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THE SITUATION ROOM

Trump To Hold A Rally In Florida; Fauci Asks Trump Campaign To Take Down Ad; U.S. Reports High New Cases Of Coronavirus; Biden Campaigning In Ohio; Trump's Doctor: President Tested Negative "On Consecutive Days"; Interview With Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL); Democrats Argue Barrett Confirmation Is A Threat To Obamacare; Stimulus Talks Stall As Millions Increasingly Desperate. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired October 12, 2020 - 17:00   ET

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


[17:00:00]

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: He was a family man, a devoted papa to his six grandchildren. Konaha is remembered as a jokester who always had a smile on his face. He was just 53 years old. May his memory be a blessing? Our condolences to his family. Our coverage on CNN continues right now.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in THE SITUATION ROOM. We're following breaking news.

Right now, President Trump is on his way to Florida to hold his first official campaign rally since testing positive for the coronavirus. Take a look at this. Live pictures coming in, with no social distancing and masks not required at that rally.

Folks are there in big numbers already. The rally risks becoming yet another super spreader event like the White House Rose Garden ceremony for the Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett.

Also breaking, Dr. Fauci now asking the Trump campaign to take down an ad featuring him saying his comments were taken completely out of context making it sound like he was praising the president. And Dr. Fauci just told CNN's Jake Tapper it would be "terrible and outrageous" if the Trump campaign does more ads featuring him.

At the same time, the U.S. is seeing its highest average daily case rate in two months with 31 state now heading in the wrong direction and the death toll is now more than 215,000 people with almost 7.8 million cases.

First, let's go straight to the site of the president's rally tonight. Our chief White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, is on the scene for us in Sanford, Florida. Jim, very serious concerns about the public health threat at this rally tonight. What's the latest?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. President Trump is on his way down to Florida right now for his first campaign rally since his bout with the coronavirus. And as you can see behind us, many of the supporters here are not

wearing masks, they are not social distancing, setting up the possibility for yet another super spreader event. The same kind of super spreader that may have given the president the coronavirus.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): Even after putting his own health on the line by catching the coronavirus, President Trump is tempting fate with a go for broke campaign strategy, with plans for more big rallies creating the potential for super spreader events across the U.S.

And there are signs top White House officials haven't learned a thing as the White House chief of staff Mark Meadows refused to wear a mask around reporters on Capitol Hill despite being exposed to the president.

MARK MEADOWS, WHITE HOUSE CHIEF OF STAFF: Let me pull this away.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yup, pull away.

MEADOWS: And then that way I can take this off the top. Well, I'm more than 10 feet away. I'm not -- well, I'm not going to talk --

ACOSTA (voice-over): Inside the hearing for Trump's pick for the Supreme Court, Amy Coney Barrett, Utah GOP Sen. Mike Lee was speaking without a mask after he tested positive for COVID-19 less than two weeks ago. The president believes now that he's had the virus, he's immune from it.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES (via telephone): It looks like I'm immune for, I don't know, maybe a long time or maybe a short time. It could be a lifetime.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The president's doctor released a memo over the weekend stating Mr. Trump is no longer a transmission risk, but the president is going further than that claiming he's tested negative.

TRUMP (via telephone): I have been tested totally negative.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The president plans to hold rallies this week in big battlegrounds states, Florida, Pennsylvania, Iowa and North Carolina. White House officials say there won't be a major change in safety protocols at the events.

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: We will have the same policies that we've had in place.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Over the weekend, the president staged a campaign-style rally on the White House south lawn where some in the crowd weren't wearing masks.

TRUMP: We got to vote these people into oblivion. Vote them into oblivion.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Democrat Joe Biden is blaming the president for that.

JOE BIDEN (D) PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: His reckless personal conduct since his diagnosis has been unconscionable.

ACOSTA (voice-over): To bolster his COVID credentials, the president is pointing to Dr. Anthony Fauci in a new campaign ad creating the false impression the top health expert is praising Mr. Trump.

ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: I can't imagine that anybody could be doing more.

