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Trump Attacks Birx for First Time as She Warns of New Outbreaks; Virus Mutations can Have an Effect on Vaccine Development; Trump Speaks after Criticizing Birx over Her COVID Warnings. Aired 1- 1:30p ET

Aired August 3, 2020 - 13:00   ET



JOHN KING, CNN INSIDE POLITICS: Really, I'm a map guy. You might know that. I want that map over your shoulder. That's a nice -- Brianna picks up our coverage right now. I'm going to see you tomorrow.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN RIGHT NOW: I'm Brianna Keilar and I want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world.

Today, President Trump is lashing out at yet another task force doctor and this time it's Dr. Deborah Birx after she gave a less than glowing review of where the U.S. stands on the coronavirus. But here's the reality of coronavirus on the ground. Most of the country is holding steady but there are 11 states that are seeing surges and three of them are in the Midwest.

The rise in cases in the heartland is leading the White House to mark a new phase of the pandemic.



But I want to be very clear. What we are seeing today is different from March and April. It is extraordinarily widespread, it's into the rural as equal urban areas. And everybody who lives in a rural area, you are not immune or protected from this virus.


KEILAR: That frank assessment from Dr. Birx is now drawing the ire of her boss. President Trump tweeting, so crazy Nancy Pelosi said horrible things about Dr. Birx going after her because she was too positive on the very good job we are doing. In order to counter Nancy, Deborah took the bait and hit us. Pathetic.

As for the president who is claiming to have done such a good job combating the virus, here is what that looks like. You can see how the case numbers rose starkly in July. At this rate, we could be hitting the 5 million case milestone by the end of this week. And then there is California. It is topping half a million cases alone, more than any other state, but there they may be good news on the horizon, not on a vaccine but on a treatment, as one company moves into phase three of a clinical trial on an antibody treatment. Eli Lilly is now focusing the trials in nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

And happening right now on Capitol Hill, negotiations between top Democrats and the White House on a new coronavirus stimulus package have just started back up again. Both sides say they are nowhere close to a deal. And as they dig in, millions of Americans are suffering, simply put.

The $600 a week federal unemployment benefit expired last week. That is money that got millions of jobless Americans through paying the bills, putting food on their tables. And the federal moratorium on evictions, that is now also gone.

I want to go to CNN's Lauren Fox on Capitol Hill for us. This benefit, this $600 a week benefit that is a lifeline for so many people still seems to be the main sticking point here, Lauren.

LAUREN FOX, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, it's one of many, Brianna. And I will tell you up here on Capitol Hill, lawmakers met with the treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, and the White House chief of staff. Mark Meadows, on Saturday. They met for roughly three hours. And while they said it was the most productive discussions they had, they were still nowhere near a deal.

Remember, at the end of this week, we expect that the senators are supposed to go on recess. Whether or not that actually happens, of course, is still an open question. But, Brianna, just to underscore, it's not just this unemployment benefit sticking point, it's a sticking point about numerous other issues, including whether or not to give states and local governments more money. Democrats arguing they should get another trillion dollars, Republicans arguing they don't need another penny, instead, we just need to give them more flexibility.

There's also additional arguments about whether or not to include liability protections for businesses, for schools, for restaurants. That's been a red line for Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and something that Democrats are arguing they don't want included in this bill.

But it just goes to show that there are numerous issues when it comes to why Democrats and Republicans can't come together. There's a fundamental disagreement about whether or not more money is needed at this moment and how much to spend. And until those discussions really kick into gear, until two parties can come together, it's not clear how we're going to get out of this quagmire, Brianna.

KEILAR: All right. Lauren, we'll be checking in with you again on Capitol Hill. Thank you.

The president is calling coronavirus testing overrated but inside the White House, testing is required. They're now conducting random tests on staff one week after the president's national security adviser, Robert O'Brien tested positive for coronavirus.

For more, I want to bring in CNN White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins. So what prompted this, Kaitlan?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, there's concern in the White House now just about how close this could get to the president after not only you saw the national security adviser test positive but also another Republican lawmaker that the president is close with.

