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University President Argues "This Is Not Time For A Gap Year"; Judge Delays Approval Of Michael Flynn Case Dismissal; States Consider Mail-In Voting For November. Aired 12:30-1p ET

Aired May 13, 2020 - 12:30   ET



JOHN KING, CNN HOST: -- it's a bit of a pep talk, if you will. Students please don't sit on the sidelines. We need your talents, ideas, and energy. We also need every ounce of your knowledge and expertise as we fight the pandemic and navigate soaring job losses when the crisis ends, and it will, history shows that the best jobs will go to those with college degrees and advanced skills.

That's a pep talk for students come back or apply. If you're a new student come in. You said you think you're prepared for this with the right hybrid approach. So what are you doing? I assume you're walking around campus now or you have experts walking around campus now, in terms of a local right on campus testing infrastructure or something in coordination with the county or the state. How are classrooms being reimagined to keep people safe?

DR. ORA HIRSCH PESCOVITZ, PRESIDENT, OAKLAND UNIVERSITY IN ROCHESTER, MICHIGAN: Well, we're working very hard on social distancing. So we know that we can't imagine a classroom like last fall. And so we're going to ensure that there is a great deal of social distancing so that classes will be spread out.

Classrooms that used to have 120 students, this year might only have 30 students. And we won't have the athletics like we used to have in the fall. We will not open with spectator sports and arena that used to have completely, be full for basketball game, for example. We'll definitely not be looking at that this fall either.

But we do know that it is important for students to experience the college experience. And that means being around other students having homecoming and having the opportunity to be around other students in residence halls and things like that.

And so, we're trying to imagine how we might do that in innovative and in entrepreneurial ways. So, for example, we deferred our commencement this spring. And we're looking at how we can do that in a novel experience. So we're looking to do that this August, for example, through a drive thru kind of experience where they can be on campus but in their cars.

So we can be entrepreneurial. And I really think that that's very important. You mentioned that you looked at my op-ed, there's another component to that. And this is another reason why I really want students to go to college this fall, because I think that they can participate in fighting this pandemic, if they go to college this year, because universities around the country are going to participate in a very important way in the COVID fight.

They might be participating in laboratories where they're contributing to developing a cure. They might help by making 3D shields. They might make masks. They might contribute to serving the poor. And colleges are going to be on the forefront of this pandemic fight.

KING: Dr. Pescovitz, I wish you good luck. Keep in touch as the metrics come in how many students come back, how many are reluctant to do so. It's a fascinating experiment we're going to go through. Really appreciate your time and insights today. Thank you.

PESCOVITZ: Thanks for having me, John.

KING: My pleasure. Thank you.

A Vermont family was told they were not welcome in the state and that not even the governor wanted them there all because they had recently moved from New York and still had New York plates on their car. The incident happened in front of an 11-year-old child prompting this response from the governor today.


GOV. PHIL SCOTT (R-VT): Here's the bottom line. This virus cannot be used as an excuse for hate, bigotry, or division of any type for any reason. This virus knows no border and it doesn't discriminate.


KING: Governor says, Vermont's borders are not close and the police are now investigating that incident.


Coming up, a federal judge steps in after the Justice Department moves to drop its case against Michael Flynn.


KING: Michael Flynn's exoneration is on hold. The judge presiding over the case heard by the Attorney General wants to dismiss charges against Flynn, the President's former national security adviser.

Now the judge, though, signaling he wants to hear from people outside the Justice Department. Our senior justice correspondent, Evan Perez joins us now live. Evan, this is a very unusual move by the judge saying, OK, Justice Department's made its case. Anyone else have something to say?

EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: Yes, that's right, John. It's a very unusual move for this judge to make. He is essentially saying opening the door for third parties, people outside of the prosecution, outside of Justice Department, outside of Flynn's legal team to weigh in on what he should do whether he should dismiss the charges.

And one of the reasons why he appears to have done this is because he's heard from people outside saying we think you should hear from us. One group of four Watergate prosecutors sent a memo to the judge that we have now obtained. And they're asking for a chance to be able to weigh in.

I'll read you part of what they told the judge. They said, quote, if ever there were a case where the public interest counseled the court to take a long, hard look at the government's explanation and the evidence, it is this one. So they're asking, John, for permission to be able to weigh in here.

They're drawing direct parallels to the Watergate scandal. They're saying that the Justice Department under Bill Barr is behaving in a similar fashion during that period when they were under pressure from Richard Nixon. And so they want to be able to weigh in further before the judge makes a final decision.

As you said, John, very unusual thing for the judge to even bring in somebody else outside from the defendant and the government but in this case, nothing has gone as normally as you normally have in these cases.


