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THE SITUATION ROOM

Trump Downplays Virus Surge, Even When Confronted With Data; Delta To Ask Passengers Unable To Wear Face Mask To Consider Staying Home; AZ Reports Record Death Toll, Near-Record Positivity Rate; Can Schools Reopen Safely?; CDC Study: Kids Age 10 And Up Spread Virus As Easily As Adults; Coronavirus, Deforestation Rip Through Brazil's Population. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired July 19, 2020 - 21:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:00:00]

OREN LIEBERMANN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Netanyahu wasn't expected to be there, but the judge did lay out a schedule for the continuation of the trial saying starting January 2021, three days a week. That's when the panel of judges will hear evidence and will hear from witnesses.

Netanyahu has maintained his innocence throughout, but when that gets into the meat of the trial, that will add pressure, along with, of course, coronavirus on Israel's longest serving leader.

Wolf?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is CNN breaking news.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington. This is a special edition of THE SITUATION ROOM.

Tonight, despite President Donald Trump's claims the pandemic is or soon will be under control, the numbers tell a very different story. Thirty-two states are reporting rising new coronavirus infections this weekend. And all of the states you see in orange and brown are watching their numbers go the wrong way. The Deep South and the southwest are especially struggling right now with surging new infections. Healthcare officials in Georgia and North Carolina today, reporting record high numbers of new cases.

And there's alarming news from Florida where dozens of hospitals now say they have zero, zero Intensive Care Unit space available. These hospitals and the people that work there, they are clearly being stretched to the limits.

Meantime, a frightening number of people are sick and dying in Arizona. Officials say more people passed away from coronavirus in one day in Arizona than in any day since the pandemic hit in January and February.

And this just into CNN, just in the past few minutes, an announcement from the government of the Bahamas that that country will now be closed, close to people from the United States and other coronavirus hotspots effective on Wednesday. The Bahamas will still accept visitors from Canada, the UK, and the European Union so long as they test negative for the coronavirus. But they will not accept people from here in the United States.

President Trump said in a Fox News interview that aired earlier today, he believes the deadly coronavirus will someday simply go away.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You are right. Eventually, you know, I said it's going to disappear. I'll say it again. But it's going to just disappear and I'll be right. I don't think so.

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS HOST: Right.

TRUMP: I don't think so. You know why it doesn't (INAUDIBLE)? Because I've been right probably more than anybody else.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Let's go to the White House right now. CNN's Jeremy Diamond is joining us.

Jeremy, the president made more than one claim in that Fox News interview that was either totally unsupported by any medical data or simply outright wrong. And he's made many mistakes during the course of these months. So what else did he say?

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well Wolf, as you said, the president during this interview was where he has been during most of this coronavirus pandemic. And that is making a series of false and misleading claims and focus much more on trying to defend his handling of the coronavirus pandemic rather than offering any kind of public health advice to Americans or encouraging Americans to practice those social distancing and mitigation efforts to try and slow the spread of this virus.

Instead, Wolf, the president seems very much focused on denying the reality of the situation in the United States which is that we've seen over the last month and a half a significant surge of coronavirus cases. But nonetheless, Wolf, the president was focused on trying to portray the United States in a better light than even the European Union which is seeing far fewer cases.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) are 6,000 in the whole European Union --

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

WALLACE: Is it possible that they don't have the virus as badly as we do? TRUMP: No, it'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, we can't -- certainly, we're creating trouble for the fake news to come along and say, oh, we have more cases.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

DIAMOND: Now Wolf, we have repeatedly debunked this claim by the president that increased testing in the United States is responsible for the rise in cases that we have seen here. But then there's this other claim that the president is making that the European Union isn't doing any testing or isn't doing enough testing.

That's also false because one of the best metrics to judge that is the positivity rate. In the United States, it's nearly nine percent of coronavirus tests are coming back positive. Most European Union countries are below the five percent threshold that is recommended here.

