Return to Transcripts main page


COVID-19 Vaccine Timeline?; Schools Open Online Across Country; Source: Biden to Focus on Economy, COVID-19 in Michigan; NBC/Marist Poll: Trump Has 50 Percent Support Among Florida Latino Voters; Biden Sees 46 Percent Support. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired September 8, 2020 - 16:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Let's go to Washington.

"THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER" starts right now.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

And we start today with our health lead.

The nation's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, acknowledging this afternoon that many Americans are skeptical about a coronavirus vaccine. The skepticism, of course, does not come in a vacuum. President Trump has exerted political pressure on the FDA when it comes to unsafe treatments for coronavirus, such as hydroxychloroquine.

And the president is now suggesting a vaccine could come before the election. This is all now requiring health experts such as Fauci to reassure the public that any vaccine will be safe.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: We have got to regain the trust of the community about, when we say something is safe and effective, they can be confident that it is safe and effective.

And that's the reason why we have to be very transparent with the data, as well as what it is that goes into the decision-making process about approving a vaccine.


TAPPER: Nine of the companies competing against each other to develop a vaccine have also tried to reassure the public today by promising to follow the science and not rush the process to get a vaccine approved.

But not even a vaccine will be an instant fix for the coronavirus. And a harsh reality set in today for millions of children across the United States, as 14 of the largest school districts started the new semester this morning fully online, another demonstration for the American people that their government has failed them and is failing their children by not taking the steps necessary to contain the virus and stop its spread, and by not having testing available all over the country, so that schools can be open and be safe.

Nearly 190,000 Americans have died from coronavirus, at a rate nearly double that of the European Union, despite the E.U. having 100 million more residents.

CNN's Erica Hill starts off our coverage.


ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Buses, backpacks, masks, back to school in the age of COVID.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My daughter is thriving to be around other people.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's going to be great to see them.

HILL: Minnesota's governor on hand for the first day.

REP. TIM WALZ (D-MN): It's definitely a different year. Where it's the new backpacks and new shoes, now we have the Batman mask and the Elsa mask.

HILL: Sixteen of the nation's largest school districts start today. Of those, 14, including Chicago, will begin the year online.

LORI LIGHTFOOT (D), MAYOR OF CHICAGO, ILLINOIS: As we said from day one, we're going to be guided by what the public health numbers tell us.

HILL: The first day in Hartford, Connecticut, postponed after the city was hit with a cyberattack.

LUKE BRONIN (D), MAYOR OF HARTFORD, CONNECTICUT: This was, however, the most extensive and significant attack that the city has been subject to that -- certainly in the last five years.

HILL: More colleges forced to move classes online, including West Virginia University, which also suspended more than two dozen students for COVID-19-related violations, warnings across the country, as cases and indoor gatherings increase.

At the University of Illinois, everyone is tested twice a week using a saliva test developed in-house.

DR. MARTIN BURKE, CARLE ILLINOIS COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: Two weekends ago, we did have some students who made some really bad choices about their socialization behavior. And it did cause a problem. The really good news is, because we were testing everyone fast and frequently, we saw this very early. And we were able to make quick corrective actions.

HILL: New ads trying to recruit more diverse volunteers for vaccine trials. NARRATOR: Someone like you who wants things to go back to normal.

HILL: As nine pharmaceutical companies working on those vaccines issue a rare joint pledge, in the face of mounting political pressure from the president.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to have a vaccine very soon, maybe even before a very special date. You know what date I'm talking about.

ALBERT BOURLA, CEO, PFIZER: We will develop our products, our vaccines using the highest ethical standards and the most scientific rigor processes.

HILL: Pfizer is partnering with a German company, whose CEO tells CNN its vaccine could be ready for regulatory approval by October.

UGUR SAHIN, CEO, BIONTECH: We believe that we have a safe product, and we believe that it will be able to show efficacy.

HILL: Across the country, new cases over the past week are holding steady in nearly half the states, 15 posting a decline. But among the 11 seeing an increase, the states in red, two former hot spots, Arizona and Florida, where the number of new cases is up 20 percent over the last week.

And after a busy Labor Day weekend, many officials are watching and waiting.

GOV. PHIL MURPHY (D-NJ): This is a virus that is still among us. It ebbs and flows.


HILL: The virus is certainly on the University of Tennessee-Knoxville campus.

