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Recording Released of President Trump Stating He Could Do Nothing More to Combat Coronavirus than He Did; President Trump Holds Indoor Rally in Nevada; Tropical Storm Sally Threatens Parts of Gulf Coast; Wildfires Continue to Burn Throughout U.S. West Coast States. Aired 8-8:30a ET

Aired September 14, 2020 - 08:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN ANCHOR: Anti-science rally, that's really what it was. The president spoke to a packed indoor rally in Nevada. Many of the thousands inside were not wearing masks. This is against the rules in that state. The president was openly and proudly breaking the coronavirus restriction in Nevada, basically mocking them. And 194,000 Americans have been killed by coronavirus.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: The president knows how risky and potentially deadly events like this are. He told Bob Woodward he knew it was airborne back in February. It is now fair to ask whether he cares. And we're also hearing for the first time that he has no regrets.


DONALD TRUMP, (R) PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Nothing more could have been done. Nothing more could have been done.


CAMEROTA: Joining us now is Dr. Michael Osterholm, he is the Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. Also with us is Dr. Jodie Dionne-Odom, she is an assistant professor of infectious diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Great to have both of you. Dr. Osterhold, last night, that rally, what should Henderson, Nevada, expect in the next couple of weeks?

DR. MICHAEL OSTERHOLM, DIRECTOR OF INFECTIOUS DISEASE RESEARCH, UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA: It's very likely that there will be a number of cases that will occur as a result of that rally. Any time you have indoor air, and that's where you are bring people together, you can expect that there's likely someone infected in that group who will then transmit the virus to others.

BERMAN: And Professor Osterholm, you've been adamant, and I like this about you, being forward-looking and talking about what we can do now in going forward to fight this pandemic. How does this event help move us forward in the battle? OSTERHOLM: What it does, it reinforces that we're over with this

virus. And in fact, again, only about 10 percent to 12 percent of the U.S. population has been infected to date. And this virus won't even slow its transmission down until we get to 50 or 70 percent. And the fact of the matter is, even if a vaccine were to come onto the horizon sometime later this year, it would be at least another 12 to 14 months where many U.S. citizens could be vaccinated if they wanted to be. So we're in this for the long haul.

And this kind of message that was sent for any kind of indoor rally, and I don't care what partisan nature it is or why you're having it, you do put people in harm's way. People were very confused initially when they heard about the protests and the idea that it was outdoor air, which surely dissipated the virus. We saw little activity. Where at Sturgis, we've seen a lot of activity, and people say, wait a minute, that's outdoor, too. No, that was indoor bars, that was the entertainment centers, the casinos, the tattoo shops, that's where they got it at Sturgis. Indoor air going into the future is something we have to be aware of as a major challenge.

CAMEROTA: That's really interesting to hear that distinction, because you do hear President Trump's surrogates and his staff always say then people shouldn't be protesting if they don't think they should be in big rallies, I mean in big gatherings. It's completely different indoors.

And Dr. Odom, here is where Nevada is today in terms of the positivity rate. Here is the seven-day moving average, you can see it bouncing around up to very alarming levels. According to Johns Hopkins as of yesterday it was at 8.9 percent positivity rate. The last time that President Trump held an indoor rally like this was in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in June. And after that, his friend and supporter Herman Cain died. He came down with coronavirus, and then -- he went to this rally, did not have any symptoms, his temperature did not show any temperature, and he died a few weeks later.

And so, Dr. Odom, I don't know if you can hear me, but this is what doctors are very worried about what's about to happen now in Nevada.

DR. JODIE DIONNE-ODOM, ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF INFECTIONS DISEASES, UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA AT BIRMINGHAM: It is. Yes, Alisyn, we haven't have magical thinking. We know now how this virus spreads. We know no average each person with coronavirus will infect two to three other people. And we know that millions of people with infection are totally asymptomatic. So this is what's guiding our public health principles. It's why we're talking about masking, it's why we're talking about distancing still six, seven months into it, because those principles work.

