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THE LEAD WITH JAKE TAPPER

Vaccine Trial Halted; Vaccine Readily Available Late 2021?; Trump Once Again Downplays Using Masks To Battle COVID-19; Interview With Rep. Max Rose (D-NY). Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired September 16, 2020 - 16:30   ET

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


[16:30:01]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: This as the president once again claims he has a new health care plan ready to go, a claim that, frankly, we have been hearing now for years.

And for more than one year, he's been pledging to release his plan imminently.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going to produce phenomenal health care. And we already have the concept of the plan. And it'll be..

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Yes, we will be announcing that in about next two months.

We're signing a health care plan within two weeks, a full and complete health care plan.

I have it all ready, and it's a much better plan for you. And it's a much better plan.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Yet, as President Trump promises this supposed new plan to protect those with preexisting conditions, his administration is actively asking the Supreme Court right now to dismantle Obamacare, which ensures that those with preexisting conditions can get insurance coverage without having to pay a steeper premium.

As CNN's Kaitlan Collins reports, it's not the only dubious claim the president is making.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): After President Trump questioned the value of wearing a mask and minimized medical experts who have said it's critical, the White House struggled to defend his comments today.

(on camera): Have any medical experts told the president that masks aren't good? Or is he only citing non-medical experts, like he did last night?

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: He's referring to the fact that, when used appropriately, they can have unintended consequences, much like what Dr. Fauci said.

COLLINS (voice-over): Trump was not only referencing wearing mask improperly, but cast doubt on how effective they are overall, without citing any health experts.

TRUMP: A lot of people don't want to wear masks. There are a lot of people think that masks are not good. Well, I'll tell you who those people are, waiters.

They come over and they serve you, and they have a mask. I saw it the other day where they were serving me. And they're playing with a mask. I'm not blaming them. I'm just saying what happens.

They're playing with a mask, and so the mask is over, and they're touching it. And then they're touching the plate. That can't be good.

COLLINS: The CDC director praised the value of wearing a mask while testifying today.

DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, CDC DIRECTOR: I might even go so far as to say that this face mask is more guaranteed to protect me against COVID than when I take the COVID vaccine.

COLLINS: Trump also attempted to blame Joe Biden, who is running for president, but currently holds no elected office, for not instituting a mask mandate.

TRUMP: He didn't do it. I mean, he never did it.

COLLINS: For months, the president has promised a health care plan that has never materialized, and did so again last night.

TRUMP: We're going to be doing a health care plan very strongly.

COLLINS: The administration is currently in court fighting to invalidate Obamacare, even though they have no replacement.

Now his chief of staff says it will be introduced by Election Day, but the White House wouldn't say who was working on it.

MCENANY: I'm not going to give you a readout of what our health care plan looks like and who's working on it. If you want to know -- if you want to know, come work here at the White House.

COLLINS (on camera): So, I just wanted to know who's working on it.

(voice-over): The top spokesman for the department overseeing the pandemic response will take a leave of absence after he was accused of watering down coronavirus reports.

MICHAEL CAPUTO, U.S. ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF PUBLIC AFFAIRS, DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: The deep state. COLLINS: And ranted in a Facebook video that government scientists had formed a -- quote -- "resistance unit" to undermine Trump.

Michael Caputo won't return until after the election is over, after the CDC director said he was disappointed by his remarks.

REDFIELD: And it deeply saddens me that those false accusations were made by a group of really unbelievably professional people that serve this nation.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COLLINS: Now, Jake, a top aide to Michael Caputo is leaving the department entirely. That's Dr. Paul Alexander, who was accused of also playing a role in trying to take control over some of those CDC reports to change the content of them to be more in line with how the president has framed to the pandemic so far.

We haven't heard the president on Caputo's departure yet, though we could hear from him when he holds a briefing here at about 5:00, Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Kaitlan Collins, thank you so much.

Joining us now to discuss, Democratic Congressman Max Rose of New York.

Congressman, thanks so much for joining us.

I want to ask you about negotiations for a new coronavirus relief bill to help the people in the public who are still suffering a great deal. You were part of a bipartisan group of House members who proposed a compromise, a $2 trillion plan. You introduced it yesterday. That would include help for small businesses and schools, another round of checks for Americans who need it, more jobless benefits.

But your leaders, Democratic leaders, rejected the proposal right away. You called that -- quote -- "a charade, stupid" said it made you disappointed to be a Democrat.

Why did they dismiss it so quickly?

REP. MAX ROSE (D-NY): Well, I'm dumbfounded that they said what they said yesterday.

