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Trump Says, It is What It is as U.S. Death Toll Passes 155,000; Sources Say, White House, Top Democrats Nowhere Near Deal on Stimulus Bill. Aired 10-10:30a ET

Aired August 4, 2020 - 10:00   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN NEWSROOM: A very good Tuesday morning to you. I'm Jim Sciutto.


Quote, it is what it is. Those are the words of the president of the United States when faced with a question about the staggering, growing number of American deaths during this pandemic. Take a look at this. This is just a portion of the remarkable new interview the president gave to Axios.


JONATHAN SWAN, NATIONAL POLITICAL REPORTER, AXIOS: When they hear you say, everything's under control, don't worry about wearing masks, I mean, these are people -- many of them are older people, Mr. President.


SWAN: It's giving them a false sense of security.

TRUMP: Right now, I think it's under control. I'll tell you what --

SWAN: How? A thousand Americans are dying a day.

TRUMP: They are dying. It's true. And you have -- it is what it is. But that doesn't mean we aren't doing everything we can. It's under control as much as you can control it. This is a horrible plague that beset us.


SCIUTTO: Not under control when you compare us, as Jonathan Swan did, to many other countries doing far better. Those comments, stunning, frankly.

And with the U.S. topping 150,000 deaths so far from this virus, here is another remarkable number. In a new poll out this morning, just 13 percent of Americans say they are satisfied with the way things are going in the U.S. right now. That is down a remarkable 32 percent, just since February.

let's get to CNN's Joe Johns. He is at the White House where we expect to hear from the president in just minutes. And, Joe, I think denial is a word that comes across from that interview, but also some enabling going on, right? Because you have a staff there that seems willing to supply him with graphs and figures that reinforce his point of view in defiance of what all the health experts are saying.

JOE JOHNS, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Right. And so you're left with a question of how much of this is denial versus how much of this is lack of knowledge versus how much of this is simply misleading for political purposes. And it's kind of all in there.

This interview is quite remarkable, probably the most remarkable picture yet of how the president is also in a loop. He continues to repeat the same messages again and again despite being confronted with reality and the facts. An example of that is testing and whether it's a good idea.

Listen to this clip from the interview.


SWAN: When can you commit, by what date, that every American will have access to the same-day testing that you get here in the White House?

TRUMP: Well, we have great testing. What we're doing --

SWAN: By what date?

TRUMP: Let me explain. The testing, we have tested more people than any other country, than all of Europe put together times two. We have tested more people than anybody ever thought of. India has 1.4 billion. They've done 11 million tests. We've done 55, it will be close to have 60 million tests.

And there are those that say, you can test too much. You do know that.

SWAN: Who says that?

TRUMP: Just read the manuals. Read the books.

SWAN: Manuals? What manuals?

TRUMP: Read the books. Read books.

SWAN: What books?

TRUMP: What testing does --

SWAN: Wait a minute, I'm sorry --

TRUMP: Let me explain. What testing does, it shows cases. It shows where there may be cases. Other countries test -- you know, when they test, they test when somebody is sick. That's when they test. And I'm not saying they are right or wrong. Nobody has done it like we've done it. We've gotten absolutely no credit for it.


JOHNS: Another example of how the president seems to be in denial is on the issue of coronavirus fatalities in the United States and using the same standard to compare the United States to fatalities in other countries. The president seems to want to use a different standard, or so he says in the interview. Listen.


SWAN: The figure I look at is death, and death is going up now.

TRUMP: Okay.

SWAN: And it's 1,000 a day.

TRUMP: If you look at death --

SWAN: Yes, it's going up again, daily death.

TRUMP: Take a look at some of these charts.

SWAN: I'd love to.

TRUMP: Okay? We're going to look.

SWAN: Let's look.

TRUMP: And if you look at death --

SWAN: Yes, it started to go up again.

TRUMP: Here is one. Well, right here, United States is lowest in numerous categories. We're lower than the world --

SWAN: Lower than the world?

TRUMP: We're lower than Europe --

SWAN: In what?

TRUMP: Take a look, right here. Here is case death.

SWAN: Oh, you're doing death as a proportion of cases. I'm talking about death as a proportion of population. That's where the U.S. is really bad, much worse than South Korea, Germany, et cetera.


TRUMP: You can't do that. You have to --

SWAN: Why can't I do that? TRUMP: You have to go by where -- look, here is the United States. You have to go by the cases. The cases of death --

SWAN: Why not as a proportion of population?

