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THE SITUATION ROOM

Operation Warp Speed Chief: Expect Coronavirus Vaccine to be High Effective, "In the 90 Percent" Range; Remembering Civil Rights Icon Rep. John Lewis; Trump Floats Delaying Presidential Election; President Trump Holds Press Briefing; Obama Slams Trump Over Voting Rights as Trump Focuses on Mail-in Voter Fraud; U.S. Cases Near 4.5 million with 151,000+ Deaths, Highest One-Day Death Toll Reported Since May. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired July 30, 2020 - 18:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[18:00:00]

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And they say the projected winner or the winner of the election -- I don't want to see that take place in a week after November 3 or a month or, frankly, with litigation and everything else that can happen, years. Years. Or you never even know who won the election.

You're sending out hundreds of millions of universal, mail-in ballots -- hundreds of millions. Where are they going? Who are they being sent to? It's common sense; you don't have to know anything about politics. And the Democrats know this. The Democrats know this, Steve.

So, I want to see -- I want an election and a result much, much more than you. I think we're doing very well. We have the same -- fake polls, but we have real polls. We're doing very well.

I just left Texas. And Biden came out against fracking. Well, that means Texas is going to be one of the most unemployed states in our country. That means Oklahoma, North Dakota, New Mexico are going to be a disaster. Ohio, Pennsylvania -- disaster. No fracking.

I want to have the result of the election. I don't want to be waiting around for weeks and months. And, literally, potentially -- if you really did it right -- years, because you'll never know.

These ballots are missing. You saw Paterson, New Jersey. You saw many other instances. There's tremendous litigation on that right now.

And that doesn't include absentee. Absentee is different. Absentee -- you have to work and you have to send in for applications. You have to go through a whole procedure.

Like, for instance, I'm an absentee voter because I can't be in Florida because I'm in Washington; I'm at the White House. So, I will be an absentee voter. We have a lot of absentee voters, and it works. So we're in favor of absentee, but it's much different than millions of people.

In California, they're going to send out tens of millions of voting forms. Well, where are they going to go? You read where postmen are in big trouble now. You read where city councils are in big trouble now. Voter fraud, all over the ballots.

So, no, I want to get -- I want to be standing, hopefully, hand held high, big victory, because we're doing things with our country that I think nobody else could have done. Our country is -- despite this pandemic, which is devastating the rest of the world, by the way -- devastating.

One of the articles that came out was, "The World's COVID Resurgence." This is the "Wall Street Journal" editorial -- the main editorial yesterday in "The Wall Street Journal." I don't always agree with them. But they have "The World's COVID Resurgence." Countries hailed as models see -- and then they go, the virus returns at a level it's never -- they haven't even seen.

We've been giving praise to certain countries, and the virus has now come to them like -- like the first time. But it's a very interesting -- and it talks about many countries where everybody was holding them up and saying what a great job they did. Well, it's just one of those things. Didn't work out so well.

So we want to have an election. I'd love to see voter ID, but this is the opposite of voter ID. The Democrats love it; the Republicans hate it. We all agree that absentee voting is good. Mail-in ballots will lead to the greatest fraud.

You know, we talk about Russia, Russia, Russia for two and a half years, and then they found nothing, and there was nothing. But they talk Russia, Russia, Russia. They talk China. They talk all of these countries. They say they get involved in our elections. This is easy. You can forge ballots. This is much easier for foreign countries.

Go ahead, Steve.

QUESTION: But -- but delaying the election is probably a nonstarter. I mean, wouldn't you agree with that?

TRUMP: I just feel -- I don't want a delay. I want to have the election. But I also don't want to have to wait for three months and then find out that the ballots are all missing and the election doesn't mean anything. That's what's going to happen, Steve. That's common sense, and everyone knows it. Smart people know it. Stupid people may not know it. And some people don't want to talk about it, but they know it.

And, no, we want to have an election where people actually go in and -- What's your name? My name is so-and-so. Boom, you sign the book, like I've been doing for years.

It's very, very unfair to our country. If they do this, our country will be a laughingstock all over the world because everyone knows it doesn't work.

How many ballots is he sending in California, as an example? Twenty- eight million or some massive number? Other states are sending out millions and millions of ballots. Well, they've done it. They had experiments. They had news organizations experimenting.

[18:05:05]

And, look, read the story in the Washington Post about mail-in voting; it's a disaster. I'm very surprised to see that story, frankly, from them. The story is a disaster. So we're asking for a lot of trouble.

And, no, do I want to see a date change? No. But I don't want to see a crooked election. This election will be the most rigged election in history.

John.

QUESTION: So, Mr. President, you said that you don't want to see a delay in the election, but then it looks like the process of these mail-in ballots is going to continue to November the 3rd.

TRUMP: Well, we have many court cases, John. We have one that's been filed for a while now in western Pennsylvania, as an example, on mail- in ballots.

QUESTION: So, I'm just wondering, is...

