Return to Transcripts main page
Trump Returns To Walter Reed After Photo-Op Visit To Supporters Outside. Aired 6-7p ET
Aired October 04, 2020 - 18:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANA CABRERA, CNN HOST: You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York.
As we continue to cover the breaking news here on CNN, President Trump making a surprise appearance outside Walter Reed National Military Medical Center just a short time ago. This is the moment, one clearly designed for the cameras, that the president left the hospital in his motorcade.
He has been at Walter Reed since Friday being treated for coronavirus. And his motorcade just went directly past a gathering of his supporters who were outside Walter Reed, the president waving to them. And now, we are told he is back inside the hospital at the presidential suite there.
A few minutes before this very unexpected appearance, President Trump released a video on Twitter praising his doctors and his medical staff and teasing that he had a surprise for people gathered outside.
I want to go straight to CNN's Jeremy Diamond, one of those who has gathered outside Walter Reed Medical Center. Jeremy, give us the latest and exactly what we know at this hour.
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Ana, we know that the president is now back at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center inside, once again, after doing the surprise drive-by in front -- in the front entrance of Walter Reed, where we know that there have been dozens of the president's supporters here gathered all day cheering for him, cars going by and honking to show their support.
Clearly, the president saw reports of that on the news. He tweeted earlier in the day thanking those supporters. But then perhaps the president also sensed an opportunity here, an opportunity to come out, show his face in public for the first time since we saw him board Marine One on the south lawn of the White House on Friday evening to come here to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where he is being treated, we should remind people, for coronavirus, for significant symptoms, in fact, of the coronavirus.
But the president, after several days of mixed messaging from the president's physicians, Dr. Sean Conley, the White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows, messaging gone awry, the messenger in chief decided to take control here and come out with his projection of strength at a moment where he is very weak, where he is dealing with these severe symptoms of this virus, the president wanting to send a clear and unequivocal message to the American public, specifically to the voting public 30 days out, as we are today from this presidential election.
And I'm sure to people around the world who are wondering about the status of the president of the United States, arguably, the most powerful person in the world, who has been really beaten down by this virus over these last several days, so much so to the point that we know he is on several pretty hard and significant medications to treat the virus.
The president also posted that video on Twitter that you referenced. I want to show our viewers a portion of that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: It's been a very interesting journey. I learned a lot about COVID. I learned it by really going to school. This is the real school. This isn't, let's read the book school, and I get it, and I understand it. And it's a very interesting thing and I'm going to be letting you know about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
DIAMOND: And you hear there the president talking about the fact that he is going to the real school and he is learning now so much about coronavirus because it has impacted him personally.
But one thing that he isn't doing, and Abby Phillip made this point in the last hour that I think is so smart, which is that the president isn't doing anything to educate the public about what he has gone through. He isn't using this moment of him having the virus to make an appeal to his supporters, many of whom are out here today, Ana, without wearing any masks, without social distancing to take those steps, to take those common-sense steps that the president failed to take in so many instances before he contracted this virus. He is not using this moment as a teaching moment.
And just the last point here is that what he is doing instead in doing this P.R. move to show his supporters that he is doing all right, is he is putting the lives of Secret Service agents at risk. We saw at least two Secret Service agents in the vehicle in which the president was riding in. They were wearing those N95 respirators, but that was it.
That is not the kind of protocols that are happening at the building behind me at Walter Reed, where we've been told that the doctors who have to go into the room with the president to treat him, they are wearing the full suite of protective gear, which includes not only masks but some kind of a face shields, it includes gloves, it includes protective equipment on top of their clothing.
[18:05:05] So, obviously, there is some risk here that the president is willing to put these Secret Service agents through in order to get his public- facing objectives.
CABRERA: And bigger picture, Jeremy, we know the president is not healthy. We got an update from his doctors earlier today, and they painted a fairly dire picture as far as what the president has been through in the past 24-plus hours. Fill us in with some of those details of what we learned today. And, of course, there are still many more questions about just how bad his condition is.
DIAMOND: Yes. Listen, the president's doctor, Dr. Sean Conley, and the other physicians who are treating him, they tried to say today that the president is doing really well. But before they said that, they also talked about all the drugs that the president is on and the state of his condition over these last couple of days.
What they did share is concerning. And every medical expert who has listened to those doctors briefing on the condition of the president have said exactly that. We know that the president's oxygen levels dipped below 94 percent both on Friday and yesterday, on Saturday as well, that he required supplemental oxygen.
We know the president is on a trio of pretty significant drugs. He is both on this antibody cocktail, this experimental treatment from Regeneron, he is on the antiviral remdesivir, and he is also taking a steroid, which is typically reserved for patients with the most severe of symptoms. So there is obviously a question here of whether they are using that because this is the president of the United States. They've said they want to throw everything at the wall.
But they've also described the president is someone who has needed supplemental oxygen, who has experienced some of the most severe symptoms of this coronavirus.
And, Ana, we should point out, they are still withholding information, they are still withholding information about the president's health to the American public. Dr. Sean Conley was asked today what the president's lung scans and lung X-rays showed. He would only say that the results -- that they were seeing some expected findings but nothing of any major clinical concern. Does that mean that the president is showing signs of pneumonia, is he showing any lung scarring? Those are the questions that medical experts have been asking.
And, unfortunately, Ana, even though we got more details today than we got yesterday, we got a little bit of a more complete picture, we got Dr. Sean Conley admitting essentially that he misled the American public yesterday when he withheld the information about the oxygen that the president was receiving. We are still receiving an incomplete picture of the president's health and that needs to be noted.
CABRERA: OK. Jeremy Diamond for us at Walter Reed Medical Center, thank you.
Joining us now CNN Political Correspondent Abby Phillip and former White House Physician William Lang.
Dr. Lang, I want to ask you about the drive-by. Did the president needlessly put the Secret Service officers at risk for this photo-op?
