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Trump on White Privilege, Systemic Racism; Trump Under Fire Over Bombshell Tapes. Aired 3-3:30p ET

Aired September 10, 2020 - 15:00   ET



BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: Thank you so much for being with me on this Thursday.

We will get you a quick live picture. There's a sneak peek into the White House Briefing Room. We are waiting to hear from the president of the United States.

He is expected to hold a news conference there at the White House any moment now. If he takes questions, we will bring that to you.

Now, keep in mind, this briefing comes just one day after the release of those stunning revelations from Bob Woodward's interviews with the president, recordings that prove the president knew how deadly the virus was, recordings that prove he didn't tell you the truth at a time when potentially thousands of American lives could have been saved.

During one interview with Woodward -- this was back in early February -- the president made the shocking admission that he intentionally played down the threat of coronavirus. He also admitted to knowing it was highly contagious, more deadly than the flu, and could be transmitted through the air.

The release of these recordings come as the death toll in this country now surpasses 191,000. More than 1,200 fatalities were reported just yesterday. And, today, we have yet another sign that the federal response is falling short, the nation's testing czar admitting that testing still isn't where it needs to be, Admiral Brett Giroir telling CNN's Sanjay Gupta that there are -- quote -- "technical limitations" to getting more tests.

Meantime, a new poll out today shows a majority of Americans are concerned that political pressure will cause the FDA to rush through a coronavirus vaccine.

Let's start at the White House. CNN's Kaitlan Collins is there inside that Briefing Room.

And so, Kaitlan, any minute now, we will be seeing the president. What do you expect to hear from him? KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, so far, he's

been defending what he told Bob Woodward, saying that he did not want to cause a panic, and even today asking why Woodward did not release these quotes sooner if he thought that they were so damaging to the president.

That's about the best line of defense that you have seen coming from White House aides so far, who did not know the president was going to have audiotapes of his quotes to Bob Woodward and also did not know how extensively he sat down with the famed journalist and author for this book coming up.

And even the vice president, Brooke, admitted today he did not know that the president had sat down with Woodward 18 times. He said he'd only seen him in the White House once or twice. He didn't know that. And the chief of staff said last night he would not have recommended that the president grant that level of access to Woodward.

And so we have seen a bit of a blame game going on at the White House yesterday in the immediate aftermath of this book coming out, the excerpts of it being released on CNN and in "The Washington Post."

But, really, ultimately, it was the president who made the decision to sit down with Woodward. And he has been minimizing the access that he gave to Woodward. But we know, Brooke, that is extensive, that he gave Bob Woodward his cell phone number. He called him late at night, sometimes, from the residence to talk to him about these conversations that he was having with China's president, with other world leaders, and all of this stuff that is now in this book, because the president didn't think it would be as damaging if he cooperated and if he spoke to Woodward.

And, of course, we're seeing how Woodward just used the president's own words to reveal what it was that he really thought about coronavirus back in February and back in March, and in all of those months, when he was saying something very differently publicly.

BALDWIN: We will let you sit down. We will wait for the president.

If he speaks in an opening statement about Woodward, we will take it. We will also listen in for the Q&A.

Kaitlan, thank you so much for now. We will come back to you.

Let me bring in two guests now, CNN medical analyst and former assistant New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Celine Gounder, and CNN chief political analyst, Gloria Borger.

And so, Dr. Gounder, I just want to start with you, because I know we talk all the time on TV, but let me just remind everyone, you were on the front lines of the pandemic when it was so, so bad here in New York City treating patients.

So, when this story first broke about -- when you hear the president on tape with Bob Woodward saying that he was intentionally playing it down, he didn't want people to panic, that he knew how bad this virus was, you said you were in tears.

Tell me why, number one. And, number two, as we wait for the president, what questions would you have for him?

DR. CELINE GOUNDER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Well, Brooke, I can't help but think back on all of those patients I took care of back in March and April and even since then here in New York City, and it's still ongoing.

It's not just the patients who we had to put on ventilators, who we had to inform families that they were not going to make it. It's also patients coming in now with heart failure, with kidney failure, with long-term complications of this infection.

And it is just sickening. It is just sickening to realize how many of those lives could have been saved.

BALDWIN: What questions -- just given the fact that you're sickened by this, what would you ask of the president?

GOUNDER: I would say, Mr. President, do you care--

BALDWIN: That was a sigh.


GOUNDER: Do you care about the American people? Do you care about protecting the American people and their health and their safety? Where is your leadership?


You know, everything, from masks, to testing, to outright lying. I mean, this is medical malpractice, negligent homicide on a grand scale.

Yes, I -- it baffles the mind to think about how differently things could have turned out.

BALDWIN: Gloria, to you.

