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CNN NEWSROOM

Trump Call with Putin Neglects Bounties, Meddling, Vaccine Hacking; Leon Panetta Discusses Trump's Phone Call with Putin, Trump Erupting over Defense Secretary Banning Confederate Flag; Texas COVID Patients "Sent Home to Die" if Deemed Too Sick; Parents Now Helping with Contact Tracing after Teen Party; CNN's Dr. Gupta Gives Look Inside Hospital, The Reuse of Masks; Rep. Deb Haaland (D-NM) and Rep. Michael Waltz (R-FL) Discusses "Rent the Camo," Which Helps Expectant Mothers in Military Get Uniforms. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired July 24, 2020 - 14:30   ET

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


[14:30:00]

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Reports they offered bounties to kill American soldiers. Russian interference in the 2020 election. Allegations Moscow attempted to hack COVID vaccine research. And there wasn't a peep about the launch of a new Russian space weapon.

And just in, CNN's Kaitlan Collins asked the White House press secretary is they discussed the reported bounties or election interference, and she refused to answer.

Leon Panetta serviced as CIA director and secretary of defense during the Obama administration.

And I wonder, sir -- thank you so much for coming in and lending your expertise.

But let's -- look, we just heard from the White House. They press secretary won't comment. So, either they didn't discuss this or they did discuss it but the White House won't say they discussed it.

So, let's start with the possibility this wasn't discussed. How much of a problem would that be?

LEON PANETTA, FORMER DEFENSE SECRETARY: I think it would be a very serious problem if the president of the United States did not raise this issue with Vladimir Putin.

When we have intelligence that the Russians were putting bounties on the heads of our men and women in uniform. And that, indeed, we could have lost four Marines as a result of the bounties being put in place.

I think it is extremely important for the president of the United States to make clear to Vladimir Putin that this is not behavior that will be tolerated by the United States. We are not going to stand by and allow the Russians to put a price on the heads of our forces.

That should have been the message. I have a feeling that wasn't the message that President Trump gave Vladimir Putin. KEILAR: And why is that?

PANETTA: Because he's had nine calls, almost nine since February. And this intelligence first appeared actually in the presidential daily brief in February. So we've known about it since then.

And, indeed, the National Security Council actually put together a session to put together options that the president could take to make clear to the Russians that this is not acceptable behavior.

So, the president has known about this for a long time. And yet, has never mentioned it to Putin.

It's unbelievable to me that, here's our men and women, who put their lives on the line to begin with in order to protect this country, and here's an adversary who puts a price on the head of those that are fighting for this country, and the president of the United States is not going to mention that to the head of Russia? I think that's a disgrace.

KEILAR: Earlier today, the nation's top counterintelligence official said Russia is one of three countries, along with China and Iran, working to interfere with the 2020 election.

This is a quote. Quote, "Using a range of efforts, including Internet trolls and other proxies, Russia continues to spread disinformation in the United States that is designed to undermine our democratic process."

What is your prognosis what we could happen here? Could we see another 2016? Could we see something worse?

PANETTA: Look, there's no question that Russia is continuing to interfere in our election process, along with China, and along with others. We know that. Our intelligence agencies have made clear that remains a continuing problem.

Look, Russia -- anybody who's dealt with Russia -- and I had the opportunity to deal with Russia, as CIA director and secretary of defense. You know that Russia's primary goal is to undermine the United States of America, to weaken our country, to undermine the institutions that make our democracy what it is. That's their goal.

And if we know that they are conducting themselves in a way to try to undermine our country, I think it might help to have a president of the United States at least say directly to the Russians, don't do it. Don't interfere in our elections. Don't put bounties on the heads of our men and women in uniform. And if you do, we will get back at you.

That's a clear message. And that should have been sent to the Russians.

KEILAR: We just heard that the president erupted at the defense secretary. So, you're familiar, maybe not with being in this exact position but what this would mean. So, he erupted at the defense secretary for what was a ban on

unofficial flags but, in effect, ban the Confederate flag, along with other ones. But this bans the Confederate flag, this decision.

[14:35:03]

What is your reaction to the president erupting at him over that?

PANETTA: Well, it's not unexpected with this president.

It's unfortunate because, very frankly, I think Secretary Esper, General Milley, the chairmen of the Joint Chiefs, I think all of our military leadership, I think the Armed Services Committee on the Hill, in the Defense Authorization bill, and the House and the Senate, who have voted on those defense bills, have all made clear that we have to move beyond the Confederate flag.

The president is probably the only one who's not getting the message from the country.

KEILAR: Secretary Panetta, thank you for joining us.

PANETTA: Thank you.

Hospital in one Texas county are sending those too sick from coronavirus home to die as they're dealing with a surge of new cases in the county.

