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Trump Downplays Virus Surge, Even When Confronted With Data; Trump Falsely Claims Nations With Fewer Cases Don't Test; Trump Calls Fauci A Bit Of An Alarmist Even As Cases Spike; Dr. Deborah Birx Emerges As Most Powerful Person In White House On Virus; Georgia Governor Sues Atlanta Mayor Locked In Tense Battle Over Masks. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired July 19, 2020 - 18:00   ET




ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: Hello again. You are live in the CNN Newsroom. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. Thanks for staying with me.

There are two reality in the United States today when it comes to our health and this horrific pandemic. Two realities. One is made up of science and facts, research and data and crowds people unfortunately getting sick and dying from the out of control coronavirus.

The other reality is made of whatever President Trump is saying that makes him shrug off the pandemic as overblown, makes him say new infections are rising simply because of more testing, makes him say that COVID-19, the virus that now killed 140,000 Americans, is just going to disappear.

Watch President Trump in a program aired earlier today when an interviewer puts in front of him the hard data about the skyrocketing number of Americans caught in an avalanche of new coronavirus cases.


CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: 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 --


WALLACE: -- a day.

TRUMP: 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, more than double --

TRUMP: First, 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. WALLACE: But this isn't a burning ember, sir, this is a forest fire.

TRUMP: No. But I don't say -- I'd say flames, we'll put out the flames and we put out in some cases just burning embers. We also have burning embers. We have embers and we do have flames.


CABRERA: Now, when asked about the mortality rate in the United States compared to other countries --


TRUMP: 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.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This (INAUDIBLE) that Dr. Birx points out. And this is --

TRUMP: Number one low mortality rate.

I hope you show this on air because it shows what fake news is all about.

WALLACE: Okay. I don't think I'm fake news. We'll put our stats --

TRUMP: You said we had the worst mortality in the world and we have the best.


CABRERA: And even though 3.7 million people in this country are sick with or carrying the coronavirus, even though 49 hospitals in Florida right now don't have an ICU bed free, even though record-high numbers of people are testing positive today, in Georgia and North Carolina, and even though more people died of the coronavirus in Arizona in one single day today in that state since the beginning of the pandemic, President Trump and his version of reality is holding on tightly to the belief that he is right.


TRUMP: I will be right eventually. I said it's going to disappear. I'll say it again, it's going to disappear and I'll be right. I don't think so. I don't think so. you know why it doesn't describe me, because I've been right probably more than anybody else.


CABRERA: Let's head to Florida where new cases are spiking with more than 12,000 new infections reported just today. And dozens of hospitals in that state are seeing so many patients, they are running out of an ICU bed. Again, 49 hospitals statewide had no ICU beds left.

CNN's Randi Kaye is in West Palm Beach for us. Randi, hospitals, especially ICUs are really getting hit hard right now. How bad is it?

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's pretty bad. And all you have to do is look at the caseload to understand why, Ana, if you look at the numbers just in the last 24 hours, another 12,478 new cases. We now have more than 350,000 cases statewide of the coronavirus here in the State of Florida, another 89 dead in the last 24 hours. That brings total to just under 5,000 dead in the state.

And this is also the fourth day in the month of July and actually since the pandemic began that we've seen more than 12,000 new cases in a single day. So the numbers are certainly not what Floridians want to hear.

Statewide, we're looking at the biggest number of hospitalizations that we've seen. More than 9,300 now hospitalized in the State of Florida.

And in Miami-Dade, the ICU bed capacity is really being tested and certainly in trouble. They are at 127 percent, which means that they she have no more ICU beds.

If you look closer at numbers in terms of the hospitalizations in Miami-Dade, more than 2,000 people hospitalized there in that county. One of the hardest hit counties with COVID-19.


You also have 507 patients in ICU beds there, certainly not enough ICU beds to go around, and 286 patients on ventilator.

So they are now having to convert regular hospital rooms in Miami-Dade County to those ICU beds for those folks. And as you said, dozens of hospitals statewide, 49 at last count all with zero ICU beds left for those patients. Ana?

