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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Trump Administration's Failure to Combat Coronavirus; : Sen. Graham Defends Fauci, Says Trying to Undermine Him "Is Not Going to be Productive". Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired July 14, 2020 - 16:00   ET

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


[16:00:01]

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: Are Alabama fans going to vote for Tommy Tuberville to begin with because of his Auburn ties? I mean, this is all -- this gets very complicated, as does it always when it comes to football.

JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely.

BOLDUAN: Good to see you, Jeff. Thank you.

ZELENY: Thanks, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Thank you so all much for joining me. I'm Kate Bolduan.

"THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER" starts right now.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to THE LEAD. I am Jake Tapper.

And we begin today, of course, with our health lead and the coronavirus pandemic, which continues to escalate across the United States of America.

Today, Florida is reporting a record high number of deaths in one day. On the other side of the country, the mayor of Los Angeles said that that city is on the verge of having to return to the strictest level of stay-at-home orders.

The great city of Philadelphia is canceling all large city events until March 2021. And Dr. Anthony Fauci is warning that we have not even begun to see the end of this pandemic, while, of course, the White House is conducting a bizarre campaign to undermine Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert.

White House Deputy Chief Of Staff Dan Scavino posting this deranged cartoon attacking Fauci, putting this on Facebook.

And as the president is set to speak next hour, let us take stock of another time that President Trump addressed the nation from the Rose Garden to talk about the coronavirus, specifically three months ago today, April 14, when the president, at the Coronavirus Task Force briefing, made a series of assertions that were not true then and continue to be flat-out wrong, starting with the spread of the novel coronavirus.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In almost all cases, it's all starting to come down.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: It is certainly not starting to come down, not then, not now. Infections are skyrocketing.

We're averaging 60,000 new cases a day, compared to the peak of 36,000 back in April.

Here's President Trump on the death toll, which three months ago was just over 25,000:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: The minimum was 100,000 deaths. And I hope to be substantially under the minimum, meaning we all hope, Mike, right? We all hope to be substantially under.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Here we are, three months later. More than 136,000 people in the United States have lost their lives to coronavirus.

The U.S., with less than 5 percent of the world's population, has nearly 25 percent of the world's coronavirus deaths, according to numbers compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

The U.S. government response is, empirically, a failure. And a top Trump official, Admiral Brett Giroir, sounding the alarm today that the death toll in the U.S. is expected to continue to climb.

To bring that down, of course, we need to isolate the virus with testing. So, what did President Trump say about testing three months ago?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: We will be utilizing our robust testing capacity for the governors. We will be giving them what they need, if they don't have it themselves.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Giving them what they need, when is that going to happen, Mr. President?

Testing in the U.S. remains grossly inadequate, as your own former acting Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney just acknowledged this week, after his family was personally impacted by testing lags.

Testing and contact tracing is nowhere near where it needs to be to isolate and contain this virus. Three months ago, the White House Coronavirus Task Force presented strict guidelines for how states, when ready, could begin to reopen.

And President Trump suggested the federal government would step in if any state did so before it was safe to do so.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: There are some that want to open up almost now. Now, if we disagree with it, we're not going to let them open. We're not going to let them open.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: The White House didn't do that, in fact, quite the opposite.

President Trump attacked Democratic governors for trying to keep their states locked down. And the president pressured states to reopen. And states flung open the doors, even though health experts said not one state, not one, met the White House guidelines at all.

The federal government has been lying to you about the coronavirus. But, more importantly, the federal government has been failing you, with fatal results.

And now, with these failures naked before us, as CNN's Erica Hill now reports, state and local officials in at least half the country are having to start to shut the country back down again.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Across the country, reality setting in.

DR. PETER HOTEZ, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: This is the problem. There is no road map, no plan for the country.

HILL: The U.S. now averaging more than 60,000 new cases a day, 20 states starting the week with their highest seven-day average. Reopening is paused or in reverse in more than half of all states.

[16:05:00]

Philadelphia just canceled all large events through the end of February 2021. And South Florida continues to break records.

DR. LILIAN ABBO, INFECTIOUS DISEASE SPECIALIST: Miami is now the epicenter of the pandemic. What we were seeing in Wuhan six months ago, five months ago, now we are there.

HILL: The positivity rate in Miami-Dade County, which accounts for nearly a quarter of the state's cases, is almost 30 percent. Nearly 200 employees at Jackson Health, the area's largest hospital system, are out sick with COVID-19.

