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Biden Nears Running Mate Decision; Trump Directs Tata to New Role; Indiana Student Tests Positive on First Day of School; NFL Coach Tests Positive for Covid. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired August 3, 2020 - 06:30   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Grim. All right, Margaret Talev, Christine Romans, thanks so much for being with us this morning.


ERICA HILL, CNN ANCHOR: We are now three months away from election day and there's still one big question, who will be Joe Biden's running mate? We've got the latest on the Veepstakes (ph), next.


BERMAN: New developments in Joe Biden's search for a running mate. A selection that could be just days away as the list of top contenders narrows. Some of the leading women are fending off new lines of attack.

Let's bring in CNN political analyst and "New York Times" national political correspondent Alex Burns.

Alex, let me put up on the screen so people can see what CNN's reporting is, which lines up with what you have at "The Times" too on who the leading contenders are, absent one person who's not on this picture right now. But if we can put this up on the screen so people can see, Senator Kamala Harris from California, former National Security Adviser Susan Rice, and Karen Bass, a congresswoman from California as well.

Now, not seen here is Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth, who is also seen to be a leading contender.

But where do things stand this morning? Where is the Biden campaign in the process? And I happen to think we've seen some remarkable things the last few days in terms of a very public vet.


ALEX BURNS, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: We really have, John. And it's -- there's the public process and the private process that have both sort of reached new stages just in the last few days.

Our reporting was that Biden was going to begin in-person interviews as soon as this weekend. We don't know for sure whether he did that or with whom, but there was a pretty good chance and we're going to wait for further signals about that.

But the public process is really what has become so striking over the last week, where a lot of the long-simmering concerns that Biden allies had about Senator Harris have really burst into public view and what had been a really quiet lobbying campaign on The Hill for Karen Bass has become much, much more publicly obvious. We saw, I think, very significantly over the weekend, Bass make the rounds on television to try to publicly rebut some of criticism of her record, particularly on Cuba. The people in Washington who have been privately pushing her to the Biden camp, which includes a whole number of members of the House of Representatives, and, while she says it's not an official endorsement, Speaker Pelosi has said very, very positive things about Bass to the Biden camp and to other folks, including former President Barack Obama.

That Cuba issue, though, they really do want to make sure that somebody like Representative Bass, who is a relatively obscure figure on the national stage, is really ready to take that kind of a punch and put that criticism to rest.

HILL: So, if -- for folks who -- who may not have seen it, she did -- she was asked about that, obviously, this weekend and pushed back. I just want to play some of what her -- what she had to say in response.


REP. KAREN BASS (D-CA): One, don't consider myself a Castro sympathizer. Number two, I -- my position on Cuba is really no different than the position of the Obama administration.

And then, frankly, I believe the Republicans have decided to brand the entire Democratic Party as socialists and communists. So I'm not surprised by Rubio's characterization of me or of a role I would play if I was on the ticket.


HILL: She's referencing, obviously there, Senator Marco Rubio, who called her the highest ranking Castro sympathizer in the history of the United States government.

This is not going to go away after a couple of interviews, Alex, but how is it landing so far, her answers?

BURNS: No, you're absolutely right that it's not going to go anywhere. And you already have the Trump campaign calling her, you know, communist Karen, which is, you know, obviously, the kind of epithet that a candidate typically dreads.

Look, I think that Democrats saw her over the weekend dealing with that criticism to the best of her ability, or to really anyone's ability. I don't think there are people who saw her on the shows over the weekend and felt like, you know, she didn't quite land the defense. It's more just the underlying facts are what they are, that, yes, her position on Cuba today may not be meaningfully different from former President Barack Obama's, but she did go to Cuba a whole number of times in her youth when it was a much more controversial thing to do than it is today. She did make a statement that she made about the death of Fidel Castro.

