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Anderson Cooper 360 Degrees

First Details on New Woodward Book about Trump; Biden On Revelation Trump Purposely Downplayed Virus: "He Cost Lives". Aired 8- 9p ET

Aired September 09, 2020 - 20:00   ET


DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: The reason that she and others were so frustrated is that having avoided jail, you'll remember from our report earlier this year, he got a sweetheart plea deal with the Manhattan District Attorney, Cy Vance.

Yang also told us that the physician abused dozens of women including minors under the guise of practicing Medicine and should not be walking free. She said, "I hope that this action leads to institutions like the hospital that Dr. Hadden had worked at for decades to take complaints of assault and abuse seriously immediately as opposed to ignoring them."

And I should say that since Evelyn Yang revealed to us earlier this year that Hadden sexually assaulted her while she was pregnant, you mentioned this, 110 women are now involved in a civil suit against Columbia University where Dr. Hadden worked.

I should also say Columbia has denied the allegations in the civil suit and we have reached out to Colombia for a statement, and haven't heard back. But Evelyn Yang, this was not easy for her to do. She got results.

ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: It's incredible. Such courage. Thank you so much to Dana. Thanks to all of you. Anderson starts now.


ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, ANDERSON COOPER 360: Good evening. We've reported for months about how the President downplayed the coronavirus; that it would disappear and that it was under control. Well, tonight, you'll hear confirmation of all that reporting and far more than that.

You'll hear the President admitting he downplayed the virus. He knew it was far more deadly than he led on and he knew it far earlier than the public.

People say lives had been lost, but they haven't been lost. They're dead. Hundred and ninety thousand Americans are dead, and the President lied to us when it really mattered.

When action could have been taken based on the information the President had that would have saved lives. And in case you're wondering how many lives, the number is simply heartbreaking. Researchers at Columbia University estimate that instituting social

distancing just one week sooner would have prevented at least 36,000 deaths; two weeks sooner, could have prevented 84 percent of all fatalities.

In a moment, you'll hear the President's own words taken from many conversations at key moments over many months with "The Washington Post's" Bob Woodward, and yes, those conversations were recorded and you'll hear them.

What's more, everything you'll hear him say tonight, he volunteered, including his warning to Woodward, but not to the public that COVID was transmitted through the air and far deadlier than the flu.

He said it during what has come to be known as the lost month when he could have mobilized the government and the public and as you saw saved lives. He could have, but didn't.

February 7th is when he said that to Woodward, the beginning of what was the lost month.

And now, he is saying he was downplaying the threat to avoid a panic. That's what he is saying today as if we've all simply forgotten those rallies he has held that he held at the time and everything else he was saying about not wanting his numbers to go up.

Whatever the President's motivation, the fact is, hearing the truth didn't panic the people of South Korea, which has seen just 21,000 cases and only 344 deaths in the last six months. No panic in Germany or Canada, two other countries that have done far better than we have.

And still, the President now says he did what he did in service of the greater good, which is also what he told Bob Woodward back in March. He didn't want to panic people.

You'll hear it straight from the President tonight as well as his thoughts on quote, "my effing generals," as he calls them. You'll also hear for the first time the audio of the President talking about a secret nuclear weapon system that he claimed we've been developing and more.

In all the pages of Woodward's new book, "Rage."

CNN special correspondent, Jamie Gangel will be guiding us through all the key aspects of it tonight starting with the President, the virus and the truth.

So Jamie, what was the President telling Bob Woodward -- talk about what he was telling him about the coronavirus in early February.

JAMIE GANGEL, CNN SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: So this is February 7th, Anderson when you know, we were thinking about the virus in China. This was very, very early on, and just to point out, the President agreed to this being taped. All of these interviews were recorded.

And what he says is, he gives Woodward striking detail about how much he knew, but wasn't telling the public. Here's part of the interview.


BOB WOODWARD, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: And so what was President Xi saying yesterday?

DONALD TRUMP (R), PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Oh, we were talking mostly about the virus, and I think he is going to have it in good shape. But you know, it's a very tricky situation.

It's the -- it goes -- it goes through air, Bob. That's always tougher than the touch. You know, the touch, you don't have to touch things, right, but the air, you just breathe the air and that's how it's passed.

And so that's a very tricky one. That's a very delicate one.

It's also more deadly than your -- you know, your -- even your strenuous flus.

You know, people don't realize, we lose 25,000 to 30,000 people a year here. Who would ever think that, right?

WOODWARD: I know. It's much forgotten --

TRUMP: I mean, it's pretty amazing.

WOODWARD: What are you able to do for --

TRUMP: This is more deadly. This is five per -- you know this is five percent versus one percent and less than one percent. You know, so this is deadly stuff.



GANGEL: So, Anderson, so much of what he said there is striking because we did not know this at the time. But I want to point to two things. First, that it was airborne.

This coming from the President who is still mocking people who wear masks; and second, that he understands that it is so much more deadly than the normal flu because during the same period of time, he is absolutely saying, oh, it's just another flu. So it's just a striking contrast to what he is saying publicly.