BERMAN: Dr. Odom, again, in the subject of where we are this morning, the number of new daily cases has hovered between 30,000 and 40,000, Dr. Fauci tells us he wants us at 10,000. We're seeing cases sprout up at colleges and universities all around the country. Kids are going back to school in some cases around the country. What do you think will happen now? What are you most concerned about over the next few weeks? DIONNE-ODOM: I think everyone's worried about having lots of young

people coming together and the virus spreading. When you have 35,000 cases a day still, most of our communities still have coronavirus in them. So we can't pretend our way through this or magical thinking our way out of it.


We have to accept what's happening, look at the case count, and take active measures every day to protect ourselves and our families. That's the only way we can do this. As we're waiting for a vaccine, we know what we can do. Other countries have done it. We should, too.

CAMEROTA: Dr. Osterholm, when you hear President Trump in that soundbite that we just played talking to Bob Woodward, saying nothing more could have been done, nothing more could have been done. He just said that a few weeks ago. Why do you think he thinks that he could never figure out or get his arms around more testing, contact tracing, modelling, all of the things that other countries did to not be in the dire straits that we're in?

OSTERHOLM: I think, first of all, this virus is a challenge in any country you're in. We're seeing Europe right now heat up substantially, but they're heating up at a much, much lower level than we did. We never really got the cases down. Remember, they were talking about 35,000 cases a day. Today we're likely to hit over 40,000 cases a day. And when we compare that to when the house was on fire in New York back in April and we had 22,000 cases a day and we thought, my God, it can't get any worse.

And what's happening here is we're going to see this kind of up and down, up and down, but each time it goes up it goes a little higher, each time it comes down, it doesn't come down as far. And so this is a real challenge for us going forward. We have a lot of cases.

BERMAN: Professor Osterholm, Dr. Dionne-Odom, thank you both so much for being with us this morning.

Developing now, tropical storm Sally is gaining strength and taking aim at the Gulf Coast. Joining me now is Ken Graham, the Director of the National Hurricane Center. Director, thanks so much for being with us. Tell us where it is, where it's headed, and how strong.

KEN GRAHAM, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL HURRICANE CENTER: Well, here it is. You start seeing some of the rain brands now and the brand new forecasts, John, we've got a look at it, right now 65 miles an hour. But the big story here, it's a slow storm. You've got tropical storm force winds stretching out 100 miles from the center. But look at how slow this is. This right here is 1:00 a.m. on Tuesday, 12 hours later, 1:00 p.m. Tuesday, 1:00 a.m. on Wednesday. That's the problem, the slow storms, they have more time to pile up the storm surge, more time to produce torrential, dangerous flash flooding and rainfall. So that's one of the big stories that we have.

BERMAN: So the slower it moves, the more time it sits over these population centers, dumping the rain. How much rain are you looking at?

GRAHAM: It's staggering, a dangerous situation in some of these areas because of this slow movement. So we could see, and the forecast can shift this a little bit, so we're really urging everybody really to be prepared for this because some of these areas could get 15 to 20, maybe even up to 24 inches of rain. The Mississippi coast, coastal Alabama, and southeast Louisiana, not just the coastline, but even 10 to 15 inches of rain stretching inland into portions of Mississippi and Alabama as well.

BERMAN: So maybe people shouldn't be as focused right now on whether this hits as a tropical storm, a category one or a category two. The problem is it's a slow moving storm that's going to rain a lot, correct?

GRAHAM: Absolutely, John. Everybody always asks about how strong is it going to be, and they talk about that. It's not going to matter in this case, because either way, because of the size and because of how slow it is, all that rainfall and all that time to pile up the water, those winds just start piling up the water, those east facing shores in Louisiana, seven to 11 foot of storm surge even on the Mississippi coast, five to eight foot, even in Alabama, Mobile Bay could see four to six foot of storm surge. Just long time, the longer it is, the more time that wind could pile up that water.

BERMAN: So this obviously is Sally. It's one of, what, five, five named storms we're looking at now, which is an incredibly high number.

