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Trump Admits Failing to Confront Putin Over Russian Bounties; Republican Congressman Tests Positive For COVID-19. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired July 29, 2020 - 16:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: This is the first time Jeff Bezos has been in this sort of hot seat in front of members of Congress, so a lot of -- a lot of eyeballs on him, I know.

Donie O'Sullivan, thank you so much. Good to see you.

And good to be with all of you. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

"THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER" starts right now.

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

We begin with breaking news in our health lead today.

The United States is on the precipice of another grim coronavirus milestone, 150,000 dead in just six months with a brand-new projection today from the Association of American Medical Colleges that hundreds of thousands more Americans could die if the current trend is not stopped.

Hot spot Florida reported today a new single-day record for COVID deaths. Across the country, the daily death toll topped 1,200 for the first time since the end of May. And Dr. Deborah Birx of the White House Coronavirus Task Force is sounding the alarm about worrying trends in what's known as yellow zone states.

Those are states that are seeing between 10 and 100 new cases per every 100,000 people and a positivity rate between 5 and 10 percent. Those states could soon hit the red zone without further mitigation Birx warns; 21 states are reportedly already in the red zone, 28 in yellow. Only Vermont is in the green zone.

Dr. Birx also warns that the virus is largely being spread by young adults in their 20s and 30s, as CNN's Nick Watt reports from COVID-19 hot spot Los Angeles.


NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The U.S. just suffered the deadliest day of the summer so far, 1,244 lives reported lost to COVID-19 Tuesday.

DR. DAVID SKORTON, PRESIDENT AND CEO, ASSOCIATION OF AMERICAN MEDICAL COLLEGES: And if we don't do something to change our course, we will have multiple hundreds of thousands of deaths in this country.

WATT: The Association of American Medical Colleges wants decisive, coordinated action, releasing a detailed road map calling for increased testing, enforcement of reopening criteria, as well as informing and educating the public.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You can look at large portions of our country. It's corona-free.

WATT: That's not true. In all these states, concern is climbing as cases climb. They are dubbed red zone and yellow zone states by the CDC. Only Vermont is green, no deaths in nearly six weeks.

But even Vermont just pushed reopening schools back a couple of weeks. A new study suggests that states that closed schools early in the spring saw significant declines in COVID cases and deaths. The Trump administration wants schools open again ASAP.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: This may sound a little scary and harsh, I don't mean it to be that way, is that you're going to be actually part of the experiment of the learning curve of what we need to know.

WATT: Meanwhile, police will now be patrolling the shores of Lake Michigan after Gary, Indiana, closed its beaches. More NFL players are opting out of the coming season, including six New England Patriots. And Texas is about to overtake that early epicenter, New York, for total case count.

California and Florida already did, case counts right now high, but stabilizing in Florida.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're encouraged in New York. And they have kept it down. Flattening the curve is certainly important, but when you flatten it at a very high level, we are still going to see significant hospitalizations and deaths several weeks down the road.

WATT: Soon, Alaska won't let anyone in from the Lower 48 without a negative test result. The president loves to tout his early travel restrictions imposed on China, but:

DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, CDC DIRECTOR: And by the time we realized Europe threat and shut down travel to Europe, there was already probably two or three weeks of 60,000 people coming back every day from Europe. That's where the large seeding came in the United States.


WATT: And, Jake, just within the past couple of minutes, we have now passed 150,000 people dead in this country from COVID-19. California also just posted what they say is a record daily death toll, 197. And, interestingly, over in Rhode Island, like many other states, they

are blaming parties. The governor there is holding back on reopening for another month. She says it's parties, pool parties, house parties, birthday parties, even a baby shower -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Nick Watt in California, thank you so much.

Joining me now, former Harvard Medical School Professor William Haseltine. He's the author of the book "A Family Guide to COVID."

Thanks so much for joining us.

So, you say there are two different kinds of epidemics going on right now in the United States. Explain what you mean by that.

DR. WILLIAM HASELTINE, INFECTIOUS DISEASE EXPERT: Well, one of the epidemics is the one you were just speaking of, which is young people going out, having a good time. We all understand that.