ACOSTA (voice-over): That prompted Fauci to state he's not offering Mr. Trump his support.

FAUCI: I think it's really unfortunate and really disappointing that they did that. To take a completely out of context statement and put it in which is obviously a political campaign ad I thought was really very disappointing.

ACOSTA (voice-over): A former senior administration official who worked on the White House COVID Task Force told CNN, the West Wing has been muzzling Fauci adding, "There were conversations about not letting Fauci talk on TV. They would say he's exaggerating. He's alarmist."

The administration is still failing to bring the pandemic under control as the U.S. is averaging roughly 50,000 cases every day, the highest average since mid-August. Yet the president has been telling the public the U.S. is rounding the turn on the virus.

TRUMP: We're really rounding the turn and the vaccines are coming.

We're rounding the turn. You see what's happening. You see the numbers are plunging. You see how good we're doing.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

[17:05:06]

ACOSTA (on camera): After this rally in Florida tonight, the president heads off to Pennsylvania for yet another rally tomorrow. And then later on in the week, Iowa and North Carolina. Pennsylvania is obviously a critical battleground state.

But Iowa and North Carolina are really states that should be in the bag for President Trump right now. That's an indication as to how much trouble he's in politically right now, Wolf. And as this crowd is chanting that there are members of the press here who suck, I should also point out, Wolf, what also sucks getting the coronavirus. Wolf?

BLITZER: That would be really, really awful. Over the weekend the president said the coronavirus is disappearing. Clearly, it's not disappearing. It's getting a whole lot worse. All right, Jim Acosta, thanks very much.

Let's get some more on the breaking pandemic news. Our national correspondent Erica Hill is working the story for us from New York. Erica, the U.S. is going clearly in the wrong direction right now when it comes to getting ahead of this pandemic. What's the latest?

ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, bottom line, Wolf, we are not getting ahead of this pandemic. It is not disappearing despite what the president may wish and the information that he wants to put out there.

Cases are rising. The average number of new cases being reported every day is rising and that is leading to more concerns about the strain on hospitals and ultimately the rising death toll.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

HILL (voice-over): The numbers are not good. Nationwide we're adding an average of more than 49,000 new cases a day. Up 41 percent from just last month.

PETER HOTEZ, PROFESSORD AND DEAN OF TROPICAL MEDICINE, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE: We're predicting a pretty worrisome fall and winter.

HILL (voice-over): New cases are surging in 31 states. More than a dozen posting their highest weekly averages for new daily cases. Seven states reporting their highest daily new case counts since the pandemic began.

LEANA WEN, FORMER BALTIMOR HEALTH COMMISSIONER: These are extremely alarming trends and there should be warning bells going off around the country.

HILL (voice-over): Texas now sending extra resources to El Paso as hospitalizations rise. Rural areas across the country also bracing.

GEORGER MORRS, PHYSICIAN VICE PRESIDENT, CENTRACARE: We have the beds. We have the people. But as we get more of these exposures, what's going to happen to our availability?

HILL (voice-over): North Dakota, which leads the nation in cases per capita, has fewer than 20 ICU beds available.

RENAE MOCH, DIRECTOR, BISMARCK-BURLEIGH PUBLIC HEALTH: People are continuing to operate kind of as they had before COVID even was here. And that's leading to a lot of our numbers increasing.

HILL (voice-over): New research in the Journal of the American Medical Association finds a 20 percent increase in U.S. deaths from March to August. Adding to the evidence that our current COVID death toll is likely an undercount.

TOM FRIEDEN, FORMER CDC DIRECTOR: If you die from COVID and you also had diabetes, you died from COVID.

HILL (voice-over): As an influential model now projects 400,000 COVID- related deaths by February 1st. But if more Americans wore masks, that could change dramatically. PAUL OFFIT, DIRECTOR, VACCINE EDUCATION CENTER & PEDIATRICS PROFESSOR,

CHILDREN HOSPITAL OF PENNSYLVANIA: If 95 percent of Americans wore masks, we would prevent roughly 80,000 deaths over the next few months. I mean, it's a remarkable statistic. 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.

