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Dr. Ashish Jha Fact-Checks Giroir Conversation with Dr. Gupta; Trump Acknowledged Dangers of Coronavirus to Woodward Even as He Continued to Downplay Risks Publicly; CNN Obtains New Audio from Woodward Interviews with Trump; Whistleblower: DHS Officials Urged to Downplay Russia Election Threat & White Supremacists; Trump Ramps Up Attacks on Mail-In Voting as USPS Tries to Ensure Confidence in New Video; Professor Michael McDonald Discusses Mail-In Voting. Aired 11:30a-12p ET
Aired September 10, 2020 - 11:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DR. ASHISH JHA, DEAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: They should have gone into full rump-up testing so it could have gone into the schools for this fall so that we could do antigen testing as much as possible across America. It would have been much easier to get back to school this fall. They didn't.
I'm hopeful we've finally gotten our act together as a nation on this. The scientific community is very strong here. And we can deliver the testing that the American people need. But it's hard to do it without clear, strong government support.
JOHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Hard to do it if you have a president of the United States who says part of his strategy is deliberately to play it down to the American people. You need to create the urgency to act.
Dr. Jha, as always, thanks for your insights. I'm sure we'll continue this conversation.
Up next, more on the president's conversations with Bob Woodward.
And as we go to break, her father supported the president and later died from the coronavirus. One daughter's emotional reaction to listening to the president in those conversations with Woodward.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
KRISTIN URQUIZA, LOST HER FATHER TO COVID-19: It is a punch in the stomach for me and every single person who has either contracted the virus or has died from the virus.
The president said that so that people wouldn't panic. And my father didn't panic. Instead, he died.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: More now on the president's stunning admissions in his conversations with Bob Woodward for Woodward's new book, "Rage."
Joining me now is Jamie Gangel, our CNN special correspondent.
Jamie, you were here 24 hours ago breaking the news about the revelations in this book. And we played several of those conversations recorded by Bob Woodward.
What is fascinating, as you get a better understanding, Bob is doing his reporting. He has several conversations with the president, stretching out over months.
And he gets into May of this year, and it starts to click for him because, in addition to talking to the president, he's doing all of this reporting.
And we played yesterday, and a lot of people have talked about in the last 24 hours, this February 7th conversation, where the president says, Bob, it's devastating, it's worse than the flu. You know, and that's not what he was telling the American people.
But you get the sense that the president knew so early on. But actually, he knew even earlier. His national security adviser gave him a warning, that the president then -- my words, not his, but they are borrowed from him -- tried to play down.
JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Correct. Just to put this in some context, and one of the issues here is that the book is not out yet. But Bob Woodward is actually very transparent in the book and lays out the timeline.
On January 28th, there was a top-secret national security briefing in which national security adviser, Robert O'Brien, and his deputy, Matt Pottinger rang the alarm bell.
O'Brien said it was going -- the coronavirus was going to be the greatest threat to Trump's presidency.
And Pottinger, who is a former "Wall Street Journal" reporter, and speaks fluent Mandarin, and had been in Chinese during SARS, recites chapter and verse, he's been talking to sources in China. So that's where Trump gets a lot of this information.
But on February 7th, when Bob Woodward has the phone call with Trump, he didn't know any of that. And he lays this out in the book.
He's calling Trump because he's just been acquitted in the impeachment hearings, and he think that's what they are going to talk about. And he's actually surprised and a little confused about why Trump is talking about the virus.
At that point, remember, this is very early in February. We're all thinking that's a problem in China.
GANGEL: None of this really came together, as Woodward lays out timeline, until the beginning of May. That's when he finds out about the January 28th briefing.
And then, all of a sudden, he goes back, he listens to the tapes from February 7th and realizes it's the light bulb moment. Oh, my gosh, Trump knew everything then that we've all learned in the months -- in the months in between February and May.
By May, we all know about these symptoms, that it's airborne, et cetera. But he didn't realize what he had until May.
KING: Let's listen to that piece of sound where Bob Woodward is talking to the president.
This is May now. And the light went off for Bob. Now he's connecting the dots and doing what he does, getting documents and getting other interviews. Connecting some dots about, to the point you raised yesterday, what did the president know and when did he know it. And they talk like this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOB WOODWARD, AUTHOR: So now I understand --
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It was too early.
WOODWARD: -- your new national security adviser, O'Brien --
WOODWARD: -- said to you on January 28th, Mr. President, this is going -- this virus is going to be the biggest national security threat to your presidency.
Do you remember that?
TRUMP: No. No.
WOODWARD: You don't?