CABRERA: Just horrible. Randi Kaye reporting from Florida, thank you.

Arizona, in the meantime, is reporting its highest daily death count since the beginning of the pandemic. That state says 147 people died from the virus since Saturday. And the positivity rate for new infections remains incredibly high. Miguel Marquez has the latest for us from Phoenix. Miguel?

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes. The one-day rate for positivity is 39.04 percent. That means 39 -- just over 39 percent of the people who got tested the previous day or previously came out positive for yesterday's count. That is an astounding number. The seven-day average is at about 24.5 percent for the entire state. And the 14-day average is at about 18 percent.

The CDC and the WHO says about 5 percent is where you need to be in that positivity rate, those testing positive, in order to get that virus under control. It is just a staggering number.

Now, there is some good news in Arizona. The hospitalizations are down ever so slightly. The rate of transmission is down ever so slightly. So maybe they've gotten to that point in the curve and they're starting to turn it.

The problem is there is so much virus out that there they cannot test fast enough in this state. They want to add thousands and thousands more tests so they can get to the people who actually think that they might have it so they can start to have some sort of meaningful contact tracings, because right now, if I get tested in Arizona, it can take as long as two weeks for that test to get back to me, which means if I get tested today I -- if I go out to see people doing things, I don't know for a full two weeks or as long as the testing to come back. Even five days is too long what is going on.

All of this against the backdrop of Arizona trying to figure out whether they are going to open up the schools in August, talking to the public health officials here and epidemiologists. They say, look, the transmission rates come from three things, community spread, which is what we're seeing now, bars, restaurants, they've been closed now, but family members, people going to work, whether it's in manufacturing areas or in office spaces, and schools. So that is the big one.

When Arizona shut down the schools in March, there were 1,000 cases a week in the state. Right now, there's about 26,000 cases a week in the state. So it is not clear how, despite the governor wanting to open school up here, how they're going to get to that in August. Ana?

CABRERA: It's a troubling situation. Miguel Marquez, thank you.

Turning to the West Coast, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti telling CNN he is on the brink of reissuing a stay-at-home order. The mayor saying coronavirus numbers are headed in a troubling direction, California's total cases topping 380,000 with more than 7,000 deaths.

But California was the first state to enact a stay-at-home order back in March. I want to bring in CNN's Paul Vercammen in Los Angeles.

Paul, what are you learning about Mayor Garcetti's decision-making process on whether or not to issue a new stay-at-home order for Los Angeles?

PAUL VERCAMMEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, I was also speaking, Ana, with a Garcetti staff member. They want clarification. He is on the brink, as he said, of a possible stay-at-home order. But he wants to digest the numbers over the next two weeks. He also said, if he enacts new closures, it would not be a cleaver or crosscut, it would be more of a surgical strike, if you will, perhaps shutting down that one apparel place or that certain construction site.

But let's listen to what the mayor had to say earlier today.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: How much worse does it have to get in Los Angeles before you feel compelled to issue another stay-at-home order?

MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI (D), LOS ANGELES, CA: Sure. Well, I think we're on the brink of that. But as I've told people over the last week, the discipline I think a lot of people don't understand. Mayors have no control over what opens up and doesn't. That's either at a state or county level. And I do agree that those things happened too quickly. But we are smarter about this, Jake, about this. It's not just what's opened and closed, it's also about what we do individually.


VERCAMMEN: The numbers that Mayor Garcetti will watch, no doubt, include hospitalizations. This weekend in Los Angeles County, almost 2,200 people hospitalized. The three-day average is moving up. And 28 percent of the patients in the hospital are in intensive care units.


But there's a number out there that Garcetti has said he's much more comfortable with. You heard my colleague, Miguel, say a 39 percent positivity rate after testing in Arizona. Right now, in Los Angeles County, it's 8.7 percent. And Garcetti likes that number better. He would love to see it drop, that number in L.A. County has been higher, it's also been lower. But that's one of those number, hospitalizations and positivity they will closely watch before further closing down in L.A. County.

