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Trump Admits Concealing Threat of Coronavirus; Biden on Trump Concealing Threat: "It's Almost Criminal"; NFL Kicks Off Season Tonight in Kansas City. Aired 5-5:30a ET

Aired September 10, 2020 - 05:00   ET



LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: Play it down. President Trump admits on tape that he concealed the true threat of coronavirus from the American people.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is EARLY START. I'm Laura Jarrett.

BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: Pleasure to see you this morning, Laura. I'm Boris Sanchez, in for Christine Romans.

It's Thursday, September 10th, 5:00 a.m. in New York. Just 54 days until Election Day.

We begin with the fallout from President Trump's stunning admission that he intentionally downplayed the threat of coronavirus. In an interview with Bob Woodward in early February, the president admits he knew the virus was airborne, highly contagious, and in his own words deadly weeks before the first confirmed U.S. death.

Publicly, the president compared it to the flu and said it would disappear. But the president didn't only mislead the American public with his words, he knowingly put Americans in danger with his actions. Remember, he insisted in holding packed campaign rallies for weeks that put lives in danger.

We get more from CNN's Jamie Gangel.


JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: Bob Woodward's new book is full of stunning revelations about his handling of the coronavirus that, in fact, he did not tell the American public what he knew at the time. This was in early February. Bob Woodward did 18 wide ranging interviews with the president and on February 7th, very early on, we've obtained the audiotape of the interview where Trump tells Woodward, admits to him what he's not telling the American public, just how dangerous, highly contagious and airborne the coronavirus is.

BOB WOODWARD, JOURNALIST: And so what was President Xi saying yesterday? DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We were talking mostly

about the virus, and I think he's going to have it in good shape. But, you know, it's a very tricky situation.

WOODWARD: Indeed, it is.

TRUMP: It goes through air, Bob. It's more difficult than touch. The touch, you don't have to touch things. The air, you just breathe the air. That's how it's passed. It's also more deadly than your -- you know, even your strenuous flus.

You know, people don't realize, we lose 25, 30,000 people a year here, who would ever think that, right?

WOODWARD: I know. It's much forgotten.

TRUMP: I mean, it's pretty amazing.

WOODWARD: What are you able to do for --

TRUMP: And then I said, well, is that the same thing? This is more deadly. This is 5 per -- you know, this is 5 percent versus 1 percent, less than 1 percent, you know? So this is deadly stuff.

GANGEL: Then on March 19th, in a second interview, Trump admits to Woodward two things. First, while he's publicly saying that the virus doesn't really affect young people, he tells Woodward quite the opposite. And the second thing he tells him is that he admits he likes to play it down.

TRUMP: Now, it's turning out it's not just old people, Bob, but just today and yesterday, some startling facts came out. It's not just old, older people --

WOODWARD: Yeah, exactly.

TRUMP: -- young people, plenty of young people. We're looking at what's going on in --

WOODWARD: So, give me a moment of talking to somebody going through this with Fauci or somebody who kind of caused a pivot in your mind. Because it's clear just from what's in -- on the public record that you went through a pivot on this to, oh, my God, the gravity is almost inexplicable and unexplainable.

TRUMP: Well, I think, Bob, really, to be honest with you --

WOODWARD: Sure, I want you to be.

TRUMP: -- I wanted to -- I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down --


TRUMP: -- because I don't want to create a panic. GANGEL: Bottom line, the Woodward book paints just a devastating

portrait of the president's failure to warn the American public, a betrayal of trust, a failure of leadership. After reading the book, you really have to wonder if instead of playing it down, the president had warned the American public, shut down the country, told people to wear masks, wash their hands, socially distance, how many American lives would have been saved -- Laura, Boris.


JARRETT: Jamie, thank you so much for your reporting on all of this.

So, if you need any further proof that the president lied to the American people, just listen to what he said at a news conference back in late March.



TRUMP: I think the one thing nobody really knew about this virus was how contagious it was. It's so incredibly contagious and nobody knew that.


JARRETT: He knew that. Seven weeks earlier, he told Bob Woodward exactly how dangerous and contagious this virus was.

SANCHEZ: Yeah, Laura, it's reputable. It's on tape. You can hear the president telling Bob Woodward on February 7th that he knew the virus was airborne, that he went on to hold six more rallies from February 10th through March 2nd, all with thousands of people in indoor venues, no masks, no warnings.

And on stage, he's saying things like this --


TRUMP: The virus, they're working hard. Looks like by April, you know, in theory when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away. I hope that's true. But we're doing great in our country. China -- I spoke with President Xi, and they're working very, very hard, and I think it's all going to all work out fine.


JARRETT: All work out fine.

