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AstraZeneca Vaccine Trials on Pause; Health Officials Stress Testing is Key to COVID-19 Containment; Coronavirus Long Haulers Still Feel Effects of Illness; Wildfires in California Still Not Contained; Opposition Volunteers Attacked in Siberia; Trump Tells Voters to Mail in Ballots and Go to Polls; Trump Raises Hopes of COVID-19 Vaccine Before Election; Former Allies Torment Trump with Tell-All Books. Aired 12-1a ET

Aired September 9, 2020 - 00:00   ET



KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN HOST (voice-over): Hello and welcome to you, joining us from all around the world. I am Kim Brunhuber.

Coming up on CNN NEWSROOM, a possible setback for scientists seeking a COVID vaccine. AstraZeneca's trial now on hold after a participant becomes ill.

Wildfires rage across America's west, prompting mass evacuations.

Plus, a slew of Trump tell-all books puts the White House on the defensive.


BRUNHUBER: We begin with a new hurdle in the race for a coronavirus vaccine. Drugmaker AstraZeneca says late stage trials of its Oxford University vaccine are now on hold after one of the research participants developed an unexplained illness.

The company says it's reviewing safety data to ensure this vaccine candidate will not cause serious reactions. This comes after AstraZeneca signed a pledge with eight other vaccine makers to uphold high ethical standards as they develop their drugs.

They've promised not to seek government approval too quickly amid concerns that some world leaders, notably President Trump, are trying to rush a vaccine to market before adequate testing has been completed.

Meanwhile, as a number of countries see their cases rising again, some are tightening restrictions. That includes England, which is about to impose major limits on public gatherings. We will have those details in just a moment.

Worldwide, the virus has now infected more than 27 million people, with almost 900,000 dead. The outbreak in the U.S. remains the worst in the world by far. CNN's Erica Hill looks at how the country is trying to manage the crisis.


ERICA HILL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Buses, backpacks, masks. Back to school in the age of COVID.

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

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

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

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

HILL: The first day in Hartford, Connecticut postponed after the city was hit by a cyber attack.

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

HILL: Cases still rising in colleges nationwide. The University of Tennessee warning more drastic measures may be needed and calling out fraternities.

DONDE PLOWMAN, UNIVERSITY OF TENNESSEE KNOXVILLE: Fraternity leaders, communicating to houses how to have parties and avoid being caught, telling fraternity members not to get tested, actively working to avoid isolation and quarantine, is reckless. And it will further spread this virus.

HILL: West Virginia University just suspended more than two dozen students for COVID-related violations and moved classes online.

News cases over the past week are holding steady and nearly half the states, 15 posting a decline but among the 11 seen in increase, the states in red, two former hotspots, Arizona and Florida.

Where new cases are up 20 percent in the last week. New York City announcing it will now stop buses from states required to quarantine upon arrival, to ensure compliance.

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D-NY), NEW YORK CITY: Officers will literally be going on the buses. This is so important, to keeping us safe.

HILL: Travelers from 35 states and territories must quarantine for 14 days when arriving in the tristate area.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is a virus that is still among us. It ebbs and flows.

HILL: New ads trying to recruit more diverse volunteers for vaccine trials.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 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.

TRUMP: We are going to have a vaccine very soon, maybe even before a very special date. You know what date I am talking about.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We will develop our products, our vaccines, using the highest ethical standards and the most scientific, rigorous processes.

HILL: Dr. Fauci stressing a vaccine without public trust won't be effective.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: 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.

HILL: The key to controlling this virus is testing, according to multiple directors at the National Institutes of Health. They made that statement in a blog post on Tuesday, noting that both asymptomatic and symptomatic people should be tested.

If you think you have been in contact with someone who has the virus, get a test. That directly contradicts the revised guidance from the CDC, but the NIH notes that testing and contract tracing, these are measures that can be taken that can ultimately lead to people returning safely to the workplace and to school -- In New York, I'm Erica Hill, CNN.




BRUNHUBER: Dr. William Schaffner joins me now. He is a professor of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

Thank you for joining us today. I want to start with the news we heard.

What should we make of the fact that those human tests of the coronavirus vaccine have been put on hold because of a potentially unexplained illness and one of the participants?

DR. WILLIAM SCHAFFNER, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: It is standard operating procedure. If an unexpected medical event occurs that is serious enough, then things are put on hold and the event is investigated.