DR. WILLIAM LANG, FORMER WHITE HOUSE PHYSICIAN: Well, everything you do has risks and benefits. He wore a mask, the Secret Service agents who a mask, most likely N95 masks. By all of them wearing N95 masks, you couldn't tell exactly from the pictures but that's what you would expect to happen. That makes the risk actually very, very small.
Is there an increased risk? Maybe tiny. But they took measures to reduce the risk and that's what it's all about, is risk management, risk reduction.
CABRERA: You've got to also wonder about the president's health and whether this was in his best interest. The president says in this video that it's been an interesting journey, almost like it's over. Doctor, based on what we learned from his medical team today about his oxygen saturation levels having dropped at least a couple of times below 94 percent saturation, and also the fact that he needed supplemental oxygen, that he had a high fever on Friday, the fact that he's on some very serious treatments, including an experimental treatment that hasn't even been cleared for emergency operation use, the fact that he's had remdesivir and continue those treatments.
He's had two and we're expecting a five-day treatment, according to his doctor. The fact that he's now on this steroid that's only given to the most severely ill, is the president in the clear at this point?
LANG: Well, the fact is that he is the president of the United States. And, of course, they are going to throw everything at him to get him as well as they can as fast as they can. He has never been significantly symptomatic.
One of the things that I find very interesting is when you talk to a patient who has any kind of respiratory illness, one of the first things you do is listen to them. You listen to the way they talk. When you listen to his tone, his ability to talk in complete sentences, how he sounded in the release just a few minutes ago, he sounded very strong.
So that tends to -- that gives you a very, very good indication that he does not have significant, active respiratory disease. And throughout this, the only real complaint that the president has had has been the fever. Even when his oxygen saturation dropped below 94 percent, as Dr. Conley noted on Friday, which was the reason that they -- one of the main reasons why they decided they wanted to bring him to Walter Reed to watch more carefully, and then, again yesterday, he was never symptomatic.
So that, as many docs will say, we're finding with a lot of the COVID- 19 patients, they don't get too symptomatic. But, still, he appears to be feeling pretty good. He sounded very good in that last release that we had. So he does seem to be on the mend. Now, can that change? Sure. And that's the reason why it's very, very important to maintain a close watch over where he stands.
CABRERA: Abby, as far as these proof of health stunts, you have to wonder about the risk/benefit analysis, somebody has to be with the president to record those videos in which he is not a wearing masks. And as far as that drive-by, he was in his car with Secret Service officers, and his appearances, no doubt, going to encourage more people to crowd outside the hospital. Why is it so important for this president to portray himself as healthy and strong?
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is the entirety of his sense of self-image but also the image that he wants to project to the world. The president is fixated on looking strong, which is why when there were reports over the last couple of days that he was not on Friday, in particular, doing particularly well, he was furious with his chief of staff for letting that be known to the public.
And you also can see in the way that Dr. Conley has tried to withhold information that might seem to indicate that the president had more rough episodes with this virus that even his doctors are trying to withhold information that they know the president may not want out there because it might make him look weak.
Look, this is a president who wants to show to his supporters that he is going to bounce back from this. You see in the tweets from his aides and his daughter, Ivanka Trump, calling him relentless, calling him a warrior, his campaign is fundraising off of these moments. He has succumbed to a very serious virus that he's been saying for months would simply go away.
And the way to spin that from a political perspective is to make his supporters believe that he is recovering rapidly and that he is actually not that sick and I don't get that --
CABRERA: Abby, stand by. We have to go live to Kayleigh McEnany right now. The White House press secretary is speaking. Let's listen.
KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: No. There are privacy concerns we take very seriously safeguarding the information of the personnel here in the White House. So that's basically where we stand right now.
REPORTER: (INAUDIBLE) Tuesday before the debate and then tested Thursday morning (INAUDIBLE).
MCENANY: Yes, I'm not going to give you detail readout of the timestamps that every time the president is tested. He is tested regularly. And the first positive test he received was after his return from Bedminster.
MCENANY: Again, I'm not giving a detailed readout of his testing. But it's safe to say his first positive test was on return or at least after Bedminster. Thank you guys very much. CABRERA: Okay. Obviously, very, very little information there from the White House press secretary when she was pressed on when the president has been tested prior to his positive test, she didn't give any information. She repeated twice, I'm not going to give you a detailed readout on his testing but his first positive test was after he returned from Bedminster on Thursday. And, obviously, it's incredibly important to know when the president last tested negative.
I want to bring back our analysts who are with us. And, Dr. Lang, let me start with you, because the fact that the president's press secretary, his doctors, his campaign is not, at this point, telling us when he last tested negative. What do you make of that?
LANG: Well, the press secretary said it's important when the positive was, so when there was a negative, it could have been a couple of days, it could have been more than a couple of days. I don't really make anything of that. But the important part of testing is not for clearance. The important part of testing is to identify if there is illness. A lot of people try to use testing for clearance, but it's more important for identifying illness.
CABRERA: But let me just ask a follow-up though to that, because when you're contact tracing and when you want to figure out who may have been exposed to the president when he was infectious, isn't it important to know when he first had symptoms, and wouldn't it be helpful to know he was tested on this day, this day and this day, these were all negatives tests? And so doesn't that help paint the picture as to how far along he might be in his illness?
LANG: Well, Dr. Conley was pretty clear that the symptoms started on Thursday morning.
In fact, at one point, he said that he decided to test both because of the exposures, and we know about those exposures, but also because he was feeling somewhat symptomatic on Thursday. So we know his symptoms started Thursday.
And when you go through the CDC guidelines on contact tracing, you go back to those who were within six feet and more than 15 minutes in the 48 hours before symptoms started. So, to be a little bit generous, you go back from Thursday to Wednesday, Wednesday to Tuesday. So you look at anyone who was within six feet for more than 15 minutes Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday morning.
