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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

COVID-19 Around the World; Iowa Outbreak; Republicans Attempting to Craft Skinny COVID-19 Relief Bill. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired September 8, 2020 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:30:00]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: 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.

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TAPPER: In our politics lead today: The U.S. Senate will vote on a slimmed-down $500 billion stimulus bill on Thursday, after months of internal negotiations among Senate Republicans.

The plan is expected to include unemployment benefits of $300 a week in additional funding and aid for schools, small businesses, and the U.S. Postal Service.

[16:35:08]

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is slamming the bill, saying it -- quote -- "insults the intelligence of the American people" -- unquote.

CNN's Manu Raju joins me now from Capitol Hill.

Manu, right now, this bill doesn't even have full Republican support, is my understanding. Why not?

MANU RAJU, CNN SENIOR CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right.

Some Republicans are concerned about the price tag, including Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, who has raised concerns about something to this level. Other Republicans have pushed for additional -- some of their ideas to be added to the plan. They have yet to say they will endorse this proposal, which is just coming out this afternoon.

What Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, is trying to do here is trying to get a majority of the Senate behind this plan, 51 senators, Republican senators, out of 53 Republican senators.

Now, that is not enough for it to pass the United States Senate. They need 60 votes to overcome a Democratic filibuster. And, as you noted, the Democrats are strongly against this plan. So what he's trying to do is set up this election year argument. And

recall what happened back in July, when the Republicans put out a $1 trillion relief plan. That plan was -- prompted a number of Republicans to push back. They were concerned about a number of these ideas.

McConnell didn't even bring that to the floor for a vote. So, behind the scenes in August, he put together this plan, roughly $500 billion, trying to his whole conference united behind it.

This includes things, as you mentioned, $300 in an extension of weekly jobless benefits. That's down from the $600 the Democrats have pushed, including 150 -- and $105 billion in aid for schools, Democrats want $430 billion.

There's additional money for small business loans. And there's also a provision that McConnell has pushed to limit lawsuits against companies, against schools, against health care workers. Democrats have pushed back on that idea, which is why we expect this bill, when this procedural vote happens on Thursday, it's going to stall in the face of a Democratic filibuster, leaving negotiations back to where they are Jake, stalled.

TAPPER: And so it's stalled. And then the Senate Republicans will say, well, we had this $500 billion bill, and Democrats opposed it, although some Republicans might too.

Democrats will say, well, we have this $3 trillion bill in the House that you wouldn't come behind. And then, what, just the American people who need this money, they're just screwed?

RAJU: It seems that way, Jake, unless some deal could emerge.

The next vehicle that could become a law, legislative vehicle, could be a bill to keep the government open past this month. They need to pass something to keep federal agencies open past September 30. Perhaps that could serve as something, the negotiation, to add some of these provisions.

But, at the moment, Jake, leaders on both sides want to keep that free of any extraneous measures, which is why they may just simply keep the government open, punt this issue until December, while so many people wait for relief from Washington.

TAPPER: Right, while people are starving.

Manu Raju, thank you so much.

In our money lead today: As lawmakers remain at this stalemate on this stimulus plan, the markets are continuing to tumble, the Dow closing down more than 600 points today, after stocks saw their worst day in months last week.

CNN's Richard Quest joins me now.

Richard, are we headed for another bad week on Wall Street, you think? RICHARD QUEST, CNN BUSINESS EDITOR AT LARGE: Yes, I think -- I fear

we are.

And it's largely because August saw a rally in the market, when the Nasdaq was up 12, 15 percent, that was quite unjustified by the economic fundamentals. What we saw in August was a sharp run-up in tech stocks that was not justified. There was a lot of funny goings-on with Tesla stock, with Apple stock, with people buying call options and the like.

And that has come to an end. So, Jake, yes, I do think you're looking for an extremely rocky, volatile few more sessions, before the market settles back to something reflecting the current economy.

TAPPER: Obviously, the virus continues to spread in this country. Testing remains below -- behind, rather, where it needs to be.

But people in the United States are still pushing to try to have some normalcy. AMC Theaters just opened 70 percent of their movie theaters.

The film "Tenet" grossed over $20 million in theaters. I think that's kind of on the lower end of what they were hoping. But does this suggest that some people are ready to start going out, spending money, even if it means taking risks like going to a movie theater?

QUEST: Oh, Jake, we know they're ready. People have been ready for weeks to do this.

The issue is, can you do it, and do it with a degree of safety that doesn't send the numbers -- and I'm not talking about Florida and Texas back in July. I'm here in London in the U.K. Now, the U.K. is seeing a sharp rise in new cases, because, as the government says, people have been -- either been negligent or complacent over the last few weeks of the summer.

