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Pharmaceutical Companies Pledge to Not Seek FDA Approval for Coronavirus Vaccine Before Proven Safe; Hikers Rescued from Wildfires in California; Congress Investigating Postmaster General Louis DeJoy for Campaign Finance Violations; NY Times: Trump Campaign Cash Advantage Has Evaporated. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired September 8, 2020 - 08:00   ET



UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On all sides, all around us.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is NEW DAY. And we begin for us with breaking news this hour. Nine pharmaceutical companies signing an unusual safety pledge in the race for the coronavirus vaccine. They promise they will uphold, quote, "high ethical standards," end quote, and they suggest they will not seek premature government approval for any vaccine before it is ready.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Obviously, this is in response to the political pressure that President Trump is placing on the FDA to approve a vaccine before Election Day. One of the companies that signed the pledge moments ago is Pfizer. So the head of a German biotech firm that has partnered with Pfizer told CNN this morning just a short time ago that he is confident that its vaccine could be ready for approval as early as the middle of October. So we're talking weeks at this point. But there are still some unknowns here.

So I want to bring in CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Sanjay, great to see you this morning. Fred Pleitgen just had this interview with the head of this German biotech firm. The timeline that they now provide is middle of October to seek approval, maybe end of October to get approval. This is weeks away, but what does that mean in terms of when people put shots in their arm?

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right. That is the big question. I think most people watching say, what does this mean for me ultimately? And I think the timeline in terms of actually making this vaccine potentially available to the general public, we talked to a lot of people, manufacturers, we talked to people within the federal government, still looking at next spring or summer.

So there is a bit of a nuance here. The idea of shots going into arms, which is the term they use, that's already happening as part of these trials. And what we have heard even is that as part of continuing phase three trials they may start to increasingly incorporate high risk individuals, people who are health care workers, for example. So yes, high-risk people would be getting the vaccine perhaps even this year according to some of our sources. But in some ways it would be in the context of a trial.

So what these vaccine makers are saying is that in order to seek actual authorization or approval -- again that's their language -- they would want all of the data before they do that. Getting health care workers into that phase three trial may be happening to get that data, because that doesn't mean it's authorized or approved yet.

CAMEROTA: But just to clarify, Sanjay, so I understand, are the pledge that they have just signed, does that mean they will allow phase three trials to complete before get anything approval, FDA approval, or, as President Trump has sometimes suggested, maybe before phase three is completed?

GUPTA: If you look at this pledge, and I just read it again, we just got it early this morning, it does say they would wait for phase three trials to be completed before either authorization or approval, because there's two nuances here. One is do you let phase three complete, and two is, are you trying to get an emergency use authorization, which is different, as we have learned over the past few months, versus approval.

Emergency use authorization can be given when you think, hey, look, the emergency is significant enough here that we can go ahead and authorize this before we get the final data in. We saw that with hydroxychloroquine, that authorization was subsequently rescinded. We saw that with convalescent plasma even though the data was admitted to have been exaggerated. Everyone is concerned about the authorization of this vaccine in part because of the track record here so far with the FDA during this pandemic.

So these vaccine makers -- this is a strong statement. I'm going to read it again and everyone should read it, but they're saying they will wait for phase three trials to be completed before authorization or approval is asked for.

BERMAN: Look, to me, what it is is a market response to the political environment. This is the market, the capitalist market, responding to what they see as the undermining of public trust. People now doubt vaccines, so the market has to respond to that and say, no, no, we're going to take this seriously. So just on its face you can see the impact that the U.S. campaign has had.

Sanjay, I want to bring up a different subject here. We have some new data. Labor Day weekend just finished here and obviously there was concern about people maybe gathering and holding parties. We do know that people behaved differently at least this one way this Labor Day than they have before, which is they traveled way more than they have at any time during the pandemic. I think we have the stats. So what does this tell you? GUPTA: Yes. It shows that people are starting to become increasingly

mobile. So, look, compared to last year, first of all, that's what this graphic shows, we are still obviously traveling a lot less overall. So there's no question, there's a significant sort of sense that this is not normal. But this overall travel is a lot more than it has been so far during this pandemic.


So we're starting to get more comfortable with the idea of traveling even if we shouldn't necessarily be getting that way yet. We know from previous big weekends such as Memorial Day weekend and July 4th weekend there was a lot of increased mobility. And that increased mobility then translated a few weeks later into an increase in the number of people being infected.