KING: In the courts on Twitter, this is a case that continues to stir it up and we'll keep on top of it. Even Perez, really appreciate. It's important. We'll keep tracking that. Thank you very much.

Coming up for us, health officials say, it is crucial to reopening safely but the United States still behind many other countries when it comes to contact tracing.


KING: The Orleans mayor is requiring businesses including restaurants to keep a log of customers' names and phone numbers for contact tracing purposes. Out in Washington State, Governor Jay Inslee, also touting contact tracing as a critical step in his words, quote, box in the virus.


As contact tracing becomes part of our new normal, a new free online course hopes to train an army of contact tracers to protect the public. Dr. Emily Gurley is a public health professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and help develop this course. Dr. Gurley, I want you to listen to Dr. Redfield from the CDC yesterday in his testimony, first he acknowledged that as the virus exploded, the CDC lost its containment. It could not keep up with the contact tracing demand. Listen to him here says as the country reopens how critical it is to be ready.


DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, DIRECTOR, CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION: People underestimate how important it is that we have a highly functional comprehensive aggressive contract tracing program so that the next to this outbreak we focus on containment. We don't have to switch to mitigation.


KING: So take us through your course and why it is so important to train up this army that we need.

EMILY GURLEY, ASSOCIATE SCIENTIST, JOHNS HOPKINS BLOOMBERG SCHOOL OF PUBLIC HEALTH: Yes. Well, thanks for the chance to talk about the course. We're really excited about it.

So what this course does is takes people who may have no background in public health or practice diseases, and teaches them all the basics they need to know about contact tracing, including what's is -- what the disease is, how its transmitted, how contact tracing stops transmission, what are the steps of contact tracing, the ethical considerations that they need to know, and importantly, how to build rapport with people and have an effective communication.

KING: And so in your view, as you listen to this play out, number one, I assume you're happy that Dr. Redfield mentioned how important it is. You hear Governor Inslee. You hear the mayor of New Orleans saying we need to do this. I assume that's encouraging to see that officials at every level seem to understand how important this is.

You also though, do have a mix of approaches. There are people who were coming up with new apps to do it. Some other people think, you know, just -- so what is the best approach? How much is technology helpful? How much of it is the old eyeball to eyeball connect the dots? OK, you have COVID, who were the last 10 people you met with and go trace them down?

GURLEY: So I think contact tracers are in part disease detective, social worker, and therapist. And ultimately, contact tracing is about people helping other people. Because of the unprecedented scope and scale of effort we have to mount, we have to look for all the ways to make this as efficient and as effective as possible. And there are some technological tools out there that can do that.

But I think it's important to remember that those tools have to be supporting the person to person communication, that has to happen for contact tracing, not just to get good information, but really we're asking a lot of people if we want them to isolate themselves from others or quarantine themselves to stop transmission. It's not easy to do, and people need support to do it.

So I think, you know, we should explore all the options to make that as effective as possible. But ultimately, people need support from other people to do that.

KING: Dr. Gurley, thanks for your insights, best of luck. And we'll check in with you in a little bit to see how the numbers are, how many people you're trying to get ready to join, I guess our new army and important one at that. Thank you very much.

GURLEY: I appreciate it. Thank you.

KING: Thank you.

Today's big global coronavirus developments now beginning with an alarming spike in Sao Paulo, Brazil.


SHASTA DARLINGTON, CNN BRAZIL BUREAU CHIEF: Here in Brazil, more than 12,000 people have died from COVID-19. Nearly 4,000 of those in Sao Paulo considered the epicenter. The state is under quarantine since March. And downtown offices are shuttered.

But in poor Favelas, residents say they can't afford to stop working. Owners of everything from bars to hair salons defy orders to close. Homes are small, and multiple generations are often packed under a single roof, making social isolation complicated at best.

Although wealthy Brazilians brought the virus from their European vacations, health officials say the urban poor will likely be hit hardest.

Shasta Darlington, CNN, Sao Paulo.

MATTHEW CHANCE, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, in Russia more bleak numbers this morning as the authorities there report more than 10,000 new coronavirus infections for the 11th consecutive day.

Russia now has more than 240,000 cases officially identified the highest toll in the world after the United States. The Russian officials acknowledge those numbers are going much higher. The Moscow mayor says screening results suggest as many as 300,000 infections in that one city alone.

Yesterday, a top aide of President Putin was hospitalized with the virus. Dmitry Peskov, who's Putin spokesman says that he hasn't had a face to face meeting with the President for more than a month. But it still raises important questions about how to shielded President Putin is from the pandemic in his country.


