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Trump Pushes Back On U.S. COVID-19 Mortality Rate, Downplays Crisis; Florida Reports More Than 12,000 New COVID-19 Cases; Georgia's Governor Sues Atlanta Mayor Over Mask Mandate; Millions Of Americans' Extra Unemployment Benefits Set To Expire; More Violent Protests Erupt In Portland As Federal Troops Arrive; Two GOP Senators Mistakenly Tweet Tributes To Lewis Using Pictures Of Rep. Elijah Cummings. Aired 4-5p ET
Aired July 19, 2020 - 16:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN HOST: Hello again, everyone. Thank you so much for being with me this Sunday. I'm Fredricka Whitfield.
We begin with a battle playing out in real time between the president of the United States and the facts. Right now there are more than 600,000 coronavirus deaths globally, a new grim milestone. 140,000 of those happening right here in the U.S. Many states seeing startling spikes in cases. Both Georgia and North Carolina reported their highest single day of new cases on Saturday, yet the president is downplaying the extent of the crisis.
Well, here are the facts. First, Florida reporting another 12,478 new cases today. This as the state says hospitalizations have risen dramatically in recent days. More than 9,300 are now being treated. In Texas, new cases and deaths have seen a significant rise. The capital of Austin says a third of the city's coronavirus deaths have happened in just the last two weeks. And the U.S. Navy is now going to south Texas to help in the fight against the disease.
And projections from the CDC say 150,000 Americans will die -- will have died from the virus by August 8th. But even as cases and deaths continue to rise, President Trump is playing down the data, arguing in an interview on FOX News this morning that the numbers are being skewed, and citing European CDC models rather than data from Johns Hopkins University.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: We have the seventh highest mortality rate in the world. Our mortality rate is higher than Brazil. It's higher than Russia. And the European Union has us on a travel ban.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes. I think what we'll do -- well, we have them on a travel ban, too, Chris. I closed them off. If you remember, I was the one that did the European Union very early. But when you talk about mortality risks, I think it's the opposite. I think we have one of the lowest mortality rates in the world. WALLACE: That's not true, sir. We have --
TRUMP: Well, we're going to take a look.
WALLACE: We have 900 deaths on a single day --
TRUMP: We will take a look.
WALLACE: -- this week.
WALLACE: Do -- you can check it out.
TRUMP: Can you please get me the mortality rate? Kayleigh is right here. I heard we have one of the lowest, maybe the lowest mortality rate anywhere in the world. Do you have the numbers, please? Because I heard we had the best mortality rate.
KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: Sir, this (INAUDIBLE) as Dr. Birx points out. And this is --
TRUMP: Number one low mortality rate. I hope you show this on air because this shows what fake news is all about.
WALLACE: OK. I don't think I'm fake news, but we'll put up --
TRUMP: Well, yes, you are.
WALLACE: We'll put our stats on.
TRUMP: You said we had the worst mortality rate in the world, and we had the best.
WALLACE: I said we had --
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: All right. Let's talk about some of the president's questionable claims on the pandemic from that very contentious interview there. CNN's Jeremy Diamond is at the White House. Dr. Pritesh Gandhi is a primary care physician and David Sanger is a national security correspondent for the "New York Times."
Good to see all of you. All right. Let me begin with you, Jeremy. The president defending his handling of the coronavirus crisis and continuing to downplay the steep rise in these cases across the country.
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Fredricka. And what we saw from the president, what we have seen from him throughout this pandemic, and that is the president battling with the reality here, battling with the science. The president once again pushing back on these -- the facts, basically, that there is another surge of coronavirus in the United States that has been under way for the last month, suggesting that the increase in cases that we are seeing is somehow linked to increased testing, even though that is not the case. And he has been -- and that point has been repeatedly debunked.
The president also downplaying the coronavirus once again referring to this as embers. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WALLACE: Do you still talk about it as, quote, "burning embers"? But I want to put up a chart that shows where we are with the illness over the last four months. As you can see we hit a peak here in April, 36,000 cases --
TRUMP: It's cases.
WALLACE: -- a day.
TRUMP: Yes. Cases.
WALLACE: Then it went down. And now since June it has gone up more than double. One day this week 75,000 new cases.