Well, President Trump responding to Bob Woodward's reporting found safe harbor over at Fox News, complaining that the book he sat down for on the record is, quote, a political hit job.


TRUMP: On the Woodward book, on the book itself, he called. I didn't participate in this last one. He does hit jobs with everybody. He even did it on Obama.

But constant hit jobs. On Bush, I guess they did three books. They were all terrible. I figured, you know, let's just give it a little shot. I'll speak to him. it wasn't a big deal, I speak to him.


JARRETT: And with the U.S. now, just over 190,000 coronavirus deaths, most of the country in the world, most of any of the deaths in the world, he said this.


TRUMP: If you look at our numbers, our fatality numbers compared to other countries, we're in -- we're in really -- I mean, it's amazing what we've done.


JARRETT: What we've done.

Well, the U.S. has 4 percent of the world's population and more than 20 percent of the world's coronavirus deaths.

SANCHEZ: Meantime, Joe Biden quickly using Woodward's revelations Wednesday to attack Trump. He calls it disgusting and almost criminal that the president knew the serious risk posed by the virus in February, and publicly downplayed the threat in March.

CNN's Arlette Saenz has more.


ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Boris and Laura, Joe Biden accused President Trump of being unfit to serve as president after journalist Bob Woodward revealed in his upcoming book that the president downplayed the coronavirus despite knowing the severity of it. This comes as Joe Biden and his campaign have tried to make the president's handling of the coronavirus the central issue of this campaign. Take a listen to what Biden had to say in Warren, Michigan.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: He knew how deadly it was. It was much more deadly than the flu. He knew and purposefully played it down. Worse, he lied to the American people. He knowingly and willingly lied about the threat imposed to the country for months. It was a life and death betrayal of the American people.

SAENZ: Now, Biden criticized the president for not being more frank with the American people about coronavirus, not just because of the lives lost but all of the economic impact. Biden saying that the president sent the economy into a tailspin. And that is something that Biden originally intended, to have his speech in Michigan focused on. He talked about the need for American manufacturing and creating jobs here in the U.S. He travelled to Michigan, to Macomb County, which is a critical county

that helps President Trump win back in 2016. This is a county where Obama and Biden won back in 2008 and 2012, but President Trump won by nearly 12 points that helped him carry the state over Hillary Clinton.

Now, Biden has kept his focus on a lot of these swing states where the president won traveling here in Michigan. Later in the week, he'll be in Pennsylvania, and next week, he's heading down to Florida -- Boris, Laura.


SANCHEZ: Arlette, thanks for that.

You can hear a lot more from former vice president Joe Biden. He sits down with Jake Tapper for an exclusive interview airing today on THE LEAD at 4:00 p.m., only on CNN.

JARRETT: Well, still ahead, a shortage of drugs is hurting hospitals trying to save coronavirus patients. We have all the details for you, up next.



JARRETT: The nation's top health officials insist the development of a coronavirus vaccine will be based on science not politics. They made their case before a Senate committee on Wednesday as the clinical trial being developed by AstraZeneca came to a grinding halt.

CNN's Nick Watt has the very latest.


DR. FRANCIS COLLINS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: This ought to be reassuring when we say we are going to focus on safety and make no compromises. Here is exhibit A.

NICK WATT, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A serious spinal cord problem in one volunteer in Britain has halted crucial phase three worldwide trials of one of the most promising potential COVID-19 vaccines.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Which means you put the rest of the enrollment of individual volunteers on hold until you can work out precisely what went on. It's unfortunate that it happened. Hopefully they'll work it out and be able to proceed along with the remainder of the trial, but you don't know.

WATT: The White House says AstraZeneca's pause is proof this process is ethical.

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: There are still two vaccines in phase 3 clinical trials showing great promise. But AstraZeneca, what is happening there, showing that science is guiding the way on the vaccine.

WATT: Meanwhile, there isn't enough testing available, according to a new study led by a former FDA commissioner, which concludes a basic screening strategy will require approximately 200 million tests each month, and that's just for schools and nursing homes.


Right now, we're averaging just a little over 20 million tests a month total. And hospitals in 12 states have reported shortages of the therapeutic drug remdesivir since July, according to the advocacy group Public Citizen. They want to allow generic producers to make the drug.

REP. LLOYD DOGGETT (D-TX): We could quickly increase the supply if Trump would belatedly exert some leadership.

WATT: Nationwide, most key metrics heading in the right direction right now, but there can be a long lag in reporting for a long weekend, and we still don't know if those Labor Day crowds spawned any outbreaks.

And these 15 states are seeing more than 10 percent of tests coming back positive, 5 percent or lower is where you want to be.

We're also now nearing 40,000 confirmed cases on college campuses. In Illinois, Bradley University now quarantining the entire student body for two weeks.

