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Trump Deflects as Crisis Worsens; Frontline Workers Attacked over Mask Requirements; Coronavirus Update from around the World; Teachers Retiring over Coronavirus. Aired 8:30-9a ET

Aired July 20, 2020 - 08:30   ET




ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: More than 140,000 Americans have been killed by coronavirus and we see tens of thousands of new cases each day. Why hasn't President Trump tried to find a solution? Why has he outsourced this crisis to the states?

Joining us now is CNN political analyst Maggie Haberman. She's a White House correspondent for "The New York Times."

Maggie, great to see you. You have such great reporting on what the thought process was at the White House, what was going on behind the scenes when they realized how big of a problem this was becoming. I'll just read a portion of it from this weekend from your piece, along with your colleagues.

You write, 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 the state authority handoff. And it was at the heart of what would become once a catastrophic policy blunder and an attempt to escape blame for a crisis that had engulfed the country.

So just tell us more about this, Maggie. Why -- why didn't they want to tackle this head-on? Why are they outsourcing it?

MAGGIE HABERMAN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure. I mean a couple of reasons, Alisyn. I mean one is that there is an ideological bent to some of the people around President Trump, not President Trump, who does not really have an ideology other than Trumpism, but some of his advisers who believe that states ought to be the ones handling matters like this.

However, matters like this are a novel coronavirus, where there are a ton of questions, not a ton of solutions and federal government is much better poised to grapple with some of these matters, including, in the short term, getting equipment, getting supplies to combat the virus, getting supplies for hospitals, getting supplies for testing. They basic decided that it was going to be more effective for the White House, more expedient, to hand this over to states, and that, unfortunately, did not factor into the possibility of social distancing guidelines moving backwards in a number of places and a spike in cases, like we're seeing now, much earlier than they thought it would happen.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: I'm going to read from a different Maggie Haberman piece. In a way, Maggie, you had bookend terrific reports. The one I'm going to read from is with Alex Burns and Jonathan Martin, having to do with Republican officials beginning to split, or put some distance between themselves and the president on the pandemic. And it contains a remarkable quote from political strategist Dave Carney, who's an adviser to Greg Abbott in Texas. This is on the record on coronavirus. The president got bored with it. That just jumps off the page there, Maggie.

And then you have even more details about Mark Meadows basically saying, yes, we want to avoid a pandemic if we can. A lot in there.


HABERMAN: Dave Carney, I think, John, really summarizes where we are. I think he is correct. I think this is not an issue that the president is particularly galvanized by or interested in or has wanted to sustain interest in. And I think we have seen that play out in front of our eyes. When he talks about the virus, it is often with wrong statistics. When he talks about the virus, it continues to be as if it was something done to him.

So I do think that Dave Carney's right, but I also agree with you that it is striking that it is coming from such a close adviser to someone who has been an ally of the president.

CAMEROTA: What I thought it was so interesting yesterday when he did that interview, Maggie, with Chris Wallace was, I don't know if the president is not getting the right information, if they're shielding him from it or if he's just bored by it, but you saw that moment where he says, you know, and we have the -- the lowest -- I can't remember if it was the lowest death rate or the lowest cases in the world and Chris Wallace had it to be like, time out, actually, we have the highest. He was like no, no, I've been told we have the lowest. He was like, no, we have the highest. Here's the graph. And he was like, Kayleigh, come here, come here, come here. I thought you told me we had the lowest. I mean what is that?

HABERMAN: Well, what it is, is actually -- you -- you hit on it, it's aides providing him, you know, a different version of facts, you know, basically giving him information that supports his beliefs.

So there was one chart that Chris Wallace was referring to and then a different chart that the president was referring to. And if you left out certain countries, depending on which one you were looking at, you would get the answer you wanted. And that's what the president's aides are doing. They are giving him information that basically bolsters where he wants (ph) to be in some cases. I think in other cases he hears information and he doesn't like the way it sounds and he just makes up his own.

BERMAN: So, Maggie, you also have reporting in this piece about some White House officials wanting to have more coronavirus maybe task force briefings. Some of the reporting is what they don't want to do at the White House because if they do it there the president might join in?

HABERMAN: There is some concern that the president is going to show up and do to himself what he did during these coronavirus briefings a couple of months ago. There are other people who think that there have to be briefings. Some of the president's own communications advisers would be fine with briefings but they don't want Vice President Mike Pence there. Mike Pence's folks are still leading the task force.

So, once again, this is just another -- the response and how to tell the public about this -- this very serious virus has gotten caught up in another -- in another, you know, back-and-forth between staff.

CAMEROTA: We just got this alert from Kaitlan Collins that Mike Pence will be leading, I think, a phone call with governors today.