Thankfully, today, they start to open up the door again, politics as usual in this crazy town.

But here's what I do know. The American people want Democrats and Republicans to come together and get something done. They don't want a skinny bill, like the joke that Mitch McConnell passed that did not include state and local aid. And they certainly don't want a large messaging bill that has no chance of getting over the finish line.

[16:35:06]

Certainly, what was announced yesterday by the Problem Solvers Caucus stands as a framework for a bold and nonetheless bipartisan compromise that can help this country get out of and confront what is an unprecedented economic and public health crisis.

So, to our party leaders on both sides of the aisle, the message is simple: Stop the games, stop the charade, and get the job done, because the American people deserve nothing less.

TAPPER: Speaker Pelosi was asked today about the divisions in the Democratic Caucus over this bill, divisions reflected by you right now, and we have heard some from other House Democrats as well.

She's also asked about the complaints from American people who don't care about the politics. They need help now. They'd rather have $300 in their pocket than nothing.

The House speaker suggested that it's all the fault of the Republicans. Take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): Some people said, well, we will do this bill and then we will do another bill.

You think the administration is going to do another bill? All they want is to have the president's name on a check going out, $300, and that's all he really cares about.

Right now, we're not just going to you -- we think they should come to the table.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: What's your response, Congressman?

ROSE: Well, I think we need to stop with the political ping-pong here.

I have said it to you. I will say it again. The bill that came out of the Senate was dead on arrival. We need state and local aid. Otherwise, we're telling folks in Ohio, Florida, New York, California to drop dead.

On the same hand, though, what was presented yesterday is a framework for a bold and bipartisan compromise. And it is that framework which should be put on the House floor.

Subsequently, certainly, the president of the United States, Mitch McConnell need to take the baton and get the job done for the American people. This cannot be a Democrat-vs.-Republican issue.

You have covered war before.

TAPPER: Yes.

ROSE: During a moment of war -- and that is what we are at right now -- we cannot point fingers. We have to shut the door and get the job done. And what we saw yesterday is that there's every reason to believe that

that is possible. It's everybody's fault. Let's just make something happen.

TAPPER: Are there any Senate Republicans -- because, obviously, Democrats control the House. Senate Republicans control the Senate.

Are there any Senate Republicans that are interested in your bill at all? Some of them are up for reelection. Maybe some of them would be inclined to support it either way.

ROSE: Well, first of all, this was announced yesterday by a coalition of 50 members, 25 Democrats, 25 Republicans...

TAPPER: Right, the in House.

ROSE: ... representing -- in the House -- representing over 40 million Americans.

So, certainly, I have no doubt, if you go to someone like Cory Gardner or Thom Tillis or anyone else in a tough election right now, what are they going to do? Tell their constituents that they don't want to get something done?

This is an opportunity for us to show the American people that government can work. Let's actually seize that moment, because our essential workers out there, our cops, our firemen, our teachers, our soldiers overseas, they don't have the opportunity for just going back and forth with this stupid rhetoric.

They have to get the job done, and we should too.

TAPPER: Before you go, Congressman, you -- there is a little viral video that you or your campaign posted. It's only 15 seconds long. I want to run that and ask you about it on the back end. Let's run it.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ROSE: Bill de Blasio is the worst mayor in the history of New York City. That's it, guys.

Seriously, that -- that's the whole ad.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: So, I know you represent a swing district, Staten Island, primarily with parts of, what, the Bronx, I think?

ROSE: South Brooklyn.

TAPPER: South Brooklyn.

ROSE: Come on. Come on, Jake.

TAPPER: OK. Sorry, sorry, sorry.

(LAUGHTER)

TAPPER: South Brooklyn. Sorry. Bronx is on the complete other side.

So, you're a Democratic congressman attacking a Democratic mayor in an ad. Why?

ROSE: Yes.

Well, look, as I have demonstrated throughout this interview, I don't care about party. All I care about is putting the country first. It's clear that Mayor de Blasio is almost single-handedly driving the city into the gutter.

But we cannot forget about the fact that New York City also needs state and local aid. New York City needs for the Senate and the House and the White House to step up and push billions upon billions of dollars into the city and the state to rescue us from an unprecedented economic crisis.

But I have no problem standing up to Bill de Blasio and saying, do your damn job? Because you're not right now.

TAPPER: Just yes or no, did you vote for de Blasio last time he was up for election, reelection?

ROSE: No, no, absolutely not. I voted for Sal Albanese.

And in 2013, when he first ran, I was little too busy in Afghanistan to vote.

[16:40:01]

TAPPER: OK.