TRUMP: When we have somebody -- what it says is, when you have somebody that has -- where there's a case --

SWAN: Oh, okay.

TRUMP: -- the people that live from those cases.

SWAN: It's surely a relevant statistic to say if the U.S. has X population and X percentage of death of that population versus South Korea --

TRUMP: No, you have to go by the cases.

SWAN: Well, look at South Korea, for example, 51 million population, 300 deaths. It's like, it's crazy compared to --

TRUMP: You don't know that.

SWAN: I do. It's on -- you think they're faking their statistics, South Korea, an advanced country?

TRUMP: I won't get into that.


JOHNS: It really gives you an idea perhaps of why the president is being abandoned by his health and science advisers on the coronavirus task force. Those folks seem to be on a completely different page than the political people over here at the White House, including the president.

Jim and Poppy, back to you.

HARLOW: It's remarkable. Joe Johns, thank you very much.

Joining us now is Dr. Amy Compton=Phillips, Chief Clinical Officer from Providence Health System. And also with us, CNN Political Commentator, Errol Louis. Thank you both very, very much for being here.

I would like to start with you, Doctor, just simple all politics aside, and they're very important here and we'll get to some of this with Errol. But why is it so striking and so important and scary, frankly, that the president doesn't seem to think it's important, you know, the mortality rate that we're seeing in this country, the proportion to the population?

DR. AMY COMPTON-PHILLIPS, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, thank you so much for the question, Poppy. You know, if you just look at the facts, the U.S. has about 4 percent of the world's population and about a quarter of the cases, 25 percent of the cases, we definitely have a problem here in the U.S. And for any doctor who's ever referred a patient to a 12-step program or if you have a loved one who's ever gone to A.A., you know that step one, to curing the problem is to admit that you have a problem.

And so without the U.S. saying, look, folks, you know, we have an issue, we're not doing so well, taking care of coronavirus, we're never going to address and never going to get back on a better course.

SCIUTTO: Errol Louis, one burning question as you watched that interview is this. Is the president lying or is he ignorant to the true extent of this? Is he deliberately misleading people, finding statistics that support his point of view, or does he just not get it?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Honestly, when a thousand a people a day are dying, Jim, I'm not sure there's that much relevant difference between malice and ignorance. In this case, I think you've got sort of a perfect fusing of the two, where the president is down in the polls in ways that he never imagined, he's on track as we hit the 90-day mark towards a crushing defeat in November, unless he can turn something around.

And I think he's sort of flailing. I think he's reaching for any piece of -- any scrap of decent information that he can latch onto, even if it, for public health purposes, is either irrelevant or highly misleading. And that's what we're seeing.

And I think that's what is so alarming about this interview, is that even as the House is falling in for him politically, he's worried about the politics and not the mass death that this country is experiencing.

And without getting some information from some of these other countries, I think nine out of ten people confronted with these numbers would say, oh, my goodness, what are they doing in South Korea that we can copy? What are they doing in Germany? Can we fly some of their public health experts over here and maybe duplicate some of it? But we're getting just the opposite. And the reasons are purely political.

SCIUTTO: It's not a secret. We know what they're doing. They tested and contact traced aggressively and early and tracked people -- the thing is, it's been known from the beginning. It's just remarkable. It's remarkable this is where we are.

LOUIS: I mean, if he showed signs of putting up a good fight, it would probably work out for him, even politically. I think what Americans want to see is that we've got leadership that's fully engaged, fully aware of the facts, compassionate, energetic and willing to do whatever it takes to bring the rate down, to save lives. And he's projecting just the opposite in all of those categories.

HARLOW: There is, Dr. Compton-Phillips, the coronavirus task force meeting today at 3:00 P.M. I hope and I assume that each and every one of the members will have watched this interview in its entirety. It's over half an hour by then. A large portion of it is on COVID. And if you were a member, if you were Dr. Birx, if you were Dr. Fauci, what would you say to the president after seeing that? What would be imperative for him to know, going forward?

COMPTON-PHILLIPS: I think reality. You know, for some reason, the president is internalizing a different picture.


And, again, you know, we don't know exactly why, but politics or malice, but the fact that we have tools in our tool kit that we can use to change the trajectory, we can focus on masking, we can focus on opening economies safely, we can focus on opening schools safely. And, oh, by the way, the CDC actually has advice on how to do that, versus saying, we just have to do everything all at once in a way that's going to perpetuate the pandemic in the way that it's been so far.

