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Interview with Mayor Walt Maddox (D) Tuscaloosa, Alabama, Reopens Bars Despite Case Spike on Campus; Tuscaloosa Mayor Reopens Bars Despite Case Spike on Campus; Justice Department Wants to Defend Trump in Defamation Suit; Trump Speaks on Judicial Appointments; Trump Defends Lack of Response to Coronavirus as Avoiding Panic. Aired 3:30- 4p ET

Aired September 9, 2020 - 15:30   ET




BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: All right, just a reminder, any moment now we're expecting to hear from President Trump for the first time since we have learned today of these just damning revelations from veteran journalist Bob Woodward who recorded the President on tape acknowledging the dangers of the coronavirus as early as February despite the President downplaying the virus to the American people.

The White House says the President will be speaking about judicial appointments so we will see if he addresses this Woodward news.

Meantime college campuses ware now the new front lines of this pandemic leaving college towns scrambling to contain outbreaks. According to CNN's latest reporting there are more than 37,000 reported cases on college campuses in all 50 states and the mayor of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, home of the University of Alabama, closed bars two weeks ago after more than 500 students tested positive in less than a week.

The University now says that daily new cases are declining but still last week 846 students tested positive. And last night bars in Tuscaloosa reopened under a new order from the mayor, bars can open at 50 percent occupancy and cannot exceed 100 people. So with me now the mayor of Tuscaloosa. Walt Maddox, Mayor Maddox, welcome, sir.

MAYOR WALT MADDOX (D) TUSCALOOSA, ALABAMA: Thank you for having me, Brooke.

BALDWIN: So 846 COVID cases, still why is it time to open bars?

MADDOX: Well when you look at the executive order, it is a very measured reopening. 23 of the 29 bars within the city of Tuscaloosa actually have an occupancy of less than 150 people. Most of those bars themselves are not student oriented bars. We looked at contact tracing where we were seeing the number of cases early on in this process, we closed down the bars for two weeks, we're in the large mega bars that have 500, 600, 700 people within their space.

Under this executive order they can have only have 100, no more. The executive order also deals with restaurants who are morphing into bars which I think got lost in the executive order itself.

Many restaurants in Tuscaloosa in and around the University area after a certain hour were becoming bars so this executive order basically ends that practice. So in many ways it's actually more restrictive than what we had in place two weeks ago.

BALDWIN: You know it just takes one or two, though, students, nonstudents to be in there, to not be well. One of the University's top health officials Richard Friend said Friday that closing bars was key to slowing the outbreak.


This is his quote, we expected higher testing numbers at University of Alabama until the impact of bar closures could make a difference. We are starting to see the results of those decisions.

So just starting. And not to mention Mayor Maddox, you know, there's this freshman student who said that you are making a huge mistake, that by reopening these bars, restaurants, makes him feel less safe. What would you say to that student?

MADDOX: Well, I certainly wouldn't want anyone to feel that way. My daughter is a freshman at the University of Alabama and lives on campus. So I have a very vested interest in ensuring the health, safety and welfare of every one of our citizens, and every one of our students.

But the fact of the matter is that we worked closely with Dr. Friend and the University staff in crafting this executive order. The executive order actually makes it much tougher on restaurants and it limits, very much limits what bars can do in opening spaces.

Another key component that's gotten lost in this as well is that the University over the summer prepared large amounts of quarantine and isolation space. As of last Friday, less than 40 percent of that quarantine and isolation space was being used.

As long as we have the ability to quarantine and isolate students with coronavirus, we prevent community spillover. During the same time period we've seen our hospitalizations decrease by 20 percent. And the at end of the day, our public purpose in this is ensuring that our health care system can withstand the amount of people with coronavirus being treated within our system while dealing with the daily needs of the Tuscaloosa metro area.

BALDWIN: Of course, and I appreciate, you know, having those isolation areas, of course, there is a need for that and making sure folks are on the ready in those hospitals.

But I guess I want to get down to the specifics. Like how will these restaurants and bars pull this off? I mean hear you at 50 percent capacity and some no more than a 100 people, but, you know, will bar owners be taking the temperature of everyone coming in? Or will they be taking the names and addresses of patrons for potential contact tracing or, you know, people are drinking, guards go down, I mean maybe if somebody's not wearing a mask, what are you having bar and restaurant owners do, things like that?