DAN GELBER (D), MAYOR OF MIAMI BEACH, FLORIDA: People aren't respecting this virus, especially younger people.

HILL: California setting new records for hospitalizations and ICU admissions, with the majority coming from Los Angeles County.

In Harris County, Texas, home to Houston, hospitals are approaching surge capacity. Officials there urging the governor to let them bring back a stay-at-home order.

JUDGE LINA HIDALGO, HARRIS COUNTY, TEXAS: The longer we keep this going, pretending like these incrementalist restrictions are going to fix the problem, the longer it's going to take to recover.

HILL: Testing and a significant lag in getting those results still an issue months into the pandemic.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): If you swab, and then you get the results back in seven days, that's not ideal, and particularly if you're -- if you have symptoms.

HILL: Forty percent of infected cases are asymptomatic, according to the CDC, yet the country's testings are is encouraging some Americans to hold off.

ADM. BRETT GIROIR, U.S. ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: In places like Arizona and Texas, if you wake up in the morning, and just feel like you want a test, you might not need to do that, right? We need to think about those who are at high risk or in high-risk situations.

HILL: Schools a flash point, as the administration insists in-person learning must be the standard, though without offering a strategy.

CINDY MARTEN, SUPERINTENDENT, SAN DIEGO UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT: The countries managed to safely reopen schools, they have done so with declining infection rates, not rising infection rates. And they (AUDIO GAP) on-demand testing available. California has neither of those.

HILL: San Diego, Los Angeles and Atlanta announcing plans to begin the year online, as new polling from Axios and Ipsos shows most parents say it would be risky to send their kids back in the fall.

CDC Director Robert Redfield IS optimistic.

DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, CDC DIRECTOR: I actually think a majority of counties would meet the criteria, provided that teachers have the confidence to reopen, the administrators have the confidence to reopen, And the parents.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HILL: We have actually heard a fair amount from Dr. Redfield today.

In a separate Webinar with "The Journal of the American Medical Association" just a short time ago, he was asked about predictions, and he said he's really reluctant to predict anything with this virus because he just got to know it six months ago, and he said, Jake, he was one of the people who early on thought that maybe we'd see it die down a little bit in July and August.

Obviously, that has not happened. He went on to say that he is very concerned about the fall and winter 2020 to 2021. And he said, keeping hospitals from getting overwhelmed is really going to define how this is handled.

TAPPER: All right, Erica Hill in New York, thank you so much.

Speaking of New York, New York's Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo seems to be on something of a victory tour, congratulating the state and himself for defeating the virus, even selling this poster which shows his state getting over the mountain by bringing down the curve during the 111 days of hell, as the governor put it.

The poster includes references to his daughters and a boyfriend, little inside jokes. There are no illustrations, however, of the more than 32,000 dead New Yorkers, the highest death toll by far of any state.

No rendering on that poster of criticism that Governor Cuomo ignored warnings, no depiction of the study that he could have saved thousands of lives had he and Mayor de Blasio acted sooner. No painting there on the poster of his since rescinded order that nursing homes take all infected patients in.

Here's what Governor Cuomo had to say yesterday:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): What we went through and what we did was historic, because we did tame the beast. We did turn the corner. We did plateau that mountain.

And then we came down the other side. And they will be talking about what we did for decades to come.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Here to discuss this and more is CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

And, Sanjay, look, I know a lot of New Yorkers are happy that the infection numbers are down. And we all hope that they stay down.

But let's be clear. This is revisionism. And a lot of the crowing and Governor Cuomo going on late night is offending a lot of New Yorkers, given the fact that this is the highest death toll of any state, more than 32,000 dead. The next closest is New Jersey with 17,000.

Are people going to be talking about what Governor Cuomo did for decades to come in the way he hopes?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: I -- unfortunately, I don't think so, Jake,

I mean, I think we're very early days in this. We're looking at the first few pages of the history books. And I think there's a lot more to be written.

[16:10:01]

I'm a little surprised by that poster, I got to tell you, because I think, if anything, what this virus has taught us is that we need to have a significant amount of humility. This virus surprises us over and over again. There's no place in the country that's not vulnerable.

And I think that we should have learned, I think we have learned that victory laps are not the thing to be doing, because we're not through this by a long shot, sad to say, even in New York.

