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Interview With Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD); Trump Floats Delaying Presidential Election; John Lewis Remembered; Herman Cain Dies from COVID-19; Florida Sets New Record for Virus Deaths for the Third Straight Day. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired July 30, 2020 - 16:00   ET




JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: A somber farewell.

You have been watching the moving burial ceremony for the late Congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis at the South-View Cemetery in Atlanta, Georgia. Lewis passed away nearly two weeks ago. He was 80 years old.


His life and legacy were celebrated and honored in a poignant memorial service that featured remembrances from three former U.S. presidents, including President Obama.

We're going to have more on Lewis' final farewell later in the show.

Welcome to THE LEAD. I am Jake Tapper.

We're going to begin this hour with our politics lead.

With an economy contracting at devastatingly record levels and blistering criticism for his pandemic response, President Trump is today turning to a hallmark of his political strategy, planting or attempting to plant seeds of doubt in the integrity of elections.

You may recall he tried to do this before the 2016 election. Today, the president claimed, with no evidence, that the November election will be rigged, and he also floated delaying the election, though we should be crystal clear on this point. President Trump does not have the authority to delay the election.

Now, after raising questions about those who will attempt to vote by mail, which we should note the president has done for years, the president tweeted that such programs will prompt -- quote -- "the most inaccurate and fraudulent election in history. It will be a great embarrassment to the USA. To delay the election until people can properly securely and safely vote?" -- unquote.

That's on Twitter. Voting by mail, of course, is done for the U.S. military. It's done in

Oregon. It's done in Utah. It's done all over the United States in Democratic-led states, in Republican-led states. The president is saying this with no evidence to back it up.

Now, as to the delay proposal, the Trump campaign is now claiming that the president was simply raising the question, but, nonetheless, a firm rejection of the president's idea achieved quick and resounding consensus in Congress, including from Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, the leading Republican in Congress, who stated that Election Day will be November 3.

The context here for the president's tweet is important. The president is badly trailing in public opinion polls. Millions of Americans are suffering economically. This morning, we got the horrible news that, in the second quarter, the U.S. economy retracted as it never has before.

This, of course, is all because of the pandemic, which has infected more than 4.4 million Americans and killed at least 151,000 Americans, the handling of which the president is getting horrible marks from voters.

So, delaying the election or talking about delaying the election is a change from any one of those awful subjects for President Trump.

And it allows the president to set up an argument, a bogus one, but an argument nonetheless, if he does, in fact have a bad November 3, as CNN's Pamela Brown now explains.


PAMELA BROWN, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): President Donald Trump floating the idea of delaying November's presidential election, something only Congress has the authority to do, as laid out in the Constitution.

The president claiming, without evidence, mail-in voting would cast doubt on the election results tweeting: "With universal mail-in voting, 2020 will be the most inaccurate and fraudulent election in history. Delay the election until people can properly, securely and safely vote?"

To date, there is no evidence that mail-in voting leads to widespread fraud. Both Republican and Democratic lawmakers are responding by saying the election will not be moved.

SEN. JOE MANCHIN (D-WV): It's never been done, Jim, and it never should be done.

SEN. MITCH MCCONNELL (R-KY): Never in the history of the country, through wars, depressions and the Civil War, have we ever not had a federally scheduled election on time.

BROWN: This isn't the first time the president has railed against mail-in voting. DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's very bad, what's

going on with mail-in ballots. I'm very worried about mail-in voting, because I think it's subject to tremendous fraud and being rigged.

If people mail in ballots, there's a lot of illegality.

BROWN: In an attempt to clarify today's tweet, Trump's campaign released a statement, saying: "The president is just raising a question about the chaos Democrats have created with their insistence on all mail-in voting."

Trump even leaving the door open he may not accept the results of the election in a recent FOX News interview.

CHRIS WALLACE, HOST, "FOX NEWS SUNDAY": Can you give a direct answer you will accept the election?

TRUMP: I have to see. Look, I have to see. No, I'm not going to just say yes. I'm not going to say no.

BROWN: Some Democrats are worried Trump is laying the groundwork to cast doubt on the results of the election.

