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THE SITUATION ROOM

U.S. Death Toll Tops 192,000 with over 6.4 Million Cases; One- on-One with Dr. Anthony Fauci; Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) Is Interviewed About The 9/11 Attacks, Disunity Amid Coronavirus Pandemic; Prosecutor In Durham Investigation Of Russia Probe Origins Resigns, Reportedly Due In Part To Pressure To Wrap Up Before Election. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired September 11, 2020 - 17:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[17:00:25]

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM.

We're marking a somber anniversary this evening. 19 years since the attacks on September 11th, 2001. As we remember the nearly 3,000 Americans who died on that day, we're also tracking the growing death toll from another national crisis, the coronavirus pandemic. The virus has now claimed more than 192,000 lives here in the United States. And more than 6.4 million confirmed U.S. cases.

In just a moment, Dr. Anthony Fauci who is standing by live. He will join us in THE SITUATION ROOM. We'll discuss all the late-breaking coronavirus developments. And I'll ask him about his warning to Americans to hunker down for the fall and winter as well as his forecast that life here in the United States might not return to normal until the end of next year.

First, let's go to our chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta. Jim, a very solemn day of remembrance for the nearly 3,000 souls who died on 9/11. We also can't forget the thousands of Americans who are dying every single week from coronavirus. What's the latest?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. The nation got a brief reprieve from this bitter campaign season today as both President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden took time to mark 19 years since the 9/11 attacks. But the break from politics won't last very long as the president continues to claim that the pandemic is almost over, when we know that's just not true.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): On a field in Pennsylvania at one of the nation's memorial sites for the 9/11 attacks, President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden hit the pause button on the election to remember the lives lost 19 years ago.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Today, we honor their extraordinary sacrifice and every first responder who keeps America safe.

ACOSTA (voice-over): In New York, Biden and Vice President Mike Pence bumped elbows in a rare moment of civility.

JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Guys, I'm not going to be making any news today. I'm not going to talk about anything other than 9/11. We took all our advertising down. It's a solemn day. And that's how we're going to keep it.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The national unity that came after 9/11 is nowhere to be found in the battle against the coronavirus, as the president is practically declaring victory.

TRUMP: I think the vaccine is going to come very soon, going to come very soon. And with it or without it, we're rounding the turn. Got rid of -- we're getting rid -- we're coming around. We're coming around that turn.

ACOSTA (voice-over): But top public health experts say that's just not the case. Dr. Anthony Fauci says, once a COVID-19 vaccine is approved, it could take months before life starts returning to normal in the U.S.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: If you're talking about getting back to a degree of normality which resembled where we were prior to COVID, it's going to be well into 2021. Maybe even towards the end of 2021.

ACOSTA (voice-over): During his rally in Michigan, the president wasn't dealing with reality, comparing himself to two icons of the 20th century, Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill, to tout his response to the virus and slam author Bob Woodward, who exposed Mr. Trump's admission that he downplayed COVID-19.

TRUMP: The only thing we have to fear is fear itself. That's it. Keep calm and carry on. That's what I did. This whack job that wrote the book, no, no, we did it just the right way. We have to be calm. We don't want to be crazed lunatics.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Thousands of Trump supporters at the rally were scoffing at the dangers posed by the virus, no social distancing, and few masks in sight.

ACOSTA (on camera): Why are you not you wearing a mask?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Because there's no COVID. It's a -- it's a fake pandemic created to destroy the United States of America.

ACOSTA (on camera): Does it worry you guys at all to be in this crowd space?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm not afraid. The good Lord takes care of me. If I die, I die. We got to get this country moving.

We can't -- what are you going to do, wear a mask and stay inside for another year, huh? Where will that get us? ACOSTA (voice-over): The nation's top doctors say, that's just baffling.

DR. FRANCIS COLLINS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: 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 some people wearing them, and you tried to figure out why. And it turned out it was their political party.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The president wants voters to focus on other parts of his agenda, including a new deal between Israel and Bahrain to establish diplomatic relations, a sign, Mr. Trump says, that Middle East peace can be achieved.

[17:05:03]

TRUMP: The sand was loaded up with blood, and now you're going to see that a lot of that sand is going to be loaded up with peace.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: A top official working for federal prosecutor John Durham who is conducting the probe of the Russia investigation for Attorney General William Barr has resigned according to a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Connecticut. The "Hartford Courant" newspaper which broke the story cited colleagues of prosecutor Nora Dannehy saying she was stepping aside out of concern there was pressure to release a report before the election for political reasons.

CNN has not confirmed that independently that that is why Dannehy resigned. But we do know that the president has been eagerly anticipating the results of that Durham probe of the Russia investigation, would like those results obviously, Wolf, before Election Day. Wolf?