HILL (voice-over): The human toll is growing, both in lives lost and in lives forever changed.

DEEPAK CHIOPRA, DEPARTMENT OF FAMILY MEDICINE & PUBLIC HEALTH, UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, SAN DIEGO: People are going through different stages of grief. So, some feel victimized, some are angry, some are hostile, some are resentful. Some are helpless.

HILL (voice-over): Researchers at NYU warning of a second wave of devastation. This one tied to mental health and substance abuse. The magnitude, they write, is likely to overwhelm the already frayed mental health system. Of particular concern, essential workers including those on the front lines.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

HILL (on camera): And another note about some research that we learned about today, also published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, a look at U.S. deaths and why they are so high noting that even compared to other countries, France, Italy, Spain, the U.K. for example, who also have a high COVID-19 mortality rate, Wolf, the U.S. death rate is still high. Why? Well, researchers say there are a number of factors, but among them, inconsistent information and also issues with the public health infrastructure.

BLITZER: So worrisome indeed. Erica Hill, thanks very much. Let's get to more on all of this. The dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, Dr. Ashish Jha, is joining us right now. Dr. Jha, thank you so much for joining us.

So as you heard, the president is about to hold his first official campaign rally since getting the virus himself. But if you look at these images right now, we're showing our viewers these pictures, live pictures, coming in from Sanford, Florida. You would think this was pre-pandemic.

Huge crowds. Very few people wearing masks. How shocking is this to see this after the president of the United States himself, his wife, the First lady, so many of the president's top aids got infected?

[17:09:58]

ASHISH JHA, DEAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: You know, Wolf, thank you for having me on. You now, it is very upsetting from a public health and medical point of view, looking at that and thinking its irresponsible.

We know from previous rallies is that they have fuelled more cases, hospitalizations, probably deaths, and it is all unnecessary. We shouldn't be doing this in a pandemic. We should be wearing masks and be social distancing.

BLITZER: Of course. You know, and the country, as we heard, is also averaging, what, nearly 50,000 new infections every day. Dr. Fauci just told Jake Tapper those numbers, should jolt the American public into practicing what are really very simple public health measures like simply wearing a mask, but clearly the track record here in the United States is at best mixed. Can we really turn things around without more drastic measures imposed on a national level right now?

JHA: Yes, Wolf, so we're one of the few countries in the world that has managed to politicize mask wearing. It's completely baffling to most of us in public health why this is a political issue. But if we continue to have large proportions of the public not wear masks and our politicians not call for people wearing masks, we might find ourselves in a situation where we have to have more draconian measures. And I think the key here is to avoid that and avoid all those infections. And mask wearing is a really helpful step in that goal.

BLITZER: Critically important one. It will save thousands and thousands of lives over the next few weeks and months. Dr. Fauci also says the trajectory is getting worse and worse and this would be a recipe of a real problem, especially heading into the winter. What are your biggest concerns, Dr. Jha, for these cold months that are coming up?

JHA: Yes. I think every public health expert I'm speaking to, all my colleagues, folks in the government, everybody is very worried about the next three to four months. Colder weather, people spend more time indoors. The virus likes to spread indoors.

Colder drier air also makes the virus spread more efficiently. All of that is going to make things I think much, much worse. We're heading in the wrong direction. And of course, we're about to undergo an election, the political leaders are distracted.

So, I am worried that we're not going to pay attention to the virus. The virus is not distracted. The virus is doing what its doing and we've got to pay attention.

BLITZER: Yes. As it gets colder and colder, people are going to be more reluctant to eat outdoors, hang out outside, it's going to be a real problem. There is one bright spot. Early research from your university. Brown University, shows right now a very low infection rate in K-12 schools since reopening. That's pretty encouraging, right?