But then they come back, and they infect the people who they live with. Many of those are old and elderly. That is one epidemic.

And that's very worrying, because the demographic that they're in, maybe their 20s and their 30s, is no different from the adolescent to teenagers, who are about to go back to school. They may not have the effects of this virus as badly as the older generation, but they can infect the older generation.

And we will see that if they go back to school, the high school students, that is. So that's the first one.

The second one is one we have also talked a lot about, which is, in the minority communities, the Latinos, the blacks, other minorities. And many of them don't have any choice but to keep going to work. They are either in essential services or they don't have any other means of support than working. They live in crowded conditions.

They take public transportation. They are exposed to one another in conditions. Those are the two main drivers. There's a couple of others, but those are institutions, our correctional facilities, our mental institutions, our elder care homes, which is a different category.

But that basically is what's happening. We have to treat those a little bit differently. The way you treat the -- and try to prevent the epidemic in those minority communities is different from the way you try to educate people who have the choice not to go out and gather.

TAPPER: All right. So, yes, let's talk about that.

Obviously, the educational component is important, if not laws and restrictions when it comes to people in their 20s and 30s who are spreading this virus because of optional behaviors, parties, going to bars, going to gatherings.


TAPPER: And that is something that the government or they need to do.

What about the people who are disproportionately minority communities, who are in less wealthy communities, who have to go to work, who have to go to places where they get exposed, who have to take public transportation? How do we solve that problem of them getting infected?


HASELTINE: Yes, there are two problems there.

One is those that are in essential services. For those people that are in essential services, doing the things that keep our cities running, keep our -- keep us all safe, we have to do everything we can to keep them safe. We have to reinforce the type of personal protection equipment we give them. We have to be very careful with the way they work and how they work.

Then there's the other group, those people who are mostly in service jobs that aren't really essential, but they need the money, and I think there, a guaranteed income for those groups, we really have to focus on that. We have helped a lot of companies stay in business. But we're not going to get this epidemic under control until we help those people who are working only to feed their families and to keep themselves afloat.

And we can, if we can support our businesses, support them too.

TAPPER: CDC Director Robert Redfield acknowledged that the U.S. was too slow in responding to the virus coming from Europe. And that impacted the ability of the U.S. to fight the pandemic.

This is an argument that Governor Cuomo has been making as well about how New York was disadvantaged because the shutdown on travel from Europe came later than the shutdown on travel from China.

And when I say shutdown, I mean restrictions. Obviously, there continued to be some travel. What's your big takeaway from Redfield's admission today?

HASELTINE: Well, it's not a surprise.

But I would rather focus on what happened a little bit later. The reason we're in the trouble we are now isn't because the virus came here. It's because once -- what we did once the virus got here, and what we are still doing now that the virus is here and is affecting so many people.

We have not done what many countries have done to control this virus. And there are very fundamental questions about why and how. And I think what we have to do now is focus on what it is we need to do. We know the very simple public health measures that we need to take. And I think it's time for us to wake up to say, let's put all of that

in the past, and let's focus on saving the next 150,000 American lives. That's what we have got to do, and the next 300,000 lives that are going to be blighted, as they are the wounded.



So, let's talk about that. So, in addition to, obviously, masks and distancing and washing our hands and avoiding indoor situations, and, in parts of the country where it's dangerous, closing down bars and places where it's dangerous to go inside, in addition to that, what else do we need to be doing?


What does President Trump and -- or Governor Cuomo, what do our leaders need to be doing?

HASELTINE: Well, we have a federal system.

And in a federal system, a lot of the authority rests with the governors of the states and even, in some cases, the mayors of our cities. But, in that situation, you need a leader of a country that speaks in a way that people understand and are persuaded to behave correctly.

You can't order all the things in a federal system, the way we are set up. We are not like many of the European countries. But we count on a responsible leader protecting us. That is the responsibility. Even if they don't have the tools to do it, they have the voice to do it.

