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Dr. Warren Anderson Of University Of Wisconsin, Eau Claire, Discusses The University Testing Asymptomatic Students As Outbreaks Flare; California Governor & Trump Face-To-Face As Deadly Wildfires Ravage State; Federal Health Officials Say Trump's HHS Altered Documents From The CDC; Gregory Stanton, Genocide Watch Founding President, Discusses How QAnon Is A Nazi Cult Rebranded. Aired 2:30-3p ET

Aired September 14, 2020 - 14:30   ET



REYNOLD VERRET, PRESIDENT, XAVIER UNIVERSITY OF LOUISIANA: But at the same time, that should not preclude us from making sure that we have access to something necessary to save the lives of our people, especially given that African-Americans and other people of color are dying and suffering from COVID-19 at disproportionate rates.

BRIANNA KEILAR, CNN HOST: President, thank you so much, President Reynold Verret, for being with us. I really appreciate the conversation.

VERRETT: Thank you.

KEILAR: Beginning today, Florida State University will start randomly testing asymptomatic students, faculty and staff for COVID-19. This is a decision coming after a recent spike in cases at the university and in Leon County where the school is located.

Each week, the university will be notifying individuals physically present at the campus about the tests by email. And the university is hoping to tell at least 5 percent to 10 percent of those on campus daily based on the average from the previous week.

Florida State also planning to penalize students who don't comply with random testing program.

There's a similar random testing program already underway, or a similar testing program, I should say, under way at a Wisconsin University.

Students living in the resident's hall at the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire, even those not experiencing symptoms, have been undergoing tests since last week.

I want to bring in the vice chancellor for equity, diversity, inclusion and student affairs at the University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire.

Chancellor, thank you for being with us. And tell us sort of how you're going through this process. I

understand it's almost a dorm by dorm situation. And why the university decided we need start testing asymptomatic students.


We have about 4,000 students in our resident halls and we have required testing for all the students every couple of weeks at the university.

We wanted to make sure when the decision was made that we can do it in a safe a manner as possible. So, we're ramping up to test 400 students every day. And that's going to continue throughout the remainder of the session.

KEILAR: You can send students to the health center and they can get a blood test. But more broadly, you're doing the antigen tests. And if someone tests positive, you move them to the other test.

In this process, when you're doing this and testing students, what does this allow you, as a campus, to do that otherwise you wouldn't be able to do with the protection of testing?

ANDERSON: Because the tests that we're doing, the antigen tests, if gives us rapid results. That test is done within 20 minutes. If we were doing the other tests, the blood testing, the PCR test, which we also do, it would take 24 to 48 hours for the results to come.

So, doing the antigen test we're doing right now with our resident halls students, allows us to quickly isolate the studies and close contacts. Whereas, if we had the other ones, we would have to wait 24 to 48 hours to find out if they're asymptomatic and actually passing along the disease.

Doing it this way really allows us to quickly identify any problem areas we have and contain it as much as possible.

KEILAR: Vice chancellor, thank you so much. It's so interesting to see how different universities are tackling this. And clearly, testing is a key to this.

We appreciate your being with us.

ANDERSON: Thank you.

KEILAR: Disturbing new revelations that Trump administration altered documents from the CDC to fall in line with the president's rhetoric. His erroneous rhetoric. This isn't the only agency that is being politicized.

KEILAR: Plus, how QAnon supporters are spreading fake claims about the wildfire in Oregon.


GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): -- Mr. President. And thank you for being here, particularly with the Coast Guard aircrafts that we're now bringing into the California family, that are being retrofitted to C- 130s.

Just another example of the partnership between the federal government and the state of California. That partnership, of course, extended with the incredible collaborative spirit of FEMA. FEMA has done an amazing job.

He's known by his first name as Pete out here in the state of California. Bob Fetton (ph), his regional director.

And we're joined by Tom Porter, the chief of CalFire, the head of natural resources, Wade Crowfoot. Pleased to have the Fresno County mayor here, Mayor Menz, and of course, the supervisor from up north in Siskiyou, who's kind enough to come down.

We have fires from Siskiyou County to border of Oregon all the way down to the Mexican border.

About a month ago, literally to the day, we began to have a series of 14,000 lightning strikes over a three-day period. And 1100 fires have sparked in the last month. And 2.8 million acres in the last 30 days have burned. Unprecedented in California history. And 3.2 million over the course of this calendar year.