Back to you now, Ana.

CABRERA: Okay. Paul Vercammen, again, in Los Angeles, thank you. And just for perspective for our viewers, when we talk about that positivity rate in New York where it used to be the epicenter, the current positivity rate has been between 1 percent, 2 percent or even under 1 percent on several days in the past few weeks.

Now, as you just saw hospitals across country are strained, death toll is rising. So why does the president keep claiming the increase in cases is simply because we're testing more? We'll discuss, next, live in the CNN Newsroom.



CABRERA: Despite evidence to the contrary, President Trump continues to push false claims about coronavirus testing. Here we was in an interview on Fox News Sunday when pushed about the surge in cases in the U.S.


WALLACE: The (INAUDIBLE) are 6,000 in the whole European Union.

TRUMP: They don't test. They don't test like we have.

WALLACE: Is it possible they don't have the virus as badly?

TRUMP: That's possible that they don't test. That's what's possible. We find cases and many of those cases heal automatically. We're finding -- in a way, we're creating trouble. Certainly, we're creating trouble for the fake news to come along and say, oh, we have more cases.


CABRERA: Just a fact check, no, testing is not creating trouble. Testing does not create coronavirus cases. Testing finds them. And, unfortunately, the positivity is increasing more than the testing. Here is the positivity rate in the U.S. since April 1st, according to the COVID tracking project. And while the rate decreased until mid- June, you can see, it has started to rise in the past few weeks.

With us now is Emergency Physician Dr. Meghan Ranney and Public Health Specialist and Primary Care Physician, Dr. Saju Matthew.

So, testing is still an issue in this country. Contact tracing is still an issue. And now, CNN is reporting the White House is pushing back against Senate GOP requests to ramp up funding for the CDC coronavirus testing and contact tracing efforts. Dr. Ranney, what's your reaction to that?

DR. MEGAN RANNEY, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN: It mystifies me, Ana. Your whole previous segment was about the data around the spread of COVID- 19 and how that's informing really smart decisions on the part of mayors and states to, as they said, create surgical strikes to shut down just what we need to shut down. It is through testing and data that we can have some hope of controlling this virus.

To oppose finding that testing and contact tracing that our country so desperately needs basically means that they're throwing up their hands and accepting that tens or hundreds of thousands of Americans are going to die.

CABRERA: The director of the National Institutes of Health said this morning this.


DR. FRANCIS COLLINS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: The average test delay is too long. You're absolutely right. The averages around country, it's about three days. But in some places, it's as long as a week. And that really undercuts the value of the testing because you do the testing to find out who's carrying the virus and then quickly get them isolated so they don't spread it around. And it's very hard to make that work when there's a long delay built in.


CABRERA: And we know of cases that are much longer than a week, some two-plus weeks. Dr. Matthew, what is the impact of these delays in test results?

DR. SAJU MATTHEW, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Good afternoon, Ana. Anytime you have a test delay of more than three days, you missed that opportunity to contact trace. And also what's even more important than that is that if you are potentially infected and there's a delay of 7 to 14 days, like it is in my City of Atlanta, unfortunately, you might be out there potentially infecting hundreds and thousands of people. And listen to this, Ana. One person over ten cycles of infection can infect 59,000 new cases. So a test delay really creates a havoc and we're already having cases that are surging in Georgia.

CABRERA: Dr. Ranney, we've learned 85 babies in one Texas County have tested positive for coronavirus. Now, we don't have all the details. That's obviously alarming though. What might this indicate?

RANNEY: So those of us in the medical and public health world are anxiously awaiting more details about that report of 85 children aged two and under who supposedly tested positive for COVID-19.

Now, many of us have thought younger children are at lower risk of catching COVID-19. And I will say, those 85 children are a very small slice of the total number of positive cases in that region of Texas. But it's concerning, because it means that those kids may be more susceptible than we thought.