You have seen colleges returning, schools going back. Now, if you put that into the U.S., you realize all the same factors are at play. So, yes, people are ready. They are taking those risks.

[16:40:00]

The danger fear, from the economic point of view, is that the numbers rise and the restrictions have to be reimposed. That's what's being seen in France, in Germany, and in large parts of Europe, and in parts of the U.K.

TAPPER: All right, Richard Quest, thank you so much.

It's one of the country's coronavirus hot spots, with several colleges seeing big spikes. So, why are there still in-person classes in this state?

That's next.

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TAPPER: Back to our health lead.

Iowa now has one of the highest case counts per capita in the entire United States, exasperated by cases on college campuses, Iowa State University seeing more than 900 cases in its first month of classes.

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And yet Iowa State is continuing in-person learning. And Governor Kim Reynolds is bucking the advice of many doctors in her own state, refusing to order a mask mandate or order bars closed.

Joining me now is Dr. Austin Baeth. He's a physician at UnityPoint Health Des Moines. He started a petition with other Iowa physicians for the governor to put a shelter-in-place order.

Doctor, thanks for joining us.

So, you're treating COVID patients, as Iowa has become a hot spot in the country. Tell us what you have seen with the spike of cases.

DR. AUSTIN BAETH, UNITYPOINT HEALTH DES MOINES: Numbers are for sure going up.

Right now, the spike is largely attributed to young adults. And, as you said, most of them are likely in our college communities. So, a lot of them remain relatively mild in terms of their symptoms, but we are seeing severe symptoms, and we have had a few young adults even die.

TAPPER: Oh, so that's interesting, because I think, a lot of people, when they hear that young adults have it, they think, oh, well 45 percent or so of cases nationwide are asymptomatic.

And you're saying that many of them might be asymptomatic, but some of them have had serious health problems, and some of them have even died from this?

BAETH: Nobody's immune from this disease.

And, yes, younger people have better odds of getting through it. But anybody can die from this.

TAPPER: So, Iowa has one of the highest per capita COVID cases in the nation. Governor Reynolds is refusing to implement a mask mandate. She also is refusing to close bars.

What do you think the consequences will be of those decisions?

BAETH: We're seeing the consequences.

We, unfortunately, have squandered away an opportunity to prepare for this. Iowa has benefited from its geography and its relatively low population density, to have a chance to learn from the trials and tribulations experienced in the other states and to apply science to try to prevent this catastrophe from occurring.

We squandered that opportunity. We are seeing the results of it. And I fear we will see it get worse and worse.

TAPPER: Let me just ask you, because we're all trying to figure out how to get back to some semblance of life during this pandemic, which, sadly, will likely be with us for quite some time.

Is the problem of young people getting it on college campuses and elsewhere entirely because students are going to bars and fraternities, congregating, not wearing masks? Or is just the fact that they're back on campus spreading the virus?

BAETH: There's going to be inherent spread in any college campus, regardless of the measures taken.

I think we have added fuel to the fire in a negative way, both in our messaging and lack of messaging of the importance for everybody to wear masks.

So, yes, we're experiencing terrible times. And it's going to -- yes, it's going to be worse, I think, in Iowa colleges, because, prior to going to college, students were watching their parents, oftentimes not wearing masks in public, because, in part, it's not mandated.

TAPPER: Many of the cases came after colleges in Iowa reopened.

And now K-12 schools are reopening. We just wrapped up a long weekend where people traveled, they gathered together, flu season right around the corner.

Are you worried about what some doctors are saying is going to be a perfect storm over the next few weeks of schools reopening, people coming together, COVID, and then, of course, the flu?

BAETH: Yes. Yes.

I worry when college students come back. I worry if or when we have more outbreaks in our primary schools. And then when the flu pandemic comes -- and it will -- hopefully, it will be mild. We're going to have a double strain on our health care system. And you don't want to have to go to the hospital with influenza when it's full of coronavirus patients, and vice versa, because you might not get a bed or a ventilator, God forbid, if you need one.

TAPPER: Governor Reynolds just announced $100 million additional to ramp up testing in Iowa. It doesn't sound like you think she's doing enough in terms of protecting people, because she's letting this in- person education continue, keeping the bars open, et cetera.

What do you think about this testing regimen? Will that help?

BAETH: We already don't have enough testing.

Our test positivity rate in the last 14 days is above 10 percent. The World Health Organization says you don't have enough testing unless your positivity rate is 5 percent or less.

