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Democrats Raise Concerns Over Russian-Linked Disinformation Against Biden; U.S. Daily Death Toll Tops 1,000 for First Time in Weeks; Lawmakers Perplexed By Billions in Unspent Virus Testing Money. Aired 7:30-8a ET
Aired July 22, 2020 - 07:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: As a member, again, of the Intelligence Committee, what can you tell us about what the Russians are doing or planning?
SEN. ANGUS KING (I-ME): Well, I can't tell you anything specific based upon Intelligence that I've seen. But I can tell you, number one, we know to a certainty that they meddled in a very serious way. In fact, meddle is a far too weak a word. They interfered in our election in 2016, and there are indications that they're going to continue that path in 2020.
For example, in 2016, we know that they penetrated virtually every state's electoral system, their database and that kind of thing. They didn't seem to do anything. There was no evidence they changed votes, but they weren't doing that for fun, John. They were practicing, and that's a concern. We're having a hearing later today with the rules committee on preparations for elections.
I think the states are much more vulnerable than they believe that they are. So, are the Russians going to try to meddle in our election in 2020? Absolutely. They -- why wouldn't they? They were widely successful in 2016. But it also may be the Chinese, the Iranians, the North Koreans, you know, this kind of cyber crime and cyber meddling is pretty cheap. Putin can hire 8,000 hackers for the cost of one jet airplane. So this is something that they're going to continue to do, and we have to continue to defend ourselves.
BERMAN: Senator King, I want to ask you about the pandemic, if I can. Just before this interview, I had a chance to speak to Judge Cortez from Hidalgo County, Texas, who said he needs more testing. And that a neighboring county judge told him, he doesn't have the money to procure the supplies for the testing that they need. There are billions of dollars in unspent appropriated federal money for testing. How can it be that there's billions of dollars sitting around, and it's not getting to Hidalgo County, Texas, as people are waiting days to get results?
KING: Well, and how can it be that the administration has told the Republican caucus, apparently, from what we're hearing, they don't want any more money in the new -- in the new coronavirus bill for testing. Look, there's no secret, the president has been saying since the very beginning that first couple of weeks, he said, I don't want that ship to dock because it's going to change our numbers. He's been focused on testing as something that he thinks is bad because it shows cases.
That's like saying, you know, don't do mammograms because you know, it turns up cancer cases. It doesn't cause it, but it's detecting it. The testing is a scandal -- the failure of the testing regime going back -- and I heard Dr. Gupta this morning talking about it.
This is the -- this is the signal failure, and the problem is, John, there was a sort of a deal, there was a contract between the American people -- we're going to shut down -- lots of jobs are going to be lost, the economic pain is going to be tremendous.
But in the meantime, you develop the tools to help us get out of this safely. The primary one is testing. They didn't do it. The president yesterday said they're developing a policy, holy smoke, that's what you did -- or should have done in January or February. Their policy thus far can be summarized very easily. Shift and shaft. Shift the responsibilities to the states and then don't provide them with the necessary tools in order to meet those responsibilities.
This was a federal responsibility from the beginning, particularly in developing a national testing program. They failed to do it and now, here we are in a totally predictable crisis --
KING: That everybody said was going to happen if we didn't have the widespread testing, and it's tragic. Tragic, what's going on in places like south Texas or Florida and even other -- many other states are now on the rise.
BERMAN: Senator King, I want to ask you very quickly about a story in "The New York Times" this morning, which reports that the ambassador, the U.S. ambassador to the United Kingdom was pressured by the president to ask the British to use influence to get the British open one of the premiere golf tournaments in the world move to a Trump Resort in Scotland, Turnberry. I'm wondering if you have a reaction to that?
KING: Well, if it's true, it's shocking, but I don't get shocked very much anymore. Why would you be surprised by this when the president himself tried to bring the G-7 Conference to one of his resorts in Florida. I mean, that's one of -- that's one of the things that's been surprising about this presidency. The president never divested himself of his business interests. He said, well, my boys are going to run it, but he still owns it.
So, if Turnberry makes a couple of million bucks, that's a couple of million bucks to him. So, like I say, it's shocking, except it's consistent with the pattern of, you know, Trump Hotel --
BERMAN: Yes -- KING: In Washington is consistently making money because of the
influence of the administration.
So, it's -- but it's -- we shouldn't be numb to this, John. It's not right.
BERMAN: Senator Angus King, it's great to have you on this morning, thanks so much for being with us, be well.
