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Trump Pays Tribute at Flight 93 Memorial; Trump Compares His Coronavirus Response to Churchill in World War II; Bolton Blasts Trump Over His Admissions in Woodward Book; Dr. Fauci Says U.S. Needs to "Hunker Down" for Fall and Winter; Dr. Julia Marcus Discusses Fauci Coronavirus Concerns & NIH Director Saying Mask-Free Trump Rallies "Puzzling," "Disheartening"; Paul Rieckhoff, IAVA Founder & Executive Director, Discusses Importance of Remembering 9/11 First Responders. Aired 11-11:30a ET

Aired September 11, 2020 - 11:00   ET




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

Today is 9/11, a dark day in American history. The terror attacks 19 years ago now. Topping the Twin Towers, ripping a hole in the Pentagon, and scarring a rural Pennsylvania hillside, taking the lives of nearly 3,000 people. Today. we remember what we must never forgot.

This morning -- you can see the president and first lady there. That's Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Paying respects to the heroes of United flight 93, the men and women who gave their lives in a countryside crash to prevent that plane from flying on and killing more.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: To every 9/11 member across this nation, the first lady and I come to this hallowed ground deeply aware that we cannot fill the void in your heart or erase the terrible sorrow of this day.

The agony renewed, the nightmare relived, the wounds reopened, the last treasured words played over and over again in your minds.

But while we cannot erase your pain, we can help to shoulder your burden. We promise that unwavering love that you so want and need, support, devotion, and the very special devotion of all Americans.


KING: The Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden -- you can see him there. He was at the World Trade Center, Ground Zero. And he took some time to greet the current vice president, Mike Pence. One tradition observed in New York is the annual reading of the names,

the names of those sadly lost in the World Trade Center attacks.




KING: This, the speaker of the House there in the center on Capitol Hill this morning, a moment of silence, 8:46 a.m. That was the home the that American Airlines flight 11 crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center 19 years ago.

And at the Pentagon, the defense secretary, Mark Esper, laying a wreath this morning at the 9/11 Pentagon Memorial. And 184 killed there when American Airlines flight 77 slammed into America's military headquarters.

This, of course, the fifth time we mark 9/11 in the countdown to a presidential election. Like everything else, the ceremonies are different this year because of 2020's coronavirus pandemic.

Already, with no end in sight, the American death toll from the coronavirus is 60 times, 60 times that of those we lost on 9/11.

In recent days, we've heard the president in his own voice make clear he understood the threat early on but deliberately played it down, deliberately told you the things that were the opposite of what he shared with author, Bob Woodward, about the gravity of his early briefings.

And it was not just misleading words. Public health experts say thousands of lives perhaps would have been saved with earlier surges of testing capacity or mask use.

The United States scores miserably when you compare its coronavirus response to most other nations.

Yet, listen here. The president sees himself as a wartime icon.


TRUMP: America will prevail over the China virus. As Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.


TRUMP: As the British government advised the British people in the face of World War II, keep calm and carry on. That's what I did.

When Hitler was bombing London, Churchill, great leader, would oftentimes go to a roof in London and speak, and he always spoke with calmness. He said we have to show calmness.

(END VIDEO CLIP) KING: With us to discuss, the Washington bureau chief of "The Daily Beast," Jackie Kucinich; Toluse Olorunnipa, White House reporter for "The Washington Post," and CNN White House correspondent, John Harwood.

Jackie, I want to start with you.

Sometimes you think the tall Trump tale can't get any taller. FDR and Churchill told their people the truth in hard times.

JACKIE KUCINICH, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. I think whoever put that in his speech did him a disservice, particularly because of how this president has governed.


Fear has been something that he uses all the time, everything from the day before he was president, from the day he announced, he was scaring people about Mexican immigrants and being rapists.

He -- immigrants in general have been a -- a group that he uses to try to scare people.

He scared people about windmills, that they caused cancer. So that -- that in particular is just -- it's far-fetched.

But -- and particularly, when you look back at what he was talking about. He was talking about the markets. He was looking at the stock markets.

Again, it's a little farfetched to believe that that is why he chose not to tell the American public the truth and actually put out wrong information about the pandemic.

KING: Wrong information about the pandemic.

