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Barr Likens Virus Lockdown to Slavery; Remnants of Sally Dump Rain; America Pays Price for Climate Denial; Twitter's Tiny Warning Label on Trump's Tweet. Aired 6:30-7a ET

Aired September 17, 2020 - 06:30   ET



ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: That was Attorney General Bill Barr speaking at a conservative college, likening calls for businesses to close and people to stay home to prevent the spread of coronavirus to slavery.

Let's discuss.

Joining us now, CNN political commentator Errol Louis and CNN political analyst Margaret Talev.

Hey, Errol, first of all, there was no national lockdown, may I say. That didn't happen. No one was behind bars. I mean other than President Trump's cronies, like Manafort, who were behind bars during that time.


CAMEROTA: But, you know, people were free to go to Trader Joe's, people, you know, were free to -- essential workers -- go to work. What's he talking about?

ERROL LOUIS, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, he's speaking as a politician and not as a legal scholar or, frankly, as a -- a responsible public official.

You know, which have -- all over the country, happening now, we have situations where there are flat-out emergencies, whether it's from fire or flood or hurricanes or the pandemic, where the government has to tell people, you've got to do certain things. And some of those things are more or less restrictive. That's simply the way it is.

Bill Barr knows this very well. He throws out the red meat of comparing it to slavery in order to be in line with the political needs of his master, President Trump. It's beyond offensive, I should say. You know, on my mother's side, I have ancestors who were enslaved. It was -- it has nothing to do with public health. It has nothing to do with saving lives. Bill Barr knows this very well. He's simply trying to sort of go along with what the administration is trying to do in these last 47 days before the election.

BERMAN: It's beyond offensive. It really is. I mean it's striking to hear it. First of all, it's a false choice, as Alisyn points out. Secondly, it's just absurd to use it in the same sentence even.

And, Margaret, what strikes me that Michael Caputo had to take a 60- day leave of absence and apologize for saying something in the same family of what the attorney general said last night in front of cameras. Something the president said in front of cameras last night, attacking the science, making absurd claims. One guy had to apologize and take a leave of absence, but it's on the same continuum.

MARGARET TALEV, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Yes, John, you know, I -- what I'm really struck by is the idea that the attorney general is talking about civil liberties, but this is the same attorney general who we've seen reports that he's raised the specter of using the sedition act to go after people involved in protests that turn violent and perhaps even some of the public officials who directed where those people should be or what laws should govern them.

So I think you're having a battle here over -- it's fundamentally a free speech and a political expression battle that weighs the need of the public safety or the public good against, in the protester's case, how they want to express themselves, and in the government's case, how the president wants his scientists, his public health officials, to communicate vis-a-vis his messaging and political goals.

And at HHS, what you're seeing is, this has had, in Mr. Caputo's case, a really chilling effect on some of the scientists in house. We know Mr. Caputo has a medical issue, that the medical leave will allow him to stand back rather than resign and lose those benefits, those coverage.

With Barr, what we see is a situation where all of this messaging is coming just before the election. And the real concern from some former prosecutors, some legal analysts is how he will step in to defend or sort of prosecute the president's prerogatives when it comes to votes and how votes are cast.

CAMEROTA: Errol, isn't this so telling? I mean this is the same attorney general who thinks there's no systemic racism.


CAMEROTA: And so he thinks that being asked to stay home for the public good, though you can go to Trader Joe's at any time you want during the day and shop for groceries, he thinks that that's what slavery was like.

LOUIS: Yes, I would only say, Alisyn, I'm not sure what Bill Barr thinks anymore. You know, he's a talented lawyer. He can twist an argument any which way. They teach you how to do that in law school. And he is -- he is simply acting, as I said, as a -- sort of a political shill in some ways, which is very, very unfortunate.

