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The Lead with Jake Tapper

WHO Official to Young People: You're Not "Invincible" to Virus. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired August 19, 2020 - 16:00   ET



JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Welcome to THE LEAD. I'm Jake Tapper.

And we begin this hour with breaking news. We are learning new details about the third night of the Democratic National Convention, where, in just a few hours, we will see some history being made, with Senator Kamala Harris, Democrat of California, set to become the first black and South Asian woman formally nominated for vice president by a major political party in the United States.

Harris will also speak this evening, along with former President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, who was the first woman nominated for president by a major political party.

The night of heavy Democratic hitters follows Tuesday's pitches for the Biden/Harris ticket, which included former Bush Secretary of State Colin Powell joining a growing list of Republicans backing Biden.

A few days ago, Republican Governor John Kasich noted that he expected a former Republican member of Congress to join him in crossing the political divide and endorse Democrat Joe Biden.

That member of Congress will be right here on THE LEAD in just a few minutes.

But, first, it is a huge night for vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris.

As CNN's M.J. Lee reports, an aide tells CNN that Harris hopes people will see themselves and their life stories in her acceptance speech.


M.J. LEE, CNN NATIONAL POLITICS CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Night three of an unconventional Democratic National Convention poised to make more history tonight.

Senator Kamala Harris, the first woman of color on a major-party ticket, will deliver the biggest speech of her career, as Joe Biden's vice presidential running mate.

SEN. KAMALA HARRIS (D-CA): Joe Biden had the audacity to choose a black woman to be his running mate. The daughter of Jamaican and Indian immigrants, Harris will share her

personal story, a campaign aide tells CNN, and hopes that Americans of all backgrounds see themselves reflected in her remarks.

And 12 years after making history as the first black man elected president, Barack Obama will also speak tonight, vouching for the character and experience of the Biden/Harris ticket and address the ongoing attacks on mail-in voting.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's time to call the roll.

LEE: This coming after Tuesday night's unprecedented virtual roll call featuring delegates from all 57 states and territories.

STATE REP. JOSEPH MCNAMARA (D-RI): The calamari comeback state of Rhode Island casts one vote for Bernie Sanders and 34 votes for the next president, Joe Biden.

LEE: Making Biden the Democratic Party's official nominee for president.

JOSEPH BIDEN (D), PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE: Thank you very, very much from the bottom of my heart.

LEE: The highlight of night two of the convention, a deeply personal testimonial from Biden's wife, Jill, the former second lady discussing her own family's resilience in the face of tragedy, including the 2015 death of their son Beau.

JILL BIDEN, WIFE OF JOE BIDEN: How do you make a broken family whole? The same way you make a nation whole, with love and understanding and with small acts of kindness.

LEE: The evening also focusing on health care, with poignant remarks from activist Ady Barkan, who was diagnosed with the debilitating disease ALS.

ADY BARKAN, ALS PATIENT (through computer-assisted voice): Today, we are witnessing the tragic consequences of our failing health care system.

LEE: And building on an ongoing theme of bipartisan support this week, more testimonials from Republicans, including former Secretary of State Colin Powell and Cindy McCain, wife of the late Senator John McCain.

CINDY MCCAIN, WIDOW OF SENATOR JOHN MCCAIN: Even if a deal seemed out of reach, it was always Joe who tried to cross the aisle.

LEE: The evening also featuring former President Bill Clinton delivering an unusual and stark rebuke of his successor, Donald Trump.

BILL CLINTON, FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: His determination to deny responsibility and shift the blame. The buck never stops there.


LEE: And, Jake, we are just learning that former President Barack Obama is planning on delivering his speech tonight at the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia.

This was a location that was specifically chosen, so that he can underscore his belief that the American democracy is at stake in this election.

We also just received a fund-raising note from Obama that sort of gives us a hint as to the kind of tone that we might hear from him. He raised a question that he said he asked 16 years ago, when he spoke at the DNC.

And the question goes: Do we participate in a politics of cynicism, or do we participate in a politics of hope?


TAPPER: All right. M.J. Lee, thank you so much.

A number of high-profile Republicans, as we mentioned, are backing Vice President Biden over President Trump, including former Secretary of State Colin Powell, former Ohio and New Jersey Governors John Kasich and Christine Todd Whitman, former Republican Congresswoman Susan Molinari of New York, Meg Whitman, who ran for governor of California in 2010, and 2016 Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina.

And now we're about to add more former Republican official to the list, former Republican Congressman Charlie Dent from the great Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.


Congressman Dent, thanks so much for joining us.

You have been a lifelong Republican. Why are you supporting Joe Biden?

FMR. REP. CHARLIE DENT (R-PA): Well, Jake, I'm doing this because, well, one, I did not support President Trump in 2016. I did not vote for him. I'm not going to do it in 2020.

