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Trump Cancels Florida Convention As Death Toll Climbs; China Retaliates for U.S. Closure of Houston Consulate; Dr. Fauci Opens MLB Season with Wild First Pitch. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired July 24, 2020 - 05:00   ET



CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: The president's biggest rivals right now, the virus and the clock. A thousand Americans have died for a third day in a row. Now the president in full retreat, sacrificing what matters most to him, crowd size.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world.

This is EARLY START on Friday. I'm Christine Romans.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Laura Jarrett. It is Friday, July 24th. Happy Friday. It is 5: 00 a.m. here in New York.

And we begin this morning as Christine mentioned with the president in rare retreat. In a surprise move, he scrapped the Republican National Convention celebrations set to take place in Jacksonville, Florida, next month. The whole point of having his acceptance speech in Florida instead of North Carolina as originally planned was in the hopes of guaranteeing the packed convention he craves, but the reality of coronavirus has apparently made that impossible.

Florida has just been devastated by COVID this week. This week, the sheriff in Jacksonville went public that the event could not be held safely. This is the first major course correction we're also seeing under the new campaign chief, Bill Stepien, who met with the president in just the last 24 hours. The announcement came as more than 150 prominent medical experts, scientists, nurses and others signed a letter urging political leaders to shut the country down and start over to contain the pandemic.

ROMANS: And remember for months, the president pushed for a return to normal. He wanted people back in church for Easter. He mocked mask- wearing as politically correct. Even after endorsing masks, finally, he wont wear one when Little Leagues at the White House.

He gave a speech and held a rally where his own staff and Secret Service got the virus, but now, he is in full retreat. In just the last few days, the president acknowledged COVID will get worse before it gets better. He admitted some schools will have to delay reopening. And he promoted mask wearing, canceling Jacksonville was a move borne of necessity as he fights for his political life.

Kaitlan Collins is at the White House. (BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Laura and Christine, this is a statement that caught a lot of people off guard. The president coming out of the briefing room yesterday announcing they are canceling the Republican convention in Jacksonville, Florida. It was scheduled for just a few weeks from now. The president said he doesn't think this is the right time to hold the convention, and he was worried about the number of cases happening in Florida and having a lot of people go down there, something that health officials have been saying for weeks they were worried about.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There's nothing more important in our country than keeping our people safe.

I just felt it was wrong, Steve, to have people going to what turned out to be a hot spot.

COLLINS: And it's really remarkable, the president making this decision, because we were told campaign aides went to him. They said canceling is an option but you could move forward with this in a more limited fashion if you wanted to. And he ended up choosing which is just so notable given that just in the last eight weeks, the president went from having this convention in North Carolina to pulling it.

The governor had too strict health precautions, to now he is canceling the one in Florida because he believes the risks there are too high given the number of cases.

As for what that convention is going to look like for the president, some delegates are still going to go to North Carolina to do the official duties of nominating him as a nominee. He will give the speech virtually, and the question is, where is he going to do that? He does not know that but they will figure it out soon.


JARRETT: All right. Kaitlan, thank you.

The president is shifting positions suddenly now not because he wants to but because the numbers tell him he has to. Voters are turning on him as this pandemic ravages the country. A new poll shows Joe Biden leading President Trump by 13 points in Florida, tripling his lead there since April.

Florida, as we mention, has been badly hit by this virus. Another single day record for deaths yesterday. Numbers from battleground states of Michigan and Pennsylvania show Biden pulling away there too.

ROMANS: The United States just passed 4 million cases. It took 99 days to get to the 1 million mark. The last million took barely two weeks.

COVID is now projected to be in the top ten causes of death in this country, on par with heart disease and cancer. JARRETT: The national map does show signs of progress. More than half

of the country now holding steady, but even as new infections began to slow, the deaths are coming faster. For three straight days, the count has been over 1,000. Texas set a record for deaths this week. Polls show Biden even with Trump even in the heavily Republican state. Hospitalization in Texas remain over 10,000 although, there are signs that may be leveling off.

ROMANS: In Arizona, hospitalizations there are slowing. The governor has extended closures for gyms, bars, night clubs and water parks.


The decision on reopening schools will be left to education leaders.

There's trouble in the Gulf States this morning. Four of them, Georgia, Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi are struggling with hospital capacities. And in Wisconsin, people in their 20s make up 1/3 of the new cases. They could be spreading it without symptoms. Wisconsin is one of nine states without a mask mandate and the only one with a Democratic governor.

JARRETT: New CDC guidelines on schools announced by the president Thursday strongly favor reopening in person classes this fall, claiming children do not suffer much from coronavirus. But the guidelines do recommend local officials delay or close schools if there are substantial, uncontrolled spread in the community. The best way to monitor that spread, of course, is testing, something the U.S. has never had a national strategy for, and that President Trump calls overrated.

But less testing means fewer people will isolate because they don't know they have the virus. And even if they have no symptoms, they could be spreading the disease unknowingly. And more people spreading it means more people becoming seriously ill.