BLITZER: Yes, indeed. All right, Jim Acosta at the White House, thank you.

We're also following new and very important developments in the coronavirus pandemic. CNN's Erica Hill has the latest.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): These scenes across the country, a stark reminder of how much life has changed and how far we still have to go.

FAUCI: I keep looking at that curve, and I get more depressed and more depressed about the fact that we never really get down to the base line that I'd like.

HILL (voice-over): The current baseline, an average of more than 35,000 confirmed cases a day. Reported daily deaths often topping a thousand. Six months into the pandemic, the U.S. leads the world in total confirmed cases and deaths.

FAUCI: We need to hunker down and get through this fall and winter. Because it's not going to be easy.

HILL (voice-over): The White House Task Force in documents obtained by CNN focusing on the spreaded colleges and universities recommending some states isolate students on campus rather than sending them home. While urging more masks and testing.

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: If you have gone to, let's say, a fraternity house and there was a party and people didn't have masks on, more than likely you became exposed to the virus. Please go and get tested.

HILL (voice-over): The report noting a sharp rise in cases at the University of Wisconsin Madison where in-person classes were just suspended for two weeks. Bluntly telling Iowa bars must be closed and warning this week is critical in Ohio.

DR. ABDUL EL-SAYED, EPIDEMIOLOGIST: Young people are young people. If you put them together on a college campus after an entire summer and spring of being cooped up in their parents' house, what do you expect all is going to happen?

HILL (voice-over): Areas in the Midwest still a concern despite this largely encouraging map. 28 states reporting a decline in new cases over the past week. 14 holding steady.

DR. LEANA WEN, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: This is still a very dangerous, very contagious disease that's among us. Just because things are open doesn't mean we now need to do it all.

HILL (voice-over): Adults testing positive for the virus were about twice as likely to have dined at a restaurant in the two weeks before they started to feel sick. That's according to new findings from the CDC. The report showed little difference for other activities like shopping, going to the office, a hair salon or using public transportation. Experts say that's likely because you can't eat or drink with a mask on. An accessory that's here to stay even when there's a vaccine.

DR. PAUL OFFIT, DIRECTOR, VACCINE EDUCATION CENTER, CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL OF PHILADELPHIA: If you get a vaccine knowing that at best it's going to be let's say 75 percent effective, you still need to wear a mask.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HILL: We're also getting some new information about children and the spread of the virus, specifically those who are either asymptomatic or have very mild symptoms. The CDC releasing some information that involved contact tracing data from three childcare facilities in Utah. They found 12 children contacted the virus at that facility and then it was passed on to 12 people outside the childcare facilities including one 8-month-old who passed the virus to both parents. The CDC recommending that staff continue to wear masks especially if they are going to be around children under the age of 2 for whom, Wolf, it is difficult obviously to wear a mask.

BLITZER: It's so important to wear a mask. It's lifesaving. Erica, thank you very, very much.

An important programming note to our viewers, join Erica and Dr. Sanjay Gupta on a CNN -- on CNN tomorrow morning at 10:00 a.m. Eastern for a special production with "Sesame Street: The ABCs of Back to School," a town hall for families tomorrow morning.

We're joined now by the nation's top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci. Dr. Fauci, thank you so much for joining us. Thanks for everything you're doing. We are all grateful to you.

And on this anniversary of September 11th, I wonder what goes through your mind, especially as a New Yorker as you reflect back on the lives lost that day.

FAUCI: Well, it was a really terrible tragedy, Wolf. I just by happen stance happened to have been in New York City coming through the Queens Midtown Tunnel and coming out right at the time that the planes hit. So, I had the unfortunate experience of the tension and the pain and the suffering that really permeated the city that day.

[17:10:05]

It just reminds us of the you know, the fragility of life but also of the extraordinary spirit of the American public. I mean, particularly the people in New York. But the entire country that we pulled together after that tragedy and really came together as a nation which hopefully we can do now within the context of this historic pandemic that we're going through.

BLITZER: Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be happening, at least not yet. The nation has rarely been as united, unified as it was on this day exactly 19 years ago. But I wonder how different did you think our response to the pandemic could be if we were as unified in fighting this invisible enemy.

FAUCI: You know, Wolf, obviously it would be better. I mean, one of the things we have to deal with, and it's really an unfortunate situation, that in our society - I mean, you can't but notice the divisiveness there is in society. And we're in a very politically charged atmosphere now. And whenever you're trying to get people all together singing from the same tune and doing the same things as a society unified against this common enemy, this virus, it's very difficult to do that when you have such a charged atmosphere that we have right now. And that really is truly unfortunate.

BLITZER: It's very, very sad indeed. You said today, Dr. Fauci, that we likely won't be back to our normal lives that existed before the pandemic, at least until late 2021.

