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Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) Is Interviewed About Traveler Ban On New Yorkers; U.S. Officials Claim Houston Chinese Consulate Part Of Espionage Network; U.S. Adds A Million Cases In 15 Days, Surpasses 4 Million. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired July 24, 2020 - 12:30   ET

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


[12:30:00]

DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: And Donald Trump so far has been playing right into those hands.

JOHN KING, CNN HOST: But usually works that way when you're the incumbent, it is especially an incumbent in crisis. It tends to be about you and about you and about you before it's about anyone else. Dana Bash, Asma Khalid, appreciate the reporting and insights today, 102 days but actually, the voting starts sooner than that in about six weeks.

Quick programming note, important programming note, CNN's Fredricka Whitfield takes a look at the surprising ways unconscious bias impacts our lives, don't miss Unconscious Bias: Facing the Realities of Racism that's Sunday night 8:00 p.m. right here on CNN.

Still ahead, the Trump administration forced to stand down in a big feud with New York. The New York Governor joins us live next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[12:35:14]

KING: Trump administration standing down, a better way to put it might be backing down in its fight with New York, the administration lifting a ban on New Yorkers using the government's trusted traveler program and the government admitting it made false statements in a lawsuit over this issue, the New York Governor Andrew Cuomo commenting about it just moments ago.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): They got caught. It was all politics all the time. It was all exploitation all the time. And they hurt this state because of it. You cannot use government for political exploitation.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: The New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is with us now live. Governor, thank you so much for your time. It's good to see you, Sir. Let's start right there. You say you cannot use the government for exploitation, they lied. We often sugarcoat words when we talk about things, but they lied in a court filing and they had, they came back and said, you know what? We got to fix this. You think there's criminal liability, explain that.

CUOMO: Yes. Look, John, thanks for having me. I was a cabinet secretary. You take an oath when you're a cabinet secretary, even just an acting cabinet secretary or Deputy Secretary.

You have a constitutional obligation, and you have an ethical and legal obligation. You cannot use federal resources to play politics. And that's all they did here. It was very clear. They were resonating the President's political message, which is we're against undocumented people. And they said to New York that passed what's called the Green Light Law where we have driver's licenses for undocumented people.

They wanted to make an example out of New York. And they wanted to make an example out of having a driver's license law for undocumented people. And they retaliated. They stopped this program called the Trusted Traveler Program that had absolutely nothing to do with the undocumented driver's licenses.

It started back in February. I said it was pure politics then. I said there were about 15 states that had undocumented driver's licenses. What is unique about New York except you want to play politics, there are Republican states that had undocumented driver's licenses. But they were just playing politics and they got caught. They lied, and they got caught.

And I want to see what Department of Justice really does now. Attorney General Barr, let's let him look at his oath and see what he does. And I think Congress should be all over this, John.

KING: The Congress part, maybe you might get some help from your Democratic friends in the House. But I know you haven't been in a cave in the last six months because I've been here as you've been briefing people on television, I can't assume that you have a reasonable expectation that this President's attorney general is going to listen to a word you just said.

CUOMO: Well, look, if your Attorney General Barr, you have to look in the mirror sooner or later, right? And you're right, there's no way he's going to go down in the book of distinguished attorneys general, in my opinion. But you had to have a modicum of self respect somewhere when you know that you have a Cabinet Department, Homeland Security. That was a political ploy that lied about it, that got caught.

At one point, don't you have to do something, John, that has something to do with justice when you're the head of the Department of Justice?

KING: Well, we will watch that play out. Maybe that had something to do with them at least coming in to correct the lie, the mistake in the filing. But we'll see as it plays out. But to that point, Mr. Barr, at the moment, along with the President are involved in if you could ask the Portland mayor. He says it's reckless. Portland, Oregon, using federal officers, federal agencies, the President says he's going to send them to Chicago. And he says he's looking at other Democratic cities as well.

What would the governor of New York say if the President of the United States decided in New York City or somewhere else in your state that you needed federal agents because he sees a threat to courthouses or to statute or to federal property, anarchy, the President calls it?

CUOMO: Yes, I spoke to the President about it because if you remember, John, he mentioned New York City in the litany of cities. And I understand the politics of the day, and I understand the political statement that he's making.

But I had a conversation with the President on the phone about New York City. There is no justification in New York City. I said, are there any federal properties that you're worried about because if you have a concern, let me know. And the state stands ready, willing, and able to take care of any bonafide in need. So there's no reason for the federal government to come in.

