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NIH Director Says, Mask-Free Trump Rallies Puzzling, Disheartening; Microsoft Says, Russian, Chinese and Iranian Hackers Targeting 2020 Election. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired September 11, 2020 - 07:00   ET


ANDY SCHOLES, CNN SPORTS ANCHOR: Great in his debut, 138 yards and a score.


Chiefs cruise to a 34-20 win over the Texans. And, John, this is the first game since the pandemic started. They had about 16,000 fans here at Arrowhead. It seats 76,000. They were really spread out.

I spoke to some of those fans. They all said they felt safe, felt like they could have even packed in more fans safely into the stadium. The Chiefs, one of two teams along with the Jaguars this opening week that are going to have fans in the stands.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEW DAY: Yes, best to be safe. Andy Scholes, glad you were there. Glad you got a chance to see it. Thanks so much for being with us.

New Day continues right now.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN NEW DAY: We want to welcome our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is New Day.

And this morning, one of the Trump administration's leading scientists expressing concern over the president's actions. This was a packed Trump rally last night in Michigan. You can see people mask-free, standing shoulder to shoulder and talking.

The director of the National Institutes of Health, Francis Collins, says he was puzzled and disheartened by these images.

This is the 16th rally the president has held since he told Bob Woodward that the coronavirus is airborne and five times deadlier than the flu. And then he misled the American people about that.

BERMAN: And, look, Michigan is one of 16 states where deaths are rising this morning. The CDC overnight issued a new warning that 20,000 more people could die in the next three weeks. Dr. Anthony Fauci is warning Americans that the fall and winter will not be easy. He said, we need to hunker down.

Colleges and schools across the country, we're talking about campus after campus at this point dealing with new outbreaks, many are linked to parties. There are some reports that students are going to parties knowing that they're positive for coronavirus.

At least three teachers in three states have died in recent weeks, including this 28-year-old third grade teacher, Demi Bannister, we will speak to a friend of hers later this hour.

Also, today is September 11th. It has now been 19 years since the terror attacks. And this morning, we are remembering the lives lost.

CAMEROTA: Okay. Let's bring in to talk about all of this, Dr. Jonathan Reiner, CNN Medical Analyst and Professor of Medicine at George Washington University, and CNN political Analyst David Gregory. Great to see both of you.

Dr. Reiner, when we used to watch these Trump rallies, it seemed sort of confusing, maybe reckless. Now, now, in light of knowing that on February 7th, all of those months ago, President Trump knew that the virus is airborne and five times as deadly as the seasonal flu. Now, watching these rallies, I don't know, it takes on a sort of more sinister light that he's doing it while knowing all of that. What do you see in last night's rally?

DR. JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Criminal endangerment. That's what I see. You know, when you listen to the Woodward tapes, what's clear is that the president knew with exquisite detail, with the surprising detail, in the beginning of February, exactly how this virus worked, how it was transmitted and how lethal it was. Yet, he still held rallies, he still doubted the severity of the disease and he basically cast doubt on measures like mask-wearing that would prevent its transmission.

Do you think Herman Cain would have gone to his rally in Tulsa if he knew what the president knew? And I'm wondering, when I look at the pictures last night from his rally last night in Michigan, I'm wondering, how many people went to that rally and said to their spouse or significant other, look, he wouldn't hold this rally if it wasn't safe. It's safe for us to go.

BERMAN: Dr. Reiner, we actually happen to have some sound from people at that rally who did tell us why they were there. And I think you will find it to be almost exactly what you predicted. So let's listen.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Why are you guys not wearing masks?

TOM WOOD, TRUMP RALLY SUPPORTER: I have one with me. It's my prerogative.

ACOSTA: But why not wear one to stay safe?

WOOD: I have a hard time understanding people when they talk, so that's why I don't wear it.

[07:05:00] ACOSTA: But you can hear me right now?

WOOD: I can hear you.

ACOSTA: Sir, why are you not wearing your mask?

ROD BEEBEE, TRUMP RALLY SUPPORTER: Because there's no COVID. It's a fake pandemic created to destroy the United States of America.

ACOSTA: But the president said to Bob Woodward that there is a virus, the coronavirus, and that it is deadly.

BEEBEE: That's his opinion. The truth is is that the CDC said there's only less than 10,000 people die from COVID. The over 190,000 have 2.6 or 2.8 other mortalities.

ACOSTA: Does it worry you guys at all to be in this crowded space with all these people?

DANIEL GUILDER, TRUMP RALLY SUPPORTER: I'm not afraid. The good Lord takes care of me. If I die, I die. We've got to get this country moving. What are you going to do? Wear masks and stay inside for another year? Huh? Where will that get us?