CABRERA: And as far as the disease progression or this virus progression, my understanding is it doesn't typically go from 0 to 100 in a 24-hour period. So I wonder if it's possible the president could have had symptoms sooner. Because the fact of the matter is he had high fever on Friday and he needed supplemental oxygen on Friday, but he just tested positive the night before, does it make sense to you that he would go from having basically no symptoms before Thursday to needing supplemental oxygen by Friday?
LANG: Well, let's be careful about the -- he was -- he had a saturation that was low, so they gave him supplemental oxygen for about an hour, as they said. So he was not -- and he was not in any shortness of breath. So it was -- did he need it? Yes, technically, he did.
But still one of the things we know about this virus is there's so much we don't know and it affects so many people so differently. So many people get symptomatic, very symptomatic two days after infection. Most people get symptomatic for five days after infection. Some people never. But then some people, as much as 14, or in very limited cases, even further than that. But that's the reason for the 14-day quarantine is this can be very different infection for different people.
CABRERA: That's right. Dr. Lang, thank you very much.
Let me go back to Jeremy Diamond. I understand, Jeremy, you have some new information about some of the safety precautions or measures that were taken regarding this motorcade in which the president went to wave to supporters.
DIAMOND: Yes, that's right. Well, we were talking in the last few minutes about the precautions that they may or may not have taken as it relates to these Secret Service agents. I just wanted to clarify because we do now have a close-up image that shows those Secret Service agents in the vehicle with the president. I suggested earlier that it appeared they were only wearing N95 masks, which is what we could see from our vantage point. This close-up actually shows that they were also wearing, in addition to that, some protective eyewear and a protective gown over their clothing as well. So we should be noting that, of course.
But, obviously, there are still questions about the additional risk that this takes. We know that there are some doctors who have worked in ICUs with coronavirus patients around them, they have protective gear on them and yet, still, sometimes they contract the coronavirus.
So, obviously, they took some pretty significant measures here and we should note that to mitigate the risk to those Secret Service agents, but there is still a legitimate question that can be raised about the risk/benefit analysis here. And, obviously, the president prioritized at least here the public image that he wanted to put forth.
And Dr. James Phillips, who is one of our CNN medical analysts, he was tweeting just moments ago pointing out that the presidential SUV is hermetically sealed and that is perhaps an environment where the virus would have an easy time passing around. So that's also something to keep in mind here.
But we do know based on these close-up images that these Secret Service agents appear to be wearing eyewear, protective gown over their suits as well as this N95 respirator over mouth and nose.
CABRERA: Okay. Jeremy, stand by.
And, Abby, I can't help but think of the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have battled or are battling the coronavirus, they do it alone. They don't get to have people come visit them. They don't get to go for joy rides. Many don't get hospital care until they are critically sick. And I just wonder how does this play politically?
PHILLIP: I wonder exactly the same thing, Ana, and for those exact reasons. Obviously, he is the president of the United States. The standard of care for him is going to be completely different than for an average person.
But I go back to what the president said in his statement, which is that he has learned through this illness a lot about the virus. I'm still wondering, and I think, in some ways, waiting to see whether he is going to put that knowledge in action, whether he will express to the American public how important it is to not contract the virus in the first place so that you don't end up in the hospital. Whether he will, you know, acknowledge the incredible loss of life that we've seen in this country, over 205,000 people dead from this virus, many others with long-term illness as a result of it, and whether he will acknowledge how many people are not getting the standard of care that he is getting.
Obviously, you know, we are still in the middle of this. We have a long way to go on this. The president has a recovery that hopefully will be quick. He will hopefully leave the hospital healthy. But, you know, he's taking the opportunity to speak to the American public, and I do wonder where that message is to the public about what they ought to do to help this country get out of this situation with this virus. And it's just not really there.
I do think what we see here is a president wanting to see his supporters, wanting to rally his supporters, wanting to lift his own spirits and project confidence, especially as, you know, 6:00, the top of the 6:00 hour, was when futures started trading, signaling to markets that he's here and he's strong. So I think there's a lot of symbolism in this. But I also think it's an opportunity for him to send a very strong public health message that the American public desperately needs right now.
CABRERA: Okay, Abby Phillip, thank you. Dr. William Lang, my thanks to him as well, and Jeremy Diamond, I appreciate all of you.
And as you just heard, President Trump is back at Walter Reed Medical Center after this photo-op to supporters outside. We'll bring you an update from the White House.
And senior adviser to Trump's 2020 campaign, Jason Miller will join us live next. You're live in the CNN Newsroom.
CABRERA: We are back with breaking news. The president is back at Walter Reed Medical Center after a photo-op visit to supporters outside the hospital. CNN White House Correspondent Kaitlan Collins is joining us now.
Kaitlan, White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany just gave an update. What more do we know?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Not a lot from her update. But, first, let me start with what we just got from White House Correspondents' Association, which obviously works with the White House press office to make sure there are always reporters there when the president travels anywhere.
No matter how small the event is, if it is a ride outside of the hospital where he currently is a patient, still, the White House is obligated to let the reporters that are supposed to be traveling with the president know. That is how the American people can find out what the president is doing and when.
This is a longstanding practice of every single administration, that if the president is going to the golf course or if he is going to meet with Kim Jong-un, there are reporters to cover it. And they did not have reporters there for this, as we've noted.
And so the White House Correspondents' Association said in a statement that it's outrageous for the president to have let the hospital, even briefly, amid a health crisis without protective pool present to ensure that the American people know where their president is and how he is doing. Now more than ever, the American deserves independent coverage of the president so they can reliably informed about his health.
Just the videos coming out of the hospital are not acceptable coverage of the president at this time, and they should have let the reporters know that those reporters are back at the White House, which is, of course, far drive from Walter Reed Hospital in Maryland.
