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Liz Cheney Faces Backlash from Republicans Over Trump; U.S. to Face Enormous Challenges Once a Coronavirus Vaccine is Approved; U.S. Accuses China of Spying, Orders Closure of its Houston Consulate. Aired 7:30-8a ET

Aired July 23, 2020 - 07:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[07:30:00]

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: A group of Republican lawmakers are attacking Congresswoman Liz Cheney over not being in lockstep with President Trump. Cheney is standing her ground. Joining us now to explain all of this is CNN political commentator and former Republican Congressman, Charlie Dent. Congressman, great to see you. Liz Cheney --Congresswoman Cheney really has a target on her back at the moment, particularly from members of the freedom caucus.

They don't like her positions. Here's what Rand Paul, Senator Rand Paul has said about her yesterday. "I don't think she's good for the country. I mean, she tries to sabotage everything he tries to do in foreign policy", meaning the president. "So I don't know whether she's a good advocate for the president or not." What's going on here?

CHARLIE DENT, FORMER CONGRESSMAN: Well, this is the first time they've had a full Republican conference meeting since the pandemic in person. And so I think some of them were just letting off steam. But it was a terrible thing in the midst of a pandemic, with all the problems we're facing to go attack the only woman in the Republican leadership. There are very few women in the Republican caucus, and why would they attack her? It makes no sense?

Also, I think -- we should also realize that there could -- you know, we're also laying the groundwork for the Republican Party post-Trump. You know, will Trumpism survive? And I think Liz Cheney, you know, has a pretty adult view on a lot of these issues.

And some of the people who are attacking her, I think, want to, you know, take the party into the Trumpism direction. And Liz Cheney, I think, has a much more mature outlook, and frankly, she was correct in her criticism of the president on pulling troops out of Germany, on wearing masks, on defending Dr. Fauci.

So, she's right, they're mad at her because she's not sufficiently sycophantic. That she's not genuflecting before the altar of the president.

CAMEROTA: And do you think she's positioning herself in the event, you know, that there's a post-Trump world? DENT: Yes, well, look, we all know that Liz Cheney is very capable

and she's -- I think ambitious. And look, when you hear Rand Paul criticize Liz Cheney, that's the neo-isolationist, you know, attacking somebody closer to the neo-con position. So there's a -- they have a different world views --

CAMEROTA: But it's not just him. I mean, you hear from Matt Gaetz, you hear --

DENT: Yes --

CAMEROTA: From, you know, the whole laundry list --

DENT: Yes --

CAMEROTA: Of the freedom caucus or the arch conservatives, they don't like -- I mean, it's so interesting because she's no liberal.

DENT: Well, I know, but what you also have to recognize, Alisyn, too, that maybe some of those in the freedom caucus have their own political ambitions. They realize that Liz Cheney could become the leader of the Republican Conference some day, and maybe some of them are trying to clip her wings a bit. And I think that's partly what this is about. But I think the whole episode is absurd, to be going after her at a time like this.

[07:35:00]

I mean, she's been right on -- in her criticisms, and this is the -- this is the Litmus test for Republicans right now. It's loyalty to the president. And she by her own admission has voted with the president 97 percent of the time. But has disagreed with him on some major foreign policy issues.

CAMEROTA: Speaking of a possible post-Trump world in the near future, President Trump's poll ratings -- poll numbers had cratered for his handling of coronavirus. And so he has pivoted quite visibly by trying to become, you know, a law and order president, by sending federal agents into various cities, whether the mayors wanted it or not. And now he is back in the past two days to having the so-called coronavirus White House briefings.

Do you think -- I mean, you're in Pennsylvania, obviously, you see the fluctuating poll numbers there. Do you think that he -- that this will really help his re-election bid?

DENT: Well, I don't think -- I think the president's poll numbers are sagging for a few reasons, obviously, because of the response to the pandemic that is being charitable, has been very uneven, high unemployment and the social unrest. So, I don't think that the president's actions -- you know, this law and order stuff that he's talking about right now, sending in federal agents into cities, you know, without the consent of the -- of the state and local officials is very problematic. It has to be done collaboratively.

I'm kind of like a Tom Ridge guy, first Homeland Security Secretary, governor of Pennsylvania. I mean, there are serious problems with the way the president has gone about this. And I'm not excusing these local mayors who have really done -- given short shrift to public safety, and many have thrown their law enforcement under the bus, but this is not the way to proceed. So I don't think what the president is doing here is really going to help his poll numbers.