And the question for the Biden campaign is, do they feel like that the whole package of Karen Bass is so attractive, both politically and in governing terms, that it's worth the risk, and it is definitely a short-term political risk, particularly in the state of Florida. I think there's -- it's really a Florida-centric concern. There's less concern that sort of suburban swing voters in the greater Milwaukee area are going to see Karen Bass as some terrifying communist radical and more just that people in Florida, especially Cuban Americans and other folks from Latin America who are very, very attuned to the issue of communism and socialism and government repression in Latin America will look more askance at a ticket that includes somebody with that travel history.

What you're seeing over the last few days in some ways may be somewhat uncomfortable for the candidates being discussed, but it's also somewhat traditional, Alex, where you try to get this information out there and see how the public reacts to it, to see how it's handled.

In that vein, what's going on with Senator Kamala Harris? Many people saw her as an early frontrunner for the number two pick for Joe Biden, but where does she stand this morning, Alex?

BURNS: You know, John, I think she stands not terribly differently -- in a terribly different place from where she has been all along, which is that she's one of the strongest and most formidable candidates in this process, but one of the candidates who has the most serious, personal baggage when it comes to just her relationship with Joe Biden, the Biden family, and the circle of advisers around Joe Biden. I think that this, obviously, burst into public view because of the comments that leaked from former Senator Chris Dodd, who's helping lead the VP search, about that debate exchange between her and Biden last year.

But the underlying concerns about, is she going to be a reliable, political partner or is she going to be somebody who is essentially pursuing her own agenda from day one of the administration.


You know, I have heard people close to Biden saying that for months and months and months, that this is not just a Chris Dodd issue.

So the question now is, does it make it harder for Joe Biden to choose her or, frankly, to not choose her because this is all out in public, as opposed to, if it had just remained this kind of relatively discreet, widely known, open secret of the VP process that Senator Harris had this hurdle to overcome.

BERMAN: Alex burns, your reporting has been really interesting to read over the last few days. I look forward to clicking on it again, maybe later today, as you learn more. I know you're digging to see if the vice president met with any of these candidates over the weekend. So we'll find out soon.

Thanks, Alex.

BURNS: Thanks a lot.

HILL: Developing this morning, President Trump pushing a controversial pick for a top Pentagon job into a new role with almost the same duties after his Senate confirmation appeared doomed.

Joining us now is national security reporter Ryan Browne, who's got the latest on this.

So, Ryan, what more do we know?

RYAN BROWNE, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY REPORTER: Well, Erica, it's been an interesting series of developments in this case. You know, Brigadier -- retired Brigadier General Anthony Tata had been up for the number one policy job here at the Pentagon. It's the number three job overall in the building. It's a very senior role. But his confirmation ran into some serious headwinds when it emerged, thanks to CNN's K-File team, that he had made a series of comments that were deemed -- some were deemed to be Islamaphobic. He spread a conspiracy theory that the former CIA Director John Brennan had a -- was plotting to kill President Trump. He called President Obama a terrorist leader.

So amid those comments, there was bipartisan opposition to his nomination. His nomination stalled. But what the administration has chosen to do, and President Trump apparently directed, was putting him in the number two policy job at the Pentagon on a temporary basis. He will not have to face Senate confirmation in this.

So it's already raised opposition on Capitol Hill to this move. They've accused the Trump administration of skirting the confirmation process, skirting those checks and balances. In fact, the top Senator on the Senate -- top Democrat senator on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Jack Reed, calling it a destabilizing and offensive move and an insult to U.S. troops.


HILL: Ryan Browne with that excellent reporting.

Ryan, thank you.

BROWNE: You bet.

HILL: Schools are facing a tough decision over bringing kids back for in-person classes. We're going to speak with one superintendent whose district is already dealing with a positive student, positive case, and that happened on the very first day of school.



HILL: Schools across the country reopening, but a cautionary tale from actually more than one school. First, a school district in Indiana didn't even make it past the first day before a student there tested positive for coronavirus. That set off alarm bells and prompted plenty of headlines around the country.

