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Trump: "Looking Into" Unproven Therapeutic for Coronavirus; Trump Speaks Amid Furor Over Postal Service; Study: Minorities Disproportionately Hospitalized for COVID-19; Video Shows Packed Private Party Near Georgia College Campus; UNC Has Four COVID Outbreaks Less Than a Week After Classes Resume; CDC: COVID Infection Rate has Increased "Steadily" in Children Under 17; Another Georgia School Suspends Classes Due to Rising COVID Cases; Pelosi Calls for House to Return from Recess for Postal Service Vote; WH Chief of Staff: Mail Sorting Machines Won't be Removed; Two Dem Congressmen Call for FBI Investigation into USPS Chief and Board of Governors; Trump: Absentee Ballots "Great," Universal Mail-In Voting "Dangerous"; States Consider Legal Action Against WH Over USPS, Mail-In Voting. Aired 11-11:30a ET.

Aired August 17, 2020 - 11:00   ET

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


[11:00:00]

JOHN ROBERTS, CNN SENIOR NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: The question is, is that about public interest or is it about private profit? Mike Lindell told our colleague Betsy Klein this morning that he has a seat on the board of the company that produces this, has a financial stake in the drug, and of course we've seen from the president's promotion of hydroxychloroquine over the opposition of his public health officials that there may be private interest involved there.

He gave - announced a big loan to Kodak to get into the generic drug business, including components for hydroxychloroquine. Now that loan has been halted while the government investigates insider trading. So we don't know where this is going to go with the oleandrin, but it's something that we'll watch and, of course, will be a question for the Food and Drug Administration.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN NEWSROOM HOST: Absolutely, and John real quick, just on mail-in voting as he continues to - as you rightly fact checked, one thing I noticed there is now it seems the president's a bit muddying the water about why he cares so much about the postal service.

Now he continues - now he's going back to what we - he has said previously about being just concerned of the financial situation with the postal office when he made very clear last week why he is holding up, why he is not interested in funding the postal service. It has nothing to do with getting its house in order. It has everything to do with mail-in voting.

ROBERTS: Well, exactly. He said so directly, and you know, the backdrop for this, Kate, as you know is long-term funding issues for the U.S. Postal Service, and Republicans have talked for years about wanting it to be more run like a business.

They of course - the way - the reason the postal service loses money in some cases is because rural, small states that get service at the same rates that everyone else does are getting subsidized because they're more expensive to serve, but this is a case where the demands on the postal service have dramatically increased because of the coronavirus because to avoid getting sick many, many more people want to vote by mail.

The president's losing the election. He's behind, if you average all the polls, by a significant margin to Joe Biden, and he's looking to sew confusion and doubt about the outcome of the election, and the Democrats are beginning to push back. The Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, is calling back the House, and the question's going to be how to congressional Republicans respond? Are they going to hear the voices of their constituents who are fearful that, say, their medications will not be delivered on time because -

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: Right.

ROBERTS: -- of some of these service problems with the postal service. That's where the battles really going to get joined.

BOLDUAN: Absolutely. John, thank you for standing by and working through that with us. I really appreciate it. All right, joining me right now is Dr. Celine Gounder. She's a CNN Medical Analyst and former New York City Assistant Commissioner of Health. Dr. Gounder, I'm just going to ask the control room if you have that sound byte of the president being asked about oleandrin, let me know because I'd like to play it again for Dr. Gounder.

I know I'm asking for that on the fly, but with - even without that, Dr. Gounder, I wanted to ask you - I've been wanting to ask you about this because this is fresh reporting that first came out through Axios, citing sources saying that the president wants the FDA to approve this botanical extract who has a potential cure as people who support it describe it for a cure for COVID-19, but it's not only not proven that it has any impact with relation to COVID. It is not proven to have any impact - it's not approved for anything. What do you think of this?

DR. CELINE GOUNDER, FORMER NYC ASSISTANT COMMISSIONER OF HEALTH: Well Kate, I think the same rules, the same procedures and protocols need to apply to any drug or vaccine that we're looking at for coronavirus or really for any medical condition.

So whether that is remdesivir and dexamethasone, which actual drugs that have been studied already in Phase 1, Phase 2 clinical trials, or whether it's a new drug or botanical like what the president is talking about, this is not Russia. You know, we don't just put out a vaccine without testing it appropriately.

There's a reason that we have these health and safety protocols to make sure that whatever we put out there is safe and effective, and that just has not been proven in this case or in the case of other medications that the president has promoted like hydroxychloroquine.