BERMAN: What are you going to do? Wear masks? Where will that get us?

David Gregory, interesting to hear that after what Dr. Reiner just said.

DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes. I mean, it's so unfortunate, you know. And, unfortunately, there's going to be people around the country who are willfully misinformed and who are going to make some kind of political statement by not wearing masks.

You know, you mentioned colleges and universities and what we're seeing on some of them. I was on a couple of college campuses, touring around on the periphery over the weekend. And I just feel like all you need to know is what we're seeing on some of these college campuses. If you go to those campuses and you go inside and you don't follow rules, as unfortunately a lot of young people don't, because they feel like they're immune, there's going to be an outbreak. It shows you the prevalence of the virus, especially in indoor, confined spaces.

So a rally, then, is also going to be dangerous, even if it's outside when you have that many people in that close proximity. And even if a lot of those people, this didn't come up in those interviews, say, well, wait a minute, what about the Black Lives Matter protests? Well, many of those protests, most of them, had people wearing masks, if they felt it was important enough to be outside and to congregate, which is generally something in close proximity even outside that you don't want to do.

CAMEROTA: Well, I think that there is a nexus, actually, between what we saw last night at the rally and what we're seeing on college campuses. Dr. Reiner, how do you tell teenagers that they have to behave, you know, be really disciplined, when, of course, they watch the news, they see people shoulder to shoulder, thousands of people, together at the rallies. I mean, it is a mixed message.

REINER: So, how do you teach your children? You model the behavior you want your children to adopt, right? That's parenting. That's -- and on a national level, that's leadership. So if you want the public to model behavior, you should model the behavior. Except, the president has done exactly the opposite. He's known the severity of the disease, he's known from the beginning how it's transmitted, and yet he's not modeled that behavior.

So, imagine an alternative reality where the president did model that behavior and most of the people who hang on every word that he says are wearing MAGA masks for the last six months, right? We would have about 25 percent of the mortality that we have now, so about 150,000 lives would have been saved. He chose to do the opposite knowing full well what the stakes were.

And I don't know, is there a better term than criminal endangerment for that?

BERMAN: And, again, I just want to -- go ahead, David.

GREGORY: Well, I was just going to say, as a parent of teenagers, I think, you know, modeling behavior is important, but it doesn't always work. And I do think that the minds of teenagers or kids going off to college gives us some insight into other people, as well, which is, there's a willful disregard of what they're being told is the right information. And we're seeing that throughout society.

So I agree with the doctor's point, which is that if we had people who en masse were following these rules and if they were being told by the president who is a political candidate out there is saying, hey, let's gather, it's important, but you've got to do it safely, that's what we're missing. And so people feel more emboldened to say, well, there's some subjectivity in all of this. You know, does it make sense?

You know, I was watching football last night, as a lot of other Americans were, and my son came down, he said, I don't get it. Like why are the players not wearing masks and all of these guys on the sidelines are, and I tried to explain it, saying, well, look at their proximity, but, of course, the players had that proximity as well but it's not realistic for them to actually play and wear masks.

So there are some questions about all of this. I just don't think it's a question going to a rally, standing shoulder to shoulder with people that you should wear a mask.

BERMAN: No. And there's another aspect to this, which is it's in direct contradiction to what the leading government scientists are saying. So while the president was at that rally, Francis Collins, the director of the NIH was on CNN saying he was puzzled and disheartened by it, so, again, directly contradictory.


One of the things the president keeps saying now, Dr. Reiner, is that we've turned a corner. We've turned a corner somehow in the battle against this pandemic.

And Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is, at this point, I think, incredibly careful about how he phrases things. He was at an event with Harvard yesterday, where he made clear he doesn't think we've turned any corner. In fact, he thinks we are at potentially a dangerous place as we head into the fall and winter. Listen.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: We've now come down a bit to about 35 to 45 and some days up 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 season.


BERMAN: Unacceptable baseline. In other words, we haven't turned any corner, according to Dr. Fauci, Dr. Reiner.

REINER: Right, we haven't. And stubbornly looking all summer long, the case count has been pegged at about 40,000 cases per day, you know, plus or minus a few thousand. And with a crude case fatality rate of about 3 percent, that equates to about 1,200 deaths per day. And that's where we are. We're struck and plateaued at about 40,000 cases and about 1,200 deaths per day, which is why when you do the math going out towards the first of the year, which is why we get to, you know, almost another 100,000, 100,000 deaths, we'll exceed the number of soldiers killed in World War II before New Year's.

We haven't turned the corner, but it's part of the president's pattern of trying to minimize this. What he should be saying is exactly what Anthony Fauci said, which is, look, you know, maybe we're in the fourth or fifth inning, but we have a ways to go. The winter is going to be hard, but we're going to get through it and this is how we're going to do it.