I think there's two ways of sort of looking at this. On one hand, the house was on fire, and Governor Cuomo helped put the fire out. But I think there's also -- we heard from a lot of our medical contributors today, infectious disease specialists, who say, look, I mean, part of the legacy, part of the story will be that, did New York act too slowly as well initially?

The house went on fire. Why? Did it need to go on fire? The flip side, I think, Jake, is, as the governor is alluding to, is that if you look at the country as a whole right now, New York is the place, at least within the United States, that people will point to and say, they did -- they have done a good job. That's a place that has at least given a little bit of inspiration to other places that they can bring these numbers down like you see on the screen.

But I got to tell you, Jake, we heard from a lot of people today, some of it solicited, some of it unsolicited. And most everyone had some tone of, look, let's slow this down, this victory lap. We're very early days here. If people sort of get this sense of complacency, we have seen it in other countries around the world. We have seen it here in the United States, and we have seen it throughout history.

That can be a real problem, Jake.

TAPPER: Humility, at the very least, called for.

CDC Director Redfield said he does not believe that the explosion in cases in the South is because of reopening. He said it all simultaneously kind of popped. He pointed to the increase in travel during the Memorial Day weekend holiday. What do you make of all that?

GUPTA: Yes, I mean, and Dr. Redfield, I have interviewed him before. He was under the impression, as Erica Hill -- Erica Hill's piece just pointed out, that there would be a little bit of a lull with the warmer weather.

And a lot of people sort of thought maybe that would happen. Clearly, that didn't happen here. I don't know, Jake. I was a little surprised by Dr. Redfield's comments here, because, clearly, you can look at the trajectory, you can look at the data, you can see that there was an impact of closing, and then there was an impact of reopening.

The only thing I would say is that, when you when you look at the mobility data around the country, part of the reason you had such increased mobility to the Southern states, including where I live here, in Georgia, and Florida, is because these states reopened, same thing in South Carolina.

So they became destinations even more so than normal in the spring months. So I think he's right. I mean, there were several things that were happening at the same time, but there was increased mobility. And part of that increased mobility was happening because these states were reopening.

There's no question that that fueled it. And you have got to point to the reopening, because we understand the impact now pretty clearly from the data of what happened, at least when we shut down. Not saying that we need to do that in all these places again, but, clearly, that helped break the cycle of transmission.

TAPPER: Sanjay, listen to what the task force testing czar, Admiral Brett Giroir, had to say this morning.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GIROIR: Even, though we're turning the corner on the current outbreak, and it looks all indications are that we have that, we won't see the benefit in hospitalizations and deaths for at least another couple weeks. We are not there yet. But we are seeing some early light at the end of this tunnel.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Are we seeing early light at the end of this tunnel? It doesn't seem that way from where I sit.

GUPTA: This was baffling a little bit, Jake.

I mean, we look at the same data here. We're -- this is an objective sort of story that we're telling, right? We can look at the numbers, we can look at what's happening in these places.

And we have already had a little bit of history here. We see the case numbers go up, followed shortly, a couple weeks later, by hospitalizations, and then, sadly, by deaths.

I don't know. If there's a light at the end of the tunnel, which I hope there -- and there is -- we're going to get through this -- it's a long tunnel still, Jake. So we're all looking at the same data. I think what we're going to see, again, unfortunately -- I don't relish saying this, but I think it's going to get worse before it gets better.

So the admiral seems to be indicating that, look, we're seeing the early indicators that hospitalizations are going to go down, death rates are going to go down. I think most people in the country now, not just public health experts, sort of understand that, when you see the case numbers going up, and the pace at which they're going up, hospitalizations are going to shortly there follow.

Death rates will come as well. They may not be as high in proportion as they were in the past, because we have learned a few things, Jake. We know how to better care for these patients. There is a younger demographic that's being affected right now.

But we know that this is going to continue to spread.

TAPPER: Yes. As always, we hope that our pessimism is wrong.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thank you so much for your expertise, as always.

GUPTA: You got it.

TAPPER: As coronavirus cases spike, a new CNN global town hall. Join Anderson Cooper and Sanjay, with special guest former CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden, for "Coronavirus: Facts and Fears."

That's live Thursday at 8:00 p.m. Eastern time.

[16:15:04]

Some breaking news, the president just sat for an interview. What is he saying about policing and the return to school amidst this pandemic? That's next.

Plus, the new item in short supply because of the pandemic. Why some major retailers want to keep your change.