Cedric Richmond asked the attorney general about it this week.

REP. CEDRIC RICHMOND (D-LA): Do you believe that this 2020 presidential election will be rigged?

WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: I have no reason to think it will be.

BROWN: Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden warned about the possibility back in April, saying: "Mark my words. I think he is going to try to kick back the election somehow, come up with some rationale why it can't be held, trying to let the word out that he's going to do all he can to make it very hard for people to vote. That's the only way he thinks he can possibly win."


The Trump campaign immediately released a rebuttal to Biden back then, saying: "Those are the incoherent conspiracy theory ramblings of a lost candidate who is out of touch with reality. President Trump has been clear that the election will happen on November 3."


BROWN: And during his eulogy for civil rights icon John Lewis, former President Barack Obama appeared to take direct aim at President Trump over voting rights.

Here's what he said.


BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: As we sit here, There are those in power who are doing their darndest to discourage people from voting, by closing polling locations, and targeting minorities and students with restrictive I.D. laws, and attacking our voting rights with surgical precision, even undermining the Postal Service in the run-up to an election that's going to be dependent on mail-in ballots.


BROWN: And, Jake, so far, President Trump has not responded to their.

Of course, he is holding in a press briefing shortly, so we will have to see if he responds to what former President Barack Obama said during that eulogy. We should note that we have reached out to the White House for comment as well, and have not heard back -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Pamela Brown at the White House, thank you so much.

Joining me now to discuss is Democratic Senator Chris Van Hollen of Maryland.

Senator Van Hollen, first of all, let me just ask you. I have already seen some conservatives on social media saying that it was inappropriate of President Obama to be talking politics in such a stark way while eulogizing John Lewis. What's your response to that?

SEN. CHRIS VAN HOLLEN (D-MD): Well, that's a lot of nonsense.

John Lewis would have very much appreciated President Obama's eulogy today, because so much of what he was about was ensuring equal justice and equal rights. And you can't have that if you don't have access to the ballot box.

And, of course, John Lewis' first encounter was at the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where he encountered state police, who beat him bloody. And he was organizing a march for the right to vote back in 1965.

So, I think that John Lewis would very much see the dots that connected what happened to him in 1965 with what's happening today and President Trump's efforts to suppress the vote.

TAPPER: Speaking of President Trump, how seriously do you take his comment, his tweet about trying to delay the election?

I know he doesn't have the power to do so. Congress does. But how seriously do you take it?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, Jake, it's an indication of the president thinking once again that somehow he hovers above the Constitution, that he has the power to change the Constitution, or maybe just has never read the Constitution of the United States, because it does not allow him to change the date.

The date is not going to change. It's going to proceed as scheduled.

I see this as a sign of weakness from the president. He knows that the public overwhelmingly disapproves of his terrible handling of the coronavirus crisis. We have been much harder-hit in terms of the health impact, with over 150,000 Americans dead.

The economy is really taking a big hit, much more than it would have to if we had had a plan to deal with the coronavirus. Today's news was annual GDP declining at an annual rate of 30 percent.

So, the president has made a mess of dealing with the coronavirus. And I think he's seen the polls and trying to find a way out. But he's not going to find one.

TAPPER: Well, let me ask you, because the president has -- in that interview with Chris Wallace a few Sundays ago, the president did not say that he would definitely accept the results of the election, which I think surprised a lot of people.

Attorney General Barr was asked this week before the House Judiciary Committee if he would leave office if President Trump lost in November, and he said -- quote -- "if the results were clear."

How concerned are you about a peaceful transfer of power, if -- and that's a big if -- if President Trump does not win in November?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, Jake, those kinds of comments obviously are very worrying.

I think it's a moment where all Republican senators and members of the House need to speak up. We have heard a few voices, but everyone needs to say loudly and clearly not only the election -- that the election will be held as scheduled, but that they will accept the results of the election.

The president needs to know that there's no way out. There's no way to contest the results of an election in November.

He's clearly trying to undermine people's faith and confidence in the system. And I just think it needs to make Americans all the more determined to get out to vote.