So I think, actually, focusing on the science, focusing on what's possible to start where we are today, which is not in the right spot, and make it better, is what the task force is going to have to do to help us navigate out of this quagmire.

SCIUTTO: Errol Louis, there was a moment of supreme and remarkable narcissism in this interview when Jonathan Swan asked about the passing of John Lewis, a man, I don't have to tell you, with decades in the civil rights fight, decades serving in Congress. Here is how the president discussed him.


SWAN: John Lewis is lying in state in the U.S. Capitol. How do you think history will remember John Lewis?

TRUMP: I don't know. I really don't know. I don't know. I don't know John Lewis. He chose not to come to my inauguration. He chose -- I don't -- I never met John Lewis, actually, I don't believe.

SWAN: Do you find him impressive?

TRUMP: I can't say one way or the other. I find a lot of people impressive. I find many people not impressive, but no. but I didn't know him.

SWAN: Do you find his story impressive?

TRUMP: He didn't come to my inauguration. He didn't come to my state of the union speeches, and that's okay.


SCIUTTO: Errol Louis, all about him.

LOUIS: Yes, this is the Trump style. This is how he succeeded in business. This is how, frankly, he succeeded in politics. The attitude is, you step on my toe, and I'll chop off your head. So a relatively minor political snub that almost nobody remembered, which is John Lewis not showing up for the inauguration or the state of the union speeches, nobody knew, nobody cared. His life and our politics are much bigger than that, but not for Donald Trump. That was a minor snub. And once there's a minor snub, he throws everything at you. That is the trump style, always has been.

SCIUTTO: Yes, the experience with John McCain as well, no question. Sorry, Poppy.

HARLOW: No, I just -- we're out of time, but I was just stunned to hear him say that he's done more for African-Americans in this country, Errol, okay. I mean -- and Jonathan Swan is like, but what about Lyndon Johnson, but what about the Civil Rights Act, what about Voting Right Act?

LOUIS: What about FDR?

HARLOW: I mean, right, we could go on. But it's -- thoughts?

LOUIS: That's just an absurdity. He got 8 percent of the black vote in 2016. He seems to be on track to eclipse that and go down to 6 or 5 percent. And we've got a perfect example of why. I mean, that is a complete break from reality and no serious person would give that a moment's thought.

SCIUTTO: Yes. Well, you wonder who's challenging him inside the White House right now. Errol Louis, Dr. Amy Compton-Phillips, thanks to both of you.

The State of Georgia is reopening a field hospital at a convention center in Downtown Atlanta as the state approaches 200,000 coronavirus cases and is seeing a surge, sadly, in hospitalizations now.

HARLOW: And despite this, children in some parts of the State of Georgia are reporting to school for in-person learning. Dianne Gallagher joins us now in Atlanta. Good morning, Dianne. What are we hearing from the governor on both of these fronts?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Poppy. So the governor, much like many other states, is kind of allowing the school district to take the lead. And even in districts where the students are doing online learning to begin the school year, in some of those, like the largest school district, Gwinnett County Public Schools, the teachers are still reporting to work to teach online from inside their classrooms. Gwinnett County Public Schools reported 260 around employees have either tested positive for COVID-19 or been exposed to it, so they can't work at this point. School starts next week in Gwinnett County.

Now, as far as the Georgia World Congress Center goes, it reopened, began accepting patients on Monday. This is an overflow hospitals to kind of take the pressure off of the area hospitals when it comes to COVID-19 patients. They're not going to take the sickest patients, but, look, ICU capacity is 85 percent in the State of Georgia, a great number of those in the Atlanta area. And, look, Georgia, at this point, is likely to surpass 200,000 COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began sometime this week. Jim, Poppy?

SCIUTTO: Sad to watch there. Dianne Gallagher, thanks very much.

Now, let's go to Rosa Flores, she is live in Miami. So, Rosa, Florida in a precarious position, more than three dozen hospitals say they have reached ICU capacity. You've challenged the governor there for hard answers, not getting those answers. Tell us what you're seeing.


ROSA FLORES, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, Jim, and the debate over whether or not to reopen schools for in-person instruction still continues here in this state. Let me share with you the facts, because according to the Florida Department of Health, there are more than 38,000 children in this state that have contracted the coronavirus. Nearly 400 have been hospitalized and, tragically, seven have died.

