.

BOLDUAN: You know, Mr. Wolfson, we just heard the latest from our reporter on the ground in Florida.

And, yesterday, Florida saw the highest number of new cases in a single day of any state. But the White House is touting what they view as a relatively low death rate there. I mean, what do you make of this?

JAY WOLFSON, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA: That's actually what we expected.

The death rate has declined. It hasn't fallen. And it's staying low for a number of reasons. We're managing the disease a lot better than we did. We have got some medications that we can use to reduce the severity of the disease once it gets very bad and acute. We're managing people outside of the hospital.

And there may be evidence of second strain that is not as toxic, but is more contagious, and also is causing younger people to get more of it. So the death rate is still low, but there's going to be a cascade, Kate.

And that is, we have more exposure, resulting in more test positives, resulting in more hospitalizations. Our ICUs are already overflowing, and there will be some death.

So we can expect over the next couple of weeks to see some upticks in the death. Remember, it's a death rate, as well as the actual number of deaths.

BOLDUAN: Yes, that's right. And the deaths lag. And it's so -- it's just all -- the numbers just don't look like they are trending anywhere close to leveling off yet in Florida.

Dr. Gounder, there are still real concerns over testing slowdowns, which is unbelievable that we're still talking about this, and saddening, really. The mayor of Atlanta says it took her family eight days to get results back.

Now Mick Mulvaney, Donald Trump's former chief of staff, he just put out an op-ed saying essentially the same thing. And I want to read what he said just in part.

He said it took him, I think, he said seven days for his family to get results back. That is simply inexcusable at this point in the pandemic. But, again -- but federal leaders, the White House is touting testing as a success. You heard the president just do that.


Can you tell people why a lag time from seven to eight days to get test results is so problematic?

GOUNDER: So, Kate, there were a couple different gating criteria that had been defined by the White House Coronavirus Task Force, one of which, as you mentioned earlier, was numbers of cases.

You needed to see cases and deaths declining for 14 days. Another key metric, though, was scaling up testing capacity and contact tracing. And so if you're trying to prevent onward spread of the disease, one person infecting another, you want to be able to diagnose that first person early enough and isolate them, so that they don't transmit to other people.

And without a test, you really can't do that. You have to assume everybody has it. So it really completely impedes our very basic public health measures to control the spread of the virus right now.

BOLDUAN: You know, Mr. Wolfson, Harvard researchers, they have been analyzing some data kind of across the country. And they come up with an assessment of how states are doing right.

And they are recommending that eight states issue stay-at-home orders to get a handle on things and basically do it immediately. And, obviously, Florida is included in that.

And I'm wondering, do you think there is a collective energy or will at this point to do that amongst the public to turn this around?

WOLFSON: I hope, Kate, that we're getting there.

The governor is of the opinion that Floridians have a sufficient amount of common sense to protect themselves and others. We have not been experiencing that. But, as more people get sick, more younger people get sick, and as more people experience the disease either personally or with their families, and experience death, we're seeing the public turning around and saying, this may be real.

And, at that point, the governor may issue a stay-at-home order. But his rationale for not doing it is that he thinks it's going to be very hard to enforce.

BOLDUAN: Troubling.

Mr. Wolfson, thank you. Celine, it's great to see you again. Thank you.

Still ahead for us: Russian roulette. That is how one school nurse is describing reopening public schools right now.