BOLDUAN: And I guess - and that's something, a comparison to make for sure because it does seem like it could be even potentially more dangerous than the conversation that was had over hydroxychloroquine since this is currently not tested or approved for any use whereas hydroxychloroquine with serious side effects, though, was approved for actual treatments of actual diseases. What do people need to know?

GOUNDER: Well look, you know, I think it's important to remember that we do have processes. We have a Food and Drug Administration because there periods in our history, for example, in the early 1900s where many things were peddled as cure alls.

They were snake oils that were really dangerous to people. Things like laudanum was peddled as a cure all, which actually is largely opioids, so you ended up having a lot of middle class women becoming addicted to opioids at that point in our history. So there's a real reason we have these health and safety measures to protect the American people.

[11:05:00]

BOLDUAN: Yes. There is new research out, Dr. Gounder, that I wanted to ask you about really just within the last few minutes highlighting not only how Latino and black people are getting harder hit by the virus than any other group but are disproportionately also being hospitalized at a rate - at a higher rate for COVID.

One example is Ohio where black patients accounted for 31.8 percent of hospitalizations compared to making up only 13 percent of the state's population. That's startling in and of itself, but what does it mean for the country and what needs to be done now?

GOUNDER: Well this certainly rings true with my own experience in New York City caring for COVID patients. The vast majority of the patients I saw were either Latinx or African American, and I think it's important to remember this is largely related to who's at risk for being exposed and then who's at risk for having severe disease. This is not just about socioeconomic status. This is about structural racism that is baked in to every aspect of our society.

So whether that is the fact that we know that Latinx and African American and indigenous communities are more likely to live in places that have worse air pollution, that they're more likely to not have access to safe water, to have water that's contaminated by lead, they're more likely to have schools that are crumbling that don't have appropriate ventilation, they're less likely to be in jobs that have some health and safety protections that the rest of us enjoy. So it is not surprising to me at all that we're seeing this bear out in the data

BOLDUAN: Yes. None surprising, but just horrible nonetheless. There is a lot of talk about this new, inexpensive, saliva-based COVID test that just receive FDA emergency authorization. I wanted to get your take on it. Do you - do you see it as a game changer as some are describing this test? GOUNDER: This is potentially game changing because it really does get

rid of a lot of the barriers to scaling up testing. So you know, we've been talking for months about shortages of those swabs to get a nasal sample. You don't need a swab. You literally just have to spit in a tube, as long as it's a sterile container. There's nothing special about the container, and there's no special tests or reagents, chemicals that you need to perform this test.

This is something that can be performed but he general lab with the instruments and the chemicals they already have on hand. You're not having a contract with any special company to do this, and Yale is actually making the protocols for this testing publically available, and it's a test that can be done for under $10 - probably under $5 in most labs, so it's much cheaper than the test that we are currently employing right now.

BOLDUAN: Yes. Dr. Gounder, thank you. It's great to see you. Another development that we are watching, college students ignoring warnings about social distancing and wearing masks. Take a look at this video, what appears to be a large party near the University of North George over the weekend.

Normally a video like this wouldn't be startling at all because that's what happens in college, but with COVID on the rise, especially in Georgia, drinking, dancing, packed in, not wearing masks at least as far as we can see, that's terrifying to public health experts. At the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, they're investigating four COVID clusters now, including one at a fraternity, and classes resumed there just last week.

And at the University of Alabama, a photographer from the school's student newspaper took these photos. Large crowds, outside bars in Tuscaloosa over the weekend. Again, very few people wearing masks and very little social distancing happening despite the state's order that people in public spaces wear a face covering when closer than six feet apart from others.

It's not just college students, though. The CDC says the infection rate in children 17 and younger has increased, quote, "steadily from March to July". That's all the more important to consider as more schools reopen and more states struggle to contain new outbreaks.

In Georgia, once again going back there, one school district that's already had problems since reopening is now suspending in-person learning and one more school due to new COVID cases. Dianne Gallagher is standing by. She's live in Atlanta. She's tracking all of this for us. Dianne, we're talking about Cherokee County schools. What is the latest there?

DIANNE GALLAGHER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Kate. You said suspending in-person learning at one more school. That is the third high school in Cherokee County to suspend that in-person learning.

By the way, the third week of school starting today in Georgia, so it shows just how quickly this can spread. If you take Cherokee County alone since the beginning of last week so we're looking here, the rate of infection, of the number of kids who - and parent and excuse me, and teachers who have been infected with COVID-19 has tripled over just that two-week period.

[11:10:00]

The number of people who are in quarantine, more than 1,100, has doubled. So we're seeing this ripple effect through Cherokee County to kind of give you and idea of what they're dealing with with this in- person learning. About the quarter of the students chose in-person learning in that school district, so they weren't even dealing with their full student bodies.

