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CNN NEWSROOM

NBA Returns To The Court After Almost Five Months; Trump's Own Intel Officials Contradict His Mail-In Voting Fraud Claims; US Surpasses 4.5 Million Confirmed Coronavirus Cases; DeSantis Defends Push To Reopen Schools As Cases Rises; Helping Navajo Elders During The Coronavirus Pandemic. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired July 31, 2020 - 15:30   ET

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


[15:30:00]

JARED GREENBERG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Carmelo Anthony, DeMar Derozan, they all came out to support the Lakers and Clippers last night.

BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Incredible. What did LeBron James say to you?

GREENBERG: Well, you know, I think, Brooke, in the last several months we've truly learned as reporters, and I know you went through a very terrible experience with coronavirus as well. We've learned to get uncomfortable whether it would be with the pandemic, and now with social justice matters. And last night, LeBron James scored the game winning bucket. And me as a sports reporter, all I'm thinking is game winning bucket, game winning bucket. And I had to, I truly had to tell myself, listen, I've got to be uncomfortable with what the story here is because it truly is bigger than just basketball.

And LeBron last night understood the magnitude. Because typically, Brooke, any other time I talk to LeBron, whether it would be a regular season game or a playoff game, he tries to sell the cliche, it's just another game. Last night, he admitted to me it wasn't just another game. He understood that the world had its eyes on the NBA, how are they going to handle this, how are they going to continue to spread their message.

But what I think is really important about LeBron and so many others involved in the NBA is their activism to do more than just put a shirt on or take a knee. They're trying to make change. LeBron James has donated several hundred thousand dollars to a local charity here in Florida. The NBA is putting testing out in the local Orlando Area to try and help more people get tested for coronavirus.

So I think, you know, what these players are doing is certainly being seen as entertainment for so many of us who have really been craving that for the last several months because we've been without sports, but they also understand the platform they have and how to use their voice.

BROOKE: Be curious to see how, throughout the course of the season, you know, these guys keep this message front and center. And we should also point out, WNBA, you know, very similar message dedicating their season to Breonna Taylor. So for the ladies and the gents, well done. Jared Greenberg, thank you so much. Courtside there, in the bubble, in Orlando.

GREENBERG: Brooke, thank you for having me.

BALDWIN: You got it. Mixed messages from the Trump administration, the President says mail in ballots will lead to a rigged election this fall. But now some of his own intelligence officials are contradicting him.

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[15:35:59]

BALDWIN: President Trump has repeatedly insisted that mail and voting poses a significant threat to election security. But CNN has now learned that the President's own intelligence officials just contradicted some of those claims. CNN's Alex Marquardt is standing by with this news. And so, what are his Intel officials saying?

ALEX MARQUARDT, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Well, Brooke, what they're saying is diametrically opposed to what the President is saying. You have the President who was basically singularly-focused on this notion that foreign countries could forge massive amounts of ballots and carry out what he calls a fraudulent election.

He said, today there would be the greatest election disaster in history. But this is not something that intelligence officials talk about. It is not something, according to multiple sources, that they briefed Congress on is not something that they think will happen.

The most senior election official in the Intelligence Community, Bill Evanina, has said that it would be extraordinarily difficult for vote tallies to be changed by foreign adversaries. Just one example of what they aren't briefing people today. There was a briefing Capitol Hill to the house. And Evanina was leading it, along with other senior intelligence officials. They didn't even bring up this notion, despite the fact that it has been in the news so much lately. They were asked about it by a lawmaker, and they essentially dismissed it out of hand.

What they are focused on, Brooke, is the potential for countries like Russia, China, Iran to hack election infrastructure, and to carry out these massive disinformation campaigns that we've seen. And according to one law enforcement official that my colleague, Pamela Brown, spoke with, the concern is now that as the President hammers on about the potential for fraudulent mail in voting, that that will only fuel those disinformation campaigns that are being perpetuated by our adversaries. Brooke.

BALDWIN: One of many concerns, but I appreciate you with the reporting with the Intel officials contradicting the President, Alex Marquardt with the news. Thank you so much, Alex.

Joining me now the Governor of Oregon, Kate Brown. And so Governor Brown, thank you so much for being on with us. And, of course, number one, we wanted to talk to you because speaking of, you know, mail and voting, your states has been successfully, you know, voting by mail for 22 years. Tell me what Oregon has been doing so right. And do you think the entire country could pull that off in the middle of a pandemic 95 days from now?

GOV. KATE BROWN (D-OR): Absolutely. And Oregon has been voting successfully for over two decades through the mail. We call it voting at home now. And it's extremely successful. Oregonians vote in extremely high numbers, because it is so accessible and so convenient.

In Oregon, we believe that your vote is your voice and that every voice matters. And so, we're committed to making sure Oregonians can participate in this very fundamental right. And it's even more important right now with the pandemic. You can vote through the mail at home and do it safely. And you shouldn't have to risk your health or your life, in order to participate in the Democratic process. Every single state should be participating in either absentee or vote by mail programs in November.