And that voice has been missing and I would argue has actually accelerated the epidemic. We have a voice at the center of our government, which is accelerating the epidemic, not controlling the epidemic. And it's time for that to change.

TAPPER: Beyond that, what about more aggressive testing? What about using the Defense Production Act to force labs to hire more workers and buy more equipment? What about contact tracing? What does the government need to be doing there?

HASELTINE: Those are all the things we really need to do, if we're going to drive this not just to a low level, but we're going to push this down to a level where our schools can reopen and we can go back to work.

We need to contact trace. But it's not enough to test and to contact trace. It's, we have to have programs in place to make sure people can safely isolate once they have been identified, so that they don't contact others and they don't infect others.

One of the things that I think is now possible, which is newly possible, is to set up a two-tiered testing system, where the first test you do is a test for antigen, the proteins of the virus. That can capture half of the people. And it can do so within 30 minutes, and it can do so pretty reliably for half of the people.

The others, you test anyway, and you get the results back as fast as you can. But once you have those half of the people or more identified, then you institute programs that allow them to safely and conveniently isolate for a two-week period.

That is what is required. That is how you drive this infection down. And we are not doing that. We just haven't put in the programs to do that. We need the federal aid to do that. And we need the states to activate their programs, so they can do it too.

TAPPER: William Haseltine, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

He has said he does not need to wear a mask, but Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert of Texas just tested positive for the coronavirus. And now Gohmert is questioning if he got it from wearing a mask. He did not, but that's Gohmert for you.

Then: President Trump has talked to Vladimir Putin multiple times in the past few months, seven times, but he has not brought up something that may have cost American lives, and he just admitted it.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our politics lead today, right now, President Trump is in Texas, which is set to pass New York as the state with the third most coronavirus cases in the country. We know that Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert of Texas was supposed to be on Air Force One traveling with the president today. But Gohmert was tested in preparation for that flight, and he tested positive for the coronavirus.

Gohmert has been publicly dismissive about wearing a mask and was seen walking with Attorney General Bill Barr on Capitol Hill yesterday. Neither of them wearing a mask during this period.

CNN White House correspondent Jeremy Diamond joins me now live.

Jeremy, we are just learning now about a second Republican who was scheduled to be with President Trump who has also tested positive for the virus.

JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Jake. And, look, there has long been a double standard as it relates to President Trump in testing. He has lamented the amount of testing, says he wants to slow down testing while at the same time having one of the most robust testing protocols at the White House.

And today, that testing protocol has prevented not one but two Republicans who were set to be with the president today from being in his presence and potentially contaminating him with coronavirus.

In addition to Congressman Louie Gohmert, we are also now learning that Wesley Hunt, a Republican candidate for Texas's seventh congressional district also tested positive as he was on his way to the airport to greet President Trump in Texas.

Now, as far as Louie Gohmert is concerned, Jake, in addition to not wearing a mask, he told our colleague Manu Raju that if I get coronavirus I'll wear a mask. But we know that's just not how it works.


DIAMOND (voice-over): A Republican congressman who has repeatedly refused to wear a mask now testing positive for coronavirus. Hours before he was scheduled to join President Trump on Air Force One.

REP. LOUIE GOHMERT (R-TX): I didn't have any of the symptoms that you see listed for the coronavirus.

DIAMOND: Texas Congressman Louie Gohmert spotted on Capitol Hill just yesterday maskless, walking near Attorney General Bill Barr getting his diagnosis at the White House this morning.

But Gohmert didn't immediately isolate himself. Instead, he returned to his congressional office to tell his staff in person. Some members of Gohmert's staff telling "Politico" the congressman would berate them for wearing a mask and wanted every member of his staff in the office to show what re-opening looked like.


Democrats slamming his conduct.

REP. HAKEEM JEFFRIES (D-NY): I'm concerned about the irresponsible behavior of many of the Republicans who have chosen to consistently flout well-established public health guidance.

DIAMOND: Gohmert isn't owning up to the role his defiance of CDC guidelines may have played in him contracting the virus. Instead, he's blaming mask-wearing without any evidence.

