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U.S. and Pfizer Reach Deal to Produce Vaccine Doses; Trying to Break Chicago's Cycle of Violence; U.S. Orders Chinese Consulate in Houston to Close. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired July 23, 2020 - 04:00   ET



ROSEMARY CHURCH, CNN ANCHOR: Hello, and welcome to our viewers joining us here in the United States and all around the world. You are watching CNN NEWSROOM, and I'm Rosemary Church.

Just ahead this hour, more than 1,000 COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. for the second straight day, but some positive signs on the vaccine front offer a glimmer of hope. Then --


MAYOR LORI LIGHTFOOT (D), CHICAGO, IL: I think I've been very clear with the president that there are certain things and lines that I will just not allow him to cross, not in my city.


CHURCH: The Chicago mayor's message for President Trump as the debate rages over whether federal forces should be policing U.S. streets. And a familiar face weighs in on the race for the White House.

Good to have you with us. Well, the United States is rapidly closing in on four million cases of COVID-19. That's a million more infected people than just two weeks ago. Nearly 69,000 new cases were reported on Wednesday and for the second straight day the death tolls surpassed 1,000.

As the virus exploded from coast to coast, more than half of the country has halted or rolled back reopening. Facemask requirements are in place or planned in at least 41 states. That could help save thousands of lives in the coming months according to the latest computer model. And the U.S. says it will pay drug maker Pfizer nearly $2 billion to produce and deliver millions of vaccine doses if it's proven safe and effective, and if it's approved.

So CNN's Athena Jones has details on the massive deal.


ATHENA JONES, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): As the nation battles to get coronavirus under control, signs of progress on the vaccine front. The federal government reaching what's being called an historic deal to buy tens of millions of vaccines from pharmaceutical company Pfizer if it's approved.

ALEX AZAR, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: We can acquire 100 million doses of this vaccine as early as December of 2019 -- of 2020 and have the option to buy an additional 500 million doses.

JONES: Pfizer in partnership with German firm BioNTech, just the latest vaccine maker in recent days to issue a promising report.

JOHN BURKHARDT, SENIOR VICE PRESIDENT, DRUG SAFETY R&D, PFIZER: Preliminary data from the study shows good immune response from patients vaccinated and we plan to start a large scale clinical trial before the end of July involving 20,000 to 30,000 patients.

JONES: Calls for volunteers to try out vaccine candidates from Pfizer and others have been met with an overwhelming response.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: We have well over 100,000 people that have already signed up as volunteers.

JONES: Meanwhile, at the rate the virus is spreading, officials say if you don't already know someone who's been infected, that's likely to change in the coming weeks.

The nationwide daily death toll from COVID is rising, topping 1,000 for the first time in two weeks. California, which just surpassed New York in total confirmed cases, setting a new record adding more than 12,800 new cases in one day. Many in hard hit Los Angeles County driven by young people.

Total hospitalizations nationwide nearing their April highs. And infection and hospitalization rates painting a bleak picture in the south. With hospitals overwhelmed in Texas, Governor Greg Abbott now backing a curfew in the Rio Grande Valley while stopping short of supporting a shelter-in-place order issued by a county judge.

RICHARD CORTEZ, HIDALGO COUNTY, TEXAS JUDGE: What I've told him and others, if I could get 10 percent of people to follow it, I'm 10 percent better than I am today.

JONES: Hospitals also under pressure in Florida where more than 50 ICUs have reached capacity and health officials say just 15 percent of ICU beds remain available statewide. ICU capacity in the state's hot spot, Miami-Dade County, now tops 130 percent. And nearby Broward County is nearing capacity.

MAYOR DALE HOLNESS, BROWARD COUNTY, FLORIDA: Ninety percent of our ICU beds are filled. It means that we are at a pace where we must do more to stop the spread of this virus.

JONES: Experts warn of a long road ahead for the U.S.

FAUCI: I think we ultimately will get control of it. I don't really see us eradicating it.

JONES: But officials say getting it under control will require people to follow basic public health guidelines.

DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: We're not defenseless. We have powerful tools. Probably the most powerful tool we have is a simple facemask.


JONES (on camera): And one more thing about this simple facemask Dr. Redfield is speaking about there. The University of Washington's influential model is now projecting 5,000 fewer deaths in the U.S. by November 1st. That's in part because more and more cities and states have issued mask mandates and also because more people are wearing facemasks and keeping their distance from others even without mandates.

According to this model, deaths would fall by another 40,000 if the U.S. universally adopted mask wearing.

Athena Jones, CNN, New York.