KING: Glad to be with you, thanks, John.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: So John, this video is just into our newsroom. It's presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden and former President Obama. They are together and they are criticizing President Trump's response to the pandemic in this new clip that was just released by Biden's campaign. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JOE BIDEN, FORMER VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Imagine standing up when you were president saying, it's not my responsibility, I take no responsibility. It's not -- I mean, literally --
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: That -- those words didn't come out of our mouths --
BIDEN: No --
OBAMA: While we were in office --
BIDEN: No. I don't understand his inability to get a sense of what people are going through. He just can't -- he can't relate in any way.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: Well, Biden's campaign says the two men met at Obama's Washington office earlier this month to discuss coronavirus and the nation's struggle with systemic racism. The full conversation will be posted on their social media accounts tomorrow. All right, breaking overnight, 14 people shot outside of a funeral home in Chicago. What the mayor now says about the president's plan to send in federal forces.
CAMEROTA: Breaking overnight, 14 people injured in a shooting outside a funeral home in Chicago. This is the latest incident in a recent spate of gun violence that has the Trump administration deploying federal officers to the city. CNN's Omar Jiminez live in Chicago with the latest. What happened?
OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Alisyn, 14 people injured in what was essentially a shoot-out at a funeral home on Chicago's South Side. It is the latest grim headline in what has been a Summer and really a year of grim headlines when it comes to gun violence here in Chicago. With both murders and shootings up close to 50 percent, compared to this time last year. Now, it's tied to that rise in violent crime.
The Trump administration now plans to send federal resources, additional federal resources here to the city. That -- as we understand, will come in the form of FBI, DEA and ATF. And Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot's words, these are resources that are going to fold into federal agency partnerships. They already work with to try and suppress violent crime here. So she does intend to cooperate.
However, initially, the mayor did have a lot more worry over what exactly the role of these federal agents would be. And she says based on the information she has right now, the -- it does not appear that this is going to be a Portland-style, unnamed type of deployment. But she stressed that's based on the information she has right now.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MAYOR LORI LIGHTFOOT, CHICAGO, ILLINOIS: I do want residents to remain diligent. We need to expand our eyes and ears on this thing, because unfortunately, we can't put anything past the Trump administration. I am hopeful that they will not be foolish enough to bring that kind of nonsense to Chicago. But I'm also not naive, and we're going to be diligent and we're going to be ready. And if we immediate to stop them, we are going to.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
JIMENEZ: And it's not just Chicago. Mayors from over a dozen cities have written to the Trump administration to either stop plans or to remove federal agents from their streets. They've also written to congressional leadership to investigate what they describe as unilateral actions by the Trump administration here. Alisyn, John?
BERMAN: Omar Jiminez, thanks so much. Omar Jimenez in Chicago, keep us posted there, please. So, Florida County may crack down on young partiers crowding together as Vermont reaches an encouraging milestone in its fight against coronavirus. CNN has reporters across the country bringing us the latest developments.
RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Randi Kaye in West Palm Beach, Florida, where we're getting word of a black party a few days ago of more than 600 people. This took place in Palm Beach, County and in area known as Pahokee. Law enforcement said that people there were not wearing face coverings, they were not social distancing. That is certainly the rule here in the county, and you can't have gatherings of 10 or more.
So now the county administrator is considering putting in a curfew in that area of the county, not the county as a whole.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm Ed Lavandera. A resurgence of coronavirus cases in the state of Louisiana is putting plans on reopening the economy there on hold. The Governor, John Bel Edwards says that the state will remain in the phase 2 of reopening for at least the next two weeks because he's seen a surge of coronavirus cases across the state. The governor last week issued a mask mandate order and health officials there in Louisiana are saying that once again, that state is headed in the wrong direction.
ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: I'm Athena Jones in New York. The state of Vermont must be doing something right. Governor Phil Scott says the state now has the lowest coronavirus case count in the country. There have been no deaths from COVID for 30 days, and very few hospitalizations. Just three people admitted to hospitals on Monday. There are no plans for a mask mandate anytime soon, the governor said, because the numbers aren't alarming enough to require one, and because Vermonters are wearing masks on their own.
Meanwhile, colleges and universities are planning to have students back on campus in the Fall.
BERMAN: My in-laws are there, so I'm thrilled Vermont is doing so well. We want to remember some of the nearly 142,000 Americans lost to coronavirus, 13 of them nuns at the Felician Sisters Convent outside Detroit. The first to fall victim on Good Friday was 99-year-old sister Mary Louisa, Felician Order official say she was followed by 11 other sisters, aged 66 to 95 over the next month.