JHA: You know, it is encouraging. And I have been saying that as much as I have been concerned about opening schools in the hot zones and remain that way, I think the data that's coming in is preliminary data, suggests that schools are not a major source of acceleration of these, you know, infections. And that says that we probably should be a bit bolder about opening

schools especially in the kind of green and yellow zones of the country where the outbreaks are not terrible. BLITZER: Yes, that would be so significant. Parents would be so happy.

The kids would be happy too. Dr. Ashish Jha, thanks as usual for joining us.

JHA: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Up next, Joe Biden goes on the offensive trying to flip critical states carried by President Trump in 2016. Plus, confirmation hearings begin for President Trump's Supreme Court nominee, Amy Coney Barrett. We're taking a closer look at the contentious questioning that's expected to start tomorrow morning.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:15:00]

BLITZER: So, we're just about three weeks ahead of the presidential election. The Democratic presidential nominee, Joe Biden, clearly on the offensive in several key states that are must-wins for President Trump including Ohio. Our political correspondent, Arlette Saenz, is covering the Biden campaign for us. Arlette, is Ohio a genuine battleground state this year?

ARLETTE SAENZ, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, Joe Biden and his campaign are certainly trying to make it competitive. With just three weeks to go until the election, they are playing offense going into these reliably red states heading into this presidential election and trying to take them away from President Trump.

Now, President Trump won Ohio by about 8 points back in 2016 after President Obama and Joe Biden won the state twice in 2008 and 2012. And Ohio right now is one of those must-win states for President Trump.

And you heard Joe Biden there in Ohio making that pitch to white working-class voters, trying to convince them to vote for Biden after potentially being disaffected when it comes to President Trump's performance over the last four years.

Biden making a pitch to the auto industry and bringing back manufacturing jobs. Take a listen to one of the critiques he had of the president in Toledo, Ohio earlier today.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BIDEN: Erratic tweets on bluster, that's only stiffed American workers and consumers, including farmers. He's let you down. He's let us down. The first president I can remember in the middle of a national economic crisis did not try to call the parties together. He turned his back on you. I promise you I will never do that.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SAENZ: So those were cars honking in a drive-in style event that Joe Biden had earlier today. And what Joe Biden is essentially trying to do in a state like Ohio is cut off President Trump's path to the nomination as that state is one of those must-win states for the president, Wolf.

[17:20:06]

BLITZER: All right, Arlette, thanks very much. Arlette Saenz reporting. Let's get some more on all of this. Our chief political analyst Gloria Borger is with us. Our CNN political commentator, former Obama administration official Van Jones is with us as well.

You know, Gloria, just a little while ago, the president boarded Air Force One. And he's heading back down to Florida. You can see him there. It's raining here in Washington. No mask as he boards Air Force One at Joint Base Andrews. Everybody else is wearing mask, but he's getting on Air Force One without a mask right now.

Do you think he'd want to send a message out there, especially since he's just coming out of the hospital only a week or so ago? He wants to return, Gloria, to a sense of normality, but nearly a thousand Americans, hundreds of Americans every single day are still dying from this virus. What do you think is going on?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: I think you're right. The president's narrative is that we've turned the corner. That things are going to be great, that there's going to be an amazing recovery. And that he's got vaccines and therapeutics that are going to make you get well just as fast as he did.

And I think there -- nowhere in his head is there a lesson learned part. And he was asked by a doctor from Fox News about lessons learned, and all he said was, you know, I learned that this virus can be transmitted easily. Well, he knew that in early February when he spoke to Bob Woodward.

But he didn't talk about lessons learned for the American public. He didn't talk about the things that Tony Fauci was talking to Jake Tapper about today, you know. He didn't talk about wearing a mask or a social distancing or, by the way, not having rallies with thousands of people even if they are outside, but they are not socially distanced. So, he has decided to continue in the same vein whether he had COVID or not.

BLITZER: You know, Van, we're looking at some pictures coming in from Sanford, Florida right now, huge rally for the president. He's on his way there right now. He'll be addressing all these folks. No social distancing as far as I can see.

