Return to Transcripts main page


Trump Companies Still Buying From China?; Texas Outbreak; Republican Infighting Over Coronavirus Stimulus. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired July 21, 2020 - 16:30   ET




NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): And, nationwide, probably for many months to come.

DR. MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, DIRECTOR, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA CENTER FOR INFECTIOUS DISEASE RESEARCH: We're still at the beginning of this pandemic. That's what I find so difficult.

Most people are already done with it. They're over. They have decided they are not going to do anymore. Well, they don't get to choose. The virus chooses.


WATT: Now, today, Jake, a congressional committee heard from the bosses of some of those companies racing to produce a vaccine.

We heard some optimism. One person from AstraZeneca said that we could see a vaccine any time from September onwards. Also, some pretty-hard- to-hear realism. Somebody from Merck said that this will not be the last or the worst pandemic that we will face -- Jake.



TAPPER: A little optimism followed by something else.

Nick Watt, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

WATT: Yes. Sorry.

TAPPER: I want to bring in CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

Sanjay, we just heard from the nation's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, in the previous block. He described testing in the U.S. as patchy and not as uniform as he would like.

He avoided saying so. And I understand why. He has a job and he feels that he needs to stay in that job. And I think a lot of people want him to. But what will it take to improve the number of tests, the lag in testing, and the lack of contact tracing?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, I think there's a fundamental problem here, which is that there is just so much widespread virus in this country because we ignored it for so long.

It's very hard to catch up with testing. So, on one hand, you can say we're doing more testing than any other country in the world. Second thing you would have to say is, we need to do that much testing. And we're still of missing -- catching only maybe 10 percent of the infections out there.

So, a lot of people are spreading, having no idea that they actually have it. That's because of the lack of the testing. And, obviously, you can't even start to talk about contact tracing until you can bring the numbers down. The numbers are just too high.

We have got to bring down the viral load, Jake. If people wore masks and did all these physical distancing measures diligently, as we have been talking about since March, for a few weeks, the numbers would come down, and I think you would be able to get your hands around testing.

TAPPER: Yes, Dr. Fauci said today masks, physical distancing, don't go inside to events unless you need to. Wash your hands many times a day.

So, there are not going to be any medical experts at the White House briefing today. We're not even sure if it's going to be a briefing, but President Trump is holding some sort of event. Is it a mistake to not invite Dr. Fauci and other health experts to be there?

GUPTA: It's a complete mistake, Jake, no question.

I got calls today from sources and colleagues from around the world, as I touch base with them regularly. They reach out to Dr. Fauci. They reach out to members of the Coronavirus Task Force for their own guidance.

It seems to me at times we're not reaching out within the United States to the people who are part of our own task force. It's a total mistake.

Two big things. One is that it would be nice to hear about a path forward now from people like Dr. Fauci and Ambassador Birx. Two is, unfortunately, Jake, as we well know, a lot of things that are said by the president are wrong.

And you need someone to fact-check these things, because sometimes they can be dangerous, some of the stuff that he's saying. These things need to be fact-checked real time. And it worries me that these scientists won't be there to do that.

TAPPER: Yes. It was a couple months ago -- or it was in April of -- April 26 or something like that when President Trump mused publicly about ingesting disinfectants. Sanjay, today, representatives from the top drugmakers working on a

COVID-19 vaccine -- Nick Watt just talked about them -- AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Moderna, Pfizer, they spoke before the Energy and Commerce Committee.

There was concern expressed that President Trump might pressure these companies to release a vaccine before the vaccine is ready, for election reasons. Take a listen.


REP. DAVID MCKINLEY (R-WV): Are your companies insulted by that, an accusation that you could bring a drug to market that's not safe or effective? Is that insulting?

DR. MENE PANGALOS, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, ASTRAZENECA: Despite the speed that we're working at, we're not cutting corners, and regulators are not lowering their standards.

DR. MACAYA DOUOGUIH, JOHNSON & JOHNSON: We stand by science, and we will continue to develop a safe and effective products, as we always have.


TAPPER: So, again, Dr. Fauci just said that you shouldn't wait. When the vaccine's ready, you should take it because that means that if it's been approved, it's OK.

What do you say to skeptics -- and some of them are Democrats on Capitol Hill -- who are worried that President Trump is pushing a vaccine to be issued before it's ready, and it might not be safe, and he wants to do this to help his own reelection chances?


What would you say to that?

GUPTA: Well, I think what you heard the pharma execs say is exactly what you would expect them to say. Right? They didn't say anything surprising.