Democratic Congressman Max Rose, New York, Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn, thank you so much. Really appreciate it.

ROSE: Thanks, Jake.

TAPPER: Coming up next, a CNN exclusive breaking right here on THE LEAD, brand-new reporting on the mystery illness that shut down a major vaccine trial.

Plus, more breaking news, this time along the Gulf Coast, massive amounts of rain, strong winds now leading to emergency water rescues.

We're live on the ground next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

TAPPER: In our health lead: The United States is seeing its highest death count in weeks.

Yesterday, more than 1,200 deaths were recorded due to COVID-19. That's the highest one-day total since August 19.

[16:45:03]

And, as CNN's Erica Hill reports, now the CDC director says it could take at least nine months to get the American public vaccinated.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A vaccine is in the works, but:

REDFIELD: When is it going to be generally available to the American public, so we can begin to take advantage of vaccine to get back to our regular life? I think we're probably looking at third -- late second quarter, third quarter 2021.

HILL: The back half of next year.

While we wait, the president still insisting the virus will soon go away.

TRUMP: It is going to disappear. It's going to disappear.

HILL: It's not disappearing.

On the same day Mr. Trump made that claim, the U.S. recorded more than 39,000 new cases, and almost 1,300 deaths, the most in nearly a month.

DR. LARRY BRILLIANT, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: We are on the verge of exceeding 200,000 deaths. I'm very concerned that the next few months may be amongst the worst months that we have experienced.

HILL: Our daily trends map shifting in the wrong direction, 23 states now red, posting a rise in new cases over the past week, 34 reporting an increase in deaths during that same period.

DR. PETER HOTEZ, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: And at what point do the American people say, enough?

HILL: New analysis shows that racism and discrimination have contributed to higher hospitalization and death rates for people of color.

Separately, the CDC noting children and teens from minority groups are also disproportionately impacted by the virus, though, overall, less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the nation's coronavirus deaths have been in those under 21.

Testing also moving in the wrong direction, down, despite continued promises from the task force.

ADM. BRETT GIROIR, U.S. ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: I said we have -- we will have the availability of 90 million tests in September. I never stated that we would do 90 million tests in September. We're certainly hoping that the testing goes up.

HILL: Wisconsin testing wastewater around the state to find the virus before it hits. An early August wedding at this site in Maine which exceeded state gathering guidelines is now linked to 176 cases and seven deaths.

DR. NIRAV SHAH, DIRECTOR, MAINE CENTER FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: When they came together, it was sort of like a powder keg that was giving off sparks.

HILL: Announcing its football season will now kick off next month with daily antigen testing, no fans, though, the president praising the move and taking credit in a tweet.

The White House press secretary emphasizing the states with those Big Ten teams.

MCENANY: And now you will have players in Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Ohio, Iowa, Indiana, Illinois, Minnesota, Mississippi, and Nebraska who will now have access to football.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HILL: They will now have access to football.

We are learning that, in Miami-Dade, the mayor of Miami-Dade, Carlos Gimenez, announcing that, on Friday, he is going to allow certain indoor spaces to open at 50 percent capacity, among them, Jake, movie theaters, bowling alleys, concert halls, convention spaces, banquet halls, and certain indoor amusement venues.

But he says food and beverages won't be allowed while you're watching a movie or bowling, so that you can keep your mask on.

TAPPER: All right, thank you so much, Erica Hill.

Some breaking news now. CNN has learned alarming details about what caused drug giant AstraZeneca to halt its vaccine trial. A previously healthy woman in her 30s suddenly had trouble walking, and she had pain in her limbs after receiving her second dose of the vaccine, according to an internal document obtained by CNN.

CNN's Elizabeth Cohen has the frightening details on what this means for the race to find a coronavirus vaccine.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): CNN has obtained an internal document from vaccine maker AstraZeneca detailing why the pharmaceutical giant paused its worldwide clinical trials for their COVID-19 vaccine last week.

At first, all we knew was a study participant had a spinal cord problem.

DR. FRANCIS COLLINS, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF HEALTH: With an abundance of caution at a time like this, you put a clinical hold. You investigate carefully to see if anybody else who received that vaccine or any other vaccines might have had a similar finding of a spinal cord problem.

COHEN: But now this internal AstraZeneca document shows more was known about the illness than was said at the time.

After the pause was announced, "The New York Times" reported that a trial participant had been diagnosed with transverse myelitis, a rare neurological disorder which can cause muscle weakness and even paralysis.