And when these people come to the White House, Brianna, they are tested before they go in to the meeting with the president. But now, what's new and what staff is notified about today via an email is that, basically, they can be randomly selected to get COVID-19 testing.


And before, that was voluntary about whether or not you wanted to go and get a test, now it is mandatory for these staffers to get tested. So it is just an extra layer of protection happening here at the White House and it is just a marked contrast of what's actually happening throughout the rest of the country, as you're seeing the president talk about how testing is so much better and improved than it was in prior months. But people are still seeing these serious delays and whatnot.

And it comes on the president's Twitter feed, he's doing what we've been seeing him do for the last several months, which is downplay the severity of the outbreak. And he was doing it again today, being critical of what health officials, some of his own are saying about what's going on and saying that he still believes the reason there are more cases in the U.S. is because there is more testing, something that has been flatly rejected by so many officials.

But you just take that and see what the president is saying about what's happening around the country, but as they are ramping up testing even inside the west wing because, of course, they need to protect the president and the vice president and those top staffers from getting COVID-19.

KEILAR: So are they -- when they look at the national security adviser being close to the president, was that something that caused a bit of a fear, a fear response to ripple through the White House?

COLLINS: Yes, because he has an office in the west wing and that's where he works out of. It's not far from the chief of staff's office and other top officials who, of course -- maybe he is not going in to meet with the president on a certain day but he's meeting with other officials who will then go meet with the president.

And even though they are doing ramped up testing, the top staffers get tested on a daily basis, they clearly felt the need to expand that testing and to make it a wider group because it is not everybody in the west wing who gets tested. It's just those people who meet with the president.

So, say, you're a deputy of Stephen Miller, you may not get tested on a daily basis, or something like that. So that is why it seems to be that we are now seeing them expand who it is that they test and trying to make it more of a widespread idea happening at the White House.

KEILAR: All right. Kaitlan, thank you so much, live for us from the White House there.

The president is now attacking another one of his White House coronavirus task force doctors. This time, it is Dr. Birx. It's the first time that he has gone after her just a day after she issued new warnings about the extent of the outbreak in the U.S.

The president was responding to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's comments that she lacks confidence in Birx. Here was Pelosi this morning explaining why on CNN.


REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): I don't have confidence of anyone who stands there while the president says swallow Lysol is going to cure the virus. It will kill you and you won't have the virus anymore.


KEILAR: Now, I should note that the White House called it deeply irresponsible for Pelosi to attack Birx but now the president is attacking Birx.

With me now is Dr. Jonathan Reiner. He is a Professor of Medicine at George Washington University and a CNN Medical Analyst.

First, it was Dr. Anthony Fauci who came under the president's attacks. Now it is Dr. Birx, who has managed to walk a fine line but to the point of where she is really, I think, you could say, irked a lot of liberals about doing that. So what is the effect of this of the president now attacking her?

DR. JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, the president values loyalty over anything else. He values loyalty over science. He values loyalty over the facts. He values loyalty over lies. And anyone who has the temerity to disagree with the White House talking points gets shunned.

This is why we no longer see Doctors Birx and Fauci at any of these coronavirus task force press briefings, because they will speak the truth. I think Dr. Birx has tried to walk a very tight line over the last several months. I think she has tried to remain effective while not offending the president. But now she sees just how impossible that really is.

At some point, the cabinet has to start coming to the conclusion that the president is not fit to run this response. He values only one thing. He values his own message for his own political purposes but the stakes are very high here now. And one wonders what is going to -- what it will take for the cabinet to start assessing whether the president is competent to manage this. 150,000-plus people have died this and more are on the way.

KEILAR: So you do sense a change in her. I will say, I think a lot of us observing how she has been publicly addressing the coronavirus crisis during interviews had noticed a bit of a change, but even last week when she was talking about hydroxychloroquine.