What specific parts of our lives do you think are still more than a year away from resuming? Are you talking about returning to offices, attending large sports, entertainment events, international travel? How do you see it?

FAUCI: Well, I think, Wolf, it's going to be a gradual return to some of the aspects of normality. The reason I made that projection about 2021 is that I think you said it yourself when you gave the background numbers a few moments ago and showed that right now today in real- time, you know, we're averaging close to 40,000 new infections a day and a thousand deaths. So, we are still in the middle of this. And in order to get any semblance of normality, you've got to get that baseline number of infections way down.

Now, I believe, as I've predicted, that when we get a vaccine and I feel cautiously optimistic that we will have a vaccine by the end of this calendar year as we get into early 2021. Once that happens and if it's an effective vaccine to, let's say, the tune of 70, 75 percent, then we're going to start seeing as we get into 2021 and we deploy the vaccine that we're going to get a much better control over the outbreak. But it's not going to be turning a switch off and turning a switch on. It's going to be gradual. And I think it's going to take several months before we get to the point where we can really feel something that approximates how it was normally before COVID-19. And for that reason, I made the projection of getting back to that state of normality well into 2021 and very unlikely before then.

BLITZER: So it could be at least a year from now when we get back to that normality you're talking about, and probably a bit longer, right?

FAUCI: Well, yes. Because I mean if you're talking about normality being able to go into a theater or go into a restaurant in its full capacity and not having to wear a mask all the time, as long as you have active infection in the community, Wolf, you're going to have to do the things that we've been talking about all along, wearing a mask, keeping physical distance, avoiding crowds, trying to do things outdoors much more than indoors. Once we get a very, very low level of infection, one that's easily controllable, then we can start talking about what we just mentioned. Normal living, going to a theater, going to a restaurant, not having to wear a mask.

BLITZER: So even if there's a safe and effective vaccine, Dr. Fauci, let's say by the end of this year or early next year, you're telling our viewers here in the United States and indeed around the world that we probably are going to have to wear a mask throughout 2021. We'll probably have to engage in social distancing. We'll still have to be very careful. Is that what I'm hearing?

FAUCI: Well, you're hearing it correctly from me, Wolf, because when we get a vaccine let's say available at the end of the year, there will be millions and tens of millions of doses available. It won't be until we get into 2021 that you'll have hundreds of millions of doses.

[17:15:03]

And just the logistics constraints in vaccinating large numbers of people, it's going to take months to get enough people vaccinated to have an umbrella of immunity over the community so that you don't have to worry about easy transmission. And that's what I mean. It's not going to be an overnight event where you have a vaccine and then all of a sudden everything is OK. It's going to take several months to get the population of this country vaccinated and protected from infection.

BLITZER: And even if there is a safe and effective vaccine, you're also suggesting it might be -- and this would-be best-case scenario, 75 percent effective, not 100 percent. Is that right?

FAUCI: That is correct. I would be surprised. I mean, I hope it's the case. But, Wolf, I would be surprised if we had a vaccine like measles which is a 97 to 98 percent effective vaccine where the only thing you need to do is vaccinate the population and you've taken measles off the table.

I don't think that that's going to happen. I would accept a 70 to 75 percent effective vaccine, which means you still have to have a component of public health measures.

BLITZER: Today marks six months to the day, Dr. Fauci, since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. More than 192,000 Americans have died, and yet as you heard, an attendee at the president's rally last night told our Jim Acosta, he wasn't wearing a mask because this is, in his words, "a fake pandemic."

Why do you think people still fail to understand the severe gravity of this situation?

FAUCI: You know, Wolf, I can't really explain that in any logical way. The data speak for themselves. The 190,000 deaths are real deaths. The 6 plus million people who are infected are real infections. You know it's just a distortion of reality. People who don't want to face the reality that we are dealing with a serious situation that we can do something about. The tragedy of this, Wolf, is that if you deny the reality of it, then you don't put all of your efforts into doing something about it. You've got to admit the problem before you address the problem.

BLITZER: The president told his supporters at that rally that we're rounding the corner in terms of this virus. But in an around move you say you disagree with that comment. When it comes to discrepancies like this, who should the American people listen to? You or the president?

FAUCI: You know, I don't want to answer me or the president. I say look at the data. The data speak for themselves. You don't have to listen to any individual. And the data tells us that we're still getting up to 40,000 new infections a day and a thousand deaths. That's what you look at. Look at the science, the evidence and the data. And you can make a pretty easy conclusion.

BLITZER: What's your advice right now? Because if we just keep on going the way we're going and there's no vaccine that's going to be effective, at least not yet, if we just keep on going and going as we're going, there could be a doubling of the deaths here in the United States in the next few months from nearly 200,000 to 400,000 according to some of the projections. What do we need to do, Dr. Fauci, right now to stop that?

