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NASA Astronauts Return To Earth After Historic SpaceX Mission; Nancy Pelosi Says She Has No Confidence In Dr. Deborah Birx; Birx: Cases, Hospitalizations Show "Reassuring" Signs; Dozens Seen Partying At CA Bar As Owners Say Event Meant To "Honor First Responders"; Trump Floats Delaying Election, Which He Has No Authority To Do. Aired 4-5p ET
Aired August 2, 2020 - 16:00 ET
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UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And say hello and make sure that they're still doing all right. And then proceed to assist them with exiting the capsule.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And we see the hatch is now open. The hatch being opened at 12:59 p.m. Pacific. The hatch is open.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So right now they're going to put a piece of equipment in there that basically smooths out the edges and make sure that it is a comfortable exit from the Dragon capsule. Just a little piece of structure there to ensure that the hatch will remain open and that any sharp edges around that side hatch are protected.
ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. I'll pick up our coverage as we follow this breaking news.
Mission to earth complete. A short time ago these NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley, they splash-landed in this SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule just off the coast of Pensacola, Florida. And so they are back from the International Space Station.
This trip marked the first crewed mission from U.S. soil in almost 10 years. This is a big moment. Let's listen in.
As we watch this, I want to bring in CNN Business innovation and space correspondent Rachel Crane in Los Angeles. Tom Sater is also with us live from the CNN Weather Center.
And so, Rachel, this has been a moment we've all been watching for the past hour or so since they made that splashdown, and here we go. The capsule is open. They are so close from being back officially on American soil.
RACHEL CRANE, CNN BUSINESS INNOVATION AND SPACE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Ana. I mean, we've really been waiting for this moment since launch, I have to say. I mean, we've been, you know, waiting for the past hour or so for them to exit. This is a moment that SpaceX, NASA and space enthusiasts around the
world have been waiting to, you know, know that this space capsule was safe, that Bob and Doug were going to be reunited with their family, and that this mission was a success.
Of course that was contingent upon today's splashdown going off without a hitch and it looks as though that's exactly what has happened right now. We're just waiting for Bob and Doug to exit the hatch now. But you're seeing right now on your screen, this is completely normal. The flight surgeon was expected to enter into the capsule to check on the condition of both Bob and Doug. They had stretchers. They were going to have stretchers on board the boat, and on hand as they exit.
Because, you know, being in space for several months, it's pretty hard on your body as is water landing. And a lot of people, you know, have a hard time, even with a land landing. And this is -- you know, they have to really truly have their sea legs here. Sometimes it's quite difficult.
So, you know, we're all waiting for that thumbs up from Bob and Doug. Nobody more so than their both have young sons, and their wives, their families waiting to see them and the big smile across their face knowing that this mission has been a success and that they are safe and sound back here on earth -- Ana.
CABRERA: And Miles O'Brien, I know you've been here with us on CNN the past hour or so as we've been just following along with this journey and the final moments of their journey. We heard them say that this was essentially a 19-hour journey back to the U.S., back to earth from the International Space Station. And now, you know, Bob and Doug are about to exit.
How long until we see that exit? How long does the -- you know, does it take for the doctor to give them the check-up needed?
MILES O'BRIEN, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Hard to predict. I'm sure they're doing fine. This was a very docile splashdown in a very calm Gulf of Mexico, and these guys are -- you know, they're test pilots. They're tough, right? So I suspect, you know, they're going to take their time because everything we're seeing here, Ana, is part of a test regime. They're gathering data wherever they go.
When there's problem they're going to take extra time to try to understand it in that moment so they can fully appreciate if they need to make any changes the next time they fly. And part of that will also be the crew's health and their disposition, having been in the capsule for a little bit of extra time today shouldn't be a problem. But again these are the things they want to put in the database so that when they fly again, they're a little smarter.
CABRERA: We saw the preparation of some stretchers. What should we read into that?
O'BRIEN: That's, you know, part of the drill. There'll be stretchers there, there are wheelchairs, if they want to walk off on their own steam, they're allowed to. Certainly that's up to them.
You know, they're still not on firm land and they've been in zero-G weightlessness for two months, so their inner ear is very confused right now. And so every astronaut has their own, you know, personal reaction to this. Some are not affected by it much, just like some of us get more carsick than others.
