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Interview with Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL); Joe Biden Calls for Trump Apology as Trump Denies Veracity; Interview with Purple Heart Marine Sebastian Guadalupe Gallegos. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired September 4, 2020 - 14:00   ET



SEN. TAMMY DUCKWORTH (D-IL): This is who he is, people know that this story is accurate because he's consistently said these things over the years and continues to act in a way where he likes to use the military for his own personal ego as if we were some sort of toy soldiers you could pull out and line up on your desk to play with.

But he really doesn't understand the sacrifice, and he truly does not understand what it means to put something above yourself to serve this nation and be willing to lay down one's live for this nation. Because he does nothing that does not benefit Donald Trump, bottom line.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: Can you speak a little more to that? Because I think -- and this is even something -- you know, I have felt at times, I guess, inferior in the face of asking this question of people who sign up in the military.

But having become closer to people in the military, I've realized actually, you know, despite all of the kind of hero worship that goes on with movies and such, the most extraordinary thing is that they really are just normal people who do something that's pretty amazing.

What is it -- if you can explain to people, because most Americans haven't served, they don't serve -- what is it that compels people -- I know everyone has maybe different reasons, but what is it that compelled you and others that you know of to take the risk?

DUCKWORTH: Love of country. Understanding what a great nation the United States of America is, and all the opportunities that we have. Those who serve in uniform are answering this nation's call.

You know, fewer than one-half of one percent of Americans are serving in the military right now, and these are people who answered the call not just to protect their families or the next-door neighbor, but to protect Americans who will never know their name. They will go on deployment after deployment after deployment.

I know folks who have been on nine, 10 deployments. They will miss birthdays and graduations in order to serve this country. And yes, they will lay down their lives for us.

And it's because they believe in this country and they believe in each other, that they are there for their buddies to their left and to their right, and they're all there for this nation. It is something -- it's a calling, it's also a privilege. To be privileged to wear the uniform of this nation is one of the greatest privileges you could ever have.

And Donald Trump doesn't understand that and never will, because he doesn't value this nation. He doesn't truly value the Constitution and all the things that America stands for. But we are very , very lucky that there are Americans who do believe that, and who do stand up and who do join up in the military and who serve and who will, any time America calls, will serve. And that goes for those family members as well.

And so it's hard to explain, but you see it. You see it in the resolve and in the willingness to step forward any time America calls.

KEILAR: You are well aware that he has a strong contingent of veterans who support him. And I know that many of them are going to dismiss this story. They're going to say that it's not true. What do you say to that?

DUCKWORTH: Well, it has been (ph) -- there have been two other outlets that have also investigated and came up with similar reports, and so you know that it's not just this one magazine, it's also been reported, I believe, by "AP News" and "The Washington Post." So other journalists have looked at this, and other journalists have investigated.

And you can just look at his -- I mean, we have Donald Trump on- camera, saying all these things. I mean, he said he wanted a Purple Heart the easy way, you know? Not truly understanding what the Purple Heart stands for.

And the other thing that I will also say, is that there was a recent poll done that shows that actually Donald Trump has lost the support of the military, and a majority of the military would not vote for him if they were able to cast their vote today.

KEILAR: Senator Duckworth, thank you so much for joining us.

DUCKWORTH: Thank you.

KEILAR: Last hour, the president cast his coronavirus response as pitch-perfect, and his management of the crisis as reason for Americans to be proud. As a new model from the IHME predicts that 410,000 Americans will die before the end of the year.

These are the numbers that the president is apparently proud of, nearly 6.2 million confirmed cases and more than 186,000 American deaths. Yet the president is praising his pandemic response, and making promises that he may not be able to keep about a vaccine by Election Day.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're rounding the curve, we're coming up with vaccines. I think the vaccines are going to be announced very soon, and I think you're going to see great companies announcing these vaccines. I spoke with Pfizer today, I speak with the different companies. Johnson & Johnson, as you know, doing really well, Moderna.

We have tremendous -- tremendous talent, tremendous scientists, and they're really right there and I think you're going to hear some very good news.