But, at the end of the day, you know, this really isn't about right or left. It's not about ideology, not right or left. For me, it's about right or wrong, stability vs. instability, security vs. insecurity, normal vs. abnormal.

That's why I'm doing this, because I feel that we need to return some sense of normalcy to the function of government. We simply don't have that now. And that's why I'm going to be voting for Joe Biden for president.

TAPPER: So, I'm sure you are going to hear from a lot of Republican colleagues, current and former Republican congressmen, who say: Joe Biden is a Democrat. Charlie, you're a Republican. And the Democratic Party is far more to the left than it used to be. And, look, I don't -- I get you don't like the president's style, but what about the substance of his actions, the tax cuts, the conservative judges, the rolling back regulations?

What are you going to say to them?

DENT: Well, I'm going to say to them, if we want to talk policy, let's talk about national security.

I never in my wildest dreams thought an American -- a Republican president would be cozying up to somebody like Vladimir Putin and advancing his foreign policy objectives in Europe and the Middle East.

On trade, I'd never thought we'd have a Republican president who'd be throwing around tariffs, taxes on American citizens, and being so opposed to opening up markets for American producers. Those are just two very specific examples.

Health care. When the president told me I was going to destroy the Republican Party, he was the one who really never advanced a real plan to provide health care to Americans. And I think that was a major failing.

So, those are three policy areas where I have had very significant disagreements.

But there are principles, Jake, greater than a tax cut or a lighter regulatory touch, which I support. There are greater principles involved, like the rule of law. We have to defend democratic values. And I say democratic with a small D, a free press, an independent judiciary.

These are things that are very important. And the president has been trying to undermine those things. And I think that, again, we have to talk about broader principles here, rather than just an immediate policy victory.

TAPPER: Do you think that you and other Republicans, John Kasich, Christie Todd Whitman, Meg Whitman, John -- Colin Powell, et cetera, do you think your endorsing Trump will have any impact, do you think?

It happened in 2016, too. Some Republicans endorsed Hillary Clinton.

DENT: Yes, I mean, I don't know if it'll have an impact.

But I do think that the people you just mentioned, including myself, might have some sway with people who find themselves somewhere between center-right and center-left on the political spectrum.

I think many of those people will maybe take note of what we're saying, but -- saying. But I do think that there are many people in this country who are Republicans and who are unhappy with the direction of the party, that the party has become too socially intolerant, it has not been constructive on the international stage.

And I think we have to get back to free markets, and with reasonable regulation. And we need to get to a better place as a party. We are simply not there.

And there are many Republicans who agree with me on this. They might not be stating it the way I am. But I can assure you, I hear from them regularly about the sad state of affairs right now in the party. And there's going to be a reckoning, in my view, after the election, should President Trump be defeated and if the Senate were to flip.

I suspect there's going to be a real conversation about what this party should look like. Should Trumpism survive Trump? And we're going to have a great debate.

TAPPER: So, Trump won the great Commonwealth of Pennsylvania in 2016.

That's one of the reasons he is president, flipping that state, which is -- traditionally went for Democrats in presidential races.

What are you hearing when you go back to Pennsylvania? Do you think he might keep Pennsylvania red, or might it go to Biden?

DENT: Well, looking at this analytically, right now, I think it's improbable that he would win reelection in Pennsylvania, simply because the suburban -- the suburban erosion for Republicans has been dramatic since the president was elected.

2017, '18, and '19 have been very unkind to Republicans, particularly in suburban communities and near areas of the collar counties of Philadelphia, the suburbs in the Lehigh Valley, Pittsburgh and even Harrisburg. That situation has eroded considerably.

And I would also argue, too, that the president, while he has done very well upstate in the rural areas, I don't believe there are enough rural voters out there to offset the losses that Republicans have experienced in those suburban communities I just identified.

So, the president ran a perfect straight -- pulled a perfect straight in 2016. He'd have to do it again. He only won by 44,000 votes. But, as I said, the suburban situation is much worse. Joe Biden is not Hillary Clinton.


Hillary Clinton lost because her vote collapsed outside of the Philadelphia region. And, again, Biden is not Clinton.

TAPPER: In the last week or so -- you were talking about the future of the Republican Party, if Trump wins or if he doesn't.

In the last week or so, two completely unhinged conspiracy theorists, both of them complete bigots as well, have won Republican congressional nominations, Marjorie Taylor Greene in Georgia in a Republican district and Laura Loomer in Florida in a district that leans Democratic.

President Trump has praised both of them, gone out of his way to say positive things about these really unlikable candidates, in terms of the things that they say and do.

Is it possible, Congressman, is it possible that the Republican Party is now the party of deranged bigots, and there isn't a place in it any longer for a Charlie Dent?