She still threw out this idea she was basically shooting down the fact that it was effective for treating coronavirus but she also threw out the possibility that perhaps there were some, you know, small cases or pods of cases where it could be effective. I talked to one doctor who actually found overall her response to be good but that part of it to be irresponsible.

So what does it tell you even as she is not completely defying the president, she is still coming under fire?

REINER: He just will not tolerate any kind of dissent, you know? We teach our trainees in medicine that when we ask people a question during a procedure or on rounds, we want to know what they think. We don't want to hear what they think we want to hear. We want to hear what they think.

And any president of the United States, any leader needs to surround themselves with people who are willing to speak truth to them. This president does not want that. He only wants to hear what he wants to hear, but this is science. So now you see how that really clashes.

KEILAR: Yes. I mean, we have seen that kind of, look, saying what someone maybe not challenging when you think you should. We've seen planes crashed that way, right, for instance, just this can be a very deadly effect and very key moments.

So the president has repeatedly criticized testing. He's downplayed it. He's calling for cutting back on testing because of his view, it only leads to more cases. Now, though, the White House is requiring it more broadly. We know that he often gets tested himself. What do you make of that?

REINER: So, the White House is using testing the way most public health experts want testing used in the United States, to test widely, to test people without symptoms, to do it frequently. And that's how you find particularly the asymptomatic people. And we think that as many as 40 percent of the population with COVID may have little or no symptoms. But this is how you find those folks, isolate them and prevent the virus from spreading.

So they have been trialing that in the microcosm of the White House with relatively good effect to protect the president and the vice president. But that's the same technique that most of us want to see extended throughout the United States.

The president keeps saying that we test more people than anywhere in the world. And on an absolute basis, that's right, but not a per capita basis. The U.S. has done 60 million tests. That's about 180,000 tests per million people. But Denmark has tested 270,000 people -- 270,000 tests per million people, the U.S. at about 240,000, even Russia has tested about 200,000 people per million population. We need to do more. We need to do much more.

And it's laughable that the White House is using this technique to protect the president but the president thinks it's overrated for the rest of us.

KEILAR: The president's own head of testing says if 90 percent of people wore masks, it would be the equivalent effect to staving off coronavirus as if there was a total shutdown. Do you think that's the case?

REINER: You know, it is hard to know. I think in places where the virus is so widely extensive and spread in the community, it's hard to see how we can avoid a shutdown. But, yes, broadly speaking, universal mask wearing is the way we are going to suppress this virus. And even this has becoming politicized in the United States.

All the president's task force members have said unequivocally how important universal masking is. But you haven't heard this from the president. You haven't even heard this from the vice president unequivocally. We've heard it with qualifications and the president has reluctantly done a photo-op or two wearing a mask, but this is the way we extinguish the pandemic, massive testing and universal masks. It's not that complicated.

But for reasons that -- historians will have to decipher, this president is incapable of giving this message.

KEILAR: Dr. Reiner, thank you so much for joining us.

REINER: My pleasure.

KEILAR: Georgia's largest school district is reporting 260 positive cases and exposure as officials push to reopen schools there.

Plus, scientists are increasingly concerned that President Trump may politicize the vaccine by interfering and releasing it too early.

And is the coronavirus mutating? Dr. Gupta has a new look at this mystery question.

This is CNN's special live coverage.



KEILAR: Coronavirus is actually a new viral strain. Every day, scientists are learning more about how it spreads and how it affects those affected. But one complication to our understanding of the virus is mutations. CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta takes a look.


DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Mutation is a word that conjures up all kinds of images, radioactive waste, viruses, they're generally not pleasant. But the truth is mutations aren't always dangerous. For viruses, they're actually pretty mundane usually.

We have genetic material, DNA in all of our cells. As cells multiply and DNA gets copied, mistakes get made. In fact, your DNA mutates all the time and you almost never notice. But sometimes those changes do matter. They can be good changes, linked, for example, lower risk of diabetes or they can be harmful, for example, the mutations that can cause cancer.