Now, back to Kayleigh McEnany. She is obviously a taxpayer-funded press secretary. She just did an interview with Fox News. And as we do here at the White House, when an official comes out here to where I'm standing to do a television interview, the rest of the reporters who were here stand and wait by a camera for them get done, and, customarily, they gaggle. Some people decline, some people come by and take a few questions.
Typically, the press secretary, who, of course, is accountable to the press to answer questions would stop and take several questions from reporters. However, she only stopped and took two questions. And in those answers, sort of answers, Ana, she declined to commit to how many people in the White House have tested for coronavirus. She also declined to say whether or not the president was tested before he went to the debate on Tuesday.
A pretty simple, straightforward question, which, of course, the answer should be, yes, but when she was asked was he tested on Tuesday and was he tested on Thursday before he left to go to New Jersey, she would not answer and would only say that his first positive test came after he got back from that fundraiser on Thursday, which, of course, which was hours before we found out that the president actually had coronavirus.
But, Ana, let me tell you, covering this White House, there has always been this relationship between the press office and reporters where, of course, they demonize or vilify our coverage at times. That happens. It's a political aspect to it. But the president is currently in the hospital.
And they are not providing straightforward level of communication coming out of the White House, whether it's from the press secretary, who refused to take my questions there after her hit was over, whether it's on the chief of staff, who was offering conflicting messages from the president's physician or whether it's from the physician, who is giving these questions and, of course, evading some of the answers or having to clarify his information later on.
It is an unacceptable level of what's happening right now and it's unacceptable not for me but for the people who need to know what is going on with the president. And all the questions that we do have for these officials, who, should I remind you once again, are paid by the taxpayers. We are not getting that level of communication out of the White House and it is incredibly frustrating to experience.
CABRERA: Okay. Kaitlan Collins, thank you for your reporting.
Let's see if we can get some answers from Trump campaign senior adviser. Jason Miller is here with us. Jason, thanks for taking the time.
First of all, why did the president leave the hospital for this publicity stunt?
JASON MILLER, SENIOR ADVISER, TRUMP 2020 CAMPAIGN: Ana, well, thank you very much for having me on this evening. Good to be back on with you here on CNN.
A couple of things I want to tell you here. I want to tell you about two conversations I've had with the president. One is about 15, 20 minutes ago, and then I had a lengthy conversation with him yesterday. And when I had this half hour conversation with the president yesterday, he said two really important things. Number one, we're going to defeat this virus. He's going to defeat it. We're going to defeat it as a country, then we're going to go win this campaign.
But he said another thing that I found important, and he said be careful. I want you to tell people to be careful. That means wash your hands, use hand sanitizer, if you can't socially distance, wear a mask.
Be careful. Very important message from the president. And then, when I spoke to them a few minutes ago --
CABRERA: OK. So let me stop you there because back to my original question which was about the publicity stunt of him getting in this vehicle, is that him being careful when he's putting these Secret Services members at risk when he has the coronavirus and is apparently, you know, very infectious given his symptoms?
MILLER: Well, Ana, what I was getting to is, number one, President Trump was feeling very good yesterday. He's feeling even better today. And so it's good to see him on the mend, it's good to see him on the rebound. And he's really been buoyed by the show of support from people who've been outside Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda. And he wanted to, as a sign of gratitude, show folks that he's still fighting for them, he's looking forward to getting back out on the campaign trail.
And so in a very safe way drove by and said hi. And again he did that in front of the cameras so the media was able to see it. And importantly when I was talking with the president just about 15, 20 minutes ago, he said another thing that I found very telling. He said, I know what it's like to go through this. We're going to beat this as a country. When I get out of here, we're going to be talking a lot about COVID and how we go and beat it as a country.
And so I think there's a level of understanding as someone who has gone through it themselves, where he can relate with people, understanding the people who have gone through this COVID virus, this China virus, that has hit us. And this the most important thing facing the country and President Trump is ready to lead on it.
CABRERA: Well, I'm glad to hear that. And I'm glad to hear that he does appear to be feeling much better. To that point about being honest with the American people about this virus, hundreds of thousands of Americans have battled and they've died from the virus, Jason. They have had to do so alone. Families and friends aren't allowed in the hospital. They're not allowed to go on joy rides.
Many, you know, can't even be treated in a hospital until they are critically ill. So I just wonder, how does a stunt like this, that not only put a spotlight on the inequities and the president's cavalier attitude to this virus but endangers the lives of others help his campaign?
MILLER: Well, I want to push back a little bit there, Ana. I don't think this was a stunt at all. I think this is President Trump showing people that he's very gracious for the hospitality they've shown him, for the support that he has, for the hundreds of people outside Walter Reed Medical Center there, showing he's ready --
CABRERA: But he has also done.
MILLER: -- to get back into it.
CABRERA: He's also done that in videos that he's put out on Twitter without having to endanger lives of Secret Service members by being in a car (INAUDIBLE) in order to do this drive-by.
MILLER: But we know that Secret Service always takes care of their agents. They make sure there's always an extra layer of precaution. Obviously, I'm not in the White House operations --
CABRERA: We also know Secret Service agents have -- MILLER: Ana -- Ana, hold on.
CABRERA: Have contracted the virus in the course of their duty.
MILLER: But we also know that Secret Service takes great care of their agents. They always take extra precaution. I'm not part of White House operations or in the White House medical unit. So the exact logistics I can't speak to but I know the Secret Service takes this very seriously. And I think it was great that President Trump was able to get out there and show he's ready to take on this virus head on.
You can't just stay locked up, whether it be in the attic or in the basement forever. We need to go out there and lead. We need to go and defeat this virus, and show people around it. Now to your earlier comment, look, one life lost because of the China virus is too many. And I think President Trump has been very clear in articulating that over and over that we have to go and destroy this COVID-19 that we got, that our country has been attacked by.
