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CNN: Trump Visibly Distressed Over Military Story Fallout; Interview With Former U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan; Vaccine Timeline? Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired September 8, 2020 - 15:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: We enter this critical season with 11 states seeing an increase in new cases over the past week. Fifteen are seeing a decline. And nearly half are holding steady.

But, in terms of deaths in this country, we are approaching the 190,000 mark. And there are fears that those numbers will rise significantly in the wake of crowded Labor Day gatherings.

Nearly two million kids returned to school today, but, for the vast majority, that means a return to online learning.

We also have several developments today on the vaccine front. Listen to this. Nine vaccine makers have signed this unusual safety pledge to uphold -- quote, unquote -- "high ethical standards."

This is happening as President Trump continues to promote the idea that one could be ready by Election Day, now exactly eight weeks away.

I want you to listen to what Dr. Anthony Fauci said today when asked about that possibility.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR: I think that's unlikely. I mean, the only way you can see that scenario come true is that there are so many infections in the clinical trial sites that you get an efficacy answer sooner than you would have projected.

Like I said, it's not impossible, Judy, but it's unlikely that we will have a definitive answer at that time, more likely by the end of the year.


BALDWIN: Fauci is not alone. Many experts have expressed doubt about that timeline.

You have the CEO of a German biotech firm saying its vaccine, made in partnership with Pfizer, could be ready for approval as early as mid- October.

So, let's start there with CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen.

And so, Elizabeth, what are you hearing about this timeline from Pfizer and this German company BioNTech?

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Brooke, I'm going to point to one word you just said. You just said the word could, could be ready.

All sorts of things could happen. The minute you use the word could, anything can happen. So when I talk to experts, including people who are within the Trump -- within the government, people who work for the federal government are saying, there is no way that we -- almost no way -- we should never say no way.

They cannot see a way that we are going to get shots into arms by November 3. I will also say that the BioNTech executive who said this, he called his vaccine -- this is the vaccine he's doing with Pfizer -- near perfect.

When I hear a scientist call something that has not been tested yet near perfect, that brings up a lot of doubts. As a matter of fact, it brings up doubts in my mind about this vaccine that I didn't have before.

Why is a scientist calling an untested vaccine, not tested yet for COVID-19, near perfect? That's a little off.

BALDWIN: Yes, I'm hearing could and near, but not fully there.

What about this unusual safety pledge from these nine vaccine makers? What's the story there?

COHEN: The pledge is actually kind of sad, in a way.

This is nine vaccine makers saying, we will -- pledging that they will not go to the FDA for authorization to sell their vaccines until data has shown that the vaccine is safe and effective.

Well, that's obvious. That sort of should go without saying. It's sort of like farmers saying, we won't sell milk that's soured. Of course you don't. You only go to the FDA when you have a vaccine that's been shown to be safe and effective.

One of the reasons, it appears, why they're saying this is that they know that the public is getting very hesitant about this vaccine. Every month that passes, more and more Americans are saying, uh-uh, I don't want it, because they feel like it's being rushed.

Actually, let's take a look at some of the most recent polling data. This comes from a CBS poll. Only 21 percent of Americans said they would get the vaccine as soon as possible; 58 percent said they would think about it, but they would wait, and 21 percent said never.

That is a problem. I mean, that middle group is, of course, the biggest group. How long are they going to wait? The whole point is, we're supposed to have a vaccine that you trust that everyone gets as soon as they are able to get it. Too much waiting means that this will go on and on.

BALDWIN: Elizabeth, thank you so much.

I want to bring some of that into my next conversation. Dr. Seema Yasmin, she's a CNN medical analyst and a former disease detective over at the CDC.

So, Dr. Yasmin, thank you so much for being on.

And let's talk about what Elizabeth just reported out, right? First, on this aggressive, shall we call it, timeline from Pfizer and that German firm BioNTech, do you think, given her couching it as could be ready, do you think it's realistic that they could have a vaccine ready as soon as the middle of next month?

DR. SEEMA YASMIN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: I don't think so, Brooke.

And I'm also thinking about, historically, with vaccines, it can take decades to develop them. The fastest we have ever done it is with the mumps vaccine. And even that took four years.

So I think it's really important that we manage the public's expectations, especially because people are so fed up, people are thinking, oh, just give us a vaccine, and then things can get back to normal.

And if people are really hopeful that could happen next month, then it's so disappointing if it doesn't. And I do think that it will take longer than that and that the vaccine manufacturers, scientists in general have to be really careful about managing those expectations.