Ninety eight-year-old sister Mary Denathis(ph) succumbed to the virus later in June. She had served as the president of Madonna University in the '60s and '70s. Other sisters taught, played music or had worked at the Vatican. One sister won a Campbell's soup commercial writing contest for their second grade class. A Catholic journal reports, this may be the worst loss of life to an American women's religious community since the 1918 flu pandemic. What a loss? We'll be right back.
CAMEROTA: We do have some breaking news right now this morning. The United States is accusing China of illegally spying and ordering it to close this consulate you see on your screen in Houston. China is vowing to retaliate as tensions between both nations seem to be escalating. CNN's David Culver is live in Beijing with the breaking news. What are you hearing on that end, David?
DAVID CULVER, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Alisyn, if any indication from "State Media" is how the Chinese government will follow through with action, then there will be retaliation here. This is significant. This closure of this Houston consulate, the Chinese consulate there is something that's provoking outrage on "State Media", on Chinese social media and amongst the Chinese officials.
Foreign Ministry in particular, they spoke just a few hours ago, addressing this. They say that this could sabotage China-U.S. relations. And they go on to say that it's arbitrary and it's something that they plan to take action against. Now, what you have to put in context here is that they have been saying this with regards to several recent actions.
When the U.S. has put for example sanctions on Chinese officials with regards to Xinjiang; the far western region and alleged human rights abuses there with regards to the U.S. stripping Hong Kong of its special trade status because of China imposing the national security law there -- with regards to rising tensions on the South China Sea and of course the pandemic, and China's early mishandling and allegations of cover-up, it's all coming together.
But this move is significant and it may just be that China has to meet it with action, not just rhetoric this time. I want to read you a little bit from the U.S. State Department. They put out a statement this morning, we know Secretary of State Pompeo was traveling, top of his agenda is the Chinese Communist Party as he's put it. He's met with U.K. officials, he's currently in Denmark.
But here's the statement that they have put out with regards to this closure of the consulate in Houston. They say, quote, "the People's Republic of China has engaged for years in massive illegal spying and influence operations throughout the United States against U.S. government officials and American citizens. These activities have increased markedly in scale and scope over the past few years."
They go on to accuse China of interfering in U.S. domestic politics. Not a lot of specifics coming out from the U.S. side, but certainly, a lot of strong words. I think now, though, Alisyn, we're going to see that China feels the pressure internally and certainly from a domestic place to respond with action here. So, what would that look like? It could be a closure of one of the five U.S. consulates here in the mainland.
There's also one in Hong Kong, that's mentioned, the embassy here in Beijing. But that's not very likely. We're hearing from "Reuters" that it could be even the consulate in Wuhan. Now, what we have to put in perspective also is that since the pandemic and the outbreak which of course, the original epicenter is Wuhan, a lot of the U.S. diplomats and their families left the country.
In fact, it was scaled back significantly in Wuhan. So that closure wouldn't necessarily move a lot of Americans out, because quite frankly, they're already gone, Alisyn.
CAMEROTA: OK, David, thank you for your reporting on all of that, and please keep us posted as to what happens next. John?
BERMAN: Yes, while we're talking about the presidential campaign, one of the things that President Trump and his campaign are invested heavily in right now, trying to cast Joe Biden as mentally unfit. But it's also become a question for the president himself as he talks about his cognitive health. So, what can we say about either candidate's condition? CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta takes a look.
SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Regardless of who wins the election in November, a record will be broken. Either 74-year-old Donald Trump will become the oldest second- term president in U.S. history or 77-year-old Joe Biden will be the oldest first-term president. And questions of age, health and most notably, cognition, have started to emerge.
CHRIS WALLACE, FOX NEWS: If I may sir, respectfully, in the "Fox" poll, they asked people who is more competent, who's got -- whose mind is sounder? Biden beats you in that.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, I'll tell you what? Let's take a test. Let's take a test right now. Let's go down, Joe and I will take a test. Let him take the same test that I took, and I guarantee you that Joe Biden cannot answer those questions.
BIDEN: I've been testing and I'm constantly testing. Look, all you've got to do is watch me and I can hardly wait to compare my cognitive capability to the cognitive capability of the man I'm running against.
GUPTA: Biden's advisors say he was referring to the everyday rigors of being on the campaign trail. But according to researchers, it is true that the average person's acquired skills, memory and knowledge known collectively as crystallized abilities tend to improve until we're about 60 years old, and then plateaus until about age 80. But they also caution to not read too much into age alone.
RICHARD ISAACSON, MCKNIGHT BRAIN RESEARCH FOUNDATION: I don't think it's responsible or entirely factual to just use age as a decision point on whether or not someone has a true cognitive impairment.