DR. AMASH ADALJA, SENIOR SCHOLAR, JOHNS HOPKINS CENTER FOR HEALTH SECURITY: We can't have a test result taking seven days to come back and expect to be able to do contact tracing. We are still talking about the things we were talking about in January and February. If we don't know who is infected and don't know who's not infected. That's the most basic question we need to answer, and we're still not able to answer it to adequate satisfaction to be able to get handles on, to get handle on this.


JARRETT: Yet even as the president announced he was cancelling the Florida convention, he's still pushed for kids to go back to school.

ROMANS: All right. A much-needed stimulus plan stalled in Washington. One key priority for the president, a payroll tax cut is officially out. That's one of three areas where the White House caved to Senate Republicans. The real hang up now is the extension of the critical lifeline for

millions of Americans without a job.

CNN's Phil Mattingly has the latest from Capitol Hill.


PHIL MATTINGLY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Christine and Laura, this was supposed to be the week negotiations really kick into gear. Republicans and Democrats trying to hammer everything out, an urgent deadline coming July 31st when enhanced federal unemployment insurance is set to lapse, that lapse, the extra $600 that's been so crucial for millions of Americans.

Instead, Senate Republicans and White House still have not agreed for their own proposal. The expectation was on Thursday, that proposal would be rolled out.

We knew the basic tenets of that proposal, $105 billion for schools. There will be another round of stimulus checks, another round of funds in the Paycheck Protection Program, forgivable loans to small business, $25 billion for testing, money for the CDC, the NIH. All sorts of issues and Republicans laid out on the top line, but details is where they are hung up, including on that issue of unemployment insurance.

Republicans want to reduce the benefit. Instead of the $600 flat rate, they want to hit about approximately 70 percent of wages, but the mechanics of actually putting that into place, how to put actually into systems to allow states to make that happen has been an area of dispute.

So, here's where that leaves, just less than a week from the expiration of the unemployment benefits, Republicans expect to release their proposal on Monday. Then and only then when negotiations with Democrats actually start. Very tightly timeline. Obviously, a lot of work to do.

Democrats have their proposal. More than $3 trillion they laid out and passed in the House in May. They've been sitting and waiting. They need somebody to negotiate with. For now, for the week, these negotiations have only been between the Republican White House and Republican Senate -- guys.


JARRETT: All right. Phil, thank you so much.

Another consequence of coronavirus: ISIS attacks. ISIS attacks are on the rise in Syria and Iraq. According to the U.N. Security Council, the terrorist group is exploiting security gaps in Iraq that are being caused by the pandemic. A newly released U.N. report estimates are currently more than 10,000 ISIS fighters in Iraq and Syria. In recent weeks, Iraq has seen a coronavirus surge with the number of cases topping 100,000. ROMANS: Voting by mail is the only way to protect people from

coronavirus on Election Day. That's the warning in a letter from the group of health experts to congressional leaders. Noting that polling places are crowded and pandemic may only get worse by the fall. They argue every American must have the option of voting by mail or by absentee ballot in November.

Right now, about one-third of states only allow voting by mail under certain circumstance. President Trump has been spreading bogus claims about fraud even though he has voted by mail himself. And the Trump- appointed postmaster general has been recommending cost-cutting moves that could result in ballot delivery delays just in time for this election.

JARRETT: President Trump says he is willing to send as many as 75,000 federal agents into U.S. cities to put down violent crime.


TRUMP: They are strong. They're tough. And we can solve these problems so fast. But as you know, we have to be invited in.

HOST: Mr. President, I want to ask you about that.

TRUMP: At some point, we're going to have to do something that's much stronger than being invited in.



JARRETT: Seventy-five thousand. That's about 3/4 of the total number of federal law enforcement officers.

Now, the president has tried to make policing a campaign issue, painting cities with Democratic mayors as violent and appeal to suburban voters. Right now, customs and border protection team is headed to Seattle to protect federal facilities despite push back from the mayor there.

Meanwhile, the Justice Department's internal watchdog will probe the use of force by federal agents in Oregon, and Washington, where there have been crackdowns on protests against police brutality.

ROMANS: All right. Ten minutes past the hour this Friday morning.

Breaking overnight: China retaliates after the ordered closure of the consulate in Houston.


ROMANS: All right. Breaking overnight, China retaliating for the U.S. closure of its consulate in Texas.

CNN's David Culver live for us in Beijing. And, David, secretary of state, you know, speaking out about the relationship between the U.S. and China and said no more blind engagement, really promoting a more assertive -- a more assertive stance for the U.S. with its disagreements with China.


DAVID CULVER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: No question, Christine. The theme of that speech was the China threat. We knew there was going to be response. They said they were going to retaliate. Today, we now know what that is. It's the shutting down of the consulate, the U.S. consulate in Chengdu. That's in central China. We're hearing from state media that the staff has until Monday morning local time to move out. The same time frame the U.S. gave to the Chinese diplomatic staff in Houston.