TRUMP: No, I don't. No, I don't. I'm sure, if he said it, I'm sure he said it. Nice guy.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
GANGEL: Classic -- classic Trump. No, no, no, I'm sure he said it.
KING: But -- so somebody -- you're the president of the United States. You're not a guy on a subway train somewhere.
And your national security adviser and the top deputy for China, as you mentioned, accomplished reporter before that who has deep sources in China, came to the president and said this will be the biggest national security challenge of your presidency.
It's four days, five days before the president delivers his State of the Union address, and the president says he doesn't remember it?
GANGEL: Well, this is why when we go back to the February 7th call and the president says -- I'm sorry -- the march 19th call, where he says he's playing it down. He wants to play it down. He continues to play it down.
And then the president has grabbed onto the last few words. He said because he didn't want to create a panic.
Let's just put that in perspective with what we know now. A panic is getting a call that a family member is in the ICU. Panic is 190,000 people who have died.
Donald Trump's political playbook is fear, which was, in fact the -- the name of Bob Woodward's last book. But think about 2016, the wall, about fear. And 2020 about the protests.
In fact, it -- I just happen to look at -- at Twitter a few minutes ago, and Trump has actually tweeted, "If I don't win, America's suburbs will be overrun with low-income projects, anarchists, agitators, looters and, of course, friendly protesters."
I would argue, John, that the panic that Donald Trump was talking about was one thing, and that's about what he was thinking, which is, am I going to get re-elected on November 3rd.
KING: His definition of panic. Well, his definition of the suburbs actually doesn't match up with what the suburbs in America look like today.
GANGEL: It certainly doesn't.
KING: They may match up what he thought they looked like 40 years ago.
Jamie Gangel, grateful for the very important reporting on this story.
GANGEL: My pleasure.
KING: Still ahead, a new whistleblower complaint reveals how Trump appointees may have watered down intelligence about, you guessed it, the election threat from Russia.
KING: A startling new allegation about a subject that just won't go away. A new whistleblower complaint alleges that top political appointees at the Department of Homeland Security wanted intelligence reports altered to remove references to Russian interference in U.S. elections. The whistleblower, a former Marine and FBI agent named, Brian Murphy,
also says he was told to play down the threat of white supremacists, and instead, to focus on left-wing groups so that government intelligence reports would more closely track the president's campaign rhetoric.
CNN's justice correspondent, Jessica Schneider, joins us now with more on this controversy.
The whistleblower said he was told scrub the books because the president might get annoyed.
JESSICA SCHNEIDER, CNN JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes. That's exactly right, John. Drawing a lot of questions today, especially from Capitol Hill.
But this whistleblower, Brian Murphy, he was in charge of intelligence and analysis at DHS before he was reassigned this summer.
But he puts forward in this complaint his claims that the top two Trump appointees at DHS, the acting secretary, Chad Wolf, as well as Ken Cuccinelli, he says they repeatedly pressed DHS officials to modify these intelligence assessments to do two things, to downplay the Russian interference in this country, including in the upcoming election, and then also to downplay the threat from white supremacists.
Specifically Murphy says that the acting secretary, Chad Wolf told officials to, quote, "cease providing intelligence assessments on the threat of Russian interference" and instead focus on gathering information on Iran and China.
Now, those two countries, as set forth by the Intelligence Community, say that they actually favor Joe Biden over President Trump in the upcoming November election.
Now Murphy also said that these instructions were put forth at the direction of the national security adviser, Robert O'Brien.
And then, secondly, Murphy also says that both Chad Wolf and Ken Cuccinelli actually made moves to alter the intelligence assessments when it came to the white supremacist threat. Instead kind of modifying that language and emphasizing instead the threat from lefties groups like Antifa.
Of course, the president, as well as the attorney general, have consistently hammered in on Antifa and leftists groups as really the main culprits of all of this unrest that has unsettled the country.
So, of course, all of this, these complaints coming out in the whistleblower complaint, sort of rattling Capitol Hill.
The House Intelligence chairman, Adam Schiff, saying this, saying, "It puts our nation at grave risk." He's calling on Murphy to testify.
DHS though, John, is pushing back on this, saying that all of these allegations are patently untrue.
But, John, it really once again it raises this question: Are Trump administration officials that have been put there by the president, are they really trying to appease the president rather than following this intelligence and all of these facts -- John?
KING: Well, that's a good opportunity for a public hearing where everybody gets to present their view and people get to decide what's true and what's not.
Jessica schneider, appreciate the important reporting.
Up next, the postmaster general has a message for you about mail-in voting this fall.