And STAT News reported that AstraZeneca's CEO said and an investors call that the participant had symptoms consistent with transverse myelitis. AstraZeneca then called reports of confirmed transverse myelitis incorrect and said there was no final diagnosis.

[16:50:05]

But AstraZeneca's own internal initial safety report obtained by CNN says the participant had -- quote -- "experienced confirmed transverse myelitis" and -- quote -- "symptoms consistent with transverse myelitis."

The report describes how the participant, a 37-year-old woman in the U.K., was previously healthy. She had two doses of the coronavirus vaccine about two-and-a-half months apart. Then, on September 2, 13 days after that second dose, while running, she had a trip, not a fall, with a jolt, according to the report.

The next day, she experienced symptoms, including difficulty walking, pain and weakness in her arms. On September 5, she was hospitalized. And a neurologist noted that her symptoms were improving.

Citing patient confidentiality, AstraZeneca declined to provide more details about the woman's case. So did the University of Oxford, which is running the trials in the U.K.

On September 11, AstraZeneca distributed its report to doctors involved with its study. That same day, the University of Oxford updated this online patient information sheet. The sheet says volunteers in the trial -- quote -- "developed unexplained neurological symptoms, including changed sensation or limb weakness." It does not mention transverse myelitis or if that participant's diagnosis changed.

HOTEZ: But we're not being provided any details. So this is creating a lot of confusion.

COHEN: On Saturday, AstraZeneca announced that clinical trials had resumed in the U.K.

Regulators there telling CNN: "We have now reviewed the data provided by the researchers, and after seeking independent expert advice from the Commission For Human Medicines, we agreed with the recommendation of the Data and Safety Monitoring Board that vaccination can restart."

But, in the United States, the clinical trial remains on hold and under review. Dr. Anthony Fauci tells CNN it's just a matter of time before trials restart in the U.S., and, when they do, investigators will need to be careful and watch out for similar symptoms.

AstraZeneca says it's committed to the safety of trial participants and to the highest standards of conduct in their studies, telling CNN: "The company will continue to work with health authorities across the world, including the FDA in the U.S., and be guided as to when other clinical trials can resume."

HOTEZ: It's absolutely critical that the American public have complete transparencies about these clinical trials, because there's a lot of concern that the trials are being rushed or they're -- we're not adequately testing these vaccines for safety and whether they actually work.

So, communication is absolutely essential.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COHEN: Now we just heard Dr. Hotez talking about the importance of transparency.

Jake, already, we know from a CNN poll last month that 40 percent of Americans don't want to get a coronavirus vaccine when it comes out. The concern is that, if there is a perception among in the U.S. public that there are transparency issues, that number could get even higher -- Jake.

TAPPER: All right, Elizabeth Cohen, great reporting. Thank you so much.

Joining us now to discuss is Dr. Ashish Jha from Harvard.

Dr. Jha, how serious is the condition this woman got, and how concerned does this make you for the progress of this vaccine?

DR. ASHISH JHA, DIRECTOR, HARVARD GLOBAL HEALTH INSTITUTE: Yes, Jake, thanks for having me on.

Transverse myelitis is a pretty serious condition, if that's what she had. Obviously, if it was from the vaccine, we'd all be very concerned. But we don't know. And Dr. Hotez in that last piece is completely right. The bigger issue here is the lack of transparency, that the company disclosed this in an investor conference.

We haven't been given the details of exactly what happened. You can protect patient confidentiality and still share information. It's really important the company to do so.

TAPPER: Is it inevitable that this will hurt the level of trust in the AstraZeneca vaccine, or does the company, the pharmaceutical company, still have time to be transparent and help this issue?

JHA: So, I think they have plenty of time to help this issue. They could really turn around now and be much more transparent and open, which will help build confidence in the vaccine.

It's certainly not too late, but we got to get going on this. TAPPER: Dr. Fauci told CNN yesterday it's just a matter of time before

AstraZeneca resumes its vaccine trial. Given what we know now, do you agree?

JHA: I do.

I mean, again, part of it is, I'm sure the regulators are looking very carefully at all the data, and I suspect that they're going to do what Dr. Fauci has suggested, which is to resume.

But I'm hoping that they have done it with careful review of all the other participants. And, again, it'd be helpful for all of us to see and know that, so we can feel more confident.

TAPPER: How often does it happen that a company developing a vaccine has to halt its trial? Is it common? Is it rare?

JHA: It's -- Jake, it's pretty common. And they may push back, well, we don't usually tell people about all the details.

And my argument would be, these are extraordinary times. It requires extraordinary transparency.

TAPPER: CDC director Redfield today said that vaccines for the general public will likely not be available until the second or third quarter of next year, 2021.