Among those who tend to disagree with the president and how he handled this early on, Toluse, listen here, his former national security adviser, John Bolton, who had left the White House as the coronavirus was starting to accelerate in China, just as the United States was starting to understand we were having a problem, John Bolton left.

And here's his take on the president now.


JOHN BOLTON, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: This is an exception threat to his re-election, which I think explains the vehemence of his response to it.

And I think it's just absolutely striking how clear he is on these tapes to Woodward of his appreciation for how dangerous the coronavirus was compared to what he was saying publicly at the time.

That coming out of his own mouth, I think -- I think that this could be nearly the point where the campaign ends. (END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Those are damning words. I know the two had a falling out. Damning words from a veteran national security hand in the Republican Party who has been around presidents at times of crisis.

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. And I read John Bolton's book. He was in the room where President Trump made a lot of his decisions.

And his major takeaway, not only concerning the coronavirus but just the year and a half that he wasn't near the president, was that the president makes national security safety decisions based on his own campaign.

He doesn't focus on what would be best for the American people. He focuses on what would be best for himself personally to get himself re-elected.

And when you hear these tapes and when you compare what he said to Bob Woodward in private to what he said publicly about the coronavirus, it makes it much easier to follow that line of thinking.

Essentially, the president was worried about his campaign and his re- election and he did not want people to be panicked or did not want the markets to tank, so he told people that everything was going to be fine.

He said this was going to be just like a flu season even though he knew it was much more deadly than the flu. And he told Bob Woodward that.

And now all of those chickens are really coming home to roost as people read and hear what he was saying back in February and march.

And -- and in the months since, we still have not seen the president take this as seriously as you might expect from a commander-in-chief. He's continued to hold major rallies. He's continued to mock his opponents for wearing masks.

And the idea that the president could have helped his own campaign by taking this more seriously seems to have been lost on him.

And at this point, he seems to just be trying to revise history and say that all he was trying to do was keep people calm when he could have taken a much stronger stance earlier in this pandemic.

KING: John Harwood, we've covered several presidents. We've covered more campaigns than that. Hyperbole is the oxygen of politics. So you expect politicians to inflate their achievements to gloss over their failings.

But Churchill and FDR -- at a time when the president is on tape, this is his own voice talking to Bob Woodward.

Plus, the president is once again in complete disconnect from his scientists tweeting this morning about JPMorgan saying it's great, you want to get people back in the office.

When his scientists are either on television going around the country saying, yes, the coronavirus numbers are a little better. But it's about to get colder. People are starting to go back into the office. Be worried.

The disconnect from reality, the disconnect from the experts is stunning.

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: John, we've never seen hyperbole in our careers like Donald Trump hyperbole. And it seems that the more political distress he's in, the more outlandish his rhetoric, his theatricality, his hyperbole gets.

Keep in mind, to your point, that we're experiencing, every three days or more than twice a week, a loss of more Americans that were killed than were killed in 9/11. We're losing 1,000 people a day. We lost around 3,000 on 9/11.

I do think it's important also to point out what the political cost of this is for the president. No, he's not going to lose a substantial share of his political base.

He's running around seven points behind Joe Biden nationally. He's about 43 percent of the vote. But the key point is that 43 percent of the vote is not enough to win under any scenario. What the president has to do is expand his base, not hold his base.


And what these stories do, both the Woodward book, "The Atlantic" article before that, is put him on the defensive, portray him in an unflattering light for some of the voters he needs to get, not just undecided voters, but people who are now voting for Joe Biden.

He's got to the claw back votes from Joe Biden in some of those battleground states. And that task is getting more difficult by the day.

And the distance of time between now and the election and acknowledging that some voting is already under way is just getting shorter and shorter.

KING: Right. And then there's thing he cannot control, which is the source of his frustration, the coronavirus. And we'll continue to track that as well.

John Harwood, Toluse Olorunnipa, Jackie Kucinich, appreciate the reporting and the insights.

Up next for us, to that point about the coronavirus, Dr. Fauci issues new COVID concerns about what's coming as the temperatures cool and we move into fall and winter.



KING: Who do you trust? Who can you trust, sadly, is a recurring coronavirus theme.

The president today all in on getting people back to work. Not to worry is his take.

