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Barr to Testify Before House Panel; Florida Governor Under Fire; Outbreak In MLB. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired July 28, 2020 - 06:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Inviting me to this hearing. That appears to be your agenda today.

Joining us now, CNN political correspondent Abby Phillip.

Abby, look, there are 50 things I think that Democrats want to ask William Barr about today. The investigations involving Russia just one of them, but also matters involving the police at the protests outside the White House, any number of things this morning.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean it actually is really notable how many different, controversial things Bill Barr has managed to put the Justice Department really in -- at the heart of. It's not just the Russia investigation. It's all the different ways in which the Justice Department, in the Democrats' view, seems to be operating at an arm, a sort of almost political arm of President Trump's agenda.

And it's interesting to me to see this kind of language from Barr on the Russia investigation because there hasn't really been sort of an independent view of what happened in the Russia investigation, and yet Bill Barr seems to have already made up his mind about the fact that he thinks that it is completely fake. In fact, using the same kind of language that President Trump has used to try to discredit the men and women of the Justice Department for over three years. So that's pretty telling about where we are.

But beyond that, I mean, in his statement you see him really going, for example, on the issue of racial justice protests, really defending police in many ways, defending the actions of federal officers in cities like Portland. I think you're going to see exactly, frankly, what President Trump wants to see in Bill Barr's protest -- Bill Barr's testimony today.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: Yes, Barr seems loaded for bear, basically, if that opening statement is any indication. And in the past he has not shown up to requests for appearances like this.


CAMEROTA: But this time he, we believe, he's not going to be a no- show. PHILLIP: And you can see why. He has a message to deliver. He is there

to stand up for what he's been doing, to stand up for, frankly, the president's view of the situation, on the Russia investigation, on police, on, you know, we -- he will get questions also about Lafayette Square and what happened there. I think that will be particularly interesting, considering that there is now more evidence that the official word coming down from officials like him and others in the administration was false about what happened in that case.

But, clearly, Bill Barr is showing up because he really wants to put a line in the sand and deliver, in some ways, a performance that is bound to make the president happy, saying that the Justice Department is effectively independent and is doing these things because he -- he genuinely believes that the Russia investigation was founded on, you know, on false premises or what have you. That is -- that happens to also be the view that President Trump has had for several years now.

BERMAN: Yes, and it will be interesting, there is a National Guard official who will be testifying on Capitol Hill that the protesters in Lafayette Park were peaceful and that the officers there used tear gas, something which Bill Barr has denied.


BERMAN: On another matter, Abby, overnight I think we saw proof, at least in my opinion, that the president never changed his tone on the pandemic. I think we saw what was really going on and has never ceased to go on in the president's head, tweeting out messages saying that you don't need to wear masks, tweeting out messages saying -- being very critical of Dr. Anthony Fauci. And then the stuff he flat out said out loud yesterday, that he thinks that governors should open up their states and we'll see what happens. This seems to be the consistent through line of the president.

PHILLIP: Yes, I -- John, you're totally right, there is no change of tone. This is President Trump. This is who he is. But I think we really do have to say, what's going on in terms of the president's Twitter feed last night is irresponsible. He is tweeting out disinformation videos about the coronavirus, disseminating information that is contrary to the advice of the doctors and the medical and public health experts in his own administration, not just about mask- wearing, but also tweeting out videos about hydroxychloroquine as a cure for the coronavirus that are just total bunk science.

I mean this is not -- it's beyond just the president being resistant to masks. At this point, it's on the verge of putting people in danger because this kind of -- this kind of talk is what you usually see in sort of the dark -- the dark web, where people are throwing around all kinds of so-called cures, bleach cures for all kinds of ailments. That's what's happening on the president's Twitter feed, and it's really beyond the pale.

There is a really easy way for President Trump to get his hand -- hands around this issue, and it's just to follow the advice of his own doctors.


Advise people to wear masks. Advise people to stay at home and not go to bars. And yet what the president is really focused on is getting people to take hydroxychloroquine when there is not the proof there that that is a cure or even really an effective treatment against the coronavirus. It tells you where he is, and it's not in a place that -- where he's still willing to listen to the advice of scientists. He's still focused on conspiracy theories. And as long as that's the case, I think we're going to see the same patterns. The American public does not think that the president is handling this well, and I don't think that they're going to take a couple of days of the president holding a mask in his hand, and that's going to erase several months of this kind of behavior.

CAMEROTA: I think you're both wrong. I think that the president does change his tone, but he never changes his position and his real opinion. And so when we hear him at the podium every day for the coronavirus White House briefings, it is a different tone. It's the scripted tone of trying to say the right thing and then the real President Trump comes out at night on Twitter, as we saw last night.

So, anyway, I get to wrap right now on my high note. Thank you. Thanks very much, Abby. Really appreciate it.

PHILLIP: Good to see you.