TRUMP: That's right.
WALLACE: More than double.
TRUMP: Chris, that's because we have great testing. Because we have the best testing in the world. If we didn't test, you wouldn't be able to show that chart. If we tested half as much those numbers would be down. We tested --
WALLACE: But this isn't burning embers, sir. This is a forest fire.
TRUMP: No, no. But I don't say -- I say flames. We'll put on the flames and we'll put out in some cases just burning embers. We also have burning embers. We have embers and we do have flames.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DIAMOND: And as Chris Wallace pointed out in that interview, testing is up 37 percent, but cases are up 194 percent, which shows that the president's claim here that this is all about testing is simply not true.
But, Fredricka, what is remarkable here is that while all the public health experts in the United States including those inside the government are focusing on telling Americans to take on those mitigation efforts, wear masks, practice social distancing, the president is nowhere on that front. Instead he is focused on trying to spin his government's response in a positive light -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: Dr. Gandhi, you know, the president describing this nationwide, you know, surge in coronaviruses, you know, burning embers, you know, blaming the increase in cases on more testing. And we know that's just not the case. So, in your view, how is the U.S. doing when it comes to testing, and in dealing with the pandemic, which clearly is growing in many circles?
DR. PRITESH GANDHI, PRIMARY CARE PHYSICIAN: U.S. leadership during this pandemic has been a massive failure. The reality is, is that today, compared to one month ago in Austin, we have four times as many people in the ICU as we did before. We've got a roughly 20 percent positivity rate here in the state of Texas.
We've got cases that are up 30 percent from last week, and we have yet to see a national testing strategy. And on top of that, many of us, even me, are still -- we're still waiting on test results from swabs that we have done more than 10 days ago, because many of the national testing groups have massive delays.
WHITFIELD: And what kind of setback is that when you talk about a 10- day delay?
GANDHI: Absolutely massive. I mean, what can you really do, right? It's a big -- it's a joke to think that we can do adequate contact tracing, that we can contain the pandemic when by the time I have a positive or negative result, a week and a half has gone by. It just -- you lose the actionable nature of having a positive or negative test result if you're waiting more than 10 days.
WHITFIELD: Wow, that's incredible.
So, David, you have to write a story in the "New York Times," you know, detailing an inside look at how the Trump administration tried to abandon leadership of the virus by turning it over to the states. And you write, you know, a White House group led by Chief of Staff Meadows put effort forward this way, stating their ultimate goal was to shift responsibility for leading the fight against the pandemic from the White House to the states. They referred to this as state authority hand-off.
And it was at the heart of what would become at once a catastrophic policy blunder and an attempt to escape blame for a crisis that had engulfed the country. I'm reading from your article, perhaps one of the greatest failures of presidential leadership in generations. I mean, that says a lot. So there's been a big blame game, but then you've got a lot of people who have died and are being injured along the way.
DAVID SANGER, NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT, NEW YORK TIMES: Fredricka, we took a team of "Times" reporters who had worked on an earlier big look at the first months of the crisis, when the president was denying that there was an issue and saying it was going from 15 cases to zero. And we've now looked at a second segment of time in which the critical moments are really in April, when the president, you may recall, said at one point that he would have to decide when the company would reopen.
That it would be one of the biggest decisions of his presidency, and then he never made it. Instead, about a week later the White House turned out, with the president standing there, a series of standards for reopening the country, state by state, turned over to the governors the chance to make that decision. But then the president never held them to the standards. Instead, he said let's just go ahead and reopen.
And as we reconstructed this, we came to the conclusion from a lot of interviews, a lot of different people in both the state and inside the White House, that it was these weeks that really set off the surge that you just heard described before by the doctor. And that surge is the result of opening too early, of not holding to the standards. There was an active debate, a good debate to have about whether or not if you kept the economy closed, you would also be harming people, but the president never sort of got out in front of this.
And when you heard him say in that interview with Chris Wallace that the problem here is testing, well, clearly not. The testing is letting us know where we are.
WHITFIELD: And it seems, David, it's full steam ahead on the whole placing blame and responsibility on the states, but then if the states go one direction with, say, for example, mask mandates, then the president is critical of that.