And that's a very clear focus from the president. You see it on everything, what he's talking about on the campaign trail, you see in his speeches from the White House. You see it in our advertising. This is clearly number one focus.
CABRERA: He's been downplaying -- he's been downplaying the virus. Let's just be honest. Let's call a spade a spade. He has not been speaking about the virus in a serious manner.
MILLER: No. I would -- no, I --
CABRERA: And -- yes, it's true. We've heard him on tape talk about how he intentionally has downplayed this virus. He hasn't worn a mask every time. He's been holding these rallies without social distancing when most of the people in the crowd not wearing masks either, which is an extremely high-risk environment.
MILLER: So, Ana, I'm going to -- I'm going to fundamentally --
CABRERA: And he knows it.
MILLER: Yes. I'm going to fundamentally disagree with you on this. What the president has made very clear is that we can't stay locked up, we can't stay hidden in the basement forever. We have to take this head on. As the leader of the free world, he can't run away from this. You can't just stay locked up in the White House for six months.
CABRERA: OK. I'm going to -- but I'm going to stop you there.
MILLER: We have to go out there and develop these things.
CABRERA: Because you're right. He could still go out there. But even as he goes out there, Jason, he is not taking the simple precautions that could save lives. And he's encouraging his supporters to come to these rallies --
MILLER: No, no, Ana. Ana, that's -- CABRERA: To his campaign rallies -- let me finish, please.
MILLER: No, Ana. Ana, you're misstating it.
CABRERA: Yes. We have video. Let me show you the video from his campaign rallies, guys. Let's play it. Let's show the crowds that are packed in to his rallies.
MILLER: And show -- are you also, Ana, are you also going to show people having their temperatures checked?
CABRERA: Who don't have masks on. The campaign obviously has the ability to mandate masks and social distancing. And that hasn't been done, Jason.
MILLER: Ana, for our rallies, we take temperatures of everybody coming in.
CABRERA: Will your rallies -- will your events -- Jason, hold on just a second.
MILLER: All of our rallies.
CABRERA: May I ask the question? Let me ask the question and then I will stop --
MILLER: You're asking multiple questions, Ana, before I can respond to any of them.
CABRERA: But I haven't asked the full question.
I'm making the point and showing the video with the Trump campaign supporters at these rallies without masks, without social distancing, in an environment in which you've set up for these rallies.
Will you make changes now because the president has experienced this? He knows, you know, the reality of the virus, as you discussed. Will there be changes to his campaign events in which you will mandate masks and mandate social distancing?
MILLER: So let me tell you what we're going to do. We're going to make sure that we take everybody's temperatures as they're coming into events. We're going to give everybody a mask, we're going to give everybody hand sanitizer.
CABRERA: Which is what you've been doing. Which is what you've been doing.
MILLER: We're going to encourage meme to wear their masks. And you know what, that's been a very safe and very responsible thing to do. And that's what we've done from the beginning of this. We're taking this very seriously. And so we've always been leading from the front on that.
CABRERA: Jason. Jason.
MILLER: And we're going to continue doing that.
CABRERA: Why do -- how is this very safe and very responsible? We just know from that Rose Garden event, for example, where people weren't wearing masks, where people weren't social distancing, there are multi people who've since contracted the coronavirus.
MILLER: So, yes. So let me talk about that for a moment.
CABRERA: And the very same environment that we're seeing at your rallies except there were even more people who are packed in.
MILLER: So everybody -- everybody who's around the president --
CABRERA: And who have even fewer resources to make sure many of them have been tested.
MILLER: Ana, everybody who is around the president -- OK. Everybody who's around the president is tested. People are kept a distance away from the president. Also, there's masks that are distributed, hand sanitizers passed out. There's a lot of things that we don't know about this virus. So for example, one reporter I know that contracted COVID --
CABRERA: But we do that it is --
MILLER: Ana, you have to -- Ana, you've got to let me --
CABRERA: -- transmitted by air, and people who wear masks --
MILLER: Ana, Ana, can I just please just let me finish this answer.
MILLER: Because I'm trying to be responsive to you.
CABRERA: OK. I'll let you finish. Forgive me.
MILLER: OK. So one reporter who contracted coronavirus was wearing a mask the entire time and still contracted coronavirus. And so the important thing here is there are a lot of things we don't know about COVID. But what we do have to do is stay vigilant in developing these therapies and these vaccines to make sure that we defeat it. We can't stay locked up the rest of our lives.
We're going to be smart, we're going to be responsible about this, but we're not going to hide in fear. We -- President Trump wants to get life back to normal for people. And that's a critical point. On the other side with Joe Biden, I think he wants to stay locked up forever. President Trump is going to lead us through this.
CABRERA: Well, Jason --
MILLER: And he's going to defeat it. CABRERA: Jasen, let's be clear, the president is in the hospital right
now because he contracted the virus. And he has put himself at risk by conducting the business the way he has.
MILLER: Well, and --
CABRERA: And conducting some of these events. But let me just come back to you --
MILLER: But hold on -- hold on, but wait -- but there's --
CABRERA: You're part of his campaign, so let me just go back to the question that I asked earlier.
MILLER: But hold on. Ana, you misstated --
CABRERA: Excuse me.
MILLER: You misstated -- just real quick, you misstated something before. President Trump followed all of the protocols.
CABRERA: No, he didn't.
MILLER: Everybody around him --
CABRERA: No, he didn't.
MILLER: Everybody around him was tested. They kept distant and still somehow he contracted it.
CABRERA: OK. That's just --
MILLER: My whole point earlier is that there are a lot of things we just don't know --
CABRERA: That's just not true, though, Jason. We have --
MILLER: But it is.
CABRERA: We have the videos in which the president is at events where people aren't following the protocols, where people aren't social distancing, where people aren't wearing masks.