I'll say what's even more concerning is another recent study out of South Korea, which shows that kids age 10 to 19 are among the highest spreaders of COVID-19 once they are infected. And that has huge implications for us as we think about our kids and as we think about schools.

CABRERA: We continue to learn masks work, and more states are mandating those masks. This week, Colorado joined the list requiring masks for all residents when they are visiting public indoor spaces and not able to social distance. I want you to hear what the Colorado governor said this morning.


GOV. JARED POLIS (D-CO): Before we head to mask requirement, we had about 60 percent of our state under municipal or county mask requirements.


But what we realized that we needed at the state is just clarity of message. You're in Colorado. You're visiting Colorado. We're a mask- wearing state. This kind of statement really provides that in terms of requiring mask-wearing statewide in our state.

In the areas that that had mask-wearing requirements, that's 60 percent of our state, it had about 15 percent to 20 percent more mask- wearing than the areas of our state that hadn't take than simple step. And we found that those areas with mask-wearing had less spread of the virus in our state.

CABRERA: I mean, there's some good data, Dr. Matthew. Do you think that could extrapolate to the potential effectiveness of a national mask mandate? Would it make that big of a difference?

MATTHEW: Absolutely, Ana. I am all for a national mandate of masks. It's a no-brainer. We have studies over studies that show that wearing a mask protects me and protects people around me by fivefold. I would argue that that number is probably even higher.

And right here in Georgia, we're creating a very mixed message when we're telling business owners that you can make that decision as to whether your client walking in can wear a mask or my employee working back in the kitchen can wear a mask.

And, Ana, ultimately, if we don't focus on the virus and we focus on politics, businesses are going to close. At some point those decisions are going to be made for you, where masks have to be mandated in order to keep schools open and in order to keep businesses open as well.

So I am 100 percent for a mask mandate. It's a no-brainer to me as a physician.

CABRERA: Dr. Ranney, the director of the National Institutes of Health also said this morning the U.S. is on a good path when it comes to vaccines. All signs are pointing in the right direction in terms of development.

For people at home maybe thinking, just got to get to the end of this year, light at the end of the tunnel is coming at the end of the year or maybe early next year, thinking that's when this vaccine is going to arrive. Even if it all goes perfectly, realistically, when a vaccine is ready, does that mean it will be widely available to the general public that quickly?

RANNEY: No, Ana. I am enthusiastic Dr. Collins feels confident. I have great trust in him. However, we have to recognize that when a vaccine is proven safe and effective, we are then going to have to ramp up production. It is going to be available to the highest risk people first, so most likely to healthcare workers and to the elderly as well as to those with chronic conditions.

For us to vaccinate every American across the country, which is going to be what's needed, is going to take a lot of production and a lot of public resources to get that to happen. And then the last part that we still don't know, even once we have a safe and effective vaccine, how long does it work for? Does it last for three months, a year, or five years?

So we are certainly are keeping fingers crossed that we get a vaccine by the first quarter of next year but it is not going to be a magic bullet. And we're still going to be looking at masks and some social distancing for a while to come.

CABRERA: Knowledge is power. So, thank you for that reality check. Dr. Megan Ranney, Dr. Saju Matthew, great to have both of you with us and thank you, again, for all that you do.

MATTHEW: Thank you, Ana.

RANNEY: Thank you.

CABRERA: coming up, as cases surge across the country, why is the president calling the nation's top coronavirus expert a bit of an alarmist? But, first, here is Christine Romans with your Before the Bell report. Christine?

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CHIEF BUSINESS CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Ana. Corporate earnings are in focus on Wall Street. Last week, big banks delivered mixed second quarter results. Financial institutions warned that much more economic pain ahead and they set aside billions of dollars to cover toxic loans.

Congress appears to be listening, but that doesn't mean there will be agreement. This week, the Senate is expected to lay out plans for a third stimulus bill. Debate is likely to be contentious, especially over liability protections for companies and financial incentives for reopening schools.

As for earnings this week, Coca-Cola, Intel, Microsoft and several airlines report results, so will electric carmaker Tesla. The stock has been on a tear this year. It's up more than 250 percent. There's a lot of speculation over whether the company could join the S&P 500 if it posts a quarterly profit.

