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William Barr Calls For Coronavirus Closures As The Greatest Intrusion On Civil Liberties; President Trump Disputes CDC Head's Vaccine Timeline And Mask Claims; Trump Confirms Another White House Staffer Positive FOR COVID-19; CDC Director Is Citing Clear Scientific Evidence And Saying Masks Are The Best Defense Against COVID-19; President Trump Dismisses The Deaths Of Americans In Blue States; Champions For Change: Surgeon Allows Patients To Pay By Volunteering. Aired 11p-12a ET
Aired September 16, 2020 - 23:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JON MEACHAM, PRESIDENTIAL HISTORIAN, AUTHOR: Well, its incendiary hyperbole designed to feed a sense of paranoia and fear on behalf of an administration that is relying not on a message or an agenda of hope grounded in traditional American understandings of liberty and is instead betting on finding just the right number of Americans and in the right number of states who will say, yes, we're scared, we're mad, we want a tough guy.
And, you know, if you think that this is akin to slavery, you obviously never suffered under the burden of slavery in real-time or in its longtime -- the longtime system of segregation and the denial of the suffrage of voting rights that grew out of it.
DON LEMON, CNN HOST: Or even thought about what it would mean, like, what slavery means.
MEACHAM: Yes, I did -- it's -- it's sort of -- you know, we're locked in this odd abusive relationship with this administration where at some level you don't want to enable it by playing into the drama of the Attorney General goes to a very conservative college, Hillsdale is part of the intellectual right wing, and says this in a clear message to the base. And yet you cannot allow statements like this to go unchecked or unmonitored.
And if you think this is the greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American history, I'd suggest you read up on the alien and sedition acts. I would suggest you talk to the Japanese Americans who were interred -- interned during the Second World War. Talk to the victims of Joe McCarthy. Talk to the victims of one of Barr's predecessors, a, Mitchell Palmer, who led raids in 1919 and 1920 as part of the first red scare, and talk to the black folks who in my native region lived under apartheid until about 60 years ago, 55 years ago.
MEACHAM: And remember what we're talking about. We're talking about scientifically uncontroversial public health measures. This is -- this is not some ideologically-driven plot on behalf of the public health officials and the alleged deep state to change American lives. It's to try to save American lives because of a global pandemic that is unfortunately rooted in history, 100 years ago we lost 675,000 Americans. We've lost 200,000 Americans now. And this is only the beginning of these kinds of asymmetrical threats. It's one of the wages of globalization.
MEACHAM: And to have people at the top of the government who are so self-interested and so ideologically committed to the amassing and the holding of power that they would throw truth over the side so glibly is a cause for serious, serious concern.
LEMON: Especially in the midst of what's going on right now, right? When you have so many people dying, Jon, nearly 200,000 Americans dead from the pandemic. And many people are struggling just to make ends meet. The economy is battered. We're dealing with racial reckoning. Daily effects of climate change. There's crises all around us. Where is this country right now? Where are we?
MEACHAM: We're, I think, unfortunately, we're in the grip of a sporadic pattern of irrationality. You know, we've never been wholly reasonable. America has always been shaped by the tension between reason and passion, often partisan or racial passion. And we've never gotten everything right. 34 percent of the country approved of Joe McCarthy after he had been censured in late 1954.
Right now I'd add about 10 points to that. There's about 44 percent to 45 percent of the country that has simply decided that the ordinary sources of authority and truth have -- need to be rejected. And they have found in this president and in this Attorney General an instrument, a vehicle for that frustration with the challenges of a new century.
LEMON: The president keeps comparing himself, Jon, to FDR and Winston Churchill. He did it again at his town hall when he was asked about being honest with Americans. Listen to this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I was on the top of a building and he said everything's going to be good. Everything's going to be -- be calm. And you have the Nazis dropping bombs all over London. He was very brave because he was at the top of the building. It was very well-known that he was standing on buildings and they were bombing.
And he said everybody's going to be safe. I don't think that's being necessarily honest, and yet I think it's being a great leader. But he said you're going to be safe, be calm, don't panic and you had bombers dropping bombs all over London.
