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Trump Administration Reverses Decision on International College Students; Should Texas Shut Down?; President Trump Set to Hold Press Conference. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired July 14, 2020 - 15:00   ET

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


[15:00:00]

MICHELLE ZYMET, WIFE OF CORONAVIRUS VICTIM: But he's fighting for his life literally every single minute in that hospital.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Well, Michelle, thank you for talking to us. We -- we have John on our minds and on our hearts.

And I will send you a prayer your way this evening. Thank you so much for being with us.

ZYMET: Thank you so very much as well. I appreciate it.

KEILAR: Our special coverage continues now with Kate Bolduan.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone. I'm Kate Bolduan. Thank you so much for joining me.

We are keeping a close eye on the White House right now, as the president just added a press conference in the Rose Garden to his schedule. You can imagine how many questions there are for him today about the administration's response to the coronavirus pandemic, its plans for trying to stem the wide -- the community spread we're seeing everywhere.

Well, let's see if he takes any questions, this as CNN has new reporting that allies of the president are now afraid that Donald Trump and his White House are proceeding with no direction.

The perfect illustration of that, these allies point to, is the president's attempt to publicly discredit the nation's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Something else that should worry any ally of the president, that more and more states and school districts across the country, they are not bending to the president's demands to keep their economies open and get children back into classrooms.

They're not looking at politics. They're looking at reality, and the data and experts telling them, by and large, the numbers are going in the wrong direction still, even though the president does not acknowledge that. In 37 states, new infections are increasing, trending up week over week, and in some states at alarming rates. At least 26 states are pausing or dialing back their reopening plans in an effort to contain the spread now, which has also meant some of the country's largest school districts are ignoring the president's demands, and pushing ahead with their plans now to start school, the school year, online.

And forget about what the president wants. What do parents want? Well, here is a window into everyone's thinking. In a new Axios/Ipsos poll, they found a majority of parents in the United States say it's too risky to send their children back to classrooms right now, including a slim majority of Republicans and nine in 10 black parents.

So what is the president going to say about that today?

Let's get to Kaitlan Collins. She's standing by at the White House.

Kaitlan, what are we hearing about this press conference?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, we're told so far by a person familiar with what the president is expected to say that it's going to focus on China.

Of course, the big question is going to be whether or not the president actually takes questions, because, often, you see the White House say there's going to be a press conference. It's not a press conference unless he actually takes questions.

And if he does take questions, of course, he is going to be faced with questions about what is happening across the nation with coronavirus, because, lately, despite seeing these surges in cases, the president's own former chief of staff talking about just how hard it is to not only get a test, but to get the results of that test, the president has not been focusing on that problem.

And, instead, the crisis that the White House has been dealing with is the fallout after they anonymously criticized Dr. Anthony Fauci over the weekend in this attempt to undercut him or undermine his advice.

Now, many people in the White House, we're learning, do not think that was a wise move for the White House to make, because, instead, it's creating this feud between the White House and Fauci, between the president and Fauci, at a time when not only are they focusing on what's going on in the country, but also with a little over 100 days to go before the election.

And, Kate, obviously, a typical White House, they would not be focused on something like this. They'd be focused on defining their opponent, what's going on with that, but this is not a typical White House. And, instead, some fear that it is opening up to criticism like this from what Joe Biden said just a few moments ago:

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Mr. President, please listen to your public health experts, instead of denigrating them. Do your job, Mr. President, because, if we can't deal with a public health crisis, we can't deal with the economic crisis.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COLLINS: Now, after seeing how putting out that anonymous memo about Fauci seemed to backfire, the White House appears to be backing off of that, though someone close to situation said the damage has already been done. They have already put doubt out there about what it is that Dr. Fauci is saying.

And so that is certainly something that the president could be asked about, because he has been the one who has been probably the most irritated out of other people in the White House with how Dr. Fauci has publicly contradicted him and gotten better approval ratings than what he has.

BOLDUAN: And talking about China and the relationship with China is, yes, an important issue, of course, but the fact that he's holding a press conference, and if he isn't going to be -- and they're not saying right now that he is going to be addressing the pandemic, is also -- just added to exactly what you're reporting, Kaitlan.

[15:05:03]

It's truly remarkable, when you look at the direction where the country is headed right now.