So, that means we're missing a lot of cases. So we already don't have enough. We have a lot of ground to make up. And when the pandemic is getting worse, instead of better in this state, it's going to be a heavy lift to get the kind of testing that we need, not only to get on top of it, but then to reopen safely, when it's safe to do so, which is quite some time from now.

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TAPPER: Depressing news. I hope that the good people of Iowa start wearing masks and being safer in their behavior.

Dr. Austin Baeth, thank you so much for your time.

Coming up: a look at the impact of coronavirus on some of the world's most dangerous places.

That's next.

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[16:55:03]

TAPPER: In our world lead now: India is now the second hardest -hit country in COVID infections, just behind the United States.

In one month, the number of confirmed cases in India doubled from two million to more than four million, surpassing Brazil. In Turkey, officials are now mandating masks in all public places after seeing a second coronavirus peak.

And, in Israel, leaders there decided to impose a partial lockdown next week, in an effort to tamp down that country's infection surge.

Here to discuss and more, Clarissa Ward, CNN's chief international correspondent. She has a new book. It's called "On All Fronts: The Education of a Journalist." It's out today. It's a must-read.

Clarissa, congratulations on the book. It's really fantastic.

I have to ask you. You have been covering the COVID-19 vaccine human trials at the University of Oxford. How are you seeing different countries around the world handle their outbreaks, as we all wait for a vaccine?

CLARISSA WARD, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think, Jake, broadly speaking, everyone is struggling with this tug of war between public safety and saving the economy.

And that is particularly pronounced in countries that have large informal sectors. You mentioned India, for example. Millions of people under lockdown there were unable to work. There is no safety net. So the government had to try to start lifting those restrictions.

But the minute you see those restrictions lifted, particularly in a country like India, with crowded living conditions, with poor sanitation, you start to see a spread of the virus. We have seen that in Turkey too, even here in Europe, in France. When

you lift the lockdowns, you do start to see that second wave starting, Jake.

TAPPER: And you have spent the past decade reporting from Iraq, Lebanon, Russia, Syria, just to name a few.

In your new book, you talk about why you keep covering the world's most dangerous places. How have your experiences in war zones prepared you for what is happening in the world right now?

WARD: Well, listen, Jake, this isn't a conflict, in the sense that I have covered before, a violent war. But I do think it is a war nonetheless, with hundreds of thousands of people across the world dying.

And so our job as journalists continues to be to sort of hold those in power accountable, assess their handling of this crisis. But the trickier part, the harder part, as a journalist, is how to capture the more human side of it, because this is definitely, Jake, the first war that I have had to cover largely from my living room.

TAPPER: Yes.

And you write that your journalism has been defined by an age of extremism. And you pursued journalism after the attacks on 9/11. What do you make of this moment in which we find ourselves, in which there's so much misinformation and journalism remains under attack around the world?

WARD: I mean, I think that's really part of why I wrote this book.

It's essentially a love letter to journalism and a glimpse at the blood, sweat and tears and the highs and lows and the passion and commitment that goes into doing what I firmly believe is one of the greatest jobs and the greatest privileges in the world.

And, obviously, it's beyond depressing to be on the front lines of Aleppo getting shot at and have people on Twitter calling you fake news. And I also think it's dangerous. And I think of younger journalists who are up-and-coming, and how do they navigate this sort of post-truth era, which we're all apparently entering?

But, at the end of the day, I think the fundamental mission stays the same, which, for me, is bear witness, tell people's stories, hold those in power accountable.

TAPPER: Let's talk about bearing witness, because you're a mom of two boys, the first born in 2018, the second born this year. I understand you have been at home in London since lockdown began in March.

How has that impacted your reporting and how you cover conflict and bear witness?

WARD: It's incredibly challenging, because my work has always been about forming human connections, about going to places that other people can't always get to, and telling stories that aren't being told.

How do you do that in this era of COVID, where we're so limited where we can travel, where people are wearing masks and PPE? How do you communicate the humanity, the heartbreak, the -- every single loss of life?

It's so difficult to do that, when you are relying largely on technology and Zoom. But I'm also really inspired to see how journalists are coming up with incredibly creative ways, and continuing to do this important job.

TAPPER: Quickly, if you could, because we only have about 30 seconds, when you talk about misinformation and the importance of reporters bearing witness, how do you deal with the fact that there are so many lies coming from governments these days in the U.K., here in the United States, and people have lost a lot of trust in us because of that?

WARD: I think you put your head down, you stick to facts, and you keep doing your job. You keep marching forward. You get up every morning. You do it again. You tune out the noise. And you stick to the facts, Jake.

TAPPER: Amen.

Clarissa Ward, thank you so much. Congratulations again on the book.

Our coverage on CNN continues right now.

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