TRUMP: And, by the way, John, we give tremendous examples -- numbers of examples of all the fraud and all of the things that have taken place with respect to mail-in ballots.

QUESTION: I'm just wondering, is the net effect of what you tweeted this morning and what you're talking about now to cast doubt on the results of the November 3rd election?

TRUMP: Well, it's had an interesting impact. I didn't know it was going to be the impact it had. What people are now looking at is: Am I right? But not me. Are all these stories right about the fact that these elections will be fraudulent, they'll be fixed, they'll be rigged? And everyone is looking at it, and a lot of people are saying, You know. that probably will happen.

Please, Jennifer.

QUESTION: Mr. President, to break the logjam in Congress and to prevent that unemployment insurance from lapsing, what do you plan to put on the table tonight? What are you...

TRUMP: Well, it's a great question. I can't tell you, though, because that wouldn't be very smart from a negotiating standpoint. But we'll be putting certain things on the table.

QUESTION: Do you have a plan to put on the table?

TRUMP: We want to get money to people. It wasn't their fault. And we want to get money to people, and it has to be substantial. It's not their fault what happened.

The fact is, people don't like saying it -- they know it's true: It's China's fault. OK? It's not their fault. It's not the worker who lost his job; it's China's fault. And that's the way it is.

OAN, please.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President. Yesterday, DHS came to an agreement with the governor of Oregon to remove federal officers, and Oregon state troopers took over. Mayor Ted Wheeler was noticeably absent from that agreement. Are you confident, sir, that the state of Oregon will be able to quell the protests in Portland? And if the violence does continue, would you consider redeploying federal troops?

TRUMP: So our people have done -- Homeland Security have done a fantastic job. They went to Oregon a little more than a week ago. The place was a mess. The city, Portland, was just a disaster. You see it, and a lot of people weren't reporting it right. They tried to pretend it was a protest, as opposed to anarchists and agitators. You understand what I'm saying. It's a mess.

They went there a short while ago, and they saved a federal courthouse that costs hundreds of millions of dollars. And they put a ring around the courthouse and they saved it. But the group that's there is basically meant to save buildings, and they were very strong, very powerful. And they didn't come out too often out of this cocoon that they built in order to save these very expensive, valuable, and psychologically important buildings -- right? -- like courthouses.

The governor and the mayor, we've been dealing with them, and we think they don't know what they're doing, because this should not have been going on for 60 days. It's not our job unless, in case of emergency -- which I consider now to be an emergency -- it's not our job to go in and clean out the cities. That's supposed to be done by local law enforcement.

Yesterday, the governor worked a deal where they'll do it; we'll stand by, they'll do it -- and that's good. That was very good, but she didn't report it that way. What she reported was totally different. She said, I think Trump wants to take over the country. It's crazy.

So what happened is our people are staying there to see whether or not they can do it today and tomorrow. And if they don't do it, we will send in the National Guard and we'll take care of it. And we're telling, right now, these protesters -- and many should be arrested because these are professional agitators, these are professional anarchists; these are people that hate our country.

We're telling them, right now, that we're coming in very soon -- the National Guard. A lot of people. A lot of very tough people. And these are not people that just have to guard the courthouse and save it. These are people that are allowed to go forward and do what they have to do. And I think that makes the governor's job and the mayor's job a lot easier.

So they're working today and probably tomorrow to clean out this beehive of -- of terrorists. And if they do it, I'm going to be very happy. And then, slowly, we can start to leave the city. If they don't do it, we'll be sending in the National Guard.

[18:10:02]

Please.

QUESTION: Mr. Trump, given what's happening with Major League Baseball and now, today, the Rutgers football team is quarantined, how can you assure people that schools will be safely reopened?

TRUMP: So, can you assure anybody of anything? I do say, again: Young people are almost immune to this disease. The younger, the better, I guess. They're stronger. They're stronger. They have a stronger immune system. It's an incredible thing. Nobody has ever seen this before. Various types of flu will hurt young people more than older people.

But young people are almost immune. If you look at the percentage, it's a tiny percent of 1 percent. It's a tiny percent of 1 percent. So we have to have our schools open. We have to protect our teachers. We have to protect our elderly. But we do have to have our schools open.

Yeah, please. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Mr. President, a week ago, you said: We are in the process of developing a strategy that's going to be very powerful, involving the coronavirus. Where is that strategy?

TRUMP: Well, I think you're seeing it, and I think you will see it. And one of the things that we've done that we're getting -- and it hasn't been utilized fully yet -- but we're all set to march when it comes to the vaccine.

We have great therapeutics that are testing very well, and we have great vaccines from incredible companies -- Johnson & Johnson and Pfizer and Merck...

QUESTION: But (OFF-MIKE) actually slowing the spread of the virus?

TRUMP: ... and all of these great companies, and they're doing very well.

And the delivery system is all set, logistically. We have a general that -- that's all he does, is deliver things, whether it's soldiers or other items. And I think you're going to see something that's going to be spectacular.

The FDA has approved things at a rate that's a tiny fraction of what it would cost -- what it would take during a -- another administration, let's say.