Kaitlan, thank you very much.

Kaitlan is going to be standing by for that.

And in an extraordinary move, four former directors of the CDC are now accusing President Trump of putting lives at risk by undermining science.

They write this in an opinion piece, in part: "Unfortunately, their sound science is being challenged with partisan potshots, sowing confusion and mistrust, at a time when the American people need leadership, expertise and clarity. We're seeing the terrible effect of undermining the CDC play out in our population. Willful disregard for public health guidelines is, unsurprisingly, leading to a sharp rise in infections and deaths."

The Association of American Medical Colleges is also voicing support for Dr. Anthony Fauci. This is the group that serves as a voice for the nation's medical schools and teaching hospitals.

And they write this: "As we are seeing from the surge in COVID-19 cases in areas that have reopened, science and facts, not wishful thinking or politics, must guide America's response to this pandemic. America should be applauding Dr. Fauci for his service, and following his advice, not undermining his credibility at this critical time."

Joining me right now is Dr. Ross McKinney. He's the chief scientific director for the association.

Doctor, thank you for being here. You write that discrediting the science will do tremendous harm. Why

is this so damaging to not just look to truth and fact, but also -- when it comes to just truth, in fact, but also when you're facing this current public health crisis?

DR. ROSS MCKINNEY JR., CHIEF SCIENTIFIC DIRECTOR, ASSOCIATION OF AMERICAN MEDICAL COLLEGES: Well, this is an unprecedented epidemic that we're dealing with. And it's full of confusing and difficult information to understand.

And so people need help translating and understanding what's going on. And good, authoritative, clear voices like Dr. Fauci are critical in this kind of situation.

BOLDUAN: If this, which is discrediting Dr. Fauci, is part of the strategy for the federal government's response to this unprecedented crisis, what do you think that means for the country's trajectory out of this?

I would like to know, Doctor, what you would want to say to the president, as he's about to walk into the Rose Garden and hold a press conference.

MCKINNEY: I would hope he would be supportive of the public health officials, the people at the CDC, Dr. Fauci and others in the government who are trying their best to think of the public's health first and speaking honestly about what they think are the best and most appropriate ways for us to move forward in this epidemic.

BOLDUAN: Was this -- what brought you to the point of needing and wanting to speak out as a collective, as a group, and as an individual?

Was it this -- was this the straw that broke the camel's back? Is it some -- what was it about what was being said about Dr. Fauci that led to this very public statement?

MCKINNEY: What led to the statement, at least for me, was the fundamental dishonesty that the group used. And it was somebody within the White House, apparently, but doing things like quoting part of one of Fauci's statements, and acting as if that was his opinion, when, in fact that, I mean, he said, at this point in time, you don't have to modify your day-to-day behavior.

That was February 29. And then he went on to say, but this could change if this -- if we see community spread. They left out the critical part that was really the message that Dr. Fauci was trying to make.

So, the straw that broke our -- the camel's back for us was when they were doing maneuvers that demonstrate that they didn't want a legitimate conversation. They wanted to use traditional, I would say, sort of hack political maneuvers to discredit somebody who is worthy of our admiration.

BOLDUAN: Do you think -- Kaitlan Collins was just reporting that some within the White House think the damage is done in terms of their efforts to discredit Dr. Fauci's word.

Do you think the damage is done?

MCKINNEY: I don't think the damage is done. I think America has watched Dr. Fauci for 30 years be a spokesperson.

They know his degree of honesty. They know how much he is willing to speak up for what he thinks is the public good. And I think that the damage is not done. He is -- he will retain that credibility in an ongoing basis.

BOLDUAN: I want to lean on another part of your area of expertise. You're also the former head of the Division of Pediatric Infectious Diseases at Duke.

When it comes -- you're the perfect person to ask about this, because it's been something that's kind of been hanging in the back of my mind on what we know and don't know about the virus and children. We can keep hearing different things, Doctor, just from the White House Task Force on what we know and don't and what you can take from it.

[15:10:07]

I want to play just an example of that. First, it's Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar and then Dr. Deborah Birx.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALEX AZAR, U.S. HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: Children are much less much less susceptible to severe outcomes from the virus than adults.

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: Until we know how many have been infected, we have no evidence that there is significant mortality in children without coexisting diseases.