And that's what John Lewis would want. And that's why I think it was important that President Obama remind people of the legacy of John Lewis.

TAPPER: Let me ask you on a separate topic, where is the Senate right now on negotiating this next stimulus bill?

Americans, obviously millions of them, are worried about being evicted in August, which comes up on Saturday, about being able to pay their bills if they don't have jobs. Where is the Senate in terms of negotiating with the House and White House in getting something passed so Americans can at least breathe a sigh of relief for at least another few months?

VAN HOLLEN: Well, Jake, it's been just grossly irresponsible for Senator McConnell and Republicans in Senate to run out the clock on these very important protections for Americans, protections against evictions, the unemployment compensation, the additional money each week. And now, we have at the last minute, a Republican proposal that is totally inadequate to meet the needs.

And again, Republicans themselves are divided. We're hearing that, you know, maybe half the Republican Senate caucus won't support any measure to help Americans in trouble.

So, we're kind of in limbo because of their refusal to negotiate in a serious manner. We're still trying. There are ongoing conversations between Speaker Pelosi and Leader Schumer and White House officials.

But Senator McConnell doesn't have his own caucus behind his inadequate proposals. And so, we're very nervous. This is another indication of the total dysfunction of this administration and Republicans in the United States Senate.

And that dysfunction unfortunately has very serious and bad consequences for the American people. That's why I hope they will wake up and do something soon. We're ready to join in any serious solution when they're ready.

TAPPER: Senator Van Hollen, Democrat of Maryland, thank you so much for your time, sir.

A former standout on the campaign trail dies tragically of coronavirus and he attended a Trump rally right before he became ill.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Turning now to our health lead, President Trump moments ago at an event at the Red Cross claimed that the coronavirus situation is heading in the right direction in Arizona and getting better in Florida, despite the state reporting a record number of coronavirus deaths for the third day in a row.

Also today, California announced more than 10,000 new infections in that state. And as CNN's Erica Hill reports, this all comes as the FDA says it could grant quick emergency use for a vaccine once one proves effective.


ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Months into this public health crisis and the United States is moving backwards.

DR. ASHISH JHA, DIRECTOR, HARVARD GLOBAL HEALTH INSTITUTE: This should not be acceptable for the wealthiest nation in the world.

HILL: Florida reporting record number of COVID-19-related deaths for the third state day. Maryland's governor urging residents to avoid the Sunshine State and eight others as he hits pause on reopening.

GOV. LARRY HOGAN (R), MARYLAND: We could either continue making progress and continue heading in the right direction or we could ignore the warnings and spike back up.

HILL: Rhode Island also tapping the breaks, citing rising cases among people at social gatherings. Michigan limiting indoor gatherings to just 10 people and closing indoor service at bars statewide as officials caution the virus is moving quickly into the Midwest and could impact other states in yellow on this map.

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: We believe governors and mayors of every locality would mandate masks for their communities and every American would wear a mask and socially distance and not congregate in large settings where you can't socially distance or wear a mask, but we can really get control of this virus and drive down cases as Arizona has done.

HILL: The FDA could issue emergency use of authorization for a vaccine in a matter of weeks once it's deemed safe and effective.

DR. LEANA WEN, FORMER BALTIMORE CITY HEALTH COMMISSIONER: That doesn't mean everyone in America is going to get the vaccine within weeks of approval. It will be rolled out to health care workers and those at risk and that is going to take time.

HILL: Former presidential candidate Herman Cain who was hospitalized for the virus earlier this month has died. He tweeted this photo of himself at President Trump's Tulsa rally in June and a day before announcing his diagnosis appeared to support the Trump campaign's decision not to require masks at its Fourth of July Mt. Rushmore event. It's not clear where he contracted the virus.

The successful businessman also served as chair of Kansas City Federal Reserve. Herman Cain was 74.


HILL: And as we look at what's happening around the country, there is a real focus, of course, Jake, on sports right now and how things are playing out. CNN has confirmed there are now 19 Marlins who have tested positive for the virus. The series between the Phillies and Blue Jays has now been postponed that was set for this weekend.

But, of course, the NBA set to begin tonight.