KEILAR: Now, moments ago, the editor of the prestigious "Lancet" medical journal told CNN that the president is lying.



RICHARD HORTON, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, LANCET MEDICAL JOURNAL: We can't cut corners. There will not be a vaccine available for public use by the end of October. President Trump is simply wrong about that, and I have no understanding why he is saying it because his advisors will surely be telling him that that's just impossible.


KEILAR: With me now is Dr. Jonathan Reiner, he's a professor of medicine at George Washington University, he's a medical analyst here at CNN.

Dr. Reiner, thank you for being with us. And you know, just yesterday, Dr. Fauci said it was unlikely but not impossible to have a vaccine ready by late October. But then you hear what The Lancet editor-in- chief is saying, he's saying that it's impossible, certainly for Americans to be able to access this. What do you make of this?

JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, it's certainly impossible for almost all Americans to access this any time before the first of the year.

First of all, the most advanced trial, the Moderna RNA vaccine trial, is just barely past halfway done. Beginning of this week, they had enrolled about 18,000 patients out of 30,000, so that trial has a ways to go. And that trial administers two shots -- two doses of the vaccine, separated by a month.

So even if the last of the patients were enrolled by the end of September, all those patients would still need to get their second dose, which would then take it towards late October. And then you have to assess the results, both for safety and efficacy.

It doesn't seem possible unless, you know, the first half of the patients enrolled had some unexpected magnificent result, which is so obvious in the first cohort of patients that you can stop the trial early. And I fervently hope that's true, I just don't think it's likely to be true. I think a more likely and realistic time horizon is around the first of the year.


We're also hearing that the situation right now at the FDA is -- it's basically like a pressure cooker because the president is demanding that his staff there give him some kind of coronavirus silver bullet that he can promote before Election Day. Should we be concerned that politics could be influencing policy in a way that brings safety into question?

REINER: Yes, you should be worried about that because politics has influenced policy. What we saw in March when there was no data for hydroxychloroquine and then magically there was an emergency use authorization for hydroxychloroquine.

We saw it two weeks ago with the Sunday night pre-convention, you know, he -- announcement of an EUA for convalescent plasma, despite the fact that NIH was counseling against doing that, and then we saw the FDA commissioner sort of misrepresent the data that night. So we've seen -- we've seen politics pressure decision-makers to do this.

Now fortunately, the FDA is populated by really wonderful, brilliant world-class scientists and staff members who will push back, but they're going to be under a tremendous amount of pressure to give the president some sort of late-October surprise prior to the election.

KEILAR: Let's talk about the projections that we're seeing for the months ahead. There's this new model from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation that they're using, and they're using the data on how Americans are currently behaving, and they're saying that 410,000 people will die by the start of the new year, but that if there were near-universal mask use, that number would actually go down by 122,000 people.

So what's -- I mean, I think we know what the takeaway is here, right? But what -- how do you actually get Americans to take that information and operationalize it?

REINER: Well, it would be helpful if we had leaders who didn't bring 2,000 people together on the South Lawn of the White House, unmasked for a shoulder-to-shoulder event the week before last. It would be -- it would be helpful if we had the president of the United States not mock other leaders in this country who do wear masks, and tell their constituents, their supporters to wear a mask every day.

We have the power to beat this back. We've always had the power to beat this back. If you look at what the mortality in this country could be right now relative to other countries? Look at Germany. Germany has had, you know, a good result, but not the best in the world. And Germany has had about 10, 11,000 deaths. They're about a quarter of the population of the United States.

So extrapolate Germany's just sort of simple competence. If we had had that kind of simple competence, we would have about 40,000 deaths in the United States. Still a terrible toll, but 40,000 compared to almost 200,000 deaths now. And the two unforgivable sins were our inability to test widely, and our inability to get our population to wear masks. And there's no way to spin that.


You know, we're appropriately talking about the military today. You know, at the beginning of April, we passed the number of military dead in Korea. At the end of April, we passed the number of military dead in Vietnam. And at our current rate, a little bit past Thanksgiving of this year, we will pass the number of U.S. service members who died in World War II. This pandemic has had a terrible toll and there's no way to hide that.