And that's what we're looking for right now is to really make sure we have overturned every rock and understand that in deep detail.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: And what Dr. Birx was getting at was that there is a real lack of testing, which also means data in terms of children and this disease.

Why do we know so little about the virus and how it impacts kids?

MCKINNEY: I think, actually, the reason we know so little about the disease in children is that it is milder in kids, and they are less likely to get infected.

And so people tend not to test them. A, they're less likely to get infected. Truly, the under 10s are less likely to get infected. And they're less likely to have severe disease, so people don't test them.

And when they do test, their outcomes have been -- generally have been better. So, it is a surprise. This is very different than influenza, where children are the vectors who carry it through the community.

In this particular case, it looks like children are not as much a part of the driver of the infection. Children get less symptoms, and they're less likely to transmit to others.

BOLDUAN: Yes. It's still so much unknown and so much uncertainty.

It is a scary thing to figure out.

Dr. Ross McKinney, thank you so much for being here. I really appreciate it.

MCKINNEY: Thank you very much.

BOLDUAN: Coming up next for us: Some local officials in Texas say the crisis there is so bad that the state needs to now shut down for two weeks, at least.

Plus: If you have had COVID, are you immune? A new study finds a immunity after COVID may be fleeting. So what does this mean for all of us?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:16:25]

BOLDUAN: Now to Texas, where local officials are calling for the state to shut down again.

Cases have skyrocketed in the weeks since the state had announced -- the governor announced that the state was going to begin reopening in May. In Houston, where hospitals are hovering at capacity and running out of ICU beds, the mayor there says that they need to close back down for at least two weeks to try and get a handle on the spread.

Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SYLVESTER TURNER (D), MAYOR OF HOUSTON, TEXAS: We're moving in the wrong direction. And so this is an opportunity, but we have to kind of -- we have to reassess and recognize that we just need to hit the reset button.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLDUAN: Joining me right now, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins.

Judge, it's good to have you back on. I really appreciate it.

So you have got the mayor of Houston. You have got the Harris County judge. They're calling for a two-week shutdown. Now. Do you think Dallas County needs to shut back down as well to get out of this tailspin?

JUDGE CLAY JENKINS (D), DALLAS COUNTY, TEXAS: We sent the governor a letter asking him to shut certain businesses where you cannot wear your mask 100 percent of the time, like in-restaurant dining, to close day care to only essential workers.

Thus far, he hasn't even been willing to close cigar bars. Obviously, you can't wear a mask and smoke a cigar in an enclosed space. And so we're just asking the governor to do what our local doctors are requesting.

BOLDUAN: Do you think -- do you think a complete shutdown might be necessary in Dallas County?

JENKINS: If the governor refuses to act, the longer he waits, the more that will be necessary.

You know, at this point, the doctors think we -- at least here, things are a little better here than they are in Houston. But they think, here, he can do a little less than that. But, of course, that's what they have been saying for the last three weeks, and he's failed to act.

And so if he continues on the path of not acting, then a shutdown will be necessary.

BOLDUAN: And just to note for our viewers, Judge, you and I had the same conversation when you were on two weeks ago, when you had just sent this letter to the governor. And he still has not gone any further or responded to what you're asking for and saying your county needs, because you're listening to the medical experts.

Do you think Dallas County's -- Dallas schools can reopen for in- person learning next month?

JENKINS: No. I think we can open for learning, virtual learning.

But I'm putting together a team of experts, pediatric, infectious disease doctors, education experts, to look at this right now. Right now, our DISD superintendent is asking that we look for some time after Labor Day. I think that's prudent. And it could be a while after Labor Day.

But it's a tough decision and one that we will have to pull the experts together and make a good decision on.

BOLDUAN: Yes.

And I have talked to the superintendent of Dallas schools, and he's trying his best. But hearing from you, you don't think it's possible, I think, is extremely noteworthy, with the direction things are going right now in Texas.

The CDC director was just speaking. And he said, in his opinion, he was happy to see that the president and the vice president were now wearing masks in certain places. But he also said that the president and the vice president need to wear masks in order to set the example.

Do you agree? Do you need that in Dallas County? JENKINS: Absolutely, because there are people that listen to

everything that the president says, and he is their leader.

