Return to Transcripts main page


Previewing Jake Tapper's Interview with Joe Biden; Poll Shows Most Americans Distrust COVID-19 Vaccine Safety; New Fires Start Overnight in California. Aired 10:30-11a ET

Aired September 10, 2020 - 10:30   ET




JIM SCIUTTO, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome back. After months of downplaying the coronavirus outbreak, audiotapes have now revealed that the president knew the virus was deadly -- very deadly -- back in February, but intentionally downplayed the danger and the things Americans could do to protect themselves.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN ANCHOR: Our Jake Tapper interviewed the Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden, in Michigan yesterday, really right when the news broke. Watch this.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN CHIEF WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: In his upcoming book, Bob Woodward reports that President Trump understood the serious risk posed by the novel coronavirus in early February. Take a listen to what the president told Woodward February 7th.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (via telephone): You just breathe the air, and that's how it's passed. And so that's a very tricky one, that's a very delicate one. It's also more deadly than your -- you know, even your strenuous flus. This is deadly stuff.


TAPPER: As you know, the president spent much of February and even March downplaying the risks of the novel coronavirus, saying it would disappear, saying the heat would make it go away. What's your response to this news about what he was telling Bob Woodward on February 7th?

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: It's disgusting. We learned this on the day that we turned 190,000 Americans dead, and knew this? I understand he had just gotten off the phone when he did the first interview with Woodward, he had just gotten off the phone with Xi Jinping, where he's praising Xi Jinping about transparency and this is nothing to worry about and this is going to go away like a miracle.

TAPPER: Well, the way that President Trump explains it -- and he said this to Woodward on March 19th, if you take a listen:


TRUMP (via telephone): I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down --

BOB WOODWARD, JOURNALIST (via telephone): Yes.

TRUMP (via telephone): -- because I don't want to create a panic.


TAPPER: He said something similar this afternoon. He said he didn't want to create a panic, that's why he downplayed it. He said leadership is about confidence.

BIDEN: Yes. And that's why we have no confidence in his leadership. I mean, look, you saw what Columbia Medical School pointed out in March. Had he acted one week earlier, there'd be over 31,000 more people alive. Acted two weeks earlier, it would have been 50-some thousand still alive.

This caused people to die. And what did he do in the whole time? He acknowledged that you breathe it, it's in the air, and he won't put on a mask. He's talking about it's ridiculous to put on a mask, what do you need social distancing for. Why have any of these rules.

It was all about making sure the stock market didn't come down, that his wealthy friends didn't lose any money, and that he could say that in fact anything that happened had nothing to do with him.

He waved a white flag, he walked away, he didn't do a damn thing. Think about it, think about what he did not do. And it's almost criminal.

TAPPER: Woodward also reports that former Defense Secretary James Mattis said that Trump, quote, "has no moral compass," and that -- even floated collective action with Dan Coats, the director of National Intelligence, because Trump is, quote, "unfit." Woodward also says that Coats couldn't shake the suspicion that Putin had something on Trump. What do you make of this from his advisors?


BIDEN: I think Trump has just stunned everyone around him, is just how corrupt his thinking is. I mean, think about this. Remember he said under oath -- not under oath, I shouldn't say that. Said to the American public that he didn't get that briefing on how dangerous coronavirus was, he didn't get that from an intelligence committee (ph), he never read the reports, he didn't have anything to do with that.

He saw the reports, he knew them in detail. At least we know he can read. Why in God's name didn't he move quicker on the Defense Production Act to provide PPE, you know, the protective equipment for doctors and first responders? Why didn't he do that? He -- I mean, OK, he says he didn't want to panic people. Well, at

least make sure everybody has the equipment they need. Just say this is just excess of caution. He didn't even do that.

TAPPER: I have relatives all over the country and all over the political spectrum. How do you make the argument to a relative I have in Texas who says, yes, this virus is horrible but it's not Trump's fault, it's China's fault?

BIDEN: Let's assume -- we'll take both your -- both that relative's points. It's China's fault. If it's China's fault, why did Trump praise China? Why did he say how transparent, how transparent Xi Jinping and the Chinese are going to be? Why did he insist that the 44 people we had there -- and -- while I and others are insisting that they go in and have access to see what is really happening, to know the detail, why did he not insist on that?