The cake has been baked on the pandemic and its response. So I don't think there's much he can do to improve it right now.

CAMEROTA: Former Congressman Charlie Dent, thank you very much. Great to hear your perspective.

DENT: Thanks, Alisyn. Good to be with you --

CAMEROTA: You too. President Trump is pushing for a viable coronavirus vaccine in the coming months. How realistic is it? We like to give you an update on that. It's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:40:00]

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: The Trump administration is pumping billions of dollars into vaccine development to stop the spread of coronavirus, but even if a vaccine is approved, the U.S. faces enormous obstacles. CNN's Sara Murray live in Washington. And this is a really complicated process, Sara.

SARA MURRAY, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right, John. Look, it's a long way from the lab into the arms of millions and millions of Americans. And the Trump administration is trying to take steps now to prove they'll be ready when a vaccine is ready.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MURRAY (voice-over): After bungling everything from testing to personal protective equipment, the Trump administration is aiming to prove it can roll out a coronavirus vaccine to millions of Americans as soon as one is ready.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Operation Warp Speed.

MURRAY: The debate is already underway over who should get the first doses.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think that people are a little uneasy about the government calling the shots here.

MURRAY: To reassure a skeptical public, this decision will be apolitical, the NIH director called the National Academy of Medicine, an esteemed non-governmental organization, and asked them to advise who should be first in line. A second group of CDC advisors are also asking, who counts as an essential worker? Should race and ethnicity factor in, and where do teachers fall on the priority list?

ROBERT REDFIELD, DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL & PREVENTION: But clearly, the vulnerable are going to be if not the top priority, one of the top priorities.

MURRAY: The Trump administration is tapping top health officials and industry experts to lead vaccine plans rather than politicians. But the administration's vaccine effort, Operation Warp Speed is shrouded in secrecy.

MATT HEPBURN, OPERATION WARP SPEED: Certainly, ask for both your latitude a little bit in terms of my lack of ability to provide a lot of specifics about what we're doing.

MURRAY: Vaccine developers already have contracts with the government to stockpile their product, and the administration hopes to have 300 million doses available early next year. A timeline vaccine experts believe is overly optimistic.

VIJAY SAMANT, VACCINE EXPERT: This is a big task. Even if you have a vaccine, getting these people vaccinated is a humongous task. Humongous task. Because you need to convince people.

MURRAY: The distribution alone is a monumental challenge.

ALEX AZAR, SECRETARY, HEALTH & HUMAN SERVICES: We're right at the beginning of Operation Warp Speed, work to lock down finish capacity as well as syringes, needles and glass wear. So we've secured that to be able to ensure that we'll be able to vaccinate the American people.

MURRAY: The federal government has shelled out hundreds of millions of dollars to companies like Corning for glass vials needed to transport a vaccine.

BRENDAN MOSHER, CORNING INCORPORATED: I think the U.S. is going to set a bar, a glass won't be the critical bottleneck, and there'll be plenty to go around at the point a vaccine is ready.

MURRAY: Hundreds of millions of syringes are on order, too, from companies like BD, though contracts and industry experts suggest the government may come up short.

ELIZABETH WOODY, BECTON, DICKINSON & COMPANY: It is, I think the beginning of the process. The U.S. government is preparing for two shots of the vaccine, and so, you know, assuming a population of approximately 350 million people, we're looking at, you know, a total of 750 million -- or excuse me, 700 million syringes, at least.

MURRAY: Once a vaccine is available, it could take a year to inoculate enough Americans to slow the spread. And that's if Americans agree to get the vaccine at all. Safety concerns, politics, and fears among minority communities that there may be exploited or left out are all contributing to American's hesitation.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MURRAY: Now, I talked to a senior official at Health and Human Services who admitted they do have a transparency problem, they know they need to win over the American public, so they trust the vaccine, and they're planning on rolling out a series of public service announcements, featuring some of the doctors we got used to seeing in the briefing room. people like Dr. Fauci, Robert Redfield from the CDC as well as the Surgeon General. Alisyn?