We should be aware, we don't know whether this person received the placebo, the salt solution, or the vaccine. So that will have to be determined by an external group that will look at this very carefully. It's called the Data Safety Monitoring Board. They will check that all out and see whether there might be something causal or just coincidental.

BRUNHUBER: How normal is this sort of thing?

SCHAFFNER: We expect, if we are dealing with a vaccine that we are now giving to older people, people who have chronic, underlying illnesses, from time to time, a serious medical event will occur. And we have to determine then whether it occurs more frequently in the people who received the vaccine than in the people who received the placebo.

Sometimes that is pretty straightforward. Other times, it can be difficult to determine.

BRUNHUBER: A lot of people are kind of wary about this vaccine.

Should we be reassured that nine vaccine makers say they have signed a joint pledge, saying essentially they won't rush or cut corners to get premature government approval for a vaccine?

SCHAFFNER: It's very unusual that a letter like that or a press release had to be made on that subject. In my experience, the companies that develop vaccines are very, very ethical. They are very, very rigorous.

The fact that they had to say this, they had perceived that, both out in the public and in the medical community, there was a lot of skepticism because there has been a concern that the Food and Drug Administration's decisions have become politicized.

So the manufacturers wanted to distance themselves from that and reassure all of us that they are going by the rules and that science is the rule.

BRUNHUBER: That's exactly the question.

What do we make of the mixed messaging?

On the one hand, President Trump says a vaccine could be ready by Election Day. The CDC has asked states to ready facilities to distribute a coronavirus vaccine by November 1st.

But coronavirus adviser Dr. Fauci is insisting a vaccine probably won't be ready by then, more likely by the end of the year.

So despite what we are hearing from the vaccine makers, should people worry that the release of a vaccine might be driven more by politics than science?

SCHAFFNER: There is a lot of concern about that. And I have shared some of that concern. The statement by the manufacturers is very solid. We have listened to Dr. Fauci. His comments are very solid and science based and we certainly hope that that carries the day. We are looking forward to that but we are watching things very carefully. BRUNHUBER: One thing I was watching carefully, a story I saw out of

Italy in one of the cities that was a coronavirus epicenter, hospitals examining coronavirus survivors six months later since this all happened.

Almost half the patients say they don't feel as though they are fully cured. We are getting just another snapshot of the so-called long haul.

How much does that worry you?

SCHAFFNER: The more we learn about COVID, this virus, the nastier it gets. And it's quite clear that some patients, half, a third -- the reports are just starting to come in -- are having long term effects, such that they don't get back to their full sense of vigor and they can have some troubling, lasting symptoms.

Some people have some difficulty thinking. Others have backaches, other kinds of pains, a sense of fatigue or a loss of energy. They need to be followed and we need to develop our knowledge base around this further so we can help those patients recover as completely as possible.

It's another reason for all of us to wear masks and do the social distancing to depress the spread of this virus as much as possible. This is not a casual virus as some have alleged. And it is not going to just disappear. We have to do our bit to protect ourselves and everyone else around us.

BRUNHUBER: A very important message to end on.


BRUNHUBER: Thank you so much for talking to us. Dr. William Schaffner, we appreciate it.

SCHAFFNER: My pleasure.


BRUNHUBER: With cases climbing in England, prime minister Boris Johnson will limit social gatherings there to six people starting on Monday. There will be exceptions for work, school, weddings, funerals and organized team sports.

Restrictions are even tighter in the town of Bolton, which has the highest case rate in the country. Restaurants and pubs there can only do take away service. The U.K. has seen new infections rise almost 3,000 per day.

Canada is urging people to be more vigilant as it sees a spike in cases. Infections are way up in the last week alone, as the country reports an average of 545 new cases per day. The spike comes as schools reopened across the country.

In an effort to curb the spread of the virus, the Canada-U.S. border is still closed to nonessential travel and anyone entering the country has to quarantine themselves for two weeks.

It's another tense night for large sections of the Western U.S. as wildfires burn in a number of states. Utah, Oregon, Washington State and California are all battling flames. More than 2 dozen major fires are burning across California and spreading fast, thanks to strong winds that will likely last into Wednesday. Nearly 400 people a number of pets have been airlifted out of harm's way. Dan Simon has details on this brutal fire season.


DAN SIMON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It all looks the same after a while. A burned-out house, charred trees, but each pile of distraction represents another person, another family whose lives are being up ended by California's historic wildfires.

The new devastation hitting the Sierra National Forest in Central California, part of the growing Creek Fire. Dozens of campers and hikers were trapped in the forest.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's fire on all sides around us all the roads.