HABERMAN: Governors. He does that every -- he does that every Monday. Yes, he does that every Monday.

CAMEROTA: And so, I mean, are they trying to sideline him? They don't want him sullied by this? Is that the thinking?

HABERMAN: No, no, no, not at all. I think it's that essentially that Mike Pence is seen as a -- as a -- as a bit of a safe haven for some of these governors who have been -- and you can see it in our reporting, and senators -- very frustrated by watching the reaction from the president and they consider Mike Pence to be the person they can go to. I think that some of the communications aides working for the president view themselves as either in competition with or don't want to see Mike Pence get most of the attention. But it's -- it's, again, it's yet another sort of in-fighting piece as opposed to anything else.

BERMAN: Doesn't seem all that important, Maggie, with 140,000 Americans dead.

HABERMAN: Sure doesn't.

BERMAN: And the caseload increasing every day.

Both stories in the paper this weekend were fascinating, must reads.

Maggie Haberman, thank you very much for being with us this morning.

CAMEROTA: Thanks, Maggie.

BERMAN: A quick programing note.

Join Fareed Zakaria as he investigates why President Trump believes in conspiracy theories. A new CNN special report "Donald Trump's Conspiracy Theories" airs tonight at 9:00 p.m. Eastern and Pacific, just one hour long, here on CNN.

So with no federal mask mandate, local leaders are making the rules and leaving frontline workers to enforce them. We're going to hear from some of them, next.



BERMAN: This morning there is no federal mask mandate, and the number of people pushing back hard against local mask requirements keeps growing. Frontline workers just trying to enforce mask rules are being attacked more often.

CNN's Pete Muntean live in Alexandria, Virginia, with more.

This is troubling, Pete.

PETE MUNTEAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's really troubling, John.

You know, more and more workers are having to be forced into becoming the mask police. The owner of this store here in Alexandria was harassed when a customer refused to wear one. And now she is telling people her story.


LILY DAMTEW, COFFEE SHOP OWNER: This is giving me hope.

MUNTEAN (voice over): Lily Damtew's coffee shop in Alexandria, Virginia, is now lined with messages of support. But it's when she delivered the message to a customer that masks are required that things got ugly.

DAMTEW: And I told him, you know, you need to wear a mask to get service. He said, no, I don't have to. I said, yes, you do. He spat on my feet and he went up the street. It was just sad. It was very upsetting.

MUNTEAN: Her story is just one from across the country of those in the service industry now on the frontlines of enforcing new rules. Damtew was harassed one day after she reopened after being closed for months.

DAMTEW: If I knew, you know, things like that would happen, I wouldn't be open.

MUNTEAN: The Trump administration has not instituted a federal mask mandate.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I leave it up to the governors. Many of the governors are changing. They're more mask into. They like the concept of masks. But some of them don't agree.

MUNTEAN: Thirty-nine states have made some sort of mask requirement.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How about you just leave?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Are you smart enough to shut up?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE). Are you smart enough to shut up -- MUNTEAN: In California, bartender Rebecca Hernandez (ph) found herself on the receiving end of a customer's racist tirade. Hernandez says he refused to wear a mask.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And when it comes down to whether or not you want to risk your safety or not, and that's a really hard place to be. But definitely a federal, nationwide mandate or law would be incredible.

MUNTEAN: More than 20 major retail chains, including the GAP, Best Buy and Dollar Tree wrote on that states must pass laws requiring masks.


Dr. Anthony Fauci is also putting the onus on state and local leaders.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NIAID: Be as forceful as possible in getting your citizenry to wear masks.

MUNTEAN: A message that Lily Damtew hopes comes through loud and clear for her sake and all those facing fights over face coverings.

DAMTEW: I'm not going to give up. I'm still going to ask you to wear a mask if you come to my store without a mask. I'm still going to ask to you wear a mask. I'm not backing down.


MUNTEAN: State leaders aren't backing down here in Virginia. The governor is sending in inspectors to places like bars and restaurants in hotspots like Hampton Roads looking for masks. Enforcements also being stepped up in places like Miami. The mask order in Arkansas goes into effect today.


BERMAN: Yes, just to be clear, public opinion overwhelmingly supports mask wearing here. So what you're seeing is you're seeing small pockets, I think, which can skew the perception.

Pete Muntean, thanks very much for being with us.

Some teachers say they would rather take early retirement than risk getting coronavirus in the classroom. We'll speak to one of them, next.



CAMEROTA: Hong Kong is facing a third wave of the pandemic and tightening its public health restrictions.

CNN has reporters all around the world to bring you the latest developments.