The president's scientists all until on warning you to expect the change in seasons will bring a COVID resurgence. Please worry is the message from the experts.

Let's take a look at the numbers and you can decide who you trust.

If you look at the 50-state map, this is an improving map, especially from where we were if you go back into July and early August.

Eight states right now reporting more new coronavirus infections now compared to a week ago. Only eight states trending up at the moment. More new infections up than a week ago.

And 14 states, that's the beige, holding steady. And 28 states green. And 28 states reporting fewer new infections this week when you compare the data to a week ago. That's the direction you want to be heading, heading down.

So the map looks better than it has or at least better than it has if you compare it to the summer. However, we're still looking at pretty high numbers here.

Just in the past week, just shy of 250,000 new infections. Just shy of 5,000 reported deaths. So the numbers are improving but they are improving from the horrific place of the summer surge. Still bad.

If you look at the CDC forecast, we're a little above -- if you look at the numbers, 191,000 deaths in the United States. The CDC believes that will go up to at least 217,000 by October 3rd, a couple weeks ago. So the death toll to continue even by Trump administration projections there.

One of the worries as we head into the fall is that states are starting to say, OK, let's move into the next phase. Next week, for example, Nebraska and Florida will ease some of their restrictions allowing more movement, allowing more people in a room like a restaurant, for example.

Their cases are going down at moment, cases going down at the moment. But the experts worry that if you ease up and people start to get up and get together, these trends that are positive at the moment can change.

Another reason, Dr. Anthony Fauci is pointing, these are six states he's issued warnings to in the last week. Some of them, case counts going down. Case counts going down, going down, going down.

Still, he says, we see things in the positivity rates, we see things in your cases that tell us you might have danger around the corner. Get better.

This is why Dr. Fauci is worried. Yes, come back to this map. This map looks much better than it did if we were having this conversation as we did in late July and in early August. It looks much better now.

But Dr. Fauci says what the United States failed to do was get the number of new infections a day down enough to be ready for the fall.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY & INFECTIOUS DISEASES: We've now come down a bit to about 35 to 45, and some days up close to 50,000 cases a day. Still, an extraordinarily unacceptable baseline if you're thinking of so-called opening the economy and entering into the fall and relatively soon winter soon.


KING: Here to share her expertise and insights is Julia Marcus, an infectious disease epidemiologist and assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute.

Thanks so much for being with us, Ms. Marcus.

I want you to explain to viewers out there who might not get what Dr. Fauci is trying to say there. We're still at 35,000 new infections a day on average. Better than the 68,000, 70,000 new infections a day in July.

But as we get to the fall, as people start to move indoors, how low does that baseline need to be, in your view, to prevent the inevitable, another surge?

DR. JULIA MARCUS, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR, DEPARTMENT OF POPULATION MEDICINE, HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL & HARVARD PILGRIM HEALTH CARE INSTITUTE: I think what we need to be thinking about as we go into fall and winter with this high baseline is ways that we can live our lives sustainably while keeping the risk of transmission low.

And that's going to look like creative restructuring of environments so that we can actually be outdoors, even in climates where we don't usually do things outdoors in the winter.

And also thinking about social pods and other ways that we can get through this winter while maintaining some semblance of social connect, which I think is clear that people need and need to be considered essential as we move forward.

KING: One of the things that we're seeing the inevitably because of the political calendar. We're in a presidential election year. We can show you some pictures. You mentioned all of us have to choose how to behave at this time.

There was a Trump rally last night, yet another rally last night where you see a lot of people packed close together, not wearing masks. Outdoors, which is better than indoors, most of the people here. But listen to the director of the National Institutes of Health, as part of our CNN town hall last night, essentially saying I don't get it. Wearing a mask helps. I see these pictures and I don't get it.


DR. FRANCIS COLLINS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: How did we get here? Imagine you were an alien who landed on planet earth and you saw that our planet was afflicted by an infectious disease and that masks were an effective way to prevent the spread.

And yet, when you went around, you saw some people not wearing them and other people wearing them. And you're trying to figure out why. And it turned out it was their political party.

And you would scratch your head and you would think that this is not a planet that has much promise for the future.


KING: A pretty harsh statement at the end, not a planet that the has much promise for the future.

How do we fix this?