I can see some masks, but not a whole lot of masks out there either. You know, it's interesting, Van, because even as the president has been recovering from the virus, other top White House officials still aren't apparently taking it all this -- that seriously. I want you to watch the White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, earlier today up on Capitol Hill. He actually refused to wear a mask while taking questions from reporters. Watch this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MEADOWS: Let me do this. Let me pull this away. UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yup, pull away.

MEADOWS: And then that way I can take this off the top. Well, I'm more than 10 feet away. I'm not, well, I'm not going to talk to the press.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BLITZER: The concern of these reporters up on Capitol Hill is that Mark Meadows has spent over these past couple of weeks a lot of time with the president. He was at the hospital with the president. He sees him on a day-to-day basis. They are nervous. They would like him to answer reporter's questions wearing a mask, but he refuses to do so.

VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Well, I mean, it's ridiculous. And nobody should have to risk their life to ask about someone who works for us. He doesn't work for President Trump. He works for the United States of America, America's government. Those are taxpayers as well as reporters trying to just do their job. And he basically says, you have to risk your life.

This is the problem that we have now, is that there's a whole section of America that sort of sawed itself off from reality, and sort of floating out in some alternative universe. And the reason is they can't handle the truth. As tough as they talk, as tough -- they can't handle the truth.

The truth is this virus is much more deadly than the flu. The truth is they let it get completely out of control. And the truth is very simple measures would deal with it, but they politicized it so now they are in a trap. They are in a trick bag.

They have to literally risk the lives of their own staff members, of their own supporters to go on with this fantasy and this farce. And I hope it comes to an end in a few weeks, but this is what happens when you create a culture of contempt for facts, for science, and for reality.

BLITZER: You know, Gloria, you would think the president especially having gone through this coronavirus himself spending four days over at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, he would emerge from there and at least want to show an example to the American public by wearing a mask and telling the senior advisers to simply wear a mask. It's not that big of a deal, but they don't do so. Why?

BORGER: Well, first of all, you know, this president started out by saying, you know, some people like masks, some people don't like masks. I really can't see myself wearing a mask. I mean, what am I going to do if I meet with a head of state. I can't really see that.

Then when the polls show that the American public overwhelmingly was in favor of wearing a mask, he decided to change his mind and say that it was patriotic.

[17:25:02] Now, that he believes that a lot of his supporters in the base are following him and believe that you don't have to wear a mask, he sees it as some ridiculous juvenile thing like -- he sees it as a sign of weakness, which is absurd. Of course, it's absurd.

And if you are saying you are completely cured and you are not contagious and you are, by the way, immune from any other disease, then why wear a mask. I mean, I would also add why get in a fight with Tony Fauci, Wolf. You know, using him in his ad in a way that was completely out of context when Tony Fauci is somebody who is among the most trusted in the country when it comes to coronavirus. It doesn't make any sense.

BLITZER: It doesn't at all. And as Dr. Ashish Jha said, only here in the United States is wearing a mask has that become a political statement, which is obviously, horrendous indeed. Gloria, Van, guys, thank you very much.

Coming up, President Trump's Supreme Court pick heads to Capitol Hill. Details of her controversial confirmation hearing, that's coming up.

Plus, get this, the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, is now self- isolating amid the truly alarming rise in Russian coronavirus cases.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:31:13]

BLITZER: We have some breaking news coming into THE SITUATION ROOM, we're getting some new information from President Trump's doctor, a statement from Dr. Sean Conley says the President has now tested negative for coronavirus on consecutive days. The statement does not give specific dates.

I want to go to CNN's Jim Acosta. He's down in Florida where the President will be holding a campaign rally later tonight. So, update us, our viewers on the latest the statement coming in from the doctor.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wow, to follow the next --

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, Wolf. We're just getting this in the last couple of minutes. The White House Press Secretary are releasing this from Dr. Sean Conley, the White House physician, and it says it's very interesting. It says, I released the following information with the permission of President Trump.