And you can look at this chart as well, Wolf, and you can see the difference in where the United States is versus the European Union. The United States has far, far more cases right now than we are seeing over there.

Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, Jeremy, thank you very much for those numbers. So, so disturbing.

In that same Fox News interview, the president made a misleading claim about the country's mortality rate. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: You talk about mortality rates. I think it's the opposite. I think we have one of the lowest mortality rates.

[21:05:01]

WALLACE: That's not true, sir.

TRUMP: Well, we're going to take a look --

WALLACE: We had 900 deaths on a single day.

TRUMP: We will take a look --

WALLACE: Just this week --

TRUMP: Ready?

WALLACE: But you can check it out.

TRUMP: Can you please get me the mortality rate?

WALLACE: Yes.

TRUMP: Kelly (ph) is right here. I heard we had one of the lowest -- maybe the lowest mortality rate anywhere in the world.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Eight hundred fifty-three Americans died only yesterday from coronavirus.

Joining us now, Dr. Rochelle Walensky who is the chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at Massachusetts General Hospital and Dr. Jeremy Faust, an emergency physician at the Brigham and Women's Hospital.

Dr. Walensky, so what do we know about the U.S. mortality rate? And where it stands, let's say in comparison to other countries?

DR. ROCHELLE WALENSKY, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Good evening, Wolf. You know, there are lots of different ways to measure the mortality rate which I think is part of the reason there's the areas of confusion here. So you can measure it by given that a patient had disease, what's the chance they would have passed. That rate is about seven. The United States ranks about seven, about three percent of people with disease here in the United States have passed away from COVID-19.

Another way to look at it is what is the number of people per hundred thousand who have passed in the United States compared to other countries? Unfortunately, on that metric, we ranked third behind the U.K. and Mexico. So about 65 per hundred thousand have passed in the U.K., about 45 in Mexico, and about 42 in the United States. And the tragic thing here is that our numbers are rising in the space because our cases are going up exponentially and in compared to the U.K. where their cases are really quite low and flat.

So unfortunately, I think in the weeks ahead, we are going to surpass the U.K. in terms of the number of deaths per hundred thousand in the United States.

BLITZER: It's really a disturbing development, more than 140,000 Americans have died.

And Dr. Faust, you know, I just want to point out and I've said this on a few occasions in early March, there were five or 10 confirmed deaths here in the United States. In South Korea, a country of more than 50 million people, there were 20 or 25 confirmed deaths.

We have now more than 140,000 deaths in the U.S. from coronavirus. They still have under 300 deaths in South Korea. They clearly were doing a lot right. We were doing a lot wrong.

You're on the frontlines of this fight, Dr. Faust. We know there's a lag between tests going up and then the mortality rate following. But is it really fair to grade the U.S. handling of the coronavirus on the mortality rate when we also have heard so many reports of lasting and debilitating symptoms from this virus that even some a lot of people who don't die, they are ill for months and months and may have long- term ramifications down the road?

DR. JEREMY FAUST, EMERGENCY PHYSICIAN, BRIGHAM AND WOMEN'S HOSPITAL: That is absolutely right, Wolf. And I don't think that our report card is very good on any particular metric, whether it's the mortality rate which we ought to be first for the country that really lead the way on some vaccines. We are the country that has done better than anyone else on cancer.

We ought to be first but when it comes to this particular crisis, we are not first on anything, whether it's the mortality rate, whether it's testing, whether its capacity. So we ought to really be disturbed by that fact and start to own up to it because the world is not looking to us right now for leadership. And usually they do on issues when it comes to medical science.

So, there's a lot of ways to look at this and a lot of ways where we have room for improvement.

BLITZER: You know, Dr. Walensky, let me play something else that the president said. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: Everybody thought the summer it would go away and would come back in the fall. Well, then the summer came, they used to say the heat, the heat was good for it and it really knocks it out, remember, and then it might come back in the fall. So they got that one wrong. They got a lot wrong.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: We got a lot wrong. So what do you make it that, Dr. Walensky?