Viruses mutate as well, especially those with genetic material made of RNA. RNA is one strand instead of two strands and it mutates even more easily than DNA does. Usually, these mutations are neutral or even harmful to the virus, possibly making it less lethal. But this also explains why there's a new flu vaccine every year. Flu viruses constantly change and these changes can eventually make the virus unrecognizable to the immune system. Meaning, the antibodies we have from last year's flu shot no longer really protect us.

The novel coronavirus has mutated in a way that affects its spike protein. That's a protein to allows it to enter human cells. And while this mutation may make it spread more easily person-to-person, it doesn't seem to make people any sicker.

The big question looming on the horizon, how might mutations affect our search for a vaccine?


KEILAR: We are awaiting right now a tape of President Trump, who just spoke at the White House. He actually was in the cabinet room having a hiring event and he got asked a number of questions, including about the coronavirus task force, which there have been contradictions of it from him lately here. He was asked about the coronavirus. So that that tape at this moment has just been walked down by the pool (ph) of this event. Let's listen in.

DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: -- very much. Anybody have questions? Yes, please, go ahead. Go ahead, please.

REPORTER: Mr. President, on TikTok, you said (INAUDIBLE), you're planning to ban it now that you spoke to the CEO of Microsoft after that. So could you give us an update on --

TRUMP: Yes. We had a great conversation. He called me to see whether or not -- how I felt about it. And I said, look, it can't be controlled for security reasons by China, too big, too invasive and it can't be. And here is the deal. I don't mind if -- whether it is Microsoft or somebody else, a big, a secure company, very American company buy it. It's probably easier to buy the whole thing than to buy 30 percent of it, because I say, how do you do 30 percent? Who is going to get the name? The name is hot. The brand is hot. And who is going to get the name? How do you do that if it's owned by two different companies?

So, my personal opinion was you probably better off buying the whole thing rather than buying 30 percent of it. I think buying 30 percent is complicated. And I suggested that he can go ahead, he can try. We set a date. I set a date of around September 15th, at which point it is going to be out of business in the United States. But if somebody and whether it's Microsoft or somebody else buys it, that will be interesting.

I did say that if you buy it, whatever the price is, that goes to whoever owns it because I guess it's China, essentially. But more than anything else, I said a very substantial portion of that price is going to have to come into the treasury of the United States because we're making it possible for this deal to happen.

Right now, they don't have any rights unless we give it to them. So if we're going to give them the rights, then it has to come into this country. It's a little bit like the landlord tenant. Without a lease, the tenant has nothing. So they what's called pay key money or they pay something. But the United States should be reimbursed or should be paid substantial amount of money, because without the United States, they don't have anything, at least having to do with the 30 percent. So I told him that.

I think we're going to have maybe a deal is going to be made. It's a great asset. It's a great asset. But it's not a great asset in the United States unless they have the approval of the United States.

So it will close down on September 15th unless Microsoft or somebody else is able to buy it and work out a deal, an appropriate deal, so the treasury of the -- really, the treasury, I guess, you would say, of the United States gets a lot of money, a lot of money, okay?

REPORTER: Mr. President, can you explain why so many of the public health experts on coronavirus task force are contradicting you on things like why the virus is so widespread in this country, on the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine? Why are so many of these people on your task force contradicting you?

TRUMP: Well, I think we're doing a great job. I think we are doing great on vaccines. We're doing great on therapeutics. You'll be seeing that very soon. I think we are -- when you look at a map, this is a map of the -- I've sort of shown that around a little bit but that's the red is the area most concern. It's pretty recent map of the country. And there is a lot of people that -- and a lot of areas that have gotten very better very fast.

Hydroxy has tremendous support but, politically, it's toxic because I supported it.

[13:25:02] If I would have said, do not use hydroxychloroquine under any circumstances, they would have come out and they would have said, it's a great thing. Many doctors have come out strongly in favor of it. They want it very badly. It's a great malaria drug. So, for many years -- let me finish my answer. So for many years -- I guess 60 years, it's been a malaria drug, very successful, as you know. And it's been also a drug for lupus.