COOPER: Yes, I mean, saying that it is -- acknowledging airborne and which was, you know, discussed and questioned, but not known for sure at the time, the President knew and deadlier -- far deadlier than the flu. He was having rallies, indoor rallies after this with no social distancing, no masks, very different than what the President was saying publicly about the virus at the time.

GANGEL: Right. Absolutely. So just to remind people to give it some context. We've put together some sound of exactly what the President was telling the public, when he was saying something quite different to Bob Woodward. Here is that.


TRUMP: And I think the virus is going to be -- it's going to be fine. And you know, in April, supposedly it dies with the hotter weather. And that's a beautiful day to look forward to.

We have it very much under control in this country.

People are getting better. They're all getting better.

There is a very good chance you're not going to die.

In fact, we're very close to a vaccine.

This is a flu. This is like a flu. Of the 15 people, the original 15 as I call them, eight of them have returned to their homes.

We're going down, not up. We're going very substantially down and not up.

And again, when you have 15 people, and the 15, within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero. That's a pretty good job we've done.

It's going to disappear. One day, it's like a miracle, it will disappear.


GANGEL: Well, it hasn't disappeared, and Woodward's book paints just a devastating portrait. He has so many details about a January 28th top secret briefing where the President is told all of this and he just describes it as a betrayal of trust.

COOPER: In March, the President told Woodward he wanted to downplay the virus to the American people.

GANGEL: Right. So first, we have February 7th, where he gives Woodward all of these details. Then on March 19th, in another interview that was recorded, he says two things that are pretty shocking. First, remember, he kept saying that young people wouldn't be affected by this -- children.

Even in August -- August 5th, I think he said, children are immune. So he tells Woodward something quite different, and then in the second part of this, you hear him admitting that he is concealing this. Here's the tape.


TRUMP: Now it's turning out, it's not just old people, Bob. But just today and yesterday, some startling facts came out. It's not just old, older.

WOODWARD: Yes, exactly. TRUMP: Young people, too. Plenty of young people. We're looking at

what's going on --

WOODWARD: So, give me a moment of talking to somebody, going through this with Fauci or somebody who kind of it caused a pivot in your mind because it's clear just from what's on the public record that you went through a pivot on this, too. Oh my God, the gravity is almost inexplicable and unexplainable.

TRUMP: Well, I think Bob really, to be honest with you.

WOODWARD: Sure, I want you to be.

TRUMP: I wanted to -- I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down.


TRUMP: Because I don't want to create a panic.


GANGEL: But Anderson, this wasn't just about panic. First of all, as you pointed out earlier, plenty of other countries dealt with this. Nobody panicked. If you want to talk about panic, 190,000 Americans dead. That's a much bigger thing.

Americans dealt with 9/11 after Pearl Harbor, they dealt with World War II, and to say that this was about preventing panic or calming people down is simply outrageous.

COOPER: It's no secret that the President and Dr. Fauci have often disagreed publicly when it comes to the virus. Fauci basically, it seems like have been sidelined. What does Dr. Fauci tell Woodward about his views on the President?

GANGEL: So throughout the book, he is quoted. There's a lot of detail and direct quotes. And he says, what Woodward reports Fauci says about Trump that his leadership is "rudderless." That "His attention span is like a minus number," and that "his sole purpose is to get reelected."


GANGEL: I should say that Dr. Fauci did an interview today in which he said he didn't recall this. I just want to remind people again, with their permission, Bob Woodward is known to record all of these interviews. These were very specific quotes in the book.

COOPER: Jamie, stay with us. I want to bring in our chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, also Dr. Craig Spencer, who served on the frontlines during the very worst of the outbreak here. He's Director of Global Health and Emergency Medicine in New York's Columbia University Medical Center, as well as an Ebola survivor.

Sanjay, President Trump's decision to downplay the virus for whatever reason, whether it was to avoid causing panic as he is claiming, or if it was avoid hurting his reelection chances or in other words, that he was panicking and didn't really know what to do, it cost lives.

I mean, as we referenced earlier, and I saw you talking about this earlier today, you know, if he had been honest with the American people, or if he had even just implemented mitigation efforts or encouraged governors to implement mitigation efforts early on, lives could have been saved.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, I mean, there's no question. I mean, that's the striking -- there's a lot of striking things about what Jamie has just reported, but that the idea that as you referenced, there's countries around the world that didn't have anything we didn't have. They didn't have a vaccine or some sort of magic therapeutic and they measured their death counts in the teens or hundreds, not the hundreds of thousands.

You showed the script, let's just show it again. I mean, because this was a model that came out of Dr. Spencer's home institution at Columbia, where they looked at sort of if you had just done some of these mitigation techniques a week earlier, just a week earlier, and this is in May, when this modeling was done.

Remember the mitigation efforts went into place, mid-March. If it had been the first week of March, 36,000 lives at that point could have been saved. It just gives you an idea of how much of an impact earlier sort of measures could have had. Two weeks earlier, 84 percent of the deaths, according to this model could have been prevented.

