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Trump's Sagging Polls Force Reversals on Pandemic; Three Vaccine Trails Showing Promising Results; Pompeo in U.K. for Talks on Pandemic, China Relations; Congress Mourns Loss of Longtime Colleague, Civil Rights Icon; Source: NFL Offers Players Deal to Eliminate Preseason Games. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired July 21, 2020 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: With the virus surging and his poll numbers tanking, a new focus from the president, at least for the cameras.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is EARLY START.

I'm Christine Romans.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Laura Jarrett. It's Tuesday, July 21st, 15 weeks until the presidential election. It's 5:00 a.m. here in New York.

This morning, faced with nearly 141,000 dead Americans and dwindling poll numbers, President Trump is going back to the place he is most comfortable, the microphone.

It's been three months since the president last attended a COVID press briefing. He stopped after the backlash to comments like these.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Supposing we hit the body with a tremendous -- whether it's ultraviolet or very powerful light and I think you said that hasn't been tested. Then I see the disinfectant where it knocks it out in a minute, one minute, and is there a way we can do something like that by injection inside or almost a cleaning?


ROMANS: Now aides are signaling the briefings will not focus exclusively on coronavirus. That will undoubtedly give the president a chance to freelance or riff in other more political topics, as he has done in the last few weeks.

Trump has also abruptly reversed himself on masks. He's now calling them patriotic. He says many people call it patriotic. And he put out this photo of himself wearing a mask. That's a sight he spent months trying to avoid. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: I want people to have a certain freedom and I don't believe in that, no. I don't agree with the statement if everybody wears a mask, everything will disappear.

I didn't want to give the press the pleasure of seeing it.

Wearing a facemask as a great president, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens, I don't know, somehow I don't see it for myself.


JARRETT: Even with the sudden mask endorsement, he's not changing behind closed doors. In a fund-raiser in D.C. last night, you can see the president with no mask as he greeted people.

CNN has learned public health isn't the only reason he's bringing back the briefings.

Kaitlan Collins is at the White House for us.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yeah, Christine and Laura, today is the day president said he's reviving those coronavirus task force briefings that have all but disappeared as we have seen infection surge across the United States. They've only really held two in the past several months.

And President Trump has not been at either of those. But he talked about the ratings that he got when he did have them. He said he thinks he'll hold them around the same time, 5:00 p.m., because he believes it's, quote, a good slot. And the question is, of course, what is the president going to say? Because cases has skyrocketed, the death rate has even started to go up, and, of course, it's the positive test rate that has so many health officials concerned.

And one other change of heart that the president could be asked about if he does take questions at his briefings is about what he tweeted yesterday, this photo of him wearing a mask, saying he believes it's patriotic to do so and, of course, encouraging his followers, it seemed like, to do the same. And what's notable to so many people is the date on the tweet, July 20th.

On April 3rd, that was when the CDC came out with its guidance recommending that people wear a mask, which the president stressed at the time was voluntary. He said he wasn't going to do the same. And, of course, the question was, what was behind that change of heart from the president? We're told it's not the warnings but his poll numbers, they played a big part in that, because he had seen the numbers not only in these public polls that we've seen, but also internal polling that showed that people did not think he was responding to coronavirus well and that he needed to change his tactics.

(END VIDEOTAPE) ROMANS: Fifty states looking for national leadership as they struggle with the pandemic on their own. In Florida, the largest teachers union is suing to overturn the governor's order, forcing schools to reopen next month. Families are stuck in limbo. Several major cities nationwide have delayed a return to in-person schooling despite a push from the Trump administration. Florida's home to five of America's ten largest school districts and governed by an ally of President Trump.


GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: If you had been infected, then you --



JARRETT: Governor Ron DeSantis, you can see, heckled there once again. But he's not the only governor downplaying the risk of sending kids to school, making it seem like this is simple when it is not.

Here is Missouri's governor.


GOV. MIKE PARSON (R), MISSOURI: These kids have got to get back to school.


They're at the lowest risk possible. If they do get COVID-19 which they will, they will when they go to school, they're not going to the hospitals. They are not going to have to sit in doctor's offices, they're going to go home and they're going to get over it.


JARRETT: More than 9,500 people in Florida are hospitalized with COVID-19. Fifty-three ICUs have reached capacity. One mom lost two children in the last two weeks.


MONETE HICKS, LOST SON AND DAUGHTER TO CORONAVIRUS: I can't say where they got this virus because they were basically home bound. If you don't have to go out, stay home.


ROMANS: Just tragic there.