Plus, after a house party in one New Jersey town left at least 20 people infected with the coronavirus, parents are now finally cooperating with authorities. We'll tell you what's behind their change in heart, next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[14:40:23]

KEILAR: A heartbreaking situation in a Texas county as hospitals suffer through a surge of coronavirus. Doctors are now choosing who to treat and who to send home to die.

CNN's Ed Lavandera has more now from Dallas.

Ed, this is awful. Tell us about this.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Brianna. Well, this is happening in Starr County, which is in south Texas, one of the most critical hot spots in the state right now.

County officials there say they are in the process of creating Ethics and Triage Committees that will help doctors determine who can be kept at Starr County Memorial Hospital to be treated and who, essentially, is not healthy enough and will have to be sent home to die, essentially.

So, these are the absolutely gut wrenching and dramatic decisions they have to make because they're in a desperate situation because of their hospital bed space.

And to give you a sense of how quickly things have changed, a month ago, county officials say they had no one in their county hospital that was a COVID patient. They now have 17 -- or had 1,700 different COVID cases, 40 just yesterday alone. So, those numbers dramatically changing.

And because of this, county officials now in the process of creating what they're describing as an Ethics and Triage Committee to determine who can be treated at the hospital and who will be sent home to die -- Brianna?

KEILAR: Ed, thank you so much. Ed Lavandera.

Shocked, disappointed, frustrated. That is how people in Middletown, New Jersey, are describing a house party thrown two weeks ago that triggered a new outbreak of coronavirus in their community.

At least 20 teenagers have tested positive for the virus. Initially, parents were not cooperating with contact tracers. It appears, though, they have had a change of heart.

CNN's Jason Carroll is looking into all of this for us.

Tell us what's going on here, Jason?

JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, the governor says, Brianna, it's about personal responsibility. New Jersey's governor basically urging anyone who attended the party, now linked to a COVID- 19 cluster, to come forward and speak to health officials.

This, after the governor says contact tracers, initially, were met with resistance from a group of teenagers and their families connected to the outbreak.

A group of about 20 teenagers, ages 15 to 19, tested positive after attending the party in Middletown, New Jersey, around July 11th.

Health officials are still trying to identify everyone who went to the party. They now say parents have been more responsive in terms of cooperating.

New Jersey's governor wants to make sure that cooperation continues.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. PHIL MURPHY (D-NJ): The most distressing aspect of this case is learning from train contact tracers that they've had multiple people refuse to cooperate with them, although, I'm told by the mayor that that has gotten somewhat better.

To be perfectly clear, again, this is not a witch hunt to root out anyone who was drinking underage. Although, we do not condone underage drinking. And remember, folks, it's illegal.

But that's not what this is about. This is a race against the clock to ensure everyone who may have been exposed to coronavirus is identified before they infect anyone else.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

CARROLL: And, Brianna, the governor says all of those teens connected to the party that they've been able to contact are, at this point, self-quarantining.

He went on to say, when it comes to contact tracing, he says it's key to making sure these small outbreaks do not turn into what he called full-blown COVID fires -- Brianna?

KEILAR: Yes, certainly.

Jason Carroll, thank you so much for that.

[14:44:10]

As the number of COVID cases in the U.S. surpasses four million, doctors across the country say their supplies of protective gear could start to run out. You're going to see what it's like on the frontlines of the pandemic.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KEILAR: A sobering look at the front lines battle against coronavirus. CNN chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, talks about his hospital where there are not enough COVID tests. And doctors, nurses and staffers are reusing their personal protective equipment.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know, if I could paint a picture for a second. We still don't have enough testing. People fundamentally get that, I think, by this point. But the trickle effect is quite extraordinary.

So if you don't have enough testing, even within hospitals, you may have to, as I did this week -- I have to operate on patients who have not been tested. You haven't been able to get a test result back on them. You have to take them to the operating room.

So that means everybody, we always wear masks and gowns in the operating room. but now have to wear N-95 masks on top of that, which are hard to get.

People say in places around the country, we have plenty of PPE. I don't know if that is the case or we've just moved the goalposts.

In our hospital, you could only have one N-95 mask and you have to use it until it is essentially ruined.

Let me show you a quick little video.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GUPTA: OK, giving you a special video diary from the hospital today. Doing brain operations and spine operations today. Got to tell you, one of the hardest things has been wearing one of these N-95 masks because you see it really digs into your face quite a bit.

[14:50:15]

And they are really hard to get. We're basically told to reuse the same mask as long as we can until it becomes too soiled. You have to take good care of it.