You know, I mean, it is really remarkable to me to hear that -- those tapes now -- and hear that he knew this. You know, when you're looking at these viruses, there's two things you want to know. Are they very contagious? Are they very lethal?

A lot of people in the very beginning weren't sure. He, on February 7th, definitively knew it and even gave a number to Bob Woodward's, five times more lethal than the flu.

COOPER: And Dr. Spencer, it's not just that the President of the United States was downplaying the virus. It's that we know also, we have seen it with our own eyes. He has pressured the F.D.A., the C.D.C. and other institutions to go along with downplaying the virus, downgrading the guidelines, C.D.C. downgrading the guidelines on how schools should reopen, not putting out guidelines or having guidelines held back, having to change guidelines because the President was threatening them.

The F.D.A., that head of the F.D.A. having to apologize for misleading information that he gave, you know, at the behest of the President, about -- you know, about plasma therapy.

I mean, you were on the frontlines in New York battling the virus at its peak when as many as you know, 800 people were dying a day in New York, you were out there trying to save lives. What do you make of what you've heard from the President now?

DR. CRAIG SPENCER, DIRECTOR OF GLOBAL HEALTH AND EMERGENCY MEDICINE, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER NEW YORK: To be honest, Anderson, I'm furious because we want to talk about panic and wanting to reduce panic, I think of the panic of every single family I called on FaceTime to let them know their family member was dying or had died.

And I think about that multiplied by 190,000 times already around this country. As a frontline provider, I'm furious because many of those deaths didn't need to happen if we took the right steps early on and got prepared like we needed to and the President clearly knew we needed to.

As a public health professional, I'm furious, because this is just another instance from the outset, but the President has undermined public health professionals. He has contradicted our messaging. There is result that since the beginning, people didn't know where to go to get trusted truth on coronavirus, how to protect themselves, how to protect their family.

That created a situation where people were just misled, given misinformation, and quite honestly, as a public health person, a public health professional, the lies and the mistruths that are coming from the President's mouth and the President's Twitter feed on a near daily basis are almost impossible for us public health professionals to keep up with and correct.

COOPER: Yes, I mean, I think that's such an important point you make. The panic in, you know, a person's voice when they know that their husband or their child or their grandparent or their best friend has been -- is dead.

SPENCER: Indescribable.

COOPER: That is panic that doesn't go away. That's not -- I mean, it's not as if -- I mean that's just -- Sanjay --

SPENCER: It's not just the family, too. It's the providers. It's everybody. I mean, it's not just individuals that are grieving. It's a whole country that is grieving.


SPENCER: We have, you know, over 25 percent of the world's cases and deaths. Were supposed to be the best and most prepared country in the world and we have failed on this from day one because of the President's apparent misdirection in trying to prevent panic. We have created more panic than was necessary if we just took this serious from day one.

COOPER: Sanjay, I want to play the exchange that you had with President Trump back in February about the virus.


GUPTA: Sir, the talk about the flu having any comparison with the coronavirus. Flu has a fatality ratio of about 0.1 percent.

TRUMP: Correct.

GUPTA: This has a fatality ratio of somewhere between two and three percent. Given that and the fact --

TRUMP: We think.

GUPTA: We think.

TRUMP: We don't know exactly the number.

GUPTA: Based on the number so far.

TRUMP: And the flu is higher than that. The flu is much higher than that.

GUPTA: There's more people who get the flu, but this is spreading. It's going to spread maybe within communities, that's the expectation.

TRUMP: It may. It may.

GUPTA: Does that worry you because that seems to be what worries the American --

TRUMP: No, because we're ready for it. It is what it is. We're ready for it. We're really prepared --


COOPER: It is what it is. By the way, it is what it is. You only say it is what it is when something is -- there's nothing you can do about it. It is just, it is what it is.

The President of the United States could have done something about it. He just chose not to. He chose to downplay it. So for him to repeatedly say "it is what it is," is particularly galling when he is the friggin' President of the United States.

I'm wondering when you look at that exchange. Sanjay, now what do you think?

GUPTA: I mean, it has nagged at me since that day, Anderson, February 26th when I kept thinking to myself, does he not know? Because he just said to me that the flu is much worse. That was on February 26th.

You just heard the tape from February 7th where he clearly conceded this coronavirus was far more lethal than the flu and again, he even gave a number, five times more lethal than the flu.

I mean, that really, it went from this idea that look, maybe was he not being briefed? He just didn't care, so he wasn't even listening to what people were telling him. That's not the case. He knew.

And at that time and many times since then, he has lied about this. He knows the truth. He lied about this. And, as you know, Anderson, I don't say that lightly. But that that is definitely the case here.

And I should point out as well, we're talking about this a little bit like it's in the rearview mirror. I mean, we're still in the middle of this, right? We were sort of analyzing this. It's not over by any means.

These bad decisions, these bad policies are still ongoing and people that are alive today that don't really think that this is a big deal are not going to be alive by the end of the year because of this.

So, this absolutely needs to be -- this needs to be fixed.