Hospitalizations nationwide spiking right back to where they were in April. These are not just cases which include asymptomatic people. These are gravely ill patients. In Hidalgo County, Texas, one of the dark red counties at the southern tip there, people are being ordered to shelter at home. Local officials say the hospitals are, quote, really maximized. In New York, the number of cases is down, but there's a lot of concern

about young people going out partying. The governor has a blunt message for them.


GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D), NEW YORK: I'm telling you in plain New York speak as a born and bred New Yorker, it's stupid what you're doing. It is stupid. Don't be stupid. What they're doing is stupid and reckless for themselves and for other people.


JARRETT: If Americans start making better choices, here's what eventually awaits them -- thousands of movie theaters across China are reopening after nearly six months. But for now, in the U.S., more rules. Disney World tightening restrictions ordering visitors to stay in one place while eating and drinking. Chicago is tightening restrictions on indoor activities, including bars and gyms. And in California, Friday night lights will remain dark this fall. High school sports of all kind postponed until December or January because of the pandemic.

ROMANS: All right. The critical stimulus talks in Washington, and the rift between the White House and Senate Republicans, a growing number of those Senate Republicans are throwing cold water on President Trump's push for a payroll tax cut.

Senator Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley said it would have little economic impact. Senator John Cornyn warned it divides the party. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell indicated that GOP senators that no decisions have been made on payroll tax cuts or jobless benefits, an extension of those jobless benefits.

Another issue, increased funding for coronavirus testing. Senators Lisa Murkowski, Susan Collins, Bill Cassidy, Shelly Moore Caputo, Mitt Romney and Lamar Alexander say they disagree with the White House's rejection of additional money for testing and tracing.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows will meet with GOP senators again today.

JARRETT: Well, some hopeful news on the vaccine front. Three different trials all showing promising results.

Perhaps the most promising comes from Oxford University and AstraZeneca. Their vaccine candidate appears to be safe and produces an immune response.

Now, these are preliminary results and a lot more research is needed. But there is reason for optimism.

CNN's Jacqueline Howard has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) JACQUELINE HOWARD, CNN HEALTH REPORTER: Christine and Laura, there are at least 23 different candidate vaccines and clinical evaluation around the world, and this Oxford vaccine is one of them. The study involved 1,077 healthy adults ages 18 to 55. They had no history of COVID and they were randomly assigned to receive either a meningococcal vaccine as a control or the COVID vaccine.

Here's what the study found. The study shows that COVID elicited antibody responses with 28 days, and T-cell responses within 14 days. So, it worked in the way researchers wanted.

Now, there were some mild to moderate side effects, fatigue, headache, pain at the injection site and muscle pain. The study says over-the- counter pain medication helped with those. The researchers now say the next step is to study this vaccine in older adults and other people with underlying health conditions. They're at a higher risk for COVID -- Christine, Laura.


JARRETT: All right. Jacqueline, thank you so much for that reporting.

An attorney found dead on Monday is the suspect in a deadly shooting at the home of a federal judge. A self-described antifeminist lawyer who defends men's rights, Roy Den Hollander, once argued a case before Judge Esther Salas. Two law enforcement sources tell CNN he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Judge Salas' son Daniel was killed and her husband mark wounded in Sunday's attack. Family and friends say Daniel was an avid sportsman who aspired to be an attorney like his parents. The judge's husband, Mark, is in stable condition after surgery yesterday.

ROMANS: All right. About 10 minutes past the hour this Tuesday morning, breaking overnight, a deal in the European Union, hundreds of billions of dollars to recover from coronavirus.



ROMANS: All right. Breaking overnight: leaders from the E.U. agreeing on a stimulus plan to help Europe recover from a coronavirus crisis. The $858 billion program focuses on reforms to help businesses and the economies rebound over the long haul while investigating to safeguard against future crises.

And happening right now, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in the United Kingdom this morning. The COVID-19 pandemic on his agenda, so is China.

After weeks of bickering between Beijing and the West, the Chinese ambassador to the U.S. said this to CNN.


CUI TIANKAI, CHINA'S AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED STATES: Is the United States ready or willing to live with another country with very different culture, very different political and economic system, whether the United States is ready to live with it in peace.


This is a fundamental choice people have to make.


ROMANS: Nic Robertson joins us live from the prime minister's residence in London.

Nic, how are Pompeo and U.K. leaders going to respond?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMATIC EDITOR: Well, Secretary Pompeo is also meeting here today with a couple of policy influencing think tanks that are very hawkish from China. So, I think we can get the picture that Secretary Pompeo is going to come here and look for Britain to step forward beyond the Huawei 5G decision to remove there, Huawei's equipment for the British 5G network. It's very likely to sort of try to influence the British position to take a stronger position against China, on China's human rights violations.