Now, it's also important to point out that they didn't have a mask mandate within the schools in Cherokee County, and that's something across the state of Georgia that we're dealing with. You talked about that University of North Georgia party, that video there, and it really is stark. The video's dark, but you can see people aren't wearing masks. They're not social distancing. They're doing what they would do, say, if this one 2019 for a back to school party in college.

It was off campus, and that's going to be key when we're talking about going back to school for college and university students. A spokesperson for the University of North Georgia told CNN that they were, quote, "disappointed that many of their students chose to ignore COVID-19 public health guidance," but they said, hey, we do have mask requirements inside our classrooms, inside public spaces.

They don't have them in residence halls and they can't control what students do off campus, Kate. They said that they encourage students to exercise this independent responsibility, but it's going to be something that parents from K through 12 and all the way up, those how have college students are going to be concerned about here.

BOLDUAN: Yes, and this isn't just on college students. This is on the schools as well. This is on the plans that the put in place all the way through know what college students do when the get back to school. It's great to see you, Dianne. Thank you so much for tracking all that.

Coming up we have new developments in the battle over mail-in voting. The White House claiming that they will stop removing sorting machines from post offices, and now House Democrats are making moves to try to block any further changes to the USPS.

We're going to have much more on that coming up. Plus we're just hours away from the start of a very different type of Democratic National Conventions, one of this week's keynote speakers joins us live.

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[11:15:00]

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There's still no fix in place to the political drama the United States Postal Service has found itself in the middle of, but there are a lot of developments with the countdown to the election well-underway. The President's Chief of Staff telling CNN Sunday that the postal service will not remove any more high volume processing machines until after the election.

That promise is being called into question already, and remember he just told Jake Tapper that yesterday. CNN obtained internal USPS document indicating nearly 95 percent of those machines set for removal were scheduled to be taken out of circulation by now. The postal service facing backlash also over cost-cutting measures has also agreed to stop removing letter collection boxes from U.S. streets. Are these moves actually going to change anything?

Remember, other new policies in place include eliminating overtime for postal workers and cutting back on postal service operating hours. House Democrats are making their own move now. Speaker Pelosi is calling them back to Washington to vote on a bill, trying to block the administration from making any changes to the USPS. CNN's Sunlen Serfaty is on Capitol Hill, joins me now. Sunlen, the House is coming back, and House Democrats are jumping on a conference call this hour. What's - what are you hearing?

SUNLEN SERFATY, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: That's right. In a little over an hour, Kate, the House Democrats will be on this very important phone call where they'll be discussing the details of their very unusual, very rare return to Washington, D.C. in the middle of a summer - the summer recess to address all of these issues.

You know, Speaker Pelosi over the weekend indicated that she most likely will call them back to Washington later this week and likely on Saturday a vote on a bill that would block major operational changes that the Post Master General is trying to make happen at the postal office. You know, this is just one part of a very aggressive, ramped up strategy by House Democrats to really put the pressure on this problem, to show up in Washington, and to make - show a force essentially that they are working on this.

They have also called for the Post Master General and the chairman of the board to come up here on Capitol Hill next Monday on the 24 to testify in from of cameras about these problems that we've been hearing about all across the country and, of course, the policy changes at the postal office.

Just this morning, additional two House Democrats called on the FBI to look into whether there is any criminality, criminal charges that they could look at as far as what the Post Master General and others are doing. So clearly, Kate, an aggressive ramp and stance from House Democrats as they take on this issue, call their members back, and we'll hear details of what exactly that looks like in the conference call House Democrats will be having in the next hour.

BOLDUAN: Yes, and Sunlen will bring us any details that pop up from that. Thank you so much, Sunlen. It's great to see you. Just moments ago, President Trump he weighed in once again on this, railing against mail-in voting, throwing around unproven claims of fraud, and calling vote by mail dangerous, again, for which he has not and there is not proof of widespread dangerousness. Listen to this. (BEGIN VIDEOCLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Absentee ballots are great. You request a ballot. You can't - I signed an absentee ballots. Absentee ballots are great. They work. They've been proven. They're good like in Florida, but this universal mail-in is a very dangerous thing. It's fraught with fraud and every other thing that can happen, and we have to be very, very careful. We have a very big election coming up. I think we're going to do very well, and I want to make sure the election is not stalled.

(END VIDEOCLIP)

BOLDUAN: Attacks like this from the president now has state officials in charge of elections looking at legal options.