WALENSKY: You know, most respiratory viruses do not thrive in the summer. And so we had thought -- and coronavirus is one of them that doesn't necessarily thrive in the summer. I think a lot of the projections about what would happen in the summer were assumptions that we would actually act and behave in ways that would work to prevent infection.

And in fact, I think we bear some responsibility. We as a nation bears some responsibility and not doing all that was necessary to decrease the amount of infection.

I do believe that when people are outside and in the humid air that this coronavirus is less transmissible which just gives you a sense of what might happen in the fall in the dry air where we're crowding inside. I think it's -- we've had less of an impact than we other might -- otherwise might have during winter months which makes us all very worried for the months that lie ahead.

BLITZER: You know, Dr. Faust, the President has continually downplayed this coronavirus. Here's what he said when Chris Wallace today confronted him on that. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

[21:10:01]

TRUMP: -- be right eventually. I will be right eventually. You know, I said it's going to disappear. I'll say it again, but it's going to disappear and I'll be right. I don't think.

WALLACE: Right.

TRUMP: I don't think so. You know why it doesn't (INAUDIBLE)? Because I've been right probably more than anybody else.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: What do you think Dr. Faust? Has he been right more than -- probably more than anybody else?

FAUST: Well, I think to hope that this is just going to go away. And to say that that's the only thing we should do is just to wait for it to go away, that reminds me of sort of the five stages of grief. We're in the denial phase here. That's the first step.

That's not a good place to be when you're possibly coming towards an even greater crisis than anybody ever imagined. The president did a few things well. He did have a travel ban before it was popular. I will give him credit.

But since then, there have really been misstep after misstep, the testing issues, the capacity issues, and just the mixed messages have been really difficult. We are the only country where the chief executive is busy having his team write op-eds in the USA Today undermining the top scientists. We're having our scientists fight against our own government. That is not a place we want to be.

So going forward, what I think we ought to do is get those people back together. You know, I think Dr. Birx and Dr. Fauci when they're in the room, and when they're being listened to, we are all better off.

BLITZER: You know, Dr. Walensky, Delta Airlines today announced that starting tomorrow will tell passengers unable to wear a mask to consider simply staying home. Is this something you think we'll be seeing more of from a corporate standpoint going forward telling customers, telling others, you know what, you're not going to wear a mask, don't get near us.

WALENSKY: You know, we haven't had collaborative leadership in the governmental level, at the state level, and necessarily every place that we've needed, maybe we're seeing it now in the corporate level. I think we need to unify as a country and a common message to protect one another.

In times of tragedy and with 140 thousand deaths, I would say we are at a time of tragedy. We need to unify to protect one another against the common foe. That foe is not each other, it's this virus.

And so, I certainly hope that other corporate companies like Delta will stand with Delta, and I hope that citizens of this country will work together to protect one another.

BLITZER: Yes. And the CDC said on Friday, they fear there could be another 20,000 deaths here in the next three weeks alone. So worrying another 20,000 Americans dying, potentially from this coronavirus in the next three weeks.

All right, Dr. Walensky, Dr. Faust, guys, thank you very, very much.

There's important news coming out of Arizona tonight. Arizona reporting its highest daily death count since the beginning of the pandemic and its positivity rate for new infections is nearing our record. We're going live to Phoenix when we come back.

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[21:17:03]

BLITZER: Several states are setting alarming new highs to the coronavirus pandemic. And one of those hardest states right now is Arizona which posted its highest death toll yet. One hundred forty- seven people in Arizona died from the virus just on Saturday. And the state's positivity rate for new infections remains extremely high. Thirty-nine percent of those are getting the test, test positive.

Miguel Marquez is joining us now live from Phoenix. And Miguel, these are very troubling numbers we're hearing about in Arizona where you are. Described the situation you're seeing on the ground.

MIGUEL MARQUEZ, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. That positivity rate is just astronomical. And keep in mind, that's one day rate. The seven day positivity rate, Arizona leads the country at about 24.5.