I think one of the big questions, again, is that regardless of the policies in places or even the fact that people are traveling more, I think are they still abiding by good public health practices? A lot of airlines obviously mandating masks. It's a very different experience even though the numbers, nearly a million people traveling it's a very different experience traveling now. And if people are sort of behaving themselves, if you will, we may not see the significant uptick that we saw after July 4th weekend where people just said we're back to normal. After Memorial Day weekend people were so tired of being in lockdown since the middle of March that there was this sort of reckless abandon.

At this point, hopefully, we'll see, the numbers will tell us in a few weeks, even if travel did go up, hopefully the numbers won't go up at a corresponding sort of amount.

CAMEROTA: So today's the first day of school for millions of kids. Are your -- is this their first day?

BERMAN: No, they started last week. In-person last week and at home.

CAMEROTA: How is it going far?

BERMAN: So far so good. I assume they're at school already today. And if they're not, then it's a real problem.

CAMEROTA: Let's call and check. It's my son's first day of school. And so fingers crossed. He's going into a classroom and everybody is waiting with baited breath to see if it will work. But there are all sorts of schools. The 11 -- no, the school districts that are opening today, these are the top most populated school districts, OK. So online, Chicago, Houston, Fairfax in Washington, in the Virginia area, Dallas, Baltimore, Fort Worth, it just goes on and on of all of the schools that are opening today. They're opening online, OK? So that's so different, Sanjay, than some places, as you know, are doing in person and online, the hybrid that John was speaking of. But I don't know if that helps teachers feel safer. This is just all, as I think you pointed out, a grand experiment that we're in the middle of for the next month or two. GUPTA: Yes. This is the thing. Kids, especially younger kids, have

mostly been at home over the last several months. Adults and older kids perhaps more out and about. We know that younger kids can carry this virus. We know that they can become infected. We know they're far less likely to get sick. But the experiment part is what's happening now. Are these kids going to likely spread the infection to each other? Are they going to spread it to their teachers, to faculty? Are they going to bring it home? We don't know.

I can tell you that most respiratory viruses, kids are actually the big spreaders of these viruses. We all have kids. If you had a kid that came home with a cold, a different type of coronavirus perhaps, everyone in the house would get it at some point. Is that going to happen here? We don't know. This virus is just behaving differently in so many ways.

But I can tell you this -- the data isn't there yet. We've looked at all this data. First, they said kids don't get infected. That's not true. Kids do get infected. That means they're carrying the virus inside their nose and their mouths. They may not get as sick, but the transmissibility, why would they be carrying so much virus but not transmitting it as much? We don't know if that's the case or not, but that's what we're going to learn over next couple of weeks.

CAMEROTA: OK, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thank you very much for all of the information.

GUPTA: Thank you.

CAMEROTA: We also have some breaking news to get to right now -- 13 hikers rescued overnight in central California as flames from the Creek Fire closed in. But more do remain trapped. They still need to be saved. Officials call the fire an unprecedented disaster with zero percent containment at this hour. It's one of several massive fires burning across California. CNN's Ryan Young joins us now from San Bernardino County. What's the latest, Ryan?

RYAN YOUNG, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Alisyn, when you think about those facts, you can see just how dangerous this fire and the fire conditions can be with those 13 people rescued. More people were up there, according to fire officials. They will be able to get to them, they are safe right now. They had to go four different locations with those helicopters.

Right now where we're standing about 45 minutes outside of L.A., you can see the burned ground behind me. This Eldorado Fire, apparently this started from one of the gender reveal parties where they came with some smoke pyrotechnics, and when it went off, it caught all this on fire. The family called 911 and they tried to put it out with water bottles. But it quickly spread to over 8,000 acres. But when you combine the conditions here, the wind and the heat, you know it's been tough for firefighters, especially when you look at all of this video from the last few days. They're hoping things will improve today, but when you talk about zero percent containment, you understand it's been tough for firefighters battling the blaze.


CAMEROTA: Ryan, thank you very much. Obviously, we'll be checking back with you throughout the day. Let's just pray they can get some containment of that.

Now, there's this new controversy for Postmaster General Louis DeJoy. A report reveals Congress is looking into whether he broke the law with campaign finance violations. We explain, next.


BERMAN: Developing overnight, the House Oversight Committee has launched an investigation into claims that Postmaster General Louis DeJoy reimbursed employees who donated to Republican candidates. Joining us now, CNN political correspondent Abby Phillip and CNN White House correspondent John Harwood.