MILLER: Where everybody -- everybody has been tested.
CABRERA: Who aren't following the CDC guidelines or the Coronavirus Task Force guidance as to how best you could stay safe until we have a vaccine.
MILLER: Ana, he's the most -- he's probably the most tested.
CABRERA: Jason, let me ask you, because you are on the campaign a few questions.
MILLER: He's probably the most tested person on the plane. CABRERA: When you talk about testing, we know testing is not
prevention. But can you answer the question as to when the president's last negative test was?
MILLER: Well, as I said earlier, I'm not part of the White House medical unit. So it would be unfair for me to go and start trying to speculate or give answers to things that quite frankly I'm not in the loop on. That's not my responsibility as someone on the campaign. My job on the campaign is to help the president communicate his message to the American people, to voters who we have coming up in four short weeks away. And that's exactly what I'm doing here, to tell you how the president is taking it seriously.
CABRERA: But, Jason --
MILLER: And, but, Ana --
CABRERA: But Jason --
MILLER: Ana, you know -- you know as a campaign person --
CABRERA: Just said a second ago everybody around the president is tested that the testing regimen is one of the reasons why it's proof of him --
MILLER: Because I can speak to --
CABRERA: -- taking it seriously.
MILLER: Because I can speak to from experience. So I'm someone he usually --
CABRERA: But now you're saying you don't know when his last negative test was?
MILLER: Ana, Ana, respectfully speaking you're a little bit silly here. I'm not part of the White House medical unit. What I can speak to from experience, someone who's around the president some four, five days a week, that every time I'm around him I'm tested usually about an hour in advance. Then there's usually an hour cooling off period to make sure that the test is clear, everything is good.
Then when I'm in the presence of the president, I'm usually somewhere in the 10, 12 feet away. Never any closer than six to eight feet definitely. And so anyone who's ever in a room with the president has been tested, has been clear. Now what I can't speak to, again, I'm not on the part of the White House medical unit, I'm on campaign team.
MILLER: So I can tell you --
MILLER: From my experience of being around the president the protocols that people go through. But I can't speak to the White House medical unit. But again, as we go back to the whole reason why I wanted to join you is to tell you since the president is in Walter Reed, he's in the hospital recovering from COVID, here is how he is feeling.
Here is how we get back out there. Here is how the campaign this week will be out with operation --
CABRERA: OK. I have a few questions that I still want to get answers --
MILLER: The vice president and the family -- that's what I can speak to.
CABRERA: Right. And you've said that.
MILLER: Because that's -- again, that's --
CABRERA: And you've said that multiple times.
MILLER: We're going to --
CABRERA: You've gotten that message out, Jason. Let me ask a few more questions because I want to try to get some more information while I have you here because you have been in contact and because you are part of this campaign, and you're anxious obviously to get back out there. And let's talk about the conduct that any kinds of additional protocols you may put in place moving forward.
Will the campaign mandate people to wear masks at events for this president?
MILLER: The campaign always has and always will hand out masks and make sure that people are told that they need to wear them. And I think we're going to --
CABRERA: It's a yes or no question, though.
MILLER: Ana --
CABRERA: Are you going to mandate they wear the masks?
MILLER: Ana. Ana. Ana, you have to let me finish just one of my answers.
CABRERA: It's a yes or no question, Jason. Are you going to mandate they wear the mask?
MILLER: I'm answering --
CABRERA: Yes or no?
MILLER: We're going to tell people just like we always have that they need to wear the masks. We've always told people they need to wear the masks. And we're going to continue to do that. And that's why we've been doing it for -- since long before this. CABRERA: OK. OK. So you're going to continue to do what you've done
before is what I'm hearing you say you will not mandate them to wear masks. You will encourage them. But if they don't that's OK. Let me ask you a question about why the president --
MILLER: We're going to take their temperature and we give them the mask, and we're going to continue to be safe.
CABRERA: Can you answer the question as to, you know, why the president went to a campaign event in Bedminster on Thursday after Hope Hicks tested positive for the coronavirus?
MILLER: So what I know is that the president did not have a positive test at the time he went to that event.
CABRERA: I'm not asking if he has a positive test before that.
MILLER: Ana, I'm answering the question, Ana.
CABRERA: He knew Hope Hicks had a positive test.
MILLER: So --
CABRERA: You're not answering my question.
MILLER: So that again -- that event --
CABRERA: You're not answering my question.
MILLER: I am answering your question. That was an RNC event. And so I did not have eyes on the exact logistics so I can't speak to the exact movements on that evening. But I do know that the president did receive his positive testing Thursday evening.
MILLER: And then a number of different protocols were then put into place. Again, I'm not part of White House medical unit.
CABRERA: Right. I'm asking you about what happened before that, though? Before he received his positive test, which was --
MILLER: And again, I'm not part of the White House medical unit as you understand.
CABRERA: You know, he went to this Bedminster prior to go -- but this was a campaign event. You're the campaign senior adviser. I understand what you're saying that this was --
MILLER: It was an RNC event. It was RNC.
CABRERA: So you're saying you have no control over that? You had no connection to that? MILLER: I'm saying -- what I'm telling you is that that was not
something that I was part of the planning or part of the organizing for. And so I can't speak to that. What I can speak to are Trump rallies. Those are things that I have a granular level of understanding of how we go about doing those. And I've seen it in action where we're taking folks' temperatures and we're urging people to be safe, urge them to be careful.
And that's, again, what the president told me yesterday in our conversation. Be careful. Make sure that people are washing their hands, using hand sanitizer, wearing masks. And I think what the president when he gets out of Walter Reed here, you're going to see him continue to express that and continue to share that with people. Having gone through this himself I think he can be an inspiration to people to get through this.