BALDWIN: So, given that, you can understand why a lot of Americans are worried. A lot of people will want the vaccine, but they will want to make sure it's safe.

And so you have these -- this safety pledge now being taken on by these nine biotech firms to make sure that -- to give people confidence that, when it's approved, it'll be safe and effective.

Again, that does sort of feel like a no duh, but why do you think we need to do this?

YASMIN: It's unheard of, Brooke.

These are nine companies that are essentially competitors, they're rivals to one another, banding together because they know what's at stake here. They are watching the public's trust in science and scientists crumble.

There was this YouGov/CBS poll that came up this weekend that saw the most people in America, their trust in the FDA was around 84 percent back in March. Now it's hovering around 50 percent. So these are the agencies that we want people to have trust in. But because they have had weak leadership, because the administration

have been putting so much political pressure on these agencies, it's fallen on the vaccine manufacturers to say, hey, we're going to not cut corners, we're going to do things ethically and safely.

Unheard of. I have never seen this happen before. And I just wonder how far it will go to kind of rebuilding some of that public trust in science.

BALDWIN: I want to ask you about kids going back to school, right? That's happening for a lot of families this week. More people are also going to movie theaters. As those theaters are opening up, more people are jumping on airplanes.

The TSA -- we were talking about this yesterday, on Labor Day -- TSA reportedly screen 4.1 million people at U.S. airports over the Labor Day weekend. That is the biggest number of air travelers since the start of this whole thing back in March.

How concerned are you, just given all of that, about a potential spike in the coming weeks?

YASMIN: I think we feel like, hey, we are done with the virus.

And, unfortunately, this virus is not done with us. We're still seeing more than 40,000 new infections every day in the U.S., still seeing upwards of 800, 900 Americans die every day.

So I do worry about this confluence of factors, Brooke. We're heading into flu season. Kids are heading back to school, many of them virtually, but some in person, people feeling more tired and fed up and doing things like getting on planes, wanting to travel, wanting life to go back to normal.

Meanwhile, the virus has not gone away. So I do worry that we will see spikes in the upcoming months and also how that might merge with flu and potentially overwhelming the health care system in some places.

BALDWIN: So, on that point, is it possible that you could get the flu and COVID at the same time?

YASMIN: It is potentially possible, especially because we know that, once you get infected with the flu and some other respiratory viruses, it weakens your body, your defenses go down, and it makes you vulnerable to getting a second infection on top of that.

And that's why it's so important that we do the physical distancing, the mask wearing, because that stuff actually will protect you from the flu and from COVID. And in some places like Australia, they have seen much lower rates of flu because people are doing that stuff.

My worry is that we're not doing it so well here. But, if we do, it can protect us from both of those viruses.

BALDWIN: Seema, thank you so much. I so appreciate you just telling it like it is. Thank you. YASMIN: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Coming up: nearly two million kids returning to school today. And it comes as a new report says more than half-a-million children in the U.S. have been diagnosed with COVID-19. So we have those new details ahead.

And it is the most important flu shot of your child's life. That is according to a leading group of pediatricians, urging parents to get their kids vaccinated, and soon.

And CNN has learned that the president of the United States was visibly distressed as reports started coming in that he called U.S. troops losers and suckers.

So, we have got that new reporting for you coming from the White House.

You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.



BALDWIN: We're back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

It is the first day of school for almost two million children all across the country today. And it's a first day unlike any other. From Chicago to Houston to Baltimore, 14 of the nation's largest school districts starting the school year today are online only.

This as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the Children's Hospital Association reports that more than 513,000 children in the U.S. have been diagnosed with COVID-19.

So, with me now, former Secretary of Education under President Obama Arne Duncan.

Secretary Duncan, nice to see you again. Welcome back.

ARNE DUNCAN, FORMER U.S. EDUCATION SECRETARY: Good afternoon. Thanks for having me.

BALDWIN: You used to run one of the districts opening online only today, Chicago. So, just what do you make the decision of so many districts who just have to open remotely?

DUNCAN: Districts have done what they have to do, Brooke.

Schools cannot open physically if it's not safe to do so. And no one wants to be teaching virtually. Kids don't want it. Teachers don't want it. Parents don't want it. But, as a country, because of the absence of leadership, the failure of leadership, we're in this terrible predicament where school districts have had no choice but to go virtually.