The other piece that Americans need to know is that there's a paper trail. And so, the outcome cannot be hacked. And in a day and age where we were all questioned the integrity of our election, you can replicate the results of a paper ballot.

BALDWIN: Here's the but, and I appreciate the success of you know, your great state of Oregon for more than two decades. But the Postal Service is experiencing all of these, you know, days long backlogs of mail across the country. You know, yes, COVID but also because Trump fundraiser turned postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, has put new procedures in place described as cost cutting efforts.

And when you read this piece in The Washington Post today, they quoted this union representative in New York saying this, "I'm actually terrified to see election season under the new procedure."

[15:40:00]

So given that, Governor Brown, are you still as confident saying this, "I'm actually terrified to see election season under the new procedure." So given that, Governor Brown, are you still as confident that this country can pull this off?

BROWN: Absolutely. Our postal workers prioritize our elections mail, and I'm confident that they can do so efficiently and ensure that every single Americans ballot gets counted. In May this year, Oregon had the most ballots cast in a primary in our entire history, and that's in the middle of a pandemic.

BALDWIN: So this Trump donor turn postmaster, being in charge of the mail wouldn't worry you, caused you concern.

BROWN: I am confident that our postal workers around the country will go to the most extreme effort to ensure that every single cast mailed ballot gets counted.

BALDWIN: Great. Let me let me pivot to the protests in Portland. And just to remind our viewers, the administration had sent in these federal officers to Portland earlier this month after prolong protests for racial justice and police accountability that were at times violent. And so just this morning, the President talked about federal forces on the ground there now.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The Homeland Security moved a team of very talented people, strong, tough people. And the courthouse has been in very good shape. They're not an offensive team. They're a defensive team. They're not allowed to be offensive, unfortunately. And you had radical anarchists, you had horrible people, you had agitators. There weren't protesters. There might have been protesters, but the ones that were the problem were absolute anarchists, and in many cases, professionals.

So a lot of people have been arrested. And we've told the mayor, we've told the governor you better get in there and do your thing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: So we can ask you if you're doing your thing, Governor Brown. But let me just pause and tell everyone it's my understanding you would have conversation with the vice President. Concluded from that conversation, the federal government, you know, will withdraw all officers. But then the acting Homeland Security secretary said that some federal officers will maintain a presence, you know, the courthouse, other federal buildings.

My first question to you is, which is it? Are the federal officials still in Portland?

BROWN: The plan is very, very clear. Folks from Border Patrol, Customs and ICE are leaving Downtown Portland, and our Oregon State Police officers are in control of the situation. Last night.

It was extremely peaceful. We had no federal officers involved, and Oregonians were able to speak out an issue of clarion call for racial justice amidst peaceful protests. So very pleased that federal officials have left Downtown Portland. And frankly, this was a political strategy on the President's part. It had nothing to do with public safety. It had nothing to do with problem solving. It is a strategy that backfired. And now they're leaving and that's a good thing.

BALDWIN: OK. Turning to the pandemic, your state reported the most new cases yesterday that it's seen in nearly two weeks. Given that trend, are you considering further more severe measures to get those numbers going in the right direction? And what were those measures be?

BALDWIN: Brooke, I grew up in the Twin Cities, Minnesota, and we used to go ice skating during the winter. And before we strap on our skates and went out into the ice, we were very cautious. We take a step make sure that ice held us. Clearly what's happening here is that the ice is cracking, in addition to issuing a number of measures including restricting social gatherings, informal social gatherings, and limiting venue events.

We have moved forward on very aggressive face covering policies and two counties just took, shall we say, a step backward because they had very, very high numbers. Both Umatilla and Morrow County in Eastern Oregon are going back to phase one and baseline.

BALDWIN: To stay at home, I was reading about that earlier today, so those two counties. Governor Kate Brown, thank you so much for all of that. Stay healthy.

BROWN: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Stay well.

BROWN: Great to see you. Be safe.

BALDWIN: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. The head of the CDC says reopening schools is vital to public health, but others are calling the move dangerous. I'll speak live with a teacher's union president who is suing the state of Florida.

[15:44:50]

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BALDWIN: Well, we have now passed yet another horrifying milestone, 4.5 million coronavirus cases in America. And this comes as parents and teachers alike are now grappling with how much risk they're willing to take by having students back in the classroom this fall. It's an issue being debated coast to coast and on Capitol Hill today.

Do you think that schools should safely reopen this fall with in- person learning?

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REP. STEVE SCALISE (R-LA): Yes. I think it's important to realize that it's in the public health best interest of K through 12 students to get back in face to face learning. There's really very significant public health consequences of the school closure.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: That is the view from Washington. You'll find a similar sentiment in Florida. The state continues to clock thousands of new cases every day. And for the fourth day in a row is reporting a record number of deaths, 257 today alone. But Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is pressing ahead bringing students back into the classroom.