And so each person has to deal with it themselves. And seeing a stretcher there should not be implied as anything more than a precaution. And you know, if nothing else, we don't want them stumbling on a ship as it rolls a bit in the Gulf of Mexico.
CABRERA: Rachel, we know they spent 63 days on the International Space Station. They initially departed earth May 30th. It took them about a day to get there. They arrived on May 31st.
I know you've been in contact with them while they've been in space. What were they anticipating about their return?
CRANE: Well, you know, it's been a very busy mission for them while they've also been in space even before today's return. You know, Bob Behnken has done four space walks while on board. Bob and Doug together have done over a hundred hours of space (INAUDIBLE) on board.
They also did a habitability test with their fellow crew members, spending time in the capsule with four people to inform future crewed missions, operational crewed missions of what the space capsule is like when you have four people inside.
What eating is like, dressing and undressing, and all those things, because, of course, Bob and Doug, they had it rather spaciously. It was just the two of them. But, you know, in terms of today's splashdown, I had the opportunity to ask them, you know, were they nervous about it because a lot of people actually say that reentry is perhaps the most dangerous part of the mission.
That's because in large part because a six-minute blackout period when the space capsule is reentering the earth's atmosphere. It uses that atmosphere to slow down. It creates a ton of heat, 3500 degrees Fahrenheit, which creates plasma, which essentially creates an electromagnetic shield around the space capsule. So they have no communication with the astronauts for that six-minute period and no data from the spaceship. So it's quite harrowing.
But despite all of this, despite the fact that they were guinea pigs here, no crew had ever flown in Crew Dragon before, no crew had ever splashed down in Crew Dragon before, they were very calm about, saying they have full confidence in the vehicle and in SpaceX, and NASA's ability to pull this mission off.
So, you know, despite the fact that most people would be quite nervous about it, they said they weren't nervous at all. I think that's probably the results of both of them being veteran astronauts and also, former test pilots. CABRERA: Great --
CRANE: So, you know, they have that strong -- sorry, go ahead, Ana.
CABRERA: I just was noticing, we are seeing one of those astronauts that appears to be, you know, in the position to be off the capsule right now. And I just overheard the narrator here saying that they saw a thumbs up and they believe things are going well as far as this reentry goes.
Rachel, do you know what we are looking at right now on our screen?
CRANE: You know, apologies. I didn't see that moment happen right there. I'm a little bit delayed. I'm -- you know, working from home it makes this a little bit more difficult. But I think what we saw was one of the astronauts exit out on to the stretcher which is a great thing.
You know, we've been waiting for that moment. If we saw that thumbs up, that's amazing. That's what we were expecting. So it means that at least one of the astronauts right now is in good spirits.
Unclear if that was Bob or Doug exiting the vehicle, but we can expect shortly for, you know, the remaining astronaut, whether it's Bob or Doug in the capsule to be following and to be exiting. And this is exactly what we expected for them to be exiting and using that stretcher.
You know, that's no indication that there is anything wrong here. As we were discussing before, you know, after being in space for two months, it has -- takes quite a toll on your body.
And, you know, they're not on firm land here. They're still on a boat so they really need to get their sea legs, and it's, you know, not always very easy to walk post-landing. So that's -- you know, they had those wheelchairs and that stretcher on hand because they had a feeling, you know, from history this often happens with astronauts. That they need some assistance exiting the spaceship -- Ana.
CABRERA: And Miles, what's going to happen with this capsule?
O'BRIEN: The capsule will be refurbished, Ana. It is slated to fly first quarter of 2021, the second official manned mission, piloted mission to the International Space Station by SpaceX. This is considered a test mission. The first official crew mission will be in September, give or take, and then this one will be refurbished and it is slated to fly around April.
So a big part of SpaceX's philosophy is to reuse as much as possible. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to understand that that makes things cheaper ultimately if you're not throwing things away.
CABRERA: And what we're seeing there on the right, right now, is moments ago as the astronaut emerged from that capsule. Miles, describe what we see.
O'BRIEN: Well, you know, they're moving a little slowly, and they're availing themselves of the stretcher. All understandable when you're talking about an inner ear that has been used to zero gravity for two months and has just endured the wild ride from space all the way down to the landing spot in the Gulf of Mexico.