Dr. Harold Olin is superintendent of the Greenfield-Central Community School Corporation in Greenfield, Indiana.

Good to have you with us this morning.

As you know, I'm sure, because I'm sure you got some calls, that headline did really set off alarm bells for a lot of folks. And as I understand it, you found out about the positive test not from this student or the student's family, but from the health department, correct?

DR. HAROLD E. OLIN, SUPERINTENDENT, GREENFIELD-CENTRAL COMMUNITY SCHOOL CORPORATION: That is correct. And we started school on Thursday, the 30th, and we'd been planning for that day for many months. So we, obviously, were a little disappointed when we received a phone call from the health department telling us that one of our students had tested positive.

The student had tested a few days before. The family had not waited to get the results, and the student came to school. So as soon as we were notified by the health department, we did isolate the student, obviously got the student out of the -- the school as quickly as we could. We began to initiate our protocols for contact tracing. So we went to each of the teachers that the student had been a part of, looked at seating charts, actually went into classrooms to see who had been within six feet of that student for more than 15 minutes. And, unfortunately, we had to make a number of phone calls that evening to families to let them know that children would need to be excluded from school for 14 days. Not exactly the -- the start we were looking for in that specific school.

HILL: But you haven't had -- the upside is, at least as of today, I understand it, there haven't been any additional cases connected to this student, correct?

OLIN: There have not been. And we've asked families and staff, for that matter, to do a self-screening each day. So if they have symptoms, Covid symptoms, or if they've been around someone who's been identified as positive, certainly we ask them not to attend school. And our families have really done a nice job of that, for the most part.

HILL: You talk about, you know, you had a plan in place and -- as most districts and schools do. I know we just got our proposal, so we know what the plan is in our school district.

But I'm curious, too, just -- your message to the other families. The fact that this family did send their child to get a test, still didn't have the results. We know that there is an issue with a lag time in results across the country, but still sent their child to school. Was that -- did that come up as a discussion with the family about essentially putting so many other people at risk? OLIN: Certainly it did. And, again, I use that term "disappointing"

because it is. You -- obviously, as a school corporation, we want to control the variables that we can control. And we've been working on this since really in late March, early April. And we will continue to control the variables we can control. We need families to control the variables they can control, which is that self-screening piece.

Again, it's probably -- it could work out to be a good thing, and I think other families, not only in Greenfield, but I hope across the nation realize the importance of that self-screening piece, that there are responsibilities really on both sides, as a school corporation and as families.

HILL: How did your staff react to news of the positive test?

OLIN: You know, I -- certainly disappointment. And I did speak with a couple of the teachers specifically at that junior high the following morning. And I think they're rolling with it very well. I am pleased to say that none of our staff members were noted as a direct contact, meaning they were not within six feet for 15 minutes or longer.


I think it does help them knowing we have protocols in place. We've been working with the state health department, the county health department, certainly the department of education in creating these protocols. In fact, we had about 65 people who helped us draft the protocols we have in place here. So we feel like, you know, teachers, counselors, coaches, they've all had a voice in this. We've certainly listened to our families as well. We did a couple of surveys over the summer, getting input from them in terms of what they would expect from us. So I feel like people in our community feel like their voices were heard.

Now, to answer your question more specifically, certainly that does create additional anxiety for some of our teachers who were kind of on the fence about being back anyway, and we're certainly trying to -- to work through a few of those.

HILL: A superintendent from Arizona wrote an op-ed in "The Washington Post" talking about the possibility of a safe return to school in which he called it a fantasy, saying, kids will get sick or worse, family members will die, teachers will die, saying it is just not safe.

Each district, each municipality is dealing with different issues, including the community spread, the rate of transmission in their area. But -- but looking forward, I mean, what do you envision, you know, in Greenfield, especially after what you saw on day one. The protocols you had in place appear to have worked. I know you said that this, you know, maybe could serve as a positive, cautionary tale, but does it raise your concern? You talked about your staff. What about you personally?