[23:05:13] LEMON: So, Jon, listen, you're the historian here, but facts first.
Churchill didn't speak from rooftops. He didn't say everything's going to be good. He levelled with the British people. This comparison is just really downright absurd.
MEACHAM: It is and it conflates so many different things. And the president is a master at this, right? Of sort of taking bits and pieces of truth and mixing them in this casserole of lies. And one of the things that's relevant here is I wrote a book about Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. And to paraphrase Lloyd Benson, I knew Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill and this guy is no Franklin Roosevelt or Winston Churchill.
Churchill said, the British people or the American people can face any misfortune with fortitude and buoyancy as long as they are convinced that those who are in charge of their affairs are not deceiving them or not themselves dwelling in a fool's paradise. It's a two-prong test. They want to make sure they are not lying to us and we want to make sure they're not lying to themselves. In the current moment, I think the president fails both.
LEMON: We don't have long until Election Day, Jon, seven weeks away. How big are the stakes for the future of this country?
MEACHAM: I think it's as important an election as 1864. Honestly. Because -- which was Lincoln running for re-election. Because of this role, this question about reason. And, look, I'm not a Democrat. I'm not a partisan person. But a historically-based clinical understanding read of what's unfolding now is that people are choosing their team and their tribe before they begin to think at all.
And I do believe that Vice President Biden becoming president would begin to move the needle in the right direction away from a world where we just let our -- always triumph over our brains.
LEMON: Yes. The president today, he's in overdrive trying to undermine the voting process. He said that the only way that he could lose it is if the election is rigged. Are you worried about how this election is going to play out?
MEACHAM: Sure. I think it's -- I think we should start talking about election week, and I know our colleague Fareed Zakaria has talked about this, too. It needs to -- the idea that we're going to know by the time everybody goes to bed on election night is needs to be put to the side. And part of the authoritarian playbook is to undermine trust in institutions, including the institutions of elections and the ballot itself.
And so I think it's quite possible that there'll be a lot of litigation. We might be back in a situation as we were in 2000 with -- that in 2000 we had two actors who in Vice President Gore and Governor Bush both of whom fundamentally believed in the rule of law and were going to follow the system.
LEMON: Yes. I want to talk to you about this. Listen, I have, you know, now jumped into the podcast waters. And so have you. You have a new podcast, it's called It was said, right? Tell me about it. What are you doing with it?
MEACHAM: It's 10 great speeches and it's particularly relevant when you think about what we've been talking about. These are -- it's Dr. King, on his the last night of his life. It's Robert Kennedy eulogizing Dr. King the next day. Ronald Reagan's farewell address. John Lewis at the March on Washington. Hillary Clinton in Beijing. Its speeches that changed how we saw the world. And when you think about even just as recently as Barbara Jordan in 1976 when she gave the keynote address at the Democratic National Convention.
You have these moments where words matter and words shape how we see ourselves and the country. And what we saw tonight at Hillsdale was how words can shape us for the ill. These are examples where great Americans devoted to the ideas of the Declaration of Independence and making them real tried to make the country better.
LEMON: Jon Meacham. The podcast was called It was said. Thank you, sir. I appreciate it. I'll see you soon.
MEACHAM: Thanks, Don.
LEMON: Thank you. So, it's 48 days until election night and we're following these breaking news stories for you, stories that can impact how Americans cast their vote in the 2020 election. The Attorney General, as we have been discussing, William Barr tonight claiming that calls for a national lockdown in the middle of the pandemic are the equivalent of house arrest, calling it the greatest intrusion on civil liberties other than slavery in the U.S. -- in U.S. history.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM BARR, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL: You know, putting a national lockdown, stay-at-home orders is like house arrest. It's the -- you know, other than slavery, which was a different kind of restraint, this is the greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American history.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: And the president adding more chaos to his administration's handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Tonight completely contradicting his own CDC Director's statements made under oath during Congressional testimony. He said that a COVID-19 vaccine might be widely available for up to -- might not be widely available, I should say, for up to a year.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: No, I think he made a mistake when he said that. It's just incorrect information. And I called him and he didn't tell me that, and I think he got the message maybe confused. Maybe it was stated incorrectly. No, we're ready to go immediately as the vaccine is announced, and it could be announced in October, could be announced a little bit after October. But once we go, we're ready.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: Confused, made a mistake. More on the president's response in just a moment. He also rebuked Dr. Redfield for saying masks may be more effective than any potential vaccine and protecting people against the virus. Trump claiming there are a lot of problems with masks, but medical experts disagree with that, saying masks are an essential tool in the battle against COVID-19.