So they're fine. It's just again a precaution. The worst thing you'd want to see is to have them stumble, take a fall, getting off. That would be bad for them, for everybody. And so that's all good. They'll be checked out, make sure they're hale and hearty, hop in a helicopter, head to Naval Air Station Pensacola where they'll pick up a NASA flight to Houston, to Ellington Air Force Base right near the Johnson Space Center, where they will be reunited with their families.
And of course famously they have a stuffed dinosaur, Ana, which their two young boys -- each of them have a boy and they brought along this dinosaur, Tremor. And it will be returned to the boys. And I got to tell you this morning when they woke up, it was the cutest wake-up call ever to hear those two little boys say, daddy, daddy, you've got to get up, wake up.
It's -- I got to tell you, not a dry eye. So anyway, it will be interesting to follow the custody battle over Tremor between the two boys. Hopefully it'll be solved in an amicable way.
CABRERA: I can only imagine how excited their families are to see them, to hug them, to hold them. And yet, Rachel, it's such an interesting time because beyond the history of this moment for NASA, and for these two men, these two astronauts specifically, it's such a historic time for America right now, given the pandemic that we're experiencing.
What do you know about plans to reunite with the family? Obviously they have been away from this virus and everything else that may, you know, be part of earth at this moment. So what does reentry look like?
CRANE: Well, right now they'll be making their way to Pensacola air base, and then from there they'll be getting on another plane to Johnson Space Center where that reuniting with their families will take place. Nobody I'm sure is more excited that their -- they both have sons, Jack and Theo. I'm sure their sons, as we've learned on that message this morning, they were eagerly awaiting the return of their dads.
So, you know, we know that they'll be reuniting with them today at Johnson Space Center. And in terms of COVID-19, you know, that's not quite as much of an issue now that they're -- at first they were very worried about contamination on the space station. And that's always been the case whether with COVID or not. There's always a quarantine period for astronauts before they go to space to ensure that they do not infect anybody on board.
So, of course, you know, extra precautions were taken with COVID-19, but now that they are back on ground, they'll be taking the precautions that the rest of us are all taking in terms of making sure that we all stay healthy and safe, but, you know, also another thing to point out in terms of this capsule in particular, it will be refurbished, but both Doug and Bob are married to astronauts.
Both wives are astronauts and Bob's wife, Megan McCarter, is set to take off, if all goes to plan, in the spring of 2021 in this exact same space capsule, so Bob Behnken is, you know, very excited to tell his wife of all the little tips that he has about launch, landing, and also just life aboard station -- Ana.
CABRERA: And I believe we're watching the splashdown that happened moments ago now, a little over an hour ago, closer to an hour and a half.
Tom Sater, this is in Pensacola, Florida. Why this area specifically for the splashdown?
TOM SATER, AMS METEOROLOGIST: Well, actually this was the one location where all the criteria was met. I mean, when they go back in this, weather is critical for a splashdown just as it is for a liftoff. And what NASA and the SpaceX crew were looking at, the criteria, winds had been to less than 10 miles an hour. That's hard to find on many days, even around the Florida peninsula. But rain chances less than 25 percent. We all know what's going on of course with Isaias.
Lightning could not be observed within 10 miles. That's a problem. I'll explain why just a moment. But wave heights or I should say the slope and degree can be no more than seven-degree slope. When you talk about the options that they had, they put a few in the Atlantic. All three of them were taken off the table last week obviously as our tropical storm became a hurricane.
One was closest offshore of Cape Canaveral. Isaias is within 80 miles right now of Cape Canaveral and most of the heavy activity is offshore Florida. So all three of those locations were taken off the table. Then you've got a few in the Gulf of Mexico. One off the coast of Tampa. Tampa was excluded now because the storms that are wrapping around our tropical storm are creating some strong gusty winds and lightning in the Tampa area.
So that one was taken off. Then you go up toward the Florida panhandle. One on each side of Apalachicola. Both of those were given a caution sign because the winds were kicking up 18 to 20 miles per hour. That left one location, Pensacola, and as they have been mentioning and observing, the conditions could not have been better.