There are a couple of hopeful signs, the retransmission rate that is of if I get it, how many people do I transmitted onto, that's down a little bit and hospitalizations are down a lot a little bit. But there is a ton of the virus out there right now. And that's one big thing vexing the lawmakers here and certainly the governor about opening the schools.

They're supposed to open on August 1st, that's when they traditionally open. He's pushed that back to an aspirational date of the 17th of August. But there are others, 87 doctors have now sent a letter to Governor Ducey telling him that he should keep the schools closed until at least October, if not for the entire semester because there was just too much virus out there.

Keep this in mind, when Arizona shut down in March, there were -- and shut down the schools, there were a thousand cases a week. Last week, there were 26,000 cases in the state. So, how they go to opening the schools up and allowing people to go back to school right now is going to be really difficult. The way you get this is from work, from community spread which they've seen all of that here since they reopened the state very aggressively in mid-May. The third way that you get it is through schools.

So that's one big element and going to be one big fight before they get to an answer.

Wolf?

BLITZER: That's going to be a huge fight and an important one. These are life and death decisions. Miguel Marquez, thank you very much from Phoenix.

Let's head over to Tucson right now. I'm joined by the mayor of Tucson, Regina Romero.

Mayor, thank you so much for joining us. Just give me a big picture in Tucson right now. What's your biggest concern?

MAYOR REGINA ROMERO (D) TUCSON, ARIZONA: Our biggest concern is that our ICU beds are at 91 percent capacity. The death rate is going up here, and not just in the city of Tucson but in Arizona. And so we need swift action by the governor, uniformed policy and action by the governor. And one of the simplest things that he could do is institute a statewide mandate on face masks and he refuses to do that. The mayor's across Arizona did that about three weeks ago. And because mayors across Arizona were --acted, we are seeing one percent decrease just a few weeks later.

[21:20:14]

BLITZER: Where do you stand, Mayor, on reopening schools and letting kids come into the classroom as opposed to, you know, virtual learning?

ROMERO: I am absolutely against starting school in person in August as the governor has indicated here in Arizona. Besides being mayor, I am the parent of a 10-year-old and a 14-year-old that goes to -- that go to public schools. I do not see them going back to school at all. As a parent, I'm not going to let them go back in person.

And so -- and I do not want the governor to reopen schools as a mayor either because we are going to see that spread. When it comes to children, it's very hard for them to stay six feet apart. And so the transmission between children to the teachers and so forth is going to exacerbate the spread in our city and throughout Arizona.

It's not -- scientifically, it does not make sense. And as parents, we should all be mortified that the governor is expecting us to send our kids back to school in mid-August.

BLITZER: It's not just the governor. It's the president United States. He's saying you got to reopen those schools. He's been very firmed, as you know, on that.

Arizona was doing really relatively very well and March and April and May and all of a sudden it's become a hotspot. What happened?

ROMERO: The mayors -- three mayors here in Arizona jumped ahead of the governor to do our stay at home orders and to close down bars and entertainment venues and move restaurants to take out only. A few days later, the governor instituted his executive order, stay at home executive order. And with that, he tied the hands and pre-empted mayors across Arizona as well as our health departments across Arizona, that if we dare do anything different than the governor, then we would pay with our state shared revenue.

Things are worse now, the governor decided in a rush to reopen our economy. And that's when we started seeing the spread go out of control. And so, it is really directly correlated and tied to his rush to reopen the state.

And unfortunately, this is a political game that the governor has been has been playing. He has been playing to President Trump and following his cues in terms of reopening in a hurry, in terms of him -- his unwillingness to institute a statewide mandatory mask executive order. And unfortunately, the lives of Arizonans are part of this political game. It is irresponsible and they should stop immediately.

BLITZER: These are life and death decisions as we know. Mayor Regina Romero, good luck to you. Good luck to everyone in Tucson. We'll stay in close touch. Thank you so much for joining us.