My daughter started virtually last week. My son started virtually today. It's not what anybody wants, not what anybody wants.

BALDWIN: You talk about the failure of leadership.

The Trump administration has really left it up to all the local officials to make these tough choices. If you were back in your old job, what would a federal response for schools have looked like?

DUNCAN: Yes, we think about that all the time. And it's just devastating.

And, again, we wouldn't have done everything perfectly, by any stretch, but I will tell you what we would have done. Me, my partner at HHS, Kathleen Sebelius, would have been joined at the hip working on this every single day, would have been joined with the head of the CDC.


We would have tried to deal this with absolute honesty and transparency. We would have paid attention to science.

The big thing, Brooke, is, we would have invested in schools months and months ago. We have been asking for $200 billion to put into school districts to make them safer, to get the PPE, to get the supplies, to get the extra custodians, bus drivers, whatever might be needed.

We need a massive tutoring program across the country, so that our children who are the furthest behind can get some help and get caught up. There's been no investment, no leadership.

Despite that, we have seen extraordinary leadership at the local level. I talk all the time with school districts and school superintendents who are working with huge urgency, working with compassion, working with humility, sharing, learning from each other, and trying to do the best they can in a really awful situation.

BALDWIN: Well, here's your opportunity, since you are still in touch with so many of these school districts and folks.

Are there certain schools that are getting it totally right, whether they're opening in-person and keeping kids extra safe, or opening remotely, but still teaching kids effectively? Who's got it right?

DUNCAN: Yes, I mean, there's so many districts that are doing great stuff. And, again, no one's doing it perfectly.

But you are seeing school districts across the country give out 30,000, 50,000, 100,000 devices to close the digital divide, creating Wi-Fi hot spots. You have places like Broward County, where they can't open because Florida has been so terrible with this virus, but they're doing wellness checks on kids and bringing them in to check on how they're doing physically and socially and emotionally.

Districts like San Antonio are doing home visits with teachers and social workers to check on kids that are most vulnerable. Everyone has continued to feed children throughout this pandemic. And that's going to continue to happen.

And in L.A., our nation's second largest school district, some really, really extraordinary work starting to happen, where they are basically trying to first test and then contact trace and recommend quarantine, if need be, for the entire district, for students, for teachers, for students' parents.

It's a remarkable effort by a school district to become the public health official, the public health leader that the federal government should have been. It's ambitious and one that I think the media needs to pay attention to, as we work through that process together.

BALDWIN: I was just scribbling down those school districts, because I'd love to be able to follow up with them and really be able to highlight what they are doing so right, just despite everything.

Last question. Whether their schools are open or online today, I know millions of parents and kids are feeling intense emotions. You mentioned your daughter and then your son today. There's a lot of fear, fear of the virus, frustration with virtual learning, anger at how this has been handled, or not.

What is your message to those parents and those students today?

DUNCAN: Well, I think, for all of us, parents, students, teachers, educators, this is a time to try and really lead by example and to show our kids, in an extraordinarily difficult, distressing, frankly, dark time, how to show empathy, how to take care of each other, how to understand how important our actions are to the health and safety and well-being of our neighbors, how we really think about fairness and equity in serving those children who need the most help, again, not just educationally, but socially and emotionally, making sure everyone is fed.

So, in a really tough time, it's an amazing chance for us as adults to try and lead by example and teach our kids some of those life lessons that I think could be extraordinarily important for our country for the next 30, 40, 50 years, as we eventually move out of this dark time.

BALDWIN: And recognize, as you're a parent, sitting over and watching your son and daughter be doing virtual learning, and you just think about all the educators in this country who just should be making more money.

DUNCAN: Absolutely.

BALDWIN: Arne Duncan, Mr. Secretary, thank you so much for coming on. Great to see you.

DUNCAN: Good to catch up. Thank you so much.

BALDWIN: There is new word today is that getting a flu shot may be more important than ever for children.

CNN health reporter Jacqueline Howard has more. So, Jackie, what are doctors recommending?

JACQUELINE HOWARD, CNN HEALTH REPORTER: Brooke, pediatricians recommend that children complete their flu vaccinations before the end of October.

And that's because, this flu season, we will see both the flu and the coronavirus circulating. The American Academy of Pediatrics just put out this policy statement.

It says -- quote -- "Influenza vaccination is particularly important during the pandemic to reduce the burden of respiratory illnesses and hospitalizations" -- end quote.

That burden is in reference to how we don't want to see hospitals overflowing with both flu and COVID patients this year.