[11:20:00]

Attorneys general for at least half a dozen states are discussing potential lawsuits. One of those states is Colorado, and I'm joined right now by the top elections official in the state, Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold. Thank you so much, Secretary, for being here. You have called the moves by the president very clear voter suppression, and you have promised that you're not going to let that happen in Colorado, and I wonder how do you guarantee that? What are you going to do about it?

JENA GRISWOLD (D), COLORADO SECRETARY OF STATE: Well good morning, Kate. Thank you for having me on the side (ph). Just such an important topic for our nation to discuss because the president with his just last remarks and all of his rhetoric is trying to suppress voters in November when he should be more concerned about suppressing the virus that has killed over 170,000 Americans.

You know, the nation can look at Colorado's election model as an example of how to withstand the sabotage coming out of the White House. We sent out ballots three weeks before election day and actually ask Coloradans to stop returning them eight days before because they need to get in by election day.

And what we have, Kate, is hundreds of drop boxes across the state that Coloradans use, and overall we are confident that we'll have an accessible an secure elections, but we want the rest of the nation to follow in our footsteps and make sure that all Americans can cast a ballot.

BOLDUAN: Secretary, what are the legal options you believe could be taken right now against the administration's move?

GRISWOLD: Well Kate, to share with you in 2012 and 2016 I was a voter protection attorney, and in 2017 I ran for Secretary of State because the president was trying to suppress voters, including thousands of Coloradans. As Secretary of State, I will not allow him to suppress any American and will fight him with all options on the table. So we are looking at possible legal action against both the Post Master General and the president himself. BOLDUAN: Is there an example of what the legal option - what the range of options would be right now at this point because time is critical as we will know with the election right around the corner?

GRISWOLD: Sure. Well Kate, you're going to have to wait maybe a day or two or a couple days more. I don't want to get in front of our attorneys, but there's several legal possible claims whether that's under -

(CROSSTALK)

BOLDUAN: OK.

GRISWOLD: -- state law, constitutional law, and federal law.

BOLDUAN: One element we all know of voter suppression is simply instilling fear that your vote's not going to count. That's one element of it. Do you think that damage could already be done?

GRISWOLD: Well I do think that the president is undermining November's election and he is having an effect. You know, I was really proud for our state-wide primary in Colorado, which was June 30, to see not only did we set a record turnout in a pandemic, but we also had a higher percentage of Republicans use mail ballots than Democrats even with the option of voting in person with early voting or same day voting. But there is recent polling that shows that Republican's confidence in vote-by-mail is being chipped away at. That's why I think it's so important to push back against the president.

He has told us exactly why he is attacking vote by mail, why he's attacking the postal service, all the attacks on our elections because he's trying to tilt the election in his favor. He said he's trying to defund the postal service to make sure that mail ballots don't work. That's reprehensible, it's undemocratic, and we have to push back against his lies.

BOLDUAN: Look, and the president has continually pointed to widespread voter fraud for a reason he has opposed vote by mail. I mean, he's talked about widespread voter fraud with no evidence since he won the election. The body of evidence, though, is proving the opposite of that that we know. Let me play you what the president's Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows, said to Jake Tapper about this yesterday.

(BEGIN VIDEOCLIP)

JAKE TAPPER, CNN ANCHOR: There's no evidence of widespread voter fraud.

MARK MEADOWS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: There's no - there's no - there's no evidence that there's not either.

(END VIDEOCLIP)

BOLDUAN: There was a little bit of crosstalk, but here's what was said. "There's no evidence of widespread voter fraud," says Jake Tapper rightly so. And then Meadows says, "But there's to evidence that there's no either." Your reaction to that.

GRISWOLD: It's just ridiculous. I just think it's shameful to the extent that people in the administration are going to sabotage this election. The president has told us why he's railing against vote by mail. He thinks Democrats will win, and it should be shocking to every single American that, number one, the president is trying to undermine our elections, but number two, he doesn't even have the right facts.

In Colorado, we've had more Republicans use vote by mail in the last two out of three elections. And the fact that they would use such circular reasoning as a way to try to trick and tilt this election is just reprehensible.

BOLDUAN: I have to tell you, Secretary, hearing that - that fact - that real fact that you're laying, the Republicans turnout in big part by mail-in vote, I'm just now waiting from the tweet from the president saying not only does he like mail-in voting in Florida now, he also now supports it in Colorado. It's good to see you. I really appreciate your time. Thank you.

GRISWOLD: Good to see you. Thank you.

[11:25:00]

BOLDUAN: Still ahead for us, an unconventional convention kicking off just hours from now. I'll speak with one of the keynote speakers for the Democratic Convention, and his story is one to listen into. Not only a mayor, but also a man how just lost his mother and stepfather to coronavirus. That's next.

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[11:30:00]