GRAHAM: Every desk behind me is occupied. Everybody is working these storms. We're watching seven different areas. But right now five advisories at once, the first time sense September, 1971.

BERMAN: Any of those in particular you think that might end up making some kind of coastal impact in the United States beyond Sally?

GRAHAM: I think so far we're looking at most of these out along coast. I think we're looking at -- we actually have advisories with Paulette in Bermuda being impacted there. But you can see out in the Atlantic there, most of these so far we have some rain. So we're going to focus really close on Sally. That's the most immediate impact.

BERMAN: All right, watching it very closely. Get ready for a lot of rain. Ken Graham, Director of the National Hurricane Center, as always, thank you.

CAMEROTA: OK, John, now to the catastrophic wildfires burning in California, Oregon, and Washington state. The death toll rising to 35 people overnight. Dozens more are missing at this hour. CNN's Stephanie Elam is live in Arcadia, California. What's the situation this hour, Stephanie?

STEPHANIE ELAM, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right, well, Alisyn, I can tell you that 24 of those deaths are actually in California. We are standing just under the Bobcat fire here, which is six percent contained. It's burned some 33,000 acres. We've been watching this glow behind us and I've been watching ash landing on my jacket since I've been standing out here, as they continue to fight this one, but continue to remember that this is just a state that is battling fires throughout the summer. We have seen this, and it's just taxing the firefighters here and the systems that are put in place where they can take these firefighters and move them from one part of the state to the other where they need them.


But there's just so many fires that are burning here in the state, let alone looking at what is happening in the western region where we have some nearly 100 fires that have burned almost 5 million acres. And that update was coming from over the weekend here. So putting that into perspective, this has been a very difficult situation. It's very clear when you listen to the politicians here in California that they believe that this is because of the climate crisis. Take a listen to what Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti and California Governor Gavin Newsom had to say.


MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI, (D) LOS ANGELES, CA: I listen to fire professionals, not the president of the United States or a politician when it comes to actually what causes these fires. It's been very clear that years of drought, as we're seeing, whether it's too much water and too much rain in parts of our country right now, or too little, this is climate change.

GOV. GAVIN NEWSOM (D-CA): Mother Nature is physics, biology, and chemistry. She bats last, and she bats 1,000. That's the reality we're facing, the smashmouth reality, this perfect storm. The debate is over around climate change. Just come to the state of California.


ELAM: And to that point, 3.3 million acres have been burned in California so far in 2020, some 3,400 structures have been lost. Where I'm standing now there are about 300 homes are evacuated. Think about all of that happening throughout California, all of that while the state is still very much dealing with the coronavirus. So the masks, which many of them don't work for the smoke, my happens to work both ways, but for most people they are worrying about making sure that they keep their family safe from the coronavirus and also dealing with the incessant smoke that is out here that is also detrimental to lungs. So it's just a very, very bad situation out here right now, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: Absolutely, Stephanie. Be careful. Thank you very much for reporting for us.

President Trump told Bob Woodward that there was nothing more he could have done to fight coronavirus. Do voters agree? That's next.


[08:15:36] CAMEROTA: President Donald Trump did not implement widespread testing

or contact tracing or mask wearing, but he believes when it comes to fighting coronavirus, he did all he could.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE (voice over): By the time of their final interviews in August, Mr. Trump had become the leader of the one nation suffering the most from the virus. The President came to this conclusion --


DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Nothing more could have been done. Nothing more could have been done.


CAMEROTA: Now to talk about this and more are CNN political commentators, Bakari Sellers. He is a former South Carolina State Representative; and Scott Jennings, former special assistant to President George W. Bush.

Great to see both of you this morning. Scott, do you agree that President Donald Trump could have done nothing more to fight the virus?

SCOTT JENNINGS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR No, I don't. I mean, obviously when you look back on the situation, the government was slow on testing. Rhetorically, I think the President has had some missteps. It doesn't mean everything he has done has been bad or wrong and he certainly did the right things on China and travel issues and ramping up the Defense Production Act and now moving forward on Operation Warp Speed.