SIMON: The only roads out were blocked by the intense flames. Military helicopters were eventually able to rescue them. Twenty-five major wildfires are currently burning across the state, including three of the top four largest in California's history.

A record 2.2 million acres have burned this year, with fears that the worst is still to come. Wildfire season usually peaks in October.





SIMON: The fires this year have been mainly fueled by lightning strikes in previous years down power lines. In this newest round, you can one add at least one oddity to the mix, a pyrotechnic device from a so-called gender reveal party, the unfortunate stunt east of Los Angeles forcing evacuations and charring more than 10,000 acres.


BENNET MILLOY, SPOKESMAN, CAL FIRE: After the fire began, the family attempted suppression on their own. They tried these water bottles which, in 4-foot high grass, you're never going to capture a grass fire with that.

(END VIDEOTAPE) BRUNHUBER: For more on this, we are going to talk now to Dean Gould,

the supervisor for the Sierra National Forest, where these airlifts have been taking place. He says the Creek fire is the most aggressive fire he's seen in the region, he's with us from O'Neal's, California.

Thank you very much for joining us. I reported for years from Los Angeles and I don't remember seeing so many people being airlifted to safety.

What's making the situation so precarious for so many people?

Is it the speed at which the fire is moving?

DEAN GOULD, SUPERVISOR, SIERRA NATIONAL FOREST: Yes, first, thank you for having me on. To answer your question, the speed of this incident really was unprecedented. The first day it traveled close to 15 miles from the time that it started in a direction that we had never experienced before on this forest.

So it is very difficult to plan for that. And when it did do that, it cut off many of the travel waterway arteries on the forest, cutting off people's primary route exit.

BRUNHUBER: How hard is that to organize airlifts?

And I know the governor has recognized the bravery of the people who got to go in and do this.

GOULD: We are extremely fortunate in this area. We do have close by Lamar Naval Air Station and the California National Guard. We are coordinating through the incident management team with the sheriff's office and we able to get in touch with them very quickly.

The response rate was phenomenal and they were able to be on scene very quickly and help us, not just for the incident that you mentioned but since that time they have had follow-on operations to remove even more people.

BRUNHUBER: Do you predict that more people will have to be airlifted to safety?

GOULD: Possibly but unlikely. In speaking with the sheriffs' offices for the two districts that are -- the two counties that are involved in this incident.


GOULD: They have indicated that they believe that the majority of the people that are going to need that kind of support have been accounted for. And at this point it is really in very low numbers, the last people that we are trying to locate, make sure that they, too, are safe or have a safe way to get out of the forest.

BRUNHUBER: Absolutely. You've said this fire is a unprecedented disaster.

From a forestry perspective, what conditions in the forest have led to this?

GOULD: Well, that's challenging to say. When I say it's unprecedented, that's just due to the behavior of it. We had triple digit temperatures for an extended period, we had very high winds, very low humidity. When you add those factors in, there is not too many forests that will stand up to that. And so that is how we experienced what we did.

BRUNHUBER: I know you had to shut down the eight national forests and campgrounds in the area.

GOULD: Yes, the Sierra National Forest is one of the forests under the regional closure order and that was a proactive step taken by a regional forester to make sure that there would be no further potential for other embers to be cutoff like that during this high wind event over the next few days.

BRUNHUBER: Looking at this from a broader perspective, this year's fire season is on its way to becoming the most catastrophic on record for California. And there is still 4 months left of the season to go.

When I was out there, the stories about this being the new normal, what kind of changes do you think are needed to handle this?

And what are Californians going to have to do differently if this new normal keeps getting worse?

GOULD: The new normal that you are referring to I think is really an extended fire season. You alluded to fire season going out to October and so forth but we have actually seen fires start much later in the season as well as much earlier.

So it is really transitioning from a fire season to a fire year. Just having a level of preparedness almost year-round now in order to respond to incidents such as this.

BRUNHUBER: All right, well, listen, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us, Dean Gould, appreciate it.

GOULD: You bet. Thank you.




BRUNHUBER: From extreme heat to extreme cold, Colorado is experiencing weather whiplash. Over the weekend crews were battling a wildfire and now snow is blanketing the city of Denver.

Within 48 hours, temperatures plunged from a record 38 degrees Celsius or 101 Fahrenheit. The storm's expected to bring at least 18 centimeters of snowfall, which could help put out the nearby wildfire.

Historic flooding is devastating Sudan, killing dozens of people and leaving many more homeless. But officials warn the worst may be yet to come.