We know that, so far, in the last 24 hours, the White House response so far has really just been this blanket denial. What do you think the president's going to say?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think what we're starting to hear is a variation of what we have heard in the past, Brooke, every time things like this -- and nothing has been as big as this -- happen, which is: I did it. So what? I did it. So what?

And what you saw from Trump's tweet this morning, he said: Bob Woodward had my quotes for many months. If it was so bad, why didn't he released them? He didn't release him because he knew they were good and proper.

And then you have a top adviser to the president saying, don't believe anything a Bob Woodward writes. And, of course, as we all know, this isn't what Bob Woodward is writing.

BALDWIN: It's Trump's own voice on the tape.

BORGER: It's what we are hearing, right, with our own ears.

But I think today, as we hear the president defend himself, if he answers questions, I think you're going to hear a variation of: I did it. So what? I was trying to be calm. I was trying to tell you not to panic, and let's just -- let's just move on. It wasn't so terrible.

And I think the silence among Republicans who don't want to talk about it speaks volumes.

BALDWIN: Let's come back to that point in just a second, just a second.

Dr. Gounder, this comes down to trust. What happens when, for example, this president announces that suddenly a vaccine has been approved? What should the American public think?

GOUNDER: Well, I think this is really a question of competence, not just politics.

And, yes, you don't want people--


BALDWIN: Do you competence or confidence?

GOUNDER: Competence. Competence.

Competence in terms of our leadership. And I want to see a leader who is -- in whom we can have confidence that they're going to do the right thing in terms of the science, but also that they're not going to lie, that they're not going to conceal information for political reasons, and that we're going to have some transparency here.

I want to see a leader who has plans, policies, procedures in place, which we are still very much lacking in many respects.

BALDWIN: And it's not just -- Gloria, it's not just the contrast between what Trump told Woodward back in March and in April of this year, and, you know, what he was telling the American people at the time.

He's still actively spreading disinformation and downplaying the threat. So, it's like, we talk about the lie and then also the cover- up.

And you look no further than his rally in North Carolina just this week, where masks weren't even required. And then, just a couple weeks ago, he was retweeting conspiracy theories that the death count is inflated.

This is -- my point is just like, this is still going on.

BORGER: Right.

I mean, and he is a conspiracy theorist at heart, as we know. So he loves to retweet conspiracy theories, even as president of the United States. Perhaps he knows they're not true. Perhaps he just wants to stir the pot.

I will give you another example. Just the other day, at a press conference, the president was telling a reporter to take off his mask, so he could hear his question.

BALDWIN: Yes, on Labor Day.


BORGER: Yes, it was a little bit of a bullying thing going on there. And the journalist, Jeff Mason, kept his mask on and said, no, no, I'm just going to talk louder.

So he was bullying. He -- it's just -- it's stunning to me.

BALDWIN: But that's the thing, Gloria, to -- back to your point, it's like, he's publicly shaming.

BORGER: Yes. Yes.

BALDWIN: He's publicly bullying.


BALDWIN: He knows all the cameras are on him. He knows we're taking that news conference on Labor Day. Everyone's eyes are on the screen.

To your point, he saying is -- I wrote down the: "I did it. So what?":

My question is there have been a lot of, "I did it, so what?"s, and he's still in office, and he may get reelected.

BORGER: Right.

BALDWIN: I mean, do you think that this is the thing that sticks?

BORGER: Well, to me, I think this sticks more than, say, impeachment. And that was a phone call, I did it. So what? Right? It was a perfect phone call.

I think this sticks because this is about our lives, our children, our parents, our families, our livelihood, and it affects all of us in every way every single day.

And if you choose to believe him, and say, well, he did it for a good reason, he lied to me for a good reason, fine. I mean, then you're a Trump supporter, and you're part of his base, and nothing will take you off of that.

But I think people may think about this differently. Again, I can't predict that. But I think this is an order of magnitude larger than anything we have seen, like impeachment for example.


BALDWIN: Yes. Yes.

Dr. Gounder, let me just close with you.

I know that you just interviewed Dr. Fauci for your podcast, and you talk to him about the lack of trust in the public health messaging that many Americans feel when it comes to this crisis. What more did he say to you?

GOUNDER: Well, I asked him, why is it that public health is so much more politicized than, say, basic science research, the research portfolio he actually manages at NIH?

And it was interesting. His comment was, well, public health is much less abstract. It touches our lives in very intimate ways, and so you're just going to have a very different gut reaction, personal reaction to issues of public health in a way that you might not about something that's happening in the lab.


Let's stick around. We're going to wait and watch for the Q&A.

And, Gloria, I'm going to come back to you on your point about Republicans, many of whom are -- haven't heard the news or are--



BALDWIN: So we will come back. Thank you both, for now.

Dr. Gounder and Gloria, thank you.

Coming up here on CNN: President Trump also mocked Bob Woodward for asking about the existence of white privilege, claiming that Woodward -- quote, unquote -- "drank the Kool-Aid." So let's talk about that too.