SANGER: Well, what he does is he says it's up to the states, it's not up to me. This is a state by state issue. But when the states say we may keep the schools closed in the fall, and we can have a debate about whether that's a good or bad idea, he then turns around and says if you do that, I'm going to cut off all of your federal funding.
WHITFIELD: Right. So then it's his decision again.
SANGER: For education. That's right.
WHITFIELD: But then he really doesn't want to make the decision.
SANGER: That's right.
WHITFIELD: OK. So, Jeremy, you know, the president was also, you know, confronted about his administration's efforts to now discredit Dr. Anthony Fauci. Listen in this interview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: Dr. Fauci has made some mistakes, but I have a very good -- I spoke to him yesterday at length. I have a very good relationship with Dr. Fauci.
WALLACE: But sir, this week, this weekend your White House put out a series of statements, so-called mistakes that Dr. Fauci had made. One of your closest aides, one of your right hand man, Dan Scavino, put out this -- have you seen this?
TRUMP: Well, Doctor -- look.
WALLACE: Dr. Faucet, which shows him as a leaker and an alarmist. TRUMP: Well, I don't know that he's a leaker.
WALLACE: Why would he do that?
TRUMP: He's a little bit of an alarmist. That's OK. A little bit of an alarmist.
WALLACE: He's a bit of an alarmist?
TRUMP: A little bit. A bit of an alarmist.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: So, Jeremy, the president says he has a good relation with Dr. Fauci after all that.
DIAMOND: Yes. And the president tried to suggest in that interview that this was just about that op-ed that his Trade adviser Peter Navarro wrote, but it's not. It's a broader campaign by the president and by this White House to discredit Dr. Fauci because days before that op-ed by Peter Navarro, the White House press shop itself had put out a series of talking points that looked like an oppo dump that you'd put out on a political opponent, pointing to things that they viewed as errors that Dr. Fauci has made.
And look, Fredricka, we use the word "unprecedented" a lot when it comes to this president, but I think it's fair to say that it is unprecedented in modern American history to see a president go after the health experts in his own government during a pandemic such as this. It truly is -- it truly is unprecedented.
DIAMOND: And it's not just Dr. Fauci, it's also Dr. Redfield, it's also the CDC. The president in this interview made several claims where he went against what Dr. Redfield of the CDC was saying.
WHITFIELD: Oh, and then real quickly then, Dr. Gandhi, what does that kind of disparagement, you know, the medical community, of the scientists do to members like yourself of the medical community? It must drive you crazy.
GANDHI: Yes. It does. Because he's undercutting our expertise and our ability to leverage that expertise to push social change. I mean, the reality is, is that so many of these models are based on the idea that people are actually going to be following social distancing and going to mask, and their ability to do that depends on them listening to experts and leaders. But when that credibility is undercut by the president of the United States, it makes it extraordinarily difficult for public health experts.
WHITFIELD: Dr. Pritesh Gandhi, David Sanger, Jeremy Diamond, thanks to all of you, gentlemen. I appreciate.
SANGER: Thank you. WHITFIELD: All right. Coming up, Florida reporting more than 12,000
cases of coronavirus in a single day, and it's happened four times this month alone. Is a shutdown unavoidable there?
Plus the governor of Georgia squaring off with the mayor of Atlanta over masks. And business owners? Well, they're stuck in the middle.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KEVIN CLARK, OWNER OF HOME GROWN: Grow up, be adults.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: All right. More devastating coronavirus numbers are coming out of Arizona. Today the state reported its highest death rate since the beginning of the pandemic. The state says on Saturday 147 people died from the disease. The positivity rate for new infections in the state remains incredibly high. Thirty-nine percent of those tested for coronavirus on Saturday were infected. Despite all of that, Arizona officials say hospitals are reporting slightly lowercase counts.
Florida is also facing surge in coronavirus cases, and the state is seeing its hospitalizations climb as well. CNN's Randi Kaye joins us now from West Palm Beach.
So, Randi, some hospitals are already at capacity?