But I think they -- I do believe that, because this exists within a regulatory framework, Jake. This isn't -- this doesn't just get made by the companies and then potentially start getting dosed in people outside of a trial.

The FDA is really the organization that has to vet that data, make sure that it actually proves that it is safe, that it's effective. That's going to be the real challenge in some ways.

So, the idea that the FDA has to be completely independent, you know, not at all succumbing to any kind of political pressure, I think, is the absolute key, even more so than the pharma execs.

And I have no reason to believe that Stephen Hahn, who I talk to regularly, won't be that guy, won't make sure this is totally, totally vetted out.

TAPPER: All right, let's hope you're right.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thank you so much, as always.

Coming up next: Congressional Republicans are negotiating a major stimulus bill. But, so far, they haven't gotten President Trump on board. What are the sticking points?

That's next.



TAPPER: In our politics lead today: Senate Republicans are hoping to unveil a new economic stimulus deal this week. Their biggest obstacle so far has not been negotiating with Senate Democrats. Rather, it's been President Trump.

Top White House officials met with Republicans on Capitol Hill today to try to iron out some of the issues. All signs point to major divisions on more funding for the CDC and money to increase coronavirus testing and contact tracing, which Senate Republicans want, and the White House, inexplicably, does not.

CNN congressional correspondent Phil Mattingly is live on Capitol Hill for us.

And, Phil, White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows said earlier today they were on their own 20-yard line. Has there been any progress?

PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: And when I asked the White House chief of staff how far he wanted to get by the end of the day, he said we just want to move the ball down the field.

And I think that's probably the best way to describe how things are going. They're not trying to get to the other side of the field or even to the end zone at this point. They're trying to just unify the Republican Party here in the United States Senate.

Jake, there was the closed-door were meeting where the Treasury secretary, White House chief of staff basically sat in and listened, as I'm told more than a dozen Republicans registered concerns, concerns about where the White House stood on specific issues, particularly the payroll tax, but also concerns about the stimulus proposal in general.

Some Republicans very clear that they are not on board with anything to the size and scope of where Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, wants things to be. That's at a trillion dollars.

That's his target. Keep in mind, they haven't started negotiating with Democrats yet. Right now, Mnuchin and Meadows are in Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office. But I'm told that's not for negotiations. That's just to start to lay this groundwork, set the framework for things.

So I think the best way to put this, as one senator told me earlier today, is, A, we have a lot of work to do, and, B, we have a lot of guys who want to get a lot of things off their chest. It's part of the process. But there's an urgency here.

The unemployment benefits, the federal enhancement, expires at the end of the month. They want to deal before then. Again, there's a lot more steps to go on this.

TAPPER: Yes, a lot of people don't know how they're going to pay their rent next month.

Phil, Republican leaders said today they're considering another round of direct paychecks to Americans in this bill. Is that right?

MATTINGLY: That's exactly right.

And I think Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has made clear that is something he wants in the bill. And I think one of the interesting elements here is, President Trump has made clear he wants a payroll tax cut. That is a priority for him. Senate Republicans have been cool to that.

And one of the primary reasons is they prefer the direct payments. They understand that they are quick, they went out fast, they were effective for millions of Americans, and they want them in the bill.

One thing they have not settled on at this point, I'm told, is the scope of those payments. Remember, the initial payments, $1,200 for individuals, up to $2,400 for families, $500 for dependents. We will see where they end up on that, but, right now, Republicans definitely planning to have some form of stimulus checks in their proposal -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Phil Mattingly, thank you so much.

One county has now issued a new stay-at-home order, but it cannot be enforced. We will explain why. That's next.



TAPPER: The national lead now.

California may have the most new coronavirus cases on a daily basis nationwide right now, but two other states lead by far when it comes to the number of deaths per day.

Those states are Texas and Florida.

CNN's Ed Lavandera is live for us in Texas right now.

And, Ed, Hidalgo County, which is along the Mexican border, they tried -- officials there tried to order residents to stay home. But, apparently, Governor Abbott won't let the county enforce that rule? Why is that?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, this has been a struggle that's been going on between the governor and local officials since April.

And, essentially, Hidalgo County, it's one of these -- as one doctor put it to me yesterday, this is the hot spot within this Texas hot spot. And the governor's essentially saying that local jurisdictions just don't have the authority and the enforcement mechanism to carry out these kinds of orders.

The governor's office is saying that local authorities need to enforce the provisions that are already in place, like the mask mandate. But this comes, as it has to various other county and city leaders across the state over the last few months, as very frustrating, as they have seen these numbers increasing in their local communities, as we have seen so closely down there in the Rio Grande Valley, which is of great concern, as hospital bed space and ICU bed space has been running out dramatically.