Plus masked men attack a campaign office in Russia. We'll explain how it's linked to opposition leader Alexei Navalny. Stay with us.




BRUNHUBER: Secretary of state Mike Pompeo says the U.S. is considering sanctions against Belarus after the reported abduction of an opposition leader. Maria Kolesnikova disappeared on a Monday, two of her associates say they were all driven to the border with Ukraine, where the opposition leader climbed out of a car window and started walking back toward Belarus.

She was captured by border patrol. The president of Belarus blames the U.S. for the month-long protests in the country. Activists say his reelection in early August was rigged.

In Russia, at least three opposition volunteers have been hospitalized after masked men attacked their office with an unknown yellow liquid. The office is the local headquarters for Putin critic Alexei Navalny, who German doctors say was poisoned last month. CNN's Matthew Chance is in Moscow.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is yet more evidence of the dangers facing opposition activists in Russia. This time an office in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk which opposition workers linked with anti-corruption campaigner, Alexey Navalny have been using as a local headquarters ahead of forthcoming local elections there.

Security cameras recorded two masked men bursting into the office and dusting -- dousing it with an unknown liquid before running away. The office was evacuated. But some of those inside have both suffered breathing difficulties, one of them passing out. At least three of them were taken to hospital by ambulance where they were treated and later discharged.

But there are heightened fears among opposition activists in Russia, as Alexey Navalny himself lies in a Berlin clinic with suspected nerve agent poisoning. The latest update on his condition is that it's improved. He's out of a medically induced coma. He has been weaned off his mechanical ventilator. The clinic says he is also now responding to voices.

But doctors say it's still too early to know what long term effects his serious poisoning may have had. Russian officials meanwhile are still refusing to open an investigation into the suspected poisoning of the Kremlin's most prominent critic.

[00:25:00] CHANCE: Despite growing international calls for them to do so or face consequences -- Matthew Chance, CNN, Moscow.


BRUNHUBER: Sudan is facing a state of emergency with unprecedented rain and flooding devastating the country. More than 100 people have been killed and aid agencies warned the situation could get even worse in the weeks to come. CNN's Nima Elbagir reports.


NIMA ELBAGIR, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: In Sudan, a crisis in the heart of the capital. In the twin cities of Omdurman and Khartoum where the Niles meet, flood waters fill the streets. The government here says this is the highest they've been for a century.

IQBAL MOHAMMED ABBAS, PRESIDENT, WOMEN & CHILDREN ASSOCIATION (through translator): When I saw the young man blocking the water of the Nile with their bodies until the socks are delivered to them in order to raise the level of the barricade, I remembered what happened during the flood of 1998, when their grandfathers did the same by blocking the water with their bodies.


ELBAGIR: In a matter of days, over 100 people have died and hundreds of thousands displaced. People are coming together to do what they can, but the rising waters are unrelenting. For a country already struggling with crushing debt after years of dictatorship under former President Omar al-Bashir, this is almost too much to bear.


AHMED BASTAWY, RESIDENT, KHARTOUM'S OMDURMAN DISTRICT (through translator): The authorities came and saw the scene. They provided us with soil and socks. I said God bless you, but we fail to block the water and the houses were destroyed.


ELBAGIR: And more is still to come. September is rainy season in Sudan and the waters show no sign of subsiding. The question is, how much more of this people here can take -- Nima Elbagir, CNN, Sudan.


BRUNHUBER: Both Joe Biden and Donald Trump are hitting the key states on the campaign trail. Mr. Trump tells supporters to mail in a ballot and show up at the polls.

Plus, the police chief of Rochester, New York, is stepping down after days of protests over the death of a Black man in custody. We'll tell you what he has to say about his decision. Stay with us.



BRUNHUBER: "Watch those ballots."

That was Donald Trump's message at a rally in the battleground state of North Carolina, which began mailing out absentee ballots last week. He urged his supporters to vote by mail and to show up at polls.


TRUMP: They're going to send out millions of ballots to you. People that never really thought in terms of it. Now sometimes you will ask for a ballot, that is a solicited ballot. It's OK. You have to go through a process, you have to sign a form, you get it. It's handing out millions of unsolicited ballots, making sure you send the ballot in, and then go to your polling place and make sure it counts. Make sure it counts.


KIM BRUNHUBER, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Donald Trump campaign has denied the president was telling people to vote twice, and for the record, there are not two types of ballots, solicited and unsolicited.

Mr. Trump did say on Tuesday that he will use his own money for his campaign if he has to.