You have, at the same time, another official, Dr. Redfield, who you've sort of shown some of his comments earlier this morning, who's trying to tell the public what they need to do to save their lives. It's as direct and as responsible and as helpful as you can possibly be. And then you have the political wing of this administration trying to salvage what looks like a losing campaign. And they're from the -- sort of the say anything wing of politics, say absolutely anything, whether it's obviously untrue, whether it's clearly offensive, whether it's a complete distraction, they just say anything. And that's what it looks like when you're flailing politically.

Unfortunately, we're in the middle of some real serious stuff and people need to hear some truth, not just the political failings of a troubled campaign.


BERMAN: And he called DOJ prosecutors preschoolers, as well, which I'm sure will go over well inside the Department of Justice today.

Margaret, on another note, a whistle-blower is suggesting that in the federal response to protests, including the ones we saw in front of the White House, broken up by various law enforcement officials, there was a stockpiling of munitions and there was a discussion of using this heat ray device, which I don't know if people have seen pictures of it, but it's pointed at people and it makes your skin feel like it is burning and makes you really freak out and get out of town as quickly as you can. It was not used, ultimately, but this whistle- blower says it was discussed.

What does that tell you?

TALEV: It tells me there's still a lot of discussions that happen behind the scenes among the White House and the president's advisers in these early weeks of the pandemic that are going to come to light, whether it's in congressional hearings or leaks or books to be forthcoming. And again, this goes to the question of how the administration understands the idea, which is like foundational to the Constitution, of people expressing their right to political dissent, to take issue with what the administration does, to demonstrate peacefully, and what means are appropriate to contain that. And, you know, I think this is a concerning report and we're going to be hearing a lot more about it.

CAMEROTA: Pentagon officials were reluctant to use it in Iraq because of ethical concerns about what it could do to humans. Just -- just throwing that out there. I mean the lack of humanity of the -- thinking about using this on the mostly peaceful protesters.

Thank you both very much.

BERMAN: All right, be sure to watch CNN's presidential town hall with Joe Biden live from Pennsylvania, moderated by Anderson Cooper. It's tonight at 8:00 p.m. Eastern, only on CNN.

Well, the remnants of Hurricane Sally dumping heavy rain over Georgia and the Carolinas today. Chad Myers with the forecast, ahead.


[06:40:57] BERMAN: Breaking this morning, heavy rain in Georgia and the Carolinas. This is the remnants of Hurricane Sally. The storm caused extensive damage from flooding and historic rainfall along the Gulf Coast.

CNN meteorologist Chad Myers with a look at this and the forecast, Chad.

CHAD MYERS, AMS METEOROLOGIST: John, I think at 8:00 this morning, when the weather service puts out the grand tally of rainfall amounts, we are going to be shocked, even the ones from yesterday at Pensacola over 2 feet. Panama City Beach, over a foot. And it was still raining when those numbers were being tallied. So we'll get more here.

The entire area that's white, and I know that this is the Gulf of Mexico. But everywhere that's white, that's 20 inches or more estimated by radar. Now we have to go to the rain gauges and see what really happened, but Atlanta's already 4 inches of rainfall in the overnight hours, and that rain is going to head into the Carolinas.

The problem when it does is that it's not flat land. Carolinas, especially upstate South Carolina and even towards the Piedmont, very mountainous, very rugged. And so that water is going to go down the hills into the valleys and those valleys are going to flood. We already have flash flood warnings all across the Atlanta, Georgia, area, all the way down towards Macon and the like, almost down to the Gulf Coast.

Now, the ones that were for Florida are not flash flood warnings, they're just river flood warnings. And many rivers are completely out of their banks.

Here's 1:00 today, South Carolina, North Carolina by 7:00, even Hampton Roads by tomorrow morning, still seeing some rainfall. And it's not really over. Look at that, 4 to 6 inches all in those areas that are very hilly and a record runoff in some spots here across parts of the Piedmont, for sure.