Also ahead, the NFL kicks off tonight. And while fans may be ready for some football, is football ready for games in a pandemic? We will talk to former player who is now an M.D.

You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin.

We will be right back.



BALDWIN: We're back. You're watching CNN. I'm Brooke Baldwin. There you go, live pictures. We're waiting for the president to speak there at the White House, holding this press conference in just a couple of minutes.

So we have got one eye on that.

But let me move on and talk to you about another piece of information today, which is this summer. In the aftermath of George Floyd's death at the hands of Minneapolis police, as protesters across the nation and the world demanded racial justice, President Trump weighed in on the racial divide during conversations with Bob Woodward.

And when the famed journalist pressed Trump on the issue of white privilege and the role it had played in both of their lives, the president dismissed it.


BOB WOODWARD, "THE WASHINGTON POST": But let me ask you this.

I mean, we share one thing in common. We're white, privileged, who -- and my father was a lawyer and a judge in Illinois. And we know what your dad did.

And do you have any sense that that privilege has isolated and put you in a cave, to a certain extent, as it put me and I think lots of white privileged people in a cave, and that we have to work our way out of it to understand the anger and the pain particularly black people feel in this country?

Do you--

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: No. You -- you really drank the Kool-Aid, didn't you? Listen to you. Wow.

No, I don't feel that at all.


BALDWIN: So, that was June 19.

And then, in a follow-up phone call just a couple days later, President Trump said this:


WOODWARD: Do you think there is systematic or institutional racism in this country?

TRUMP: Well, I think there is everywhere, I think probably less here than most places, or less here than many places.

WOODWARD: OK, but is it here, in a way that it has an impact on people's lives?

TRUMP: I think it is. And it's unfortunate, but I think it is. (END AUDIO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Astead Herndon is a national political reporter for "The New York Times," and LaTosha Brown is the co-founder of Black Votes Matter.

So, welcome to both of you.

And, Astead, I want to begin with you.

So, you heard the calls. Like, in one call, the president mocks this idea of white privilege. You heard the Kool-Aid, drinking the Kool- Aid. And then he says a couple days later that he thinks systemic racism is in the United States.

A Trump campaign aide tells CNN that the president's reelection strategy involves the double messaging on race, number one, actively stoking racial divides, while, two, also trying to convince Americans that the president is not racist.

Is that what you hear in those tapes?

ASTEAD HERNDON, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, I hear someone who doesn't understand the kind of contours and the consensus around what the meaning of white privilege is, the meaning of systemic racism.

But I also hear someone who has spent their entire life kind of opposed to these issues. I mean, this is not just a president, but a personal figure, a public figure who has made his political rapport around these kind of divides.

I mean, you can go back to Central Park 5. You can go back to suggesting a white and black season of "The Apprentice." You can go back to birtherism and President Obama. This is something that is a consistent through line in his presidency.

And no matter if it is Bob Woodward or black friends or critics or who has tried to get him to see the kind of larger context of racism and the history of such in this country, that is not something he's been willing to understand.

And so, yes, it is a political strategy, but it is also a personal one, where he has not shown the scope and the willingness to really get at this issue at its heart.

BALDWIN: So, when you take that double messaging, this odd -- not understanding this dichotomy, LaTosha, and you combine it with the appearance of several high-profile African-Americans or people of color at the Republican National Convention recently, do you think undecided voters will believe this portrayal of President Trump as not racist?


LATOSHA BROWN, CO-FOUNDER, BLACK VOTES MATTER: No. At this point, I don't know why anybody would believe anything that President Trump would say.

He has shown that he is a habitual liar. In addition to that, I agree in the spirit of everything that Astead said. But I do disagree with this idea that he doesn't understand racism.

He purposes -- he understands racism. He understands white supremacy. He uses it, just as many as before him, as a vehicle to really be able to divide, to stoke fear, and to create confusion.

And so, ultimately, he uses it to his advantage, and it's his dog whistle call. And so I think that, when we're looking at what he is doing, I think he's so desperate. He knows that the black vote is critical in the Democratic vote -- for the Democratic nominee. He knows that he's in trouble.

And I think that he has actually been using racism to stoke the fear of the white electorate that he continues to support that literally is based in racism.

BALDWIN: We're hearing more just about the president's history.

Trump's former fixer Michael Cohen has this book out this week where -- let me just play this clip. He was talking to Don Lemon about his old boss, who's now the president, and the issue of race.


MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER ATTORNEY/FIXER FOR DONALD TRUMP: I'm not really sure why people don't get it. Donald Trump is a racist. His sister said it. His older sister said it. I mean -- I'm sorry -- his niece said it. I'm saying it.

Stephanie Winston Wolkoff is saying it. Everybody who technically knows him is telling you that the man is a racist. I'm not sure why people just don't get it.