MARCUS: Well, I think with any new public health intervention -- I mean, think back to set belts and condoms -- there's always going to be some resistance. So that's pretty par for the course.

And I think what's different here is this politicization of science, including masks and other aspects of this pandemic that has made it much more difficult for public health professionals to do their job.

But the fact remains that we really need to be thinking about why people are having a hard time wearing masks or why people are opting not to wear them.

And instead of dismissing those reasons, really trying to address them directly and work to overcome those barriers without shaming people or punishing them and really trying to take more of a supportive than a punitive approach.

KING: One of the -- I raised at the top of the segment, one of the challenges for people is who do you trust when you're getting mixed messages from people of authority, whether it's the president of the United States or the country's top infectious disease experts.

The president tweeting this morning, "Get back to work, get back to office," praising -- he overstated what it is. But praising a JPMorgan move to get people back to work.

The president says get back to office, get back to school and get back out there. And his top expert says, be careful for just what's around the corner.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) FAUCI: I just think we need to hunker down and get through this fall and winter. Because it's not going to be easy.

I don't talk about second surges because we're still in the first surge.

As people and we try to open up, and if we don't do it correctly, we'll see the surges that we've seen in the southern states, in the Midwest.

And now, if you look at the map, it's Montana, North and South Dakota, Michigan, Minnesota, Iowa. Those are the ones that are surging.


KING: You mentioned earlier some of the behavioral things that we can do, whether it's social pods or even if you go back to work, redesign the workspace, and be careful with masking.

But is some of this, whether it's the temperatures and change of seasons, is some of this inevitable? Are we going to see -- Dr. Fauci says we're still in a first wave.

Are we going to see a continued first wave or an inevitable second wave, or can it be stopped?

MARCUS: I think it's up to not just our behavioral choices but also the choices of our government in terms of providing the social support and economic support that people need to be able to stay home if they work in a high-risk environment, if they have symptoms, if they have been exposed.

And those are things we haven't yet seen fully address. We need places where people can isolate outside of their crowded households.

So I want to make sure we're not just talking about people's individual behavior choices but also the ways that the government really needs to be trying to minimize the risk as well.

It may be inevitable. But it shouldn't be just on individual citizens to make the choices for themselves. They need that support and protection from the government as well.

KING: That's an excellent point.

Julia Marcus, grateful for your expertise and insights. Appreciate your time.

Up next for us, 9/11 memories. Paul Rieckhoff went off to war not long after the towers fell and came home to talk about its horrors. But most important to him on this day is to remember the first responders.


[11:28:12] KING: Those old enough to remember cannot forgot where they were. Reports that maybe a small plane crashed into the World Trade Center. But then images that showed something far more horrific. The Pentagon struck. The White House and the capital evacuated in a panic.

The president of the United States, in a Florida classroom with young schoolchildren, approached by his chief of staff, four words whispered: America is under attack.

America would soon be at war. And its longest war continues today, 19 years after the terrorists and their hijacked planes changed everything.

Paul Rieckhoff was 26 years old, among those who rushed to Ground Zero to help, soon to be covered in what those at the scene called the dust.

His words, "I never in my life have seen human dedication like I did during those days. Amidst the unimaginable horror, the way we worked together was a thing of beauty, a pure and selfless human devotion to our fellow man."

Paul Rieckhoff is with us now. And he's also the founder of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America advocacy group.

Paul, thank you for coming on this day.

This is a day to honor those who died, lost their lives that day. It's a day to honor those, like you, who rushed to the scene to help them. It's a day to honor those who went off to war, like you, to Afghanistan and Iraq.

Reading some of the things you write, you say, to you and your son, this is firefighter day. Explain.

PAUL RIECKHOFF, FOUNDER & EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, IRAQ AND AFGHANISTAN VETERANS OF AMERICA: Yes, John, today is about never forgetting. And that means never forgetting a lot of elements of this.

And for me, it's most importantly about never forgetting that people came together in a time of crisis in a way we've never seen in our lifetime as Americans. We all rallied.

And I try to explain to my 5-year-old son what this day is all about. And to him, it's a celebration of service. Today, he knows, in New York City, where we live, and in New York State, and all across America, firefighters are out in fire trucks. And today, we honor and respect and salute them.


I think we need that now more than ever, John, because we're so divided.