FAUCI: Wolf, we need to do what we should have been doing all along. And if you go back and look at the things that we were talking about when we were doing the White House press conference is remember I and my colleagues were saying that so many times that you need to open up the economy and open up the country in a cautious, prudent way, with the gateway, the phase one, the phase two, and the phase three.

What we need to accept and realize is that public health measures is the gateway and the vehicle in the road to opening up the economy and getting back to normal. It's not the obstacle in getting in the way of opening up. It's the roadway to opening up.

The only trouble is, is that we've seen such discrepancy in how different states and different cities and different regions have done that. It isn't something I'm making up. Just know you just look at the history over the last few months where some states have jumped over the benchmarks and maybe prematurely opened. Some have done it correctly. But the people within the cities and the states have not listened and they've done things that we've said not to do, namely, congregating without masks, going to bars, transmitting infections in that way. We've had the holiday weekends where we've had the surges after the fourth of July, Memorial Day.

[17:20:05]

I just hope that in the next week or two we don't see the same similar surge following the Labor Day weekend. I hope the lessons that we tried are going to be heard.

BLITZER: Because what also worries me based on what I've heard you say over these past few weeks, is that we should all prepare to hunker down this fall and winter as the regular flu season starts. And I'm sure you agree that everybody should go out there and get a regular flu shot. That would be so important. And I think you've suggested it's probably more important now than ever. Is that right?

FAUCI: That is correct, Wolf. But I want to make it clear. When I said we need to hunker down, I don't mean by any means shutting down the country again. That's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about accepting the responsibility of following prudent and careful public health guidelines. I'm not talking about shutting down again. We don't need to shut down.

We can do this if we pull together and abide by relatively simple and understandable public health measures what we talk about all the time, Wolf, wearing masks, avoiding crowds, keeping distance, trying to do things outdoors more than indoors, washing hands frequently. Those simple things work. We have proven that they work. We don't need to do anything more draconian or drastic than that. And we will be able to turn things around.

BLITZER: When should we start getting our regular flu shots? And will they be beneficial in terms of the coronavirus? Is there a side benefit to the regular flu shot? FAUCI: Well, there is no cross reactivity between the flu shot and coronavirus. But when you ask about when to get it, you mean obviously from years past, you don't want to get it too early because there is waning immunity. We do know that. But the CDC has recommended in the past to get your flu vaccine before October 31st, before the end of October.

What we're hoping for, Wolf, and I hope this happens, that a combination of people getting vaccinated against flu and the fact that the very public health measures that they implement to avoid coronavirus will actually help them avoid influenza. We have some suggestions that this might be the case because Australia, which has their winter from April to September had their smallest and less impactful flu season in memory. They had almost a nonexistent flu season likely because they were wearing masks, they were keeping physical distance, and they were avoiding crowds. So, let's hope that if we do that, we'll avoid the double whammy of having influenza overlapping with COVID-19.

BLITZER: A new CDC study, and you're familiar with it, finds adults who have actually tested positive for coronavirus are twice as likely to have dined at a restaurant over the previous two weeks. What's your advice to those who are eager, as so many of us are, to return to restaurants, get a good meal, sit around a table, and have a good time with friends?

FAUCI: Well, if you look at the recent data from the CDC, they have a very striking chart, Wolf, that shows the risk of infection versus not. And what stands out is just what you said. Eating in a restaurant, particularly a restaurant in which you haven't diminished the capacity of seating as well as bars and gyms and places like that. So, you're not ruling out going to a restaurant completely. But restaurant owners should be aware that particularly if you're in a zone where you have a significant degree of infection, you either do outdoor dining or if it's indoor, you don't do it at 100 percent capacity.

So if you're asking me, Wolf, for advice in what I would do, if I were in a zone that was a zone with significant amount of infection, I would be very concerned about going to a crowded restaurant because the data speak for themselves. Those are where you find the hot spots of infection.

BLITZER: Where we live, as the weather gets colder, it's going to be harder and harder to simply eat outside and hangout outside. And that's potentially going to be a big problem as well.

You mentioned gyms, Dr. Fauci. I know you're a runner. You're in excellent shape. Would you recommend people continue to avoid gyms at this sensitive moment?

FAUCI: You know, it depends on where you are geographically, Wolf.

[17:25:01]

If you are in a green zone with very little infection, I would not hesitate to go to a gym as long as proper precautions are taken. I'd be a little bit concerned if I were living in a red zone where there was a high level of infection. You've got to look at what the level of infection activity is. And that often guides what you can and cannot do.

BLITZER: There is new research that shows people can actually test positive for many weeks after contracting the virus. But does that mean that people can still be contagious past the ten-day quarantine period that the CDC guidelines have suggested?