The president making a lot of false claims in his White House appearance tonight. We're setting the record straight with a fact check for you. So I want to get straight to CNN's White House correspondent John Harwood and our resident fact checker, Daniel Dale. Good evening, gentlemen. Mr. Harwood, you first. I can't believe that I'm saying this, but the Attorney General is comparing the coronavirus shutdown to slavery. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARR: You know, putting a national lockdown, stay-at-home orders is like House arrest. It's the -- it's the -- it's, you know, other than slavery, which was a different kind of restraint, this is the greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American history.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: What? What?
JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Don, Bill Barr has marked himself pretty plainly as a fanatic. And let's talk about what that means. He gave a speech -- and we've talked about this on your show before -- at Notre Dame last year where he said that conservative Christians who believe in traditional values were fighting a war against militant secularists who were threatening to upend traditional values.
He seems now to be lumping a wide array of people into that group of militant secularists, which he said was academia, the media, Hollywood, et cetera. So, he has been particularly complaining, and he did tonight at Hillsdale, about lockdowns interfering with religious services. He seems to be lumping junior prosecutors within the Justice Department as also part of those militant secularists. He's doing the same thing with public health authorities.
This is -- he's doing the same thing with the mayor of Seattle. There's a report in The New York Times this evening that he has asked prosecutors to see whether he could prosecute the mayor because of the -- her administration of protests in Seattle. He has made himself an instrument of President Trump because President Trump is on the side that is resisting the side that Bill Barr is representing.
You know, Jon Meacham talked with you a minute ago about the era of irrationality. I think at the core of that era is the existential fear of a certain group of conservative white Christians that they're being overrun in the country. Their power is being eclipsed. And Bill Barr is trying to stand in the breach and stop that. And he does not seem to be showing much restraint in how he does that. LEMON: Daniel Dale, listen, there were a lot of lies during the
president's briefing. I mean, that's the only way to put it, so please give us the fact check.
DANIEL DALE, CNN FACT CHECKER: Don, I counted at least 12 false or misleading claims from the president at this one news conference. He said, as you said, that there are a lot of problems with masks and that masks perhaps help. There is overwhelming consensus among scientists and everyone, basically, that masks are effective and they are critical.
He said again that the cupboard was bare of ventilators when he took office. His own administration admits they inherited about 16,000 from the Obama administration. He said U.S. Coronavirus death numbers would be very low. If you just didn't count the blue states. Fact check one, Trump is president of the entire United States. Fact check two, even if you do accept that absurd premise and take out all the blue states, the U.S. would still have more than 90,000 deaths. It would still be second worst in the world. It would not be good.
He said the Iran nuclear deal would be practically expiring right now. Some key provisions do have sunset clauses in 2025, but others continue up until even 2040 before they sunset. Some don't sunset at all.
He delivered a flurry of at least four false claims about mail voting. He said that Nevada's Democratic Governor controls the ballots there. He doesn't. It's a Republican Secretary of State. He said Nevada isn't verifying signatures. It is. He said a recent New York Democratic primary was rife with fraudulence. It was not. There is no evidence of fraud. He falsely said it's easy for foreign countries to interfere with mail ballots. Experts say it's extraordinarily difficult.
He falsely said that before him the U.S. used to lose every single time at the World Trade Organization. His own council of economic adviser said in 2018 that the U.S. has won 86 percent of the cases it had brought since 1995. He falsely said a poll showed that 84 percent of African-Americans want more police.