The United States, of course, sanctioning a number of Chinese companies over China's treatment of Uyghurs. The Chinese ambassador here in London has warned Britain's against taking such steps. The British prime minister, of course, has said that he does want to remain sort of engaged with China going forward. China will be a big player going forward. He wants Britain's relationship with China to be on even footing. That said, the Britain's foreign secretary this weekend called Chinese treatment of Uyghurs egregious.

So, you can see, that's going to be a pressure point from Secretary Pompeo on the prime minister here to get Britain to perhaps take a stronger position against China, but at the same time on the prime minister's side, he's going to listen. Why? Because he wants at least an interim free trade deal with the United States by the end of this year. And that's becoming important because of Brexit, because a deal, a trade deal with the European Union, it needs to be concluded by the end of the year, doesn't look like it's in sight. That makes the one with the United States that much more important.

ROMANS: All right. Nic Robertson for us at 10 Downing Street, thanks, Nic.

JARRETT: Well, for the first time in the 500-year history, London's iconic beefeaters are facing layoffs in the wake of the pandemic. Thirty-seven of the royal guards live and give tours at the Tower of London. The organization that administers the 900-year-old fortress says visitors generate 80 percent of its revenue. In normal times, more than 3 million tourists a year visit the tower.

All right. A rarely seen sight, a Major League Baseball manager takes a knee.



JARRETT: A moment of silence in the House chamber for the late John Lewis. Plans are currently in the works for Congress to pay tribute to the civil rights icon who died Friday after a battle with cancer. A black drape was placed over Lewis' congressional office door on Monday. Members left messages paying their respects.

Lewis's death has also renewed calls to rename the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. Lewis helped lead the 1965 march for voting rights on that bridge. The bridge's current namesake, Edmund Pettus, was a Confederate general and leader of the KKK in Alabama.

ROMANS: All right. Twenty-two minutes past the hour.

As NFL training camps open today, it looks like there may not be any pre-season games.

Carolyn Manno has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report".

Hi there.


The NFL and its players union have been negotiating a number of key issues over the last couple of weeks relating to player safety with the season fast approaching, and the preseason has been a very big sticking point. But it appears now like the two sides might be getting a little bit closer on that.

A person familiar with the talks telling CNN the league has offered the players the opportunity to play zero preseason games. According to the source, the NFL started at the usual four games, then went to two and then to none. The union has not accepted the offer yet, the source says, but the two sides have agreed on a daily COVID-19 testing protocol for two weeks so that training camps can begin. If the results are at or below 5 percent during those two weeks of testing, then the testing is going to shift to every other day.

Those are major steps towards the season starting on time in September.

Several San Francisco Giants players and coaches taking a knee during the national anthem in silent protest of racial injustice before last night's game against the Oakland Ace. Gabe Kapler who became the first big league manager to knell during the anthem says everyone on the team will be supported no matter what each player decides to do.


GABE KAPLER, SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS MANAGER: I wanted to demonstrate my dissatisfaction with our clear systemic racism in our country and I wanted them to know that they got to make their own decisions and we would respect and support those decisions.


MANNO: Angels pitcher Keenan Middleton who has been vocal on Twitter about social issues also taking a knee and raised his fist during the anthem before his game in San Diego.

And are you ready for the Pittsburgh Blue Jays? The team says it's in discussions to share PNC Park with the Pirates. This after the Canadian federal government banned Toronto from hosting games in their home stadium. The Pirates are pushing for the move. They say it would bring attention and jobs and revenue to Pittsburgh. They will have to make a deal soon, though. Toronto's first home game slated to take place a week from tomorrow.

The first pitch of this year's baseball season going to be made by none other than Dr. Anthony Fauci described as the nation's leading infectious disease expert but also as a Nats super fan. The team says that it's thrilled that Fauci has accepted the invitation to throw out the ceremonial first pitch when the team opens against the Yankees on Thursday night. And, Laura, I'm sure that he'll be wearing his team facemask as well

while he has a little bit of fun.


I know he's a big Nats fan. Great for him.

JARRETT: Yes, I'm excited to see his arm. You know, you never know. He might have a secret there.

All right. Nice to see you this morning. Thanks so much, Carolyn.

The president's poll numbers are in freefall. So, a 180 for now perhaps? He says it's patriotic to do something he's refused to do and restarting coronavirus briefings.

Will it help if this is the reason for doing them?


TRUMP: We have had very successful briefings. I was doing them. We had a lot of people watching, record numbers watching, in the history of cable television.