And the virus is not his fault, but the deaths are his fault. Because he could have done something about it, Jake. I'd say to your uncle, he could have done something about it. But he said nothing. He didn't talk -- he said there's no need for social distancing, don't bother wearing a mask. He actually went so far as to suggest that it was a violation of American freedom to maintain you had to wear a mask.

And look what's happened. Again, 190,000 dead and climbing, and what's he doing now? He still has not moved. Look at the schools that are not opening. School -- we talked -- I mean, I know you have young children. Well guess what, they're starting off school like the end of last year, at home.

But think of all the people who don't have the resources to do that, think of the choice the single mom has to make, am I going to go to my $7 an hour job and lose my -- or stay home with my kid? I can't afford anybody.


SCIUTTO: Jake joins us now. As you know, Jake, the Biden campaign has already turned these Woodward tapes into a political ad.

I just wonder as you speak to them about the campaign and their campaign strategy, you've seen and watched, the president's disapproval, approval ratings have been fairly consistent, almost immovable. Do they view a large portion of the voting public as movable in their opinions of Trump versus Biden at this stage of the game?

TAPPER: I don't know about large portions, but certainly there are still voters who are making their decision. I mean, there still are undecided voters on every poll we see. And frankly, it would be political malpractice for the Biden people to not seize on these Woodward tapes in which the president says on February 7th that he fully knows how deadly and easily transmittable this virus was, even though simultaneously he was downplay the threat of it and we all saw that happen. You're going to hear -- basically, I believe -- two focuses from Joe

Biden and his campaign. One, the economy, jobs, what he will do to bring the economy back. And two, how to fight the pandemic. And these are two things, two areas that directly affect the American people where they live, where they are.

I know all three of us have young children, all three of us know remote education sucks. It is incredibly frustrating that our kids don't go into school and get tested immediately, that they are not given the same level of safety and security that White House aides are or NBA players are. And that is something that they -- the Biden people -- believe will be important to voters.

HARLOW: For sure. And if they prevail in November, important to be able to implement any promises about how their plan would be so much different. Jake Tapper, look forward to the whole interview on your show today, 4:00 Eastern. Thank you.

TAPPER: Thanks, guys, good to see you.


HARLOW: All right as we said, you can hear more of Jake's exclusive interview with Joe Biden today on "THE LEAD." Again, that starts at 4:00 Eastern only right here on CNN. We'll be right back.


HARLOW: Well, new polling shows a majority of Americans think political pressure is going to push the FDA to rush approval for a COVID vaccine.

SCIUTTO: This comes just days after nine biotech companies signed a pledge promising to uphold vaccine development standards and to not prematurely seek government approval. In effect, resist political pressure. CNN's Nick Valencia joins us now.

Nick, I mean, this is a problem, two out of three Americans believe politics will play a factor, because this gets to how many Americans will feel comfortable taking the vaccine.


NICK VALENCIA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: A huge problem, Jim and Poppy. We know from our continued reporting throughout the pandemic that President Trump has continued to put political pressure on these health agencies for deliverables ahead of the election, and that seems to be part of what's fueling the shortfall in confidence among the American public.

With this new KFF health poll showing that a majority of Americans believe that the FDA will not only get a vaccine out before the election, but before it's safe and effective.

Let's just tick through this poll here, which largely was along party lines conducted between August 28th and September 3rd, showing that 85 percent of Democrats, 61 percent of independents and more than a third of Republicans believe that the FDA will save to political pressure.

And there also seems to be a not-so-veiled warning from the executive director of this opinion survey to the president, saying, quote, "politicizing basic facts like whether a mask can prevent coronavirus' spread creates an environment where misinformation is easily shared and believed."

And Jim and Poppy, just very quickly here, there is one bright spot in this new poll, which shows that 38 percent of Americans believe that the worst is behind us. That's down from just a few months ago, where it was about 70 percent.

But one thing is clear, there continues to be a public eroding of confidence in our health agencies here in this country -- Jim, Poppy.

HARLOW : It's hugely important as you say, Nick. Before you go, tell us about this new study that seems to support the CDC's claims that the case count of COVID-19 was actually significantly undercounted early on?