In fact, the Gallup Poll he seemed to be referring to showed that 20 percent of African-Americans want more police, 61 percent said they want the same police presence. He misleadingly said that Biden called police the enemy. Biden was specifically saying that when police roll into a strange neighborhood in an armored military vehicle they, quote, become the enemy in the eyes of residents.
He provided that as you are talking about a vaccine timeline, that's widely at odds with the timeline provided by actual experts and he again accused Biden of promoting anti-vaccine theories. Look, Biden has not gone anti-vaccer. He earlier today encouraged people to take a vaccine that is validated by scientists. He simply said he doesn't trust Trump's word alone. He said I trust vaccines, I trust scientists, but I do not trust Donald Trump. Don?
LEMON: OK. So today was a quiet day, it seems, when it comes to fact checking.
DALE: Quieter than yesterday.
LEMON: Here you go, Daniel. Guess what. There was so much to fact check that we've run out of time on this segment and we will leave it there. Thank you both. I appreciate it.
The president throwing his own CDC Director under the bus as an assault on the truth, but what will it do to the CDC's credibility in the middle of a pandemic? When their advice could save lives.
LEMON: President Trump calling his CDC Director confused and mistaken on two issues that are critical to the coronavirus pandemic. Masks and vaccines. Dr. Jonathan Reiner is here. He is the Director of Cardiac Catheterization -- the Cardiac Catheterization Program at George Washington University Hospital. Thank you, sir. Thank you, doctor. Good to see you again.
Listen, I've got to get your reaction to this president's assault on widely proven science at today's briefing. This is dangerous.
I think -- doctor, did you hear me?
JONATHAN REINER, CNN MEDICAL ANALYST: Oh, yes, I'm sorry. I thought there was a sound clip coming. Yes, it's -- it was stunning. This week, scientific American for the first time in their 175-year history endorsed a candidate for president. And what they said in their really damning endorsement of Vice President Biden was that Trump has badly damaged the United States and its people because he rejects evidence and science.
And that's what he does every single day, and that's what he did today after a very simple statement by the CDC Director. The CDC Director in his testimony today before Congress said two things that most middle schoolers would say. He said if -- basically if you need to vaccinate 330 million people, it's going to take many months to do. And that in the interim, in a respiratory pandemic, we should be wearing masks. But yet that doesn't make any sense to the president.
You know (inaudible) we live in the post-truth world, Don.
LEMON: Yes. And it's not the first time that he has publicly corrected Dr. Redfield. What does this do --
LEMON: -- to the credibility of the CDC?
REINER: Well, it's demoralizing for the professionals who work at the CDC. Over and over and over again during this pandemic the administration and the president himself has pulled the rug out from the CDC. The CDC issued really great guidelines on how states could reopen after the initial shutdowns, but that was completely watered down by the president constantly, incessantly urging states to reopen.
The CDC has always been nonpartisan purveyor of scientific truth in this country charged with protecting the health of Americans. And we see what damage can be done when we have a purely partisan, scientifically incurious president of the United States.
LEMON: You know, he keeps saying that a vaccine is going to be ready within weeks, which is not in line with what we hear from health officials. Is this concerning? And confusing to you on this whole vaccine talk?
REINER: No. No. First of all, everyone wants a vaccine.
REINER: Everyone wants a vaccine. I want a vaccine tomorrow. As long as it's safe and effective. And what Vice President Biden said today was interesting. He said he -- he totally trusts vaccines, but he doesn't trust the president. And I think that -- that's the problem. Look, the president doesn't really care about how long it takes to administer the vaccine. He doesn't really care about that. He just wants to be able to say we have a vaccine.
It's going to take a very long time to administer 750 million doses of vaccine to people in this country. The supply chain is very, very complicated.
We'll get it done. In the interim, we need to stay safe, and that's what Director Redfield was saying today. But the president just needs a win. And the win is a licensed vaccine. So he can walk away saying no one could have gotten you a vaccine quicker. The truth of the matter is the average Joe in this country won't have somebody sticking that vaccine in his arm until sometime this summer at the earliest. And it's going to take -- I think it's going to take --
LEMON: Summer of 2021.
REINER: -- two years to vaccinate this country. It's going to take two years to vaccinate this country.