In New York, I'm Christine Romans.



CABRERA: More than 140,000 Americans are dead from the coronavirus and while more than 3 million have fallen ill. Now, those horrifying numbers prompting doctors nationwide to sound the alarm and echo warnings we continuously hear from the country's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci.

So, how is the president responding? Watch.


WALLACE: 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 men, Daniel Scavino, put out this. Have you seen this?

TRUMP: Well, look --

WALLACE: Dr. Faucet, which shows him a leaker and an alarmist. Why would he --

TRUMP: I don't know if he's a leaker. But he's a little bit of an alarmist. That's okay.

WALLACE: He's a bit of an alarmist?

TRUMP: Well, a little bit of an alarmist. Let me just say, Dr. Fauci, at the beginning -- and, again, I have a great relationship with him. I spoke to him at the (INAUDIBLE) yesterday. Dr. Fauci, at the beginning, said this will pass, don't worry about it. This will pass. And he was wrong. Dr. Fauci said, don't ban China. Don't ban China. I did. He then admitted that I was right.

WALLACE: But you make mistakes too.

TRUMP: I guess everybody makes mistakes.


CABRERA: CNN Political Analyst Margaret Hoover and CNN Senior Political Analyst John Avlon are joining us now, America's favorite couple in the house.


John, let's just talk about political --


CABRERA: John, let's talk about the political calculus here in what we just heard from the president. What is to be gained by name-calling your top health expert in the midst of a pandemic?

MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Let me please go first. No. Look. We have always seen from President Trump, I'm sure my husband will weigh in, is a consistent effort to shift the narrative and shift the blame when he is the least likely person to say he's willing to take responsibility. He's the least likely person to step in the fold and take command and control of the situation.

This is not Winston Churchill in World War II. This is a man --


HOOVER: -- who has really crumbled and been unable to stand up to the moment and the challenge. And that has become abundantly clear to the public. And so what do you do? You shift blame and you point fingers at other people who got it wrong.

AVLON: But it's particular kind of pathology to go after the person, to have your henchmen go after the person who's been leading the nation's coronavirus response as far as the public's concerned. Simply because you're jealous that he has greater credibility among the public than the president because of his own actions.

It's beyond the anti-science impulse. It's the desire to drum out and attack experts because they might make you look bad, because they know more than you do, and that's translated to a credibility gap of your own making. It's just a different kind of sickness during a pandemic to see that.

CABRERA: President Trump was also pushed in that FOX News interview about how he would handle a potential loss in November. Let's watch.


CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS ANCHOR: Are you a good loser?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I'm not a good loser. I don't like to lose. I don't lose too often. I don't like to lose.

WALLACE: But are you gracious?

TRUMP: You don't know until you see. It depends. I think mail-in voting is going to rig the election. I really do.

WALLACE: Are you suggesting that you might not accept the results of the election?

TRUMP: I have to say, look, Hillary Clinton asked me the same thing.

WALLACE: No. I asked you the same thing in the debate.

TRUMP: No, no.



AVLON: Yes. I just want to highlight how dangerous that is. The president of the United States sowing seeds of doubt about the outcome of our election that he's running in. Particularly about mail-in balloting, conspiracy theories that are baseless, that have been parroted by his AG as well. This is not normal.

It's incredibly dangerous in terms of undercutting trust in our system. And the president should be leading but once again he's chipping away at the trust that democratic society depends upon, particularly for mail-in voting that's going to be at record levels because of a pandemic.

HOOVER: To be clear this actually has become normal because he did this in 2016. Recall he sowed the seeds of distrust in the outcome of the election preemptively because he was suggesting that he might not win and of course that would have been because the election was rigged. So this actually has become normal, John Avlon, and you said this is not normal.

AVLON: It's not normal within our republic.

HOOVER: This is normal in Trumpland.

AVLON: For Trumpland.