Abby, "The Washington Post" reports that in DeJoy's old company that employees were pressured to give money to Republican candidates and then compensated for it either by enlarged bonuses or payments. That is simply textbook campaign finance violation. It's ham-handed and in some ways uncreative. It's strawman donations. So that is the accusation that the Overnight Committee is now looking into. Is there merit to it? What do we know? What does DeJoy say about this?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That is a very serious allegation. It would be a felony. And I think what is notable about this report which was put out in "The Washington Post" yesterday is that one of the people making the accusation is on the record. This person was in charge of human resources at DeJoy's company and says that this is the arrangement that they saw put into place.


There are other employees saying very similar things. There are two parts of this. One is, did people feel like they were being pressured to donate?

DeJoy was a major Republican fund-raiser and kind of made a name for himself for his ability to raise millions and millions of dollars, some of which apparently came from employees of his old company. But then the second part that is the most potentially dangerous for DeJoy legally is the idea that the allegation that these employees were reimbursed that's a straw donation, that's illegal. People have been prosecuted for it in the past. And so, there are questions about that.

On the House, they are look into this. Looking into whether DeJoy lied about this when he was asked about it. And also there are questions about whether the state of North Carolina might pursue legal actions as well.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: John, we've been pointing out President Trump's response to this was quite different than he normally responds to the people around him being accused of crimes.

So let's play this moment. (BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think let the investigations go.

Go ahead.

REPORTER: Mr. President, a follow-up please, if you don't mind. If it's proven to be a campaign finance scheme, do you think he should lose his job?

TRUMP: Yes. If something could be proven that he did something wrong, always.


CAMEROTA: What's interesting, John, is that's the right response for a president, or certainly the traditional response for the president, if the investigation proves there's a crime, of course, he would lose his job. But that's not how President Trump normally responds to all of the people around him who have been investigated and charged in the past.

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right. And I think it's partly because as Abby indicated the head of human resources that is right at the core of where a potential crime was committed. If he was at the intersection of the reimbursement of the people and can testify he did that at the direction of Louis DeJoy, that would put him -- put DeJoy in a very, very vulnerable position. So does, by the way, his answer to Jim Cooper in the committee hearing recently when Cooper put the question to him directly saying it was an outrageous question to ask him. The answer is no.

So, that was pretty stark and black and white. And, of course, remember how the president couched it, if they can prove it. The president has often said engaging in legal discussions like let them -- let them see what they can prove. So he's not exactly throwing DeJoy under the bus, but acknowledging that obviously if you get proven to have committed a felony, you're going to be losing your job in the federal government.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: So, John, it's time for NEW DAY book club here and we can't help but notice there's been a spate of books published, well, this week alone and over the last couple of months and they have the one thing in common. They're written by the people who know the president pretty well. I'm talking about his national security adviser John Bolton, I'm talking about his niece Mary Trump who quotes the president's sister at length. Obviously, we have the former chief of staff of the first lady.

And they all, broadly speaking, paint the same picture. They paint picture in their words of a president who was not up to the job that he was elected to.

What does it tell us that there is such a similar through line to all of these books by people who were by any definition close to the president?

HARWOOD: Well, first of all, John, it dovetails with what the American people have been watching over the last four years and one of the reasons that the president's approval rating has never hit 50 percent and he's deep under water right now, people have judged his performance to be less than what they expect from a president.

But I think of the message of these books in terms of the opportunity cause for the president. Let's imagine as if polls seemed to indicate that on the national basis, he's down by eight points. And if you take the battleground states, it's closer.

Let's say it's the average of four points in the battle ground states, he's got eight weeks to turn it around. There aren't many undecided. And so, the more time he spends defending himself as he is incidentally on that "Atlantic" article about derogatory remarks he's alleged to have made about the U.S. military personnel, the more he's got to defend himself from the things, the less chance he has of going after and prying voters away from Joe Biden.

Joe Biden is over 50 percent and he has the votes that he needs to win the election. Donald Trump's got to take some of those away from him and if he's defending himself, it makes it harder to do that.

CAMEROTA: Abby, we haven't played this game for a while of imagine if this were President Obama, but I think this morning warrants it, which is imagine if President Obama's closest confidant for years wrote a book like Michael Cohen comes out today.


Imagine if President Obama's national security adviser, secretary of defense, if Michelle Obama's wife's best friend wrote these incredibly damning, incriminating books. At some point, voters would go, huh, maybe there's something there.

But somehow, as we know, President Trump's base I guess just dismisses all of these people? I mean, President Trump does a good job of besmirching people's characters. And so, I guess his base believes they're all corrupt and crack pots or something?

PHILLIP: You know, it's a good question whether or not this is going to penetrate. I mean, the president's argument is basically all of these people are disgruntled employees of some form or another, or disgruntled people who sort of have betrayed him.