OLIN: Well, I have a wife who's an educator. I have a daughter who's in our high school. So certainly it's something that I do think about. There are inherent risks in a lot of things that we do, whether that's

driving to school each day or going to a shopping mall. I think we've really taken for granted that going to school hasn't had a lot of risks in the past. That is not our current reality.

I do believe that schooling on-site is our best option in America in terms of the best quality education that we can deliver. Now, that being said, we did survey our families. Fifteen percent of them told us in both the surveys we did over the summer that they would likely be interested in the virtual option as we started our school year, 15 percent of our families did participate, are participating, in that virtual opportunity that we have. I can see that shifting a little bit perhaps as we -- we move into the school year. And we have some ability to shift people between those two formats.

A lot of our families made it very clear to us, they want their kids to be on site with a teacher. We just need to make sure that as a school corporation we can meet the needs of both -- of both types of families.

HILL: Dr. Harold Olin, appreciate you joining us this morning. Thank you.

OLIN: Thanks for having me.

HILL: An NFL coach has now tested positive for coronavirus as the league prepares to start its season. We have those details in "Bleacher Report," next.



BERMAN: Developing this morning, Philadelphia Eagles Coach Doug Peterson now in quarantine after testing positive for coronavirus.

Carolyn Manno has more in this morning's "Bleacher Report."



Well, the good news here is that he seems to have a mild case. Peterson is the first NFL coach to be diagnosed with coronavirus in training camp. You'll recall Sean Payton was diagnosed back in March. But he is asymptomatic according to the team and doing well.

The Eagles maintain that they're following the health and safety protocols established by the league and the players' union. Any individuals who are in close contact with Peterson have been notified. They're going to continue to be tested daily.

Meantime, Yoenis Cespedes is opting out of the rest of Major League Baseball's 2020 season. A very hectic couple of hours on Sunday in which nobody knew where the 34-year-old was for a time. The slugger skipped the Mets' loss in Atlanta without disclosing his whereabouts to the team. Turns out he had picked up his belongings and left the team hotel. His agent told the Mets mid-game he would be opting out of the rest of the season for Covid-related reasons. The team's general manager said his first concern for the two-time all-star was his well- being.


BRODIE VAN WAGENEN, GENERAL MANAGER, NEW YORK METS: Any time a player doesn't -- doesn't show up, there's -- you know, there's questions and concerns. Now, you know, as far as anger or the, you know, the situation that Louis (ph) was put in or the teammates were put in, you know, I think that first and foremost it was about making sure he was OK. And then now we have a lot better understanding that -- that he had a, you know, a decision that just hadn't been communicated to us yet.


MANNO: Cespedes is in the final year of his four-year $110 million contract. So this could be the end of his tenure with the team, John. You know, he wasn't penciled into the starting lineup on Sunday, so there could be some frustrations boiling over there, as well. But, still, a very bizarre day, even for the Mets.

BERMAN: Oh, it was totally strange. Completely strange. Look, I'm glad he's OK, but there was a lot of concern. And not the only player, not the only mega star to opt out over the weekend, with Cain from Milwaukee opting out, as well.

MANNO: You're right.

BERMAN: All right, Carolyn Manno, thanks so much for being with us this morning.

The White House coronavirus response coordinator says we are on a new phase now of the pandemic and she doesn't mean a good phase.

NEW DAY continues right now.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This epidemic right now is different, it's more widespread.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The CDC projects the death toll could climb to 173,000 by August 22nd.

STEVEN MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY: The president wants us to get a deal done quickly.

MARK MEADOWS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: We're still a long ways apart. And I don't want to suggest that a deal is imminent.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We think landfall, about 24 hours from right now, you know, along the coast of the Carolinas.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is just going to be a typical rainstorm. I don't think there's any really reason to worry or evacuate.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Emergency management officials did prepare for this situation of having a tropical storm during a pandemic.