ROMERO: Thank you so much, Wolf. Really appreciate it.

BLITZER: Thank you.

Meanwhile, the president is pushing for students as we know to return to school next month. For the fall semester, he wants all the kids in all the schools in the United States to be back in class.

And a new study that has just emerged shows that children, get this, children over the age of 10 could be spreading the virus and as easily as adults. So how can children safely returned to schools in the U.S.? We have new information when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:28: 35]

BLITZER: Like so many things in our polarized society here in the United States, the simple phrase back to school is now another flashpoint for anxiety and debate.

For CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta, it means balancing what he knows about the virus with the fact that his own three daughters will soon return to their classrooms.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): I don't relish the decisions that headmasters like Keith Evans have to make about his 535 faculty and staff members, and nearly 1,900 students at this school which includes my three daughters.

(on camera) But the (INAUDIBLE) chairs is going to feel very differently as well.

KEITH EVANS, HEADMASTER, THE WESTMINSTER SCHOOLS: The (INAUDIBLE) chairs is going to absolutely feel different and this will be -- students will come in and they'll grab lunch and go and eat in their classrooms and that kind of thing where we can maintain distance.

GUPTA (voice-over): No surprise, physical distancing, a key part of the CDC guidance. Also recommended, wearing masks, teaching good hand hygiene, and not sharing supplies like books and pencils.

(on camera) If you could have anything you wanted that you don't have right now, what would it be? What would you like to have?

EVANS: We are really blessed with some great buildings and square footage here. That is the constraining factor I think in every school space.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Arne Duncan is joining us right now. He's the former secretary of education in the Obama administration. Secretary Duncan, thanks so much for joining us.

As you know, President Trump, the current education secretary, Betsy DeVos, they're pushing for all schools in the U.S. to reopen over the next few weeks amid new CDC research just up showing that children 10 years old and older can spread the virus as easily as adults even if they're totally asymptomatic.

[21:30:02]

So what challenges does that new information present to safely reopening schools in the United States?

ARNE DUNCAN, FORMER EDUCATION SECRETARY UNDER PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, the challenges for superintendents, for principals, for teachers, for children, for their parents, they're immense, they're immense, and we should not be in the situation now. You and I should not be talking now had Trump done -- did what he needed to do in March, in April, in May and June and July. It'd be a foregone conclusion that we could open schools safely.

Right now, we have 40 states where the spread is increasing not going down. The best way to get our kids back into physical school is to have those number of cases declining in communities. And that's just not what we're seeing now.

BLITZER: The president in his interview insists that all schools in the United States no matter where, they have to reopen and they have to reopen soon. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Schools have to open, young people have to go to school. And there's problems when you don't go to school too. And there's going to be a funding problem because we're not going to fund -- when they don't open their schools, we're not going to fund them. We're not going to give them money if they're not going to school. (END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: So what's your response, Secretary?

DUNCAN: Yes. I have a number of responses, and honestly, it just makes me it makes me furious. A couple of things.

First of all, he has no ability to withhold money from schools. The president of the United States doesn't fund public education, Congress does.

Secondly, you know, parents, everybody wants their kids to go back to school, the goal is not to have a magic date. The goal is to open when it is safe to open. And the goal is to stay open, to keep kids coming to school, not to open for a week or two and have -- everyone have to go back home and re-traumatize kids.

Well, President Trump is, he's honestly -- he's a master illusionist. He conjures up thanks -- threats that aren't real , you know, caravan of migrants, you know, Martians attacking us so he -- you know, fake wall, you know, fake space force, there's no threat and people feel OK.

The problem is, an illusionist cannot conjure away a real threat. And so he has no ability to focus on the devastation this is having for young people, for families, for education across the country. He's trying to wish it away.

You cannot wish away a real threat. You have to work, you have to invest in contact tracing, you should be funding public schools, a 150, $200 billion right now to make them safer. PPE, equipment, more custodians, Plexiglas, more lunchroom attendants, a massive tutoring program. He refuses to do anything real and that's why you and I are sitting here tonight, and we shouldn't be doing that.