FAUCI: That is unlikely, Wolf. What we're seeing a lot of evidence for is that if you are weeks out and you have no more symptoms, that the positivity that you're detecting are fragments of the virus that are what we call non-replication competent, which means there are particles of the virus but they can't infect you and they can't make you sick. And there are now a number of instances of people who are weeks away from their symptomatology and yet they still test positive. We are starting to learn that's something you really don't have to worry about.

BLITZER: I want to dig down a little bit deeper on the critical importance of a vaccine that is safe and effective. Our friend, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, a man you know well, he sat down for a rare interview with Dr. Moncef Slaoui, the chief adviser to "Operation Warp Speed" as it's called, who says it would be unethical not to make a vaccine available as quickly as possible. So, Dr. Fauci, how do you find the right balance between speed and safety?

FAUCI: Well, the data speak for themselves again, Wolf. When you do a vaccine trial and you know there are three of them that are right now in phase three, which means there are tens of thousands of people in the trial. And what you do is you carefully look at signals of efficacy. Does it work? But you equally as carefully look at are there any indications of safety.

And we actually had a recent incident that tells you that you should feel comfort that we do carefully look for safety. Because in one of the trials in the AstraZeneca there was a severe adverse event. And what was done was exactly what you should do. The trial was put on hold, and it is now being intensively investigated to make sure there are no other cases of that adverse event and that looking forward when the trial resumes that people will be paid extra special attention for that.

So, the data are going to drive us, Wolf. And I think people should always have faith in the scientific evidence and the scientific data. We have independent safety and -- data and safety monitoring boards who are independent groups. They don't work for the company. They don't work for the federal government. They don't work for the FDA.

But what they do is they examine the data and intermittently at precise times look for safety and efficacy signals. And when they feel the vaccine is safe enough and effective enough, they will make accordingly the recommendations. And their advisory committees that also will be looking at that. So, I think the American public should feel confident. The FDA has pledged that they would make sure that no vaccine that is not safe and effective would be allowed to be given to the American public.

BLITZER: Dr. Fauci, let me end this interview. And you've been very generous with your time the way I started it. I'm thanking you on behalf of all of our viewers here in the United States and indeed around the world for what you're doing. We are grateful to you and we are deeply appreciative. Thank you so much.

FAUCI: Thank you, Wolf. I appreciate your having me.

BLITZER: Of course. And we'll have you back whenever you want. Thank you. Thank you so much because our viewers learn a lot from you.

Coming up, I'll be joined by the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. I'll ask her about why the sense of national unity we certainly felt after the 9/11 attacks is now absent in the midst of an even deadlier coronavirus pandemic.

We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:33:37]

BLITZER: On this somber day as the U.S. coronavirus death toll has now surpassed 192,000, we're remembering the nearly 3,000 lives lost in the attacks on September 11th, 2001.

We're joined now by the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi. Speaker Pelosi, thank you so much for joining us. When we look back on September 11th, 2001, at that time, all of us remember Republicans and Democrats showed great unity in the face of that threat. I wonder why can't Republicans and Democrats come together now in the face of another deadly threat to pass, for example, much needed relief for the American people?

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Well, Wolf, thanks. First of all, may I thank you for opening up this conversation, remembering 911. It's hard to imagine that it was 19 years ago. Our hearts still carry the memory and the pain of those families who lost their loved ones, and that assault on our country. At the same time, we have fires burning in California, we have people still suffering from the hurricanes in the Gulf Coast, and we have the COVID challenge, the coronavirus challenge.

One of the reasons that we have not been able to come together is because our Republican colleagues and the President of the United States and apparently those who advise him, have not been willing to accept the science, science, science, science.

[17:35:02]

The science tells us testing, tracing, treating, mask wearing, isolation, sanitation, there is a way to curb this -- the spread of this virus. It's exactly what we have spelled out in our Heroes Act. But if you're not accepting science, and you don't believe in governance, you don't want to have government action, then we have that unfortunate results that we have. All of the scientists tell us, the academics tell us, testing, testing, testing.

And I was so pleased that earlier this week, nine -- there was nine leaders within the CDC pushed back on the CDC guidance on testing and saying this is an answer for us to go forward. It's just so sad. We don't know how many lives would have been saved, but we know that many would have if we had only followed what science was telling us.

BLITZER: This is clearly another critical moment. There are a lot of people out there who can't pay their rent or even having trouble putting food on the table. Why not, Speaker Pelosi, why not work together? There's a Republican majority in the Senate, a Democratic majority in the House, neither side can completely get what they want. Why not come up with some sort of compromise, at least in the short term, and help those Americans right now who are struggling, struggling bitterly to put -- to pay their rent, and get their businesses back afloat, and worry about some of the bigger issues down the road, at least pass something right now?