HOOVER: This is normal in Trumpland and it's important for us to discuss, it's important for us to name it, and recognize it, because it's not new. This is an old play. We've seen the play before and then we recognize it when it happens. The best way to sort of guard against it --

AVLON: But pay attention.

HOOVER: -- is to identify it because he is sowing the same seeds of distrust that we've seen before.

AVLON: Now as president. CABRERA: Now, John, Kellyanne Conway says she has a solution to help

turn around Trump's poll numbers because as we know this week there were a bunch of them that has him down double digits. Maybe the best poll that came for him this week was today's FOX News poll, which still has him down eight points, but she wants the president to go back to holding briefings. Listen to this.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: My own view, which is different than some people here, is three things. One, the president's numbers were much higher when he was out there briefing everybody on a day-by-day basis about the coronavirus. Just giving people the information. I think the president should be doing that.


CABRERA: Is that the solution?

AVLON: I would suggest not. I don't think you can draw causality of the president's polls with him being out front. The problem is the president increasingly when he speaks, it's kind of a Mad Libs routine where you really have to figure out what he's trying to say. Because it doesn't make linear or logic sense.

Never been a strong point of the president, but it's getting worse. He's sort of, you know, dissembling in front of us when he speaks at length particularly among -- about coronavirus, and that's because his staff has coddled like an egg.

They keep giving him false and flimsy information to fluff up his ego that doesn't fit the facts and that just undercuts his credibility even further so it sounds like a staffer trying to, you know, improve her standing in the White House and the president's eyes rather than give him good advice rooted in reality.

HOOVER: Well, look, they should try it. The --

AVLON: Why not?

HOOVER: The -- it is a good thing for the president to address the American people and by the way, to address the press corps. That it is a good practice, it's a healthy practice, and they should go back to doing it and see if it works.


The reason, if we recall -- I mean, I'm old enough to remember that the reason the Coronavirus Task Force briefings stopped is because his numbers were tanking, because they were going so poorly. If the president were to have a miraculous sort of shift in tone and begin -- you know, that change that everybody waited for and waited for and waited for, look, it would be good if he would address the American people in a more regular way, and the press more regular way.

I do have to give him credit. He sat there with Chris Wallace for an hour, and did answer tough questions, sometimes quite personal in a way that was more tempered and more measured than I have seen him in some time.

AVLON: That was tempered and measured?

HOOVER: For the president, John Avlon.


HOOVER: So let's -- I mean, if we're going to see more of that President Trump, that would be good for the country.

CABRERA: I mean, he isn't doing briefings but what he did do this week, he posed with Goya Beans. He also talked --


CABRERA: -- shower heads. Remember this?


TRUMP: So shower heads, you take a shower, the water doesn't come out. You want to wash your hands, the water doesn't come out. So what do you do? You just stand there longer? You take a shower longer? Because my hair, I don't know about you, but has to be perfect. And old- fashioned --


CABRERA: Margaret, let me bounce back to you. How does he explain having time for that and not a coronavirus event?

HOOVER: Look, I mean, I think what we know about the president is that he is really missing his rallies. He is missing the ability to just stand up in front of an adoring crowd and sort of, you know, entertain. Right? And that is chief Trump entertainment. So, you know, he's doing the things that make him feel good. Reflecting back to himself.

Look, my husband is about to have an aneurysm. I'm sorry but --

AVLON: No, I'm not.

HOOVER: But that's what that is. I mean, I think we all recognize this.

AVLON: But no, but, look, this is the infantilization of the president. Right? What makes him happy as oppose to actual responsible as the office? I mean, I appreciate a flash of self-deprecated humor, he should do it more often.

But again when he's talking about shower heads or posing with campaign supporters beans in the Oval Office, let's not forget how nuts that is. If somebody, you know, take any snippet from the interview today where he suggests perhaps we should rename bases for Al Sharpton, talked about how Democrats want to ban religion. This sort of rambling insanity that often drips -- escapes from his

lips, the kind of thing that if somebody said in your presence you would try to remove your children slowly in a different direction for fear that someone might not be well, but this is the president of United States. None of this is normal.