CABRERA: You know what, though, Jason? That just seemed disingenuous to say he'll continue to express these messages where he has been downplaying the coronavirus. He's been mocking people for wearing masks, not encouraging people to wear masks. Mocking people for wearing masks. And in fact, let's just play what he said at the debate on Tuesday night. Can you play it, guys?
MILLER: He's worn --
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think wearing a face mask -- I don't wear a mask like him. Every time you see him, he's got a mask. He could be speaking 200 feet away from him and he shows up with the biggest mask I've ever seen.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CABRERA: Jason, that's not encouraging people to wear a mask.
MILLER: He is exactly right. Ana, he was exactly right. When you're -- too often Joe Biden has used the mask as a prop. The mask when you can't socially distanced --
CABRERA: Wait. Wait a minute. You think he's using the mask as a prop when we know mask save lives?
MILLER: I think -- I think too often. I think too often.
CABRERA: Is that not important to this administration? That is not important to the Trump campaign?
MILLER: Ana, if you're some 200 feet away from somebody, you don't need to wear a mask. You don't. And in fact, Joe Biden has flip- flopped so many times on this whole outdoor national mask mandate. He was for it, then he was against it, and he was for it. In fact, Democratic governors such as Evers in Wisconsin or Wallace in Minnesota have refused to go along with Joe Biden. So they, for example, have an exception for outdoor mask usage --
CABRERA: Joe Biden is not the president of the United States right now.
MILLER: Well, hold on.
CABRERA: President Trump is the president of the United States and he needs to lead by example.
MILLER: You know, Ana, I'm not going to --
CABRERA: What he is showing is not the example that scientists --
MILLER: I'm not going to let you off the hook on this.
CABRERA: -- and experts who are telling us what to do to stay safe would recommend.
MILLER: OK. So he -- so President has to show -- Ana, Ana, you're trying to bail out Joe Biden. And I think that that's unfair. Why if he's --
CABRERA: No, I'm not here to defend Joe Biden, I'm asking about President Trump's messaging and behavior.
MILLER: And I'm telling you very clearly that Joe Biden, his rhetoric and his actions do not match up. So for example he says there needs to be --
CABRERA: With all due respect, though, Jason, with all due respect.
MILLER: -- an outdoor mandate.
CABRERA: Joe Biden is not the one in the hospital having contracted the coronavirus.
MILLER: And President Trump -- and this is the whole point that you can have every safeguard in place, there's so many things we don't know about this virus.
You can have everything in place and still contract it. So the whole point is we have to go and defeat this virus. We can't stay locked up in our basements forever. Americans --
CABRERA: And I'm so sorry, Jason Miller, we just lost his satellite because that interview went longer than we had expected.
Jason Miller, my thanks to you for joining us and taking those questions this evening.
We'll continue discussing our breaking news that President Trump is back at Walter Reed just after a photo-op visit to supporters outside.
Stay with us. You're live in the CNN NEWSROOM. (COMMERCIAL BREAK)
CABRERA: More breaking news now. The Justice Department says Attorney General Bill Barr who was at the Rose Garden event last weekend has received four negative coronavirus tests since Friday, including one today. But we are told he will begin to self-quarantine for now. He does anticipate returning to the Justice Department midweek.
A stunning moment, President Trump leaving Walter Reed National Military Medical Center where he is being treated for COVID-19, his motorcade driving by supporters outside the hospital and the president waving to them. This happened just a short time ago. The president then returned to his hospital suite.
Margaret Hoover is a CNN political commentator and served on President George W. Bush's White House staff. John Avlon is a CNN senior political analyst. And also with us is CNN chief media correspondent Brian Stelter.
Brian, let me start with you because this was just really a reality TV stunt of sorts in the middle of a surging pandemic by a president who is battling a deadly disease. What's your reaction to this?
BRIAN STELTER, CNN SENIOR MEDIA CORRESPONDENT: The worst kind of reality TV stunt, Ana. This is not Ronald Reagan waving from the window to reassure the American people. This was Michael Jackson holding a baby over the balcony recklessly.
This was a bizarre publicity stunt that put others in danger and it's emblematic of the Trump years. Prioritizing photo-ops and fantasies and propaganda over cold hard facts. The photos the White House has been releasing, the videos, we have to show them because they're the only evidence we have of the president's condition, but they are propagandistic. That's unfortunately the situation we're in.
And now the White House Correspondents Association is calling out the White House right now. This is the press pool that is supposed to travel with the president at all times. They were not informed about this photo-op. They were not with him when this happened. That is a grievous breach of protocol and the association is saying, quote, "It is outrageous for the president to have left the hospital even briefly amid a health crisis without a protective pool present to ensure the American people know where their president is and how he is doing. Now more than ever the American public deserve independent coverage of the president so they can be reliably informed about his health."
That is absolutely correct. And by the way, Ana, if the president was feeling so well, why didn't he walk outside in the fresh air rather than get cooped up in that car. I mean, that's not a comfortable place for anybody to be in when there's a COVID-positive patient.
STELTER: He could have walked out on the lawn and waved to the public. But he didn't. He put Secret Service people in danger.
CABRERA: And he also was able to present his own message through a video which was maybe somewhat less of a risky situation, even though somebody had to record it.
CABRERA: And he wasn't wearing a mask. But, John, you know, the president has repeatedly downplayed this virus from the beginning. Is he now still downplaying the virus and his own health status?
JOHN AVLON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Of course, he's downplayed it which is why there's a dark irony to his diagnosis and the infection is spreading through the West Wing. But what he said in the video and what Jason Miller just repeated to us seems to say that now that it affects him personally, Donald Trump is taking the virus very seriously. He wants other people to be careful. He's learning a lot.
That's a symptom of the fundamental narcissism of the president at this time. That 210,000 Americans can die, that under his watch, this has gone on for more than eight months but it's only really real to him when he's personally impacted. That is just absolutely a dereliction of duty, but it's typical of this president.