So, obviously, this is -- with the permission of the President, this is something he wants out there. It says, in response to your inquiry regarding the President's most recent COVID-19 test, I can share with you that he has tested negative on consecutive days. It is important to note that this test was not used in isolation for the determination of the President's current negative status. Wolf, I have to plead a little bit of ignorance here. It is not altogether clear what they mean by this, which consecutive days to the President test negative on, when was his last negative test before he tested positive for the coronavirus, that, obviously, has not been disclosed to us. And so, this is something that we're going to have to take the word of Dr. Conley on this and he is making it very clear on this note that the President wanted this information out there.

We heard the President over the weekend say he was testing negative for the coronavirus, even though that is not what we saw in that last letter from Dr. Conley over the weekend. So, another letter from the White House physician that seems to raise more questions than offer answers, Wolf.

BLITZER: All right. We'll get back to you. Jim Acosta at the scene for us at that campaign rally in Sanford, Florida.

Meanwhile, Senate confirmation hearings started today here in Washington in the fast track nomination of Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court. The real fireworks likely will be tomorrow when senators will have an opportunity to question Judge Barrett.

We're joined now by the number two Democrat in the U.S. Senate, Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois. He's also a member of the Judiciary Committee. Let me get first get your reaction to what we just heard the President's doctor saying he's now tested negative in consecutive days. What do you say to that, Senator?

SEN. DICK DURBIN (D-IL): Listen, I'm not a medical expert and don't pretend to be, but trying to follow the President's claims and then the statements by his medical team, it's been pretty tough. You know, this President comes off the helicopter, does his balcony scene, veto moment, strips off his mask and says I'm cured, who knows? At this point, he's making it all up as far as I'm concerned. I hope the doctor's report is accurate.

BLITZER: Yes, we all hope it's accurate. And we hope the President is going to be just fine. You participated, Senator, in today's confirmation hearing for Judge Amy Coney Barrett. You joined your fellow Democrats in pointing to what her confirmation potentially could mean, for example, for the Affordable Care Act, which will come before the U.S. Supreme Court for arguments a week after the election. So, why are Democrats focusing in specifically right now on health care? Will that remain the case throughout the remainder of these confirmation hearings?

DURBIN: Because we're smack dab in the middle of a pandemic and America is worried about its health, and to think that this President wants to put somebody on the Supreme Court who's going to eliminate the Affordable Care Act. Take away health insurance from 20 million plus Americans say that our own health insurance won't cover people with pre-existing conditions, you bet it's an issue. And every single Democrat drove at home today. We were glad to do it, and I hope the American people are following this debate.

BLITZER: You've been very critical of the timing and the speed at which the Republican majority in the Senate that they are moving forward with this confirmation process but appears the Republicans do have the numbers to confirm Judge Barrett. So, what do you hoped to accomplish in the next few days leading up to the election?

[17:35:03]

DURBIN: Listen, they're at breakneck speed. And I want to tell you, Wolf, there's an announcement just a few minutes ago that Graham, the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, is going to change one of the other deadlines to make it even faster to move her through the committee. I just wish this weren't the case. It's a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land.

And what we're trying to say to people, the reason why it's at breakneck speed is because they want this new justice on the Supreme Court in time to hear the oral argument on November 10th, and then to eliminate the Affordable Care Act. That's what this is all about.

BLITZER: The 22 members of the Judiciary Committee, the Democrats and the Republicans, they can start asking questions of Judge Barrett tomorrow morning when she appears at the committee. Once again, today, she just delivered her opening statement, the senators all made their own respective opening statements. So, what questions do you want to hear her answer?

DURBIN: Well, we're going to have quite a few. On the Affordable Care Act, she's basically said it's unconstitutional. We know where she's going. We're certainly going to ask her questions on that. Other decisions that she's handed down, she's had about 100 decisions so far. We've gone through them, there are some that really kind of define her in terms of her values.

And, frankly, we want to know whether or not the President is right. Is she being put on the Supreme Court to defend him if there's an election contest? If she willing to say flat out, she'll recuse herself from any election contest, so there won't be any question about her honesty and integrity. These are critical questions.

BLITZER: But realistically, they have the votes, right? There's limited -- there's limits to what you guys can do on the Democratic side.