BLITZER: You know, it's interesting because we all want the children, kindergarten through high school to be back in school, they learn a lot more. And when they're in the classroom with the teachers and other students. But at one point last spring, Mr. Secretary, you yourself were pushing to have kids go back to school maybe as early as this summer to help them regain lost ground from the pandemic shutdown.

So, what should the Trump administration have done back then if they wanted schools to reopen as soon as possible? Does it come down to what? More resources, more testing, more money? What should have been done?

DUNCAN: Yes, yes, and yes. And I feel like really naive now but you're exactly right. In March and April and May, I was pushing to have everyone go back to school in July, right now after the Fourth of July to make up for that loss learning during the COVID slide. But now you have the COVID slide on top of the summer slide so children will be coming back to school, some kids 678 months behind.

It's not fair, it's not their fault, it doesn't have to be that way. Had we taken this pandemic seriously as a nation like virtually every other nation, have we done the testing we needed to do, have we had the availability of PPE, have we done contact tracing, have we had a discipline as a country, we would not be having this problem. It's just a total, total failure of leadership.

They're just costing lives, this making hundreds of thousands of people sick. And now it's costing kids the chance to go back to a physical school this fall. Most schools will probably end up trying to do a hybrid situation, some in person, every child will be doing things virtually, is the best we can probably do in most places. It is far from ideal.

BLITZER: And it's so heartbreaking to know these kids are not going to be able to actually go into a classroom and learn because it is so, so critically important.

DUNCAN: Schools aren't for education. It's to, you know, gain social skills just to be around friends, just to be able hug your teacher. All these basic things that right now as a nation, we simply cannot do. We have to get to a better place as fast as we can.

BLITZER: Arne Duncan, the former education secretary, as usual. Thanks so much for joining us.

DUNCAN: Thank you.

BLITZER: As the United States breaks records for the number of new coronavirus cases, in other country, we're talking about Brazil has reported tens of thousands of daily new cases and massive under testing could mean that the number is so much higher.

[21:35:04]

We're going inside Brazil's fight against the virus when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BLITZER: The United States is certainly not the only nation that can't seem to beat the coronavirus curve. Brazil, Brazil has now surpassed two million cases reporting tens of thousands of cases every day with absolutely no signs of slowing down at all. But the country also faces another growing catastrophe, the Amazon rainforest, the lungs of the world as it's called, is being destroyed right now in a blistering rate.

CNN's Chief Climate Correspondent Bill Weir is in Brazil and has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BILL WEIR, CNN CHIEF CLIMATE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Brazil is now second only to the U.S. in confirmed cases of coronavirus but it's conducting 80 percent fewer tests per capita. So there is no telling how grim things might get for people left largely unprotected by their president.

[21:40:04] And while Jair Bolsonaro's pandemic management influences immediate life or death for Brazilians, his management of the Amazon will influence life as we know it in the age of climate crisis. Under his watch, this vital carbon sink, home to a 10th of the planets wildlife is being destroyed at record rates.

RICARDO GALVAO, PHYSICIST, FORMER DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF SPACE RESEARCH, BRAZIL: We gave him more than 15 warns per day of deforested areas, there was no action of the government. No action.

WEIR (voice-over): Despite the warnings of his own top scientists, ancient protected rainforests are being cut and sold by the truckload. Illegal fires are being set by those hoping to grab land, graze cattle, or sell soybeans to the U.S. and China.

And as I saw firsthand in the Peruvian Amazon.

(on camera) From jungle to desert in a matter of feet.

(voice-over) The harsh process of illegal gold mining turns thousands of species of plants and animals into toxic sludge and sand.

(on camera) How long will it take for this to come back?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Maybe hundreds of years.

WEIR (voice-over): Satellite data shows that in June alone, Brazil lost 400 square miles of the Amazon. That's a rainforest bigger than Dallas, Texas, gone in a month. When the National Space Agency released that data, Bolsonaro fired the official in charge.

