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Trump Contradicts CDC Chief's Testimony on Masks and Vaccines; Torrential Rain Causes Flooding in Alabama and Florida Panhandle; Attorney General Bill Barr Likens Virus Lockdown to Slavery. Aired 7- 7:30a ET

Aired September 17, 2020 - 07:00   ET



JOHN BERMAN, CNN NEW DAY: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and all around the world. This is New Day.

The director of the CDC testified under oath before Congress on the importance of masks. He said that wearing a mask might be more effective protection than any vaccine and that a coronavirus vaccine will not be widely available until next summer. Again, this was under oath.

President Trump didn't like that message. And despite the evidence that what Dr. Redfield is saying is accurate, and, honestly, completely non-controversial, the president said the director was, quote, confused.

And just as an academic exercise here, let's compare the scientific credentials of the two men in question. Dr. Redfield has a medical degree from Georgetown. He's a professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. He was on George W. Bush's Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS. He served in the Army Medical Corps for 20 years and has been CDC director since 2018.

As for Donald Trump, his uncle taught at MIT.


BERMAN: Also, yes, trump is known to lie every now and then.

CAMEROTA: The CDC trying to walk back Dr. Redfield's comments, seemingly to avoid embarrassment for President Trump.

Mr. Trump also blaming blue states for the U.S. having the highest death toll in the world, as though he's not the president of the entire United States, and as if red states have not lost tens of thousands of Americans also. Nearly 200,000 Americans are dead now from coronavirus.

And cases are rising this morning in 23 states. The deaths are on the rise in 25 states. Nearly 1,000 Americans died just yesterday from the virus. Also, this morning, we do have the developments in the aftermath of Hurricane Sally. A season's worth of rain fell on the Gulf Coast in a matter of hours. You can see the video here on your screen of what it did there. The threat is not over yet.

So joining us now for the latest on the pandemic and the president's war on science, CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and CNN Political Correspondent, Abby Phillip.

Sanjay, what was that yesterday? When Dr. Redfield said something that was innocuous, something that we knew about masks, and gave the same timeline that we have all been talking about with the vaccine, and then had to come out and, I guess, clean it up because somehow it embarrassed President Trump or it wasn't on the same page?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, you know, I have never seen anything quite like that. I mean, the president directly contradicting the CDC director over things that he has said before, that, frankly, many people within the task force and the federal government have said before, on both of those issues with regard to the timeline and the masks.

You know, it's interesting. I mean, there's no question the president wants the vaccine, he wants this to be the quick fix. Don't need to do any of the other public health measures, in his opinion, because we're going to have this vaccine. And it's going to come really quickly. I mean, that's the message that people keep getting.

I spoke to Moncef Slaoui, who is the chief adviser to Operation Warp Speed last week. This exact issue came up. Even if there is an authorized vaccine some time over the next few months, what does that really mean for the general public?

And I want you to listen to what he said at that point. This was just last week.


MONCEF SLAOUI, SCIENTIFIC HEAD, OPERATION WARP SPEED: If it's shown efficacious in November or in December, we don't have enough vaccine doses. We would have a few million in November and maybe 10, 20 million of each in December. That would be enough to vaccinate certain populations, start vaccinating certain populations, but not the whole population.


GUPTA: You know, there's 29 million people considered essential workers, that includes health care workers, another 75 million that are considered higher risk. They would be first in line. But when I talked to Dr. Slaoui, he said, maybe end of the first quarter next year when you would start to have enough doses to actually vaccinate those high-risk groups first.

And remember, for at least a couple of these vaccines, a few of these vaccines, we're talking about two doses each. So up to 300 million doses available by end of first quarter 2021, that would be 150 million people, potentially.

So it's not imminent and I think that that's the point that Dr. Redfield was making.

BERMAN: And it's not controversial either. And it's also -- it's probably a good -- if we had 20 million doses of vaccine available before the end of the year.


That would be an impressive thing. But it's not good enough for the president politically, which is why he attacked Dr. Redfield.

He also attacked him, and this was even more from outer space, on the issue of mask wearing. I just want you to listen to what Dr. Redfield said about wearing masks under oath.


DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, DIRECTOR, CDC: These face masks are the most important, powerful public health tool we have.

If we did it for 6, 8, 10, 12 weeks, we would bring this pandemic under control.

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 a COVID vaccine, because the immunogenicity may be 70 percent. And if I don't get an immune response, the vaccine is not going to protect me. This face mask will.


BERMAN: And that so bothered the president that he bragged about calling Dr. Redfield to dress him down for saying that under oath.

Sanjay suggested that the president's comments on masks were a sideshow. I'm not so sure. It seems to me that he is now, once again, assaulting the notion, an efficacy of mask-wearing. He made fun of Joe Biden yesterday for wearing a mask. He said that waiters have been telling him that masks aren't effective. This seems to me part of this new strategy to undermine mask-wearing in America and I'm not sure why.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, exactly. I don't think that this is something that the president is sort of doing on the side. I think it's kind of central to how he views this pandemic. He does not like masks. He's made that very clear. He made it clear when he -- you know, it was interesting to watch in the town hall, he would praise the questioners for removing their masks before asking him a question.

There's nothing wrong with necessarily them removing their masks because they were socially distanced, but the fact that he went out of his way to say, oh, good, I like that you took off your mask, was astounding to me. He really is not willing to do something very simple, which is to say, masks work. He should encourage people to wear them.

And I think what Dr. Redfield is trying to say is that this timeline that we've been talking about for the vaccine is longer than the timeline that it would take if we simply just wore masks and brought the virus under control. The president is not willing to say that.

And as a result, you see his supporters really trying to rise up against this idea of mask-wearing, because they believe it is sort of a civil liberties issue. But it's obviously something that is critical to helping us bring this virus under control.

CAMEROTA: Abby, about the vaccine that President Trump keeps talking about and keeps promising is going to happen very soon, though as Sanjay just showed us, his own head of Operation Warp Speed is not on the same timeline, nor is the CDC, you know, Joe Biden said that he doesn't necessarily trust President Trump. Here is what Joe Biden said yesterday.


JOE BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: So let me be clear. I trust vaccines, I trust scientists, but I don't trust Donald Trump.


CAMEROTA: Okay, forget my modifier, he doesn't trust Donald Trump. And that was enough, that sound right there was enough to make President Trump get very sciency suddenly. Suddenly, he went after Joe Biden to say, look, he's being anti-vaccine.

PHILLIP: I mean, I do think it's a little strange, because the president repeatedly, day after day, continues to inject politics into the vaccine timeline. In his mind, the big day is November 3rd. It is Election Day. And he has repeatedly puts the vaccine timeline ahead of that day.

So, you know, I do think that Democrats need to be very clear that an approved vaccine should be trusted by the American public. That has to be a clear message, because otherwise, you end up in some dangerous territory. But the president is not the authority on this issue. He is the one who repeatedly talks about the Election Day being some kind of benchmark for the vaccine. And every time he does that, he undermines this message.

The president's campaign is trying to make this a sort of political attack on Democrats, but it's hard for them to do that when the president goes to the White House podium and says, well, you know, I think we should have it done by October, when no one else with authority and responsibility over this vaccine is giving that same timeline.

BERMAN: So, Sanjay, in the United States yesterday, nearly 1,000 newly reported deaths, nearly 38,000 cases, which remains very high, disturbingly high. But this is a worldwide issue. And the WHO this morning, just minutes ago, has raised concern about what it sees as a very serious situation developing in Europe. [07:10:07]

What are they seeing? What's going on?

GUPTA: Yes. I mean, you can look at the trend in Europe. And, you know, what we're seeing now are the overall newly diagnosed people, confirmed cases actually sort of rising above what they saw in the spring overall, driven really by a couple of places, Spain and France, more than other places, and probably some of this sort of the impact now of the summer travel season and a lot of people co-mingling, the virus not being very forgiving, jumping from person to person.

So we're seeing some of those same spikes now that -- in Europe that we saw earlier on here. Remember, we all paid attention the Italy, and going back to March timeframe now, and said, well, that's happening in Italy, that's not likely to happen here. Now, we're seeing these increased spikes. We've never really -- we've always continued to have a high level of cases, as you mentioned, John, but we need to pay attention to what's happening over there in Spain, in France in particular. I mean, I think there're always lessons to be learned.