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. And if you look at the numbers, it's easy to see why, Fred. More than 12,000 new cases in the last 24 hours. That's up from 10,300 just the other day. 89 dead in the last 24 hours. We're looking at a number of 4,982 dead in the state of Florida and more than 350,000 cases overall around the state.
This is the fourth time just this month, Fred, and actually since the start of the pandemic that we've seen the daily case numbers above 12,000 in a single day. So the state positivity rate we're looking at is 18.2 percent. As far as hospitalizations 9300 people hospitalized at last check in the state of Florida. And if you look at Miami-Dade, one of the hardest hit, 2,008 of those 9300 are hospitalized in Miami- Dade County.
Overall, there's 49 hospitals around the country -- around the state, I should say, that have no ICU beds left at all. And in Miami-Dade, there is 127 percent ICU capacity. That means they are out of ICU beds in the state of Florida. You have to excuse -- there's a bit of a motorcycle troupe going by so I'll just keep going here. But meanwhile, there is still no mask mandate in the state of Florida. Many are asking the governor would do something about that. They want some uniformity throughout the state.
You have somebody like Donna Shalala, Florida representative, former Health and Human Services secretary under the Clinton administration, today, just today, coming out saying that the governor needs to issue a mask mandate statewide, that this virus doesn't know the difference between the countries, and she also thinks that the state should shut down once again -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: Wow. We will see what happens next. All right. Thank you so much, Randi Kaye. Appreciate it.
All right. Georgia now reporting its highest number of new cases in a single day since the start of the pandemic. A record of 4,688 new cases coming as Republican Governor Brian Kemp sues the mayor of Atlanta over her city's mandatory mask order. Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms now questioning the true motivations behind Kemp's lawsuit as cases continue to spike across the state.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR KEISHA LANCE BOTTOMS (D), ATLANTA, FL: While there were other cities in our state who instituted mask mandates and he did not push back against them, I don't know if it's because perhaps they were led by men or if it's perhaps because of the demographic in the city of Atlanta. I don't know what the answers are. But what I do know is that the science is on our side.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: CNN's Natasha Chen joining me now from Atlanta.
And, Natasha, I talked to the mayor of Athens, Georgia, yesterday who also has mask mandate. And he too wondered why isn't he being sued by the Georgia governor? What more are you learning?
NATASHA CHEN, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Fred, it's more than the masks. It's about Atlanta rolling back to phase one apparently and the mayor just tweeted this morning that the lawsuit in addition restrains her from speaking to the press. She said, "Far more have sacrificed too much for me to be silent."
Now we asked the governor's office about this. A spokesperson told us that the mayor is looking at this part of the lawsuit too narrowly, that it's really about her public statements regarding business restrictions. And here's a quote from the spokesperson, "The mayor is mischaracterizing the truth to confuse people. She has taken several actions inconsistent with the governor's order and threatened the livelihoods of Georgians without legal justification."
We talked to some Georgians here in Atlanta about their businesses and here's how they feel about it.
CHEN (voice-over): The politics of how to fight COVID-19 have played out on all levels of government. From the White House to statehouses to county commissions and city halls. But now in Georgia, a high stakes battle between the statehouse and Atlanta city hall has turned into something of a food fight, at least for some Atlanta restaurants.
GOV. BRIAN KEMP (R), GEORGIA: Mayor Bottoms' mask mandate cannot be enforced, but her decision to shutter businesses and undermine economic growth is devastating.
CHEN: Georgia Governor Brian Kemp has sued Atlanta's mayor and city council over its rollback to phase one, which he says is unenforceable, while the mayor, Keisha Lance Bottoms, has instituted a mask mandate and is calling on the city's restaurants to return to curbside pickup and delivery only as cases of COVID-19 soar.
BOTTOMS: It is a complete waste of time and money to file suit against the capital city of this state in which he is supposed to lead.
CHEN: Kemp says no local mandate can be more or less restrictive than statewide executive orders. He said he filed the lawsuit on behalf of struggling Atlanta businesses, but if his lawsuit is a dish best served cold, some Atlanta restaurant owners say it's just feeding the fire.
CLARK: Grow up, be adults.
CHEN: Kevin Clark and his partner Lisa Spooner own Home Grown, an Atlanta restaurant that was cited in Kemp's lawsuit as an example of a business suffering from the mayor's actions.