PELOSI: Well, you posed the question as usual very well. And that's why we came down $1 trillion right from the start and said, we'll come down to trillion, you go up a trillion. And then we went further than that and said, we'll meet you halfway. And you post in terms of hunger and rent, and that's exactly what the Republicans did not have in their bill that they had on the floor yesterday. Millions of children are food insecure in our country, millions of their families on the verge of addiction, but yet not a $1 on ranch, or any money for food insecurity.

The testing, testing, testing that we have in our legislation is essential, essential to stopping the spread of this terrible virus, which would -- if we could -- we can crush it, we can open up our schools and our economy more safely. But if you are referencing state and local government is something that we can put off until later, I strenuously disagree. State and local government is where our heroes are, hence, the Heroes Act. Our health care workers, our first responders, police and fire, sanitation, transportation, food workers, our teachers, our teachers, our teachers. Over 90 percent of our school budgets come from state and local government and the President has every day including, I think today, sadly on 9/11 he decided to be critical of states who were have outlays on coronavirus, have revenue loss because of coronavirus but will not help their budgets.

The fiscal soundness of state government is very essential to the soundness of our economy. So what we have in our bill is essential, essential to ending the virus opening up our schools and economy safely. And, again, we have come down enormous --

BLITZER: So as a Speaker --

PELOSI: -- that our bill in half. But if they don't believe in science, have no money for food, no money for rent as was indicated, then you've posed the challenge --

BLITZER: Speaker Pelosi, have the talks now collapsed and we shouldn't anticipate anything passing between now and let's say in November 3rd Election Day? Or are you still talking to the White House, to the Republican leadership in the Senate? I know you're not talking directly with the President.

PELOSI: No, I don't because I have no reason to -- there's no, shall we say, validity to whatever he says. But putting that aside, because it's a 9/11 day, let's just go to your question. No, I'm completely optimistic. As this Chuck Schumer, I was so proud of him yesterday, to reject that terrible, skinny deal to a massive problem that we have not even trying to find common ground to meet the needs of the American people, in fact, being disdainful and contemptible of the needs of the American people.

So, no, I'm optimistic. I do think that we should have an agreement. That's what we all want. But we're not going to say, OK, if you -- if the President could just only get his name on a check that goes into a family, then that we don't have to worry about millions -- 14 million children food insecure, millions of families on the verge of addiction.

[17:40:10]

The virus affecting communities of color in such a disproportionate way, the mental health challenges that go with all of that, this is a very big assault on the well-being of our country. And they're coming up with a Minnie Mouse little proposal, and you're saying why don't we just take that? You're not saying that, but there are some who might say that.

But the fact is, is that this is about our country and our future. And science, science, science is giving us the answers, which they have rejected. We had testing in the first bill, March 4th, the first bill we've had testing and other bills but they simply will not embrace the need for what is called. We need more than 1 million maybe 3 million test a day.

BLITZER: Yes.

PELOSI: And then we can trace and then we can treat, and then we -- as we separate and the rest, we can conquer this virus, but we can't, we can conquer it with science. We cannot conquer it with ignorance.

BLITZER: Let me put up on the screen a tweet from the President of the United States, and I'll read it to our viewers. "Pelosi and Schumer want trillions of dollars of bailout money for blue states that are doing badly, both economically and in terms of high crime as a condition to making a deal on stimulus. But the USA is coming back strong." You want to give me a quick reaction to what the President is saying there?

PELOSI: Pathetic as usual. The fact is, that what we have in this bill is corona centric. It's to compensate the states and the localities for their outlays that they have made on health care costs related to the coronavirus. And then it is also to have the flexibility to use some of the funds for the loss of revenue because of a stay-at-home, home and -- shelter at home, wisely used in the spring, and that helped delay some of the spread of it.

Since we passed our bill -- so when the President says that, it has no relationship to the reality, and this money goes to all the states and localities in our country. But that's not a reason, it is an excuse. And it is really an abomination. Because the fiscal soundness of these states is important to the fiscal soundness of our country. And nonetheless, if we don't use the money, what happens?

People who have risked their lives to save other people's lives will now be at risk of losing their jobs. They lose their jobs, they go on unemployment insurance. Services are cut to people, taxes may be raised. What we are proposing is what is it an answer to it. And even the Fed and other economists are saying we must support the state and local governments.

And that's -- for the President to say that, I can't explain why he says anything. But, again, putting it aside, it is not anything that can put off until later. It's something that must happen now. Over 90 percent of the education of our children comes from state and local government.

BLITZER: Let me make a quick turn while I have your, Speaker, the President making a dramatic announcement today on normalization of diplomatic relations between Israel and an Arab state Bahrain, the kingdom of Bahrain, this follows the peace treaty that's about to be signed between Israel and the United Arab Emirates this coming Tuesday --

PELOSI: Yes.