[15:50:00]

The Florida Education Association, which is the state's largest teachers union filed a lawsuit earlier this month against state officials saying return to the classroom next month would be unsafe and irresponsible. And Fedrick Ingram is the President of the Florida Education System. So, Frederick, welcome back. First and foremost, and do you feel like your lawsuit has forced the governor or is forcing the governor to do the right thing and where do things stand now?

FEDRICK INGRAM, PRESIDENT, FLORIDA EDUCATION SYSTEM: Well, we think so. We think he is retreating from the emergency order that they issue two weeks ago. We believe that we have forced the issue with this lawsuit, but we also believe that there is a stark reality that we're dealing with right now.

In the month of July, there were 25,000 kids under the age of 18 that tested positive for COVID-19 in the state of Florida. That's 900 kids testing positive every day in one month. We've got a catastrophic situation here. And I think the Sun Sentinel Editorial Board, they came out this morning said it best. "Help us out here, we're dying." And that was the headline from the editorial board, again from the Sun Sentinel.

This simply said, listen, we need a plan. We need a strategic, comprehensive look at how we're going to reopen schools and do it safely.

So it's my understanding, and part of that is that you would like to see local officials, school board superintendents be the one making the call on whether or not it's safe to send our kids back versus the governor. Where are you on that?

INGRAM: Right. Well, listen, I spent the better part of this week at the American Federation of Teachers Virtual Conference. And, you know, the AFP came up with a very first reopening plan, way back in April. And all we ask for is a sensible practical guideline or benchmarks to moving us forward.

Where is the mask mandate, where is testing, tracking and tracing as it relates to schools when an outbreak happens in a classroom or in a wing of a school? You know, what is the PPE for school for our teachers, for educational support professionals, who will be doing that hard work with our students? What's the infrastructure changes that we're going to be doing in the state of Florida? And literally, where's the funding? How do we pay for this? There is no that, you know, (inaudible).

BALDWIN: I'm listening to you. And I'm also thinking, of course, about teachers. And I interviewed this teacher recently who wrote this, this opinion piece, this extraordinary opinion piece in the New York Times. There's this line from it that has haunted me literally ever since. And I want to read it to everyone.

She said, "I am prepared to take a bullet to save a child. In the age of school shootings, that is what the job requires. But asking me to return to the classroom amid a pandemic, and expose myself and my family to COVID-19 is like asking me to take that bullet home to my own family."

Fedrick, I am sure you're hearing from a lot of teachers. There is a fear that many of them could strike if they feel unsafe going back to the work. Are you hearing that that might be a serious possibility and would you stand by that?

INGRAM: So we're hearing all kinds of things, you know, teachers and high risk categories are being told to resign or take leave. We hear teachers that - we know teachers that are filling out their wills and getting living wills. We know that people are making all kinds of decisions. We haven't had a teacher strike here in 1968.

But let me tell you, this is about going to work, not withholding labor. We don't want to withhold labor. Listen to first grade teacher wants to be in school or high school band director. I want to be in school. Football coaches, counselors, we want to go to work. We just want to do it under state circumstances.

And right now, we have a governor that has held hot water. We're going to open brick and mortar. And that's not where we should be. We should not be having that choice with a 14% positivity rate of our children, with a 12.1% positivity rate over the state of Florida. The end, we have a hurricane on the way.

And so, to make matters worse, this catastrophe, this vortex we find ourselves in, we've not been given any national guidance. We've not been given any statewide guidance. So, of course, our local school board members, our superintendents, our union leaders, they're making the courageous act to try and do the very best that they can on the local level. But you get 67 different plans because we have 67 different school districts.

BALDWIN: You had me back at teachers creating living wills as a result of all of this. Fedrick Ingram, thank you so much. I hear the fight in your voice. Let's stay in touch as we get closer to school to school time. Fedrick, thank you very much. Good luck.

INGRAM: Brooke, thank you for having me.

BALDWIN: You got it. The US economy reported its worst quarter ever this week. Businesses are closing, unemployment claims are skyrocketing. And now a major lifeline for struggling families is about to expire as stimulus talks hit a roadblock. But first, this week, CNN Hero is helping the Navajo Nation during this coronavirus pandemic.

[15:55:00]

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LINDA MYERS, DIRECTOR, ADOPT-A-NATIVE-ELDER: UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Losing Navajo elders is a piece of history, piece of culture. They hold the life for their families. They carry on the traditions, the ceremony, the language, the weaving.

A loss for us is personal. We're connected to these elders. We've known them for 35 years. We've sent $225,000 worth of food certificates, thousands of masks and yarn bundles to our elders to help them sustain themselves in their traditional way.

Starting in August and September, our real goal is to deliver all the supplies to make sure we help them as winter starts. We're not stopping now we're continuing.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: So beautiful. You can get all kinds of information and hear all these amazing stories. Just go to cnnheroes.com. We'll be right back.

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