We are way ahead on vaccines, way ahead on therapeutics. And when we have it, we're all set up with our platforms to deliver them very, very quickly. The vaccines are doing well, the therapeutics are doing well, and we're all set to deliver them as soon as we have them, and that's going to be very soon.

Thank you very much. Thank you.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: All right, so the president answering a few questions from reporters at this White House briefing, opening up with a lengthy written statement that he was reading on the coronavirus, but then moving into other issues.

Kaitlan Collins is watching all of this closely, our White House correspondent.

Kaitlan, I want to get into the coronavirus and all that in a moment, but the president clearly suggesting he's ready to try to delay the November 3 presidential election, even though he can't do it. It's up to Congress, according to the Constitution, if they want to delay the election.

But he's making the case that, if there's a lot of voting by mail, it's going to be fraudulent. He doesn't want to have to wait for any delay in getting the outcome of the election. He's holding pretty firm on this, even though so many of his Republican friends up on Capitol Hill are telling him this is a nonstarter, you can't do this.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes.

And, Wolf, it kind of sounds like he's heard that reaction on Capitol Hill from people who are normally his allies, being pretty blunt and saying that that's not going to happen, the election is going to happen on November 3, because, when he was asked to explain that tweet that he sent out this morning, he then started talking about having to wait to find out who won the election if there is mail-in voting, talking about how long it would take to tally the votes to go through those ballots.

And that was the argument that he stayed on as he was talking with reporters there, instead of defending his tweet suggesting openly that he wants to do something that legally he cannot do.

So, he is trying to continue to sow doubt about mail-in voting, even though, increasingly, more officials have been trying to turn to that, Wolf, in case the pandemic is still raging like it is now. And so that was really what he was doing. He was saying that he worried there would be hundreds of millions of fraudulent ballots.

Of course, I think there was about fewer than 200 million Americans voted actually in the 2016 election, but the president there was -- kept sowing this doubt about this mail-in voting, Wolf.

And it makes me think of those Republicans who have said they fear that the president is going to sow much doubt about it that, when -- if that it actually does happen, that it actually hurt Republican turnout then because it's not as many Republican voters sending in their mail-in ballots.

So the president continuing to make that argument, Wolf, as he was talking about COVID-19, and focusing on how it's surging in other countries, instead of talking about what's happening here in the United States, and really trying to kind of dismiss the surges that we have seen happening here in the U.S., even though the numbers that are happening here are just so much higher than you're looking at the countries that the president was comparing the United States to. BLITZER: Yes, that's an important point.

And, John Harwood, let me get to that point with you, the president making it sound like the rest of the world is in so much worse shape as far as coronavirus is concerned, as opposed to the United States. Yes, there's a lot of problems Brazil, some of the other Latin American countries, but he points to Israel, Japan and Australia right now, where the numbers are tiny, tiny.

[18:15:00]

Yes, there's been an increase. There's a lot of concern in those countries, but compared to what's going on here in the United States, it's nothing.

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Right, but I think he was using those other countries, Wolf, as a kind of a shield.

I think we just heard from a president who has been beleaguered and beaten down. He did not have the usual edge to his bluster. He went on a riff about, well, other countries are getting it too, it's China's fault, it's only hitting a tiny percentage of the population, even the popular governors have seen things go in the wrong direction, a sort of extended, it's not me, it's not my fault kind of riff.

And I thought that was striking. He woke up to the news this morning that his ally Herman Cain, somebody who had gone to that Tulsa rally, appeared without a mask, later contracted coronavirus. Don't know where he got it, but he had a long battle in the hospital, and he passed away today. That had to have hit the president hard.

And I was struck by how some of the wind seemed to have come out of his sails today, even when he was talking about the economy, saying, well, we think it's going to come back, we hope it's going to come back. Obviously, the economy's in very difficult strait. We got terrible economic news, affirming terrible economic news.

We already knew we'd had a terrible second quarter. But it now looks like we're going to have a hit to the jobs numbers next week. And I think the president recognizes that the news is pretty bad across all fronts. And one of the crystallizing moments for that was when he was asked, in light of the setbacks with major league sports, baseball having to cancel games because of cases on their teams, he said, can you reassure Americans they can safely reopen schools?

And he said, can you really reassure people of anything? That struck me as a man who knows he's not in control of events right now, Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, he opened with a very nice statement expressing deepest condolences to Herman Cain, which is totally appropriate. He didn't utter a word about Congressman John Lewis.

He certainly could have said something about the late congressman who was buried earlier today down in Atlanta.

I want to bring in Sanjay. Dr. Sanjay Gupta is with us as well. Sanjay, I don't know if the president really appreciates, yes, kids

are less vulnerable. They can be asymptomatic or have very minor symptoms. But they can -- especially if they're 10 and older, according to one study from South Korea, they can pass along this virus to their parents, their grandparents, other adults with underlying health conditions as easily as adults can transmit this virus.