DURBIN: Wolf, of course, we're limited, but let's put it down to the basics. If one Republican senator on the Senate Judiciary Committee says I've had enough, I can't push this through this quickly. I can't afford to go back home and explain how these people lose their health insurance.

If one Republican Senate says that it's tie vote, we hold her in committee. If two on the floor say that, even if she comes out of committee, she's not going to be able to be considered. We already have two Republican senators who've stepped up and said they don't want to be part of this farce.

BLITZER: But they still, the Republican majority, even if she doesn't get confirmed in the committee, they could still bring it up for a vote on the Senate floor.

DURBIN: They can, but let me tell you. If there are questions being raised by the American people about how in the midst of a pandemic, we can eliminate the Affordable Care Act with no substitute, nothing to take its place. If those questions are asked of many Republican senators who were in cycle, Wolf, in very close election contest, perhaps we'll see a change of heart.

BLITZER: We'll have live coverage of the Q&A tomorrow at the committee. Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois, thanks as usual for joining us.

DURBIN: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Coming up, United States isn't the only country seeing a new spike in coronavirus cases. Coming up, we'll have an update on the coronavirus headlines from around the world.

And later, former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang, he's standing by live. He will join us to discuss the state of the campaign with just 22 days to go until Election Day. We'll be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:42:33]

BLITZER: All right, let's get some more now in the breaking news we're following. Brand new information coming in from President Trump's Dr. Sean Conley in a statement that has just been released. He says the President tested negative for the coronavirus on consecutive days, but does not give specific dates.

I want to bring back Dr. Ashish Jha to help us understand better what the statement really means. He's the Dean of Brown University School of Public Health. Dr. Jha, the letter from the President's doctor says he tested negative, quote, on consecutive days using an antigen test. But they also looked at other data, including viral load, does that make you feel confident in their assessment that the President is no longer contagious?

DR. ASHISH JHA, DEAN, BROWN UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: So, Wolf, thanks for having me back on. Look, the full picture is still a bit confusing, because I think Dr. Conley is just not communicating in a totally straightforward way. But if you look at everything he's saying, it's likely that the President is not infectious anymore.

The negative testing on the antigen test doesn't really do much for me, because that's not what the test is supposed to be used for. But, you know, it would be helpful if they would just disclose some more specific information, we could all make a clear determination.

BLITZER: What jumped out at me, and I have the letter right here, the memorandum, a very short statement. He says they use an antigen test, but they didn't use a PCR test, which is the standard takes -- you put a swab in your nose, takes a day or two or three to get the result. Why not use a PCR test to determine if the President is negative? JHA: So, my guess is, and again, I'm doing guesswork here because the letters are so cryptic. My guess is that he is getting PCR tests. And my guess is that those tests are still positive, but with a high what's called a cycle threshold, CT value, which means that the President probably is not infectious anymore. That's what the letter seems to imply. But I think it would be helpful is if Dr. Connelly would just report all the data of what the President has gotten and explain the logic behind why he thinks that the President is no longer infectious.

BLITZER: And it's been a week now, exactly a week since the last time he was willing to meet with the news media, answer reporters' questions. We have so many questions. The American public clearly deserves to hear from the doctor and not just issue these statements that have a lot of medical terms in them, but he needs to answer questions and he needs to do it ASAP.

Dr. Jha, as usual, thank you so much for joining us.

[17:45:00]

JHA: Thanks, Wolf.

BLITZER: Coming up, millions of Americans are getting increasingly desperate as the pandemic worsens. Why can't Washington reach a deal on a new economic stimulus package? We're going to talk about it with our political commentator, the former presidential candidate, there you see him, Andrew Yang. He's standing by live.

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[17:50:15]

BLITZER: The coronavirus is getting worse increasing the financial strain that millions of Americans are facing right now, but desperately needed help in the form of a new economic stimulus package is possibly still weeks away. Let's get some more from our CNN Political Commentator, the former Democratic presidential candidate, Andrew Yang. Andrew, thanks so much for joining us.