There's over 16,500 firefighters in the lines. And I'm pleased and grateful that you're recognizing some of the other heroes --


NEWSOM: -- the National Guardsmen and women that did an extraordinary job saving the lives of hundreds of people stranded with some of the most intense fires.

You mentioned August Complex, 789,000 acres, the largest in California history. We have a series of forest fires but also brush fires and grass fires we're tackling.


We've made great progress in the last few weeks, though, tragically, we've lost 24 lives so far to these battles. And 4200-plus structures lost and 43,000 people evacuated.

I want to thank you and acknowledge the work you've done to be immediate in terms of your response to class 14.

We were just talking. Mark Ghilarducci is the head of the Office of Emergency Services. This may be a record that the state has received the support.

As well as the major disaster declaration, which you referenced on August 22nd, which was profoundly significant, not only to help us support our mutual aid system but also individuals in desperate need of support.

We can agree to disagree. And I appreciate your frame on the politics of this.

But let me just acknowledge two things briefly. And I'll turn it back to you.

There's no question, when you look past this decade, and looking past almost the thousand-plus years, we have not done justice in our forest management. I don't think anyone disputes that I want to acknowledge we have our U.S. forest representative here.

The state of California, your administration just entered into a first-of-its-type commitment over the next 20 years to double our vegetation management and forest management.


NEWSOM: I want to thank you for supporting that effort, funding that effort.

We acknowledge our role and responsibility to do more in that space.

But one thing is fundamental. That 57 percent of the land in this state is federal forest land, 3 percent is California. So, we really do need that support. We need that emphasis of engagement. And we are fully committed to working with you to advance that cause.

And final point. I'd be negligent -- and this is not -- we've known each other too long and, as you suggest, the working relationship I value. We obviously feel very strongly that the hots are getting hotter, the dries are getting dryer.

When we're having heat domes the likes of which we've never seen in our history, the hottest August every in the history of this state, the ferocity of the fires, the drought five-plus years, losing 163 million trees to the drought, something's happened to the plumbing of the world.

And we've come from a perspective, humbly, where we submit the science is in and observed evidence, is self-evident that climate change is real and that is exacerbating this.

So I think there's an area of at least commonality on vegetation and forest management. But please respect -- and I know you do -- the difference of opinion out here as it relates to the fundamental issue on the issue of climate change.

TRUMP: Absolutely.

Appreciate that.

Chad (ph), please.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Mr. President, for --

KEILAR: I want to bring in Chris Cillizza, our political reporter and editor-at-large, to talk about this.

Gavin Newsom, the governor of California -- because you know the president has pointed out what he calls forest mismanagement, which is not what we're seeing here.

And Gavin Newsom pointing out how much of the forest is federal land verses state land, "and I humbly submit to science," he said to President Trump.

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER & CNN EDITOR-AT-LARGE: That feels like it's "you catch more flies with honey than vinegar" kind of approach by Gavin Newsom, talking about the need for the service -- forest service to do more.

But when it comes to climate change and elsewhere, the link is pretty clear. Gavin Newsom essentially said, look, we think it's this. We respect that you don't agree with us.

My strong sense is most people who are believers in climate change, if we believe in science, that's a soft peddle of the situation.

But it does give you a window into why Donald Trump and Gavin Newsom have found a way to get along. Because Gavin Newsom is willing to defer to Donald Trump, play nice to get what his state needs.

KEILAR: And his state needs a lot. It is a disaster right now. And it appears he'll try to play nice and polite, even in the face of complete falsehoods about climate science to do that.

I do want to change gears, Chris. There are stunning revelations that the Trump administration actually altered documents from the CDC. These are supposed to be scientific health documents.

This is what a federal health official is telling CNN. The Department of Health and Human Services denied the claim. They say the CDC is under its umbrella so all communications should be cleared by the top.

This isn't the first time the Trump administration has medaled for political reasons. So, walk us through some of those cases.


CILLIZZA: Yes, I'll walk you through. It's not the first look. I've got two sheets of paper that tell you it's definitely not the first.

That was, quickly, is essentially saying this weekly morbidity report that the CDC puts out long before the coronavirus hit, that it was being asked to be prevented from being released, or edited to more accurately reflect Donald Trump's hope, but not born by facts, that we're rounding the corner on the coronavirus.