I don't know if the president appreciates that.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: No, I think that that's -- that's the critical point here.

I think what has held up since we looked at the initial sort of early data from Wuhan is that young kids in particular do seem less likely to get ill or certainly seriously ill from that. And, by the way, that is different. You think about flu virus, and typically it's the very young and the very old that are the most likely to get sick.

So this is -- this virus, this respiratory virus, does behave differently than other respiratory viruses. But, Wolf, you're absolutely right. It was a really interesting, well-done study out of South Korea. They did contact tracing, where they actually traced these, in that case, kids of all these different ages, and found kids 10 and older were just as likely to transmit the virus as adults.

That's the big concern, because adults may be teachers, faculty, parents, grandparents. As far as kids younger than 10, Wolf, there was a new study today saying that they have a lot of virus still, even in younger kids, that is located in their mouth and their nose. That's what they're seeing on these studies.

So they have the virus. They're harboring it in their nose and their mouth, and it's still not entirely clear just how much younger kids spread it.

Keep in mind, Wolf, kids, especially young kids, have largely been at home in this country and many countries around the world, since March. So we don't have a lot of data on younger kids. And I think that's part of the issue here.

The way that we're going to find out, I think, is as kids start to return to school in some areas, you may -- you have got to worry about the fact that there may be some outbreaks, and how are you going to control those?

BLITZER: And let's bring Gloria Borger into this conversation as well.

Let's get back to the president's suggestions that maybe it's necessary to delay the November 3 presidential election because he says, if there's a lot of voting by mail, it will be fraudulent, it'll take a long time to determine, might take as many as years to determine a winner. He doesn't want to see that happening.

It sounds, Gloria, like he doesn't know there are a whole bunch of states that have been doing voting by mail for a long time, including a state like Utah, for example, Oregon. And a whole bunch of other states have a lot of voting by mail.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Right.

BLITZER: And at a time of coronavirus, when people are afraid to go, let's say, to a voting booth, wait in line, voting by mail has been very effective and not controversial over many, many elections.

[18:20:03]

BORGER: Well, and these are a lot of red states too, Wolf, that have a lot of voting by mail.

Look, this is a president who doesn't want to admit that it's gone very well in those states. And if you take a step back, what we heard today was kind of stunning, because from the podium at the White House, you had a United States president deliberately undermining the potential results of a presidential election.

Think about that. In advance of the votes being cast or counted, the president is saying it's going to be rigged. It's going to wind up in court.

And I agree with what John Harwood was saying. This is a president who seems to feel demoralized when you heard him today. He read the statistics with all the enthusiasm of somebody reading the phone book today. And he didn't disavow entirely the case he made about wanting to delay the election. He said, sure, I don't want to delay the election, but just understand that it's going to be rigged.

So he's setting the country up right now for more divisiveness, not to accept any kind of president -- any kind of results in this election. And one more thing, Wolf. He said, I want to know what the result is going to be on election night. I'm not going to wait around, sounding like, well, he wanted to have his party or he wanted to go home, one way or the other, even though Republicans and official Republicans in the campaign have said, look, we understand that we're going to have to wait in some states, but not the president.

He wants to know -- just like the good old days, he wants to know that night and find out what it is. Otherwise, as he hinted, you know what, it's a mess. It's going to wind up in court. It's going to be litigated. It's going to take years.

I mean, it's kind of stunning that, from the White House, he is telling this to the American people from that official podium.

BLITZER: Yes. I mean, he doesn't seem to remember, in 2000, Bush v. Gore was a very close contest in the state of Florida.

(LAUGHTER)

BLITZER: That was litigated. And it took a month for it to wind up at the Supreme Court. And Bush won the election. That was -- that was -- it took a month.

I don't know if the president remembers that we couldn't project a winner.

BORGER: But that was 500 votes. That was 500 votes in the state of Florida, if you will recall.

(CROSSTALK)

BLITZER: They had a little discussion about that before the U.S. Supreme Court, and finally Bush was elected president.

It took a month to determine that, absolutely.

Let me go back to Kaitlan, because she was watching all of this so very, very closely.

Kaitlan, he did come out without a lot of energy, reading a statement that was clearly prepared. And I don't think he necessarily appreciates how awful the U.S. economy is right now, these numbers from the Commerce Department coming in today that, on an annual rate, 32.9 percent collapse of the economy in the second quarter from April through June.

Another 1.4 million Americans just last week had to apply for unemployment. Millions of Americans right now are in deep trouble. And he's suggesting, well, it's going to have a huge rebound, it's going to be great. Right now, it's terrible.

COLLINS: Yes. And there's no bounce in sight.

I mean, looking at those numbers about the economic output and how it dropped, and also talking about unemployment numbers, which did not change for two weeks -- it didn't even go down a little bit -- that's raising a lot of concern for people.

And, of course, Wolf, one thing that president did note is the fact that Congress is still in a deadlock over what to do about this next coronavirus relief bill, those millions of Americans who are going to lose their enhanced unemployment benefits starting tomorrow.