BLITZER: -- at the White House. These are dramatic developments in the Middle East. How much credit do you give the President of the United States for these peace agreements?

PELOSI: Well, hopefully they won't. Now, hopefully, they'll be beneficial to the region. We've been waiting for a very long time for the President's proposal for an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement that honored the two state solution, was coming in two weeks, it was coming in two months, it was coming in six months. It still hasn't come in any way that has brought peace.

So, good for him for having a distraction on a day when the numbers of people who are affected and the numbers of people who are dying from this virus only increases. Since we passed the Heroes Act, over 5 million people had become infected. That's when Mitch McConnell press the pause button. Over 100,000 people have died when Mitch McConnell press the pause button. That's what we're dealing with right now, life and death in our own country.

And if you want to talk about the Middle East, how ridiculous is the President's statement about the slaughter of Khashoggi and his -- I don't know what you would call it -- of the Crown Prince, the Crown Prince.

[17:45:04]

Why -- think of this? Why would the President of the United States on his first trip out of the country, go to Saudi Arabia? Why would he do that? All of our former presidents in recent times have gone to Canada, George W. Bush went to Mexico, we have plenty of allies we could have visited. Did you ever wonder why he went -- and I particularly wonder, on this day of 9/11, why he chose to go to Saudi Arabia?

BLITZER: What do you think? Why did he do that?

PELOSI: I asked you, I asked you.

BLITZER: You're the Speaker of the House, you're privy to the sensitive intelligence information out there. You want to give us a thought?

PELOSI: Well, I just wonder because it was strange and it's doubly strange now that he is absolving the Crown Prince of any association with the slaughter of Khashoggi, but it's the same thing as he's done with Putin. He seems to be attracted to people who do not have a respect for what we would consider civilized human behavior.

But, again, putting him aside, forget him, forget what he says about elections, because he only wants to scare people. He wants to tell them their vote may not matter, because of -- it may not be delivered in time by the postal system, which he is dismantling. So, you know, we don't agonize, we organize, and we are organizing to elect a Democratic House, a Democratic Senate, Joe Biden, President of the United States, Kamala Harris, Vice President, so that we can make the change.

And part of that change will be to work in a bipartisan way, as you suggested earlier. With the respect for the dignity and worth of our Constitution and the American people --

BLITZER: Yes.

PELOSI: -- protecting our planet, protecting our values. And I really am excited about that and look forward to that. Because right now, our country has a sickness. And it begins at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

BLITZER: Well, you got to come up with a compromise. As I said, there's a Democratic majority in the House, a Republican majority in the Senate, you got to work together. There are a lot of people out there who need help right now, and the Congress --

PELOSI: Believe it or not, as members of Congress, we know that. That's where -- we are here to meet their needs. That's not what the Republicans are about. But we must strive to find our common ground. I agree with you with that, but if you were concerned about those people are hungry or homeless and the rest of that, talk to your Republican friends about that as well.

BLITZER: It's got to be a compromise out there because there are a lot of people who are needy. Speaker Pelosi, you were very generous with your time today.

PELOSI: My pleasure.

BLITZER: Thank you so much for joining us. Stay safe out there. PELOSI: Thank you. You too, Wolf. Bye-bye.

BLITZER: Thank you. There's more breaking news we're following here in "The Situation Room" this time. The probe into the origins of the Russia meddling investigation which is being conducted by the U.S. Attorney John Durham. One of Durham's top prosecutors has now just resigned.

I want to go to our Senior Justice Correspondent Evan Perez. Evan, what do we know about what why she has made this decision to resign?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, her name is Nora Dannehy and she's a very seasoned prosecutor. She is one of the top officials, one of the top prosecutors working with John Durham doing this investigation of the origins of the Trump-Russia investigation. And the U.S. Attorney in Connecticut is now confirming that she has resigned.

The Hartford Courant newspaper which first reported this is citing colleagues of Dannehy to -- who say that one reason why she's leaving is because she feels that there's political pressure for the Durham investigation to produce something, something of value that could be helpful to the President before the election. And, again, that is something that the Hartford Courant is reporting. We have not confirmed that.

Wolf, we don't know exactly why she's leaving, but the political pressure on this investigation has been obvious. The President keeps bringing it up. The Attorney General Bill Barr keeps bringing it up. And one of the things that he told you recently in his interview was that, you know, he doesn't see anything wrong with Durham producing some kind of report or something before the election. And, obviously, that is something that the President has been eagerly anticipating and hoping for.

BLITZER: That's an important point. And let's see what they decide to do. A very, very sensitive moment with 53 days to go until the election. Evan Perez, thank you very much.

Let's get some analysis now from the former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. Preet, thanks so much for joining us. So what goes through your mind when you hear that this top prosecutor all of a sudden suddenly resigns, reportedly due to her concerns over political pressure to produce a report before the election?