GOHMERT: In the last week or two, I have worn a mask more than I have in the last four months. I can't help but wonder if by keeping a mask on and keeping it in place that if I might've some germs, some of the virus onto the mask and breathed it in. I don't know.

DIAMOND: As for President Trump, he's inched away from his anti-mask stance recently. But he is still focused on promoting a drug scientists overwhelmingly agree is an ineffective coronavirus treatment.

DR. STELLA IMMANUEL, PEDIATRICIAN AND PREACHER: This virus has a cure. It is called hydroxychloroquine, zinc, Zithromax.

DIAMOND: After re-tweeting a video of a fringe doctor making bogus claims about hydroxychloroquine, Trump is sticking by his praise.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There was a woman who was spectacular in her statements about it.

DIAMOND: Even after she was exposed for making bizarre claims about alien DNA and sex with demons.

TRUMP: I think she made sense, but I know nothing about. I just saw her making a statement with very respected doctors.

DIAMOND: And the president isn't just watching the videos. Vice President Mike Pence meeting with the group the doctor belongs to branded as America's front line doctors and propped up by the Tea Party at the White House just yesterday to discuss hydroxychloroquine. There's no evidence those doctors are treating patients on the front lines of the pandemic.

Dr. Anthony Fauci once again reminding the public hydroxychloroquine does not work.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: But right now today, the cumulative scientific data that has been put together and done over a number of different studies has shown no efficacy.


DIAMOND: And, Jake, today, President Trump is focusing once again on those racially charged appeals to white suburban voters. The president tweeting, I'm happy to inform all of the people living their suburban lifestyle dream that you will no longer be bothered or financially hurt by having low-income housing built in your neighborhood, the veil, Jake, as the president makes his appeal to the suburbs where he is losing support, is really becoming thinner and thinner veiled -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Jeremy Diamond at the White House for us, thank you so much.

President Trump did not even ask Russian President Vladimir Putin if he was indeed paying the Taliban to kill U.S. troops. The shocking admission from the commander-in-chief, that's next.



TAPPER: Our world lead now, President Trump himself finally admitting that when he has had the chance to confront Russian President Vladimir Putin on the phone last week or in previous weeks about that U.S. intelligence suggesting that Russia has offered bounties to Taliban terrorists to kill U.S. and U.K. troops, the president says he never brought the subject up.

Here is what he told "Axios" reporter Jonathan Swan.


TRUMP: Frankly, that's an issue that many people said was fake news. JONATHAN SWAN, REPORTER, AXIOS: Who said it was fake news?

TRUMP: We discussed numerous things. We did not discuss that, no.

SWAN: And you never discussed it with him?

TRUMP: I have never discussed it with him, no. I would. I have no problem with it.


SWAN: But you don't believe the intelligence -- it's because you don't believe the intelligence. That's why.

TRUMP: Everything -- you know what's interesting, nobody ever brings up China. They always bring up Russia, Russia, Russia.


TAPPER: CNN has reported that intelligence on the Russian bounty plot was in the president's daily briefing some time this past spring. President Trump has spoken to Putin at least seven times since March. Therefore, has had at least seven opportunities to bring this up.

I want to bring in retired Republican Congressman Mike Rogers who was the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee who is now a CNN national security commentator.

Chairman Rogers, thanks for being here.

You know, obviously, even if the intelligence is disputed, which it is, this is not a slam dunk as has been said. Some people in the intelligence community think this is definitely a real thing. Other people question it.

Regardless, is there any excuse for an American president not raising this with Putin given that they've had at least seven conversations?

MIKE ROGERS, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY COMMENTATOR: Absolutely not. And you could see if the president said, hey, and this was part of a strategy. I don't want to talk about it. I'm going to use the next tier down to go in so you can take the gloves off and really hammer this home.

But what I heard him say was I still don't believe, we're not going to do it, I didn't do it, which means no one's doing it. And that's what worries me most.

Remember, it made it into the president's daily brief. So, even if it was on the edge of maybe but maybe not, it made it into the president's daily brief.