Let's keep going. The Department of Justice. We saw late last week, John Durham, Connecticut lawyer overseeing this probe into the FBI's opening of a probe into the Russia meddling in the election, we saw one of his top prosecutors leave. Not usually something that happen before the end of an investigation.

And former local reporter reporting the reason was the prosecutor felt some level of pressure from political appointees to get that report out before the election.

Obviously, Donald Trump has tweeted about this over and over, Brianna wanting to get the Durham report out.

The Department of Homeland Security. A whistleblower has come out and said that political appointees -- this is not a surprise. Same story, different department.

Political appointees have pressured career officials in HHS to alter or change intelligence they're getting out of their sources to reflect less that Russia is seeking to meddle in the election.

And bring it more in line with Donald Trump's contention, which is a loan contention that Russia is in fact not actively interfering and didn't actively interfere in 2016. Again, he's a lone wolf on that.

Another, the director of National Intelligence for a very long time would brief Congress on -- in person, on foreign security threats as it relates to the election. That's a hugely relevant thing now.

Well, they've announced John Ratcliffe, the former member of Congress, now director of National Intelligence, won't do that.

If you submit things in writing, you're not subject to questionings by people who disagree or want to find out more.

A few examples. It's the same verse, same story. Just subbing your department, political appointees leaning on career officials to change things to make them more amenable to Donald Trump.

KEILAR: And the "Washington Post" is reporting, Chris, the Trump administration is appointing a climate change skeptic to help run NOAA while we are here in the middle of hurricane season and these fires, and as we're seeing climate science be born out.

We should also remember the president interfered with NOAA before.

CILLIZZA: Let me do a rapid run through. Remember Sharpy-gate, call it what you want? But Donald Trump, black Sharpy, creating a broader cone of impact for Hurricane Dorian than was projected by the climate specialists.

Because why? Because he said Alabama was going to be affected and didn't want to be wrong. It's all of a piece.

The U.S. Postal Service. Donald Trump admits, says the part out loud that he doesn't want to pass coronavirus stimulus relief package because that will give money to the U.S. Postal Service and they will be able to do mail-in balloting, which he opposes. If they don't get that money, they won't be able to do it effectively. Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, gives a speech from Jerusalem, on

official time, or at least official business, at the Republican National Convention. Something that would have been unimaginable in a past administration.

Last one, education, schools. Not only has Donald Trump urged the CDC to reconsider their guidelines in terms of opening schools, which they did. Under pressure. He has also held an event at the White House where he pressured administrators, state and local officials, to open up sooner and open up fully.

It's just -- it's the same story. It's the same thing over and over again. Donald Trump used the government as his plaything to do with what he wants.

The Justice Department, Department of Homeland Security, NOAA, it is all based on making sure that Donald Trump looks like he is right. He knows best and knew it before anyone else knew it.

That is not the function of the government. And when you have it be a function of the government, it all channels up to one person, there's a danger.

And we're seeing that. We have a climate change skeptic appointed at a time of rapidly heating fires, hurricanes. There's real-world impacts well beyond what Donald Trump understands -- Brianna?


KEILAR: Chris Cillizza, thank you so much.


KEILAR: And next, the dangerous theories spread by the conspiracy group QAnon have spread to the wildfires. I'll speak to an expert that says there's an historic connection between QAnon and Nazi ideology.


KEILAR: All this week, in a special series called "CHAMPIONS FOR CHANGE," CNN will highlight people making a difference.

Today, a world-class surgeon who created a program to allow patients to tackle medical debt by volunteering. We caught up with him before the pandemic hit.


DR. DEMETRIO AGUILA III, FOUNDER, THE M-25 PROGRAM: Medical debt is a huge problem here in the United States. Two-thirds of the individuals who went bankrupt last year went bankrupt due to medical debt.

I'm a surgeon. I started hearing stories about patients who were experiencing financial burdens that were unfathomable to me.

And maybe I helped them with their pain or maybe I was able to help them walk again or go back to a normal life.

But then I would find out that some of the patients were under enormous financial strain. I felt helpless. I realized I need to try to make things different.

I was in the Air Force for almost 21 years, before my active service and reserve time. We did a lot of surgery in Afghanistan. Largely humanitarian surgery. And 95 percent of those were cases that we did to help the civilians.

Now my team and I get to do that medical mission work right here in our own backyard. The M-25 Program is a mechanism by which we allow patients to invest in themselves.