PREET BHARARA, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: We'll look if the reports are true, that Nora Dannehy is leaving in part or in whole because of this political pressure. Then I'm really concerned, I've been concerned about the Department of Justice for some time.

[17:50:04]

It is a very rare thing for a prosecutor of her stature or any prosecutor for that matter, to resign because of political interference or some other form of protest. We've seen it already, in the past number of months for the prosecutors or for blind prosecutors in Roger Stone case. We'd drew from that case, one resigned completely from the Department of Justice, it tells you that there's something going on, that career prosecutors feel is so serious that they're forsaking their Justice Department careers because of it. So it's a great concern, because it's rare, and it doesn't bode well for what's happening at the top of the Justice Department.

BLITZER: You actually know this prosecutor, Nora Dannehy. What can you tell us about her?

BHARARA: Yes, I don't know her very well, but I know her by reputation and also, as a colleague, we were used attorneys together when she was the acting, I believe, in Connecticut when I became the U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York in 2009. So we overlapped for about 10 months. She has a reputation for being a non-partisan, serious, low key, full of integrity prosecutor. So it is not a small thing for her to lead if those reports are true.

I also believe it's true that she came back into government to work specifically on this investigation that she's now resigning from and withdrawing from that. That's another reason to be concerned about.

BLITZER: I spoke to the Attorney General Bill Barr last week about the Durham probe and whether or not there will be charges brought before the election. Take a listen to the exchange we had. Listen to this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL: I do not think anything that we do in the Durham investigation. I assume that's what you're talking about.

BLITZER: Right.

BARR: Is going to be affecting the election.

BLITZER: So you don't think there'll be charges in a Durham investigation 60 days before the election?

BARR: Well, the 60 days is not part of the rule. But I said that I don't think anything we're going to do would violate our policy. Be consistent.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: What do you think? Do you think the Attorney General is an honest broker in this investigation?

BHARARA: Well, I don't think he is because he seems to be repeatedly on multiple cases, not just this one, doing the bidding of the President. I noticed that he dodged your question about whether or not there might be charges before the election. And he has a particular interpretation of this norm rule, tradition, whatever you want to call it.

I'm not trying to affect election or influence it because of DOJ action on the eve of it, but he knows full well, that the President has been harping about this, carping about this any other rhyme thereof, because he wants to use it as a cudgel in the campaign. And you have to think about DOJ actions in the real world, and knowing how real world people in real campaigns in America are going to be dealing with and exploiting and weaponizing the actions that are taken by the DOJ.

And he knows full well, that there's anything that's brought about in terms of indictment or anything else based on the Durham investigation, but the President is going to be waving it around at rally after rally for his political purposes, and you have to take that into account. What makes it even worse, if the reporting is true, it's one thing. If the investigation is over and you decide you're going to put it out, because it's time to put it out and you're done, it's quite a different thing to rush it and cause people to be done more quickly for the purpose of releasing it before an election.

BLITZER: Just --

BHARARA: And based on some report --

BLITZER: Yes. Finish your thought. Go ahead.

BHARARA I think --

BLITZER: Just yesterday, Preet, President Trump once again weighed in on all of this thing. He expects indictments to be brought. How can any investigation be fair and impartial when the President of the United States keeps putting his thumb on the scale in such a very direct and frequent way?

BHARARA: No, the answer is implied by your question. In my view, I don't think you can. There are two things, right, that matter in matters of justice. One is the justice to be -- it'd be done and one is that it'd be seen to be done. And even if you have fair-minded folks who were looking at the facts in the law and proceeding in a fair-minded way. appropriately, the fact that you have a President who's calling for particular things, and you have these other incidents that we've been talking about on your show and elsewhere, for months, causes people to lose faith in the idea that these things are being done properly.

You know, maybe some of these things are, maybe it was right, that Roger Stone sentence as -- was too long. But if you have the President putting a thumb on the scale, that's a problem, of course.

BLITZER: And very quickly, before I let you go, the 60-day rule, the 60-day tradition of not engaging in criminal charges, if they have political ramifications before an election, how significant is that?

BHARARA: You know, I think it's a significant thing that different people, you know, interpreted different ways. There's a very particular rule that set down about the kinds of cases you can bring that relate to election fraud. There's also more general, I think, important and in this context, very important tradition and understanding, for good reason that you don't take actions --

BLITZER: All right. BHARARA: -- that affect elections close in time.

BLITZER: Preet Bharara, as usual, thank you very much for joining us.

[17:55:03]

BHARARA: Thanks.

BLITZER: Coming up, we're going to have more analysis of my interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci who just told me a potential coronavirus vaccine likely won't be 100 percent effective and that life here in the United States might not be able to return to normal until perhaps the end of next year. We'll be right back.

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