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Dr. Fauci Responds to Trump Retweet Touting Hydroxychloroquine; 49 Hospitals in Florida Reach ICU Capacity; California Governor Urges Residents to "Wake Up" as Deaths Rise; GOP Unveils $1 Trillion Relief Plan; Attorney General Barr to Testify Before House Judicial Committee Soon; Birx Warns of Rise in COVID Positivity Rates in Tennessee. Aired 9-9:30a ET

Aired July 28, 2020 - 09:00   ET



JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Very good Tuesday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.


Well, this morning Dr. Fauci is clearly firing back. The nation's top infectious disease expert responding to President Trump retweeting false claims overnight about coronavirus as it spreads rapidly through the country. Overnight the president retweeted multiple claims that masks don't work and that hydroxychloroquine is a cure for COVID.

And here is how Dr. Fauci responded to that this morning.



GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS, ABC NEWS: How about hydroxychloroquine? The president promoting the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine. We know the FDA has recommended against emergency use.

FAUCI: Right. Right. Exactly. And I go along with the FDA. The overwhelming, prevailing clinical trials that have looked at the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine have indicated that it is not effective in coronavirus disease.


SCIUTTO: Do you remember the president's supposed change to a more serious, more science-based tone? Well, in just a single day the president wiped out indications he's again following the science, once again questioning mask wearing, attacking Dr. Fauci as Fauci has warned that tens of thousands more Americans will die if the U.S. does not act now to address this.

We're following all these headlines this morning and this as well. A major showdown this morning on Capitol Hill. The Attorney General William Barr after refusing a number of times to come to testify will testify before lawmakers for the first time in more than a year. Democrats are preparing to ask hard questions on the deployment of federal agents, legal moves to help the president and more.

As for the attorney general, he's digging in. We have a first look at his fiery opening statement. Let's go now to the White House. CNN's Joe Johns is there.

Joe, let's begin with Dr. Fauci. He is contradicting the president's latest round of disinformation. That's what doctors, what experts do. I wonder, what happened to the president's more realistic, more serious tone that was advertised last week?

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: It creates confusion, doesn't it? And it is the one thing that makes this administration's message on coronavirus almost incoherent if you think about it. Just a few minutes ago, a staffer from the communications shop was out here in the driveway and was asked if there was going to be a statement from the White House about the president's tweets and we are told use the tweets.

Also got the news from the White House that the president expects to do a news conference around 5:00 Eastern Time today. So perhaps an opportunity to ask the president about the tweets themselves.

Dr. Fauci as you said did respond not just to the issues of masks, not just to the issue of hydroxychloroquine, but also to those claims that Dr. Fauci himself has been misleading the country. Listen.


FAUCI: I don't tweet, I don't even read them, so I don't really want to go there. I just will continue to do my job no matter what comes out because I think it's very important. We're in the middle of a crisis with regard to an epidemic, a pandemic. This is what I do. This is what I have been trained for my entire professional life. And I'll continue to do it.

STEPHANOPOULOS: To the charge you've been misleading the American public?

FAUCI: I have not been misleading the American public under any circumstances.


JOHNS: There was a response to the president's tweets from Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, all of them took the president's messages down. Back to you.

HARLOW: Joe, before you go, in the middle of all of this, as Dr. Fauci, you know, with throwing out the first pitch at the Nationals game, becoming the most collected I think, you know, baseball card for that, as Wolf asked him about yesterday. There's now reporting out of "The New York Times" that the president who said he was invited to throw out the first pitch at a Yankee game on August 15th, and then said he canceled, was never invited by the Yankees? Is that right?

JOHNS: Right. That's what "The New York Times" is reporting that the president was never in fact invited. "The Times" also reports that there was a standing invitation for the president to throw out the first pitch, but nothing apparently had been solidified in terms of the date. To add to the confusion, the president canceled the appearance that he essentially had dreamed up or invited himself to saying he was too busy with coronavirus.

So a lot of confusion there. One thing is clear, this president isn't taking his standing in the polls very well right now. Back to you.

HARLOW: Joe Johns, thank you very much for the reporting at the White House this morning. We'll see what questions the president chooses to answer this afternoon.

Now to Florida where intensive care units at 49 hospitals in the state have reached complete capacity. Rosa Flores is with us this morning from Miami Beach.

Good morning, Rosa. Update us.

ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Poppy, good morning. I'll get to the hospitals in just a moment but let me start with the number of cases here in the state of Florida. Because if you look at the trend map it shows that there are 20 states who are steady including the state of Florida.


I asked infectious disease expert Dr. Ali Marty about this and she said that in fact the cases have stabilized but they've stabilized at a very high number. The state of Florida reporting nearly 9,000 cases yesterday and let's not forget, in early June, started to report on the increase in cases. There were more than 1,000 cases a day. So given that information, the fact that the numbers are stabilizing makes right now a critical moment because it's going to -- it's going to depend on human behavior what happens after these numbers stabilize.

Will the numbers go up? Will the numbers go down? Again, it depends on what people do here in the state of Florida.

Here's the situation in Miami-Dade County where ICUs are operating at 142 percent capacity. Ventilator use has been up 50 percent in the past two weeks and the positivity rate is at 18 percent.

Jim and Poppy, these hospitals are not getting a break. We're also learning that the employee union at Jackson Health, one of the biggest health systems here in the state that represents about 5,000 doctors and nurses, they are urging -- demanding Governor Ron DeSantis to issue a mask mandate across the state. They are saying it could help curb this crisis. And this is coming from the individuals that are on the front lines -- Jim and Poppy.

SCIUTTO: Well, and now the president is retweeting questions about whether masks help when the science shows the opposite.

Rosa Flores, thanks very much.

Now to California where coronavirus deaths are rising, an average now of more than 100 each day over the last week. Governor Gavin Newsom is telling residents in no uncertain terms to wake up.

HARLOW: That's right. Our Stephanie Elam joins us in Los Angeles with more.

Good morning, Stephanie.

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Poppy and Jim. You're right. And at this point 37 of the 58 counties in California are now on this monitoring list because of a rise of coronavirus cases in these different counties. When you look specifically at the Central Valley, the governor pointed to the fact that they are seeing a positivity rate of closer to 18 percent while the state is staying stable at about 7.5 percent. Obviously that's way too high.

The governor is saying that he's going to send in three strike teams to three different areas of these eight counties in the Central Valley. Keep in mind that this is the part of the state that grows a lot of the food that we eat across the country here. He's saying that we need to go in there and work on those numbers, bring those numbers down. He said this is where you have a lot of the farm workers there. You also have a lot of people living in multigenerational homes. Take a listen to what the governor said about the need to make changes.


GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D), CALIFORNIA: And I remind you what more evidence do you need than that of how deadly this disease continues to be. How deadly this disease continues to be? For some that say otherwise, these points of data and all of the pain and suffering these family members are going through is testament to a different reality and please, let's wake up to that reality.


ELAM: And again, the idea that the economy can reopen if people do their part and wear their masks, socially distance themselves, I'm saying that's where it's difficult there. They're paying for this with a $52 million -- it's going to cost $52 million, they're paying for with a CDC grant to get in there and try to bring those numbers down in this part of the state -- Poppy.

HARLOW: We wish them luck in doing that.

Stephanie, thank you very much. A very dire warning there from the governor.

Let's talk about all of this with Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute.

Doctor, so nice to have you. I'd like to begin on the somber news from Dr. Fauci and his really wide-ranging interview with our colleague Wolf Blitzer yesterday, talking about what needs to happen right now to prevent, you know, thousands upon thousands of more deaths? Here's what he said.


FAUCI: But if you look at the deaths as they're occurring right now, about a thousand per day, unless we get our arms around this and get it suppressed we will going to have further suffering and further death.


HARLOW: If nothing changes in behavior by Thanksgiving, let's say, how many more deaths do you think we will see in America from COVID?

DR. ASHISH JHA, DIRECTOR, HARVARD GLOBAL HEALTH INSTITUTE: Yes. Thank you for having me on. And you know, a couple of months ago I worried and I said that we were on track to hit 200,000 sometime in early fall. I feel like we're still on track to do that. And by Thanksgiving it could be even a higher number. Of course all of this is completely unnecessary. Right? We don't have to go through this. We're going through it because we're just not doing the basic stuff that we need to do to suppress the virus.

HARLOW: One of the key things that can be done to help on the health side, suppressing the virus, but also very much on the economy. If you look at that letter from so many travel executives this week pleading for more rapid testing.