[16:55:08]

That is a long time from now. We have also heard Dr. Fauci say that he has more confidence it will be sooner.

When do you assess that the public will be able to get access to a workable, safe vaccine?

JHA: Yes, I -- look, I'm hoping by the end of this year we will have a vaccine that's identified to be safe and effective, and it'll start getting rolled out.

And I think second quarter of 2021 sounds about right for a large chunk of the American people. For some people, it will be a little later, some people a little earlier, but the majority probably in that time period.

TAPPER: I want to get your reaction.

Health and Human Services Department spokesman Michael Caputo pushed a false conspiracy theory about CDC scientists as some sort of resistance pocket working to resist Trump. He was doing this -- he did this on a Facebook Live that was obtained and edited for length by Yahoo News.

Here's a quick clip of that.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) CAPUTO: The partisan Democrats, the conjugal media, and the scientists, the deep state scientists, want America sick through November.

They cannot afford for us to have any good news before November, because they're already losing. Donald Trump right now, if the election were held today, would win.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

TAPPER: Caputo has since apologized. He's tried to explain it saying he's under a lot of stress, his family's gotten death threats, and he's also taking a health leave.

But, beyond Caputo, what's your take on HHS officials attacking the CDC as some sort of den of treason?

JHA: Yes, two things.

I mean, first of all, it's absurd, right? It's absurd, these kinds of kind of scaremongering theories.

But second is, if you knew the scientists at the CDC, as I do, they're extraordinary people, they're patriots, they love our country. They work really hard. Yes, they have been undermined pretty consistently in the last six months.

But there is no sedition or efforts to overthrow the government. Again, these are really amazing people that I respect and admire. I suspect most Americans would.

TAPPER: You say they have been undermined. You mean by the Trump administration?

JHA: I think by their leadership.

Certainly, Dr. Redfield hasn't stood up for them. And then we have seen the White House consistently undermine the scientists at the CDC, who have not been able to speak up and not be able to share their guidance.

TAPPER: Dr. Ashish Jha, thank you so much for your time today. We appreciate it.

In our national lead, that was Hurricane Sally before making landfall near Gulf Shores, Alabama. Look what Sally did, ripping the walls right off this hotel. Sally is now a tropical storm. It's still pummeling the Gulf Coast with intense winds and rain. The once Category 2 storm also pushed a barge with a crane onto a newly constructed bridge in Florida's Panhandle, leaving a chunk of the bridge just gone.

CNN's Ed Lavandera has been traveling along Alabama's coast today where Sally made landfall.

Ed, how widespread is the damage you have seen? How are the people there?

ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hey, Jake.

Well, the aftermath of this storm is quite something. Everywhere we have been here in Southeast Alabama, downed trees, thousands of downed trees, power lines, tens of thousands of people without power as well.

And there's the story of this sailboat, which started off -- we were in a little town called Lillian, Alabama, which is right on the western edge of Perdido Bay. All the way about four or five miles in that direction is the state of Florida.

We talked to the owners of this boat. They rode out the storm in there. It became unanchored and floated across during the storm all the way to this side. This is not supposed -- this water is not supposed to be here. This was launched up here on land.

So they're in the process of trying to figure out how to get it here. But it really gives you a sense of the power and the fury that this storm unleashed on this corner of the Gulf Coast here in Florida and Alabama, treacherous hours here for tens of thousands of people as they rode out the worst of this storm here.

And as if dealing with the aftermath in the storm, the winds, the heavy rain that has fallen throughout much of the day, remember here this woman Tina Lambert Bennett, who lives on Gulf shores, where the eye of Hurricane Sally came ashore early this morning, she posted this video on her Facebook page showing and talking about how her house was surrounded by water, poisonous snakes.

And check out the front yard there, a giant alligator a sitting in her front yard, so all of this on top of what so many people are already dealing with here, Jake. The aftermath is really quite something.

And many people in this particular area of the Gulf Coast remember Hurricane Ivan back in 2004. They say this is just as strong as that storm -- Jake.

TAPPER: Yes, being threatened by alligators is usually a metaphor for people, actually literal in that case.

Ed Lavandera, thank you so much.

You don't want to miss a special CNN town hall with Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. Anderson Cooper will moderate the live event in Scranton, Pennsylvania, the great commonwealth, tomorrow night, 8:00 p.m., only on CNN.

You can follow me on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter @JakeTapper. You can tweet the show @THELEADCNN.

Our coverage on CNN continues right now.

Thanks so much for watching. I will see you tomorrow.