So again, critical when you're thinking about something falling with gravity after reentering with parachutes. Again, everything working out just splendid. But at 1:51 p.m. Eastern Time, they had to make that trunk separation. So it was a go or no-go, and as Miles (INAUDIBLE) talked about, you know, they did have a little bit of a window, but I'm just so glad everything worked out weather wise for them. CABRERA: And again, you just can't overemphasize how incredible this
moment is as far as the history books go, Miles. It's the first splashdown since 1975. This was again the first time U.S. astronauts were launched from the U.S. in almost 10 years. It was the first commercial aerospace company carrying humans into earth's orbit. And then the return obviously.
What do you see as the future? What is next?
O'BRIEN: Well, what is next is promising, isn't it, Ana? I mean, you know, the nine-year gap, no one wanted that. No one wanted the U.S. to be on the sidelines paying upwards of $80 million, $90 million for a seat on the Russian Soyuz to get to the space station which we the taxpayers spend so much money to build. A series of events occurred to make that happen. Political, technical, on and on it goes.
That's a very long story. But here we are after nine years, it's worth the wait because what has been proven here -- and, you know, they're going to be going through all the details here so there are some caveats to all that, but the proof is in the splashdown. We've seen the astronauts get off.
What has been proven here is a concept that is reliable, it is cheaper, and it is much safer than the space shuttle ever was. So what the U.S. has done is taken an important step toward access to space, that is more meaningful and ultimately potentially more available to a lot more people than just astronauts.
It might begin with some rich tourists, but this could be the beginning of free enterprise in low earth orbit in a way we haven't fully imagined yet.
CABRERA: And Rachel, what did these two men, you know, how did they view their role in history? I know you've had a chance to speak to them before and during this mission.
CRANE: You know, it's interesting. They really downplayed their role in the history books, you know, saying that they were focused on the mission at hand. That, you know, they wanted to get to the station and help out in any way that they can, but really, you know, really just trying to minimize their role here. Even though the rest of us know that it's huge, that they were the guinea pigs in this historic mission, historic launch.
You know, once again the U.S. having a homegrown method of getting to the International Space Station something we haven't had in nine years having to rely on the Russians to be able to do so. So, you know, Doug really actually he was on the last space shuttle mission, he piloted it. So I asked about, you know, the poetic nature of that, that you were in the pilot seat for the end of one era of space exploration and also in the cockpit for the dawn of a new one.
And of course, you know, he downplayed it, saying that he was, you know, just focused on the mission at hand but the rest of us can't help but absorb the poetic nature of just Doug currently being in that cockpit himself, but also just what was accomplished here today and over the past two months and what this mission means for the future of space exploration and for NASA and SpaceX.
CABRERA: OK. What a moment. Thank you so much, Rachel Crane, Miles O'Brien, Tom Sater for being there with us, walking us through.
Again, a successful return to earth for these veteran astronauts, Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, now back on American soil or close to, as they make their ways from the Dragon SpaceX capsule, back to soil, to be reunited with their families. A successful trip in the books.
You're watching CNN. Stay with us. Much more in the CNN NEWSROOM when we come back.
CABRERA: Welcome back. As coronavirus cases continue to soar across the country, House speaker Nancy Pelosi is calling out the response coming from the White House Coronavirus Task Force, specifically Dr. Deborah Birx. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MARTHA RADDATZ, ABC NEWS HOST: Madam Speaker, I want to ask you, we just have a couple of minutes here. Politico reported that in a closed meeting on Friday, you accused Dr. Deborah Birx of the Coronavirus Task Force of spreading disinformation about the pandemic. Is that true? And do you have confidence in her?
REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA), SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE: I think the president is spreading disinformation about the virus, and she is his appointee. So I don't have confidence there, no.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: CNN's Jeremy Diamond joins us at the White House.
And Jeremy, we heard Dr. Birx on CNN this morning saying she is seeing some reassuring signs across the country. What exactly is she seeing?
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Ana. Let's be clear, she used the words a bit reassuring and she's talking about some of the slightly positive signs that we're beginning to see in pockets of the country.