We're still looking at Vicky and Teddy out here, but we're not seeing Wilfred yet. Where could Wilfred be? Well, could be in the Gulf of Mexico. Very disorganized storm right now and really no sense of movement with this, but hurricane center says over the next five days, a 70 percent chance of something down here in the gulf.


BERMAN: Wilfred is mercurial, there's no question about that, Chad.

Thanks so much for being with us this morning. Appreciate it.


CAMEROTA: Look, as Chad just showed us, it's a very active season. We are in the midst of the most active hurricane season in the Atlantic in 15 years. And then all along the West Coast, millions of acres are on fire. President Trump still denies climate change and John Avlon has our

"Reality Check."


JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: If you're still in denial about whether climate change is real, you ought to have your head examined, or you might be President Trump.

There are at least 87 wildfires burning across the western United States, consuming more than 4.7 million acres to date. Phoenix has seen a record 50 consecutive days over 110 degrees, while the skies over San Francisco have been choked with orange smoke, making it look like a dystopian sci-fi film. But it's all too real, with the northwest now containing three cities with the worst air quality on earth, which shows you why comments like this --


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (September 24, 2015): I believe in clean air, immaculate air.


TRUMP: I believe in clean water. All of those things.

I am not a believer in climate change.

AVLON: Are dangerous nonsense. But, of course, President Trump doubled down while visiting fire-ravaged California this week.

TRUMP: It will start getting cooler.


TRUMP: You just -- you just watch.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I wish science agreed with you.

TRUMP: Well, I don't think science knows, actually.

AVLON: Science does know, Mr. President. So does any sentient being.

Right now there are five tropical cyclones in the Atlantic at the same time. That's only happened once before in recorded history. There are two major glaciers breaking apart in Antarctica, one the size of Florida. Scientists warn it could lead to runaway ice melt, lifting sea levels as much as 4 feet. And this comes on the heels of a chunk of ice about twice the size of Manhattan breaking off Greenland.

This is happening right here, right now. But President Trump doesn't have a plan because he does not believe in climate change. His administration censored official government reports and withdrew us from the Paris Climate Accords. His administration has erased or obscured the term "climate change" from government websites, scrubbed it from a list of national security threats, and he's continued to appoint climate change deniers to senior scientific positions.


But despite all this, President Trump declared himself the number one environmental president last week. He's hoping that you won't remember his move to repeal dozens of environmental regulations, including loosening restrictions on toxic air pollution and rolling back clean water protections.

So it's perhaps no surprise that "Scientific American" just made its first presidential endorsement in 175 years. They've endorsed Joe Biden, because, unlike President Trump, he's actually proposed a plan to deal with climate change.

Here's the thing, environmental policies and even climate change didn't used to be a choice between denial and doing something. The conservation movement was basically started by Republican President Teddy Roosevelt. Nixon created the EPA. And Ronald Reagan was president when the first major climate change legislation, the Global Climate Protection Act of 1987, became law. And it was sponsored by, you guessed it, Joe Biden.

But now, while America burns, storms get worse and sea levels rise, the official position of the Trump administration on climate change can be summed up by this infamous quote.

TRUMP: What you're seeing and what you're reading is not what's happening.

AVLON: And that's your "Reality Check."


BERMAN: Yes, our thanks to John for what is, in fact, reality.

So Twitter has labeled President Trump's tweets as manipulated media, but is that enough? Are social media companies really doing all they can to stop the spread of misinformation? That's next.



CAMEROTA: Developing this morning, one of the two Los Angeles deputies critically injured in that ambush attack has been released from the hospital. The 24-year-old deputy went home Wednesday. His 31-year-old partner, who you can see here trying to help save his life after the shooting, remains hospitalized. A $300,000 reward is now being offered for information leading to the capture of this gunman.

BERMAN: So new this morning, President Trump with a message that suggests that American Jews aren't fully American. He did a conference call to celebrate Rosh Hashanah with American Jewish leaders. Again, these are Americans. But when talking about policy towards Israel, the president said, quote, we love your country. "Your country," as if America is not their country, Israel is, or they have dual loyalty, which, by the way, over the years has been an anti-Semitic trope.