But, I mean, you can't look at a situation like this and look at the results and look at what the American people think about it and say it was perfect. Because obviously, people don't believe that.

I also think that there are a lot of public officials in our Federal and state governments that would say the same thing if we held them to the standard, you'd have to be forced to say the same thing about them, too.

The President's best option at this point is to look into the future and talk about how he is going to get America back to normal and what his administration is doing to expedite the recovery.

CAMEROTA: And, just Scott, one more thing, do you think that holding a big packed indoor rally in Henderson, Nevada is the right way to do that?

JENNINGS: I think outdoor events would probably be smarter and I do think they should encourage people to wear masks. I've often wondered if they handed out branded Trump 2020 masks, if people wouldn't think that was cool and they would wear them. And so I think this is one of the rhetorical issues where the

President has had missteps. He should encourage people to wear masks. A lot of Republicans are doing it. Here in Kentucky, Senate Majority Leader McConnell is wearing his mask around and telling everybody to wear them.

A lot of people in both parties are doing that, and so I think it would be smart if the President did that as well. I think, also outdoor events strike me as a smarter play at this point.

CAMEROTA: They strike all doctors as smarter, also, I mean, this isn't guesswork. They have traced indoor events versus outdoor events and a lot more people get sick from indoor events.

Bakari, what do you see in what he said to Bob Woodward or the rally last night?

BAKARI SELLERS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I mean, this is what the President does. It is just deflection. The rally last night was just reprehensible. It was neglectful.

And it just showed this lack of ability to take this virus seriously, which is why we were here. Barack Obama -- I think Mitch McConnell stated this, but Barack Obama left a play book to deal with this virus, but they've dismantled so many things, simply because it came from the Obama administration even if it would have been good for the health of this country, both literally and figuratively.

And now we have communities, particularly black and brown communities, which have been devastated at a disproportional rate because of this virus and our economy is at a point where it is going to take years to rev it back up and bring it to where it was, all because of the neglect that this President had.

You know, saying it's going to disappear, it is just go away is just not healthy and it proved to be very, very dangerous rhetoric.

CAMEROTA: Scott, I know that you're saying that you wouldn't do it, have made these indecisions that that President did, but just help us explain politically speaking, how does holding a big indoor rally with no mask mandate and breaking Nevada's own state rules that don't allow for any gathering of more than 50 people, how is that a politically wise move for President Trump?

JENNINGS: Well, look, there are a significant number of people who support the President that think that we're being held to a double standard in this country, that if you're willing to go out and protest certain social issues, that's fine, you get a pass. You get a magic bullet for coronavirus immunity.

CAMEROTA: But those are outdoors. Just to be clear, those are outdoors.

JENNINGS: But if you would show up and support the President, you're held to a different standard. I'm just telling you the truth.

CAMEROTA: But isn't that just -- but isn't that a distinction?

JENNINGS: Out here on the ground, that's what people see and that's what they think.

CAMEROTA: I understand. I hear you and I think you're right. But shouldn't they see a distinction between indoors and outdoors?

JENNINGS: Oh, look, I agree. I think -- I mean, look, we're in the time of the year -- although, you know, obviously, Nevada has a different weather, but you know, we're in the time of the year where outdoor events, I think, could be very useful to anybody running a political campaign right now.

The indoor events are risky. Not wearing a mask is risky. A lot of people are engaging risky behaviors and people who go to the Trump rallies, I think see that and say, well, if they can go out and exercise their rights to free speech, then so should I.



JENNINGS: I hope they are all healthy. I hope none of them get sick, but the reality is, they are at risk.

CAMEROTA: Okay, so what I hear you saying is that you think it's politically wise for the President to do this because it does speak to the feeling of his base?

JENNINGS: No, I'm not saying it's wise, I'm saying there are reasons why they would do it and there are reasons why people would go to a rally, but there are risks. What if there's an outbreak? What if one of these events causes you know, massive outbreak? I mean, that's a huge political risk for the President and his supporters, so no, I don't know whether it's wise or unwise. I wouldn't go to an indoor event right now truthfully. I mean -- and I think a lot of people feel the way I do.