She was specifically talking about the west and the south of the country, where you are starting to see those mitigation efforts work, is the words that she used, talking about a decrease in test positivity rates and cases and hospitalizations in states like Arizona, for example. But to be clear, the broad picture that Dr. Birx painted this morning is a concerning picture. It's one where she said that the epidemic right now is more widespread than it has been in the past. And she talks specifically to rural communities in the United States,
talking about the fact that you are not immune from this epidemic, and making clear that this is both in urban areas as well as in those rural areas. But when she was asked about what the federal government did wrong, our colleague Dana Bash asked her several times to identify what the federal government got wrong and why we are in a place that very few other countries particularly comparable countries in Europe are not in right now, Dr. Birx didn't talk about that.
Instead she talked about what the federal government has been doing differently and specifically this idea that she has been offering more granular guidance to state and local authorities. Listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: I think the federal government reset about five to six weeks ago, when we saw this starting to happen across the south, and that's why we've done these very, rather than generic federal framework, we've gone to very specific state and local city by city, county by county, showing out which counties and which cities are under particular threat and what mitigation has to be done.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DIAMOND: And now despite that claim that the federal government reset its approach five to six weeks ago, we should note that it was six weeks ago when the Vice President Mike Pence wrote an article, an opinion piece, claiming that there was no second wave of cases and that the administration had this pandemic under control. Of course in the last six weeks we have seen that that is anything but the case.
As for criticism from the House speaker Nancy Pelosi, who did not voice that criticism publicly today when pressed about it, Dr. Birx responded, she said that she has tremendous respect for the speaker of the House, and she suggested that Speaker Pelosi's comments were due to a "New York Times" article from several weeks ago that pointed out that Dr. Birx's optimistic assessments of the direction of this pandemic were in part the cause of what we are seeing today and in part the cause of the government's response and push for reopening several months ago.
We should note, though, that while Dr. Birx said that "The New York Times" had called her Pollyanna-ish, and said that they had not reached out for comments, the "New York Times" article in question does not at all referred to her as Pollyanna-ish. It doesn't use that term. And the "New York Times" of course did say that it had reached out for comments and not gotten a response from the White House -- Ana.
CABRERA: Jeremy, obviously because of this pandemic, this is an election year unlike any we have experienced and there's now conflicting details coming out over the last 24 hours regarding a scaled-down Republican National Convention in Charlotte. What can you tell us? DIAMOND: That's right. Well, yesterday a convention spokesperson told
me that the Republican National Convention which is happening in Charlotte, North Carolina, that all of its activities would be closed to the press. And a Republican official familiar with the planning told me that no reporters would be allowed on site. But as of now, they are expecting that the vote to formally nominate the president as the 2020 Republican nominee would be carried on a livestream online for reporters to watch that way.
But now the Republican National Committee's communications director Michael Ahrens is telling me that no final decision has been made about press coverage. And so it seems amid the backlash that they are facing for not allowing reporters on site, that the RNC is reevaluating its plans. And they have made clear, though, that this is not what they want.
They have said that it is the government of North Carolina, which is led by a Democratic governor, that their restrictions that they are putting on the RNC in terms of the number of people allowed to the convention is the reason for why they are not allowing reporters on site.
We should also note that they have scaled back the number of RNC delegates who will actually be participating in the formal process including voting to nominate President Trump as the 2020 nominee. But obviously all of this influx but if no reporters are allowed, this certainly would be unprecedented -- Ana.
CABRERA: OK, Jeremy Diamond at the White House, thank you.
Joining us now is Dr. Peter Hotez. He is a professor and dean of tropical medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and author of the book "Preventing the Next Pandemic."
Dr. Hotez, Dr. Birx says she is seeing some reassuring signs? Do you see any reassuring signs right now?
DR. PETER HOTEZ, PROFESSOR AND DEAN OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Yes, I don't see a lot, Ana, to be reassured about. The deaths are now climbing. We're heading up to 1500, 1,500 new deaths per day.
That's very concerning and that trajectory means we're going to easily meat that 230,000 deaths by October 30th as the Institute for Health metrics is projecting, maybe 300,000 deaths or more by the end of the year, although things have plateaued in terms of new cases across the south.
It's plateaued at a 100 miles an hour, meaning very large, high numbers of cases.
So, for instance in Houston, even though it's plateaued at around 1400/1500 new cases a day, what that really means is if you multiply it by three or five, that's around 5,000 new cases a day because that's the unusual conversion factor, maybe even higher than that. And you cannot do contact tracing. You cannot open schools safely. You cannot do any of the things that resemble a normal life in the United States of America.