WILL RIPLEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Will Ripley in central Hong Kong, where people are out on the streets but almost everybody is wearing a mask. The city is expanding its requirements for people to wear masks. One of these social distancing measures that are being heightened as it grappled with a third wave of Covid-19 city leaders say is not even close to being under control. The number of cases every day has now topped the 100 mark. That's a first in this pandemic. And non-essential city workers are being told to stay home this week. A lot of businesses are closed. And those that do remain open have to conduct temperature screens at the door to try to make sure that customers are safe and try to keep the virus from spreading even more here.

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: I'm Nic Robertson in London, where the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has likened the possible use of another national lockdown using the nuclear deterrent. This comes at a time when he's trying to encourage businesses to get employees back to work, and the country's chief scientific adviser says there's no need to change the current work from home policy. The prime minister has given greater powers to local councils across the country to have local lockdowns if there are local outbreaks. That's the future he wants, not as he says the nuclear deterrent.

SHASTA DARLINGTON, JOURNALIST: I'm Shasta Darlington in Sao Paulo.

The total number of Covid-19 cases in Latin America and the Caribbean is nearing 3.8 million. That's according to a CNN tally Sunday based on data from Johns Hopkins University. More than 161,000 people in the region have died from the coronavirus. Brazil, the hardest-hit country, with nearly 2.1 million infections. Over the weekend, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro greeted supporters who gathered outside the presidential residence where he's been in semi-isolation ever since testing positive earlier this month.


CAMEROTA: Our thanks to all of our correspondents there.

So this morning, school teachers around the country are wrestling with a very tough choice, should they return to their jobs and risk their health or quit their jobs and face the consequences that come with that?

Joining us now is Anthony Jennings, he's a college prep teacher at Booker T. Washington High School in Miami.

Mr. Jennings, thanks so much for being here.

So I know that not only are you a school teacher, as you have been for 16 years, but your wife is a nurse at the Jackson Health System. We interviewed doctors from there all the time. We know the crisis that's going on in those hospitals. So what are your conversations like as you try to figure out your future? ANTHONY JENNINGS, TEACHER, BOOKER T. WASHINGTON HIGH SCHOOL, MIAMI:

Well, we're very much concerned because, as you know, Jackson has a very high rate of Covid patients. And my concern is going back to a classroom with students who are not, you know, properly social distancing, wearing masks, things of that nature. And so, you know, that's sort of a double whammy for me, coming home every day, not knowing, you know, what the situation is.

CAMEROTA: I totally understand. And in Florida, school starts next month. So what have you decided to do?

JENNINGS: Well, I have decided to take my retirement at this point in time. It's something that I don't really look forward to, because, you know, teaching has been a passion of mine, as you said, for 16 years, and, you know, I don't look forward to leaving, but I think I have to at this point.

CAMEROTA: I'm sorry to hear that. I mean I read that you -- that you loved your job, and that you had felt that it was your calling these past 16 years. And, in fact, that you had told your principal many times that you would pay him to -- if he'd just let you continue doing your job.

JENNINGS: That's correct. I mean it's been a real passion. I've had many successes, many students to go on and earn their Ph.D., their law degree. And coming from the type of community that Booker T. is located in, you know, that's astounding to have those students overcome the hurdles and obstacles in their way and become, you know, rightfully in their own space, you know, in a good time.

CAMEROTA: And so what happened? I mean what was the -- what was the breaking point for you? Why did you decide to retire?

JENNINGS: Well, a lot of things came into play, as you mentioned. The wife, she's a nurse aide, going to the hospital every day, coming home, that played into my decision. But also my age. You know, I reached the age where I would be eligible to retire, so I said, this might be the right time, because I do want to enjoy, you know, some of the hard work that I've put in over the years. But if I contract Covid-19, then, you know, that could be in jeopardy.


CAMEROTA: That makes perfect sense.

And what about your friends and colleagues from the school? I know you've been having conversations with them, too. Even some of the younger folks. What are they telling you?

JENNINGS: Well, some of the younger folks say that they envy me because they wish that they could get out of the system themselves, you know, and, you know, have a pension or have something to fall back on. But I know many of the older teachers that I talk with, they are very much interested in retiring.

Now, as you know, when you retire, you're looking at living on a fixed income and finances become important. And so that's a prime consideration for everyone that I've talked to.

CAMEROTA: And, I mean, also, just psychologically and emotionally, you know, it is a big choice and it's a hard choice to leave something that you've loved and to have that purpose that you've had for so long. And so, Mr. Jennings, we really appreciate you sharing your personal thought process with us and we wish you the best of luck going forward.

But, you know, stay healthy and we wish the same for your wife.

JENNINGS: Thank you very much.

CAMEROTA: Thank you for being on.

CNN's coverage continues, next.