Let's not normalize it. He should try to do his job and that his aides should be less worried, we should all be less worried about what might make him happy and more about what might make him focus on doing his job.

CABRERA: John Avlon, Margaret Hoover, good to have you both. Thanks for the conversation.

HOOVER: Thanks, Ana.

AVLON: Take care, Ana. Bye.

CABRERA: Coming up, she's been walking a fine line between science and Trump. But now some peers of Dr. Deborah Birx are raising questions about her credibility. We'll explain.



CABRERA: Dr. Deborah Birx is walking a fine line in the Trump White House making sure she doesn't contradict the president in public while quietly ensuring that scientists have the biggest seat at the table for the Coronavirus Task Force. But her silent service could come at a steep cost to her career.

CNN's Pamela Brown reports.


PAMELA BROWN, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Dr. Deborah Birx quietly emerging as the most powerful person in the Trump White House on the coronavirus and her path there an unlikely one.

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: The common sense of washing your hands, not touching your face.

BROWN: As the relationship between Dr. Anthony Fauci and President Trump soured over the past few months.

TRUMP: I find him to be a very nice person. I don't always disagree with him.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: You know, it is a bit bizarre. I don't really fully understand it.

BROWN: Birx has the mass power inside the White House to the point that sources tell CNN she is effectively running the task force day to day and sources say she is the only member to brief the vice president and other White House officials daily.

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: I spoke with Dr. Birx this morning. Dr. Birx briefed me on before coming out here.

BROWN: And at times Birx herself has taken the podium wearing her signature scarf and a mask to match.

BIRX: I just want to -- mask can be a fashion statement.

BROWN: She spearheaded the administration's recent decision to have hospitals send COVID-19 information to a new federal database, bypassing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an agency Birx has often complained about to colleagues, sources say. She is also a forceful advocate for the president's push to reopen schools. Tasked with creating new reopening guidelines after Trump called the CDC's plan, quote, "too tough and expensive."

She also works closely with the president's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner who praised her to CNN saying she's an outside- the-box thinker, but also not afraid to get dirt under her fingernails. Kushner credits Birx for coming up with an idea earlier in the year to speed delivery of supplies directly to hospitals. Many of which were complaining they didn't have what they needed.

Birx has worked in two previous administrations and is one of the rare political appointees held over from the Obama administration.

BIRX: I am particularly grateful to President Obama for his bold leadership.

BROWN: But her staying power in numerous administrations during her three decades in Washington has come at no small cost to her management style and her notoriety among peers. One former official telling CNN that, quote, "her reputation is finished," following her silence when Trump publicly suggested injecting disinfectant might be a virus cure.

TRUMP: And I see the disinfectant that knocks it out in a minute. One minute. And is there a way we can do something like that? By injection?

BROWN: Along with her duties on the task force, Birx serves as the U.S. Global AIDS coordinator at the State Department known as PEPFAR.


Former colleagues described her as a no-nonsense leader.

BIRX: From the very beginning of PEPFAR it's been a bold experiment.

BROWN: This State Department IG report characterized the leadership of PEPFAR as dictatorial, directive and autocratic. Birx is never mentioned by name, although almost a dozen people interviewed by CNN says she was partly responsible for fostering a, quote, "toxic work environment." But other former Obama administration colleagues told CNN her tough

leadership led to results with one calling her reputation, quote, "dazzling." And as she continues to combat COVID-19, five months in, she's facing testing lags and a rise in hospitalizations and death toll in parts of the country.

Pamela Brown, CNN, Washington.


CABRERA: Coming up, is it legal for governors to stop cities from issuing their own mask mandates? CNN's Elie Honig is standing by to discuss.



CABRERA: In Georgia, new cases of coronavirus are reaching new record highs. Topping 4600 today. This comes as Governor Brian Kemp and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms are going head to head over masks. The mayor tweeting this morning, quote, "In addition to being sued over a mask mandate and voluntary advisory guidelines on COVID-19, Governor Kemp has asked for an emergency injunction to restrain me from issuing press statements and speaking to the press."