And I did have a good conversation with the President. And he -- we left it that the he was not going to come into New York City. If anything changed, he would speak to me first. But you're right, the legal rationale would have to be dangering federal property and he thought it was necessary to bring in federal agents to protect federal property. That's his best legal ground.

[12:40:12]

It doesn't exist in New York. I don't know if you have a bonafide case that it existed in Portland. The federal government doesn't have a police force. It's not in the constitution. That's left to the states.

KING: As well as the same Department of Homeland Security, you're talking about here, that has its officers out in these places. We shall see how that goes. Governor, I have your time and I want to use your experience.

As I mentioned, the country has watched New York go up the hill first and I believe our viewers can see now like we put on the screen, New York's path up the hill and down the hill with the coronavirus. I'm sure you can't see the graphic governor, but I also know that it's seared in your memory of going up this hill and coming down this hill.

The coming down part is fascinating to me. It's a bad word. But because even as you started to come down, you had more cases on the downward side, you had more deaths on the downward side. You're watching right now. Florida 12,000 cases plus today. They've been around 10,000 to 12,000. Texas, Arizona, California, as you watch this play out now in other states nationally, the positivity rate is 8 percent. In Arizona, it's above 20. In Florida, it's been around 19. You're below 1 percent in the state of New York now.

What is your advice to these governors, most of them Republicans but Gavin Newsom out in California, Democrat, as they go through what you have lived?

CUOMO: Yes. First, John, when they write the history book on this one is going to be ugly. You're going to talking about a national tragedy. None of this had to be. How can we be in this position? Five months ago, we knew what was coming, and we're still flat footed.

What happened in New York City is going to be another chapter in the book. What happened in New York is the virus came from Europe and the federal government totally missed it. We didn't find out until it was too late that the virus went from China to Europe and then from Europe was coming to New York.

The European travel ban that the federal government did was much too late to stop it. So we had a spike. We had to get those cases down. And we were ambushed by the virus. That didn't happen anywhere else in the country. They didn't have a spike. They just had to make sure it didn't increase. That's all they were dealing with.

But I think there are two fundamental points. You have people who are in denial is the first issue that is compounded by this division across the country, lack of unity. And then you have secondarily, government incompetence. It's both factors.

In New York, we had to get the people to understand the facts and how serious it was. We had to put aside the politics. I had them focus on the facts on the science. I did it every day. And New Yorkers got it. They understood it. They didn't think that it was political and they knew what they had to do. And then the government stepped up. You have to get testing in place. I'm talking to these local governments.

John, they still don't have testing. They still don't have tracing. They're talking about 10 days to get test results. You're talking about running out of hospital space. You know, five months ago, we knew what operations had to be performed by government. How are we still where we are today, talking about --

KING: Well, let me jump in there. When you say there's government incompetence in the here and now as you watch this play out across the country, you're saying the governor of Florida is incompetent, the governor of Texas is incompetent, the governor of California is incompetent, or is this all a federal thing for you?

CUOMO: You know, I think it's all across the board on different levels, right? And the history books will decide, what the voters of a state will decide, right? The people of New York will tell you what they thought of the job I did and the people in Florida will determine what their governor did.

I think the federal government was no doubt slow. I don't even get this whole leave it to the states. You know, it's a state -- every state has a crisis. But it's not a federal crisis. I'm not really sure how that works. And then you have certain states that I think have acted adequately and certain states that have not.

But, you know, when you talk about the operations, John, just what are the problems we're having? Ask yourself, how can this be five months later? How can we still have issues setting up testing? You know, New York, we had to get the testing set up in two weeks. Here, we've had five months. So I think it's both those factors. You had a nation in denial, a nation that played politics with it and then government competence.

KING: Agree with you on that last point. Every day I go through these numbers and look through the maps and how can we be here five months later? There's a question everybody should ask whether a Democrat, Republican, Independent, whatever your politics are, how could we be here five months later? Governor Andrew Cuomo, Democratic governor of New York, Sir, appreciate your time today.

[12:45:02]

CUOMO: Thanks, John. Good to be with you.

KING: Thank you, Sir. Up next for us, new accusations of Chinese espionage, network right here in the United States, now officials say that Houston consulate, the State Department ordered shut down, it's just the tip of the iceberg.

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KING: Senior U.S. government officials announcing today they are taking the Chinese scientists into custody. He was the lead hiding in China's San Francisco consulate. He is accused of visa fraud. This is the latest in the list of charges and escalating list of charges from the United States including claims that China is using its diplomatic outpost here as an espionage network.