CAMEROTA: Coming up on NEW DAY, a group of 2016 Trump voters shares how they feel about masks.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You're going to come to my grocery store and use that feeble excuse? Yes, you are. You can breathe fine with a mask.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I cannot. I cannot.


CAMEROTA: OK, they disagree, as you'll hear, John. We're going to get the pulse of the people on coronavirus and the president's handling of it.

BERMAN: And you can see the results of the president's unchanged tone there. Now I get to wrap.

Plus, a prominent Florida mayor slamming the governor of that state over contact tracing as the pandemic continues to savage that state.



CAMEROTA: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis coming under fire for his handling of coronavirus. The state again reporting the most new cases in the U.S. on Monday. Florida's average number of new cases has soared more than 1,500 percent since that state reopened in early May. CNN's Randi Kaye is live in Palm Beach County for us, Florida.

So what is happening on the ground, Randi?

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Alisyn, good morning to you.

Months ago here on the ground, here in Florida, things were looking pretty good. The case numbers were low. Cell phone data shows that people were self-isolating even before the governor issued a stay-at- home order. But then the governor decided to reopen the state in early May. And before we knew it, Florida was the next epicenter of the coronavirus.


KAYE (voice over): On April 1st, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis issued a stay-at-home order, hoping to contain the coronavirus. Weeks later, he took a victory lap while visiting the White House.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): Everyone in the media was saying Florida was going to be like New York or Italy, and that has not happened.

KAYE: Still, trouble here started in early May when DeSantis rushed to reopen well before many other states. Restaurants, gyms, barbershops, and beaches all back in play in most parts of the state. After Memorial Day, the virus was starting to rage. By July 1, there were more than 9,000 new cases reported in one day statewide. And this month, Florida shattered its record with more than 15,000 cases in a single day. But if you listen to DeSantis, there's a disconnect.

DESANTIS: I do think south Florida, you know, is definitely stabilized, and I think Miami is showing some signs of improvement as well.

KAYE: That's just not true, and the data proves it. Since reopening, Florida's average number of daily new cases jumped about 1,500 percent. And dozens of hospitals throughout the state have run out of ICU beds. In hard-hit Miami-Dade County, ICU beds are beyond 140 percent capacity, forcing hospitals to convert regular beds to ICU beds.

In that same county in the last two weeks, another 122 people needed ventilators, more than the previous two-week period. The state's positivity rate is edging toward 20 percent.

MAYOR DAN GELBER, MIAMI BEACH: We are in the midst of a very, very vicious spike in our community in Miami-Dade County.

KAYE: In a scathing letter to the governor, Miami Beach Mayor Dan Gelber called out DeSantis for the unprepared and failed contact tracing response to Covid-19, which the mayor says led to the unconstrained growth of the virus. Mayor Gelber says he needed more than 800 contact tracers when the state reopened and had less than 200. He says tracers sometimes only tracked about 7 percent of those infected over a two-week period. With about 9,000 people hospitalized statewide and more than 432,000

cases, Florida's governor is still resisting a statewide mask mandate, and tension is growing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Shame on you! You are an embarrassment!

KAYE: The governor has long blamed the spike in cases on increased testing and younger people who he says are less likely to die. It's all part of the reason Governor DeSantis has pushed to reopen schools.

DESANTIS: Our kids are at the least risk from this virus and much lower risk than they are from seasonal influenza. Our kids also play the smallest role in transmission of the virus. The cost of keeping schools closed are enormous.

KAYE: Despite what the governor thinks, the Florida Department of Health now shows a 34 percent increase in children testing positive for Covid-19 and a 23 percent jump in hospitalizations in eight days. More than 31,000 Florida children under 18 have been diagnosed with the virus. In all, nearly 6,000 Floridians are dead, and the message from the governor still coming up short.


DESANTIS: There's no need to really be -- be fearful about it.


KAYE: And the governor still continues to paint that rosy picture, pointing out just yesterday that hospitalizations are down, that we have the lowest mortality rate in the nation. He also likes to say how well testing is going at long-term care facilities, testing staff members there every two weeks at 4,000 different facilities.

But, Alisyn, we're getting word of a disturbing outbreak at a facility in Ocoee, Florida, where nearly half the residents have tested positive, 66 residents, 22 of them hospitalized, plus 30 staff members. So that's almost 100 people at this one facility. So despite the governor's bravado and despite what he's saying about this rosy picture here in Florida, it's certainly not the case everywhere.

Alisyn, back to you.

CAMEROTA: Oh, no, that outbreak sounds very bad.

Randi, thank you very much for all the reporting.

So, Major League Baseball postponing games after a coronavirus outbreak with Miami's team. Is - the season is less than a week old. Now is it in jeopardy? We discuss that, next.



CAMEROTA: Major League Baseball postponing three games after more than a dozen members of the Miami Marlins tested positive for coronavirus. MLB's commissioner downplaying concerns.