And he's -- for that matter, he is our nation's leader. And so when he models that it's not that serious to wear a mask, or he doesn't think it's manly to wear a mask, it makes others not want to wear the mask.

[15:20:05]

And we know now that the mask is the single most important thing we can do to protect each other from the virus. It's like a vaccine in a mask. If you're wearing your mask, and you're sick, you probably won't infect others. If others are sick, they probably won't infect you.

So it's very important that we do that. The president needs to step up and be a leader.

BOLDUAN: One part of this equation, a huge part of it is testing. And I just saw that you have now said that you are taking over testing for your county, no longer relying on the federal government.

Why is that, Judge?

JENKINS: They were taking eight to 10 days for the test. And these are for -- we don't have Medicaid expansion in Texas. So these are people who are out there keeping the economy going, working.

And when you're telling them, hey, you have got to stay on for eight to 10 days for your test result, it's just not possible for them to feed their family and do that.

And so it wasn't working at all. We're going to take it over. We're going to do those tests in two days or less, turn around in two days or less. And we appreciate the federal offer, but I politely declined.

BOLDUAN: Yes. I mean, I say I will take -- you have got to take two days over eight days, when that is the matter of life and death, when you're talking about getting these test results back and slowing and stopping and containing the spread.

Judge, thanks for coming on.

JENKINS: Thank you, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Coming up for us: new reporting on how much longer the border between the U.S. and Canada will remain closed.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:26:29]

BOLDUAN: We have breaking news just in.

We have just learned that the Trump administration is now reversing its directive that would have forced all foreign college students to leave the country if they had to take all of their classes online this fall. This is a total reversal coming from the Trump administration.

Let's get over to Shimon Prokupecz. He's been following -- this has been playing out in a courtroom in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Shimon, it was Harvard and MIT leading this lawsuit. But what are you hearing from the judge now?

SHIMON PROKUPECZ, CNN CRIME AND JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, it was Harvard and MIT.

And, as you said, a complete reversal here from the government. You have to wonder what they were thinking in the beginning of this and how unfair and cruel in many respects this is, for many of the students who've been in this country studying, researching, doing all sorts of things you would expect students to do, for the government, for this administration to come in and say, because of the coronavirus, and now because many schools like Harvard behind me do not want to do in-person classes and take everything to online, you're going to have to leave.

The government was sued by Harvard, MIT. And schools all across this country, from L.A. to New York, joined in the lawsuit and the hearing. It was on the phone. Kate, because of the coronavirus, you can't go to the courtroom. It only lasted minutes.

The judge took the bench, presumably, and she said, OK, I understand there's an agreement here. And the one government lawyer on the phone said, yes, we have come to an agreement. And it's almost as if they never thought about. They said, we're rescinding it, there's no concern here, and then we can just go back to normal.

But think about for many of the students who've been here who've been dealing with this decision now for months wondering what they're going to do. Maybe some have already left. It's unclear, of course, and also, the institutions, the schools, who rely so much on foreign students, not only for the economy and the money, but the cultural experience for everyone involved.

So, for sure, Kate, I think this is going to be a welcomed relief for many people who are here, who are studying, and the schools such as Harvard have behind me who led this fight with MIT.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely.

Shimon, thank you so much for bringing us this breaking news.

Actually, joining me right now is David Leebron. He's the president of Rice University.

Thank you so much for being here.

This was actually something I was going to ask you about even before this just coming in from this lawsuit. You have been -- Rice University has been support -- had been supporting Harvard and MIT, along with many other schools, in trying to fight this directive coming from the administration. You have been very outspoken, speaking out against this. What's your

reaction now?

DAVID LEEBRON, PRESIDENT, RICE UNIVERSITY: Well, I'm really delighted to hear this very important news for our students.

We -- as we said, we thought the original rules that had been suggested were cruel and misguided and didn't serve our universities, they didn't serve our students, and, frankly, they didn't serve our country.

And so we're delighted at this reversal. I want to thank Harvard and MIT for filing the suit, which we joined in a brief. This is just great news for our students.

And I think, as you said very well, it's not just great news for our international students. It's great news for all of our students. And it's great news for the future of our country, in terms of what our international students contribute to our country, what they do when they graduate.

This is a very sensible decision. And I'm grateful for the reversal of the government position on this.