Stay with us.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: In our politics lead, as the White House continues its indecent and bizarre campaign to try to discredit Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of President Trump's closest allies, Republican Senator Lindsey Graham is rallying behind the nation's top infectious disease expert.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC): We don't have a Dr. Fauci problem. Any effort to undermine him is not going to be productive, quite frankly.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

[16:20:00]

TAPPER: Meanwhile, the president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, which represents 12,000 medical professionals, also issued a statement calling the campaign from the White House to undermine Fauci disturbing, and to beat the virus, America must stand with science and with Dr. Fauci.

But the president, of course, continues to be at odds with science and scientists and doctors.

And as CNN's Kaitlan Collins reports to us now, polls show that many do not like how the president is handling this pandemic.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Cases are rising in the U.S., but there are new questions today about whether President Trump understands the crisis facing the nation. Despite scenes of Americans waiting in line for hours for COVID tests and accounts from his own former chief of staff about delayed results, Trump has refused to acknowledge the national surge.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: They're always talking about the number of cases. Well, it is a big factor that we do have a lot of cases because we have a lot of testing.

COLLINS: The White House is instead dealing with the fallout after the press shop anonymously criticized Dr. Anthony Fauci in hopes of undermining him.

Today, Joe Biden called the move disgusting.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESUMPTIVE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Mr. President, please listen to your public health experts instead of denigrating them.

COLLINS: Even one of Trump's top Republican allies defended the nation's top infectious diseases expert today.

GRAHAM: We don't have a Dr. Fauci problem. I think any effort to undermine him is not going to be productive, quite frankly.

COLLINS: Fauci sat down with Chief of Staff Mark Meadows yesterday but didn't see the president and still hasn't spoken to him in over a month. Asked if he's ever considered walking away from the job, Fauci said no.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE FOR ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Because I think that the issue at hand is so important that I think walking away from it is not the solution. I think that would just make things worse.

COLLINS: Though the White House backed off of its criticism of Fauci after it backfired, one top aide to the president still seemed determine to bring him down a peg. Dan Scavino, the deputy chief of staff for communications, posted this cartoon on his Facebook page yesterday, portraying Fauci as a leaker surrounded by bubbles that said things like "indefinite lockdown" and "shut up and obey." Scavino wrote that at least if he disagrees with a colleague, he'll do it publicly, not behind their back with the quote, see you tomorrow.

Other task force members are also being forced to explain the president's comments after he promoted a tweet that claimed the CDC and most doctors were lying about COVID-19, the testing coordinator, Admiral Giroir, said you're not.

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE, NBC NEWS ANCHOR: You're not lying.

ADM. BRETT GIROIR, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF HEALTH: Look, we may -- we may occasionally make mistakes based on the information we have, but none of us lie. We are completely transparent with the American people.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: And, Jake, on another note, the president did an interview with CBS News today where he was asked a pretty straightforward question by the reporter who said why are more black Americans -- or why are black Americans still being killed by police officers here in the United States? This is how the president answered.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CBS NEWS REPORTER: Why are African-Americans still dying at the hands of law enforcement in this country?

TRUMP: And so are white people. What a terrible question to ask. So are white people. More white people, by the way. More white people.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: So he goes from saying that George Floyd's death is terrible to saying it's a terrible question why he was asked why black people are still being killed by law enforcement officers, Jake. I want to point to a study from 2018 from the American Journal of Public Health that said that black men are 3.5 times more likely to be killed by police officers than white men are.

Yet, when the president was given a chance to address something that has really roiled the nation in recent weeks with many people saying that there needed to be changes to police, policing and police reform overall after the deaths of people like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and others, that was how the president responded to what was a simple question where the president could've sought to have a moment of unity for the nation, and instead turned on the reporter asking the question, called it a terrible question, and said that more white people are killed than black people.

TAPPER: All right. All part of his campaign of racial grievance for white people.

Kaitlan Collins at the White House, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

The top pediatrician joins me next. Why he says it's imperative that students return to the classroom in the fall, as more schools announced online only plans.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[16:29:36]

TAPPER: Breaking news in our national lead right now, school kids in northern California will split time between in-person and online learning this fall -- in North Carolina as the CDC director says a majority of the counties in the United States are in a position to reopen schools. That's in North Carolina.

And it's a sentiment echoed in a new "Wall Street Journal" editorial board piece titled "The Case for Re-Opening Schools."

Joining me now to discuss is Dr. Dimitri Christakis.