COOPER: You know, Jamie after that interview with Woodward in which the President acknowledge that coronavirus is airborne, way worse than the flu, he held six more rallies with tens of thousands of people indoors, thousands of people endorsed, tens of thousands with no mask or social distancing.

And I mean, just look at his campaign event yesterday. He continues to mock mask wearing and put people's lives at risk. He has made mask wearing a political statement, which is the worst thing you can possibly do in the midst of a pandemic.

GANGEL: It's inexplicable. One of the things that Woodward asked Trump in the book is, what do you think the most important job of being President is? And Trump says, at first, he's not sure what to answer. And then when he finally does, he said, well, it's to keep America safe and prosperous.

He clearly has -- he clearly knew a lot about this. He didn't keep America safe. He continues down that road with these inconsistent messages with, you know, mocking masks.

But I just want to point out the word, the second thing he said is to make America prosperous. And when I first heard the tape and he said he didn't want panic. What I really thought was that he was panicked about the economy and getting reelected.

COOPER: Right, which is -- I mean, he has repeatedly said early on, remember when he went to C.D.C., I think it was and he said, the thing about, you know, anybody who wants a test can get one. He talked about "my numbers," meaning his, as if the number of people infected in the country were a barometer on him and he didn't want his numbers to go up.

Dr. Spencer, thank you for everything you've done and continue to do and for being with us tonight. Sanjay as well. I'll see you tomorrow. Sanjay, I'll see you tomorrow night for our next edition of our CNN Town Hall Coronavirus: Facts and Fears.

Jamie Gangel, we will come back to you in our next segment. I want to now to CNN's Jim Acosta at the White House.

Jim, talk about the President's explanation for downplaying the virus even when he knew it was airborne and how deadly it was.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, you were talking about it a few moments ago, Anderson. The President was asked about these excerpts earlier today, and he said at one point that he wanted to be a cheerleader, that he didn't want to create panic. Anderson, he hasn't been a cheerleader. He's been a misleader. I mean,

not giving people the opportunity to prepare to deal with this virus is essentially what this President is guilty of tonight, in the name of not wanting people to panic.


ACOSTA: You know, Anderson, you mentioned some of the things just a few moments ago, the rallies, the masks, and so on. Remember, during the spring, the President was urging his supporters to essentially storm statehouses across the country and demand that their states be reopened. The President did that with the full knowledge that this virus was worse than the flu, more deadly than the flu.

He was saying to Bob Woodward as Jamie Gangel has been reporting that this virus is not only dangerous for elderly people, but for younger Americans. And yet, the President has been advocating children to go back to the classroom.

And so the President tried to put up this excuse today that he didn't want people to panic that's been echoed by Trump advisers and people inside the White House I've spoken to all day long, but that just glosses over months and months of lies -- Anderson.

COOPER: Yes, you know, Winston Churchill, you know -- the dawn of -- you know, the beginning of World War II didn't say, oh, don't worry, there's no way the Germans are going to come. There's no way they're going to -- you know, not going to -- there's no way they're going to fly planes over and bomb us. There's no way you know, don't worry about this. It's just going to end.

Leaders -- true leaders rise to the occasion and are honest with people and you know what, American citizens can handle the truth. It is stunning to me that anybody would accept a President saying oh, we just didn't want to panic people.

Yes, you don't want to scream lies in a crowded theater, which essentially, frankly, this President has done many times in front of a large auditorium.

ACOSTA: That's right.

COOPER: But honesty and telling the truth, you know what, Americans have been through tough times before and rise to the occasion.

ACOSTA: And Anderson, it's so much worse than that because he lulled half of this country into a false sense of security. He told his own supporters, millions of Trump supporters around the country that the scientists aren't to be trusted.

I mean, remember, Dr. Fauci has said on repeated occasions, Dr. Anthony Fauci who is on the Taskforce said on repeated occasions, that he and his family have received death threats and that they're being harassed because there are so many people whipped up in this mode of hostility against public health experts and scientists in this country. He has brought people out to rallies and had them sign waivers,

essentially signing their good health away to coax them into rallies so he can run his reelection campaign the way he sees fit.

And Anderson, he is subjecting these people time and again to the coronavirus. We had a rally for all intents and purposes on the South Lawn of the White House for his Republican National Convention speech on the South Lawn of the White House. As you remember, Anderson, people were sitting shoulder to shoulder, even though the President privately was saying to Bob Woodward, he knew that this was a deadly virus.

COOPER: And six indoor rallies. Correct me, if I'm wrong, after saying to Bob Woodward that it's airborne and far deadlier.

ACOSTA: And that's just in the early -- and that's just in the early weeks of the pandemic. Remember, there was that interim period where he didn't have rallies and then there was the rally in Tulsa and these airport hangar rally since then.

And so, tens of thousands of people have been exposed at his own events.

COOPER: Jim Acosta. Appreciate it. Thank you.

Perspective now from CNN chief political analyst, Gloria Borger; CNN political analyst, Carl Bernstein, who in addition to being a legendary investigative reporter, and author is also the legendary other half of Woodward and Bernstein; also CNN's Abby Phillip.