KEILAR: Yes. Look, no one thought we were getting out of this free and clear, but it didn't have to be nearly this bad. Dr. Jonathan Reiner, thank you so much.

REINER: My pleasure.

KEILAR: And we have much more now on our breaking news. President Trump, forcefully denying a new report that he has called fallen soldiers "losers" and "suckers." A Purple Heart recipient will join me live with his reaction.

Plus, two DHS memos this week show how the Russians are right now interfering in the election, and their attacks are nearly identical to the president's.

And then later, I'll be speaking to a sheriff in Ohio who is warning protestors that if they shoot at police in his county, they will shoot back.



KEILAR: Back to our breaking news now, Joe Biden demanding President Trump apologize after this bombshell report in "The Atlantic" magazine that he has disrespected America's war dead and wounded.

During that visit, the president was supposed to visit a cemetery near Paris, where American Marines were killed in World War I and they are now buried. This is sacred ground for the military and for Marines in particular.

But the article's author, Jeffrey Goldberg, writes, "In a conversation with senior staff members on the morning of the scheduled visit, Trump said, 'Why should I go to that cemetery? It's filled with losers.' In a separate conversation on the same trip, Trump referred to the more than 1,800 Marines who lost their lives at Belleau Wood as 'suckers' for getting killed."

The president is insisting that all of this is made up.


TRUMP: It's a fake story, written by a magazine that was probably not going to be around much longer, but it was a totally fake story and that was confirmed by many people who were actually there. It was a terrible thing that somebody could say the kind of things -- and especially to me, because I've done more for the military than almost anybody else.

There's nobody that considers the military -- and especially people that have given their lives in the military -- to me, they're heroes, to me they're heroes. It's -- it's even hard to believe how they could do it. And I say that, it's so -- the level of bravery. And to me, they are absolute heroes.


KEILAR: Joe Biden responded to all of this today.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Quite frankly, if what is written in "The Atlantic" is true, it's disgusting. And it affirms what most of us believe to be true, and Donald Trump is not fit to do the job of president, to be the commander-in-chief.

The president reportedly said -- and I emphasize "reportedly said" -- that those who sign up to serve instead of doing something more lucrative, are suckers. Let me be real clear. When my son was an assistant U.S. attorney and he volunteered to go to Kosovo while the war was going on as a civilian, he wasn't a sucker.

When my son volunteered and joined the United States Military as the attorney general and when to Iraq for a year, won the Bronze Star and other commendations, he wasn't a sucker.


KEILAR: It's important.

Retired Corporal Sebastian Guadalupe Gallegos is with us now. He knows about sacrificing and he knows about serving in combat. He was wounded and lost his right arm while serving in Afghanistan. In 2011, he was awarded the Purple Heart by General John Kelly. And Corporal Gallegos is joining us now to talk about this.

Corporal, you served with General John Kelly's son Robert Kelly, who was killed in Afghanistan. I want to thank you for coming on to talk about this, because I know this is a very personal thing for you. You were in his platoon, and you received your Purple Heart from General Kelly.

When you see this report from "The Atlantic" about how the president has talked about war dead and wounded, what's your reaction?

SEBASTIAN GUADALUPE GALLEGOS, U.S. MARINE AND PURPLE HEART RECIPIENT: I think that whenever you talk about specifically Belleau Wood, I think it's important to remember not just myself but the people who served there. I've been to Belleau Wood, I know the -- I've been to the cemetery that he's talking about. Because I served with 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, which is part of a

regiment that fought the Germans and defeated them in Belleau Wood with the numerous casualties. And so whenever you're attached (ph) to a 5th and 6th Marines regiment and you're wounded in combat, the opportunity is afforded to you to go visit France because they still celebrate us every year, and our unit's sacrifice, every single year.

And I've walked in Belleau Wood. I actually have a piece of Belleau Wood that I brought back with me because it's so important for Marine Corps history that we understand, like, the -- of the great battles we ever fought, I still have a green rope on my uniform that I wear that came from that battle.