And now the Senate has adjourned. They're not going to come to any kind of conclusion. The chief of staff, Mark Meadows, is up on Capitol Hill. He's not signaling any optimism either.

And that's very concerning because this actually affects people's day- to-day lives. And what you heard the president lay out there, what he was suggesting, extending what the White House wants to see in that bill, is really what we heard the president say 24 hours ago, yesterday morning, when he was leaving the White House.

And so that hasn't changed. It doesn't appear that needle has moved in any. But, Wolf, you were talking about the president being here at the White House. He was talking about his friend Herman Cain, who passed away.

He did not mention, we should note, the fact that Herman Cain had recently attended one of his own rallies, an indoor rally in Oklahoma, where a lot of people were not wearing masks, and they were shouting and chanting.

And, of course, so many people tested positive for coronavirus after that. But he also did not get asked about what his predecessor said today, Barack Obama, at the funeral for John Lewis as he was eulogizing him, where he had some pretty stinging attacks on President Trump and what he's been trying to say about mail-in ballots and about voting rights.

He was really lashing into the president. And Trump did not get asked about that, which I thought was pretty notable, because he was the only living president not to attend that funeral today.

[18:25:00]

Bush spoke, President Obama spoke, and President Clinton spoke. Jimmy Carter was not there, because he's not traveling for health reasons. But it was really striking to see President Trump not be at that funeral speaking next to those other presidents, and instead is here back at the White House, and did not comment on John Lewis' funeral at all today.

BLITZER: Yes.

And, John Harwood, it was -- the words of the former President Barack Obama at that funeral, he didn't mention the president by name, but it was clear who he was addressing those words to, at one point saying: "Even 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 to an election that is going to be dependent on mail-in ballots, so people don't get sick."

They will get sick in the middle of a coronavirus pandemic, if they have to go to polling stations and wait in line with a lot of people around there on Election Day, November 3. Potentially, it's very, very dangerous.

HARWOOD: Well, there's no question about it.

And the -- President Obama's words were incredibly stinging today. He invoked the specter of Bull Connor and George Wallace, who were racist figures who were involved in -- on the wrong side of the civil rights movement, trying to stop integration, trying to stop voting rights, the violence against protesters then.

And that has incredible weight at this moment, because you have a president who's running a campaign of naked racism. He yesterday revoked a fair housing regulation, and linked it, fair housing, that is, racial integration, to crime and low-income people.

He's tweeted out a white -- somebody saying "white power." This is stuff that would be jolting even in John Lewis' era, but now it is incredibly out of step with where the American people are. And I think that's why it contributes to the president's sense of being beleaguered, because he's trying all these things. They're not working. They're not resonating with the American people.

And I think he knows it. Also, on the negotiations with Congress, his language about the impasse shows that he understands that he's on the short side of public opinion in terms of getting aid to people, unemployment assistance and other assistance.

He tried to contrast what he's doing with the crazy ideas of Democrats, but the reality is, much of the Republican Caucus doesn't want to do anything right now. The administration wants to do something, and the Democrats want to provide more help. They have got the leverage.

Don't know how it's going to work out. Some compromise will be struck, but he's fighting from behind on that issue as well.

BLITZER: All right, Gloria, stand back, because I want to play a little bit of what we heard from the former President Barack Obama at the future today for John Lewis. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Bull Connor may be gone, but, today, we witness with our own eyes police officers kneeling on the necks of black Americans. George Wallace may be gone, but we can witness our federal government sending agents to use tear gas and batons against peaceful demonstrators.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: We may no longer have to guess the number of jellybeans in a jar in order to cast a ballot, but, even 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.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: Very strong words, Gloria, from the former president of the United States.

You don't see him out there publicly attacking the president of the -- the current president of the United States the way he just did today.

BORGER: Right.

And I think you're going to see more of it, quite honestly, as we head into the fall election. And I think that is probably one reason that President Trump came out there today, and so strongly talked about the rigged election and how you can't trust these mail-in ballots.

At the same time that Barack Obama and everyone else is saying, you have to get out there, you have to vote, they cannot suppress the vote, they cannot keep you from voting.

[18:30:05]

The president is somehow saying, well, if you vote, just understand that this is a rigged election, which is why some Republicans objected this message.

And let me add one thing to what John was saying. I believe that this is a president who has thrown everything up against the wall that he can. He's tried to do a rerun of the 2016 election. He's tried to use cultural issues. He's tried to use the wedge issues in the way that he did in 2016. And his poll numbers keep going down because what people care about is the leadership right now in terms of the pandemic. And what he has been unable to prove is that he can lead.

So as a result of that, he is resorting to saying, well, it doesn't matter because the election is going to be rigged before any votes are cast or counted. So I do believe that this is a president who is somehow understanding, coming to a sense of reality, looking at the polling, and trying to figure out what way he can do, what he can do to carve out an electoral victory somehow and get the states that he needs.