Before we go to break, millions of wild animals are killed or injured every year in the United States from human causes. Nonprofits around the country, like the AWARE Wildlife Center, just outside of Atlanta, are working to save them every day.
Here's this week's "IMPACT YOUR WORLD."
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCOTT LANGE, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, AWARE WILDLIFE CENTER: AWARE is a nonprofit wildlife rehabilitation center, like a hospital for injured and orphaned native wildlife.
We are responsible for feeding them, medicating them. They might need swim time or other physical therapy to get their strength back. We just try to get them ready for release back into the wild.
We had 1,300 patients in the last year. The most patients that have to come in for care are coming in from human impact.
And the number-one reason is being hit by a car. People throw food waste out the window and it brings small animals to the side of the road. And then larger animals come and they get hit.
MARJAN GHADRDAN, DIRECTOR OF ANIMAL CARE, AWARE WILDLIFE CENTER: Cats, as much as we love them, they are hurting the wildlife. They're responsible for five billion deaths every year.
UNIDENTIFIED CHILD: Hi.
LANGE: When we put out rat poison to deal with mice and rats, that gets into the food chain and hurts fox and owls. We do occasionally go out and rescues ourselves. We usually give the public instructions on how to safely bring animals in to us.
NEAL MATTHEWS, GOOD SAMARITAN: The goose showed up in the backyard and the foot ensnarled in fishing line and it was having trouble walking.
They loaned us an air-propelled net to get the goose. We picked it up and they operated on it. We brought it home the same day and released it back.
It was special because we knew, because of us, this goose was helped.
We can't save them all but I think it's important that we help those that we can.
KING: For more information on how you can help, go to CNN.com/impact.
KING: The president tells us just about every day the explosion in mail-in voting will be a mess, a mess, he insists, without any facts to support fraud.
Not to worry is the message today from the postmaster general.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LOUIS DEJOY, U.S. POSTMASTER GENERAL: Throughout this pandemic, even with all the uncertainties, the men and women of the United States Postal Service have delivered for the American public.
Our entire organization is working toward the same objective, to ensure that we fulfill our role in the electoral process and maintain the trust of the American public.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: The Postmaster General DeJoy, you'll likely recall, challenged last month by lawmakers, who say big changes implemented on his watch is troublesome, including the removal of mail sorting equipment.
DeJoy insists those machines are not needed and he will not put them back in service.
New court documents reveal the postal service has removed 711 machines this year, double the amount typically removed.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Here with me to discuss, Michael McDonald, associate professor of political science at the University of Florida. He also the director of the United States Elections Project, which tracks voting patterns.
Good to see you, sir.
Let's start with the machines, 711 removed. Based on your research, are they needed to count, sort and deliver ballots this year or is the postmaster general right we got this?
MICHAEL MCDONALD, ASSOCIATE PROFESSOR OF POLITICAL SCIENCE, UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA & DIRECTOR, UNITED STATES ELECTIONS PROJECT: I don't know but we're going to know soon enough whether or not this is going to be a problem.
North Carolina started sending out its ballots on Friday of last week to all of its domestic voters, over 700,000 ballots sent out. That's a big dump of mail into the system.
And the good news is we are already seeing ballots returned by voters in North Carolina. These are just the first ballots, so we will be monitoring closely to see if there's troubles.
But we have seen over 4,000 people return ballots to North Carolina election officials through the mail.
And so the mail is working. It is not an apocalypse. And we will see if there's slowing and particular places that are problematic.
KING: It is critical for people, a reason to have these conversations, no matter who you vote for, have a plan. And if you can, do it as early as you can.
Professor, I was struck by something you said yesterday on Cincinnati public radio.
In a rural area, when you put your mail ballot in the mailbox, it doesn't go to the local post office and get sorted there and gets sent back out to local election officials.
Instead, your mail goes to a central processing facility in a large city and then it gets routed back down to your local post office, which then sends it to your election office. So there's an extra trip there.
And these are ballots largely coming from rural areas. And I don't want to over generalize, but that's where you find a lot of Trump voters. The president attacks the system as corrupt.
Is it possible, ballots showing up late, which means they can't get counted, that more of them are likely to come from rural than urban areas?
MCDONALD: There's anecdotal evidence we've seen from key states that we've been able to analyze so far in the primary elections where, indeed, it looks like rural counties are the counties that we are seeing a larger share of late returned ballots.
We know who these people vote for, so it is possible there's Democratic votes in the mix. But still it is possible that there are more voters having ballots affected by being late and slowed postal service delivery.
Also election offices are running slower, too. It's a backlog of different things happening all at once.
You are right. Have a plan. If you request your ballot now, it will be there in plenty of time to return it by mail or in person.