I think the big question, there is no question this is an unforgiving virus, how are they going to respond to this now? Are they going to actually ramp up testing, tracing? They've been doing a pretty good job. Mask-wearing, as we were just talking about, is much more widely adopted in Europe. How much of an impact is that going to have in terms of keeping this from turning into an exponential peak? We're keeping a close eye on that.

CAMEROTA: Sanjay, Abby, thank you both very much.

All right, so the remnants of Hurricane Sally could bring as much as a foot of rain today in Georgia and the Carolinas. The storm causing catastrophic flooding in Southern Alabama and the Florida Panhandle, as you can see on your screen there, more than half a million people are still without power along the Gulf Coast.

CNN's Ed Lavendera is live in hard-hit Gulf Shores, Alabama. It's nice to see you drier than yesterday, Ed.

ED LAVANDERA, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Good morning, Alisyn. Well, you can see behind me that the remnants and some of the floodwaters still have not fully receded here in Gulf Shores, Alabama. And city officials say it could be at least ten days before tourists are allowed back here.


LAVANDERA: Hurricane Sally barreled in the Gulf Coast, leaving behind potentially life-threatening floodwaters and a devastating path of destruction.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The house was shaking, it was shaking, it really was. The winds were high. It was whistling like I never heard anything before. LAVANDERA: In Alabama, a dollhouse view inside this hotel in Gulf Shores, the storm ripped off its side, showing beds and sheets blowing in the wind. Sally's strength left these homes destroyed, bringing down trees and power lines. And even leaving this boat shipwrecked on what was once land, several miles away from where it was originally docked. Its owners say they rode out the storm onboard.

ZACH HOOD, DIRECTOR, BALDWIN COUNTY, ALABAMA, EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY: The biggest thing that was catastrophic for us was how slow Hurricane Sally moved across our community. And it had very devastating consequences.

LAVANDERA: Some cities like Orange Beach, Alabama, are enforcing curfews until further notice.

MAYOR TONY KENNON, ORANGE BEACH, AL: It was an unbelievably freaky right turn of a storm that none of us ever expected. We're going to attack this thing and we're going to get our city back running just like it should be.

LAVANDERA: In Florida's Panhandle, 500 National Guard members are back on the ground helping with search and rescue efforts. The governor is urging people to stay out of any floodwaters.

GOV. RON DESANTIS (R-FL): It is hazardous. Do not try to go out in there. There could be power lines down in the water. Don't try to drive your car through it.

LAVANDERA: After Sally, a section of the three-mile bridge in Pensacola is now missing and murky waters surround the homes in this neighborhood. A flash flood emergency declared in Pensacola with most of downtown left underwater.

GINNY CRANOR, CHIEF, PENSACOLA FIRE DEPARTMENT: Flooding is bad. We had 30 inches of rain in Pensacola, which four months of rain in four hours.

LAVANDERA: And even though the storm is now every, local officials are sending this reminder for residents to be careful.

ROBERT BENDER, COMMISSIONER, ESCAMBIA COUNTY, FL: I'm here to ask the public to please stay at home, stay off the roads. We are still in an evaluation and life-saving recovery mission and we need to be able to do that job.


LAVANDERA: And, Alisyn, Hurricane Sally came ashore, the eye of the storm came right through here in Gulf Shores, Alabama, as a Category 2 hurricane. And one thing we've heard over and over from people that we've talked to in the last day or so is that they were surprised by just how powerful this storm was. Alisyn?

CAMEROTA: Ed, thank you very much for being there for us all yesterday morning and today, again, in the aftermath.

LAVANDERA: You got it.

CAMEROTA: Well, Attorney General Bill Barr thinks asking Americans to stay at home and close businesses is akin to slavery. Former White House Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci joins us next to talk about this and more.



BERMAN: So there was no national lockdown. So what you're about to hear from the attorney general, William Barr, is inaccurate as a strawman to begin with before it delves into the offensive.


WILLIAM BARR, ATTORNEY GENERAL: You know, putting a national lockdown stay-at-home orders is like house arrest. It's -- 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.