And now, the virus is moving along the Mississippi River, Tennessee, around Memphis Areas getting hit very hard. It's moving into Indiana, Ohio, and the Ohio River Valley. I don't see anything reassuring there and this is the problem.
And I don't think Dr. Birx is deliberately misleading. I think the problem is she doesn't -- and not just her. It's the whole White House task force, doesn't know how to really synthesize and communicate the information very well to the American people. It sort of cherry picks these various facts but doesn't really bring it all together to make us understand really what the hell is going on and it's pretty awful. That's problem number one.
DR. HOTEZ: Problem number two, they still are digging their heels and that the states have to lead and they will not organize a federally- led response.
DR. HOTEZ: And we know that's not working. We have the worst epidemic in the world right now literally.
CABRERA: Dr. Birx did acknowledge -- she did say that the virus is more widespread than before, and she issued this warning.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: Public health is called public health because it has a public component. And we need all of the public to help us get control of this virus.
If we still are going to parties at home even though the bars are closed, if we're create interactions where we know it's not safe because there's multiple people there and you don't have masks on and you're not socially distanced, you can assume -- it's not super- spreading individuals. It's super-spreading events. And we need to stop those. We definitely need to take more precautions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: So, she's blaming public behavior there. She's putting it on us as individuals to take personal responsibility to do what we can to stop the spread. But I didn't hear her spell out any plans coming from the federal government to take action.
DR. HOTEZ: Yes. And that's -- and this is what happens. So, it's -- she's halfway there. And again, it's not just her. It's the whole task force. Yes, individuals do have to have some responsibility for their own behavior, but there's also a requirement for leadership at the federal level to explain to the American people what needs to be done, to give directives to the governors what needs to be done, providing them with the epidemiologic models.
And this is what you guys need to do. And I insist you do it, not just kind of leaving it to the states or the governors to kind of figure it out and be buffeted by all of their political (INAUDIBLE), and then the worst of all, dumping it on the teachers and making them figure out how to make classrooms safe when they themselves are not willing to do the hard work.
And this is what really gets me very upset is the fact that we're dumping this on the teachers and asking them or forcing them to work in an unsafe situation, in which we know they're going to be set up to fail if they open up schools in areas of high community transmission. So, this is the unconscionable part.
CABRERA: Admiral Giroir, who is the White House testing czar, he was on another program today and he suggested that if every American wore a mask and avoided indoor gatherings and crowded places, that would be essential as effect as a shutdown or a new stay-at-home order. Do you agree?
DR. HOTEZ: Well, so on this part, I'm not so sure and I can't completely disagree with the admiral, and I know Brett Giroir for years, but I can't say he's right, either. Because what we're seeing, for instance in a lot of community -- because remember, this is unprecedented.
We've never stopped an epidemic only by the masks. And what we're seeing here in Houston is the masks are definitely helping prevent those numbers from skyrocketing even higher, but it's also keeping it at a plateau at a very high level. So, that's the piece that I'm not entirely certain about.
The masks clearly are preventing it from resurging beyond what it already is, but whether it will actually bring it down by itself without any type of stay-at-home mandate, that one I had really haven't seen yet.
CABRERA: OK. Dr. Peter Hotez, thank you for being there for us and for all you do.
DR. HOTEZ: Thank you.
CABRERA: Dancing, Drinks, no social distancing, sounds like pre- pandemic times, but it wasn't. We'll explain. You're live in the CNN "Newsroom".
CABRERA: California reported a record number of coronavirus deaths yesterday and has more cases than any other state in the entire country. And yet, these facts did not stop people from gathering closely for a party that bar owner say was meant to honor first responders. The drinks were flowing. The music was blasting inside this Hollywood bar on Friday night. Our crew spotted dozens of maskless people drinking cocktails, not practicing social distancing. Social media posts from this event ultimately led to an internal investigation of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
And CNN's Kyung Lah was there. Kyung, first, talk to us about what you saw, what you witnessed when you arrived.
KYUNG LAH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it was as if I stepped into a time machine and we're transported back to before the pandemic. That's exactly what this looked like.
Now, CNN was alerted to this indoor event inside a bar occurring on Friday evening ahead of the event. We were told by the source that 100 to 150 members of law enforcement would be gathering indoors this establishment, so not exactly sure what we would see.