GUPTA: And of course, neither candidate is your average person. Americans have seen these two candidates age, not just over the last several years, but over the last several decades, watching their careers play out on the national stage.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Campaigning for Eric --
TRUMP: The first time that I've been involved in a convention.
BIDEN: You've got to bounce that ball --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: TV star.
TRUMP: I never thought this was going to happen.
GUPTA: But lately, these are the moments that are getting a lot of attention. TRUMP: No collusion, no obstruction. I hope they now go and take a
look at the oranges, the oranges of the investigation.
BIDEN: We tried it, and Iraq is not working, so we're going to try -- I mean, in Iran, excuse me -- we tried in Ukraine.
TRUMP: We've performed 1.87 million tests to date, so that's 1,870,000 million tests --
BIDEN: All men and women are created by -- go, you know the thing.
GUPTA: It is true that everyone's sharpness changes a bit day-to-day. Could be a poor night's sleep, being distracted, low blood sugar, dehydration.
GARY SMALL, GERIATRIC PSYCHIATRIST, UCLA: It's very dangerous to over-interpret mental slips when you see it in an older person. We know that there are many factors that affect our mental acuity. They may look like they're not functioning as well cognitively, but they may be perfectly normal.
GUPTA: And as much as we think we know them, to diagnose a true cognitive problem is quite challenging even for a professional.
ISAACSON: The way that a physician makes a clinician diagnosis is to have a clinical relationship, is to do a very comprehensive medical work up to order, specific imaging, brain imaging when needed, and then order specific cognitive assessments, a more -- you know, elaborate battery of cognitive tests in order to really have any degree of accuracies.
GUPTA: So, then, what do we really know about Donald Trump and Joe Biden's health? Based on the medical records released by the White House, President Trump is on a Statin medication to manage his cholesterol. He's clinically obese. In 2018, the White House said Trump scored a 30 out of 30 on the Montreal cognitive assessment which doctors use to screen for mild cognitive dysfunction.
That same year, White House records indicate the president underwent a coronary calcium CT scan and scored 133, indicating that plaque is present, and that he has a common form of heart disease. This past December, Biden released a summary of his medical history, which noted that he also takes a Statin to lower his cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and he also takes Eliquis to prevent blood clots.
He has an irregular heart rhythm known as Non-Valvular Atrial Fribillation or AFib, and he is of normal weight. Most notably, in 1988, Biden suffered a brain bleed due to a ruptured cerebral aneurysm and underwent two separate brain operations. His doctor say he hasn't had any recurrence of aneurysm since.
BIDEN: You know, I got hospitalized years ago of brain aneurysm. I was hospitalized, and a couple of times, they took the top of my head off, the second time they said they couldn't find a brain the first time.
GUPTA: It's worth remembering, there is no requirement for a presidential candidate to release any of their medical history. So we may never have a complete picture of their overall physical and cognitive health. It's the campaign itself that is the ultimate test, leaving the voters to decide whether or not age really matters.
ISAACSON: Even if it's in the most powerful position in the land, what I would say is, you have to pick the best person for the job.
BERMAN: It's the campaign that's the test. It's the plans that matter. It's the policies that really tell us everything, Sanjay. The president keeps on bragging about this cognitive test he took. The one where you have t identify an elephant. What test is it and what does it actually prove?
GUPTA: Yes, so this is Montreal cognitive assessment. That's the one we think he's talking about at least. He said it was done recently, it was done a couple of years ago, actually. And as you say, John, there are all sorts of different things on there. It's a visual spatial sort of exam. You can see connecting letters and numbers at the top, drawing a cube, drawing a clock face, naming animals.
There's also an attentiveness component to the exam, and a memory component to the exam. The examiner will ask someone to -- they will list five objects, ask the person to remember those five objects and then recite them back to them at some point. And there's also sort of this fluency part to the exam. They'll ask the person to say sentences and have them repeat them back to them.
It's really more of a screening test rather than, you know, any kind of diagnostic test as you just heard. To actually do a diagnostic test, not only does it require time, it usually requires sequential visits with somebody to establish that. So, you know, it's a screening test that is commonly used, takes about 10 minutes, you know, and basically tells you if there is any indication that there's a problem. I think that's the test the president says that he quote, aced.
CAMEROTA: First of all, I don't see an elephant among those animals, but we'll get to that, I'll have you diagnose me later with that, Sanjay. But, OK, so, that's the first problem. But second of all --
BERMAN: Oh, done well --
CAMEROTA: That was so illuminating, Sanjay.