That brings up to "Cross Exam" with CNN legal analyst and former federal and state prosecutor, Elie Honig.

So, Elie, Mayor Bottoms' tweet is referring to Thursday's filing from the governor suing her and the city for requiring people in Atlanta to wear a mask in public despite the governor's executive order Wednesday forbidding cities and municipalities in his state to do so.

So with that, one viewer wants to know, is it legal for governors to stop cities from imposing laws requiring facial coverings?

ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, Ana, lots of politics around this one. But legally this is going to be a very close call in the courts. Now first things first, the governor in Georgia and all states holds the chief executive powers. And under Georgia law, the governor can suspend any inconsistent order by the mayor. So the Georgia governor's argument is, my order does not require face masks, the mayor's order does, that's inconsistent.

But I don't expect the mayor to go without a fight here. First of all, she may argue that the governor's order actually says it strongly encourages face masks so it's not really inconsistent to require them, but actually in a sense furthers the governor's own stated policy. And second I expect the governor to argue that the governor's order simply does not adequately protect the people of Atlanta.

One note here, the governor's suit seeks to prohibit the mayor from even speaking publicly about her -- the scope of her legal powers. That is an outright loser of an argument. That is going nowhere. The rest of the case is very close, however, and I think we need to keep a close eye on it because we could see similar disputes between governors and mayors really all around the country.

CABRERA: Let me ask you about a different case entirely because a lot of interests in what's happening when it comes to Ghislaine Maxwell. The federal judge denied bail for Maxwell, the onetime girlfriend and alleged accomplice of accused sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein. And one viewer asks, now that Maxwell has been arrested and charged, does she still have the opportunity to cooperate against other people?

HONIG: She absolutely does Ana. It's never too late to cooperate. Right now Ghislaine Maxwell has three options. One, she can go to trial, but the vast majority of federal trials result in conviction. The evidence looks really strong against Maxwell. Two, she can just plead guilty without cooperating but I don't think the SDNY is going to have any appetite for leniency, or third, she can try to cooperate. Meaning name names, testify against other people.

That's her best chance to save herself. Like you said the judge this week set trial for a year out, July of 2021, and denied Maxwell's bail application. Meaning she has to wait for trial behind bars. That's going to increase the pressure on her to cooperate.

One thing that jumps out of me about this case is that it's staffed by the SDNY's public corruption unit. I worked in the SDNY. I did this kind of cases. Those cases normally come out of the Violent and Organized Crimes Unit. The fact that this one's coming out of the public corruption unit tells me that there is a public official or more than one, perhaps, involved in this case somehow, some way. So this could get even more interesting, and we'll see where it goes.

CABRERA: More to come, no doubt. Elie Honig, as always, it's good to see you. Thank you for being our legal --

HONIG: Thanks, Ana. You too.

CABRERA: -- expert and I want to encourage our viewers to keep sending us those questions. You can do that at, and look for Elie's "Cross Exam" segment there.

Tonight, W. Kamau Bell is going to examine how the idea of white supremacy shapes American laws, language and societies to this day. Here's a preview of tonight's premiere of "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA."


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not up to you to finish the task, but you're not absolved from trying. So you may not get to that pot of the rainbow.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But that doesn't mean we're letting you off the hook from trying.

BELL: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At least making a few steps and more progress. BELL: To get a little MLK 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 better, it gets better.


BELL: Yes. I can't help but think about my mom in moments like this, it's 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.


BELL: And to stand here and realize that she was building the bridge for me to be here right now and talking to you.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So you honor your mother by doing the same thing to your kids.

BELL: Yes.


CABRERA: Be sure to tune in tonight. An all new season of "UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA" premieres at 10:00, Eastern and Pacific, here on CNN. We'll be right back.


CABRERA: I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. Thanks for joining me on this Sunday. You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.

And we begin this hour with new and harrowing milestones in the coronavirus pandemic.