TAPPER: And, Ed, we're also learning of an explosion of cases in Texas prisons. How bad is the situation there?

LAVANDERA: Well, we just heard a short while ago about a prison, a federal prison in Fort Worth where more than 500 female inmates have tested positive with COVID. That's nearly 40 percent of that one particular prison's population.


The federal Bureau of Prisons is saying that they started increasing testing at the site back in early July. That continues. But this also comes as we have seen a number of similar-type stories of these explosion of cases at various prison and jail facilities across the country since this pandemic started -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Ed Lavandera in Dallas, Texas, for us, thank you so much.

In public, President Trump portrays himself as tough on China, but it seems his company's private business deals tell a different story.

Coming up next: a new CNN investigation.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our money lead today: As the trade war with China grinds on, President Trump has not been shy about publicly bashing China on the issue of trade and also recently on the coronavirus. He's also been quite critical of Americans getting goods from China.

But, remember, the president is also a businessman. So, given how Trump talks, how has the Trump Organization been walking?

CNN's Kylie Atwood joins us now. She's been investigating the matter for us.

So, Kylie, as -- how has the Trump Organization been acting? Have they have in accordance with the president's rhetoric and the White House's advance to Americans when it comes to buying American and not buying from China?


Our review demonstrates that they have not been in accordance with what the president has said and what the stated goals of the Trump administration are. So, since September of last year, the properties owned by the Trump Organization here in the United States have imported more than eight tons of goods from China.

And, of course, that comes as the president has increasingly cast himself as tough on China, particularly in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, slamming them for how they have handled that pandemic, and, of course, as he has cast himself as someone whose trade negotiations with China are going to benefit everyday Americans, American manufacturers.

So, I want to point out the instances of these imports from China. Just two months ago, there was an import of two tons of goods that came to Trump Golf Course in L.A. from Shanghai. That was two tons of wooden showcase cabinets coming into that golf course.

And in September of last year, there was a shipment of more than six tons of tables from China to the Trump International Hotel in New York City. And it's important to note that, on that same day, Jake, as -- that same day that that shipment of six tons of tables from China came to the Trump Organization's International Hotel, the president was tweeting.

And he was tweeting about his trade negotiations with China, saying -- quote -- "that they are doing much tougher in those negotiations." And he also said that they are going to get much tougher on China if he wins, so demonstrating that he wants this to be a part of his presidential campaign, committing to being tougher on China if he wins the presidential election.

Now, we should note that he did sign phase one of that trade deal earlier this year. But he has come out and publicly said he's not interested in signing phase two of a trade deal with China.

And there are concerns about if China would be even able to uphold the commitments it made in the phase one trade deal. And the other thing that I think is important to note, Jake, is that, in 2017, the president signed an executive order compelling all federal agencies to buy American. That is clearly not something that has trickled down to the companies, even those that are owned by his own sons.

TAPPER: Well, so, it's, I guess, not surprising that he's hypocritical on this issue. I remember five years ago, in my first interview with him, I wore a

Trump tie to the interview just to point out to him that that tie was made in China. And I pleaded with him, why don't you produce these ties in, say, Philadelphia? They could use the jobs there.

And it's cheaper, right? I mean, that's the reason that the Trump Organization is buying goods from China.

ATWOOD: That's right.

TAPPER: They're cheaper than if they bought those goods from the United States.

ATWOOD: Yes. And you're right. That's something that he has publicly talked about before.

But, as he has become president, it has been a stated goal of his to try and draw manufacturing jobs back to the United States.

And I should note that the Trump Organization didn't reply to any of our requests for comment, even when we asked them if they have a commitment to buying from companies that manufacture here in the United States -- Jake.

TAPPER: Yes, to help American jobs.

Kylie Atwood, great investigating. Thank you so much.

More than 141,000 Americans have died because of the coronavirus.

We want to take the time to remember three of them right now. All of them worked for the city of Houston.

The fire chief announced that one of his captains, Leroy Lucio, died yesterday. He had been with the department for 30 years. Lucio was more than a supervisor. He was a mentor to those coming up behind him.

The city of Houston also lost two employees from the Department of Public Works, Natarvia Robertson and Michael Sanchez. They died within 24 hours of each other last week. The Sanchez family wants Houstonians to know that Michael had a passion for serving his city.

Our condolences to the Lucio and Robertson and Sanchez families. Our deepest sorrows. May their memories be a blessing.

Our coverage on CNN continues right now. President Trump is supposed to come to the cameras and talk to the American people.

Thanks for joining us.