Gloria, the President's justification, downplaying the virus, he didn't want to create panic. Fear, and you know, he added today, the last thing he wants to do is, you know, show fear.

Fear is the Trump campaign strategy. I mean, that is what -- you know, he told Woodward himself for the last book that real power is fear. That was the title of the last book.

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Right. Yes, and he is running on fear in this campaign talking about the mobs in major urban areas --

COOPER: So provoking fear and stirring fear is fine when it suits his ends.

BORGER: Well, of course, totally. And I don't buy the argument, oh, I didn't want to create panic. This is a President -- it was very revealing to me today when he had his little press conference, and he said, "Leadership is about confidence."

And what he really meant, I think, if you read between the lines is he didn't want to appear to be weak. The worst thing you could tell Donald Trump is you're weak, and he didn't want blame. Because what he was thinking about was, they're going to blame me and I've got to get reelected and I don't want to shut down the economy, and I don't want to do the things that perhaps sciences is telling me that I ought to do, so I'm going to look like I'm in control even though it could cost people lives.


BORGER: I mean, it is transactional to the nth degree, and it is outrageous for a President of the United States, who as Jamie was saying before, says he wants to keep the country safe and prosperous. But you can't keep the country prosperous, unless you keep the country safe.

And that is what he totally abdicated his responsibility here.

COOPER: Carl, certainly a lot of people wonder why the person would talk to Bob Woodward. You know, Woodward had already come out with a book that the White House, you know, quibbled with and yet, and I guess some within the White House suggested the President shouldn't do it.

Are you surprised that Woodward got the President to commit to 18 on the record interviews? And what do you make of the significance of what we heard so far?

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: I am not surprised, because Trump regretted not talking to Woodward or he said he regretted not talking to Bob after the last book, and Trump is always thinking that he can charm anyone.

Well, he's not going to charm Bob Woodward. He is not going to charm a great reporter who is going to go and check everything out and who is going to talk to dozens and dozens of the President's aides and find out what the real truth is.

But let's just take a deep breath here about what we just heard on those tapes. These are the ultimate smoking gun tapes in our history. We have listened to the President of the United States commit probably the greatest felony by any President in our history.

He sits there in real time, talking and covering up his absolute dereliction in which he ignores the national security of the United States, ignores the health and safety of the people of this country in which he knowingly covers up what can cause tens of thousands of deaths.

There's never been a stunning moment captured on tape by a leader. These aren't the Watergate tapes. This is something we've never had in our history. We've never had a President with this kind of attitude about the health and safety of the American people, willing for his own reelection efforts to just throw away lives.

This is the ultimate felony by a President of the United States.

COOPER: Abby, I mean, it is interesting you know what Carl said. It is interesting if you think about, if this had been a foreign invasion coming as the President had said it was, if this had been a hurricane coming and the President had said, you know, at the time to Bob Woodward, well, I don't want to panic anybody about this hurricane, so I'm just going to say it's a category one or a tropical storm and not really, you know, has the potential to really grow.

No, we don't do that. People are informed about what the potential is and people again rise to the occasion.

Do you think it makes any difference? I mean, so many times this President has faced controversy without real political consequences. Do you think it's going to be any different this time?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, you know, as you're saying that, the sad part about what you just said is that we've actually had an example of the President trying to, you know, literally Sharpie his way into a different version of a hurricane map.

COOPER: That's true. I've forgotten about that.

PHILLIP: And this is a real thing that has actually happened where the President creates his own reality, the one that he thinks fits his reelection prospects or his political prospects best.

This is just another version of that involving the coronavirus, the consequences of which 190,000 people have lost their lives. But as far as whether this matters, I mean, you know, speaking to people around the President's campaign -- in his campaign -- you know, they kind of basically chalk this up to another bad news cycle. One of many by the way that he's had in several weeks. And that after a couple of days, a couple of weeks, this is going to all blow away.

This is the pattern that they are used to since going back to 2016, that there is a cycle of controversy, and the President is able to either write it out or another controversy comes their way.

What's different though about this is that, this is a crisis that is going to be with the American people for a long time. This is a once in, you know, once in a hundred-year event for this country.

It will be written about in the history books. Indeed, this is the first version of the history books, and I don't think that it's something that's just going to blow away. This is what the election is going to be about. I think this one really is going to stick.

COOPER: Gloria, President Trump had two campaign events yesterday, bringing together hundreds of people out without masks and not social distancing. We know he holds rallies. He loves them.

He feels like that was part of why he won in 2016. I don't know if that's an excuse or he just really loves to perform and you know, be able to tell the same stories he has told before and have people laugh.

Do you think that something in the light of what he said on the Woodward tape that, well, of course, I'm not going to even ask this question, will he continue to do it? Of course he's going to continue to do it because he has no other --

BORGER: Sure. Yes. He is going to -- look, don't forget, Anderson, this is a President who even recently maybe it was last week, who was retweeting conspiracy theories about the death toll from coronavirus. That it really wasn't as large is it.