CHURCH: There's been a breakthrough on more financial health for Americans after days of in-party arguing. Senate Republicans and the White House have reached a deal on how to fund key parts of the next stimulus. The Republican chairman of the Senate Health Committee told reporters that the package reflects the priorities of getting the U.S. back to school, back to child care, back to work. Further details on that later this hour.

To another major story gripping the nation. U.S. president Donald Trump announced Wednesday that he will surge, his word, federal law enforcement officers into major U.S. cities he believes are under policed and coincidentally run by Democrats. The tactic hasn't worked well in Portland, Oregon, where protesters and federal troops have faced off repeatedly.

The governor of New Mexico says she welcomes a conversation with the president if it legitimately pertains to public safety and fighting crime. But anything else has no business in her state. Chicago's mayor says any federal presence in the city will be coordinated and any deviation will be met with legal action. U.S. Attorney General William Barr believes the reaction across the nation is a result of calls for police reform.


WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL: We had that terrible event in Minneapolis but then we had this extreme reaction that has demonized police and called for the defunding of police departments, and what we have seen then is a significant increase in violent crime in many cities. And this rise is a direct result of the attack on the police forces and the weakening of police forces.

(END VIDEO CLIP) CHURCH: And Chicago's mayor has spoken with President Trump who already announced federal officers will be there soon. It's unclear if the city will have the same reaction as Portland.

CNN's Omar Jimenez looks at Chicago's cycle of violence and why change needs to happen.


DAVID BROWN, SUPERINTENDENT, CHICAGO POLICE DEPARTMENT: This cycle of violence in Chicago needs to end.

OMAR JIMENEZ, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They're the latest grim headlines in what's been a grim year for gun violence in the city of Chicago. At least 60 shell casings left behind as 15 people were shot at a funeral home on the city's South Side. And then not long after in a separate shooting a 3-year-old was shot while she was in the car with her parents who at this point are not cooperating with police.

LIGHTFOOT: Violence is a symptom. A symptom of communities that are crying out. Young men who don't believe they have a future other than being part of one of these gangs or factions.

JIMENEZ: The superintendent of the Chicago Police Department points to gang violence in at least this latest mass shooting.

BROWN: At any day of the week, any hour of the day, several hundred gang conflicts. Related to that 117,000 gang members.

JIMENEZ: But another factor that can't be ignored is the ongoing coronavirus pandemic significantly affecting the ecosystem of public safety that includes jails, courts, community groups and first responders, including police. Just this past weekend alone over 60 people were shot and 12 were killed. 2020 is on pace to be one of the deadliest the city has seen in decades with both murders and shootings. Up close to 50 percent compared to the same time last year.

It's part of what the Trump administration is planning to send in additional federal resources to the city that Mayor Lightfoot says will bolster their already existing federal partnerships to suppress violent crime based on information she has. But as solutions are being worked out in offices, lives are continuing to be lost in what's become a vicious deadly cycle.

BROWN: The cycle of violence in Chicago, someone gets shot which prompts someone else to pick up a gun. This same cycle repeats itself over and over and over again.


CHURCH: Well, speaking at the White House earlier, President Trump addressed the issue of violence in Chicago.


(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The cities unfortunately that are in trouble are all run by Democrats. You have radical left Democrats running cities like Chicago and so many others that we just had a news conference in. Unfortunately, that's the way it is. I mean, that's the facts. When you look at Chicago and you look at the job -- Mayor Lightfoot sent me a letter yesterday, and I think in their own way they want us to go and there'll be a time when they're going to want us to go in full blast. But right now we're sending extra people to help.

Chicago is a disaster. The mayor is saying don't come in. The mayor is telling us not to come in. At some point we can avoid that if we have to, but we -- and we may have to because it's out of control. I assume she's saying that for political reasons. I think it's negative political reasons. She's a Democrat. I'm going to be nice. She's a Democrat. She's making a big mistake. People are dying in Chicago and other cities, and we can solve the problem. They have to ask us but we can solve the problem.


CHURCH: Chicago's mayor responded to those claims by the president. She spoke earlier with CNN's Don Lemon.


LIGHTFOOT: The president's remarks are politics. You know, obviously he's in a fight for his survival so I'm not surprised that he is targeting Democratic mayors, whether it's me, whether that's Keisha Lance Bottoms, Jenny Durkin in Seattle or Muriel Bowser in Washington, D.C., but it doesn't change the fact that we do not want unconstitutional secret federal agents coming into our cities, grabbing our residents and detaining them, and violating their rights. I've drawn a very bright line there. And we're not going to go back from that.

DON LEMON, CNN HOST, "DON LEMON TONIGHT": Now talk to me about this conversation. What -- as much as you can share with us, what did you talk about? What was it like?