And so if one thing works with a little of his base and if something else works with another piece of his base, it doesn't really matter to him that what he is doing by talking about the rigged election could actually hurt control of the Senate for Republicans. And that's what Republicans are telling him, but he doesn't want to hear about it because that is not his concern. His concern is his own electoral victory.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Yes. I mean, he is obviously looking at all of the public opinion polls out there, national polls, the polls in key battleground states which showed that he is in deep, deep trouble right now with only about 90-plus days to go until the election. But there's a lot of early voting coming up as well.

Sanjay, let's talk a little about coronavirus, what the president is saying, suggesting that, you know what, we tried to close down the country, it really didn't work that well because look what's going on right now. And it was unclear to me whether or not he was really appreciative of the fact that there's been a real failure in the United States, more than 151,000 Americans have died over these past five months or so, almost 4.5 million cases, so many hospitalizations. It is unclear if he appreciates what an enormous failure there has been in dealing with this coronavirus over these months here in the United States, Sanjay.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes. I mean, you can just look at the right side of the screen. I mean, 25 percent roughly of the world's infections have occurred here in the United States. And we're not even 5 percent of the world's population. So, I mean, it just goes without saying that this has had a significant toll in the United States.

Wolf, I mean, we talked a lot about testing and talked a lot about the numbers, and rightfully so. But it's worth pointing out, Wolf, going back to February and then even into March, there was a lot of lost time there, Wolf, when we really weren't doing any testing at all. And, overall, there was a sense that this was being minimized, it is going to go away on its own. You remember all that language.

But, Wolf, what was happening during that time is the virus was continuing to spread. So the reason we need more testing in this country is because the virus spread sort of unchecked for several weeks, more than a month, probably. And as a result we've never been able to catch up with the amount of testing that is needed to actually make an impact.

The reason you do testing, Wolf, obviously, people want to know if they have coronavirus. But from a public health standpoint, you do testing so that you can find people, isolate them, quarantine their contacts, all of the things that we've been talking about more months. We're still here now at the end of July unable to do that and I think partly it is because we have minimized this pandemic in the United States since the very beginning.

And tough to say this, but even at the end of July, we're still sort of minimizing it. We're not worried about certain institutions being open, bars, restaurants, you know, nobody is saying that we necessarily have to close down the entire country all over again, but the idea that the virus is still spreading unchecked is very real, Wolf.

BLITZER: And more than a thousand Americans, Sanjay, are dying every day. Like, yesterday, 1,403. they're dying, mothers and fathers, brothers, sisters, sons and daughters, they are dying more than a thousand a day. And the president seems to be suggesting, well, a vaccine seems to be right around the corner, therapeutics right around the corner, it's all going to be fine. But before any of that, really, is implemented, and we hope it is soon, let's hope it is soon, tens of thousands of more Americans potentially are going to die.

[18:35:03]

GUPTA: Yes. It's really tough to imagine. But you think you've got 150 days roughly left in the year, and the death toll, as you mentioned, Wolf, a thousand people a day. So, you are talking about doubling numbers on the right side of the screen, going to possibly 300,000, which are now what some models are suggesting, sadly people that will die by the end of the year.

Wolf, we talked a lot about the vaccine, we talked a lot about therapeutics. When it comes to the vaccine, I mean, people are hopeful, obviously, there's a lot of people who want to take this vaccine. But I think it is important to set expectations, not just in terms of whether we will or will not have a vaccine. We still don't have an answer to that question.

But it's not going to be a switch that suddenly flips on the day a vaccine is announced. I mean, first of all, it will take a long time to get people vaccinated and may require more than one shot, we don't know how effective this vaccine is going to be, we don't know how long it's going to last. That's the stuff that we still have to figure out. The good news potentially, Wolf, is that even without a vaccine, we have seen countless examples around the world where societies have returned to a significant state of normalcy without a vaccine, without any magic therapeutic, by wearing masks, by maintaining physical distancing, all of the things that sound maybe smaller than the idea of a therapeutic or a vaccine but can make a huge difference.

BLITZER: Yes, it certainly can. All right, I want everybody to stand by. There's a lot more we are following and all the breaking news.

An important note to our viewers, be sure to join Dr. Sanjay Gupta and Anderson Cooper for another CNN global town hall, Coronavirus, Facts and Fears. Dr. Anthony Fauci and Assistant Secretary of Health Admiral Brett Giroir are among their special guests later tonight, 8:00 P.M. Eastern, only here on CNN.

Just ahead, new dangerous signs here in the United States right in the heartland where multiple states may be at risk now of becoming pandemic hot spots.

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[18:40:00]

BLITZER: We're following the breaking news on the coronavirus crisis here in the United States as the number of cases, confirmed cases in the U.S., nearing 4.5 million, with more than 151,000 deaths.

Let's go to our National Correspondent, Erica Hill. Erica, there's a brand new projection actually out there on coronavirus deaths in the U.S. What are you learning?

ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Wolf. This is coming from University of Washington. This IMHE model that we've talked so much about over the last several months, one that the White House often cited, they are releasing now a new estimate that by November, there could be 230,822 deaths in the United States from COVID-19. That number has gone up from its last estimate, the last projection that we got just about a week ago, gone up by about 11,000 deaths.

Why is it rising? They say part of it is that the infection numbers are rising. There's increase in infection. But it's also because people aren't wearing masks, they're not social distancing and they're not practicing these simple mitigation measures that can really make a difference.

Researchers going on to say yet again that if 95 percent of the population in this country would simply wear a mask, that could have an incredibly important impact. And that's something we are hearing from officials across the country.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HILL: 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: COVID-19 related deaths in California topping 200 for the second day in a row as Florida reports a record number for the third straight day. But it's not just the south and west causing concern.

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: So now we see the virus probably because of vacations and other reasons, travel moving up into Kentucky, Tennessee, Southern Ohio, Missouri, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska.

HILL: Maryland's governors urging residents to avoid travel to several hot spot states to help stop the spread.

DR. JODIE DIONNE-ODOM, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR INFECTIOUS DISEASES, UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA AT BIRMINGHAM: In Alabama, we're at 19 percent test positivity. In Texas, 12 percent test positivity. And that number means that there's a lot of infection that we're still not picking up.

HILL: Michigan limiting indoor gatherings to just ten people, closing indoor service at bars statewide as more states link arise in cases to social gatherings and to young people.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I think there's somewhat of a misperception. Some people feel it is binary, either you got nothing or you get so sick you're in the hospital and or you die. It's absolutely not the case. And that's one of the things that's confusing particularly to young people who think, and the statistics kind of favor that, that they're somewhat invulnerable, which they're not.

HILL: Dr. Birx doubling down on masks.

BIRX: We believe the governors and mayors of every locality now would mandate masks for their communities, and every American would wear a mask and socially distance, and we could really get control of this virus.

HILL: As Americans wait, the losses are mounting. Unemployment claims up for the second week in a row. The U.S. economy posted the worst drop on record. Rent and mortgage payments are due, and the $600 weekly supplement expires tomorrow.

DR. JEFF SMITH, COUNTY EXECUTIVE OFFICER, SANTA CLARA: The recovery from the economic damage if we get the virus under control will be a long-term recovery.

HILL: Meantime, the FDA says it could issue an emergency use authorization for a vaccine in a matter of weeks once it's deemed safe and effective. Though experts note, this is not an immediate solution.

DR. LEANA WEN, FORMER BALTIMORE CITY HEALTH COMMISSIONER: It still will be only rolled out to, let's say, healthcare workers and those most at risk and then it's going to take time.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[18:45:07]

ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Speaking of time, some fascinating information. Some research coming out of the University of Texas, the MD Anderson Cancer Center, researchers looked at social distancing measures around the U.S. but also in 134 countries. And what they found, Wolf, is that just two weeks of social distancing actually reduced the spread by 55 percent globally, preventing 1.5 million new cases.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Erica Hill reporting for us, thanks very much.

Now to the coronavirus crisis in Florida right now. The school year begins in just a few weeks.

We are joined by superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, Alberto Carvalho.

Alberto, thank you so much for joining us. I know you got a lot going on right now.

You just heard the breaking news, the University of Washington medical school projects there will be 230,000 plus, 230,822 U.S. deaths from coronavirus by November. That's up from last week's forecast of 219,000 deaths.

What's your reaction to these sobering projections, 151,000 Americans so far have died?

ALBERTO CARVALHO, SUPERINTENDENT, MIAMI-DADE COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS: As an American citizen, as a father, as a member of this community, I have to be appalled because I have to believe some of the deaths were absolutely preventable.

Look, Wolf, I think that's why we made a decision that we made yesterday. With increased mortality, with increased morbidity in our community, specific to COVID-19, with a positivity rate close to 18 percent, we made the difficult but prudent decision of actually delaying start of the school year by one week and starting 100 percent online, because we protect and prioritize the well-being and health of our students and our work force.

BLITZER: You heard the president over at the White House, Alberto, pushing very hard for all the schools to reopen as quick -- you know, immediately basically, even as there's a new record for coronavirus deaths in your state, Florida, that's happening, what, three days in a row right now. And as you point out, you decided to delay reopening schools in Miami-Dade County out of safety for the kids, right?

CARVALHO: It's the right decision at the right time considering the circumstances here locally. Look, as I said, when you look at the ICU capacity in our local hospitals, the number of hospitalizations, the positivity rate, which is at 18 percent, when the recommended minimum acceptable rate for return to school is 10 percent, towards 5 percent, and knowing that the clock is running out. Our first day of school was scheduled to be August 24th, we are less

than a month way, and statistical probability that those numbers, that that curve would reach a point that would be safe for us to return students and teachers back to the classroom became really unreasonable.

So, we made the right decision. We're going to start the school year one week later, August 31st. It will be through a robust single platform but online. We'll reassess conditions weekly.