We went to Sassafras Saloon in Hollywood. It's in the center of Hollywood. And it was plainly visible from the sidewalk. You could see the lights on inside, the music going, people very close proximity to one another, no masks, no social distancing, drinking, and having a great time.
A man inside the bar did come out and speak with us and said that all the people inside they all work at the same place, that they had all been tested, that it was all perfectly fine.
We spoke with the spokeswoman for the owners of the bar who said that this had been rented by someone who wanted to honor first responders, but she would not confirm which agency was inside.
So, the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department, after some the video was floating around in social media, did conduct an internal investigation and said they could not identify anyone inside as one of their employees. But a short time ago the L.A. County Department of Public Health did respond to CNN and issued this statement saying, "We are investigating reports of a private indoor party and remind all businesses that have been ordered to close indoor operations that there are no exceptions. This is exactly the situation that puts our entire community at unnecessary risk." Ana?
CABRERA: I just can't get over. This was an event involving first responders, people who should know better, for one, and two, who've been more directly impacted by this pandemic than others.
LAH: And that was what led to the original tip to CNN, the deep concern that first responders, just like everybody else you see in California, needs to chip in and operate by the same ground rules, that there cannot be any partying indoors in a bar. And that's why we're seeing such a strong statement from the public health department, that regardless of who you are, you have to abide by these rules if we're going to snuff out this pandemic.
CABRERA: All right. Kyung Lah, what a story. Thank you for your reporting.
COVID is not going away anytime soon. The economic pain isn't going away, either. So, what does the president do? He floats the idea of delaying the presidential election in November. Our next guest says this checks all eight rules for fascist propaganda. Stay tuned. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM.
CABRERA: It was a Trump tweet that sent shockwaves through the country and received bipartisan condemnation. President Trump tweeting, "With Universal Mail-In Voting (not Absentee Voting, which is good)", even though they're basically the same thing, "2020 will be the INACCURATE & FRAUDULENT Election in history. It will be a great embarrassment to the U.S.A. Delay the Election until people can properly, securely and safely vote???"
Now, changing the election date is something the president doesn't have the authority to do. The constitution is clear that power lies with congress. On CNN's "State of the Union" just this morning, House Majority Whip James Clyburn said, he doesn't think Trump will leave office peacefully if Joe Biden is Elected.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
REP. JAMES CLYBURN (D-SC), HOUSE MAJORITY WHIP: Because I feel very strongly that this man has taken on strong-arm tactics. And I feel very strongly that he is Mussolini. Putin is Hitler. I said that back then and I believe that. I believe very strongly. This guy never had an idea about then wanting peacefully transfer power.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: I want to bring in historian and Yale professor, Timothy Snyder, who is the author of "The Road to Unfreedom, Russia, Europe, America". He also wrote "On Tyranny", his last book, "Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century". So, Tim, do you share the same concern as Congressman Clyburn?
TIMOTHY SNYDER, AUTHOR, "ON TYRANNY: TWENTY LESSONS FROM THE TWENTIETH CENTURY": I guess I'd put the question a different way. Do we have any reason to believe that Mr. Trump would accept the outcome of the election? The tweet of July 30th was a very clear statement, but he has literally dozens of times before said that he wouldn't. There is nothing in his career or any of the statements would suggest that he actually likes democracy.
In that particular tweet, we have this very dangerous mixture where he's talking about a problem he's created himself insofar as we do have problems with voting in the U.S. They have to do with things like African-Americans not being enfranchised.
They have to do with the things like the possibility of foreign intervention. And even the problem that he mentions, which is postal voting, which is, of course, good in and of itself. That might be slowed down because of his own postmaster general.
So, he's talking about problems he caused himself. Then he's claiming that they're an emergency, and then using that as a reason to claim power indefinitely for himself. That's a manufactured emergency, and that is, in fact, a prime historical fascist tactic. So, I have to agree with the judgment.
CABRERA: So, on that note about fascism, he's been hit all over from all sides about this tweet suggesting the election be delayed. Even the cofounder of the conservative Federalist Society, who voted for Trump and defended him during the impeachment proceedings previously, wrote this, "Until recently, I had taken as political hyperbole the Democrats' assertion that President Trump is a fascist.