CABRERA: And Margaret, we know the president likes to control the narrative. He likes to take messaging into his own hands. He clearly couldn't resist doing it despite being hospitalized with coronavirus. What do you make of that?
MARGARET HOOVER, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Look, Ana, as long as coronavirus is the lead story in this presidential election, 30-some days out, the president is losing. And this was his grasping attempt to try to insert himself in a positive way to try to tilt the coverage ever so slightly in his direction.
Brian, he didn't tell the press corps that he was going out there. You know why? Because he was going to drive right in front of them. Right? He is trying to put himself front and center and make himself sort of the hero of the story as though he is the unfortunate victim of a virus and bad luck. That he knew nothing other than -- like this is some mysterious accident that he has contracted to this virus as opposed to having him -- flippantly avoided and ignored the real science and advice of his own White House Coronavirus Task Force and the rest of the country.
You and I and Americans across this country are wearing masks, are being observant, are social distancing, are wiping down boxes with Clorox wipes, right, when the president himself knew this was airborne, not on surfaces, right? So we are all being responsible and heeding the advice. The president refused to do and now the story is all about him again. But he's losing it.
AVLON: Yes. And look, we all wish him and everyone afflicted a speedy recovery. But look, this was a feel-good parade. This was designed to make him feel good. That's its real purpose. Let's not pretend it's anything more than that.
CABRERA: So you don't think it was a show of strength for his supporters or perhaps America's adversaries? You think this was all about him?
HOOVER: Well, look, there's no doubt there's a residual effect. It does communicate to the world the president is feeling well and he's getting out, and his supporters love it. You can't --
HOOVER: And we do wish the president a speedy recovery.
AVLON: Of course. Of course.
HOOVER: Because that is what's best for this country. But it was his attempt to win the political narrative as you point out.
CABRERA: We can't ignore of course that we're just 30 days away from the election. How do you think this impacts the race?
AVLON: I mean --
HOOVER: Depends what happens tomorrow. I mean, look -- I mean --
STELTER: Right. Remember the tax story? The taxes was one week ago.
AVLON: Yes, exactly.
HOOVER: This time last week we were talking about $750 that Donald Trump had paid in federal income taxes last year, I mean, and then there was the debate on Tuesday, and now there's this. And so there is no way to know, Ana, because we're only how many days into October? Forget an October surprise. It's every 36 hours.
AVLON: Yes. And Margaret's right. I mean, it used to be a week is a long time in politics. Now it's, you know, a day is a long time in politics. But what fundamentally is true is that the president who has been in denial with regard to COVID for much of the time has now been personally impacted.
It's going to take him off the campaign trail for at least a period of time. It also inevitably collides the two biggest stories of this monumental year, politics and COVID, in a way that are inexorable. And the Trump campaign does not want to be talking about COVID. They've made that very clear. They can't escape that now. They just can't.
CABRERA: Let me ask you, Brian, about what we heard from White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany because she was asked multiple times about when the president was tested and, you know, what specifically those results were and especially if he was tested before the presidential debate which was last Tuesday.
STELTER: Right. CABRERA: Why do you think she continued to dodge this important
STELTER: I think because the answers are embarrassing for this White House. Look, when you and I come to work every day, Ana, we have to fill out a form, we have to take our temperature, we have to wear a mask in this building except when we're in these little studios. These corporations, non-profits, everybody else in the country has put in precautions that the White House didn't put into place.
The White House was not prepared for this kind of outbreak. And so I don't think they're going to -- they know that the answer to the question of when the president was tested is an embarrassing answer. And when he called into Sean Hannity's show to have a chat with his friend at 9:50 p.m. on Thursday, he apparently had a test result, a positive test result, but he apparently lied and acted like he was waiting for the result and he didn't know it was going to happen.
And we don't know that for sure. We haven't heard that exactly from the White House. But it seems like the president was misleading the country even then on Thursday night. It was like he was in denial about the pandemic right up until that very minute he had to admit there was a positive test result. I mean, for all we know, it was about to leak, the same way everything else is leaked just before we found out the truth.
AVLON: That's right. Look. Their impulse has never been to tell the truth. There's been a fundamental lack of transparency. And that's a lot worse than embarrassing. It appears to be reckless, reckless with other people's health, not just the president's, even though he sees everything through that prism. And so look, when you defend a liar, you frequently end up lying. But this administration has tried to stonewall the facts and the truth because they're frequently fighting them. And at this point, there's no spinning your way out of this because the COVID is in the building, people.
CABRERA: Guys, we only have --
STELTER: By the way, I thought it was disturbing that Kayleigh says they're not going to say how many staffers have been testing positive. We need to know how many people around Trump are sick. I'm more worried -- I'm so worried about these White House aides and Bedminster workers who may be sick because they're not going to get the attention that -- the medical attention that the president is receiving.
CABRERA: It's been one heck of a day, amazing moments that we've experienced here in the last hour or so.
Margaret, I'm going to give you the last word. We only have about a minute left in the show.
HOOVER: Look, I pray the president a speedy recovery, and Mrs. Trump -- the first lady, as well and everybody who has gotten sick. And will they -- you know, pray that they will start communicating a message of seriousness to wear masks. Not just wash your hands. Wear the masks. It is considerate and safe to wear masks. This will bring the pandemic to a place where we can control it through the winter.
And to the American people, we have seen on display the judgment of the commander-in-chief, we have an election in 30 days, this is up for a vote.
CABRERA: OK. Margaret Hoover, John Avlon, Brian Stelter, thank you all for being with us.
STELTER: Thanks, Ana.
CABRERA: And thank you at home for being with me tonight. I'm Ana Cabrera in New York. My colleague Wolf Blitzer picks up CNN's breaking news coverage in a special edition of "THE SITUATION ROOM" right now. Have a great night.