DENT: Well, I -- look, part of the reason I'm doing this today is because of what happened last week.

I wrote an op-ed. I was on John King's show, and we talked about the QAnon conspiracy candidate down in Georgia, I mean, a 9/11 truther, for Pete's sake. And the president called this person a rising star.

I mean, all this does is empower the whack jobs and the nuts to come out. And I think, with strong leadership, we should be able to marginalize folks like that. And it's really a sad state of affairs when the president endorses a 9/11 -- endorses a 9/11 truther. I mean, it's just beyond me.

I grew up in a Republican Party in Pennsylvania where you had people like Bill Scranton Sr., and Dick Thornburgh, and John Heinz, and Arlen Specter, and Tom Ridge, and the Schweikers, I mean, really good, solid people, responsible people.

And that was the party that I was always proud to be part of. And it's just -- it's a sad state of affairs.

I know that -- I can't imagine any of them would've appreciated any of this that's happening right now. And I think we need to have this debate about the future of the party. And we need to get serious adults engaged, because I know -- look, I have a lot of friends who are in Congress on the Republican side.

And, look, I know they're just as frustrated as I am. And they're not as -- in a position maybe to say it as I can. But they're frustrated. And they know this is very difficult and that they're all in a bad situation, as is the party.

And I can already see people angling for a post-Trump world. So, I'm looking forward to that.

And one final thing, too, Jake. I never thought in my wildest dreams a Republican president would be standing up there defending the Confederacy or Confederate symbols. I mean, how crazy is that? I mean, it's just -- it's just beyond belief to me, beyond description.

TAPPER: Well, I remember the Republican Party that you're talking about as well, having grown up in Pennsylvania as well. And it's not the one that I see on Capitol Hill right now.

Former Republican Congressman Charlie Dent.

By the way, the Phillies are down 4-3 against the Boston Red Sox. Thought you would want to know.


TAPPER: Thanks so much for joining us. Appreciate it.

DENT: I don't.


DENT: Thank you. Thank you.

TAPPER: Watch as Senator Kamala Harris makes history accepting the vice presidential nomination.

Plus, hear from former President Barack Obama and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. CNN's special coverage tonight begins at 7:00 Eastern.

New coronavirus outbreaks are hitting schools hard, as we learn several major universities are changing their plans.

Plus, President Trump today called on his supporters to boycott Goodyear tires, but he may have wanted to kick his own tires before sending that tweet out.

Stay with us.



TAPPER: In our health lead today, a stern warning from a World Health Organization official to kids and young adults, saying you are not invincible to this coronavirus. And that message is ringing true as we see college after college switching to online classes after a massive outbreak.

CNN's Erica Hill has more now on how schools are shifting as cases are already spiking.


ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): College move-in day 2020 style. Masks, staggered arrivals, mandatory testing.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I just tried to take all the precautions I can.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It is a weird time.

HILL: Drake University just banned 14 students for two weeks for violating the school's COVID-19 policies.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are taking it really seriously.

HILL: Several other major colleges shifting to online learning as students and staff test positive.

DR. ROBERT ROBBINS, PRESIDENT, UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA: I'm very concerned about our campus. I'm glad that the numbers have gone down in Arizona. But, still, if our students, faculty, and staff don't follow the rules, we're going to suffer the same fate as the other universities.

HILL: K-12 schools in some hard-hit states asking more students and employees to quarantine.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: We should not neglect the fact that children, some can get seriously ill.

HILL: School in Collinsville, Illinois, making a last-minute change after a number of staff tested positive.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're going to hit pause and go to online learning for three weeks.

HILL: Miami-Dade County which pushed its start date to August 31st confident the right choice is to begin the year remotely.

ALBERTO CARVALLO, SUPERINTENDENT, MIAMI-DADE COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Considering what's happened in Gwinnett County and UNC, I think that our approach is the right approach.

HILL: Georgia still a major concern. The state now has the highest number of cases per capita in the country. And while the number of new cases in the U.S. is declining, deaths have plateaued at an average of more than a thousand a day for the last 23 days.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We still don't have a magic bullet to be able to prevent death or serious disease. And we're still not doing the job that we need to do to be able to contain spread in most places in the United States.


HILL: As a push for a vaccine continues, new CNN polling finds just 56 percent of Americans say they'd get the vaccine. That's down ten points since May.

FAUCI: Vaccine disinformation can lead clearly to vaccine hesitancy.

HILL: While most agree those on the front lines should have first priority, Pope Francis also stressing his hope that it will ultimately be made available to all.

POPE FRANCIS, CATHOLIC CHURCH (through translator): It would be sad if the rich are given priority for the COVID-19 vaccine. It would be sad if this vaccine became the property of this or that nation, if it's not universal and for everyone.