ROB MANFRED, MLB COMMISSIONER: I don't see it as a nightmare. We built the protocols to allow us to continue to play. That's why we have the expanded rosters. That's why we have the pool of additional players. And we think we can keep people safe and continue to play.



And last night the NFL's commissioner canceled all pre-season games.

Joining us now to talk about all this, we have CNN sports analyst Christine Brennan. She's a sports columnist for "USA Today."

Christine, wow, first of all. Is it true that the Marlins teammates decided they would play on a group text with each other, that's how they decided that it would be safe?

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: That is exactly the story, Alisyn, according to reports. And that is stunning because baseball has a 113-page protocol, and that's not in the protocol. That's not in any of those 113 pages. The thought that a few team leaders can text others and decide, we're going to play, that should have been a decision going all the way to New York, to Major League Baseball. It should have been a decision of the commissioner. We just heard Rob Manfred. The fact that the team can say, hey, we're tough, it's not in our mentality to cancel or postpone or not play, we're going to play, despite the fact they knew they had an outbreak on their team. That's led to these three games already being canceled, two of theirs, one of the Yankees. And -- and the Phillies and on and on it goes. And so you've got to follow the protocols at the very least if you're going to try to pull this off.

BERMAN: Look, this, to me, is such a big story, not just because I'm a baseball fan, but because I think what's happening in baseball is a microcosm of our entire society. In some ways baseball rushing to open in ways that may not be completely safe, and we're seeing the consequences. And you're seeing the discomfort of many -- among many people in this microcosm of society as well. I was really struck by what Nationals Manager Dave Martinez had to say about this and I want to play it for everyone.


DAVE MARTINEZ, WASHINGTON NATIONALS MANAGER: I'm going to be honest with you, I'm scared. I really am. You know, so, I go from here, home, back here every day. That's all I do. I wash my hands. I went from 47 times a day to probably 99 times a day. Wear my mask everywhere I go.

So, I mean, but, you know, there's always -- you know, there's that concern, you know?

(END VIDEO CLIP) BERMAN: That's the manager of the world champion Washington Nationals saying he's scared. And I know there are other players that feel the same way.

BRENNAN: John, as you know, Juan Soto, the star of the Nationals, actually tested positive and then did not play in the home opener. So think about that. There's Davey Martinez, who has a heart condition, and he is around Juan Soto, and who knows who else, for a day or two before they know that -- that he is actually positive and that he, then, Soto, cannot play in that opening game last week. That was, of course, a question and people wondered right then, were the Nationals going to quarantine? And the problem with Major League Baseball is they test every other day and then it can take up to 48 hours to get those tests back from a lab in Utah. So you can have players for four days, potentially, walking around with symptoms, who are positive, and Major League Baseball not knowing about it.

CAMEROTA: And so, Christine, about that 113-page protocol, are they just not following the protocol, or does it not work to wear a mask at all times if you're a professional baseball player? I mean what's the -- how did a dozen of them get sick?

BRENNAN: Right. Well, certainly, it's difficult to wear a mask, but it's not difficult to not high-five or not spit. And these are the recommendations, these are (INAUDIBLE) actually the rules, protocol, which the players have known about now for weeks. And so the fact that they're not following them -- if you've watched -- if anyone watched a game, and I'm sure most of us did, if not curiosity, we were just starved for baseball. And I -- I get that. You know, John, you mentioned your love of baseball. Me, too. We need that escape.

But if you watched any of it over the weekend, you saw players way too close, without masks. They're supposed to be social distancing in the dugout. So all of those things led to the Marlins having this outbreak where basically almost half of their team is out.

Now, they do have an extensive squad of -- taxi squad of replacements that they can bring up. So you can always bring in the AAA team. But -- but is that really baseball? And, of course, it leads to larger questions about not just other sports, but our society as a whole, and do we want 1,500, you know, Major League Baseball, about 1,500 people traveling from one hot spot to another to play a game? That is one of the key questions.

BERMAN: The Marlins were in Miami, and then they were in Atlanta, and then they were in Philadelphia. They played against, you know, multiple teams during that process.


Just think of the contact tracing problems there.

And, again, I'm struck by how baseball's a microcosm here. Twenty- seven-year-old Eduardo Rodriguez, for the Red Sox -- and this isn't me being obsessed with the Red Sox -- but here's a World Series champion pitcher, just 27 years old, who can't play right now because of a heart condition that his doctors tell him came on because he was diagnosed with Covid.

So, again, we are seeing the impact of all this on baseball. It raises questions about how long they will play. And we're just going to have to see.

Christine Brennan, thanks so much for being with us this morning.

BRENNAN: John and Alisyn, thank you very much.

BERMAN: All right, President Trump, overnight, just disseminating false, misleading, potentially dangerous information overnight on the pandemic. We'll tell you what he said, next.




UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The virus is out there still spreading, largely uncontained, over most of this country. We don't have a national plan.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Total hospitalizations remain.