And Democratic rival Joe Biden is also hitting some key states. After meeting with labor leaders in Pennsylvania, Biden will head to Michigan Wednesday. Democrats are hoping to flip Michigan back to blue after Mr. Trump narrowly won it in 2016.

Biden and his running mate, Kamala Harris, are also keeping coronavirus front and center. In a statement, they said any vaccine should be a matter of science, not a political tool.


SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA), VICE-PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: I pray that we get a vaccine as soon as possible.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would you trust one under President Trump?

HARRIS: I would trust a vaccine if the public health professionals and the scientists told us that we can trust it.


BRUNHUBER: Larry Sabato joins me now. He's the director of the Center for Politics at the University of Virginia.

Thanks so much for joining us today. You know, on the vaccine issue, clearly, the Trump campaign is trying to raise hopes in voters that a vaccine is at hand. You hear it from the president. You hear it from his ads: in the race for a vaccine, the finish line is approaching and so on. What's the political calculus here?

LARRY SABATO, DIRECTOR, CENTER FOR POLITICS, UNIVERSITY OF VIRGINIA: Clearly, Trump and his campaign want to excite everybody about the possible end to the pandemic. But it's mainly aimed, as everything is, at his base and giving his base a good argument, a reason to be excited, a reason to turn out and maybe bring other people with them. That's what it's all about.

Most people understand it's unlikely to happen in this way before November 3, but no doubt Trump will make that announcement whether it's real or not before the election.

BRUNHUBER: All right. So we're seeing pictures of yet another rally. The president not wearing a mask and, no surprise, his supporters follow his lead and, you know, Trump again mocking Joe Biden about wearing a mask.

I just want to talk about your takeaway from this latest rally in what could be a very important state.

SABATO: Yes. It's pretty clear that a couple of toss-ups are critical in the Trump campaign's eyes: North Carolina and Florida. And we can expect to see a lot of President Trump and his surrogates hit those states.

And he's right, because I don't think he can win without winning both of them. I think he needs both of them to notch another victory. You know, whether these rallies really have an impact, almost two months out, is another question entirely. But his base depends on one person to get them excited, enthused and energized, and its name is Donald Trump. Mike Pence doesn't work. The cabinet officers don't work. It's Trump.

BRUNHUBER: All right, Joe. Biden meanwhile, makes very few public appearances. The Republicans mock him for, quote, you know, "staying in his basement." Does he need to get out there more?

SABATO: Yes, he does. And I think his own people are admitting this or suggesting that he will. And I think he will because, look, the front- porch campaign went out in 1920. That was the last real front-porch campaign.

You can't sit on your front porch or be in your basement and run for president. We all get it with the pandemic, but Trump, who has Air Force One and Marine One and a platoon of Secret Service and staffers and government workers to protect him, has the ability to travel almost at will. Biden really doesn't, but he's got to do it anyway.

BRUNHUBER: Now, I want to turn to a new poll which finds Trump and Biden are tied in Florida, obviously a key state. First, what do you make of the polling in some of the swing states overall? And then I'm interested in drilling down in one number that I saw in Florida. Trump is leading with Latinos compared to Hillary Clinton, who had a huge lead among Latinos.

SABATO: Well, let's remember, it's one poll. That's why we do polling averages. It's not to criticize the poll, but for statistical reasons, some of the internals can be off. I'm not saying that's true in this case.

But I do believe Florida is close. I've always believed it's close. Some of the summer polls which showed enormous Biden leads in Florida were mirages, and they disappeared. We're in the real campaign. Florida has been close almost every election this century. Why wouldn't it be close this time?

So I think both campaigns will treat it as very close. Again, Biden can afford to lose it. Trump cannot.


As far as Latinos are concerned, it's Cuban-Americans. They are a different subset of Hispanics. They're much more Republican than other Hispanic groups, but it's a big plus for Trump that he's doing as well as he did. It's another reason why he's now tied.

BRUNHUBER: All right. We appreciate your analysis, as always. Larry Sabato, thank you very much.

SABATO: Thank you so much.

BRUNHUBER: The police chief in Rochester, New York, says he's stepping down at the end of this month after days of protests over the death of a black man while in police custody.

Daniel Prude died after officers forcefully restrained him during a mental health arrest back in March. In a statement, Police Chief La'Ron Singletary says, "As a man of integrity, I will not sit idly by while outside entities attempt to destroy my character. The mischaracterization and the politicization of the actions that I took after being informed of Mr. Prude's death is not based on facts and is not what I stand for."