So, he what's stunning is that I think in some bizarre way, he was trying to impress Bob Woodward with what he knew. But by doing that he set himself up, because it's very easy if you go over the timeline as you've been doing, and (INAUDIBLE) been doing that he was saying one thing to Bob Woodward to tell them oh, I know all this stuff. And on the other hand, lying to the American public. Lying to the public and saying, oh, it's just the flu. It's nothing. It's nothing else and it's so striking, because of course he will continue it. Whether it will make a difference in the election. We don't know at this point.

But this is people's lives and their livelihoods here that he's playing with. And I think it may be accepted differently by the American public.

COOPER: You know, Carl, when former FBI Director Comey -- James Comey was testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee back in 2017, he was asked about Trump's tweets suggesting that Comey should hope there aren't tapes of their conversations. Comey responded saying, Oh, lordy, I hope there are tapes. The Woodward book and tapes don't give the President much room to deny anything. I mean, he's now sort of reshaping this as though he just didn't want to have panic. Do you think he's going to -- I mean what do you think he's going to do the short term to get through this new cycle?

CARL BERNSTEIN, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, no, he's going to be on Hannity at 9:00 tonight. So that's his usual default is to go over to Fox News and spin out something. But I think this time, we are also talking about something that is shocking, even to Republicans in Congress. What happened with Richard Nixon was that finally, the Republican leadership after hearing the smoking gun takes, went down to the White House, marched down to the White House, including Barry Goldwater, the 1964 nominee, it was party to be president. And told the president he must resign the cause of his the crimes he had committed. I'm not going to suggest the Republicans are about to do that.

COOPER: Yes, I don't see Lindsey Graham did that.

BERNSTEIN: They -- no, but they have to confront this, because this is something unique that no president has allowed the loss of life for his own narrow purposes as what we have here. And the other element of this that we always have to consider what would a competent, real leader have done, honest leader in this instance, a few days he gets this information. The State of the Union address is a few days off. What would Roosevelt have done he would have gone before the Congress and said we have a national emergency, we must come together as a people fight this national emergency. Take the steps for health and welfare. In this step, we have the most devastating cover up. Happily it's recorded this cover up on these devastating (INAUDIBLE).

COOPER: Yes. Carl Bernstein, Abby Phillip, Gloria Borgia. Thank you. Jamie Gangel and Gloria are going to come back. Coming up, next the President's boast to Bob Woodward no less about a secret weapon that he says China and Russia have not heard about. Well, like maybe kind of have now. And later Joe Biden's reaction to all this, as we continue.



COOPER: Back now with more than new Bob Woodward book Rage. In addition to all the controversies, the President's statements on the pandemic have stern (ph) even before tonight, there are also new disclosures about what seems to be one of the nation's most closely guarded secrets, at least according to the President, a new nuclear weapon. The secret that appears no longer if in fact, it's true. All that, plus some brutal assessments of President Trump by two of his top former officials and the President's own over the top of pain of some of his generals.

CNN's Jamie Gangel joins us again with that. So the President went as far as discussing a secret nuclear weapon system with Bob Woodward.

JAMIE GANGEL, SPECIAL CORRESPONDENT: And it does appear to be true, Woodward then went to other sources and confirmed it. But just to put it in perspective, we have audio from that interview, which we're going to play. I think it's worth knowing this is the very first interview that the President does with Bob Woodward. I think he was trying to impress him, perhaps. But let's just put it in this perspective. The President wasn't willing to level with the American public about COVID. But he was willing to tell Bob Woodward about a new secret nuclear weapon system that he really shouldn't have been telling him about. Here's the interview.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF UNITED STATES: But I have built a nuclear weapon. I had built a weapon system weapon system that nobody's ever had in this country before. We have stuff that you haven't even seen or heard about. We have stuff that Putin and Xi had never heard about before. There's nobody what we have is incredible.


GANGEL: And to your point, Anderson, they've now heard about it.

COOPER: Yes, and I mean, if he's willing to tell Bob Woodward that to suck up to Bob Woodward in their first meeting, who knows what he said to Kim Jong-Un and Vladimir Putin when no one else was in the room and he wanted to impress them.

GANGEL: You know, it's an interesting point because these 18 interviews happen tour in the Oval Office one was it Mar-a-Lago. But the rest were phone calls from the residents late at night. Sometimes, Trump would unexpectedly call Woodward at night. Normally the White House, in a normal White House tape records interviews with reporters. I have a feeling that the White House does not know a lot of what President Trump said in these interviews to Bob Woodward.

COOPER: Woodward also reports on what an aide to General Mattis heard the President say in the Oval Office about military generals.

GANGEL: So, just to stress this aide is named. He's on the record. He's, he was working for General Mattis. He was at a meeting in the Oval Office about a trade deal. And just to tell you what he said he heard was he goes to General Mattis and he says the President said, my f-ing generals are a bunch of, you can read up on the screen. They care more about their alliances than they do about trade deals.


COOPER: I'm assuming that word is not patsies.