[07:45:00]

CAMEROTA: Really interesting, Sara, thank you very much. So President Trump giving warm regards to Ghislaine Maxwell; the alleged accomplice of Jeffrey Epstein, suspected of helping Epstein's sex trafficking of under-aged girls. So what is the relationship between Ghislaine Maxwell and President Trump? CNN's Pamela Brown has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

PAMELA BROWN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Trump's return to the briefing room took an unexpected turn with his response to a question about Ghislaine Maxwell arrested earlier this month on multiple charges related to sexual abuse of underage girls by her long-time companion, convicted sex offender, Jeffrey Epstein. She has pleaded not guilty.

TRUMP: I haven't really been following it too much. I just wish her well, frankly.

BROWN: The warm wishes for Maxwell are bringing renewed scrutiny to Trump's relationship with her and Epstein, who government officials say died by suicide in his jail cell last year after being charged with sex trafficking. Some Republican lawmakers reacted to Trump's comments on Twitter, saying, "this is unacceptably obtuse for a woman accused of the most morally depraved of crimes." And, "she is despicable and he needs to say that."

TRUMP: I've met her numerous times over the years, especially since I lived in Palm Beach, and I guess they lived in Palm Beach -- but I wish her well, whatever it is.

BROWN: Trump says he's known Epstein since the late '80s, and pictures from the '90s show the president with Maxwell, who became Epstein's girlfriend, associate and allegedly his Madame. One picture shows Trump with Maxwell in 1997, then again in early 2000 at Trump's Palm Beach property, Mar-a-Lago, with his wife, Melania, and Epstein. Another picture shows Trump with Maxwell that same year at a New York fashion show, and then again with model Naomi Campbell.

Epstein's one-time business partner, Steven Hoffenberg, who spent 18 years in jail for a Ponzi scheme told CNN today, "there's no dispute, they knew each other well", adding, he liked her and she liked him. In a 2002 interview with "New York Magazine", Trump showered praise on Epstein, calling him a quote, "terrific guy", and saying, "he's a lot of fun to be with. It is even said he likes beautiful women as much as I do, and many of them are on the younger side."

After Epstein was arrested last year, Trump had a different tune, claiming he kicked Epstein out of Mar-a-Lago years before.

TRUMP: He was a fixture in Palm Beach. I had a falling out with him a long time ago. I don't think I've spoken to him for 15 years. I wasn't a fan.

BROWN: Prosecutors say Maxwell went into hiding over the last year as more victims came forward, alleging she lured them in and groomed them to be sexually abused by Epstein. Alleged victim Virginia Giuffre has claimed Maxwell recruited her in 1999 while she was a locker room attendant at Trump's Mar-a-Lago Resort, although she never alleged any wrongdoing by the president. Pamela Brown, CNN, Washington.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CAMEROTA: OK, overnight, China taking a major step forward in its mission to Mars. We're going to discuss that and the escalating tensions between the U.S. and China next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[07:50:00]

CAMEROTA: Developing overnight, the Chinese government says it plans to retaliate against the United States for ordering its consulate to close in Houston by tomorrow. Joining us now to help us understand what's going on, here is Ian Bremmer, he is the president of the Eurasia Group and GZERO Media. Ian, great to see you.

IAN BREMMER, PRESIDENT, EURASIA GROUP: Good morning.

CAMEROTA: So the U.S. says that there was this spying, possible spying going on out of the Houston consulate and as well as a transferring of medical research illegally to the Chinese there. China says that the U.S. is just provoking China unnecessarily. So what's going on?

BREMMER: Well, I'll withhold judgment on specific evidence until we see it, but I'm certainly not surprised to hear that the Chinese are engaged in espionage activities out of the various consulates in the United States. This is in the context of a relationship where pretty much everything that matters to both sides is heading in a negative direction.

The Uyghurs and their mistreatment of that minority systematically inside China, and we're adding sanctions. Hong Kong and the new national security law, and we're adding sanctions. Technology and hitting their most important tech company, Huawei, they're not letting the American tech companies in. South China Sea, we now formally accept the international court of justice's ruling that says that China's claim of territoriality we formally do not recognize.

Taiwan, and increased armed sales -- I can go on and on, Alisyn, but I mean, in my lifetime, this certainly is the worst trajectory for the U.S.-China relationship. And it's not just about Trump. I mean, those Hong Kong sanctions were supported in Senate two weeks ago by a vote of 100 to zero. And when I talked to senior Biden advisors, they might not -- I mean, they certainly disagree with Trump on most things, and they don't like the way he engages in diplomacy.

But when you -- when you push them on the actual policies that the Trump administration is putting in place on China, Biden team doesn't find anything significant to disagree on.