[12:50:14]

Houston consulate been the center of that controversy, you can see moving trucks right there, parked outside. That's today ahead of the deadline to close. CNN's Kylie Atwood, hearing more from the DOJ and the State Department, she joins us now.

Kylie, yes, China spies on the United States. Yes, United States spies on China. Why is this escalation so dramatic?

KYLIE ATWOOD, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Yes. What we're learning more about this week, John, is just how much the State Department and the Department of Justice are really working together to confront China and to confront what they describe as widespread Chinese economic espionage and intellectual property theft.

So this arrest, the person being taken into custody today of that Chinese scientist is noteworthy. And also the details we are learning about why they decided to order that China had to close its Houston consulate. And I want to read to you a quote today from a senior Justice Department official saying of the Houston consulate quote, it's a microcosm, we believe of a broader network of individuals in more than 25 cities. Consulates have been giving individuals in that network guidance on how to evade and obstruct our investigation. And you can infer from the ability to task that network of associates nationwide.

So indicating there that the Houston consulate was working with espionage efforts across the U.S. and that's why they decided that it had to close down. And I think it's important to note that the Department of Justice has been focused on this for a long time now, that senior Justice Department officials saying that there has been an increase of 1,300 percent of cases related to economic espionage in China in just the last 10 years.

And the State Department is a little bit handicapped with regard to what it can do to go after folks who work at an embassy, who are doing things illegally that's because of diplomatic immunity. So shutting down that consulate was one way that they could get around it. And we should note, John, that everything that happened this week is really in line with the rhetoric that we have heard from the Trump administration.

Just yesterday, Secretary Pompeo said that confronting the Chinese Communist Party is the mission of our time, John.

KING: Mission of our time, we will see if the retaliation from China then whether this further escalation I suspect we're in an early chapter here as dramatic as it is. Kylie Atwood, appreciate a live reporting from the State Department.

Up next for us, the summer surge raises the giant question, are we learning coronavirus lessons or are we ignoring them?

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[12:57:23]

KING: We're in the middle of a coronavirus summer surge three weeks into the pandemics worst month. Are we ignoring lessons of earlier months?

Joining me now is Nick Jewell. He's a biostatistics and epidemiology chair at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. Sir, appreciate your time today. One of the points you make is that, these are my words not yours, Americans somehow have put blinders on about this. You say they get fooled into thinking if it's not happening, it will never happen as in while much of the country watch New York in the northeast, you believe they just thought, I'm OK, it's never going to come to me?

NICHOLAS JEWELL, CHAIR BIOSTATISTICS & EPIDEMIOLOGY, LONDON SCHOOL OF HYGIENE & TROPICAL MEDICINE: I think there's an element of that, that we thought what was happening in New York was the worst it could be in other places took the queue to shelter in place. But we've lost patience with that to some extent for understandable reasons. And now we're paying the price in other parts of the country.

KING: And we are paying the price in other parts of the country. And if you look at the -- if you look at the United States versus other parts of the world here, it's just the United States versus Asia and the European -- Africa, I'm sorry, and the European Union. Why is the United States, it's supposed to be the world's leading democracy, it's supposed to be the world's superpower, why is the United States up there, and other people seem to be doing a better job?

JEWELL: Well, it's a great shock because everyone thought before this pandemic hit that United States would be the leader. We failed I think badly in that largely because of a lack of consistent messaging and leadership and a failure to understand how serious this pandemic is.

KING: And so what now when you do get to the point where you have California, Florida, Texas, the big, big giant states with high daily case counts, death counts rising. How do you stop it? How do you get to a plateau at least and then start to push it down?

JEWELL: Well, we have to do multiple things. We all as individuals have to do our part. So each of us has to choose to reduce our risk of both being infected or infecting others. And that involves avoiding places of congregation, involving, you know, physical distancing of some form wearing a mask when outside.

So, we all have to do that and we need strategic and consistent leadership from our local and national governments to take a plan of attack to slow down the epidemic. And we did that successfully in California at the beginning, but we need to do it again.

KING: We need to do it again. That's an important point. We're in a cycle here. Dr. Nicholas Jewell, appreciate your time today, Sir. We'll circle back as we go through this California and elsewhere. And thank you for joining us today as well. Hope to see you Sunday morning 8:00 a.m. if you're up early for Inside Politics.

[13:00:04]

Busy News Day, stick with us, Brianna Keilar picks up our coverage right now. Have a good day and a great weekend.