RENEE CHARLES, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC RELATIONS, BRADLEY UNIVERSITY: We're still seeing some large and small gatherings and that is putting a strain on the institution.

WATT: And more than 600 confirmed cases at the University of Tennessee.

DONDE PLOWMAN, CHANCELLOR, UNIVERSITY OF TENNESSEE: And we have disturbing information stemming, frankly, from the fraternities in particular. Fraternity leaders communicating to houses how to have parties, and avoid being caught, avoid the police.

WATT: Nick Watt, CNN, Los Angeles.


SANCHEZ: Nick Watt, thanks for that update.

Top political appointees at the Department of Homeland Security ordered officials to modify intelligence assessments so they would align with the president's agenda. That's according to a whistle- blower complaint which claims officials were told to downplay Russia's interference in the U.S. elections and the threat posed by white supremacists. The whistle-blower says acting DHS secretary Chad Wolf instructed staffers to instead focus on gathering information about China and Iran. JARRETT: Well, just hours from now, the first NFL game of the pandemic kicks off. We know Boris is excited. We got the "Bleacher Report" live in Kansas City, next.



SANCHEZ: The NFL season kicking off tonight in Kansas City, perhaps surprisingly with fans in the stands.

Andy Scholes is in Kansas City with this morning's "Bleacher Report".

Andy, great to see you.

Different feel in kickoff 2020 than in years past with so much going on in the world.

ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: It's certainly going to be different, Boris. And this is a day, you know, we weren't sure we were going to get to just a few months ago, but the Chiefs and Texans set to kick off the NFL season tonight here in Kansas City, and there will be fans here at Arrowhead Stadium. The Chiefs, one of two NFL teams this opening weekend, along with the Jaguars, that will have fans in the stands. About 17,000 fans will be allowed into Arrowhead Stadium tonight. Normal capacity is about 76,000.

Now, fans will be required to wear masks unless they're eating or drinking. They're going to be sitting in groups of four and six. It will certainly look much different but the Chiefs and Texans excited to get this season going.


DESHAUN WATSON, HOUSTON TEXANS QUARTERBACK: Definitely weird that we didn't know a month ago what the season was going to look like and we're kicking it off. We're the head honchos for the NFL, us and the Chiefs, will be able to show and see what the, you know, 2020 season going to be like.

PATRICK MAHOMES, KANSAS CITY CHIEFS QUARTERBACK: Go out there and embrace the moment. We're in it. We have this opportunity to play. We're going to go out there with our brothers and play the sport that we love. We didn't know if it was going to happen. So, I'm excited for the opportunity to get out there, to be on the field and get to play the game that I love.


SCHOLES: Now, there was no NFL preseason. This is the first game since the Super Bowl. The NFL is planning many social justice initiatives. The Chiefs and Texans are expected to do a show of unity before the game.

And then the NFL before all the games this opening weekend is planning on playing "Lift Every Voice and Sing" which is considered the black national anthem. Players will be wearing decals on their helmets to honor victims of systemic racism and police brutality. The messages in racism and it takes all of us will be on some helmets and also will be painted in the end zones around the league this week.

And the NFL hosting a special last night to discuss social justice, and Roger Goodell, he credits the players for helping him understand the issue.


ROGER GOODELL, NFL COMMISSIONER: I think when you hear it, you see it, you feel it and I felt it. And I can feel the emotion from our players and the fear that they have been consistently living with. And I think from that standpoint, when you hear that, and you see it, you feel it, you know, it makes you say, this is wrong.


SCHOLES: All right. NBA playoffs continuing last night. The Celtics and Raptors going to double overtime in game six of their series. Normal Powell coming up huge, 10 points in double overtime, including acrobatic layups and foul. Then Kyle Lowry putting this lay-up away, 33 points on the night for Lowry. Raptors survive, forcing a game 7 with a thrilling 125-122 win over the Celtics.

Clippers, meanwhile, taking a 3-1 lead over the Nuggets last night. The Lakers can go up 3-1 over the Rockets. They face off at 7:00 Eastern on our sister network TNT.

Back here in Kansas City, it's a very rainy day. Got rain in the forecast all day. May let up tonight for game time, Laura.


And it's going to be an exciting night for the fans in Kansas City. They'll unveil the first Super Bowl championship banner.

Arrowhead Stadium always one of the loudest in the entire NFL. We'll see how loud the 17,000 fans can get tonight.

JARRETT: We shall see. Stay dry out there, Andy. Nice to see you. Thanks.

All right. Coming up, President Trump's views on race exposed once again, this time, dismissing the idea of white privilege in newly released audio tapes. More from Bob Woodward's stunning interviews with the president next.