And it's caused no trouble, virtually, nothing in terms of causing people to get sick or having problems with anything. You add the zinc and you add the zythromyacin, the Z-pack, as they call it. And it's been very -- I happen to take it myself, the threesome. I took it myself for a period of two weeks. I had no problem. I had no problem whatsoever. And, importantly, I didn't test positive. That's very nice, okay? I'm very happy about that, negative. And so, that's the story. It's very highly thought of.

Interestingly, a great doctor, from what I understand, a great doctor from Yale feels very strongly about hydroxychloroquine. The Ford Clinic in Michigan came out with a very, very powerful paper saying it's very good. Many other, in France, as you know, they came out with a very positive statement.

Many individual doctors have come out with very positive statements. I will tell you that if I was surrounded by people, as I was at the time, the reason I took it, we had some people that were relatively near me that tested positive. And I took it for that reason just because I've heard good things.

REPORTER: But Fauci says it doesn't work. Your (INAUDIBLE) says it doesn't work --

TRUMP: I don't agree with Fauci on everything. I don't agree with Fauci. Look, Fauci, he didn't want, and I like him. I get along with him actually great, but he didn't want to ban people from China from coming into the country and I overrode him, and I did the right thing. He was saying face masks are no good a short while ago. So it doesn't mean he's a bad person because he is not. He is a good person. I like him. But we disagree on things.

Now, I will say this. We've done an amazing job with ventilators. We were supplying the world with ventilators. Ventilators are very hard, very expensive, very hard to make, very complex, very complicated machines, very -- very expensive. Hold it. Hold it.

REPORTER: But does the U.S. have so many deaths? U.S. has so many deaths compared --

TRUMP: Hold it.

REPORTER: -- so many countries around the world.

TRUMP: > fake news, CNN, hold it. We have done a great job in this country. We haven't been given enough -- not me. I'm not talking about me. Vice president, the task force have not been given the kind of credit. If you look countries all over are world exploding right now. People that you said were doing a wonderful job, so wonderful, but right now.

Take a look at the countries that are exploding. You have Italy back. You have Spain back. You have France back. You have Germany back. You have a lot of countries, and not to knock them. It is a very delicate, very contagious disease. It was released by China. It should never have been allowed to release. There was the source where you could have stopped it and they did stop it from going into China. Although now, they say that China is having a lot of problems. Moscow in Russia is having tremendous problems.

What China unleashed was a very, very sad situation. With all of that being understood, the United States has done an amazing job, a great job and you're going to see that because we have vaccines and we have therapeutics coming very soon.

Yes, go ahead.

REPORTER: Mr. President, why are you not involved directly in negotiations with Capitol Hill?

TRUMP: Right. The fact I'm not over there with Crazy Nancy? No, I'm totally involved. I'm totally involved. And we are doing things that are very good because we don't think that she -- look, what Chuck Schumer wants more than anybody, and I would say Nancy Pelosi would be second, they want to bail out cities and states that have done a bad job over a long period time, nothing to do with coronavirus or China virus, or whatever you want to call it.

They want bailout cities and states. They want bailout money. They want a trillion dollars in bailout money. And a lot of people don't want to do that because we don't think it's right.

The Democrats have run some very bad states and some very, very bad cities and a lot of people don't want to give them a trillion dollars to reward them for doing a bad job. If you look at some of the states, I won't insult anybody by naming those states, but you know who they are.

They want bailout money. They're not interested in the people. They're not interested in unemployment. They're not interested in evictions, which is a big deal, the evictions. They want to evict -- a lot of people are going to be evicted. But I'm going to stop it because I'll do it myself if I have to. I have a lot of powers with respect to executive orders and we are looking at that very seriously right now.

But what the Democrats want, they want -- they're slow rolling it.


And all they're really interested in is bailout money to bailout radical left governors and radical left mayors like in Portland.