That's what it is for people to know in a reasonable amount of time whether they have COVID or not. And to act appropriately. Well, our Jake Tapper brought this up with the White House testing czar, Admiral Giroir, and then there was this exchange and you came up. Here it was.


ADM. BRETT GIROIR MD, ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR HEALTH, HHS: As I told you, in August we'll have 50 million tests available. If we have pooling, we'll have a little bit more than, but we're not going to have 300 million tests per day.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: Well, nobody is calling for a 300 million tests a day. Harvard is calling for 3.5 million or five million tests a day.

GIROIR: And again, I've talked to Dr. Jha. I've talked to modelers all over the place and they throw up these numbers with very little data support for it and they change tenfold over a period of time.


HARLOW: To note, Jake corrected him that your numbers have not changed tenfold. You've been very consistent on this for the last three to four months. But given he said he talked to you, can you bring us into those conversations if you've had them, and what's your response to what he said?

JHA: Yes. No, look, I have spoken to Admiral Giroir, and here's the bottom line. He thinks that we're doing enough testing, I don't. We should look at the proof on the ground. The question is in the places, in the hot zones, is everybody getting tested quickly and efficiently? If they are, then Admiral Giroir is right. But I think the proof on the ground is that that's not what's happening.

We've been very consistent. One of the things that we have said is when the outbreaks grow, we need more testing. So our numbers have changed as the outbreaks have gotten larger. That's just the basic epidemiology of how this stuff works. I wish instead of arguing with me and other public health experts, Admiral Giroir really spent his efforts trying to make sure that Americans get the testing they need.

HARLOW: Let's talk about the vaccine. Moderna's vaccine this week entering phase three in human trials. 30,000 people involved in this trial. It's fascinating on so many levels the fact that this is different from other vaccines that uses MRNA to basically teach the body how to fight the virus, that never before have we seen this successful MRNA vaccine taken to market so if this works it will change a whole host of things. What are you looking for in the next few months to tell you this works and it's going to work in a majority of people?

JHA: Yes. So phase three, what we're entering with Moderna, with some of the other vaccines, is the sort of -- it's the primetime, it's the real game. Everything until now has been essentially warming up. And what I'm going to now look for is does the vaccine actually work, does it prevent infections, does it prevent severe infections, and is it safe? That, you know, when tens of thousands of people get it, are we going to see any severe effects?

HARLOW: Right.

JHA: How bad are the mild effects, all of that. So that's what we're going to be looking for in the weeks ahead and months ahead.

HARLOW: It was very encouraging to hear Dr. Fauci say they've got a really diverse pool of candidates right now. They've got about 19 percent to 20 percent African-Americans and about the same proportion of Latinos, so relatively proportional to the population which is really critical, right, to see how it works across. But you also have a poll and I will note it's back in May, we just don't have more recent numbers, but it showed that only 49 percent of Americans said they will take the vaccine. 31 percent unsure, 20 percent said no.

How effective can a vaccine be if only half the population takes it?

JHA: Yes, you know, there's an old phrase, vaccines don't save lives, vaccinations do. That you've got to get the vaccine into the arms of people. My feeling is that once we have really solid evidence and data which I hope we will by the end of this year, more Americans will become convinced that it's a good idea to take it. But we've got to really let the science and evidence drive that. We don't want to rush this. And we're not going to try to convince people to take it unless we all feel that it is both safe and effective for a large chunk of the people.

HARLOW: All right. Dr. Jha, we appreciate you and all you do. Thanks for being here.

JHA: Thank you.

HARLOW: Well, Senate Republicans have unveiled their new stimulus plan. We'll tell you what's in it, what it means for those who are unemployed and losing that extra $600 a week. What are they proposing instead and also where did a lot of money for a new FBI building come in this? We'll talk about it.

SCIUTTO: Plus, less than an hour from now, an important hearing you'll want to see on Capitol Hill. The Attorney General Bill Barr set to face a grilling from House Democrats, but based on his opening statement, he's ready to fight back. We're going to speak to one of the Democrats asking questions. That is next.

And Major League Baseball's commissioner trying to downplay coronavirus concerns following a big outbreak on the Miami Marlins team. Is the season as a whole now in jeopardy?



SCIUTTO: The Senate GOP's proposal for a relief plan would cut unemployment checks by hundreds of dollars per week, but could give President Trump's Washington hotel a boost. Democrats say that kind of back and forth is a nonstarter.