MADDOX: Well, the University of Alabama is doing the contact tracing. So they're going to be responsible for that. Bar owners will have a very limited capacity within their establishments. They've already been shut down for two weeks.

They're still under very restrictive orders and we all understand that we've got to get this right because it's very important that we have fall in Tuscaloosa. It was in serious jeopardy two weeks ago. And so that's why the steps --

BALDWIN: Well, I hear you on getting it right so that's why I'm asking will they be taking temperatures, will they be taking names for contact tracing, will they be mandating mask wearing inside those bars?

MADDOX: Well the mask wearing is actually already mandated under city ordinance. They're not required to take temperatures. So that will not be asked of them.

But if you think about what we've done over the last two weeks between what the University's efforts in terms of quarantine and isolation, the city shutting down bars for two weeks, putting more restrictive regulations on restaurants, I believe those are going to be ingredients to success.

We can't completely shut down our life. What we're trying to do is find the balance. And that balance is working. Look at our hospitalizations. They're lower than any point that they've been in recent months. In fact, yesterday we have zero admission of new COVID patients in Tuscaloosa.

We've only had one 18 to 24-year-old admitted in the hospital in the last six weeks. What we're doing is working. I think we cannot go to extremes in dealing with coronavirus. We have to approach this in a very balanced reasonable way that has worked for us this far.

But, Brooke, I promise this, I live here, my parents live here, my children live here, if I thought there was not anything that we could do or we were not doing to protect this community, protect my children, protect my wife, protect my parents, I can assure you that we would do it. This is my hometown, I love this place and I'll do everything I can protect it.

BALDWIN: No and I appreciate you saying you've got to give, you know, freshman daughter at Alabama. Of course you want to protect her the most of with all of this. It's just, you know, tough questions are necessary because you have other folks and some students saying if they don't feel safe, I just needed to ask you, you know, about the safeguards and, you know, hearing someone like Dr. Fauci saying if you want to open schools, close the bars. I wish you the best. I hope everyone is well and can enjoy themselves

safely. Mayor Walt Maddox over in Tuscaloosa, thank you very much for coming on. I appreciate it. Good luck.

MADDOX: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Coming up here on -- next on CNN, the President is set to speak for the first time since we learned of these damming revelations from Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Bob Woodward. So stay here.



BALDWIN: Let's come up on live pictures here. We're waiting for the President there. We're going to see him for the first time since we learned that he discussed the dangerous of coronavirus back in early February with journalist Bob Woodward despite saying something entirely different to you, the American people. And so, we will bring the President to you as soon as he steps behind that podium.

Let me get now to the surprise move by the Department of Justice which is seeking to defend President Trump in a defamation lawsuit filed against him by E. Jean Carrol, She's a former "Elle" columnist who has accused Trump of sexually

assaulting her in the '90s in a New York City dressing room.

So on this court filing the DOJ said in part, quote, President Trump was acting within the scope of his office as President of the United States at the time of the incident, out of which the plaintiff's defamation claim arose. Adding that the Westfall Act accordingly requires the substitution of the United States as defendant in this action.


Let me translate that for you. Even though this alleged assault happened two decades before Donald Trump became President Donald Trump, his comments and the response to the lawsuit were made while he was in the White House and that says Attorney General Bill Barr, is reason enough for the DOJ to take over the case.


WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL: This was a normal application of the law. The law is clear. It is done frequently. And the little tempest that's going on is largely because of the bizarre political environment.


BALDWIN: We'll pull away from that just a second. Here is the President.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- justice is the most important decision an American President can make. For this reason, candidates for President owe the American people a specific list of the individuals they consider for the United States Supreme Court.

Four years ago, I announced my first list of highly qualified candidates and promised to fill Justice Scalia's vacant seat from among -- from among those names.

And just days after my inauguration, I kept that promise when I nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch. And, as you know, he has been very spectacular. A year later, I nominated, and the Senate confirmed another outstanding justice, Brett Kavanaugh.

By the end of my first term, we will have confirmed a record number of federal judges -- over 300 -- all of whom will faithfully uphold our Constitution as written.

What has always made America exceptional is our reverence for the impartial rule of law. People have come here from all over the world to pursue the American Dream based on this sacred principle.

Equality under the law is the bedrock of our society. It is the principle that inspired American heroes to abolish slavery and end segregation, secure civil rights, and build the most free and just nation in history.

Unfortunately, there is a growing radical-left movement that rejects the principle of equal treatment under law. If this extreme movement is granted a majority on the Supreme Court, it will fundamentally transform America without a single vote of Congress.