But this latest tweet is fascistic and is itself grounds for the president's immediate impeachment again by the House of Representatives and his removal from office by the Senate."
Of course, Tim, you have dedicated your career, your research and writings in this arena. You say Trump's tweet checks all eight rules for fascist propaganda? Explain that.
SNYDER: Well, some of it I just explained that what a fascist will do is manufacture a crisis, blame that crisis on the other side, and then use the crisis, which is his own creation to justify an exception, a claim to power. Mr. Trump has just done that.
Another element of this, which is worth paying attention to, is the way the tweet ends. People console themselves by saying Mr. Trump can't himself cancel the election. That's true. But what he's doing, as of July 30th, is calling upon others to create a mess, so that the election won't go through smoothly.
That's what the three question marks at the end mean. He can't do it himself. But as of July 30th, if you support Mr. Trump, if you're planning on voting for Mr. Trump, if you contribute to the campaign, if you're a delegate attending the convention, you know now perfectly well that this is a man who doesn't believe he can win by the normal vote count.
You know that you are taking part now in a campaign which is no longer a democratic campaign, but which is something else. You know that his main task for you now is not to win an election. He's basically conceded defeat already. His main task for you now is to find someone who can mess up the election, so he can somehow cling to power.
I think that's a big moral question, which has put a lot of Americans in a place where they should really be thinking about the choices they're about to make.
CABRERA: Sticking with the rule of elections and voting play in America's democratic system, I want you to listen to what former President Barack Obama said this week during his eulogy at the funeral of the late Congressman John Lewis. Here's what he said. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARACK OBAMA, FORMER U.S. PRESIDENT: Once we passed the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, we should keep marching to make it even better by making sure every American is automatically registered to vote, including former inmates who've earned their second chance, by adding polling places and expanding early voting. If all this takes eliminating the filibuster, another Jim Crow relic, in order to secure the God-given rights of every American, then that's what we should do.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Tim, would eliminating the filibuster over this voting rights issue, essentially allowing legislation to be passed without bipartisan support, would that strengthen or weaken America's democracy?
SNYDER: I think we should take all the things that Mr. Obama proposed together. We live -- I'm sad to say, we live in a very restricted form of democracy where money plays too great a role, where it's too hard for too many people to vote too much of the time, and where these restrictions are systematically built in at the level of state law, at the level of judicial precedent.
Of course, we should be in a country where we're encouraged to vote, where it's easy to vote, where both political parties take it for granted that we all ought to be voting, so that the two political parties can compete on policies and ideas instead of competing by trying to keep people away from the elections or by having the president of the United States claiming that we shouldn't be holding elections.
All of that together, that package would make us a much more democratic country. Democracy is not about fundamentally about the parties or partisanship or bipartisanship. Democracy is fundamentally about representation. Anything we can do that makes it easier for the American people to vote will lead to a better democracy, and also to sounder policy that will close the distance between Washington and everyone else, which we all feel.
CABRERA: How consequential is this year's election?
SNYDER: I don't think it could be any more consequential. A lot of the problems that we face, of course, precede Mr. Trump. But Mr. Trump has the talent of focusing every previous problem, sharpening it, bringing it before our eyes, and giving us the choice. Do we want things to get much worse? Do we want to follow the demons of American history? Or do we prefer now to take a small step and start to make things better?
Mr. Trump leaving the office won't make the whole country better. But Mr. Trump leaving office will create a path back towards the rule of law, will make it possible that more Americans will feel and be more represented and will give us a chance to start calling ourselves with truth and pride a democracy. So, it could hardly be, in my view, more consequential.
CABRERA: Tim Snyder, I always appreciate our conversations. I learn so much from you. Thank you for taking the time. And for all of those people at home watching, he has a new book coming out soon; "Our Malady: Lessons in Liberty from a Hospital Diary". Looking forward to that. Thanks, Tim.
And we have some breaking news. We've just learned, the quarterback for the "Jacksonville Jaguars", Gardner Minshew, has been placed on the "NFL" reserve COVID-19 list. So, this move means one of two things, either Minshew tested positive for COVID or he needs to be quarantined after having come in close contact with an infected person.
This news comes just a day after the quarterback for the "Detroit Lions", Matthew Stafford, was also placed on the reserve COVID-19 list. We'll be right back.