CAMEROTA: Here are the latest polls, Bakari. Thirty five percent -- only 35 percent of the American public feels that -- approves of President Donald Trump's handling of COVID. So it's been hovering at that number since July. So, explain the politics, Bakari of this.

SELLERS: Well, I mean, I think the people -- it's hitting people right smack dab in the face right now. I mean, I know that Scott doesn't know this because they don't play a lot of football a lot in Kentucky. But down south, down here in South Carolina --

JENNINGS: Hey, easy, easy, easy, Bakari. Come on now.

SELLERS: It's difficult because we cannot -- we can't even go watch our gamecocks play football. You can't go and fill the stadium and watch Clemson play football right now, and so, there are a lot of people witnessing this in very different ways.

It went from having this quarantine and this fear of being sick to really hitting you in the pockets and now, you're looking at NFL games where no one is in the stands except for Jacksonville. You're looking at college football games, some high schools are trying to figure or not whether or not they are playing or if they are playing at all.

Ohio State, the Big Ten is not playing, and so this is really, really hitting people culturally in things they enjoy, but they are not able to enjoy it the same way.

You can't just go sit in a bar right now and drink a beer and watch football with your friends. So, this is just a difficult time and it did not have to be this way, I think, is the thesis. It did not have to be this way, but for Donald Trump.

CAMEROTA: We have some sound from people that we interviewed at the rally last night, and Scott, I think that this play is right to what you were saying. They were very clear about how they feel and what story line they're believing. So here is that.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I don't have any of the symptoms and neither do they. And if they did, they wouldn't be here. We're not stupid people.

QUESTION: And you know the virus can be spread with people who don't have symptoms as well, right?


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I feel like that's my freedom as an American, if I catch COVID, that's the -- my apologies -- the consequences of my actions, so I'm willing to take that risk and have a good time today.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think people who wear masks, they are sensationalists. You are wearing a mask right now because you want to give off that vibe of doing something right. Doing something right is being here, being patriotic, cheering for my country and rooting for my President.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Doesn't science say that being outside in the sun kills the virus?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, that too. Yes, that's what it says.

QUESTION: It doesn't.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, that's what they said.


CAMEROTA: Scott, what do you think when you hear that?

JENNINGS: Well, I mean, look, I pray for the safety of everybody who winds up in a situation where they could catch coronavirus. It's deadly. It can kill you. I worry -- I mean, I worry about folks who go to big events like this right now.

I worry about the protesters. I see them on TV. I worry about them, too. I worry about people if they have any kind of an event right now, it worrisome because people have died and are dying. So, I am hopeful nobody caught coronavirus.

CAMEROTA: Do you wish that President Donald Trump gave them the real scoop, what he knew in February, that it was going to be five times more deadly than the flu? Do you think that would have helped those folks hear that?

SELLERS: Can I chime in and help Scott real quick?


SELLERS: This is going to be -- I don't think that these individuals would necessarily change their mind simply because of something that Donald Trump said. It's like a different world. When people consume their news from Facebook and all of these different conspiracies, you see people -- it was so funny when she was saying, you don't know the science. You're not watching the science.

And we're like, what are you talking about? And so, these individuals who have this undying affection for Donald Trump, you see them show up at the rallies, you seem them willing to get COVID for their President, it's just a really weird time and I'm not sure there's anything that could be done to get those people to think differently and behave differently or actually act differently.


CAMEROTA: Yes, I don't know, Bakari, I mean, I think that people do listen to their leaders. I think people are quite impressionable based upon what their leaders say. That's why we elect leaders.

But look, you could be right, and let's hope it is undying affection. I mean, let's hope, I mean, I think we are all in agreement, we hope that there isn't a spike in Henderson but history will tell us otherwise.

Thank you both, Scott and Bakari.

Meanwhile, local leaders say it is very clear that climate change is fueling these deadly wildfires in the West Coast. A man who made the climate crisis the focus of his presidential campaign, Tom Steyer, joins us with what he is seeing next.