GANGEL: Exactly. Just General Mattis, then Defense Secretary Mattis. He wasn't born yesterday. He says to his aide, he listens to this story. And he said, would you mind writing me an e-mail about that? So he memorializes it in real time. Knowing Bob Woodward, he may very well have a copy of that e-mail.

COOPER: There were some brutal assessments of Trump's presidency from probably many of the most brutal from or from many of his former top national security officials. Former Defense Secretary James Mattis, we talked about from Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, talk about what they told Woodward.

GANGEL: So let me go through a couple of them from then Secretary of Defense General Mattis. He is quoted by Woodward as saying that Trump was dangerous, unfit has no moral compass. Also, an interesting story about Defense Secretary Mattis at the time, he was so worried that the United States might get into a hot war with North Korea. Woodward recounts these extraordinary scenes where Mattis is going to the National Cathedral repeatedly to pray, because he's so worried that he may be put in a position of shooting and killing millions of people. And at the same time, he's actually sleeping in clothes in shorts and T-shirt so that he can get up in the middle of the night. In case there's a launch. It's just extraordinary.

Dan Coats then the top intelligence official Director of National Intelligence, one of the most shocking things that Woodward writes about is that Dan Coats held suspicions that Russia had something on President Trump. And I just want to read a quick part of this. Woodward writes, Coats continue to harbor the secret belief, one that had grown rather than lessened although unsupported by intelligence proof that Putin had something on Trump, how else to explain the President's behavior? Coats could see no other explanation. And Woodward writes, that Coats found it remarkable that the top National Intelligence official felt this way.

COOPER: Yes, Jamie Gangel, thanks for all the reporting. It's just it's really stunning.

Joining us now retired Lieutenant General James Clapper. He's the former director of National Intelligence, currently serves as a CNN national security analyst. He's the author of Facts and Fears: Hard Truths from a Life and Intelligence.

Director Clapper, the fact that the President is bragging to Bob Woodward about a secret nuclear, I guess top secret or even higher nuclear weapons program, just from a national security perspective, does that concern you?

JAMES CLAPPER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Of course, Anderson, it's a pretty egregious because if the whoever he was talking to, if he ever mentioned it to the Russians or the Chinese, they for sure are going to intensify their intelligence collection efforts to find out what he's talking about if they don't already know about it. And of course, as usual, he's taken credit for military capabilities that, at least were begun long before he arrived. And so this is, you know, really reprehensible on several levels.

COOPER: You know, I'm wondering also your reaction to the President's broadside against his generals. Jamie put up the quote of what he had said, and was told to Mattis I think and also that they care more alliances, more about alliances than in trade deals. You know, obviously, it comes amid, you know, the most recent controversies, the quotes that the Atlantic has reported, the President said about service members who have died, as well as generals. And now the president talking about the military industrial complex when his own defense secretary comes from Raytheon was a lobbyist.

CLAPPER: Well, this is just more stunning reinforcement of the President's real disdain for the military. And this is part of a long pattern that preceded the shocking Atlantic article and the allegations and not about his remarks about the soldiers who have given pay the ultimate price.


So now we have yet more reinforcement with the Bob Woodward book. And by the way, to me having been on the receiving end of Bob Woodward interviews for two or three of his books I can attest to what a skilled interrogator he is. And his ability, his innate talent to get people to say things. And then allow it to be recorded is just incredible to me, just the height of chutzpah. So this, you know, kind of makes the Watergate tapes pails.

COOPER: You're clearly not from New York, because in New York was a chutzpah but I won't go into that. So, let me ask you, what do you make of the Woodward reporting that former DNI Dan Coats believes that Putin has something on Trump, although I mean, he makes clear in the book, there's the he doesn't have any intelligence on that, but it's just a belief that remained with Coates?

CLAPPER: Well, I think this also significant, because to my knowledge, this is the first time Dan has interviewed with anyone in the media to talk about his experience in the administration. And so, I take whatever Dan says was take it very seriously. And so, I think, and of course, this has been a concern from the outset, going back to 2016 why the deference to Russia and to Putin specifically. And the President has never, never once dimmed up Putin directly and personally. This administration may have taken actions against the Russians, but he himself has never done well. So this clearly is the obvious question. Do they have something on?

COOPER: Director James Clapper, appreciate him. Thank you. As always.

Just ahead, Joe Biden's harsh condemnation or reaction to the Woodward book. We've got an excerpt from a wide ranging interview with CNN, that'll air in full with Jake Tapper tomorrow when 360 continues.


COOPER: Shortly after the conversations between President Trump and Bob Woodward first aired. CNN Jake Tapper sat down with Joe Biden the President's Democratic opponent in the 2020 race. Entire interview is going to air on full tomorrow night at 4:00 p.m. on CNN.


But tonight, we want to play you an excerpt from that interview, I suppose and Biden's response to what the President said on those tapes Woodward during the early days the outbreak.


JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST (on-camera): In his upcoming book, Bob Woodward reports that President Trump understood the serious risk posed by the novel coronavirus in early February. Take a listen to what the President told Woodward February 7th.