The chancellor there with some strong words today, saying she is getting disturbing information specifically about fraternities, saying she has learned that fraternity leaders are telling their members -- giving them ideas on how to have parties so they won't get caught, how they can avoid the police, also, in some cases, telling members not to get tested or, if they do, to do so in a way that the results are not shared with the university.


She's calling any effort to avoid isolation and quarantine reckless, noting that this behavior will, of course, jeopardize the semester for all the students on campus.She also says the school may soon need to take more drastic measures -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Erica Hill, thank you so much.

Joining us now to discuss, CNN chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Sanjay, you heard Dr. Fauci say that health officials need to regain

the trust of the community. Obviously, this doesn't happen in a vacuum. President Trump has politicized the process, pushed the FDA to approve things that it otherwise wouldn't have approved.

What needs to happen in order for the public to regain trust in the vaccine when it's ready?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think a lot of this probably has to do with being very transparent about the data.

I think there's been the sense, after hydroxychloroquine, about the exaggerating of the data around convalescent plasma, that people are sort of in the dark on this stuff a little bit. We're not seeing how these decisions are getting made.

Jake, as part of our reporting, we went back and looked at other pandemics and tried to understand, what was the level of trust at that time?

I can show you. I think we have this graphic back -- going back to 2009, for example, during H1N1, and basically asking, at that time, what would be your willingness to get in unapproved, perhaps authorized, but unapproved H1N1 vaccine? Again, this is back in 2009.

Jake, less than around 9 percent of people said that they would actually do it at that point, point being that there has always been this hesitancy about taking a vaccine that has not gone through the fully approved process, which is understandable.

But take a look at the -- what they found subsequent to that, when they said, well, what would actually increase your trust, increase your willingness to take it? And it's that bottom line.

Close to 70 percent said they would take it if it was information and the vaccine given by their health care provider, which maybe goes without saying, Jake, but here's the point, is that the medical community right now really needs to be let in on how this vaccine is being made, what the various metrics are for approving it, and really encouraging health care providers to become educated about this, if they're going to potentially encourage their patients to do so.

That needs to be happening now, and as opposed to just thinking this is sort of top-down, from the federal government vaccine project. It's got to come more from the grassroots.

TAPPER: Well, not only that. I mean, President Trump tying it to the election, it's going to come before a very special day, you know the day I'm talking about -- he's talking about Election Day.

I mean, that just -- that doesn't make anybody feel safe. That's an -- that has nothing to do with when the vaccine is going to be ready, Election Day. It's just -- it's either going to be ready, according to the medical and health community or it's not.

GUPTA: Right. Right. Right.

And, I mean, look, it's seemingly impossible to disentangle anything from politics nowadays. And, on one hand, you want pressure, because you want things to move fast. And medical innovation, the pace of it has been faster than I have ever seen before.


GUPTA: But this idea that there is this target date like this, I think, makes people, lots of people nervous.

And I have been talking to people who work at these vaccine companies, people within the federal government. They're nervous. This typically takes a much longer time. And what you saw from some of these vaccine makers today, this pledge that Erica was just talking about, they say specifically they're only going to submit for approval or even authorization after the phase three trial is done.

That just takes time, Jake.


We also saw these nine companies coming together, a joint statement, promising they will not rush the vaccine process, with President Trump suggesting that it might come before Election Day.

This seems pretty significant to me to have -- I mean, you can't really get nine insurance -- pharmaceutical companies to agree on much.


GUPTA: No, I agree with you. This is significant for that reason, and also because there's been this sense, like, are these companies competing against one another? Which they are.

I mean, you got to be certain of that. But they also can police each other and sort of make sure that the other companies are being clear about the data that they are presenting before they're trying to get this emergency use authorization.

Getting an authorization for a vaccine is very unusual. I mean, typically, you think about authorizations for a medicine, for someone who's in the hospital dying, has no other options. That's when you typically think of EUA for a therapeutic.

For a vaccine, basically, you're saying, hey, look, we'd like to get this done as quickly as possible. Everybody would. But the alternative to the vaccine is that we wear masks and keep physical distance for a few months longer, until we really have this nailed down.

That's going to be the decision matrix, I think, that a lot of these companies and the FDA will eventually have to balance.

TAPPER: And, Sanjay, some possibly promising news today. The head BioNTech said that the vaccine that they're working on with Pfizer could be ready -- theoretically, could be ready to submit to the FDA by the middle of October.


If they make that date, when would the public start being able to see this vaccine rolled out, obviously, to health care workers first?