LISA SPOONER, OWNER OF HOME GROWN: We would benefit more if they came together and made a universal decision together on their own as adults working together to help this community, not a lawsuit that to me just makes it further apart as opposed to closer together.
CHEN: They decided to close Home Grown again since they said they would operate at a loss doing only takeout. But without concrete guidance from local and state leaders others have stayed open.
CLARK: It's just the wild west. It's what -- you know, a lot of people think it's the west wide.
CLARK: You do what you want. Like go the patio, you're closed, you're open.
CHEN: Chef Zeb Stevenson of the Atlanta restaurant Redbird said just the act of shuttling down and reopening again costs thousands of dollars.
ZEB STEVENSON, CHEF AT REDBIRD: We feel like a child in between two parents who are going through a divorce right now. And I say we as normal people and business people. One of them is saying this and one of them is saying that, and we're not sure that either one of them is sending a message because I think it's what's best for us. We kind of feel like they're sending the message because they feel like it's what's best for their political career. CHEN: Stevenson has kept Redbird open for now with strict protocols to
protect people's health because he said his customers have demanded the experience of sitting down inside. He also had some customers calling to cancel reservations after the mayor's rollback. But either way, there's no winning.
STEVENSON: It feels very unsafe to make statements right now because the population is so divided about the best way that anybody should be doing anything.
CHEN: The owner of the restaurant behind us, this is the Pig in the Pearl, Cindy Shearer tells us similar to the people you heard in that story, she feels frustrated, too, that there's just a lack of guidance. They're on their own here. For her business model, she's deciding to stay open right now with the best health precautions in place, but really they have to make their own decisions because she feels the leaders aren't really getting it together -- Fred.
WHITFIELD: Wow. OK. Lots of confusion there. Natasha Chen, thank you so much.
All right, still to come, a frightening reality for unemployed Americans. The $600 extra benefit that they have been getting will come to an end this week.
Next, what this means for American families, and what lawmakers on Capitol Hill plan to do about it.
VANESSA YURKEVICH, CNN BUSINESS AND POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: -- Sanders took a leap of faith. She quit her job, picked up her life and moved to Atlanta in January. She wanted to make a difference.
DELENA SANDERS, UNEMPLOYED DOULA: The reason I became a doula is because I really wanted to make a difference in the black community as far as the birth disparities, and I figured this would be a good area to do that. It's a celebration of pregnancy.
YURKEVICH: Her hopes of getting her business off the ground gone. She's one of the millions of Americans now without a job, on unemployment.
SANDERS: COVID seems to be getting worse and not better. So, at least here in the city of Atlanta, we're in the process. It seems like we're going back to phase one. So, I may not be able to go into the delivery rooms anytime soon. YURKEVICH: And it's about to get worse. In two weeks, the extra $600 a week in unemployment that's helped Americans like Sanders to pay bills, put food on the table, and stay in their homes will expire.
REBECCA DIXON, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, NELP: It's going to be total economic devastation. The unemployment insurance program is the lifeline for workers in this public health crisis.
YURKEVICH: This lifeline is disappearing just as some states roll back their re-openings forcing many workers back on unemployment. Up to 23 million Americans could be evicted from their homes by the end of September.
SANDERS: When they take this $600 away, that would reduce me down to about $300 a week, which is, for me, not really feasible as far as covering my bills.
YURKEVICH: Cara Steele has been waiting 17 weeks for unemployment. She's making some drastic decisions.
CARA STEELE, UNEMPLOYED BARTENDER: What is most important that day, you know? Am I going to go out and buy something to eat? Or am I going to purchase medication? Or am I going to save my funds to go to a doctor? Or put gas in my car?
YURKEVICH: She's a bartender in New Jersey, where indoor bars and dining remain closed. The back pay she's owed from unemployment will go straight to her bills piling up for months.
STEELE: When is everything going to reopen? Because if I'm getting the $120 a week without this extra $600, what happens if I'm not going back until October, November or December or until there's a vaccine?
YURKEVICH: The unknown is leaving many Americans paralyzed. And with congress unlikely to pass an extension of the extra unemployment benefits by July 31st, Sanders faces a stark reality -- giving up.