Instead, the president yesterday tweeted that New York should open its restaurants quicker than it's opening. Based on what data? Why is he saying that? Because he's trying to create this false narrative that the sun is coming up and everything is fine, nothing to worry about. Where, in reality, that kind of willful sticking your head in the ground kills people. And he's done this since the beginning. And now, we know that with excruciating detail.

CAMEROTA: David, last hour, I was telling this personal anecdote of one of my closest friends. She just sent her two boys off to school, one is a freshman, one is, I think, a junior, University of Arizona, he went last week, he's just tested positive. Now what? Her freshman at University of Wisconsin, last night they got a notice, an email that the dorm was going into quarantine from last night at 10:00 P.M. until 8:00 A.M. September 23rd. They are going to be quarantined in their room, in their dorm, for the next two weeks.

Her head is exploding, because this is obviously not what she paid for and what she wanted. I'm interested what you said, that you've been touring around on college campuses, you have teenage kids. Are the administrators talking about what the future looks like or their plan for this year? I mean, does this come up on college tours?

GREGORY: Yes, I mean, it certainly comes up. And you talk to college counselors. I mean, I think these campuses are trying to deal with it as best they can. But they're dealing with a population of people who are not paying attention to following the rules.

And so, you know, I think there's a tendency to say, oh, look at all of these people at Trump rallies. It's not just them. There're young people, generally, and certainly the young people that I know only take it so seriously. They don't want it to interfere with the rest of their social life.

And so, it's just not complicated to see what could happen at a college campus. It's a tremendous obstacle for these colleges, for boarding schools. That's another testing ground, if they have the ability to create bubbles and isolate young people, to see if they can get over this hump.

And I think it's going to be -- you know, we're watching in real-time here to see if they can get over the initial outbreak, manage it and somehow level it off. Because whether, you know, dorms, residential halls, any kind of gathering place is going to be the real danger.

And I think that when we're watching on television, we have in the president, someone who is behind in the polls and who will do anything to gin up excitement about his campaign to send a message that, hey, let's -- using his own words, let's play down the virus. Let's get the country going again, and let's show enthusiasm for my campaign. That's what his priority is.

BERMAN: David Gregory, Dr. Reiner, thank you both for being with us this morning.


CAMEROTA: Okay. So, Microsoft is reporting that they have evidence that Russian, Chinese and Iranian hackers are all targeting the 2020 election. So we'll talk to a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee about what they're doing about this, next.


BERMAN: This morning, new concern about Russia, also China and Iran, targeting the 2020 election. Microsoft is now reporting they have detected cyber attacks targeting people and organizations involved in the upcoming presidential election, including unsuccessful attacks on people associated with both the Trump and Biden campaigns.

Joining us now, Independent Senator Angus King of Maine. He is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee. Senator King, thank you so much for being with us.

What can you tell us about this information from Microsoft and how does it reconcile or align with what you have learned inside the Intelligence Committee?

SEN. ANGUS KING (I-ME): Well, the first thing, John, it's ironic and sort of sad that we're getting this intelligence from Microsoft, a private company, and not from our own intelligence community. I'm glad Microsoft is doing it. I'm glad they're making this information public.


That's exactly what should be happening. And the answer is, yes, this is going on. We've known for some time that Russia's in the lead. I mean, I don't think there's much doubt about that.

China and Iran are also poking around in our election systems. We're not clear on exactly what their motivations are, but they're following the Russian playbook. But the Russians are the most active.

But the thing that bothers me, John, is that we're getting this information from Microsoft and not from the people that we're paying billions of dollars for, to give us information.

It really bothers me that the director of National Intelligence recently said he's no longer going to personally brief Congress between now and the election about election security. That's wrong. That's a dereliction of duty and it's an insult to the American people.

BERMAN: So, yes, DNI, the director of National Intelligence, John Ratcliffe, said he will no longer brief members of Congress in person. Add that to the information we have received over the last few days from this whistleblower inside the Department of Homeland Security, Brian Murphy, who was Head of Intelligence in Homeland Security, who says that he had information about Russian attacks on the election and was told not to make it public because it would embarrass the president. So you have those two things at once.

And my question to you, Senator, is, again, based on your position, you see things we don't, how much does this administration, does this White House really want to keep Russia out of the 2020 elections?

KING: Well, that's a really good question and there's no evidence that they do. And you were right to put those two dots together. I re- read the whistleblower complaint last night, and, again, we have to note, those are allegations, those are unproven, but he's going to be appearing before the House Intelligence Committee, I think, next week.

And, basically, he is saying that the worst nightmare, my worst nightmare is politicians telling intelligence people what to report and what not to report. That leads -- that's a catastrophic scenario, because then the decision-makers aren't getting straight information.