HILL: Here in New York state, Governor Cuomo is actually asking all of the school districts to re-examine their re-opening plans because of what has happened at Notre Dame, asking that they make sure they know how they would deal with similar outbreak. And the head of the teachers union in New York City is asking that any person entering a school building either have proof of antibodies or proof of a negative COVID-19 test.

TAPPER: All right, Erica Hill, thank you so much.

Dr. Paul Offit, the director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia joins me now.

Dr. Offit, good to see you. Thanks for joining us.

Is it any surprise to you that colleges and universities are having this much trouble having in-person learning?

DR. PAUL OFFIT, DIRECTOR OF THE VACCINE EDUCATION CENTER, CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL OF PHILADELPHIA: I just don't think we're taking this as seriously as we should. I think people make the mistake of thinking that when they're back to school, that things are now business as usual. And they should see it differently. They should see this as a gift that they've been given and wear masks and social distance and wash your hands and do everything you can to not catch or transmit this infection. I just don't think that's happening and that's why we get into this trouble again and again.

TAPPER: The CNN poll that found only 56 percent of people surveyed say they will try to get a COVID vaccine if and when one is developed. Is that enough in a perfect world? What percentage of the population should be vaccinated, 56 percent enough or not enough?

OFFIT: Well, it depends on how effective the vaccine is. If the vaccine, let's say, is 75 percent effective, then you would need to vaccinate about two-thirds of the American population to stop spread. But I do think that these polls aren't asking the right question. I mean, the questions are being asked is would you get a theoretical COVID-19 vaccine. My answer of that question would be no. I would wait to see what the data are.

But I think if you go to people, you say, we have a vaccine that's 75 percent effective, it will protect you for at least six months and not longer. It's been shown to be safe in 20,000 people. Would you get that vaccine? I think most people would say yes to that question.

TAPPER: "The New York Times" is reporting that the FDA has put a hold on the emergency use authorization of blood plasma for coronavirus patients, citing weak data on the treatment. Do you think that's the right decision of the FDA?

OFFIT: The study hasn't just been very good. I mean, the answer to the question, could plasma that has high virus neutralizing antibodies protect against severe disease? I think the answer to that question is yes. Unfortunately, we just don't have good studies to support that yet. And hopefully, those studies will be done.

TAPPER: When it comes to testing and also returning students, last hour I spoke with a doctor who outlined a plan to keep college students in Alabama safe. One part of his plan, and it's obviously multi-pronged, but one part is pooled testing. Explain what that means, and do you think that pool testing is a good idea? OFFIT: So what pool testing is, is you take, for example, five

people, pool their samples together and test them. If it's negative, then you can assume all five are negative. So, that can be done much faster.

If it's positive, then you assume one or more in that pool of five is positive and you go back to see who among them was positive. But it certainly could speed things up.

What I would say though is to be perfectly honest, Jake, I don't think we're going to be able to test our way out of this pandemic. I think there are so many people who are asymptomatic or pre-symptomatic that are shedding virus. I think we should assume that everyone we come in contact with is someone who could be transmitting the virus to us. And we should wear masks, period. I think that's the smartest thing we could do. Dr. Redfield said that recently and we just don't seem to be willing to do that.

TAPPER: CNN learned today that after inconclusive results, Army researchers have discontinued testing on Oleandrin. That's the therapeutic touted by the president and that MyPillow guy. How damaging do you think it is every time the president talks or

tweets about a treatment that is not coming from the medical community, coming from other people including, for instance, MyPillow guy?

OFFIT: I mean, this is a serious disease, and we have an enormous amount of expertise in this country. What the administration should be hearing from, either through or with Dr. Fauci are people who are cellular biologists, virologists who thought about this, not people who sell bedroom accessories. It really reaches the level of parity. I think we're right back to Clorox chewables.

TAPPER: During a webinar with G.W. University today, Dr. Anthony Fauci who you just mentioned, he urged people to stop speculating about the pandemic and focus just on the facts.


As a medical professional, did you ever think you would see a day when science is held in such apparent little regard by the president? In fact, a day when science is under attack?

OFFIT: It's awful. I mean, you have an administration that is willing to attack science-based agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency, like the National Weather Service with Hurricane Doreen. And now the FDA, I think, frankly, with the hydroxychloroquine debacle. That product should've never been approved for use because it hadn't been shown to work. Now we know it's harmful, and it did only harm and no good.

It's awful and it's only our population that suffers. We're better than this. I know we're better than this. It's just hard to watch.

TAPPER: Dr. Paul Offit from the great city of Philadelphia, thank you so much. Appreciate your time today. OFFIT: Thank you.

TAPPER: Coming up next, the mixed messages from the Trump campaign as his aides hype President Trump's plans for mail-in voting for himself.

Stay with us.