(on camera) You're a physicist, you studied at MIT.

GALVAO: Precisely.

WEIR (voice-over): And when the director of the NASA of Brazil insisted on sharing real-time forest destruction with the world, he was fired.

GALVAO: He has always made very clear that he did not believe on the question of global warming.

WEIR (voice-over): He says Bolsonaro won on a promise of unlimited economic growth by refusing to protect not one centimeter of indigenous land in the Amazon.

(on camera) Is it subsistence farmers and loggers and ranchers just trying to feed their children and they know they won't get caught? Or is it big interests who are profiting off a president who is turning a blind eye?

GALVAO: Very much (INAUDIBLE) into this. They say that poor people do it, but that's not true. Or do they hire the poor people?

WEIR (voice-over): Meanwhile, the original residents of the Amazon are being decimated by the virus, and Bolsonaro vetoed large portions of a bill that would have given them basic pandemic relief including clean water.

Water is life, Clarencio tells me. It's where we come from and how we live. So this is a form of extermination. His deputy says we should drink from the rivers but the rivers are contaminated.

There have been dozens of formal requests in Brazil's comment Congress to impeach Bolsonaro but no signs of action. Led by Norway, a group of global investors worth trillions recently threatened to pull their money out of the country. But if that doesn't lead to real enforcement, he's not up for re-election for another 27 months or 27 pieces of the Amazon, the size of Dallas, Texas.

Bill Weir, CNN, Brasilia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: Thank you very much, Bill. Excellent, excellent reporting.

And meanwhile, as the country rallies against the racial injustice, multiple House Committee chairs here in Washington are now demanding an independent investigation into use of federal officers to quell protesters in multiple cities. That's ahead. Stay with us here on THE SITUATION ROOM.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[21:48:14]

BLITZER: CNN has learned today that multiple House Committee chairs here in Washington are calling for an immediate inspectors general investigation into the actions of federal officers and their use of force against protesters, and that includes the moment last month when officers used pepper spray to clear a square so President Trump could make a photo-op in front of a church near the White House.

Lawmakers are also deeply concerned about we've -- what we've seen in Portland, Oregon, federal authorities including camouflaged officers without identification badges arresting protesters and putting them in unmarked cars.

CNN Correspondent Josh Campbell is in Portland for us. So Josh, so you've been there for a few days now. What are you seeing tonight?

JOSH CAMPBELL, CNN SECURITY ANALYST: YES, Wolf. Well, another night of protests here in the city of Portland, and there were two major incidents last night. One occurring north of the city at a police union facility where peaceful protesters have had gathered.

And then a group of riders that actually set fire to that building, the police moving everyone out as that fire was burning behind me here at the federal building which has served as the epicenter for so many of these protests. There were -- there was a large group that was gathered, hundreds of people out here.

And as you look at this fencing right now, Wolf, we continue to see the cycle. This fencing was put up in order to try to keep people back from this federal facility. But that -- this was actually taken down last night in short order by protesters. That causing police to come out in full force, launched tear gas into the crowd. We were tear gassed along with a lot of our local media colleagues who have been here on the ground, harder work covering the story.

And one thing that they tell us is that there's been a noticeable shift in the focus of these protests since the infusion of federal resources at the behest of the Trump administration.

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Now, the protesters not only want racial justice, they not only want the end of police violence, but now they want these federal officers to leave this area. That's a real point of contention. They are also backed by city officials. The mayor telling our colleague Jake Tapper just today that he also wants these federal officials to leave.

That debate continues. Finally, Wolf, we did get some new information today, three very powerful chairpersons in the U.S. House of Representatives, three Democrats are calling on the Inspectors General at the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security to investigate the activities of federal officers in this city.

Wolf?

BLITZER: We'll see what happens on that front. Josh Campbell, thank you very much.