About Chengdu, this region in central China, I mean, this part of Szechuan province, known for spicy food, known for pandas, in fact, all the pandas that are loaned to the U.S. from China and come back after a certain number of years, they're flown into Chengdu.

And more importantly, this borders Tibet. According to the Chinese foreign ministry, this was a consulate in which personnel were engaging in activities that were harmful to Chinese national security. Clearly, they're playing off what the U.S. alleged about the Houston consulate being essentially a front of spying on behalf of China.

I want you to hear a little bit more from Mike Pompeo, though, because if you think this is where it ends, hearing from him yesterday would suggest otherwise.


MIKE POMPEO, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: President Reagan said that he dealt with the Soviet Union on the basis of trust but verify. When it comes to the CCP, I say we must distrust and verify. We must induce China to change in a more creative and assertive ways because Beijing's actions threaten our people and prosperity.


CULVER: The reality is, Christine, shutting down the Chengdu consulate is not the worst-case scenario for the U.S. diplomatically. I mean, you have much larger ones like Shanghai, you have Hong Kong. Obviously, they still remain in play if the Chinese need to use those going forward. As you heard from Pompeo, I mean, the reality is this is likely to continue to escalate.

ROMANS: Yes, the backdrop of the Pompeo speech is really notable. It was the Nixon Library. It was Nixon who was the -- the foreign leader who opened China to the rest of the world, and feared that maybe the worst-case scenario was a Frankenstein. And Pompeo was saying that Nixon turned out to be prophetic. So, that backdrop is really notable.

Thank you so much for that. Nice to see you, David. JARRETT: All right. Well, the U.S. military is confirming an American

fighter jet flew within a few thousand feet of an Iranian jetliner to inspect it. Iranian state media released disturbing video showing injured and upset passengers. A central command spokesman says an F-15 inspected the Tehran to Beirut flight to, quote, ensure the safety of coalition personnel at the nearby base in Syria used to fight ISIS.

ROMANS: All right. Dr. Fauci takes the field. He definitely flattened the curve ball. Let's say he is lucky no one was there to see it. More from opening day of Major League Baseball.



ROMANS: Play ball. Major League Baseball finally returns to the field with all eyes on the defending world champion Nationals and their biggest fan.

Coy Wire has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report".

Hey, Coy.


Good morning, Christine.

There have been so many concerns whether a season would, could or should be played amid this global pandemic. So, it was only fitting to have Dr. Fauci there leading the way on opening day, throwing the first pitch and giving America a much-needed dose of normalcy. Baseball is back.

The super fan's nerves might have gotten to him a bit, rushing the pitch in just a bit outside. He said he practiced all week. He's been throwing at his local elementary school in D.C. with his wife.

One person tweeting, this was the perfect pitch because Dr. Fauci didn't want anyone to catch anything. At least there was no one in the stadium to heckle him.

Unfortunately, the team had to raise the banner for the first ever title in an empty stadium. Despite the pandemic, and stormy weather, small crowd of Nats fans gathering outside the stadium.

Giancarlo Stanton helping to lead the Yankees with a monster home run en route to a 4-1 win. It was called in the 6th for rain.

Before the game it seems, listening to a prerecorded speech about social justice narrated by Morgan Freeman. And every player and coach taking a knee together, joined by a black, it's part of the Black Lives Matter tribute. And the players rising, all of them standing for the national anthem.

In the night's second game in L.A., Dodgers star Mookie Betts and some members of the San Francisco Giants, including manager Gabe Kapler continuing to kneel during the anthem. The Giants also wore "Black Lives Matter" shirts during warm ups. The Dodgers going on to win their home opener, 8-1.

President Trump marking opening day by playing catch with baseball Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera and a group of little leaguers at the White House. The president saying he's going to toss out a first pitch at Yankees Stadium on August 15th. And last night, Trump said there's one thing that he does not want to see.


TRUMP: I hope everyone's standing. I hope they're not going to be kneeling when the flag is raised. I don't like to see that. That would hurt -- that would hurt a lot of people in our country. I don't want to see that, with the NFL or baseball or basketball or anything else. We want to -- there are plenty of places you can protest. You don't have to protest on the raising of our flag.

WIRE: Finally, Washington's NFL team has a new name, sort of. It will go by Washington football team until a new nickname is chosen.


Earlier this month, the team and its owner Daniel Snyder announced they changed the nickname that had been considered an offensive slur by so many for so long following enormous pressure from fans and sponsors. And baseball's Cleveland Indians also moving forward with a possible name change.

Team owner Paul Dolan says they will consult with Native American leaders to better understand their perspectives.

Laura, Cleveland starts off their baseball season later tonight against the Royals in one of 13 games that will be played. It will be an action packed day, I'm happy to say, of baseball.

JARRETT: I know you're excited, Coy. It's great.

Good to see you this morning, thanks so much.

WIRE: You too.

JARRETT: All right. A quick programming note for you this weekend. Kamau Bell is in Oklahoma looking for the truth on farming in America. The people growing your food are fighting to keep their land. An all new episode of United States of America, Sunday night, at 10 p.m. Eastern, only on CNN.