Now what do we mean by that? A patient comes in and says, well, I can't afford the financial impact of the surgery. So we offer them the opportunity to volunteer their time at a charitable organization.

But also allowed them the opportunity to recruit friends, family, neighbors, and even people they've never met before to assist them in getting those volunteer hours done.

In this way, we help take care of the patients. We help take care of the community. We have neighbors helping neighbors.

JEFF JENSEN, PATIENT WHO PARTICIPATED IN THE M-25 PROGRAM: I suffer from neuropathy, which is compression of the nerves in your lower leg and foot.

My right leg feels like it is asleep all of the time. Stairs are always the hard part. I could very easily fall.

They tell me it is 560 community service, Jeff. And $12,000 was not doable. I have a small business. So somebody else needs to be out sick, they still have a paycheck at the end of the day. I don't.

If this wasn't an option, I would have said I'll deal with it and I'll save until we could pay for it.


KRISTI BRUMMELS, UNIVERSITY OF WISCONSIN MEDICAL CENTER: I saw a video on the Facebook of Jeff telling his story and how he became involved with the M-25 Program.

I thought of the nursing students here at University of Nebraska Medical Center and I thought it would be the perfect fit for our community project.

We provided approximately 180 hours of community service collectively toward Mr. Jenson's surgery.

JENSEN: Not one person in that nursing program knew who I was. It was the kindness of stranger that got this accomplished for me.

AGUILA: To have the moral support of their community to help them get better, and that is shifting the way in which patients pursue their health care.

It is hard to make a difference if you don't try to disrupt the status quo. The M-25 Program empowers patients who feel like victims of the system.

In my heart of hearts, I had a hope that we would rekindle in our neighbors and in ourselves a sense of volunteerism.


KEILAR: We'll share these inspirational stories all week. Watch "CHAMPIONS FOR CHANGE," a one-hour special, this Saturday at 10:00 p.m.

Disinformation and conspiracy theories have permeated the Internet. And those fake claims are being amplified during American tragedies. And these wildfires in the west are seeing that happen.

Facebook removing posts from the conspiracy group, QAnon, after it baselessly spread rumors that suggest that Antifa and the far-right group, Proud Boys, started some of the fires. That is false.

But the post got so much attention that the FBI in Portland had to put out a statement over the weekend refuting the claims.

After false rumors spread about looting from fire-damaged homes, one sheriff in Oregon said armed vigilantes set up illegal roadblocks asking for identification from people at gunpoint.

And Vice President Mike Pence had to cancel a fundraiser in Montana after it was revealed that event was being hosted by QAnon supporters.

QAnon believes that a secret cabal of Satan worshiping pedophiles is kidnapping children and the whole thing is run by a Deep State of rich celebrities and politicians.

And joining me now to talk about the origins of this, is the founding president of Genocide Watch, Gregory Stanton.

Gregory, thank you for being with us.

You wrote a very interesting article explaining how QAnon is a Nazi cult rebranded. Explain this to us.


When I saw the conspiracy theory that QAnon was putting forward, the one that you've just talked about, I said, I've seen this one before. This is the Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

This is the most effective anti-Jewish pamphlet ever published. It was a fraudulent pamphlet invented by Russian anti-Jewish propagandists about 1902. And it was picked up by the Nazi Party.

Hitler incorporated its series into his "Mein Kampf." The Nazis had it re-published as a children's book. It was published in a Nazi newspaper.

It was a theory that is exactly like what QAnon is putting forth. That there's a cabal of Jews in this case that are trying to take over the world. They kidnap children, they slaughter and eat them to gain power from their blood.

They control high positions in government, banks, international finance, the news media and the church. They want to disarm the police. They promote homosexuality and pedophilia. They plan to mongolize the white race.

This is exactly the narrative that QAnon is putting forth.


STANTON: So when I saw this, I said this is Nazism.

KEILAR: It is very reading how you describe the parallels, the sort of repurposing of the blood libel. It's -- you're right, it is very much the same thing.

And I wonder if you could -- unfortunately, we're running out of time here at the end of my show. But explain to us how mainstream people fall for this?

STANTON: Well, it's very hard to believe, of course, that an ordinary person would fall for this. But what people don't understand is that, in groups, people aren't always rational.


When people are in difficult times, as we are right now in the United States, they will fall for conspiracy theories. They will follow after narcissistic demagogues who they think they save them. That's what QAnon thinks President Trump is going to do, just as the Germans thought that Hitler was going to do.