One other thing that's important to keep in mind, Brooke, many things that we're already doing to reduce the spread of the coronavirus can also help prevent the spread of the flu, wearing masks, social distancing, washing our hands.

It's important to keep those up -- Brooke.

BALDWIN: It is indeed, flu, COVID, beyond.


Thank you so much, Jackie, for that.

Coming up: Visibly distressed, that's a phrase we're hearing. CNN's learning new details about President Trump's reaction to reports that he insulted U.S. troops.

That's next.



BALDWIN: With 56 days until Election Day, President Trump is off- message and on defense, as he faces new questions about his character and now his campaign's finances.

"The New York Times" is reporting that the Trump campaign's fund- raising advantage against former Vice President Joe Biden has narrowed. Moments ago, the president said how far he's willing to go just to make sure his reelection effort stays flush with cash.

Listen to this.


QUESTION: Are you planning on spending money in your own campaign?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Yes, if I have to, I would, but we're doing very well. We needed to spend more money up front because of the pandemic and the statements being made by Democrats, which were, again, disinformation.

We have much more money than we had last time going into the last two months, I think double and triple. But if we needed any more, I would put it up personally, like I did in the primaries last time.


BALDWIN: All of that as the fallout from that "Atlantic" article claiming the president called fallen U.S. troops losers and suckers shows no signs of going away anytime soon.

CNN White House correspondent Kaitlan Collins is up with me now.

And so, Kaitlan, we know, in public, the president has been defiant, saying he would never make such disparaging remarks, but you have some new reporting from behind the scenes that he was -- the phrase I read was visibly distressed?

Tell me more.

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, this is certainly something that actually resonated with the president.

It did cause this concern for him that his support within the military could erode over a report like this. And the president has said privately what he said publicly. He has denied making these comments. He has talked about what he's done for the military.

But it's clear this is a story that is broken through with the president and has been something that he's worried about that could be something that people do not believe his denials and they do think he made these comments about the military.

And that's why you saw such an effort, such a mobilization on behalf of the White House last week to come out and deny this story.

And while you did have a lot of people on the record who were on that trip to Paris that -- in November 2018, which the story referenced, saying that it was not true, the White House has also noticed that two of the top people who could actually do a lot, go a lot -- make -- go a long ways to deny this story and really kind of tamp down the headlines about it would be John Kelly, the president's former chief of staff, who has not said anything, and Joe Dunford, who is the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff who was there on this trip with the president and with John Kelly.

He did an interview over the weekend, Brooke, and he also did not say anything. But it had been a pretty quiet weekend at the White House until the president came out to do that Labor Day press conference yesterday. And, of course, he made that remark, saying that he believed there are top people at the Pentagon who are beholden to defense companies.

And, of course, that is an astonishing remark coming from the president, given his defense secretary that he put in at the top of the Pentagon is someone who is a former top lobbyist for one of the top defense companies in the world, Raytheon.

So, of course, we were told that that comment came as a part of the president being upset that there weren't more military leaders defending him in the wake of that "Atlantic" report coming out.

You saw a statement from Mark Esper. It didn't deny that the president had made those comments, but it defended his relationship with the military. And, overall, they have been concerned about the fallout of this, and whether or not it could affect the president as he is heading into a critical two months before the election.

BALDWIN: Such important reporting. Kaitlan, thank you so much for getting all that for us from behind the scenes there at the White House.

And as the president tries to portray anarchists or political opponents or China as one of the biggest threats to the nation, the Department of Homeland Security says the real problem is white supremacists.

That's according to draft documents, which say that white supremacists will be the most -- quote -- "persistent and lethal threat in the United States through 2021."

Senior justice correspondent Evan Perez and why tip on this angle for us.

And so that there were, it's my understanding, three versions of these draft documents, and the language is slightly different in each of them. So explain to us what you found.


And these were draft documents that the Homeland Security Department has not released the final version of, Brooke. But the Lawfare blog was the one that published them earlier today.

And what's striking is that, in an earlier draft, it says specifically that white supremacists -- white supremacist extremists present the most lethal threat to the nation. This is in a part describing how lone offenders would be -- lone attackers would be the most likely type of terrorist threat you could find in the United States through 2021.

In later drafts of this document, Brooke, the words white supremacist extremist is replaced with the words domestic violent extremists presenting the most persistent and lethal threat.

And, look, one of the reasons why this document was posted is simply to see what the