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President Trump Admits Concealing Threat Of Coronavirus; Woodward Book Reveals 'Love Letters' Between Trump And Kim Jong Un; At Least Seven People Killed In U.S. Wildfires. Aired 5:30-6a ET

Aired September 10, 2020 - 05:30   ET




BORIS SANCHEZ, CNN ANCHOR: President Trump admitting on tape that he concealed the true threat of coronavirus from the American people.

Good morning, this is EARLY START. I'm Boris Sanchez in for Christine Romans.

LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: Great to have you, Boris. I'm Laura Jarrett. It's 30 minutes past the hour here in New York.

And we start off this half-hour with the president's stunning admission that he intentionally downplayed the threat of coronavirus from day one.

In an interview with Bob Woodward in early February, the president tells the legendary journalist that the virus is airborne, highly contagious, and, quote, "deadly stuff" -- all things he knew weeks before the first confirmed U.S. death. Of course, he knew those things. He's the President of the United States with access to more information than anyone.

But publicly, the president compared it to the flu and said it would just disappear, only adding more confusion and mixed messages at a critical period before so many lives were lost and there was still time to do something about it.

The president didn't just mislead the American public, he knowingly put Americans in danger, including those who support him the most, as he held packed campaign rallies for weeks that put lives at risk.

CNN's Jamie Gangel has a closer look for us at what else is in Woodward's book.


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 seventh, 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, AUTHOR, "RAGE": And so, what was President Xi saying yesterday?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, we were talking mostly about the virus. And, you know, I think he's going to have it in good shape but it's a very tricky situation. It's --

WOODWARD: Indeed, it is.

TRUMP: It goes -- it goes through air, Bob. That's always tougher than the touch. You know, the touch -- you don't have to touch things, right.

But the air, you just breathe the air. 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, your -- even your strenuous flus. You know, people don't realize we lose 25,000-30,000 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 five per -- you know, this is five percent versus one percent and less than one 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 that 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 --

WOODWARD: Yes, exactly.

TRUMP: -- people, too -- 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 -- it 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 failures to warn the American public of the trail 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.



SANCHEZ: Jamie Gangel, thanks for that.

Now, you heard President Trump tell Bob Woodward on February seventh that he knew the virus was airborne. And this is important because he went on to hold six more rallies from February 10th through March second, 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. It 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 going to all work out fine.


JARRETT: Boris, you know, you look at those crowds, not a mask in sight -- they're packed in there. And you just wonder if folks had actually known the truth about this virus whether things would have been different.

You know, Woodward is getting a fair amount of criticism right now about whether he should have come forward earlier --


JARRETT: -- with some of this recording, given everything he knew back in February. SANCHEZ: Yes. The counterargument is that in order for him to paint this broad picture of what was happening in the administration at the time as all of this was unfolding, he kind of has to take months to speak to multiple different people. And that he wouldn't have had those 18 on-the-record interviews with the president if he published immediately the responses that he was getting.

What really stands out to me is the fact that the president, at one point at a rally in early March that I attended in North Carolina, said that the way the Democrats were raising the alarm about this was a hoax, even though weeks earlier he was telling Bob Woodward this is really dangerous.

And he heard from his own national security adviser, Robert O'Brien -- according to Bob Woodward's reporting -- that this would be the biggest national security challenge of his administration.

So the question, of course, is what was the president attempting to do? It opens him up to attacks that he was trying to protect the economy and keep states open instead of protecting American lives.

JARRETT: Yes, it's certainly a suggestion that he chose political expediency at the expense of those lives.

Well, he's responding to Bob Woodward's reporting from his proverbial safe space last night, Fox News. The president calling the book that he gave 18 interviews for on the record, quote, "a political hit job."


TRUMP: On the book -- Woodward book -- on the book itself, he called. I didn't participate in his last one.

And 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.

So I figured you know, let's just give it a little shot. I'll speak to him. It wasn't a big deal. I'd speak to him.


JARRETT: And with the U.S. now passing 190,000 coronavirus deaths -- that's the most of any country in the world -- the president 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: A reminder here. The U.S. has four percent of the world's population and more than 20 percent of the world's coronavirus deaths. SANCHEZ: Meantime, Democratic nominee Joe Biden not holding back when it comes to President Trump's response to the pandemic. Listen to this.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: He knew how deadly it was. It was much more deadly than the flu. He knew and purposely 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.


SANCHEZ: And you will hear a lot more from Joe Biden. He's sitting down with Jake Tapper for an exclusive interview later today on "THE LEAD," 4:00 p.m. eastern, only on CNN.

JARRETT: Well, earlier this summer as protests over police violence and social justice erupted across the country, Bob Woodward talked to the president about race in America.


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 is an impact on people's lives?

TRUMP: I think it is and it's unfortunate -- but I think it is.


