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Cases Rising in 31 States, Record Hospitalizations in Six States; 13 Men Charged in Plot to Kidnap Michigan Governor; Soon, Confirmation Hearings Begin for Amy Coney Barrett. Aired 7-7:30a ET

Aired October 12, 2020 - 07:00   ET



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

And this morning, the coronavirus pandemic reality in United States is bad and it's getting worse. That is what the numbers clearly show this morning. Things are now headed in the wrong direction.

There's been so much focus on one case that some have lost sight of the fact that the U.S. is now averaging 50,000 new cases a day. That's the highest number in two months. 31 states across the country are seeing a surge in cases. Six states are reporting record hospitalizations. That is the reality, the nearly 50,000 new cases a day.

As for the one case in the spotlight, President Trump is getting back on the campaign trail for the first time since his own coronavirus diagnosis. Four rallies over the next four days, beginning in Florida, bringing maybe thousands of people together, perhaps maskless, certainly not social distancing, clearly a public health risk and almost definitely a questionable political choice, as well.

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN NEW DAY: And if you've been wondering what's happened to some of the people who have attended these Trump rallies, well, at least nine people who attended one in Minnesota last month have been infected with coronavirus. One of them is in intensive care this morning.

President Trump claims he has tested negative, but the White House has not provided any proof of that. This morning, Dr. Anthony Fauci is calling out the Trump campaign for using footage of him in an ad, appearing to tout the president's leadership during the pandemic, but Fauci says it was done without his knowledge or permission and that his words were taken out of context.

Joining us now to talk about all of this, we have CNN Senior Political Reporter, Nia-Malika Henderson, CNN Senior Political Analyst, John Avlon, and Dr. Paul Offit, he is the Director of the Vaccine Education and Pediatrics Professor at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. Great to have all of you.

Let's start with the medical angle, Dr. Offit. I think the people have been waiting to see what's happened after these rallies. You know, there was lots of concern when President Trump was holding these rallies, I'm thinking particularly of the indoor one in Henderson, Nevada. We haven't heard the contact tracing from there yet, in terms of what local news is reporting.

But we do have information now on what happened on September 18th in Minnesota, the Minnesota Department of Public Health has traced nine cases of coronavirus to this Trump rally, which was outdoors, as well as two more cases to a counter-rally that was held that same day. One of the people is in intensive care.

And so, you know, as the president makes clear his plans that he wants to get back and he's going to be going to Florida today and holding these rallies, your thoughts?

DR. PAUL OFFIT, DIRECTOR, VACCINE EDUCATION CENTER: Right, it's remarkable. I mean, the president asks you to participate in his cult of denialism. He brings large numbers of people together in a closed space, whether indoor or outdoor, asks you essentially not to wear mask and, by definition, not social distance, as if his denialism will mean that you aren't going to get infected. I mean, how many times does this have to happen, over and over again, when you realize that he's putting people in unnecessary risk.

The most amazing one to me is the Rose Garden ceremony. I mean, here are people like Father Jenkins, for example, from the University of Notre Dame, where he's done this great job at Notre Dame at social distancing, at wearing masks, to see all the students wearing mask. Why would he go to that meeting or that event at the Rose Garden? Does he not wear a mask?

I mean, I would like to ask him, why he doesn't? Was it out of respect for the president? Did he believe that since most other people aren't wearing it, he shouldn't wear it? I mean, he clearly knows that you can be contagious in that situation. It's just is remarkable to me that people participate in this cult of denial, if we just shut our eyes, it's all going to go away. It doesn't work that way.

BERMAN: Dr. Offit, I've heard you say, this is the most anti-science administration you've seen, particularly in the last six months. How does this campaign swing, four rallies in four days, fit with that idea?

OFFIT: Right. He's -- the president is dangerous to the public. It's not just that he doesn't set a good example, which would be to make sure that everybody tries to wear masks and social distance. The most recent data shows that if 95 percent of Americans wear masks, we would prevent 80,000 deaths over the next two months.


I mean, it's a remarkable statistic. And maybe the point is we're numb to that statistic. I mean, there's this horrible quote from Stalin, which is, one death is a strategy, a million deaths is a statistic. I mean, the fact of the matter is, because 80,000 deaths are so numbing, we just don't embrace it. But those are people. I mean, if you saw those people, you would try to do something to prevent their deaths, but somehow we just ignore it all.

CAMEROTA: And, John Avlon, the president, via tweet, is very interested in talking about what he considers his own immunity. That's not the point. That's not the point. He stays socially distanced. He stays up on a balcony at these things or on a stage. The point is, what's going to happen with all of the other thousands of people?

JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, Donald Trump doesn't exactly take other people into consideration, usually. He lives in a Trump-centric universe. But with his newfound claims to have immunity and a protective glow, which is total nonsense, scientifically and otherwise, you see the president being -- deploying out of a degree of desperation into the campaign arena. Frankly, it's some additional risk to his own health, because he's only in the early stages of recovery.

But what Dr. Offit just said, there's a cult of denialism that stems from Donald Trump, that flows through his administration, that is impacting his supporters, in a time when we are seeing cases spike like in states like Florida and they're in the heartland, as we showed with unprecedented rates of hospitalization. This is a public health hazard that he's pursuing because he's desperately trying to claw his way back into the polls.

BERMAN: Yes. But that's the irony too, isn't it? Because, as Dr. Offit makes clear, it's bad public health, it's dangerous public health. But, Nia, it's not at all clear to me that it's good politics. Going to Florida, there are some seniors, I'm told, who live in Florida. What if you're a senior watching T.V. and you see 2,000 people. Could be 10,000 people, for all I know, packed into an airplane hangar there near a president who just got over coronavirus. What are you supposed to think?

NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: No. I think you're exactly right. The president, I think, believes this is a show of strength. He's able to barn storm all of these states over the next couple of days, but it really is a show of weakness. He's doing particularly terrible among seniors. You think about a state like Florida, you think about a state like Pennsylvania, as well, in the top ten or so in terms of aging populations. And those are the voters that he's doing so poorly among.

You look at the internals of that new Washington Post poll, he is tied among men, up 26 points among women, up 12 points among independents. This is not a recipe for coming -- for getting elected. So it's hard to see how he thinks these sort of rallies are better than the debate he passed on. It probably would have been much better for him to participate in a debate where tens of millions of viewers would get a look at him, even though he didn't do so well in that first debate. But these rallies are just not a good look for him.

It also probably would have been better just to talk to local news anchors, right? They would carry that wall to wall in a way that I'm not sure that these kind of rallies where seniors are going to be watching, vulnerable populations are going to be watching and saying, what is this president thinking. It only underscores what they think already about him, which is that he has handled the coronavirus terribly. Not only nationally, but personally in terms of what he's done with his own behavior and folks in the White House.

CAMEROTA: Dr. Offit, so now, Dr. Anthony Fauci has had to come forward and say that he was taken out of context and that he doesn't appreciate being used in this new Trump campaign ad. As John has pointed out this morning, Dr. Fauci, on our air, is so careful, he's so diplomatic. He really doesn't want to weigh in on the politics stuff, but this leaves him no choice.

So let me just play the ad and then we'll talk about what was out of context. So, listen to this.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: President Trump is recovering from the coronavirus and so is America. Together, we rose to meet the challenge.

President Trump tackled the virus head-on, as leaders should.



CAMEROTA: Dr. Anthony Fauci did not say, I can't imagine anyone could be doing more about President Trump. He said it, if you listen to the entire quote, about the White House task force, that he and Dr. Birx were part of and how hard they were working and they were working 24 hours a day and overtime, et cetera, that's what they were referring to.

And so now, CNN got this exclusive Fauci statement that says, in my nearly five decades of public service, I have never publicly endorsed any political candidate. The comments attributed to me without my permission in a GOP campaign ad were taken out of context from a broad statement I made months ago about the efforts of federal public health officials.

Dr. Offit, your thoughts?

OFFIT: No, it's hard to watch. I mean, Dr. Fauci is a hero to me. He's been a hero to me for the 40 years that I've known him. And it's hard to watch him being used as a political football this way.


What he was talking about, obviously, was very early on when the coronavirus task force was put together, how hard he and Dr. Birx and others were working to do the best they could to prevent this.

Obviously, we've done a terrible job with roughly 4 percent of the world's populations, we have more than 20 percent of the deaths. We're one of the worst, if not, the worst country in the world at handling this, because we haven't done what we need to do, which is to use the most powerful tool we have, which is hygienic measures, wearing masks, social distancing. Not only do we not embrace it. At some level, the administration shows disdain for it. It's just hard to watch.

And it's hard to watch Dr. Fauci treated that way. He's such a wonderful public health official. He's got the trust of the American people.

And now, although, largely, I think the administration has tried to marginalize him, here they use him in a way that they think is to their advantage, albeit, clearly out of context.

BERMAN: So, John Avlon, at risk of quoting myself, not only is this bad public health, but it strikes me as bad politics. There's 22 days to go, so you pick a public fight with Dr. Anthony Fauci? Fauci is a guy who will do anything not to talk about politics. So what does the president do? He forces him out and makes him make a political statement right there. It's just bad politics.