LIGHTFOOT: Well, I don't want to go into the details of the conversation, but what you've heard, the bluster, wasn't what I heard in the conversation. It was very brief and very straightforward. I think I've been very clear with the president that there are certain things and lines that I will just not allow him to cross, not in my city, and I think he understands that.

We are not going to have a bunch of secret federal agents patrolling our streets without any coordination, cooperation.

LEMON: Chicago has seen a 51 percent increase in homicides, 47 percent increase in shootings over the same point last year.

Do you think the Chicago Police Department has this -- do you think they have enough resources to control this situation? Do they have it under control? Because, again, those stats that I pointed out are pretty -- they're pretty damming.

LIGHTFOOT: Well, look, the reality is that when we are surrounded by states with lax gun laws and where our police department year over year takes more crime guns off the street than NYPD or LAPD combined, that's a serious problem. That's why I've repeatedly said and I memorialized it in my letter to the president on Monday that if he really wanted to make a meaningful difference, help us keep the flow of these illegal guns off our streets.

LEMON: Mayor, I want to ask you about -- because, listen, the president's supporters and the president are pointing -- you know that Chicago is part of the protests that have been happening around the country.

LIGHTFOOT: Yes, of course.

LEMON: He is specifically blaming the Black Lives Matter movement. His attorney general Bill Barr called a nationwide outcry to that an extreme reaction that demonizes police and wants to defund them.

What is your response to the charge that crime is linked to those events?

LIGHTFOOT: You know, look, unfortunately we have seen people who are trying to hijack these otherwise peaceful events. But I'm not going to demonize Black Lives Matter. There are righteous indignation following the murder of George Floyd. People are -- of all types are in the streets and many of them are unaffiliated to any particular cause or organization but they want to express their First Amendment rights. And we have an obligation to protect that sacred right that's embedded in our Constitution.

LEMON: Mayor, thank you so much. I appreciate your time.

LIGHTFOOT: Thank you.


CHURCH: And Joe Biden took his sharpest aim at President Trump Wednesday directly calling him a racist. The presumptive Democratic presidential nominee made the remarks at a virtual town hall with an employee's union.


JOE BIDEN, PRESUMPTIVE DEMOCRATIC PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: What President Trump has done in going -- his spreading of racism, the way he deals with people, based on the color of their skin, their national origin, where they're from, is absolutely sickening. No sitting president has ever done this. Never, never, never. No Republican president has done this. No Democratic president. We've had racists and they've existed, they tried to get elected president. He's the first one that has.


[04:15:01] CHURCH: OK. So it should be noted there were 12 U.S. presidents who owned slaves and others who made racist remarks.

President Trump responded with a snipe at China before pointing to pre-virus unemployment numbers.


TRUMP: Prior to the China plague coming in, floating in, coming into our country and really doing terrible things all over the world, doing terrible things, we had the best African-American, Hispanic American, Asian-American, almost every group was the best for the unemployment. The unemployment numbers were the best.


CHURCH: Mr. Trump also said he had done more for black Americans than anyone with the possible exception of Abraham Lincoln.

Well, Biden also caught up with former U.S. president Barack Obama earlier this month. It was an in-person but socially distant meeting. They discussed President Trump's divisive rhetoric over the past few years and the challenges facing the U.S. during the coronavirus pandemic. Take a listen.


BIDEN: He ran by deliberately dividing people from the moment he came down that escalator, and I think people are now going, I don't want my kid growing up that way.

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: You know what it's like as much as anybody to be in the White House during a crisis. You know what it's like and how lonely it can be to make tough decisions where not every decision is going to be perfect, but you've got to make it and to take responsibility for it.


CHURCH: All right. So they also discussed how the U.S. is grappling with systemic racism and how to make lasting changes to root out historic inequities.

Still to come, President Donald Trump orders the Chinese consulate in Houston, Texas, to shut down and the Chinese government is furious. More reaction from China next.



CHURCH: The U.S. has ordered China to close its consulate in Houston, Texas, by Friday. Now soon after that order Houston fire officials say they responded to reports that documents were being burned in the consulate's courtyard. U.S. officials say the order to close came after a slow buildup and in response to a growing number of disputes between the two countries. But President Donald Trump is not ruling out more Chinese consulate closures in the U.S. Take a listen.


TRUMP: As far as closing additional embassies, it's always possible. You see what's going on. We thought there was a fire in the one that we did close. And everybody said there's a fire, there's a fire. And I guess they were burning documents or burning papers, and I wonder what that's all about.


CHURCH: And CNN's Kristie Lu Stout joins me now from Hong Kong.

Good to see you, Kristie. So talk to us about the latest here particularly how China is reacting to all of this.