JARRETT: And then in another conversation on this topic, the president had this to say about white privilege in America.


WOODWARD: 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 --


TRUMP: No, you really drank the Kool-Aid, didn't you? Just listen to you -- wow. No, I don't feel that at all.


SANCHEZ: Another revealing aspect of the book, Woodward provides new insight into perhaps the strangest diplomatic relationship of this century -- the one between President Trump and Kim Jong Un. Woodward gained access to 25 letters between the two leaders that have never been seen before.

Paula Hancocks is live from Seoul with the details. And, Paula, what really surprises me is the language that Kim Jong Un uses in some of these letters to try to flatter Trump.

PAULA HANCOCKS, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Boris, it is interesting. And certainly, we are seeing in these letters, especially at the beginning, the level of flattery from Kim Jong Un to President Trump.

When he's talking about Singapore -- that summit back in 2018 when they first met -- he speaks about how he can't forget the moment of history when I firmly held your Excellency's hand at the beautiful and sacred location.

Now it is worth mentioning because I do read North Korean state-run media every day and have done for many years, this is the kind of language that they do use. So from a North Korean point of view this is not flattery, this is not over the top. This is regular.

But these letters that Woodward is describing really gives us an insight into the relationship between these two men. The fact that the U.S. president is saying that only they -- the two of them -- leaders -- can actually bring to an end 70 years of hostility between their two countries, and it is down to them.

But we also see the relationship starting to sour in the summer of last year after three meetings. You see a frustration from one of the letters from Kim Jong Un after the U.S.-South Korean military drills do not end, saying that I am clearly offended. I do not want to hide this feeling from you. I am really very offended.

So it's a very interesting chronological look at the relationship between the two of them -- how positive it was in 2018 and then how it did deteriorate as it became clear that a denuclearization deal was not going to be done -- Boris.

SANCHEZ: Yes, you really have to think about how our allies in the region in Japan and South Korea read about these magical moments in these letters that the two leaders are exchanging. Really surprising.

Paula Hancocks reporting from Seoul. Thanks so much.

JARRETT: Well, back here in the U.S., the QAnon conspiracy theory continues to gain traction, apparently even at the highest levels of the U.S. government.

Vice President Mike Pence is expected to attend a fundraiser, I should say, next week, hosted by a couple, Caryn and Michael Borland, who have several social media accounts uncovered by CNN that reveal shared memes and retweeted posts from QAnon accounts.

Remember what QAnon, a once-fringe movement, is actually about. It falsely claims that President Trump is secretly saving people from a cabal of politicians and A-list celebrities who are trying to take down the president while also operating some child sex trafficking ring. And this is who the vice president is going to hang out with.

This fundraiser will take place in Montana on Monday. CNN has reached out to the Trump campaign, the vice president's office, and Caryn Borland for comment.

SANCHEZ: The wildfires burning out of control in the Pacific Northwest taking a deadly turn. We're going to share the surreal scenes as rescuers fight to save lives, just ahead.



JARRETT: Welcome back.

Russia has begun phase-three trials of its Sputnik V coronavirus vaccine. Russia drew international criticism for prematurely approving the vaccine just last month.

CNN received exclusive access to the first day of trails. Here's Matthew Chance from Moscow.


MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is what Russia hopes will be the vaccine that beats the global pandemic. We've been given access to the start of crucial phase-three trials and to volunteers, like Andre, to discover whether Sputnik V, as it's called, really can save lives.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (through translator): I've been looking forward to this third stage of trials. I want this vaccine to come into wide circulation as soon as possible so that all citizens of our big country can be safe.

CHANCE (voice-over): Russia has good reason to want this battle won against COVID-19. With over a million confirmed infections it's one of the world's worst-affected countries.

But, Moscow has been accused of cutting corners, using spies to steal western research, which it denies. And after positive early results, approving its vaccine even before third-phase trials had begun.

RICHARD HORTON, THE LANCET: What we can say is that this new Russian vaccine -- the results are encouraging but it would be premature -- highly premature to think this is the basis for a successful vaccine for public use. CHANCE (voice-over): But at City Hospital number two in Moscow, where we witnessed the first of an expected 40,000 trial volunteers being injected, doctors told me they're optimistic that these important trials will help establish the Russian vaccine.

It's why Ekaterina (ph), a nursery school teacher, says she volunteered to take part despite the risks. It's necessary, she told me, not just for herself but for everyone else.



CHANCE: Well, Laura, the Russians say that their tried and tested vaccine production technology is much safer than some of the more experimental methods being used by some western pharmaceutical firms. They point to the problems encountered recently by AstraZeneca and Oxford University and their suspension -- temporary suspension of vaccine research.

They're also calling on countries around the world, including the United States, to look again and reconsider using this Russian vaccine.

Back to you.

JARRETT: Matthew Chance, thank you so much -- appreciate it.