But they do paint a pretty consistent picture and a picture that's not just consistent with each other. But also consistent with what the president himself says and does on social media, in his public comments on a nearly daily basis. So it poses a real problem for the Trump campaign and you know that they know that because during the Republican national convention just a couple of weeks ago, they spent the entire convention trying to convince people that the Donald Trump that they ought to re-elect is a person who is completely different from the Donald Trump that the American people see virtually every day. That was the project of the Republican National Convention just two

weeks ago. And it's a reflection of the fact that they have to convince people that Trump is not racist, that he's not sexist, that he's not anti-immigrant, that he's not all of these things that perhaps the American people thinks he is. It's a tall order especially with all of these books really coming out and all of these former top officials in his own administration and cabinet no longer really being willing to back him up in his re-election bid.

I think it sends the wrong message from the perspective of the Trump campaign.

BERMAN: Yeah, it's counterprogramming to the Republican National Convention. There's no question about that, particularly Michael Cohen's book which includes quotes about Hispanics and African- Americans.

Quote, the president allegedly said, according to Cohen, I will never get the Hispanic vote. Like the blacks, they're too stupid to vote for Trump. They're not any people.

Not the kind of thing you have heard at the Republican convention at all.

John, you know, more campaign news. "The New York Times" reported overnight, Maggie Haberman and Shane Goldmacher, that the death star, this financial juggernaut that was allegedly created to re-elect the president might be short of cash and they've pulled pack on some advertising apparently in some places, in some states. Bloomberg is reporting -- we have not confirmed this -- but Bloomberg is reporting the president is even considering dumping $100 million of his own money to the campaign.

What happened?

HARWOOD: Boy, that would be something -- well, first of all, it's been a very expensive death star and they have a lot of firing to do. Look, the -- again, the president is behind and to the point that Alisyn was discussing with Abby about whether his base is shaken by these tell-all books.

Remember, Donald Trump's base is not enough to win the election. He needs more votes than he has right now, that Death Star, the big campaign apparatus that Brad Parscale had built was supposed to be able to do that by, in part, discrediting Joe Biden and also reinforcing and firing up the president's base. But they have been indisciplined by the account in "The New York Times" in spending.

And if you're pulling back from battleground state advertising, that is not a good sign about you're going to be. Meanwhile, Joe Biden's fund-raising has been quite robust and that's what tends to happen when you get a big lead in the presidential race, leads in the presidential race begets more money and the more the incumbent president is down the more difficult it is to counteract that.

So, he's -- I expect that the president is going to have sufficient money. And, of course, in a presidential race, money per se doesn't really decide the outcome because it's so visible to the public. People know Donald Trump and people are seeing him and Joe Biden on the campaign trail they'll their make decision.

But it is not a good sign of the tightness of the ship when you've got a situation where you're pulling back right now.

CAMEROTA: Yeah. Some of the tell-all accounts talk about how President Trump is very resistant to parting with his own money. And even when he owes people like vendors say and construction workers. So the idea that he would --

HARWOOD: I'd be surprised if he dumps $100 million in, yes.

PHILLIP: And I think it's -- it would be -- we would need to see it before we believe it. I mean, I think the president repeatedly, even as a candidate in 2016 said he would put far more money into his campaign than he did and already now, he has the ability to pay for things that -- the campaigns pay for, like, for example, his legal fees.


So, you know, it's a real question whether or not that comes to pass, whether he'd actually be willing to part with that much money, given how frugal he is as you put it, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: That's one word.

BERMAN: You know what happened to both death stars, right? I mean, the death star reference --

CAMEROTA: Did they explode?

BERMAN: The death star, yeah, exactly. It didn't -- it just didn't end well for the death stars.

CAMEROTA: Spoiler alert.

BERMAN: All right, John and Abby, thank you very much.

As more schools open this week, there are growing concerns about a potential second wave of coronavirus outbreak. What the parents need to know.

New Jersey's governor is going to tell us next.


BERMAN: All right. This morning, some public schools in New Jersey are set to reopen for in-person learning. But some teachers and staff say they do not feel safe returning to the classroom.

Joining us now to discuss, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy.

Governor Murphy, thanks so much for being with us. Before we get to schools, I want to talk about this weekend. It was a big holiday weekend and the weather was gorgeous in New Jersey. What was the impact? What did you see in terms of people obeying the rules that are in place going out, crowding the beaches? And how has it gone so far as you have begun to allow in-person dining at 25 percent capacity in some establishments?

GOV. PHIL MURPHY (D-NJ): John, good to be with you.