AVLON: It would seem. But, look, don't forget, the Trump administration doesn't care, and, in fact, they have contempt for the tradition of non-partisan public servants, like Dr. Fauci. And so he has pushed back on this.

But, look, that whole ad is this sort of fantasia of morning in America at a time when we have the worst death rate in the world.

And to the point Nia-Malika was just making, a lot of the key states, Florida and Pennsylvania, in particular, have among the oldest populations in the country. At a time when the new CNN poll shows that Donald Trump is down 21 points to Joe Biden among senior citizens. So they'll do anything they and facts, context, all of that stuff doesn't matter to them. So Dr. Fauci has to speak out to remind people.

And, look, don't forget also, the administration went out of its way to kneecap Dr. Fauci and raise suspicions and conspiracy theories about him. But now, because he's more popular than the president with more credibility on the coronavirus, they want to hug him down the stretch and he's going to push him away.

CAMEROTA: Nia-Malika, I mean, is this -- is what we're seeing this week of President Trump going back and holding these rallies, despite the fact that, as you say, he is hurting in the polls, all of the latest polls with seniors at least in Florida, is this just his gut Trumping, no pun intended, whatever political advice he's getting from people around him or are they just going along for this ride?

HENDERSON: Probably a little of both. It is also Donald Trump wanting to feel good. He's going out there having those big crowds when he's obviously been in the White House cooped up in isolation because he had COVID.

And so now he's going out and he'll be among those adoring fans. Hopefully, they will wear masks. Hopefully they will social distance. But from what we've seen so far, at least on the social distancing part, that isn't going so well with some of these crowds that he's had.

But, yes, I mean, this -- again, this is desperation, it's down the stretch. The president going to what he knows best, but it would be great if he had some policy to go along with it, right?

He has been over these kind of last days performing work, oh, he's going to the Oval Office. Probably better if there had been some sort of stimulus package. So he would go to those rallies and say, listen, you're going to get a check in the mail because you're struggling with our rent or seniors, and you're going to get a break, and those kinds of things are just absent.

If you compare the kind of messaging he had in 2016, there was some policy to go along with what he was campaigning on. And now, it's just him sort of rallying and talking about COVID and any number of things.

This is a bad move by this president, you know, down the stretch and he's in a desperate position.

BERMAN: Look, if it's just about feeling good, that's what dexamethasone is for. He doesn't even put thousands of people at risk at these rallies.

One programming note in the midst of all of this, Dr. Fauci is going to be Jake Tapper's guest today on The Lead, which will be very interesting in light of what Dr. Fauci has said about those ads.

And I just want to say this one more time. We focused a lot on one case there. We're averaging nearly 50,000 new cases of coronavirus a day and the hospitalizations are going up. So we are in trouble as a country right now.

Our thanks to all three of you.

We have some new details this morning about the alleged terror plot against Michigan's governor, the crucial planning the FBI says happened inside this basement, next.



BERMAN: This morning, new details about the alleged plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer. The FBI says the suspects conducted extensive surveillance of Whitmer's vacation home and they held multiple training sessions at this home in the rural town of Munith. 13 men have been charged, including the founders of the armed extremist group, Wolverine Watchmen.

Joining us now is Mary McCord. She is a law professor at Georgetown and a former Acting Assistant Attorney General for National Security at the Department of Justice. Professor, I'm so glad you're with us this morning, because you write extensively about something that I think is so important to understand.

People incorrectly use the phrase, militia, to describe some of these groups that do this. This isn't a militia. This is, you know, a bunch of criminals, you know, a bunch of criminals acting as terrorists. And the distinction there is important. Why?

MARY MCCORD, FROMER ACTING ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL FOR NATIONAL SECURITY, JUSTICE DEPARTMENT: The distinction is important because in federal law and state law and according to our history, militia, the only lawful militia is a state militia. Militia, as a term, refers to the body of people, able-bodied residents that are available to be called forth by the government in defense of the state.

So back before even our independence, there was an antipathy towards having standing armies. Instead, the colonies, and later, eventually, the United States and the individual states preferred to have this available of body to be called forth in service of the state and in defense of the state. But once called forth, they report through the state.

Now, over the course of time, we, of course, have developed our National Guards, which every state has, which is, in fact, the state militia.


But there is no authority under federal or state law for groups of individuals, such as these groups in Michigan and elsewhere around the country, to sort of self-call themselves forth or self-deploy as a militia.

BERMAN: Yes. And I think they do it to wrap themselves in this sort of quasi-legitimacy. And I think it colors the overall discussion and it may add to the danger.