SANDERS: I would feel very set back. I mean, it took a lot of self- encouragement for me to even decide to leave my job and move to another city to kind of chase after a dream. So, if they get shut down, I kind of would feel like I did all of this for nothing.
YURKEVICH: Vanessa Yurkevich, CNN New York.
(END OF VIDEOTAPE)
WHITFIELD: Some tough choices, and as you heard, the $600 a week extra benefits is about to expire for millions of unemployed Americans. And today, the White House said negotiations over a new stimulus package will begin in earnest on Monday, but there's no guarantee any new deal will include extended unemployment benefits.
CNN's Tami Luhby is with me now. So, where are we right now with a new kind of rescue package from congress?
TAMI LUHBY, CNN MONEY, SENIOR WRITER: Well, unfortunately, Democrats and Republicans are very far apart. You know, when they initially passed this historic expansion of unemployment benefits back in March, states were shut down. There were no jobs. So, they put in this program. But they were thinking in four months things will be better. People won't need it anymore. But as we know, that's not the case.
So, now, Democrats say the economy is still a problem. People still need help. The House bill extended this benefit into 2021. But Republicans say, wait a minute. A lot of people are making more on unemployment than they did at their jobs, so they're not going to want to go back to work and the economy is not going to be able to restart. So, they have other ideas. They might want to have a return-to-work bonus or, you know, potentially keep some kind of augmented benefit, but not $600, maybe $200 or something. So, they'll have to find a compromise and soon.
WHITFIELD: Wow. So, for some people, it's a matter of tough choices, and then for some people, it's a tough predicament period. So, what happens to people who have been relying on this benefit really just to get by? We heard the one, you know, young lady who's talking about choice between food, gas, medicine.
LUHBY: You know, I spoke to someone last week who told me that she figures she has three months before she's evicted if she doesn't pay her rent because that's the law that where she lives. So, it's very difficult.
I mean, this money pumps $15 billion each week into the economy. It goes to 25 million people and, you know, that's a lot of money. That's a lot of boost and that's a lot of help for people who need to pay their August rent in a matter of days. They need to pay for medication. They need to put food on the table for themselves and their children. They're scared. I mean, I'm hearing -- a lot of people are writing to me and telling me they're terrified.
WHITFIELD: Right. It's scary. I mean -- and reminder, there's a pandemic out there. So, it's not as simple as, OK. Let me just go find a job. But then, you know, when you do talk about seeking employment, because your unemployment is about to be cut off, where are the jobs? I mean, where are the jobs to be had in the middle of this pandemic for millions of people who are unemployed?
LUHBY: Right. In April, we had the steepest and sharpest decline, the swiftest and steepest decline in employment on record. We lost over 20 million jobs. Now, surprisingly, May and June looked a little better. Employers added more than 7 million jobs, so things were, you know, potentially looking up a little.
But as we know, the cases have surged. (INAUDIBLE) are shutting down again. People who went back to work at bars and restaurants and gyms and movie theaters are getting laid off again. And they need help.
LUHBY: They don't have another place to go. People are talking -- are telling me that, unfortunately, their -- they look for jobs and there's just nothing out there. And a lot of them say that their jobs, you know, may not be coming anytime soon.
WHITFIELD: Wow, frightening situation on so many levels. Tami Luhby, thank you so much. Be well.
Still ahead, tensions are reaching a boiling in Portland, Oregon. Overnight, police use batons, pepper spray on protesters. And then, President Trump is once again defending his decision to send in Federal law enforcement. Reaction from the mayor there, next.
WHITFIELD: More chaos erupting overnight in Portland, Oregon. Protesters were met with police using batons and pepper spray. Demonstrators there have been protesting racial inequality and police brutality for more than 50 days now.
This morning, the president of the United States, once again, disputing statistics that blacks are more likely to be killed by police than white people killed by police in this country. And the president doubled down on his decision to send in federal law enforcement calling Portland protesters anarchists.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I've been to many, many (INAUDIBLE). I hate the sound, but this is going on for decades. This is going on for a long time, long before I got here. You know, if you look at what's gone on in Portland, those are anarchists. And we've taken a very tough stand. If we didn't take a stand in Portland, you know, we've arrested many of these leaders. If we didn't take that stand, right now, you would have a problem like -- they're going to lose Portland.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: CNN's Josh Campbell is in Portland. So, Josh, how are officials there responding to what the president has to say, responding to the fact that federal law enforcement were used? And what is going on?
JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Fred, another night of protests here overnight in Portland both downtown and outside the federal courthouse, which has served as the epicenter for many of these protests, but also here behind me. We're at a police union building north of downtown Portland, and this building, last night, was set ablaze by rioters. They were quickly pushed back by police along with many peaceful protesters that were out here in the street.
Authorities declaring this entire assembly a riot, pushing them back. You could see they've now boarded up this building. Now, as this was taking place, there was also protest again last night down near that federal courthouse. Now, authorities had erected a fence to try to keep protesters back.
That was quickly dismantled by some of the protesters, police coming out and dispersing that crowd using batons, using chemical dispersants including tear gas. We were tear gassed along with so many of our local media colleagues who have been here on the ground hard at work covering this story since it first began.
And it's interesting, Fred, in talking to those local journalists, we hear about this apparent shift in the tone of these protests. What occurred after the Trump administration ordered that cavalry of federal resources into this area. Now, President Trump says he's trying to protect federal property, but the protesters say it is their very presence that is angering them and fueling so many of these protesters.
It's worth pointing out, Fred, that they are not alone. Some of the city officials here are also calling for the federal government to leave. This morning on CNN "State of the Union", our colleague, Jake Tapper, talked to the Portland mayor who had some harsh words for President Trump. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR TED WHEELER (D), PORTLAND, OREGON: What's happening here is we have dozens, if not hundreds, of federal troops descending upon our city. And what they're doing is they are sharply escalating the situation.
Their presence here is actually leading to more violence and more vandalism, and it's not helping the situation at all. They're not wanted here. And what we're seeing is a blatant abuse of police tactics by the federal government, by Trump administration that's falling in the polls. And this is a direct threat to our democracy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMPBELL: Now, the standoff continues between federal officials and local officials and some of the protesters, that we expect to continue.
I can also tell you some new information we got in just within the past hour from our colleagues, Manu Raju and Greg Clary on Capitol Hill in Washington. Three powerful Democratic chairpersons of the House Judiciary Committee, the House Homeland Security Committee, and House Government Oversight Reform Committee have now written letters to the inspector generals at the Department of Homeland Security as well as the Justice Department, calling for an independent investigation into the actions of federal agents here in Portland.
We know that there was a viral video that surfaced of tactical officers arresting someone, taking him to an unmarked van. Again, these lawmakers are demanding answers. We're waiting to hear from those independent investigators whether an inquiry will be launched. That will continue.
But again, more protests continue here in Portland. We expect that they will continue to remain ongoing as long as this federal presence is here. But with all these officials in Washington and local officials and protesters obviously focus on this issue, this will remain the focus of so much of the nation. Fred?
WHITFIELD: Josh Campbell, thank you so much, in Portland.
All right, still ahead, two U.S. senators apologizing for a mistake they made while paying tribute to Congressman John Lewis. How did they mix up photos of Lewis and the late Congressman Elijah Cummings?
WHITFIELD: Welcome back. As the U.S. mourns the passing of Congressman John Lewis, two Republican senators are apologizing for what many are calling humiliating, outrageous mistakes. In their tributes to Lewis on social media, both senators, Marco Rubio and Dan Sullivan, posted photos of the late Congressman Elijah Cummings instead of Lewis and then later deleted their posts. Congressman Cummings was a prominent congressman representing Maryland. He passed away last fall.
Joining us now is the host of "United Shades of America", W. Kamau Bell. OK. So, Kamau, you know, people are very upset about this in so many, you know, circles. Here we are in this national reckoning right on issues related to race, particularly, and people of power on Capitol Hill can't even distinguish fellow people of power who are black and have made historical marks on American history. I mean, this is bigger than just mistakes and even apologizing. What does this say to you?