BALDWIN: So, Astead, just along the lines of what we just heard from Michael Cohen, do the messengers, former members of his inner circle, mostly white people, does that make any difference now?

Or do you think this is already so baked in, both for the Trump base, as well as those who are still trying to make up their minds?

HERNDON: Yes, I think this is one that is going to -- they're going to try to stoke.

I mean, particularly for the independent or swing brother, the idea that this is not a person who can change, this is not a person who the office has changed is going to be a message that Democrats try to drive at, particularly to drive out better turnout among people of color and African-Americans.

I think that they want -- that Democrats not only need to say that Donald Trump is bad, but also, why is Joe Biden good? You need to give folks an affirmative message to vote for him.

But let me offer another explanation, that sometimes folks don't see what is in front of them because of what it will reflect onto them. We don't know what's in Donald Trump's heart, but we can judge by the actions and what folks around him are saying.

But when you talk to Republican voters, it is often an investment for themselves, that to admit that the person they are supporting harbors these views would also to be to admit something about themselves. And that is something that a lot of voters just will not do.

So, there is a political stake, a polarization stake that folks have into him, which is something that Michael Cohen is not going to be able to overcome.

BALDWIN: They don't want to hold up the mirror. That's what you're saying.

HERNDON: For a lot of others, that is exactly what's going on.

BALDWIN: Wow. I'm so glad you said that. I'm so glad you said that.

And then you think of -- LaTosha, you think about how the president, he's fixated, obsessed, whatever the word you want to use, with President Obama. It goes way back before the 2016 election. You know that he regularly denigrates black female reporters, lawmakers, case in point, Senator her Kamala Harris.

We heard about the S-hole country comments a while back. These are all the things that we know that are out there. But in this moment, again against the backdrop of protests, against police brutality, plus a pandemic and subsequent economic shutdown, that have both hit the black community disproportionately harder, LaTosha, could this renewed focus on Trump's racist rhetoric actually fuel turnout among black voters, which, as you pointed out a moment ago, is the bedrock of Democratic support?

BROWN: Absolutely. I think absolutely.

I think what it is, is a preponderance of evidence that Trump is, in fact, a racist, and those around him are complicit in the end, and they're racists as well.

And I think what Astead said, I think that there are some that refuse to look at -- look in the mirror at themselves, just as this country has refused to look at itself around structural racism, which is why there have been people taking to the streets.

In addition to that, I think we also need to think about this as not just an individual Trump just is a racist in itself. If you also look at his campaign, and you look how he's ran his campaign, I can point people back to the Southern Strategy.

It is almost a blueprint of the Southern Strategy, to create and stoke this idea of white fear to consolidate the base around this idea that there's these bad people and consolidating white power. There's always been this idea of literally being able to get people to distrust a system, and then, three, to divide and conquer.

And so, when you look at what he's using, he -- the same thing we saw with the Nixon campaign, the same with others before him. And so I think that he is using the blueprint from the Southern Strategy to divide and conquer.

But I do not think that is going to help him with the black vote.


BALDWIN: If I may, just talking to a bunch of people, as I do each and every day -- I have the privilege to do that -- some folks in the black community, from what I have understood, is that there maybe is an apathy, or a my vote won't count, or why should I show up on November 3?


Do you believe that people are enraged enough, care enough to vote?

BROWN: I think that there's a couple of things.

I think people vote for different reasons. I think you can go back to, when Obama ran, there was a level of excitement and people voted in record numbers because they were excited about the candidate. I think you can go back in other races, and when people really didn't like a candidate, and you also saw high turnout.

I think that we're in a particular kind of moment now, that we're in the largest health pandemic that has been devastating to the black community. I think that has a particular kind of impact in really raising people's antenna about what is happening now.

I think we're seeing millions of people without unemployment. And then when you see a president that is in office that openly and publicly aligns himself with white supremacists and white nationalists, I think that has a -- that's going to have an impact on the black vote.

And so while I think that there are some concerns, and there are people -- we run into them every day -- that are also saying, should I vote, I think that you also -- there are people who are fired up.

Every day, I'm bombarded with phone calls and text messages of people asking me how they can get involved. And I have been doing this work for 25 years. I have never received that kind of support as I am now.

BALDWIN: Wow. Wow.

LaTosha Brown, I appreciate you. I appreciate all of your years working, pounding the pavement.

Astead Herndon, thank you so much for just being so plugged in.

I appreciate both of your opinions. And to be continued. Thank you both.

BROWN: Thank you.


BALDWIN: Let me remind all of -- you got it.

Presidential -- Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden sits down with Jake Tapper for this exclusive interview. So, do not miss "THE LEAD" today with Jake. That is coming up next.

Just into CNN: Microsoft has just revealed a list of foreign actors it says are trying to interfere with this 2020 election.

That's next.