MCCORD: I think you're right and I think it's a term we should really stop using. I don't use it without saying unlawful before it. We could call them vigilantes. We could call them paramilitary groups. And in some cases, like the cases of the Wolverine warriors and others that were involved in this plot, they certainly were plotting terrorist activity.

So there's many other terms that I think would be more appropriate. And sometimes they do rely also, you know, falsely, on the Second Amendment to suggest they have authority, because they have a right to bear arms under the Second Amendment and maybe they're in an open carry state like Michigan.

But the Second Amendment also doesn't provide them with that right. The Supreme Court says it projects an individual's right to bear arms for one's own individual self-defense.

The Supreme Court, as far back as 1886, has been made clear that it does not protect the right to group together as paramilitary organizations and thought it was without question that states can prohibit that, and they have.

BERMAN: Why then does it seem that, in some cases, that these groups are allowed to exist for a time? MCCORD: It's frustrating to me as somebody who has been looking at this for several years now, that so many of these unlawful armed groups have been sort of allowed to engage in training and exercises. And we've seen them deploying more and more, particularly in the face of racial justice protests, ostensibly to protect property against what is often false rumors of violent anarchists coming. But they have no authority to do that. They have no authority usurp that legitimate law enforcement power.

And I think part of the problem is that there has been such incredible mythology about the Second Amendment and a mythology that's widely and deeply held, including among law enforcement, that somehow this is actually constitutionally protected. And it's time to correct the record on that, particularly as we're seeing more and more of these groups come out very publicly in ways that could be very dangerous.

BERMAN: Look, it's a blatant misreading on the Constitution and the Second Amendment, a well-regulated militia. The very first words, modify it right from the beginning. There is no ambiguity there at all.

I want to ask you about the attorney general, William Barr, who has not spoken publicly as far as we can tell about this. He did finally have an aide come out and say, oh, he condemns all of these groups, but he hasn't and said squat about this since they were arrested for a plot to kidnap a sitting governor.

And this is not a shy attorney general, professor. This attorney general will go anywhere in the country, you can see pictures on the screen here, to announce action against urban violence or what he considers to be leftist violence.

But what's the impact of his refusal to take -- make a public voice or a public statement here?

MCCORD: Well, I have to say, as somebody who spent almost 25 years at the Department of Justice, it's very disappointing to me that the attorney general would be so silent about this very, very serious plotting. And, you know, as you just indicated, he has been very vocal about the left and violence from the left, proclaiming almost from day one after George Floyd that all -- any acts of violence at any protest activity had to be the result of Antifa or the left. And, yes, there is violence on both sides. There have been, you know, individual acts of violence, but there have been thousands of peaceful demonstrations across the country with no violence, whatsoever.

And more importantly, to your point, currently, this plot is the most significant plot that we've seen over the course of many months now. And it's -- as you indicated, it was to kidnap and kill a sitting, elected governor. That is something that would have been, the investigation of this, in my experience, when I was the principal deputy and later the acting assistant attorney general for National Security, this is something what we would have been discussing and we would have been briefed by the FBI for months before the actual takedown. BERMAN: A plot to kidnap a sitting governor, that in and of itself is just such a stunning statement. Professor McCord, a pleasure and real education to speak with you this morning. Thanks for your time.

MCCORD: Thank you. A pleasure to be here.

BERMAN: Republicans racing to confirm Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett by Election Day. We're joined by one of the senators on the Judiciary Committee, next.



CAMEROTA: This morning, the Senate Judiciary Committee will begin hearings on President Trump's third pick for the Supreme Court, Judge Amy Coney Barrett. Republicans want to move at breakneck speed to have her confirmed by Election Day, so she can hear a case on the Affordable Care Act, among others.

Joining us now is Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono. She is a member of the Judiciary Committee and will be questioning Judge Barrett today. Senator, thanks so much for being here.

Are you going to be participating in person or remotely?

SEN. MAZIE HIRONO (D-HI): I will be participating in-person, at least during the portion of my questioning and opening.

CAMEROTA: And why? Why -- you know -- you had an option, right, to do it remotely, so why did you decide to do it in person?

HIRONO: I think it's important for me to actually see her and see her demeanor in person. But, of course, I'm going to take precautions. I'm not going to be there exposing myself for ten hours to what might be (ph), for example.

CAMEROTA: So, what are you going to do?

HIRONO: I'm going to wear a mask if I'm there and I'm not speaking. I took yesterday out of an abundance of caution and I'm awaiting the results. But I have been working remotely. And so this is really us taking the pandemic seriously, something that the president, even after he got COVID, is taking seriously, and nor are the Republicans.