And his allegations -- and by the way, this is a guy who's a decorated marine, former FBI agent, dedicated to trying to talk to it and tell it straight, and he lists time after time where he was told to downplay this, to not report that, and to actually try to change the numbers in one case. So this is really a concern.

And then you go back, connect another dot and go back and read volume five of our Intelligence Committee report on the Russian actions in '16. And the Trump campaign, they were acting in parallel. They didn't have an agreement to work together, but each knew what the other was doing, each being the Trump campaign and the Russians.

And that appears to be the case today. The president said publicly about six months ago, if he was offered help by a foreign government, he would take it, he'd listen. And that appears to be what's happening. There's no question the Russians are active in this campaign. And now, our intelligence -- the leader of our intelligence community has basically said, you know, we're not going to tell you what's going on. Or we're only going to tell you in writing, which is not adequate, because you can't get at the facts.

BERMAN: Another issue surrounding the country right now, obviously, is the pandemic, overwhelming in some cases, the nation. And we now have new information about what the president knew, what he understood and when, and what he decided to tell or not tell or mislead the American public with.

I want to listen to a little bit of the president on tape talking to Bob Woodward.


DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: Well, I think, Bob, really, to be honest with you --


TRUMP: -- I wanted to -- I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down because I don't want to create a panic.


BERMAN: What does that tell you, Senator? When you hear that, what does that tell you?

KING: Well, when I heard that, number one, of course, it's amazing and I don't know how to describe it that a president would be saying one thing in private and another thing in public, but this idea of not creating a panic, what if the president treated hurricane warnings that way?

You know, a hurricane is headed for New Orleans, but we don't want to create a panic, so we're not going to warn people, so twice as many people get wiped out in the hurricane than would otherwise. That's nonsense. That's not leadership.

Obviously, you don't want to create a panic. But there are ways -- he said something about jumping up and down. Nobody asked him to jump up and down. Just tell us the truth.

And if he told us the truth in February and March, when he knew -- when he knew how serious this was and how deadly it was, and instead, he's going on T.V. and saying, it's just like the flu. He told Woodward it wasn't just like the flu. At the same time, he was talking about it, it's just like the flu.

And he's still talking today about how it's going to pass. We've turned the corner. It reminds me of the light at the end of the tunnel. And we're still losing a thousand people a day and 40,000 new cases a day.


So, yes, you know, this business about not creating a panic, I think the reality is, he didn't want to create a panic in the stock market. And -- but to not warn the people and tell them straight what was going on and it's continuing right up to the day.

But what we learned from Woodward changed it from simply incompetence to really mendacity. It was -- he was deliberately misleading the people. And that's inexcusable.

BERMAN: Look, the president likes to compare himself to Winston Churchill, maybe a more apt comparison, at least, on trying to make it seem like everything is okay was Neville Chamberlin, who declared there was peace in our time, the president declaring that we've turned the corner.

I do want to ask you, there's a lot of talk, obviously, about law enforcement around the country. And we have heard from cities and city councils around the country about defunding or changing funding for police departments and the president has seized on this. But you, I know, look at it another way when it comes to funding police and who isn't doing so. How so?

KING: Well, you know, yesterday, the -- Mitch McConnell put a bill on the Senate floor that was wholly inadequate. But one of the ways it was inadequate was it didn't provide any assistance, whatsoever, to states and cities and communities who are struggling with enormous, number one, additional expenditures, but also revenue losses. They've got to cut their budgets. They can't write checks like the federal government. They can't borrow for operational costs. And so the net result is a cut in first responder positions.

The irony is, it was Mitch McConnell -- it's Mitch McConnell and his Republican colleagues who are defunding the police, literally. Because police forces across the country are having to cut back, they're having to furlough people. I read just this morning that I think it was New York, one of the cities is having to cancel a whole new class of police recruits, because they don't have the money to pay them. And this is just a straightforward reality.

So the irony is they're trying to use this defund the police thing against Joe Biden when what's happening is the police are being defunded, as a matter of fact, because of the failure of the administration and Mitch McConnell and his colleagues in the Senate to put a bill on the floor that will provide some support to the police and the first responders and the fire department.

So, that was what was, really, I thought, shocking and disappointing about what happened yesterday.

BERMAN: And, obviously, given that it is September 11th today, I think the idea of supporting first responders on all of our minds. Senator Angus King from Maine, always a pleasure to have you on. Thanks so much.

KING: Thanks, John.

BERMAN: So, as more schools resume classes this fall, the focus is not only on students, but teachers as well. Coming up, we're going to remember a young woman who died of coronavirus just days into the new school year.