The city's mayor is promising changes.


MAYOR LOVELY A. WARREN (D), ROCHESTER, NEW YORK: While the timing and tenor of these resignations is difficult, we have faced tough times before. I truly believe that we will get through this. I will be meeting with city council to chart a path forward. I can assure this community that I am committed to instituting the reforms necessary in our police department.


BRUNHUBER: Prude's sister has filed a lawsuit against the city, the police chief and 13 officers. She says her brother was suffering from a psychotic episode at the time of his arrest.

Well, Michael Cohen's book is out, with sordid tales about Donald Trump and it's not the tell-all bound for the bestseller list. How the White House is responding, just ahead. Do stay with us. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BRUNHUBER: Wall Street's losing streak keeps getting worse by the day, as investors are concerned over a coronavirus resurgence and U.S.- China relations. The Dow fell 632 points on Tuesday, but the NASDAQ's plunge officially puts that index in correction territory, defined as a 10 percent drop from its most recent peak, while prices also fell to the lowest level in three months.

South Africa is condemning U.S. President Donald Trump over allegations in a new book by his former attorney. Michael Cohen claims Mr. Trump crudely insulted South African President Nelson Mandela following his death in 2013. A statement from South Africa's ANC party described Mr. Trump as divisive and disrespectful.

The White House calls Cohen's book lies, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. CNN's Brian Todd reports.


BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Michael Cohen now says working for Donald Trump was like being in a cult. The president's former lawyer, fixer and henchman is out with a new book titled "Disloyal," in which he describes Trump as a bully, a liar and, as he told NBC News, a blatant racist.

MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER LAWYER FOR DONALD TRUMP: Right after Nelson Mandela had passed away -- and I talk about this in the book -- he asked me if I had known of any country that's run by a black that's not an s-hole. And I said, "Well, how about America," to which he gave me the proverbial "F you."

TODD: The White House calls Cohen a disgraced felon who has lost all credibility and is trying to profit off his lies.

It's one of many denials and counterattacks that the president and his team have made this summer as an onslaught of tell-all books about Trump and his family have hit bookstores.

ALEX BURNS, NATIONAL POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": You know, I don't think I've ever seen this kind of avalanche of insider accounts on a presidency this close to an election or even at any point while the president is still serving.

TODD: Another insider account, "Melania and Me" by Melania Trump's former friend and advisor, Stephanie Winston Wolkoff, depicts a cold relationship between Melania and Ivanka Trump. Both denied it.

Many of these tell-alls reinforce what some voters believe about the president's public personality, but his niece, Mary Trump, has another take on the family, in her book titled, "Too Much and Never Enough."

MICHAEL D'ANTONIO, AUTHOR, "THE TRUTH ABOUT TRUMP": She really goes after his father and his mother in an analytical way and reveals the cruelty that was practiced against Donald himself as a child, the way that his father treated him, his mother's absence. TODD: Trump tweeted that Mary Trump's book was an untruthful account

from a, quote, "seldom seen niece who knows little about me."

Investigative journalist Bob Woodward's book, "Rage," about to be released, has shocking details of the president's behavior and decision-making during the coronavirus pandemic and the racial justice protests.

The season of bombshells began with a book by Trump's former national security adviser, John Bolton, which claimed Trump asked for China's help in this year's election and got played by Kim Jong-un. Trump called Bolton a war-monitoring fool.

A common theme in many of these tell-alls, analysts say? They all paint unflattering portraits of the president's character and temperament.

D'ANTONIO: The people who work around the president and his family work with so much lying and deception. They experience so much fantasy, and they're enlisted in promoting these lies and deceptions that eventually they reach a point where they can't stand it anymore.

TODD: But will any of these books hurt the president on election day, or will they have the same lack of impact as the "Access Hollywood" tape, released just a few weeks before the 2016 vote?

BURNS: I don't know that these books are going to take people who are core Trump supporters and turn them into Trump skeptics. I don't know that it's going to crack the president's political base. But I do think that it reinforces and emboldens the folks who were pretty much inclined to vote against the president to begin with.

TODD (on camera): One other trait that these tell-all books share? Their ability to fly off the shelves. They've all been hot sellers, especially the books that Trump says he hates. As one literary agent told "The New York Times," quote, "You pray for Trump to hate your book, and you pray for him to tweet about it."

Brian Todd, CNN, Washington.


BRUNHUBER: You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Kim Brunhuber. I'll be back with more news in the next hour. WORLD SPORT is next.