TAPPER: All right. Erica Hill in New York, thank you so much.

Joining us now to discuss, Dr. Ashish Jha, director of Harvard's Global Health Institute.

Dr. Jha, good to see you as always.

So, the FDA says that it could issue an emergency use authorization for coronavirus vaccine quickly once the vaccine, if a vaccine shows that it is effective. If that were to happen, how soon after it is proven to be effective would it be available to the public?


JHA: So, Jake, yeah, thanks for having me on.

It really depends a lot on when that happens. So, my best guess it's going to take a while to recruit those volunteers and we're going to have to watch the vaccine for a while.

So, let's say end of calendar year, we get really good data. And let's say it shows it works, it's safe, FDA can offer an authorization pretty quickly. And what we're doing right now is ramping up production. And we may have hopefully tens of millions of doses by then, so as soon as it's authorized, at least health care workers and some other high-risk groups could start getting more or less right away.

TAPPER: The agency, FDA says they are not going to cut corners. Dr. Fauci warned a vaccine could take 12 to 18 months. So this is clearly much quicker than that were it to happen, you know, soon.

Do you have any concerns about how fast, how quickly the process is moving?

JHA: You know, I largely don't. And here's the thing, I do want to make sure once it gets to the FDA, that the scientists review the data carefully and the scientists make a decision based on the evidence. So, I'm a little concerned about making sure that that process doesn't become political, as it did a bit with hydroxychloroquine.

But I think if we let science drive it, I do believe by the end of this calendar year, we should have -- and again, this is should, we ought to see how the trials go, we should have pretty good data about effectiveness and hopefully also about safety. We'll let the science and scientists make the decision, and then sometime in 2021, people will start getting vaccinated.

TAPPER: Dr. Fauci is also warning that the resurgence in coronavirus cases that we've seen across the South and the West in the United States is now moving to the Midwest United States. Today, we saw a record amount of cases in Ohio, the highest amount of cases in Illinois since May. The governor of Wisconsin issued a mask mandate today.

Why is it spreading back in the Midwest where there was a resurge -- you know, there was a spike in April/May. Why is it going back, do you think?

JHA: Well, on some level, this is how the virus works. I mean, the virus is going to be with us even in communities that have it under reasonably well-controlled. If you start kind of letting your foot off the break, and you start letting -- you know, people get out, you start having indoor dining, start opening up bars and gyms, and you don't have mask mandates, you're going to see this.

And that's why I've been arguing that for -- even states that have it under control should really have mask mandates, should avoid bars, should keep restaurants to a minimum as a way to prevent this. I -- I think we are seeing a resurgence of the virus across large parts of the country and I have to say I'm worried about it.

TAPPER: There's also this new study showing that children younger than 5 years old carry between 10 to 100 more times genetic material from the virus in their noses than do older kids or adults.

What's the significance of that?

JHA: You know, there's a lot out there on kids and spread. The thing to caution about is, it's one thing to culture virus and identify loads of virus, we do think it has some relationship to infectiousness. But there's lots of studies that say younger kids are less likely to spread.

So, I looked at the study and saw the data, and said, OK, one more data point. But still at this point, the bulk of the evidence is that younger kids less likely to transmit. Older kids probably like adults sort of transmit about the same as adults.

TAPPER: So, does that change calculus at all for reopening preschools or daycare, kids fifth grade and younger?

JHA: You know, this study doesn't for me. So, it's one more data point. Look, we're still learning. It's not definitive. If we see many more studies, then it might make me change my mind.

But, right now, the bulk of the evidence says because there's a lower risk in younger kids, say, K through 5, my general feeling is we should push harder to get those kids back to school and similarly for preschool. Again, it doesn't mean that we should be reckless. And in hot spots, it's going to be difficult. But in places that have the virus under control, those kids probably can go back safely.

TAPPER: All right. Dr. Jha, thank you so much for your time today. We always appreciate it and your expertise.

JHA: Thank you.

TAPPER: America's economy just hit a terrifying low. What that could mean for the future, next.

Plus, a look at why millions of Americans could be kicked out of their homes unless Congress acts in the next 48 hours.

Stay with us.