LEMON: Wow. Listen, tonight we learned a White House staffer tested positive for coronavirus. We've seen, you know, few masks, little social distancing at the White House.
LEMON: Are you concerned that this could lead to more cases?
REINER: I'm surprised there haven't been more, but the -- the administration has been protecting the president with the exact strategy that he would deny the rest of us. Which is testing. The president has said he thinks we test too much. That's the only reason we have cases. So the White House basically blankets the president with the Abbott
Rapid Assay, which is now in short supply all over the country, including my hospital six blocks from the White House. So, we really can't do that test anymore, but the White House is using it in abundance to protect the president.
LEMON: Dr. Reiner, thank you so much. I appreciate it.
REINER: My pleasure, Don.
LEMON: CDC Director Robert Redfield saying that masks are the best defense we currently have against the coronavirus, but the president undercutting his comments. We're going to break down the science, the real facts about masks, next.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERT REDFIELD, DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: These face masks are the most important, powerful public health tool we have. And I will continue to appeal for all Americans, all individuals in our country, to embrace these face coverings. I've said it, if we did it for six, eight, 10, 12 weeks, we'd bring this pandemic under control. These actually -- we have clear scientific evidence they work and they are our best defense.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: President Trump didn't like that, contradicted Redfield saying that there are a lot of problems with masks.
I want to discuss now with Dr. William Schaffner, professor of infectious disease at Vanderbilt -- diseases, I should say -- at Vanderbilt University. Doctor, good evening. Thanks for joining. Dr. Redfield didn't seem at all confused to me. What do you think about the assessment about the importance of masks?
WILLIAM SCHAFFNER, PROFESSOR OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES, VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY: Well, Dr. Redfield, of course, is right on the money. The masks, the wearing of masks is simple, easy, and profoundly effective if we would all but do it. We protect each other and we protect ourselves. If we do that comprehensively, we can diminish the spread of this virus.
It stands to reason. This virus is spread by exhaling the virus. If we inhibit exhaling the virus, hello, it's more difficult for the virus to find someone else to infect. It's very straightforward. And obviously it protects us to a degree, too, because it will prevent some of the virus that's out there from getting in.
So wearing masks, that's the easiest, the cheapest, the least intrusive thing that we can do, some of them even look kind of flashy and nice.
LEMON: I will show you mine, but I won't at this moment. You know, he also said that they might offer more protection than a vaccine when we actually get one, and that vaccines might be completely -- might not be completely effective. How will people know once they get the vaccine if it is working for them or not?
SCHAFFNER: Ah, that may be a little bit difficult. We're going to see exactly in these large trials how effective the vaccine is. There are very few among us who think the vaccine will be 100 percent effective. Maybe it's more like the flu vaccine. You know, 50, 60 percent effective. And so even after we get the vaccine, we won't know if it protects us. Therefore, hey, we're still going to have to wear the mask.
SCHAFFNER: People don't like me saying that, but I'm afraid it's true, Don. We're going to have to keep social distancing for quite some time. After all, there won't be enough vaccine for everybody right away. It will take a long time to vaccinate. Some people will stand back from vaccination.
And, remember, it will take two doses. So, we're all going to have to do this twice, rolling up our sleeves. All that will take time. So, there are some people who think that the moment the vaccine is announced they can take their masks and throw them in the trash can.
SCHAFFNER: Put them back on the next morning when you go out and for months thereafter. This is a marathon.
LEMON: Yeah. I should have played this video when you talked about how it spread, right, through droplets, because this is the simulation. It shows how far and how fast cough can travel. And we see the droplets quickly go from three feet to six feet to nine feet and even further, several feet beyond the social distancing guidelines. Do we know how long the droplets can linger in the air?
SCHAFFNER: There are studies to show us that. But the important thing is nothing is 100 percent. But masks really inhibit how far out.
SCHAFFNER: The spray, if you will, the microscopic spray can go. And so if we all wear the masks, that will diminish the risk. Remember, there's no such thing as safe. I don't like to use that four-letter word.