Again, what's important here is America is their country, no matter what the president says.

CAMEROTA: Well, Twitter again labelling a video of Joe Biden, this time, that was retweeted by President Trump as manipulated media. But why won't they take something this offensive down?

CNN's Donie O'Sullivan joins us now.

This is disgusting. I mean this is one where President Trump is trying to make it look like -- or whoever put this together, then President Trump disseminated it, as though Joe Biden would actually dance to a vulgar anti-police song?


Yes, yesterday, the president retweeted this video, and I think you can see a screen shot of it here, that appeared to make it look like Joe Biden was sort of listening and dancing along to the NWA song "F the Police." That, of course, never happened. The video is from a different -- from an event in Florida earlier this week where Biden was at least trying to dance along to a totally unrelated song.

And as you mentioned, all Twitter does about this is put a tiny little label on it there that says "manipulated media," which doesn't stop people from sharing it and it doesn't really tell people even how this video was false or even that it's -- that it's false in the first place.

Now this, of course, all came a day after Trump retweeted a different account that baselessly accused Biden of being a pedophile. Twitter incredibly said that that also is not against its rules.

Now, last night, Erin Burnett asked the campaign's communications director for the Trump campaign, Tim Murtaugh, about all of this.

Have a listen.


TIM MURTAUGH, COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, TRUMP CAMPAIGN: You call it a fake video. What it is, is an Internet meme. And it was trying to make the point -- you know, we know that Joe Biden is really --

ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR, "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT": Well, I mean, Biden didn't do it. It may be a meme, but it's not what he did.

MURTAUGH: Hold on. I know but it's an Internet -- it's an Internet meme and -- and, you know, those are very frequently done to make a political point. And in this case, it is that Joe Biden is a prisoner of the extreme anti-police wing of the Democrat Party.


O'SULLIVAN: Yes, it's all just a meme, retweeting conspiracy theories, fake videos, QAnon, it's all just a meme.

You know, just because it's a meme doesn't make it any -- anymore innocuous. And, you know, Trump's own Justice Department has detailed in indictments and in sanctions just how Russia is using weaponizing online memes to divide us and to exacerbate divisions here in the United States, Alisyn.

CAMEROTA: It's disgusting, Donie, and it doesn't make sense why Twitter is using such kid gloves. I mean just call it what it is or take it down or label it clearly or don't let it be retweeted. But what are the other social media giants doing about things like this?

O'SULLIVAN: Yes, you know, and as you know, we're blue in the face from talking about something that these companies miss every single week on their own platforms. Just a few weeks ago, FaceBook missed a page that was calling for violence, calling for people to take up arms in Kenosha. And, you know, a lot of the people I speak to at these companies every day, they get it. They understand the critical role that they could play in this election. But we have seen people leave FaceBook publicly in the past few months who are saying, you know, leadership at these companies are not doing enough.

And I think one -- one new rule that Twitter brought in last week that really underscores the critical roles that these companies can play, I want to show it to you. They said that they will prohibit posts that incite unlawful conduct to prevent a peaceful transfer of power or orderly succession.


Now, of course, the fact that that rule had to be brought in, in the context of an election in the United States in 2020 is both surreal and pretty bleak, frankly. But it does, again, Alisyn, underscore just how critical a role these companies play in the Democratic process.

CAMEROTA: And you, Donie, we really appreciate you staying on top of all of these and bringing it to our attention.

Thank you very much.

Well, the head of the CDC needing to walk back comments he made about masks and vaccines, apparently because President Trump didn't like it. The latest in the battle between the president and top health officials, next.



UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When he was talking about a vaccine, Dr. Redfield said he did not think one would be widely available to the general public until the middle of 2021.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're ready to go immediately as the vaccine is announced. Could be announced in October.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I cannot tell you with any degree of certainty.