HARLOW: And even as some Republicans scratching their head, time is running out, OK, those enhanced checks, extra$600 a week for unemployed Americans they end this week. Let's go to our senior congressional correspondent Manu Raju. And I'd like to begin there on what exactly anyone watching now who has been relying on that money to pay their rent and feed their family should know.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, they don't really know -- we don't really know yet exactly how that's going to be resolved because the Republicans and the Democrats have a significant difference on that specific point. What the Republicans are proposing in their plan is to ensure that roughly $200 a week would be given to people who are unemployed through the new enhanced unemployment benefits, that's down from what, $600 a week that was approved in the March stimulus law.

Now that $200 a week, it would occur for about two months, and then afterwards, that would increase to about 70 percent of wage replacement. So it could be some time before some of those people who are out of work could see some of those benefits kick in. Now, the Democrats have pushed back on that specific point and are saying that much more is needed. [09:20:00]

Now, also, the Democrats and Republicans have much -- have grand different -- vast differences between their two approaches. The Republican plan overall proposes about a trillion dollars in new spending, dealing with helping schools reopen, providing $105 billion for that program, providing an additional money for vaccine research and the like, but the Democratic plan is $3 trillion, a trillion dollars alone deals with money for state and local governments.

And then you get into the specific policies. The Republicans that were pushing for liability protections, for people, for businesses, for health care workers, for education, for schools and the like, to make sure they don't get sued for reopening, the Democrats are not in favor of that approach, want their own protections for health care workers.

So the differences are vast, people are waiting for relief, but the question is when will that be, when the deal will be cut, if it will be cut and what it ultimately will look like. All major questions we're going to continue for days here, guys.

SCIUTTO: Lots of money, lots of Americans watching this. Lots of money at stake. Manu Raju, thanks very much. Well, we're going to have a political showdown on Capitol Hill very soon. At the top of this hour, the Attorney General Bill Barr will testify before the House Judiciary Committee.

Barr is set to attack Democrats in his prepared remarks, accusing them of trying to discredit him without foundation. I'm joined now by Judiciary Committee member, and Tennessee Congressman Steve Cohen, he will of course get to question the Attorney General in just a few moments.

Congressman, thanks so much for coming on this morning. We always appreciate you taking the type. I want to read a brief excerpt from the Attorney General's opening comments here.

He says the following or will say the following. "Ever since I made it clear that I was going to do everything I could to get to the bottom of the grave abuses involved in the bogus Russiagate scandal, many of the Democrats on this committee have attempted to discredit me by conjuring up a narrative that I'm simply the president's factotum who disposes of criminal cases according to his instructions. Judging from the letter, inviting me to this hearing, that appears to be your agenda today."

There's a lot in there. I want to ask you to respond specifically to his charge that there were grave abuses involved in the Russian investigation, and that, that investigation as a whole was a bogus Russiagate scandal. Your response?

REP. STEVE COHEN (D-TN): Well, he obviously didn't read the Mueller report very well. If he would have, he would have seen that Mr. Mueller said there was a systematic and sweeping effort to disrupt our elections by the Russians. That they'd hacked the DNC e-mails, and that he indicted I think 12

Russians for having done so. We also know that WikiLeaks ended up getting the material, and that Roger Stone was connected to WikiLeaks. Based on the commutation, it's pretty clear that Roger Stone could have implicated President Trump as he said he didn't and he could have. He had the information --

SCIUTTO: But we didn't find --

COHEN: Sure --

SCIUTTO: We didn't see from your committee evidence of that or sufficient evidence even from the Mueller report. It appears the Attorney General --

COHEN: We never saw him --

SCIUTTO: Here is speaking specifically about the president's involvement here. Did you make the case credibly that the president was cooperating with Russia in 2016?

COHEN: I don't know that we did because we didn't get to see -- still not seen the unredacted Mueller report. He took great reductions, we -- instead of working like every other Attorney General has with the Judiciary Committee which is like an impeachment -- excuse me, like a -- when sitting as impeachments, it's like a grand jury and should have access to those materials.

Unlike any other Attorney General, he went to court to challenge them and appealed and he's -- I guess, he's hoping to get to the Supreme Court and hopes he gets what he thinks will be home cooking.