Radical justices will erase the Second Amendment, silence political speech, and require taxpayers to fund extreme late-term abortion. They will give unelected bureaucrats that power to destroy millions of American jobs. They will remove the words "under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance. They will unilaterally declare the death penalty unconstitutional, even for the most depraved mass murderers. They will erase national borders, cripple police departments, and grant new protections to anarchists, rioters, violent criminals, and terrorists.

In the recent past, many of our most treasured freedoms, including religious liberty, free speech, and the right to keep and bear arms, have been saved by a single vote on the United States Supreme Court. Our cherished rights are at risk, including the right to life and our great Second Amendment.

Over the next four years, America's President will choose hundreds of federal judges, and, in all likelihood, one, two, three, and even four Supreme Court justices. The outcome of these decisions will determine whether we hold fast to our nation's founding principles or whether they are lost forever.

That is why today I am announcing 20 additions to my original list of candidates for the United States Supreme Court. Should there be another vacancy on the Supreme Court during my presidency, my nominee will come from the names I have shared with the American public, including the original list and these 20 additions.

Joe Biden has refused to release his list, perhaps because he knows the names are so extremely far left that they could never withstand public scrutiny or receive acceptance.

He must release a list of justices for people to properly make a decision as to how they will vote. It is very important that he do so.

My original list of potential justices include many of our nation's brightest legal minds, such as Bill Pryor, Amy Coney Barrett, and Thomas Hardiman. Outstanding people.


Like those distinguished individuals, the 20 additions I am announcing today would be jurists in the mold of Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito.

Their names are as follows: Bridget Bade of Arizona, judge on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Daniel Cameron of Kentucky, Attorney General of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, Paul Clement of Virginia, former Solicitor General of the United States, Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, Stuart Kyle Duncan of Louisiana, judge on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, Steven Engel of the District of Columbia, Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel at the Department of Justice, Noel Francisco, former Solicitor General of the United States, Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri, James Ho of Texas, judge on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, Gregory Katsas of Virginia, judge on the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals, Barbara Lagoa of Florida, judge on the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, Christopher Landau of Maryland, United States Ambassador to Mexico, Carlos Muniz of Florida, justice on the Supreme Court of Florida, Martha Pacold of Illinois, judge on the District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Peter Phipps of Pennsylvania, judge on the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, Sarah Pitlyk of Missouri, judge on the District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, Allison Jones Rushing of North Carolina, judge on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, Kate Todd of Virginia, Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy Counsel to the President, Lawrence VanDyke of Nevada, judge on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals,

Every one of these individuals will ensure equal justice, equal treatment, and equal rights for citizens of every race, color, religion, and creed. Together, we will defend our righteous heritage and preserve our magnificent American way of life.

Thank you. God Bless America. Thank you very much. Thank you.

TRUMP: Does anybody have any questions on the judges? Please. Anybody on the judges. Excuse me, any questions? They're outstanding people, very important decision, very important that Joe Biden put up potential nominees. I think it's a very important thing for our country that he do that.

OK, please, go ahead. Do you have a question? Question.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, can you address the concerns from the Woodward book in regards to whether -- did you mislead the public by saying that you downplayed the coronavirus and that you repeatedly did that in order to reduce panic? Did you mislead the public?

TRUMP: Well, I think if you said, in order to reduce panic, perhaps that's so. The fact is, I'm a cheerleader for this country, I love our country, and I don't want people to be frightened. I don't want to create panic, as you say. And certainly, I'm not going to drive this country or the world into a frenzy.

We want to show confidence. We want to show strength. We want to show strength as a nation. And that's what I've done. And we've done very well. We've done well from any standard. You look at our numbers, compared to other countries, other parts of the world. It's been an amazing job that we've done.

I think it's very sad, in many respects, because the incredible individuals working so hard on it, including our Vice President, they've done this great job. They haven't been acknowledged by the news media -- and they should -- for the job we've done. Whether it's ventilators -- and now, you'll see very soon, with vaccines and with therapeutics, the job we've done has been incredible.

But we don't want to -- we don't want to instill panic. We don't want to jump up and down and start shouting that we have a problem that is a -- a tremendous problem -- scare everybody.

And I'll tell you the other thing: We immediately started buying. All over the world, we started buying masks and gowns and everything else. And we don't want to cause pricing to go up to a level that becomes almost unaffordable. So --


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But, Mr. President --

TRUMP: Yes, in that sense -- so, in that sense, I agree with it.