And I understand that General Kelly's son was wounded and passed away in combat with the 5th and 6th Marine Regiment, who also wore that rope in Belleau Wood.


And I think that whenever you -- whenever you look at the report, you understand that the person who (ph) the journalist who's responsible for it is actually a great Marine veteran himself, decorated infantry (ph) Marine (ph) veteran.

And I think that there's a reason that all the Marines that were surrounded -- that surrounded, you know, the president, there's a reason they left and I think that you could follow their tone and how they're speaking now.

And whatever led them to their departure, I think that whether that was said (ph) or not, they're no longer serving within this administration because they didn't feel that they could -- they could bring anything that -- from the Marine Corps, it's difficult to view the importance of sacrifice on anybody.

American or not American, you can't force people to care about the veteran community, Gold Star families, people that died in combat. You can only hope that they do. And somebody like General Kelly and his son, they understand that to a different level, the loss that he took is something that you would never ask for any kind of family to take.

And I say that with having his son in my heart, and he knows I'm -- you know, I still talk with him and his wife, that I wouldn't say that if I didn't have the words of his son engrained in my head for the rest of my life.

And I know that whatever happened, I believe that you know, if General Kelly were there whenever anything like that was said, I don't know that he would take it. You know, bearing is one thing but you know, I think that he understands the importance of a ceremony like that because it's the history of the Marine Corps and his son was a part of that history.

KEILAR: There was another moment I want to ask you about that's described in this story. and "The Atlantic" reports that the president actually visited Robert Kelly's grave with General Kelly, and that the president said, "I don't get it. What was in it for them?"

So I mean, I just -- I think you're the perfect person to answer that question. Can you? Why do people serve? Why do people, say, send -- answer the call when -- and they say, send me?

GALLEGOS: I think that whenever you look at that quote, you can understand being -- coming from the business community, why somebody would have those sentiments. Because it's difficult to understand why somebody like General Kelly's son would serve.

He was a decorated Marine infantry veteran before he passed away, he was college-educated, he graduated with very high honors before he went back into the Marine Corps to serve as a platoon commander.

And I think that sometimes people in the business community can see veterans and think, why would they do that as opposed to going to college and getting a degree and successfully, you know, pursuing a financial career in whatever specialty they choose.

And I think that to veterans, it's pretty obvious that the military relies on a high attrition rate because people are joining, serving, going to college on the G.I. bill and getting out and going on with their lives and whatever they contribute to -- you know, whether combat, logistics, whatever they -- whatever capacity they served in the Marine Corps or the military, they're doing it out of a sense of patriotism.

And that patriotism is -- it's not -- you know, it's not loyalty to a specific political party or a politician, but it's a loyalty to America. My father was drafted into Vietnam. I know that many Marines and soldiers who fought and died at Belleau Wood or in Normandy and the history of the graves that are also at that famed cemetery, were drafted into the military. And I think that's important to remember.

But right now, we're consistent of an all-volunteer force, and so you've really got (ph) to see the identities of the people who served. Because they're not these people that, you know, that could have been -- right now I'm a full-time college student right now. I'm a finance major. I

served in the Marine Corps and the infantry, and I never intended to stay in the military. Because that's what America relies on to serve our wars, and whoever joins up, it's an all-volunteer service and it's incumbent upon us to.

You know, like, you can't force people to be patriotic, you can't force people to care about amputees or the veteran community or people that died in combat. But what you can do is you know, live up to the integrity of the things that you serve for and hope that people identify with you and the sacrifice that you -- you know, many, not just me, made.

And (INAUDIBLE) their support, but you can't really force somebody from the business community to care about something like that because (INAUDIBLE) themselves are pursuing, it's hard to paint that perspective for somebody who doesn't understand that innately. KEILAR: Well, I hope, Corporal, that your words certainly help. I

want to say, Sebastian, thank you so much for your service, and good luck in school.

GALLEGOS: Thank you, ma'am.


KEILAR: Next, an Ohio sheriff who is no stranger to controversy will join me live. Richard Jones, first making headlines when he said that he refused to be the, quote, "mark police." Now, he has a message for protestors. If you shoot at police, expect us to shoot back.