The Speaker Nancy Pelosi says she wants to pass a bill, President Trump says he wants to pass a bill. Why are Americans going to continue suffering right now, when most people agree that getting this done is absolutely essential?

ANDREW YANG, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: We need a relief bill in the worst possible way, Wolf. I talked to a restaurant operator, operates a whole chain of restaurants and he said that up to half of American independent restaurants will go out of business without a relief bill. And you can imagine what that's going to mean for communities around the country.

82 percent of Americans agree that we need a relief bill, and the only thing that's keeping us from passing it is politics. Right now, Nancy Pelosi has maximum leverage where President Trump's last offer of $1.8 trillion was so high that Senate Republicans didn't like it. It's a good deal. Nancy needs to say yes, she is one to take this deal. So we can get some relief out to Americans before the holidays. If we don't get this done now, who knows when a relief bill will pass.

BLITZER: Yes. The President is now putting some pressure on his fellow Republicans in the Senate. He just tweeted this, "Republicans should be strongly focused on completing a wonderful stimulus package for the American people". Have you spoken with the Speaker Nancy Pelosi, other House Democratic leaders about getting this done?

YANG: I've been speaking to members of Congress, and many of them are frustrated by the lack of progress. You had the problem solvers caucus proposed a compromise bill. A lot of them know that this is a good deal and want Nancy to say yes, that's what I'm hearing from members of Congress who are in their districts, in many cases, seeing the pain and suffering up close.

We've had tens of millions of Americans declare for unemployment benefits. And economists say that almost half of these jobs will never come back. We have to stop pretending that the economy is going to snap back. It will not. And the American people know we need relief right now.

BLITZER: Yes. Just last week, in one week, more than 800,000 additional Americans filed for first time unemployment benefits. People are struggling, Andrew, they're struggling to pay their rent, they're struggling to buy groceries. Many people are relying for the first time in their lives on food banks to give them some food. It's hard to believe this is going on here in the United States of America. Do you think the politicians in Washington, the Democrats, the Republicans fully understand how dire the situation is right now for millions of Americans?

YANG: I don't think they do, Wolf, or else we would have had a relief bill passed weeks ago, but that the pain is spreading. The food bank lines are stretching on for miles and hours and places that before did not see that kind of need and desperation. I hear from people every single day about the fact that they can't make rent or pay for groceries or they don't know where they're going to be able to get the money to put gas in their car. And we can prevent this.

We have a deal that's on the table right now from President Trump, $1.8 trillion. That would extend federal unemployment weekly benefits of $400 a week for Americans who are struggling right now. $1,200 in cash directly to households, $300 billion plus to state and local governments. This is a great deal. Nancy Pelosi has won. All she has to do now is take the win for the American people.

BLITZER: Yes, take the money and run, as they say. If Congress can't come to an agreement before the November 3rd election just about three weeks from now, how long, Andrew, will Americans need to wait before they finally get this economic relief?

YANG: That is the painful part of this, Wolf, that if we were to pass this relief bill right now, Americans could still be waiting for days and weeks to actually see that money in their hands. And if we let Election Day come, we all know we might be waiting for days for the outcome. And then afterwards, this bill might still languish for an additional number of days and weeks.

Americans might not see relief until after the holidays if we don't get this done right now. And if you think about it from the perspective of politics, when is the pressure going to be higher on the President than right now to deliver for the American people? It won't. Right now, he's desperate for any catalyst to show that he's actually coming through. So, we have him where we want him, we just need to say yes,

[17:55:03]

BLITZER: Yes. A few weeks ago, he said there won't be any deal before the election. Now, he is flipped and he's trying to squeeze the Republicans to accept this package that's on the table.

Our Political Commentator Andrew Yang, thanks so much for joining us.

YANG: Thank you, Wolf. Let's get this done for the American people. Congress, please do your job.

BLITZER: All right, we hear you, Andrew. Thank you so much.

Coming up, President Trump holds a campaign rally with few mask, no social distancing, as the coronavirus cases are surging here in the United States.

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