KRISTIE LU STOUT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Yes, diplomatic tension between the U.S. and China is escalating, and China has vowed to retaliate. We are closely monitoring the situation involving the Chinese consulate in San Francisco. U.S. prosecutors, they are seeking a Chinese researcher who is accused of visa fraud. They said that they lied about her connection with the Chinese military and that she is currently hiding out in the Chinese consulate in San Francisco.

Now within the last hour China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs held a press briefing. They didn't say anything in terms of concrete retaliatory measures during that press briefing but in regard to the situation in San Francisco they said the following, that the U.S. should stop using all kinds of excuses to restrict and down adding and harass Chinese scholars and students adding that China would use, quote, "necessary measures to firmly safeguard the legitimate rights and safety of Chinese citizens in the U.S."

Now, on Wednesday Beijing vowed to retaliate after the United States shut down the Chinese consulate in Houston, or ordered it to be shut down within 72 hours. The state media had been pointing to the possibility of China closing down one of America's consulates in China. Now earlier we heard from the Chinese consulate general who spoke to reporters overnight in Houston. Take a listen to what he said about the situation.


CAI WEI, CHINESE CONSUL GENERAL: Speak from the facts. OK. And do not fabricate something. OK. And either they have some evidence on the facts and of course, and I will say all activities of this consulate general have done under the rule of the Vienna Convention consulate affairs. And also under bilaterals between China and U.S. consulate treaties.


LU STOUT: Now the U.S. State Department says it ordered the closure of the Chinese consulate in Houston in order to protect American intellectual property rights and Americans' private information. This comes days after the U.S. leveled charges at two Chinese hackers accused of spying on behalf of China. Their spyware or their espionage aimed at gaining information about COVID-19 research.

You know, all this is just ratchetting up the tension between the U.S. and China on multiple fronts now as we await in concrete terms to see exactly how China is going to strike back -- Rosemary.

CHURCH: All right. Kristie Lu Stout, many thanks for joining us live from Hong Kong. Appreciate it.

And one Republican U.S. senator agrees with this move to close the Chinese consulate. Senator Marco Rubio says he's calling it the central node of the Communist Party's network of spies, referring to that consulate. But other experts say President Trump is doing this to divert attention from the pandemic.


MAX BOOT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: It's hard to avoid the bigger picture here, which is that President Trump is trying to rachet up a cold war with China I think in large part to distract from his own failures in dealing with the coronavirus here at home which he calls the China flu or even the kung flu in a pretty racist manner. And so it's -- you know, this just seems more evidence of Trump trying to demonize China.


And there's no question China has done a lot wrong, but Trump's motives I think are highly suspect. And you can also question whether closing their consulate is actually going to be achieve anything because the likely result is going to achieve anything because the likely result is going to be they'll close one of our consulates in China, and what do we gain out of that?

CHURCH: What other form of retaliation would you expect to see and where do you see all of this going?

BOOT: Well, where this is going is a very good question because I think you've seen this kind of tit-for-tat ratchetting up of tensions between China and the United States over the last few months. Really as the coronavirus has gotten -- become this horrific pandemic here at home and, you know, Trump is trying to blame China for what's happened.

Now China I think also has a lot of culpability because Xi Jinping has been acting much more aggressively. You know, abusing the Uighurs, violating Hong Kong's autonomy, getting into a clash with Indian troops in the Himalayans. China is doing a lot wrong, but I'm just not sure that President Trump has any kind of game plan sort of for dealing with the Chinese challenge and it seems like a lot of what he's mainly concern about is to create this new enemy that he can claim to be defending as he seeks re-election.

But if President Trump were serious about standing up to China, we would have to work a lot harder to get our own house in order because, you know, the Chinese is growing again, they have coronavirus under control. We don't. The coronavirus is still rampaging out of control and Trump is really abdicating America's global responsibility, pulling out of the World Health Organization, pulling out of the Trans Pacific Partnership, pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal, pulling out of every international obligation you can think of.

And that's essentially creating a vacuum that China is able to fill. And, you know, in the meantime, we're going through these kinds of tit-for-tat responses to China. It doesn't make a lot of sense. I don't see a strategy here beyond the obvious political strategy that President Trump is following.


CHURCH: And that was CNN global affairs analyst Max Boot talking to me earlier. He went on to tell me that he doesn't think Mr. Trump's distraction technique is working saying the public knows who to blame.

Well, China is catching up in the race to mars. Just a short time ago Beijing launched what it hopes will be its first successful mission to the red planet. Its probe is supposed to reach mars in February of 2021. And this comes just days before the U.S. launches its own mission.

Well, to open or not to open? That is the question school officials across the country are facing as COVID-19 cases spike. We will tell you what the U.S. president is saying about it. That's next.