But the public has never seen the unredacted Mueller report. We don't know what it will say and without Roger Stone's testimony, and now he's been given a commutation that would have been a key to showing Trump had knowledge of what was going on with the purloined information that went through WikiLeaks. Stone took care of protecting Trump, and that's why --


COHEN: He was convicted by a jury.

SCIUTTO: Barr almost certainly will face questions about the crackdown in response, the demonstrations in Lafayette Square. You remember the images there, the push-back, the batons, the use of tear gas. He has said and others of the administration, this was just about making space to install a new fence there.

As you know, a National Guard major is expected to challenge that account in sworn testimony in another hearing today. Who should Americans believe about the use of force there against those protesters? Barr or the National Guard commander?

COHEN: The National Guard commander and the vast majority of people who were observant and all of us who saw it on television. It was a peaceful demonstration. And if one or two other people might have done something wrong, I don't know, we don't know that they weren't provoked by -- and insiders trying to provoke a riot. But they -- the response was not commensurate with the provocation.


They had 1,500 U.S. people deputized from DEA and park patrol and National Guard and you name it, outside of Lafayette Park and in Washington, and they confirmed that to us in a memo on June the 4th. Barr wanted that park cleared and Trump went right through it with Barr and others to appear at St. John's church for a photo-op. Trump knew that park would be cleared, the reason the park was cleared was for that photo-op.


COHEN: That's the historic spot for protests to happen in our country. It was an abuse of the First Amendment and Barr did it.

SCIUTTO: Let's talk if you can as well about the current negotiations over another stimulus package here. Key question here is extending those $600 a week additional enhanced unemployment benefits, Republicans want to cut that down to $200, notably Steny Hoyer in the house leadership -- Democratic leadership in response to the question as to whether that $600 is a disincentive to work, he says there's some validity to that.

I wonder, are you and other Democrats willing to lower -- to find a middle ground perhaps on that enhanced benefit below $600, but perhaps above the Republican's offer of $200?

COHEN: Representative Beyer has a proposal which I believe I'm a co- sponsor of, that would reduce it over a period of time. Started at $600, gradually reduced it as we hope our economy gets better and people get a chance to get back to work.

There might be some formula in there based on the economy of when it could be reduced, but the bottom line is people need that money to pay their rent, to pay for food, and without it, there will be people on the streets and more people in food lines --

SCIUTTO: Yes. OK, final question if I can, because Dr. Deborah Birx says that your home state of Tennessee is one of the states that is showing a concerning increase in positivity rates and new cases over 10 percent positivity, and infectious diseases terms that's concerning.

Yet, on the same day, the president's retweeting things that question whether mask wearing makes a difference, again touting hydroxychloroquine as some sort of miracle cure, although the data -- the FDA itself is not recommending that.

What's happening here? Can your state protect itself if you have the president denying the science?

COHEN: It's difficult for that to happen. Our governor seems to do what the president wants. He was one of the first states to reopen. He has not had a statewide stay-at-home order. He has exempted religious groups from any stay at home orders, even that locals might have had -- the local governments in the larger communities, the six larger communities have done a pretty good job. Our mayor and Memphis Mayor Strickland has done a good job.

And so we've been better. But a lot of people don't wear masks because they think -- Trump says you don't have to, they think it's macho. They think it's MAGA or something and they're being rude and they're spreading coronavirus when they're asymptomatic to other people.

I was hurt and shocked when I heard that Tennessee might be the explosion point, the next explosion point because our governor is not ordering people to stay at home, to wear masks, to close bars. We need decisive action from --


COHEN: Our governor, we need decisive action from our president. We are seeing people die. This is a crisis --

SCIUTTO: Yes. A wise person said, when you mix politics and science, it becomes all about politics. Congressman Steve Cohen, thanks very much for joining us this morning.

COHEN: Nice to be back with you.

SCIUTTO: Well, an outbreak on the Miami Marlins baseball team prompting COVID concerns not just for baseball, but throughout the sports world as it attempts reopening. Playing games in the midst of the outbreak.

HARLOW: We are also moments away from the opening bell on Wall Street. Take a look there, futures down across the board, investors certainly are going to watch for a second quarter GDP numbers, those come on Thursday and it's expected to be pretty bad. That's the broadest measure of the economy, 34 percent decline. That is what's expected to be the worst since record-keeping started in a single quarter in 1947.

If it falls, the United States would meet the definition of a technical recession and of course, a two straight quarters of declining growth.