TRUMP: Just read the air that's how it's passed. And so that's a very tricky one. That's a very delicate one. It's also more deadly than your, you know, your even your strenuous flus. This is deadly stuff.

TAPPER (on-camera): As you know the President spent much of February and even March downplaying the risks of the novel coronavirus, saying it would disappear saying the heat would make it go away. What's your response to this news about what He was telling Bob Woodward on February 7th?

JOE BIDEN (D) PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: It's disgusting. We learned this on the day that 100 -- returned 190,000 Americans dead. And he knew this. I understand he had just gotten off the phone when he did the first interview with Woodward. He just gotten off the phone with Xi Jinping, where he's praising Xi Jinping about transparency and this has nothing to worry about him. This is going to go away like a miracle.

TAPPER (on-camera): Well, the way that President Trump explains that and he said this to Woodward on March 19th, if you take a listen.

TRUMP: I wanted to always play it down. I still like playing it down.


TRUMP: Because I don't want to create a panic.

TAPPER (on-camera): He said something similar this afternoon. He said he didn't want to create a panic. That's why he downplayed it. He said leadership is about confidence.

BIDEN: Yes. And that's why we have no confidence in his leadership. I mean, if look, you saw with Columbia medical school pointed out in March, had he acted one week earlier, with over 31,000 more people alive. That in two weeks earlier would have been 50 some thousand still alive, this cause people to die. And what are you doing the whole time? He acknowledges, you breathe it, it's in the air, and he won't put on a mask he's talking about it's ridiculous to put on mask. What do you need social distancing for? Why have any of these rules? It was all about making sure the stock market didn't come down, that his wealthy friends didn't lose any money. And that he could say that, in fact, anything that happened had nothing to do with him. He will he waved the white flag. He walked away. He didn't do a damn thing. Think about it. Think about what he did not do and it's almost criminal.

TAPPER (on-camera): Woodward also reports that former Defense Secretary James Mattis said that Trump quote, has no moral compass, and that even floated collective action with Dan Coats, the Director of National Intelligence because Trump is quote unfit. Woodward also says that Coats couldn't shake the suspicion that Putin had something on Trump. What do you make of this from his advisors?

BIDEN: I think Trump has just stunned everyone around him. It's just how corrupt his thinking is. I mean, think about this. Remember he said on under oath, not under oath there shouldn't say that said to the American public that he didn't get that briefing on how dangerous coronavirus was. He didn't get that from an intelligence committee. He never read the reports. He didn't (INAUDIBLE) and they do with that. He saw the reports, he knew them in detail. At least we know he can read why in God's name did he move quicker on the Defense Production Act, to provide PPP -- you know the protective equipment for doctors and first responders. Why did he do that? He -- I mean OK. He says he didn't want to panic people. Well, at least make sure everybody has the equipment they need. Just say this just access to caution. He didn't even do that.

TAPPER (on-camera): I have relatives all over the country and all over the political spectrum. How do you make the argument to a relative I have in Texas who says, yes, this virus is horrible, but it's not Trump's fault. It's China's fault.

BIDEN: Let's assume we'll take both you're -- both that road whose point, is China's fault. If it's China's fault, why did Trump praise China? Why did he say how transparent, how transparent Xi Jinping and the Chinese are going to be? Why did he insisted the 44 people we had there and while I and others insisting that they go in and be have access to see really what is happening to know the detail, why did you not insist on that? And the virus is not as fault, but the deaths are his fault, because he could have done something about it, Jake. I'd say to your uncle, he could have done something about it. But he said nothing. He didn't talk he said there's no need for social distancing. Don't bother worrying mask. He actually went so far as to suggest that it was a violation of American freedom. To maintain you had to wear a mask.

[20:55:02] And look what's happened. Again 290,000 dead and climbing and what's he doing now? He still has not moved. Look at the schools that are not opening? School -- we talked. I mean, I know you have young children. Well guess what, they're starting off school like the end of last year at home. But think of all the people who don't have the resources to do that. Think of the choice the single mom has to make, am I going to go to my $7 an hour job and lose my -- and or stay home with my kid. I can't afford anybody.


COOPER: On this criminal, the former vice president called it and that's just a small excerpt of a much larger wide ranging interview with Joe Biden. You can watch the entire interview on "THE LEAD" with Jake Tapper, tomorrow 4:00 p.m. Eastern here on CNN.

We'll be right back, more ahead.


COOPER: We began the program with the President's own words from seven months ago, which he appeared to reaffirm this afternoon that he downplayed the virus that he knew would be serious it would be deadly. And tonight we have a reminder of just how deadly, at least 100 and -- excuse me at least 1,110 lives lost just today. More than 190,000 overall in the U.S.


Just reminder tomorrow night in new CNN Global Townhall: Coronavirus Facts and Fears. Dr. Sanjay Gupta and I'll be taking your questions about the virus potential vaccines. That is tomorrow night 8:00 p.m. Eastern on CNN.

The news continues. I want to head over to Chris for "CUOMO PRIMETIME." Chris?