So what I do, in addition to the mask, they put another mask on top of it. And I basically have this above, and that is basically what I'll do to operate. That is the COVID world inside of the hospital.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

GUPTA: So the mask -- not that this matters -- during a five, six-hour operation, if you're wearing it properly, it digs into your face and it hurts after a while. But we wear it for protection. It's like gold. So I'll wear another mask on top of it to prevent that N-95 mask from being contaminated.

Do we have enough masks? If we treat them like this we do. We used to have plenty of makes to be able to have fresh masks when we're doing operations or interacting with people with are respiratory diseases.

We don't have any more. Those masks are under lock and key now.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KEILAR: Sanjay, thank you for that.

Just in, new revelations about the long-term impact of the coronavirus and what happened to people, two, three weeks after the positive test.

Plus, McDonald's and Chipotle following other companies in requiring customers to wear masks.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

KEILAR: On Tuesday's "HOMEFRONT, our digital and television column where we try to bridge the military-civilian divide, we want to look at a new plan to help women in the military get maternity uniforms for free.

[14:55:04]

It is coined "Rent the Camo," and it's included in the National Defense Authorization Act, the NDAA, which the House recently passed.

I'm joined by two lawmakers who introduced this bipartisan bill, Democratic Congresswoman Deb Haaland, of New Mexico, and Republican Congressman Michael Waltz, of Florida. They're both on the Armed Services Committee.

And this is bipartisan, as I said. We don't see that all of the time these days. But, Congresswoman Haaland, tell us what about what need this would

meet for expectant moms in the military.

REP. DEB HAALAND (D-NM): Absolutely. So first of all, I'll say that the House Armed Services Committee, we're, all of us, a bipartisan effort, to make sure that women have long and successful careers in the military. And this is just one way that we can help ensure that.

Rent the Camo is based off of a familiar organization, Rent the Runway, that helps military women to not have to have the expense of all kinds of uniforms, to help them through all of the terms of their pregnancy.

And we just felt that that was a good way for us to help them have those long and successful careers.

KEILAR: And, Congressman Waltz, part of this is that it sends a real message, as you heard the congresswoman say, to women.

Because you have a situation where you -- in the military -- and you know this, you're a decorated Green Beret -- when you have women getting to the age where they're having kids, there's a huge amount of attrition in the armed services that many experts will argue is to the detriment of the armed services.

How does this go to that?

REP. MICHAEL WALTZ, (R-FL): Well, Bri, the number-one duty of Congress, in our view, is to take care of our military. That is men and women.

And this program, as Representative Haaland said, would essentially have our services, Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, provide the uniforms in a rent fashion rather than having to service women buying them through their pregnancy. It saves them money. It saves the services money.

This was really broad forward to me by an Air Force major I have on my staff. She's a mom of five kids.

And to your point, it took tremendous expense. But when we see -- she's an Air Force cyber lawyer. We need her to stay in the military and to continue to service. And as they're trying to have a family, deal with deployment, they shouldn't have to deal with these additional expenses.

And I'm proud to work with Representative Haaland. Despite what you see on the news all the time, we can come together, we do come together, and particularly in supporting our military.

KEILAR: And, Congresswoman, you have a personal connection to this, right, about your mom who was in the military but ended up giving that up because she was having children.

HAALAND: Absolutely, yes. She was in the Navy. My dad was in the Marines. She was in the Navy. They met on Treasure Island in San Francisco. Got married. And when she got pregnant, she was forced out of the Navy. That was back in the '50s.

We've come a long way. And now let's go one more step to make sure that we can support women in the military.

I had folks coming to me talking about women pilots, who can fly until their 28 weeks pregnant, having to cut their flight suits to add fabric to accommodate their pregnancies. We shouldn't be doing that.

We absolutely have an obligation to support our military, to make sure they have everything they need to be successful. Because their first duty is to protect our country.

KEILAR: It sends a very, very strong message.

I wonder, Congressman, tell us how this is received. I imagine, pretty well?

WALTZ: Well, I could certainly tell you that the Air Force major on my staff is very happy about it. She's on forums with other female servicemembers where they were kind of bartering and trading these things, these uniforms.

And importantly, they also had certain chemicals in there that may not be healthy for the fetus that will be removed from this program. And she's telling me the response is overwhelming.

And again, this is a retention issue. We need to keep the women that the country has invested so much into their training, whether they're pilots or cyber warriors, or others.

We just had the first women graduate Green Beret training. Our first female Green Beret. We need to keep them in the service all the way through so they could have families and become senior leaders. It shouldn't be an either/or.

[15:00:00]

And I think this is an important step in the process.

KEILAR: I want to thank you both for coming on. Congresswoman Deb Haaland and Congressman Michael Waltz, thank you. Have a great weekend.

HAALAND: Thank you.

WALTZ: All right.