SCHAFFNER: It's reducing the risk. LEMON: Yeah. I just want to put this up. You don't have to respond, but I just want our viewers to see when you wear a mask, if we can show the video, how it -- what happens with that cough. So this is a mask. And then the cough happens. And look at that. So, you're right, and through this simulation, you can see wearing a mask certainly stops it from going at least three, six or nine feet.
Thank you, doctor. I appreciate it.
SCHAFFNER: Good to see you, Don.
LEMON: President Trump dismissing the deaths of Americans in blue states. What does Michigan have to say about that? The lieutenant governor is with me, next.
LEMON: Over 196,000 Americans -- I should say more than 196,000 Americans have died from the coronavirus. And tonight, the president contradicted his own CDC director not once but twice, disputing that Dr. Redfield's claims about a vaccine timeline and the effectiveness of masks.
Let's discuss now with lieutenant governor -- lieutenant governor of Michigan, Garlin Gilchrist. Lieutenant governor, thank you. I really appreciate you joining us.
LT. GOV. GARLIN GILCHRIST (D-MI): Don, thank you for having me. It's an honor to be here.
LEMON: I want to ask you about your take on the president saying tonight that if we took the blue states out, we have, you know, a level no one in the world would be at. What should the people in Michigan take from that, think about that comment?
GILCHRIST: We should think about the words of Maya Angelou that says when someone shows you who they are, believe them. That is one of the clearest articulations from Donald Trump, that he does not view all of America as his constituents. He only views his base as the people who he cares about or will try to take care of or try to respond to.
And when he refers to blue states, he's talking about people whose lives he clearly does not value. And, frankly, the lies that he's told, the policies that he's enacted or not enacted, the ignorance that he's shown on the virus, has led to people dying all across the country, including states like Michigan.
We've been one of the hardest hit states. We've had to scramble like other state level administrations to try to respond to this. I've lost 23 people in my own life. I mean, I just really --
LEMON: Wow! GILCHRIST: -- hate to see that. And it really shows you why we need different leadership in office in Washington, why we need Joe Biden and Kamala Harris.
LEMON: Listen, I want to get -- before we get to, you know, President Trump, I got to ask you about -- this is the speech at Hillsdale College tonight. The attorney general, Bill Barr, said this about the lockdowns to slow the spread of coronavirus. Here it is.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WILLIAM BARR, UNITED STATES ATTORNEY GENERAL: Other than slavery, which was a different kind of restraint, this is the greatest intrusion on civil liberties in American history.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: What do you think? I mean, it's hard to believe that this could happen in America. What do you say to that?
GILCHRIST: The lack of humanity and empathy that is just so present throughout this administration is disgusting. It is inhumane. I mean, to say that, you know, you're uncomfortable, needing to stay home and stay safe, when people who have had to work this whole pandemic have put their lives at risk so others could do so, and, by the way, most of the people -- the majority of the people who have to do that in Michigan, you know, were people of color. We're overrepresented in those jobs.
And for him to say that that was hard to stay home, what's hard is getting COVID-19, what's hard is to be on a ventilator, what's hard is have to mourn your family members without having a funeral to be safe.
That's what's difficult and that what's injustice and a threat to our rights and our lives as Americans and as human beings. It's really disgusting to the have the attorney general of the United States say something like that.
LEMON: He also went after Black Lives Matter at that event tonight. Watch.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BARR: And that's why these so-called Black Lives Matter people -- as a proposition, who can quarrel with the proposition Black Lives Matter? But they're not interested in black lives, they're interested in -- they're interested in props, a small number of blacks who are killed by police during conflict with police, usually less than a dozen a year, who they can use as props to achieve a much broader political agenda.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
LEMON: So, BLM doesn't care about black lives. He is waving aside the concerns about policing that have led to massive protests. What do you hear? What do you think when you hear that? GILCHRIST: I mean it's like they're trying to run up the score. I mean, on the racism and on the -- just the lack of care for the human condition, particularly for the most vulnerable people to police violence and most vulnerable people to COVID-19. They don't care.