VALENCIA: Yes, hugely undercounted. According to a team of researchers at U.C. Berkeley, they believe 90 percent of possible infections in the United States were initially undercounted.

We heard this alluded to in June from Dr. Robert Redfield, the CDC director, saying he believed that coronavirus cases were miscounted by a factor of 10. If you believe this research from U.S. Berkeley -- which is a very credible team -- they say it's closer to 20 percent.

So largely three weeks, if you remember guys, the pandemic, three weeks it took the FDA to approve emergency use authorizations, they believe that's a factor in accurate tests, not enough testing. It's clearly going to be a factor going forward, as we see colleges and schools open up, more than 40,000 new cases in this country attributed to college classes starting. So this is clearly still a very big concern in this country -- Jim, Poppy.

SCIUTTO: And, Nick, just to be clear, more or fewer Americans now believe the worst is behind the country on COVID than a few weeks ago? What did the polling show?

VALENCIA: Thirty-eight percent believe the worst is past us, that's down from 70 percent that believe that the worst is past us. So you know, that -- this polling here, new poll coming out from KFF health, yes.

SCIUTTO: Concerning, concerning, no question. Nick Valencia, thanks very much.


Be sure to join Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta for a new CNN global town hall, "CORONAVIRUS; FACTS AND FEARS," it airs live tonight, 8:00 Eastern time.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) HARLOW: Right now, firefighters are struggling to contain raging wildfires that have already killed at least seven people and destroyed communities across California, Washington State and Oregon. California fire officials say several new fires ignited just yesterday. And for those who were evacuated and whose homes are still standing, it may be weeks before they can return.

SCIUTTO: CNN national correspondent Camila Bernal is in Estacada, Oregon, it's 45 minutes south of Portland. So, Camila, the governor there says the fires are the worst she's seen in three decades, I think folks are sadly used to hearing now superlatives here, we're hearing similar in California. Tell us what you're seeing, the extent of this.

CAMILA BERNAL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Jim, Poppy, the governor, Kate Brown, of course saying that the hardest thing here is the loss of life and the loss of property because so many people are going back to these properties to just essentially find ashes.

And so it's difficult for her to handle because she has firefighters around the clock working in this area and all throughout the state, and then it's difficult for people who have to evacuate.

We just spoke to one woman who told me, I have nowhere to do. And on top of that, I have COVID. So she was trying to simply get out her animals, get as many belongings out as possible because the conditions at least in this area where I am are worsening.

This morning we were driving around and you're seeing the flames, and at some point you have to essentially turn around because it's unsafe and because you don't know where the wind is going to blow those flames.

And the bottom line is that the governor is also saying that these flames are just under (ph) control. When push comes to shove, they just don't have the containment numbers that they want to have and so the priority becomes getting people out, keeping the firefighters safe but also getting a handle, a control of this fire. Because at the moment, that is just not the case, which is why they're telling people it may be weeks before they return home -- Jim, Poppy.

HARLOW: Camila Bernal, thank you for being there and for that important reporting, we appreciate it.

Well, just a few hours ago, history was made. Citigroup, set to become the first major U.S. bank to have a woman in charge. Jane Frazer has just been named CEO of Citigroup. I asked her two years ago if she wanted that top job.


JANE FRASER, PRESIDENT, CITIGROUP AND CEO OF GLOBAL CONSUMER BANKING: I look forward to seeing a woman being the first CEO of a Wall Street firm, whoever that may be. HARLOW: Is it a dream? Is it a goal one day, either CEO of Citi or

CEO of one of the other big banks, to break that proverbial glass ceiling? But also because you know you could do it?

FRASER: I never had the ambition to be the CEO of Citi or of any other organization. Things can change over time, but at the moment I've still got a lot to learn.



HARLOW: Again, a big deal, the first woman ever to lead a major Wall Street bank. She will take over in February from Michael Corbat who will retire after 37 years.

Thanks to all of you for joining us. We'll see you here tomorrow morning. I'm Poppy Harlow.

SCIUTTO: And I'm Jim Sciutto. NEWSROOM with John King starts after a short break.



JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR, NEWSROOM: Hello everybody, I'm John King in Washington. Thank you so much for sharing this day with us.