Yes, please.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do you reassure the American public going forward that they can trust what you're saying?

TRUMP: Well, I think that's really a big part of trust. We have to have leadership. We have to show leadership. And the last thing you want to do is create a panic in the country. This was a horrible thing. It was sent to us by China.

Should not have happened, should never have happened. This is a disgusting terrible situation that was foisted upon us. And we have to show -- we just don't want to use, the best word is panic. We don't want to have to show panic. We're not going to show panic. And that's exactly what I did.

And I was very open whether it's to Woodward or anybody else. It's just another political hit job. But whether it was Woodward or anybody else, you cannot show a sense of panic or you're going to have bigger problems than you ever had before.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Respectfully, sir, your comments amounted to more than trying to reduce panic. So in February 7, you told Woodward, it's more deadly than your strenuous flu but publicly you wont say at all --

TRUMP: Go ahead, please.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, don't you think if you were more forthright with the American people, more lives could've been saved? Do you take responsibility at all for some of the 200,000 deaths that we've had?

TRUMP: So, I think if we didn't do what we did, we would have had millions of people die. We closed up our country. We closed it up very, very quickly, very effectively. We did a job. We learned about this horrible disease, along with the rest of the world, which had to learn about it. And then we opened it up. And now we know the vulnerable. We know who it attacks, who it's so vicious against. And I think we've done, from every standpoint, a -- a incredible job.

We shouldn't have lost anybody. Nobody should have lost -- China released something that they shouldn't have been allowed to re- -- they should not have released. It came out of China. It went to Europe. It went all over the world. It should have never happened. They could have stopped it. They stopped it from going into the remainder of China. It started in Wuhan, and they stopped it. But they didn't stop it from coming to our country.

Now, we had to show calm. We had to show -- you know, if it was up to you or whoever -- I have no idea what he said in the book. And again, it's a book that -- I gave him some quotes and, frankly, we'll see how the book turned out. I have no idea. You're asking me questions for the first time.

But, again, the last thing we can show is panic or excitement or fear or anything else. We had to take care of the -- we had to take care of the situation we were given.

Now, long before anybody else wanted to do it, I closed our borders to a very heavily infected China. If I didn't do that, we would have had hundreds of thousands more people die. Dr. Fauci said it. Many people said it. It was a great decision. It was a decision I made, and I had to make.

It was a decision that a lot of people thought I was wrong. Nancy Pelosi said I was wrong. Joe Bo- -- Biden said I was wrong. They all came back, and they said it was the right decision. And I was way early. That was in January. The end of January, I did that.

So that was a very good thing we did. Otherwise, we would have had hundreds of thousands more. But if we didn't close the country, we would have been talking about millions of people, instead of the numbers that we have right now.

Go ahead. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, you mentioned that you were trying to avoid price gouging. But you mentioned to Bob Woodward that you recognized, as this virus spread through the air, in -- on February 7th -- you didn't begin Project Air Bridge until March. You didn't use the Defense Production Act until March. You didn't start ramping up ventilator production until March.

TRUMP: You didn't really think it was going to be to the point where it was. All of a sudden, the world was infected. The entire world was infected. Everyone was scrambling around looking where to buy face masks and all of the other things.

We've opened up factories. We've had tremendous success with face masks and with shields and with the ventilators. We are now supplying the rest of the world. We have all the ventilators we can use.

And remember this. The ventilators were very important. Not one person that needed a ventilator didn't get it. And these are very complex expensive machines to make. We opened up something like hadn't been done since the Second World War.

We honestly, we've done an incredible job. But we don't want to run around screaming shouting, oh, look at this, look at this. We have to show leadership. And leadership is all about confidence. And confidence is confidence in our country.

And our people have been great. We've been put through a lot by China by releasing this, by having this come here we were put through a lot. They could have done something about it and they chose not to.

I am very honored to have presented to you today a list of 20 incredible people. And we will talk later. I'm sure we'll be meeting later in the day. Thank you very much.

BALDWIN: All right. So, I know Pam Brown is going to be all over this in just a second. But let me just as we listened to the President there, let me just say he is doubling down on a lie. He was not truthful to the American public.

Dr. Anthony Fauci who he mentioned is quoted in all this Woodward reporting. I'm telling others that Trump's leadership was rudderless.