And what we need, we need leaders who actually care about all of the people of our country and all of our communities. We need empathy and understanding because that is where good policy comes from. Be willing to connect with people on a human level so you can then respond to what they are calling for their leaders to do.
They're incapable of this. They are only focused on themselves. And that level of self-centeredness and selfishness is dangerous to people's lives. I think that's what's led to the massive loss of life that we've seen in 2020.
LEMON: Lieutenant governor, you gave a damning assessment of Trump's coronavirus response at a digital town hall this weekend.
LEMON: I just want to play a little of that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GILCHRIST: Donald Trump is a liar who has killed people, OK, straight up. COVID-19 pandemic has killed more than 6,000 people in Michigan. It has killed 23 in my life personally, all right? I hold him responsible for that in terms of the failed response, the economy that's been destroyed because of it, and everything in between.
LEMON: As you know, he is claiming his administration has done a great job. Hundreds of thousands of Americans are missing family members and loved ones, as you are, because of -- because of this virus.
GILCHRIST: You know, we had a memorial here in Detroit for the, you know, more than 1,500 people who passed away. We had 900 pictures of people that you could drive through and see because people haven't been able to mourn in the traditional way. These are the people that Donald Trump doesn't remember, but the people do, their family members do, I do as a public servant and as a leader.
You know, this is just the absolute wrong and worst person to be in power for such a time as this. Instead, we need people who are responsive, who are empathetic. I mean, I hate to sound repetitive, but it's true. They are so disconnected from reality.
Instead, if people were willing to listen, if leaders were willing to be responsive, we could have policy that will make sure everyone has what they need, that everyone wears a mask because, yes, the science says that masks save lives, that everyone will step up and make sure that we can get testing to where people need to get testing, people can have insurance and have doctors. This is what we need to be focussing on as leaders right now.
LEMON: Lieutenant governor, thank you for your time. Be safe.
GILCHRIST: Thank you, Don. Take care.
LEMON: We'll be right back.
LEMON: This week, CNN has been highlighting people who came up with fresh solutions to big problems in our series "Champions for Change." Well, tonight, a world-class surgeon who created a unique program that allows patients to tackle medical debt by volunteering. We caught up with the doctor in Nebraska before the pandemic hit.
DEMETRIO AGUILA, SURGEON: 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 these 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, between my active service and my reserve time. We did a lot of surgery in Afghanistan, largely humanitarian surgery. About 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 M25 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 they say, 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.
It also allows 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, and we have neighbors helping neighbors.
JEFF JENSEN, PATIENT: I suffered from neuropathy, which is compression of the nerves in your lower leg and foot. My right leg feels like it is asleep all the time. Stairs are always the hard part. I can very easily fall.
He tells me, it's 560 community service hours, Jeff. $12,000 was not doable. I have a small business. So, you know, 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 probably would have just said, well, we'll deal with it and save money until we can pay for it.
KRISTI BRUMMELS, UNIVERSITY OF NEBRASKA MEDICAL CENTER: I saw a video on Dr. Aguila's Facebook of Jeff telling his story and how he became involved with the M25 Program.
I immediately thought of the nursing students here at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. And so I thought it would be the perfect fit for a community service project. We provided approximately 180 hours of community service collectively toward Mr. Jensen's surgery.
JENSEN: Not one person in that nursing program knew who I was. It was the kindness of strangers 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's hard to make a difference if you don't try to disrupt the status quo. The M25 Program empowers patients who often feel like victims of the system.
In my heart of hearts, I had this hope that we would rekindle, in our neighbors and in ourselves, a sense of volunteerism.
LEMON: Nice job. You should also know that despite the coronavirus pandemic, volunteer work continues with safety protocols in place to help patients pay off their medical bills.
We will continue to share these inspirational stories all week. Make sure you watch "Champions for Change," one-hour special, this Saturday at 10:00 p.m.
We thank you so much for watching. Oh, tomorrow night, I should tell you, on CNN at 8:00 p.m., Democratic candidate Joe Biden has a town hall. It is going to be moderated by Anderson. So please tune in and we will be covering it here tomorrow night.
So, now, thank you for watching. Our coverage continues.