Now, here in Miami-Dade County where I am, this is the epicenter of the crisis in this state, accounting for 25 percent of the more than 490,000 cases in this state. And yet in a few weeks, we could see face-to-face instruction happen in this county. Yes, Miami-Dade public schools has opted for virtual learning only, but we've learned that there are 139 charter schools in this county and they don't have to follow Miami-Dade public schools and go all virtual, they just have to follow the state mandate. And, Jim and Poppy, you and I know that this state has been pushing for face-to-face instruction. Jim and Poppy?

HARLOW: Rosa, thank you for that reporting out of Florida. Let's follow it closely.

SCIUTTO: Well, the top Democratic and White House negotiators will be back at the bargaining table today. Just how close, how far are the two sides away from making a deal on a stimulus package? We know many of you watching want to know.

Plus, coronavirus devastating cities across the nation. How can they overcome the human and economic toll? I'm going to speak to the mayor of Kansas City.

HARLOW: And as questions swirl over will there be a college football season, a top player says he will not play. He is sitting out. He'll tell us his story, ahead.



SCIUTTO: Well, I'm sure many of you growing impatient, but today, it's back to the negotiating table for top congressional Democrats and White House officials trying to hammer out a deal on the next coronavirus relief package.

HARLOW: Right. And so far, the two sides have held six closed-door meetings for more than ten total hours over the course of eight days. Now, they're calling some of these talks productive, but sources say they're nowhere close to an agreement. So, not just sources, but Mark Meadows says they're nowhere close to an agreement.

Manu Raju is on Capitol Hill with the latest. The former White House senior adviser of the president, Kevin Hassett, told me last hour that I was wrong to call this a failure by Congress, but I think it is, because they had months to do this and a lot of these benefits lapsed on Friday.

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, and there's been a lot of finger pointing about why exactly those lapsed. And these negotiations have been going on, as you mentioned, there have been six closed door meetings, they are nowhere close to an agreement. They also haven't really closed out any issues that are on the table and there are a lot of issues.

There's the funding for state and local governments. Democrats want $1 trillion for that. The Republicans want nowhere near that amount of money. The Democrats are pushing for $430 billion for schools to help with the reopening. Republicans want about $105 billion for that. There are those expiring jobless benefits, the Democrats want to extend that $600 a week in benefits. Those expired last week. The Republicans want a significant reduction in that. And also, people are worried about getting evicted from their homes after the federal eviction moratorium expired. There's nowhere near an agreement on that either.

So the question is, how does this resolve? The Senate the going on a recess, it's scheduled to go on recess next week. Will they scrap that recess, will they get a deal before that or will they pull the plug? All big questions as they meet again today, guys.

SCIUTTO: I mean, it raises the question, do they want an issue or a deal? I mean, it's kind of a constant question. I mean, you have been trying to zero in on the relationship between Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer, but there's a question there too as to whether the leaders see compromise as worthwhile or just politically damaging. What's happening in that relationship?

RAJU: Yes. Throughout the course of this crisis, Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer have really not negotiated one-on-one throughout all of this. And during this latest episode, which has been the hardest package so far to put together, they have yet to sit down face-to- face.

Instead, it's been the administration meeting with Democratic leaders and then the administration officials, Mark Meadows and Steven Mnuchin, going and briefing Mitch McConnell. Mitch McConnell gives his input, it gets translated back by the administration by the Democratic leaders.

Some of this is institutional because of the divide in Congress. Other of it, Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer have had a long history of a very frosty relationship.

And I asked Chuck Schumer yesterday, why not sit down one-on-one with Mitch McConnell? He said, quote, ask him. And then I asked him to characterize the relationship between McConnell. And Schumer said, look, he's the Senate leader, but he's not in the room and it's hard to negotiate with someone who's not in the room and he didn't want to elaborate any further.

And I asked Mitch McConnell about why he's not negotiating with Schumer directly. He said, because you need the guy with the pen, referring to the president. You cannot make a deal unless you have the president involved. So the two power centers on legislation are the president and the Democratic majority in the House and a substantial Democratic minority in the Senate.

He added that he is getting briefed on the matter. And he also added that, you know, his relationship with Schumer, in his view, is fine. They haven't met much. But I can tell you, talking to some Republican senators, there is some unease about letting the administration take the lead in those talks. So we'll see if anything changes here. But those two power players in the Senate who are fighting over who will be the next Senate majority leader aren't talking during this crisis, guys.

SCIUTTO: Yes. It seems like McConnell almost making a veiled shot of the president for not being central to these negotiations. Manu Raju on the Hill, thanks very much.


As concern increases for a coronavirus spike in Midwestern states, the mayor of Kansas City, Missouri, he as a simple message, put on a damn mask. I'm going to speak with him, next.