GUPTA: Well, first of all, I think that's a really hard date to make.

I mean, I just want to set expectations, because I think, once the date is out there, people think, well, why isn't it done? It's a hard date to make.

On one hand, you have got tens of thousands of people receiving the vaccine, tens of thousands of people getting a placebo. In a strange way, Jake, you're banking on the idea that there will be a lot of infections in the placebo group to prove that the vaccine is actually working.

So, it's a little counterintuitive, but that's what you need. And that can just take time.

But, to your question, for people watching who say, look, what does this ultimately mean for me, the idea that you're going to have vaccine available to the general public, you're still talking about probably spring of next year, despite all the conversation that we're having now.

Still got to be manufactured. It has to be done at a very pure level. You need hundreds of millions of syringes and things like that. And that may sound almost silly to talk about in this context. But, remember, we got sort of stymied by nasal swabs at one point, Jake.

So we got to make sure we have enough of the core supplies to have this happen as well. They're starting to work on this stuff. But this is the biggest sort of vaccination project we have really undertaken this rapidly. Billions, ultimately, of doses around the world are going to be necessary. It's just going to take time.

TAPPER: And, Sanjay, a source in the White House specifically mentioned you by name, according to "The Washington Post," saying that they would be willing to share data with you about the vaccine ahead of time.

What do you think?

GUPTA: Yes, I mean, I saw that. And I would love to see the data ahead of time.

I think there has to be full transparency here with this. There can be -- I mean, this is the biggest public health issue that any of us have dealt with in our lifetime. We -- there has to be full transparency.

I'm having to look at it, and I'm sure other public health officials would like to look at it. Are there potential side effects? Remember, the side effect profile in some of the early trials for some of them were concerning at the higher doses of the vaccine. Are we seeing any of those side effects? Are they rare side effects

that may become more common as you do more and more people? And then, obviously, how well does it work? There's objective ways to look at that.

TAPPER: All right, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thanks, as always. Good to see, my friend.

As President Trump heads out on the campaign trail, he says he is willing to spend millions of dollars of his own money if it means one thing.

Then, Joe Biden also out on the campaign trail -- where he's going and what it may say about the state of the race.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: Eight weeks from today, Election Day.

And in our 2020 lead, President Trump says he will spend whatever it takes to win and that may mean millions out of his own pocket to fund his campaign. We should note, he is claiming he's willing to do this. There's no evidence he's actually going to do this.

Today, a new report from "The New York Times" says the Trump campaign war chest is, quote, dwindling. And now with two months until the election, the president is trying to boost his campaign and make up for that story in "The Atlantic" magazine and the fallout that claimed he disparaged veterans as suckers and American war dead as looters -- as losers, as CNN's Kaitlan Collins reports.


KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): With Labor Day behind him, President Trump is back on the campaign trail in two states that were critical to his 2016 election, Florida and North Carolina.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to Florida. We're going to North Carolina. We're doing a double stop.

COLLINS: But in between his two stops, the president is still dealing with the fallout from a report in "The Atlantic" claiming he disparaged Americans killed in war and insulted the service of military members.

TRUMP: Who would say a thing like that? Only an animal would say a thing like that.

COLLINS: New CNN reporting reveals that Trump was visibly distressed over the fallout from the story this weekend fearing it could erode his support within the military. Trump's anger was evident as he vented from the front steps of the White House yesterday where he accused senior military leadership of being beholden to defense contractors.

TRUMP: I'm not saying the military's in love with me. The soldiers are. The top people in the Pentagon probably aren't because they want to do nothing but fight wars so that all of those wonderful companies that make the bombs and make the planes and make everything else stay happy.

COLLINS: Sources said that comment was sparked by the president's anger that more pentagon leaders didn't defend him. Chief of Staff Mark Meadows claims Trump wasn't talking about the Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who was once the top lobbyist for Raytheon, one of the biggest defense companies in the world.

MARK MEADOWS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Those comments are not directed specifically at them, as much as it is what we all know happens in Washington D.C. So, that comment was more directed about the military industrial complex.

COLLINS: Meadows did not mention how Trump has bragged in the past about a massive arms sale to Saudi Arabia.

TRUMP: I believe it's the largest order ever made.

COLLINS: Trump is on the road today as his campaign is facing a potential cash shortage after spending heavily in the early stages of the race. Trump said today he's considering funding the race with his own money like he did in the 2016 primaries.