BERMAN: Joining us now, former White House Communications Director, Anthony Scaramucci. Hi, Anthony, you are a graduate of Harvard Law School. So as a trained lawyer, as someone with a knowledge of history, as a human being who has trod on this earth for several decades, what do you make of the comment from the attorney general likening staying at home and coronavirus restrictions to human bondage?


ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR: Look, it's absolutely disgusting, but it's inside of the ambit of what the president wants. So if the president saw that clip and someone now will take that clip and put it on an iPad and bring it to the Oval Office or the study and show it to him, he will be thrilled with that. He will think that sounded terrific. And so that's what William Barr is doing now.

30 years ago, when he was the attorney general for George Herbert Walker Bush, he was a hardened partisan, but he would never cross over into this sort of hysteria and this sort of radical right-wing nonsense. And so what happens is, when you have a leader that's this malignant and you have got tendencies like William Barr has, you see the exacerbation of those tendencies.

And so, listen, it's nothing short of horrific, but, again, where are the elected Republicans, John, that are going to speak out about this and say, what is this guy saying and how could he possibly say that in 2020. So it's absolutely disgusting.

CAMEROTA: We had Michael Cohen on yesterday. Of course, the president's former fixer, self-proclaimed fixer, and we asked him, who do you -- okay, well, we have the sound. I actually don't have to do a dramatic interpretation of it. Here is this moment.


CAMEROTA: Now that you are no longer in touch with him and no longer, you say, doing the bidding that you were doing, who is his new Michael Cohen? Who do you think is the new fixer for President Trump?

MICHAEL COHEN, FORMER ATTORNEY FOR DONALD TRUMP: Attorney General Bill Barr, Rudy Giuliani to an outside extent. But I would say, but for the most part, it would be Attorney General Bill Barr. And, boy, what a terrible shame, taking an illustrious career and throwing it right down the toilet, all for what?


CAMEROTA: Anthony, I mean, he thinks that it is just what you just said, that he thinks that that's who is doing the fixing for President Trump now.

SCARAMUCCI: Right. So he's in the office of the attorney general and he's supposed to be serving the American people, but he's doing that for the president. So I -- you know, I think Michael is 100 percent right about that.

So it almost begs the question, do we need a constitutional amendment to move the Justice Department over to the Supreme Court, to take it out of the hands of a malignant leader. That could happen in American society, it's happening right now, after 244 years. We had this malignant leader that has an acolyte in that position that's his supplicant.

And so maybe we have to move it, okay, to protect the institutions of our democracy and the checks and balances of the system.

So, you know, Michael is right. Michael knows President Trump as well as anybody. And, look, we all got ensnared in his web. We were trying to help him. I frankly didn't know him as well as Michael did, but I didn't realize he was going to be this bad.

Even when we were talking a year ago and I disavowed my support to the president, I had no idea that he would take it to this level. And trust me, if he gets reelected, guys, he is going to be even worse over the next four years.

And so this is why good men and women, patriots are out there, offering a surgeon general's warning label about what's to come if this guy somehow gets reelected, which I predict he will not, by the way.

BERMAN: Look, there are constitutional issues with what you're proposing, by the way, because you would have lawyers arguing in front of Supreme Court in their own branch. Leave that aside, I get what you're saying.

And I think you make an interesting point too about the attorney general only parroting what the president is saying. Because what the attorney general said, in some ways, is not terribly different than what the president himself said from the White House podium yesterday, by disputing the science that we heard from Dr. Redfield.

And it's also not functionally different than we heard from Michael Caputo, who attacked government scientists and said they were seditionists. But Caputo had to apologize and take a 60-day leave of absence. So why isn't that happening with the attorney general or the president?

SCARAMUCCI: He is of less stature than the attorney general and the president is thrilled with Attorney General Barr. He can't believe his luck. He is literally the antipode of Jeff Sessions. Attorney General Sessions was trying to follow the Constitution, was trying to listen to the people inside the Department of Justice in terms of how to maintain that semblance of serving the American people, not necessarily the American president. But, you know, William Barr doesn't care about that.