As the nation finds itself in the grip of a racial crisis, W. Kamau Bell is kicking off his fifth season of United shades of America with a unique look at white supremacy and institutional racism in America.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

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

W. KAMAU BELL, CNN HOST, UNITED SHADES OF AMERICA: Yes.

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 of more progress.

BELL: To get a little MLK on it no matter what our race, creed, religion. If we all do that every day to work to make the world a little bit better, it gets better.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Absolutely.

BELL: Yes. I cannot think of my mom in moments like this is like, hearing her talk to her friends about racism and activism. She was playing Martin King Jr. records in the house, and at the time, I was like, why do I have to (INAUDIBLE) put some temptations on her so you know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

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

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

BELL: Yes.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: And W. Kamau Bell is joining us now.

Kamau, you explored white supremacy and a visit with the KKK in your very first episode of United Shades. That was five seasons ago. And now you're revisiting the issue in this weekend's extended season premiere of the show. All of which was planned and filmed before the outbreak of the latest racial crisis here in the United States. So what more did you want to explore?

BELL: Well, I mean, I think that when you look at that first episode, I was new to the show, I was new to CNN, and I was new to really doing this work and looking at white supremacy like this. And I think I've learned over the last few years that it goes deeper than just the KKK and neo-Nazis. And so this episode at this point in America feels really important because we need to really focus on the structures of white supremacy in this country.

BLITZER: You know, the president earlier today was asked about his statements where he said statements earlier in the week, I must say where both Black Lives Matter and the confederate flag are both issues of freedom of speech. I want you to listen to this. Listen to what he said.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS HOST: Is the confederate flag offensive?

TRUMP: It depends on who you're talking about, when you're talking about. When people proudly had their confederate flags, they're not talking about racism. They love their flag, it represents the south. They like the south. People right now like the south.

I say it's freedom of many things, but it's freedom of speech.

WALLACE: So you're not offended by it?

TRUMP: Well, I'm not offended either by Black Lives Matter. That's freedom of speech.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: What's your reaction, Kamau? BELL: First of all, you can't equivocate the confederate flag and Black Lives Matter if you know anything about American history. And we all know that Donald Trump doesn't know anything about American history. The second thing I would say is that it was on CNN when he announced he was running for president. That he was afraid to distance himself from the Klan on Jake Tapper show. And this feels like that moment again.

NASCAR is not usually confederate flag, the state of Mississippi is taking the confederate flag off their flag. The confederate flag is done as a mainstream symbol in America of anything other than racism. But the president is still playing to the basis level of his base.

BLITZER: When people hear the words white supremacy, very specific images come to mind, white hoods, burning crosses, swastikas. You talked in your new episode about those things being just the tip of the iceberg. Tell us about that.

BELL: Well, yes. I think that, you know, white supremacy goes throughout the structures of this country. In an episode we say that, you know, a white supremacist is the neo-Nazis or the Ku Klux Klan. But a white -- but white supremacy is 44 out of 45 presidents in this country being white men in a country that was originally a hundred percent Native American. So that's about the structures and systems that promote white people in white men and white Christian men over other people.

And so we have to talk about the structure. A lot of us like to point at white supremacist because that makes us feel like we're not participating in white supremacy but it's not that easy.

BLITZER: We're really grateful to you, Kamau for doing this. The new episode starts right at the top of the hour in a few minutes. We're all looking forward to that.

Thanks so much for everything you're doing. Really appreciate it.

BELL: Thank you.

BLITZER: And there's breaking news coming into CNN right now. U.S. marshals and FBI are investigating a shooting at the home of a federal judge, the Judge Esther Salas. That according to law enforcement officials.

[21:55:01]

The initial report from investigators indicate a gunman who was disguised opened fire when the door was open. A child and the judge's husband were shot. The judge we're told is unharmed. You could find more on this developing story at cnn.com.

I'm Wolf Blitzer here in Washington. Thanks very much for watching. I'll be back, of course, tomorrow 5 p.m. Eastern in THE SITUATION ROOM. Thanks very much for watching. Have a good night.

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