TRUMP: But if we needed any more, I'd put it up personally, like I did in the primaries last time. In the 2016 primaries, I put up a lot of money. If I have to, I'll do it here.


COLLINS: So, Jake, we'll actually see if the president does end up putting up some of his own money. But he was in Florida today. It's his 11th trip there this year. It shows how critical they believe that is in this upcoming election.

And while there, he announced he is going to sign an order extending that moratorium on offshore drilling on the gulf coast side of Florida. But the president said he's extending it to the Atlantic side and the coast of Georgia and South Carolina.


That's some pretty big reversal from just two years ago when the administration was considering moving forward with allowing new drilling to happen, something that they dropped and reversed their plan on after there was serious pushback from officials in Florida.

TAPPER: So keeping the Obama ban on offshore drilling in effect. Interesting.

And, Kaitlan, the newly renovated White House Rose Garden, it just reopened, but it's under repair already?

COLLINS: Yeah. It's only been three weeks since all of these renovations were going on. And now it's already under repair again. That's why we have not seen reporters out there in the last several weeks. We saw the president didn't hold his press conference yesterday out there. Instead, he held it on the front porch of the White House, something I'm not sure any president has done for some time.

And now my colleague Kate Bennett is told they are having irrigation issues, drainage issues, all of these things that were supposed to be fixed in the renovation. They're already having issues with them. And we know they were already having problems with the new sod that they had just laid, because they had to put that tiny board across it and the turf across it for the guests to come out for the first lady's speech during the Republican convention. Now we are told those problems are still plaguing the Rose Garden, Jake.

TAPPER: Interesting. Kaitlan Collins, thank you so much.

Coming off a trip to Pennsylvania tomorrow, Joe Biden will head to Michigan, a key battleground the Democrats want to flip back to blue after President Trump won that state by just 10,000 votes in 2016.

CNN's MJ Lee joins us now live.

And, MJ, the Biden campaign focused on Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Florida, and Michigan this week. What are they hoping to accomplish?

MJ LEE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Jake, Joe Biden heads to Michigan for the first time since the pandemic really slowed down a lot of in- person campaigning. And we expect the overarching focus tomorrow in Michigan to be about the economy. We have heard Donald Trump try to paint this rosy picture of the economic recovery, and the Biden campaign feels it is very important to not let those statements go unchecked.

And they believe that there are plenty of voters out there across the country who hear the president talk about this economic recovery and this picture of an economy that is roaring back and that they simply do not feel like this is their own reality.

So, manufacturing certainly especially because he is going to be in Michigan will be something that Joe Biden talks about tomorrow as well. And just on a separate topic, Biden campaign aide also tells CNN that the campaign is not going to let up on "The Atlantic" report that came out last week. We obviously also have heard Joe Biden now talk about that in very personal terms.

Last week, he even went as far as to say this is the most disappointed he had ever been in his entire career, was very angry about this. So expect that this is something that Joe Biden could possibly continue talking about in the coming days as well. And I will just say in the big picture, Jake, what the Biden campaign feels like is that post Democratic and Republican conventions, the race they feel like has remained stable and that despite Republicans continue trying to talk about the issue of law and order, they believe very firmly that the issues that voters care about the most still is the economy and the handling of the pandemic.

TAPPER: All right. MJ Lee with the Biden campaign, thank you so much.

Joining me now, CNN political correspondent Abby Phillip and "Washington Post" White House reporter Seung Min Kim.

Thanks to both of you for joining us.

So, first of all, let's start with this new NBC News/Marist poll of Florida voters. Very interesting among Latino voters in this poll. Trump is in the lead. He has 51 percent support, Biden has 46 percent support. That's among Florida Latinos.

Compare that to the 2016 exit polls of Florida Latino voters. Hillary Clinton had 62 percent among them. Trump had only 35 percent.

Abby, this seems like potentially a big problem for the vice president who -- Mr. Biden, who has really been underperforming with Latino voters all over the country.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yeah. It definitely is a warning sign of things to come. Potentially in Florida and places like Nevada. I think there has been a lot of concern about this among Democrats and Latino Democrats that the Biden campaign in particular has not put as much focus on the issue of appealing to this segment of voters as they should.

And I think these numbers seem to bear out that there is a real problem that needs to be addressed. The question is what is -- what is the solution to that problem? You heard Biden, if you remember, a couple of months ago, he got in trouble actually for answering a question about this and implying that Latino voters were more diverse in their political views than black voters. But he seemed to be alluding to this problem that his campaign has had in figuring out what the right appeal is.