And so, listen, his reputation is disgraced now. And, you know, he has been capricious with the use of the Justice Department. The inspector general is after him in terms of how he's tried to intimidate and influence people at the Department of Justice. And this is all being done because of the leader at the top creating this, you know, horrendous environment.


But can I just say something about the Constitution? Remember, what I'm calling for is an amendment to the Constitution. And there would be ways to break that out.

CAMEROTA: I just don't know if that's going to happen before Election Day.

SCARAMUCCI: No, of course, it's not going to happen before Election Day. I'm telling that President Trump -- we haven't had a meeting. We had a procedural amendment in '93. We haven't had a significant amount since '65 with the Voting Rights Act. But if you look, if you get 26 or 27 amendments, you get one every eight years.

So we're in overtime for a constitutional amendment and it will be to check the malignancy of a potential future leader. We've learned a lot from President Trump and what he's capable of.

CAMEROTA: You know what's great about this, Anthony, is that I feel like I don't have to go to Harvard Law School now, because you're just giving us sort of the shortened cliff notes.

SCARAMUCCI: We can beam in Professor Tribe. He was Con Law (ph) professor. He used to beat up on me because I was a conservative. What's that?

CAMEROTA: Here is what I want to ask you. I don't know if Michael Caputo was forced to take the 60 days. And I think he's actually going through -- he is having issues, you know, self-described, he is having health issues, physical and maybe even mental health issues. And so he's taking a leave of absence and thank God he has the kind of job where he can address those issues.

But what happens, sometimes, with you, with Michael Cohen, maybe in the future with Michael Caputo, is once you're out of the orbit, then you have a different perspective and suddenly, I mean, according to you guys, you have more clarity. And so you always come on and you always tell us that we should fasten our seat belts and very soon, there will be people who are inside, but who are going to come out and speak out. Do you have an update for us on that?

SCARAMUCCI: Okay. Well, obviously, Colonel Vindman came out, said what he had to say earlier in the week. Miles Taylor is about to -- I don't want to steal anybody's thunder, but I think Miles Taylor is actually a CNN Contributor now. I think you've got to ask him what's coming. But I think there are people that we have worked on assiduously that are about to come out and speak.

And so once they come out, Alisyn, invite me back on and I'll tell you all the work that went into getting people comfortable with the idea that there is going to be a great stain on their family, a great stain on the reputation of America, and there are good men and women in that government. And they have to get over the cognitive dissidence of, okay, I'm here to make things a little bit normal. They've got to leave to make things a little bit more normal. They've got to leave and speak out against the nonsense that is going on.

And so I'll tell you, he doesn't have mental health issues and he spent a year in prison is Michael Cohen, because you're right, the minute that you break out of that ZIP code and you look back on it, you do see it with a lot of personal and intellectual freedom and a lot of mental clarity.

And so there's going to be a lot of people when this guy is out of office that are going to look back and they're going to go on their apology tours and their confessional tours. I would like to get as many of them out now before the election. And, hopefully, in the next week or two, you'll see that happening.

But Colonel Vindman, I thought, gave a great interview this week. I would encourage people to listen to what he said about the president of the United States being a useful idiot for Vladimir Putin.

CAMEROTA: Anthony Scaramucci, always interesting to talk to you and get your perspective. Thank you.

SCARAMUCCI: It's great to be on. I didn't like how John described me in the beginning, by the way. I'm going to talk to me. You have to say, several decades, John. You could have said, a few decades.

BERMAN: You're a young man. For your age, you're in terrific shape. You're doing great. Keep it up.

SCARAMUCCI: All right. You hurt my feelings a little bit. I just want you to know that.

BERMAN: Prunes, digestive system. Be careful.

CAMEROTA: Thank you very much. Things go off the rails of (INAUDIBLE).

SCARAMUCCI: Good to be with you.

CAMEROTA: Thank you. You too.

Be sure to watch CNN's presidential town hall with Joe Biden live from Pennsylvania. It will be moderated by Anderson Cooper tonight at 8:00 P.M. Eastern only on CNN.

President Trump, as you know, scorns science all the time. A Florida mayor who is taking on his governor over the issue of masks and reopening is going to join us next to explain.