SANCHEZ: The unprecedented wildfires burning across the west have turned deadly. At least seven people have died -- three people in California, three in Oregon, and one in Washington State.

Oregon officials releasing this snapshot showing the scope of the active fire -- active wildfires in the northwestern U.S.

CNN's Lucy Kafanov reports from one of the 48 fires in Oregon where hundreds of homes have already burned.


LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT (on camera): The situation here in Oregon is incredibly dangerous all across the state, including Clackamas County where I'm located right now. This is Oregon's third- most populous county. It is under a level three mandatory evacuation order.

I want to step out of the shot so you can see the scene behind me. The fires out there in the distance moving forward because of these high wind conditions and incredibly dry air. Those weather conditions preventing rescue and fire teams from being able to even begin to try to contain these fires. The focus right now is on preventing the loss of life, on evacuating people.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown -- Kate Brown describing these fires as, quote, "unprecedented." She says this could be the greatest loss of human lives and property due to wildfire in our state's history. No part of Oregon unaffected at the moment. The problem with these

weather conditions is that some of the fires are merging so things could get a lot more worse before they get better.

We are expecting a potential change in the weather conditions in about a day or two with cooler western winds coming in to have more moisture in the air. But again, the question really is now much of these properties -- how much of these areas will burn before those conditions change.

Again, zero percent containment right now. Oregon also struggling because neighboring California and Washington State struggling with their own fires. We know that some firefighters will be deploying from Utah to help the state. The National Guard has been activated as well.

But this is, again, a historic, unprecedented fire event across the state of Oregon. Folks are on high alert. Authorities telling people not to gamble with their lives -- to get out before it's too late.

Lucy Kafanov, CNN, Clackamas County, Oregon.


JARRETT: All right, Lucy. Thank you.

Let's turn to some business news now. Wall Street is coming off its best day in months with a rebound rally after a big sell-off earlier this week.

Let's go live to Abu Dhabi and bring in CNN's emerging markets editor, John Defterios. John, nice to see you this morning. What do you think is driving all of this volatility in the market right now?

JOHN DEFTERIOS, CNN BUSINESS EMERGING MARKETS EDITOR: Well, it's a good question, Laura. You could suffer from whiplash, I'll tell you -- this week alone and also for 2020 -- between Tuesday and Wednesday. It's the worst volatility, by the way, since the year 2000 before the tech bubble burst.

Let's take the order of business today. Taking a look at U.S. futures, they're down across-the-board but not by much after the big gains that you talked about on Wednesday -- 1.6 percent for the Dow, 2.7 percent for the Nasdaq.

But let's get back to the volatility by looking at the Nasdaq in 2020 at roughly 9,000 to start the year, down to 6,800. And then this rise up during the summer, with a lot of bumps along the way, to 12,000. Then down to 11,000 again.

And the worry, to your point, right now, Laura, is that Goldman Sachs is saying it's very unusual to have the Nasdaq near a record and the Volatility Index -- the so-called fear index -- at near a record as well. It's doubled in the last year. And when that happened in 2000, the Nasdaq cratered by 80 percent. So, buyer beware this year.

JARRETT: Yes, something to keep our eye on for sure. All right, John. Thanks for breaking all that down for us this


SANCHEZ: Well, they make computers, phones, watches, headphones. And now, Apple is reportedly making face masks, but only for its own employees. Bloomberg reports Apple told staffers the masks have three layers to filter particles and they can be reused up to five times.

Apple has also developed a clear mask so you can see what the wearer is saying. It's apparently the first surgical mask that's approved by the FDA that is completely transparent.

Useful for avoiding those lost in translation moments that I've found myself in from wearing a mask, Laura.

JARRETT: Absolutely. It's so helpful for people, especially who are hard of hearing. You know, it's really --


JARRETT: -- it can be a -- make a big difference.


JARRETT: Well, thanks so much for joining us today. I'm Laura Jarrett.

SANCHEZ: And I'm Boris Sanchez in for Christine Romans. "NEW DAY" is next.




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


TRUMP: -- because I don't want to create a panic.

GANGEL: Trump tells Woodward just how dangerous, highly contagious, and airborne the coronavirus is.

BIDEN: It's disgusting. He acknowledges that it's in the air and won't put on a mask.

MARK MEADOWS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: This president was consistently saying that we needed to do everything we could. He shut down, literally, the economy.

CARL BERNSTEIN, JOURNALIST AND AUTHOR: This is one of the great presidential felonies of all time. DR. CRAIG SPENCER, DIRECTOR OF GLOBAL HEALTH IN E.R. MEDICINE, NEW YORK-PRESBYTERIAN/COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER: I think of the panic of every single family I called on FaceTime to let them know their family member was dying. As a frontline provider, I'm furious.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Alisyn Camerota and John Berman.