Clearly, President Trump is having some impact in the Latino community in a way that has not been seen in many years. And when the game is all about margins, especially in a state like Florida, this could make all the difference in the world.

TAPPER: Seung Min, take a look at this new ad from the Biden campaign.



AD ANNOUNCER: This is our chance to put the darkness of the past four years behind us, to end the anger, the insults, division, violence, and start fresh in America. We can stop focusing on a president who thinks it's all about him and start focusing on what's best for us.


TAPPER: Tell me what you think of that ad and who you think it will resonate with, if anyone.

SEUNG MIN KIM, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: It really harkens back to Joe Biden's message when he kicked off his presidential campaign when he was talking about how he was really inspired to run for the presidency after President Trump's divisive remarks in Charlottesville nearly, you know, three years ago to this point. And I think the former Vice President Biden is trying to bring it back to that.

It really is an appeal to those on the fence voters who have been kind of perhaps supporting Trump on issues, whether it's the economy, whether it's conservatives in the judiciary. But who are really fed up with kind of the environment in the country and also his rhetoric.

And you can see Biden trying to pull in those voters. And if you look at the rest of that ad, the first kind of issue that he raises is the ongoing pandemic. And you do see that effort from the Biden campaign to make sure that focus is on -- the main focus is on President Trump's handling of the coronavirus pandemic is because that is where Biden is seen as stronger in that Florida polling that we just discussed, more Florida voters, even though Biden may be down with Latino voters and that poll shows Biden and Trump tied with likely voters in the state. Florida voters still see Biden as better in place to handle the pandemic, you know, reflecting the sentiments nationally.

So you do see the Biden campaign really trying to hammer that -- hammer that message of the pandemic and the president while the president would like to turn his focus to other matters.

TAPPER: Abby, sources tell CNN that President Trump is distressed and deflated over that story by Jeff Goldberg in "The Atlantic" about how he privately disparaged soldiers that had been killed as losers and people who served as suckers. Could this have an effect on voters, especially members of the military?

PHILLIP: I certainly think it could have an effect on members of the military. On voters more broadly, it's hard to say because four years ago, we were kind of exactly in this position he had made disparaging remarks about John McCain. He took a big hit for it. But it was temporary.

And I think a lot of times with President Trump, these hits in his polling are temporary in nature. He rebounds eventually perhaps because some other controversy comes along. But one thing about this issue for him now is that he's going into this cycle that I've talked to aides of his over the years who say he often likes to kick himself in the foot. He was upset about this report, and as Kaitlan reported lashed out at military brass for not defending him sufficiently, accusing them of being part of a military industrial complex seeking to expand foreign wars.

Those kinds of comments are just obviously not helpful. And you saw Mark Meadows trying to walk them back because they really need to get a handle on this situation.

TAPPER: You're saying the top members of the military like wars because they like the military industrial complex to make money.

Seung Min, I want to go back to what you were just talking about, about that Biden ad which basically was talking about Trump's tone and his rhetoric. I mean, Hillary Clinton, that was her main message about Donald Trump. I mean, she had all those ads, you know, perfectly effective of kids being shocked at things that they were hearing from Donald Trump on TV.

Is the Biden campaign repeating that mistake instead of talking about things that might affect voters more directly like jobs, COVID, et cetera?

KIM: I think that's the definite fine line the Biden campaign has to take. Whether it's a referendum on president Trump's character, we haven't necessarily seen that borne out.

There is -- you know, Biden does -- if you look at polling where Biden is stronger than where Hillary Clinton was four years ago is that if we don't like either candidate, those voters tend to break for Biden, whereas in 2016 those voters tended to break for Trump. So, that could be an advantage of the Biden campaign could have this year compared to Hillary Clinton in 2016.

But Democrats will tell you if you look at the lessons of 2018, the Democrats relentless focus on kitchen table issues, the economy, and particularly health care was their strength. And you could be hearing more on issues from Democrats because of what they learned in the midterm campaign.

TAPPER: Seung Min, Abby, thanks to both of you. Appreciate it as always. Be sure to tune into THE LEAD on Thursday. We'll have an exclusive sit-down issue with the Democratic presidential nominee, former Vice President Joe Biden, Thursday on THE LEAD, 4:00 p.m. Eastern. Don't miss it.

What the Senate's return to D.C. could mean for Americans desperate for some financial relief due to this horrific pandemic.

Stay with us.