BERMAN: Everything that matters to both countries heading in the wrong direction, so says Ian Bremmer. And I think that's the important context here, is that this relationship has never been this bad before, and it's in the larger context, Ian, of a rising power. China is clearly a rapidly rising power. One piece of evidence we're seeing right now is they've launched this mission to Mars. You know, China is going to Mars.

You know, NASA has commercialized space, but China is going all the way to Mars here. Is anything the U.S. is doing, either vis-a-vis China directly or around the world doing anything to successfully check that power or check that rise?

[07:55:00]

BREMMER: Sure. First of all, if you look at the policy of the United States on 5G, and basically, this is the operating system that will control the internet of things, anything with a chip in it. That's not just the unilateral policy. You've seen a number of countries, most American allies around the world, either saying they're going to work with the west and not with the Chinese system or moving in that direction.

The U.K. just made that decision a week ago, Canada is about to -- the Brazilians are moving in that direction, Japan, Australia. So, I mean, this is a pretty big deal because if China's most advanced technology companies only have access to the poorest countries in the world, that's an enormous constraint for what Xi Jinping has said is the most strategic industry that the Chinese have.

But John, the other point, it's not just the Trump administration has managed to corral some other allies to join us, it's also that, you know, as bad as Trump's year has been so far, and we know he's under water with Biden in the polls, Xi Jinping right now internationally is having a worse year. I mean, not only does he have a big fight with the United States on his hands that the Chinese leadership has not wanted, but a number of other countries too, and not being led by the United States.

India, a week ago canceled all of the top Chinese apps including TikTok for India, and it did that in response to China escalating and killing a bunch of Indian soldiers on the Himalayan border. Australia, there's a trade war with China right now, that was a response to the Chinese refusing to open an investigation that Australia demanded, not the U.S. at that point, to the initial cover up of coronavirus.

And the U.K.'s decision to go after China really was more in response to China's unilateral imposition of this Hong Kong national security law which really matters to the former colony of the U.K. That policy really drove them much harder than the United States did. This is -- this is really a problem for Xi Jinping, and so I -- yes, the U.S.- China relationship is really bad, but there's also a broad story of backlash against China that we're seeing all over the world right now. CAMEROTA: Ian, very quickly, let's talk about where Americans are

still welcome in the world right now, given our rates of coronavirus here in the United States. And it's easier, frankly, to look at a map of the globe of where -- of -- yes, these are the countries where we are allowed to travel than if we had to highlight the countries that have some sort of travel restrictions on us. You can see, it has gotten very slim pickings for Americans around the world. What do you make of this?

BREMMER: Well, I hear Albania is very nice this time of the year, Alisyn. And you know, look, I mean, obviously, we are not handling coronavirus well across the country. There's still massive human-to- human transmission in most states, and as a consequence, the U.S. passport is not as welcome internationally as it was before. But let's be clear, that isn't about the United States being unattractive as a destination for capital.

It doesn't mean that these people don't want to send their kids though to American universities. I mean, this is a bad year, and we all hope that our ability to get a hold on the case explosion is going to change real soon. But I don't -- I don't think this is a sign of the United States in an extractable decline vis-a-vis the rest of the world.

BERMAN: Ian Bremmer, it's always a pleasure to speak with you. It is notable, 51 years ago this week, Americans walked on the moon. This week we can't walk in the Bahamas, and so there's a little bit of a difference there. Ian, it's always an education. Thank you very much.

CAMEROTA: Thank you --

BREMMER: Be safe, my friend.

CAMEROTA: All right, NEW DAY continues right now. We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY, and we begin with the United States on track to surpass 4 million coronavirus cases today. It was only two weeks ago that the U.S. hit 3 million cases. The increases in this country are happening at an alarming rate.

There were more than 1,000 coronavirus deaths again for the second day in a row. That has not happened since May. And hospitalizations nationwide are near record levels that they were -- that these were set back in April. And what we thought was the height of the pandemic. President Trump is again insisting that testing is overrated.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TRUMP: To me, every time you test, you find a case, and you know, it gets reported in the news, we found more cases. If instead of 50, we did 25, we'd have the number of cases. So I personally think it's overrated. But I am totally willing to keep doing it. Again, it makes us look bad, but they say it's good. I don't mind looking bad if it's a good thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP) BERMAN: Right, he's just wrong on testing, and some Republicans don't

agree with his position either.