That outbreak still placing enormous strain on the country's health service in the past few days, at least six coronavirus patients have been killed when their Russian made ventilators meant to be keeping them alive, burst into flames forcing wards into hospitals to be evacuated, all this as the Kremlin moves to lift some lockdown restrictions across the country, even though the pandemic there shows little sign of easing.

Matthew Chance, CNN. DAVID MCKENZIE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I'm David McKenzie in Johannesburg. The WHO has warned that up to 190,000 people could be killed by the coronavirus across Africa just the first year alone if containment measures do not succeed. They say, testing, tracing, isolation, and treatment are critical.

Now they say the virus probably won't spread as exponentially as in other parts of the world. But there will be hotspots. They also warned many parts of the continent are woefully unprepared. They say in 47 countries, they're an average of just nine ICU beds per 1 million people.


KING: Up next for us, more states looking to expand mail-in voting, this as we get closer to the presidential election. The President doesn't like it.



KING: More and more states now exploring the option of mail-in voting because of the coronavirus pandemic this presidential election year. California, for example has sent every voter, the governor signing an executive order sending every voter in the state a mail-in ballot option. Governor Newsom is hoping that helps in November.

Nebraska set a record just yesterday for voting in last night's primary though polling places were open. More than 400,000 people voted by mail.

Kim Wyman is the Republican Secretary of State for the State of Washington, which has a long history of voting by mail. Thank you for joining us. As we watch this play out, safety is a giant concern, obviously, to have elections in the middle of a pandemic. I just start with this. Your state has been doing this for some time. It works and it works well, right?

KIM WYMAN (R), WASHINGTON SECRETARY OF STATE: That's correct. So then, I just -- I don't want to put you in a tough spot. I know you're the Republican Secretary of State, but in Washington and 2018, 3.1 million, total number of ballots cast, 142 cases of improper voting. That is a miniscule number. So but then if you listen to the President of the United States, you hear this.


DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think that mail-in voting is a terrible thing. I think if you vote, you should go. You should go and you should vote. There's a lot of dishonesty going along with mail-in voting. Mail ballots, now mail ballots, they cheat, OK, people cheat. Mail ballots are very dangerous. The mail ballots are corrupt in my opinion. Sure, I could vote by mail for that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How do you reconcile of that? TRUMP: Because I'm allowed to.


KING: The last part of that was the President voted by mail in a Florida election. I'm not here to get you in a fight with the President of the United States. But the history is that mail-in balloting has lower fraud and higher turnout. Is that not the fact?

WYMAN: That's been our experience here in Washington State. We've been a vote by mail since 2011. And our experiences that, you know, is there -- is it perfect? Do we have every single ballot cast is 100 percent assured, not -- no fraud or there's no suppression? Absolutely not.

But is it rampant fraud? No. And the 2018 Study really confirmed that. It confirmed what I thought, you know, we have a few people that either have made mistakes or maybe intentionally tried to cast more than one vote or vote for a deceased family member. But it's not the rampant fraud that I think many people that fear vote by mail, would have you believe

KING: Your state has been a laboratory ahead of the curve in this one. The Secretaries of State, of course, have an association, how much is your phone ringing? How many -- what's your e-mail inbox look like? As other states decide, should we do this because of this pandemic and the safety concerns?

WYMAN: Our phones have been ringing off the hook. And we've been on endless Zoom calls and meetings with people across the spectrum, political spectrum, and otherwise. And really what we're all trying to do is solve the problem of having an election in a COVID environment and keeping our workers and our voters safe.

And so at the end of the day, election officials want people to believe that the winner won the election. And that's what our only job is. And, you know, half the country is probably not going to be happy with the outcome. And we have to make sure that they believe the election was accurate and fair. And the way that you do that is balanced access and security. And that's what we do every day.

KING: And so how do you answer when the President is trying to undermine the hard work that you have done to build up the integrity of the system and your state?

WYMAN: Keep talking about the hard work that we've done to build up the access and the security of our state. You know, I think Washington is really the model that states can use along with our partners in Colorado and Utah, Hawaii, Oregon, you know, these states, we've all been doing this for a while now. And we have the security measures built into place. We have processes and procedures that are transparent, that people can come and observe.

And we have, we have checks and balances. So when someone makes an accusation that there's rampant fraud, we can show that there wasn't. And I think that that's really the level that states need to build to. KING: Kim Wyman, the Secretary of State of the State of Washington who has proven that elections can work by mail and be fair.


Kim, thank you so much for joining us. Good luck in the year ahead. Thanks for joining us here today too. We'll see you back here this time tomorrow. Busy News Day, don't go anywhere.