And then, hopefully, if conditions are better, we will resume physical schooling towards the end of September, but not before we consider the science and local conditions here in Miami-Dade.

BLITZER: What was your reaction? You just heard the president repeat a threat to public school systems like yours, for example, if you don't reopen schools, federal money is going to be given to the parents so that they can send their kids to private schools or parochial schools, and take them out of public schools that aren't fully reopened for in class learning.

When you hear that from the president of the United States, Alberto, what do you think?

CARVALHO: Well, I think that statement ignores the regional differences across our country. I know many districts are at positivity rates less than 5 percent.

Here in Miami, we're facing a crisis. We are one of the hottest spots not only in the country, but in America. Let me make this clear, most of the federal money we receive targets kids who were in crisis before COVID-19, poor kids, students with disabilities, English language learners.

Should we deepen the crisis for them by depriving them of the federal entitlement dollars that they should receive? I think not. And I believe there will be enough people in Washington and even in our own state who will protect those fragile children, and will allow them to receive the federal funding they're entitled to.

BLITZER: I suspect you're 100 percent right. Alberto Carvalho, Miami- Dade public school superintendent, thanks so much. Good luck. I know you got to err on the side of caution. You're dealing not only with the health of the kids, the teachers, everybody else who works at the schools. But the president seems to forget that even young kids who are asymptomatic, they can pass on the virus to their family, their friends, and their neighbors, their grandparents, and their parents.

[18:50:06]

Alberto, thanks for everything you're doing.

CARVALHO: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: And we have more breaking news coming into THE SITUATION ROOM right now on prospects for coronavirus vaccine here in the United States, and whether it will be safe and effective.

Let's go to our senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen.

Elizabeth, you're getting new information. What are you learning?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I sat down today with Dr. Moncef Slaoui, he is head of Operation Warp Speed, the federal government's multibillion dollar effort to develop COVID-19 vaccines.

And I asked him, you know, vaccines, different vaccines have different levels of efficacy. How effective do you think a COVID-19 vaccine will be?

Let's take a listen to his answer.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

COHEN: Some vaccines are 97 percent effective. Others are 60 percent effective. Where do you think we're going to fall with the COVID vaccine?

MONCEF SLAOUI, CHIEF ADVISER, OPERATION WARP SPEED: I think this vaccine is going to be highly efficacious. I wouldn't be surprised if it's in the 90 percent. I think the question that's open is for how long will the vaccine afford efficacy?

This is something that we will learn as we go. It's possible we will need to have a booster, a recall immunization every year or every two years or every three years.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

COHEN: Now, I also asked Dr. Slaoui about the timeline for the vaccine and he did it sort of in stages. He said that he expects by December of this year or January of next to have tens of millions of doses for high risk Americans, in other words people with underlying diseases or the elderly. And then he said he is optimistic by the end of 2021, we'll have enough vaccine for all Americans. He said ideally he wants to have a vaccine for all Americans by the middle of next year -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Yes, in the meantime a lot of Americans, a lot of people around the world are going to die.

Elizabeth Cohen, thank you very, very much.

Just ahead, we're going to have more on the tributes from four former U.S. presidents and others honoring the long time congressman and civil rights hero, John Lewis.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BARACK OBAMA, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You know, sometimes, Rev, we --

(END VIDEO CLIP)

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[18:56:48]

BLITZER: Tonight, Congressman John Lewis has been laid to rest after a moving service at Atlanta's historic Ebenezer Baptist Church. Four former U.S. presidents remembering the late civil rights icon, capping off a week of tributes, honoring his truly remarkable life.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

(SINGING)

REV. RAPHAEL WARNOCK, SENIOR PASTOR, EBENEZER BAPTIST CHURCH: He loved America until America learned how to love him back.

GEORGE W. BUSH, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: In the America John Lewis fought for, in the America I believe in, differences of opinion are inevitable elements and evidence of democracy in action.

WILLIAM J. CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We got our last letter today on the pages of "The New York Times." Keep moving. It is so fitting on the day of his service, he leaves us our marching orders. Keep moving.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): It was a double rainbow over the casket. And for us, it was -- we waved good-bye when he started to leave us. He was telling us -- he was telling us, I'm home in heaven.

REV. JAMES LAWSON JR., ACTIVIST AND TEACHER IN NONVIOLENT ACTION: At an early age, we recognize the wrong under which we were forced to live, and we swore to God that by God's grace, we would do whatever God called us to do in order to put on the table of the nation's agenda. This must end. Black Lives Matter.

OBAMA: America was built by John Lewises. Some day when we do finish that long journey towards freedom, when we do form a more perfect union, whether it's years from now or decades or even if it takes another two centuries, John Lewis will be a founding father of that fuller, fairer, better America.

What a gift John Lewis was. We are all so lucky to have had him walk with us for a while and show us the way.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BLITZER: John Lewis was truly a great, great American who made our country better. I think I speak for all of our viewers here in the U.S. and around the world, our deepest, deepest condolences to his family and his friends. May he rest in peace, and may his memory be a blessing.