W. KAMAU BELL, HOST, UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA: I mean, I think that, you know, like Ted Cruz sent out a tweet saying, you know, what's the big deal? People mistake me for being Marco Rubio all the time. But he was talking about individuals who don't work with him and shouldn't -- and not on his workplace and don't see him regularly. There's a big difference between that and Marco Rubio mistaking Elijah Cummings for John Lewis. There's a huge difference between those two things.
WHITFIELD: Huge. Yes, huge. And then, along with those pictures, you know, saying, you know, we are saddened at the passing of the late, you know, John Lewis, but then how are saddened are you if you can't even get the person right?
BELL: To me, that was clearly an indicator of Marco Rubio wanting to get some quotes, wanting to get some credit for the picture, and not about him actually having a relationship with the man.
WHITFIELD: OK. All right. Now, let's talk about your show because that's why you came on, but then that was just like (INAUDIBLE) --
WHITFIELD: -- caught many of our attention. Anyway -- OK. I digress. All right. So, this is a CNN "Original Series", "United Shades of America", embracing tough conversations happening right now across the country. And tonight's episode, you kick off the fifth season now -- hurray, five - that's a big number -- with a unique look at white supremacy and institutional racism in America. Let's take a look at this preview.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RABBI JEFFREY MYERS, TREE OF LIFE CONGREGATION: It's not upon you to finish the task, but you're not absolved from trying. So, you may not get to that pot at the rainbow --
RABBI MYERS: -- but that doesn't mean we're letting you off the hook from trying --
RABBI MYERS: -- at least making a few steps of more progress.
BELL: To get a little MLK (ph) on it no matter what our race, creed or religion. If we all do that every day to work to make the world a little bit it gets better, it gets better.
RABBI MYERS: Absolutely.
BELL: Yes. I can't help but think of my mom in moments like this of like hearing her talk to her friends about racism and activism. She was playing Martin Luther King, Jr. records in the house. And at the time, I was like -- why do I have to -- can't we put some "Temptations" on. And so, you know --
RABBI MYERS: Yes.
BELL: -- and to stand here and to realize that she was building the bridge for me to be here right now talking to you.
RABBI MYERS: So, you honor your mother by doing the same thing to your kids.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
WHITFIELD: Oh my gosh, the value of the wisdom of our parents. And just your description, it take me back to, of course, and in your parents' and grandparents' home back in the day, you always had a picture of Martin Luther King, and then you have picture of John F. Kennedy.
But let's talk about, you know, the wisdom that you get from your mom as well at the end of this episode, and how important it is really to come full circle for people to really understand and grasp history by reaching not too far back, your own family members who have lived it? BELL: Yes. I mean, I think one of the things that was so remarkable about John Lewis is that at 80 years old, he had seen a huge swath of American history, and had been through what we thought were the darkest days of American history or recent American History.
And here we are getting on to some new dark days. And so I think if you have some older folks around you, specifically older black folks who can tell you about the civil rights movement, it's time to talk to them.
WHITFIELD: You better start talking if you haven't already. That's right.
BELL: My mom is -- better start talking. That's right.
WHITFIELD: That's so true.
WHITFIELD: We look forward to tonight's episode. Congratulations on five years and counting. So proud of you, and you really open the eyes of so many people in every episode that you share. Thank you so much, Kamau Bell. Appreciate it. And be sure, everybody, tune in to an all- new season of "United Shades of America" premiering tonight, 10 p.m. Eastern and Pacific only on CNN.
And thank you everyone for joining me this weekend. I'm Fredricka Whitfield. The CNN "Newsroom" continues with Ana Cabrera after this.
Oh, but first, I'm not out of here just yet. I want to highlight this week's CNN hero as Latin America struggles with coronavirus. CNN's 2016 hero of the year is giving young people with disabilities in Colombia hope.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEISON ARISTIZABAL, FOUNDER, ASODISVALLE (through translator): This is their second home, and they really, really miss the foundation. We're supporting the families and the children, first of all, with food. We're providing in-home therapy, in-home medical attention, school via the internet. We provide virtual classes.
The emotional and psychological part has really affected them. We have an entire team of professionals who give emotional support. The message for the community that we've wanted to carry over is of hope.
(END OF VIDEO CLIP)